Why Now?
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  The Disassembly Area
It was the last day of the month and to vaguely follow a suggestion of holding a press conference a month George found the Rose Garden and talked at the reporters who had assembled for Kool-Aid® and cookies.

You didn't need to know the difference between "disassemble" and "dissemble" to understand that the press corpse was ready for a nap and didn't want to bother the grown-ups by asking George real questions and pursuing real answers.

Amnesty International describes the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay as a gulag, a reference to the infamous Soviet prison system.
Hypocrisy, an overarching war mentality and a disregard for basic human rights principles and international legal obligations continue to mark the USA's "war on terror". Serious human rights violations are the inevitable result.

Incurious George called that "absurd" because everyone knows the US is promoting "democracy". And he claims that the reports of abuse are based on information from former detainees trained to lie, and, further, that Amnesty International has no standing to make its claims.

Michael of the newly relocated Musing's musings tells us in his post, Get me rewrite!, that in March, 2003, George's own Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, cited reports from Amnesty International to help justify the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps George had assumed that all of the information he used to support the invasion of Iraq was fabricated.

Some of the detainees might be lying, of course, but it was my experience in law enforcement that the people who really hate the police are those who are innocent of any crime, but find themselves arrested. Criminals tend to be professional about it - people just doing their job - but the innocent really get pissed off. When you wander around the world scooping up innocent people, lock them up for months, and subject them to multiple indignities, those people tend not to care why you did it. The fact is you were wrong and they were injured because you were incompetent. When you refuse to apologize, refuse to offer compensation, and leave them under a cloud of suspicion, they will hate your guts forever, and will tell the rest of the world about it.

You can't go around convicting people of abuse at military facilities and then claim no abuse took place. Organizations are using the Freedom of Information Act to make more of the abuse public. More reports and pictures are now available; the problem is wide spread.

People have died as a result of "interrogation techniques" used by the American government, which is direct evidence of torture: if it kills people, it is definitely torture.

Our government is not being honest with us, or the world. They don't want the true extent of the problem known, but the lump under the rug is way too big to remain hidden. If Guantánamo Bay was as pure as George claims, career military JAGs wouldn't be filing "friend of the court" briefs in Federal cases.

Maybe George should ask Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn to visit Gitmo and give his opinion; he is something of an authority on gulags.

NTodd, Riggsveda, RJ ESKOW, and the Vestal Vespa contributed to this rant whether they wanted to or not.

 

  What's For Brunch?
While I realize this might offend some, others will get a good laugh.

The Culture Ghost presents:

Sunday Brunch


 

Monday, May 30, 2005
  The French Vote
The French held a referendum yesterday on the new European Union constitution. I have no great revelations about the issue, Vaara at Silt or Avedon Carol at The Sideshow may have something substantial to say, but I haven't studied the constitution.

What caught my ear when listening to the BBC World Service last night was the alignment of the two sides in the vote. The French EU vote was cast by 70% of registered voters with 55% voting Non and 45% Oui. The Yes/Oui voters represent the political center of French politics; the No/Non voters were both extremes.

The constitution was a compromise, as any such document must be, and it was rejected by people who refuse to compromise. I don't see a "Plan B" in this situation. The reality is that to achieve such a result, the constitution must have been nearly perfectly balanced, apparently too balanced to be accepted by anyone except the center.

This is a troubling result in regard to US politics as it points to a situation where compromise is not possible. You have to wonder if we are moving the same way: that we can no longer live together in the same country.

 

  Memorial Day

Memorial Day



Memorial DayThis is a picture from one of the columbariums at the Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many of those who served the United States since the middle of the 19th century.

That is my Father's marker. He didn't know those located around his marker, but they all shared service to their country as part of their life.

The country continues to ask for service and people still respond to that call. As you think about the sacrifices represented by Arlington and other cemeteries, ask yourself if you have done what you could to prevent misuse of the willingness of some to serve.
It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

 

Sunday, May 29, 2005
  Truth In War
Anne at Peevish wonders if journalists are at extra risk in Iraq. The simple answer is: absolutely.

The insurgents will attack reporters as "collaborators with the occupation forces", and coalition forces will attack them because they aren't coalition forces. Being a "neutral observer" is not a viable option under these conditions. It's not that they are reporters, it's that they are bystanders.

This is a guerrilla war: an attack could come from any side. The insurgents are a collection of groups with individual goals. The goals of one group may be diametrically opposed to other groups, and they may shoot each other if they come in contact. The only thing they agree on is killing coalition and Iraqi government forces.

The coalition and Iraqi forces are so on edge that they react with violence to any change in their environment. For them the goal is staying alive until tomorrow. If you have never been in the situation it is hard to understand that prison looks like an acceptable alternative to their current situation. Three meals a day and a safe place to sleep looks good to someone who is getting shot at daily and eating MREs.

The failure to hold to rotation dates is a major problem. That exit date is what holds many people together; it a goal. When you lose that goal, when you don't know how long you are going to be in the situation, you lose hope. Stop-Loss orders and tour extensions destroy morale.

Not even Johnson and McNarmara were that stupid and out of touch with the military.

 

  Shut Up and Drive
Jillian has a post at skippy about a male driver complaining about the advantage Danica Patrick has because she only weighs 100 pounds. If car owners thought that it was a real advantage, drivers would be on diets.

Ms. Patrick is under attack because she is good. She started in fourth position and ended the Indy 500 in the same position because she was running on fumes and couldn't both drive aggressively and finish the race. She led for 19 laps but had to work through traffic after two rookie mistakes: she stalled the car in the pits, and she had an accident that damaged the front of the car. With a little more experience she is in line for the milk. [Indianapolis gives the winner milk instead of champagne.]

Ms. Patrick has a lot in common with Ellen MacArthur, another woman who does what she does very well indeed because she loves it.

 

  People In Motion
While the Lab Kat is in the process of moving in the physical world and the Vestal Vespa is contemplating the same, Michael of Musing’s musings has left Blogger behind and is now at musing85.typepad.com.

Patrick has rolled Electrolite into Teresa’s Making Light, which is nice as it saves a few clicks after adjusting the blogroll.

 

  Republican Warriors?
Avedon Carol at The Sideshow pointed to Steve Gilliard's item about the Democratic Party and security issues.

Folks, the only people who think the Republican Party has ever been a leader in security matters are those who have never bothered to study American history. The Republicans do a lot of blustering and send billions to military contractors, but they don't have a consistent military or foreign policy.

People have been led to believe that the Republicans fought Communism. If you define fighting as calling people bad names, fine, but the Republicans forced President Wilson to withdraw an American division from Russia after World War I. The division was providing a safe corridor for people fleeing the civil war, and blocked the Bolshevik forces from southern ports on the Black Sea. These are the same people that blocked American entry into the League of Nations.

They didn't want the US to support South Korea, and they halted the Korean War with a truce. The Korean War is still officially in progress, not settled, and we didn't get all of our POWs back.

No need to go into Vietnam and Nixon's withdrawal.

A couple of hundred Marines died upholding Reagan's decision to intervene in the Lebanese civil war, and Ronnie tucked tail. The closest he came to combating Communism was the SWAT raid on Grenada.

George H.W. Bush made a decent recovery when his puppet, Saddam Hussein, got carried away, but he and his Secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney, began gutting the combat arms of the US military before the smoke had cleared. I was in San Diego for Gulf War I and read the letters in the San Diego Union Tribune from the combat pilots returning from the Gulf who had received their "Reduction In Force" letters.

Clinton slowed things down a bit from the Republican push to strip the military, but when Clinton wanted to move against Milosevic and bin Laden the Republicans started chanting "Wag The Dog" and made effective use of the American military nearly impossible.

Dubya broke with the Republicans' generally isolationist attitude and has gone whole hog to swagger around the world. He has been in search of glory, not competence alarming other governments and the professional military who prefer accomplishing missions, not merely saying you did.

The Republicans don't like treaties or international organizations. They prefer that people simply blindly trust the intentions of the United States. Unfortunately most countries do study history and don't think much of the US record of abiding by treaties or agreements under Republicans.

The neo-cons and their media apologists will talk about the world being against the US, but a closer study shows that the rest of the world is fed up with self-serving reinterpretations of treaties and agreements. They also object to the US claiming others are violating provisions while the US is violating the same agreement in the same manner.

The good news is that a lot of students will be able to get doctorates by trying to explain what the hell caused Dubya to be re-elected.

 

Friday, May 27, 2005
  Dave Redux
You should head over to Blogamy for:

Dave's Friday Question™


He's at it again.

 

  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

The Ringo Kid

Friday Cat Blogging

I wasn't going to steal it!

[Edit: Ringo refused to stop climbing into the undercarriages of cars, so she'll have to adapt to the inside. Her name is derived from the case of ringworm she has on her tail, and the fact that I've been naming cats for cowboys lately.]

Friday Ark


 

Thursday, May 26, 2005
  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For one day, schools must teach the same topic.
Schools can determine what kind of educational program they want, but they must hold one every year on the now-named "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day." And if September 17 falls on a weekend or holiday, schools must schedule a program immediately before or after that date.
Senator Robert Byrd thinks people should know what's really in the Constitution, and I agree with him.

While reports are buzzing about the health of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, The BBC points out that experience shows that Zarqawi is more important as a symbol for the Bush administration than for the conduct of the Iraqi insurgency or al Qaeda.

The ever vigilant Australian Broadcasting informs the world: Mill dispute sparks a run on toilet paper.
Shoppers in Finland have raided shelves for toilet paper in fear of it running out as a lockout of workers keeps the Nordic country's paper mills shut.
The inhumanity of it all. A note to the management of the paper mills: you are not gaining public support for your position by endangering the supply of toilet paper.

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
  Let's Make a New Enemy
Following the WTC attack the government of Syria provided the US with a lot of intelligence on the al Qaeda organization and cooperated with the US, in spite of a long history of differences and a generally anti-Syria attitude by the US.

The US wasn't wrong to consider Syria other than a friend of the US. There were major differences between the US and Syria over the Palestinians and Lebanon and Syria wants the Golan Heights back from Israel. There were numerous points of conflict and the former President, Hafez al Assad, was not a nice person.

In 2000, Bashar al Assad became President on the death of his father, and he started to open up the country. With a little support he might have opened up more, but in any case, this isn't "his father's Syria". Now, the BBC reports that Syria ends co-operation with US.

Syria was cooperating to the extent it could, but it wasn't getting anything in return from the US. The Iraq invasion caused major problems for Assad, but he kept things under control. The US has killed Syrian border guards in cross border raids, but Assad has kept things under control. Now the US is ratcheting up the rhetoric against Syria, so Assad has said "enough".

People have compared Syria and Iraq because they are neighbors and both were controlled by the Baath Party. The Parties were both dominated by a minority, which suppressed the majority. Both were dominated by "strongmen", who were bent on establishing hereditary Presidencies.

Assad and Saddam hated each other and both hated al Qaeda. Al Qaeda hated Saddam because he was a secularist, and Assad because he was a Alawite Shia, neither the fundamentalist Sunni that was required by the Wahhabi vision of the world.

The Iraqi Baathist were Sunni Arabs ruling over Shias, while the Syrian Baathists were Alawite Shias ruling over Sunni Arabs. This is the reason for Syria's ties to Iran and support for Hezbollah.

Syria has been playing "nice" recently, but the Busheviki keep pushing. The Syrians had to stop dealing with the US or face internal problems with its citizens. A lost opportunity to have another "non-enemy" in the area.

 

  Supporting the Troops
Vets at military retirement home sue Rumsfeld: according to this CNN report a class action law suit has been filed by residents of the military's nursing home in Washington over cuts in services. The Defense Department has cut the budget of the facility from $63 million last year to $58 million this year.

To be eligible for either of the two Nursing Homes you have to have 20 years of military service and duty in a combat zone.

Jillian at skippy tells us about Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS), and Coast Guard Reservist, who wants to provide health care for Reservists and the National Guard who are being used for Federal duties.

This is really a security issue. Many people who have been called up are not medically fit for duty due to a lack of health coverage.

Duncan Hunter, the representative of yacht owners in Coronado, California and Chairthing of the Armed Services Committee says it's too expensive. He also thinks people are stupid not to understand why women can't really serve in combat or crew their own boats.

[Yes, Duncan is a Republican. Yes, he thinks he's a conservative. Yes, he thinks going to cocktail parties with retired Admirals is the same as military service. Yes, I know him. Yes, he is an obnoxious jerk.]

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
  Contrast: McNamara and Rumsfeld
Jo Fish over at Democratic Veteran ran a post, Strange Donald Rumsfeld, looking at the similarities of the wars handled by Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld. I agree that there are multiple similarities, including the probable endings, but there are some differences.

During Vietnam equipment failed to work properly at first and there were a lot of minor annoyances, but fixes were found and implemented within a reasonable time frame. You pulled a one-year tour and didn't go back unless everyone else in your specialty at your rank had already gone or you volunteered. If you went on a temporary basis, you were out of there in less than 179 days. Except for a tiny number of specialties in which there were real critical shortages, when your active duty enlistment was up, you got to turn in your uniforms and go home with a benefit package that wasn't as good as World War II, but not terrible. If you stayed in you could retire with 50% of your base pay after 20 years, 75% if you stayed for 30.

The guys mired in the sand still don't have the right body or vehicle armor. No one knows how long a tour will be, or how many you'll have to pull. The temporary duty time limit is now 269 days. Thousands of people are being blocked from going home through "Stop-Loss" orders and people who have completed their active duty are being recalled from the Reserves. The benefits suck. If you stay in for 20 years you get 37.5% of base pay, 50% comes after 30 years.

The big difference between the two conflicts is how badly the troops are being treated in this one.

Apparently the people in charge of this mess don't see the need to treat volunteers as well as draftees were treated.

The kind of people who would do this probably blow up frogs or beat their dogs; they are real trash.

 

  This And That
If you have any interest in gardening, don't miss the Chelsea Flower Show.

Reuters gives us a great story of "making lemonade when life gives you lemons": Restaurant cashes in on elephant rampage.

"Restaurant Where Elephants Have Been" is the new name of a restaurant that was gutted by three elephants that wandered away from the local zoo.

So much for my plan to make the world a better place: Wormhole 'no use' for time travel. I had high hopes that a friendly neighborhood wormhole would have solved the time and energy problems with my plan.

They should have bought the required Kiddie Meals at the appropriate Bodacious Burger Barn: Two hurt in mock light sabre duel.
Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after apparently trying to make light sabres by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.
Pouring gasoline into glass tubes, lighting them, and then hitting them against each other: what a great idea! And people wonder why George Lucas hasn't bothered to make the last three movies better. Hint: these people buy tickets to his movies.

[Edit: Thanks to Blogger, The Apostopher got this posted before me.]

 

Monday, May 23, 2005
  Living With Wildlife
The AP locates this report just down the road in Pensacola: Man Accused of Poaching Alligator.
A man charged with illegally hunting an alligator said he shot into the water to protect his daughter.

Michael Vann, 45, has been ordered to appear in court June 10 to face a felony charge. But he said a 4- to 5-foot gator charged his 9-year-old daughter while she was fishing about 400 feet from their home, and it sank after he fired.

If you read that and know nothing about alligators his story sounds reasonable. Now ask yourself: Florida just passed a law approving gunfights in the Wal-Mart parking lot, so why are they arresting this guy?

The alligator has been around two weeks, according to the story, and Mr. Vann claims he has been unable to contact Fish & Wildlife, so why was he letting his daughter fish near it? Why did he go back to the house and get a gun, instead of pitching something at the alligator to scare it off?

For that alligator to hang around, it had to have a food supply, was he or his daughter feeding it [an illegal action in Florida]? Why wasn't this alligator "cruising singles bars" like all of the other 'gators this time of year?

What ever was going on, it isn't likely to be what Mr. Vann reported. The story doesn't make sense based an alligator's normal behavior, and that's why he was charged.

[Note: There is a licensed alligator trapper in the area and he has captured and relocated several much larger animals.]

 

  British Broadcasting Cuts
The new director of the BBC decided to treat the broadcaster like a business, so the first thing he did was to cuts jobs. Australian Broadcasting reports that : BBC staff strike over job cuts.

There's a report on the BBC site, but given that instead of listening to the news on the BBC World Service, I'm currently hearing "world music" being played by an unfamiliar female voice who needs a bit more time in the minors before making to the World Service, I wouldn't bet that the website will be stable today.

Apparently there will a series of 24-hour strikes in the near future, by the employees of the BBC protesting the cut of approximately 3,700 jobs.

The "plan" would appear to be replacing people with "new technology" to make the service "more efficient and competitive". There's no clear statement as to who exactly is competing with the BBC, as the other media outlets in the UK are commercial and dependent on advertising revenue.

It's not clear exactly what changes in technology are going to be purchased with the savings, or how they are going to get the information to put on this new technology.

To the best of my knowledge HDTV is the only major recent change in broadcast technology and that's been in hand for some time. The whole thing sounds like a rote repetition from some business school class project. An almost 15% cut in staff upon taking over a new job is not a reasonable thing to do. You really should spend some time investigating an organization before you start stressing it like this.

 

Sunday, May 22, 2005
  Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?
Would you believe that the Federal government has a rule requiring states providing Medicaid drug coverage to pay for Viagra? Well, how about this MSNBC report: Sex offenders get Medicaid-paid Viagra?
Audits by [New York]Comptroller Alan Hevesi's office showed that between January 2000 and March 2005, 198 sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions. Those included crimes against children as young as 2 years old, he said.

Federal Medicaid funding is being reduced and if cuts must be made, the first thing to be cut should be "lifestyle" reimbursements. Reimbursements made by Medicaid have to be prioritized, and I think it is a good deal more important to get preventative and lifesaving care to as many people as possible before we start spending money on "happy sex lives", especially when the drugs involved are over-priced patented products.

Frankly, I would question coverage for Viagra, et al. even if we had a single-payer health system that include dental and vision care. This should be classed with elective cosmetic surgery, like a facelift or permanent eyeliner. In the 1990s the Republicans made sure they we heard more about other peoples' sex lives than most of us cared to know.

Mr. Hevesi has contacted Federal officials about changing the rule, and New York's Senators have said they will get involved if legislation is necessary, but I would question why it took this long for someone to notice, and why that person was a state official. Wasn't John Ashcroft supposed to be on top of this sort of thing? Why wasn't James Dobson watching this instead of SpongeBob's SquarePants?

The New York Attorney General seems to be the only one policing business, and now New York's Comptroller has to police Medicaid. Is there anyone in the Federal government earning their paycheck? Where was the Religious Reich?

 

  Chemical Warfare
As I have mentioned before my abode has been under assault by Ctenocephalides felis due to a mild winter. I tried defending with several different over the counter preparations to no avail. The cats were miserable and I was being attacked, which hadn't happened in previous outbreaks.

In self-defense the cats had taken to remaining on the kitchen table [which was cleared off during Sox's initial overpowered leap to the surface] and they were moving by leaping from the table to bookcases, to the counter top. Food dishes and litter boxes had to be repositioned based on their refusal to travel on the floor.

I finally decided that my desire not to employ all means necessary and attempting to moderately escalate the conflict was simply not going to cut it. The fleas started it, and it was time to bring the battle to a convincing conclusion.

My veterinarian supplied me with selamectin [Revolution®] for the cats and I bought chemical weapons for deploying in the theater of operations. The selamectin not only controls the fleas, but also works on ear mites, heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms, which reduces the annoyance of the cats when I have to treat them for the individual problems.

For those who haven't done this recently, using a "fogger" for interior insect control has changed. The propellant is no longer a type of Freon®, due to concern for the ozone layer. The current propellant of choice would seem to be propane, which can result in an interesting complication if you neglect to turn off all of the pilot lights in your house and any device that might cause a spark: a major fireball erupting in your domicile. While said fireball would probably eliminate any pests, there would certainly be undesired side effects, so if you attempt this at home, read the label and follow directions closely.

The particular fogger I used had a cheerful blurb on the label telling me that it contained an "odor neutralizer", which sounded good having endured airing out houses and apartments. It turns out that rather than smelling the pesticide, your house smells like you just painted it. The "paint smell" seemed to be more stubborn than the old odor, but that may be subjective.

The cats are being antisocial over at my Mother's house. They are hiding under the bed in her back room, and I haven't seen Dot since I carried her over there. Sox will show up when I bring their canned food in the evening, but they are definitely not happy.

So far the fogging seems to have worked but I want to do some major clean up before reintroducing the cats. As they now have the medication on their skin, I don't want them to have contact with any of the pesticide. There probably wouldn't be any problem, but why take the chance.

Hopefully they will be able to come home this afternoon, and will forgive me for doing this in a week or ten.

Next: Something to treat the yard with that won't kill the good insects with the bad, if at all possible.

 

Saturday, May 21, 2005
  All That Glitters
is not Gold, and all white powders are not drugs.

As Australian Broadcasting is busy looking for bodies of water [see below], the BBC steps up to tell us: Powder mix-up fools sniffer dogs.

Several new Melbourne police drug dogs were trained to locate talcum powder instead of cocaine due to an "anomaly" in the police evidence system. Australian authorities have started an investigation to determine why bags that should have contained cocaine seized in drug arrests are filled with baby powder.

While admitting that the dogs will have to be re-trained, a spokesman indicated that in the meantime the dogs could be quite useful in finding lost toddlers.

 

  Lakenapping?
Australian Broadcasting brings us: Missing: one Russian lake.

The Russian village of Bolotnikovo east of Moscow is missing its lake according to this report on the Russian NTV network.

While many will suspect a sinkhole, not everyone:
One older woman has told NTV she believes the Americans have finally been able to hit them where it hurts.

"I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us," she said as she sat on the ground outside her house.

Maybe they need to check Bush's ranch. Can a lake be an illegal immigrant?

Isn't wonderful to live in a country that gets blamed for every misfortune in the rest of the world. A new "honor" for the US: the world's most mistrusted country.

 

  Space Invaders™
Not withstanding several treaties banning such weapons, the total lack of any foreseeable need, and massive Federal deficits, CNN reports: Air Force seeks Bush nod for space weapons.

Near-Earth space is already cluttered with junk that comes down along with meteorites, so now they want to launch more debris into the mix.

I would make this incredibly stupid concept dependent on making the current anti-missile system work as advertised before any research could start, which would eliminate an possibility of this ever occurring.

I have a sneaking feeling that the analysis was along the lines of: "Hey, the Invaders always win! No matter how many you eliminate more keep showing up to eliminate your ground defenses. You can't win against a space-based weapon." Unless, of course, you send a dozen people infected with Ebola across the Rio Grande, or have them fly into major metropolitan airports.

Space Command should concentrate on dealing with Asteroids™.

 

Friday, May 20, 2005
  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

Mittens in the Driveway

Friday Cat Blogging

Oh, drive around!

[Edit: Mittens and others have found some relief from flea attacks by sleeping in the driveway. Mittens doesn't believe in moving until you get out of the car and approach on foot.]

Friday Ark


 

Thursday, May 19, 2005
  Animal Attraction
The thing is different cultures view animals in different ways. When some people called the French weasels because they refused to be taken in by the unintelligence claims about Iraq, it was a waste of time - the French don't view weasels the same way Americans do.

Among a number of different tribes of Native Americans, bringing a dog into the house is a filthy habit. In general, dogs are considered filthy in Islamic countries, and in parts of Southern Asia they are considered dinner.

When you start using animals as totems for countries, you really need to know how that culture reacts to that animal. When you are drawing a political cartoon it is important to determine if the country you are depicting reacts to that animal the same way you audience reacts.

Steve Gilliard and Digby cover the incident of a Washington Times cartoon that has created a furor in Pakistan.

Considering the reaction when the British press and MPs call Blair "Bush's Poodle", why would the artist think it was a good idea to portray Pakistan as America's hound?

 

  Uzbekistan

Uzbek Flag



The world has finally decided to notice there's a problem in Uzbekistan.

Canadian Broadcast had it on their front page: U.S. joins calls for Uzbek investigation, as did the Australians: Diplomats inspect Uzbek city of Andijan after protest violence

You have to look to find it on the BBC: US joins push for Uzbek inquiry, or CNN: Pressure for Uzbek violence probe.

The problem is not unique in history. A tyrant has put too much pressure on his people and some of them revolted, which resulted in the violent suppression of the dissidents. The government reports 169 deaths, but others say in excess of 700. The government conducts a tour near, but not at, the site of the suppression to show there was no massive loss of life, while insisting that foreigners cannot talk to local people. The foreign ministry chants "war on terror" in the background.

The breakup of the Soviet Union provided jobs to some former Soviet bureaucrats, and a number of them are not very nice people:
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus - garden variety thug and murderer with delusions of grandeur.
Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan - totally delusional, names months after himself and want a palace of ice built in a desert.
Emomali Rakhmonov of Tadjikistan and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan are not quite as friendly as Mayor Daley of Chicago in the 1960s.

Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan is a nice fit for the group, but he's smoother and less obvious about the fact that he will do anything and kill anyone to maintain his control.

The Bush administration has allied itself with Karimov to get necessary military bases in its "Global War on Terror". They had to ignore the reports of the murder and torture, because everyone murdered and tortured was an "enemy combatant" or "Muslim extremist", and these things don't usually take place in public or on Sundays. They know this because Mr. Karimov told them, and there's no reason for him to lie.

The Uzbek national hero is buried in a vault carved from what is rumored to be the world's largest chunk of worked jade in Samarkand. Timur kicked up quite a fuss at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century. Known by many variations such as Tamerlane, he was a rather successful conqueror, and not notably a nice guy.

 

  A Comparison
Rubber Hose noticed a comparison by The Angry Bear between World War II and the Global War on Terror.

May 19th, 2005 is the 1346th day after the September 11th, 2001 attack on the US. There were 1346 days between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the unconditional surrender of Japan, ending World War II.

The American people under FDR managed to train and equip several major armies to fight a war on a truly global scale against massive enemy armies and develop the atomic bomb.

Under GWB we don't seem to be able to find one guy in a cave, nor to supply our troops with the equipment they need, and our possible enemies are the ones developing the atomic bomb.

Recently, George W. Bush criticized the actions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. President Roosevelt won his war in 1346 days, even with the handicap of dying before the end, and "he went to war with the army he had", but he made it better along the way.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. [Matthew 7:15-16]

Where are Bush's "fruits", the results of his leadership?

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
  Slugs
After rainstorms you see a lot more activity by slugs, after hurricanes the slugs mutate into leeches to suck up the money made available by FEMA.

The local no-new-tax Republicans discover that public facilities that no one ever remembers seeing have been destroyed by the hurricane. Some of these facilities have been talked about for years, but the officials wouldn't raise the taxes to build them.

Florida's Democratic Senator and former Insurance Commissioner, Bill Nelson, set off alarm bells when he saw the reports on FEMA aid and discovered that millions of dollars had been paid out in the Miami-Dade County area. None of the four hurricanes hit that area, so the Senator wanted an investigation as to why the money was spent there.

The multi-talented Jillian posting at the home of the marsupial of miniscule, skippy, gives you a taste of of some of the items covered.

For those who have forgotten, the Sun Sentinel reminds us that one of the storms, hurricane Frances in the first week of September, 2004, looked like it might strike Miami, so John Ellis, our money-grubbing...er Republican governor, asked for a federal declaration of emergency in Miami-Dade and 17 other counties. The initial Presidential declaration only included 5 counties in the area where the storm did strike, about 100 miles north of Miami, but FEMA later added all of the counties on JEB's wish list without conducting an initial survey for damage.

Of course, no one should assume that the fact that Cuban-Republican voters are centered in Miami, that Florida's governor is the President's brother, or that Florida was a close Presidential race, had any effect on the decision to dispense the taxpayers' money with such largess.

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  Kicking Anthills
Norm Coleman, the Republican Senator from Minnesota really needs to learn how to use a search engine. Having decided that he can improve his image by attacking the UN he held some hearings on the Oil For Food program.

Attacking Kofi Annan is pretty safe because the Secretary General of the United Nations is a diplomat and always "plays nice", but accusing George Galloway, British Member of Parliament, of anything is sort of like kicking a fire ant mound barefooted - you are going to get hurt.

Galloway was ejected from Tony Blair's Labour Party as a Member from Glasgow-Kelvin for his statements about the Iraq War, but he responded by winning a seat at Bethnal Green & Bow from a Labour Member as part of the Respect Party.

"Gorgeous George" is all attack, he doesn't care about defense or moderation. He is proud and loud about being a liberal leftist.

skippy has a short transcript of Galloway's opening remarks, and Crooks and Liars has audio and video of portions of his testimony, in which Mr. Galloway lays out some of the nasty facts of US-Iraqi relations, and the run up to the Iraq War. No punches were pulled and no quarter was given.

Fortunately for Coleman dueling is illegal, because Galloway would have called him out for a sunrise meeting. The Republicans have been lulled into believing that they can get away with anything because the Democrats don't like to act abrasively. In the British Parliament you had better be ready for war before you badmouth someone, and you had better have your facts straight. Coleman has a war now, and Galloway is not going to give up.

And, Norm, Karl doesn't want people to notice the British memo, so attacking a British MP was pretty stupid.

 

  Truth In Advertising
In order to attract more people the military is now talking about a 15 month active duty tour. They want people to assume that you will only be required to serve 15 months and then you will be free.

READ THE FINE PRINT! You sign up for a total of 8 years of combined active and Reserve duty. The military has been calling up Reservists who have completed 4 years of active duty because of their Reserve commitment and are refusing to release people who have completed their entire 8-year term. If you sign the paperwork you belong to the military for a minimum of 8 years, not 15 months.

There was a 12-month National Guard program and many people who were in that are being retained well beyond those 12 months.

You are under penalty of criminal prosecution if you fail to fulfill your part in the agreement, but the government is able to alter their obligations at will. If they lie to you, a court will say that they are bad people, but you are required to do what they tell you to do. They don't recognize any restrictions on their power.

My Father was kept in service for three years past his retirement date, and finally was allowed to retire for health reasons. If his health hadn't gone to pieces there's no telling how long he would have been kept on active duty.

The military is not a good option anymore. It pains me personally to say that, because for a long time I recommended military service to people who needed help to get their life in order and save enough money for a decent education. It was a way out of poverty for a lot of people, but the current regime has changed that.

If you feel inclined to a military life there's always the Légion Etrangère. At least they don't pretend to be something they are not. You will need to learn French.

 

  Of Interest
In a inconvenience to satire in blogtopia™ [skippy] the New York Times is following the lead of the Northwest Florida Daily News and will begin charging for its on-line content. At $50/year it is highly unlikely that the blog jesters will be willing to pay for access to the Times op-ed page when the fun articles will be released later in syndication. This will of course sharply reduce the number of visitors to the NYT web site, with a corresponding decrease in advertising revenue.

For some reason I don't think the snarkmeisters will be willing to part with their wages from 8 hours at Wendy's making chili to read David Brooks a couple of days sooner.

 

Sunday, May 15, 2005
  Merger Mania
Rumsfeld has announced his plan to make the military more efficient and able to meet the requirements of the 21st century, except we already know from Iraq that current Pentagon planning is either non-existent or totally incompetent. I'm betting on totally incompetent, because even a random choice would yield better results than we have seen in the last four years.

What Rumsfeld has done is pull a page from "business management 101" and moved to implement it. He is going for the merger and consolidation option to reduce costs without bothering to understand why certain functions are dispersed. Having no actual military experience and no imagination, he doesn't understand why you wouldn't consolidate everything to eliminate any redundancy in the system. Consolidation saves money in peace time, but it might cause you to lose a war. Redundancy is seen as a problem in business, but it is a virtue in war.

Currently the B-1 bomber fleet is based at two different bases separated by a thousand miles. An aggressor would have to attack both bases to eliminate that threat. Rumsfeld wants to consolidate all of these aircraft at a single base, so a single ICBM can take them all out. It might save money, but at the risk of losing an entire weapons system in one strike. Whatever money it might save the US, there is a definite savings for the enemy.

He is consolidating fighter aircraft, even though the attacks on 9/11 showed that a major problem was the lack of fighter protection for major cities in the event of an aerial attack. Previous closures have eliminated fighter bases closer to New York and Washington. If he wanted to save money on fighter defenses the military could buy cheaper, more efficient fighters designed to defend against civilian aircraft, rather than opposing enemy fighters. A subsonic fighter with an extended flight capability would be better than a supersonic fighter that is out of fuel by the time it gets to an area of concern. If the cheaper planes were flown by National Guard or Reserve units that were guaranteed to stay in place, the pilots could be found. The fuel costs for the 2 F-16s that intercepted the Cessna in Washington DC were probably greater than the cost of the Cessna.

Locally they are planning to add about 2,000 Army Special Forces people to the mix at Eglin Air Force Base. This is a logical move as Air Force Special Operations Command is headquartered at Eglin's Hurlburt Field. The problem is the lack of any place for these people to live. Eglin has a lot of space, but much of that is devoted to testing ranges and necessary buffer zones. The civilian areas are dominated by vacation and retirement homes that are well out of the price range of military families, even if there were vacancies, which there aren't after hurricane Ivan. Local governments don't have the resources to absorb the extra people and their children and cars. The water and sewage systems are already maxed out. Nice idea, but there is no money available to adjust the infrastructure for the change. It will take at least a year for the base to build new housing, and there is only so much you can do without water.

Closing down the Navy facilities on the New England coast looks like a good idea if you don't know anything about weather or the coastal geography of the US. If you consolidate along the Southern coast you risk having major damage from a single hurricane moving up the coast. There are fewer deep water ports on the South because of the Continental shelf which is why there aren't more Navy bases down here. In addition you have the basic problem of reducing the number of targets an enemy has to hit to cripple your capabilities.

Frankly I think that in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War too many bases were closed and now the military has problems finding training and testing locations. If we bring back a massive number of people from Korea and Germany, as planned, where are our staging areas and storage locations?

It is all well and good to say that our military requirements are those envisioned by the G.H.W. Bush years, but the reality of the G.W. Bush years don't match that paradigm. Bush I had a foreign policy that didn't annoy the rest of the world; that has not been the case for Bush II.

 

  Appeasement
Matt started this topic and it was picked up by Kevin and then Digby. They are wondering what's wrong with a few religious displays in schools and public buildings? They go on to talk about where they would draw the line and how unreasonable it is for certain groups to go around picking fights over every religious expression in public spaces.

What these guys miss is the experience of people like Elayne who are injured by the "minor" cracks in the "wall" separating Church and State.

Anne and Norbizness jump in based on principle, rather than personal experience.

I remember when every morning started with the Protestant "Lord's Prayer" and the "problem" at the end when the Catholics joined the Jews in silence while the Protestants continued. Protestants were in the minority in my class, but it was the Protestant version that was used. The message to the other kids: you don't belong.

You should have heard the roar when a middle-school girl down here decided she was interested in Wicca and wanted to start a club at school to study it. Understand: she wasn't a Wiccan, nor were her parents, but she was interested in the subject. You would have thought that she wanted to build an altar under the flagpole, displacing the "Christian" prayer circle, and start having human sacrifices. [Insert references to Satan, Halloween, and Harry Potter here as a sample of the rants.]

The Supremes have advanced the concept of "meaningless ritual" to cover their personal desire not to get involved any more deeply than they have to, taking the "Munich" option.

If I thought people wanted to set up a Crèche to celebrate a holiday I wouldn't complain, that's the way things used to be, but today the symbols are being used as part of a "war". If "Christians" are so concerned about Christmas symbols, why doesn't the Southern Baptist Church put out a public display on their property, instead of asking to use public property? I live in Religious Reich land and they have plenty of displays around town, including a living Crèche at a local shopping center, but churches are bare outside. They may have decorations inside, but nothing in public view. This isn't about faith, it is about recruitment and pressure. They are using these symbols for marketing and political action, not their belief.

What Matt, Kevin, and Digby miss is that these cases are being brought by people who are tired of being asked to "sit in the back of the bus", when it comes to their religious views.

Some may have noticed that I try not to spell out G-d. I have friends who find it offensive to spell out that name. They view it as sacrilegious to use that name in vain. They view its use on money to be especially offensive, but they are a minority and are forced to deal with this official indignity. They have dealt with a lot of indignities, beginning before the Diaspora, many of them fatal.

For all those who appreciate the historical perspective on national debate:

The "ancient motto" of the United States:

1864 - the Treasury Department introduces "In G-d We Trust" on the two-cent coin in response to calls from clergymen during the Civil war. It appeared on other coins as they are redesigned. The Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, specified the wording.

1908 - Congress returns the words to coins after President Roosevelt had them removed as "sacrilegious".

1956 - it become the "motto" of the United States and is put on all currency.

The "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag":

1892 - introduced in a youth magazine for use in the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America.

1942 - officially adopted by Congress.

1954 - "under G-d" added to scare the Commies.

National Cemeteries:

1930 - Religious symbols are no longer banned from government-purchased grave markers. [If you don't believe it, walk through the older sections of Arlington with the standard gravestones.]

The government of the United States got "religion" under Dwight Eisenhower and a Republican Congress.

The "Ten Commandments" monuments are generally the result a publicity stunt by Cecil B. DeMille in association with the Fraternal Order of Eagles for his movie of the same name [you remember, when Moses comes down from the mountain carrying a flintlock musket].

The oldest private universities and colleges in the US and Europe were founded as religious institutions to train the clergy which is why there is so many references to "religious speech" in early documents. Religious orthodoxy was a primary motivator for people escaping from Europe: they were refugees from religious prosecution, which is why they banned it under the new government established in the United States.

The Religious Reich is not defending "old and established custom" they are defending the march towards religious orthodoxy that made a "Great Leap Forward" under the "Red Scare" of fifty years ago. Opposing these new additions isn't persecution: it is a move to return to the status quo ante.

You cannot negotiate with fanatics because they will not honor any compromise. Their world is black and white, and they deny the existence of gray. These people are not asking for equal treatment; they want dominance.

 

Saturday, May 14, 2005
  More Down Time
After the semi-Scheduled downtime yesterday, Blogger is going down again this afternoon [Saturday, 14 May] at 2:00PM Pacific for 45 minutes or so.

Blogger is now requiring the "enter these letters in the box below" schtick to post...SIGH

 

Friday, May 13, 2005
  Go Immediately
You should head over to Blogamy for:

Dave's Friday Question™



 

  Penny Wise
The Pentagon is reviewing its real estate holdings and deciding if it needs to close "branch offices" to cut costs. Rumsfeld has figured out that he can't cut as deeply as he had "planned" because, as usual, his initial "plan" left out the withdrawal of US troops from overseas bases. Apparently Rumsfeld's initial concept was to eliminate enough people that there would be no need to have space for the troops returning to the US.

CNN's report is titled: Rumsfeld: Base closings will save $48 billion and MSNBC's report on Base Closings follows the same line.

CNN at least gives a subhead that puts in perspective: "Defense chief says savings would be realized over 20 years".

Rumsfeld talks about $7+ billion per year, but through the first 20 years that will be offset by the cost of cleaning up the bases. Most closed military bases show up on the EPA Superfund list immediately because the military uses a lot of dangerous chemicals and materials that are a minor immediate problem as the public is kept away by fences and armed guards. When the bases are closed and sold, you have to clean them up. People get annoyed when bombs and such are found in their backyards after moving into a new subdivision.

The process is exceedingly expensive as states and localities hire lobbyists to protect their interests. This is going to be a vicious fight and there is no need to do it now. That Rumsfeld is pushing this forward at a time when he should be taking care of the multitude of problems with the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as rising tensions over Iran and North Korea.


Update:
The recommendations for base closings are out and it is flat strange.

Senator Thune claimed that saving Ellsworth AFB was something he could do and Tom Daschle couldn't, except he was wrong.

Joe Lieberman's act hasn't helped the Groton Sub Base; Texas took a number of hits; they are planning to close Walter Reed Hospital; Trent Lott couldn't defend Pascagoula Naval Station; Olympia Snow didn't help Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

They are moving people around and closing facilities at a time when we need to expand the military. They are eliminating National Guard and Reserve centers at a time in history when these forces are being used more and more as active units. This is a plan that was created years ago in George H.W. Bush's administration by Cheney and Rumsfeld and not updated since then. It doesn't reflect reality.

Let the blood bath begin, because this will be a nasty fight.


Update 2:
They are moving several thousand people to the local base in my area, and my Mother, ever practical, asks "Where are these people supposed to live?"

We lost hundreds of houses and apartments to hurricane Ivan last Fall. There has been no new low-cost or even medium cost housing built in years, only high-end retirement condos. The base is building a new housing area, but that is to replace the units they lost in the hurricane.

We don't have the local infrastructure, water, sewer, roads, etc. for thousands of new people. Does Rumsfeld have a "plan" to locate more groundwater?


Update 3:
Cookie Jill at skippy found an Associated Press story confirming the Pentagon wants to close Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC.

 

  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

Dot Rules!

Friday Cat Blogging

Fear my power, mortal!

[Edit: Due to a vicious flea outbreak and a totally ineffective product, Dot and Sox spend a lot of time on the dining room table, one of the few flea free areas in the house. I'm getting another product but I can't risk using it until the beginning of next week, so it has been flea combing twice a day.

After they have been treated, I can take them to my Mother's for the day and fumigate the house.

Fleas on the inside, fire ants on the outside, and cockroaches everywhere, the joys of the Redneck Riviera.]

Friday Ark


 

Thursday, May 12, 2005
  The Right Tool For The Job
In my rant about the F-22 Raptor jet fighter I noted that the aircraft would be too fast to actually engage in a dog fight with the majority current fighter aircraft.

The recent Cessna 150 that wandered into restricted airspace was a prime example of the problem: the F-16s couldn't slow down and escort or communicate with the Cessna. The F-16s are fine for jet transports, but most general aviation aircraft are designed to fly low and slow with unpressurized cabins and piston engines turning propellers. The military needs different aircraft, and fortunately the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has such military aircraft from the Wright Flyer through the X-15.

Perhaps the military should have a few fighters built that could actually match speeds with small aircraft escort them away from sensitive areas. They could send in the F-16 to identify the threat and then launch a Sopwith Camel or P-51 Mustang as required to deal with it. More radically they could ask a talented aircraft designer like Burt Rutan to build them a few copies of a low speed aircraft capable of staying airborne for an extended period as well as carrying weapons.

This won't work, of course, because it would be too cheap.

Edit: Corrected the name of the F-22 - I plead Freudian slip.

 

  Firefox 1.0.4 Available
The security update for Firefox is now available for download.
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
  On A Horse?
ABC noted that a man has been charged with drunken driving while riding a horse in Kentucky. No doubt he was drunk, his blood alcohol content was .244%. We used to ship people with .25% and higher to the hospital for observation, but I wasn't aware you could use the Vehicle and Traffic Law for horses. Apparently horses, bicycles, and riding lawn mowers are covered under Kentucky law.

 

  News As Entertainment
People are once again realizing the priorities of the corporations that select what the "news" is on any given day. The number one priority is audience ratings, which drive advertising rates.

To have media staying power a story must involve a celebrity or a crime involving a white female: cute if a child, pretty if an adult.

There are a lot of people who go missing every day, but to be mentioned on CNN they must involve white women from middle class families and above. All of the special laws are named for white women and children.

These atrocities happen to boys and non-Whites, but you wouldn't know that if you watch the national media.

Small wonder people in this country have no idea what's going on. The Right has inordinate power because they get their messages out, while most people assume that TV news will tell them what's important.

 

  Republican Retirement

Poster


Yet another corporation is allowed to escape the effects of bad decisions by its millionaires at the top, and the debts they authorized are shifted to taxpayers through a government bailout mechanism, similar to the bail out of the savings and loans after the mistakes and corruption of its millionaire managers.

The Republicans don't want the middle-class to ever be able to retire. They just altered the bankruptcy law to ensure that there is no escape for people who are not in the seven-figure salary bracket from the interest and fees claimed by corporations, but corporations can still receive forgiveness of obligations when they enter bankruptcy.

Agricultural work should come naturally to people who backs are bent in years in cockpits or cubicles, and there will be work for years picking cotton to supply the Chinese textile industry.

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
  Down Time
Blogger is warning of an hour of down time today, Tuesday May 10, between 4 and 5PM Pacific Time.

 

  Very Busy Day
If you missed it, or Mustang Bobby's condensed version, go read John at Archy. John's article: Do they even know what they believe? lays out some of the basic conflicts of theology facing individual members of the Religious Reich.

When they talk about "traditional values", they mean their values, not middle-of-the-road Christian values. A lot of people see the word "Baptist" and react negatively, but one of the best Christians that most Americans know, Jimmy Carter, is a Baptist.

The Reich's stereotyping of its opponents doesn't justify stereotyping by those opponents. I know a number of Baptists who are good Christians. Of course none of them go to the Southern Baptist Convention multimedia business calling itself a church just down the road from me.


August J. Pollock's new cartoon at Xoverboard discusses a new military policy and, no, he isn't making it up, it is a new policy.


Len at Dark Bilious Vapors pointed me to Jo at Democratic Veteran who quotes Gordon at The Alternate Brain's article: Fearless Leader, Ha!

It turns out that the Marines who marched at the Inauguration Parade had the bolts removed from their rifles.

This is isn't caution; this is clinical paranoia. If a President can't trust the Marines assigned to the Capitol District, he should just hide in the basement. This is highly insulting to men who would be providing the first line of defense for the White House in case of a large attack. The Marines fly the President's helicopter, if you can't trust the Marines you need another line of work.

Now I have issues with the Marines. I mean people who get up at O Dark Thirty in the morning to run around the base carrying rifles over their head and singing deserve a special level of Hell, but I would never question their honor, as this act did. If Bush doesn't trust them, why should they trust him?


Karen at Dark Bilious Vapors offers us: More on the De-Volution in Kansas....

Ron Reagan is not happy about the "trial" in Kansas, not simply the way the trial is going, but that there is a trial at all.

 

Sunday, May 08, 2005
  Sixty Years On
On May 8, 1945 the War in Europe ended and there was a brief period of peace in that area as the effort turned to Asia and continuing action against Japan. There really was light at the end of the tunnel, but it didn't last long. The united effort to end the threat to most of the world soon collapsed as nations left cooperation behind and were soon at each other's throats.

Update: Why isn't there some kind or type of official recognition of the 60th anniversity of V-E Day in the US? Would a ceremony at the World War II Memorial been too much to expect? We are running out of World War II veterans, and it would have been nice to recognise their service.

 

  Happy Mother's Day
To everyone who functions as a Mother, take the day off and annoy your kids, especially those that "don't call" or live in an alternate universe and haven't seen the sales. Even small children need to be inculcated with guilt early and often.

 

  They Don't Let Up
Robert at Interstate 4 Jamming reports that a staffer at the local Catholic diocese called the office of Judge Ronald Alvarez, the judge in the case about the 13-year-old in foster care seeking an abortion, to find out if he were a Catholic, and if so, what his parish was. Apparently this person intended to have a talk with the judge's priest about denying communion to the judge for "enabling" the girl to obtain an abortion.

The judge says that while he is Catholic, he stopped going to church three years ago because of the issue of abuse by priests. As a juvenile court judge Mr. Alvarez would know more about abuse than anyone should.

I wonder if it occurs to these people, and the Baptists that asked Judge Greer to leave, that they are making their candidates less electable. John Kennedy had to come out and say that he wouldn't govern based on the dictates of the Vatican. When these people emphasize their insistence on ideological purity and conformance to religion over the laws, they make people leery of supporting candidates of their sect.

It's not as if we didn't already have enough extraneous garbage in our political campaigns, now we have to listen to candidates compare their "orthodoxy" or lack of it to get elected.

 

Saturday, May 07, 2005
  Truth Will Out
The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award: Former Vice President Al Gore

Setting the record straight on one of recent history's most persistent political myths, The Webby Awards will present Former Vice President Al Gore with The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the pivotal role he has played in the development of the Internet over the past three decades. Vint Cerf, widely credited as one of the "fathers of the Internet," will present Vice President Gore with the award.


For those who don't know, Vinton G. Cerf joined Robert E. Kahn's project at DARPA in 1973 and the two of them created the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is the basic scheme that makes the Internet as it currently exists possible.

 

  Bush Steps Into It
Because he doesn't have any personal knowledge of the history of the area, Bush has jumped into the middle of one of the nastiest pieces of 20th century history.

Stalin was afraid of Hitler and asked for a treaty with Britain and France. The treaty was turned down, so Stalin inked a deal with Hitler that cut up the countries bordering the Baltic. The countries given to Stalin by the treaty supported Hitler against Stalin. In the final disposition the Allies gave Stalin control over those areas. Millions of people died as a result of this mess and Bush stepped right into the middle of it.

There are no readily identifiable "good guys", and "my country didn't commit as many atrocities as your country" is not a great rallying cry. When Hitler and Stalin are involved there are no good choices. The area only shows up in nasty ethics exams by sadistic professors, or the conversations of drunken graduate students.

Bush has gone so far as to decry the decision of FDR not to go to war with the Soviet Union after the defeat of the German Armies. The decision not to push the Soviet Union back to its pre-World War II borders was a recognition of the reality that the people of the US would not support further war.

Any review of the limp support for the Korean War would show the folly of suggesting that FDR should have opposed Stalin at the end of World War Two. The Soviets took the brunt of the German violence for years and lost tens of millions of people. The Allies made a number of decisions that cost Soviet lives, and Stalin was paranoid to begin with. Stalin and the Russian weather might have been able to defeat Hitler eventually, and the Allies didn't want to face that possibility.

Remind me again what Condi Rice's specialty is supposed to be.

 

  Well That Explains It
NASCAR is still permitted to use leaded fuel. The lead particles emitted by these engines cause neurological damage: NASCAR makes you STUPID. It may not be nice, or kind, but it is a scientific fact: going to a NASCAR race lowers your IQ through lead poisoning.

Well, we can't outlaw leaded fuel for NASCAR because it would cost the teams money to redesign their engines, unlike millions of American cars that have already been converted.

 

  The British Elections
The Labour Party didn't lose as badly as it might have, only because the Conservatives [Tories] also supported the Iraq War and wants to do things to the British system that a lot of people don't like.

Britain is broken into 646 Parliamentary seats and you only have to receive the largest number of votes to win, you do not have to win a majority. Parties vote for their leader, and the leader of the party that wins the most seats is the Prime Minister.

In 2001 Labour won 413 seats with 40.7% of the vote, the Conservatives got only 166 seats for their 31.7%, the Liberal Democrats won 52 seats with 18.3%, and the other parties received 28 seats with 9.3% of the vote. If the British used a proportional system as some European companies do the distribution would have been Labour-263, Conservative-205, Liberal Democrats-118, and others-60 with no parliamentary majority of 324 seats.

In 2005 Labour won 356 seats with 35.2% of the vote, the Conservatives got only 197 seats for their 32.3%, the Liberal Democrats won 62 seats with 22%, and the other parties received 30 seats with 10.5% of the vote. If the British used a proportional system as some European companies do the distribution would have been Labour-227, Conservative-210, Liberal Democrats-142, and others-68 with no parliamentary majority.

In Britain people voted for the party that they perceived as best for their pocket books, despite its foreign policy, even with the majority of 32 seats, Blair is going to have to listen to his back bench to get anything passed.

 

Friday, May 06, 2005
  Judge George Greer
Judge in Schiavo case honored. Judge Greer was honored by the local bar association for his long-time service to the law in his jurisdiction.

The event was picketed by people who felt he should have abandoned his years of commitment to the law and ruled in accordance with their beliefs.

There is a basic misunderstanding in this country as to how the system works. People don't seem to understand that the voters approve the constitution and amendments, the legislature approves laws, and judges simply read and apply laws to specific cases.

If the picketers wanted a different outcome, all they would have had to do in the state of Florida is gather signatures and get an amendment on the ballot to alter the constitution. That's all it took to prevent pregnant pigs from being forced to live in cages. They had years to do this, but it didn't happen because they know they don't have the votes.

 

  A Dim Light Dawns
Rumsfeld reduces estimate of base closings required.

Rumsfeld has been saying that the military needs to close about 25% of its current bases to save money. He has been saying this for years, based on the "conventional wisdom" of cutting costs to increase profits. Of course this attitude ignores the inconvenient facts that he isn't running a business and there isn't supposed to be a profit.

Finally someone has reminded him that part of his cost cutting was to bring US military force back from foreign bases, and if he does that, those forces need to have places to live and work.

Rumfeld is now saying that the base closings will be in the 10-12% range. This still doesn't deal with the reality that the current military is not large enough to accomplish its current missions, and needs to be expanded.

There are several varieties of mold with better planning skills that Rumfeld's Pentagon.

 

  Zero Tolerance
Student suspended over call from mom in Iraq. A 17-year-old received a 10-day suspension from his high school in Columbus, Georgia for refusing to hang up his cell phone when classes restarted after the lunch period. The student was talking to his mother who was calling from her station in Iraq.

Fort Benning, one of the largest US Army bases and the home of the 82nd Airborne Division, is located beside Columbus, Georgia and many of the students in the school system have parents on active duty with the military.

Anyone who would order that boy to hang up on what might be the last time he ever talked to his mother because of a "school rule", and then gave him a suspension when he refused, has no business in education of any kind.

Their claim that they went easy on him and didn't have him arrested is several horizons beyond the pale. The kid's mother is serving in a war zone, and any educator who lacks the humanity to deal with that needs to be removed.

Update: School authorities have decided to reduce the penalty to a three day suspension following massive protests against their original decision. I would suggest sending the people involved to Baghdad to set up a base education center.

 

  Blogspot Loses Another
Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla has moved to new digs: susiemadrak.com.

Adjust your links as required. Oh, she took her main graphic with her.

 

  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

Kittens

Friday Cat Blogging

Bast, but that's one scary thing!

[Edit: I found these two while moving some stuff scheduled for removal. I'm fairly sure they belong to Lone Ranger.]

Friday Ark


 

Thursday, May 05, 2005
  Unintended Consequences
Two woman discussing separation of church and state:

I don't see why there's a need for separation, the majority of Americans are Christians.

Oh, you want your life controlled by the Pope?

Why would you ask that?

Well, the biggest Christian church in this country is the Catholic Church, so don't get too carried away with your democratic visions. The Catholic Church has a lot of experience telling countries what to do and their congregations how to vote.

There are more Protestants than Catholics.

But Protestants don't act or think like a single group and they can't even agree on the version of the Bible to use, so the Catholics would get the most votes while the Baptists argue about what kind of Baptists they are. If my people had wanted to take orders from Catholics, they'd have stayed in Europe.


Historical note: many states have a "Blaine amendment" in their constitution. The purpose of the amendment was to prevent Catholic schools from receiving funding. Of course these amendments now prevent funding of any religious school.

This chunk of bigotry is now working against the bigots. James G. Blaine was riding the rise of "nativism" [the American "Know Nothing" Party] of the 19th century, which was reborn as the new KKK after World War I. Anyone who wasn't a Northern European Protestant was "evil" and should be ejected from the United States.

This garbage keeps being revived. Folks, it was bigotry in the 19th century; it was bigotry in the 20th century; and it is bigotry in the 21st century. Changing the color of the ribbon on the package doesn't make the contents smell any better. No matter what you call it, the odor tells you what it is.

 

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
  Drive-by Blogging
Michael Bérubé was commenting on David Horowitz's belief that liberal college professors make big bucks.

After World War II my Dad stayed in the Air Force at his permanent rank of Master Sergeant, rather than his Reserve rank of Lieutenant, and was assigned to establish Air Force ROTC programs at Syracuse University, and then Colgate University. The Air Force cautioned him not to reveal his salary as he was being paid considerably more than the university faculty members and that would cause problems for the universities.

While my Dad was receiving an additional payment because the normal military facilities were not available, with three kids he got an extra job as the projectionist at the local movie theater, so I can't imagine the level of near poverty of the faculty.

I know that my salary teaching college courses was nothing to write home about, but I was only an associate professor at a state college. I do know that the kids who took two-year degrees in computer science and went to work rather than getting their BSs started at considerably more than those of us who taught them.


A heads up: PSoTD has escaped Blogger and is now found at: www.psotd.com.


Mark A.R. Kleiman has a nasty, mean-spirited, low-down, totally reasonable interpretation of John Ellis's recent actions regarding young women in the care of the state of Florida.

If Jeb-Boy doesn't want to be treated like trash¹ he shouldn't act like trash. If the sheet fits...

1. In the South "trash" has a somewhat nastier meaning than in the rest of the world. If the New York City synonym were used on South Park it would definitely be bleeped.

 

  Fun With Statistics
When you hear people talking about money you have to watch the words that they use. One of the most important ways to "lie" about income is to convince people that "median" and "average" mean the same thing, and they most definitely do not.

If you have a company where 100 people make $10/hour, 5 people make $20/hour, one makes $40/hour, and the CEO makes $500/hour, the median income is $10/hour while the average income is $15.33/hour. Note that only seven of 107 people in the company make at least the average income.

When someone like Wal-Mart tells the world that the average salary for their company is $19,000/year, they don't say how many of their employees actually make that much money. When the top salaries in a corporation are measured in hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, the average can rise remarkably.

I was going to leave this as a comment over at Jo Fish's Democratic Veteran, but his software has decided I'm a spammer if I post an extended comment.

 

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
  A Taxing Question
In response to several people giving their opinion of the annual income it takes to define the "Middle Class", Kevin Hayden at The American Street posted the median income of a family of four in the US by state. The median income of a family of four in the country as a whole is $65,093.00. The Department of Health and Human Services uses $18,850.00 as the poverty threshold for a family of four.

As I still haven't filed the instructions for my 2004 taxes, I decided to calculate the income taxes for a family of four making the median income using the standard deductions. The standard deduction [$9,700] plus the four personal deductions [$3,100/person] yields a $22,100 reduction in taxable income, bringing it down to $42,993 which has a income tax liability of $5,731 [from the table]. Now this family still had to pay at least at 6.2% tax bill for Social Security, but I'm interested in the income tax side.

The actual income tax rate on this median income family is 8.8%

The reason I'm limiting my interest to income tax is because of a post by Steve Bates at the Yellow Doggerel Democrat on yet another "flat tax" proposal. This one involves a 30% value-added-tax, which is essentially a sales tax.

If you buy a car that was priced at $20,000 in Florida you would pay $1,200 in state sales taxes. If the VAT is used that $20,000 car is now $26,000 and you would pay $1,560 in state sales taxes. The way the VAT and state sales taxes are calculated you will be paying taxes on taxes.

What this leads to is the reality that the median income family experiences a tax increase if they spend $20,000 of their $65,093 annual income on taxed items. Under the current system a family of four has to make more than the $22,100 standard deductions before they pay any Federal income tax, but under a VAT they would be paying a 30% tax on everything they buy.

The people proposing the plan keep talking about simplicity, but they start talking about exemptions and other gimmicks when the reality is pointed out. In the end Congress would be playing with exemptions before the ink had dried on the bill, and the savings they talk about achiving from eliminating the IRS would be the result of pushing the government's tax collecting process down to businesses.

If Congress wanted to simplify the tax code all they would have to do is eliminate all deductions other than the standard deduction and the individual deduction. The whole tax form would look like the 1040EZ. They don't want to do that because they gain power by having people pay them to include special deductions.

 

  Good News in Florida
In spite of voting for Republicans, 71% of Florida voters backed a Constitutional amendment that raised the minimum wage to $6.15/hour, effective yesterday, and tied the minimum wage to the cost of living. The cognitive dissonance of being able to understand that the minimum wage needed to be raised, but then voting for people who have consistently refused to raise it, is beyond me.


The BBC notes that the Florida legal system is still functioning:
"Legally speaking, it's not a difficult decision to make. Morally speaking, it's very difficult," the judge said.

"But I'm not here to make the moral decision. I'm here to make the legal decisions," Judge Ronald Alvarez said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.


The 13-year-old was given permission by the court to do what she thought best.

The conclusion should not have surprised anyone who is familiar with the information in the final paragraph of this Newsweek article:
The abortion fight may obscure what many observers consider a far more pressing concern: DCF [Department of Children and Families] incompetence. The scandal-plagued agency made national news in 2002 when it acknowledged that it had lost track of Rilya Wilson, a 5-year-old under its custody. It still can't account for over 500 kids whom it's responsible for, according to The Miami Herald. At the Thursday hearing, Judge Alvarez directed his outrage at DCF for never alerting the court to L.G.'s flight from her group home. "To say that I am angry at that would be an understatement," Alvarez said, questioning why DCF rushed to prevent an abortion but not to find a missing child (DCF counters that it alerted authorities in Pinellas County, where L.G.'s group home was). "I don't know where our priorities in life are," Alvarez said. "The priorities should have been to make certain that an order to take [L.G.] into custody was issued as soon as possible ... But nobody cared."


Elected Florida judges still follow the law, not the winds of politics. The Department of Children and Families was given a strong dose of fundamentalism when John Ellis hired Jerry Reiger, founder and former president of the Family Research Council, another child beater in the Dobson mold. Being a "Good Christian", Reiger resigned over "the appearance of financial improprieties" of the type that put the former Republican governor of Connecticut in jail. The judge acts according to the law, the DCF acts according to the politics.

 

Sunday, May 01, 2005
  Bad Headlines
Feds Seize Ducks says CBS News.

Federal employees gathered up a female Mallard and her 11 ducklings from a nest by the entrance to the Treasury Building and moved them to a park. There was no violence, no guns, no assault troops; they picked up the ducks and moved them to a safer location with a creek to swim in and tourists to feed them.


North Korea May Have Tested Missile - "North Korea apparently test fired a missile into the Sea of Japan on Sunday..."

May? Apparently? We have billions of dollars of assets watching North Korea. We have satellites over head, fixed installations in South Korea, ships off the coasts, aircraft flying by: there is no "may" or "apparently" about it, we detected the missile being launched and tracked it until it landed in the Sea of Japan. We have been watching North Korea closely for half a century and even have people who speak the language and know the culture in the Defense and State Departments.

If the North Koreans could afford microwave popcorn, it would be spontaneously cooking in people's cupboards from all of the radars in China, South Korea, Japan, and US facilities that are aimed at the country.

 

  Not Again
Will it never stop?

The murder of doctors, the Elian Gonzalez story, the 2000 election debacle, four major hurricanes in one year, the Terri Schiavo case, main street gunfighting, and now, the attempt to force a 13-year-old to have a baby.

As a Floridian I would really like to have this state ignored for a decade or so. I think it would be wonderful if people at least had to wait until a late-night comedian said something after "In Florida" before they started laughing.

Our legislature only meets for 60 days a year, but they always manage to do something that guarantees us a place on Comedy Central for several weeks. It is really depressing.

You know that Joe Scarborourgh was my Congressman, but at the same time I had a member in the Florida House who claimed to "channel" the ghost of John Wayne, and my state Senator was remanded to a state mental institution: Republicans all.

 

  Busy Weekend
Yesterday the Dutch marked Queen's 25 year reign, the official celebration of the House of Orange-Nassau.

Last night was Walpurgisnacht for all the Germanic and Baltic peoples, Beltane for the Celts, and the midpoint between the equinox and the solstice.

This year it is the Orthodox Easter and, of course, the international Labor Day. The US uses the first Monday in September to separate Labor Day from its "Socialist" roots.

 

  You Have Been Warned
Just go over to Archy for a view of John's neighbors.

 

  Tinker Bell Solutions
See the problem is people just don't believe that Bush has found a solution to a problem created by that "Commie Cripple". If they would just believe and clap their hands, Bush could save them.

Karen at Dark Bilious Vapors has discovered: Finally some Average Sensible Americans Speak Up.

James Klurfeld (NY Newsday) has an article based on his correspondence with a real person with real knowledge and experience in retirement programs. Go and read what a gentleman who spent his working life as one of those boring fact-based actuaries at an insurance company has to say after looking at Bush's program.

Or, close your eyes, believe, and clap: it will take the edge off the cold, dark, and hunger of your retirement under the Bush plan.

 

  Public Service
Jillian at The Snarky Cat ran a little "compare and contrast" on Bush's words in 2000 and deeds since that time.

It struck me that there is a major flaw in the system used to select people for public office. Elections are well and good for the final stage of the process, but the steps leading up to that point have a glaring omission: there's no objective proof that a politician can walk and chew gum.

For all other forms of public employment there is a series of published requirements and tests to prove an individual can do the job before that person ever gets to the final selection process. The applicant has to provide proof of education and experience related to the job, and then take one or more tests before being placed on an eligibility list. Even the military in times of drafts requires that people pass tests to actually be inducted into service.

For a politician, everything is popularity. There are no hard requirements and no background checks before you participate. At most you have to prove you live in a certain area and are of a certain age.

I'm not saying that we should be requiring degrees in certain disciplines before someone can run for office, but it wouldn't be excessive to require all elected officials prove they are of average intelligence, are literate, can accurately use mathematics through and including algebra, in other words, that they can pass the standardized testing for a high school sophomore.

Specifically, they should be able to balance a checkbook, complete an IRS form 1040 using a supplied W-2 form and family information, and create a family budget from supplied data. These are things that voters have to do, so it should be shown that elected officials understand what "real life" is all about.

I'm not requiring them to figure out which is the "best" credit card offer, whether to buy or lease a car, whether to buy the extended warranty, or any of the other truly complicated decisions people face every day, just the basics.

It is my belief that if politicians had these basic skills, and understood that the voters had these skills, there wouldn't be "60-city tours" trying to sell people "Tinker Bell" solutions.

 

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