Why Now?
Monday, January 31, 2005
  Why Gonzales Is Not Acceptable
United States Code:
Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 13 § 242

Deprivation of rights under color of law

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
[my emphasis]
See also:

Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, § 2340A - Torture

Title 18, Part I, Chapter 118, § 2441 - War crimes

". . .We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. . . ."

If you can't understand the clear statement of the laws of the United States and you don't believe in the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence, how can you aspire to be the Attorney General of the United States?


  The Top 10 Milestone Documents
The People's Vote is co-sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and U.S. News & World Report.

1. Declaration of Independence (1776)
2. Constitution of the United States (1787)
3. Bill of Rights (1791)
4. Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803)
5. Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
6. 19th Amendment to the US Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920)
7. 13th Amendment to the US Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865)
8. Gettysburg Address (1863)
9. Civil Rights Act (1964)
10. Social Security Act (1935)


Sunday, January 30, 2005
  The Shi'ia Election

George at Old Fashioned Patriot started the cycle by linking to Swopa's post at Needlenose on the Iraqi election. Then Steve Gilliard had a post The Shi'ia Won which quoted Juan Cole's views of the election. Professor Cole closed the net by linking to Swopa.

You should read them, but the short version: this was the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's election, not Bush's, and it was designed to give the majority Shi'ia the political power their numbers deserve.

The Shi'ia turned out in large numbers, the Kurds in lower numbers, because they really want a separate state, and the Sunnis probably didn't make it into double digits.

The Sunnis didn't turn out because of the safety issue, which gave Sunni politicians the cover to call for boycotting the elections. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Sunni leaders were helping the insurgents to make the "safety issue" worse.


  The Carnival of Bad History

Guy of Rook's Rant pointed me to a new venture: The Carnival of Bad History brought to us by John McKay at archy.

Have a look at the concept to see if you're interested.


  I Knew It Was Familiar

Clif Burns at Outside the Tent pierces the inner truth of a fashion faux pas.


  A Nice Break

If you need a lift, It's Morning Somewhere has something better than Prozac.


  A Public Service

In appealing to minority voters in pursuit of support for his "piratization" of Social Security Insurance, Bush stated that if you die before you retire, the system keeps all the money you put into the system, while under the "directed gambling" his cabal wishes to impose, you can leave the "over-billing for management fees" to your family.

I would suggest a visit to the Social Security Administration's website to pick up a copy of Survivors Benefits: SSA Publication No. 05-10084, May 2004, which explains the payments made to the family of those enrolled in the Social Security Insurance system upon the death of the enrollee.

Social Security is not just a retirement system, something the Busheviks seem to ignore.

If you think you like the Bush plan, you might try a Google search on "Eliot Spitzer", the Attorney General of the state of New York, who has been assisting the state in covering its budget shortfall by winning large fines from the people that Bush wants you to trust with your money. Mutual funds, insurance companies, brokerages, investment bankers have all found themselves funding the state with their fines.

There is a reason that all investment materials carry some form of this warning:

The price of shares and investments and the income derived from them can go down as well as up, and investors may not get back the amount they invested. Past performance cannot be relied upon as a guide to future performance.

Are you feeling lucky?


  Today in History

1649 - Charles I [Stuart] of Britain beheaded.
1948 - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi assassinated.
1968 - Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam.
2005 - Iraqi elections held.

It's a good thing I don't believe in karma.

Thanks to Exit Stage Left for reminding me about Tet.


Saturday, January 29, 2005
  Small Business

NPR has been running a series by John Ydstie on Social Security reform all week. On Friday they had questions from listeners.

In response to a question about fixing the system by lifting the cap on Social Security taxes, Kent Smetters, an Associate Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who worked on President Bush's Social Security commission made the claim that doing that would have a major impact on small businesses which supply the majority of jobs in the US.

I have no idea what experience he has had in the small business sector, or even how he defines it, but as a small business owner let me enlighten Kent: raising the cap wouldn't even be noticed.

For a small business owner a forty-hour week is a vacation, because you never get an actual vacation. You are the last person paid and the first to take a cut. You don't take any more out of the business than is absolutely necessary to pay your personal expenses. Your business is the be all, end all of your existence, your asset, your retirement plan, everything. If a small business owner is able to take a salary above $100,000/year, he or she is getting ready to sell the business.


  Trust Us

CNN has a story about attempts to calm relations between Iran and the US at the Davos meetings.

Someone set up a meal that was typical of most business conferences I have ever been to: i.e. pretty much one problem after another.

Apparently someone forgot that the Iranians would probably be observant Muslims and not the usual convention goers. They had invited a cartoonist to be on a panel at the meal. Senator Joe Biden got lost and was over an hour late.

This isn't going to work. No one trusts the US. If we had a new Secretary of State that wasn't associated the Iraq War, some might have given Bush the benefit of the doubt, which was yet another reason that Condoleeza Rice should not have been confirmed.

Saddam Hussein complied with the UN resolutions and disarmed. Everyone knows this now, because the US has spent months and millions looking for weapons of mass destruction and came up empty. Iraq followed the rules and was still invaded. This tells North Korea, Iran, and others, that there is no safety to be bought by disarming; only weapons can provide any protection from aggression.

This is what unilateral, pre-emptive wars bring when the reason for the war is false. We are less safe, have no international credibility, and have lost a major tool in increasing our security.


  An Apology

It didn't register last week when The Modulator left me a comment about adding me to the Friday Ark.

Thanks to Kat at Lab Kat I can repair the damage. She was added this week.

The Friday Ark is a wide ranging Friday Creature Blogaround, for all those interested.


Friday, January 28, 2005
  Poetry Spam

Amy at blog Amy noticed the perception of stream of consciousness poetry contained in many spam e-mails.

This was the body of an e-mail I received recently:

bedbug absolve oscar conformance attendant galvanism
spend naivete alphameric eavesdropping phosphate splendid
gleam countervail cheerlead precision doggone chantry
gibbet allay lurid inorganic arcing yellow knife
creosote macrophage dibble sixgun armful airstrip
altercate coccidiosis seminar alum allyn barbarism


  Police Assisted Suicide

Back in the 1970s and 80s I was in law enforcement. During that time we started noticing a worrying phenomenon: incidents in which individuals seemed to be intent on making officers use deadly physical force. These are cases in which the individual has no chance of escape or other benefit to be derived from confrontation.

Even if there is no announced outside investigation, all police shootings are subjected to microscopic investigations in the police community. The results are rarely published, but they spread rapidly through the "blue" network.

Eventually these incidents began to be referred to as "Police Assisted Suicide". In general they involve people who are depressed and decide to commit suicide, but lack the courage or knowledge to do it, or want to really hurt those they leave behind.

Reading Julia's post at Sisyphus Shrugged on the LA train wreck, it occurred to me that we are seeing another facet of the same problem.

It is hard for me to understand why these people don't have the common decency to buy a book that gives the details of a successful and painless suicide, rather than involving others in their problem.

If this guy wanted to end it all, he could have volunteered to drive trucks for Halliburton in Baghdad.


  STS-51-L RIP



Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Michael J. Smith, Commander, USN

Mission Specialist:
Judith A. Resnik
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Payload Specialist:
Gregory B. Jarvis
Sharon Christa McAuliffe



Friday Cat Blogging [TM Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

How would you like to eat that camera?


Thursday, January 27, 2005
  January 27

 Apollo One Patch

1967 - RIP
Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Edward Higgins White, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lieutenant Commander, USN

This is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz by the Soviet Army in World War II. While remembering the camps, don't lose sight of the fact that in addition to the Jews of Europe, the Roma [Gypsies], homosexuals, the disabled, and Slavs were sent to die in the camps. It is a reality that those who hate rarely confine their spite to a single group. Once hate is accepted as "normal" by a society, it spreads to include almost everyone who is in any way different from the haters.

This is also the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, so all was not dark on this January day.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005
  Buying Pundits

So now it's columnist Maggie Gallagher who got paid by the government, just like Armstrong Williams before her. OK, so this is just another brick in the wall between truth and the people being built by the Busheviks and their toadies. Nothing really new, except: is Gallagher going to sue over receiving less then 10% of the payoff made to Williams?

Gallagher claims significant expertise in her field, marriage, when compared to Williams and education, so the disparity is beginning to look a lot like it's based on the sex of the commentator. If the reporting is to be believed Ms. Gallagher had to create the policy, teach the bureaucrats what it meant, and then to shill for it has a columnist. Williams was only required to be a shill.

I think Ms. Gallagher should push for legislation requiring equal opportunity bribes, or at least sue for the $200K she was shorted.

Today Dubya said the executive branch really should stop bribing pundits, and promised to tell his cabinet officers not to do it.

Update: Tresy at Corrente adds a name to the Paid Pundit roster.


  Happy Australia Day

Royal Australian Air Force Ensign

Royal Australian Air Force

Do not go drinking with those who fly this flag.

Thanks to Elayne's Journal for reminding me.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005
  Merit Badge in Enron Accounting

The CNN link: Doh! Too many Does spark scouts probe

The AP story: FBI probing Alabama Boy Scout organization

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean & Reverent

You don't see Clever in that list.

Apparently some people associated with the Boy Scouts in Alabama are being investigated because of seemingly inflated membership numbers.

I don't want to prejudge the case. Just because there are Boy Scout troops that no one can locate, or activities where all of the scouts seem to be named Doe, isn't proof. I mean the troops could be on an extended camp out for a year or two, and some families are extended, often by marrying cousins, this is Alabama after all.

The reason the FBI is involved is because of the way the Boy Scouts are funded, with some of the funding coming from the government. Much of the funding is based on the number of people an organization serves.

On the other hand, you can be sure that no gays or atheists were involved in the problem, just straight, G-d fearing Republican supporters of Judge Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments [well, most of them].

Disclaimer: I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer. I had a lot of fun because the leaders I had taught skills and accepted that most of us were savages.


  A Couple of Things Considered

All Things Considered on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 actually had a couple of worthwhile segments.

In a Study Plumbs Brain Responses to Anger:
Robert Siegel talks with David Sander, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Geneva and one of the lead authors of an article in Nature Neuroscience about the brain's anger response mechanism.

Professor Sander was looking at the possible benefits this study may hold for understanding autistic and schizophrenic patients, a worthy goal.

What occurred to me is that the study also explains the success of Rightwing Radio. The human brain pays attention to angry words, whether or not the individual wants to listen. This is probably a survival trait: "anger = threat" so it gets attention.

Seniors Weigh In on Social Security Reform by John Ydstie

Kent Smetters, an Associate Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who worked on President Bush's Social Security commission, says "private accounts won't deliver higher total earnings for participants, but they will raise benefits for the lowest-income workers."

What I found interesting was Professor Smetters' thinking concerning the reason there is a problem: the President and Congress have spent the Social Security trust fund on tax cuts and spending, and will have to raise taxes and cut spending to pay it back when the bill comes due. He thinks that Private/Personal Accounts are necessary to keep the money away from Congress and the President.

So, according to a Republican economist the problem with Social Security is President Bush and the Republicans in control of Congress.

I seem to remember someone talking about a Social Security "lockbox" during the 2000 election. Too bad not enough voters paid attention.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Both Moi at Bloggg and Amy at Blog Amy have pictures of the snow in their areas.

Brrrr, just brrrr. It was below freezing on the Gulf Coast last night, but we don't have to shovel anything.


  Early Spring Break

Around this time every year we get an influx of robins coming in to gorge on the berries of the camphor trees [cinnamomum camphora - an invasive non-native species]. The result is a bunch of noisy, obnoxious birds, slightly intoxicated, leaving dark purple splashes all over everything as the berries rapidly pass through their digestive tracks.

The first time people of a certain age see this annual ritual they think of the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds.

An umbrella or easily cleaned wide brimmed hat is recommend, as well as a car cover.

Update: Mustang Bobby points out in comments that the American robin's scientific name is turdus migratorius. And people think scientists don't have a sense of humor.


  Major Terrorist Captured

Australian Broadcasting has a post on the capture of a reputed al Zarqawi lieutenant.

Sami Mohammed al-Jafi, known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, is accused of being behind around 32 car bombings since the US-led invasion of Iraq, it said.

Kurdi has been in Iraqi custody for over a month, but his capture was announced just a week before Iraq's landmark elections in which Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is running on a list that promises to bring security to beleaguered Iraqis.

"Kurdi has confessed to some 75 per cent of the car bombs that were used for attacks in Baghdad since March 2003 and to making the explosives used in the attack on the Jordanian embassy in August 2003," spokesman Thair al-Naqib said.

"Kurdi also confirmed he was responsible for some of the bloody attacks on the police."

Having been in the custody of Allawi for a month I wouldn't be surprised if Kurdi also admitted to providing John Wilkes Booth with backstage passes, having been on the grassy knoll in Dallas, and taking part in the recent bank robbery in Northern Ireland.

If this guy was so vital to bomb making, why hasn't the number of attacks been reduced in the last month, instead of increasing?


  Rumsfeld's Private Death Squads

Back on January 9, I wondered what Rumsfeld was up to with all of the money Congress was giving him, but he didn't seem to be spending. Many people guessed death squads and the new information that Steve Bates posts on the Strategic Support Branch tells me that this is the new and improved Pentagon euphemism for death squads.

Steve links to the Barton Gellman article in the Washington Post, explaining what has been leaked to him, probably by the annoyed CIA guys who are trying to stay alive in a very dangerous part of the world.

This mess has "Jerry Crusader for Christ" Boykin written all over it, as the cut-off for "plausible deniability". General Boykin of "Delta Force" to the rescue, just like Somalia, the Iran hostage rescue, Waco - well I guess we aren't allowed to hear about the successes. "Bonkers" was brought on board to lead the hunt for Osama "what's his name", who can't be found because "he's hiding". I wonder if he's tried broadcasting "alley, alley, in free" along the Pakistani-Afghani border yet?

There are several major and important differences between the military and the CIA. The military has a Code of Conduct, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, rules and regulations, and other restrictions on what a member of the military may do. The CIA doesn't, but it's supposed to let the President know before it does something egregiously stupid that might cause a war. The military is designed and trained to oppose other military forces and to minimize the effects on civilians. The CIA is supposed to let the President know before it does something egregiously stupid that might cause a war. The military is supposed to act in an honorable and ethical fashion, even towards the enemy. The CIA is supposed to let the President know before it does something egregiously stupid that might cause a war.

Feldmarschall Rumsfeld is apparently intent on creating a modern version of the Waffen SS under command of Generalleutnant Wilhelm Boykin. If someone would like to show me another historical parallel, I might relent, but no other comes to mind.

There is no justification for this action. This is designed to avoid Congressional oversight.


  Righteous Outrage

The rightfully outraged Tom Burka at Opinions You Should Have points to his Thanksgiving Parade post as an egregious example of Republicans stealing "their moral outrages" from liberal satirists.

There is no comment from SpongeDob Stickypants concerning this outrageous plagiarism of satirical outrage.

If this trend continues people will begin to believe that satirical comedy shows like The Daily Show are really the news...oh, that's right, they already do.


Sunday, January 23, 2005
  News in Perspective

Adam Felber at Fanatical Apathy has two posts that help to put the American political scene in perspective: it is insane.

Both the The Complete Idiot's Guide to Intelligent Design and The Universal Lingerie Theory of American Presidents help people understand what is occurring, whether they want to know or not.


  The Old Guard "Disses" the Vanguard

The marsupial master of miniscule, skippy, responds to a Wall Street Journal article but allowed this statement to go unchallenged: "... there is no exam to pass or society to join to become a blogger -- anybody can set up a "web log" to publish his or her ideas...".

There are among the "mighty handful" who drop by this corner of blogtopiaTM [skippy] some who provide technical support to computer users. I have done it long enough to have had to explain that copying a diskette does not involve a XeroxTM machine, that it is a bad idea to use a magnet to hold a diskette in place on a document stand, and "I haven't the faintest bloody idea why you have to click on Start to shut down the computer, but that's what Windows requires."

To state "anyone can set up a web log" is prima facie evidence of technical ignorance. There is a certain skill level required before one can master Blogger, arguably the simplest of the blogging tools. I dare say that after 15 minutes with the WSJ technical support staff I would be able to find a large group of people at the newspaper who would never get a blog up and running on their own. That is the "exam" you must pass and that is the reason the Dean campaign hired two experienced bloggers to set up their system.

To join the "society" of bloggers requires writing something that others make the effort to find and read.

If the editors of the Wall Street Journal are so upset about blogs, they should tell their readers not to outsource jobs. That would slow the pace. They could also do some fact checking and hire better writers, but that's probably too hard.



Two articles caught my eye today and caused me to consider the place of context in the search for understanding.

Kevin Drum at Political Animal wrote about Lawrence Summers, Harvard president addressing the lack of women in the hard sciences and then Avedon Carol of the Sideshow wrote about rebirth of Bush.

The comments that Summers made have to be viewed in the context of being the head of an organization that has long been accused of discrimination against women. What he said would not be considered as bad if it didn't resemble an attempt to weasel out of responsibility for the perceived problems at Harvard and to demonstrate the lack of attention he seems to have paid to it.

Bush, on the other hand, has been consciously removing the context of his entire life. He continuously claims that everything that happened before he was "reborn" as a Christian is now irrelevant, because everything he did before was washed away. It would appear Bush is attempting to claim the "resurrection" without ever suffering the required death. I doubt that Joseph Campbell would agree that this tact is sufficient for the classification as hero in a myth cycle. I would also note that Bush denied this exemption to Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed in spite of being reborn.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Beeb is reporting that funding for a mission to the Hubble space telescope has been cut from the NASA budget.

Without another mission to replace failing gyroscopes and other equipment, the telescope will eventually fall back to earth.

This is logical under the rules of the Bush administration: they only spend money on people and projects that fail. If you fail you will be promoted, if you do your job you will be pushed out. This is why the missile defense system is still moving ahead, but the Hubble is being allowed to come down.

Think about it. We were about to capture Osama bin Laden and stabilize Afghanistan, but resources were withdrawn so we could launch the Iraqi disaster.


  A Shipwreck

Apparently Ntodd is getting into the role of college professor as he posted a "compare and contrast" assignment for the second inaugural addresses of the first versus the latest Republican President.

The similarities are really shallow: second inaugural, time of military conflict, political party named Republican. Not much there.

The Bush speech was filled with jarring inconsistencies like: "After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire."

Having lived through that period, 1989 to 2001, I sort of remember a major war with Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, the Rwandan genocide, the Yugoslavian civil wars, Tiananmen Square, etc. and I believe that China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea are definitely communist governments. Frankly the world was relatively quieter during the Cold War after Vietnam until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, than since.

Whoever wrote this seems to have forgotten that the majority of foreign terrorists were tied up with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US was pretty much left alone except when we ventured into their territory.

Of course, they don't have to worry, it's not as if anyone checks their claims against the facts.


  SpongeDob Stickypants Rides Again

Noted poodle aficionado, James Wolcott, is having way too much fun worrying his favorite sockpuppet, SpongeDob Stickypants1. Mr. Wolcott reviews the recommendations that constitute "what real Americans should be watching", like GoodLife TV, and finds a disturbing trend.

Who knew? I mean, I always thought cowboys needed flexible wrists to throw lariats and make fast draws. I didn't really notice that most of them displayed more interest in their horses than women until Mr. Wolcott pointed it out.

Mustang2 Bobby helps out by pointing to a New York Times editorial wondering about Dr. Stickypants obsession.

1 - If Dr. Dobson should drop by my humble corner: one picture of you on your page would more than suffice and massage therapy could help with your neck. Oh, there's this wonderful part of speech called the pronoun. It would relieve you of retyping your complete name and title so many times. Oh, yes, why don't you try getting a life. You could start by watching more age-appropriate television. Frankly, your obsession with small children and discipline might be misinterpreted.

2 - The car, not the critter.


  Intellectual Property Rights

Doubleday wants to print The Al Qaeda Reader, a compendium of the thoughts of Ayman al-Zawahri and Osama bin Laden. The publisher thinks people need to know what the founders of al Qaeda are thinking, and feels that there is a market for the book. Doubleday says it will donate any profits to charity.

The book is opposed by some families of victims of the September 11 th attack, who feel publishing the book will spread the al Qaeda message to the wrong sort of people.

That's enough controversy for most books, but then the intellectual property laws enter the picture. Under US law, Doubleday is required to pay a royalty to the owners of these thoughts: al-Zawahri and bin Laden. Doubleday says it won't do that, but the law is quite clear.

Personally I would have set up accounts for both men and sent royalties to those accounts. That money would then be available to pay claims against them made in US and foreign courts. If Doubleday refuses to do that they are in open violation of the copyright laws, and would probably get away with it. What jury would be willing to find for two of the most hated men in the country? What are the chances of either man filing a claim against Doubleday in a US court?

What troubles me is the blatant intent of a publisher to violate copyright law. This could have been done within the letter, if not the spirit of the law, but corporations have privilege, private law. Corporations think it is reasonable for them to sue a 12-year-old for 3 minutes of "bubblegum" music downloaded from the Internet, but perfectly reasonable for them to profit from another's work.

If they go through with this, bin Laden wins; he has another example of the criminal behavior of the West.


Friday, January 21, 2005
  On This Day

In 1950 Eric Arthur Blair died in a hospital in London from tuberculosis.

Born on the 25th of June, 1903 in Motihari, India where his father was in the British civil service, he would be educated at Eton, and then fight in the Spanish Civil War. He probably contracted the disease that eventually killed while fighting in Spain.

He was a member of the BBC World Service, on the India desk. During the war he developed a deep dislike for the censorship caused by the war, and used that experience as the background for his last novel.

If you have listened to much of the output from the Bush administration you may have invoked Mr. Blair's novel. Of course, you probably know him by his pen name: George Orwell.


  Tinker Bell

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

It's tough living down having been a really cute kitten.


  Things To See

Go over to the Beeb and read this story. If you understand why this happened, you might be ready to become an investor. If you think that the story is absurd, then you will understand why you might want to avoid the stock market.

Vaara has a link to an ad that is upsetting some people. Don't go if you are easily offended or don't like to wait for .mov files, but if you remember National Lampoon's VW ad about Ted Kennedy you should just go.

Maru wonders if Bush remembers that this is his second inauguration. [My browser put me at the bottom of the post, so you may have to scroll up to see it].


Thursday, January 20, 2005
  Places To Go

I'll jump on the linkfest to the Social Security crisis debunking site There is No Crisis.

In the spirit of it's never too early: Mad Kane presents the Boxer for President blog.

Scaramouche pointed me to the Reporters Sans Frontières announcement of the Freedom Blog Award nomination process.

If you are feeling down because of today's travesty drop by and read the latest from Steve Bates: Bush's Inaugural Balls.

And don't fail to look at Dubya's latest uniform.

Let it be known that it has been decreed that the annoying wingnut, Dr. James Dobson, will henceforth hight SpongeDob Stickypants in recognition of his advanced stage of confusion.

Disclaimer: no one has paid me for any of this, and some may resent my noticing them.

[Edit] aided and abetted a Google bomb


Wednesday, January 19, 2005
  The Corporate Media

From All Thing Considered we learn "CBS President Les Moonves says he's thinking outside the box on how to replace outgoing anchor Dan Rather. . ."

Apparently one of the "boxes" involved is the cash box, as in the salary of the replacement. The anchors have a history of making millions annually for reading the 6 o'clock news, and Mr. Moonves is hoping to reduce that amount by featuring several people as news readers, so no one person is able to claim to represent the network's new effort. It is quite likely that he intends to use three, or more people with a combined salary of less than one million dollars.

Silly rabbit, you thought screwing the workers was only for MalWart.


  Supporting the Troops

Both All Thing Considered and the Albuquerque Tribune have stories about Governor Bill Richardson proposing increasing the benefits for New Mexico's Guard units and other New Mexicans serving in the military.

The big item is financing $250,000 insurance policies for the troops. There are also plans for halving the state income tax on military retirements and offering a check off on state tax returns for people to donate a portion of their refunds to a fund designed to help the families of those deployed.

Several other states are considering similar programs as it has become increasingly obvious that the Federal government has no plans for assisting those who serve.

As a veteran in a line of veterans that stretches back to the 18th century in the US, I would tell those people who think flying the flag and slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on their vehicles is supporting the troops what they can do with their flag poles and ribbons, but I might get sued by a proctologist for practicing without guild membership. Remember, under Bush it's okay for doctors and corporations to sue people, but bad for people to sue doctors or corporations.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005
  Puffed Rice

Dr. Rice is under the impression that her "life story" is absolute protection against anyone noticing that she lies and wasn't up to the job of National Security Advisor. She seems to believe that her climb from a middle-class childhood in the South to being a member of one of the most incompetent administrations in the nation's history excuses her failures before and after September 11th.

Oh, you say, you didn't know her family was middle-class, you assumed she was born poor, perhaps in a sharecropper's shack, well, that's what you are supposed to believe. It's not much of a story if you know about her liberal parents, both college professors. Her father, Dr. John Wesley Rice, was Vice Chancellor at the University of Denver when she received her bachelor's degree from the institution.

She is intellectually gifted, so her lies are not the result of stupidity, but, more probably, of cupidity.


  Spyware, Virii, Worms, &c

The people who create this crap should be sent directly to the lowest level of hell until the end of the universe, no, until Windows is debugged, the end of the universe is too soon.

I have spent parts of two days doing pro bono consulting so an employee of a client will not get "downsized" for acquiring a spyware parasite.

The problem was multi-layered. Normally I just tell people to go back to an earlier restore point, but if that doesn't work to wipe their hard drives and restore from their backup files, which is often met with "about the weekly backups, umm, well they haven't exactly been weekly."

The last backup was before Halloween, Service Pack 2 had been installed, the only restore point was after the machine became infected. Service Pack 2 was installed to make up for not installing a number of earlier security updates, and it didn't get better.

I finally talked him through enough of a fix to be able to grab the essential data files before wiping the hard disk and reinstalling everything from the original CDs. I also shipped him Firefox and Eudora, made him swear a blood oath to backup, and promised not to say anything unless I was asked by my normal contact at the company, but he better tell his boss or he'd be fired for covering it up.

Please, people, if you are running a Windows machine have a good restore point before you install anything new, use anti-virus software, if nothing else use the Window's firewall, get a couple of anti-spyware programs and use them on a regular basis, and back up your data. The backups are critical because you are the only source for the information you have created. If nothing else, print out your e-mail addresses, bookmarks, and documents. If you have a CD/DVD writer, use it.

Note: I use Pegasus, and Thunderbird is another nice e-mail program that replaces that standard target of virus writers: MS Outlook.


Sunday, January 16, 2005
  Panblogic Topics

The Blight attempts to cover the Armstrong Williams problem by claimed equivalency with the Dean campaign hiring Markos and Jerome for web site consulting continues.

People are also annoyed by the Harvard symposium on Blogging, Journalism & Ethics.

Both Duncan and NTodd are noticeably annoyed by the claim that people have no responsibility for what they link to if they post a disclaimer.

This concept came from journalism, and it is basic to the decline of journalism over the past several decades. That journalists can simply report frauds, lies, and rumors with no attempt to verify what they are reporting is not ethical, even if they report both sides of the story.

There is nothing ethical about repeating a story that John Jones is a pedophile and then reporting that John Jones denies it. If there aren't some facts associated with the claim, this simply spreads gossip, rumors, and innuendo without informing anyone. I don't care how "informed" the "sources" may be, if they refuse to take credit for their words, the words shouldn't be reported without confirmation.

People have lost their jobs and had their lives destroyed by this conduct. The 1981 movie Absence of Malice puts Richard Jewel, Wen Ho Lee, and Stephan Hatfill into context. It doesn't make any difference if you are later cleared, your life has been destroyed and you cannot be "made whole".

It's pretty insulting to assume that even Drudge lacks the ethics of journalists. The problem is the number of bloggers whose ethics are no better than the corporate media.

Extra credit: compare and contrast the effects of the writings of Matt Drudge and Judith Miller. Include body counts and effects on the National Debt.

[Update: Link and typo fixed]


Saturday, January 15, 2005
  Alas Babylon

Archæologists are reporting the destruction of Babylonian sites by the presence of American and Polish military encampments on the ancient capitol of Western civilization.

In the entire expanse of Iraq the military was unable to find any other place to park tracked vehicles and couldn't possibly have found any other source of dirt to fill sand bags that the artifact-filled land of an ancient city?

If anyone cares any more, this is probably classed as a war crime.


  Paid Punditry

Depending on the M$M's acceptance of the right-wing equivalency claims, we have to listen to how Armstrong Williams' secret acceptance of a quarter million dollars of government money to promote "Nickleby" on his syndicated media shows and his columns is the same as two liberal bloggers accepting consulting work with the Howard Dean campaign.

I must have missed the display on Williams' columns and media appearances of a tag saying he was being paid by the Department of Education, you know, something similar to the blurb at the top of the Daily KOS when he was working for Dean. Of course, Jerome Armstrong didn't have a blurb, because he didn't blog while he was working for Dean, he just told everyone he had landed the work.

There is also the problem that the payments to Williams are quite probably criminal and are being investigated by the FCC and Congress, while the Dean payments were totally legal and openly reported in multiple government documents.

By now, anyone who listens to the news, reads news sites, or watches the news, has heard the disclaimers that the story being reported is about a group or company that funds the news. If the M$M understands that this is a requirement, why don't they understand that this is what Williams did wrong?

August J. Pollak makes it plain.


  Everyone Does It

Fact checking the claims in the discussion over Social Security, Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer, warns us:

That means truth - or at least the whole truth delivered in context - is sometimes sacrificed or exaggerated by both sides in the interest of making their point. Oh, and your friends and neighbors may have a few things wrong, too.

So beware the blarney.

She lists five examples of "exaggerations" with pop-up explanations, but the problem is the "even-handedness" of the media. Her explanations of all five points show who is making the "exaggerations", who is "sacrificing the truth", but she feels the need to imply that the people on the other side are just as culpable, apparently for exposing the distortions.

That one side of any controversy is known to be lying does not automatically mean that the other side is telling the truth, but, neither does it mean they are also lying. You evaluate the claims of both sides independently and report the facts: it is a concept that was once known as "journalism".


Friday, January 14, 2005

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

I'm sure Mom won't mind if I leap on her.


Thursday, January 13, 2005
  The FBI Wastes $170 Million

The computer system that was supposed to modernize the FBI record keeping and information sharing, doesn't work and isn't ever likely to do what the bureau needs. Very old news in the computer world.

A large organization has no IT resources in-house and refuses to pay for professionals to write a requirements document. They specify what they want and the day after the contract is signed they have to start making changes because they left major requirements out of their "Request For Bids". Small contractors generally have to suffer the costs of the changes and go broke, but the big players know this will happen and make their profits from the change orders.

The biggest problem seems to be the sudden interest in counter-terrorism after September 11, 2001. There were no provisions for counter-terrorism activities prior to that time.

An independent $2 million review of the system has concluded that it would be cheaper to start over that to try to patch what has been done up to this point. Some people claim that the vendor, SAIC, took advantage of the FBI, knowing that the system would never be what they needed.

Having been there and done that with government contracts, I can tell you that you will never be awarded a contract if you don't follow the bid to the letter, even when you know the bid is stupid. SAIC knows the rules of government contracts and I know a number of programmers who work on these projects. You know going in that nothing you write in the first two years will be in the final product.

The new VA computer system is about to be dumped, the Florida Children and Families system was a total failure, and the list goes on. You have to follow the contract to the letter to get paid, and the contract is always garbage.

The Children and Families system was a classic. The contract specified that all information be stored based on the client's name. Apparently, whoever wrote the specifications didn't consider the possibility that there might be more than one person named John Smith.


  It Was Just a Glitch

The last test of the missile defense system didn't work because the attack vehicle didn't launch. The Air Force general in charge said the problem was a minor software glitch.

It turns out the software monitors for errors and communications "drop-outs" during the launch cycle and aborts the launch if there are too many errors. The "fix" was to increase the number of permitted errors.

Let's not find out why there are so many errors, errors that might make life exciting for airline passengers, because the data being sent to the attack vehicle before launch are the target tracking data, we'll just let the vehicle launch with even less information than before.

This is so typical: our missile can't pass when a "C" is 70%, so we'll make a "C" 50%.

No Obscenely Expensive Defense Project Left Behind.



Let's plug in some real numbers: under Bush, a real world growth mutual fund [Jennison Growth and similar] that would be typical for retirement savings has lost in excess of one-third of its value. During the same period Treasury bills have been paying in excess of 5% per annum. Social Security is invested in Treasury bills.

So at the start of Bush's term a $100K in a private fund is now worth $66K, but the same money in Social Security is now worth > $120K. Treasury bills have a guaranteed return, while there are no guarantees with stocks.

Buying stocks is a gamble, buying Treasury bills is not. Do people really want to gamble with their retirement?

There is a possibility that you can make much more money in the stock market, than buying Treasury bills, but you can just as easily make less. In a single year, 1995, that growth portfolio made 26%, and then from 2001 to 2005 it dropped 33%.

If you bought the Dow Jones Industrial Average your $100K would still be worth approximately $100K after 4 years. Bush has pushed most of the traditional "buttons": tax cuts, deficit spending, etc. and it hasn't worked. If you don't create jobs, people can't spend money. Two-thirds of the GDP is based on consumer spending, and once everyone has maxed their credit cards, the spending is over and the GDP drops.

Another suggestion is that when you retire you can take your retirement account and buy an annuity that will provide you with a stable monthly income. Maybe, but in the case of Pacific Lumber retirees whose fully funded retirement was replaced with annuities after a leveraged buy-out, they lost it all when the insurance company that provided the annuities went bankrupt.

The current Social Security system is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. This privatization plan is backed by the full faith and credit of large businesses, like Enron, Tyco, MCI, Halliburton. Who do you trust with your retirement?

BTW, if you were wondering why Bush seems so interested in the asbestos lawsuits, guess what brilliant business visionary, while CEO of Halliburton, bought a company with a massive asbestos liability?


  Rivet Ball

In the early hours of January 13th, 1969 I was forced to accept something that I had known for a while, but had pushed to the back of my mind: I was mortal and was going to die.

This was the first of several incidents when my chance of survival was a good deal less than 1 in 2. This wasn't the scariest, but it was the first, and following on the heels of the terrible events of 1968, it had the biggest impact.

In the end the only "death" was an airplane, Rivet Ball, the Air Force's only RC-135S. The military version of the Boeing 707, the fuselage broke in half, like an eggshell, on impact. A very talented pilot, John Achor, the aircraft commander, was responsible for that miracle.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  W Means Duplicity

It's official: there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and the only Weapons of Mass Destruction-Related Program Activities were the standard science courses given in high schools and colleges throughout the world.

It's official: there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and the only Weapons of Mass Destruction-Related Program Activities were the standard science courses given in high schools and colleges throughout the world.

Why did "everyone" think Saddam might have such weapons? Because he hadn't used up all of the weapons the Reagan administration gave him during his war with Iran and when he attacked the Kurds.

How could this have been resolved peacefully? By allowing the UN Weapons Inspectors finish their job, instead of ordering them out so the country could be bombed and invaded.

Was this war ever about Weapons of Mass Destruction? If there had been any real interest in WMDs would we have ignored major weapons dumps and nuclear facilities? Would we have left them unguarded to be looted?

What did the invading army protect from looters? Oil facilities.

A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow he himself casts.

Tao Te Ching


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.
Albert Einstein

At some point I have a wonderful story of how truly incompetent the US government actually is, but I have to wait until the problem is fixed before explaining.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Nursery Rhyme


  Why We Can't Catch Osama

CBS has the story of two Cold War spies who are trying to sue the CIA for reneging on a promise to provide lifetime financial support.

The couple tried to defect from their Eastern Bloc country but the CIA promised them that if they became spies they would be brought out later and given new identities and a paycheck for life.

The couple kept up their side of the bargain, but the CIA has decided to cut costs, including the couple's pension.

Espionage is a very strange business. It is built on lying, cheating, stealing, etc., but underlying that is a foundation of trust between agents and their handlers. When an agent is burned, the handler is worthless to his/her agency. When an agency fails to live up to its agreements, no one will work for them.

The CIA doesn't pay its bills, Osama bin Laden does. Who will the shadowy people in Asia who have the information everyone needs trust?


Monday, January 10, 2005
  “Nickleby” is your Friend

The Seattle Post Intelligencer has this Associated Press article on the Maryland Assessment Test. It would seem that the head of the Maryland School for the Deaf is upset that in the reading comprehension portion of the test children are required to figure out which words sound alike.

Yep, we have to have standardized testing to show how well our schools are doing and the tests are prepared by experts to measure progress.

Is it really surprising that they have to pay people to praise this system?


  Oath of Poverty

As long as they don't expect celibacy or chastity, I can deal with it.

Elayne Riggs points to Atrios who points to Tapped and this pledge:

I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).

This is in response to the Armstrong Williams affair over accepting $240K to say nice things about "Nickleby" [AKA - NCLB or No Child Left Behind]. Of course, Duncan is a little touchy about this because the M$M claimed that he was being paid to blog on Eschaton.

I am a consultant and do get paid for my opinions, but my clients pay me with the understanding that I won't, under rather severe penalty, discuss my opinions with others. I'm generally consulting on business problems that companies don't want to be made public as this would help competitors. In my line of work, you only screw up once, because if you do, your name is pulled from the Rolodex.

This is a personal effort: no advertising, no payoffs, no wish list, no tips jar. I do it when I have the time and I have something to say.


Sunday, January 09, 2005
  What Is The Pentagon Up To?

Several times in reference to various posts I have noticed that the Pentagon doesn't seem to be addressing problems that Congress has authorized money to fix. The "up armoring" of vehicles was the most recent, but the purchase of effective body armor, the acquisition of small arms ammunition, the equipping of Iraqi security forces, are all issues where the money has been authorized but the Pentagon hasn't spent it.

If you look at the Iraqi reconstruction fund, less than $2 billion of the $18 billion Congress approved in the "famous" $87 billion request has even been put under contract. There are also Iraqi oil funds that haven't been accounted for after the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority. There is a sizable chunk of money in limbo.

Let's add to the mix the hiring of Chilean and South African mercenaries for security jobs in Iraq, the appointment of John Negroponte as the ambassador, and an image of the failed "death squad" approach to counter insurgency comes to mind.

Death squads, like torture, seem like a good idea to deskbound cowardly people. Since these people have no real morals; since they lack the humanity to suffer torture or death to save friends, family, and ideals; they don't believe that other people have these values.

Look at the people in charge. The only "adult" is Colin Powell, an ex-soldier. The rest avoided military service because they didn't want to risk injury or death. They lacked the core conviction to risk it all.

If these fools introduce death squads, all they achieve is a further destabilization of Iraq. We are already dealing with the "blow back" from earlier decisions, including helping Saddam Hussein come to and remain in power, the creation of mujahidin forces in Afghanistan, installing the Shah in Iran, do we really want to make matters worse?

Assuming the Bush administration realizes we are in a hole, when are they going to stop digging?


  Spell Checking for Firefox

Spellbound is a nice little spell checker for the Firefox browser. People who have to read my comments will now be saved from some of my more egregious typos.

If I could just figure out how to edit the "forms" feature, I wouldn't have any complaints left about Firefox.


Saturday, January 08, 2005
  Relief Update

The BBC World Service reported that during the Saudi telethon for disaster relief King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz pledged $5 million and Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud pledged $2.5 million. The event raised $82 million. It would be a serious breach of etiquette for anyone to pledge more than the King. The government of Saudi Arabia is still offering its $30 million pledge.

By holding the telethon, the kingdom gave people a way of avoiding some of the charities that are on the international list of contributors to terrorism. It also provides those organizations with a reason to complain about being listed. Wheels within wheels, reflections of mirrors within mirrors, more layers than a Vadalia onion.

Princes William and Harry, Queen Elizabeth's grandsons, wanted to do something for the tsunami relief so they volunteered at a warehouse in Bristol, England loading boxes with supplies and stacking them on pallets for shipment. Their grandmother would approve; she drove an ambulance during WWII.

Prince Harry will be joining the Army later this year and will probably become a career military officer, like his uncle, Prince Andrew.

ABC News has a story from the initial medical response teams reporting a Civil War level of medical care. With a shortage of medications and equipment, and a general lack of facilities even before the tsunami struck, medical teams are resorting to amputation as a last resort technique to save lives.

Aid can arrive in hours from thousands of miles away, but the last ten miles can take days. The lack of roads, bridges, trucks, boats, and helicopters is the current problem that people are trying to solve.


  On This Day

My older brother is officially one year older, as is Stephen Hawking.

A Democratic President won the acclaim that would make his election possible, even if it was winning a battle in a war that was already over. Yes, in 1815 Andrew Jackson took a little trip to New Orleans and beat a British force that was also unaware that the war had ended.

On this date in 1992, George H.W. Bush threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister. I mention this because this is also the birthday of the current Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi. Must be karma.

Check out the link for Wikipedia's flood of information on this day.


Friday, January 07, 2005
  The RepugniKoan Mantra

You must build the Iraqi security force to stop the insurgency from killing the Iraqi security force you must build to stop the insurgency from the killing the Iraqi security force you must build to stop the insurgency from the killing the Iraqi security force. . .

Print this on a Mobius strip and run it through a text reader.

See No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, and/or Catch-22 by Joseph Heller for further instructions.

Inspired by Ntodd of Dohiyi Mir, who may have mentioned that he would like a vote for the Koufax Awards.


  Merry Christmas

To all of my Orthodox and Eastern Rite friends.


  Molly, the Alpha Matriarch

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

Welcome wherever she goes, or else. Queen of feral cats.


  Scam Alert

From the BBC: A new version of the Nigerian 419 e-mails.

An organisation calling itself the Solid Foundation Humanitary Fund Asia has sent e-mails asking for donations by international money transfer.

It originates from Nigeria - where the notorious "419" e-mails came from.

Tired of appealing to greed, now they're working on compassion. There really isn't a level in hell low enough for scum like this, unless they room with DéLay.


  Compassionate Shareholders

From the Australian Broadcasting's news site: Shareholders' group opposes tsunami donations.

The Australian Shareholders Association has expressed disapproval at companies pledging money to the tsunami relief effort in Asia, saying they have no approval for their philanthropy.

Association spokesman Stephen Matthews says firms should not generally give without expecting something in return.

Unless Australian balance sheets are extremely different than American balance sheets, which I doubt, there is an asset line titled: "Good Will". For large, long established corporations, this is often a very large amount, and reflects the value of the corporation's image. This isn't funny accounting, corporate image is the reason for public relations departments. Does anyone think that WalMart is running ads on NPR because it thinks its customers listen to All Things Considered?

It is easier to explain in the negative: Ford Motor Company will never name another car line "Edsel", there will never be another "New Coke".

The corporations who are donating to tsunami relief are getting tax breaks and adding to their "Good Will" account. Corporations may also benefit from renewed interest from socially conscious investors, including some large pension plans.

Australian companies would naturally do a lot of business in the affected region, and companies that don't donate will be noticed. If Mr. Matthews and his group don't understand these business realities, they should shift their money to passbook savings accounts.


  An Incredibly Stupid Idea

"The screens may be tiny and the batteries overworked, but the wireless industry is bringing TV to a cell phone near you."


Thursday, January 06, 2005
  Malcolm Bricklin

This Canadian is a bit of a maverick in the auto industry. He built an ill-starred sports car, and then imported Yugos. The best thing you can say about Yugos is: "I never owned or drove one". Oh, also: "they were cheap, in all meanings of the word."

According to the CBC Malcolm has a new venture, he going to import and sell cars made in China by the Chery Automobile Company.

He just needs to sign a deal with WalMart Tire Centers and they can sell them with offers like: "Buy four tires and we'll throw in a Chery." Maybe the deal should be with Baskins-Robbins?


  Why Kelly Freas is Missed

Len at Dark Bilious Vapors has an example of why Kelly Freas will be missed. If you have never seen his work, go, enjoy.


  Microsoft to Begin Offering Security Software

The BBC reports that Microsoft is debuting security tools, virus software and spyware software. The programs will be free initially, but, of course, after you have installed them, they will start charging you for up-grades.

They wrote the buggy operating system and tools that make easy virus writing and spyware possible, and now they are going to charge you to deal with the problem.

There is a reason for not paying fire departments based on the number of fires they put out.


  Texas Justice

Just read this CNN report on a Texas murder trial to understand why neither George Bush, Alberto Gonzales, or any other politician or lawyer from Texas should be allowed a position of trust with the laws of the United States. If this is "justice" in the state of Texas, they can keep it.


  Don't Loan Tools to Rumsfeld

I'm particular about the people I will loan my tools. There's nothing worse than letting someone have a wrench that you inherited from your grandfather and have it returned bent. I only trust them to people who know how to use them properly.

According to this Reuters story the Reserve forces are in trouble.

The U.S. Army Reserve, tapped heavily to provide soldiers for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is "degenerating into a 'broken' force" due to dysfunctional military policies, the Army Reserve's chief said in a memo made public Wednesday.
"I do not wish to sound alarmist. I do wish to send a clear, distinctive signal of deepening concern," Lt. Gen. James Helmly said in a Dec. 20 memo to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.

You go to war with the army you have and then you grind it to dust. Nice going Rummy.


  Tsunami Aid Update

The Australian Prime Minister announced the commitment of one billion Australian dollars for a five year program to help the nations struck by the tsunami.

Mr. Howard announced the package early this morning, calling it "the single largest aid contribution ever made by Australia".

The package consists of equal parts grant assistance and highly concessional funding, and is in addition to previously announced aid to Indonesia and other nations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

I'm sure that CNN wasn't being petty publishing this report on Fox News generosity.

Media conglomerate News Corp. also announced a $1 million contribution to tsunami relief and reconstruction and pledged to match employee donations dollar for dollar. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch called on his U.S.-based media companies to make print and air time available to solicit donations.

Oh, the White House has said that George W. Bush has donated a total of $10,000 to various charities.


  Canadian Snickering?

The CBC notes Tucker Carlson's "retirement" from CNN. I was wondering why they would be interested until I got to the bottom of the article.

In November, Carlson also famously interviewed maverick Canadian MP Carolyn Parrish on fellow host Wolf Blitzer's program Wolf Blitzer Reports.

Ostensibly a discussion of U.S.-Canadian relations, the segment digressed into a showcase for Carlson to outline his belief that Canadians spend a lot of time dogsledding.

"I don't think every Canadian is dogsledding at all times but I do think there's a lot of dogsledding in Canada," he said after Parrish challenged him. "Yes, I do think that's true."

Congratulations, Tucker, you join Triumph the Insult Dog among a select group so obnoxious that they annoy Canadians.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005
  Medical Malpractice

The whole issue is "frivolous and junk".

Business is responsible for the bulk of all lawsuits in this country. The Congress has enabled business to sue people for all sorts of things, including downloading songs from the Internet.

Malpractice insurance is going up because the economy is in the tank and medical costs are skyrocketing.

The whole stock of "horror stories" about malpractice awards is essentially bogus. They amount to a series of anecdotes that don't stand up to scrutiny, a litany of urban legends.

If doctors would clean house, malpractice lawsuits would plummet. Medicine is a guild system with the doctors in control, but they don't want to purge the bad doctors. Doctors rarely report colleagues who are incompetent, and avoid testifying against each other. If doctors started removing the minority that cause the lawsuits, instead of protecting them, the insurance companies might be forced to lower rates.

Florida slapped these caps on and the insurance companies responded by raising rates. For the slow, the caps had absolutely no effect.

Also be warned that this bill the President wants is going to shield drug companies and others from law suits. More payoffs for campaign contributors.


  Disaster Tourists

Also on the World Service, former British Secretary of State for International Development, Clair Short, said she never visited disaster sites because she felt that VIP visits used resources needed for recovery efforts, and if you couldn't tell that Asia was a disaster after the tsunami you must not watch much "telly".

Having just gone through hurricane Ivan, I would say that between looters and sightseers, I prefer looters who at least have a reason for being out. If these guys need first-hand knowledge about disasters, they can watch the weather and move into a trailer before the next hurricane hits.


  Gives 'til It Hurts?

He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
Psalms 28:27 [KJV]

As reported by the BBC World Service and Ntodd: Michael Schumacher, the dominant driver in Formula 1 racing, has donated $10 million dollars to tsunami aid. That's 40% of Schumacher's annual driving contract, so he won't be a burden on the welfare system any time soon, but it will probably be a jolt to German tax officials. The officials will also be dealing with Chancellor Schroeder's decision to offer a total of $680 million dollars of assistance over the next 3 to 5 years.

Excuse me, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, are you ashamed of your paltry offer yet?

To give people a basis for evaluation of these aid numbers, the US gives Israel $3 billion every year, and has done this for years. That's where the bulk of US foreign aid goes.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005
  MSF says Thank You, But No More

Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders] has announced that it has received all of the money it can use in the tsunami disaster and asks that you give to others.

They have decided that it is better to be honest and to admit there are limits, than to continue to take donations which they know cannot be used as the donors wish.

Honesty, what a concept. This is why I have supported them in the past, and will support them in the future.

Oxfam still needs money, as does the International Red Cross / Red Crescent. These groups are going to be feeding millions for months while the economies and distribution systems are re-built. 

  What the US Media Isn't Reporting

Yesterday Colin Powell mentioned, almost in passing, that there are four to five thousand US citizens missing in the areas struck by the tsunami. Apparently a State Department spokesman had mentioned this a few days ago. I can't find this fact being reported, only the 15 confirmed dead.

The BBC Foreign Victims box has the same disconnect for the two largest donors:

Germany: 60 dead
1,000 missing
Sweden: 52 dead
2,322 missing
Britain: 41 dead
159 missing
France: 22 dead
99+ missing
Norway: 16 dead
91 missing
Japan: 21 dead

Italy: 18 dead
540+ missing
Switzerland: 23 dead
105 missing
US: 15 dead

Australia: 12 dead
79 missing
South Korea: 11 dead
9 missing

[Figures include those feared dead but not all unaccounted for. Sources: Reuters, AP]

Digby mentioned this lack of reporting this morning.

Doesn't the M$M think the American public would be interested in that fact? Doesn't Acme, Inc. think this would strike a chord with people, and perhaps encourage Americans to be more generous towards relief efforts?

If the worst case comes true and up to five thousand Americans have died in Asia, how are Americans going to react to Dubya hanging around at the ranch cutting brush and his initial $15 million dollar aid package?


Monday, January 03, 2005
  RIP Kelly Freas 1922-2005

Kelly Freas will probably be remembered by the majority as the creator of the image of Alfred E. Newman that appeared on the cover of Mad magazine, but I was more familiar with his work on many science fiction magazines and book cover art for which he received many awards.

If those I highlight seem odd to some, I prefer to highlight those who others may overlook. It isn't that one is more important than another.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne


  Bush Runs for Cover

Unable to fake sympathy, Dubya has asked his father and Bill Clinton to convince people to donate. I assume he doesn't intend to cancel the coronation and donate the $40+ million price tag to the victims of the tsunami. He knows that he is not going to get any money from the Religious Reich, who have yet to even acknowledge the disaster and are unlikely to ask their mailing list to display "Christian" charity when there are people left to hate.

George H.W. Bush can appeal to real Republicans, and the Big Dog can appeal to real Christians.


  Crime Rate

The M$M has been running stories about the declining number of murders in major cities. They are claiming that the decline is due to the hard-nosed policing pioneered in NYC under Mayor "Giggles" and his "no jaywalking" crusade.

Real slowly for the journalists: all reliable research shows that the crime rate is directly proportional the number of males between 15 and 45 in society. The crime rate has been going down since 1992 because the leading edge of the "Baby Boom" hit 46 in 1992. As the "Boomers" age the number of people available to commit crimes go down. Nothing else that has ever been done has shown anything more than a "noise-level" effect on the crime rate: not community policing, not longer sentences, not an armed citizenry, not get tough, not sentencing reforms, not the death penalty, not planting flowers, not et cetera . . . ad nauseam.

How many prisons are needed, how many cops are needed, how many courts are needed? How many males between 15 and 45 do you have? I'm sorry, but that's all there is to it.


Sunday, January 02, 2005
  Reality Check

Digby has a long post about the real working conditions in the 19th and early 20th century called: Nostalgia.

It is really annoying when people who have made no effort to study history claim to know all about the way things were back in the "good old days".

Those who see social programs as a liberal conspiracy might be shocked to learn that sick pay and medical benefits programs were first instituted by that "lefty radical" Otto Fürst von Bismarck-Schönhausen, Chancellor of the German Reich at the end of the 19th century. The reason for this "bleeding heart liberal" to create these programs was the reality that 90% of German workers were not in good enough physical shape to be drafted into the military. Britain soon followed Bismarck's lead for the same reason. Nine out of ten factory workers too sick or exhausted to meet minimum requirements for the draft should give people a pretty good idea of what their living conditions were like.

Social Security is a form of national security program. It is also interesting that medical insurance was seen as the most pressing need of the workers. Unemployment insurance soon followed. Public schools were instituted in the United States to provide educated workers for industry as well as "cannon fodder".

People forget that Herbert Hoover expected private charities to deal with the effects of the Great Depression. As we know now, they couldn't do it, so the government had to take up the slack. I don't mind trying new ideas, but I really resent ignorant people suggesting we try old ideas that we already know failed. Supply-side tax cuts didn't work for Ronald Reagan and they are not working for George W. Bush. How many times must they be tried before these idiots learn they are a failure?


Saturday, January 01, 2005
  Thoughts for the New Year

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
Proverbs 27:14

It is much better to remain silent and let everybody think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln [restating Proverbs 17:28]

A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.
Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.
John Stuart Mill


  San Diego Fun

While people have been focusing on Ohio and the governor's race in Washington, my old hometown, San Diego, has been having fun with the mayor's office.

You don't have to be crazy or a crook to be elected mayor of San Diego, but most former mayors tend to fall into one of those categories.

The election is non-partisan, which normally means it is a contest among Republicans, as the town and county has much in common with Orange County, i.e. "conservative", Republican, insane, and fiscally mismanaged. Roger Hedgecock is a former mayor who provided entertainment with his multiple re-trials for financial "errors in judgment".

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a story on the attempts to install the individual who actually received the largest number of votes, write-in candidate Donna Frye, rather than the current mayor, Dick Murphy.

I know and did work for two of the attorneys involved: Bruce Henderson and Mike Aguirre, so I won't comment on why I think one of them has nested with a group of crows that no self-respecting legal eagle would ever fly with.

For those who don't know the basics of this: more than enough votes to make Ms. Frye the uncontested winner have been thrown out because the voters wrote in her name but didn't fill-in the circle next to that name.


  Before and After

The BBC has before and after aerial photos of Banda Aceh in an update from Sumatra. The pictures make manifest the power of the wave.

It is hard for me to understand that the local people who have lived by the shore all their lives didn't understand that the water being pulled suddenly back into the ocean meant a huge wave would be coming. It wasn't just children who went out on the newly exposed seabed to pick up grounded fish, but adults from the villages that were caught away from the shoreline when the wave struck.

I don't like the water and have never been dumb enough to buy a boat [AKA a hole in the water into which you pour money]. I can swim and scuba dive. I can actually stand up on a surfboard and exercise some control over it. I could, if necessary, build a watercraft and sail it to a given destination even without a following wind, but I wouldn't do it by choice. In spite of that I learned a very important rule about the water: if the water is doing something that fish can't handle, you sure can't handle it, so get away.

For example, if there are dead fish on the surface of a body of water, don't go swimming in that water and don't drink it. If the water is sucked away from the shore so quickly that the fish can't stay wet, something bad is going to happen. It may be an overcautious approach, but it works for me.

[Update at 7:23pm]: More "before & after" photography via Len at Dark Bilious Vapors


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