Friday, September 30, 2005

oh good grief

Why do Conservatives, the supposedly "moral" party, put up with the blatent falsehoods which drip from the lips of their leaders? This from Bill Bennett, speaking on Fox's Hannity and Colmes:
One must be very careful one gets into these arguments and we try to do it. But, you know, we try on this show to do serious and controversial issues. And it's a big country and it's a free country. We don't put liberals down. We don't put people down with whom we disagree. We talk about serious things in a serious way. And if you're not allowed to talk about these subjects, then it's not the country it's supposed to be. (thanx to J-Wild)
How any prominent Republican (except maybe Bob McCain, or poor discredited Collin Powell) can utter such total nonsense with a straight face is mind-boggling. The GOP's power is based almost entirely on trash-talking liberals (and the liberals feeble attempts to evade such talk). It certainly isnt based on carrying out any standard Conservative Policies. He is right about one thing. In America, it ought to be okay to talk about anything, just as long as you dont expect everyone to like it, or to let you remain in a position of influence if they dont agree.

Just a Quickie

Just one year after the infamous Kinsey Report, a group of British researchers decided to do the British equivalent, the results of which were subsequently supressed for over 50 years. Since then, of course, nothing has changed. Or rather, everything has. Or both.
Yes, both.
Props to Llewellyn at Life at 40 Degrees.

can you feel a cold draft?

No, I'm not feeling a chill, just a little draft blowing through my soul. No, not mine, I'm too old, even by the military's new standards.
But somebody's.
In the coming Theocracy, of course, my daughters will be safe (weaker sex, right?), but I've got a nephew, and cousins here and there.

What? What am I talking about? What do you mean there's no draft? I know that. There's no draft.

But look at the latest recruiting numbers. They're down, way down. They've missed their recruiting goal by the largest amount since 1979, when the goal was much larger (to be honest, the goal was missed by almost as much in 1999, but the economy was good and everyone was partying).
I suspect that it's even worse than they are telling us. The military has never been much for telling anyone the whole truth. Generally, if they say it's bad, then it's worse.

Republicans will moan and groan, and express bafflement, or make excuses. Of anyone out there, though, Capitalists like those in the GOP ought to recognise a marketplace decision when they see it. BushCo is trying to sell America a war, and they're not meeting their sales quotas.
Like any fad, there was a big demand at first, but interest has since dropped off. Dubya, showing that he earned that "C" average, displayed his poor planning by ending up with a massive overstock.
People dont want what the Administration is selling. All those Patriotic bells and whistles are starting to look a bit overdone. Like a Pet Rock, people are looking at the Iraq war and saying to themselves, "I bought that? What was I thinking?"

How will the Military handle this? No doubt with more incentives, bigger signing bonuses, bigger salaries, bigger death benefits. And the army, as a package, is already a pretty good deal, if you can deal with the Discipline thing (oh, and Death, maybe)(actually, Death, definitely - somebody's Death).
Plus the usual round of Catch-22-like increases in service and deployment requirements before they let someone leave. But I dont know how much it'll help.

Lets make a list:


  • Patriotism and Duty
  • Bring Democracy to Middle East
  • Keep Terrorists in Middle East
  • Keep WMDs out of Terrorist Hands
  • College Tuition Money
  • Being in the Army will make a man out of you


  • Death, all around, in a far off land
  • Democracy as dictated by U.S.
  • U.S. Occupation inflames regional Muslims
  • No WMDs found anywhere
  • Cant argue with that one, if you live to spend it
  • Psychological scarring from the Horror of War will never leave you
If you dont believe me about those last two points, ask a Veteran. While he'll probably tell you that the last point on the Pro list is true, if you press him, he'll tell you that the last item on the Con list is true, too.

So what's it gonna be Buddy? You buyin' or what?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We're NOT havin' a heat wave, we're NOT havin' a heat wave

this is a high temperature forecast for September 29th, 2005 from Intellicast.comLook at that! Isnt it beautiful. Light red! No dark red, no purple! I can smell cool air drifting across my nose from the breeze coming through the windows, which are open in the middle of the day! It's so wonderful. Of course I know it'll be over soon, back up to 90° by the weekend. But today, GLORY!
Plus, I've been able to use the kitchen without making the house intolerable for the rest of the day (anything above 90° and the AC can no longer cope - rental house!) . Knowing that the cool wont last, I might have gone a wee bit overboard, fixing a tuna casserole, a batch of baked spaghetti, some of my famous Beans & Weenies (famously reviled by the Other), and a batch of Gumbo (from a Tony Chachere mix - must support Louisiana business). The Other will probably be irritated, if not seriously annoyed, and the kids wont eat half of what I fixed, but dammit, I'm enjoying myself.
Summer wipes me out, and it lasts six months in this damn state. It may only be gone for a day, but I'm going to enjoy that day.

today's readings

First, let's start with a masterful bit of liberal-baiting by James Lileks in the Dallas Whoring News. James is especially aided in his ridicule by that fact that he's right, sort of. Democrats have let themselves be associated with the Far Left wackos, while Republicans have somehow managed to avoid connection with their own wackos (Ted Kaczynski, Lyndon LaRouche, David Duke) or have even, somehow, cleaned them off by embracing them (Pat Roberts, anyone?). The Democratic Party will never make a comeback, no matter how easy Republicans might make it for them, if they dont figure out a way to not let the GOP make them look so ridiculous.

Then, read this Worldchanging article about "leapfrogging" of infrastructures in less developed nations. Those who think America cant be left behind because it has such a big head start technologically may find themselves very surprised. (my thanx to Dave in Australia, yet again)

Does anyone know how hard it is to not get angry about the Bush Administration and the Republican Party? It requires wearing blinders of some sort, either Ideological ones, or those made from pure, Blissful Ignorance. Now normally, I dont care for Salon E-magazine (it's an access issue, not a content issue) but I'm still going to recommend you read this article on BushCorp friends and Iraqi Reconstruction (after wading through the tedious flood of advertising). Then ask yourself this question while you read it: Why do Republicans, who supposedly are all in favor of the Market System, give out "cost-plus" contracts?

While you're at it, or if you read nothing else, read this article on the Teapot Dome Scandal, and ask yourself: "Would this even have made a blip on the radar today?". If your answer is no, does that disturb you? It bothers me.

And now, just because I think it's really funny, I'll quote David Letterman, who says, the President "is asking Congress for $80 billion to help rebuild Iraq. And when you make out that check, remember -- there are two L's in Halliburton."

I gotta tell you, my week of attempted detatchment isnt going very well, and I've still got John Roberts to contend with.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No, thank you. Now go away.

Money money money, is that all this country is about anymore?

Just today I noticed that you cant swing a dead cat on your blogger's behind-the-scenes pages without encountering the offer to use AdSense and "earn money with your blog". I'm not doing this to earn money! Hell, the service is both free and ad-free! Maybe it's time to start backing up my posts, because methinks me smells the coming ads, want them or not. Advertising is a pox on much of this nation's culture, and I dont want to encourage it.
Oh, and look at the comment on the previous post; ad-bots seem to have figured out a way thru the verification system. See! Further poxiness.

Sorry, back to my meditations now...


eh, what, huh, oh... good...go'way, m'sleepin'

Just a quickie here, no bitterness, really. But if the country, and especially Texas, is lucky, Tom DeLay is goin' down, baby.

Dont hold your breath, though.

By the way, Tree Story is a Goddess. Why cant all teaching-think be centered around kids!

Plus, read this scary Cold War story I should have passed along last Monday (thanx to Worldchanging, by way of Dave in Australia) .

Then, information is starting to come out that New Orleans was not the Wild West Show that the press was making it out to be. Read this lovely article by Jarvis Deberry about "thieves" helping out old people at a nursing home. (props to Steve McClure, via David Brin).

Okay, last thing, I swear: God may be hazardous to your Societal health. (thanks to Ran Prieur)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

getting a bit of rest

I'm taking a little time off from ranting, here. It's not that I have to be somewhere, or that I've got important things to do. I am getting a bit behind in my reading, and time spent blogging is time not spent learning HTML, but that's not why I'm cutting back. It's because of my attitude.
My wife thinks that all my political blogging is turning me into an "angry" person. She may be right, maybe I am grumpier. I look at it this way, though: It's as if I woke up from a nap, and found the kids sitting on the kitchen floor, surrounded by cookie crumbs. Of course I'm pissed, and like most single-issue-focussed males, I tend to spread that grumpiness around a bit. This is not an excuse, just a reality.
My wife, who refuses to talk to me at all about politics any more, is an American History teacher. Why she wont talk Politics, given its role in History, given that in 10 years it will be History, is one of those Great (probably Female) Mysteries. But given her attitude, can she really wonder that I spend so much time talking about it (okay, bitching and moaning about it) online, because she wont talk about it with me.
No, no, that's not quite true. I wouldnt stop if she did talk about it with me. I probably wouldnt even slow down, much. Let's go back to the Nap analogy. For the last eight years, (while my wife has been teaching) I've stayed at home with the kids during the day, and worked at night. I spent a lot of time watching TV, trying to wring out a little sleep when I could. A normal weekday for me begins at about 6:30 a.m., and ends at around 2:30 a.m. I get to spend very little time with my wife except on weekends, so I dont get out much (make that "at all"). Most of my friends have quietly slipped away over the years. Frankly, considering my level of correspondence, I'm surprised they stuck around as long as they have.
So think of me as having spent the last eight years in a deep sleep (TV or sleep, much the same). One day, I discover a community of people, who think similarly to the way I do. Eureka! Do I join in the conversation, or do I go back to sleep? I wake up, of course (I think I've slept enough).
And what do I discover upon waking up? The government I was raised to believe in (despite Watergate and Viet Nam) has been hijacked by a group of cronies who espouse an Religio-Conservative Ideology, but practice Kleptocracy. That the Love Thy Neighbor philosophy of the Church I knew as a child has been replaced by a Correct Thy Neighbor To The Error Of His Ways And The Correctness Of Mine philosophy. That Science, once the Savior of Mankind (except in 70's sci-fi movies) has now become the Path To His (Moral) Destruction. And that Money has become the Be-All-and-End-All of American Culture.
I have, in effect, woken up to find all the stupid little children called the American People, surrounded by crumbs in the kitchen, pointing fingers at each other. And I know, I know, that to get them to clean up this mess is going to be very, very hard, and require a lot of yelling, and possibly a few swats on the butt.
And I also know, to my own shame, that part of the reason that they were in the kitchen making that mess, is because I was asleep.
Anyway, so I'm taking some time off from ranting. I'll try to find my center, perhaps. Let My Anger Melt Away (isnt that a song?). But I'll be back, because I can still see some crumbs on the floor, and the cookie jar lid is still missing.

Nostalgia throws me a Loop

Toucan Sam and the Elephant paint set from Froot Loops cereal box, circa 1974The other day, Eldest Daughter brought me this object (which you see to your left), that she had found in an old copy of Huckleberry Finn. The book had been mine when I was a child, and I had passed it on to her. As you can perhaps read for yourself, the object was printed in 1974. On the backside are three patches of watercolor paint, and attatched to it (and removed by someone) were a half-dozen cardboard "paintbrushes".
This is the world I grew up in. I remember using similar sets. Yeah, they didnt work very well, but they worked. People put too much emphasis on the quality of the equipment. Ever seen some of the stuff done by prisoners using M+M's for pigment ? Well, I have, and while I cant show you any (cant find a link), I can tell you it's impressive. Read the articles.
Lastly, a confession. Though I had appearantly stuck a bookmark in Huckleberry Finn, I have never actually read it. Yes, to my eternal chagrin, I havent read that all-time Great American Book. Actually, I havent read a lot of the all-time Great American Books (my wife, shaking her head in shame, weeps for me).

Monday, September 26, 2005

this he believes

I've been working on a draft of a post based on the "This I Believe" series of essays they've been playing on All Things Considered. It's nothing special, more of a laundry list than an essay, but I didnt feel too bad about that (this is a blog, after all, not NPR).
Then, just surfing my way around the blogoshere, I come across this guy's version, and it sooo much better than mine. I'm not going to stop, or anything, but I dont feel as good about mine as I did before.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Justice dies Pt.II

Well, it's not like it's a big surprise or anything. John G. Roberts was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Comittee, 13 to 5. He made it through the committee without answering any questions of any substance (except one about a favorite movie, which wasnt actually a question)(Dr. Zivago, in case you're wondering). Democrats on the committee who voted were appearantly voting on the side of Hope. They might as well have, since the GOP majority will confirm Roberts regardless of Democratic views. It's probable that Leahy and the others voted for Roberts (who is replacing a Conservative Justice anyway) so that later, when they vote against whichever wacko BushCo sends to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor they can say, "hey, we're not obstructionists, some of us voted for your last boy, didnt we".
"Wacko"? OK, maybe not. But you can bet your ass it wont be a centrist. The name Alberto "DungeonMaster" Gonzales keeps popping up, but that's probably a red herring. The Republicans are pushing the Democrat's buttons, keeping them yapping and salivating over the thought of a "Torturer" for the Supreme Court, and making sure the Asses look every bit the over-reacting bozos the GOP has made them out to be. As, still, the BushCorp sails on through their Delusional Ocean:
Manuel Miranda, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Bush has plenty of political capital to have a strong judicial conservative, especially after his address to the nation on Hurricane Katrina and the liberals' "embarrassing cry-wolf effort against the telegenic [John] Roberts," Bush's nominee to replace the late Chief Justice Rehnquist (from the equally delusional Fox News)
"Political Capital"? Okay, I guess if you can call 51% of the Popular Vote a "mandate", you can call a 38% Approval Rating "political capital". (or has the public grown so used to the Bullshit that no one bothers to call them on anything anymore). (and did he really describe Roberts as "telegenic".)
Thank God structural engineers dont use Republican mathematics when bulding stuff, though.
Anyway, stay tuned. Roberts is essentially in. To be honest, if Bush wanted to re-nominate Robert Bork he could probably get him confirmed, too. Watch for the upcoming Girlfight in the Senate for O'Conner's replacement. This stuff really ought to be on UPN.

history repeats?

Read a funny thing in Brin's blog today , must pass it on:
Finally, this quote from a guy who wrote in from Britain:
'Sucked into an interminable guerilla war in Asia, just promised to send men to the moon: is Mr Bush planning a visit to Dallas this November?'(@10:29)
Let's hope those who ignore history arent entirely doomed to repeat it. (Plus, I dont see Dick Cheney enacting any kind of Great Society).

Shiver Me Timbers!

Arrhg! I missed it! Monday, September 19th was International Speak Like A Pirate Day, and I flat out forgot. I be deservin' t' kiss the gunner's daughter. ' T slipped me mind, I must ben distracted. Well, maybe I`ll reckon next voyage, er, year.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Still hot

Welcome to the "first day of Autumn". This is according to the traditional notion of seasons, one which I reject in favor of my more accurate Texas seasonal calendar. My calendar puts us only three weeks into the beginning of the two month long "Summer II", which anyone who's lived somewhere besides Texas will understand right away.
Some anonymous smart-ass left this comment on my entry about the mooon the other day, and the funny thing is, they're half-right: How would you know what the moon looks like these days? It's too hot here to even go outside in the evening.
It is too hot, but not at night when I work. Today's forecast, acccording to Intellicast, calls for "abundant sunshine". No shit. Compare this with four weeks ago, and not just in Big D, but in the whole country.

Temperatures right now:
99°Big D (expected: 103)
78°Des Moines
76° Santa Fe
58° Seattle
72°Los Angeles
98° Austin
69° Denver
67° Milwaukee
98° Houston
86° Las Vegas
64°San Francisco

battle monkeys

Okay, first lemme say that I'm responding to a comment that had nothing to do with the post it was commenting on, which dealt with the aftermath of Katrina. But the comment struck me as either naive, or a sideways method of saying "get out of Iraq", and I felt I couldnt just let it sit there. So...

LZ XRAY wrote on September 21, 2005 12:10 AM:

U.S. Military Deaths Top 1,900 in Iraq By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The war in Iraq passed a sobering milepost Tuesday when U.S. officials reported 12 more Americans were killed — eight of them members of the armed forces, raising to more than 1,900 the number of U.S. service members who have died in the country since the invasion.

The most recent deaths in Iraq were victims to IEDs.
I wonder.....if the monkeys on Capitol Hill had loved ones on the ground engaged in that QUAGMIRE, would they make more of an effort to find out why the military has failed to protect the troops from these road-side bombs?
I'm curious what LZ XRay thought could be done. More armor and extra vigilance, but truth be told, there's really not a whole lot else you can do. Leave, maybe.
Think about a handgun. Once upon a time, if you wanted to kill someone, you needed to be bigger or faster or luckier. Suprise might help, but in the end it was strength and ability that won the fight.
Then came the gun. Suddenly, being bigger and stronger wasnt enough, big men could be taken down by children and old ladies. Guerilla fighting is the New Gun, and that's what this "insurgency" is, a guerilla war. We call the Insurgents "immoral", and so they are, because they involve innocent civilians.
But suppose they targeted only soldiers and police with their bombs. Wouldnt they then be soldiers fighting a war the only way they can against a far superior opponent. Unconventional? Yes. In violation of the Geneva Accords? Possibly, never having actually studied them I couldnt say.
But lets understand something here - this is War, capital "W". Big countries continue to get together to come up with "civilized" rules for killing each other; but this is done mostly for self-preservation: You-Dont-Do-That-and-We-Wont-Either rules avoid a lot of potential nastiness, leaving mostly the kind of nastiness the public is used to (guns, bombs, flames, shock and awe) available just in case Someone is feeling a little agressive.
But Guerilla Wars are rarely fought by established nations. They are fought by small groups battling big odds. Their effectiveness is based on not following the rules, and to expect them to give up an advantage just because it doesnt fit the rules of the Big Boys is simply naive. War is Hell, and Soldiers Die. If you cant deal with that, then you need to rethink your battleplan to include not having one. And if you dont have any choice (rarely true, despite assurances from Authorities) then be prepared for Death, on someone else's terms.

Thanx to Blog For America, where this post all began.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

sick day

My head hurts, and I havent got much to say, having pretty much shot my wad in David Brin's comments today, so I'll just pass on this link to a speech John Kerry gave at Brown University (props to RudePundit, who gets moved to permanent status today). In it, Kerry outlines the problems he has with the BushCorp.
Compare with this speech by Dubya where he talks of the destruction of New Orleans and pledges to do better next time. Read them, really read them both. Notice any differences, other than what they're talking about, maybe something in tone or emotional content or syntax or anything. Not really? Maybe you do, but I dont, not really.
Know why? Because it's all just words. Dubya couldnt talk straight to save his mother's life, and Kerry's a failed member of a failing Party.
Just once, I'd like for Bush to Do What He Said, instead of some horrible parody of what he said that ends up screwing poor working people, or giving more money to Halliburton, or twisting morallity or ethics around to fit his sick blindered worldview.
Just once, then again and again and again, I'd like John Kerry to say, "Yes, sorry, I screwed up! I jumped on the invasion bandwagon, and I should have known better. I'll try not to do it again." Imagine the novelty! A politician who admits his mistakes. Wouldnt that be something!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reason no.58 why I need to get back to school and get a new job

Tonight, I'm sitting in the breakroom with 3 other fellow employees, when the Boss comes through on his way home. Passing two of the 4 people in the room, he tosses down two Hershey's Nuggets, then he comes to me, and drops one. He stops, and you can see the arm doing that little hesitant motion that means an internal discussion is going on, before he finally drops a second candy. I guess that means I'm not totally on his Shit List any more, but it seems to be a close run thing.
By the way, the Nuggets were of the Dark Chocolate with Almonds variety, one I've never seen before, and they were mighty tasty.
I love chocolate with almonds, but most days I really dont care for my job.

to the Mooon, Alice!

Hooray! We're going to the Moon!

And about freakin' time, too.

I could spend a lot of time setting up links to artickles which describe NASA's program and making descriptions for those links, but that seems kind of silly when Dave in Australia's done such a good job of it. I'd rather spend my time blathering on about how cool it is to be going to the moon again! Of course, my excitement is tempered by the fact that we have both NASA (not the best run organization in the government) and the BushCorp making the decision. Then again, Dubya needs a distraction (is he getting desperate for them? What happened to Mars?), and NASA's presence is inevitable, unless you really believe a no-immediate-profit venture like this can succeed (in America) anytime soon (and I dont). In Dave's links you'll find people who think it's a big waste of money, who think it could be done much better (by either NASA and/or private interests). These points are good, but irrelevant to a National Space Program. A National Space Program is not really about getting to the moon (though the members of NASA probably think it is), but about showing up other nations, grabbing prestige, and maybe a bit of real estate (especially strategic real estate, which is getting harder and harder to grab these days).
Let me give an Image that may help with understanding International Politics: 7-year old boys. You've seen them in action. Naivité, bullying, hypocracy, chest-puffing, sudden blows followed by confusion at rejection (and vice-versa), taking insult at the littlest thing; and then, out of the blue sudden moments of tenderness and generosity. Now think about BushCo. See what I mean.
But not just Dubya and his Posse, think Middle East, think Russia, think France, think China and Tiawan, think the Koreas - little boys all!
We want to go to the Moon! Just like all little boys do, 'cause it's so damn cool, 'cause the other boys will be sooo jealous, 'cause then it'll be ours!
I want to go to the Moon! Just like all little boys do, 'cause it's so goddamn cool, 'cause the other boys will be sooo jealous, 'cause then it'll be Mine!

And most of all, 'cause it's up there, laughin' at me.

Nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah.

Monday, September 19, 2005

cost of college investment

This editorial appeared in the Dallas Whoring News today:
A degree worth more than mere dollar signs

Re: "Is college really worth it?" by Mary Jacobs and Sophia Dembling, Sept. 10 Viewpoints.
As a longtime writer who, like Ms. Dembling, is coming late to my bachelor's degree, I was disappointed that she and Ms. Jacobs stumbled over the same fallacy, that a college education is solely a ticket to an upper-class lifestyle. I view this economic reductionist approach as a prime cause of America's decline.
We see the tragic results of America's capitalist mentality in New Orleans. That great city of charm and grace, whose best "product" is its matchless culture, was abandoned long before Hurricane Katrina. Its impoverished, mostly black population was deemed unworthy of good government, law and order, decent schools and infrastructure improvements that could have held back the floodwaters.
Higher education teaches us that to be fully human, we need the seemingly impractical disciplines New Orleans embodies.
No, my degree won't guarantee me a stratospheric salary, but it will help me be a better person, for I will have learned how to help shape humanity's highest ideal, a truly civilized world where people are valued for themselves, not as economic commodities.
I consider this accomplishment to be time and money well spent.

Cynthia B. Astle, senior from Dallas, University of North Texas, Denton

And yes, she is absolutely correct. But she's missing the true point of all of the talk of a college education being an "investment": it distracts you from the fact that the very people who benefitted from low college tuition and high college financial assistance have since decided to make everyone else pay through the nose for it. Check out the rates that college tuition has spiralled upwards; looks alot like medical costs doesnt it? Of all the things the governmnet could finance (relatively cheaply, too) to make this country stronger, school would be the best "investment", but instead we get tax cuts for the rich, an illegal/immoral war in Iraq, and billions of dollars funnelled into Halliburton.
How is that good for anybody but a small few? Are you included in that number? I know I'm not.

a warning

hey there's a bunch more where this came from, just go to the Worth1000 link belowNot much to say today, surprisingly, so I'll just show you this, which I got from Worth 1000 by way of boing boing.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

yes, my kids are brats but...

Okay, now this is really frightening. Just the other day I was trying to tell my daughter that I didnt want to discuss George Bush with her because I didnt want to Indoctrinate her. I said that if she wanted to discuss things Dubya did, that would be OK, but that she had to make up her own mind about what was said. That anytime someone said something like "So and So is a good/bad person", she should ask "why?", and if that person couldnt give a clear reason, then they were simply stating an Opinion, not a Fact. I think I got through to her (she's only 8, after all).
Now I read an article in Science and Politics about Right-Wing "Christian" child-rearing practices and it really, really worries me. Try this snippet on for size.
My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year. To do this, a child must receive correction when he is a small infant. Every parent recognizes that this self-will begins early as he has witnessed his child stiffen his back and boldly demonstrate his rebellion and self-will even though he has been fed, diapered, and cared for in every other physical way.

On what occasions should a child be corrected? Whenever a child directly disobeys authority or shows disrespect and rebellion toward authority, that child should receive correction. Lesser infractions of course would receive lesser forms of correction with the rod being reserved for the more serious infractions.
Now, I was spanked as a kid, and I spank my own kids. But in both cases it was to get my/their attention, or to reinforce a point. No blood is spilled, no bruises are formed, and the only assault is on dignity. The idea of breaking their will is horrifying. What kind of adult would that result in? As a parent, I would consider myself a colosal failure if I raised a child with no sense of self-will. As for one who would consider an authority figure to be absolute? Disaster!
Certainly, authority figures should be listened to, and self-preservation may dictate doing what they tell you whether you like it or not, but to teach your child that the Authority Figure is Always Right is counterproductive to creating a Successful Adult, unless you consider a successful adult to be a Tool of Authority. What kind of bastard wants that for his kids?
I want my children to grow up wanting confirmation of things, or at the very least, reserving judgement without verification. I dont ever want them to simply say, "oh, well, So-and-So says it's true, so I guess it must be". Consider the level of bullshit out there (which, by some arguements, is worse than lies), in personal interaction, in government policy, and in the marketplace. Equiping your children with a healthy amount of skepticism is not only a good idea, but a moral imperative.
It is the job of any parent to teach their children that ignoring authority can sometimes be dangerous and can lead to painful results, but it should also be our job to teach them that sometimes authority can be wrong. Yes, it's harder than smacking them around until they do whatever you tell them to. Anything worth doing is hard. Any four-year-old knows that Destruction is easier than Creation. Anyone calling themselves a Christian ought to know that also.
I hope that this is just a bunch of extremists. I hope that the current political climate is not encouraging these bastards to spread their cruelty to others. I hope that this is not the direction being taken by a country whose ideals I love, but whose people I am really beginning to get irritated with. I hope that I teach my children never to listen to these people.

And, lest you think I'm "persecuting" Christians, let me finish up with some more words from "Science and Politics":
Many in the Lefty blogosphere assume that religion is the source of such pathological behavior, i.e., that it is the cause, and the wingnuttery is the effect. I believe it is the other way round. If you were raised in a strict/abusive way, you will grow up with neuroses that make you seek membership in strict hierarchical disciplinarian organizations, including the conservative churches. You pick and choose the passages from the Bible that confirm your worldview. You use such misrepresentations of Christianity (or Islam or whatever) to excuse your behavior and to push it on others. In other words, it is the wingnut pathology that distorts the religion, not the other way round...
Got that. As for the Islamic Fundamentalists, so for the Christian Fundamentalists. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" (matt.7:1), but even better: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye", (matt.7:5).
Broken of the will to question, unable even to know how to question, how could one remove anything but the illusion of a mote from any eye, including his own.

teaser no.5 - my answers

I'm taking the Phantom Professor's "Word Nerd Brain-Teaser No. 5", which is here:
Put commas where they belong. This is self-study. Answers will be posted next week. OK, go to it:
  1. Well is this your final day at work?
  2. After the doctor reset it her broken arm mended perfectly.
  3. The wedding gifts included a clock a popcorn popper a plasma TV and seven toasters.
  4. "If you reheat that awful meatloaf one more time I'm getting a divorce" Tammy said to David her third husband.
  5. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 1963 in Dallas Texas.
and my answers are down below:
  1. Well, is this your final day at work?
  2. After the doctor reset it, her broken arm mended perfectly.
  3. The wedding gifts included a clock, a popcorn popper, a plasma TV, and seven toasters.
  4. "If you reheat that awful meatloaf one more time, I'm getting a divorce," Tammy said to David, her third husband.
  5. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.
Addendum (entered Sept 22): And here are the Professor's answers, with their commas in the right places.
  1. Well, is this your final day at work?
  2. After the doctor reset it, her broken arm mended perfectly.
  3. The wedding gifts included a clock, a popcorn popper, a plasma TV and seven toasters.
  4. "If you reheat that awful meatloaf one more time, I'm getting a divorce," Tammy said to David, her third husband.
  5. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

Two mistakes for me, but, of course, I wouldnt call them major mistakes.

Crime and Punishment

I've been seeing a lot of laundry list about what went wrong in New Orleans during and after Hurrican Katrina. Some have even suggested that nothing went "wrong", that everything happened exactly as those who run FEMA wanted it to (yes, pretty tin-foil-hat, but read it anyway, a good conspiracy theory can be laughed at, but you ignore the ideas in it at your own peril). But while a list of errors is important in establishing what went wrong, it seems to me the problem is not establishing blame. Nearly everyone, even many partisans, know who is ultimately to blame for NOLA, so the problem is making that person or people pay for their mismanagement.
Somehow, the idea needs to be gotten across that to say (after much delay), "yep, it's my fault, mea culpa, so sorry" isnt enough. You wouldnt accept empty words of apology from your kids, why do we accept them from our leaders every day!
I think we need to start pushing the idea that if our leaders are going to get the Big Rewards for their oh-so-important management skills, then they need to be slapped with Big Punishment when that management goes awry. If an Executive can get 20X the salary of the average Good Worker, then shouldnt that same Executive suffer 20X the punishment of the average Bad Worker. Establish this is idea in the mind of the general public, make it into policy, and you might be amazed at how fast workers compensation rises, and executive compensation falls.
And maybe, just maybe, if our Leaders know that Failure means Punishment (rather than a golden parachute severence package), they might just start trying to do more than line the pockets of themselves and their friends while handing out Pretty Words to placate the masses.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

well, no wonder!

Today, a school event with my daughter, I saw evidence of just how stupid our culture is, energy-wise.
It seemed innocuous enough, just a gathering to promote healthy exercise for children (and, more subtly, their parents). Their goal is for each child to run, incrementaly, a Marathon. Nice, yes? Sure. But listen:
For starters, there were hundreds of cars driven to the event, many of which were full-sized SUVs (this is Big D, after all). Many had come dozens of miles to be there. Some schools, like ours, arranged for busses to pick up kids and parents and bring them to the event. That's good, right? Well, except that our school anticipated enough people for four busses, but only got enough for about two (maybe even one, tightly packed). Good energy sense would have said, "send two busses back, and save that fuel". Of course, that's not the American way. We are the land of the All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet, the land of I Payed For It, It's Mine. So the decision was made to use all four busses. So now we're at the event, where we have a parking lot fulled with cars and ringed with busses, some of which remain running during the event to keep the drivers cool and comfortable while they wait to take people back.
So we're all there, now. After a bit of speechifying, and then some grateful plugs to a couple of corporations for donating stuff, the event begins! In groups of several hundred each, kids and parents are herded to one end of a standard oval track, then... They're Off! Some walking, some running, everyone went around the track a time and a half, then trooped past the tables, and picked up their free bottled water (plus complimentary corporate-labelled water bottle). Then, after a lot of milling around while everybody found everybody they came with, they all got back into their respective vehicles and went home (after leaving hundreds of empty water bottles in and around the two trash barrels provided for the dumpster-sized quantity of bottles handed out).
That was it. Three and a half hours, at least a quarter of it spent in some form of petroleum-fueled transportation. All that driving so that a bunch of kids could go around in a circle one and a half times.
How much energy was collectively wasted in a pseudo-event that should have been taught in their school's P.E. class. If we'd spent the 3½ hours walking on our own, just around the neighborhood, we'd have been half way to the goal by now. And this was just one event in one day in one city. No wonder we use 25% of the worlds energy.

rude link

Oh, sweet jesus, but the rude pundit is rude. Funny, accurate, but dont let yer mama read him, 'cause she'll have a stroke. Here's the accurate:
As the New York Times and the Washington Post and CNN and every other fuckin' place you can go for your news analysis agreed, the President's prime time address from Jackson Square was a speech about George W. Bush, which makes it like everything else he's ever done. It was a speech about re-building an image, not re-building a city. Many words have been spilled about Bush saying that "When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and the solution." Which, considering Iraq, is a chilling proposition.
As for the rude (which is really funny) you'll just have to go there yourself.

Friday, September 16, 2005

knowledge and ignorance

I read the paper on a regular basis, listen to NPR everyday while going to work, and to BBC every night when coming home, but still somehow managed to miss the details of Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack". If I had to guess why, it'd be that I may have done so deliberately; the deceit, ineptitude, and wrongheaded-ness of the Iraq Fiasco is depressing enough, without reading details like this one:
In August 2002 Powell warned the president, "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You'll own it all." Privately, writes Woodward, Powell and his top deputy, Richard Armitage, "called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it."
Bush brushed off Powell's cautions. The next day the president ordered his military commanders to step up their war plans and left for vacation in Texas.
See what I mean - Dubya brushed off Collin Powell! Next to Schwartzkopf, Powell was one of the Heroes of the first Gulf War, at a time when Bush was just some cokehead who's Dad had chosen to leave Saddam in power. Powell, had he chosen to be, could have been a strong contender for the Presidency, and may well have won it. Imagine what today might have been like had Powell agreed to run for the Republicans in 2000. I would have voted for him, and I dont even like Republicans. Do you suppose he's kicking himself now. If he's not, I'd like to volunteer for the job.
In Arthur C. Clarke's book Imperial Earth the president of the United States was a largely ceremonial job, the holder of which was chosen by computer search based on qualifications for the job. One of the important qualifications was that the President not want the job, but feel a duty to do it correctly when they were given it anyway. Does this sound like BushCo? Hell, no. But it might have been Powell.
Sadly for Powell, much of his shiny clean reputation has been tarnished by his association with the Bush corporation. He missed out a chance to steer this country in a good conservative direction and he missed a golden opportunity to show racists that Blacks could be just as effective as Whites.
But by far the worst thing that I read was the following, and I think it probably sums up everything that is wrong with the Bush Administration, and why George W. Bush was never a success business-wise, and why he never should have been allowed leadership of a 7-11, let alone the Greatest Nation in the World:
When [Woodward] - quoting Bush's political adviser Karl Rove - suggested that "all history gets measured by outcomes," Bush "smiled," reports Woodward.
"'History,' he said, shrugging, taking his hands out of his pockets, extending his arms out and suggesting with his body language that it was so far off. 'We won't know. We'll all be dead'."
Yes, indeed. But my children will not, or so I hope. To have the man who's vision will shape the world they and their children will live in treat the future so cavalierly makes me fearful for the Nation, and chills me to my very core.
Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Gentlemen, please!

Okay, here's a take on George Bush that I dont think I've ever seen anywhere, and will perhaps go a ways to explain his behavior: George Bush is Not A Gentleman.

It sounds old fashioned doesnt it? And maybe it really is. John Wayne was a Gentleman, at least on Film. Thomas Jefferson was a Gentleman. Mark Twain tried to be, but was just too bitter in the end.
Modern Gentlemen? Robert Redford perhaps. Paul Newman for sure. Tom Selleck Qualifies. People who have achieved wealth and position and then use that wealth and position to help others

A Gentleman is a person of wealth and means who places the greater good above his own personal good. He is willing to risk personal cost to do the Right Thing. This is not to say that he gives all his wealth to the poor, or that he sacrifices his life for a noble cause (though he could if he wanted to), or that he even stops making money. It means that he recognises that the Greater Good leads to His Own Good, and that because he is in a position of wealth and power, he owes a debt to those less fortunate. This is a foriegn idea to many Republicans, oddly enough, considering the number of so-called Christians.
A Gentleman does not start fights; he tries, in fact, to avoid them if at all possible. But if he is required to fight (if attacked, or if rescuing the requisite women or children), then he will. Pre-emptive strategies will be tried first, which might include calm requests, reasoned persuassion, cautious vigilance, or sincere threats, but never ever pre-emptive strikes (Think Jedi.) If finally forced to act however, a Gentleman will not hesitate to fight and to do what is required to competently and confidently stop his opponent. (Think Bugs Bunny)

The Bush Administration is sadly short of these Gentlemanly Attributes. Tax breaks for the wealthiest few, an unprovoked invasion of a soveriegn country on false pretenses, the gutting of social and environmental programs, the destruction of public safety nets to feed a paranoid "security" organization, the enrichment of private companies at taxpayer expense, the encroachment of civil liberties, and the torturing of prisoners (often held without charge or trial). At best, Dubya is a Twisted Idealist (a terrible opponent), at worst he is a Corporate Thug.

BushCo operates without consideration for anything other than the generation of wealth and priviledge; all policy (except a few things based on apocolyptic christianity) are based on money, and money only. Not compassion, not enrichment, not even common sense. In the Bush Administration, the dominant philosophy is that of the marketplace. Gentlemanly behavior, however desireable a trait it may be, loses out to naked profit. There is no profit to gentlemanlyness, or rather, none that can be shown on a quarterly balance sheet. When a company, or a country, are run by accountants, they might be profitable, at least on paper, but they are rarely successful.

Time Gentlemen! It is time, for a Gentleman please.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Olsen Twins, pt II

Oh good grief!
Okay folks, prepare yourself for yet another attempt to manufacture a sensation. This time, the OlsenTwin Inc is doing it to us, and as they continue to try to cash in on the 13-year old crowd even as they grow too old and decadent to do it themselves. This time, they're going to use Boys. I dont even want to think...

The Queen Mum speaks

Is Barbara Bush on crack?
Maybe I'm the last to see this, but I saw this item yesterday where Babs comments on the poor bastards who were stuck at the Superdome and so on.
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you
know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
I hate seeing her like this. I used to respect her as a tough old broad, even as I disliked her husband, George Sr. Perhaps she is showing early signs of the onset of Alzheimers.
Or perhaps she's just a rich old white lady who's lived a life of priviledge, spawned a generation of The Powerful, and is just tired of playing the political game for the "underclasses".
You decide.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kittens! Kittens! The Kittens are Here!!

Okay, first of all, you cant really appreciate the title without watching this video. [warning: video clip contains viral meme. Tune may become lodged in brain and begin playing at any opportunity]

Labor Day weekend, the Other brings home two kittens. They are tiny, nearly identical, and fearless.
"No way!" I say, "No way are you keeping those kittens!"
"I never planned to!"
Oh yes, sooo innocent. As if she didnt know.
I have fallen for the kittens by the end of the long weekend, of course. I feel some guilt over this. The Mighty Hunter is 14 years old, and is definitely slowing. The Rebel Queen is 13 and spends all of her days sleeping on the back porch. I feel like, by accepting New Cats, I am somehow bidding the Old Cats goodbye, and I'm simply not ready to do that yet. Mighty Hunter was my first cat (Bitch Kitty, a stray who made my place her own while I was an undergrad, doesnt count), along with Petetronious the Arbiter (cats should come in pairs, I feel). When the Arbiter died, ten years ago, I was devastated. We all still talk about that cat.
But now the Two Queens (historical figures and pet names, go figure) are settling in. The Mighty Hunter still gives them the mandatory hiss, but otherwise ignores him. The Two Queens occassionally think about stalking him, but wisely desist. I'm sure there will be a few swats and yowls yet to come, but I think the kittens are largely settled in.
Given that we now have 4 cats and 1 dog, I dont suppose we'll be moving anywhere anytime soon.

The Question

Yes, I know, a couple of workers cut the wrong line. And I'm sure that's all it was.
If it wasnt, would you expect the BushCorp, or most government officials to tell you so? I wouldnt, not for several days, or at all if they could help it.

On the other hand, there was this from FOX, which makes me feel a whole lot better about it being an accident: "Meanwhile, a new terror tape has been released with new threats for the US and Australia. A warning from a masked man that Los Angeles, Los Angeles, where the power is out right now, and Melbourne, Australia, are next on the hit list." (from NewsHounds)

Anyway, here I am going on and on again, when I said I was going to cut back. My point is this:

Do feel safer now than you did four years ago?

Four years ago, I wouldnt have questioned the veracity of the stated cause of the L.A. power outage yesterday. Today I will. The Administration of this country operates in a manner which causes me to believe almost nothing that it says, to often believe that the exact opposite is true. Is this good government? Considering the Neo-Conservative belief in minimal government and maximal personal gain, is that the idea?

just read!

I'm going to back off a bit today. I've got too much to do, not enough sleep, my head hurts, and I've been slinging way to many italics around the last few days.
So instead, I'll just throw out a few things for y'all to read and more or less have done with it.

First, this link, lifted from Ran Prieur (who has been moved to permant link status), where Naomi Klien of the Guardian discusses the gentrification of New Orleans and how low-income residents are starting to band together to fight off the inevitable attempt by the Business Class to replace poor people with rich people in NOLA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Why is so often the British who report on injustice in America?

But not always, see The Nation and in particular this article about rebulding NOLA (well, it claims to be about that, and it does contain this quote: "Yeah, this could be their dream come true," he says. "Get rid of all the poor African-Americans and turn the place into Disneyland.")

By the way (prepare for horn-tooting): I've been saying for a while that the Business Class would take advantage of the destruction in NOLA to build a poor-person-free Vacation "Paradise" there. I said this for instance (from Aug 30):

I'd guess that the old tourist spots, (new) parkland, and big-donor commercial interests will all be there in 10 years, but I [would bet] that the ordinary (read: poor and black) residents will be finding new homes in the suburbs. Then look to big-dollar vacation condos on the newly-raised land where their homes once sank.
I even used the phrase "Disney-fied French Quarter", but, alas, cannot find where (probably somewhere in Brin's blog comments). Oh well, you'll just have to trust me.
Tin-foil hat types might even say that the reason the levees were ignored by BushCo is so that big-money types could do just that, but that indicates too much competence on the Administrations part.
My wife tells me I'm too negative.
I say I'm pragmatic - when you plan for the worst, you're ready for the worst, and when it comes to people, especially Big Business people, it's best to be ready.
For Anything.

Monday, September 12, 2005

people or things?

At last, someone has come up with a clear description of what makes the Neo-Cons so morally reprehensible. After years of being beaten over the head with Jesus, perhaps these definitions by George Lakoff will help liberals in their fight:
The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation.
I've thought since the Reagan era that (to put it simply) Republicans were just plain mean, but that was never a very good arguement to use against them in any kind of debate. This is much better.
This is a definition of GOP values which we can see at work: In the fight against Universal Healthcare, in the weakening of FEMA as an "entitlement program", in the weakening of FCC rules governing the percentage of outlets one company can own in a given market,...
One of the Neo-Cons "strongest" arguements is that they are the party that represents "morality" and they've seized on this to sway the Christian population of this country. Some Christians (being allowed to speak for all Christians) in this country are feeling picked on, "persecuted" even. They feel that Republicans can represent them better, and are somehow more "godly" than Democrats. "Morals" was an issue cited by twenty-some percent of voters when asked why they chose to re-elect Bush. These people are obviously not paying attention to anything but the words. Because of one issue, abortion, the GOP has steadily gained ground over the Democrats. But if you remove that one issue, how good is the Republican record in moral terms.
Is is moral to cut loose the protections, both legal and financial, for the poor? Is it moral to cut tax rates for the richest people in America, while handing out little $600 bribes to the rest to distract them from the thousands going to people who lready have more than enough to live in complete comfort? Is it moral to then start a war but create no provision to pay for it? Is it moral to hand over billions of taxpayer dollars to a company connected to the Vice President without even any bidding? Is it moral to invade a foriegn country without any real proof of their guilt and cause the death of thousands of it's citizens? Republican morality is a Big Lie.
Liberals are often accused of being paternalistic because they dont think that people can see through (other people's) lies, and maybe they are. But the truth is that much of the American public cannot see through the lies (or dont bother), from either side, until it's too late to do anything but clean up after them! This can include Liberal lies, by the way. Katrina exposed one of the GOP's really big lies: the one that said the "War On Terrorism" was the most important American priority, that said only through the defeat of our "enemies" could we be safe. Instead...
Bush's single-minded focus on the "war against terrorism" has compounded a natural disaster and turned it into the greatest calamity in American history. The US has lost its largest and most strategic port, thousands of lives, and 80% of one of America's most historic cities is under water.

If terrorists had achieved this result, it would rank as the greatest terrorist success in history. (Paul Craig Roberts, in Counterpunch)
I need to ask the following question everyday, everyday, in the hopes that it will spread, like a virus, and infect the minds of people everywhere. It's a simple question, one which may have many very different answers, but one which needs to be asked:

Do You feel safer today than you did four years ago?

I think I'll finish this entry with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. This is from the book "Carpe Jugulum", in which a group of oh-so rational vampires have enslaved the locals, throughmind power (no, not public relations), to make feeding easier (they are, after all, superior beings). No one gets "killed" to feed their thirst, but everyone, from the oldest to the youngest, has to line up to contribute "just a little" to their Overlords. In it, the book's heroine, Granny Weatherwax says this:
"...sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself, that's what sin is."
     "It's a lot more complicated than that-"
     "No. It aint. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried they wont like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."
     "Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes-"
     "But they starts with thinking about people as things..."
Ask yourself; which party treats party treates human beings as people, and which one treats human beings as commodities? Which party do you identify with?

Incidentally, at the end of the book, the locals wake up to what's happening, and tear several of the vampires' heads off (the leaders, of course, get away)
(well, sort of, it is a fantasy novel, after all).

and the sellout begins...

Hurricane Season,
Michael Brown had better put on his Kelvar undies, 'cause he's starting look like he might just have a real pretty mouth soon. Never mind who's decision it was to put an unqualified country club buddy in charge of FEMA, yet another administrator is about to be sacrificed for the Bush Corporation's own massive incompetence. How do I know? Check out the Mayor of New Orleans, a Democrat, talking up what a swell guy Dubya is, and how he was no doubt mis-informed!:
"I think he was probably getting advice from some of his key advisers or some low level folk that had been on the ground that this was serious, but not as serious as it ended up being," he said.
"Key Advisors". One guess as to who that might be. If Brown isnt enough, who will be next up on the alter? Chertoff sounded pretty bad in the interview I heard on NPR; will blaming Brown cover his ass as well as Bush's? Of course, as director of Homeland Security perhaps he wont have to worry about that. After all, the Patriot Act has returned him all the same tools J. Edgar Hoover used so effectively, plus lots of new ones. I'm sure he can come up with some sort of answer that will allow him to maintain his office, even if brought before the Supreme Court.
And what's up with the Mayor? Wouldnt you love to see what BushCo's got on him in their files (and know where they got them - oops! sorry, that's classified). Or has the mayor has merely realized that his job there in NOLA is all but finished, so he's casting his net for a nice shark to feed from. Oh dear, there goes that cynicism again, sorry. I'm sure it's simply a case of him thinking more clearly now that the crisis has receded with the flood waters, "sorry, Mr. President! Got a little carried away there, my bad!"

Or maybe, just maybe, this is the BushCorp testing the waters:
"Hey, let's give Brown to the mob, maybe that'll be enough for them!"
"What the hell, it cant hurt, we'll give it a try."
With an approval rating of around 38%, people are probably starting to get a little worried in the White House. Who to feed to the public next, what "deviant" issue can we distract the public with now (the California gay marriage thing was barely noticed), is there any upcoming crisis that can be used to declare marshal law? These are all questions that someone will be asking there. Things may even get so bad that they may have to consider doing something that the public, rather than ideology, dictates.

Whoops! sorry, lost my head there for a moment.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Do you feel more secure than you did four years ago?

It was four years ago that my wife called me.
"Hey, go turn on the TV! A commuter plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!"
I'd read about the plane crashing into the Empire state building in the 40's, so I turned on the TV so see what was going on. A few minutes later the second plane hit the other tower, and the whole world changed.
Of course, it didnt, not really.

We were probably the only people in the world who thought that we were invulnerable.
People died on a regular basis in terrorist attacks all over the world, but never here (...dont think about a Oklahoma City...dont think about Oklahoma City...). Alas, we were wrong, and that morning a handful of men and four airplanes forcefully rubbed our nose in it.
The worst part of that day was not what happened in the attack, but what we missed in the aftermath.
We missed the heroes in New York. Not just the Fire and Police personel who died helping, but all the ordinary people who did what they could to help, some of them dying too. Not just Rudolph Giulianni, but ordinary people who thought clearly in a crisis, and did what needed to be done, many on their own initiative.
History would like you to believe that what make America great is it's Leadership. This is a lie.
What makes America great is its ordinary Men, Women, and Children, people who DO things. Leadership in this country is at best a reinforcement, a guy standing at some point in the line, waving his arm in a forward motion, yelling "go! go! go!". At worst, it's a bunch of bullies standing around sneering, "oh, like you know what you're doing!"

Of course, that's not to say that we cant be misled, at least temporarily, especially if the bullies are cunning. Perhaps I'll let Herman Goering explain it:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
But that doesnt mean that we have to keep going wherever those guys with the waving arms tell us. We dont have to believe them when the bullies threaten us ("Hey, dont go that way, or somebody's gonna hurt you!"). And the funny thing that people often dont realize is that it doesnt take much, not really. Just stop listening to them. Protesting and all that is fine, and useful, but in the end, the most powerful force in the country is...


That's right, talking. Ask any Advertising person, they'll tell you that what sells a product is not an ad. What sells a product is Buzz. The ad may start the buzz rolling, but without the buzz the cleverest advertisement will fail dismally.
This blog right here is part of the buzz. If I talk and you talk, and other people talk, and some more people write it down, and someone else reads it and tells another person - that's buzz. If you think you think the Bush Administration is bad for America, then say it. I suspect you'll find another person who agrees with you. Maybe the two of you can find more. People are social creatures, we like to talk, and we like to have people share our opinions. Only 51% of the country, barely a majority, thought George Bush was the right choice for the Leader of this country, and opinion polls show that number much lower now (latest job approval rating at around 38%). The buzz is getting louder, and if we all keep talking, it can get louder still.
Do you doubt the power of mere speech? Then ask yourself why speech is limited in countries controlled by dictatatorships. Those who live under tyranny are often deprived of the means to communicate. Or their communications are monitored and the content punished to the extent that they are mistrustful of even those they know, let alone speaking to strangers. The buzz has been stopped, and so the power has been stopped. Secret Police are never there to stop insurrection, they exist to stop communication.
There is a reason that Freedom Of Speech is in the First Amendment.

Talk, talk, talk.
Talk about what you read, write about what you hear, keep the Buzz going. In a little over a year, you will get yet another chance to inform the government as it stands now about how you feel about it.
What will you tell it?

I know it sounds like I've gone a long ways from where I started, thinking about that terrible day for years ago when I saw something almost unimaginable. But I havent, not really. One reason bin Laden hates America is because he hates what we think, what we do, what we say. But what he really hates is the idea that "his" own people might start saying the same things. So he tries to give them something else to talk about. This is a tried and true bully leader tactic.
Great Satan, gay marriage, Christian infidel, liberal immorality, Palestinian oppression, undeserved medals.

If you really want to honor the dead, then talk about them. Really talk about them, and talk about what led up to 9/11, and talk about what led from it. Talk about it if you think it's right, talk about it if you think it's wrong. This is America, and if we want it to continue being America, then we need to TALK, or we'll just be another bunch of serfs slaving for the Overlord Corporation.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

do you know what it memes...

I have a confession to make. What I've got to say will sound selfish, and I'm not proud of it. But I have this idea in my head. It's a fierce little meme which will not be happy until I've coughed it onto the screen in front of an unwary reader. It started with an NPR report on New Orleans music, in which they played Satchmo's "Do You Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans". It's a wonderful song, and I've always associated it with an old TV show called Frank's Place. It was a delightful show, from Hugh Wilson, the maker of "WKRP in Cincinnati". Tim Reid, fullfilling the promise he showed in his less-funky Venus Flytrap moments, played a Boston English Professor forcibly repatriated to NOLA by an inherited cafe and a voodoo curse. With a harmoniously integrated cast, the show made you feel the Big Easy, all without involving some sort of crime or corruption to do it. It's been 18 years since the show's brief run, and I still miss it.
So, here's what the ugly thought is: Maybe, with the destruction of New Orleans, all things NOLA will become fashionable. Maybe, just maybe, that will include "Frank's Place". I'm embarassed that I see the destruction of a great American city as an opportunity to watch TV, but there it is anyway. It seems incredible to me that shows like "the Bionic Woman" and "Baa Baa Blacksheep" can be obtained on DVD, but "Frank's Place" cannot. As for the classic WKRP, due to the madness that is the music industry's licensing machine, it will probably never see the light of day, and neither, I suspect, will Frank.

Friday, September 09, 2005

thought for the day

If George W. Bush were a Star Trek character, he'd be a Ferengi.
Why do I say this? Why, just have a look at this latest announcement by the BushCorp that will remove wage requirements in the rebuilding after Katrina. Which rule of acquisition do you suppose is in force here?

My thanks to LibraryBitch, again.

have you herd of freedom?

I think I'm going to have to move Ran Prieur's link up to permanent status, 'cause here's another gem from his way in which a Pentagon organized "Freedom Walk" has more constraints than movie night in a high security prison.

Three More Years!
Three More Years!
Three More Years!

tin-foil hat time, part III

this is a picture of a Baby Einstein Musical Toy
I find myself bemused by this little curiousity from the bottom of Evil Twin's toy. It's something I've never noticed before, but now that I am aware of it, I may have to check the bottom of everything I own. What could possibly be the purpose of such rules:
This Device complies with Part 15 of the FCC rules. Operation subject to the following two conditions:
  1. This device may not cause harmful interference.
  2. This device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation
The only reason that I could think of why a toy would be required to be unshielded, is so that it could be subverted somehow. Yeah, I know. Whacked, right?
Well, there's a book that you might want to read, called The Men Who Stare At Goats, by Jon Ronson.cover of The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon RonsonNow, as tin-foil hat subjects (hereafter refered to as "TFHs") go, the subject of this book is pretty out there. But Ronson is no 21st century von Daniken. He reports on largely secret military experiments in paranormal phenomena which include subliminal interrogation techniques, psychic "tracking" of targets, and attempts to kill using pure mind-power. While the documentation on this stuff is largely that of interviews with subjects that some might consider a bit "unreliable" (such as General Stubblebine, who blames his inability to walk through walls on the distraction of the Afghanistan situation), considering the subject matter, this shouldnt come as a great surprise. However serious the military may have been about these experiments (probably not very, what we call "secrecy" may have been merely embarassment), I personally suspect that eveything Ronson is reporting is more-or-less true. The military has an obligation to at least try anything that might give it a tactical advantage, how ever much a TFHs it might be.
Those are my words, not Ronson's, but the story he tells doesnt make any of the early history in this book (with one dark, LSD-laced CIA exception) seem threatening. At one point, his description of the brief fight against Manuel Noriega in Panama sounds like something out of a Tim Powers book.
Where things begin to turn distrurbing is with the current administration. "Reactivated" psychics, interrogations involving the Barney Song (the silliness of which undermines its true sinisterness), gung ho martial artists armed with a toy-like piece of equipment capable of creating excruciating pain, and subliminal conditioning; these items in context of the BushCorp's enthusiasm for war are worrying. Ronson also implies the need for concern by saving for last a story of the CIA, secret keeping, loyalty testing, and probable murder in the 1953 death of Frank Olsen. Intelligence gathering, secrecy and loyalty issues... sound familiar?
Anyway, the point of bringing up this book was this: Who's to say that this rather bizarre rule #2 isnt there to allow the subversion of said toy, or anything else to which it applies, by some Intelligence organization? Not that they had a plan, or that it would work if they had one, but just that it might leave the door open, that some day they might figure out how to slip through. Now how's that for Tin Foil Hat Subject!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Purging myself of a meme

Okay, I've got to pass this thing I've got in my head along. It's one of those Strong Memes, the kind of idea that gets stuck in your brain and refuses to dislodge. Sometimes they're songs, sometimes they're words, sometimes they're full-blown plans of action, and sometimes they're just plain embarrassing. I've never told anybody this idea since it popped into my head, though it's not any kind of a secret or anything. (If you want secrets, you'll have to go elsewhere.) This is just an idea I had about a year ago, and since then I havent been able to get rid of it.
There's this girl at work, we'll call her The Quartermaster. Last year, she had a nasty break-up with her fiancé, and became rather, shall we say, grumpy. For some reason, the idea came into my head that she would make a good match with the Brother.
Why? I dont know why.
They both enjoy drinking. They're both reasonably attractive people. They're both opinionated and acerbic people who are decent human beings underneath. I guess they both give me a similar kind of vibe.
And, really, that's what makes the idea so ridiculous. When was the last time you or anyone you know put two similar people together, thinking "perfect match", only to have them loath each other almost to the point of weaponry. The meme infecting my brain says "Get them together!", while the logical backpart of my brain (what Terry Pratchett might refer to as "second thoughts") says, "are you kidding, they'd hate each other!"
All of this is thoroughly moot anyway, because the Quartermaster is here in The City, while the Brother lives in the SouthEast. He's not going to come here, and if she left, it would only be to head West. None of that matters anyway. It's all just a silly, stupid meme running around in my head shouting "look at me! look at me!".
Okay, I've looked, and I've listened long enough. Maybe now, with the thought down in black and white, or, in this case white and black, I can get some peace.

curious compliance code can cripple kiddie's calliope

this is a photo of the Baby Einstein toy, item 05810# This is a Baby Einstein Toy. Aside from it's model number (printed on the bottom), I cannot find out anything about it, even from the Baby Einstein website itself. But that's not what this post is about.
This post is about the curious compliance message on the bottom:
This Device complies with Part 15 of the FCC rules. Operation subject to the following two conditions:
  1. This device may not cause harmful interference.
  2. This device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation
Ok, I can understand why the FCC would want it to not create interference. What I dont understand is why the FCC would forbid it to be interferred with. Seems to me that a lack of shielding in a children's toy would probably come about for economic reasons all by itself. And if someone did want to build a fully shielded toy, well, so what? The toy was made in 2000, so it's not even some wierd post-9/11 rule. I am confused.

By the way, this device is also featured in a post here, which is the kind of thing that'll happen when you combine two blogs into one.

This post got this comment from Anonymous then: "This is strange, I came across your site, because I also am trying to find out information about the baby einstein toy. I purchased it for my son at a second hand children's toy store. He loves it, but I can not find anything about it either."

now YOU can be the spook

This site is so damn cool, I gotta share it. I'm sure I'm not the first person to see one of these, but these are satellite images of the coast where Katrina hit. You have to pick your shot using a drawn map, rather than zoom in on a large photo, but it's still darn nifty!
Of course, I should maybe temper my enthusiasm (boy with new toy, sorry) with the sober statement that what you can see in these nifty shots is an astonishing level of destruction. Check out Biloxi, for instance. In the wake of the fiasco in N.O., most people have forgotten that the worst part of the storm, and its accompanying 30' surge, went through Mississippi. For an example, check out the blue building, at the top, in the middle, that's been moved out into the road. A whole building!

An Aside: If this is what the public can see, what do the government spy-sats show? Zowie!


I'd like to extend a hearty welcome to Dave in Australia. Dave is the third actual human being to make a comment on my blog, and the first non-family person to link my blog (2 now! 2!! Woo-hoo!) I encourage you to read Dave's blog, Sympathetic Stupid. It's both funny and informative, a lot like I'd like my own blog to be if I werent so caught up in my addiction to political ire. I'm only sorry that my own link to his blog (now definitely moved to a permanent link spot) wont be producing much readership in return (except maybe the boys from Homeland Security).
I'd also like to extend my confusion to coturnix, who sent me this rather cryptic comment.
WordPad is your friend. Blogger also has a new feature that you can install into your MSWord to publish directly from your word file into Blogger.
At first I thought that it was spam that had penetrated the security, but when I traced the sender it led me to Science and Politics, another blog I like and which is also in my links. I'm confused now, and dont know if coturnix is just weird, or trying to tell me something about my spelling. Or maybe he just really likes Wordpad.

addendum @ 9:30 a.m.: Dave just pointed out to me that coturnix was probably trying to save me the trouble of losing my work by composing on WordPad first. (Boy, do I feel stupid). Actually, when I write an entry at work, I do it that way ('cause I'll do it a sentence or phrase at a time over a whole shift)(plus management watches Net activity), but it doesnt work as well for the links, which is the part I really mind losing (I'm full of words, obviously, but the links take work).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Okay, one month ago, I started this blog (for all intents and purposes, anyway). It wasnt much, just a rant about BushCorp announcing support for teaching "Intelligent Design" in American science classrooms. It wasnt a long rant, and since I hadnt learned any HTML yet, it had no links. But it was a start.
From those humble beginnings I've come so far... okay, maybe not so far.
I'm just having fun. It'd be nice if I thought that someone was reading these, but I know no one is but a few family members (and Homeland Security, of course)(Hi boys!) I'm going to keep on doing this, though. In time, if I feel my writing skills are consistantly up to an acceptable level, then I may start inviting friends to look this over (that seems weirdly egotistical, though; "Hey Y'all, come read my rants!")
I'd like to extend my thanks to David Brin, whose blog was in the right place at the right time to inspire me. Also, I'd like to thank and apologise to my wife, who I know is getting tired of me spending half my time at the computer and the other half trying to get her to discuss politics. And I'd like to apologise to my brother, who informs me that he never voted for BushCo.

By the way, I know the Democratic Party deserves a good rant or three also, but the Neo-Cons just make it so darn easy for me to concentrate on them first. Maybe in October I'll get to them, but I see a busy month ahead for the GOP.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Seven Things I swore I'd never say
the foolishness of youth

The other day I was in the dining room, when I heard my child utter words that chilled me to my very soul;
"Yay! David Hasselhoff!"
Had I known twenty years ago that the seed of my loins would use such a phrase, I may well have castrated myself.
Ah, youth!
How many times, as a kid, did I fume to myself, wallowing in self-pity after some punishment or other meted out by my parents. grumble grumble grumble, when I grow up I'm never going to do that to my kids, grumble grumble grumble.
Well, of course you were wrong.

Here's the List:
  1. If you two dont cut that out I'm pulling this car over, right now!
  2. If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?
  3. That is not a toy
  4. How would you like it if I did that to you?
  5. Aww, did you get a boo-boo?
  6. No, grandma is not drunk
  7. Do you want me to give you something to cry about?
Okay, I'll admit it. That list is a real cliché. Hell, this whole post is a real cliché. But I think the reason that it's such a chestnut is because it's also a sort of rite of passage. The first time you catch yourself utter one of those phrases, you're stunned. But after a few times, you realise that it's OK. That they really shouldnt be putting that up their nose, that you really will turn the car around and go back home. Later you'll meet with your old friends from high school or college, and you'll all laugh about the things you find yourself saying, and no one will apologise for any of it. Because you are a Grown Up.

Daveawayfromhomeland Security

Okay, I'm going to put on my tinfoil hat now. Twice now I've written posts which contained criticisms of Michael Chertoff, the director of Homeland Security. Twice, when I went to post them, I got the log-in screen, resulting in the complete loss of all I had written. Admittedly, the first time it happened I had been a long time writing it, and may have just timed out. But the second time had only been about a half an hour. Maybe that one timed out, too, but it was the fastest that it ever happened, if so.
Yes, perhaps I am being paranoid, and No, I dont really think that Homeland Security is watching me. Not really. I dont think.

What set all this off was something the New York Times reported Chertoff as saying:
Louisiana and New Orleans have received a total of about $750 million in federal emergency and terrorism preparedness grants in the last four years, Homeland Security Department officials said. Mr. Chertoff said he recognized that the local government's capacity to respond to the disaster was severely compromised by the hurricane and flood. "What happened here was that essentially, the demolishment of that state and local infrastructure, and I think that really caused the cascading series of breakdowns," he said. (thanks again to Librarybitch)
You know, I always thought that the whole point of FEMA was to be there after the "demolishment (sic) of that state and local infrastructure". Okay, so Homeland Security threw money at the area for four years, what was that money intended for? Obviously not improvement of the area's levee system.
There was more ranting and more links, but after losing it all twice my brains gone all soft. I tell you what, just read this:
Last year an emergency exercise run by the federal, Louisiana and New Orleans governments, featuring a fictional Hurricane Pam, almost exactly foretold the disaster now unfolding. But officials said plans to prepare for an actual catastrophe were abandoned because of cuts.

"No one can say they did not see it coming," reported the The Times-Picayune from New Orleans this week. The newspaper published a five-part series predicting the disaster five years ago. Officials and experts last week wearily recalled their attempts to make the government take action. "It's frustrating to have planned, begged and pleaded that this could happen," said Walter Maestri, emergency management director of the now submerged Jefferson Parish. "They would say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.'" (from The Independent)
Oh yeah, the reason this comment struck me: I'm sorry that I cannot provide a link for you, but Michael Chertoff was interviewed on All Things Considered in the latter part of last week. Chertoff was unaware of the situation at the Convention Center, but it took four repetions of the question before he finally quit squirming and was forced to admit he didnt know anything about it. I'm not sure that Chertoff is qualified to run a 7-11, let alone Homeland Security.

Okay, one last thing, from Ran Prieur: An article from the Washington Post on the absorption (and reduced effectiveness) of FEMA by Homeland Security. What will we do in the future in case of a major castrophy?
I dont know. Maybe Martial Law.

halliburton. proud.

Okay, I just read this on Library Bitch: Guess who's got a contract (made in JULY no less) for "debris removal and other emergency work associated with natural disasters" at Mississippi naval airbases? Give up? Of course not!
We all know who gets government contracts out of this administration, that's right (all together now, keeds:) HALLIBURTON!!! Of course, the administration's incompetence in the face of Katrina is once again demonstrated by a complete lack of a Halliburton clean-up contract for New Orleans. Talk about your missed opportunities! BushCo cant even do it's graft well! It's not like after gutting the budget for flood control in New Orleans that a need for clean-up couldnt have been foreseen by all but the stupidest of people.
Still, it's not too late. After all, one of the reasons KBR (a Halliburton subsidiary) got the Iraqi oil-field contract without having to compete for it was...
because, according to the Army's classified contingency plan for repairing Iraq's infrastructure, KBR was the only company with the skills, resources and security clearances to do the job on short notice.
Of course, who wrote the Army's contingency plan? Duh, KBR, a division of <fanfare> Halliburton! </fanfare>. But wait, there's more:
From 1997 to 2000, when Cheney was running Halliburton, two of its subsidiaries sold Saddam Hussein's government a total of $73 million in oil-field supplies. The deal didn't violate U.S. sanctions because the subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Company, were foreign. KBR/Halliburton, then, has rounded the bases when it comes to Iraq. It got rich doing business with Iraq, it got rich preparing to destroy Iraq and it's now getting rich rebuilding Iraq. (from the NYTimes, by way of the Technical Outlook blog, now appearantly abandoned)
So there you go, We've got another big job requiring skills, recources, and, probably (this is the Bush Administration), security clearances. As for short notice, well, that is perhaps debatable, but then everyone knew we were going to Iraq long before it happened, too (though I think most people didnt want to believe it).
Anyway, if the BushCorp needs an arguement that they were shortsighted in their preparedness for the possibility of hurricane damage, they can always point out this contract as proof that they had done all they needed to; they'd taken care of their friends, not some immoral city full of Democrats.