••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

piled high and deep

sometimes it gets discouraging.

i just saw a guy on tavis smiley's show who said he's a scientist who's found evidence of the validity of "intelligent design."

he said he did some sort of computer analysis of the human genome that indicates it's too complex to have evolved by a random process.

i would've liked to hear more details, but in response to further questions he simply repeated the assertion in different words.

just before the end of the segment, tavis posed a 2-part question whose second part asked the guest to speak on any possible weaknesses in his findings. he only answered the first part. i don't know whether he purposely ignored the other part or just ran out of time.

during my school days a fellow student told me the academic degrees b.s., m.s., and ph.d. stand for bullshit, more shit, and piled high and deep.

he had a point. if you know how to answer quiz questions, you can get some impressive letters after your name, but if you don't learn to ask the right questions you're not really a scientist.

the question tavis's guest needs to ask himself is "how do you explain all the failures?"

OF COURSE the genome of a successful species looks designed: its genome functions like pre-loaded software—an operating system that has made it successful—so our intuition finds a pattern of cause and effect similar to those that in everyday life correspond to the use of intelligence. but intuition isn't always right: the development of modern species took not a few thousand years but billions, and, for every species existing today, scores have fallen by the wayside and died out. most of the failed organisms never even became species: they died from harmful mutations without offspring or after only a few generations because they weren't competitive in the struggle to survive and reproduce.

apparently the "intelligent designer" designed by trial and error.

how darwinian.

more innocent blood on bush's hands

in baghdad today, commemorating the anniversary of the death of a historical figure, a crowd panicked at cries that a suicide bomber was approaching.

800-1000 died—mostly women and children trampled in the stampede.

it was the latest—and worst so far—of the unexpected consequences of an unnecessary war we were led to believe would be easy, quick, and cheap—so much so that we planned for the best-case scenario and totally ignored the possibility that anything could go wrong.

re katrina

i can't lay the death and devastation entirely at g w bush's door, but climate scientists have predicted global warming would increase storm intensity.

we who are 5% of the world's population pump 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere annually.

the religionists who have controlled congress for the last 10 years—convinced god would protect our promised land—hasten warming by refusing to mandate a cut in those carbon emissions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

right to junk

it's ironic that the right wing—which made "junk science" a household term to attack everything from evolution to global warming to embryonic stem cell research—is in reality THE great purveyor of junk science.

as atmospheric carbon gases grow, nearly all the world's glaciers are receding [the one on mt.kilimanjaro is 85% smaller than 90 years ago and will be GONE in 10-15 years], storms are growing in intensity [i've heard only the strength not the number of hurricanes will grow, but if tropical storms get stronger more of them will become hurricanes], the great lakes thaw an average of 3 weeks earlier in the year than a century ago [the average rate of change is 2 days per decade, but it's been rising], and malaria-carrying mosquitos kill off bird populations further up hawaiian mountain slopes every year, but the "right" still says we have no evidence of global warming or—if it is happening—no evidence that it's man-made. some even claim global warming may be good, as it caused greater food production, leading to longer life spans than 100 years ago [ignoring technological advances in health care, energy, agriculture, refrigeration, plumbing, sanitation, &c]. that's junk science.

a housefly's brain contains 100,000 cells. embryonic stem cells come from groups of 50-200 cells which have no heart, no bone, no brain, no nervous system, but which the "right" (including g w bush) calls "human beings" with rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property, privacy, and—[oops! strike that last one: the "right" doesn't recognize a constitutional right of privacy]. they go on to say government also shouldn't fund the research because the research so far hasn't cured a single disease. [but how could it if the research is incomplete?] that's junk science.

the "right" is coming around to the view that all life had a common ancestor but evolution must be guided—à la "intelligent design"—not random or chance—as in darwin's theory—and claims that the existence of a cosmic designer should be taught in science classes along with darwin as a competing theory of equal stature. that's junk science, too. [see earlier post]

real science is based on the scientific method, a rigorous use of observation, reason, and experiment to solve problems. "intelligent design" is based on false reasoning. it is neither science nor religion, but it promotes a religious faith-based view of the world rather than a scientific evidence-based view.

why do religionists want to invent a pseudoscientific theory? few, if any, scientists try to disprove religious beliefs, let alone invent a scientific religion. even scientology was founded by a science-fiction writer, not a scientist.

most scientists would likely say science can't prove or disprove matters of faith, because almost all the lore is anecdotal and not quantifiable, so it can't be turned into analyzable data.

nonetheless, more than a few religionists seem to think science conflicts with their faith.

if religion is an important part of their lives, that dissonance must produce a fair amount of anxiety.

forbidden fruit

one of the pillars of xian theology comes from a misunderstanding: a misread of the meaning of the forbidden fruit.

the standard interpretation says humans inherit "original sin" because our ancestors "fell" by disobeying god. those elements are present in the story but are not its main point.

a clue to the error lies in the fact that the fruit is usually said to come from the "tree of knowledge." that, of course, is only part of the name, and genesis never uses that abbreviated form.

the name of the fruit is the key to the true meaning of the story. what is the fruit of the "tree of knowledge of good and bad" (or "...good and evil" in some translations)? it's been thought to be an apple. many think it represents sex. a search of literature reveals that scholars and sages have put together a fairly long list of possible fruits—including wheat, odd as it may seem. it is none of them.

proper interpretation requires a kind of literalness. look at names of fruits. the fruit of the orange tree is an orange. the fruit of the peach tree is a peach. several exceptions exist, like oaks and redwoods, but most fruit and nut trees got named after their fruit or nuts.

if it follows the general rule, the fruit of a knowledge of good and bad tree must be knowledge of good and bad.

and what happened when man and woman ate it? it became inner knowledge of good and bad—the definition of conscience.

the true intent of the story is to explain how humans acquired conscience. that is confirmed by adam and eve's new ability to feel shame, which humans feel when we know we've done something dishonorable, improper, or ridiculous. conscience causes shame.

notice that eating the fruit also separates humans from the state of nature—the garden—making us less like other animals and more fully human. conscience makes us more fully human.

of course, we don't really acquire conscience by eating. it's a myth—a story that deals with some aspect of a people's world view.

the origin of myths is unknown. some may have begun as stories parents told children to answer hard questions, like kipling's "how the elephant got it's trunk," in which a crocodile grabs the elephant's nose and holds on so it stretches as the elephant tries to pull free.

stories that got widely retold and embellished became folk tales—part of an oral tradition. some eventually got written down. those that religious leaders thought important enough got included in scriptures.

each of us most likely grows a conscience in a manner that parallels the metaphors of the bible story. perhaps getting punished for wrongdoing contributes to that growth, or maybe it happens independent of punishment by others.

my personal "original sin" came when i was 4—too young to expect consequences. i did something i knew was wrong, but i never got caught. my sense of guilt grew and affected my behavior. a lot of years passed before i assimilated the fruits of my actions, recalled what i'd done as a child, saw how it all linked together, and grasped how i'd been unknowingly judging and punishing myself all that time.

ancient ancestors didn't cause it, i did when i was very young and irresponsible.

water didn't cleanse my soul, knowledge and understanding did.

new links

just want to mention i've added a few links to old stories and will continue to do so when i get rushed and have no time to add them as i post the original item.

sorry for the inconvenience, if any, but i'm doing my best, so i hope u can bear with me....

Monday, August 29, 2005

bush's vietnam revisited

i wonder if know-it-all viet vets like john mccain are ready yet to admit iraq really is bush's vietnam.

it's odd he took such a literal view that they're nothing alike, because mccain doesn't act like a know-it-all on most subjects.

think of it like this, senator: the watergate complex is nothing like a belgian town, but watergate was still nixon's waterloo.

get it?

getting picky

2 days ago, when katrina was still category 1, i heard a tv newsman say something like "even a minor hurricane can be dangerous."

a "minor hurricane"?

what the hell is a minor hurricane?

re darfur

are we ever going to do something about darfur?

how long has it been since colin powell called it genocide?

gops still bring up clinton's failure to stop the murder of at least 800k rwandans in '94, but that orchestrated slaughter began and ended in only a couple months—so fast it was hard for anyone outside rwanda to grasp what was happening, let alone organize an international response.

the darfur ethnic cleansing is much slower. when powell spoke of it, the number of deaths was estimated at around 30k. now it's 180k, maybe a lot more.

instead of threatening to withhold our UN dues, why aren't we getting the security council to take effective action?

as samantha power asked on "60 minutes," what is our excuse for watching this happen in slow motion?

tom friedman's dumb logic

saturday c-span2 replayed their may '05 in-depth interview of tom friedman originally aired as part of their monthly series of 3-hour interviews.

right in the first 5 or 10 minutes is a perfect example of the trouble with friedman's logic.

he told of research that compared student achievement in several countries, including the US. he said the study found that at 4th grade, american students were a little ahead of everybody else, at 8th grade they were about even, and at 12th grade they were behind.

he then said that meant that the longer US kids are in school, the dumber they get.

gee, tom, are you sure it doesn't mean the more you appear on tv, the dumber you sound?

all—and i do mean ALL—those stats tell us is that after 4th grade, kids in other countries are learning faster than our kids.

they don't tell us why. they certainly don't tell us our kids are getting dumber.

maybe they are getting dumber. maybe they're not. we can't tell from that research.

but what can you expect from a guy who said we were right to invade iraq, but our reasons were wrong?

i mean, he had that one exactly backwards: we actually had good reasons, but it was still wrong to invade, because 1) our facts were wrong, and we didn't take the time or make the effort to verify them, 2) our most solemn treaty obligations require us to get UN security council authorization for war, except to defend against an actual attack [folk who claim we had that authorization didn't read the UN resolution carefully enough], and 3) it is just plain WRONG to go to war to bring a handful of bad guys to justice when you KNOW you will kill thousands of innocent people, maim thousands more, and make many others suffer in other ways!

rice on chavez

last week, during coverage of the pat robertson story, one tv station—i think it must've been cnn, but i confess i'm not certain—played a short clip of condi rice talking about hugo chavez, which seemed about as relevant to the robertson story as a cherry pie recipe would be in a biography of george washington.

rice was shown describing venezuela under chavez as undemocratic.

huh? i thought she was supposed to be so brilliant. chavez was elected twice and survived a recall referendum. what could be more democratic?

to be fair, after chavez' first election a constituent assembly rewrote the constitution and replaced the elected congress with an assembly of chavez allies.

that makes the government more than a little autocratic and gives chavez' a lot of power, but "undemocratic" isn't the word for it: the people subsequently reelected chavez and defeated the recall attempted by his enemies. that's democratic.

it might be argued that the people support him only because he, in effect, bought their votes by promising to share the country's oil profits with the poor.

maybe there's something to that, but no more than if he'd promised to give back the government surplus thru tax cuts.

besides, almost the only enemies chavez has inside venezuela are those rich folk that want the poor to stay poor.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

ms screw

looks like microsoft messed up. those of u who use win 2000 know what i'm talking about if u tried to use ur a: drive after installing service pack 2.

Friday, August 26, 2005

when is going to war justified?

forget "just war theory." it brings in too many nonessential issues, and most of its tests are impossible to pass in advance of combat.

war is intentional organized violence that almost inevitably causes massive harm with long-lasting, far-reaching, and, often, unexpected and unintended consequences. because of that harm and those consequences, what we need is a principle as simple as occam's razor to draw a sharp line between when a government has a right to go to war and when it does not.

clearly that principle is NECESSITY: when a nation MUST go to war, no additional justification is needed, but when going to war is NOT necessary, NO other factors CAN justify it.

how is a government to know when war is necessary? yes, it must be a last resort used only when all reasonable alternatives fail, but that statement is not only too general but too abstract: a last resort from what?

we—the people of the world—must choose unambiguous categories of violations of international norms that are sufficiently harmful to justify a devastating response. the categories might include aggression, breach of peace, genocide, crimes against humanity, and/or some other human rights abuses.

in specific cases, proponents of war need to show—by valid, up-to-date evidence—not only that such a violation has occurred but that it continues in the present and cannot be stopped by peaceful means.

the standard of proof must be no less than required in courts of law—"beyond reasonable doubt"—since harm to the innocent, no matter how unintended, is an inevitable result of war.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

pat, pam, & paris

i've been trying to avoid writing about pat robertson, tho i did post a short comment about his hypocrisy 2 days ago on another blog. today pat apologized, but yesterday he actually denied he said what he said, and i don't think he's apologized for lying about it. if you're so inclined, you can still watch and listen to the lie and the original clip of his fatwa—yes, i know this isn't the correct use of the word, but it's now part of the slanguage—for the assassination of hugo chavez on last night's daily show online.

it never ceases to amaze me that so many folk are so gullible as to make no-nothings like robertson and his brother-in-arms jerry falwell into spiritual leaders. their brand of xianity is nothing more than a mishmash of fantasy and superstition that has about as much to do with jesus' teachings as g w bush's war has to do with sound diplomacy, intelligence, and strategy.

you could make a pretty good case that nearly 2000 americans now lie dead because cable "news" has shown so much deference to pat, jerry, and their ilk. their counterfeit tv gravitas helped build the environment that enabled a nonentity to use christ to get into the white house and start an unnecessary, illegal, immoral war that has only magnified the terrorist threat.

on the same daily show, jon stewart added yet more evidence to the indictment of cable "news" for the dumb-down of the american public. he showed a clip of larry king asking pamela anderson about "barbed wire," an unbelievably stupid film i admit i saw about 5 minutes of on tv a few years ago.

that film isn't what made pam as big as she is [pun intended]. she's a "star," as you undoubtedly know, because of a homemade sex video that let the world know of her incredible body when it got wide play on the internet. of course, most folk never saw it but learned of her via subsequent knee-jerk media coverage—or, as i prefer to call it, hi-tech gossip.

btw, i have nothing personal against anderson. she may be a sweet, down-to-earth person, for all i know. but her fame comes from morbid fascination, not merit.

her rise to glory was copycatted almost precisely by paris hilton, who proved that even a super-rich hotel heiress can still screw her way to the top. paris—another sweet child, no doubt—lacks pam's endowments. her natural asset is her family, whose wealth produces similar morbid fascination among the hoi polloi. she should get down on her knees 5 times a day to thank—or, perhaps, curse—her ancestors for making her what she is.

a word of advice to the "news" media: avoid giving free publicity to anybody whose first name begins with "p"—or, at least, stop peeing them on us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

eml to ted koppel last october (re-edited):

You tried valiantly to get John O'Neill to stop talking about the books he had on hand, but the most telling (and ironic) moment in your interview came from his attempted coup de grace via reading John Kerry's own words:
I could not help wondering what would have happened if, instead of one Vietcong with a B-40, what if there had been 3, or 5, or 10?
The disparity between that sentence and O'Neill's endless repetition of his charge that only one VC was present makes me think his enmity to Kerry may come from poor reading comprehension, since what Kerry actually said (according to O'Neill's own reading) was not just "one Vietcong" but "one Vietcong with a B-40."

Clearly Kerry meant he wondered about the outcome not if there'd been more VC, but if more had been similarly armed with B-40 rocket launchers.

It occurs to me that the Swiftvets' second TV ad also uses some of Kerry's words and omits others that provide a context that changes their meaning.

It would be a sad irony—and a sad commentary on our politics—if the election got decided by misinterpretation.

Then again, maybe that's what politics is all about.

flatax &c

in case you have a short memory, gops have agitated for a flat tax before.

if my own flawed memory serves, it was back in '96 that dick armey and steve forbes both promoted 17% income tax plans. (the only difference i know of was the size of the standard deduction and exemptions.) it came fairly close on the heels of the balanced budget noise of '95-'96, so it made me curious to see how either plan might affect the deficit.

i got out my world almanac, looked up government expenditures, income distribution, number of families, and a few other stats. on the back of an envelope i easily computed that a balanced federal budget needed to take 20-25% of total US personal income, varying 2 or 3 points from year to year, so call it 23% average.

in a total elapsed time of about ½ hour (including "research"), i proved to my own satisfaction that it was mathematically impossible to balance the budget under either plan.

a few months later the treasury department publicly confirmed my conclusion.

[i'm not bragging about my math prowess. it took neither calculus nor linear equations and little—if any—high school algebra. it's basically just arithmetic plus a little patience and persistence. try it yourself if you don't believe me.]

now, i ask you, how is it possible that plans advocated by one of the highest-rank leaders of congress and by the near-billionaire publisher of one of the world's leading financial journals both would have put the treasury deeper into the red?

i can't say for sure, but i'll tell you what i think—that's what i'm here for:

i think they just picked those numbers out of thin air.

why would they do that?

because 17% sounded good. they thought it'd get votes. forbes wanted to be president. armey wanted to cement his high place and position himself to jump higher. 17% sounds goood! who needs math?!!!

after all, close to half of all americans really mean it when they say "my mind's made up. don't confuse me with facts."

[ok. i admit i'm just guessing. it might be way more than half.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

free market drug war

here's a pipe dream.

how much money do you think farmers get for south american coca that gets turned into colombian cocaine and afghan poppies used to make opium and heroin?

think it could be more than we spend trying to stamp out the drug trade?

if so, i'd be surprised.

why don't we just spread the word that we'll buy up the whole crop and pay more than the drug lords?

then we could resell it to makers of painkillers.

a little creative capitalism....

righteous lightning

the US—this supposed nation under god—was formed not by god but by humans like benjamin franklin.

franklin was born in boston in 1706. religionists of the day, when lightning set a house ablaze, had their fire brigades wet down surrounding houses as the lightning-struck house burned to the ground.

when franklin was 42 he retired as a printer and became a full-time scientist. 4 years later he invented the lightning rod.

religionists complained that he had usurped a prerogative of the almighty. [i mean, that is really WEIRD, man! how could true believers imagine any mere mortal could possibly usurp ANYTHING from the ALMIGHTY?!!]

in 2002, g w bush invented the axis of evil, and he and his fellow religionists cut the US donation to the world food program.

that same year, bush and his fellow religionists began beating their wardrums over iraq, a nation of no known nuclear capability, but a "member" of bush's invented evil axis. the following year, they invaded.

north korea depended heavily on the world food program. when bush included them in his invented axis, they worried. when he cut their food ration, they got alarmed. but when he beat the iraq drum, they didn't freak out, they went to work.

even before he invaded they took his actions as a warning. they reasoned that if a country on his hit list with no atomic bombs gets attacked, prudence would suggest nukes might deter another attack.

they took the precaution of pulling out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty so they wouldn't be charged with violating it. then they slowly and deliberately took steps to restart their 8-years-dormant nuclear weapons program, informing the world at each step.

bush's fellow religionists called north korea's leader a madman.

when we invented the atomic bomb, we used it—twice—within a month of completing it.

since then we've fought 4 major wars and several small ones.

north korea now has atomic bombs but hasn't attacked anyone in 50 years.

i'm looking around for a madman.

all i see is a coven of old witches in an oval cavern, stirring troubled global cauldrons, staring into shiny axes of evil, chanting "mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?"

to reality, or something like it on hiroshima

reply to cjm's post on hiroshima:

'sfunny. i knew a guy in nyc—a leftist, strangely—who was glad we nuked japan 'cause his dad was on a troop ship headed west across pacific then, so he thinks he might not've been born if we hadn't dropped a-bombs.

i think you're right. japan most likely would've surrendered w/o invasion. they knew red army was about to enter war and US and brits had'm surrounded at sea, and china still had 2 armies fightin' back.

but it's complicated. truman thrust into job a few months earlier when fdr died. he knew nothing of bomb before. "experts" brought him up to speed, most likely told him he had to drop it or stalin would demand a piece of japan if they surrendered w/o invasion, or we'd lose too many men if we had to invade.

politics as usual....

Monday, August 22, 2005

ever hear a butterfly?

saturday i'm cuttin' weeds b'hin' the house, see, n it's a lil past 6, so i'm thinkin' i'd best wrap soon b4 the bugs start bitin'.

i chewed a clove o garlic b4 i started, cz i heard it keeps skeeters away, but i don' kno if it works on nethng else, n we got all kinds o lil monsters comin' out late in the day that've developed a taste 4 human flesh—n who needs that, right?

so i'm tryin' 2 get a bit mo done when a black butterfly catches my eye—or maybe moth, i can't really tell cz it's movin' so fast.

so fast, in fact, i wonder 4 a mo if it's a hummingbird. i've seen'em out there, n once i thought one was a butterfly, but it moved way 2 fast then stopped on a dime n hovered a couple secs then flew off at right angles 2 its original path.

but i never heard o black hummingbirds, so i figger it mus b a moth or butterfly. hummingbirds don' flutter, either, do they? this thing flutters, but it sure flies fast.

neway, i get back 2 work, but it gets my attention again off 2 my left then flies up high. i bend over again, when WHOOSH! smthng whizzes past my right ear.

i almost jump. must be a bird or a falling branch. but no, there's that black lepidopteran again, flyin' away fro me.

i yell "hey! what's WITH u?" struggle to regain composure. take couple mo cuts at weeds. feel spot on arm start 2 itch. give up. go inside.

pow qaeda

as you know, the bush administration claims enemy combatants captured in the war on terror aren't prisoners of war protected by the geneva convention and can be held indefinitely without access to our legal system.

but—no matter where we hold them—they're in US custody, so, if they're not prisoners of war, they must be accused criminals, and if international law doesn't apply to them, our constitution must.

it can't be neither.

as condi rice so often says, you can't have it both ways.


the good news is the white house released a lot of john roberts' writings, and this was in one of his 1986 memos:

"The Senate is free to consider under the Constitution all cases it needs to consider in voting on a nomination. The Senate should have access to all relevant material before voting on confirmation."

unfortunately it all came from reagan's justice department. the bushers still won't give the senate anything from '89-'93, when roberts was #2 in the solicitor general's office.

that's his most influential work, because the SG submits an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief whenever the government has an interest in the outcome of a case it's not party to, and something like 3 out of 4 decisions go the way the SG's amicus briefs recommend, which is a better record than the justice department has at winning when it's one of the parties in a case.

the administration claims it can withhold those documents under attorney-client privilege, because waiving the privilege would chill the ability to give advice in the highest levels of government.

david bookbinder calls that "bulloney!" [his pronunciation—or how i heard it, anyway.]

he's a lawyer with the sierra club who spoke friday as part of a press conference hosted by nan aron of the alliance for justice. aron read the memo excerpt quoted above and later added that the white house's refusal to provide documents establishes dangerous precedent that would limit the scope of senate inquiries and undermine the senate's ability to advise and consent.

bookbinder said it's not plausible that a lawyer wouldn't give honest and straightforward advice because 20 years later he might get nominated to the supreme court and somebody might look at his records and criticize him.

bookbinder went on to ask: since privilege is a red herring, what lies behind refusal to turn over documents?

he said there are 2 possibilities:

1. secrecy for its own sake: the administration is obsessed with secrecy and believes secrecy is a virtue; or

2. roberts wrote some things so outrageous that even a gop-dominated senate will reject him.

makes sense to me. and that's how it'll look.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

it ain't geneva, but we signed

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

—Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Adopted by the UN General Assembly, 12/10/84. In effect 6/26/87 after ratification by 20 nations.

enemies, enemies, everywhere, nor any drop to drink

now they even camp on the road to the ranch!

what's a poor president to do?

at times like these, he must feel a really strong urge to roll off the wagon.

back when georgie boy ran against gore, i think it was george will i first heard say you might bring al gore home to meet the family, but bush's the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with.

never mind that he'd never have a beer with you....

borderline bulls

we need more folk guarding borders, but the last thing we need is a bunch of untrained amateurs who don't know what they're doing.

even military experience doesn't necessarily mean they'd know how to deal with undocumented would-be workers—let alone terrorists masquerading as migrants.

something's sure to go wrong sooner or later, and somebody's going to get hurt or worse.

one victim may be a frightened but innocent mexican who runs from a nervous 'minuteman' who overreacts. another may be a vigilante who unwittingly confronts a determined criminal.

terrorists might even arm themselves with grenades to take out amateur border guards.

lack of appropriate training is a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

refugees from fear

on washington journal yesterday a caller accused a guest of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

it indirectly reminded me of a samuel johnson quote i quibble with: patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

see, scoundrels resort to patriotism long before they need a last refuge.

as they grow desperate they accuse their opponents of treason.

even that might not be their LAST refuge.

but i'm not sure all who act that way must be scoundrels.

some may just be phobes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

4 months, 11 days

The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there's no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the US government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and 'personalizing terrorism'.

cheney, 1975

Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose.
—Dick Cheney in the Ford White House

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

neither lib nor con

in the interest of full disclosure, let me say i don't consider myself either liberal or conservative.

i'm not trying to do a john kerry denial here. i agree with some of the values of both positions: the cons' respect for tradition and experience and the libs' concern for social justice, but i'm generally further left than a lib yet consider my position essentially moderate.

i'm more likely to agree with libs than cons on most issues, but i was very disappointed when many liberals supported lbj during the first years of the vietnam war, perhaps because they thought they had to back him across the board to avoid undermining his pro-civil-rights agenda.

the recent american rightward trend bucks history: the world has been getting more liberal for centuries.

conservative americans embraced the first neo-puritan revival (the "great awakening") in reaction to the far more liberal 18th century enlightenment that generated the liberty/equality philosophy of the american revolution. the loyalist tories of 230 years ago were cons. the conservative party in the UK is still called tory.

in the 19th century, liberals opposed slavery. (to oversimplify a paraphrase of browning's poem why i am a liberal: because slavery is wrong.) conservatives—with a few exceptions—supported it and used scripture to justify it.

i think i've heard that before ww2 there were isolationists on both right and left: when hitler invaded russia, the leftists advocated coming to stalin's aid, but right-wing isolationists favored germany, so they held out at least till pearl harbor.

libs have backed free public education, child labor laws, organized labor, workplace safety, 5-day and 40-hour work weeks, civil rights, women's rights, equal rights for gays, social security, minimum wage, integration of schools and public accomodations, medicare, and healthy ecology—all opposed or ignored by cons on abstract grounds like religion, fear of "big government," and states' rights.

misstates rights

"states' rights" is a fundamental misconception long held by the "right" and used to defend slavery, segregation, and other forms of persecution and oppression.

but it isn't even mentioned in the constitution. every use of the words "right" or "rights" is about rights of people, not of institutions or jurisdictions.

the so-called states' rights amendment—the 10th—is about powers, not rights.

look it up.

preemption! gesundheit!

for the umpteenth time—recently from ann coulter and this time from a caller to washington journal—i've heard a con justify our preemptive aggression against iraq by claiming fdr attacked germany after pearl harbor even tho they hadn't attacked us but were doing bad things and/or were japan's allies.

they seem blissfully unaware of the actual sequence of events.

here's a few lines from the time almanac to set them straight:

Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Philippines, Guam force US into war; US Pacific fleet crippled (Dec.7). US and Britain declare war on Japan. Germany and Italy declare war on US; Congress declares war on those countries (Dec.11).

further, on jan 13, 1942, germany began a u-boat offensive along the US east coast, but we didn't launch an offensive against the germans till we invaded north africa on november 8. the navy had already whipped the japanese at midway june 7, and the marines had landed on guadalcanal august 7. the first all-US air attack in europe came august 17.

Monday, August 15, 2005

all talk

when it comes to talkin' the talk but not walkin' the walk, gops have no peer.

take the bible.

as christians they talk a great game, but when chips are down they ignore key teachings.

ex.1. news report a while back—2003 i guess: american unit destroyed iraqi orchard after the farmer didn't fully cooperate against the enemy.

i have no idea what military doctrine says on the subject or if the action was repeated, but an administration that professes the righteous zeal of this one ought to know cutting down fruit trees in war is specifically forbidden in deuteronomy 20.

a few months ago israeli soldiers did the same thing when snipers regularly fired on a jewish settlement from a palestinian orchard.

would the american officer have given that order if the trees and the insurgency had been in the US? would the israelis have cut down a jewish-owned orchard to take away sniper cover?

such acts carry an enormous load of negative karma.

ex.2. remember pharoah's dreams in genesis 41? 7 scrawny cows sneak up behind 7 healthy ones and devour them? 7 withered ears of corn eat up 7 good ears?

joseph tells the king famine will follow years of plenty, so he should store surplus food while he can and hold it in reserve till needed.

i'm sure i needn't spell out the implications, whether for the federal budget or for the social security trust funds.

why revere an ancient text if you don't apply its wisdom today?

what good is faith if you don't use your god-given reason?

what's wrong w/ this pic?

see, the thing about the terror alert level chart (or whatever u call it) is it just shows you (& the world!) these guys ain't got the know-how to win a war.

it takes attention to detail to defend a homeland, and they don't even have the details of their colors right.

what's wrong with'em? 2 things: number and order. (sorry if you think i'm stating the obvious, but it needs saying.)

let's deal with sequence first (because i've got a feeling the number of colors is gonna take a whole lotta words):

simply put, the sequence should follow the spectrum. these guys wanted red and green at opposite ends like traffic signals and traditional military alert conditions, but they seem clueless how they got that way—namely, the spectrum. and in the spectrum, blue is not found anywhere between green and yellow. if you want to use those same 5 colors and have red at the top, blue should, in fact, be at the bottom. (but i suppose i shouldn't be surprised, given the scientific ignorance of so many of their crowd.)

now, why is 5 colors/levels wrong? because the lowest it ever gets is the 3rd level, so why have 2 below it? maybe it makes sense to have one unused level at the bottom to indicate we're never at "condition green" these days because in a war on terror we always have to be more on guard than in normal times. but 2 unused levels makes no more sense than going to war against a country that never attacked us but will become a recruiting poster child and on-the-job training ground for terrorists as a result of the invasion and occupation.

just get rid of the blue level, but keep the name "guarded" and get rid of "elevated," which means the same thing as "high," so why have both?

all i want is a little common sense for a change.

dream on....

adam caption

sunday on meet the press, an e j dionne statement included a sentence that appeared in the closed caption as "adam smith is spinning in his grave so fast."

but that wasn't the whole sentence. dionne went on: "...that he would qualify as an energy source under this bill." needless to say, many hearing-impaired viewers had no idea what he meant.

i'll keep posting on the topic of flawed closed captions till somebody does something about it. feel free to comment or post other examples.

Friday, August 12, 2005

gwb v lbj

the unpopularity of lyndon b's war forced him out of the '68 campaign. so how come george w got a 2nd term?


the tonkin gulf incident took place before the '64 election, and we were in major combat by mid-'65, with 180k+ troops by year's end. it took 2 more years for the peace movement to have its first major success at the pentagon in october '67. several more months passed before lbj lost in NH.

in contrast, 9/11 was far more serious than tonkin gulf, bush's afghan war was popular and seemingly short [i'll say more in another post on how it too was wrong-headed], he didn't invade iraq till 2 full years after he took office, and the NH primary was less than a year later.

still, if john mccain had run in NH again in '04, i think we might've retired georgie-boy.

and if he'd invaded iraq instead of afghanistan in 2001, he'd surely languish in crawford now.

if if if....

Thursday, August 11, 2005


have you noticed that every time the subject of wmd in pre-war iraq comes up in radio or tv discussions, somebody inevitably says "EVERYBODY believed saddam had wmd" (and sometimes they add "including france and germany") and nobody contradicts it?

well, a single negative example is all you need to disprove that generalization.

i can assure you i know at least one person who didn't believe it, plus france and germany both said the evidence was inconclusive.

that's enough to make it a lie, and because it gets repeated so often, it qualifies as a BIG lie.

but it still goes on.

bushonomics & mid-east peace

after the election, when bush spoke metaphorically of his intent to "spend" his "political capital," he confirmed what i suspected: he doesn't understand economics.

unless you're a banker, capital is not money. capital refers to assets—in other words, goods used to produce other goods and/or services. you don't spend it, you use it. even banks don't spend it: they lend it.

how does that relate to the middle east? because calling what he wants to spend "capital" is a false analogy, like the "road map to peace."

a real road map shows known roads. you use it to figure out where you are or to plan a route. you may choose a short route or a scenic route or a route with plenty of rest stops. in any case, the roads already exist before they get drawn on the map.

roads to israeli-palestinian peace were unknown. they couldn't be mapped. it's not like a road map at all. that's why calling it a road map is known as a false analogy. (and use of a false analogy is a logical fallacy.)

they could've called it "blueprint" or "flow chart" or maybe even "technical analysis," so why did they pick "road map?"

probably because "blueprint" sounded old-fashioned, and karl and condi wanted georgie-boy to sound hip and creative and original, and they didn't think many americans know what a flow chart is.

why does it matter if we don't know what a flow chart is?

because all of it—ALL of it—is marketing. they were preparing for the next election the whole time, and you can't sell us if you use words we don't know.

but that doesn't mean you can't confuse us or fool us.

look how georgie fooled us by purposely mispronouncing "nuclear."

you say you don't think it's purposeful? listen to his '94 debates against ann richards.

mark of the beast

you may've seen my ravings re the number of the beast here on 7/29/05.

it is commonly assumed that the mark of the beast is the number, but close analysis shows it may be otherwise.

i can't vouch for the accuracy of the translation—and they don't all agree—but rev 13:17 in the new king james version says "...that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

clearly, in that translation the mark is not the number.

i'll go further: the mark may be of a different beast than the name and number. "the mark or the name of the beast" isn't quite the same as "the mark of the beast or the name of the beast."

chapter 13 has two beasts. the first is described as "like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion." the 2nd "had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon." ("spoke like a dragon" may be related to chapter 16 replacing the 2nd beast with "the false prophet.")

13:17 likely connects the name and number to the first beast, but not so likely the mark.

the 2nd beast makes people take the mark, so it may be his mark.

what is an animal's mark? its footprint is all i've come up with.

but we don't know anything about the 2nd beast's feet—or do we?

from the description we can infer that the first beast has cat-like and bear-like traits: fur, claws, and fangs, so it's most likely a carnivore.

all we know about how the 2nd beast looks is it has lamb-like horns, so we can't directly infer anything about its feet, but the difference between the two descriptions may indirectly imply that it has other lamb-like traits, including cloven hooves.

since revelation is the most symbolic of biblical books, it's not far-fetched to expect the mark to be an abstract symbol. if i were inventing a symbol of a cloven hoofprint, i'd use two short parallel lines, like a ditto.

now, i don't know how a dragon speaks, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it sounds like rush limbo.

more builliance

a week ago i said i didn't know which gwb statement was dumber:

1. the roadside bomb that killed 14 marines is a reminder we're at war with a ruthless enemy.

or 2. i think about iraq every day. every single day.

just thought i'd mention a couple more:

3. if we set a timetable for pulling out of iraq, they'll just sit back and wait us out.

4. they hate us because they hate freedom.

i went from memory, so i'm sure some of those 4 aren't exact quotes. if you have corrections or want to add your own favorites to the list, you're invited to post comments.

& consent?

can you tell me how anyone determined that the advice and consent clause requires the senate to vote nominees up or down?

nothing in the grammar or the logic of the clause leads to such a conclusion.

on the contrary, "by and with the advice and consent of the senate" is a parenthetic phrase modifying "he...shall appoint...," so it is self-evident that it limits a president's power to appoint but does not obligate the senate in any way.

further, the framers appear to have anticipated the recent controversy and emphatically resolved any possible ambiguity by putting the clause in article ii, which deals with the powers and duties of the president, not article i, which might have implied a duty of congress.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

junk design

let's go into a little more detail than in the posting "don't look now" (below).

i think it's good to have public debate over whether intelligent design (ID) should be taught in schools. it's informative. the people need to be as informed as possible. a lot of misinformation gets thrown around in defense of ID, including nonsensical misquotes of jefferson and einstein as well as darwin.

advocates of ID claim it's a theory and that darwinian evolution is also "just a theory" or "a theory, not a fact."

like many words, "theory" has more than one sense. it's commonly used to refer to conjecture, which is little more than a guess, since it's based on incomplete evidence. the next level of explanation is hypothesis, which accounts for some facts but is tentative and needs testing. in the scientific sense of the word, theory is the highest achievement of science. it not only explains causal relationships between phenomena, it also makes testable predictions and is thus falsifiable.

perhaps ID proponents should say germ theory, atomic theory, and the theory of gravity are "just theories."

ID doesn't belong in science classes because it's not theory in the scientific sense. it only tries to refute darwin's theory, particularly the idea that evolution is not guided by intelligence. it doesn't propose a testable alternative. its basis is a claim that nothing can happen by chance.

that would surprise a lot of folk in monte carlo, las vegas, atlantic city, and a bunch of amerindian tribes who would've gone bankrupt long ago if nothing happened by chance.

it would also mean your computer wouldn't work, nor your cell phone, nor your microwave, nor your tv, nor even your electric lights and your car, because if the universe didn't operate according to randomness and chance at the fundamental particle level, quantum mechanics would be untrue—and quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in the history of science [it's passed every test so far!], must be true for all those devices to work.

one night a few months before 9/11 i stood on bleecker street talking to my friend charlie, an artist who sells his work on the sidewalk there. a guy walking toward us got our attention. he beamed blissfully and held his arms out to the sides with his palms up. he met our eyes and said "how can anyone think all this splendor and perfect order came to be without an all-knowing creator?"

across 6 avenue behind him, an electric sign over a travel agency had some letters lit, some unlit. above our heads air conditioners dripped on those passersby that failed to skip around the puddles. blaring car horns made me turn my head to check out a traffic jam at the corner of macdougal.

i looked back from the chaos to the man.

"how, indeed?" i said.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

saudi alabama

heard on mclaughlin group—

eleanor clift: bin laden would win an election in saudi arabia if it were held today.

pat buchanan: and bush would win in alabama.

re niger

isn't it obvious yet?

NGOs and charities—faith-based or otherwise—simply don't have enough resources to prevent or deal with crises like niger.

governments MUST get involved.

and legislators who, to further a narrow phobic agenda, withhold UN dues that might otherwise be used in such emergencies, ought to be voted out of office, if not horsewhipped.

mene mene tekel upharsin

see, them furiners jus don' unerstan' us 'mer'cans.

if they really knew us, they'd know they cain't make us leave by killin' us.

we b'lieve in signs. they have t'put it up on walls: YANKEE GO HOME.

we don' wanna stay where we're not wanted. n we cn take a hint. n we HATE gittin' called YANKEE!


we want peace, harmony, respect.

so we flaunt strength, build fear.

fear is not respect.

democracy later

regarding whatever real or imagined transition is taking place in saudi arabia, condi rice said it would proceed at its own pace.

that contrasts somewhat with our reaction when iraq's constitution writers requested an additional month to get it right.

we said no.

after all, if we couldn't stick to a schedule, we wouldn't be there today liberating them.

Monday, August 08, 2005

opening up on closed captions

my pop's a bit hard of hearing, so a few years ago i got the idea of turning on the closed captions on his tv.

right away i noticed that it helped me when i missed a word—maybe i have a little hearing problem too—so i started using the cc when i watched tv.

then came disillusion.

trouble is the cc isn't always accurate. since my hearing is at least close to normal, i notice when cc typists leave out words or get them wrong—and it's a lot.

sometimes whole sentences get skipped. sometimes words are wrong but similar, other times totally unintelligible, including people's names. sometimes the meaning of a sentence gets completely reversed—for example, by adding or omitting "no" or "not" or "un-."

movies and pbs-type documentaries tend to have better cc's, but almost anything can have mistakes, and live shows—like news—tend to be worst.

producers need to become aware of the problem so they at least have the option of deciding whether a program merits more time and money to make the cc's reliable.

last year i saw a kerry ad with undecipherable closed captions.

i can't help wondering if it cost him any states.

SAVE the trial balloon

the Global War On Terror got transformed into the Struggle Against Violent Extremism and back again almost before we noticed the acronym.

looks like too much ridicule shot the trial balloon down.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


fight'em there so we won't have to fight'em here.

die there so we won't have to die here.

die there violently so we won't have to die here peacefully.

and whaddaya mean "we," paleface?

9/11: reagan's legacy?

as you may recall, back in the 1980s we funneled sophisticated arms—such as rpg launchers—thru pakistan to mujahidin in afghanistan, including osama bin laden.

those weapons became prototypes for copies manufactured in a number of places around the world today.

in 1990-91, preparing to fight saddam hussein, we put a lot of troops in saudi arabia. that convinced bin laden we were his main enemy.

then came blowback.


we say we want to reform the UN, but the US and china will oppose expanding the security council.

africa and latin america have no permanent members, and asia—the most populous continent—has only china. 3 of the 5 are in europe. (i know. russia's partly in asia. but the power's in the european part.)

if i were a better, i'd bet a worldwide poll would show a majority think UN reform has to include—at the very least—permanent status for brazil or india or south africa. a few other countries would get a lot of votes too, japan among them.

but that's not what the white house wants. our version of reform preserves our power to get away with whatever we want to do and keeps the club with that power as small as possible.

enter john bolton. who better to fight for the bush world order agenda than a man who passionately believes the UN is essentially a fiction whose building has 10 floors too many?

i hear he got booed on the UN sidewalk the other day.

heh heh.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


now that dust has more than settled, let's revisit the cbs "memogate."

on 9/15/04 salon.com posted excerpts from the dallas morning news' interview of marian carr knox, 86-year-old former secretary of the late jerry killian, george w bush's commanding officer in the texas air national guard, including this:

"...She said that although she did not recall typing the memos reported by CBS News, they accurately reflect the viewpoints of Col.Killian and documents that would have been in the personal file. Also, she said she didn't know whether the CBS documents corresponded memo for memo with that file. 'The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones,' she said. 'I probably typed the information and somebody picked up the information some way or another.'"

assuming her memory is correct, the forgeries could only have been done by someone with access to original documents or copies or summaries of them.

but why would such a person type copies instead of photocopying?

is the explanation innocent: to replace damaged documents? [charitably suggested by salon.com]

or more sinister: to insert intentional "errors" whose detection would discredit someone seeking to damage g w bush? [did i hear someone cry "cynic!"?]

recall that it has been reported the papers were sent to cbs by bill burkett, a former guardsman who had claimed he saw files from bush's guard record in a trash can some years ago. burkett said a woman phoned him, said she had something for him, extracted a promise he would copy the papers and destroy them to prevent traces of her dna being found, and set up a meeting at a diner for which she never showed, but a man did, put a packet on burkett's table, and vanished when burkett looked down.

rather mysterious, no?

which reminds me, am i suggesting the above was meant to destroy dan rather?

not necessarily. the intended victim might've been burkett, whom the bush campaign regarded as a kerry supporter out to assassinate bush's character. making him look like a forger would help bush.

dan rather, mary mapes, and the others at cbs may've been no more than collateral damage—or icing on the cake, depending on your pov. after all, if cbs had spotted the forgery, their story might've attacked burkett, who most likely gets hurt either way.

can't say we'll know anything for sure till the mastermind writes a memoir. meanwhile here's the text of a 9/14/04 e-mail from someone called deep ear:

"following up on 'bush's brain', during ww2 brit intelligence developed disinformation techniques called 'double cross' and 'triple loop' which layered relatively easy to disprove false info on top of harder to infer false info in a sophisticated manner intended to fool the enemy into believing the lowest layer was true.

"john le carré's 'the spy who came in from the cold' was based on such a scenario.

"the 'killian memos' have so many apparent anachronisms and odd usages that it was inevitable they'd eventually get questioned. i can't help suspecting those oddities were intentionally inserted.

"in case the implications of that aren't as obvious to some as to others, let me spell it out: if a certain 'boy genius' aka 'turd blossom' wanted to make something look like an opposition attempt to smear his boss, an easy to spot forgery might serve very well indeed."

pop saves ozone layer

my father made an interesting discovery last week when something went wrong with his air conditioning.

he has a service contract, so a repairman came.

pop didn't notice right away that the guy turned the system off at the thermostat and left it off when he departed. the thermostat kept turning the fan on and off, but not the a/c.

funny thing was, you could hardly tell the difference.

the other day it was 97 out. i went into the house and actually thought the a/c was running.

did we f#@& up the ozone layer for nothing?

how is the ozone layer these days, btw?

[i added the graph from http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/hole/size.html
a day after i posted the above, so that's why you didn't see it before.
not too good, eh? highest average size ever in 2003 after big drop in 2002.]


according to bbc news, the prez says the roadside bomb that killed 14 marines is a reminder we're at war with a ruthless enemy.

i'm tempted to comment on that.

but i might say something unseemly.

so i won't.

after all, the man says he thinks about iraq every day. every single day.

but i don't even know which statement is dumber.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

3 (pl/tr)a(ne/in)s, 1 bus(t)

this may sound a bit batty, but this is phobizone, so maybe i shdn't shy away fro goin' crazy.

heard news say sharm el sheikh had 4 car bombs, same number as mostly harmless london bombs, 7/7 deadly bombs, 9/11 planes.

koinkydoink? maybe.

or maybe i heard inaccurate report re egypt.

at any rate, it got me thinking. (to those o u asking if it hurts: try it some time n find out 4 urself.)

hypothesis: riddler sending message?

or trying 2 direct our @ntion 2 message we missed earlier?

3 undrground + 1 on bus; parallel to 3 hits in ny & va + 1 gone bust in pa?

question: any other coincidences twixt uk n egypt bombs, say time o day or pattern in space?

no cnspiracy theorist i

jus call me

dark nite d

mo thomas: who really leaked anita hill's affidavit?

clarence thomas's confirmation hearing seemed to be done.

then person or persons unknown leaked the fact that the fbi took an explosive affidavit from anita hill, who'd worked for thomas at the eeoc under reagan before he became a judge.

hill had asked not to be called to testify, if possible.

you know the rest: anita's televised re-opened hearing quotes of clarence's alleged salacious remarks gave thomas the opportunity to wax righteously indignant and accuse the committee of "hi-tech lynching," arlen specter (r-pa) threatened hill with a perjury charge [which, in terms of arlen's career integrity low points, ranks 2nd only to getting murderer ira einhorn out on bail, allowing ira to flee to europe for 20 years], and alan simpson (r-wy) quoted shakespeare [but of course nobody in the easily-impressed media picked up on the fact that the lines from "othello" simpson used to defend thomas (Who steals my purse steals trash..../.../But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him,/And makes me poor indeed.) were not spoken by the tragic (african!) hero othello but by iago, the villain and hypocrite].

it was widely assumed that the dems were behind the leak.

but was that likely?

it had been reported that internal polls showed 51 votes against confirmation, so why would dems leak it?

no, this looks to me like another example of the 'spy who came in from the cold' scenario: the agent winds up—inadvertently?—crucifying the guy we thought he was there to help and aiding the guy he apparently meant to destroy.

anita hill was almost certainly used as an unwitting agent by g w bush's daddy—a former cia chief, you recall.

her evidence stirred up so much heat that a couple wishy-washy white libs switched their votes and gave thomas his lifetime seat.

not clarence's "hi-tech lynching," but anita's committee rape.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

algiers v iraq

i wouldn't've thought of listing "battle of algiers" on my blogger profile as one of my favorite flicks if i hadn't seen it on a local pbs station a few weeks ago.

briefly, the sequence of escalation in algiers in the 1950s began with serial shootings of colonial french cops.

the cops retaliated with the first act of terror: a big bomb in the casbah in the middle of the night, killing and injuring a large number of innocent people.

the rebels responded with a terror campaign of their own, setting off bombs at civilian targets in the french section of the city.

when the number of daily incidents grew to more than 4, the french sent in the army.

contrast that with iraq, where the average number of attacks is 65 per day.

but don't worry. rummy assures us it's the "last throes of the insurgency."

shuttle serendipity

because of the last accident, nasa made sure to check the launch with digicams mounted on the space vehicle this time.

you've seen the shot of flying foam, i'm sure.

because of that, astronauts inspected the hull during spacewalks and did in-space repairs for the first time in 24 years of shuttle flights. apparently nobody thought of it before.

with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, we can now pronounce that they should've been doing it all along.

might've saved lives.

doubting thomas

you can't really trust senators to ask all the questions they should.

i recall wondering at the time why they never asked clarence thomas why he didn't recuse himself from the alpo-purina case.

it had been reported by one of the major news weeklies that one company sued the other over something to do with puppy chow. i recall nothing of the case except that alpo won at the federal district level and purina got it overturned 2-1 by a circuit court of appeals panel.

thomas cast the deciding vote.

why do i think he should've recused himself? purina was owned by the family of then-senator john danforth of missouri, who gave thomas his first job out of law school and appears to have been his friend and mentor thereafter.

granted, thomas had no financial conflict, and i have no idea if danforth himself owned any of the company, but doesn't it seem the least bit unfair to be judged by a close friend of a relative of one side?

i mean if i were in clarence's shoes, i doubt i'd want to risk losing a friend by voting for alpo.

i need all the friends i've got.

novak bs

you'll be relieved to know this isn't really about bob novak.

it's about how journalists in general appear to be ethically challenged and too easily diverted from what matters.

i've listened to an awful lot of discussions on the outing of "wilson's wife." (btw, i'll be extremely surprised if the grand jury says that isn't legally the same as saying her name.)

almost every journalist i've heard says they must protect confidential sources so the sources will keep coming to them.

well that might be a pragmatic argument, but it's not an ethical one.

the ethical argument favoring maintenance of confidentiality is that it can protect sources from reprisals.

the plame case stands that on its head. joe wilson was a whistleblower acting in the public interest. novak's sources were in no danger of retaliation. they, in fact, were punishing wilson. protecting their identities is a 180 from the valid justification for journalistic privilege.

as the controversy goes on, it gets more mixed up. bushers, including novak, keep implying wilson lied about who sent him to niger.

it's a smoke screen, a diversionary tactic, disinformation. it is ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT who sent him.

but journalists have been completely taken in. they say plame was outed to "discredit" wilson by revealing that his wife was responsible for his niger trip.

huh? how would that discredit him? he was obviously as qualified for the job as anyone could be, so WHO CARES who sent him?

WHEN are you idiots gonna WAKE UP?

Monday, August 01, 2005

santorum v clinton

ricky's new book, "it takes a family," is an obvious cheap-shot attempt to position himself against hillary, whose book title, as i'm sure you recall, is "it takes a village."

it's a fake controversy: nobody denies families are good.

hillary's title—taken from an old african saying: "it takes a village to raise a child"—conveys the idea that the proper nurturing of children depends on the whole community, not just on families isolated from each other.

it's similar to "no man is an island" but comes from an ancient tradition rather than a metaphysical poet.

ricky's knee-jerk yet strangely calculated defense of family seems blissfully unaware of such subtleties.

he even criticizes the "village elders" of our society, by which he means the "liberal elitists," of course.

FLASH, rick: village elders are NEVER liberal. they are the embodiment of what conservatives have always valued more than any ideology, namely: tradition and experience.

but how would ricky-bot know that? he's a fake conservative doing what gop cons have done for 30+ years: build constituencies around conventional ideas—some traditional, others that the gop strategists assume will appeal to a majority, like their attempts to exploit tax cuts, school vouchers, gay marriage, social security, stem cells, terrorism, and terry schiavo.

re unions

i'm not ready to make a final judgment on the afl-cio split, but it looks to me like it may work out for the best. 2 umbrella groups competing to organize new members might be just the shot in the arm labor needs to put steel back in its spine—where it was 50 years ago.

i don't think it's john sweeney's fault things have gone as they have. at the same time, he shouldn't view it as a betrayal. it just looks to me as if unification may have sapped much of labor's vitality over the years.

as soon as i heard about the split i looked up the stats on union membership as a percentage of the work force: the peak came during the 10 years or so following ww2; the number of members kept growing till the reagan era, but percentage of the work force began to fall right around the time of the 1955 merger of the afl and cio; conversely, the most rapid growth, winning the first major contracts in the auto and steel industries, and passage of the first minimum wage law took place during the years immediately after the 1935 founding of the cio.

the phobe counterattack got a boost in 1947, when the gop congress overrode truman's veto of taft-hartley. voters put the dems back in control of both houses in the next election, but gops—convinced organized labor was part of an international commie conspiracy—used the cold war to do all the harm they could. much of mccarthyism/nixonism/hooverism and eventually reaganism was not much more than unionphobia disguised as anti-communism and later as anti-liberalism. both of them—especially the latter—are phobias too, so it's not really surprising.

during the vietnam era, the new left embraced inclusiveness and defied j.edgar hoover's claim that a few communist members made an organization "communist-dominated"—and it worked: commie domination became such a weak argument that cops and g-men instead resorted to such tactics as planting marijuana and having their infiltrators put sand in gas tanks to get biker gangs to start fights with peace groups.

but the war took its toll, causing much antagonism between radical students and self-proclaimed "patriots," including "hard-hats"—workers supporting the war who showed up at anti-war rallies mostly just to heckle, but sometimes to use muscle. many folk who should've been on the front lines of the anti-war movement—fearing being thought un-american—got alienated by the left's attacks on imperialism &c. that perception of anti-americanism on the left moved a number of Old Lefties—including communists—to become early neocons.

reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the gops never literally foamed at the mouth, but a lot of spittle flew.

it still does. see for yourself. watch c-span.

questions senators shd ax john roberts:

1. do YOU have a right of privacy?

[if he answers "no," he'll have to answer all questions about his personal opinions, because nothing is protected by a nonexistent right. you might even persuade him to ask the white house to release all his papers—in the interest of consistency. if he answers "yes," follow up by asking him to go into detail about how the constitution protects it, especially amendments 1 thru 5 plus 9.

[alternatively—and probably a more productive way to handle it—ask him to summarize the arguments on both sides along with rebuttals, as he might do if he were writing an objective article on the subject for a textbook.]

2. does the advice & consent clause require the senate to give nominees an up-or-down vote?

[he can't refuse to answer: separation of powers prevents the issue from ever coming to court, so it's not out of bounds. but it's a real constitutional question, not a hypothetical one, so it's a great way to explore his thinking processes—and possibly to educate us all.

[once again, the most informative way to approach it might be to get him to argue and rebut both sides, briefly but with enough detail to clarify both positions. i think he should be made to feel free to express his opinion on this question, since—again—he'll never have to decide it in court.]

—as usual, u r invited 2 xpand dis list via comments—