Saturday, July 31, 2004

Repugs = Racists

It's hard to believe that today's Republicans claim to be the inheritors of Lincoln, the man who freed the slaves and called Frederick Douglass "friend." Via Atrios, we find out that the Bush campaign - not the Secret Service, but the campaign - wanted to know what race a photographer assigned to photograph our Effing Vice President is. What an effing crock:

President Bush's re-election campaign insisted on knowing the race of an Arizona Daily Star journalist assigned to photograph Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Star refused to provide the information.

Cheney is scheduled to appear at a rally this afternoon at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

A rally organizer for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign asked Teri Hayt, the Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. After Hayt refused, the organizer called back and said the journalist probably would be allowed to photograph the vice president.

"It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," Hayt said later.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the president's re-election campaign, said the information was needed for security purposes.

"All the information requested of staff, volunteers and participants for the event has been done so to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the vice president of the United States," he said.

Diaz repeated that answer when asked if it is the practice of the White House to ask for racial information or if the photographer, Mamta Popat, was singled out because of her name. He referred those questions to the U.S. Secret Service, which did not respond to a call from the Star Friday afternoon.

A pretty typical heap of stinking Repug bullshit. This deserves to get very, very wide press.

David Brooks Can't Understand that the World is Shades of Grey

David Brooks is unhappy that John Kerry's acceptance speech wasn't a typical Repug speech, all fire and brimstone, black and white, every other word a lie. Instead, John Kerry understands, as do most people smart enough not to be Republicans, that the world is not black and white, it's a million shades of grey, and the truth lies somewhere in between.

What an incoherent disaster. When you actually read for content, you see that the speech skirts almost every tough issue and comes out on both sides of every major concern. The Iraq section is shamefully evasive. He can't even bring himself to use the word "democratic" or to contemplate any future for Iraq, democratic or otherwise. He can't bring himself to say whether the war was a mistake or to lay out even the most meager plan for moving forward. For every gesture in the direction of greater defense spending, there are opposing hints about reducing our commitments and bringing the troops home.

He proves in the speech that he can pronounce the word "alliances," and alliances are important, but alliances for what? You can't base an entire foreign policy on process.

Then I remembered that, of course, the Great Co-opter has to try gauzily to please everyone. He has to play to the 86 percent of the delegates who say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq, as well as the Clintonite foreign policy elites who supported the war. He has to play to the Sharptons as well as the Liebermans.

Yes, because the Democratic party isn't a Nazi monolith like the Repugs. In fact, unlike the white, rich, fat Repugs, it looks a lot more like America - black, white, asian, hispanic, male, female, straight, gay, Christian, people of religion or of no religion, rich, poor, middle class. It looks a lot more like, say, Barack Obama than that not over-bright child of privilege, George "Dubya" Bush. The white male Brooks can't figure that out. It confuses him. It's too hard!

It's America, David. Sorry that upsets your tiny little world view.

Friday, July 30, 2004

General Clark
Retired General Wesley Clark gave a great speech at the convention yesterday. Like the rest of us, Clark is sick and tired of the Repugs wrapping their ugly butts in the flag. It's not their damned flag; it's our flag, every one of us. And they have no lock on defense, in fact the Repugs every day piss on every American soldier and veteran when they line up behind the dimestore dummy who poses as President to cut the benefits of our troops, to close down VA clinics, to refuse to equip our soldiers with body armor and armored vehicles, to send them into a war for profit. Wesley Clark pointed out what a pile of stinking crap the Repugs truly are:

War. I've been there. Heard the thump of enemy mortars. Seen the tracers fly. Bled on the battlefield. Recovered in hospitals. Received and obeyed orders. Sent men and women into battle. Awarded medals, comforted families, attended funerals. And this soldier has news for you: Anyone who tells you that one political party has a monopoly on the defense of our nation is committing a fraud on the American people. Franklin Roosevelt said it best: "Repetition does not transform a lie into the truth."
This hall and this party are filled with veterans who have served under this flag -- our flag. We rose and stood reveille to this flag. We fought for this flag. And we've seen brave men and women buried under this flag. This flag is ours! And nobody will take it away from us.

Once again, from someone who supported your candidacy from the inception of the Draft Clark movement, thank you, General.

UPDATE: Other bloggers join my praise for General Clark. Mark Kleiman, who, like me, was an early supporter of General Clark, commented that Clark "nailed it," and adds:

We really need a 527 devoted to getting top retired military and civilian national-security folks out there on the stump and on TV spreading the message that the current policies have made and are making this country radically less safe and less capable of defending itself and working its will in the world.

Getting the talent is no problem; the discontent is out there, some of it in places you wouldn't expect.

A very good idea indeed. A roadshow of guys like Generals Shalikashvili and Zinni, and Admiral Crowe, and many others, would make an impact on the nitwits who think the Democrats are craven traitors.
Kevin Drum was also an early Clark supporter, and he says:

I thought Wes Clark's speech was terrific. Best of the night.

I agree. It was much more exciting and moving that Kerry's speech, which struck me as good if a trifle disorganized. Clark is, for a guy who spent his life in the military and not as a politician, a very good public speaker. Ezra Klein was at the convention, and here's his take:

Clark just gave one hell of a speech. It's why I supported him for President and wanted him for Vice-President; no one is more effective at ripping the flag from the Republican's clenched fists and holding it up as a symbol for all Americans who believe in honor, duty and country. He's got the military ethos coursing through his blood and injected into his spine (nobody stands that straight); here's hoping we see more of him in a Kerry Administration.

Amen, Ezra! I was thinking last night watching the speech that hopefully it wasn't General Clark's swan song. He could be a powerful Secretary of Defense or even of State in a Kerry administration.
Here's a comment thread over at Daily Kos; many insightful comments.

Cane Them
No blogging yesterday because my partner's pickup truck got stolen from in front of our garage. According to the police, there have been a raft of older vehicles stolen in this area by kids with slim jims who joyride and then dump them somewhere. My solution? Cane the little bastards. It'll stop.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Hogs at the Trough

So, while you were waiting for your job to be outsourced to India (something way too many lefties think is OK, by the way, as they continue to worship at the phony altar of globalization), and in the meantime are looking at little or no raise, the hogs that Bush loves - his "base," as he calls them - are doing just fine.
The CEO's at the nation's largest companies saw their raises more than doubled in 2003 as the median raise handed out by S&P 500 companies to their top executives was 22.18 percent, according to a study by The Corporate Library.
It said four S&P 500 companies -- Apple Computer, Oracle, Yahoo!, and Colgate-Palmolive, upped their CEO pay by well over 1,000 percent.

The compensation for all CEOs, a total sample of 1,429 companies, show median pay increases of 15 percent, up from 9 percent increases in 2002. The median is the pay increase at which there are the same number of pay increases that are greater and that are less.

1000 percent.
What they need's a damn good whacking.

I'm more than a little tired of the stupid nitwits who vote for Bush going around yapping about "values." Too often it strikes me that these people are using "values" as a new buzzword that actually means "prejudices." They don't like gays, they don't like change in general, they mostly believe the earth is flat and 6000 years old. They believe Bush shares their homespun values of God, home, and country. They ignore the fact that half of his life was spent as a drunken wastrel, that he refers to the rich as his "base," and they don't notice when he says that he trusts God speaks through him - people who claim that usually lead their followers to the Kool-Aid vat sooner or later. Evidently they believe it's godly to give tax refunds to the parasites who own 90% of this country already, and to send their own sons and daughters to their deaths in an unnecessary war fought entirely for profit. They don't realize that if one of the Bush twins got pregnant, that baby would be gone. They're just stupid. Very, very stupid. I don't know what in the hell we can do with them or about them, but I am damn tired of hearing from them and even tireder of having their "values" inflicted on this country as they steadfastly dig a tunnel back to the sixth century.

UPDATE: It's said a lot better than I can over at Intervention Magazine:

We should take a close look at the moral values of the heartland as they have been practiced in the history of this nation.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland condoned the practice of slavery.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland encouraged the genocide of indigenous Americans.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland held that men had a right to beat women but women were not allowed to hold property or have other legal protections and were denied the right to vote.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland allowed parents to beat their children and to punish them by denying them food.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland demeaned Jews and other non-Christians, an attitude best expressed in the epithet "New York Jew."
Mainstream moral values of the heartland held that the poor were to blame for their plight in life, even children and the elderly.
Mainstream moral values of the heartland saw nothing wrong with child labor.Mainstream moral values expected coal miners, steel workers, and other laborers to work twelve hours a day for wages that kept them and their families powerless and mired in poverty.
By contrast, it was liberal values that ended slavery and forced an end to slavery's spawn, segregation. Ironically, the liberal values opposed to slavery were espoused by America’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, while segregation was created by Southern Democrats. On the other hand, it was a Southern Democrat, President Lyndon B. Johnson, following the lead of John F. Kennedy, another Massachusetts Democrat, who put a stake in the heart of segregation.
It was liberal values that put a halt to the wholesale slaughter of Indians.
It was liberal values that gave women equal protection under the law and the right to vote.
It was liberal values that protected children from abuse and exploitation.
It was liberal values that ended the legal practice of anti-Semitism.
It was liberal values that gave us Social Security and Medicare to protect the elderly.
It was liberal values that gave working men and women the right to organize into unions to fight for decent wages and decent working conditions.
Why, then, do George Bush and his supporters believe that the purported moral values of the heartland are superior to what they see as the corrupt liberal moral values of urban America?
That other so-called Massachusetts liberal, when he was elected president, required every member of his cabinet to read The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman’s analysis of how the European powers blundered into World War I. He told his cabinet that such catastrophic blunders would not occur during his presidency.
George Bush, by contrast, proudly said that the only book he ever reads is the Bible. Now he says he will read the 9/11 Commission Report. Or will Andrew Card and Condi Rice tell him what the report says? And the cornerstone of Bush’s foreign policy, “the Bush Doctrine,” is the belief that the United States has the right to start a pre-emptive war against any nation it views as a threat.
Kennedy prevented the Cuban missile crisis from escalating into World War III.
Bush started a war under false pretenses that has now made the world a much more dangerous place.

Think of these things the next time someone spits "Liberal!" at you as if it were an epithet. It's not an epithet. It's a badge of honor.

Mark Kleiman on the Inanity of Libertarianism
Libertarianism appears to me a philosophy intended to lead to the rule of superpredators over everyone else in the guise of "personal freedom." But their kind of personal freedom inevitably leads to the strong and rich enslaving the poor and weak. Mark Kleiman kicks Volokh-er Randy Barnett pretty firmly in the crotch this morning:

Randy Barnett is a Libertarian. (I follow his capitalization.) He is also a supporter of the War in Iraq. Naturally, he objects to the idea, shared by many Libertarians, that since the state is basically illegitimate, and since war is a project of the state, war is illegitimate.

That argument isn't hard to follow. After all, if taxation is slavery, and wars are financed by taxation, then war must be always wrong, no? And of course charging the current war on your credit card just means it has to be paid for out of future taxation.

But Prof. Barnett disagrees. Just because the state is illegitimate, he says, doesn't mean that everything it does is wrong. (Delivering the mail, for example, is OK.) He writes:

Because Libertarianism is essentially a philosophy of individual rights, I doubt it says much about what policies either individuals or collective institutions ought to pursue other than that they should not violate the rights of individuals in pursuing them.

To which I can only say, "Howzzat again?"

No kidding. Libertarianism is a fraud, nothing more, nothing less, invented by greedy men who want to blow off their responsibilities to others. It is impossible to be a Christian and be a libertarian.  It is a philosophy that makes the leftist extremes of liberalism look like sweetness and light.

The Dream is Alive
I have seen the future of our party, and it is Barack Obama. Last night, the torch symbolically passed, from Edward Kennedy and Dick Gephardt to Howard Dean and Obama. In Obama in particular, the spirit of John and Bobby Kennedy once again walks the land. It will not be many years before this tall young man with the odd name, who in his very person embodies the best of the American dream,  stands once again before a Democratic National Convention to accept his party's nomination for the presidency; mark my words.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on Earth, is my story even possible.

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted -- or at least, most of the time.

I knew Obama was special. Last night we all found out just how special he is.
Remarkably, my local paper decided to paper over the fact that the Democratic party has a hope for the future. They sneered at Kennedy, snickered about Theresa Heinz Kerry - and never once mentioned Barack Obama.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

And Speaking of Pandagon...
Check out the two suspects here!

Convention Blogging: a Waste of Time?
I'm not very moved by much of the blogging going on at the DNC. Take this example from the usually reliable Atrios:

I see what you see, if you're watching C-span at least. Some speakers, some fun, a bit of show. The crowd begins to encroach. Our territory! We bloggers need our seats! But, we can't say no. Have a seat. Take our plug. Get some juice. Take your video. Where's my jacket?
brrring. Tom Tomorrow calls. Long day. Tiring day. Following Michael Moore around. Mini-posse. Cameras - hit head, ouch! Michael! Michael! Hemmer sez, people want you dead? What the fuck! Fuck you CNN! Fuck you Hemmer!Tom Tomorrow, well, we can call him Dan, sez, find your way up. Carter here, Carter there, Carters everywhere.
 Up I go. Amy Carter. Lovely, hospitable, friendly and nice and charming beyond all requirements.. The Carter suite is my suite. Drinky-winkies, strangely absent from the Fleet Center, magically appear in the Carter skybox (And all of the skyboxes). Dan is there. Michael Moore. Al Franken. The unbearable darkness of fact-checking.

Cripes. This is not a great Atrios moment.  Ezra and Jesse over at Pandagon are doing a lot better, but this isn't the kind of thing blogs really do well.

Repugs on Change
Repugs are frantically arguing that John Kerry is a flipflopper. In other words, like most adults, he can change his mind if new information comes along, something which is not permitted to Repugs, who must remain secure in their own foolishness, firm in their confidence in their shrimp-hating version of God. Now they're trying to suggest that Kerry is reinventing himself as a moderate after being a near-Commie pinko (albeit one who went to Vietnam and got shot at, and one who was a successful prosecutor).
Let's think for a brief moment on the reinvention of George Dubya Bush, the drunken, besotted, probably drug-using fool who "found Jesus" and dried his ass out (maybe). Let's see the Repugs talk about that flipflop.

Stealing the Election Redux
There's a laughable new book by a Repug that argues if the 2004 election isn't won by a huge margin by President Stupid Dumbass the Democrats may be able to steal the election. Very funny indeed, since the little boxes of hell that now pass for voting machines are built by Repug-owned companies like Diebold. Paul Krugman is on the story, which has been kept alive in the meantime by a number of bloggers, including, in a humble way, yours truly:

It's election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger's campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software.
When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records.

This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel's full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election.

While this report was featured in many blogs, including this one, as far as I know the American press, busy as ever worrying about Janet Jackson's droopy boob and covering Dubya's latest vacation, never reprinted it with the exception mentioned by Krugman above.

Some states, worried about the potential for abuse with voting machines that leave no paper trail, have banned their use this November. But Florida, which may well decide the presidential race, is not among those states, and last month state officials rejected a request to allow independent audits of the machines' integrity. A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush accused those seeking audits of trying to "undermine voters' confidence," and declared, "The governor has every confidence in the Department of State and the Division of Elections."

I'll bet the son of a bitch does, since they handed the election to his mindless brother last time.

Should the public share that confidence? Consider the felon list.

Florida law denies the vote to convicted felons. In 2000 the state hired a firm to purge supposed felons from the list of registered voters; these voters were turned away from the polls. After the election, determined by 537 votes, it became clear that thousands of people had been wrongly disenfranchised. Since those misidentified as felons were disproportionately Democratic-leaning African-Americans, these errors may have put George W. Bush in the White House.

This year, Florida again hired a private company - Accenture, which recently got a homeland security contract worth up to $10 billion - to prepare a felon list. Remembering 2000, journalists sought copies. State officials stonewalled, but a judge eventually ordered the list released.

The Miami Herald quickly discovered that 2,100 citizens who had been granted clemency, restoring their voting rights, were nonetheless on the banned-voter list. Then The Sarasota Herald-Tribune discovered that only 61 of more than 47,000 supposed felons were Hispanic. So the list would have wrongly disenfranchised many legitimate African-American voters, while wrongly enfranchising many Hispanic felons. It escaped nobody's attention that in Florida, Hispanic voters tend to support Republicans.

Although there is increasing evidence that many of them may not this time.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue. Think about what a tainted election would do to America's sense of itself, and its role in the world. In the face of official stonewalling, doubters probably wouldn't be able to prove one way or the other whether the vote count was distorted - but if the result looked suspicious, most of the world and many Americans would believe the worst. I'll write soon about what can be done in the few weeks that remain, but here's a first step: if Governor Bush cares at all about the future of the nation, as well as his family's political fortunes, he will allow that independent audit.

But it is a partisan issue, and we can be secure in the knowledge that Jeb and other Repug governors will be doing their best to help Bush steal his second election. We had a coup d'etat in this country in 2000, and the press and the public chose to pretend that the naked emperor was decently clothed. Since then, the deficit has skyrocketed, wealthy parasites have been catered to, 3000 Americans have been murdered in a terrorist outrage that the Bushies had plenty of evidence on had they chosen to take some time out from their vacations, 1000 American soldiers are dead in a stupid, unnecessary war, the environment is being systematically raped, jobs are being shipped overseas...there's no end to the evil this bastard has done since he stole the election. This cannot happen again and if it does - to the barricades. This time we can't stand by and watch it happen.

President Clinton's Speech
Find it here.

...the Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the "right" people -- their people -- in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to. They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security. Now since most Americans aren't that far to the right, our friends have to portray us Democrats as simply unacceptable, lacking in strength and values; in other words, they need a divided America.

Tonight: Barack Obama. A do-not-miss.

Passing Through
I was passing through Penney's yesterday on my way to somewhere else and witnessed the following scene:
8-10 year old brat: Grandma, can I have a another piece of candy?
Grandma: Can you say please?
8-10 brat: My mom said I could have it!
Grandma: Yes, but can you say please?
8-10 brat: My mom said I could have it!
Grandma: Can you say please?
8-10 brat: My mom said I could have it!
Now in my day at about this point 8-10 brat would have gotten cracked a good one and eventually learned his manners. These days, of course, some busybody would have called Children's Services and reported abuse, and the brat would have gone on, as he will go on, to become one of the self-centered sociopaths who infest our society.  Pathetic.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Pirating the AK-47
Russia has been attacked frequently by US business for infringing on intellectual property rights by selling knockoffs of American music CDs, DVDs, computer programs, etc. Now the Russians argue we're ripping them off by buying Kalashnikov AK-47 knockoffs from other countries to reequip the Iraqi army. Now that sounds funny, but there's an issue here that I mentioned several months ago: why is the US buying new weapons for the Iraqi army when they have plenty of existing AK-47s? Even if some of them are worn out, the new Iraqi army will be smaller than the previous one, and surely there are enough working weapons to equip them (and worn out weapons can be taken apart and the still-good parts combined with parts from other worn out weapons to make a working rifle). This is just another ripoff of American tax dollars and needs to be seen as such.

Congressman have asked why American forces did not save money by reissuing to friendly forces the thousands of Kalashnikov rifles confiscated in both wars.
(Last spring, journalists from The New York Times watched United States marines collect tens of thousands of mint-condition Kalashnikovs in a cache in a hospital in Tikrit. The weapons were still in their original packing crates.)

Your tax dollars hard at work, going into the pockets of assorted death merchants. Wave that flag.

Right Wing Cretins Invade Columbus
A group of "Christian" morality enforcers, "Operation Save America," has been infesting Columbus over the past few weeks, evidently having picked this relatively tolerant town for just that reason - if you're gay or black or an immigrant, it's fairly safe to live here. That's just not good enough for this bunch. Their message? "Intolerance is a beautiful thing."

If the members of Operation Save America descend on your city and you don't notice, they have failed at their mission. They're so jarringly confrontational that even if you've decided to ignore them, you really can't.

Eleven hardcore members walking from California to Washington arrived Saturday, declaring that a "murderous spirit" has permeated Columbus. Depending on the time of day, up to 150 supporters from across the country are there along with them.

Sunday, they protested outside churches, including the ultra-conservative World Harvest Church. (The group pickets churches that are both near abortion providers and conservative enough that congregation members might take its message to heart.)

At City Hall Monday, they screamed over megaphones, making so much noise that office workers more than a block away were complaining to the mayor's office. They also held huge, graphic photographs of bloody aborted fetuses above highway overpasses, creating traffic jams.

Orchestrating it all was Flip Benham, OSA's national director.

"You're a sick city," he said Tuesday

Yesterday this group of cretins had the gall to protest at the church of some friends of mine. As these good Christians - and they are, they live their faith - went for their Sunday of worship and study, they were confronted by these idiots waving their placards of aborted fetuses, traumatizing my friends' children. Thanks, asswipes.
Meantime, the Columbus Police are looking back fondly to the peaceful days of Klan protests:

Some regard the Klan rallies as far worse than OSA's event, partly because they drew so many more counter-protesters. The Klan rallies required barricades and metal detectors, which haven't been needed this week.

But some police officers who remember the KKK rallies say this week is far worse: It's longer and more drawn out, they say, and these people want to get arrested.

Someone needs to run these phonies out of town on a rail.
One other thing: if you want to know what America under four more years of Bush will look like, take a look at these Know Nothings and you'll get a pretty good idea. What's kind of sad is that they believe that Bush shares their values. He doesn't. I can guarantee you right now that if one of the Stupid Drunken Bush Twins got knocked up, that fetus would be down the sink before you can say "abortion rights." I hate abortion; I'm astounded it's still so prevalent when there are so many forms of birth control available. Make it illegal, though, and it will not change the rate of abortion greatly - rich women will leave the country, poor women will find someone willing to do it (the overall rate of abortion in the US apparently did not change a great deal when it became legal), and the wingnuts will then turn their attention to banning contraception - many forms of which actually work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting, which the wingnuts would argue is abortion.

Friday, July 23, 2004

"Destroyed" Records Turn Up
Maybe it was an error, as the Pentagon claims, because the suddenly discovered pay records of one Lt. George "Dubya" Bush fail to prove that America's leading chickenhawk turned up for his National Guard duty in Alabama:

The documents released on Friday by the Pentagon included two faded computerized payroll sheets showing Bush was not paid during the latter part of 1972 and offer no evidence to place Bush in Alabama during the latter part of 1972.
Still, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said: "They show the president served in the military and completed his service, which is why he received an honorable discharge."

It's incredible how shameless the White House is. The records show no such thing, but Duffy claims Bush completed his service. Very funny.

Newt's Planes Don't Work
It was an open secret for years that the US Air Force was required to purchase several C-130 aircraft a year they neither wanted nor needed because the manufacturer, Lockheed, was in the House district of former Majority Leader Newt Gingrich. Now it turns out that not only are the planes surplus to requirements, the newer ones are full of bugs - and incredibly so for a well-tested (and well-regarded) design over 50 years old:

The Air Force has continued to order more C-130J planes even though the contractor, Lockheed Martin, has not delivered one that met requirements in the eight years since the program began, the report said.
Two Air Force squadrons have not been able to perform their missions for more than four years because they have only C-130Js, the report said. The 815th Air Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and the 135th Airlift Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard are supposed to drop troops and supplies into hostile areas.

Five other Air Force and Marine units have the C-130J planes but use older C-130s to perform their missions, the report said.
Air Force testers found so many problems with the planes that they stopped evaluations in 2000 so problems that had already been found could be fixed, the report said.

Tax dollars down the toilet so far? $2.6 billion and counting.

Here's a quote from a Gen X-er who didn't like F9/11:

“We didn’t even stay to see the whole thing,” Campbell said. “It was one-sided.”

Insert monkey hoots here.
And think of the possibilties! "We didn't stay to watch all of Gladiator. It was really unfair to the barbarians."
"Wow, Master and Commander was really unfair to the French!"
"Why were the IRA guys such putzes in Patriot Games? That's, like, so one-sided."
"Star Wars is mean to the Empire!"

Guess What: Immigrants ARE Taking Your Job
The estimable Bob Herbert wakes up to a fact that many of us lefties refuse to: immigration is taking jobs from Americans. In fact, Herbert points out:

A startling new study shows that all of the growth in the employed population in the United States over the past few years can be attributed to recently arrived immigrants.

This includes industries like manufacturing where jobs are actually decreasing. Why? Easy. They'll work for pennies on the dollar, they'll work crazy hours, and if they're illegal they'll do anything they're told.  Not that Herbert talks about that. Unfortunately, he's still living in a world where liberal platitudes about immigration make sense to him. They don't to me, they shouldn't to you, and they shouldn't to Bob Herbert either. What was true a hundred or even fifty years ago is not true now. Immigration needs to be tightly controlled if permitted at all.

Yesterday, the Song. Today, the Flag
Yesterday I griped about Yankees fans and others who have mistakenly raised "God Bless America" to the same status enjoyed by the national anthem. Now let's talk about the flag itself.
Not so long ago, there was something called the Flag Code. Among its prohibitions was flying the flag in the rain, at night if not lit, and in ratty condition. Ever since 9/11, in the explosion of often phony patriotism that followed, all of these rules and more have been eschewed by the "patriots" who show their allegiance by flying flags in all weather, leaving them out at night, and flying them until they fall apart in the wind.
That's not patriotism, friends. That's what this fattest of nations is best at: laziness.

Wacky Headlines
I keep seeing these headlines: BUSH WELCOMES 9/11 REPORT. Puh-leeze.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Yankees Fans Are Idiots
We already knew that, right? One of the more boring results of 9/11 was the substitution at ballparks of "God Bless America" for the more traditional "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch. Now don't get me wrong. I like "God Bless America." But people have gotten the idea, evidently, that it's equivalent to the national anthem, you know, that great old English drinking song with new lyrics by Francis Scott Key. And God help you, not bless you, if you don't stand up and salute, especially if you, like Carlos Delgado, don't approve of Dubya's stupid-ass war:

The Blue Jays played at Yankee Stadium for the first time this year on Wednesday night. It’s the only park in the majors where “God Bless America” has been played every game since the Sept. 11 attacks, a fiercely patriotic place where active military members are still admitted free.
Delgado was greeted with scattered boos each time he batted — no telling whether that was related to his off-the-field opinions, or his status as an opposing star.

But there were brief chants of “USA! USA!” when he lined out in the top of the seventh. During a moment of silence before Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” was played during the seventh-inning stretch, derisive shouts were made in his direction.

True to form, Delgado was nowhere to be seen.

God damn it, you celebrate Amerika or ELSE! Right. Listen, Yankee cretins: Delgado is entitled to his opinion. It's one that anyone with half a brain shares. And "God Bless America" is not the national anthem. You can go get a Coke, talk to your buds, pick your nose, or sing along. It ain't the same thing.

Jerry Goldsmith
Yeah, I love film music. And Jerry Goldsmith was one of the greats. It's hard to believe that in spite of all the wonderful music he wrote, he only won a single Oscar (for The Omen). Jerry Goldsmith died yesterday at the age of 75.
My favorite Jerry Goldsmith film moment(s): the wonderful opening theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the neat Klingon attack music that immediately followed, and the long (some people would say boring but not me) paean to the Enterprise in space dock. Mmmm.
For those and other musically inspiring times at the theatre, thank you, Jerry Goldsmith.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dumping People in America
Lou Dobbs argues, correctly, that it's past time for both parties to start taking current immigration law seriously. It's hard to believe that Dobbs, who is fairly conservative from what I can tell, has been one of the few defenders of American workers from unrestricted immigration and the plague of outsourcing.

Many illegal aliens are no longer held in jails to await deportation or processing. Rather, they are simply handed a notice to appear in court and released into the country. As you'd probably expect, somewhere between 70 and 90 percent never show up for their court date. Even Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, admits that nearly half a million people have been arrested and released, and have failed to show up for court.

Local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents say the issue is one of resources, that federal agencies have limited funds for detention and deportation. Instead, their focus has primarily been shifted to illegal aliens who have committed or are wanted for crimes. But even so, 85,000 of those released into the United States are known criminals. So much for the plan to target criminal aliens for deportation.

But Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, blames the lack of enforcement on political issues, rather than practical ones. "The problem with immigration has always been the same: It's very heavily penetrated by very powerful interest groups, and that makes it very hard to enforce the law," he said. "The ethnic advocacy groups provide the moral outrage and racial politics, while the business community provides the political influence, the big guns and the big money to prevent law enforcement."

Arguably, a country that refuses to defend its borders and refuses to enforce its laws is not a country. Certainly it's a country that doesn't give jack about its own citizens. And it's simply suicide in an age when terrorists are willing and able to kill thousands of people. If Joe Terrorist can't get a visa, there's nothing stopping him from wading across the Rio Grande. Righties see immigrants as a source of cheap exploitable labor. Lefties get misty-eyed about the blasted Statue of Liberty. We all need to see straight on this: kick the ones already here out,  keep the rest of them out, and let Mexico solve its own damned problems.

Don't Fly THIS Airline!
Usually it's the passengers who cause problems on airplanes. Not at the reliably horrible Russian airline Aeroflot!

Two crew members on a domestic Aeroflot flight beat up a passenger who had complained that the flight attendants were drunk, airline spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg said.
Seeing that the crew were intoxicated and were not fulfilling their duties, Chernopup asked to be served by a sober and competent flight attendant, Dannenberg said. He was then beaten up by crew members.

On Russian flights, attendants often have to struggle to keep intoxicated passengers under control. But on this flight, Dannenberg said, flight attendants were so intoxicated that they "behaved improperly" and only began catering to passengers 1 1/2 hours into the four-hour trip.

The daily Izvestia quoted another passenger as saying that half of the food the crew served ended up on the floor, leaving the aisle strewn with debris that passengers had to walk over as they disembarked. The flight attendants who beat Chernopup were men, Izvestia reported.

Puts our cattle-car airlines in perspective, don't it?

Strange Wording on NPR
Morning Edition today announced that the "surviving Apollo 11 astronauts" would be honored at an event today. Well, ALL of the Apollo 11 astronauts are alive, so the wording was strange at best. Dudes, Bob Edwards would NOT have screwed that up.
If you're interested in reading about Apollo 11, you can't go far wrong to look up astronaut Michael Collins' book Carrying the Fire, which I believe has been recently reprinted. It's the best astronaut memoir I've read. For an overall history of the program, Andrew Chaiken's A Man on the Moon, which was one of the sources Tom Hanks used for From the Earth to the Moon can't be beat. For real geeks, I recently bought a DVD set about the Saturn V rocket that is relentlessly complete and has a lot of what anyone else would consider junk footage (here's another angle of the Apollo 12 booster sitting on the pad steaming to itself...) but has such wacky treasures as the footage from an in-tank camera flown in the first stage oxidizer tank. The quality is bad, but my God it's a blast to watch that thing empty out!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Rush Loves the Fact that Our Iraqi Puppet May be a Murderer
What a surprise that Rush Limbaugh, like all the chickenhawks who get off on vicarious killing, would get his rocks off on the thought that the Iraqi interim prime minister may have murdered six "suspects:"

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that the new Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi has executed six insurgents in front of witnesses, wanting to send a clear message to these people. Good. Hubba-hubba.

Now that's right. Now, you're going to have -- you're going to have -- you're going to have some of the powerless fearful Left in this country saying see, this is what Bush has done. Bush did this, no due process, they just kill them when you find them. We can't -- America's going to be hated in the world, blah blah blah blah. Well, the Iraqis are handling their own affairs.

Stupid bastard.

But is it Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's Disease reportedly has increased in the US over 250% in the last twenty years. Some of this is due to better diagnosis. A tiny fraction may be due to increase in lifespan, although that stopped in the US some time ago thanks to our broken health care system. The question you should ask, and everyone should ask, is this: how much of the increase in Alzheimer's is really classic Alzheimer's and how much of it is brain-rotting CJD brought on by eating meat tainted with BSE, mad cow disease?

Linda Ronstadt, Keep your Mouth Shut!
The white collar brownshirt intimidation of anyone brave enough to pronounce that President Caligula is in fact naked continues. Whoopi Goldberg, of course, lost her job pushing Slim-Fast because she dared commit lese majeste against President Stupid. Now Linda Ronstadt has lost a gig for praising Michael Moore's F9/11.

Singer Linda Ronstadt was thrown out of the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas on the weekend after dedicating a song to liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," a casino spokeswoman said Monday.

Ronstadt, who had been hired for a one-show engagement Saturday night at the Las Vegas Strip casino, dedicated a performance of "Desperado" to Moore and his controversial documentary, which criticizes President Bush and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
That dedication angered some Aladdin guests who spilled drinks, tore down posters and demanded their money back, said casino spokeswoman Sara Gorgon.

"We had quite a scene at the box office," she said.

About a quarter of the 4,500 people in the audience got up and left before the performance had finished, Gorgon said.

I think I'd like to hear from people who were actually in the audience before I'd believe the account of a Vegas flack.
It's going to get worse. There are a lot of incipient Nazis in this country who truly wish the Founders had had the good sense to establish a dictatorship. Which, as Dubya has said, is so much easier than democracy.
UPDATE: The ever-reliable Avedon Carol has the scoop (via Tbogg) from someone who, indeed, was at the Linda Ronstadt show in question:

My wife & I were at the Linda Ronstadt performance in question, at the Aladdin in Las Vegas, and quite frankly, Aladdin President Bill Timmins' account of what happened is complete crap. There was mixed booing and cheering at Ronstadt's pro-Michael Moore comment, and that was about the extent of the "bedlam" that supposedly broke out. I saw no posters being torn down or cocktails being thrown in the air, and if people stomped out of the theatre unhappy, it was because 1) that was the last song Ronstadt performed; it was her encore; and 2) she mainly sang her standards repertoire, with the Nelson Riddle orchestrations, and a large part of the crowd wanted to hear more of her rock-'n'-roll stuff; she got the biggest round of applause for doing a lackadaisical run-through of her version of "Blue Bayou."

Frankly, my suspicion is that Timmins is way overdramatizing what happened, in order to justify giving Ronstadt the boot. It simply wasn't that big a deal.

White collar brownshirts indeed.

UPDATE II: There's a detailed and balanced article here.

Thirty Five Years Ago
Thirty five years ago, two Americans walked on the Moon while a third orbited overhead waiting for their return while the world watched in awe. Thirty five years ago, this was a country going places.
Since then, all we have done is become the biggest, fattest, nastiest bully on the block. What happened to us?

Monday, July 19, 2004

Bush Thinks He's Jesus Christ
This little comment by President Caligula needs to get a lot more press:

"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

Bush, God does not speak through you. Satan very well may, but not God.

Reportedly several American mercenaries were present when the Iraqi interim prime minister got his rocks off by murdering six "suspects." Now we all know what's been going on at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The real question is what these heavily armed mental children will be and maybe already are doing at the behest of the Iraqi "government." Someone needs to start looking into this.

Ha Ha, Isn't Arnold Funny!
The fools in California who elected this fool look, yes, more foolish than ever because Ahnold just is too stupid to keep his mouth shut:

“If they don’t have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, ’I don’t want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don’t have the guts, I call them girlie men,” Schwarzenegger said to the cheering crowd at a mall food court in Ontario.

Of course you would, Arnold. This is what the "girlie men" are supporting:

Schwarzenegger’s criticism of Democrats stems in part from their support of one bill prohibiting schools from contracting services with private companies, and another giving workers authority to sue their employers to enforce labor laws.

Perish the effing thought, as the VP would say.
And remember, folks, the Repugs want to amend the Constitution to run this fool for President.

Job One for Kerry: Fire O'Keefe
NASA was a screwed up mess before the loss of Columbia, but since then Sean "Budget Slasher" O'Keefe has been slamming the agency into the ground. While taking credit for successful programs that predate his appointment by President "Science? Wut's that?" Bush, O'Keefe has been busy behind the scenes laying waste to the shuttle program, the space station, and any useful project, like hypersonic research, that the public doesn't take much note of. Latest victim? A very successful and useful satellite that has years of use still in it:

NASA is allowing a highly successful satellite to fall out of Earth's orbit by refusing to fund it for as little as $28 million, dismaying the scientists and forecasters who use its unique abilities to study climate change and track hurricanes.

NASA officials said engineers did not order a planned firing of its rockets in early July to hold the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite in orbit 241 miles above Earth. Without periodic assists from its thrusters, atmospheric drag will send the satellite's remains to a watery grave in six to nine months.

Engineers said the satellite, a joint venture with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, is working perfectly and could still be saved, but NASA officials said neither the Japanese nor other U.S. agencies were willing to contribute to the estimated $28 million to $36 million needed to keep the mission operating for as long as two more years.

The satellite is a unique space platform whose instruments have proved invaluable not only to researchers studying global change, but also to meteorologists who use its one-of-a-kind "rain radar" to probe deep into cloud cover to determine whether the makings of a cyclone lurk there.

Recently at the Ohio State University 2004 Severe Weather Symposium I learned about the valuable research the TRMM satellite has been doing. Of course any project that produces real science is in danger when the Know Nothing Party is in power. NASA, of course, says not to worry!

 NASA officials said the agency decided to de-orbit TRMM because the money saved could be put to better use on a next-generation satellite scheduled for launch in 2011.

And if you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you. NASA uses this same dumb excuse for not servicing the Hubble, because "there's a replacement in the works!" Sure there is; a replacement for which no hardware has been built and for which funding can be slashed out of the budget at any time. In any case, the Webb Space Telescope is not a "replacement" for the Hubble. It is an infrared-only telescope, and will be launched into an orbit at which, if there are any failures - remember Hubble's flawed mirror? - no repair will be possible, meaning the telescope would in that case be useless. So should we look forward to a 2011 improved replacement for TRMM? Well, sure. But let's keep the current satellite working until then.
Job one,  John Kerry: a D&C at NASA.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Second Term Agenda
Some people are getting a little freaked out that Dubya isn't talking about his second term agenda. Well, duh! You think he'll get elected if he starts yapping about World War III, Armageddon, and the Rapture?

Good News! No Latino Felons in Florida!
Kevin Drum picks up the hilarious fact that Jeb Bush's attempt to hijack the 2004 election for Brother Dummy has produced a new, improved list of felons who are, get this, almost all black, with almost no Latinos on the list. The Repugs may be deluding themselves that Latinos vote for them, but they're going to make sure as many blacks - who mostly vote Democratic - as possible are off the lists.

...think about what happened: we're in Florida, site of the biggest election meltdown in the country's history. An inaccurate list of felons is a big part of the meltdown. The state, headed by the president's brother, promises to do better in 2004. The eyes of the nation are on them. The state produces a new list. But....

It won't show the list to anyone. In fact, it resists showing the list with all the power at its disposal. Finally, when it no longer has any choice due to a lawsuit and a judge's order, it gives up the list. And....

It's wrong again! In a way that just happens to favor Republicans! Again! But it was just a mistake, honest! We are deeply concerned and disappointed! Honest!

Sometimes it's just more than you can stand.

Damn straight it is. Let us sing along with Leonard Cohen:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

If F9/11 was the Beginning of the End, This Film Could Be the End
Reports continue to circulate that there is video tape of American soldiers standing around laughing as Iraqi boys are sodomized. Reports vary as to whether American soldiers or Iraqi interpreters were the actual abusers. According to Sy Hersh:

"The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war."

And if this gets out, it's the end of the Bushies. Come on, someone. Send the tape to NBC, CBS, the BBC...

On the Other Hand, Some Republicans Who See F9/11 Leave Thinking
A report in Democratic Underground suggests that those Republicans who do go to see Moore's F9/11 leave the theatre at least moved to think about their positions:

Natalie Sorton, a 25-year-old moderate Republican and wife of an infantryman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina, where Fort Bragg is, that the movie changed her opinion of the war in Iraq. "All this movie did was open my eyes a little more to what's really going on," she said. "I think this is definitely going to have an impact on the election. I'm glad I'm a voter."

Moore, who like me obtained the highest rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts, portrayed soldiers accurately as doing what they were told, Sorton said. Trevor, a Kansas City Army veteran and civic engineer who votes Republican, added in a Kansas City newspaper's report that "Fahrenheit 9/11" contained the most accurate portrayal of the military experience he's ever seen in a movie.

Greg Rohwer-Selken, 33, of Ames, Iowa, whose wife, Karol, is serving in the National Guard in Iraq, was moved to tears and told Time magazine, "It really made me question why she has to be over there."

A conservative Republican, 20-something woman in Pensacola, Fla., cried throughout the film and gave similar comments to the New York Times. "It really makes me question what I feel about the president," she said. "It makes me question his motive."

A man Newsday described as an "ardent Bush/Cheney supporter" in New York said, "It's really given me pause to think about what's really going on. There was just too much - too much to discount."
In conservative Indiana County, Pa., Eric Blank told the Indiana Gazette, "I have not felt this angry toward an administration ever. I wanted Clinton yanked from office, but I think Bush should go to jail."

Outside a Missouri theater, Leslie Hanser told the Los Angeles Times she had supported Bush "fiercely" before but finally understood why many Americans opposed his policies. "I feel like we haven't seen the whole truth before," she said.

Seeing other viewpoints is American. Seeing other viewpoints is good. And some of these people may realize that they're not Repugs after all....

Republicans: They're Just Dumber than We Are
Our local paper is the Columbus Dispatch, and historically it's been a fairly conservative paper. It will endorse Democrats for local offices, but almost never for statewide offices and never for national offices. In spite of this, a few recent editorials suggesting that Dubya is not the Second Coming have the nitwits and cretins of the right scribbling in droves to inform the no doubt confused editorial staff of the Dispatch that their paper is now somewhere to the left of Che Guevara when in fact they're beginning to creep very slightly to the left of Attilla the Hun.
What's most interesting is how uniformly stupid these letters are. For example, in a letter today, a hot blooded righty claimed that Fox News IS fair and balanced after all because they have Hannity and that notorious liberal Combs!!! Hm. Another wrote in a few days ago to screech that the do-gooder Democrats were taking all the fun out of life by forcing chocolate milk to be one percent. Don't know about you, but chocolate milk has been one percent for some time.
So it's no wonder these nitwits and cretins vote for, no surprise, the nitwit and cretin we currently have the White House. They can't be expected to do anything else; they're just flipping morons.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Dynamite if True
New Iraqi Prime Minister murders "suspects."

Only Say What We Tell You to Say
The Idaho National Guard has issued a series of "talking points" for its troops to follow when speaking with the media. Job one, of course, is don't tell the truth!

In this month's newsletter to the 116th Brigade Combat Team, the unit's public affairs officer told soldiers that referring to the approved themes ''adds continuity to the message we are portraying as a unit.''
The five ''command themes'' are:

pride in being on active duty

support for the U.S. presence in Iraq

confidence in American troops

commitment to unified forces
appreciation for families and employers
''Those are the messages we want out there right now,'' Capt. Monte Hibbert, who wrote the article, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Fort Bliss, Texas, where he is training with 2,000 other Idaho National Guardsmen for a one-year tour in Iraq beginning this fall.

Let's see how enthusiastically the Idaho guardsmen hew to this when their buddies start going home in bags.

"The Age of Terrorism is Different"
In what way? Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute argues that we need an official method of delaying elections because, in his words, "the age of terrorism is different" from picayune crap like the Civil War. 
What a bloody fool.

Lefty Blind Spots
Conservatives often argue that lefties are just idiots who believe that everyone is basically good and kind. Sometimes lefties prove them right. For example, there's the current lefty fad of trendy antisemitism that paints itself as "support for Palestinians." For another, there's the lefty belief that unlimited immigration, legal and illegal, is a good thing.
Now arguably some of the groups that support anti-immigration measures are run by bigots, as David Neiwert points out. Not all are, and if you ask your unbigoted friends what their opinion of immigration is, they'll probably tell you it needs to stop or at least be slowed down drastically.
Immigrants, especially illegal ones, it is argued, "do jobs Americans won't do." This isn't true. They'll do jobs Americans won't do for starvation wages. Drive past a construction site today, especially a housing development. Once upon a time, construction jobs were a good way for Americans with high school diplomas or even without to make a good living. You'll still see some Americans on construction sites, surveying, operating heavy equipment, doing a few of the more skilled jobs. The rest are Mexicans, being paid far less than Americans would work for, working in unsafe conditions (two illegal Mexican roofers were killed in Columbus last year working through storms!), working extra hours. If they're illegal, they can be forced to pretty much do anything and are probably paid under the table, so they pay no taxes. Their families are net consumers of welfare and other tax dollars, and their children, if born here, automatically become citizens (one of the dumber "features" of the Constitution) and hence eligible for more aid.
That's not all. Our borders are wide open. What percentage of the tens of thousands who come across every year illegally would have to be terrorists for this nation to face another 9/11 disaster? Just a few, friends, just a few.
Illegal immigration needs to stop, the illegals here need to be thrown out, and legal immigration has to be scaled back. The United States is failing its citizens by failing to defend its borders.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

John Kenneth Galbraith Warns

Legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith points at the horror of our times; how raging corporatism is driving the increasingly egregious American war machine.

In 2003, close to half the total US government discretionary expenditure was used for military purposes. A large part was for weapons procurement or development. Nuclear-powered submarines run to billions of dollars, individual planes to tens of millions each.

Such expenditure is not the result of detached analysis. From the relevant industrial firms come proposed designs for new weapons, and to them are awarded production and profit. In an impressive flow of influence and command, the weapons industry accords valued employment, management pay and profit in its political constituency, and indirectly it is a treasured source of political funds. The gratitude and the promise of political help go to Washington and to the defence budget. And to foreign policy or, as in Vietnam and Iraq, to war. That the private sector moves to a dominant public-sector role is apparent.
One, as just observed, is the way the corporate power has shaped the public purpose to its own needs. It ordains that social success is more automobiles, more television sets, a greater volume of all other consumer goods - and more lethal weaponry. Negative social effects - pollution, destruction of the landscape, the unprotected health of the citizenry, the threat of military action and death - do not count as such.

The corporate appropriation of public initiative and authority is unpleasantly visible in its effect on the environment, and dangerous as regards military and foreign policy. Wars are a major threat to civilised existence, and a corporate commitment to weapons procurement and use nurtures this threat. It accords legitimacy, and even heroic virtue, to devastation and death.

It does indeed. Rollerball, anyone (the Norman Jewison film, not the more recent one)?

Repugs get Whoopi Yanked

Whoopi Goldberg had the temerity to commit lese majeste against the Chimperor. The result? Unilever yanks her gig peddling Slim Fast:

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended some of our consumers," said the Slim-Fast general manager, Terry Olson.

Goldberg accepted the company's decision but said she had criticised presidents of all persuasions. "While I can appreciate what the Slim-Fast people need to do in order to protect their business, I must also do what I need to do as an artist, as a writer and as an American, not to mention as a comic," she told the Bloomberg news wire.

"I've done material on every president in the past 20 years, from Reagan to Carter, from Clinton to Bush. It seems now that people from the other side are using this to further their own agenda."

Indeed, but the earlier presidents did not believe that they were kings. Bush believes he is a king, and the people around him feed his fantasy.

I, Robot: What a Crock

Who was smoking what when they wrote the script for the new Will Smith movie, I, Robot? They have committed posthumous murder on one of my favorite authors, the great Dr. Isaac Asimov. Asimov's robots, with the Three Laws imprinted in their positronic brains, were the friends and helpers of humans, from the early primitive robots of Asimov's first stories to his most wonderful creation, the robotic sleuth R. Daneel Olivaw. The robots in this film are prototypical Cylons. It turns out the film uses the Asimov title, but it based on an earlier script:

This film, directed by Alex Proyas, is actually a hybrid that developed out of a robotic murder mystery by the screenwriter Jeff Vintar and was then transformed after the acquisition of rights to Asimov's book. That hybrid character exists even in its views of technology. The movie wants to look backward toward Asimov and sideways toward Hollywood technothrillers. It promises a fresh embrace of technology while rounding up the usual technological suspects. It is torn between the two sides but is far more interested in one than the other.

Evidently there wasn't enough interest to get the earlier script made. Too bad they fixed on the device of attaching Dr. Asimov's title in order to get this piece of crap filmed.

Governator is a Dictator

George Will, of all people, has woken to the threat that government by celebrity poses to the nation and particularly to California, where the initiative system permits a popular governor to govern by threat:

In Sacramento, bipartisanship has produced what probably will be a very perishable solution to the state's fiscal crisis. Schwarzenegger, who was made governor by a plebiscitary process -- the recall of Gov. Gray Davis -- promptly used California's plebiscitary political culture, and the initiative process, to pass Proposition 57, authorizing the state to borrow $15 billion.

State Sen. Tom McClintock, the conservative who had the temerity -- lese-majeste, it seemed -- to run against Schwarzenegger in the recall scramble, says that although Proposition 57 was sold to voters as borrowing merely to cover past expenditures, at least $2 billion of it will be used to paper over subsequent spending decisions. He says that in the 14 months from May 1 through next June 30, there will be a 54 percent increase -- from $33 billion to $50.7 billion -- in debt backed by general fund revenue.

"Borrowed money," he says dryly, "may feel just like real money when it's sitting in our pockets, but we have to pay it back." However, that concerns tomorrow, and as an entertainment -- the musical "Annie" -- taught, tomorrow is always a day away. Schwarzenegger, a political rookie, has a precocious understanding of the Annie principle of governance: Voters lavish approval on leaders who arrange for future voters to pay for current consumption of government services.

He has wrung some money -- not as much as he sought or as his budget assumes -- from Indian casinos. He has begun reforming California's job-destroying workers' compensation system. But his first budget is a pastiche of optimistic assumptions, creative accounting and largely cosmetic "sacrifices" purchased from interest groups by promising them expensive recompense, soon. The bills will come due in 2006, when Schwarzenegger will be seeking reelection.

Meanwhile, he husbands his popularity so he can govern as no previous governor has -- by using his celebrity to cow the legislature with threats to enact policies through initiatives. This practice offends the spirit of the national Constitution's guarantee that every state shall have a republican form of government. The essence of that form is representation, by which the people do not make laws, they decide who will make them: legislators. Not surprisingly, Schwarzenegger has said that California should have a part-time legislature because it "already doesn't have enough to do."

Swiftly, the great question of California politics has been inverted. Nine months ago it was: Can celebrity -- celebrity far greater than Ronald Reagan's in his pre-presidential years -- in the service of a sharp but unseasoned political intelligence govern this vast, troubled state? Now the question is: Can California be effectively governed only by the threat of plebiscitary actions? That is, can it be governed only by a mega-celebrity who can move multitudes to sign petitions to get propositions on the ballot, and who can attract millions of dollars to pass them?

Not good, and the people of California are fools to permit this actor and former bodybuilder to run their state even farther into the ground than it is now. And Americans need to stand ready to reject GOP initiatives to remove the Constitutional prohibition against non-natives being eligible for the Presidency to prevent Arnold from doing to the US what he's in process of doing to California. This is not an issue liberals should stupidly support because they think it's fair, as some already have.