Friday, May 29, 2009

Break Time!

Big weekend coming up. I'll make a full report later. Meanwhile -- no posts here until, probably, Tuesday or so.

Of course, considering the heroic number of posts that I habitually produce here, one might ask: so, what's new?

See you-all next week.

It Was Nice While it Lasted

The internet, that is. The great national fresh start, Barack Dubya Obama, moves to extend the federal death grip yet further:
President Obama is expected to announce Friday the creation of the position of cyber czar, a person who will coordinate the nation's efforts to protect government and private computer systems from hackers, criminal gangs, terrorists and spies, people familiar with the plan said Thursday.

The czar will report to both the national security adviser and the head of the National Economic Council, the sources said.

Obama will not name anyone Friday to the post because the selection process is ongoing, they said.

In addition, the White House will release a 40-page report that sets broad goals for combating cyber intrusions, but does not spell out in detail how to do so, said the sources, who would not agree to be identified because the report has not been released.

Shortly after taking office, Obama ordered a 60-day review intended to ensure the federal government's cyber initiatives were "appropriately integrated, resourced and coordinated with Congress and the private sector."
So, now "private computer systems" -- including the one I'm currently sitting in front of, no doubt -- will be protected from "terrorists and spies." How long before we'll have to get groped by some federalista swine before approaching a keyboard?

C'mon, partisan Democrats, I'm challenging you. Be honest. Pretend that the players' names have been redacted from the news you get and tell me, with a straight face, that you can tell the difference between the rule of the current God-Emperor and the rule of the previous Deciderer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 27 May Edition

Too much time spent working on rustbucket cars and reading the news, and too little time reading the Bible. Which is to say, we're just in chapter 8 of Isaiah, from verse 16 through the balance of the chapter, where the prophet is speaking directly:
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.

And when they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter," should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. And they will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.
I reject dispensationalism; Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever." This leaves me in some doubt about this business of dead people still being available for consultation in some form or other. One would think that Isaiah would not have been inspired to warn against the practice if it were not possible; and there's also the cautionary example of Saul, who, assisted by a witch, called up the ghost of Samuel and didn't exactly benefit from the exercise. My own limited experience, though, does not convince me that there's any ghosts around to talk to (always outside of fiction, and the occasional bad cable TV series.) Maybe God doesn't work by "dispensations," but the other shop does; maybe there are ghosts, but they don't show up around me because the Other Shop's diabolical proprietor knows I'm more easily tempted to a cold, dry materialism than to occultic creepiness.

Hey, if that's the case, so be it. I can't even watch horror movies -- they're too scary! I definitely don't need to be running into the thin remnants of actual dead folks.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All Hail the New QuotaJudge

A one-term president has to be efficient in making Supreme Court nominations, since he can never tell how many chances he'll have. And no, I'm not saying that Rainbow Brite won't be re-elected in November 2012; just don't forget that Mayan calendar thing. Two election-night victory celebrations, maybe; two inaugurations -- nope. But I digress.

President O-bomb-a has been efficient here -- his nominee is both female and Hispanic, I'm told. And, apparently, in her unguarded moments, she's spoken favorably of the whole legislator-from-the-bench thing. No doubt I'm supposed to explode in a red-white-and-blue cloud of indignation. Ho-hum, yawn, not gonna do it. It seems to me that the whole discussion, as saturated as it was with race, gender, and sexual-orientation nonsense from the start (approximately 15 nanoseconds after Souter's announcement that he was hanging it up), could serve a useful purpose. The Supreme Court is like every other tentacle of the DC mutant squid: it suffers from an excess of spurious false dignity, and from the attribution of far too much importance. Like all the other jewels in the Federal crown turds in the great open sewer of the Potomac, the Supreme Court is a collection of clowns -- nine in this case, plus a small army of tax-feeding clown minions. Some of the Nine have a little more plausible manner and appearance than others, but they're all clowns. And truth being the precious commodity that it is, I say: let all future nominees to the Supremes have big red putty noses, baggy pants, and size 25 shoes. And may the "process" of putting them in the circus reveal as many more fright wigs as possible. Truly, it's time for a gummint which blatantly and visibly reflects the Greatness of the Amur'kin People! Ms. Sotomayor shows great potential in this regard. May we not be disappointed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beware the Bench Test

In case any of you are celebrating the Imperial Depression of 2009 the way I am -- that is, by keeping a beater running -- watch out for your buddies at Auto Zone, Advance Auto Parts, and so on. A few weeks ago, the starter in my 1992 Mercury Topaz ceased working. I didn't have time to fool with the thing then, as I was busy closing out Physics 219, so I parked it and hopped into my much-less-fuel-efficient backup ride: my 1992 Ford F150 longbed pickup truck. Gas isn't super-expensive at the moment, but I am an engineer and I do hate waste, so I was anxious to get my economical little rustbox back on the road. Pulled the starter out of it, and took it to the Auto Zone where it was purchased (lifetime warranty!), and they of course tested it ... and it tested "good." Hmmmmmm, thought I. I don't think the poor underpaid counter guy at Auto Zone was cheating me, but they do have a financial interest in the starter being good (they don't have to replace it for free). So, I went down the street to Advance, where they have the opposite incentive -- if it tests bad, they presumably sell me a replacement. It tested good there, too.

So, the starter and I went home, where I reinstalled it in the vehicle. Maybe the battery was bad ... I could check that by swapping it for the truck's battery, and I did, and it still wouldn't start the car. Cables, maybe, although they looked fine. At least, they looked fine until I removed the positive cable, one more time, and the battery-terminal clamp on the end of the cable cracked. So I now needed to replace it anyway; $14.30 later, I did. The negative cable I simply removed and showed it to my multimeter, which reported its resistance as zero. No surprise there; it looked fine, as I said. The new positive cable, on being installed, made no difference. Still no starter function. The starter relay? Clicking away just fine when the key was turned, and shorting across its terminals with the classic screwdriver made no difference; it was good. So I brooded for a day. (Well, I did some yard work while I brooded, and I took my daughter to a par-three course for nine holes of pseudogolf. You see, I've been around for a few years now, and I think I know a bad starter when I'm up against one, and that starter was BAD. Still, it's hard to pull the trigger on a part that'll set you back almost a hundred bucks for a rebuilt, when everybody who tests it says it's good.

But, I was getting extremely tired of playing with the thing, and I was out of alternatives. So, Sunday afternoon, I bought a starter. An hour and a half later -- it worked perfectly. My former starter may have tested "good" in the bench test fixture, but it certainly tested "bad" under the car, bolted to the bellhousing. And today, Auto Zone got it back after all. And I can now get the starter in and out of the Topaz really quickly, what with all the practice I've had lately. Still, it cost me the skin off the first knuckle of my right pinkie-finger, and several bitter profanities, and too much of my time.

So, as I say: take those bench test results with a grain -- no, make that multiple grains -- of salt.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Way With Words

That's what Paul Craig Roberts has. Enjoy a little snippet, then go over to CounterPunch and read his whole piece there:
Obama is fighting the release of the latest batch of horrific torture photos that have come to light. Obama claims that release of the photos would anger insurgents and cause them to kill our troops. That, of course, is nonsense. Those resisting occupation of their land by US troops and NATO mercenaries are already dedicated to killing our troops, and they know that Americans torture whomever they capture. Obama is fighting the release of the photos, because he knows the barbaric image that the photos present of the US military will undermine the public’s support for the wars that enrich the military/security complex, appease the Israel Lobby, and repay the campaign contributions that elect the US government.
There's not much I can add to that.

(All Too) Well-Preserved

Shouldn't a golem have an expiration date? Wasn't Darth Cheney's chest supposed to be all full of rotten flesh and fragile electronics? He was talking again today:
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has defended the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation methods, saying they were necessary to get information from terrorists and save American lives.

In a speech Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Cheney said President Barack Obama and other officials have largely "mischaracterized" the previous administration's approval of such techniques.

He said they were "essential," "justified," "successful," and the "right thing to do" and that they prevented the violent deaths of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of people.
I fancy that a deal with Old Scratch might well be the least-hypothesis explanation for Mr. Cheney's longevity. Don't look now, sir, but I think some diabolical-looking imps are prodding you toward the smoldering edge of a glowing abyss ...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just a quick one ...

... with lunch time being nearly done. Mimi calls attention to an excellent Chris Hedges piece. If I may presume to paraphrase Mr. Hedges: war is slow-motion suicide, in terms of physical flesh and blood, economy, culture, thought, mind, and spirit. It's likely irreversible. Here's hoping that something more reasonable, at least for a time, grows up out of the imperial wreckage.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 20 May Edition

(Posted early again, because who knows whether I get around to sitting down here tomorrow, or not?)

Isaiah chapter 5 (first seventeen verses):
Let me sing a song for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
And He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it,
And He hewed a wine vat in it;
The He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.

"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. And I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land! In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn, "Surely, many houses shall become desolate, even great and fine ones, without occupants. For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine, and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain." Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may pursue strong drink; who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! And their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands.

Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem's splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descend into it. So the common man will be humbled, and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud will also be abased. But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture, and strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy.
Again, the plain sense of this passage (and the book of Isaiah in general) is that it concerns the apostasy of ancient Israel and the desolation to which it leads, and also the mercy of God and His ultimate redemption of His rebelling people. But, once again, while "the plain sense is the main sense," some generalization is legitimate, I think. There's nothing unique about the corruption of Israel. When and where have people ever been consistently obedient to God? The answer seems easy: never and nowhere. God says here, through the prophet, that the people of Judah are, collectively, His "delightful plant," set up in a wonderful vineyard and lacking nothing. But wasn't Adam the original such plant, and do not all people share in that common heritage of Adam's disobedience? The spoiled vineyard is ancient Israel, and it's also every land that is or ever was, definitely including my home. The worthless vine is the people of Judah; but it's also me, and you, and every other person who's ever drawn breath, except One.

The book of Job isn't ordinarily the first place one might turn for words of comfort. But in this case, let's turn to Job 19:25-27, and sing along with that afflicted man:
"And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand upon the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and Whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me."
Yes, indeed.

Click here for other Words for Wednesday.

Unintended Consequences, Part 9,031,745,832

As has been seen in many ecological and economic examples, the world is a vastly-complicated and interlinked collection of actors, and when you turn the knob that you think is supposed to do "A," it always seems to do "C" and "X" and a bunch of other functions, too. A Rainbow Brite administration official seems to have noticed this, but it apparently isn't bothering her:
President Barack Obama's assistant on energy and climate change said on Tuesday she did not know how a tough White House plan to raise the fuel economy of the U.S. car fleet would affect the ethanol industry.

"I don't know the answer to that," Carol Browner told reporters in a teleconference about the plan.

She said modelers had looked at the issue, but she did not know the answer offhand.

Obama obliged the struggling auto industry to make more fuel efficient cars on Tuesday by imposing standards on tailpipe emissions and increasing gasoline mileage. Under the plan passenger vehicles and light trucks must average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Analysts said the plan could restrain development of the ethanol industry in coming years because the alternative fuel has a lower energy content than gasoline. Specially built "flex fuel" cars typically get 20 to 30 percent fewer miles per gallon when they burn a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, according to the government website

The struggling ethanol industry has suffered a string of bankruptcies over the last year amid volatile prices for corn, which is the main input cost for distillers, the credit crunch, and as the recession hits motor fuel demand.
It seems to me that when the leading edge of the debt meltdown manifested itself last year, progressive voices lost little time in assuring us that what we really needed was much more government regulation (as opposed to many fewer bailouts). Similarly, the general school of political philosophy that brought so many outstandingly-successful Five-Year Plans to the agricultural and industrial sectors of the former Soviet Union is launching an ambitious set of such plans here. Remember when we found out that the use of ethanol for motor fuel, which seemed like such an obviously good idea, in fact produced major dislocations of world agricultural and trade patterns and did significant mischief to world food supplies and prices? I wonder what new unintended consequences we'll be seeing in the months and years to come.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome to My World

Or what used to be my world, anyway -- back when I used to hold my nose and vote for Republicans. The Left discovers the joys of constituting "the core," better defined by the question, "who else are they going to vote for?":
President Barack Obama's decision to maintain Bush-era military commissions is the latest in a series of compromises and delays that allies on the left see as a disappointing shift away from campaign pledges.

On everything from national security to climate change to immigration, liberal groups are saying the president's recent actions contradict his soothing ability to convince them that he will move dramatically on their issues. It follows a first 100 days in which Mr. Obama largely avoided any compromises on pressing his economic agenda.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend that liberal critics were overplaying the extent to which Mr. Obama had changed his views on handling suspected terrorists. He said any compromises on other policies serve the broader purpose of keeping the big priorities moving forward.
See, guys? That's how it was to be someone who actually, wholeheartedly opposed abortion with the GOP in power. Shut the hell up and see if you can find a seat in the back row of the bus.

Maybe Camelot HAS Returned

The new administration does have its full complement of bureaucrats whose duty it is to whistle while walking past graveyards at night. Let's give President Yes We Can his due, though; his budget director seems to be a bit of a poet:
The Obama administration's budget chief said on Sunday there are signs that the free-fall in the economy seems to have halted.

"There are some glimmers of sun shining through the trees, but we're not out of the woods yet," White House budget director Peter Orszag said on CNN's State of the Union.
That's pretty good stuff. Not exactly Robert Frost, but not bad.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Well, I'm Proud to Be an American ..."

Let's sing it, as we try to wrap our heads around this:
President Obama said Wednesday that he would fight to prevent the release of photographs documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by United States military personnel, reversing his position on the issue after commanders warned that the images could set off a deadly backlash against American troops.

The administration said last month that it would not oppose the release of the pictures, but Mr. Obama changed his mind after seeing the photographs and getting warnings from top Pentagon officials that the images, taken from the early years of the wars, would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger troops in two war zones.
Let's see if I'm following so far. If the wogs see the pictures of us brutalizing them, they'll hate us. But if the wogs see in the news that we have pictures of us brutalizing them, that are apparently so bad that we know they'll hate us after seeing them, but we keep them in our triple-secret file drawer and don't let anybody (who doesn't work for the gummint) see them, then the wogs won't be upset, because ... why? They're not smart enough, maybe? They're strictly "visual learners?" My head's starting to hurt already.
“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Mr. Obama told reporters on the South Lawn. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”
"Would not add any additional benefit to our understanding ..." I've been noticing a decline, since about midway through last year's presidential campaign, in Rainbow Brite's justly-celebrated articulateness, and I'm beginning to wonder if there's a White House Curse in effect, whereby the occupant loses 20 or so IQ points -- a loss that absolutely crippled George Dubya Slow-Puppy, and is also unbecoming even to the new God-Emperor, Obama I. But I digress; you see what the Prez is saying: you don't need to know what your tax dollars and your fellow-countrymen have been up to overseas, because ... well, because I said so, that's why. I find that rather unsatisfactory.

To go on:
Officials who have seen the photos describe them as falling into two categories: Abu Ghraib-style personal snapshots taken by soldiers; and photos taken by military criminal investigators documenting allegations of abuse, including autopsy photos of prisoners who died in custody.

Many of the photos may recall those taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which showed prisoners naked or in degrading positions, sometimes with Americans posing smugly nearby, and caused an uproar in the Arab world and elsewhere when they came to light in 2004.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., said the decision to fight the release of the photos was a mistake. He said officials had described them as “worse than Abu Ghraib” and said their volume, more than 2,000 images, showed that “it is no longer tenable to blame abuse on a few bad apples. These were policies set at the highest level.”
Frankly, it pains me to agree with an ACLU operative about anything. But, you know, even a blind squirrel comes up with the occasional acorn.

For the last word, I'll turn to Jesus, as quoted in John 3:20, 21:
For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Word for Wednesday: 13 May Edition

A second week in Isaiah (chapter 2):
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths." For the Law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.
I must admit that it isn't totally clear to me which "last days" the prophet is talking about here; whether it's the last last days of Revelation 20, or some other "last days" associated, perhaps, with the Babylonian captivity, or some other such episode in the history of ancient Israel. Except for one small thing, I would read this simply as added detail on the millennium of Revelation 20:1-6:
And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he could not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
The thing that makes me a little doubtful whether Isaiah and John are talking about the same thing in these passages is that Isaiah says the nations would be all done learning war; however, starting with verse 7 in Revelation 20, we see that when Satan is cut loose again for a short time, that short time is quite abundant in war. So, I'll just keep an open mind, for now, about Isaiah's last days. One thing that I am sure about: the picture of the nations seeking God's wisdom, and learning war no more, is certainly an attractive one. And ultimately, when the Lord does return and clean up all our messes, war will be among them. "Even now, Lord Jesus, come."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wrong Perps ...

The Sri Lankan gummint, doing what gummints do best -- murder:
Sri Lanka's armed forces have been accused of possible "war crimes" over the shelling of the last working hospital inside the northern conflict zone, which killed at least 45 people.

The attack, inside an official "no-fire zone", was among the bloodiest incidents since the army began its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels.

About 50,000 civilians are now trapped inside a tiny strip of coastline, covering an area less than twice the size of London's Hyde Park. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has repeatedly promised not to use heavy artillery in this zone.

But repeated and deadly bombardments have taken place – although possibly with mortar bombs rather than artillery. The rudimentary hospital in Mullivaikal, consisting of little more than blue tarpaulins draped beneath a tin roof, was hit by one bomb, with the crowded admissions area taking the worst of the blast.

Photographs taken after the explosion showed bodies strewn in the dirt and medical personnel struggling to help the wounded. Dr Thurairaja Varatharajah, the senior government health official in the war zone, said that about 50 people were wounded in the attack and the death toll could rise.

The government initially denied any knowledge of the incident and then said the army had not been responsible. The "no-fire zone" is still under rebel control and the authorities have accused the Tamil Tigers of holding human shields, inventing attacks or even staging their own atrocities in order to blame the government.

But outside observers believe the army has been responsible for many of the worst incidents. The United Nations has described the shelling of the "no-fire zone" as a "bloodbath" and a foreign doctor estimated that at least 430 people, including 106 children, died last weekend alone.
What makes them think they'll get away with this? Who do they think they are? Israelis?

... and Wrong Victims

So, big deal. Sarge gets a little stressed out, gets wound a little tight, and pops a few folks. He's defending your freedom! He's keeping you safe! Hey, it's easy for you to criticize and second-guess, from your safe position behind the thin desert-camo-colored line! Errrrr, never mind, wait -- those weren't hajis he snuffed:
The U.S. soldier who allegedly gunned down five fellow troops at a stress clinic in Baghdad had had his weapon taken away from him within the last week because of concerns about his behavior, a senior U.S. military official said today.

Maj. Gen. David Perkins identified the suspect as Sgt. John M. Russell with the Army's 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany. Russell was completing at least his third deployment to Iraq since the war began in 2003, he said.

"The commander of the suspect had taken his weapon away. He had been referred to counseling a week beforehand," Perkins told journalists at a briefing at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. "There was a concern that he should not have a weapon."

The military has filed five murder charges and one charge of aggravated assault against Russell, Perkins said.

Authorities said Russell had not used his own weapon in the shootings, which took place Monday at Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport. The military is still trying to determine how he managed to get his hands on a gun, Perkins said.

Details of the incident are still being investigated, Perkins said. He declined to confirm accounts circulating in Washington that the suspect had visited the clinic earlier in the day, had an altercation and left, then returned later and managed to wrestle a weapon from his escort before opening fire.

The five victims included two members of the clinic's medical staff and three enlisted soldiers. The military has not released their identities pending notification of their relatives.

The military has also opened an inquiry into the availability of health services and counseling to determine if steps could have been taken to prevent the killings.
If that "military inquiry" wants some free consulting, I have a step or two that might have been taken to prevent this tragedy. Of course, my steps would tend to involve obvious impracticalities such as the dismantling of the U.S. empire. I'm sure they'll do something much more sensible, such as adding another PowerPoint training package. Be All That You Can Be ... An Army of One ... Army Schtrong ... and Don't Cap Your Fellow Soldiers. That'll do the trick.

And Now ... the REALLY Important News

Uhhh, right. OK. [Yawn!] Mmmmmmph ...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What's a Few Dozen More?

Moooos-lim civilians, that is:
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan -- The Red Cross today lent its support to assertions by Afghan officials that dozens of civilians were killed in U.S. bomb strikes this week in an isolated district in western Afghanistan.

These latest allegations of mass civilian deaths during fighting between Western forces and the Taliban are particularly inflammatory, with the outcry intensifying on the day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to meet in Washington with President Obama.

Karzai's office in Kabul today issued a statement denouncing such casualties as "unacceptable," and ordered a full investigation. The Afghan leader, whose relations with the new U.S. administration have been strained, intended to raise the issue with Obama, his aides said.
Well, our puppet had better not give President Rainbow Brite any slightest hint of disrespect. Clearly, the fate of wog civilians is not exactly a matter of large concern to our current Imperial War Manager. And remember, it's a brand new ball game now. There are very important differences between God-Emperor Obama and Former Chimperor Bush. I mean, Obama's all multiracial and everything, he still speaks in reasonably complete sentences, and he has a cute new White House Water Dog. And Obama has even fewer problems with the antiwar left than Bush had, difficult though that may be to believe; whatever little bit of the antiwar left there may have been during the previous regime has completely evaporated with Muad'dib's apotheosis.

Yes, they may be someone's mothers and fathers; they may be someone's sons and daughters; and they may be someone's brothers and sisters. But they aren't even the ghost of a blip on our radar screens. Expense 'em.

The Final Exam for Wednesday, 6 May Edition

One of the reasons for taking today off from the day job is that I'm giving my final exam this evening. (And, before I forget, there's my built-in excuse for not posting here for the two days after that: university rules require me to report course grades no more than 48 hours after my final exam ends, which means I have to have them graded and the course grades reported by 8:15 pm on Friday. I'm apt to have a couple of busy evenings coming up, since I don't plan to burn another day off this week.

I certainly hope they do well. This bunch of students I've had this semester has been a good one, and I have high hopes for them. And I'm baking off a couple of batches of cookies, too, in the hopes that a little well-timed sugar rush may elicit some useful physics-related thoughts from them.

In case any of my students are reading this, two things. First, go work a couple of problems! And second, please remember that electrical potential and electrical potential energy are different physical quantities, with different units and everything. Don't be deceived by the similar names.

The Word for Wednesday, 6 May Edition

And it's even on Wednesday, for once. As it happens, I'm taking the day off from my day job, having some small things to take care of today.

It's been a while since I did any reading in Isaiah, so I turned there this morning. Chapter 1 hits like the proverbial ton of bricks. Now, Isaiah is talking about his own country and his own people here -- not mine. Still, though, it certainly rings true here and now:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, "Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. "An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."

Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.

Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.

Your land is desolate, your cities are burned with fire, your fields -- strangers are devouring them in your presence; it is desolation, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a watchman's hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah.
As I wrote above, one must be careful not to over-extend scripture beyond its plain context. One can, however, legitimately infer general truths from biblical particulars. Rebellion against God ends badly. And who's not rebellious around here? The country in general? The church?

Uh ... me?

As always, click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Borders, and Borders

Hey, you know that nonexistent "border" we have with Mexico, on our south? The one that cannot, by definition, be controlled, since the corporate heavy-hitters who run "our" government have a natural and understandable interest in driving down the price of low-end labor by flooding the market with an inexhaustible supply thereof? Well, apparently there are some borders that we need to be worried about:
President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year for a fighting season that the United States military has called a make-or-break test of the allied campaign in Afghanistan.

But if Taliban strategists have their way, those forces will face a stiff challenge, not least because of one distinct Taliban advantage: the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan barely exists for the Taliban, who are counting on the fact that American forces cannot reach them in their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.
This program has been brought to you by Imperial & Corporate Change You Can Believe In™, Inc.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Case Closed! (???)

Ah, now I know why Mordor-on-the-Potomac should be spending much, much more of what would be the taxpayers' money, if the taxpayers had any money, on medical research. It's so the nomenklatura might have longer careers:
Jack Kemp would still be alive if the federal government had done a better job funding cancer research, Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday, one day after Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, died of cancer.

The Pennsylvania senator, who last week switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, made the claim on two Sunday shows.

[ ... ]

Specter added: "If we had pursued what President Nixon declared in 1970 as the war on cancer, we would have cured many strains. I think Jack Kemp would be alive today. And that research has saved or prolonged many lives, including mine."

Specter has been treated for Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Through his Web site,, the senator has called for more federal resources and funding to be directed toward medical research.
Hmmmmmm. Longer life for Jack Kemp and Arlen Spectre is the best argument for the Federal War on Cancer? Surely there must be more compelling arguments than that. I'll also have to admit that I didn't know there was a War on Cancer, administered by the same entity that brought us the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism. No wonder there's so much cancer around!

We're All Going to Die!

If the swine flu ... 2009 H1N1 Influenza A of 2009 ... swine flu doesn't get us, the Eye-rain-ian Invasion will:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel's president charged Monday that Iran's nuclear program threatens the United States, Europe and Arab nations, as well as Israel.

"The fanatic rulers of Iran are on the wrong side of history," Shimon Peres told a convention of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

"In addition to their nuclear option, they invest huge capital in long-range missiles," he said, asserting that Iran is not threatened by anybody. He said that "Iran funds and arms Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza to spread divisions in Lebanon and among the Palestinians, divisions and terror."
The wrong side of history, eh? A nice Marxist turn of phrase, but ... well, maybe history does have a "wrong side" ... and maybe Mr. Peres is on it. I could easily be wrong, of course, but I'm guessing that, with the Depression of 2008 coming into full blossom, the proprietors of The Preciousssss may not have much luck in convincing my 'Murkin countrymen that what's really needed is to kick off a third -- or fourth? -- war against Islam over in Islam's back yard. Maybe Peres & Co. are just pretty much urinating up the proverbial rope there.

Of course, convincing the great American public isn't really necessary; after all, we're getting pretty good at hopping to it and doing what we're told. Still, our corporate masters may also have a small problem with kicking off another hot war: it has to be paid for borrowed for, somehow. And since we seem to be too broke to consume the usual amount of Asian-made merchandise, it may be that the Chinese will feel constrained to tell Uncle that the MasterCard's all maxed out.