Why Now?
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  State of the Union


Too many Americans don't have one, or the window to throw it out.


  Free Speech?
Rep. Lynn Woolsey [D-CA] gave Cindy Sheehan a ticket for the gallery in the House for the State of the Union speech. Ms. Sheehan was arrested and removed from the Capitol prior to the speech for violating the ban on demonstrating in the Capitol. She was wearing a t-shirt with an anti-war slogan on it.

Well, we certainly can't tolerate free speech in the House chambers. Lobbying by former members of Congress on the House floor is fine, but citizens wearing t-shirts with words on them in the balcony is illegal.[/maximum sarcasm]

Update: Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young [R-FL], was ejected some time afterward because she was wearing a "Support the Troops" t-shirt. Young is upset that the rules were applied to his wife.

Glenn Greenwald points out that the latest court ruling on the law specifically exempts t-shirts.

Maybe Ms. Sheehan will let Ms. Young join her lawsuit?

Update 2: Charges against Sheehan to be dropped:
“We screwed up,” a top Capitol Police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said Sheehan didn't violate any rules or laws.


  Joe Biden!?
The irrepressible snarkmeister, Tbogg, noticed an op-ed on MSNBC that advocated Joe Biden as the savior of the Democratic Party.

The Case for Joe Biden is actually a Newsweek "web exclusive" by Ron Goldstein, who is identified as "a veteran of 10 Democratic presidential campaigns dating back to 1976" and "president of Free Media Inc in New York". [Not to be picky but 10 campaigns in 7 campaign cycles is a bit odd.]

Anyway, Ron thinks: "Biden's tough, compassionate, experienced, left-of-center political profile may be just the answer for the Democrats and the country."

Ron, has anyone explained the recent bankruptcy bill that Joe backed to you? This is the "conservative" attempt to see if we can recreate the 19th century London of Charles Dickens in the US, complete with poor houses and debtors' prisons. Why Democrats would be willing to back a man who has failed them on such an important issue is beyond my understanding, as is the designation as "left-of-center". Is Ghengis Khan now the center? Were you with any of the winners in your 10 campaigns, like Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton?


  Enough Is Enough
My Democratic Senator Bill Nelson voted against the confirmation of Samuel Alito, but I will not vote for him this November because his vote was negated by his earlier vote for cloture. If everyone who voted against Alito had also voted against cloture, Alito's nomination would have been blocked.

Alito supports the imperial presidency and these people know it. Alito supports the government and big business over the rights of the individual and these people know it. Alito is a prime example of "pre-7/4 thinking" and these people know it.

Some will say that if I don't vote for Bill Nelson this November I'm helping Katherine Harris to win. So what? What difference would it have made for my rights if Katherine Harris had been in the Senate rather than Bill Nelson? Both would have helped Samuel Alito to be appointed to the Supreme Court to steal my rights and make a king of the President.

This vote wasn't about legislative matters, this was about fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution being eroded. This isn't a policy question, it is a basic question about what America means. Why support people who don't care?

Any individual only has limited resources available for politics: time, money, and their vote. They shouldn't waste any of those on people who refuse to do the right thing. I'm not going to compromise when my basic rights are being brought into question and put at risk.

Senator Obama talked about the need to explain the situation to the people. Sorry, Senator, but that's something that is required for elections, not for business before the Senate. There were only 100 people who had to understand what Alito really stood for, not an electorate. Those 100 people represented the electorate and were supposed to be acting in the best interest of the people. First you do what you know to be the best thing for the people you represent then you can explain why you did it. Refusing to do what you know is right because you are unsure of how to explain it makes you unsuitable to lead. Don't expect people to follow when you refuse to act like a leader.

For all those who bring up the "nuclear option", so what? The Republicans breaking the rules to get their way is not exactly news. Does anyone other than Senator Byrd think the Senate still functions in a collegial fashion. The Republicans corrupt everything they touch and have no more respect for rules, than they have for laws or the Constitution.

You can't housebreak a puppy without discipline. Senator Nelson, you've just had your nose whacked with a rolled ballot.

Update 1: Bob Geiger has a list of the enemies of the people, the so-called Democrats who voted for cloture. Not a second, not a penny, and not a vote should be wasted on any of them.

Update 2: Dave Neiwert of Orcinus lets Maria Cantwell know he feels like I do.


Monday, January 30, 2006
  Pre-SOTU News
The jury for Ken Lay's trial was picked today, so he probably won't be at the speech.

Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, took time out from his busy schedule to call the Shrubbery a "loser" and say:
"My first message is to the butcher of Washington, Bush: You are not just defeated and lying about it, but you are, with God's help, a loser," he said. "You are bad luck to your people; you brought them disasters and catastrophes, and you will bring them even more disasters."
It's amazing how these people on the run manage to find television studios.

He didn't say if he would be at the speech.

It looks like the Treasury has a cash flow problem and needs to borrow $188 billion to cover its bills during the first quarter. They also need to raise the debt limit above the current $8.184 trillion.

They are too busy scrounging for aluminum cans to be at the speech.

For some reason radioactive gas is used in aircraft ignition systems. They found out in Jacksonville, Florida when a tank of the gas exploded at the local Unison Industries plant.

Like every other accidental radiation leak in memory: "the amount of exposure is no more than an x-ray", and the decontamination of everyone and everything is "just a precaution".

No one from the plant will be at the speech as the glowing would be distracting.


* 1649 - King Charles I of England is beheaded.
* 1661 - Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England is formally executed - after having been dead for two years (it's never too late for revisionism).
* 1835 - A mentally ill man named Richard Lawrence attempts to assassinate President Andrew Jackson in the United States Capitol -- the first assassination attempt against a President. Both of Lawrence's pistols misfire, and Jackson proceeds to beat his would-be assassin with his cane.
* 1889 - Archduke Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown, was found dead with his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera in Mayerling. How they died remains a mystery.
* 1933 - Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
* 1948 - Indian pacifist and leader Mohandas Gandhi is assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist.
* 1968 - Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive begins when Viet Cong forces launch series of a surprise attacks in South Vietnam.
* 1969 - The Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.
* 1972 - Bloody Sunday: United Kingdom British Paratroopers kill fourteen Roman Catholic civil rights /anti internment marchers in Northern Ireland- Bloody Sunday
* 2003 - Belgium legally recognizes same-sex marriage.
* 2005 - Amid violence and threats to boycott the results, Iraq holds an election for its National Assembly, the country's first free election since 1953.

* 1882 - Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd. President of the United States (d. 1945)
* 1912 - Barbara W. Tuchman, American historian (d. 1989)
* 1922 - Dick Martin, American comedian
* 1930 - Samuel J. Byck, American attempted assassin of Richard Nixon
* 1941 - Dick Cheney, oil executive
* 1962 - King Abdullah II of Jordan
* 1962 - Mary Kay Letourneau, American teacher


Sunday, January 29, 2006
  Closed Session
I'm sure that everyone remembers when, with great regret, Harry Reid had to invoke Rule 21 to take the Senate into closed session to find out why Senator Pat Roberts hadn't seemed to moved forward on "Phase Two" of the investigation of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Well, it's nearly February and there is still no report. While I realize that the Alito nomination is important, and there needs to be an investigation into the illegal wiretapping, maybe it's time for the Senate to go into closed session to clean up old business and find out when Senator Roberts is going to schedule oversight hearings in the Intelligence Committee over the activities of NSA.

With the Republicans in charge of Congress and the Presidency one would think that these matters could be handled in an expeditious fashion. There's entirely too lollygagging going on and there are too many issues waiting to be looked at by the major committees in the Senate.

Sooner or later they are going to have to start looking for the billions of dollars the Coalition Provisional Authority lost track of while it was in charge of Iraq.

Since Justice O'Connor has been gracious enough to remain on the court while the approval process is pending, I think there are other issues that really are more pressing than the Alito confirmation. Senator Frist doesn't seem to have much in the way of organizational skills as he keeps letting things slip behind.

Knowing Senator Reid's preference for the collegial approach, I hesitate to bring this up, but the Senate really does need to get some real work done, and there do seem to be a number of Senators who want to talk on Mr. Alito, so it may be time for the Senate to review its priorities.


  Interesting Read
Over at MSNBC they have a long Newsweek article, Palace Revolt, about the battle among the lawyers in the Bush administration over the legality of various actions.

Given the claim that the warrantless wiretap program was vetted by lawyers, it is interesting to find out which lawyers, and that conservative Republican lawyers were unhappy with what was done.

This is a further indication that Alito is out of the mainstream of even Republican lawyers with his views on the Unitary Executive Theory, also known as the Divine Right of Presidents.


  A Surprising Win
Listening to the coverage of the victory of the Hamas in the Palestinian elections I beginning to suspect that among those most surprised and least prepared for the results was Hamas.

Fatah has held all of the offices and was in total control since the beginning. Hamas was running its paramilitary operations and social services, but it didn't have a "shadow cabinet", members that mirrored the government offices controlled by Fatah. I don't think Hamas has people ready to take over the government.

I'm getting a definite feeling that Hamas was expecting win enough seats in the legislature to be a respectable minority party and to gain some experience in the government, but had no plans for forming a government.

This may be an example of everyone hating the election results, even the winners.


  That's Pre 7/4 Thinking
Via Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog I found Larry Stevens on The Lyceum on dealing with the constant references to pre and post 9/11 thinking.

Larry thinks we should respond by pointing out that much of what the Busheviki are selling is pre-7/4 thinking, 7/4 referencing the Fourth of July, 1776.

For a taste of pre-7/4 thinking Mary at Pacific Views has an interesting article, When the Ends Justify the Means, in which we learn that Judge Richard Posner of Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the University of Chicago Law School thinks that as long as warrantless wiretaps produce good results, there's no reason to bother about their legality.

Apparently Judge Posner would have no problem with dropping a nuclear bomb on Chicago as long as it was to reduce the crime rate. Any innocent people that die would just be called collateral damage and forgotten about in the celebration of the end of crime in the city that no longer existed. Anything you do is fine as long as you have a good excuse.

The courts let the Shrubbery get away with kidnapping people by calling them "enemy combatants", and now he's spying on us all. And this is different than what King George was doing in what significant way?

I was in law enforcement. I obtained warrants and arrested people by providing a court with probable cause. It is not a barrier, most of the time it's hardly a bump in the road. If you can't come up with the minimal amount of evidence required for probable cause, you are probably on the wrong track. Based on the stories of the FBI chasing down worthless leads I would say that the program is wasting resources, not providing security.

For those who have forgotten, even with all of his resources, King George lost to the "terrorists".


  Happy New Year, 4703

Bingxu - Year of the Red Dog

Happy New Year
Happy New Year

Chinese New Year
[Spring Festival]


Saturday, January 28, 2006
  Persian Nukes
We really should do something about this. Maybe we could dig up Eisenhower and burn his bones for convincing the Shah to start a nuclear program as part of Atoms For Peace project in the 1950s. Oh, I'm sorry, you probably didn't know that this has been going on for almost 50 years.

So, I guess you don't know about the British and Soviet armies getting annoyed at Reza Shah for objecting to their troop movements across Iran during World War II? Since Iran was officially neutral Reza Shah didn't think it was right, but the Allies booted him out and replaced him with his son, Mohammed Shah, who didn't see a problem.

No one has probably ever mentioned the little problem in 1953 with the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, getting uppity and insisting that the Iranian oil fields belonged to the Iranian people? That required MI6 and the CIA arranging Operation Ajax to remove Mr. Mossadegh, making the Shah an absolute monarch, because you just can't trust voters.

It was Mohammed Shah, the last Shah, who decided that Iran should used nuclear power and maximize oil exports, the only real source of hard currency for Iran. This was, of course, after US corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse explained the costs and benefits of nuclear power from plants they would be happy to build.

Let's have a reality check: like religious fundamentalists everywhere the Iranians clerics don't believe in birth control; the population of Iran is growing rapidly; more people means more electrical demand; the oil is the Iranian economy; all oil used internally is lost profits; the oil won't last forever.

Knowing what happens when they and other oil producing nations decide to boycott, Iran wants to control as much of the process as possible. They know how they would deal with people who are dependent on their oil, so they don't want to be put in the same position.

Just because you are a paranoid, religious nutjob, doesn't mean no one is out to get you, especially when "some people" call you a member of "the axis of evil" and others threaten to bomb you. These people, like Castro and Kim Il Jong, need external threats to retain their grip on their people, and it always seems like there is some idiot willing to oblige.

Iran is a problem because it has some seriously whacked people in its leadership. When external powers threaten Iran the moderates lose ground. If the Iranian moderates had suggested making progress towards improving relations with the US, they would probably be called "unpatriotic", "un-Iranian", "French", and "surrender monkeys".

If "some people" would just STFU and allow things to happen in the background, some of these problems might just be resolved, but with all of the threats being tossed about, I don't have much hope.


  Mel Has A Problem
Via Susie I located Scott Maxwell's column in the Orlando Sentinel, Taking Names.

Scott tells us that Florida's junior Senator, Republican Mel Martinez, has returned $2,500 he received from Congressman Bob Ney [R-OH] to avoid any problems associated with Mr. Ney's troubles. However, the Senator is going to keep the $250,000 from the campaign kick-off co-chaired by Jack Abramoff.

No doubt this will all be blamed on a staff member, just like that memo that no Republican would ever write about the Schiavo affair.

You were aware that Martinez was picked by the White House to run for the Senate in Florida, displacing local Republican candidates including "Kruella de" Harris?


  Another Crony Diplomat
Jack at Ruminate This provides the background for the latest friction between the US and Canada.

Another Bush crony, US ambassador David Wilkins, manages to annoy the new Canadian Prime Minister, Conservative Stephen Harper, before Mr. Harper even gets settled in his new office.

Mr. Harper complained about other candidates bashing the US during the campaign and said that he was going to improve relations, but Wilkins's intemperate mouth has put that plan on hold. There definitely differences of option about the Northwest Passage, but they should be dealt with in closed meetings, not in the media.

Good news in public, bad news in private - is that so hard to remember?


  Kerry Returns
According to CNN John Kerry is returning from Switzerland to lead the fight against Alito.

He would appear to be serious about mounting a filibuster, and realizes he has to be on the scene to gain support.


  Killing Judges
When Ann Coulter says that someone should poison a sitting Supreme Court Justice with whom she disagrees, I don't think saying it was a joke, reduces the responsibility. Killing people isn't funny, not even if they are government officials with whom one disagrees.

As a number of people have found out, no one at airports has a sense of humor when you bring up weapons. As a local man found out, mentioning anthrax in jest can cost you your job and result in criminal charges being filed, even though he had a very valid reason to be sarcastic.

The right wing has a long record of advocating violence against people, and then pretending it was a joke when they are confronted.

This sort of behavior isn't acceptable, even if you are a Republican.




January 28, 1986

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, January 27, 2006
  Apollo 1

 Apollo One Patch

January 27, 1967

Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Edward Higgins White, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lieutenant Commander, USN

This is the 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.

For a fascinating view of their works visit the British Library.


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]


Friday Cat Blogging

How about some more?

[Editor: Scooter is the same age as Ringo and lives under my house. When I go out to feed the "herd", he "scoots" around my feet.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, January 26, 2006
  Alito Must Be Stopped
By now you know that Kerry is attempting to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito. I appreciate his efforts and wish him success because the nation does not deserve Alito on the Supreme Court.

Alito has a nice resumé, but he is totally around the bend on some of his ideas. People should understand that he doesn't really believe in the right of privacy. He thinks the government should get involved in a lot of areas that are none of its business.

The man thinks that a Presidential signing statement has the relevance of legislative history in interpreting the law. He advocated the expanded use of signing statements to alter the meaning of the laws Congress passes. In the same vein, he believes in the Unitary Executive Theory which gives unchecked power to the President.

Republicans should be just as worried as Democrats about Alito. Have they forgotten what Bill Clinton did with the line item veto power? The Supreme Court saved the Republicans on that one, or Clinton would have eliminated all of their special projects.

The Harriet Miers nomination proved that Republicans don't actually believe that every candidate deserves an "up or down" vote. There is no need to acquiesce to a Presidential nomination that could result is a major shift of power away from the Congress to the President.

Alito believes that the President is more important than the other branches, corporations are more important than people, and the government is more important than people. Are Senators really prepared for this radical a shift in the power structure? Alito isn't a conservative; he's a radical.


  Military Meltdown
You can read about it at CNN or the BBC, but the story is the same: two recent reports say the US Army is in major trouble.

Rumsfeld says, no, they are combat-hardened and tougher than ever. He has apparently missed the part about all of the company commanders exiting, the two year time limit on the Reserve approaching, the low recruitment numbers, the busted equipment that isn't being repaired or replaced. All Rumsfeld can remember is two seeming victories two years ago, and forgets what has happened since.

See, Donald came in with a plan to remake the military according to his ideal, and no matter what happens, he continues with his plan. It's always amazing to watch a full-bore obsessive-compulsive at work, their ability to ignore the world around them.

The Pentagon has been patching holes with the National Guard and Reserve. They have been borrowing personnel and materiel from those forces without any plan to replace what is used.

The period following 9-11 would have been the ideal time to expand the military, but Rumsfeld had his plan, and there could be no alteration permitted.


  Diplomatic Triumph
David Mulford, banker and Bush fund-raiser, is another example of why you need diplomats, not cronies, as ambassadors. When you are the American ambassador to a large country, like India, you really shouldn't go around saying what you think, before you run it by the State Department. Some countries get upset when you threaten them.

While India probably wasn't going to back the US in the move against Iran before Mulford shot his mouth off, now the government is being backed into a corner: if it wanted to back the US, it can't without major political consequences.

I think Mulford was correct in believing that the US Congress would probably stop the US-India agreement if they didn't back action against Iran, but you say that in private, not in public. That's how diplomacy works - good news in public, bad news in private.


  Spreading Democracy
So the Shrubbery's push in Middle East democracy is rolling right along, whether he wants it or not. The claims about democracies not being warlike don't seem to be working out.

The Iranians have elected a man whose campaign slogan would seem to have been "I hate Bush more than any other candidate", although he seems to agree with Bush on preemptive wars and building nuclear weapons.

Then, in spite of promises as uniters, the Iraqi elections don't seem to hold out much that is good for Sunnis or other minorities. The winning parties all seem to be based on ethnic or religious divisions.

And now, those tricksie Palestinian voters, tired of all of the corruption of the ruling Fatah Party, which didn't much like the US, and replaced it with Hamas, which pretty much hates the US, and Israel.

Len at Dark Bilious Vapors excerpts an article with even more examples.

Saying you're not going to deal with terrorists in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a bit of a dilemma. People forget that most of the prime ministers of Israel have been members of groups that performed acts of "terrorism" under the British mandate.


  Just Because It's Really Annoying
You do realize that we are paying the Shrubbery $400K per annum, twice as much as any other resident of the White House.

It's nice to know that his salary is like so many other CEOs: the more you pay the less you get.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Very frustrating day down here. A gas heater went out the same time the temperature decided to drop so it had to be dealt with immediately.

Now it wasn't as bad as it could have been, because all of the local stores stop stocking heaters before Christmas. The inventory fairies have determined that no one on the Gulf Coast will buy a heater after Christmas so there's no need to have them in stock. I found a replacement for the heater and it was marked down 50% for clearance.

This was the replacement model for the heater that died: same manufacturer, very similar model number, same BTU output and controls. How lucky could I get?

So, I turned off the gas, disconnected everything, stopped the bleeding, applied antiseptic and bandages, removed the heater from the wall, and was ready to clean threads, apply pipe compound and put the new in, except....

The studs in the wall of a house are usually spaced 16 inches apart. That's a given. Everyone who has to install anything learns about that early in the process. If you are going to put anything heavy on the wall, you want to locate the studs so that you are screwing into wood and not playing games with various schemes for fastening things to sheetrock.

Both the old and new heaters are 20" wide, which is good for fastening a mounting bracket to two studs, which is exactly how the old bracket is mounted. The bracket for the new model is only 14" wide, which means that one end has to be fastened to sheetrock. Fortunately before I headed out to get the hardware for that job, I looked at the gas connection. The old heater had a 1/2" connection, but the new one uses a 3/8" connection, so I added that to my list.

I finally got the thing installed and working at about 8pm. Blogger was down so I couldn't have posted anyway. The swelling has gone down in my knuckles, so I can type.

I should have been able to disconnect the gas, take the old unit off the wall, put the new unit up, and re-connect, but they have to "improve" the product. The new color scheme is nice, but it's going to need a new cover, as it's taller than before. Changing the mounting bracket and inlet size makes no sense. I realize the old one lasted a decade, and the new one is supposed to be more efficient, which is nice with the high cost of natural gas, but I still haven't been able to install my new heavy duty electric line, and I have to do some yard work.

[grumble, grumble, grumble....]


Tuesday, January 24, 2006
  The Kerry Defense
Everyone should remember this quote from John Kerry: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Via djhlights at Exit Stage Left I arrived at a Glenn Greenwald post about the Bush administration rejecting a Senate bill to amend the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2002 to permit a "reasonable suspicion" vice "probable cause" test for eavesdropping warrants.

So when General Michael V. Hayden starts talking about how legal what he started at NSA is, and the problems of the FISA requirements, he doesn't bring up the fact that Congress attempted to give the administration more power, but the Justice Department discouraged the move as being of questionable constitutionality.

To paraphrase: they did it, before they were against it, before they were for it.

Full disclosure: When Hayden was a lieutenant he was assigned to Strategic Air Command headquarters. I was a Staff Sergeant at the time stationed at Offutt AFB and regularly gave classified briefings at SAC HQ, which he probably attended. As he was only a lieutenant and not on flying status I would haven't even recognized his existence. At SAC HQ there was nothing lower than a lieutenant.

There is no evidence of his having any criminal procedure training, which is obvious from his use of the term "reasonable belief", rather than the term of art, "reasonable suspicion". You can't be believable in any discussion of warrants if you don't have "reasonable suspicion" and "probable cause" burned into your brain. The ability to find the razor's edge of the boundary any particular judge has between those two is the key to obtaining warrants.

I would be interested in hearing exactly how he believes "hot pursuit" applies to a warrant. "Hot pursuit" is normally "incidental to an arrest" and they haven't arrested anyone. I would think that Osama's continuing recording career makes it rather obvious that they are not really interested in catching anyone.

On a more pleasant note, one of my favorite Texans, Molly Ivins, is now included on the CNN site, and she wonders what the reaction would be if "President" Hillary had tried warrant-less wiretaps, among other things.


  One Florida Senator Figures It Out
In an unusually good move by "Waffling Willie", the senior senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, has decided to vote against Samuel Alito. Nice meme in this Miami Herald article:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday he'll vote against Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he believes the jurist would "tilt the scales of justice in favor of big government over the average person."
The Big Government threat being used against a Republican appointee is an unexpected touch that should be talked up. A dictatorship is the ultimate in Big Government, and that's what the Unitary Executive Theory really advocates.

Of course, the junior senior, Rove sockpuppet Mel Martinez, will do as he is told and vote for Alito.


  Oh, Canada!
After a dozen years the Liberal Party of Canada has become number two in the Canadian parliamentary elections to the Conservatives, but the Conservatives did not win a majority of the 308 seats, so they will form a minority government. To truly be in control you need 155 seats, assuming one of your members will become the non-voting Speaker of Parliament.

The CBC has an analysis of the possible methods the Conservatives will be using to govern. I wouldn't wait with baited breath for any sweeping changes in policies because the Conservatives will need total party discipline and 31 extra votes to pass anything.

The Conservatives won 124 seats, the Liberals - 103, Bloc Québécois - 51, the New Democratic Party - 29, and one independent won a seat in Quebec. The sole independent candidate who won a seat was André Arthur, a Quebec shock jock whose mouth cost his station its license.

For a listing of all of the registered parties in our northern neighbors drop by this site, and for a Canadian view of what happened read the CBC commentary on the "urban-rural" and East-West splits.

This election can be summarized as people annoyed with the arrogance of the previous leadership of the Liberal Party who were passing out public money to friends, the current leader having the endearing personality of an accountant, and some campaign ads that provided fodder for Canadian political satire shows. People weren't voting for the Conservatives, they voting against the incumbent government.

There may be another election in a year if the Conservatives can't come up with a working coalition. Unlike the US, the Canadians can remove governments whenever they get annoying.


A non-hostile denial-of-service attack caused by a link from Atrios; as in First Draft has been Eschatonned all day.

[Edited for spelling to reflect impact.]


Monday, January 23, 2006
  He Just Lies
The Shrubbery goes to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas and just flat out lies about his illegal wiretapping. From the CNN article:
"I'm mindful of your civil liberties, and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process. We briefed members of the United States Congress ... about this program."
The only lawyer that was asked about this was the then White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales. Only 8 of 535 members of Congress were told about the program and they were sworn to secrecy. Only the senior judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was told of the program and she was sworn to secrecy.

There was no discussion. These people were presented with a fait accompli and were put under penalty of law not to discuss it. Their restrictions were taken to heart by those that were briefed, as Jay Rockefeller's hand-written letter makes evident.

They came up with this stupid idea, implemented it, had Gonzales create "legal" cover, told 9 people outside the executive branch, and went on their merry way to trash the rights of the citizens of the United States.

They have been doing this for four years and Osama still hasn't had his "show" cancelled. It certainly didn't help Madrid, London, or Amman.


  Protecting the Constitution
Steve Bates advocates that the Senate do whatever it takes to stop Samuel Alito from becoming a Supreme Court justice.

If you are still sitting on the fence, perhaps Mark Fiore's latest opus will convince you of what we are facing.

The only security these people care about is job security for themselves and their cronies. The Republicans are going to need sympathetic judges as their members are caught with their hands in the US Treasury.


Sunday, January 22, 2006
  The Desire For Facts In Reporting
Everyone is aware of the open warfare that broke out when the new Washington Post ombudsman failed to verify her facts and implicated Democrats in the Abramoff scandal. While this sort of misbehavior is all too familiar coming from the regular media reporters and pundits, it makes the position of ombudsman irrelevant when facts in question are not verified.

As Avedon Carol of The Sideshow points out, Ms. Howell still hasn't completely corrected the error. I would question the wisdom of putting her in current position when her analytical abilities are so obviously deficient. Ms. Howell fails to appreciate that the facts are in the public record and available to the multitude on the Internet. An analysis of the political contributions of the affected tribes before and after they hired Abramoff is not complicated and requires no higher mathematics. The records show a reduction in funding to Democrats and an increase in funding for Republicans after a tribe hired Abramoff. It is no great leap to say that Abramoff was bad for Democrats and good for Republicans. Of all news organizations in the country, I would think that the Washington Post would know to "follow the money".

Steve Gilliard of The News Blog makes the point, somewhat forcibly, that not complaining about errors in fact is not a strategy for success. The media ignores accuracy complaints that are reasonable and factual. If the media would like to raise the tenor of the interaction, they should ignore those who scream and deal with those who present polite requests for accuracy. By bending over backwards to mollify the screamers, the media has forced people to scream to be heard.

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has agreed to attend a conference being set up by the Washington Post to discuss the issues surrounding this eruption of discontent. I would hope she stresses that all people were asking for was accuracy. When a blogger makes an outrageous statement, the first thing that happens is a request for a link to verify the statement. If this is standard operation procedure on blogs, one would wonder why as much can't be expected from a major media outlet? One could conclude that there are higher standards on the blogs.

PSotD is a bit annoyed that Ms. Howell was apparently unaware of the duties of the ombudsman. I, too, would question her understanding, as she appears to have assumed that she was writing a media column, not dealing with reader complaints. I won't blame Ms. Howell for this problem, but the individual who gave her the position. You don't give someone a new job without explaining what is expected of them. She does seem to be a bit naïve about the security provided by her two-year contract as I feel certain there is a clause or ten that makes it possible for the newspaper to fire her at anytime.

Finally, Ms. Carol cautions about the effect of swearing in any heated debate. I agree that it is often used as an excuse to avoid the real issues, and readers may have noticed that I rarely swear because of this.

I would like to point out that having been in the military and law enforcement, it is not because I don't have the vocabulary. I have a choice collection of words and phrases in multiple languages that are quite capable of starting a fight across much of the world. You don't want to be at a loss for words when a Greek taxi driver is attempting extort money from you, or to rid yourself of annoying vendors in Bangkok. In addition to words, it is wise to study gestures, if for no other reason than to avoid offending people who may have guns and badges. These are a form of weapon to be utilized when effective, and not wasted on the mundane.

I would also caution against confusing ignorance, which is correctable, with mental deficiency, which is not. I would point out that it is much easier to explain your view to those of low achievement than the willfully ignorant, especially if they consider themselves "a professional".

I prefer to start affable and escalate. About response five I admit I make it rather obvious that I have a major store of words not heard in Disney movies.


Saturday, January 21, 2006
  Google Says No
By now everyone knows that Google is refusing to cooperate with the Justice Department's attempt to revive their ability to censor the Internet.

First of all the FBI is already overtaxed chasing down take-out orders to Middle East delis given to them by NSA, so they don't need this output to suck up even more time from the real threats to the country.

Someone needs to explain "Google bombs" to the Justice Department, and why you can't go to court with any stats from searches. If they would hire a few database professionals they would find out why what they want to do won't work.

The best they could do is hire a hundred temps, put them on computers that have filters installed, and log the sites that get through. Neither the filters, nor their law is going to totally shield a determined teenager from 'Net porn, but with so many sites outside the US, the filters have a better shot at it, and the filters are getting better.

Pandering to the Religious Reich's prudery does not make the country safer.

Update: MSNBC has a Newsweek article that provides more background on what Justice is doing. This was not well thought out on the part of the Justice Department.


  What's The Point?
The enquiring mind called Quiddity wants to know: Where's the SEX?

How can the American people have a decent wallow in the muck of a political scandal that is sexless? What were these guys taking all this money for if there were no eighteen-year-old blonds involved?


  Love, Sydney?
I think Duncan and the boys are being unfair.

I mean, just because Robert Kagan is a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has written on foreign relations for The New Republic, Policy Review, the Washington Post, and the Weekly Standard, who lives in Brussels, Belgium because his wife is the US Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and he is paid extremely well for his "expertise", he shouldn't necessarily be expected to know that Canberra, not Sydney is the capital of Australia.

He could have been sick for that episode of Carmen Sandiego and his kids weren't available to find it on the Internet. He should at least get partial credit for spelling Sydney correctly.


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.


Friday, January 20, 2006
  Beating On The Drum
Kevin should stick with politics and cat blogging because a look through my blog roll finds little support for his view of the Pakistan attack.

Tristero at Hullabaloo is really annoyed with the framing, seeing it as a type of "have you stopped beating your wife" proposition.

Shakespeare's Sister chose it as her Question of the Day, but doesn't like knowingly killing innocent people.

PZ Myers of Pharyngula shares that view, and thinks it is important to respond to the question, no matter what Tristero may think.

Bob Geiger also opposes this use of force, and questions why we didn't send in a team to pick-up these people.

One of the things I failed to mention, but is germane to this incident was that this attack came during the Eid ul-Adha celebration which guaranteed there would be innocent people at the feast. There is a religious obligation to ensure that everyone takes part in the feast celebrating the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and G-d providing the substitute ram.

Wonderful way to win "hearts and minds" in the Islamic world.

Update: I read Archy too early today, as John McKay doesn't approve of the question or the conclusion.


  They Aren't Crazy
A British study has debunked the cellular phone cancer link.

The annoying behavior you see from some people using cell phones is not the result of a brain tumor caused by the radiation - they're just rude.


  The Midas Touch?
The Shrubbery wanders out to talk about the great shape the economy is in and the DOW tries to find out "how deep is the ocean" and the price of a barrel of oil wonders "how high is the sky".

Remember when the government talks about the "core inflation rate" that excludes the "volatile" energy sector, because how much effect could the cost of transporting everything and your utility bill have on the economy.

Remember how the DOW crawled back up to 11,000 after only 4½ years of the Shrubbery, it didn't last.

He has that "magic touch".


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree, "Wicked" Wilson Pickett has died from a heart attack at 64. Midnight Hour and Mustang Sally were not only great songs, they were songs that even garage bands could play. Straight ahead Memphis blues based music that required more heart than craft.

Keith at The Invisible Library has had to go on hiatus. A new job in a new city isn't condusive to blogging.

Riggsveda, who was read at It's My Country, Too, The American Street, and Corrente, is taking a hiatus.

The American Street is undergoing server problems. They know that they are going to be forced to move, so don't give up on them.

Karen who has been hanging out with Len and Brock at Dark Bilious Vapors, has opened her own place at Peripetia.

Mickey of 3 Old Men has moved his political commentary to 1 Boring Old Man.


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]


Friday Cat Blogging

What are you up to?

[Editor: Festus has a limp and her tale hangs at an angle as the result of an accident when she was a yearling. She is a pretty cat, but really skittish. She often "babysits" for the other cats.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, January 19, 2006
  Yes, I'm Picking On Kevin Drum
Kevin thinks that bloggers should discuss the Pakistan attack. Having not thought it through he has decided that he doesn't have a problem with the loss of 18 innocent people if we killed 4 members of al Qaeda.

So, if the innocent to guilty death ratio is less than 5:1, Kevin thinks it's okay. If 10 terrorists were holed up in Disneyland, Kevin wouldn't be disturbed if less than 50 bystanders were killed when the Anaheim PD called in an air strike on Cinderella's castle?

Unfair, you say? Not the same thing at all? No, if you aren't willing to kill your own people, then you have no right to visit a death sentence on people in other countries. Even if they look different, have a different religion, or a different language, all innocent people are equal and should be valued equally. There are people who view a bombing attack that kills citizens of a friendly country as a causa belli. I don't remember a declaration of war against Pakistan.

In case people have forgotten, Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If the current government is replaced, it will probably be with allies of al Qaeda and the Taliban. This attack has put the current government in Pakistan at risk.

As for the stories of the dead al Qaeda leaders, consider the source. There is no proof yet offered that anyone other than innocent villagers were killed. Statements from the Pakistani government should be given the same respect as statements from Scott McClellan.


  Out, Out Damn Cash
Jack K. in a cross-posted item at Ruminate This and The Grumpy Forester tells the sad tale of Montana Senator Conrad Burns' attempts to cleanse himself of filthy lucre directed to his coffers by Jack Abramoff.

Just a suggestion, but I believe that the Treasury accepts voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt, if you don't want to give it to any of several Katrina relief funds, or to fund some of the people you harmed with your votes on the budget.


  Republican Rules
I first read Karen's post at Peripetia and then ReddHedd's at Firedoglake. Two lady lawyers both come to the same conclusion about the Republican plan to "reform" the lobbying rules: you can't take gifts, trips, and other "considerations" from lobbyists, unless they also include a campaign contribution.

This is the "Legalize Extortion of Lobbyists" bill. They can't invite you to dinner unless they give you a campaign contribution? They can't invite you to their skybox unless they kick in a campaign contribution? They can't give you a golfing trip to Hawaii in the winter, unless there's a campaign contribution on your pillow with the chocolate?

The most important thing to remember about this situation is that Jack Abramoff pled guilty to violating the law. There are already laws and rules against what was going on, but they weren't enforced. What is the point of creating new rules, when the old rules were ignored? The Republican leaders of the House made a point of changing the rules governing the Ethics Committee and changed the leadership of that committee to ensure it wouldn't do anything.

The whole point of the Republican "reforms" is to extort more money from lobbyists.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006
  An "Explainer"
NPR has a commentary [audio link] by Robert Franklin, a professor of theology at Emory University in Atlanta explaining what Hillary and Nagin were talking about, and who they were talking to when they made their remarks.

His comments made clear to me why Hillary used the word, plantation, and I now can honestly say that it was the easiest way of getting her point across to her audience. Oh, her point is not what the Republicans assumed it was.

For those too lazy to listen, in the context of the Black church, "plantation" is a place of privilege where you might work, but your existence and opinion are of no consequence to the "elite". For most people, that's a pretty accurate description of Congress for a very long time: if you don't have money or power, they don't care about you.


Both Steve and Bobby posted on James Webb's New York Times editorial complaining about the attacks of the current leadership of the Republican Party on veterans.

For more background there's this CNN article on the "purple heart band-aids at the 2004 GOP convention.

The poem that Webb quotes is Tommy by Rudyard Kipling, a well known piece among the military for most of 150+ years since it was written because of the truth it still contains.

John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry, Jack Murtha - all had Vietnam Service Medals, Purple Hearts, and one or both Silver Stars, Bronze Stars. They have all been slimed by these people. How much respect did Colin Powell receive? General Shinseki?

James Webb has a Navy Cross, but that won't stop the attacks.

The Republicans don't want to supply the troops with body armor. If the troops had efficient body armor they would be much harder to stab in the back.


  It Keeps Getting Worse
On local radio my senior Senator, Bill Nelson, reported on his chat with Alito.

Nelson is occasionally off-the-wall so it wasn't surprising he wanted to ask about Kelo versus New London, the Supreme Court decision permitting the government to take private property through eminent domain and transfer it to another private person for development. The case was extremely unpopular in Florida and Nelson is running for re-election, so there was some method to this.

Guess what? According to Nelson, Alito doesn't believe in private property rights any more than he believes in privacy rights. So, it would be fair to say that Alito is really annoyed by the existence of the Fourth Amendment.

[Update: The Miami Herald verifies Bill "Waffle Willie" Nelson covered eminent domain with Alito, but still can't decide what to do. If you flip a coin, Nelson would call "edge".]


  Take This Plan and Shove It
The misbegotten idiots that passed this Medicare Part D should be required to work their way through this mess before they ever draw another cent from the Federal Treasury. They should be locked in a room with a telephone and receive neither food nor water until they actually get an answer from one of these companies.

They should be given the standard monthly prescription bottles from one individual and be required to locate a plan that would actually be useful to that individual or starve.

I have been roped into helping some people who are trying to deal with this mess. The web sites don't work worth a damn and the feedback links are broken when they even exist. The telephone numbers are nothing but a collection of bad music as you are put on hold if the call is answered at all.

No one was ready for this. The government and the companies don't have a system in place. I'm dealing with upset people, and widespread incompetence.

The Shrubbery has asked the companies to help!? If the companies were capable of helping in this situation it wouldn't be this screwed up.

Cronyism, corruption, and incompetence - it's the Republican way.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006
  Body Armor
Jeff over at Main & Central wrote about people receiving dire warnings from the brass at the US Special Operations Command not to use privately purchased body armor, more specifically Pinnacle Dragon Skin armor. People are threatened with a range of punishments for failing to use the government issued armor.

Before I go into my rant, How Stuff Works has a primer on body armor, so you can understand what is actually being discussed, and The Defense Review has a link rich article on the controversy.

I had a "flak jacket" in Southeast Asia. I used to sit on it in the aircraft because ground fire was the problem and that seemed to be the best way of dealing with it.

In law enforcement I bought my own armor because I wanted something that would actually provide protection and the recommended choice depended on the "bad guys" being fairly good shots to be effective.

The "flak jacket" was bulky, heavy, hot, and stiff. The soft armor was much lighter and more flexible, but it was definitely hot and it was obvious that you were wearing a vest if you wore it under the uniform shirt without a jacket. Neither was total protection but they would stop better than 90% of the threats.

This grief coming out of USSOC bugs me on a number of levels. Anyone who has had contact with the guys in Special Ops will tell you that they are not exactly "by the book". The weapons they carry are almost never standard issue. A lot of Air Force Special Ops guys have sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons that definitely did not come from the Base Equipment Management Office. These guys tend not to worry about wearing a complete and proper uniform at all times, as they are in a very "results oriented" environment. You give them a mission and they do it. If they needed detailed instructions they wouldn't be in Special Ops. An order like this to people in Special Ops smells like politics. This came from the Pentagon, not the battlefield.

Someone is positioning himself for a new job and is currying favor with a power center. It may be someone looking for a posting to the Pentagon, or someone lining up a civilian job for retirement. The order makes no sense in any other context.

This Pentagon has apparently signed a series of single source contracts. These contracts are stupid when there is a major conflict. The people who have the contract are not likely to be equipped for a major increase in orders and if their system breaks down the troops on the ground are going to be adversely affected. When it became obvious that more armor would be needed, other companies should have been contacted to fulfill the requirements. This is a management problem.

Having read the available information on the Dragon Skin armor, it would be my choice. The contractors in Iraq have the money to buy whatever they want, and they are buying the Pinnacle armor. Why can't American GIs?

Update: Len points to the "not invented here" mindset in the military that is part of the problem.


  Benjamin Franklin - January 17, 1706

Ben Franklin

Revolutionary, author, journalist, printer, diplomat, statesman, scientist, inventor, librarian, fireman, postman...American.

His autobiography is on-line, and more can be found at the Franklin Institute.

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.


Monday, January 16, 2006
On the day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. let's take a moment to think about fear. Those born after the King movement can't conceive of the life and deaths of African Americans in this country prior to the civil rights movement. You have never seen the White and Colored signs on public facilities, nor would you believe that the signs were there even if they weren't physically present. The newer generations can't understand how the color of your skin could get you killed if you violated rules that weren't written down and were adjudged "uppity" by the power structure.

Dr. King faced violence from private persons and the state for wanting to vote, to use the public facilities, to receive the benefits of a society that were paid for by taxes that everyone paid. It ultimately cost him his life. He knew real fear, faced it, and carried on with his dream.

I don't expect Dr. King's level of courage from the Reich-wing bedwetters[Michael] who are looking for safety from the "terrorist" bogeymen that inhabit their imaginations, but get a grip and pretend you have a spine. You don't have to worry about being lynched for whistling or choosing the wrong seat on public transport. You don't have to worry about your house being burned down because of a rumor of a crime.

In his first inaugural address on March 4th, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
This was in the depths of the Depression and starvation was stalking the America and the world. Different countries found different solutions to the problem.

Roosevelt concentrated on getting people to work and in the course of many efforts built and repaired the infrastructure of the country, fostered the arts, preserved the past, and left a legacy that is still enjoyed today and for the future.

Germany took a different path to escape their distress. They had a leader who preferred to emphasize the fear and build on it. It is easier to find scapegoats than solutions, and people who are under the stress of fear are easier to lead than those that are calm.

Roosevelt attempted a few tricks to evade the restrictions of the checks and balances, but he had no delusions that what he was attempting was legal and he backed down when blocked.

In Germany the checks on power were removed and unfettered power was given to the executive with tragic consequences.

Today Al Gore gave a speech in which Digby, Atrios, and others noted addressed the fear that is being used to justify a new attempt to secure unlimited power for the executive branch.

Mr. Gore and I are of an age that remembers the stupid classroom drills that had us ducking under desks in case of nuclear attack. We were aware that if approximately 10% of the arsenal of either the US or the Soviet Union were detonated on the surface, Nuclear Winter would probably be the result. We remember the tense face-off of the Cuban Blockade. We remember the 1960s and 1970s with the Cold War, Vietnam War, aircraft hijackings, scattered bombings around the world. Terrorists, both state-sponsored and free-lance abounded on every continent. This was the time of multiple Arab-Israeli wars, the Oil Embargo, riots in the cities, assassinations, kidnappings, and so on and so forth.

Our parents grew up in the Depression and then came of age during the battle for civilization that was World War II in which tens of millions died.

Americans don't take an oath to the President or the flag, they take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, a document written by people who had just gone through a war to win the right to govern themselves. If the people who wrote the document had wanted a leader with unlimited power, they wouldn't have had a Revolution to get rid of King George.

The Framers and Dr. King did not struggle to enable people to give up their liberty to fear, but to overcome fear and achieve liberty.


Sunday, January 15, 2006
  Oh, Great
At the University of South Florida's English Language Institute investigators found a misplaced $275,000. While I sort of understand how checks valued at $133,647, might get lost, how do you lose track of $140,000+ in cash. That's sort of bulky and most people would recognize what it was - money.

In a way, I would have felt better if they had found out that the money had been embezzled and not simply left in drawers and the copier. These people really needed a secretary, a good secretary wouldn't have tolerated this sort of nonsense. Secretaries have always been more important that department heads in keeping institutions running.

The auditors think there ought to be better financial controls in place - duh!


  Good Faith?
In an article about the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings on ILLEGAL WARRANTLESS wiretapping by the Bush administration:
A number of members of Specter's committee, including GOP Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, have expressed doubt about the administration's legal basis. The hearings, planned for early February, will feature Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Specter, speaking in general terms, noted that impeachment and criminal prosecution are possibilities in the event a president acted unconstitutionally.

But Specter added: "I don't see any talk about impeachment here. I don't think anyone doubts the president is making a good-faith effort. He's acting in a way that he feels he must."
Yo, Arlen given their track record, anyone with an "R" after their name is due no "benefit of doubt". They have shown themselves unworthy of trust by a record of lies and incompetence. I stand with the majority of Americans who believe that this conduct merits impeachment.

If there was justification for a wiretap there was a special court in place to grant a warrant. If there was a question about legality there is a special panel of attorneys to render an opinion. The judges and attorneys are cleared and unlike the White House staff they don't seem inclined to leak like a sieve to the media if there is a political point to be scored.

This White House works for the benefit of itself and its friends. They didn't want anyone outside the White House to know what they were doing because they use the information gained for many things that have no direct connection to the defense of the nation, but only to the defense of their power. Like Louis XIV and Tom DeLay, George W believes L'état, c'est Moi! ["The state, it is Me!" or "I am the Federal government!" in Tom's case.]


  Support The Troops - Part II
No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
- attributed to George S. Patton
Back in December of 2003 Jonathan Turley wrote a column in USA Today about troops being deployed to Iraq without proper body armor. Nor was that a lone voice in the wilderness as many others were pointing out this problem.

In response to this there were assurances that the problem was being dealt with, and it was a short-term problem that would be corrected.

Well two years have passed and there is still a problem supplying body armor to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the same people are still saying they are dealing with the problem. This time they are talking about a new protective feature to avoid talking about the fact that they haven't managed to fix the ongoing problem.

Terry caught another element in the debate in a Andrew Exum column in the New York Times: the troops don't want the better armor.

The complaints about the armor are familiar, but they failed to include that it is hot to wear, and, a choice bit from negotiating to have agencies pay for body armor for law enforcement, it makes people reckless.

One of the benefits of being from a long line of veterans is that you can compare the progress in uniforms and equipment. The stuff my Dad had in World War II was much lighter and more comfortable than the stuff my Grandfather had in the trenches of World War I. The stuff I had in Southeast Asia was another leap forward from what my Dad had in Korea. If you really want to understand how far things have come, drop by a re-enactors Civil War camp.

People, especially those who have proven themselves in combat, are very expensive to replace. All of the best training in the world will never be exactly the same as when an enemy is really, truly trying to kill you, and you know it. You can't replicate that situation. You don't want to lose people. While some like Rumsfeld may believe that military personnel are fungible, they aren't. Every death and major injury in a combat zone is the loss not simply of a "unit of production", but of the unique knowledge and abilities that individual possessed. In the current "all volunteer military" we don't have the depth to replace that person. The capabilities of the unit have been altered, and rarely for the better.

The incompetence of these people to supply the troops in combat the equipment that is required is destroying our capacity to defend the nation. We can't realistically deal with North Korea and other real threats because of the blunders of the current Department of Defense.


Saturday, January 14, 2006
  Support The Troops
Remember this December 8, 2004 incident:
One soldier, identified by The Associated Press as Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a Tennessee National Guard outfit, asked Rumsfeld why more military combat vehicles were not reinforced for battle conditions.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked.
Well, it's still the standard operating procedure in Rumsfeld's Department of Defense.

In Bushworld, Support The Troops is a dodge and a bumper sticker, not policy.


Where did these people go to school? I heard some talking head make the glaring error of stating that the President was elected by the whole nation so he should be shown deference. Au contraire, the President is elected by a majority of 535 people, few have ever heard of, called the electoral college, and the average person may, or may not, have the right to vote for them.

When things were looking "iffy" in the 2000 election in Florida, the Republican state legislature was actively discussing calling a special session to elect their own slate of electors for Florida. If they had done it, it would have been legal because the voters in Florida don't have an absolute right to select the electors. Of course, there would have been multiple fights at multiples levels if they had done it, but the reality of their interference in the Schiavo affair should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that they would have done it if the Supreme Court hadn't decided to select the President.

People keep fixating on Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and I understand their concern, but they need to watch for a flanking maneuver. If I was going to take out Roe, I would attack Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

If I can overturn Griswold, I cause fatal weakness in both Roe and Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). By attacking the underlying right of privacy, I enable the state to discriminate in a variety of areas that are on the agenda of the Religious Reich at the moment.

Don't underestimate the ability of these people to scheme. Misdirection is part of the training curriculum for the college Republicans. Look at the number of people they have convinced that a no-account Ivy League frat boy is a West Texas rancher.

I'm not sure this group is above working on McCulloch v. State Of Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819) and/or Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) in their pursuit of the unitary executive, or whatever euphemism they decide on for dictatorship.


Friday, January 13, 2006
  One Man - One Vote
Contrary to what some say, Alito does believe in "One Man - One Vote" - the President is that man.

Unitary Executive Theory - Republican Party newspeak for dictatorship


  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.


  It's Friday the 13th - Ooooh!
If you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia the bad news is that the 13th is more likely to be on a Friday than any other day of the week. You can blame it on Pope Gregory XIII and his calendar reform.


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]

Cat Wars

Friday Cat Blogging

I win, Sox, I win!

[Editor: The shot that I missed because the flash didn't recharge quickly enough was Ringo getting flipped onto floor when Sox used his rear legs.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, January 12, 2006
  Hearings As Theater
No links, because they are out there and y'all can find them, but this is too annoying not to comment.

Mrs. Alito "bursts in tears" because the bad old Democrats are picking on her husband - except, she did it while her husband was being questioned by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, her husband's "drama coach". What was Graham doing coaching a man who was going to testify before the Judiciary Committee? How is this ethical? Did Graham "coach" Mrs. Alito on bursting into tears?

Ted Kennedy was being uncivil to Arlen Spector? Kennedy sent Spector a request to look at certain documents and the documents hadn't been received. Spector goes off on a riff about just because Kennedy sent the request, doesn't mean that Spector received it - except Kennedy had Spector's response to the request in his pocket, so he knew Spector received the request.

These melodramatic flourishes by the Republicans add nothing to the business of the republic and are, frankly, sophomoric. This smells of Rove. The world will be a better place when Fitzgerald reserves Karl's place at a federal gray-bar motel.


  Jack & Tom's Law
Apparently political leaders were "shocked" to learn than Jack Abramoff had committed untoward and illegal actions as a lobbyist. Obviously something needed to be done to prevent this unprecedented¹ behavior.

Following the usual pattern I expect the Congressional Republicans to put forth a new law, that should be called the Jack & Tom Law to "prevent this problem from recurring". This is SOP [standard operating procedure] for politicians: pass a law to convince people they take the problem seriously and have done something.

Laws don't make people honest and decent, they punish people who aren't. Laws are totally worthless unless they are enforced. We don't need more laws; we need more law enforcement. What occurred was illegal, so a new law won't help. There are plenty of ethics rules in Congress, but as CNN notes: Mum's the word for ethics committee. This shows how little regard the current Republican controlled government has for ethics or the rule of law.

1. Jack has a quick rundown of some of the other "unprecedented" behaviors in the past.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006
  Constructive Criticism
According to the BBC Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster wrote an article in Military Review about the US military in Iraq saying: "Officers displayed cultural ignorance, self-righteousness, over-optimism and unproductive management..."

American officers are a bit upset with the Brigadier, but that is essentially what happened when the 82nd Airborne went into the city of Fallujah in the Spring of 2003. Without a translator, they didn't understand what the local people were protesting when the military took over a local school. The protest turned violent; local people died; and the sad history of the destruction of Fallujah had begun.


  And the Survey Says:
Both Jack and Michael are put out by the Shrubbery's shift back to his attack Shih Tzu mode where disagreement with his failed policies provides "aid and comfort to the enemy".

Then he makes his big mistake: "The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it."

Based on all of the recent polls, a majority of the American people don't think the Shrubbery is up to his job. It would be irresponsible for the representatives of that majority not to openly question the policies that have gotten us into this mess. A majority of the American people think that it is time to change.

"We will stand down when the Iraqis stand up" is not a strategy, it is a bumper sticker.


  Is There A Law Against Pundits Being Correct?
Terry has nice post on Lawrence Eagleburger demonstrating how wrong the man has been about everything that has occurred for the last 30 years, but he still gets air time and column space for his opinions.

Laurie Mylroie is another pundit who keeps getting quoted and taken seriously in face of her history of being consistently wrong.

It's almost as if the people in the media are telling themselves that these people have been so totally wrong so consistently, they must be right this time. I can't follow the logic involved in selecting people to be put forward as "experts". If I were wearing a stainless steel colanderАня, I might assume they are doing this to convince the audience that no one understood the situation, so you can't blame the Shrubbery.


  Standing On My Soapbox
Back on Halloween I wrote Alito? No! just after hearing about the guy for the first time. A quick glance told me he didn't believe that people have a right to privacy. People fixated on abortion, but he opposes more than that when it comes to keeping the government out of your private life.

Now it's becoming apparent that he believes in the "divine right of Presidents", that the separation of powers is not an important concept if it interferes with a President doing whatever he/she feels like.

FDR was, by all accounts, including those of many relatives, a good President dealing with some of the worst problems the country had ever seen, but the Supreme Court was right to put the brakes on him.

We are seeing the effect of a single party in control of all three branches of government, and it isn't pretty. Historians are going to be savaging this period in our history for a very long time. The country may not be as "efficient" when the power is divided, but the rights of all of the people and their taxes are much safer.

Alito has done nothing that would require his impeachment, but the republic will not be well served with a monarchist on the Supreme Court.


  The Meme of Five
Karen at Dark Bilious Vapors tagged me for a Five Weird Things meme.

Other than the fact that I stopped drinking alcohol about 15 years ago because it was no longer fun, I don't know what people would consider weird.

Well, since I rarely meet with clients face-to-face, as the Internet generally makes it unnecessary, I don't bother with haircuts much, not that I have a lot hair to cut. That was the result of my regular barber running off to get married about 5 years ago, and I haven't found another barber I like well enough to spend $20 for as little work as is required.

Hmmm? I guess the fact that I tend to live near the coast when I have no interest in water sports of any kind is weird. I've tried scuba diving and surfing, and did a lot of things in the water as a child, but I lost interest.

There are people who think that managing the local feral cat colonies is strange, but they don't understand the balance that was upset by the removal of all of the large snakes that once controlled the rats. You have to have population controls or things get out of hand.

Other than that I'm pretty much the same as every other military brat who has lived all over the world, speaks a few foreign languages, spent some time in military intelligence, and now works with computers.

Nothing to challenge Karen's position as an Oral-B preferred customer.


  Clear As Mud
So the LAPD is upset that Arnold didn't have a motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license when he was involved in his accident.

Arnold's California Highway Patrol escort said he didn't need one because he had a sidecar on his motorcycle.

But the California Highway Patrol website says:
What is a motorcycle?

A motorcycle is a vehicle whose motor displaces more than 150 cubic centimeters and has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider. It is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and weighs less than 1,500 pounds.
This seems to indicate that he does need the endorsement.

Except the California Department of Motor Vehicle's California Motorcycle Handbook says:
Class C -You may operate a motorcycle with a sidecar attached, a three-wheel motorcycle, or a motorized scooter.
A Class C California Driver's License is the normal license that you get when you move there.

Well, I'm glad we cleaned that up and California clearly states what is required. This kind of garbage goes on all the time because of the lack of definition in the laws. Maybe they will decide to clean up the law now that the governor has gotten caught up in it.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006
  Just In
Mouse Burns House story false!

According to the homeowner, the mouse was dead when he threw it on the fire, which he shouldn't have started because of the high winds.

It is assumed that the wind blew sparks into the house, causing it to burn.

Update: Len at Dark Bilious Vapors was properly skeptical.


Excerpt from the White House of the Shrubbery's VFW speech today:
As veterans and soon to be veterans, you have placed the nation's security before your own lives. You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept that oath underseas [sic] and under fire. (Applause.) All of us who live in liberty live in your debt, and we must never forget the sacrifice and the service of our veterans.
Apparently his mind rejected the oath that you take when you enter the military - you take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not the flag. He seems to have a personal problem with the Constitution, almost as if he is rejecting its existence in his alternate universe.

Don't ask me why he said "underseas", I assume he was just mumbling again or the reception on his earpiece was bad.

I have nothing against the flag, but it is a battle signal, not an object of adoration. It's a violation of the Flag Code to put it on uniforms, but they do it anyway, and he signs small flags with a marker, which is also a violation. I certainly never took an oath to defend the flag for the military, law enforcement, or public service: all three were to support and defend the Constitution. The Shrubbery and the country would be better off if he stopped waving the flag and started reading the Constitution.

Trick Flag Question: how many stripes on THE Star Spangled Banner, the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote about in the poem.


  News Flash
Since people seem interested and no one bothers to check the "Internets", "Dick" Cheney has gout, the disease of a lot of over-indulgent rich guys.

Why this is so secret that his press office doesn't just tell people says more about the paranoia of Cheney's people than the seriousness of the ailment. It is painful and some of the medications cause fluid retention, a side effect that he should have been made aware of before he was given the prescription.


  Hidden Laws
Stuck inside a funding package for the Department of Justice is a new law making it a felony to be anonymously annoying on the Internet. It was supposed to address Cyberstalking but it is so badly written that someone is going to have to drag this thing through the courts so it can be thrown out as unconstitutional.

Anonymously Annoying describes most of the news groups on Usenet. If P. Lapin can't attack Muffy, International Kitten of Mystery, over Easter customs, what's the point? [rec.org.mensa] People who complain about spam have never been part of a full-bore flame war.

Given the way this law was passed, Congress had better have given itself an exemption, because the law is definitely annoying, and it certainly was enacted in an anonymous fashion.


  Reporter Kidnapped
The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that Jill Carroll, a freelance writer currently on assignment in Iraq has been kidnapped and her translator killed.

As the Pensacola Beach Blog noted, the media in the US were about the only people who honored the request not to announce her name while negotiations for her release were initiated.

I would assume that the request to withhold her name was to ensure that those who were going to negotiate could eliminate false claims and deal only with those who could supply them with her name.

Unfortunately, the media doesn't always think beyond scoops, and the negotiators don't provide reasons for their requests. This has been going on for a while, the kidnapping of journalists, and you would think that a procedure would have been established.


Monday, January 09, 2006
  The Dow Jones Industrial Average Hits 11,000
Duncan notes that it is back up to where it was in June, 2001. That means that your investment has taken 4½ years to come out of the "red".

Of course, that doesn't include what you have paid in management fees or the value lost to inflation. You would have been ahead stuffing the money in your mattress, but not as well off as putting it in a passbook savings account at your local bank.

The Shrubbery's running joke about tax cuts for the wealthy encouraging investment and creating jobs sure is getting old.


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