Friday, February 29, 2008

“The Wilhelm Scream”

This is pretty dang funny. Via Balloon Juice, from io9, Strung Out On Science Fiction.

You've probably heard the Wilhelm Scream dozens of times in different movies and television shows without realizing it, but it's one of those things that once you hear, you'll always be able to identify it afterwards. It's now become an in-joke amongst sound editors who try to insert it into their films whenever there's a perfect moment that just needs an over-the-top scream. It began as a Warner Bros. stock sound effect, but was revived and put to serious use by Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt. Now the thing just won't die. Find out more in our screaming triviagasm below.

· The first appearance of the scream was in 1951's Distant Drums, and was used when a man was eaten by an alligator.

· The sound is named the "Wilhelm Scream" after Pvt. Wilhelm gets shot in the leg by an arrow in the 1953 film The Charge at Feather River, and screams as he falls over.

· The sound was used in eight more films in the 1950s, including 1954's Them!, about giant, nuclear-mutated ants.

· The sound persisted into the 1960s, appearing in eight more movies, including the campy Hercules Against The Moon Men, where Hercules battles monsters from the moon.

· While Wilhelm started to flag in the 1970s, Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt found a reel labeled "Man Being Eaten By Alligator" in the Warner archives and used the sound when Luke shoots a Stormtrooper who falls down a shaft in the Death Star.

· Burtt later tracked the sound back to its original use in Distant Drums, although he was the first to call it the "Wilhelm Scream."

· The sound has since been featured in every Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie. In fact, it was even used in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

· It's a mystery as to who the actor was that recorded the original scream, but the most likely suspect is character actor and singer Sheb Wooley, whose name appeared on a memo as a sound extra for Distant Drums. He's best known for his hit song "The Flying Purple People Eater".

· The sound has been used in over 75 movies (most recently in Cloverfield), dozens of television shows (like Doctor Who), and even numerous video games... including many of the Star Wars titles.

I happen to have the movie "Them!" in my collection, and I know the scream they are talking about. It is actually used twice in that film, once for James Arness as he is dodging a giant ant and once for James Whitmore when a giant ant actually gets him. (A more impressive scream in that film is from the little girl, as she wakes up out of her state of shock. One of the best movie screams ever.) I'll have to dig out the Star Wars films and compare the screams.

It never would have occurred to me that soundmen in Hollywood, especially over the span of 6 decades, would have a running inside joke.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art from a single piece of paper, Part 2

See part 1 for more... Like that needed to be explained.

Art from a single piece of paper, Part 1

The following pictures are entries for an art contest at the Hirshorn Modern Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. The rule was that the artist could use only one sheet of paper.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Ms. Hyde

Boy, howdy. Hillary Clinton is really starting to sound.... Screechy. Petulant. Desperate. She has become a caricature of pretty much what everyone on the Republican/conservative side has been calling her since her husband was elected president. She really has started showing multiple personalities, one day saying how proud she was to be campaigning with Barack Obama and the next chastising him, saying “Shame on you, Barack Obama!” I really couldn’t believe it when I saw some short little video segments of her on the campaign trail on television.

Here is one of her latest, and believe me, just reading the text does not do this justice. When you see the clip live, her voice just reeks of sarcasm and derision.

Speaking to a crowd at Rhode Island College, Clinton said, "None of the problems we face will be easily solved," and then went on to mock Obama's message of unity.

“Now, I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified,'" Clinton said to laughter of the crowd.

"The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,” she said dryly as the crowd erupted.

So, she (and her increasingly out-to-lunch staff) has decided that a good campaign strategy is to mock people who hope for better than we have been getting in the last seven years from the Bush administration? THIS is a winning formula?

I know that politics change people, but it seems like one major lesson that Hillary ought to keep in mind is that people, for the most part, do not liked to be mocked. They do not like to be ridiculed. This is the kind of message that the Republicans have wielded to great effect in the last 25 years. If you want to draw in your base, to strengthen your position among people who are already pre-dispositioned to support you, then ridiculing your opponents is, unfortunately, a winning strategy. It plays to the “us vs. them” mindset that has taken hold of American politics.

However, what it doesn’t do is convince people who may still be making up their minds on the wisdom of your position. Mocking Obama’s message of hope and change, even though it is currently pretty vague, is not something that is going to change someone’s mind. Take me, for example. I was pretty much in Hillary’s camp when the election cycle was getting spooled up. I have heard her speak live and was very impressed. She is a very sharp lady, and knows how to handle herself. But given what has been going on since it became apparent that she isn’t going to get the Democratic nomination just by showing up, I have been very, very unhappy at the things that she has been saying and the underhanded politics that her team has been doling out. We are used to that from the Republicans, and that is one thing that this country is very sick of at present. Why are the Democrats going to nominate someone for the presidency who exhibits the same undesirable personality traits that we have been seeing from the Republicans for so long?

I want this to get over with. I can’t wait for the primaries and caucuses in Ohio and Texas. I want Obama to sew it up and Hillary to concede. She does not need to turn off any more voters on the Democratic label, and she doesn’t need to hand the Republican nominee a bag full of hammers with which to pummel Obama.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ralph Nader is going to run for president again.

Christ in a bottle. Hasn’t this guy learned anything yet?

Nader, 73, said most people are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties due to a prolonged Iraq war and a shaky economy. The consumer advocate also blamed tax and other corporate-friendly policies under the Bush administration that he said have left many lower- and middle-class people in debt.

"You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized and disrespected," he said. "You go from Iraq, to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bumbling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts."

You know, it’s not that I disagree with what he is saying. However, this is the egomaniac that PUT Bush in the White House IN THE FIRST PLACE! Ralph Nader shoulders a significant part of the blame for the last 8 years, personally! And he has the gall to then go and complain about Bush?! GMAFB.

My thinking is that the Democrats will settle on Obama very soon, and Obama will run away with the general election. Yes, there still are hopeless idealists that will vote for Nader, even though he has zero chance of winning. He has zero chances of carrying even a single state! However, given the results of his run in 2000 and the fact that Obama will have a very commanding lead in the general, I don’t think Nader can successfully throw the election to the Republicans this time. However, who knows what might happen? I certainly didn’t foresee that whole John Kerry Swiftboat thing, and his wimpy response to it. There certainly is a chance something can happen to upset the apple cart, and the less unknowns there are, the better I will feel about it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let’s see. Kosovo secedes from Serbia.

Violence is erupting. Serbia is in the middle of the conflict. The countries of Europe and Russia are taking sides in the dispute.

Haven’t we seen this bit before? Or something somewhat similar. Let’s hope there isn't anyone named Archduke Ferdinand who wants to go visit Serbia or Kosovo. (O.K., it was Bosnia, not Kosovo, but still, the similarities are too close to be comfortable.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What if Barack Obama wins the general election in a landslide? Will that constitute “a mandate”?

Mandates are funny things. Normally, political winners only have mandates when other people agree that they have them. George W. Bush changed all that. In 2000, he somehow morphed winning the general election via electoral college and Supreme Court dictate while losing the popular vote into a mandate. He felt that he could do anything he damn well pleased, whether it was Constitutional or not. Bush and his supporters somehow decided that, when Bush beat John Kerry in 2004 in the popular vote by a 50.7% to 48.2% margin, that truly was a mandate, even though several thousand votes being cast different in Ohio or several other states would have changed the result. 2.5% of the people who vote in any given election now constitutes a “clear mandate”.

So, it is apparent the old “truths” about political mandates are no longer operative. You can call it whatever you want. So long as you do it loud enough and enough people are behind you, you can call anything by any name you want, and then impugn the character of anyone who disagrees with you.

I would just like to make sure that people understand this. If Barack Obama does go on to win the Democratic nomination and then cruise to a victory over John McCain in November (say, McCain carries 11 to 15 states, total), by the rules George Bush and his followers laid down in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama will have a clear mandate. And, per those same rules, President Obama can use his “political capital” to do whatever the heck he feels like, whether or not the Republican party and the hard core conservatives of this country agree with him or not. Because, you see, he will have “a mandate”. As everyone now knows, mandates mean you don’t have to listen to losers.

And, although I don’t hold out any hope in the least that this will happen, I don’t really want to hear any bellyaching about it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

You know that digital picture frame you got for Christmas? You might really be screwed, as many contain one nasty virus.

This sounds really, really bad. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

An insidious computer virus recently discovered on digital photo frames has been identified as a powerful new Trojan Horse from China that collects passwords for online games -- and its designers might have larger targets in mind.

"It is a nasty worm that has a great deal of intelligence," said Brian Grayek, who heads product development at Computer Associates, a security vendor that analyzed the Trojan Horse.

The virus, which Computer Associates calls Mocmex, recognizes and blocks antivirus protection from more than 100 security vendors, as well as the security and firewall built into Microsoft Windows. It downloads files from remote locations and hides files, which it names randomly, on any PC it infects, making itself very difficult to remove. It spreads by hiding itself on photo frames and any other portable storage device that happens to be plugged into an infected PC.

The authors of the new Trojan Horse are well-funded professionals whose malware has "specific designs to capture something and not leave traces," Grayek said. "This would be a nuclear bomb" of malware.

By studying how the code is constructed and how it's propagated, Computer Associates has traced the Trojan to a specific group in China, Grayek said. He would not name the group.

The strength of the malware shows how skilled hackers have become and how serious they are about targeting digital devices, which provide a new frontier for stealing information from vast numbers of unwary PC owners. More than 2.26 million digital frames were sold in 2007, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and it expects sales to grow to 3.26 million in 2008.

The new Trojan also has been spotted in Singapore and Russia and has 67,500 variants, according to Prevx, a security vendor headquartered in England.

Grayek said Mocmex might be a test for some bigger attack, because it's designed to capture any personal, private or financial information, yet so far it's only stealing passwords for online games.

"If I send you a package but it doesn't explode, why did I send it?" he said. "Maybe I want to see if I can get it out to you and how you open it."

Now, I know that pretty much any digital device can contain nasty software in it, but who would have thought you might be giving someone the mother of all computer viruses to your parents for Christmas?

This will be really interesting to see if something actually comes of this “Trojan Horse”. I can’t imagine that someone would go to these lengths with this amount of knowledge without really wanting to do something malicious. This seems like a plot out of a graphic novel or something, evil Chinese group out to crash all the computers of the world simultaneously.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How the military thinks about costs and weapon systems.

This is summarized from an Aviation Week and Space Technology article published on Jan.14, 2008. No link is provided, as it is a subscription only site.

The Air Force has a large number of F-15’s that are in need of structural repairs. An F-15 from the Missouri Air National Guard crashed on November 2 of last year. It was found that some structural elements were unreliable due to manufacturing flaws back in the 1970’s. Nine other F-15’s have been found to have cracks in these suspect elements.

Now, here is the kicker. The Air Force doesn’t want to update their existing aircraft. It would cost them, and therefore, the Federal Government, about $260,000 per aircraft to bring them back into operational status. That fix would extend the operational lifetime of the aircraft for perhaps as much as 20 years. One letter writer calculated, given that 182 F-15’s are currently grounded, that would come to about $47.3 million to fix the grounded fleet. That seems much too expensive for the Air Force, right? So, their proposal is to never activate the F-15’s again and to replace them with all new Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors.

That sounds somewhat reasonable until someone tells you that the cost of a single F-22 is $339 million. That’s one single airplane, which is about seven times the amount to fix all 182 F-15’s.

Never let anyone tell you that President Eisenhower didn’t know what he was talking about with that whole “military industrial complex” thing.

Levitating Dogs

Whatarewedoin’, George? Can I come, huh? Huh? You can fly? Me too! See? I can fly too, George! We’re going to have a lot of fun, huh, George!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here’s a really, really good argument against obtaining information by torture.

This is from the comments section from a post at Balloon Juice, by a guy who really sounds like he knows what he is talking about. (And the rest of the comments on this post are pretty hysterical. I have to add Balloon Juice to my links list.)

The problem with torture, beyond the moral aspects, is that it does not produce good information any quicker. It produces ASTOUNDING amounts of bulls**t, as the captives learn rapidly what sorts of information their questioners seek.

See, torture usually results in a confession to all sorts of things. It’s why the US Army FM 34-52 prohibits it, specifically.

From FM 34-52:

The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and noncoercive ruses used by the interrogator in questioning hesitant or uncooperative sources.

The psychological techniques and principles outlined should neither be confused with, nor construed to be synonymous with, unauthorized techniques such as brainwashing, mental torture, or any other form of mental coercion to include drugs. These techniques and principles are intended to serve as guides in obtaining the willing cooperation of a source. The absence of threats in interrogation is intentional, as their enforcement and use normally constitute violations of international law and may result in prosecution under the UCMJ.

Additionally, the inability to carry out a threat of violence or force renders an interrogator ineffective should the source challenge the threat. Consequently, from both legal and moral viewpoints, the restrictions established by international law, agreements, and customs render threats of force, violence, and deprivation useless as interrogation techniques.

That’s word-for-word out of the manual I was trained on as a 97E, Interrogator. We had some nice demonstrations at our AIT in Arizona as to the efficacy of torture as well.

You cannot trust information gained through coercive means like that without compelling subsidiary intelligence. And if you have that intelligence, you don’t need to f**king torture people. People say what you want to hear when tortured—and that wastes those precious minutes in the scenario you outline above.

We’ve got a nuke going off in an hour in NYC? We’re f**ked. Period. End of discussion. You cannot gain worthwhile intel in that time.

What if the oil runs out?

That was the topic of a program on the Science Channel I watched this weekend. It was a mix of experts talking about the real facts of the situation and a fictional documentation of what the year 2016 will be like. I will flat out state it was really scary and depressing.

This is a subject I have give some thought to, but haven’t dwelled on it to any great extent. I have discussed it on this blog several times. But one of the points that was being hammered upon in this show was that America, and all of the world, for that matter, is in serious denial about the situation and is refusing to confront some very unpleasant facts that could greatly alter our society in the years to come. There is no doubt that a finite resource will ultimately run out. You just can’t argue with that. The problem is that most people in the country, including our politicians (those wise folks who we have chosen to lead us in difficult times) find it much easier to avoid this and other extremely difficult and unpleasant problems.

Here’s the truth of the matter. We are going to have to acknowledge that we are looking at a huge problem, at some time in the future, one that has the potential of causing the collapse of our society. The scarcity and expensive of oil and oil based products could make mass food production very difficult and expensive, if not impossible. Even the food that is grown might not be able to be moved to a central market for mass consumption. And even if that were to occur, many people will be without jobs, as the lack of oil will affect that as well, such that they may find the food that is available unaffordable. All the non-essential jobs and businesses will most likely be gone. The country will start to suffer electrical power outages, as there won’t be any fuel to power the trains which haul massive amounts of coal to fire the electrical generation plants. Only nuclear and hydro-powered electrical plants will be able to be counted upon, and those are not enough to furnish the entire country. The only debatable point of this is when the situation will shift from “expensive” and “a nuisance” to “dire”.

We are not talking about small disruptions here, such as the oil embargo of the 70’s, when gas for the family car (and all other vehicles in the U.S.) became in short supply. Two block long lines of cars waiting to get into the gas stations that had gas might become a fond memory. Unless we do something soon, we could end up with riots and a domino effect on our economy. Given the amount of guns out there in this country and a sizeable portion of our right leaning population that seems rather eager to use them, I am very fearful of what this crisis might actually look like. We are already seeing some signs of what’s to come. Venezuela has just cut off imports to Exxon Mobile, Inc., in protest of Exxon Mobile’s seize some of Venezuela’s oil-based assets. Russia is seriously thinking about cutting off natural gas shipments to the Ukraine. These are not promising signs. They look more like harbingers of further troubles.

Looking at message board for the television show on the Science Channel, it appears that many people still seem to consider anything that deals with future energy shortages or possible environmental changes as something from the “lunatic left”. “We aren’t running out of oil, we are sitting on a vast reserve in ANWR!” “It’s all a liberal plot!” Etc., etc, ad nauseam. I just do not understand our species’ ability to flat out ignore self evident truths that are sitting in front of our collective noses. We are dependent upon oil. There is no arguing about that. Oil is a non-renewable resource. That’s pretty self evident, too, unless you are talking in the range of millions of years. The combined countries of the world are using more and more oil every single day, especially with China and India transitioning from “developing countries” to “major economic powers”. That increases the demand. Significant finds of new oil deposits are few and far between. Saudi Arabia, one of the largest producers in the world and usually looked upon as being the buffer for any possible shortages, hasn’t had a major oil discovery since the early 1970’s. The remaining finds that being made are in areas that are exponentially difficult to get to, such as in the Bering Sea or the North Sea.

The stock answer for the conservatives in this country is to drill in ANWR. ANWR may have promise as an producing oil field, but some estimates put the total for ANWR as low as a six months supply for the U.S., as current consumption rates. Six months. This is a debatable point, with many people saying that we can’t actually tell how much recoverable oil there might be until we actually drill there. That is true enough, but what is also self evident is that, even if the U.S. were to drill there and the available oil from there meets or exceeds our hopes and expectations, it is still a limited resource that will eventually run out. All that drilling in ANWR will do is postpone the inevitable.

The governments of the world need to recognize this coming crisis and the potential for catastrophe that crisis contains. Someone needs to take the lead and start working this problem as soon as possible. Space exploration, as enlightening and inspiring as it is, is a very large drain of national resources that would be better served in an effort to come up with a viable alternative to an oil based energy system upon which the entire world is based. As much as I dislike this prospect, I believe that we need to get busy building more nuclear power plants. Part of this effort must go towards finding an acceptable solution to the waste nuclear products that remain lethal for hundreds of thousands of years. But if we are going to retain any semblance of the society that we have now, the world must have electricity, and on a large scale. Wind farms are good, and more research and actual construction of these farms should be increased. Private residences and businesses should be encouraged, with tax breaks if necessary, to become much more energy efficient than they are now. More effort should be put into finding any sort of viable sources of energy, no matter the source, as long as it isn’t oil or coal based.

I realize that I have developed a very selfish and shortsighted viewpoint on this issue, just as I have the possible effects of an environmental catastrophe brought on by global climate change. I am hoping that the worst effects are far enough out in the distance that I won’t be personally affected by them. That is a crappy attitude, I know. However, I have very little faith that mankind actually has the will to address these problems. We are mired in the trivial. Our society cares about the latest meltdown from Paris Hilton or Brittney Spears, whether or not a political candidate paid $400 for a haircut. The people in the United States can barely stay awake while the current President and his cronies systematically gut the Constitution that has formed the basis of our government for over 200 years, and make the argument that torturing people really is O.K. now, even if we prosecuted Japanese officers after World War II for the exact same thing that we are doing now. No, this problem will not be addressed before it becomes a crisis. Denial is easy, action is hard.

I feel very badly for my daughter and the rest of the young people who will inherit this mess we are bequeathing on them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I’m removing FireDogLake from my links list.

Not that anyone will care one way or the other. That site has gone from “newcomer” to “influential giant” in a few short years. I was reading and posting within the first three months of its existence, when there were only two posters, Pach was just a regular commenter and EPU was still a commenter and not a verb. I greatly admire what Jane and Christy have done and continue to do. They have put in an incredible amount of time and energy into the place. The liveblogging of the Scooter Libby trial showed what the internet blogs really can accomplish. These two ladies are incredible in their knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment. The new crop of bloggers, both scheduled and guest, are incredible, as are their book forums and fundraising for progressive candidates. And Jane doing all this while coping with health problems is just another reason to marvel at their accomplishments. They have just shown everyone what blogging is really about.

However, here’s the deal. A number of these web sites have just gone overboard in their quest for the newest, glitziest, coolest, hottest, most dynamic web site ever, and FireDogLake is one of them. (Huffington Post is another. It refuses to load anything else after I get the title bar and the first lines of the top link. That’s all.) First off, I guess they assume that every one of their readers has the absolute latest computer with a large screen and a high speed internet connection. On my home computer, FDL takes a very long time to load, given all the advertisements and creative visual junk that the site now sports. The text of the posts doesn’t wrap around to fit the size of my screen, and then when the sidebar stuff on the right comes in, like the ads and all the other crap, it covers up half the text so that I can’t even read the posts even WITH sliding the bottom scrollbar back and forth. Additionally, I am now starting to get a warning dialog box that tells me that “this site is trying to access your private…” something or other. I have seen this warning about five or six times now. Of course, the answer is, “No, of course I don’t want this web site to access my private information.” Why would I? I have no idea what it is or why it is doing that.

Given all that, I have stopped looking in at FDL, and I am going to remove it from my links list. Big tragedy for them, I am sure. (My traffic is running anywhere from 50 to 100 hits a day, and a lot of them come from searches on some really strange things. For example, I keep getting a repeat search for some variation of “Enemies of rabbits”. Yeah, I don’t think I am helping out those people very much.) I doubt I have been sending FDL much in the way of linked traffic.

If anyone from over at FDL, such as an administrator or whatever, sees this, you might pass the information along. Not everyone is so enamored of new technology that we will run out to the nearest electronics store every time some new “must have” comes along. I hate all that crap, to tell you the truth. I just want something that works, and works all the time. I don’t care if I don’t have the large screen or that I have an older operating system. It works for me now, and I don’t want to have to spend the money, time and stomach lining it would take to become “up to date”. And I don’t want to worry about what private information on my computer an outside web site may be accessing. I have had a couple of those run-ins already; each time it has cost me around a hundred bucks to have my computer cleaned up and put back in working order. I’m rather antsy about stuff like that. I don’t have any of these kinds of problems with more “mainstream” sites (i.e., not blogs), such as newspapers, Wiki, IMDB, etc. No, it seems as if it is only the blogs that I am having problems like this.

Not everyone who is interested in political blogs is a computer savant. And I refuse to try to become one just so I can read some political blogs. Therefore, FDL, thanks for all the good work but you are not worth it anymore. My prediction is that, as I stated earlier, no one will care. I wrote to them earlier about this, and no one responded. The attitude seems to be that “most” of the people looking in are up to date, so that is all that is necessary. Everyone else, well, that’s just too bad. I have even seen the word “Luddite” used at FDL as an insult to describe those who aren’t up with the cutting edge of technology.

That’s a rather prevalent attitude around this country these days, one that leaves me feeling increasingly isolated and alienated. If you aren’t with the program, the majority, well then, that’s just too bad for you, buddy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One (but certainly not the only) conservative conundrum of our age.

One thing that really bugs me about people, no matter the topic or the person, is when someone pushes contradictory positions and can’t even admit that they aren’t even making sense. It’s obviously the listener’s fault! How dare you misrepresent my position! You are not only wrong, you are evil! Etc., etc.

Here’s the deal. I am rather enjoying the current meltdown by certain persons within the “conservative” movement about the Republican party over John McCain becoming their nominee in the upcoming presidential election. Many people hate the idea. They appear to hate McCain as a person. He holds positions they don’t like, and he doesn’t go out of his way to kiss the religious right’s collective behind. Even though his voting record shows that he votes in the conservative block a very large amount of the time, he still isn’t “one of them”. Rush Limbaugh regularly blasts McCain on his radio show. Ann Coulter said that she would rather vote for Hillary than McCain! Hugh Hewitt has a weekly public meltdown. Tom Delay (ex-House Leader and bug exterminator) just went on the Sunday news programs and lambasted McCain. His crimes? McCain isn’t “a true conservative”!

However, these same people continue to argue that liberals and Democrats are on the far left of the country, that we are “out of touch” and hold unrealistic positions. THEY represent the mainstream, WE are fringe lunatics. It doesn’t matter what the polls say (depending on the poll, anywhere from 50% to 70% of Americans now say the war in Iraq was a mistake and want us out within a year). That is the mantra they keep repeating over and over. They are the mainstream, we are not.

How can these two things be true? How can their own party (apparently) nominate someone that is so radioactive to the “true conservative”? If they are the mainstream, aren’t they saying that their own party is so out of touch that they are going to nominate some closet liberal to run for President as a Republican? This argument makes absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, what makes more sense is that these “true conservatives” are so far to the right that most of the people within their own party don’t even agree with them anymore. It is these “true conservatives” that are actually out in the fringes. And they can’t admit it. I get a certain sense of satisfaction to see the depth of the hysterics they are throwing. On the other hand, it certainly is a pretty sad statement about the state of political discourse in this country.

(I realize there are a lot of unsubstantiated statements made in this post. I will try to find some links to show what I am referring to in some of these statements.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The wit and wisdom of Law and Order, as it applies to the adminstration of George W. Bush.

From IMBD, in case you were wondering.

Det. Ed Green: If you're going to lie, be creative or we'll get bored.

Lt. Anita Van Buren: Do you believe him?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I believe on a good day he couldn't hit his ass with both hands.

Emil Skoda: That's just a load of rehearsed crap.

Det. Lennie Briscoe: Even though you are a taxpayer, you know, we don't actually work for you personally.

Detective Rivera: You know, McCoy, you wanna put the bad guys behind bars you have to get your hands dirty.
Jack McCoy: The problem is, detective, sometimes it doesn't stop at the hands.

There's more of these, if you click on "wit and wisdom", if you are at all interested. Some of these aren't that funny, just kinda sad, as they are so true.

Friday, February 08, 2008

In case anyone was wondering whether or not we had a democracy or a monarchy, here is yet more evidence.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand what kind of thought process is going on in the Bush White House, with less than a year left in their term. However, they continue to act as if Bush is a king, not a president, who can pretty much do whatever he wants to. Look at this new example of a raw grab for power. This is from dday at Hullabaloo.

Mike Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States, before the House Judiciary Committee today. (UPDATE: This is a paraphrase, not a transcript)

Delahunt: You said if an opinion was rendered, that would insulate him from any consequences.

MM: We could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a justice department opinion.

Delahunt: If that opinion was inaccurate and in fact violated a section of US Criminal Code, that reliance is in effect an immunity from any criminal culpability.

MM: Immunity connoted culpability.

Delahunt: This is brand new legal theory.


MM: If it comes to pass that somebody at a later date that the opinion should have been different the person who relied on the opinion cannot be investigated.

Delahunt: Is there a legal precedent.

MM: There is practical consideration.

The Attorney General is saying that the President can do anything he wants, break the law any way he wants, as long as the President's own Justice Department, populated his own handpicked officials, validates it. And he's saying it directly to members of Congress, essentially telling them that they don't exist. They have no power to prosecute because the Justice Department won't take up the case, and the courts have no power to adjudicate because these are official state secrets. There is only one branch of government that matters.

What I find equally amazing and hugely frustrating is that both the Democrats and the press let Bush get away with this. I partially blame Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for saying, unequivocally, that impeachment is off the table. But it is also all the other Dems in the Senate and House. Except for a few very brave exceptions, everyone seems fine with just running out the clock, letting Bush to whatever he wants, no matter the excesses or illegality involved, until he leaves office. And the press apparently can’t be bothered to pay any attention to this.

What is going on is much, much worse that what the Nixon White House did during the Watergate scandal and cover-up. Yet the politicians, media and most of the public can’t be bothered with such things. This “President”, and I used that term with some irony, has caused untold damage to the institutions in this country that we depend on to maintain our freedom and democracy.

I wish I could be funny, ironic and snarky like a number of bloggers out there. But I am just too angry, too depressed about the political situation in this country. I am so glad that we still have some of our political structure intact, such as making George W. Bush and most of his cronies leave office next January. If Bush had more time, or we were to elect another Republican who thinks just like Bush, this country would never recover.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

American talks a good game when it comes to “Democracy” and “Freedom”, but falls flat on its face when the chips are down.

This is from Americablog.

Rice will 'talk to President Karzai' about journalist sentenced to death

Young Afghan journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh is currently being held in prison because he downloaded and distributed a report on women's rights. If the US is supposed to be bringing democracy, as the administration likes to tell everyone, they ought to be moving much more aggressively to assist Pervez who is sitting in miserable conditions. Is this the best Rice can do?

That's great. That certainly is a crime against humanity, distributing a report on women's rights.

I have come to the conclusion that the Bush administration and the neo-cons of this country have absolutely no clue about what democracy and freedom really mean. Everything they do seems to indicate they believe in a government that more resembles the Soviet Union or East Germany than one that is a beacon of freedom and hope for the rest of the world. Bush and the rest of his cronies and enablers seem to want government by secret edict (e.g, Bush's signing statements and secret opinions on Constitutional legality, are pro-torture (as we have just found out, we now admit that we torture and proud of it!), are against freedom of the press, want to have all departments of the government to be extensions of the Republican party, are not above trying to influence elections by dirty tricks (New Hampshire phone jamming scandal, plus lots of circumstantial evidence for lots more examples), and wants the population to live in a state of constant fear, so they can do whatever they want in the name of security.

I can't wait until January, 2009.

And, oh yeah, by the way, the United States DOES torture people.

But only if they deserve it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Wit and Wisdom of Star Wars, as it applies to the administration of George W. Bush.

Thanks and stuff to IMDB for these quotes. (For additional posts in the “Wit and Wisdom” series, click on the link at the bottom.)

Dr. Evazan: [explaining] He doesn't like you.
Luke: Sorry.
Dr. Evazan: I don't like you either.

Darth Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

C-3PO: [to R2-D2] This is all your fault.

Han Solo: This is *not* gonna work.
Luke: Why didn't you say so before?
Han Solo: I *did* say so before.

Han Solo: It's not my fault.

Luke: I don't think so. I'm looking for a great warrior.
Yoda: Ohhh. Great warrior.
[laughs and shakes his head]
Yoda: Wars not make one great.

Darth Vader: Calrissian. Take the princess and the Wookie to my ship.
Lando: You said they'd be left at the city under my supervision.
Darth Vader: I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

C-3PO: Excuse me sir, but might I inquire as to what's going on?
Han Solo: Why not?
C-3PO: Impossible man.

C-3PO: Sir, If I may venture an opinion...
Han Solo: I'm not really interested in your opinion 3PO.

[after choking Captain Needa to death]
Darth Vader: Apology accepted, Captain Needa.

Princess Leia: I have a bad feeling about this...

Yoda: I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.
Obi-Wan: He will learn patience.
Yoda: Much anger in him.

Yoda: Good relations with the Wookies, I have.

The Emperor: [to the Senate] In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.
[Senate fills with enormous applause]
Padmé: [to Bail Organa] So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause.

Obi-Wan: Anakin, my allegiance is to the Republic... to democracy!
Anakin Skywalker: If you're not with me, you're my enemy.
Obi-Wan: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes.

Darth Sidious: Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy! And... we shall have peace.

Qui-Gon Jinn: Greed can be a very powerful ally.

Senator Palpatine: There is no civility, only politics.

Qui-Gon Jinn: Do you hear that?
[a rumbling is heard in the distance]
Jar Jar Binks: Yeah.
Qui-Gon Jinn: That is the sound of a thousand terrible things headed this way.
Obi-Wan: If they find us, they will crush us, grind us into TINY pieces and BLAST us into oblivion!

Yoda: Hard to see, the dark side is.

Nute Gunray: My lord, is that... legal?
Darth Sidious: I will make it legal.

Lando Calrissian: Here goes nothing.

The Emperor: If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed.

Padme: You're not all-powerful, Ani.
Anakin: Well, I should be.

Jango Fett: Do you like your army?
Obi-Wan: I look forward to seeing them in action.

Anakin: I've heard this lesson before.
Obi-Wan: You haven't learned anything, Anakin.

Anakin: Someday I will be the most powerful Jedi ever.

Anakin: When I got to them we got into aggressive negotiations.
Padme: Aggressive negotiations? What's that?
Anakin: Ah, well, it's negotiations with a lightsaber.

Anakin: You call this a diplomatic solution?
Padme: No, I call it an aggressive negotiation.

Count Dooku: I have good news for you, my lord. War has begun.
Darth Sidious: Excellent. Everything is going as planned.

Anakin: You're asking me to be rational. I know that is something I cannot do.

Queen Jamillia: The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.
Padme: Let's pray that day never comes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Neil Boortz: angry, insane, racist radio host

Pam Spaulding at Pandagon talks about some of the most mind numbing, incredible, unbelievable… horsesh*t from one Neil Boortz, on the January 30 edition of Cox Radio Syndication’s The Neal Boortz Show.

“Edwards’ campaign will end the way it began 13 months ago, with the candidate pitching in to rebuild lives in a city still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards embraced New Orleans as a glaring symbol of what he described as a Washington that didn’t hear the cries of the downtrodden.” Cries of the downtrodden, my left butt cheek. That wasn’t the cries of the downtrodden; that’s the cries of the useless, the worthless. New Orleans was a welfare city, a city of parasites, a city of people who could not and had no desire to fend for themselves. You have a hurricane descending on them and they sit on their fat asses and wait for somebody else to come rescue them.

…When these Katrina so-called refugees were scattered about the country, it was just a glorified episode of putting out the garbage.

…The primary blame goes on the worthless parasites who lived in New Orleans who you — couldn’t even wipe themselves, let alone get out of the way of the water when that levee broke.

Wow... I mean, I am speechless about how angry, how incapable of any positive human emotion such as sympathy or sorrow, this guy is. Boortz just said that the entire city of New Orleans deserved what it got. All the residents of New Orleans are “garbage”. And, of course, there is nothing racist about his rant at all. This is his way of justifying the incredibly lame and immoral response that the Bush administration gave (or not give) and continues to give (or not give) in the face of the destruction of a major city in the U.S. New Orleans deserved it. Judgement passed, end of story.

Boortz, along with many other uber-conservatives of these days, will do and say anything, no matter how heartless, how cruel, how stupid, just so they can justify their increasingly hysterical positions. They feel the rug being jerked out from underneath their feet on the bully pulpit they have enjoyed for quite some time, and they don’t like it. They react the only way they know how, only with increasing hysterics, as they know it is starting to slip away from them. They realize they are becoming irrelevant.

I know there will always be loons out there who are angry about everything and will blame anyone and everyone for their own misfortune, real or perceived. However, I really have a problem when these whackjobs are given actual “jobs” that pay very large amounts of money which allows them to shout their lunatic ravings over public airways.

What has happened to our country? People like this actually have audiences, made up of real people, who listen to this guy and agree with him. And the rest of the country, except for a small number, just let crap like this slide. This guy gets a pass. Yes, “Freedom of Speech” means just that. However, I question why this guy gets PAID large amounts of money to spew this kind of garbage by a major media outlet. And that goes the same for Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, etc. etc.

Returning to the subject of a destroyed city, I can’t help but wonder why it is that Republicans continue to defend the war in Iraq as a battle against “the terrorists”, such that they will not be able to attack our country or kill any more of our citizens, but apparently, having a major city in the U.S. destroyed by natural causes is somehow O.K. That just blows me away. “Broken levees? Not really our problem. But boy, we better listen in on EVERYONE’S telephone calls, just to make sure they aren’t talking to some terrorist!”

This one goes into the “insane people” category.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Today is Super Bowl Party Day, which epitomizes the worst excesses about our society.

I know that sports are very important to some people. Heck, I like sports. I held season tickets to the local university’s basketball team until the Athletic Department decided they would try extortion on their most loyal season ticket holders and donors. But, the Super Bowl… I actually hate it. I hardly ever watch it. I like NFL football, especially when the Seahawks are doing well. The playoffs are cool. But the Super Bowl seems to dwell in another universe from that of the regular season.

What other event generates dedicated multi-million dollar television commercials? A halftime event that gets a build up worthy of the Academy Awards show? Results in the most parties, mostly fueled by alcohol, across the country on a non-holiday? Everything is Super Duper. Must outdo last year! The event of the season! And this isn’t even saying anything about the game itself.

This whole display reeks of extravagance, over-hype, overindulgence, and billions of dollars poured into an event with a captive audience in the hope of moving billions more dollars from one place to another. It is the American psyche on display. And, in my mind, it isn’t pretty.

I also find it very insulting that very, very little will be said today, and has been said this week, about the continuing Iraq war, the outlandish and criminal behavior of the Bush Administration, and the huge problems facing us such as the coming energy crisis, the continual eroding of the infrastructure on which this country depends and the slow baking of our only habitable planet.

Let’s see if someone’s boob ends up on national TV today. Then we can really have a scandal we can talk about.

UPDATE: O.K., I admit that was one of the more exciting finishes to a Super Bowl in quite some time. Whoo!! First time I remember rooting for a team from New York, too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tell me, does America REALLY need another Rambo movie?

I mean, seriuosly. Hollywood is so bereft of new ideas that the will stoop to making another Rambo movie? Besides, I thought America was getting a little tired of shoot em up, blow em upforeign escapades.