Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Kill Team

One of the objections I've voiced, regarding the use of private mercenaries rather than our military is that when US soldiers commit such gruesome offenses, pictures of which Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel have just published, there are sometimes consequences. When mercenaries do, as Blackwater did in Iraq, there seldom are and we tend not to hear about them.

The photos taken in Afghanistan, where we're engaged once again in winning the "hearts and minds" of the population by slaughtering their children and playing like ghouls with their mutilated bodies, are horrifying and it's small consolation that at least some of the drug crazed bastards who did it will face serious but barely adequate punishment -- but at least it's punishment.

Perhaps you've never seen what someone looks like after being hit by a rocket fired from above. It's pretty hard to tell whether the grizzly pile of bones and guts was an innocent bystander or a "terrorist" but the sight is far more terrifying when we see American soldiers wetting their knives in the blood, cutting fingers from dead kids' hands for trophies, displaying severed heads of "savages" and planting guns on innocent bodies to justify their having been slaughtered and mutilated and displayed on the side of the road -- to win hearts and minds, of course.

The men of Bravo company, we're told, had been considering "bagging Haji's" for a while it seems and eventually the bloodlust won out. Stupidly, they took photos and kept souveniers. I've decided not to show the photos. If you choose to click on the Rolling Stone link, please be sure you aren't the sensitive type, but you can avoid projectile vomiting and read about it on Raw Story.

There's no happy ending and the occupation of Afghanistan and the constant civilian casualties continue, but as a small degree of justice, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock who is seen posing with a dead boy, deliberately murdered for sport, has been sentenced to 24 years. Calvin Gibbs, a squad leader in the same Platoon , along with five other soldiers, pleaded guilty last week to lesser crimes in exchange for their testimony.

Who will pass judgment on us? Who will forgive us?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Banzai patriotism

By Capt. Fogg

There are all kinds of patriotism, some real, some pretended. With some countries it's mostly about supporting wars. It's been that way in most of my lifetime, with a few exceptions. With some people it's all about flags and pins and ceremonies. I'm straining to think of a time when it was seen as a reason to support a government you didn't vote for and I have to look back over 65 years ago to find a time when patriotism extended to making economic sacrifices in times of crisis, for the good of the country; for the good of the people. To me, Patriotism may once have meant something more than overgrown and somewhat pugnacious pride and militaristic ritual and it may once not have smelled so much of covert self-interest, but there are outside examples.

If it had been an American nuclear power plant destroyed by a natural event or anything of that magnitude, like a war, or flood or ecological disaster for example, I'd not expect to hear the party of big business or the mega-corporations that pay virtually no taxes anyway offer to suspend another round of corporate tax cuts. Yet that's what seems to be happening in Japan. The Japan Business Federation is a powerful corporate lobby -- sort of like the GOP. Its chairman, Hiromasa Yonekura says he will not stand in the government's way if it backs away from a proposed corporate tax cut.
"I don't mind if the government skips cutting the corporate tax rate," said Yonekura, who is also chairman of Sumitomo Chemical . "Instead I want the government to move swiftly in its recovery efforts."

I don't think I have to waste much space comparing Japan to the country that stood behind tax cuts and against paying off the enormous costs of war by taxing those who made the most money from it -- and challenged the patriotism of anyone who suggested it wasn't a good idea because tax cuts never have and never will pay for themselves -- so I won't.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Earth Hour - another Sunday sermon

"The amount of power that's saved during that time is not really what it's about,"
I would imagine so, since it's quite an insignificant amount.
"What it is meant to be about is showing what can happen when people come together."
Is the explanation of the hour-long turning off of lights on monuments and many countries around the world given by Earth Hour co-founder and executive director Andy Ridley. In other words it's a feel-good gesture that lets people who prefer gestures to making a difference, like the countless other "awareness raising" parties of all sorts.

Mass delusion, witch hunts, lynch mobs and riots, of course are other examples of what can happen when people come together. I think we need much more and much different solutions.

Might I suggest that working together toward a purpose is what we need and that such things require objectivity, education and a lot of money. Since most of the rapid increase in power consumption around the world is both the cause and effect of raising the standard of living of the suffering poor, it all sounds a bit smug for the haves of the world to be having a parade of Liberal virtue by perhaps not driving the Hummer for an hour or turning off some lights and partying in the dark. It's the kind of smugness that one sees in those swooning over some imaginary romantic and bucolic world where everyone farms with manure and mules and the bugs, crows and fungus don't eat two thirds of the crops. A world where people somehow find something "seasonal and local" and "organic" and not "processed" even in in the desert and tundra and the mountains instead of the often fatal malnutrition and disease our ancestors suffered until Clarence Birdseye, mechanical refrigeration and the steam locomotive saved us from goiters, pellagra, scurvy, hunger and a diet of boiled turnips every winter.

In the real world, billions would starve in short order without the technology that scares us so much, but maybe that wouldn't count because they'd be in Africa and places like that where we wouldn't have to smell it or catch Cholera and we'd have like soooo much fun raising awareness about it by having gala parties where the servants would pass around empty Hors d'Ĺ“uvre trays for an hour.

It's not that I'm against making some sacrifices or investing in public transportation or supplementing fossil fuel burning with wind and geothermal and hydroelectric power -- or even the newer, smaller, cheaper and safer nuclear plants now on the drawing boards -- quite the opposite. I'm all for heavy investment in research and development -- and paying for it with public revenue because private investment for such long range goals just doesn't happen on it's own. For an example, look at how much of today's digital world is the direct result of the tax and spend space program of the 50's and 60's.

No, what irks me is the neo-Luddite loathing for technology: the very technology we need to save us from Malthusian doom. It's usually the product of some scientific outcast publishing a alarmist book and convincing a lot of simpering young and uneducated celebrities that nature isn't a Hobbesean nightmare, that everything we improve our lives with from electric light to refrigeration to cell phones is going to bring that nature crashing down -- killing the bees with mysterious "cell phone rays" for instance and filling the world with unspecified "toxins" and radioactive vapours.

It's people like Bill Maher telling us our food is killing us even as we live longer and longer -- that we wouldn't have disease to cure if only we didn't eat corn products. It's celebrity scientists like Woody Harrelson telling us telling us not to cook our food. It's charlatans with their magnetic bracelets "tuned to natural frequencies" and pieces of magic duct tape that suck the "toxins" from our feet. It's the ancient and universal practice of blaming everything, every disease, disaster and disorder on witches, made new again.

This kind of "awareness" doesn't need raising, what needs raising is technology: understanding of it, awareness of it, investment in it -- the skill and will in developing and applying it. Please consider our hirsute relatives with thumbs on their feet and remember that it's the ability to produce and utilize energy that stands between us and squalor, privation and the nasty, brutish, disease filled, parasite ridden and short lives we used to share with the animals.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The great circle of stupid

"An appeals court has ruled that anyone involved in an extramarital affair can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison."
Or so says the Eagle Forum run by Rod Parsley, President and Founder of World Harvest Church in Ohio. Actually it's more likely that Judge William Murphy of the Michigan Court of Appeals was indulging in a bit of reductio ad absurdem in order to mock the obvious venality of the prosecution -- and in this case, the absurdity of the Michigan law is apparent without much reduction.

It's all about one Lloyd Waltonen who gave a cocktail waitress prescription drugs in exchange for sex and was charged with criminal sexual conduct, a felony, although the sex was consensual.

Of course those charges were dismissed, but on appeal The Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox (I'm not making that up) in an effort to ruin Waltonen's life in any way he could, dredged up some statute stating that any sexual activity committed during the same time as a felony constitutes criminal sexual conduct. Since adultery is a felony in Michigan, (I'm not making this up) he technically could get life in prison for consensual sex, although that's never happened and never likely will unless of course we allow demented parasitic vermin like Parsley to get involved in the judicial process. (more about that later)

So what was apparently a disgusted judge trying to make a fool of the hypocritical and hyperventilating Mr. Cox, (who as you would expect of a moralizing Republican, has admitted to an adulterous and hence felonious relationship himself,) might as well have a target tattooed on his forehead.

All of this staged display of irony of course, has escaped not only the resident and hairy-palmed hand of God at The Center For Moral Clarity, the World Harvest Church and the Eagle Forum, but Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's nominee for the Alaska Judiciary Council, Don Haase of Valdez. Haase, (he pronounces it Haze, but we won't go there this time) loves the idea of arresting people for obeying his religious laws, and why, you might ask? Premarital sex should be outlawed because it could "cause violence" and "spread disease," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. To his credit, he's either not quite as crazy as Parsley or perhaps less credit worthy, he's just trying to sound sane long enough to be confirmed, because while he doesn't claim that adultery or pre-marital sex should be a felony, he thinks it should be a crime.

Haase of course is a past president of Eagle Forum Alaska, a blog that advocates for what it calls conservative principles much like those of Medieval Europe. So we've come as close to full circle as we can while talking about idiots and madmen with no regard for freedom or the US constitution. We've come full circle from a secular liberal democracy and the counsel of intelligent and reasonable men as well.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sound and the Fury

I'd just signed clear with 5N7M in Nigeria and my spectrum scope showed a big pileup on 20 meters in the area reserved for extra class phone operation, so I tuned in expecting some rare DX station everyone was trying to work. I wish I hadn't. I didn't hear dozens of stations shouting their call letters trying to be heard on the other side of the planet, what I heard is what passes for political discussion these days.

"Well whaddaya think of a president who thinks he's a dictator and ignores the constitution"
"you mean Bush?"
"No, I mean Oh-Bah-Ma! Thinks he can declare war all by himself. At least with Bush both times he got permission from congress -- this guy thinks he's a DICTATOR"
"Ahhhh, come on. . ."
"That's an impeachable offense! That's Treason!"

Of course I'm editing here. There were too many voices stepping on each other to include it all or even to call it a discussion, but that's American politics in all its unsound and furious ignorance.

Actually the War Powers Act requires that the president notify congress within 48 hours, which of course was exactly what happened. Whether or not that will filter down to the terminally Foxed and all those so desperate to portray Obama as everything Bush was and worse, I don't know, but where there's a will to hate, there's always a way to hate. As much as facts might contradict the idiot rage, they have as much a chance to bust the pileup as a 2 Watt QRP rig with a Buddipole.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cry havoc

If there's anything being shoved down our throats these days, it's the claim that health care reform is being shoved down our throats. It's all part of the game the minority party is playing by trying to make you think the Democrats won the White House by some sort of fluke and that the desire for health care reform wasn't what Obama's majority of voters were hoping for.

It's been a year now and the screaming hasn't let up for a moment, but a recent poll shows that half the country favors the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, whether or not you call it ObamaCare and only 43% think it's "too liberal."

It would be amusing of course if the bumper sticker bumpkins did get their "end of an error" by electing Mitt Romney who like the rest of them is giving us that old soft shoe about just how terrible the new law is because as the unimpaired remember, Mitt only a few years ago was hoping his new Massachusetts health care reform would go nationwide. It's easy to call a politician like that a whore, but it's unfair to whores and I don't want to distract from his fellow streetwalker who has been spending a fortune with TV ads warning us of the holocaust, the calamity, the apocalypse sure to wipe us from the earth if we have to have health insurance rather than hope the emergency room can cure our cancer or heart disease -- at public expense. I mean, never mind the war, conquest, famine and death -- this is health care!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fox News has learned. . .

No they haven't.

Alex Jones' Prison Planet website is the kind of place you expect to find very right wing viewpoints and so when I find agreement that Fox News lies, I feel good about it. It gives me a defense when people behind the Fox curtain accuse me of being a far-left Commie/Liberal liar, which seems to be the best they can do, considering all the evidence that Fox is indeed a lie factory and propaganda machine -- more than just simply being affiliated with and a sponsor of the GOP.

"The latest example comes from Fox News, who completely manufactured the claim that Gaddafi was using western journalists as human shields to prevent fighter jets from bombing his compound,"

writes blog editor Paul Joseph Watson today.

In a piece entitled, EXCLUSIVE: Libyans Use Journalists as Human Shields, Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin & Justin Fishel wrote, says Watson:
“An attack on the compound of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi on Sunday had to be curtailed because of journalists nearby, Fox News has learned.”
But there’s a problem, he says. One of the CNN journalists supposedly used by Gaddafi as a human shield subsequently appeared on CNN and labeled the claim,
“Outrageous and absolutely hypocritical. The idea that we were some kind of human shields is nuts,” CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson told Wolf Blitzer.

"Fox News has proven itself to be a complete tool of the US military-industrial complex. Nothing it now reports about the attack on Libya can ever be trusted."
says Prison Planet, QED -- and who can dispute it?

Monday, March 21, 2011

In GOP we trust

There are a few things that seem to be endless about the American Lie Machine and it's quest to rephrase our founding principles, rewrite our documents and refashion us into the government by divine right the colonists left behind. The endless assault on the First Amendment is one of them.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sponsored a bill to make "In God We Trust" the official motto on the United States of America, giving unlawful support to an unspecified, but intentionally Christian God and allowing and encouraging the carving of religious credos into the stone of our institutions and establishing state Theism contrary to the letter and intent of the US Constitution. He was troubled by a pattern of omitting God from the nation's heritage, said he. Could a talking snake be any more devious? Of course omitting God is not the same thing as preventing state recognition of Forbes' god and that's the forbidden and worm eaten fruit we're being offered and that some of us are deluded and befuddled enough to bite into.

"There is a small minority who believes America does not have the right to trust in God, who believes the United States should not affirm trust in God, and who actively seek to remove any recognition of that trust,"

But the writers of the constitution weren't a small minority and had no intention whatever of forbidding the free exercise of religion by citizens -- only of forbidding the government officially to recognize any religion, sect, denomination or cult as preferred. But as I said, it's devious. There is nothing in our laws and no credible movement to prevent any American from trusting in any God or gods or principles or making statements to that effect -- or from ignoring them. There is the First Amendment to prevent the government from doing so.

Although Republicans are notorious for portraying the government as an alien force, separate from the people and their interests, it's interesting to see how in this instance, they're quite willing to see the people and the government as congruent or identical because equivocation is the armature about which is built this grotesque idol. But of course not paying for you to engrave your God on the wall I paid for isn't a rejection of anything but the government's right to do so, which is the precise intent of our constitution. There is no official God or gods in the United States, no official belief -- and this legislation furthers only the intent to create one.

Forbes claims that the resolution is meant to affirm the importance of God in the heritage of the United States, but refuses to address the question of who the "we" are. If he's talking about the people as people, perhaps he's right, at least in the sense of a majority of them, but to a good number of Americans for whom the right to be irreligious, atheistic or pagan is protected, this resolution is an exclusion act. There is no me in that we.

Small minority? I'm not so sure, what with the penalties attendant to disbelief and doubt and unsanctioned belief, but so what? A small minority of Americans are of African descent or Jewish decent or indigenous descent and the triumph of our democracy is to protect their rights, their numbers notwithstanding. I might say that a large minority of Republicans are asserting that intellectual minorities don't have the same rights when it comes to private thought and this mumbling against "small minorities" is nothing but an attempt to marginalize intellectual non-conformism.

In God We Trust isn't all that historical anyway. Although some, but not all US coins have had it stamped on them since about 1864 as part of the attempt to give a boost to the unpopular war, the motto only became "official" in 1956, shortly after the Knights of Columbus and other religious lobbyists convinced Dwight Eisenhower it would help give Americans another reason to hate and fear Communism.

The first appearance of "In God is our trust" was in Francis Key's poem, later set to an old drinking song and made into an anthem which didn't become official until the 1930's, by which time there wasn't much left of Jefferson's bones to be furiously gyrating in his coffin. That he would do so is of course contested by the plethora of Church funded revisionist historians like All About History who make statements saying President Thomas Jefferson wrote,
"The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time" and "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of God?"
which words, of course, Jefferson never spoke or wrote. Perhaps you can see why the GOP stands against public education, science and history -- and for the Christian Bible and Christian government. Perhaps somewhere, the shade of Galileo is wryly smiling and George III, Rex Dei Gratia is giggling because the long upward climb to freedom is sliding back into the reeking sump from which it emerged.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just say no

No, no, no - we just can't believe scientists when they tell us about the dangers of radiation any more than you can trust them about climate change. The only way to evaluate data is through the kind of transubstantiation wherein facts turn to Fox feces and vice versa.

Take people like Lyin' Bill O'Reilly. You can have all the data and expertise of a hundred lifetimes studying nuclear engineering, the effects of low-dose radiation on humans and global wind patterns, but you can't be sure which way the wind blows unless you ask Bill and Bill, the Holy Father of Denialism likes to say no. It's so much easier than being informed and of course Fox Folk can feel superior by just saying no to things they're too dumb or lazy or ignorant to understand - things that might cost them something or change their convenient opinions or save their country.

Tsunami, Earthquake -- what's the connection? None at all, it was God, the same guy who makes the tides go up and down. What did you think it was, the moon? Who put the moon there anyway, and gravity? That liberal hoax?

But of course Denialism, you know that cheap, imitation conservative intellect thing; Bill is hardly the only prophet. Take Beck who got his knowledge of plate tectonics from sleeping in a cheap motel and has the nerve to speak for God to John McCain who laughed out loud at the very concept of nuclear safety when his opponent stressed the need to put away the gasoline before playing with matches. "Blah, blah, blah;" perhaps the most intelligent thing he said in that whole campaign.

Just say no and let's repeal "Obamacare" says Mike Huckabee who's been clogging the arteries of my flatscreen for the last few days. "It will do irreparable damage to our country" and never mind that Massachusetts and Hawaii are still with us while countless Americans have to resort to buying their medications from Canada and Mexico while Republicans in the private health care business ship their profits to the Caymans to avoid exposing them to taxes and communism. No, the universe began, according to Huck, quite a while after civilization started in Mesopotamia and the Indus valley and all those fossils were things that died in the Flood. Just say no to proof itself. Whatever it is, the answer is no.

Just say no - it's just not a laughably stupid approach to drug use, it's an epitaph.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The end, again -- and again

A friend just drove back from Orlando and reported seeing billboards proclaiming, once again, that the "end of the world" was at hand. I'm never quite sure what these idiots mean by "the world;" whether it's human life, the habitability of the planet or perhaps the existence of existence itself which would be a problem far too complex to discuss, even amongst sane and intelligent people. Let's say I don't really suspect these apocalyptic birdbrains of either virtue.

Might I remind you, if you're one of these folks, that the recent quake and tsunami is insignificant when compared to things that happen regularly on this our only planet? But of course you may be one of those New Earth, 6 day creation idiots, but even then it's pretty small as compared with the explosion of the Santorini volcano or Krakatoa. Even in human times, the ancients weren't as populous and certainly didn't build nuclear power plants. But why discuss reality when the tantalizing lure of doom has the lemmings in thrall?

People have been predicting these things for as long as we have records; some to sell normative religion and others for what seems to be the pure thrill of it. Is there some inherited "daddy's going to whip your ass when he gets home" instinct or is it put there by our mesopotamian religious heritage? I suspect the former since it creeps up in Norse mythology as well, but who knows. It persists because it makes money and gives power, at least temporarily -- particularly for those prophets who offer early destruction and provide dates and times. Some of those have to suggest mass suicide to avoid embarrassment as time inevitably rolls on past the deadline.

I can't wait for 2012, which I suspect won't mean the "end of an error" or the end of anything really important. 1982 came and went at the same petty pace and the end of the last millennium passed as smoothly as last Wednesday. I'm willing to bet we'll stop attributing all that cosmic wisdom to the Mayans by 1/1/13 but of course, I can't lose that bet, can I?

The Rapture idiots, followers of the lunatic of Patmos are still passionately with us, because gibbering John offers more of an "any time now" promise with clues like: "wars and rumors of wars" that obtain to every moment in history, just like earthquakes, floods, famines and outbreaks of disease. Since there's a new crop to replace the ever disappointed dimwits, perhaps nothing short of a true planetary catastrophe will rid us of them.

There are times when I wish for it, particularly if I survive long enough to watch the expression on their non-raptured faces. But I look forward to being here for a number of years, watching them reshuffling the cards, re-reading the entrails, consulting omens and shamans in their shameless way, world without end.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Poor and content

Is rich, and rich enough, said Iago -- but who is ever content or allowed to be in this consumer and corporate culture?

Poor and content is rich and rich enough,
But riches fineless is as poor as winter
To him that ever fears he shall be poor.
Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend
From jealousy!

Certainly not those with the most right to feel they have it all. According to a recent Fidelity Investments poll, More than four out of ten American millionaires say they do not feel rich. I certainly am one and yet I certainly don't. $7.5 million seems to be a threshold of some sort for feeling safe and secure but I have to smile at that level of innocence. The rich are nearly always insecure.

"The rich are in general slaves to fear and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel" - Tom Paine-

But whether I feel rich these days is not the real point. It's that, as our primordial Blogger said, the wealthy seek the protection of power and that usually involves suppressing the less than rich. What we see in the political market is selling that suppression while demanding libertarian license for those it favors.

For most Americans, the pleasure of having to put up with any part of their income being taxed at the top marginal rate is rare as a Ferrari in rural Louisiana or a Prius in Marbella, yet to the bias-for-hire folks like Lyin' Bill O'Reilly the income of the top few percent is arbitrarily close to the poverty line, even while $55,000 gross with a pension plan is a "lavish" life if one is a Wisconsin teacher and Union Member.

O'Reilly, of course makes about $10 million in salary and gets about $50K for speaking appearances. In other words he earns about as much as a Wisconsin teacher does in a year for an evening telling his minions Mrs. Jones of the Green Bay school system is a plutocrat who hardly has to work and a millstone around our privileged necks.

Hannity, I read recently, signed a hundred million dollar contract and while some union heads make a lot and maybe too much, they represent American workers and can be fired by American workers. Just who the hell does the Fox crew represent other than those who make that kind of money look like chump change -- the poor souls. We can't fire Fox and we can't fire the Koch Brothers or the Wall Street tycoons any more than we can get those trillion dollar corporations headquartered in the Caymans to trickle anything down to us.

As the man said, it's that 'content' part that's so elusive. I'm sure that folks like Cheney and the rest of the ascetics at Halliburton think that they don't have enough and of course no corporation would survive if it decided that filthy rich is rich enough. That's the basis of Capitalism and the basis of the need to set rules for it. It's all about perspective and somehow that stratospheric perspective has been brought down not only to the bourgeois bedroom communities of America, but to the Bayous of Louisiana and the farms of Illinois. It's a triumph of consumerism like selling million dollar homes to the unemployed; buy it and the dream will come. It will, my fellow Americans, It will come to the bank and the Repo man, but not for you.

The backbone of Consumerism and the almost tragic flaw of wealth is just that human weakness of always looking longingly upwards and believing that glittering life could be yours if only it weren't for regulation and taxes on the top 1% whose yacht tenders cost more than your house and whose corporations pay little or no taxes at all. All is advertising in our new world and all of advertising is an attempt to create dissatisfaction in everyone; no matter what their homes, cars, boats, clothes, jobs, bodies and anything else might be, if money can be spent on improving them, Mammon is going to make sure you hate each and every one of them in the hopes that you'll go into debt reaching for the brass ring they keep just beyond your grasp. But it's not just the fatuous expectation, it's the ability to make people act against their own interests, to make scapegoats of themselves, to turn against those who have less instead of those who are keeping you down: the ability to turn our private frustrations into the shackles the plutocracy needs us to wear.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If it flies, it dies?

I say Qaddafi, you say Gadhafi, but some still refuse to call him a bad guy. Chavez, Castro, a bunch of tyrants and a few other dodgy regimes trying to curry favor with Iran oppose any foreign efforts to aid rebels in Libya, while others insist we need to establish a "no fly" zone right now.

As President Eisenhower once said,
" In only two efforts of endeavor do the amateurs consider themselves more competent than the professionals -- in the field of military strategy and the ancient profession of prostitution."

In the case of those now slamming Obama for not already having launched a military operation in support of Libyan rebels, those amateur Generals may well be more expert in prostitution than military operations, because if the President does decide to send in the bombers and fighters he'll surely be chastised as thoroughly as he was for hesitating -- and by the same people. For Republicans, of course, it would be a crime to make their base pay a dime for this, a sin to let NPR have a penny, but when it comes to another war, there will always be billions left to borrow and squeeze out of the serfs.

Make no mistake, establishing air superiority in Libya means attacking air bases, anti-aircraft and radar sites and that can easily involve civilian as well as military casualties -- and of course will put our pilots in harm's way on yet another front. It will also give Qaddafi support from his friends at home and abroad who will portray it as an effort by the West to get at his oil and will feed paranoia in surrounding countries. I won't elaborate about our financial situation other than to point out once again, that it seems easier for the traditional armchair generals to borrow and spend for such a hugely expensive venture abroad than to dissuade them from swiping pensions from little old lady school teachers and shutting down birth control providers.

Of course yesterday's statement by the Arab League of support for intervention certainly does allay some fears that we'd be making things worse, but to me, that begs the question of why rich, well-armed countries like Saudi Arabia can't have a very large hand in keeping the Libyan tyrant from calling in air strikes on rebel strongholds. Certainly we and NATO allies need to show support for the end of Qaddafi's reign by the Libyan people, but do we really always need to be the Big Dog with the big guns and the bottomless pockets?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The other high cost of energy

"Your Mr. Obama doesn't like nuclear power"
said R___. It was back in '08 during the "drill baby drill," cheap energy at any cost nonsense. He's an engineer, like many of my friends and aquaintances and you would think he'd share a concern with proper design and planning of nuclear facilities but then, as now, if Obama is for it, the Republicans area against it.

Then there was J___, an ex military man with several graduate degrees who told me in robotic tones that "we don't need any more government regulation" when I mentioned that a bit of responsible enforcement of the rules might have prevented the inevitable Gulf blow out disaster.

It really is like arguing with robots, because humans can, at least in theory, learn from experience. Robots need programming and repeat what they are programmed to repeat. It's not quite exclusively American, of course and R___ is Swiss after all. The overall safety of nuclear power is a question subject to debate, preferably between those with a great deal of technical expertise and not unduly influenced by those with a great deal of financial interest in building them. There will always be a danger, of course and there will always be an increasing need for energy pace the neo-Luddites and those who think we can feed and house the world's population using pre-industrial revolution technology, but building a nuclear plan on a coastline and in an earthquake zone seems to this layman a triumph of short sighted greed.

I read with horror this morning of a radiation leak and explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant resulting from the emergency backup power system being installed where it could -- and did - flood. Of course the plant is located so as to put a great many people in a danger zone and they've had to be evacuated. Odds are that the current plan to flood the reactor with sea water will succeed, and so far the leak is small, or so they say, but it's not really the kind of risk most people would subject themselves to voluntarily. People other than my Republican friends, that is.

I'm concerned enough that I live just down the coast of Florida from a nuclear facility. I'm part of a group organized to provide emergency communications should all else fail and an 'incident' occur and we have regular drills that are based on frightening scenarios. I'd rather they hadn't built it on the coast and within yards of the sea. Tsunamis aren't common here, but hardly impossible and hurricanes with storm surges happen all too often, but the convenience of having a large labor supply, saving money and cutting corners made the site attractive -- and of course we don't need no more Gummint regulation, do we?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

St. Paul, Defender of the Faith.

One of the things I have liked about Congressman Ron Paul is that he's often been on the side of deregulating private life and consensual behavior, but either he doesn't mean what he says or is willing to say what he doesn't mean in order to curry favor with the Great Regulators of the Religious right.

Speaking in Iowa recently, Mr. Paul said:
"The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 to stop Big Government in Washington from re-defining marriage and forcing its definition on the States. Like the majority of Iowans, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and must be protected."

That resonates in my ears as a statement of his religious persuasion and of course he was speaking to a group of religions conservatives representing denominations opposed to letting people decide for themselves about such matters. Other religions might have other ideas and indeed some do. In other words these are people quite open about forcing their definition on Americans.

I find it curious that proponents of defining marriage according to religious definitions always use the word "is" where one expects "should be," "ought to be" or "must be" and there must be a reason for it. Marriage, after all is a human institution and marriage customs vary amongst groups of humans. Perhaps "is" is a way to pretend that it's written into the fabric of the cosmos like general relativity or the uncertainty principle. It isn't.

Of course Paul couched his opposition to doing away with the Defense of Marriage act in terms of states rights and whether or not he was following in the tradition of all the other "states rights" defenses of so many other things we now see as unjust, it's a defense of something with as limited a future as our embarrassing misogyny laws of recent memory. A minority of the country oppose preventing people from marrying whom they will and I can't help but find my feeling that the history of humankind's progress toward democracy is once again being thwarted by the notion of a divine will that opposes our allegedly innate liberty.

When someone who has been so stalwart in defending the Constitution and restraining government power, promotes such peremptory views on the most personal of choices, it seems a jarring discontinuity that makes on question the man and everything else he's described as being unconstitutional. It's hard to understand why he's willing to use government power to defend a certain Faith when that is something the government is expressly forbidden to do.

Yes, I know. I've been talking a lot about religion of late, but to me, there is no other force in American affairs more intractable than the movement to force compliance to religious standards on people who have or wish to have no affiliation with those standards and prefer the right to make personal choices according to their own consciences. That ability, that kind of freedom is the beating heart of liberal democracy. If we lose that, we lose it all.

It's sad to see Congressman Paul speaking this way. I once had high hopes for him, if not as Presidential material, certainly as a voice of reason and restraint at a time when the Republican party seems increasingly controlled by anti-democratic, anti-libertarian influences. Now he seems far less of a libertarian, far more of an authoritarian and indistinguishable from any other politician grovelling before the powerful.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Passion play

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof


If you managed to get through grade school, you've read this many times, but it never seems to influence the way Americans act or feel; a syndrome which seems more influenced by mob psychology and sectarian chauvinism than anything else. Of course it's long been this way and we've long been a xenophobic and gullible nation, but with the advent of round-the-clock swineherds like Fox, the grunting and squealing of feral hog America is drowning out the voice of our founding fathers and of decent men and women everywhere.

"even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service." (Ben Franklin)

The same folks who want to persecute Muslims for their religion and prohibit the free exercise thereof will assert, without twitching their nostrils at the smell of hypocrisy, that this is a Christian nation and that Christian laws, whatever they might be, supersede our national laws about abortion, birth control, spending government funds on Christian activities and browbeating children into theological submission. It's not OK that a Muslim man doesn't want to drink alcohol or a Jew doesn't want to eat pork, but it's fine that a Christian pharmacist refuses to dispense condoms. Damn the constitution, we're a Christian nation. The laws of other religions need not apply and in fact, although there is no chance whatever that the United States will adopt the Quir'an as a replacement to the Constitution and body of laws, it's not enough for the grunting pigs of God who would like to make the free exercise of Islam illegal.

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

The latest crusade seems to be about portraying every comment by every Muslim as an example of Sharia, from a cabby in Detroit asking that he not be forced to transport alcohol to someone praying in Arabic in front of the white house. According to one witness, he was asking for a blessing on those "Christians" who seemed oblivious to the staggering irony of a mob mocking and cursing a bearded man, bent in prayer, forgiving them for persecuting him. None of this has anything to do with any effort to replace our laws and courts with Islamic laws or Islamic judges nor can it since no effort exists. As to the rules of private observance - let's let only Christians do that! The only credible attempt or theocratic pretenders to the throne of course is by self-styled Christians, as the porcine squeals of the glossolalians Palin and Huckabee would prove.

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen. . ." (George Washington)

Perhaps it's fortunate that such people are stupid enough to hoist themselves with their own petty petards. You'll recall and perhaps with a smile, Oklahoma's attempt to thwart the non-existent Islamic take-over by attempting a tin foil hat law banning all religious commands -- which in effect banned the Jewish commandments they had been trying to insert into American life, but we can't afford to depend on their congenital stupidity when so much is at stake. And yes, it takes a stupid man to think that somehow Americans would decide to write Sharia or Islamic tribal practices into American law in open defiance of the Constitution or that the tiny percentage of Muslim Americans would somehow magically or accidentally do it by themselves.

The courts have decisively ruled that the establishment and free exercise clauses forbid the Federal and State to prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion or atheism. The Torah, the Bible, the Quir'an, the Gita, the works of Nietzsche: state or Federal government may not adopt any of them as preferable, much less mandatory. But we're a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel people if I might borrow from T.E. Lawrence -- and a cowardly, ignorant and hateful people as well. "Conservative" legislators continue and will persist in thriving on our traditional sins by inventing threats which must be countered by measures to accelerate our inexorable descent into looserhood. They'll continue to demonize the way their predecessors demonized German, Irish, Italian, Mexican, African, Catholic, Jewish, Chinese and Indian immigrants and history will continue to prove them wrong.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Last man standing

And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

-Job 1:15-

The blogger who calls himself Buffalo sometimes helps me to remember that despite all the politics and mean spiritedness, that life is still worth living and he often ends his posts with "life is sweet." Indeed it is, and precious too. Yesterday, he reminded me that the long, long life of Frank Buckles ended last Sunday. Buckles was the last surviving American soldier of World War I and he was 110 years old. He is no longer here to tell us to remember: the reality, the horror, the gruesome death, the story of the Lost Generation. History forgotten becomes the tool of deceivers and of course the men and the events need to be remembered. The debt needs to be remembered.

There is, almost a century after the Armistice, no National WW I War memorial and although the dead of The Vietnam and Korean conflicts are outnumbered -- and more dramatically when we remember how small our population was in 1918 -- we have only little and local monuments.

In 2008, Frank Buckles
visited the District of Columbia War Memorial, on the National Mall in Washington DC and expressed a wish that it become a national monument to his generation's effort and sacrifice. I think we owe it to him. I'd like to ask you to look at the World War I Memorial Foundation website and consider a contribution and a letter to your senator and congressman about supporting the memorial. To put The Great War behind us while leaving the memory of those who fought and died in it behind as well, is a disgrace.

No, we can indeed afford it. Don't let them tell you we can't.

Huckabee on the carpet

British comedian Ricky Gervais recently put together a short TV comedy series, Idiots Abroad; seven episodes indulging his obvious schadenfreude by making his "friend" and reputed moron Carl Pilkington miserable despite having been being sent to visit some wonderful places. It had the effect of annoying me since Pilkington, who isn't quite the idiot Gervais says he is, seems rather to be a nice and decent sort of fellow and deserved better treatment, even if that would undermine the premise of the show.

I don't feel quite the same way about Likable Mike Huckabee, affable and avuncular and sincere though he may seem. It's as hard to feel sympathy for one whose idiocy seems more purposeful and politically founded than genetic, although that may be a factor too. I'm not just talking about his shameless promotion of Bronze age ignorance and mythology and the snickering denigration of science. I'm not just talking about promoting the invasion of Libya and thus cementing the authority of Qaddafi, making us appear imperialistic and escalating the debt and putting a strain on our military capability. I'm talking abut his attempt to enlist a far more scurrilous bit of political mythology than "creation science" to promote his grotesque candidacy by telling us our president grew up in Africa and so really doesn't either understand us or have our interests at heart.

It's not just the racism. I'm used to racism. It's that the possibility of his candidacy rests on building and arming an insurgency of idiots who neither know or care about reality. It's like inviting the Klan to use your back yard for a rally and claiming you're above that sort of thing yourself.

It's not that he's black, you see -- it's just that you can't trust someone with the troubling attribute of being dark skinned. Smiling Mike surely knows that Barack Obama lived in Indonesia as a small boy but wasn't born in and didn't live in any part of Africa. He knows he was born in the USA as surely as Bruce Springsteen was and Mike Huckabee was and grew up in the American Midwest and was raised by his white relatives. So if he does know that and chooses none the less to have you believe otherwise, he's a liar willing to use lies to get elected. If he doesn't know that, he's an idiot to the degree that he shouldn't be given a more responsible or well paid position than a men's room attendant.

Huckabee shouldn't be trusted with leading a Boy Scout troop, much less the United States. He represents, despite his smiling, self-effacing sincerity, the lower skirt of the intellectual as well as the moral decency bell curve, no matter how you measure it.

Yes, professional fixer and HuckPAC Executive Director J. Hogan Gidley says Huckabee "simply misspoke" during his book tour, which is as convincing as saying the dog didn't crap on the carpet, but simply misshit. It only means he's not toilet trained, can't be trusted and we surely don't want him on the expensive rug in the oval office.