Saturday, January 29, 2005


Two bumper stickers spotted today:

"Don't like gay marriages? Then don't get one!"

"Isn't a smoking area in a restaurant kind of like a peeing area in a swimming pool?"

Thursday, January 27, 2005

America's Royal Families

Interesting, I was just thinking about this topic recently, and came upon this article in The Economist today. It describes a progression of US culture that we are vaguely aware of at its component level, yet rarely admit at the macro level. We still proudly state the national myth "in America any boy [sic] can grow up to be president!", yet that is not practical or realistic. In fact, if you look at the most successful 500 people in the US (defined in terms of wealth and power), I doubt you'll find any stories of a nobody arriving at America's shores with 50 cents in his pocket.

Which leads to a sidebar issue, that is, how we define success. Is the CEO of America really more successful than the social worker meeting all of his/her subsistance needs, and very comfortable in their skin? That for another rant.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Andy Rants

What's the deal with Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes? Is this just a sweetheart deal that CBS is willing to take a hit on? I don't get why he's afforded national airtime in primetime, rather than any other kook in the US. Does he have pictures of Moonves or something? Help me get it, please......

Owning a Broken Country

Like a lot of folks who were dead set against invading a sovereign country (which posed no threat to us) I believed that once in, pulling out before the country was stable, safe and secure would be even more irresponsible. An Illinois congresswoman (Shakowski-D I believe) made an interesting argument against that opinion on lefty talk radio today.

Framed within her justification of voting against the latest $80B W has requested, she made a very practical point. It would be good money after bad, which will yield the same progress in Iraq as the previous $200B has; that is, none. Conditions are growing increasingly more violent, services and infrastructure are not being built, and oil is not flowing as predicted. The largest obstacle to progress, she contends, is the occupier's continued presence. And while she acknowledged that there was considerable risk in leaving an anarchistic vacuum, our current plan is going nowhere.

Interesting food for thought.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What Gay Marriage Amendment?

One of the leftie radio pundits pointed out that we've heard nothing of the Gay Marriage Amendment since the Nov. 2 election. When I think about it, I believe he's right. Prior to the election, it was a daily part of the news, a large part. After, we go to election problems, cabinet resignations, replacement nominees. No more GMA.

If this anecdotal observation is in fact true it speaks volumes about the way national campaigns are run today. Years ago we would point to 2-3 broken campaign promises as we criticized a sitting president ("read my lips--no new taxes!"). It will be interesting to see if ANYTHING Bush said during the '04 campaign comes to pass. The real issues never grew legs while the media happily saturated us with smokescreens like GMA, designed to polarize us. Its hard to believe that a large, semi-sophisticated nation and its news organizations can be so easily manipulated.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bridging The Neo-Con Divide

Now that the nightmare of a second W term has proved to be a waking reality (a $35+M reality, and that's just a start), one tries to make sense of the phenomenon once called the "religious right", now "neo-cons". Thought to be a dying breed in the late 80s early 90s, the W age has laid bare the embers of a group patiently waiting for their turn, while pretending to be part of a modern, progressive, tolerant, increasingly enlightened society.

It seems at times hard to even find the language to communicate in a constructive and meaningful way with that bunch, their whole world consisting of simple, closed ended, non-negotiable bizarre interpretation of select parts of the King James Bible. To compromise, even to tolerate other points of view as legitimate is seen as a weakness to them, the beginning of the path to moral ruin. Logic, science, and reason play no part in the infrastructure of their lives (note the recent interview with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on ABC conducted by George Stephanopoulos. Frist, an accomplished physician and surgeon, when asked if HIV can be transmitted by sweat or tears, refused to plainly say "no, it can't" or even "there's no evidence to support that". The question was sparked by a statement in an administration-backed abstinence-only program which stated that it was possible). Indeed, there seems to be little ideological difference between them and the extremists they are trying so hard to smite in the Middle East. Where to start with them.......

I was pleased recently with a guest on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, a gentleman by the name of Jim Wallis. Jon introduced him as a christian evangelist, or some such thing, and plugged his new book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (Harper Collins, 2005). Immediately, my reaction was one of "time to turn the TV off".

Something made me listen, however (more than the righties would have done!), and I was surprised at what I heard. While I'm sure there's plenty Mr. Wallis and I could disagree on, I found that there's also plenty we can agree on; he may be, in effect, part of that bridge I was looking for, part of a growing group speaking out against the hijacking of christianity by the extreme right. I've long believed that a number of people hiding behind the sword and shield of being self-proclaimed "christians" actually conduct their lives in direct conflict with true christian principles. But Jim points this out very eloquently in several statments made for the TV soundbite age. He wants to know since when has christian principles mandated that we invade countries under false pretenses, trash the environment, embrace the rich, and ignore the poor, hungry & sick? He asks as well, since when did the republicans corner the morals market? At the same time he takes a shot at the lefties, asking why one has to push faith in god aside to promote and pursue a progressive social, environmental, and economic agenda (this one puzzles me; I was unaware that this was a requirement, in fact, folk from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to John Kerry have repeatedly affirmed the importance of faith in their lives. Maybe it is a misunderstanding of the fact that by nature, a progressive is more open to question the existence of one, omnipotent god.)? He questions why the righties pass over some 3000 mentions of caring for the poor and sick in the bible, and focus with laser-like vision on the perceived anti-gay passages (the "god, guns, and gays" focus of the righties).

This latter point was also discussed on an Air America program I happened to hear yesterday. The guest was questioning why the righties (particularly the "Left Behind" series nuts) wallow in the fire and brimstone language of the metaphorical Old Testament, then jump right to the Book of Revelations, completely ignoring the love, peace, and charity messages that make up the vast majority of the New Testament. He pointed in particular to Matthew 25:41-46.

This seems to me a place to start, to return the idea of spirituality and morality to the mainstream, and as a personal matter, regardless of religious or political persuasion.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


We're happy to have an addition to the family, an approx. 4 year old tortoiseshell domestic shorthair female kitty named Noel, appropriate for the holidays. Will post pics when I figure out how to use blogger's pic link program. Hooray, she missed the cut at the pound! Good thing she wasn't in the pound in Tejas.........

Monday, January 17, 2005

Libyan Cigars

With the mainstream US press being asleep at the switch again, two events (with a very ironic relationship) occurred in late 2003 and 2004 which received very little investigative reporting or journalistic scrutiny. They are the strengthing of the 43 year old economic sanctions against Cuba, and the lifting of 12 year old sanctions against Libya. First, some background:

Two military men--one in 1959 , the other in 1969--staged military or paramilitary coups to gain governing rule of their respective countries. Each went on to rule his respective country as a dictator, some would say as a despot. I'm talking of course about Fidel Castro and Colonel Muammar al-Quadhafi, of Cuba and Libya respectively.

The Cuban revolution and Cuba's new leader posed no threat to the US, other than repelling a US backed invasion in 1961, the so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, and allowing the USSR to locate strategic nuclear missiles on the island-nation, triggering the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. As we know, President John F. Kennedy was ultimately successful at having the missiles removed without the use of force. Since 1962 Cuba has not posed a military threat to the US or the world. In 1961 the US imposed crippling economic sanctions and a travel embargo against Cuba, in place to this day.

In contrast, Colonel Qadhafi chose to influence change in the world through unconventional means, often targeting the US and the West. From the CIA World Factbook:

"He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism."

Read: IRA, Abu Nidal, Islamic Jihad among others.

In addition he directly managed acts of terrorism, the most infamous of which were the 1986 bombing of a German discotheque where American military personnel were known to congregate, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. The US and the UN imposed economic sanctions against Libya in 1992, effectively ending American business presence there (primarily oil concerns).

So the very same bad guy who did all these bad things is still in charge. Yet the Bush administration has decided he's seen the light, and its OK to visit and do business with him. To be fair, the UN began lifting sanctions in 1999 after Libya agreed to be accountable legally and financially for Pan Am 103. But it was in 2004 that the Bush crew expedited the removal of the last barrier preventing US oil companies from doing business in Libya.

In contrast, I can now expect a much greater chance of being caught if I travel to Cuba (with increased resources being dedicated to finding these lawbreakers), and a greater chance of receiving a hefty fine. All this over ideology, not national security.

I can only hope that Libya makes some kick-ass cigars.....

Friday, January 14, 2005

Social, Security, took care of this lad......not

Wonkette I ain't (our heroine? or gin perhaps? But I can spell.), and I'm not even worthy of polishing the electronic pen of her holiday stand-in, "Anonymous". But still, I try to contribute. One of Madman's muses points out the following paragraphs from the Washington Post:

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.

In addition to their own efforts, White House and RNC officials are working closely with the same outside groups that helped Bush win reelection in 2004, especially Progress for America, a political organization with close ties to Rove. RNC officials have privately told top congressional aides they will work with Progress for America and others to provide political cover through television ads supporting the Bush position and condemning those who oppose it. To coincide with Bush's new drive, Progress for America is running a television ad on Fox and CNN that compares Bush to Franklin Roosevelt, the father of Social Security.

Once the debate intensifies, Progress for America and other pro-Bush groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers plan to target individual congressional members with the precision of an election campaign.

Muse's comments:

These three paragraphs excerpted from a longer article in the Washington Post, 1/14/05 on the Bush Social Security plan. The details came from Republican strategists. These guys just slay me; why try to promote a plan on its own merit when Goebbles-style [sic] propaganda, fear mongering, and character assassination will ensure the job gets done? The notion of what Republicans used to stand for – the public good – just isn’t part of their agenda.

He scares me (both)......

Members Only, Please

Was a lad from the Isle of Wight
Who did not like here what I write
He said with a snort
"I'd like to retort!
But can't log on try as I might!"

Taking Math for Granted

Every so often we see news items like today's story about landing a probe on Saturn's largest moon, Titan (an ESA, or European Space Agency project. I think they're from "Old Europe".....). We give it about 30 seconds of attention (a bit more if there are pictures) as it has become so routine.

I'm not a scientist, but believe I have a reasonable aptitude for some aspects of science so I started to think about this announcement today in a different light. To put it in perspective, a bunch of humans succeded in landing a 2.7 meter, 318 kg probe on an object 1.2 billion km away (the spacecraft actually travelled a distance of nearly twice that due to the indirect route it needed to take), a target with a diameter of a bit more than 5,000 km. I don't know how close it came to its intended landing spot on Titan, but I'll bet it was within 1000 km or so. The journey took a little more than 7 years. Along the way it passed through many conflicting and complementing gravity fields (using many of those for propulsion and course correction), and millions of pieces of space debris. My understanding is that due to the length of the journey (fuel considerations) very few if any earth-originated course corrections were initiated, other than at the very beginning and at the end. Think of a precise billiard shot over that distance, ricocheting off thousands of rails.

Add to that the adjustments needed to the received transmission frequncies due to the Doppler shift between the probe and the orbiting relay ship, Cassini, and that ship relative to the multiple receiving stations on earth.

I realize that most of the calculations were done by a computer; however, the programming for those calculations needed to be extremely precise. Ain't math wonderful.

Amazing...... Or as Matt would say, DEVELOPING..........

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

McCarthyism, modern style

One of the new litmus tests the righties have to ferret out whether or not you're a loyal american is how you answer the following question: Do you believe the US better off or not now that Saddam H is behind bars? If you answer yes, it means you support the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If you answer no, it means you side with the terrorists, al-Qaeda, Uday, Saddam, etc. Kinda a political version of "have you stopped beating your wife?". Simple evaluation, USA Today style. Helen Thomas fell prey to it today; you get sucked into such an argument trying to fend off the McCarthy-esq tarring that the key issue never gets discussed. Kinda like Salem a few centuries ago......

I submit that the USA is less safe due to the invasion of Iraq, and no safer with SH behind bars, as he has never posed a threat to the US. He's a bad guy, but he was once our guy. He never threatened the US (like, say, N. Korea), and was too self-centered, hedonistic, and Western to send a missle with a return address. Time to start looking at the folks in the middle east not as one big group of homogenous "foreigners", but as the different, distinct cultural factions that they are (would you look at folks from NYC, Vancouver BC, and Tulsa as all essentially the same?).

But seriously Dino.......

If one can be a dispassionate, objective observer when considering the recent presidential and Washington State gubernatorial elections, one has to reflect on the folly of considering either side a clear populist choice. A prime example, the WA election, was "won" by something like 130 votes out of 2.8 million cast, a miniscule, insignificant percentage. Its a virtual tie, giving either side the right to claim victory, depending on how you skew the numbers. It just so happened that the lefties out-skewed the righties for a change ( I seriously think the righties' outrage is due to the fact that the lefties finally learned some of their tricks!). So with a virtual tie, one needs a clear, specific, comprehensive process to settle upon a winner. The WA Secretary of State (a righty) has decided that the process was followed to the letter, and certified the results.

Now, leaving the realm of objectivity, the chaotic, multi-layered smokescreen that is being raised by the Rossi camp in the form of a challenge is typical of righty tactics: say it simply, repeat it a gazillion times on radio and TV, and it becomes the truth ("freedom's on the march"). People who haven't even seen the evidence are parroting the party chair's claim that "dead people and felons" have voted. If one looks through the smoke, one can see that realistically, its impossible to have an election in which 39 counties do it 39 different ways with 3 million people, to not have many, many anomolies and irregularities to point at. And chaos is the favorite tool of the desperate loser. That's the reason for the process (and unlike Florida and Ohio, WA does not have a secretary of state who is also chairing one of the candidates campaigns!).

One of the older claims is that "King County was able to go back and reconsider rejected votes and other counties were not" (King has by far the largest population, and is lefty leaning). If fact, several counties reconsidered rejected ballots during the manual recount, before they certified the election. King was the only county which had not certified at the time they reconsidered previously rejected ballots; being the largest county the recount took longer. The only reason it got so much attention was because it was the one that finally tipped the balance. Yet this claim is still being vocalized by the vanquished.......

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Yes, Governor(s)

Funny thing: Mr. Dino Rossi had great concern for the voters of Washington State when Chris Gregoire requested a hand recount. He called the request "desperate" and asked "how much more was she willing to put the voters through?". Well, apparently the answer is much less than he's now willing to put them thru: namely, a $5M re-vote..........

Torturing Cheerleaders

It drives me crazy that there are several points continually being made with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan (as opinion) in the mainstream media w/o being properly challenged, imho. So to preserve my sanity, I will address them here. First the approximate quotes, followed by my take:

"We worry so much about a little torture, but these are serious bad guys. They cut people's heads off!!"
  • This makes an assumption that everyone imprisoned by the US in Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan are radical Islamists, and are guilty of violent crimes.
  • These folks have no due process, no access to impartial assistance.
  • This is typical US myopia to the real world; if they were white americans being tortured in foreign jails there'd be incredible outrage.
  • It also drives me nuts when the lefties say "the reason we shouldn't torture is that we don't want to set that precedent should our soldiers be captured". We should avoid torture because it is morally wrong, period.
"Hey, our guys are just blowing off a little steam, and besides, we're at war!!!!"
  • The war thing, in all its forms, kills me. They make it sound like foreign armies are occupying Los Angeles as we speak. We chose to invade a sovereign nation that posed absolutely no threat to the US; the least we could have done was to have properly planned for what should have been obvious problems.
  • Again, if they were innocent americans in foreign jails being treated like that, it would not be viewed as "blowing off steam". These are human beings for god's sake. We're in their country (or part of the world). What am I missing?
"1,300 American soldiers have lost their lives....."
  • ...which is absolutely tragic. But why does the reporting stop there? What about the 10,000+ soldiers who've come home with horrific injuries, the majority of them being things that will affect their quality of life for the rest of their lives?
  • What about the tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were killed, with their only options being to be blown away by overwhelming firepower or being shot for desertion?
  • What about the estimated 100,000+ innocent Iraqi civilians which have been killed since the US invasion of their country? Why aren't "journalists" covering this with the same ferocity they cover the SE Asian tsunami (which is also worthy of coverage)?
  • We, as americans, need to know the true cost of this war being waged in our name. We know there's at least 57 million citizens willing to listen.
There, I feel a little better.......