Wednesday, October 31, 2007

San Diego Fire Video

This link has time-lapse video from the fire lookout station atop Lyons Peak in South San Diego for the week of October 21-28, 2007 when the Harris Fire ravaged the area.

The view looking south is dynamic. The first night you can see the lights of the homes in Dulzura in the valley below with the glow of fire on distant hills. By the second night the lights of Dulzura are dark and the fire is flaring closer and closer. The fire sweeps through Dulzura and burns over Lyons Peak itself. Later on you can see the direction of the smoke change as the Santa Ana winds subside and ocean breezes kick in. Towards the end there is the welcome sight of clouds blowing in.

Equally interesting is the view looking west, toward Jamul. The fire makes its dramatic appearance in frame on day two, the miles long wall of smoke and flame shows the impossible task that faced firefighters. The eastern view (toward Lake Barrett) shows how a brush fire can move through, appear exhausted, and flare up to frightening proportions because of a subtle shift in the wind. The northern view looks towards Alpine and seems peaceful, although at night you can see the glow of the Witch Fire over 30 miles away. The peace is shattered when the fire burns right over the camera's location.

Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

American Police State Vol. 2

They threatened us with severe punishments if we talk to each other....Through the walls, I can hear officers yelling, screaming. They ask about the purpose of our trip -- except we are only allowed to give yes-or-no answers. I try to talk about our plans to meet with Finnish-American folk musicians. Nobody listens. They interrupt me constantly and they yell, "You are a liar!" ~ Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Oct. 28, 2007
Those wily Scandinavian terrorists.

Seriously, if any government agency is going to evolve into an American Schutzstaffel it will be DHS. All too many DHS agents had childhood hobbies like tying firecrackers to the tails of cats and and grieved they wouldn't be able to practice their proclivities as adults without getting arrested. At DHS they have x-ray machines that peek through people's clothing and they are allowed to pat down and feel up any woman they choose. And when it comes to recreational terrorism of travelers nobody beats the folk down at DHS.
Is this the face of evil? (photo of Finnish folk singer Jukka Karjalainen when not being threatened at an American airport)

Previous entry under this title.

Monday, October 29, 2007

BlackWater - Condi's Criminal Conspiracy

What's the penalty for shooting up an intersection, killing 17 innocent people? If you're BlackWater, nothing. The State Department issued blanket immunity to all of the shooters before the FBI investigation had even began. We will probably never know how BlackWater thugs persuaded the State Department (It would be a shame if the next time our weapons discharge they are pointing at the ambassador's car instead of away from it. Get my drift?).

Is Waterboarding Torture?

The morally ambiguous Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey are confused about waterboarding. Both Muskasey and Giuliani have said they don't know what is involved in waterboarding prisoners. Here is a primer.

This is What it Looks Like
Kaj Larsen contracted with former Army instructors to waterboard him. This is not a demonstration or simulation, this is an actual waterboarding session.

Waterboarding was invented during the Middle Ages as an interrogation technique to find witches, Jews, and heretics. The inventors were proud to call the technique torture.

It has been a favored technique for centuries because it leaves no visible scars. There is no lingering evidence of torture to show the world. It was used by the Japanese during World War II and an American tribunal convicted a Japanese military officer of war crimes in 1947 for using this technique. It was used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It was also used by American soldiers during the Vietnam War to interrogate Viet Cong prisoners in the field. (below) The insignia on the sleeve is of the United States First Calvary Division.

The French used it during their war against Algeria in the 1950's.
The rag soaked up rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. ~ Henri Alleg, The Question
Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First (pdf) produced this booklet in August detailing the various "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (including waterboarding), their effects, and legal analyses in light of the United States Constitution, law, and treaty obligations such as the Geneva Convention.

Note to Rudy and Mike: Guys, this stuff is illegal, immoral, unconstitutional, and a bloody war crime. To say you don't know what's involved is to display such deliberate ignorance as to disqualify you for any position of public trust.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Myths on the California Fires

I have had a little time to see what the rest of the world has been saying about our fires. God, what nonsense.

Al Qaeda Terrorists Set the Fires

Originally sourced to Fox News so you know it is crap. Firefighters have a funny quirk, they like to put out fires before worrying about the cause. While there were arsonists around, the ones arrested have been homegrown Californians, most of the fires seem to have mundane origins - downed powerlines, a house fire that got away, that sort of thing.

Environmentalists Caused the Fires by Stopping Logging or, Global Warming Caused the Fires
Of the half-million acres burned this past week there wasn't enough prime timber to interest a single logger. We could have clear-cut every forest from Bakersfield to the Mexican Border and it would not have mattered. These were brush fire. Southern California is chaparral country and chaparral was born to burn. Annual grasses and shrubs are tinder dry by October. Fire is such a natural part of the landscape of Southern California there are plants (most famously the Fire Poppy) that require fire to germinate. When Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered Southern California in the autumn of 1542, there was a hot dry wind and plumes of smoke rising from the hills. He had arrived during a Santa Ana firestorm. True, the ongoing drought in California is probably a result of global warming and drought makes fire conditions worse, but that is a minor consideration to an annual event.

FEMA learned the lessons of Katrina
FEMA didn't even show up until Thursday and their only activity was to hold a press conference where there were no actual reporters admitted and all the questions were asked by FEMA staffers. It is accurate to say that FEMA didn't screw up; they didn't do anything at all.

State and Local Governments Learned from Katrina

Ah, no. They learned from the 2003 Cedar Fire. In 2003 emergency personnel were sent into danger zones going door-to-door telling people to flee. Trying to use the broadcast media to send messages failed. The orders to evacuate Harbison Canyon were not broadcast until after the fire was racing through the canyon. Most of the people who died in 2003 were caught by the fire as they were trying to evacuate. This time, a "reverse 911" system where authorities called homes in danger allowed for neighborhoods to evacuate in an orderly fashion well before the fire arrived.

Well, at least Qualcomm Stadium Wasn't like the Superdome
Qualcomm was an orderly evacuation site, the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina was a disaster. This is true. Qualcomm was well away from the fire zones; the Superdome was right under the worst of the hurricane. The difference was not because Californians are better than Louisianans but because fires are different than hurricanes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

San Diego Fires Update #15

The historic Palomar Observatory is endangered as the fire on top of Palomar Mountain crests the peak. The Palomar fire (Poomacha/Witch Fires) is the last remaining major fire event in San Diego County.

The Horno Fire continues to burn aggressively on open land on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The other fires, while still burning, are no longer serious dangers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Diego Fires Update #14

Day 5

All of the major fires continue to burn. The most active areas are atop Mount Palomar and along her flanks (the Poomacha Fire) and east of Jamul (the Harris Fire). Containment is being projected towards the end of the month for the fires with control expected in early November.

Assuming no abrupt change in the weather, the next significant news will be the damage assessments. These fires were on a scale with the Cedar-Paradise-Otay fire complex that raged in San Diego County in October 2003. The acreage and deaths appear to be lower than in 2003. The former is just luck; the latter is the result of aggressive evacuations, evacuations that were listened to because the memory of the Cedar blaze has been burned (bad choice of words) in to our memories.

A Little Perspective (and a return to political commentary)
Southern California has about the same population as the nation of Iraq. About 1 million Californians evacuated from the blazes through the seven counties of Southern California (about 4% of the population). There are about 4.5 million Iraqi war refugees (about 15% of that nation's population) The fires of 2007 have lasted about one week. The American occupation of Iraq is in its 238th week. I point out these facts not to diminish the horrors we have felt and the anxiety our loved ones have felt worrying about us but to remind us all that the Iraq War is an exponentially greater horror.

The Cedar Fire in 2003, the Witch Fire in 2007, I wonder what San Diego's quadrennial natural disaster will be in 2011? Perhaps we will have a massive earthquake for a change of pace. I am going to take a break for a day or two - don't worry, I'm perfectly safe - and then resume my snarky political writings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Fires Update #13

The most recent changes to the KPBS Google map shows advancement of the Witch Fire on its south flank crossing El Monte Rd between El Monte Park and El Capitan Reservoir. This puts Flynn Springs and Interstate 8 within two miles of the fire line. Another arm of the Witch Fire is traveling south along Boulder Creek two miles west of Rancho Cuyamaca State Park.

I had a brief conversation with a rural firefighter at a sandwich shop this evening. She expressed concern about the northern front of the Harris Fire that there was a chance that fire might break out tonight and threaten Sloane Canyon, Dehesa, and Harbison Canyon. This battle is a long way from over.

San Diego Fires Update #12

For most of San Diego the worst has passed. As of 2pm today, according to the San Diego Office of Emergency Services, these are the areas of intensively active fire.
  1. The Horno Fire - Camp Pendleton southeast of San Onofre. Interstate 5 has been reopened for several hours.
  2. The Rice Fire - The northern front of the fire, north of Fallbrook nearing DeLuz and approaching the Riverside County line.
  3. The Poomacha Fire - West of Palomar Mountain and north of Pauma Valley, the south and west flanks of Palomar Mountain nearing the peak of the mountain; the fight to save homes on Mount Palomar is intense.
  4. The Witch Fire (now merged with the Poomacha Fire) - The eastern flank of the fire between Mesa Grande and Santa Ysabel (northeast of Sutherland Lake). Eastern flank about 2 miles southwest of Julian and west of Lake Cuyamaca (the vicinity of Pine Hills). South flank in the vicinity of Mount Woodson. The rest of the Witch Fire appears less active and not advancing significantly.
  5. The Harris Fire - The northern flank east of Indian Springs and south of Skyline Truck Trail. The eastern flank at Barrett Lake and south for two or three miles. Also east of Tecate between Highway 94 and the Mexican Border. The rest of the Harris Fire appears less active and not advancing significantly.
This is a list of burned businesses and homes as compiled by the San Diego Union. It is neither official nor comprehensive as it appears only to be homes in Escondido, Poway, and north San Diego City.

These are very rough descriptions based on a review of the OES map. They are not accurate to the inch and are probably not all inclusive. Do not, under any circumstances, make life or death decisions based on these descriptions. Barring new fires and a change in the weather for the worst, I believe that El Cajon and Alpine are out of danger. There is a slim chance the fire near Mount Woodson could breakout and run south towards Lakeside but that is unlikely.

San Diego Fires Update #11

I can't find any specific information about how destructive the fire was in Dulzura. With active fires along the access roads I doubt anyone has gone in yet to assess the damage. It is the nature of these fires that everything does not burn. Especially early, and Dulzura was hit early by the Harris Fire, the fires are pushed by the winds and move through quickly. Buildings with wooden shingles, with brush and trees growing close, or with fuel like woodpiles stacked against the wall are most likely to burn. Buildings with fireproof roofing where the brush has been cleared for several hundred feet in all directions have a good chance to survive. Also, the firefighters have been battling these fires from the beginning with their priorities protecting lives first and buildings second.

San Diego Fires Update #10

Welcome to Day 4 on the outskirts of Hell. El Cajon, Alpine, and Lakeside all appear safe at this point this morning.

New dragons were born overnight on the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. The largest, called the Horno Fire, grew quickly to over 6,000 acres and has forced the closure of I-5, the main connection between San Diego and Los Angeles. The Marines are fighting at least two other fires on the base.

The Witch Fire turned her attentions to the east last night, moving towards Santa Ysabel and Julian. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for all of Julian and the small communities north of Cuyamaca State Park. The Witch Fire and the Poomacha Fire at Palomar Mountain have merged; an even fire officials had feared. The Harris Fire also looked east towards Barrett Lake. Lyons Valley appears to be at risk but that is just my speculation as I have not seen any reports confirming this.

Evacuees are returning to the beach communities (Del Mar and Solana Beach), Chula Vista, Scripps Ranch, and parts of Poway. The air is heavy with smoke but at least in my corner of El Cajon we are not having the rain of ash we suffered during the Cedar Fire in 2003.

The San Jose Mercury News has a good, brief overview of the major fires of Southern California. There have been scores of other, smaller, blazes as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego Fires Update #9

To Jann: I don't believe that 1215 Moreno Ave. in Lakeside is within the mandatory evacuation area but I cannot be certain, it is close. Wildcat Canyon Rd at Muth Valley Rd is one mile to the east and is evacuated. It is about 12 miles from the closest area of fire and has not been directly impacted by the fires. The evacuation center for Lakeside is Santana High School in Santee. The air is heavy with smoke. It would have been prudent for your father to relocate farther west where the air quality is better.

I believe Lakeside is safe. This looks like one of the precautionary evacuations. During the 2003 Cedar Fire, eight people were trapped and killed by the fires along the Wildcat Canyon Road trying to find a way out. This time the authorities have wanted to get people out of danger well before it has to be done in a panic.

From what I understand, the evacuation centers are doing an excellent job. They are being well supplied with food and water, Navy and Marine personnel, the Red Cross, area churches, and citizens have all been volunteering to assist and the people in the centers are helping each other. Compared to New Orleans after Katrina or San Diego during the Cedar Fire of 2003, we are seeing textbook examples of how to manage mass evacuations. I am impressed and that is hard to do.

San Diego Fires Update #8

The Witch Fire has turned it's attention to the south. It is currently burning along the northern arm of El Capitan Reservoir. That puts fire about eight miles north of Interstate 8 and about five miles northwest of the northern reaches of residential Alpine. As of 4pm, there have been no evacuations ordered for any portion of Alpine except yesterday's precautionary evacuation of those portions of West Alpine adjacent to Harbison Canyon. Evacuations have been ordered for northern Lakeside (along Wildcat Canyon Road). To the northeast, Julian, Pine Hills (west of Julian) and Pine Grove (southwest of Julian) are being evacuated.

In the south, Indian Springs, North Jamul, and parts of Rancho San Diego are evacuating in advance of the Harris Fire. Also, on the eastern front of the Harris Fire, Honey Springs and Barrett Lake are evacuating.

The moves of evacuations to the eastern fronts of the fires is a sign that the winds are shifting. It is worrisome to me because it brings the fires closer to me and my loved ones. It is also good news because the blowtorch force of the Santa Ana winds are beginning to break. El Cajon is safe. I don't know about Alpine; they are not ordering evacuations as yet, which is good, but the fire is getting uncomfortably close.

The authorities have been very good thus far in ordering evacuations well ahead of trouble, allowing for safe exits. Many of the communities that have been evacuated have not been burned.

An excellent resource is this Google map produced by KPBS. It is updated frequently by the staff of the local public broadcasting station and is a better resource than even the San Diego County Emergency Services pdf maps.

San Diego Fires Update #7

A fourth monster has risen in San Diego. In addition to the Witch Fire (Ramona to Rancho Santa Fe, about 200,000 acres), the Harris Fire (from Potrero to Chula Vista, about 100,000 acres), the Rice Fire (Fallbrook, over 8,000 acres) there is a new fire on Mount Palomar. Called the Poomacha Fire it was reported at 150 acres at 9am this morning, by noon it has grown to 3,000 acres. By 1pm it has consumed 20,000 acres.

That is how hungry these beasts can be.

Update to the update: Right now, there are 513,000 fire evacuees in San Diego County. That is one out of every six residents. That is more than all of the people living in Atlanta, Georgia.

San Diego Fires Update #6

Day 3.

The southern fire, the Harris Fire, woke up with a growl. It turned away from Chula Vista to attack to the north. For the first time I can see the flames of the county's fires from my home. The Harris fire has burned over and around Mount San Miguel and is licking at the shore of the Sweetwater Reservoir. The public radio station, KPBS, is off the air - its broadcast tower is atop the mountain. Steele Canyon High School, my nephew's school and an early evacuation site, is now within a couple miles of the fire line. Within five miles is the community of Rancho San Diego. I know this region well. The chaparral is old and thick on these slopes - perfect food to feed the raging beast.

Add to the list of communities evacuating the coastal city of Del Mar.

Alpine and El Cajon continue to be safe; the fires are to the north and south. The danger is to have a fire to your east.

San Diego Fires Update #5

No new dragons were born overnight. This pdf from the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services is an excellent illustration of the spread of the San Diego fires and the evacuations ahead of the raging beasts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

San Diego Fires Update #4

No real changes to report. The Witch Fire continues to advance towards the ocean and consume Ramona while the Harris Fire in the south continues to advance towards Jamul and Chula Vista. The firefighters have slowed their advances but cannot yet contain them. The biggest threat at the moment is the new Rice Fire near Fallbrook. The entire community of Fallbrook, nearly 30,000 people, have been evacuated.

The family homes in El Cajon and Alpine are still safe. What shall the morrow bring?

San Diego Fires Update #3

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for Western Alpine, Harbison Canyon, and La Cresta. That last one is five miles via crow flight from my home. The first one is five miles from my brother's home. As far as I can tell, this is purely precautionary. These communities are enclosed by canyon walls or sit perched on the top of a peak with twisting, winding roads. These areas were burned to the foundations by the Cedar Fire in 2003. The fire roared through the canyons in the dead of night so fast that evacuation orders were not able to keep up with the beast. That day was hellish for the residents. As I write this there is no fire approaching these communities. The Sheriff and fire services, I believe, want people safely out of the way in case history repeats itself.

El Cajon and Alpine are still safe although the circle of safety is growing smaller. It is my guess, based upon too much experience, is that it will be Wednesday or Thursday before the fire siege is lifted.

San Diego Fires Update #2

Hearth and home (El Cajon and Alpine) are still safe for the time being.

New fires have forced evacuations in Fallbrook and Descanso. The latter is worrisome as it is 15 miles windward of my brother's Alpine home. Parts of Chula Vista, Scripps Ranch, and Solana Beach (yes, beach) are now being evacuated because of the huge Harris and Witch fires. Well over 250,000 people in San Diego County (about 10% of the county's population) are under evacuation orders.

The sun is red, the air is heavy, the sky is a mixture of brown and blue, and the light filtering through a massive lens of ash and smoke is casting an eerie yellow hue on the globe. I've been through this four years ago with the 2003 Cedar Fire. It isn't Hell, but we can see Hell from here.

San Diego Fires Update

El Cajon and Alpine are still safe.

The Witch Fire has crossed I-15 at Lake Hodges and is burning down the San Dieguito River basin. Since it started east of Ramona less than 24 hours ago, it has traveled over 20 linear miles and is now less than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Homes have been destroyed in Rancho Bernardo, Ramona, Escondido, and Poway to mention only the major communities affected. In its path is Rancho Santa Fe with its multi-million dollar homes. The worst case scenario has officials fearing it will burn all the way to the sea.

The southern fire, the Harris Fire, started near Potrero on Sunday and is now approaching Otay Lakes, a distance of over 15 miles. There are fewer communities in the south but Dulzura and Barrett Junction have been evacuated.

The winds driving the fires are strong to the north, weak here in El Cajon, and moderate around the Harris fire. There are no firm numbers of casualties, acreage burned, and buildings destroyed because the numbers keep changing and the firefighters are more interested in fighting then maintaining a tote board.

Thoughts on the Outskirts of an Inferno

As a brown shroud of ash settles on my house, as my neighbors to north and south flee a miles-wide dragon breathing fire on everything it sees, I can't help envying my fellow Americans whose lives are so quiet, so protected, that they have the leisure to be terrified by a small band of Arabs. Fire, flood, heat, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and disease - there are so many killers out there. Mother Nature, God if you will, spreads terror and death far more efficiently than Osama ever dreamed.

Fire in San Diego

This is a replay of 2003. San Diego is burning down. From 2 fires last night there are now seven raging. As in 2003, the fires are moving so quickly the news media is having a hard time keeping up with the evacuation orders. The latest news is evacuation orders for north of highway 56, south of the Del Dios Highway, west of I-15, and east of I-5. That included all of Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Santa Fe. This is a huge area, heavily populated. The Wild Animal Park, Ramona, Poway, and Dulzura are all burning or endangered.

So far, Alpine and El Cajon are safe.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Fires of Southern California

Fire in the heavens, and fire along the hills,
and fire made solid in the flinty stone,
thick-mass'd or scatter'd pebble, fire that fills
the breathless hour that lives in fire alone. ~ Fire in the Heavens, Christopher Brennan
Southern California is ablaze again this October. According to the LA Times, there are more than a dozen fires burning in SoCal, a half dozen are uncontrolled and spreading.
  1. Sedgwick Fire: near Solvang (Santa Barbara County), has been burning all day. 250 firefighters and over 700 acres burned.
  2. Ranch Fire: in Castaic (Los Angeles County), burning since last night. Over 12,000 acres burned and 320 firefighters involved.
  3. Canyon Fire: in Malibu, burning since before dawn on Sunday. Five homes destroyed. 16 more damaged; five businesses and a church also burned down. Over 2,200 acres burned and 1,430 firefighters involved.
  4. Buckweed Fire: near Santa Clarita. Started Saturday night. 17 structures destroyed; 3 civilians injured. 800 people evacuated. 400 firefighters and over 12,500 acres burned.
  5. Witch Fire: near Santa Ysabel (San Diego County). "Several structures" damaged or destroyed. Started before noon on Sunday. Over 8,000 acres and 350 firefighters involved.
  6. Harris Fire: near the Mexican border between Tecate and Campo, burning since this morning. 1 dead, 18 injured including 4 firefighters. 14,000 acres burned and 300 firefighters involved.
Over 50,000 acres have burned today and that number will probably double over night. You can blame the weather with dry Santa Ana winds (humidity below 10%), you can blame global warming, or you can fatalistically observe that autumn fires is the nature of Southern California. Blame what you will, this is a night when thousands of Californians have the flames of Hell lapping at their front doors.

Echoes in a Mockingbird's Song

It is a warm, spring-like day here in Southern California. It is warm enough to have fooled at least one neighborhood mockingbird into thinking there is time left for one last romantic fling before winter. He is singing his little heart out. This is serendipitous (apparently my word of the week) as I got a card just yesterday from Anne about one of the most fascinating theories in ornithology.

The mockingbird is a prolific mimic. Thrushes, warblers, finches, the songs of the neighborhood birds fill the mockingbird's repertoire. He also grabs environmental sounds - I have heard mockingbirds mimic car alarms and human whistles. But, within his ranging performance are snatches of songs whose sources are elusive.

Some people believe these unknown songs are echoes from the past. That mockingbirds are passing down, father to son, the songs of birds now extinct. Perhaps all that is left of the Carolina Parakeet and the Bachman's Warbler is preserved in the mockingbird's collective memory of song. It is an intriguing thought for a warm autumn Sunday.

Art is by Roger Peterson.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Republican Voting Rights Theories Explained

The Brad Blog has reporting something that deserves wider distribution. Read It!
...minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first.
John Tanner, the head of the Bush Administration Department of Justice Voting Rights Division explaining how minorities have an advantage over white folk. Republicans have been pushing a policy to require specific identification papers before someone is allowed to exercise their right to vote.
it all boils down to ... who has the ID and who doesn't.
You see, the Voter ID system requires drivers licenses that many elderly people don't have.
I think it's probably true that among those who don't, it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame.
But on balance this is a good thing, don't ya know, and perfectly legal because if you keep old folk from voting it increased the power of minority voters.
There are inequities in health care...So anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly, has the opposite impact on minorities. Just, the math is such as that.
So, in conclusion, his office has absolutely no problem with laws that restricts the voting rights of elderly people. The DOJ Voting Rights Division doesn't give a damn if Granny Tessie who has been voting for half a century is turned away at the polls because she no longer drives a car. If she had any interest in racial equality she would have died already and decreased the surplus population.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Chris Dodd: My Hero

A "hold" is not a magic elixir to stop legislation. It doesn't stop the "spy all you want to on Americans; nothing is illegal" FISA bill. All it means is "I will not accept any 'unanimous consent' motions to speed this bill on its way." Every little, piddly, procedural step is going to require a roll call vote.

I don't know what it is about Bush and warrentless spying on American citizens that makes senatorial Democrats roll over and take it up the ass like a herd of man-puppies. Search the chairman of the Intelligence Committee Sen. Jay Rockefeller's own website, I did, and try to find a single statement is defense of this unconstitutional disaster. Try to find a single instance in his entire career where he has referenced the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ~ Fourth Amendment, United States Constitution
My senator, Diane Feinstein, is a little better. She has spoken in defense of the Fourth Amendment before voting to gut it. On a day when she voted to permit the warrentless wiretapping of American citizens (weak-assed safe-guards be damned), her official website headlines her vote to erect a Rosa Parks statue in the Capitol. Beyond the obvious that many (most, all) Democratic senators share President Bush's belief that the Constitution is a quaint out-of-date document in the 21st century and may be discarded whenever it becomes inconvenient, I am at a lose to understand their actions. Their submissive caving suggests abject, quaking fear.

Which brings me back to my hero, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). A "hold" is the first step to a real filibuster. Each tiny step in the process of the bill will now require a vote. Each vote is subject to debate. Each debate can be filibustered. Each procedural vote requires cloture with 60 affirmative votes. Each cloture vote is another opportunity for a Democrat to grow a backbone. You have taken this first step, Sen. Dodd. I have faith you will see the fight through to the end.

To the Hon. Mr. Senators Russ Feingold & Ron Wyden
You were the only ones to oppose the FISA rape of the Constitution in committee. Please do not let Sen. Dodd fight this fight alone. Please join him in talking this bill to the grave it deserves.

To Senators Barack Obama and Pat Leahy
Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. You have said you oppose this bill. Show it.

To the rest of the United States Senate
If you cannot muster the courage to vote no on cloture, please abstain. If you cannot find the courage to abstain, absent yourself from the votes. Take a walk, hide in the bathroom (check first to make sure Larry Craig is not in the next stall), visit a constituent in Walter Reed Hospital. Deprive cloture of 60 votes by whatever means you can.

To Senator Hillary R. Clinton
By your actions shall ye be known.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert for President

The traditional path to the presidency is to write a book and then announce you are a candidate on a television chat show. (It used to be fight in a war and then marry a rich woman but John Kerry proved that formula doesn't work any longer.) Stephen Colbert has announced he is running for president (in South Carolina). Stephen (can I call you Stephen?) is not the first comedian to run for president. Some will note that the only way to understand the Bush presidency is to assume it is all just a comedy routine (It's not?).

In 1940, Gracie Allen of the team of Burns and Allen (If you only know George Burns as a solo act you missed the best half of his career.) ran for president on the Surprise Party ticket. She made a whistle-stop tour of all of the hit radio shows of the time. Her campaign platform included taking pride in the National Debt (It's the largest in the world!) and putting Congress on a commission system, whenever the nation prospers Congress gets ten percent of the take.

Earlier (1928), Will Rogers ran for president against Herbert Hoover (He would have made the Depression fun) as the Anti-Bunk Party ticket. Prohibition was the law of the land them. His campaign promises include, "wine for the rich, beer for the poor and moonshine for the prohibitionists."
Make every speaker, as soon as he tells all he knows, sit down. That will shorten your speeches so much you will be out of here by lunch every day. ~ after attending the Democratic National Convention

Of course, Pat Paulsen (motto: If elected, I will win.) is the only thing that made the 1968 election (Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, good times!) tolerable. A regular on the irreverent Smothers Brothers television show, he brought the only small sense of reality to an election where Richard Nixon was the peace candidate.
Paulsen on gun control: "Let us not be ledmess by those who would mislead us. Let no man take away our liberties. Stand up and be counted...Let's preserve our freedom to kill."
Paulsen on poverty: "You can't just give poor people money. The poor people will just go out and buy food and clothes and pay rent and junk like that."
Paulsen on corruption: "Let's all remember that we have a government 'of the people...for the people...and by the people...' and there are very few people in our government that you can't buy."

Stephen, make us proud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Now Here's Opposition Research

Opposition research is one of the first duties of the political aide. Who are your opponent's friends, where is he getting his money, how did he buy his home (I was doing this when Duke Cunningham was still just a small-time crook ripping off Navy flyers), you'll be surprised what title searches can reveal. But, if this don't beat all for opposition research then I don't know shit.

Dick Cheney has researched Barack Obama back eight generations. That's a lot of work. What dirt could they hope to discover digging back that far? My only guess is they wanted to find some embarrassing genealogical connection to smear him with. And they did. Lynne Cheney herself today slandered Obama with the charge that he and Dick Cheney are distant relations. That is dirty politics.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Contractors Don't Just Kill

All the news of gratuitous killings by BlackWater mercs has hidden the fact that military contractors don't just like killing people; they enjoy inflicting pain, too.

Re the San Diego Union-Tribune: The Marines hired a military contractor to produce a training film. Safe, you'd think, right? The plot of the training film was to demonstrate what could happen if a Marine were captured by an Arab. The contractor, Strategic Operations, Inc. (owned by film maker Stu Segall) uses "movie making magic" to simulate battlefield situations. In this production, an actor was pretending to interrogate a young Marine (eighteen year-old Lance Cpl. Jesse Klingler). The actor "repeatedly punched and kicked Klingler." Apparently tiring of that torment, the actor loaded an AK-47 with blank cartridges and fired into both of the Marine's legs, pinned the struggling youngster to the floor with a boot to his neck, and was about to cap Cpl. Klingler with a shot to the back of the head when Marine instructors intervened. Blank cartridges discharge a wadding that can be lethal at close range. According to the UT, the "actor" was formerly with the Lebanese Army and a convicted felon. Cpl. Klingler is suing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Handicapping the Presidential Race - Democrats

I think I wrote this before (I shall certainly write it again), I have a recurring nightmare of an all New York Hillary-Rudy presidential election in the Fall of 2008. A too conservative Democrat versus a too liberal Republican. Dear God. I can think of worse things for the nation to face but not without being deliberately perverse.

Same rules as before, I'll be offering my odds and, for comparison, in red the odds calculated by the Intrade Trading Exchange.

Hillary Clinton (Sen-NY) - 1 to 2 (1 to 2)
She has run an extraordinarily good campaign. She has pitched her issues with finesse. She has not been wasting her money of a surfeit of over-price, under-skilled consultants. Her major flaw to date has been a tendency to laugh at inappropriate times; rather than humanizing her it makes her sound a tad creepy.

The Al Gore Factor (Award Winner-TN) - 3 to 1 (6 to 1)
The only horse with both the legs and heart to beat Clinton is still in the stable. He is a non-candidate and the betting has him second on the Intrade tote board. Gore can seismically shift the campaign by accepting the Draft Gore movement or subtly influence it by endorsing someone else. I don't believe he will run.

Barack Obama (Sen-IL) - 12 to 1 (8 to 1)
Falling faster than a lead sinker to the bottom of a fishing hole. Just three months ago he was neck-and-neck with Clinton. Has plenty of money but has hurt himself with overly belligerent saber rattling towards Iran. Trying now to define himself as the anti-Clinton but it may be too late.

John Edwards (former Sen-NC) - 13 to 1 (24 to 1)
Has been solidly unspectacular. If Clinton breaks down (stumbling won't be good enough) because of another fund raising scandal look for Edwards to leapfrog into the lead.

Bill Richardson (Gov-NM) - 200 to 1 (125 to 1)
The falloff from the top tier is steep. Bill Richardson is campaigning like he needs a change of medication. The only news play he gets anymore is when he makes another boffo blunder. Forget the presidency, his tendency towards monumental cock-ups would make him a liability as a vice-presidential candidate.

Chris Dodd (Sen-Conn) - 500 to 1 (1000 to 1)
I like Chris Dodd. I am pretty much alone there.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Handicapping the Presidential Race - Republicans

It has been three months since I have played this game. Three months with a bit of noise and almost no movement. As before, I'll be offering my odds and, for comparison, in red the odds calculated by the Intrade Trading Exchange.

Fred Thompson (actor-TN) 3 to 1 (4 to 1)
He survived his first debate by managing to have even lower expectations than a cadaver. He remembered a couple of scripted jokes, stuttered his way around a few questions without ever expressing an opinion, and didn't piss his pants. By FT standards he was a rousing success. Thompson-mania seems to have peaked. Conservatives are following him now like he were a 5-watt bulb in a pitch-black tunnel.

Rudy Giulianitm (former mayor of New York) - 4 to 1 (1.5 to 1)
Rudy is proof that Republican love for arrogant, blood-thirsty, authoritarian assholes exceeds their beliefs in any of their political or moral positions. They blind themselves to his pro-gay, pro-abortion, anti-gun stands and his serial marriage, anti-family lifestyle. If Democrats tried to field such a man the outrage from Republican moralists would be deafening. But, all is forgiven for Rudy because he promises to kill Muslims and defecate on the Constitution. Such is the makings of an American hero.

Mitt Romney (former gov-MA) - 10 to 1 (3 to 1)
It's funny. Lots of Republican paleo-Christians willingly forgive Rudy for being an amoral scoundrel but can't forgive Mitt for being Mormon. His gaffe that he will consult his lawyers (not generals or Democrats) before going to war with Iran has legs enough to run a marathon. In electoral terms, Mitt is a Dead Man Walking.

Mike Huckabee (gov-AR) - 12 to 1 (28 to 1)
I think Huckabee is going to become the third choice. The church-going Republicans who reject Rudy are beginning to coalesce around him. He is smarter than Thompson, ain't saying much because Huckabee is barely smarter than a rutabaga.

Ron Paul (congressman-TX) - 50 to 1 (16 to 1)
This conspiracy-theory wacko is fourth in the betting line on Intrade. Anti-war, anti-tax, anti-Bush, anti-government - what's not to love?

St. John McCain (Sen-AZ) - 300 to 1 (16 to 1)
With Halloween approaching it is fun watching a ghost participating in the presidential debates.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Is Congress Irrelevant?

Remember back in September when Sen. Pat Leahy announced that Michael Mukasey's confirmation as Attorney General was dependent upon the White House turning over "certain information?" How about back in August when Leahy set a fourth deadline (the previous three deadlines having been ignored) for the White House to respond to subpoenas regarding warrantless wiretapping? Then there was the time after the Congress gave Bush everything he wanted to spy on Americans and Democratic leaders promised they would corrected the flaws when they revisited the issues a few months later. So, what's happening now, eh?
What has happened to the promises of last January when the new Democratic majorities were pledging to bring accountability back to government? Where has the New Congress gone?

Some think Bush is blackmailing individual members of Congress. I believe that, when push comes to shove, Senators and Congressmen are frightened of the office of the Presidency. The effect of the Imperial Presidency is a serial dictatorship. Congress supplicates itself beneath a president it believes to be ignorant and incompetent because congressmen, individually and collectively, believe that the Presidency is all powerful. Congress refuses to enforce the Will of the People because congressmen truly believe that the Will of the People is unimportant and it is only the Will of the President that matters.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

It is probably the weather. A Santa Anna is blowing and they tend to make me dippy; I just can't find anything in this fine world worth writing about.

The Iraq War continues to slog along; victory is undefined and, yet, impossible and there is no momentum towards ending it. A war with Iran is still in the wings and everyday is looking more likely now that Congress has passed a Tonkin Gulf-style Resolution in the form of the Lieberman-Kyl amendment. The bursting of the housing bubble and the resulting credit crunch is tanking the economy and we are possibly headed towards stagflation. Tuesday, Fred Thompson is making his first appearance as a cow in the presidential debate herd; I couldn't care less but it may be his last chance to show he has the attention span for a campaign. I have been trying to imagine what a Hillary-Rudy general election would look like but every time I start I have this urge to hide under my bed and whimper.

There are clouds gathering on the horizon. There are not one but many violent storms brewing that threaten to rend the nation like Wal-Mart bedding. I need a nap.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

La Jolla - Slip Sliding Away, with Lawsuits

I used to know someone who lived on Mount Soledad in La Jolla, California near San Diego (friend of a friend). I was certainly interested in the news that a good sized chunk of land there decided to move. La Jolla is not Beverly Hills for chic but homes there were selling for over $1 million well before it was California common. The views are spectacular and the smell of money pungent.

I have driven on the winding roads that twist over that lump of sedimentary sandstone pushed up by the Rose Canyon Fault. It doesn't take a geologist to kick a couple clods of dirt and wonder what in the name of creation is holding those way too steep slopes together. It is inevitable that gravity correct the geologic mistake that is Mount Soledad. Insurance companies knew this which is why the multi-million dollar homes clinging to its slopes were uninsurable for earth movement.

But, the millionaires who buy into La Jolla and Mount Soledad are not without chutzpah. They bought homes with great views on land that any child with experience building sand castles would have known was unstable. They knew their house could toppled into that great view; they didn't care. These are people who didn't get rich by owning up to their own mistakes. They got rich by making other people pay.

Lawsuits have been filed even before the dust settled. Rich people build their homes on shifting sands knowing full well they can make the poor working stiffs living on viewless bottomland pay for their indulgences. The state and the city will spend whatever is necessary to make these millionaires whole. The poor suffer so the rich don't have to. It's the American Way.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Iraq War: Quarterly Update

The numbers are getting rigged so frequently now to justify The Surge they are mostly meaningless. Such arbitrary devices as using the direction the bullet was traveling before impacting some poor Iraqi civilian's skull to determine if killing counts as sectarian makes virtually all of the statistics now available useless.

American Military Deaths
3rd quarter 2007 .... 229*
3rd quarter 2006 .... 180
War Total .......... 3,809*

* The official totals do not at least count two soldiers who died of their wounds several months after returning stateside. Nor are an uncounted number of stateside suicides resulting from war service included in the official toll.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Scientists Plan Ahead to Godhood

Some scientists are all a twitter about what they call Singularity. The theory, simply put, is that within 30 years using computer technology, nanotechnology, and good old fashioned genetic engineering, these scientists will be able to breed a race of gods. These God-Men might be more machine than human - think Darth Vader - with high bandwidth jacks connected directly into their brains. They will be so far beyond people like you and me that we would be as insects to them. Ray Kurzweil has even written a book on the subject.

The scientific articles I've seen (way, way short of comprehensive research) have mostly avoided discussing the morality of such a goal. Some speculate on a universal transition while others acknowledge only a small cadre will be transformed. What fun is it being godlike if everyone is a god? Some think that computers will do it to themselves and no longer need humans. These are the nerds who watch the Terminator movies every night and dream, what if? Others are Transhumanists who plan to survive the Techno-Rapture. Most all agree that the human species will either become extinct or relegated to pets or slaves to the new race of gods.

There are many fictional looks at this possible future - I, Robot and the Matrix are two. Perhaps the purest look at the psychology of Singularity predates the notion in science. The 1963 episode of The Outer Limits titled "Sixth Finger" had a scientist transform a regular person, a coal miner played by David McCallum, in a super evolved human. His genius just makes him cruel, seeing unevolved humans as worthless. Eventually he begs to be returned to normal.

Other Sources: A list of articles, an interview with Transhumanists

Watch Fascism In Action

Want to know what fascism looks like? This video from a California middle school cafeteria shows a large, white, shaved-headed security guard assaulting a 13 year-old black girl under cover of authority. The story is that the girl threw (or dropped) a piece of birthday cake on the floor. The guard ordered her to clean up her "nappy cake" and when she didn't respond to his liking the security guard "placed her under arrest" with sufficient force to break the child's arm.

At the end of this video are still shots of the security guard arresting the child who filmed the assault on the girl using his cell phone for the crime of filming the assault using his cell phone. Found this on Pandagon.

We are not there yet, but we are closer than any of us would like to believe. For comparison, below is a photo of Nazis forcing Jews to clean a street in Austria. The only difference is that Americans have not yet learned to cower in terror from thugs wearing black shirts reading "security guard."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Frightening and the Ridiculous

Two tidbits from the soap opera, or is it horror film, that is life on earth these days.

Mind Reading Machine
Imagine the workplace of the future. Everyone in the office wears corporate caps fitted with "functional near-infrared spectroscopy" (fNIRS) sensors. These sensors scan your brain, studying the blood concentrations in the frontal lobe and reporting back exactly how hard each employee's brain is working. The machine will know instantly how hard you are working and will spot the very millisecond your mind drifts into a daydream. The corporate caps can contain a shocking mechanism to jolt the brain back into thinking about work. The MSNBC report and for the sleep deprived the pdf of the original paper.

Romeo & Juliet as Iraqi Mercs
The Iraq government has come up with a plan to end the sectarian violence - pay Sunnis and Sh'ites to intermarry. The Iraq government is paying couples $1,500 for marrying, a full year's income based on the estimated annual per capita income of $800, when they belong to differing sects. The United States equivalent would be paying Jews and Baptists $80,000 to intermarry. The theory is straight out of Shakespeare's play. When young lovers from feuding sects marry they will heal the division. It didn't work out too well for R&J if I remember. The government may want to practice a little tolerance as well. One recipient of the money said her husband disappeared into an Iraqi prison to visit his brother seven months ago and has not been seen again.

If Thine Eye Offend Thee

Whatever to write about? I've been reading the recent works of Norman Podhoretz, John Bolton, and William Kristol as they squeal like LA street 'hos urging their hustler pimps in the White House to do a drive-by shooting of Iran. After reading their tripe I want to pluck out my eyes and and stomp them for exposing my brain to such evil twaddle.

I could go all fluffy and write about San Diego sports; I watched the Padres, Chargers, and even San Diego State over the weekend. San Diego State, playing football in a stadium that was 90% empty, made the few people who showed up sick. That they lost by a score of only 52-23 shows how compassionate Cincinnati is. The Charges had a full house watching them fall asleep and get out scored 24-0 in the second half and lose. The Padres blew leads in their last three games of their baseball season to fall out of the last play-off spot and did it in a heartbreaking fashion (Hey, at least I'm not a Mets fan). After subjecting my eyes to a dozen hours of that torture, they are threatening to pluck themselves out.

Art is "Snake Eyes" by P.J. Filder