Friday, December 16, 2005

The emperor's fig leaves

At Simply Appalling I came across this discussion of practices that are . . . simply appalling:

While it has often seems to Leftish writers that "the emperor has no clothes" even as the Bush administration's nonexistent finery continues to be admired by the mainstream media (MSM), it is not quite exact that the emperor has no clothes; the emperor in fact is sporting a fig leaf. It isn't much of a fig leaf. It's partly transparent and certainly not big enough to cover all that the emperor would keep private. But he dons it anyway. What else is a naked emperor to do? And besides, it's good enough for the MSM.

Charles Babcock's story on the arrest of a female reservist charged with bid rigging in Iraq brought this to mind. The story almost fell off the back end of the Washington Post. A second reserve lieutenant colonel was arrested yesterday for participating in "a conspiracy to rig bids on Iraq reconstruction contracts." For her efforts Debra Harrison received two .45-caliber pistols, a Cadillac and an $80,000+ deck with hot tub. The contractor in the case, American Philip Bloom, was based in Romania. And the total of the contracts for which Bloom is alleged to have paid bribes comes to a mere $3.5 million.

What a contrast with the situation of Halliburton and their subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR)! One thing's for sure: They'll never be indicted for bid-rigging because they didn't bid for their contracts in the first place. And those were multibillion-dollar contracts.

The government is now going after bid-rigging involving $3.5 million when KBR managed to "lose" $18 million of equipment alone? When massive overcharges by KBR were alleged, not only was no criminal investigation begun but the Pentagon resumed full payment on KBR contracts even though it was entitled by law to withhold 15% while the dispute was negotiated. So I can only regard the investigation into this piddling Romanian contract as the fig leaf that attempts to hide the Halliburton cojones and a very big prick in the Pentagon.

Now that Bush (that's Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld) has finally acquiesced to Senator McCain's demand for a law outlawing the use of torture any time, anywhere against anyone, we're reminded that the fig leaf hiding the Iraqi contract scandal lies atop another that hides administration responsibility for the torture of detainees. The administration hopes that the arrest of small fry such as Debra Harrison and Lyndie England will cover their immodesty.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reflecting on the Reign of King Bush

Howell Raines take on the Bush legacy is, in my opinion, right on the mark.

At this point, the policy legacy of George Bush seems defined by three disparate disasters: Iraq in foreign affairs, Katrina in social welfare, and corporate influence over tax, budget and regulatory decisions. As a short-term political consequence, we may avoid another dim-witted Bush in the White House. But what the Bush dynasty has done to presidential campaign science - the protocols by which Americans elect presidents in the modern era - amounts to a political legacy that could haunt the republic for years to come.

We are now enduring the third generation of Bushes who have taken the playbook of the "ruthless" Kennedys and amplified it into a consistent code of amorality. In their campaigns, the Kennedys used money, image-manipulation, old-boy networks and, when necessary, personal attacks on worthy adversaries such as Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey. But there was also a solid foundation of knowledge and purpose undergirding John Kennedy's sophisticated internationalism, his Medicare initiative, his late-blooming devotion to racial justice, and Robert Kennedy's opposition to corporate and union gangsterism. Like Truman, Roosevelt and even Lincoln, two generations of Kennedys believed that a certain amount of political chicanery was tolerable in the service of altruism.

Behind George W, there are four generations of Bushes and Walkers devoted first to using political networks to pile up and protect personal fortunes and, latterly, to using absolutely any means to gain office, not because they want to do good, but because they are what passes in America for hereditary aristocrats. In sum, Bush stands at the apex of a pyramid of privilege whose history and social significance, given his animosity towards scholarly thought, he almost certainly does not understand.

Here is the big picture, as drawn by the Republican political analyst Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty. Starting in 1850, the Bushes, through alliance with the smarter Walker clan, built up a fortune based on classic robber-baron foundations: railroads, steel, oil, investment banking, armaments and materiel in the world wars. They had ties to the richest families of the industrial age - Rockefeller, Harriman, Brookings. Yet they never adopted the charitable, public-service ethic that developed in those families.

Starting with Senator Prescott Bush's alliance with Eisenhower and continuing through the dogged loyalty of his son, George HW Bush, to two more gifted politicians, Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the family has developed a prime rule of advancement. In a campaign, any accommodation, no matter how unprincipled, any attack on an opponent, no matter how false, was to be embraced if it worked.

The paradigm in its purest form was seen when the first President Bush, in 1980, renounced a lifelong belief in abortion rights to run as Reagan's vice-president. His son surpassed the father's dabbling with pork rinds and country music. He adopted the full agenda of redneck America - on abortion, gun control, Jesus - as a matter of convenience and, most frighteningly, as a matter of belief. Before the Bushes, American political slogans of the left and right embodied at least a grain of truth about how a presidential candidate would govern. The elder Bush's promise of a "kinder, gentler" America and the younger's "compassionate conservatism" brought us the political slogan as pure disinformation. They were asserting a claim of noblesse oblige totally foreign to their family history.

But whether Bush the father was pandering or Bush the son was praying, the underlying political trade-off was the same. The Bushes believe in letting the hoi polloi control the social and religious restrictions flowing from Washington, so long as Wall Street gets to say what happens to the nation's money. The Republican party as a national institution has endorsed this trade-off. What we do not know yet is whether a Republican party without a Bush at the top is seedy enough to keep it going. Americans have had an ambivalent attitude toward their aristocrats. They have also believed that dirty politics originated with populist machiavells such as Louisiana governor Huey Long and Chicago mayor Richard Daley. The Bushes, with such minders as Rove, Cheney and Delay, have turned that historic expectation upside down. Now our political deviance trickles down relentlessly from the top. The next presidential election will be a national test of whether the taint of Bushian tactics outlasts what is probably the last Bush to occupy the Executive Mansion.

In 1988, the first President Bush secured office by falsely depicting his opponent as a coddler of rapists and murderers. In 2000, the current President Bush nailed down the nomination by accusing John McCain of opposing breast-cancer research. He won in 2004 with a barrage of lies about John Kerry's war record.

With the right leadership, the US can stop the blood-letting in Iraq, regain its world standing, avert the crises in health care and social security, and even bring disaster relief to the Gulf Coast. But that's not simply a matter of keeping Bushes and Bushites, with their impaired civic consciences, out of the White House. The next presidential campaign will show us whether these miscreant patricians have poisoned the well of the presidential campaign system. If so, there is no telling what we kind of president we might get.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Six affairs

THE FIRST AFFAIR:
A married man was having an affair with his secretary. One day, their passions overcame them and they took off for her house, where they made passionate love all afternoon. Exhausted from the wild sex, they fell asleep, awakening around 8:00 PM. As the man threw on his clothes, he told the woman to take his shoes outside and rub them through the grass and dirt. Mystified, she nonetheless complied. He slipped into his shoes and drove home. "Where have you been?" demanded his wife when he entered the house. "Darling, I can't lie to you. I've been having an affair with my secretary and we've been having sex all afternoon. I fell asleep and didn't wake up until eight o'clock." The wife glanced down at his shoes and said, "You lying bastard. You've been playing golf."

THE SECOND AFFAIR:
There was a middle-aged couple that had two stunningly beautiful teenage daughters. The couple decided to try one last time for the son they always wanted. After months of trying, the wife finally got pregnant and sure enough, delivered a healthy baby boy nine months later. The joyful father rushed into the nursery to see his new son. He took one look and was horrified to see the ugliest child he had ever seen. He went to his wife and told her there was no way he could be the father of that child. "Look at the two beautiful daughters I fathered." Then he gave her a stern look and asked, "Have you been fooling around on me?" The wife just smiled sweetly and said, "Not this time."

THE THIRD AFFAIR:
A mortician was working late one night. It was his jb to examine the dead bodies before they were sent off to be buried or cremated. As he examined the body of Mr. Schwartz, who was about to be cremated, he made an amazing discovery. Schwartz had the longest private part he had ever seen. "I'm sorry, Mr. Schwartz," said the mortician, "but I can't send you off to be cremated with a tremendously huge member like this. It has tol be saved for posterity." With that, the coroner used his tools to remove the dead man's amazingly huge wachamacallit. He stuffed his prize into a briefcase and took it home. The first person he showed it to was his wife. "I have something to show you that you won't believe," he said, and opened up his briefcase. "Oh my God" his wife screamed, "Schwartz is dead."

THE FOURTH AFFAIR:
A woman was in bed with her lover when she heard her husband opening the front door. "Hurry," she said, "stand in the corner." Then she quickly rubbed baby oil all over him and then dusted him with talcum powder. "Don't move until I tell you to," she whispered. "Just pretend you're a statue." "What's this, honey?" the husband inquired as he entered the room. "Oh, it's a statue," she replied nonchalantly. "The Smiths bought one for their bedroom. I liked it so much, I got one for us too." No more was said about the statue, not even later when they went to sleep. Around two in the morning, the husband got out of bed, went to the kitchen, and returned a while later with a sandwich and a glass of milk. "Here," he said to the statue, "eat something. I stood like an idiot at the Smith's house for three days and nobody offered me as much as a glass of water."

THE FIFTH AFFAIR:
A man walks into a nightclub one night. He goes up to the bar and asks for a beer. "Certainly, Sir, that'll be 1 cent." "One cent?", exclaimed the man. The bartender replied, "Yes." So the man glances over at the menu and asks, "Could I have a nice juicy T-bone steak with chips, peas, and a fried egg?" "Certainly, Sir," replies the barman, "but that comes to real money." "How much money?" inquires the man. "Four cents," the bartender replied. "Where's the guy who owns this place?" The bartender replied, "Upstairs, with my wife." The man says, "What's he doing upstairs with your wife?" The bartender replied, "The same thing as I'm doing to his business."

THE SIXTH AFFAIR:
Jake was dying. His wife, Becky, was maintaining a candlelight vigil by his side. She held his fragile hand, tears running down her face. Her praying roused him from his slumber. He looked up and his pale lips began to move slightly. "Becky my darling," he whispered. "Hush my love," she said. "Rest, don't talk." He was insistent. "Becky," he said in his tired voice, "I have something that I must confess." There's nothing to confess," replied the weeping Becky, "everything's all right, go to sleep." "No, no. I must die in peace, Becky. I � I slept with your sister, with your best friend, with her best friend, and with you mother." "I know, my sweet one" whispered Becky, "that's why I poisoned you."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cat video

I came across this very funny cat video. (I'm hoping a vet was standing by during some of the scenes.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Iraq abuse as bad now as under Saddam -former PM

26 Nov 2005 (Reuters) - Abuse of human rights in Iraq is as bad now as it was under Saddam Hussein, if not worse, former prime minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview published on Sunday. "People are doing the same as (in) Saddam Hussein's time and worse. It is an appropriate comparison," Allawi told British newspaper The Observer. "People are remembering the days of Saddam," said Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former Baathist who is standing in elections scheduled for Dec. 15. "These are the precise reasons why we fought Saddam Hussein and now we are seeing the same things. "We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated," said Allawi in an apparent reference to the discovery of a bunker at the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry where 170 men were held prisoner, beaten, half-starved and in some cases tortured. "A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations." Allawi said the Interior Ministry, which has tried to brush off the scandal over the bunker, was afflicted by a "disease". If it is not cured, he said, it "will become contagious and spread to all ministries and structures of Iraq's government".
"The Ministry of the Interior is at the heart of the matter," Allawi said. "I am not blaming the minister himself, but the rank and file are behind the secret dungeons and some of the executions that are taking place." Allawi was Iraq's first prime minister of the post-Saddam era but failed to win January's election, which brought current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, an Islamist Shi'ite, to power. An opinion poll in an Iraqi newspaper a week ago suggested over half of Iraqis want Jaafari to stay on in the job after the December vote. Allawi, who enjoys some support among both Shi'ites and Sunnis, came third in the poll behind Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni who heads his own election list.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

US forces 'used chemical weapons' during assault on city of Fallujah

By Peter Popham, The Independent (UK)

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: "US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein's alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988."

The website quoted insurgent sources as saying: "The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons."

In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as "widespread myths". "Some news accounts have claimed that US forces have used 'outlawed' phosphorus shells in Fallujah," the USinfo website said. "Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes.

"They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.

In a documentary to be broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, this morning, a former American soldier who fought at Fallujah says: "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete.

"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for."

Photographs on the website of RaiTG24, the broadcaster's 24-hours news channel, show exactly what the former soldier means. Provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, dozens of high-quality, colour close-ups show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised or turned the consistency of leather by the shells.

A biologist in Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq, interviewed for the film, says: "A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact."

The documentary, entitled Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, also provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.

Meanwhile, five US soldiers from the elite 75th Ranger Regiment have been charged with kicking and punching detainees in Iraq.

The news came as a suicide car bomber killed four American soldiers at a checkpoint south of Baghdad yesterday.

LINK TO ORIGINAL

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Oh Christmas Shrub

Lest I be called a scrooge, I figured I should present a song for the holidays:

Oh christmas shrub oh christmas shrub, how lovely are your ranches!
Oh christmas shrub oh christmas shrub, please don't disenfranchise us.
Each year you bring the rich delight, you take the rest away at night.
Yet christmas shrub, oh christmas shrub, still lovely are your ranches.

Oh christmas shrub, oh christmas shrub, your greed endures unchanging.
Oh Christmas shrub, oh christmas shrub, your greed endures unchanging.
Your boughs of brown, white phosphorous glow,
DU won’t fade in winter’s snow.
Oh Christmas shrub, oh christmas shrub, your greed endures unchanging.

Each year you bring the rich delight, and torture others in the night.
Oh christmas shrub, oh christmas shrub, still lovely are your ranches.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Liberal church to lose its tax-exemption?

From a CNN article:

The Internal Revenue Service has warned a prominent liberal church it could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, church officials say.

Are we to believe that conservative churches supporting the war are also on the chopping block?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Omar al-Farouq

Doesn't this story of a top Al Qaeda member's escape sound incredibly suspicious?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Then you won't belief in "if" anymore...

Needlenose has a great post comparing the glowing predictions made about Iraq a few years back with the current statements from official sources.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Slip sliding away

Bush's approval rating now sits at a whopping 39%. We're getting down to that small slice of the population who mistakenly check the wrong box due to visual problems and drug addictions.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blonde and The Horse

A blonde decides to try horseback riding, even though she has had no lessons nor prior experience. She mounts the horse unassisted, and the horse immediately springs into motion. It gallops along at a steady and rhythmic pace, but the blond begins to slide from the saddle. In terror, she grabs for the horse's mane, but cannot seem to get a firm grip. She tries to throw her arms around the horse's neck, but she slides down the horse's side anyway. The horse gallops along, seemingly oblivious of its slipping rider. Finally, giving up her frail grip, the blond attempts to leap away from the horse and throw herself to safety. Unfortunately, her foot has become entangled in the stirrup, and she is now at the mercy of the horse's pounding hooves as her head is struck against the ground over and over. As her head is battered against the ground, she is mere moments away from unconsciousness when to her great fortune... Frank, the Wal-Mart greeter, sees her dilemma and unplugs the horse. And you thought all they did was say, "Hello."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Goodness, Gracias

According to some official-looking website, Scientists in London have created a mosquito with glowing green testicles in a bid to stamp out malaria. The glow-in-the-dark male testicals make it easier to genetically modified the males so that when they have that exciting mosquito-sex with females, no more mosquitoes are produced. I can just see some scientists laughing at me now. "I can't believe another ignorant schmuck fell for that one! Ha-a-a Ha-a!" Do mosquitoes really have balls? All I know, is I want to be in on the human trials when they start testing in humans. And you all thought tatoos and body-piercing was cool.

Monday, October 03, 2005

You Gotta Love Andy

The War Machine (via Alternet Brain)

Ike Was Right About War Machine

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney. It was first broadcast Oct. 2, 2005.

I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States - our United States - is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into.

We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today.

Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what?

Now we have the hurricanes to pay for. One way our government pays for a lot of things is by borrowing from countries like China.

Another way the government is planning to pay for the war and the hurricane damage is by cutting spending for things like Medicare prescriptions, highway construction, farm payments, AMTRAK, National Public Radio and loans to graduate students. Do these sound like the things you'd like to cut back on to pay for Iraq?

I'll tell you where we ought to start saving: on our bloated military establishment.

We're paying for weapons we'll never use.

No other Country spends the kind of money we spend on our military. Last year Japan spent $42 billion. Italy spent $28 billion, Russia spent only $19 billion. The United States spent $455 billion.

We have 8,000 tanks for example. One Abrams tank costs 150 times as much as a Ford station wagon.

We have more than 10,000 nuclear weapons - enough to destroy all of mankind.

We're spending $200 million a year on bullets alone. That's a lot of target practice. We have 1,155,000 enlisted men and women and 225,000 officers. One officer to tell every five enlisted soldier what to do. We have 40,000 colonels alone and 870 generals.

We had a great commander in WWII, Dwight Eisenhower. He became President and on leaving the White House in 1961, he said this: "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Well, Ike was right. That's just what’s happened.

Monday, September 26, 2005

New TOEFL test

The new TOEFL test is out. It'll be interesting to see what changes have been made. Thank to EFL Geek for the pointer.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Evidence Overturned



So much for that theory that the storm was caused by warming Gulf waters possibly affected by global warming. We'll have to start training our weathermen in the science of predicting divine retribution.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Racism: Alive and well

If anyone thought racism wasn't alive and well in the U.S., check out the following comment over on Dr. Phat Tony's:

Now that the water has began to subside and rebuilding efforts have started, it’s time for the poor black people of New Orleans to start with the long and hard process of re-accumulating the wealth and items that they lost during the hurricane. Luckily with the help of the Red Cross this is happening. Thos who did not get to loot, or were too late to steal anything of value, have another chance to go and get the things that will help them survive the next few months on someone else’s dime.

The same person who's falling over himself to give dollars to Halliburton billionaires is up in arms about helping people hit by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Hmmmmm. I wonder why?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Republican Penguins

Daily Kos has a humorous post today about Conservatives praise for March of the Penguins as a movie promoting life (while recent news stories suggest that the penguins in many places are being wiped out by global warming.) Oh well. At least the penguins will enjoy monogamy and family values for a few years before they go extinct.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm not surprised.

I saw this post, titled Are You Surprised, at the Progressive Society Blog:

January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.

April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized:

"Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy, Michael Brown, who, like Allbaugh, has no previous experience in disaster management.

March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.

2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.

Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden. So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away. Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Where are the local Guard units?

More than 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Brigade serving in Iraq can only watch from Baghdad as Hurricane Katrina bears down on their families and homes in New Orleans and the other south Louisiana communities from which they hail. The deployed soldiers and their equipment, which includes high water vehicles, Humvees and generators, will be sorely missed as Louisiana attempts to prepare for and recover from the historic Category Five storm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Women social rights not essential

Citizen's Rent has an excellent post tearing apart the hypocrisy of the neocons concern for Iraqi women:

On a fairly regular basis, we hear Republican leaders like Bush and Cheney defend the war in Iraq on the basis of the benefits to women there. I've posted on this before, noting that I don't buy their convenient embrace of women's rights. Well I was right to be suspicious. Just read the following statement made by a loyal member of the neocon movement.

I mean, one hopes that the Iraqis protect women's social rights as much as possible. It certainly seems clear that in protecting the political rights, there's no discussion of women not having the right to vote. I think it's important to remember that in the year 1900, for example, in the United States, it was a democracy then. In 1900, women did not have the right to vote. If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there. I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.
Former Middle East specialist for the CIA, Reuel Marc Gerecht (Meet the Press, 8/21/05)


Hmm. I wonder what kind of outcry there would be if he said "Kurds social rights aren't critical to the evolution of democracy"? Quite a loud one, I think.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Rightful Owners

On Danny Carlton's blog, there's a post about how a new find in Israel should somehow help justify kicking the Palestinians out of their homes in order provide housing for European Jews:

Jonathan Tobin
‘Now the Stones Will Speak’

For those who hate Israel, one of the most dangerous things a Jew can do in Jerusalem is to start digging. Because the more you dig there, the worse it gets for those who would like to pretend that Israelis are alien colonists imposing their rule on the so-called indigenous people of the region....But last week, the debunkers of Jewish history got some bad news. And all it took was for a dedicated archaeologist to start digging.Dr. Eilat Mazar, senior fellow of the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center's Institute for the Archaeology of the Jewish People, made public the results of the dig she had been conducting since February in an area south of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where scholars believe the city of David existed. What she produced ought to help quiet those who think Jewish history is bunk.Amid the soil and rocks of the place that is now the village of Silwan, Mazar uncovered the ruins of the building she's sure was the palace of David itself — the very same structure that was built, according to the Bible, by King Hiram of Tyre for Israel's greatest king, around 1,000 BCE.

This is great logic. Unfortunately, I found an arrowhead outside my house and have yet to find any signs of ancient European settlement. I therefore that we all move back to Europe and vacate our homes so that they can be occupied by the rightful owners.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Plane Crash

A plane has crashed in Toronto. Fortunately, all 309 passengers have survived, with only minor injuries reported thus far. The initial scenes on TV made it look like everyone was going up in flames. I'm surprised that the news agencies weren't aware of the fact that the passengers had already left the aircraft.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

10th planet discovered

Scientist claim to have found a tenth planet. I think they should stop looking after this. Ten planets is a good number. Having 10 planets might make us feel safter as if there was a logical and stable order to the universe.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Islam as the religion of peace

On the blog Anwarrhyme, a Bangladeshi student has posted Islamic verses that forbid terrorism and advocate peace. The verses are worth quoting:

Translation: They commit a gross sin, then say, "We found our parents doing this and God has commanded us to it." Say: "God never advocates sin. Are you saying about God what you do not know?"(Qu’ran: Surah Al-Ahraafh, verse 28)

Translation: "You will not kill. God has made life sacred, except in the course of Justice. These are His commandments to you, that you may understand." (Qu’ran: Surah Al-Inaam, Verse 151)

Translation: "Whoever killed a soul not to retaliate for a soul, nor for creating disorder in the land, then it is as if he had killed all mankind. And whoso gave life to one soul, then it is as if he had given life to all mankind"(Qu’ran: Surah Al-Maida, Verse 32)

Translation: “… and cast not yourself in destruction with your own hands (Suicide) and be good doers; no doubt good doers are the beloved of Allah” (Quran: Surah Al-Baqra, Verse 195)

Translation: "There shall be no compulsion in religion"(Qu’ran: Surah Baqra, Verse 256)

Translation: "God does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriends them and be equitable towards them and be equitable towards them. God loves the Just."(Qu’ran: 6, verse 88)

Translation: If anyone slays a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land -it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people. Qu’ran 5:32

Translation: Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious . . .And if you punish, let your punishment be proportional to the wrong that has been done to you. But if you show patience, that is indeed the best course. Be patient, for your patience is from God. And do not grieve over them, or distress yourself because of their plots. For God is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good. Qu’ran 16:125-128

Translation: Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do. Qu’ran 4:135

Translation: The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God, for God loves not those who do wrong. But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong done to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice, for such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter). But indeed, if anyone shows patience and forgives, that would truly be an affair of great resolution. Qu’ran 42:40-43

Translation: Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune. Qu’ran 41:34-35

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Shanghai" Revisited

Stop-loss is essentially a draft and it's an unfair one at that since it exploits the endless loopholes in military contracts in order to deceive young people signing up. Regarding stoploss, I came across the following interesting posting on Spidel Net.

My son in law in Iraq said they are being pressured round the clock to re-enlist or face stop loss. They are being offering $30,000 signing bonus, tax free and told if they don't re-enlist, they are going to be stop lossed and get zero dollars. They are pushing the troops round the clock and Mark only got 3 hours sleep in 48 hours and when they get back, they are faced yet again with re-enlisting. Mark said many guys are scared and signing up and their families at home are very upset. (with good reason) We really need to push our media and congressmen to expose the horrible way our troops are being treated.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why We Don't Do Body Counts

I found this at Dohiyi Mir:

An Iraqi humanitarian organization is reporting that 128,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003...[which] includes everyone who has been killed since that time, adding that 55 percent of those killed have been women and children aged 12 and under.

'Iraqiyun obtained data from relatives and families of the deceased, as well as from Iraqi hospitals in all the country's provinces. The 128,000 figure only includes those whose relatives have been informed of their deaths and does not include those were abducted, assassinated or simply disappeared.

'Iraqiyun's figures conflict with the Iraqi Body Count public database compiled by Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies. According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies' database, 39,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since March 2003.

For those of you keeping score at home, 128k is ~43 times how many Americans died on September 11th, 2001. Proportionally, it's equivalent to ~466 September 11ths.

Monday, July 04, 2005

adwords

Patrick Ruffin has a good article on using Google adwords to estimate the "mindshare" of a particular name or issue. He comes up with the following estimated search for leaders:

George W. Bush 130440
Bill Clinton 42240
Condoleezza Rice 36520
John Kerry 20912
Hillary Clinton 16040
Ted Kennedy 8800
Howard Dean 7280
John Edwards 6988
Barack Obama 6080
John McCain 5280
Dick Cheney 4560
Jeb Bush 4360
Bill Frist 3640
rge Allen 3360
Rudy Giuliani 2680
Harry Reid 2520
Alberto Gonzales 2480
Nancy Pelosi 2400
Mitt Romney 1960
Mark Warner 1280
Evan Bayh 1160

How in the world is Clinton number 2?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Coingate

Nocent nabob numismatists cause noisome nocuous nystagmic nonloyal naysaying among nebbish naïf namby-pamby noctambulating populace.

That's the headline I came up with after reading news of the recent coin-collecting scandal in Ohio.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cafestol

Depressing news. Cafestol, an ingredient in unfiltered coffee, may raise cholesterol. The coffee diterpene cafestol (CAF) is found in unfiltered coffee brews such as Scandinavian boiled, Turkish and cafetiere coffee. CAF is said to be the most potent cholesterol-elevating compound known in the human diet. A study by Marie-Louise Ricketts of Baylor College of Medicine sought to determine whether CAF exerts its effects via nuclear hormone receptors. These evidently control the genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis. Fortunately, cafestol can be removed with a paper filter.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Where Your Tax $ Goes

The U.S. government (which is supposed to be the government for and by US) has decided to give Halliburton $72 million extra for its hard work in Iraq. Evidently, there are two companies named Halliburton. The one I know of has a corruption rap sheet long enough to wallpaper the Taj Mahal.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

2nd languages

A mother mouse and her children are out for a stroll one afternoon. Out leaps a cat from behind a car and frightens them.

The mouse lets out an enormous growl and then starts barking loudly. The cat turns tail and runs away.

‘See?’ says the mouse to her startled brood. ‘Now you see why it’s so important to know a second language?’”

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Eagle Dog



Breaking News! North Korean scientists, in an attempt to undermine America's symbol of freedom, have successfully created a half-breed bald-eagle dog. (We knew they were the axis of evil, but not they've simply gone too far!!!!)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Becky Zerlentes

In the news is the death of Becky Zerlentes, a female boxer, who was fighter her last match (literally) prior to her retirement. The death should give us pause to rethink this maddening trend of expanding boxing and other violent sports to include women. Instead, we should be moving in the opposite direction--getting rid of violent sports all together. The idea of boxing, after all, is to give your opponent such a blow that he/she passes out! This is one step up from lions fighting slaves in the colloseum. Sports should be activities that have beauty and promote health--not an opportunity to get a concussion (or get killed).

Friday, February 18, 2005

6th Sense

I came across an interesting article today on a possible 6th sense:

Science Points to a 'Sixth Sense'

Thu Feb 17,11:47 PM ET

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Ever get a gut feeling something just isn't quite right, and make a decision accordingly? Science is beginning to suggest those instincts may have roots deep in the brain.

Research in young volunteers points to some kind of "sixth sense" -- a mechanism in the brain that picks up on subtle clues, then sends out subconscious signals of trouble ahead.


The finding could help explain certain intuitive phenomena seen among humans. For example, in the recent Asian tsunami, aboriginal people sought out higher ground in the moments before the disaster, as did many wild animals. Could subtle changes in weather or the environment have warned them early on?


Just such an early warning system may exist in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain area important in processing complex information, according to a report by psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis. Their findings appear in the Feb. 18 issue of the journal Science.


In their experiments, the researchers challenged healthy young volunteers to a series of tricky visual tests aimed at setting up conflicting choices within the brain, explained Joshua Brown, a research associate in psychology who performed the study with Todd Braver, an associate professor of psychology.


During the experiments, the St. Louis team observed each participant's real-time brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


"We used a situation where we presented signals on a computer screen," Brown said. "If it was an arrow pointing left, they pushed the left button. If it pointed right, they pushed the right button."


But then the tricks began. First, the computer screen would occasionally show a larger arrow that required a participant to push a button other than the one just indicated by a first arrow. The time at which the second arrow was presented was gradually made longer, so that a participant was more likely to have pushed the wrong button.


Second, the arrow signals were preceded by colored dashes -- white for left, blue for right. The experiments were rigged so that participants eventually had an error rate of about 50 percent when shown a blue dash, but only 4 percent when shown a white dash.


While the volunteers weren't told of the rigging, "some of them had begun to figure it out, at least on a subconscious level," Brown said. As this dawning awareness emerged, the fMRI images showed increased activity in the anterior singulate cortex whenever the blue dash was flashed.


"The purpose was to see if the brain picked up on the blue color being associated with a large number of errors," Brown said. "It appears that this part of the brain is somehow figuring out things without you necessarily having to be consciously aware of it."


The report "has the potential of unifying different approaches to the anterior cingulate cortex," said William J. Gehring, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. "Researchers have been looking at the response to errors people make and also the response to negative events. This is tying those two together."


Still, Gehring said, "this is the sort of thing where you need additional research. The report is not specific about what is going on, and how closely the response is tied to awareness."


Gehring and Brown agreed that the findings have potential applications to psychiatric practice, but they lie far in the future.


Abnormalities of the anterior cingulate cortex have been associated with a number of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, Brown said.


"It's a little premature to say how this might help us treat individuals with mental illness," he said. "There's a lot we don't know about what goes wrong in mental illness. But if we understand how this works in healthy individuals, we will be in a better position to understand what goes wrong in mental illness."


Abnormal activity of the anterior cingular cortex has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, Gehring said. "It's been shown that there is too much activity in this area. There is a general sense that things are going wrong, when actually they are not."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

H.R. 418

According to a new law being proposed:

H.R.418
REAL ID Act of 2005 (Introduced in House)

SEC. 102. WAIVER OF LAWS NECESSARY FOR IMPROVEMENT OF BARRIERS AT BORDERS.

Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:

`(c) Waiver-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

`(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court shall have jurisdiction--

`(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or

`(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.'.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Prince and the Paupers

Prince Harry (Princess Diana's progeny) evidently wore Nazi regalia to a fancy-dress party recently. Harry’s father Prince Charles is said to have been enraged when he heard about it. Personally, I find it ridiculous that anyone cares about the so-called royal families in this day and age. Not that we don't have their less flamboyant equivalents on this side of the Atlantic. Americans are known to chatter about the wives of our aristrocrats--gossipping about what type of queen-elect Barbara will make and what not. In truth, they're all a bunch of Nazis--self-appointed ubermenschen that see us as so much scum to be trodden upon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

News collumnist, fi!

What's with all these news collumnist starting up their own blogs. It's kind of like roofers looking for houses that they roof at night for free or janitors sweeping the streets in their spare time. Don't these people ever take a break. Put the pen down and do something slovenly and unproductive you dang over-achievers. Let us unprofessional nonprofessionals write for a few minutes without ya'all bargin' in to tell us how to do it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Us, Stingy? It's All Relative

By Dave Lindorff

Cost of one F-22 Raptor tactical fighter jet -- $225 million

Cost of the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq--$228 million/day

Amount spent by Kerry and Bush campaigns -- $400 million

U.S. aid to Yushenko camp in recent Ukrainian conflict -- $30+ million

Estimated cost of Bush's Second Inauguration and Ball -- $ 40+ million

Amount of U.S. tax cuts under Bush -- $1 trillion

Cost of the U.S. Iraq War in 2004 -- $147 billion

U.S. reconstruction aid budgeted for Iraq (though never spent!) -- $18 billion

Amount the U.S. initially in aid to Indian Ocean tsunami victims -- $ 10 million

Amount U.S. offered in tsunami aid after being chastised by UN official -- $35 million

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Blogs Rule

Anonymoses has an interesting set of links to recent end-of-the-year articles about how the rise of blogs has been the thing in 2004.