Friday, October 31, 2003

Military Vote

Phil Carter over at Intel Dump analyzes military voting patterns and concludes that the Democrats may benefit in 2004 - especially if they are smart enough to run General Wesley Clark:

Of all the Democratic candidates, Wes Clark stands in a league all his own for his ability to exploit these issues. Moreover, I think he even stands above President Bush for his personal credibility on these issues. John Kerry may also be able to run with these issues, but not as well as Mr. Clark.

Pretty much my view as well. Check it out. There's always a lot of good stuff at Intel Dump; it should be one of your daily internet stops.

It's An Appropriate Time

...for the assortment of Know Nothings, nitwits, and flat earthers that currently appear to comprise the ruling claque of the Republican Party to be facing their own know nothingism in Congress, as gigantic solar storms pummel Earth while these cretins are faced with hearings on their proposal to, in the House, underfund the NOAA's space weather program and, in the Senate, to eliminate it completely. Insert monkey hoots here. Man, these guys are just really stupid, but of course their opposition to science is necessitated by their fundy world view.

Fortunately the funding will almost certainly be saved - advance warning has certainly minimized the impact of the last weeks' exceptionally powerful solar storms - but we can't expect Nature to always be so timely.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Another Solar Flare

The sun has ejected another solar flare aimed at Earth. This one is expected to hit tomorrow afternoon.

Excerpts From the CAIB Report

Before some congressman asks Sean "I'm here to slash the budget" O'Keefe about the uncomfortable facts buried within the accompanying volumes of the CAIB report and O'Keefe piously repeats his line that "nothing could be done" to save the crew of Columbia, let's read and take to heart this extract from Volume V, Appendix G.12: Crew Survivability:

Acceleration levels seen by the crew module prior to its catastrophic failure were not lethal. LOS occured at 8:59:32. The death of the crewmembers was due to blunt trauma and hypoxia. The exact time of death - sometime after 9:00:19 am Eastern Standard Time - cannot be determined because of the lack of direct physical or recorded evidence.

Failure of the crew module was precipitated by thermal degradation of structural properties that resulted in a catastrophic sequential structural failure that happened very rapidly as opposed to a catastrophic instantaneous "explosive" failure. Crew module separation from the forward fuselage is not an anomalous condition in the case of a vehicle loss of control as has been the case in both 51-L (Challenger) and STS-107 (Columbia).

It is irrefutable, as conclusively determined by items that were recovered in pristine condition whose locations were within close proximity to some crewmembers, that it was possible to attenuate the potentially hostile environment that was present during CM break-up to the point where physically and thermally induced harmful effects were virtually eliminated. This physical evidence makes a compelling argument that crew survival under environmental circumstances seen in this accident could be possible given the appropriate level of physiological and environmental protection.

NASA should investigate techniques that will prevent the structural failure of the CM due to thermal degradation of structural properties and determine their feasability for application.

Translation: we should have fourteen live heroes, not fourteen martyrs. This is fixable. We can save the crew of a shuttle that breaks up on reentry or during ascent. NASA needs to get off its dead ass and do this, and anyone who is an obstacle to progress - the Sean O'Keefes, the Linda Hams - need to go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Orbiter Crew Cabin Can be Improved!

I argued a couple of days ago that modest improvements to crew cabin heat shielding might protect astronauts long enough to survive a Columbia or Challenger-type accident in future and permit them to get to a low enough altitude to bail out on their own chutes. Well, guess what. I was right! This in the Houston Chronicle:

With a more robust design, Columbia's crew compartment might have given the shuttle's seven doomed astronauts a chance at survival, according to materials included in six volumes of documentation made public Tuesday by accident investigators.

The shuttle Columbia disintegrated just south of Dallas-Fort Worth on Feb. 1 at an altitude of more than 200,000 feet. The documents indicate that the crew compartment emerged from the main breakup intact before it was destroyed by aerodynamic heating and structural stresses.

Past NASA studies have shown that crew compartments could be retrofitted with shields and equipment that would allow the compartment to serve as an escape pod for astronauts. (my emphasis)

The crew compartment of the shuttle Challenger also emerged intact when that spacecraft exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on Jan. 28, 1986, 73 seconds after launch.

"Future crewed vehicles should incorporate the knowledge gained from the (Challenger) and (Columbia) mishaps in assessing the feasibility of designing vehicles that will provide for crew survival even in the face of a mishap that results in the loss of the vehicle," the investigative board wrote in a section titled "Crew Survivability."

That finding, incorporated in more than 2,300 pages, was listed as an "observation" and not included as a recommendation in its formal report. But it is likely to fuel debate among policy-makers over whether the remaining shuttles should be retrofitted before launches resume.

We have lost 14 astronauts in what were potentially survivable accidents. The crew of Challenger got to think about this all the way down to the ocean. The crew of Columbia had at least 30 seconds to think about it. Earth to NASA: FIX THIS!!!!

GOP Gay Baiting Tactics in 04

The GOP has basically announced that a major part of its 2004 strategy to whip up the brainless yokels who make up a goodly portion of their red state electorate will be gay baiting in the form of advocating a Constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heteros (over 50% of whom get divorced, but I digress, don't I?). David Neiwert over at Orcinus, as is his usual wont, has a wonderful piece going into deep detail on this issue and its background over the past few years. It's necessary reading!

President Stupid Kicks our Sailors in the Crotch

Remember Dubya landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in his zoomy little S-3, wearing his cute little flightsuit, waving and giving the "thumbs up"? Remember all the happiness and back patting? Remember the whirring sound of Abe Lincoln spinning in Illinois? OK, I made that last one up. Lastly, remember the big "Mission Accomplished" sign? Well, now that it's obvious that Mission ain't Accomplished, President Stupid claims:

The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way.

And if you believe this piece of Presidential buck-passing (Jesus! "Blame the troops." What next?!), I have some excellent swampfront property you may find highly interesting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Illegal Immigation Can't Remain PC Forever

Georgie Anne Geyer has written a great piece about illegal immigration. Immigration, legal and otherwise, is unfortunately still a "PC" topic in the US. We're all supposed to favor immigration because the vast majority of us are indeed descended from immigrants. Big business and their Republican thralls love immigration, illegal and otherwise, because it forces wages and benefits down. The Democrats profess to approve because they believe immigrants vote Democratic. The nasty facts are that immigration, illegal and otherwise, forces wages and benefits down and Americans out of work; it causes massive overcrowding in schools; many new immigrants have no desire to "melt" and refuse to learn English; and of course immigration is the only - repeat the only - thing leading inexorably to a massive population explosion in this country over the next 50 years that will rape our environment and likely destroy American democracy as well. And only a teeny tiny percentage of these people have to be terrorists.... Geyer wonders if finally Americans are beginning to wake up to the crock we've been fed since the 1960s changes in the immigration laws.

As more and more illegals crowd the nation, probably an estimated 9 million today, the complaints from citizens become personal, particularly since so many immigrants do not even attempt to live by American norms and standards. Americans resent the fact that 18 states now give driver's licenses to illegals; and since 47 states permit voting registration through driver's license, illegals can easily vote – it's illegal, but the politicians surely don't care.

More and more, too, Americans living in high-density illegal immigrant territory complain bitterly about hit-and-run drivers among the illegals. California's rate of hit-and-run fatalities is twice the national rate, largely due to drunken driving by unlicensed illegals.

Still, what I noted at this year's conference was not only the difference in the Luntz polling conclusions from California, but a new urgency among immigration control groups and individuals.

As military philosopher Victor Hanson Davis, author of the recent book "Mexifornia," told the group: "We are in the 11th hour in California."

Or: "I believe with all my heart that massive illegal immigration into our country is a dagger pointed at our heart," Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado said to the group. "It will determine whether we are to be a country – or not."

Amen. It has to stop.

Archaeology Update

Two amateur archaeologists, F. Andrew Wolfe, an engineer at SUNY, and his friend Denis Foley, an anthropologist at Union College, have been busy discovering buried remnants of the historic Erie Canal. Thought to have been destroyed, the men have learned through exploration and research that much of the canal was simply buried after it fell out of use and was covered over in the 1950s. This is fascinating work and will recover for our time some really interesting 19th century American history.

In another effort to recover lost history, the NYT reports on tours of the remains of New York's once majestic Pennsylvania Station, a glorious piece of architecture based on the Roman baths of Caracalla, that, in an unforgivable act of vandalism and stupidity, was leveled in the 1960s. But the underground portions of the station survived and are still a train station, and here and there are hints, teasing glimpses of the glory that once stood there. Tours are held the fourth Monday of every month, and sound fascinating; worth a look if you live in or are visiting NYC.

At Mount Vernon, the Distilled Spirits Council is restoring the distillery built there by the honored Father of our Country, George Washington. To celebrate the event, using the President's personal recipe, Jim Beam Master Distiller Jerry Dalton and helpers, dressed in appropriate 18th century style, whipped up a batch of presidential whiskey. The whiskey, described as being "spicy and aromatic," will be aged and bottled, and sold to benefit Mount Vernon.

Solar Storm

An exceptionally powerful solar flare erupted from the sun earlier today, and the ensuing cloud of supercharged particles is likely to wreak havoc when it arrives in the vicinity of Earth sometime tomorrow. Power grids may be disrupted (a solar storm in 1989 knocked out the entire Quebec grid) along with satellite communications and even cell phone calls. Auroral displays may be visible much farther south than normal. Aboard the space station, commander Mike Foale and his partner, cosmonaut Alexander Kareli, are taking shelter in the station's Zvezda module during the 20 minutes of each orbit that take the station into the thinnest parts of Earth's protective magnetosphere. The crew is not expected to be in danger if they take these precautions.

Republicans Please Read

Thom Hartmann over at Common Dreams joins the legion of people, some Democrats, some Republicans, who know that moderate, intelligent Republicans need to take back their party from the legions of Know Nothings, fundies, and Grover Norquist cretins who currently are in charge and ramming this country and any conception of democracy straight into the ground.

In the years since then, the Republican Party has been seized by Ayn Rand utopians, Pat Roberson fundamentalists, and the largest and dirtiest of America's corporate elite. They've trashed the values of Lincoln and Eisenhower, rejected Jesus' words in Matthew 25, and turned our commons into a dumping ground while using our nation's treasury as a honey pot.

At the same time, there's a growing concern that George W. Bush's projected quarter-billion-dollar campaign war chest, and demonstrated willingness to use Big Lie techniques and October Surprise wars, will be enough to induce national amnesia in 2004, destroy the last vestiges of a civil society, and permanently turn our nation into the land of the observed and the home of the worried-about-the-terror-alert.

And, so, those of us "on the left" ask our Republican friends: Please take your party back from these fanatics, before it's too late for America to ever again be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Amen. Share with your conservative friends.

Bend Over II

David Brooks this morning in the NYT takes on the asinine sweetheart deal that certain congressional Repugs are trying to ram through to force the government to pay billions more than the airplanes are worth to Boeing to lease (not buy, lease) 100 767 airliners to convert to Air Force tanker aircraft.

The main critique is that it is ridiculously expensive to lease planes, rather than buy them. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the leasing option will cost taxpayers an extra $5.6 billion, though scandal connoisseurs will appreciate that the deal also involves the use of "special purpose entities," the accounting mechanisms used by Enron executives in their glory days.

But the content of the legislation is as pure as the driven snow, compared with the way it has been pushed through Washington. The chief Air Force official pushing the deal was Darleen Druyun. As The Washington Post reported yesterday, Druyun has recently left the Air Force and gone to work for Boeing. She sold her $692,000 northern Virginia home to a Boeing lawyer. Her daughter works for Boeing. None of this may be illegal or even wrong, but is this what makes you proud to be an American?

This deal stinks like rotten meat, friends. Oppose, oppose, oppose.

Bend Over

Prepare to shell out big tax bucks so stupid Californians can rebuild in fire zones. Funny how we always find money for this kind of bull$#*!....

Safe Return

Crew 7 has returned safely from the space station aboard their Russian Soyuz capsule, which landed on target in Kazakhkstan. Mission commander Yuri Malenchenko and astronaut Ed Lu were accompanied by ESA astronaut Pedro Duques. Remaining aboard the station are current commander Mike Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kareli.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Bishop Robinson

Word is that FBI protection has been placed around Bishop-elect Gene Robinson as some of his "Christian" opponents have made death threats against him. Hey, the Lord is really proud of you morons! Meanwhile, Reverend Brill over at The Right Christians has provided a few useful links in this ongoing and inane controversy.

The Dismal Future of the Shuttle Program

NASA is currently digesting the CAIB report and planning the future of the shuttle program. Unfortunately, what is almost certain to happen is that the shuttle will patched up, fly a few more years, and then be replaced solely by some kind of capsule. There will be no "pickup truck," no "big rig," the other two necessary vehicles of a space program troika (the "pickup truck" being a reusable vehicle, probably unmanned, to carry heavy supplies to the space station, the "big rig," either manned or unmanned, reusable or expendable, a large booster to lift heavy payloads like space station modules and parts for potential lunar or Mars missions).

But to dump the shuttle program may be misguided and wasteful. The vehicle certainly can be upgraded and improved in safety. Instead, NASA seems likely to limit the shuttle to missions only to the space station, and launches only in daylight. A mission to recover the Hubble telescope and return it for honored retirement in the Smithsonian has been explicitly abandoned, and I would not be greatly surprised if the planned Hubble servicing mission follows. It's just not necessary to abandon the shuttle yet.

Studies of Columbia need to be made to determine, for example, how the crew module can be improved and made survivable. It's obvious in both Challenger and Columbia accidents that the crew pod, the strongest part of the orbiter apart from the aft engine mounts, separated from the rest of the orbiter airframe in one piece, perfectly intact. Since in an aerodynamic failure of this kind the crew pod will clearly survive, it would seem fairly easy to add parachutes for a controlled descent, giving the crew time to bail out on their own (each crewman currently wears a parachute). This simple addition would have saved the entire Challenger crew, who were alive until ocean impact. The remains of Columbia's crew pod should be studied closely to determine how long it remained intact and how an ablative coating might be added to protect the capsule until again, parachutes can open and the crew bail out as the capsule descends into the lower reaches of the atmosphere. There has been not a bloody word from NASA, an agency utterly blinded by lack of vision, on either of these possibilities. If they're impossible, let us know why. If they're possible, get to work!

Secondly, the performance of the entire shuttle system can obviously be improved, making up for weight lost to crew pod improvements and also eliminating the dangerous "return to launch site" abort scenario. Last Thursday, ATK Thiokol tested the most powerful solid rocket motor ever fired - a five segment version of the four segment shuttle solid booster. This booster was rated at an incredible 3.2 million pounds of thrust, compared to the 2.6 million pounds of thrust of the standard shuttle booster. This would so improve first stage performance as to ensure that any launch abort could land in Spain, rather than make the risky turn around to try a landing at KSC. But we read in the article that, no surprise, there is no plan to fly this new booster.

NASA truly needs a swift kick in the ass.

George Gets Ready to Kick Butt!

George Steinbrenner, the wacky owner of the Yankees, must have watched the World Series with the same kind of bemused disbelief as many of us. Two Yankees provided almost all of the offense - Jeter and Williams - while the much-touted Alfonso Soriano reverted to his usual form of swinging at crap (I saw this guy play in Columbus for two years and the joke was "which Soriano is playing - the good one or the bad one?" Often both Sorianos appeared in the same game!). David Wells bragged of leaving conditioning to others and then left a game after one inning with back spasms. Aaron Boone was a remarkable study in futility.

“Of course I was disappointed, but we will be meeting soon to make whatever changes are needed to bring back a stronger, better team for New York and our fans,” Steinbrenner said in a statement Sunday. “You can count on it.”

You go, George.

Terror in Iraq

What began as a guerilla campaign against American troops has pretty much completed its conversion to a campaign of pure terrorism aimed mostly at Iraqis, as the first day of Ramadan was "celebrated" by multiple bombings in Baghdad that have killed scores of people. One of the worst attacks was against the Baghdad offices of the International Red Crescent, where many people were killed, almost exclusively Iraqi civilians. It's evident that the attacks were aimed at people who the terrorists feel are cooperating with the American occupiers, namely the Red Crescent and Iraqi police stations, the message being blunt - cooperate and die.

American military efforts appear increasingly futile in the face of these attacks, and it's obvious that something has to change very quickly before the situation gets entirely out of control and the mass of Iraqis are successfully turned against us. The current leadership at the Pentagon needs to be overhauled - something that is long overdue - and the organization and operations of the occupation forces need to be studied closely and possibly changed. It's worth noting that the British appear to have had fewer problems in their area of occupation, and that should get a look at well.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

End of an Era

It's incredible that our time is so decadent that we can voluntarily retreat from progress. As Concorde makes its final flight, replaced by an aircraft a generation obsolete, other voices screech for an end to the space station and the shuttle program. Ugly buildings are built of concrete, steel, and brick because we are so intellectually broke as a civilization that we shun materials of permanence. We even have new buildings - there are several here in Columbus, including a new fire station down the street from me - that are built with fake bricked-in windows - to me the utter depth of decadence. Social programs are regressing to medieval levels; we have returned to the ancient belief that the poor are poor because they deserve to be so. Can we rise again from the mud and dirt of the streets to look up? Andrew Nahum, a curator at the Science Museum, and David Ashford, director of Bristol Spaceplanes LId, discuss the possibilities in an interesting series of emails published in The Guardian. It's well worth a look, as both men bring up important points. A civilization that looks down is dead. A civilization that looks up survives and thrives. Right now, the Chinese are looking up. Who wants to be ruled by them? Think about it; history is not over, it's an important question.

Creepy Repugs Focus on Bashing Gays

As has become usual, the GOP is preparing to take the lowest road possible in the 2004 election and apparently intend to indulge and encourage red America's penchant for gay bashing. In fact, some right wing "Christian" groups give opposing gay unions a higher importance than banning abortion.

Party strategists said the issue could be a bonanza for mobilizing conservatives to fund campaigns and turn out to vote, particularly in the South. Conservative groups said they plan to challenge candidates to sign a pledge in support of a constitutional amendment precluding gay marriage, then use the results -- along with votes Republicans hope to force in the House and Senate -- as a wedge against Democrats.

Charming, isn't it? And unfortunately many Democrats will fall into line and tacitly bash gays in return. It's amazing that no one has the courage to recognize that this is basically a replay of the civil rights battles that followed World War II, with many of the same arguments being tediously rolled out (the arguments against gay marriage in particular are practically identical to the arguments used by the same kind of right wing fruitcakes against interracial marriage). And, although the right wing fruitcakes don't realise it, very soon they will be regarded with the same kind of amazed contempt that their Jim Crow predecessors are. In the meantime, though, it's going to be ugly. And damned dangerous to be gay or lesbian.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Smoking the Wacky Weed in the UK?

Carrie Gibson writes in The Guardian today about a bizarre new fashion trend in the UK: dressing like American...um, I don't know a polite word for "white trash." Sorry.

It can be somewhat disconcerting to walk down my high street. Men stroll past wearing US-style gas station attendant shirts with round patches that say Ed, or Bubba. Or some have T-shirts that say "I Love Daytona Beach" or "Eat at Jimbo's BBQ". These guys all seem to have baseball caps on, too, usually advertising something like a fishing tackle shop on the front, with camouflage around the side. And the hats, more often than not, sit on top of mullets that look straight out of 1979.

But it's not just the men. Women totter by on 1980s, brightly coloured high heels, and I hear the clank of chunky, cheap plastic bracelets. It's not unlike finding yourself as an extra for a film set on a trailer park in the US. Except that I'm not in Redneckville, Georgia - I'm in London's trendy Shoreditch.

And this is what passes for "fashion" in Tony Blair's smoking remains of England, eh? Gibson goes on to note:

The landscape of the deep south - where I grew up - is dotted with trailers standing alone or grouped in parks, with painfully optimistic names such as Green Meadows or Happy Valley. In these often tattered, tired rusty boxes you find people who live in the richest nation on earth, but are relegated to living in a tin box, ostracised by their poverty in the land of plenty.

Even in the US there is a smiling contempt for the underclass. There is a whole industry based on being poor, uneducated and naff, with trailer-park spoof websites (jolenestrailerpark.com) and cookery books: try Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Cook Book. And, of course, country music - how about Sammy Kershaw's She's the Queen of My Doublewide Trailer?

Rather than demand that the US government try to provide a decent welfare state for its poorest people, it is easier for the middle classes to mock them simply because they have failed to attain the American dream of a house, a couple of nice cars and well-dressed children. They are poor, and powerless; hence they are fair game for our contempt. We also inflict this mocking attitude not just on Americans but on ourselves, too. For instance, the scally craze, with its council estate chic - white trainers, gold jewelry and a shell suit - is set for a comeback.

There seems to be some sort of assumption that these unfashionable, poor people have chosen to live in a house on wheels; to drive clapped-out Camaros; to wear tacky clothes; to have out-of-date hairstyles. But here, we choose to don a costume of poverty because we can afford to, and we don't even consider what it must be like for those who can't.

How come that it's socially acceptable to emulate the struggling poor of America, or even Britain? And why stop there? How about even more destitute people? Maybe a warzone look. Or refugee chic? Could be the thing for next spring. Some torn and tattered clothes, with shoes optional. Perhaps a rusty AK-47 as the perfect finishing touch. What next: an ironic dinner party serving up Red Cross rice?

Strong writing. This is almost as cracked as the charming habit of wealthy white kids in this country to emulate hip hop gangsta style and its contempt for law and learning. Once upon a time people wished to emulate the wealthy and successful. Now they ape society's losers. Why? Because it's so much easier to fail?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A Conservative Reviews Al Franken's Book

...and it's not quite what you expect it to be. Becky Miller, a former aide to Bill Sizemore (a well known anti-tax lunatic in Oregon), writing in The Oregonian, gives the book a rave review and says:

The other day on talk radio, I heard a guy tell an incredulous Lars Larson that he wouldn't believe Rush Limbaugh was a drug addict involved in a drug ring even if Limbaugh himself admitted it. If you're that guy, don't bother reading Franken's book. You will really just drive yourself even more crazy.

The leaders we conservatives have trusted have taken advantage of our trust to line the pockets of the wealthy and powerful, and it's time we rose up and drove out these greedy liars. They've hijacked and distorted our belief system for their own gain, and in doing so are destroying our credibility.

And if we decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservatives of this country neglect the duty we have to our children and grandchildren, we will never be able to work with those decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue liberal Americans that these lying creeps have taught us to despise. We will never be safe to debate them or, when warranted, to listen to them and maybe even agree with them. We will never be safe to work out our differences or to work together. And we will never be able to build on the all-American sense of unity that burst forth following 9/11, only to disappear shortly thereafter in a cloud of lying, greedy partisan politics.

I'm still a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative. But Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of you lying liars -- I'm through with you!

A small but necessary shot in the battle for the soul of the GOP.

Winston Smith Hard at Work at Minitrue

In an effort to spin the news media other than Faux into believing that everything is just ducky in Iraq, the minions of our President Appointee have forbidden the press to visit Iraqi hospitals at all and Iraqi morques without an armed bully boy in uniform accompanying them, guaranteeing that any morque attendent will say only what the military wants him to say:

According to the Oct. 8 Daily Threat Assessment - the Coalition's internal casualty report, which was shown to NEWSWEEK - eight soldiers were wounded seriously enough to be evacuated to military hospitals. Yet at a press conference the next day, there was no mention of the attack. Pushed by reporters, U.S. officials would only say the incident was under investigation. It was as if the ambush, and the casualties, had never happened.

In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city's hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day's dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren't accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters' questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis.

Freedom of the press, huh? Evidently no one in the Administration knows of Orwell's dictum that "Democracy, if it means anything at all, means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear," and wouldn't follow it if they did.

Of course the control of the press isn't the only problem. Spinning not over-bright Repug congressthings is another clever Minitrue tactic:

Yet reporters who covered the war say that some of the Coalition's achievements are less impressive than they sound. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, proudly announced the reopening of Iraq's schools this month, while White House officials point to the opening of Iraq's 240 hospitals. In fact, many schools were already open in May, once major combat ended, and no major hospital closed during the war. But that didn't stop a group of Republican senators from tearing into American reporters covering Iraq earlier this month. "I was not told by the media... that thousands and thousands of Iraqi schoolchildren went back to school," said Larry Craig of Idaho, who recently toured Iraq. The senator neglected to mention that he slept both nights of his trip in Kuwait, not Iraq.

Meanwhile, Atrios helpfully points out that the US military has jiggered the casualty count to refer only to those killed, rather than the traditional definition of killed, wounded, and missing. This conveniently draws a discreet sheet over the number of 20 something amputees rapidly piling up in military hospitals. And, in yet another vile corner of our conduct of Operation Iraqi "Freedom," we have the military's charming treatment of wounded soldiers returning from the war:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), co-chair of the 83-member U.S. Senate National Guard Caucus, has dispatched a member of his staff to investigate reports that hundreds of wounded or sick Guard and Reserve soldiers -- many, who have returned from service in Iraq -- are living in inadequate barracks and facing poor medical conditions.

All are on "medical hold" while their medical conditions are assessed. The majority of the reservists reportedly have returned from service in Iraq; others were not sent to Iraq while their conditions are evaluated.

According to print and broadcast reports, the Army is housing more than 600 members of the National Guard and Reserve, who are on active duty with the 3rd Infantry Division, in extremely austere conditions at their base in Fort Stewart, Ga. The New York Times Tuesday reported that they are housed in cinderblock training barracks that lack indoor sanitary facilities and showers, air-conditioning, and even window screens. The news stories also reported that the veterans have received inadequate medical attention despite their "medical hold" status.

And Americans continue to put up with this shit. God help us. And God help our soldiers.

The Greatest Generation

This link is the obituary of my Uncle Russ, who was a special man to his entire family. In the 30s he was in the CCC, then became a pattern maker. During World War II, his was an exempted occupation - he was not draftable - but feeling that he should serve, he volunteered, became an artilleryman, served with the Third Army and was decorated with the Bronze Star. All of my uncles were veterans of the Second World War; I have only one left. I remember when they were men in their prime, building this country. Now they are fading, and we are all, not just their relatives, the poorer for their loss.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Legalized Gambling = Tax the Poor

The Washington Post has a strong editorial against Maryland's desire to introduce slot machines to supplement its lottery. The Post points out, as few sources ever do, that lotteries and legalized gambling are pure and simply a tax on the poor, and should be opposed always and firmly.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Norquist Wants America to Look Just Like Alabama

After voters foolishly rejected Governor Bob Riley's Alabama tax reform plan, the budget axes in the state came out, and services are being slashed to the point of extinction. Adam Cohen makes the point in the NYT this morning that Alabama is exactly what morons like Grover Norquist want the rest of America to look like; a sea of poverty with a few rich icebergs floating on top.

The nation is facing precisely the same issues as Alabama. The Bush administration has tried to delude the public into thinking we can fight a war, rebuild Iraq, fix our schools, get prescription drug benefits and still enjoy the largest tax cut in history. But the deficit cannot grow forever. Eventually, we will have to pay more or, as "starve the beast" proponents hope, do with much less.

Last month, Alabama voted for fewer social services, less education, and a shoddier legal system — to become, that is, more like a third-world nation. But low as taxes are, the state will never be better at being an underdeveloped country than actual underdeveloped countries are. Alabama's best chance, and the nation's, is to invest in its people and civic institutions, the things that set America apart.

Governor Riley's setback last month is being hailed by national antitax forces as a great victory. But if Alabama heads into next year without additional revenues, students may have to learn without textbooks, prisoners may be released early, and people may start dying of preventable diseases. We should all pay attention, because if the "starve the beast" crowd continues to prevail in Washington, as goes Alabama so may go the nation.

Exactly. Interestingly, a new poll suggests that Americans are beginning to wake up to the pound foolishness of people like Norquist; 62 percent of Americans now believe that a taxpayer-funded single-payer system is the answer to our health care crisis. Chew on that, Grover, and go away.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

On the Way!

Astronaut Mike Foale, Cosmonaut Alexander Kareli, and ESA Astronaut Pedro Duques from Spain have blasted off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the International Space Station. Foale and Kareli will replace the current ISS crew, Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Astronaut Ed Lu. Duques will remain on the station for ten days performing experiments, then return with Malenchenko and Lu. This will be the sixth flight for Mike Foale, the fourth for Kareli, who has 416 days in space aboard Mir to his credit, and the second flight for Duques.

Friday, October 17, 2003

China Space Plans

Although I predicted below another Shenzhou flight in about six months, the Chinese are claiming another flight in "one to two years." That's odd. Either there were problems during the flight, problems with the capsule (is there a problem with the life support that prevents longer flights, or flights with more than one astronaut at the moment?), or China is either incredibly cautious or just lying. The Chinese are said to be working on a much larger booster that may be connected to their intention to orbit a space station and their lunar plans. More here and here.

Goat and Bambino Still Effective After All These Years!

Heh heh heh. Go Yankees!

Bush I Makes a Point to Bush II

Former President George H.W. Bush is a very different man from his erstwhile eldest who currently infests the White House. Bush I was a principled Republican who knew that coalitions are better than going it alone, a man who read the papers himself and made his own decisions, a man who went to WWII, got shot at, and even got shot down as the youngest Navy pilot of the conflict. We can disagree on his policies, but the first President Bush is a decent man who served his country well in the Navy, as a senator, as head of the CIA, and as Vice President and President. Now, President Bush I appears to be making a point that even his pointed-headed son might notice. Senator Edward M. Kennedy has been selected for the 2003 George Bush Excellence in Publc Service Award, which he will receive November 7th at the Bush Library.

Is President Bush I taking the first shot in the necessary war for the soul of the Republican Party? If so, he couldn't have chosen a better moment - or a better subject for this award than a senator who is both noted for his long public service, and his criticism of Bush II's foolish war. The award makes the point, I believe, that Bush I, unlike the duckspeakers, the swarming neocons, and the religious maniacs who have taken over the GOP, knows that the Democrats are not traitors. It's past time something like this happened, and we can hope it's only the beginning of the battle to free the GOP from the pests who have stolen it.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Right Wing Loony Alert!

...and this one is, yes, in the Pentagram! Lt. General William Boykin is a deputy Undersecretary in the Defense Department who casts the war against terrorism in even starker terms than the usual "us vs. them" rhetoric coming from the White House and its minions:

Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. ... And the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Call the men in white jackets, please. And, in this corner of the loony bin, we have the President of Malaysia, happily living down to General Boykin's impressions:

In his attack at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Mahathir said Jews ruled the world and got others to fight and die for them, but added that they would not be able to defeat the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.

"We are actually very strong, 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them," he said.

Cripes. Maybe Boykin has a point.

Below Contempt

...the Cubs, that is, who squandered a 3-1 lead in the NLCS. Baaah!

Volcano Danger

Vulcanologist Bill McGuire discusses Italy's preparations - in reality the lack thereof - for future eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in The Guardian today. He also helpfully points out some other danger zones, including three in the United States:

Yellowstone
Over the past 2m years, Yellowstone in Wyoming has hosted three gigantic eruptions, each of which formed a giant crater, or caldera. Recently, a large swelling has been detected beneath Yellowstone lake, possibly reflecting an accumulation of steam that may blast a crater through the crust. The area has been closed to tourists.

Mammoth Lakes
This part of northern California's Long Valley caldera has been particularly restless since 1980, increasing worries over a future eruption. Scientists at the Long Valley observatory stress that in any single year the chances of an eruption are small, but agree that recent earthquake swarms, ground swelling and releases of carbon dioxide increase the chances of an eruption in the near future.

Three Sisters
Sometime after 1996, the ground surface started to swell in this volcanic region of Oregon. By 2000, uplift had reached 10cm and swelling is continuing at about 2cm a year. Scientists interpret this as evidence of magma accumulation at around 6-7km depth and warn that continuation of uplift may lead to an eruption.

Scientists have been watching the Mammoth Lakes area closely for several years, and now Yellowstone is starting to give anxiety. A modern eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would, simply put, destroy the entire United States, and the situation needs to be monitored very closely.

Chinese Flight Ends Successfully

Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei has returned to earth safely after 14 orbits in the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, landing only 3 miles from the selected spot in Outer Mongolia. Expect China to carefully analyze the results from this flight, and fly again within 6 months or so.

Astronaut Ed Lu and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko aboard the International Space Station welcomed the flight. Malenchenko commented, "I am glad to have somebody else in space instead of me and Ed," while Lu, whose parents are from China, greeted the flight in Chinese. It is possible in future that Shenzhou capsules may visit the ISS.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Important Post

The Smirking Chimp has published a letter from Ernest Partridge to an unnamed Republican friend of his begging moderate Republicans to take back their party, something I agree with 100%. If you are a Republican who truly believes in the system established by the founders, if you believe the principles of great Republicans like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, you need to take your party back from the Know Nothings and near-fascists who are so visible as the "soul of the GOP" today.

The right wing has repudiated our tradition of civic friendship, and instead regards its political opponents as "traitors." Liberal policies are condemned, not merely as erroneous or misguided, but as "evil." Politics today has become "warfare by other means," wherein it is not enough to defeat one's opponents in a fair election; the opponent must be destroyed. Witness the attacks on the Clintons, and on John McCain in the South Carolina primary of 2000.

Worth sharing with your Republican friends. They need to take their party back - we can't do it for them. Thanks to Avedon Carol at The Sideshow for the link.

It Takes the Brits

...to cover important news in the US, apparently. The US media, apart from the blogsphere, has pretty much been ignoring the threat that electronic voting machines made by Republican donors present to the future of democracy in this country, yet another fine example of our media preferring to pretend that our nude system is decently clothed. This article appeared in The Independent:

Roxanne Jekot, who has put much of her professional and personal life on hold to work on the issue full time, puts it even more strongly. "Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters. That's why there's such a drive to control the vote. What we're seeing is the corporatisation of the last shred of democracy.

"I feel that unless we stop it here and stop it now," she says, "my kids won't grow up to have a right to vote at all."

It's long and detailed. Please read and share with your friends. And thanks to my friend Larry for pointing out the link!

China in Orbit!

China's first manned spaceflight, Shenzhou 5, took off from the Jiuquan launch site atop a Long March 2-F booster at 9 pm EDT last night, and astronaut Yang Liwei, a 38 year old pilot and lieutenant colonel in the Chinese armed forces, is reported to be in good spirits as the flight proceeds. Landing is expected around 7 pm EDT this evening after 14 orbits. Like Russian capsules, the Shenzhou will land on earth, not water, somewhere in Inner Mongolia.

Although this first flight is naturally a cautious one, China's program appears to be extremely ambitious - considerably more so than ours at the moment - , and space writer James Oberg reports on the possible future for China in space here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Billions for Iraq, Zilch for Body Armor

Phil Carter has been following the controversy engendered by the lack of sufficient Interceptor body armor for the troops in Iraq. Interceptor armor, unlike the older Vietnam era vests, can stop assault rifle bullets and has been proven to save lives in action in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the military doesn't seem to have enough money to buy enough vests for all the soldiers, and some of the troops have been buying civilian body armor with their own funds and having it shipped to them. As Phil points out, this is a ridiculous situation.

When the decision was made to invade Iraq in late 2002, this shortfall could/should have been identified, and dealt with. The blame for that mistake starts with Army logisticians and runs all the way up the chain of command to the E-Ring of the Pentagon and to Congress. The job of logisticians is to anticipate requirements and move resources to the right time and place on the battlefield to influence the fight. Clearly, this requirement was not anticipated, or decisionmakers at various levels decided to ignore this requirement.

As a nation, we have let our soldiers down by sending them into harm's way without this equipment. Our soldiers can make do without a lot of creature-comforts when necessary, but this is absolutely mission-essential equipment that no soldier should have crossed the LD without. What's even worse is that the distribution of this gear has been inequitable thus far, with reservists worse off than active units, and some active units worse off than others. I've received no less than a dozen e-mails from reservists saying they were told they would get this gear only after every active-duty soldier got it. (Query: is there any legitimate distinction between an active-duty soldier and mobilized reservist when you're both deployed to a combat zone?)

What is especially asinine about this penny-wise pound-foolishness is that an Interceptor vest is cheaper than any wound - these vests not only protect our soldiers, they save the government money in the long run!

Just more proof, as if any were needed, that the Administration's claim to love and take care of the troops is a pile of steaming hooey.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Chinese Astronauts Arrive at Launch Site

As China prepares for its first manned spaceflight, scheduled for this week, three astronauts have arrived at the launch site. Although the Shenzhou spacecraft, like the Soyuz it is derived from, can carry three, it is widely assumed that only one astronaut will make the initial flight.

NRA Hit List

Remember when the NRA was a respected organization promoting gun safety and hunter's rights, before the assault weapon/cop killer bullet loonies took over? Yeah, me too. Well, Bob Herbert finds himself on the NRA's hit list:

The National Rifle Association doesn't call it an enemies list, but deep in the recesses of the organization's Web site is a long, long compilation of the names of groups and individuals that the N.R.A. considers unfriendly.

I'm happy to report that I'm on the list, but my name is truly one among very many. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. is there, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Children's Defense Fund and the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs are there. The United States Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Y.W.C.A. of the U.S.A. are all there.

Among the celebrities on the list are Dr. Joyce Brothers, Candice Bergen, Walter Cronkite, Doug Flutie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Vinny Testaverde, Moon Zappa and the Temptations.

Also on the list are the Kansas City Chiefs, Hallmark Cards, the Sara Lee Corporation, Ben & Jerry's, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

I'm sure there's a method to the N.R.A. madness, but to tell you the truth, all I can see is the madness.

Doug Flutie? Vinny Testaverde? The Kansas City Chiefs? Good God, is the NFL a haven of anti-gunners?! Cripes,who's smoking what?

The NRA just needs to go away.

The Greatest?

Now that Michael Schumacher has captured his record sixth World Driving Championship, there are a lot of people claiming that the German is the greatest Formula One driver of all time. The BBC mildly disputes that here, and I would be inclined to suggest that Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio was indeed the greatest - in the 1950s he won the World Championship five times, in an era not marked by single team dominance as the 90s have been, and also won just under 50% of all the races he entered.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

More Republican Treason

David Neiwert over at Orcinus covers a Colorado state offical who is passing out right wing extremist literature at the taxpayer's expense. The fact that the GOP refuses to purge itself of nutcases like this - and the maniacs who wrote the 2000 Texas GOP platform - says a lot, doesn' it?

Un-flipping Believable

Just when you think that the cretins in charge in Washington can't possibly get any more cretinous, something like this rears its exceptionally ugly head:

The Bush administration is proposing far-reaching changes to conservation policies that would allow hunters, circuses and the pet industry to kill, capture and import animals on the brink of extinction in other countries.

Giving Americans access to endangered animals, officials said, would feed the gigantic U.S. demand for live animals, skins, parts and trophies, and generate profits that would allow poor nations to pay for conservation of the remaining animals and their habitat.

This and other proposals that pursue conservation through trade would, for example, open the door for American trophy hunters to kill the endangered straight-horned markhor in Pakistan; license the pet industry to import the blue fronted Amazon parrot from Argentina; permit the capture of endangered Asian elephants for U.S. circuses and zoos; and partially resume the trade in African ivory. No U.S. endangered species would be affected.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph...isn't it time, past time, that the "gigantic U.S. demand" for EVERYTHING just be shut the hell off? Kiss the following animals goodbye, folks, so rich parasites can get a big kick out of killing them and hanging them on their &*^%ing wall:

The proposal identified several species:

• Morelet's crocodile, an endangered freshwater crocodile found in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Its skin is prized by U.S. leather importers.

• The endangered Asian elephant of India and Southeast Asia. The declining population in U.S. breeding programs "has raised a significant demand among the [U.S.] zoo and circus community," the proposal said.

• The Asian bonytongue, a valuable aquarium fish, found in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

• The straight-horned markhor, an endangered wild goat in Pakistan distinguished by corkscrew-shaped horns. According to the proposal, "allowing a limited number of U.S. hunters an opportunity to import trophies from this population could provide a significant increase in funds available for conservation."

And of course, friends, lurking behind this monstrous proposal is, no surprise, a big donator to Dubya and the Repugs:

Safari Club International gave $274,000 to candidates during the 2000 election cycle, 86 percent of it to Republicans. It also spent $5,445 printing bumper stickers for the Bush presidential campaign. Monson has made a variety of contributions himself, including $1,000 to the Bush for President campaign.

Teresa Telecky, former director of the wildlife trade program at the Humane Society, blamed lobbying by Safari Club International and other special interest groups for a "sea change" in conservation policy. "The approach of this administration is it is all right to kill endangered or threatened species or capture them from the wild so long as somebody says there would be some conservation benefit," she said.

Our best bet to stop this insanity? Vote these shits out. Whether you're a Democrat, an independent, or a Republican with a brain - and you're out there - we need a massive get out the vote effort in 2004 to get these hogs out of office.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Repugs Insanely Out of Control

This could be a continuing feature as the GOP continues its rampage across the smoking remains of the United States...

Repugs steal Texas here:

Fortson appeared to take special delight in writing about what he predicted would be the fate of two Texas Democrats, Frost and Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . .," he wrote before describing how the plan would affect their districts.

Discussing Frost's district, which runs between Fort Worth and Dallas, Fortson said, "It simply disappears." He said black voters in Fort Worth would be shifted into a Republican-dominated district, black voters in Dallas would be sent to a nearby district that is already heavily black, and Hispanic voters would be moved into another GOP district.


Repugs crap all over congressional Democrats here:

The partisan reprisal would trash the standing 60-40 formula for sharing projects and, even more, punish taxpayers in Democratic districts for the votes of their representatives.

The redoubtable Kevin Drum comments further on Repug insanity here:

Every party has extremist elements. I can live with that, especially since most extremist elements have little actual power. But some political movements are so odious that decent people need to take active measures to shun them. In the same way that Democrats purged their party of communists in the 40s and Jim Crow racists in the 60s, and the Republicans purged their party of the Buchananites in the 90s, Republicans need to purge the Texas strain of messianic intolerance currently growing on their right wing. It is not harmless, it is not small, and it is not a joke.

And so it goes, in an age like this....

Friday, October 10, 2003

Rush Confesses Addiction

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh has confessed that he has an ongoing addiction to painkillers, and promised to sign himself in to a 30 day program immediately in an effort to kick the habit for good. Again, a lot of lefties are going to be kicking Rush while he's down, but I hope he learns from this experience and is able to recover from his addiction.

Rush's full statement here.

Democratic Candidates Find it Easier to Attack Clark than to Attack Bush

The Democratic candidates really need to get their heads screwed on straight. Wesley Clark is not the problem. George W. Bush is the problem. And will someone, anyone, tell Dennis Kucinich to get lost? The man is a waste of space.

"The American people have lost confidence in George Bush because he hasn't leveled with them," Lieberman said. "We need a candidate who will meet the test of reaching a conclusion and having the courage to stick with it."

Clark bristled at that comment, saying, "It's really embarrassing that a group of candidates up here are working on changing the leadership in this country and can't get their own story straight."

He conceded that he had praised Bush and Blair "for sticking with the offensive in Iraq once it had begun."

"But I also noted in every op-ed [article] and every comment I ever made that there was not enough forces there, there was not a plan for dealing with it afterwards. And I've said all along, it was not an imminent threat."

No kidding.

Pat Robertson is Out of his Flipping Mind

The "Reverend" Robertson, buddy of dictators everywhere, and an equally loony author he interviewed on The 700 Club, seem to believe that the way to solve Amerika's problems is to, yes, blow up the State Department:

PAT ROBERTSON: I read your book. When you get through, you say, "If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that’s the answer." I mean, you get through this, and you say, "We’ve got to blow that thing up."

Wonderfully Christian! I'm sure Jesus would have wanted to blow up Pilate's headquarters too, if only Peter and James and John could have gotten their hands on a small tac nuke. Hm.

Equally disturbing, though, is the fact that many lefty bloggers are attributing the words of author Joel Mowbray, quoted by Robertson above, to Robertson solely. We carry on when the Right gets their facts screwed up: let's police ourselves, friends.

Linda Chavez Chooses her Facts

Linda Chavez stands up to defend her man Dubya against the evil attacks of former ambassador Joe Wilson and his spy wife. As is SOP for Republicans and their paid apologists, she chooses her facts carefully in the knowledge that most of her audience is too dumb to realize what she's up to. After snidely pointing out that Valerie Plame is "the third Mrs. Wilson" (so? Joe Wilson is the second Mr. Plame too!), Chavez rambles on:

Both Wilson and Plame are also active Democrats. He worked for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and donated money-the maximum allowed by law-to Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, as did Plame.

Guess what, chicky: Joe Wilson is a career diplomat, not one of those political glad-handers who are given ambassadorships for perfect attendance or whatever. He also worked for Ronald Reagan and Bush I. And he donated money to the campaign of Bush II. He's not quite as singleminded as Linda paints him with her giant tar brush.

In the end, the Democrats will fail, and this incident will become a mere footnote in Washington's never-ending catalogue of intrigue and scandals. I guess Joe Wilson will just have to devise some new role to play if he wants to regain center stage

Heh. Don't bet on it, Linda.

Massive Virus Attack

Hopefully most of you are aware enough to not install ANY software sent you through email, but be aware that there is a massive virus attack underway via an email that claims to be a patch sent from Microsoft. As I am typing these words, I have received five copies of this thing into my email inbox. Microsoft does NOT send patches through the mail. Erase any of these messages you receive, do not open them.

SCLM = Idiots

The Washington Post joins the ranks of liberals who want to cut America's throat by amending the Constitution to permit immigrants to run for the presidency. Some liberals believe that this is a PC pro-immigration issue. It isn't. It's an "end of democracy in America" issue. It's also an open ploy by the Repugs to run Arnold Schwartzenegger. This doesn't need to be opposed, this needs to be smashed down.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Burqa Barbie!

Muslim girls now have an alternative to the conventional Western Barbie with a new doll called Razanne, who comes dressed in the height of Muslim fashion, a long dress and hijab. Imagine the possible accessories! And here are some future ones:

Her aspirations are those of a modern Muslim woman. On the drawing board for future dolls are Dr. Razanne and possibly even Astronaut Razanne. There's also Muslim Girl Scout Razanne, complete with a cassette recording of the Muslim Scout's oath.

I have to confess I got a laugh out of this at first, but it's a great idea, and I'm betting it will be very successful.

The Soul of the GOP

Kevin Drum has a great piece over at CalPundit. His mother asked him, "What's happened to the Republican Party?" and he gives his answer, a detailed one I think most of us will pretty much agree with. Kevin prints excerpts from the Texas GOP platform and concludes, rightly, "These are not the words of sane people. This is not "reform," this is not "common sense," and this is not "restraining government growth." This is plain and simple madness and the people behind it have real influence." Kevin notes:


If this were just a lunatic fringe we could all have a good laugh over their manifesto and then go out for a beer. But you can't dismiss it so easily. Texas-style conservatism has already put George Bush, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove in charge of the country, and it is very much the future of the Republican party. And for all the conservatives reading this: I know this doesn't necessarily represent what you believe. But whether you like it or not, this kind of thinking does represent a very strong, very fast growing segment of the leadership of your party, and this is why liberals think the Republican party is just plain scary these days. We know that this is their agenda, we know that they really truly want to do this stuff, and we know that they are steadily gaining influence.

The stuff of which great blogs are made! Make sure to read this important post and pass it along to your friends.

Good Points from Will

George Will makes a number of very good points re the California travesty in a piece today in the Washington Post:

The put-upon people of California, groaning under the weight of decisions taken by California's electorate, have repeatedly taken lawmaking into their own hands through initiatives that mandate this and that allocation of resources. So an estimated -- no one seems able to say for sure, which says much about the consequences of California populism -- 60 percent to 80 percent of the budget is beyond the control of the governor and Legislature.

One of the new governor's two noteworthy campaign promises is that he will not cut education, which -- thanks to what the public did in a 1988 initiative -- is roughly 50 percent of state spending. His other venture into specificity during the campaign -- a campaign in which he said, brassily and correctly, that "the public doesn't care about figures" -- was his promise to promptly increase by 50 percent a deficit already at $8 billion by repealing the car tax that Davis and the legislature recently tripled.

Very much worth reading. The California mess may be unfixable by anyone until the state constitution is amended to either do away with or severely limit the ability of the people to easily put initiatives and recalls on the ballot. Direct democracy is a prescription for rule by idiots, which is exactly what you have in California today.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Archaeology Update

The remains of 185 German soldiers who died in World War II, some of them probably from the 49th Mountain Division, have been found in the Caucasus near the site of a German field hospital. This marks the deepest penetration of German forces during the war, according to historian Anthony Beevor.

In an exciting find (and here) from Roman times, when Spain was an important province of the Empire, archaeologists have discovered what may be the largest amphitheatre in Europe outside of the Coliseum itself. 20 tombstones of gladiators were also found and inscriptions referring to a gladiator training school. The remains of the amphitheatre were apparently discovered during construction of a parking lot at the University of Veterinary Science in Cordoba, and further excavations are planned.

Chinese Spaceflight Tentative Date Set

The Chinese are planning for the first manned launch of their Shenzhou spacecraft on October 15.

Mark Moves!

Mark Kleiman's blog has a new address, and a handsome new design! Check it out here!

California = Really Stupid

Californians have joined Alabamians in the race for the "stupidest voters in America" Cracker Jack prize by falling for a not over-bright bodybuilder and the shadows lurking behind him. Since Republicans increasingly can't get elected on their own "merits," the use of lay figure dummies as fronts will increase since this most recent success of the strategy. It's going to be hard on the state, but let's pray Arnie fails spectacularly. It's vital for the survival of American democracy that he be made an example of.

Trouble in Clark Campaign?

Donnie Fowler, manager of the Clark campaign, has quit due to disagreements over the role the Draft Clark movement should take in the campaign. Now I agree that Clark should pay more attention to the Draft movement, but I also think what's going on here is that people in that movement believe that they, whatever their qualifications or lack thereof, should automatically take a leading role in Clark for President campaign. It's up to Clark to chose the best people for that job, whoever they might be.

This reminds me of something I'm familiar with, a movement to revive a certain 1970s TV series, a movement that I was peripherally involved with. A lot of the people involved in this movement claimed that they were disinterested fans, but in fact were hoping for influence and jobs if the series was revived. Well, it's been revived, by someone else, and the sour grapes whine from the losing side is intense. Something like that, I suspect, is also happening in the Clark campaign.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

How Long Till Conservatives Start Crying About "Biased" Best Seller Lists?

It's just a matter of time before the duckspeakers start quacking and whining about this piece in CNN, headined "Bestseller List Dominated by Liberals."

The Continuing Humiliation of Colin Powell

Our unfortunate Secretary of State continues living in a Shakespearian tragedy as today's op ed piece by him in the Washington Post proves:

Lo and behold, Kay and his team found strains of organisms concealed in a scientist's home, and they report that one of the strains could be used to produce biological agents. Kay and his team also discovered documents and equipment in scientists' homes that would have been useful for resuming uranium enrichment efforts.

I'm betting Powell didn't write this, by the way, but he must have vetted it. What Kay and his team found basically was nothing, absolutely nothing. You can find botulin toxins in any soil sample (and at your favorite plastic surgeon's office!). Scattered documents and equipment buried since the first Gulf War do not a weapons program make. The claim that Iraq was trying to turn an anti-aircraft missile into a ballistic missile with a 250 km range is just ridiculous. What a shame that a good, intelligent man like General Colin Powell has been reduced to being a shill for the stupidest President in history and the evil men who surround him.

Scary

Red Sox player Johnny Damon is apparently going to be OK after a really frightening outfield collision with fellow Red Sox player Damian Jackson. Jackson was able to continue playing, but Damon was taken to hospital for observation.

Regrettably, the Red Sox did not exactly cover themselves in glory with their behavior during and after the game. Shrug. Here come the Yankees, boys.

Sabotage at Gitmo?

Military investigators are having taped interrogations "translated" by suspected traitors Ahmad al-Halabi, an Air Force airman charged with espionage, and civilian translator Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, also recently arrested, retranslated to see if they sabotaged the interrogations. And how much of a surprise would that be? Oh, and remember the gay Arabic translators kicked out of the Army? Incredibly, I seem to be the only blogger who does. FEEL SAFER NOW? Here's a link, people.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Canadian Forces = Mess

Remember a few years back when almost the entire armored force of the Canadian Armed Forces were held hostage by a ship captain because the country couldn't pay the freight bill? Yep, insane as it sounds, it really happened. Things haven't improved, according to this piece in the Guardian which reveals that two Canadian soldiers recently died when their unarmored jeep ran over a landmine:

At the weekend, a report in The Globe and Mail newspaper revealed that a top US commander in Kabul had deemed the jeeps too flimsy to use on patrol in Afghanistan a year ago. He ordered the Canadian troops, under US command at the time, to use US Humvees.

The Canadian troops are now under Nato command, and are using Canadian equipment. The difference may have cost Sgt Short and Corporal Beerenfenger their lives. Experts say they might have survived the explosion if they had been driving a Humvee.

Last year, on a similar patrol, Canadian soldiers on an American Humvee survived an encounter with a large anti-tank mine.

Defence minister John McCallum, however, has insisted that equipment is not to blame. He said the "extremely large explosion" would have caused "great trouble" to any vehicle.

But there is a difference between "great trouble" and the death of two men. Canada's commander in Afghanistan, Major-General Andrew Lewis, has acknowledged an armoured Humvee might have protected his soldiers.

Although the US military has been investing heavily in Humvees, but they were too expensive for Canada, which began looking at new jeeps five years ago. The government has settled on German-made Mercedes-Benz jeeps as a replacement for the Itlis jeeps. But they are also unarmoured, and appear to be of limited use in a war zone.

Hey Canada - if you want to come out and play with the big boys, better buy better stuff.

Bob Herbert Hits a Home Run

Bob Herbert is always well worth reading, but he knocks one out of the park with his piece about Arnold the Barbarian in the NYT this morning:

Mr. Schwarzenegger is the favorite in California because, incredibly, he's perceived as a strong leader by many voters. In reality, he seems little more than an aging but still frisky goof-artist, a fun-loving egomaniac with a winning smile and very little understanding of what is appropriate behavior.

But he's played spectacularly strong leaders in one cartoonish movie after another. As scary as it seems, for a lot of voters in California, that's reason enough to hand him the reins of their government.

Indeed. Americans have become so dull and so stupid that they will vote for this man because they like his film characters. Well, California, Earth calling - Arnold is not a kindly terminator or a kindergarten cop, or Danny DeVito's twin brother. He's a not over-bright cipher being jammed into the governorship so Dubya can slap another state, legally or more likely otherwise, into his pocket next year. That's the only reason this recall is happening, and anyone with half a brain knows that. Unfortunately, most Californians apparently have less than half a brain.

Chinese Launch May be Imminent

Reports indicate that China may launch its first manned spaceflight sometime this month. The program is based on Russian hardware, but is ambitious. One can only hope that the sight of Chinese in space has the same sort of salutary effect on our space program that Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin did.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Trot Nixon Confuses Baseball and Christianity!

I'll bet the ESPN guy who had the unenviable job of interviewing Red Sox player Trot Nixon after Nixon's game-winning home run last night wanted to disappear into a hole as Trot exploded into a wacky Christian diatribe about his home run "honoring" the Lord. Uh, Trot, let me tell you this: you do not honor Christ with a ball bat. You honor Christ with your life. Get thee to the homeless shelter, pal.

A's should have won anyway.

General Clark's New Book

I'm reading Wesley Clark's new book at the moment; report later. One initial comment; I know they wanted to get this out ASAP, but it could have used a little more proofreading.

Arnold the Groper

Katha Pollitt has a good opinion piece in the NYT this morning that shows her to be as mystified as the rest of us that Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting a free pass on behavior that would have gotten Bill Clinton burned at the stake. Yes, the Repug moralists have gotten off their high horses on this one; Arnie is OK. And why is Arnie OK?

Because the Repugs want to change the constitution and run this guy for President. If he wins the governorship, expect immediate introduction of bills to amend the constitution by Republicans in Washington. This cannot happen, friends. Watch for it and OPPOSE. This is not a PC immigration issue (and I'm sick and tired of immigration being "PC" and untouchable anyway), this is another end of democracy in America issue.

Friedman Makes Sense!

Thomas Friedman has been pretty out of control lately trying to justify the craziness in Iraq, but at long last he's written a NYT piece that makes sense: raise gasoline taxes $1 and use the proceeds to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq and other useful projects - with the helpful side effects of discouraging the pig class from buying gas hogs and defunding Saudi support of folks like Osama bin Laden. Of course it will never fly, and Friedman knows it:

Unfortunately, this president — for ideological reasons, because of whom he is beholden to economically, and because he knows that the American people never demanded this war, so he cannot demand much from them — will not summon Americans to set that example. He will not summon us to be the best global citizens we can be. The Bush war cry is: "Do as we say, not as we do. Good ideas for Iraqis, gluttony for Americans."

Unfortunately Americans conflate "freedom" with "the God-given right to be the fattest hog on the block." Until that changes - if it does - we have no chance of realistic reform of any kind in this country.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Perfect Attendence Medals for Operation Iraqi "Freedom"

Many of us who support the military and have friends and family in uniform watched in stunned disbelief after the Grenada operation as hundreds of medals were passed out for knocking off a Cuban construction battalion. "Medal inflation" continues; our generals now look like Soviet marshals bedecked with tin, and even recruits have a bigger ribbon bar than my dad who served in Korea with the Marines and then 29 years as a full time Air National Guardsman. And, in Iraq, the medal firehose is ON! Retired Colonel David Hackworth, who has actually been shot at, opines:

Recently in Iraq, an Army two-star general put himself in for the Silver Star, a gallantry award, for just being there, and for the Combat Infantryman Badge, an award designed for infantry grunts far below the rank of this division commander.

During the war, members of an Air Force bomber crew were all awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for lobbing a smart bomb from 30,000 feet onto a house where Saddam was rumored to be breaking bread – even though Saddam’s still out there somewhere sucking desert air. In 1944, the only way a bomber crew might have gotten the DFC would have been if it had wobbled back from Berlin on one wing and a prayer after a dozen-plus missions of wall-to-wall flak.

Here’s another “Believe It or Not”: When the Scuds were thumping down on Kuwait, a Navy two-star admiral and six of his flunkies were awarded the Bronze Star after a missile struck 10 miles away.

Business as usual. I recently saw an Air Force band perform whose members had enough ribbons between them to sink a battleship. But, as Hack points out, at least one branch of the service has refused to cave into this "let's give everyone the Iron Cross Second Class!" mentality:

But as of Sept. 22, 2003, the U.S. Marine Corps has approved only 56 Meritorious Bronze Stars – 46 to officers, 10 to enlisted – and 15 Bronze Stars for valor – 11 to officers and four to enlisted – for their 70,000 fighters who kicked more than a little butt during the war in Iraq.

Kudos to our gallant Marine Corps for not following the quota system and to its top brass for refusing to play the Pentagon’s public-relations medal-giveaway game.

Indeed. A medal in the Marine Corps means something. A medal in the other services is not unlike a Cracker Jack prize.


One Reason to ask for another $600 Million

Some have been sneering because the Bush Administration is about to ask for $600 million more to continue looking for those mysterious Weapons of Mass Disappearance. This may seem asinine, but there's a good reason to keep looking: at least some of this stuff must have existed, the poison gas in particular. If it's been disposed of, we need to find out where and how because if the Iraqis simply dumped it - and how much of a surprise would THAT be? - it's an environmental disaster and a hazard to anyone who lives in the area. Until questions of this sort have been answered, the search should indeed continue.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

One Thing I Won't Bash Rush For

Rush Limbaugh may have a problem with prescription drug overuse, and a few lefty bloggers are already having a field day. Well, this is one thing I refuse to bash Rush on. A lot of people have problems with drugs, legal and illegal. Oxycontin, the drug reported to be the problem here, is synthetic heroin; it can be a blessing for people with severe pain, but it can also be dangerous, and addictive. If the stories are true, Rush deserves sympathy, not slagging.

Pheee-oooo

Hold your noses before reading this piece from the L.A. Times (registration required and worth it in this case). And remember: a blow job in the White House is treason. Groping unwilling women on movie sets and elsewhere is OK.

"We believe Democrats and others are using this to try to hurt Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign," Walsh said. "We believe that this is coming so close before the election, something that discourages good, hard-working, decent people from running for office."

Walsh said Schwarzenegger himself would have no comment.

The Times did not learn of any of the six women from Schwarzenegger's rivals in the recall race. And none of the women approached the newspaper on her own. Reporters contacted them in the course of a seven-week examination of Schwarzenegger's behavior toward women on and off the movie set.

Remember, Democratic consensual sex = bad. Republican near-rape = OK.

Schwarzenegger "grabbed and squeezed" her left breast.

"If I was a man," she said she told him, "I would bust your jaw."

As tears welled in her eyes, she said, Schwarzenegger laughed. "He thought it was hilarious."

She said she went to her car and "just started crying and crying."

Go ahead and vote for this pig, California. You'll get what you deserve.

GOP and Novak Spinning like an F5

While Bob Novak continues to repeat his claim that outing Valerie Plame was OK because "everyone" knew that she was a CIA undercover operative, her name was in Who's Who (uh, not identified as a spy, Bob) and besides, her husband is a creepy "liberal" who rained all over Dubya's yellowcake parade, the GOP joins him in trying to fling enough dung (the charming phrase they're using is "slime and defend") to obscure what really happened. Scary thing is, the American people are so stupid, it may well work.

The White House encouraged Republicans to portray the former diplomat at the center of the case, Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering. At the same time, the administration and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill worked to ensure that no Republicans in Congress break ranks and call for an independent inquiry outside the direct control of the Justice Department.

"It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House's effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson's motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks.

"So far so good," the aide said.

Interestingly, the "partisan Democrat" Wilson is apparently a political centrist who has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates - including a donation to the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

Maybe Dubya and his minions should concentrate less on "slime and defend" and more on "cooperate and plan for post 2004 jobs."

In addition to sliming, the Republicans are also frantically trying to keep some of their own under control:

...one Republican with close ties to the administration said the White House was monitoring five Republicans in Congress, all of whom have an independent streak on foreign policy and intelligence matters: Senators John McCain of Arizona, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John W. Warner of Virginia, and Representative Porter J. Goss of Florida.

It would do well for McCain to remember how Karl Rove shat all over him in the 2000 campaign, and to recall that while he was rotting in the Hanoi Hilton, Dubya was playing at being a fighter pilot in the Texas ANG.

Gasbag Goes up in Flames

Football fans, at least those with half a brain or more, will be pleased to learn that GOP Hindenburg Rush Limbaugh has, following the firestorm caused by his racist comments about Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, resigned from his ESPN commentary slot. And good riddance, too. Rush will now return to being racist on the radio and the web.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

They Just Don't Get It

Lots of Republicans still hoping the Plame case will go away and believing Bob Novak's spin on it, including many who are smarter than that but apparently blinded by their partisanship. Get over it, guys. It happened, it's illegal, and it's a hell of a lot worse than illicit sex in the White House.

Rush Limbaugh is STILL...

...a big fat idiot. Well, he's slimmer now. Still an idiot, though. Here's the GOP Hindenburg on Joseph Wilson:

He is full of hate, and it should be pointed out. The way this is playing out really causes concern. We need to get to the bottom of this mess before our entire policy in Iraq becomes "a victim of Washington's politics of long knives." Make no mistake about it, there are many that would love to make Bush's Iraq policy turn into a total, abject failure and wouldn't mind that becoming the reality despite the deaths that go with it - all for the sake of their reacquisition of their own political power. That's what you're witnessing, right in front of your very eyes.

Hm. Couple of things worth pointing out here, Blimpman: If Joe Wilson is "full of hate," what in the hell does that make you and the other cretins who crucified the Clintons for eight years over what turned out to be a lied-about blow job and shitloads of hot air? It's hilarious to have Republican duckspeakers screeching about "hate" and, as David Brooks whined in the NYT a few days ago, about how DEMOCRATS have poisoned the political atmosphere. Listen, morons, you started it. Now shut up and go away. Secondly, as for draft dodger Rush's worry that our Iraq policy will be turned into a "total abject failure" and cost lives - well, it IS a total, abject failure, and more of our soldiers have died since aWol did his aircraft carrier stunt than died before it. Go away, Rush. Go away.

It Takes QB Comment to Finally Get Gasbag in Trouble

ESPN's inane decision to add the Hindenburg-like Rush Limbaugh to their football coverage has had an unexpected good result: Rush spouted off about Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and finally is getting called to the carpet for what was for him a pretty normal display of racism. Here and here too.

So Much for Novak's Lies

Bob Novak claims that outing Valerie Plame was No Big Deal because she really wasn't an undercover agent. Well, two things: why would the CIA ask for an investigation if Valerie Plame was "just an analyst," and secondly, how 'bout this?:

LARRY JOHNSON: Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not as Bob Novak suggested a CIA analyst. But given that, I was a CIA analyst for four years. I was undercover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until I left the agency on September 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it.

So the fact that she's been undercover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous because she was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised. When you start tracing back who she met with, even people who innocently met with her, who are not involved in CIA operations, could be compromised. For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that well, this was just an analyst fine, let them go undercover. Let's put them overseas and let's out them and then see how they like it. They won't be able to stand the heat.

Larry Johnson is a former CIA analyst and a registered Republican who says that this business "sickens" him. Him and many other folks, excepting a lot of Republicans who evidently think lying about a blow job is a big deal while outing a CIA agent is OK.

Mark Kleiman had that first, and he's been continuing to cover this story extensively, so keep checking his blog regularly!

Joe Wilson: The Man Behind the Madness

Great profile of Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the WP this morning. Worth reading.