Sunday, August 31, 2003

The Right - Willing to Attack the General

George Will has joined the growing number of right wing commentators who, knowing that retired General Wesley Clark may well be the most formidable candidate to oppose President aWol, has chosen to attack Clark. Like the others, unable to come up with any real reasons to oppose Clark, Will resorts to prevarication:

Comparisons of Clark to Dwight Eisenhower are ludicrous. Eisenhower, as well-prepared as any president for the challenges of his era, had spent three years immersed in the political complexities of coalition warfare, dealing with Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, de Gaulle and others. Clark's claim to presidential stature derives from directing NATO's 78 days of war at 15,000 feet over Serbia. It was the liberals' dream war: tenuously related to U.S. security, with an overriding aim, to which much was sacrificed, to have zero U.S. fatalities.

Of course the right opposed the war in Kosovo. After all, only a bunch of boring Muslims were getting slaughtered and hey, there was no oil there! Why would we want to fight a war for other than mercenary purposes? Plus it was also a convenient way to continue the right's inane assault on President Clinton. And, in the end, there were indeed zero US combat deaths. Try that one, Dubya. "Bring 'em on!"

July 1: "A fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank." There is no such Canadian institution. Anyway, who "from the White House"? "I'm not going to go into those sources. . . . People told me things in confidence that I don't have any right to betray."

Note that General Clark never said that the Middle Eastern think tank was Canadian, only the man who contacted him. But the right prefers to twist any statement to meet their ends - ends which are, face facts, evil.

Now Clark darkly says there are "rumors" that in February "the White House" tried -- well, "apparently" tried -- "to get me knocked off CNN." Clark still coyly refuses to say he is a Democrat but forthrightly confesses to being a "centrist." As he prepares to heed the clamor for him to join the pursuit of Dean, he is earning the description National Review has given to Sen. Bob Graham: "a deranged moderate."

Right, suggest he's deranged. Very, very good. The right is running scared of a Clark candidacy - all they can do is fling crap and hope some of it sticks. If only I trusted the American people to be smarter than that....

Poll Shows Support for New Spacecraft

A poll commissioned by the Orlando Sentinal shows that 60 percent of Americans are willing to foot the bill for a shuttle replacement, and a combined 73 percent want NASA funding to at least remain the same or increase.

Progress Docks with Station

A Russian Progress supply ship has docked with the International Space Station, bringing two and a half tons of assorted supplies and consumables to support operations on the station. Progress capsules, developed to support the Mir space station, are basically unmanned versions of the Soyuz spacecraft. After unloading supplies, the crew uses the Progress as a trash can and it is later undocked and deorbited to burn up in the atmosphere.

Happy Labor Day

Overtime? What's that? The redoubtable Greg Palast takes on the latest inane scheme from the Bushies to screw the working man:

In celebration of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has announced the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law which requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime.

I'm sure you already knew that -- if you happened to have run across page 15,576 of the Federal Register.

According to the Register, where the Bush Administration likes to place it's little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose their overtime pay -- for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit" in quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor Department, the amount employers will now be able to slice out of workers' pockets is tallied on the plus side of the rules change.

All this while Dubya lazes the entire month of August away at his ranch, when most Americans are damned lucky to get a miserable week off a year. Sing, everyone..."I'm proud to beee an Americaaaannnn..." Rrriiiight.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Building Up to a Sputnik Moment

In 1957, Americans were stunned to look up in the night sky and see the tiny dot that was Sputnik I passing overhead, a startling symbol of Soviet space and ICBM technology. Sometime later this year, Americans will look up again and see a manned Chinese spacecraft in orbit. Sputnik was a wake-up call. Will the upcoming launch of Shenzhou-5 wake up a sleeping America more concerned with eating ourselves into oblivion, buying the biggest SUV possible, and watching crap on the tube than in doing great things that are, in John Kennedy's words not "easy" but "hard?" We shall see.

9/11 - The Port Authority View

The NYT this morning published more accounts from Port Authority personnel recently released along with the transcripts of radio calls. Again, many are moving accounts of heroism in the midst of horror. On the other hand, a few are slighty wacky, including this one from a Port Authority detective who was hit by a ricochet from other officers trying to shoot their way through a glass partition:

"Moments later, I heard the rapping sound of metal on glass. At first, I thought, could it be possible that rescue personnel were trying to get into the area where I was standing. The tapping sound stopped, then a loud explosion occurred. I immediately felt a burning sensation to my left thigh. I yelled out to whoever had shot their gun to decease shooting because they had struck me with the ricochet of their fired weapon."

"Decease shooting" is a delightful phrase, by the way.

Running Scared

The Repugs continue to run scared of a possible Wesley Clark candidacy, as right-wing attacks on the General multiply in number and vehemence. The latest screed by some unnamed chickenhawk neocon draft- dodger in the Moonie-owned rag Washington Times labels - and libels - Clark as a "mercenary."

Mr. Clark is posturing himself above partisan politics, presumably deciding which party he will represent should he actually run for president based on an undisclosed calculus of self-interest. He doesn't seem to grasp that there are clear philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats, and that choosing sides is a matter of principle, not expediency. Mr. Clark's actions in the presidential arena make him the equivalent of a political mercenary.

This is all very disingenuous. Clark's views are those of a Democrat and he clearly is positioning himself to run as a Democrat. There has never been any suggestion that he would run as a Republican and his stated views are in fact those of a centrist Democrat.

Keep attacking, boys. You know who can take your brainless figurehead down. All the more reason for all Democrats to continue encouraging General Clark to enter the race.

Rocket Boy Comments - Necessary Reading

Homer Hickham (if you haven't read his memoir Rocket Boys you've probably seen the movie based on it, October Sky) has some interesting comments about the CAIB report and the shuttle program over at SpaceRef; in fact this is one of the best, most thoughtful things I've read in a long time about the program. Hickham concludes:

So what should be done? Let's get practical. We can't just shut the thing down instantly. History's got us by the throat. We need the Shuttle to finish the space station and to also keep the Russians and Chinese from dominating space. I for one am not willing to see that occur while we dither. Human spaceflight is important to this country. But I think the Shuttle is as safe as you're going to get it pretty much with what is in place today. Let's fire the managers responsible for Columbia (they are not difficult to identify) so as to warn the next crop they'd best be competent, put the toughest engineers we can find to be in charge of the program, fly the thing eight to ten more times over the next four years to finish the space station and meet our international obligations. Then let's close the program down in a controlled fashion and replace it with proven expendable launchers and a shiny new spaceplane. And, this time, put it on top.

Well said. Read it. And copy your representatives on it too.

Friday, August 29, 2003

9/11

There undoubtedly were hundreds of acts of supreme heroism on 9/11 that we will never know about or never know the details of because no one survived to relate them. One that we know a little more about now thanks to the release of over 1800 pages of transcripts of radio calls is the story of Frank De Martini, construction manager for the Port Authority who was instrumental in saving the lives of many people on the 89th floor of Tower One. Mr. De Martini was lost when the building collapsed, and he is one of the true heroes of 9/11. Read more here and here and here. Some selected transcripts of calls are here and here.

And the man responsible is still at large....

ADDENDUM: MSNBC needs someone to check their facts, viz:

After a plane struck the first of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, callers from the top floors of neighboring 2 World Trade Center were told by Port Authority police to remain where they were. According to transcripts made public Thursday afternoon, a male caller from the 92nd floor of the second tower told a Port Authority police officer, “We need to know if we need to get out of here, because we know there’s an explosion.”
THE OFFICER ASKED if there was smoke on the floor, and the caller replied that there was not.
“Should we stay or should we not?” the caller asked.
“I would wait ’til further notice,” the officer replied.
“OK, all right,” the caller said. “Don’t evacuate.” He then hung up. A second, similar call — with the same police response — came in a short time after the 8:46 a.m. crash in the first tower.
No one in the top floors of the tower survived after the second plane hit around the 80th floor shortly after 9 a.m.

Whoops, not true! In fact there were several people in Tower Two who escaped from above the impact zone due to the angle of impact of the airplane leaving a single staircase open all the way to the top of the building.

Hang Him

A teenage cretin who reportedly made the MSBlast worm more virulent is reportedly about to be arrested. Good. Hang him.

Overdue

Even conservatives are beginning to realize that Attorney General John Ashcroft is out of control. In fact, a conservative friend of mine told me that some of his buddies were getting uneasy months ago, but the SCLM have finally had to sit up and take notice:

"Ashcroft wants more power," said state Rep. Charles Eberle (R-Post Falls), who has drafted a resolution critical of the Patriot Act. "What a lot of us in Idaho are saying is, 'Let's not get rid of the checks and balances.' . . . People out here in the West are used to taking care of themselves. We don't like the government intruding on our constitutional rights."

Neither do we, Rep. Eberle, neither do we.

Yes, We Are Dealing with Morons

Almost no comment necessary:

A stinging report on the demise of the space shuttle Columbia is increasing congressional pressure on President Bush to resolve long-postponed questions about his plans for space, but aides said yesterday that he plans no immediate upgrade of NASA's budget or mission as the space agency struggles to restart the shuttle program.

Of course this may all become academic later this year when Dubya looks up and sees the Chinese looking down at him....


Thursday, August 28, 2003

Final Flight

One of the most significant airplanes in aviation history made its final flight today when the Boeing Model 367-80 - better known as the Dash-80 - landed at Dulles International Airport today to join the Enola Gay, the orbiter prototype Enterprise, and many other famous civilian and military aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum's new Uday-Hazy Center. The Dash-80 was the prototype of the 707 airliner and the KC-135 refueler and later served as a Boeing test hack for many years. Its most famous moment? Boeing test pilot Tex Johnston rolling the aircraft in front of 200,000 people, much to the horror of Boeing management! The KC-135 is to this day the most important refueling aircraft in the US Air Force and hundreds of other 707s and 707 variants are still flying worldwide (in fact, actor John Travolta owns and flies a 707).

Waiting for the General

According to Michael Janofsky this morning in the NYT...

Wesley K. Clark, the retired four-star general who has been contemplating a run for president, has told close friends that he wants to join the Democratic race and is delaying a final decision only until he feels he has a legitimate chance of winning the nomination.

I believe he has a legitimate chance now, and if the Democrats are smart - well, there's a good question - they will immediately shed themselves of most of the losers currently running and concentrate on the man who can take Dubya out in 2004. Clark is immune to the "we're patriots and you're traitors!" monkey shit that the Republicans will employ in 2004 and that alone makes him worth running.

Interesting

There was a long article about March on Washington organizer Bayard Rustin this morning in my local paper, the Columbus Dispatch (no link possible) that lauded him, described his career - and never once mentioned that he was gay. Interesting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Dubya, Imperator

Great piece by Rev. Jim Wallis over at Sojourners about Dubya's belief in what he refers to as "God" but which has always struck me as Dubya's own ego whispering away in his pea brain.

What is most missing in the Bush theology is acknowledgement of the truth of this passage from the gospel of Matthew: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." A simplistic "we are right and they are wrong" theology rules out self-reflection and correction. It also covers over the crimes America has committed, which lead to widespread global resentment against us.

Indeed. And....

Bush has made numerous references to his belief that he could not be president if he did not believe in a "divine plan that supersedes all human plans." As he gained political power, Bush has increasingly seen his presidency as part of that divine plan. Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, recalls Bush once saying, "I believe God wants me to be president." After Sept. 11, Michael Duffy wrote in Time magazine, the president spoke of "being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment."

Now I know it's generally considered that if you bring the Nazis into an argument you've gone off the deep end but this is what Hitler believed. Maybe Dubya believes that the Supreme Court is divinely inspired... The Right Christians analyses Wallis' article in detail; check that out too.

It's Not Just the Culture

There has been a lot of self-satisfied sneering from various sources about NASA culture now that the final CAIB report has been released, and indeed NASA culture is horribly fractured. Heads have to roll and roll now. But the larger problem that underlies both the loss of Columbia and the current state of NASA is simply that the space program has been, as the CAIB final report points out, starved of funds. NASA is so poor that proposed shuttle upgrades and improvements are shelved. Nets have been erected in the VAB to protect the shuttles from falling concrete from the disintegrating roof. The launch gantries are corroded and rarely painted, and the zinc primer coat is eroded by rain and damages the RCC leading edges (I have been to the Cape several times in the past few years and the scabby condition of the gantries is indeed past belief). NASA spent all of $1.7 billion on the X-33 shuttle replacement and then had to abandon the effort - as if that piddly amount of money was enough to develop any flipping thing useful (it's about what Boeing spent to develop the 777 airliner - an evolutionary design that does nothing more ambitious than haul people from place to place). Read the report, read between the lines. The smoking gun is indeed partly cretins at NASA like Linda J. Ham - but behind Linda Ham is an organization starved for funds and worse, starved for a real mission. It's being argued that as a nation we don't have the money to do anything in space. Frankly, for a quarter of what's being pissed away in Iraq we could go back to the Moon and lay the groundwork for a century of exploration. It's also being argued that "the Cold War is over" and therefore there is no need for prestigious space exploration. Well, if things go as planned, by the end of this year we will look up and see the Chinese looking down at us - and they are a far more dangerous long-term enemy than the Soviet Union ever was. Also, there is the promise of space resources and the danger of asteroid impacts. The first country that truly learns to exploit space will be in a position to extend hegemony not over the earth, but throughout the solar system. For the good of mankind, that country must be a free one, not a dictatorship with phony capitalist trappings like China. We need to remember that money and greed isn't everything. Money doesn't dream, but people must, and a nation that loses its vision is a nation on its way down into the trash heap of history. The United States can be the confident, powerful Britain of the 19th century - or the impoverished Britiain of the 20th. Our choice.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

"That's Not Good Enough"

Excellent interview with Dr. Sally Ride, former astronaut and member of both the Rogers Commission and CAIB over at the NYT this morning. Dr. Ride on the cretinous Linda Ham:

One of the responsibilities of a NASA manager is to be inquisitive to a fault. You have to ask and ask and ask. If you think there's any hint of a problem, you have to get to the bottom of it. In my mind, the question was not, Who is asking this question? What the managers needed to be asking is, What are the potential consequences of this foam hit? And tell me now.

There wasn't any of that quality that Mission Control is almost famous for, which is grabbing onto the pants legs of a problem and not letting go until it understands what the problem is and what the implications are. And that didn't happen in this case. The managers, the Mission Management Team and the Mission Evaluation Room, did not grab onto this problem and insist on an answer. It was really quite the opposite. They assumed they knew the answer. They assumed the foam was not going to be a problem. And they were insisting that people disprove the preconception they had.

Picture Gene Kranz and his crew sitting around Mission Control during Apollo 13. "Well, maybe it'll be all right...fire up the LM? No, we don't need to do anything else...."

Many good insights. Read it.

Brave Men

It's too common among the Neo-cons to criticise the UN. For at least a partial cure, read CNN's piece on the attempt to rescue UN head of mission Sergio Vieira de Mello from the wreckage of his Baghdad office. The story of US Army 1st Sergeant William von Zehle's efforts to save Sergio Viera de Mello and Sergio's own courage is a moving one.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Borrow and Spend Republicans

The Republican mantra of "tax and spend Democrats" needs replacement by "borrow and spend Republicans." Americans may scream and whine about their taxes, but two things are true: Americans don't want any of their "favorite" programs cut, which in the final analysis means pretty much everything, and, compared to Europe and Canada, Americans are actually undertaxed (and of course don't have benefits like guaranteed health care, guaranteed pensions, etc, etc.). So, you can either condemn your children to the poorhouse - the Repug solution since they figure they'll be safely dead when the bills come due (and they'd better hope so in case the public decides that it's time to bring back burning at the stake) - or you can raise taxes. Anyhoo, the latest on President Stupid's deficit for 2004 is...half a trillion dollars.

Let's see how the right wing duckspeakers explain this.

NASA Faster Than Ever!

Even as NASA braces for tomorrow's release of the CAIB final report, it has reached incredible new speeds with the launch of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, at least according to the apparently off-kilter brain of NYT writer Stefano S. Coledale...

The last in the series of NASA's "Great Observatories" streaked into a starry sky early this morning, reaching its intended orbit around the Sun less than an hour later.

WOW! Solar orbit in less than an hour! And it takes three days to reach the moon?! Good God, where's Jayson Blair when you need him?

Speaking of the CAIB final report, did everyone see Failure is Not an Option last night on the History Channel? In 1962, John Kennedy announced - before an American had flown in orbit - that the United States would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade and return him safely to earth. In July, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, along with Mike Collins who remained in lunar orbit, fulfilled that pledge, thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of thousands of men and women, from the brilliant team at Mission Control so ably profiled last night, to the ladies who sewed the astronauts' space suits. Today we are told that it will take 7 to 10 years to develop, not a shuttle replacement or shuttle improvement, but a vehicle intended to do nothing more than ferry crews to and from the International Space Station. GIVE ME A BREAK.

This country has lost a lot of things in my lifetime, but one thing that has crippled us is our loss of vision. Greed isn't enough, military power isn't enough. Without vision, we perish as a nation. NASA should set itself a goal: orbital taxi in five years, shuttle replacement in 8 years, moon orbital flights in 10 years, moon base in 15. And America in 2004 should get itself a president with the vision and courage to make it happen - not the addled dwarf who inhabits the office now.

Bush Lies, Soldiers Die - A Continuing and Probably Endless Series

The lies continue to be revealed; the much-touted Iraqi "drones of death" program was, no surprise, no threat to anyone. Meanwhile, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter reports over at the NYT that vital information on Iraqi weapons programs was left unguarded by US troops and then looted. Considering that every Iraqi ministry other than the Oil Ministry was left unguarded and inevitably was then looted and burned, a pattern emerges, doesn't it? According to Ritter:

Today, with the tremendous controversy over the administration's pre-war assertions, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the archive that produced Iraq's 12,500 pages of claims - none of which have yet been shown to be false - that comprise the most detailed record of Iraq's weapons programs.

Gosh, if the information no longer exists, you can say anything you want about Iraqi weapons programs, can't you? When will the American people wake up and rid themselves of the pest in the White House?

Chickenhawks Don't Listen to Those Who Went and Got Shot At

While Dubya was AWOL in the Texas ANG, Navy pilot John McCain was cooling his heels in the Hanoi Hilton. Now Senator McCain is arguing that Dubya needs more troops in Iraq, and of course the military genius in the White House and his minions disagree:

"We are in a very serious situation ... a race against time," McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We need to spend a whole lot more money to get services back to the people. We need to get the electricity going, the fuel, the water. And unless we get that done and get it done pretty soon, we could face a very [serious] situation."

Administration officials rejected the call for bolstered forces. Asked on CNN's "Late Edition" if more troops were needed, L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator for Iraq, replied, "I don't think so."

Rrrriiiight. We'll see what happens if someone tries to blow up Paulie's headquarters.

A British View of American Lunacy

The fact is that Europeans can hardly believe how Americans permit religion to rule over every facet of public life. That used to happen in Europe, of course, and led to charming episodes like the Hundred Years War, assorted Calvinist atrocities, the Spanish Inquisition, etc, etc, etc, to the point that religion has been firmly kicked out of European life (perhaps, in fact, too much so, but that's another story). Gary Younge, whose pieces in The Guardian are always well worth reading, takes on the Alabama Ten Commandments craze with a jaundiced but observant eye:

Since the deadline passed at midnight on Wednesday, Christian activists have descended on the town from all over the country, keeping a 24-hour watch to make sure the monument is not moved and establishing phone trees to rally the faithful if it is. Many have T-shirts with slogans every bit as intolerant as the south's reputation. "Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder," says one. (It is difficult to imagine how many more people you could offend on one piece of summerwear.)

Indeed...makes one really proud of America's "educational" system, doesn't it? (Great article in this month's Harpers about that, too, btw) Younge concludes:

These differences go all the way to the top and explain much of the reason why the tone, style, language and content of America's foreign policy has been so out of kilter with the rest of the developed world, particularly since September 11. For these fundamentalist tendencies in US diplomacy have rarely been stronger in the White House than they are today. Since George Bush gave up Jack Daniels for Jesus Christ, he has counted Jesus as his favourite philosopher. The first thing he reads in the morning is not a briefing paper but a book of evangelical mini-sermons. When it came to casting the morality play for the war on terror he went straight to the Bible and came out with evil. "He reached right into the psalms for that word," said his former speech writer, David Frum.

Bush speaks in the name of the founding fathers but believes he is doing the work of the holy father. He cannot do both and condemn fundamentalism. But if he feels he must try, he might start with the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."

Of course that's the one Commandment the Republicans love to ignore.

American Soldiers Using Captured AK-47s

Unsurprisingly, many American soldiers in Iraq who are either underarmed with 9mm pistols as their primary weapon (most tankers) or who have learned to despise the still problematic M16 and its carbine variant the M4 are grabbing any captured AK-47 they can find. There are a number of reasons for this; for one thing, soldiers always find enemy weapons "cool." Secondly, the tried and true AK-47 does have a number of distinct advantages over the M-16. It is much more resistent to dirt and abuse. It fires a larger round, for more knockdown power. And, unlike the M16A3 and the M4 carbine, the AK-47 can fire in full automatic mode, where the American weapons are limited to semi-automatic mode and 3-round bursts.

If it's any comfort to American disturbed by our weaponry, the British assault rifle is actually worse than the M16, although there's been no word on whether British troops are snatching up AK-47s....


Sunday, August 24, 2003

"I Do Not Know You"

Gee, wouldn't we all love to know what God said when this piece of human garbage showed up on his doorstep?

Clinton-Hating Loonies

Orcincus has a long and detailed piece comparing the history of the Clinton-hating loony right to what the repugs complain is the reflexive Democratic Dubya-hatred of today. The trouble is, as Orcinus points out ably, is that Clinton-hate was based on sheer lunacy (Murders! Rapes! Ruby Ridge!) while Dubya-hate is based on truth (Steal the Election! Weapons of Mass Disappearance! Rape the Environment! Use the Bill of Rights for Toilet Paper!).

Like the Clinton-haters, "Bush haters" think his presidency is illegitimate. The difference, however, is that the "Bush haters" have rational grounds for claiming that. Clinton-haters argued that Clinton was "illegitimate" because he only won a plurality of the popular vote; however, after 2000, they stopped arguing that point. Funny, that.

It's a great article. Check it out.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Potential Clark Candidacy Brings Out Right-Wingnuts

The right must be worried about a potential Wesley Clark presidential candidacy, as this Paul Greenberg piece in the Moony-owed Washington Times proves:

Wesley Clark hasn't formally announced his run for the presidency, but he's already talking in sound bites. Here's what he says about the current president and commander in chief: "You'd be taking him to the Better Business Bureau if you bought a washing machine the way we went to war in Iraq."

The general still speaks of the war in Iraq and the war on terror as if they were separate endeavors, rather than different fronts in the same war against a common ideological foe.

Gosh, Paul, please show us those Iraqi connections to al Queda. Go for it, dude. They're with the Weapons of Mass Disappearance, no doubt.

Run, General, run. Your country needs you.

Apparently, Some People Should Not be Allowed to Have Space Programs

Disaster in Brazil where a rocket intended to orbit two satellites exploded on the launch pad during tests killing 21 technicians. Earth to Brazil: you do not work on fueled rockets. The Russians found this out the hard way over 40 years ago, as space expert James Oberg describes in the linked article.

On the other hand, here's a possible new place of work for the clueless Linda "I don't believe anyone is at fault for this" Ham.

Fair and Balanced

Faux News has been told to put its lawsuit against Al Franken where the sun don't shine. Good. Evidently Dubya hasn't managed to pack every court just yet...

Calling the motion "wholly without merit, both factually and legally," the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court, said that a person would have to be "completely dense" not to realize the cover was a joke, and that trademark protection for the phrase "Fair and Balanced" was unrealistic because the words are so commonly used....

The Fox court papers had referred to Mr. Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer and an unabashed liberal, as a "parasite" who appeared shrill, unstable and "increasingly unfunny."

"Shrill" and "unstable?" Hm. Perhaps Al should sue Faux for slander for using words to describe him that so clearly describe their own on air "talent."

And how very typical of the "Right" to use the word "parasite."

Unbalanced

Alabama has been told, several times, to put its Ten Commandments monument where the sun don't shine. Don't they have bigger things to worry about there, like, um, tax reform? I forget whose idea this was, so please remind me, but somebody suggested that somebody in Alabama should erect a monument to the Five Pillars of Islam and see how long that lasts....

Friday, August 22, 2003

This Could be Bad

Late word that an Iraqi group is claiming to have two American soldiers hostage. Let's pray not. UPDATE The soldiers are safe and the claim was false. One, Major Andrew Peters, is currently in hospital in Texas recovering from wounds incurred in a land mine explosion, which apparently is when he lost his Pennsylvania driver's license, one of the documents shown by the group who claimed to hold him. Good news!

Terrorism?

Dr. Pournelle on the latest hacker outrages:

On the road. Last night I tried to get my mail, and since I am at the end of a thin pipeline, I found that Outlook simply couldn't handle 495 messages of which 400 were spam or the sobig worm/virus. Bob Thompson kindly cleaned up this for me so that today I have my mail and I can operate even here, but this was really frustrating.

Eric has said that spam will continue until something very physical and very painful and very public happens to fifty or so spammers, terrifying the others. I think he's right. As to the sobig worm, I suspect we are being probed by an intelligence operation to determine just how vulnerable we are. Incidentally, much of the Pentagon email system was shut down and remains so due to spam, virus, and an incompetent contractor who never bothered to apply the patches Microsoft had already supplied in an urgent earlier memo.

I've seen other theories online that in fact this is some kind of an intelligence operation or pure terrorism. More likely it's Joe Acne sitting in front of his computer in his lonely house, screwing up everyone else's life because he doesn't have one, but we shall see.

They’ve Learned Nothing

As we wait for the final report on the Columbia disaster to be issued by CAIB in the next few days, it’s depressingly obvious that people who should have learned something from this catastrophe, from the deaths of seven good people and the loss of an irreplaceable spacecraft, have in fact learned absolutely nothing at all:

The issue of NASA's culture inevitably involves its major contractors for the space shuttle program as well. But Michael Curie, a spokesman for United Space Alliance -- the private contractor that spends 80 percent of the shuttle's budget -- said last week that "it's not an appropriate time" to say whether the firm believes it made mistakes or learned anything from the disaster.

Similarly, Ed Memi, a spokesman for the Boeing Co., said, "The consensus around here is that it's too early to say whether anyone made mistakes." He said that although the entire shuttle team, including contractors and NASA employees, shared responsibility for the disaster, "what we did at the time was based on the tools and databases that were available . . . the best that we had at that time."

I’m fascinated that these cretins believe that "it’s too early to say whether anyone made mistakes" when seven people are dead and Columbia is lying in tiny pieces on a hangar floor in Florida. Stranger still is the ongoing presence of the truly stupid Linda Ham, who is still working for NASA.

Sources said the board has also discovered that some managers who have publicly claimed ignorance of the appeals for imagery, such as lead flight director Linda J. Ham, knew considerably more than they have said.

It's odd that no one in this country has the honor anymore to take responsibility for their mistakes. No one resigned or was fired after 9/11, ditto the anthrax killings, ditto the lies about Iraqi weapons of mass disappearance, and of course we can’t expect dear Linda to fall on her sword for incinerating seven people, can we? Guess not. I'm OK, you're OK.


Thursday, August 21, 2003

Welcome to the Web! It's a Bloody MESS!

MSNBC on the latest wonderful package of joy from the world of the forever-children known as hackers:

One reason for the volume of e-mails generated is that the e-mail messages by which the virus spreads are forged to appear to come from genuine Internet users. Many anti-virus systems respond by sending an automatic alert back to the Internet user, telling them they are infected. Users whose e-mail addresses have been thus forged can then receive hundreds of these virus alerts, adding to Internet traffic jams.

MessageLabs chief technology officer Mark Sunner also said the virus was helped along because it essentially had e-mail software built in. Previous ones relied on existing software packages such as Microsoft’s Outlook and did not spread as quickly among users of rival e-mail software.

Anti-virus experts think the author may be using the worm to construct an elaborate network of hijacked computers that can be used to send spam.

The Sobig virus spreads when unsuspecting computer users open file attachments in e-mails that contain such familiar headings as "Thank you," "Re: Details" or "Re: approved."

Once the file is opened, Sobig scours the computer for e-mail addresses, checking in Word documents, Internet logs and e-mail inboxes. Designed like mass-mailing spam programs, it then sends scores of messages to the addresses it has collected.

Earth to governments: it's time to put real, vicious teeth into anti-hacking laws. Otherwise we will wake up one day soon and have no web at all - guaranteed.

SCLM
Great article over at the Washington City Paper dealing with so-called liberal press and their mysterious and continuing support for Operation Iraqi "Freedom:"

When faced with the prewar deceptions of the Bush administration, the Post editorial board reacted just like a disenchanted '00s liberal: It blamed Al Gore.

A bit of background: In early August, Gore gave a speech at New York University criticizing the Bush administration for amassing phony evidence to support various foreign, environmental, and economic policies. "The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate....The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it," said Gore, who spoke with particular passion about the administration's case for war.

In an Aug. 10 editorial, the Post attacked not the people responsible for fraud, but the guy who was calling public attention to it. Saying that Gore "validated just about every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left," the piece hammered the former veep for his contention that "we were all somehow bamboozled into war."

Funny thing: The Post's editorialists were mocking Gore's bamboozle argument on the same day that its reporters were documenting the bamboozlement. In the Aug. 10 news pages, reporters Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus laid out the utter mendacity of the Bush administration's nuclear case. Amid new revelations about how the Bushies misled the public about Hussein's nuclear capability, the reporters noted, "The possibility of a nuclear-armed Iraq loomed large in the Bush administration's efforts to convince the American public of the need for a preemptive strike."

Yet over on the editorial page, a different worldview—an ass-covering worldview—prevailed...

It surely did, as I and several others pointed out at the time. Read it and shrug.

Sorry

Lost this morning's post because my internet provider has been ravaged by the latest worm going around the web. Cut their hands off, hand out death penalties, make hacking not fun, that's my solution. These antisocial little bastards need to be treated like the terrorists they are.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Alabama Tax Reform

The Right Christians is a really great blog for progressive Christians who wonder if their religion has been taken over by the American Taliban and need to occasionally be reassured that it hasn't. Today Reverend Brill really digs into Alabama tax reform. Comparing Governor Bob Riley with Saul/Paul may be a touch over the top, but then this very conservative Republican governor does indeed seem to have seen the light somewhere on the road to Montgomery. Rev. Brill goes on to discuss how the Christians in Jerusalem were originally - and not surprisingly - dismissive of Saul's claims to have converted, and how the unsung Barnabus was able to convince them of Saul's sincerity. Pointing out that what doubting Alabama really needs right now is a Barnabus, Brill says

This really isn't about Bob Riley. It is only necessary to compare those who support the plan to those who oppose it to see whom the plan will benefit and whom it will cost. But if concern about Riley's sincerity is what is hampering support for this movement among those whom it will help the most, it's time to put away fear and suspicion. The man tells us he is a Christian. He has experienced some of the same trials and tests in his life that you and I have. He has read, studied and heard proclaimed that same Gospel that you and I have. Can the God who changed the heart of murderous Saul not open an Alabama Republican's eyes to the need for decent education and health care for everyone and a fairer tax system? Is it for us to object if the man who once followed Newt Gingrich is now leading a bold movement for fairness? Will God abandon us if we dare to speak out in favor of this effort to our fellow Christians? The example of Barnabus provides the answers.

To which all I can say is, Amen.

Standing by for the General

Strong rumor has it that General Wesley Clark will announce his presidential candidacy by the end of the month. Take it from me, friends, General Clark is the Democrat who can win. We should all be mindful of the example of Abraham Lincoln. In 1848, he supported Zachary Taylor for the Whig presidential nomination over his hero, Henry Clay, for the simple reason that he knew Taylor could win (as Taylor indeed did). In nominating General Clark, the Democrats would gain in several ways: General Clark's experience in working with our allies in Europe, his leadership during the war in Kosovo, his obvious intelligence (General Clark is a Rhodes Scholar), and his complete immunity to the Republican use of the "patriotism card." Picture General Clark standing beside our AWOL, tongue-tied, bumbling nitwit of a President. No contest. Think of it: No more Dubya. No more Ashcroft running around impersonating Himmler. No more Ronald Dumsfeld wrecking the Pentagon. No more concentration camp at Gitmo. A real war on terror, not a war on people we don't like who happen to have oil. Clark is the man.

And Here Are Some People Who Would Likely Vote for Clark

According to The Detroit News, "Veterans Plan to Exact Action at the Polls."

Veterans are condemning House Republicans' failure to deliver a $3.2 billion boost for the Veterans Affairs Department that would have shrunk the agency's waiting list for medical care.

"A shameless betrayal" is how AMVETS sums it up.

"A moral outrage," the American Legion said.

"Abominable" is the word from the Non Commissioned Officers Association.

"Veterans have been pushed to the limits," said Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. "They're being lied to, and they're not tolerating it."

The broken promise - the second time in a year Congress has reneged on a pledge to veterans - has veterans vowing to remember at the ballot box.

Can you say "ready to vote for General Clark?"

The New Terrorist Pesthole: Iraq

Something many opponents of Operation Iraqi "Freedom" emphasized was that a) the government of Saddam Hussein, disgusting as it undoubtedly was, had no real contacts with al Qaeda, and b) the invasion, far from bringing cheering Iraqis into the streets to greet our soldiers with flowers and kisses, was going to turn Iraq into a pesthole of terrorism. Yep, right on both counts. In the NYT this morning we have Jessica Stern:

As bad as the situation inside Iraq may be, the effect that the war has had on terrorist recruitment around the globe may be even more worrisome. Even before the coalition troops invaded, a senior United States counterterrorism official told reporters that "an American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups." Intelligence officials in the United States, Europe and Africa say that the recruits they are seeing now are younger than in the past. Television images of American soldiers and tanks in Baghdad are deeply humiliating to Muslims, even those who didn't like Saddam Hussein, explained Saad al-Faqih, head of Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, a Saudi dissident group in London. He told me that some 3,000 young Saudis have entered Iraq in recent months, and called the war "a gift to Osama bin Laden."

And we have John S. Burnett...

It was bound to happen. Those of us who spent time in the United Nations compound in Baghdad predicted it would happen and nervously joked that it was just a matter of time. It was such a soft target — a former hotel in an isolated part of town. Our only solace was the thought: who would want to hurt the United Nations?

Who indeed? And, last but certainly not least, we have Maureen Dowd:

Since America began its occupation, Iraq has become the mecca for every angry, hate-crazed Arab extremist who wants to liberate the Middle East from the "despoiling" grasp of the infidels.

"Increasing numbers of Saudi Arabian Islamists are crossing the border into Iraq, in preparation for a jihad, or holy war, against U.S. and U.K. forces, security and Islamist sources have warned," The Financial Times said yesterday, quoting a Saudi dissident who noted that Saudi authorities are concerned that "up to 3,000 Saudi men have gone `missing' in the kingdom in two months."

And, as Dowd concludes, at this point we just can't leave, we have to slug it out. Pretty damn hard on our troops, not that the neo-cons care, since none of them ever go and got shot at....

But I'm not Just Hard on the Right

As George Orwell pointed out during WWII, the left's love of Stalin was disgusting. Today's tendency for the left to make excuses for Islam is just as disgusting. Islam has two choices: reform, or go away. It's not the tenth century anymore, guys, and it has to come from within.

Web Still a Disaster Area this Morning

Still unable to send or receive email and half the sites I try to reach are "server not found." Thanks, hackers.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Archaeology Update

Important discovery in the UK, where part of the bow of the Tudor warship Mary Rose has been discovered near where the remains of the ship were raised in 1982. Hopefully this portion will also be raised and added to the ship, which is undergoing preservation while on display in Portsmouth. The expedition to to the site was prompted by plans to dredge the ship channel for the Royal Navy's next generation aircraft carriers, which will destroy any artifacts that were missed earlier.

Was it only me, or was the Discovery Channel's Nefertiti special on Sunday insanely over the top?

Interesting new discoveries relating to the Iceman. Remember when Otzi was thought to be a peaceful shepherd, lost in the Alps? Then it was learned that he'd been shot in the back - and now it appears he gave as good as he got. The more things change....

Web?

The web is a bloody mess tonight. Wonder what's going on...? UPDATE: This from Jerry Pournelle's site:

A new variant of the SoBig worm, SoBig.F@mm, is flooding the Internet. For details, see:

http://securityresponse.symantec.com/
avcenter/venc/data/w32.sobig.f@mm.html

This worm appears to be particularly virulent. My main email account alone is now receiving infected messages at the rate of more than 100 per hour, up from 25 per hour an hour ago. This thing is spreading very fast.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/thisweek.html http://forums.ttgnet.com/ikonboard.cgi

Like I said a few days ago, cut a few hands off, hand out a few death penalties, suddenly hacking is no longer Fun.

Krugman on Utility Deregulation

Paul Krugman writes on what he describes as "faith-based deregulation" in the NYT this morning and makes a number of the points I've made over the past few days, albeit much more eloquently:

In the past, electric power was considered a natural monopoly. It was and is impractical to have companies competing either to wire up homes and businesses, or to build long-distance transmission lines. Because effective competition was impossible, power companies were given local monopolies, and regulated to keep them from exploiting customers.

These regulated monopolies took responsibility for the whole system - transmission and distribution as well as generation. Then came the deregulation movement. It argued that a competitive market could be created in power generation (though not in transmission and distribution), and in much of the country utilities were forced to sell off their power plants.

And of course all over the country companies stopped spending money on intrastructure.

Four years ago, Paul Joskow of M.I.T. told FERC: "Proceeding on the assumption that, at the present time, 'the market' will provide needed network transmission enhancements is the road to ruin." And so it was.

Indeed it was. Read it.

Smithsonian Back-Patting

The Smithsonian Institution has finally summoned up enough courage to put the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay on full display at its new facility at Dulles. Probably everyone is familiar with their earlier display of part of the aircraft several years ago which emphasized the suffering of the Japanese and American nastiness. Rrriiiight. Funnily enough, the Air Force Museum has displayed the other atomic bomber, the B-29 named Bockscar, for years with no sign of controversy at all.

However, the Smithsonian, having put the Enola Gay controversy behind them, is now pussy footing around the question of whether to display any wreckage from the Columbia. Fortunately, the actual curator, as opposed to the appointees in charge, seems to have a healthy and intelligent viewpoint, so we shall see.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Governor Bob Riley - a Profile in Courage

Nice profile of Alabama governor Bob Riley over at TIME.com. What remains incredible to me that is that Alabama's poorest citizens are overwhelmingly against his tax reforms. Are Americans really this stupid? How depressing if true - and if Riley's reform fails, it could be the end of realistic tax reform in Alabama, a benighted place if ever there was one, for this generation. It could also be a turning point in the Republican party, which has painted itself into a death-spiral "no new taxes and cut old taxes" stance that just doesn't work in every situation. If Riley wins, he'll prove intelligent Republicans can move past that mindless policy. If he loses.... There is a hell of a lot riding on this.

If the referendum loses, Riley and the legislature will have three weeks to find another solution to the budget crunch. But Riley will know he took his best shot at helping his state. Such political courage is hard to find these days; in California, they're trying to kick the governor out of office, partially because he lacks such courage. Win or lose, Riley has shown he's got bravery to spare.

A profile in courage for certain.

Utility Deregulation - Dumb and Dumber

An intelligent conservative like Jerry Pournelle knows that utility deregulation was a pretty stupid idea, and he has some interesting thoughts on the subject over at Chaos Manor today:

When electricity in California was a regulated public utility, there were some real problems, and I wrote about them; but we did have steady supplies of power, and investment in power plants and transmission lines had a steady and predictable rate of return. Southern California Edison was one of the best managed companies in the world, from the snow walkers who went up in the High Sierra in midwinter to estimate the amount of run-off and thus hydropower and thus fuel needs for the summer (so that fuel contracts could be negotiated while the supplier had no knowledge of the company's needs) -- to the nuclear operators to the research facilities in solar and sewage and garbage as power sources, SCE was the very model of a regulated public utility.

Regulation wasn't perfect, but it was a damn sight better than what we have today. Remember when the phone company would come to your house and fix your phone? Now you're responsible for everything in your house, lines and all, and if your phone breaks, you toss it, adding it to an already overflowing landfill. Oh sure, the phones are zingier, but guess what - we can't afford throwing our phones away every year to get a cooler one. On a planetary scale, it's monstrous. As for electricity, all those damned LPG booster plants do is waste natural gas and drive natural gas and electricity prices up. Such a deal. Such a deal. If you heat with natural gas, I am told you will be thanking the cretins who deregulated the electric utilities this winter when shortages and massive price rises are predicted.....

Arrest the Seller, Deport the Buyer

Incredible article in the Washington Post today about an illegal immigrant and his family buying a $200,000 house in the suburban Washington area. Apparently Mr. Illegal is legal now, unfortunately, but it's another example of how we permit these people to run rampant all over our country, steal our jobs, lower our wages and, in this case, flagrantly break the law with the evident wink wink nudge nudge complicity of the local authorities.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Super Corsair

Hit an airshow today, a small local one, and saw the only flying F2G Super Corsair in the world. Yes, sometimes life is good.

How About a Better Excuse Than This?

A cameraman working for Reuters in Iraq has been shot and killed by American troops who claim that they thought he was aiming a rocket propelled grenade at them. I'm usually more than willing to give our troops the benefit of the doubt, but this sounds ridiculous.

His last pictures show a U.S. tank driving towards Dana outside the prison walls. Several shots ring out from the tank, and Dana's camera falls to the ground.

Winning hearts and minds continues at a truly awesome pace. And it's working, too!

Our Glorious Allies

Saudi leaders commiserate with the family of the butcher Idi Amin. No mention of his crimes. All of this from the same people who brought you most of the 9/11 hijackers.

Alabama Taxes - Unfair and Unbalanced

Unsurprisingly, Alabama Governor Bob Riley's tax reform plan is coming in for a lot of opposition - from his own party. Yes, Riley is a Republican, and a man who has read and, unlike his opposition, including the Alabama branch of the Christian Coalition, understood the message of the Gospels. Naturally, the wealthy parasites who believe America is run for their sole benefit are upset, and are resorting to their usual stinking tactics in an effort to defeat Riley's proposal:

Riley's opponents also have targeted black voters, airing a radio ad on stations with mostly black audiences featuring a man with poor diction warning, "Our property taxes could go up as much as fo' hundred percent," and blaming "Montgomery insiders who have been ignorin' us for years." The ad was paid for by a political action committee whose top contributors are the state's largest bank, a leading insurance company, two timber and paper companies and county farmers federations -- all of which supported Riley last November. The state farmers federation also controls the insurance company, which would lose a large tax break that gives it an advantage over other insurers.

Gosh, why don't they roll out Amos 'n Andy while they're at it? Unfortunately, many Alabama blacks are viewing the Governor's plans with suspicion as well:

Somewhat paradoxically, polls show the strongest opposition is among black voters, who make up about a fourth of the electorate, and people with incomes under $30,000 -- the very Alabamians who would receive the largest tax cuts. Riley and his emissaries are campaigning hard among black voters, who opposed him overwhelmingly in November. He is encountering distrust embedded in Alabama history.

"Black people in particular and poor people in general have always been very suspicious when somebody in Montgomery says, 'I'm going to help you,' because usually in the end we get ripped off," said state Sen. Hank Sanders, an influential black politician. Sanders has taped ads supporting Riley's plan, but many other black leaders, including pastors, have been conspicuously silent.

Earth calling Alabama blacks and poor - this may be your one chance for real change in your state. Don't waste it.

I Don't Call Him "President Stupid" for Nothing

After the massive power outage one would assume that Dubya et al would have been alerted to the fact that the nation's power distribution grid is an obsolete mess. Dubya in fact made a few token comments to that effect on Friday. But noooooo....

The Bush administration intends to side with a Senate Republican attempt to freeze a disputed regulatory proposal meant to strengthen the nation's aging power transmission system, which was blamed in last week's massive blackout, a senior administration official said yesterday.

Go for it, Dubya. You the man.



Saturday, August 16, 2003

Balanced for Sure

The San Diego Chicken is fairly unbalanced, but he was balancing perfectly when he raced out onto the field last night riding a Segway, unlike our President-Appointee, who fell off of his....

BZZZZPT

Now that the blackout has receded, intelligent people are beginning to ponder the cause, and one of the big causes is, no surprise, the stupidity of utility deregulation. Unfortunately for free marketeers, utilities are natural monopolies, and are best run as such. When the electric companies were permitted to deregulate and electricity became a "commodity" instead of a "necessity," what followed was unsurprising; instead of continuing to invest in infrastructure, including generating capacity (about the only generating capacity built in this country for the last decade are the miserable, mostly natural gas-fueled "booster plants" that are mainly contributing to natural gas shortages and price rises) and transmission lines, they've been specializing in "increasing stockholder profits." Uh, yeah, and that led directly to last week's outage - which we can be assured Osama bin Laden et al watched with great interest. Greg Palast has a great deal to say about this as well.

Friday, August 15, 2003

A Fair and Balanced Day

I personally plan to have a very fair and balanced day. I will begin by dragging myself to my place of work, working in a fair and balanced way (?), then later I will balance off the day with a visit to the ballpark to see the whackily UN-balanced "Famous Chicken." Now is that fair and balanced or what?!!

California - UNBalanced

Pretty good article by Julian Borger over at The Guardian about the California recall lunacy. His comment about Gray Davis having the "charisma of a lamppost" is certainly right on...the trouble is that Americans tend to forget that charisma is optional, and charismatic people are not necessarily the ones you want running things (I believe it was the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein who pointed out that anyone who WANTS to be president shouldn't be allowed to become one). Sure, Ahnold is charismatic. But...

Schwarzenegger has been evasive on the subject of how he would deal with the problems, other than stressing the importance of leadership. Judging by the number of Terminator catchphrases he has employed in his campaign so far, he seems to think will be best provided by a trigger-happy cyborg.

Earth calling - he's an ACTOR. Vote him in, you get what you deserve - and probably fulfill another Rovian plot.

Tricksey Hobbitses!!!

Hey, Gollum's running! Cool.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Well, Well, Well

Looks as if the neo-cons in the Pentagram have frantically backed away from their earlier "let the troops eat cake!" stance on their danger pay and family allowances:

In April, after the President's Budget was submitted, Congress authorized an increase in both the Family Separation Allowance (on a worldwide basis) and Imminent Danger Pay and legislated that these increases would expire on Sept. 30, 2003. The department is aware of the problem that would result for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan if these allowances were allowed to expire. This is an issue of targeting those most deserving, and certainly people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are in these categories. We intend to ensure they continue to receive this compensation at least at the current levels.

Rrrrrriiight...they weren't deserving earlier, but after people woke up and started to wave their arms, suddenly the troops became "deserving" again! Hm. I've ALWAYS thought they were "deserving."

How Much More Will the Military Take?

Dubya, Ronald Dumsfeld, and the rest of the neo-con warmongering crew take the military completely for granted. They assume that our troops will up packs and march off to whatever hellhole they ship them to, fight well, and come back home to vote enthusiastically Republican. But how many slaps upside the head will it take for the military to wake up and realize how they've been used, and used, and used by these nitwits who could never be bothered to go and get shot at? Here's the latest from our patriotic chickenhawk heroes in Washington:


Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."

The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.

Yep, you heard that correctly. We can afford to piss away $4 billion a month "rebuilding" Iraq (a goodly portion of which goes to Bechtel and Halliburton and similar Republican donors), but we can't afford the $25 million a month this benefit is costing. Earth to the military - the Repugs hate you, use you, and shit all over you. And you thought Clinton was a problem?

Can you tell I'm mad about this?


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Analysis from Iraq

Soldiers for the Truth has published an interesting article reporting what our troops found out about their weapons and equipment during the recent war and, no surprise, the nasty 9mm Beretta pistol came in for a great deal of well-deserved abuse, as did its holster and even magazines. It's way past time to either return to the well-loved Colt .45 or move on to a police-type pistol of around .40 or .45 caliber. The amount of pistol ammunition used is not sufficient to worry about commonality with our allies, and in any case is less important than ever since the US military no longer issues a pistol-caliber submachine gun except to some special forces units. The M-4 carbine, which is a short M-16, was praised except for its unsurprising lack of range. Short barrels will do that to you. The .50 caliber Barrett XM107 was, no surprise, a real favorite, with a kill zone out to 1400 meters. The .50 caliber round is not only a useful antipersonnel weapon, it will also destroy vehicles including some light armor. Interestingly, soldiers would like pockets on the sleeves of their BDUs since the pockets on the front are unreachable when body armor is worn. A worthwhile article, hopefully being read at the Pentagon. If our soldiers are going to fight, they deserve the finest equipment obtainable.

What Does it Take to Alarm These People?

Interesting if disheartening story in the Orlando Sentinel this morning about NASA lack of response to the terror-filled emails being zipped around by engineers during the recent Columbia flight, emails that included fears about landing gear tires exploding, tiles melting and zippering off the vehicle, and predictions about the left wing burning off (which is what happened, of course).

On Jan. 30, Johnson Space Center engineer Carlisle Campbell forwarded an e-mail from colleague Rodney Rocha, outlining the concern about the foam hit, adding "This is confidential, but I just wanted to be sure that you were aware of the potential landing gear door damage."

While engineers were expecting higher temperatures in the area of the landing-gear door, Rocha wrote, they were not predicting major problems -- no "safety-of-flight issue."

Early the next day, O'Connor responded. "Thanks for the info. I had heard a little bit of this, but I did not realize so much analysis was required," O'Connor wrote. A few hours later, Campbell wrote back.

"The LaRC [Langley Research Center] Director plans to offer their help on this debris impact concern," he wrote. "We don't have much time left if there is another issue."

Al Feinberg, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said Tuesday that O'Connor perceived Campbell's e-mail as a heads-up from an old friend -- the two worked together at Langley in the late 1980s -- and not a plea for help.

Good grief, what does it take? CAIB is planning to address the NASA "culture" and it's clear it needs to not only be addressed but extirpated. As I've said before, this kind of crap would not have happened in Gene Kranz's day.

A Small Selection

I predicted Sunday that the Washington Post's letter column would prove interesting reading in the wake of their asinine editorial blasting Al Gore's recent speech. Today they printed what must be a tiny selection of the bales of hate mail they likely received. One astute reader makes this point:

The press, including until recently The Post, has failed to challenge the administration on its factually challenged approach to policy. Polls show that the public is deeply misinformed about the lack of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda (or the 9/11 attacks), and about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Who is responsible for this?

Dare we suggest that the So-Called Liberal Media is indeed "responsible for this?" Hmmm.

Who's Smoking What?

According to an opinion piece in the WP today by Josette Shiner, a not over-bright shill imitating a US trade representative, Free Trade Rewards Workers!

These agreements may rankle protectionists, who fear competition, but they are great news for anyone who cares about improving workers' lives through higher income levels, good labor standards and more resources for enforcement.

Of course the workers she's talking about aren't American workers, they're the people overseas who are taking jobs away from Americans. Gee, I feel so good now.

Fortunately, the anti-trade views of organized labor leaders aren't shared by the general public. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, 79 percent of Americans believe that growing global trade and business ties are good for the country.

Yes, many Americans are still ill-informed on this issue. Don't expect that to last for long now that middle class jobs are going down the toilet.

Couldn't Have Said it Better

According to a letter in the NYT this morning:

First was the Clinton impeachment, then the 2000 Florida election, the deceptions to lead us to war in Iraq, the Texas redistricting and now the California recall (front page, Aug. 11). These events indicate that the Republicans have no use for the democratic process or respect for election results.

Thank you, Anibal Lorie, whoever you are. I couldn't have said it better myself.


Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson was a Democrat, a professor, a farmer, a historian, and an important military historian before 9/11. Since 9/11, he's gone absolutely insane. More proof here, unfortunately.

The 9/11 tragedy was not due simply to bureaucratic inertia or to some sort of oil conspiracy that overlooked criminal behavior of the sheiks of the petroleum states (though all that no doubt played a role), but was far more a dividend of political correctness. If Senator Graham is sincerely worried about our lethal oversights and mistakes, he should examine the orthodoxies and policies that have precluded the according of special scrutiny to radical Islamists in mosques and religious schools across America. Most operated with impunity for decades under the exemptions provided by the false gods of "diversity" and "multiculturalism."

A "dividend of political correctness," eh? Well, VDH, Dubya and his handlers were warned by the Clinton administration that al Queda was a major threat. In August 2001, President Stupid probably slept through a briefing detailing how al Queda was planning to use hijacked aircraft to attack targets in the US. Someone noticed, however, and decided reportedly as late as September 7th that Dubya and the majority of the cabinet would be out of Washington on September 11 - "reading to children." Someday a historian of more repute than the failed and fallen Hanson will put the puzzle pieces together. Won't be pretty. Treason never is.

VDH does have a point about radicals of various sorts, but he should remember that his friends the Republicans oppose the shutting down of the immigration firehose that keeps pouring these people into our country.

Is General Clark Ready?

Wesley Clark is, for a large number of reasons, my choice for the Democratic nomination. The main reason, however, is that the Republicans won't be able to successfully deploy their "Democrats are Traitors!" flagwaving bushwah against a four star general who went and got shot at. Clark can win. The latest here.

Virus Update

Here's an important article over at ZDNet advising on how to remove the MSBlast worm from your system! Update Update - tried this at home and it worked perfectly. Whack that worm!

Viruses

Presumably all of us using Windows have the new RPC virus...I'm personally convinced that the only way we will ever stop this garbage is to make the penalties for writing and disseminating viruses and hacking in general absolutely draconian. Cut a few hands off, hand out a few death penalties, it will stop tomorrow. See, I'm not that liberal.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Think, Douglas, Think

Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary to former Senator Bob Dole, and is a self-professed Republican who rose out of poverty. In an op-ed today in the Los Angeles Times, he eloquently argues for a raise to the minimum wage, pointing out "The last time the minimum wage was increased was 1997. Since that time, members of Congress have voted themselves $21,000 in pay raises." Indeed. MacKinnon concludes:

Americans who exist below the poverty line do so mostly because of accidents of birth or circumstances beyond their control. Instead of the Hamptons, they were born in Harlem. Instead of order, they are surrounded by dysfunction. Until you've been there, you have no idea of the pain, humiliation and hopelessness. The poor in the United States are not "non-persons." They have the same hopes, dreams, fears and integrity that the well-to-do have. All they lack is enough money to care for their children and themselves.

Indeed MacKinnon is right, the trouble being most of his fellow Republicans, especially those of the self-professed religious right, the same cretins who are opposing Governor Bob Riley's tax plan in Alabama, believe in social darwinism with an enthusiasm they fail to feel for the gospels they obviously never read. They fully believe that if you're poor, it's your own damn fault; it's because you're lazy, selfish, and stupid. Not because your job has been shipped overseas or been taken by an illegal immigrant who will work for pennies on the dollar, not because you live in the wrong part of the country or the wrong part of town. They believe that if you're poor, you deserve it.

So the question is, as always, what is a decent person like MacKinnon doing identifying himself with these people?

Caligula

I've always thought Caligula would be a useful nickname for our President-Appointee, although I notice Avedon Carol is using aWol (evidently originated over at skippy), which is also pretty good. As for the real Caligula, the Emperor Gaius (Caligula, meaning "little boot," was a nickname given the young Gaius when his father was a legion commander in Germany), archaeologists excavating his palace in Rome have evidently decided that yes, he was a nut, just like Tacitus and Suetonius said 2000 years ago. So much for revisionist historians who have mysteriously been trying to clean up Caligula's image! As for the Dubya/Caligula connection, Caligula thought he was a god, Dubya believes he's doing God's work; it's hard to decide which delusion is the more dangerous. Caligula's maxim, oderint dum metuant (let them hate, so long as they fear) would fit Dubya and his increasingly creepy sidekick Rove perfectly.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Kevin Phillips on the Anti-Bush

I always find what Kevin Phillips has to say interesting (and recommend his recent book Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich unreservedly); his editorial in the Los Angeles Times this morning (warning - tedious registration required, but worth it in this case) discusses some of Dubya's vulnerabilities that only Howard Dean so far seems to have the courage to take advantage of. Phillips believes that Dean probably can't win the nomination, but his presence will force the other Democrats to start looking seriously at several key vulnerabilities of the president, to wit the war, the trashed economy, and Dubya's coziness with the American Taliban, aka the religious right.

...the chance for Dean to educate a lie-weary electorate and doctor its spirit with candor is clearly at hand. And he can do worse than heed the 1968 achievement of another man from a small Northern state who is still remembered for crystallizing national disenchantment with the first Texas president to fib America into a bungled war.

Well worth reading.

Hong Kong Morons

Check this out - a store in Hong Kong thought it was a great idea to produce and promote a line of Nazi-themed clothing. Cute. Imagine the possibilities...Hitler t-shirts, Goebbels sweaters, Himmler lederhosen, all made by slave labor, just like most of the Chinese products you buy now at Wal-Mart.

The company's marketing manager, Deborah Cheng, said the Nazi-themed decorations and clothes were not intended to cause an outcry and may be withdrawn. She said the company had received a few complaints from customers.

"We're seriously considering removing the displays. But before we take them off, we have to find a replacement," she said.

Cheng added that the designer wanted the clothes to have a military theme and did not realize that the Nazi symbols would be considered offensive.

Rrrrriiiight.

More Money Down the Toilet in Iraq

For reasons that escape me, the US occupation authority is planning to purchase 34,000 AK-47 rifles, probably from Poland (one of our glorious coalition partners) to equip the resurgent Iraqi army. Several questions come to mind. For one thing, where are the hundreds of thousands of AK-47s that the Iraqi Army possessed before the war? Certainly many have been lost, but some must still be in armories. In fact, according to the article:

Yet U.S. forces who seized control of Iraq in April have discovered vast stockpiles of never-fired AK-47s, which U.S. officials have said were being warehoused for a future Iraqi army.

At one compound of eight concrete warehouses that a company of the 10th Engineer Battalion found in central Baghdad in mid-April, Los Angeles Times reporters watched soldiers form a chain to fill a truck bed with AK-47s so new the soldiers' hands turned orange from the packing grease.

Secondly, there has been some discussion about equipping a new Iraqi Army with western equipment. In this case, how about whipping out some of the millions of superseded M16A1 rifles lying around in US military storage and letting the Iraqis use them? Oh wait, that's right - those rifles are already paid for.

The Giant Sucking Sound

Here's a useful link. You can use it to find out how many jobs have been lost to NAFTA - the aforementioned giant sucking sound, as Ross Perot used to call it - by company, city, state, or zip code. And these are just the ones taken from the NAFTA Transitional Adjustment Assistance program for workers displaced by NAFTA. The true figure must be many times higher. Out of curiosity, I searched using Ohio as the state. Many of the jobs lost were in small factories in small towns and cities - people needed those jobs to make a decent living, and now they're gone. God bless America. I think not.

Ronald Dumsfeld Mismanages His War

Colonel David Hackworth, a man who, unlike the chickenhawks in Washington, actually went and got shot at, doesn't much like the way Rummy et al are mismanaging the ongoing happy little bloodbath in Iraq, the war that, according to the doyens at the Washington Post (see below), we WEREN'T bamboozled into. To wit:


Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz made a very horrible estimate of the situation. They concluded that the war would be Slam Bam Goodbye Saddam, followed by victory parades with local Iraqi folks throwing flowers and rice and everything nice, then the troops would come home.

When I examined the task organization, my estimate was totally contrary to this asshole Rumsfeld, who went in light and on the cheap, all based upon this rosy scenario. I never thought this would be a fight without resistance. And there was another guy who thought the same way I did; his name is Saddam Hussein. He looked at the awesome array of forces being set up against him and said, "Wait a minute, no way can I prevail, I tried that in '91 and just saw in Afghanistan what happened to Taliban and Al-Qaida, I will run away for another day."


Read the whole thing. It's worth your time.

Where's the Washington Post, and What Did You Do to It?

The WP continues its cretinous drift rightward with a truly asinine editorial this morning whining about Al Gore's recent speech:

Mr. Gore, who not so long ago was describing Iraq as a "virulent threat in a class by itself," validated just about every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left. President Bush, in distorting evidence about the Iraqi threat, was pursuing policies "designed to benefit friends and supporters." The war was waged "at least partly in order to ensure our continued access to oil." And it occurred because "false impressions" precluded the nation from conducting a serious debate before the war.

This notion -- that we were all somehow bamboozled into war -- is part of Mr. Gore's larger conviction that Mr. Bush has put one over on the nation, and not just with regard to Iraq.


Well, WP, we WERE bamboozled into war, and no one with half a brain doubts that. Let's take these claims one by one, briefly:

1. President Bush, in distorting evidence about the Iraqi threat, was pursuing policies "designed to benefit friends and supporters." And what part of this does the Post in its dubious wisdom doubt? Halliburton and Bechtel are, even as we speak, sucking the government teat to the tune of billions of dollars a month in a "reconstruction" effort of, so far, little result (and will someone explain the Halliburton "postman" who was killed in Iraq last week? The Iraqis can't deliver their own flipping mail? Oh wait, then Halliburton would make less money! OK). Would the Post like to point out any non-friends of President Stupid who have benefited? Just one or two? No?

2. The war was waged "at least partly in order to ensure our continued access to oil." No shit, Dick Tracy. If wars were fought for idealistic reasons, we would have sent 7000 Marines to Liberia, not 7!

3. And it occurred because "false impressions" precluded the nation from conducting a serious debate before the war. Again, who in their right mind doubts this? Just this morning newspapers all over the United States - including the WP! - are headlining articles taking the Administration's so-called "evidence" to pieces. It's beginning to look as if the entire pre-war buildup, including Powell's UN speech, was a load of lies, exaggerations, and assorted snippets of bullshit.

To go on and deal with some of the other prevarications in the Post's "editorial:"

4. Mr. Gore believes, for example, that the Patriot Act represents "a broad and extreme invasion of our privacy rights in the name of terrorism." But then how to explain that 98 senators -- including all four Democratic senators now running for president -- voted for it? Um, can you say 9-11? The ridiculously named USA PATRIOT act was shoved through Congress in the days following 9-11, and it's obvious that most of the senators who voted for this thing never even read it, and never understood that it was more aimed at the future suppression of political dissent than at the current terrorism problem.

5. The president's economic and environmental policies represent an "ideologically narrow agenda" serving only "powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who manage to work their way into the inner circle."

But then why do so many other people support those policies? Mr. Gore has an umbrella explanation, albeit one that many Americans might find a tad insulting: "The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to embed in the public mind mythologies. . . . "
First of all, the only people who support Dubya's horrible policies are other Republicans - and usually mostly those of the to the right of Attila the Hun club. And to doubt that the Bushies have an effective propaganda machine is insulting. Hell, it worked on the Post, didn't it?

The Post goes on to cry about how there really was a debate before the war, but in fact the "debate" was laughable, because no matter what, the war was always going to happen, because the Bushies wanted it to happen. All in all, an incredibly asinine performance from the Post, more informed by hatred of Al Gore than by any knowledge of what's really going on in Iraq and in this country. It will be interesting to watch the WP Letters to the Editor column for the next few days.

Jo Fish over at Democratic Veteran has a short, nasty take on this as well.



Saturday, August 09, 2003

Losing the Titanic

Interesting article at the NYT this morning over the deterioration of the Titanic wreck, at least some of which I believe is misleading (particularly the title, "Loving the Titanic to Death" which implies that visits to the wreck are largely or entirely responsible for the gradual disintegration of the ship). For example, Dr. Ballard's statement that he did not expect the Titanic to measurably decay in his lifetime is and always was ridiculous. The ship has been deteriorating since the moment it sank, and comparision with other wrecks, like the Bismarck and the Andrea Doria, show that all wrecks suffer ongoing, gradual decay, particularly of light metal structures like the superstructure, which on Titanic is rapidly disappearing. More useful are the observations of Roy Cullimore, a marine biologist familiar with the wreck who has been doing important work on the rusticle formations (for more on Cullimore's work and discoveries, check out the book Ghosts of the Titanic by Charles Pellegrino). Cullimore suspects that overfishing in the Grand Banks has led to an explosion of microscopic sea life, which apparently are helping "feed" the growth of the rusticle formations (Dr. Pellegrino, who has also visited the wreck, discussed the remarkable appearance of microscopic life in the book mentioned above). There is also an ongoing problem of "pirates" trying to loot the wreck site; this can only be controlled by periodic monitoring overflights by US and Canadian Coast Guard aircraft, which should be put into place as funds and schedules permit. Since the Canadians already closely patrol the Grand Banks, this shouldn't prove to be much of a problem.

Trailers of Death...Rrrrrriiiight

Well, well, well, the cretins at the Defense Intelligence Agency have finally figured out what everyone else with half a flipping brain knew all along, that Dubya's overhyped "trailers of death" found in Iraq were actually hydrogen gas generators designed to fill weather balloons, and sold to Iraq for this purpose years ago by a British firm. Duh.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Sickening

Have a bucket handy, then click here.

"George W. Bush, Naval Aviator." Uh, I think not. A Naval Aviator is someone who goes through a great deal of specialized training to operate from carriers, not an AWOL ex-Air National Guard F-102 pilot whose dead butt is ferried out to the boat in an S-3.

Terminated?

Great article by Peter Bradshaw over at The Guardian this a.m. partly about Ahnold and the below-mentioned dirt and also discussing the cretinism of actors who believe they should be politicians:

Should Arnie run? Should any actor run? When Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson became a Labour MP in the 90s, it was assumed she was going to bring some prototypical New Labour glitz to Westminster. Yet she became one of the most disappointing non-events in the party - not a careerist, not a policy wonk, not a parliamentary performer, not a luvvie. It was as if she was resting. The late Andrew Faulds, actor-turned-MP, also found that a theatrical larger-than-life personality doesn't necessarily work on a political stage. Clint Eastwood got bored of being mayor of Carmel pretty quickly.


And remember, in the deathless words of Ahnold, "Eating isn't cheating." Hey, Bill could have used that line! Except, apparently, that Democratic adultery is so much more serious than the Republican variety....