Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ignore the man behind the curtain

How anyone can think that anyone in the latest TV blabberfest is presidential material is beyond me. The latest nausea inducing exhibition featured Bible waving and professions of faith and idiotic declarations like Fabulous Fred Thompson's "A nation that cannot and will not defend its own borders will not forever remain a sovereign nation." Isn't anyone tired of xenophobia as a crucial issue at a time when we face economic disaster and another war without end? Funny that we were a sovereign nation for most of our history of unguarded borders and that New York was a sanctuary city for the forbears of just about everybody listening to the actors on stage in St Petersburg.

Funny too, that the media isn't making much of the polls showing a preference for Ron Paul's arguments other to mention that McCain told us Paul's policies are the type that facilitated Hitler's rise to power. And here I thought it was the Germans who elected him. Not only is it getting harder to ignore Paul, it's requiring that once again, Fox News ignore it's own numbers. The nervous laugh and the near hysteria of Hannity's declarations of disbelief are music to my ears.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winnie the Prophet

You may have gathered that I'm no fan of fundamentalism and that I see moderate religion as a potential petri dish in which crazy religion can bloom faster than staphylococcus on steroids when conditions are right. Consequently when I read of things like Gillian Gibbons' arrest for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad, I don't feel superior, or feel that my country is superior to those where religion is protected from "insult" by law. It could happen here and many would welcome it. Even Rudy Giuliani the self proclaimed terrorist fighter, once attempted to shut down the Brooklyn Museum for "Blasphemy" and where I live "denying Christ" is seen by some as another form of treason.

Likewise I see laws against "hate crime" as a dangerous precedent. The promoters of hate crime legislation share the loathing I feel toward certain groups and certain actions, but does granting the Federal Government the power to tell us what constitutes hate crime protect us from a government gone wild, or worse a government infiltrated by religious crazies like that of Sudan? Would calling a stuffed animal by a racist or religiously cynical name constitute hate crime? The definition would be up to people you may not agree with.

No, we're not the Sudan. We don't consider calling a stuffed bear by one of that nation's most popular names either insulting to religion or a hate crime. Even though Ms. Gibbons was simply following the choice of her high school students in naming a class mascot something that half their brothers and uncles and fathers are named, the remote possibility that there was disrespect for religion was enough to get her arrested and she now faces the possibility of 40 lashes, a year in a hell hole jail and a fine. Thus demands their Sharia infested constitution. I'm betting that she will get off lightly and probably will be deported, but as I said, I'm not taking delight in illustrating the kind of horror state that every "faith" I can think of has perpetrated at one time or another.

I don't expect the Spanish Inquisition in America any time soon. I expect that all I would get for refusing to parrot the Eisenhower pledge is some social ostracism and if I were to attach a Jesus Sucks bumper sticker to my car, I'd better be sure my insurance was up to date, but let's be aware: It's not Islam; it's not Christianity; it's not any particular religion -- it's religion in general that has to protect itself by infiltrating government or becoming government.

Cross posted from The Impolitic

Sick as the dollar

What do you do with all those dollars? What do you do when their value in the world market is shrinking? It's obvious, you buy everything of value that is priced in dollars while you can and what better to buy than US assets, like CitiCorp. Whether you made all those bucks selling toys or computer components or oil, it's hard to find enough to buy before their value declines further. Do we see it as being bailed out by our friends, or as being bought up by people whose operations are opaque and motives not necessarily connected to our best interests?

Saudi Prince Walid, says today's Times, owns a piece of Citigroup and also News Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, PepsiCo, Time Warner and Walt Disney. Perhaps when we take comfort in the Dow Jones figures we should remember why people are still buying stocks and who they are. Countries like China and Japan own about $5 trillion of United States debt and we'd be in trouble if they didn't.

None the less, it may be signaling the long term decline of American economic muscle along with our declining moral stature and moribund credibility. But as long as we can entertain ourselves by watching the celebrities, complaining about politically correct speech and defending Christmas against the Jews and atheists, we don't really care, do we? What about that haircut on Mitt - sure looks presidential to me -- and that Thompson guy sure reminds me of Reagan. . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Muslims need apply

I haven't yet stooped to using any candidate's religious affiliation against him and I operate under the assumption that most will not let such things interfere with their professional lives or their oath of office. Of course since so many of the Republican tribe have been espousing Christian Supremacy and confusing Church teachings with the law, it's sometimes hard to refrain.

I continue to think it has nothing to do with his being a Mormon, but Mitt Romney may have crossed a boundary and it may be time to ask what kind of prejudices he has or is pandering to.
"…based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
said Mr. Romney to the Christian Science Monitor. I presume that by "lower levels" he refers to something more than waxing the presidential limo but this, I feel, is a revealing position and shows us as did his snubbing of the man in the wheelchair that there is something less under the tailored suit than is advertised. Would it be too much to consider an appointee's knowledge and skills rather than what ethnic pigeonhole you can stuff him into?

In choosing a candidate, I'm not necessarily put off by suggestions that a cabinet "look like America" but I'm not looking for tokens, I'm looking for competence and that's something sadly lacking in recent years.
"More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America's Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats"
says Mansoor Ijaz writing for the Monitor and I agree. Would that the idiot George had been able to listen to an adviser who knew the difference between Sunni and Shia and the tensions between them. Ijaz, by the way, is substantially responsible for exposing A.Q. Khan, who had been selling Pakistani nuclear technology on the black market and he did so at some personal risk. Nice to know that Mitt would disqualify him for reasons of ethnic purity.

What I'm looking for in a president is a man who will look for the best and won't preclude anyone on the basis of religion or race or his feelings about abortion or gay marriage or the war in Iraq. That's not Mitt, obviously. I don't care what the president's advisers look like or what ethnicity he thinks they should represent and by automatically relegating people who identify with Islam to lower positions by virtue of that identification, Mitt further disqualifies himself from consideration.

Perhaps he's pandering to what he perceives as an anti-Muslim bias in America or perhaps he really means it. In either event I don't think he belongs anywhere but on the cover of some Men's wear catalog where looking good and holding the pose isn't an act of dishonesty.

Monday, November 26, 2007

She can't hide

Although Ann H. Coulter has a habit of posting personal information about her critics on her website, she doesn't want you to know that she lives at:

PALM BEACH FL 33480 6129

In fact she's finally succeeded at having her name removed from the Palm Beach County public records as the law normally would require. Convincing the County that, whether or not turnabout is fair play, she dislikes having taunts aimed at her and is a victim of harassment, entitled to anonymity as well as immunity from the riot act.

The hateful Miss Coulter (it's her middle name after all) who seems to have told us John Edwards was a "faggot" and should be killed by terrorists; that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned, feels safer now, knowing that nobody knows where she lives in her expensive home at 242 Seabreeze Ave near the Breakers (look carefully, she's removed the number plate) and her rectally infected buddy, Rush Limbaugh. Seems she sometimes gets letters and even hears people shouting at her from the street. Some of the voices might be real.

Maybe it's some of those merry 9/11 widows enjoying their husbands' deaths. Maybe it's one of the judges a follower of Ann actually tried to poison. Who knows? Of course if you knew that she lived at 242 Seabreeze Ave, Palm Beach, FL 33480 you could write her and ask, but you don't, of course.

Lott's lot

Well whaddaya know - Trent Lott is going to resign from Congress today, cheap wig and all -- or so the news is being told. Is it because, as he says, he wants to spend more time with the family or is he scurrying down the dock lines like a bilge rat before he's outed or indicted? Or is it just so that he can escape new and improved ethics laws that would require him to wait two years before getting on the Washington lobbyist gravy train? Maybe it's all of the above, but it's definitely good riddance.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I am not afraid

"There's no question in my mind that horror at militant Islam and fear of Muslim immigration lie behind at least some of the current vogue for atheism--you don't make the bestseller list by excoriating the evils of Lutheranism or Buddhism."
Well at least she qualified the statement to limit it to events in her mind. Katha Pollitt, writing An Atheists Dilemma in The Nation is indulging in a bit of solipsism and she needs it to limit the scope of her sweeping generalities, because in the world outside her mind, it makes no sense.

Atheism or something arbitrarily close to it, seems to be the norm in Western Europe and was so before 9/11 changed nothing. Europe has been wracked by centuries of bloody war over the evils of Lutheranism or Roman Catholicism and other systems of religious certainty. Although American religious apologists, even the moderate ones, seem to look upon Christianity through pastel lenses as something that only a person with a malignant and ulterior motive would criticize, Europeans have too much horrible history to be covered with syrupy faith a la mode Americain. Buddhism of course, isn't about gods although Buddhists and Hindus have been going at it in bloody fashion as well.
"Even if you are a ferocious Sam Harris-style atheist who thinks religion is completely stupid--the province of shysters and fools--you have to admit it would be quite astonishing if that view persuaded the devout anytime soon"
I would be astonished if the average IQ suddenly elevated itself by 50 points too, but it would be a hell of a good idea. But at any rate her assertion that fear of Islam is behind this hard to establish fad for Atheism is even harder to establish. I think there's enough information to show that religiosity declines with education and even more so with intelligence and while that sounds provocative and even smug, I can reply that your religion requires as much suspension (or lack) of cognitive function as any other - if not more.

I see no evil in Islam that I have not seen at one time or another in Christianity and God's Jewish warriors differ only by being a smaller group; and while we're on the subject of Brother Martin, he was a bloody handed son of a bitch and probably schizophrenic; a perfect argument for establishing that you don't have to go abroad to find the septic heart of all faiths and a good foundation for disbelief.

Of course the word "ferocious" wasn't chosen without some thought. It implies fanaticism of the religious sort and distracts from the validity of the distaste the non-believer, heretic or infidel has acquired from uncountable centuries of persecution. It's another version of the pathetic " you're wrong because you're angry" argument common to Bush supporters and other idiots.

If books such as Dawkins' The God Delusion or Hitchens' God is not Great make the top of the best seller list, it hardly indicates a mass exodus from America's fugue state. What it indicates is that amongst the minority of Americans that read, some are willing to part with $24.95 to hear someone brave enough to say what they wish they could say in the presence of mine enemies. It doesn't have a damned thing to do with Islam other than as another example of the madness of religion in general.

If you want to believe something, believe that admitting you don't share the visions or see the portents or believe the fiction is a ticket to ostracism. People won't let their children near you and your job performance rating will fail to glow the way it used to. If there is any dilemma this atheist sees, it isn't the one Pollitt has patched together. It's the same one my ancestors have had to face since Emperor Constantine. Lie and get by, tell the truth and die.

Cross posted from The Impolitic

Friday, November 23, 2007

Four Freedoms

Thanksgiving - another festival of myth and self-delusion; a day when we overeat and tell ourselves we're thankful to some supernatural entity who has favored us with liberty. I'm often less thankful for friends and family on such days than I otherwise would be and certainly on those times when I reflect on Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms rendered forever into kitsch by Norman Rockwell, I'm more fearful than thankful for how they are being taken away and given to the unaccountable and powerful.

Freedom of speech isn't something something I feel grateful for as much as something I demand and am guaranteed as my birthright. We still have it, but the ability of the ruling corporations to bury our words under an ocean of propaganda increases.

Freedom of every person to worship in his own way, has always been conditional although guaranteed and every person who adheres to an unpopular religion or no religion at all knows it. It isn't the government, even this government, leading the crusade for Christian supremacy, but the private agents of that government: corporate religion. Year after year, it seems that our ability to resist acknowledging a god we don't believe in declines and the fight to incorporate religious taboos into our laws continues.

Freedom from want isn't something guaranteed us, it's something we may or may not have and it's something our government has fought to excuse itself of providing for, whether it's want of food and shelter, medical care or enough income to support us if we're too old or sick to work.

Freedom from fear in a culture of fear is a personal thing. One can choose to ignore the panic pushers and fear mongers in the government. One can choose not to be afraid of the bottomless corruption, incompetence and dishonesty of our government; of the swashbuckling information gatherers who tap your phones, read your mail and track your movements and your finances and your purchases electronically almost at will. It gets harder every day. Many of us live in dread of injury or sickness, knowing they can't pay the increasingly huge costs of treatment and medicine; knowing that they may not even have the benefit of bankruptcy protection in a land where the laws are written by the credit card companies and the corporate hospitals and drug producers. Many of us fear that the wanton borrowing, reckless warfare and corporate welfare and shifting of the tax burden will erase any freedom from want our grandchildren might have.

We don't have the freedom of being able to elect a government that considers itself answerable or accountable, we don't have the freedom to be left alone in our homes or in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in the expectation that we're not constant suspects for crimes yet to be committed. We have an increasingly disdainful government of which we are increasingly afraid.

We don't have the freedom of information we used to. We don't have a government that feels obligated to allow us to know their mistakes, failures or crimes. We have a government that will ignore us and the courts and refuse to tell us who is making policy. We have a growing possibility that the government can declare us outlaw without telling anyone why; to make us disappear without a trace, to be tortured and imprisoned indefinitely. We don't have the freedom from reckless and extravagant government expenditures or hand-overs of our property. We don't have the benefit of knowing that the people who are supposed to watch over us are accountable to us and our courts and not to private and perhaps secret organizations, whether those people be police, jailers, soldiers or intelligence agents. The more cynical of use have begun to doubt that we even have the freedom to elect people to at least pretend to be public employees and not representatives of vast corporate interests. The more paranoid fear that next November we will be told to be thankful that George will remain in office to protect us from fear and want and terrorists.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What happened

What a revelation! Scott McClellan, the guy who used to stand in front of reporters and the minority of Americans not watching Britney and Anna Nicole and "da game" and spout lies, has now revealed that he told us a lie - unwittingly, of course. It wasn't his fault that he failed to check the facts. He wasn't paid to question; he was paid to sneer dismissively at reporters who did.

Scott has a book coming out in April, titled What Happened.
"So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true. "
And guess what Scott, you didn't win the Kyrgyzstan Lottery either and the guy trying to get his millions out of Nigeria isn't any more honest than your ex-boss - and of course there's been a lot of blood under the bridge because of the crime family you covered up for. I don't mean to be cruel, but it's your turn to be sneered at. I really hope you don't make any more money from it than OJ did from If I Did It and I hope you soon get to hear the current mouthpiece defame you with the same sneer and condescension as you used from the same podium you told your lies from.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Abandon all hope

What's next for Rudy, a log cabin penthouse? The pursuit of the "regular guy" image by showing up at NASCAR events by this city boy who probably doesn't drive a car is every bit as irregular as some of the shady characters he calls friends and appoints to important offices and it's as unsettling as the image of him wearing a dress and makeup.

Pandering has become the essence of campaigning and while we all see it as phony, we seem to fall for it. It's not just pandering though, it's pandering to what the candidates believe is the essential American; the kind of person they've spent their lives avoiding and condescending to. Whether it's John Kerry the Hunter or Mitt Romney the Hunter, it's not convincing to working class, duck hunting, bass fishing, stock car racing fans - yet they continue support with the same mindless consistency as our Cuba policy.

None the less, it works. It gave us George W. Bush, son of a wealthy New England clan of old money patricians whom America wanted to have a beer with. Candidates like Ron Paul or even Dennis Kucinich might make me want to have a conversation at length and that's why they're second or third tier candidates, unlike the ones putting on their first pair of brand new Oshkosh overalls over the Dolce & Gabbana underwear so they can step out of the limo and talk about the price of sow bellies.

Yet that's who we traditionally vote for and that's the line we regularly fall for and that's why at this point I'm not wondering about Democrats and Republicans but only if Mitt or Rudy will be the next president.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

If you're black, go back

There's no bronze statue, no stainless steel arch; there's really nothing to show that the stretch of Florida's Atlantic coast from Jupiter up to the St. Lucie inlet is a gateway for the huddled masses arriving regularly from the Bahamas in small boats. Most have set out from Cuba or from Haiti, having paid smugglers to make the 60 mile run from Grand Bahama Island's West End. It's been a smuggler's route since the Civil war and many a case of rum entered Florida in mahogany speed boats during the prohibition era. Only the cargo has changed.

It's common for smugglers to avoid coming too close to the shore. The tricky sandbars and the surf make it dangerous and so they urge or push the illegal immigrants overboard. Some drown and are washed up on the beaches miles away, some make it ashore in places like Jupiter Island where they are rapidly picked up and there's where the strangeness of our immigration laws begins. Haitians are summarily deported and it's unusual for any of them to convince ICE that they fled Haiti in fear of their lives and qualify for asylum. Cubans get to call their Florida relatives to come and pick them up, while the men they paid to transport them will go to jail if caught. I can't think of any other circumstance under which paying someone to commit a crime is not a crime.

You don't hear much about this from Lou Dobbs and not only is there no discussion of building an Atlantic Wall, small craft come ashore by the thousands with very little oversight from the Coast Guard. No one has ever stopped my boat to see who might be lurking below in the cabin, but I've spent an hour waiting to drive into the US from Mexico, and they don't wave you through when coming from Canada any more.

All in all, the Cubans are more likely to take your job than Haitians or Mexicans or Guatemalans; just as likely to be unsavory characters and not much more likely to be fluent in English. Why the preferential treatment? Why will we fight to keep undocumented Cubans from returning but no one else? Why did we continue this practice while Castro cleared out his jails and sent them all north?

There are a variety of reasons for treating Cuban immigrants differently. None that I've heard have been good reasons, nor has this practice done anything to weaken Fidel Castro's regime or to dispel the perception of the US as a racist, hysterical, xenophobic country obsessed with Communism but completely unconcerned by decency or human values.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tom Swift and his amazing electric rifle

I was sick to my stomach after watching the man die screaming on the floor, a policeman's knee on his throat while another hit him with a Taser, again and again. Of course the immediate response was to lie and insist he had attacked the police, but the camera doesn't lie. His crime was being unable to speak English in an international airport too disorganized to have an interpreter on the staff.

I felt the same way when a handcuffed man died in a neighboring town after being hit one of these devices earlier this year and again today about the man described by BBC News who was comatose on the seat of a bus and yet was Tasered by zealous policemen when he couldn't answer their questions.

It's unlikely that any officer will be prosecuted for doing anything wrong by attacking or killing defenseless, unarmed people in this fashion even though all of them had other alternatives. The Taser, which derives it's name from the early 20th century boy's adventure books, is an acronym for Tomas A Swift Electric Rifle. Unfortunately, we're arming people with the emotional stability of a teenager with these things and convinced that it's non lethal, even though scores of people have died after being Tased, they will used them as a substitute for professional police work. Witness the Canadian police, whose first words were "Can we tase him?" and how they ignored the information that he simply needed an interpreter and tased him; tased him again when he was down on the floor screaming and then again until he died.

Taser International's assertion is that the Taser has never killed anyone although many people have died from related causes - like the cardiac arrest caused by being hit by a Taser. That's a bit like saying bullets don't kill people, it's the bleeding. Over 220 people have been killed by them in the US alone.

A quasi-lethal weapon like this is a dangerous thing. It allows or encourages inappropriate and sometimes reckless force without the appropriate restraint. It is being sadistically used against non-violent prisoners. It is being used as a first response on anyone suspicious looking, or anyone angry or shouting or stubborn.

It kills people at the worst, traumatizes and humiliates them at best and quite obviously is a joy to use for those authorities who enjoy traumatizing and humiliating people or are simply too cowardly to be policemen. It's time to ban the things.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

After Musharraf

The White House Chorus may have ended it's performance of What a Friend We Have in Musharraf and our own caped crusader may be scrambling to cover up the heckuva job the Pakistani dictator has been doing fighting "terror" back in the hills with all the money we've been sending him. There's serious worry that with the need to divert troops to maintaining the state of emergency there are even fewer left to keep Osama treed in Waziristan.

The Pakistani Army is demoralized, claims today's New York Times. They are taking casualties in the tribal areas, many have been captured, many have surrendered and the religious extremists (what a polite term for demented barbarians) have been conducting beheadings. The prospect of losing that Billion dollar subsidy from the US can't be helping their mood.

That Bush has outsourced the desultory hunt for Osama to Pakistan; that Osama is in Pakistan because Bush outsourced the attack on Tora Bora to Afghani warlords doesn't do much for my morale either, nor perhaps for the morale of Americans fighting in Iraq for no particular benefit to the US or detriment to the people who declared war on us 6 years ago.

I've been concerned for some time about what will happen in Pakistan and now, at last, some concern seems to have seeped into Bush's fortress of solitude although I expect nothing more than too little and too late.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Want some syrup for your savior?

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

Of course that doesn't apply to God's own efforts to show his immanence through the medium of rust or mildew stains or burn marks on grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes. There's no prohibition against rendering unto eBay that which you'd like to make a buck on that I'm aware of either.

Current or recent eBay offerings include a wine-stain Jesus and something that purports to be Christ on a flapjack but looks more like an upside down cow's udder to me. Nearly anything parabola shaped seems to qualify for either Jesus or Mary.

Sometimes these things draw crowds of pilgrims the way phony relics used to in the time before the net. Sometimes, if they're small enough to put in a box, they draw bidders. But why people see Jesus in junk is a better question for Doctor Rorschach than for me; I'm more concerned that they vote.

Mukasey's choice

I'm interested to see how long it will be before we take the measure of the man Mukasey. He'll be sworn in today as Attorney General just as the Justice Department is reopening its internal investigation into the administration's warrantless (and perhaps limitless) surveillance program. The Office of Professional Responsibility has received the necessary security clearance to resume the investigation shut down by the Bush Administration in July 2006. Was waffling on the definition of torture sufficient payment to George or will he continue to stand between the king and the law? Will we really have an investigation at last?

I confess that I hope he surprises us and I confess that the howling diatribes against him as being a "Jew Supremicist" involved in the cover up of the "Zionist attack of 9/11" has something to do with my hatred of at least some of Mukasey's enemies, but I'm aware that it doesn't make Mukasey my friend. He does have an opportunity however, to restore independence to the AG's office and the Justice Department and I have another confession - I'm hoping for a miracle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I guess he did a heckuva job even though he was fired because of the scandals at Walter Reed that occurred on his watch. Maj. Gen. George Weightman the Walter Reed Army Medical Center commander has been appointed the new commanding general at Fort Detrick and will also take command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which is headquartered there. Weightman has been cooling his heels while assigned to the Office of the Surgeon General, but now has another chance to do another heckuva job.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans day

"In their sorrow, these families need to know — and families all across our nation of the fallen — need to know that your loved ones served a cause that is good and just and noble,"
said George Bush yesterday. No it wasn't at Arlington as tradition and duty would suggest, but back "home" in Crawford at the American Legion Hall where his latest vacation wouldn't be interrupted.

Yes, they need to know that. They need to know that so much that they will believe it when it is manifestly untrue and George is there to milk grieving mothers for support by lying about why their children died.
"Their sacrifice will not be in vain."
said the man of leisure, whose family grows richer by the dayand whose boots cost more that what we pay to families in Iraq whose children we have murdered; said the man whose policies have our future teetering on the brink of recession and our grandchildren already in debt and our reputation lost and our leadership lapsed. In our sorrow, we need to know who profits by it, who brought it about, who fights to maintain it, who lies to pass the blame and on whose shoulders rests the shame.

Their sacrifice has brought us torture, murder, rape, the displacement of millions and the death of hundreds of thousands who will never have the chance to tell us how much they love freedom. How hollow such words sound from the man who has been given everything and given his loyalty to profiteers and foreign powers while sacrificing nothing except our sons and daughters.

Kosher convertible?

No, it's not a tasteless ethnic joke, Malaysian auto manufacturer Proton really plans to team up with companies in Iran and Turkey to build a Muslim Special, complete with Koran compartment and a compass that always points to Mecca.

BBC News reports that Proton thinks vehicles designed specifically for Muslims across the world represent a huge gap in the market. I'm sure they know more than I do, but why is it that only Muslims should have their own car? Isn't there a market for a Torahcharged Hebrew Hummer or a JC Cruiser complete with gaydar and rapture detector? The possibilities are limitless.

It's been a while since the market catered to people who knew anything about gear ratios, transient response, chassis frequency or moments of inertia. Technology has given way to semiotics and slick sophistry. Chilled cup holders count a lot more than intercoolers, but perhaps that's because many of us have to spend more time in our cars and more time working from our cars. Maybe the car of the Republican future will have us all living in our cars and leave it to the Japanese to lead the way. News from a Japanese auto show is that The Kaneko Sangyo Co. is marketing a basic essential for the homeless on wheels - the car toilet. Why the hell not. You don't have to get out of the car to eat or work or watch movies or read my blog, so why not take it all the way? It's an exciting time to be on the road.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bigger leaves means less promiscuity

pro·mis·cu·ous adj.
1. Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.
2. Lacking standards of selection; indiscriminate.

I suppose the wooden candidate who hopes to be a real president some day apparently has a way to go before mastering English, humor or even reality for that matter. Parading his hairdo, his wardrobe and his professional smile around Manchester New Hampshire yesterday, he attempted to joke with a young couple about the size of the leaves on a tree in their yard.
"Adam and Eve would not have looked as promiscuous if they had had leaves this big"
was the result. Is this an insight into the extraordinarily vacant mind of Mr. Romney or did Adam and Eve have other choices of partnership? In any event, it's obvious that he shouldn't be allowed to ad lib or even be let loose on the public without one of those boxes George Bush wore on his back during the last election's debates.

Mitt also met a military man who expressed his concerns about the troops overseas and said he wanted a change. Mitt brushed him off with the same vapid mechanical dismissal he used on the man in the wheelchair who had asked him why he couldn't use cannabis to ease the pain and nausea of chemotherapy. "I'm a little more encouraged than you are," he said "Take a close look."

Perhaps we should all take a close look at Mitt, whose long experience in the dangerous aisles of Brooks Brothers and grueling hours at the hairdresser make him qualified to be encouraged where brave men fear to tread. It's not just his moronic jokes, but his arrogant dismissal of human misery and his self-assured ignorance that make him seem frighteningly like George W. Bush with a better wardrobe.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More flags, fewer facts

I've been wondering when the swift boats would put to sea, but perhaps we will have to wait until the Democrats have chosen a candidate so that it doesn't become apparent that anyone and everyone opposing God's Own Party will be attacked. Until then we'll likely have an endless supply of cheap shots lobbed over the fence, like the viral picture of Obama in front of an obscenely large flag without his hand on his heart and the cynical outrage at Hillary Clinton's failure to leave a tip at a Toledo, Iowa diner that inspired a cartoon in today's New York Times. Meanwhile very few of us will have any idea of exactly what their health care proposals contain or what their economic policies would be like.

It's not clear whether a tip was actually left; the Clinton staff said there was a $100 tip left and the Picture of Obama was of course taken out of context from a a video that shows the Pledge of Allegiance was not being regurgitated when it was taken, but little by little, the sleaze brokers are going to chip away at the candidates images, misinterpreting remarks, photoshopping images, rearranging stories so as to make Democratic candidates seem unpatriotic, disdainful of the common man and just plain un-American.

Of course, the attempt to remake Barak Obama as a closet Islamic radical didn't work for most of us and his failure to wear the requisite flag pin at every moment didn't really convert anyone to support of the Republican pandaemon and the stories about Hillary hiring hit men to go after an opponents cat are less that credible, but each new piece of dung flung from their cage does work a slow erosion, a slow character assassination and an insidious diversion away from what America needs to save itself.

I care little where a president puts his hands unless it's into my pocket or onto the red button and I quite frankly don't give a damn about the illegal coercion in pledging allegiance to someone else's God or about flags or cheap jewelry or people who worship them while treating the constitution and our laws and our property with snickering disdain.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's the economy, stupid.

The dollar is falling! The dollar is falling!

You can call me chicken little or big turkey, but with the Euro at almost $1.47 and the British Pound at $2.10, the dollar took another step downward last night after comments by Xu Jian, a vice director at China's central bank at the National People's Congress in Beijing about the Dollar loosing its value as the major global currency. Vice Chairman, Cheng Siwei, said China "will favor stronger currencies over weaker ones, and will readjust accordingly.''Although that assembly isn't involved in currency policy decision making, it's hard to argue with his statement as the flight from US dollars into other currencies and commodities continues.

Perhaps it soon will be driven home to the American people just how much our prosperity depends on the kindness of strangers, or at least on the price of the foreign goods our standard of living in based on. It's the economy stupid, as President Clinton reminded his campaign. Somebody is going to remind us all again and all too soon, I fear.

Sure, there are any number of experts who tell us it's no big deal, but they've been telling us that since the slide began over 6 years ago, but prosperity hasn't been around all those corners we were supposed to be turning any time now -- at least for most Americans and many are beginning to fear that the next corner won't be a corner, but a cliff.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A penny for the old Guy

"Guy Fawkes is a guy that tried to assassinate some king -- King Henry or King George or King -- James! ... So I guess that's a libertarian thing to do. Try to assassinate kings. And so they had a celebration of this dastardly act."
So said Joe Scarborough this morning on MSNBCs Morning Jo[k]e. Had this been a nation where more than 10% of the TV audience had the knowledge of history appropriate for an 8 year old or the ability to reason sufficient to be called dull, you would have heard the giggles even with your windows closed, but of course it isn't that sort of nation. It's the United States.

Of course Scarborough is trying to confect the successful Ron Paul fund raiser yesterday with the Gunpowder Plot that was foiled on November 5th, 1605. That event was of course, a plot to blow up the House of Lords, King James I and all, but the celebration of Guy Fawkes day in England is about how the government was saved, not about making a hero of the government hating conservative British kids burn in effigy every year. Joe doesn't know, really, and I guess the people who watch that made-up carved wooden ventriloquist's head the network uses the way Macy's uses window dummies are only looking for a way to banish the specter of Ron Paul and aren't too scrupulous about fact or reason, which is my way of politely calling them stupid.

Stupid people watch such stupid shows because it gives them a collegial feeling without having actually having attended college, or grade school for that matter. It gives them a feeling of knowing something the smart people don't know and they will follow anyone who gives it to them like rats after the Piper. it worked for Reagan, it works for Limbaugh and it almost works for Scarborough.

Fawkes was a "terrorist" and he was caught on November 5th and Ron Paul raised a lot of money on November 5th and that means libertarians are terrorists and Ron raised money in the name of terrorists. Seems stupid and pathetic beyond belief when you set it out stripped of the typical Fox banter. It easily rivals the Limbaugh rant from the 1990's when he blasted the idea of electric cooperatives because cooperatives are like communes and communes are run by hippies.

It's tempting to speculate or actually to hope that 400 years from now kids will be gathering pennies to make straw effigies of these legendary morons and throw them on the bonfire of the idiots.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Down and out in Palm Beach

I know people who were living the good life in Florida a couple of years ago, many of whom have their homes and yachts on the market in the vain hope of selling out and moving to cheaper pastures in the Carolinas. Foreclosures in Florida are up 53% from the previous quarter and double last year's numbers. Retired people are out lining up for low paying jobs. Affluent Palm Beach County chalked up nearly a billion dollars worth of mortgage defaults in the first 6 months of 2007, up 531% from last year. No, that's not a typo.

Realtors seem to be disappearing and one man, whose business is making For Sale signs for real estate agents reports that he's being stiffed right and left to the tune of $40,000 worth of signs. Community food banks are running out of food as more middle class families find their cupboards bare. Commercial real estate vacancies are sharply up. It's beginning to seem a lot like a recession despite the official assurances that the economy is growing.

The Palm Beach Post reports this morning that "a local bankruptcy lawyer received 250 applications for a $10-an-hour receptionist job in his office. . Many of the applicants were real estate and mortgage brokers used to sky-high salaries."

Sure the test of two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth has not been met; not nearly, but somehow whatever it is that's trickling down these days isn't prosperity. With chaos apparently growing and more wars looming it's hard to maintain the kind of faith the administration is selling and no "Mission accomplished" moment Bush might manage to stage is going to make me more confident.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Little big man

I don't know very much about Nicholas Sarkozy or his policies. I know very little about French politics in fact but I have a hard time picturing George Bush or indeed any American president I know of doing the sort of things Sarkozy does.

He's not a tall man; not as tall as George the Decider and doesn't swagger across flight decks in too tight flight suits and doesn't seem to have a perpetual, condescending smirk on his face, but he's a man who once ended a hostage situation in 1993 when he was the mayor of a Paris suburb, by entering a building alone and unarmed to negotiate the release of a nursery school class, after which the police entered and shot the man with the bomb. There is something about the man who firmly and politely ended the 60 Minutes interview and walked away from the flabbergasted Leslie Stahl with dignity unstained, that makes him appear quite a bit taller in my eyes even without the high heeled cowboy boots. George dodging questions looks in comparison, like a petulant and spoiled little boy.

Just a little while ago, Sarkozy left Chad with three French journalists and four Spanish flight crew who had been held in that country along with a number of others on charges of kidnapping. Sarkozy flew there himself to talk directly withChad's president Idriss Deby about releasing them and that's just what happened. He did it himself. No dispatching of an ineffective cabinet secretary, no nuclear threats, no sanctions, no preliminary low-level conferences, no nonsense no accusations, no blame seeking.

Do we still make leaders like that? Do we have a candidate less interested in fund raising, power brokering, campaigning and finding jobs for political hacks he owes money to and more interested in leading by example?

The future's so bright I have to close my eyes

A few weeks ago, a breathless woman called in to the Ed Schultz Show on Air America Radio to say that a scientist had discovered a way to burn water and wasn't it horrible that the biased media were suppressing the story? I like Schultz, but I was amazed that he credited this claim.

The myth of the water engine being kept from us by greedy oil interests goes back to the early days of the internal combustion automobile and was used as a scam during the depression, but that it should survive today is a testament to the decline of science education in America. The scientist in question had been passing a current through water and of course that produces hydrogen gas and oxygen gas which can recombine or burn. Although this experiment is to be found in high school science textbooks of the 1850's, the fact seems to be unknown at least to one Ed Schultz fan as well as the fact that the energy recovered from burning the hydrogen is less than the energy that went into producing it. The oil companies aren't concerned with suppressing this "technology" any more than they are with suppressing alchemy and witchcraft.

The current (Nov 12) issue of TIME has one of their regular, "Gee Whiz" collections of press releases touting new technology. Some of it as old as I am or older, like water injection for internal combustion engines. I don't expect that many of the eager young journalists remember its use in WW II aircraft engines or the 1962 Oldsmobile 442 Jetfire for that matter, but it's fun to watch the kids get exited and call it "The return of steam."

Anyone who spent his youth reading Popular Science can recall a huge number of Gee Whiz inventions just around the corner that never happened and in most cases never could have, but Looking at TIME's SAAB of the future complete with aircraft type canopy rendering it impossible to enter or exit the vehicle in the rain and making it difficult to open the car in a northern winter without dumping a hundred pounds of snow on the leather upholstery I have to ask why the "designers" couldn't imagine a future a close as next Wednesday.

I don't imagine we'll be seeing anything like the Flintstonesque "autonomous automobile" either, with its lawnmower size wheels, absence of any weather protection and it's need to be parked outside for days to enable the integral windmill and solar cells to recharge its battery. I wonder how many people could replace their family car with what is essentially your father's golf cart?

I think experience teaches us that the things that are predicted to change the world rarely pan out while the unforeseeable breakthroughs lead us to things we or science fiction writers couldn't imagine. I still have electronics magazines from the 1950's insisting that vacuum tubes will remain the basis of future technology and I remember others insisting that the family car would be able to fly by 1970. I grew up on Sci Fi stories about space travel in the late 20th century with levitating driverless cars and people in skin tight jumpsuits living in glass bubble houses but without pocket phones or personal computers or Global Positioning satellites or the World Wide Web.

Still, in a world that wants us all to look backward toward ancient myths, invisible spirits and magic for our salvation, perhaps I should be pleased that people still daydream about a better future even if we always get it wrong.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pascal, O'Reilly, Huckabee

When Mike Huckabee, the nitwit Biblical literalist with presidential pretensions, told Bill O'Reilly last Wednesday that he believed that God made Eve from Adam's Rib and that there was no reason to disbelieve it (quite a whopper in it's own right) he probably wasn't aware of Pascal's Wager.
"But I just believe he did it. And so, you know, if it turns out that I am wrong, I have lost nothing. If it turns out I’m right, it is a good thing."
The famous proposition by the mathematician Blaise Pascal is a well used toy of logicians although it's hard to pin down just what kind of fallacy it is, it being such a farrago of flimsy sophistry. Even so, it's well enough known as such to cause one with even a basic education to avoid the embarrassment of using it, as the Huckster did, in front of someone with an elementary knowledge of philosophy or logic. What then of this bumpkin airing his ignorance before an enormous audience he's trying to convince of his presidential level wisdom and insight?

Pascal famously argued for his own belief in the Christian God by saying if the belief turned out to be false, there was no afterlife in which he would suffer and if true, he had heaven to gain and therefore belief was the safer bet. Of course the argument is built on selected assumptions about this God; That's he is the one Christians believe in, that he punishes disbelief or rewards it over good works or other virtues. The argument fails to address the infinite assumptions one could make about this god and the arbitrary selection it makes amongst Gods who because there is no evidence, can be said to hate mankind in general as safely as one can say he punishes disbelief.

To someone who sees no reason to question what he's told although the evidence is absent, Pascal's wager may seem like an argument, but although I could dissect it in detail and dismiss it in a hundred ways, I will simply say that this sort of argument is as easily tossed aside as any of the traditional "proofs" long since banished to the swamps of madness and superstition.

Suffice it to say, that a man who sees no reason to credit the massive and irrefutable disproof of Adam's muddy origins and Eve's being cloned from the rib of a male while becoming a female without becoming Adam's identical twin is a dangerous idiot and I see no reason to allow him anywhere near an office of public trust.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Rudy's Radio Daze

I saw the movie World Trade Center the other day; the story about the last two NY firefighters to be pulled out of the wreckage alive. The film has them futilely trying to reach anyone on their handheld radios and their inability to do that may help keep Rudy out of the White House. Rudy's sole selling point seems to be the concocted image of him as the Hero of Ground Zero who by magical extension can save us from the nasty men who blow things up.

Mayor Rudy of course didn't buy the more expensive APCO compatible radios but instead gave the no-bid contract (after years of inaction) to supply mobile and handheld radios to police and fire departments to Motorola who had not demonstrated their equipment in field tests and who charged the city $14 million or ten times the proposed price for the system. Is it any surprise that the radios did not work and had to be pulled from the field? As a consequence the fire department had to resort to the decades old radios that had demonstrated their obsolescence after the last WTC attack in 1993.

One of the problems that exists in many areas is the inability of various agencies to communicate directly because some departments have radios that work on different frequencies than others and nearby municipalities may have different systems and channels. This is why radio amateurs are needed to take over when radio towers fall, cell phones go dead and land lines are cut or overloaded. Municipal systems with incompatible frequency assignments and fragile infrastructures are far more vulnerable than people in non-hurricane territory realize.

As happens too often in places like Florida and the gulf coast during hurricanes, NYC became a tower of Babel on 9/11 and it didn't have to happen. Back in the 90's, the Association of Public Safety Officers, or APCO created the Project 25 or P25 standard for radios that are flexible enough to allow them to "talk" with older radios, analog and digital, simplex and duplex with trunked and conventional systems. All the public safety agencies can communicate and police and paramedics can for instance, hear the cries for help from trapped firemen or warn them to get out of a burning building.

Of course the purpose of Republican government is to privatize public funds by distributing them to corporations without competitive bidding or any demonstration of the effectiveness of the product in question. New York seems to have done just that and some people are mad as hell, namely the FDNY who lost so many people because what we had on that day of infamy was a failure to communicate. Firefighters in NYC and across the country along with a New York City Council member are trying to expose Rudy for his incompetence and for having the effrontery to pose as a hero the way he posed for the cameras 6 years ago. Look for the longer story at The REAL Rudy and at today's Huffington Post.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

God hates Phelps.

Fred Phelps is the ugliest man in America. Fred is the fellow with the Church that seems to have no other purpose than to see homosexuality everywhere and condemn it everywhere and to blame everything from the weather to the casualties in Iraq to our "tolerance" of those who don't follow the sexual rules of his God forsaken church. Fred has been plaguing the families and funerals of deceased soldiers because he blames their deaths on our tolerance of homosexuality and if there is anything the Devil won't do, Fred will do it. Fred's God has doomed us, says he, because we allow Homosexuals to live and because God has doomed us, there is no freedom of religion in our country. Freedom of speech is only upheld because that protection has allowed this ugly man and his ugly religion to escape being torn to shreds by the people he torments, insults, wounds and steals from.

Finally someone has done something. Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq last year and his funeral was desecrated by Phelps and his family, chanting and carrying signs saying "God hates Fags." Yesterday a jury awarded the Snyder family $10,900,000 in Federal court. Phelps laughed. Whether or not the dozens of other families assaulted by Phelps and his malignant God will be willing to go through the torture of suing him remains to be seen, but sadly this won't stop him and it won't affect the hatred or the insanity that produces it. Phelps hasn't got the money and he hasn't got the sanity to be chastened by all this.

Does anyone really believe that Phelps himself is not as gay as a cage full of larks? With all the examples of gay bashing Republicans cruising in porn shops and public toilets and congressional cloakrooms we've had recently, isn't it obvious that this fanatical crusade can only come from self-hatred?

Maybe it's time for the more mainstream God dispensers to examine their moral bombast, for without them, there would be no Fred Phelps.