Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another Fragrant Whiff From the Rotting Corpse

The United State is a constitutional republic. It is, it is, it is. It has to be so, because I learned it in school. It says so right here on the label. Isn't it just about time for National Constitution Appreciation Week or something? I hope so, because news stories like this one tempt me to have doubts. They tempt me to crimethink.

We live in a country that is $7.9 trillion (that's $7.9E+12, mind you) in debt. That debt increases by $1.5 billion each and every day. We are taxed according to a "code" of such labyrinthine complexity that, it is generally conceded, no single living human anywhere understands it. We live in a country that is completely unable to control its southern "border," yet maintains a vast military establishment all over the planet so that we may order the affairs of all the Earth's people. And yet, the glorious supervisors of this childish madhouse, our saintly and intelligent Senators, heroic geniuses on the order of Senator "Psycho" John McCain, Senator Jim "Call Me Jim" Bunning, and Senator Conrad "Oh God Please Don't Send Me Back to Montana" Burns, certainly find the time to concern themselves with the vital question: are our naughty millionaire professional baseballers being sufficiently deterred from using the Eee-vill Steeeeroids by their wealthy employers? Or is it necessary for the Empire to handle things?

A couple of questions come to mind.

1. How long after they are elected to public office do these egregious jackasses have the surgery that permanently and completely takes away any sense of the ridiculous that they might ever have had?

2. What part of Our Famous Dead and Rotting Constitution authorizes our supervisors to manage the affairs of professional entertainers?

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. And yes, oh yes, how intensely I do love Big Brother. Yowza.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It Says In the Bible Somewhere ...

I'm looking for the Scripture that says this is OK:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have provided shelter, food and supplies to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The payments with taxpayer money would mark the first time that the government has made such payments to faith-based groups at a time following natural disasters, the newspaper reported, citing FEMA officials.

FEMA is a division within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to the article, religious groups that operated emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state and local governments in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama would be eligible.

( ... )

Kinerney said they would include "labor costs incurred in excess of normal operations, rent for the facility and delivery of essential needs like food and water," the report said.

The policy was outlined in a September 9 internal memorandum, titled "Eligible Costs for Emergency Sheltering Declarations."

Under the policy, religious groups, like secular nonprofit groups, will be required to document their costs and file for reimbursement from state and local emergency management agencies, which in turn will seek funds from FEMA, the report said.

Wasn't there a chapter in the Book of Hezekiah somewhere, in which God directed the Levitical priests to tax the people, under threat of force, to finance benevolences? I thought there was. Seems like I read it once. But I can't find the chapter. (Can't find the whole book, as far as that goes, but that's another issue.)

Maybe it was in Paul's first epistle to the church at Miletus. Let's see, 1 Miletians 2:15, if I remember correctly ... it says, "And I urge you, brothers, in view of the manifold mercies and rich provisions of our God, to file with Caesar without delay, for reimbursement of the denarii that you have expended to feed and clothe and shelter the hungry and naked and homeless, making certain to conform in your papyrus-work to all applicable Imperial standards." At least, that's what I think it said. But I can't find that one either. Must have been back there near Philemon or one of those other short ones.

This puts me in mind of the conservative analysis of the emergence of the large and increasingly alienated underclass during and after the 1960s, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the Great Society, the War on Poverty, etc. The idea was that the functional urban black family pretty much ceased to exist when the various poverty programs offered cash assistance to mothers only if the fathers were absent from the home. The analysis said that the government had effectively displaced and replaced the low-income father, causing (or at least facilitating and exacerbating) the whole familiar set of social pathologies that became widespread among poor blacks, and is now becoming characteristic of a fast-growing white underclass, also. (This was back when "conservative" meant something other than "mindless cheerleader for any war, anywhere, anytime, at any cost to anybody except me.") The mom, supposedly, found the government to be a better and more reliable provider than the father was, and so he was replaced.

Well, the Christian church is supposed to be the "bride of Christ" and is supposed to depend on Him for provision. Ah, but now, a different deal is being offered ... now the church can be the bride of FEMA! It's bad enough, I think, that the government puts the gun to everyone's head to shake loose tax money, allegedly for "benevolence" which, somehow, is always preceded by the muzzle of an M-16. Now, though, it invites the Church to become an accessory and beneficiary of its crimes. Again, from the news story:

The report cited a FEMA official in Louisiana as saying it is too early to know how many groups will seek reimbursement under the new program.

I'll be interested to find out just which "groups" sign up for the mammon of unrighteousness.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Now, Here's a Really Good Idea

Slacktivist has an idea I really like. America's Wartime Patriots currently think "supporting the troops" consists of buying one of those 99-cent magnetic ribbons at the Gas 'n' Go and slapping it on the trunk lid. Meanwhile, they're putting George's War on our grandkids' credit cards. Slacktivist suggests that the USO sell these fine magnet-ribbons for $500 for a "full-sized" one, and maybe a mere $100 for a little one -- the proceeds presumably to pay for the war. That way, we could see who really supports the war, even to the modest extent of ponying up some bucks.

After all, what's five hundred clams, compared with your life ... or your kid's ... or maybe "just" a lifetime, disfiguring wound?

If I know my 'Murikkan People, I could live with a war that could be financed in this way. It'd be so small, you couldn't tell it was going on. It wouldn't be much more than a few rude postcards per month, addressed to "Osama bin Laden, General Delivery, Some -Stan Or Other. And maybe a few forceful minutes in Pig-Boy Limbaugh's monologue, once a week.

Let's do it ... today!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Shape of Things to Come

Posted at this morning is a powerful piece from Paul Craig Roberts, in which he compares the crazed happy-talk from the official War Party to the ravings of "Baghdad Bob," at whom we were all so happy to chuckle back in the spring of '03. In his piece, Mr. Roberts refers to the American military estimate of the number of "insurgents:" 20,000.

According to the September 1 Manufacturing & Technology News, the Government Accounting Office has reported that over the course of the cakewalk war, the US military’s use of small caliber ammunition has risen to 1.8 billion rounds. Think about that number. If there are 20,000 insurgents, it means US troops have fired 90,000 rounds at each insurgent.

Very few have been hit. We don’t know how many. To avoid the analogy with Vietnam, until last week the US military studiously avoided body counts. If 2,000 insurgents have been killed, each death required 900,000 rounds of ammunition.

The combination of US government owned ammo plants and those of US commercial producers together cannot make bullets as fast as US troops are firing them. The Bush administration has had to turn to foreign producers such as Israel Military Industries. Think about that. Hollowed out US industry cannot produce enough ammunition to defeat a 20,000 man insurgency.

This makes me wonder what the regime's plans are for Syria and Iran, both of which would seem to be in The Big Dope's crosshairs. I'm thinking that even His Slowness can't be figuring on a whole bunch more "urban warfare." The supply of muscle is severely limited, and (as pointed out by Mr. Roberts) even small-arms ammunition could get to be a problem. To me, this suggests that perhaps the plan is centered around lobbing in plenty of cruise missiles, GPS bombs, and other precision-guided munitions.

That should work out well.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Getting It Wrong

They -- whomever "they" are -- say that there are two sides to every story. This usually understates the number of sides, I think. Typically, stories have lots of sides. Most of the sides are wrong; each in its own way. How many ways can there be to be wrong about something? Seeing a news item like this one, it seems that there are lots. If you'd rather not click on the link, it's the usual. You've read it before, lots of times:

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A federal judge declared Wednesday that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional, a decision that could potentially put the divisive issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case was brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected last year by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

And so on and so on. Same words, same tune, slightly different title, maybe.

Something's going on in the government schools that's "unconstitutional?" How could that be? Does the constitution explicitly authorize the central government to operate or regulate schools? (No.) How, then, does the (federal) constitution bear on any question of what's done in schools that are operated by state or local governments, or maybe even (gasp!) privately? Where does a federal judge get any jurisdiction over such a question? The First Amendment to the federal constitution forbids "the Congress" from doing some things; did the Congress direct the recitation of the Pledge in the schools? (No.) So much for the "constitutionality" issue. There isn't one.

Is it a good idea to make kids say the Pledge of Allegiance in schools? I don't think so. Dr. Michael Newdow, the eee-villl atheist who often plays the role of Goldstein when the evangelical world gathers for its daily Five Minutes' Hate, was quoted in the news story:

"Imagine every morning if the teachers had the children stand up, place their hands over their hearts, and say, 'We are one nation that denies God exists,"' Newdow said in an interview with AP Radio after the ruling.

"I think that everybody would not be sitting here saying, 'Oh, what harm is that.' They'd be furious. And that's exactly what goes on against atheists. And it shouldn't."

Now, as many things as I'd disagree with Dr. Newdow about -- and they are many, to be sure -- he's absolutely correct about this. How is God honored by a coerced statement of recognition, or acknowledgement, or whatever? (He isn't.) Besides, the Pledge as a whole is, as I've ranted before, a nauseating exercise in idolatry. Not only should our kids not recite it in school, they shouldn't recite it anywhere. Not only should our kids not defile themselves with such words, neither should any of the rest of us. Especially for a Christian: what a horrible thing to say.

Finally: is anyone inspired to wonder just how good an idea it is for a government, at any level, to operate schools? About as good an idea, I think, as it is for a government to operate a church -- and for the same reasons, really. Why do we claim to support "diversity," and then try to stamp out nearly every actual instance of diversity?

Arrrrgggh. It makes me really, really tired.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Here's Something I Can Get Behind

I'm taking a very brief time-out from complaining bitterly about things to say that this is cool.

The news story makes a matter-of-fact statement about the asteroid having 1/100,000 of Earth's "gravitational pull." That's a little misleading, given that the thing's roughly cylindrical, and more than twice as long as it is in diameter. Clearly, the acceleration due to gravity at its ends will be about one-fourth what it is near the center. Still, though ... what a cool thing to be doing! Especially since I don't pay Japanese taxes. Those who do might not see it with quite as much enthusiasm as I do.

The news story goes on to say:

Japan was the fourth country to launch a satellite, in 1972, and this spring announced a major project to send its first astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.

A moon base by 2025 ... do you suppose they'll get it done? One thing's for sure: the U.S. couldn't do it that fast, since we're all risk-averse and safety-first these days (unless you're a swarthy person in the wrong country, that is). And, once again, if someone else is paying for it, I'm all for it. Go, you Japanese astronauts, go!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Party of Principle: Oh, Yeah

In the news: the California State Assembly, in its solemn majesty, has ordained that celebrated new social institution we've all heard so much about in recent years: the one that my hero, Joseph Sobran, christened "sodomatrimony." But the Assembly's action may yet be vetoed by the governor. Yes, it turns out that Ah-nuld is displeased.


You'd think that a Republican politician would rail against the defining-down of marriage and family by the Assembly. But you'd be wrong:

The legislation could be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has expressed an acceptance of gay marriages but said it's an issue that should be decided by voters or the courts.

Let's leave aside for a moment the idea that the actions of the legislature in an alleged representative republic represent something other than a "decision by the voters." No, The Governator is offended by the idea that the damnable legislature has presumed to say what the law should be. Why, that's a job for the courts!

Remember this, the next time that James Dobson, or any of the talk-radio motormouths, urges you to vote the GOP back into power, so that "judicial activism" may be curbed. Remember ... that's all I ask.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Relocation and Rebuilding

There's been quite a bit of discussion about whether New Orleans will be rebuilt. It seems to me that cities grow where they do for objective reasons, having to do mostly with a very fundmental human activity: trade and commerce. The Mississippi River is vast, famously navigable, and drains the profoundly fertile and productive agricultural heartland of a large continent. Where that river reaches the sea, there is going to be a seaport city; that's all there is to it. So it isn't a question of whether there will be a New Orleans; it's just a question of how, meaning who will pay for it. Yes, a fair amount of what we've been pleased to call "land" around there is below sea level. So what? The configuration of the "New" New Orleans ("New-Squared Orleans?") may differ from that of the city destroyed by this year's hurricane. Another way of looking at it is that living safely a few meters -- or even a few tens of meters -- below sea level is not exactly a prohibitive engineering challenge in the early 21st century. Admittedly, it may be an economic challenge. And it's an economic topic that's on my mind.

Via Matthew Barganier at the blog, we learn that Israel is asking for a whole pile of money for the relocation of the "settlers" from the small territory they occupied in Gaza. The story says they'll be asking for $2.2B for relocating 9000 settlers. Does anyone doubt that they'll get it? I'm sure AIPAC will see to it.

While the story referred to "9000 settlers," I think there's a good possibility that what was actually meant was 9000 settler households. The difference is significant. Let's do a little math. $2.2 billion divided by 9000 households yields $244,444 per household. (If we're literally talking about 9000 people, at maybe three or four people per household, then we'd multiply that figure by three or four ... $730K to $978K per household. Let's be conservative here and say it's "only" $244K.)

Back to New Orleans. Whatever happens in a few months, after things are dry and the dead are buried, do you think our federal masters are going to spend a quarter of a million bucks on each household to set things right? And yet these folks are citizens.

Citizens of the wrong country, maybe ...

Clarification and Revision Department: it occurs to me that the post above could be read as a demand that the FedGov pour a quarter-mil into the pocket of each victim of the hurricane. Not at all; it is simply an observation of how generous our masters are with Approved Foreigners. What I'd like to see is simple: no cash at all poured into anyone's pocket -- especially the foreigners' pockets.

New Orleans and "Homeland Security"

The state makes a bargain with its subjects.

Not all of its subjects, of course; and not a clearcut, well-defined, legally-enforceable agreement. But the state has to keep at least a majority of the subjects at least vaguely satisfied that this amorphous bargain is being kept. Because, while the state claims a monopoly on the rightful use of force, and while the state has a large practical advantage in the use of force, a majority of the state's subjects could overthrow it. The overthrow could be difficult and bloody, but if most of the subjects are seriously unwilling to submit, the outcome isn't in any real doubt.

What is this "bargain" I'm talking about? Simply and basically stated, it is: Give up such-and-such a part of your liberties, and the state will protect you.

This bargain takes many forms, and operates on many sets of terms. The surrendered liberties may be few, or many. The "protection" offered by the state can be efficient ("Mussolini made the trains run on time"), or it can be the sort experienced by the left-behinds in New Orleans. The "protection" can be from many things: external enemies, real or imagined (Saddam Hussein as The New Hitler); old age, disease, misfortune, and poverty; robbers, rapists, and murderers; or stock-market "insider traders."

But let's think about physical security. We A'mur'kins have rendered up our supposed immunities to unreasonable searches and seizures in order to be, supposedly, safeguarded against the murderous Ay-rab, who is said to "hate us for our freedoms." Toward this end, we have these huge and astronomically-expensive state organizations, such as FEMA, the Homeland Security apparatus, as well as layers of military and police organizations as difficult to list as would be the individual liters of water covering New Orleans. They tax us and roust us pretty much as they please. But we're safe, aren't we?

Well, looking at New Orleans, where civilians with TV cameras seem able to reach people and places where the armed minions of the state dare not go, I think only two conclusions are possible. Either these glorious state organizations aren't competent to, as my late father used to say, "pour piss out of a boot, even with instructions printed on the heel," or they are merely gloriously unconcerned about the fate of those whose safety and well-being they allegedly protect. (In fairness, these aren't exclusive alternatives; both could easily be true.)

Isn't it time for, shall we say, a fundamental and far-reaching review and revision of our bargain with the state?