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This politics page was getting quite large, and the older material (Aug 2000 - Sept 2004) is now archived.
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A society without religion is like a crazed psychopath without a loaded .45.

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370

12 Dec 2007. I was trying this as a blog since Feb, but next to nobody seems to have been reading it. That may be true here, too, but here I have much better control over the format and images. I have copied in most of the entries.

Dec 2007
I was surprised to see hundreds of page hits coming from Freerepublic, a ranting post for a dim-witted group of Rethuglicans. (If there's anything between their ears, it's shit.) Turns out the links were to an image I had posted sarcastically, but they take seriously. It was fun to change some file names, so this:
Hillary bites too was replaced with this: Bush the wanker

court sides with Bush Gestapo
November 17, 2007
Court Bars Secret Papers in Eavesdropping Case
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 — A federal appeals court said Friday that secrecy laws had forced it to exclude crucial evidence about the government’s wiretapping of an Islamic charity, making it far more difficult for the charity to proceed with its challenge to the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program.
    But the court did please critics of the program in finding that the government’s “cascade” of public statements had made the program anything but a secret, defusing one of the administration’s main arguments for throwing all such lawsuits out of court. [continues]

20 Oct 2007
Fark just linked to the ancient (1998 and 1999) Random House Modern Library  lists of 100 best and most popular novels and non-fiction books. This clearly shows that the readers' lists were spammed by libertarian, SF and Scientology geeks. I'm surprised at how few of the classic nonfiction books I have read, and at how outdated and ephemeral the lists are.

What are we paying for?
Thursday, 18. October 2007, 22:48:18
Most fake bombs missed by screeners
75% not detected at LAX; 60% at O'Hare
By Thomas Frank
WASHINGTON — Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.
    Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.
    At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons — including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco.
    The report looks only at those three airports, using them as case studies to understand how well the rest of the U.S. screening system is working to stop terrorists from carrying bombs through checkpoints.

Gen. Sanchez: Bush hasn't a clue or strategy
"After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism."
LT. GEN. RICARDO S. SANCHEZ, the retired former top commander of American forces in Iraq.

October 13, 2007
Ex-Commander Says Iraq Effort Is ‘a Nightmare’
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top commander of American forces there called the Bush administration’s handling of the war “incompetent” and said the result was “a nightmare with no end in sight.”
    Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who retired in 2006 after being replaced in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, blamed the Bush administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current addition of American forces as a “desperate” move that would not achieve long-term stability. [more]

106 books waiting to be read
Friday, 5. October 2007
This list is being passed around among the blogs. It seems to come from LibraryThing.com, and represent its readers' list of books they haven't gotten around to reading yet. There are several I've never heard of. The bloggers are indicating what they've read by bolding, partially read by italics, "can't stand" by crossing out, and possess themselves with an asterisk. Our library is so scattered that I'm not sure just which we own.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment*
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights*
The Silmarillion*
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote*
Moby Dick*
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey*
Pride and Prejudice*
Jane Eyre*
The Tale of Two Cities*
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies*
War and Peace*
Vanity Fair*
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad*
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations*
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (don't bother)
Atlas Shrugged*
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo*
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King*
The Grapes of Wrath*
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno*
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince*
The Sound and the Fury*
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter*
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon*
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye (why do English teachers like this?)
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values*
The Aeneid*
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow*
The Hobbit*
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island*
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers*

Bill Richardson had seemed reasonable. Now what?
Friday, 21. September 2007, 14:39:55
Faux News
"WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson told a group of National Rifle Association members on Friday he was a proud owner of a concealed-carry permit."
Concealed weapon? Okay. Pandering to the NRA? No, no, no!
Where does this leave me? Obama by default?

NIMBY jerks in Eastham
Friday, 21. September 2007
Nasty neighbors and tiny-minded officials close an institution:
    headline from Cape Cod Times:
Selectmen, with regret, back ruling against hostel
September 5, 2007
EASTHAM - The selectmen last night expressed regret that a youth hostel will likely be closed, after 40 years in town, because of a recent zoning board of appeals decision. [more]
[update Mar 2008 - The hostel will remain open, but spent so much defending itself from the lawsuit that it can't do the planned renovations!]

list of Democrats opposed to free speech
Friday, 21. September 2007
Seventy-two members of the Senate voted for a resolution saying MoveOn.org "impugns the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces," by running an add in the New York Times that criticized Petraeus for cooking the books for Bush's war. Surprisingly, Sen. Clinton is not on the list. Obviously all the Rethuglicans voted for it.
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA)

Bill Richardson had seemed reasonable. Now what?
21 September 2007
Faux News
"WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson told a group of National Rifle Association members on Friday he was a proud owner of a concealed-carry permit."

Concealed weapon? Okay. Pandering to the NRA? No, no, no!
Where does this leave me? Obama by default?

middle school subbing
11 September 2007
Subbing at an urban middle school:
    Students should not have rulers. They pull them apart, hit each other, and make noise.
Electric pencil sharpeners are a really bad idea. They take no effort, and are used as noisy time wasters. Since they don't bring their own pencils, they feel free to grind down "borrowed" whole ones to a stub. At least with manual ones they'd have to look and crank.
    There is less attention paid to fashion than in high school, but some are status obsessed about clothes, cars and parental occupation. Some prattle about gang activities.
    Calculators are used for the most trivial calculations, and students don't consider whether the answers make sense (they continue this in high school.)

10 September 2007
    I was mentioning the dress code to a new substitute teacher at a suburban high school today, how some rules are generally enforced and others ignored. The "no hats", "no midriffs", "no drug or vulgar slogans" rules are enforced. If the "no underwear showing" rule is supposed to apply to the boys, it's ignored. That idiotic style where the pants' "waistband" is at mid-thigh is popular, although generally semi-concealed by a T-shirt large enough to shelter a Darfur family of 6. Okay, it's ugly, and they aren't looking for my good opinion, but why? I think of the fashions of the past, where the rich wore clothes that showed they couldn't be engaged in productive labor (yet Victorian ditch-diggers wore bowler hats.) I think peer pressure is more important to them than the greater society's approval, and also an indication that in fact they don't have to work for a living, and can't, since they can't walk more than a few steps without using one hand to hitch up their pants.
    And then there's the pantaloon style, most popular among Hispanics, with huge T-shirts and giant baseball caps that make the males look like bobble-head dolls. And gym "shorts" below the knees, and mocking the (old) standard shorts.
    And the bicycles too small to ride comfortably. Why that? Perhaps the potential to show tricks to their buddies and girls is mainly the point, that actual transportation is a minor reason, or even disreputable reason, to own a bike. ( And people more in "my set" evaluate bikes on dollars spent and novelty, and probably spend far more than what is justifiable based on their actual usage.) And I play dress-up for school too, wearing a noose, lace-up shoes, long pants and "appropriate" shirts instead of more comfortable things, to satisfy the community.

Acer buys Gateway
28 August 2007, 08:26:04
    Just last week I was asking, "Why don't we hear of that PC company anymore, the one with the cow logo, um, um, Gateway." Today's news: it's stock value had gone down 99% (at some point.) Apparently it still has a customer base and some value. And Gateway has some old option to buy Packard-Bell, which also, incredibly, still has value, or potential value. We bought our 9-year-old PC from Packard-Bell, just before the company crashed, because of its alleged reputation for service.

Mt Hale, New Hampshire
22 August 2007, 11:00:55
    First time back-packing in about 25 years, always well behind my 13-year-old Julie on her first trip. Arriving at a trail-head late, assuming, incorrectly, that we were at the right one. But after a mile-and-a-half hiking along a boring gravel road, it was time to take any trail into the woods. I had almost decided that the small tarp was just unneeded weight, given the weather forecast, but packed it anyway. Good thing, because there was a small thundershower, we had no other raingear, and our sleeping bags were not waterproofed. We sat out the squall, then moved on, up a steep, rather eroded trail. It was getting dark early, being on the eastern side of the mountain, but we had to push on, looking for a place for the tent. Between the slope and the brush, that was a problem. We found a pretty good spot, just barely off the trail, along a nice, rocky stream.

    The tent is also 25 years old, Sierra West, with 2 curved, bungee-corded hoops to make the space, and stake tension at 3 other points. It was probably a clever design in its day, but the hoops are awful to insert, not sliding smoothly thru the sleeves; it would be a horror in the dark, or with numb fingers. It was too dark to set up for cooking, we had plenty of cheese and gorp, then we hung the food out of easy bear reach and went to bed. I felt comfortable during another thundersquall in the middle of the night, and Julie didn't even wake.
    But in the morning, my backback was lying in a puddle, with my warm shirt sopping in it, a book wet, and the matches too damp to light. No coffee! The foot of Julie's sleeping bag was wet. Annoying, not disastrous. I realize the white stain on the tent and pack-backs is where the ancient water-proofing has failed, rather than dust or mold.
    We made up day packs and continued up the mountain on a warm and very humid day for an exhausting climb, and made it to the summit in about 2 more hours. The summit is not impressive - there is a cairn of jagged rocks on a rocky surface, surrounded by small spruce trees that block nearly all possible views beyond. But it's our second of New Hampshire's 4,000-footers!
    The Lend-a-Hand Trail goes down from there to the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut. Mt. Hale is mossy, green and damp. No one in his right mind made that trail! Large parts of it are thru swamps, and/or hopping from rock to rock and over tangled roots. Yet there are sections made passable with rock work and board bridges. It's difficult for me to get there at all, never mind carrying in 3-inch planks. We met 2 women on the Mt. Hale/Lend-a-Hand trails, all day.
    Zealand Falls is scenic and refreshing, with a moderate number of people there and at the Hut.
The Falls are 2.8 miles from the parking lot, and there were a number of children there, including toddlers and infants. The trail down from the Hut to the Zealand Road trail intersection is awful - I'm surprised, given the popularity of the spot and relatively large effort going into some obscure sections. The trail back to the road is level, easy in some spots, and over rocks and roots in others, with several wide bridges.
    We walked back down the road to the Mt. Hale trailhead, and back up to our campsite - much easier without full packs. The paper matches were dry enough to light, and we boiled diced potatoes (about 10 minutes boiling works), and ate them with cheese. Our things had pretty much dried out over the day, even though the campsite was damp, being close to the stream and under trees. And I made filter coffee in the morning, and we each had 2 packets of flavored instant oatmeal, and that was nice. It took only 25 min. to walk out to the trailhead, then I left my pack and walked back to get the car, and the rain held off until we were driving.
    Lessons: I had directions, and a good map, but that still wasn't enough; ibuprofen is a wonder drug!; I like my fogey sticks! - sometimes they're just in the way, but I really value their support on steep sections; we brought way too much food; we didn't drink the clear stream water, even though it's probably excellent quality, for fear of Giardia, etc., and I'll mostly likely bring a homemade filter sysytem with me, if I'm crazy enough to do it more; old gear is not as good as new gear - the packs can probably be waterproofed, but modern ones might be a better investment, and the tent should just be replaced; plastic bags to keep sleeping bags dry, and rain gear just because it's New England should always be there; I have now stashed paper and wooden matches, in small ziplock bags, in multiple places among the gear - esp. with the cooking things, and with the firstaid kit; many little things added up to major extra weight - we didn't need a full box of crackers, but the box helps protect them, I need a dab of toothpaste, not even the small tube, and especially not the full kit; bringing a hardcover book was dumb; condiment packets are good.
    It is interesting how we drink water now - from bottles instantly accessible from our packs, or from the camel bags with straws, instead of canteens swinging separately and awkwardly. The old packs have plenty of zippered pockets and loop tabs, but no place to just reach around for the water bottle.

Orleans asylum plays by Mid-East rules
8 August 2007
The inmates and fellow travelers of the ghastly mental asylum in Orleans want to break their agreement on the visibility of their symbolic finger raised at the community.
Community of Jesus in Orleans wants to raise bell tower 25 feet
By Susan Milton
STAFF WRITER, Cape Cod Times
August 08, 2007

ORLEANS — What difference does 25 feet make?
    For the Community of Jesus it means getting the proportions right, and another trip through the regulatory process.
    Nearly 14 years after fighting and winning permission to build a 75-foot bell tower as part of its $20 million church expansion, the Community now wants the tower to reach 100 feet.
    It's the "unanimous opinion of architects and planners that the tower isn't in scale with the church," said church spokesman Christopher Kanaga, "And it would be better if the tower were taller."
    The tower was the smallest part of the community's plan to build a new church and other buildings on its 10-acre site overlooking Rock Harbor. The project was disputed for years by the towns of Orleans and Eastham because of its size and placement overlooking the small fishing port.
    A 1993 court settlement between the Cape Cod Commission and the Community capped the height of the bell tower at 75 feet,the church itself at 55 feet, and, the church offices, refectory and retreat center at 35 feet.
    Architect William Rawn inherited those dimensions in 1995 and grouped the buildings around an inner courtyard in a redesign that was quickly approved by the town. Construction began in late 1997.
    The new church was dedicated in 2000. Now, crews are working on a stone chapterhouse/rehearsal hall, a stone atrium in front of the church and finishing up a retreat center and offices.
    The tower's proposed height varied in the debate over the project. In 1991, the Community proposed building two 104-foot towers. Plans next showed a single 89-foot tall tower. The court settlement in 1993 described a 75-foot tower but "the dimensions were set in a law office in the middle of the night in Boston," Kanaga said. "You only get one shot at it so why not get it right? "
    Photomontages prepared by the Community's architect show that the increase in tower height is particularly visible from Cape Cod Bay, from the beach at Rock Harbor and from nearby public parking lots in Eastham and Orleans, the commission's staff report states.
    "It's the same footprint, same stone, same design, just a little taller," Kanaga said. "I was actually thinking of this as a fairly minor change. If you look at seven buildings as the total project, this is only the second thing for which we've gone back for an adjustment."
    The first change was to get a year's delay in the delivery date for the sewage treatment plant for the Community, home currently to 340 resident members and their children.
    How it stacks up
The Community of Jesus wants its bell tower to be 100 feet, not the previously approved 75. Here's how it compares.
Christ the King Church, Mashpee, 104 feet
Pilgrim Congregational Church, Harwich Port, 110 feet
Universalist Church, Provincetown, 115 feet
Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, 252 feet Sources: Orleans Church Building Foundation, Inc. and Pilgrim-monument.org
Worcester Magazine
3 August 2007
WoMag used to be something we'd pick every week for its restaurant reviews, movie listings, local stories, Zippy the Pinhead and Tom Tomorrow. Now we'll sometimes pick it up on the way out the packy, once a month or less. And the only reason to read it is Tom Tomorrow.

1984, 2001, 2007
1 August 2007
NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort
Intelligence Chief Says Bush Authorized Secret Activities Under One Order
WP article
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 1, 2007; A01

Bush is listening. Use big words.The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."

"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said.

The program that Bush announced was put under a court's supervision in January, but the administration now wants congressional approval to do much of the same surveillance without a court order.

McConnell's letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales from allegations by Democrats that he may have committed perjury by telling Congress that no legal objections were raised about the TSP. Gonzales said a legal fight in early 2004 was focused on "other intelligence activities" than those confirmed by Bush, but he never connected those to Bush's executive order.

But in doing so, McConnell's letter also underscored that the full scope of the NSA's surveillance program under Bush's order has not been revealed. The TSP described by Bush and his aides allowed the interception of communication between the United States and other countries where one party is believed to be tied to al-Qaeda, so other types of communication or data are presumably being collected under the parts of the wider NSA program that remain hidden.

News reports over the past 20 months have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. The administration has not publicly confirmed such reports.

A spokesman for McConnell declined to elaborate on the letter. The Justice Department also declined to comment.

Specter was noncommittal yesterday on whether McConnell's explanation resolved his questions about the accuracy of Gonzales's previous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Specter is the ranking Republican. Specter said he was waiting for a separate letter from the attorney general to provide additional clarification.

"If he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said on CNN. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "the department will continue to work with Senator Specter to address his concerns" but declined to comment further.

McConnell's letter leaves maneuvering room for both sides in the political fracas over whether Gonzales has been truthful in his testimony. On the one hand, the NSA was clearly engaged in activities that were distinct enough to require different "legal bases" authorizing their use, according to McConnell's account.

"If you think about it technically, it is pretty clear that the NSA desk that does communications intercepts is separate from the desk that does data mining of call records," said Kim Taipale, executive director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, a New York-based nonprofit group. "Those are separate processes, and to think of them as separate programs is not a stretch."

On the other hand, the activities were authorized under a single presidential order and were all part of an NSA effort to gather communications about suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That helps explain why many Democratic lawmakers and administration officials -- including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III -- viewed the wiretapping as part of a larger NSA program, rather than a separate effort, as Gonzales's testimony has suggested.

"Both sides have a legitimate case, if you want to be legalist about it," Taipale said.

The 45-day reauthorization of a single presidential order was probably a "bureaucratic convenience" that eliminated the need to issue multiple authorizations, he added.

Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that Gonzales and other administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts.

"They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"

Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a group of four Democratic senators who called last week for a perjury investigation of Gonzales, said: "The question of whether Attorney General Gonzales perjured himself looms as large now as it did before this letter.

"This letter is no vindication of the attorney general," he said.

bureaucratic stupidity, part zillion

26 July 2007
    The swimming pool at Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester MA is being closed on 1 Sept, 2007, and the space is being converted to classrooms. As a new community member of the gym facilities there, I'm upset.
    I'm told the QCC administration is doing this on the grounds that the pool is under-utilized by the students (assessed by a poll taken during the summer!), and there is a shortage of classrooms. It's hard to think of a less convenient or likely conversion than turning a swimming pool into classrooms - either the rooms will be awful or the costs will balloon far beyond those for a new or temporary structure. And it will seriously detract from the community interaction promoted by gym membership, swimming instruction, etc., that is suppposed to be part of the community college mission.
    I sent emails to my state senator and representative, pretty much what is above. Rep. O'Day responded overnight, with details (I'm impressed), lamenting the closure but accepting the QCC administration claim that the pool's cost is too high ($100,000/yr, but is that total or deficit?). Sen. Chandler was away, and replied a week later, simply agreeing with me.
    Having some idea of this state government's construction costs, I'll be surprised if the conversion is done for well under a million dollars, or in any reasonable time. Apparently this is a knuckle-headed attempt by the new QCC president to put her mark on the institution.

Opera whiner
26 July 2007
    Strange. I mostly use the Opera browser (ver 9.00 now), because it's relatively fast, and integrates the email, and it's just a habit. But it doesn't display everything correctly, and some web sites just crash it. I complained about that a year ago, just getting denials from "support," but agreement from users. Yesterday I noticed an attack email in my Opera webmail box (which I'd never looked at before,) almost a year old, denouncing me for complaining to the Opera user group, on grounds that the whiner didn't see the whole history. I politely responded, and got back an abusive note. I don't get it.

Bush and al-Qaida still occupy Iraq
25 July 2007, Slate headline review:
"The Wall Street Journal leads its worldwide newsbox with, and the Los Angeles Times fronts, President Bush's speech in South Carolina, where he, once again, emphasized links between al-Qaida in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network." Bush downplayed his own role in facilitating the growth and franchising of al-Qaida from a core of jihadis in the hills of Afganistan to a world-wide phenomenon ...
bin Laden, Bush, Cheney eat shit
25 July 2007
Washington Post, via Crooks and Liars:
Dan Froomkin nails it:

Like any terrorist organization, al-Qaeda wants attention. It wants to be perceived as powerful. And it particularly wants Americans to live in fear.

Could al-Qaeda possibly have found a better publicist than President Bush?

At a South Carolina Air Force base yesterday, Bush mentioned al-Qaeda and bin Laden 118 times in 29 minutes, arguing that the violence unleashed by the U.S. invasion in Iraq would somehow come to America’s shores if U.S. troops were to withdraw.But the majority of that violence in Iraq is caused either by Iraqis murdering each other for religious reasons or by Iraqis trying to throw off the American occupation. The group that calls itself al-Qaeda in Iraq is only one of a multitude of factions creating chaos in that country, and the long-term goals of its Iraqi members are almost certainly not in line with those of al-Qaeda HQ (which is safely ensconced in Pakistan).

Furthermore, the administration’s own intelligence community has concluded that the war in Iraq has helped rather than hurt al-Qaeda.

coastal buffers
24 July 2007, 09:54:03
Development of the coasts is sometimes an environmental crime, and usually a fraud on the government insurance program (with massive collusion by the pols). But PZ Myers has a solution for the Gulf Coast:
24 July 2007, Pharyngula
I think the southern coastal states ought to give incentives to religious organizations to build along the shores. Pull back all those merely material and economic developed resources farther inland, and construct wall-to-wall religious enclaves everywhere that we worry about hurricanes instead, as a bulwark against acts of god.
We can't lose. If they're right, their prayers and purity will stave off disaster. If they're wrong, well, no loss to the country if ten thousand churches get inundated.
22. July 2007
Summertime - the windows are open and it's noisy, mostly due to motorcycles. We live between stoplights, on a major city road, so the bikers roar up the road, and blast through their gear changes.
Which is most significant: antisocial personalities, overcompensation for a small penis, midlife crises, testosterone poisoning? I guess their problems are too suppressed, or they are not verbal enough, to just drive around the neighborhood with loudspeakers lying, "I'm not as much of a loser as I seem to be."
How many motorcycle drivers would there be, if motorcycles were quiet? Virtually none, I think, or else a very different group of people.

don't mock bungee cords
Cape Cod Times
Hurt Truro camper out of hospital
July 11, 2007

NORTH TRURO — A Connecticut man who was hospitalized Monday after he was struck in the eye with a bungee cord at a local campground has been treated and released, a hospital spokesman said yesterday.
    Dana Conover, 46, of Norwich, Conn., sustained a cut to his eye at around 2 p.m. Monday as he was putting up a tent at the North Truro Camping Area on Highland Road, police said.
    The injury warranted a call for a medical helicopter to take Conover to a Boston hospital but the helicopter was not available because of weather conditions, police said.
    Instead, an ambulance transported Conover to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
I was tying a Christmas tree to our van, a few years ago, when a bungee cord slipped and hit me around the eye, just after I'd been mocking the warning label. Now it's a family joke (or maybe it's me.)

video of illegal police search may be posted
2 July 2007

This logic of this case has mystified me from the start: in Sept 2005, Paul Pechonis's home was searched, and he was arrested by Massachusetts state police. The police did not have a warrant, and the arrest was videotaped by Pechonis' home security system. Pechonis claims he did not know the taping system was active.
1. Why is conceivably illegal for a man to be taping events in his own home? This was a security sytem, not a porn production studio.
2. How can the police case have a leg to stand on? Was Pechonis supposed to keep the security sytem turned off, in expectation of an illegal search & arrest, or inform the police their illegal behavior in his home was being monitored?
3. Why should the crimes of the police be less monitored that those of other people?
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Judge upholds woman’s right to post video online
Case involves tape of arrest in Northboro
A federal judge’s ruling that a Leominster woman could continue to post a video of a state police arrest on her Web site has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in a case that attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The case moved to the First Circuit last summer with then-Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly contending that U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV erred when he extended a restraining order that bars state police from forcing Mary T. Jean to take the videotaped arrest of Paul Pechonis of Northboro off her www.conte2006.com Web site. Had Ms. Jean been convicted of unlawfully posting the video, she would have faced up to two years in prison.

In his April 2006 ruling, Judge Saylor cited the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Bartnicki v. Vopper upholding the right of someone to publish information if they received it legally, even if the person believed the original source of the information was illegal.

“We conclude that the government interests in preserving privacy and deterring illegal interceptions are less compelling in this case than in Bartnicki, and Jean’s circumstances are otherwise materially indistinguishable from those of the defendants in Bartnicki, whose publication of an illegally intercepted tape was protected by the First Amendment,” wrote First Circuit Judge Kermit V. Lipez. “Jean’s publication of the recording on her website is thus entitled to the same First Amendment protection. Consequently, we agree with the district court that Jean has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of her suit for a permanent injunction. The district court’s decision to grant Jean’s request for a preliminary injunction is affirmed.”

The state has 30 days from the June 22 date of the ruling to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I suppose the next step would be to see if the state decides to appeal. And if they do we will be involved again, obviously,” said Ronal C. Madnick, director of the ACLU Worcester chapter. “The court felt the public interest outweighs any interests of privacy.”

“We are reviewing the opinion,” said Harry Pierre, deputy press secretary for Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Ms. Jean is represented by John Reinstein of the Massachusetts ACLU and Eric B. Hermanson of the Boston law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP. She has testified that she did not know Mr. Pechonis until he gave her the recording after he found her Web site online.

Mr. Pechonis maintains he was unaware at the time of the arrest that a camera in his house was activated and recording the state police who appear in the video to search his home, without presenting a warrant, before arresting him in September 2005.

In his April 2006 ruling in favor of Ms. Jean, Judge Saylor cited not only Bartnicki but a Washington, D.C., case in which he said the D.C. circuit judges “wrongly decided” in the case of U.S. Rep. James A. McDermott, D-Washington, who was found to have violated federal law when he gave reporters a recording of a 1996 telephone call that involved then-House Speaker Newt L. Gingrich, U.S. Rep. John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is now House minority leader, and others.

Mr. McDermott was ordered to pay Mr. Boehner about $700,000 in damages, most of which covered legal costs. A Florida couple has pleaded guilty to making the tape and providing it to Mr. McDermott, who has admitted giving it to the news media.

Ms. Jean posted the video on her Web site in January and state police ordered her to remove it in a Feb. 14 letter. State police sent Ms. Jean a letter that read in part, “Be advised that this secret, unauthorized audio/video recording is in violation of M.G.L. c.272, 99 and subject to prosecution as a felony.”

SCOTUS is working with the Bush regime to render the Constitution meaningless
bong hits 4 jesus
25 June 2007
The First Amendment takes more hits.
SCOTUS ruled that an Alaskan student can be punished by his school principal for hanging a banner with that nonsense phrase (or obscure drug reference), even though the banner was not hung at school and it's meaning is unclear.
And it ruled that atheist citizens can't challenge the existence of Bush's Office for the Support of Superstition.
    The column of conservative James J. Kilpatrick, 27 Jun 2007, notes that John Roberts got major facts of the bong case exactly wrong:
    The facts were not in dispute, though you would never know this from the chief's opinion. Let me summarize: On Jan. 24, 2002, the Olympic Torch was to pass through Juneau, Alaska, on its way to the Olympic Games. As the parade passed by Juneau-Douglas High School, a 19-year-old student, Joseph Frederick, unfurled a 14-foot banner that bore a strange device. The school's principal rushed across the street, seized the banner and suspended the student Naturally, he sued. He won in the 9th Circuit, but on Monday the Supreme Court voted 5-4, more or less, to reverse.
    It may be useful to look at the facts the chief justice so remarkably overlooked or rearranged. In his very first sentence, Roberts wrongly said: "At a school-sanctioned and school-supervised event, a high school principal saw ..."
    How's that again? At this public event, the high school sanctioned nothing and supervised very little. The parade was sponsored by the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Juneau and by several other private companies and private citizens. The school turned out a small band, but that was the beginning and end of the school's involvement.
    The chief justice would not let it go. Eleven times he got it wrong. He said the torch-bearing parade was like a "class trip." This was palpable nonsense -- high-octane nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. This was never a school function. The parade never touched school property.
    One more point of fact: The chief justice said the Olympic torchbearers were to pass by the school "while school was in session." But this was not so. Not a single class was in session as the torch passed by. The students, including young Joe Frederick, were free to watch the parade, throw snowballs or stay home, as they wished.
    What was the lad's offense? On his own time, at his own expense, in his own household, he and his buddies had prepared a portable sign. This was the message on the streamer they attempted to unfurl: BONG HITS 4 JESUS.
    "The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic," said the chief justice. He was not sure what to make of it. It was no doubt offensive to some, perhaps amusing to others. It was obviously not actionably "obscene." Ah, but it plausibly could advocate the use of illegal drugs. Think of that! The chief was not amused.
    Having garbled the facts, the chief justice proceeded to garble the law.
preacher's wife sentenced
8 June 2007, 16:43:34
Wife Sentenced in Preacher's Death
Forbes -
By WOODY BAIRD 06.08.07. A woman who killed her preacher husband with a shotgun blast to the back as he lay in bed was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, but she may end up serving only 60 days in a mental hospital.
the world is a better place with one fewer nutjob preacher.
She might inspire imitators.
She claimed abuse.
She might inspire imitators.
Even preachers are human.
Divorce is less bloody, though not always less noisy.

kid-glove treatment for right-wing militants
22. May 2007
Tell me, how would the Bushies and the press be handling this if the criminals were Moslem?

"Apr 25, 2007
Tax evading couple hides out in N.H. home, ordered to jail
U.S. marshals won’t storm site
Defiant and unrelenting
The issue: The Browns say federal tax laws don’t exist, and Ed Brown vows to use force to avoid capture. "

" The ruling: The Browns were convicted in January of plotting to conceal their income and avoid paying federal income tax. Elaine Brown was also accused of not paying taxes for employees at her dental clinic. Yesterday they were each sentenced to more than five years in prison.
The quote: ‘They’ve said all along they’re not leaving. You know what? I believe them.’ — Stephen Monier, U.S. marshal

CONCORD, N.H.— A federal judge sentenced a pair of convicted tax evaders in absentia yesterday, but officials said they have no plans to lay siege to their hilltop compound to send them to prison.

Ed and Elaine Brown skipped the court appearances in favor of remaining holed up in their fortress-like Plainfield home. The Browns say federal tax laws don’t exist, and Ed Brown vows to use force to avoid capture.

But U.S. marshals, charged with seizing the former exterminator and his dentist wife, say they’re not planning to attack the rural site. [continues]
[update, late 2007: Marshals arrested the Browns quietly, by pretending to be supporters.]
A Contribution to Statistics
22 May 2007

Out of a hundred people
those who always know better - fifty-two,

doubting every step - nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long - as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise - four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy - eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth - sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly - forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something - seventy-seven

capable of happiness - twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds - half at least,

when forced by circumstances - better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact - just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life - thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark - eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous - thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding - three,

worthy of compassion - ninety-nine

mortal - a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remain unchanged.
good riddance to Falwell
22 May 2007, 16:32:03
Jerry Falwell is dead.
The range of his crimes against the Constitution, reality and common decency was broad, and I can't see why anyone beyond his family should mourn. It's people like him that make atheists wish there was a Christian hell, because his sizzle would be heard on earth. As Christopher Hitchen's put it, "If you gave Fallwell an enema he could've been buried in a matchbox."

This man founded the Moral Majority, campaigned against women's rights, gay rights, separation of church and state, and the teaching of sound science education, and was a major contributor to the social and political climate that gave us the Bush and Reagan presidencies. This man has done more damage to America than Osama Bin Laden could ever dream of, and yet there are people stupid and bigoted enough to regard him as hero. Now he is no longer in a position to harm anyone directly. Yes, this is worth celebrating. It's unfortunate that he dedicated his life to fomenting hatred, glorifying ignorance, embodying corruption and hypocrisy, and impeding progress, but he chose to do so and must have known, at some level, what he was doing. He deserves no pity.
    Posted by: Azkyroth, at Pharyngula, 05/15/2007
    Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
    President Josiah Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
    Dr. Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
    President Josiah Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.
    Gotta love Aaron Sorkin for giving "Dr." Ignorant Tight-Ass a name that sounds very much like it belongs to a porn star, eh? ;^)
    from The West Wing, via Pharyngula, 05/09/2007

eating Chinese
22 May 2007
The Jungle still exists, and American business still turns a blind eye to poisoning its customers.
Western greedheads have fantacized about opening the Chinese market for at least 500 years, and in all that time haven't found anything the Chinese will accept except silver and opium.

"Tainted Chinese Imports Common
In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; A01

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines."

" For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught -- many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry. [continues]
goobering biology
22 May 2007, 16:08:23
From http://pandasthumb.org/, 26 Feb 2006
"Dave Springer, aka DaveScot, lecturing about blood types and proteins. Enjoy!
there are several proteins in human hemoglobin that must cooperate in gas transport. The proteins differ in types A, B, AB, O, rh+ and rh- blood types. Assuming that humans started with a common blood type, and diverged at some point into the types common today, how did this happen ?
A single protein mutation that doesn’t kill the host has pretty long odds. However, the several proteins that must mutate -simultaneously- when going from any human blood type to another is impossibly long odds, even given billions of years."
John Ashcroft, less of a fascist than Gonzo & W
22 May 2007, 15:59:10
By Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 20, 2007; A01
"As attorney general, John D. Ashcroft was the public face of an administration pushing the boundaries of the Constitution to hunt down terrorists, but behind the scenes, according to former aides and White House officials, he at times resisted what he saw as radical overreaching."

Ashcroft's Complex Tenure At Justice
On Some Issues, He Battled White House

Testimony last week that a hospitalized Ashcroft rebuffed aides to President Bush intent on gaining Ashcroft's approval of a surveillance program he had deemed illegal provided a rare view of the inner workings of the early Bush presidency and the depth of internal disagreement over how far to go in responding to the threat of terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

According to former officials, it was not the only time that the former Missouri senator chosen for the Bush Cabinet in part for his ties to the Christian right would challenge the White House in private. In addition to rejecting to the most expansive version of the warrantless eavesdropping program, the officials said, Ashcroft also opposed holding detainees indefinitely at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without some form of due process. He fought to guarantee some rights for those to be tried by newly created military commissions. And he insisted that Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers, be prosecuted in a civilian court.

These internal disputes often put Ashcroft at odds with Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said the officials, who recalled heated exchanges in front of the president. In the end, the officials said, the conflicts contributed to Ashcroft's departure at the conclusion of Bush's first term, when the president replaced him with a close friend from Texas, Alberto R. Gonzales, who presumably would be more deferential to the White House.

None of this meant that Ashcroft was a closet liberal. He championed a broad expansion of government power to investigate possible terrorist cells through the USA Patriot Act, authorized the detention of hundreds without charges in the days after Sept. 11, pushed immigration agents to fully use their power to deport foreigners, secured new authority to peer into private records even in libraries, and oversaw legal interpretations that opened the door to harsh interrogation techniques that critics called torture.

6 May 2007, NYT editorial
" 'Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,' [Reagan] once declared, setting one of the worshiped pillars of Reaganism. It was a facile turn of rhetoric that has so sadly been turned into fact by this administration."

Christopher Hitchens, in Slate
The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife—the one that you remember—because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.

2 may 2007

Fidelity sux too
23. April 2007
Closed out the last bit of my Fidelity account, for which it charged me $50, to the outrage of the investment counselor I gave the money to. Fidelity was supposed to be the great safe investment, but it lost most of what I put in.

fraud with compact fluorescent light bulbs
17 April 2007, 22:00:39
The expensive light bulbs are supposed to last for several years, while using a fraction of the electricity that an incandescent bulb uses. Suspicious, I've been marking the dates as I install them. Those made by Lights of America, at least, burn out in one to two years, with moderate use.

police details
17 April 2007
Part of the petty corruption here in Massachusetts is the paid police details. Where just about every other jurisdiction uses "flag men" for events and construction, Mass. requires the use of cops getting at least time-and-a-half over their already generous salaries. Politicians occasionally mention this, but get swatted down immediately by orchestrated police union campaigns. A recent editorial in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette mentioned the problem, resulting in a preposterous, self-serving, and long rejoinder column by a union official and (so far) 2 letters-to-the-editor by (presumed) cops mistating the facts of both the editorial and out-of-state details.
[update, Apr 2008: Gov. Patrick proposed replacing the police with flagmen, but quickly chickened out of pushing it.]

Venezuela down the tubes
10 April 2007
Hugo Chavez will head down the same course as every other tin-horn socialist, so Venezuela will be in deep shit soon. Chavez will blame far more of it on the US than it deserves, not that the US, Exxon, etc will be completely blameless.

NYT, 9 April 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela, April 9 — With President Hugo Chávez setting a May 1 deadline for an ambitious plan to wrest control of several major oil projects from American and European companies, a showdown is looming here over access to some of the most coveted energy resources outside the Middle East. [continues]
[update, Apr 2008: I seem to be right.]

go Cheney yourselffeeding shit to the goobers
8 April 2007
BBC News
Cheney asserts Iraq-al Qaeda link
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has repeated his assertion that the al-Qaeda network had links with Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003.

Mr Cheney told [drooling goobers, via the imfamous fascist drug addict ranter]: "They were present before we invaded Iraq."

Hours earlier, a declassified Pentagon report said information obtained from Iraq's former leader Saddam Hussein had confirmed they had no strong ties.
[update, Apr 2008: Cheney is still saying this!]

GOP ethics
29 March 2007
This would be a huge file, if I had the time, stomach and patience. Updating would be full time job.
[more details]

Ex-Interior deputy pleads guilty in probe
24 Mar 2007
WASHINGTON - Former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles yesterday became the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, pleading guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee.

The former No. 2 official in the Interior Department admitted in federal court that he lied to investigators about his relationship with convicted lobbyist Abramoff, who repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients. ...

Boston Globe
Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school
Grads influential in Justice Dept.
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | April 8, 2007

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The title of the course was Constitutional Law, but the subject was sin. Before any casebooks were opened, a student led his classmates in a 10-minute devotional talk, completed with "amens," about the need to preserve their Christian values. ...

turd blossomissued laptops now a White House headache
Democrats say a private e-mail system was used in violation of federal rules.
By Tom Hamburger, LA Times Staff Writer
April 9, 2007

WASHINGTON — When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House — that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

Now, that dual computer system is creating new embarrassment and legal headaches for the White House, the Republican Party and Rove's once-vaunted White House operation.

Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.

In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.

Fundies shoveling shit
29. March 2007

dino mancreationism
Also mocking the fact that there were dinosaurs on the ark doesn't help your case one bit. Noah is not a Bibical hero for nothin' - have you ever SEEN what a pair of brontosauruses can shit in the period the ark was afloat? Now shoveling that much crap - still a Fundie mainstay - is an act of heroism. Do the math you unbelievers! -- Greg Forest, from Pharyngula, 24 Mar 2007

remember..some americans became bi peds simply because someone put their beer on the top shelf....god works in strange ways, eh?

Pharyngula's Infidel quotes is a great resource.
The next time believers tell you that 'separation of church and state' does not appear in our founding document, tell them to stop using the word 'trinity.' The word 'trinity' appears nowhere in the bible. Neither does Rapture, or Second Coming, or Original Sin. If they are still unfazed (or unphrased), by this, then add Omniscience, Omnipresence, Supernatural,Transcendence, Afterlife, Deity, Divinity, Theology, Monotheism, Missionary, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Christianity, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Methodist, Catholic, Pope, Cardinal, Catechism, Purgatory, Penance, Transubstantiation, Excommunication, Dogma, Chastity, Unpardonable Sin, Infallibility, Inerrancy, Incarnation, Epiphany, Sermon, Eucharist, the Lord's Prayer, Good Friday, Doubting Thomas, Advent, Sunday School, Dead Sea, Golden Rule, Moral, Morality, Ethics, Patriotism, Education, Atheism, Apostasy, Conservative (Liberal is in), Capital Punishment, Monogamy, Abortion, Pornography, Homosexual, Lesbian, Fairness, Logic, Republic, Democracy, Capitalism, Funeral, Decalogue, or Bible. -- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: FFRF, 1992), p. 109.

A major function of fundamentalist religion is to bolster deeply insecure and fearful people. This is done by justifying a way of life with all of its defining prejudices. It thereby provides an appropriate and legitimate outlet for one's anger. The authority of an inerrant Bible that can be readily quoted to buttress this point of view becomes an essential ingredient to such a life. When that Bible is challenged, or relativized, the resulting anger proves the point categorically. -- Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, (San Fransisco: Harper Collins, 1991), p. 5.

Darwin award nominees
28. March 2007
A sewage tsunami 29 Mar 2007
What happened? A sewage reservoir in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed, killing five people in a frothing cascade of waste that swamped a village.
The cause: The Gaza City mayor blamed the collapse on local people digging dirt from the structure and selling it to building contractors.

"Swamp of sewage kills 5 in Gaza Strip when reservoir fails
Disastrous mess destroys 200 homes

"UMM NASER, Gaza Strip— A huge sewage reservoir in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed yesterday, killing five people in a frothing cascade of waste and mud that swamped a village and highlighted the desperate need to upgrade Gaza’s overburdened infrastructure.

Rescue crews and Hamas gunmen rushed to the area to search for people feared buried under the sewage and mud. Dressed in wetsuits, they paddled boats through the layer of foam floating on the green and brown rivers of waste. Others waded up to their hips into the sewage.

The noxious smell of waste and dead animals hung in the air.

Angry residents drove reporters away and mobbed government officials. When Interior Minister Hani Kawasmeh arrived to survey the damage, his bodyguards fired in the air to disperse the crowd. ...
John Taylor Gatto
28. March 2007
Is this guy as insane as he seems at a glance? He wrote several books about how compulsory education is destroying civilization (after he retired as a teacher!).
"Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard." 1990 speach

An inquiry came to my web site today, asking for confirmation or details. Seemed most unlikely, but intriguing, so I Googled Gatto.
Articles at Oogenesis, and Wiki. Official web site.
I've never run across anything like this in my Cape Cod history hobby. Nor can Gatto identify where that information came from, according to the potential documentary director, despite a long search.
Since he seems to wear a tinfoil hat and worry about the black helicopters, I say Bullshit!!

whale lice
28. March 2007
" Most species of whale lice are connected to a specific species of whale. They remain with their host throughout their entire development and do not go through a free-swimming phase. Although the relationship between a specific species of whale louse and a specific species of whale is more pronounced with baleen whales than with toothed whales, almost every species of whale has a specific species of louse that is unique to it. With the sperm whale the parasitic relationship is in addition sex-specific. The whale louse Cyamus catodontis lives exclusively on the skin of the male sperm whale, while Neocyamus physeteris is found only on females and the young." Wikipedia

life-size blue whale image

Discover magazine:
Whale Lice Offer Links to Past
by Jessa Forte Netting

For an epic story of whales and whaling, one need not turn to a 19th-century novel. Their travels and travails are coming to light through the genes of a parasite—the whale louse.

Three distinct populations of right whales roam the seas today: in the North Pacific, the North Atlantic, and the southern oceans. Their shared history was unclear until Jon Seger, an evolutionary geneticist, and his wife, whale biologist Victoria Rowntree, both at the University of Utah, took a look at the pea-size crustaceans called cyamids, or whale lice, that right whales carry by the thousands.

Seger, with an international team, sequenced the genes of each of the three species of cyamids that jump from whale to whale as the leviathans socialize. Reconstructing the whale-lice family tree, the researchers hoped, would shed light on the whales' social habits.

As it turns out, whales exchange lice so readily—and so thoroughly scramble the lice ancestry in each whale population—that lice genetics reveal nothing about how contemporary whales interact. But they do reveal when the whales stopped interacting, Seger realized. New lice species would have arisen precisely when the right-whale populations diverged. In mapping the lice family history, Seger and company had mapped the whales' ancestry too.

The crustaceans' ancestry suggests that one species of right whale began to split into three about 5 million years ago. First, the Isthmus of Panama rose and separated the Atlantic and Pacific groups. Warming equatorial currents later separated northern and southern groups. (Right whales dislike warm water.)

The research also proves North Atlantic right whales, which today number about 200, were once as robust as the southern whales, which number about 10,000 individuals. That's welcome news to conservation biologists making the case to protect them.

The whale's own genetics had already convinced most whale biologists that the three groups of whales should be considered separate species. "But the argument remained because the whales' genes are so uninformative," says Seger. "What we've done is frosted the cake. Our study settles the argument."
Texans upset at lack of invitation to barbecue
28 March 2007
Let's get Mexico to take Texas back, and pay them a shitload of money to take all the Texans too.

March 28, 2007
Article from Herald Sun
NEIGHBOURS of Timothy Shepherd thought it was odd he should spend 48 hours barbecuing foul-smelling meat on two outdoor grills, especially while distraught over the loss of his girlfriend to another man.
The unpalatable truth has emerged with the conclusion of a murder investigation this week: police say he strangled the woman, butchered her at home, then disposed of the evidence by grilling her remains.
Mr Shepherd, 27, met Tynesha Stewart, 19, while they were working at a Pizza Hut in Houston, Texas.
The relationship was difficult from the beginning." ...
[This was one of my few articles to get a comment.]

fortunately, Francisco Franco is still dead
11. March 2007
Bush crimes
NYT editorial
The Failed Attorney General
Perhaps more than anyone in the administration, Alberto Gonzales symbolizes President Bush’s disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law. [several articles linked]
more Bush crimes, environmental
11 March 2007
March 11, 2007

Flood plain rules eased

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will allow some construction of homes, shops, schools, prisons, hospitals and other buildings in flood plains without formal environmental reviews, despite the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.

New regulations issued Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers also let homebuilders and other developers skip the reviews before filling in or altering the course of some small streams.

The waivers will apply only to developments that fill in less than 300 feet of a stream or less than a half-acre of wetlands, ponds.

Another part of the regulations, approved in coordination with other federal agencies and the White House, waives the formal environmental reviews entirely for coal companies when they bury or reroute streams with their mining wastes. Mines, however, will still have to get written determinations from district Corps engineers that dumping their wastes will have a minimal impact on the environment.

Corps officials say the new regulations' intent is to deter developers from building on larger areas of wetland by offering them smaller ones. For example, formal reviews will now be required for fills greater than 300 feet along streams that flow only part of the year.

John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said the regulations ''provide clarity and certainty'' while maintaining ''essential levels of environmental protection.''

The new regulations clear the way for broad types of development under the Clean Water Act as long as they have minimal harm on the environment.
So you think you know the Commandments?
10. March 2007
Recognize these?
Exodus 34
34:10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
34:11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
34:12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
34:13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
34:15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
34:16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
34:17 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
34:18 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
34:19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
34:20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
34:21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
34:23 Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.
34:24 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
34:25 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
34:26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

Mutanabi Street
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 10, 2007
[...] On Friday morning, Iraqis continued to drift to Mutanabi Street, four days after a car bomb took the lives of at least 26 people and injured dozens more. Some came to hunt for the remains of loved ones. Others came to mourn a street that represented the intellectual soul of a nation known for its love affair with books. For many, the narrow warren of shops had seemed to defy Iraq's woes.

Mutanabi Street had long been considered "the unifier of Iraq," said Khalid Hussein, a bookseller with cropped hair and thick forearms. Before the bombing, he said, this was "the only place that hadn't been touched by sectarianism."

The evidence was lodged in the dense heaps of twisted metal and the mangled cars. Here, a page from a Bible. There, a page from a Koran. Tattered posters of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam's revered saint, littered the ground near the 8-foot-wide crater left by the bomb. The shop that sold Wahhabi Sunni literature was in ruins.
nice company
6 March 2007
Associated Press
LONDON, March 6
Israel, Iran and the United States are the countries with the most negative image in a globe-spanning survey of attitudes toward 12 major nations. Canada and Japan came out best in the poll, released on Tuesday.

The survey for the BBC’s World Service asked more than 28,000 people to rate 12 countries — Britain, Canada, China, France, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Russia, the US and Venezuela — as having a positive or negative influence on the world. Israel was viewed negatively by 56 per cent of respondents and positively by 17 per cent; for Iran, the figures were 54 per cent and 18 percent. The US had the third-highest negative ranking, with 51 per cent citing it as a bad influence and 30 per cent as a good one. Next was North Korea, which was viewed negatively by 48 per cent and positively by 19 per cent.

Canada had the most positive rating in the survey of 28,389 people in 27 countries, with 54 per cent viewing it positively and 14 per cent negatively. It was followed by Japan and France.

Respondents were also asked their views of the 25-member European Union; 53 per cent saw it as positive and 19 per cent as negative.

Britain, China and India were viewed more positively than negatively, while Russia had more negative than positive responses. Opinion on Venezuela was evenly split.

“It appears that people around the world tend to look negatively on countries whose profile is marked by the pursuit of military power,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes, which conducted the research along with pollster GlobeScan.
Washington and the world today
6. March 2007

Good news: Scooter Libby was found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury. However, I don't expect him to actually serve time, and he'll be pardoned by the Chimperor.

"Substandard living conditions found at the Army's flagship veterans hospital likely exist throughout the military health care system, the head of a House panel investigating Walter Reed Army Medical Center said yesterday."
The Walter Reed Hospital "scandal" has courtiers' heads rolling, and is already leading to "news" articles on the perennial veterans' issue of the poor quality of VA hospitals. Wasn't that a prime reason for making the VA a Cabinet department? That, or maybe it was pandering to a powerful lobby? The hospitals would hardly be necessary if Bush-Cheney hadn't started an unwinnable war based purely on lies, and could be in good shape if Bush-Cheney weren't spending 1 or 2 trillion dollars on their war.

Thinking of lies: it seems clear that the North Korean nuclear weapons issue was jumped up by the Bushies deliberately, to break from the (productive) Clinton policies. Not that anyone can fully control or comprehend what the monsters in North Korea are doing and thinking, but they seem to have taken the US rejection badly enough to rush their weapons program to completion. (below)

The Bushies version of Iran seems to be in a similar state: both sides exaggerate Iran's capabilities and intentions in a vicious cycle. But:

March 6, 2007
Amnesty: Free Iranian activists
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International yesterday demanded the swift and unconditional release of 33 prominent Iranian female activists arrested Sunday and jailed in Tehran's notorious high-security Evin prison. The women were arrested after peacefully protesting the trial of five other activists against discrimination in the legal system. The five women whose trial they were protesting held a public rally June 12 to call for equal rights for women under Iran's penal laws, family code and blood money practices. At the time, security officers rounded up 70 people."
Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007
Playing Ball With North Korea
By Bill Powell/Shanghai
U.S. policy toward North Korea has now officially flip-flopped: A little over five years ago, President Bush declared an end to the Clinton-era policy of offering inducements for good behavior by the North Koreans, questioning whether Pyongyang could be trusted to keep a deal. But this week's talks between the two sides show that Washington's diplomatic embrace of Pyongyang is tighter than at any point since then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright offered a champagne toast to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il in late 2000.
At a recent appearance in Washington, lead U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill was asked, facetiously, which was harder: negotiating with Pyongyang or within the Administration to get a "coherent" policy on North Korea. Hill laughed, but it was no joke.
At some point, presumably, those steps will raise the increasingly puzzling question of the North's other nuclear program, the one that allegedly makes bombs out of highly enriched uranium rather than plutonium. When the U.S. confronted Pyongyang in late 2002 with intelligence about this program, U.S. diplomats say Pyongyang confirmed its existence and then stormed out of the talks. Since then, the North has denied the existence of a uranium bomb program. And last week, a key intelligence official in Washington stunned a Senate panel by testifying that analysts now only had a "mid-confidence level" about the program's existence — down from the earlier "high confidence."
Still, in a first-things-first process, the focus for now remains on getting the North to verifiably dismantle its existing reactor, which has allowed it to build the six to ten bombs the U.S. believes it has. Getting to the point where the alleged uranium program is the only stumbling block to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula would be, by itself, a significant diplomatic victory. But as Hill himself is the first to acknowledge, it's a long way from here to there.
Somalia's Islamist militias may be plotting comeback
By Shashank Bengali
McClatchy Newspapers
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Barely two months after they were toppled by a U.S.-backed military operation, militant Islamist leaders and hundreds of fighters have returned to the country's capital and are quietly preparing to make a comeback, according to militia members and Somali community leaders.
An Ethiopian invasion in late December drove the Council of Islamic Courts out of Mogadishu, but according to U.S. diplomats, Ethiopian forces captured few fighters and killed none of the top Islamist leaders. Since then, many of the senior leaders, who the Bush administration says have ties to al-Qaida, have returned to the city, militia members said.
more Mass Pike corruption
3 March 2007
Telegram editorial
Mar 3, 2007
Another pike rip-off
Troopers paid to commute while cruisers sat idle

Add this to the long, long list of why the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority should be shut down: For years, scores of state troopers assigned to the toll road were allowed to collect stipends averaging $9,000 a year for driving their own cars to work.

This latest rip-off at the pike — along with the do-nothing highway “details” that pay troopers time-and-one-half for sitting in their cruisers with the blue lights flashing — helps explain why Massachusetts state troopers routinely dominate the lists of highest-paid public employees.

The department long has had a policy of having troopers drive their cruisers home, in part to speed emergency response time. At some point, the turnpike authority decided that troopers should get a $40 per diem when no drive-home cruiser was available. In other words, they got paid for commuting.

And if that weren’t enough of an abuse of toll payers and taxpayers, troopers — 155 of them, according to a Boston Herald report — began taking their own cars to cash in on the per diem, even when cruisers were available.

The practice wasn’t squelched until this week when former Secretary of Transportation John Cogliano, whose term as authority chairman ends in June, got wind of the practice.

The $1.4 million a year money grab at the quasi-independent authority is just the latest example of egregious waste, from arcane work rules to abuse of overtime and sick time. The truly compelling reason for shutting down the toll operation, though, is that the turnpike authority lost its reason for being in the mid-1980s when the construction bonds for Interstate 90 were paid off. Since then, it has served largely as a cushy job bank for the politically connected and a favorite cash cow for legislative tax-and-spenders.

For the past two decades, commuters — predominantly from Central Massachusetts and MetroWest — have been supporting the dubious enterprise. For Massachusetts to support two highway bureaucracies — the turnpike authority for one interstate road and MassHighway for every other state and interstate road — is a travesty. The time to shut down the authority and absorb I-90 into the state highway system is long overdue.
Massachusetts schools on top
1 March 2007

So far, I can't find anything more than this brag article. The usual suspects are at the top and bottom when I scan the data at NEAP. The report gains credibility with its backing by both liberal and conservative groups.
And I'll point out that Massachusetts (and the other "blue" states at the top of the list, presumbaly) have much lower teen pregnancy rates, divorce, violent crime rates, murder rates, ... than the "red" states at the bottom. GiveUp blog
1 Mar 2007
Frome the Worcester, Mass. Telegram & Gazette
Mass. ranks highest for effective schools
Report shows grimmer national picture
By Priyanka Dayal

WASHINGTON— Massachusetts scored highest in a state-by-state report on educational effectiveness released yesterday, earning A’s in seven of nine grading categories.

The report, produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in association with a pair of Washington think tanks, showed a grimmer national picture, with inconsistencies across states in how effectively they spend their education dollars, how honestly they report the results of their students and how prepared high school graduates are for college and the work force.

Dozens of states scored C’s and D’s on categories such as rigor of academic standards and quality of data about student performance.

“This is a matter of critical, national urgency,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “What’s at stake is the continued vitality of the American dream for every one of our children.”

The report said Massachusetts ranks 15 percent higher than the national average in the percentage of eighth-graders at or above proficient reading and math levels. It commended the state for spending education dollars effectively and for setting rigorous curriculum standards for English, math and science.

It cited the Bay State as a leader in ensuring that students pass advanced placement exams and go on to enroll in college. The report also praised the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, which students must pass to graduate from high school.

“There’s a long way to go even if you’re at the head of the class,” Mr. Donohue said. “This is a long-term, uphill struggle.”

The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank often at odds with the business community, partnered with the chamber on the education report, as did the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

John D. Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Clinton, said that in states such as Massachusetts, governors have played a key role in raising standards of education. He said he hopes high scores will put pressure on governors to maintain these high standards.

“Our school year is organized for the late 19th century economy, not the 21st,” Mr. Podesta said, explaining that schools should consider instituting longer school days and after-school programs.

The report did not call for national standards, but did pressure states to overhaul their education systems and encouraged the business community to participate.

Despite its overall high score, Massachusetts received a C grade for not giving schools and principals enough freedom and flexibility to hire teachers, design new schools and use technology to improve performance.

Chamber of Commerce leaders said many states have a long way to go to improve data so parents can see how their children are performing and why they are performing that way.

They also said teachers who are ineffective or impede the progress of students in any way should find new work.

At a Feb. 15 conference of the National Governors Association in Washington, Stafford N. Peat, administrator of the student and secondary support unit of the Massachusetts Department of Education, told the Telegram & Gazette that Massachusetts is working to improve and expand data that will “draw the links between how students’ high school education shapes their performance in college.”

The Chamber of Commerce’s report is based on data from the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test administered to fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide.
Boston's government is still a laughingstock
1 March 2007
From Making Light, 28 Feb 2007
Boston, 28 February: The Boston Bomb Squad, who made their city a national laughing stock a month ago by blowing up cartoon Lite-Brites, answered the question “What will you do for an encore?” by blowing up a traffic measuring device put in place by the Boston Transportation Department.

Unfortunately this is a single-source story, and that source is Fox News so it has to be treated as unconfirmed, but they have video. Apparently the Fox News truck was in the financial district to get backdrops for a report on the recent downturn in the stock market, and got the whole thing on tape.
Hillary = France
28 February 2007
A campaign strategy doc was leaked from the Romney campaign, with dim-witted proposed slogans such as "Hillary = France" and "First, not France."

France was right (about Bush's invasion of Iraq, anyway), and Hillary is no France.

It is amusing to see Romney's political opponents try to tar him with the sins of his great-grandparents' polygamy. Sure he belongs to a particularly nutty and recent religion, but apparently all his opponents just belong to older traditions of superstition. And he gets to point out that he's the only major Republican still married to his first wife. Yet Hillary's still-married status is more of a burden then benefit, in that sense, for many.

good job, Stop & Shop
28 February 2007
By Ray Henry, AP
Feb 27, 2007

COVENTRY, R.I. - Four California men were arrested in what police said was a scheme to switch checkout-lane credit card readers at Stop & Shop supermarkets as a way to steal customers' numbers and passwords.

The men removed or tried to remove PIN pads from at least six stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and replaced them with alternate machines that would be used for several days to record shoppers' credit card information, authorities said Tuesday. The men allegedly planned to eventually come back and replace the original keypads.

The men were arrested Monday night while attempting to switch keypads at a store in Coventry, police said. A store security officer called police after employees noticed one suspect trying to remove a keypad while two others were seeking to distract workers.

Arutyun Shatarevyan, 20, Mikael Stepanian, 28, Gevork Baltadjian, 20, and Arman Ter-Esayan, 22, were arrested and charged with conspiracy, computer theft and fraud. They were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Kent County District Court.

Credit and debit card account numbers and PINs were stolen from the Coventry and Cranston stores in early February, the company has said. Stop & Shop, based in Quincy, Mass., said it also discovered similar tampering at four other stores _ in Bristol, Providence and Warwick, R.I., and in Seekonk, Mass. After that, the company bolted the keypads down in all its 385 stores.

Faith Wiener, a Stop & Shop spokeswoman, said those bolts stymied the alleged thieves on Monday night.
Russian mafia? They all have Armenian names, I think.

I want a T-shirt like Zach's
28 February 2007
From James J. Kilpatrick's syndicated column, 25 Feb 2007:
Three years ago, Zach [Guiles]was a seventh-grade student at Williamstown Middle High School in Vermont. U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions describes him as a good student, "very articulate and mature for his age." On a day late in March, when the maple sap was rising and the winter snows were thawing, Zach attended an anti-war rally of Vermont's Green Party. There he purchased a T-shirt with a strange device.

There was not merely one strange device. On both the front and back, in large letters, the shirt identified President Bush as a "Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief" who is engaged in a "World Domination Tour." In smaller text, the shirt further described the president as a "crook," an "AWOL draft dodger," a "lying drunk driver," and an abuser of marijuana and cocaine. Other friendly messages were conveyed through images of oil wells, dollar signs, a martini glass, three lines of cocaine and a razor blade.

"There is no question," said Judge Sessions, "that as a whole, the T-shirt communicated a very strong political message of disapproval (if not disdain and outright loathing) of the president's character and policies."

For two months Zach wore the shirt off and on. Some eyebrows went up. The heavens did not fall. There were no fights or even minor disruptions. Finally a visiting parent noticed the loathsome garment. She complained. As you will have surmised, one thing led, as it usually does, to another. Zach was abruptly offered options: (1) turn the shirt inside out, or (2) tape over the awful images, or (3) stop wearing the thing altogether.

Zach conferred with his father. After 24 hours of temporizing, the Guiles family reluctantly accepted the second option. Briefly suspended, he returned to school with portions of the shirt taped with a new message: CENSORED! Two weeks later, as the term ended, he went into U.S. District Court and sued everyone in sight.

At trial, a witness for the school board expressed her concern that if Zach were permitted to wear the shirt in class, "students could conclude that using drugs and alcohol is acceptable because one can use them and still become president of the United States." Other witnesses for the defense testified that "unsupervised exposure to images of drugs could breed familiarity and acceptance among middle-school students."

After some backing and filling, Judge Sessions came down largely on the side of the school officials. He ordered the brief suspension expunged from Zach's record, but otherwise he found the censorship permissible. Zach and his father appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. There Judge Richard J. Cardamone spoke for a three-judge panel in largely reversing the trial court. With no one to block his metaphor, he sailed "into the unsettled waters of free-speech rights in public schools -- waters rife with rocky shoals and uncertain currents." After reviewing the Tinker, Fraser and Hazelwood cases, he concluded that the rule of Tinker governs the case.

Zach's anti-Bush opinions were not expressed through a school newspaper, as in Hazelwood, or at a school assembly, as in Fraser. His T-shirt was as silently eloquent as Tinker's armband. His unspoken speech may have been disrespectful, but it was not vulgar, lewd or indecent. It had caused no "material and substantial interference" with school activities. The First Amendment lives!

"At trial, a witness for the school board expressed her concern that if Zach were permitted to wear the shirt in class, 'students could conclude that using drugs and alcohol is acceptable because one can use them and still become president of the United States.' "
The truth is an absolute defense in libel cases (not that Mrs Grundy is prosecuting this case as one), so three cheers for the Vermont Green Party and the Guiles family.

A picture of the shirt! Wish I had one!

"Jesus' tomb"
26.February 2007
The nutters are all atwitter over some movie-maker's PR campaign, in which he claims to have found the tomb of Jesus and family. It's the modern version of finding a chunk of The True Cross or St Whackjob's pinky to sell to the rubes. The claim is absurd, and those all upset are out of their tiny little minds.

obvious educational testing
25 February 2007
NYT finds the obvious, and finds that even some politicians are finding the obvious, and contemplating doing something about it.
What's been obvious to me it that the "No Child Left Behind Act" was always political hogwash -- pork-barrel projects, political grandstanding, and piss-poor standards.
We go through this "educational crisis" mode every few years. It's real enough, but Federal crash programs are blunt instruments, the state and local school bureaucracies are resistant to all change except infusions of money, and now the unions exist just to suck up all the money, too. The southern and historically agricultural states deliberately did little for education, still have the worst schools, and its political products mostly exemplify that neglect. Republican politicains, in particular, resist national standards, presumably because they suspect how badly their states' students would score.
The idea that Bush gets any credit for education standards is ludicrous, given his own aversion to schorlarship, and the massive fraud that is his educatinal legacy in Texas.
February 25, 2007
NYT Editorial
Real Tests for Real Children

The No Child Left Behind Act required the states to raise educational standards and test student performance, in exchange for federal aid. But things have not worked as Congress planned. Instead of moving toward the educational excellence that the country needs to compete in the global economy, many states opted for dumbed-down tests and deliberate sleight of hand to create the fraudulent appearance of progress.

As a result, states that perform well with their own watered-down exams do shockingly poorly when their students take the far more rigorous federal test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. A report this month by the bipartisan Commission on No Child Left Behind highlights this problem and calls for the development of more rigorous tests and national standards in reading, language arts, math and science.
So, NYT, what's the answer? Real national standards? Sure. Billions of dollars more for the politicians to dole out and bureaucrats to absorb? Probably not.

Conservapedia, because reality has a well-known liberal bias
24 February 2007
The liberal blogs, at least, have been having fun with Conservapedia, a hilariously ignorant ripoff of Wikipedia. It was organized, so to speak, by Andrew Schlafly, spawn of Pat Buchanan's favorite pin-up, Phyllis Schlafly. Most of the initial entries were apparently written as third-grade essays by home-schooled fundamentalists. Schlafly's own entries are more adult, but no more edifying, accurate or worthwhile.
Several of the readers from Pharyngula were having fun posting parody entries, indiscernable from the original entries until the authors bragged. Schlafly quickly banned all new editors, but he still brags on the main page about the number of hits to the site, too dense to realize that he and his project are international jokes.
Making Light
Original pages:
Water is and oderless, tasteless, colorless substance. Its chemical formula is H2O. (That is two hydrogens and one oxygen. I apologize for the lack of subscipts.)

1984 was a book by George Orwell. 1984 describes an alternate history in which Oceania (Australia) is at war with Eurasia. It is a utopian book because it talks about a place where everyone is watched over by Big Brother, who makes sure people are doing what they are supposed to.

The protagonist is Winston Smith. Thre is something about rats at the end, but it is confusing. The end is probably supposed to be ambigous.

A country in Europe. Thrived during the middle ages. The capitol is Paris, France, which was founded in the Middle Ages. (+ a small map)

Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined whether kangaroos form a holobarmin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.

After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land -- as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart -- or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.

Massachusetts Liberal
A Liberal from Massachusetts. Generally, they want to throw out all rules of God, and live like animals. Often they are also evolutionists.

An example of an edited page is this article on Plesiosaurs. As of 24 Feb 2007, the text reads:
In 1977, while serving as Captain on board the fishing vessel Zuiyo-maru, Kent Hovind discovered the decomposing carcass of a Plesiosaur. This was a triumphant find for the Creation-Science movement, since it unequivocally established that dinosaurs had died in the Biblical Flood, rather than being killed by a meteor, as postulated by Charles Darwin.

photo caption: This is totally not a shark.

If a meteor had killed the dinosaurs as Charles Darwin suggested, then the plesiosaurs would have died out as well. But, because a plesiosaur was found in the oceans near Japan, the only viable alternative is that the Biblical account of the Genesis flood was true, and that (on account of Noah's human fallibility) many land based dinosaurs died while the plesiosaur lived on. This also means that the rocks of the late cretaceous period (dated to 65 million years ago by Darwinist geologists) couldn't be more than a few thousand years old.

Captain Hovind sailed back to Pensacola at full steam with his triumphant find, fully expecting a Nobel Prize and widespread acclaim for his once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Unfortunately, secularist scientists performed comparisons of the carcass amino acid profile to the amino acid profile of a basking shark, and attempted to smear Hovind's find by using the fact that the two were identical. The comparison of amino acids is by no means conclusive however, since plesiosaurs and sharks both live in water, and we should expect them to have identical amino acid profiles. Furthermore, it may also be possible that the plesiosaur and basking shark are not actually distinct species, but that the plesiosaur is just a basking shark observed in a particular life stage.

While it would be instructive to study the carcass further, the Secular Humanists at the Internal Revenue Service confiscated the remains during the arrest of Dr. Hovind, presumably to prevent further investigation in the name of creationism.

Hovind actually is the sleazy former operator of Dinoland in Pensacola, Florida, and is serving 8-10 years in prison for assault and tax evasion. He was famous for his claims that people and dinosaurs lived together, a la Fred Flintstone.

Real or hacked? It's hard to say:
Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia of Alexandria was a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer living in the city of Alexandria from 370 A.D to 415 A.D. She is credited with the invention of the astrolabe and the hydrometer, as well as with having written several treatises on conic sections and the works of the geometer and astronomer Ptolemy.

During this time in the history of Alexandria, the good and godly forces of the Church had entered the city in order to wrest control of it from the decadent, depraved and heretical intellectuals and Hellenistic pagans who had built a great library and museum there in order to venerate worldly knowledge above God. This idolatry of reason, art, and literature had to be expunged by any means.
At this time, tensions were also growing between Orestes, the pagan king of Alexandria, and the representatives of the Holy Church, namely Cyril of Alexandria, Theophilus the patriarch of Alexandria, and Emperor Theodosius I. The God-fearing Theodosius I had issued an edict declaring pagan worship illegal, and legions of Christians went out into the world to destroy any places of pagan worship. Since libraries and museums are often stores of printed works that are not the Bible or even works recapitulating the divine wisdom of the Bible, they had to be razed to the ground.

It was in the spirit of this edict that Theophilus ordered many of the stores of knowledge in Alexandria destroyed, and many historians agree that he was also responsible for the famed burning of the great Library of Alexandria. This instilled a tremendous sense of fear in the cowardly and seditious philosophers and astronomers of the city and, fearing for their lives, many of them left. Sensing that the presence of God was upon that bastion of blasphemy, the pious Cyril of Alexandria began to incite mobs to, in accordance with Deuteronomy 17:2-17:5, stone the heretics who would draw worship away from God in order to idolize literature and mathematics.

It was one of these mobs that set upon Hypatia of Alexandria at the behest of the noble and pure Cyril of Alexandria. They stripped the witch of her clothing and bludgeoned her with clay pots, and then dragged her through the streets to one of the temples, where they used the shards of the broken pottery to flay her alive. A fire was built to purify her heretical flesh, and her twitching dismembered limbs were thrown in to create a pleasing scent unto the Lord.

John of Nikiu related later that "all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him 'the new Theophilus'; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city". It was for this act of purification that Cyril of Alexandria was later appointed to the position of Doctor of the Church and canonized as St. Cyril of Alexandria.

An entry that's since been deleted (via alienandsedition):
Fictional Characters (Redirected from God)
God is pretty popular, but judging by God's blog, and several thousand years of human history, He's kind of a dick.
John Galt is generally a bit less popular, but he's got more sex appeal
.A suggested entry, from Pharyngula:
Home Schooling
Indoctrination into the ways of faith, generally Christian, by mostly semi-literate parents who truly understand that "ignorance IS bliss" and know, better than any fag liberal teacher, that it is a far, far better thing to circumscribe a child's education and teach only the facts presented in the "Good Book," thereby avoiding like the plague the godless teachings (like evolution, civil rights, and equality) that infect public school systems like a plague. Plus you can beat your child all you want at home. That's every conservative's dream.
Posted by: George
Vaccine idiocy is a global phenomenon
22 February 2007
from thenews.com.pk (noted at Pharyngula)
Murdered for fighting polio
It started as another of those "conspiracy theories" -- in this case the firm belief among clerics in Bajaur Agency that the drops of polio vaccine given to infants were actually part of a western plot to reduce the population of Muslims. On Friday it ended up with the meticulously planned murder of a surgeon promoting an anti-polio campaign. Dr Abdul Ghani Khan was returning to the agency's headquarter, Khaar, when his official vehicle in which he and a group of health workers were travelling was blown up by an improvised explosive device; ironically, the same IED used by the Iraqi resistance against US occupation forces. Three of his colleagues were wounded in the blast. Dr Abdul Ghani seems to have been an activist against a disease that mostly strikes young children (Franklin D Roosevelt was one of the rare cases of adults contracting polio). The doctor's only fault seems to have been to try and convince the agency's residents to participate in the government's anti-polio vaccination campaign, for the sake and future of their children. However, this seemed to have been too much for the obscurantists and extremists in the area who obviously saw what the good doctor was doing as something that necessitated the taking of his life.

This insanity was a problem a couple of years ago in Nigeria. Polio spread from there to other African counries. Finally the less insane priests and pols allowed vaccine produced in Indonesia. Haven't heard how it's going since then. My note then:
Muslim politicians and priests in India and Nigeria have prevented immunization of their communities' children for polio, on the cusp of world-wide eradication success. This has resulted in the spread of polio to several other countries where it had been eliminated. Should we rename polio to "the Muslim disease"? Probably not - that term should be reserved for the obsession in which Muslims think they are special and the world wishes them ill.

Poliomyelitis is an acute viral infection of the nervous system. Worldwide more than half of infections are in children under five. One in two hundred infections leads to permanent paralysis, usually in the legs. In 5-10% of these cases the victims die when the breathing muscles are paralysed.

Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 the number of reported cases worldwide has fallen from 350,000 to 1,968 - a decrease of over 99%. Today it remains endemic in four countries: Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 1988 affected countries numbered 125. While there remains no cure for polio the progress towards its eradication is due to widespread use of polio vaccines. By 2002 the WHO had certified 124 countries polio-free.

More than 2 billion children have been immunised against the disease since 1988. The WHO estimates that because of the initiative five million fewer people have been paralysed by the disease.
Source: WHO

another Bush crime
19 February 2007

NYT Editorial
Making Martial Law Easier

A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night. So it was with a provision quietly tucked into the enormous defense budget bill at the Bush administration’s behest that makes it easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law.

The provision, signed into law in October, weakens two obscure but important bulwarks of liberty. One is the doctrine that bars military forces, including a federalized National Guard, from engaging in law enforcement. Called posse comitatus, it was enshrined in law after the Civil War to preserve the line between civil government and the military. The other is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which provides the major exemptions to posse comitatus. It essentially limits a president’s use of the military in law enforcement to putting down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion, where a state is violating federal law or depriving people of constitutional rights.

The newly enacted provisions upset this careful balance. They shift the focus from making sure that federal laws are enforced to restoring public order. Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.”

Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate. The president made no mention of the changes when he signed the measure, and neither the White House nor Congress consulted in advance with the nation’s governors.

There is a bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, and backed unanimously by the nation’s governors, that would repeal the stealthy revisions. Congress should pass it. If changes of this kind are proposed in the future, they must get a full and open debate.
more Bush incompetence
19 February 2007
Al Qaeda Chiefs Are Seen to Regain Power

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.

Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.

The new warnings are different from those made in recent months by intelligence officials and terrorism experts, who have spoken about the growing abilities of Taliban forces and Pakistani militants to launch attacks into Afghanistan. American officials say that the new intelligence is focused on Al Qaeda and points to the prospect that the terrorist network is gaining in strength despite more than five years of a sustained American-led campaign to weaken it.
17. February 2007
My wife hates it when I find a use for some piece of culch I've had lying around for 20 years.
"Culch (or cultch) is stuff that isn't actually trash, but is waiting to be reused. It usually lives behind the barn. The word comes from the bed of crushed shells and rock that oysters breed on. It's what a bricoleur wants to have around, or sometimes what a compulsive hoarder thinks they're keeping."

n. 1. A natural bed for oysters, consisting of gravel or crushed shells to which the oyster spawn may adhere.
2. The spawn of the oyster.
3. also scultch or sculch, New England. Clean trash or rubbish, such as string, paper, and cloth: "We always had a culch box around" New Hampshire informant
worst, wanker, war criminalworst president ever
17 February 2007

Historian Eric Foner argues at The Wasington Post that George Bush might be the worst President ever:
Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.

Busks dickBush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court’s unprecedented rebukes of Bush’s policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law…
tire reefs, a predictably dumb idea in hindsight
February 17, 2007

Offshore tire 'reefs' become pollution problem

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A mile offshore from this city's high-rise condos and spring-break bars lie as many as 2 million old tires, strewn across the ocean floor - a white-walled, steel-belted monument to good intentions gone awry.

The tires were unloaded there in 1972 to create an artificial reef that could attract a rich variety of marine life, and to free up space in clogged landfills. But decades later, the idea has proved a huge ecological blunder.

Little sea life has formed on the tires. Some of the tires that were bundled together with nylon and steel have broken loose and are scouring the ocean floor across a swath the size of 31 football fields. Tires are washing up on beaches. Thousands have wedged up against a nearby natural reef, blocking coral growth and devastating marine life.

''The really good idea was to provide habitat for marine critters so we could double or triple marine life in the area. It just didn't work that way,'' said Ray McAllister, a professor of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University who was instrumental in organizing the project. ''I look back now and see it was a bad idea.''

In fact, similar problems have been reported at tire reefs worldwide.

''They're a constantly killing coral-destruction machine,'' said William Nuckols, coordinator for Coastal America, a federal group involved in organizing a cleanup effort that includes Broward County biologists, state scientists and Army and Navy salvage divers.

Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed budget includes $2 million to help gather up and remove the tires. The military divers would do their share of the work at no cost to the state by making it part of their training.

A monthlong pilot project is set for June. The full-scale salvage operation is expected to run through 2010 at a cost to the state of about $3.4 million.

McAllister helped put together the ill-fated reef project with the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He helped raise several thousand dollars (the county also chipped in), organized hundreds of volunteers with boats and barges, and got tires from Goodyear.

Goodyear also donated equipment to bind and compress the tires, and the Goodyear blimp even dropped a gold-painted tire into the ocean in a ceremonial start to the project.

The tire company issued a press release at the time that proclaimed the reef would ''provide a haven for fish and other aquatic species,'' and noted the ''excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material.''

It was a disappointment, just like other tire reefs created off coastal states and around the world in recent decades.

''We've literally dumped millions of tires in our oceans,'' said Jack Sobel, an Ocean Conservancy scientist. ''I believe that people who were behind the artificial tire reef promotions actually were well-intentioned and thought they were doing the right thing. In hindsight, we now realize that we made a mistake.''

No one can say with certainty why the idea doesn't work, but one problem is that, unlike large ships that have been sunk for reefs, tires are too light.

Tires can be swept away by the tides and powerful storms before marine life has a chance to attach. Some scientists also believe the rubber leaches toxins.

Virginia tried it several decades ago. But Hurricane Bonnie in 1998 ripped the tires loose, and they washed up in North Carolina.

New Jersey scientists thought they had a solution to the weight problem. In 1986, the state began a small reef project with about 1,000 tires split in half, bound together and weighted with concrete. It didn't work. Pieces of rubber broke loose and floated free.

''We had to go up and down the coast of New Jersey and collect 50 to 100 of those pieces that were all along the beaches,'' said Hugh Carberry of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.

The state then tried stacking tires 10-high and filling the cylindrical center with concrete. Each stack weighed about a ton. While the tires stayed in place, scientists soon learned they did not have enough surface area for marine life to attach, so they switched to using concrete balls.

Indonesia and Malaysia mounted enormous tire reef programs back in the 1980s and are just now seeing the consequences in littered beaches and reef damage, Sobel said.

Eptatretus strickrotti
Eptatretus strickrottiSaturday, 17. February 2007
by Aaron Gouveia, Cape Cod Times
WOODS HOLE - The good news for W. Bruce Strickrott is that he now has a species of hagfish named after him. The bad news, he said, is the fish is ''hideous,'' with a mouth like ''a sphincter full of teeth.''

Strickrott, chief pilot at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has operated the Alvin submersible for eight years, logging 1,600 hours and making more than 200 dives. The vessel operates at depths more than 7,000 feet underwater and is 23 feet long.

In March 2005, while on an oceanographic expedition just south of Easter Island, Strickrott deftly maneuvered Alvin at a depth of more than 7,200 feet, and captured an 18-inch, snake-like hagfish into a canister only .2 inches wide.

The scientist riding shotgun with Strickrott, W. Joe Jones of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Monterey, Calif., at first didn't believe it. He thought the hagfish had eluded them.
Hagfish facts
They resemble eels, averaging 12 inches in length.
They have a ring of short, sensitive tentacles around their mouths.
Large slime glands line their sides along the length of their bodies.
They burrow into dead or dying animals and eat them from the inside out.
They live in cold waters in and on muddy sea floors in dense groups.
They have a very low metabolism and can go up to seven months without eating.
In Korea, almost 5 million pounds of hagfish meat are consumed annually and hagfish skin can be processed into boots, bags, wallets and purses.
caption: The hagfish is not the prettiest creature on the planet, but a new species has been named after Bruce Strickrott, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution pilot.
(Associated Press)
''It's sort of like driving a car at 30 mph and trying to catch a butterfly in a coffee cup,'' Jones said in a phone interview yesterday.

Jones was so impressed with Strickrott's pilot skills that he decided to name the new discovery after the pilot.

An article by Jones and Peter Moller of the Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen published earlier this month in the science journal Biological Bulletin, called the new species Eptatretus strickrotti, forever honoring the Alvin captain.

''I'm very grateful and this is definitely a milestone I didn't expect,'' Strickrott said in a phone interview yesterday.

Hagfish are usually about 12 inches long, resemble an eel, and are scavengers. When examined out of the water, they emit a clear, thick slime that sticks to just about anything.

This hagfish was the first to be caught in the hydrothermal vent environment thousands of feet under the surface. Usually, these locations are too deep and rocky to collect samples.

The humble Alvin pilot said he's taken some good-natured teasing over the fact that his namesake is essentially a scavenging bottom feeder.

He called the hagfish a ''true monster of the deep,'' and said friends have told him the hagfish is ''one of the most despised creatures in the ocean.''

''It's sort of like having a dung beetle named after you,'' Jones said. ''But any ribbing he gets will be of his own accord.''

All kidding aside, Strickrott knows how rare it is for a submersible pilot to have anything named after him. He thanked Jones and said he hopes this recognition inspires young pilots.

''I hope this convinces some of the guys I work with that maybe someday they can have this opportunity,'' Strickrott said.
Biol Bull. 2007 Feb;212(1):55-66.
Eptatretus strickrotti n. sp. (Myxinidae): First Hagfish Captured From a Hydrothermal Vent.
Moller PR, Jones WJ.
Zoological Museum, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen East, Denmark.

A single hagfish (Myxinidae, Eptatretus) specimen was recently captured at a hydrothermal vent site on the East Pacific Rise (38 degrees S). This is the first capture of a member of the jawless fishes (agnathans) from a hydrothermal vent site. The specimen differs from all congeners by the very slender body (depth 2.9% of total length), the paired and median ventral nasal sinus papillae, and the presence of 10 afferent branchial arteries on the medial ventral aorta. It is further unique because of a combination of the following features: slime pore counts; paired dorsal nasal sinus papillae; 12 gill pouches and gill apertures; posterior left side of body widely separated from pharyngocutaneous duct; 3/2 multicusp configuration; ventral aorta bifurcated anteriorly between 2nd and 3rd gill pouches (counted from the snout toward the heart); and pink coloration. The specimen is here described as a new species named Eptatretus strickrotti. Molecular 16S rRNA data places this new species as the basal-most species of Eptatretus, providing important new insight to the evolution of hagfishes as a whole.
hagfish embryology at Pharyngula

farming subsidies may change

NYT has something positive to say about a Bush administration program!
And expects the usual suspects will kill it. [update: They did.]
February 17, 2007
NYT Editorial
The Future of Farming

Six months ago, it was an even bet whether there would be a new farm bill in 2007. The big commodity farmers, and the interest groups that represent them, were hoping that Congress would simply extend the 2002 Farm Bill, a regressive grab bag for big agriculture. These hopes have now been disappointed. Mike Johanns, the secretary of agriculture, has unveiled his proposals for a new farm bill, which on the whole seems remarkably promising.
believing bullshit will not make it come
                  trueOne great irony of being an atheist ...
16 February 2007
from Pharyngula
Sonja: "One great irony of being an atheist and therefore being right is that, as an atheist, we know there is no ultimate judgment of our lives but, being right, we secretly wish there was."

Scott: "Sucks, doesn't it? We can't say "I told you so!" until after we're all dead. But if we're right, then after we're dead, we won't be able to say "I told you so," because we'll be too busy decomposing. And I just know that I'll have relatives at my funeral saying, "Well, at least he's in a better place now," and I won't be able to argue with them. :-( "
wankerBush: No new taxes, just 'user fees'
16 February 2007

The Bush administration may be squarely against new taxes, but its proposed fiscal 2008 budget seeks to raise almost $81 billion in new revenue over five years by increasing user fees and other charges on taxpayers and businesses.

This Modern Worldbusiness as usual
16 February 2007
Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday February 2, 2007
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice," he said.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.
pols gambling with our future
High stakes
14 Feb 2007

Massachusetts is paying out $170 million a year to deal with the addictive toll of compulsive gambling, from lost productivity to bankruptcy, to divorce and legal problems.

According to a new survey released Monday by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's Center for Policy Analysis (CFPA), Bay State residents spent an estimated $1.1 billion at Connecticut casinos and Rhode Island slot parlors in 2005, bringing home with them an estimated $77 million in ''pathological and problem gambling'' costs every year.

Add the $93 million in associated costs for those who play the Massachusetts lottery and gamble at the state's four racetracks and you've got a hefty price tag on gambling's dark side.

The survey is the fifth installment of a seven-part study being conducted by the center. Dr. W. Clyde Barrow, CPFA director, says the analysis of New England's $3.4 billion gaming industry is neither to support nor oppose high stakes gambling arguments but to provide perspective for Massachusetts lawmakers wrestling with whether to legalize casino gambling in the face of a projected $1 billion state budget deficit.

The question for lawmakers is this: Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?

Ed Looney, executive director of New Jersey's Council on Compulsive Gambling, says gambling indeed has its drawbacks.

''When you bring gambling to an area, you can expect the 80-15-5 rule to follow,'' he said, meaning that 80 percent of casino-goers will do it for fun and have few of the associated problems, 15 percent will gamble irresponsibly and 5 percent will become addicted.

''You'll see bankruptcy rates start to rise. In fact, in counties with casinos, there's anywhere from a 17 to 35 percent higher rate of bankruptcy than in places that don't.''

You'll also find higher suicide rates, said Looney. Citing Gamblers Anonymous studies, he said 78 percent of GA members have considered suicide, while 48 percent planned a suicide and 13 percent attempted suicide.

16 Feb
Now the Wampanoag are recognized as a tribe, and hope to built a giant casino to compete with the Connecticut ones. Is all just about the money? Yes, they've been jerked around for centuries, with provincial/state and federal governments that have apparently NEVER kept a treaty. But is opening a casino any different, morally, from a decision to sell cigarettes, other drugs or weapons? Whitey deserves it?
It would be interesting to know what identity they would claim if some other reparations movement was making progress, such as the infamous one for slavery. Genetics isn't culture, but an analysis would be interesting anyway.

Haven't read it, but this looks interesting:
Mashpee: The Story of Cape Cod's Indian Town by Francis G. Hutchins
Review author(s): Vine Deloria, Jr.
The American Political Science Review, Vol. 74, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 1084-1085

Deval Patrick - just another pol
13 February 2007

Deval Patrick and the Legislature have killed the plan to remove toll booths from most of the Mass Pike, without serious public discussion. With hypocritical puffing about the money spent on consultants to analyze the plan.
Yes, the removal plan was a cynical ploy by Romney/Healey at election time, since they'd had some years to do it previously. Just like Weld removing the tolls at the far western end, when he ran for the Senate against Kerry a few years ago.
But it's way past time for the tolls to close, since the authorizing legislation said they would be when the construction bonds were paid off, which was at least 20 years ago. Now it's just a patronage plum for the pols, with half the income going to pay for the toll collectors, and some significant fraction simply going directly into the collectors' pockets.
The excuse that the state would lose income by closing the tolls is absurd. Since the tolls are paid by motorists anyway, it would just be a small rearrangement to have the difference made up in a gas tax increase, to spread the cost over the state, as all other road costs are (except the Big Dig.) That's logical, not realistic.

Iranian source of road-side bombs
13 February 2007
NYT editorial 13 Feb 2007
... How little this administration has learned from its failures is a constant source of amazement. It seems the bigger the failure, the less it learns.

Consider last weekend’s supersecret briefing in Baghdad by a group of American military officials whose names could not be revealed to the voters who are paying for this war with their taxes and their children’s blood. The briefers tried to prove the White House’s case that Iran is shipping deadly weapons, including armor-piercing explosives, to Shiite militias in Iraq.

Unlike Colin Powell’s infamous prewar presentation on Iraq at the United Nations, this briefing had actual weapons to look at. And perhaps in time, the administration will be able to prove conclusively that the weapons came from arms factories in Iran.

But the officials offered no evidence to support their charge that “the highest levels of the Iranian government” had authorized smuggling these weapons into Iraq for use against American forces. Nor could they adequately explain why they had been sitting on this urgent evidence since 2004. The only thing that was not surprising was the refusal of any of the briefers to allow their names to be published. Mr. Powell is probably wondering why he didn’t insist on the same deal.

We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent. ...
The Build-a-War Workshop
February 10, 2007
NYT Editorial
The Build-a-War Workshop
It took far too long, but a report by the Pentagon inspector general has finally confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s do-it-yourself intelligence office cooked up a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to help justify an unjustifiable war.

The report said the team headed by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, developed “alternative” assessments of intelligence on Iraq that contradicted the intelligence community and drew conclusions “that were not supported by the available intelligence.” Mr. Feith certainly knew the Central Intelligence Agency would cry foul, so he hid his findings from the C.I.A. Then Vice President Dick Cheney used them as proof of cloak-and-dagger meetings that never happened, long-term conspiracies between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that didn’t exist, and — most unforgivable — “possible Iraqi coordination” on the 9/11 attacks, which no serious intelligence analyst believed.
Julie Amero, victim of criminally dysfunctional school and court system
6 February 2007

I don't know which component of the whole travesty is most to blame, but there sure is plenty to spread around. As I understand it, this barely computer literate woman, a junior high substitute teacher, was in charge of a class when a porn pop-up appeared on the monitor. She couldn't click it off, and had been forbidden to turn off the computer. Yes, obviously, she should have turned off the monitor or computer anyway, but she didn't.
I have no information on whose complaint led to criminal charges, but the state convicted an innocent woman, for the incomptence of the local system. It was the duty of the school system, by law, to have filters in place.
The state persecutor should have seen this case was absurd, a Kafka tragedy.
The judge should have thrown the case out of court, but apparently allowed or insisted on picking jurors who know nothing about computers or the Internet.
Amero's lawyer - was he not allowed a defense or not capable of it?
The news media, for not exposing this fraud.
Teacher guilty in Norwich porn case
Norwich [Connecticut] Bulletin

NORWICH -- State Prosecutor David Smith said he wondered why Julie Amero didn't just pull the plug on her classroom computer.

The six-person jury Friday may have been wondering the same thing when they convicted Amero, 40, of Windham of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. It took them less than two hours to decide the verdict. She faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Oct. 19, 2004, while substituting for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School, Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images appearing in an endless cycle on her computer.

"The pop-ups never went away," Amero testified. "They were continuous."

The Web sites, which police proved were accessed while Amero was in the classroom, were seen by as many as 10 minor students. Several of the students testified during the three-day trial in Norwich Superior Court to seeing images of naked men and women.

Computer expert W. Herbert Horner, testifying in Amero's defense, said he found spyware on the computer and an innocent hair styling Web site "that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control."

"If you try to get out of it, you're trapped," Horner said.

But Smith countered Horner's testimony with that of Norwich Police Detective Mark Lounsbury, a computer crimes investigator. On a projected image of the list of Web sites visited while Amero was working, Lounsbury pointed out several highlighted links.

"You have to physically click on it to get to those sites," Smith said. "I think the evidence is overwhelming that she did intend to access those Web sites."

Among the sites Amero visited were meetlovers.com and femalesexual.com, along with others with more graphic names.

Defense attorney John Cocheo moved for a mistrial shortly before closing arguments Friday, based on reports jurors had discussed the case while eating lunch at the Harp and Dragon. Each of the jurors denied the allegation under questioning by Judge Hillary Strackbein and the motion was denied.

Cocheo, who said he was surprised by the verdict, especially with the "contradictory evidence," said he planned to appeal. Amero had no visible reaction to the verdict, though her family was obviously upset.

Amero, because the charges are felonies, faces 40 years in prison at her March 2 sentencing. Her family, present in court for entire trial, declined comment about the verdict.
story at Pharyngula
Myleftnutmeg story
updated 6 Mar 2007
Drums & Whistles

1 Feb 2007 Boston politicians are a national joke:
up yours, BostonBoston Officials Livid Over Ad Stunt
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON - Boston officials, livid about a publicity campaign that had disrupted the city by stirring fears of terrorism, vowed to prosecute those responsible and seek restitution for the $500,000 cost of the response.
    Officials found a slew of blinking electronic signs adorning bridges and other high-profile spots across the city Wednesday, prompting the closing of a highway and part of the Charles River and the deployment of bomb squads.
    The 38 signs were part of a promotion for Cartoon Network TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball. The network's parent is Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc.
    "It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme," Mayor Thomas Menino said. "I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred."
    The 1-foot tall signs resembled a circuit board, with protruding wires and batteries. Most depicted a boxy, cartoon character giving passersby the finger - a more obvious sight when darkness fell.
    Authorities arrested two men who put up the signs. Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington, and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown, were charged Wednesday night with one count of placing a hoax device and one count of disorderly conduct.
    State Attorney General Martha Coakley said they were hired to place the devices. Both were to be arraigned Thursday morning.
    As soon as Turner realized the Boston problem around 5 p.m., it said, law enforcement officials were told of their locations in 10 cities where it said the devices had been placed for two to three weeks: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
If there is a crime, it is implied that the uproar may have been deliberately caused:
The rash of calls around the same time is being investigated, Police Commissioner Edward Davis said.
"There's no indication it came from panicked residents," he said.

    If anyone should be charged for "inciting fear", it should be the media and the police. No one would have been so fearful if they hadn't approached this children's toy in bomb squad full body armor, treating it like a bomb without bothering to investigate the matter more fully... FDR's famous saying that we have nothing to fear but fear itself is more applicable in today's fear-mongering world than in was in his own time! Posted at Pharyngula by: Saint Gasoline
27 Jan 2007
    While we igore, mention, obsess, deplore or celebrate Islam's war against "civilization," today's news has reminders of internal tensions, aka "self-cleaning oven": a suicide bombing near a Pakistani Shiite mosque that killed 15 or so, but mostly Sunnis; battles between Palestinian factions that killed 18 or 21 or so,  another 13 or so Iraqis killed by their "countrymen" in a bombing today, and 61 murdered by death squads. "The latest attack capped a week in which more than 150 people, mostly Shi'ites, were slain in bomb attacks." "Or so:" the numbers seen are rarely definitive - just ballpark numbers to highlight the mayhem. Then there's Darfur, and Somalia. And Lebanon on the brink.
    Thomas Friedman (NYT) commented 30 Jan on the protests, riots and murder arising from a Danish cartoon, yet that inter-Moslem violence gets as much attention among them as the weather report.
    The New York Times has had a set of articles on Pakistani military and intelligence agencies still openly supporting and apparently funding/controlling the Taleban.

    But, "Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.... Recent months have seen leaks and background briefings reminiscent of the softening up of public opinion for the war against Iraq which have presented a series of allegations regarding Iran's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the 'genocidal' intentions of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its 'connections' with North Korea's nuclear weapons programme." The Observer

25 Jan 2007
    Checking to see which of my files are most popular: the superstition and reason quotes page zoomed to the top this fall, followed by my home page, the main text file for Nason & Varney's 1890 Massachusetts Gazetteer, the quotes home page, the list of posted old documents, my politics & stuff (this page), maps, Joseph C. Lincoln, Brewster Ship Masters, Deyo's 1890 chapter on Cape Cod professionals (now split in 3), Deyo's Dennis and Provincetown, Fowle & Fitz's 1845 children's gazetteer, our Cape Cod & New England library, Deyo's Chatham, Mass. Historical Society 1802, Deyo's Harwich and Brewster, Mass. Historical Society 1798, Deyo's Orleans and Yarmouthgenealogy main page, Boston 1890, political quotes, Deyo's Wellfleet, Lincoln's Cape Cod Ballads,  Deyo's Eastham, genealogy surnames, Hawthorne's Old Seaport Towns, some books read, Deyo introduction, ... Overall, the several Deyo chapters may add up to be the majority, or maybe it's the 300+ pages of Nason & Varney (town by town), or the thousands of small genealogy pages.

24 Jan 2007
    Good news - John Kerry isn't going to waste our time running for president again. Not that there are good people running: so far we have Clinton the opportunist, Obama the lightweight, and Richardson the obscure.

Whiff of corruption:
    The Telegram notes that Worcester is supporting many people out on disability who "worked" only a short time for the city before they went out. It mentions, without details, that there are strong suspicions that some shouldn't have been hired in the first place. Also, they were hired without having physicals, so it would be hard to prove when or how they were allegedly injured. Some city councillors are asking questions that should have been asked years ago.
    Twice in the past weeks I've heard references from real people (not reporters) to the wholesale corruption of government in Rhode Island. As far as I know, Mass. isn't that bad on a day-to-day level. Then again, I read  The Brothers Bulger (Howie Carr) this past summer - the psychopath on  the streets, with the FBI in his pocket, and the President of the Mass. Senate in charge of a patronage and bribery empire (and still stealing millions from us.)

    Scooter Libby's defense, basically against the charge that he's the one who outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, is that he was set up to take the fall for Karl Rove. The other side will apparently argue that he's taking the fall for Cheney. Neither asshole will suffer.

20 Jan 2007.
    Some assholes stole the 2 parts of a big extension ladder that we were using to get to Julie's tree house. They were there, in the tree, within the past couple of days, then they weren't. Probably they drove right up the driveway of our business slumlord neighbor, 10 or 12 feet away from the tree and ladders. The Worcester police had absolutely no interest. Again.

hovindGood news!
January, 19, 2007  Pensacola News Journal
by Michael Stewart
10 years for 'Dr. Dino'
Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison on charges of tax fraud.
After a lengthy sentencing hearing that last 5 1/2 hours, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ordered Hovind also:
-- Pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
-- Pay the prosecution’s court costs of $7,078.
-- Serve three years parole once he is released from prison.
Big, detailed article on this horrifying loon, with original documents, at Wikipedia

18 Jan 2007 NYT
 A Spy Program in From the Cold
 Of the many ways that President Bush has trampled civil liberties and the balance of powers since the 9/11 attacks, one of the most egregious was his decision to order wiretaps of Americans’ international calls and e-mail without court approval. It was good news, then, when the administration announced yesterday that it would now seek a warrant from the proper court for that sort of eavesdropping.
  The president’s decision hardly ends this constitutional crisis. Among other things, the public needs to know why Mr. Bush broke the law for more than five years and what should be done to ensure there will be no more abuses of the wiretap statute. ...
January 17, 2007  
 "Bombers killed 70 people, many of them young women students, at a Baghdad university on Tuesday, one of the city's bloodiest days in weeks." And their excuse-of-the-day is that Sadaam's brother had an ugly execution? These are the people who murder dozens of people per day, torturing them with electric drills and gouging out their eyes.  I wonder that any Iraqui's are trying to do something normal like get a university education, under the circumstances. I wonder that there isn't all-out civil war already, given the provocations, but it seems these monsters just keep on pushing.

The Torturer's Apprentice
Ray McGovern
September 07, 2006
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Addressing the use of torture Wednesday, President George W. Bush played to the baser instincts of Americans as he strained to turn his violation of national and international law into Exhibit A on how “tough” he is on terrorists. His tour de force brought to mind the charge the Athenians leveled at Socrates—making the worse case appear the better. Bush’s remarks made it abundantly clear, though, that he is not about to take the hemlock.

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and with the midterm elections just two months away, the president's speechwriters succeeded in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of torture. The artful offensive will succeed if—but only if—the mainstream media is as cowed, and the American people as dumb, as the president thinks they are. Arguably a war criminal under international law and a capital-crime felon under U.S. criminal law, Bush’s legal jeopardy is even clearer than when he went AWOL during the Vietnam War. And this time, his father will not be able to fix it.

Bush in jeopardy? Yes. The issue is torture, which George W. Bush authorized in a Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum  in contravention both of the Geneva Accords and 18 U.S. Code 2441—the War Crimes Act that incorporates the Geneva provisions into the federal criminal code which was approved by a Republican-led Congress in 1996. Heeding the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, the president officially opened the door to torture in that memorandum. His remarks yesterday reflect the determination of Cheney and Bush to keep that door open and accuse those who would close it of being "soft on terrorists."

The "War on Christmas" seemed to get less attention this year than last. Can't say whether it's because it wore out its welcome or because the winger media drummed it into the heads of the sheep so thoroughly last year that it doesn't need their repetition this season. Still haven't read The Battle for Christmas,  by Stephen Nissenbaum, the Pulitzer-nominated book that explains how New York merchants and writers of the mid 1800s deliberately concocted the Victorian "Merry Christmas" meme, to sell stuff and inhibit the genuine traditional New York Christmas: drunken, rioting mobs of German and Irish Catholics.
Dec 2006
Some of us old-timers (vaguely) recall when the hyperchristians used to throw tizzies at the commercialization of christmas - just what are we expected to say now that they're howling against the de-commercialization of it?
  Have a politically correct generic holiday season, everyone! - Pierce R. Butler, on Pharyngula
November 28, 2006
 Justices decline voucher case
 WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court decided yesterday not to plunge into the issue of school choice, passing up a dispute over a Maine law that bars the use of public funds to send students to private religious schools.

4 Nov 2006
“Dr.” Kent Hovind has been convicted on 57 counts of tax evasion and one count of threatening investigators, religious peers and employees. Besides his speaking engagements and other enterprises at Creation Science Evangelism that brought in millions of dollars of revenue, “Dr.” Hovind ran a dinosaur-themed amusement park in Florida that contained his own interpretation of the fallacies of evolution and the literal truth of the Bible, but refused to withhold $473,818 of his employees’ taxes, creating huge legal headaches for each of them. He and his wife fraudulently claimed to have no income when applying for financial assistance of various sorts. Although he prayed on his radio show that agents’ investigation of him would stop, The Lord did not hear his prayer.
His wife, Jo, was also convicted on 44 counts.

2 Nov 2006 NYT
 The Great Divider
  As President Bush throws himself into the final days of a particularly nasty campaign season, he’s settled into a familiar pattern of ugly behavior. Since he can’t defend the real world created by his policies and his decisions, Mr. Bush is inventing a fantasy world in which to campaign on phony issues against fake enemies.
 In Mr. Bush’s world, America is making real progress in Iraq. In the real world, as Michael Gordon reported in yesterday’s Times, the index that generals use to track developments shows an inexorable slide toward chaos. In Mr. Bush’s world, his administration is marching arm in arm with Iraqi officials committed to democracy and to staving off civil war. In the real world, the prime minister of Iraq orders the removal of American checkpoints in Baghdad and abets the sectarian militias that are slicing and dicing their country.
 In Mr. Bush’s world, there are only two kinds of Americans: those who are against terrorism, and those who somehow are all right with it. Some Americans want to win in Iraq and some don’t. There are Americans who support the troops and Americans who don’t support the troops. And at the root of it all is the hideously damaging fantasy that there is a gulf between Americans who love their country and those who question his leadership.

1 November 2006 
 WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has refused to cooperate in an investigation into whether she voted in the wrong precinct, so the case will probably be turned over to prosecutors, Palm Beach County's elections chief said Wednesday. Knowingly voting in the wrong precinct is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Mother Jones's timeline of Bush's War
30 Aug 2006
Keith Olbermann, commenting on Rummie's rant to the VFW
[...]    That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused… is simply this:
  This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such,  all voices count — not just his. Had he or his President perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago — about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago — about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego. But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris. Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelope this nation — he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically. And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes.
      In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused… the United States of America? 
      The confusion we — as its citizens —– must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note — with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light… and we can, too. The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this Administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought. 
     And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism." As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism — indeed.

29 Aug 2006
treason. the new patriotismI was reading a blog with a thread on symbols of evil. The thread degenerated to drivel as some writers fatuously defended the swastika as an unfairly maligned ancient design, and the Confederate flag as a symbol of  states' rights and Southern culture. It can't be an original thought, but it occurred to me that there must be a reason why the part of the country with the worst flag worshippers and bible thumpers is also the part of the country which glorifies its history of slavery and treason.

27 August 2006 NYT
  In coming weeks, the Internal Revenue Service plans to start siccing private debt collectors on people with up to $25,000 in unpaid income taxes — and laying off nearly half of the auditors who examine estate tax returns of the wealthiest taxpayers.

 25 August 2006
oil war  BP has been hit by further troubles in Alaska, after it was forced to shut down even more production at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield and documents emerged that appeared to show the company was warned about the pipeline corrosion problem that has now crippled output.
 The latest difficulties will feed into a growing political backlash in the US, where it has been suggested that BP's slogan should be "big problem" rather than its advertising line of "beyond petroleum". A Congressional committee will grill BP's US executives next month over leaks from its Alaskan pipelines.
 Joe Barton, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for instance, has said that disruptions caused by the pipeline crisis "are not excusable, particularly in light of substantial evidence that BP's chronic neglect directly contributed to the shutdown". Senator Ted Stevens has said that he feels he was misled for years by BP over its safety and maintenance regime in Alaska, adding that he was "shocked" to learn that 81 per cent of the steel on some portions of pipelines had been eaten away by corrosion.
 Yesterday brought yet more bad news on the disruption to the flow of oil to American consumers from Prudhoe Bay, the biggest oilfield in the US. Production at the field, already running at half capacity due to pipeline corrosion, has now been cut by a further 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) for several days due to a technical fault. Output at Prudhoe Bay now stands at just 110,000 bpd, compared with some 400,000 bpd before BP discovered "unexpectedly severe corrosion" in some pipelines there. A spill was first discovered in March and a further leak this month led to the closure of part of the field.
 As part of a criminal inquiry into spills, Federal investigators are now reviewing two-year-old documents from an engineering firm that warned of "accelerated" corrosion in its pipeline network - the issue that has now forced the emergency partial shutdown.
 Reports prepared in 2004 by a consultant, Coffman Engineers, portray a pipeline system vulnerable to localised corrosion, with large blind spots where problems would be impossible to detect. Coffman's work for BP is being examined by the Environmental Protection Agency in its investigation of BP's maintenance programme. - UK Independent News
August 18, 2006 NYT     Judge Finds Wiretap Actions Violate the Law
spread no lies By ADAM LIPTAK and ERIC LICHTBLAU
 A federal judge ruled yesterday that the National Security Agency’s program to wiretap the international communications of some Americans without a court warrant violated the Constitution, and she ordered it shut down.
 The ruling was the first judicial assessment of the Bush administration’s arguments in defense of the surveillance program, which has provoked fierce legal and political debate since it was disclosed last December. But the issue is far from settled, with the Justice Department filing an immediate appeal and succeeding in allowing the wiretapping to continue for the time being.
 In a sweeping decision that drew on history, the constitutional separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of United States District Court in Detroit rejected almost every administration argument.
 Judge Taylor ruled that the program violated both the Fourth Amendment and a 1978 law that requires warrants from a secret court for intelligence wiretaps involving people in the United States. She rejected the administration’s repeated assertions that a 2001 Congressional authorization and the president’s constitutional authority allowed the program.
surveillance “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,” she wrote. “The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another.”

17 Aug 2006
Even George Will realizes that the Bushies are delusional, and said John Kerrey had been right about containing terrorism with police methods.

13 Aug 2006. a comment at Pharngula
You can't have lip gloss, yet they don't screen the CARGO. Yep, the cargo goes on unexamined.
 But there's no way something could be smuggled on the plane in a huge unexamined crate, so its the lip gloss we need to worry about.
 It's all BS, it's theater, it's CYA mixed with political propaganda aimed at making people FEEL safer, but more importantly to make people think that elected officials are making them safer.
 For almost five years now I've wondered "but how would that address me strapping a glass or obsidian blade to my leg?"
 It wouldn't, and that's just an idea a non-techie came up with within the first few minutes.
 Many discussions maintain that the British police story, or rather the US government's version of the British police story, has so many holes in it that there's no way for a rational observer to say there was a real threat. In particular, it is said that there are no liquid or gel explosives that amateurs could make beforehand, or make in place on an aircraft, because all known ones are so unstable they wouldn't make it through the bumping of a ride to the airport and through security inspections, or require special equipment and powerful chemicals to make in place. This is also a criticism of the alleged use of TAPK by the London Tube bombers.
So, if it is actually shown that the Tube bombers used TAPK, these comments are invalid. If valid, who is lying? The Bushies have motive.
It should be noted that Ramzi Yousef actually did smuggle bomb parts onto a plane in 1994, assemble it, and conceal it under a seat with a timer where it then exploded on the next leg of the flight, killing the passenger sitting there, injuring ten more, and blowing a hole in the bottom of the compartment. He used liquid nitroglycerin, which he had disguised as a bottle of contact lens cleaning solution. So we know this kind of thing can be done. Yet, in 1994 there was no widescale panic, nor were beverages banned from airplanes.
 Yousef and his compatriots planned to do the same thing on a larger scale, using more powerful explosives. In 1995, this plot was discovered when one of the terrorists set his Manilla apartment on fire while working with chemicals. Manilla police discovered bombmaking equipment and a personal computer with plot details. Yet, in 1995 there was no widescale panic, nor were beverages banned from airplanes. - nielsenhayden.com

15 Aug 2006 WP
On Sunday, the TSA made it mandatory for shoes to be run through X-ray machines as passengers go through metal detectors. They were begun in late 2001, after the Reid's arrest. The shoe scans have been optional for several years.
 In its April 2005 report, "Systems Engineering Study of Civil Aviation Security _ Phase I," the Homeland Security Department concluded that images on X-ray machines don't provide the information necessary to detect explosives.
 Machines used at most airports to scan hand-held luggage, purses, briefcases and shoes have not been upgraded to detect explosives since the report was issued.
12 Aug 2006
There are several bike trails in various stages of completion across Massachusetts, but finding recent info on them is an excercise in frustration. There is an interconnecting set of web links, which mostly lead to a circle of ancient information, and the rest lead to dead Mass. pages. First, there should be area-wide maps, because the project names often mean nothing to non-locals. Second, since these are ongoing but sporadic projects, all relevant pages should be clearly dated.

11 Aug 2006 - I did a spell-check, and was quite embarrassed at the number of mistakes.

god-soaked sheep  Miller JD, Scott EC, Okamoto S (2006) Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313:765-766.

"Americans aren't second to last because they are 'famously independent.' They're failing biology because they're god-soaked sheep, and the Republican party has exploited that failing." - PZ Myers

apes evolved

science protested

Bushies plan to exempt themselves from war crimes:
War Crimes Act Changes Would Reduce Threat Of Prosecution
 By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post Staff Writer
 Wednesday, August 9, 2006; A01
  The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.
 Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.
 The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.
Since when does "perpetrator" equal "victim"?
8 Aug 2006
Republican Congressman Bob Ney abruptly abandoned his bid for re-election yesterday, becoming the latest Capitol Hill figure to fall victim to the congressional corruption scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ...
Ney has not been charged with any crimes, but court papers from Abramoff's guilty plea to fraud and corruption charges detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff says he gave to an unnamed House member in return for official acts, including support of Abramoff's American Indian tribe clients in Texas. Officials have confirmed that congressman is Ney. (AP)
The "reparations for slavery" movement is upon us again. Some ideas are just too stupid to die, and helped along by a greedy and hypocritical crew. Why should any current business or institution be financially, or even morally, responsible for actions they legally took hundreds of years ago? Much of history is war and exploitation, not that that's an excuse. Slavery was practised for millennia, around the world (and it still exists), but as far as I've read, it's only US institutions being dunned for "reparations," (though I wouldn't be surprised if  some Western  European countries were also dunned.) Since it was American and European societies and governments that largely put an end to slavery, and Arab and African governments and traders that did, and do, practice slave raiding, perhaps the wrong entities are being accused?

Related matter: The Mid-East at war again. It's the Israel's fault, it's Hezbollah's fault, it's Iran and Syria's fault, it's the United States' fault. Blah, blah, blah. But a columnist pointed out again, that among the piles of hypocrisy and blindness, a mountain stands out: hundreds of thousands of Moslems are being killed in awful ways by other Moslems in Sudan, while the Moslem world ignores it to hyperventilate at the (relatively tame) mayhem in Israel/Palestine/Lebanon. Most of the rest of the world ignores it too.  One silly point for US support of Israel - it's inconsistent with the idea that we only want the oil.  American god-droolers support Israel because they think it will hasten the end of the world!
August 4, 2006
NYT Editorial
 China and Darfur
 A strong United Nations force is needed to halt the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. If it is not sent soon, it may be too late for many thousands of potential victims. The immediate cause of the delay is the refusal by Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to agree to a U.N. force, which he preposterously claims would attempt to recolonize his African nation. He is able to get away with this largely because China, a permanent member of the Security Council, continues to protect him with the threat of using its veto.
  One reason Beijing stands behind Mr. Bashir is oil. China is trying to diversify its oil sources beyond the crisis-prone Middle East, and Africa is one obvious alternative. Already, some 7 percent of China’s imported oil comes from Sudan.

July 22, 2006
  WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday. (AP, NYT)

Meanwhile, back in Bush's Iraq, a civil war IS happening, as I  foresaw 3 years ago. And even some politicians are talking about breaking Iraq into 3 countries, which some observers figured would be the inevitable outcome, years ago. How do the Sunnis figure their terror campaign will help them regain power? Perhaps they expect to seize power by being the most blood-thirsty, but al-Sadr's goons are giving them competition.
Okay, it's a given that all sides hate the infidel Crusaders. But how do the locals see things on a day-to-day basis? Are they more concerned about being murdered by the other sect than about defeating the Great Satan, or not? Is the Islamic world concerned much about the internal religious war? I don't see answers in my shallow news reading, and sure won't if I stick to American media.

Bushies continue to hide evidence of their incompetence:
August 4, 2006
leaking lies Intelligence Senator Faults Bid to Classify Report on Iraq
 WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee lashed out at the White House on Thursday, criticizing attempts by the Bush administration to keep secret parts of a report on the role Iraqi exiles played in building the case for war against Iraq.
  The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, said his committee had completed the first two parts of its investigation of prewar intelligence. But he chastised the White House for efforts to classify most of the part that examines intelligence provided to the Bush administration by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group.

John Adams I finally read David McCullough's John Adams, and was as impressed as most readers. John and John Quincy Adams were heroes and geniuses, and I look forward to reading more about  JQA. Hamilton comes off as the most disloyal, power-hungry conniver in the early Republic, so perhaps we owe Aaron Burr a note of thanks.
 McCullough quotes tidbits from the Constitution of Massachusetts, largely written by Adams, which make it sound like a model of clarity and progressive ideas. I just skimmed through it, for the first time in many years, and while there are several nice sentences, on the whole it's a sectarian, dense, legalistic document compared to the federal constitution it inspired.

The best bit:
Chapter V, Section II.
The Encouragement of Literature, etc.

Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.

We also finally visited the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Mass. The small farm-houses in which the Adams' were born are adjacent, on about an acre, surrounded by urban housing and businesses. The ranger gave a quick and very shallow tour, with the usual ridiculous emphasis on unfamiliar 18th-Century cooking implements, and several bits of pop history nonsense. There are few real Adams artifacts, and visitors can't see the second floors. John and Abigail bought a fancier house in town later, and it was enlarged by them and by descendants. Peacefield is crammed with real artifacts of 4 generations of Adams, with implied dire threats if you actually touch anything. The rooms are fairly large, but visitors are kept behind ropes in a tiny section of each, and on our crammed tour it was hard to more than glimpse what the knowledgeable young ranger was talking about.. I DO NOT CARE about anyone's porcelain collection. The highlight was Charles Francis Adams' detached library - 14,000 volumes in an elegant granite building. There's a nice flower garden too, but it seemed that visitors were at least discouraged from the rest of the 5 acres.

Mel Gibson, phenomenally rich, ultra-Catholic drooler, gets far more press (condemnations and excuses) for his obscene, drunken rants than Bush and Cheney do for their crimes against the world.

There are frequent news stories about cops and vigilantes online, pretending to be teens ready to be seduced by older men, arranging to meet them across state lines, and arresting them. Yes, they were intending to commit a "sex crime," but they didn't, so what is the case against them? Is there any evidence that there really is a social problem, that teens are being abused? Or does this just fit the titillation aspect of news? I'm very suspicious. It reminds me of the sporadic satanism and child-abuse-ring hysterias, where nutters, demagogues and the press collude for power and attention. Listening, Tom Reilly?
    And "sex offenders" are a newly popularized pariah group, worse than Mexicans, in the same league with Islamic terrorists. Except for the priests, who still get deference. But there aren't any more real perverts around now than there ever were, and nearly all sex offenses happen between people who already know each other, but legislatures keep pandering to Mrs Grundy to restrict where they live and work. The courts and/or legislatures also have broadened the definitions so much, that things that were once considered obnoxious pranks and vulgar groping are now actionable "sex crimes."

31 July 2006
The criminal manipulator criticizes his poodles. The hypocrisy or mendacity of this speech is just astounding. Turd Blossom
Rove Critical of Media's 'Corrosive Role' in Politics
Associated Press
Sunday, July 30, 2006; Page A11 (speech at George Washington University)
Presidential adviser Karl Rove said yesterday that journalists often criticize political strategists because they want to draw attention away from the "corrosive role" their own coverage plays in politics and government.
30 July 2006
Recent bumper stickers I like:
BUCK FUSH Republicans for Voldemort

And T-shirts seen at the Lowell Folk Festival:
The Liver is Evil - it must be Punished
(on a middle aged man)
my bush would make a better president
(on a pretty 20-something woman)

  At the public pool: the fashion of saggy, baggy, oversize trunks for boys means that they spend more time pulling them up than the girls do pulling their hems and straps into place. How do you swim, when one hand is needed to prevent your suit from falling off? Fashion!

I'm reminded of a story from the 17th century (?), from a class on Western-Asian commerce: British merchants calculated that if they could persuade the Chinese to wear their robes 4 inches longer, they sell some vast amount of cloth, and make vast fortunes. It didn't work, and China had little use for British cloth. Now it's Chinese cloth and clothing that's cheap, and China is making a fortune on exporting it to the West, draping obese Americans in yards of ugly stuff.

The damage has been done. The original story will never die.
29 Jul 2006
A 15-year-old Canadian girl with a peanut allergy did not die because of kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter, a coroner has ruled.   But Saguenay coroner Michel Miron did not reveal why Christina Desforges died last November because he has yet to make his final report.
Part of a review of Ann Coulter's latest steaming pile of ignorance, lies and plagiarism:ODDMESS
Mrs. Betty Bowers reviews Miss Ann Coulter (oh, and her new book, too)
  Godless -- From One Who Knows
  "Ann Coulter is either a very devious, liberal performance artist or mentally ill.  There is no middle ground.
 -- Mrs. Betty Bowers
  This week, sweet Ann Coulter released her latest in a series of pre-rehab books, entitled Godless.  Naturally, the title led me to believe that it was an unexpectedly candid autobiography.  Alas, she may be saving that book until after she's been strapped to a bed at Hazelden for a month.  Instead of using this book to dabble in the bracing novelty of introspection, Miss Coulter turns her two-setting mind ("off" and "off her rocker") to hector us about religion. 
  Let's be honest: Reading a book about religion from Ann Coulter is tantamount to reading a book about dieting from Michael Moore. After all, who wants to be lectured about not being Christian enough by an almost-50 year-old boozehound in a black leather miniskirt who has never been married?  Count me as having a healthy skepticism over whether Miss Coulter has saved herself for marriage.  Or anything, for that matter. [continues]
Bush is personally involved in covering up his crimes, and a flunky proudly flaunts it:
18 July 2006
use big words WASHINGTON -- President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.
 Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"What he was saying is that in the case of a highly classified program, you need to keep the number of people exposed to it tight for reasons of national security, and that's what he did," Snow said.

Yet, according to OPR chief Marshall Jarrett, "a large team" of prosecutors and FBI agents were granted security clearances to pursue an investigation into leaks of information that resulted in the program's disclosure in December. -WP

14 July 2006
  Insane creationist thief Kent Hovind has finally been arrested on 58 counts of tax evasion, witness intimidation and threatening government employees. Hooray! But why the long delay in filing charges ? Presumably he's been doing this up until his arrest. Reports demonstrate his affiliation with "militia" and tax-denial groups, as well as his renunciation of US citizenship. Isn't there somewhere we could deport him to as an undesirable alien?
Pensacola NewsJournal
A Pensacola evangelist who owns the defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola was arrested Thursday on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators.

Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.
30 June 2006 (but posted here 31 Aug)
Burning Flags
 Scott Adams
 I was delighted to learn that American politicians are trying to make it illegal to burn the American flag. That can only mean that my dedicated public servants have finally solved the problems of crime, drugs, war, poverty, terrorism, healthcare, immigration, and the mystery of why our children are such idiots compared to Norwegians. Evidently those issues are now under control. I was starting to worry that Congress was wasting my tax dollars doing stupid shit.
12 June 2006
A winger wrote to denounce me for not praising Dummy & Rummy for the death of terrorist Zarqawi, and somehow confused me with a Kerry supporter. Where to start with such idiocy? Small words, I suppose. First, this obviously isn't a page that gets updated every day, or even every week. Maybe I'd give them some credit if they admitted everything they said to excuse the war was a lie, that several tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive (under Sadaam's tyrrany) if they'd stuck to only invading Afghanistan and finding bin Laden. And 2000 more Americans would be alive, and many thousands unmaimed.
    As it is, Dummy, Rummy and Cheney are bin Laden's top recruiters. Democracy and peace are much further away now than they were when the Taliban was ousted from government.

Provincetown Advocate
March 20, 1941  (reprinted May 2006)
 A short time ago one of the new submarines, here for its trials, slid in alongside town wharf. It was an ugly thing of destruction, devoid of every trace of nautical beauty that clings to the craft of the sea, whether it be dingy little fishing boat or a majestic liner.
 There it lay, black and sinister, half a million of American dollars in a little engine of destruction! Think of it! This was only a relatively minor addition to the Navy yet if its cost could have been diverted to peaceful needs, in Provincetown, let us say, a modern sewerage system might be installed, connecting into every home and maintained forever. Old water pipes could be dug up and replaced with suitable mains. An incomparable anchorage basin for thousands of craft could be built. The filthy drains could be removed from our lovely shore and the sand, itself cleaned of every last vestige of debris.
 Still there would be millions of dollars left. A huge municipal parking space could be created in the center of the town with smaller parking areas strategically spotted elsewhere, and tens of thousands of cars could easily be accommodated. A fine, large municipal summer theatre could be built and heavily endowed, as well as a magnificent art gallery for the showing of the work of Provincetown artists present and past.
 Even then hardly more than a good-sized dent would be made in the money spent for that single little black submarine!
 There it lay — the toll on the toil of Americans — those who labor in the fruit counties, the miners of coal and ore, fishermen, the sewers of garments, teachers, preachers, growers of food and weavers of fabrics. It was bought with the dollars they struggled to earn for constructive use, for creating and building a better world. It is for that men labor, and women too.
 We may well remember this today.
 That word “defense” is being used too much right now in America. It denotes fear and we are not, should not be, afraid. It carries with it a sense of cowering people. We are not that.
 The time has come for our people, in their thinking and their planning to abandon defense thinking and gird themselves for a definite and final offensive for the elimination of forces which make that black submarine necessary, that divert the fruit of American toil to channels that bring nothing but grief and away from works that might surely bring us happiness.
 As a nation we are conceived with the principle that taxation without representation is tyranny. But facing us now is a burden of taxation too gigantic for the mind of man to comprehend and there is no promise yet that we shall have the power at the end of the conflict to eliminate the disease which is consuming us. There is no sign so far that we will be able to end the complete humiliation and degradation of the human race.
 As long as we are forced to enslave ourselves with staggering debt by external factors over which we have no authority, to manufacture material engines of destruction which we have not the moral power to control, we have no freedom as Americans understand freedom.

25 May 2006, Baltimore
creation crapToday, we are seeing hundreds of years of scientific discovery being challenged by people who simply disregard facts that don’t happen to agree with their agenda. Some call it pseudoscience, others call it faith-based science, but when you notice where this negligence tends to take place, you might as well call it ‘political science.’  - Michael Bloomberg, mayor of NYC, at Johns Hopkins University
19 May 2006
US Senate ups fines for indecency
   Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" has gone down in TV history
  The US Senate has approved a bill which will see the maximum penalty for showing unsuitable material rise tenfold to $325,000 (£173,000).
  A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 2004, which set fines at $500,000 (£275,000).
  Differences between the two bills must be worked out before the new measures can be amalgamated into one law.
  "The companies who profit from using the public airwaves should face meaningful fines for broadcasting indecent material," said Republican senator Sam Brownback, who sponsored the new bill. Sen Brownback - scary Christian fascist nutjob.
Since nearly everything Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Gonzales say is an obscene lie, or just obscene, would the fines levied be on the government, the Republican Party, or on their broadcasting co-conspirators?

May 18, 2006
  GOP official gets 10-month sentence
 CONCORD, N.H. - A former Republican National Committee official was sentenced yesterday to 10 months in prison for his role in the jamming of New Hampshire Democrats' telephones on Election Day 2002.
  James Tobin, the third person sent to prison in the case, was found guilty in December of harassment by telephone.
I expect W to pardon this criminal, his associates, as well as everyone implicated in Plamegate.

16 May 2006
A spam protection service called SpamCop is bouncing important emails back to me. It has a web site that seems more designed to confuse than help. In response to my complaint: it is blocking all emails from Verizon/Yahoo! (because its customers are too stupid to ignore the Nigerian spammers.)
FBI checking reporters' phone records
  The bureau may be using the Patriot Act to get phone records in leak cases.
  By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
 The Federal Bureau of Investigation may be using National Security Letters, which where introduced in the USA Patriot Act, to gain access to phone records of reporters for ABC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
 ABC News reports that the FBI has acknowledged that it was seeking reporters' phone records to investigate leaks about secret prisons in Europe and warrantless wiretapping.
 "It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration," a senior federal official told ABC News "The Blotter" news blog.
 ABC News explained that a National Security Letter (NSL) is "a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government."
 On Monday, ABC News reporters Brian Ross and Richard Esposito, who write "The Blotter," reported that a senior federal law enforcement official told ABC News that the FBI is tracking the phone numbers the two reporters call to reach confidential sources. The source told them in person that it was "time for you to get some new cell phones, quick."
use big wordsSo the spies will be watching reporters (and everyone else,) and the administration is letting that be known to intimidate them, yet claiming the leak of that spying news is itself a crime. Leaking secret (or imaginary) information is only to be done by Cheney's office, where it is secretly redefined to be "not secret except in the hands of reporters." Leaking information about the administration's crimes, plans and spying is a crime.

15 May 2006
    Bush will be further pandering to his brownshirt faction, sending National Guard troops to patrol the Mexican border - troops untrained in
such duty. What happens when they accidentally shoot some poor Mexicans? The wingers will cheer, the world will be outraged, the Dems will pontificate. 
 Budget Cut Would Shutter EPA Libraries
By Christopher Lee
 Washington Post Staff Writer
 Monday, May 15, 2006; A15
 Proposed budget cuts could cripple a nationwide system of Environmental Protection Agency libraries that government researchers and others depend on for hard-to-find technical information, library advocates say.
 The $2 million cut sought by the White House would reduce the 35-year-old EPA Library Network's budget by 80 percent and force many of its 10 regional libraries to close, according to the advocates and internal agency documents.
 That, in turn, would dramatically reduce access to certain EPA reports, guidance and technical documents that are used by the agency's scientific and enforcement staff as well as private businesses and citizens, they say.
 "They are moving ahead very quickly on very substantive cuts to their library program," said Patrice McDermott, deputy director of the American Library Association

draft SUV owners  12 May 2006
Donald Kennedy, editor of Science
There is something about gasoline that tempts certain people to pour it on a fire. The paroxysms of the U.S. Congress, in response to a price tag approaching $50 to fill the average automobile fuel tank, remind us that its desperate members will lunge at almost anything that might relieve constituent pain. In this respect, of course, they have no monopoly on foolishness; the White House is right in there with some questionable ideas of its own.

Consider the following list of seriously proposed solutions to this contretemps. First, give every consumer $100 as a makeup. That may pay for two fill-ups, but it will only add another tax-cut equivalent to the deficit and do nothing whatsoever to relieve the regressive character of high fuel prices. Second, mobilize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Well, that's another transient fix, and even the president has pointed out that it probably shouldn't be used until things get really desperate--whenever that is. Finally, because environmentalists got together to block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they are really responsible for the problem, so we should go ahead and drill there just to show them.

Naturally, there has also been an effort to identify evildoers so that Americans may take comfort in pointing to an external human source of the problem. Conservatives cast the blame on environmentalists, OPEC, the bad guys who are blowing up pipelines in Iraq, and the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. Liberals focus on the "oil guys": the corporate chieftains who met in secret with Vice President Cheney in 2001 to determine the administration's energy "policy" and reaped windfall profits; many then exited with mind-boggling separation payments. Science 312 (5775): 813

also in 12 May 2006 Science 312 (5775): 854 - 855
Who Should Get Influenza Vaccine When Not All Can?
Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Alan Wertheimer

"Rather than thinking only about saving the most lives when considering vaccine rationing strategies, a better approach would be to maximize individuals' life span and opportunity to reach life goals."
They discuss several rationing strategies, and believe that the best one is to prioritize, 1. vaccine production workers, 2. health care workers, 3. healthy young children, 4. increasingly older healthy people, 5. people with life-limiting problems, in order of life expectancy. Makes sense to me, but sick old people vote and run Congress.

Another Science article, 312 (5775): 852-854, analyzes the international polio eradication campaign, and a reporter discusses it, 312 (5775): 832-835. Polio is not like smallpox, in that most of the infected are asymptomatic, and the available vaccines are not nearly as effective. Also, the reservoirs of infection are in dangerously war-torn lands. The authors think that eradication may not be possible in the short term, so containment is required.

    Cape Wind project mapA study released [15 May] the Beacon Hill Institute reaffirms that Cape Wind Associates' plan to build a wind farm on Nantucket Sound would not be feasible without Massachusetts renewable energy ''green'' credits.
    But when boosted by a combination of those state incentives and federal subsidies, the developer of the proposed wind farm can look forward to a 25 percent return on its investment, according to the Suffolk University-based group.
    Between subsidies and credits, Cape Wind could stand to receive about $731 million - or 77 percent of the $950 million construction costs - and 48 percent of the revenues it would generate, the report concludes.
    [Cape Wind spokesman] Rodgers called the report ''overly simplistic'' with ''sweeping assumptions,'' citing, in part, the lack of discussion of annual lease fees the developer will have to pay the federal government, or the $350,000 annual ''host agreement'' payment to Yarmouth.
    And he argued that wind energy is not the only energy source that is eligible for government subsidies. The same goes for oil, coal and nuclear.
    [Report co-author] Haughton said the group had not compared the subsidy amounts with subsidies received by other energy producers, ''though it's on our agenda." - CC Times CC Times special report

1 May 2006
Genetic Engineering News, article on transgenic production of proteins, contrasting pharmaceutical and industrial production:
For years the industrial enzyme industry pointed its finger at therapeutic biotech companies and asked why the latter's products are so expensive. Indeed, biomanufacturers have a lot to learn from companies like Dyadic  that produce enzymes and proteins for pennies per gram. According to chief scientist Glenn Nedwin, Ph.D., “If you can't make multiple grams per liter with industrial enzymes, you don't have a product.“

Dyadic uses filamentous fungi to make industrial enzymes and says it has the capability to produce Mabs in this host. The company is eager to demonstrate its protein-producing technology for other therapeutic proteins and intermediates as well.

Fungi are in some aspects the ideal host for bioproteins. Like E. coli, they are inexpensive to grow and scale up, but unlike bacteria they glycosylate, a definite plus for humanized Mabs. Transfection is somewhat more difficult with fungi than with bacteria, but Dyadic has optimized a fungus to accept foreign genes and churn out proteins with relative ease.

Most industrial enzymes are expressed at between five and 20 grams per liter of culture volume. Some, like amyloglucosidase, are produced at close to 100 g/L, a volumetric efficiency that should be the envy of anyone who has ever used large-scale mammalian cell culture.
Yet the same issue had a typically far-right scare story about the US falling dangerously behind in "nanotechnology," with absurd claims for the field's potential.

2 may 2006

May 2006
  We were in Philadelphia again, and again were impressed with its colorful sights, history and ambiance. Highlights of the trip were explorations of the Barnes Foundation, the Archaeology & Anthropology Museum at Penn, and the preserved ships at Independence Seaport Museum.
   The Barnes Foundation is a strange institution. It was founded as an art education school  in 1922 by an MD who made a fortune with the silver-based antiseptic Argyrol. He collected extensively among the French Post-Impressionists, at time when few others were, and also African art. The collection is said to be worth several billion dollars now. John Dewey was the first Director of Education. For decades, access was very limited, and apparently  the Board of Directors was skimming the endowment - not doing its job anyway.
  The paintings, metal work, furniture and other objects were arranged by Barnes as wall ensembles. His reasons for the arrangements are mostly obscure, and so Old Masters, Impressionists, Penn Dutch furniture and European metalwork seem jumbled without categories among the several galleries. SouthWest American Indian and African objects mostly have cases of their own. The paintings have tiny labels identifying the artist, but nothing else is labeled or described, at Barnes' direction. There are plastic-laminated pages available in each room to ID the paintings (but mostly not the other objects) by title and year - the public must have insisted on it. There are guards to keep people from touching things, but you can get inches away from hundreds of extraordinary pieces.
Van Gogh postamn
Van Gogh's Joseph-Etienne Roulin, 1889
at the Barnes Foundation, Merion PA

  Independence Seaport Museum has a museum building, with the usual interesting stuff, but we could only skim thru it, because I wanted to see the real ships more.

  USS Becuna, SS-319, was launched and commissioned in 1944 at Electric Boat, and sank several  Japanese ships in WWII. She was modified to Guppy class in 1951, served around the Atlantic, was modified with electronic gear in 1964, and decommissioned in 1969. In 1976 she was transferred to the Olympia Association.
  We had a tour given by a man who served on a sister ship for 8 years. I can't imagine living and working under submarine conditions - noisy, crowded, cramped and smelly at the best of times.
USS Becuna
USS Becuna
at Independence Seaport Museum
photo tour
  USS Olympia was a "protected cruiser," launched in 1892 at San Francisco, and commissioned in 1895. She was the flagship of Commodore George Dewey's fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May 1898, in which the Spanish fleet was destroyed, and by which the US seized  the Phillipines. She served in several roles for the next 20 years. In WWI she was modified, patrolled off New York, participated in the Allied landings at Murmansk, and returned the Unknown Soldier from Europe to Arlington.  Olympia was decommissioned in 1922, saved from scrapping in 1954, and slowly restored.
  The contrast with Becuna is amazing - even junior officers had rooms several times larger than the captain of Becuna, and many parts were finished in nice Victorian oak style. Unfortunately, it's a self-guided tour, but we were lucky enough to find a staff member who invited us into the admiral's quarters, and could answer some of our questions.
  As always, I want to see the parts that aren't open to the general public (which goes for buildings, too). I see from the web site that there are more detailed tours of Olympia monthly.
USS Olympia at
                        Independence Seaport Museum
USS Olympia
at Independence Seaport Museum
photo tour  history Wiki US Navy
  The Penn Museum of Archealogy & Anthropology seems best known for its ancient European materials, and particularly some from Mesopotamia. Many of its pieces are  frequently seen in art history books.We had a quicky guided tour through the Etruscan exhibit by a knowledgeable docent. Some of the galleries seem up-to-date, and others  untouched for decades. We didn't have nearly enough time to explore this museum, and will have to come back.

  On previous trips we've done the major Revolutionary history sites, mostly run by the National Park Service. NPS, like the rest of the government, gets low marks for its obsession with security over spontaneity and freedom. If they insist on turning Independence Hall and vicinity into a "security zone," they should just stop pretending it isn't, and put up guard towers and fences of concertina wire.
Etruscan helmet

25 Apr 2006
    All of a sudden, for the past few weeks, immigration and immigrants have become a hot topic. Somehow the Democrats are being demonized for being soft on illegal immigration, even though the actual battle seems to be within the Republican party, between its brownshirt and business owner factions. Dimbulb has been saying the right things lately, about respect and compassion, but it's his party that's causing all the fuss, and his fake "War on Terror" that's used as one of the hardliner excuses. Other than the huge exception of 9/11, nearly all terrorism in the US for the past generation has been by his base, the right-wingers. Osama hasn't been caught, and neither has the mailer of anthrax.
  More on the "It's Not A Crime When Republicans Do It" front.
Senate Intelligence Chair Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, on the firing of CIA administrator Mary O. McCarthy over allegations that she leaked classified information about the network of "black site" gulags the CIA uses to torture terrorism suspects:
  "[T]hose who leak classified information not only risk the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods, but also expose the brave men and women of the intelligence community to greater danger. Clearly, those guilty of improperly disclosing classified information should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
 Pat Roberts (yes, that Pat Roberts), the evening of the invasion of Iraq, March 20, 2003, in a speech to the National Newspapers Association:
 [I]ntelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad.
 One former senior intelligence official, whose position required involvement in numerous leak investigations, on the implications of Roberts' leak, which "bore directly on the issue of intelligence-gathering sources and methods, and revealed that Iraqis close to Hussein were probably talking to the United States" (thus ruining future attempts to locate Hussein):
  "On a scale of one to ten, if Mary McCarthy did what she is accused of doing, it would be at best a six or seven. What Pat Roberts did, from a legal and national security point of view, was an eleven."

 "Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen Richard Shelby has accused Lake of lack of candor; says agency does not need director whose integrity is questionable." NYT 3 Feb 1997, article on appointment of Anthony Lake as CIA Director by Clinton.
Shelby, of course, has unquestionable integrity, in the sense that he obviously has none. He is another of the wingers leaking secret info when it suits his purposes. "Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe. Specifically, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verbally divulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby's committee had been given the information in a classified briefing." Washington Post, Thursday, August 5, 2004; Page A17

This isn't new, but it still amuses me:

Top 10 Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Religion:

No one will kill you for not drinking beer.
Beer doesn't tell you how to have sex.
Beer has never caused a major war.
They don't force beer on minors who can't think for themselves.
When you have beer, you don't knock on people's doors trying to give it away.
Nobody's ever been burned at the stake, hanged, or tortured to death over his brand of beer.
You don't have to wait 2,000 years for a second beer.
There are laws saying that beer labels can't lie to you.
You can prove you have a beer.
If you have devoted your life to beer, there are groups to help you stop.

20 Apr 2006
The blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars  refused  my post yesterday, without explanation, so I'm removing its links. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

April 20, 2006
  Annual costs of Iraq war have doubled
 WASHINGTON - With the expected passage this spring of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by three years of combat.
 The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.
 Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars.

Fighting Feudal Taxes
 Gar Alperovitz, in TomPaine.com
 April 14, 2006
 It’s no secret that the Bush administration has showered high-income groups with federal tax benefits. Nor is it news that income and wealth is highly concentrated at the top. What have gone largely unnoticed, however, are new signs that outside of Washington, state by state, the public is quietly beginning to challenge the privileged position of those at the top. 
 The United States is the most inequitable advanced nation in the world. Every year since 1996 the top 1 percent has garnered more income than bottom 100 million Americans taken together. Wealth ownership is even more concentrated than income. Indeed, it is literally feudal: The top one percent of wealth holders owns roughly half of all financial and business wealth. The top 5 percent owns almost 70 percent of such wealth. In 2003 the top 1 percent alone received 57.5 percent of all capital gains, rent, interest and dividend income—up from 37.6 percent two decades earlier. A recent analysis by The New York Times and Citizens for Tax Justice found that 43 percent of the Bush dividend tax cuts went to taxpayers with incomes greater than $1 million, who make up a mere 1/10th of 1 percent of all taxpayers.

midnight sun
Eight exposures on the same photographic plate, made at 20-minute intervals, capture the midnight sun over Littleton Island near Greenland in 1925. Credits: NGPOD, 2004.01.06. Photo by Donald B. MacMillan, 1925. © National Geographic Society, 2004.
I've been reading a bit about Admiral MacMillan, and hope to read more.

Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War
 Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary
  By Joby Warrick
 Washington Post Staff Writer
 Wednesday, April 12, 2006; A01
  On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."
 The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.
 A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.
 The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

8 Apr 2006
Libby testified that Vice President Cheney told him Bush "specifically had authorized" him to "disclose certain information" from the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The newly disclosed documents, which came from the special prosecutor's office, don't assert that Bush told Libby to out former CIA agent Valerie Plame (whose name was not in the NIE) and in fact says Bush was "unaware of the role" Libby played in the outing.
 In any case, Libby said a White House lawyer had assured him before he leaked that the leak wasn't really one, since if the president ordered it that amounted to declassification, a notion legal experts backed up. But Bush has long portrayed himself as an anti-leak purist. "I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information," he once said regarding Plame. "If there's a leak out of the administration, I want to know who it is."

27 Mar 2006
Furniture, a rant.
I've been repairing several pieces of furniture lately, and there are facts noted and ideas fermenting.
    A roll-top desk from the late 1800s, potentially from the 1860s, is solid wood -- mahogany exterior, oak frame, and perhaps poplar drawer and divider sides. The visible oak and secondary wood have a dark stain to match the mahogany. Hidden sections of the desktop are low quality oak. The slats of the tambour are glued to canvas, and generations of repairers have put newspaper underneath that porous cloth, with the oldest news being from the 1860s (hence the potential age of the desk.) It was made to come apart fairly easily, for shipping and moving into tight quarters, with screws and pegs to hold and align parts. Only recently have the sides splayed enough that the tambour doesn't stay properly in its slots, and I hope that will remedy itself.
    Two bureaus, from the 1930s or 1940s I guess, made by the Brockton Furniture Company, are very similar, yet not quite the same design or construction. They are both birds-eye maple veneer, with plywood side panels, hardwood-core tops and curved drawer fronts, solid maple frames, and junky plywood backs. They must have been stored in damp conditions for some time, because there are water stains and much delamination. The frames are in excellent shape. All of the drawer veneer on one bureau was so loose that I could easily peel it off by hand and putty knife. That left plenty of salvaged veneer to repair the missing sections on the other. The carcase side panels are mostly in good shape, so "real" plywood holds up better than lumber-core. Even the fronts now without veneer are presentable after sanding down, comprised of pieced-together strips of red oak, with a maple top strip. The drawer sides & bottoms were of that typical crappy quality and bad design most often used on even moderately expensive furniture, where a thin plywood bottom is supported by a groove on 3 sides, and held to the back by 1 or 2 tiny nails. This leads to the sides splitting at the grooves and the bottoms falling out, as the sides split and the nails pull out. And the soft wood of the sides wears away on their bottom edges, since they are the bearing surfaces as the drawers are slid in and out. Even worse, the drawer stops on one bureau were metal clips on the front drawer support, that stuck up high enough to wear deep grooves into the sagging plywood drawer bottoms. I reinforced the lower edges of the drawers with hardwood strips glued to the inside, under the drawer bottom, so there is both a broader sliding surface and  broader support for the bottom. (Will the dissimilar woods be a problem? The years will tell.) Screws into the back also support the bottom, and lower, wooden stop blocks won't gouge the bottom. Soon I'll have one nice bureau, and one still useful for basement storage. But if they'd been made better in the first place, I'd have been saved many hours of work.
    We have a large, cheap computer desk, passed along  by a down-sizing relative. It's designed to hold typical computer stuff reasonably well, but made of synthetic veneer on particle board, with a pressboard back. Particle board has little stiffness, so the shelves were sagging under their own weight. I made a new shelf structure from odds and ends of plywood and real lumber. It's typically overbuilt, but it'll last.
    Lessons? The old desk was carefully made of solid wood. It's been used, abused, appreciated, and repaired, but is still in good shape after maybe 150 years. It's major flaw is that it was designed as an office center for someone working by hand, with few files, rather than for a computer or even a typewriter. The bureaus were less carefully designed and constructed, with fragile birds-eye veneer to show off, and low quality hidden bits. They probably would be valued possessions, semi-antiques, if they'd been stored properly, though perhaps the veneer would be delaminating anyway. The computer desk is just disposable crap, even though it seemed to cost real money. These are apple and orange comparisons, but I continue to wonder about the economics of furniture making and consumers' economic priorities. Is it just the good stuff that has lasted through the years? Did that desk cost an arm and a leg to its first owners? How many hours of work did the bureaus cost their purchasers? (The computer desk cost 10-15 hours labor for its purchaser.) Are we buying and selling crap now because we have other priorities, and don't see furniture, or such furniture,  as an investment or eventual heirloom?

22 Mar 2006
At Talking Points Memo, part of an exchange between Helen Thomas and the Talking Chimp, in which he again proves himself delusional and/or dishonest.
HT " Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?"
The Chimp regurgitates the crap about al Qaeda: "The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --," apparently clueless about the distinction between Afghanistan and Iraq.

We learned last week that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $3.6 million fine against numerous CBS stations and affiliates concerning a 2004 episode of "Without a Trace" that included "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." The FCC also upheld its historic $550,000 fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl two years ago.

21 Mar 2006
BobcatJH at blog hughes_for_america
We learned last week that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $3.6 million fine against numerous CBS stations and affiliates concerning a 2004 episode of "Without a Trace" that included "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." The FCC also upheld its historic $550,000 fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl two years ago.
  Meanwhile, the Sago mine - where 12 people died in January - was cited 208 times in 2005. The largest single fine, by comparison, was a mere $440. Not only that, but it was also reported that federal inspectors had repeatedly determined that the violations at Sago affected only one person, doing so to avoid the larger fines that come when more miners are involved.
 Under the Bush administration, the winner of the battle between lives and breasts has been breasts. Every time.

19 Mar 2006
Columnist John Leo is one of Mrs Grundy's dim bulldogs, and his most common column rants about the excesses of Political Correctness. Today's column rants about awards at colleges given in the name of Communists and fellow travelers. He would randomly have a point if his facts were straight and if he took an even handed approach, but that never happens. I'll note that his fellow traveler, Ann Coulter, celebrates criminals Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover (and dim-wit Ronald Reagan), and millions of Americans celebrate the perpetrators of the bloodiest treason of all, the Civil War, yet claim to be patriotic.

17 Mar 2006
Clive McFarlane reports in the T&G that "state Sens. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, and Pamela P. Resor, D-Acton, and state Rep. Patricia A. Walrath, D-Stow, [are] calling for the Department of Education to revoke or suspend" the charter for the  Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlboro, on the grounds that it is "operating as a public school for the gifted." Zillions for the retards, but not a cent for children much more likely to contribute to society?

Meanwhile, our favorite principal is being forced to retire by the Worcester School Dept., libeled by anonymous letters probably orchestrated by the deadwood she sent packing. I predict test scores will drop significantly next year, and continue to decline as her influence wears off, unless, by a miracle, they accidentally choose someone like her as a replacement.

Russ Feingold13 Mar 2006
Sen Russ Feingold introduced a resolution to censure Bush for his spying, and most of the Democratic pols are weinies scurrying for cover. They won't fight creeping fascism in a time of war, even if there is legally no war, and even if the war was justified by lies and run incompetently, for fear of upsetting Mrs Grundy. Sen Frist (R-Nutville) plans to damn to Dems with votes on the resolution. Frist is some doctor, completely comfortable with the Hypocritic Oath.  What happened to "first, do no harm"?
    And what happened to the concept of Congress actually declaring war? The US hasn't actually declared war since WWII. It would probably be a good idea to actually make Congress vote on it, instead of having Johnson, Nixon and Bush Lite just pumping up the troop levels, then claim critics are unpatriotic.

10 Mar 2006
Kathleen Parker had an article about how wonderful Mitt Romney is, apparently written from the Moon. All those wonderful conservative positions on things, and he's handsome and rich. But he can't be President, because he belongs to that weird Mormon cult. Meanwhile, back here in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts, he's an irrelevant joke, just another Janus politician, but his religion is just a character quirk.

Mar 2006
Sen. Arlen Specter, chair of the "Judiciary" Committee, thinks the way around Bush's illegal and unconstitutional spying is to pass a law saying it's OK, but Attorney General "Francisco Franco" Gonzales says that's unnecessary, since they'll keep spying anyway. Where is the opposition and outrage about this fascism? Gonzales sent a letter to Specter which hinted there is much more spying going on that hasn't been made public yet!
    So the Dems could have passed a law saying lying about sex in the White House is OK, and gotten Bill off the hook?

There was a long, detailed profile of Sen. Sam Brownback in Rolling Stone this month, entitled God's Senator (Not my usual reading, but there wasn't much in the waiting room). Wow, is he scary!

23 Feb 2006
    Iraq seems more than ever on the brink of civil war, as in the aftermath of the Samarra mosque bombing. I predicted that years ago. Iran says the US did the bombing, on the obviously idiotic grounds that Muslims wouldn't do it. The US has perhaps lost its chance to strike a deal with a relatively moderate Iran, to pull out and leave the surrounding countries in control. How about we pull out anyway, just sell arms and information to every side? Wouldn't be the first time, and all the factions are awful, and the US could compensate for the oil market disruption with weapons sales. Maybe the US could continue to defend the Kurds (aka northern oil fields), but it would be much cleaner and cheaper to pull out completely, and the Kurds are used to being deserted by the US. Just a few American agents would be necessary, to kill sales competitors, and if they were free-lancers, with a share in the profits, no troops would be involved.
    I wonder whether the US has ever directly or indirectly indicated to its Islamic friends and enemies that it would nuke important shrines and pilgrimage sites, should things get out of hand.  Or would that just be understood? Or counterproductive? Ditto for Israel.

Michael Crichton's book are awful, as well as anti-scientific, but presumably he knows he's writing fiction. However:
Jurassic President
Frank O'Donnell
February 21, 2006
Political writer Fred Barnes’ new book, Rebel-in-Chief, includes a remarkable vignette. Barnes notes that early last year, Karl Rove arranged a private audience between the president and novelist Michael Crichton, whose novel, State of Fear , had portrayed global warming as an unproven theory publicized by whacko environmentalists.
“Bush is a dissenter on the theory of global warming,” Barnes notes. He and Crichton “talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement.” Unfortunately, Barnes’ anecdote carries the ring of truth.
The president actually does appear to buy into the “scientific” arguments put forth by a writer of fiction. (The White House press corps has not yet queried whether the president also believes there are dinosaurs running about a popular theme park.)
Shades of Nancy Reagan and the astrologers! This incident would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dire. [continues]

The March 2006 National Geographic has a story on the Battles at Hampton Roads, first between the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) and 2 traditional Union ships on 8 March 1862, then between the Virginia and USS Monitor on 9 March. It's not the point of the interesting story, but Capt. Franklin Buchanan of the Virginia was a war criminal, deliberately murdering the survivors of the surrendered USS Congress, whose officers included his brother.
    Something I read many years ago: the battle could have gone either way. If the Virginia had used the steel cannonballs available to it, they might have penetrated the Monitor's armor, and if the Monitor had used the heavier charge of powder its untested guns were designed for, they might have penetrated the Virginia's armor. But the battle was a tactical draw, and strategic victory for the Union, since it kept control of the river in Union hands.
A Democratic victory would not change the world, but it would at least slow the berserk white-trash momentum of the bombs-and-Jesus crowd. Those people have had their way long enough. Not even the Book of Revelations threatens a plague of vengeful yahoos. - Hunter S. Thompson, "Showdown in the Pig Palace", in Generation of Swine, p. 18 (c. 1986, but as appropriate as ever)
17 Feb 2006. I answered a long telephone poll on Mass. gubernatorial politics, apparently sponsored by the Chris Gabrielli campaign. Much of the poll consisted of telling me about his positions and accomplishments, then asking whether that affected my leaning toward Deval Patrick. It did, somewhat, so it worked, but most of his alleged positions were the usual "I'm against bad stuff and for good stuff."

    Congress has been grilling and criticizing Google, Yahoo, etc about their acquiescing to China's censorship and internet monitoring. Fair enough. But this is the same Congress that itself keeps trying to censor the Internet, requires communications companies to allow government spying on US citizens without warrants, and allows the Bush regime to trash the Constitution in every way possible.

    Several months ago the New York Times began requiring paid subscriptions in order to read its major columnists. I don't pay, so I can't read them, except when a  few of them show up later in the Telegram. And I can't copy & paste anymore even then, since they aren't in the online Telegram either. Wonder what that's done to their readership, quotability and cross-reference numbers? Does the NYT or do the columnists care about the opinions of those of their readers who don't pay?  After all,  we can't be Important.

    Head Torturer Cheney shot and seriously wounded a hunting buddy, and it's a windfall for comedians and cartoonists. Can we begin to imagine the winger media blitzkrieg if this happened to Gore or Kerry? And their joy at a lawyer being shot? (No matter again that Kerry was actually in battle, that Gore at least served in Vietnam, while Cheney got multiple deferments and Bush went AWOL.)

Dr Rummy shafts the military    Tom Toles is the major cartoonist for the Washington Post. He has been under a barrage of militarist fire for a cartoon they perceive as insulting to the Army. Even the Joint Chiefs protested. (How this protest got organized isn't clear to me, but it obviously was.) Toles draws hundreds of often witty, generally liberal, often very pointed cartoons per year, so it bemuses me why this one is special. As far as I can see, the cartoon is a criticism of Rummy, not an insult to the Army. Looking into the winger ranting about it, I see "MSM" (for Main Stream Media) as their bogey monster. As has been pointed out before, the "liberal media" are only as liberal as the conservative corporations that own them want them to be.

question warAnd again, how is it that Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his sex life, but George Bush hasn't been impeached, tried and executed for lying about Iraq and ordering thousands of illegal wiretaps? Clinton was disappointing and spineless, but Bush is utterly corrupt and mendacious.
     I had been amused by the theory that Reagan was a Soviet mole, whose task was to make the US look imperial, stupid, corrupt and brutal. But Reagan is a hero to the wingers, and Bush's handlers learned the lessons and extended them. The tactics are to endlessly spout conventional conservative platitudes while racking up record deficits, selling off public property to supporters, incompetently waging unnecessary wars, blaming the opposition for inevitable failures, coddling monsters, trashing the environment and subverting the Constitution.

By Bruce Bawer, writing about the Danish cartoon brouhaha in the Seattle alternative paper The Stranger, via Dispatches from the Culture Wars
... What's happening here is that a gang of bullies - led by a country, Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are forbidden, Christians tortured, Jews routinely labeled "apes and pigs" in the state-controlled media, and apostasy from Islam punished by death - is trying to compel a tiny democracy to live by its own theocratic rules. To succumb to pressure from this gang would simply be to invite further pressure, and lead to further concessions - not just by Denmark but by all of democratic Europe. And when they've tamed Europe, they'll come after America.
Iran is threatening the US over the affair, despite the craven attitude by US media and politicians, demonstrating how little it actually has to do with religion.
The road used to go someplace you never been before
Now it's just a race track and the only prize is more
The only off-ramp is up ahead and just where ain't too clear
And change is a semi with smoking wheels filling the rear view mirror

    Greg Brown, from Small Dark Movie

Feb 9, 2006 — By Raja Asghar (Reuters)
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A suspected suicide bombing tore through a procession of minority Shi'ite Muslims on Thursday in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people, injuring 25 and triggering riots on an important holy day, police said.
Moslem sectarian violence gets the small headlines and short stories in our news, but it seems like a big deal in Pakistan, Afganistan and Iraq. (No idea about other countries.) It certainly pre-dates Bush's war, in Pakistan. And obviously the religious hard-liners and troublemakers in Iraq are trying to start a civil war between Shia and Sunnis. What do Afgans, Pakistanis, etc., think about this, compared to their opinions about the American invasion and Christian crusaders? That is, in daily thought, and in media attention, how do these compare? And how do they compare with all the other things going on around them? Why are there massive demonstrations about CIA airstrikes  in Pakistan but not (apparently) about sectarian terrorism and government corruption?

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — The Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said today that he believed the Bush administration had violated the law with its warrantless surveillance program and that its legal justifications for the program were "strained and unrealistic."
The program "is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," said the chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
Feb 19 - Frist says Bush can do anything he wants to, Constitution be damned.

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

Reminds me of a previous speech where he claimed the US was going to stop supporting dictators, and then his handlers had to send diplomats and George I around to tell those dictators he didn't really mean it.
Oh, and let's not forget about the inevitable pundit parade on every news channel for hours afterward, breaking down the President's commencement speech cum best man's toast as though it was the Zapruder film. And in reality, nothing is said. It reminds me of the old Barry Crimmins line about political stump speeches - "I'm in favor of good things and against bad things. What courage." - Ed Brayton

3 Feb 2006
A Danish newspaper published a set cartoons that included Mohamed with a bomb-turban, and the Moslems have gone nuts over it, with boycotts, lawsuits and death threats. It sure puts my aggravation with American Christian whack-jobs in a lighter perspective, since most of them seem to believe in the Bill of Rights as semi-sacred, even if we argue over some of its implications. My compliments to the other European newspapers that have reprinted the cartoons. I expect, but don't know, that newspapers in Moslem countries have been much more insulting, for decades, of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. beliefs, symbols and people than these cartoons were of Islam. Who blew up the ancient famous Buddhist statues at Bamian, Afghanistan, despite world-wide condemnation? A series of wrongs don't make a right, but I can't get upset at the superstitious having a mud fight, until it affects innocent people. (sent to Dispatches)
The newspaper asked cartoonists to submit drawings on the theme of self-censorship concerning Islam, and even published some that were critical of the editor for asking. Link to cartoons.  Radical priests combined those cartoons with other, much more inflammatory cartoons into a dossier that they shopped around to Mid-Eastern radical centers. Politicians are mostly siding with censorship (including Bill Clinton, of course), and the utterly hypocritical Vatican has officially condemned hurting people's religious feelings.
Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, feb 2006
Not that this is going to surprise anyone, but the Catholic Church has issued an official statement saying that no one has a right to say anything that might offend "the faithful":
The Vatican on Saturday condemned the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad which have outraged the Muslim world, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person's religion.

"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion," the Vatican said.

By all means, we should be taking advice on the limits of human freedom from a Church that has a long history of torturing and killing heretics and infidels in the name of God. Pray tell (pun intended), why does this apply only to the "religious feelings of the faithful"? Are "religious" feelings more important than, say, political or social or familial feelings? There is no principled reason why one deserves protection from offense and not others. Why not, then, prohibit people from insulting someone else's taste in music and thereby "offend" their "musical feelings"? Why not ban satirical representations of politicians lest we offend someone's "political feelings"?

Contrary to this ridiculous statement by the Vatican, freedom of thought and expression must include the right to offend the "religious feelings of the faithful". If it does not, then there is no point in calling it freedom at all for it doesn't deserve the name.

Not that Muslims are necessarily more prone than others to hysteria: rather recently a right-wing Western cabal deliberately whipped up a jingoistic frenzy with half-truths and outright lies to support its invasion of a weak but oil-rich country. So far, several tens of thousands of people have died. The carnage continues.

29 Jan 2006
"At least six carriages of a Pakistani passenger train carrying up to 400 passengers have derailed and plunged into a ravine, a railways minister has said." Any protests?

30 Jan 2006
Alito on the Supreme Court
Orrin Hatch, of all people, stands up and delivers a self-righteous screed about the horror of a judicial nominee being denied an up or down vote after he used political tricks as chair of the judiciary committee throughout the 90s to prevent over 60 judicial nominees from even getting a committee hearing, much less an up or down vote. It's all quite amusing to watch. When listening to such obviously empty rhetoric spewed by shallow men in expensive suits I always think of Mencken's words about President Warren Harding's political speech:
It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of tosh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash. - Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
25 Jan 2006
I tried to give blood at the Red Cross in Worcester, but ended up walking out in frustration. I've donated perhaps 50 times in the past 30 years, at several hospitals and university blood drives, but never faced a pace as glacial as at the Worcester office. In the half hour I sat waiting for the intake nurse, only 1 person emerged from the 2 interview rooms in use. I hadn't quite walked out before, but it's been nearly as slow there on previous visits.

Dimbulb has been defending his illegal and unconstitutional spying on American citizens, expressing surprise that anyone objected. As a Texan, he'd probably be surprised that the US went to war against the fascists in WWII. As a Republican, he'd be surprised that Orwell's 1984, if he ever heard of it, was written as a cautionary fable, not an inspirational tale. Perhaps his alleged ability to speak Spanish helped him to convince AG Gonzales that "probable cause" is the same thing as "conceivable cause." Or maybe that's irrelevant, since they ignored the whole court system. And even the FBI says (for what that's worth) the effort has been basically useless.

Mass. politics - the right-wing press, including the Telegram, are hyping some political non-news as a giant scandal.  Background - On 5 July 2005 two teenage sisters from Southboro died when their SUV went off the road in the early morning. It was a big local deal, since they were young and pretty, and the SUV was impaled on a telephone pole. The police quickly determined the vehicle was speeding. Recently the toxicology reports have come back, or been made public, and the girls were very drunk.
The issue - Attorney General Tom Reilly discussed the matter with Worcester County District Attorney John Conte, apparently suggesting that those results should not be played up, and the brouhaha is over what he said, why he said it (the parents may be Reilly supporters) and whether results were withheld from the Northboro police (not, despite the newspapers). Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is trying to position herself as an anti-drunk-driver crusader. So,  the headlines are just politics. Reilly's a publicity hound, and put innocent people in jail with his Fells Acres witchhunt. Conte is a mediocre, slow and secretive district attorney. And Healey needs issues and press, since her position is nearly invisible and powerless and she's a Republican.

31 Dec 2005 (WP)
    A fraudulent charity close to DeLay took a million dollars from the Russians, which they gave to sway his vote on an IMF bailout. He voted their way, with a billion dollars of our money. Russ Baker note
    And the "Justice" Department has opened a high-profile investigation to see who leaked the news that Bush authorized massive illegal spying on US citizens. The Gray Lady suppressed the news for a year, but Head Torturer Cheney has condemned her anyway. Initial reports are that even John Ashcroft, sick in the hospital, wouldn't sign off on permission for the spying.
Justice, n:. A department of the U.S. government. There was once another word with the same spelling, which meant "fairness, decency, equitable resolution of disputes," but this latter term is now obsolete and the two bear no apparent etymological relation. - Ambrose Bierce, 1911

Science 23 Dec 2005
Book review by Thomas Piketty, entitled Taxation with Representation,  of Growing Public: Social Spending and Economic Growth Since the Eighteenth Century, by Peter H. Lindert, Cambridge Univ. Press
"The author's key conclusion can be summarized as follows: modern welfare states are the fruit of democracy, not of bureaucracy, and democratic markets are basically efficient.  ... Lindert argues that this careful fine-tuning of the structure of taxes and spending in modern welfare states is not accidental. It is instead largely due to functional democracy: democratic political markets provide checks and balances that allow control of the costs of social spending. Lindert's emphasis on the workings of democracy is what makes his book much more than yet another liberal attempt to convince conservatives that social expenditures are useful. Lindert turns the standard free-market argument on its head and shows that modern welfare states actually go hand in hand with income growth and well-functioning political markets."

Also in Science, under Social Policy: "Social Values and the Governance of Science." Gaskell etal
    Bottom line for me: educated and secular Americans are more supportive of biomedical research and genetically modified foods than less educated, superstitious Americans. Not addressed is whether the uneducated are inherently more resistant to progress or are accepting the demagogues' crap.

Technology Review Dec 2005/Jan 2006. There is a set of articles on the potentially catastrophic collapse of the Internet. It was designed for a small group of expert and honest users, not a world of incompetents, fanatics and criminals. The US government is spending virtually nothing on security for the Internet, despite the obvious threats (never mind the non-obvious ones.) Experts hired by the government to run the security program quickly quit when they see the morass around them.

   John E. Jones,
                III I've been occasionally surprised to find that there actually are honest and thoughtful Republicans. Really, there are some! Their scarcity makes them all the more memorable.  The only recent one I've noticed has been federal judge John E. Jones, III, as demonstrated by his remarkable and detailed ruling in the Dover, Penn. IDiot case.
    Before that, a long time before that, there was Sen. George F. Hoar - honest, anti-imperialist, pro-civil rights, Unitarian. I was impressed when I started searching for info on him.  Britannica, UUA, Concord Library, Wikipedia

    Half of my email is spam. The new Verizon-Yahoo service seems to put about 3/4 of the spam in the spam folder correctly, but doesn't recognize the many fraud spams allegedly from PayPal, the drug-peddling spam that uses random words in the titles, nor most of the Nigerian scam letters. But a fair fraction of the spam is from legitimate companies that I signed on with, don't want anymore, and which don't provide a reasonable way to sign off from.

Fascists continue to trash the Constitution, while NYT held up the report for a year!:
  16 Dec 2005
    Bush Authorized Domestic Spying
Post-9/11 Order Bypassed Special Court

    President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.
    The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program
    And beyond that there are the secret wiretaps by the FBI, tens of thousands per year, unauthorized by any court, blatantly unconstitutional. Even if you find out about them, it's a felony to tell anyone! Bush thinks this is a centerpiece of the "Patriot" Act. Attorney Generalissimo 'Francisco Franco' Gonzales says, 'See, we haven't abused it (yet), so make it permanent,' when we have absolutely no idea when, why or who he and Asscroft have been spying on.
NYT editorial 16 Dec 2005
For example, the bill gives the government far too much power to issue "national security letters," demanding private financial, medical and library records, without the permission or oversight of a judge. When the F.B.I. issues these letters, it can impose "gag" orders, making it illegal for those holding the records to talk publicly about the request. This makes it difficult or impossible for ordinary Americans to know whether the government is poring through their personal information, and for Congress and the public to monitor what the F.B.I. is doing.

What are they hiding?
14 December 2005
    Breaking a tradition of openness that began in 1816, the Bush administration has without explanation withheld the names and work locations of about 900,000 of its civilian workers, according to a lawsuit filed last week [by] the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group at Syracuse University, which sued under the Freedom of Information Act to get the data.
13 Dec 2005
    We bought a "wood" file cabinet from OfficeMax, and I put it together. Despite costing about $300, there isn't any real wood in it; it's all particle board and press board with vinyl "wood-grain" veneer. How much extra would it cost the manufacturers to make real furniture, something a future generation would be pleased to find in an antique store? No too much, I'd think. But, presumably they make what sells, and consumers would rather save 10% or 20% in the short term.

5 Dec 2005
    The nutters are scribbling about the secularization of Christmas again, as they always do at this time of year, but it's more virulent than usual, because the nutter bosses are stirring the pot, claiming there's a "War on Christmas". This year they've seized on the salutation of  "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" as proof that the ACLU's Jews, atheists and Communists are running American commerce and government. The Telegram ran 2 letters-to-the-editor today about that, and another ranting against separation of church and state, and it will probably run a raft more of them for the next month.
As of  7 Feb, the Telegram is still running some!
    Dianne Willliamson, our favorite local columnist, points out that evangelicals need to feel they're being persecuted, so they'll generate a problem if there isn't a real one (6 Dec 2005). This applies to the current Creationist hoopla as well - the IDiots complain of conspiratorial persecution whether they are ignored or discussed.
10 Dec 2005
OSV    We took the kids to Old Sturbridge Village for its Christmas Stroll. OSV has been in major financial difficulties for some years (like most other living-history museums, I understand), and is trying all sorts of things to break even. Lots of staff have been laid off, replaced by lots of plastic signs to semi-explain things, and there are plexiglas display cases in some of the houses. Yuck! Christmas celebrations were anachronistic to the 1800-1840 time frame of OSV, so it had resisted the temptation to cash in until recently, but now it does it up prettily with strings of little white lights along the fence lines, and electric candles in the house windows.
    Anyway, I was sure it would be pleasant to visit in the evening, with a foot of new snow, and it was. I've always been impressed with how much the interpreters can tell you when you catch them in a calm moment, and was again. We knew that it was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts (and until 1856, I read), and 200 years later it still was a minor holiday. We learned that in the 1820s-1830s the business and literary community in New York City was actively promoting Christmas as a family and gift-giving holiday, because until then (and for how long?) it was in fact a day for drunken Irish and German gangs to riot and loot. In New England, small gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day. The country's ideas of the "traditional" and "proper" way to celebrate Christmas were deliberately designed to commercialize and pacify the holiday, and that's why the motifs are so Victorian. There is a Pulitzer-nominated history book, The War for Christmas (Stephen Nissenbaum, 1997)  that explains the history (so I guess the fundie The War on Christmas parodies the prior book title, as it  lies about current events.)  Another interpreter explained that Christmas foods and traditions were ethnicly specific until recently, using her Polish and French Canadian background as examples.
    So, are the wingers being dishonest or just ignorant? Both, of course. Before the recent concepts of what Christmas is supposed to mean to Christians, there were many other traditions of the proper way to celebrate it, as well as a tradition that it should NOT be celebrated. My Puritan ancestors knew that the Catholic church had hijacked ancient celebrations of the Solstice, that there was paganism in the trappings and revelry, and that there was no Biblical justification for the date. Yet Falwell and the other power-hungry scum-suckers rant about the atheists taking over when decorated trees are called "Holiday Trees" instead of "Christmas Trees"!

7 Dec 2005
NYT Editorial
Senator Clinton, in Pander Mode

     Hillary Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill to criminalize the burning of the American flag. ... It's hard to see this as anything but pandering - there certainly isn't any urgent need to resolve the issue. Flag-burning hasn't been in fashion since college students used slide rules in math class and went to pay phones at the student union to call their friends. Even then, it was a rarity that certainly never put the nation's security in peril.

15 December 2005
Richard Cohen, WP columnist
Star-Spangled Pandering

    Last month Justice Antonin Scalia was politely quizzed by Norman Pearlstine, the outgoing Time Inc. editor in chief. The event, held in Time Warner's New York headquarters, was supposedly off the record, but so much of it has already been reported that it will not hurt to add Scalia's views on flag burning. He explained why it was constitutionally protected speech. It's a pity Hillary Clinton was not there to hear him.
    The argument that this famously conservative member of the Supreme Court advanced -- actually, reiterated -- was that while he may or may not approve of flag burning, it was clear to him that it was a form of speech, a way of making a political statement, and that the First Amendment protected it.   ....
Hillary sux tooThis is so weird, that Scalia makes more sense (this time only) than a supposed far-left liberal. The wingers have demonized Hillary as a Bolshie for years, with no evidence whatsoever; in fact, despite her statements and actions. Anyone that upsets the fascists so much must be OK, right? No. But, do either of them support Mrs Grundy's Constitutional amendment?
5 Dec 2005
NYT Editorial
Fixing the Game

The rules of American democracy say every president may install his own team of like-minded people in the government - even at a place like the Justice Department, which is at its root a law-enforcement agency and not a campaign branch office. But the Bush administration seems to be losing sight of the fact that the rules also say the majority party of the moment may not use its powers to strip citizens of their rights, politicize the judicial system or rig the election process to keep itself in office.

...    The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported last week that the Justice Department has been suppressing for nearly two years a 73-page memo in which six lawyers and two analysts in the voting rights section, including the group's chief lawyer, unanimously concluded that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003 illegally diluted the votes of blacks and Hispanics in order to ensure a Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation. That plan was shoved through the Texas State Legislature by Representative Tom DeLay, who abused his federal position in doing so and is now facing criminal charges over how money was raised to support the redistricting.

.... Last month, the Post reported that political appointees also overruled voting rights lawyers who rejected a Georgia law requiring that voters without a picture ID buy one for $20 - at offices that were set up in only 59 of the state's 159 counties. The Justice Department falsely claimed that the decision to O.K. the law - which was little more than a modern-day version of a poll tax aimed at reducing turnout among poor minorities - was made with the concurrence of the career lawyers. A federal court later struck down the law, properly.

...  Mr. Bush and his team don't understand that they merely hold the current majority in a system designed to bring periodic changes in the governing party and to protect the rights and values of the minority party. The idea that the winners should trash the system to make sure the democratic process ended with them was discredited back around the time of the Bolsheviks.

4 Dec 2005
excerpted from a letter at Dispatches from the Culture Wars

What the Constitution Protects

    By Sheila Kennedy, professor of law and public policy at IUPUI , former director of the Indiana ACLU

...   There is, in fact, only one “right” protected by the Bill of Rights—the right to be free from government control over any of our behaviors or decisions, unless government has specifically been given the power to exercise such control.

...    We sometimes forget that the argument between the Federalists and anti-Federalists over the need for a Bill of Rights was never an argument about whether such rights should be protected. It was a debate between those who feared the future growth of state power and the “tyranny of the majority,” and thus wanted to “go on record” that certain government intrusions were off-limits, and those who argued that since the new government had only the powers specifically delegated to it, it simply had no authority to infringe individual liberties. They worried that efforts to list “protected” rights would allow people in future generations to argue that any rights not specifically listed were unprotected.

    The Ninth and Tenth Amendments were the compromise: they reiterated that government does not have powers unless those powers have been specifically granted; and expressly stated that the failure to enumerate a right was not to be construed as evidence that such a right was not “retained” by the people or the individual states.

Arguments that a “right to privacy” is not protected by the Constitution conveniently ignore the history and quite specific language of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. ...    The question is: where is it written that government has the right to interfere?
3 Dec 2005
    Science magazine (25 Nov 2005, v310:1280-1281) has an interesting book review by Stuart Vyse of Susan A. Clancy's Abducted. How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. (Harvard Univ. Press).
    Clancy's starting point was studying recovered memories of childhood abuse, investigating how accurate or real they were. I have excerpted Vyse's review:
"It occurred to Clancy and her colleagues that people who believed they had been abducted by aliens might represent a useful comparison group. Here was a category of people who had memories of being kidnapped by visitors from other worlds--or, in some cases, believed they had been kidnapped in the absence of clear memories--and yet, the Harvard research team could be fairly certain the kidnappings had never occurred. Furthermore, the alien abductees shared other similarities with people who had recovered memories of sexual abuse. The majority of abductees reported that they had been sexually or in some other way physically violated by their alien kidnappers. Some of them believed that hybrid alien-human children had resulted from these unions. Furthermore, both groups had been aided by a caring person in their quest to uncover their pasts. Memories of sexual abuse were typically revealed in psychotherapy, and most of the alien abductees had uncovered their memories under hypnosis."
    "...  when asked to recall their experiences with aliens, the abductees produced physiological reactions that were similar to those of people who had experienced verified traumas. So, if the abductees had constructed these memories out of the psychic ether of their imaginations, they had managed to summon very powerful and evocative visions."
    "At its core, Abducted is a story about scientific thinking. In some respects, Clancy finds her subjects to be somewhat logical and scientific. The abductees were often aware of the alternative explanations that have been proposed for their experiences, but some of their memories were so real that alien abduction appeared to be the best fit for the data. In other respects, Clancy's abductees failed to adopt many of the basic principles of scientific reasoning. They frequently misplaced the burden of proof, arguing there was no evidence alien abduction was not real. Most important, Clancy's abductees did not apply the test of parsimony to their beliefs. Many people who feel temporarily paralyzed upon waking might reasonably be surprised and worried about their health, but the alien abductees appeared to have constructed a much more elaborate and unlikely explanation for this experience."
    "Clancy is a skeptic who mounts a strong case for terrestrial rather than extraterrestrial explanations, but she does so while maintaining a steadfast compassion for her subjects. ...  Having concluded that these people are not dismissible as ignorant or crazy, she is left with a more unsettling truth: under the right circumstances, normal people can come to hold very bizarre beliefs. Furthermore, the imagined experience of being kidnapped by aliens, while traumatic and frightening, often seemed to provide Clancy's abductees with a kind of spiritual meaning they had not found elsewhere. Unlike people who recover memories of sexual abuse, many alien abductees said that, given the choice, they would still want to be abducted." (My emphasis)
    Not having read the book, I don't know whether Clancy makes the point, but it seems obvious to me that the alien abduction "experience" is probably the same thing as a religious vision or conversion experience.
2 Dec 2205
The Cape Cod Voice issue of 1-13 Dec 2005 has a focus on the new push to drill for oil and gas on Georges Bank. This last came up in the Raygun administration, when fascist James Watt was Secretary of the Interior. A coalition of environmental groups, fisherman and the state finally prevailed to block the leasing, but the oil companies didn't fight very hard, since their test wells were fairly negative. Now it's the Dimbulb Bush administration, with Watt's acolyte Gail Norton as Sec. Interior, a new generation of extraction technology, and temporary headlines about high gas prices. This time the environmental rapists (fishing division) may get get in bed with the environmental rapists (energy division), and we have a so-called governor courting the right wing as he runs for president.

    I sure don't understand the fishermen. They've plundered one of the richest fishing rounds in the world (using federal subsidies, after chasing the foreigners out), depleting most fish stocks to tiny fractions of historical levels. They're going for fish considered trash just a few years ago, and yet they blame the scientists and environmentalists for causing their problems. The day-late-and-dollar-short committees in charge of regulating the fisheries, trying to help, get taken to court by this oblivious crew and the courts go along with it. The pols pander as usual to the loudest voices.

17 Nov 2005
How, exactly, is Robert J. Stein Jr. different from any other Republican businessman? Fewer political connections?
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. occupation officials gave a man with a federal fraud conviction control of millions of dollars for Iraqi reconstruction. Now the man is charged with accepting kickbacks to steer contracts to a businessman.

Robert J. Stein Jr., 50, of Fayetteville, N.C., used some of the kickback money to make a restitution payment for his earlier conviction and his wife used some to pay federal taxes, according to a federal affidavit.

Stein faces conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and other charges stemming from his alleged role in helping Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Romania for many years, get contracts in Iraq worth more than $13 million, federal authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors say Bloom, 65, paid kickbacks of more than $630,000 to Stein and others. Bloom has been charged with conspiracy and money laundering stemming from an investigation that Justice Department officials say could result in additional charges against others.

head torturer    The head torture advocate has joined the chorus, criticizing the Dems for their belated criticism of his war. Blah, blah, blah.

    Mass. TV is full of ads pro and con about potential changes to the car insurance system.  I actually think Romney's public position makes sense (good drivers are subsidizing bad ones.) But both sides are funded by insurance companies, so this may be more a fight about ways for them to split the profits than anything to do with fairness or competition.
16 Nov 2005
Republic of China flag    Bush holds up Taiwan as a model of democracy to the world. Okay, so first we'll ignore about 50 years of its one-party military rule by the Kuomingtang with US support, then we'll ignore the fact that the US (and most of the world) now prefers active relations with the one-party dictatorship on the mainland, and usually pretends democratic Taiwan doesn't exist. It's name for itself  (Republic of China) isn't allowed to be spoken in diplomatic or financial circles.

    Bush has been channeling Nixon in multiple photo-ops, accusing his critics of undermining the troops and rewriting history. Several newspapers have looked into his claims on the history and found them to be bullshit, of course. The troops are in danger because he put them there, while lying to them, to Congress, to the American public and to the world about his reasons and evidence.

Several blogs have had links to pieces about David Barton recently. He's the so-called historian who has made a fortune fabricating quotes, and taking quotes out of context, to make the Founding Fathers sound like fundie Christians.
Barton 1 Barton 2  Barton 3  Barton 4  Barton 5

home-school heroYup, those home-schoolers really know how to instill traditional family values.
[A] massive arsenal of weapons and ammunition was confiscated from David Ludwig's home during a police search, according to court papers. The teenager is in custody without bail on double murder and kidnapping charges. He allegedly shot Michael and Cathryn Borden dead at their Pennsylvania home on Sunday after an argument over his relationship with their daughter Kara, 14. The pair were said to have been secretly dating.

Fashion tips from a middle-aged white male, a famously snappy dresser:
    Non-recent observations: boys from 3 to 30 dressed in costumes that look like the proceeds of a gang looting a "big & tall" shop. I know fashion rarely makes sense, but some fashions are uglier and more stupid than others.
    It was 11 years ago that I first saw the truly moronic fashion of pants so low on men that the wearer is constantly using at least one hand to hold them up. That first time was on a drunk in San Francisco, and it was almost comical, and seemed unique and bizarre. Then I saw it on apparently sober men.
    Then there's the teenage fashion of riding children's bicycles.  Perhaps it's a symbol of geekdom to own and ride bikes that actually suit your limbs, and trendy to ride ones that look they were stolen from 8-year-olds.
    Most recent sighting: teenage girls with loose pants and shorts cut so low they can't be worn at a "normal" position.

30 Oct 2005
    "Maybe, after seeing the stupefying performances of the creationists [in Dover PA], the judge will decide that the state needs to declare creationist-free zones within a thousand yards of any school. It's obvious that this stuff causes brain damage."- pz myers

from Red State Rabble
Not My Job
     In a somewhat crass bid to position herself as a national role model for school board members who want to teach the controversy that is intelligent design, Heather Geesey, a Dover Area School Board member, testified Friday she believed intelligent design was a scientific theory because fellow board members Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham told her so.

     Displaying the intellectual curiosity that is fast becoming the hallmark of intelligent design theorists everywhere, Geesey told the court, Bonsell and Buckingham told her intelligent design was "a scientific thing."

     "[I]t wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design, she added, because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee.

     Under cross-examination, plaintiff's attorney Witold Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union, observed that Dover High School's science teachers opposed the board's statement.

      "The only people in the school district with a scientific background were opposed to intelligent design ... and you ignored them?" he asked.

     "Yes," Geesey said.

25 Oct 2005
treasonPlame/Wilson: now the wingers (eg John Tierney) are saying it's OK to leak secret intelligence information if it's accurate and you're too dumb to know it's a crime, as long as you're a Republican.  I know what sort of hyperbolic drivel they'd be writing if this leaking had been done during a Democrat administration to discredit Republicans.

"Bird flu" has been headline news for several weeks, after lingering in the medical and scientific press for a long time. Now it's the scare-of-the-month with talking heads breathlessly hyping the story and politicians pandering and pointing fingers.  Remember anthrax? Mandatory inoculations for the military? The Bushies still haven't figured out which of them spread anthrax around Congress (or won't prosecute anyway.)

I'm planning a trip to the Massachusetts Archives, and checked its web site for information. "Due to increased security concerns, on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 the Archives will be instituting, on a trial basis, a new sign-in policy. All patrons must present an identification card and fill out a researcher registration form. You will receive a Reader's ID card that must be worn in the Reading Room at all times." Is Al Qaeda considering using 18th century documents as weapons? Or threatening to damage them? The documents need protection, but some perspective is a good thing too. Why wasn't this protection policy adopted 200 years ago?
    My visit, 15 Nov 2005: the Archives are in a big, new building at UMass-Boston. Sign in with photo ID, wear a name badge at all times, don't take your coat off (though nearly everyone is looking at microfilm, not at original or even secondary documents.) The illegible photocopies they sent me by mail turn out to be from microfilm, "but now we've recopied them, so they're much more readable." They are somewhat more readable, sufficient for some pages, and it costs half a dollar per photocopy, but usually multiple prints are needed because you can't predict how light or dark they'll turn out. Half of the microfilm cabinets are labeled as Mormon records. One librarian is barely civil when I finally ask to see the original documents, but mellows later. They are presented to me between shiny plastic sheets, one page at a time, returned to the librarians as I finish and ask for the next. I'm allowed to photograph them, but this is a non-solution since the plastic and overhead lights create such glare that it's hard to see through the plastic by eye, never mind camera, without moving over the page in many positions and holding up a folder to block the worst lights. I hand copied the records and tried to take digital pictures.

    Sure is an unpleasant contrast with the Worcester library, where everything is open, and even with the stuffy atmosphere at the American Antiquarian Society.

Thinking of libraries, Dimbulb was at the opening of the Raygun library last week. I hear he doubled the library's holdings, donating 2 of his Classics Illustrated comic books (unread) to establish the Serious Literature Department, and 3 Ritchie Rich comics (well-read) for the Inspirational Department. 
    The main exhibit is a 707 used by several presidents, since obviously there won't be any documents worth looking at until the culprits are dead or the statutes of limitation expire.

Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination is in deep trouble with the far right wing, according to reports, for reasons that make no sense to me. Her handlers have been trying to portray her as being near the lunatic fringe (from my point of view), but that isn't nutty enough for some. So the drooler bosses are using the money they scared from the sheep with horror stories of leftist opposition, to fight for a registered fascist nominee instead. Makes me really wonder about John Roberts, since he didn't get that flack.

Every culture has its own jargon; to the wingers, "constitutional scholar" seems to mean pompous poodles who live on handouts from the patroons, support for the divine right of kings and property, heavy armament for their supporters (but not for the Others), the equivalence of money and speech, and the triviality of the reserved rights amendment. The contrast seems to be with "people living in the real world."
Operation Yellow Elephant
14 Oct 2005
Mass. news
    Strange, but the anti-gay groups, including the Child Molesters League, have been so desperate for the rather small number of voter signatures (65,000) on petitions needed to put their issue on the Mass. state ballot that they've hired professional signature gathering companies. And that's coming back to bite them in the ass, because those companies, apparently routinely, commit massive fraud and forgery to increase their totals.  A bill to allow wine sales in supermarkets seems to be much more popular and uncontroversial, so the paid signature gatherers put that petition on the top of their clipboards, then try to trick people into signing the hidden anti-gay petition underneath as well. They were doing the same thing in the last election cycle too, when the popular issue was banning horse meat from the dinner table. The pathetic defense is that the controversy is a fraud by "homosexual activists."

I'm finally pasting in this story from June (widely reposted, original source unclear):
"Recommendations from the Book Burners
A panel assembled by the conservative magazine Human Events has come up with a list of the "Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries".  While the top ten starts off predictably with The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf, some of the entries that follow (as well as the runners-up) are so outrageous you'd almost think it was a parody. For example :
The Kinsey Report - Alfred Kinsey
 The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
 Beyond Good and Evil - Freidrich Nietzsche
 General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money - John Maynard Keynes
 The Population Bomb - Paul Ehrlich
 On Liberty - John Stuart Mill
 Origin of the Species - Charles Darwin
 Unsafe at Any Speed - Ralph Nader
 Introduction to Psychoanalysis - Sigmund Freud
 The Greening of America - Charles Reich"
There are plenty of interesting comments about it the list. One noted that conservatives obviously have never read Darwin, and always misstate the title of  On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Others noted
 "One of the most amusing things about the article discussed here is that, for each of these allegedly harmful and corrosive books, Human Events Online has helpfully provided a link to the Amazon.com "buy me" page for the book in question. No doubt the site is an Amazon affiliate and gets a few dimes every time they refer a sale to Amazon. Sure, these books are the "most harmful of the past two centuries" -- but hey, why not make some money off of them!"
"Damn! I've only read 4 of those books... i feel like such a loser. i'm heading over to amazon right now!"

  8 Oct 2005
    I find the timing of the New York subway terrorist scare this week to be highly suspicious. One might think it was clumsily placed to go along with Dimbulb's absurd excuses for continuing his war, his reprise of the the original excuses without the "weapons of mass destruction" bullshit.  Not that I listen to him, except the unavoidable sound bites on the radio.

    The Senate passed an anti-torture bill by 91-9. Which of them supports abusing prisoners? Easy to find out, but those 9 aren't mine. Dummy claims he might veto the bill, although it's in a vast military spending bill, and he hasn't vetoed anything yet. The House is clearly more eager to torture people, so there will be some compromise. Is this just a good cop/bad cop routine, or are the Republicans truly oblivious and evil?
Obvious answer: Oblivious and evil:
"Recently, a secret draft revision of the national park system's basic management policy document has been circulating within the Interior Department. It was prepared, without consultation within the National Park Service, by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary at Interior who once ran the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo., was a Congressional aide to Dick Cheney and has no park service experience." - NYT 29 Aug 2005
This management plan would sell out the National Parks as nature theme parks, open to all commercial activity and motorized traffic. As always, Bush lied about his intentions.

    The WSJ reports that most identity theft still results from old-fashioned methods, such as forgery or stealing statements from the garbage. According to one study, 26 percent of all fraud victims knew the person that took their information, and as much as 50 percent of those who committed debit card fraud are a family member or friend. Computer viruses or hackers only accounted for 2.2 percent of all identity theft - in Slate

    Dimbulb has chosen Harriet Miers, his 'office wife', as the replacement for O'Connor on the Supreme Court, claiming she's the best person in the country for it, emphasizing his isolation from the real world. Hispanics are upset that one of them was not chosen, but maybe it's to their credit that none is sufficiently attractive to Bush and the puppet-masters, except Gen. Francisco Franco, and he's still dead. The anti-abortionists are upset that Eric Rudolph wasn't chosen, but Bush won't say whether he's ever discussed abortion politics with Miers! The Republican medievalist wing (eg Sen. Thune) is upset that Roberts and Miers aren't clones of Scalia and Thomas, but it remains to be seen whether that's correct.
    Thinking of Scalia and his "originalist" approach to the Constitution: how does he get away with the fantasy that he and his buddies can
channel the intentions of the "Founding Fathers" more purely than anyone else? And, even were he correct, why should the 21st century be chained by an 18th century document? I think the Constitution is more nearly sacred than "The Flag," but still, there is room for improvement, and ideas and standards change, and amendments are possible, and the original Constitution needed them. Scalia and Thomas would never have been on the Supreme Court at all, since the Founding Fathers (and the public) would never have accepted Roman Catholics on it. The "originalist" approach apparently claims to rely only the meaning of the actual words in the document, without any context, and that's ridiculous. Even past "strict constructionists" have always relied on the Federalist Papers and similar contemporaneous writings to explore original meaning and context.
    Something I've noticed in the last few months, emphasized by Cheney being back in the news for knee surgery - the public and columnists have been acting lately as if Bush is running the government, rather than Cheney, Rummy, etc, as was presumed before. I wonder whether that's a success of a deliberate campaign, or just the laziness of the media. 

September 17, 2005
In 4-Year Anthrax Hunt, F.B.I. Finds Itself Stymied, and Sued

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - Richard L. Lambert, the F.B.I. inspector in charge of the investigation of the deadly anthrax letters of 2001, testified under oath for five hours last month about the case.

But Mr. Lambert was not testifying in a criminal trial. He and his teams of F.B.I. agents and postal inspectors have not found the culprit. Instead, he and six other F.B.I. and Justice Department officials have been forced to give depositions in a suit over news media leaks filed by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army biodefense expert who was under intensive scrutiny for months.

Four years after an unknown bioterrorist dropped letters containing a couple of teaspoons of powder in a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., what began as the largest criminal investigation in American history appears to be stalled, say scientists and former law enforcement officials who have spoken with investigators.

Hurricane Katrina: 
    There must be historical reasons why a large city is built mostly below sea level, but are there good reasons? That is, is it just because it was quicker and cheaper to put up levees than to raise the land at risk? Boston is similar in population size (don't know about geographic size.) Boston's area is much larger than it was in the 1600-1700s because it filled in the harbor and river shallows, mostly in the 1800s. It didn't dike the shallows to build areas below sea level; it filled them in by cutting off the city's hill tops and bringing in fill from the mainland (decades of railroad cars, night and day). New Orleans isn't Boston, and the situation was and is different. Is it plausible to actually rebuild New Orleans so it is above sea level?
    Louisiana has been losing large amounts of land to the sea every year, because of human intervention that redirected the Mississippi with it's replenishing soil burden. It is said to have lost an area the size of Delaware. Will this situation be responsibly addressed? I won't hold my breath.
    The initial reports out of flooded New Orleans were of massive looting, with many murders and rapes, and this caught everyone's attention. A more sober look later, based on decades of research in such natural disasters, shows that typical initial scary reports are wild-eyed bullshit based on rumors, anecdotes, media hype and the inability of law enforcement and media personnel to actually be present. And the gun droolers use and excuse or rumor to justify their lust.
    Bush finally flew in for some photo-ops with well-groomed but teary flood victims. I often use the word 'babbling' to criticize the loonies and their logic, and 'babbling' would be a concise description of  his unscripted speech. It was remarkable for its incoherency - just several minutes of incomplete sentences and jargon phrases.
September 17, 2005
Tab for Katrina will go on federal charge card

WASHINGTON - How much it will cost to clear the debris, detoxify the water, house the homeless and rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after the Katrina catastrophe is still anyone's guess, but it's clear who's going to pay for most of it: Future generations.

Deficit spending
The national debt, now $7.9 trillion, has increased by more than $2 trillion during President Bush's tenure.
Reasons include:
 Tax cuts
 The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
 Few compensating budget cuts

The bill to the government for Katrina - $62 billion so far with untold billions to come - will be added directly to the $7.9 trillion national debt. President Bush said yesterday, ''We're going to have to make sure we cut unnecessary spending'' and that his administration will ''work with Congress'' to find cuts elsewhere in the budget, but such offsets are likely to be mostly symbolic.

With tax cuts, terrorist attacks and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 4½ years, the national debt already is more than $2 trillion higher than when President Bush took office.
from Whitehouse.org:
To begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has rubber-stamped, more than $60 billion. In keeping with my administration's sound fiscal policies, these funds will materialize not from taxes, but from an enchanted pot of gold – that is continuously replenished via a magic time-travelling Leprechaun, who weilds an enchanted ATM card to make daily withdrawals from the retirement accounts of our still-unborn grandchildren!


Katleen Parker, 21 Sept 2005 column
... [Bush] isn't a fiscal conservative, if you focus only on his proposed $200 billion reconstruction plan. Stupefied observers and GOP critics have said he's acting like a drunken Democrat, inventing New Deals out of bad credit, and cribbing speeches from that other Texas president, LBJ.

One day he's oblivious to the catastrophe that obliterated parts of three states and the city of New Orleans. Next thing you know, he's a Bourbon Street reveler waving a stolen Amex card and promising to build a new coast and a shining new city - not on a hill, but back in the same sinking swamp it occupied before.
Looking more closely at what Bush has proposed, however - and ignoring for a moment the enormous front-end cost - another scene emerges. Seeing the world as Bush does is like looking at one of those computer-generated pictures that you stare at for a long time, trying to let your eyes unfocus on what's close and obvious in order to see the other, often marvelous, image buried within.

You think you're looking at a billion zigzag dots, but then realize you're really seeing a fairy princess fluttering among butterfly gardens and hobbit houses.

It's like that with Bush.

You think you're looking at billions of dollars being tossed out like Mardi Gras beads to a sea of looters and scammers (and those are just the politicians), but then you unfocus your eyes and see what Bush sees: a beautiful landscape of antebellum Habitat for Humanity-built porches filled with happy voucher-educated African-American children giggling on joggling boards in two-parent homes headed by an entrepreneurial father and a stay-at-home mother.

ignorant wanker8/12/2005
    The evolution teaching controversy has heated up this month as Bush showed yet again what it means to be an ignorant wanker.

    To the Biblical literalists, all the evidence is a supernatural fake to test their faith. That is, they have a non-scientific theory to explain the
evidence, but there hasn't been any evolution. These are Creationists, and they are impervious to reason.

    The ID proponents are lying about their motives and connections to Creationism, and their gulled followers clog the system with drivel. Yet they aren't quite the same as Creationists, since they seem to accept that evolution is a fact. Some seem to accept that evolution occurs, but needs a supernatural agency to direct it, while others see ID as a wedge to completely overturn science.

    An important semantic issue is the confusion between evolution as a fact and evolution as a name for the theories that explain it. Despite the many well written (and many poorly written) explanations of what a scientific theory is and isn't, the ID theists continue to misrepresent or misunderstand the concept. Darwinism is the generally accepted scientific theory of evolution. (Any short explanation would be shot down by the pedants. Not being either an expert writer or evolutionary biologist, I'll forgo a definition.) The theories of Lamarck and Lysenko are scientific, too, but the evidence shows them to be wrong. ID is a non-scientific theory, devoted only to finding gaps in the evidence chain and saying "ID did it." Finding something in the middle of a gap doesn't plug the gap for them, it makes a pair! As William Saletan put it,
"Intelligent Design" is a big nothing. It's non-living, non-breathing proof that religion has surrendered its war against science. ID offers no predictions, scope modifiers, or experimental methods of its own. It's a default answer, a shrug, consisting entirely of problems in Darwinism. Those problems should be taught in school, but there's no reason to call them intelligent design. Intelligent design, as defined by its advocates, means nothing. This is the way creationism ends. - William Saletan, Frame Game, Slate Feb 13, 2002
    Except I'd disagree about the school part. Just as we learn Newtonian mechanics instead of Special Relativity in high school, teaching the general approximations first, and getting into the fine points at more advanced levels, Darwinian evolution is what should be presented as accepted fact. Questions about exact mechanisms are important, and should be studied, but ID theory can't help.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science defines "scientific theory:" A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.

  John Roberts is proposed for the Supreme Court, and it looks like a sure thing. The Administration has been spinning him to the moderates as an outgoing intellectual and scholar, and to the Right as one of their own. It helps him that he no paper  trail. Maybe the plus side to Rove's exposure as a vindictive traitor is that he doesn't have enough time to dredge the sewers for another Scalia or Thomas. Maybe Roberts will be just what he seems; that is, someone rather like O'Connor. Meanwhile the Right is in high gear grubbing money from its drooler base, pretending the Left is intent on stopping Roberts's confirmation.

Congress is apparently about to pass an "energy plan." This seems to mean trillions of dollars in subsidies to the extractive industries, handouts to corn farmers, and ignoring environmental problems for siting new nuclear plants and LNG terminals (plus the usual random pork.) It definitely means ignoring vehicle fuel efficiency and nuclear waste, and probably means just lip service to small-scale and renewable energy.

  Bush is lying, of course, attempting to expand the blatantly unconstitutional "patriot" act. There are high profile arrests with media hype during the push, but then the real allegations are more mundane and questionable - eg Lodi CA.
The London Tube got bombed, and Congress overwhelmingly passed the Fascism = Patriotism act. (7/2005)

The whole point of the confrontation between the Dems and Reps over the judges and filibusters was to keep the worst ones from being confirmed, but those fascists were the first ones just passed. In what sense was this a Dem victory, or even compromise, as generally stated? (Other than their integrity being compromised, if that's a relevant concept to politicians.)
right-of-center joke:
    A big earthquake with the strength of 8.1 on the Richter scale has hit Mexico.  Two million Mexicans have died and over a million are injured. The country is totally ruined and the government doesn't know where to start with providing help to rebuild. The rest of the world is in shock.
    Canada is sending troopers to help the Mexican army control the riots.  
    Saudi Arabia is sending oil.
    Other Latin American countries are sending supplies.
     The European community (except France) is sending food and money.
     The United States, not to be outdone, is sending two million replacement Mexicans. 

I get the joke, but aliens are here largely because the farmers and anything-for-a-buck right-wing business owners want them, as well as the weak pro-immigrant left. It's widely conceded that that our crops would not be picked without them. The large numbers of Puerto Ricans are here as a direct result of the controversial (then) imperialist seizure of PR in the Spanish-American War. South Florida is Cuban due to the Cold War, and their voting continues to hobble common sense policies in Latin America. Where's Richard Nixon when you need him? Even Dumbo makes a big deal of his ability to speak Spanish. (I wonder if his Spanish is as bad as his English.) No one has come up with a plausible solution in decades of complaining. How about normalizing relations with Cuba to start (yes, Castro's a bombastic dictator, but the US has been/ is/ will be cozy to many far worse ones.) And say "Good night,  good luck, and here's cab fare" to independent Puerto Rico.
Rummy criticizes China for its military buildup, but it's the US that spends half of all worldwide military funds.

Blinded by stars tangled in stripes
This is our flag but this ain't our fight
Dirty with oil, tattered by spite
This is our flag but this ain't our fight.

          Adrienne Young, 2001

Howard Dean says the obvious and catches hell from the milquetoasts. No wonder the Dems keep losing.

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
From Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli which was signed during the term of George Washington and ratified by Congress during the term of John Adams in 1797. Why has no one in power remembered or emphasized the Tripoli Treaty to the world? Because the Reps repudiate it? Because the "strict constructionists" don't accept the part of the Constitution that says treaties are the law of the land? Because the Democrats and media are enablers of  Republican imperialism?

US Constitution Article VI, section 2: This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

    A federal court recently ruled that 10,000 years are insufficient for nuclear waste storage, based on a peculiar reading of the enabling law. Clearly this was just the politics of convenience, since even the politicians didn't complain much about a ridiculous decision. 10,000 years is longer than civilization has existed, and even foresighted politicians never focus on events more than 50 years in the future, with most never thinking beyond the next election. My problem with nuclear energy is that a police state is needed in the short-medium term to maintain centralized control of an expensive and dangerous industry. Despite our loud myths about "land of the free and home of the brave," we're mostly  happily heading to a police state for the sake of "security."
    If most power was generated by small-scale installations (eg wind, solar, photo-voltaic, or whatever gets invented next) there would be little need for either the police state or nuclear plants.

4/9/2005, but quoting the 1932 Wellfleet School Committee
    "We have cut our budget this year to what we feel is the lowest point possible without taking from the children things that they should have, bearing in mind that although we are experiencing a depression such as we have never known before, that our children should not be deprived of a foundation that will enable them to hold their place in the world. What we take from a growing child now we can never give back after this depression is over. The Committee feel that the Schools were created for and maintained solely for the CHILDREN and to this end all other factors entering into the School System must be a secondary consideration." -- 1932 School Committee Report, Wellfleet Massachusetts. The members were Everett W. Lombard, Cyril W. Downs and Leroy B. Wiles (my grandfather). Emphasis in the original.

    The school budget was $18,800, of which $5177 was re-imbursed from state and other sources, leaving a net cost to the town of $13,623. This seems laughably small until you look at the context: the total property assessment (combined real and personal estates) for the town was $1,997,880, which is lower than many individual properties in 2005, though I don't know whether the assessments in 1932 were "full." The tax rate was $18.25 per $1000. The total town budget in 1932 was $58,727, so the school expenses were 23 % of that, or 0.68 % of the town's valuation. The 1932 committee calculated that the cost per high school student was $218.50, and the overall cost was $139.25 per student.
    In 2003, the total valuation was $1,308,494,480 (655 times the 1932 valuation), and the tax rate was $6.54 (36 % as high). School expenses were $1,792,335 for Wellfleet Elementary (147 students, $12,193/ student), $1,821,063 for Nauset Regional High School, and $192,095 for  Cape Cod Regional Tech (19 students, $10,110/ student), totaling $3,805,493 (and not deducting government reimbursements). Total town expenses were $10,952, 402, so school expenses were 35 % of that, or 0.29 % of town valuation.

    One obvious way for the government to take in much more money without raising taxes would be to enforce rules already on the books. Why is this never discussed? Is everyone afraid of upsetting the tax-cheat lobby? Apparently so, and of course there isn't much of a fan club for the IRS. Realistically, I think lots and lots of people are afraid the IRS will catch their petty chiseling, and be infamously heavy-handed about it. But I know one flagrant tax cheat who ended up with a slap on the wrist. He doesn't pay ordered child support either, and New Hampshire ignores it. With such toothless enforcement it's a wonder anyone pays.
    This concept of enforcing existing laws also comes up in the context of gun laws. The gun droolers claim that there are thousands of gun control laws on the books already, not being enforced. I assume this claim is wildly exaggerated, or perhaps entirely bullshit. But what if it's true? The gun droolers would be the first to start complaining if the laws were actually enforced, of course, but it'd be worth trying.

    Why are American flags flying at half-staff for Pope John Paul II? He wasn't American. I'm very offended. And it's a horrible precedent to send 3 American presidents to his funeral.

    Conservative writers have been writing about the failure of environmentalist's most dire predictions to come true, and they have a point. But they continue from there, to claim that environmentalism is a cult or a crock. I think their own assumptions and biases could use plenty of introspection, and their paychecks could use some outside inspection. Some are just obvious whores. I quit the Sierra Cub many years ago because it seemed to be against absolutely everything, but environmentalist ethics make a lot more sense to me than the "rape everything now"  and "poisons are good for you" mindset.
    It would be interesting for a historian to develop a list of failed conservative predictions from the 17th Century on - I bet the list itself would be book-length. They've been predicting the immanent downfall of civilization and Second Coming for centuries, caused by Protestantism, Catholicism, witchcraft, occultism (and every other known and imagined superstition); Darwinism, Communism,  atheism, secular humanism, drinking cold water, fluoridation of water, intemperance, vaccination, universal suffrage,  republican government, television, train travel, abolition of corporal punishment and public prayer in schools, short skirts on women, pants on women, gay rights, abortion, divorce, masturbation, sexual promiscuity, mixed-race marriage, birth control, in vitro fertilization, crop hybridization (that is, absolutely everything to do with sex and reproduction), the waltz, the twist, jazz, rock & roll, long hair on men, frequent bathing, public education, lack of public education, going off the gold standard, immigration, emigration, environmentalism,.... and certainly thousands of other things over the centuries. They still rant, we're still here, and they're still wrong.
To hear them tell it, conservatives are always the underdog, besieged and kept down by those with the real power. The act of hanging an American flag on their porch could bring a Molotov cocktail thrown through their front window by roving gangs of thought police; a cross worn on a necklace sure to bring arrest; the ordering of a Budweiser greeted with withering contempt from the microbrew cognoscenti. The triumph of liberal totalitarianism, with the abolishment of the family and religion and free speech that all honest people hold dear, is forever around the next corner, at the bottom of a slippery slope down which we find ourselves eternally tumbling. Like end-timers assuring us that though they were wrong last year and the year before, this New Year’s Eve will surely bring Armageddon—they are slowed not a bit by being proved wrong again and again—the coming American Sodom always a result of next year’s wedge issue. - Paul Waldman, April 25, 2005

    Since the 9/11 attacks, it seems the CIA has had a reputation of being fairly incompetent.  Remember, not so long ago, when it was accused of being behind everything (wrong) in the political world? Public or media perceptions are likely much more changeable than the Agency's core competence. Bush and the neo-cons abuse the intelligence system, and blame them when things go predictably wrong, but the spies can't really mount a defense, since it's all secret. We don't really know what the CIA does right or wrong, nor what spy groups exist that we've never heard of.
    The FBI has had a poor reputation much longer, which seems well deserved. Efram Zimbalist, Jr., meet Southie's Bulger brothers.
6/2005 - Another report came out accusing the FBI of ignoring clues about the 9-11 terrorists in the months before the attack.
The Bush regime reluctantly appointed some of its insiders to look into the excuses for the war on Iraq, with orders to avoid noticing the smelly elephant in the living room, and so it saw no elephant, and smelled no elephant. It decided the politicians weren't to blame, that it was all the CIA's fault. Huh? Bush ran on a pro-war platform in 2000, with his "advisers" saying things like "Baghdad is for wimps. Real men go to Tehran."

    At the moment, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been pulled, and right-to-lifers are apoplectic. How many of the frothing hypocrites have shed a tear for the thousands of Iraqis and Afgans tortured by American forces? (or for the zillions murdered by Sadaam, the mullahs, the Sudanese regime, the Congolese anarchy, the Khmer Rouge...) How much money has been spent caring for the poor woman, and how many better ways could that money have been spent? (Who has been paying, anyhow? Insurance companies? The hospitals? The state?) Have any of the 'wingers offered to pay for her continued care? (Apparently yes.) With her parents (but no involved physicians) claiming for years that she could be rehabilitated, did they actually do anything about it? (Apparently not, since her potential was all in the parents' imaginations.)
    1234   Thomas Friedman has a column in the NYT entitled "No Mullah Left Behind," with the thesis that, since the Bush administration deliberately refuses to do anything to promote energy conservation or economy, it is directly funding the mullahs and terrorists. That's clear.
    Whatever happened to Bush's Hydrogen Economy project? My answer: It was just a publicity gimmick to make him look forward-thinking while neglecting all short-term and medium-term options for energy independence and conservation.
America's native criminal class has voted to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, as some kind of urgent response to a perceived energy crisis. Never mind that it will take 10 years to yield a drop, or that even if it were producing today with expected quantities, it would reduce US dependence on foreign oil from 68 to 65 %. A minor change to vehicle mileage requirements would have greater effects, and sooner.
    And Bush's man-on-Mars proposal was another trial balloon gone bust. He probably had fantasies of seeming like another JFK, but we weren't inspired by the fatuous boondoggle when there's no Cold War to race, and since he's trying to choke the non-military government while starting expensive wars. I think space programs are great (and oceanography programs, and scientific research in general), but everything Bush touches is tainted by his motives. "Research," for the Bush-Cheney crew, is an excuse to do nothing for things it doesn't like, and a subsidy for the MIC for things it does like.
    Recent events:
The search for "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq is officially over, with the report confirming the preliminary one, that Iraq had no such weapons since about 1991 and no capability of making them. Quel surprise! The UN was right! There's a scandal with the UN Oil-for-Food Iraq program, but with reports indicating the corruption was happening with the full knowledge of both the Clinton and Bush administrations. While the regime shouts about it, it continues to stonewall the actual investigation.

US emergency aid to the tsunami victims was just diverted from other aid programs, feebly funded as they were. Just like Bush's AIDS program. You can fool some of the people all of the time...

Conservatives in Congress are upset that Bush's Medicaid program will be hundreds of billions of dollars more expensive than Bush claimed. This is highly hypocritical, since it was widely reported before the votes that this would be true, with budget officials fired for honesty, with huge (legal) bribes to Congress and clear illegal threats and bribes.

Congressional battle of the year, probably: Bush-Cheney is trying to wreck Social Security, lying and lying with statistics to convince Congress and the public. As critics are pointing out, they use short-term numbers for some projections, and long-term ones for others, so its an apples and oranges comparison that's misleading, even if their numbers were believable on their own. Other countries are having poor general results with the "private accounts."
Q: Why aren't they just pushing to abolish the whole concept?
A: It would accurately be seen as reactionary.
Q: Why are they pushing a vastly expensive drug program at the same time?
A: Old people vote, and they can scrap it later with the excuse that the budget and economy can't handle it.
I note that people currently nearing retirement would be immune from the retirement account diversion, promised full benefits, while the rest of us would be stuck paying for them while having no assured retirement income ourselves (or retirement at all?).
Related: A recent analysis of the flu vaccine program concluded it was largely ineffective, that it would be a better use of the resources to vaccinate children (since children are often vectors, and the vaccine works on them.) Will this happen? No, because children don't vote.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them ... are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”  - Dwight  Eisenhower, 8 Nov 1954, in a letter to his brother Edgar.
W's State of the Union speech threatened to spread democracy to all parts of the world. Nice goal, though unrealistic, and he's sure the wrong one to preach it, and completely incapable of accomplishing it. But it scared US "allies" in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, etc., so Daddy Bush and other relative heavy-weights had to spread the word that Junior didn't mean it.

At least two reporters are facing prison time for not revealing who told them that Valerie Plame was a CIA official, though they didn't print the story, while there's no rumor that that Robert Novak is in any trouble for printing it, and no rumor that any of the administration criminals who told them are in trouble.

Local politics: the nepotistic outgoing Worcester county sheriff, John Flynn, had "fired" his incompetent, violent, drunk-driving son-in-law, Stephen Ceely, during the primary election campaign. But since the firing deliberately ignored all the legal and union rules, he's back on the job as a corrections officer, as predicted. Sure glad I voted for a replacement for Flynn. I even voted for the apparently-qualified Republican in the general election (who was defeated 2:1) instead of the right-wing Democrat machine-pol, Guy Glodis.
A year later: as far as I can tell from the news. Glodis is doing an excellent job!

Cape Cod politics: Gov. Romney campaigned with the peculiar plank that he supported a fly-over to replace the traffic rotary at the Sagamore Bridge. The rotary and bridge are a bottleneck for traffic getting on and off the Cape. Since that bottleneck rarely affects me, and fewer people on Cape is preferable to more, I don't see a reason to spend money ($58 million) on it. I wasn't consulted, and it's moving ahead. So now several thousand more cars per day will just clog the small streets on the Cape instead of clogging Rt. 6 or Rt. 3. As far as I can see, Romney is in the tank with the worst aspects of the business and construction lobby, to hell with the environment and keeping the Cape livable. But he's a Republican, so that's a given.
    But: there's serious proposal to put a set of 130 huge electricity-generating windmills in Nantucket Sound. You might expect Romney to be its biggest booster - there's power, construction, money, even an environmentalist gloss. The engineering and environmental studies so far think it's a reasonable idea, but Romney has come out against it, perhaps because Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite and other rich people whose views would be affected oppose it.  (I give them a pass, this time, because it is pretty literally in their backyards.) As I see it, he supports a small project that will negatively affect many thousand people per day, but opposes a large project that will affect the vistas of a few people, cost the state nothing and potentially generate the equivalent of all the Cape's electricity usage in a minimally polluting way. I don't know enough to have a definite opinion about it - the tree-hugging nostalgist in me thinks it's a bad location, but the realist-technologist says "Maybe they'll look interesting, work well, and take money away from the Texans and Arabs."

    Grover Norquist was on NPR's Marketplace program today; he was giddy, crowing, drooling even, at the prospect of  an all-Republican administration. He anticipates the withering away of the state (a la Marx), now that the Democrats won't be funded by the trial lawyers and extorted union dues. His grasp on reality is obviously tenuous, and he'll have all sorts of excuses in the future, when his Millennium doesn't arrive. Among the points he's already ignoring: there has been Republican control of government for some years already, with no movement toward laissez faire utopia; in fact,  Bush's government is bigger than any previous one, more protectionist and corrupt than usual.

Several of the political button pictures come from cafepress.com, an utterly promiscuous slutty vendor of  overpriced slogans from left to far-right to alien.
ruining America is an 8-year jobdraft SUV drivers

     For better or worse, I don't put Bush election in quotes now. There's an interesting, if questionable, email statistic going around, showing how state voting for Bush correlates with low average state IQs.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their  heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron" - H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

    My bumper stickers are yielding me more abuse now than before the election:

support the troops
impeach Bush
Bush & Cheney:
terrorist recruiters

    Reading the columnists about the election, it seems that the famous exit-polling question abut "moral values" was badly phrased. It works for Mrs Grundy - an inarticulate response in favor of the status quo, or a roll-back to the 1950s (or for some of them, back to the 1650s.) After all, everyone is in favor of "moral values" - they just disagree on what that means and which ones are most important. When I think about it in those terms: It's immoral to keep a conspicuously  ignorant, flagrantly lying, arrogantly superstitious fascist in a position of power. Fascism

 whiff of fascismRepublicans lieoil war

    John Ashcroft resigned as Attorney General, claiming, “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” He's retiring, to spend more time with the loud little voices in his head. Bush should be informed that his War on Terror has been won.

    "I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind — that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking." - HL Mencken (Thanks, Diane Williamson)

rednecks vote republican    "What I most not want to hear from my fellows is putting the blame upon Senator Kerry, his campaign, the DNC or Ralph Nader. Or even Karl Rove for that matter. No, it is the the fault of the American people, mostly rural and consumed by religious intolerance, flag waving jingoism, anti-environmentalism, hatred of gays, quiet racism, that base conservative selfishness and above all, our American brand of parochial ignorance.
    With a President whose first allegiance is to his personal rendition of a violent Jesus Christ rather than his country, and no longer concerned with elections or public opinion; more intolerance and war will be our lot for the foreseeable future. " - Rack Jite
    As for me: it's hard to believe that Kerry ran such a bad campaign, with Bore's example fresh in memory. As Robert Reich was commenting today, Bush-Rove won on "moral values," which to his base means anti-abortion, anti-gay jingoism; and the Dems don't express anything comparable, though there are plenty of issues where it would be appropriate.
    Well, Bush can save a few dollars by defunding "No child left behind;" since he's now a lame duck, and educated citizens are the last thing the Republicans want.

    There's been a raft of gloating "So there, you elitist snobs"  letters-to-editors and columns, and I think they're bizarre. On the one hand, it's statistically true that coastal, educated people voted for Kerry (or rather, against Bush,) and the most likely Bush supporter was southern, male, poorly educated, white and superstitious. But who votes based on their relative feelings of superiority, rather than their beliefs (correct or not) that someone is the best choice for the country and/or themselves? But  the button is funny anyway.
Thinking about it later: "elitism" is a common but peculiar accusation in politics. Its an admission that the "elitist" is better qualified by experience, education or background, but the accuser intends to vote for the other one anyway. Bush and Kerry are very similar in background, overall, with rich, politically connected families, prep school and Yale educations, and undistinguished political careers. But Kerry was at the top of his Yale class, became a war hero, and led an apparently law-abiding life, while Bush squeaked through Yale, chickened out of military service, and had multiple arrests for substance abuse. So the only way to vote for Bush, if those things matter, is to cry "East-coast Elitism." Of course, there's also the fact that Kerry is a stiff. And most people would rather listen to Bush's mangled syntax and unique words, in his affected cow-shit accent, than Kerry's droning hemming and hawing.
Birth states of final Republican and Democrat candidates for US Presidency in my lifetime, and which candidate won Massachusetts.
  Stevenson - California
x Eisenhower - Texas  

x Kennedy - Massachusetts
  Nixon - California

x Johnson - Texas
  Goldwater - Arizona

x Humphrey - South Dakota

x McGovern - South Dakota

x Carter - Georgia
  Ford - Nebraska

x Reagan - Illinois
  Mondale - Minnesota
x Reagan

x Dukakis - Massachusetts
  Bush I - Massachusetts

x Clinton - Arkansas
  Bush I

x Clinton
  Dole - Kansas

x Gore - DC
  Bush II - Connecticut

x Kerry - Colorado
  Bush II
We voted For: Massachusetts (two), Texas (two), South Dakota (two), Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois, Colorado and DC.

We voted Against: California (two), Arizona, Nebraska, Georgia,  Massachusetts, Minnesota, Kansas and Connecticut.

What does this tell us? Sure doesn't support Mrs Grundy and the culture warriors, that we vote for coastal elites and sneer at those from fly-over states.

   Chickenhawk cards


Subverting Science
"The Bush administration's well-deserved reputation for tailoring scientific information to fit its political agenda was reinforced last week when James Hansen, the government's pre-eminent climatologist, said that he had been instructed by Sean O'Keefe, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, not to discuss publicly the human contribution to global warming." - editorial, NYT

    "W. and Dick Cheney like being seen as a huge beast throwing its weight around. That was the whole point of whacking Saddam. The pair immediately began their Beavis-and-Butthead snickering and sneering at the Democrat's camouflage costume.
    The vice president is right that Mr. Kerry can't compete in the arena of power hunting. When Mr. Kerry goes, only the birds are in danger. When Mr. Cheney and his pal Antonin Scalia go duck hunting together, the Constitution is in danger." - Maureen Dowd, NYT

Note to Kerry: My wishes for points to be made in the economic "debate" - I think it would be much better to emphasize Bush's deficits (budgetary, not just mental) than whether or you voted for a hundred tax hikes or just half a hundred. That is, his deficits so far total so-many-billion $, so-many-thousand $ per family, and at current rates he'd leave us with so-many billion or trillion $ in debt. "Tax cuts without spending cuts are just putting everything on a credit card **that must be paid** and Bush's friends aren't going to pay it!" And his deficits have only enriched his buddies, not created jobs - saying otherwise is wishful thinking or just lies. To the extent that Bush has a record - what did he do to Texas?
Gonorrhea Lectim
The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. This disease is
contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim (pronounced "gonna re-elect him").
Many victims have contracted it after having been screwed for the past 4 years, in spite of having taken measures to protect themselves from this especially troublesome disease.
Cognitive sequellae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea Lectim include, but are not limited to: Anti-social personality disorder
traits; delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavor; chronic mangling of the English language; extreme cognitive dissonance; inability to incorporate new information; pronounced xenophobia; inability to accept responsibility for actions; exceptional cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado; uncontrolled facial smirking; ignorance of geography and history; tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies; and a strong propensity for categorical, all-or nothing behavior.
The disease is sweeping Washington. Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed and baffled that this malignant disease originated only a few years ago in a Texas Bush. - source unknown
Bush always lies    We had 3 presidential "debates."  The Smirking Chimp came off as particularly annoying in the first, and more normal in the others. Kerry lost many opportunities to devastate Bush, on a variety of topics. Bush kept on lying, and Kerry wouldn't flatly call him on it, even given the direct chance. (And Bush keeps on doing it, repeating the same lies in every speech.) Bush tried making one point, that I think few people understood: that  the secret dealing in nuclear technology by Abdul Qadeer Khan had been stopped. It may be a good thing for him that so few followed it, since the bad guys were our "allies" in Pakistan, with obvious deep connections into the military and intelligence services. So Bush took us into war with a ridiculous claim that Iraq had nukes (and other "weapons of mass destruction," whatever that means), while our "ally" did secretly develop nuclear weapons, publicly threaten India with them, and sell the technology to "rogue states." And Pakistan is/was the sugar-daddy for the Taliban.
    The final US report on Iraq's weapons' programs came out, with the conclusion that sanctions worked, that Iraq had destroyed its prohibited weapons by the early to mid 1990s,  had little capability of reconstituting them, that Saddaam was bluffing Iran and the West by being ambiguous. Yet Bush and the Puppet-master claim support from it, as in "See, they did have WMD! Saddaam says he'd build more when sanctions were lifted!"
The NYT briefly mentions that international U.N. inspectors have concluded that nuclear-related material and equipment has been looted from Iraq sites. That includes "whole buildings." As a longer wire piece notes, after the invasion the U.S. would not let inspectors in. There have been reports of looting since shortly after the invasion. But nobody gives significant coverage to this latest wrinkle.
    I think the obvious rebuttal to the charge of Kerry flip-flopping (whether he does or not) would have been to charge Bush directly with lying about or grossly exaggerating the evidence about Iraq's capabilities and intentions. (So Kerry could claim to have supported the war when there seemed to be a reason for it, and back off when it  was becoming clear it was bogus, a la Gulf of Tonkin, USS Maine in Havana.) That didn't happen, because Kerry has bought into the whole bullshit "war on terror." My suggestion that Kerry use this idea was met with a request for money.
    Obviously there is terrorism, much of it directed against American interests, and we need to deal forcefully with it. But it's reasonable to think this administration has made it much worse. And look at it this way: 3000 were killed on 9/11: a major tragedy for us, a major coup for bin Laden. But as a disaster, it's pocket change: Haiti lost about as many in one hurricane this year, Sudan has killed perhaps 70,000 of its own citizens this year, the US has killed 10,000 to 20,000 Iraqis; untold thousands are being murdered in Congo, AIDS and malaria are killing millions. Here's a list of 20th century natural disasters.
    At home,  36,000 died from the flu last year, and around 33,000 in traffic crashes (see interesting facts). What do we do about those things? We pass safety laws and do medical research. We don't abolish the Constitution, ban driving, or invade Hong Kong. The "War on Terror" has a lot more to do with domestic politics than any politician admits.  430,000 Americans are killed per year by tobacco. Shall we hunt down and kill the tobacco execs? (Yes!)
    The Dept of Homeland Security is an incompetent boondoggle so far, opposed by the administration (because it's a change, and because the Dems were behind it,) but supported by most of the pols (because there's patronage or just jobs to be had, and it's an American obsession to "do something".) Civil rights are typically surrendered in a war, real or not, which suits most of the 'wingers.  Years later, if we survive this bunch, we'll have another hangover about it, like we did with the Red Scare and McCarthyism.

    On another front, I drove from Massachusetts to Virginia and back this month, with plenty of opportunity to observe and ponder. By far the most dangerous drivers, weaving in and out at high speed with inches to spare, were in Connecticut and New Jersey, including a NJ cop. The electronic toll transponders are great, given the existence of toll highways - you can use the same transponder in at least Mass., NY, NJ, Penn., Del. and Md. There were far more tractor-trailers than I'm used to on the highway, even though I'm on the Mass Pike every day. The car makers probably have libraries full of research on the reasons why we buy one kind of vehicle over another. Hummers are a status symbol for those with lots more money than taste or conscience. Giant luxury pickup trucks seem even more ridiculous to me - too expensive, shiny and low-riding to take to a genuine blue-collar job, but still with those pretensions to being useful. Cadillac pickup trucks? What hideous monstrosities! With the hard "tonneau covers" over what used to be the cargo space.  All made possible by the special tax subsidy for gas guzzlers. Now the pickups have room to seat several people, plus a useless "cargo space," when the sensible thing would be to buy a nice van in the first place. I guess vans don't just have the rural, c'boy, macho image. There's some connection with this: when Ross Perot was running for president, virtually ALL of his bumper stickers were on pickup trucks.
"I honestly believe I'd make one of the worst elected officials in the history of this country." - Ross Perot, 1969. Of course, he didn't know George W. Bush then.

Will Asscroft arrest the perpetrators of this disloyalty? It's one of several in Philadelphia.
Peace flag

No educated man stating plainly the elementary notions that every educated man holds about the matters that principally concern government could be elected to office in a democratic state, save perhaps by a miracle. His frankness would arouse fear, and those fears would run against him; it is his business to arouse fears that will run in favor of him. - H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
Bush desertedThe "Swiftboat Veterans for Vile Bullshit" are literally accusing Kerry of treason! Seems like their parole officers and psychiatrists ought to step in. What are they hiding?

Congress extended Bush's "tax cuts" for the middle class, $143B, with Republicans adding $13B for the rich and refusing $7B for the poor. "It's an election year," say the Democrats, refusing to bring up the record deficits.

Since the neocon chickenhawks have decided that the US can pre-emptively go to war, how about a little truth in government: let's change the inoperative name of "Defense Department" back to "War Department."

Good news, if late: so far 32 associates of Tom Delay, the rabid Texan, have been indicted for money laundering  and other crimes associated with his gerrymandering of congressional districts. And the Enron trials are beginning.

Note to Rep. James McGovern: Today's news has a story about a federal ban on secret video recording. Is it really as complete a ban as described? It will more of a crime to photograph a crime being committed than to commit the crime? Why not ban still cameras too? Or all human activity?
Story: House passes bill making video voyeurism a crime
WASHINGTON - Calling video voyeurism the new frontier of stalking, the House yesterday approved legislation to make it a crime to secretly photograph people, often for lascivious purposes.
     Under the legislation passed by voice vote, video voyeurism on federal lands would be punishable by a fine of not more than $100,000 or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
     Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the issue of surreptitious videotaping has become "a huge privacy concern" with the miniaturization of technology and the proliferation of cell phone cameras. Secretly photographing people in a compromising position is against the law in some states, but there is no federal law.
Presumably the Feds will be free to snoop whenever they want, but citizens will always be under threat, particularly when the Feds are doing something they shouldn't.
Response: AP got it badly wrong, or the Worcester Telegram truncated it incompetently: the ban applies to spying on people disrobed, when they have an expectation of privacy.

My new bumper stickers:
Bush & Cheney:
terrorist recruiters

support the troops
impeach Bush
  Thinking about bumper stickers: how many remember the innocent days of the 80s, when it was just a pointed political comment to publicly display "shoot Bush first"? Then Ray-gun got shot, and the Secret Service became Gestapo, and these days it would just be drastically counterproductive. My father voted for Reagan-Bush, knowing Reagan was a moron, on the grounds that George I was competent. (Yeah, well, these things are relative.) Then George I chose fly-weight Quayle as his VP, partly to insure the right-wing wouldn't take him (George) out. And Cheney was installed because there had to be some "there" there, with Dubya having no experience or competence at anything (the "dick for brains" strategy).
    Senators have usually been unsuccessful at running for President, apparently because they actually have voting records and positions on issues.

Any other whore in 2004

(I didn't write this, although I wish I had, and please feel free to pass it along.)
G. W. Bush Resume

This page got quite large so I split it in half Feb 2006
The section from 8/2000- 9/15/2004 is still readable, not that many people will.