Saturday, April 30, 2005

Darth has a Blog

Everyone has a blog now. Even Darth Vader:

Darth Vader and the stinking, rotten, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Do you ever have one of those days where you find yourself asking, "Hey, I know I'm bad, but what did I do to deserve this?"

Have I mentioned before that I am surrounded by idiots? Let me cut to chase and just tell you up front: the rebels got away. All of them. General Veers, bless his heart, must have destroyed two dozen armed speeders and and an entire line of infantry -- but those were just ants. We failed to take Mothma, Organa, Rieekan, Skywalker or even the traiterous fish Ackbar.

You might be thinking some fruit would come of our ensnaring the Millennium Falcon as it fled Hoth. You would be a damned fool optimist. My elite squadron of StarDestroyers proved itself utterly incapable of a securing a single unescorted freighter travelling less than the speed of light.

I mean, come on.

I've seen drills that were more challenging. And yet, they escape. I have worked among these men this past generation and I have always known them to be, with only a few notable exceptions, truly outstanding military professionals. A galaxy quails before them because they are efficient, effective and keen.

...You try to be an effective manager, you weed out the bad apples like the late Admiral Ozzel -- only to find that an insidious culture of incompetence has somehow transformed your deadly pan-galactic armada into a fleet of spaceballs.

Check it out!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Scum Rises to the Top

Is anyone surprised by this? It's kind of slid in a little under the radar thanks to other goings-on, but the egregious Ahmad Chalabi, war monger, liar, possible Iranian agent, etc., has been appointed (on an "interim" basis - sure) to head the one Iraqi ministry we really care about, the one we defended after the fall of Baghdad - the Oil Ministry.

Thwarted in his bid to be Iraq’s leader, one-time Pentagon favourite Ahmad Chalabi has nevertheless captured a key position in the new government – a deputy prime minister’s spot and temporary control of the lucrative oil ministry.

With his nephew also installed as finance minister, Chalabi and his family appear to have a firm grip on the country’s purse strings.

Yep.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Norquist Watch

Turns out that Microsoft has had other cretins and nitwits on retainer other than Ralph Reed. They've paid Grover "Barf Bag" Norquist as well:

Nor is Reed the first prominent Republican hired by the company. Records show that Microsoft paid Grover Norquist $60,000 in 1999. Norquist is founder of Americans For Tax Reform, an influential conservative group that has close ties with the White House and with Republican leaders in Congress.

The company also hired Barbour, Griffin & Rogers at a cost of $180,000. One of the firm's principals, Haley Barbour, is the former head of the Republican National Committee who is now governor of Mississippi.

Public interest groups that track business influence and lobbying in Washington, D.C., said it isn't surprising that Microsoft -- or any major company -- would sign up a Republican operative.

Republican leaders, most notably House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, have told companies that they need to shift business to Republican-leaning firms or lobbyists if they want a reception on Capitol Hill. The initiative is called the K Street Project, after the street in Washington, D.C., where many lobbyists have offices.

"It's inarguable that the K Street Project has been effective getting Republican lobbyists and consultants hired for high-profile assignments," said Steve Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent watchdog group.

"Organizations and companies know that Republicans are watching."

And we're watching them, and we buy their products. And they need to remember that the Repugs aren't forever, no matter what DeLay et al think.

Come Back to Earth, Get a Burger

McDonald's plans to honor Astronaut Leroy Chiao, of the recently returned Expedition 10 ISS crew, by awarding him a free Big Mac meal at their Star City unit near the Russian space center in Kazakhstan. Dr. Chiao's first job as a 16 year old was in a McDonald's in his hometown in California.

"McDonald's applauds the accomplishments of Dr. Leroy Chiao," said Mike Roberts, President and Chief Operating Officer, McDonald's Corporation. "Through his success with NASA, Dr. Chiao has expanded the world's knowledge and opened new doors to discovery. McDonald's is proud to celebrate the achievements of past and present crew members from around the world."

For more than 50 years, McDonald's has provided millions of people with the opportunity to explore their dreams as part of the McDonald's team. McDonald's focus on training and education instill the values of teamwork, integrity and pride to more than 1.5 million employees around the world every day.

Hm. No future astronauts at my local McD's. They seem to think that providing anything resembling decent service is rocket science.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What Happened to Microsoft?

AMERICAblog's redoubtable John Aravosis is on the trail of Microsoft's switch from supporting gay employees to trying to knife them in the back. Now he reveals that Microsoft has the egregious Ralph Reed on retainer, as Bill Gates continues to work towards the Fuehrer:

AMERICAblog.com has learned that Microsoft is currently paying a $20,000 a month retainer to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed's consulting firm Century Strategies. Which now begs the question of whether Reed was in any way involved with Microsoft's recent decision to abandon its decades long support for gay civil rights in order to curry favor with anti-gay bigots of the radical right.

This is important. What happens at Microsoft could be happening at formerly tolerant companies all over the country soon. It's starting to look a lot like 1933....

Monday, April 25, 2005

Speaking of Santorum

...what was "Jeff Gannon," male escort, fake Marine, and fake reporter doing (or who was he doing) at the White House as Secret Service logs record his frequent presence when there were no news briefings:

Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 presidential press conferences. He had little to no previous journalism experience.
Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

Guckert made more than three dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One--which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on thirteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held.

Hm?? (via)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

It's Santorum

A certain senator whose name has become a happy synonym for post-sex anal leakage (thank you, Dan Savage) is up to his usual, this time suggesting that you should have to pay for what your taxes already pay for, namely, information from the National Weather Service:

Do you want a seven-day weather forecast for your ZIP code? Or hour-by-hour predictions of the temperature, wind speed, humidity and chance of rain? Or weather data beamed to your cellphone?

That information is available for free from the National Weather Service.

But under a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, it might all disappear.

The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.

Supporters say the bill wouldn't hamper the weather service or the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards — in fact, it exempts forecasts meant to protect "life and property."

But critics say the bill's wording is so vague they can't tell exactly what it would ban.

"I believe I've paid for that data once. ... I don't want to have to pay for it again," said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.

He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

"The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away," Bradner said. "What would be permitted under this bill is not clear — it doesn't say. Even including hurricanes."

Yes, the Repugs are batshit crazy. What isn't covered here is the fact that this is part of a long running Repug war to kill off the NOAA completely, along with the NWS and all of its world-famous research and prediction labs - the Storm Prediction Center, the Hurricane Center, and on and on. Hell, last year Dubya tried to kill off the Space Weather Center, and he's trying again this year. They don't care who dies, as long as their friends make money off your dead body.

Other blogs commenting: here, here, and here (via Atrios). Welcome to faith-based weather! It reminds me of a video I saw last Friday at the Ohio State University's Severe Weather Symposium, of some bible-puncher taping the Van Wert tornado and preaching at the tornado to go away. Didn't work. But well-organized emergency preparedness and early NWS warnings saved dozens of lives.

Cleared

Incredible, but not surprising.

Former commander of US troops in Iraq Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez has been cleared over abuses at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

A new inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing by Gen Sanchez and three of his top aides, US officials say.

Message to troops: following orders may get you hung out to dry.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hey, He Likes Cats!

Famous Friday catblogger Kevin Drum (though he doesn't do Friday catblogging regularly anymore, depriving us of the latest doings of Jasmine and Inkblot) points us to an article that indicates that cats like new Pope, and he likes them. Can he be all bad?!

"I went with him once [to the Campasanto Teutonico]," said Konrad Baumgartner, the head of the theology department at Regensburg University. "Afterwards, he went into the old cemetery behind the church.

"It was full of cats, and when he went out, they all ran to him. They knew him and loved him. He stood there, petting some and talking to them, for quite a long time. He visited the cats whenever he visited the church. His love for cats is quite famous."

.... "When we were on vacation, a cat, a little kitten, would come by, and he'd be giddy, almost giggling with joy," [his brother's housekeeper] said. "Cats love him; they always go to him straight away. And he loves them back."

Viva il papa!

Microsoft Caves

Although geekdom has historically been a safe and accepting sanctuary for gays and lesbians, Microsoft is joining the cavalcade of companies "working towards the Fuehrer" and has pulled support for a gay rights bill in its headquarters state of Washington.

Microsoft officials denied any connection between their decision not to endorse the bill and the church's opposition, although they acknowledged meeting twice with the church minister, Ken Hutcherson.

Dr. Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, who has organized several rallies opposing same-sex marriage here and in Washington, D.C., said he threatened in those meetings to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products.

After that, "they backed off," the pastor said Thursday in a telephone interview. "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about," he said.

Microsoft's decision not to endorse the anti-discrimination bill and its meetings with Dr. Hutcherson were first reported Thursday by The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle.

What's insane about this is that a "Christian" boycott of Microsoft would have been, if anything, less effective than the attempted "Christian" boycott of Disney. In the case of Disney, there are alternative amusement parks. In the case of Microsoft, while there are alternatives, they're pretty invisible and guaranteed to lead to various incompatibilities with your business and your friends' software.

Microsoft officials said that the recent meetings with the minister did not persuade them to back away from supporting the bill, because they had already decided to take a "neutral" position on it. They said they had examined their legislative priorities and decided that because they already offer extensive benefits to gay employees and that King County, where Microsoft is based, already has an anti-discrimination law broader than what the state bill proposed, they should focus on other legislative matters.

This strikes me as disingenuous at best. Sure they offer good benefits - but if this bill is defeated and the "Christians" shove in an alternative, they may find it illegal to give their gay employees certain benefits. Surely they know this.

But State Representative Ed Murray, an openly gay Democrat and a sponsor of the bill, said that in a conversation last month with Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, Mr. Smith made it clear to him that the company was under pressure from the church and the pastor and that he was also concerned about the reaction to company support of the bill among its Christian employees, the lawmaker said.

Mr. Smith would not comment for this article.

Representative Murray said that in a recent conversation with Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith said that the minister had demanded the company fire Microsoft employees who testified this year on behalf of the bill, but that Mr. Smith had refused. According to Representative Murray, Mr. Smith said "that while he did not do the many things that the minister had requested, including firing employees who had testified for the bill, he believed that Microsoft could not just respond to one group of employees, when there were other groups of employees who felt much different.

"My refrain back to him was that this is a historic moment, that I only had a few weeks, and I wanted Microsoft to do the right thing," the legislator said. "Their concern, he said, was that obviously they were hearing from fairly conservative employees who were connected to this minister. They needed to sort out how they were going to deal with those problems."

Representative Murray said the company's contention that the decision not to support the bill had nothing to do with the church was "an absolute lie."

Which indeed sounds more like it. A few loony tunes, as usual, are trying to make life miserable for anyone who doesn't follow their straight and narrow definitions of normality (most of which these "Christians" don't follow in their own lives. See the rash of kids with abstinence bracelets having anal and oral sex).

A Microsoft employee who said he attended a meeting this month with Mr. Smith and about 30 employees, most of them gay, said that Mr. Smith discussed his meetings with Dr. Hutcherson and left the impression that the company was changing its policy on the bill as a result of those meetings.

"Brad was very clear that the decision to be neutral on the bill was made subsequent to his meeting with Ken Hutcherson," said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the company. "My gut feeling is that the pastor and his threat of a boycott and the general sensitivity around this issue was a factor in this decision."

He added, "At the meeting, what Brad told us was that Microsoft made its decision on the bill between the first and second meetings he had with Hutcherson."

Working towards the Fuehrer. Coming to a formally socially liberal company near you.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ewwwwwww

If you lived around 300 million years ago, turns out you would have needed a really, really, really big can of Raid:

Today, you can squish the tiny bugs, but 300 million years ago, 8-foot-long millipedes were in control of the landscape, and humans weren't even a gleam in evolution's eye.

New Mexico is now a world record holder of such "exquisitely grotesque creatures," as one worker at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science calls them. Evidence of the largest arthropleura - its technical name - ever found was recovered by the museum on Friday.

"In today's world, you couldn't have a bug this big," said Spencer Lucas, paleontology curator at the museum. "This is basically the Tyrannosaurus of the Pennsylvanian period, millions of years before dinosaurs evolved. If you took a time machine back, you'd definitely want to check your sleeping bag for these suckers before getting in."

The Pennsylvanian time period lasted from 325 to 280 million years ago.

The museum has not found the bug itself. What it did find in a remote canyon near Española were the fossilized tracks of such a creature - which looks like a 3-by-8 speed bump with flat wings holding hundreds of nasty, ribbed, horseshoe-shaped feet.

"This is a very spectacular thing," said Adrian Hunt, director of the museum, who went out in the field with the team to recover it. "Think of it as a much bigger cross between a millipede and a centipede. It probably lived in swampy forest debris. Something like this has never been found before in the Western United States."

Yuck! Looking at the bright side, the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere is now too low to support such wackily grotesque insects, horror films notwithstanding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Will No One Rid Us of This Turbulent Dimwit?

What's the delay in heaving DeLay's ass out of the House? The man is purely and simply a lunatic, and White House support for him tells us all we need to know, don't it? Latest target: Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Absolutely. We’ve got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That’s just outrageous,” DeLay told Fox News Radio. “And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.”

Gee, Kennedy uses Lexis/Nexis on the "internets." It's the end of the world!

The bugman is a national disgrace. Evidently American citizens need to make it more obvious to the Repug leadership and the lay figure in the White House that this man needs to be gone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

SHAME

Certain left wing bloggers are spewing hatred and in some cases absolute filth over the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, including calling him, a draftee in World War II like millions of other innocent German men, and before that a member of the mandatory Hitler Jugend, a Nazi. Here and here are two examples. And the right wing is going to laugh and point and say, see?

If you are concerned about the new pope, it's legit to say so and comment on your reasoning. Many have, and I don't have a problem with that; I think he's probably too conservative to help the Church at this time with the terrible problems it faces. I'm also willing to wait and see; after all Blessed John XXIII was supposed to be a Pius XII clone. Popes often try to signal something with the papal name they select. The last Benedict, Benedict XV, was a moderate pope after an extreme conservative. Who knows what this Pope wishes his last legacy to be?

But for people to whom the only acceptable pope would have been a lesbian from the third world who would conduct rites of Astarte in the Vatican - hell, you shouldn't even comment. You wouldn't have liked any selection the cardinals made. You believe the Church should adopt the "do it if it feels good" dogma and guess what, that isn't going to happen.

Habemus Papam

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has become the new pope and has chosen the name Benedict XVI. Will this very conservative German surprise us?

Who was Smoking What?

You have to wonder which group of dimwits at TIME thought it was a good idea to profile Ann "Lunatic" Coulter, a profile that is actually largely complimentary (huh?!). Billmon has a good response here.... Media Matters is on the story here.

While embellishing Coulter's legal work, pretending it was something more than partisan hackery, Cloud downplays Coulter's history of outrageous comments, unquestioningly quoting Coulter friend Miguel Estrada downplaying her vicious attacks as "a little bit of a polemicist" (Coulter herself sees no need for the qualifier; she told the Sunday Times of London that "I am a polemicist. I am perfectly frank about that") and writing that "Coulter can occasionally be coarse."

"Occasionally" coarse? A "little bit" of a polemicist? This about a "commentator" who claimed that the Democratic Party "supports killing, lying, adultery, thievery, envy"; who said of the idea that the American military were targeting journalists, "Would that it were so!"; who said President Clinton "was a very good rapist"; who insisted that "[l]iberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole"; who said that "I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days" to talk to liberals; who said it was lucky for former senator Max Cleland's political career that he lost an arm and two legs in Vietnam; who has said her "only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"; and who wrote that the only real question about Bill Clinton was "whether to impeach or assassinate."

What, exactly, would it take for Time to declare that someone is "frequently" coarse?

Perhaps taking note of her threats against liberals would do it....

Perhaps we can expect a "fair and balanced" cover story about Paul Josef Goebbels next week in TIME....

They Write Letters

Some letters to the editor printed today in the NYT are illuminating in the matter of the estate tax. This, for example, is interesting:

Your April 15 editorial espouses the virtue of government confiscation with the specious argument that the government needs the money.

Why is the government's need for money any more valid than the need of the individual who earns it?

Of course those affected by the estate tax do not include "the individual who earn(ed) it." That person is dead and presumably trying to jam their way through the proverbial needle's eye; the people affected are purely and simply parasites receiving money they did not earn. The world owes no one a living - including the children of the wealthy, they less than anyone, in fact, since presumably they have generally benefited from the best of everything including education and, most importantly, connections. We have a republic, not a nation of lords and serfs. This writer put it well:

Who should be taxed more: a hard-working wage earner, or a trust-fund baby reeling in the third million of his inheritance?

We have heard that high income taxes discourage work. Conversely, many well-educated scions of wealthy families might use estate tax repeal as their ticket to the beach. In that case, estate tax repeal would do little for our global competitiveness.

Very few heirs to great wealth are worth the powder it would take to blow them up. Paris Hiltons are a lot more common than people of virtue. When you think of the estate tax, Hilton is a very good example. When you think of her, think of the thousands of minimum-wage maids who made Conrad Hilton rich and who uniformly died poor. Think of them.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ironic

It's kind of funny in a way that the right wing have always claimed that to allow women in combat would, like allowing blacks or gays into the military, "destroy unit cohesion" and so on and so forth, blah blah blah. Well, the rules say women aren't supposed to be in combat still, but in Iraq they are, and guess what? They're doing OK. Here's an excerpt from an after-action report published at Soldiers for the Truth:

The gunner on the floor of the second vehicle is revived by his TC, the squad leader, and he climbs back into the .50 cal and opens fire. The squad leader dismounted with his M4 carbine, and two hand grenades, grabbed the section leader out of the first vehicle who had rendered radio reports of their first contact. The two of them, squad leader staff sergeant and team leader sergeant with her M-4 and M-203 grenade launcher, rush the nearest ditch about 20 meters away to start clearing the natural trenchline. The enemy has gone into the ditches and is hiding behind several small trees in the back of the lot. The .50 cal and SAW flanking fire tears apart the ten enemy in the lead trenchline.

Meanwhile, the two treating the three wounded on the ground at the rear vehicle come under sniper fire from the farmer’s house. Each of them, remember one is a medic, pull out AT-4 rocket launchers from the HMMWV and nearly-simultaneously fire the rockets into the house to neutralize the shooter. The two sergeants work their way up the trenchline, throwing grenades, firing grenades from the launcher, and firing their M-4s.

The sergeant runs low on ammo and runs back to a vehicle to reload. She moves to her squad leader’s vehicle, and because this squad is led so well, she knows exactly where to reach her arm blindly into a different vehicle to find ammo-because each vehicle is packed exactly the same, with discipline.

As she turns to move back to the trenchline, Gunner in two sees an [Iraqi fighter] jump from behind one of the cars and start firing on the sergeant. He pulls his 9-mm, because the .50 cal is pointed in the other direction, and shoots five rounds, wounding him. The sergeant moves back to the trenchline under fire from the back of the field, with fresh mags, two more grenades, and three more M-203 rounds. The Mark 19 gunner suppresses the rear of the field.

Now, rejoined with the squad leader, the two sergeants continue clearing the enemy from the trenchline, until they see no more movement. A lone man with an RPG launcher on his shoulder steps from behind a tree and prepares to fire on the three Hummers and is killed with a single aimed SAW shot through the head by the previously knocked-out gunner on platform two, who now has a SAW out to supplement the .50 cal in the mount.

The team leader sergeant – she claims four killed by aimed M-4 shots.

The squad leader – he threw four grenades taking out at least two [Iraqis] and attributes one other to her aimed M-203 fire.
...
Those seven Americans (with the three wounded) killed in total 24 heavily armed enemy, wounded six (two later died), and captured one unwounded, who feigned injury to escape the fight. They seized 22 AK-47s, six RPG launchers with 16 rockets, 13 RPK machine guns, 3 PKM machine guns, 40 hand grenades, 123 fully loaded 30-round AK magazines, 52 empty mags, and 10 belts of 2500 rounds of PK ammo.

The three wounded MPs have been evacuated to Landstuhl. One lost a kidney and will be paralyzed. The other two will most likely recover, though one will forever have a bullet lodged between second and third ribs below his heart. No word on the three COSCOM soldiers wounded in the initial volleys. Of the seven members of Raven 42 who walked away, two are Caucasian women, the rest men – one is Mexican-American, the medic is African-American, and the other two are Caucasian -the great American melting pot.
...
Note this is not a “defense against” attack. Nor a true meeting engagement, the [Iraqi] forces were carrying out an ambush from prepared positions. This is an assault on a prepared position carried out by a numerically overwhelmed but superbly trained force. In hard numbers the [Iraqi fighters] even had the advantage in weight of firepower. The casualty ratio and casualty severity ratio are incredibly disproportionate.

Courage has nothing to do with gender, or color, or sexuality. It turns up everywhere. It's time we came to fully understand that.

This Sounds Familiar

If you're not a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica you can wander off to check out another blog, but I was interested to read about John Aravosis of AMERICAblog's accidental encounter with Star Trek: Enteprise actor Dominic Keating on a New York street, because what Dominic said about the cancellation of STE sounded awfully familiar:

The show was canceled because of politics. The people on high kept telling the shows producers to do inane things to make it more interesting, like "add a tamborine to the theme music" (they did), and, my favorite, "add a boy band to one of the mess hall scenes, entertaining the crew" (I'm not kidding). They didn't take that last advice. Suffice it to say, I'm told, that all this meddling caused some bad will between the show's producers and the upper brass and that killed the show, even though Dominic says it's the #2 rated show at UPN.

In my other other life as a Battlestar Galactica fan and webmaster, I've interviewed several people who worked on the original and they all agree, network interference killed the show. As Stu Phillips, the series composer told me, "If you took the percentage of shows that they put on every year and say, 'How much success do they have, what right do they have to tell anyone anything?', they are without a doubt the worst people at guessing or predicting what's good or bad."

The beat goes on. Sheesh. (via the multi-interested Avedon Carol)

Dropping Ratings

Kos is enjoying Dubya's rapidly plummeting public opinion polls; I, on the other hand, tend to remember what happened the last time Golden Boy's numbers tanked. It involved hijacked jetliners.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Second Renaissance

Technology developed by NASA is about to make a hoard of ancient papyri from Egypt readable - including lost works by Euripides, Sophocles, Hesiod, and others.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia.

Expect the wingers to freak out any second, however. It's already known that the hoard, found in an ancient garbage dump at Oxyrynchus, contains documents from early Christianity. Writings later found to be part of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas were found there, and the scientists expect to find more. There are known lost Gospels, lost letters of Paul, and other writings that could pour vivid new light on the world of the New Testament if they're among the newly decipherable papyri.

And we know how today's right wing "Christians" hate that (via).

Lunatics

Believe it or not, Christian loonies are lining up to stop a new vaccine that may prevent the scourge of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer - and I'm amazed this isn't more generally known - is most often (not always, though) an STD caused by the human papilloma virus. This vaccine, if given before a girl becomes sexually active, could prevent most cases of cervical cancer - a dangerous disease here, but a massive killer in the underdeveloped world. What a surprise that the loonies are out to oppose the vaccine:

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.

Meanwhile in developing countries, where 80 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer occur, social taboos may be even more powerful. The head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, N. K. Ganguly, says it will take a big educational effort to convince parents. Vaccinating men could be the best way to prevent the spread of HPV among women.

HPV is extremely common. Half of all sexually active women between 18 and 22 in the US are infected. Most cases clear up, but sometimes infection persists and can cause cancer decades later.

Christians and other dingbats would prefer women die of cancer. These idiots need to be taken out and horsewhipped (via).

Whitewashed Tombs

Frank Rich does his usual effective job of taking on Tom DeLay and his "holy" compatriots in crime in the NYT today:

In the DeLay story almost every player has ostentatious religious trappings, starting with the House majority leader himself. His efforts to play God with Terri Schiavo were preceded by crusades like blaming the teaching of evolution for school shootings and raising money for the Traditional Values Coalition's campaign to save America from the "war on Christianity." Mr. DeLay's chief of staff was his pastor, and, according to Time magazine, organized daily prayer sessions in their office. Today this holy man, Ed Buckham, is a lobbyist implicated in another DeLay junket to South Korea.

But it's not merely Christian denominations that figure in the religious plumage of this crowd. Mr. Abramoff, who is now being investigated by nearly as many federal agencies as there are nights of Passover, is an Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews. In Washington, he opened not one but two kosher restaurants (I hear the deli was passable by D.C. standards) and started a yeshiva. His uncompromising piety drove him to condemn the one Orthodox Jew in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, for securing "the tortuous death of millions" by supporting abortion rights. Mr. Abramoff's own moral constellation can be found in e-mail messages in which he referred to his Indian clients as "idiots" and "monkeys" even as he squeezed them for every last million. A previous client was Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who, unlike Senator Lieberman, actually was a practitioner of torture and mass murder.

Yep. Read the whole thing. What a shame that these filthy people have convinced so many Christians that they share and defend their faith. Jesus had it right: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. The modern Republican party has become a stinking heap of dead men's bones, from Iraq to Darfur to America herself with her millions of unemployed, millions of uninsured, millions of desperate people preyed upon by righteous hypocrites like Tom DeLay.

Yech

Laid low by a very severe bout of food poisoning. Slowly recovering....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wages

Brad DeLong asked the other day why real wages are not rising and advanced three theories:

1. Improvements in firms' ability to squash unions, and thus shift wage bargains toward employers (the Wal-Mart hypothesis).

2. A slack labor market--much more labor-market slack than the level of the unemployment rate would lead one to expect--in which firms find it easy to hire workers and workers find it hazardous to ask for higher wages.

3. Changes in the international economy that boost the wages of the skilled and educated (whose products can be sold abroad for more) and put downward presure on the wages of the less-skilled and less-educated (who now face much stronger competition from abroad).

Needless to say, Brad missed number 4, which should be number 1: Unlimited quantities of illegal aliens willing to do your job for peanuts. Immigration is the third rail of American politics, and it shouldn't be. I get tired especially of hearing liberal commentators of various stripes supporting illegal immigration. I'm all for using any method that would stop it, including lethal force. It's not just bad for Americans' jobs, if only one tenth of one percent of the people coming over are terrorists - we're screwed.

Dubya LOVES the Troops

Here's a letter to David Hackworth printed by Soldiers for the Truth that tells one soldier's experience at Dubya's "Emperor Commodus Photo Op" (Jo Fish compared Dubya to Commodus first, btw) the other day:

“Tomorrow (Apr. 12), the POTUS is coming to Fort Hood to welcome the 1st Cav[alry Division] home. Nearly my entire brigade is out doing FTXs, gunneries, etc. So we get pulled back in to go to this ceremony. You’d think it would be a welcome break from the field - get a shower, hot meal, warm bed ... but it’s not.”

“We have to form-up at 0315 on the 4th ID side [of Fort Hood], and march the five miles to where the ceremony is, which just happens to start at 1000. When the ceremony is over (scheduled for 1200), we get to march back to our respective areas, get about four safety briefs, then be dismissed until O-dark-thirty the following day so we can finish our respective missions.”

“Normally, this wouldn’t bother me ... if I wasn't a bit beat up from my gunnery, or if it wasn’t supposed to be in the 90s tomorrow. Just like in your book (Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts), this is all for a photo op - two whole divisions standing tall and looking good in front of the president sure makes a nice picture. Anyway, just thought I’d share that with you, and my appreciation for your writing and reporting.”

0315 is, for those not familiar with military time, 3:15 am. Hail Caesar! What crap.

Dems to Hate

We still have traitors in our party, little fake Democrats who are Repugs at heart. Here is a list of who voted for and against repealing the Paris Hilton Tax. If one of the Democrats who voted yes is in your district, you need to let them hear early and often about this.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

How the Parasites Came to Run Everything

Today the House may vote to repeal - permanently - the estate tax. We come closer to having a titled nobility, the rich will get richer, and the poor will get shat upon. How did it happen?

"For almost a century, the estate tax affected only the richest 1 or 2 percent of citizens, encouraged charity, and placed no burden on the vast majority of Americans," they wrote. "A law that constituted the blandest kind of common sense for most of the twentieth century was transformed, in the space of little more than a decade, into the supposed enemy of hardworking citizens all over this country."

The secret of the repeal movement's success has been its appeal to principle over economics. While repeal opponents bellowed that only the richest of the rich would ever pay the estate tax, proponents appealed to Americans' sense of fairness, that individuals have the natural right to pass on their wealth to their children.

The most recent Internal Revenue Service data back opponents' claims. In 2001, out of 2,363,100 total adult deaths, only 49,911 -- 2.1 percent -- had estates large enough to be hit by the estate tax. That was down from 2.3 percent in 1999. The value of the taxed estates in 2001 averaged nearly $2.7 million.

"Fairness" my ass. That is one of the real faults of the American character - we think it's "fair" to let every illegal immigrant in to force down our wages and benefits, we think it's "fair" to allow other countries to undercut our companies and put millions of Americans out of work, and we have the freakish and stupid idea that it's "fair" to permit economic serial killers pass their often ill-gotten gain - money that should have gone to their workers and stockholders - to their parasite children. Think Paris Hilton. And Democrats don't have the balls to stand up to these people:

House Democrats, led by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), today will propose permanently raising the exclusion to $3.5 million -- $7 million for couples. That would be enough to exempt 99.7 percent of all estates. The Pomeroy bill would cost the Treasury $72 billion over 10 years, compared with the $290 billion price tag of a full repeal through 2015, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Ooo yeah, that makes a big difference. What crap.

A compromise that includes any estate tax, no matter how small, may fail if the fervent repeal coalition holds firm, Graetz said. Repeal opponents have been unable to whip up big support, he said, because they never made the emotional case that the American belief in equal opportunity runs counter to the existence of an aristocracy born to inherited riches. Paris Hilton, who inherited her wealth and now famously enjoys spending it, could have been their counter to the small-business owners and family farmers whom repeal proponents held up as the victims of the tax.

Of course if they did the Repugs would run around screaming "class warfare," when in fact the only class warfare in this stinking country is the rich raping the poor and middle class.

But ultimately, whether people believe the estate tax will affect them has little bearing on support for repeal. Early this year, with Soldano's money, Luntz again began polling, this time in the face of record budget deficits and lingering economic unease. More than 80 percent called the taxation of inheritances "extreme." About 64 percent said they favored "death tax" repeal. Support fell to a still-strong 56 percent when asked whether they favored repeal, even if it temporarily boosted the budget deficit.

Americans are real, real stupid. They must be to have been persuaded by Repugs that the inheritence tax is a "death tax" and cleans out innocent small businessmen and farmers. Those are hardly the people affected. The people affected are people not with millions, but tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions, people who can never ever have enough. These people need to be turned upside down and shaken out, every generation. It's only fair that they give back what they "earned."

Update: mdjeffersonian over at Daily Kos says it much more eloquently that I did:

Now there will be a permanent repeal of the estate tax. Consequence No. 1: philanthropy will dry up. There will be far fewer Jack Kent Cooke Foundations, far fewer Pew Charitable Trusts. Consequence No. 2: The rich will get richer - much richer. And the richer they get, the more laws they will buy. Think Bush (they both buy and sell), think DeLay. The effects on our democracy would be devastating. We already talk about people buying Senate seats. Just imagine a Congress with nothing but Kennedys and Rockefellers, except their names will more likely be Mars, and Mellon Scaife, and Coors, and the far right wingnut theocratic heirs to the Dominos pizza fortune. Consequence No. 3: the economy will suffer - I firmly believe that when capital is tied up in trusts (which cannot take major risks) and when wealth is being spent on yachts in Europe, while the middle class is shrinking and the poor are driven into extreme poverty, the result is not a robust economy. Consequence No. 4 (and this is the least of them but having known some of these people I tend to actually feel sorry for how lost and weak they often are): entire generations of leeches will be born.

So the next time you hear about the "unfairness" of the "death tax," remind people that America wasn't supposed to be an aristocracy.

I'm sorry, but the children and grandchildren of the rich should have to work for a living. Just like everyone else. It's only fair, after all.

Read the whole piece, and the comments.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cameras Prove NYPD Acted Like Gestapo During RNC

The ubiquitous camcorder comes through again and proves that many - probably most - NYPD arrests during the Nuremburg-like Republican Convention were completely unjustified:

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.

Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney's office agreeing that the cases should be "adjourned in contemplation of dismissal."

So much for these "heroes" of 9/11. The NYPD pretty clearly collaborated with the Repugs and repressed legitimate protest protected by the Constitution and in the process arrested and often beat up innocent citizens. My friends, it's lawsuit time.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I Agree

I agree with Billmon. Commenting on the recent conviction of a spammer and his sentencing to nine years in prison, Billmon comments:

My only regret is that the jury didn't see fit to sentence young Jeremy to the full medieval rehabilitation routine (including a nice, long counseling session on the rack), followed by drawing and quartering.

The only reason I'm so inclined towards leniency is that the story didn't say anything about Jaynes being implicated in the vast comment spam and track-back spam conspiracies. If he was . . . well, if our Saudi allies wanted to practice their torturing skills on an infidel Westerner, I'd give them Jeremy and tell them not to bother shipping back the pieces.

No kidding. I can't remember who said this, but someone on Slate several months ago pointed out that it would actually make more economic sense to execute the little bastards who write viruses than it does to execute murderers.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Blitzer

I have always considered Wolf Blitzer to be a particularly dumb asshat. I remember the night the Desert Storm op began and Wolf, then CNN's Pentagon correspondent, proceeded to misidentify every airplane and weapon shown on the tapes he was commentating on. One would think that the Pentagon correspondent would invest in an ID guide of some kind, but not Wolfie, noooooo. And he's just as reliably stupid today, as Kos points out:

BLITZER: While they were united today in mourning the death of the pope, U.S. Catholics are a diverse group, as illustrated by two of our Crossfire co-hosts, the conservative Robert Novak, the liberal Paul Begala. Both good Catholics -- I don't know "good" Catholics, but both Catholics. I'm sure Bob is a good Catholic, I'm not so sure about Paul Begala.

BEGALA: Well, now, who are you to pass moral judgment on my religion, Mr. Blitzer? My goodness gracious.

BLITZER: All right, go ahead, go ahead.

BEGALA: On the day of my Holy Father's funeral. My eldest son is named John Paul, after the Pope.

BLITZER: So you are a good Catholic?

BEGALA: I'm serious, that annoys me. I don't think anybody should presume that a liberal is not a good Catholic.

NOVAK: Paul, Paul, Paul is a good Catholic.

BEGALA: The Holy Father is liberal. And in fact, when [CNN contributor] Carlos [Watson] was speaking [earlier in the program], I was in the green room. Underneath, some producer had written, "Many Catholic doctrines are conservative." Absolutely correct. Many are liberal as well. The Holy Father bitterly opposed President Bush's war in Iraq. He came to St. Louis -- and I was there -- and he begged America to give up the death penalty. President Bush strongly supports it, as did President Clinton and others. Many of the Holy Father's views -- my church's views -- are extraordinarily liberal. The Pope talked about savage, unbridled capitalism, not Bob Novak's kind --

BLITZER: I was certainly not questioning -- I was only teasing.

BEGALA: Okay.

BLITZER: Don't be so sensitive.

BEGALA: Well, it's an important day for my faith.

BLITZER: It's a very important day --

BEGALA: It's the only pope of my adult lifetime, so I'm a little emotional tonight.

BLITZER: It's a very important day for Bob Novak. Go ahead, Bob.

Jesus H. Christ. "It's a very important day for Bob Novak," but clearly it's a joke for Paul Begala who, as a Democrat, just can't be a good Catholic. What a stinking pile of horseshit. My mother's family is Catholic and most of them, including my cousin the Deacon, are Democrats.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Dubya Will Get His Back, of Course

Josh Marshall points out something interesting about the Chimp's sneering visit to West Virginia yesterday:

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US debt. What are theirs worth? Are they going to get their money paid back?

Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of President Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. Is he going to get his money paid back?

He wants to borrow $5 trillion more. Are those folks going to get paid back?

That's what this is all about. Defaulting on that portion of the federal debt. Those folks will all get their money back. But the president figures you can be stiffed.

If you pay most of your taxes in payroll taxes (like the overwhelming majority of Americans) he's trying to play you for a fool.

Simple as that.

The parasites will get their money, the Chinese will get their money, and to hell with you, my friend.

Welcome to America!

You will soon need a passport to reenter your own country, fellow Americans. Illegal immigrants still get in with no papers at all, of course.

Bloggers vs. "Mainstream Media"

I keep hearing that the mainstream media is much more accurate than the blogosphere. I suppose that explains Gwynne Dyer's article in which he kept referring to Pope John Paul I as "Luciano Albino." That's Albini Luciano to you, doofus.

And he's not the only one. Check out this...and this...and this. Yeesh.

UPDATE: Hey, and I'm an idiot too! Got to recheck my typing. John Paul I was, of course AlbinO Luciani, not "Albini," which sounds like an Italian brand of bologna or something.

DeLayed

Will someone put Tom DeLay out of our misery? Please?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

IMPEACH

Twice, George Bush has taken an oath that specifically enjoins him to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Today, he claimed that the Treasury Bonds that make up the Social Security Trust Fund are worthless.

US Constitution, Article XIV, Section 4:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Shall not be questioned. Bush should be impeached. Right now.

Bush Says Your Social Security Benefits are Gone

So the Chimp went to West Virginia and has officially announced that the Social Security Trust Fund does not exist.

"A lot of people in America think there is a trust -- that we take your money in payroll taxes and then we hold it for you and then when you retire, we give it back to you," Bush said in a speech at the University of West Virginia at Parkersburg.

"But that's not the way it works," Bush said. "There is no trust 'fund' -- just IOUs that I saw firsthand," Bush said.

Your money has been given to the rich in the form of tax cuts, in the form of spending for useless weapons systems, in the form of permitting and encouraging India and China to demolish our economy. Strangely enough, a wee bit of truth escaped from the Moron in Chief's lips:

"It's time to strengthen and modernize Social Security for future generations with growing assets that you can control that you call your own -- assets that the government can't take away."

Gee, like the assets you and your pals have already stolen?

This needs to be smashed down fast, folks. Drop the blogging about the Pope and other misc. stuff - this is important. This is the biggest robbery in history. We must NOT let them get away with it.

General Clark

Retired General Wesley Clark is going to testify before the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow. Take his survey here.

Treason

George Bush reportedly will announce in West Virginia today that the Social Security trust fund is non-existant "paper."

Well. Then your Savings Bonds are paper. Perhaps you should call your bank and tell them your mortgage is just "paper" and you will not be repaying it. I'll give Chase a call and tell them the same about my car loan.

The wealthy have looted your money - your money - and now are planning on not paying it back. This is the biggest, most egregious looting of the US Treasury in history. Will we let the chimp get away with it? Isn't it time we called him to account?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Class Warfare

In Roman times, the wealthy gave money to their cities to build baths, arenas, theatres, aquaducts, and other structures intended for the public benefit. In our time, the rich just can't be rich enough, so they steal the money from the taxpayers to build their pleasure domes, as Bob Herbert observes:

When Robert Wood Johnson IV, the fabulously wealthy owner of the New York Jets, craned his neck from a perch in the New Jersey Meadowlands (where the Jets now reside) and trained his eyes on an enormous parcel of Manhattan real estate, his heart began beating wildly and a single obsessive thought began racing through his brain: I want it.

After all, it was waterfront property, right up against the Hudson River. Very valuable. You could walk to it from Times Square.

Not only did he want this publicly owned property turned over to him so he could build a grand stadium for his privately owned franchise, he wanted the city and state to kick in hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars to help him realize his dream. Being a member in good standing of the billionaires' club, he asked his fellow billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, to take care of this matter for him.

Mayor Mike was only too happy to oblige. He quickly came up with $600 million in city and state money for his pal Woody (all of Mr. Johnson's friends call him that). To put this in perspective, consider that the $600 million is nearly equivalent to the entire amount ($635 million) that Woody paid for the team. In effect, the public would be reimbursing him for the cost of the franchise.

Then Mayor Mike persuaded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns this very valuable property on Manhattan's West Side, to agree to hand it over to Woody for a bargain-basement price, hundreds of millions shy of its real value.

So quicker than you can say "scandalous," the billionaire mayor arranged the transfer of more than a billion dollars' worth of goodies from the public domain to the private stash of his friend Woody. Quite naturally, Woody plans to use this windfall, which rightfully belongs to the men and women of New York City and New York State, to further enrich himself. Trust me, it's good to be a billionaire.

There are a few other weird things about this deal. The proposed 75,000-seat stadium - surrounded by the dense, traffic-jammed neighborhoods of Hell's Kitchen, Times Square and Chelsea - will be built with no new provisions made for parking. On game days, the entire West Side of Manhattan will be paralyzed. Fans driving to the stadium will be lucky to make it inside before the final gun.

Then there's the price tag for this stadium. Originally it was supposed to cost $1.4 billion. There is only one appropriate reaction to spending that kind of money for a football stadium: hysterical laughter. (In Philadelphia, a billion dollars bought two new stadiums.) Usually when something is overpriced, it gets marked down. But in this case the price has gone steadily up - to $1.7 billion, and then $2 billion, and now, incredibly, $2.2 billion.

Incredible. Just incredible.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II

The Pope has died. From 2 Timothy 4:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Blog Move!

Seeing the Forest has moved to a new home here. I'll update the links to the side later.

"Where's Paulie?"

Much to the horror of space fans everywhere, the Orange County Choppers gang is getting ready to build a "Space Shuttle Tribute Bike." Good grief.