Politics, Sex, Religion, and all those impolite Human Conversations...

My Photo
Location: Oaksterdam, California

Monday, January 31, 2005

The Iraqi Ballot, Translated

Not all Iraqis are enthusiastic with their ballot, at least not Hawra Karama
I had the opportunity to participate in the long-awaited Iraqi elections this weekend. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first time my opinion has mattered to the Iraqi state. It was actually the third. Saddam Hussein had asked us Iraqis in both 1995 and 2002 if we wanted him to be our leader. The question sounded rather silly, considering the amount of Iraqi, Iranian, and Kuwaiti blood on his hands. Nevertheless, in both referenda, Saddam's approval ratings exceeded 99 percent. That statistic could not have been accurate, could it? Did the Iraqis really want even more years of crushing tyranny, war with neighbors, and ethnic cleansing?

In retrospect, I could come up with dozens of theories on the shocking outcome of the two referenda. Maybe only Ba'athists participated in the polls. Maybe people were too afraid to say they didn't want Saddam. Maybe the chads of those who did cast a "no" vote were hanging. In any case, I shouldn't waste so much time analyzing the past. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as democracy under dictatorship. My time today is better spent taking advantage of democracy under foreign occupation.

I hesitated before voting for reasons familiar to anyone who follows the news. But then I thought of the disappointment on the faces of my American guests if I did not accept the democracy they brought me. I didn't want their feelings to be hurt. I didn't want them to think that the residents of the Cradle of Civilization are not civilized. So I mustered the courage to go to the voting site nearest my house in Baghdad.

Initially, I thought I was at the American embassy because there were so many American soldiers standing outside. I checked my registration slip. I did in fact have the correct address. So I took a deep breath and walked in. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Iraqi authorities had requested American troops' presence because they needed help making Iraqi tea for the voters. Their desire was to make the democratic process feel as close to home as possible.

A young soldier from Texas served me a cup of Iraqi hospitality. Then I nervously proceeded toward the voting booth. My heart was racing, and tears flooded my eyes as I thought of the price that was paid to make this moment happen. On a personal level, my niece had suffered severe burns on her arms and legs when bombs shook Baghdad in March 2003. My backyard was converted into a parking spot for an American tank. More broadly, over a hundred thousand of my countrymen had to be killed, and many more had to be wounded and disabled. Many American families had to mourn the loss of their loved ones in the military. The environment was sentenced to suffer for the next several centuries. Politicians in the White House and Parliament had gone out of their way just to ensure that my cup of tea had the right amount of sugar while I expressed whom I thought should hold the magic wand to make all my agony go away.

Read the rest. You won't be disappointed.

Get Ready for Gut Wrenching Diplomacy

Digby said go read this article, The Market Shall Set You Free, by Robert Wright. And so I did. This part jumped out at me:
In the wake of John Kerry's defeat, Democrats have been searching for a new foreign policy vision. But Mr. Clinton laid down as solid a template for post-9/11 policy as you could expect from a pre-9/11 president.

First, fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which means, among other things, making arms inspections innovatively intrusive, as in the landmark Chemical Weapons Convention that President Clinton signed (and that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al., opposed). Second, pursue terrorist networks overtly and covertly (something Mr. Clinton did more aggressively than the pre-9/11 Bush administration). Third, make America liked and respected abroad (as opposed to, say, loathed and reviled). Fourth, seek lasting peace in the Middle East (something Mr. Bush keeps putting off until after the next war).

And finally, help the world mature into a comprehensive community of nations - bound by economic interdependence and a commitment to liberty, and cooperating in the global struggle against terrorism and in law enforcement generally.

But in pursuing that last goal, respect and harness the forces in your favor. Give history some guidance, but resist the flattering delusion that you're its pilot. Don't take military and economic weapons off the table, but appreciate how sparingly you can use them when the architect of history is on your side. Have a little faith.

It struck me that when Barbara Boxer challenged Condi's candidness she was leading the charge against an administration that does not trust its citizens with the truth, does not trust in international conventions, and does not really give a damn what the rest of the world thinks of us. Rather, this Administration sees itself as the champion of liberty, maybe even liberty itself, so those who dare oppose them are opposing liberty and freedom incarnate. It is a neat trick, that.

Boxer had the right to ask Rice when did she know that there were conflicting intelligence reports on Iraq's nuclear capabilities. I know she had that right because I, along with 6.9 million voters, gave her that right.

Rice's conduct as one of the lead salespeople for the war does not bode well for us all, or the credibility that she will need to repair our relations with other countries. Maybe if she had counseled the President to let the inspections continue, or had resisted the Pentagon's proposals to launch the war before the Summer season began, she might have gained some diplomatic stature. Instead we got the diplomacy of George W. Bush's gut (an area that I am tempted to say Condi is familiar with). So now she will be the official organ for relaying her, the President's foreign policy.

On one hand, I can grasp their predilection to use military might to in order to solve the Islamic Gordian Knot. I also understand their lack of faith in our culture as the force to spread democracy. Didn't they just start a culture war here at home during the last election?

Update: grammar

A Year Late and 9 Billion Dollars Short.

Yesterday there was an election in Iraq amidst draconian security precautions. The lead story is the people voted and celebrated their act of voting. Pictures of blue fingered grandmas are plastered all over the news. I wonder if they rushed home to wash it off?

For some reason I think of film Apocalypse Now. Remember, the scene where Kurtz (Brando) recounts a good day in the war; how his platoon gave polio inoculations to an entire village? When they returned the next day only to find that the NVA had entered the place and cut off all the inoculated arms that showed signs of a vaccination and stacked them in the center of the village.

I hope nothing like that happens. Yet their country is gripped by the madness of War. Those that voted took risks by doing so. I think it is important to honor and remember that. Especially in our country where people don't vote if it's inconvenient and rarely make the effort to inform themselves of the issues.

Somehow, I think many of the flag wavers who thought this was a fantastic day for Bush don't realize this election is nothing like what most democracies experience. Yesterday, the people voted for slates without knowing the major players, the candidate's names, or their stand on issues. (I don't know anybody who would even set up their Fantasy Football League under these conditions.) These newly elected blocs will form a government with very little real power or say in their economics or security affairs. Soon they will write a new constitution that will be ratified many months hence. I my opinion that's when true legitimacy will start. Don't get me wrong, yesterday's election is a good move in the right direction it's just this could have, should have, happened last year.

The other big news out of Baghdad is that the Coalition Provision Authority, headed up by Proconsul Paul Bremer is unable to account for nearly 9 Billion Dollars of Iraqi funds:
The audit being released today focuses on about $8.8 billion in Iraqi money from a development account that passed through the coalition authority to Iraqi ministries. Previous reports by a U.N.-appointed board also found problems with the account, the Development Fund for Iraq, which amassed $20.6 billion in oil revenue and assets during the agency's tenure in Iraq. One of the past audits, conducted by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, found that oil proceeds had been properly accounted for but that there were insufficient controls over the fund.

Today's report finds that U.S. senior advisors attached to the ministries failed to exercise adequate oversight of the money. In one case, the coalition's main budget office had 12 of the 55 staff members that were needed, and most of them were "inexperienced recent college graduates," the report says.

It would almost be forgivable if the money was used to restore electricity, improve sanitation, or water purification. Most likely the funds went to boondoggles like subsiding Halliburton for trucking in fuel from Kuwait at highly exaggerated prices, or into shady deals to buy loyalty. I doubt the money will ever be found.

Also, I am curious if those recent college graduates know just how much purchasing power 9 Billion Dollars is? Here's a few hints:

In terms of GDP: it would edge out Iceland in the ranking of countries. It is almost a quarter of the GDP of Iraq. It is more the 10% of the GDP of New Zealand.

In terms of disaster relief: It would match aid pledged to countries hit by the Asian tsunami catastrophe.

It takes creativity to spend a Billion Dollars but it takes real talent to misplace 9 times that much

Update: Added missing link.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

What, No Sex?

Keith Olbermann received a concerted email spam campaign for his treatment of the SpongeBob SquarePants story and writes about the Delusions of grandeur at "Focus on the Family"
Mother used to insist that there were two things you should never talk about in public: politics and religion.

Now, of course, that’s all we talk about. But the moral guidance still rings loudly all these years later, and it always makes me a reluctant conversant, even if I apologize to Mom in advance.

However, the Three-Card Monte Players at Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus On The Family” have reopened the can of worms that is SpongeBobGate, and have focused not on the family but on me, and in so doing embarrassed themselves and undermined the validity of their own concerns.

Dobson, you will recall, joined the singularly inoffensive animated character “SpongeBob SquarePants” to his conspiracy theories of a “pro-homosexual” agenda, in order to get headlines. When he got those headlines, he promptly complained about getting them. Dobson, like many other exploiters of Amoral Values, ran immediately to the easiest way out of a stupid fix of his own creation: he blamed the big old ugly media.

His website asked readers to send emails of protest to me and four other reporters who had covered this foofery - it even provided them with an email-generator with which to do so. But because I responded to nearly all of those missives with something other than “I’m sorry, please don’t send me to hell,” Dobson has determined I need more exposure.

Keith gives the smackdown on the idjits that succumbed to this astroturfing. It's really quite funny except when you think that somewhere someone is responsible for writing, however poorly, such hate-filled tripe. In the end, I think he answered the criticism in the correct manner.

And not to let the facts get in the way of FOF’s prejudice, but I happen to be a religious man. I believe in God, I pray daily, and if I’ve ever gotten any direct instructions from my maker, they were that I’ll be judged by whether I tried to help other people, or hurt them. Also, that true belief should not be worn like a policeman’s club, nor used like one. And, finally, that I’m in big trouble for helping to introduce funny catchphrases into sportscasting.

More importantly, at some point, some of these people are going to wake up to find that the great secular assault they see on their children was, in fact, a bogeyman created to hide their own bad parenting. If they can’t convince their own kids of the appropriateness of their religion and values, then the religion, the values, or the convincing, must not have been very good. Ask my folks if I was an easy sell - yet most of my tenets turn out to have been their tenets - not my teachers’, not television’s, not the secular world’s.

It goes back to the core of the Dobsonian point of view here: the fear of the “pro-Homosexual” agenda. That may be the way he delicately phrases it, but it is not shared by most of his followers who emailed me. They were clearly angry that there was no anti-homosexual agenda. And one of the most fascinating things about the studies of homosexuality in this country is that while there is still debate between the creationists and the environmentalists, I’ve never heard anything suggesting that a child is more or less likely to be gay, depending on whether he’s taught not to hate nor be intolerant, of gays.

There are several posts over the last week that cover reactions to his reporting. They are written in a wry and amusing style. So if you have the time go take a look.

That explains it!

Here is the Budweiser commercial you won't see during The Super Bowl.

(Via Other Crap)

Friday, January 28, 2005

BARBARians City Beat

For all those who could not make it to the most recent BARBARian Bash, here is this intrepid reporter's hack job:

Inclement weather did not stop some of the Bay Area's most subversive bloggers from meeting in an every man's bar in the heart of the Mission District. Blog is short for web-log or online privatized private personal accounting. The choice of venue, with it's shabby surroundings and cheap selection of fine brews, showed their dedication to raise the lot of the common man. We hail these heroes, these select few, who pound their keyboards at all hours of the day and night on behalf of the disenfranchised.

Mingling with this stalwart crew one can learn many interesting tidbits. As the ale flowed so did the conversation and the revelations.

Local luminary Scamboogah is a Bea Arthur fan and possibly has a nude photo of her.

The genius behind explained that he gets many search engine hits from what he thinks is the pervy-ier side of the internets.

Mr. Gumby2u, from the humble It Looks Like This site, is feeling the pressure to challenge Diane Feinstein in the Senate run off.

Simbaud, The King of Zembla, is not only a prolific editorialist but was an underwear model in a former life.

The author of Paperwight's Fair Shot is a firebrand in search of a think tank. Al Gore, George Soros are you listening? I could see him as adviser to Mr. Gumby2u's political campaign.

Shystee speaks fluent Italian and is a big fan of Paolo Rossi.

Generik did not bring a dirk but brought his light sabre laser and lives near an airport. He is now doing 'Live Nude' blogging.

Blogenlust is suffering from short term memory loss but was picked up by the Daou Report (ed note: anyone know the proper pronunciation of Daou? Is Belafonte the key?) which is an honor in itself.

Belisarius is a fond student of history and prefers a certain Roman General who he considers to be more of a patriot than Cincinnatus. It is hard to disagree with him.

Jackson West from the SFist, an online news organization and not some sort of kinky practice, envisions supplanting sfgate. That wouldn't be such a bad thing

I must give undying accolades to Jessica our mixologist of the evening. If you stop by and say your were referred by a group of Barbarians she might just toss a free beer your way. Also she told me they were adding a wifi connection to the joint, any day now.

For the next BARBARian Gathering there will be a brief exposition on writing like a Right Wing Political Pundit or how to fake 'Fake Outrage'.

See you there..

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I think this is gonna' stick...

Scaramouche has just been called the Swashblogger™.

I knew I never should've brought up the fencing career (shakes head in grief).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Carson Knew This Country

Johnny Carson once spoke on What Democracy Means to Me.

Here are some extracts:
Democracy is people of all races, colors, and creeds united by a single dream: to get rich and move to the suburbs away from people of all races, colors, and creeds. Democracy is having time set aside to worship--18 years if you're Jim Bakker.

Democracy means freedom of sexual choice between any two consenting adults; Utopia means freedom of choice between three or more consenting adults. But I digress. Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto--usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money.

Yes, democracy means fighting every day for what you deserve, and fighting even harder to keep other weaker people from getting what they deserve. Democracy means never having the Secret Police show up at your door. Of course, it also means never having the cable guy show up at your door. It's a tradeoff. Democracy means free television, not good television, but free.

And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head--this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle.

(Original idea from Bifurcated Rivets but I didn't like the link he picked - bad web design.)

Techie Tuesday: JOG A DOG

Get me off this crazy thing! Posted by Hello

Exercising your best friend can sometimes be problematic and, boy, do they need exercise. But when there is blizzard outside, or you don't have much time, or you're plain lazy then the JOG A DOG is for you.

You may ask, "Why would anyone purchase a treadmill for their dog?" Well, here is the answer directly from their FAQs:
Treadmills provide numerous benefits beyond what can normally be achieved from walking or even running a dog. For example, dog show handlers use treadmills to perform simple gait analysis. The treadmill allows the handler to study the gait of a dog and make corrections while the dog is in movement. The treadmill also helps the handler find and develop the proper speed the dog should adhere to in the ring. The handler can then reinforce the dogs natural trot by training and developing the dog's muscles to the speed the dog should adhere to in the ring.

The incline of the JOG A DOG treadmill, provides the resistance needed to develop strength and muscle. Likewise, by altering the resistance, the dog can achieve an excellent cardiovascular workout that is tailored to meet any exercise goal. Treadmill exercise also provides versatility while adding consistency to any exercise program. Along with walking your dog, playing Frisbee or fetch, the treadmill is an additional exercise that, when added to an existing regimen, will insure your dog uses all its muscles and is in peak physical condition. Regardless of inclement weather, (rain, sleet, mud, snow, heat, humidity, ice, hail) JOG A DOG allows you to adhere to a strict, controlled and consistent regimen that will guarantee results!

The machines come in 3 sizes and you can see them in action in these doggone great clips

(Via Modern Pooch)

Monday, January 24, 2005

BARBARians in the City - Looking So Pretty

This Thursday is the Bay Area Resident Bloggers and Readers' get together for stimulating drinks and/or conversation.

We will meet from 6-9pm at The Uptown on 17th and Capp in San Francisco. It is 1 block South and 1 block East from the 16th Street Mission Bart station.

There is great selection of beers on tap in the $3-$4 range and the bartenders are friendly.

It looks like this time we will have the biggest turnout yet.

Social Security For Dummies

Have you been looking for an easy to understand explanation of the Social Security argument? Well, search no further because Hunting The Muse has created the ultimate guide: Social Security For Dummies.

I like all the pictures...

(Via Tech Policy)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Two Edge Sword.

Political discourse is much like swordplay. Some would say arguing is as well. However most practitioners of argument, especially many political duelists take the Blunderbuss approach. I believe in finesse. Normally I hate sport analogies but this works for me:

My next encounter is with a fencer I have never fought before. I have watched him as surely he has watch me, climbing the tables until we meet. As I noticed he is a left handed and has a strong parry disengage riposte. In fact he relies on it. Speed and mental toughness usually wins the game. However it is sometimes the ability to take away the greatest strength of your adversary that will decide victory.

We meet in the center of the piste. Normally, I'm an audacious fencer, but I want to appear hesitant, flat-footed. My attacks are off rhythm. My feints are obvious. Thus when I finally commit to strike the strong parry disengage riposte comes my way, just where I expected it. I receive, I hit, I score.

Evey good fencing bout is like a a conversation- with the final touch being an exclamation point.

There is a life lesson to be learned here. For the casual observer, things may look dire, but there is usually more to the game. Don't hastily criticize your senator or politician because you don't like how they appear to be fighting after a casual glance. Please by all means call them on their cowardice, yet don't pretend to understand their strategy.

Update: Normally I don't need to add a clarification to a post, but this time it is merited. This post was taken as a personal response to comments made on another blog - where I barged in made and some comments considered inflammatory. For background see comments here. In a nut shell, the post and subsequent comments stated that Boxer by bringing the Condi confirmation to the Senate floor was a waste of time. Of course I disagreed and maybe my manner was trollish, but at least I didn't break the furniture.

Born from that exchange was the post above. It was not meant as personal rebuttal to the other blogger but rather an attempt at using the boxing (Boxer) metaphor with fencing. Upon re-reading my post that is not clear; not as clear as I wished. So here is the addendum: The fencer is the mind of the politician. There is a challenge; an apparent attack with secondary consequence. Sometimes it is clear and sometimes it is a trap to make the opposition reveal their true intentions. Wheels within wheels.

I don't think my writing was clear (the bane of the novice) as the foot dragging scene was not clearly understood as the political device to make senators make a stand.

Now that the confirmation is over with 13 recorded dissent votes (much better that the 2 from the week before) the single voice has started to resonate. I am sick and tired of our elected officials that show "acquiesce mutely to the nomination of one of the most important members of the President's Cabinet."

I am still of the opinion that my Senator should represent me. In this case Barbara Boxer just did and I won't apologize for that.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

E La Nave Va?

George Bush finally gets his Presidential Yacht and decides to take it out alone. Sad to say he gets lost and does not know how to work the radio. When he see 3 men in a fishing boat he cries out, "Help I'm lost and if you help me I'll give you anything you want."

The first guys says, "I don't want to pay taxes ever again."
"Done," says Bush.
The second guy says, "I want a Presidential Pardon if I ever get in trouble."
"Done," says Bush."
The third guys says, "I want full medical coverage."
"You look like you're healthy. Is there anything wrong?" asks Bush.
"No,right now I'm really very healthy," explains the man, "But when I tell my friends I rescued President Bush they'e gonna' put me in the hospital."

Let's kill all the reporters and bloggers, too

Former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, Tony Blankley, whose porcine features graces many a Sunday television political panel, has called for death of transparency and maybe the death of Seymour Hersh under the Espionage Act. By his own logic he is culpable as well, as noted by Roger Ailes (the good one). I will not refer to this very important story regarding the actions of the Pentagon as I'm a scaredy-cat when it comes to the death penalty for exposing the dastardly plans of this Administration.

Game Review

Paul Ford reviews some computer games that you might've missed.
America's Army Special Ops: Abu Ghraib
The United States Army (PC)

Okay, the original America's Army required you to go through endless training missions, and while the online game play was good I never really got into it. But this game is totally different. In this one you're plucked from a rural community in America, separated from your family, and flown to a foreign country. When you land you're given an assignment to guard a prison, and told to make it up as you go along. That's it—the rest is up to you. This is a really open-ended game and the story totally depends on the decisions you make.

You and your teammates are given a group of "detainees" that you must discipline. The thing that makes this game different is that the detainees can't fight back, and they're in chains or locked in cells. At first it was a little confusing, and I killed a lot of detainees expecting them to fight back, but I got used to it and found it to be a refreshingly different approach from most RPGs.

The choice of weapons is really interesting, too. You start out with a crate, a cattle prod, and a Bible, and by using them in different ways you get more weapons to use. For instance, after you beat a detainee with a Bible, you get pork and bananas, which you can either (spoiler alert) feed to the detainees or insert into their rectums, or both. But it's not as easy as it sounds! The detainees will eat the bananas, but they'll get really angry if they have to eat pork. (more)

These new Army recruitment games help you 'be the best you can be' and I'm not kidding, really.


How Popular and Sexy Are You?

I just found out that I, Scaramouche, am not as popular as Atrios but I'm way sexier.

You may ask, how do I know this? Easy! I just used the The Celebrity Ranker. This site analyzes the web pages in Google's database to find out what the Internet thinks about any celebrity.

It also works for bloggers, 'cuz were all celebrities in our own special way.

(Via The Presurfer)

Thirst for Justice

In the lead up to the elections in Iraq there are even more difficulties according to Baghdad Burning
Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.

Why is this happening? Is it because of the electricity? If it is, we should at least be getting water a couple of hours a day- like before. Is it some sort of collective punishment leading up to the elections? It’s unbelievable. At first, I thought it was just our area but I’ve been asking around and apparently, almost all of the areas (if not all) are suffering this drought.

I’m sure people outside of the country are shaking their heads at the words ‘collective punishment’. “No, Riverbend,” they are saying, “That’s impossible.” But anything is possible these days. People in many areas are being told that if they don’t vote- Sunnis and Shia alike- the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off. We’ve been getting these rations since the beginning of the nineties and for many families, it’s their main source of sustenance. What sort of democracy is it when you FORCE people to go vote for someone or another they don’t want?

Allawi’s people were passing out pamphlets a few days ago. I went out to the garden to check the low faucet, hoping to find a trickle of water and instead, I found some paper crushed under the garden gate. Upon studying it, it turned out to be some sort of “Elect Allawi” pamphlet promising security and prosperity, amongst other things, for occupied Iraq. I'd say it was a completely useless pamphlet but that isn't completely true. It fit nicely on the bottom of the cage of E.'s newly acquired pet parakeet.

Why would the water be cut off? I'm suspicious it might have to do with this report from mid-November: Denial Of Water To Iraqi Cities

Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah have been cut off during US attacks in the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate US policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other Coalition members, and the Iraqi interim government.(Much More)

If that is the case, it is criminal. Like siege warfare, the strategic denial of water and foodstuffs to a civilian population is barbaric. Furthermore, in will not endear these people to their occupiers but it will increase their thirst for revenge.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Boxer of My Choice is in My Corner

Barbara Boxer was my County Supervisor where I grew up and went to High School. That was before Marin County became famous for "Peacock Feathers and Hot Tubs." That was before a bunch of very rich idiots moved there from inclement climes and harsh winters back east and raised property values so much, us natives couldn't afford to live there anymore.

She's a liberal of the kind that means keeping an eye out for the little guy. That's why I'm happy she has recently taken Center Stage:
The first week of the session, Boxer led the Senate challenge over certification of the Ohio presidential vote, citing irregularities.

In the end, it was she alone standing against certification, with 74 of her colleagues - including Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and 33 other Democrats - favoring the count.

And last week, Boxer was all over Condoleezza Rice at her confirmation hearing to be President Bush's new secretary of state. Boxer all but called Rice a liar over her statements leading up to the war in Iraq as Bush's national security adviser.

Repeatedly, Rice appealed to Boxer to turn down the attacks.

"We can have this discussion in any way that you would like," Rice said. "But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity."

Boxer never relented, and she and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrats' nominee against Bush in November, cast the only votes against sending Rice's nomination to the Senate floor.

Boxer said in an interview last week that she is not the new diva of demagoguery.

"I was just doing my job, like I've always done it before," she said.

Not only does she understand what it means to have a pair of big of brass ones, she can become the voice of the opposition we all desire; she has support from her kind of people - us Democrats that don't believe in carrying water for the Administration.
"There is a sense among a lot of Democrats that it is very important not to give Bush a free ride, at any point," she said.

In the interview, Boxer said she doesn't believe her November election margin changes anything, except to give her another Senate term that, as it happens, won't end until two years after Bush is out of office.

"I don't believe in mandates," she said.

"But what I do believe in is keeping promises to the people," she said. "I told them election night - and I didn't know how prophetic this was - that if I had to stand alone, I will do it. I am not afraid."

Go Barbara, we're behind you! And go visit this new blog: President Boxer!

Funeral Games

Last Summer, Bush was very impressed that the planning of Reagan's funeral started right after Reagan's inauguration. He wanted to do the same this time around. Thus, he asked his Chief of Staff, Andy Card, to look into suitable burial places befitting his fervent religious convictions.

So, this morning they met go over the options for burial plots. The first suggestion was Arlington Cemetery. Bush mulled it over and said, "I dunno, I can just see all my critics bringing up me bein' AWOL again and it's not religious enuff. What else have you got?"

"Well, we can have you buried at The Vatican." replied Card.

"Andy, Andy, Andy, you know I'm not Catholic and the Pope dared to criticize my war! It just won't do." exclaimed Bush, petulantly..

"OK, then. We can have you entombed in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulcher. Only, the Israelis want 500 Million Dollars," explained Card.

"Five Hunnerd Million Dollars?" cried Bush. "Didn't you tell 'em I only plan on staying for 3 days and nights?"

My thoughts on The Address

George took us new levels with his 'Be Free or Perish' proclamation. When he said, "America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," he really meant 'Gunboat Democracy' and 'Falling-Dollar Diplomacy' are the course of action to expect in the next four years.

Bush said he will fight tyrants and oppressors unless, of course, they are our allies - the rest he will meet half way by installing a wee bit of the tyranny here at home.

He went on to say, "By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well..." and are burning down the house, "...a fire in the minds of men." No wonder they want to get rid of all those asbestos claims. Just don't try that freedom in a crowded theater.

At least he was humble when he extolled, "And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free." As long as America is good we don't need to bring up the disaster of Iraq, or mentioned the name of Osama, nor talk about Guantanamo Bay.

Other than that, it was a totally unmemorable address.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Has W Been Licking Frogs?

Just like many of us when Bush W. Bush speaks, Tom Tomorrow goes

Bush said it's important to celebrate a 'peaceful transfer of power' and that he suspects inauguration guests have been generous in donating to tsunami victims. 'You can be equally concerned about our troops in Iraq and those who suffered at the tsunamis with celebrating democracy,' he said.

Peaceful transfer of power?

He, uh, does know that he's been president for the past four years, right?"

It's not like many of us could forget that...

Freedom Blog Awards

The fine folks from reporters sans frontières, aka Reporters Without Borders, are requesting nominations for outstanding blogs worldwide. Submissions should be sent to Include the web address or for the blog and a short description. The blogger need not be identified by name.
Reporters Without Borders invites Internet users to submit outstanding examples of blogs* defending free expression from which a shortlist will be compiled for an online vote to choose the best.

We want to draw attention to the importance of weblogs in countries where the traditional press is under the control of the authorities. Throughout the world, Internet users are adopting this new tool to combat censorship and circulate independent news and information.

*See here for selection criteria.

Looking through my blogroll and bookmarks, the blogger who fits the description best is Riverbend.

(Via The Blog Herald)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

He's Holder Not a Folder

Playing cards with George Bush should be an easy thing. He has a tell, he opens his mouth; sometimes he mentions his gut. If you wannt to know what I mean, then read Bush's Bluff.
Politicians, like professional poker players, lie too well.

If international politics were like one big game of Texas hold'em, then this can be said about U.S. Iraq policy: President Bush didn't have a hand.

But he sure bet on it like he held the best cards in the hole -- two aces, A-A, pocket rockets.

Bush sent a few rockets and U.S. troops to fight his war. But now his hand has been exposed.

And he had nothing.

Just a costly flop of a war.

What did we lose? Not chips.

At last count, nearly 1,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed; another 10,000 have come home wounded.

Bush's justification for war -- that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- was just a stone-cold bluff.

There were no weapons of mass destruction. The only things Bush pre-empted were the facts.

Last week, with a whimper, and with hardly the coverage you'll see devoted to this week's "Emperor Has No Clothes" inaugural, officials announced that the search for the elusive WMD is officially over.

You'll recall Bush said Saddam Hussein had them, gosh durn it, and he acted as if Saddam did.

Now we're told the 1,700-strong Iraq Survey Group (ISG), responsible for the hunt, has wrapped up physical searches for weapons of mass destruction and will now gather information to help U.S. forces in the guerrilla war.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who led the ISG's weapons search, is back home and will issue a final addendum to his September report concluding quietly that Iraq had no stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and its nuclear program had deteriorated before last year's U.S.-led invasion.

So, in the words of Country Joe McDonald, "What are we fighting for?"

Bush is trying to answer that one. Just not very well.

He's spinning. But it's painful.

"I felt like we would find weapons of mass destruction ... like many -- many here in the United States, many around the world," Bush told ABC's Barbara Walters in an interview aired last week.

Bush said, "We need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering" and that the invasion was "absolutely" worth it even if there were no weapons of mass destruction.(More)

Too bad the chips he's playing with are the lives of Americans, soldiers and citizens. And when he raises the ante, you know some families in other parts of the world are going to be paying for it...

"99 Luftballons"

The folks atBuck Fush suggest that you be really, really careful with your ballons if you're in, or around, DC this Thursday...

Reaching Out During Inaugural Address

Bush To Give Inaugural Address In Aramaic
White House speech writers confirmed that President Bush will give his inaugural address in Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus. Bush’s senior advisor, Karl Rove, said that the president is doing this to unite the nation.

“We had a divisive campaign and the president wanted to show that he’s reaching out to all Americans, except the heathens, by speaking the language of our lord and savior,” Rove explained.

Bush will also use coded biblical references in his address to make it clear to his evangelical supports that he believes Jesus supports partial privatization of Social Security as well as a cap on medical malpractice suits.

“The president will set the tone for his second term by offering an olive branch to Democrats. They’ll have a choice to agree to his policies without change or rot in burning hell for eternity,” Rove said.

Heh, indubitably.

(Via BuzzFlash)

The Republican Yes/No Quiz

Jesse, at Pandagon, is hosting The Republican Yes/No Quiz. It starts with these instructions, "Please answer the following questions yes or no. If you consider them unfair, it is because you are a fascist scumsucking fascist."

Here are some of my favs:
1.) Do you think a significant number of Democrats want to take money from you and give it to heroin addicts in Berkeley?

3.) If I took a group of ten of your closest relatives, imprisoned them for crimes they likely didn't commit, and then made them strip naked, pile on each other, and proceeded to berate, humiliate, and abuse them, would it take you longer than an hour to tell me I did the right thing and they went through nothing worse than a normal hazing?

6.) Do you think there is a significant chance that the Swift Boat Veterans could have been telling the truth if they got combat medals for events during which they declared no combat occured?

10.) Was Ann Coulter right when she said, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"?

12.) In your opinion, does God hate America because of the ACLU, NARAL, PFLAG, or any other liberal group?

18.) Do you think it's wrong for the President to put the welfare of poorer citizens ahead of the welfare of richer citizens?

24.) In your opinion, is ramming things nonconsensually up the anuses of others acceptable, "frat house" behavior?

26.) Do you believe that anyone arrested for terrorism is necessarily guilty of the crimes of which they are accused?

29.) Do you believe that Bill Clinton has ever had a political rival and/or witness to his "crimes" killed?

35.) Do you think supply-side economics could work if we just did it correctly?

40.) Do you believe there is a significant difference between John Kerry's vote against the $87 billion appropriations bill for Iraq and Bush's threatened veto of the same bill?

Techie Tuesday: Fridgy

Have you hugged your Fridgy today? Posted by Hello

I can see this folding fridge sprouting up in college dorms rooms across the world. Cute and comfortable, it could also double as a pillow. Or, maybe it is one more thing to pack for spring-break.
In the words of the designer: Fridgy - A small, light, soft, folding portable refrigirator. Its aim: to break the "refrigeratorness" of the common refrigerator, to deconstruct that old heavy square we all know so well while giving it more character. Fridgy's soft insulating cover is a double layer of non-absorbent fabric filled with polyester fibers. The cover has a door with a zipper Its cooling mechanism uses thermo-electric technology based on the Peltier Effect.

Here is some homework on the Peltier Effect.

(Via Gizmodo)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Black Ethan

White home-boy speaks Dawg, was a business major who doesn't know what the invisible hand is, but he believes in the Market and pussy.

Sample conversation:
"Let's go out, I'll get a forty and you get a twenty", he says to almost sleeping guy (now, this wasn't about a bindle or a bag but an ATM withdrawal).

"You know you can't get a hooker for under a hundred," says the token Republican

"No, we gotta go out!" exclaims homeboy.

"Chill out," says almost sleeping guy, who's wearing team emblazoned shorts - despite the weather.

"You ain't gonna' meet a girl fucked up like you are, hang a bit," says I.

"I don't care, I'll weasel and diesel her,dawg."

Sometimes, I almost think English should be taught as the first language.

Mushroom Clouding the Issue

Tim Russert is a hostile douchebag enema bag, a shill for the Right, and a lousy interviewer. He sound more like a prosecutor than a journalist. He steps on the answers of his target not letting them finish, he interrupts - throwing people off their stride.

I like Rahm Emanuel from what I've seen of him. A decent stand up guy. But now that he is DCCC chairman he needs to take a course in debate. In this morning's interview on Meatgrinder Press, he was on the defensive. It was painful to watch.

For example, when the question was asked, "Now that we know there aren't WMD's in Iraq would you have voted for the War?"

First of all this is total tripe. Has anyone in DC or the News read the IRAQ WAR RESOLUTION?
Key graph:
Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations; Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

If you take everything away everything that we know today you are left with:

Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population


failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

Would that been enough reason to go to War with it's associated costs? Basically Congress authorized the President to go to war if there were WMD's and ties to the 9/11 terrorist attack. It is no wonder that this is marketing the White House chose to further it ambitions.

So the question, "Would you vote for the war today," is not an honest question but a mouthful of rhetoric designed to cloud the issue. I just wish for once that someone would point that out...

Update:Spelling and grammar changes due to popular demand (see comments for details).

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bush Can't Face the Children

From PSoTD comes this story that both dismays me and gives me hope.

Student Protests as Only 75 Classmates Get to Hear Bush Speak at J.E.B. Stuart
A J.E.B. Stuart High School student was "informally suspended" yesterday for circulating a flier protesting the exclusion of over 1,400 of his classmates from a speech delivered by President George Bush in the school's gym.

The gym was packed yesterday morning with mostly adult political supporters of the president, who had received tickets to attend the speech, and local politicians. Many were adorned with "GOP" or "Bush" lapel buttons and cuff links. Only 75 students from the school were invited, carefully pre-selected based on recommendations by the school's teachers. The president, ironically, spoke on the subject of his "No Child Left Behind" educational initiative.

To Stuart High student Arash Almasi, he and his 1,400 excluded classmates were left behind yesterday, and he said so in his flier. What riled him was that the entire student body had originally been told it would be invited to see the president.

When Almasi learned of his suspension Tuesday night, news of the development was reported on National Public Radio. He was told he would not be allowed on school grounds yesterday, and that if his call for a 10 a.m. walkout from Bush's speech materialized more a more serious suspension would ensue.

Prior to Bush's speech yesterday, Fairfax County School Board member Kaye Kory spoke sympathetically about Almasi's protest. "He wanted this experience for all the kids," she told the News-Press as the event was about to begin. "As it is, only 75 of the highest achievers have been invited here." Kory's daughter, Caroline, is a senior at the school and was among those invited.

Perhaps unaware of the makeup of the crowd, President Bush opened his remarks by saying, "I want to thank all the students here today."

He went on to heap praise on recent years' achievements at Stuart High under the direction of Principal Mel Riddile...

I wonder if the 75 student had to sign loyaly oaths? I am dismayed that Bush handlers were worried about letting him near a rough and tumble group of teens, that if you stick up for what is promised, or challenge consessions made for a select few, you get punished. What message does that send the children, remember the children...
In a related development, Del. Hull announced yesterday that he's submitted a House Joint Resolution in Richmond commending J.E.B. Stuart High for its "significant achievements." It notes the "dramatic improvement in the academic improvement of its students," 73% of whom are members of a minority group, 70% being born outside the U.S., 13% with disabilities and 54% qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. It notes that despite these demographics, the school enjoys a 96% attendance rate and 90% graduation rate with 90% of its graduates going onto post-secondary education

However I have hope that these stage-managed affairs (using students as props) is a GOP message that is not lost on these school kids. I believe a new generation of Bush sceptics are being spawned - this gives me hope.
Saturn Riddle wrote: So our oh-so-wonderful (haha JUST KIDDING!) President of the United States George W. Bush (Jorge Boooosh.) came to Stuart today. It was insane. There were snipers all over the rof and Secret Service people EVERYWHERE. Oh and Karl Rove standing in the corner looking shady going "heh heh heh". Gah. *makes stabbing motion with hand* Eeeeevil.

So Bush gave his little speech to those select juniors and seniors and Riddile sucked up like whoa, then my government class went through security to get into this random classroom by the gym and then he came in. So he was talking about No Child Left Behind and then suddenly...

"You need to know the truth about the war in Iraq."





I was like "Oh my god. What the fuck is he doing?!" UGH. It was really annoying. Constant BS. Yadda yadda yadda.(ed- there's more, very much more)

These students will be of voting age soon, very soon...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Sometimes the Truth is Not Enough

You gotta' see Mark Fiore's version of the Truth.

BARBARians Roll into the City

Mark your calendars! In two weeks time there will be another Bay Area Resident Bloggers and Readers' meeting for stimulating drinks and/or conversation.

We will meet up on Thursday, January 27, from 6-9pm at The Uptown on 17th and Capp in San Francisco. It is 1 block south and 1 block east of the 16th Street Mission Bart station.

Come and meet Local Blogging Luminaries recount of great posts unwritten. Also see who brings a dirk to a knife fight (sorry, inside joke) and help console King of Zembla and Scamboogah over the thrashing they will have received in the Koufax Awards.

Update: I did a recon of the this cozy dive last night on the way home from watching a great play-off game. I stayed for one beer (I swear only one) and learned that there is great selection of beer on tap in the $3-$4 range. The bartenders are friendly even when Saturday-night-busy. There is group of couches that remind me of good furniture that can be found on Big Garbage Day, or my first apartment. Also, there is a room off to the side with pool table that takes quarters. In other words, this is the perfect bar that should be on every neighborhood's corner. To top it off, it was only a four minute walk to Bart.

If elected I will not swerve...

I am up for two Koufax Awards (for lefties by lefties) in the categories for

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition


Most Humorous Post for this gem: Bush Playing with Saddam's Pistol.

There are many great bloggers on display there. You vote by leaving your choice in the comments. Just remember where your loyalties lie...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Martyr Syndrome

File this under Why do we need to know this right now?
'Torture' to uncover brain secret. Volunteers are to undergo torture to see if faith eases pain.

Oxford University scientists will carry out experiments on hundreds of people in a bid to understand how the brain works during states of consciousness.

One aspect of the two-year study will involve followers of both religious and secular beliefs being burnt to see if they can handle more pain than others.

Some volunteers will be shown religious symbols such as crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary during the torture.

Will they force them to listen to Rap music? Will they use the Pain Box from Dune? Just how will the test subject suffer for science? Let's see:
The team from the newly-formed Centre for Science of the Mind also want to include people with survival techniques in the torture experiments, which may help the special forces easily identify people with high pain thresholds.

Volunteers will have a gel containing chilli powder or heat-pad applied to the back of their hand to simulate pain.


A team of neurologists, pharmacologists and anatomists will then analyse how people react by using brain scans.

Another part of the research involves tests using anaesthetic, to see what effect it has on the brain and why some people need higher doses to make them unconscious.

Baroness Greenfield, director of the centre, said 20 years ago scientists had shied away from studying the brain in such away but that was now changing.

"We want to find out what the brain is doing, how it is working when we are having feelings and most importantly of all when we are conscious.

All I can say is they better pay well...

(via Metafilter)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Techie Tuesday: Mini Mac & Macworld

Comparisons of cranial capacity?!? Posted by Hello

This Techie Tuesday is not an ordinary an ordinary day but a Macworld day. Finally the purveyors of computer chic have offered an Apple base station that can give all those entry level buyers a taste of seeing beyond the windows.

The new Mini Mac is comparable to size of the first Walkman. Their earlier attempt at the small form-factor, which for the life of me reminded me of a tissue box holder my Grandmad kept in the bathroom.

If you want to see many of the pretty picures go look at them over at Gizmodo. I think this perfect for people that have a lot extra keyboards, monitors, and mice laying around since this doesn't come with any of that.

Also, it was announced that Imovie will now support High Def video. I think that's cool, eventhough it is not a profession video editing program. If you have time and bandwidth check out this wonderfully Imovie edited piece: Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone.

Monday, January 10, 2005

It is not an option

When I first heard about the Newsweek article The Salvadoran Option, I thought the Administration had taken leave of its senses and had finally figured out a way to get rid of the surpluse "Vote or Die," merchandise.

The crux of the plan is this:
Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."(Emphasis added)

So we have to make the Sunni population pay for not supporting our liberation of them. Notwithstanding the proponents of such an idea are officials appointed by the US occupation forces. Can you say puppet government? Just like Central Amercan under Reagan. Hey, maybe they can sell off the bumper crop of opium in Afghanistan to pay for this exercise of democracy building. You know, kill two birds and all...

Of all the post about this Billmon does it best. He's opened the bar today and is handing out doubly strong shots like this:
One [Salvadoran] death squad member, when asked about the types of tortures used, replied: "Uh, well, the same things you did in Vietnam. We learned from you. We learned from you the means, like blowtorches in the armpits, shots in the balls. But for the "toughest ones" — that is, those who resist these other tortures — "we have to pop their eyes out with a spoon. You have to film it to believe it, but boy, they sure sing."

Sometimes I don't think we even understand what the High Moral Ground means.

Local Kid Does Well...

Fellow Bay Area Blogger, Scamboogah, is up for a Koufax Award for Best New Blog.

Check out the list and kick down a vote for our friend - if you dare.

(Hey, Drew you should go vote for yourself)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Friday Factoid

I used to be a top model and a top fencer... Posted by Hello

Part of my New Year's resolution was to release personal information about myself. Not anything like my name, social security number, or home address. I don't need people who don't know me arguing over trivia like my personal life.

This blog is supposed to be about ideas, idearrs for those of you in the North-East.

Some twenty, or so, years ago, I was wicked with a blade. Traipse around Europe doing the World Cup. I fell into the modeling gig because what is an American 'WetBack' gonna' do to make a living?

I made commercials. I walked the catwalk for the likes of Versace, Gucci, Trussardi, et al. You could see my likeness in the cardboard inserts for pajama and underwear packaging at Euromarche, the equivalent of Walmart. A professional coathanger, nothing more.

That was twenty years ago and - 30 pounds ago. And of all the wonderful people and assholes I knew back then - not one of then has a blog...

Update: in the comments John asks if I still fence at all. My response was way too large for the comments page.

The short answer is yes, no, maybe.

Just last night I had my old coach over trying to get me help him with his fencing school and to go for a masters license.

My problem is I once competed on the highest levels, trained with World Cup champions, and medalled in tournaments with hundreds of entries. Most of this was in Europe where fencing is treated as a real sport. As a martial art it is the only one I know of where you can totally surrender to spirit of combat and feel free that no one will get hurt.

Returning to local competitions where the turnout was the same handful of fencers, I lost the zeal that drove me to compete. The local jealousies, the petty loyalties to style, and the politics of personalities drove me away. Maybe I felt like a big fish in a small pond. Maybe I felt that this was beneath me. Maybe I was an asshole.

Over the last 25 years I have competed, coached, refereed, organized competitions, been part of the local league, and even video taped with large screen projection of youth tournaments. Yet most of my medals are in a trunk, albeit I have few swords and a mask as a wall decoration.

This last year I have dreamed about fencing. Never about the actual combat but rather about registering for an important competition and trying to get there in time. While active in the sport I never dreamed about it except once when I was nineteen.

It was a dark and stormy night (hey, I didn’t write the dream) and an armed man, dressed in black and very, very pre-emptive bald, entered the room of what could only be called a rustic inn. And he says to me, “ So, you think you are the Champion.”

I am armed with a knitting needle (a fucking knitting needle?) and wound the attacking man in the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder. After showing such great fencing technique and point control, he grapples with me whereupon I proceed to saw off his head with a fucking knitting needle, before we both plunge through the plate glass window.

The next scene in the dream sequence is searching for my body, lantern held high, during a dark and stormy night in the bluffs below the inn with a broken window.

Weird, huh? Thank God I don’t have many dreams of this sort.

I have never really fantasized about seeking a libertarian justice in the court of last resort - not in my nature. For some that might contradict my choice of using Scaramouche as a pen name. Although, I do understand the concept of dueling having written papers in high school and college on the matter, I am sure I could kick Zell Miller’s ass if it came to swords.

Sometimes I wish I stuck to pole vaulting….

John, I don't think you want the long answer.

StrangerThan Fiction?

Or, as Paul Krugman thinks - it is Worse Than Fiction:
I"'ve been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won't be any nuance: the villains won't just espouse an ideology I disagree with - they'll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator's diatribe against gay marriage will link it to 'man on dog' sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a 'good man' who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.

In my bad novel, a TV personality who claims to stand up for regular Americans against the elite will pay a large settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which he used his position of power to - on second thought, that story is too embarrassing even for a bad novel.

In my bad novel, apologists for the administration will charge foreign policy critics with anti-Semitism. But they will be silent when a prominent conservative declares that 'Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.'

In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan 'support the troops' to suppress criticism of its war policy. But it will ignore repeated complaints that the troops lack armor.

The secretary of defense - another 'good man,' according to the president - won't even bother signing letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.

Last but not least, in my bad novel the president, who portrays himself as the defender of good against evil, will preside over the widespread use of torture." (More)

Sometimes the actions of the right-wing is scripted more like an episode from the Twilight Zone.

(Via Smirking Chimp)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

This Savage has no soul

Last Friday Michael Savage, neé Weiner, demonstrated his lack of a human soul on his show, Savage Nation, with his comments on the tsunami.

After equating local SF Bay Area weather as needing international aid- in order to mock the charitable outpouring for tsunami survivors- he goes on to ponder the theological point of whether God's was punishing these people. He concludes that because there is some 'Radical Islam' in the area they don't deserve our help. With a complete lack or sense of decency, he says:
We shouldn't be spending a nickel on this, as far as I'm concerned. ... I don't want one nickel of my money going over there. ... I am sick of being bled to death by every damn incident on the earth.

If you want to hear it yourself, listen here

My God, it's the greatest natural disaster in recent history and he can't give a damn, won't give a damn, and is more concerned with the amount of change in his pocket.

What a jerkwad!

Woe unto thee

Have you ever tried to get in the last word with a sanctimonious bible thumping conservative. Now you can. Find the perfect put down in a language they will understand with The Biblical Curse Generator.

(Via Information Junk)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Make Your Own Masterpiece

I call it, "Rose Colored Night-Vision Goggles."  Posted by Hello

Artpad is a cool little app but the lawerying in the terms of use is insane.

(Via Flabbergasted)

Tragic Aid

Years ago, during the first Gulf War, I worked for a news producer who went on assignment in the Kurdish north of Iraq. He told me how the food supplies were dropped by parachute from cargo planes on the refugees camps. A number of desperate people were killed by the pallets as the landed. Truly a sad situation.

That's why this story creeped me out.
U.S. helicopter drops load of aid supplies into Indonesian mall
A load of relief supplies slung under a U.S. military helicopter fell and slammed into a car parked at a shopping mall in the Indonesian city of Medan early Wednesday, local officials said.

Provincial government spokesman Eddy Sofyan said there were no injuries but that one car parked at the mall was damaged.

Sofyan said the North Sumatra provincial government wants U.S. forces to stop transporting heavy loads of aid in nets hanging below helicopters.

The Navy was investigating and cooperating with local officials, said Navy spokesman Lt. Billy Ray Davis. It was not immediately clear if the Navy had changed the way it delivered aid.(More)

I hope history doesn't repeat itself here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Unconfirmed Sources Newsflash: George W. Bush Cancels Inauguration Day Festivities to Donate Money to Tsunami Relief Efforts!
Unconfirmed Sources indicate that The President is so heart broken over the loss of life in South Asia that he has decided to donate all the money raised for his inauguration to Tsunami related relief efforts. All 35 inauguration day events have been cancelled and the actual ceremony has even been scaled back to save money. The total amount of money donated will exceed 50 million dollars. Relief agencies are greeting the news with joy and are already making plans to spend the money.

"It's the right thing to do." Said White House spokesmen Ben Lion. "The President is a god fearing compassionate man and he just could not see himself sipping champagne with rich muckety mucks when the world is in such great need. He is already the President so this lavish spending is wasteful when the money could be spent to save the lives of thousands of people in peril in Southeast Asia.

"This is really going to set the stage for a revitalized role for the U.S. in the region." Noted Henry Kissinger. "President Bush is taking this opportunity to prove that the U.S. is a real team player on the world stage, and not just some neo-colonialist bully throwing its weight around. I'm looking forward to more leadership of this kind out of the White House in the coming years.(more)

Maybe in an alternate universe somewhere, somewhen...

(Via Buzzflash)

The rules are there for a reason

Thomas J. Raleigh, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, had this to say about

Why we can't afford to dehumanize an enemy:
Ooh Rahh! Kill them all and let their god sort them out.

This is one of many disturbing comments (in this case from someone who identifies himself as a Marine named Clay) that have appeared in an online petition that will eventually be sent to Congress in support of the Marine involved in last month's shooting of a wounded insurgent in a Fallujah mosque.

Many who signed this petition (more than 340,000) are, I'm sure, reasonable people concerned about a military man in a tough situation. But sadly, there are also those -- like the author of the sentiments above -- who believe that the deviousness of our enemies would justify us in abandoning our values and principles on the battlefield. This is a dangerous view, for both moral and practical reasons.

Clay's comment, and others like it, prompted me to recall the advice I once heard from a battalion commander I served under nearly 20 years ago. Lt. Col. James Gribshaw Jr., a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, was known among those in his platoon as "the Magnet" -- a reference to the peculiar attraction his body seemed to hold for shrapnel. One day in 1987, he and I were observing a training exercise at Fort Lewis, Wash.: a platoon setting an ambush. It was a textbook operation, save for one glitch. After the assault, when the prisoner-search team returned to the kill zone, a soldier shot a wounded enemy role-player, calling him an "[expletive] gook."

Gribshaw was to lead the discussion reviewing the lessons learned from the exercise. I expected him to focus on the sound tactics the platoon demonstrated during the operation. He didn't. Instead he said some things that have stuck with me to this day. I'm reconstructing his talk here from memory, but I'd vouch for its being about 95 percent correct:

A soldier in this platoon shot a wounded man today. You cannot do that.

You will find yourself in combat someday. And then you are going to go home, where you will have to live with what you have done -- to accomplish your mission, to stay alive, to keep your buddy alive.

When you assault across a kill zone, you do so violently; if you hesitate, you die. However, later, during the search -- different story. If an enemy soldier is wounded, you can't kill him. If the tactical situation does not permit you to evacuate him, do what you can to relieve his suffering, and continue the mission.

Your enemy is a combatant, a human being. He is not a "gook" or a "slope." If you dehumanize your enemy, you will dehumanize yourself, and you will do things that you will regret. And you won't go home with honor. We made a mistake today. That's why we train. Learn from this. Questions? (More)

The laws and conventions regarding war crimes are there, not so much to protect the enemy, but rather, to protect the humanity of soldiers, which in a time war can bring about the worst side of our species.

(via Smirking Chimp)

Gmail Give-A-Way

Thanks to Avedon Carol I have a new gmail address which can be found on my profile page. So in the spirit of giving I have 4 Gmail invitations to give-a-way.

Leave you request in the comments below.

Techie Tuesday: StroboPick

Function over form. Posted by Hello

What's the difference between a fish and a guitar? You can't tune a fish...And I can't really tune a guitar.

But now for only $34.95 I can - with the aid of the ugly, but utilitarian, StroboPick.
StroboPick is a miniature stroboscopic guitar tuner.

By shining a flashing light at a vibrating string you can clearly see whether the string is in tune with the light source. StroboPick emits 6 light frequencies matching standard guitar tuning with great precision.

StroboPick is a passive device - it does not plug into your guitar, doesn't have a microphone or any other sensor. It does not know what note you are playing. It simply emits light at the required frequency. StroboPick makes it very obvious for you to see when a string is out of tune.

For your convenience, StroboPick has a tiny speaker (the black cylinder on the left). The speaker simultaneously emits the tone corresponding to the string you are tuning. Every press of the button on StroboPick advances the frequency to the next string, from low E to A,D,G,B and finally high E.

Many musicians know about the high accuracy of stroboscopic tuners. StroboPick is no exception: it is possible to tune your guitar to as close as 1/10 of 1 cent (1/1000 of a semitone) simply by tuning until the colored reflections on the string stop moving. If you don't care about such precision - just tune until the reflections sort of slow down!

See it action! It's rather cool yet could use a makeover.

(Via Gizmodo)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Baghdad Burning: New Year and Elections

Let's turn an eye to the upcoming elections in Iraq. Rather, let's listen to an eye witness:
The elections are set for the 29th. It's an interesting situation. The different sects and factions just can't seem to agree. Sunni Arabs are going to boycott elections. It's not about religion or fatwas or any of that so much as the principle of holding elections while you are under occupation. People don't really sense that this is the first stepping stone to democracy as western media is implying. Many people sense that this is just the final act of a really bad play. It's the tying of the ribbon on the "democracy parcel" we've been handed. It's being stuck with an occupation government that has been labeled 'legitimate' through elections.

We're being bombarded with cute Iraqi commercials of happy Iraqi families preparing to vote. Signs and billboards remind us that the elections are getting closer...

Can you just imagine what our history books are going to look like 20 years from now?

"The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates..."

It won't look good.

There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold.

Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.

All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome.

American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right.

Fatwas. Fear of assasination. It really puts the 'negative' into negative campaigning...

Wounded Pride Works Wonders

I am happy to see the international pissing contest over who is least 'stingy' has had such excellent results. To be fair, I think that there would have been an outpouring of aid to the disaster victims, however the reaction to a Norwegian's criticism sure upped the ante.

UN Reports Over $2 Billion In Tsunami Relief Pledges
With some 40 countries offering support for the victims of the tsunami disaster, over $2 billion in pledges had already been recorded for the emergency and recovery phase, a senior United Nations relief official said today.

That was more than all of the pledges to all humanitarian appeals in 2004 combined, Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

The international compassion had never ever been like this, Mr. Egeland said, noting that Japan's extremely generous pledge of $500 million was the biggest so far. There were also huge pledges from the United States and the World Bank for the recovery and rehabilitation phase, as well as from the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom, Sweden, China, the European Union, and many other partners.