Saturday, November 26, 2005

two notable deaths

Two obits caught my eye today. The first was for Northern Ireland soccer star George Best, dead at 59. I remember Best past his prime (but still pretty good) playing in the old North American Soccer League, in the 1970s. He was a charming rogue, great player but ultimately died of alcoholism -- he had a liver transplant but couldn't/wouldn't stop drinking. His great line about himself: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars -- the rest I just squandered."

The second was the death of actor Pat Morita, dead at 73. We all remember him from "Happy Days" and "The Karate Kid." Morita was, with his family, thrown into one of the infamous internment camps during World War II (as "public enemy number one" in Morita's retelling), and became a comedian. A great story: he was asked to fill in for Don Ho in front of a group of World War II veterans in 1966, at a show in Hawaii commemmorating the 25th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Morita opened up with a joke -- "So, I began by telling them I wanted to apologize, on behalf of my people, for screwing up their harbor." Great line. (Maybe some day an American comic will open a show in Baghdad with a similar line...)

Friday, November 25, 2005

"ex-fema head to start disaster planning firm" and other new enterprises

Sorry, I couldn't come up with a funnier headline than the one MSNBC used to report Michael "What, Me Worry" Brown's concept for a new disaster planning firm.

But MSNBC missed the headlines about a few other new businesses being launched:

"Dick Cheney plans new firm on how to improve amity between Republicans, Democrats. 'Go Fuck Yourself, Please' official motto"

"Terrell Owens Launches Organization to Promote Teamwork, Cameraderie at the Workplace"

"Tom DeLay New Consultancy to Concentrate on Ethics, Need to put Nation Ahead of Partisanship"

"New Madonna Organization to Promote Chastity"

baseball dirt on richardson

Ooops, seems New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson claimed over the years to have been drafted as a pitcher by the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers -- but he wasn't, according to research by the Albuquerque Journal.

Richardson has acknowledged what he calls an error, saying he'd appeared on draft lists for those teams and believed he'd been drafted. No doubt if he gets the nomination for President in 2008, the "Kansas City Athletic Veterans for Truth" will be in full swing pointing out Richardson's perfidious lies.

They might have better luck attacking him on grounds of womanizing, from rumors I've read.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

we'll be quizzed about torture

Do you remember the days when the United States opposed torture, and pressured foreign governments to stop it? It's embarrassing that now the European Union plans to ask us about our secret torture centers in Europe.

Would anybody like a banana with your thanksgiving turkey today?

no, congress didn't have the same intelligence, and no, there was no link between al qaeda and iraq

I've said it before: it is a lie when Bush or Cheney or whoever says Congressional Democrats had the same intelligence as the White House before the invasion of Iraq, or when Cheney claims there were operational links between secular Iraq and theocratic Al Qaeda.

Murray Waas goes into more detail in this National Journal article. (Yes, Bill Buckley's conservative National Journal.)

The claim Bush and Company have NOT tied Iraq to Al Qaeda, despite being told as early as September 21 that there was no proof of any connection? A lie:
"You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002.

The next day, Rumsfeld said, "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire … weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities."

The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack."
The claim that Congress had the same intelligence as the de facto Administration? A lie:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

The source of much of the crap fed to the White House (and eventually, to Congress)? Two schmucks working for the zealot Doug Feith at the Pentagon:
At first, the Feith-directed unit primarily consisted of two men, former journalist Michael Maloof and David Wurmser, a veteran of neoconservative think tanks. They liked to refer to themselves as the "Iraqi intelligence cell" of the Pentagon. And they took pride in the fact that their office was in an out-of-the-way cipher-locked room, with "charts that rung the room from one end to the other" showing the "interconnections of various terrorist groups" with one another and, most important, with Iraq, Maloof recalled in an interview.

But neither Maloof nor Wurmser had any experience or formal training in intelligence analysis. Maloof later lost his security clearance, for allegedly failing to disclose a relationship with a woman who is a foreigner, and after allegations that he leaked classified information to the press. Maloof said in the interview that he has done nothing wrong and was simply being punished for his controversial theories. Wurmser has since been named as Cheney's Middle East adviser.

But Cheney liked their stuff.
Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:

"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."
Heck, what's the point of having trained intelligence analysts who refuse to give you the answers you want, when you can hire a couple of morons who'll misread and misunderstand everything and give you what you want to believe? We could save a lot of money by disbanding much of the CIA and just hiring right-wing fiction writers. They'll create a good plot and give the neocons just what they want.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

should officers campaign for others in uniform?

An amusing article about GOP freshman Congressbeing Jean Schmidt covering her ass about her insult on the floor of the House last Friday against Democrat John Murtha (how on earth could she NOT know Murtha was a Marine officer? She couldn't, she's just lying) and her use of a quote from a Marine colonel implying Murtha was a coward "coward" comments. Buried in the article is one very disconcerting fact: the (reservist) Marine colonel (Danny Bubp) in question campaigned for Schmidt in the recent special election that sent her to Congress WEARING HIS MARINE DRESS UNIFORM; Bubp rebuked Schmidt's Democrat opponent Paul Hackett (just returned from service in IRAQ) for criticizing the Commander in Chief!

Aren't there laws against Federal employees, especially uniformed military officers, from engaging in partisan campaigns? I know Bubp is a reservist and a member of Ohio's assembly (which is legal), but using his UNIFORM in a campaign for somebody else is wrong wrong wrong. The politicization of the military is not something we should hope for. That mostly happens in banana republics.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

(iraq war) is a blunder without peer in american history and possibly an assault on democracy

I think Richard Cohen is peeved about the war and the way the de facto Administration sold it. An example from his column today (emphasis is mine):
The way things look now, he (Bush) will go down in history as an amiable dunce -- Clark Clifford's scathing and misapplied characterization of Ronald Reagan -- who took his country to war for reasons that did not exist. This is a blunder without peer in American history and possibly an assault on democracy: The people, through their representatives, are supposed to make an informed decision about war. It is incredible to me that Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex, but nobody -- that's nobody -- in the entire Bush administration has been fired, not to mention impeached, for this shedding of American blood. Cheney, a man of ugly intolerance for dissent, should have been the first to go. His has been a miserable, dishonest performance -- which he continues to this day.
What he said. Read it, it's pretty strong and there's more like that. I'm guessing Cohen is regretting his pre-invasion support for the war.

stupid design

As envisioned by Ted Rall...

Monday, November 21, 2005

cheney lies in public today

Once again, Dick "Five Deferments from Vietnam Because I Had Other Priorities But I'm Still A Hawk" Cheney's mouth is moving -- which means he's lying. But Cheney is talented -- he can lie and slander at the same time. Today was unusual -- he lied in public, instead of at his secret location. In a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cheney accused war critics of revisionism, saying they had the same intelligence as the de facto Administration before the invasion of Iraq but now act as if they didn't.

Dick Cheney accusing others of revisionism. That's rich, given how Cheney cherry-picked intelligence, continued to lie about non-existent links between Saddam and Al Qaeda even AFTER Bush himself had publicly admitted there were no such links, ignored doubts and warnings about the Iraq intelligence from well-placed experts in the intelligence community, assured us all that our troops would be greeted as liberators, believed every self-serving word out of Chalabi's mouth, and all the rest of it in order to advance the neocon American Empire wetdream of reordering the Middle East by force, beginning with a war against Iraq.

Repeat after me: Congress did NOT have access to the same intelligence as the Administration before the invasion. Congress was provided with documents drafted by the Administration based on intelligence -- THAT was what Congress saw. It didn't see the doubts and dissents from various agencies, and it didn't see the raw intelligence. Simply put, it did not have access to the same information as the Administration.

Criticising the prewar Administration claims about mushroom clouds and other WMD lies isn't revisionism. It's an admission of having been duped by others with greater access to information in a position of purported trust. An admission of having been played by the Office of the Vice President, his lackey the aging frat-boy ex-baseball owner, and their minions, and manipulated into supporting a war of choice that is going disastrously wrong, is making torturers out of us, allowed Bin Laden to get away, and for extra shits and giggles, is serving as the best possible recruiting tool for Muslim terrorists.

Thanks, Cheney.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

storm scamming and covering it up

This story in the New York Times is appalling. Tens of thousands of people in Jackson, Missippi have received over $60 million in assistance from FEMA and the Red Cross despite the fact that they are over 160 miles from the hard-hit coast, that only 50 houses in three counties around Jackson were rendered uninhabitable (4000 had light damage), and that for most people receiving cash the ONLY damage they suffered was spoiled food in their refrigerators after power went out. Similar reports from elsewhere in Mississippi and in western Louisiana, little touched by Katrina. This is an ongoing problem -- FEMA and the Red Cross gave $31 million to victims in the Miami region last year after Hurricane Frances barely grazed the region. I'm sure that then the fact that Florida was a swing state in the upcoming election was not a factor...

Somehow, the Federal government saw fit to extend the disaster area in Mississippi (Governor Haley Barbour, Republican) some 200 miles farther north than in Louisiana (Governer Kathleen Blanco, Democrat). Mississippi emergency officials encourage all residents to apply for aid, even if it was just to cover the cost of a chainsaw or generator.

Giving away the cash was bad enough. FEMA then followed up by asking local emergency officials why they had reported so few homes as destroyed. When FEMA learned the reality, they then tried to get the Hinds County, Mississippi officials to INCREASE the numbers. In other words, FEMA asked local governments to join then in defrauding American taxpayers by lying about the situation to cover up for FEMA's largesse in areas relatively undamaged by Katrina.

Pretty bad. I know it is tough to get proof of damages and understand the impulse to disburse help quickly. But really, a quick check with meteorologists and local emergency officials might have given some clue that Jackson -- which sustained 47 mph winds with gusts to 74 mph -- was HARDLY in the same boat as New Orleans or Gulfport or Biloxi or dozens of other towns closer to the coast and to Katrina's category-4 strength. And $60 million-plus in money that could have been used in the REAL disaster zone instead was used for shopping sprees in Jackson.

This sort of issue is why FEMA needs to be professionally managed and not be buried deep in the bureaucracy at the Department of Homeland Security.

(don't) read about it in the sunday papers

The front page of today's Washington Post features the following stories:

A Rebuilding Plan Full of Cracks
Iraq War Debate Eclipses All Other Issues
Taste for Space Is Spawning Mansions Fit for A Commoner
Wounded Sergeant Fights for A Best Friend
At Metro, Some Crimes Don't Count

The article covering the deaths of five US soldiers and 50-something Iraqis in various bombings around the country was placed on page 22. Today's New York Times had cover articles about politics on Capitol Hill, Bush's visit to China, Katrina relief money going to a Mississippi city (Jackson) that was essentially untouched by the storm, children of sperm donors, a bill authorizing the purchase of federal land, and sectarian hatred in Iraq. The last one refers readers to an article on page 8 about the latest bombings.

On what was clearly not the busiest news day (note the almost-complete lack of overlap between the two front pages), why don't bombings that kill dozens of civilians and several American soldiers rate page one coverage over a lame thumb-sucker on various (allegedly-common) people with too much money building huge houses with entire wings they never use? Because the death of 50 Iraqis and five Americans is pretty much an everyday routine event, and everyday routine events rarely make page one.

If the death of 50 Iraqis and five American soldiers in one day is routine, can anybody really believe the bullshit emanating from the de facto Administration about how swimmingly the war in Iraq is going?


Saturday, November 19, 2005

hadley implicated, surprise, surprise

The Sunday Times reports that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was the official who tipped off Bob Woodward to Valerie Plames' identity as a CIA agent. This might make this denial that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was Woodward's source superfluous.

Hadley's stirring, leave-no-doubt response to a reporter's observation about reports of him being Woodward's source: "I've also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources." Gosh, if the WHITE HOUSE says so, it MUST be true, right? Right? Sigh. Sadly, today when the White House makes any statement on the whole topic of the run-up to the Iraq war and the current screwed-up situation there (over 100 killed by bombs over the past two days), you're better off believing the opposite.

Meanwhile, Patrick Fitzgerald is working with a new grand jury; more indictments are almost certainly to come. Hadley? Rove? Cheney?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

gop to blacks: we don't want your vote, and we don't want you to vote

Seems that despite a strong recommendation from a panel of experts in the Civil Rights Division at Justice, the de facto Administration told the fine state of Georgia that it had no problem with its controversial voter ID program. The program would limit the types of identification deemed valid to vote and require people without one of those IDs to pay $20 for a voter ID -- valid 5 years and only obtainable in about 1/3 of Georgia's counties. The Civil Rights Division experts found this would disproportionately hurt blacks.

Surprise! There's a reason Georgia and eight other states still have to get approval for changes that could effect minority voters -- it's because of their history of doing what they can to limit minority (mostly black) participation. You remember, poll taxes, absurd "literacy tests" that were extremely difficult, and somehow were only ever applied to blacks. For more recent examples that the Justice Department hasn't addressed, you can add police checkpoints near polling stations in majority black areas of Florida (2000, 2004), states denying felons the right to ever vote again (Texas, Florida) and using extremely broad interpretations of felons' names to block non-felon voters from voting (Florida 2000, 2004), states providing inadequate polling machines (and sometimes, very outdated ones) in areas that are largely poor and minority (Florida, Ohio 2004)...

Currently, the Georgia ID program has been blocked by a judge as being unconstitutional. But it is one more example of the GOP's clear message: Blacks, if we can't win your vote (and the GOP can't because of its policies), we don't WANT you to vote.

America, 2005.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

woodward's newest secret

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Bob Woodward can keep a secret. I wonder who the official was who told Woodward about Valerie Plame? Woodward says it isn't Scoooter Libby...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

alito, abortion, etc

Supreme Court wannabe explains away his 1985 written statement that he did not believe there was a right to abortion as merely the sort of lie one tells to get a job. But now, Sam says, he "knows better." In other words, he knows enough to not say what he believes quite so baldly, at least not until after he's confirmed. And various others (mostly people who would be appalled at Alito's nomination if they had any doubt he was soft on abortion) point to his belief in settled precedent, etc, as proof he hasn't already made up his mind on abortion. Hell, in his suck-up letter he said how proud he was at advancing the anti-abortion cause among others.

In addition to saying "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" and opposing various quotas, Alito came out in favor of a government role "in protecting traditional values" (whatever the hell THEY are).

Interestingly (to me), in one opinion as judge, Alito opposed a federal law protecting consumers from odometer fraud in used cars, saying "It is the states, and not the federal government, that are charged with protecting the health, safety and welfare of their citizens."

Break up the Department of Homeland Security? Kill off the Environmental Protection Agency? Leave the protection of the needy and the environment (which we all need...) to state governments like the one in Texas? Talk about a reactionary view.

Monday, November 14, 2005

iraqis as terrorists

Funny that despite sly allusions and implications by the White House and their stooges in the media, there were NO Iraqis involved in international terrorist attacks before we invaded in March 2003 ... and now there are.

Gosh. Was it supposed to work like that?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

top 50 independent films

Interesting list of the 50 greatest independent films. Plenty of room to quibble, of course, but isn't that the fun? I've seen 15 of them, including seven of the top 10. And there are quite a few I've never heard of.


Cool photo taken by a Japanese space probe of the asteroid Itokawa. They hope to bring a soil sample from Itokawa back to Earth.

another concert, another riot; or, it just seemed like a girl frenzy

Once again, violence has struck the world of popular music. Altamont, the stampede at the Who concert, assaults and riots at Woodstock '99, any number of fights (mostly on-stage between members of the band) at concerts by the Brian Jonestown Massacre -- and now, the horrors inherent in drug-crazed anti-establishment devil music have struck again at a Minnesota mall.

Hordes of out-of-control, screaming teenage girls, many with long hair, rushed the stage at a concert being given by the boy-band B5 yesterday. The girls grabbed at the clothing of the hapless Breeding brothers, screaming the whole time, overwhelming the mall's small, elite corps of heavily-armed, hardened security goons. The band was forced to flee for its life (and to save their clothes). Thousands of people were inconvenienced.

In the aftermath of the chaotic riot, it took mall security a full 15 minutes to restore order. Christopher Taykalo of Radio Disney, eyes still haunted by the horror of what he had witnessed, encapsulated the sheer terror of the moment -- “It just seemed like a girl frenzy."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

not all country is rightist

Interesting post at Rage Against the Right here about hyper-patriot country music, including some embarrassingly bad lyrics from Charlie Daniels and Toby Keith. (Daniels' far-right uber-patriotism is quite a contrast to his "Long-Hair Country Boy" days, thirty-something years ago.)

Rage Against the Right is correct, there is a lot of that kind of hyper-patriotic crap around, for sure. But there is alt-country Steve Earle as a welcome counterpoint. His two most recent albums, "Jerusalem" and "The Revolution Starts Now" are full of anti-Bush, anti-religious right, and anti-war lyrics that will warm the heart of liberal music fans. Not all the songs are political, but they're all good. ("Transcendental Blues" is also a great album.)

"Meanwhile, back at the hospital, we got accountants
playin' God and countin' out the pills.
Yeah, I know that sucks -- that you're HMO ain't
doin' what you thought it would do.
But everybody's gotta die some time and we can't save
everybody, that's the best we can do.

Compassionate conservative,
Is that the best we can do?"
(from Amerika v6.0, "Jerusalem")

"I used to listen to the radio
And I don’t guess they’re listenin’ to me no more
They talk too much but that’s okay
I don’t understand a single word they say
Piss and moan about the immigrants
But don’t say nothin’ about the president
A democracy don’t work that way
I can say anything I wanna say

So fuck the FCC
Fuck the FBI
Fuck the CIA
Livin’ in the motherfuckin’ USA"
(from F the CC, "The Revolution Starts Now")

"Ali was the second son of a second son
Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come
Ain’t nothin’ else to do around here just a game children play
Somethin’ ‘bout livin’ in fear all your life makes you hard that way

He answered when he got the call
Wrapped himself in death and praised Allah
A fat man in a new Mercedes drove him to the door
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war."
(from Rich Man's War, "The Revolution Starts Now")

Friday, November 11, 2005

rioters in france ARE french

Juan Cole rips into some of the fallacies about the rioting in France, here. Eloquent as always.

The gist:

"The French youth who are burning automobiles are as French as Jennifer Lopez and Christopher Walken are American."

Youth riots in France are as French as brie cheese; today's rioters are part of that tradition.

Immigration to France is NOT a new phenomenon, and today's immigrants (and their French children) from places like Tunisia and Senegal are no less capable of integrating than their Polish and Italian predecessors.

The riots have nothing to do with religion.

o'reilly -- the left does not control media

Occasionally I like to acknowledge when an ideological opponent is correct; some sort of misbegotten instinct to fairness or something. I just came across this quote from July, but because Bill O'Reilly is so rarely correct, I thought it was worth noting even belatedly.
Don't believe the right-wing ideologues when they tell you the left still controls the media agenda. It does not any longer. It's a fact.
Remember to quote Bill O'Reilly when some idiot gets in your face about the "liberal media."

bush accusing his critics

Today de facto president Bush slammed anybody who has ever expressed any doubts as being traitors. I exaggerate slightly, but look at a few quotes from his rant.
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges.
I agree. Let's start with the false charges you throw out in this speech (below).
While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.
No, it isn't. This wasn't a war thrust upon us like World War II and (arguably) Afghanistan, by an enemy that attacked us. This was a war of choice. It was predicated on the idea repeatedly expressed by the Administration that if we didn't act against Saddam soon, there would have mushroom clouds over American cities. It is completely legitimate to assess how we got into the war in the first place.
As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.
This is a false charge -- I don't know of any members of Congress who do not "continue to stand by" our troops. If anything, the half-assed way we committed our soldiers to Iraq, with inadequate numbers to finish the job, and inadequate armor for them and their vehicles shows the failure of the regime and Rumsfeld's Pentagon to "stand by" the individual troops -- not to mention the "stop loss" measures being taken that make it very difficult for a regular or reservist to leave the military after meeting his or her commitment.

Also, a quibble -- the Baathist insurgents in Iraq are not determined to destroy our way of life, they're determined to throw us out of Iraq and resume their thuggish rule. Baathist (not equal) Al Qaida. In any case, it is also very easy to construct a strong argument that Al Qaida doesn't want to destroy our way of life so much as they want us out of Saudi Arabia, the home country of Islam's holiest city, Mecca...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

keeping warm, japan-style

Soon, women will be able to keep warm with furry heated bras. Guys are out of luck. Except for sumo wrestlers, assuming they make plus sizes.

This is being sold by the manufacturer as a way to help combat global warming. Really.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

what's more serious, the torture or the leak?

Rather than investigate whether or not we have secret torture-prisons in East Europe, the GOP leadership of Congress wants to investigate how this information was leaked. An example of Congress' inability to do the right thing, and dark moment for American democracy and our commitment to rule of law and human rights. Even GOP members like Christopher Shays and Lindsey Graham think they should be investigating the torture and the prisons, not the disclosure.

Ironically, despite Frist & Hastert's "if accurate" disclaimer, this request for an investigation implicitly assumes that such hidden prisons, a new American gulag, do exist.

evolution in the status of evolution in kansas, or what else is wrong with kansas? with a closing thought from the dalai lama

The Board of Education in Kansas, ignoring recommendations from a panel of scientists and the National Academy of Sciences, has decided students there should be required to study doubts about Darwin's theory of evolution. Board chairman Steve Abrams said "This is a great day for education. This is one of the best things that we can do. This absolutely teaches more about science."

(You know, the way torture teaches us about democracy and human rights.)

One of the Board members who opposed the measure called it "sad day, not only for Kansas kids, but for Kansas" and said Kansas was becoming a "laughingstock."

Technically, the Board doesn't require anti-evolutionary points to be taught, but has determined that students will face questions about evolution's weaknesses on state assessment tests. Funny that they aren't requiring students to learn about holes in the theory of gravity, or flaws in economic theories underlying our free market capitalist system.

The Post article continued:
Members of the Kansas majority insisted that science motivated them, although several have made clear their position that life's development is too complex to be explained by natural evolution unguided by a higher power. That view describes many adherents of intelligent design, a critique of evolutionary theory that has gained particular support from the religious right -- and ridicule from the vast majority of trained scientists.
Mr. Abrams and company, just because you can't understand something complex doesn't mean it has to be explained by supernatural beliefs, or that the underlying science is wrong. What are we, shamans or ancient Greeks worshipping Poseidon because we don't know what causes storms? I don't understand how a damn airplane can fly despite weighing a bazillion pounds, but instead of positing some sort of divine intervention, I believe the scientists' theories and the engineers' explanations. No theory (in the scientific meaning of the word) is without areas of disagreement, or aspects that need more data or experimentation to be better understand.

At least yesterday wasn't a total loss for schools and science -- eight school board members in Dover, Pennsylvania, whose decision to back "intelligent design" prompted a court case, were defeated in yesterday's elections.

One last thought -- the Dalai Lama often says that when science proves Buddhist scriptures are wrong, then the scriptures should be rejected.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

irs selectively prosecuting/persecuting a church?

The IRS has warned a liberal Pasadena church it could lose its tax-free status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave before the election last year.

Oh, that's very good, IRS. How many ministers, preachers, and priests were out there last year urging its members to vote for Bush because he and the GOP are (allegedly) the moral choice? The GOP was even recruiting preachers at black churches to make the case for Bush. Hell, there were even Catholic bishops instructing priests not to administer Communion to John Kerry because he supported abortion, and publicly calling for his excommunication -- something that NEVER came up before Kerry became the Democratic nominee, so don't tell me this wasn't "political."

And the IRS, with its keen ability to find a needle in the haystack, finds a LIBERAL church for possible prosecution? Heck, the guest preacher didn't even urge the parishioners to vote for Kerry or anybody else -- he just criticized the war in Iraq and Bush' tax cuts for the rich. In other words, he preached what Christ would preach, against violence and warfare, and in favor of helping the poor rather than supporting the moneychangers and plutocrats.

I'd be interested to see whether any other churches are under investigation for this mixing of politics and preaching, and if any of them might have supported the junta in the last election.

Now the de facto Administration is using the IRS to punish anti-Administration churches. Another step down the road to becoming a full-fledged banana republic.

Isn't that special.

Monday, November 07, 2005

bush and the seven deadly sins

Wish I'd thought of this one -- Juan Cole describes how the de facto Bush Administration has hit each of the seven deadly sins -- Pride, Envy, Anger, Laziness, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust -- in its Iraq policy.

torture and the state of being a banana republic

You know, it's usually tinpot dictators from banana republics like Panama who get asked about torture and human rights violations while on foreign trips. In a nifty role reversal, it was the American de facto President getting the impudent torture question while in Panama.

Bush said "we do not torture." You know, I'd like to believe our country's president when he makes such a simple declaration, but it's difficult. He went on to clarify that he opposes the proposed Senate ban on torture.

It makes me sick that we've reached a situation where the Senate even needs to CONSIDER legislation banning torture. Now, if we really did NOT torture people, you'd think the Administration wouldn't have any problem with such a law. But no, Bush went on to say that we need to keep the option available for our specially-designated torture goons in the CIA.

Bush doesn't oppose torture. He opposes laws that accurately describe what our people are doing to suspects as torture, and that try to ban it. A tortured argument.

The terrorist threat is real, and we DO need to act wisely to counter it. Never mind that our stupid invasion of Iraq has increased the terrorist threat and served as a wonderful recruiting tool. The fact is, torture is incompatible with a true democracy, is ineffective, and again, serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists.

Let's see, we have a government that was elected under dubious circumstances, is lead by the son of a former president, repeatedly and baldly lies to its people, is dominated by corrupt oil interests, promotes economic policies that enrich the elite at the expense of the regular people, condones torture and secret prisons, whose leaders use military imagery and foreign threats to attack their opponents and dampen criticism, and is conducting illegal surveillance of its own citizens.

Are we already a banana republic?

riots and terrorism

Riots Spread in France
This situation in France is pretty bad and deteriorating rapidly. Now the French authorities are imposing curfews and calling out police reservists. Meanwhile, the rioting, intially confined to a couple of Parisian suburbs, have spread to over 250 towns.

I was watching a little CNN and Jack McCaffrey was reading a bunch of viewer email about this (for Jack, that passes as reporting). Most emailers were advising the French to shoot first and ask questions later. Now, that'll calm down an iffy situation, why didn't the French government think of that? The fact that most of the North African rioters are Muslim is incidental; these are no more "Muslim" riots than the urban riots after Dr. King's assassination in 1968 were "Christian." These are riots by people who are marginalized economically and socially and have little to lose, and is part of the ongoing messy aftermath of European colonialism.

Hope the French can pull this together. Mayors in other European cities with disaffected youths are getting nervous.

Terror Down Under?

Australian authorities held a press conference reporting on their overnight raids. Police said they found explosives similar to that used in London in July at the raided locations in Sydney and Melbourne, and that they have thwarted a "large scale" terrorist action.

Crikey. This was apparently a plot by Australian Muslim immigrants opposed to Australia's participation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

beware, here be pirates

When you say the word "pirate," you might think of Blackbeard or Johnny Depp.

A better image might be this friendly-looking guy.

Although the concept sounds vaguely quaint and outdated, there really ARE pirates out there -- and some of them just attacked a luxury liner off the coast of Somalia, fortunately without loss of life to the liner. There have been fifteen pirate attacks off the 2000-mile coast of Somalia this year, reports the International Maritime Organization. But the REAL center of modern piracy is the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca, where piracy has boomed since the mid-1990s.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

regrets, they've had a few

Now some Republicans are regretting passing the highway bill, which has more pork in it than the state of Iowa. Consensus is "it seemed like a good idea at the time before Katrina", but that's really wrong -- it was NEVER a good idea.

Arizona GOPster Floyd Flake is really a flake, but I give him credit for having refused to request any special projects for his district in this law. He has the right to be critical.

Majority-Leader-in-the-number-of-outstanding-indictments Tom DeLay apologized for its excesses before the Heritage Foundation yesterday. The seriousness of his apology was undermined by his scurrilous claim that the runaway spending was due to the minority DEMOCRATS. Even conservatives in attendance couldn't believe that one. They know the lack of power the minority party has in Congress nowadays, especially with a White House controlled by the majority party.

Pressure builds on chief porkster Ted Stevens of Alaska; a few weeks ago when conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma moved that the infamous Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere and other projects be killed in order to rebuild I-10 bridges near New Orleans, Stevens went ballistic and threatened to quit the Senate if the motion passed. Unfortunately, it didn't, an opportunity missed. Fun fact: California received the most highway dollars in the bill, and Illinois (home to Speaker Denny Hastert, but at least a big state) was second. Alaska was third with a nice even $1 billion for 120 projects, ahead of major states like New York, Texas, and Florida.

In any case, the regrets to me look a bit like crocodile tears. I think they regret less the money being lavished on pet projects designed to promote the local cults of various senators and congressmen (not just Alaskans), and more the fact that this has added to the growing public perception -- among conservative Republicans as well as the population at large -- that the GOP is maybe even WORSE than the pre-1994 Democrats at larding up the budget. The Republican Party of 2005 -- the party of big government, big deficits, big wars, and big lies.

Friday, November 04, 2005

a couple of friday thoughts

A Rowdy Summit
Gosh, it appears people in Argentina aren't wild about de facto President George W. Bush. Can't imagine why not.

Spy-Novel Men
Eugene Robinson coins a good phrase -- spy-novel men. You know, the ones who hide enemies in secret gulags in eastern Europe, away from prying eyes and the rule of law? Unfortunately, this time it's the CIA doing it, not the KGB. I guess by keeping our illegal prisons away from our shores, we can still claim to be the Land of the Free. Except for all the guys in prison for smoking crack, I mean.

Tom DeLay on Taxes
The Washington Post gave the odious Tom DeLay some prime space today to write about taxes. Predictably, the Indicted Bugman didn't like the report from the tax commission because it didn't go far enough. DeLay wants to get rid of all income taxes and replace them with sale taxes, which he claims will let people decide how much they want to pay in taxes by deciding how much to buy.

I see. I could argue that people already can decide how much they want to pay in taxes by deciding how much they want to earn -- but I won't because that would be an equally stupid argument. Fact is, tax system based solely on consumption would be incredibly regressive because non-rich people spend a much higher percentage of their income than the wealthy. DeLay and his ilk use tax reform as a smokescreen for their true agenda, reducing the government to a point where it can be drowned in a bath-tub. Naturally, they don't want to cut subsidies for important things, like wealthy farmers and Hummer ownership, but want to get rid of the unnecessary things, like food stamps. If Tom DeLay dislikes it, it's good with me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

i'm sure they don't really need those food stamps

House Republicans want to remove 300,000 people from the rolls of food stamp recipients, including 70,000 illegal immigrants. This in order to save a buck or two. The GOPsters also want to stop feeding subsidized school lunches to 40,000 kids.

Now, we shouldn't jump to conclusions about them being heartless bastards. I mean, really what will these people do with food stamps? They'll just use it to buy food, and with that sort of encouragement they'll just want to eat again. Lazy bums, if they'd just work at two full-time minimum wage jobs they could scrape ahead of the poverty level and afford that sumptious diet of Wonder bread and Smuckers jam. As for the kids who will lose their school lunches, I'm sure this is just the GOP's way of fighting child obesity.

Meanwhile, the tax-cutting for the wealthy continues. Which is good, because after all, our economic troubles only happen when we take cash out of the hands of our moral and intellectual superiors, keeping them from hiring more of us as maids and data entry slaves.

baby, you CAN'T drive my car

This bit at Slate is pretty funny -- Emily Yoffe tried and failed to learn how to drive a stick shift.

Well, I'm part of that slowly disappearing minority of Americans who CAN drive a stick. And I am part of the 10% who bought a car with the manual transmission, not the wussified automatic transmission that only the worthless and weak* rely on.

I like manual transmissions. They're cheaper, more reliable, better on gas, and give more control. Plus it's just cool to be able to shift. It's like an archaic frontier skill, like being able to build a barn or make clothes out of burlap or quote the Declaration of Independence from memory. And I think Yoffe was on to something -- the rise of the automatic transmission is at least partly responsible for the obesification of America. If you own a stick shift, you can't munch on a Mega-Mad-Cow Burger, drink a Gallon of Cola, and nibble at an order of Idaho** Fries while driving down the highway...

*"worthless and weak" should be read with an Austro-Californian or possibly Hans-and-Franz accent in mind for the best effect

** so named because they are half the size of the state of Idaho

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

massive cover-up of impending doom in buenos aires

Sure, go ahead and read this Reuters bit about a bunch of Argentinean security guys getting sick off of lasagne while on the detail to guard el jefe, the de facto President of the United States of America, Afghanistan, and Bits of Iraq, George W. Bush, and snicker. That's what They want you think. In fact, they are covering up with this vaguely light-hearted story the fact that a deep and diabolical plot is well underway.

Even as I blog, tree-hugging philosophy majors and a contingent of out-of-work Slovakian hockey players, commanded by renegade KGB elements and at least one member of Modest Mouse are weaking the defenses around the Western Hemisphere Summit. They are preparing to snatch Bush and Venezuelan president and loony-bin Hugo Chavez and switch their minds, forcing the kidnapped South Korean clone doctors they have drugged and dragged to the pampas to perform the operation previously tested on bats and jars of kimchi (to approximate the intelligent of Bush and Chavez).

Yes, it sounds crazy. Surely they'll be found out, you say? It is true they are concerned about language -- with Chavez's mind in his body, people will be confused about the sudden improvement in President Bush's command of the English language. But neverthless, these leftist radicals are convinced that Chavez-in-Bush's body will be more malleable to their anti-globalization agenda, and will help them put a stop to the era of big oil and revive Jerry Garcia.

The fate of our civilization is in the balance tonight, and the media has covered it all up to feed us dreck about Charles & Camilla visiting Washington.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

taxes, bloody taxes

I haven't gone thru the whole thing yet, but the bipartisan expert panel today released its recommendations for tax reform.

I like at least a couple of things. First, I like the idea of limiting the mortgage tax deduction. The panel doesn't suggest getting rid of it, but limiting it to only part of the mortgage, from from $227,000 to $412,000 according to real estate prices in your part of the country. That would preserve the entire tax benefit of a mortgage for most homeowners, and reduce the vaguely absurd subsidy for upper-end housing. Real estate interests, naturally, won't like anything that could even slightly dampen the upper end of the real estate market.

I also like the idea of killing the deduction for state and local taxes in return for getting rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT, not indexed for inflation, is grabbing greater and greater numbers of not-rich taxpayers every year. Government accountants won't want to get rid of it because it is quite a money-maker, but reforming the AMT in some way is appropriate because it no longer serves its original purpose of making sure the very rich pay at least a little something.

But the panel's report may not matter. De facto Bush Administration mouthpiece Scott "I Cannot Talk About Plamegate" McClellan said "The president is going to be outlining more about how we can move forward to reform the tax code and make it simpler and fairer." That is code for "we need to figure out how to reduce the burden on our rich supporters while passing the cost on to the suckers that keep re-electing us."

I can't figure out why the GOP doesn't just advocate the flattest tax possible -- say, $4000 per year per man, woman and child in the country regardless of income. Now THERE'S a proposal the wealthy investor classes can get behind.

supporting alito, gop-style

The GOP got the gullible Chris Matthews (via the odious Matt Drudge) to take their bait, Matthews waving documents on his show last night "proving" that the Democrats are using ethnic slurs against Supreme Court nominee Samuel "I-Hate-Abortion" Alito. Read more on this at the Daily Kos, here

Glad to see the Republicans are so confident of the merits of their nominee that they immediately resort to lies. Gosh, it's not even an election season. Maybe they can install Diebold electronic voting machines on the Senate floor and engineer a nice 95-0 vote for Scalia the Younger.


This is a bunch of crap -- Tom DeLay managed to get Judge Bob Perkins removed from his case because Perkins has given money to the Democratic Party and pro-Dem organizations.

What the hell? We live in a country where judges RUN FOR OFFICE as members of political parties -- and DeLay manages to get one removed from a case for giving money to political organizations? This is shades of the K-Street Project, browbeating lobbyists to only hiring Republicans, or else. Now DeLay has forced an insufficiently-Republican judge off of his own case. I think this decision (by a retired judge who us apparently a non-partisan kind of guy himself) is awful.