27 April 2005

Melody for president

Power Pundit has a post (content of which has mostly been taken from another blog) that discusses Melody Townsel's plagiarism in college 20 years ago. Power Pundit concludes the post by saying that the plagiarism "blows her credibility out of the water." When I first read this, I thought it was a parody. We're talking about 21 years ago, after all, and plagiarism doesn't exactly count as high crimes in my book. But Power Pundit seems to be blogging this with a straight face. Some conservatives, while supporting the Bolton nomination, have a hard time going along with this latest witch-hunt. My advice to Power Pundit? Step onto a college campus sometime my friend. Throw a rock and try to hit someone who hasn't plagiarized. (Or hasn't raped, killed, snorted coke, or gone AWOL). Of course the post is completely ridiculous. If that's the biggest dirt Melody has in her life in the last two decades, we need to elect her president.

Great Leader Cornball

Shrub has given the word "cornball" a whole new significance, advising us to grow and eat corn for "more energy." Check out this priceless video clip. (I'm reminded of some North Korean article about raising goats "based on the principle of converting grass into energy as taught by the Great Leader.")

Kudos to Crooks and Liars and Direland for this.

Simply Appalling also has a very apropos post on his site, titled "From a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance: Dummies at war."

26 April 2005

Workers seek re-edjumication

Today's Washington Post has an article about Chinese workers at the Uniden Electronic Products factory in Shenzhen going on strike. The strike along with the Chinese government's response provides a wonderful example of irony. Uniden is Japanese-owned. But in spite of recent government-backed anti-Japanese protests (and in spite of China's Communist past), the Chinese government has firmly sided with the Japanese "owners of the means of production" as it opposes workers' attempts to form their own union. Key organizers of the strike have apparently "disappeared." It would be interesting to see what kind of "re-education" they are given. Are they sent to the U.S. and forced to work for Walmart for a year? Or perhaps they're forced to read Das Kapital for six-months and then are provided with a literary course on propaganda and the non-literal, multiple meanings of all texts. You have to feel some sympathy for the poor cadres in charge of writing the re-education curriculum.

P.S. It would be nice to hear what the Uniden workers themselves have to say about this but for some strange reason, their blog is inaccessible.

Some blogments on the strike that are accessible can be found at China Herald and RC Converstation. There are also some news articles as well as a plagiarized version of this post on another blog.

25 April 2005

Earth Day

I realize I'm late for the party but I was busy out hugging trees. I'd just like to say that DFC and Wildhunt have good posts on Earth Day.

Ray McGovern's take on the Bolton Nomination

A number of conservative bloggers have remained supportive of the recent Bolton nomination, in spite of the rotton egg smells that have lately been bubbling to the surface of the political swamp. The Austin Bay blog, for example, claims that the conventional view of Bolton as a slash-and-burn anti-U.N. nutcase is mistaken. Austin Bay could be right of course. It's always difficult for us on the outside of the Beltway to differentiate political slander and polical positioning from genuine concern over a nominee's ability. For this reason, I thought the following article by a former high-level CIA analysts, was very telling.

More At Stake In Bolton Nomination Than Meets the Eye by Ray McGovern

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are casting the trials of John Bolton, their nominee for ambassador to the U.N., as a partisan political squabble. It is much more than that. It is rather a matter of life and death for the endangered species of intelligence analysts determined to “tell it like it is,” no matter what the administration’s policies may be. For them the stakes are very high indeed.

The Bush administration strongly resists the notion that the intelligence on Iraq, for example, was cooked to the White House recipe. And with the president’s party controlling both houses of Congress and the president appointing his own “independent” commission to investigate, Bush and Cheney have until now been able to prevent any meaningful look into the issue of politicization of intelligence.

But the Bolton nomination has brought it very much to the fore, and there will be serious repercussions in the intelligence community if, despite his flagrant attempts to intimidate intelligence analysts, Bolton is confirmed by the Senate.

For many, the term "politicization" is as difficult to understand as it is to pronounce. Indeed, it is impossible to understand, when one assumes, as most do, that all institutions in Washington, DC have a political agenda. Suffice it to say here that, in order to do their job properly, intelligence analysts must at one and the same time be aware of what is going on at the policy level but be insulated from political pressure to conform intelligence to policy. That way, intelligence analysis can be based on fact (as in “We have no good evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction”), rather than fiction (as in, “Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose a grave threat requiring immediate action”). Helpful insight into politicization can be found in John Prados’ article of last Thursday, "Boltonized Intelligence."

L’ Affaire Bolton

For those who may have tuned in late, in February 2002 then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton sought intelligence community clearance for his own home-grown analysis regarding Cuba’s pursuit of biological weapons and the possibility it might share them with rogue states. (One can only speculate on his purpose in exaggerating the threat.)

Small problem: Bolton's intended remarks went far beyond what U.S. intelligence would support. Christian Westermann of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and counterparts from other agencies refused to let Bolton represent his views as those of the intelligence community and proposed instead some alternative, less alarming language. At this Bolton became so dyspeptic that he summoned Westermann to his office for a tongue-lashing and then asked top INR officials to remove him.

For those wondering if this constitutes politicization, a recently declassified email message made available to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the New York Times should dispel any doubt. On February 12, 2002, after a run-in with Westermann, Bolton’s principal aide Frederick Fleitz, sent Bolton this email:

"I explained to Christian that it was a political judgment as to how to interpret this data (emphasis added) and the I.C. [intelligence community] should do as we asked."

Fleitz added that Westermann "strongly disagrees with us."

Good for Westermann, we can say as we sit a comfortable distance from Bolton. But more than seven months later, Westermann was still paying the price for his honesty and courage. In an email of September 23, 2002 to Tom Fingar, deputy to then-INR director Carl Ford, Westermann complained that "personal attacks, harassment, and impugning of my integrity [are] now affecting my work, my health, and my dedication to public service." Fingar replied that he was “dismayed and disgusted” by the “unwarranted personal attacks.”

Bolton and the Cheney/Rumsfeld School of Intelligence

Were it not for the numbing experience of the past four years, we intelligence professionals, practicing and retired, would be astonished at the claim that how to interpret intelligence data is a “political judgment.” But this is also the era of the Rumsfeld maxim: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," and the Cheney corollary: "If you build it, they will come"—meaning that intelligence analysts will come around to any case that top administration officials may build. All it takes is a few personal visits to CIA headquarters and a little arm-twisting, and the analysts will be happy to conjure up whatever “evidence” may be needed to support Cheneyesque warnings that “they”—the Iraqis, the Iranians, it doesn't matter--have "reconstituted” their nuclear weapons development program. Cheney is Bolton’s patron; Bolton is well tutored.

But how could Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other senior administration officials be assured of the acquiescence of the intelligence community (except for mavericks like analysts from INR) on issues like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? True, former CIA director, “Slam-Dunk” George Tenet, proved entirely malleable, but he could not have managed it alone. Sadly, he found willing collaborators in a generation of CIA managers who put career above objectivity and bubbled to the top under directors William Casey and his protégé Robert Gates. In other words, Tenet was the "beneficiary" of a generation of malleable managers who benefited from the promotion policies of Casey and Gates starting in the early eighties.

How the Corruption Began

Casey, who saw a Russian under every rock and could not be persuaded that Mikhail Gorbachev was anything but a dirty Commie, started the trend by advancing those—like Gates—who pretended to be of like mind. (With a degree in Russian history and experience as a Soviet analyst, Gates knew better.) But as chief of analysis under Casey, he towed the line and made sure that others did too. Casey eventually made Gates his principal deputy, but the young protégé’s role in the Iran-Contra affair prevented him from becoming director when Casey died. Nonetheless, Gates’ meteoric career became an object lesson for those willing to make the compromises necessary to make a swift ascent up the career ladder.

Why dwell on Gates? Because (1) he is the one most responsible for institutionalizing political corruption of intelligence analysis; and (2) John Bolton’s confirmation hearing provides an eerie flashback to the ordeal Gates went through to get confirmed as CIA director. The parallels are striking.

The dust from Iran-Contra had settled sufficiently by 1991, when President George H. W. Bush nominated Gates to head the CIA. Then all hell broke loose. Playing the role discharged so well earlier this month by former INR director Carl Ford in critiquing Bolton, a former senior Soviet analyst and CIA division chief, Mel Goodman, stepped forward and gave the Senate intelligence committee chapter and verse on how Gates had shaped intelligence analysis to suit his masters and his career. Goodman was joined at once by several other analysts who put their own careers at risk by testifying against Gates’ nomination. They were so many and so persuasive that, for a time, it appeared they had won the day. But the fix was in.

With a powerful assist from George Tenet, then staff director of the senate intelligence committee, members approved the nomination. In his memoir Gates makes a point of thanking Tenet for greasing the skids. Even so, 31 Senators found the evidence against Gates so persuasive that, in an unprecedented move, they voted against him when the nomination came to the floor.

The First Mass Exodus and Those Who Stayed

The result? Many bright analysts quit rather than take part in cooking intelligence-to-go. In contrast, those inspired by Gates’ example followed suit and saw their careers flourish. So much so that when in September 2002 Tenet asked his senior managers to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate parroting what Cheney had been saying about the weapons-of-mass-destruction threat from Iraq, they saluted and fell to the task. Several of them traced their career advancement to Robert Gates.

Folks like John McLaughlin, who now "doesn't remember" being told about the charlatan source code-named "Curveball" in time enough to warn Colin Powell before he made a fool of himself and his country at the U.N., while the whole world watched. Folks like National Intelligence Officer Larry Gershwin, who gave a pass to Curveball’s drivel and similar nonsense; and Alan Foley, who led the misbegotten analytical efforts on the celebrated but non-nuclear-related aluminum tubes headed for Iraq, and fictitious Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Niger. Folks like the CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, who bowed to pressure from the White House and from McLaughlin to suppress the exhaustive IG report on 9/11, which is a goldmine of names—of both intelligence officials and policymakers—who bungled the many warnings that such an attack was coming. Folks like the senior intelligence official who told me last month, “We were not politicized; we just thought it appropriate to ‘lean forward,’ given White House concern over Iraq.”

The cancer of politicization spreads quickly, runs deep, and—as we have seen on Iraq—can bring catastrophe.

And that is precisely why the stakes are so high in re Bolton. When Gates became CIA director, the honest analysts who left were replaced by more inexperienced, pliable ones. It is no exaggeration to say that recent intelligence fiascos can be traced directly to the kinds of people Gates created in his image and promoted to managerial positions.

Redux Before a Senate Committee

And now? Never in the history of U.S. intelligence has there been a more demoralized corps of honest intelligence analysts. Leaders with integrity are few and far between. So when a Carl Ford throws down the gauntlet in defense of a Christian Westermann, we need to sit up and take notice. If “serial abuser” (Ford’s words) John Bolton wins confirmation, there will be an inevitable hemorrhage of honest analysts at a time when they are sorely needed. It will be open season for politicization.

Does the White House care? Not at all. With more docile intelligence analysts in place, Bolton and others will be even freer to apply “political judgment” to interpreting intelligence, with no second-guessing by recalcitrant experts. It will certainly be easier to come up with the desired “evidence” on, say, weapons of mass destruction in Iran.

And Then There Was Voinovich

Thankfully, integrity is a virtue not altogether lost. The bright light of the past week came when, to everyone’s surprise, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member George Voinovich (R-Ohio) decided he simply could not follow his Republican colleagues who had decided to hold their noses and give Bolton a pass. That blocked the nomination from going forward to the Senate until additional information on Bolton can be assessed.

Cheney reacted quickly and forcefully against a suggestion by Senator Lincoln Chafee (R- R.I.) that the Republican committee members might consider whether to recommend that the nomination be withdrawn, and it appears the White House will use the coming weeks to pull out all the stops in harnessing the faithful. Already, well-financed hit squads are running radio spots in Ohio saying Voinovich has “stabbed the president and the Republicans right in the back.”

Asked why he wanted more time to weigh the charges against Bolton, Voinovich answered with a sentence not often heard in Washington political circles, “My conscience got me.”

Can conscience prevail over politics? Voinovich has proved it is still possible. Let us hope that he and his committee colleagues will approach the decision on Bolton with an open mind. For integrity in intelligence is now on life support. Approving the nomination of quintessential politicizer Bolton would pull the plug and ensure amateurish, cooked-to-taste intelligence analysis for decades to come.

Ray McGovern spent 27 years as a CIA analyst, during which he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared and briefed to senior White House officials the President's Daily Brief. He is a founding member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and now works at Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.

20 April 2005

New Discoveries Shed Light on New Testament

The Independent reports that a new technique using infra-red light is allowing scholar to read thousands of previously illegible manuscripts. A team from Oxford University is currently using the technique to study the great papyrus text containing the New Testament. The technique has led to a number of new discoveries that are fundamentally altering the way we understand the Jesus of the Gospels since it allows scholars, working with religious scholars and linguistic experts, to decipher the faded writing from the worn edge of documents. Research has just begun, but new findings include:

(1) An analysis of the book of Matthew shows that the line "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" is actually followed by the words, "And verily I say unto you, the powerful will rub their faces in earth and make them eat of it."

(2) The oft-cited line "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" is actually followed by the phrase if ye be a fool. If ye be not a fool, smite he who smiteth thee pre-emptively."

(3) The Matthew 19:24 verse "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" is actually followed by "but the ultra-rich shall prosper and be my chosen ones, for it is they who are truly Godlike in my eyes."

(4) The end of the book of Matthew was found to have an entirely new verse, reading, "And have mercy for the rich man, for he is without equals and the keeper of many servants. Lessen his weariness and lighten his load. Tax him lightly so that his treasures may pile up on earth, and he may have power all his days, as he will in heaven."

Professor Lightenhammer, the head of the research team, is ecstastic about the theological implications of the study. "We have long known that our picture of Jesus was only partial and had been obscured through centuries of misunderstanding and poor scholarship. Yet we always suspected that these words of wisdom were hiding between the lines of the ancient text."

In an interview with a local TV station, one of the researchers, speaking off the record, confided, "Liberal academics are in an uproar over this and want to deny the results of the study. In essense, these new findings demonstrate that the average devout Republican, who is not excessively worked up over the mere literal meaning of the Bible, has through prayer and spiritual fortitude somehow intuitively picked up on the true meaning of scriptures, even prior to these new discoveries."

Marauding Elephants Trash Seoul

As if ape colonies in Iowa weren't enough, we have just learned that South Korea has been infested with rampaging elephants. When I first came across this story, I was sure that some geeky yahoo with a penchant for pachyderms was pulling my leg. But alas it is true. It appears these elephants have a bit of a rap record with at least one major previous escape on the books. Even so, I think the final "frogmarch" back to the Children's Park may constitute excessive humiliation, even for this group of excons.

Pachyderms Stage Great Escape

In scenes reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie, six elephants made an unscheduled appearance on the streets of Seoul after escaping from an amusement park in Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday afternoon. They strutted down the wide streets, attacked passersby, and marched into a restaurant breaking the glass windows.

The pachyderms were waiting in a tent next to the front gate of the Children’s Grand Park around 3:00 p.m. When their chains were loosened just a few moments before the performance was to begin, one enterprising animal made a dash for freedom and the others followed. In classic partisan tactics, the six dispersed when they reached the main road.

In the ensuing chaos, a 53-year-old woman identified as Noh was injured after she was struck on the chest and shoulder by the leg of the elephant. She also sustained a cut to her head and is being treated at a near hospital. Another elephant broke the window of a restaurant and went in.

The police mobilized a riot squad, 12 patrol cars and nearly a dozen fire trucks to recapture the fugitives. One surrendered voluntarily at Seoul Dongbu Police Station. Three of its relatives got as far as the entrance of Kunkuk University but were detained due to cooperative efforts of the trainers and the police. One, which had marched into a residential area near the crossroad at Achasan Station, was caught by police. The last one was surrounded in front of the water filtration plant by a battalion of trainers, police and firemen, and all six of them were frogmarched back to the Children’s Grand Park in the evening.

Two of the Laos-born elephants, which are five to seven years and weigh around 1.5 tons, had also escaped from the Songdo Resort in Incheon in October 2003, and loitered around downtown Incheon for one and a half hours before being caught by the police. “The elephants seemed to have been put under immense stress by a sudden change of environment after they were moved from Incheon,” an official at the Children's Grand Park said.

The Park’s performance arena accommodates 950 spectators on 5,280 square meters. A team of nine elephants, 10 Lao folk dancers and 15 trainers have performed five times a day since last Saturday.

A number of bloggers, reflecting on the petulant pettifoggery between Korea and Japan, have speculated that the elephants were actually released secretly by Japanese agents who had hoped that they would trample the capital, preparing the way for a Japanese invasion.

More pictures can be found at Ruminations in Korea.

Planet of the Apes

The Great Ape Trust is doing a fascinating study with Bonobos. The apes, which are similar to humans to many ways, will be put in their own separate community and studied on a long-term basis. The apes quarters will be replete with all the necessities, to include vending machines and doors for visitors that only open with the ape's consent.

The Karlo dialect

I took the quiz What Kind of American English Do You Speak? (courtesy of Cut to the Chase) and these are the results. It was pretty accurate actually. I'm originally from the left coast which, in addition to having many Californians, seems to have quite a few second generation people from the South. But why did I get 0% Midwestern?

Your Linguistic Profile:

75% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Yankee

19 April 2005


BAC (Bloggers Against Cat-blogging) is Back. This anti-catblogging lobbying group has decided to re-form in response to the re-emergence of cat-blogging throughout the internets. In order to protect sensitive political bloggers from the horrors of cats blogging, BAC will be posting cat-blogging alerts. The highest alert--code redcat--will be reserved exclusively for emergency situations when cats have over-run the internets and have taken over entire swaths of otherwise rational web content. If you see the red cat, you are to immediately ducktape your computer screen, dive into the corner of your room, and assume the cobra yoga position as you chant BAAAAAC with each out-breath. The following list of blogs will be quarantined indefinitely until the Department of Feline Security has had an opportunity to pepper spray the cyberspace behind their modems and scrub the hard-drives free of any stray frrrballs.


At Ease, Adot's notblog, Trish Wilson's Blog, Progressive Protestant, Rob's Blog, Lab Kat, Dohiyi Mir, Devizes Melting Pot, and Three-toed Sloth.

If you want to do more to rid the blogosphere of catblogging, please send your money to Karlo at Swerve Left. He will put it to good use trying to rid the internet of the infiltrating felines.

Breaking News!

Scrutiny Hooligans has just posted this recent breaking news, demonstrating once again that the blogosphere is one step ahead of the conventional media.

U.S. to Invade Israel, Fall 2006

In a rare turn of events, George Bush announced yesterday the United States was putting together a Coalition of the Willing II: The Remix to invade Israel in the Fall of 2006. "Sharon and the state of Israel can no longer defy the United Nations and the good people of the world," he said at White House Press Conference.

"Like Iraq, Israel has chosen to violate and ignore (68) United Nations resolutions, they are a threat to their neighbors and continue to occupy the territory of other nations," said Condi Rice,"In the last 40 years, they have started 3 wars."

"And most importantly, they possess weapons of mass destruction," chimed in Donald Rumsfeld, "their leader, Sharon, has been implicated in the massacre of Eygptian soldiers, in violation of the Geneva Convention, as well as the massacre of civilians at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon."

"Presently, Israel is erecting the new "Berlin" wall of the Middle East, argued Richard Perle, "we cannot allow this type of Apartied to take foot, Freedom is on the March!"

When asked by a member of the press about Israel being our ally, President Bush responded, "I don't care. Saddam was our ally for years, we gave him billions of dollars. And what we gave Iraq is just a drop in the bucket compared to what we give Israel every year. When Saddam defied America we took him down, what makes any of our allies any different?"

Vice President Dick Cheney added, after a moment of deafening silence in the Press Conference,"You know, I'm still a little pissed about those 120 Israeli spies we kicked out of the country in 2001. Like, why are they spying on us, if we are their allies?"

"They are a threat to the Democracy we are bringing to the Middle East, they refuse to give up their weapons of mass destruction, and they are creating a new form of Aparthied with that durn wall," scowled President Bush, "Let it be known, if I'm gonna ruin the U.S. economy and get a bunch of young Americans killed to bring Democracy to the Middle East, then I'll be durned if stop with just Iraq. Freedom is on the march, and it is marching to Israel."

18 April 2005

Them Dang Tax Forms

Now that we all have our taxes in, let's all keep our fingers crossed that we filled out the forms right, signing legibly on each copy and adding up the totals correctly. We wouldn't want to get the ol' IRS miffed by forgetting to add that $20 we made at last week's auction. Of course for those of us who have been out of grade-school for a while, the addition and subtraction can be a bit taxing. The IRS really should take this into account and be a bit more lenient towards us. A more enlightened IRS would allow us a second or third try--a kind of 3 strikes law for the mathematically challenged.

Evidently, it isn't just us plebes at the bottom of the tax bracket that are having problems adding things up these days. When filling out his tax forms, Walter C. Anderson (the Telecom tycoon) has been accused of leaving out $200,000,000 in tax owed. Now I can understand how someone might forget to carry a zero over to the next line--it happens to me all the time. But how do you forget 8 or 9 zeros? We really need to enrol poor Walter in one of Bush's new-fangled schools--the fellow has definitely been left behind. While he makes up his lost math classes, we could have Walter compensate us poor tax-payers for the cost of his schooling by teaching a class or two himself--something along the lines of Creative Accounting Practices 101.

Marla Ruzicka

Rights activist and aid worker Marla Ruzicka, 28, was killed in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad on 17 April. She was travelling on the road to Baghdad airport when a private security convoy ahead of them was targeted by a suicide bomber. Marla founded the Washington-based Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which worked to obtain financial compensation for the innocent victims of war. We will remember her as someone who sacrificed her life for others and championed the cause of the weak and oppressed.

15 April 2005

The jihad movement finally hits home...

I often like to turn my mouse to harsh criticisms of the Executive and his band of corporate advisors. But I must admit that Bush has gotten a few things right. For example, he has claimed consistently that terrorism must be attacked everywhere before it starts to spread, ultimately reaching American suburbs. With this in mind, I was taken back today to learn that a homeground terrorist movement has recently put out a communique. The nefarious and little understood group, calling itself simply "the Unitarian Jihad," has already made its ulterior purposes known.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he's pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

I would advise everyone to go get your ducktape before the stores run out. And if you suspect that any of your friends could be part of the Unitarian Jihad, make sure to tell some of the nice people at the Department of Faderland Security.

14 April 2005

Got them Walmart blues

Walmart continues to pop-up in the news for its anti-union activities. I've bought about 3 items at Walmart in the last 6 months. All these products were extremely shoddy and in most cases unusable. I don't see how the place stays in business. And now this news about this massive chain harrassing its workers.

13 April 2005

How ya like them cookies?

According to Forbes:

The company behind those floating ads that dance across Web pages has developed a way to restore the data profiles that many privacy-conscious users try to delete from their computers.

United Virtualities calls the product Persistent Identification Element. It taps a separate profile system that's found in Macromedia Inc.'s Flash and that's not generally affected by antispyware programs.

Using the product, when a Web site discovers a cookie missing, it can look for a backup in Flash and restore the cookie.

According to the Tibetans, there's a special hell-realm dedicated solely to such people. In this smelly realm, computer nerds stand in rooms filled with slime, as they sip truck-stop coffee and discuss new algorhythms. But after their 5 minute break is over, they are forced to return to doing handstands.

Thanks to A Welsh View for the lead to this story.

Sad Sack in Iraq

The Guardian has an article out today claiming that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is failing with hatred of the occupation "greater than ever."

New study on origins of peoples

I'm excited to hear that a new landmark study, lasting 5 years and involving 100,000 people, will be conducted on participants' DNA to figure out the patterns of human migrations. The study, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and IBM, at blood samples of people from 10 sites around the world: Shanghai, China; Moscow; Tamil Nadu, India; Beirut, Lebanon; Philadelphia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Paris; Melbourne, Australia; Minas Gerais, Brazil; Cambridge, England. The study will probably also be a boon to researchers on historical linguistics who are attempting to understand how languages that have drifted far apart are related to one another.

To all you early filers

I've decided to adopt a Christian perspective regarding taxes. I'm waiting until the last minute to file. The way I figure it, if God comes back and destroys the world, all you suckers who filed early will be out some cash. Meanwhile, I'll be wallowing in the dough. So after the apocolypse, when I'm buying marshmallows to roast in the hellfires, don't be coming to me feeling sorrow for yourself. You could have faithfully held out to the end too.

Compassionate conservatism strikes again

This latest from the blogmaster of Bunk Blog, who is in the military:

No Bankruptcy Protection for Troops

The Democrats introduced an amendment to a bill sponsored by shills for MBNA; the amendment would prevent poor military members from being screwed over by being forced into bankruptcy when they’re deployed and can’t handle their bills properly because they’re being shot at. The Republicans (wrapped in flags at the time, no doubt) shot the amendment down.

Way to support our troops.

12 April 2005

Cutting social programs and hand-outs

In a recent post, Delftsman reminds us:

Many of the social programs that the Left have been espousing are great sounding, and come from a compassionate urge to aid those less fortunate, but the law of unintended consequences must always be kept in mind; every one of these programs passed into action gives the government yet another piece of control over our individual freedom and personal autonomy, and in slow, incremental ways, cause government to become an oppressive and restrictive force hemming in every individual.

There has to be a balance between compassion and freedom, even if that freedom might lead to an individual failure. Eternal vigilence, and, sometimes, a seemingly hard-hearted refusal of the public magniminaty, are the only bulwarks against this slow encroachment on personal freedom.

The main problem of the Left is that they have forgotten is that, sometimes, freedom means the freedom to fail. Results are never guarenteed, only the freedom to strive for success is what our system is all about.

There is no such thing as "just a little socialism". Socialism is a festering malignancy on the body politic that will always encroach and kill the body if allowed any growth. A small growth, once established, will always feed itself first in a never-ending attempt to expand it's boundries and scope.

I couldn't agree more. Let's cut down on government! Let's cut the budget for the government support of corporations via corporate tax loopholes! Let's cut funding for vast government projects (i.e., the military) designed to support and protect corporate interests abroad! Let's stop our endless subsidies for transportation projects that fail to turn a profit (i.e., funding for our highways and the rest of the infrastructure for private cars). Let's fire the politicians (the entire Shrub administration) who support corporate interests (Enron and Halliburton), obscuring the pristine workings of market forces! Let's stop allowing groups of pampered workers to collectively band together to demand exhorbitant wages for their work (e.g., doctors and other high-paid professionals). Let's stop allowing welfare for people who don't work (as when we pay the idle owners of capital to sit around drinking martinis in far-off tax havens). Let's stop pampering people and instead require them to take responsibility for their actions!

As an example of the final point, we could have a massive tort suit filed by all youth living in L.A. against all L.A. car owners demanding compensation for their reduced health and longevity due to auto exhaust. Such a case, if ever allowed to go to court, would be a shut-and-closed case since the connection between exhaust and illness (reduced lung capacity and highter rates of asthma and cancer) is firmly established.

11 April 2005

The Axis of Animosity

Japan-bashing seems to be the rage in Asia. Large protests (the biggest in 5 years) continue to erupt throughout China. Anti-Japanese demonstrations have spread in China since Tokyo approved a new history textbook that critics say glosses over atrocities by Japan's military in the first half of the 20th century--atrocities including the Nanjing Massacre and the rape of tens of thousands of Asian women who were forced to work as prostitutes for the Japanese forces. Next door, both South and North protesters have shown rare unity in their claims that the island of Dokdo is a part of Korean territory. Dokdo, a tiny rock poking out of the East Sea/Sea of Japan, is currently occupied by the South Korean military.

Since many of these issues have been on-going, one might ask, "Why now?" There are a couple possible explanations. First, Japan is in transition. The country, boasting two of the key pillars of world power (money and information) is seeking that third pillar--military force. Of course, this transition will require time. But the popular Koizumi government is in a position to initiate this transformation of Japan.

At the same time, China is awakening. As the country takes on a more vital economic role, it will inevitably seek to augment its economic clout with greater force projection capabilities in the region. Unfortunately for the Land of the Rising Sun, this vision of China-as-superpower clashes with dreams of Japanese military resurgence. In past struggles for position, Japan has always been able to play its economic trump card--its investment capital. But with China's rising economic strength, China can now make its own threats, as when Chinese protesters recently started calling for boycotts of Japanese goods.

South Korea's relationship with Japan is also troubled. Korean school-kids have anti-Japanese thought infused into their young brains from the first day of school. However, my guess is that the recent tirades against Japan are largely due to recent trends in domestic politics. Koizumi has, from time to time, tried to appeal to the more nationalist fringe of Japanese politics through symbolic gestures (visits to military-related shrines) or through tolerance of aggressive statements. Korea's President Roh, on the other hand, has grasped onto the anti-Japan crusade like a drowning man, trying his best to divert public attention away from his unpopular domestic record.

Of course, the long-term effect of all this exaggerated rhetoric is a great deal of animosity and confusion among the more hot-headed and less-informed sectors of the public. Those living outside of Asia should look at the current situation as a sign of things to come. China is waking from its slumber. It will demand a bigger voice in all things. Ten or fifteen years from now, it won't be happy to sit back while some American president determines the game and its rules.

P.S. Blog Adrian Wong also has a post on this subject.

5 April 2005

Baloney for lunch, baloney for dinner

Let me begin by saying that I have nothing against baloney. As meat goes, it's a perfectly good source of animal fats, nitrates, and daily calories. And it follows that I've got no bones to pick with those who produce baloney, or those who serve it up to us each day. But I do get heartburn when force-fed baloney in obscene amounts.

Not that I can't understand a government's desire to fib a little. The Shrub administration, lacking a Gulf of Tonkin incident in the lead up to the war, may be forgiven for wanting to put a little baloney in the hokey sandwhich it fed the American people. Even so. You'd think they'd at least add a little sauce and salt and cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Instead, we're asked to believe that the gazillion-dollar operation that goes by the name of U.S. "intelligence" relied on bogus intelligence from a mysterious chemical engineer code-named "Curveball." And that the intelligence agencies produced major analysis with conclusions that ultimately led to a pre-emptive attack based on this person, who happened to have links to the administration's favorite convicted felon, Chalabi. Atop that large stack of baloney, we're asked to believe that hundreds of intel personnel, all with college degrees and high-speed internet connections sitting around in air-conditioned, sound-proof rooms, somehow relied solely on second-hand intel coming from someone who was reported to be a looney and a drunk. And atop this triple-decker baloney sub, we're supposed to believe that this wild drunk third-cousin-twice-removed-of-a felon's story convinced all our Jame's Bond wannabes that a broken-down, bombed-out, sanctioned country was somehow constructing mobile germ labs--something the Soviet Union once considered but dropped because it was too costly and impractical.

Of course, the one piece of baloney with real meat in it is the statement that we're in this war because of the idiotic statements of a drunk. Unfortunately, the drunk in question isn't a tipsy, illusional Iraqi exile in Germany but is the drunk who sits at Pennsylvania Avenue making the world safe for chicanery.

Of course, the right wing can't and won't share in our ire over such deceptions. They know that the James Bonds, Dicks, and Bush's in charge are all good-ol' boys doing good-ol' things for good-ol' America. If the liberal know-it-alls need a bit of baloney to give them gumption enuf to head off to war (or at least stay the F out of the way) than so be it. As they say, there's nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning.

But some of us more old fashioned types would like to have our baloney served up in a plate with at least proper utensils. A faked naval incident and a mysterious sunken ship, for example, would at least keep us from getting indigestion. If we're really to the point where national policy of "the world's only superpower" is being decided by a delusional drunk on a crackling long-distance phone, I'm headed for the exit. And hold the baloney, I'm a vegetarian.

Baloney: It's not just for lunch anymore!

For other blogments on the Curveball story, check out: Cannonball, PBA HQ, War and Piece, FUGOP, and Scrapple Face.

Maureen Dowd has an excellent article titled Curveball the Goofball in the NY Times.

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1 April 2005

Via Negativa

Via Negativa is on a roll these days. While hacking through the endless jungle of requoted quotes and overworked rants that populate so much of the blogosphere, it's wonderful to come across such an original poetic voice.