Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rabbit Ears

OK, I think the search is over. I’ve located the most proudly stupid and ignorant magazine article ever to appear in the Mainstream Media – Fox News excepted, of course. The February 19th issue of Newsweek contains an article called Prick up your Rabbit Ears.

Whoever Johnnie L. Roberts might be, his education in communications technology began and ended on February 19th, 2007 the day after he was born. Although the photo contains a skyline filled with UHF Yagi’s, log periodics and folded dipoles along with an inset of a UHF planar satellite receiving antenna, the only thing the young Mr. Roberts remembers from his 12 second introduction to antenna design is the word “rabbit ears” a nickname of course for the VHF dipole that commonly used to be built into or added on to televisions that weren’t connected to one of the various kinds of outdoor antennae. When UHF stations become common, many were equipped with bowties or loops for off-the-air reception of the new frequencies.

From this he concludes that the concept of an antenna is an “anachronism” although of course with the proliferation of wireless devices, there are more of them per square meter than ever before in history and thousands and thousands of radio and television stations are broadcasting gigawatts worth of programming 24/7. Satellite radio, satellite TV, wireless networks, cordless phones, bluetooth devices, cellphone systems, microwave telephone systems and garage door openers use antennas. My car includes 5 kinds of antenna, our new digital camera has one as does my microwave oven. Even cable TV systems receive the signals they put on cable with antennas of course. It's hard to understand the ignorance behind thinking that all these giant parabolics are “rabbit ears,” and like the ones NASA uses to communicate with spacecraft, and radio astronomers use to listen to the universe are all obsolete and anachronistic in the age of cable. What an idiot!

But antennas are things used “before the age of cable” says he; an age which of course, began in the mid 19th century, nor has cable made satellite systems with their various sophisticated antennae obsolete – quite the opposite, if you ask me. Nearly everything we do today in the way of communications depends on various antennae designs for different parts of the spectrum and their various uses. But it gets worse; Roberts goes on to tell us that “rabbit ears” have a greater bandwidth than a coaxial cable, which is appalling nonsense -- and this is because digital signals are “plump.”

Why do I get exercised about idiotic misinformation like this? Because whenever there is an article that I know something about, it’s obviously wrong and sometimes so misinformed and erroneous as to be scandalous. What else are they telling us that’s wrong -- maybe everything?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eating Flipper

I live on Florida's Atlantic coast. It's a fisherman's paradise of marinas and dockside restaurants and if you order Dolphin for dinner, you call it Dolphin and you know you're getting one of the area's most popular fish: Coryphaena hippurus and not Flipper. Order where the locals eat and you may find out where they're biting today, what lure to use and how deep.

One can however, sometimes see the sunburned faces of Northern tourists blanch at the word on the menu and the restaurants that cater to the ictheologically ignorant prefer to use the oddly inappropriate and painfully balbative Hawaiian name Mahi-Mahi to avoid scaring them. Nobody eats, or wants to eat or wants to hear about anyone eating those beautiful mammals: the Bottlenose Dolphins or Tursiops truncatis who follow your boat, leaping from the water for what seems to be the sheer delight of it.

Nobody but the Japanese, of course. Somehow their aesthetic appreciation for nature does not extend below the waterline. Despoilers of the sea on a vast scale, their fisheries are immune to the slightest sentim
entality as concerns the wholesale slaughter of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, threatened, endangered, cuddly or otherwise. In the whaling port of Taiji, about 400 miles south of Tokyo, the waters are as thick and red as Gazpacho with the blood of Dolphins. They are surrounded, driven into lagoons and coves and butchered alive. It's a billion dollar industry, says American environmentalist Richard O'Barry, who has trained the animals in movies such as Flipper.

The defense of the practice rests on tradition and on the needs of the fishermen themselves. Fishermen who despite that advanced and wonderful Japanese economy we're used to having held up to us as an example of our backwardness, might starve if they had to stop. Traditio
n is never an excuse, nor is profit, but there you have it. Trendy and hip couples from New York eating Mahi-Mahi, proud of wearing only fake fur, their pockets and apartments stuffed with the Japanese gadgets they depend upon to feel hip and superior, their Japanese car parked outside looking oh so trendyuppiehip and environmentally friendly and fashionably anti-American are supporting the bloody slaughter of the animals that swim freely and protected along our coast and in our estuaries; supporting the drift nets that sterilize enormous areas of sea floor habitat, threaten the survival of the species we eat and the food chain that supports them. Buy yourself a Prius, kill a thousand baby seals. Turn on your Toshiba and gorge on what remains of the whales.

So feel good, all ye trendies. Complain about the Kyoto Accord, gripe about American products and go buy yourselves a Honda Accord. Make it blood red.

The Duke

"There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

-John Wayne-

The Picture of John Wayne dressed as a cowboy stands, thanks to Photo Shop, in front of a huge flag, proudly asking us why the hell we have to "press one for English."

A week does not go by and often not a day when I don't get some smirking e-mail about the efforts of the business community to make it easier for native Spanish speaking people to buy things or get information about things or to put money in the bank. Pressing 2 to continue in Spanish seems to have had more of an effect on America's sense of security than anything since Pearl Harbor and people who profess passionate love of flags, John Wayne and the Republic for which they stand often fail to see this sleazy campaign as the direct attack on freedom of speech that it is.

“Women have the right to work wherever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home”

"My favorite e-mail ever" says the person who sent it to me and he concludes with "Enough said." I don't think enough can be said. I have never been a fan of Marion Morrison, although I have enjoyed a couple of his movies. His support of the Viet Nam war and his attacks on the doubters of its necessity; his McCarthyism and his belief in white supremacy left me with a lasting distaste for his stupid kind of patriotism and bigotry. It may be ironic however that the anti-Mexican rabble rousers chose him as the boy for their poster.

Wayne was married three times: to Josephene Saenz, Esperanza Baur and Pilar Palette. They were all Spanish speaking women. As he was dying, Wayne requested that his headstone bear an epitaph in Spanish: Feo, Fuerte y Formal. No English translation was offered.

“Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid.”

I have to disagree once more -- life is hardest for those who have to deal with the stupid.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Book of Daniel

New occasions teach new duties,
time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
who would keep abreast of truth.

-- James Russell Lowell --

Amidst all the horrible things going on in the world there are still those who see the fate of societies as determined by God's blessing or God's wrath and God's wrath usually stems from people engaging in what they were designed to do, or people looking at people clothed as God clothed them and doing what they have been doing since before they were really people: that's sex, of course, and sex which is not approved of by a group of people who exist for the purpose controlling other people's sex lives and warning them of God's wrath will lead to terrible things.

I only discovered the voice crying in the wilderness called Daniel Mark Cohen through an ad he probably ran himself in the February 19 & 26 issues of The New Republic titled Unhappy Anniversary.

"If the people of the United States collectively endorse a single prayer, one that, universal in its reach, transcends the necessary differences in faith and ethnicity that otherwise divide the nation, that prayer consists of three simple words: "God bless America."

In fact, prayer divides America and that prayer no less than others, but Cohen's assertion that God will no longer bless America since the Roth v. United States decision fifty years ago that had the audacity to determine that what is and what is not pornography is relative to community standards and not the eternal, immutable standards of self-appointed guardians and Biblical blowhards like Cohen. Only a truly magnificent idiot can forget that randy pagan societies have far outlasted empires steeped in sexual repression and have prospered. God seems to bless slavery, genocide, and bloody conquest equally with its absence, and just societies have come and gone in very short order. As the poet said, our standards change and some of those standards now make Cohen uncouth.

Only a truly arrogant idiot can insist on a recieved eternal standard about what parts of what bodies we may look at and at divine retribution for infringing upon it. Cohen is both kinds of idiot and more. He's an idiot that thinks he speaks for God and that God needs a spokesman.

Cohen, in the ad and in his book, insists that pornography is prostitution and part of a "culture of prostitution" mediated by the internet, cable television pornography, and photographic cameras. "And why should God bless America," asks Cohen, "when as a consequence, she insists on the free unregulated distribution via the internet of the most vile sexual images, so that hourly, such pictures reach and indelibly corrupt the otherwise innocent eyes and chaste minds of the country's millions of unsupervised children?"

Interesting that Cohen thinks we should be supervised as adults but that children, with their "chaste minds" need not be. I don't know whether I'm more offended by his contempt for freedom, his psychotic ideas about sex, or his insistence that children have chaste minds. I am of course angered beyond bounds by this voice from the sewer, this vox clamatis cloaco, from whose troglodytic viewpoint the world is covered in shit. I'm angry that his pathetic little God won't bless a sexually free America but isn't irritated by an America that kills children, letting them live in poverty and disease, by a world that looks the other way and feels righteous when they are hacked to bits in Africa and are forced to become killers of other children.

Cohen is too stupid, or too twisted and perverted, to dwell on the total lack of historical correlation between sexual openness and the fate of nations. God doesn't really give a damn from all evidence and from all evidence European countries that do not try to suppress pornography, that allow prostitution, and don't interfere with sex between consenting adults have less rape and murder than the lands of God-fearing, freedom-hating sexual deviates like Mark would force us to emulate.

God bless America? No, says Cohen. God damn Cohen and all miserable bastards like him? Yes, says Fogg.

Cross posted at The Reaction

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Body politics

John Brown's body may be moulderin' in the grave, but James Brown's is still waiting for burial. Anna Nicole Smith's remains, of course, are deteriorating in Nassau, but probably less fast than the body parts strewn around the streets of Baghdad nearly every day. Somehow we're becoming numb to it and as we don't have to smell it or see it or face becoming part of it every time we step out the door we're lucky to be able to think of other more fascinating things - like Britney's latest idiocy.

These stories are usually at the top of CNN's most popular list, not the daily grinding up of the men women and children of the war. The troops we support arrive home in boxes and bags; whole and in part. Many come home to a crumbling and inadequate system of veteran's hospitals, inadequate counselling and inadequate preparation for the very different lives they will be forced to lead.

Fortunately we have sports and the antics of celebrities to keep our minds occupied and our dreams free of horror. Cartoonist Pat Oliphant says it all this morning.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Look who's coming for dinner!

I know it’s fashionable to assert that there is no scientific basis for “race” and indeed you can define race in a way that makes it true, but the idea is a political one and designed to stifle discussions of population genetics in the same way as discussions and scientific investigations of human gender differences has been stifled in the interest of promoting gender equality and attempting to avoid discrimination. It’s the politics of “you can’t handle the truth” and it’s the argument that says, don’t believe your eyes, believe what we tell you. Sometimes the only way this can be discussed is through humor as when Stephen Colbert declares “I don’t see race” when of course, we can’t avoid it.

We see family resemblance because families tend to have more similar inherited features than they share with the total world population. Likewise populations that have been isolated for a great deal of time share an extended family resemblance. Recognizing this has nothing to do with racism which is about postulating that these relatively minor things constitute some sort of hierarchy in the abilities, worth and human rights of various populations.

Of course the criteria by which some people assign an individual to one race or another is subjective and not very scientific; there is a great deal of genetic variation amongst people we commonly and erroneously lump into one group and that’s because we can only see genetic variations that determine external morphology. There is a great deal below the surface and that gets to the point of all this. It’s possible that there are two unrecognized and invisible races of mankind and the only way we can tell them apart is to see whether they can taste things like a bitter synthetic compound called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC. Some can detect it and some can’t and to those that do, like me, it tastes absolutely awful.

This has been known for 75 years but recently, the gene responsible for making me hate Brussels sprouts was isolated. An article in Science Daily postulates that this gene once served to keep our hirsute ancestors from eating poisonous fruits and vegetables: like Brussels sprouts, spinach and all that other foul smelling, evil tasting green stuff my mother tried in vain to get me to eat. Like many lethal plants, these dreadful items are rich in bitter alkaloids and many alkaloids are deadly. It’s a truly sad thing that I cannot hold these facts up to my mother as vindication: to prove that it was a token of my ability and not of my obstinacy that ruined so many dinners.

Now I don’t want to insinuate that we of the taster race are superior to those who lack the ability, but then we do have an ability that they lack – who knows what else they lack? And look at what those people eat! Would you really want one moving in next door and cooking their nauseating foods or want your daughter to bring one home for dinner?


"What the hell just happened?" Was my first reaction. I'm still not sure, but the officials, after several explanations tell me that it was a win for Kevin Harvick in his Chevrolet, at an average of 149.335 mph. Typical of American racing coverage however, I observed this morning that article after article mentioned the confusing ending and the name of the winning driver all at length, but with no mention of the car. I can't imagine a horse race that mentioned only the name of the Jockey, but that's NASCAR reportage and that's America's disinterest in technology and engineering.

I've been in love with racing for a long time and although, as a boy, I knew the names and biographies of men like Sterling Moss and Juan Fangio, my infatuation was with the technology as much as the skills and the teamwork that are racing. My infatuation was and still is more with sports car endurance racing, as unlike these hand made, purpose built NASCAR machines, the cars bear some relationship to and some components with what you can buy at the dealer and drive home in. Not coincidently, American engineering has been a dominant force. Races that take 12 to 24 hours sometimes do justify the journalistic "oooooh the engineering" rhetoric that in other events and in general is meaningless. "Oooooh the money" seems to apply better to the rolling billboards of NASCAR.

The term "stock car" is as much of an anachronism as I am; these tube frame, hand built machines with the painted-on headlights don't roll off an assembly line and the rules make them all very similar in order to level the playing field, but it's big business and growing in popularity every year. With on board cameras and HDTV, I have to admit it's fun to watch -- the hype, the blatant merchandising and the encroachments of foreign manufacturers into a genre that started with moonshiners, shade tree mechanics and souped up cars notwithstanding. As I've said often enough, I'm as annoyed by Toyota's presence (even if they did place 22nd) as much as I would be by a potential World Series win by Venezuela or the Japanese are by a foreign Sumo champion, but getting past the emotional chauvinism, perhaps what we're seeing here is the Americanization of Japanese cars and to me that's far better than seeing Ford's and Chevy's consumer offerings looking like toys for iPodpeople whose other car is a skateboard. In some strange way, maybe a Toyota win would be an American win.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Call me Ishmael

Seems like every damned thing the US government has done or tried to do since the Johnson administration has been sold as a war on something - poverty, crime, drugs, terrorism and of course Mexicans. The good thing about describing an attempt as a war is that where there is a war, there must be an enemy and an enemy is someone you can treat without much restraint or interference from the law and free from concern for common decency, much less the vaunted "Judeo-Christian" ethics our laws are supposed (by the least decent of us) to be based on.

Another thing about wars is that you get to simplify reality by talking about victory and defeat and that's why our national experiment in sobriety could be ended without talk about honor or demoralizing the police or cutting and running. It didn't work, it made things worse so we shut it down. Because it wasn't a "war on booze" we had nothing to lose.

We've made a big mistake in treating the problem of illegal immigration like a war. If it were like other crimes consisting of doing something like driving without a license or doing business without a permit, authorities could simply examine records and make arrests and treat offenders according to due process and the basic ideas about human decency and respect for human life that I like to think most people have. But that's not the way we do it in our nation under Bush because we tell ourselves we are not dealing with people who have broken the law and usually out of desperation. We tell ourselves we're dealing with criminals - with the enemy.

That's the sort of thinking that allows what happened last December 12th in Greeley Colorado to happen and what allows us to not care in the same way people didn't care when Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals and others were loaded into boxcars by jackbooted bastards in Europe. The jackbooted, helmeted, body armored and heavily armed bastards in this case surrounded a meat packing plant run by Swift and in brutal fashion rounded up, beat down and carted away people who couldn't on the spot prove citizenship. Anyone not able to instantly obey commands screamed in English by space-suited aliens were maced. No one was read their rights, because in a war they don't have the human rights we claim are common to all humanity.

Had this not been a war and simply an arrest of people without a license to work; had this been a nation with a sense of morals, they would not have dragged away husbands and wives without concern that they had minor children and infants left alone at home. No phone calls were allowed - they were the Enemy and were herded off to be held in undisclosed places and incommunicado before deportation. People might have human rights, but enemies don't. On that same day says an article in The Nation, "more than 1,000 ICE agents simultaneously raided five other Swift factories in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah and Minnesota. By the end of the day, nearly 1,300 immigrant workers had been taken into custody--about 265 of them from Greeley."

You can bet that the executives from Swift were not beaten, gassed, thrown to the ground, heaved into trucks and driven out to desert camps without access to lawyers or phone calls to family. You can bet that their children won't be left alone to wander the streets or die on the floor of some trailer or be abused or sold in the absence of their parents and families.

"Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff boasted that the combined raids amounted to the largest workplace enforcement action in history. ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers would later claim that Operation Wagon Train, as the raids were dubbed, dealt a major blow in the "war against illegal immigration."

Raw Story tells us today that Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department has ". . . has implemented a secretive new prison program segregating "high-security-risk" Muslim and Middle Eastern prisoners and tightly restricting their communications with the outside world in apparent violation of federal law. Apparently Raw Story has forgotten that under George W. Bush's Reich, the Justice Department is the law. To be sure, they've tried it before, public comment was sought under the law and the courts have shut it down, but since at first they didn't succeed, they simply did it again in secret - they instituted a special program for prisoners who fit a profile.

At Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institution in Indiana, if you're Muslim, suspected of being a Muslim or someone deemed sufficiently suspicious of being one even if not convicted of a crime but merely being held as "witnesses, detainees, or otherwise," you're going to be monitored on the phone, in person, in your letters and when having a visitor. You're only allowed to speak or write English. Your contact with the outside world may be limited to three monitored minutes a month if the Warden doesn't like your beard.

Bandied about the internet is something being called Godwin's law which says that the longer an internet thread continues, the more likely that Hitler will be brought up. Why wait? I will say right now that the US is becoming more Nazified every day that George Bush and his miserable subhuman bastards conduct their war on decency.

Remembering the example of a very few real Christians who stood up to Hitler by wearing yellow stars, the challenge to me is to change my name to Ishmael and brush up on the Spanish. Allahu Akbar - amigos!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

As it goes at Daytona, so goes the nation

Let me say right up from that I'm a bigot in matters of national origin - at least when it comes to cars. The idea of Toyota competing fairly on the NASCAR circuit gives me as much heartburn as anything else the Japanese auto industry has forced upon us, like the idea that trucks are better sports cars than sports cars are, that 4 wheel drive cars handle better, that there is no penalty for substituting complex valve trains and very high RPMs for displacement. That narrow cars with small engines are the product of a more noble sort of engineering rather than a necessity forced upon Japanese manufacturers by a punitive tax structure and narrow roads, is a lie that can only be atoned for by a massive and humiliating loss at the track.

Besides, bigotry doesn't have to make sense, does it? Anyway, Toyota's NASCAR debut is something my bad dreams are made of and the announcement that Michael Waltrip, scheduled to run one of those buzz bombs at Daytona this Sunday has lost his crew chief and team director because officials found that the engine's fuel system had been illegally tampered with in an attempt to make a few more horses, has put a nasty little sneer on my GM loving, Toyota hating face.

The problem with American engines in this kind of racing is that they make way too much power and in the interest of not making every Sunday a bloody Sunday at the race track, they are required to use things like restrictor plates and approved fuels to keep the horsepower down. Any aficionado of NHRA drag racing has seen vehicles with big American V8's turning out thousands of horsepower and exceeding 300 mph in about 3 seconds. You would have to do more than add some mysterious substance to the fuel to do that with Mom's multi valve Camry, glue on plastic wings notwithstanding.

We're talking about American pride and self-respect here and just think about how our troops will be demoralized if something Japanese makes a good showing, whether they cheat or not. It would be like finding "Honda" in huge neon lights on the Washington monument or finding sushi on the menu at Denny's. We might as well just disassemble the country and sell it for parts on eBay.

I can't forget that we are talking about one of the companies that decimated the domestic industry by convincing us that buzzy little engines were what the hip kids all drive, that "Tokyo Drifting" counts more than winning LeMans, that you shouldn't buy a Viper because that '62 Buick was sort of a pig.

Now that all of a sudden they have discovered that there is after all, no substitute for displacement, I'm not amused. I am quite amused that companies that I see as having thrived on disinformation, misrepresentation and deceit sometimes get caught at it and I will be amused beyond measure to see them lose -- cheering for America as I sit on my Italian Couch with the Persian pillows, drinking Jamaican beer, wearing a Hawaiian shirt made in China and watching the Daytona 500 on my Japanese television.

When is black Black?

The Daily Curmudgeon wrote yesterday about the electability of Barak Obama and rightly mentioned that a hidden streak of bigotry would make his success unlikely -- and that of course, is because he is a black man, or at least his father was a black man and an African. Of course that streak of bigotry doesn't always reside behind a white face and the discussion of whether Obama is really black or African or half white or half black or African-American or an American of partial black African descent has, in my opinion at least a trace of that odor that clings to Senator Biden's now famous condescending evaluation. "He ain't like them other colored boys, is he?" is how one blogger on The Reaction heard it.

The debate amongst many people however, isn't whether Senator Obama is or isn't like some stereotype, but whether he can be further pidgeon-holed or categorized or deconstructed or reconstructed, obstructed, embraced or dismissed according to some arcane formula found deep in a forest of nuance and innuendo I dare not enter. Much about Obama's ability to understand the experience of Americans who descend from those once enslaved in the continental United States (but not elsewhere) depends, it seems, on these fine distinctions: as though his dark complexion had not exposed him to the prejudice and stereotyping by a society that in most cases doesn't care where great great great grandpa came from as long as you look black. Is it any different than saying that a black man couldn't represent a white society well?

To my way of thinking, the insistence by some African American writers that only a man whose ancestry is politically correct can represent or hope to find support from African Americans, is as demeaning as any white senator's suggestion that a black man who has confidence, poise, a command of English, a brilliant mind and a superior education somehow doesn't represent them either.

It smells funny in those woods; it smells like prejudice, but perhaps a trace of it clings to us all, even though some of us wish the Senator from Illinois could be judged on his record, his ability and his character and not what some people would make of his ancestry.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Wasteland

Waste: verb, wast·ed, wast·ing

1. to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander.
2. to destroy or consume gradually; wear away
3. to be consumed, spent, or employed uselessly or without giving full value or being fully utilized or appreciated.

Dictionary.com has over 30 definitions, as if anyone really needed to look up such a word.

Barak Obama may be learning that illusions are more important than reality, that words carry meaning unrelated to their denotations or connotations and that disturbing the illusions upon which people build their lives and sanity will cost a candidate dearly. Obama is going to have to learn doublethink if he wants to win and he's going to have to temper the directness of speech that may be his cardinal virtue.

He has had to apologize repeatedly and abjectly for stating what I believe is the uncontrovertable truth: the lives of thousands of Americans who marched off to protect their country from a manufactured danger and to advance the interests of certain industries and corporations and individuals have been wasted. Regardless of any real or imaginary benefit we have brought to the wasteland of Iraq or might in future bring; giving one's life or limbs to topple a foreign government and to replace it with something worse is a waste. Only someone who thinks the lives of our troops have no value might argue otherwise. Yet here we have America, wallowing in the notion that killing one's first born is noble if the death allows a sham election and a corrupt, malignant government involved in a bloody religious holocaust.

I do sympathize with the families who cannot face the fact that their husbands or wives or children were sacrificed on the altar of Mammon because of the imperial ambitions of an ignorant president and the martial spirit of a delusional public, but lives were wasted. The nation was neither protected or advanced and the world has been destabilized and endangered. Their lives were wasted -- wasted amidst the waving of flags and the posting of yellow ribbons and the assault on people of conscience and the sick fantasy that somehow this is the 1940's and American troops are on the side of the angels, their deaths a glorious sacrifice.

To arms!

As if to illustrate my point yesterday about the complexity of the international arms trade; the many under the table and through the back door ways arms are paid for and find their way from the major suppliers like China and the United States to end users both legitimate and illegitimate, CNN ran a story this morning. It seems a large shipment of arms originating in China and Russia and destined for Libya by way of Italy and Malta was interrupted by Italian police. That the story did not run under the headline "China supplying terrorist Libya with arms" has more to do with the fact that The Bush Administration is not playing "pin the evidence on the donkey"in this case as it so often has done.

According to the BBC, world governments spend more than $700 billion on their armed forces every year and official annual arms sales total $30 billion. That leaves well more than half a trillion dollars worth of arms in the category of "unofficial" and puts countless weapons in the hands of terrorists and criminals and enables genocide and mayhem in Africa and elsewhere.

Needless to say, it isn't just the Russian Bear or the Chinese dragon selling weapons and washing their claws of responsibility; the USA sells more arms than the next six arms distributing nations combined. The US supplied weapons to Iran to use against Iraq and to Iraq to use against Iran and it's likely that some of these are being used against us as are weapons made in countries we don't care to blame at the moment. Someone as cynical as I am might be tempted to say that we are in no position to preach and in no position to blame other nations whose weapons show up in embarrassing places.

I am still not sure that Iranian weapons are being found in Iraq in quantity, but if they are, I am even less sure that we can use this as evidence that the government of Iran is involved in supplying Iraqi militias. That General Peter Pace shares this opinion is not being widely covered in the press and this suggests that the ability of the White House war mongers to shield their deceptions from contrary evidence remains in place. Even so, I think we can all feel the resistance building.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I doubt, therefore I think.

How many times do we have to get fooled before we really ought to say "shame on us?" I really don't know where the line is, but I'm sure we're over it. Whether or not the Boston Massacre was exaggerated, whether the Maine sank by itself or the second Gulf of Tonkin incident ever happened we do have a history sufficient to have made us suspicious even before the ready-to-launch in 15 minutes WMD's or the non-existent uranium ore. Even before the aluminum tubes and fake al Qaeda connection or the mobile chemical weapons labs that turned out to be English weather balloon stations -- we should have asked more questions before George launched his attack on Iraq four years ago and we certainly have reason to be suspicious of the claims that Iran is supplying advanced weapons to Iraqi Shiites - weapons that CNN claimed this morning, are able to destroy an M-1 Abrams tank, something I had been led to believe that nobody had.

It does not take one of these to blow up a Humvee anyway and as far as I know no tanks have been destroyed in Iraq by a mortar round, but I could be wrong. One thing I am not wrong about is that the international arms market is sufficiently devious and shady and tortuous to make it just possible that these arms, whose presence and prevalence we are to take as true on the word of the Bush junta, weren't purchased over the counter at Ahmed's Arms in Tehran or ordered through a direct connection with the Iranian government. They might have arrived in Iraq, if indeed they actually did, after passing through many private hands on several continents and having left no paper trail and without the manufacturer having a clue or care about where they went. In fact that may be the most usual course when arms are supplied to revolutionaries, insurgents and embargoed governments. Arms dealers don't go to heaven.

I remember in the first, pre-mission-accomplished stages of Bush War II, when we were attempting to shift attention and blame and anger toward the allegedly testicularly challenged and perfidious French, by claiming that night vision optics were showing up in Iraq. Although that was hilarious for several reasons, amongst which was the enormous stock of US weapons and materials the US had supplied Iraq with not long before, but night vision goggles are available from nearly any camping or outdoor supply house by mail order. I have a Russian night vision scope and I assure you that there is no truth in the story that I am being supplied by the Putin government. I bought the thing from a US camping equipment dealer and I can buy Romanian or Chinese or Czech or Israeli or US made surplus equipment without the governments who manufacture them being particularly liable for what I might do with them or who I might pass them on to.

So maybe they are and maybe they aren't supplying Shiite insurgents and militias with sophisticated explosives. Maybe the homemade mines that are killing our troops use explosives we allowed them to have by not guarding the warehouses full of the stuff after the invasion or maybe it's all Iranian, but if some of us aren't motivated by blind faith in a proven liar and demonstrated incompetent to launch another war without further evidence, I think it's a wee bit understandable and I'm damned tired of having my patriotism called into question if I have my doubts.


The Impolitic offers more serious doubts as to the reality of the Iranian Weapons claim.

Update II

General Peter Pace offers more serious doubts that Iran is supplying weapons.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I had to laugh and for several reasons when I read the CNN article about High School Students using their Instant messaging babble in school assignments. You'd think that the idea of condensed writing was new, but all that's really new is its use by untrained teens using phone connections. "Techno-spellings" as CNN erroneously calls the practice -- contractions such as B4 for before or u for you , do serve a purpose since typing a message on a silly little keyboard is tedious and slow, but there's nothing technological about knowing how to use a telephone and nothing "techno" about shorthand.

The practice of using standard abbreviations and codes, unbeknownst to the journalism majors at CNN and most adolescents, was in widespread use amongst telegraphers over 150 years ago and for all I know, semaphore users long before that. In fact the protocols were so extreme in the interest of keeping throughput high, that a layman simply wouldn't understand what was actually sent over the wires or later over the air even if they did know the morse code. Certain numbers or letters would stand for phrases and some of these, like 88 for "love and kisses," or QRN for electrical noise of natural origin, or QSL? for "can you hear me now?" still survive in Amateur radio.

What's new is the idea that the practice of wireless digital text messaging is new - it's older than I am. What's new is miniaturization and commercialization and a system designed so that people with no technical knowledge can work it. Nonetheless, jargon has always been with us and always will be and as long as it irritates English teachers, I'm all for it.

A good CW or Morse code operator ( here I co with the real techno-talk) can far outstrip the speed of a good text messager and it was demonstrated on the Tonight Show a while back. Although code is no longer a requirement for an Amateur license, many hams who still use it can send all day at 30 words per minute and some are much faster, but even those using voice communications or digital text use a jargon far more opaque and far less likely to be used with your cell phone or to accidentally find its way into that Sophomore "what I did last Summer" essay or book report.

Here's a snippet from a typical text conversation you might read using one of the many digital modes, like PSK31 that hams have been using for years: K9*** DE N4** QSL tnx fer return. yr RST559 QSB/QRM. My QTH FL FL grid EL97wb. FB QSO om 73 and hope to wk u agn on PSK. N4**. K

Not very new. Not very suitable for communications between mall rats and certainly not for an essay on Moby Dick, but fast, free and capable of spanning the globe instantly. If you can annoy your teachers with it, so much the better.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A dog's life

I once saw dog skins displayed for sale in a Xian market; a sad sight as much for my suspicions of the mistreatment of the animals as for the actual sight of their hides hanging in the smoggy wind. I've been infuriated at video of crated dogs being thrown violently onto oriental concrete floors from the back of trucks, man's best friends whimpering at the pain. I love dogs as much and maybe more than anyone, but because I'm a human and a bit of a hypocrite, I don't suffer as much when people hunt raccoons or weasels for their skins or bludgeon cattle for their hides.

There seems to be a distinction, although a hypocritical one perhaps, between raccoon fur and the fur of the Asiatic Raccoon dog, although both are quite intelligent and both share the "cuteness" factor which after all is the most important indicator of how we decide whether an animal is a friend or food. When the Humane Society finds that some fur being sold under designer labels as raccoon or rabbit is actually dog, we are offended. Some of what is labeled as fake fur, they say, turns out to be raccoon dog as well and there is a push to put the raccoon dog on a list of forbidden fur. I have no idea if that animal is endangered. I have no idea whether this is an animal you would want or could have as a pet. I have no idea whether it is more attractive or cuddly than a raccoon, but dog is the magic word that puts it in a different category from something you might set a trap for or would call an exterminator in a panic if you found one in your attic. Our hierarchy of sympathy for animals is not objective.

Don't get me wrong, I have strong feelings about humane treatment of animals. It's human to be humane after all and although animals have little inhibition about ripping other animals to pieces and eating them, there is hypocrisy in everything human. I know that pigs are intelligent animals, but I do like the bacon and bratwurst that comes from killing them. I feel terrible eating lamb and I won't eat rabbit unless I'm in danger of starvation ( which I'm not) because they're cute. I try not to eat mammals at all, in fact, and I have gone so far as to chase a wayward mouse, several lizards and any number of insects out the door rather than to kill them, but I draw my ethical lines in a different place than PETA or those who refuse all animal products for either moral or other reasons known only to Californians.

As I said, all that is human is hypocritical and those eating their organic vegetables fertilized by fish and bone meal, or manure from cattle fed on ground up parts of other cattle also have to explain why bugs and vermin and parasites are not worthy of their compassion, why the wildlife and habitat destroyed by their developments and their agriculture and their waste products doesn't outweigh their sentimental sympathy for raccoon dogs and why that leather upholstery in your BMW is more morally supportable than a hamburger. There really is no way to live the doctrine of Ahimsa, no way to survive without participating in the destruction of life and much of that life, from tapeworm to tiger, would be quite happy to consume you, given the chance. The lion that lays down with the lamb would die, as would the lambs in time, and miserably too, if there were nothing to keep their numbers down. Utopia would be a dead world.

That middle class American fantasy of a wind-powered, pollution free pure land : an escapist fantasy paradise full of organically grown, low energy, cruelty free, natural fiber where everything is artisanal or Tuscan or organic, or at least has a pretentious Euro-style name. Where everyone is very thin and very well dressed and very middle class and perpetually healthy and totally in tune with the latest wisdom about crystals and nutrition and fung sui and the pandas and baby seals and raccoon dogs frolic care free in the sun, is just that -- an escapist delusion; a tiny, temporary thing that could only exist as a bubble supported by the suffering and exploitation of others.

In the world of the immediate future; in a world of tens of billions struggling to eat, despoiling the land and sea and air in the process, there may no longer be any way to eliminate factory farms or animal suffering or to implement organic farming on anything but a tiny scale. Does it matter if we decrease our individual energy use by 20% while the population doubles? There may be no way to save most of the animals, there may be no way to save us or even to approach that fantasy of the simple, pure, pre-industrial but high tech, tastefully dressed in organic cotton life of sipping $6 organic soy milk Tuscan Lattes with artesanal Madagascar cinnamon sticks hand picked by joyful virgins in a tropical paradise. Life pushes the limits and the limit of our life is squalor, privation, disease and suffering as our numbers inevitably continue to grow.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just how many worms are in that can?

People who oppose same sex marriage will usually tell you it's unnatural. Evidence for this is that they don't like it, God doesn't like it, that it doesn't produce children or that homosexuality, like religion, books and rock & Roll does not occur in nature and therefore shouldn't be condoned by man.

In all probability, no one not afflicted with some form of idiocy, such as Fundamentalism or a seat in Congress, would be unable to expose these arguments as unworthy of credence, but the credo so often expressed by religidiots who oppose homosexual relationships because our function is to breed, have argued themselves into a corner.

Enter the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance [stage left of course.] The group , formed after Washington courts upheld a gay marriage ban, has filed an initiative in that State requiring married couples to produce children within three years or have their marriages annulled. Of course they can't have any expectation that it will pass into law, but it will be interesting to see the believers wriggle out an explanation for rejecting it, if in fact they believe that marriage is only justified as a baby producing scheme.

What of infertile couples who adopt children? Shall we annul their contracts? if not, then why not allow Gay adoptive parents? You really can't argue God's will here since God could produce a man from mud (and supposedly did) or impregnate an unmarried virgin (and supposedly did.) So if God wants Adam and Steve to have kids, he can handle it. You got a problem with allowing God some free will Preacher?

That homosexuality is observed in nature can't really be disputed. It can only be denounced as fraud from a position of religious evidence-blindness. If it is observable in animals, it cannot then be written off as unnatural behavior by definition nor denounced as an unnatural choice by religious conviction since animals are not capable of making moral choices: not having eaten a mythological fruit from a metaphorical tree. What occurs in nature is by definition natural.

As to whether God likes it or not, it all depends on your God and his or her (or their) forthrightness in expressing itself and the consequences of her displeasure. Since we can all agree that we have free will, I choose Rafafu, the god of a West Papuan tribe of tree-dwelling cannibals called the Kombai and frankly my dear, Rafafu doesn't give a damn what they do in Washington. If anyone wishes to contradict my Rafafian beliefs, they're welcome to parachute into the jungle and discuss it with the Kombai.

Now since the government is strictly forbidden by the Constitution to tell you who God is or wants or should be dealt with, I'm breathlessly waiting for the State of Washington to admit that their ban is illegal

He's cured!

I read this morning in the Denver Post that "One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is "completely heterosexual." I'm convinced too that such things are possible because I remember a college roommate who after only 4 or 5 hours of consultation with Lysergic Acid Diethylamide was convinced that he was the Easter Bunny, but I'm also convinced that Haggard's conversion won't last much longer than this morning's South Florida cold snap or my buddy Jim's lagomorphic fugue.

Of course the curability of the "Disease" of Homosexuality isn't supported by anything more than the testimony of people of the caliber of Haggard. It's only a belief and one of a nearly infinite series of beliefs engendered by the need to sustain a fundamental belief that you can be absolutely certain of a God and of his likes and dislikes from listening to men like Ted Haggard. But one can believe almost anything for a time and that's evidenced by the line of ambulances one sees picking up people who have nearly killed themselves getting out of wheelchairs or throwing away their crutches at revival meetings. For a few minutes they believed those twisted legs could walk again. Some people may enjoy believing that Ted is no longer interested in methamphetamines or men. Some believe because they are so terrified of themselves. Some people just enjoy believing.

Although I'm one of those who likes to temper belief with the knowledge that it is ultimately elusive, I'm pretty damn sure that Haggard is a fraud -- even to himself -- and that his only real conviction is that he can continue to fool enough people enough of the time to maintain the power and money and authority that he loves so much. Along those lines, Ted recently sent an e-mail to his former New Life Church members saying he and his wife may move to Missouri and seek Master's degrees in psychology. "the Holy Spirit has been convicting and healing me" said Ted who is lucky that a secular court didn't convict him of drug charges. But of course avoiding the consequences of misdeeds through lachrymose ritual and an impressive line of bullshit is the backbone of his profession.

It was of course, the oversight board of the National Association of Evangelicals that suggested, in the interest of healing his "wounds," that Ted move to the Show Me State and go into "secular work." Could it be that they have doubts too?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Loaves and fishes in the world of the Mouse

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

-Matthew 19:21-

But don't try this in Orlando - that would be illegal.


-sign in an Orlando park-

I can't think of any major religion that doesn't stress the duty to feed the homeless, the poor and sick and even a passing familiarity with the sayings of Jesus would be enough to suggest that this country that loves to make up stories about how our laws are based on the Bible and how Christianity or some nebulous "Judeo-Christian values" are the foundation of our nation, has no particular interest in any values that are inconvenient, unsightly or expensive.

American piety is all a sham of course, the business of America is business, not morality and anything that gets in the way of the wealthy becoming more wealthy is not part of our value system -- so don't get any ideas about emulating Jesus and feeding the poor in Orlando - Disney doesn't want to hear about or have to look at the poor and homeless. It's illegal in Orlando to give food to the hungry without a permit and you won't get a permit more than twice a year even if you wear sandals and have a beard and holes in your hands.


Of course if anyone objects to putting up Christian symbols all over the place or redacted copies of the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses - that's a different story. We will raise holy hell. We're a Christian nation, of course, even if we wouldn't let Jesus walk on the grass much less wash the feet of the poor per city code 18A.09 (p). So our father which art in heaven better not attempt to give you any daily bread unless you can pay for it and if God hands out manna in Lake Eola Park, he's facing a misdemeanor charge.

Act of God

In Lady Lake, Florida, one of the areas hit by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms this week, even well-built structures were blown apart. Many of the residences were far less than well-built and mobile homes, "manufactured" homes and wooden houses were reduced to shreds and tatters. People died, small children amongst them.

Many people have joked that tornadoes are attracted to mobile home parks, but it's pretty obvious that churches are at least as often hit by natural disasters. The Lady Lake Church of God, a steel-reinforced structure designed to withstand winds well over 100 mph is now nothing more than

Church buses get into more fatal wrecks than city buses and the pious perish with the impious when planes crash. Mud slides and earthquakes and tsunamis and wildfires and plagues kill the innocent and the wicked, godless and God fearing. God works in ways so mysterious that they are indistinguishable from random events.

People like the Church of God's Rev. Larry Lynn who believe that there is an inscrutable plan behind random natural processes that effect the secular, the holy and the profane with equal frequency, never seem to be able to answer why if they cannot know what God will do, they are yet so certain that they know God's nature and can predict what God will do in all sorts of other circumstances. "God will damn you if you do that -- God can't save you unless you do (or believe) this. God responds to prayer." There's a disconnect. Places where people pray, blow up and burn down. People who pray get blown up, burned up and destroyed by "acts of God" with a frequency that often seems to exceed statistical probability.

Now people like Fallwell or Haggard or Robertson or any of the other phony faith vendors will tell you they can see a plan behind it - someone ( other than Haggard) must have been allowed to be gay or Jewish or Atheist and so several towns with their children and their elderly and their prayerful and their reprobates had to die, but there's no correlation there either, of course. In fact it's the pious Bible Belt that seems to suffer at least as much as if not more than the sinful cities.

So God seems to act at random even though those who presume to speak for him claim to know all his foibles and infatuations. There is a disconnect. If you can't know what God will do by looking at what he does, how can you claim to know what he will do at all? And of course hundreds of Floridians are standing in the wreckage on a drizzly morning thanking God that it was somebody else and not them lying under a beam with a broken neck. You wouldn't want God to think you weren't grateful at his random acts of violence. And then there are the paramedics, the electricians, the radio operators, the police, the doctors, the heavy equipment operators -- they are out there trying to undo what God hath wrought. Whence cometh our help? Are they part of God's plan if they're trying to remedy his acts of destruction?

Could it be possible that God is so unknowable that it's a waste of time to include him and his plans in our concept of reality? Could it be possible that we have a pretty good idea that mercy, justice and compassion aren't going to come out of a whirlwind and will not exist at all without us and our efforts?

"Thank God we're OK. That's the main thing." said one resident. Yes, thank God it was some adorable 7 year old and not me. God is good.

"We're going to celebrate, praise the Lord and reaffirm our faith" said Reverend Lynn "There is nothing we can change." Perhaps it's a harmless anodyne to insist that there is a pattern in chaos, a just, merciful and loving reason to squash a terrified child, but we are the only ones who can change anything; heal the injured, house the homeless, feed the hungry. Only we can inject justice, compassion and mercy into a 14 billion year old and near eternal process of chaos contained only by natural law. My faith in man may be shaky at best, but it's worth affirming and re-affirming and if I'm going to praise anybody, let it be those who help and give of themselves.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A night at the opera with Bill

Even if the O'Reilly Factor has many of the melodramatic elements of a soap opera, I have a hard time picturing Bill O'Reilly attending Fidelio or Le nozze de Figaro, so I was a bit taken aback when Lyin' Bill said "I look like that when I go to the opera," when shown a picture of John McCain snoozing during the State of the Union Address.

Body language expert Tonya Reiman was on Tuesday's O'Reilly Factor, probably because Lyin' Bill expected he could elicit some idiot giggles from his idiot audience when analyzing Nancy Pelosi's posture during the speech, but other than the predictably stupid dialog, one statement of O'Reilly's woke me up. "I believe I could have taken his wallet and he wouldn't have noticed in that posture," said Bill.

Is his Freudian slip showing? Of all the things that might have occurred to the man, why did he think of picking his pocket? Why are his first thoughts of theft? I have no idea actually. I just report -- you decide.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Face Rush when you flush

I don’t pretend to know from first-hand experience, but from what I read, it may be that the British, having once been the world’s largest empire and having citizens of such diverse ethnicity and religious persuasions, makes more of an effort to treat British subjects who are Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Confucian and Animist with equal respect than does the United States. Whether or not this is true, they do treat Muslims with more respect than Rush Limbaugh, man’s man and woman’s nightmare, would like them to.

Perhaps Rush’s vision of Great Britain is a nation where there is not only a State Religion, but a State policy of discrimination against all faiths but the Anglican Church, much as King Henry VIII practiced. Although a comparison between the two fat bullies would insult King Henry more than I care to do, it is compelling. but to make a nauseating story short, Rush, his massive and flatulent ass bouncing and flabby appendages waving like some demented pagan Idol, gave another one of his disgusting performances on Wednesday, January 30th. His free-form, stream of stupidity lecture was about the outrageous act of the British Government in providing toilets for Muslim inmates that complied with a religious practice. They moved some toilets in one prison so that they didn’t require the inmate to face Mecca while using it. What would Jesus think of such outright decency?

Somehow, in the little mind of Limbaugh, this translates into a waste of taxpayer money, although he disregards the Muslim taxpayers of England in saying so – and somehow in the insect brain of Limbaugh, this grants license to Muslims to hijack airplanes with box cutters if the aircraft is on a heading that includes Mecca. I have to wonder about his reaction to a Government that neglected adequately to support his religion with taxpayer money or that forced whatever bizarre form of Christianity he calls his own to act against its moral convictions or religious practices – whatever they might be.

I’m sure that for Rush disciples, freedom of religion and treating others with dignity is for Liberal weenies and if you steal a car, your punishment must include not only deprivation of liberty, not only torture, but complete and unremitting insult to your religion and ethnicity. As for Rush, any God that he believes in would simply forgive his own trespasses, his lies, his blasphemies, his false witness and all for no other reason than because of who he is. Any God that Rush believes in would in fact be Rush.

Cross posted in The Reaction

War's -- war's hard

"We've got a war that we're fighting against extremists, radicals who would do us harm. We're in a major battle in that war in Iraq. And it's -- it's unsettling times when you're at war. War's -- war's hard. War's difficult. It's negative."

If you didn't watch Bush on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday, it might not have occurred to you that war was "negative" or "unsettling." At least someone like George thinks so and he thinks that you've forgotten that the tens of thousands of lives ruined or lost were supposed to be all about Freedom and that the "radicals" against whom we launched a thousand sorties posed no danger to us at all.

It's unsettling times when you have an executive who awards himself ever more dictatorial powers and more so when the explanations and justifications and rationalizations are twisted in terms of cause and effect and facts shift their shapes like a werewolf under the full moon. It's negative.

So when George of the borrowed trillions calls Democrats big spenders, when he insists that raising Cheney's tax bracket would hurt small business owners, I get unsettling and negative feelings. It's negative to think the man who still sends people to drive through minefields in unarmored vehicles in this fourth year of his war would accuse war critics of not allowing enough funding to do "what it takes to do the jobs that we've -- that I've asked them to do."

And yes, one really could call it unsettling when Bush sneeringly opines that "I don't think the government should be deciding salaries of CEOs or anybody else that works for corporate America" unless of course it's to keep the minimum wage for those who work for corporate America as low as possible.

But yes, it's hard. It's hard living under the expanding dictatorial power of a delusional dimwit and crony of pirates . It's hard not to worry that his "sprint to the finish" won't finish off what used to be a great nation and it's hard not to wish that the parents of this misbegotten miscreant had used the birth control they oppose or the abstinence they advocate for others.