Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday "What I Found On You Tube" Post

I was looking for Stop by Howard Tate (yes, I'm a big soul music fan)...couldn't find that but came across this instead.

Surprisingly, C. Ray sounds pretty reasonable (he makes a cameo appearance).

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Pipe Clogger

Here's a telling image at the end of Patrick Cockburn's latest report from the land of the Grand Decider's Glorious and Completely Successful Surge That Disproves Everything the Libruls Ever Said about Iraq and Michael Moore is Fat:

Iraq remains a great sump of human degradation and poverty, unaffected by the "surge". It was not a government critic but the civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, Tahseen Sheikhly, who pointed out this week that the city is drowning in sewage because of blocked and broken pipes and drains. In one part of the city, the sewage has formed a lake so large that it can be seen "as a big black spot on Google Earth".

I guess the only question is whether that qualifies as "Mission Accomplished" or "Bring 'em on."
Some, Not All Americans

Pravda looks at a recent critique of American culture by Susan Jacoby (and mentions internet sock puppet Lee Siegel in passing)...

Personally, I don't think it's really a matter of wingnuts and idiots--ah, but I repeat myself--being any more numerous than before, but it DOES seem as if they've been ever more demanding in pushing their demented world view, while being enabled in no small measure by outlets like wingnut media...and by an opposition that really isn't. It's as if the last fifty years or so have been a never ending apology for...for what? Living up--but only kinda, sorta--to our ideals?
Shoot First, Issue Denials Later

I'm sure Dick...Cheney's lump-of-coal of a heart warmed to the extent that it could when the military determined that they could take a useless hunk of space-based chicken-shit and salvage a bit of chicken shooting at it with a big old gun--watch out Harry:

The military will try to shoot down a crippled spy satellite in the next two weeks, senior officials said Thursday. The officials laid out a high-tech plan to intercept the satellite over the Pacific just before it tumbles uncontrollably to Earth carrying toxic fuel.

Oh yeah--because this administration has sooo consistently demonstrated its concern for toxic hazards.

More seriously, I think this website (found using that remarkable research tool "the Google") understands it as well as anyone:

Some observers are now wondering whether it might all be a very cleverly orchestrated story by the US Government, designed to get maximum global attention to an ASAT demonstration. If we entertain that notion for a moment: with this ASAT demonstration, they would hit two blows in one:

a) They send a high profile geopolitical message to the Chinese, and to the homefront, in answer to last year's Chinese ASAT test on Fengyun 1C. Basically, this message says: "you/they can shoot satellites out of the sky, okay. But remember we can too, so don't even dare to try ours or we will do the same to yours/theirs..."

b) They give some rendement to an otherwise worthless assemblage of several millions worth of inoperative scrap metal now uselessly orbiting this planet.

Of course, given that this is the Cheney-Shrub administration, well...maybe a bit of soft bigotry and low expectations expected:

In many ways, the task resembles shooting down an intercontinental nuclear missile, although this target is larger, its path is better known and, if a first shot misses, it will continue to circle the Earth for long enough to allow a second or even a third try.

And then Bush'll call for a surge.
"Uh-dish-un is Hard"

It's a warrant. And yes, you have to fill it out.

It's refreshing to finally see Bush's bluff called on what as best I can tell was and remains nothing more than pure, undiluted fearmongering with regard to FISA, telecom immunity, and so on.

But that aside, I still wonder why there continues to be this fundamental cave-in on what amounts to a basic principle of Constitutional Government and rule of law. Even Shrub's fiercest critics take pains to assure the citizenry that warrantless spying has not been affected, or can continue on for another year, blah, blah, blah, etc.--well, I'll repeat myself: what's so goddamned difficult about getting a warrant of ANY kind in order to monitor terrorists? It's not like taking the bar exam, and HAVING A RECORD, however classified it might be, is an essential function of legitimate government.

To paraphrase Lenny Bruce, warrants--or a lack thereof--don't allow the criminals to get off...warrants PROTECT the public by ensuring that the government doesn't BECOME criminal. Bruce went on with a brothel analogy: without a warrant, the cop can go to the whorehouse every night. If the place gets raided, he'll claim, "oh, I was investigating..." BUT, if he has to go to the judge, and now he's got the paper, the place gets raided, "and, what's that? A warrant? OK, not a problem..."

Absent records, we simply don't know what or whom Team Bush is listening in on...

One frightening aspecct of this particular mess is the degree to which the net was cast. As the Olbermann commentary notes, Mark Klein claims EVERYTHING was gathered, at least everything on AT&T circuits. To be fair, one can reasonably assume that the volume of data alone makes the odds of someone's civil liberties being violated almost lottery-like...then again, lotteries have winners...or perhaps losers, in this case.

Also, given what we DO know about this administration--that, particulary while Karl Rove slithered around the White House, it was almost certainly the most intensely political regime ever--you really have to wonder what DID make it past the initial gathering process and onto analysis. Maybe they didn't bother with me, for instance, but what about high-ranking Democrats, or influential business leaders, and so on?

Requiring a warrant would provide us with answers. And that's why NOT getting a warrant has traditionally been a violation of law...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Red Alert Repeat

Geez, yet another tragedy. Last week it was here in Baton Rouge, this week it's in Northern Illinois.

Do we really want to live in a society where large numbers of students feel it necessary to carry firearms on campus?
FEMA: "Oh, THAT Formaldehyde"

You're soaking in it.

FEMA "suddenly realizes" what any high school chemistry student understands--formaldehyde is a toxic chemical.

Yeah, I'm sure it was quite the startling revelation...sort of like when Christine Whitman "discovered" the toxic conditions at Ground Zero--after denying it for months.

I keep thinking about how willing Team Bush is to trample over rules, regulations, laws, and the Constitution itself when it suits their aims...but when it came to providing housing for displaced victims of Katrina and the flood, they kept insisting their hands were tied, and that FEMA could only provide "temporary" accomodations...that are toxic to boot.

They oughta make Bush and Cheney live in one until they figure out a way to clean up the mess...and all the other messes they've created.
Bill Kristol: Institutional Village Idiot

Unlike the idiot who returns to his village in Texas--we hope--in January of 2009, Kristol is a fixture on the Washington scene...but one that's rusty, and prone to leaking, plus the threads are stripped. Jonathan Schwarz:

I'm talking about Kristol's two-hour appearance on C-Span's Washington Journal on March 28, 2003, just nine days after the President launched his invasion of Iraq. No one remembers it today. You can't even fish it out of LexisNexis. It's not there. Yet it's a masterpiece, a double album of smarm, horrifying ignorance, and bald-faced deceit. While you've heard him play those instruments before, he never again reached such heights. It's a performance for the history books -- particularly that chapter about how the American Empire collapsed.
Shouldn't There Be Some Sort of Executive Branch Three-Strikes Rule?

Busy morning here, and I'm off to a late start...saw the Rude Pundit say this about the Clinton campaign's latest strategy, and it hit home:

By the way, Texas deciding the future of the country? Goddamn, sometimes it aches that Molly Ivins ain't here tell us how insane this has become.

Shouldn't we as a country have learned our lesson by now? Oyster's previously noted the apt comparison between Texas Chief Executives (although LBJ was a shrewd politician, and a reasonably astute human being who actually had a sense of compassion; Shrub's an intellectual midget and self-centered scion of old-money blue bloods masquerading--rather poorly--as salt-of-the-earth Middle know, the whole "summer" as a verb thing.)

Oh, and if I remember right, Dick...Cheney, that is, had to shuffle his residency when he presented himself with the brass ring back in 2000--it looks like there's some sort of arcane Electoral College rule about candidates from the same state. Fortunately for Dick...Cheney (but to the country's detriment), he owns multiple homes (and probably a collection of skulls he personally shrunk), and was able to engage in a bit of legal fiction.

But that makes three, and personally, I think "fool me...won't get fooled again" might well be the best strategery. I'm sure there are many fine, fine people in the Lone Star Stet (and shoot, I think I even have some distant relatives living there), but when it comes to politics, the word is...dud.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

First to Worst

Just a short hop from the front to the back of the podium.

Credit to Tengrain for inspiration.
Anno Rattus

My sister emailed the picture (she says it's from Cute Overload) and it made me also reminded me of this Science Times article from a while back:

...though rats have yet to produce an Albert Camus or design a better mouse trap, a host of new behavioral studies makes plain that the similarities between us and Rattus extend far beyond gross anatomy. They’re surprisingly self-aware. They laugh when tickled, especially when they’re young, and they have ticklish spots; tickle the nape of a rat pup’s neck and it will squeal ultrasonically in a soundgram pattern like that of a human giggle. Rats dream as we dream, in epic narratives of navigation and thwarted efforts at escape: When scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tracked the neuronal activity of rats in REM sleep, the researchers saw the same firing patterns they had seen in wakeful rats wending their way through those notorious rat mazes.

Rats can learn to crave the same drugs that we do -- alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, amphetamine -- and they, like us, will sometimes indulge themselves to death.

They’re sociable, curious and love to be touched -- nicely, that is. If a rat has been trained to associate a certain sound with a mild shock to its tail, and the bell tolls but the shock doesn't come, the rat will inhale deeply with what can only be called a sigh of relief.

The rest of the article is also pretty interesting...especially considering it's about rats.

Some people claim humans "still have one hand in the tree." Hell, that might be giving us too much credit: if it weren't for lacking open-rooted incisors, we might all still be compulsively gnawing on anything within reach and digging holes in the ground. After all, that's what Dick Cheney does.
Now That's Thinking Outside the Box

What kind of sad and a little frightening is that this doesn't surprise me all that much:

A supervisor at Prosper, Inc., a "self-help and motivational coaching" firm, waterboarded an employee as an example to co-workers, Chad Hudgens claims in Utah County Court. Hudgens says his boss, Joshua Christopherson, ordered co-workers "to hold Hudgens by the arms and legs ... then slowly poured a gallon jug of water over Hudgen's mouth and nostrils, thereby making it impossible for Hudgens (to breathe) for a sustained period of time. ... Christopherson (then) told the team that he wanted them to work as hard on making sales as Chad had worked to breathe while he was being waterboarded."

I wonder who they supported this election season?
What's missing from this picture? (h/t Varg and Suspect Device)

The Third Stooge

Violent crime is no laughing matter for far too many people, most tragically and obviously in New Orleans, yes, but elsewhere too.
Why Don't You Go Jump in a...Oh

Fifteen years or so from now?

Just as New Orleans has large engineering projects, so it is with other communities, although for places in the desert southwest, the idea is to retain fresh water, given that, otherwise, it's...a desert:

Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.

Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.

Now, unlike wingnuttia--and Dennis Hastert, but I repeat myself--I'm not in favor of or suggesting that Phoenix or Las Vegas be abandoned. Just the opposite. Despite never having been to either city...and I don't foresee ever visiting Phoenix...I'm more than willing to see tax dollars invested in maintaining or improving the viability of water delivery to these communities, in part, because it IS a viable investment, and also in part because, yeah, the people of the region are American citizens, just like those of us here in the Gret Stet. And I'd like to think those in the Southwest would think likewise about a investment in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. It's a simple concept, really: a national government of the wealthiest nation to ever exist on earth can and should invest in projects that benefit its citizens.

I realize that goes over a lot of wingnuts' heads, but, then again, so do a lot of things, including books without pictures, card tricks, the concept of insurance as a business/financial tool, and pretty much anything demanding more brain power than what can be supplied by the medulla. And while they're entitled to their primitive, um, grasp of reality, there's no reason why we have to go along with it...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Antonin the Ticking Time Bomb

I guess Justice isn't just blind, it can't even switch the teevee channel away from Keifer Sutherland...and related and also at TPM, a link to Dan Froomkin, who thinks--rightly--the administration should put up or shut up and offer some real details on just what terrorist acts torture has prevented. It's about time.
Sort of Like Neville Chamberlain in Reverse

So, the US Senate rendered the Constitution little more than a mere scrap of paper (and if the picture's still up, check out the vicious, ugly grin on Orrin Hatch, who probably carries the same expression after a session with his regular dominatrix). Way to go, Senators, particularly those Democrats who showed the political courage of a jellyfish.

You know, I STILL haven't heard ANY rational explanation as to why a obtaining a warrant in a terror case is so difficult and odious...
...And War Without End, Amen

Another good essay from former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts:

Remember "mission accomplished"? Remember all the strutting neocons with their promises of a "cakewalk war"? Remember all the ignorant bragging about having "defeated the Taliban"? All of these lies were designed to tie American down in interminable wars in the Middle East for Israel's benefit. There is no other reason for Bush's invasions. We know for certain that Bush and his entire administration lied through their teeth about the Taliban and about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

What a total crock of ignorance and deception the Bush regime represents. Bush, defeated in Iraq, defeated in Afghanistan, with Pakistan crumbling in front of his eyes, is now reduced to begging the French, whom it was such grand sport for his neocon officials to denigrate, to send soldiers to save his ass in Afghanistan.

What a laughing stock Bush has made of America. What ruination this utter idiot and his supporters have brought to America. What total traitors the neoconservatives are. Every last one of them should be immediately arrested for high treason. Neonconservatives are America's greatest enemies, and they control our government! All Americans have to show for six years of Bush's "war on terror" is an incipient police state.

Now standing in the wings is mad John "hundred year war" McCain. Will the American electorate wipe out the Republican Party before this insane party wipes out America?

You've really gotta wonder about the various neocons and wingnuts who reacted to 9/11 with sheer glee at FINALLY having an "other" to hate again.
Gun Nut

Apologies for the less than serious photo, but maybe I was hoping it would be an attention grabber for what's amounting to an utter tragedy--Friday's double homicide/suicide at Louisiana Technical College:

Latina Williams had been living in a car and showing signs of paranoia before she went to a New Orleans pawnshop where she bought the .357-caliber revolver she used the next day to fatally shoot two classmates and then herself, police said Monday.

Williams, 23, kept the weapon concealed in her purse as she opened fire Friday at her Louisiana Technical College nursing classmates before stopping to reload, Baton Rouge Police Department spokesman Sgt. Don Kelly said.

Sad to say, neither signs of NOR A DIAGNOSIS of mental illness disqualifies a person from purchasing or owning firearms in the Gret Stet:

Even if Williams had been declared mentally defective in Louisiana, it would not have turned up on the federal background check.

Louisiana is one of several states that do not report to federal authorities records of people whose mental condition should prevent them from owning a handgun under federal law.

The state provides only criminal information to the federal government for background checks.

Now, for the record, I don't own any firearms, and have only shot a few small pistols or rifles at various practice ranges...but I tend towards absolute 2nd amendment rights. If nothing else, Pandora's box is already wide open; I also think most gun owners are responsible, I've known plenty of hunters, and even dated/lived with a woman who was and presumably is quite proud of her SK-47...

All that said, there is absolutely NO excuse for civil society allowing the sale of or otherwise providing guns to the mentally ill. Even the National Rifle Association should recognize this very plain fact.

Adding to the tragedy is that of course not even a year ago another mentally ill person did almost the exact same thing, with even more horrific results. Unfortunately, the subsequent debate, instead of focusing on the problem, devolved into nonsense about whether or not students should be carrying guns on campus/into class.

How many tragic lessons is it going to take?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not as Bad as Your Regular GOP

First, let's get this out of the way--over at YRHT a couple of weeks ago I played Satan's Advocate (see Nader, Ralph) in a comments thread about the election, and I hope and think it was seen as that. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I'll definitely vote for her (although I hope people won't be wondering why I'm less than enthused, especially if it shapes up to be Hillary versus McCain).

And I sure as hell don't understand--at all--the sheer batshit insane viciousness directed towards all of the Clintons, from Shuster to Katie Couric to the shrieking wingnut flying monkey chorus. Not that I expect them to show signs of rationality, but they display a particularly primitive hostility, complete with bared teeth and gutteral, sub-verbal utterances...

That said, I can't really say I've EVER been enthused about Bill or Hill. My votes for Bill were always lesser-of-evil concerns; of the two, I'm more impressed by Hillary, but likewise I wouldn't be voting FOR her as much as I'd be voting against her opponent. And, let's face it, that's all either one has ever really promised: an administration that won't be quite as bad as the other party.

Now, to be sure, compared to the last eight years of His Abject Moronness, at least Bill was competent, and again, I think Hillary is even more so, but if you go back and look at Bill's eight years, wonder why wingnuts would be soooooo unremitingly hostile, unless you consider that he basically stole their thunder...well, that and the fact that wingnuts are just in general rabid little lunatics.

I can't think of a single issue during the Clinton administration that a moderate Republican couldn't support wholeheartedly. It's as if their governing principle was to cozy right on up to that faction of the GOP, embrace it, and in doing so, cobble together a bare working majority while ignoring the left.

Lawrence O'Donnell expressed this succinctly, and I've got a strong, strong feeling that both Clintons feel likewise:

"I didn't listen or have to listen to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party -- because the left had nowhere to go."

Oh, and one more thing: it's not like I expect Barak Obama to drift particularly leftward: if anything, his record shows a tendency to do just the opposite. And again, I think the Clintons have been singled out somewhat unfairly by a media a wingnut chorus that's in no small measure purely sadistic...on the other hand, their record speaks volumes, and, for me, it's a record of "a few crumbs is better than no loaf at all," ...but at a certain point you begin to realize that you'll starve just as quickly on crumbs as you will on air...

And heaven knows what awaits the next president, with the freight train of reckoning bearing down on us at full speed. I still wonder/worry that whoever takes office next year will be envious of how easy...Jimmy Carter had it.
Idiot Wind

Every time Preznut Doofus opens his mouth...
You Might Want to Prepare for a Bit of Swiftboating, Mike

From the tragedy-being-repeated-as-farce department, it looks like the Rethugs aren't averse to a bit of intramural vote suppression when they feel like it suits them.

That said, Huckabee is an ordained minister...maybe he CAN "divine the intent of the voter," Mr. Baker.
So, What's a Guy Gotta Do? win the Rethuglican nomination these days?