Monday, July 31, 2006

Conservatives Without Conscience

John Dean has written a book about the Republican party and how it has been taken over by "Conservatives Without Conscience". You may read an excerpt of the book on-line and to tempt you I provide a small quote to whet your appetite:

"If truthfulness about extramarital affairs had been a requisite for everyone in Congress to hold their seats before they voted to oust Clinton, neither the House nor the Senate could have formed a quorum."

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Friday, July 28, 2006

Click for details Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Is it the C.O.?

Conservatives like Newt Gingrich couldn't stand Colin Powell for his "disloyalty" to president Bush.

Conservatives like Newt Gingrich cannot stand Condi Rice for her "incompetence on most foreign policy issues".

I got to thinking...what is it about Condi Rice and Colin Powell that might single them out for attack from Republicans like Newt?

Is it that they both work at the State Department?

Is it that both of their first names start with C.O.?

A look at Newt's solution to the problem, James Baker III, does seem to support the notion that Newt has a problem with names that start with C.O.

Perhaps Condi should change her name to something like Janice? Janice Rice does have a nice ring to it!

Black like Condi

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Then and Now


"The problems in Iraq are ahead of us, but we're doing better than people think. And a year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush. There is no doubt that, with the exception of a very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they've been liberated. And it is getting easier every day for Iraqis to express that sense of liberation."

Richard Perle - 9/22/03


"Israel must now deal a blow of such magnitude to those who would destroy it as to leave no doubt that its earlier policy of acquiescence is over. This means precise military action against Hezbollah and its infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria [emphasis added], for as long as it takes and without regard to mindless diplomatic blather about proportionality."

- Richard Perle, New York Times op-ed piece published on July 23, 2006

Snarky comments

[*] Perhaps Iraqis are irrationally discontent or too modest to express that sense of liberation.

[*] Israel should indeed ignore mindless blather whether or not it comes from a diplomat.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The rockets red glare

Thoughts on Israel/Hezbollah war:

[*] A lot of people blame Israeli behavior in Lebanon on the kidnapping of two soldiers. Their reaction is "disproportionate" these people say. I sez Israeli behavior is more likely explained by the rockets Hezbollah started lobbing at Haifa. No country can allow a million of its citizens to live in bomb shelters without a heavy response.

[*] Israel is a democracy and their form of government isn't spreading throughout the region. I wonder if US planners thought of that when they invaded Iraq.

[*] Bombs are deployed with more haste than secretaries of state.

[*] I always recognize a foolish war in three ways:

1. Is it an aggressive war?
2. Do the politicians lie to their own people to get it on?
3. Is anybody talking about what comes after?

With regard to the current conflict in Lebanon I think Israel can answer No, No, and No scoring two out of three.

But, point three will mean the difference between another futile occupation and a focused rolling back of a hostile enemies capabilities. It can also tie in with the over-all effort if ordinary Lebanese believe Israel will help them rebuild and strengthen their official government.

[*] Western-style democracies ought to stand together but Israel makes it difficult with their really bad PR. Maybe they should join NATO if they want to receive our support in conflicts.

[*] The US made a half-assed attempt to help Lebanon get the Syrian influence out, but should have pressed hard to find out who killed Rafik Hariri, then followed up with carrots to the fledgling government. Rhetoric doesn't rebuild.

[*] God doesn't kill people. People kill people.

[*] Hezbollah is akin to an American militia arming itself and then deciding to fire rockets at Canada from the heart of downtown Detroit. Hezbollah wants to draw an Israeli response that will kill their own compatriots, then blame Israel for the deaths. Israel is happy to oblige if it means their own citizens suffer less for it and who can blame them.

[*] Because Israel has a right to defend itself that doesn't mean they have a free pass to inflict citizen casualties. They must uphold honor to uphold morale.

[*] Israel has a long tradition of fighting well and deserves more credit for it than they get. Hezbollah isn't dropping leaflets on Haifa to warn Israeli citizens of incoming missiles, but Israel is doing that for Lebanese just the same.

[*] I saw that the US just made a rather large arms sale to Saudi Arabia. That seems really stupid. I bet most of those weapons are used against US soldiers and Israeli soldiers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Saving the American Dream

It is too bad that Hillary Clinton cannot convey sincerity or warmth on a podium, because otherwise I think she'd make a great candidate.

John Edwards somehow suffers from the same problem. It's hard to put your finger on it, but they seem insincere when I don't think they are. Perhaps they are too patronizing or constant smiling comes unnaturally to them.

That being said, I think we'd be a lot better off with either of them in Washington in lieu of president swagger and his all-star band of corrupt cohorts.

If American voters can choose substance over style, though, here is what would be in store for them:

DLC: Saving the American Dream by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Tom Carper, and Gov. Tom Vilsack

Oh, just the thought of returning to a president that could use words like "endeavored" in a sentence makes me sentimental.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Iceberg approaching

Well that course thing we're trying is working out well, isn't it?:

Iraq: 38 tortured bodies found

Another Schiavo moment

[*] I think that Congress should have named the stem cell research bill recently vetoed by president swagger the Robin Bush War on leukemia bill. It might have illustrated to the president the cruelty of his position.

[*] The US will find it must choose between maintaining military superiority and advancing the cause of theocratic science. The last time the superstition police had the upper hand is the era known to scientists as "The Dark Ages".

[*] During the Inquisition religiously inspired Spanish Catholics "tore [Native American] babes from their mother's breast by their feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks.". Sometimes the babies would first be baptized. It was perhaps the first time compassionate conservatism was put into practice on American soil.

This episode in Christian morality suggests that fundamentalists can get over their stem cell research objections by baptizing stem cells before they are used in research. If it is good enough for fully-born babies it ought to be good enough for a cluster of blastocyst cells.

[*] Perhaps scientists ought to call stem-cell research invitro fertilization science. There are no religious moral objections to invitro fertilization even though it is the same process (stem cell researches want access to unused stem cells generated via the invitro fertilization process).

[*] Once again the hobgoblin of little minds is to blame for spreading human suffering.

[*] Once again religious leaders celebrate the defeat of Hope as if it were a moral victory.

[*] Once again president Bush legislates as a theocrat.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why conservatives can't govern

We all saw the fruits of compassionate conservatism in the wake of Katrina. Thousands of Americans stranded by a government with an ideological axe to grind.

We can all see the fruits of compassionate conservatism once again as the US government, "instead of charging to the rescue, is charging for the rescue" of US citizens from Lebanon.

It used to be that carrying a US passport abroad meant something more than this. It used to mean protection, not protection for those that could pay.

Conservatives in action

Conservatives can't govern because they hate government and want to destroy it, but without any plan for what comes afterwards.

What comes afterwards seems to be a government that strands Americans in the face of Katrina, or war, or global warming.

ADDENDUM: It appears that even corpses must pay extorting safety

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


While Israel is fighting Palestinians in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon it is making threats to Syria...

“Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.”

Details here

Sometimes I think that Arabs and Israelis deserve each other.

On Israel

There are a lot of bloggers blogging about the need for bloggers to blog about the Middle east mess.

I would rather blog about how much it pisses me off to see American citizens in Lebanon having to flee for their lives along dangerous routes to escape Israeli bombing.

Details here

President swagger ought to demand Israel's immediate assistance in the evacuation process and a halt in the bombing until Americans are out of the way.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Public schools

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools.

Story here

Since this study flies in the face of generally held beliefs (i.e. superstition) it has received scant press attention. It is worth repeating, though, since morale affects performance.

If you know any public school teachers be sure and congratulate them, and be prepared for them to weep when you do so.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The dark side

In this Frontline production known as The Dark Side you can learn all about Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their contributions to the Iraq war and subsequent occupation.

Diplomatic infighting

It is sad to consider that Mr. Cheney is as wrong today as the CIA was about the collapse of Russia. It is doubly sad to reflect that the CIA was wrong then for the same reason Mr. Cheney is wrong now, namely a slavish devotion to an agenda.

We will not, it appears, be welcomed as liberators in Iraq anytime soon.

Iraq did not, it appears, manufacture thousands of tons of WMDs.

And Dick Cheney did not, it appears, learn a valuable lesson from a catastrophic miscalculation. He instead drove those who were right out and rewarded the patronizing.

A problem with that approach is that the unimaginative do not generate creative ideas.

It is a story that has already been told in Russia.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Course correction

Often when politicians talk it is helpful to find and question the underlying assumptions of their speech. For instance, when president Bush says the United States will not "cut and run from Iraq" there are several assumptions that should be examined:

1. Are there any circumstances under which America can leave Iraq without "cutting and running", or must we stay there forever? If we aren't staying forever then why are we building permanent bases in Iraq?

2. Cutting and running is an intelligent strategy when you, say, find a ticking time-bomb tied to your leg. In that case you are only harmed when you don't cut and run.

Wouldn't we be intelligent to place some distance between our troops and the explosive situation that is Iraq?

3. Is our presence in Iraq having a stabilizing influence in Iraq, which withdrawal would jeopardize?

To answer this it is imperative to answer the following questions:

3a. Is security improving for average Iraqis? Nope.

3b. Are Iraqis access to jobs, electricity, water, and sewage improving? Nope.

3c. Is sectarian violence decreasing? Nope.

3d. Are the attacks on American GIs becoming less effective? Nope.

3e. Are Iraqis more and more, rather than less and less, welcoming of our presence? Nope.

4. Are we further along towards accomplishing our objectives, and will withdrawing our presence jeopardize them?

If our objective is to keep Iraqi oil in the ground and drive up profits for our enemies then we are "doing a heck of a job".

If our objective is to make Iraq a standard-bearer for democracy in the region and fund it's own reconstruction with an improved oil infrastructure, then we are further from our objective than when we started.

Continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a textbook definition of insanity, but every time I consider the fact that some young kid is over in Iraq right now being asked to do the impossible by the incompetent I wonder how to help them. In my attempt to do something helpful I keep pointing out the Truth and each time hoping for different results.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Breaking news

Hizbollah has captured two Israeli soldiers and Israeli troops have responded by crossing into Lebanon.

Tensions rising in Middle East

Thomas Paine

I think that one of the problems with the education I received is I often learned about things and not of things.

One example of what I mean is I learned that there was something called scientific method, but the details of it were not explored or put into practice. So, hypotheses, predictions, experiments, peer review, and reproduction were not part of the "learning process" somehow.

Another example is that I remember learning something very vague about this person called Thomas Paine who printed a pamphlet during the time of the American Revolution that was influential. The reading of this pamphlet was not part of the curriculum.

I feel cheated, as I now read Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason." What a riotous discussion our class of French-Canadian Catholics could have had if we'd debated it's contents in the classroom.

In the book Thomas Paine uses the Bible to refute the Bible and challenges believers to repent of their support of its' authenticity. Here are a couple of quotes to give you an idea of his viewpoint:

People in general do not know what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in the habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! It is quite another thing; it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty?


The evidence I have produced, and shall produce in the course of this work, to prove that the Bible is without authority, will, while it wounds the stubbornness of a priest, relieve and tranquilize the minds of millions; it will free them from all those hard thoughts of the Almighty which priestcraft and the Bible had infused into their minds, and which stood in everlasting opposition to all their ideas of his moral justice and benevolence...

While the above examples are mild in comparison to the logical assaults Thomas makes upon the Bible, it is interesting to note that he does believe in an Almighty Creator. Not only that, but he outlines a moral world view arrived at from Reason, rather than belief in revelation or miracles. Here is a small sample of the type of beliefs he held:

The only idea we can have of serving God, is that of contributing to the happiness of the living creation that God has made. This cannot be done by retiring ourselves from the society of the world and spending a recluse life in selfish devotion...


The Creation we behold is the real and ever-existing word of God, in which we cannot be deceived. It proclaims his power, it demonstrates his wisdom, it manifests his goodness and beneficence. The moral duty of man consists in imitating the moral goodness and beneficence of God, manifested in the creation toward all his creatures. That seeing, as we daily do, the goodness of God to all men, it is an example calling upon all men to practice the same toward each other; and consequently, that everything of persecution and revenge between man and man, and everything of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty.

The Dalai Lama wrote a book called, "Ethics for the New Millennium" which constructs a secular moral code which requires no belief in miracles or revelations. I like to think of it as a continuation of Thomas' work.

The Dalai Lama seems to be saying that the key to a spiritually fulfilling life is ethical conduct, and ethical conduct can be logically determined by adhering to the principle that all human beings wish to be happy and avoid suffering.

I recommend both books very highly.

The Age of Reason

Ethics for the New Millennium

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Fred sat watching television, which more accurately meant he was relaxing in front of a television whose programming was so bad he was actively ignoring it. For some reason if you sat quietly and reflected people thought you weren’t right in the head. If, however, you sat quietly and ingested the contents of a television people thought you were perfectly normal and further left you alone to “enjoy your programming”. And so with a bit of effort Fred reflected while ignoring the chattering television while Faith worked in the kitchen clanging pots and pans and periodically muttering things to herself.

Fred was trying to think of a way to get out of tonights social obligations, since otherwise he’d have to be subjected to the unwanted company of Faith’s friend Harriet. There must be a way out of this, thought Fred.

Unexpectedly, the front doorbell rang. Since in Maine friends and family used the back door (off the kitchen) and strangers came to the front door, Fred braced himself for either commercial or religious proselytizers. “Fred!”, reported like a shot from the kitchen, “Someone’s at the door!”. Sometimes Fred found Faith’s observations unnecessary, like now, but at other times her barks were liable to awaken Fred from reflections somewhat deeper than consciousness allowed.

He moved to the door and opened it and knew right away he was about to be invited to seek salvation. There was no mistaking the severe shoes, the funeral gaiety, and the cheerless dress of a Jehovah’s Witness spreading the good word. “Jesus! Just what I need…”, thought Fred. As he opened the door he was about to hasten the young woman’s departure from his front porch when the beginning of an idea came to him. It stopped him in half expression and his visitor was greeted with a facial expression that might have been interpreted as a mild stroke by one medically inclined, but was instead treated with confusion.

Quickly a most welcoming smile graced Fred’s face as he scratched up under his hat and enthusiastically greeted the newcomer. She was a short woman with wavy hair and a dark dress-suit. She had brown eyes and brown skin and stood slightly slouched and slightly tilted to one side. Looking again at her severe shoes Fred thought he detected one sole thicker than the other.

Fred thought how Harriet Mackie had been coming over to his house and inflicting herself upon his person for years and it was about time he got a sliver of revenge. He eyed his visitor again and wondered if it was mean-spirited of him to use her in his newly formed scheme. He decided that religious people were always saying that the Lord worked in mysterious ways and perhaps it was honoring their philosophy to accept his visitor as a gift of Providence.

He was right about the religious intent of his visitor and was soon offered a pamphlet which no doubt contained snatches of hokum that no more interested him than the ingredients of a hot dog did (and for the same reasons). His visitor was delighted when he said, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”. He opened the pamphlet, and perused it quickly pursuing his idea with increasing glee. He saw that the cover of this pamphlet had the questions “What is the purpose of life? How can you find it?” printed across a photo of culturally diverse young men and women. He leapt in.

“It just so happens I was sitting right there in that chair”, he said, “pondering the meaning of life myself. Isn’t that a coincidence? If you had a moment I’d love to discuss my ideas with someone.” Fred then held the door as his visitor radiated enthusiasm as she entered his home.

“Faith”, Fred sung, “Faith dear we have a visitor.”

A rather severe sound erupted from the kitchen that was undoubtedly something hard striking something else hard but beyond that Fred was uncertain. “I’ll be right there”, said Faith, as water began to run in the sink. After a brief pause Fred knew Faith would appear and took a moment to close the door, an act symbolically significant for the newcomer and perfectly time coordinating for Fred. As Fred now asked Naomi to sit down Faith appeared slightly dusted with flower, slightly sweating, her hands slightly wet, and slightly off balance socially. Fred said, “Faith this is Naomi and she’s talking to folks about religion and I expect she’s walked all over this neighborhood and she looks a bit hungry.” Turning to Face Naomi Fred asked, “Would you like to join us for supper? I’ve just picked more peas than we can eat and Faith here can cook better than anyone in town.”

Fred felt his delivery was just about right. He appealed to Faith’s mothering instinct, placed her in a delicate position in front of a stranger that really did look hungry, and he was being honest about her cooking and knew that inflating Faith’s pride wouldn’t hurt his chances. He knew, though, that Faith was expecting Harriet and would be hard pressed to gossip in front of a religious woman.

Fred licked his lips and smiled, then turned toward Faith. She blinked quickly a couple of times and then stammered that of course Naomi was welcome and there was plenty to eat and she hoped she’d stay and join the company.

Fred thought that was a pretty good parry from Faith, for the normal uninvited guest might decline to intrude on company. Fred felt confident that there’d be an easier job made of taking a bone away from a dog than driving off a fundamentalist with such appeals to manners. He wasn’t disappointed when Naomi parried with, “Thank you kindly Faith for offering to share the Lord’s bounty with me. I feel blessed every day that I spread the good word.”

Fred thought that Naomi’s introduction of the Lord into Faith’s offer somehow made it sound less generous. The Lord might provide the ingredients, but Fred never tasted anything as good as Faith’s cooking dangling on the end of a vine. He supposed that is why he didn’t take to any religion whatever. Religion always cheapened human accomplishment except when assigning blame. He thought religious people had it bass ackwards, since People couldn’t fairly be judged if there was a Creator, and he thought anything People did accomplish under such unguided circumstances was cause for appreciation.

As Faith returned to the kitchen and Naomi started talking about the empty lives that resulted from societal decay Fred found himself wondering if he had just miscalculated. He was pretty sure that Naomi would cheerfully overwhelm Harriet’s opportunity to gossip, but supper was two hours away.

Fred glanced longingly at the muted television and scratched up under his hat as he turned to face Naomi.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ill about Il

I have found myself, of late, wondering how Republicans would be acting if a democratic president bumbled as badly as Bush with regard to nuclear-armed North Korea.

Would they shrug if a democratic president had embroiled the country in another Vietnam while a grave threat shot missiles around our allies?

Would O'Reilly and Limbaugh types think calls for permission slips from the international community prudent?

I think not.

So then I found myself wondering, "Why not?".

Is it because party politics now trump national security issues?

Or, is it because most people are too pathetic to admit their role in electing the awful administration of George W. Bush?

It seems to me they would rather slather rhetoric on a real problem while dreams of sugar-plums dance in their heads.

Kim Jong-Il

As far as I can tell the Bush foreign policy is wait for the next president to fix the mess.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Faith Temple

Faith Temple was a wiry woman that moved continuously, and particularly when she was agitated. As Fred came into the kitchen she looked up and said, “Fred! I thought you was going out in the garden to pick me some peas. Now, here you come an hour later and without a pea!”

Fred moved his lips in contemplation and scratched under his cap. He shuffled his feet. Then his eyes twinkled and he said, “Faith when you get to be my age you don’t always take a pee when you mean to.”

A dishcloth missed Fred by inches and landed harmlessly in the corner. He grabbed a colander and headed back out the door, chuckling to himself as he went, knowing that Faith was good and agitated. He went to the garden where his pea vines were and started tossing fresh, crisp, English peas into the colander. Fred loved peas because they were one of the first vegetables of the season, and they tasted good straight from the vine. He split a couple open and recalled a time long ago while he chewed. He could remember being young and foraging in his father’s garden, and eating peas like these. He remembered how they tasted, their texture, and how the earth felt beneath his bare feet. Sometimes when he placed his hands in live soil he could feel an emotion and he was never sure whether he was the object or the recipient of it.

“Fred!” slammed into his nostalgia like a thunderclap, “There better be some peas going in that pot! We got company coming.” Patience was not a virtue to Faith Temple, who equated it with toleration of sloth. Why if people sat around all day contemplating their navels, who’d chop the wood or fix supper? Fred felt moderately sorry for their guest, even though he didn’t care much for Harriet Mackie.

Harriet was the type of person that would notice a particular car in a particular driveway, cross reference it with a mental list of out-of-town spouses, then disseminate innuendos from one end of town to the other. Harriet was not quite as advanced in her operation as the chief political consultant to the president of the United States of America, but she did use some of the same tactics and would probably make a reasonable substitute. Her most trusted tool was to float trial balloons and adopt the storyline which received the most attention.

Fred knew that Faith was under tremendous pressure to be hostess to an unreformed gossip, but he knew too, that she was anticipating the latest gossip with unrestrained eagerness.

“Fred! I’ve got to get those peas cooking. Are you almost done?” cracked its way through his earlobes as he tossed his last handful into the colander, picked it up and headed back towards the house. As he neared he thought it would be a long evening. He entered the house, put the peas on the counter, passed Faith, and made his way to the living room where he took a seat and flipped on the television.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

From the outside

Often the most insightful cultural analysis comes from outside, rather than inside, because people don't notice the irregular if the irregular is obvious (thanks to cultural practice).

Jeremy Clarkson takes a look at America the paranoid, America the police state, America the land of the permit:

The united states of total paranoia

Has America become the land of the small minded, toenail-staring, bureaucrats?

It is beginning to appear that way to outsiders.

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin