Why Now?
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
  Before The Fast
As the Pensacola News Journal notes while those areas that were influenced by French Catholicism call today Mardi Gras much of the Christian world refers to today as Shrove Tuesday and instead of King cakes, pancakes are on the menu.

The terms Lent and Easter are derived from Teutonic terms for the spring festival and the goddess of Spring and Dawn, rather than The Fast and The Resurrection which are more correct terms.

In Russia Shrove Tuesday is called Maslenitsa [Масленица-Butter Maiden] and it involves bliny [блины-pancakes], covered in smetana [сметана-sour cream] with ikra [икра-caviar] on top washed down with vodka [водка-little water]. In other areas it is Pancake Day for the same reason. The general idea is to eat up all of the foods that you are going to be avoiding for the next 40 days. The round, golden pancakes are considered sun symbols.

One of the traditions is to make a straw effigy of Maslenitsa to which everyone recounts their sins. At the end of the day the doll and your sins are thrown on a bonfire.

In general everything revolves around rebirth in the Spring.


  Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras

The last day before the beginning of Lent on the Gulf Coast that once belonged to France, it is Mardi Gras, "Fat Tuesday": Laissez les bon temps rouler!

It was first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama, but the big show these days is in New Orleans, and it is a holiday in the state of Louisiana, because people wouldn't show up for work anyway, so why fight it.

This year it continues in spite of Katrina, although it will take a decade to look like the old version, and it will never regain what the wind, water, cronyism, and incompetence have destroyed.

For pictures from the local parades you can stop by Barrier Island Girl.

The tradition is to serve King cake, which is a circle of cinnamon bun dough with a white frosting on top sprinkled with sugar colored purple, gold, and green. If that weren't bad enough, they put the figurine of a baby in the dough, and whoever finds it in their piece is supposed to be lucky. Actually if you find it and don't choke on it, I guess you are lucky. You should use a small ceramic figurine, as some of the cheap plastic versions melt in the oven [yummy].


Monday, February 27, 2006
  Decorating A Cat
While ferrets and dogs don't seem to mind, there are certain things you need if you want your cat to join in a festive occasion.

Obviously any item must be sized accordingly, which usually means making them yourself. You need to have the backdrop ready so the cat doesn't spend excessive time in the costume. Make sure the camera is ready and batteries are fully charged. Fully charged spare batteries are a good idea.

Oh, yes, you need to know your blood type and write it on your body with a permanent marker. Type AB positive is best because they are universal recipients. If you're Type O negative you might want to re-think the entire concept.

Have your cell phone on your body and fully charged. Remember the One held down is the default speed dial number for 911. Don't forget your insurance card.

Put the bandages, gauze pads, and tourniquet strap near you so that you won't need much mobility to reach them. The old fashioned sanitary napkin makes an excellent pressure bandage for arterial bleeding.

If you are on good terms with your veterinarian, you might consider getting some tranquilizer tablets. Remember to give at least one to the cat.

Oh, don't forget to clean the litter box before you begin. Most people don't mind feeding the cat while you are indisposed but they usually draw the line at the litter box.


  In Iraq Today
Riverbend reports that her local neighborhood is pulling together to defend itself, but wonders why all of the clerics calling for calm and unity don't just have their militias stand down.

Professor Cole reports that violence continues at a reduced level, but the curfew had to be suspended so people could buy food and supplies.

Update: From the Washington Post on MSNBC: Iraq’s deadly surge claims 1,300, about three times as many deaths as had been previously reported.


  You Were Saying...
Remember how, when people said that the port deal was a danger to national security, the Shrubbery's bootlickers said port operators aren't responsible for security, the Coast Guard is?

Well, according to an article from the Associated Press in the Houston Chronicle - Document: Coast Guard Warned of Port Gaps.

So the agency responsible for port security says this deal is a threat to security.


  The United Arab Emirates
You should check out the official site and the Wikipedia site. They are real sweethearts.

Emirates and Emirs of the United Arab EmiratesThese seven people are also the entire electorate of the UAE. Within their individual emirates they are total autocrats. The Emir of Abu Dhabi is always elected President, and the Emir of Dubai is always elected Vice President and Prime Minister. They are both from clans of the Bani Yas tribe.

The actual structure of the UAE hasn't actually evolved to the level of feudalism, everything is based on family, clan, and tribal relations. While there are moves to allow people to own land in Dubai, in most of the Emirates the Emir owns everything.

The Emir of Dubai only makes about 6% of his income from oil, the rest comes from trade, including the largest, based on value, free trade zone in the world. They are interested in the flow of trade and interruptions for security or tracing stolen property would be an expense.

Under intense pressure the Emirates has stopped using child slaves for their camel races, but slavery is part of their culture. If you work in the Emirates you have to surrender your passport. The treatment of foreign workers would make Wal-Mart blush.

There is no immigration. If you are not born a member of one of the current families, you can never become a citizen. Citizens don't normally work, because they don't have to. Almost everything is free for citizens. Work is done by foreign labor, with the Palestinians, and other Arabs used as managers. Of the approximately 4,041,000 people in the Emirates in 2003, only a little over 20% [≅811,000] are citizens.

"Gifts" are certainly expected to operate in the Emirates, and a failure to be "polite" can result in expulsion on short notice.

If you deal with these seven men, you have no guarantees of anything. If the Emir of Dubai changes his mind, you have no recourse. If they decide not to honor an agreement, there's nothing you can do about it. You can make a lot of money dealing with Dubai, but you have all the risk.

Corporations pay the Emirates a great deal of money to operate outside of the taxes and laws that afflict their competition. That's what the "free trade zones" are all about.

Update: Keith at The Invisible Library tells us that the UAE has blocked that well-known threat to civilization Boing Boing.


Sunday, February 26, 2006
  It Takes A Reader
James Wolcott foregoes snark in the Shattered Dome to ask a few relevant questions about the bombing of the shrine in Samarra.

I admit that I missed it. I knew something was wrong, but wasn't paying attention. It's a variation on "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time"¹ or "what's wrong with this picture".

Everything is supposed to point to al-Zarqawi, but he would have killed the guards and taken credit for the destruction. Neither occurred. "The dog didn't bark." There's a huge explosion in the middle of a city and no one dies? A group noted for a suicide bomber in a wedding, uses massive amounts of high explosives without killing anyone?

1. Silver Blaze from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


  Florida Progressive Information Network
An attempt is being made to provide a tool for progressive people and organizations in the "Sunshine State": Florida Progressive Information Network. "It is a new tool designed to help progressives in Florida respond more effectively to the wide variety of issues we seem to be loosing ground on."

The idea is to provide a point of contact for people with like-minded views on issues so that efforts can be coordinated and people can find out they are not alone. This is a collection of single-issue groups that are trying to get their messages out to people that agree with them that the issue is important.


  Righteous Rants
Saturday was a good day for clearing the air about why people need to let the world know what they think. Both Kevin Hayden of The American Street and Susie of The Suburban Guerrilla let it all hang out and testified about why you should care.

If you missed them, go read them. Things are not going to get better unless the people in power figure out that they are in trouble with the people that pay their salaries.


  No Problem For Cruella d'Harris
I've seen several people talking about the head of MZM Inc. who just cut a deal in the Randy Cunningham case. He brought up his having made illegal campaign contributions to the current Republican candidate for the Senate in Florida, Katherine "Our Lady of the 2000 Vote Theft" Harris.

Sorry, but as this June, 2005 article in the Pensito Review, makes clear, not only was the 2004 MZM Inc. $50,000 illegal contribution known about, but the illegal 1994 Riscorp $20,292 contribution is part of Cruella's resumé.

While I don't doubt she is annoyed by having to spend some of her personal millions on repaying these possible bribes, they are so characteristic of her feeling of entitlement that they don't affect her base. If you really knew Creulla, you'd realize that this was more probably extortion than bribery. As her unchallenged run displays, running against Harris in a primary is not something any Republican really wants to do.

Karl Rove is lucky that Cruella doesn't see him as a real threat to her whims or he would find out what a truly nasty campaign can be like. Trust me, it is much better to be a Democrat than a Republican when it comes to Harris.


  What's Arabic For "Bull Run"?
The MSM is starting to notice, but they are clapping their hands and trying to believe that "Tinkerbush" will "make it better".

We have not seen the first open battle, but Professor Cole makes it plain that the clerics who are calling for calm all seem to be "cleaning weapons and issuing ammunition".

The Kurds can be expected to react by declaring their independence, which will provoke a response from Turkey.

The relatives of the Sunnis in Iraq are honor-bound to support them, which will draw Saudi Arabia and Jordan into the war. Iran will, of course, be honor-bound to provide support, and the Alawis of Syria will also be involved.

The most logical element for the US to ally with are the Baathists elements, the only group really interested in maintaining Iraq as a nation.

This is exactly what was predicted would happen in the first Gulf War, and the reason Saddam was not removed. Control of the Persian Gulf is being handed to the Persians.


Saturday, February 25, 2006
  RIP Don Knotts July 21, 1924 - February 24, 2006
CNN has his obituary and they remember him, like most people, as Deputy Barney Fife.

This is his Wikipedia entry for more background.

For me, Don Knotts was one of several people, including Ernie Kovacs, Pat Harrington, Jr., Louis Nye, Bill Dana, Dayton Allen and Tom Poston, who were part of Steve Allen's Tonight Show that I saw while stationed at remote sites around the world, about five years after it was off the air.

The man on the street episodes were a hoot as they were barely scripted and heavily dependent on the personalities that each of the comedians developed to interact with "Steverino".

You have to be of an age to react to "Schmock! Schmock!", an in-joke from a long time ago.


  The Hits Keep On Coming
Go see Robert at Interstate 4 Jamming to learn about the Federal government finally assigning blame for the mess that was the aftermath of Katrina.

The US Attorney's office has charged Sheriff Billy McGee of Forrest County, Mississippi with the heinous crime of getting two trucks of ice for his county.

Just unbelievable.


  For Educational Purposes Only
Something caused me to think about ergot. Some recent event brought it to mind.

Very ancient element in the medicine bundle of wise women, ergot. Probably responsible for some of them being burned at the stake as ergot poisoning is suspected in many of the "witch episodes".

It is occasionally useful to be aware of naturally occurring medications, if only to know what to avoid.

It's probably a problem for grain farmers on the Great Plains.


  The Port Problem Expands
The six ports in question turn out to be 21 ports. Kind of like the amount required for the Iraqi adventure, counting is not a major accomplishment.

You can see the ports at the Official P&O site, or at Uggabugga for graphic goodness by Quiddity.


  America's Most Dangerous Professor?
When Professor Bérubé starting blegging, I ignored him because it meant fouling my web browser with David Horowitz's site.

Then Sadly, No joined in the bleg, although there is no mention of cat pictures.

Now Ms. World O'Crap and Julia are asking.

If you have the stomach for it, go vote.

For some reason, the list of academics is sorted by school, not by the name of the person, so you have to find Penn State University to vote for Michael.

Don't hang around and read the page or really look at the results. They're wingers, spelling is optional. Maybe "Berkelil" is a winger Berkeley joke. As for the switched column headings on the results page, proofreaders are expensive.

I do wonder why there's no one from Harvard or Yale on the list.


  It Was Fifty Years Ago Today
That at the Twentieth Party Congress the General Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev [Никита Сергеевич Хрущёв], denounced Joseph Stalin [Иосиф Виссарионвич Джугашвили].

Having been idolized by the full weight of the Party apparatus, "Uncle Joe" had achieved the position of a god in a supposedly atheistic society, and that was the primary charge leveled at him: he had created a "cult of personality" [культ личности] in a classless society.

As an insider, Khrushchev knew where the bodies were buried and how many there were. Nikita blasted the "generalissimo" for preventing an effective response to the initial invasion of the Soviet Union by the Wehrmacht, refusing to believe that Hitler was actually casting aside their non-aggression pact.

The purges and starvation in the 1930s were laid bare in the common language that Khrushchev cultivated.

The speech was given in a closed meeting and the details were released in a slow and measured matter to avoid the disruption that would be caused by finding out that the savior of Mother Russia was a brutal thug only interested in himself.

It is of interest that young people in today's Russia have a much better opinion of Stalin than their parents and grandparents. There would appear to be an effort to rehabilitate the image of the Georgian murderer. Now who would want to have people think kindly of a brutal, power-mad, autocrat?


Friday, February 24, 2006
  The Chinese have Framed Roger Rabbit
Without any explanation Chinese officials have banned films mixing live actors and cartoon characters.

Given that, other than children's programs, there are very few films that actually fit in this category, you have to wonder what these officials are taking in their tea.

The Soviets use to do things like this. Some senior apparatchik would get it in his head that something was "evil", and the state would ban it. Communist officials have a lot in common with Fred Phelps and the Religious Reich.


  Dumber Than Rocks
A local television station, WEAR, sampled local reaction to the White House's Katrina report.

Proving that he is as out of touch on this, as everything else - Jeff Miller [R FL-1]:
"The role that we think the Department of Defense can play is certainly in staging, distribution, and coordination. I do not think at all that the military needs to come in and take over the state's function of the local government's function."

Miller says one problem in Louisiana after Katrina was the governor and mayor wanted to control the National Guard, but then didn't know what to do with them.
No, actually, the problem was that 40% of the Louisiana Guard was in Iraq with 100% of the equipment that was needed to respond. As their communications gear, generators, water trucks, and the vehicles modified to operate in swamps were in an Iraqi desert, the Louisiana Guard wasn't able to operate effectively.


  The Problem
So the White House issues its report on the failure that was the response to Katrina, but lays no blame.

They want to shift more responsibility to the Pentagon. They say there was a lack of coordination of the military effort. What they fail to mention is that the only thing that had to be done to release the military that was ready to go to work was for the Shrubbery to have picked up a telephone and given the word to the commander of the Northern Command who was sitting by the phone waiting.

The USS Bataan followed the storm to New Orleans. The Navy had forces staged at Pensacola. The Air Force had people and supplies staged at Hurlburt Field. The Army had people ready to rush in. They were all ready, and some "bent" the rules to help, but they needed a Presidential order to go to work.

The coordination problem for the military in the case of Katrina was that no one told the Shrubbery that he had to make a phone call while on vacation.

When they talked about the lack of coordination before 9/11 they skipped over the fact that coordination was the job of the President's National Security Council. When Ms. Rice failed to do her job the system failed.

They keep creating new bureaucracies to do the jobs that the White House has always done in the past. There are more people doing less in this White House than ever before and the Federal bureaucracy keeps growing.

Adding another layer of management never has, and never will improve communications.


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]

Lap Fungus

Friday Cat Blogging


[Editor: It's a tough life putting up with Ringo, so Dot is taking a break.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, February 23, 2006
  They're Baaaack

American Robin

Once again we must endure the arrival of the Turdus migratorius [the accent is on the first syllable] or American robin as they descend in their horde to strip a local variety of tree of its purple berries which are rapidly processed and deposited on everything.

The noise and stains are reminders that only one more major cold spell lies between us and the true Spring.

Things are always brighter after their visit, because if you don't scrub everything down almost immediately the stains from the partially digested berries are damn near impossible to get off.


  Culture Of Life
South Dakota has decided to be the first to see if five Catholics on the Supreme Court will let them ban abortion.

Since they are so committed to life, I'm sure that the laws banning capital punishment, in vitro fertilization, wars, peace officer guns, etc. will be passed in short order. Naturally they will be providing universal health care to all of their citizens to ensure that life is preserved.

I know this because these are honorable people who really believe in the culture of life and are not power hungry misogynists who feel that women are incapable of making decisions about their lives on their own. This must be true, because, otherwise they would not be inserting government into the very protected space of doctor-patient confidentially and trust. There is no other reason to suddenly decide that bureaucrats and lawyers know more about health care decisions than the patient and people who spent a decade learning their craft.

I expect all of this will this happen right after we read the South Dakota State University's College of Engineering seminal report on the natural aeronautical capabilities of Duroc hogs¹.

1. No offense, Hogfather.


  Fort Sumter Has Been Shelled
As the BBC reports today: Scores die amid Iraqi shrine fury.
President Jalal Talabani called an emergency summit of Iraq's political leaders to discuss the violence.

Sunni Arab politicians boycotted the meeting and pulled out of coalition talks in protest at reprisal attacks.

"We are suspending our participation in negotiations on the government with the Shia Alliance," said Tareq al-Hashimi, a top official from the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq's main Sunni Arab alliance.

Dozens of Sunni mosques have been targeted and several burnt to the ground since bombers blew up the golden dome of the revered al-Askari shrine in Samarra on Wednesday morning, reports say.

In a rare public rebuke, the main Sunni religious authority - the Association of Muslim Scholars - accused Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, of fomenting the violence.

Ayatollah Sistani has urged Shias not to attack Sunni mosques, but a spokesman for the cleric said anger might be hard to contain.
In his translations of Middle Eastern newspapers Professor Cole uses the term "excommunicators", that is apparently the accepted translation of takfiri. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, Jama'at at-Tawhid wal-Jihad now known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, are considered "excommunicators", takfiri, by most people.

They have found the pressure point. Takfiri hold that shrines and relics are the equivalent of idol worship, so it should be expected that other holy sites will be attacked should Shi'ia anger wane.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006
  Civil War?
You can read CNN or the BBC about the bombing of the Al-Askariya "Golden Mosque" in Samarra, but Juan Cole recommends Attack deepens Iraq's divide by Dan Murphy, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor.

Of course, Professor Cole is the go-to commentator on these events, and Riverbend of Baghdad Burning provides the reaction of an average Iraqi.

When reading about these events it helps to understand that there isn't a single Islamic religion anymore than there's a single Christian religion. Wikipedia's Divisions of Islam is as good as a starting point as anything.

Osama bin Laden is a Wahhabi Sunni and Yemeni Arab born in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban are Deobandi Sunnis and generally Afghani Pashtuns.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a Salafi Sunni and Jordanian Arab.
The Syrian Baathist Party is primarily composed of Alawi Shi'ites.
In Lebanon, Reagan picked a fight with the Druze.

The differences are important. The Salafi don't accept the Shi'ia as Muslims, and al-Zarqawi is probably behind the bombing.

So, it starts. Shi'ia are starting to expand the attacks on Sunnis that has already been occurring in and around Baghdad as payback for what happened under Saddam. The Kurds are pushing back in the North.

It is well past time for the US to leave, because these people are going to have to work this out for themselves. You can't act as the peacekeeper in a war you started.


  Port Whine
First and foremost: port facilities in the United States should be operated by American companies. The ports are points of entry into the country and they should be administered in the same manner as any point of entry.

Property stolen in the United States is exported and illegal substances of all kinds are imported through those ports. People have been, and probably continue to be shipped into the United States in containers.

As Michael says, this shouldn't be about the fact that this a company owned by an Arab government, it should be about any foreign company operating American points of entry.

We have seen no increase in the security of chemical facilities, nuclear facilities, or ports since 9/11. It just hasn't happened. There has been no real increase in the capabilities of first responders or border security despite massive funding increases.

The Coast Guard hasn't been strengthened, Customs is no better, and we all know about the weaknesses in the Border Patrol. Appointing friends, Julie Myers, to important positions in the Department of Homeland Security, the head of Immigration Customs and Enforcement, does not show a serious attitude on the part of this administration.

Let's ignore the ties to the UAE of Neil and Marvin Bush. Let's ignore the money that the Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, made when his old company, CSX, was bought by the UAE company. Let's ignore the appointment by this administration of the head of the company's European and Latin American operations, David Sanborn, to head the US Maritime Administration. Let's ignore the hit on Osama bin Laden that was called off because it could have resulted in wounding or killing a significant number of the members of the ruling families of UAE.

Let's just ignore all of those issues and focus on one thing: does this improve the security of American ports? I'm not interested in when whether ports are less secure or just as secure, I want them more secure. I can't see how this can be viewed as an increase in port security.

I would note that many of the officials who were supposed to be on the panel that reviewed this, now claim to be unaware of the approval. Since the board and its meetings are secret, no one can tell us who approved it.

When I heard today that my Congresscritter, Jeff Miller [R-FL(1)], has been deluged by calls and e-mails opposing this action, including from the Kiwanas [what's with that?], I knew that Bush has lost his base, because the first district of Florida is his rabid base.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006
  The Cult Of Secrecy
Laura Rosen called it Erasing History, but by any name it is stupid.

Clinton worked to make government cheaper and more efficient. One of the things he did was order all classified document over 25 years old declassified unless there was a specific reason to keep it secret.

I worked with classified documents and every document has a paper trail. They are like library books, requiring you to check them out and check them back in. They have to be kept in safes inside secure rooms. The rooms are inside specially designed and protected buildings. I worked inside vaults and had to remember changing passwords. I had to challenge anyone I didn't recognize in the secure area. There were guns and gas involved in the protection schemes. There were plans to destroy everything that involved Thermite grenades and a good chance of injury or death in the process. That is expensive.

So we started cleaning out the closets, and then the paranoids crawled out from under their rocks, and claimed that secrets had been exposed.

When Bush came in, the paranoids had their leader and they are trying to re-classify everything. It's stupid. It's expensive. It's part of their cult.


  Time Scale
One of the major problems with American foreign policy is that the United States uses a different time scale than much of the rest of the world. Americans want things done now, they live very much in the now, forgetting about the past and ignoring the future.

Americans can't credit that Iran is building nuclear reactors and the United Arab Emirates are buying up businesses all over the world because they are planning for their grandchildren and the grandchildren of their grandchildren. They know that the oil won't last forever and they are moving beyond it.

The Chinese don't deal in time spans of less than five years to do anything, and treat five years like Americans treat days. The Chinese government is not the individual at the top, but the entire bureaucracy that existed before the Party and will continue after the Party disappears.

Americans can't relate to people still angry about things that happened centuries ago, because we have lost the ancestor worship that is part of the lives of people in other countries. As a nation of immigrants, by coming to the "New World" we broke free of our roots and ancestors. History is not valued by Americans. Many Americans made a conscious decision to break their ties to the past when they came to this country.

Many American corporations think from quarter to quarter. Management doesn't worry about the long term results of their actions, because they don't expect to be with the company very long, so any consequences will be someone else's problem. That's why senior management always has their severance package nailed down before they accept a job with a new firm.

Think about it: we don't want to do anything about global warming because we would have to make sacrifices to safeguard future generations.


  On A Lighter Note
Showing why he is Sultan of Snark, TBogg:
...In fact, the only person I can think of that is dumb enough to support it is John Tierney who is so divorced from reality he doesn't even get visitation rights.
Via Oliver Willis, for your consideration: Kwale Killer Kartoon.


Monday, February 20, 2006
  More Free Speech
Karen at Peripetia noted an op-ed by the Danish editor and thought it was: A Good Answer....

Echnide also noted: Flemming Rose on The Cartoons, but she had a commenter, Mark from Ireland, who lives in Denmark and reads Danish.

Mark filled in some background on the newspaper involved and the political situation. You should read it for yourself and make up your own mind. My Danish isn't good enough to say from my own reading, but this isn't the first time I've heard what Mark is saying.

It would certainly explain the way this was handled by the Danish government. Refusing to meet with ambassadors from Muslim countries is a FEMA level screw-up.


  Free Speech
From the BBC: Holocaust denier Irving is jailed:
British historian David Irving has been found guilty in Vienna of denying the Holocaust of European Jewry and sentenced to three years in prison.

He had pleaded guilty to the charge, based on a speech and interview he gave in Austria in 1989.
First, people like David Irving and Fred Phelps, the professional haters, deserve anonymity. Any and all reference should be eliminated from memory. Their existence pollutes thought.

Having said that, the Austrian law is wrong. The existence of this law in Austria and a similar law in Germany are understandable, but they are an exemption to free speech, and they provide fuel for Muslim extremists and anti-Semitic elements. These exceptions are the reason for the call for Holocaust cartoons in Iran.

Free speech has to be just that. If you are not willing to defend your enemy's right to say hateful things, you don't really believe in free speech on a practical level. This is why the ACLU will defend Nazis and Rush Limbaugh, they believe in everyone's rights, not just those that agree with them.

On an intellectual level I believe in free speech. On a personal level I wouldn't be unhappy if certain people fell face first into a fire ant mound.


Sunday, February 19, 2006
  You Think You Have Problems
As I move through blogtopia™ [skippy the bush kangaroo] I notice various people complaining about their elected officials.

I don't want to go all whiney, but as bad as the Congresscritter from the First District of Florida has been for years, Joe Scarborough being the most familiar to most people, I haven't really gotten into the guy who was the alternative in the last several elections, and who has apparently decided to run for the Senate in 2006.

If you have the courage, check out Tom Wells of the Family Values Party. No it isn't a satire, and that really is the Wells who appeared on my ballot.

Some choice.


  Avoid Embarrassment

Orange T-Shirt

There's nothing worse that being invited to someone's estate for a weekend and then having to apologize for causing a scene due to a misunderstanding with another guest.

Avoid this social faux pas [pronounced fox pass by real Americans] by wearing this friendly reminder of your status over your SOV™ Dragon Skin® Flexible Body Armor when you take to the field for a fun-filled slaughter of small birds after enjoying a repast of burned flesh and fermented grain.

Don't think of yourself, think of the shame of your family knowing you've burdened the health care system by taking up space in an Intensive Care Unit and causing a surgeon to miss weekend tee times to dig metal fragments out of your body. Think of having to face the media to explain how you blundered in front of the weapon of someone much more important than you, causing them to waste days of expensive staff time trying to fashion an excuse acceptable to the world.


Saturday, February 18, 2006
  Earth To Rumsfeld
I saw this and am unable to comprehend why this is an issue: Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda has better PR.

I talked about illiteracy in the Muslim world. Michael at Musing's Musings, Bulldog at Main & Central, and Anne at Peevish have all posted on this.

Folks, you can't present a landfill as a gated community, no matter how much you pay a PR firm. The US government has a history in the area, and while this administration may have forgotten about it, the people who live there haven't.

Iraqis and Iranians remember that the US supported Saddam for years during the Iran-Iraq War. Iranians know about the US involvement in bringing the last Shah to power. The Afghanis remember how the US left after the Soviets were pushed out. The Kurds remember being screwed by Republican Presidents since Nixon. Americans may not remember, the locals do. The locals don't differentiate between administrations: the American government is the American government.

The Danish imams didn't use Blackberrys, blogs, or e-mail to build support for their point of view; they sent a delegation of religious leaders to the religious leaders in the various Muslim countries. Information comes from the mosque, not the 'Net.

PR is not going to overcome Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or Fallujah. PR is not going to overcome calls for "crusades" by Americans. PR is not going to overcome the burial of "wedding parties", women and children, the old and weak. PR is not going to offset the lack of water, sewers, electricity, and fuel in Iraq.

If Rumsfeld would like to improved relations with the Muslim world he could start with a heart-felt act of contrition followed by the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. These people have lived under repressive regimes for years and they know propaganda when they hear it.


  For Something Completely Different
Whether or not you are currently familiar with Ricky Gervais, you really should check him out, especially if you like the Monty Python-type humor.

He has a series of podcasts hosted by The Guardian that are reasonably bizarre. [I just noticed this is also Silly Site o' the Day by Elayne.]

You have to wonder if parents realize their child will be weird and therefore name them Karl, or being named Karl makes a child weird.


I don't watch television but I have attended winter sports events that included friends or family over the years.

If you have an interest on some background for the sports, you could do a lot worse than the Canadian Broadcasting Company's website.

If you don't know what a luge is or have never seen a curling spiel, they have explanations for every event. [Spiel is German for game and is the term for a curling match.]

They also have a cartoonist, Instigator, available for some levity, Canadian style.


  Italian Moron
Just to prove that he was as anti-immigration as he claimed to be, Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli Calderoli of Italy had t-shirts printed with the Danish cartoons and started wearing them on television.

Italian television is watched in the former colony of Libya, and riots broke out in the very conservative Muslim nation resulting in the death of 10 protestors, shot by Libyan police in an attempt to protect the Italian consulate.

Mr. Calderoli has resigned.


  Join The Misery
The Mac gets a little love from hackers: Malicious worm aims to bite Apple.

Actually it only affects OSX version 10.4 and you have to install the file, "latestpics.tgz", so you would have to be incredibly stupid to have your machine affected, but it shows someone cares enough to start wrecking havoc on Macs.


  A Question
Waiting for the DVD of Gunga Din to get to the movie, my Mother wondered if the FBI didn't have something better to do than worry whether somebody might copy a 60-year-old movie?


  I Wonder...
I don't know the man so I can't say one way or another, but we may want to re-visit this statement by Harry Whittington:
"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week," Whittington said.
Imagine if I had said that, or you saw it on TBogg. This may be that particular form of "Southern polite" that mystifies outsiders and delights insiders.

Only Harry's friends know for sure.


Friday, February 17, 2006
  My Wild Life
Just before noon my Mother called and asked me to go to her friend's house because there was injured animal in her bushes and it wouldn't leave. Why Miss Thelma didn't call Animal Control is beyond me, but I drove over to her house.

She pointed to low bush in her backyard where I found a red fox vixen lying on her side. The fox appeared to have an injury to her fore legs and was not able to get away. If the vixen had been at all aggressive I would have put her down, suspecting rabies, but she acted defensive so I called Animal Control as she was too large for my carrier.

The laws about animals are really confusing. You have to have the proper license to deal with the specific animal. For alligators and bears you have to call a licensed trapper, migratory waterfowl belong to the Feds, but red foxes are a non-native wild animal so Animal Control will deal with them.

In about 15 minutes a young woman drove up in a white van, and Miss Thelma showed her age: "My goodness, they've sent a girl!"

Despite being "a girl", she made a quick capture with a minimum of force and removed the animal from Miss Thelma's yard. They are probably going to have to put the vixen down because the forelegs looked broken, but there's a chance.

So, I go out and am feeding the cats at 5pm and suddenly it's raining feathers. Just about three feet above my head a sharp shinned hawk has caught a dove. The hawk wasn't much bigger than the dove and it struggled to fly away with it. Because of the awkward flight I was able to see the distinctive tail banding that confirmed my initial identification.

Wild animals have shown great resilience to the intrusion of man.


  Cheney and Classification
By now you've heard: Cheney Says He Can Declassify Information.

In comments Steve Bates pointed to an article by Steven Clemons at The Washington Note who identifies the basis for the claim as Executive Order 12958, which was written under the Clinton administration.

I'm with Clemons based on personal experience: Cheney has been given the authority to classify information, but the only information he can de-classify on his own under the order are those he classified.

Protecting classified information is expensive, so it has a time span. Based on time limits, documents are reviewed periodically for declassification. The key is that the decision to approve declassification is made by the authority for the original classification. NSA cannot declassify CIA documents.

The President can request declassification, and that request would probably be honored, but the form has to be signed by the original classification authority to be legal. Every classified document has a paper trail.

As I've mentioned it in the past here is the text I've been referencing in Executive Order 12958 - Classified National Security Information:
Section 1.8. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.

(a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

(3) restrain competition; or

(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.
Just so we're clear on this.


  Algebra? We Don't Need No Stinking Algebra!
P.Z. Myers has a post, Richard Cohen, advocate for ignorance castigating Mr. Cohen for saying that people don't need to understand algebra, and that language and history are more important. According to Mr. Cohen, you can buy a calculator to deal with math. Others have been less strident, and some agree that there is some logic to Mr. Cohen's claim.

First of all, it is algebra that provides the logic and rules you need to enter the numbers and symbols into a calculator to get a meaningful answer to anything more complex than addition or subtraction.

If you believe that financial institutions will automatically give you the best rates on your loans and savings, making comparisons unnecessary, you don't need algebra.

If you think politicians always tell you the truth about what they are doing with taxes and spending, you don't need algebra.

If you believe that contractors always provide accurate estimates, you don't need algebra.

If I have a complex problem I will write a computer program to solve the problem. Without the logic of algebra I can't write that program. I don't have to do the addition, subtraction, etc. but I do have to understand the logic involved.

You have to make a lot of decisions in life that are based on numbers: job offers, purchases, spending, etc. If you don't understand the logic involved in making meaningful comparisons, you might as well flip a coin. It's your choice: luck, or learn the logic required to make an informed decision.

You really need to experience a range of things in high schools. Reading and writing are the most important skills that need to be developed because everything else depends on it, but you need to understand numbers and science in today's world or have the money to buy the knowledge.

English, social studies, science, and mathematics are not a lot to ask from people who are going to be allowed to vote.


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]

Sox Needs Scratch

Friday Cat Blogging

Stop with the cat treats and bright lights! I need my tummy scratched, Neow!

[Editor: Sox can get vocal when he's looking for attention.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, February 16, 2006
  We Must Not Change "The Plan"
Rumsfeld rolls on, but the BBC says the Credits roll on last US Army MASH unit.

So we hand millions of dollars of equipment and facilities to Pakistan, because we'll never need an 82 bed mobile trauma center for any national emergencies.

That's because all future wars will be conducted according to Rumsfeld's plan.

The first man to earn the title, and only one to deserve it, Generalissimo Aleksandr Vasil'evich Suvorov was know for his pithy remarks: on grand plans he noted they generally relied on your enemy having a copy of the plan and following it, which was unlikely.


  It's So Much Fun Being A Pariah Nation
From CNet we learn that a British judge doesn't trust the justice system in the US.
Gary McKinnon, the U.K. citizen accused of hacking into computer systems run by NASA and the U.S. military, will not be extradited across the Atlantic to face trial unless the U.S. can guarantee he won't be treated as a terrorist.


  A Flying Car Again?
An MIT grad student has designed a flying car and is putting together a company to build it with the prize money he won for designing it.

This is only the most recent attempt at a concept with a long history.


  Just Because

FL Plate


  The Four Meme
Karen at Peripetia tagged me for this.

Programmer / System Analyst
Associate Professor of Computer Science [adjunct]
Criminal Investigator
Russian Linguist / Intelligence Analyst

Almost everything by Akira Kurasawa
Almost everything by Stanley Kubrick
Bad swashbucklers starring Errol Flynn
Bad 1930's serials, especially Flash Gordon

Places I've Lived:
Cinco Bayou, Florida
San Diego California
Rochester, New York
Mettendorf, Germany

Television Shows I Love:
None, I don't watch it

Television Shows I Haven't Seen:
All of them

Interesting concept, I might try it some day.
[The last time I took any significant time off, I helped my parents rehab a house.]

Favorite Dishes:
Jägerschnitzel Morfelden, Germany
Burrito combinación from El Indio in San Diego
Pizza with mushrooms and pepperoni from Tom & Nancy's in Rochester
Kobe steak, Okinawa

Sites I Visit Daily [Non-Blogs]:
Christian Science Monitor
BBC News
Cnet News

Places I Rather Be:
München [Munich]

Not terribly exiting, I'm afraid. Oh, under "Places I've Lived" I limited it to those where I lived more than two years. There are a dozen other places at two years or less.

If anyone feels inclined to take it up, go for it.


  Graphics Matter
A Muslim scholar on the BBC World Service made a point that is obvious once you think about it: graphics are more important than the written word in the Middle East because the mass of people are illiterate.

The planted stories in the Iraqi press were a waste of money because the people you are trying to reach can't read. The religious leaders are the majority of the literate class, so everything goes through their filter. Imams at Friday prayers are the source of much of the "news" most people receive.

This is why pictures and cartoons cause such furor: they don't require literacy. This is why radio, TV, and graphics are required to get a point across. The written word is not an effective mass media form around the Persian Gulf.


  Listening To The Radio
So Condi wants Congress to pony up tens of millions of dollars to help promote "democracy" in Iran.

First, Iran elects its president and parliament, which sort of makes it a democracy, as opposed to the autocratic rule of the Shah.

Afghanistan had elections and put it power a parliament of war lords and Islamic fundamentalists.

Egypt had elections and chose members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist group.

The Palestinians had an election and put Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist group, in charge.

Iraq had elections and is forming a government of Shi'ia fundamentalists who are good buddies with Iran.

What Condi really wants is separation of mosque and state, but if she gets too strident about how religion has no place in the government of a nation, or its laws, she could run into trouble with the Religious Reich.

One of the problems in democracies is that people don't always do what you want them to do, and sometimes vote against their best interests, especially when religious leaders are involved in the process.


  Clear As Mud
If this interview [warning: Faux] was supposed to clear things up, it didn't.
CHENEY: Oh, probably 10 people. We weren't all together, but about 10 guests at the ranch. There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction --

HUME: Away from him?

CHENEY: Away from him -- where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right --

HUME: There was just two of you then?

CHENEY: Just two of us at that point. The guide or outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there -- but bird flushed and went to my right, off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there --

HUME: You had pulled the trigger and you saw him?

CHENEY: Well, I saw him fall, basically. It had happened so fast.

HUME: What was he wearing?

CHENEY: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed properly, but he was also -- there was a little bit of a gully there, so he was down a little ways before land level, although I could see the upper part of his body when -- I didn't see it at the time I shot, until after I'd fired. And the sun was directly behind him -- that affected the vision, too, I'm sure.

But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment.

HUME: Then what?

CHENEY: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away --

HUME: How far away from you was he?

CHENEY: I'm guessing about 30 yards, which was a good thing. If he'd been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater.

HUME: Now, is it clear that -- he had caught part of the shot, is that right?

CHENEY: -- part of the shot. He was struck in the right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso on the right side of his body.

CHENEY: Well, I still do. I still think that the accuracy was enormously important. I had no press person with me, I didn't have any press people with me. I was there on a private weekend with friends on a private ranch. In terms of who I would contact to have somebody who would understand what we're even talking about, the first person that we talked with at one point, when Katherine first called the desk to get hold of a reporter didn't know the difference between a bullet and a shotgun -- a rifle bullet and a shotgun. And there are a lot of basic important parts of the story that required some degree of understanding. And so we were confident that Katherine was the right one, especially because she was an eye-witness and she could speak authoritatively on it. She probably knew better than I did what had happened since I'd only seen one piece of it.
So Cheney followed this bird though about a 120° arc and fired after the weapon's muzzle had passed Mr. Whittington. If Mr. Whittington was in a depression with only his upper body exposed, then Cheney was shooting into the cover having been blinded by the sun.

Now CNN has a report that includes statements from Miss Armstrong:
The handling of the situation also raised questions about whether Cheney had been drinking at the time of the shooting, about 5:50 p.m. Cheney told Fox he had had a beer at lunch, but the hunt did not begin until "sometime after 3 p.m."

"The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon. Nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence," he said.

The Kenedy County Sheriff's Department, which interviewed Cheney about the accident Sunday morning, concluded there was "no alcohol or misconduct involved in the incident." A state game warden gave Cheney a warning for hunting without a required stamp on his license, for which the vice president's office later submitted payment.

Armstrong, a longtime friend of the Cheney family, told CNN before the vice president's interview that she never saw Cheney or Whittington "drink at all on the day of the shooting until after the accident occurred, when the vice president fixed himself a cocktail back at the house."
Miss Armstrong's reporting on alcohol consumption is moving about like a flushed quail. I would think she could recognize a beer can when it's being held by the Vice President, or perhaps beer doesn't count.

Mrs. Willeford was the third hunter, so Miss Armstrong must have been at the vehicle on the road, and not actually at the scene when the shooting took place.

Cheney says Whittington didn't respond, but Miss Armstrong said he was awake and talking.

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. People react differently to violence and it can induce shock. I assume that one of the reasons Cheney uses a 28 gauge is because of his heart condition. The reduced recoil is recommended for heart patients.

I'm at a loss to explain why two supposedly experienced hunters like Cheney and Whittington both failed to purchase upland bird stamps before hunting quail on a event organized by a former chairwoman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

It's time to haul in the Secret Service and find out what they know. If you can demand testimony from the White House detail, you can sure do it to the detail covering the Vice President.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006
  Mystery Solved
When listening to All Things Considered on Friday, Sylvia Poggioli suddenly said "Oh, Shit!" and the line was lost. An e-mail to NPR provided no information.

You have to understand I haven't gone to the Olympics since Munich in 1972, so I get a little nervous about reports that get cut off, and Sylvia spends as much time at the Vatican as most Cardinals, so it was rather unexpected.

It turns out that Sylvia thought she had lost the connection to Washington, probably because her earphones went dead.

The joys of live radio.


  The Weasel On Fox
Cheney realized that he couldn't fake it forever and admits the shooter has the responsibility.

Of course, he did it in the controlled environment of a Fox News interview with Brit Hume, rather than a press conference. No point in having to explain anything that hasn't been scripted.

I finally looked at the Texas game warden's report which indicates that Mr. Whittington was wearing an orange hat and vest, that he was struck on his left side [right side from the warden's point of view] and, from the diagram, I would estimate that the aiming point at the time of the shot was about 6 feet above the ground and between one and two feet to Mr. Whittington's left [right for the shooter].

The fact that whether Mr. Cheney had completed a hunter safety course was unknown would indicate that the game warden is another official who didn't get to speak to Mr. Cheney.

The report says the area was flat, light cover, sunny, fair visibility, and clear weather, in other words, there were no environmental reasons for not seeing someone wearing "blaze orange".

Corrected the spelling of Faux anchor weasel.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006
  The Democrats Lose Another One
Paul Hackett announced his withdrawal from politics. Inside the Beltway Dems wanted him to run for Congress after he had been on the hunt for a Senate seat for a while. The Party establishment doesn't want a primary battle in Ohio.

A hint for the Party establishment, the voters want a change. Running old faces is not going to cut it. Incumbents are in trouble if you look at the polls. This is going to be a "throw the bums out" election. Having new people challenge incumbents is the safest bet, because people think everyone in Congress is corrupt.

Hackett may not have won the primary, but he deserved a chance. People are getting sick of politics as usual, with insiders making all of the decisions.

I guess I've got to change back to being an independent because the Party just doesn't want to take a chance on winning, and I can't support the people they have running in Florida.

It's past time for Democrats to stand for something and stop "triangulating".


  A Dangerous Dog Treat
According to CNN, Greenies dog treats don't appear to be as digestible as the manufacturer believes. Dogs have been killed and injured by the treats becoming lodged in the esophagus and digestive tract.

Apparently the process that makes them chewable prevents them from readily breaking down.


Dramatis Personæ:

Mrs. Anne L. Armstrong, ranch owner, former US ambassador to the United Kingdom, Medal of Freedom winner, Bush Pioneer, not part of the hunting party. [Note, when the White House refers to Mrs. Armstrong, they mean Anne Armstrong.]

Miss Katherine Armstrong, daughter of Anne, lobbyist, Bush Pioneer, former chairwoman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, hunt guide, witness. [Note, she took back her maiden name after her divorce.]

Pamela Pitzer Willeford, US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Bush Pioneer, hunter, witness.

Harry Whittington, attorney, presiding officer of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, Bush Pioneer, hunter, victim.

Richard Cheney, Vice President of the United States, hunter? suspect?


On Saturday afternoon, Miss Armstrong drove the three hunters out to an area on her mother's ranch where she suspected there would be quail. Using dogs she located two coveys of quail and told the hunters where the birds were.

The three hunters leave the vehicle, and flush quail from the first covey. Mr. Whittington felt he had killed at least one bird and proceeded to search for it, while Mr. Cheney and Ms. Willeford walked east [based on Ms. Willeford statement about the location of the sun] to the second covey.

Having completed his search, Mr. Whittington walked towards the other two hunters, in sight of the vehicle according to Miss Armstrong.

When Mr. Whittington was approximately 30 yards away, the second covey was flushed and Mr. Cheney took aim at a bird and following the flight fired his weapon, striking Mr. Whittington.


Mr. Cheney had a 28 gauge Perazzi shotgun and was using 7½ shot.

A standard ¾ ounce load of 7½ shot is 262 pellets.

Approximately 70% of the pellets from a 28 gauge shell will remain within a circle 30 inches in diameter at 30 yards.

According to reports from the hospital approximately 100 pellets struck Mr. Whittington's face, neck, and torso with sufficient force to penetrate his outer clothing and penetrate his chest nearly to his heart.

This would indicate that Mr. Cheney discharged his weapon at a point approximately two feet from Mr. Whittington's head.

If he couldn't see Mr. Whittington's head, he certainly couldn't see a quail.


Some of the quail from the first covey ran rather than taking flight. When Mr. Whittington was walking towards the other two hunters he flushed one or more of those birds. Mr. Cheney heard the birds fly up [the sound is distinctive], whirled and fired without getting a clear sight picture.

We don't know if drugs or alcohol were involved because local officials were blocked from interviewing Mr. Cheney for an extended period after the incident. Everyone said there was no chemical involvement, but they are friends and political allies of long standing.


Even accepting the witness statements as true, Mr. Cheney displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of others and caused a serious injury to another human being. At 6-foot, Mr. Whittington should have been clearly visible at a distance of 30 yards. Miss Armstrong stated that she saw him, but apparently made no effort to alert the other hunters.

The delays in reporting, and Cheney's failure to make himself available to local law enforcement, all argue for more of an investigation.


HeartWhy are you being hustled by street vendors to buy sad and drooping former roses, vegetative matter that missed the cut for bouquets, or were too late to the hospital?

Blame Esther A. Howland (1828 - 1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her guilt is writ large by the Greeting Card Association's Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary. She imported the concept to the US from Britain to bolster her father's stationery store in 1847.

Of course, it wasn't long before the stationers had infiltrated school boards and imposed the now mandatory exchange in the classroom to push the low end product of Asian children and prisoners.

Seeing the success of the card merchants, the confectioners jumped on board to fill the lull between Christmas and Easter with the benefit that the bulk of purchases would be made by desperate men with less sense of taste than a golden retriever. If the box was red, heart-shaped, and said chocolate, a man would buy it.

There were at least three Saint Valentines and all were martyrs, as they should have been for the trouble they've caused. None are the reason for the "holiday", only the excuse. They lived at a time when life and men were short and brutal, so the romantic aura of the holiday is pure piffle. At least one was reportedly part of a draft dodging scheme during the Roman Empire, marrying people so the men could avoid being deployed to foreign wars, bachelors being preferred for catapult fodder. [see Cheney, Richard]

It is to be hoped that the individual who first wrote: "Roses are red, violets are blue" was eaten by rabid wolverines, or had hemorrhoids.


Monday, February 13, 2006
  It Was Just A Hunting Accident
New York State Penal Law

Section 120.05 Assault in the second degree

A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when:

4. He recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

Assault in the second degree is a class D felony.

It's only three to seven years in Attica.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department issued Cheney a warning for not possessing a required stamp on his hunting license.

Yep, an experienced, law-abiding hunter.


  Cognitive Dissonance
Bush awards medals for science, technology.

You know this wasn't his idea.

The headline says: Chertoff overhauls FEMA, rejects criticism.

The text says he's going to hire some people to do the work that the political appointees are supposed to be doing, and check to see if he can find out how FEMA did things ten years ago when they were competent.

They didn't do anything wrong, but they are going to change everything.


  What Do You Think?
I wonder if the Shrubbery's Pioneers get neat insignia like Stalin's Pioneers?

Maybe someone could ask Ken Lay, Jack Abramoff, or Tom Noe?

Update: Culture Ghost has "found" the pin.


  Iran Goes Nuclear
So the Shrubbery decided that Iran was part of the AXIS OF EVIL™ but when it became a matter of politics and interference with the plan to attack Iraq, the White House revealed the identity of the CIA entity designated to track Iran's nuclear program, Valerie Plame and her network.

I would guess that after destroying our ability to find out what Iran was up to, they decided to try diplomacy.

Do you feel safer?


Sunday, February 12, 2006
  Water Is Wet
In a monument to the obvious even a Republican House committee has determined that the US government 'failed' on Katrina.

The report was leaked to the media, and the Democrats boycotted the committee in a bid for a non-partisan commission, but not even the Republican House members could figure out how to put lipstick on this pig.

This report is going to be a classic of government malfeasance and nonfeasance - what they did, they did badly, but mostly, they did nothing.

Grass is green; the sky is blue; the Federal government totally failed the victims of Katrina.


  Skip This, Karen
Multiple beaches are closed in Australia due to shark feeding frenzies along the coast line caused by schools of bait fish swimming close to shore.

Peter Benchley, author of the novel, Jaws, and a screenwriter on the Spielberg movie based on the novel, has died at home in Princeton, New Jersey as a result of a lung disease. He was 65.

He was the grandson of Robert Benchley, and son of the author Nathaniel Benchley.


  Happy Birthday
To Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, both born on this day in 1809.

They managed to shake up the status quo during their lives, and after.


  Neighborhood Watch?
From CBS News:
CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that a tip from Shannen Rossmiller - a judge from Conrad, Montana who in 2004 helped snare a Washington state national guardsman who was considering defecting to al Qaeda - was what pointed the FBI to Reynolds.

"Rossmiller was scanning terrorist websites when she noticed a post from Reynolds seeking $40,000 dollars to by fuel trucks to blow up refineries in New Jersey and Wyoming and a section of the Alaska oil pipeline," said Pinkston.
My first thought was why wasn't the government taking this obvious step, monitoring web sites associated with terrorists and setting up stings. They do it to catch child molesters, so why aren't they doing it to catch terrorists?

The other thing that bothered me is the interaction between law enforcement and "amateurs". They are generally referred to as "vigilantes", "meddlers", and other less kind terms, so having the same individual involved in two different cases is odd.

Then I saw Scout Prime's article on First Draft and things came into focus.

The story of 7 Seas Global Intelligence is "fishy". The use of Realtime Spyware is probably falls under the heading of an illegal wiretap making the results unusable in court and therefore a waste of time without a warrant. If the Feds used any of that information to obtain a warrant, the warrant isn't valid.

This smells of another Federal program to trash the criminal justice system in an attempt to show that they are doing something about terrorists. As a judge, Ms. Rossmiller should be aware of how far from legal her efforts actually are.

Oh, $40,000 wouldn't by[sic] one tanker, much less multiples, just check used truck listings. The offer was obviously ridiculous. This effort seems to be more appropriate for mental health professionals than law enforcement, and it certainly does nothing to make me feel safer.


  Cyberstorm Troopers
Kevin Hayden at the now accessible American Street sends a heads up on the recent Department of Homeland Security anti-terrorism exercise: Cyberstorm.

Showing roots of thinking derived from Leo Trotski's Extraordinary Committee [CheKa] they have identified blogs as a national security threat. Apparently bloggers spread "misinformation". The only bloggers willingly spreading misinformation are those that parrot what they hear coming from the mouths of official spokesweasels.

If you want to stop the spread of misinformation during a crisis, turn off the microphones in the White House briefing room.

This is another reason to move off Blog*Spot, TypePad, etc.: the government is targeting these sites to control the information flow.


  It's Contagious
This is what happens to politicians like Berlusconi from close contact with the Shrubbery:
"I am the Jesus Christ of politics," Italian media quoted him as saying at a dinner with supporters on Saturday night. "I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."

Giuseppe Giulietti, a leftist parliamentarian, joked that he was sure that "God the Father and the rest of Jesus' family did not take this very well."
The garden of governments around the world need pruning to prevent the spread of the blight. The cross pollination of government and religion produces sanctimonious kudzu.


  Sunday Sermon
Molly Ivins:
It is one of the most famous sentences in all of American rhetoric: "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total." But what catches the eye today is the sentence that followed that famous declaration, the sentence that makes one so ashamed for Al Gonzales. Barbara Jordan's great, deep voice brought the impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon to an awed silence when she vowed, "And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."

Thirty years ago, this state could produce Barbara Jordan -- and now we send that pathetic pipsqueak Al Gonzales. Enough to provoke a wailing cry of "O tempera, O mores!" even from the depths of Lubbock.
Can I get an AMEN?


  Just Because

Slate Shot

Screen Shot

It took me a minute to decide which story the picture was for.


Few people are aware that Nikita Khrushchev's claim to fame was as the political officer for Marshal Grigori Zhukov during World War II. Zhukov won battles and entered Berlin, so Khrushchev made it to the top of the Party structure.

In the Soviet system every enterprise of any size had a political officer, someone to ensure that Party loyalty was enforced in the enterprise and there was no "counter-revolutionary thinking" allowed to take root.

As we hear of all of the crony appointees that are spreading throughout the structure of the Federal government it has become apparent that loyalty to the Party and the Great Leader of the Party are the only requirements for promotion. People with no experience or credentials beyond working on the Bush campaign or making contributions to Bush are given positions for which they are obviously unsuited.

These people have not made a single appointment that wasn't predicated on the assumption of Party loyalty, and as soon as their orthodoxy came into question they were purged.

The people who cannot be replaced are given political officers to watch over them and to divert any "bourgeois" opinions to editors who redact their reports to conform to the Party line.

All of the press offices have become propaganda bureaus to ensure that the proletariat only receives good news about the success of the Party's programs.

Anyone who dares to deviate from the Party line is declared an enemy of the people and working with foreign elements to harm the future paradise that is guaranteed by strict adherence to the plan.

The Party is the only hope the people have to protect them from the foreign powers wishing to destroy their way of life.

No matter what it said on the office door, George Deutsch was a political officer.

You should read the Constitution of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. It guarantees people many more rights and privileges than the Constitution of the United States. Too bad it was ignored.


  The War On Senior Citizens
Close on the heels of the disastrous rollout of the Plan D drug program, Andante noticed that Homeland Security has increased seizures of drugs being imported from Canada. You should go over and read: Drop the Lipitor and put your hands up.

They are trying to sneak the dismantling of Social Security into through the back door, eliminate the $255 death payment, cut off payments for teenagers who have left high school, etc. to cover some of the revenue lost when they do away with the Estate Tax.

All of this talk about tax cuts never seems to include Social Security taxes, even as they spend hundreds of billions of dollars of those taxes to hide the real size of their deficits. They don't talk about the fact that a lot of their revenue increases are based on increases in Social Security taxes, not general taxes.


  When Did The Shrubbery Hire Fellini?
I came across the article on CBS, Hey, Kids: Spying Is Fun!, and had to wait for my mind to adjust to this concept.

Why on earth would any rational human being think that is was a good idea to spend money and resources to create a children's site for the National Security Agency?

This is beyond absurd.


  Rall Reaction
So Ann Coulter shoots her mouth off and says that cartoonist Ted Rall has submitted a cartoon about the Holocaust to an Iranian newspaper and Ted posts: Ann Coulter Lies; You Decide: Should I Sue?

Ted is looking for the $6,000 it will cost him to sue Ann Coulter for libel in New York. That's the problem: Ann Coulter gets paid to tell lies and spread hate, but you have to pay to call her on it.

I don't think Ted will have any trouble proving malice, that's Coulter's stock and trade, but you have to hire an attorney and start the paperwork.


Friday, February 10, 2006
  Do They All Have To Come To Florida?
Most people will settle for a rabbit's foot, which isn't very lucky for the rabbit.

I blame it on a Republican state government.


If the President has the power to overrule the Posse Comitatus Act and use the National Security Agency, a military organization, to spy on Americans why couldn't he use the military to save Americans from the flood waters in New Orleans without the permission of the governor of Louisiana?

If we are at war as a result of 9/11 why didn't Congress issue a declaration of war instead of an Authorization for Use of Military Force?

If they felt hemmed in by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act why didn't they make adjustments in the USA PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act had everything else under the sun it, so why wasn't there any tweaking for perceived problems with the FISA system?

How can anyone believe that ignoring the Fourth Amendment does anything but advance the cause of the terrorists? How can you support the Constitution by ignoring it?

The President is selected by a majority of 535 electors. Each state has the right to designate its share of the total by any means it finds appropriate. While states may have laws that would punish "unfaithful electors", whoever a majority of them select is the President of the United States. How can someone receiving fewer actual votes than most small town mayors unilaterally decide that the law of the land is not binding?


  Sports Update
The Pharaohs beat the Elephants 4-2 on penalty kicks after a scoreless match and overtime period. The Pharaohs goalkeeper was too good for the Elephants.

There are rumors that something happened in Detroit this past weekend and something is happening Torino starting today, but it doesn't involve a real sport.


  Hanging Up His Keyboard
Len over at Dark Bilious Vapors has decided to spend more time in the real world and switch to commenting occasionally instead of fighting with computers to produce posts.

His viewpoint and expertise will be missing from the front page, so now you're going to have to read the letters/comments.


  Cherry Picking
Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq by Paul R. Pillar in the March/April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs.
Summary: During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.
So why didn't Mr. Pillar say something sooner? How about: because no one was willing to listen.

The New York Times sat on the NSA story for a year. A host of media figures have been commenting on the Valerie Plame case while failing to mention that they were involved. Only after they helped the Shrubbery get re-elected did the media finally wake up to what a mess they had foisted on the country with their failure to report what they knew. The media are complicit in every failure that has plagued the American people, from Iraq to Katrina. They were enablers.

Finally, the media is taking small steps back to reporting the news, but not to the point that it bothers their corporate overseers.

Read Mr. Pillar's article and understand that the intelligence community wasn't broken or wrong until the Shrubbery's thugs, Negroponte and Goss, started pushing out the pros and replacing them with cronies, just as they have done at every Federal agency.


  Funeral Conduct
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Oh, right, there's never been political speech at funerals.

Would someone buy Republicans a book and make them read it. Remember their talk about "Western Culture", well the quote is from the canon for "Western Culture".


  Friday Cat Blogging[Kevin Drum]

Cat Blocking

Friday Cat Blogging

When are you going to visit Daily Kitten?
What does this button do?
Did you see what I dropped in the water dish?
When's dinner?

[Editor: Blogger isn't the only problem some of us have with posting.]

Friday Ark

Posted early because of outage

Thursday, February 09, 2006
  Surely This Is A Failure To Communicate
It is being reported that Scooter Libby is claiming that he was authorized to release information about Valerie Plame to reporters by his superiors.

The only person in Scooter's chain of command with the authority to release classified information is the President, so I hope Scooter's got it in writing.

According to the Constitution, while the President is alive and well, the Vice President's sole function is to be the President of the Senate and vote in the case of a tie. The job is so discounted that, unlike the President, a Vice President can be indicted while in office.

I seem to remember the President specifically saying that the leak didn't originate from the White House, and surely he wouldn't have said that if he had authorized Libby to talk about Ms. Plame.

You know the possibility of a Vice President being indicted and a President conducting illegal domestic surveillance reminds me of something that happened earlier. I seem to remember there was long running unpopular war involved too. Don't tell me, I'll figure it out.


  What Will They Think Of Next?
Tom DeLay has been given the Enron Chair on the House Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department. This is the chair that Randy "Duke" Cunningham gave up when he pled guilty to bribery and corruptions charges. DeLay's qualifications for the chair are that he's a Republican and hasn't been convicted of the charges that forced him to resign from his House leadership committee.

No word yet on his request for the Abramoff Chair on the Ethics Committee.


  Another Outage
Posted at 7:01PM CST:
Sorry for the short notice. Blogger.com will be down tonight, Thursday, February 9th, from 7:30–8:30PM PST. Blog*Spot will be unaffected.
That's 9:30-10:30PM CST and it's only supposed to affect posting, not reading.

Update at 10:46PM CST: at some point they changed the time to 9:00-10:00PM PST, 11:00PM-Midnight CST.


  Smoke and Mirrors
It an attempt to show how important his unconstitutional domestic spying program is to the campaign to provide jobs for incompetent Republicans "War on Terror", the Shrubbery tells a handpicked audience about foiling a dastardly plot to attack the "Liberty" Tower in Los Angeles.

Even the media at the gaggle are beginning to notice that the grim fairy tales of the Shrubbery don't make sense.

The mayor of Los Angeles wants to know why the city wasn't informed of this danger.

The Indonesian Philippine government discovered and broke up this plot before it really got moving.

For those who are wondering, setting off a "shoe bomb" in a pressurized aircraft will probably cause sufficient damage to make it crash.

This was another dirty bomb, Brooklyn Bridge, wild-eyed plot that had zero chance of working. This is the kind of thinking you can read at a lot of the wingnut discussion threads whenever someone mentions Hillary Clinton.

While they are out rounding up the guys coming up with this foolishness they are missing the calm and capable people like Atta who can actually come up with realistic goals and the step by step plans to attain those goals. We are very fortunate that Atta was suicidal, because he knew how to get things done.

I can only hope that someone is following the people with the training and experience to actually carry a plan to its conclusion. My fear is that some of the experienced Iraqi military people will decide to join the al Qaeda movement and provide the expertise that is currently missing.

This speech was an attempt to deflect attention from the fact that these people are using the military to spy on the American people in violation of the law and Constitution. If this were just about terrorists, there would be no need for this charade.

Update: John McKay posts on this with Another Bush lie? and in the comments the farmer covers an earlier plot in the Philippines that was probably the genesis of the plot.

The Philippine and Malaysian security forces fighting Jamal Islamia, a separate organization but associated with al Qaeda, broke up the plot and continue the battle against the organization that is responsible for the Bali bombings and unrest in the Philippines.


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