Monday, April 30, 2007

People who kill people

According to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, "it took nearly 90 minutes to execute Joseph Clark, who'd murdered two people in Ohio. Witnesses reported that Clark raised his head off the gurney and said repeatedly, 'don't work, don't work,' and moaned and groaned as he struggled with prison officials." News accounts of the execution also quoted Clark as asking, "Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?" No one did. The story is one of a great many like it.

People who believe that killing people deters other people from killing people believe it for reasons having nothing whatever to do with evidence. All evidence is that it does not. That there are a lot of this kind of believer in the US doesn't need to be pointed out, but I suspect that the death penalty as a deterrent is espoused by some public figures simply because they're afraid of incurring the wrath of the true barbarians among us who style themselves as "conservatives."

I call it barbarism because the philosophy behind hanging, poisoning and shooting people isn't a philosophy at all, it's the simple expression of our "apeness." We kill because we are angry and the people we choose to legally kill tend to be people we fear or are angry at for other reasons. The evidence that the odds of being executed are heavily correlated with race and social status is compelling. Arguments frequently heard ask us if we wouldn't want to kill the person who killed someone we love and of course we would and of course that isn't any kind of justice at all; it's just the law of the jungle.

There has been, over the decades, an effort to make the forcible termination of human life more palatable, the better to sell it to those with objections, but not only is the success of such methods in reducing pain and suffering very questionable; to many people the attempt itself is somehow effeminate, liberal and vaguely French. Real men want to see pain.

When Florida's "old sparky" would set convulsing prisoners on fire, eyeballs and great gouts of blood popping out of smoking skulls, "conservatives" had little in the way of objection other than that it was slowing down the death process, but switching to lethal injections performed by State hired killers with no medical training and little brains may have caused agonizing and prolonged deaths, far worse than an electric chair set on slow roast.

The man who proposed the series of intravenous injections that has been widely adopted, thinks it needs to be changed and more effective chemicals and procedures used. Indeed the stories of executions entailing lengthy periods of maximum agony are nauseating to most people even Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a group that advocates the death penalty. He'd rather do what Hitler did to Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled at places such as Sobibor - hook up a big diesel and kill them with carbon monoxide.

Dr. Jay Chapman, the inventor of the current lethal injection scheme disagrees with that. He simply thinks the chemical used to asphyxiate the victim while waiting for the potassium chloride to give him heart failure could be eliminated and the anesthetic replaced by something more effective. He does concede that the old French way of killing involving a guillotine would be more painless and foolproof.

I suppose a cross would be out of the question.

Puff the magic Dragon

Is it a coating of non-stick Teflon that keeps things from sticking to Rollicking Rush Limbaugh, or is it just ordinary slime he's covered with? Perhaps, if he bothers to explain himself at all, he will tell us that public figures like Barak Obama are fair game for race baiting while college girls are not, but I'm waiting to see the kind of reaction we got to Imus' comment. I'm waiting in fact to hear any update on the story that appeared in Crooks and Liars last Friday much less the racist barb he tossed at the Illinois Senator last January. It may be a long wait.

Rush playing "Barak the magic Negro" to the tune of the silly Peter Paul and Mary song from the 60's on his radio show is only the latest in a career of ugliness, pettyness, maliciousness and malignant bullying that should have ended years ago. Whether it's blatant racism or whether it's calling an adolescent girl a dog on nationwide TV, there have been too many incidents egregious enough to have him fired and black listed -- and yet here he is, smelly phallic cigar in his fat mouth, stinking up the pristine Florida air and the public airwaves.

It's time the media stops hiding behind a disclaimer and fires the bastard.

Cross posted at The Reaction

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Meet you round the corner - in a half an hour.

I don't mind admitting that I love reading headlines about militant moralists and biblical bloviators being caught with their God-glorifying lips around something undeniably secular. Few things cheer me up as much as the hot water rising about such people as the head of the US Agency for International Development and former Bush administration AIDS coordinator who made such a fuss about abstinence and faithfulness rather than condoms. Randall Tobias, chairman, president and chief executive of Eli Lilly, and until recently chairman of the board of trustees at Duke. Who was that lady we saw you with?

Yeah, right - like pastor Ted Haggard's rod and staff being comforted by a homosexual drug dealer - it was "only a massage" says randy Randall. I'm looking forward to more good times as more of the ten to fifteen thousand names of Deborah
Palfrey's clients are published and I'm willing to bet that the family values pimps and abstinence/morality pervs are well represented. The hell with the Indy 500 -- bring on the Sleaze Bowl; this hypocrisy fest is my kind of event. Fellatio ad absurdum - bring it on.

Now your typical 20% lunatic fringe element Bush supporter will accuse me of creating a diversion so that we won't notice how well George is doing at making the world safer for his perverted plutocrat preacher friends who purchase the services of young upscale professionals, but I'm really not impressed that Democrats and Libertarians can be libertines too - they're not the ones with the blood on their Bible caressing hands at the moment. It's the traditional values hypocrites who want to dictate your sex life who are pestering the Congressional pages and indulging themselves in "
game-playing of a sexual nature at 275 dollars an hour for a 90 minute session" as Ms. Palfrey calls it.

I'm sure the list of Johns only runs so high up the Administration totem pole however. There is one anatomical prerequisite for such sport and neither Bush nor Cheney is suitably equipped.

Return of the Jedi

OK, so he's not a Jedi and I don't know whether the schwartz is with him or not, but the Daily Curmudgeon is back and he's under siege from anonymous Republidroids.

You're the only hope.

Worst of the worst

They're terrorists -- they're the worst of the worst, besides they're not citizens and they're not in the US so we can do anything we want to them. There is precedent and we're at war and that's the way we do it when there's a war.

You've heard it all and you've heard much more from people who don't seem to want to admit that the prisoners of war at Guantanamo aren't all guilty of anything and were grabbed from all kinds of places and for dubious reasons. The government admits it of course. In fact many have been cleared after years of suffering and isolation and "coercive" interrogation. At the moment there are 82 who have been cleared of charges (whatever they might have been) but we're still holding them for a variety of reasons including the ironic prohibition against sending them back to [other] places that use torture.

The 82 cleared prisoners who remain at the little piece of Cuba we insist isn't US territory and so doesn't have to pretend to be a free country governed by law, come from 16 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Even if these people, with what remains of their sanity, dignity and resources are ever repatriated, I'm willing to bet that no hearts and minds have been won amongst them or the families they go home to and I will bet these people who were guilty of having an unlucky name or who were in the wrong place with the wrong face won't get much in the way of compensation for their damaged or ruined lives, much less an apology. Even so, "Sorry - we were looking for the other Abdul" isn't going to matter much.

So what's my point other than giving a damn about justice and the value of human life? It's that the bar stool warriors and Brooks Brothers bully boys have been advocating the torture of innocents and don't give a damn because they're too afraid to care about justice, the rule of law, decency, ethics, morality, human life or the Christianity they profess when someone sleeps with the wrong person or doesn't feel like praying in public. "There's a war on" and accusations of being "soft on terrorism" aren't excuses for barbarism and these pillars of Republican wisdom are starting to smell like the rotten things they are.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Guardians of the gate

Just because you can do the job; just because you can prove you excel at what you do, doesn't mean you're qualified according to that vestige of the medieval world: the University system.
You can pass the bar exam, you can ace the Professional Engineer's exam, you can invent the light bulb or the personal computer but you can't wear the robes or even sweep the Temple floors unless you get the blessing of the academic priesthood in their funny hats. I suppose that in some cases it's a safeguard but in others it's an ironic demonstration of how Universities have arrogated power to themselves and guard their power with an almost religious fervor.

Take Marilee Jones, for instance. The Dean of Admissions has been on the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 1979 and by all acounts has done an exceptional job, receiving the school's highest awards for administrators. She has been the winner of the MIT Excellence Award for Leading Change and was the 2006 winner of the Gordon Y Billard Award given "for special service of outstanding merit." So why was she forced to resign in tearful disgrace? It's because she hadn't been anointed with the proper holy water at the schools she listed on her resume 28 years ago. I confess that I hope her replacement, correct degrees and all, is no more qualified to do the job than the many newly minted and totally incompetent MBA's I've worked with over the years. An institution that values medals and tokens and certificates more than 28 years of outstanding experience and achievement deserves no less.

Is the true offense that she learned what she learned outside of the Temple of Knowledge and without sacrificing on the proper altar or was it that her experience proves that talent can't be taught and ability can trump pedantry? Perhaps MIT feels it needs to take a stand against misrepresentation without regard to any statute of limitations, but I'm not convinced that this is not another case of defending the turf they've held for a thousand years against the encroachment of an open world where knowledge is accessible to everyone and against an open society where people can prove themselves by proving themselves rather than by serving as altar boys for those who teach.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Signs and portents

In the first judicial assessment of the Bush administration’s surveillance program Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of United States District Court in Detroit ruled against the Bush administration, citing the Fourth Amendment and a 1978 law requiring warrants for wiretapping in the United States.

“It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly when his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights.”
Judge Taylor emphasized that the three branches of government are designed to provide checks and balances against each other. It's a sign.

Of course the administrations response is predictable: Gonzales says the program is lawful because he believes it's lawful and Tony Snow says it's lawful because it's intentions are good. The decision will probably be overturned and the judge's patriotism attacked by Bush's Men in Black, but it's a sign.

James R. Clapper, the Pentagon’s new intelligence chief, says he wants to get rid of the ominously titled "Talon" program; an "antiterrorism" data base program that has expanded to include reports about antiwar groups, churches and student activists. Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the list of suspicious activities included a church service for peace and named a March 2005 anti-war rally in Akron, Ohio, a “potential terrorist activity.”

Whether or not Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will approve scrapping Rumsfeld's Hooverish program is uncertain but in either event, it's a sign.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Straight talk

“It’s our hope that none of the threatened subpoenas is actually issued come Wednesday, since they all deal with yesterday’s news, or matters in which the would-be targets are cooperating fully with Chairman Waxman, or both. Regardless, we’ll be ready to help set the record straight on Wednesday.”

Thus spake David Marin, Republican Staff Director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as quoted in Roll Call. I'm glad. You can always count on a Republican congressman to set the record straight, but as to calling the use of office computers to send political e-mails being yesterday's news -- that's a situational ethic, which means it's to be ignored when applied to anything they're guilty of. Evidence of this is the other tired Republican rhetorical technique of reductio ad Clintonum. Brian McNicoll, a spokesman for Republicans on the committee is threatening to go after Bill Clinton's e-mail records.

Somehow, the argument that some of the other kids were into the same mischief I got caught at never worked with my parents and I hope this pathetic excuse won't persuade many people that corruption and lawlessness are just business as usual and to be ignored - unless the Democrats do it. Today is Wednesday and we shall see how good Mr. Marin and his friends are at playing Twister, or setting the record straight as he prefers to call it. I'm waiting for our great steaming crock of truth a la mode Republicain to be dished up. Forgive me if I hold my nose while it's served.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Birds of a feather

An article in today's Miami Herald speaks of political prisoners held without benefit of habeas corpus and secret trials for helping the enemy by criticizing the government. Of course it's not about George Bush's little bit of Cuba, but about Fidel Castro's country.

One shouldn't push the comparisons too far, but it's hard to resist noticing that we're talking about two governments overly concerned with opposition; two governments not squeamish about physically and psychologically mistreating prisoners, not afraid to equate criticism with treason and not particularly scrupulous about holding people without charges or trying them in secret without allowing them access to evidence.

I'm not saying that the Dixie Chicks were treated like Rolando Jiménez Posada, who was recently sentenced to 12 years for criticizing Castro's government, but I'm sure that there are plenty of people who would have imprisoned the country music singers for disrespecting George Bush and who still think they and all Bush critics are traitors. It's undeniable that the strategy of equating dissent or even of demanding the truth with "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" has been used to a degree of late, not seen since our lamented effort to make the Vietnamese reject communism.

Cuban Journalist Oscar Sánchez Madan was sentenced to four years in prison last week, after being arrested, tried and convicted all in the same day by a kangaroo court that didn't allow him a lawyer. I don't think he was tortured for years like Jose Padilla.

As I said, I don't want to push the comparison too far, but it shouldn't be this easy to compare governments that insist they are in such total opposition in terms of human rights and equal protection under the law.


According to the New York Times, The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to further limit the access of Guantanamo detainees to defense lawyers. The use of Guantanamo as a place at which US laws do not apply and Justice does not reach and decency is as absent as it is in the Oval Office, is reprehensible, but then we've become so used to the reprehensible that the horrific doesn't seem so bad. We have become the enemy. We have become the monster we told ourselves we were fighting.

Liberals to the left of us -- Liberals to the right. . .

Is it possible to find enough nasty things to say about Rush Limbaugh? I don't have the vocabulary or the time fully to describe a man of such privilege that he can go relatively unpunished for drug charges that would have sent another man to prison, whose friends in high places (no pun intended) make sure that he can lie and vituperate and rave against the politics of our founding fathers and the philosophy behind our nation without let or restraint or consequence. But let me try.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a political liberal is a man in favor of democratic reform and opposed to privilege. According to Rush, such a man is the radix malorum, the source of all our woes, while a man opposed to democracy and in favor of special privilege or plutocracy would of necessity be, like Rush, the answer to all that ails us, including apparently: paranoid schizophrenia.

Rush's April 19th attempt to show that the massively demented Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-hui, was in the grip of liberal fervor rather than an illness would be a new low for any other man, but in Limbaugh's vocabulary there is no word for bottom.
"This guy had to be a liberal. You start railing against the rich and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act."
Anyone who call Liberals gun-grabbers while calling Cho Seung-hui a liberal is a fabulist on the order of Hitler. Anyone who can lump everyone from Jesus Christ to John Wilkes Booth into a category and make that category seem vile; anyone who can invent a language that makes such subhuman reasoning possible should be more understanding of mental illness, but as I said earlier, such people shy away from recognizing the existence of insanity because they are afraid of the obvious and unavoidable comparison. Worse than mental illness, in terms of culpability for one's actions, is the mission of Rush Limbaugh: to lie for money, to disrupt Democracy and American principles for money, to promote special privileges for plutocrats for his own gain, to shout down reasoned discourse by sheer volume and amplitude of lies, misstatements, half truths, distortions and hysterical departures from objective reality.

But it's neither a Conservative nor a Liberal, a communist or a democrat or a libertarian or Bolshevik or royalist or an anarchist who spoke those words -- it was Rush Limbaugh and it is Rush Limbaugh's every continued breath and heartbeat that confirms that there is no justice in this world unless we fight for it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Funny man

Ariana Huffington notes that when Bush announced he wasn't going to be funny at the White House Correspondent's dinner the other night, he didn't explain why he's so often snickered, pranced and giggled like a cardboard monkey on a string while US troops were being killed and mutilated in Iraq. Who knows who advised him to act serious for once, but Bush is a funny man; he's even funnier when he tries to be serious and can't really seem to help himself.

"The Attorney General went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job,"
said America's court jester as quoted in a Raw Story article today. Whether this "heckuva job, Gonzo" was genuine idiocy on the President's part or whether it will result in Gonzalez's voluntary resignation some time this week, remains to be seen, but I'm putting my chips on stupid and letting it ride.

Don't tread on Miss Ramey

It's a heckuva thing to be older than 50 in a culture where the most prized and praised citizens , born sometime after my favorite pair of shoes was made, are gorging themselves on pop culture and pre-digested popular opinion like baby birds in a nest. People who conduct telephone surveys designed to find out what canned drinks you identify with often hang up on you and if you're a woman over 50 who doesn't realize that she's the most marginalized creature on the planet and dares to act outside the role assigned her by the Kid Culture narcissists - you're an object of mockery. You're Granny.

Now if you're Clint Eastwood and you defend your home against robbers who think you're too old and timid to stop them, you're seen at least as being macho and treated with some respect, but if you're Venus Ramey, Miss America 1944; if you're a patriot who sold war bonds to help the war effort and whose image flew missions over Nazi Germany on the nose of a B-17 -- you're Granny and isn't Granny funny for not being defenseless?

Ms. Ramey of course doesn't seem to have bought in to the notion that a defenseless person is a safe person and has been around long enough to understand that calling the sheriff and waiting for him to arrive is just another form of suicide. She doesn't seem to have preferred the only option allowed in some states which is to hobble away from intruders on her walker. She may have been old and feeble, but she knows how to use a .38 and was able to shoot out the tires of the intruder who is now in custody.

The bigots at CNN of course, just had to title the story "Granny's packing heat" and so soon after chastising Don Imus for his "nappy headed" comment. We have to face it, no matter what you've done in your life; no matter how smart, wise, experienced and educated you are, your role as assigned to you by the people who think they know best because they're so young, is to sit in a chair and drool.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dead story walking

I still subscribe to a Sunday paper, but my morning ritual usually includes making the rounds of internet news sources like Raw Story in order to get a few of the news items buried by the Mainstream Media under the VA Tech shooting and the antics of Mr. Baldwin. Of course the Virginia story is still stumbling around like an escapee from Night of the Living Dead and even Raw Story is going on and on about ludicrous and irrelevant details trying to keep the zombie walking.

Today's lurid contribution to the whole fulsome issue is titled VA Tech Killer bought Ammo on eBay. Astounded by this because I know eBay doesn't list live ammunition or firearms - even antique ones, I clicked on the headline to find that the actual article reads "ammo clips." That's the kind of come-on you expect, and get, at the National Enquirer.

It may seem a small difference to some people, but what he bought were empty magazines and as the article pointed out, you can get those anywhere. Interesting enough, in light of the fuss others have made about the end of the ban on magazines that held more than 10 rounds, the ones Cho bought were legal under the defunct ban.

He had a good eBay "feedback" rating, we're told and has been buying and selling there - like hundreds of millions do - for three years. None of this nonsense has any bearing on the motivation or execution of the crime nor will it enable any further degree of understanding of schizophrenia or Virginia or Federal gun laws. To people who only read headlines, it will seem like an indictment of eBay.

" Computer forensics have played a major role in the investigation into why Cho carried out the massacre that killed 32 people and himself."
We are told - as if questioning the usual suspects and looking at records will produce any understanding of mental illness such as schizophrenia or the illogical, irrational and terrified state that characterizes it, nor will any of this further progress toward the goal of diagnosing and isolating dangerously ill people who by law are forbidden to own firearms.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bleeding heart conservatives

If there's anything real behind the flood of Virginia Tech media coverage, perhaps the new national pastime is mourning. Even as the endless video loops of sobbing, candle-holding, snot-faced college girls seeking closure begin to taper off, we still have more editorials about contrived ties to Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing with further exhortations to mourn, weep and seek "closure."

I am by no means hard hearted and that's why I resent the media milking these incidents. I resent the ideologues using them to rage against gun control and for gun control and against sex education and Rap music and abortion or any of the other shibboleths that come out of the woodwork like roaches at every opportunity some random act of violence provides. Most of all I resent the way attention is distracted from greater and just as senseless loss of life, for which we all bear some responsibility.

Since the Oklahoma City bombing, how many children have died horribly in school bus accidents, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and swimming pools? How many Americans have died in Iraq? How many Iraqis? How many lives ruined and how many innocents blown to bits by God besotted suicide bombers. How many Africans have been slaughtered or died of a disease the US refuses to help fight because fighting it might promote sex? Where is the mourning?

The same media trolls who acted as if treason were being committed when it was proposed to read the names of the dead in Iraq on the air are happy to squeeze every last dime out of every last crocodile tear, every last video clip of mourning and wailing and piling up of teddy bears. They are happy to air every irresponsible, spurious and ridiculous conjecture as to why this happened and why it's a harbinger of the apocalypse and why we need to vote out the Liberals, arm the librarians or vice versa - what ever sells.

Some kid had a paranoid schizophrenic crisis and although it was visible to those around him, nothing was done until it was too late. It will happen again and it has happened before. Crazy cult leaders will kill their followers with cyanide and will kill people in subways with gas, burn people in their beds and blow up others with fertilizer. People will set fires and drown their children in bathtubs. As the world fills up with people the toll will grow and instant communications and corporate greed will make sure we know about it and see every drop of blood - and every tear.

there isn't much we can do about eliminating the very small risk each of us has or being killed by a nut job without becoming an authoritarian, totalitarian police state. Every one of us has a vastly greater chance of being killed by a "soccer mom" than a by psychotic college student and every one of us loses as much when we go to war, killing and being killed. Death has yet to take a holiday in the Middle East or in Africa or anywhere else. What do crying kids, maudlin ceremonies and lugubrious displays of grief do to put a stop to the deaths we can do something about?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fair and balanced lies.

I've long bemoaned the death of the fairness doctrine, which until the "Reagan Renaissance" allowed those defamed to defend themselves on broadcast TV and radio. The philosophy was that the spectrum belonged to everyone, so in return for being able to use it to sell us things, the broadcasters owed us the opportunity to challenge them when it came to news reporting and editorializing. Back then; back before Reagan, it was argued that it was not in the interest of the public who owned the "airwaves" to allow monopolies on news reporting either, but since the actor who played cowboys and presidents on TV decided that such things were unfair to the tycoonery, would-be demagogues have had a field day. They can lie and lie and lie and call it fair and balanced; they can libel, invent and smear without hindrance or consequence.

Republicans like it that way and now that there is renewed talk of having a responsible media that serves the public rather than the Republicans, we can expect lots of howling about how fairness isn't fair and responsibility is irresponsible. It has already begun. The Free Congress Foundation, another one of those right-wing advocacy groups, had an ad hoc discussion on April 13 about Don Imus and what his firing might mean for other radio personalities according to Alex Koppelman in

The fear seems to be that the FCC may be able to force people like Limbaugh and Coulter off the airfor their lies and slanders, although if it's argued that allowing time for rebuttal would do that one could argue that presidential debates or campaigns would likewise be bad for the country. I don't get it.

Face it, we are not well served by having a handful of plutocrats own all the news outlets any more than we are by allowing them freedom from criticism or competition. Both parties may wish to keep the status quo for obvious reasons, but if the Rutgers basketball team had been allowed time to rebut Imus on the air, if the people and organizations maligned by right wing talk radio hit men were allowed the same right to the public ear that Clear Channel and Rupert Murdock have purchased, it might be a better and better informed world and it might reduce the power of people like Al Sharpton to grind their own axes.

The fear of course, boils down to the threat to the propaganda machines of both parties, but the Republicans stand to loose a great deal if the public is allowed to talk back to Limbaugh. It's far less likely that any form of fairness doctrine would result in the FCC taking someone off the air for political reasons, in my opinion, than the possibility that Ann and Rush, fond as they are of talking about responsibility, might have to take responsibility for their words. Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's your kid worth?

It depends on whether the US forces who shot him or blew him up were involved in "security operations." If so, you get zip, momma. Otherwise it's no more than a few hundred bucks if you're lucky and you'd better be grateful for that. You're going to have "democracy" even if it kills you and the rest of your kids - that's the important thing.

Despite the ravings of Bush, I don't think the Iraqi people view the horror in the streets as a struggle for Democracy akin to the American Revolution, but as a struggle to stay alive, to preserve their families, protect their children from the chaos and destruction that define their lives. I wish George Bush could personally explain the necessity of all this to the parents of the countless dead children, the families destroyed because some soldier thought that book bag was a bomb, those grocery bags carried explosives, that car or boat looked suspicious or sometimes for no reason at all.

Our dysfunctional media have been shy about discussing Iraqi casualties caused by accident, malice, incompetence or design, but I read Greg Mitchell's article in in Editor and Publisher today about a flood of information coming out that not only illustrates the personal horror of this occupation in detail, but the sometimes heartless indifference to the atrocity that has resulted from George Bush's lies.

We are making an attempt to recompense some Iraqis for the loss of their family members, and payments are running into the tens of millions, but although the total seems large, the individual payments are insultingly small, as with the schoolboy shot for carrying books, whose parents got $500 -- and sometimes there is nothing at all as with the nine year old blown up by a bomb that we somehow dropped in the family orchard.

500 case studies obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act are available on their web site but are, says Mitchell, only the tip of the iceberg. Some stories, he says, can make you scream -- as for example:
"Claimant alleges that her two brothers were returning home with groceries from their business, when U.S. troops shot and killed them, thinking they were insurgents with bombs in the bags. I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $5,000."

Although troops often hand out information cards telling survivors how to apply for payments, too often they are denied, says the New York Times today. The Tikrit fisherman shot by trigger happy troops as he reached for the switch to turn off his boat's engine. According to the Times:
"He and his companion held up the fish in the air and shouted ‘Fish! Fish!’ to show they meant no harm,” said the Army report attached to the claim filed by the fisherman’s family. The Army refused to compensate for the killing, ruling that it was “combat activity,” but approved $3,500 for his boat, net and cellphone, which drifted away and were stolen."

You can read it and weep, but I'm too tired of it all to scream. We have raped, looted and pillaged this country and plunged it into a nightmare of anarchy and destruction and hatred of the US while the nitwit neocons, their stupid president and the oilpigs vacation on their ranches, look down their noses at us with disdain and talk about democracy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

Quid est veritas?


As with most of the idiotic assertions of the religious right as to the age of the universe and the origin of species, the argument is that, as science does not offer the kind of proof that Euclidean geometry does, baseless speculation and conjecture and papal authority should be considered the equal of science. The argument is that the preponderance of evidence, no matter how overwhelming, is not proof and a 99.99999% level of confidence must then be considered inferior to faith in a description of the universe that is 100% at odds with observation.

Pope Benedict's new book Creation and Evolution ( not yet available in English) reaffirms that his commitment to specious argument and double-talk is still not in doubt although I'm sure he would argue that I can't prove it. Proof you see, is what purveyors of certainty-without-evidence demand of those who offer probability with evidence and Ratzinger in Robes is close enough to warrant being called an unrepentant liar by insisting that evolution is a dubious matter when compared with ancient legends interpreted by him.

"it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory."

says he, knowing full well that proof is for mathematicians and that the evidence for evolution is so vast and overwhelmingly conclusive that the possibility of it's not occurring or having not occurred is arbitrarily close to zero. It is in fact, a very complete scientific theory backed up by massive evidence from many independent sources. He must know that there is absolutely no evidence for any other origin of species. His alternative is not any kind of theory as it does not fit with any observable evidence at all, but contradicts everything we can demonstrate to be true. His reference to "Gaps" is nearly a century out of date and is as dishonest as insisting that the cracks in the sidewalk cast doubt on it's existence and prove it doesn't go anywhere.

Although evolution indeed can directly be observed in it's progress with small creatures, he insists that

"We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory."

Yes you can and on the level of molecular biology, evolution is well enough understood and demonstrated that the possibility of it's not occurring is, once again, close enough to zero to be able to call it zero. In fact the origin of species by evolution is backed up by as much evidence and more of it than most things Ratzinger would be forced to accept if it didn't interfere with his acquired dementia syndrome and program of intellectual tyranny.

Once again the Church resorts to the kind of pseudo-logic that dares to put a "therefore" behind "I don't know" and use it to dismiss the most powerful of arguments as though proceeding logically toward knowledge from some bogus first principle of ignorance were possible. Once again the Church seeks to assert certainty about things for which there is no evidence whatever and disparage things for which the evidence is endless and hopes you somehow won't be smart enough to laugh.

Frankly I don't care if he thinks there is water holding up the flat earth or that there is a firmament to which stars and planets are fixed or that one can walk into heaven from a mud brick tower in Babylonia as the Bible insists - what he is doing is selling authority based on a view of the world that is so out of touch with the truth that he has to attack the concept of truth itself. What is truth? We don't have to be sure in order to recognize a lie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The right stuff

It may be very hard to place a value on a human life and particularly when there are so many warring doctrines that insist that some life is precious and other life is cheap according to various contradictory criteria, but few of us would argue that when a man's life is taken away from him as punishment for a crime he didn't commit, the government that did it, owes him something and should recompense him in some way. It's the right thing to do.

Being the right thing to do however is rarely sufficient to cause it to be done in a society corrupted by politics and anger and hysteria and double talk and religion and fear and so Florida Governor Charlie Crist's support of a new bill authorizing up to $500,000 or $50,000 per year for anyone falsely convicted and imprisoned is refreshing. With DNA technology finding more and more victims of bad or crooked prosecutors, corrupt police and stupid juries serving sentences for other people's crimes, there is a need for a way for victims to seek justice without having to go through years of expensive appeals to the legislature to pass a bill authorizing payment on an individual basis. The new proposal would enable the State Attorney General to authorize payments.

Wilton Dedge, released after 22 years of incarceration, managed to get the Florida legislature to pay him $2 million in 2005 for putting him in prison for a rape he did not commit, wrote a letter to Crist asking him to "do something" to help others like him.

"No victim of this particular living hell should ever have to continue to fight for basic justice, nor should any be existing in poverty or struggling desperately to meet their basic needs." said Dedge and Governor Crist agrees.

"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do. ... I think he's exactly right. ... I can't imagine the despair and the difficulty that someone would go through who is wrongfully accused, has to serve time in jail, and then gets out and doesn't have that society try to repay them in a responsible way. You can never get those years back, and so I think he's exactly right, and that's why I support him. It's a no-brainer. It's the right thing to do."

What an excellent reason to do something!

Monday, April 09, 2007

White men can't jump?

Oh bullshit. Imus should be fired the day after Chris Rock or Dave Chapelle get fired for making jokes about white people and Korean people. He should go off the air after CNN goes off the air for calling every woman over 50 "granny" or Bill Maher gets fired (again) for making diaper jokes about people 10 years older than he is or making rude comments about fat people. Did anyone try to shut down Billy Graham's "crusade" after he agreed with Nixon that "Jews are ruining the country?"

He is no better or worse than the endless mass produced stream of rappers calling women bitches and whores and anyone who took no offense at Archie Bunker making Polish jokes about his son in law, yet thinks Imus should be canned, should be caned.

I don't watch Imus. I don't think he's funny and his weird way of talking annoys me, but although his attempt to emulate the patter one hears from other people who get rich talking that way was tasteless, tastelessness is the rule in nearly every aspect of American life. If every group of people were able to get anyone fired for ridiculing them, we would have no editorials and damn little news. While I would delight in seeing Rush Limbaugh fired for insulting our entire species, I like freedom far too much to allow people like Al Sharpton to censor the media and as much as I like and contribute to the NAACP, I think they should stick to expressing their displeasure and stop calling for the destruction of anyone making a stupid joke.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

April fool?

Nah - he's a fool every day. I don't know if the White House has installed those plastic thingies that keep your kids from putting their fingers in the outlets, but the new, experimental hydrogen hybrid vehicle from Ford does not and FoMoCo President Alan Mulally had to grab the Toddler in Chief by the arm to keep him from plugging a power cord into the hydrogen filler during a demonstration on the White House lawn. Cheney was standing right next to him, evil smirk and all.

What enormous things hang on the chance happenings of a moment. How the world might have changed in a flash - a big flash.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Enemy combatants

Ask yourself what would America do if we had picked up a boat full of bearded Muslims with weapons in US territorial waters. The options would likely involve either years of "coercive interrogation" in a cage in Guantanamo or a secret tour of ex-soviet torture chambers in Eastern Europe, so it amazes me when CNN tries to play up the mistreatment of the British sailors picked up by Iran in their waters.

Compared to the fate of people picked up on the streets of Afghanistan or Canadian or European citizens picked up on circumstantial evidence or sheer whimsy, they got off easy. As the US has long anointed itself with the power to intercept shipping anywhere and has seized citizens of many countries including its own, holding them without charges, often in solitary confinement and often with torture - who the hell are we to assume such an attitude?

Perfect victim

Hysterical anger is a very effective tool for the manipulation of the American public. It's easy for instance, to make people forget the large-scale and coordinated export of well paying, technical, engineering, manufacturing and executive jobs to foreign countries by raising the specter of Mexican immigrants taking away our career opportunities in dish washing and fruit picking. Illegal immigrants are excellent pawns in the game as they can't afford to speak out or set the record straight regarding their "burden" on society.

Less obviously motivated by partisan politics however, is the hysteria over sex offenders. They could not be more nearly perfect targets. Nobody has any sympathy. No one wants to be seen having any sympathy and the legal terminology doesn't really discriminate between the monsters who torture and kill children and the damn fools who were sure that teen age girl they picked up in a bar was 21. The category conjures up images of the unspeakable yet it includes, in some States the teenager who got caught "mooning" people from a moving car or the guy who just couldn't hold it in any longer and got caught urinating in the bushes.

Of course adding to the general fear of the public serves authoritarianism and it eases the road to a more medieval justice system in which an offender can never be redeemed nor can he escape suspicion and the presumption of malice. Be he a 90 year old ex con with 70 years of abiding by the law or some harmless bozo with bladder problems, he is marked and cast out like Cain.

The public satisfaction with perpetual punishment and exile for a broad spectrum of crimes seems nearly unanimous. The rules of exile, by which a registered sex offender may never live or work within a half mile of any place where children might congregate are proliferating and perhaps nowhere more than in Miami Florida. Wandering, homeless men, being now without hope of employment or shelter or plumbing would seem to be something society would want to avoid, but the City of Miami is happy to have them living, with official sanction, with rats and other vermin under bridges -- like trolls.

The logic behind a program supposedly designed to make a released criminal less of a danger to society by forcing him into domestic exile from which he can only escape by death or a return to a prison cell; a position from which he has nothing to lose by committing another crime, truly escapes me, but I can't blame a stupid, counterproductive and probably illegal policy on power hungry politicians alone. Without the hysteria and panic and abject, safety seeking stupidity of the American Middle Class Conservative, they couldn't get away with it.


This morning's CNN poll tells us that 45% of respondents would approve of laws forbidding registered sex offenders to live anywhere.

Cross posted in The Reaction

Thursday, April 05, 2007

No user servicable parts inside.

I read in Bloomberg today about a group of Japanese tinkerers: back yard mechanics and neo-hotrodders who have been re-engineering their hybrid cars and sometimes doubling the advertised gas mileage. Software and hardware modifications which in the US are usually illegal, can often significantly improve efficiency and power over the levels produced by the compromise engineering of the automobile manufacturers, but so great is the power arrogated by the US government that the car you may be making payments on is your car only as long as you don't go near it with intent to change anything. What once was called American ingenuity, is now called "tampering."

Is one more avenue to creativity being closed off by forcing us to be consumers dependent entirely upon others? At the very least they are making it difficult. Your car's computer is already capable of recording just how fast you have driven it, among other data and the technology is here to allow it to report it all to the authorities while you drive. The automobile, which for over 100 years has been an expression of the owners individuality and talent, may no longer be that, save for the few variations allowed by the factories, the feds and Ralph Nader. What color truck would you like, Mr. consumer?

I once had a 1993 Corvette that was the recipient of a number of mechanical and software modifications done over time which resulted in a car producing about 400 hp and yet which at a sustained speed of 70MPH got 30 MPG. The emission levels were below that of a new car. Take that, Ralph Nader!

The purpose of all this nattering is merely to uphold the role of folk-engineering; an encomium to hot-rodders, street-racers and tinkerers whose innovations have done as much for the advancement of automobile technology as have the hired guns of the automakers. Maybe there will be a day when we're all driving electric cars, but you'll have to pry my torque wrench from my cold, dead fingers. . .

'08 may be too late

The "Swift Boat" campaign against John Kerry is one of the most shameful political incidents in my memory and I say is rather than was because this cold version of a terrorist attack on America has never sufficiently been repudiated. The most shameful fact about the lack of shame of Bush supporters, both overt and covert is that the perpetrators have not only escaped the severe punishment they deserve but that they are being supported and rewarded by the George W. Bush political machine.

The smug, prancing little monkey in chief seems to have assumed that he adequately distanced himself from the criminals behind the all too successful character assassination by mumbling something vague about Kerry's war record, but the Washington, DC, public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts that produced the libel is the recipient of taxpayer financial support in their current role of pushing Bush's gift to the evangelical Taliban: the abstinence only sex education program.

In a way, the Swift boat campaign was only dirty politics, but the "just say no to sex" idiocy is an attack on the health of American youth. It neither dissuades anyone from sexual activity nor prepares anyone for the responsibility inherent in sexual relations and it promotes the spread of sexually transmitted disease through calculated ignorance.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the drugstore cowboy in chief has bypassed the need for the Senate approval he would assuredly not get, by the recess appointment of Sam Fox, the man whose large contributions to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" made the disgraceful smear possible as the US Ambassador to Belgium. Thus continues the policy of America's cut-rate Caligula of rewarding loyalty to the Bush insurgency in spite of illegality and incompetence; the policy of selling America, selling it's offices and selling its integrity to the highest and sleaziest bidder.

Can we survive until 2008?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


By 5:45 AM the dock lines had been secured, but by 8:30 we were still waiting, as the voice on the loudspeaker told us, "waiting for a security perimeter to be established."

As far as I know there is no war being fought on the streets of Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades is not likely to fall into enemy hands any time soon, nor is it all that likely that there are many passengers who having paid over $150,000 for a world cruise were likely to be carrying WMD's in their Louis Vuitton.

"Welcome to America" said I to the Welsh couple sitting next to me watching the endless stream of container ships enter and leave the port; loading and unloading uninspected containers without any noticeable security perimeters. They explained to me that this was likely their last trip to the US. They were giving up their second home in Naples because of the difficulty they continually experienced in entering the US. I would have suggested that they would have an easier time coming in illegally, but I suspect that like me, few people have much of a sense of humor at that hour.

Still, I was grateful to be waved through by US Immigration. The last time I entered the US at JFK in New York, it took nearly a half hour while they passed my passport around, muttering and typing things into computers. The mostly wealthy Europeans however, all had much more waiting, questioning, fingerprinting and physical searches to endure.

America's increasing fear and loathing of foreigners (but not their manufactured products) must be harming Florida's tourist industry. When El Presidente told us back in 2001 to go to Disneyland or the Tareists would win, he wasn't talking to Britons or Germans or Frenchmen. Of course the governments of those countries are no longer making it easy for US citizens either and I believe it's for no other reason than retaliation.

Driving away at last from the seaport, I marvelled at the uncountable number of shipping containers being piled up, put onto trucks and rail cars to be carried into the vastness of America. Hardly any of them will be inspected.