Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Katrina

The final paragraphs of today's USA Today story are instructive:

More lessons will emerge in the days and weeks to come as the full impact sets in of what is shaping up to be the most costly hurricane in U.S. history. Those lessons will surely need to be applied to future disasters; the only question is when.

Will another such storm strike in a year? Five? Thirty? When will that long-predicted killer earthquake hit Los Angeles or San Francisco? What about another tsunami?

They're all nature's secrets.

But are they all secrets, really? For all such phenomena are merely a question of when, not if. They will happen, though it surpasses current human knowledge to predict the date of their coming.

But I would make a distinction. While the chaotic mathematics of plate tectonics may make earthquake prediction, and any corresponding tsunamis an almost impenetrable cipher, Gulf coast hurricanes, and the damage they inflict to low lying land masses, like New Orleans, are subject to much more knowable causation.

Simply put, as the atmosphere warms, ice caps melt, sea levels rise, and areas at or just above sea level become areas at or just below sea level.

And while nothing made by man, not even nuclear weapons detonated just so by some would be Lex Luthor can really cause an earthquake, the works of man can, and increasingly are elevating global atmospheric temperatures.

So while BushCorp™'s faith-based "scientific" advisors keep whispering that any effects of global warming are no doubt decades or centuries away, if they exist at all of course, let me suggest that its effects can be felt now, and can destroy in a matter of days, in a matter of hours.

A dead soldier speaks

From Raw Story:

Killed soldier questioned 'fucktarded' war plan

"Before he died when his truck overturned during combat in Baghdad, Sgt. Thomas Strickland, 27, posted an entry on his weblog sharing his anger about the situation in Iraq," in which he questioned the United States' 'fucktarded' Iraq war plan, Rogers Cadenhead reports on his site, DrudgeRetort.com.

In a post he titled One Foot in the Grave, Strickland asked, "What kind of fucktarded plan have we been half-assedly executing?" You can read Strickland's blog post here.

Cadenhead says Strickland aspired to teach English and was a "gifted writer and poet."

RAW STORY has reproduced the letter from Strickland's blog, via Cadenhead's post, after the post kept going down due to web traffic.

He wrote this on his weblog Aug. 13, two days before he was killed in Iraq:


I'm back home.


The Mahm.

St. Michael.

What have you.

My truck, which I left here in good working order, is destroyed mostly.

The insurgency is on the rise in our area, with a most impressive coordinated assault on one of my sister FOBs (St. Joe) under their belt. Apparently they have enough folks and sophistication in my back yard where they can simultaneously place accurate mortar rounds on three seperate locations (at least 30k apart) to tie up any ground mounted quick reaction forces, as well as offer up multiple RPG strikes on the guard towers at Joe. These RPG attacks really bring out the QRF who face their own ambush as they come out the gate, at least 12 insurgents occupying buildings with an overwatch position to Joe's only entrance armed with more rpg's and small arms. The only possible responses are tanks or Apaches. Luckily we have both on call. 12 dead insurgents, destroyed buildings, a compromised FOB, sustained, accurate and unaswered indirect fire and lots o unanswered questions later... I'm here.

What the fuck has my chain of command been doing? We were winning somewhat when I left. And now we're being pinned down in our own fucking homes? Insurgents are pushing locals out of their homes and taking over my area at will? What kind of fucktarded plan have we been half-assedly executing? Obviously the kind that neglects sound contact with locals. Obviously the kind that gives further distance to unbridged gaps between soldiers and locals. Obviously the kind that has shown enough weakness when confronted by the insugency that it has been encouraged to grow.

Back home (the USA kind) I have no home, no job, and my commander in chief is on vacation (he's about 20 days behind Ronald Reagan right now in the race to become the most vacationing president ever. Hey W! we all got our fingers crossed! Here's to you and two more years of presidency...er vacationing!). Luckily pretty much everything that is important to me can fit into the back of a truck. Luckily I just paid off one of those.

In their fear to build relationships and get out of their hiding holes the FOBbits above me have fucked my friends and I.

We've just completed the first 1/4 of our tour. we've sent 4 of 24 members of this platoon home with injuries.

Thankfully we're not like another who has sent 8 home in body bags...but we got 9 months to go.

Stay true lambs, REV

The Right Wing Noise Machine, didn't blench from ad hominem attacks on the mother of a dead soldier. One wonders what form of attack they'll take on the dead soldier himself.

Monday, August 29, 2005

One man's myth is another's science

President Bush, and more recently Senator John McCain, have come out in favor of including creationist theory, er um, "Intelligent Design" in science classes as a counterpoint to evolutionary theory, so kids can get all points of view you see.

Of course I suspect they really don't mean ALL points of view, but just in case they were sincere in their support for dialog, (rather than say, pandering to the anti-scientific Christian right), here's a creationist view they may have forgotten to include.

I'm glad to help further the, um, dialog.


It's past time to discuss our Iraqi options

Here's the deal. Democrats were absolutely correct to "just say no" to BushCorp™'s plans to dismantle Social Security. Unlike with Iraq, "staying the course" with Social Security is the only policy that makes sense. As the nation's most (some might say only) successful government program, any change beyond an occasional tweek is mere recklessness.

The same, clearly, cannot be said for Iraq. Indeed as the 60+ percent of Americans who now tell pollsters W is leading us in the wrong direction can attest, "staying the course" is insanity if the course leads over a cliff. His latest rationalization for the war that had no connection with 9/11, and no connection with international terrorism generally, and certainly had no weapons of mass destruction involved other than our own, is that, in essence, more American Soldiers and Iraqi civilians need to die, in order to justify the deaths of those already killed.

So. I have no patience for a Democratic party that refuses to put an alternative to "stay the course" on the table. As I've suggested before, a withdrwal schedule might have a salutory effect on those Iraqis interested in a stable country. In essence, it's time to cut the apron strings.

While Saddam held all the power of the former Iraqi military and government, it's understandable that those of good will would find it nigh impossible to stand against him. But when your opponents can field no military strength larger than an IED or shrapnel filled vest, then clearly the struggle is not primarily a question of arms, but of ideas.

If the idea of a free Iraq is stronger than the Islamist anarchy which is all the insurgents, foreign born or domestic can offer, than it will certainly prevail. And if it does not do so, is it really worth additional American lives?

This then, is the message that the Democratic party (not just Russ Feingold) should be bellowing from the rooftops. I'm not suggesting that my plan is correct, but we need not continue to abide by W's false assertion that the only options are do what we've been doing, or simply cut and run. There's much we could be doing else, and it's high time for Democrats, as well as any non-Stepford Republicans (like Chuck Hagel apparently) to open the discussion.

"With us or against" has been shown for the hollow platitude that it is. Real solutions will require real ideas, and it's past time we began to offer them.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Our kind of people"

Soon or late, after hundreds more deaths or after thousands, leaving an Islamic state, or a state of civil war, the US will, eventually, draw down the number of troops in Iraq.

And when it does it will be perceived by everyone worldwide (except, apparently, Republicans) as a serious defeat for the United States.

And why will we have been defeated?

Because people like your CaliBlogger have been predicting it before ever we crossed the border into the Iraqi desert?

Because the French wouldn't participate in Bush's folly?

Because the MSM always ignore the "good things" we're doing in Iraq?

Because of ANYTHING any liberal or progressive does?

Because of ANYTHING that ANYONE who opposes this war does?

I think not.

We will be defeated because those who most support this war, who most benefit from the potential spoils of war, refuse to fight it.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and thanks to DCMediaGirl for the heads up on the article):

Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, 26, a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh, went to the home of a high school student who had expressed interest in joining the Marine Reserve to talk to his parents.

It was a large home in a well-to-do suburb north of the city. Two American flags adorned the yard. The prospect's mom greeted him wearing an American flag T-shirt.

"I want you to know we support you," she gushed.

Rivera soon reached the limits of her support.

"Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people," she told him. [Emphasis mine-CK]
Ah yes, "our kind of people". The kind of people with yellow ribbons on their Hummers. The kind of people who love BushCorp™ tax cuts, but don't give a fig for cutting veterans' disability benefits. The kind of people who don't care how many poor, brown Americans go down, so long as their Halliburton stock goes up. The kind of people who support the war, as long as they don't have to pay for it, or suffer for it. The kind of people who would neither stand up against needless war, nor make the sacrifices needed to have even a chance of winning it.

"Our kind of people". George Bush's kind of people. That's who'll be to blame for our defeat.

[X-posted at DailyKos]

National recall?

California has a reputation for being just that much ahead of the curve, in culture, in trends, in politics. It has long been a truism that, as California goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

So let me suggest one California intitution that would be well implemented nationally: the recall election.

Article 2, section 14 provides the particulars for the process of recalling an elected official. Let me be among those to suggest the usefullness for such a process on the national level.

As George Bush's approval ratings plummets to Nixonian lows, wouldn't it be nice if the nation had the choice of removing King W and his band of incompetents from the Whitehouse?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Anti-war hit tops Country Charts

The current #1 hit on the Country Music Charts is God Bless You Cindy Sheehan by Les Visible.

I'm guessing this can't be a good sign for the Prez.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Would Jesus order a hit?

One of the comforting things about the "religious" right is that if you let them talk long enough they'll say what they really think. It doesn't happen too frequently anymore of course. The bible-belters have come a long way since the innocent 60s when their bigoted, rascist beliefs where easier to see.

Nowadays it's usually all in code, it sells better in the media. You know the game: "Intelligent Design" rather than creationism, "culture of life" rather than anti-scientific, that sort of thing.

The problem for the right is that some of them actually have a sincere belief in the intolerant idiocies which cannot always be coded.

So it is with cappo di tutti Christi Pat Robertson who this week put out a contract on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying the leftist leader wanted to turn his country into "the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

The founder of the Christian Coalition said during the Monday night television broadcast of his religious program, "The 700 Club," that Chavez, one the most vocal critics of President George W. Bush, was a "terrific danger" to the United States.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

The administration's rather mild response demonstrates the tight-rope BushCorp™ must walk with these loonies:
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned Robertson's comments as "inappropriate" and said they were from a private citizen and did not represent the U.S. government position.

Oh good golly gosh, calling for the murder of a democratically elected leader is "inappropriate"?!

If I recall correctly, wearing white shoes after Labor day is inappropriate, calling for murder is something else entirely. But any deeper criticism would alienate those on the right who secretly, in their heart of hearts, agree with Robertson's ravings.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Gravity doesn't exist: the Earth sucks

According to sources at The Onion, yet another hoary "scientific" truism is under attack:

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."
Due up next for faith-based revisions: color theory, the theory of relativity and the "scientific" logic behind the Sherlock Holmes canon.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's high time we talk about withdrawing from Iraq

It's high time we talked. Perhaps inspired by Cindy Sheehan, Senator Russ Feingold is seriously proposing a timetable for US troop withdrawal from Iraq.

I, of course, have been proposing something similar for A LOT longer, but strangely haven't garnered the same media attention as Mr. Feingold.

But now that dialogue is opened I thought I'd republish a little revery originally posted a few months ago, which, given the current difficulties the Iraqis are having coming to agreement on a constitution, seems all the more relevant now.

Why an Iraq Timetable: A Revery

To my knowledge, no-one has suggested the best reason for establishing a time-table for withdrawing US troops from Iraq: As an incentive for the Iraqi government to get their shit together.

You're no doubt familiar with the BushCorp™ excuse for not setting any deadlines, hard or soft, it was repeated today in Bush's press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari:
"There are not going to be any timetables," he said. "Why would you say to the enemy, you know, 'Here's a timetable; just go ahead and wait us out?' "
The idea is that if the US announces a withdrawal date then Iraqi insurgents/terrorists/anti-occupationalists/freedom-fighters will just wait until we leave and then all hell will break loose. This, of course, assumes hell isn't already long gone from its kennel and is actively trampling the streets of Baghdad as we speak. And further, what if it's true? What if, after the US announces and begins to follow through with a withdrawal, the insurgency bides its time and waits for the last American to leave before breaking out in full force. Would this really be such a bad thing?

Stay with me here, but try this scenario on for size: Against all expectations for reasonable behavior, under immense public pressure BushCorp™ finally sets a withdrawal timetable, with US troops starting to leave Iraq by the end of 2005, and with total withdrawal set for November 2006 (Bush crows about bringing our boys and girls home in time for Thanksgiving - let him).

Immediately after this announcement virtually nothing changes. Why? Who's going to start believing Bush at this late date? So the suicide attacks continue and the Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds keep bickering away. But as the months crawl toward December 2005 and US begins pulling some troops back to central locations three things happen, the foreign-import jihadists continue their attacks unabated, the anti-occupation sympathizers begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, and the Iraqi government elements begin to realize that if they don't work something out soon they're toast.

3 months into 2006, after a quarter of US troops have been withdrawn, the foreign insurgent attacks are beginning to falter as anti-occupation insurgents loose patience with their former jihadists brothers, and have fewer qualms about dropping a dime to the newly invigorated Iraqi government, which, under the threat of its own annihilation, has finally reached agreement between its disparate factors.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Army recruiting is back on track, improved Iraqi stability drops oil prices below $50/barrel, and the American public is finally making government focus on the domestic issues it's been ignoring since 9/11/01.

June 2006, the Iraqi government announces full amnesty for all native born Iraqi's, as well as a yearly stipend from its oil profits (having wisely placed almost all of it forces to defend the nation's oil reserves and utility ifrastructure). The remaining Iraqi forces are replacing US troops along the Syrian border who've been spending the remainder of their time making sure no additional foreign insurgents enter the country. Insurgent attacks are becoming more and more infrequent as fresh recruits dwindle, along with Iraqi sympathizers. The Iraqi government begins a campaign to drive out "all foreign aggressors" and is cheered by the vast majority of its people.

September 2006, BushCorp™ under pressure from its corporate sponsors, tries to hedge on its November withdrawal deadline, explaining that it only wants to keep a small force of "military advisors". After rejecting the Iraqi government's demand that BushCorp™ follow the timetable, Democrats follow public sentiment by calling for Bush to resign or face impeachment.

November, 2006, the Republican Senators and Congressmen who survive the mid-term election have done so by promising to follow the public's will and seek a full and fair accounting for BushCorp™ war crimes.

January 2007,BushCorp™, in a last ditch effort to save itself pulls all remaining US troops from Iraq. The anti-occupationalists dance in the streets of Baghdad, the lone remaining foreign insurgent unleashes hell by blowing himself up in his apartment trying to build just one more IED, the Iraqi government argues over redesign of its new parliament building.

In the US, in an unprecedented, though not unexpected move, Congress impeaches BOTH President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Having been found guilty of obstructing Congress in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, as well as of violating US and international law for permitting the use of torture, Bush retires to a life of brush-clearing in Crawford, while Cheney retires to an undisclosed location.

House speaker, now President, Pelosi announces "the nightmare is over" then proceeds to talk about her national priorities of energy independence and universal healthcare.

Well, a guy can dream anyway.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Liars and fools

Much has been written regarding the BushCorp™ minions which mislead us (some might even say lied us) into the quagmire in Iraq. Much less has been written (one guess as to why) about the media enablers who aided and abetted BushCorp™'s march to war.

Harold Meyerson does us all the favor of running down five of the worst media war-mongers:

For its war in Iraq, the Bush administration relied on and benefited from the cheerleading of a group of pundits and public intellectuals who, at every crucial moment, subordinated the facts on the ground to their own ideological preferences and those of their allies within the administration. They refused to hold the administration’s conduct of the war and the occupation to the ideals that they themselves professed, or simply to the standard of common sense. They abdicated their responsibilities as political intellectuals -- and, more elementally, as reliable empiricists.

I strongly recommend reading his entire and informative article to witness the full range of folly perpetrated by this gang of five, but as a public service here's the list so that any unwitting readers be forewarned: Here there be liars and fools.

The five:

- William Kristol: The Strategist
- Charles Krauthammer: W.’s Maggie
- Victor Davis Hanson: The Analogist Apologist
- Thomas L. Friedman: The Enabler
- Christopher Hitchens: Trotsky in Baghdad

More names could be added of course, jailbird Judith Miller for example, but be that as it may, the above listed have sacrificed whatever credibility they may once have deserved in service to W's war, and the discerning reader should be suitably cautious as to the veracity of their future scribblings.

(Thanks to DC Media Girl for the heads up on this article).

Why not drive 55?

As I mentioned (rather in passing) in an earlier post on the latest energy company porkfest, despite Bush's declarations to the contrary there are things he and Congress COULD do now to immediately reduce US gasoline consumption, and therefore gasoline prices, one of the simplest being to declare a national maximum speed limit of 55mph.

But then I got to thinking, especially since I enjoy driving as fast as any other red-blooded Angelino, would 55mph really help?

After a quick Google I've found, to no great surprise, that the question was indeed subject to debate.

The main arguments against seem to be 1) anecdotal accounts by individuals claiming they get their best mileage at the 70-75mph range, and 2) arguments the 55 is simply unenforceable.

As far as the anecdotes go, I strongly suspect that the individuals were getting their best mileage because they were going highway speed, which just happened to be in the 70-70mph range.

An informative article at howstuffworks.com would seem to bear this out:

" So, for most cars, the "sweet spot" on the speedometer is in the range of 40-60 mph. Cars with a higher road load will reach the sweet spot at a lower speed.

If you drive your car in the "sweet spot" you will get the best possible mileage for that car. If you go faster or slower, the mileage will get worse, but the closer you drive to the sweet spot the better mileage you will get."
Be sure to read their reasoning and analysis, but it seems pretty accurate to me.

As for the enforceability issue, my thought is that the goal is to influence mass behavior rather than individual behavior. That is, though individuals will continue to flaunt posted speed limits, as they have ever done, anything that drops the average highway speed of the millions of US drivers has a value, especially given the efficiencies seen with every single mph dropped (again I'll refer you to the howstuffworks article).

The main problem with 55 seems to be symbolic: it smacks of the bad old 80s oil embargo and Jimmy Carter's presidency. "Malaise" anyone? And though my inclination personally would be to defend Carter's presidency and legacy, I have serious doubts as to whether the Republican controlled Congress or White House would be so inclined.

More's the pity.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Biggest Lie About Iraq

Some think BushCorp™'s lies about WMD represent the most reprehensible dissembling associated with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Others believe that the worst BushCorp™ misconduct lies in its failure to adequately plan for post-occupation contingencies.

But as Iraq continues to struggle in an effort to agree on a constitution, I've been wondering whether we ever learn anything at all.

When so many of the problems faced by the world to day have their roots in efforts by foreign powers to impose their will on local populations, why do we still keep trying?

The miserable history of European colonization is still being suffered all over the globe and yet we still try to impose our ideals on native populations, a significant portion of which will always resist such an imposition, simply because it is being imposed by a foreign power.

The big lie about Iraq, fashionable in even some progressive circles, is that the US could have suceeded in Iraq had it used a larger army and imposed stricter security measures quickly.

But since no effort short of enslaving or killing the entire Iraqi population would have prevented a segment of that population from violently opposing the US presence, the effort was doomed from its inception to quagmire and international hostility.

And no amount of planning or troop strength can change that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Prez to "go on with life"

Golly but it's good to know our president is able to put life's little nuisances behind him and forge bravely ahead.

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."
Perhaps I'd be happier with Bush's desire to get on with his life if he'd afforded the same opportunity to Casey Sheehan. If he'd afforded the same opportunity to Casey's 1,800+ dead comrades and their thousands of wounded brothers and sisters. If he'd afforded the same opportunity the tens of thousands Iraqi civilian dead. If he'd afforded the same opportunity the hundreds of thousands of US military and their families now putting their own lives on hold in pursuit of Bush's folly.

I'm guessing they'd all love to get on with their lives too, if only they had the chance.

BushCorp™'s Clairvoyants

One really has to admire BushCorp™'s ability to make things happen, the prescient nature of its vision.

In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, many a Bush administration mouthpiece talked frequently and forcefully about Iraq being a hotbed of international terrorism, and a manufacturing center for chemical, biological and nuclear weaponry.

Now evidence shows that none of that was true at the time, but what so many commentators miss is the obvious fact that BushCorp™ seers were actually looking into the future.

Since the US invasion Iraq has indeed become a booming (literally) center for international terrorists, a kind of graduate degree program which may bear fruit for years, decades to come.

And, no doubt, as part of that program we now learn that some Terror U. grad students are moving beyond high-yield IEDs and into advanced chemistry.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 -- U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.

Materials found in a warehouse in Mosul could yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, according to a U.S. military spokesman. He said the lab was relatively new, dating from some time after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," partly because the chemicals would be difficult to keep from spreading over a wide area, he said.

Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration cited evidence that Saddam Hussein's government was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for the invasion. No such weapons or factories were found.
So let me be first to congratulate BushCorp™ and its legion of neo-con clairvoyants. Though Saddam's chemical weapons programs were in apparantly woeful disarray, once he was eliminated, the baton passed to new young terrorists, both foreign and domestic.

And these enterprising folk have demonstrated that though they have trouble with democracy, they've eagerly picked up on the legendary American "can-do" spirit.

It almost makes one weep. With, er, pride, of course.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Oh ye of little faith

faith (fāth):
Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

One point missing from much of the discussion surrounding Bush's recent, typically wrong-headed suggestion that "Intelligent Design" (ID) be taught alongside evolution in schools, is the degree to which all such attempts to legislate religious values demonstrates the lack of faith on the part of those advocating such legislation.

The whole point of ID is that it allegedly provides evidence, proof it you will, of a higher intelligence guiding nature's hand. But faith, by definition, wants no proof. In fact a faith that requires proof is not faith at all, but is, instead, its opposite, doubt.

So when those who profess to be people of faith, whether they're in the White House, or on a Kansas school board, try to pass laws that remove potential temptations allowed by the greater society as a whole, it suggests to me insecurity in their own faith. It suggests to me that their own belief systems won't withstand either the temptations of secular society or the continued questioning inherent in a rational approach to knowledge and science.

Being of little faith, they require unquestioning absolutes. Being of little faith, they prefer the simple over the complex. Being of little faith they live in terror of those who may disagree with them.

And I wonder, which level of hell is reserved for someone whose faith is so weak that it can't stand to even hear rational argument?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A mother's Texas sojourn

You are, no doubt, familiar with Cindy Sheehan, whose story is beginning to garner national, and international attention:

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last year, is camping out near President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and says she won't leave until Bush agrees to meet with her to discuss the war. There are many reasons for the flood of news media attention she is attracting: She has a poignant personal story, and she is articulate - and, let's face it, August is a slow news month. But most of all, she is tapping into a growing popular feeling that the Bush administration is out of touch with the realities, and the costs, of the Iraq war. [Emphasis mine-CK]
Her story also illustrates a main failing of our Chickenhawk-in-Chief: sheer cowardice.

Throughout his life, the buck, for George W. Bush, has stopped elswhere. From his family pass into Yale, his cushy appointment into the Texas Air National Guard, to his numerous failed business ventures, W has contantly evaded the consequences of his inadequacies.

But by taking the US into the ill-advised venture in Iraq, W has finally painted himself into a corner no amount of money and family connections can bridge.

Now people who are inclined to think the best of the President for whatever reason, his likeability, his pandering to the Christian right, or merely because he is, after all, the President, have long been giving him the benefit of the doubt.

But how can you trust a man who can be cowed into hiding by a lone bereaved mother? How can a real man be so cowardly as to be unable to face a woman who has given more than her own life for the country, a woman who has given the life of her child?

A real man wouldn't hide. A real man would have the decency to a least hear the woman out, regardless of the merits of her demands. But then that's the problem isn't it, that her demands, her questions are not without merit.

And W doesn't have any answers.

Attack of the Daisy Dukes

Too frequently over the last few months BushCorp™'s various scandals du jour have distracted me from the Big Issues, something I intend to correct.

For a fog has enveloped the land, people across this great nation have been wandering in a haze muttering, muttering, why, why, why a Dukes of Hazzard movie?

And until this morning I had no answer.

Now I'm not saying it's right, or good, or that I agree with it, but while reading the local rag I had a eureka moment of clarity: the Dukes of Hazzard movie is nothing less than a blatant attempt to bring back short shorts.

Think about it, what other reason could there be?

So, 5 years into the Bush/Dobson administration, the country's repressed sexuality is finally bubbling over onto the surface, no doubt especially in the red states so honored by the Dukes movie.

Sadly I have no suggestions for withstanding this latest assault on American morals. Certainly we can combat aggressors abroad, but how to fight the homegrown insurgency of Ms. Simpson's denim clad bottom?

I'm at a loss.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

U.S. knew of al Qaeda cell before 9/11-lawmaker

Is this it? Does this explain all the BushCorp secrecy and obfuscation? Does this demonstrate the depths of their incompetence? The story:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. military intelligence team identified four Sept. 11 hijackers, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, as likely members of an al Qaeda cell in the United States over a year before the 2001 attacks, a former team member and a Republican congressman said on Tuesday.

The classified eight-member team, code-named "Able Danger," produced a chart with photographs of Atta and three other hijackers in 2000 and unsuccessfully sought to pass the information on to the FBI.

Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, said the information was provided to the staff of the Sept. 11 commission but some commissioners were never briefed on the material.
Perhaps after a screw up like this, little white lies about Iraq's WMD and non-existent nuclear programs were easy. Outing undercover CIA agents? No problem.

After all this administration is the one that ignored the August PDB "Bin Laden to attack in US". After all this administration apparently ignored an identified al Qaeda cell operating in the US.

One wonders if EVERY act of this administration has been nothing more than a distraction to divert attention from the truth: The Bush administration's massive incompetence, as much as any other cause, was responsible for the tragedy of 9/11.

One wonders indeed.

Oil policy redux

In light of record setting oil prices and BushCorp™'s OilCo PorkFest, er Energy Bill, I thought I'd repost one of my favorite blogs outlining the need and the steps to be taken to seriously address US energy problems:

Oil and the economy: a primer

As Alan Greenspan muddles further into obscurantism and partisan irrelevance (seriously, he's against deficits, and yet in favor of tax cuts for the rich, and trillions in debt to pay for Social Security privatization? Jeez.) the nation yearns for clear-eyed economic wisdom. And so I, despite the personal sacrifice, as well as my utter lack of qualifications, yet offer my humble services.

Sure my formal economic training is limited to macro and micro courses at San Diego State back in the day. But perhaps that will suffice.

To begin.

Oil prices 101
Perhaps the most basic of economic ideas is that of supply and demand, that is: if supply is greater than demand, prices go down, if supply is less than demand, prices go up.

A corollary: If supply is fixed, but demand rises, prices go up.

This last is relevant to the world's current oil-price situation.

The oil producing nations are currently producing oil at or near capacity, and there will be no increases of capacity available in the foreseeable future. And yes that includes the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, which may provide at most 3-6% of US daily consumption. A relative drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, in addition to the always thirsty US oil market, two burgeoning economies, India, and most dramatically China have significantly increased their demand for oil, and will continue to do so, again into the foreseeable future.

So, classic economics: oil supply is static, demand is rising, and prices are going up. Easy.

Take the dollar, please.
Supply and demand also applies to international currency valuation. Currently the US is flooding the world market with dollars. And it is doing so in two ways.

The first way is through the US government's massive operating deficit. That is, the government is spending more money than it is taking in, currently at the rate of about $2.27 billion per day.

So where does the money come from? Well, unlike individuals, or even the several states of the union, the US government has a unique ability, if it needs more money, it can just print more. Now the US doesn't just print regular old dollar bills, it prints special kinds of currency like bonds and Treasury bills (T-bills). The main difference between a dollar bill and a T-bill is time. That is, a dollar is worth its full face value right now, while a T-bill is only worth its full value at some specified point in the future. And that, though vastly over-simplified, is about it, T-bills, treasury bonds, even US savings bonds are just a type of money.

So when the US government operates at a deficit, it finances that spending by issuing Treasury bills and the like. The current US deficit stands at about $7.7 trillion, ($7,791,779,810,738.91). Which means that $7.7 trillion in T-bills and such are out there on the market, held by individuals, companies, and especially countries. That's one part of the dollar supply.

The second source of dollars on the open market is the US trade deficit, that is, the difference between what we in the US spend on foreign goods and services, and what people in foreign countries spend on US goods and services.

In 2004 the US trade deficit was a record $665.9 billion, a 25% increase over the 2003 deficit. That is, the US (you and I) spent almost $666 billion more buying stuff from overseas than folks overseas spent buying stuff from us.

In essence we're shipping boxcar loads of cash overseas in exchange for boxcar loads of fuel-efficient cars, home electronics and all the crap they sell at Walmart.

So, is this a problem?
Maybe, maybe not. Here's the deal:
In the past, moderate outflows of US dollars have been essentially beneficial both to the US as well as our trading partners around the globe. Historically the dollar has been one of, if not the most stable currency in the history of human trade. As such it has been a boon to international trade and has become the base currency for the majority of international business transactions. Good for us, good for everybody.

But as the Bush administration continues profligate borrowing to finance its tax-cuts and wars, countries holding large numbers of US dollars can begin to wonder whether the dollar's value will maintain its stability. Even the barest hint of such a doubt can send global markets into a tizzy. In short, if the perception grows that there are too many dollars on the market (that is, to use the classic economic paradigm, the supply of dollars exceeds the demand for them), the value of the dollar will fall.

In fact, international markets have begun to recognize exactly that, and the value of the dollar has begun to slowly drop relative to other currencies, most notably the Euro, which is increasingly becoming the alternative to the dollar in international trade.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
How'd that work out for you Blanche?

Currently the main bar to a radical decline in the dollar's value and resulting inflation, (quick primer on inflation: if dollars are worth less, it takes more of them to buy stuff) is the self interest of the other economies which are inextricably entwined with that of the US. All it would take to precipitate disaster would be for one of the major US donor states to decide to get rid of its dollar holdings. If say, China, for reasons either economic (worries about the dollar's declining value) or political (US support for Taiwanese independence) decides to dump dollars, the results would be devastating. (Good article on the dollar dump potentialhere.)

Now here's where it gets scary
Remember those oil prices?

Another interesting thing about oil is that it is one of those commodities whose trade is done in US dollars.

So now there are actually two things at work driving oil prices: the laws of supply and demand for oil, and the laws of supply and demand for US dollars.

So even as increasing demand for a limited supply of oil drives prices higher, it also takes an increased number of devalued US dollars to purchase that oil.

And given continued US demand, those same oil purchases will drive increasing US trade deficits, leading to further devaluation of the dollar and increasing costs for oil ad infinitum.

Good news/Bad news
There is a way to stop or at least slow this death spiral: conservation. Even small gains in energy conservation can have important effects. Reducing consumption:
1. reduces our trade deficit, reducing downward pressure on the dollar; and
2. reduces our portion of global demand, easing our significant contribution to oil price pressure

Conservation has, of course, some other benefits as well, reducing pollution and decreasing our dependence for our oil fix from countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. As I've argued before, US energy policy should be an inherent part of US Security planning.

So, that's the good news, the solution is simple, conserve. The devil is, as always, in the details: how do we implement a meaningful conservation regimen?

A gas tax of course.

And of course, there may be a few implementation problems, such as the conservatives screaming that it'll be bad for business, and whose money is it anyway? Liberals ranting at a gas tax's regressive, disproportionate affect on the poor. That sort of thing.

Both of which are, of course, true.

But consider, it takes neither a crystal ball, nor a Ph.D. in economics to foresee a time in the very near future where, as a consequence of the aforementioned factors, the price of oil will be much higher anyway. Does anyone seriously doubt that?

When that happens (next year, the year after?) GM indeed won't be selling any Hummers, the poor will be crowding what little public transportation exists, and those dollars spent ($4, $5, $6 per gallon?) will go to stuff the silk-lined pockets of some of the most regressive regimes in human existence, that's whose money it'll be.

Instead why don't we pay ourselves first by taxing gas at the pump to encourage conservation?

Why don't we pay ourselves first and pay down the inflationary and destabilizing Federal deficit?

Why don't we pay ourselves first and invest in conservation , alternative fuel and transportation technologies?

Why don't we pay ourselves first and establish US dominance over the only technologies absolutely certain to become vital over the next century as fossil fuel reserves are depleted?

We're going to be paying anyway. Why don't we pay ourselves first?

A would-be economic demiurge can dream can't he?

Now that global economic forces are combining to push oil prices so high even the plutocrats of BushCorp™ might notice them, perhaps we'll see some movement towards policies that might actually impact our energy consumption.

My fear though, is that the economic purists will win yet another ideology versus reality battle within the walls of the West Wing, and that BushCorp™ will let the holy market decide. And certainly the invisible hand of the market will eventually bring the death spiral to an end, though that end will not be much to our liking.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Money for nothing: Bush's energy bill

Q: How do you spend $14.5 billion and get virtually no results?
A: Put it into the 2005 energy bill just signed by President Bush.

I guess it's an art form perfected by generations of politicians, spending billions to no good effect. Even BushCorp™'s head cheerleader can barely bring himself to say anything positive about the legislation:

"We're not going to solve our energy challenges overnight," he said. "Most of the serious problems, such as high gasoline costs and rising dependence on foreign oil, have developed over decades. It's going to take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems."
And certainly, if our sole focus is on developing new energy resources answers are likely decades away.

So why is this bill, complete with its bi-partisan support, the best Congress could come up with? Why does this bill, which took 4 years to get through Congress, lack the one thing, conservation measures, that might actually help soon?

Becuase conservation doesn't line the pockets of the energy corporations who are the measure's main backers. So instead of putting into effect steps (like lowering speed limits, and yes I hated 55mph as much as Sammy Hagar) that would improve this country's energy consumption TOMORROW, and cost NOTHING, Congress spends billions on measures that may never help, and may well hurt efforts to address America's energy needs.

And speaking of America's energy needs, unless we're sitting atop oil fields that dwarf Saudi Arabia's (something NO-ONE suggests) all that verbiage on all sides warning of the dangers of dependence on FORIEGN oil is ridiculous.

Or problem is dependence on oil, as well as all other finite fossil fuels, period. If the government was serious about limiting US dependence of foreign oil the solution would be simple, though rather painful: halt foreign imports and let the market determine the price of US oil production.

So, Bush is right on one point, alleviating US energy problems of "focused effort". Sadly, it seems obvious that under the current administration, no such effort is possible, or even contemplated.

In defense of flip-flops

Do politicians have the right to change their minds?

Much was made over John Kerry's supposed change of heart over the Iraq war. Nevermind that this was a mis-characterization of Kerry's position, idiot statements like: "I voted for it before I voted against it" just beg for "flip-flop" mockery.

The most recent example of political two-stepping comes to us from Senate Republican leader, and prospectiove presidential candidate Bill Frist who, edging away from the radical winger "pro-life" no matter who it kills precipice, has taken a stance favoring federal funding for stem-cell research.

This has had the effect of bringing forth howls of betrayal from the Dobsonite right, while wringing cries of "flip-flop" from those on the left still stinging from the Kerry debacle.

And while both reactions are entirely understandable, let me pose this question for my cohorts in the left and moderate reality-based communities: Is it better to castigate those who've wandered from the fact-based fold, or is it better rather to welcome back such prodigal sons?

For, while short-term political advantage may lie in exposing Republican hypocrisy whatever its source, isn't it in the country's best interest to encourage all politicians, whatever their stripe, to come back to the center (if not the left)?

For as the last decade has demonstrated, there are times when Republicans will control the government. And as much as I desire the end of their rule, must we not accept the sometimes it is inevitable? And that being the case, would we not all be better off if Republican rule was mitigated by the more moderate impulses buried deep beneath the wingnut veneer so many have adopted in order to win Republican primaries?

Since the 90's the Republicans have successfully managed to shift the middle to the right, to the detriment of everyone except multi-national corporations and televangelists. Is it not possible that, by welcoming any Republican shifts back to the true center, that we can move the middle back to the middle?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Winning hearts and minds

I sometimes have real trouble being my usual snarky self. A case in point regards the recent WaPo article describing the beating and torture death of a captured Iraqi general:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.
Although Mowhoush's death certificate lists his cause of death as "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression," the Dec. 2, 2003, autopsy, quoted in classified documents and released with redactions, showed that Mowhoush had "contusions and abrasions with pattern impressions" over much of his body, and six fractured ribs. Investigators believed a "long straight-edge instrument" was used on Mowhoush, as well as an "object like the end of an M-16" rifle.

"Although the investigation indicates the death was directly related to the non-standard interrogation methods employed on 26 NOV, the circumstances surrounding the death are further complicated due to Mowhoush being interrogated and reportedly beaten by members of a Special Forces team and other government agency (OGA) employees two days earlier," said a secret Army memo dated May 10, 2004.
And let me be clear on this, a Baathist general's hideous death doesn't bother me nearly as much as the identity of those who caused it, the futility of their actions and the way it confirms American bestiality to the rest of the world.

Amazingly, the man had voluntarily submitted to US custody:
The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.
And yet, gosh, he eventually became uncooperative? I can't imagine why.
And so "the gloves come off". And exactly how did that work out?
"Previous interrogations were non-threatening; Abid [Mowhoush]was being treated very well. Not anymore," the document reads. "The interrogation session lasted several hours and I took the gloves off because Abid refused to play ball."

But the harsher tactics backfired.

In an interrogation that could be witnessed by the entire detainee population, Mowhoush was put into an undescribed "stress position" that caused the other detainees to stand "with heads bowed and solemn looks on their faces," said the document.

"I asked Abid if he was strong enough a leader to put an end to the attacks that I believed he was behind," the document said, quoting an unidentified interrogator. "He did not deny he was behind the attacks as he had denied previously, he simply said because I had humiliated him, he would not be able to stop the attacks.
That is, having lost face before his people he could no longer control them. And so it goes.

But at least we've found one case where the administration is trying to protect, as opposed to out, the CIA:
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's standard "Autopsy Examination Report" of Mowhoush's death was manipulated to avoid references to the CIA. In contrast to the other autopsy reports of suspicious detainee deaths released by the Army, Mowhoush's name is redacted and under "Circumstances of Death," the form says: "This Iraqi [redacted] died while in U.S. custody. The details surrounding the circumstances at the time of death are classified."
And so it goes. A "few bad apples" will get prosecuted, but those responsible for this systemic torture will go scot free.

Doesn't it make you proud to be an American? I wonder if Lee Greenwood will be doing a song about this?

Prez gives props to ID

So, Bush once again feels it necessary to exhibit his exhaustive scientific training by coming out in favor of intelligent design, the pseudo-scientific overlay to creationism. Great.

Still to come, his feelings on Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the infalliblity of the pope.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The missing element of King Fahd coverage

One thing has been noticably lacking in all the coverage of Saudi King Fahd's death. Can you guess what it is?

Funerary detail? Nope, the NYT's got that covered here.

Effect on the oil market? Forbes is all over that here.

History? Covered.

How about this then: Incredulity that ANYONE in the western world should give more than passing notice to the death of the ruler of one of the globe's most repressive, backward regimes.

Perhaps if his death were to lead to modernization, democratic revolution THAT would be important. Instead though western leaders breath a sigh of relief because King Fahd's succesor will almost certainly bring virtually no change to the kingdom. Why? Because when a country sits atop a quarter of the world's oil reserves no change is for the better.

Can anyone question that the energy politics which allow the world's most advanced nations to continue beholden to the world's most archaic regimes is at least criminally negligent, if not downright treasonous? Can anyone question that BushCorp™, in its never-ending quest to enrich its oil-biz patrons has unerringly continued to support policies which also enrich regimes like that of the Saudis?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Back in the saddle again

Mrs. Caliblogger and I had to take an emergency vacation (don't ask) last week and have been incommunicado for a few days, so what's been going on?

Apparently Bill Frist really is planning on running for president. Showing what passes for true presidential mettle these days, Dr. Frist demonstrates that he can pander to the middle (stem cell research) as well as he can to the wingnut right (Schiavo). After Bush vetos the bill, perhaps he can then claim to have voted for it before he voted against it. Worked wonders for Kerry.

And people wonder why it's nigh impossible for a Senator to be elected president.

Meanwhile, in other Republican pandering news, NY Gov. George Pataki plans on vetoing a bill allowing pharmacists to dispense the morning after pill without a script. How GOPers can be against abortion, and yet resist birth control is almost beyond me, except when you realize what they're really afraid of - sex.

Unless it's closeted sex of course. Closeted gay sex (not that there's anything wrong with that). Speaking of which Jeff/James Gannon/Guckerts bestest butt-buddy, Karl Rove, is still hanging on to his position (doggy I believe) at the White House where he continues to have Bush's "complete confidence". Which support he'll continue to enjoy up until the special prosecutor busts his sorry, saggy ass for obstruction. Enjoy your stay at Club Fed Karl baby, but be careful who you drop your soap around.

And speaking of Bush cohorts, how sad is it that our newly minted UN ambassador, JOhn Bolton, goes to work without actually having his government's support, having failed to gain confirmation in the REPUBLICAN controlled Senate?

Ah, it's great to get back to "civilization".