Thursday, December 27, 2007

Waste and More Waste

So, the Russians are testing an updated ICBM:
A strategic missile known as the RS-24 flew 7,000 km (4350 miles) to hit targets on the Kamchatka peninsula.

Later, a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea launched another new missile, hitting the same test site.

It comes as Russia has again accused the US of ignoring its concerns over a planned US missile defence system.

Washington plans to site anti-missile facilities in central Europe, claiming that it will help defend against any possible future nuclear threat from Iran.

The US missile shield system would see a radar site set up in the Czech Republic and a base in Poland for 10 missile interceptors.

However, speaking in an interview to be published later this week in the Vremya Novostey daily, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was clear the system is aimed at deterring Russia, rather than Iran.

The US has said that the limited system it proposes could not threaten Russia's own missile arsenal.

The Interfax news agency reported that the RS-24, the missile tested on Tuesday, is capable of carrying at least three nuclear warheads.

Russia says they are able to penetrate any kind of defensive system.
Why do the Russians feel the need of an improved, updated nuclear arsenal? Obviously, I don't know. I can say, however, that under the new, out-in-the-open American imperial system, having more-and-better nukes is the most probable route to respect -- or at least to being left alone -- for any other nation-state.

My supervisors, for reasons of their own, have decided that the debt-drowned ruins of the American economy must pay -- or, rather, must be further indebted -- to build a missile defense system on Eastern European soil. The Russian supervisors, for reasons of their own, are responding by bleeding their own economic jalopy for a no-doubt-costly upgraded ICBM fleet. What a damnable waste. I wonder: could individual Americans and Russians, if allowed to keep their money, find better uses for it? I can't see how they could possibly do any worse than their supervisors are doing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Great Idea!

So, Herr Gov. Gropinator is publicly toying with the notion of responding to California's current cash crisis by turning some prisoners loose "early."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering the early release of 22,000 inmates from the state's prisons to save hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to ease California's looming budget crunch.

The idea is one of many that have been presented to the governor by his departmental budget directors, and he has not decided if he likes it or not, Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile said Thursday. But if the plan were to be put into action, it would constitute one of the biggest early releases of prisoners in U.S. history.

"The governor asked his department heads to work with their budget managers to find ways to cut the budget by 10 percent because of the budget crisis we are facing, and this idea was one of many that was floated in reaction to that request," Maile said. "It's not a proposal yet, just an idea."

California has 172,000 inmates incarcerated in 33 institutions. The release of 22,000 offenders would reduce the number of inmates by 12 percent, and potentially save about $250 million a year, sources told The Chronicle.

Only prisoners who are considered low risk because they are nonviolent, not sex offenders and had less than two years left on their sentences would be considered for the early release.


Eric Hickey, a criminology professor at the California State University Fresno, said the concept of releasing prisoners early is not new. He also did not think it was wise.

"A lot of these guys are getting time off already for good behavior, so letting them out even earlier sends a message that we're not serious about being tough on crime," Hickey said. "It's not good policy.

"It's unfair to the victims, and it sends the wrong message."

He noted that the recidivism rate among state prisoners - the rate at which they re-offend and have to go back to prison - runs as high as 75 percent.

"When times get tough, someone always proposes letting prisoners go early," Hickey said.
Well, no need to be unfair to the victims. Instead, why not choose a different set of criteria for selecting prisoners to be freed from the Anal Rape Gulag? How about cutting loose the people whose crimes don't have victims, and aren't really crimes anyway? I have in mind the "controlled substance" offenders. And then -- even though the numbers aren't large, we should be scrupulously fair -- turn loose those convicted of "insider trading." Hey, Ah-nuld, got anybody in the can for practicing any trade -- from doctoring to lawyering to plumbing -- without a government license? Let 'em walk.

The savings should be permanent; just stop imprisoning people for non-crimes. That way, you don't need so many cops, either ... or prosecutors. I can think up some more release categories, I'm sure. But, you know, just get started by turning the stoners and the tweakers loose, and that will be enough to solve your budget problems.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

We're always being told that we owe absolutely everything to the military veterans among us. We're always being told that we're debtors, and that the infinite sum of our indebtedness can never be repaid (although we're always encouraged to keep up the futile repayment effort). The veteran, we're endlessly reminded, has sacrificed endlessly to secure our liberties. To doubt this is considered to be about as close to blasphemy as one gets, in our more or less officially impious society.

I see a short post, on a local pseudolibertarian blog, that tempts me to this blasphemy:
If smoking is to be considered a privilege and not a right, then veterans have earned that privilege. Many veterans had to work in an environment that contained substances far more hazardous than secondhand smoke. The most notorious of these is secondhand lead. Secondhand lead has been known for centuries to cause brain damage, organ failure, paralysis, and death.

Quite a few of these men were not given a choice of whether they wanted to work in that environment. You can quit a civilian job anytime you want. But it's a lot harder to get out of the military than it is to get in. So at least let veteran's clubs smoke.
So, O Guarantors of Our Liberties, if smoking has become "a privilege and not a right," where were you stern & virtuous watchdogs when that happened? For that matter, where are you now -- always apart from lobbying the government for privileges? Either the military does not undertake as its mission the preservation of Americans' liberties, or they don't do a very good job of it. (The evidence strongly indicates that the former is, in fact, the case.)

Ah, those last sentences: "You can quit a civilian job anytime you want. But it's a lot harder to get out of the military than it is to get in. So at least let veteran's clubs smoke." Well, that's one approach, I guess: I can't quit being a soldier, so slip me an extra privilege. Another might be: It's a lot harder to get out of the military than it is to get in. So don't get into the military.

That, however, would be way too libertarian for our Libertarians.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Retraction

A commenter to the previous post has suggested that "pudgy little freak" is inappropriate as a description of my Congressweasel, and he is correct. (His comment is well worth reading.)

I am troubled by a more-important problem with that post, though. In it, I called for the torture of that person, and that was wrong of me. I could go back and edit the post, but why compound barbarism with dishonesty? Let's use it, just as it is, as a cautionary illustration of the corrosive tendency of our national practice of torture to corrupt the thinking even of its opponents.

I think that a good case can be made against Mr. Souder as a war criminal, and as such he could be tried by some court of competent jurisdiction and punished according to the trial's outcome. Such punishment might include a lengthy term of confinement, or even execution. But it could not justly involve water torture, nor the pulling-out of fingernails; and I should not have suggested such, even in dark humor -- maybe especially not in dark "humor." Mea culpa. I'll try not to do it again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What's Worse Than a Juiced-Up Professional Jock?

My Congresscritter, that's what. Lots, lots worse.

I suspected it wouldn't take long for Marky-Mark to make himself heard, and it didn't:
If baseball doesn’t voluntarily tighten its anti-drug procedures, Congress will impose new requirements, Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, warned Thursday after reading parts of the report that chronicles rampant steroid use among professional players.

Souder, a lifelong fan of baseball, was part of the congressional committee in 2005 that investigated accusations of illegal drug use in the professional sport.

At the time, Souder said he was furious that baseball is abusing its public trust and that drug-using players are setting a bad example for high school and junior high school players. He said that anger hasn’t abated.

Souder said the only surprise in former Sen. George Mitchell’s investigation was the risk some well-known players were willing to take.

“The amazing thing about this report is it’s not just marginal people (who are identified as steroid users). They are people who are in our fantasy baseball teams. I must say, I don’t think a single one of these are my players, even from the last three or four years. I was suspect of a lot of people.

“It’s surprising to me that in this era, with all the scrutiny and supposed testing, stars are still using the substances,” he said. “That shows the desire to continue your stardom – for people like (Roger) Clemens and Andy Pettitte – the desire to recover from your injury and the desperation to make a team will even have you take great risks when scrutiny is higher.”

Souder said if baseball doesn’t adopt Olympic standards about drug use, employ outside investigators, use surprise tests and do it year-round, Congress will enact legislation to require it.

He said the names of current players who show up in Mitchell’s report demonstrate that steroid use isn’t a thing of the past.

“Baseball still has current cleaning up to do,” he said. “Yes, people talk about the ‘home-run era’ and how managers and trainers looked the other way and said the laws were vague. But now what’s their excuse?”
In my ideal world, the torturers of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and the various secret CIA shops-of-horror would be ordered to release their current victims and concentrate on waterboarding this pudgy little freak who "represents" me in the U.S. House of Representatives. The objective: make him reveal what text of the imaginary U.S. constitution empowers the FedGov to "enact legislation" -- or do any single other accursed thing -- about professional gladiators and what substances they choose to fuel themselves on. This clown obviously knows or cares nothing about the document that he has taken far too many false oaths to defend. But it might be entertaining, admittedly in a perverse way, to see what he'd shriek out in an attempt to halt his "simulated drowning." I'm guessing it would be something about the regulation of interstate commerce. At that point, let's get out the duct tape and pliers, and give him a George Clooney manicure from "Syriana."

I won't watch, though. There's limits to everything.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"I'm Just Like You"

So, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt "Double Guantanamo" Romney, delivered a big speech yesterday in which he assured "evangelical Christians and other religious voters that his values matched theirs." Indeed, I am sure that they do -- always assuming that we may define "values" as adopted "positions" and points of pandering.

Gentle reader, perhaps you think I'm skeptical -- dubious, even -- of the Massachusetts Mormon's newfound enthusiasm for the Second Amendment, or his newfound opposition to abortion. You're absolutely correct; I suspect that Mr. Romney's only really deep and unshakable belief is that any available slot at the public trough should be filled by, well, him. All the rest -- all the content of his standard stump speech -- is, I'm reasonably sure, a product of marketing calculations, made carefully by Mr. Romney himself or by his staff. And it seems that Team Romney's calculations are quite similar to those of nearly all the other candidates for the presidential nominations of both Major Brand political machines. The syllables "Is-" and "-lam" can't be separated by more than half a second, at most, from "fas-" and "-cist." "All options" must always be said to be "on the table" with respect to any recalcitrant (i.e., non-Saudi) swarthy regime. Extravagant and eternal pledges of fealty must be made to The Precious (Israel) and repeated, over and over again. The Holy Nine-Eleven must have its ring kissed -- indeed, positively slobbered upon. So what if Romney's a magic-spectacles cultist, and Huckabee's a bloody-minded Baptist socialist, and Fred Thompson's a sketchily-animated corpse with a mother-in-law younger than he is, and Giuliani's a transvestite Klingon, and McCain's a sawed-off psychopath? This crowd is mutually differentiated only by minor style points here and there. They are unanimously careful to touch every base listed above. They are brothers, or at least trailer-park cousins. Without a program, a body just can't hardly tell 'em apart. However, they can be collectively distinguished from the Serious Folk from the other Major Brand by one difference. Democrats all love to talk about Dubya as an inept manager of wars; Republicans prefer to avoid mentioning the Wee Emperor, and are quite good at such avoidance. Otherwise, they're the same. You, O reader, will doubtless have your own estimation of just how cosmically significant that difference might be. Me -- I'm pretty much yawning over it.

Meanwhile, there's amusement in the details:
But showing the fine line he was treading, he promised not to be beholden to church authorities, and devoted the majority of his address to calling for a robust role for religion in public life, declaring there was a common moral heritage across religious lines in the country that he would champion.

“I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from the God who gave us liberty,” he said, drawing applause from an audience of about 300 invited guests, which included supporters and religious leaders. “Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage.”
So there you have it: the photogenic "Double Guantanamo" is highly enthusiastic about his beliefs, but there's no need to fret: he won't be taking his marching orders from Salt Lake City. Of course, I already knew that; anyone who is actually allowed to get within Taser range of the Oval Office takes his or her orders directly from Tel Aviv (or, sorry, I guess it's Jerusalem these days, isn't it?). As for "the affairs of government," which actually consist very largely of theft, robbery, and mass murder: they are certainly not currently entangled with any religion this side of Satanism, and I'm sure Mr. Romney won't upset that time-honored arrangement in any important way. Again, he offers reassurance that I don't really need.
While Mr. Romney appeared to be directing his message especially to evangelical voters, the reaction among their leaders was mixed.

Steve Carlson, a board member of the Iowa Christian Alliance and a member of a Pentecostal church in Sioux City, said there was little Mr. Romney could have said today to allay his concerns about Mormon theology and his candidacy.

Mr. Carlson said he had been leaning toward Mr. Huckabee or Fred D. Thompson in large part because of problems he has with Mormonism. The speech, he said, did nothing to change that.

“He didn’t sway me one way or the other,” he said. “I don’t know anything he could have said.”
So, Mr. Carlson has "problems" with Mormonism. I sympathize; I, too, have problems with Mormonism -- the same problems I have with any other false and ugly religious system. But come on, Mr. Carlson: Huckabee? Thompson? Don't such men represent anything that gives you problems? Do you have any problems with the idea of perpetual war overseas, and tyranny, blowback, and economic ruin at home?

I really have no idea how many are in the actual Christian Church -- the people that Jesus knows to be His own -- in America. I'd guess that it's a small fraction of the number sitting in pews on Sunday mornings. I don't doubt, though, that some are simply confused: dazzled by the senseless chaos, misinformation, and propaganda that bombards us from our newspapers and teevee and internets and, God help us, from our pulpits. I simply hope that as many as possible are able to distinguish between the voice of the Good Shepherd and the myriad of other voices that demand our attention ... and obedience.