November 30, 2005

Meaningless deaths?

from - RSA

I've recently been thinking about our withdrawal from Iraq. One of the points that seems to come fairly often when this subject is raised is the idea that withdrawing troops before the mission in Iraq is accomplished (a flowering of democracy, to whatever extent we'd like to see) would render all the 2000+ deaths of American soldiers meaningless. I think that this is a pernicious and deeply mistaken view. We see it on both sides of the political aisle.

Ben Stein wrote, shortly before Thanksgiving:

I have a voluminous correspondence with soldiers and Marines in Iraq. To a man and woman, they do not want to walk away and make their comrades' deaths meaningless. They hate the war. They hate the dying. They grieve. So do their families. But they believe in their mission and they do not want their brothers' losses to be in vain.

On the opposite side, Cindy Sheehan wrote some time ago:

I came here two and a half weeks ago for one reason, to try and see the president and get an answer to a very simple question: What is the noble cause that he says my son died for? The answer to that question will not bring my son back. But it may stop more meaningless deaths. Because every death is now a meaningless one.

I don't question the sincerity of people who say such things. (Well, okay, I question the sincerity of some Republican cheerleaders.) But what they seem to be saying in general is that high-level political decisions have a bearing on whether someone's death is meaningful or meaningless. Does that sound right? Not to me. On the "stay the course" side, does anyone seriously hold the view that soldiers' deaths up to this point are potentially meaningful but won't achieve full meaning until the mission is accomplished? Or perhaps that past soldiers' deaths are meaningful now but would become meaningless if our current leadership changed course in Iraq?

I think that a much more personal view of the meaningfulness of someone's death (and life, for that matter) is appropriate. For a concrete example, I've recently been reading Black Hawk Down. Many if not all of the soldiers who died in that battle did so protecting their comrades. Even if the mission hadn't been successful in the end, who could say that their deaths were meaningless or that they'd died in vain? Not the survivors.

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that the meaning of soldiers' lives is determined by the success or failure of some military objective. I think that this is basically wrong; soldiers are human beings, not pieces in a strategy game.

Posted by RSA at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

Links With Your Eye Boogers.... Wednesday

from - smijer

It's a fifteen minute segment, but if you have that kind of time, you should watch the 60 minutes clip at Crooks & Liars about Plan B. Opponents of Plan B - especially those well placed in the government - have elevated superstition over morality, and sectarian religion over science. As a consequence of their ideological stubbornness, they are no doubt making abortion more common than it should be. Far more common. That's not to mention that they are taking away the tools that are available to women that could help them take personal responsibility and exercise individual liberty.

Some Bad News that you may not hear from the MSM or you Christian news sources if you are reading the rightist outlets. Keep these good people in your thoughts.

Good news from VA. It appears the 2008 Presidential election may have saved a life. It's one of those rare instances when the theory behind representative government actually works.

Atrios comments on the free bought press.

Ok.. y'all have made me late to work again. I'm running.. I'm running...

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Living with Autism

from - Buck

I have a niece that long ago was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. She is and always has been one of the joys of my life. She says and does things that are totally inappropriate socially and put simply she just does not give a damn about protocol of any kind. Her name is Ashley and here is my favorite story about her.

The two of us were riding down the road one day just shootin’ the breeze when from out of the blue she asked me, “Uncle Buck have you ever scratched your butt and smelled your finger?”

Well. What do you do? I wanted to be totally honest with her but damn. After a little stuttering and stammering I just said, “Yes honey I have. Have you?” She nodded her head yes as if the question had an obvious answer and then she was quiet for a few moments as if she was deep in thought. After just a couple of minutes she looked at me and said, “Uncle Buck have you ever scratched your butt and licked your finger?”

There was no pause on my part this time. My voice got a little higher than it should have and I said to her, “Lord Jesus Christ honey, hell no, have you!”

She gave me her patented sideways smile and simply said, “Not yet.”

I tell this story before making a book recommendation. I have just finished reading a book called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” It is a marvelous novel written by Mark Haddon and is written from the perspective of a 15 year old boy that is autistic. Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism and that is what sparked my interest in the book. I highly recommend it.

Just like Ashley it will make you laugh and it will make you cry.

Posted by Buck at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

Armchair Presidenting

from - smijer

Well, Mark Warner succeeded in knocking some of the glow off of his golden-boy status as grassroots favorite for 2008, opining that no timeline is needed for an exit to Iraq.

Well, I'm increasingly of the opinion that a timeline is needed. Talk about that in a minute.

It was a dumb political move... alienating a lot of "the base", giving political cover to a President (and a future GOP nominee) who will no doubt use his words to show that he agrees with them that doing nothing and "staying the course" is the smart mode of action... making it that much easier to silence the debate over whether or how to leave Iraq... making it that much easier for a GOP nominee to campaign on a platform of continuing to screw up that country along with our own.

It was especially dumb, because he really didn't need to say anything at this point. He's an outgoing governor of VA, not an incoming president. He should be spending his time with advisors, crafting his foreign policy - not preaching it. Making a commitment to avoid timelines now does nothing more than close his own options. It isn't like the insurgency is just waiting to hear what Mark Warner says before they decide to set off another IED. It isn't as though the soldiers or policy makers care what he says right now. So, it was a very dumb thing to do. (The same would be true if he advocated the opposite opinion at this point, though I probably would have been too dumb to notice, and would not have cared enough to write a post about it.)

But Warner isn't a dumb guy. He won the hearts of a red state public without compromising blue ideals to do it. He moved the voters of VA to elect him governor, twice, and made it possible for another moderate liberal democrat to win the election following. That's not the work of a politically tone-deaf dummy. So, cut him a break, and give him a chance to learn from his mistakes. Let's not suck the oxygen from the 2008 primaries by multi-tiered litmus tests that can be failed over a single inept comment.

The timeline... The knee-jerk rightist reaction is that it will "embolden the enemy" and give them a strategic advantage, being able to make their plans around our timeline. Okay... Maybe...

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly the U.S. occupation that provides the most fuel for the insurgency at present. Might that fire find other tinder to burn when the occupation is gone? Sure it may. It isn't like there is no ethnic or religious strife in our new colony. But would a timeline not also give aid to the caue of peace there? I heard a comment from someone - I think it was an analyst or strategist type - on the radio the other day. He said something I hadn't thought of before. It was a comment to the effect that providing a timeline, or more generally, showing sincerity about our commitment to turn Iraq over to Iraqi rule*, would reassure the Iraqis who fear or suspect that we plan to stay in Iraq over the long-term. Without Iraqis who believe the worst about American motives, will the insurgency find willing recruits? When Iraqis see a light at the end of the tunnel, will more of them not be willing to take a step out on faith and make an effort at solving the problems of governing Iraq? Will Iraqis who take political action or who join the new security forces be safer and more able to perform their jobs when there is less credibility to the notion that they are aiding and abetting the enemy occupiers.

Of course, the timeline also puts some pressure on U.S. politicians to actually get something done toward withdrawing... With a timeline, it's going to be more politically difficult to continue business as usual and drag out this war for several more years. "Staying the Course" will serve only to worsen the situation that is left when we finally do withdraw, IMHO. It would be nice to see a fire lit under some White House ass. That's all I'm saying.

Back to Warner... He looks pretty good to me... A couple of others in the race do, too. I fear I won't vote enthusiastically in an election until we prove that there's enough room on a major party ticket to run someone besides a rich, white, male, Christian heterosexual. Maybe Warner would make a decent VP nod... giving him a possibility of 4-8 years in the White House to learn the business before putting him in the drivers seat. We'll see. It's still 2005 right now.

*For those who think that having elections and a parliament means the Iraqis are in charge, please remember, that the Iraqis are not the ones that decide whom to target with the tanks and guns and bombs and planes (nod to the Cranberries). It's the contingent that has the firepower that has the real political power.

Posted by smijer at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2005

Stormy Monday

from - Buck

Since November 24th everyday has seemed like Sunday.

This is not necessarily a good thing. Sunday always brings with it a sadness that I can never quite put my finger on. I guess it is the fear and the dread of Monday. That is part of it anyway. It seems like that in the fall and wintertime the wind blows a little harder and a little colder on Sunday’s than it does on any other day.

I have just experienced four days of the wind blowing a little harder and a little colder and to be honest with you I am glad it is over.

As bad as Monday can be it is always easier facing it than dreading it.

I’ll just assume my position, caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender, and push on.

Rejoice, rejoice we have no choice but to carry on.

Posted by Buck at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Grab a Cup, and Let's Talk About the Weekend

from - smijer

What, me first? Ok... well... the weekend was busier than I like it, but I was well entertained. In roughly chronological order....

Ms. Piddles had to go to the vet Friday afternoon -- I was graciously allowed to leave work a little early on account of having worked Thanksgiving Day, so I took the opportunity to run her to the vet down the street before they closed... She's having some terrible, terrible skin allergies... and she was way past due to get a steroid shot, some flea drops, and some oral antibiotics. It was my first visit to the new Lookout Valley Pet Hospital. You can't judge a vet by one visit, but the folks were nice, helpful and affordable.

Saturday, after lingering a while too long in the bed and doing my blog reading, we boarded the Southern Belle to attend a wedding for one of the Missus' friends. It was nice... I made a new friend from Indiana... a school bus driver... he raved about the beauty of the south and about how much he liked Chattanooga. We stood out front of the boat, enjoyed the nice fall-like weather, watched the river, and talked for a good while.

Next, rush, rush, rush... off to my first viewing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Worst book of the set (IMHO), and best movie, so far. Emma Watson is a stunning actress... She really made the movie for me. Hard to believe she's only 15. I really think this generation of kids is smarter than my generation... Not just the Hollywood types, but kids from places like Calhoun, GA... and from Chattanooga, TN... Just look at our own Younger boy, grabbing a bite to eat with his girlfriend and us before the movie at Arby's... Can't you just see the cerebral genius behind these eyes?

Younger.JPG

Which brings us to Sunday morning in the RE class (skipping ahead of the chronological thing for just a moment)... A young woman in the class brought in a stuffed animal she had made from spare parts of an owl and a cat... it was a very convincing griffin. By the way, what is the generic name for creatures like the Griffin - monsters with features of more than one animal group? Doesn't it start with a 'C'? I can't call that word to mind, and it is killing me.

Backing up, I was late to church Sunday because I spent too much time lingering over the Carnival of the Godless at Evangelical Atheist... (What happened to the Ecumenical UU, you might ask? He's in hiding until the Christmas War season is over... don't worry, he's alive and well and is being treated humanely.).

Then, after church and a nap, it was back to the Harry Potter movie, with the Elder smijerling. Did I mention that it was a fantastic movie? It covered less than half of Rowling's book, but it was an almost seamless and very well crafted presentation of the parts that it did cover.

I'd tell you more, but I can see your eyes glazing over... and I have to go to work now. Be sweet.

Posted by smijer at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2005

Truth to Tell. . .

from - RSA

A majority of Americans believe that President Bush deliberately misled the nation into the war in Iraq. "Bush lied, people died." His defenders have many responses: if Bush lied, so did Democrats; Bush's statements were not lies but rather based on poor intelligence from the CIA; if Bush lied, so what? This is just a sampling. Many of these defenses are based on a very restrictive notion of a lie: "To lie means to say something one knows to be false." Of course, this leaves out lies of omission, which are the main complaint Democrats in Congress have about the information that Bush provided.

Let's leave the specifics of the debate aside, for now, and take a different approach to understanding why people might think that the Bush administration lied about Iraq. What does it mean to tell the truth about something we know? More basically, what does it mean to "know" something?

An obvious answer might be that we know something when we believe that it's true and it actually is true. But this isn't quite right: John might buy a lottery ticket believing that his number will come up tomorrow, and the next day it actually does. (I take this example from Simon Blackburn's excellent little book, Think.) Can John be said to have known that this would happen? Not really. A refinement of the "obvious" answer goes back to Socrates: in addition to John's believing X and X's turning out to be true, John has to have reasonable justification for his belief. (Philosophers aren't completely happy with this revised answer, either, but their arguments are too subtle for me.)

So when Donald Rumsfeld said, "We know where [Saddam's weapons of mass destruction] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat," it seems most likely that he was wrong, in that WMDs did not turn up north, south, east, or west of Tikrit and Baghdad. Assuming that Rumsfeld was being honest in his statement, what's interesting about this example is that Rumsfeld was wrong in that what he believed was not true, but there's the strong possibility that he was also wrong because his belief was not justified. To take this a step further, even if WMDs had been found in Iraq, it's not clear (given what we know about Curveball and other Iraqi informants) that the people in authority were at all reasonably justified in believing that WMDs would be found.

This may seem unintuitive: if something turns out to be true, then wasn't it right to believe that it was true? But remember the example of the lottery player. Invading Iraq was an enormous gamble. If it pays off in the long run, I will be very happy. But I doubt I will ever be happy with the arguments for having done it in the first place.

Update: In comments, m raises a very good point that I'd unaccountably overlooked: Doesn't this line of thought condemn everyone, Democrats as well as Republicans, who said, "We know Saddam has WMD?" as liars? Hoist by my own petard. Now I'm not sure that what I've written actually contributes much light to the situation, since everyone already does seem to be focused on justification of belief. I'll give it further thought. For now I'll admit that the implicit link above between lying and making statements that both turn out to be false and lack justification is much too strong. Mistakes produce the same results.

Posted by RSA at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2005

Working women

from - RSA

Kevin Drum writes about an ill-informed opinion piece by David Gelerntner, in which Gelerntner argues,

In those long-ago days, more college women used to plan on staying home to rear children. Those women had other goals than careers in mind, by definition. They saw learning as worth having for its own sake; otherwise why bother with a college education, if you weren't planning on a big-deal career?

But then came feminism:

But all that changed with feminism's decision to champion the powerful and successful working woman.

And what do liberals think?

Some liberals imagine that conservatives spend their time trying to set the clock back. That's a foolish caricature. We're not going back to 1960 (before careerist feminism took off). . .

The point that Gelerntner is making is not entirely clear to me, but his conclusions (whatever they may be) don't seem be based on very much besides memories of older, better days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains information about the participation of women in the workforce. I've turned some data in a table from infoplease into a simple graphic below. It shows women in the workforce, from 1900 through 2000, as a percentage of all women 16 or over and as a percentage of all people 16 or over in the workforce.

wworkforce.jpg

We see a steady increase in women's participation over the entire century, with no significant blips. It starts to take off not at 1960 (as can be told by differencing the data, which I haven't shown) but rather between 1940 and 1950, which is as we might expect from what we know about women coming into the workforce to help with the war effort, and staying afterwards. Did feminism have something to do with this? Perhaps, but it's not the post-60s brand of feminism that Gelerntner rails against in his column. Are the careerist feminists that Gelernter writes about different from the overall population of women in the workforce? Again, perhaps, but that case hasn't been made.

Posted by RSA at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

Raining Willie Pete on Your Christmas Parade

from - smijer

Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and according to the International Rules of Holiday Warfare (IRHW), it is the opening day of hostilities between the Secularist ACLU Department Store Alliance and the Axis of Jesus. Time for all good fundies to take to the airwaves in defense of Santa, the Baby Jesus, Mistletoe, and all that is Sacred, while Godless, Babyeating, Secularist, Liberal Multicultural, Department Store Owners take aim at the Spirit of Christmas with their Happy Holidays banners and Seasons Greetings cards and their Creche-Seeking Tactical Attorneys.

If you don't hate Christmas, stop reading now...

I'm not kidding.

If anyone reading past this point is caught giving aid or comfort to the Axis of Jesus, there will be serious consequences.

Ok. Now, for the rest of you, here's a special Holiday Treat! Please accept this Strategy and Tactics Manual for conducting an effective War on Christmas:

  • Good Offense is the best Defense. When the "Holiday" giving begins, be prepared with the right kinds of gifts to help put the "X" back in Christmas!

    Harry Potter books and licensed SpongeBob merchandise are perfect for the kiddies of the the Falwell/Dobson Coalition of the Axis.

    The Dreidel Game makes a great gift for any child on your list, but especially for children of the Henry Ford/William Donahue Faction of the Christmas Warriors.

    For adults, books make great gifts... Anything by Al Franken is ideal for enemy combatants of the Bill O'Reilly Brigade O' Crazies. Special bonus - Al's last name is sure to raise the hackles of the John Birch Regiment, too!

  • Be prepared for enemy moles in your camp! If you are getting ready to slaughter the goat, and one of your coven looks like they are getting a little green around the gills, it may be a Christmas Crusader! To expose the impostor, all you'll need is your personalized copy of Mao's Little Red Book (your name embossed free, if you buy now!), and a Slayer CD. Ask your suspect to place their left hand on the CD, and read a few lines from the LRB (New Ward Churchill translation preferred). Christmateers can't do it.
  • Eliminate the reason for the season. This is our most important mission. If you have them in your home (don't forget to check the bathroom shower!), get them out. If you see them set up in your town square, call the ACLU immediately. If your kid comes home from school with one, don't wait until later to send an angry letter to the school board. That's right! I'm talking about Falafels!
  • Check back on these pages, and at the Carnivals of the Godless for regular updates to help coordinate our assault on the "Holidays"! If we stick together, we can drive Santa and all his little Elves bat-sh*t crazy!

Posted by smijer at 06:30 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2005

More Thanksgiving

from - RSA

I'll chime in with Smijer on wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. Here are a few entertaining stories in the news about this holiday.

From CNN: In New York City, Sonya Thomas won the world turkey-eating title on Wednesday by putting down a 10-pound turkey in 12 minutes. She is 37 years old and weighs 105 pounds. Her nickname, in competitive eating circles, is The Black Widow.

From the AP: Some holiday diners emphasize frugality. A group of people who call themselves freegans don't buy food; instead they only eat food that's been discarded. This is not quite as unpleasant as it sounds. The folks profiled in this story live in New York City and seem to be able to find reasonably packaged, non-expired food discarded by places like gourmet food markets. As long as they get there before the fish is thrown on top of it all.

From a wedding planning site: This isn't targeted at Thanksgiving, but I was taken with one suggestion for women who would like to propose to their intended in a creative way:

Make his favorite dish for Thanksgiving dinner and hide his ring (or other engagement symbol) in his dinner. (Don't hide it too well, or he will choke on it!)

And finally, from Underwriters Laboratory: What could improve on centuries-old traditional ways of preparing a turkey? Adopting a more modern technique: deep-frying. UL has a number of safety tips, along with some nice dramatic pictures of turkey fryers catching on fire.

On a more personal note, as I've been typing this entry, a helicopter from the Los Angeles Police Department has been circling over our heads. It's been up there for the past half-hour or so, making largely incomprehensible announcements over a loudspeaker: "People on the beach or the bike path, please [unintelligible] building [unintelligible] south." So much for a peaceful, pastoral holiday in Venice, CA. It does make me want to walk a block down toward the beach to see what's going on, though obviously this is the last thing that the police would want me to do.

Update: Around lunchtime my wife and I wandered down our street (a so-called walk-street) to the end, which was cordoned off with police tape. The officer standing guard told us that in an apartment building about half a block from where we live, neighbors had reported gunfire. We'd heard one very loud bang a short time ago but thought nothing of it. The man the police were trying to get to in the building has reportedly been depressed for some time and has threatened to commit suicide several times in the past. The police were keeping people away from the general area to ensure that no one was hit by any possible gunfire. A couple of hours later, all is quiet, with no police presence. It's sad. I hope that the man has come through this unharmed, and I wish that the holidays could be happy for everyone.

Posted by RSA at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

Thanksgiving

from - smijer

quakerguy.jpg
Dear Quaker Oatmeal Guy,

Thank you for my family (wifeypoo, the two boys, mom, dad, sisters, grandmas, among others), the mowie doggies, the ruff-ruff doggy, my friends, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, that I'm so RICH, for Buck and the new co-blogger RSA, for George Dickel and eggnog. Thank you for the blogosphere, the Rocky Top Brigade, and Ricky and Dave and Alice and Brainwise and Buddy Don and Say Uncle and PZ and all of them at HamDems and Joe Public, and the Pulse bloggers. Thank you for Chattanooga, Racoon Mountain and Elder Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, that nasty old Tennessee River, and several other geographical features. Also Coolidge Park and other public places. Thank you for the Constitution, emancipation, suffrage, the civil rights act, and debit cards. Thank you for John Stewart, Rob Corddry, Stephen Colbert, Murray Waas, and Congressman Murtha. Thank you for antidepressants.

Amen.

P.S. Thanks for nothing that I have to go to work today.

Posted by smijer at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2005

My Crystal Ball

from - RSA

As conversation in the national media turns to who knew what, and when, I've been wondering whether my own views have changed about the war in Iraq. This is a bit self-indulgent, but here's something I wrote in March, 2003, about a week before the invasion, in a post to a North Carolina newsgroup where I sometimes hang out. I was writing about why I opposed the coming war:

  • There's a lot of uncertainty about what Saddam will do when backed into a corner; there's room for disagreement about whether an immediate war is the safest course of action. What would you do if you were a vicious dictator in fear of your life?

  • Going after Iraq now, after all of the administration's emphasis on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, looks to have a great element of opportunism in it--we're doing it because Iraq is weak, not because it's the greatest threat to the US. What about North Korea? What about Pakistan, who from what I read is a much bigger problem in the way of nuclear proliferation?

  • There also hasn't been a great deal of information yet (though more is apparently soon forthcoming) about how Iraq will be democratized. I think that picking up the pieces after any war is possibly more important than the war itself, but all the focus has been on the very short term.

  • What do we know about Saddam's regime now that wasn't obvious before 9/11/01? There's no verified connection between Iraq and Al Quaeda, which makes this look like a manufactured war. (This doesn't apply to anyone who thinks we should have taken out Saddam right after Kuwait.) Do we bomb Iran and North Korea next year, when they come to the front of the line in the Axis of Evil? If not, why not?

  • What are the implications for international politics if we establish a precedent for preventive war when there's no immediate, plausible threat? To me it sounds like, "Starting a war is very dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals; do not try this at home."

  • Okay, I'll throw in one humanitarian point: How many Iraqi civilians are expected to be killed in this war? As of last month, Ari Fleischer says he is unaware of any estimates. A recent poll shows that over half of the American public would oppose a war in Iraq if it meant the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Why don't we find out?


I can't claim any great insight into politics, but I think all of these questions except the first are still relevant, and it amazes me that more than two years later, we still are fuzzy on the answers. Have any of you revisited your thoughts of two years ago?

Posted by RSA at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

The Red and the Blue

from - RSA

My local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, has an uplifting article on a meeting of the minds of two Katrina aid groups in Waveland, MS: evangelical Christians from Texas and the Rainbow Family, a group of self-described hippies. They've worked together feeding people for three months and learned to appreciate each other:

Gradually, barriers melted. The evangelicals overlooked the hippies' unusual attire, outlandish humor and persistent habit of hugging total strangers. The hippies nodded politely when the church people cited Scripture. The bonds formed at Waveland Village have surprised both groups.

"We are Methodists, Episcopalians and Baptists, along with various and sundry other Christian groups," said Fay Jones, an organizer of the Bastrop (Texas) Ministerial Alliance. "Did we ever think we would have such a wonderful relationship with hippies? No."

Brad Stone, an emergency medical technician from the Rainbow Family, called the Christian-hippie coalition his new community. He explained: "It has been unbelievable. We are all so close. I am actually dreading leaving."

I get a warm feeling from reading stories like this. My adult life has been spent moving between Red and Blue areas: Maryland, Munich, Massachusetts, and California on the blue side; Texas and North Carolina on the red side. Perhaps because of moving around, I've become cautious in expressing my political views in conversation. On the plus side, this means that sometimes I'll find that a friend is as liberal as I am, which means we have lots more to talk about. Sometimes I'll discover that a friend is more conservative than I'd expected, which is a little disappointing, but on the other hand we might not have become friends in the first place if we'd led with our politics.

Oddly enough, Northern versus Southern distinctions, based on first impressions, sometimes feel much harder to get over (even if they're relatively trivial), probably because they can be very obvious right at the start.

Posted by RSA at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Dangerous World for Young'Uns

from - smijer

Well, it's a dangerous world for everybody, really... but Ron Shank has been doing a series on a Dateline story about sexual predators who use the internet to find victims. They "busted" (on television) a whole big bunch of would-be predators by posing as teens in a chatroom and waiting on the jerks to show up at the door, to meet them with cameras.
first post

follow-up, with some common sense tips that on-line families should be seriously thinking about.

Uh-oh... the boys in blue not going to follow up?

A non-Dateline arrest.

Again, why no charges?...

During “Dateline NBC’s” recent hidden camera investigation, 19 were caught going to a suburban home where they thought they’d be meeting with sexually available teens. Some made a run for it when they went into the kitchen and saw NBC’s Chris Hansen waiting.

One came into the house completely naked and sat down in the kitchen, where Hansen met him and kindly handed him a towel to cover himself up.

If you have kids and computers... be keep this in mind and be very careful.

Posted by smijer at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

from - RSA

Well, actually, it's only beginning to look like Christmas in shopping malls and department stores. But there's been enough advertising around already to make me reflect a bit on my shopping habits. Over the past few years I've shifted a great deal of my shopping from bricks-and-mortar stores to online stores. Here's a list of things I've bought recently online, things that ten years ago I could only have imagined buying in person:

  • A digital camera (a Canon A95--an excellent choice, I must say).
  • Computer equipment (laptops, desktops, and various peripherals.)
  • Computer software.
  • Prescription medicine.
  • A pair of eyeglass frames, to replace a broken pair.
  • Books, books, and more books.
  • Games (ten copies of Pass the Pigs, an excellent game for children and drinkers, which I give out as Christmas stocking stuffers.)

Some of my friends and acquaintances are much less risk-averse than I am; I know someone who bought an almost-new minivan over the Internet. Me, I feel uncomfortable when the price gets up above a couple of hundred dollars, and that value is much lower if I'm dealing with an individual rather than a company.

What have you bought online?

Posted by RSA at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

Sword v. Pen....

from - smijer

If it's true that Bush was giving serious consideration to bombing Al-Jazeera offices in Qatar and elsewhere, then this is very damning. In fact - such orders would have been the crossing over line... that's deliberately targeting non-combatants... that's terrorism no matter how you define it. I'm very disturbed by this. I've never had much confidence in Bush's character, intelligence, or motives, but - if this is true - it reveals that he is much worse than I thought. In fact, he would be little better than our enemies. And, I would be very shocked... I'll watch for more developments.

Posted by smijer at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

First Log Entry

from - RSA

Ahoy! Smijer has generously invited me aboard to co-blog. I am not actually a pirate (though if I were, I would use this keyboard) but instead a boring associate professor in the computer science department at North Carolina State University. My professional interests are in artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and cognitive science, though I don't know if those topics are of much general interest; I'll mainly be blogging about what's going on in the world.

Let's get started!

The Bush administration has recently been lashing out in response to criticism of their actions in the run-up to the war in Iraq. One of their talking points is that even if they got the intelligence mostly wrong, their critics were wrong as well and should share the blame. Peter Daou currently has a nice round-up of answers to pro-war fallacies at the Daou Report.

There's a slightly different way to think about this talking point, one that's highlighted in a recent book by Harry Frankfurt, the title of which I'll abbreviate as On BS. The relationship between Bush and BS has been written about before, but I think it's worth bringing up again in the current situation. The central point Frankfurt makes is that BSers aren't necessarily liars. Rather, they operate as if the truth is entirely irrelevant to what they're saying. We probably all have a friend or acquaintance who might, for example, ask to borrow our car, and begin some involved, heart-wrenching story about why it's needed. We've been fooled in the past, and so we may or may not believe the story. But we already know that what we're listening to is BS. In fact, everything that our friend is telling us may be the literal truth, and yet we'd still mark it as BS because (a) we know the person and (b) the only reason we're being told the story is because it's a means to getting our car keys from us.

I think this analogy is useful because it tells us that we can often recognize BS whether or not we're taken in. It depends much more on the person who's telling it than whoever is listening. What might BS look like in a political setting? The choice of some action before enough is known to see that it will be useful or effective; a shifting rationale for that action after the fact; a dismissal of alternatives that might have been better; avoidance of any examination of who did what and when; the inability to admit having been wrong. Sound familiar? If we look at the actions of the Bush administration, we see all the indications that we've been handed a line of BS. What everyone else did doesn't really matter.

Posted by RSA at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

The Dancing Outlaw

from - Buck

A friend of mine recently loaned me a DVD called “The Dancing Outlaw”. As I have said before it seems like I am always the last to see the true gems that this world has to offer. But I can’t complain. Eventually it seems that I do get to see most of them.

This documentary is a must see for anybody living south of the Mason-Dixon line. If you have ever wondered where southern stereotypes came from this film will give you a good idea. There is always a kernel of truth in any stereotype. Sometimes that kernel develops into a fully formed fruit.

In my life I have spent some time with guys like Jesco White. I have passed around the jelly jar that contained the liquid corn elixir. I have rocked and rolled and howled at the moon.

It is true. I am American by birth but I am Southern by the grace of God and I have never been nor will I ever be ashamed of that.

Posted by Buck at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

Statements from the Spirit of S&B

from - smijer

More news from the African coast.. I've been looking for mainstream news links to include with this story. I can't understand why there's nothing on Google News. The only thing I can figure is that the S&B was steaming to port for repairs and did not have passengers on board, keeping the human interest angle below the threshhold for the corporate media... Anyway, I just got some updates from my radio source. It turns out that the partial transmission from last night was followed later by full statements over the radio from the attacker, who had apparently commandeered the vessel, and from the captain who may have been reading under duress. Here's the lowdown:

[Voice of attacker]. I am the Dread Pirate Robert St. Amant. There will be no survivors. My men are here, and I am here, but soon you will not be here. The Dread Pirate Robert St. Amant takes no survivors. All of your nightmares are about to come true.

There was a brief pause, then the voice of the captain came on:

This is smijer, captain of the Spirit of S&B cruise line. I have been instructed to say that our captor, the Dread Pirate Robert St. Amant, now has possession of the vessel. We were sailing for port, with only our navigational and engineering crews on board. They have been thrown overboard and replaced with artificially intelligent Interface Softbots, who have taken over the instruments of the ship. Our pilot, Buck, has been kept alive and on board, but is unconcious at the present, having had his "memory jogged" about the secret entrance to the bridge. It was noted that RSA - as our captor prefers to be called - "didn't mean to jog him so hard."

Our captor insists that the authorities stay away from the vessel. If any boat or helicopter approaches, he will kill us. Please listen to him, and do what he says.

RSA has allowed me to briefly describe the attack and boarding. The speedboat on which our attacker was travelling approached our starboard flank at approximately 21:00 GMT last evening. It was travelling at a high rate of speed. The crew made a valiant attempt to repel the attack, using high frequency sound projected from our good natured idle banter cannon, but this failed, as the speedboat was equipped with its own pleasant conversation engine. As the attacker boarded the ship, the crew scrambled to drive him away with e-mail chain letters, but the attacker reached our chain letter neutralizer and successfully overcame our best efforts. He then overcame the crew, including Buck and myself, with overwhelming logic and undeniable wit. Upon being subdued, I begged for my own life and Buck's, citing the beauty and perfection of "true blog" as the greatest reason to live. My story intrigued Robert, as did my descriptions of our passengers' beauty. Finally he decided something. "All right, smijer. I've never had a valet. You can try that if you like. I'll most likely kill you in the morning". With that he spared our lives. He also agreed to allow Buck and I to continue to send out updates on the fate of the ship, American politicians, and whatever jokes we could think of as we desired. From now on, he, too will be sending out updates from on board the Spirit of S&B.

Please welcome our newest co-blogger... Please don't be put off if he's smarter or more eloquent than what you are used to seeing from smijer's side of the table...

Welcome aboard, RSA... Arrrrrrrrrr!

Posted by smijer at 08:07 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2005

Update on Pirate Attack - Getting Bizarre

from - smijer

I just heard another update on the Pirate attack I just mentioned... Apparently, repeated attempts were made to hail the Spirit of S&B on designated frequencies, and eventually a broken up response came in. I don't have an exact quote, but it was something along the lines of "Spirit of [S&B] ... Pirate ... Roberts... never takes prisoners", which was apparently some kind of reference to the movie, Princess Bride. This was the only interruption so far in the radio silence from the vessel. This is going to be one of those funny "news of the weird" stories if everybody comes out of it safely, which I certainly hope they do.

Posted by smijer at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

More Pirate Attacks

from - smijer

I just got this news... I don't have a link yet, but there's been another pirate attack off the coast of Africa. The Spirit of S&B, sailing for Locquatia Cruise Lines was approached by a small speedboat. The crew did everything they could to repel the craft, but it continued its approach until it was alongside the S&B. The luxury cruise ship was then boarded by a single individual who managed to reach the cabin. At this point, the ship's radio signal went silent.

More updates will follow as available.

Posted by smijer at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2005

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

from - smijer

Via Chattanooga Pulse Blog, ... well, just watch.

Posted by smijer at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

Replying to John Cole Black

from - smijer

This really isn't the reply to John Cole... To sum that part up, he saw the GOP stunt on the Murtha bill yesterday, and bought it hook, line, and sinker... A lot of people tried to explain it to him, and his visitors who are also regulars at Little Green Footballs or the Free Republic, of course, gave hand signals indicating that their heads were still so far up George W's rectum that, as far as they could see, John was right. And it was grimly amusing. But finally the subject changed (somewhere around comment number 370something), and I was moved to write this... and then felt so good to get it off my chest, I wanted to let my friends read it, too:

Since this thread has devolved into "it was worth it to start a war in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people" (and "it's worth it to continue to foment civil war there so that the Iraqi people can have their new theocracy tempered by fire"), I'd like to give everyone a friendly reminder:

The evidence is stacked strongly against the notion that we were taken to war to liberate the Iraqi people, or to protect the Iraqi people, the Kurds, ourselves, or anyone for that matter, from Saddam Hussein.

Points:

I. Our foreign policy,including the prioritization of the Iraq war, and including our pre-war diplomatic overtures, does not reflect willingness to intervene on the behalf of people who suffer under tyrannical regimes.

a. There was no ultimatum - "Iraq must stop (X, Y, Z) human rights abuses, let the Red Cross into your prisons to document that these practices have been stopped. Further, Iraq must set out a timetable for creating democratic reforms that will ensure that the government of Iraq properly represents its people, and must show significant progress toward achieving that goal. If Iraq fails to respond with action in (X) amount of time, the U.S. and its allies will organize a multinational force to take appropriate actions to enforce a regime respecting human rights in Iraq.
b. U.S. leaders failed to prioritize ongoing genocide in Sudan over the genocidal or near-genocidal actions from over a decade ago in the Iraq regime.
c. The U.S. continues to align itself politically with repressive regimes around the world. Examples: Pakistan, Uzbekhistan, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. continues to maintain warm ties with other repressive regimes, giving only lip-service to diplomatic pressure for reform in those regimes. Example: China.
d. The U.S. failed to bring together a coalition of interested Iraqis of all political and ethnic stripes, prior to invasion, to aid in the overthrow of S.H. and to be prepared for an orderly transition to a peaceful, democratic government.
e. The U.S., rather than clearly demanding that the Pentagon be responsible that the occupying forces respected human rights and the Geneva Conventions, sought ways to avoid legal limitations on our own conduct with regard to human rights.

II. The combined results of the first Gulf War, international sanctions, Operation Desert Fox, the presence of weapons inspectors in Iraq, and continued enforcement of no-fly zones over Kurdish territories left S.H. far less capable of posing a threat to his own people, the Kurds, the U.S., or anyone else for that matter, than, for instance Iran, Syria, North Korea, or the Janjaweed/Sudanese government. In fact S.H. had no remaining power to harm anyone on a large scale, and even his remaining brutality within his regime could likely have been addressed with threats, or with multinational insertion of a peacekeeping and observation mission. Nevertheless, the Iraq war was prioritized over all other measures that could have contributed to human rights and democracy worldwide.


III. The rhetoric of the U.S. Adminsitration prior to the war. Human rights and democracy were mentioned as they specifically related to Iraq and S.H., but the reason for going to war was stated repeatedly and unequivocally: "Saddam Hussein must disarm or we will disarm him", paired with "we will go to war only as a last resort." The last proved a lie (even though I realize many conservatives would have disagreed with such a policy, believing that we cannot wait until all other measures have failed, or our threats might become imminent, and then it would be too late, because then they would already be imminent. Or whatever.). The fact that the latter proved to be an intentional deception, the former becomes very questionable, as the war was started before we, with U.N. help, could complete a responsible verification of our evidence about Iraqi arms. In fact, the timing of our invasion was such that it came about just as many voices were beginning to ask responsible questions about the validity of our evidence on Iraqi arms. Nevertheless, the stated reason for going to war, and the stated conditions for avoiding war revolved around weapons - not human rights. Add to this the campaign pledges that helped Bush gain the votes of many of those who later supported or demanded the war, that he would not commit our troops for "nation building", and there is compelling evidence that the administration's interest in the Iraqi people is a novelty prepared as an ad hoc justification for invasion.

All in all, I believe there is good evidence that our continued occupation of Iraq is working against the goals of people truly interested in human rights there, rather than for them.

I somewhat disagree with Murtha's vision for calling an end to our occupation. I believe he is too focused on the location of our troops, and not focused enough on what they could or should be doing... I can't help but have sympathy that, while the Bush administration is in charge, Iraq is a bad place for our troops to be entirely - for the simple reason that the Bush Pentagon cannot be trusted to lead them according to any sane plan... However, I think that it would be better, such considerations aside, to focus on what our troops should be doing at least as much as where they are deployed.

I think that it is in the best interests of the Iraqis and the rest of us to leave with a well trained and equipped Iraqi security force. I also think that it is only inflaming the situation to continue to wage war inside the borders of Iraq. So the first step would be to bring a quick end to combat operations in Iraq. Continue whatever operations are necessary to support a retreat from the field of combat operations, and a redeployment within Iraq to well-fortified training centers, near but not central to, Iraqi population centers. All forces should then commence to a) provide inpenetrable security for those training centers, b) engage in training of Iraqi security forces, c) support airlift supplies to and from these areas. If this leaves an excess of troops, the remaining numbers can be drawn down. At this time, an announcement of the end of combat operations should be made, and joint statements with the Iraqi government should be made to the effect that all U.S. forces will exit Iraq orderly when the training mission is completed. Hereinafter, any attacks on U.S. personell can only occur at well fortified areas where U.S. casualties will be minimized and the enemy can quickly and easily be defeated. Attacks that kill Iraqi civilians will then draw the ire of the Iraqi people and those who conduct them will quickly become pariahs instead of martyrs. The newly trained security forces will have every motivation to extinguish these activities.

Then, we say "Mission Accomplished", and we leave. And if, from the rubble of our mistakes, a phoenix of Democracy arises - all the better... And if not, we will perhaps finally learn a lesson about how to conduct a foreign policy that helps rather than hurts... And perhaps our next administration will start building a foreign policy that really does center on the defense of the U.S., the use of what prestige we have left to pressure improvements in human rights elsewhere, and the use of force, if it is necessary, to act as peacekeepers in places like the Sudan, should there prove to be no other option for ending the genocide there. If we lead responsibly, we can eventually revisit the situation in Iraq... and possibly even get it right this time.

Now, tell me how wrong I am.

Posted by smijer at 09:03 PM | Comments (3)

November 18, 2005

It Floats!

from - smijer

smijer is ready to reboard the Ark, taking on, two by two, the newest babies:

babies.JPG

Lovie, and Mean Cat (aka Mean Dog)... As it turns out, we got their names mixed up... Lovie is the mean one.

Have a nice Friday.

Posted by smijer at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

I agree with John and George

from - smijer

It's rare that I give good advice to partisan GOoPers to help them keep their electoral majorities, but I agree with George Will and John Cole, and if you are a Republican, you should, too.

Posted by smijer at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

U.S. Death Penalty by the Numbers

from - smijer

Hippy Dave. My additions are in the comments, typos and all:

0 - people brought back to life by 944 state killings
0 - amount of good done by 944 state killings
944 - families that continue to sufferr because of state killings
1 - nation of taxpayers who have both innocent and guilty blood on their hands.

Once again, for what? In a futile attempt to satisfy adolescent cravings for vengeance: cravings that cannot be filled - only grown out of.

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (5)

November 15, 2005

Red Friday's

from - Buck

Has this one popped into your email box yet?

Subject: RED FRIDAYS

RED FRIDAYS ----- Very soon, you will see a great many
people wearing Red every Friday The reason? Americans who support
our troops used to be called the "silent majority". We are no longer
silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record
breaking numbers.

We are not organized, boisterous or over-bearing. We
get no liberal media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our
opinions.

Many Americans, like you, me and all our friends,
simply want to recognize that the vast majority of America supports
our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops
with dignity and respect starts this Friday -and continues each and
every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message
that.. Every red-blooded American who supports our men and women
afar, will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make the United
States on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football
game in the bleachers. If every one of us who loves this country
will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family.
It will not be long before the USA is covered in RED and it will let
our troops know the once "silent" majority is on their side more than
ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked "What can we
do to make things better for you?" is...We need your support and your
prayers. Let's get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by
example; and wear something red every Friday.

IF YOU AGREE -- THEN SEND THIS ON -- WE LIVE IN
THE LAND OF THE FREE, ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE

Holy Shit. Red every Friday until they come home? Hell man they ain't comin' home. It would be like agreeing to wear yellow until the boys come home from Korea. It ain't gonna happen. And why the color red? Because it symbolizes our undying thirst for bloodshed?

What color would best represent the bullshit that got us involved over there in the first place? Should it be considered white lies or black lies? What is the color that best represents wishful thinking?

Why not just agree to wear the blue and white colors of the Tallith? That should help remind us of one of the reasons we are there.

I think maybe I'll just wear green. That color best represents how sick to my stomach I get everytime I think about those dying for nothing in Iraq.

Posted by Buck at 02:07 PM | Comments (8)

Boortz and Gore on Long-Term Perspective

from - smijer

Neal Boortz commented yesterday on Al Gore's long term risk assessment... You can go read it from the horse's ... uhh... oh yeah, mouth.

Did you read this line from Boortz?

Remember, though, that it wasn't all that many years ago when Gore-types were warning of global cooling.

If so, please bear in mind that he is, once again, full of it.

And, in case you missed the irony, Boortz characterizes Gore's assessment as representative of the "leftist" mind and as "anticapitalist" and "socialist"... forgetting for a brief moment that he is talking about a fella who was vice president of the most illustrious capitalist superpower in the world for eight years, and whose administration oversaw the biggest welfare reforms of the century as well as the enactment of the historic North American Free Trade agreeement.

But it all boils down to this: Boortz thinks that Gore's assessment is "really stupid". But who wins the battle of long term perspective between Gore and the Talk Master?

I say Gore - I agree that anthropogenic climate change is a bigger long-term problem than Islamic terrorism. In fact, if historical trends apply, a century or two from now, Islamic terrorism will be something that Islamic children read about in history books and for which challenged Islamic clerics will have to give embarrassed non-answers... just as happens now with the Christians and their witch hunts and their Inquisition.

We are already seeing the backlash that inevitably comes against those who use violence indiscriminately against whoever they perceive to be "the enemy"... People who are so in love with aggression are rarely rational, and can be depended on to destroy themselves long before they destroy their enemies.

On the other hand, anthropogenic climate change is scientifically well established (contra Boortz, who says his disagreement with the people who study it is that he doesn't believe climate change is "solely" due to human action... which of course it isn't... but human actions definitely have a profound impact on climate change). It's long term effects, though not fully understood yet, bear every indication of being extremely nasty - not just for Americans, but for the world - and the world economy.

Furthermore, climate change is a much more difficult problem to solve. It isn't a matter of ostracizing fanatics and creating strong cultural taboos against their actions... It's a matter of solving a whole host of economic and scientific problems.

Who do you think wins the battle of long-term perspective?

Posted by smijer at 08:09 AM | Comments (5)

November 14, 2005

The John Cowan Band

from - Buck

Autumn is here for sure.

The colors have gotten fantastic and the weather could not be better. It has been well worth the wait but waiting was the best choice I had.

Saturday night I went to an outdoor concert that my Uncle Al conjured up. He and a couple of friends hired The John Cowan Band to come to his farm and put on a show for family and friends. Everybody brought a covered dish and we just had dinner on the by God grounds.

Family and friends from where I come from make for one hell of a mix. I guess there were about 200 folks there and it was great to see militant atheists and fundamentalist preachers all stomp their feet and clap their hands to the mandolin and fiddle. Throw in a banjo, a bass and a flat top guitar and you have mountain music that reconciles all things.

It was one hell of a show for sure. If you have not seen The John Cowan Band I recommend them whole-heartedly. According to their tour information they won’t be back in my neck of the woods until the spring of next year but if I am still here you can bet I will be there.

Posted by Buck at 10:12 AM | Comments (3)

Links With Your Eye Boogers, Monday

from - smijer

Such a nice weekend. I napped most of it away. Naps are, after all, just bite sized pieces of Nirvana. Ms. smijer, the Younger, and I all attended Game Night Saturday evening at the UUCC, and that was fun. Sunday, the Middle- and High School Religious Education groups sold apples: Red & Golden Delicious, Arkansas Black, Stayman Winesap, Fuji, and Rome, at $3.00 for 6 apples as the big "Dalton Roberts has the pulpit" crowd was leaving the sanctuary. We also sold candied and carameled apples (I'm learning to cook! I'm learning to cook!) for $2.00 each. This money went toward the RE group's yearly Heifer project. The apples netted about $100.00. Together with the other age groups' projects, individual contributions, and some individual projects, we should be able to buy lots of goats, chickens and llamas for the betterment of families and communities in the third world in hopes of having results like these.

With regards to the suspension of Habeus Corpus, there is little chance that the Bingaman Amendment will pass. But it should. Here's one reason... that's right - found innocent, and returned to jail... Weird, huh? More reasons. Hearts, minds and fingernails, slowly removed with pliers...

Some video from Crooks and Liars... Some folks are saying that the Prez seems to have been hitting the sauce. Nah...

Happy Monday. If you're in the southeast, Autumn is here! Enjoy it, before the ice caps melt and we all drown.

Posted by smijer at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

Hindrocket

from - smijer

So, he doesn't call himself that any more... but I can't help but wonder if John Hinderaker isn't related to the foolish youth featured in this .WMV file [Warning: Graphic. Also, Hilarious].

Animal blogging will return next Friday... just consider this video my contribution to "Primate blogging".

Posted by smijer at 07:09 AM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2005

John Cole Black

from - smijer

I still read John Cole as much as I did when I was linking to him all the time... you know, when he was coming out almost every day against the Schiavoniks, the homo haters, and the torture-mongers. Yes, he is a Bush- and War-apologist: more the latter than the former. Who voted for Bush in the last election; who considers themselves "conservative" any more that isn't at least somewhat infected with the pro-war and pro-Bush religion?

What I admire, and admired about Cole was his willingness to be a voice of conscience against some of the most unconscionable of right-wing offenses against morality.

So, when the White Phosphorus story broke, I clicked over to Balloon Juice to see how he would deal with that issue... would it be John Cole White, who repudiates those actions of the radical right which clearly violate common decency? Or would it be the Bush/War apologist... the one that I was beginning to think the rational side had beaten down permanently - John Cole Black?

Answer: Black.

Witness the explosion of John Cole's cranium: here, here, and here.

There is plenty of evidence to convince a reasonable skeptic that WP was used as an anti-personell agent in urban warfare in Fallujah, with no regard for the lives or health of civilians living there. There is plenty of evidence that the DoD knew about the likelihood of this scenario and took no action to discourage it. There is plenty of evidence that the President and his administration are more inclined to cover up and maintain a status quo where this can occur than to prevent it. Yet, Cole Black, the War Apologist, is outraged at Democrats who "Blame the Troops".

The fact that the Right's most strongly moral and one of their most intelligent proponents can have a lapse like this is proof that the condition of modern conservatism is one of moral and intellectual disease.

Posted by smijer at 09:54 PM | Comments (7)

Tennessee Bird Dogs

from - Buck

TN_BIRD_DOG.jpg

Okay okay. I know the only thing that separates Tennessee from North Georgia is an imaginary line created by politicians.

If you find this offensive just pretend they are from Kentucky.

Posted by Buck at 07:58 AM | Comments (2)

November 09, 2005

Texans Against Marriage

from - smijer

Leave it to Texans to argue that marriage is fundamental to the good of the family while voting 75%-25% to keep numerous families from getting it.

A CNS News Article, headlined, "Texas Voters Pass Marriage Protection Amendment" tells of the heroic effort of Texas religious groups to protect gay people from marriage. I'll quote the a few lines from the bottom half of the page, apparently snuck in by someone not quite so fearful of marriage, where pro-marriage advocates shared their views:

"All that today's results show is that it is profoundly wrong and profoundly un-American to put the rights of a small minority of Americans up for a popular vote," said Matt Foreman, the group's executive director.

"This is not democracy; this is tyranny of the majority," he added. "No one would tolerate this being done to any other minority, but it's still open season on gay people."

Foreman criticized the tactics of same-sex marriage opponents, calling them "reprehensible and distinctly un-Christian." He singled out Texans for Marriage for spreading the message that "marriage equality for gay people would 'hurt children' when, in fact, there is nothing anywhere to substantiate that slanderous assertion."

Foreman said many good things came out of the campaign, including the recruitment of new allies and new volunteers.

"We're in this for the long haul, and even our most ardent opponents recognize that it's not a question of whether we will win equality, but when. Tomorrow, the fight resumes," Foreman concluded.

Amen.

Posted by smijer at 07:44 AM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2005

Jarhead

from - Buck

I went to see “Jarhead” on Saturday night.

It was the fact that Sam Mendes directed it that made me curious. I loved American Beauty and I figured what the hell. Maybe he can do a good military flick.

To say that I loved it would be an understatement. The acting was incredible. The cinematography was jaw dropping and the story was everything I expected.

My wife said it was probably the single worst movie she has ever seen. You can chalk that up to constant profanity and about 30 seconds of sex scenes. (My wife is not used to 30 seconds of sex. To her that would be a marathon)

We went to see it with my youngest daughter (she’s 18) and her boyfriend (he is 22) Neither one of them liked it very much because they were expecting a war movie but hell, Gulf War One was not a war was it? Did anybody ever shoot back at us? We had over 500,000 soldiers on the ground and less than 150 were killed in action. Let’s face it. There just wasn’t that much action. When folks think "war movie" they still think of Germans and Japanese and truly competitive enemies dressed in obvious uniforms and representing obvious evil.

It just ain't like that anymore.

I have read some reviews that make the movie sound like it is truly lousy. I am glad my wife does not have much influence on who sees what in this country or Sam Mendes would be deported or executed.

I made the comment on another board earlier that wives and children should not go see it because I did not think they would like it. I had a female military person come back and quickly let me know that females served too and she was well acquainted with life in the military. I wished her well and asked that she simply report back to me after she has seen the movie.

I recommend the movie with trepidation. Even though I loved it I can see how it could be very offensive to some but that is what an “R” rating is for isn’t it? I noticed a few folks in there that had brought their children of middle school age to watch it. They must have been expecting “Saving Private Ryan” and what they got was eye opening for the entire family. If Mama wanted her son to grow up to be Johnny Soldier she is having second thoughts right now.

Go see “Jarhead” and familiarize yourself with the actions of God’s Army on Earth.

Posted by Buck at 05:36 PM | Comments (4)

A Fine Weekend

from - smijer

It was so nice to have an entire weekend "off", for a change. The weather was beautiful. There was no rushing around. Saturday was blissfully uneventful. Sunday was very nice. Although we only had two in the RE class that I'm assigned to, we had a very enjoyable class. We just talked for a while, then went into the lesson from "Our Neighboring Faiths" about Buddhism, where we went over the Three Jewels, and the Five Precepts, and did an impromptu unguided meditation... Then more talk and jokes.

After my afternoon nap, I took a solo drive to McKays... on the way, I tuned in to Mountain Stage... Apparently, WUTC wasn't playing the 11/6 show, but I was in luck, because I discovered the vocal talents of John Pizzarelli, perhaps the all-time king of modern scat. Note to self - future podcast material.

On a darker note, this story made headlines. It'll be interesting to browse Nealz Nuze tomorrow morning and see how he spins it.

Have a good Monday.

Posted by smijer at 07:52 AM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2005

Useful Idiots... History Repeats

from - smijer

Henderson is as stupid as Kerensky, and for this reason he is helping us. [...]

Furthermore. This is ultrasecret. It suits us that Genoa be wrecked... but not by us, of course. Think this over with Litvinov and Ioffe and drop me a line. Of course, this must not be mentioned even in secret documents. return this to me, and I will burn it. We will get a loan better without Genoa, if we are not the ones that wreck Genoa. We must work out cleverer maneuvers so that we are not the ones that wreck Genoa. For example, the fool Henderson and Co. will help us a lot if we cleverly prod them. [...]

Everything is flying apart for "them". It is total bankruptcy (India and so on). We have to push a falling one unexpectedly, not with our hands.
- V.I. Lenin

And it happens again:

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." - Mike Scanlon

Yes, that's the way the powerful in government look upon their constituents in the Religious Right... and as the awareness of this begins to dawn on them, there will be defections. The defections won't be to "our" side... unless we can find it within ourselves to overlook the Dobsons and the Falwells and their attempts to demonize the rest of us, and to forgive their flocks for following that leadership, and learn to accept them respectfully into our big tent. If we can do that, and we can make our internal debates about abortion, gay rights, and the separation of church and state high-minded ones - and if they will do the same - then... well, then, LA Mom will have an easier time choosing the right door... And smart people like Jimmy Carter will get a bigger voice in our party.

And that would be a good thing.

H/T - Hippy Dave for the link to LA Mom, and Philocrites for the Jimmy Carter NPR link.

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2005

Some Vindication for Durbin

from - smijer

Old news, but we find out that Durbin was wrong. It ain't a Gulag... it's, quite literally - and literarily - a Gulag Archipelago.

For shame.

Posted by smijer at 10:02 PM | Comments (7)

Always the last to know

from - Buck

I stumbled across this yesterday and am amazed that I have missed any discussion about it on any of the countless 24 hour news stations that exist.

Tamiflu was developed and patented in 1996 by a California biotech firm, Gilead Sciences Inc. Gilead is a NASDAQ (GILD) listed stock company which prefers to maintain a low profile in the current rush to Tamiflu. That might be because of who is tied to Gilead. In 1997, before he became US Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld was named Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, where he remained until early 2001 when he became Defense Secretary. Rumsfeld had been on the board of Gilead since 1988 according to a January 3 1997 company press release.

An as-yet-unconfirmed report is that Rumsfeld while Secretary of Defense also purchased an additional stock in his former company, Gilead Sciences Inc., worth $18 million, making him one of its largest if not the largest stock owners today.

Cheney has Halliburton and Rumsfeld has Gilead Sciences.

Now I understand the 7.1 billion dollar plan to make a preemptive strike against a maybe someday pandemic. Listening to Bush announce the plan all you had to do was substitute "pandemic" with "mushroom cloud" and the speech sounded eerily familiar.

I am sure this is something the Cheney's and Rumsfeld's will laugh about when they are neighbors

Both will laugh all of the way to the bank.

Posted by Buck at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2005

Note to the Rest of the Country

from - smijer

As a Tennessean, I feel I must stand up for myself and other Tennesseans before our Senior Senator starts representing us in the minds of others as well as in the halls of the Senate. To that end, I would like to remind the rest of the country...

Most Tennesseans are not big ole Whiny Babies.

That's all.

Posted by smijer at 05:43 PM | Comments (3)

Alito

from - Buck

Well the Alito battle lines are being drawn and this does look like it is going to be lots of fun to watch.

Thinkprogress has an interesting rundown on some of the guys legal opinions.

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

Heck, he will probably feel right at home up there.

Looking to the future...

if Justice Stevens were to retire in the next few years, and be replaced by a staunch conservative, we would have a full scale constitutional revolution on our hands. For then the median Justices would be none other than John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

But anybody who believes in the free sale of machine guns can't be all bad.

Is there a better deterrent for illegal strip searches?

Posted by Buck at 08:30 AM | Comments (2)

Cute

from - smijer

Quoted at Butterflies and Wheels...

It concerns a friend of mine, who was present at a high-powered ethics institute which had put on a forum in which representatives of the great religions held a panel. First the Buddhist talked of the ways to calm, the mastery of desire, the path of enlightenment, and the panellists all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. Then the Hindu talked of the cycles of suffering and birth and rebirth, the teachings of Krishna and the way to release, and they all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. And so on, until the Catholic priest talked of the message of Jesus Christ, the promise of salvation and the way to life eternal, and they all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. And he thumped the table and shouted: ‘No! It’s not a question of it if works for me! It’s the true word of the living God, and if you don’t believe it you’re all damned to Hell!’

And they all said: ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’.

Posted by smijer at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)