Friday, June 29, 2007

What to do, what to do

I often sez that the goals of president Bush are irrelevant given his level of incompetence.

I also sez that you must argue for Bush administration competence before you can argue prolonging the war in Iraq is a good idea.

I therefore do not believe, on principle, that a successful plan can be put forth as long as president Bush resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Since it is possible I give president Bush too little credit, then here is a better plan for Iraq:

Remembering Nathanael Greene

I welcome being shown up and pray he will someday show a level of competence to match his talent for bungling.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quick hit

When our trade deals turn a blind eye to the working conditions and environmental standards of the Chinese, then this is what we get for our free-trade globalism and indifference:

Contaminated toothpaste in US marketplace

God before us.

Once there existed a thought without being, a thought without form, drifting in empty space.

Well, perhaps that isn't right for the very notion of movement is non-existent without a frame of reference.

Once then, there existed a thought alone, and it thought and thought and thought. It was a different kind of thinker than you and I, for we can only think of things that are based upon other things. This thinker, though, was surrounded by nothing and would have had nothing to think about if equipped with our feeble minds.

It floated, formless, thinking and thinking not because it wanted to but because there was nothing else for it. Every once in a while it would sigh, sad and lonely, bored and unhappy with this existence.

Imagine being able to think, but not to create, to have the capacity for love, but nothing to love.

On the other side of this vast empty space, if a vast empty space can be said to have sides, floated another form of being. This one had the power to create, but lacked imagination, and could only conjure up unseen dark forms that made no sounds. Scientists today know this as dark matter.

One day, by chance, intellect's peanut-butter crashed into emotions chocolate and a peanut-butter-cup universe was born. Unrealized thoughts became material.

Unbridled joy leaped outwards and burst forth whole galaxies that sang to fill the hated empty nothingness.

And for a while, if such a thing is measureable to an immortal presence, all was bliss...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Progressing progress

On February 13th I wrote:

Somewhat belatedly someone at the whitehouse arrived at the conclusion that a nuclear-armed North Korea is contrary to US interests. This someone must have decided to eat a little crow, and we sat down with North Korea and hammered out an agreement that essentially restores the Clinton-era policies.

Source: Clinton vindicated

This is a stunning turn of events, since it means that somehow the Bush whitehouse is willing to abandon the perfect (as they see it) for the good. This also means that the whitehouse is willing to change a course that isn't working.

I find this very encouraging news and hope it is the beginning of a new trend, since there are more than a few courses initiated from the whitehouse in need of change.

On June 22, ABC reports:

After a rare two-day trip to Pyongyang, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said he was optimistic over dismantling North Korea's nuclear program.


It looks like I owe the Bush administration that rarest of occurrences, a sincere compliment.

Good work. Keep it up.

Iranian unrest

Iran recently decided it needed to ration gas, probably in preparation for a US attack, and Iranians responded by:

"Taking to the streets and torching at least a dozen gas stations."

Details here

Thank goodness for Iranians the "religion of peace" is close at hand and will no-doubt quickly put out this atypical flash fire of uncharacteristically extremist behavior.

Thank goodness for us all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Not long ago I wrote a short poem for mules that went:

A hale of a torse

A hule and a morse
made love to a horse
but went about it back-ways

To the hule said the morse,
"'Twas a hell of a horse,
I can't wait to see the donkeys"

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (a Jack) and a female horse (a mare). They don't really exist much in nature, except perhaps where lonely mares and Jacks commingle.

So, it occured to me that this animal is the result of crude genetic engineering, although nobody seems to be running about protesting them as Franken-Mules the way they do bio-engineered corn.

Why isn't the mule, or molly, or hinny regarded as a threat to our ecosystem? Is it because it has been around a while and that we attribute more foresight to our ancestors?

Our ancestors were dopes that tried to cure the plague by massing together in prayer. They tried to heal the infirm by bleeding them. They thought the earth was flat and they'd fall off the edge if they weren't careful.

Shouldn't we be more concerned about the unnatural byproduct of these rubes uninformed experiments than the careful, cross-examined work of modern genetic scientists?

I think a lot of the public hostility towards genetic manipulation is because many modern, informed advances produce oddities like: sterile seeds (more money for Monsanto), tasteless tomatos (that have a long shelf life), corn with insect toxin (Bt) throughout, vegetable/mammal combinations, goats that produce spider-silk, and other Quixotic accomplishments.

If money is the root of all evil and we continue to let market forces direct our genetic experimentation, then it stands to reason what will happen. Someone is sure to cross-breed a prostitute with a dog.

The humble mule stands as a gentle reminder that genetic engineering isn't all-bad, but the four-legged prostitute is clearly an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.

Down with progs!
Down with drostitutes!
Yea Mule!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Meanwhile back at the surge...

Ms. Pelosi, these deaths are on your dime:

14 US soldiers killed in two days

Is funding this president's schemes equivalent to supporting the troops?

It is past time to stop following this president blindly.

You can observe a lot by looking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another quick hit

On this, the first day of summer, a story illustrates that the culture of fear-mongering in the US has gone too far:


Quick Hit

Here is an entertaining musical starring the commander in chief and featuring the music of Abba:



Muslims gone wild

I came across a great absurdity in a story about Muslims going wild over Salman Rushdie's knighthood. Amid the angry throngs and the flag burning and the chants and calls for suicide bombings and of course the expected death threats I found this:

"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism," he told his country's parliament.

"If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so, unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title."


Benny Hill as a special guest on Monty Python's Flying Circus could not have devised a better farce than that statement.

They accuse us of being extreme and we're so angry about that we're going to riot in the streets calling for murder!

I wonder if the line was delivered in over-sized shoes and a rubber nose, or if he went with the "straight man" approach.

As interesting as that question is, here is another one:

If democratic candidates wish to appear tough while appealing to a broad spectrum of their base, then why don't they stand up for freedom of speech and enter the fray?

Isn't that a no-brainer, a two-fer, a win-win, a thought outside the box, and so on and so forth?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In answer to Sam Harris

Sam Harris, in a recent article, makes the moral case for torture:

In defense of torture

I tried to post a comment but the site was full up so I shall leave my answer here. It is an issue that is terribly interesting and important enough that everyone ought to weigh in, don't you think?


Since sadism often masquerades as piety it seems wise to be defensive about the notion of pious torturers (like the Inquisitors you mention).

The underlying assumption in the "ticking time bomb" scenario is that torture is the most effective way to extract the information. If that is a false assumption, then it would be doubly immoral to use it, particularly in the TTB scenario. If that is a true assumption, then it seems that torture is morally correct in theory.

Since the bedrock of morality is to treat others as you wish to be treated, the circumstances under which you would choose torture over a bomb for yourself should be investigated.

If approached from this direction, what father, what husband, what mother, what wife could resist the appeal of torture for themselves alone to the pain of losing their whole family to a bomb?

To save loved ones, then, seems again like a scenario under which it is forgivable to torture.

buT, bUT, BUT...

I am uncertain that defending torture in theory defends it in the outside world. Out here you do wind up with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay which, as you say, are "a travesty" that "has done our country lasting harm". I suspect more harm than good.

In our "eye for an eye" world, the use of torture on others is an invitation to receive it on ourselves, and who can say if we have paid in full for these travesties.

Torture seems to be a technique to cause the sick to suffer, but not without poisoning the well. Perhaps if it were practiced by no one but Philosophers society could escape it's immoral application.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hanging Rope

Economist Thomas Palley has a website and blog which I have recently discovered and have since enjoyed reading.

He is not a big fan of U.S. trade policy with China, and regularly lambastes it.

In this article, "The profit vs country dilemma" he pits patriotism against capitalism, broad national interest against narrow economic interest.

I hope you enjoy his articles as much as I do.

Quick hit

If the U.S. military did maintain casualty figures in Iraq, one benefit would be the ability to compare the number of Muslims killed by Muslims to those killed by U.S. forces.

I suspect, given the seemingly daily occurrence of this type of thing, the Muslims are well in the lead.

Would that cast our forces in a good light, or, do we get the blame because we are the "great Satan" no matter what?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rainfall for the unrighteous

When Hamas took over the Gaza strip recently it established a militant Islamist terrorist organization on the border of a US ally and democracy.

This would be akin to Al Qaeda throwing out the government of Quebec. Wouldn't we be fools to expect anything but Trouble in that case?

It looks to me like our threats towards Iran, particularly those of John McCain, have emboldened the terrorists.

If our actions weaken our allies and strengthen our enemies can they be considered wise?

A consequence of Hamas' victory, at least in the short term, is attacks on Christians inside Gaza.

Jesus, we know, would turn the other cheek (Mathew 5:39) and perhaps offer Hamas a sandwich. I expect the response from president Bush will diverge slightly from that track.

I am left to wonder what tune the neocons will sing next.


One thing I would like to see when democrats pick a presidential candidate is the use of Instant Runoff Voting.

This is a voting technique that works better to represent the will of the electorate than our current techniques. Also, experience in San Francisco indicates that when candidates must appeal to the broadest number of voters they become less polarizing:

Details here

Since IRV is scientifically proven to choose the candidate with the most appeal among primary voters, then why wouldn't democratic advisors rush to embrace it?

Another virtue of IRV is that you can vote your conscience without worrying about casting your vote for a spoiler. A vote for Nader, in other words, does not become a vote for Bush. A vote for Ross Perot, to cite another example, does not become a vote for Bill Clinton.

Can anyone think of a reason not to use IRV in the primary process?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Musical practice

Sit down at a piano, place your right hand on a high D octave, then hammer it about every second.

You will find the noise familiar, although I cannot promise that familiarity will breed enjoyment.

This is the noise that heavy machinery makes when it backs up (PDF).

As far as I can tell all heavy equipment does this and it does so using the same sanity besieging tone.

There is a construction crew in my vicinity and it is interesting to me that the noise of pavement being peeled away cannot compete with this tonE, toNE, tONE, TONE!

Why D/D-minor, a key used to dramatic effect in horror movies (i.e. Phantom of the Opera - Bach's toccata and fugue in D-minor)?

Why not the sound of birds chirping, or that sedate squeak cars make to confirm it has been locked? Why not a sassy temptress of a voice telling us equipment is in reverse?

Why so loud that I can hear it far away?

Doesn't a thing that loud overpower the shouts likely to emanate from anyone in the danger zone?

Doesn't a thing that loud require site workers to wear ear-plugs?

Do site workers wearing ear-plugs necessitate louder warning beeps?

Are we in the midst of a cacophony cold-war?

Perhaps we need a war on backing up?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Surging Hamas

President Bush doesn't talk much about Israel these days, does he?

Here's why.

Remember the roadmap to peace?

Remember the two-state solution?

So much for them!

Maybe president Bush plans to pass this problem off to his successor as well as the war in Iraq?

Underlying assumptions

Whenever a person argues that we need to stay in Iraq the person usually harbors an underlying assumption, which is, our staying will make things better.

I see no evidence to back that claim, nor have I been able to extract any from people with this faith.

Where does it come from, this belief that our presence in Iraq is a good thing that is good for Iraq and good for America? How is it people believe that if we and Iraqis are patient enough through all the killing, and committed enough through all the chaos, that all will work out for the best in the end?

Why doesn't news, like this story coming out of Iraq, ever crack the battlements of this false assumption?

What does it take to expose these fantastic, fanatical, fatal illusions for what they are to them that cling to 'em?

It doesn't seem to be logic, for there was plenty of that pre-invasion which predicted the problems we face now.

It doesn't seem to be facts on the ground, those are dismissed as so many dead US soldiers.

Once you see that our occupation is the problem it is maddening to watch the US continue to pursue it.

Are people really unable to draw such an obvious conclusion from such a complete body of evidence, or are they lying?

How do people like Joe Lieberman muster the arrogance through it all?

Anger and fear seem to be what whip irrational behavior into a full gallop.

Where are the reins on these apocalyptic pachyderms?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer reading

George Bush de la Mancha, unrivaled in wit, unequaled in courtesy, supreme in gentleness of bearing, a model of friendship, generous without stint, grave without conceit, merry without being vulgar - in short, first in all that is good came upon a field of oilwells one day...

His squire, the loyal Sancho Powell, riding beside him on an ass, tried to dissuade his master from rushing into battle with so metallic a foe.

But the code of honor (or idealism) of the knights-errant insisted an unalterable course, and the brave good night took up his lance and charged...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Amen, brother Robinson

I like to say around the Ugly Moe homeland that the next president of the United States should be smarter than me. That is viewed, particularly by my closest friends and family, as setting the bar very low and I have been accused of perpetuating low expectations.

Eugene Robinson just wrote a column for the Washington Post in which he says, "One thing that should be clear, to anyone who’s been paying attention these last few years, is that we need to go out and get ourselves the smartest president we can find."

Here is a link to his article

I can't help but wonder what might have been if the last presidential ballot were worded this way:

If you wanted to cheat on a test, would you be more likely to look over George W. Bush's shoulder, or John F. Kerry's, for the answer?

Everyone likes an idiot until they need answers.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

DEBKAfile: Turkey invades N. Iraq

According to DEBKAfile, Turkey has just invaded northern Iraq.

Is that good?

Northern Iraq is the only somewhat stable area of Iraq and the Kurds are the only population in Iraq that seem committed to a democracy, so it stands to reason that the Bush administration would allow this to happen with very little objection.

I can't wait to go to the gas-pumps now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Digging for wisdom in the Middle East

Unwise actions are actions that have consequences which do not achieve desired results, whereas wise actions achieve desired results. In order to judge whether or not the actions of the Bush administration have been wise or unwise in Iraq, we must therefore examine the consequences of those actions.

According to the US state department's latest annual report on global terrorism,
"Iraq's sectarian warfare fueled a sharp increase in global terrorism in 2006", and terrorist attacks are "up more than 25%".


If, then, increasing the number of terrorist attacks worldwide by 25% is desirable, then the president's actions are wise.

According to the Princeton Study on National Security, in a document entitled "Documenting the Phenomenon of Anti-Americanism" by Nicole Spedula one reads,
"Younger people express more antipathy for America than their older cohorts in most of the West. For example, in 2002 38% in France under age 30 had an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. and by 2005 64% view America negatively. In Britain, America’s closest ally in the war on terrorism, animosity among the young has double in the last three years—from one-in-six in 2002 to one-in-three in 2005. A similar rise in the dislike of America is seen in Germany and it is even more pronounced in Spain; fully 62% of Spaniards under age 30 have a negative view of the U.S. while just 39% of their elders say so."


If, then, increasing anti-American sentiment among our allies youth is desirable, then we can consider the president's actions wise.

It is all too easy to go on in this manner, talking about the price of fuel in America today, or rising hostilities with Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela, and North Korea or our increasingly isolated positions on everything from global warming to acceptance of the rule of law.

Here is an alternative viewpoint that strikes me as wise, but it is difficult to say since I don't think it has ever been tried:

If the origins of terrorism are to be found in poverty and debt, it is not to be wondered at that military action is no solution but only serves to exacerbate the evil. It would be better, and far less costly, to cancel the debt and relieve the poverty.

Source: Michael Barratt Brown

My principal reason for rejecting a US military intervention in Iran is that you go to war with the leadership you have, which at present is unwise. Colloquially expressed, it is the "stop digging" argument (i.e. when you find yourself in a hole the first thing you need to do is stop digging).


Here is a story that deserves all of the attention it can get, I think, so take a look already:

JFK terror plot

Good work kos. Every candidate for president should consider themselves forearmed.

Proof the Yankees suck.

If mean people suck,
and these Yankees are mean,
then it stands to reason,
based upon the transitive property of equality,
that Yankees suck doesn't it?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran?

Isn't executing an "end run" around the duly elected leader of a democracy treason?

Cheney's end-run

The vice president may be a lot of things, but I can't picture him as a traitor or in any way disloyal to the Bush family.

He would have to be both, wouldn't he, if this report were true?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Urgent Juxtaposition

From the past...

The Reichstag Fire Decree issued by German president Paul von Hindenburg in direct response to the Reichstag fire of February 27, 1933 ... nullified many of the key civil liberties of German citizens. With Nazis in powerful positions of the German government, the decree was used as the legal basis of imprisonment of anyone considered to be opponents of the Nazis, and was used to suppress publications not considered "friendly" to the Nazi cause. The decree is considered by historians to be one of the key steps in the establishment of a one-party Nazi state in Germany.

Source: Wikipedia

From the present...

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, signed on May 9, 2007, would place all governmental power in the hands of the President and effectively abolish the checks and balances in the Constitution.

If a "catastrophic emergency" -- which could include a terrorist attack or a natural disaster -- occurs, Bush's new directive says: "The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government."

Source: AlterNet

The future?

We will go where we are headed unless we abandon the present course.

I cannot think of a bigger "catastrophic emergency" than ceding even more constitutional power to herr Bush. I doubt, for instance, the Americans that were left behind after Katrina would look favorably on that remedy.

No responsible person would ever let an insane person or child play with loaded guns Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid. In this case, legislators, you have a convergence.

The cards are on the table.

Saving Family Farms

Republicans know the power of myth and normally place the cart of details in front of the horse of facts by building the myth first and trying to validate it second. They have found that this saves considerable time.

They have identified a powerful new myth, that of the family farm forced to go under by a brutal tax on their inherited wealth.

So, donning monkey bodies and bat wings, minions of Karl Rove fly out the windows of his dark keep scouring the heartland of America for a single instance of this myth. So far, they are all cart and no horse, but flying monkey hirelings work cheap and the will of the dark one is strong. The dark one is untroubled because he knows that by using his dark powers and his dark will he can conjure up facts that cast a spell on the electorate, but only for a short while because Truth the good witch watches over the munchkins.

Meanwhile the lollipop league chips in with facts and findings and reports, which do nothing to undermine the myth, but rather draw attention to it since the munchkins in munchkinland distrust "book smarts".

Oh, but how they love to sing and dance!


Republicans searched high,
and they searched low,
lookin' for a farmer that had to go;
Cause the millions his dad left him somehow,
Weren't enough to buy seed nor' plow.

Democrats did hem and
Democrats did haw and
Watched the proceedings with an old slack jaw,
Till a singer barged in with his own refrain
Sayin', "Boys get aboard my Conga train".


You save family farms with healthcare
You save family farms with healthcare
You save family farms with healthcare
Keep the idle-rich tax!

You save family farms with healthcare
You save family farms with healthcare
You save family farms with healthcare
Keep the Wal-Mart heir tax!

A good myth does not engage the intellect which is why it is no use to combat it with scientific observation. Luckily, co-opting the myth always worked like a bucket of water on a witch for Bill Clinton.

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin