Friday, December 31, 2004

Why Don't They Love Us?!

The Repugs who have sent our soldiers to die and bring "democracy" to Iraq just can't understand why said Iraqis keep blowing our soldiers and anyone they can identify as a collaborator up. Damn it, shouldn't they be grateful?! Well, occupied people never are (would you be?), and a brief example from history will serve very nicely to illustrate the point.

One fine day in September, AD 9, a Roman collaborator named Arminius - his Latin name, we don't know his real name although German authors (possibly Martin Luther first) have re-teutonized it to "Hermann" - had had enough. His years of service in auxiliary units of the Roman military were about to serve him very well as he and the Germans under his command watched and waited, somewhere in the dark Teutoberg Forest.

Clearly, someone - maybe Arminius himself - had suggested a marching route to the Roman commander, Publius Quinctilius Varus, because on that day, Varus marched straight into the trap Arminius had carefully laid.

By the end of the day, three Roman legions, the XVII, XVIII, and XIX, had been slaughtered, along with their auxiliaries, support units, and camp followers, down to the last man, over 18,000 dead. It is said that for months afterwards the Emperor Augustus wandered his palace in despair, not bathing, nor cutting his hair or beard, and screaming Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions! His despair was understandable. In one autumn afternoon, one quarter of the Roman army, three crack legions, was destroyed.

The Germans didn't like the Romans. India hated the British. The Vietnamese slaughtered the French with abandon. And we expect Iraq to greet us as liberators? I think not. There is much to be learned from history, and one thing is clear: empires are hated.

And they fall.

Jesus Christ to Fred Phelps: "I do not know you."

Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps is one guy I would not want to be on Judgement Day. Check this foul piece of shit out. (via)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Nazis Among Us

Al Neuharth's recent opinion piece in USA Today that suggested we start bringing the troops home sooner rather than later truly brought the bloody-minded lunatics out of the walls. For those who claim snootily, "It can't happen here," here's an American Nazi named Mel Gibbs who wrote this to Neuharth:

“The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.”

Sure it can't happen here. Sure. (via) "We own America and all the rights."

Land of the Cheap, Home of the Cowards

We send pathetic amounts of money in relief to disaster-torn areas, we crap on our own poor at home, and our courage consists of bombing peasants from 20,000 feet. And President Caligula, having briefly stirred himself from one of his endless vacations at his show ranch, is just really whiny at having people point this out. The New York Times put it well today:

President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe. (my emphasis)

And when we do pledge money, it often never shows up. Remember all that money Caligula promised to fight AIDS in Africa? Yep. It's in some wealthy parasite's pocket somewhere. It's certainly not helping anyone who really needs our help. It's a glorious American tradition, and truly sad for a country that continually pats itself on the back for its perceived generosity. (I should add in all justice that Americans are among the most generous people in the world on a personal level. But our national giving is just a disgrace.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

George W. Bush: Vile Bastard

The death toll continues to climb in the tsunami disaster, and the response of President Caligula, sitting on his dead ass in Crawford, is, predicably, "Let them eat cake!"

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' "

Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.

Hell is waiting for you, George. But you don't really believe, do you? Your actions speak louder than words, after all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick Donation Links for Tsunami Disaster Aid

Amazon has a one-click link for donations to the American Red Cross here.

Donations to the International Committee of the Red Cross here.

Medicins sans Frontieres here.

Oxfam Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Fund here.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

One Thing That Works

While everything goes to hell around us, it's worth remembering one thing - or two things! - that still work: the Mars rovers. Having outlived their 60 day warranty periods handily, the two rovers, weathering minor glitches well thus far, are looking forward to celebrating one year of Mars activity early next year. Opportunity, having climbed out of Endurance Crater, is on its way to visit its own heatshield. Scientists hope that closeup photos of the heatshield will enable them to design more efficient and perhaps lighter shields for future missions. The latest news on both rovers can always be found here.

The Christmas Truce

Perhaps some of you have heard the story of the Christmas Truce - when British and German soldiers came out of their trenches on Christmas Eve, 1914, and mingled peacefully in No Man's Land before returning to the horror of what Ernst Junger's great book termed the Storm of Steel. This is from a letter written home by a British soldier who experienced it:

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht…

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say…

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum…

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful…

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles…

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

The entire letter is quoted here. (via)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shipping Jobs Overseas Kills American Troops

Gosh, isn't it great that we can ship our jobs overseas and flip burgers at each other? Hell no. It's killing American troops:

The soldiers in Iraq desperately needing armor protection on their thin-skinned vehicles must also rely on Canadian steel for protection because the United States is incapable of manufacturing enough armor plate to meet the current demand for it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Herb Neides, a spokesperson for Ohio-based Clifton Products, said his company provides all the Canadian armor plate it can buy to the DoD. Clifton is currently selling 1,350 tons of Canadian-produced armor plate a month to various American interests manufacturing armor for the DoD.

Insert Repug monkey hooting here. Higher profits for wealthy parasites mean more dead soldiers. Wave that flag! Wave it! Stick it on your Japanese car!

When U.S. policy makers decided to attack Iraq they apparently failed to consider whether the United States has the manufacturing capacity to produce all the special steel it needs to make armor plate required to “uparmor” the soft-skinned Humvees and trucks under daily attack from marauding insurgents.

Had they looked, they might have discovered the United States only has one steel manufacturer company currently capable of producing the specially made rolled homogeneous armor plate that is used to produce the armor kits being manufactured at DoD-run arsenals. The arsenals therefore depend on Canadian steel sold on the open market and supplied through an American distributor to supplement the limited supply of American-made steel, several experts said.

This filthy war has to end now. And afterwards, we need to change things in this country. A lot of things. One thing is ending the happy talk about globalization. Globalization is bullshit, a lie, and it's time to face that fact.

“There are only so many steel mills left in the United States,” Neides said. “Foreign products hurt our mills. They could not survive.”





Halliburton Murders American Troops

Lovely, this:

A sturdier structure designed to replace the mess is being built at the base, but the work has been plagued by delays. Hastings said workers from KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, were supposed to have completed it by Christmas.

Bush, Cheney, Rum Dum, et al, belong in the dock in The Hague next to Slobo. It should be a Democratic determination to put their asses there.

Safire: Still an Idiot

I rarely read William Safire because I find him both irritating and stupid, not a good combination. I often find George Will and even Cal Thomas irritating, but neither of them is usually stupid. William F. Buckley was never stupid, even when you violently disagreed with him. As he proves today in the NYT, Safire is, well, not bright:

I now admit to having expected the war in Iraq to be won in a matter of months, not years. Saddam's plan to disperse his forces and conduct a murderous insurgency, abetted by his terrorist allies, was a surprise.

Really? In what way was this a surprise? Saddam knew that to throw his forces against ours was to expose them to a meatgrinder. We knew this too. So a modicum of his forces fought for time while everyone else dispersed and weaponry was hidden. Only a few idiot necrocons thought that we'd be greeted as liberators. Smart people - not Safire - knew or suspected there would be some kind of insurgency. Admittedly, it has exceeded what anyone thought would happen.

This by no means suggests that President Bush's decision to overthrow a dangerous despotism was a mistake. On the contrary, it was and is the right war (against a genocidal maniac who was gaining strength) in the right place (the Middle East cradle of terror) for the right purpose (to get the Arab street out of the rut of hatred and onto a path to freedom).

Perhaps Safire would like to explain in what way Saddam was "gaining strength." His country was a ruin. His military was in shambles. Gaining strength? Huh?

In return for today's grudging concession of tactical misjudgment, however, I claim this expectation: When and if we discover hidden supplies of germ weapons in Iraq or Syria, and as future confessions reveal the extent of connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam, the legion of war critics will forthrightly admit their certitude was misplaced.

Uh, right. All together now: there were no connections between Saddam and Osama. Osama hated Saddam. He probably celebrated when Saddam was dragged out of little hole and humiliated in front of the world. And those WMDs - wow, are those well hidden or what.

Those are just the first three paragraphs of Safire's piece today. To borrow a phrase, there's just no there there.

The Village Idiot Speaks

President Caligula shrugs off the deaths of American soldiers in Mosul in his usual inarticulate, stupid way:

"Any time of the year is a time of sorrow and sadness when we lose a loss of life," Bush said after a visit Tuesday with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Ass.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Blood on Voters' Hands

Who will be the last man to die for Bush's mistake? And what does it take to make the vapid fools who voted for him ashamed? At least 22 more families - I would guess many more - are grieving today because of Bush and his stupid, unnecessary war.

Draft a Repug today. Let's send their tender pink asses over there and see how long the war lasts.

Grafting off the Taxpayer Dime

This is kind of specialized, but if you build plastic models or know someone who does, it has an interest. The nasty fact is, companies that used the taxpayer dime to design and build military airplanes and vehicles are now trying to collect for "intellectual property rights" from model companies, as Tom Cleaver points out in a great editorial over at Modeling Madness:

I first became personally aware of this when I was hired to do a project for Revell-Monogram back in 1999. This involved getting some information on airplanes, so I decided to go to the source - the aircraft manufacturers - and ask for their material. When I called Northrop-Grumman, I was referred to the Legal Department, where a not-so-friendly attorney launched into a long and not-so-friendly discussion of how it was that the hobby industry was stealing the intellectual property of the companies by making unlicensed models of their trademarked products. After a few minutes of this, I decided to bail out of the conversation by claiming ignorance and the fact that I was in no position to influence the policies of Revell-Monogram. The next call was to Boeing, where I was quickly referred to the “licensing administrator,” whose conversation was limited to informing me that the licensing fee for obtaining the information was one and a half percent of anticipated profits from the line of models the project involved. I used the same parachute I had used at Northrop-Grumman.

My next call was to the executive at Revell-Monogram who had hired me, to ask just what in hell was going on. I learned that since at least the mid-1990s, companies like Boeing and Northrop-Grumman have been attempting to impose licensing fees on model companies, for the privilege of making “representations” of their “trademarked intellectual property,” i.e., the airplanes they produced.
...
Companies like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Sikorsky and others are demanding licensing and royalty payments for military aircraft replicas. Not only that, but several Air Forces are now asking for licensing payments to make decals of their insignias!

The model kit industry argues in response that military equipment, including ships, tanks, aircraft and the like have all been paid for by public funds, i.e. the taxes we pay the U.S. Government. Given that these aircraft makers would certainly not be making these subjects without a government contract and a guarantee of a sale for every piece they make, they are not “proprietary,” particularly since an aviation historian can cite instances where a company designed something in response to a government request for proposals, and then lost the production contract to another company without recompense or where more than one company built the product at government direction without any payments being made to the original company. While the companies who built “Flying Fortresses,” “Liberators,” “Mustangs,” “Hellcats,” etc., may well have had significant input into the choice of name, the name was in the end designated by the government entity purchasing the aircraft, so the names cannot be privately trademarked.

Sounds reasonable to me, but then I’m not some 20-something drone in the back of the law library of the legal department at Boeing, with a student loan debt of $100,000 and a desperate need to gain favorable notice from the employer by economically justifying my existence.

Amazing. I can kind of understand companies like Ford and GM getting a royalty for models of their cars - although you'd think they'd be smart enough to realize that a kid building a model of a Mustang GT is free advertising. But for companies that suck the government teat to build military vehicles and aircraft, it's just ridiculous to allow them to extort money like this, and it's definitely starting to damage the hobby.

Read the whole thing; Tom has some suggestions for action.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Rummy's Greatest Hits

Mark Fiore hits the nail on the head again. (via)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Who's Smoking What?

Who in the hell is using controlled substances at TIME? Bush for Man of the Year? Wha...? Turns out President Caligula is in good company:

Some selections have been notoriously unpopular, such as Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1939 and 1942, and Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

You think TIME staffers cringe when they see those old issues? How about the 2004 Man of the Year issue? Definitely not a collector's item.

Shamed by Hack, Rummy Agrees to Sign Condolence Letters

Shamed by a column by retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, Rum Dum has agreed to start putting his John Hancock on condolence letters to the families of the victims of his asinine and unnecessary war:

Stars and Stripes, the newspaper devoted to military news, published a statement it said Rumsfeld provided to them on the matter.

"I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action.

"While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter," Rumsfeld said in the statement, published in Friday's edition of the paper.

As of early Sunday, the number of U.S. troop deaths in the Iraqi war is 1,308. Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan and other countries, has resulted in 153 U.S. deaths.

1,308 utterly wasted lives.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

State Issue One

As we all know, Ohio voters decided to join the Southern states and be a bunch of prejudiced asswipes by voting for the egregious State Issue One that bans gay marriage as well as anything that resembles marriage - you know, civil unions, survivor rights, powers of attorney, stuff like that.

My boss's partner has a brain tumor. He's going to be operated on in mid-January. In advance, in case the worst happens, the partner is putting his affairs in order. He was told by the company he works for that the stock he owns in the company cannot be left to my boss - only to a "lawful spouse."

They've been together for over twenty years.

Yes, there are times I hate this country. How in the hell can you be conscious and not?

"Tort Reform" is Death

To hear President Dimbulb tell it, we need tort reform to prevent silly people from suing companies for slipping on floors and brewing hot coffee. In fact, tort reform means death, more and more death, and that is how we can best fight it.

Here's a fine example we should use as often and as loudly as possible. Several years ago GM pickup trucks with sidesaddle fuel tanks located on the outside of the frames began catching fire in accidents, and people were, no surprise, getting burned to death. GM engineers recommended fixing the problem. GM decided that it was cheaper to pay off the families of people who burned to death than it was to fix the damn problem. And it goes on:

Data updated through 1999 from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System(FARS),show that over 1,800 people have been killed in fire crashes in the U.S. in 1973-87 GM C/K pickups and cab-chassis trucks with the defective outside-the-frame-rail sidesaddle fuel tank design. Just since DOT's deadly deal with GM to drop its recall efforts in December 1994, over 330 people have died in C/K pickup fire crashes. The side saddle pickup design continues to claim more lives in 2001 than any other single defect.

To describe one example, on May 21, 1997, in Carson City, NV, an elderly married couple in a 1978 C/K pickup were both instantaneously immolated when they ran a stop sign at a city intersection and were struck just behind the passenger door by a crossing pickup truck. The fireball resulting from the exploding fuel tank engulfed the other truck as well, and while the 18-year-old driver of the second truck was still conscious when pulled from the burning cab by a witness to the crash, he was burned so severely that his young life ended in a Las Vegas hospital burn unit within the week.

Witnesses at the scene recounted that he lay on the ground and was able to ask "Why?" three or four times. The answer to this question, of course, could be found not so much in a Nevada intersection as in Washington, DC and in GM's Michigan headquarters.

Why indeed? Why do we tolerate this? If our evil President and the evil bastards around him turn this into law, it will mean thousands - maybe tens of thousands - of Americans dying horrible, preventable deaths every year.

Maybe you will be one of them. Think about it.

Insane

I often opine to friends that I just can't believe what's going on in this country, which is certainly no longer the country I grew up in. Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest puts it well:

What's left that is unimaginable? The idea of America invading countries who have done nothing to us? Been there, done that. How about tearing down the wall of Separation of Church and State? Environmental protection is largely gone and where it remains it is unenforced. Getting rid of public schools? The No Child Left Behind Act is a time-bomb that could destroy public education -- and if that doesn't work you know they'll go at it from another angle. The Medicare Reform Act is the same thing - a time-bomb ticking away under Medicare. And the tax cuts are a time-bomb about to destroy America's economy and reputation. They're even discussing selling off the National Parks.

Law itself is under attack. That's what is behind the push to confirm their Federalist Society judges. And to get that done they are working on getting rid of the right to filibuster in the Senate.

It's all just unimaginable. Or is it?

It's truly mindboggling. One of Dave's readers commented that the more astonishing thing is the way people are just sitting on their dead butts taking it (or bending over taking it...). Many of them, of course, have been bamboozled by the constant belching of Rush et al. Others are "angry white men" blaming the wrong people for their problems (Earth calling - affirmative action did not ship your job to India). Part of it is the supine news media. Local media confines itself to "Today's Murders!" and the national media are so busy reporting about Scott Peterson and Jacko's porn collection that serious topics get turned into 15 second soundbites if they're covered at all.

It can't go on like this. It's a recipe for blood in the streets in a country as flooded with guns as this one is.

Friday, December 17, 2004

WHAT a Surprise

We came home from dinner last night and, what a surprise, found an SUV plastered with Bush stickers parked right smack dab in front of the fire plug next to our house. Remember, the rules just don't apply to these moral champions.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hack on Pat Tillman

Retired Colonel David Hackworth is understandably unimpressed with the Army's handling of the friendly fire death of ranger and former football star Pat Tillman:

...I don’t blame the Rangers for Pat Tillman’s death. They do daring and dangerous work every day they’re out on the killing fields and are by far the Army’s finest and best-trained shock troops. But I do blame the Army brass for their shameful cover-up, especially since the powers that be knew from the get-go that Pat Tillman went down by Ranger machine-gun fire.

To make matters worse, a week after Tillman’s death, the Army awarded him a posthumous Silver Star for gallantry in action even though Tillman’s death, tragic as it was, wasn’t from contact with an enemy force and in no way justifies our country’s third-highest award for heroism.

The word is that Tillman did his best to turn off the friendly fire, that he reportedly exposed himself while yelling for it to stop and then was cut down. Under these circumstances a Soldier’s Medal for noncombat-related heroism would have been the appropriate award. But someone with pull pushed for a Silver Star – which had to have been approved by at least a major or lieutenant general.

The bottom line here: A Perfumed Prince with stars approved Tillman’s Silver Star and its use as a Pentagon P.R. tool for the same sick reason the Pentagon brass anointed Pvt. Jessica Lynch, gave her medals she didn’t earn and turned her into an instant Joan of Arc-like heroine.

A major in the know at V Corps in Iraq told me that when the Pentagon pressed the Corps commanding general to award Lynch a Silver Star, he reportedly told the brass in very rough terms that he saw no evidence of heroism on her part. Later, she admitted she was knocked out in a vehicle accident and never fired even one round at the insurgent force that ambushed her convoy. But she was still lionized with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and four other awards.

Why does the Pentagon lie so blatantly? It’s the ingrained nature of a beast with a $400 billion annual habit to protect. It must always put its shiniest boot forward to protect its agenda, and the truth be damned.

I recently reported how the Army Recruiting Command was having a serious shortfall in enlistment and how that could impact on troop strength in Iraq. Within a day of my story's release, the Recruiting Command put out an order that read: “The daily production report (which I incidentally based some of my article on) ... is now considered a ‘For Official Use Only.’ ... Dissemination of that report with(out) the approval of this HQ ... is prohibited.”

When the truth in inconvenient, classify it.

There are also a number of articles about the humvee armor controversy up at Soldiers for the Truth. Check them out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Social Security

I haven't written a lot about this because there are other bloggers who are far more expert than I am and have written a great deal on the subject (Kevin Drum, Brad DeLong, etc.). But one argument against it that I see them missing is this: what will happen when there's another stock market crash and people lose their retirement "savings?" My guess is that to avoid blood in the streets, the government would be forced to make up the losses or at least a good percentage of them from the general fund. So why in the hell privitize anyway?

All this is just another tiresome Repug scheme to put more money into the pockets of rich bastards. Oppose, oppose, oppose.

Rewards for Incompetence

The Bush administration are past masters of bloody minded incompetence and Dubya reinforced it by awarding the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to three of the cretins responsible for the current Iraq mess, George "Slam dunk!" Tenet, retired General Tommy "I am not Stormin' Norman" Franks, and L. Paul "Get Outta Dodge" Bremer:

"This honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty," Bush said.

Uh, right. Anyone else here feel more secure? No? Didn't think so.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More Money

The Pentagon is going to ask for $40 billion more to pour down the rathole that is Iraq. Meanwhile, we have no money to help the poor, rebuild our shattered infrastructure, protect our harbors from terrorist attack...but funnily enough we always have money for the military and to give the rich tax breaks. Bushite Christianity at work, eh? So WWJD?

Dubya: Antichrist?

Tim Appelo has written one of the best things I've seen yet on the perversion of Christianity that is Fundamentalism for the Seattle Weekly:

In this sense, the Bush church is Antichristlike indeed. It is institutionalized deception, anti-American ugliness with a beguiling face, a neocon job. Only when necessary does it employ the perilous bald-faced lie, the outrageously transparent duplicity—the political equivalent of Robertson arguing that "Do unto others" indicates Christ's support of capitalist selfishness. More often, a smoothly dissembling surface is preferred. Rove notoriously emulates Machiavelli; the Christian right is a stealth movement, infiltrating school boards and mainstream churches and every institution of democracy like a thief in the night—in order to undermine, overthrow, and replace democracy with theocracy. Bush is the father of lies. The Union of Concerned Scientists proclaims Bush's lies about science "unprecedented." In With God on Their Side, Kaplan concludes, on mountainous evidence, "The goal is not to engage your opponents in the public square, but to kneecap them, or send them into exile."

"It is a conspiracy in the sense that they have not been public and accountable to their ideology," says Lang. "Follow the money! The same filthy-rich foundations that have funded the rise of neocons are funding the rise of the religious right."

Indeed they have, and the Fundie churches with their lunatic mixture of the vile John Calvin and Left Behind are heretical and should be declared anathema by mainstream Christianity. (Via the ever-watchful Avedon Carol.)

Repug "Morals"

Atrios has a great post on Judith Regan, who spent years bashing Bill Clinton for his peccadillo with Monica, but who then went and had an affair with erstwhile thug Bernard Kerik. Evidently "family values" apply only to Democrats; Repugs can screw whomever they want.

Ms. REGAN: We can conquer others with force but to conquer ourselves we need strength.' And this is really what we need in America today. We need to conquer our own impulses. We need to understand that we can't act on them all the time because it feels good for us. We have to care about the other.

Uh huh!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Digging a Tunnel to the Ninth Century

Unfortunately emboldened by the 2004 election results, "Christian" conservatives are getting ready to run roughshod over the smoking remains of the United States:

In Kansas, conservatives now hold 6 of the 10 seats on the State Board of Education. All of them favor teaching theories that compete with or criticize evolution, said Jack Krebs, a member of the State Science Standards Writing Committee and vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

In 1999, the Kansas board voted to erase any mention of evolution from the state science curriculum, opening the door for the teaching of creationism. That was reversed in 2001, after three board members who supported the move were defeated in a Republican primary. Kathy Martin, a newly elected member of the board who favors teaching alternatives to evolution, said the board would probably take a different route this time, like introducing the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the development of the universe and earth was guided at each step by an "intelligent agent."

Insert monkey hooting here. Conservatives, no surprise, compare liberals to the 9/11 hijackers:

"These are common-sense, grass-roots ideas from the people I represent, and I'd be very surprised if a majority of legislators didn't feel they were the right solutions to these problems," Ms. Davis said.

"It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go," she added. "I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."

I hate to rain on their parade, but I suspect that after a few years of dealing with these lunatics, most Americans are going to realize that "Christian" conservatism is a place they "don't want to go."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Retribution?

Has anyone else faced retribution at work since the election? I won't go into details, but I did - a right wing fundie who was permitted to display a Bush yard sign on her cubicle, in defiance of company policy, damn near got me fired. WWJD? Stab a co-worker in the back, apparently, for being a lesbian and a Kerry supporter.

Working Towards the Fuehrer

Historians of Nazi Germany talk about a phenomenon they call "working towards the Fuehrer" - how non-Nazis gradually gave in to Nazi cultural demands and even cooperated towards them. It's happening here now in the wake of an election that was in no way a mandate and was more about terrorism than phony "values voters." The invaluable Frank Rich reports:

But this crowd doesn't just want what's left of Kinsey's scalp. (He died in 1956.) Empowered by that Election Day "moral values" poll result, it is pressing for a whole host of second-term gifts from the Bush administration: further rollbacks of stem-cell research, gay civil rights, pulchritude sightings at N.F.L. games and, dare I say it aloud, reproductive rights for women. "If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them," wrote Bob Jones III, president of the eponymous South Carolina university, to President Bush after the election. "Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil." Such is the perceived clout of this Republican base at government agencies like the F.C.C. that it need only burp and 66 frightened ABC affiliates instantly dump their network's broadcast of that indecent movie "Saving Private Ryan" on Veterans Day.

The protests against Saving Private Ryan are symbolic of the utter insanity we're faced with. The fundies didn't object to the violence, they didn't like the way the movie GIs talked - in other words, they talked like GIs in any war from the Revolution on. But, according to these bloody-minded hypocrites, our soldiers must be portrayed as being pure. Thank God Spielberg didn't slip in a whorehouse visit.

Kinsey was an anti-Soviet, anti-New Deal conservative, but that didn't matter in an America racked by fear. He lost the principal sponsor of his research, the Rockefeller Foundation, and soon found himself being hounded, in part for his sympathetic view of homosexuality, by the ambiguously gay homophobes J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson. Based on what we've seen in just the six weeks since Election Day, the parallels between that war over sex and our own may have only just begun.

And it is a war, make no mistake - and our enemies intend to take no prisoners.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Good Riddance

Good news that NASA administrator Sean "Service Hubble over my Dead Body" O'Keefe may be on his way out. And good bloody riddance, too.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Another Phony Conservative "Controversy"

The usual pack of right wing chickenhawks are whining to high heaven that the fact that Specialist Thomas Wilson's question about improvised armor to Rummy was suggested by a reporter makes it somehow an illegitimate question. My reply is this: that "illegitimate question" was cheered by the other troops present. That tells me all I personally need to know.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Americans to Army Recruiters: Go to Hell

Retired Colonel David Hackworth points out that things just aren't going well in the world of military recruiting right now:

"Hack, here's a snapshot of how little of our 1st Quarter mission has been achieved," says an Army recruiter. "Look at it from a perspective of a business releasing quarterly earnings information. To keep unit manning levels up out in the field, especially in Iraq, there's no question our recruiting mission is in serious trouble."

"These are totals for the 41 USAREC (Recruiting Command) Battalions, so these stats represent the USAREC mission accomplishment:

Regular Army Volume (all RA contracts):

Mission: 25,322

Achieved: 12,703 (50.17 percent)



Army Reserve Volume:

Mission: 7,373

Achieved: 3,206 (43.48 percent)."

The Army National Guard is faring no better. A Guard retention NCO says: "The word is out on the streets of Washington, D.C. 'Do not join the Guard.' I see these words echoing right across the U.S.A."

By the end of this recruiting year, the Regular Army, Reserves and Guard could fall short more than 50 percent of its projected requirement, or about 60,000 new soldiers. And according to many recruiters, quality recruits are giving way to mental midgets who have a hard time telling their left foot from their right.

Shades of our last years in Vietnam.

Starting to feel drafty in here, isn't it?

Panel to O'Keefe: Go to Hell

A National Academy of Sciences panel refused to allow NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe to pull the wool over their eyes and have told NASA that a shuttle flight must be allocated to service the Hubble space telescope:

After six months of study conducted at Congress's request, the committee of 21 experts said that a robotic mission would hold too many uncertainties, that it would probably be ready too late to extend the telescope's life and that it might actually damage the instrument.

As for the risk to a space shuttle crew, the panel said, there is a "very small" difference in safety between a mission to the telescope and a typical mission to the International Space Station. More than two dozen journeys to the station are planned over the next decade.

"A shuttle servicing mission is the best option for extending the life of the Hubble telescope," said Dr. Louis J. Lanzerotti, a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and chairman of the panel, assembled by the academy's National Research Council. "It is highly unlikely that the science life of Hubble would be extended with a robotic mission."

No kidding. In fact, the prime mission of the robot NASA wants to design and build - somehow - in two or three years is to deorbit the telescope safely, not repair it. O'Keefe has basically said that any shuttle mission to Hubble would take place over his resigned body. Fine. See ya.

Rum Dum to Troops: Go to Hell

Visiting Iraq in an effort to bolster morale, SecDef Rumsfeld found that there was no morale to bolster and the troops are boiling mad. Rummy's response? Let them eat cake!

Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt to their trucks.

"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 soldiers assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary.

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" that will affect National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

Mr. Rumsfeld, 72, said all organizations had equipment, materials and spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed it most. He said adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."

And Rummy's the one who gets to stay. Incredible.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bush Jong Il

I've often referred to Dubya as Bush Jong Il. Now South Knox Bubba makes the comparision explicit here.

America's Greatest Astronaut Retires

Astronaut John Young, a veteran of Gemini, Apollo, and the shuttle program, has announced his retirement. He was a member of the second group of astronauts hired, flew two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions including walking on the Moon during Apollo 16, and commanded Columbia on the first shuttle flight. His outspoken interest in safety often opposed him to NASA bureaucrats and probably resulted in the end of his spacegoing career after the Challenger accident.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Letter from an American Soldier

60 Minutes had an interesting piece last night about former soldiers who are being recalled into the military in some cases many years after their active enlistments ended. A friend of mine and my partner's just happens to be in one of the units that Bob Simon interviewed. Here are a few of her comments:

Just in case they edit it to the negative, I wanted to tell you a bit about several of the soldiers interviewed. Not sure if I know them all as I wasn't there that day but I know of most of the key speakers.

1. CW4 Margaret Murray, Upstate NY, 35+yrs service, 50 something (she won't give exacts). "Little Chief" as we call her. (Note: Net search "fort living room military murray" and you can read the article that I believe the AP News put out about her last Sat.) What a dynamic women and inspiration to us all. They followed her around as she qualified with her weapon. She had trouble the first time because it was literally too big for her. She ended up with a completely bruised upper lip, eye and right bicep. No complaints though, just mocked "You should have seen the other guy". She's 4'10" and maybe 95lbs soaking wet. I can't speak highly enough of her. She's become our mascot and the local celebrity, which she casts off. She hardly speaks, though I probably know her best as we are studying together everyday. She and I are both Personnel Officers.

(Our friend described several other recalled soldiers whose interviews did not appear. All of them are interesting, remarkable people. We should be proud and reassured to have such people in our military)

I'm not sure who else was interviewed but I'm sure they will try to hammer the point about those that didn't show up. We here pretty much feel the same way. We don't know their circumstances and it's not our place to judge. We have been called to do a job and serve and defend our country and so we will. We're not here to judge others, that's for the courts and politicans and those who find great glee in judging others "just because." We have more important issues to deal with, and we will.

If the people I've met here are any indication of all those called back from "Fort Livingroom", you can rest easier as I'm not sure that I've ever been amongst such a diverse, professional and truly awesome group of individuals. As an American, I'm proud to be serving with them. As a soldier, I feel blessed.

Hope you can all keep all of us and those already serving in your prayers as we head off to Kuwait, Iraq, Djibouti, Afganistan, Qatar or other places in the "sandbox" and also those that will stay stateside to serve. It's for you and you families and friends that we do so. God bless you all and may you have a wonderful holiday season.

Amen.

A Week Among the Loonies

Eminent military historian and journalist Max Hastings recently returned to the UK from a week in the US:

A week in the United States, such as I have just spent, is enough to make anybody feel a trifle fed up with God, or rather with the relentless invocation of the deity by American politicians, led by their president. No public occasion would be complete without the blessing of the Almighty being besought for whatever endeavour tops the agenda, most prominently the war in Iraq. The appeal to faith, seldom mere ritual, is usually founded upon conviction.
There is an attractive rationalist case for insisting that candidates for election anywhere in the world are required to sign a declaration forswearing religious affiliation. Had this been done in Ireland a couple of generations ago, think what we would have been spared.

Few modern political careers are compatible with religious principle. Government by atheists would relieve us of the irksome moral conceit that impels George Bush and Tony Blair to do deplorable things while remaining convinced that slots are kept open for them in heaven.

Even among the enemies of democracy, at the extreme end of the scale it is easier to deal with the IRA, whose ambitions are political, than Osama bin Laden, with whom there can be no negotiation, only global submission to Islam.

I am not in the least anti-religious. If pressed I would describe myself as a social Anglican. Yet I find myself increasingly eager to be governed by politicians who profess no pretensions to a hot line to a higher power.

The west may find that the struggle against militant Islam is an inescapable challenge of the 21st century, extending far more widely than the present engagement with a few thousand fanatics. Most of us wish to explore every avenue of accommodation before reconciling ourselves to armed conflict. Yet we now face another four years at the mercy of a US president who perceives his own God as foremost among White House advisers and regards the contest with Islam as already begun.

No one should have a problem with Bush having a strong faith. Many other presidents have as well. The problem begins when Bush claims that God talks to him and acts on it. That's no different from what Osama bin Laden believes, and just as dangerous.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pandermania

With Bush's microscopic win and the illusion - incorrect - that "values voters" pushed him over the edge rather than people still terrified by 9/11, the media prepares to pander to the dumbest among us, as Frank Rich perceptively observes:

There's a war on. TV remains by far the most prevalent source of news for Americans. We need honest information to help us navigate, not bunkum skewed to flatter one segment of the country, whatever that segment might be. Yet here's how Jeff Zucker, the NBC president, summed up the attributes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw's successor, to Peter Johnson of USA Today: "No one understands this Nascar nation more than Brian." Mr. Zucker was in sync with his boss, Bob Wright, the NBC Universal chairman, who described America as a "red state world" on the eve of Mr. Brokaw's retirement. Though it may come as news to those running NBC, we actually live in a red-and-blue-state country, in a world that increasingly hates all our states without regard to our provincial obsession with their hues. Nonetheless, Mr. Williams, who officially took over as anchor on Dec. 2, is seeking a very specific mandate. "The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy," he told Mr. Johnson, promising to spend his nights in the field in "Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and the middle of Kansas." (So much for San Francisco - or Baghdad.)

Isn't this wonderful? For all his faults, Brokaw at least had some sense of perspective, thanks to his strong interest in history. Brian Williams is focusing his laser-beam vision on yokels and yahoos.

I don't mean to single out Mr. Williams, who is prone to making such statements while wearing suits that reek of "New York-Washington axis" money and affectation. But when he talks in a promotional interview of how he found the pulse of the nation in Cabela's, a popular hunting-and-fishing outfitter in Dundee, Mich., and boasts of owning both an air rifle and part interest in a dirt-track stock-car team, he is declaring himself the poster boy for a larger shift in our news culture. He is eager to hunt down an audience, not a story.

He's not an isolated case. You know red is de rigueur when ABC undertakes the lunatic task of trying to repackage the last surviving evening news anchor, the heretofore aggressively urbane Peter Jennings, as a sentimental populist. In a new spot for "World News Tonight," Mr. Jennings tells us that "this is a really hopeful nation, and I think there's a great beauty in that." This homily is not only factually inaccurate - most Americans continue to tell pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track - but is also accompanied by a tinkling music-box piano and a montage leaning on such Kodak tableaus as a fishing cove, a small-town front porch and a weather-beaten man driving a car with a flag decal. Mr. Jennings is a smart newsman, but his just-folks incarnation is about as persuasive as Teresa Heinz Kerry's chow-down photo op at Wendy's.

I suppose we are to assume that if we live in a city and don't own weaponry or have a car infested with NASCAR decals and little flags, we're just not American. It's incredible that the media - big city/college educated/sneering at the sticks - are falling for this. And it's affecting the way they report the news, and not in a good way:

A creepier example of the shift toward red news could also be found last weekend when ABC's prime-time magazine show "20/20" aired an hourlong "investigation" into the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in the red state of Wyoming. "20/20" added little except hyperventilation to previous revisionist accounts of the story, most notably JoAnn Wypijewski's 1999 Harper's article filling in the role crystal meth might have played in driving the crime. But ABC had obtained the first TV interviews with the killers and seemed determined to rehabilitate their images along the way. The reporter, Elizabeth Vargas, told us that while the pair had been "variously portrayed in press reports as 'rednecks' and 'trailer trash,' " they were actually just all-American everymen with "steady jobs, steady girlfriends and classically troubled backgrounds." Aaron McKinney, the killer who beat Shepard into an unrecognizable pulp, wasn't even challenged on camera when he said he had "gay friends" (none of whom were produced or persuavely vouched for by ABC) and that he had only invoked a homophobic "gay panic" defense in his trial because that's what the lawyers told him to do. What's not to like about the guy?

Incredible. To make its new "red states" viewers feel comfy, ABC attempts to rehabilitate white trash homophobes. What is going on here?

...the networks were often cautious about challenging government propaganda even before the election. (Follow-ups to the original Abu Ghraib story quickly fell off TV's radar screen.) As far back as last spring Ted Koppel's roll-call of the American dead on "Nightline," in which the only images were beatific headshots, was condemned as a shocking breach of decorum by the mostly red-state ABC affiliates that refused to broadcast it. If full-scale Nascarization is what's coming next, there will soon be no pictures but those promising a mission accomplished, no news but good news. And that's good news only if you believe America has something to gain by fighting a war in the dark.

Indeed. The Goebbelsization of the American media marches on. It would be a farce if it were not a bloody tragedy.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Putting it in Perspective

The Ohion puts things into perspective today as they publish the Iraq Terror Alert System.

The country's current threat level is elevated, or Code Yellow-Orange. Citizens living in towns with populations of 1,500 or more should prepare for the smoke of burning vehicles to obscure the sun and expect hostages to be tortured for several days before being killed. Should the terror risk level rise to Code Orange-Yellow, it is likely that hostages will be left alive only long enough to dig their own graves.

Sometimes you have to smile. Not smirk, George, smile.

Networks Aid Administration in the Nazification of America

Even as the Bushies win an election based on bloody minded intolerance, the networks - the so-called liberal media - cave in to help. God help us:

The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Apparently, NBC has rejected the spot for similar reasons.

What in the hell? This is nothing more or less than governmental censorship of the media, with the media rolling over and cooperating. What next? Will Queer Eye be cancelled? Will and Grace?

The United Church of Christ is stunned:

CBS and NBC's refusal to air the ad "recalls the censorship of the 1950s and 1960s, when television station WLBT in Jackson, Miss., refused to show people of color on TV," says Ron Buford, coordinator for the United Church of Christ identity campaign. Buford, of African-American heritage, says, "In the 1960s, the issue was the mixing of the races. Today, the issue appears to be sexual orientation. In both cases, it's about exclusion."

In 1959, the Rev. Everett C. Parker organized United Church of Christ members to monitor the racist practices of WLBT. Like many southern television stations at the time, WLBT had imposed a news blackout on the growing civil rights movement, pulling the plug on then-attorney Thurgood Marshall. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. implored the UCC to get involved in the media civil rights issues. Parker, founding director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, organized churches and won in federal court a ruling that the airwaves are public, not private property. That decision ultimately led to an increase in the number of persons of color in television studios and newsrooms. The suit clearly established that television and radio stations, as keepers of the public airwaves, must broadcast in the public interest.

"The consolidation of TV network ownership into the hands of a few executives today puts freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression in jeopardy," says former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, currently managing director of the UCC's Office of Communication. "By refusing to air the United Church of Christ's paid commercial, CBS and NBC are stifling religious expression. They are denying the communities they serve a suitable access to differing ideas and expressions."

Adds Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Media Access Project in Washington, D.C., "This is an abuse of the broadcasters' duty to inform their viewers on issues of importance to the community. After all, these stations don't mind carrying shocking, attention-getting programming, because they do that every night."

This is truly sickening, and it's only the beginning (via).