Saturday, December 31, 2005
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
For some reason, this has gotten me to thinking about Galileo Galilei, 1564 - 1642, mathematician and natural philosopher. His brief biography, on the University of St. Andrews's excellent web site, fills in some of the background to the famous dust-up between Galileo and the church authorities of his day which is the only thing most of us know about him:
Galileo first turned his telescope on Saturn on 25 July 1610 and it appeared as three bodies (his telescope was not good enough to show the rings but made them appear as lobes on either side of the planet). Continued observations were puzzling indeed to Galileo as the bodies on either side of Saturn vanished when the ring system was edge on. Also in 1610 he discovered that, when seen in the telescope, the planet Venus showed phases like those of the Moon, and therefore must orbit the Sun not the Earth. This did not enable one to decide between the Copernican system, in which everything goes round the Sun, and that proposed by Tycho Brahe in which everything but the Earth (and Moon) goes round the Sun which in turn goes round the Earth. Most astronomers of the time in fact favoured Brahe's system and indeed distinguishing between the two by experiment was beyond the instruments of the day. However, Galileo knew that all his discoveries were evidence for Copernicanism, although not a proof. In fact it was his theory of falling bodies which was the most significant in this respect, for opponents of a moving Earth argued that if the Earth rotated and a body was dropped from a tower it should fall behind the tower as the Earth rotated while it fell. Since this was not observed in practice this was taken as strong evidence that the Earth was stationary. However Galileo already knew that a body would fall in the observed manner on a rotating Earth.
So: Galileo advocated the Copernican view of the organization of the solar system, to the displeasure of the authorities and against the consensus of the majority of his putative peers. The authorities served him a nice hot cup of Shut the Hell Up, and so he did. And now our authority, Federal Judge John E. Jones III, whose official bio reveals not the slightest hint of any scientific credential, has slapped down a few heretics by the exercise of pure, raw power, and again All Right-Thinking Folk are pleased. Hmmmmmm. If Marxism weren't out of style, I might ask the authorities and all right-thinking folk if they aren't concerned about being, perhaps, on the wrong side of history. But let's hear from Galileo himself: "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."
A few other (related) things:
1. I'm not here to advocate for whatever is meant by "intelligent design" theory. For one thing, I know next to nothing about it; and for another, I have entirely insufficient interest to learn about it. When Federal Judge John E. Jones III asserts that it ain't science, I would guess that he's right; science is mathematical in character, and must be falsifiable by repeatable, controlled experiments. The same can certainly be said about the evolutionary account of the origin of life on Earth. In fact, in my as-always-humble opinion, biology itself isn't science; it's scholarship and categorization -- button-sorting and stamp-collecting, at least once it leaves the strict realm of organic chemistry. Physics is the true and fundamental science: the study of the intersection of mathematics and nature. The other sciences, to the extent that they are sciences, are best understood as particular applications of physics.
2. If this terrifying monolith of a nation still bore any resemblance whatever to a constitutional, federal republic, what pretense of authority would a federal judge have over the curricular decisions of a local school board? The First Amendment forbids the Congress to make laws "concerning an establishment of religion." That's plain language, surely; did the Congress do any such thing in the case in question? I didn't think so.
3. You evangelicals out there, who heeded the urgings of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, et nauseating cetera, and re-elected Dubya because it was sooooooo important that "good" judges be appointed to the federal bench: rejoice and be glad! Federal Judge John E. Jones III was appointed by Our Amazing Christian President in 2002. Mission accomplished. Don't forget to vote in '08!
Friday, December 23, 2005
Reid said the delay meant that "vital intelligence operations are on hold while the bill languishes." But congressional and intelligence community sources said it would not affect current intelligence programs, which are also guided by defense authorizations and appropriations.
Democrats were informed last week that Republicans would clear the bill if three amendments, two by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and one by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), would be stripped from the consent agreement.
But Democrats balked because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, had agreed to the amendments. Roberts's staff did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Kerry's amendment would require the director of national intelligence to give the intelligence panels information on secret CIA prisons in several Eastern European democracies and in Asia.
Kennedy's amendments would require the White House to turn over copies of daily intelligence briefs that President Bush and former President Bill Clinton reviewed on Iraq.
So, is it the CIA's secret overseas torture prisons -- the ones that don't exist, and The Exalted is seriously torqued off because we found out about them? Or is it the intelligence briefings that Congress had all along anyway, and that it would be really, really bad if they got to see them (again) now?
I heard the other day, in the course of a radio interview, that there's a permanent sign posted somewhere in the football practice facilities of Ohio State: "What have you done today to beat Michigan?" Amusing. But, a good model for a serious question for each of our senators and Congresscreatures: "What are you doing, right now, to remove Bush and his entire unholy machine from power?"
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Also, the dog ate my homework.
Meanwhile, there's the Bush junta's domestic surveillance scandal. There's so much folly and contradiction involved in this business that it's hard to know where to begin.
First, I'd like to suggest that the Wee Emperor probably shouldn't bear all, and maybe not even most, of the responsibility. Yes, he's evil, but he's also stupid and childlike ... and the alleged grownups who populate the U.S. Congress should have smacked him down a long time ago. Bush is like a visiting three-year-old who's using magic-markers to decorate your walls; he's nauseating, but your real anger should be directed toward his parents, who watch but don't stop him. When El Presidente's Monday press conference was broadcast on radio and he was chittering about the unfairness of those who accused him of failing to "connect the dots," but now don't want him to have all possible dot-connection power, I can almost sympathize (except that he remains a nauseating combination of murderous tyrant and clown). There has been very little principled opposition to the war, and to the whole American Imperial enterprise in general; I am sure that the vast majority of my countrymen wish to go on sodomizing the rest of the world, but they want a magic leakproof condom to keep them from suffering any consequences at all. Bush is being judged as a condom vendor, and found wanting. It's true that he's a ludicrously bad empire-manager. But nothing will really change until we Americans renounce our self-awarded position as dictator and lecturer to the rest of the world, turn our attention homeward, and figure out that America needs real borders, far less government, and some real education, leading (hopefully) to a renewed ability to manufacture -- at home -- a few things worth having.
Secondly: Prexy says he really, really needs that brand-new, fully-permanent "PATRIOT" Act. Can't let a minute go by without it, else the streets will be thick with dirty-bombers. That's obvious nonsense, but equally nonsensical is the idea that we'll be any more free by refusing to re-authorize the thing. I really don't see why Bush wants it. He's already demonstrated that he and his thugs will do whatever the hell they want, law or no law; after all, he's "Commander-in-Chief," so whatever he does is legal, apparently. And I think, deep down in that black thing he uses for a heart, he prefers it illegal anyway. To people like that, I really think it's a matter of: why settle for sex when you can rape? I suspect he's actually happy that his domestic-spy program became public knowledge; it gives him a chance to puff out his chest and say, yeah, I did it, I'm doing it, and I'm going to go on doing it -- what are you going to do about it?
Thirdly: even the Congressfolk who affect to be all upset about the surveillance deal go to great pains to say, there was a legal way to do this, and it would be all fine with us if the legal way had been used. It seems that everyone who has a little power thinks that the Constitution is satisfied if the double-secret-probation court gives the OK for sneak'n'peek, wholesale wiretapping, etc. This should serve as a lesson for those of us who still put our faith and trust in constitutions. The people with the guns still do whatever they want, wiping their butts, as necessary, on any piece of parchment that gets in the way. The only solution is to get rid of the people with the guns. And even that solution doesn't last very long. Maybe the Christians are right -- this is simply a fallen world.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
An irritated U.S. ambassador to Canada waded into the centre of the federal election campaign yesterday, firing a political broadside from the Bush administration aimed at repeated criticism from Prime Minister Paul Martin.
David Wilkins warned Canadians to back off the U.S.-bashing rhetoric in the campaign for the Jan. 23 election, suggesting Mr. Martin is risking relations with the U.S.
"It's easy to criticize the United States. We're an easy target at times," Mr. Wilkins said. "It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner, but it's a slippery slope and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship."
Those Canadians had best limit themselves to either humble adoration or respectful silence where the Great Vulture is concerned. Otherwise, they surely risk pre-emptive invasion. Better to fight them there, you know, rather than here.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I'll let Patrick Henry provide the commentary:
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Friday, December 09, 2005
The sport of surfing is in turmoil after the world's largest producer of the foam blocks used to make surfboards closed down, citing over-regulation.
Polyurethane foam "blanks" produced by California-based Gordon Clark are used to make many of the world's surfboards.
Mr Clark, who helped invent the modern all-foam surfboard, says environmental regulations forced him out of business.
Fears of a global foam shortage have led to a sharp rise in board prices as surfers snap up already depleted stock.
So, what will we be able to tell the teacher in the future -- when it will be completely implausible that we're surfin' USA?
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The last time I wrote about downtown redevelopment, I noted the growing dispute over where to put a new hotel -- south of the Grand Wayne as originally envisioned, or north of it as now proposed -- without saying what I thought. I hadn't really decided yet, and I'm still not quite sure, but it's an issue people are going to have to choose a side on, so I thought I'd say what I think, at least as of now (and granted that some people don't think we even need another hotel downtown at all; see some of the comments after the linked-to post).
Wow -- what a libertarian! The question is, in what location does the new, tax-subsidized hotel get built, and Uncle Leo says, well, everybody has to choose a side. No suggestion that perhaps, if a hotel will make money, maybe it should be up to its ... ah ... owners to build it, without civic-minded corporate welfare -- and if it won't make money, why, maybe nobody should build it. No suggestion that if a money-making hotel is to be built privately (without slam-dunking the gummint Fist-O-Fury & Theft into all the locals' pockets), that perhaps its owners could decide where to build it (first step: find someone who's willing to sell the necessary land at a mutually-agreeable price, without the city's eminent domain gun shoved against the seller's forehead). But no, Uncle Leo's firmly ensconced in his planner's seat:
On balance, I think going north makes the best sense. There is so much already going on there that a new hotel will act as a connector that can make people think of downtown as a place that has to be checked out. Putting it south, which would tend to make the Grand Wayne-new hotel-Embassy a self-contained little enclave, I suspect would just encourage out-of-town visitors to make their one stop then leave without exploring anything else.
Glad to have your opinion, Mr. Morris. And how much money do you plan to invest in this venture? Oh, same as me, I expect: whatever sum it pleases our local officials to relieve us of.
I certainly am glad there's such a vital diversity of editorial opinion in our fine two-daily-newspaper community.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
We were able to get seats for one of the two performances for which the Fort Wayne Philharmonic provided the music (they use recordings for the other performances). The orchestra was as much on its game as the dancers. With a large children's choir on hand to provide the "ahhhh - ahhhh" parts for the Land of Snow scene, all was complete. Once again, I am mildly amazed that Fort Wayne, Indiana -- a decaying rust belt city of about 250,000 -- has so good a ballet, and so good an orchestra.
Of course, I have nearly zero knowledge of dance. But when a woman can start off at the left front of the stage and travel a diagonal line all the way to the right rear -- couldn't have been less than twenty meters -- on alternately the heel and then the toe of a single foot, gracefully, under perfect control, in exact time to the music ... well, even I know I've just seen something very cool. So, my hat's way off to Lucia Rogers, who did this tonight, and will be doing it next weekend, too. I bet her toes hurt.
I'm not at all sure why this performance moves me so, every year. It's not as if I'm knowledgeable about ballet; I'm sure I miss all the finer points and subtleties. I think it's a matter of spending some time in the presence of people who work very hard for, and achieve, excellence: dancers, musicians, and the others who accomplish the production. It's a cheering thought that I'm part of the same species as they.
Life is good.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Businesses have to buy a certain amount of people's labor in order to make, sell, and service their products, which may themselves be nothing but services anyway. To decrease their costs and increase their profits, they buy that labor as cheaply as they can. They will pay less for it if the labor market is a "buyer's market:" plentiful supply = low price. Clearly, the supply is made larger and the price is driven lower if there's a lot of people whose expectations, in terms of wages, benefits, and working conditions, are low. To the people who run many businesses, then, the tide of Mexicans crossing the border daily represents wealth. For many Americans, it represents either no jobs or no decent compensation. Which brings me back to Dear Leader, who is working heroically for his corporate friends and benefactors. Here he is, working:
The president has been urging Congress to act on a guest-worker program for more than a year. Under his plan, illegal immigrants would be allowed to get three-year work visas. They could extend that for an additional three years, but would then have to return to their home countries for a year to apply for a new work permit.
Bush's plan pairs a guest-worker program for foreigners with border security enforcement, an attempt to satisfy both his business supporters, who believe foreign workers help the economy, and other conservative backers who take a hard line on illegal immigration.
He said the program he's proposing would create a legal way to match foreign workers with American employers to fill jobs that Americans will not do.
''This program would help meet the demands of a growing economy, and it would allow honest workers to provide for their families while respecting the law,'' Bush said.
"Jobs that Americans will not do:" that's one of George the Slow's favorite memorized catchphrases. Others echo it for him:
... he is offering a guest-worker plan to provide a continuous flow of low-wage labor to job sites nationwide whenever an American doesn't step up to work for the going wage.
So what, exactly, determines what the "going" wage is? I suppose it's the wage that an employer must offer in order to attract suitable workers. But that wage depends on the social and economic context in which the offer is made. Flood the country with
I have argued in the past, and will do so in the future, I expect, that minimum-wage laws are wrong in principle, because they are a warrantless government interference with the freedom of individuals to voluntarily enter into contracts with each other. The owner of a construction business, for example, can't force me to carry concrete blocks for two dollars an hour if I'm not willing to do so. But Bush, with his proposed "guest worker" program, plus his manifest disinterest in actually establishing control over our southern border, is effectively implementing a "maximum wage" law. By flooding the labor markets with low-wage, low-expectation, desperate foreign people, he makes certain that there'll be lots of jobs that "Americans won't do." Of course, there are cultural consequences associated with the Mexicanization of the American economy. But neither the Bushes, nor the people with whom they hang and chill, are lacking in social insulation from those consequences. Why, pool boys are cheaper than ever! Hoo-rah!
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Your Father's Libertarian Party was easily caricatured. Think back to high school. The chess club guys, taking a break to exegete Ayn Rand. How far could it be pushed? Maybe you didn't need any laws at all -- just a requirement (enforced how? one wondered) that he or she who injures another must make restitution. Money solves everything. What were the details of how the private-enterprise, freely-competing police departments, fire departments, and armies would work? Private networks of roads? People could debate -- without end -- whether any of these ideas would hold water, rationally, or not. One thing was certain, though: they would never be tried out. Your typical LP candidate for public office would attract a share of the vote that tended to trade somewhere in the sub-one-percent range. The thing had its own special charm, regardless. You could be quite sure that every LP candidate had a "day job" -- none of them were public-trough leeches. You could be rather sure that no sleazy corporate or union buyers of access and influence were lining their pockets, or their miniature campaign warchests. Why in the world would you want to even try to buy a libertarian? It wasn't as if they were ever going to be elected to anything. And so the LP enjoyed the presumptive cleanliness of powerlessness.
For some months now, I have been reading a fair amount of the online writings of the LP folks who participate in this thread. (Mr. Enders is the treasurer of the Allen County LP; Mr. Kole is a candidate for the Indiana LP's nomination for secretary of state.) And I've noticed how much like old-school conservative Republicans they sound. I took the occasion of this thread to inquire about this trend. Mr. Kole, in particular, provided some interesting replies:
Glad you brought up the fact that I am among the moderate-sounding Libertarians here in Indiana. Consider two things to see why I take a moderate, incremental approach.
1. Since we are on the subject of schools, consider the reaction of the average parent. Say he has four kids, aged 7-14. The Libertarian extreme or endpoint position is that public schools should be abolished tomorrow and replaced with private schools only.
He hears this and he rushes to help a Republican or Democrat. It is important to consider why this is the logical, rational thing for him to do.
Most parents do not have significant savings, sadly. Most parents have an entitlement mentality that includes the expectation of public schools. Having to pay for private education might cost $10k per child. The Libertarian endpoint position means an immediate cost of $40k you him for several years to come. He HAS TO work against the Libertarian candidate.
2. Think of the spectrum of economic thought, from left to right. On the left (but extreme furthest left), you have the Democrats. Somwhere in the middle, you have the Republicans. The Libertarian extreme is on the far right.
It is understood that speaking fiscal conservatism will not appeal to the left. So, the opportunity for Libertarian candidates to appeal to their potential voters can result in a divide of voters at a range determined by the dialogue.
If the Libertarian and Republican are as far away as possible, the best the Libertarian can do is split those voters in half.
If the Libertarian position is very close to the Republicans, but slightly more fiscally conservative, the Libertarian stands to take all of the voters more extreme than the position taken, and split the rest of the fiscal conservatives in half.
In reality, many fiscal conservatives conclude that the extreme Libertarian position is either unwinnable or untennable, so they vote Republican.
The bargaining position of the Libertarian candidate, such as myself, improves dramatically if trying to discredit Republicans as fiscal conservatives when I take a position such as 'cut the budget 1%'. It puts gneuine pressure on the Republicans to actually meet that objective, for if they can't even cut 1%, their base finally knows it can't count on the GOP to do anything with their majorities. If I was taking a cut 50% approach, they don't have to respond to me at all. They can dismiss me as a dreamer, tinfoil hat wearer, etc.
I like the Libertarian philosophers to take extreme positions. That is the role of the editorial writer.
Libertarian candidates have taken extreme positions for over 30 years, and have less than 1% nationally to show for it. Here in Indiana, we have been increasingly choosing not to fulfill Einstein's definition of insanity, but rather, are taking a different approach, because as we have seen, if policy is to be an all-or-nothing proosition, we will get nothing. 30 years of proof back me up.
This business of "endpoint positions" is interesting. Mr. Kole is running for secretary of state (within the LP, so far). Let us suppose he's out campaigning for this position, some October, in a general election season. He makes a proposal: cut the state budget by 15%. You, as a truly informed voter, have read the blog thread I've been writing about. Now, as "Dirty Harry" Callahan of movie fame might put it, you have to ask yourself a question. I've heard his words ... but I don't know what he's thinking. Does he really want to cut the budget by 15%? Or does he really want to cut it by 95%, but just doesn't want me to know that?
There's a technical term for a man who talks ... but talks so that his listener can't know what he thinks based on what he says. That term is "professional politician." You know ... careerist, "position-taking" (not "belief-holding"), technocratic, spin-doctoring politico. Just like a real, big-league, Democrat or Republican politician.
Why does Mr. Kole advocate this approach? Because, he says, it works.
Hmmmmm. I think there are a couple of problems with the LP Of Today model. First, I don't think it will work. Integrity might have been an LP distinctive. Once it's tossed, LP candidates are simply Demo or GOP wannabes. Given a choice between an ersatz Republican and the genuine article, why not vote for the real one, whose commercials are bound to be slicker anyway, and who might leave you with the warm fuzzy feeling of having Voted For A Winner? Secondly, quaint though it might seem, obtaining success by being less than forthcoming is, well, wrong. What does it profit a man, one might ask, to gain even a seat in the Mighty U.S. Congress, and lose his own soul?
Well, in any case, I hope my fellow blogger Mr. Sylvester is successful in his bid for a school board seat. I'm sure his constituents would be better served by him than by his freespending incumbent opposition. But I do think that all the local LP troops might want to consider the possibility that they'll wake up one of these days and discover that they have become, or have returned to being, Republicans -- by a different name.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Lieberman, a senior Democrat from Connecticut, said Iraqis are striving to "put the nightmare of Saddam Hussein behind them," but still need U.S. help.
"They are making progress, but they are not where they need to be yet and that's what we have to help them to do before we can leave," he said.
"The cost of successfully completing our mission here will be large in terms of American lives lost and money spent, but the cost of failure here would be catastrophic for us in the U.S. and for the Iraqis, of course -- and I believe for the entire Middle East.
"And that's why we are going to continue to be here until we get to the point where the Iraqis can take it forward on their own, and I think we are making progress in that direction."
Which mission is that, Senator? Which of the interminable reasons that Dear Leader gave for the destruction of Iraq must be successfully fulfilled, and how is that fulfillment to be defined? Well, Kosher Joe isn't specific ... but he does give us a hint: the business about "the entire Middle East." In his world, it seems that those damn dirty Ay-rabs are just going to have to face the fact that what's good for the Likud Party will be defined, at the point of the U.S. sword, as being good for them, too.
And then there's the ever-astute "Condi," who's clearly been to Dilbert's Pointy-Haired Boss Management School:
"I suspect that the American forces are not going to be needed in the numbers that they are there for that much longer," Rice said in an interview with CNN's John King.
U.S. forces in Iraq number about 155,000. The base level for American troops is 138,000, but the force was boosted to provide additional security for next month's Iraqi elections.
Gee, how much time is "not that much longer," Mizzz Rice? I mean, one could describe the entirety of recorded human history as "not that long" by geological time scales. How many decades are we talking about? Could you be a little more numerically specific?
Rice told CNN that Casey and the Iraqi government "are working from goals that they would like to train 'X' number of Iraqi forces by 'Y' time frame."
"They do have those metrics, and they review them every day, and from time to time, the president gets a chance to review them," Rice said. "But again, the numbers will not tell the whole story. The issue is, what are the Iraqis capable of doing, and they are capable of doing more and more."
Well, what the hell ... we didn't get numbers, but at least we got some Idiot Algebra, plus some high-grade management gibberish (metrics ... metrics ... I love it!). One thing's for sure: we got a whole barrelful of Stay the Course.
I don't want to sound overly pessimistic, though, on the day before Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure U.S. forces won't be in Mesopotamia another decade. I mean, consider: in 1967, you didn't hear Lyndon Johnson or his minions talking about cutting losses and leaving; but the last helicopter left Saigon only eight years later. I don't know if the Iraqis are as tough as the Vietnamese were, or not; but even if they aren't, quite, I can at least hope that Mr. and Mrs. America aren't going to sign up for a draft and 58,000 killed. I can at least hope.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities.
"There's no question in my mind that we did. There's no question in my mind that we may be still doing it," Wilkerson said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office," he said. "His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department."
At another point in the interview, Wilkerson said "the vice president had to cover this in order for it to happen and in order for Secretary Rumsfeld to feel as though he had freedom of action."
You know, since we've been assured by Our Forceful, Straight-Shooting Wartime President that "we do not torture," I have wondered once or twice why the McCain amendment, which says that it's illegal for us to torture, is resisted so fiercely. In the same story, my question is answered:
Proposed by Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the amendment was approved in the Senate last month by a 90-9 vote. It was not included in the House version of the bill.
The White House has said that Bush would likely veto the bill if McCain's language is included, calling the amendment "unnecessary and duplicative."
Ahhhhh, I see now. Our Stern and Resolute Squinter and Rassler With Pretzels has presided over five years of federal spending that has grown like yeast on steroids, but has never once vetoed anything. What is it that inspires him to shuck out the veto pen? "Unnecessary and duplicative." And no, of course we're not operating any international black franchise chain of torture prisons. I've got my mind right; I just love Big Brother. But retired Colonel Wilkerson, being the America-hater that he so obviously is, still indulges in crimethink:
While he acknowledged having no proof that the United States is torturing detainees, Wilkerson said, "I can only assume that, when the vice president of the United States lobbies the Congress on behalf of cruel and unusual punishment and the need to be able to do that in order to get information out of potential terrorists... that it's still going on."
Finally: Wilkerson and the other thought-criminals can just stop worrying their little heads about torture. We have it straight from the horse's ... well, from one end or the other of the horse, anyway:
Bush administration officials, including Rumsfeld and military officials, have denied that instances of torture were ever officially condoned. Some personnel accused of torture have been convicted and sentenced for prisoner abuse.
"All the instructions I issued required humane treatment," Rumsfeld told ABC. "Anything that was done that was not humane has been prosecuted."
There must have been a lot of trials, and I somehow missed out on the news. I thought the list of the prosecuted was pretty much limited to the Campus Couple of Abu Ghraib, Charles Graner and Lynndie England -- with, of course, a career-limiting demotion for Janis Karpinski. But clearly, many of those PUC-f--kers must already have answered to the law, and to the Bush regime's well-known revulsion to the very idea of prisoner abuse. Rii-i-i-i-i-ight.
Friday, November 18, 2005
The mighty warrior Scott McClellan, chief White House Publicity Hack, truly put the smackdown on Murtha, all the way from the mysterious Orient:
In Pusan, South Korea, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said Murtha's announcement is "baffling" and compared his position to that of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and the "extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."
"The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists," McClellan said. "After seeing his statement, we remain baffled--nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer."
Safer than what, one might ask; some national condition, produced by the efforts of the War Party, in which we might again be able to travel by air without being anally probed by aggressive, empowered cretins? But never mind ... Vice-Emperor Dick "You'll Have to Go F--k Yourself, I Have Other Priorities" Cheney also has things to say to Rep. Murtha:
"The suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city," Cheney said.
Murtha, who won a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, responded by witheringly comparing his own military service with Cheney's lack of wartime experience.
"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there," Murtha said. "I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
One must, I think, suspect that the congressman is being sarcastic here. My guess would be that he really doesn't "like that" at all.
Of course, I would agree that Rep. Murtha has "got some 'splainin' to do." The news story does tell us that he's been in Congress since 1974 and describes him as a "hawk" on defense issues, so he's complicit in the existence and so-frequent use of the U.S.'s huge standing army (and navy, and so forth), against which the Founders warned us repeatedly. And he admits that he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He doesn't exactly say this, but I infer that his claim would be that he supported the invasion on the basis of Saddam's apparently-mythical W's of MD -- deceived by all that doctored intelligence. Well, to him and all the other newly-antiwar folk, I ask: how is it that even I -- a mere mushroom in flyover country, who never sees any intelligence data at all, honest or otherwise -- how is it that even I knew, from the start, that the U.S. had no business invading Iraq? Then, answering my own question: it was easy. Iraq didn't invade any U.S. territory, nor did it threaten to do so. That was true in 1991; it was true in 2003; and it is true of many, many countries today. (All of them, in fact.) This isn't difficult to see; if it were, I wouldn't be able to see it.
Mr. Murtha, if you've actually changed your mind in any really fundamental way, you should say so. I'm pretty sure you haven't; I'm pretty sure you're simply assessing which side of that moistened finger you're holding up in the breeze is cooler. You don't deserve another term in Congress, and I hope you don't get one.
Mssrs. McClellan, Bush, Cheney, Hastert, and others too numerous to mention here: words are inadequate. You'd look just great standing blindfolded against a bloody and pockmarked wall sometime after the revolution. I don't think it will happen ... but it'd sure be sweet.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Oh, wait, maybe we did.
But obviously, we didn't use WP on any civilians. Just insurgents.
What do you want to bet that it turns out that any and every burnt-up Fallujan is defined, for purposes of the Holy War on Terror, as an "insurgent?" Even if they look like old grandpaws and grannies and little kids. That accursed insurgency and its devilish recruiting practices!
By the way, we do not torture, either, in those black facilities we've been hearing about. This forceful statement from Dear Leader is no doubt true -- assuming you're using the correct definition of "torture." Torture is what Saddam and his operatives did. What we do is coercive interrogation. Not the same thing at all.
Well, that's all cleared up, then. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. If you know what's good for you, that is.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Hadley said the intelligence Bush used for those arguments "was roughly the same intelligence that the Clinton administration saw."
"They drew the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to peace, that he had weapons of mass destruction. They acted against him militarily in 1998," Hadley said, referring to the administration of Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Leaving aside the amusement value of a Republican operative defending Republican actions on the grounds that they are the same thing the Democrats had also been doing, Mr. Hadley's words are also useful for underlining the fraudulent nature of the simulated conflict between the Elephant and Donkey wings of the War Party. He's right: Imperial war policy really is perfectly bipartisan. The ferociously warlike words of Mr. Kerry, during the 2004 campaign, and of Howard Dean, since taking over the Donkey Caucus, are two good examples of the Unholy Alliance. I've heard Elephant partisans demand assent that it surely was a good thing that when 9-11 came around, Al Gore had not been elected; and I've heard Donkey Caucus folk say the opposite: that Mr. Gore would not have presided over Bush's gory and futile war. I'm reasonably sure, though, that if Mr. Gore had become the Emperor in 2000, pretty much exactly the same thing would have happened. Just blank out the names in the news stories, and it becomes nearly impossible to tell which beast, the pachyderm of the jackass, was triumphant the last time Americans held their civic charade of futility.
Mr. Hadley again:
"We need to put this debate behind us," he said. "It's unfair to the country. It's unfair to the men and women in uniform risking their lives to make this country safe."
I notice that, in his photo on the CNN site, Mr. Hadley looks relatively youthful and fit. In fact, he'd look very good in desert camo. He could show some fairness to those "young men and women" by taking the place of some lucky soldier.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Armistice Day was designated to honor the dead of "The Great War." Later, we decided that we liked war so much we'd have to start numbering the mega-wars of the 20th century. Today, of course, is "Veterans Day" (yes, officially spelled with no apostrophe in this post-literate age). The reason is clear. The dead of WWI don't vote, but lots of veterans do. And those to whom we give the power to designate "Days" are nothing if not vote-whores.
But let's hear from a veteran; let's hear from someone who knew war from firsthand experience:
= = = = = = = = = =
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
= = = = = = = = = =
God help us.
But those "Democratic leaders" ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves too, as should a large, large majority of the American people. No doubt, Bush and his handlers were quite willing to "lie us into war" with Iraq. No doubt, they told all the lies they could toward that end. But one has to ask: what lying was needed to get the dear American pee-pul to buy into invading Iraq, back in those heady days in early 2003? Let's face it: America was high on bloodlust and commercial jingoism (Toby Keith, anyone? "Shock and Y'all?"), and didn't care in the least whether Saddam Hussein had a few crates of chemical artillery shells sitting around or not. No, we were the World's Only Superpower, and we were too busy sending each other cheesy e-mail humor about how those poor stupid towelheads were going to be dining on bombs-bombs-bombs to be judiciously weighing the provenance and credibility of the WMD "intelligence." I'm faintly tempted (very faintly) to sympathize with George Dubya Slowpuppy about how he's now being scapegoated by war cheerleaders who were very, very much on the bandwagon a few years back. On second thought, screw him. But the scapegoaters ought to bear their own guilt. As should everybody who ever Supported The War and Supported The Troops in any form or fashion. How about we support the victims, instead?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The big national speaker was Dr. Juliet Schor, a sociologist from Boston College and the author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. She's a good speaker, and presented some fairly horrifying data concerning the amount of media exposure kids are getting these days and the social, economic, and cultural impact of that exposure; and she had a number of ideas about possible mitigations of those impacts. Some of those ideas were great (pre-empt media time with family/outdoor/creative time, sharply limit TV, have nutritionally-sound family meals in your home); and one or two I was skeptical of (mostly government limitation or prohibition of advertising of particular categories of things to particular categories of people). A good speaker and a solid thinker.
The local panel was six people, five of whom were women and four of whom were nurses (the faculty adviser for the local Phi Theta Kappa chapter is on the nursing-school faculty, and she tends to recruit panelists from close to home, I think). They kicked the topic around for a while, mostly in personal and practical ways. I would not want to stereotype, but it was pretty much a "women's" conversation, rich in anecdotes about their children and grandchildren and how they had encountered and resisted commercialization of these kids, and the increasing difficulty of doing so effectively. As the allotted time ran out, a man in the audience claimed the floor. He was maybe a few years older than me, and he was tense. I've been sitting here listening this whole time, he said with an angry voice, and not one person on this panel has said one word about curtailing the power of corporations. You've been talking and talking about parents' responsibilities, and what you can do at home, but that's not going to change anything. What has to be done is for everyone to organize politically! He went on for a couple of minutes in the good, old-fashioned Popped-Forehead-Veins Marxist style that you seldom hear any more (this side of Havana or Pyongyang, at least). It made me ... well, not angry, exactly, but irritated; I think mostly because he was barking unpleasantly at a handful of women who did not seem to be enjoying it, and I would have thought that elementary politeness would call for a little more measured tone. But it got me to thinking.
Assuming that we would agree that the commercialization of childhood is a problem -- and I suppose most all of us would agree -- I had just been listening to the classic Left remedy: empower our supervisors, our Dear Leaders, to curtail the modes and content of the communication available to the evildoers. A decade or so ago, I would have given the classic Right answer: the magic of the marketplace will right all wrongs and adjust all malfunctions, if only it is left completely free to operate as it will. And those two represent your two basic doctrinaire approaches to pretty much every question. It occurs to me that they have one important idea in common: that there are positions occupied only by Good People. My Red Guard fellow audience member has faith that only good men get to occupy high public office, and the ne'er-do-wells are all on the Wal-mart board of directors. Had we heard from a Young Republican, he'd have said that the good guys are all in Wal-mart top management, and the scoundrels are all infesting public office. But both believe in good guys.
I don't have a solution that I feel very good about; I suppose I'd favor some form of the shield-your-children-and-muddle-through approach. Advertisers don't exactly have (completely) free speech now, and probably don't deserve it ... but I also don't want our glorious supervisors to get any greater powers of limiting their speech, because they'll end up limiting mine. But not having to pretend to have a totally-effective, ideologically-pure solution is ... sort of liberating, in itself.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican congressional leaders said Tuesday they are asking committees to investigate the possible leak of classified information about secret U.S. prisons for suspected terrorists overseas.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the disclosure, first reported last week in The Washington Post, could damage national security. Hastert, R-Illinois, and Frist, R-Tennessee, have asked the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees to look into the origin of the disclosure.
"If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks," the lawmakers wrote in a letter requesting the investigation.
The Post reported November 2 that top al Qaeda suspects were being held for questioning "at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe" and other locations around the world.
Hmmmm. So, whoever leaked the obviously false word that we're holding people in secret, recycled-East-bloc CIA torture prisons somehow endangered national security, even though there's no truth to it. Right. I guess I'd better keep quiet, then, about the squadrons of secret space alien UFOs that the gummint is operating out of Area 51. I don't want to endanger any national security. I don't want Senator Frist and Congressperson Hastert investigating me (to say nothing of Emperor Palpatine!).
President Bush, while in Panama on Monday, said flatly, "We do not torture."
Okay, that's clear enough. Never mind those Abu Ghraib photos. You didn't really see those, and neither did I. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain -- I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!!! Alrighty, then. That settles that. Ten-four, good buddy.
The GOP leaders' move comes as the White House tries to oppose a Senate-approved measure that explicitly bars "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of prisoners in U.S. custody.
The White House has threatened to veto a $440 billion Pentagon spending bill if it includes that measure, which is backed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a onetime prisoner of war who was tortured by his North Vietnamese captors.
So, let's see. There aren't any secret CIA torture prisons in former East bloc territory, so just shut up about them, lest you imperil National Security. And we do not torture, so it would be just awful if the Senate forbade us to torture.
I think I saw something like this several times in the old, original "Star Trek" TV series. Isn't this where the bad guy's android guards are supposed to blow up under the unbearable pressure of logical contradiction? Lay off, Mr. Spock! My circuits are overheating already!
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Have fun -- I plan to!
The "conservative" part of the Republican Party is officially upset about legal abortion, along with a variety of other court decisions. But, for purposes of discussion, we can usefully sum up the conservative Republican dissatisfaction with high-level federal jurisprudence in one word: Roe. I stress the "official" nature of conservative Republican opposition to Roe, because -- as I have suggested here before -- a perpetual source of red-meat political pornography by which its base can be powerfully motivated is quite useful to the Republican Party, especially when the babies-who-aren't-around are disproportionately black. But, taking them at their not-especially-reliable word, the Republican right doesn't like Roe.
But their strategy for getting rid of Roe has been an unprincipled one; rather than address the structural problem of the judicial branch of government making a half-hearted pretense of finding "emanations from penumbras" that allegedly say things that the plain text of the constitution obviously does not say -- such as a prohibition on the several states from legislating against abortion -- they propose to leave a structural tyranny in place, but to man that structure with the "right" people. Various Republican presidents have been elected to do that since 1980, with the result that we've seen: practically all the Supremes put there by presidents who made the "strict constructionist" noises, and Roe still in effect, with zero apparent probability of overturn. I can think of a couple of explanations for this -- and both are attractive. We could assume that the Republicans are well-meaning dunces, unable to accomplish a task that they have sincerely tried to do: the Stupid Party theory. Or, we could conclude that the Republicans, who have proven adept enough at doing what they actually want to do, such as Mexicanizing the American economy to the great advantage of corporate management, are simply content that Roe should remain "the law of the land." I tend to favor the latter theory, in spite of its overtones of tinfoil headgear. Neither explanation, however, should inspire pro-life Americans to vote for the elephants. Been there, done that, didn't work worth a damn.
If Roe were overturned tomorrow, with the result that the question of legal abortion simply returned to the states, where it belongs, I wouldn't be especially thrilled. That would, I think, have made a real difference in 1974 or so, when people could actually remember from their own experience that the pre-1973 alleys did not, in fact, run red with blood, and that one could easily walk down the street without tripping over discarded straightened-out coat hangers. I was there; I know. But, in 2005, that memory is largely gone. I'd be extremely surprised if a single state, post-Roe, actually restored the pre-1973 status quo. So, it's difficult for me to get excited about whatever happens with the Supremes, other than to hope for an outrage so great that it starts a revolution: something like Kelo, but on steroids. The responsible part of me (and yes, I do have one) says, sure, if the Supremes were nine copies of Scalia, there'd probably be somewhat less mischief, and that would probably be good. No thrills, though ... far from it.
Besides, I don't have a solution for the truly basic problem -- more basic than the problem of a lawless judiciary, for which the Congress actually has existing constitutional remedies. The more fundamental problem is that of a central government whose powers are supposedly limited by a document, a constitution, when that same central government gets to say what that document means. That's an open-loop system: the central government is assigned the control of itself. And, even though we like to indulge ourselves with mythology about there having been a post-Revolution golden age of liberty, which gradually devolved into bureaucratic tyranny, an honest reading of U.S. history suggests that the devolution was actually quite abrupt. We had an anti-sedition law before 1800. The tyranny was certainly complete by the middle of the 19th century, when Lincoln explained in rivers of blood that the United State was essentially a prison, or the Hotel California: a place that a state could never leave. Short of an even larger river of blood, I don't see a solution.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Mind you, this supposedly was caused by Democrat "anger" over the lack of an investigation into falsified intelligence about Iraq and its supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is just silly. I don't believe for a moment that anyone in the Donkey Caucus of the War Party is actually angry about any such thing; and to the extent that they affect to be so, they are nothing better than hypocrites and unprincipled opportunists. The fact is that the Donkey Caucus was fully on board with George the Slow in the matter of spilling a little uninvolved wog blood as post-9/11 national testosterone therapy. They underlined their co-conspirator status in 2004 by running Mr. Kerry for President on the platform that he's more warlike than the Wee Emperor, and more efficient at it, too. Therefore, I offer rude romance both to them and the horse they rode in on.
But, back to the "hijacking:" the Elephant Caucus of the War Party is also doing its best to simulate rage:
Frist said Democrats had "hijacked" the Senate, and Democrats threatened to close the chamber each day until Republicans agreed to move forward with the investigation.
"This is an affront to me personally," said Frist, a Tennessee Republican. "This is an affront to our leadership. It is an affront to the United States of America, and it is wrong."
Frist said Senate Rule 21 -- which requires everyone but senators and a few aides to clear the chamber until a majority votes to reopen -- had been invoked only rarely and with "mutual conversation" between the leaders of both parties.
Well! Apparently, Senator Frist is so intimately identified with the United State that an affront to him personally is the same thing as an affront to This Great Nation. "L'etat, c'est moi." Furthermore, invoking Rule 21 is something that's just never done without a meeting of the minds between the good buddies who run both caucuses of the War Party. It just isn't. Why, if these collegial considerations are neglected, what's to become of the good fellowship they've always enjoyed during holiday-season fact-finding junkets to the European capitals, or those comradely golf games at Congressional or Burning Tree? And how will the Senate carry on its everyday business?
The Senate's "everyday business" is almost entirely inimical to the proper interests of taxpaying Americans. The more Rule 21 hijackings and general hurt feelings interfere with it, the better off most of us are. Go, you Donkey Caucus guys, go! And you Elephant Guys: the wheel goes 'round and 'round, the cycle continues, and one of these days -- probably sooner than you imagine -- you'll be back in opposition and minority status. So watch those Donkeys and learn! You may have a use for that knowledge in days to come.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "The president's made our position very clear: We do not condone torture, nor would he ever authorize the use of torture."
But, on the other hand, it would be very, very bad if there were a law forbidding the president from authorizing the use of torture. Which is why "top Republicans" in the House are mobilizing to defeat such a very, very bad law:
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Rep. Bill Young, R-Florida, who chair Congress' defense spending subcommittees, will be among the leaders of those talks in coming weeks.
Young has said the United States has no obligation to terrorists, and he and other top House Republicans have signaled they will try to change the Senate-approved language.
It turns out, you see, that the Bush regime claims to have no problem with law forbidding uniformed military folk from torturing people, but it would be very, very bad if "undercover operatives" couldn't do it.
If it's difficult for you to see the obvious moral difference between Americans wearing Army uniforms beating prisoners to death and Americans wearing civilian clothes beating prisoners to death ... well, welcome to the club. I seem to be suffering from a little blindness here, myself.
Meanwhile, Rep. Young of Florida is quoted above as saying that the United State has "no obligation to terrorists." Interesting. Considering that the majority of Iraqi "detainees" have been nothing more than Iraqis who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, swept up more or less randomly, I wonder what "obligations" the U.S. might recognize to such unfortunates. Since "terrorist" has come to mean simply "someone that our government does not approve of," Mr. Young's statement is especially chilling.
Finally, I wonder who these "top House Republicans" of whom Mr. Young speaks will turn out to be. I have the familiar, nauseous feeling that they will include "my" own Representative, Marky-Mark "Washington Is My Career" Souder. Bet on it.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't discuss any specific actions that the United States might push for when the U.N. Security Council considers the investigator's report Tuesday, but she said the matter "really has to be dealt with."
"These are very serious charges, and they have to be debated at the level of foreign minister," Rice told the BBC in an interview during a tour of her home state of Alabama with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Straw pointed to testimony about "false testimony being given by senior people" in Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.
Imagine that ... false testimony being given by senior people in a government! The mind reels. Minion Rice is correct: that has to be dealt with. If not, who knows what might happen? Maybe someone in that accursed Syrian regime will start peddling forged "intelligence" to the effect that the peace-loving United State government has been trying to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Niger! Why, some have already said that the Washington regime has Weapons of Mass Destruction, or at least WMD-related program activities going on. One must note also that the Washington junta has an extensive track record in recent years for the invasion of other countries. It is a rogue regime, without question. And the signs are in place: yet another country's sovereignty is being threatened by these madmen. (Minion Rice may not be a "man," strictly speaking, but the madness is certainly there; isn't that the important thing?)
Maybe someone could interest the U.N. in giving the green light for regime change in Washington. There'd be a certain amount of symmetric justice in seeing Dubya getting the Saddam treatment.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
WASHINGTON — The Army is investigating a group of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan caught on videotape desecrating the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters and using the burning corpses in a propaganda effort to dare other enemy soldiers to "come and fight like men."
The videotape, shot earlier this month by an embedded Australian photojournalist assigned to a U.S. Army unit, was aired on Australian television yesterday and drew immediate concern from officials at the Pentagon.
According to the report, the corpses were set afire on hills above the village of Gonbaz north of Kandahar after the two Taliban fighters were killed by U.S. soldiers the night before. Five soldiers stood around the fire, and two read messages trying to provoke the enemy.
The messages, which apparently were broadcast to the enemy, highlighted that the bodies were laid out facing Mecca, apparently mocking the Islamic requirement to face Mecca during prayers. Islam also prohibits cremation.
"Attention Taliban: You are cowardly dogs," read one soldier, identified as psychological operations specialist Sgt. Jim Baker. "You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to retrieve the bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be."
Another unidentified soldier read a separate message: "You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs, but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."
A third soldier is heard saying, "Wow, look at the blood coming out of the mouth on that one."
Ah, yes, planting those Seeds-O-Democracy. This ought to advance George's Noble Cause pretty well.
Yeah, come on, you cowardly ragheads. If you were real, brave men, like we are, you'd fight like men ... dropping GPS-guided bombs from a mile or two in the air, or shooting hundreds of rounds per second from your AC-130 Spectre gunships. Fighting and running away just isn't manly, like fighting (by remote control) and flying away is.
I'm wondering: if those Taliban devils-in-human-form manage to kill that "third soldier" in the story above, and burn up his body, and Al-Jazeera runs tape of one of them remarking about his charring corpse, "Wow, look at the blood coming out of the mouth on that one," what will "our" response be? I'm guessing that a few of those suspect villages will be getting the Fallujah treatment -- or the My Lai treatment. (Same thing, pretty much.)
A final cheerful thought: I bet when those particular troops get home, they'll probably get jobs ... as cops. O happy day.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
What has me remembering this cover is the spin the Republicans have themselves in over the Harriet Miers nomination to the supremes. This story from CNN makes it fairly clear that Ms. Miers's masters have had her trotting about Washington, telling every senator whatever the masters calculate that every senator wants to hear -- in spite of the inconvenient fact that they don't all want to hear the same thing. I'd feel sorry for Ms. Miers, except that any time I'm tempted to do so, I reflect that she's a lawyer, the former capo of the Texas lottery, and someone who's spent a great deal of time with her nose parked up Dear Leader's ass; so I'd tend to think she richly deserves all that she's going through, and then some. But I'm not really here to talk about the Harriet Show today, except to the extent that it illustrates a more basic problem.
I'm thinking, today, of failed approaches to THE ISSUE: legalized abortion (or "choice," or "baby-killing" -- pick your own term, according to your own convictions). I know that my readers -- all five or six of them -- do not all share my view of THE ISSUE (I'm agin it); perhaps none of my readers do. Now, I love my tiny, precious group of readers with a tender love that is so intense that it probably should be illegal; but this post will be addressed to those who agree with me about THE ISSUE. Others may want to read it in the same way that I would go to the zoo to look at all the cool animals: I'm not like them, but I might see something amusing, and maybe even thought-provoking ... and so might you.
I have voted for GOP types in the past. In fact, at the presidential level, I've never voted for the Other Major Brand, and did, in fact, vote GOP as recently as 1992 (Bush the Elder, that was). I didn't do this because I really thought there was much possibility that the Republicans really meant their talk about shrinking the gummint; I did it largely because I thought that folk like Ronnie Reagan were serious about overturning Roe, and were likely to appoint supremes who might do that, or at least refrain from perpetrating fresh outrages. And I sure didn't want supremes to be appointed by those who are frank and up-front about their enthusiasm for dead babies. (That would be the Other Major Brand.) "Vote for our candidates, or the other side's judges will kill this baby." So I held my nose and voted for pachyderms. I bought the accursed magazine. I didn't want them shooting the dog.
I did another thing about THE ISSUE that didn't work: I held down some sidewalks with my local Operation Rescue affiliate. I bought into the civil-rights model: nonviolent civil disobedience would arouse the conscience of the nation, etc., etc. In Fort Wayne, Indiana ("the City of Churches"), the cops surely wouldn't have the stomach to do a whole lot of arresting of their kids' Sunday School teachers. Wrong again, of course. Unlike the first civil-rights movement, this one didn't have the media on board: big difference. No arousing of anyone's conscience, without the teevee telling them it was conscience-arousal time. (I think Cindy Sheehan may have learned this, too, in a somewhat-different context.) And it turns out that the cops in the City of Churches positively loved arresting their kids' Sunday School teachers, with a little sly summary punishment tossed in, in the form of gratuitous roughness and "pain compliance" methods. Four arrests and a FACE law (felony time!) later, that's over with, too. An interesting thing, though: FACE was passed under eee-villl Democrat control, during the Clinton junta. But when the Party of Morals was returned to power, well, we just didn't hear a thing about repealing FACE. It wasn't on the agenda. There isn't the political capital to do just everything, so the elephant does what it's really interested in; and, as it turns out, the elephant's interests and mine are strongly divergent. The elephant is interested in corporate welfare and war; and, truth to tell, I'm pretty sure that the abortion rate among black people in large U.S. cities, which in some cases used to exceed the "live" birthrate, has not escaped the elephant's notice, either. The elephant has been having it both ways: using abortion as red-meat boob-bait on folks like me, while quietly seeing to it that the abortion industry continues as a profitable, going concern.
If the GOP -- the majority party -- really objected to the various judicial outrages to which they affect to object, the GOP would use its power to constitutionally circumscribe the reach of that outrageous judiciary. The GOP would also impeach judges. But those actions would not advance the GOP's actual purposes. So instead, the game continues. "Buy this magazine, or we'll shoot the dog."
How stupid do they think we are? Tragically, a better question: how stupid are we?
Look: don't vote for them. Don't buy the magazine. They're going to shoot the dog anyway. They always have, and they always will. Obviously, and tragically, I don't know how to keep the dog alive. I do know that buying the magazine doesn't get it done.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I recommend looking at Paul Craig Roberts at LewRockwell.com today. While it's not the main point of his piece, he does touch on the compromised status of the Democrat Party as an opposition party; they have spectacularly failed to oppose Bush's wars, and seem to think "opposition" on these matters means "wage war more efficiently" or "send lots more soldiers." Yeah, right. Somehow, many supporters of the failed Kerry-Edwards ticket of '04 seem to assume that those guys were antiwar, while I recall Mr. Kerry making a huge point of just how much more warlike he was than Mr. Bush. And Howard Dean made some antiwar noises while running in the primaries for that year, but since taking over the party, he sounds just like Mr. Kerry did: war-war-war, but better-stronger-faster than that chucklehead Bush.
On the whole, I'm relieved that the Democrats are as far from principled opposition to Imperial war as they are. It means there would be no reason for me to vote for some baby-killing socialist ... not that I'd do it anyway. No, the bipartisan nature of the Corporate War Party is very well established at this point. Real opposition will have to be found elsewhere: in the Green Party left, and at my personal home: the isolationist Old Right. Between these, there can be no comprehensive agreement -- but there could be a limited common cause against the wars.
Just imagine an America with a two-party system ... a real two-party system, that is. Actual meaningful debate, elections that make a real difference -- the mind reels. It'll never happen, of course. But it makes for a pleasant and interesting dream. It makes for an appealing alternative to the nightmare: the pukefest that the Major Brands have in store for us, next time around and all the times after that.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Perhaps Mr. Morris is correct, though, when he says Mr. ElBaradei was not successful in restraining those who should have been restrained in the interest of peace. After all, he failed miserably to prevent President Chickenhawk from painting the ground red, in Afghanistan and Iraq, with other people's blood. Of course, Mr. Baradei could claim that he was as powerless to control Mr. Bush's bloodthirstiness as he was to prevent unapproved regimes from getting unapproved weapons. But it's never too late for the U.N. to mend its ways. Some sort of international alliance -- a Coalition of the Willing -- should come together to put a "coercive inspections" program in place to get nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons out of the Pentagon's hands. After all, the regime on the Potomac has actually proved, over and over again, that it cannot be trusted with WMDs.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Many accuse Dear Leader of "cronyism," of filling government positions with incompetent sycophants who've provided The Great Man with agreeable company, flattery, boozing companionship, nose candy, whatever. I haven't much cared, truth to tell; to the extent that we must live under tyrants, I suppose I'd generally prefer that they were motivated by simple greed or the quest for pharmacological bliss, instead of the direct pleasures of exerting power over their subjects. A buffoon may sprawl, scratching himself and belching, in the seat of power; but at least he's usually less efficient, and less wholehearted, than a True Believer. But after hearing radio excerpts of the Wee Emperor's remarks today, and then having read them at the above link, I do wish he'd either hire a sane speechwriter, or that he'd just shut the hell up. The latter, tragically, is far too much to hope for.
Who put these words in his mouth?
The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity.
Now, say what you will about "terrorists" (that is, men who bomb innocent people without the benefit of aircraft or automated, target-seeking bombs, and who don't wear snappy uniforms). But who regards himself as being at war "against humanity?" Does Gee-Dub's Minion of the Word Processor think we're all completely stupid?
Oh, wait ... we are still voting for major-brand candidates, aren't we? Uh, just never mind that question. Instead, hearken as Dear Leader tells us what a crazy fanatic Osama bin Laden is:
Bin Laden has stated: "The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."
This in the same speech in which Our Glorious Wartime Prez declares:
We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory.
So, if OBL's a maniac (and he may well be), what does that make Smirk? His indispensable ally, that's what. But if bin Laden thinks that our synthetic Tough Texan is finished with him, why, he has another think coming. Dubya has that despicable ex-Saudi coward all figured out:
Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, quote, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride.
Yes, bin Laden's hypocritical personal cowardice stands in stark contrast to the well-proven valor of our Chickenhawk-in-Chief -- that battle-scarred veteran of the Texas skies during the Viet Cong assault on Dallas. When the chips are down, when danger threatens, our Prez doesn't merely order others to run at top speed for the safety of an undisclosed SAC base in Nebraska somewhere. Oh, no ... George the Lionhearted leads from the front! He hits that undisclosed secure location first. He has to make sure it's safe for the rest of us, don't you know.
I'm recalling the days of the Clinton junta, in which I thought that maybe God was inflicting Bubba-of-the-Hair-Spray on America as a disciplinary measure for our sin and decadence. And really, I still think that. But it's just such a shame that, after eight years of Clintonista rule, we didn't get the divine message. Now, it seems to me, God has punished us even more severely, by visiting Chimpy upon us for another eight. We'd better straighten up and fly right before 2008. Who knows what sort of evil clown could be awaiting us then?
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
In my thoughts, this nomination is linked with the recent announcement that the ten-dollar bill is about to take on the same pseudocolored, asymmetric, Euro-ish, Monopoly-money look as we currently enjoy on its twenty-dollar counterpart. I'm sure that some traditionalist stick-in-the-muds are unhappy about that, too. But not me. I have been blessed with a vision of the subtle and profound linkage between these two developments.
Ms. Miers, you see, is being derided as an unqualified beneficiary of the legendary Dubya Cronyism. The critics seem to think she's never been a judge at all, not even at the traffic-court level. They seem concerned that she's never even argued a case before the Supremes. They seem concerned that she's an opponent of -- or a proponent of -- sodomatrimony. No one seems to be sure about what her attitude might be toward the last publicly-recognized sacrament in America: baby sacrifice, otherwise known as A Woman's Right to Choose, Reproductive Choice, etc. Since she's a nominee to be our latest Philosopher-King (errrr, -Queen), these things seem terribly, terribly important. The Court, after all, rightly orders all of American life. The critics seem to think that Dear Leader ought to show the appropriate seriousness in discharging his sacred duty of proposing new philosopher-kings to replace the ones who've moved on to Judicial Valhalla.
Similarly, some are bound to be upset as our paper currency changes its appearance yet again. After all, this is Legal Tender that we're talking about: for all debts, public and private. It's backed by the Full Faith and Credit of that famously faithful and credit-worthy institution, the United State Government. "In God we trust, all others pay cash" -- well, this is the cash they're fooling with. The worrywarts ask: do we want our Federal Reserve Notes to look like some kind of peso or yen some other kind of comedy "money," that you have to have the proverbial wheelbarrow full of to buy a loaf of bread?
But I hold the "don't worry ... be happy" view of these things. In the supreme court, I see a near-worthless collection of Constitution-usurpers and -defilers. Its power to usurp and defile grows substantially from a spurious public perception of its legitimacy -- a legitimacy of which it rightfully has little or none. And in our paper money, I see ... well, I started to type "a liar's promise to pay," but it's no longer even that. The old "silver certificates" were liars' promises to pay, but our current paper promises nothing. It's money because it says it's money, and implies a vague threat to punish you if you refuse to go along with the gag. It's money exactly to the extent that We The Sheeple accept it as such, and no more. Worthless paper money, backed by nothing ... a judiciary that claims some gnostic right of saying what the constitution means ... both are simply aspects of the shell game by which we rubes are fleeced of our liberties, our cultural heritage, and our wealth, while being temporarily distracted by low entertainment.
So, why am I happy? It's simple. The shell game works because almost no one sees it for what it is. The regime stands on a false image of seriousness and dignity. And the first step toward the collapse of the regime, if it happens at all, is the disillusionment of the sheeple. (Don't misunderstand: I'm not saying this will happen. It is, I think, highly unlikely; but it's a wistfully-pleasant thought, nonetheless.) Thus, I applaud whatever happens that strips away a shred or two of the facade of seriousness. Minnesota wants to elect a former fake pro wrestler as its Guv? Sure -- go for it, guys! California elects its second movie-actor Guv (this one with a comedy accent and a, well, colorful history)? You should have done it a long time ago, Golden Staters! Why should the Wee Emperor content himself with nominating a staff operative to the supremes? Go all the way, Dear Leader! Nominate ... oh, I don't know, how about O.J. Simpson? He's got some legal experience! Want to make the ten-spot look like play money? So what -- it is play money. Have at it!
Maybe somebody will put two and two together.
Well, all right, so they won't. I can dream, can't I?