Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vietnam On Meth

The rapid fire flow of events in Libya kind of reminds me of the Vietnam War on super fast forward.
Spy uniform.
  • We intervene only after momentum has swung against the side we are backing.
  • We don't really know the side we are backing except they are not the side we are not backing.
  • We send in "secret" CIA advisers who couldn't be less secret if they worn funny mustaches and special, top secret, spy uniforms.
  • We send in equipment.
  • We send in soldiers to train our side on the equipment.
  • And still more soldiers because we can't lose now that we are committed.
The last two haven't happened yet but they will. In Vietnam this whole process took a decade. In Libya they may only take a few months.

What bothers me is if we were going to intervene it should have happened no later than March 1, when Gadhafi was on his heels and it might have made a difference. It is too late now for the ragtag rebels to defeat Gadhafi's mercenaries in desert warfare where tactics always triumphs over enthusiasm. It will take trained tank commanders with NATO air superiority now to dislodge Gadhafi. (That's the final step above.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Innocence Is No Defense

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. ~ Antonin Scalia
I wish I could work up the outrage of Attaturk over the Supreme Court's decision that a man wrongfully convicted of murder because prosecutors deliberately hid the evidence he was innocent had no right to sue for damages.

Okay, I'm outraged, just not surprised. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court has long held that proof of innocence is an unwelcome disruption to the smooth working of the judicial system. The Supreme Court has already ruled that a prisoner has no right to release, or even stay execution, just because he is proven innocent.

Sue the corrupt prosecutor who stole 18 years of his life? Hell, John Thompson is lucky the Supreme Court didn't send him back to prison for daring to question the infallibility of the judicial priesthood.
If anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which We have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith. ~ Chief Justice John Roberts (or some Pope, they think alike)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Are Afraid to Do It Legally

Why did Wisconsin Republicans choose to implement their anti-union law by trying to circumvent a court order when there was a far simpler method available? The simpler method was even recommended by the judge who granted the original restraining order.

The Wisconsin Senate could have simply passed the law again using proper procedures. Instead they choose to try to play a game with the judge and publish the law unofficially while claiming that their action made the publication official. It was a silly action that any middle school student council would have been embarrassed to try.

This is one of those times when the simplest answer is likely the correct one. It probably wouldn't pass if they voted a second time. The issue needs 17 votes to pass; the last vote was 18-1. With a half-dozen Republicans facing recall election it only takes two senators to get scared enough of their constituents to defeat the measure.

So, we get the strange sight of Wisconsin Republicans playing a game of legal chicken with the state's judiciary. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Redneck Speed Trap

It is reassuring that the decades may pass but some things stay the same. Such as if you drive into the hick region of the Old South, where they still keep a chaw of tobaccy in their back pockets and if you graduated fifth grade you're considered over eddicated, and thars a deppity hiding behind the kudzu a'lookin' for speeders.

Now, these is modern times sos thays usin' speed trap cameras instead of the sherrf's idiot nephew Elmer. Thats whuts callt pergress.

'No Need to Worry'

All kidding aside, the Japanese nuclear disaster is bordering on horrific. The radiation reports of 1,000 millisieverts per hour is made to sound benign by officials. But, eight hours exposure at that level of radiation is certain death. When officials say it is only "four times the limit deemed safe by the government" they neglect to add that the limit is 250 millisieverts per year not per hour.
While Fukushima Daiichi is still releasing less radiation than Chernobyl, the levels are dangerous. Mental retardation begins appearing in fetuses exposed to 10 to 100 millisieverts. Cancer risks increase by 1% for every 100 millisieverts.

More pictures of Fukushima Daiichi.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Radioactive Seawater Near Japan

News Story: Radioactivity levels are soaring in Japan seawater due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

I know I'm being totally heartless and culturally insensitive but wasn't it radioactive seawater that created Godzilla?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Insanity Times Two

The rightwing universe is crazy, we all know that.

The First Amendment Outlaws Islam
Bryan Fischer isn't just some Christian nut. When he interprets the Constitution as permitting religious freedom only to Christian denominations he is speaking for an influential group. His organization, American Family Association, is one of the go-to groups for Republican politicians. Huckabee, Gingrich, Pawlenty, and Bachmann all genuflect before the AFA altar. His exclusion of Muslims (and, by implication, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists) from Constitutional protections followed by the refusal of Republican politicians to denounce the interpretation suggests their quiet agreement.

Kiss a Girl, Go to Jail
Alaska's governor Sean Parnell (not being as crazy as Sarah Palin does not make him sane) has appointed to a board that selects judicial candidates a man who believes that having sex outside of marriage ought to be a criminal offense. There is an up side. If Gov. Parnell had his way Bristol Palin would be serving hard time now for doing the naughty with Levi.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How We Treated Native Americans

John Stossel on FOX thinks that no people have been treated as well by the American government than American Indians.
Trail of Tears: The forced march of Cherokee (and others) from Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousand died in what history records as an act of genocide.
Bear River Massacre: 1863, Union soldiers killed every man, woman, and child, 490 in all, in a Shoshone village near what is now Preston, ID.
Sand Creek Massacre: In the 1860's Col. John Chivington of the US cavalry waged a war of extermination against Native Americans in eastern Colorado. In the battle of Sand Creek, his troopers attacked a peaceful village killing every living soul there and scalping the bodies. Col. Chivington kept over 100 trophy scalps as well as the pubic hair of women victims. Col. Chivington famously defended killing babies by saying, "Nits make lice."
Wounded Knee: In the winter of 1890, American soldiers attacked a starving Lakota Sioux encampment of 350, two-thirds women and children. This is considered the last "battle" of the Indian Wars.
Boarding Schools: Well into the 20th century it was the practice of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take Native American children away from their families and place them in boarding schools. There they would be purged of the indian-ness, they would be forced to practice Christianity and punished for speaking their native languages. Vicious beatings and sexual abuse was common. 
Poverty: While some tribes have prospered because of Indian casinos, most Native Americans continue to live in horrible poverty with unemployment rates well over 50%.
Poisoning: One alternative to poverty is allowing resource mining on tribal lands. Native Americans suffer to a far greater degree than the general population from uranium, lead, and mercury poisoning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Murder For Fun

It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it. ~ Robert E. Lee
It seems some in the American military have grown too fond of the war in Afghanistan, they have taken to killing humans for sport. Of course, they are not hunting and killing armed men who can fight back. That would be too dangerous. They really didn't give their victims a fighting chance, in that they are worse even than General Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game.
"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth..."
"But they are men," said Rainsford hotly.
"Precisely," said the general. "That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure."
Still from the 1932 movie.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wisconsin's Scarlet Letter Girl

The compassionate part of me wants to feel sorry for the woman who fucked her way into a mid-level government job in Wisconsin.

Everyone in her new department, everyone in the entire building knows who she is and what she did to get her job. It's like she has a great big red letter stitched to her blouse. Her co-workers will whisper about her, make crude jokes, point and laugh.

And it won't end when she leaves. The story will follow her with any government job she has. And if she goes back to private sector lobbying her reputation will go with her. Horny politicians will expect, and demand, that she put out for their votes too. Monica Lewinsky had to leave the country to get away from the scarlet letter branded onto her.

My compassion is tempered by the knowledge that if she and her politician lover had been Democrats the scandal would have been 1000 times worse. So, really, she is getting off easy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

God the Mass Murderer

One of the strongest articles of faith among evangelical Christians is that their God is a mass murderer.

The latest is Franklin Graham opining that the tsunami in Japan was just God sending a message. God being all powerful and all chose to massacre tens of thousands of innocents rather than, I don't know, leave a message on Graham's voice mail.

God's voice on FOX, Glenn Beck, also saw the devastation in Japan as a message to "stop doing some of that stuff we're doing." Hey, ya think, maybe, you could be a little more specific?

A year ago, Pat Robertson laid the blame for a couple hundred thousand innocent deaths from the earthquake in Haiti as God vengeance for their rebelling against slavery 200 years ago. I can't think of anything snide to say, Pat Robertson is one sick bastard.

According to fundamentalists, God is our shepherd and he goes about joyfully butchering us humans like so much mutton.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lobbyist As Prostitute

As a general rule male corporate lobbyists are middle-aged power brokers like Tom Daschle and Haley Barbour. Most are rather repulsive to look at.

Conversely, a remarkable large number of women corporate lobbyists are young and blond. They don't have the connections and experience of male colleagues, which is a problem for those who take their jobs seriously. But, there are a lot of women in the profession who have discovered that taking a horizontal lobbying position makes for good connections.

Sometimes there are only rumors and allegations like the lobbyist tied to John McCain and the woman rumored to have bedded Speaker John Boehner. Sometimes you can't separate what's fact from what is the randy fantasies of gray haired man-child.

Other times, as with Wisconsin State Senator Randy Hopper , there is no need to deal with scuzzy little rumors. The scuzzy facts are all over the place. And the facts prove that these are not love matches but straight up whore deals. Hopper's mistress parlayed a well placed vagina into into a cushy state job.

Of course, all lobbyists are prostitutes, some are just more honest about it than others.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Rhetoric of Disaster

One thing to remember about the Japanese nuclear disaster: Government and corporate officials will grossly understate the dangers while people 5,000 miles away will fantasize armageddon.
So, it is only a matter of time before Tokyo Electric Power executives begin talking about the health benefits of radiation while people in California start predicting mothers will give birth to green babies with five arms.

Painting is the Art of Rhetoric by Anton Akrhipov.

The Price of Dithering

There was a time when Western intervening in the Libyan Civil War would have had a potential upside with little attendant risk. That time is past. Any intervention now will require far greater risks of both casualties and failure.
If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twer well, 
It were done quickly ~ MacBeth
'Tis better to have never considered a no-fly zone than to chat it up publicly and ultimately doing nothing. Or worse, acting so late as to be a futile gesture.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Thoughts on Earthquakes and Atoms

As horrible as the Japanese earthquake/tsunami has been, and it is horrible with thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, it is something from which a nation can recover. It will take time and energy and money but Japan can rebuild. That may not be the case with the nuclear disaster currently unfolding.

Worst Case Planning
Engineers never plan for the worst possible scenario. Whether it is a dam or a building or a power plant, engineers always have to compromise safety with the accountants cold-hearted cost-benefit calculations.
In the case of the Fukushima nuclear facilities (above) the nuclear reactors themselves survived both the earthquake and tsunami. It was from the ancillary structures - emergency power, spent rod storage - where less care was taken because they were not considered vital that the crisis was born. In those soft structures and the wires and piping connecting them the tsunami found the vulnerable points to attack.
Fukushima, after.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.
Panic Mode
The latest news has workers using water cannons to try to cool the nuclear fuel. This doesn't fit in with some plan, it is pure desperation. Everything they've tried up to now hasn't worked, every morning dawns with conditions worsened. The emergency response template has long ago been thrown out the window. They have been reduced to improvising, and praying.

The fifty men still working at Fukushima have already received enough radiation to start showing early signs of radiation poisoning. They are all knowledgeable and know this yet they stay and fight.

The Future of Nuclear Power
As an environmentalist I have never been as opposed to nuclear energy as most of my fellows. Other forms of energy have their own dangers. My problem has been their weak concern for disposing of waste, which is nastier than the coal industry's arsenic waste. There is no profit in nuclear waste so the industry just wants to practice a dump and forget strategy.

Safe Until It Isn't
I also never bought their "nuclear energy is safe and clean" argument. Nuclear energy is like a handgun. It is perfectly safe until something happens, then it is very deadly. And I'm not very sanguine about the industry's dedication to safety because I know that for over 50 years the nuclear industry has been protected from liability by the federal government.

Ring of Fire
Just about everyone I know lives somewhere on the Ring of Fire. I'm kind of fatalistic about the dangers of earthquakes. I have stores of food and water, in case. But I know if the earth quakes hard enough there is not a precaution available that will be sufficient.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Middle Eastern Chaos

  • Egypt, with an army of conscripts, was unwilling to attack its own citizens. Freedom ensued without oil to muddy the prospects.
  • Libya, with an army substantially of African mercenaries, has no such qualms about slaughtering the people at will.
  • Bahrain imported Saudi troops which are enthusiastic in their bloodshed. 
  • Saudi Arabians are certain to learn the intended lesson that the Saudi monarchy is quite willing to be just as brutal against its own citizens.
The world cheered on the Egyptians noble fight for freedom. But put oil under the ground and the global community ceases to reach such nobility. All of a sudden, freedom is a complected concept that requires endless dithering.

Let us be clear here, for most of the world a human life is far less valuable that a gallon of sweet crude.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wisconsin's Rump Parliament

Cromwell's troops purge parliament
Scott Walker and the Walkerettes (aka the Wisconsin State Senate) continue doing a spot on interpretation of Oliver Cromwell and his radical Puritans.

This time Senate Republicans have been instructed to ignore and not record any Democratic committee votes. It is an outrageous assault on the basic principals of representative democracy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On This Day in History, 1911

  • William Howard Taft was in his second year as president. There would be 17 more presidents.
  • The Chinese revolution of Sun Yet-sen that was to end the Manchu Dynasty was still five months from starting.
  • The Mexican revolution of Emiliano Zapata was ongoing.
  • In the largest anti-trust action in history, Standard Oil would be broken up in just two months.
  • The first coast-to-coast US flight, taking 49 days with 69 stops including 16 crash landings, would occur in eight months.
  • Wisconsin had just elected the first socialist to the United States Congress.
  • Ottawa would begin a two game Stanley Cup tournament against Galt in two days. Marty Walsh would score 13 goals in the two games.
  • The most famous person born on this day is Sir Fitzroy MacLean, who I have never heard of.
Also on this day in 1911, my father was born. He celebrates his 100th birthday today. Happy Birthday Dad.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin: Rage and Revenge

Wisconsin Republicans just shoved their union busting bill up the ass of Wisconsin citizens today. It is certain now that angry voters will sign recall petitions in record time. Therefore, Republicans next step will be to follow through on the trial balloon that State Senator Scott Fitzgerald floated. I expect a quick, secret rewrite of the state's recall laws to protect Republican legislators from the righteous wrath of the people.

Wisconsin is going to get really ugly.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Georgia Crackers

Gotta hand it to Georgia Republicans, they are working overtime to earn their reputations as the dumbest white trash south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Already this year Georgia has proposed making having a miscarriage an act of murder and declaring United States currency illegal in the state. Now they want to lift the tax burden off those poor, put upon millionaires and shift it to Girl Scouts selling cookies.

Then there are the non-legislators like Erick Erickson and his support on CNN for segregation in education and all the crazy that is Newt Gingrich.

Georgia: Where being called a dumbshit is considered high praise.

Monday, March 07, 2011

War of the Silver Kings

The same financial speculators who drove up the price of food leading to North African revolutions are now playing with the price of oil. It's all just a game to them, a child's game being played by childish adults. For example:

Hunt Silver Play
In the 1970's two sons of oil billionaire H. L. Hunt (Bunker and Herbert) were middle-aged failures who had inherited some $13 billion of daddy's fortune. They decided to make their own fortunes by cornering the market for silver.

In the early 1970's, at $2/oz, they began buying silver bullion by the ton. The price doubled and redoubled. Every time the price when up they bought more. They bought bullion and futures contracts. As the price of silver rose still further these two aged children began borrowing against their vast Texas oil wealth to buy more and more silver.

The price reached $20/oz, then $30/oz, then $40/oz, then peaking at $50/oz. The Hunt boys had tied up so much silver there wasn't enough left circulating in the marketplace for the many commercial businesses that needed the metal. In 1980, the Commodities Exchange set new rules for margin purchases. Silver started falling to its natural price level, quickly.

The Hunt boys were heavily leveraged and had bought hundreds of millions of dollars of silver futures at the inflated prices. The boys were caught in a margin squeeze so tight the Feds had to negotiate a bank bailout for them. By 1989, Bunker Hunt was worth less than $10 million and he owed $90 million to the IRS which was garnishing his income from daddy's trust fund. Still only a man-child, Bunker Hunt spent his days playing with his race horses.

See also:

Extra Credit: The 1957 first episode of the TV show Maverick was called "War of the Silver Kings."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Most Dangerous Man In the World

With appreciation to Attaturk for pointing me to this classically prescient Monty Python skit. Mr. Neutron, the most dangerous man in the world, was being hunted by the combined might of the world powers.

Moscow, Peking, and Shanklin (Isle of White) combined forces with the United States to bomb Cairo, Bangkok, Capetown, Buenos Aires, Harrow, Hammersmith, Stepney, Wandsworth, and Enfield in an all out effort to get Mr. Neutron. But always it was the wrong place (Sorry, Enfield.).

Of course, there are appallingly expensive scenes of devastation and horror, all done very expensively. 

It's like the Monty Python writers channeled Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and Carnac the Magnificent to foresee the future that is the 21st century. It kinda puts life in perspective when you realize the entire War of Terror is really just an elaborate comedy sketch.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The World Fiddles; Libya Burns

When Tunisia revolted the world was shocked because it was so unexpected. When Egypt arose the world stood back because, while Mubarak was an asshole, he was our asshole.
Now Libyans are trying to throw off the psychopathic regime of Moammar Gadhafi, a man that no one save Hugo Chavez can stomach, and the world is just standing back watching.

He is using tanks to attack under-armed rebels and bombing helpless civilians from the air. All the while the United Nations, Arab League, African Union, and the United States wring their hands and do nothing.

The excuse, of course, is the same as Pol Pot's devastation of Cambodia and the Hutu genocide in Rwanda - the suffering of others is none of our business. Add in the fact that the world only values what lies beneath the sands of Libya (oil) and that the nations of the world believe the flesh living above ground is worthless.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the Pentagon has a purely selfish reason for seeing the Libyan Civil War play out without interruption. They are using similar tactics (tanks and aerial attacks) in Afghanistan and they are hoping to pick up a few tips from how Gadhafi's forces do things.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Wisconsin Police State, Part 4

Wisconsin's Capitol police have taken their assignment to use force against Democratic legislators to heart. Last night they physically assaulted Assemblyman Nick Milroy inside the Capitol.

No comment, although the word Sturmabteilung does spring to mind.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Wisconsin Police State, Part 3

The Wisconsin Republican Senate has taken the next logical step in imposing a police state. They have ordered the arrest of Democratic members of the body. Exactly how far are Republicans willing to go is the question.

Since Illinois officials will not recognize such an order will Wisconsin Republicans hire bounty hunters to kidnap Democrats and carry them against their will across the border? If a Democratic Senator is found in the state will he be handcuffed and transported to the capital? Will the sergeant-at-arms chain Democrats to their desks to prevent their leaving? Will they be imprisoned?

The official use of force against legislators is beyond disturbing. It is an assault against the very concept of a free state.
Gov. Walker seems to be channeling Oliver Cromwell.

Wisconsin Police State, Part 2

I could not walk through the building unless I was accompanied by both a staffer and a police officer, every single step of the way to my representative's office. I was told that I would not be allowed to use the restroom without a police officer in attendance. ~ Talking Points Memo
The State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin has become a place that is hard to envision. To merely enter the Capitol on the "peoples business" requires passing through a gauntlet that would have embarrassed Joe Stalin.

Gov. Scott Walker has made democracy so difficult that several legislators actually moved their offices outside the building.
The sight of stern-faced thugs in police uniforms blocking access to public buildings ought to chill the blood of all Americans. See also Substance News.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Why Is the Military Resisting a Libyan No-Fly Zone?

I'm not suggesting the US or UN become active participants in the Libyan Civil War. I can see both sides of this including that there would be considerable friendly fire accidents, we might have to choose between factions if the rebels splinter, and the last thing American needs is to get involved in another Muslim war. But the question is why is the "gung-ho" military so reluctant?

It Would Be a 'Military Operation'
This is what passes for an official reason (To which the appropriate reply is, "Duh! That's your job."). The Pentagon is heavy laden with bureaucrats and can't do anything without months of planning. This inflexibility has been a major problem in Afghanistan.

They Are Scared
The last air-to-air combat for a US pilot was over Yugoslavia in 1999. Sure, the current generation of pilots have flown lots of sorties (drilling holes in the air) and bombed defenseless ground forces but aerial combat is a lost skill.

It is well known that Gadhafi's fighters are mostly highly paid mercenaries. What is not known is where is he hiring these mercs. The best paid, best trained soldiers of fortune are Americans. It is possible that Navy and Air Force commanders know that their old buddies and bunkmates are flying Libyan planes and and they don't want to endanger their friends.

Also possible is that Blackwater (Xe) has quietly told commanders to stay out of the fight and that anyone attacking mercenary forces in Libya will forfeit any chance of future employment in the lucrative field of private warfare.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Wisconsin Police State

Gov. Scott Walker has this week used armed police to restrict public access to the state capitol building. This action is unconstitutional - violating article 1, paragraph 4 of the Wisconsin constitution - and illegal as it violated Wisconsin statute 757.14.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney denounced Gov. Walker's attempt to turn his officers into a "palace guard" denying the people of free access to their legislature.
Gov. Walker has made nifty palace guard uniforms a budget priority.
Judge Daniel Moeser today ordered public access to the Capitol restored. Walker's minions have so far ignored the judge's order.

E-mail Security

I've shared this story once before so there is no need to repeat it except for this advise.

E-mail is the electronic equivalent of a postcard made of Teflon. Anyone who puts anything even remotely secret in an e-mail is a Grade A dolt.