Thursday, November 30, 2006


PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm announcin' today I've accepted the secret Baker Commission Report option everybody's callin' Plan F. Now, I can't tell you exactly what it is 'cause we don't wanna give our enemies a heads up, but I can tell you it involves cast iron bathtubs with those little feet and these clickers, you know, the kind they gave the parachute guys in that movie, what was it, D-Day or something? Questions.

FIRST REPORTER: Mr. President, will this result in starting to bring our troops back home anytime soon?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Boy, you guys really have your hobby horse, don't you? Those brave American soldiers and soldierettes are stayin' there until the job is done or die tryin', just like they want.

FIRST REPORTER: Followup, Mr. President. When you say, "cast iron bathtubs", would that be actual bathtubs or is that the name of a new weapons system?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know how much cleaner I can make it. Call on Miss Coulter.

ANN COULTER: Mr. President, when will you or members of your administration start rounding up disloyal reporters and sending them to Camp XRay so they can be interrogated in a totally legal way like they so richly deserve?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Glad you asked that. Boy, I need that guy on TV, that Dog the Booty Hunter fella. I'll tell you later when we have that private meeting for our exclusive interview in the Washington Times.

ANN COULTER: Followup, Mr. President. Do you have the cigar or should I bring one?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Er, why don't you bring one just to be on the safe side again. Heh-heh-heh. Okay, that's it. (turns back and leaves)

SECOND REPORTER: Jeez, I didn't even get a chance to ask my clickers question. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now I lay me down to sleep

When I go to bed at night, I pray the next time I see a TV or cable news show featuring a spin doctor, they'll be hanging from the end of a rope flung over a branch of a Live Oak tree in rural Southern Maryland surrounded by flashing lights and yellow tape.

Not seriously, just saying.

What I'd prefer is the same scenario for the TV/cable news producers and executives who perpetrate this baloney, but they're harder to visualize.

The justification the TV/cable network perps claim is that they're providing “balance”, as if shrieking lies can inform the truth.

Where do these “experts” come from?

Many of them began their so-called lives as inept attorneys or failed academics and now live on a dole from think tanks funded by insane millionaires.

Others majored in Liberal Arts and, when they realized they had no marketable skills beyond supersizing, weaseled jobs as congressional gofers, then sidestepped into working for one of the many vanity political magazines funded by insane millionaires.

As you may have noticed, about the only things spin doctors have in common is that they aren't smart enough to get hired by a K Street lobbyist and, of the available career paths open to them, all involve, at some point, an insane millionaire.

Some of the insane millionaires make their money in the TV/cable news business.

Go figure.

By the way, if you live in rural Southern Maryland, my apologies. Just substitute rural South Texas, instead. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The benefit of doubting

When is the first time you recall hearing a politician tell a lie?

My first time was 1960 when World War II hero, President Dwight David Eisenhower flatly denied Russian claims they had shot down a U.S. spy plane in Soviet airspace.

When the pesky Russians subsequently stood up CIA U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in a Moscow press conference and also exhibited to the world's press parts of his aircraft clearly marked “Made in U.S.A”, President Eisenhower had to allow as how he might have been “mistaken”.

In their own minds, politicians never tell lies, they “make honest mistakes” or “mis-speak”.

To be fair, I am told there are many instances in recorded history in which a politician said something that was not a lie.

This suggests an interesting question: How can we tell the difference?

We Americans are generally very trusting people who, particularly when we have made an emotional investment in a politician or party by giving our vote to them, tend also to give them the benefit of the doubt when they claim something is true.

Europeans refer to this trait as, “naïveté”, the state of lacking experience or understanding and/or having a lack of sophistication; innocent simplicity.

In some circles in this country, this is also referred to less politely as being a “dumbass”. This is usually considered a negative trait.

For politeness sake, this trait will subsequently be referred to as being “naive”.

So, how can we avoid being naive when it comes to evaluating a politician's words? I'd like to suggest this is not, as they say, rocket science.

Instead of giving politicians the benefit of the doubt, what we should be doing is giving ourselves the benefit of doubting. To conquer our innate addiction to naivety, we need not a 12-step program but a simple three step plan:

  1. First, immediately assume politicians are lying (this will usually be correct).
  2. Next, accept each claim only after it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt by independent evidence.

  3. Finally, after ALL the evidence is in, apply a reasonableness test. Taken together, do the politician's claims and proposals make sense?

Sometimes this doesn't work. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lie detector test

Grant me the premise that all politicians are demagogues, here, there, everywhere.

Demagogues never do or say anything in public they think will threaten their position.

Instead, every public utterance and move is designed to protect and enhance their political power. It's why they have aides, speechwriters, and handlers.

Because of this, all their public statements, all their public actions, no matter where ostensibly directed, form a narrative that is, without exception, directed at their own constituencies.

Demagogues know their personal survival depends on their success in shaping popular perceptions in their favor, or latching on to a popular position that already exists.

They know, or ought to know, that when they misjudge popular perception through something as simple as hubris, their days are numbered.

This concept does much to clarify the stormy history of the Middle East.

For example, the history of failure with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and why the current Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire will fail.

Negotiators controlled by demagogues always talk past each other to their own populations.

Taking it one step further, it also explains why a fractured Iraqi population will not tomorrow awake with the light of peace shining in their eyes and lay down their arms.

Listen carefully to the narrative their leaders are feeding them. For Iraqi leaders, this is a zero-sum game where only the the most violent will survive, yet one more reason to remove our forces now.

Taking the concept just one step further, consider the confused and confusing narratives daily pushed at us by our own set of demagogues on this and other important issues.

Any questions?

Set your internal lie detectors on stun and stand by. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Google your alter egos

Ever look up your name on Google? Tip: use only your first name and last name, surrounded by quotes:

"Sam Thornton"

Chances are, you'll come up with hundreds of hits. These are your alter egos (kind of). Here are some of my alter egos' activities (with one exception, none of these are anything I've ever done):

Cardiopulmonary Services Director
Chief Agronomist at bat guano factory
Bit player in two TV soap operas
Recently came in fifth in bridge tournament
Fictitious criminal in law student exam (maybe I can sue them)
Circulated petition to stamp out morons (first victim)
Came in second in rodeo calf tiedown (9.960 seconds)
Play baritone saxophone
Potato scientist
Spiritual teacher once "...frightened my ego senseless."
Played golf a couple of years ago, only lost one ball
Came in fifth in 5K race
Threw 10 strikeouts and drove in winning run for Yankees

I'm going to quit now. This is already way better than my real resume. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Psychic confession

I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but I happen to be psychic. I've been able to read minds ever since I was struck by lightening at the age of 7.

The limit on my mind reading ability is kind of wierd. Except for one special case, I can only read the minds of very boring people. This limit provides a strong incentive for me NOT to read anyone's mind, please believe me. So I very seldom exercise this talent on purpose.

The exception is that I can nearly always tell any person what card they're thinking of, unless they have an extremely high I.Q. And strangely, it doesn't make any difference where that person is. They can be across the room or across the world. Any time of the day or night. I can be awake or asleep. Doesn't make any difference. And it works over the internet.

Don't believe me? Click here for the acid test. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Friday, November 24, 2006

Are neocons the new communists?

Anyone who has been paying attention must be puzzled by the seemingly strange words and behavior of people who identify themselves as neo-conservatives, neocons for short.

Manipulating intelligence, engaging in preemptive war, threatening nuclear strikes, flouting international law, subverting civil liberties, implementing dictatorial powers, selective enforcement of the law, intimidation of the press, setting up secret gulags, using torture to coerce confessions, rigging elections, an endless stream of propaganda, subversion of science in favor of ideology, concentration of the economy into the hands of a narrow circle of cronies, universal surveillance of all citizens, secretly kidnapping "enemies of the state".

It's hard to tell where the list ends, at this point probably impossible. It's all quickly becoming secret, a matter of "National Security".

All these strange activities used to be in the ambit of a country known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, now defunct, then under the iron rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

There is one important difference. While Soviet citizens enjoyed things like universal health care, heavily subsidized food and housing, and guaranteed jobs and retirement, those particular items are definitely not part of the neocon agenda.

Quite the opposite. Granted that provision of these services to Soviet citizens was stunningly inferior, still, it was better than the nothing the neocons offer. The neocon agenda, in fact, seeks just the opposite, seeks to squeeze its comrades (that's us) for these and all other goods and services to our last nickle and beyond. They want to rule a nation of compliant serfs. Proof is in the bills they've rammed through a rubber-stamp congress and the Darwinian economic, labor and trade policies they've successfully pursued.

For neocons, the recent congressional election is a tragedy. But they're not dead yet. As you may have noticed they are busy concocting and spewing out the same big-lie propaganda that has served them so well in the past. Expect more of the same and worse in the coming years. And this time, no more Mister Nice Guy. Exactly like the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

If neocons are the new Soviet-style Communists and we find their goals and methods repugnant, what can be done about them?

Why not use some of the same methods we used to defeat the old Soviet Communists? Why not a new Cold War, but this time one to free us, instead of those formerly oppressed by the old Soviet regime.

Infiltrate, disrupt and compromise their organizations. Pursue their fellow travelers. Reveal their darkest secrets. Discredit their lies with truth. Attack their lines of communications and support. Destroy their will to continue their dark journey. Starve them out.

Either that or maybe we can get the European Union to declare Cold War on us.

P.S. Just saw on the CNN crawl that Iraqi strongman Muqtada El Sadr has threatened to withdraw support from the Iraqi government if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan next week. I laughed until I cried. This is the reductio ad absurdum of the neocons' dreams of a puppet state in Iraq. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Body count redux

When General William Westmoreland ("Generally Drifty", as he was known by his staff behind his back) was in charge of the Vietnam thing, he or one of his subordinates regularly hosted at MACV headquarters what came to be known as "The Five O'Clock Follies", in which an attempt would be made to spin the current military situation to an increasingly skeptical press.

One of the many peculiar features of those press conferences was the body count briefing. The body count was the way enemy and friendly casualties were toted up and compared to show that we were winning the war.

The comparison was always impressive, something like 10 to a 100 enemy kills for each friendly death, pretty consistently. Combine that with the fact that we never lost a major battle (quite true), then the conclusion that "we must be winning" should have been obvious to press and public alike. Or so reasoned the General and his bosses back in Washington.

Behind closed doors, however, what increasingly befuddled the leadership was that although all the numbers were on their side, they were obviously not winning the war. The solution they kept coming up with was "more of the same".

Eventually, what the body count comparisons served to do was publicize the staggering number of U.S. and Vietnamese combat deaths and injuries until a disgusted and disillusioned American public began marching and rioting against the war.

Fast forward.

I can't find a reference for this, but I believe at some point a Pentagon spokesman told the press that there would be no official comparisons of U.S. casualties to enemy casualties in Iraq. No "body count briefings", in other words. The military had learned at least this one small lesson from Vietnam.

However, to put it in the Rumsfeld vernacular, this particular metric is one that would naturally be consulted internally as an important measure of success or failure and is implicit in most of the official statements released and most of the military strategies advanced. Obviously, as in Vietnam, if we kill more of them than we lose on our side, we must be winning. If we aren't winning, then we must need more of the same.

This is important because it illustrates a very basic and neatly schizophrenic misunderstanding on the part of both our military and political leadership, from Vietnam to the present, as to how victory in war is achieved.

While our leaders tell us on the one hand that the only way the enemy can win is by us giving up -- "cut and run"; on the other hand, they tell us that the only way we can win is by killing as many of the enemy as possible -- "staying the course". Anyone see the disconnect here? Why are they applying different tests for winning to the opposing sides?

In The Art of War by 6th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu, he famously remarks:

The acme of excellence belongs not to the one who fights and wins every battle but to the one who conquers without even waging a war.

Along the same lines, Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz advised:

The aim of a nation in war is to subdue the enemy's will to resist, with the least possible human and economic loss itself . . . our goal in war can only be attained by the subjugation of the opposing will . . .

various sources, Google Clausewitz

In other words, our focus and measure of winning in Iraq should be how effectively we are eroding the enemy's will, not by how many enemy are captured or killed, not by juggling the number of boots on the ground, not by moving troops around on virtual maps, not by embedding advisers in Iraqi units, not by standing up Iraqi units so we can stand down, not by begging Syria and Iran to bail us out, and not by pressuring the Iraqi government to do anything. All that is irrelevant blather. Unfortunately, our leaders genuinely don't seem to understand this and on the evidence of the last 40 years, never will.

That is why, it seems to me, the only sensible solution is to say, to hell with it, and remove our troops now. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cold fusion revisited

We all remember the cold fusion flap a few years ago. Chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced at a press conference on March 23, 1989, at the University of Utah they had produced a radiation-free nuclear fusion reaction in an electrolysis cell on a lab bench – a discovery that implied a new source of cheap, boundless, commercial energy.

Their experimental results could not be reproduced by other scientists and both they and cold fusion were pretty much made laughinstocks in the scientific community.


Now Frank Gordon of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, California recently demonstrated the cold fusion effect (it's now known as "low energy nuclear reactions", or LENR) at the August 2, 2006 Naval Science & Technology Partnership conference in Washington, D.C.

Conferees were "astonished", according to a November 10, 2006 report on the conference by The New Energy Times *.

Important to note, Gordon's experimental results have not yet been replicated or peer reviewed by other scientists, the steps that led to the downfall of Fleischmann and Pons. Normally, this takes at least several months, so stay tuned.

* New Energy Times™ is a project of New Energy Institute, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation which provides information and educational services to help bring about the clean-energy revolution, according to a notice on their website. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Surfing the blogs

I noticed Blogspot's random surfing options, so I've been skipping through the blogspotosphere.

Wow, what a wealth of different stuff. My only objection is to the blogs that block out the "Next Blog" button. Screw them; hit that Alt-Left Arrow combo and go to the next one. There ought to be a law.

Most blogs seem to fall into fairly well defined categories.

  • Vanity blogs
    These are usually by Moms, Students, and 15-30 year old Single Females. The Moms often have some really interesting recipes with photographic documentation.

    The Studes mostly seem to be really, really bummed out, dude.

    The SF's share fascinations with hair, nails, shopping, sex, being sad, and dating and/or the absence thereof, not necessarily in that order. Some of them seem a little self-involved. Maybe that's why the Studes are bummed out.

  • Non-English blogs
    These are hard to figure out since I speekee only English. I usually skip them unless they have some quality art work. Some of them do.

  • My Internet Business blogs
    For some strange reason, many people seem to have simultaneously latched on to the delusion that they can make money by putting up a free blog and trying to sell stuff. Haven't they heard about EBay?

    There must be a book out there pushing this screwball idea. Something like, "How To Use The Internet To Make A Million And Not Really Do Anything".

    Maybe I'll put some click-through ads on my blog in hopes that the one person a month who accidentally lands here could potentially make me 2 or 3 cents.

  • Blogs in English by bloggers for whom English is not a primary language
    Most of these are pretty interesting and not that difficult to figure out. Here's an example.

  • Religious blogs
    At last! People with the God-given wisdom to show not only me, but everyone else in the world, the error of our ways.

    To be fair, many of these are the sincere musings of people grappling with the intricacies of their faith. You decide.

  • Family blogs
    Many of these are by young married couples with new babies (lots of pictures). They often report on their chronic sleep deprivation. Many of them feature posts written as if they were authored by the infants themselves!

  • Conspiracy blogs
    Rare but fascinating. These range from the clearly delusional 9/11 "Bush and Cheney did it" buffs (at least, I hope they're delusional), to the Area 51 freaks, to the still popular Kennedy assassination groupies.

    Actually, a couple of the latter seem to point to some fairly plausible theories, including a tantalizing photo of someone who just might be George Herbert Walker Bush skulking around outside the entrance to the Texas School Book Depository the day JFK was shot.

    For further info, Google the name David Sanchez Morales, a CIA employee widely identified as a professional assassin who may or may not have been the actual button man for not only JFK but RFK as well, according to some bloggers and to this BBC report.

    Amazingly, based on statements by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and others, there seem to have been links between the elder Bush and Morales during the period in question.

    John Simkin, former history teacher, internet journalist and Blogspot blogger, runs a widely respected history website in the U.K. that includes a section on the history of the JFK/RFK asassinations. He comes to many of the same conclusions as the BBC report.

    Interestingly, many people who think the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of JFK is a crock live in merry old England.
There are a ton of other possible blogger categories. You know who you are.

P. S. One blog I hit once in a while,, hijacks your browser and runs all your subsequent activity through a scammer site called Join me in complaining to Google about them (copy the URL in red and select SPAM site on the Google form). You can also flag them to Google as objectionable by clicking the FLAG BLOG button at the top of their page, if you're unlucky enough to hit their page. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Monday, November 20, 2006

Staggering toward Armageddon

This was originally titled "Between Iraq and a hard place" until Google told me there were about 69,800 web pages using the same title. There's only one other page using the above. For now.

Everyone has their own take on what to do about Iraq. The national consensus, based on the November 7th election, seems to be, "We're screwed. Do something."

Here are the main options floating around, with some of the devils in their details:

  1. Increase U.S. troop levels to that necessary to achieve victory.

    And how many troops do we need? 250,000, 500,000? According to the CENTCOM commander, we can't even sustain an additional 20,000. Even if the higher numbers were possible, how would we use the additional firepower? Level Sadr City, shoot everyone in Fallujah? Senator McCain, the primary proponent of this approach, needs to change his brand of tabacky.

  2. Embed additional U.S. advisers in Iraqi military units so we can show them how it's supposed to be done. (CENTCOM's best advice.)

    Let's see, we've been at it for over three years and the situation on the ground is worse than when we rolled into Baghdad, growing steadily worse, day by day, month by month, year by year. What is it we're going to show Iraqi soldiers? How to screw things up the U.S. Army way?

  3. Really, really concentrate on training the Iraqi Army and police and as they stand up, we stand down. (Multiple authors on this one.)

    We've supposedly been doing exactly this for the last three years, according to repeated claims by the Administration and its generals. CENTCOM testified before congress last week that the number of Iraqi units able to "stand up" after three years of DOD training equals exactly zero.

    In three years, we can turn a raw U.S. recruit into a lethal Special Forces war fighter. Have our trainers been taking an extended lunch break all this time? I doubt it. The real problems probably revolve around things like the Iraqi Army's primary troop carriers are Nissan pickups, they're getting paid squat, and it's tough to get new recruits when they keep getting blown up at the recruiting stations.

    I seriously doubt the CENTCOM count of Iraqi troops is accurate in the first place. One of the common scams of ARVN generals during Vietnam was to collect the pay for twice the number of troops actually under their command and pocket the difference. Iraqi generals are at least as smart as the ARVN generals were.

    The third devil in this particular morass of details is the degree to which both the Iraqi Army and police forces have been infiltrated by the various militias, insurgent groups, and terrorist groups. From the evidence on the ground, it's presumably a high percentage. Standing up seriously compromised units effectively puts military control of the country into the hands of the very people we are supposedly battling. How dumb is that?

  4. Place more pressure on the Iraqi government to disarm the militias, compromise their sectarian differences, and take control of the situation. (Also many authors.)

    This is a real pipe dream. How can you pressure someone into doing something they can't do? If you had a gun to your head held by someone who demanded you immediately grow a third arm, how long would you last? This is the kind of non-solution propounded by people who think torturing farmers will get them a road map to the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  5. Through diplomacy, enlist the help of Syria and Iraq to pull our bacon out of the fire. (Advice of the Bush 41 Wise Men.)

    I can't understand why proponents of this theory don't include North Korea and Indonesia in this mix. Or the planet Uranus, for that matter. They're equally likely to help, unless they all just happen to drop dead laughing first.

  6. Nuke Iran to take the pressure off Iraq.

    This is widely held to be the Cheney Option, or close to it. Check out the Seymour Hersch article in the New Yorker. This might actually work if Bush/Cheney have the balls to also nuke everyone else in the neighborhood, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Do we have that many deliverable warheads left? Probably.

  7. Stay the course and/or "We'll succeed unless we quit." (authored by the usual suspects).

    If you find yourself in a hole, dig faster! Unfortunately, this is probably what will happen. There are simply no grownups in either political party, or at least not enough to make a difference.
So what's the answer? Sorry, I'm not smart enough to know, unless it involves simply getting the hell out. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lost in the forest

I've been running some of the political blogs today. This seems to be a popular pastime for people with too much time on their hands.

The blogs I gravitate to are those that seem more left of center and/or fact-based than not, if for no other reason than the spelling and grammer are less distracting.

I don't know why there seems to be some kind of correlation between the political left and more or less accurate spelling any more than I know why people who identify themselves as Conservatives always seem to look kind of wierd.

Surprisingly, The Huffington Post had some interesting articles and comments, as did the recently purged TPMCafe. One of the down sides of blogs that accept comments, as I'm sure you've noticed, is that there seems to be a vast supply of loony, vindictive, screwballs out there who live to trash talk. This can be a problem for blogs that are trying to attract grownups.

Oddly, loony, vindictive, trash-talking screwballs seem to view themselves as the sane ones. Everyone else is a dumbass. They are doing the world a service by pointing this out in the strongest language they can muster that will be understood by the dumbasses they are improving with their wit and wisdom.

While not a blog, is, for me anyway, a don't miss daily ritual. I find more articles there to get righteously upset about than nearly anywhere else, including Muckraker.

When I find a blog or newsy site I like, I bookmark it. This has become a problem. I've got so many bookmarks, folders, and subdirectories I can't remember the locations of the ones that were marginal, which ones were worthwhile, or which ones were really worthwhile. I need to take a weekend to sort this out. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl