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Friday, December 30, 2005

Memorable Bushisms from 2005

--"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda," Bush said in explaining his communications strategy last May.

-- "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" Bush asked in a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting in September.

-- "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said in Brussels last February.

-- "In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible - whatever that means," the president said of his timeframe for passing Social Security legislation in March.

-- "Those who enter the country illegally violate the law," Bush said in describing illegal immigrants in Tucson, Arizona, last month.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

UN and Halliburton

The United States has always complained about the corruption and inefficiency of the United Nations. That has often formed the basis for not paying our dues to the organization. President Bush might want to sit down and calculate the enormous amount of graft and corruption related to the war in Iraq. According to a recent article in Harpers (January 2006,) fully half of the U.N.'s budget could be "paid out of Halliburton graft alone."

Ten Commandment stats

From Harper's Index December 2005

Number of Alabama state senators co-sponsoring a bill last summer to "protect" public displays of the Ten Commandments: 10

Number of them who could list the Commandments: 1

Perhaps they should "protect" one in their homes.

Bruce Springsteen on Bush

"... We forget that every adult was brought up on fairy tales so it's natural to go on and, politically for example, want to believe that your President is a nice, honest man. The inability to turn to an adult perspective once you get to the age where you have some political weight is a great tragedy, and this is a period of history when it seems the most obvious type of disguise is on display to the entire world and yet those are the people who are still in power."

Mojo, January 2006

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Jesus Without The Miracles:

Jefferson, perhaps in a fit of pique after the lambasting he received at the hands of religionists during the election of 1800, took his copy of the New Testament and cut out everything except the words of Jesus. These he published as a book entitled, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He extracted the "diamonds from the dunghill." His idea was to focus on what the man said rather than the "myths surrounding his life. Reading the dazzling miracles of Matthew and Luke one can find the actual teachings to be rather mundane. Christianity has been hijacked by the religionists who would have us achieve "eternal salvation from this world than with any desire to practice the teachings of Jesus while we are here."

Jefferson's Bible reveals Jesus's teachings in a short list; a list that we would all be wise to follow and practice:
Be Just
Treat others as you would be treated
Work for peaceful resolutions, even if it means returning violence with compassion
Material things have no value
Do not judge
Do not bear grudges
Be modest and unpretentious
Be generous for generosity's sake, not because you expect to be repaid.

"Stop talking about righteousness and be righteous." George, are you paying attention?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm Disappointed

Tragic that I did not make Bill O'Reilly's hit list. (It's pretty puny, actually.) The poor fellow seems to be self-destructing. First the suggestion that if terrorists struck San Francisco no one should help them (Link), then the hit list of media and Internet cites that are out to get him. Ever since he settled with the producer he had abused and harassed, he seems to have gone off the deep end. I see his site is now even selling O'Reilly clothing. He and Pat Robertson should just realize they have early Alzheimer's and check into the nearest nursing home -- assuming O'Reilly could keep his hands off the nurses.

Related links: Think Progress,

Another question: Why has the World Bank become the dumping zone for architects of failed war policies? First McNamara and now Wolfowitz.

Newspaper Circulation Continues to Slide

The newspaper industry has reported another substantial drop in daily circulation. (Link) As usual the Internet has again been assigned the blame. William Falk, editor of The Week has a different view: ". . . the cause of death will not be the Internet. It will be suicide. Newspapers still make tons of money: the industry's average profit margin is 20 percent, compared to 7 percent for oil companies, and 6 percent for the entire Fortune 500. But the mammoth corporations that now run newspapers have responded to the new competitive challenges in the stupidest possible way: by cutting quality. They're eliminating foreign bureaus, investigative reporting teams, and experienced editors, filling their pages with shallow filler and bland features. Ambitious reporting and edgy writing are disappearing. Once great newspapers . . . are now flat and generic; their authority is leaking away. The corporate guys, who think only of pleasing Wall Street, keep cutting costs and boosting profits, and wringing their hands in puzzlement when circulation keeps going down. Guess what, guys? People stop buying newspapers when there's nothing in them they don't already know."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The issue of celibacy for priests is really silly. It was first required by the Second Lateran Council in 1139 -- that is they declared clerical marriages invalid -- because they did not want the children of priests to inherit church property. St. Peter, the first pope, was married and to suggest there is an theological foundation is simpy fallacious. Lawrence Young, in Full Pews and Empty Altars, predicts the Catholic Church will lose another 16,000 priests by 2015. More than 3,000 parishes in this country have no full-time priest currently. Time for Benedict to wake up and smell the coffee.

So Now Who's Degrading Marriage?

The Rev. Joseph DeRose of the Evangel Christian Church in Roseville, Michigan married two dogs. Apparently the dogs were great friends and the owners, next door neighbors, wanted to make it legal. And they were worried about gay marriage. So who inherits the milkbones? And can they get a divorce, if Gracie decides to hump the Great Dane moving in next week?


Monday, November 28, 2005

Democracy and Iraq

Bush is at it again, promoting democracy in China. If he really believed in democracy, he would have the American presence put on the ballot in the December Iraqi elections. If the Iraqis want us to stay, fine, even I would support them remaining. If not, we should leave. The fact is that Bush only wants democratic elections when he wins. George: Can you spell republic?

Steve Chapman link.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Evolution Again

A recent NPR program on how evolution is taught (link) chastened some of the relief and joy at the news that Dover Pennsylvania voters turned out the entire school board for their ridiculous efforts to require teaching Intelligent Design as part of the curriculum.

Torture and Morality

We used to be a "moral" country. For all our religiosity, the spectacle of the Vice-president of the United States pleading for an exception for the CIA to John McCain's legislation that would ban the use of torture by the United States and its agencies strikes me as nothing short of satanic.

For more on the CIA spooks and their interrogation technizques in Iraq -- and the murder of one of the suspects -- see the November 14m, 2005 issue of The New Yorker

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Shake and Bake"

The Army's Field Artillery Magazine issue of Mr/Ap 2005 revealed that the controversial weapon "white phosphorous" is known in the field by a rather unpleasant euphemism: shake and bake.

The army is trying desperately to dig itself out of a hole. Chemical weapons are considered anathema but incendiary shells, when targeted at combatants are not. They originally claimed they weren't using the stuff. When that mendacity was exposed, they insisted the shells were used only for illumination. If that's the case, however, it is considered a chemical weapon because of the way it combusts. Then they said it was used to target enemy combatants.

It's a particularly heinous weapon because it burns flesh quite readily and can't be put out with water, hence the nasty euphemism.

Again a leader taking the moral high ground, the United States, refused to sign the Convention on Conventional Weapons that banned white phosphorous because, of course, we wanted to use it. Does the name Hitler spring to mind?

Shades of napalm and Vietnam.

11/22/05 Follow-up

A Pentagon report noted the use of phorphorous "chemical" weapons being used against the Kurds by Saddam Hussein in 1991. According to one source, these are the same weapons we are now using in Iraq ourselves, but claiming they are not "chemical" but "incendiary."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

P.J. O'Rourke on Flying

"As a stimulating adventure, flying nowadays ranks somewhere between appearing in traffic court and going to Blockbuster with the DVD of Shrek that my toddler inserted into the toaster."

Crap Cars

There was a review of Richard Porter's new book Crap Cars (SF Chronicle, Sunday November 20) has some very funny lines. For example, his comments on the Hummer H1:

Imagine if there'd been some sort of hideous Pentagon mess-up and someone had decided that the Army would go into battle driving a fleet of Camrys. . . .So why in the name of all that's holy is it somehow acceptable to cruise down to the mall in a military vehicle?"

On the Geo Metro convertible: "Don't buy a car that's smaller and indeed less comfortable than your shoes."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

O'Reilly, Robertson, et al

Excellent column in the San Francisco Chronicle by Mark Morford regarding Bill O'Reilly's idiotic comments regarding the destruction of San Francisco. Some quotes:

"It's almost too easy. He's too easy a target, really, Bill O'Reilly of the casually toxic Fox News, too bloviated and too silly and too undercooked, and no one whose opinion you truly value or with an IQ higher than their waist size actually watches him with anything resembling intellectual honesty or takes anything he says the slightest bit seriously. You hope.

Especially when he, like Pat Robertson ranting about how gays caused Sept. 11 or that Dover, Pa., is now a doomed and godless hell pit, given how the town fired every single one the imbecilic, intelligent design-supporting Repubs from the school board, especially when Billy goes off his nut once again and essentially wishes al Qaeda would attack San Francisco, well, it is up to us to merely look at him like Shiva looks at a sea slug -- i.e., a moment of compassion for his regrettable incarnation -- and then laugh and shake our heads and move the hell on.

Here's the takeaway, the only thing you need to know: Bill O'Reilly is a walking, snorting cautionary tale. For those of us who occasionally tread similar terrain of barbed political commentary (tempered, I hope, with satire and hope and sex and humor and fire hoses of divine juice), he is the Grand Pariah, the threshold, the Place You Do Not Want To Go as an intellectually curious human soul. He is the guy you can always look to, no matter how bad it gets, and say, Wow, at least I'm not him.

In a way, we should be grateful for O'Reilly and Robertson and Limbaugh and Coulter and their slime-slinging ilk. They live in those black and nasty psycho-emotional places, so we don't have to. They show us how ugly we can be, how poisonous and ill, so we may recoil and say, Whoa, you know what? I think I need to be more gentle and less judgmental and kinder to those I love. BOR works an inverse effect on anyone with a vibrant and active soul -- he makes us better by sucking all the grossness into himself and blowing it out via a TV channel no one of any spiritual acumen really respects anyway. "

Right on, Mark.

Neocon idealism v realism

There is a very interesting article in the October 31, 2005 issue of the New Yorker ("Breaking Ranks") It describes the disconnect between Brent Scowcroft, long-time friend of the Bush family and in particular Bush, the father. Scowcroft pushed very hard for Bush to respond to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, but he was also adamant about not going into Baghdad to get Saddam. His reasoning was that once there, leaving would be very difficult. "What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' -- but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?"

His philosophical foreign policy basis could be described as realistic as opposed to the neocons, who take a moralistic view of the world. The realists value stability and require a rationale for the use of force. "I'm not a pacifist. I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Realists believe you have to deal with the world as it is; the utopian moralists believe you have to remake the world in our image, much as Wilson's "making the world safe for democracy." J. Q. Adams would represent to opposing view that believes America stands for freedom and independence, but "she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

Cheney et al have adopted the position of Bernard Lewis who has argued that the Arabs only respect force and you have to hit them "between the eyes with a big stick." Once democracy has been imposed on the renegade nation, however, the dilemma, according to Scowcroft, becomes support for elections that might not go our way. He cites Egypt as the classic case. If Mubarak were to go away and free elections held, "the bad guys are going to win that election. The bad guys are always better organized. Always." Then we find ourselves in the position of having to overturn the results of a free election -- not that that has ever stopped us before.

One of the big differences Scowcroft has observed between the administration of the first Bush and the son's is that the son does not want to hear alternative consequences of actions, whereas the first sought out discussion and multiple viewpoints. That he suggests may lead to destruction. Ours.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mirror to America

John Hope Franklin devoted his life to the history of the United States evolution of racism. His 1947 From Slavery to Freedom laid the groundwork for much of the scholarship in African-American history. He worked to supply Thurgood Marshall with the historical scholarship needed to win in the Brown v Board of Education case.

Following Pearl Harbor, Franklin had tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He had already earned a PhD from Harvard in history and thought he could be useful to the war effort. He was told that he qualified only as a cook or cleaner of latrines. Even the U.S. Army, which was busy recruiting historians to report on the war effort could find no use for him.

Most of us who celebrated the Civil Rights movement like to believe that we've moved beyond the shackles of the early twentieth century in the way we interact with black Americans. So it was disheartening to read in Hope's recent biography, Mirror to America, of an incident that took place at a Washington, D.C. party in 1995. Franklin had just been awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At the party, a white woman, "called me out, presented me with her coat check, and ordered me to bring her coat." Of course, it could be the woman, who must have been completely ignorant of why there was a party in the first place, was just a stupid moron, but it does make one wonder how far we have yet to go. Then again, perhaps that line is just another example of middle-class WASP paternalism.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Kansas: They Probably Think Dorothy Still has the Slippers, too.

The news from Kansas is so silly. In its retrograde insistence that "Intelligent Design" be taught alongside with the theory of evolution, the religious luddites fail to realize how damaging this all ultimately will be to religious freedom for the mixing of politics with religion inevitably leads to a form of official recognition for a particular orthodoxy that enlightened religious leaders fear. (An excellent book on the subject of religious orthodoxy and heresy is Blasphemy by Leonard Levy.

For recent articles related to science, evolution, intelligent design, and the appaling unintelligenc e of the American People see (link).

"It is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American People." H.L. Mencken

For a Link to National Science Foundation response to the soon-to-be-published Kansas Board of Ed. Report.

Blogger's comment:

: "This grows more depressing. As a National Merit Science Scholarship finalist during the heyday of science in the classrooms, it never occurred to me that the United States educational system could revert to a 15th century religious tapestry.
Is it purely a lack of the ability to think (47% Americans think that the sun revolves around the earth), or is it due to the fear of the consequences and difficult choices science can bring -- a desire to return to the Luddites?"

Sunday, October 23, 2005

U.S. Comptroller Warns the Deficit Could be Worse than a Category 6 Hurricane

David Walker, The U.S. Comptroller has been speaking across the country about the looming scenario that the federal debt could reach 600% of the GNP in 40 years. Audio and story are available from Minnesota Public Radio. (Link)

WMD analysis and the media elite

Excellent review of who knew what when regarding certain journalists and weapons of mass destruction. The fact remains our democracy has been ill-served by the mainstream media.

Additional comments from Margaret Orth on the media elite and how they have failed us.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Some Nifty Thrillers

I actually don't like the term thriller to describe a book, but when books don't seem to fit in the "mystery" category, there doesn't seem to be a sensible option for three books I very much enjoyed.

Zero Option by P.T. Deutermann describes massive governmental screw-ups that come close to causing a chemical weapons disaster. Dave Stafford, a Department of Defense Criminal Investigator, has been sent to investigate irregularities at a DMRO (place where old weapons are sent to be destroyed or rendered useless.) He stumbles on a frightening scenario. A cylinder containing "wet-eye" has been sent in error to the DMRO. The manager there, Carson, seeing a way to make a huge pile of money has removed the cylinder from the inventory list and offered it for sale on the black market. "Wet-eye" is a chemical and biological mix that does not kill, but renders blind anyone who comes in contact with it; their eyes melt in a rather horrible manner.

The army can't reveal it has lost a chemical weapon and the FBI we later learn was proposing to buy the item in a sting operation. No one can tell anyone else what is going on. Soon we have interlocking cover-ups and it all gets quite confusing. I suspect, the lack of inter-agency cooperation portrayed by Deutermann probably reflects reality, a truly scary thought. My only complaint with this page-turner is the use of a "psychic" teenager as a plot device, a cheap way and convenient device. Good book, nevertheless.

Blood Work by Michael Connelly, one of my favorite authors, brings back Terry McCaleb, ex-FBI agent who discovers a link between the murders of three individuals. He is brought into the case by the sister of one of the victims. McCaleb has a special interest in finding her killer because her death resulted in a heart becoming available for him; he was the recent recipient of a heart transplant.

Connelly has created a new character for his most recent work, Lincoln Lawyer, which, according to reviews, is first-rate. I'm looking forward to it.

P.T. Deutermann has also written Darkside, an excellent legal mystery. A midshipman at the Naval Academy is found dead, an apparent suicide, having jumped from a six-story window. He was wearing the panties of Julie Markham, a senior about to graduate. Her father, a history professor at the academy hires a sharp criminal lawyer, Liz DeWinter, to defend Julie when the Academy investigators begin to wonder about the connections she might have had with the deceased. Jim Hall, Annapolis security chief, begins a parallel investigation into weird events in the steam tunnels. Soon the investigations converge leading to an unlikely suspect. "Darkside" is the nickname given by plebes to the administration; it's also a metaphor for other goings-on. . .

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Train Driving and John McPhee

John McPhee has long been one of my favorite essayists. He just seems to write about things of interest to me. You may remember a review I wrote several months ago about his article in The New Yorker about barge traffic on the Illinois River. Apparently, that article, one I just finished related to coal trains (The New Yorker, October 3 and 10, 2005,) and several others with a transportation theme will be published as a book in the spring of 2006. I can hardly wait.

I have always been consumed by curiosity about what it's like to do different things so Driver: Six Weeks in an Eighteen-Wheeler, reviewed previously, and McPhee's coal and barge articles have been difficult to put down.

Driving a train would seem simple enough: you push the lever forward and off you go. Not so. Coal trains, of which just one power plant in Georgia requires 3 fully loaded trains per day to keep running, are usually more than one and one-half miles long and weigh 34,000 tons. They are by far the heaviest trains on the rails. The train is so long that the engine in front (these trains must have engines in front and back and often in the middle as well to adjust the strain on the couplers) will often be applying the brakes going down hill while the engines in back are pushing the cars still going up the other side of the rise. They can't go up hills, per se. A slop of even 1.5% makes the engines work hard.

Twenty-three thousand coal trains leave the Powder River basin every year; that's thirty-four thousand miles of rolling coal in a never ending stream of coal for power plants. The Powder River basin coal generates less heat, i.e. fewer BTU's than eastern coal, but it has a much lower sulfur content so following stricter environmental regulations eastern mines have been dying while western ones are thriving. That's where the railroads come in.

Plant Scherer in Georgia, a large power plant, usually has a one-million-ton pile of coal in reserve. To understand the revived interest in nuclear power, that pile generates the equivalent of one truckload of mined uranium. "To get a million BTUs, fuel oil costs nine dollars (before recent price increases,) natural gas six dollars, coal one-dollar-eighty-five, and nuclear fifty cents."

"Plant Scherer burns the contents of thirteen hundred coal trains per year -- two thousand miles of coal cars, twelve million tons of the bedrock of Wyoming." The plant requires twelve thousand acres to store, process and burn the coal. Think about that the next time you turn the lights on.

For an interview with McPhee see (link.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I want this guy to be my lawyer

Talk about loopholes! Apparently, a defense lawyer reasoned, because it was illegal to be married again while to were already married, any subsequent marriage was invalid and therefore bigamy was impossible. Classic. Here's the story:

September 27, 2005 - You can't get married if you're already married.
That's the legal loophole that has led Virginia authorities to drop bigamy charges against Charles Hicks. Court records show he was married to seven women over the last 40 years.
Officials say he got hitched three times while married to someone else. But under Virginia law, the marriages are invalid. Hicks later divorced wife number-five and officials say therefore, his marriage to wife seven is legal.
However, prosecutors say they may file additional charges.
The 61-year-old Hicks is a former Naval Postgraduate School administrator and now works for the Army Publishing Directorate.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

George Will: "The President Has Forfeited His Right To Be Trusted As A Custodian Of The Constitution"... | The Huffington Post

When George Will starts writing like this.....

"Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.

"In addition, the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law expanding government regulation of the timing, quantity and content of political speech. The day before the 2000 Iowa caucuses he was asked -- to ensure a considered response from him, he had been told in advance that he would be asked -- whether McCain-Feingold's core purposes are unconstitutional. He unhesitatingly said, "I agree." Asked if he thought presidents have a duty, pursuant to their oath to defend the Constitution, to make an independent judgment about the constitutionality of bills and to veto those he thinks unconstitutional, he briskly said, "I do." "

The president has some serious issues to resolve.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

More on Hoaxes, e.g. intelligent design

Shamelessly borrowed from the newsletter of the Skeptic's Dictionary:

Earlier this month, Daniel Dennett wrote an op ed piece for the New York Times. Dennett wrote, among other things, that intelligent design (ID) may be "one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science."

The proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.
Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic.

It gets better. The anti-evolutionist folks at the Discovery Institute sent out a press release recently that says, among other things, that

While the Discovery Institute opposes efforts to mandate the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it even more strongly objects to the ACLU's Orwellian efforts to shut down classroom discussions of intelligent design through government-imposed censorship....The courts should not be used to censor scientific ideas or instruct scientists and educators in what are legitimate avenues of scientific research....The debate over evolution should be decided through scientific discussion and debate, not by gag orders imposed by the courts.

So, after you have created a controversy where there is none, you can now claim that those who oppose teaching your side of the controversy are enemies of free speech and of science itself! Never mind that the idea you are advocating did not emerge in the free-for-all debates among evolutionary scientists but came from outside the mainstream of scientific investigation, publication, and argument. Never mind that the view you are advocating is the quintessential anti-scientific viewpoint: (1) You claim science cannot now and never will be able to explain how some part of the biological world evolved; (2) you claim to have an explanation for the item science cannot explain; and, (3) you claim that your pathetic, fallacy-ridden metaphysical explanation is actually scientific.

The main goal of the anti-evolutionists is to discredit evolution. They have waged a very sophisticated and clever war against evolution. Granted, their task was made easier by the fact that about 20% of adult Americans are so scientifically illiterate they think the sun revolves around the earth once a day. If anything is Orwellian, it is the way the anti-evolutionists have convinced many politicians, school board members, and a good percentage of the general public that anti-science is science and that the anti-science is "a legitimate avenue of scientific research" and should be taught in the science classroom. It is just this side of brilliant the way the leaders of the anti-evolution (AE) movement have hoodwinked millions of people. On the Orwellian scale, the AE terrorization of evolution ranks right up there with what Republicans did to the word 'liberal' over the past thirty years. That campaign was so successful that liberals have given up and are now calling themselves "progressives." (See George Lakoff's essay "Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust." Better yet, read his book Don't Think of an Elephant.)

If anything is Orwellian, it is the notion that ID is a scientific theory that challenges natural selection. ID "researchers" have only two moves, both completely predictable and neither leading anywhere. One is to claim that something like the bacterium's flagellum can't be explained scientifically and that the best explanation is that an intelligent designer put the parts of the flagellum together. When scientists explain how the parts of the flagellum evolved and came together, the anti-evolutionists ignore the explanation and find some other scientific puzzle to declare scientifically insolvable except by appeal to an intelligent designer. This lateral process can go on for at least as long as there is life on earth. There is no light at the end of this tunnel; there is only more darkness. The other move is vertical. The anti-evolution "researcher," instead of finding more puzzles and declaring them insolvable until they're solved, can ask questions about the alleged intelligent designer. How intelligent must the designer be? Does its intelligence have to be infinite or would a finite amount of smarts be enough to pull off the task at hand? It would have to be very powerful, too. But how powerful would the designer have to be? Would it have to be omnipotent? Or, would a finite amount of power be sufficient to put the parts together? Could the designer have been designed? If so, who or what designed the designer? Will we ultimately be led by our intellectual musings to the undesigned designer? And, where did the designer get the parts? Could they have occurred naturally or would they need a creator? This vertical process is vaguely reminiscent of thousands of years of philosophical gibberish that has not led to a single item of scientific interest. Orwellian? If not, give me a synonym.

As most of you already know, there is a case in federal court involving a suit by several parents against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board. Last October, the Dover Area School Board voted 6-3 to add “Intelligent Design Theory” to the district’s biology curriculum. A month later, the board changed its mind and instead said it would require teachers to read the following statement to all biology students:

The state standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and to eventually take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book 'Of Pandas and People,' is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.
The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life up to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses on the standards and preparing students to be successful on standards-based assessments.

Eleven parents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the school board for requiring biology teachers to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to the scientific theory of natural selection. The trial began September 26th in Harrisburg federal court.

Even if the ACLU wins in Dover (which they probably will), it will be a small and short-lived victory. The cry of persecution will be heard throughout the land. What are the evolutionists afraid of? Why won't let their view be challenged? No matter how anyone responds to the anti-evolutionists, their case is made: the controversy grows. If the anti-evolutionists win the case, they win and if they lose the case they win.

A few years ago I reported on a session that took place at the World Skeptic's Conference in Los Angeles. The session featured Ken Miller, evolutionist and scientist for the plaintiffs in Dover, and William Dembski, Christian apologist for ID. I noted that the session was billed as Evolution vs. Intelligent Design and commented "Was this going to be a contest with a winner and a loser? If so, then we need no debate and should declare ID the winner. Why? Because 'vs.' implies they are competitors and the main point of the ID movement right now is to get people to believe that ID is a scientific theory that is in competition with natural selection." I stand corrected: the main point is to conjure up negative thoughts and feelings whenever the word 'evolution' is used. I now doubt that the ID folks really care whether ID is taught anywhere. (What is there to teach, anyway?) The main goal is, and always has been, to discredit evolution.

Our illustrious governor hasn't weighed in on the anti-evolution issue, but California's Superintendent of Public Education, Jack O'Connell, has: "Our state has been recognized across the country and around the world for the quality and rigor of our academic standards. Just like I will fight tooth and nail to protect California's high academic standards, I will fight to ensure that good science is protected in California classrooms." Translated: no anti-evolution here!

Life's Lovely Little Ironies

Remember Ashley Smith, the lady who subdued escaped killer Brian Nichols to surrender by reading to him from The Purpose Driven Life, a Christian best-seller? (Link) Well, it so happens that she gave him some crystal meth from her private stash, too. Guess they both got high on something other than Christian values. The revelations, that came in her recently released memoir, will reportedly not affect the $72,000 she received in rewards. (Link)

Blood Done Sign My Name

A colleague of mine forwarded the following quote from Timothy Tyson's book. It's wonderful:

"When I was only three years old, Mama found me on the floor with a book pulled tightly against my face, sobbing hard. When she asked me why on earth I was crying, I told her, "Because I can't get in the book." Now, I could not read at that age. What had happened, really, is that my mother had read so many books to me, so vividly, so beautifully, that I expected to be able to pick up the book and plunge instantly into beautiful depths of the imagination, and was disappointed that I could not. In later years, of course, I found exactly that kind of satisfaction in books, and I owe all that to Mama. Martha Buie Tyson stands like a tree beside the river of our lives, giving shade and sustenance, and teaching all of us by example."

(pg 355)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

National Review Celebrates 50 yrs of Buckley

The National Review is planning a big bash to celebrate 50 years. A colleague of mine ran across some material published by Buckley's rag in the fifties that should make them blush with shame (a doubtful but surely enjoyable occasion). See the article in American Renaissance, but also consider the following:

A famous example of the early NR stance on race was an unsigned
editorial of August 24, 1957, titled "Why the South Must Prevail." It
was almost certainly written by Mr. Buckley, since he uses similar
language in his book Up From Liberalism. The editorial argued against giving blacks the vote because it would undermine civilization in the South:

"The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White
community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are
necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it
does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists."

"National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority."

"The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. . . . Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function."

The use of certain words (obtrudes) shouts that it was written by Buckley himself. I've been listening to his autobiography (in short doses) and the sense of privilege that obtrudes and exudes is saddening and breathtaking. I fail to understand why we celebrate this guy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A New Zen and the Art...

Several years ago, I read a wonderful book entitled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It became somewhat of a cult classic and while ostensibly the peregrinations of a father and his son, was as much a philosophical meditation on what constitutes quality.

Driver: Six Weeks in an Eighteen-Wheeler by Phillip Wilson reminds me of that earlier book. Wilson, after numerous other careers, decided in his late forties that he'd like to become an over-the-road truck driver. This book is a quasi diary of the six week training period when he is paired with a driver who supposedly has more experience to learn the ropes. The company they work for is a good one, emphasizing safety and it's clear that Wilson has been trained well. One harrowing scene describes the instructor, referred to in the book as Trainer, takes the load 40-ton truck down a steep hill, realizing too late that he has picked the wrong gear. Wilson had warned him at the top that he was doing it wrong. Trainer stands on the brakes, Wilson watching the trailer brakes sending up clouds of smoke in the rear view mirror, fearing death is imminent. They make it down safely, only just, bail out of the cab fearing a fire; fortunately none occurs, but now they are faced with calling the company and requesting a repair to fix brake sets that are now seriously dangerous. Trainer makes a bad decision regarding the call. Wilson uses examples like this to muse on death, life, and recklessness.

I love Wilson's combination of detailed descriptions of how the trucks work, the minutiae of driving one of those rigs, the dangers and the satisfactions, and he has just the right combination of personal musings and philosophy and trip detail. Ultimately, it's a book about quality and interpersonal relationships, much like Pirsig's book.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Reinhold Niebuhr

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has an interesting essay in the September 18, 2005 issue of the New York Times Book Review. Niebuhr, one of the great religious icons of the twentieth century, has virtually disappeared from public discourse. Schlesinger suggests it may have to do with Niebuhr's disdain for the concept of "national innocence," a belief that can only be described as delusional as it pertains to the United States. "After all, whites coming to these shores were reared in the Calvinist doctrine of sinful humanity, and they killed red men, enslaved black men and later imported yellow men for peon labor -- not much of a background for national innocence."

Niebuhr postulated a duality of human nature that strikes me as almost Manichean: "creative impulses matched by destructive impulses." Humans also suffer from the desire to play God, or at least know what S/he has ordained. Man was basically sinful by nature, an idea I find personally repugnant, but a concept that led Niebuhr to become a strong advocate for democracy. "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."

He recognized the messianic impulses inherent in American political and social culture, a trend that threatened to "abolish the unfathomable distance between the Almighty and human sinners." Americans have become fanatics who do "what [they] think the Lord would do if only He knew the facts of the case." "There is no greater human presumption than to read the mind of the Almighty, and no more dangerous individual than the one who has convinced himself he is executing the Almighty will."

As both sides of warring camps proclaim to know God's will, it is important to remember what Lincoln said, "The Almighty has His own purposes. "

Then again, maybe it's all just random events and God has already washed His hands of the whole experiment.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dr. Dobson's latest.

Helping Boys Become Men, and Girls Become Women: Is My Child Becoming Homosexual?

September 8 2005 update:: Since I posted this originally, Dobson's site has removed the link, perhaps because of the firestorm of ridicule it received. The link above is not active. You can see what the basic comment was at the following site: Link

Evidences of gender confusion or doubt in boys ages 40 to 50 may include:

1. Repeatedly needing to rely on daddy to extract from trouble such as avoiding armed conflict in Viet Nam, failing oil companies and insider trading in dealing Harkins stock

2. Lost in Alabama in the past while campaigning

3. Putting of Flight Suit in front of "Mission Accomplished" banner to compensate for guilt for deserting service commitment

4. Walking through WH halls and in public appearances with phony Tex-ass Swagger

5. Uttering "bring ‘em on" in inappropriate circumstances

Focus on your own damn family.

Other comments shamelessly stolen from other critics:

"Goodness! Why all the chitchat about homosexuality? While the Bible tells us that God considers it an abomination, He also thinks the same about eating shellfish. Next time Dr. Dobson has clam chowder, or a shrimp salad, he should remember that God is relatively easy-going about what he puts in his mouth."

"I have seen Dr. Dobson on TV and want to know why when the subject is homosexuality, he never gets up from behind his desk?"

What do you suppose Dobson would say about a guy who wore sandals, wore his hair long, wore robes, and hung around with twelve guys?

"dear america,
I apologize for my pro-life stance. If I had only known.....

Posted by: james' mother at August 12, 2005 10:52 AM"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Here's what Rumsfield had to say about 2003

"'Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,' Rumsfeld said. Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. 'Stuff happens,' Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld: There's nothing wrong with a bit of looting 11 Apr 2003 The United States Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has tonight dismissed reports of mass chaos and lawlessness in Iraq as 'exaggerated'. 'The so-called looting is not as bad as some reports have suggested,' he said at a Pentagon briefing. 'Yes, people are ransacking hospitals, burning down buildings and fighting each other in the streets, but it's not that bad. Stuff happens.'"

Remarks by President Bush During Briefing on Hurricane Katrina

Remarks by President Bush During Briefing on Hurricane Katrina: "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)"

This is all such good fun. Trent Lott gets a new house and Bush gets to giggle. He is soooo out of touch.

Republicans Say Katrina Threatens To Undermine The Party's Long-Term Ambitions... | The Huffington Post

Sad but true that Bush did not even begin to respond until it became apparent that a political hurricane was brewing. As long as it was just a human tragedy he could have cared less.

We need a clean sweep of Congress in 2006, including the Democrats. They have all become way too cozy in Washington collecting money from special interests just to get reelected. Throw them all out.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Cost of the war in Iraq

The cost comparisons are staggering.

I'm all for this/

It's time to replace the word "fuck" with the word "bush" - but, of course, only in negative circumstances.

"Man, I really bushed up and got caught drunk driving."

"You piece of shit motherbusher!"

"That scumbag borrowed my car and got into an accident - now the engine is totally bushed."

"These priests have to stop bushing altar boys."

"The poor guy was raped in prison - some huge motherbusher bushed him in the ass."

SNABU - Situation Normal All Bushed Up

"John Wayne Gacy liked to bush young boys."

"The bushing Bushpigs bush up everything they bushing touch. Three more years of their bushing incompent bush-ups and the country will be totally bushed."

Posted by: MoeLarryAndJesus on September 03, 2005 at 06:16PM

More evidence of Dubya's satanic origins

George Walter BushJr {6 letters in each word} was born July "6th, 194"6", served "6" years as governor of Texas, was the 4"6"th governor of Texas, announced his intentions of seeking presidency in 1999....."666" governor of Texas he denied a plea for clemency from a "black death row female inmate" whom allegedly had repented and found "god"....he laughed and mocked her pleas for mercy on Texas television interview and let her die......but he did communte one death sentence as governor of Texas a serial killer named "Lucas" who allegedly killed 40+ and was unrepentent and a devil whorshiper! As a teenager Bush for fun blew up helpless frogs with firecrackers which experts would say is sign of future "serial killers" This is all available via any biographical research on Bush, now go too the bible and read the description of the "anti-christ" and how he will decieve many, preach peace but make war, lead a massive and all powerful army, and rise too power and bring world catastrophe.....! Is this all coincidence? Maybe but if one thinks Bush leads a compassionate christian movement then one is not reading the facts....and a act of nature/god has shown his true nature and humanity, he and his ilk the anti-christians who have fooled the masses are being slowly exposed, since the bible says if god did not shorten the beasts days mankind might not survive...! Only god knows the truth in this but the bible does say let he that hath wisdom see the signs....!

My compliments to the original anonymous poster.

Pizza and gasoline

Story posted today elswehere:


(Please read my story and think about it before you reply)

I went to a gas station yesterday; it cost me over $40 to top off my little car. Then I turned my head as I heard someone shouting at the gas pump. It was my ex co-worker. I remember he was in charge of the IT department. At that moment, he pressed the intercom button and started ranting to the station attendant. He yelled, “I should have never voted for that oil man in the White House. It’s my American right to get cheap fuel for my vehicle. How am I supposed to work and make a living? I demand lower fuel prices!”

I looked at his vehicle and it was the same Ford F-350, 4-Door, 4-Wheel Drive, Dual Rear Wheel, Super-Truck he bought about two years ago. I remember he told me that he needed a powerful truck to pull his RV trailer every summer and I remember that he actually did pull his RV, but only once or twice a year. I know having worked with him that he drove his dinosaur of a gas guzzler to work every day.

I was kind of scared to approach my friend, but I decided this might be a good time to share a little story I put together regarding oil consumption. I walked over and started chatting with my old buddy. Then I brought up my little story and he agreed to listen.

Pizza and Gasoline

Let’s imagine that gasoline was pizza. Ok, now let’s say that one day it became fashionable, cool, or macho for people to buy a large pizza and eat only one slice and throw the rest away. The new trend developed into a status symbol because it showed that you had plenty of disposable income. However, many of the trend followers would charge the pizza bill to their credit card in order to keep up with the Joneses.

Now imagine that if a family of five went to the pizzeria, they would order five large pizzas, one large pizza for each family member. Each member would eat only one slice from his pizza and throw the rest away. If anyone wanted a second slice they would have to order a second pizza. Now imagine this wastefulness compounded by the fact that over half of the pizza customers followed this new wasteful tradition. Can you imagine how long it would take for your pizza order to be ready not to mention all the extra waste?

Of course, there was still the 45 percent of the customer base that refused to follow the new trend, but they were looked down upon by the majority and often referred to as “DAMN TREE HUGGERS”.

Then I asked my friend, “How would you solve the pizza problem in my little scenario?”

My friend rebuked me by shouting, “I WOULD DRILL FOR MORE PIZZA! THAT’S THE AMERICAN WAY! ”

Then he climbed up and into the cab of his Luxury Mega Pickup and sped off into the city. I was still standing by the gas pump that he had just drained. I looked at the display and it read, One Hundred Five Dollars and Thirty Seven Cents.

Country’s Service Stations Running Out Of Gas…

President Bush calls for Americans to conserve gasoline

Posted by: pedro on September 03, 2005 at 05:06PM

Flip Flop I'm Satisfied /I'm Not Satisfied

Interestiing post to

What does it mean to be satisfied by the response but not satisfied by the result?

Does that have ANY MEANING AT ALL?

Let's say you're in business. You're manufacturing something and a problem comes up. Your man in charge has a response and the result is disaster.

So you say you're satisfied with the response but not satisfied with the result.

What does that MEAN ... except that whoever says that should be fired???

Posted by: rewinn on September 03, 2005 at 04:01PM

Halliburton Watch

When the jokes started circulating on the Internet about Halliburton being awarded no-bid contracts to begin rebuilding after Katrina, I laughed and thought no one could be that stupid - then I ran across this site. And guess what....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Open Letter from The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Absolutely wonderful satire.

Failure of Leadership

Watching the president the other night talk about a "temporary disruption," it became clear to me that he has no context in which to understand the depth of the human tragedy that occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi, nor any idea what to do about it. Remember, his comments were many days after the event and seemed to relate more to the price of gas that saving lives.

We are witnessing incompetence of the highest order of magnitude. A true leader would have declared a national emergency, requisitioned boats, busses, trains (except that he has gutted Amtrak -- but I suppose boxcars would have worked, too -- trucks, whatever, to haul supplies down there and bring people out on the way back. If the news media can move through town, then rescue workers ought to be able to also. Had the president acted quickly and decisively, the frustrations that lead to looting would have been greatly reduced.

When I hear about workers unable to communicate with each other because cell phones don't work and telephones are inoperable, my jaw drops. We have an extensive network of amateur radio operators who specialize in providing services in just this kind of emergency. Why weren't they mobilized by the president. How about military communications; surely they don't rely on cell phones to move troops around a battlefield. Why were the military's communications skills employed? No one appears to be in charge.

I could have personally driven to Louisiana and back from Illinois three times in the time it took for the president to realize even that we have a "temporary disruption." Surely, Mr. President, you can't be that callous and indifferent. If this were Law and Order, you would have been charged with depraved indifference.

It's also time to promote conservation, if only temporarily. Why don't we have some public statements about driving less on Labor Day to relieve pressure on supplies, even if they are temporary? Another failure to provide moral leadership, or, at worst, a complete lack of understanding.

If this had happened to Crawford Texas, you can bet the response would have been different. God forbid anything should prevent Bush from getting to his vacation spot.

The failure of leadership that has become so apparent is appalling.

Additional Link Link

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Enteron to Enron

In one of histories truly humorous stories, I recently read in Kurt Eichenwald's Conspiracy of Fools (a real page-turner) that when Ken Lay hired a firm of high-priced naming consultants to find a name for his new company, they originally proposed the name "Enteron." Now, anyone with a dictionary or half a brain knows that enteron is the word for the alimentary canal, i.e., the gastrointestinal tract that converts food and expels it as waste out the anus. Given that Lay's company's business was a natural gas pipeline perhaps the name was more appropriate than they at first thought.

After some raised eyebrows and further thought, they decided on Enron, a company that eventually produced a different form of smellier gas.

Ann Coulter: New Yorkers "Would Immediately Surrender" If Attacked... | The Huffington Post

I just love it when the nitwits self-destruct. Surely people will now realize Ann Coulter for what she is: a non-thinking media hound who will say anything to get on TV. It's time to stop pandering to her nonsense. Personally, I think she should put her body where her mouth is and enlist.

See Mark Green and Steven Brant for additional comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Has Pat been drinking too much of his joy juice?

According to the CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network,) Pat Robertson can leg press 2000 pounds and drinking it helps him defy age. (Link) (They use it as a site to collect donor information by offering the recipe, but you have to register.)

Pat's recent suggestion that we assassinate Venezuela's Chavez, (Link)a man elected with a substantial majority of the popular vote is somewhat puzzling given Pat's ostensible adherence to the display of the Ten Commandments. I guess he didn't realize he was supposed to read it too.

Pat's fondness for the military is suspect given his military duties. His father was a Senator who used his influence to keep Pat out of the Korean front lines. (Link) His job was to be the unit's liquor officer and he was well-known to sample the wares. I suspect the alcohol did more damage to his brain than his liver.

Our Sunday school lesson for this week is, "Who would Jesus assassinate?"

Reverse Domino Theory

The fear used to justify Vietnam was that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, all of southeast Asia would follow. It appears that Bush is trying to do the reverse, i.e., create a democracy in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East will follow. Political arrogance and hubris in the extreme. Israel has been a shining example of democracy for many decades, but no movement toward democracy has followed. Of course, it did not help that we supported Saddam in his battle against Iran and prior to that we kept the Shah in power in Iran until his popular overthrow, and we still support an anti-democratic Saudi Arabia. Our record is not good.

A Sea of Garbage

Elizabeth Royte decided one day to find out what happened to her garbage. The result is Garbage Land, a mesmerizing trip through the hidden, but necessary, side of the consumption society.

The waste stream has tripled since 1960, 4.3 pounds per person. In 2003, every American generated 1.31 tons of trash each year, about 2.5 times what a resident of Oslo, Norway produces.

P.S. Why are we so worried about the pecadillos of the president of the Boeing Company. I mean, who cares who he might be screwing. He's producing weapons of mass destruction, for heaven's sake. And in the meantime, the GAO reports that $9 billion has been lost in Iraq, not misspent, simply lost, unaccounted for. In the meantime, I say who cares who is screwing whom.

And isn't it fun listening to people bitch about the price of gas while sipping on a $4 latte?

You can't smoke a cigar, but you can drive through a restaurant spewing crap into the atmosphere?

Monday, August 22, 2005

David Rothkopf on the National Security Council

David Rothkopf is an expert on the history of the National Security Council. He was recently interviewed on KQED's Forum (available as a podcast.) His new book, Running the World, The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, sounds quite interesting.

The NSC was formed in 1947. It's an ill-defined group intended to advise the president. The personality of the president will often determine how well it works. The NSC came into its own under Eisenhower who appreciated serious debate of issues. Kissinger used his position at the NSC to great effect -- or perhaps excessive abuse -- putting the nation on a high DEFCON status -- something only the president should do -- just before Nixon's resignation.

Rothkopf reports seeing huge differences between the two Bush administrations. HW Bush was perhaps the most qualified person to run for president in many years having been Vice-President, CIA Director and a member of Congress. The meant he was uniquely positioned to understand how agencies interact and the value of rapport between different branches of government. W Bush had little experience and was beholden to ideologues with an agenda. Ideology is very dangerous to a successful foreign policy because it has little tolerance for debate and a variety of viewpoints.

"Congress is sick," states Rothkopf. The United States returns more incumbents to Congress than did the Russians to the Supreme Soviet! General elections don't matter. The only people interested in voting in primaries where candidates are chosen are the extreme left and right. They are the ones giving the money, which means the elected officials are beholden to groups with very narrow agendas. The center is no longer represented. Rather than discussing important policy issues, the debate centers on stem cell research or evolution. The media, meanwhile has failed in its informative role, by giving us a steady diet of Michael Jackson and girls lost in Aruba. Interesting perhaps, but ultimately irrelevant except to a very few.

Reform is impossible because Congress, while voting for change, always manages to retain control of its fiscal fiefdoms effectively canceling any meaningful change. Unless and until Congree is fixed nothing else can be done.

Monday, August 15, 2005



I just love words and this is one I have been trying to remember. It describes the experience of seeing a recognizable object as a distinct and recognizable image. For example, the face of Jesus in a burnt tortilla, or the face of Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich. (There's money in this stuff. The toast sold for $28,000 despite its being a little stale.)

A related word is apophenia. It has a slightly different meaning and is a recently created word (1958) "The propensity to see connections between seemingly unrelated objects or ideas most closely links psychosis to creativity ... apophenia and creativity may even be seen as two sides of the same coin."

Wow your friends the next time they see Pope Benedict in a mashed potato by describing their experience as a pareidoliac phenomenon. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Peace House a center of dissent in Crawford - Yahoo! News

Peace House a center of dissent in Crawford - Yahoo! News

Should you wish more information or to donate money, click here

Wondering where gas prices will be going?

EIA - Short Term Energy Outlook

Here are some data and forecasts. Read the paragraphs not just the graphs and you'll note that any one of a number of factors could throw all bets off, although the prediction through 2006 is for a continued rise in prices. Note that when adjusted for inflation, $2.75 per gallon gas is still cheaper than 1981 gas. A lot will depend on what the Chinese economy does. Pumping in the Middle East is already at historic highs and can not be increased, so demand will drive price.

And don't forget, to paraphrase a WW II poster, and Bill Maher, when you drive an SUV or alone, you are helping to support terrorism.

Why Focus On The Family is of the Devil: A Christian perspective - By Elroy

Why Focus On The Family is of the Devil: A Christian perspective - By Elroy

A rather different view of Dobson et al.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

We are a ridiculous people,

Some data:

1. Americans drink, on average, 24 gallons of bottled water per year (just less than soda.)
2. A gallon of bottled water costs more than a gallon of gasoline.
3. Taste tests show most people can't tell the difference between bottled water and tap water.
4. Tests show that bottled water is no cleaner than tap water from municipal systems.
5. Tap water is free and plentiful.
6. Bottled water consumes huge quantities of oil (for plastic) and energy (for shipping all the stuff.)
7. Millions of people around the water don't have clean water while we import it from France and Maine.
Do the world a favor. Next time you're thirsty use the water fountain.

Sources: (link) and (link) and (link)

It's been a very bad week for cows.

The airports in Nigeria seem to not understand the purpose of fences. A herd of cattle wandered on to a main runway at Port Harcourt just as an Air France jet was landing (bad week for Air France, too.) Seven cows were killed, the jet skidded off the runway, no one was injured, but a lot of people are very embarrassed.

In the San Joaquin Valley in California it seems cow flatulence and bad breath are a more serious source of pollution than automobiles. (link) "Every year, the average dairy cow produces 19.3 pounds of gases, called volatile organic compounds, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said. Those gases react with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, or smog. With 2.5 million dairy cows — roughly one of every five in the country — emissions of almost 20 pounds per cow mean that cattle in the San Joaquin Valley produce more organic compounds than are generated by either cars or trucks or pesticides, the air district said. The finding will serve as the basis for strict air-quality regulations on the region's booming dairy industry."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

If it's truly a war against terror...

Russia Bars ABC, Citing Interview With Chechen Rebel - New York Times

The double standards of the Bush administration are becoming more evident. Shamil Basayev has admitted being behind almost every terrorist attack against Russia including the siege of the Moscow theater where more than 200 children were killed. Yet the Bush administration remains strangely inactive. Bin Laden is still out there, Basayev is still out there... His obsession with Iraq is hurting our relations with our countries and weakening our national security.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The terror of an F-15

My son and I recently attended an airshow in Rockford. We both looked forward to watching and hearing the raw power of the military jets on display. An Air Force F-15 made some fantastic flybys using the immensely loud noise of the afterburner as the pilot shot skyward.

It terrified many of the younger children who burst into tears, clearly very frightened. That made me wonder of the effect such constant noise must be on children in war zones, from the noise of the jets whose pilots have no prohibitions against breaking the sound barrier, not to mention the constant assault of bombs on the senses.

I must admit to loving the technology and admiring the skill of the pilots, but what a shame all that effort goes toward killing people, many of them children. The chauvanistic jingoism of the announcers at the airshow began to wear thin after a couple of hours, too. When are we going to grow up.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Founding Fathers

The History Channel produced a vivid and riveting portrait of the Founding Fathers that is well worth watching. (Available from Netflix.) Consisting of four programs, it melds narration with enlightening comments from historians. It was very surprising to me to learn of the large role played by Samuel Adams, a failure at virtually everything else, without whom the revolution probably never would have taken place. He was part instigator, part terrorist, part propagandist and brilliant organizer who fired up Bostonians with the help and support of John Hancock. His likeness probably belons on a coin.

John Adams was very pessimistic before he arrived at the first Continental Congress. He despaired that there would be enough intelligence to pull it off. George Washington, despite his protests to the contrary that he did not want to become Commander in Chief of the armies, wore his French and Indian War (a war in which he hardly distinguished himself) colonel's uniform as a subtle reminder to the delegates of his military experience every day of the meetings. He just "happened" to have packed it for the trip.

The founders are revealed as humans who often did not get along. For me, that makes them all the more remarkable. We are already overwhelmed with too much hagiography and iconography in the schools. Some of that myth-making we owe to early 19th century historians who took great liberties in recording anecdotes and speeches that most likely never happened. (See, for example, the cherry tree story or the Patrick Henry famous quotes.) Reality is always more satisfying.

There are some lessons that are worth relearning. The British had overwhelming military and monetary superiority, if not even popular support -- and there is evidence that a majority disliked the idea of independence. Yet, the revolutionaries had location on their side. I can't think of an example where a foreign or colonial power has been able to win in the long run over a local insurgency because the locals know that, eventually, the distant power will have to leave. We failed to understand that in Vietnam and perhaps we will have to relearn it in Iraq.

While the programs have been criticized for being to short and leaving the viewers with more questions than answers, I find that to be one of the series strengths. Anything that encourages the viewer to want to learn more is a plus.

Some pertinent quotes

Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

~Benjamin Franklin

The chain reaction of evil--wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.

~General Smedley Butler

Imperialism is an institution under which one nation asserts the right to seize the land or at least to control the government or resources of another people.

~John T. Flynn

After every ''victory'' you have more enemies.

~Jeanette Winterson

Sunday, July 31, 2005

To Kill the Potemkin

A couple of posts ago, I reviewed a book by Mark Joseph entitled Typhoon. is even better. Set during the height of the Cold and Vietnam Wars when nuclear tensions were at their peak, it tells the very realistic and frightening story of a collision between the Barracuda, an American nuclear attack submarine, and a super secret Russian nuclear sub that has very new and sophisticated capabilities.

The Barracuda has been assigned the task of hunting an American aircraft carrier during war game exercises. The Russian sub has been shadowing the task force pretending to be another American sub by masking her own noises by simulating those of a known sub. The Russian sub driver, after realizing he has been "outed" by the Barracuda wants to leave the area before more can be learned about his sub's secret capabilities. The political officer disagrees and takes over command He reverses the prop grazing the Barracuda, which had been following in the Russian sub's baffles. The Barracuda is forced to surface but not before its sonar operator hears sounds of the Russian sub descending way past nominal test depth and breaking up. At least that's what they think.

Collisions between submarines is not fanciful idea. In 1998 two U.S. nuclear subs collided off Long Island. (link) Blind Man's Bluff, by Peter Huchthausen, a book I read several years ago, is the non-fictional account of U.S. submarine espionage. Huchthausen reports several incidents of cold war submarines colliding, one that may have even resulted in the loss of a U.S. sub. Huchthausen, by the way, also wrote a fascinating account of the Cuban Missile Crisis from the decks of a U.S. destroyer where he was a junior officer. (October Fury) It's combination a thrilling memoir/history of Russian submarine actions and U.S. counter measures during that frightening October, 1962.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nice to know where the Republican's REAL priorities lie...

Senate Moves to Shield Gun Industry

Too good to pass up....

Author unknown:

Dear Red States...

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon,Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100! percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.


Author Unknown in New California

Sunday, July 24, 2005

New Rules and Typhoon

If you are looking for a funny, sarcastic, and solid cultural commentary, pick up a copy of Bill Maher's new Book, New Rules. It's very funny. He makes fun of just about everything from Bush to parents and parenting coaches -- even though it's obvious he has no kids of his own, because just suggesting you can make kids do something. . . . The scary thing is that we are watching the rise of the post 9/11 generation of kids who are accepting the idea that you need to watch what you say, that anything that could conceivably be construed as criticism of the government might be unpatriotic, and if you're not careful you could go to jail, or at the very least lose access to your favorite reality show. President Bush has posed the question, "Is our children learning?" Obviously, they isn't. You can teach sign language to a gorilla in four years; why is it taking so long for George W. to learn? And by the way George, by definition, being a Washington insider relates to how close you are to the president so quit whining about all the Wahington insiders and politicians and look in the mirror. Everything that happened after 2000 is your fault, not the Clintons, not the Democrats. Take some responsibility for God's sake. And what is it with all these shows like Desperate Housewives. "If I had any interest in other people's sex lives, I'd be a Republican."

If you enjoyed The Hunt for Red October you'll like Typhoon by Mark Joseph. It's the late nineties and a few naval officers, fearing the implosion of the Soviet Union and loss of Soviet satellites, have hatched a plan to force a military coup by faking a rebellion and threatening to launch an atomic missile at the capitol of Georgia. Admiral Zenko, in charge of the Soviet Typhoon class submarine base at Gremikha is determined to thwart the rebellion. A Los Angeles class American sub gets caught in the middle and a cat-and-mouse game results. A very entertaining read.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

When You Ride Alone...

What ever happened to the Americans of World War II who were willing to sacrifice for their country, Bill Maher asks in When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden. The attitude today seems to be, "I'll use as much gas as I want, screw you and your Victory Garden, too." Not one person in a leadership position has asked that we sacrifice something. Jimmy Carter was practically crucified when he asked people to turn down their thermostats. The attitude seems to be, "Shop till you drop," and "Thanks for traveling." Self-promotion and greed rule the day. In the meantime we become more and more indebted to the Middle East and a slave to foreign oil. We ask nothing of our leaders and in return ask that they return the favor.

The book is now a little dated -- it was published before the invasion of Iraq, but many of his comments are worthy of serious thought. Labeling him a liberal is perhaps misguided as he's really more of a progressive libertarian, but most labels are balderdash anyway. Maher is a funny satirist who needs to be taken seriously.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Noteworthy quotes

"Fox News nearly herniates itself straining for a silver lining to each bolt of bad news (watching Ollie North interview the troops makes North Korean propaganda look sophisticated.)"
James Wolcott, Vanity Fair , August 2005

"Ladies and gentleman, I am a desperate housewife." and "George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chain saw -- which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."
Laura Bush at the annual White House correspondents' dinner. No mention was made by anyone of the carnage and sacrifice in Iraq even though the weekend death toll was 120 dead.

"Iraq is Vietnam on crack."

"I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."
"You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever and you call that justice."
"Senator [Coleman], in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."
British member George Galloway of Parliament appearing before Senator Coleman's investigation committee. He left all the Senators, who had not done their homework, speechless. See link for more details.

Ellsberg and Kissinger

A new bumper sticker seen in Madison, WI:

"Focus on your own damn family." I concur.

I was listening to an excellent Justice Talking program featuring Ken Starr and John Dean. (Available for MP3 download here.)

The discussion surrounded the ethics, constitutionality, and judiciousness of the special prosecutor laws. It provided me with some new insights into Ken Starr whom we liberals have disdained since the Lewinsky business. It also provided new information on the role Henry Kissinger played in prodding Nixon into a deeper state of paranoia following the release of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg.

The whole concept of a special prosecutor has fallen on hard times as both Democrats and Republicans have begun to see Justice Scalia's dissent as rather prescient. (Justice Scalia's fear that the law allows for the appointment of a "prosecutor antagonistic to the administration, or even to the particular individual who has been selected for this special treatment.") Both Starr and Dean concur that things can easily get out of hand.

Discussing impeachment, John Dean believes George Bush has committed impeachable offenses, since the misdemeanors of "high crimes and misdemeanors" includes making false statements to Congress. In any case, since impeachment is clearly a political maneuver, it won't happen with the current Congress.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Exorcism and some subversive quotes

"From a religious point of view we did the right thing."

--Daniel Corogeanu, abbot of the Holy Trinity monastery, Tanacu, Romania, after an apparently possessed 23-year old nun died after being crucified during an exorcism.
Die Zeit 23.06.05, p. 2

"If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war. "
- Pentagon official,
on why US military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War.

"Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset"
Pope Innocent III responding to soldiers he had unleashed in the crusade against the Cathars when asked how they were to tell the heretics from the good Catholics in the city of Beziers in 1210. Translated it means, "Kill them all, God can recognize the believers." The marines have since adopted something similar, "Kill them all, let God sort it out," a particularly heinous motto if there ever was one.

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
An unnamed major in the U.S. Army said this about the decision to bomb and shell the town of Bentre, according to an Associated Press dispatch.
—The New York Times, February 8, 1968

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Should we all be learning Chinese?

"Twelfth graders [in the United States] rank in the 10th percentile in math globally [for the mathematically challenged that means 90% are better than us,] but first in their opinion of their own math skills." I continue to marvel at our capacity for self-delusion.

That, suggests Clyde Prestowitz in his recent book, Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, is symptomatic of problems endemic to the United States. The United States will survive as a world leader only if it can replace job that are being lost by equivalent or better ones. Innovation and creativity will be the only ways to improve. Education is critical to betterment and it is becoming clear that education in India, China, Japan and Europe is increasingly better than in the United States where the main emphasis seems to be on whether the football team can beat the crap out of the neighboring community's team.

Some of his other suggestions:
Increase teacher salaries, offer portable wage and health insurance, reduce oil consumption, reduce the trade-deficit, and tax spending, not saving. Hardly provocative.

Note that if John B. Anderson had been elected years ago and had been able to implement his 50 cent per gallon gas tax we would be in much better shape from an energy standpoint.

Pet peeve of the week:

I recently attended some meetings in Springfield, Illinois, the state capitol. They should be ashamed of their inability to spell the word correctly. There is a Capital Street; I attended meetings at the Capital City Center (run by a community college, tsk, tsk) and saw numerous other instances of the word that I suspect were mispelled [pun intended] out of ignorance, not cleverness.

And you thought Social Security was in trouble.

The increasingly large numbers of injured veterans returning from Iraq (an average of 472 are injured, wounded or become sick during each month according to the Christian Science Monitor) is beginning to place a huge strain on a Veterans Administration that did not have enough money to provide care for 7.5 million vets already in the system, and has a $1,000,000,000 shortfall this year. (Interesting factoid: 33% of the homeless men in this country are vets.)

Unlike earlier wars, more soldiers injured in combat are surviving. Because transportation to hospitals is faster and more reliable, soldiers now survive but with debilitating injuries. It's the VA's responsibility to provide health care for these injured. Another concern is the use of depleted uranium in shells. There is rising suspicion that this material is causing illnesses among the troops.

Critics point to waste problems, including an Inspector General report that there were $800 million in overpayments per year. When presented as a percentage of the total annual budget (slightly more than 1%,) it seems to me they are remarkably careful. I doubt if there is a company around that could have a better record than that.

New Meaning Behind "No Child Left Behind"

There is a new debate brewing regarding language written in to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Apparently, a clause requires high schools to deliver students' names and address and phone numbers to military recruiters if the schools wish to receive any federal aid.

Aside from the fact that this often conflicts with other privacy rights laws, several school districts have decided this is an inappropriate way for recruiters to access school records.

Link for additional information.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Barnes and Noble produces an excellent series of lectures similar to The Teaching Company. One, entitled The Patriots, (Joseph Ellis) is an examination of those extraordinary individuals who were responsible for the revolution. It's part hagiography, part myth buster.

We use the term "insurgents" in such a pejorative manner when speaking of the rebels in Iraq, yet that's precisely what the Founding Fathers were. The Sons of Liberty, supported by such icons as Paul Revere and Samuel and John Adams, in their antipathy to the Stamp Act of 1765, decided that recalcitrant citizens who were not eager enough in their support of the anti-monarch movement needed violent persuasion. Although they avoided personal violence, they were not averse to destroying the property of those who opposed them.

John Adams played an unusual role in that he feared mob action, no matter how democratic. In fact, he went out of his way to defend the British officers who had been accused of malfeasance during the so-called Boston Massacre (so named by Samuel Adams who used it as propaganda.) Thomas Preston, the officer in charge, commanded the soldiers not to fire, but they did, five people died, and Adams persuaded the jury that the soldiers had responded with justifiable force given the threats from the crowd.

Interesting sidenote that "Massacre Day," which Adams remarked to be the beginning of the American Revolution, was celebrated for many years until it was replaced by July 4th. Paul Revere's illustration of the event was notable mostly for the errors it contained: it was not during the day and Crispus Attacus, the first American to be killed in the Revolution, was black not white.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vietnam and Iraq

Anyone doubting the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam needs to review the audio tapes of McNamara and Johnson speeches and briefings. The same optimism, the same theories, the same lying -- all were present. McNamara talked about the positive impact of the elections, Vietnamization, giving more responsibility for defense to the South Vietnamese; just substitute Vietnamese for Iraq and it's all the same. The rationale for staying in Iraw now is that the area would be destabilized. Sounds like the domino theory in drag. Let's hope that someone wises up before we lose another 50,000 troops.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Piarists and Scandal

The Catholic Piarist schools were established in 1600 and by 1632 were being opened at a rate of one every seven months. They had been founded by a Spaniard as a way to educate impoverished children. In 1646 they were closed down by the pope.

The reason for the closure and the scandal that was hidden in the archives of the Vatican for centuries, is the subject of Karen Liebreich's very readable and detail-rich book Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio.

Liebreich (a wonderful German pun in the name) was a scholar at the prestigious European University Institute who was given access to the Vatican archives as part of the research she was doing. What she discovered was a scandal reminiscent of recent events in the United States where the Catholic hierarchy covered up child abuse by priests. The "initial cover-up was ordered by no less a man than the patron saint of all Christian schools."

Liebreich's research took her into "dusty cupboards" and the archives of the Inquisition.