Monday, May 28, 2007

Why Cheney Is A Dick

Also at Daily Kos

The transformation of Richard B. Cheney, current Vice-President of the United States, from his widely perceived persona as a reasonable, pragmatic, and effective realist while serving as President George H. W. Bush's Secretary of Defense in the 1980's, to his current position as perhaps the most excoriated political figure since disgraced President Richard M. Nixon, is -- as they say -- a cautionary tale.

Cheney, his public popularity even lower than the current President Bush -- technically his boss -- is today a remote and unapproachable figure scornful of the press, dismissive of his critics, contemptuous of reality, and single-minded in his pursuit of what seems to many a vision of empire and power so extreme as to verge on madness.

What accounts for this remarkable transformation?

It may be something so mundane as simply ascending to his position of extraordinary power as Vice-President, according to Stanford Business School social psychologist Deborah Gurenfeld.

Quoted in an article titled "Power is not only an aphrodisiac, it does weird things to some of us" in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 19, 2006, Professor Gurenfeld makes this telling observation:

Research documents the following characteristics of people with power: They tend to be more oblivious to what others think, more likely to pursue the satisfaction of their own appetites, poorer judges of other people's reactions, more likely to hold stereotypes, overly optimistic and more likely to take risks.
The article quotes one of Gruenfeld's main conclusions:
Disinhibition is the very root of power," said Stanford Professor Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist who focuses on the study of power. "For most people, what we think of as 'power plays' aren't calculated and Machiavellian -- they happen at the subconscious level. Many of those internal regulators that hold most of us back from bold or bad behavior diminish or disappear. When people feel powerful, they stop trying to 'control themselves.'
Similar research points to the corrosive effects of power. For example, a study Dr. Gruenfeld and three other researchers carried out, "Power and Perspectives Not Taken", (summary at U.S. News and World Report) found that "...the more power leaders have, the harder it is for them to grasp just what the world looks like to the people under them."

If Gruenfeld and her fellow researchers in the academic community are correct, the Cheney transformation may be the result of a trap awaiting anyone who finds themselves thrust into a powerful position with few effective restraints.

All the more reason, one might suspect, to pay even greater respect to the prescience of our nation's founders who placed a system of checks and balances at the core of our democratic institutions. The current assault on that system makes the excesses of Dick Cheney and his putative master the extreme examples of what evil flows from disregarding our political heritage.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Toward A Newer, Fairer, Easier, Liter Tax Code

Everyone from the guy ringing up your McBurger to the richest corporate CEO in the land agrees that, by God, they're just paying too much in taxes, period. It's just not fair.

The two people who sometimes accidentally visit this blog might be aware that I am somewhat psychic so that I am peculiarly qualified to solve this vexing problem.

The problem, as I realized this morning in a blinding flash of psychic insight, is that taxes are based on that most illogical and grindingly unfair measurement known as "income."

That's right, even though we are a supposedly free and democratic nation that extols the virtues of hard work and savings, the harder we work, the more money we make, the more we must pay in taxes.

It's not only unfair, its insane.

Obviously, some newer, fairer standard of equitable taxation must be found and enacted into law before this crushingly undemocratic burden mashes us all flatter than a cockroach trying to skitter across a dance floor populated by hundreds of steroid-crazed tap dancers.

Nearly immediately following this blinding psychic flash of insight, I experienced -- fortunately for all of us -- a thunderclap of inspiration. Weight! We all get taxed by the pound!

For every pound over our ideal weight, we pay X-dollars in tax. For every pound under our ideal weight, we receive the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation unable to figure out how to manage health care at any level.

Think how this would work out. Great big fat people would have to pay a premium. If they couldn't come up with the cash, they could easily beat up someone smaller and extract enough bucks to toe the mark with the taxperson. Those of a more petite persuasion would pay nothing and by spending less time stuffing their gobs would have more time to hide from desperate, overweight thugs.

Business taxes would be the same, only different. Everyone employed by a business would be weighed and that would be added to the weight of the paperwork required to return its defective products. If a business came up short on its taxes, it could just cut pay or outsource all their labor to India. Win, win.

I don't expect the Nobel Prize for this stunning revamp of the oppressive tax code, but a Medal of Freedom would be nice.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

This Space Reserved For A Statement By Senator John McCain Which Is Neither Delusional Nor An Outright Lie

We're still waiting.

Past & present not so golden moments.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Bush's War Of Terror Gets Dealt A British Joker

Diego Garcia, the island base in the Indian Ocean used as a stationary aircraft carrier by US forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq may be reverting to the indigenous people who actually own it, according to a story in British newspaper, The Guardian.

"An estimated 2,000 Chagossians were driven from their homes between 1967 and 1971 after Britain made a secret deal to lease the island of Diego Garcia to the US for use as an airbase. They were tricked out of their homes, encouraged to leave on temporary trips, and not allowed back.

"Later, the islanders were subjected to intimidation. At one point US soldiers rounded up their dogs and gassed them. The departing Chagossians were loaded on to boats, allowed to take only one bag with them, and deposited in Mauritius, where most have lived in poverty ever since. The base has served as a refuelling stop and base for air raids in a succession of wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Yesterday's ruling was greeted by silence from the Chagossians in court, who have seen hopes of a return dashed several times in their four-decade exile. But Olivier Bancoult, their leader in exile who took the foreign office to court, emerged smiling holding his fingers up in a victory sign. 'I'm very happy for my people,' Mr Bancoult told a crowd of supporters and journalists. 'We will go back and make Chagos great.'"
Forcibly removing people from their homes and transporting them to another country is defined as "ethnic cleansing" in international treaties the US is party to and is classified as a war crime by those treaties. It is also a war crime under Title 18, Part I, Chapter 118, Paragraph 2441 of the United States Criminal Code.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Xenophon Redux: A Modern Anabasis

Also posted at Daily Kos

Conservative pundit William S. Lind, an expert on military affairs and Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, is privately advising unit commanders in Iraq to prepare their own versions of 5th century B.C. Greek general Xenophon's classic retreat north from Persia (present day Iraq and Iran) through Kurdish Iraq and Turkey.

"Higher headquarters are unlikely to develop such a plan, because if it leaked there would be political hell to pay in Washington. I would therefore strongly advise every American battalion and company in Iraq to have its own Operation Anabasis plan, a plan which relies only on its own resources and whatever it thinks it could scrounge locally. Do not, repeat, do not expect the Air Force to come in and pick you up."
What prompts this doomsday advice?

Lind first explains the Anabasis:
"While dilettantes believe the attack is the most difficult military art, most soldiers know better. Carrying out a successful retreat is usually far harder.

"One of history's most successful retreats, and certainly its most famous, is the "Retreat of the 10,000." In 401 B.C., 10,000 Greek hoplites hired themselves out as mercenaries to a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, who was making a grab for the Peacock Throne. Inconveniently, after the Greeks were deep in Persia, Cyrus was killed. The hoplites' leader, Xenophon, the first gentleman of war, led his men on an epic retreat through Kurdish country to the coast and home. Surprisingly, most of them made it. Safely back in Athens, Xenophon wrote up his army's story, cleverly titling it the Anabasis, which means the advance. It was not the last retreat so labeled."
Lind then goes on to explain the vulnerability of US forces in Iraq, citing both their long supply lines through potentially hostile Shiite Iraq and the easily blocked exit through the Persian Gulf. Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, points out that the noose may already be tightening:
"Someone in the Green Zone leaked the following memo, which shows that US personnel are now actually facing difficulties in getting food by convoy up from Kuwait. They avoid local food in the Baghdad region because of the danger guerrillas will poison it."
Lind goes on to offer even more graphic advice:

What might such company and battalion plans entail? I asked that question of Dave Danelo, a former Marine captain who now edits U.S. Cavalry's "On Point" website. Dave was recently in Iraq with U.S. units as a journalist, so his knowledge is current. His suggestions include:

  • Have a route plan. Know where the safe areas are and why they are safe. For the Marines in Al Anbar Province, this could be Al Asad or Al Taqaddum Air Base. For soldiers in Mosul, it's Kurdistan. For troops in Baghdad, it's either of the above, or possibly Tallil Air Base in the south. For British troops in Basrah, who knows?

  • Apply the Joseph Principle. In the Bible, Joseph advised the Egyptians to store away their goods during the seven years of feast. When seven years of famine hit, they were ready. Husband large stashes of everything at the company/battalion levels: MREs, water, ammunition, and, most of all, fuel.

  • Iraqis, American contractors and oil companies have each developed parallel and redundant distribution systems that push fuel outside the U.S. military umbrella. Depending on who controls what in which neighborhood, these systems might remain intact if military supply lines are cut. Be prepared to commandeer these resources.

  • Learn the black market fuel system and exploit it. Although black market fuel is horrible on humvee engines, it will get your unit out of Baghdad and into a safe zone.

Read the entire article here.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This Space Reserved For A Statement By Senator John McCain Which Is Neither Delusional Nor An Outright Lie

We're still waiting.

Past & present not so golden moments.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Aliens Land, Are Just Like Us Except For Antennas, Four Eyes, Purple Shell, Slime Trail, And Death Rays

I switch a lot between CNN and the SciFi channel, so I could be wrong on this.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Deep Thots

Watched the Republican Presidential Debate on Fox the other day. All politicians are fiercely territorial. Republicans appear to mark their territory by crapping on all the best ideas.


Free Trade proponents say their ideas are inevitable and any bad results are only temporary. Free Trade is a special case of Murphy's Law: Anything that can't possibly go wrong, will go wrong.

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Goodnight Baghdad

Daily Guardian 'toon
2007-05-21: Tony Blair's farewell tour in Iraq

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

JFK Assassination: You Can't Handle The Truth


Updated May 7, 2008: For Part II click here

At this point in history, if anyone who examines the available facts still believes the "single bullet" theory advanced by the Warren Commission report on the assassination of 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, they may be willfully self-delusional. It seems, in retrospect, an almost obvious PR concoction.

SPOILER ALERT: What follows is strictly an exercise in speculation. No new facts are adduced and no definitive answers are forthcoming. More questions are raised, based on available evidence, than are answered.

In trying to tease out from available facts what actually happened in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 p.m., CST, November 23, 1963 and why, two questions suggest themselves:
  1. Who stood to gain from JFK's assassination and why?
  2. Who stood to gain from a cover up, if there was one?
The two questions are not necessarily related and may not lead to the same answers.

The short list for answers to question one is fairly obvious: Lyndon Johnson, the Mafia, the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover, and Cuba.

Cuba appears the least likely. Castro has always been a realist and would have known the possibility of discovery of a Cuba-inspired operation, even if unsuccessful, would lead instantly to a US invasion and his execution; that would have been deterrent enough for a realist, even one threatened by murky CIA plots against him. Plots that, as it turned out, he found easy enough to thwart.

Hoover seems equally unlikely as a candidate; never his style. Although he knew the Kennedy administration wanted him gone, he had enough blackmail material on the Kennedy's to ensure his position as long as they were in office, a positive disincentive.

Plus, there appears to be no credible public evidence directly implicating either Cuba or Hoover in events leading to the assassination.

CIA is a possibility for two unrelated reasons.
The Directorate of Operations still employed a number of people involved in the JFK-aborted Bay of Pigs operation against Cuba who were reportedly still burning with resentment over JFK's roll in aborting it, and who had the technical skill to set up and do the deed.

We now know that, because of his physical difficulties, JFK was on a heavy daily cocktail of uppers, downers, and painkillers which likely had adverse affects on his mental state. It may be that CIA (or someone else in government) had knowledge of and were frightened by JFK's potential mental instability owing to heavy drug use, concluding that an irrational moment might lead to nuclear war.
Considering the photographic evidence placing CIA direct and contract agents (including GHWB, then a senior CIA official according to Hoover) in Dallas on the fateful day, CIA involvement at some level, for whatever reason, can't be excluded. The revenge motivation seems the weakest of the two possibilities. Throughout its existence, the CIA has become inured to being thwarted, second-guessed, stopped and started arbitrarily by US presidents. It's part of their brief. Credible evidence of presidential mental instability might be another matter but, given the potential players, it's doubtful they would have acted on their own.

The Mafia is a weak candidate. First, it would go against the Mafia grain; they have a long history of aversion to attacks against law enforcement and political officials in the US for obvious reasons of guaranteed retribution. Second, it's difficult to imagine what they would possibly gain. RFK would have been a more obvious target, if they were tempted. However, the Mafia did have a long history of cooperation with the intelligence community (OSI, Naval Intelligence and the FBI), starting with their manipulation of the New York dock strikes during World War II and lasting at least through the end of the war, so they might possibly be a candidate for a secondary role.

Lyndon Johnson seems an equally weak candidate at first blush. True, he was a wily manipulator who proved his capacity for deception and mendacity with his exploitation of the Tonkin Gulf incident (which now, it appears, never happened) and he was no fan of the Kennedy clan. But to cast him in the role of instigator in a political assassination, absent some other motivation, isn't consistent with the way he operated or with any other action he is known to have participated in, including the Tonkin Gulf incident. Could he have green-lighted a potential operation presented to him based on evidence of JFK's mental instability? It's an interesting question. If one credits his patriotism and love of secrecy, it might just be conceivable if the evidence were serious enough. More likely, if involved, it was through a trusted intermediary.

The second question, who stood to gain from a cover up (if there was one), is the easier of the two.

Obviously, the participants in a conspiracy, if there was one, would benefit. On the other hand, suppose it was clear to the Warren Commission, or key members of the panel, who the conspirators were and what their reasoning was, and the commission (or at least those who controlled the information flow to the commission and its use within the commission), irrespective of the evidence, believed the benefits of exposure were far outweighed by the dangers posed to the nation in terms of political stability? Could the truth, in their judgment, possibly lead to something like insurrection by either the public or the military, or a breakdown in trust of government so profound as to destroy government's capacity to rule? Could they, in effect, be saying to the American public, "You can't handle the truth."

The logical key to dismantling the house of cards the Warren Commission report has become may lie in the assassination of putative JFK lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, the fringe Mafia associate, self-described super-patriot, terminal cancer patient, and police groupie.

Strangely enough, owing to the CIA sightings in Dallas, the Ruby-Mafia connection, and the previous links between the two organizations, this bizarre event places the possibilities of both Mafia and CIA involvement front and center in any evaluation of a possible conspiracy in the JFK assassination, and may indirectly -- and by inference only -- point to LBJ or some other very senior administration official as the likely candidate for making a key decision that led to execution of an assassination plot.
Update...May 7, 2008

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Conservative Cured Gay Man With Tattoo Issues, 30, Seeks Perky 20-Something Female Named "Rick"

Also...

Cross-dressing balding paunchy raunchy politico w/several ex-wives and hateful kids seeks kinky female intern named "Monica"

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Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell, long-time pastor at the 24,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, passed away May 15, 2007. He was 73.

Like many prototypical American characters, the broad outlines of Reverend Falwell's public life could have been sketched by American novelist and social critic, Sinclair Lewis. In his 1922 novel, "Elmer Gantry," Lewis describes the rise of a midwest preacher who emerges triumphant from each crisis in his life to reach ever greater heights of social status.

In the Gantry tradition, Falwell's rise was punctuated by a series of seemingly career-ending public gaffes, most involving demonization of those he characterized as opponents, but which, in the end, served to rally his followers behind him and draw ever-increasing numbers of people to his ministry, confounding his many critics.

Unlike the fictional Gantry, Reverend Falwell's private life was exemplary. Together, he and his wife, the former Macel Pate, raised three children.

Falwell's early life and ministry were marked by his strong support of racial segregation and he often spoke out from the pulpit and elsewhere in support of what many criticized as racist views and racist figures. This was not unique for his place and time. In later life he reportedly changed his views; at least, he no longer publicly advocated legal segregation and seemed content in public in avoiding serious discussions about race.

Critics of Falwell point to his seemingly uncanny ability to pinpoint and inflame socially divisive issues, profiting from the resulting publicity. Defenders argue he was merely expressing the strong moral viewpoints shared by his followers. Personal motivation aside, it can be accurately stated that he was adept at dividing people in the wider community on a range of controversial issues, rather than in bringing them together.

Whether it was his increasing moral fervor or the lure of power as the ultimate aphrodisiac, Falwell was drawn to expression of his controversial views in the political sphere, throwing his organization and burgeoning financial assets behind political candidacies and causes that paid at least lip service to his espoused moral agenda, encompassing such far flung issues as human reproductive freedom, sexual identity, church-state separation, scientific theory, and national security. Most often, his support went to the Republican party which, for some reason, seemed more attuned to his style and outspoken opinions. In return, he often adopted conservative Republican economic and business issues, adding their advocacy in exhortations to his followers.

It should be noted that Reverend Falwell was certainly not unique among American religious leaders for his political activism, a venerable tradition throughout American history, nor in his selection of divisive issues, nor in his cultivation of prominent politicians.

Reverend Falwell was a gifted, often mercurial public speaker who left no one who heard him in doubt about his stance on any issue he addressed. In public, he was also an engaging if formidable conversationalist, often displaying humility and stubbornness, kindness and accusation in the same sentence, something of a standard tour de force for him. He was seldom without a smile.

Reverend Falwell will be missed by friend and foe alike, probably for different reasons.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good News From The War On Terror That You Probably Haven't Heard Yet: Russian Edition

According to White House press spokesmodel, Tony Snow, the Russian Foreign Ministry has privately pointed out to the US Embassy in Moscow that Russian President Vladimar Putin's recent public remarks comparing the invasion and occupation of Iraq to actions of Adolph Hitler's Third Reich did not actually mention either President Bush or the United States by name.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

This Space Reserved For A Statement By Senator John McCain Which Is Neither Delusional Nor An Outright Lie

We're still waiting. And, in a twofer, STILL WAITING.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Creationist Guru Uses Second Law Of Thermodynamics To Prove Darwin And Evolution Wrong, Wrong...Oh, Wait

User, "AwesomestNerd," writing from an undisclosed location, recently opined:

“One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it."
Er...AwesomestNerd, could you quit typing for a sec and check this out?




Thanks to Cosmic Variance.

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Whoever Is Able To Make You Believe In Absurdities Will Also Be Able To Make You Commit Atrocities

Why do prominent public figures such as George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, James Inhofe, and a host of others make public statements that are obviously either incomprehensible, inconsistent, or impossible?

French philosopher and 18th century wit Voltaire explains it:

“Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. In truth whoever is able to make you believe in absurdities will also be able to make you commit atrocities. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.”

In short, if you can be made to believe one whopper, you're likely to swallow the rest, even to the point of committing outrageous acts.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007