Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Where's the Anger?

Where's the outrage? This country has been steadily driven into the toilet by a bumbling idiot for over six years now. We lost an entire city, for God's sake!

Everything was hunky-dory for 72 months until gas passed $3 per gallon. Oh *now* the economy isn't really as rosy as they said?

Where's the anger? For 20 years people have spoken of the 60's; the marches, the chants, the demands for change!

Where is that spirit now? America flushed 200 years of staunch anti-torture tradition and the most people could do is keep flipping channels/pages until getting to the sports section?

Maybe we do need illegal immigrants. At least they get off their asses and march when they're being screwed. And they're not even supposed to be here! Hell, maybe they do deserve this country more than we do.

Maybe we should just hire Mexicans to march for us...

Update: Economist's View wonders as well.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

No, I'm not Gonna Start Analyzing Your Handwriting...

I just found it interesting that Karl Zinsmeister, the "new chief domestic adviser to President Bush" has a name that translates roughly as "interest master" from the German -- according to Google.

Over the Cliff

Ever since Iraq was just a twinkle in W's eye, people have been using The Cliff analogy to describe the decision to go to war.

While there have been arguments that we should/should not follow our Dear Leader over the cliff, I think it's fair to say that we're past that now.

Why are we still squabbling over this?

We're clearly over the cliff.

As a matter of fact, we're falling. Even George is past the many points where he announced that his critics "had no new ideas". As one of the many early critics, I pointed out that once you're over the cliff, there are no new ideas to be had. That the whole purpose of the "cliff" theme in the cliff analogy. The more generous "slippery slope" analogy at least leaves some proverbial hope for redemption. Other than growing wings, the Cliff Analogy has none.

We're past the cliff, folks. We're amidst the "well, hopefully the cliff was really high and the ground is far, far away" memes and well within the "perhaps we'll die of natural causes before we hit the ground" phase -- i.e. Iraq will be "another presidents problem".

Short of being Intelligently Designed with wings in the next few years, America had better start looking for a grouping of soft-looking trees.

Mexico as Economic Example

It was an argument that ended as quickly as it began.

A friend and I started an e-mail conversation over what was wrong with America under George W. Bush and what should be done to correct it. We both agreed that America needs to cut spending.

"Raise taxes to gain income, stop congressional corruption and the earmarking of millions to lobbyists and corporations, get out of Iraq", proposed I.

"Cut social spending", said he.

"?", asked I. I quoted a phrase that was cliche the moment it had originally been used: "Bush is spending money like a drunken sailor and you want to cut the Social Security check of a grandmother that *earned* that benefit? How courageous!"

"Social spending accounts for 60% of the budget. Cut where you'll get the most bang for the buck." said my friend.

"Exactly. We've spent $400 billion in Iraq and the only persons that have benefitted is the board of Halliburton. Stop the war."

"Whatever", said he.

And that's pretty-much where the conversation stopped.

Now I used to be a Republican. Granted I live on the Left Coast now and the statements above make me sound quite "Lefty". But I do not consider myself either Left or Right anymore and the comments I made above do not cover the nuance of my thoughts on such matters. Sure, if there's a social program that is wasting taxpayer money, kill it. Do we need to make our social spending more efficient? Definitely.

But I'm a big defender of Social Security. The US made a contract with our retired and soon to be retired. You work hard and pay into the system and you'll get a return of X. It ain't much, but you have the US Governments word. Don't fuck with it.

I call it the Ejection Seat example. Why do we put ejection seats in fighter planes? It's not because we need another excuse to add a $2M more to the cost of a plane. It's a demonstration of trust. We show the pilot that we're willing to support him. We're concerned about his welfare and we'll come get him out if he gets into trouble. In return, the fighter pilot is more likely to take more risky moves to get the job done. He'll take more risk than his adversary, who may not benefit from similar promises from his government.

These examples are commonplace in the military. The Marines don't leave men behind. Is it because the *like* to charge into enemy fire just to drag a dead body back? Do we spent billions of dollars are field hospitals and medical help for our wounded warrriors because we like dumping money? It would certainly be easier to just let them die, right?

There are plenty of examples to the contrary. Iraq is one of many examples of militaries that left their men to their own devices. Iraqi soldiers knew quite well what support they'd be getting if they were injured and realized quickly just in whose interest they were fighting -- their own. Iraq's military undoubted had many problems, but their soldiers knew exactly who would be looking out for them if they got injured and it certainly wasn't in their personal interest to test the system.

I don't suggest unlimited support for everyone. But I do suggest that we have a support network available for those who do work hard and get caught short. The trick -- and I suspect the reason that most social support networks suffer such inefficientcy -- is determining who is and is not worthy of support. Sure A worked for 30 years without a single vacation and paid his taxes every time, while B is 37 years old, able-bodied and has never held a job. Are *you* gonna be willing to look B in the eye and tell him to "get lost" while A get a stipend to help him back on his feet? Somebody certainly needs to.

The current administration has certainly pushed further the idea of success for the rich and damn the rest. Cut social programs and allow profits to stay in the top x%. Worked during the Golden Age of Capitalism.

But in our war on government and social spending, I want to know what examples we're pointing to as examples. What countries have made a large rich/poor divide a success for their nation? Not the US. Not Western Europe. Not Canada, not Austrailia, not Japan. A middle-eastern country perhaps? China? India? Mexico?

I heard an anecdote on the radio that Mexico has more billionaires than Switzerland. Is Mexico's "Trickle Down Theory" what is sending their citizens across our borders for opportunity? Where's all the jobs their rich were supposed to create?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hastert's Balance of Powers

In "signing statements" Bush willingly and knowingly violate not only FISA laws but the Fourch Ammendment by spying on domestic phone calls.

Hastert said nothing.

After videotaping a Congressman accepting cash bribes and finding thousands of dollars wrapped in foil in said Congressman's home freezer ( the mattress was full?), FBI raids his congressional office.

Hastert has a fit. "Violating the separation of powers!" or some such.

Let's kill this "upsetting the balance of powers" meme right now.

They had a warrant. Warrant = Judicial Branch.

If they didn't have concurrance from the judicial (a warrant), then that would be an unsettling situation. But when two branches of Gub both concur that there's enough reason to search, then by George that's why we have a "balance of powers" instead of "three powers that allow each other to get away with anything" situation that's been going on since 2000.

Actually, come to think of it, compared to the whole NSA mess, FBI getting a warrant is actually an exception to recent patterns...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Your Daily Blasphemy

God v. potato:

  • God is invisible. While this may be interpreted as a cool ability for God, the potato's lack of invisibility allows for quick verification of its existence.
  • The potato's relevance increases with velocity. Although one may safely ignore God in almost all of His velocities, it is not so with the potato. At any speed approaching more than a meter per second, the potato will cause almost every astute observer to duck.

Next up: God vs. The Ether

Towel Day!

Towel Day

I prefer 11 Feb., but I'm willing to concede this for the masses.

Many thanks again, Douglas.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Defining Pornography

There's a common quote about pornography, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it".

The wonderful thing about terrorism -- from a governmental view, anyway -- is that it fits the same pattern. See something you don't like? Call it terrorism and proceed to violate every law on the books in order to stop the...err... lawbreakers.

To those like me that were frustrated by ICANN's reluctance to define an '.xxx' domain, this article at least gives a good explanation as to why they were fighting it:
Paul Twomey, ICANN’S chief executive, said the decision largely came down to whether by creating the “.xxx” domain ICANN might be put in a position of having to enforce all of the world’s laws governing pornography.
Makes sense. Just like "terrorism", every government has their own temporal definition of "pornography", which would drag ICANN into the Sisyphean task of judging who does and doesn't belong there. Playboy? Yes. Breast cancer awareness sites? No....

Not only can I see why ICANN doesn't want the job, I can see why no one else would, either.

Mike Farrel on the Iraq War

Crooks & Liars

Data Security

The banks have been losing customer data to theft for a few years now... at least the thefts they've told us about. Now the Veteran's Administration has not only lost SSNs and other personal information for all of its clients, but for their families as well.

Just how long do you think it will take for NSA to lose the giant phone-records database its collecting?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fighting Them Over There

Toles published another great cartoon.

In case the link doesn't work, it basically showed the FBI, NSA, CIA looking into a house while the occupants ask, "What was it that terrorists hate about the US? Oh, yes, our freedom".

Again, Toles has cut to the crux of the matter.

Weren't we also going to "fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here"? Is this how we "fight them over there"?

All of this to catch informants and journalists who release "secret" information. Curiously, the only information they've released so far has been infomation that makes the administration look like a bunch of torturing, lying, manipulative, vengeful, incompetent fools.

Wonder if the informants and journalists are truly worried about being caught? Guess there's always a first time that this administration could screw up and actually succeed at something other than neglect and tax cuts.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Marking Nuclear Waste

The "This Place is not a Place of Honor" article over at Damn Interesting brings up the problem of marking our nuclear waste so that it will be identifiable as dangerous for people 10,000 years in the future.

The first problem is that our "nuclear" symbol could be mis-construed as an angel.

Simple solution: rotate the symbol 45 degrees.

The overall problem remains; how do we warn cultures 10,000 years in the future of danger? I vote for the skull. The skull has been used sucessfully by nature for thousands of years to signal danger/death to humans. We don't even need the crossbones. You put enough skull diagrams in the area and most will get the point.

The whole problem makes me wonder, though. Every time this "how do we warn our children 10,000 years in the future of the dangers of radiation" thing pops up, we start thinking that the future very well may be populated with cave-men like morons. Could the fact that this assumption keeps coming up may be a warning to us that perhaps, deep down, we're afraid all this nuclear waste isn't going to be good for future generations? Strange that we're so obsessed with warning the future when it is the present that should be heeding them them most.

Stem Cells: Good News, Bad News

Another Good News/Bad News story.

Good News for embryos: They've discovered alternative source for stem cells.

Bad News for embryos: It's from testicles.

I'm guessing that even the most devout embryo defender will say, "Take the kid!" then the giant needle approaches his testicles.

Damn Interesting

Thursday, May 18, 2006

CO2 = Life (?)

Reported by Sullivan:

The virtues of Carbon Dioxide. Are you getting enough?

Competitive Enterprise Institute

According to the ad, carbon dioxide is "necessary to life" because "we breathe it out". By that logic, everything we excrete must be "necessary to life"... making this ad essential to life too. And just like crap, if you get too much of it, you'll die.

The definition of "spin".

Better snark at Apostropher

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"I Don't Want to Believe, I Want to Know".

Digging around for that last article, I ran across a Carl Sagan Quotes page.

There's some great stuff there. He has answered many of my questions. Hopefully, you can find a few answers for yourself in his quotes. A few of my favorites:

"When our genes could not store all the information necessary for survival, we slowly invented brains. But then the time came, perhaps ten thousand years ago, when we needed to know more than could conveniently be contained in brains. So we learned to stockpile enormous quantities of information outside our bodies. We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of that memory is called the library.

A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called "leaves") imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person-perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -"The Persistence of Memory," Cosmos, p. 281.

"Such reports persist and proliferate because they sell. And they sell, I think, because there are so many of us who want so badly to be jolted out of our humdrum lives, to rekindle that sense of wonder we remember from childhood, and also, for a few of the stories, to be able, really and truly, to believe-in Someone older, smarter, and wiser who is looking out for us."

"Faith is clearly not enough for many people. They crave hard evidence, scientific proof. They long for the scientific seal of approval, but are unwilling to put up with the rigorous standards of evidence that impart credibility to that seal." -"The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars," The Demon-Haunted World, p. 58.

"Because the word 'God' means many things to many people, I frequently reply [to people who ask 'Do you believe in God?'] by asking what the questioner means by 'God.' To my surprise, this response is often considered puzzling or unexpected: 'Oh, you know, God. Everyone knows who God is.' Or 'Well, kind of a force that is stronger than we are and that exists everywhere in the universe.' There are a number of such forces. One of them is called gravity, but it is not often identified with God. And not everyone does know what is meant by 'God.'...Whether we believe in God depends very much on what we mean by God." --"A Sunday Sermon," Broca's Brain, p. 291.

"If we're absolutely sure that our beliefs are right, and those of others wrong; that we are motivated by good, and others by evil; that the King of the Universe speaks to us, and not to adherents of very different faiths; that it is wicked to challenge conventional doctrines or to ask searching questions; that our main job is to believe and obey - then the witch mania will recur in its infinite variations down to the time of the last man."

"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men."

"I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

"When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions, that is the heart of science." - Cosmos

"History is full of people who out of fear, or ignorance, or lust for power have destroyed knowledge of immeasurable value which truly belongs to us all. We must not let it happen again." - Cosmos

"We are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation." -- The Cosmic Connection

"But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

Welcome From Our Fantasy

I'm sure there's a psychological term for this (help, anyone?). I'm becoming more and more aware of a group's (this nation) ability to wish itself into a desired state.

For years after 9/11, Bush was the Holy One. If you dared disagree with him, you weren't a patriot. You were a traitor. You were one of them.

Now Bush is 29% according to some polls. Even dyed-in-the-wool neocons like Fukuyama has parted ways with him. What has changed?

For years I argued that housing in the SF Bay Area and elsewhere was in a huge bubble. Everyone I spoke with denied it vigorously. "Housing can't go down." Sounded like the Tech Bubble's, "This is the New Economy". The Tech Bubble had the same mindset: things can't go badly... until it did.

Big Picture is reporting that housing and the stock market are headed down. Is this the end for this housing upswing? Maybe. Maybe not.

The stock market's been happy with "No Inflation". Until it isn't.

Why this overwhelming desire to believe things as they are not?

Perhaps I should read more Sagan:

"Such reports persist and proliferate because they sell. And they sell, I think, because there are so many of us who want so badly to be jolted out of our humdrum lives, to rekindle that sense of wonder we remember from childhood, and also, for a few of the stories, to be able, really and truly, to believe-in Someone older, smarter, and wiser who is looking out for us. Faith is clearly not enough for many people. They crave hard evidence, scientific proof. They long for the scientific seal of
approval, but are unwilling to put up with the rigorous standards of evidence that impart credibility to that seal."
-"The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars," The Demon-Haunted World, p. 58.

Inside the Beltway, Out of Touch

HfA's got a really good segment, Inside the Beltway, out of touch, on the extent of the Beltway Bubble.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Like Sex?

Then you'd better keep an eye out for the religious right.

They're not just against RU-486. They against cerivical cancer vaccines. That's right, they're fighting the FDA approval of a vaccine that prevents certain forms of cancer -- not just cervical -- because -- get this -- they think it will increase promiscuity.

Don't believe me? Check out Dan Savage's take:

STRAIGHT RIGHTS UPDATE: I've been running around with my hair on fire trying to convince my straight readers that religious conservatives don't just hate homos. Their attacks on gay people, relationships, parents, and sex get all the press, but the American Taliban has an anti-straight-rights agenda too. As I wrote on March 23: "The GOP's message to straight Americans: If you have sex, we want it to fuck up your lives as much as possible. No birth control, no emergency contraception, no abortion services, no lifesaving vaccines. If you get pregnant, tough shit. You're going to have those babies, ladies, and you're going to make those child-support payments, gentlemen. And if you get HPV and it leads to cervical cancer, well, that's too bad. Have a nice funeral, slut."

After raising the alarm for months back here in the sex-ads section, I was intensely gratified to read Russell Shorto's brilliant cover story, "The War On Contraception," in the New York Times Magazine last weekend. To readers who think I'm being hysterical: So you don't think the religious right would seriously go after birth control? Fine, don't believe me. But maybe you'll believe Shorto when he lays out the American Taliban's plan to deny access to birth control—any and all types, folks, not just emergency contraception.

"In particular, and not to put too fine a point on it, they want to change the way Americans have sex," Shorto writes. "Contraception, by [their] logic," Shorto continues, "encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality), and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage." Shorto quotes Judie Brown, president of the American Life League: "We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion. The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set. So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome. We oppose all forms of contraception." And there's this from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill… Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."

I'll say it again, breeders: The American Taliban is not just opposed to straight premarital sex, with their abstinence education and hilariously ineffective virginity pledges, or gay sex, with their "ex-gay" campaigns and their anti-gay-marriage amendments. The American Taliban doesn't think married heterosexual couples should be able to use birth control. If you care about your own freedom—not just your right to have premarital sex, but your right to decide whether, when, and how many children you're going to have—you need to read "The War On Contraception." And don't comfort yourself with the notion that these are just some anti-sex religious wackos: The Bush administration not only listens to these wackos, it appoints them to important positions all over the federal government—and let's not even think about the members of the American Taliban that Bush has already appointed to lifetime positions in the federal judiciary.

This is some serious shit, breeders. You're being attacked. It's time to fight back.

Go vote, fuckers!

Wrong on Illegal Immigration?

My position thus far has been that if we crack down on those that are hiring illegal aliens (essentially make them pay all the taxes and fees they're dodging ) the supply of jobs will dry up and illegal immigration slow.

I may be wrong on this. Looks like ol' Vincent is determined to export his problems, come hell or high water:

Bush Border Speech = Continued Tax Evasion

Ok, so back in the Reagan era we tried amnesty. We're worse off.

What is Shrub proposing now? "Guest Workers". Illegal immigrants are to be offered a "Path to Citizenship".

What no one is detailing is exactly how these programs are supposed to work. First off, the "Path to Citizenship": What is supposed to compel an illegal alien to want to be a citizen? Sure, you can appeal to their better instincts, but let's be honest, offering not to deport someone for 5 years if they sign up for tons of government beuracracy is no deal. Why not just keep what they currently have? People are people and they know that once this whole thing blows over it will be like it's always been. Illegal aliens will return to being ignored. The less paperwork that documents them, the better is their thought.

Now, to the Guest Worker program. *Who* exactly is going to sign up for this? What business is going to go through even *more* government paperwork when they can hire illegals on the cheap. Employers view illegal aliens as prostitutes. Buy 'em cheap and dispose of them when they're broken or when they're done with them.
Is this new Guest Worker program going to allow employers to avoid paying taxes? Social Security? Insurance? Thought not. They what incentive to the employers have then? Grape growers in California already admit the open secret to the local papers. They don't go through *existing* government programs because they don't like the extra costs taxes bring.

So if Bush's plan is put into place, it will all wind up being a bit photo-op circle-jerk. Just like all the rest of his plans. I haven't figured out how Shrub plans to turn this problem into an opportunity to funnel money to compaign contributers, but I'm sure he's working on it.

You want to *really* fix this problem? It's simple. Turn the IRS loose on tax cheats. If anyone knows how to handle tax cheats, it the IRS. If you don't pay employement taxes, the IRS will be in touch. We've already got a system for this. It's in place, proven and ready to go.

Illegal immigration will be cut drastically, wages will go up sufficiently to support a decent working class, your taxes will go down, your kids will have a better education, emergency room crowding will go down and your medical costs will not go up as rapidly. Prisons will be less crowded and social programs will be lifted of a growing burden.

Stop the tax evasion now!

Border: After We Were Against It

Shrub's proposal to put National Guard on the border?

Take it away, Josh.

Yet another example of how this administration is concerned only with *appearing* to address a problem... then ignoring it. This is nothing new in politics. The only impressive thing here is the dramatic degree to which this administration relies on the practice.

If it doesn't involve putting money in donor's pockets, forget it.

Josh has another very interesting insight:

After more than a little trying I think I've finally gotten a handle on this immigration debate. Or at least the president's slice of it, which goes by the name of 'comprehensive immigration reform'. If I understand this right, 'comprehensive' reform is reform that's so comprehensive that it reforms the thing in question in every way possible at the same time.

So, for instance, comprehensive sex reform -- which, given how things are going in Washington, could be just around the corner -- would mean expanding abstinence education and reducing the number of sexually active teenagers while also fulfilling the universal dream of teenagers everywhere to get laid.

Nixon De Ja Vu

Maha covers this issue very well.

Cunning Realist



Monday, May 15, 2006

Contrary Principle of Advertising

I'm working on something I'm planning to call the Contrary Principle of Advertising.

We're all familiar with the supposed motivation of advertising: draw attention to your product's strengths:
"Now with 25% less deadly stuff!"

There's the mudslinging approach:
"25% better than the leading competitor"

Then there's the staple of the infomercial, selling things you wish were true:
"Cooks dinner in 20 minutes and is completely self-cleaning!"

So what's up with the news, blogs, etc. all promising, "Truth", "Real News", "Reality-Based", etc.?

To wit:
"Real News"

Is even mediocre journalism really that hard?

"Um.. Fred, I'm really getting tired of hanging out at the Internet trying to uncover information. What to do?"

"Just put 'Truth' in our blog's mission statement and wait for the Pulitzer."

What's with the sudden supposed popularity with Truth? Is there a sudden lack of Truth?
If so, why are more and more people choosing to watch fake news?

I'm thinking that what we really have is not less Truth, but a stupendous increase in the amount of B.S. Maybe I should change this blog's catchphrase:

"Now with 30% less B.S.!"

NSA BuddyList

Support the NSA: Give someone you know a call and you'll automatically add them to your NSA BuddyList(R)!

I even changed my phone's "Personal" category to "NSA BuddyList(TM)".

Seemed appropriate.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

This Call May Be Monitored for Quality Purposes

Makes a bit more sense now. See Josh.

Billmon has a great take on polls showing public "support" of NSA wiretapping.
(Really, folks. Billmon is great, but he really shouldn't *have* to make this point. It should be obvious. Does the US still have free education? Why are so many not availing temselves of it?)

His column raises an interesting question: How *does* one poll on the "popularity" of wiretapping?

Caller: "Good evening Sir or Madam. The Media is reporting that the NSA has a database that tracks every call made by every American and likely can record and analyze every conversation. President Bush says that this is done to make every citizen safer. Do you support this program."

Callee: "Errr.....Yes! Yes I do! I support it 100%. Did I happen to mention that I always vote Republican? Viva Bush!"

This is the same phenomenon that we see in other, er.... in totalitarian states, such as Iran. When you talk to a person privately, the report that they like America and would love the opportunity to move there. Turn on the camera or microphone and they switch to chanting, "Death to America!, Death to the Great Satan!"

Bush *Might* Have Fibbed on Iraq

Recieved this from a friend. Figured I could use it to jar the memory 10 years from now when W is selected for the Republican Nobel.


I would think for everyone that the assertion that the Administration deliberately misrepresented intelligence leading up to the Iraq war is beyond debate now. It's compelling to look at a compilation of relevant reports over the past few years:

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: The Bush administration began planning to use U.S. troops to invade Iraq within days after the former Texas governor entered the White House three years ago:

Longtime WH Counter-Terrorism Official, Richard Clarke (just after 9/11):
"What happened was the president, with his finger in my face, saying, 'Iraq, a memo on Iraq and al-Qaida, a memo on Iraq and the attacks.' Very vigorous, very intimidating, and in a way that left all of us with the same impression, that he wanted that answer. Well, we couldn't give him that answer because it wasn't true."

Dept of Defense Analyst for 25 years, Peter Molan:
The justifications for that war were completely counter to everything that I had learned in that 20-odd years of government service working on the Middle East, as you say. I was simply outraged by the twisting and turning of intelligence information that I had helped develop to what was clearly, to my mind, a preordained policy decision that I felt to be profoundly wrong.

Just after 9/11, Rumsfeld sends memo wanting "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL":

CIA agent, Michael Scheuer: "Headed the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit and saw the confrontation up close. 'I know a lot of people in the Iraq shop who were dissenting. There were people who were disciplined or taken off accounts.'":

Leaked Secret MI-6 Memo (July 2002): "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.",,2087-1593607,00.html

Leaked Secret Memo from UK Chief Foriegn Policy Advisor (Jan 2003): Bush made clear to Tony Blair that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons. "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning." "The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March.""This was when the bombing would begin.":

Uranium from Niger intel was included in State of the Union speech, but didn't make the cut for an earlier speech because of low reliability by CIA. This was explained as a mistake. [No source needed]

"A small group of retired, anti-war CIA officers are accusing the Bush administration of manipulating evidence against Iraq in order to push war":,2933,81148,00.html

Hussein Kamel was a source for Iraqi pre-war intel. But the information he provided was cherry-picked:

[ Ed. note: "Kamel"? We got pre-war intel from a guy named "Kamel"? Did he graduate from the same spy-school as "Curveball"?]

"Tyler Drumheller headed up the CIA’s convert operations in Europe until he retired last year. Before the war, Drumheller says that Saddam Hussein did not have a weapons of mass destruction program, and he tried to tell the White House. He claims that information was ignored.":

"Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives":

Friday, May 12, 2006

Had Enough?

Man, I was beginning to think I was the only one that was fed up.

Finally, someone -- The Nation -- is hitting the same key.

NSA's Familiarity with the Constitution

Watch the video pointed to by Toby Barlow. You can access it here at Crooks & Liars.

"To be very clear... and believe me; if there's any ammendment to the Constitution that the employees of the National Security Administration are familiar with, it's the Fourth." -- General Michael Hayden

Paging Harriet Miers... Harriet Miers, line one please...

This is just embarassing.

For your reference, the 4th Ammendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

He Steals From The Poor And Gives To the Rich...

Simply Left Behind: o/~ He Steals From The Poor And Gives To the Rich...o/~

Hey! I've an idea: If you're not serving in Iraq, then you *PAY* for Iraq. The Rich want a tax cut? Then they should put on some body armor and ship out. Their tax burden would be eliminated the entire time they serve in a combat zone.

Otherwise, pay up!

Families of those serving are already paying too much.

NSA Wiretaps and Security

Greg at The Talent Show brings up a good point when he asks, "Remember When Telphone Records Were Private?"

Why is it that we can create a secret NSA database to track the phone calls made by every American and collate that information to the point that we can find patterns in who calls whom and determine from that whether or not a person is talking to a terrorist, but we can't create a database to determine if a guy applying for a job is using a SSN that belongs to a dead person?

Just wondering.

"No Magic Bullet"

Bush says that there's "No magic bullet" to lower gas prices.

Just wondering: could we try using some of the Democracy Magic Bullets? We've been firing a shitload of them over in Iraq, and granted, they haven't worked either, but maybe Iowa's "faith" would be just the edge needed to make them work on gas prices.

Why not bring in an Abrams, light up a few gas pumps with Democracy Bullets and see what happens.

Worth a try, no?

We're All Elites Now

Ok, so I've got a theory:

What if a president's poll numbers reflect not so much of "how good a job he is doing" but "if the person thinks the President is dumber than they are"?

Its seems quite reasonable that a person of "median" intelligence would be considered "smart" by the lower 50% of people and "dumb" by the lower 50%.

Right off the bat, W was seen as, well... "not so bright" by The Elites. Right after 9/11, W's approval rating was in the high 80's to 90's. Sure, we could interpret this as, "The country's rallying around Bush" but we might also interpret this as a number of The Elites thinking, "Well, at least he didn't put out his own eye with the megaphone."

Over time, Bush did more -- or some would argue didn't do more -- to endear himself to Americans. Once people realized that W's inability to recall a sentence of his ghost-written speach without inventing "new" words was not nervousness but an inability to even read, more people became "Elites". Poll numbers headed down.

After our invasion of Iraq, support remained high. Perhaps a majority of people in the country figured, "Well, ok, I'm not sure why we invaded Iraq, but I'm not really sure where Iraq is anyway, so maybe he knows something we don't." Others may have thought, "Ok, maybe we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, but Afghanistan earned it and 50% ain't a bad batting average."

Later, when it was revealed that our military was sent into a voluntary war without armor, more Elites were spontaneously generated as people thought, "Ok, so maybe I don't know where Iraq is, but a president should damn-well know where his *troops* are."

Years later, even more Elites sprang into being when they watched fellow citizens starving and drowning in fetid water for four days without even an aknowlegement from government.
Perhaps they were thinking, "Ok, I might not know how to find Iraq on a map, but a president that can't even locate a major American metropolis? That's dumb."

Vast portions of the electorate known as "Hunting Americans" quickly awoke as members of the Elite when they watched the VP shoot another man in the face. Sure, some thought, "Oh my God, The Veep shot a man in the face and had that man appologize to *him*!" Other's thought, "Cool! He took out a lawyer!". Hunter with integrity instantly knew that alcohol should never be mixed with hunting and any person who shoots another is 100% responsible. Not suprisingly, they became Elites.

Other's didn't necessarily become Elites when they later figured out, "What? The lawyer *lived*" or alternately thought, "How could you miss at *that* range?". Not Elites, but enough to lose a few votes.

So finally we arrive at 35%. A full ( wait a minute... 100 minus 35... carry the 1... ) 65% of American's think they the president is dumber than they are. Then comes the bomb: gas prices.

"America is addicted to fossil fuels", says Bush. Overnight, 5% of the population pupates and emerge as Elites as they think to themselves the next morning, "Welcome to 2006, Mr. Carter." The nation has know this for 30 years now and the president preaches this from the podium as though it were revealed to you last night in a burst of insight? Some begin to wonder, "Is this why he wanted to go to the Moon? Did he think there was oil there?" -5 points.

So here we are: The Shining Beacon of Democracy with a president that only 29% of Americans think is smarter than they are.

One way to interpret this would be to think, "Man! We need better schools! A full 29% think that *this guy* is smarter than they are!"

But the "glass half full" group might be thinking, "Man! Talk about 'No Child Left Behind'. Even the children are in line thinking this guy is a nincompoop!"

Personally, I think Bush may actually go down in history as The Great Educator. In the span of 6 years, he's made 79% of Americans into Intellectual Elites.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Those That Don't Learn From History


So one of the only things I remember regarding the Gulf of Tonkin from my history classes was, well, that essentially the Vietnam War was ratcheted up by Johnson(?) based on a supposed attack on a US warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Followed by some mumbling about how they never found any evidence to support the claim of attack.

Well, here we are again. Three years into a quagmire (oops. Not supposed to use the real term. Try "Operation" instead.) and history has just repeated itself. Only this time we did really get attacked and we did really, uh, attack the folks responsible -- but we sorta kinda got attack-happy after that and invaded another country that wasn't really related to the first attack... so we had to make up a fake excuse (WMDs) to justify the second attack... whew!

Yup, that's history repeating itself again. The same old tricks working again on a new generation of schmucks. Could this mess have been averted if we'd only been taught history better in school?

A friend of mine once stated that it is in the interest of politicians to keep us as dumb as possible. Forty years of school funding cuts does seem to support that theory.

The Designated Driver

It's Metaphore Thursday... how about another?


I feel like the nation is a bunch of drunks leaving the Clinton party. "What an asshole, anyway. Snidely berating the other two branches of government as he perjured himself in the courts. We're out of here." Drunk from the successes of the past eight years, we staggered outside to the bus of a new administration. We huddled, voted and selected another drunk to drive us to the next party.

Along the way, I and the others that hadn't drunk as much saw something was amiss shortly after the driver got behind the wheel. Something didn't seem right. "We're at war!" the driver declared. Let's drive to Iraq!

"This guy's gonna get someone killed" we thought.

For six years the bus has careened along, running roughshod over rights, the Constitution, cities. You name it. Every time a sober rider predicts a bad outcome, the driver swerves just in time to miss the predicted obstacle and just in time to hit another unseen one. "See, you're just a worry-wart" the remaining drunks say. The bus barely shivers as the driver's swerve takes out a pedestrian, a family.

Slowly, some of the drunks begin to sober, but not the driver. He keeps swilling his spiked Kool-Aid(tm), thundering bellicosely that's he'll protect us and get us there safely.

More and more people are sobering. Only 31% are still drunk enough to think it was a good idea to elect this driver. Why aren't they sobering up?

But the majority still agrees -- we can't stop the bus and select a new driver. "Don't change horses mid-stream!" one drunk slobbers. "Stay the course!" slurs another.

Can the country make it another 2 years?

Before the 2004 (re-) election, John Stewart used a similar metaphor when he said, "W drove us into a brick wall, but by God he didn't blink!"

Baaaaaa indeed

-THE CUNNING REALIST-: The Enemy Next Door

Bush Gumball of Wisdom

I can't praise Get Your War On enough:

"You think just because the words are garbled in his mouth, they're garbled in his mind?"

"Hell yes they're garbled in his mind! His mind is like one of those spinning cages where you pull out the winning lottery numbers--but there's only four goddamn little balls in his cage: "Freedom", "Democracy", "Terror" and "Stay the Course." He opens his mouth , one of the balls drops out. That's not a conversation, that's Keno."

This metaphor makes me think of another one: You know, those giant gumball machines that sit atop a tall, transparent pedestal? Bush supporters borrow money from their grandchildren, put the money in the Bush Gumball Machine and a stand fixated as a nugget of "wisdom" spirals round and round toward the floor. Once there, it jumps out of the little hatch and skitters across the floor underneath the cigarette dispenser. The Bushies gleefully snatch up the Gumball Of Wisdom and immediately pop it into their mouth, ready to show to anyone at the least provication.

Two seconds later, the flavor runs out and they're stuck there, feeling like an idiot for spending their last quarter on such short-lasting enjoyment. Next second, they're stealing more money from their grandchildren, again plunging it into the Bush Gumball Machine, dropping the previous drooling 'wisdom' unceremoniously to the floor -- where it waits for someone else to clean up the sticky mess.

Said Bush, "But They Were Only MOSTLY Dead"

-THE CUNNING REALIST-: Better Left Unsaid

Bush's Itenerary

Hughes for America points to an interesting article about Bush's itenerary being found in a Washington D.C. trashcan.

Did they find any of his poll numbers in there too! Hahahahahah.. Ahem.

A New Hope

Every day we try new things in the hope that they'll be better than the last thing we tried.

We try a new restaurant, hoping that it's food might be better than the others we've eaten at.
We try a new job, hoping that our co-workers won't be as boring/stupid/resentful/whatever as our last ones.
We try a new house, a new apartment, a new recipe... hell, a new child ... hoping that this one won't be as small, musty, flavorless or ill-behaved as the last one was.

In 2004, we even tried a new president, thinking that the new one would protect us better than the previous one hadn't.

Ok, so we didn't try a new president.

Why not? What are the odds that a new president would start an unnecessary war before winning the previous, necessary one? A new president couldn't possibly lose another whole city and ignore the fact for days. I'm sure that most any other president would at least notice a missing city. It wasn't hard to find... just follow the CNN news vans.

Why can't we just try a new whole administration? What are the odds that things would be worse? Do we trying to eek out two more "good" years out of this administration before risking a different* one? We'd probably even get a president that could speak english. Hell, we could install Allan Greenspan as president and be futher ahead in the Understandable Speech department.

What do we have to lose? Our jobs? Our houses? Our privacy? Our National Pride? Our National Dignity? Our security? Those things are already gone, but like Bush's reaction to New Orleans, we just haven't noticed yet.

Roll the dice, people!

* Sure, it's be different. They're party's name will be spelled completely differently.

Put A Sign in Your Front Yard

Years ago, I was exposed to the interesting mindset of the relatives of a friend.

They live in a bungalow in... oh well, it really doesn't matter where they live. They have been robbed 3 times. The third time, they laid silently in bed, pretending to be asleep while the robber collected whatever he could find from their dresser.

Ok, maybe it *does* matter where they live. They don't live in an "inner city". These folks were very well-to-do lawyer types in an affluent Florida neighborhood.

When I asked, "Ummm... do you have a gun?", they responded, "No, we don't believe in guns."

I think of that every time I see someone protesting the "right" to bear arms. I'm no slobbering gun nut, but I think -- on the whole -- responsible gun ownership is a good thing. Sure, we get the daily instance of some kid getting shot by a drunk idiot (who should be imprisoned a *long* time) but for every one of those we get three more run over by a drunk idiot in a car.

I won't get into the details of benefits vs. costs for gun ownership, but I have an idea for each camp. If you support civilian gun ownership, put a sign in your front yard declaring you own a gun. If you don't support gun ownership, put a sign in your front yard declaring that you refuse to own a gun.

Pro or Con, society is a safer place with criminals not quite sure what's gonna happen when they roll the dice and slide through a window. If you don't like the idea of your neighbors owning guns, put up a sign and enjoy some of the costs of a gun-free world.

The more I think about it, we should put up more signs in front yards. If you support illegal immigration, practice what you preach. Put a sign in your front yard declaring that you'll personally support 1/1,000th of the illegals that come into our country every year. You'll be legally required to provide every 1 of 1,0000 people with a driver's license, health care, a job, a room to stay in, etc. In other words: put your *own* money where your mouth is.

Another good sign, this time for anti-abortionists. If you solemnly believe in the "right to life", then put your money where your faith is. Put up a sign in your front yard that you'll adopt 1/1,000th of the unwanted children each year. You adopt it, raise it as your own, send it to college, etc.

You support the war? Put up a sign. Oh, wait, you've already got a yellow ribbon on the old Dodge 8 cyl turbo diesel. Good job. You'll be receiving your new legless amputee roommate any day now.

Put Up a Sign!

US Converts Missiles From Nuc to Conventional. Russia Panicks

What am I missing here?

Yahoo News

We're supposedly replacing nuclear weapons with conventional (non-nuclear) ones and now Russia is upset?

Activist Judges

Activist Judges! Activist Judges!

In 2000, Gore got more votes than Bush. The Supreme Court decided to put Bush in office instead of Gore.

Would those be the Activist Judges the neocons are blathering about?

The Desire for Revenge

It is sooo easy to agree with Thesaurus Rex's column "Civility".

Investigation? yes. Punishment? yes. Revenge? No.

Our nation is built on laws. Let's apply the laws we have now, clean up the ones the NeoCons have crapped out and show the nation that there's still hope.

Calm, legal process took care of Moussaoui correctly. Rabid cycles of revenge is why Afghanistan and others like it are where they are today.

New Orleans isn't the only thing around here filled with fetid filth. Let's fix the holes, build new defenses and clean this place up. The kids have run this place into the ground and it'll take adults to put things right.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Get Your War On

Invisible Cloud Buddy

Too funny.

Fables of the Reconstruction

Vindicated by Their Own Incompetence?

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The Cunning Realist

Barbara's Beautiful Mind

"But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

See here.
Some commentary here.

Steak & BJ Day

A holiday suggestion very worthy of consideration.

Requisite for "Free Market" Insurance

Everyone blathers about the need for Free Market insurance and how, given the choice, consumers will drive the market to decide.

Well, just like consumers who couldn't pick which cereal was less likely to fill them full of 'X' without nutrition labels on the box, today's health care insurance consumers can't tell a HMO from a Homo.

Quick! If you were to suffer a myocardial infarction, would your insurance cover it? What if you were admitted to a non-plan emergency room? How about drugs? Would you be getting generic or brand-name? Get snappy! You're dying here!

That's right. Unless your name ends in "M.D.", you likely won't know what a mycardial infarction is, let alone know whether your insurance will cover it, until you or someone you love has one.

And just like Froot Loops (TM)(R)(PatentPending) at minimum this country needs "labeling" for insurance.

In short, an independent agency needs to create a finite-entry list of Health Care Levels ( Say, '10' for example). Each higher Health Care Level being a superset of the one below.

For example, if you're single, 21 and a non-smoker, you probably won't see the need to pay for Health Care Level 9, which includes all governmentally-approved health treatments, including organ transplants. Unless you have a family history of cancer and would like to make sure you're covered if you are diagnosed with osteosarcoma, (covered in HCL8) you'd be just as happy to pass less for Health Care Level 4.

As a consumer, you could fill out a form, send it to various health insurance agencies and receive a list of HCLs and prices for your age/risk group.

Heck, independent consumer's agencies could even publish statistics comparing HCLx care between hospitals and/or insurance providers.

Costs would be cut down because there'd be less bickering about what is or is not covered. If you get colitis and you've paid for a HCL that covers colitis, you're covered. Period.

Now the sticky part is getting together an industry-wide and *independent* panel to yearly re-evaluate what services are and are not covered in each level. Liars and thieves of every stripe would focus on warping HCLs to line their pockets. A big problem, methinks, but not unsurmountable.

Note that there would be no service that is not covered ( Oh, you wanted your bedpan emptied? I'm sorry, ma'am, that's not covered under any HCL), nor would any higher HCL fail to cover things that are not covered in the lower HCLs (Yes, sir. We know you paid more for HCL5, but cancer drugs and cancer treatment are not both covered in HCL5. You can only have one or the other.)

HCLs would not be the panacea of our health care problems, but it would tend to give consumers two things:

- the ability to more easily compare plans
- protection from getting shafted by perpetual contract changes.

Note that several times I said, "insurance" and not "health insurance". That's because other insurances would also stand to benefit from similar plans. Imagine property insurance levels, PILs. You pay $x for water damage, you get paid from water damage. Not, "Oh, sorry sir. Your property was damaged by wind-driven rain, not gravity-driven rain".

Doesn't hurt to dream.

Journalism 101

So you want to know how journalism is supposed to be done?

Just watch this piece:

Government Official is accused of lying. Government Official denies lying.

News agency shows video clip of Government Official speaking words that he denies today.


Journalism reveals the truth.

See? It's not that hard. So why does the current media have such a hard time with the concept? Why can a comedy show do what media refuses to?

Kudos to TDS, although its a shame that our nation would be at the point where we would find even decent reporting unusual enough to warrant a Kudo.

Seriously, folks. This nation is fucked up right now.


The Onion viciously lampoons anti-abortion extremists. Good Show!

What We Watch

Carl over at Simply Left Behind brings up an issue I've been knocking around for awhile.

Why do people tend to watch shows that are totally antithetical to their daily life
Why do people find shows about rich, yuppie white households so engaging while shows that more closely representing their self-interests are are ignored?

So here's my theory:

People watch entertainment to take their minds off their problems, not to re-hash them.

People in the 1800's didn't attend plays titled "The Towering Inferno", war films probably weren't popular in Vietnam during the American War (except for M.A.S.H., perhaps) and airplane crash documentaries are not popular on the S.F. to New York flight circuit.

So if Joe American doesn't want to watch a protagonist lose his job to another country, fail to pay his bills and hilariously sit for hours in the emergency room waiting for health care, what *does* he want to watch?

He wants to watch Dallas or Friends or Falcon Crest or some other show where he can imagine himself young, rich and carefree.

Comedian Ron White once asked, "You don't want to watch a porn flick that stars a man with a small penis, do ya?"

So in short, just as in porn, Joe Sixpack wants to watch shows in which he can subconciously cast himself as someone more successful.

If James Bond were real, he'd have no interest in shows full of intrigue such as Mission Impossible or Lost.

Unfortunately my theory simply falls down when applied to shows such as Survivor or American Idol. If you can't imagine yourself rich and sucessful, you can get some smug satisfaction from vicariously bashing someone else.

Or, to explain the attraction of American Idle, we can always fall back to an older, more reductionist theory: People are idiots.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Sin of Unpopularity

or "W Die-Hards Die Easy When Popularity Falters"


I find interesting the latest rash of conservative commentators that are turning against Bush.

Six years of absolute idiotic bumbling and inaction didn't sway their enthusiasm, yet now almost every one of them harps upon his 31% approval rating.

So while anyone who criticised Bush on his performance in the past was partisan, its now ok to bash him for unpopularity?

Is that what long-term Bushies have basing their support on all along? Popularity?

While he's popular, he can do no wrong. They bathed themselves in his glory, defended him rabidly against any slight, supported him without fail and rode his coattails to fame and fortune.

But the sin of unpopularity is unforgivable?

Hmmm... who is the worst person in this scenario? Bush or those that supported him to the bitter end... at least until unpopularity struck.

Doug McIntyre

You Can't Promise to Stop Liking Chocolate

"I was not looking at her boobs."

Why he tells it: To achieve a delicate balance between marital harmony and 4 million years of biological conditioning

No matter how long you've been together, I guarantee your man hasn't stopped being attracted to other women. You can't promise to stop liking chocolate -- only to stop eating it.

More humorous insights into why guys lie.

Colbert Breaks the Bubble

"I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

Steven Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner

Bush's 80/20 Rule

You can fool all of the people some of the time...

Bush approval rating of 90% immediately following 9/11.

and you can fool some of the people all the time...

Bush approval rating currently at 31%.

but you can't fool all the people all the time.

What Makes 'W' So Appealing

This is a pondering I wrote in an e-mail a few years back:

I've often wondered what it is exactly about W that is so appealing to so many people. Perhaps it can be explained through an analogy:

Imagine kids posing with the cartoon characters at Disneyland. If we analyze the situation, what do we have? Well, we have an under-developed adult miming, acting and sweating in a foam costume/facade, hugging, cuddling and otherwise pretending to love a bunch of children. For the children, the experience is one of safe entertainment that reinforces their world-view - a world view that is filled with fantasy and bears no correlation to the world as we know it. In short, its fantasy time.

Every time I see children posing with Disney characters, I feel some confusion melt away as some of this nation's fawning for W starts to make sense.

Apr '06 update: My how things change! W's approval rating at 31%. Guess someone's growing up!

Heaven & Hell: A Parable

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like." The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, "I don't understand."

It is simple" said the Lord, "it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other. While the greedy think only of themselves.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Illegal Immigration

Ok, I can't hold it in any longer.

What is it with Progressives and Illegal Immigration? I'm not "Progressive" myself, but I'm with Progressives on most issues. But not illegal immigration.

Lemme set a few things straight first:

- I'm not in any way against legal immigration. Its good for the country.
- I'm not against any nationality.

Points, in no real order:

I just don't see where thinking people are coming from when they agree that millions of people who are here illegally should be given amnesty and rights. Illegal immigrants should be encouraged to go home and follow the legal process for immigration. Don't care where you're from.

Companies who hire illegal immigrants ( knowingly or not ) should face stiff penalties and be treated as the tax cheats they are. I know of too many people who are *legal* immigrants that are being blackmailed by their employers. I can only imagine what illegal immigrants are going through.

By not enforcing our borders we have effectively opened the borders for all to enter. Amnesty didn't work when Reagan did it and it won't work this time either.

Yes, they are nice people. I've met many of them. Many are great people. Many are hard workers. But so is everyone in the world.

The government is not the optimal solution for determining who should or should not enter the country. Allowing business to decide who should be allowed to immigrate into this country is much worse.

"But those are jobs American's don't want" - Which Americans? Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs? If there are Americans that want to wade up to their necks in your sewage, there are Americans that will wash your car, care for your kids and wash your laundry. People who hire illegal immigrants do so for only one reason: they're cheap. If you are truly concerned for the well-being of illegal aliens, you would send them money in their homeland or at least pay the ones here a living wage that will allow them to afford vacation, health care and a decent retirement.

"We can't find enough Americans to fill jobs." Big Business loves trotting out this old horse. Every Big Businessman crows the virtue of Capitalism and the power of Supply and Demand. If you can't find a supply of labor, pay more. That's the way supply and demand works.

"But my customers won't pay more. I can't afford to hire Americans." Why do you think your customers won't pay more? They're afraid they are about to be laid off; if they haven't been already. Who do you think your customers are, anyway? They you're neighbors, your family and yes, your employees and co-workers. Take care of them and they'll take care of you.
If you truly want to help the Mexican worker, stop shopping at Wal Mart and buy Mexican products. Hell, Mexian Coke and Pepsi are still made the old fashioned way: with cane sugar. Beats "Coke Classic" anyday.

"We need illegal aliens to pick our crops." If you honestly can't find Americans to fill your jobs, you need to learn the law of supply and demand, above.

"If we get rid of illegal aliens, the economy will collapse." How much more, honestly, do you think you'll pay per week to have an citizen pick your food, prepare your dinner and wash your car? Is that more than you're paying for gas now that it's climbed to over $3 per gallon?
Has the economy collapsed? Have you stopped driving the 10 mpg car? You send how many billions of dollars to Big Oil ever year in direct payments and tax breaks but you don't want to pay your neighbor $5 per hour to pick your fruit? Progressives bitch constantly ( and rightly so ) about George Bush's abuse of empire. Well set and example and stop supporting slavery here.

"But we can't deport 11 million illegal aliens." So you think that any "solution" that just gives illegal aliens further amnesty ( "special status", "temporary employment", "work visas" whatever you want to call it) will solve the problem?

We have 11 million illegal aliens in this country because we've all wink-winked to each other for the past 20 years. We overlooked the business practice of hiring illegal aliens because we're in on the "take". Let them be treated like slaves, threatened with deportation if they even *think* about talking back and pay them dirt. Proud of yourself yet?

If we give amnest to the 11 million that are here, without fixing our border, we'll soon have 22 million. Why not open the border completely? Because then we won't be able to treat them like slaves. If they can come and go at will, do you think they're gonna take it when you bitch that they missed a spot on your Volvo at the $5 carwash? Do you really think that someone who's free to come and go as he or she pleases will wash your stupid car for $5?

Start clamping down on the tax cheats (yeah, I mean you and the businesses that are hiring illegal immigrants) and things will start to change. Your neighbors will be able to look forward to more steady employment, the hospital emergency room crowding will start to ease and you'll be paying more for some items. But you ain't getting a deal right now, either. You're just ignoring the true costs.

"Paralyzed by Presidential Cowardice"

Josh Marshall

Every Day We Keep Bush in Office

We have this on our hands:

Andrew Sullivan

Net Neutrality: Why Does Telecom Want to Kill It?

First I must disclose that I hold, due to a previous job, shares in telecom equipment stocks. I stand to gain if telcoms start making more money and buying telecom equipment.
However, I support Net Neutrality and think that the current push by telecom companies to put toll lanes on the Internet is simply this: greed and stupidity.

If the telcos truly wanted to provide new, better functionality to the net community, they could present their ideas clearly and fairly and probably get a lot of buy-in. The telcos actions in Congress are nothing more than a naked power grab. Below I'll give one explanation as to why. But first:

AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre repeated comments to the Financial Times yesterday that he wants content companies to pay a QoS tariff. "I think the content providers should be paying for the use of the network - obviously not the piece for the customer to the network, which has already been paid for by the customer in internet access fees, but for accessing the so-called internet cloud."

"Now they might pass it on to their customers who are looking at a movie, for example," says Whitacre. "But that ought to be a cost of doing business for them. They shouldn’t get on [the network] and expect a free ride.”

Ummm... who exactly is getting the "free" ride? Am I the only schmuck who pay's his DSL bill?

AT&T is getting paid by both the *producers* of internet content ( The Googles, the Yahoos, the E-Bays ) and the *consumers* ( you and me. )

Many consumers are paying ~$19/mo for ~1Mb of broadband. You even want to *guess* how much E-Bay pays for access each month? In a word: Huge.

So what's got Whitacre on such a greed spree? Well, there are technical aspects such as Quality of Service (QoS) etc., but those are mostly being used as a smokescreens to the real problem (the one other than greed): laziness.

For years the telecoms have been pulling the Airline Trick. Everyone is familiar how , given an airplane with 100 seats, the airlines will sell 103 tickets. Airlines know from experience that 3 of every 100 people won't show up, will miss their flight, etc. So why fly with 3 empty seats (which costs them money) when you can overbook 3 extra paying stiffs to cover the loss? Sure they get caught with 104 people at the gate every once in a while, but usually they can pay off those exceptions with schwag to wait for another flight to try the whole thing again. This is basically what the telcos have been doing with your internet access for years.

Telecoms main customers pay big $$ for guaranteed service. If you look into your broadband contract (even even seen it?) you'll note that whatever rate your paying for isn't necessarily what you'll get. Sure at 3 a.m. on Good Friday you may get the 1Mb/sec you're paying for, but your "actual bandwidth" will likely be (read: will be) lower.

The big companies don't play that game. If E-Bay is paying $1M per day for 1 Tb of service (I'm pulling these number out of my ether but be assured, they're big), E-Bay has a team of lawyers and technicians to guarantee that they are getting every bit per second they're paying for. They're are also guarantees of service clauses in those contracts. For every second E-Bay doesn't get its guaranteed rate, AT&T pays a fine.

So AT&T spends a lot of time and energy making sure their giant customers get no less bandwidth than they're contracted for. But... what if there's a little left over that E-Bay's not using this second? Well, just between you, me and everyone else in the world, let's mention the open secret that telcos sell the "spare bandwidth" to others that aren't so picky about guaranteed service and are willing to pay smaller bills for "the scraps". If you're not paying internet bills in the order of thousands of dollars each month, then it's you. And me. And most everyone else.

So what's the rub? Well, for years now, the telcos have been selling bandwidth they didn't really have. They've been selling "spare" bandwith, 1-3 MB/sec, to just about anyone who'd stump up $20/mo. But with video finally becoming the norm on the internet, consumers aren't politely bursting a few kilobits here and there. They're clogging their lines with minutes and hours of multi-megabit downloads. With consumers actually *using* the bandwith they've purchased, the telcos are in the uneasy position of have to either:

a) admit to the customer that they're really not "entitled" to the bandwith the consumer thought the paid for (i.e. go read your contract and *stop using the 1Mb/sec you thought you'd bought*).

b) plumb more wires to provide the bandwidth they've already sold.

So 103 passengers are showing up and the telcos only have 100-seat planes. Oops.

What the telco to do? Buying the telecom equivalent of the bigger plane is *insanely* expensive, especially when done in the short term. Instead of slowly investing money over the years to slowly upgrade the lines, the telecoms have been playing pouty games with Congress and refusing to upgrade ( but that's another story). Now years behind in the game, they're looking at making upgrades in a few years at huge sums that would have been reasonably affordable if done methodically over the decades.

It's the same story that GM and Ford are currently facing. Instead of slowly upgrading car mileage over the years, Big Auto found it cheaper to buy votes against mileage increases in Congress. Sure, congressmen are expensive, but they're cheaper than actually doing work. With gas shooting above $3/gal, GM and Ford sales are plumbing new depths. Wise investment? Sure, if you're a CEO with a great golden parachute. If you're anyone else in the auto industry? Not so good. Leave America to foot the bill for restructuring if we don't like the idea of millions of Americans unemployed this Tuesday.

So Big Telco is taking the same tack. They're facing being *way* behind in deployed bandwidth -- bandwidth they're already *sold*, by the way -- and don't want to pay for the upgrades. What do do? Simple: buy congressment, get the rules changed and raise prices for everyone. A new internet tax will give them plenty of money to pay for the network upgrades.

Only we know they won't actually use the new windfall for that. The money will be funneled not to new deployment but to thank CEOs for garnering a huge windfall.

If telcos want to stay in business, make them compete like everyone else. They invest *their* money and they reap the dividents for *their* hard work, not yours.

Allowing the telcos to hike internet rates through this extortion is just as wise as paying Big Oil huge $$$ to "research alternative energy sources". How's that new Exxon/GM solar-powered car working out for you?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

$100 Gas & $50 DVD Players

Every oil-industry pundit (just turn on the TV, you'll see one) insists that the cause for high oil prices is:

1) China
2) You

Talk about a monopoly! What other industry in this society can stand up so tall and point the finger at the true problem: their customers? *That* my friend, is power!

Every company will get up and say, "It's not our fault, the blame goes should be directed to ..." But it takes the petroleum industry to point straight out of the TV and say, "It's your fault, dumbass. That'll be a thirty-cent per gallon increase to you."

At least they try to take a little bit of the sting out by also blaming India and China. That only gets me to wondering more. Is the crap from Wal-Mart still cheap if it costs me $4 per gallon to go get it? Will cheap crap from Wally World make up for the difference? Guess it might if we still had job to pay for it.

I'm thinking that when Wally-World starts passing on the increased fuel costs, those Chinese chatzkies aren't lible to get cheaper.

As you ride your bicycle to the unemployment office, just comfort yourself in the knowledge that the $50 DVD player sure was worth it.

$100 Gas and the Parliment of Whores

Yes, I'm shamelessly borrowing the title of one of the P.J. O'Rourke's book, but it seems appropos following the Republican idea to send US consumers a $100 check to "help cover" gas price increases.

Newspapers reported one constituent screaming in disgust, "Do you think we are whores!?!"

This does seem to reflect the culture in Congress, doesn't it? "Group X is screaming and it's making us look bad. Pay them off!"

What must be going through Republican's minds? "Damn Democrats and their lack of ideas!"

There's plenty of Democratic responsibility for this, but with 51% of the congressional power these days, it is a bullet for the Republicans to dodge. Now close your eyes and hope it just goes away...

Republicans have famously and steadfastly taken the side of business and refused to contemplate increasing CAFE fuel-efficiency standards for autos. They prefer to "let the market" handle such things.

(In the background I hear Dave Chappell's "Well, well, well.")

The "market" is in full swing. What's not to like?

Normally Congress wouldn't care how bad off average Americans are, but this "market correction" is happening just before a critical November election. Ouch. Sounds of the front door opening have wafted upstairs and Congress can't get the corporate penises out of their mouths fast enough. "Daddy's home!" Where to hide the john? What to do about the mess? Split the take?

Guess Republicans don't believe the corporate whoring money is gonna be enough to save asses this November. Even a literal sex-scandal in Washington won't bring people to the polls like high energy costs. Just ask that Carter fellow.

Some will write it off as just another Bush failure. Others will insist, "The economy's booming!" If the economy's booming, then why all the outcry when everyone's making money?

I keep hoping that gas prices will be the admission price for impeachment. But I thought the same thing about Katrina, the Iraq War, the Plame affair,... America just seems to have an infinite patience with their cheatin' ways.

Thousands of fellow citizens drowning or being slowly picked off in a foreign land is just that: foreign -- to most. Easily ignored under the din of daily life.

But gas prices are the stock market of the common man. How are things today, Hal? Well let's check the Big Board! Nothing brings home reality faster than that Index of Pain that is the price ticker at the corner Stop 'N Rob.

MSM can all be praising the glory that is a Great Economy, but nothing brings home reality faster the pain of spending the grocery money on the gasoline.

Even if every one of the b*stards -- Republican and Democrat -- were to get unelected come November, there probably won't be much change. A short bit of hope, but no real change. Their replacements probably won't show any more leadership ability, but they certainly can't show any less.