Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Freedom on the march in New Orleans

The Bush Administration today strongly denied reports of devastation along the Gulf Coast and flooding in New Orleans, and insisted that the situation is already improving.

"Sure, there are pockets where dead-enders and other small puddles of water are trying to reconstitute," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "But the the forces of dryness are making good progress. Whatever minor impacts we are seeing from the axis of wetness represents tghe last efforts of a dying cause." Rumsfeld also insisted that he knew exactly where the breaches in the levys around the low-lying city of New Orleans were, informing reporters that the breaches were "in the area around New Orleans and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Vice President Dick Cheney was equally adamant. "We are seeing the last throes of insurgent wetness throughout the Gulf Coast area," Cheney maintained.

Finally, President Bush annouced that although the war for terra firma was "hard work," "progress was being made," and said that the lessons of 9/11 would not be forgotten. "We will send all 12 National Guardsmen remaining in Louisiana and Mississipi to Iraq immediately so that we can protect all freedom-loving people against this kind of assault," said the President.

In an unrelated story, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that all male survivors found in the areas under martial law who could not either (a)produce voter records proving they voted for George Bush or (b) prove they belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans would be temporarily housed in a shelter located in Gauntanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Department of Defense also revealed that it had awarded Halliburton, Inc. a $12 billion no-bid contract to furnish each affected resident with a lunchbox containing an expired MRE and a bottle of Lake Pontchartrain water. The lunchboxes could be ready for distribution as early as November.

Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists

From The Guardian:

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.

The scientific work they are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The demands in letters sent to the scientists have been compared by some US media commentators to the anti-communist "witch-hunts" pursued by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.
I recall seeing this some weeks back on a media outlet or another blog, and it was every bit as outrageous then as it is now--the McCarthy parallel is perfect. The article mentions that a spokesperson for Barton said all the necessary evidence has been collected for review, but I hope that doesn't mean the scientists complied with his demands. Indeed, I think their best course of action at this point is to provoke a contempt of congress charge. As Cindy Sheehan has made plain, dragging cowardly tools like Barton into the sunlight has a way of making it clear that at long last, they have no decency.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

From Zero to Nero

Dubya plays:


President Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country Singer Mark Wills, right, backstage following his visit to Naval Base Coronado, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Bush visited the base to deliver remarks on V-J Commemoration Day.


While America floods:


Gotta love that compassionate conservatism. And do you think he has broken out his personal copy of My Pet Goat for old time's sake?

Sometimes a hurricane is just a hurricane

Dr. Bloor commented earlier on the pathetic right wing attempts at humor/blame placement for the devastation on the Gulf. I am waiting for the mainstream to say the obvious: that many local National Guard units (which, after all, are maintained largely for exactly this eventuality) can't offer desperately needed help because they are busy in the Quagmire Formerly Known As Iraq; and that money that should have gone to shoring up levees and other programs was diverted to inadequately armored Hummers and inadequately supervised Halliburton 365-days-of-Christmas giveaways.

And yet, curiously, I have heard nothing about how Katrina is God's punishment for Red State support of Bush, Iraquagmire, etc. (Remember: Pat Robertson has steered hurricanes away from God-fearing folk before.) At some point we can expect to hear the equivalent of Freud's lame "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" attempt to escape the tentacles of his own theories.

On the other hand, if you want to move past the "God's will" theory, you might want read this. If I were God, that would be more than enough to make me wrathful.

Update: better yet, look here: RFK, Jr. connects the dots.

The war is over; time to blame the liberals

New piece up @ Raw Story.

Wingnuttier

Via Katrina vanden Heuvel's blog over at HuffPo:

Like all Americans I have been horrified watching the destruction wrought on New Orleans by this natural disaster. And I suppose like others who share the name Katrina, it has been eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news. But when Fox News started calling the hurricane, Killer Katrina, I started praying some rightwing idiot wouldn't stoop so low as to personalize or politicize all of this human suffering.

But wouldn't you know, the biggest dittohead on the block, Rush Limbaugh, is calling the storm Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel and warning that the left is going to use this tragedy against the right. Jonah Goldberg, who has never seen a bad joke bandwagon he could resist jumping on with both feet, blogged, and I quote, "It would be pretty cool if Fox played to caricature and repeatedly referred to the hurricane as Katrina vanden Heuvel." Not satisfied, he went on to imagine the headlines, "The destruction from Katrina vanden Heuvel is expected to be massive..The poor and disabled are particularly likely to suffer from the effects of Katrina vanden Heuvel."
Jonah Doughboy's blindly jumping on the bandwagon here is right in line with his generally infantile, severely empathy-challenged personality, and thus no real surprise. But does anyone else think Limboob is going off the deep end? His latest riff, along with stuff like comparing Cindy Sheehan to Bill Burkett aren't reflections of right-wing thinking as much as they seem to be signs of a formal thought disorder. Incipient schizophrenia? Residual signs of drug withdrawal? Or is this what happens to your central nervous system when you start consorting with lamebrained cable news anchors?

Commenting to a comment to another blog

The Cunning Realist is a rare bird: a sane, well-argued conservative. In this post he admits the the utter clusterfuckness of our Iraq policy, and castigates the usual players for the failures. But he says he supported the original decision to invade Iraq, and does not say anything that would indicate that he now thinks that was the wrong decision. In other words, good idea, bad execution. (Kinda like our own milquetoast Democratic politicans.) A commenter (who identifies himself as a "true Wyoming Republican") takes him down beautifully on that score:

When will we get an unequivocal admission that the decision to invade Iraq was extremely unwise/short-sighted/ stupid (take your pick). Even if there had been a weapons program discovered and it was subsequently dismantled/destroyed, would the current situation on the ground be any different? Would the Kurds, Shites and Sunnis now be getting along, with no Sunni insurgency?? Would the U.S. not now be facing a long term commitment of money and troops? No, no and no. There is no way, by any reasonable standard, that Iraq (or the U.S.) is “better” off now without Sadadam. (and please don’t start talking about the 300,000 [?] Kurds that Saddam killed, and buried in mass graves. How many Kurds have been killed by the Turks?? Should we invade Turkey next?) And what about comments (from Sullivan) that “there's still a reasonable chance of a pretty depressingly illiberal constitution” What constitution? Illiberal or otherwise! As it stands now, it takes 2/3 of the voters, from just 3 provinces to vote down (reject) any “constitution” when it goes to a vote in October (that’s assuming that they can even come up with a “constitution”). Constitution my ass. Iraq will end up being run, the way it has always been run. The only difference is, the person with the most power will have a name other than Saddam Hussein. And for this outcome, the U.S. has spent (will have spent) the better part of a half a trillion dollars and lost (to date) close to 2,000 servicemen and women, as well as tens of thousands of seriously wounded.
When will people face this reality?

I think this is an important point: would the current situation be any better or more "worth it" if there had been biological or chemical weapons? If there had been some stumbling, inchoate, decades-from-completion nuke program?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Heh

The Arizona Daily Star is getting a makeover:
More words. More letters. No more Ann Coulter.
...
Today, we unveil some visible changes to your Opinion pages. More changes will come here and throughout the paper over the coming weeks and months.
...
Finally, we've decided that syndicated columnist Ann Coulter has worn out her welcome. Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives.


Heh.

Science Monday: Transparent Aluminum

Any techno-geeks out there remember in how in Star Trek IV the whole crew travels back in time and Scotty gives some guy in the 20th Century the formula for transparent aluminum?

Science has now caught up with science fiction: Behold transparent aluminum:



Now where's my light saber, damn it?

Monday Notcat Blogging

It has come to Mr. Bluememe's attention that there are those who suspect that he is a stuffed shirt, and unmoved by warm and fuzzy things like smelly, dander-shedding sharp-clawed violin-strings-on-the-hoof.

Nonsense. Mr. Bluememe enjoys time away from politics relaxing with cuties like:



and he has always had thought this was kind of cuddly:


but here is what really warms his heart:


Can we get back to fomenting insurrection now?

Monday cat blogging



Emma



Lulu



...and She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Because it would never occur to Atrios Poorman Assrocket to do anything this clever and cute.

Pedro Almodovar, Bitches

Greenspan and the Bubble

I spent a good part of last weekend muttering to myself about Alan Greenspan's latest message from on high, wondering if it was worth my while taking the farschimmelt octagenarian to task for stating the obvious while dodging any responsibility for the looming housing crisis. As it turns out, I needn't have worried; the good Professor Krugman did all the heavy lifting:

Regular readers know that I have never forgiven the Federal Reserve chairman for his role in creating today's budget deficit. In 2001 Mr. Greenspan, a stern fiscal taskmaster during the Clinton years, gave decisive support to the Bush administration's irresponsible tax cuts, urging Congress to reduce the federal government's revenue so that it wouldn't pay off its debt too quickly.

Since then, federal debt has soared. But as far as I can tell, Mr. Greenspan has never admitted that he gave Congress bad advice. He has, however, gone back to lecturing us about the evils of deficits.

Now, it seems, he's playing a similar game with regard to the housing bubble.

At the conference, Mr. Greenspan didn't say in plain English that house prices are way out of line. But he never says things in plain English.

What he did say, after emphasizing the recent economic importance of rising house prices, was that "this vast increase in the market value of asset claims is in part the indirect result of investors accepting lower compensation for risk. Such an increase in market value is too often viewed by market participants as structural and permanent." And he warned that "history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low-risk premiums." I believe that translates as "Beware the bursting bubble."

But as recently as last October Mr. Greenspan dismissed talk of a housing bubble: "While local economies may experience significant speculative price imbalances, a national severe price distortion seems most unlikely."

Wait, it gets worse. These days Mr. Greenspan expresses concern about the financial risks created by "the prevalence of interest-only loans and the introduction of more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages." But last year he encouraged families to take on those very risks, touting the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages and declaring that "American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage."

If Mr. Greenspan had said two years ago what he's saying now, people might have borrowed less and bought more wisely. But he didn't, and now it's too late. There are signs that the housing market either has peaked already or soon will. And it will be up to Mr. Greenspan's successor to manage the bubble's aftermath.
At the time, Greenspan's rigor during the Clinton years made him look like the Fed's version of Albus Dumbledore--strict, but with everyone's best interests in mind. His wildly irresponsible, blase attitude toward BushCo's rape-and-pillage approach to managing the economy has exposed him as the partisan hack that he is. You can take him home now, Ms. Mitchell, and don't let the door hit his ass on the way out.

The warm-up to the Rove pardon

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Governor Ernie Fletcher says he will pardon current and former members of his administration charged in an ongoing grand jury investigation.

Fletcher says he is granting blanket amnesty to any member of his administration who might be charged with breaking state merit system laws. But Fletcher says he will not pardon himself.

Nine members of his administration have been charged with misdemeanor violations of state hiring laws. He compared those charges to minor violations of fishing laws.

One member of the administration, Dan Druen, is also facing several felony charges. Fletcher used a televised address to accuse Attorney General Greg Stumbo of wasting time on the investigation while ignoring other priorities. Stumbo has called a news conference for Monday night to respond.

Fletcher also said that he will appear before the grand jury tomorrow in Frankfort. But he said he will decline to testify.


Note to MSM: save this story; you will be able to replace "Fletcher" with "Bush" and "Dan Druen" with "Karl Rove," and run it otherwise verbatim when Patrick Fitzgerald goes public in a few months.

Atrios is right

This is the dumbest thing I have ever read.

But hey, if Dennis Rodman and Kenny Rodgers are your idea of an argument for intelligent design, you go girl.

I am beginning to get a sense of why I labor in relative obscurity here -- I'm obviously too obtuse to get a gig at a major newspaper.

Reverse Engineering

Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted - New York Times
A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.
...
Ms. Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq.
...
"She is being demoted because of her strict adherence to procurement requirements and the Army's preference to sidestep them when it suits their needs," Mr. Kohn said Sunday in an interview. He also said the Army had violated a commitment to delay Ms. Greenhouse's dismissal until the completion of an inquiry by the Pentagon's inspector general.
...
Known as a stickler for the rules on competition, Ms. Greenhouse initially received stellar performance ratings, Mr. Kohn said. But her reviews became negative at roughly the time she began objecting to decisions she saw as improperly favoring Kellogg Brown & Root, he said. Often she hand-wrote her concerns on the contract documents, a practice that corps leaders called unprofessional and confusing.

In October 2004, General Strock, citing two consecutive performance reviews that called Ms. Greenhouse an uncooperative manager, informed her that she would be demoted.

Ms. Greenhouse fought the demotion through official channels, and publicly described her clashes with Corps of Engineers leaders over a five-year, $7 billion oil-repair contract awarded to Kellogg Brown & Root. She had argued that if urgency required a no-bid contract, its duration should be brief.

Ms. Greenhouse had also fought the granting of a waiver to Kellogg Brown & Root in December 2003, approving the high prices it had paid for fuel imports for Iraq, and had objected to extending its five-year contract for logistical support in the Balkans for 11 months and $165 million without competitive bidding. In late June, ignoring warnings from her superiors, Ms. Greenhouse appeared before a Congressional panel, calling the Kellogg Brown & Root oil contract "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career." She also said the defense secretary's office had improperly interfered in the awarding of the contract.

I am a believer in the power of reverse engineering. Make whatever claims you want about yourself and about your motives; I'll come to my own conclusions from examination of what you actually do. And based on what the managers of our military-industrial establishment do, it is obvious that the their goal is to transfer as much wealth as possible to Halliburton and other cronies of the Republican machine. Greenhouse was serious about the job the rest of us think she was supposed to, which runs 180 degrees counter to the job her masters expected her to do. So of course they judged her performance to be poor.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

MSM does FSM!

Incredibly, from the Wichita Eagle - Evolution debate spawns a saucy monster
Move over, Darwin. Stand aside, Intelligent Design.

The idea that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world is demanding equal time in Kansas biology classrooms.

In his corner are three moderate state school board members and a prominent Topeka attorney. They say this concept makes about as much sense as proposed science standards, favored by the board's religious conservative majority, that encourage schools to criticize evolution while they teach it.

Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Ore., created the tongue-in-cheek deity and an accompanying mythology on the origin of mankind to satirize the Kansas Board of Education's ongoing flap over evolutionary theory.

Since June, when the spaghetti monster made his Internet debut, the parody religion has grown into a full-fledged Internet phenomenon.

Henderson said his Web site -- www.venganza.org -- has had 19 million visits, including 4 million in two days last week.

A search for "Flying Spaghetti Monster" on the Google search engine turns up 96,000 hits. Yahoo offers 171,000 Web pages on the topic.
...
Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka lawyer who defended evolution at board hearings in May, hasn't been touched by the noodly appendage.

But, he said, "I have made myself available to the spaghetti monster as counsel of record, at no charge."

Why?

"When I was in the hearings, I really felt like I was back in the 16th century," he said. "Why not allow every ridiculous notion to be taught in science classes?"
...
Conservative state school board member Kathy Martin of Clay Center said the spaghetti monster is only funny at first glance. "So they really think... serious criticism of evolution is a joke," she said.

"I think probably someone who is very creative doesn't have enough to do," she added. "I think I'll continue to eat my spaghetti and not believe in it."

Martin said she's received probably "dozens" of e-mails about the spaghetti monster. But, she added, "I don't consider it a legitimate movement at all."

"I don't mind the e-mails; I can just delete those," she said.

But when she got a phone message at her home from a man who politely urged her to support the teaching of spaghetti monster theory in the schools, she made a harassment complaint and turned the name and number he left on her machine over to the sheriff's department.
...
while the spaghetti monster dominates the message traffic, a growing segment is advocating "intelligent falling," a creation of The Onion, a satirical newspaper.

Intelligent falling spoofs Intelligent Design by contending that gravity is an unproved theory and students should be taught the possibility that objects fall because a higher being is pushing them down.


I dunno if we win by turning the whole ID affair into a Monty Python sketch. But there is only one way to find out.

Borrowing his way out of debt

Margaret Colson has a strong piece up on Bloomberg.com:
President George W. Bush finally responded to the protesters camped outside his Texas ranch.

He did it a thousand miles away, before a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City. On a stop en route to a vacation within a vacation in Idaho, Bush broke his near silence about the country's almost 2,000 war dead.

``Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home,'' Bush said. ``We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for.''


Reading Bush's empty, bankrupt rhetoric for the umpteenth time, it hit me what the latest rationale for the continued insanity in Iraq really boils down to: Bush is finally acknowledging the mountain of debt he has incurred, in lives and human suffering. And he wants to borrow his way out of it.

Well, folks, as anyone who lived through the leveraged buyout frenzy of the '80s knows, you can't borrow your way out of debt. Bush can play the game with OPM (which he now redefines as Other Peoples' Mothers), but in the end, he is going to walk away with the debt unpaid, leaving others to suffer uncompensated.

Every time he talks about the debt, we need to repeat: you can't borrow your way out of debt. The grief of the mother of the next dead American soldier does not salve the pain of the thousands of Cindy Sheehans, it magnifies it. And the debt just grows larger.

And now, a brief time out for some rational thought

Daniel Dennett, a Very Smart Man by just about everyone's standards, shreds the Intelligent Design hucksters in today's Times. A sample:

Take the development of the eye, which has been one of the favorite challenges of creationists. How on earth, they ask, could that engineering marvel be produced by a series of small, unplanned steps? Only an intelligent designer could have created such a brilliant arrangement of a shape-shifting lens, an aperture-adjusting iris, a light-sensitive image surface of exquisite sensitivity, all housed in a sphere that can shift its aim in a hundredth of a second and send megabytes of information to the visual cortex every second for years on end.
...
Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process.
and more:

Intelligent design advocates...exploit the ambiguity between process and product that is built into the word "design." For them, the presence of a finished product (a fully evolved eye, for instance) is evidence of an intelligent design process. But this tempting conclusion is just what evolutionary biology has shown to be mistaken.

Yes, eyes are for seeing, but these and all the other purposes in the natural world can be generated by processes that are themselves without purposes and without intelligence. This is hard to understand, but so is the idea that colored objects in the world are composed of atoms that are not themselves colored, and that heat is not made of tiny hot things.

The focus on intelligent design has, paradoxically, obscured something else: genuine scientific controversies about evolution that abound. In just about every field there are challenges to one established theory or another. The legitimate way to stir up such a storm is to come up with an alternative theory that makes a prediction that is crisply denied by the reigning theory - but that turns out to be true, or that explains something that has been baffling defenders of the status quo, or that unifies two distant theories at the cost of some element of the currently accepted view.

To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. "Smith's work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat," you say, misrepresenting Smith's work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: "See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms." And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.
Do read the whole thing. Thank you, Dr. Dennett.

New Category: the Meta-LATEOTT

Bush Predicts Cooperation in Iraq
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush predicted Sunday that the Iraqi people will work together toward a new constitution, despite the failure to complete a draft that has the backing of all the country's ethnic and political groups.

"Of course there is disagreement," Bush told reporters. "We are watching a political process unfold."

"Some Sunnis have expressed reservations about various provisions in the constitution and that's their right as free individuals in a free society," the president said.

Despite the problems, Bush said the Iraqi people "have once again demonstrated to the world that they are up to the historic challenges before them.

He called the draft constitution "a document of which the Iraqis and the rest of the world can be proud."


Just as we talked of retiring George Bush from the LATEOTT competition to give others a fair shot at the title, ol' Dubya releases a statement so brazenly at odds with reality that he single-handledly creates a whole new category of self-delusion. We therefore create in Mr. Bush's honor a new award -- the Double Down Award, for statements that simultaneously acknowledge that the last 'light at the end of the tunnel' was a train and in the same breath express optimism that the next light will surely bring good news.

Congratulations, Sir. You have elevated self-delusion to a level unimaginable before you blessed us with your verbal derring-do.

One more LATEOTT nominee for August

Bush Confident Iraq Constitution Will Reflect Values, Traditions

We bring you another nominee in the ongoing General William Westmoreland Light At The End Of The Tunnel Award competition for the most egregiously self-deluded pronouncement about the "progress" we are making in the Quagmire Formerly Known as Iraq. Today's nominee: none other than George Walker Bush, speaking August 22 in Salt Lake City to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention:

Now Iraq's leaders are once again defying the terrorists and pessimists by completing work on a democratic constitution. The establishment of a democratic constitution will be a landmark event in the history of Iraq and the history of the Middle East. All of Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups are working together on this vital project. All made the courageous choice to join the political process, and together they will produce a constitution that reflects the values and traditions of the Iraqi people.


A few more entries like that, and the judges will be forced to decalre Mr. Bush ineligible in order to allow someone new to win the award.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The other shoe falls

The creationist assault on science has now reached the level of insanity many of us expected:


A group representing religious schools in the state is suing the University of California admissions officials for allegedly discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints.

The Association of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 schools, filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court claiming UC officials have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution.

The suit said the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, a co-plaintiff, was told its courses were rejected because they use textbooks printed by two Christian publishers, Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books.

Wendell E. Bird, an Atlanta attorney who represents the association, said UC policy is violating of the rights of students and religious schools.

"A threat to one religion is a threat to all," he said.

UC spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina said she could not comment, because the university had not been served with the suit. Still, she said the university has a right to set course requirements.

"These requirements were established after careful study by faculty and staff to ensure that students who come here are fully prepared with broad knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed," Poorsina.

The suit, which seeks an injunction against UC's practices, accuses the university system of employing a double standard by approving courses taught through the viewpoints of other religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.

Sure -- now it is about religion. I thought you were trying to tell us ID was science?

And it won't stop here, either. It isn't enough that they stupidify their own spawn -- they will not rest until Darwin has been tainted as bad religion and banished from the public square.

Admitting futility, one mistake at a time

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Saturday it had freed 1,000 detainees from Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison at the Baghdad government's request, in the largest release to date.

It was not clear if the decision was linked to a demand by Arab Sunnis opposed to a draft constitution that authorities release Sunni prisoners so they can participate in a referendum on the text and elections later this year.
...
Whether or not the releases were part of negotiations on the charter, they are likely to ease concerns over the estimated 10,000 Iraqi prisoners held in U.S. detention centers in the country.
...
The plight of prisoners in the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib, once one of Saddam Hussein's most feared prisons, has been one the most emotional issues for Iraqis since a U.S.-led invasion toppled the former Iraqi president in 2003.

A scandal broke in the facility west of Baghdad last year when leaked photographs of U.S. military guards abusing prisoners and forcing them to simulate sexual acts provoked an international outcry.

"This major release, the largest to date, marks a significant event in Iraq's progress toward democratic governance and the rule of law," said a U.S. military statement.

U.S. military officials say detainees sent to Abu Ghraib typically spend six months to a year in custody before a decision is made in Iraqi courts on whether to prosecute them.

U.S. military lawyers in Baghdad estimate that 80 to 85 percent of those arrested by U.S. forces are released without being convicted.

Leaders of the Sunni community, the seat of the insurgency, have complained that lengthy detentions without charge, during which prisoners have no access to lawyers or family, are unfair.

The military said the released prisoners were not guilty of serious crimes such as bombings, murder, torture or kidnapping and had renounced violence.


WTF? So these thousands of Iraqis who we have held incommunicado, without anything resembling due process, can be released now? Yesterday, they were the lethal "dead-enders" Rumsfeld instructed our Private Englunds to abuse -- terrorists so dangerous we couldn't release their names. Today, their release "marks a significant event in Iraq's progress toward democratic governance and the rule of law." Got that? Undoing what we did -- not Saddam's handiwork -- advances the rule of law.

How is that we go seamlessly from "Groundhog Day," where we screw up the same way, day after day, to a "Brave New World" in which we completely invert policy -- turn black to white -- without ever acknowledging yesterday's version of reality?

And if we can so easily reverse course and end stupid, ineffective policies, why not bring our troops home? How is it that bringing our troops home makes the deaths of 1800-plus American soldiers meaningless, but releasing these thousands of once-dangerous men (and women and kids) is not admitting the pointlessness of holding them in the first place?

Friday, August 26, 2005


WWFSMD?

In case the immediate news isn't depressing enough

Paul Craig Roberts: the American Economy is Destroying Itself

The historian who chronicles America's decline will lay the blame on free market ideology.
...
In an interview with Manufacturing & Technology News (August 8), the study's project leader, Jack Spencer, sees protectionism as the only threat to American innovation, which he otherwise takes for granted:

"Our belief is that subjected to the free market, the United States is still going to produce most things because our comparative advantages are innovation and new technology. If liberated from protectionism, we can compete and that is where we will always emerge as winners."

This belief is simply untrue. As this belief is the basis for the study, the study has done nothing but confirm a preordained belief.

The US has no God-given comparative advantage in innovation and new technology. We were leaders in these fields, because we were leaders in manufacturing.

We were leaders in manufacturing, because Europe and Japan destroyed themselves in wars, and the rest of the world destroyed themselves in various forms of socialism and cronyism.
...
American university enrollments in science and engineering are declining because there are no jobs for graduates. It is pointless to invest money, sweat and toil in an education that has no payoff. Markets do work. Markets are working to shrink the demand for, and supply of, American engineers and scientists.

The next impact is going to be on project manager jobs, practically the sole remaining source of career related employment for many engineers and technical people. Project management jobs require people experienced with the technology of the job. The loss of technical and engineering jobs empties the pipeline of people who have the experience to assume management positions. Far from being able to innovate, the US will even lack the human resources to manage technical and scientific projects.

Many uninformed people believe the problem is that America doesn't produce enough scientists and engineers. Manufacturing & Technology News reports that "a group of 15 US business organizations has launched a national campaign aimed at doubling within 10 years the number of bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

What is the point of this when there is a huge supply of unemployed engineers and technical people who have been displaced by offshore outsourcing and by H-1b and L-1 work visas for foreigners?
...
In a word, American capitalism is destroying itself by dismantling the ladders of upward mobility that have made large income inequalities acceptable. By rewarding themselves for destroying American jobs and manufacturing, engineering and scientific capabilities, US executives are sowing a whirlwind. American political stability will not survive the turning of an American university degree into a worthless sheet of paper. Libertarians and free market ideologues who rejoice in freedom should open their eyes to freedom's destruction.


Have a great weekend!



I know what is at stake, damn it

Top U.S. officer faults leaders on terrorism war stakes - Yahoo! News

(Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer faulted U.S. political leaders on Friday for failing to get across what he portrayed as the huge stakes in Iraq and elsewhere in the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism.

"The most important thing we have ... right now in this kind of conflict is our will and our resolve," Gen. Richard Myers, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Pentagon, adding the U.S. public does not get the stakes.
...
He contrasted the national mood with World War II, when Americans planted "victory gardens" of vegetables and took part in scrap metal and paper collection drives to boost the military effort.
...

"This military can do anything as long as they have the will and resolve of the American people," said the general.


You could not be more wrong, General. First, I know what is at stake here. I know that the largely irrational grievances of a few extremists have been sown, fertilized and cultivated into a widespread, virulent movement by George Bush's Oedipal, oil-soaked crusade. I know that we are going to reap a long-term harvest of horrors from what arrogance and stupidity have planted. I know that the options in Iraq have narrowed to (a) total civil war, (b) Islamic theocracy, and (c) both of the above. I know that there is nothing our military can do now to stop the entropy, but that we compound the agony with our "will and resolve." And I know that nothing is accomplished, and nothing is gained, when the next soldier needlessly dies "honoring" the prior needless deaths.

I also know, General, that "will and resolve" are not the most important thing. Limitless reserves of will and resolve are not enough to make pigs fly, or make the world conform to the magical vision of the neocons. The most important thing is to understand the world before trying to act upon it. All of our will and resolve cannot transubstantiate the unwinnable clusterfuck they have wrought into anything good or safe or just.

And finally, General, I know that our children's children will suffer for the crimes in which you have been complicit. What else, exactly, would you like me to sacrifice at the altar of your folly?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sanctified

After lo these many years of wandering in the desert, I am saved. I have found religion at last.

Behold: The Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster.

It is a well-formed and documented faith, complete with sightings and endorsements from academics. And, most important of all, its leading disciple is pressuring the Kansas School Board to make space for the FSM version of Intelligent Design. Brother Bobby writes:
Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.
The light of goodness now shines from me like fresh clam sauce.

Steven Laffey has friends in medium places

From Charlie Bakst's column in today's Providence Journal:

Who is Republican National Committeeman Rob Manning?

Or, who is he to jeopardize a national GOP contribution to the state party of up to $500,000 just because it somehow might help Sen. Lincoln Chafee win a primary over Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey?

The funds generally are for grass-roots party-building efforts like voter identification. The degree to which the money might help Chafee vis-a-vis Laffey is open to debate, and details are so arcane that Governor Carcieri said yesterday that he's looking for answers himself. "We'll work this out," he said.

No doubt. But whether he can also succeed in getting Laffey to leave Chafee alone and run for, say, lieutenant governor, remains to be seen.
...
Laffey says Manning "tries to represent all Republicans." He certainly comes across as representing Laffey. And surely, Manning -- who so far has refused to sign off on the national party funds -- isn't touting Chafee. "I'd prefer to talk about other candidates," he says.
...
Manning backs George Bush on Iraq and on tax cuts; Chafee does not. And, bristles Manning, in a reference to a write-in Chafee cast in 2004, "I voted for the president. He didn't."
...
With Laffey's backing, Manning last year won the national committeeman slot over former Lt. Gov. Bernie Jackvony. Jackvony said yesterday of Manning, "He's over his head."

But Manning did not sound to me as if he felt out of his element or eager to leave the spotlight. Indeed, he reminded me a lot of Laffey -- confident, cool, and pleased with himself.


Oh, he's in over his head all right, as is Laffey, and in the end, I expect that party officials in D.C. will sit on these guys and Chafee will get the nomination. But they show no sign of letting up for now, and the folks at the Club for Growth will be happy to keep them in the spotlight and hacking away at Chafee for as long as they can. Pass the popcorn, please.

How Time chose our President

Salon.com - War Room
The LA Times did a long, mostly repetitive piece on Plamegate. One of the questions they chew on is how it could have happened that Rove and Libby were able to keep their roles quiet until after the election.
The answer, at least in part: Their roles remained secret because some members of the mainstream press helped to keep them secret. According to the Times' report, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper chose not to ask for a waiver of confidentiality from Rove until this summer -- in part because his attorney advised against it, and in part because "Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year." As a result, the Times says, "Cooper's testimony was delayed nearly a year, well after Bush's reelection."

Translated, as John Aravosis explains at AMERICAblog today, that means that Time's editors didn't want Cooper to reveal information that could be damaging to Bush's re-elections hopes until after the election was over. "It's one thing for Time to do its job and ignore the effects of its reporting and overall work on US elections," Aravosis writes. "It's quite another for Time to make decisions based on whether they'll influence US elections."

In a way, it may be even worse than that. By not seeking a waiver from Rove -- by not reporting what its reporter knew to be true -- Time allowed Americans to go the polls believing that which the magazine knew to be false. Until Time turned over Matthew Cooper's email messages to Patrick Fitzgerald this July, the White House was free to proclaim -- as it did, repeatedly and vociferously -- that Karl Rove had nothing whatsoever to do with the outing of Valerie Plame. That's the false story Americans had been told when they cast their votes for the presidency in November. Time knew better but didn't say.

In our frenzy to vilify the Queen of Iraq (not that there is anything wrong with that) we may have let similar evil go unremarked. What Time did, if it was not deliberate (and thus an utterly heinous abuse of their role and status), must be viewed as one of the most spectacular acts of cowardice in decades by a major media outlet -- an act that, sadly, is being echoed in the failure of its competitors to use Time's utter dereliction as an excuse to feed on their entrails.

One reason Bush likes Iraq: Bullseyes on reporters

We all know the high esteem with which President Malaprop views the press. If he had his druthers, failing to echo the party line would be a capital offense for all in the Fourth Estate.

And that's a big part of the appeal of the Quagmire Formerly Known as Iraq. Fourteen journalists have been killed there just in 2005 (48 in all) -- at least some of whom were killed by US forces. I expect few tears were shed in the White House on their behalf.

But we do have other ways of dealing with the press there: remember Abu Ghraib?

Groups Demand Release of Reuters Cameraman in Iraq
Media rights groups demanded on Thursday that U.S. forces immediately release a Reuters journalist held in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq unless they could explain why he is being held without charge.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organisation that campaigns to protect journalists detained or threatened because of their work, said it had written to top U.S. Middle East commander General John Abizaid to demand the release of 36-year-old Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani.

It also accused U.S. forces of carrying out summary arrests of journalists in Iraq without providing any justification.
Which must sound like a little slice of heaven to the Rove machine right about now.

A conservative who actually believes in conserving

www.AndrewSullivan actually gets it about SUV stupidity:
A simple one-third increase in the mileage of new vehicles would have a remarkably beneficial impact on the United States-Persian Gulf relationship, and quickly.

Here's the math. About 17 million new cars and "light trucks" (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) are sold in the United States each year and driven, on average, about 12,000 miles annually. If the fuel efficiency of 17 million vehicles driven 12,000 miles annually rose by one-third, from a real-world 17 MPG to a real-world 23 MPG, that would save about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per vehicle, or about 3.4 billion gallons of gasoline. Since a barrel of petroleum yields 20 gallons of gasoline, about 170 million barrels of oil would be saved.

Perhaps you think, Aha! With U.S. petroleum demand at 20 million barrels daily, this MPG initiative has saved just about one week's worth of oil. Yes--in the first year, the MPG increase would have little effect, in much the same way that, in their first year, few investments yield much return. But remember the miracle of compounding! In the second year, with two model-years' worth of vehicles at the higher MPG, 340 million barrels of oil are saved. The next year, the savings is 510 million barrels, the next year 680 million, and so on. In just the fifth year of this initiative, we would need to purchase about 850 million fewer barrels of petroleum--approximately the amount the United States imports each year from the Persian Gulf states.

More Robertson flip-floppery

The Cunning Realist points out a whole 'nother way in which the Right Reverend hoists himself on his own petard:
(citing the WaPo and CBS in 2003) Charles Taylor, the Liberian president who has been indicted by an international court for crimes against humanity, has few remaining supporters in the United States. But one prominent American who has stuck with the West African leader is religious broadcaster and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

In recent broadcasts of his cable TV show "The 700 Club," watched by an estimated 1 million households, Robertson has defended Taylor as a fellow Baptist and Liberia's "freely elected" leader. The "horrible bloodbath" taking place in Liberia, he has repeatedly said, is the fault of the State Department.

What Robertson, 73, has not discussed in these broadcasts is his financial interest in Liberia. In an interview yesterday, he said he has "written off in my own mind" an $8 million investment in a gold mining venture that he made four years ago under an agreement with Taylor's government.
...
A few more quotes as reported by CBS News at the same time:
"How dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,'" Robertson said Monday on "The 700 Club," broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network.

"It's one thing to say, we will give you money if you step down and we will give you troops if you step down, but just to order him to step down? He doesn't work for us."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Golden Palace "inks" another deal

Sparks woman sporting new tattoo after selling head in online auction
Some might call it creative advertizing, while others call it flat out insane.

You may have seen it before, it's a new trend in advertising, selling ad space on bodies. It's been on boxers in prize fights, and even on a pregnant womans belly. Now, a Sparks' woman is going great lengths to presue her dreams.

Molly Demers is a pretty normal 20 year old. After completing culinary school, she decided she wanted to go to Europe to hone her trade, but going to abroad costs money. So, she got an idea off the top of her head.

"I went to culinary school and my parents were very supportive, and paid for that, then I came to them with this idea, and they were like 'pay for stuff yourself, you're older now.' So, boom, I got the eBay idea."

The idea was to sell her head as ad space to the highest bidder. She offered to shave her head and have logo tattooed on the back and top of her head. The agreement is good for one year. After that time, she can grow her hair back, or get the tattoo removed.

The highest bidder, Golden Palace Poker dot com, paid an astonishing $18,000.


Before you question Ms. Demer's judgement, consider Kari Smith, who sold more prominent real estate:

-- and only got $10 grand. Shrewd. Very shrewd.

Who Will Say 'No More'?

Gary Hart has a superb, eloquent piece up @ WaPo.
My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove. In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."

To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration's misfortune is the Democrats' fortune, is cowardly. In 2008 I want a leader who is willing now to say: "I made a mistake, and for my mistake I am going to Iraq and accompanying the next planeload of flag-draped coffins back to Dover Air Force Base. And I am going to ask forgiveness for my mistake from every parent who will talk to me."

Further, this leader should say: "I am now going to give a series of speeches across the country documenting how the administration did not tell the American people the truth, why this war is making our country more vulnerable and less secure, how we can drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and outside jihadists and leave Iraq for the Iraqis to govern, how we can repair the damage done to our military, what we and our allies can do to dry up the jihadists' swamp, and what dramatic steps we must take to become energy-secure and prevent Gulf Wars III, IV and so on."

At stake is not just the leadership of the Democratic Party and the nation but our nation's honor, our nobility and our principles. Franklin D. Roosevelt established a national community based on social justice. Harry Truman created international networks that repaired the damage of World War II and defeated communism. John F. Kennedy recaptured the ideal of the republic and the sense of civic duty. To expect to enter this pantheon, the next Democratic leader must now undertake all three tasks.

But this cannot be done while the water is rising in the Big Muddy of the Middle East. No Democrat, especially one now silent, should expect election by default. The public trust must be earned, and speaking clearly, candidly and forcefully now about the mess in Iraq is the place to begin.

The real defeatists today are not those protesting the war. The real defeatists are those in power and their silent supporters in the opposition party who are reduced to repeating "Stay the course" even when the course, whatever it now is, is light years away from the one originally undertaken. The truth is we're way off course. We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began.

Who now has the courage to say this?


My guess -- nobody.

This Week in God

Just in case you felt that Newsweek was not devoting enough attention to religion lately, the current cover story is Spirituality in America. (Subtitle: Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our poll, they don't much care what the neighbors are doing.)

So today's riddle: What is the difference between this:


and this:
?

Beats the crap out of me. If you know, please fill me in.

Care to walk that one back, Vic?

A lot of word sandwiches, word omelettes and word salads are going to be eaten by the pro-war wingnuts in coming months. So you might wonder if leading light Victor Davis Hanson might want some fries with this:

(April 22, 2003 interview, first appearing @ rightwingnews.com):
By any standard, it has been a success -- destroying an enemy 7000 miles away in less than 6 weeks, while disrupting and scattering a sophisticated terrorist network worldwide. More importantly, there is a new sophistication in our thinking about a great many Arab autocracies whose conduct has been quite duplicitous, along with a new awareness about Europe. All this shows a growing sense that the administration has now sized up the nature of the conflict, who our friends are in the trial ahead, who are enemies, and who are on the sidelines waiting to jump in when they see a clear cut winner. I might have gone more quickly into Iraq after the successes against the Taliban; but I don't think such hesitation will ultimately matter much.


You might think that subsequent events since then would cause the erudite Mr. Hanson to reassess. But in his second RWN interview (undated, but as best as I can tell from context, from the Spring of this year), Hanson stuck to his guns:


I think that if we look at it in the longer historical expanse from the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and not concentrate on any two to three week period, then the idea that a year and a half after the regime was over with --- we’d have elections pretty well under way and we would have over 2/3’s of the country pacified --- then I know it’s a tragedy that we’ve lost that many men, that was not unexpected --- but given history’s harsh judgment of other military operations and --- we’re doing pretty well. ... So the very fact that we did use military force in Afghanistan and we can press through and finish the project in Iraq, that’s going to give us some deterrence and will make the diplomatic moves at least have a longer shelf life.

A lot more seasoning in the form of qualifiers and such (and look here for a bit of reality on the "2/3rds pacified" nonsense), but no meaningful retreat there. If the events of recent weeks have led to a change in Mr. Hanson's thinking, I have not seen evidence of it.

So c'mon, Right Wing News -- aren't you going to offer Mr. Hanson another chance to dine?

By the way, the slogan @ RWN is "We dont drink the Kool-Aid, we make it." They deserve real credit for being far more accurate in that sense than the Time's woefully quaint "All the news that's fit to print."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Musical notes

...because if I try commenting on events of the day like, oh, this, this or this, I'm going to end up naked on a roof somewhere with a deer rifle.

Robert Moog dies at age seventy-one. OK, OK, in retrospect maybe the best thing about Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Works was that the album jacket provided a great platform for deseeding one's stash. But we can't very well shoot the piano maker, can we? Thanks for the great toys, Mr. Moog, and Godspeed.

There Are People Out There with Bad Intentions. Had my first encounter with Leisure Class courtesy of NPR today--a long defunct band that is just now getting its shit together to put out a two-CD compilation. A very, um, eclectic group of folks who...well, go to their website or the feature at NPR and have a listen. Possibly the only band ever that could have successfully covered Was/Not Was's Hello Dad? I'm in jail...

The Poor Man Institute

Humor with the ring of truth? Truth with a hint of humor?

My application for Senior Recidivist at The Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony will be filed forthwith.

Christian News Network

If you have made the rounds in the last few days, you know about Pat Robertson's explicit advocacy of murder in order to rid America of its greatest enemy... Hugo Chavez. I see no need to add my voice to the expressions of outrage about what Roberts said. But I was utterly dumbstruck by CNN's spin this morning. Daran Kagan ran a long clip containing Roberts' outburst, introduced by Ms. Kagan calling him "controversial."

And what did they do with this tee-up? Did they mention the Ten Commandments (you know, "thou shalt not kill"), or Jesus's riff about turning the other cheek? Did they bring on other religious leaders to talk about how unthinkably sacrilegous it is for a "man of God" to be advocating assassination -- because it is cheaper than war?

Right.

Their counterpoint was to show lots of footage of Chavez with Fidel Castro -- clearly intended to cement Chavez's status as approved bullet-catcher in the small minds of those still fighting the war against communism. Not a single discouraging word about Robertson's ravings was heard. I guess there are only two sides to an issue if the Right is trying to shout down inconvenient truths, like evolution. When wingnuts head off into the wild blue yonder, no balance is needed.

Perhaps Rush will be so pleased he will share his Vicodin stash with you tonight, Daran.

Recycling, Bush style

from the newsobserver.com:

CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION -- Earlier this month, a pair of hulking transport planes touched down and disgorged the newest additions to the Marine Corps helicopter fleet: three MH-53E Sea Dragons that had been sitting in an aircraft "boneyard" in the Arizona desert for about a decade.

The civilian maintenance workers at Cherry Point's Naval Air Depot will clean, strip and transform the worn-out helicopters into the Marine version of the aircraft, the Super Stallion, a process that could take 20 months. This is the first time that retired choppers such as these have been resuscitated, and the challenges are unique: Not only have the helicopters been outside about 10 years, but the Super Stallion has evolved with continuous major upgrades.

Restoring the helicopters, which have been out of production since 1999, is an extraordinary step; but the Marines have little choice: They're running out of big choppers.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking a bite out of their deteriorating helicopter fleet, not just in aircraft lost -- six Super Stallions have been destroyed in crashes since 2001 -- but also in hours that the helicopters are flying.

"They're coasting on legacy fleets," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting company in Fairfax, Va. "They planned to coast indefinitely ... and it would have worked just fine if it hadn't been for Afghanistan and Iraq."

The Super Stallion is the Corps' only heavy lift helicopter, and its workhorse. It moves large amounts of cargo and troops long distances and performs rescue missions. It can carry up to 55 Marines and can use slings to transport heavy equipment such as Humvees or even small armored vehicles.

The Marines' fleet of 150 is working hard.

The two wars have pushed helicopters into a bigger military role than at any time since the Vietnam era. In Iraq, choppers are vital not only for the usual reasons -- because they can quickly move troops, supplies and equipment between points without runways -- but also because roadside bombs have become the insurgents' deadliest weapon. In Afghanistan, roads are few, and broad swaths of rugged territory are impassable by ground vehicles.

A replacement helicopter, designated the CH-53X, is in the works; but it is not far along. The Marines hope to sign a contract this fall to begin development, said John Milliman, a helicopter acquisition programs spokesman at Patuxent River Marine Air Station in Maryland.

It will probably be at least 2015 before the replacement choppers are deployed, he said. But the service life of a Super Stallion is 6,120 hours in operation, and current estimates are that the Corps will have to start parking about 15 copters a year in 2010.

That leaves five years in which the Marines' fleet of heavy lift helicopters will dwindle before replacements start coming into service
.
The Bush Administration's two-quagmire strategy is causing problems in all sorts of unexpected areas. But it is nice to see that the resourceful military is finding creative and environmentally aware ways of dealing. After all, re-use is just about the greenest virtue.

With that in mind, a few suggestions for additional re-cycling from past conflicts:

Body armor:


Urban assault vehicles:


And, while you're at it, war criminals:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Iran: A Bridge too Far?

My response to Commander Codpiece's posturing at Iran has generally been "You... and what Army?" Recruiting shortfalls that are the inevitable consequence of the clusterfuck we expect people to volunteer for. And so I was focused on the manpower problem as the key reason even folks as wiggy as the neocons would not dare start another war.

Then I heard Mark Gaffney read this essay on the radio.

Oh. My. God.

The combination of the geography/topography of the Gulf and their advanced weaponry give Iran an absolute, non-debatable advantage in the Persian Gulf. All of our Navy ships (and all oil tanker traffic) there are sitting ducks, and no known defensive technology or strategy will change that. If we attack Iran, they will kick our sorry asses unless and until we use nukes. Which will please the rapture monkeys, but should scare the rest of us shitless.

Read it. Twice. Good luck sleeping tonight.

There goes the neighborhood

from AfterDowningStreet.org:

We had an incredible evening yesterday up at the new Camp Casey site. Now, as you read the rest of this post, keep in mind that the new site is literally within spitting distance of Bush's ranch-- though we wouldn't actually spit, as we're trying to behave ourselves. And besides, why stoop to vulgar behavior when we have a sound system so loud the words "No more war!" can surely be heard in the man's bedroom?!? Other statements that boomed over the loudspeaker tonight, besieging Mr. Bush and his pro-war agenda...

Justin Frank's "Bush on the Couch" points out an amazing number of serious pathologies holding permanent resident status inside Dubya's impermiable cranium. One of the interesting things I learned from that book is that Bush's obsessive control of his routine is part of a desperately needed coping mechanism.

If the protesters are able to screw up his sleep patterns, I could easily imagine the resulting stress being enough to push his fragile pysche past the point where his handlers will be able to hide the grinding of gears. Sure, they will be able to stop him from ordering silence via aerial bombardment. But unless they keep him from making any public appearances at all, sooner or later somebody is going to push his buttons too hard, and the resulting meltdown will immediately signal to millions of slow learners that maybe they didn't want to have a beer with ol' Dubya after all. And that could help bring his 30's approval rating down into the 20's.

The right man for the job

John Bolton, Boy Reformer and Graduate of the Terrell Owens School of Diplomacy and Negotiation, introduces himself to his new colleagues:

US sets last-minute drive to scrap UN reform plan

The United States has launched a last-minute drive to scrap much of a draft plan for comprehensive U.N. reform just weeks before it is to be adopted at a world summit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

One option put forward by Washington would be to return to square one and launch line-by-line negotiations on the document, the diplomats said, insisting on anonymity so as not to anger Washington.

But another top diplomat involved in the negotiations dismissed the others' concerns, saying the initiative was a negotiating tactic the United States fully expected would be rejected by U.N. General Assembly President Jean Ping, who is leading the talks.
...
It also falls two weeks after the arrival at U.N. headquarters of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, President George W. Bush's contentious choice to press for U.N. reform despite his inability to win U.S. Senate approval for the post.
...
The aggressive and sometimes abrasive Bolton is a longtime U.N. critic and a skeptic on the value of multilateral action who was accused by Senate Democrats of seeking to twist intelligence findings to advance Bush foreign policy goals.

The U.N. document, intended to serve as a blueprint for bringing the world body into the 21st century, touches on a broad range of issues from U.N. management reform -- a top U.S. priority -- to eliminating poverty, protecting human rights and ending the spread of nuclear arms.

Diplomats involved in the drafting process said they feared such an extensive rewrite at this point would reopen many contentious issues thought to be settled, and could end up sinking the document altogether.
...
The United States has been a regular participant in the negotiations, and diplomats involved in the drafting said Washington has had a major impact on the document to date. They said that was why they were surprised to learn that the United States had at this stage circulated a document that proposed eliminated most of the latest draft and suggested starting line-by-line reconsideration with all 191 U.N. members invited to the table.

Mr. Preznit, Dr. Rice, my sincere apologies for insisting during the disconfirmation process that Bolton was an inappropriate candidate for his new job. If you insist on sticking with the Playground Bully approach to foriegn policy, it only makes sense to hire a guy who can execute it with a contemptuous sneer.

Where's Colin's Medal?

Atrios is among the many who seemed to like last night's CNN special on the CIA/path to war thing a lot better than I did. Personally, I thought it was a bit less jingoistic than their normal propaganda, but still well short of a fair elocution of the willful cooking of the books by the Office of Special Plans, Doug Feith, etc.

But the thing that jumped out at me in watching Tenet get his hush medal is, why hasn't Powell gotten one? Is it because they know he is too loyal to be worried about him telling all wihtout a bribe? Is it because he was too slow to snap to attention whenever Rove walked by?

Slowdown

Interesting take on science -- a counter-intuitive but plausible take on the rate of progress in both pure and applied science @Daily Kos: The End of... Everything. Long, but really worth a read. In essence, it suggests that we are running out of things to discover and invent. It reminds me of the statment attributed (perhaps falsely) to the head of the Patent Office in 1899: "Everything that can be invented has been invented," but there is some evidence presented to back it up.

Monday Cat Blogging




Ecce Lulu.

Because we at Blue Meme care about you, and want to reduce your risk of the dreaded Monday Morning Heart Attack. And because Mr. Bluememe says I should post more.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Linc Chafee: "I've got a target on my back"

From today's Providence Journal:


Chafee, a moderate, knows he is in a vise -- not sufficiently liberal for Democrats, not enough of a conservative for Republicans who admire President Bush.
...
Polls suggest Chafee is beatable; a matchup against [Sheldon] Whitehouse showed Chafee ahead, 41 percent to 36 percent, with the rest undecided. It is never a good sign, say political experts, for an incumbent to be that far under 50 percent approaching an election year.
...
As a GOP moderate-to-liberal senator, Chafee is one of the last of a flock that once had a strong voice in the GOP.

Most of Washington's political establishment believes that Chafee is most vulnerable to a primary challenge from a conservative such as [Steve] Laffey, who has criticized Chafee since the 2004 Republican National Convention. This is due both to the nature of primaries and the challenge Laffey would pose.

To win a close general election, a candidate must convince voters who are among the least committed to politics and ideology -- the so-called swing voters -- to come to the polls.

Primary victories go to the candidate who attracts the most committed voters, those who follow politics and have strong opinions. Republican primaries in the state are notorious for low voter turnout; the modern record for a GOP primary is roughly 43,000, in the 1994 gubernatorial primary when Lincoln Almond defeated then-U.S. Rep. Ronald Machtley.

By contrast, the 2002 general election drew about 332,000 voters. About 660,000 voters are registered in Rhode Island.

This arithmetic makes Chafee vulnerable to a challenge from the right, says Jennifer Duffy, a Rhode Island native who follows Senate races for the Washington, D.C-based Cook Political Report.

"This race is waiting for Laffey; what he does has a huge impact," she said.
...
Earlier this month, Laffey sharply criticized Congress, citing the recent energy bill, which "contains huge giveaways to oil companies and agricultural giants," the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which he supports but which "did nothing to curb obscene, sweetheart deals for the sugar industry," and the transportation bill, so fat with pork "that it would make Porky Pig blush."

"Clearly Washington is broken," Laffey stated, in a news release, criticizing both parties and feeding suspicions he might run as an independent.

Chafee is unabashed about delivering money from what he called the "pork committee" -- Environment and Public Works.

"My leadership and the chairman of the committee just kept pushing money at me," he said.

It's not a bad overview article for the Projo. Of course, like most others, they insist on outlining the candidates from both parties with cartoon-character sophistication, and seem more than happy to perpetuate the preposterous myth that Chafee is some sort of moderate-to-liberal type.

But they're right about Laffey being an important wildcard. As the article makes clear, he's emerging as the fair-haired boy for the Club for Growth during the upcoming election cycle, and the CoG is making noise about running one of their characteristically tone-deaf campaigns in an effort to take down one RINO and scare the hell out of the others. And, while the article notes that the modern record for turnout in a statewide Republican primary in RI is 43,000, the last contested Republican primary for a big office drew just under 26,000 to the polls (Carcieri-Bennett for Gov in '02). This race would certainly turn out all the reactionary lunatics from not-Providence who seem to have little else to do except write rabid letters to the Projo's editors. So Lil' Stevie could do it because of/in spite of CoG support, which will fill his coffers but annoy the hell out of most voters in both parties.

And his odds would improve if he got some help from the Democrats. Rhode Island primaries are formally "closed" insofar as Dems can't vote in Republican primaries and vice-versa, but "unaffiliated" voters are free to vote in either. "Disaffiliate" within 90 days of the Republican primary, vote to knock Chafee out of the race, and then feel free to vote for SheldonWhitehouseMattBrownSomebodyElse in the general election.

Quite honestly, this might be the best chance to get the seat. His soft numbers notwithstanding, Chafee v. Whitehouse or Brown head-to-head in the general election is Chafee's to lose (all bets are off if Laffey stops taking his meds and decides to run as an independent). I suspect that many of the things Chafee does to enrage those of us in the liberal blogosphere--voting to confirm Janice Rogers Brown, for example--won't resonate and prove to be viable campaign issues "on the ground" once things heat up. Chafee, whose name alone is a powerful brand in RI, will point to a handful of contrarian votes against the administration to innoculate himself against efforts by the Dems to make him Dubya's Siamese twin. He'll also play up his ability as a member of the majority party to bring money home from D.C.--no small matter, as RI is one of the few blue states that takes from the feds more than it gives. Unless the economy tanks completely or something high-profile-horrible happens in Iraq during the election season, the Democratic candidate will have to find something to go on besides "I have lots of great ideas" or "54-46 is better than 55-45," and it's not yet clear what that something else will be.

Soldier recommends superiors for Medals of Freedom

Soldier 'instructed' to abuse Abu Ghraib prisoners. 21/08/2005. ABC News Online
One of the US soldiers convicted of mistreating prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison says his superiors made it clear those incarcerated were to be abused.

Sergeant Javal Davis was sentenced to six months in jail after admitting to having deliberately stepped on the hands and feet of handcuffed prisoners.

In an interview aired on Channel 7, Sgt Davis said he was instructed to make life as unpleasant as possible for those he was guarding.

"I was left with an open door to pretty much almost do whatever I want, you know like 'hey, make sure this guy has a bad night you know' or 'make sure this guy gets the treatment'," he said.

Sgt Davis says he found some of the things he was asked to do distressing.

"For example, the nakedness, the hooding, the handcuffing of the detainees in compromising positions, like handcuffed behind their back in an uncomfortable way or handcuffed to the bar door door or something," he said.


Team Tinkerbell phones it in

Bush Begins 5-Day Push to Defend Iraq War - Yahoo! News
With anti-war protesters continuing their vigil outside President Bush's ranch, the commander in chief began a five-day push Saturday to tell Americans why he thinks U.S. troops must continue the fight in Iraq.

In his weekly radio address, Bush argued that the war in Iraq will keep Americans safe for generations to come. He'll try to drive the point home with speeches in upcoming days in Utah and Idaho.

"Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy," the president said in the recorded broadcast.

"They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail."


It has been obvious for a long time that these folks never alter their thinking based on most kinds of facts, but in the past, they have been fairly savvy in reacting to polls. But the flypaper theory went belly up in London, the "finite terrorist supply" should have died at the same time, yet they still don't seem to have found replacements. The same tired, discredited arguments don't add up to a very enthusiastic or effective campaign. And look at the cocoons our Bubble Boy is visiting -- Utah and Idaho being among the handlful of states that have not begun to awake from their slumber (witness the refusal of a SLC station to air an anti-war ad featuring Sheehan). As long as the devastating power of the Cindytron threatens him, he is likely to avoid blue states as if a TANG flight physical was required to enter them.

Dogbert fills in for Larry King

Wherein Scott Adams nails Crap News Network et al with his usual well-honed snark, although it occurs to me that this joke is getting pretty old, and those responsible for it seem to be impervious to humiliation. Here's hoping Costas's decision gets a little of that Cindy Sheehan mojo, and starts something bigger.

"He loved explosions"

Fireworks carrying the ashes of Hunter S Thompson explode over his farm

...of all sorts. Farewell, Hunter.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Onion nails it: 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.


I tried to take on this nonsense myself a ways back with this. Kudos to the Onion for doing it a lot better.

Medal of Freedom? Ambassadorship?

Texas man admits taking kickbacks from Iraqi company
A former employee of a Halliburton Co. subsidiary pleaded guilty Friday to accepting more than $100,000 in kickbacks from an Iraqi company in exchange for securing it a U.S. military construction contract, prosecutors said.


Nothing is too good for such heroes.

Politics of ice cream

New piece up on Raw Story.

Small heroics

Refusing to give up your seat on the bus. Standing out in a field in Texas. Small things that become big things. They usually come from unknowns, unconcerned with image or career killers like principles. Which is why this small gesture from Bob Costas impresses me:

Broadcaster Bob Costas refused to anchor CNN's Larry King Live on Thursday night because of the tabloid subject matter.

The show discussed the situation of Natalee Holloway, a teenager that went missing earlier this year in Aruba, and the case of so-called "BTK" serial killer Dennis Rader. Costas, who announced on Monday that he would be covering for Larry King all week, was replaced by an Atlanta-based defence attorney, Chris Pixley.

"I didn't think the subject matter of Thursday's show was the kind of broadcast that I should be doing," Costas told TVNewser in a statement. "I suggested some alternatives but the producers preferred the topics they had chosen. I was fine with that, and respectfully declined to participate. There were no hard feelings at all. It's not a big deal. I'm sure there are countless topics that will be mutually acceptable in the future."

Costas is not the only broadcaster at CNN unhappy with the increasingly tabloid-style output. Also on Thursday, Jack Cafferty from The Situation Room said on CNN's own air that coverage of the "BTK" killer amounted to a "a ghoulish exercise on the part of the news media," adding that "if ratings are the reason... we ought to be ashamed of ourselves."

Costas' decision and Cafferty's comments come at a time when many American news outlets, primarily the cable news channels, are being accused of "dumbing-down" their output to feature stories of a more tabloid nature - the case of Natalee Holloway is held up as an example of this. The missing-persons case is given roadblock-style coverage on programmes airing on CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and the first-placed Fox News Channel.


You go, Bob.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Broad spectrum stupidity

Lest you think that otherwise rational folks have an anomalous wiggy place where they put the Great Sky Fairy hypothesis:

The good news is that the latest polls confirm that roughly half of all Americans believe extraterrestrial life exists. The weird news is that a similar fraction think some of it is visiting Earth.
My gut instinct is that many of the folks who think the Genesis fable is literally true are the same people who think that the earth is some sort of intergallactic Grand Central Station. The same kind of magical thinking is required for both, despite (or maybe because of) their seeming incompatibility. (There has to be some overlap, based on the numbers.) If you understand to even a small degree the mind-boggling vastness of the universe, neither of these is likely pass the smell test. But if your mind lives enough time zones from rationality, you can hold these two seemingly incompatible views, because cognitive dissonance just doesn't affect the intellectually tone deaf. How the Big Guy created both vastly superior little green men and humans in his own image is a conundrum that troubles them not in the slightest.

Times to New Yorkers: Drop Dead

From the Village Voice:

When The New York Times and Forest City Ratner Companies open their grand new office building on Eighth Avenue, it won't have a Taco Bell, McDonald's, Wendy's, or Nathan's, because they are specifically forbidden under terms of a land deal with the state. But a Starbucks or Cosi would be just fine.

The lease, which is on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, also bars renting space in the 52-story building for "a school or classroom or juvenile or adult day care or drop-in center." It forbids "medical uses, including without limitation, hospital, medical, or dental offices, agencies, or clinics." It gives the New York Times Company "the sole and absolute discretion" to reject United Nations or foreign-government offices, including any "considered controversial" or that are potentially the focus of demonstrations. It bans any "employment agency (other than executive-search firms) or job training center" and auction houses, "provided, however, the foregoing shall not apply to high-end auction houses specializing in art and historical artifacts." Discount stores are forbidden. And the deal bars "a welfare or social-services office, homeless shelter or homeless assistance center, court or court-related facility."

In fact, any government office is excluded from the building if it would attract people who arrive "without appointment."

Lease restrictions that exclude the public may not be unusual in luxury office buildings, but there is an irony in this case. The Pataki administration, acting on behalf of the New York Times Company, condemned the property for a so-called "public purpose." This is the standard the Fifth Amendment sets for the state to invoke the immense power of eminent domain.

Actually, I'm having trouble coming up with the name of a respectable educational institute, health care practice or social service agency that would want to rent from an organization that bankrolls time-serving lowlifes like Judy "Queen of Cellblock B" Miller.

Opportunity knocks

From ablelegalforms.com:

Congressman Charles "Joe" Scarborough Divorce Contents Page

Below are various links to some of Congressman Joe Scarborough's actual divorce papers. Congressman Joe Scarborough is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of The Florida Bar. In Florida, these documents are a part of the public record. Congressman Joe Scarborough's county of residence is Escambia County. Even so, he filed his uncontested divorce case in Walton County, which is allowed by state law and not unusual.
...
In examining the file, it was discovered that his attorney as well as his wife's attorney failed to file the required Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act Declaration (UCCJA) and the Notice of Social Security Number. Also, the Court failed to insist upon these documents being filed, which are required of others filing for divorce pursuant to state law. These are serious omissions in a divorce case.
...
If only Joe and Melanie had sought out Able Legal Forms Company first. If so, their forms package would have been 100 percent complete, neither party would have been required to attend a final hearing, Joe would have paid less than one-tenth of what he had to pay his and Melanie's lawyer, including court fees, and the validity of their divorce would not be in question.
Hey, Mr. Able--why stop with do-it-yourself divorce packages? With all those nolo pleas, federal seizures of assets and FEC-related charges going down, it's definitely time to expand the product line. I leave it to you to identify your core customers, but the example above suggests that you're clearly on the right track.



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