Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes. We. Can.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fair & Balanced

When 32 students are shot to death at Virginia Tech, the media drapes over the school, the families of the victims, and the survivors with round-the-clock coverage in which every eyebrow flicker of emotion of everyone involved is lovingly recorded for posterity. We hear who said what to whom, who sang what when, who hugged whom and a second-by-second account of the incident.

When the same horrific event happens approximately every 6 hours in Iraq, America relegates it to a footnote in the ongoing narcissistic degradation of this nation.

But I'm not bitter.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Total Destruction of George W. Bush

Well, that's it then. Daddy's won the Oedipal contest.

Connecting the Hydrogen Dots

Three articles in the November issue of Popular Mechanics caught my eye recently, and I've been connecting the dots for Reductio and whoever else would listen for a couple of weeks now.

The issue's cover story "The Truth About Hydrogen" was generally pessimistic in tone regarding the prospects of switching the United States to a primarily hydrogen-powered economy, citing as one hurdle the difficulty in assembling a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative hydrogen production process (after all, we're trying to make sure the planet doesn't become an EZ-Bake oven around us).

However, I was struck by the article's concluding chart, which summarizes the financial costs and CO2 fallout of various hydrogen production methods with the stated goal of replacing all fossil fuels used in American passenger cars by 2040. My attention was captured by the fifth column, "Biomass":

  • Cost: $600 billion

  • Carbon: Neutral, due to CO2 consumption by fuel crops

  • Fuel: Peanut shells at first, then dedicated crops

Keep in mind that peanut-shell fuel. We'll come back to it.
Now, $600 billion may seem like a lot of money. It is, in fact, about 1/4 of the annual $2.5 trillion Federal budget. But the cost of the pointless Iraq war as of this moment is $341 billion.

Is it unrealistic to imagine an annual Federal budget item of $60 billion over a decade to replace all gasoline used in passenger cars in the United States? Is it impossible to imagine a gasoline tax to pay for that transformation?

Naturally, there's a whole universe of costs not accounted for here, like the cost of replacing or refitting every passenger car in the United States with a hydrogen-fueled vehicle, but that's a transformation that could happen over an even longer period.

Remember how I said remember the peanut shells? As you might not know, peanuts are a major source of protein for about 500 million people worldwide. China leads the world in peanut production, followed by India, followed by the United States.

In the same issue of Popular Mechanics, Jock Brandis was awarded a 2006 Breakthrough Award (scroll down) for inventing a $75 machine for hand-cranked peanut shelling, and he's distributing the devices in Mali, Ghana, Zambia and the Philippines.

Imagine third-world countries fueling hydrogen power plants with peanut shells. Imagine them exporting their excess peanut shells to other countries with the same type of power plants.

The third article is another 2006 Breakthrough Award for GE, entitled "Cheap Hydrogen". GE has come up with a novel use for a plastic they invented, dropping the projected cost of splitting hydrogen out of water from $6 to $8 per gallon-of-gas-equivalent-energy to a mere $3 for the same unit. We've already seen that price at the pump this year, and will again, now that the election has concluded.

Connect the dots. We've got most of the pieces for a hydrogen economy sitting right here on the workbench. All we need is the political will to begin.

Next: Ethanol

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Direction

Now that the BushCo asskicking has commenced in the rest of America, I've been giving some thought as to the direction of this blog. There's many fine blogs on these Internets whose tubes will deliver you all the snark and vitriol, and, let us say it, BushCo asskicking that you might require. I list some of these blogs on this page.

Rather than remain a pile-on blog duplicating those efforts (unless I think of something particularly amusing to write), for some months I've been thinking of focusing on the single most important challenge facing our species:


In a planet awash in energy we're still burning the liquified corpses of extinct animals and plants to fuel our civilization. And you and I know that the USA keeps meddling in the Middle East because of the petroleum buried under it. Without the black gold, the Middle East would be as parts of Africa: unstable, bloody, ruled by kleptocracies, and not terribly relevant to the politics of the industrialized world.

Like any junkie, America's judgment and priorities are distorted by its addiction to oil. Sure, the country can still go to work, eat, sleep, and have sex (for now), but there's always that monkey on its back, whispering "Where's that next fix coming from?"

I'ts time to throw off that monkey and stomp the brains out of the little motherfucker, because he's getting mighty heavy back there and it's difficult for America to think straight when we're rolfing down 26% of the world's energy to support 5% of the world's population.

So, while reserving the right to snark occasionally and point out the worst of political injustices that come to my attention, I'm going to start writing about the challenge of this generation of Americans: Energy Independence.

We can get there. Brazil is energy independent, and you can't tell me that the people who went to the moon and have torn a chunk of a comet from the heavens can't manage to wrest a living from this abundant earth without making it uninhabitable in the process.

The discussion of energy touches on many issues, legal, societal, scientific, and economic, and I'll be exploring those matters as well, because what we're really talking about, under this most urgent of issues, is the proper management of the planet's resources for the survival of the species.

We're sharing one planet. Nothing's going to change that, and humans are now altering this world in fundamental ways that will be irreversible for many generations to come, and may be making the planet unfit for life as we know it. It's time to face that problem squarely, and fix it, because if we continue down the path we're on, it'll be the dinosaurs who were the most successful animals the planet has ever produced.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006



...can we repeal the torture?
Not for nothing, I'm just saying.

Oh Lookee Here:

That's the wave washing away the filth and crushing evil. (thanks to georgia10 for the image).

Welcome back, America. God, how I've missed you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Man On Dog

So long, Ricky. Maybe you can run in Virginia, where you actually live.
Don't slam the state on your way out.

Rick Santorum, ladies and gentlemen, late of the Republican Senate seat in Pennsylvania, got his head handed to him by Bob Casey Jr.

Repudiate Evil

Today, go the polls and tell the children of darkness you've had enough.

Friday, October 13, 2006

North Korea and USA in High-Level Fashion Talks

Dick Cheney and Kim Jong Il met today, issuing a joint statement which read, in part:
"Our similar fashion sense is a foundation upon which we can build a relationship of mutual respect. That and the nukes we have aimed at one another."
Tip o' the blog to The Good Doctor.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


That's the number of Iraqi dead due to the illegal invasion by the United States, according to this study.

However, as the "president" explains to us, that level of carnage only goes to show you how much the Iraqis love democracy:
I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and it troubles me and grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.
Mr. "President": My Frist Diagnost-o-tron tells me you are a sick fuck. There is not enough water in the world to wash away the blood on your hands.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Say what you will about 'Lil Kim Jong, the man has always known how to make an entrance.

You see, Mr. "President" when you:

  1. list a few countries as belonging to the "axis of evil" and then,

  2. when you're deciding which one to invade based on the phases of the moon, the spilled entrails of goats, or however you arrive at these catastrophes you call "decisions", and then,

  3. based on the smoking entrails, you pick Iraq, the one that DOESN'T have the nuclear weapons, well, that sends a message.

And that message is:

"Hey, tinpot dictators! Get some nukes or I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your regime in!"

Since most tinpot dictators get to be tinpot dictators not because they're "madmen" but because they're smart and ruthless, they tend to pay attention to signals like that.

North Korea to Moron in the White House: "Message received."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Love the Fetus, Hate the Child

Republicans will do whatever it takes to protect you as a fetus, including allowing your mother to die to ensure your birth, but after that kid, here's what you have to look forward to:

Republicans will try to starve you to death.
Republicans will see you dead through medical neglect.
Republicans will destroy your life with sexual predation.
Republicans will send you to an unnecessary war with no armor, and let terrorists finish the job.

Republicans: Eating Your Children

The Picture of George W. Bush

In Oscar Wilde's novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray", a young man's moral degeneration manifests in his hidden portrait while he remains beautiful. George W. Bush has had his hidden portrait in the secret behaviors of his Republican Party. Republicans, with their financial corruption, their predatory sexual proclivities, their incessant fearmongering and their sadistic obsession with torture, are the very endgame in moral degeneration, a collection of the worst human traits that mirrors the inner life of their leader, George W. Bush.

How long before a horse assumes a Senate seat?
How long until headlines scream:

These disgusting, cowardly, and corrupt sadists must be plucked from their positions of power. They have turned this nation into a playground for their ugly indulgences, and a sewer for the bloody consequences of their games.

Send Republicans back under their rocks.
This nation must stop wallowing in Republican excrement.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


So, Republicans are drunken predatory sexual perverts preying on teenagers and then covering up their sordid crimes.

This surprises you?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

China Lite

That's all she wrote, folks. Once Senate Democrats are finished posing, the Senate will pass a bill that allows the President to imprison and torture anyone in the world for as long as he likes under the color of law.

Time to shut the doors and turn out the lights. There's no America at home in the United States anymore. All that remains is China Lite.

We have become our enemies.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shoot Me Now

Heaven forbid we force feed fucking geese instead of people.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Immortal vs. The Undead

Given the reports in 2002 (just before the last election) that Osama bin Laden had died in the USA's attack on Afghanistan, and yesterday's report that bin Laden may be dead again, this time from typhoid, when Bill Clinton says in his interview with Fox "News"...
But at least I tried [to kill Osama bin Laden]. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried. So I tried and failed.
... the former president may be selling himself short. Clearly, he DID kill bin Laden, perhaps more than once, but the wiley chieftan of Al Qaeda can rise from the grave, fueled by the redirected power of American voting machines.

The contest between bin Laden's ability to resurrect himself and Dick Cheney's unnatural immortality will come down to a terrible war of attrition. Can Dick Cheney's dead and shriveled heart, swollen on the blood sacrifice of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children, keep the staggering Vice Presidential animated corpse from crumbling to dust before bin Laden is killed in a year BETWEEN American elections?

Only if a new source of blood is found.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bill Clinton Stuffs the Smirk Down Fox's Throat...

...and twirls it for flavor. Read the transcript before Fox cuts the video to ribbons:
All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people.
That's Bill being gentle. Read the rest.

Pray for Rain

The end of the world may be coming not from the Devil in the White House, but from Brazil:
The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.
Funny how this didn't make the headlines.

Torture 'R' Us

Digby and Glenn Greenwald together get this awful week surrounded.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Time Lapse Saddam Hussein

He took 30 years, we've done it in 3:

Torture in Iraq is reportedly worse now than it was under deposed president Saddam Hussein, the United Nations' chief anti-torture expert said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak described a situation where militias, insurgent groups, government forces and others disregard rules on the humane treatment of prisoners.

"What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand," said Nowak, the global body's special investigator on torture.

"The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Dear Democrats

Fuck you.

While St. McCain was working out his "compromise" to allow the "President" to imprison and torture whoever he wants for however long he wants, you said:


Nothing at all.

I hope the torturers come for you next when the "President" decides that imprisoning "opposition" lawmakers doesn't constitute a "grave" breach of the Geneva Conventions. It's kinder treatment than you deserve for letting this country drain down the totalitarian toilet.

Fuck you and fuck your "triangulation" and your goddamned polls and fuck you for being spineless weaklings and proving everything the Republicans ever said about you. Defend the country against attack? You can't even defend the country from a stupid, lying sack of shit who stole two elections and laughed at your feeble whining about it.

Go home. We don't need you. I'd rather kick this gang of thugs in the balls without your pathetic fig leaf in my way.

The next time I see your face, I'll step on it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


5 years later, instead of a soaring symbol of hope and unbowed determination, we still have a gaping cauterized wound in lower Manhattan, fitted with two kiddie pools.

What a joke.

Monday, September 11, 2006


New York City is my home.
I've been away for more than twenty years, but this summer I returned for personal reasons to live in Queens, about two miles from where I grew up.
Many others have managed to capture in words and pictures the devastation I felt that day, as my home suffered what felt like a mortal blow. When I heard through the grapevine at my office in Albany about a radio report of a plane hitting the first tower, I remember looking at one of my co-workers and saying, "Look at the weather. We're under attack."

After the second tower had fallen, I also said, "Well, I can see where missile defense would have protected us today."

A lot of people have forgotten that the Bush administration's major defense initiative prior to 9/11/2001 was missile defense. Still fighting the Cold War that we'd already won, the cabal surrounding George W. Bush was determined to ignore the recommendations of the outgoing Clinton administration and focus on stopping an enemy that had either evaporated or didn't yet exist.

They ignored the warnings, including a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within U.S.", preferring not to interrupt a bout of vigorous Crawford brush clearing, and nearly 3000 Americans paid the ultimate price for their incompetence, leaving behind a gaping wound in the earth, in the skyline, and in the hearts of every New Yorker, as we learned that our government wasn't capable of protecting the nation from attack.

I grew up during the end of the Cold War, and I avidly studied the time gap between the warning and the arrival of a hypothetical brace of Soviet missiles. Warnings would come in 17 minutes after detection. The missiles would arrive 14 minutes after detection. Throughout my teenage years, I knew that at any moment, I could vanish without warning into the heart of a pocket sun. All of us knew that New York City was on the short list of strategic targets for any enemy of the United States of America.

Did 9/11 change everything?
Not for me, not really. I had always known I'd grown up in a target. When the Cold War ended, I felt a wave of relief, thinking my home was finally safe. Then I found out I was wrong.

Worse yet, within days I knoew that the Bush administration would never bring the architects of the attack to justice. The moment Bush substituted "The War on Terror" for what should have been "The War on Al Qaeda", I knew the USA was in for the downbound roller coaster we have been riding straight to hell for five years.

Rather than give so many innocent deaths meaning, the Bush administration has piled on more innocent deaths without pause, and to what purpose? Osama bin Laden is still free. Afghanistan is in the control of warlords that, together with a resurgent Taliban, have produced a record poppy crop. Iraq is embroiled in an undeclared civil war. North Korea has gone from having no nuclear weapons to having anywhere from 8 to 10, and Pakistan has signed a treaty with people protecting bin Laden within their borders.

Meanwhile, a few American plutocrats have grown fat on our tax dollars, siphoned from the various misguided war efforts and quietly deposited in their greasy pockets.

There has been much controversy over a memorial for the victims of 9/11, but any monumnet is so much empty steel and stone if we do not build the better world demanded of us. That is the memorial we should be erecting on this day. And we should cast out the evil, stupid men who would memorialize this dark day by forever multiplying the world's pain to their private profit.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

They Hate Freedom

Osama bin Laden seems to like freedom just fine.
Five years.
Still free.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Clarification

By now you've heard about the rolling public relations disaster for ABC and Disney known as "The Path to 9/11", a two-night commercial-free "event" that purports to show anti-terrorist bungling by the Clinton Administration, but which is, in fact, a pack of lies.

Defenders of the film state that some incidents were "conflated" for dramatic effect, including the bit where Sandy Berger tells a CIA team to not kill Osama bin Laden. Now, "conflation" would imply that Sandy Berger received a series of phone calls from the CIA that went something like this:

Call 1:

CIA Operative:
"Sandy, this is Black Hawk. I have Osama bin Laden in my gunsight. Should I take him out?"

Sandy Berger:

Call 2:

CIA Operative:
"Sandy, this is Burning Eagle. Osama's standing right in front of me eating falafel. How about I make him choke to death on it?"

Sandy Berger:

Call 3:

CIA Operative:
"Sandy, this is Desert Rat. I'm taking a bath with Osama. How about I hold him under until he drowns?"

Sandy Berger:

Given all these phone calls, you'd be forgiven if, as a dramatic filmmaker, you chose to conflate all those phone calls into a single scene such as:


CIA Operative:
"Sandy, this is Mistral Wind. I've got Osama tied up and I'm holding a baseball bat. Should I hit him with it until he dies?"

Sandy Berger:

On the other hand, if none of these phone calls, or anything like them, ever happened, then you are not "conflating". You are, in fact, making shit up, and you are a liar.

And in case there's any confusion about who let Osama bin Laden slip through his fingers...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Neville Rumsfeld

Monday, August 21, 2006

DHS vs. Children

While the FBI is chasing down terrorist lead # 3415 this week as furnished by the Department of Hysterical Security, the NY Times has a report on the methods and the madness of the 21st Century pedophile.

Perhaps all those pointless leads the DHS furnishes the FBI were originally intended to distract the Feds from the hobby of a certain senior official of the agency.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Groucho Marx vs. The Virgin Mary

Groucho Marx once said, "I'd never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member," which goes some distance to explain my abandonment of Catholicism, but when I see "news" items like this, I wonder how people can ask me why I'm an atheist.

School of Quick Retort

If you're a blogger of Left Blogistan, a lefty, or even a person with common sense facing down your friendly neighborhood deranged pundit or relative with his head in bag, and they get around to intimating that you're a traitor for not supporting Our Leader or US actions in the Iraquagmire, say this:

Way to divide America in wartime, traitor! Don't let me stop you from calling up your handlers at Al Qaeda to tell them "Mission Accomplished!"

It makes no sense, but it sure feels good.

And yeah, by demand of Rex Saxi, I'm back to help the rest of reality kick a little BushCo ass.

Miss me?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Katrina & Iraq & Iran

Following up on the previous post, have you ever noticed that just as commodity traders and oil executives get ready to calculate their year-end bonuses and do some Christmas shopping, someone predicts a "worse than normal" winter in the northeast United States and oil prices go up through the holidays?

That's not enough anymore. Now you've got to get the US government to rattle its useless sabre at Iran to make sure those first quarter profits stay high as well.

Black gold. The universal motive.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Katrina & Iraq

A couple of puzzles in Bushco's behavior yield to the same key:

1) Why did Bushco have no post-war plan for Iraq, beyond Bring. It. On. ?
2) Why was the response to the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina so laughably, criminally inadequate?

If you remember that Our Leaders were formerly oil men, the answer to both questions is easy. There was never a post-war plan for Iraq because a coherent strategy might have led to a stable country that could have exported oil quickly to help pay for its reconstruction and improvement post-war.

Exporting oil quickly from the world's second-largest known reserve would have driven oil prices downward. Possibly by a few dollars, possibly by as much as twenty dollars a barrel, negatively affecting the profits of oil companies. That idea was never going to fly within the Bush administration.

How much better to throw the world's second-largest oil reserve into chaos, permanently raising the price while there's still enough to ensure strong profits for some time to come. The longer Iraq remains in chaos, the better the oil profits for every oil company in the world. That's why the United States, in outspending the entire world in aggregate on "defense", can't subdue a single third world nation in 3 years, even though the same country and its allies could end a world war in 4 years. There's no incentive to "win" for the people in charge, when the perpetual war is so much more profiable for everyone concerned.

As for Katrina, it's easy to imagine this conversation in the Oval office last autumn:

Michael Brown:
Mr. President, a large hurricane is about to obliterate New Orleans and a substantial portion of the Gulf Coast.

Bush: Huh. Will that make energy prices rise?

Cheney: Yes it will, Mr. President

Bush: Okay, great. Thanks for dropping by, Brownie. What's next on the agenda?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Nuclear Non-Proliferation is for Morons

Paying attention now?

Looks like the Bushco's getting all hot and bothered, panties-in-a-bunch, over Iran breaking the seals on a couple of IAEA nuclear research sites and is starting the drumbeat whose unmistakeable message is: "...Vote for us. We'll protect you. Vote for us. We'll protect you..." With Our Rulers looking unpopular going in to the 2006 mid-term election cycle, clearly it's time for a little fear- and war-mongering to get the rubes lined up to pretend the voting machines aren't gamed and to keep the charade of democracy going long enough to consolidate their permanent hold on power.

And this time, Europe's on board with this Iran's-going-to-destroy-us-all nonsense. You'd think the EU would have taken a lesson from that other country next door to the Satan-of-the-week.

Face it, folks, the whole idea of nuclear non-proliferation was idiotic from the outset. Maybe we could have had some success if we'd gunned down Oppenheimer, all his colleagues, their friends, their families, all the Nazis working on heavy-water experiments and then expunged the memory of Einstein and his work from all records around the world and outlawed the study of nuclear physics everywhere, but once you've got E=MC2, you know that matter is energy and the conversion from one to the other is going to make a pretty big bang.

It's amazing that the nuclear club has been kept so small for so long, mostly thanks to the Cold War and alignment of everyone in the world with one nuclear arsenal or another, but the idea of nuclear non-proliferation implicitly asserts that you're going to keep the means, methods and materials necessary to the production of nuclear weapons locked away forever.

Forever's a long time.
Take all the time you've waited in the offices of physicians and bureaucrats, bus stations, for your significant other to show up, for your tax refund, and multiply that by the number of atoms in everyone who has ever lived on this planet, and you're not even close to taking a fingernails pairing off forever. It's long, and it's beyond the scope of anyone to imagine, and it's no time scale for planning to keep a secret.

Lots and lots of people know how to make nuclear weapons. It isn't easy, and isn't terribly cheap, and you need a good industrial base and some exotic materials, but if Pakistan can manage it, I'm guessing a whole lot of other countries could manage it as well.

If they wanted to.

As the Bard said, "There's the rub." Hoping your enemy doesn't get the weapons you have is a short-term strategy for wartime, when you're about to obliterate your enemy forever (see above). Unless the USA and Europe are willing to begin bankrupting and pointless genocidal wars of conquest around the world to prevent nuclear proliferation, the only sane long-term strategy is to figure out why someone might want to attack you and change their minds.

Unless, of course, it's because they hate freedom.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scooter on a Crutch

Reuters published this photo of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby with crutch, supposedly after breaking a bone in his foot. However, sources close to the administration are leaking like drunk sailors in alleyways, and they passed on this transcript of a conversation recorded in Karl Rove's office:
Scooter, you're going down. Someone's got to take the fall for the Wilson job and you're "elected".

Oh yeah, Fat Brain? Well, If I'm going down, you're coming with me, and I'll be peddling you for cigarettes to guys named "Bubba".

Joey, show Scooter what I mean when I say he's going down.

We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Mr. Libby.

No, wait, Karl, we can talk... YEEEEEEEEARGH!

You've got only two choice now Scooter. You can go down with one broken bone, or you can go down broken in a lot more places. Tomorrow you'll tell Patty that I was duped in your crazy obsession to "get" Joe Wilson. Do you "get" me? Say 'Yes Mr. Rove.'


Joey, help Scooter up.

Tortured Logic

In another forum, Reductio had this to say about the pro-torture language that Dick Cheney is urging a Congressional conference committee to include in a bill for a Congressional vote:
I realize the combination of dropping a supreme court nominee and the potential indictment of senior administration officials for high crimes and misdemeanors is somewhat distracting, but I think recent developments in the area of the Bush administration's support for torture as a component of its policy are worthy of mention.

Congress attaches an amendment to the military appropriations bill to make clear that under US law, torture and related prisoner abuse is always and everywhere illegal for Americans. Now admittedly, just about all right thinking people can see that the current state of the law is also pretty clear on this matter, but apparently there are a few folk (which would obviously include the [Attorney General] and other administration members up to and including Bush) for whom the current law is insufficiently explicit, and therefore believe that there are situations where torture is legal (under US law). So the world's most august deliberative and legislative body takes action to make the law more explicit, in order to clear up that confusion.

What is the administration's reaction? First to threaten a veto outright, scuttling the entire bill to preserve the loophole in
current law, that only they believe exists, and which they maintain makes it legal for them to engage in torture.

Then, they come up with a proposed legislative compromise; they are OK with US military being always and everywhere prohibited from torture, and with everyone being prohibited from torturing IN AMERICA, but want the president to be legally able to order (or in the case of this administration, keep ordering) torture abroad, as long as it is not done by the military.

Now, in the past, when I've indicated my position that one could (and IMO should) well infer from the existing evidence that the administration supports torture and prisoner abuse as part of its policy, I have been accused of engaging in hyperbole. Further it's been suggested that my view is that of an anti-Bush ideologue, rather than a gimlet eyed assessor of the facts (which is how I see myself).

So, I guess my question ... is this: Now that the administration has made clear its support for the president's right
(and I use that word loosely) to order torture, and even threatened to bust out the veto to preserve that right, and further has outlined legislation to codify and enshrine that presidential prerogative, is there now sufficient evidence for me to infer that the administration supports torture and abuse as policy options without being derided as a hyperbolic Bush-hater...?

Naturally I expect to continue to be mocked as a hyperbolic anti-Bush ideologue for other matters, I am just inquiring about this particular `support for torture and abuse' inference.
Now let's be clear: Torture isn't one of those many government policies which one can choose to disagree with, and yet support its advocates in other matters. Advocating laws to permit government operatives to enagage in torture, in defiance of intenational treaties, common decency and rock-bottom morality, should permanently disqualify you from government service in the United States of America. There is no wiggle room on this question for a moral nation. Those who advocate such laws are traitors to America, pure and simple, and should be tarred, feathered, and exiled forthwith as black stains on the proud heritage of this country. There is no excuse for torture. None. It is the most egregious form of barbarism, and has absolutely no place in civilized society. Just as its advocates have no place in a civilized society.

Surrender your thirst for blood. It is degrading.

Thanks to Rex Saxi for the New York Times link.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Game of Life

Amid all the inkthirsty slavering over Plamegate, (and yes, I thirst, I thirst) I thought to take a step back and consider a more fundamental matter upon which both the seemingly inexhaustible radiation of scandals and criminality emanating from the business and political spheres and the current debate over the inclusion of the theories of evolution and intelligent design in education touch: what is the basis of morality?

When partisans of the teaching speak publicly about Intelligent Design, postulating a supernatural guiding force as the author of biological constructs, it isn't the Unknowable that forces them to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge with God. Were that the case, quantum physics, with its unfathomable action-at-a-distance and fluidity of material and energetic states offers plenty of cracks in reality into which to press the mortar of Deity. No, the prime justification for the hypothesis of an active, living, meddling Creator appears to be the primal fear of an amoral void at the heart of existence.

Consider this quote from an NPR interview with Senator Santorum, (R-PA):
"[Intelligent Design] has huge consequences for society, and it's where we come from. Does man have a purpose? Is there a purpose for our lives? Or are we just simply, you know, the result of chance? If we're the result of chance, if we're simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn't put a moral demand on us."
Or this quote from a Salon interview with Richard Thompson, an advocate for the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools:
"If you are nothing but an accident of nature, then nothing you do is dependent on objective truth," he says. "You can set your own rules. There is no life after death. There are no set moral codes. If you go to bed, and if you die its OK, you're just another piece of matter bouncing around and you'll change into something else. That's why, even if 100 million scientists say we are unplanned, that we're just purposeless beings in this universe, the general population won't buy it. And neither will I."
Setting aside the notion of investing in scientific theory by popular vote, what seems to me the critical idea underpinning these remarks is the absence of morality coupled with the absence of God.

Prior to a single, moral deity governing existence, humans had acquaintance with a variety of supernatural beings whose morality was, at best, questionable, and yet somehow human society in a bewildering spectrum of forms, managed to survive and prosper, which, I'm going to go out on a limb and hypothesize would have been impossible absent some meaure of moral code that prevented a bloody, unwinnable, "war of all against all".

Which leads me back to our crime-ridden political and business spheres in the United States. consider the Prisoner's Dilemma:
Partners in crime are held in separate cells, and the prosecutor offers each one a deal. If you rat on your partner and he stays mum, you go free and he gets ten years. If you both stay mum, you both get six months. If you both rat, you both get five years. The partners cannot communicate, and neither knows what the other will do. Each one thinks: If my partner rats and I stay mum, I'll do ten years; if he rats and I rat, too, I'll do five years. If he stays mum and I stay mum, I'll do six months; if he stays mum and I rat, I'll go free. Regardless of what he does, then, I'm better off betraying him. Each is compelled to turn in his partner, and they both serve five years-far worse than if each had trusted the other. But neither could take the chance because of the punishment he would incur if the other didn't. Social psychologists, mathematicians, economists, moral philosophers, and nuclear strategists have fretted over the paradox for decades.

There is no solution for a single trial. But, repeated trials allow players - partners in crime - to observe and study each other's behavior and develop a better paying strategy. Dawkins describes two competitions organized by Robert Axelrod that showed superiority of a simple strategy Tit for Tat: start mum, then do what your opponent did on the previous trial. In general, strategies were divided into two classes: nice and nasty. An adherent of a nice strategy never rats first, a nasty fellow does. It so happened that, on the whole, nice strategies outperformed the nasty ones.
The fear that without God there is no moral code, I submit, is groundless. Morality arises from necessity. While short-term advantage may be gleaned by individuals through amoral or immoral behavior, the odds are against long term success, even for the individual. Consider the current political climate, and what a strange mirror-image it presents of the decline of the Nixon adminstration. It appears that immoral behavior, as manifested by the Republican party during the last twenty years, as manifested personally by President Clinton, and as mainfested by businessmen such as Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom and Ken Lay of Enron is not a long-term strategy for overall success, or, presumably, survival. Some individuals will certainly prosper, but the odds appear to be against them.

Game theory and statistics trend towards rewarding cooperative, alturistic behavior as a survival strategy over selfish, destructive behavior. Personal gains can be made through immoral behavior, but that true immorality requires society seems to provide an inherent check on the behavior. Nice guys may not finish first all the time, but large groups of nice guys tend to finish first more often than their nasty fellows.

Absent direct evidence to the contrary, a belief in a moral deity appears to be a manifestation of an intuitive grasp of survival odds, a shorthand back-justification and explanation for moral behavior that must occur if a species with volitional behaviors is to prosper. Whether it's bilking investors or the voting public, immoral behaviors have their success stories to tell, but in the end, the more likely outcomes are prison, poverty, or a bloody, corrupting moral quagmire half a world away.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


The German word for "joy at other's misfortune" has been thrown around a lot lately in Left Blogistan as the Republican Party sinks deeper and deeper into its numerous quagmires of corruption, malfeasance, obstruction of justice, money laundering and the slaughter of innocents, but the word doesn't fit what's happening now.

Misfortune is lightning setting fire to your house, or your new car breaking down far from home, or your considered investments taking a turn for the worse due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

We need another word for watching as the organized crime oligarchy ruling this nation comes apart and starts turning state's evidence, and their oh-so-carefully constructed machine gets dialed all the way up to "every chrony for himself."

Is there a word for "joy at Justice"? Because it's not misfortune, it's the operation of justice that's beginning, where evil is rendered impotent, if not outright punished.

Less than a year into Bush's second term, the administration's political fangs are pulled. From the social security debacle to the meatgrinder-without-end in Iraq to the most recent Supreme Court nominee (Harriet Quagmiers), everything this administration touches is turning into garbage.

There's a man who's been appointed to take out that garbage, and his name is Patrick Fitzgerald. Perhaps Bush in his fevered dreams imagined himself as the instrument of the Almighty, as so many have assured him he is. But those dreams are ringing more and more hollow as the quiet work of a man dedicated to the rule of law comes to fruition.

Indictments issued or not, Patrick Fitzgerald has reminded the unjustly mighty that America might still exist. An America of laws, a nation of Justice.

To conclude, a shout out to the Rude Pundit, who saw fit to print a letter from one of our Boring contributors, and link back to this tedious repository of Boredom.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Little Brighter

The sun shines brighter today, with the indictment of Tom DeLay.

Don't-hurt-me-crats: Here's your slogan for the next two elections:

Incompetent and Corruptible or Competent and Incorruptible?
Your choice, America.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cold Comfort

From the AP:
Bush: Government Well-Prepared for Rita

By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writer

September 24,2005 | COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- President Bush, projecting a take-charge role on Hurricane Rita, toured the high-tech hub of federal response efforts and said Saturday he was pleased by the government's preparations.
Since President Bush is congenitally incapable of taking charge of anything more complex than a bottle of beer (witness his past trouble with the accompanying pretzels) he offers something almost as good: a projection of a taking-charge role.
Nearly six hours after Rita made landfall, Bush tracked the hurricane's assault on the Texas-Louisiana border from the situation room at the U.S. Northern Command headquarters in the Rocky Mountain foothills, more than 1,000 miles away.
God forbid Dear Leader's feet should get moist with anything but flop sweat or the dampness of quivering fear.
Surrounded by plasma screens and slide projections, Bush got a detailed briefing on the federal plan to deal with the possibility of heavy flooding in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, additional spills from levees in and around New Orleans, and disruptions to U.S. energy supplies.
Which did so much good as Katrina approached during the Royal August Retreat. Brief a coldhearted moron all you like. He isn't going to get any smarter or kinder.
"We're in good shape," Navy Capt. Brad Johanson, director of Northern Command's joint operations center, told Bush after outlining the military personnel and equipment hurrying in to help.
"All it took was losing a major American city to abject incompetence to prod us from our stupor and remember that we're supposed to protect the United States, not just a few neighborhoods of Baghdad."
Following the hourlong briefing, the president said: "It comforts me knowing that our federal government is well-organized and well-prepared to deal with Rita."
"Because it's all about me."
Bush planned stops later Saturday in Austin, Texas, to visit the state's emergency operations center, and in San Antonio,
and knock back a few cold ones
where many federal supplies and personnel were being staged. His schedule was not immediately disclosed.
But is certain to include stops on devastated streets whose power will be returned for the duration of the Royal Peregrination.
The scurrying to set up photo opportunities for the president showed the White House in crisis-management mode.
Political crisis mode, of course, there being no other sort of crisis worthy of attention.
With his approval ratings lower than ever, Bush has suffered from the perception
that both he and his administration responded too slowly to Hurricane Katrina. That storm devastated the Mississippi coast and southeastern Louisiana nearly a month ago.
Bush waited until two days after Katrina to cut short his vacation and return to Washington from his Texas ranch.
As he awaited the ripening of the political crisis.
The public saw images of thousands of people in horrible shelter conditions in New Orleans waiting for food, water, medicine and rescue. The administration was blamed by many for not doing more sooner.
"many" "all but 26 right wing morons", whatever.
Bush's aides were eager to avoid a repeat with Rita and try to restore the public's trust in government. But they also were aware of the risk of criticism if Bush's large entourage got in the way of storm response.
'Cause that never happens.
So they settled on Northern Command as the best place for the president in the first hours after Rita struck. The command was set up after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to direct the military's homeland security activities.

Bush arrived Friday evening for one briefing, then woke early Saturday and had a second.
Don't strain yourself, Mr. "President".
Bush stayed far from Washington,
where thousands of people would like to see him driven through the streets coated in tar and feathers
where opponents of the Iraq war held what they hoped would turn out to be the largest such rally in the capital since the war began. The protest was spurred in part by Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whose son was killed in Iraq last year and who drew thousands of demonstrators to her 26-day vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch in August.

Bush's presence in a briefing room hundreds of miles from the White House and the storm recalled the surreal quality of Tuesday's update on Rita aboard USS Iwo Jima. Then, he flew from Washington to the ship, docked in New Orleans, to be briefed on Rita's approach via videoconference by two officials back in Washington.

The president also devoted his weekly radio address on Saturday to hurricane response, as he has now for weeks, and detailed the government's efforts.

Even as the focus turns to Rita, Bush pledged not to forget the massive job of recovering from Katrina.

"We'll do our duty," he said, while urging local and state governments, the private sector and ordinary people to do so, too.
How about doing your fucking job, idiot?
At Northern Command, Bush pleaded with the millions of people who evacuated ahead of Ritay to obey local authorities' instructions before deciding to return back home.

"It's going to take awhile for the authorities on the ground to fully understand the impact of the flooding. People who are safe now ought to remain in safe conditions," Bush said.
"So I'll know where to find them to finish the job."

Snarkfest concluded. We now return you to your collapsing nation.

Let Free Markets Prevail!

As long as you don't mind a few "special" Chinese ingredients in your beauty products:
The beauty products from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners

· Cosmetics firm targets UK market ·
Lack of regulation puts users at risk

Ian Cobain and Adam Luck
Tuesday September 13, 2005
The Guardian

A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.
Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss about".
Why fuss about anything, after all?

Friday, September 23, 2005


Courtesy of Digby:

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

(Source: The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, Dr. Lawrence Britt, Spring 2003, Free Inquiry)

Friday, September 02, 2005


For four years now I've been saying it to everyone who wouldn't listen:

THE REPUBLICANS CAN"T PROTECT YOU. They're too stupid, venal, and obsessed with making the wealthiest 1% of Americans not just richer, but unfathomably richer beyond the dreams of Croesus to bother with pesky details like, say, PREPARING FOR A MAJOR DISASTER IN AN AMERICAN CITY.

The only difference between the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and a signifcant terrorist attack (dirty bomb, biological bomb, tactical nuclear weapon) is that the idiots running this sorry excuse for a federal government had AN ENTIRE WEEK TO PREPARE.


And I'm being kind, since in January 2001, FEMA warned of three likely American disasters in the near future. Care to guess?

1) Terrorist attack in New York City.
2) Category 4+ hurricane devastating New Orleans
3) A major San Francisco earthquake.

Maybe Bush and his gang of contemptible bottom-feeders will get lucky and hit the trifecta.

Is this enough yet America? Your sons and daughters are dying halfway around the world in the service of evil men who hold this country hostage to their insatiable appetite for wealth and power, grinding up the bones of your fellow citizens to make their bread and bleeding those citizens white so their close personal friends will not suffer a moment's inconvenient thought that there might be other people on the planet. Your sons are dying, purposeless, in Iraq, instead of helping at home, here, where they're really needed. You say the left is undermining the morale of the troops? How is a National Guardsman from New Orleans supposed to concentrate on his job if he's wondering whether his grandmother back home is that dead woman in a wheelchair outside the New Orleans convention center?

These evil, sick, twisted, stupid, abominably stupid men and women must be removed from power and locked away before they cause the deaths of thousands more people around the world and here at home. President Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and every member of this incompetent, criminal administration must be impeached and removed from office for their gross stupidity and bottomless venality.

They're not protecting you. They're exploiting you. Do you understand yet, America?

Enough. Enough. Enough.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

More Metphors

Belacqua Jones has a new letter to W earily reminiscent of my previous "Reality Bites" post:
Keep the faith, George. Those of us who are the stoned and the broken and the dreamers stand behind you, our determination growing with each car bomb. Every dead child is a charcoal briquette firing our BBQ of resolve. Let no brown-skinned bastard underestimate our obsessive stubbornness. We will never abandon the sinking ship, even as the waters lap around our ankles.
Or even when they fill our nostrils with our own filth. God bless you, George. Landlubbers everywhere salute you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Reality Bites

* poomf * * poomf * "Testing... testing... is this thing on? Okay."

Welcome back to Boring Diatribe, which has been, well, downright dull for six weeks while other responsibilities beckoned. And what a month-and-a-half it was, eh? In a tiny march of days, the Bush administration has gone from invincible peddlers of impervious propoganda to a gang of scared little boys who just realized they've set fire to the house and Dad's coming home any minute.

Honestly, I haven't been so sanguine about the future of this nation in four years. For a time, I wondered if Bush's brain weren't right in assuming that propoganda really did trump reality, and my faith in even the laws of physics began to wobble. But, sure enough, after being slapped around for a while Reality went out and got a billy club and has begun reminding our heroes in the White House what a grade-A ass whoopin' feels like.

As Bush and cronies freefall in the polls, I'm having a little trouble imagining what they're going to do to turn around public opinion in the face of an Iraqi insurgency of growing sophistication and effectiveness, leading to the heartbreaking parade of flagged coffins and prosthetic limbs returning to the heartland of the good ol' US of A, all so we can fill up our tanks for $2.35 a gallon.

Sure, I know China and India's demand for energy has everything to do with the price of gasoline, but the spectacle of your son in a wheelchair while the USA can't do anything with the second largest oil reserve in the world except go hat-in-hand to those Saudi sons of bitches has got to be driving a wedge deep into America's nearly fatal bout of cognitive dissonance.

The power brokers in the White House have counted on the gnatlike attention span of the media to keep them safe from historical scrutiny, and that strategy has worked pretty well until now, until the flip side of that malaise manifested:

America Can't Remember Why We're In Iraq.

That's why Bush has to go on television and pathetically urge Americans to FLY THE FLAG ON INDEPENDENCE DAY. Not, say, volunteer for the armed forces, which are suffering record recruitment shortfalls at the moment. Nope, like flying to Disneyworld after 9/11, we're going to help the troops by doing what we were going to do anyway, and so we're allowed to mumble and roll over in our sleep, except that goddamn stump hurts so much...

I'm expecting a "Peace with Honor" speech within the next 12 months, and the utter evisceration of Bush's remaining domestic "agenda" in the meantime. Sure, there's going to be a lot of damage to clean up, and many precious lives lost forever, but the neocons and their ideology are becalmed and taking on water at an alarming clip. That's reality flooding in, boys, and its bigger than your little propoganda bucket will bail. At least your buddies became stinkingly, obscenely wealthy while the wind was at your backs.

As I've tiresomely, even Boringly, observed in the past, stick a fork in our ass because we are so done in Iraq. Like Lyndon Johnson before him, Bush has found his Waterloo on the other side of the world, and the only question now is how many more good people are going to die for his mistake.

Welcome to the dustbin of history, Chimpy. Your face just appeared next to the definition of "What were we thinking?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More Bill

Can't get enough of that Bill Moyers:
Apparently there was apoplexy in the right-wing aerie when I closed the broadcast one Friday night by putting an American flag in my lapel and said -- well, here's exactly what I said.

"I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.

"Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

"So what's this doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo -- the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration's patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's little red book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread.

"But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

"So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash.) I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war -- except in self-defense -- is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country."
Amen, brother.

You Know Who You Are

Bill Moyers brings it on:
Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.

That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What's Wrong With The Wacky Health Care System in the USA?

In another, private forum, Reductio had this to say:
Broadly stated, the problem appears to be that compared to other industrialized nations, we spend more and get less.

In round numbers (a few years old I think, and from my memory so take with a grain of salt please), the USA spends around $6-7 grand annually per capita on health care, Canada $4.5 grand or so, and Britain around $3 grand and change in US dollars. As I understand it, Britain and Canada (and just about every other industrialized non-US nation) have socialized medicine, with Britain's socialized version being widely regarded as dramatically underfunded, (making it hard to get a dentist). Britain also has a non-socialized private sector that cares for those who can pay, so not all of that very low spending level even goes to the government program.

Teeth pulling and extended MRI delays aside, Canada and Britain, and substantially every industrialized nation, have lower infant mortality rates and longer life expectancies than we do in the USA, while spending less than we do on health care, funding their expenditures primarily through taxation.

To the extent that we are not confident that the US government could successfully administer such a program, that belief just reflects an underlying distrust of our form of government. If every other governmental system in industrialized nations can successfully run such a program, but the USA can't, it can only mean that our system of government is somehow deficient - which I find disquieting, and would prefer not to believe.

I think part of the problem is the fanatical misguided belief in the USA that private markets are always efficient and that government programs are always wasteful. There are areas where well regulated private markets can perform nicely. But markets are almost never effective at broadly delivering a common good; it is simply not what they are designed for.

As to the causes of the current situation:
Private health insurance companies paying their employees (including CEOs) to add no value to the health care delivery process, but rather to deny care whenever possible, and refuse payment after the fact when care cannot be denied
outright. Also, they are paid to identify those who are likely to need care, and strip them of coverage. Like I say, the private sector is not so efficient at delivering broad common good; it does reward insiders (CEOs) and extract value from the process to deliver it to insiders and owners though. That is what markets are good at.

Drug companies also figure into the mix. In the USA we pay dramatically more for drugs than anyone else, and the recent transfer of collective wealth to the drug industry (also euphemistically known as the Bush Medicare prescription benefits plan) is just a particularly bad example. But more globally, the whole misguided free market thing comes into play here too. By not having a central negotiator for drug purchases that can enjoy monopsonic (or often legal price fixing) power, nor a list of independently tested and approved covered drugs ranked by cost and effectiveness, and a national protocol for administering them as part of a treatment regimen, we leave what should be sound medical decisions to the whims of the market. This is why the drug industry spends something like 40% of its operating expenses on MARKETING in the US. Yes, there is a tiny fraction spent on R&D, but almost half of the cost of the drug industry in the USA is due to marketing. Further, since only the most expensive drugs are marketed (even if better cheaper alternatives exist) and they are often marketed directly to consumers, generating uninformed end user demand, the cost of drugs in this country are further driven up, while the efficacy of treatment is driven down.

General care, which dramatically increases the common good, is considered commodity-like and undervalued by the market, while specialist care, which is really valuable when you need it, but adds less to the common good, is overvalued. So the market misallocates medical resources from a medical perspective, but allocates them appropriately from an economic return perspective. Which is what markets do.

So, is socialized medicine the answer? I don't know. Looking at our model vs. socialized medicine, ours seems to be ubstantially lacking. Of the models out there in the world, socialized medicine has a better performance. So I think it is worth considering, assuming we want our system of medicine to cost effectively deliver low infant mortality rates
and long life expectancies. If we want it instead to deliver large drug company profits and advances in cosmetic procedures and advertising strategies, we should stick with exactly what we have.

There may also be some better third way, but I have not seen it in operation anywhere.

I have occasionally wondered if a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) in the health insurance industry might help, like Fannie MAE in the mortgage industry. If it is big enough to wield disproportionate market power, it can essentially set rates and protocols (like Fannie does) forcing the markets to move in the desired direction, without nationalizing the industry. If you make it big by putting all government employees on its plan, plus all Medicare and Medicaid, then create tiered plans say option zero, establishing a minimum coverage for all otherwise uncovered Americans (paid for by taxes), then different tiers for Medicare, Medicaid and government employees (with premiums paid for by the government). Then also offer those
plans to employers in the market. Some costs can be controlled by no need for marketing, exerting monopsonic and legislative powers to compel lower drug prices and require all practitioners to accept the payment schedule etc. Maybe a partnership approach to the higher tiers, where the basic plan is wrapped by a private provider, so the GSE can concentrate on basic cost-effective service provision. In fact a requirement for offering any insurance plan could be to wrap a GSE plan so that private insurers cannot simply poach the healthiest among us, but instead must offer a real benefit on top of the GSE plan in order to attract profitable business. Which gets us most of the way toward socialized medicine anyway.

Just a thought. It might be quicker and easier to just socialize.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Idle Hands

Good news on severed goat heads: Satan not involved

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A lazy worker, not a satanic cult, was responsible for severed goat heads that caused a scare at a Vancouver-area school, Canadian police said on Monday.

Police were called in after goat heads were twice found on a bench outside a school in nearby Chilliwack, British Columbia, prompting fears in the suburban community that it had been targeted by a satanic animal killing.

A 19-year-old worker at a local slaughterhouse has admitted he took the two heads with the intention of having them mounted, but then changed his mind and left them at the school in hopes a janitor would dispose of them.

"(Police) want to reassure the community that there were no satanic intentions in relation to these incidents," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said, adding that the man "should have known better."
So should we all.

Another tip o' the blog to Red.

Well, That's A Relief

Schwarzenegger not mad at moon

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not want to destroy the moon.

A U.S. political commentator has admitted he failed to check his facts when he erroneously reported on the MSNBC cable news network last month that Schwarzenegger had jokingly advocated doing away with the moon.

In one of the stranger mea culpas from a major U.S. news outlet in recent years, the commentator, Joe Scarborough, a former congressman, acknowledged on Friday that the governor's purported lunar outburst on the nationally syndicated radio show of Howard Stern was actually a spoof.

Citing a British newspaper, Scarborough had quoted Schwarzenegger on the air as saying: "If we get rid of the moon, women, those menstrual cycles are governed by the moon, will not get (pre-menstrual syndrome). They will stop bitching and whining."

Scarborough chided Schwarzenegger for insensitivity, saying: "Hey, governor, way to make 50 percent of California's voting population turn frigid toward you.

"I don't know how it works in Austria, but let me tell you something, friend. Jokes about such matters, (are) not laughing subjects to women in America."

It turned out the remarks Scarborough attributed to the Austrian-born governor were actually made by a Schwarzenegger impersonator who regularly appears on Stern's show as part of a running call-in gag.

Eleven days later, Scarborough admitted on the air that he had been duped and apologized to viewers and Schwarzenegger "for my terrible mistake."

"By quoting erroneous information from that (newspaper) article, without checking it out ourselves, we, too, got pulled into that hoax," Scarborough said.
That would be you, Joe.

Thanks to Red for the link to the full article under the post title.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

3rd In Command

Maybe not.
The high-profile bust of Al Qaeda's supposed 3rd in command is maybe not so much:
Dubai, 9 May (AKI) - Abu al-Faraj al-Libbi, the alleged al-Qaeda leader arrested in Pakistan last week, is not the terror network's N. 3, according to European secret service sources, quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. After he was captured in Mardan by Pakistani security forces, al-Libbi was presented by Pakistani officials and later by the Bush administration, as the third most powerful figure within the al-Qaeda hierarchy.

An unidentified "senior" European intelligence source told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that there had been a case of mistaken identitiy - he argued that the real N. 3 was Abu Anas al-Libbi, not Abu al-Faraj al-Libbi. This theory first appeared last week in Pakistani newspapers close to extremist groups but it is disputed by Pakistani officials who maintain that Abu Anas, is yet another name used by Abu al-Faraj.
I'm sure a little torture will uncover the truth here.

See No Evil

John Tierney's column today is such a target-rich environment I can't help but reprint it and snark along the way.
Bombs Bursting on Air

Published: May 10, 2005

If a man-bites-dog story is news and dog-bites-man isn't, why are journalists still so interested in man-blows-up-self stories?
I admit, the occasion may appear to be repetitious, but all the victims are actually DIFFERENT dead people than the previous bombing. They all are, in fact, unique individuals who had hopes and dreams before some whack-job decided to make a quick argument with a large quantity of explosives. How about we honor their memory by giving them two minutes of our attention? I guess that's too much to ask from a busy, important Times columnist.
I realize that we have a duty to report suicide bombings in the Middle East, especially when there's a spate as bad as in recent weeks. And I know the old rule of television news: if it bleeds, it leads. But I'm still puzzled by our zeal in frantically competing to get gruesome pictures and details for broadcasts and front pages.
Wouldn't want the American people to see the extended consequences of their invasion, would ya? Must be why we don't get to see the flag-draped coffin parade of our dead soldiers coming back. Out of sight, out of mind, that's how we like our wars.
During the past decade I've seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles on suicide bombings,
But so few on the antics of puppies and kittens!
...but I read to the end of just three of them, and that was only because I wrote them.
And NOT because I'm hopelessly self-absorbed or have the gnatlike attention span of my fellow Times columnist, David Brooks.
Those bombings occurred in Baghdad and Kurdistan during the summer of 2003, when they were still a novel phenomenon in Iraq, but even then there was really nothing new to say.
Good point. I mean, why report on the President's press conferences or legislative proposals, when they could be summarized by the sentences "Lying again." and "Let them eat cake."?
As I intruded on grieving relatives...
(unable to suppress my own insatiable appetite for gruesome details) the scene and wounded survivors in hospitals, I didn't see what good I was doing for anyone except the planners of the attack.
Since it wasn't as if I was showing compassion or sympathy or anything, or even fetching a victim a glass of water. Dispassionate observer, people!
It was a horrifying story, but it was same story as every other suicide bombing, from the descriptions of the carnage and the mayhem to the quotes from eyewitnesses and the authorities.
I mean, the ragheads are pretty much interchangeable, aren't they? Seen one haji with a couple of limbs blown off or a burkha-wearing grieving mother, you've pretty much seen them all.
When the other reporters and I finished filling our notebooks, we wondered morosely if we could have done a service to everyone - victims, mourners, readers - by reducing the story to a box score.
Interesting idea. Could work for our GIs, too, and to think of all that wasted Times newsprint on the pictures and biographies of 9/11 victims! What were we thinking?
We all knew the template: number of victims, size of the crater, distance debris had been hurled, height of smoke plume, range at which explosion was heard.
Statistics are my passion. I love baseball. Just like George Will.
There was no larger lesson except that...
I can't give a damn about dead brown people with no money.
...some insurgents were willing and able to kill civilians, which was not news. We were dutifully presenting as accurate an image as we could of one atrocity, but we knew we were contributing to a distorted picture of life for Iraqis.
Which pretty much has been chocolates and roses since the Americans showed up. Remember the parades? The Iraqis putting palm fronds down in the path of our troops? The cheers, the joyous weeping? The bulldozing of the prison at Abu Ghraib? Remember?
The standard advice to newly arrived journalists at that time was: "Relax. It's not nearly as bad here as it looks on TV."
"We only get here AFTER the bomb goes off."
Correspondents complained that they'd essentially become cop reporters, and that the suicide bombings took so much of their time that they couldn't report on the rest of the country.
Chocolates and roses, people.
They were more interested in other stories, but as long as the rest of the press corps kept covering the bombing du jour, that was where their editors and producers expected them to be, too.
And we wouldn't want to confound the expectations of people removed from the situation by thousands of miles and layers of distraction.
You could argue that their bosses were simply responding to their audiences' visceral urges.
Which is our job.
Everyone rubbernecks at car accidents; cable news ratings soar when there's a natural disaster or a heinous murder. But how much shock value or mystery is there anymore to suicide bombings?
I'm bored already.
How intrigued are people by murders when the motive, the weapon and the murderer's fate are never in doubt?
Apparently, editors and producers aren't "people" in the conventional sense, since they continue to find these stories intriguing. Or at least they have certain "expectations" in this regard.
I suspect the public would welcome a respite from gore,
and Lieberman, for cryin' out loud the one that New Yorkers got when
Rudolph Giuliani became mayor. He realized that even though crime was declining in the city, people's fears were being stoked by the relentless tabloid and television coverage of the day's most grisly crime. No matter how much the felony rate dropped, in a city of seven million there would always be at least one crime scene for a live shot at the top of the 11 o'clock news.

Mr. Giuliani told the police to stop giving out details of daily crime in time for reporters' deadlines, a policy that prompted outrage from the press but not many complaints from the public. With the lessening of the daily media barrage, New Yorkers began to be less scared and more realistic about the risks on their streets.
You think John's seen local NYC television news?
I'm not advocating official censorship,
even though that would probably be an excellent idea, so we can get back to convering the puppies and the kittens
...but there's no reason the news media can't reconsider their own fondness for covering suicide bombings. A little restraint would give the public a more realistic view of the world's dangers.
Chocolates. Roses.
Just as New Yorkers came to be guided by crime statistics instead of the mayhem on the evening news, people might begin to believe the statistics showing that their odds of being killed by a terrorist are minuscule in Iraq or anywhere else.
Not that those odds are gradually climbing, or anything.
Terrorists know the numbers are against them and realize that daily bombings will not win the war.
Not like we're "winning" in Iraq, anyway.
All along, their hope has been to inspire recruits and spread general fear with another tactic, the bombing as photo opportunity. For some reason, their media strategy still works.
Chocolate. Roses. Puppies. Kittens.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Supply Side

Those who endured pre-Iraq war verbal Boring Diatribes may remember that with a GDP of $30 billion, I proposed that the United States hire every single person in Iraq to like us. With what we've spent so far ($300 billion) the United States could have had 10 years of friendly Iraqis extolling the virtues of the United States to the entire Arab world. And hey, maybe they'd export some oil, too.

That's as far as my idea went, but Darksyde over at Kos has nailed down the mechanics:
They say money can't buy love, but if we throw out sacks of money to the Iraqi people it will be Valentine's Day 365 days a year in Baghdad. The best part is the Iraqis would start loving us right away. My God the Iraqi's will be naming their kids after us! They'll be shouting the virtues of America from the rooftops. They'll build statues of us. And the economy, well I mean talk about Supply Side Economics! This is not a fiscal stimulus, this is a fiscal orgasm. It's like an anti-tax. Reagan could come back to life from this kind of thing. It would explode into almost instant prosperity taking away even more terrorist ammunition and giving them a shot at a real self sufficient modern nation. The money would stream to outlying provinces and work it's way into the local economies throughout the region. And although the Iraqi's would be free to choose whom they wish to help rebuild the infrastructure and get the oil a'flowin, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if American firms, from the country who is showering the populace with currency, were given special consideration.
Between Darksyde's plan and the Haliburton Protection Act (give Haliburton $6 billion dollars instead of going to war) we've got a solid plan here to protect the folks at home and get some of that good foreign policy mojo working.

And cheaper.
And your sons and daughters don't walk around on robot limbs that can't feel anything.

What's not to like?

Saturday, May 07, 2005


At the risk of offending my religious friends (which constitutes just about all of them) I'm compelled by recent news events to point out that there's as much evidence that the universe in all its complexity was excreted by a gigantic gopher twenty minutes ago as there is that some vast, omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent being made out of love existing outside of time decided to create a universe of 10 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars each, most of which may have planets of one form or another, just so I could trudge into a large building once a week and recite some inferior prose and poetry some tiny fraction of my species has been mouthing for the last few decades.

Religion is a collection of fairy tales. Slipshod, illogical stories and obvious aphorisms assembled by primitive peoples in hopeless circumstances. Sure, stories have power. Certainly, they affect behavior and therefore help shape the world by shaping humanity, but so does any Big Lie. That doesn't make them true.

I could construct a religion tomorrow based on the notion that people born in Milwaukee are God's Chosen, and it would have exactly the objective, verifiable value of any other set of fanciful notions hallucinated by starving lunatics in the wilderness and elaborated to Byzantine convolusion by generations of thinkers with nothing better to do (cure diseases, measure the earth, rescue the endangered) than to write story after story after story, all made up, about how some Infinite Being gives a tinker's cuss what happens on a tiny, insignificant speck of dust spinning in a backwater galaxy in one corner of infinite emptiness.

We care about us, and that only just.

Fairy tales are for children. They comfort and they teach, and sometimes they inspire some of the the greatest works of art and literature and sacrifice the world has witnessed, but they're a crutch. If you need religion to have some love for your species, or to treat your fellow humans with kindness and empathy, you're a child, and you need to grow up, because there's too many of you now, and you're using your stories to hurt one another too much, and the world can't always coddle you and protect you while it waits for you to start using your senses and your brain instead of your glands.

That big sound in the sky isn't a bigger gorilla beating on a bigger tree than you've ever seen. That's thunder. It happens when electrical charges between the atmosphere and the earth equalize and disturb the atmosphere. All that "guidance" and "destiny" you're noticing? That's coincidence. It happens. Get used to it. Your brain has evolved to optimize pattern recognition, and every now and again you're going to come up with a false positive. See something in the Rorschach blot? That's an inkstain on a piece of carboard.

Wake up. Grow up. See the world for what it is. Your fairy tales are killing us.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Just A Thought

There's an Old Testament book called "Judges".
Oddly, there isn't one called "Congress".

Think the Almighty was telegraphing a message about relative authority there?

Friday, April 08, 2005

John Paul II

Still dead.

Don DeLay

When you're involved in the rackets, no one eats alone. Try it, and you'll find the cops stopping by frequently, or maybe just a couple of gentlemen with a desire to explain how things work around here. Unless you're crazy, or have a serious expectation that you can carve off your own territory from a bunch of hungry, entrenched criminals bent on killing the competition, you instead come to an arrangement.

Every week, you pay the vig. Depending on the size of the book you're making, or the number of whores you're pimping for, the vig will be small, or the vig will be large, but you've got to pay the vig, or you're not going to be in business, in town, or possibly above ground for very long.

Which brings us to Tom DeLay:
DeLay's lobby operation is more complicated but equally important to Republican Party hegemony. As described by American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, the K Street Project by which DeLay domesticated the corporate lobby is a "Tammany Hall operation" that ensures only Republicans are hired for big lobbying jobs that pay as much as $1 million a year. Once hired, "everyone is expected to contribute some of that money back into Republican campaigns," Ornstein told me when I was working on a book on DeLay last year. According to Ornstein, DeLay and the K Street project have even locked up the entry-level lobby positions that pay from $150,000 to $250,000 a year -- with the understanding that anyone who gets a job "maxes out" in contributions to Republican candidates and campaigns.
In the mob that the Republican party has become, no one eats alone. Fortunately, there's a law targeted right for them, RICO:
Section 1962(b) makes it unlawful for a person to acquire or maintain an interest in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Section 1962(b) is perhaps the most difficult RICO claim to express in practical terms. A stereotypical violation of section 1962(b) occurs when a victim business owner cannot make payments to a loan shark; upon default, the loan shark says: "you're either going to die or you're going to give me your business." Given the threat to this life, the victim transfers control of his business to the loan shark. Usually, the victim business owner remains the owner on paper but the loan shark controls the business and receives all income from the business. Thus, the loan shark has acquired and maintained interest or control over an enterprise (i.e. the business) through a pattern of racketeering (i.e., loan sharking and extortion).

Section 1962(d) makes it unlawful for a person to conspire to violate subsections (a), (b) or (c) of the RICO Act.

By far the most useful and common civil RICO claim is found under section 1962(c), which makes it unlawful for a person to manipulate an enterprise for purposes of engaging in, concealing, or benefiting from a pattern of racketeering activity. Given its broad utility, the general elements of a RICO claim will be discussed in the context of a section 1962(c) claim. Distinctions will then be made between section 1962(c) claims and claims under 1962(a), (b) and (d).
It's time to take down Don DeLay, head of one of the most feared, dangerous and well-financed mobs in American history: the Republican Party.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bush Causes Panic: American Economy Collapses

The President really is an idiot. I think one of his handlers forgot to tell him that the dollar's no longer backed by gold, and that the full faith and credit of the United States is the only thing standing between us and financial collapse:
"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 later in a speech at the University of West Virginia at Parkersburg. "But that's not the way it works. There is no trust fund, just IOUs that I saw firsthand," Bush said. Democrats charged that the president's remarks were misleading, as well as dangerously close to implying that the federal government won't stand behind trillions of dollars in debt held by creditors around the globe

"If the 'full faith and credit' of the United States means 'just IOUs' then our entire financial system will come tumbling down," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee

In a letter to Bush, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the president's statements about the trust fund "could raise needless doubts among American and foreign investors about the United States' willingness to meet its fiscal obligations. This has potentially broad ranging and damaging implications for our economy." At issue are the special-issue Treasury bonds - now totaling around $1.7 trillion - that make up the trust fund. Paper facsimiles of the bonds, which like most modern-day securities are issued in electronic form, are held in a file cabinet at the Office of Public Debt Accounting. That's what Bush visited earlier in the day.
Whether through stupidity or by design, like Ronald W. Reagan before him (see: Selling Weapons to Sworn Enemies) George W. Bush is a traitor, and its time to impeach the bastard before he utterly destroys this once-proud nation.