Seen on the street in Kyiv.

Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

“The Mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” -- The TOFF *

"Foreign Relations Boil Down to Two Things: Talking With People or Killing Them." -- Unknown

“Speed is a poor substitute for accuracy.” -- Real, no-shit, fortune from a fortune cookie

"If you believe that you are talking to G-d, you can justify anything.” — my Dad

"Colt .45s; putting bad guys in the ground since 1873." -- Unknown

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"The Dildo of Karma rarely comes lubed." -- Unknown

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

* "TOFF" = Treasonous Orange Fat Fuck,
"FOFF" = Felonious Old Fat Fuck,
"COFF" = Convicted Old Felonious Fool,
A/K/A Commandante (or Cadet) Bone Spurs,
A/K/A El Caudillo de Mar-a-Lago, A/K/A the Asset,
A/K/A P01135809, A/K/A Dementia Donnie, A/K/A Felon^34,
A/K/A Dolt-45, A/K/A Don Snoreleone

Monday, March 31, 2008

How To Tell When They Have Nailed the Bastards

Whenever someone resigns a high governmental or corporate job "in order to spend more time with their family," odds are good that either they were fired or an indictment is forthcoming. Or both.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson has submitted his resignation. For this one, the indictment for various acts of corruption seems to not be too far away.

How refreshing: A GOP politician who is being charged for something other than criminal solicitation of sex or sexual abuse of a child. Sort of "old school" of him.

Bush is Expanding the GITMO Gulag

He wants to ship the fans of the Washington Nationals there:

Bubble Boy came out from his sterile world and got the reception he sort of deserved. I say "sort of", because the reception he truly deserves would include pitchforks, torches, tar, feathers and a ride out of town on a sharp rail.

(Or the serving of an arrest warrant.)

(H/T to Brilliant at Breakfast)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wal-Mart: "We Will Fuck Over a Brain-Damaged Woman Because We Can."

That, at the core of it, is Wal-Mart's position.

Oh, they couch it in other terms, but the bottom line is this: Wal-Mart is run by a bunch of evil fuckers with blasted souls, the kind of vermin who would steal the pennies off the eyes of a corpse if they thought nobody was watching. If you were to be lying bleeding at the side of the road and you felt someone going through your pockets for loose change, you can bet your ass that you were just robbed by a Wal-Mart executive. They are the kind of weasels who would slip a roofie in your drink so they could have sex with you.

Shopping at Wal-Mart just rewards those fuckers. Try not to do it.

Things the Truly Addled Believe

You can find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The fairies come out to dance by the light of a full moon. Free markets will discipline themselves without regulation.

The last two decades have shown that anyone who truly believes that free markets will discipline themselves needs to be thrown into a padded room. From the S&L crisis through the tech bubble, the deregulation of the California electricity market and the implosion of Enron, the housing bubble and now the "collateralized debt obligations" and subprime mortgage meltdowns, one one constant is that there is no market discipline at all when things seem to be going well. In one of those rising markets, where everyone seems to be making money hand over fist, there is no discipline. Everyone shifts into "Serious Greedhead Mode" and bets the farm on everything going up forever.

Which, of course, it never does. When the bubble pops, the speculators all turn to Unka Sam to save them from catastrophe. At least the S&L crisis sort of matched the end of the Cold War, but this time, the Bush-Greenspan Housing Bubble and Meltdown matches Bush's Wars and Bush's Huge-Ass Budget Deficits.

I don't understand why the conservatives believe that capitalists will behave in any way other than "hooray for me and fuck all y'all." In no other realm of human endeavor does a society let things run rampant. We don't "deregulate" the highway system and let people settle on whether or not they are going to drive on which side of the road and at what speeds. The quality of American food and medicines was abysmal before the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. We don't let people decide what laws they are going to obey. And anyone who has lived downstream or downwind of a factory in the old days can testify as to what life was like before pollution controls were mandated.

But the markets are supposed to regulate themselves? If this is what Bush and Paulson truly believe, then they are indeed either high or are truly addled.

If The Bush Administration Were Horses

then this guy would be the next president.

That guy rides in a golf cart behind the Budweiser Clydesdales. He scoops up the poo before people can step in it.

Unfortunately, no matter how good a scooper the next president is, we are going to be dealing with the shit that George Bush has tracked onto the carpet for a very long time to come.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Normalcy in the Bush Administration

As in, "Iraq is returning to normalcy", if one defines "normalcy" as "heavy fighting."

A Bush aide is forced to resign in advance of being indicted for nefarious doings.

Yep, another normal day for Der Monkey Fuhrer.


I have a white cotton throw over my bed so the cats can lie on it without getting hair and other stuff on my sheets. George, my little shitcake, thinks sheets are the best place to lie upon.

Here he is on my (messy) kitchen table, warming his ass with a wool scarf.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Caffeine Fiend?

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?

OK, I'll `fess up. I have an IBM laptop with two sets of mouse buttons, one for the pointing stick gizmo, one for the touch pad. So, ahem, I sort of doubled up on the test.

Why Wal-Mart Executives Should be Beaten Like Gongs

I'll bet somewhere there are Wal-Mart executives and lawyers high-fiving each other and drinking champagne because they managed to score a victory over a woman with disabling brain damage. I'll bet money that they go home each night, proud of doing a good job for their company.

Wal-Mart had $90 billion in sales in one quarter. Their 3rd quarter profit for 2007 was almost $3 billion. You think that if they had one spark of humanity left in their blackened, blasted souls, that they would have not tried to recover a few hundred grand from a woman suffering both a severe brain injury and who then lost her son in Iraq.

But no, you'd be wrong. They are soulless, evil, twisted greedy creatures. Vultures prey on the sick. So do Wal-Mart executives.

Five Inventions That Changed the World

There have been a great many inventions over the last several hundred years. Limiting it to a handful is highly arbitrary, but as this is my blog, here we go.

1. The Printing Press With Movable Type.

Printing presses and movable type provided for the standardization of languages. Prior to the use of movable type, it was not unheard of for local languages to vary so widely that if one traveled fifty miles, the dialect spoken at the destination would be unintelligible. Movable type standardized spelling, which may be why the Canterbury Tales is almost indecipherable while Shakespearian plays are understandable (although it helps to have a key for archaic words). Without printing presses, literacy would not have become common throughout Europe.

The printing press started the information age, providing for the dissemination of information by other than word of mouth or laborious hand-copying. It would have been hard to imagine the American Revolution without the works of the pamphleteers and newspapers which spread the news and allowed for dissemination of the arguments that formed the underpinning of the Revolution. Universal education would have been impossible without the printing press.

2. The Steam Engine.

The stationary steam engine allowed for the placing of small factories away from the streams and rivers which powered water wheels. It allowed for the construction of large factories, the Industrial Age and with the development of interchangeable parts, brought about mass production, which in turn gave rise to consumer goods. Transportation, which had not changed in speed appreciably for thousands of years, went in less than a century from the speed of a man walking to up to 100 MPH on land and 30Kts at sea. The steam engine reduced the duration of a transatlantic ocean crossing from months to less than two weeks for slower ships and several days for fast ships. On land, the steam engine knitted together the United States; before the spanning of the continent by rail, it was quicker to go from New York to Europe than to California. Transportation of perishable foodstuffs beyond their growing area became possible.

Electrification depended heavily on steam turbines for powering generators and still does. You would not be able to read this post without the power of steam.

3. The Telegraph.

What steam did for transportation, telegraphy did for information. The spread of information before Samuel Morse’s invention depended on the physical transportation of messengers and/or paper. While there had been some attempts to develop rapid signaling systems and the French had semaphore signal networks in use before 1800,

it generally took weeks or months for information to spread before the invention of the telegraph. With the telegraph, information could cross continents in a matter of minutes. Telegraphs provided for command and control of armies in wartime. Lawbreakers could no longer outrun word of their crimes. Telephony and radio built upon telegraph technology. Teletypes replaced keyed telegraph signals and ultimately, computers replaced teletypes. This post was sent to you by electronic signals transmitted over wires, fiber optics and possibly radio waves and it all started with the telegraph.

4. The Transistor.

Miniaturization of electronics began with the transistor. The digital age was jump-started by the transistor. Electronics before the transistor age required a heavy chassis to support vacuum tubes. Tubes were high-failure items, to the point that if you owned a radio or television before transistorized units were wide-spread, you knew how to remove the cover and take out the tubes. Hardware stores and “five and dime" stores had tube testers that consumers used to check the tubes to see which one had blown.

Without transistors and then microchips, computers would still be limited to huge mainframes in large universities and companies. The computer under your desk or on your lap has more computing power and memory than existed in the entire world 45 years ago, and it all began with the transistor.

5. The Revolver.

The revolver was the first practical repeating firearm and 170 years later, they still are in use. It brought the ability to effectively defend one’s self to the physically weaker and the aged. No longer would size and brute physical force be enough to subdue all but the very skilled or the stronger opponent.

No longer would the ability to effectively defend one’s self with weapons take years of training and practice. True, firearms had existed for centuries, but the ability to fire multiple shots largely depended on the carrying of multiple weapons, which was at best, impracticable for most people. The revolver brought firepower to the masses. It enabled a single lawman to confront multiple criminals. The revolver democratized the use of deadly force.

If you blog about your five choices for inventions that changed the world, drop a comment here so I'll know to check out your thoughts.

Sure, They're Standing Up

The Iraqi Army has roughly 180,000 soldiers, now, and we still have to send our troops into the fight against a local militia? Wasn't it just yesterday that the Baboon King proclaimed that "normalcy is returning to Iraq"?

"There's going to be violence, and that's sad." - George W. Bush

Oh, please. The man gets his rocks off at the idea of other people being killed. George W. Bush is a remote-control serial killer, a mass-murdering psychopath. Nothing pleases Bush more than bloodshed. He's not sad at all.

He Said, He Said

"Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war." -- John McCain, March 26, 2008

"I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger." -- George W. Bush, March 13, 2008

I agree with McCain on this one: Bush is either a fool or a fraud, and I do not regard those choices as being mutually exclusive. "Imbecile" should also be on the menu of descriptors for that putz.

I recommend that we change the law to permit Bush to enlist as a buck private in the Army. Let's have his sorry ass spend two or three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and then he can come back and tell us whether going to war is "romantic" or not.

Forecast: Job Market for 2009

Brain Bleach Required

The Red Army Chorus as back-up singers to a Finnish rock band playing "Sweet Home Alabama."

Supping With the Devil

Hillary Clinton met with Richard Mellon Scaife, the Wingnut who was behind the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a man who spent millions of dollars to dig up dirt on the Clintons during what was called the "Arkansas Project."

"If you sup with the devil you need a long spoon." Question is, which one is the devil and does the saying contemplate that there could be more than one devil sitting at the table?

Damn Cell Phone Companies

Everybody who has a cell phone has a unique number assigned to it: The phone number. Yet the goddamn cell phone companies give you an account number that has about fifteen digits or so which have nothing to do with the phone number.

I don't know why those idiots do it that way. It makes no sense.

Support the Right to Bear Lasers

They seem always be coming up with new ways to spy on you.

A nice little home laser in the 500mW range ought to send a nice "buzz off" message.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I'm calling it Caturday on account of I've about reached my limit for today as far as dealing with other people's shit.

You Have to be Shitting Me; TSA Edition

A woman was made to remove her body piercings before boarding a flight. They gave her a pair of pliers.

I would compare the social skills of the TSA screeners to East German border guards, but that would be a deep, deep and grievous insult to the East German border guards.

The TSA is a laughingstock to the rest of the civilized world. But to those who run afoul of the descendants of concentration camp guards who work for the TSA, it isn't so funny.

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." -- Claire Wolfe

Worst Persons in the World for 3/26/08!

The executives at Wal-Mart.

Here's a free tip to you assholes: Just because you have the legal right to do something doesn't mean you should do it.

Olbermann is right: There is a reason why you are widely viewed as an evil corporation.

I have to wonder is stuff like this would have happened in Sam Walton's day. I suspect not.


A Democratic politician has been charged for something other than sex with hookers.

Plain old garden variety campaign finances abuse, it seems. But given the well-documented record of the Justice Department in charging Democrats with "kitchen sink" indictments while winking at the high crimes and foul deeds of Republicans, some skepticism may be in order.


I am certain that I am not the only person who, for the last 7+ years, has been bashing Our Preznit for having stolen both elections that he supposedly "won." (When you look at it that way, Cheney's recent statement that he doesn't give a flying fuck what the American people think is no surprise.)

Given that, do not expect me to be supportive of a Democratic nominee who uses similar tricks of douchebaggery in order to win the nomination.

I will not. I am not willing to be a part of transitioning from one president who made a mockery of the democratic process to another. If Clinton wins the nomination by a fair and transparent process, I will support her, maybe not with any great enthusiasm, but I will support her.

Yet if I conclude that she has engaged in chicanery, sharp dealing and skullduggery in order to gain the nomination, then I shall not. I probably won't vote for McCain, but I won't vote for Clinton. And please spare me the argument that it's all about nominating judges to the courts and such. That is important, but it is not so important to me as to avert my eyes from the actions of a Democratic version of Karl Rove and George Bush.

This is where I stand.

Step Into the Looking-Glass

When the violence is down in Iraq, the Administration says that the Surge is a success.

When the violence is up in Iraq, the Pentagon says that the Surge is a success.

The mind boggles.

Elsewhere in the world that Bush has managed to fuck up to a fare-thee-well, the parliament in Pakistan has a majority of parties that are not exactly friendly to Bush. They are in the process of choosing a new Prime Minister, they are restoring to office the judges that Bush's buddy Pervez Musharraf fired and imprisoned and they may be able to oust Musharraf.

So what does the Bush Administration do to promote good relations with the new guys in Pakistan? Bombing their country, of course (he can't give them tax cuts). One of the things that pisses off the Pakistanis the most is American airstrikes on their territory, so let's do even more of that while we negotiate with the new guys!

The story mentions a saying in those parts: "Kill one person, make ten enemies." George Bush has made millions of enemies for the US.

The sad thing is that Bush only has one life to live out in a prison cell.

Billions and Billions of Dollars Wasted

You may recall that the current Administration is led by a guy who has a MBA from Harvard and who has previously talked about running the Federal government like it was a business.

Here is one thing that those business managers did: They bought tons and tons of ammunition for the Afghan Army from a company run by two guys who are barely old enough to drink. Those children, in turn, bought their ammunition stocks from shady characters all over the world and they seemed to be specializing in buying ammunition that was nearly twice as old as they were.

The government needed to buy ammunition from third parties because the Afghanis (and the Iraqis) prefer Russian weapons and the US government doesn't make ammunition for AK-47s, PKMs and DShKs. Probably for political reasons, the US government preferred not to buy newly-manufactured cartridges directly from China or Russia.

But why they entrusted the bulk of that task to two kids is beyond comprehension. Note also, that none of this would have ever come to light, let alone been investigated, if some nosy-ass reporters hadn't started asking a lot of uncomfortable questions of the boys at Ft. Fumble.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

War, the TV Series

(I'm doing this from memory, so if I miss a few shows, oh, well)

World War 2 spawned a lot of TV shows, including: 12 O'Clock High, Combat, Rat Patrol, Mr. Roberts, McHale's Navy, Hogan's Heros, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Danger UXB, Piece of Cake, and some miniseries such as Holocaust, the Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance.

As far as I recall, only one series came out of the Korean War: MASH.

Vietnam had two: Tour of Duty and China Beach. Both went off the air in the early `90s and nothing I know of has been tried since then.

Iraq has had one show, I think: Over There. It tanked for obvious reasons ("hey kids, let's watch a TV show about the war we just saw on the news!").

I suspect that it will be a very long time before someone tries to do another dramatic television series about this war-- sometime between "decades" and "Hell freezes over." About the only things that might gain an audience would be the post-war war crimes trials of folks like John Yoo or Douglas Feith.

"No, I Said to Kill all the GOPHERS!"

Paul Prudhomme was grazed by a falling bullet in Louisiana.

The Clock Ticketh

As of 1:01 PM Eastern Time, we will have less than 300 days left in the Reign of the Baboon King.

"Your Commander-in-Chief"

"Your Commander-in-Chief" is a phrase that I have been seeing more and more frequently as this tiresome campaign season grinds on. It is a phrase that ranges from just a bad understanding of the Constitution to a phrase that implies that we are electing a tyrant.

This is the relevant text from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States"

Pay close attention to the words. "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States"

Unless you are in the Army, the Navy, the Marines or the Air Force, or unless you are in the National Guard in Federal service, the President is not your Commander-in-Chief. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, cannot tell you to do zip point shit. The proper response would be to tell him "ARGO", an unofficial naval acronym that stands for "Arr, go fuck yourself."

For that matter, unless you work for the Federal government, the President cannot order you to do anything at all. All he (or she) can do is enforce the law, which means if you do not do what the law requires, the Feds have to criminally prosecute you, file suit against you, or forget about it.

The President is not the boss of you. If you want to continue to live in a free nation, you had better keep that principle in mind.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Miracle of the Bush Economy

From Mock, Paper, Scissors.

Our Growing Police State, Part 2

I blogged about here that the cops in D.C. and some other cities were planning on going door-to-door, asking for permission to come in and search for guns and shit. I made some crack about Boston falsely advertising themselves as the cradle of liberty.

Well, it seems that a lot of people in Boston weren't too happy at the idea of the Jackboot Squad showing up at their doors.

"Boston police officials, surprised by intense opposition from residents, have significantly scaled back and delayed the start of a program that would allow officers to go into people's homes and search for guns without a warrant."

No shit, genius. People do take their liberties and rights seriously. This isn't Soviet America quite yet. Oh, Bush and his neocon goons are trying to take us there, but we aren't all the way there yet.

(H/T to Fark)

The "Clueless Cracker at Work" Award

Goes to Patrick Buchanan (R-Insane), who thinks that Black people ought to be grateful. (No, I don't read that nutty coot's blog, I saw half-a-dozen references to this. The first blog I read that mentioned it was Jack & Jill, so they get my credit.)

Like Jews ought to be grateful to the Germans for not killing all of us, I reckon. Or American Indians ought to be happy that only 95% of them were slaughtered by disease, starvation and gunfire.

I probably could spend the next hour typing up a lengthy rebuttal as to why that crazy old fuck is wrong. We could start with this: For every 100 slaves who reached the Western Hemisphere to be sold into slavery, 40 more died in transit. What happened during slavery is so readily known that I am not going to expound on it.

After the slaves were freed, for another sixty years, when Blacks achieved critical mass in some locality so that they could amass some economic and political power, white folks rose up to slaughter them, burn down their businesses and homes and disperse the survivors. It happened time and time again. It was not the ballot box that ruled from 1865 until 1965, it was the night riders, the torch, the cartridge box and the noose.

For the fact that lynching is no longer tolerated, for the fact that in many jurisdictions, Blacks can vote without hindrance (but not all, the GOP is still working the "suppress the nigra vote" routine), for the fact that legal segregation and discrimination is illegal, for that, Blacks ought to be singing the praises of the the Republicans and other so-called conservatives?

Give me a fucking break.

Counting on Faulty Memories

Think back to over a year ago when Bush said he was going to send more forces to Iraq. The rational was that more troops would enable the American and Iraqi armies to stabilize the security situation, which would give the Iraqis a chance to build up their army and for their politicians to do what they need to do in order to create a government of national unity, then we could reduce the size of our forces in Iraq.

The first happened, sort of. An argument can be made that part of the security improvements come from the conclusion of sectarian cleansing and the placing of tens of thousands of former insurgents on the Army payroll.

The second did not happen, there has been no reconciliation.

The third is not going to happen
. We are going to have as many troops on the ground in Iraq into 2009 as were on the ground before the Surge commenced.

So tell me again, how is the Surge a "success"? In any job, other than being a batter in a baseball game, accomplishing 33% of the task is called "failure."

It Could Be a Rough Summer

Reason: The bats are dying off.

Bats eat a lot of insects.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Guess I Misremembered"

I don't know about you folks, but I think I'd have a pretty clear memory of arriving at an airport if snipers were shooting at me. And I'd think it'd be pretty clear about not being shot at.

Not so, it seems, if you're Hillary Clinton. She's been saying that she "arrived in Bosnia under sniper fire." Turns out, it's George-Bush-level bullshit.

See anyone shooting at her?

I didn't think so.

Did You Lose a Loved One in Iraq?

Then Vice President Voldemort Cheney has a message for you, and it is this:

"Your loved one volunteered, tough shit for them. Go fuck yourself."

Well, not in those words, at least not the last two phrases. But certainly the first one.

Note also this whopper of a line: "The president carries the biggest burden, obviously."

Yeah. I bet that if you are sitting in your living room, looking at the photograph of your dead daughter or if you just came home from the hospital from working with your husband to help him deal with the effects of a devastating injury, your heart just bleeds for the president and his burden.

If either one of those fuckers had a functioning soul, let alone a shred of honor, they'd have committed seppuku years ago in penance for their lies.

Bush Reveals His Secret Advisor

The curtain has been lifted. Now, it is clear for all to see why Bush maintains such a sunny outlook on life while thousands of Americans die in Iraq, millions of Americans are kicked out of their homes and the economy is in the crapper.

For this is who George Bush has been listening to for lo these many years:

More Than Commas

"When the final history is written on Iraq, [the Iraq War] will look like just a comma" -- George W. Bush

4,000 American dead as of yesterday.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Each one of those commas represents 100 dead American servicemen and women.

Each one of those commas represents 2,100 dead Iraqi civilians.

Each one of those commas represents 106,250 Iraqi civilians who have become refugees.

And each one of those commas represents $75 billion dollars that we will pay for this war.

That is a lot of commas. Those commas represent lives lost and families ruined by this incompetent and malignant president and the thugs who surround him. Those commas represent all of the things that could have been done to improve the lives of Americans and the lives of needy people elsewhere in the world. Schools. Housing. Infrastructure. Vaccines. Scientific research. National parks. All choices gone.

Bush thinks the war was worth it. Easy for him to say, nobody from his family has had to pay any of the costs in blood. His family will be little effected by the near-destruction of the Federal treasury. It has cost him nothing and he shows it.

To George Bush, the dead truly are commas.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

America's Face to the World

We are rapidly becoming known as a nation of petty, intolerant goons.

The Times of London is not a lefty newspaper. It is part of the Murdoch empire. Yet this article portrays the people of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a bunch of petty-ass little tyrants, people who probably formerly worked at Sheremetyevo Airport before the fall of the Soviet Union and who were unemployed until the Bush Administration needed to swell the ranks of Customs with humorless thugs.

That must be hard work for ICE and DHS, protecting the homeland against avant garde British artists.

Way to win friends around the world, guys.

No Political Blogging Today

Deal with it.

Elsewhere, For Your Reading Pleasure

My co-blogger Eck! has a few thoughts about Easter in Two in the Heart, One in the Head. I have a story about creative vengeance up at Target: Babies in Open.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Bella eyes her prey

Like This Is a Surprise; NYPD Edition

The New York Police Department and the FBI don't get along.

Yeah, that's a real surprise. Stories of the antipathy between the NYPD and the FBI go back for decades. Hell, stories of the FBI's contempt for local law enforcement probably go back to the beginning of the FBI. I'd be surprised if "replacing" one or two FBI agents in the New York field office would be enough to change the climate.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What I Do Not Understand

I understand the interest and the outrage being expressed by some quarters over some people in the State Department snooping, whether for partisan research or for simple curiosity, in the passport files of the three presidential candidates.

What I do not understand is the lack of outrage by some quarters of of the snooping that was done illegally by two of the three telecommunications companies at the behest of the Bush Administration and without any warrant or other legal processes.

Our forefathers rose up in rebellion against what then was the most powerful nation, indeed, the most powerful empire that the world had ever known. They had the strongest army and the best navy in the world. While the numbers of Americans killed in the Revolutionary War may look slight compared to the toll exacted by later wars, keep in mind that in 1776, there were less than three million inhabitants in the Colonies. Yes, our forefathers likely would have lost without their military alliance with France and the co-belligerency of other nations in Europe, who saw a chance to get their licks in against England. Despite the help of France to the Rebellion, the British Army marched across much of the Colonies and though they won most of the battles, they didn't win all of them and our ancestors prevailed.

Now we have a population of a hundred times that of the Colonies. We are wealthy and powerful far beyond the imaginations of those who sat in the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention. But all it took was one coordinated attack by a handful of men, carrying out suicidal attacks with commandeered airliners, and we are quivering in our boots. One political party has become the party of fear and terror, promising that death and destruction will again rain down upon us if we do not surrender our freedoms and liberties to the Executive. The other political party largely seems to be too spineless to object.

How far we have fallen. If King George III had declared to himself the right to intercept and read the correspondence of every subject in the Colonies, to search through the records in their local banks, to inquire of the merchants what goods people had purchased, our forefathers would have no trouble seeing that for the outrage that it truly would have been to them.

But no longer. The King President said "do it" and two of the three telecommunications companies unquestioningly, and without any heed to the Constitution, gave his agents unfettered access to the telecommunications of all Americans, and yes, this was done prior to 9/11. It was done, for in some measure, we have given up on being a nation of laws. That which our forefathers held most dear, that which they fought and bled and died for, that they would no longer be subject to the whims of an unaccountable sovereign, is something we have given up without a whimper.

Those who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty and freedom would be appalled.

I do not understand how we have become so fearful, so spineless, that we would willingly surrender our liberties for the mere promise of security. Have we become so fearful that we will eagerly proceed down the road of tyranny just for the promise of safety?

I fear for the future of our nation. I do not fear a bunch of jihadists in caves in Afghanistan, for while they may be able to stage an attack from time to time, they cannot raise an army, equip a navy, sail across the ocean and burn our homes and cities to the ground. Imperial Japan could not do it, Nazi Germany could not do it. They cannot do it.

What I fear are those who would eagerly destroy American freedom and liberty in the cause of saving it. I fear those who would destroy those liberties that, in 1776, were regarded as self-evident, all in the name of making us "safe."

What, after all, is life without freedom, without liberty? Our forefathers understood that. The Chinese students in Tianamin Square in 1989 understood that. The Tibetans understand that.

It is a pity and a sad commentary on our own dedication to the principles upon which this nation was founded that the Republican party, and yes, a number of Democrats, do not understand that.

Burning Down the House

That would seem to be the Clinton strategy: Win or destroy any chance the Democrats may have for winning the nomination. And yet, the kicker is this: Even if she wins the nomination, she will have made things so toxic within the Democratic party that she will lose. So for right now, the Clinton campaign is playing make-believe, that even her insiders believe she cannot win.

(H/T to Balloon Juice)

I've mentioned this about six weeks ago, that Clinton may win a nomination that will guarantee her loss. And if she were as delusional as Chimpy, I'd think that she was betting she could neutralize the toxic stew of disaffected young people, African-Americans, wary independents and incensed Republicans that would greet her run for the general election. But I don't think she is that deluded.

She may be trying to poison the well this time around so that she is poised to run again in 2012. But that way lies madness, for she is truly insane if she thinks that such treachery will be overlooked or forgiven.

Clinton's Own Preacher Problem

Read this and this.

This is why we have a First Amendment, so groups like that, with the connivance of politicians like Senators Brownback and Clinton, don't get to ram their beliefs down our gullets.

What grips me is how perverted they all are. I'm not a theologian, but I am not sure that I ever read anything about Jesus being the sort of prophet who would be comfortable with the idea of aligning himself with regimes that practiced torture and who send death squads out to kill their political opponents. I'm not sure about the part where Jesus would be coming down all on cutting taxes for the rich and making the lives of poor people immeasurably harder.

All you adherents to "rapture theology," who are avid followers of the "left behind" series, had better think about this: If Jesus returns, he may be more interested in first cleaning up his own house before he worries about us non-Christians. Those of you who use the words of Christ to justify bigotry, hatred, aggression, murder and greed may have to deal with a rather wrathful god.

Bush: Liar or Delusional

When Bush speaks on Iran, he is either a bald-faced liar or he is suffering from a delusion.

Go read the story. Decide.

Personally, I am not excluding both possibilities. But I think there are some serious questions at to the mental stability of both George Bush and Richard Cheney, for they both seem to have constructed their own alternate reality. And both men are happy to wield near-dictatorial powers.

So what we have are two power-mad lunatics with the keys to enough firepower to destroy civilization.

Sleep well, America. Your Idiot-in-Chief is on duty.

Why African-Americans are Angry

If you want a very short story that tells, in stark simplicity, why African-Americans are angry, read this one.

Or, if you want the full impact, listen to it.

It won't take you very long.

Recommended Reading

The Ornery Bastard.

You should read it. Now.


Is it true that every adult male who goes by the name of "Chaz" is an amoral, scum-sucking, untrustworthy, worthless douchebag?

Or does it just seem that way?

Department of Justice: Hypocrisy Unit

In New York, the Department of Justice's local "Public Integrity Unit" is defending its heavy-handed pursuit of Eliot Spitzer.

In California, the Department of Justice has shut down the Public Integrity Unit in Los Angeles. It seems that the Bush White House was not comfortable with a Public Integrity Unit that was questioning the integrity of Republicans.

Using the powers of prosecution to go after political opponents while giving the members of your own party a free ride is very serious corruption. That's not just taking cash, that's destroying the foundation of a free nation. Throwing your political enemies in jail is a tactic of a thuggish dictatorship, it has no place in a democracy.

But, as you should be well aware by now, "democracy" and "freedom" are worship words to the Bush Administration. They are platitudes to be mouthed in order to justify brutality and aggression, nothing more.

And if you think this does not connect to the Bush Administration's single-minded determination to protect the telecommunications companies at all costs, you are deluding yourself.

Republicans Repeating History

Paul Krugman argues in today's NY Times that we need to pay attention to how we got to where we are now in the current financial mess.

The short answer is this: Uncontrolled capitalism is as foolish as uncontrolled hedonism.

What he points out is that it wasn't the Stock Market Crash of `29 that brought on the Depression, it was the bank runs over the following years that collapsed the economy. And that what we have going on now, what blew apart Carlyle Capital and Bear Stearns, is a modern bank run. The government began regulating banks in the 1930s to prevent future bank runs, so the greedy fucks figured out a way around that, and now that unregulated system is falling apart.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More Republican Dirty Tricks?

Somebody in the State Department apparently was rummaging through Obama's passport records. Which is illegal as all hell, but since when has that ever stopped an official of this Administration?

(Yes, I know I am assuming that the Bush Administration is behind it. They've been minding the store for the last seven years.)

Are You Smarter Than a White House Press Flack?

You could easily be smarter than Dana Perino, who confessed that she doesn't know the difference between an aircraft carrier and a destroyer. Because, as she explained, she's a girl.

No, Dana, it's because you are somewhere on the continuum between "ignorant" and "idiot." Don't blame your gender for the fact that you have become a Kool-Aid addict, unable, just like your boss, to tell fact from fiction, to tell fantasy from reality.

'Cause I'm just a girl, little ol' me,
Don't let me out of your sight.
I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite,
So don't let me have any rights.
Oh ... I've had it up to here!

(H/T to Jezebel via Pitch, Ph.D.)

Killers of American Soldiers

If an entity was responsible for the deaths of over a dozen soldiers in Iraq, you might think that there would be an outcry against them. You'd think that the Army might make it a priority to kill or capture the leaders of that entity.

However, not when that entity counts Richard Voldemort Cheney as a stockholder.

Japan's Cartoon Ambassador

The Japanese government appointed a cartoon ambassador.

Big deal. After all, we have a cardboard cut-out for our president.

At Least There Is One Elephant Who Is Having a Good Time

But not any who are in the GOP.

Ann Coulter at Gettysburg

What it would have been like if she had been live-blogging Lincoln's speech.

(H/T to JH)

Bushie One Note

"When President Bush confidently predicts victory in Iraq and admits no mistakes, admirers see steely resolve and critics see exasperating stubbornness. But the president's full-speed-ahead message articulated in this week's prime-time address also reflects a purposeful strategy based on extensive study of public opinion about how to maintain support for a costly and problem-plagued military mission."

You might think that is coverage of a recent speech by Bush. You would be wrong. As Dan Froomkin noted yesterday, Bush and several other officials in his Administration have said that things are turning around and "at a turning point" several times already.

Bush is, at his core, a cheerleader. His mindset is to watch other people do things and proclaim "what a good job those guys are doing, go team!" So even if his team is getting shellacked, he's going to be down there, shaking his ass and waving his pom-poms. (I am sorry for if that brought to mind a rather unfortunate mental picture. Go have a drink.)

But there is a fine line between "cheerleading" and "lying through your teeth." Bush is not our National Cheerleader. He is supposed to be the President and, in that regard, he is doing a bang-up job if you happen to have a net worth in the 8-figure range. (Of course, if some of that money was invested in Bear Stearns last week, you might disagree. You might also disagree if your investment people tell you that you have a significant position in mortgage-backed securities based on properties in Nevada, Florida, California and Ohio.)

Bush is trying to reassure the country that he has a handle on the economy. That's pretty hard to do when he talks about the Treasury Secretary "working over the weekend" (like he was cramming for a test) or when he refers to the King of Saudi Arabia as "the King of Saudi."

So now he says that his "stragerdy" is working in Iraq. Is anybody who is not imbibing the Kool-Aid reassured by that?

Isn't it clear, by now, that we would have been better off if we had elected this girl to be President? Other than the fact that she is too young, she seems to be far more articulate than the Baboon King.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Overview of Aerial Navigation, Part 2

(Part 1)

Flying the mail could be deadly in the late 1920s. Weather reports were sketchy and often hours old. A pilot might be flying along and, as the clouds descended, find himself “scud running.” Scud running is flying just below the base of the clouds, in low visibility and very close to the ground. Even back then, before the days of microwave and cellphone towers and other antennas everywhere, it was a good way to die. If a pilot flew into the clouds for more than a few seconds, without any instruments, he was as good as dead because he would lose control without any form of reference. So the pilots had to stay below the clouds and that meant scud running.

If you have ever driven the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways in Connecticut, you may remember driving through a tunnel as the highway goes through a ridge line that runs from New Haven and north towards Meriden. That ridge line is along the direct air route between New York and Boston. The ridge line doesn’t look terribly high, but in the days of early airmail flying, quite a few pilots were killed when they were scud running and they hit that ridge. But there was one pilot who would fly over the clouds in Connecticut, and his name was Howard Stark.

By the late 1920s, there was one gyroscopically driven instrument, the Turn and Bank Indicator, in use.

Driven by a venturi, which sucked air past a set of vanes, which drove a little gyro, it would indicate if the aircraft was in a coordinated turn, but nobody realized how to use it to get out of a bad situation. Stark’s genius was that he devised a way to do that with that instrument, an altimeter and the airspeed indicator. He called it the “1-2-3 Method,” and this is how it worked:

1. Center the ball with the ailerons, then
2. Center the needle with the rudder, then
3. Control airspeed with the elevators. If you have the proper power set in and if you are going too fast, you will descend and if you are going too slowly, you will climb.

You could fly in clouds, safely, with Stark’s method. For decades to follow, legal instrument flight could be flown with just a Turn and Bank Indicator, an altimeter, an airspeed indicator, a magnetic compass and a watch. Even to this day, pilots training for their instrument rating must learn how to fly "partial panel," with only those tools.

But with only a magnetic compass and a watch, you could only navigate by dead reckoning, which meant that you could be some distance away from where you thought you were. So now that a pilot could control the aircraft, now a method of radio-based navigation was needed.

Stay tuned!

Sulking Cats

Gracie was not happy because I washed her ass, so she was sulking in the upper unit.

George saw me preparing the place where I clip his claws, so he went into the lower level unit to sulk.

Now they are both asleep in their boxes.

No "Blogswarm" Here

There is a "blogswarm" against the Iraq War today. I am not playing.

First off, it should be clear to anyone with a pulse and an IQ above the freezing point of water that this Administration will carry on with its war regardless of how many people oppose the war. 100 million people could march on Washington to oppose the war and Chimpy would merely flee to his livestock-less hobby ranch. He's not going to change his mind.

Second, the Democrats are unable, unwilling or wholly gutless in that they will not do what Congress can do: Refuse to pay for the war.

Third, I am certain, without looking at any of the news websites, that Der Monkey Fuhrer is speaking somewhere, touting his "successes". Let me remind you that every fucking thing that the Bush Administration has said about the war to date has been a lie.

No hearts and flowers. We are not viewed as liberators. The "pulling down of Saddam's statute" was not a spontaneous act of the Iraqi people. There was no pre-war coordination with al Qaeda. There were no WMDs. Iraq is not a "model democracy" and is instead tripping down the road to becoming another theocratic state like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Liberty has not "flourished." The oil resources of Iraq have not paid for the war. The insurgency is not in its "last throes," nor is it populated by a bunch of "dead-enders." The postwar looting was not "just irrational exuberance." Killing Saddam's kids or executing Saddam or killing al-Zarqawi has not ended the violence. We have "killed the top leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq" many times over. And no, victory is not "just around the corner."

Lies, lies, lies, lies. Every word Bush speaks about the Iraq War is a lie, including the words "and" and "the." Every punctuation mark in the transcripts of his and his co-conspirators' speeches is a lie. Everything is meant to throw sand in your eyes and blind you to the truths of how badly Bush has fucked up this war, how many crimes he has committed, and how low he has brought the reputation of the United States in the world as a direct result of his feckless presidency.

If you needed me to point any of this out, if any of what I have just written is news to you, you clearly have not been paying any attention to the course of the war.

And let us not forget, while Chimpy and his neo-con thugs have been making a soup sandwich out of Iraq, Afghanistan keeps sliding from bad to worse.

It is a good thing that we are still a democracy, for we, the American people, can effect a change in the conduct of the war. And we can do it on November 4th. But only if enough of us care to. We need to get rid of enough of the slavish bootlickers in Congress so that Congress can do what we sent them there for: Protect the interests of the American people, not just the hides of George Bush and his enablers. We need to elect people to Congress who will restore respect for the rule of law and respect for the Constitution as cornerstones of governance. We need to elect people who regard the Bill of Rights as the law of the land, not as only a bunch of worthless words on an old sheet of parchment.

That's your job. Doing is what matters now. Blogging matters not. Protesting matters not. Running your mouth or your keyboard matters not.

This is the time for action, and "action" means you register to vote, if you are not now registered to vote and then on November 4th, you get your dead ass down to your polling place and vote.

For if you do not vote, no matter what the outcome is, it is your fucking fault.

5 Long Years

Today, it is five years since the United States invaded Iraq. In May, it will be five years since George Bush earned the name of "Smirky McFlightsuit" with his pompous strutting across the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

When the insurgency started, folks on the Right said "it took a few years to stabilize Germany and Japan, be patient."

We have been patient. Five years we have been patient. The Bush Administration is like a guy sitting in a casino, tossing the keys to his house on the blackjack table, and betting he can salvage his disaster.

You want more, go read Fixer's post on what this war has wrought. Go read Distributorcap's post on the due diligence that the Bush Administration failed to do.

Good Intentions

I had every intention of doing a serious blog post, but I have two cats that have been competing for lap time for the last 40 minutes.

There was a commercial on for "Roundup Pump," a weed killer. So, if you were to use that to write "ASSHOLE" on George Bush's lawn, would that show up on Google Earth?

Just asking. Not advocating. Don't do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Giant Has Departed

Arthur C. Clarke died today at age 90. Even if you don't care for science fiction, you should honor him as the man who, in 1945, conceived of and published the idea of telecommunications satellites in geosynchonous orbits, the foundation of modern telecommunications.

If you do care for science fiction, then you know why he was a giant.

When You Attend a Gunfight

Bring a gun.

(Preferably, one that is loaded.)

Throwing the Dice on Guns

D.C. v. Heller is being argued today in front of the John Roberts and the Supremes.

Let me just say, now, that the arguments being advanced in support of the District's position are basically inane. Nobody, from the dawn of civilization in Sumer, has ever disputed a government's right to maintain armed groups of men. Whether you call it a "militia" or an "army," that is a prerogative of the State.

The reason for the Second Amendment is the same reason underpinning the First Amendment: They give the populace the right to to be heard. When read together, the two Amendments can be read like this:

"We, the People, have the right to free speech, the right to assemble in peace and the right to come talk to you guys about what concerns us. Should you refuse to let us speak or refuse to listen to us, we have the ability to compel you to do so by force of arms."

Free speech is anathema to tyrants (if that is a concept that is news to you, your education was woefully lacking). Tyrants seek to crack down on free speech, from things such as the Great Firewall of China, imprisoning dissidents and book-bannings to less drastic actions such as the "Free Speech Zones" and carefully screened "Forums of Sycophants" used by Our Preznit. Without the Second Amendment, the right of free speech protected by the First Amendment survives only so long as a president lacks the stomach to brutally crack down on the people.

Free people, citizens, own weapons. Subjects, people whose relative freedoms flow from the will of the sovereign, do not. The argument today will have a major bearing on whether we remain citizens or whether we become subjects.

UPDATE: Pay no attention to reports of what questions the justices asked or how they "appeared" to be leaning. Those news stories are little more than a legal version of Kremlinology. The only thing that counts is the wording of the majority opinion and, to a lesser degree how many justices signed onto it and what it says in the concurrences and the dissents.

We Are So Screwed; Economics Edition, Part II

Here's an analysis of why things are not going to get better anytime soon.

I cannot tell you how much I hope this guy is wrong. I suspect that, if you have children younger than 20 or so, and/or if you have children in the next decade or so, when they grow up, they are going to regard your generation and your parents' generation not as the "greatest generation", but as a massive collection of chowderheads.

There are two major sets of villains here. The first villain is the banks, which designed a system that was guaranteed to fall apart. Reckless practices by the banks brought on the last massive economic meltdown eight decades ago, so here we go again.

Second villain is the Bush Administration and their butt-monkeys in the GOP. Together, they crippled the bankruptcy laws that would give consumers a chance to start over. And Bush has destroyed, between his reckless tax cuts and his even more reckless invasion of Iraq, any ability of the Federal government to do more than hand out band-aids.

Giving people a $600 check to jumpstart the economy is like like trying to jumpstart a Mack truck with a couple AA batteries. If your home has lost so much value that you now owe more on it than you could hope to realize on a sale, $600 might be enough to rent a U-Haul truck to move your stuff out (but maybe not).

We have a president who is completely disengaged from reality and, at a time when we need a leader who is intelligent and engaged in working to solve the nation's problems, we find ourselves with Happy the Incompetent Clown sitting in the Oval Office.

Monday, March 17, 2008

George W. Bush, Proprietor

Since 2001:

(H/T to Political Cat via Alternate Brain)

Here is the scary thing, which Political Cat picked up on: Foreigners (banks, investment houses, governments) had routinely been purchasing a quarter of the Treasury bonds offered for sale. The last Treasury action saw the percentage of foreign purchasers drop to less than 6%, a falloff of 75%. In short, the foreigners are losing their stomach to finance the spendthrift policies of the Bush Administration. The problem is that as the U.S. economy melts down, in part due to the ministrations of Herbert Hoover George Bush, our economic disaster will spread like a pandemic around the globe.

If foreigners are unwilling to finance U.S. debt, then the the ability of the Federal Reserve to do anything now may be crippled. The Federal Reserve cannot reassure the global financial markets if those markets have lost faith in the Dollar as a currency. If the markets continue to lose confidence, then a global economic meltdown is not far away.

This is the part where, in a just world, you would see George W. Bush and Alan Greenspan being frog-marched out to the Washington Mall to be publicly executed on the lawn in front of the Capitol, watched live by a world-wide television audience. It was more Alan Greenspan who gutted banking regulations under an ideologically driven belief, which he apparently took from the writings of Ayn Rand, that given total freedom, the market would ensure that bad things never happened. It was George W. Bush's administration that removed banks from control of state regulators and placed them under the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an agency whose main job was the approval of the location of banking branches.

Greenspan has shown himself not to be the "Sage of Wall Street", but an ideologically driven fool. The current melting down of the financial institutions as a result of the reckless lending of banks who were free from effective regulation could have been foreseen by any economist who looked at what happened when other regulated industries were deregulated (can you spell "Enron").

By way of an analogy, this is what happened:

During the winter of 1943-44, the US Army was faced with having to fight in severe winter conditions in the mountains of Italy. The Army sent over a sufficient supply of warm winter coats and boots to equip the soldiers fighting on the front lines. The problem was that as this huge supply of warm clothing made its way to the front, the REMFs (I think they called them "Pogues" in that war) helped themselves to what seemed to be an endless supply of warm gear. None of the rear-echelon soldiers thought they were doing anything wrong and certainly they didn't realize that there was not enough gear to go around. But the end result was that a lot of GIs in the mountains spent a miserable freezing winter wearing outdated winter uniforms while the REMFs were toasty warm.

Certainly none of the people at the subprime lenders or those who "securitzed" those loans into mislabled triple-A rated securities thought they were doing anything wrong. They saw a way to make a lot of money from a housing market they thought was going to go up forever and they jumped at the opportunity.

But if history has proven anything, it has shown that there is another word for complete deregulation, and that word is "anarchy." We do not "deregulate" the flow of traffic on the highways (imagine removing every traffic light from a city and letting the traffic flow sort itself out). Anarchy in food and medicine production was the reason why the FDA was created a century ago. Recently we have seen how well reducing regulation of slaughterhouses has worked out, which is why massive recalls of beef are becoming more and more common. We do not trust the stores to have fair scales or the service stations to fairly meter out gasoline, which is why there are government officials whose job it is to check those things.

Like it or not, there is a place for government in ensuring that that there is a level of fairness and disciple and that good practices are followed. The Ayn-Rand level of free-marketeers are as misguided and ideologically blinded as were the classical Marxists. Both schools of thought should be consigned to the dustbins of history.

We Are So Screwed; Economics Edition

"The president commended the Federal Reserve for its urgent actions over the weekend. He praised Paulson for working with the Fed and showing `the country and the world that the United States is on top of the situation.' "

Ayup. Like they were when it came to managing the occupation of Iraq. Like they were when it came time to secure Afghanistan. Like they were when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Like they have been on oil prices or climate change.

Bush will completely fuck this up, because he only has two tools in his intellectual tool-kit: Killing people and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He has shown a complete lack of interest in any issue or problem that cannot be addressed by either of those two methods.

We are so screwed.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(Just don't drink and drive.)

Our Half Socialist Country

The Republicans have brought us half-socialism. What they have done is they let their rich friends and campaign donors take the profits. But when their companies fail or get into trouble, they stick us with the costs.

Well, enough with that noise. The Golden Rule of Economics still applies here: If we are going to have to pay for something, then we get to have a seat at the table. If we, the American taxpayers, have to bail out these financial imbeciles and their massive Ponzi scheme, all based on worthless securities, then we get to regulate them. Letting these greedy fucks regulate themselves under a delusional idea that the "market will set things right" has not worked. It has proven to make as much sense as letting a bunch of teenagers have an unsupervised party with the liquor sitting out in plain view.

And we had better get some people into Washington who understand that. We cannot walk away from this current financial crisis with the naive belief that the bankers and brokers and investment people will always do the right thing, for this crisis has shown that in many cases, they were little more than bunko artists in $2,000 suits. They lined their own pockets and bought apartments that cost many millions of dollars. Yet, you can see the wreckage they are leaving behind, from the collapse in the housing market to the cratering of state budgets across the country.

While it might even be nice to take the tumbrels into Manhattan and set up a guillotine at Battery Park, what we really need is meaningful regulation of this industry of greedy fucks.

Oh, and to My Catholic Friends:

Happy Holy Week.

(My grandmother and her siblings are spinning in their graves as I write that, but times change.)

Idiots in Control

In today's NY Times, Paul Krugman explains how much of the responsibility for the current financial mess can be laid at the feet of Alan Greenspan, who still believes that his policy of letting the financial institutions regulate themselves was correct.

Krugman touched on one point, which is the real tiger in the room: The bailing out of the financial institutions is going to cost a lot of money, possibly as much as the Iraq War. Bear Stears was trading at $30 per share on Friday, yet JP Morgan bought them out over the weekend for $2 per share. So either Bear Stearns lost 93% of its value in just over a day or we, the taxpayers, are footing much of the bill.

Maybe three trillion dollars, possibly more, to bail out the financial institutions. Three trillion dollars for the Iraq War. And yet, Bush thinks that cutting taxes for the rich and giving tax breaks to companies like Exxon/Mobil, which has booked profits of ten billion a quarter for the last two years are good ideas.

You can forget the following things taking place in the next decade or more:

The Federal government helping to pay for renovating bridges and highways, which is why you will seen a widespread return of toll roads.

Federal involvement in education. There will be no money for Federal programs, so states will start telling the Department of Education to bugger off. Higher education will slowly drift back to what it was before the Second World War- a perk for the rich.

A permanent base on the Moon.

Americans going to Mars.

Any meaningful fix of Social Security.

In this country, unless you are wealthy, life is going to get harder, as wages remain flat yet the costs of fuel and food are skyrocketing. If you are on the bottom third of the economic ladder, your life is going to become much harder, grindingly so. There will be no real social safety net.

So if your life gets real sucky over the next several years, if you watch the value of the one large asset you have (your home) evaporate, and if it finally hits you that your children and grandchildren are going to be faced with much rougher lives than you and your parents had, and if you want to gaze on the faces of the two criminally negligent men who made this all happen, here you go:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lightly Tripping Down the Road to Fascism

At the end of February, Bush eviscerated the Intelligence Oversight Board. (H/T to C&L)

This is all a part of the Bush objective to strip away all rights of privacy from Americans. One of the things that the IOB was supposed to look for was that the foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and DIA, weren't spying on Americans. Bush, of course, can't have anybody other than his version of Harvey the Rabbit overseeing him.

When I was a child, unless, of course, you were a homosexual, a hippie or a minority, the cops were pretty much a benign group. They drove around in squad cars and they were armed with six-shot .38 revolvers, loaded with round-nose lead ammunition. A lot of cops shot their revolvers at the Police Academy when they went there and then went for the duration of their careers without firing another shot. I'll bet that some of them never took the guns out of their holsters.

It was also a fairly widely-held view that the bust-down-the door, middle-of-the-night police raids and arrests were the hallmark of a totalitarian state. That's what the Gestapo and the KGB did, not Americans. True, the cops used to torture confessions out of suspects, but that had largely died out. (Not completely, though.)

Then came the Vietnam War, with the police and the military infiltrating opposition groups, a tactic that was repeated recently when the Defense Department sought to combat the terroristic threat posed by the Quakers. The Vietnam War brought about police riots and mass arrests carried out at behest of a future Supreme Court Chief Justice (using legal arguments put forth by the British when they were trying to suppress the American Revolution.)

Then came the War on Drugs, with no-knock warrants. The cops became hooked on the drug war, as they began stealing people's property through aggressive forfeiture laws. If the cops today find you with what they consider to be too much cash, they will "confiscate" it from you and you have to prove that it was legally your money. (Yes, that's right, the burden of proof is on you.)

Along with the War on Drugs came the militarization of the police. While never a bunch of long-hairs, many police departments now expect that their uniformed officers have haircuts that would make a Marine DI happy. Police firepower has grown. The police have formed SWAT teams or ESU teams and they use them for routine arrests. (Or they use the SWAT team to take a child at gunpoint to the hospital because the paramedics think the kid should go and the parents do not.)

What drove this home to me were a couple of incidents. One was in Ohio, where an inmate in one of the state prisons wrote to his girlfriend about the proper care of the marijuana plants that she was tending for him. The fact that one woman (who, if I remember correctly, was in her40s) had some pot plants in her basement brought out the full SWAT team to execute a search warrant. As a result, there was a great photograph in the newspaper of a rather chubby cop, in SWAT black and wearing a SS helmet, carefully carrying a potted marijuana plant out of the house.

The second was during the search for the DC Sniper. The cops in Maryland were running a series of roadblocks; some of the cops at the roadblocks were wearing jeans, t-shirts, balaclavas over their heads and carrying assault rifles. If it were not for the badges hung around their necks, in a style reminiscent of the Feldgendarmerie, they looked like well-dressed terrorists.

The police don't seem to care very much that for at least some people, when they run around in all-black uniforms, wearing helmets that look like German Army surplus, they look like Nazi storm troopers. They should care. Whether they like it or not, this is still nominally a free nation and the police need the support of the people in order to be able to function in anything other than "occupying army" mode. When the police are perceived to be acting as occupiers, they are treated as such and nobody wants to be viewed as a Quisling.

We also have a situation where freedom of ideas and freedom of thought is being suppressed. Congress outlawed the sale of adult pornography on military bases in 1995, a bill that was championed by the Right as "protecting the morals of our soldiers" or some such nonsense like that. After all, God forbid that a young soldier get to read through a skin magazine like Penthouse or Hustler after having been on patrol, shot some people and helped pick up the guts of a couple of his buddies who were blown to doll rags by an IED, the poor kid might have his morals corrupted. The outlawing of adult pornography is an outcome that is cheered by the same God-fearing folks on the Right who worry more about the morals of the soldiers than their being properly equipped (a trait that goes back at least as far as World War I) and of some on the Left who regard pornography as being offensive to women.

And yes, this is all a piece of the movement by the goons on the Parents Television Council to make sure that nothing, absolutely nothing, is broadcast that would not have been out of character with the 1950s, when babies sort of arrived on TV by parthenogenesis. It's the mindset that you, as adult Americans, are too feeble-minded to exercise any control over what you may read or what you may watch. You are considered to be too lazy or too stupid to exercise any control over your children. Some of the best things ever aired on television cannot now be aired because of the thugs on the PTC and their enthrallment of the FCC. They could not now air the 1970s miniseries "Holocaust," which had a scene showing naked corpses being removed from a gas chamber and dumped into burial pits. They cannot re-air "Saving Private Ryan," one of the better war movies ever made, and which was shown on network TV before the PTC's goons took over the FCC. They could not re-air the documentary "9/11," which aired on CBS in 2002 with limited commercial interruption.

On the Right, you have prohibitions against drugs and, still in some jurisdictions, prohibition on the sale of alcohol, all under the guise of "protecting the morals" of people. On the Left, you have the attempts to greatly restrict, if not outlaw, the private possession of firearms. The Right is particularly incensed at times with what books may be available through the public libraries or are sold in bookstores. "Heather Has Two Mommies" and the "Harry Potter" series" were examples of that (note the one imbecile who claimed that reading about Harry Potter would mean more school shootings). Bipartisan support exists for the Thought Crime Act of 2007, which can be read to outlaw political protest.

All of this is a form of creeping fascism. When you use the power of the State to make sure that others conform to behavior you approve of, you grant to the State the power to stop you from doing things you may want to do. When you give the State the power to use extraordinary force in some situations, then you will find that, because they invested so much money and training in their shiny new toys, they will use them. And that is how you get grandmothers killed when the police throw a hand grenade into her home. That's how you get great-grandmothers shot over 30 times when the police raid the wrong home on a no-knock raid (and then plant drugs to try and cover up their mistake). And that is how you get an unarmed man shot to pieces, including through the soles of his feet.

We need to get back to a few concepts if we are ever going to have a hope of continuing to live in a free society:

1) Just because someone else does something that you don't approve of, you should not have the power to outlaw it. If their conduct does not directly harm you, keep your nose out of their lives. If they want to sit in their homes and do drugs or collect guns or read adult port or gay porn or Karl Marx or Ann Coulter, that's their business. It is none of yours.

2) Any government confiscation of anyone's property on the charge of being an "instrumentality of a suspected crime" must be held to the same burden of proof that is used for a criminal conviction. If you want to run around with $50,000 in a briefcase, it should be up to the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you had nefarious reasons for doing so. If you cannot convict the person, you cannot convict the property.

3) Your right to control your own life doesn't mean that you have the right to control everyone else's. Your television set, for example, comes with a channel-changer and on/off buttons. Learn how to use them.

4) The government cannot spy on Americans. Not without a warrant. And if they do have a warrant, there must be independent oversight. Nobody can be trusted with that level of power without independent supervision. Ever. No exceptions, no excuses. National Security Letters, which give the FBI and other agencies the ability to paw through your records without a warrant, should be outlawed.

I apologize if this seems rambling and disjuncted, but I am writing tonight more from my heart. I am sorry if this does not read like a polished article, for it is not meant to be that. I feel that if we are going to stop fascism from taking over this country, whether from the Right or the Left, we must get away from the idea that we can make people "better". As Malcolm Reynolds said, I do not hold to that. And yes, there may come a time when we have to misbehave. It will be far easier to keep our freedom (at least what is left of it), than it will be to take it back after it has been taken away.