Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Shall Sequestration Bring

I've been listening to the news and know what to expect.
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! 
Rivers and seas boiling!
Forty years of darkness! 

Earthquakes, volcanoes...
The dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, 

dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! ~ Ghostbusters

Artist Credit

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Devil's Dictionary (Updated)

Starting in 1881, Ambrose Bierce began writing his Devil's Dictionary with definitions more accurate than those of Noah Webster.

Austerity (n) - An economic theory that forces the working class to suffer for the excesses of the rich.

Collateral Damage (n) - An armed forces tactic composed of bombing the crap out of innocent women and children on the off chance of surprising a terrorist.

Corporation (n) - (See People)

Elections (n) - In Italy, an unpopular situation comedy.

Freedom Fighter (n) - A revolutionary opposed to oppression by a dictatorship the United States disapproves of. (See Terrorist)

Gerrymandering (n) -  Formerly a corrupt political practice of drawing bizarre political boundaries to insure one political party wins elections even while having fewer votes. Currently an honored political practice of drawing bizarre political boundaries to insure the Republican Party wins elections even while having fewer votes.

Jim Crow Laws (n) - (see Voter ID)

Magazine (n) - Formerly a periodical printed on paper and delivered through the mail. Now a container holding 100 bullets, the minimum number of rounds required for drunken louts to go squirrel hunting and return with one desiccated corpse.

Mail (n) - An archaic form of communication whereby someone would write words on a piece of paper and it would be delivered by a conscientious employee of the Federal government.

People (n) - Formerly mortal beings of the species Homo Sapiens. Currently defined to include immortal entities engaged in the exercise of exploiting Homo Sapiens for profit.

Religion (n) - A universal excuse for hate.

Second Amendment (n) - Formerly a law to allow Davy Crockett to carry a flintlock Kentucky long rifle into the wilderness while hunting bear. Currently interpreted to allowing Billy Bob Hatfield to carry an AR-15 assault rifle to the corner drug store to buy a tin of chewing tobacco.

Sequestration (n) - (See  Austerity)

Terrorist (n) - A revolutionary opposed to oppression by a dictatorship the United States approves of. (See Freedom Fighter)

Voter ID - (See Jim Crow Laws)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sequestration Means Austerity

Sequestration is one of those masquerade words Americans like to come up with to hide distasteful concepts. Like calling bombing the shit out of women and children "collateral damage" makes it seem nicer. Sequestration is just another word for austerity.

What Is Austerity?
Austerity is an economic system that's all the rage in Europe right now. It consists of making the working class suffer for the excesses of the rich. As an economic theory it is stupid.

Austerity is like shooting yourself in the foot to cure the flu. The pain will certainly distract you from the flu symptoms, but your feet have nothing to do with the disease and shooting off a couple of toes won't help any.

The logic of austerity is to drive millions of workers out of jobs and then take away their unemployment insurance.  This terrifies everyone who still has a job into making do on diets of cold beans and moldy bread thus teaching several generations of the working class to expect nothing more out of life than bitter hardship. This makes for a much more obsequious and cheaper labor force for the wealthy to exploit.

Why Do Politicians Like Austerity?
Mostly because the wealthy pay them to like it. Liberals believe the hardship of austerity will force more voters to oppose the party of Conservative aristocrats. Conservative politicians believe driving millions into homelessness will disenfranchise them, reducing the votes for the Liberal party.

Does It Work?
As an economic theory, no. Austerity has never recovered a struggling economy.

As a political theory the results are mixed. The austerity of Herbert Hoover elected the liberal FDR. However the austerity of the Wiemar Republic caused the election of a conservative Adolph Hitler. Then there was austerity program the Bourbon monarchy imposed on late 18th century France that caused the working class to gather up the aristocrats and cut off their heads.
Madame La Guillotine answers austerity.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Popish Stories

The leader of the Roman Catholic faith has often been quite nefarious.

Youngest Pope (Benedict IX)
In 1032, Alberic III, Count of Tusculum (near Rome), gave his son a present for his twelfth birthday. He made him pope. Benny grew into his reign like any unsupervised teen with absolute power would. He held orgies, raped nuns, and murdered people who displeased him. In 1045 Benny sold the papacy to a priest who became Gregory VI then used some of the money to hire German mercenaries to take the papacy back by force. He was finally forced out by the German King Henry who appointed his own pope (Clement II) who, in turn, named Henry the Holy Roman Emperor.

Lady Pope (Joan I)
This one is called a legend, the Catholic Church swears it never happens, and there is absolutely no historical record of a female pope. Still, the story has existed for 1000 years. Disguised as a man by her lover, a women in the 9th century becomes a religious scholar. She quickly rises in the church and is elected pope, taking the name Pope John. Only her lover knows the truth. The ruse continues successfully for a couple of years but the pope has become pregnant. The pope gives birth during a public procession and is stoned to death by the shocked faithful. The Church has purged all record of her existence but it is said that to this day popes shun the street in Rome where she gave birth.

Last Honest Pope (Liberius)
Liberius was the last pope to publicly acknowledge the possibility that Jesus had been a man and not a god. As a consequence he is the only pope of the first 49 to have not been made a saint.

Last Murdered Pope (John Paul I)
Dozens of popes have been murdered throughout history. In 1978, the Vatican Bank was up to their vestments with the Italian Mafia as their main money launderer. The newly elected pope was planning to purge the Vatican of its corrupt practices. As a consequence, Pope John Paul was poisoned. Within an hour of his body being discovered church officials called in embalmers. A funeral was hastily organized and John Paul was entombed inside a week, burying any evidence for eternity.

Most Corrupt (Alexander VI)
Lots to choose from here but Alexander VI was the Borgia pope. Borgia bought the office, according to tradition, by bribing the cardinals with four mule loads of silver. His reign was rife with orgies, bribery, poisoning, judicial murder and extortion. He kept a stable of mistresses and fathered several children upon whom he bestowed lucrative papal offices. Alexander liked to keep score during orgies and rewarded cardinals who could ejaculate most often.

Most Debauched (Paul III & John XII)
Again, there are way too many to choose from including Alex; I have to award a tie. Paul III (1534-1549) murdered his mother to inherit the family fortune. His biggest claim to fame is that he organized and controlled all 45,000 Roman prostitutes and took a cut of their income. Pope Paul III was a papal pimp.

John XII, like many popes, held bi-sexual orgies in the sacred palace which included having sex on the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. He appointed a ten year-old boy a bishop and took the child as his lover. John raped his sisters and nieces. Pope John XII was killed by the husband of one of his lovers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Fall of A-Rod

Big town you lured me,
Big town you cured me,
Tho' others hate to say goodbye to you
I'm leavin' but I'll never sigh for you.
Big town you robbed me
of every joy I knew.
~ Crying for the Carolines
These lyrics are from a 1929 cartoon and a 1930 movie short. Whenever I think of baseball player Alex Rodriguez I am reminded of these words.
By every account, when Alex Rodriguez started playing professional baseball at the age of 18 he wasn't just a phenomenal talent, he had the same simple joy for the game as any kid playing little league. By the time he was 20, he had become A-Rod, a superstar, and the joy was being replaced with corrupting ambition.

Habitually, A-Rod has been a player who has made his team worse by joining it and better by leaving it. The year after he left Seattle (2001) the Mariners tied the record for the most wins by a team in the history of major league baseball. The Texas Rangers added Rodriguez, his $22 million salary, and improved by just two games. Their 2001 record was 73 wins, 89 losses, and a fourth place finish.

When A-Rod was traded by Texas in 2004 the Rangers improved by 18 wins. The Rangers paid the New York Yankees $67 million to take A-Rod and the seven years left on his contract.

The Yankees, well, they are the Yankees. A-Rod became just another overpaid, drug abusing athlete on a team full of them that wins consistently through the simple expediency of buying up all the available talent every season.

The Yankees still owe A-Rod five years of salaries over $20 million a year yet his steroid ravaged body is breaking down. Sports Illustrated ranks A-Rod as the 23rd best third baseman in baseball, right behind San Diego minor leaguer Jedd Gyorko.

The "big town" lured a young lad who loved playing baseball. It has paid him a third of a billion dollars to play a child's game. But he is so hated and polluted by drug scandals he will probably never see the inside of the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket. He has no loved ones or friends, they have all been chased away. All he has left is a crew that hangs with him to feed off his money and fame.

The "big town" has taken away every joy he ever knew.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

al Qaeda's 22 Anti-Drone Tips

The US government has its panties in a twist that al Qaeda is disseminating a list of 22 tips on how to avoid getting killed by American drones. For the most part these tips are common sense tactics that have been used successfully for decades, even centuries.

Post Lookouts
8. Discovering the presence of a drone through well-placed reconnaissance networks. Posting lookouts is one of the oldest military tactics known. While drones are small and can fly at high altitudes when they are hunting they have to be low enough to spot their targets making lookouts a reasonable strategy.

Radio Jamming
Four of the tips relate to various jamming techniques. Certainly the greatest vulnerability of drones is that they are completely dependent on radio communication. It's possible to use frequency hopping to defeat jammers but it is also possible to defeat frequency hopping.

18. Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy. I love this because it is right out of the American playbook. During World War II the Americans organized an entire fake army, complete with inflatable tanks, and placed their best tactician, George Patton, in command. For al Qaeda to create fake terrorist meetings to attract drones is brilliant.

Run, Scatter
19. When discovering that a drone is after a car, leave the car immediately and everyone should go in different direction because the planes are unable to get after everyone.What could be more common sensible?

This. Half the tips involve hiding underground and under trees, using camouflage, don't stay in one place long enough to become a target, don't use radio communications. Basically, make yourself hard to target.

Now that domestic police are acquiring drones these tips are advice all Americans should consider.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

American Police State: Sports Division

Prison Sponsorship
Florida Atlantic University has been looking for a corporate sponsor for their football field and has chosen a for-profit prison. Their choice may help then recruit young criminals to their campus. Traditionally the University of Florida has led in that effort.

Pepper Spray Rally
Police in Utah became terrified when a group of dark skinned (Polynesian Mormons) high schools students began a chant after a school football game. The police broke up then cheering by attacking everyone, including children as young as four, with pepper spray.

Pro Athlete Miscegenation
This is from 2006. A star linebacker with the San Diego Chargers, Steve Foley, was driving home late one night with a girl friend. He was black, she white. They were spotted by an off-duty cop from the nearly all-white city of Coronado. The cop followed the football player and tried, unsuccessfully, to force him off the road. The cop followed Foley home and shot him three times. Foley was unarmed.

The athlete was found guilty of drunk driving; his injuries were so severe he never again played football. The white girl friend was charged with a felony for trying to interfere in the shooting and received five years probation. The cop is still on the job and was honored as an Outstanding DUI Officer of the Year in 2011 for his stance that drunk driving is a "zero-tolerance offense."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Price of Slaves

A recent report lists the ten richest presidents in American history. It glosses over the fact that four of those ten were slave holders and a portion of their wealth was in human chattel.
The value of a slave is difficult to pin down. Estate sale prices were bargains, about $400. Auction prices for a strong field hand could reach $1000 each. Prices fluctuated with the economy. Then, of course, we have to factor in inflation.

George Washington: Washington possessed 316 slaves at the time of his death, including 40 rentals. The value of Washington's human property probably exceeded $4 million in current dollars. Washington considered his human property lazy and gave his overseers written permission to whip them.

Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson was known for treating his slaves well including buying individuals just to keep families together. On the other hand, there are stories of abuse like a 17 year-old man who, on becoming ill, was flogged three times a day to force more work out of him. Jefferson generally owned in excess of 200 slaves valued at more than $3 million.

Andrew Jackson: Jackson own 150 slaves and was a slave breeder. In advertising for the return of a runaway slave, Jackson offered a $50 reward plus an addition $10 for every 100 lashes given the runaway. In current dollars Jackson slaves probably are valued at $2 million.

James Madison: In the 1820 census, Madison reported he owned 106 slaves. While Madison frequently wrote his opposition to slavery he never extended it to his actual life and even refused to free his slaves in his will. We can appraise his slaves at about $1.5 million.

When slaves were emancipated by Abraham Lincoln it is estimated the South lost $3.5 billion (in 1860 dollars) in assets. Adjusting for inflation that is $50 trillion in today's money.

The price of a slave today is considerably less. A health male slave in Mali will sell for just $40. The estimate is 27 million humans are held today as slaves around the world. The number of sex and labor slaves held in the United States today is estimated at about 10,000 people although it may be much higher. That doesn't count the more than 100,000 prison laborers in the United States earning as little as 17 cents per hour.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dolphin Superpod

Scientists are trying to explain the massive dolphin pod off California, seven miles long by five miles wide containing over 100,000 sentient sea creatures. Add this to the numerous significant meteorites - Russia, Cuba, California, Florida - in just the last few days and we are scoring eleven on the weird scale.

Anyone who has read Douglas Adams knows what is happening. The earth is about to be destroyed and the dolphins, being far smarter than humans, know this and are gathering to board their space ship for an exit.

Expect a message soon, "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gambling and the State of Addiction

When I first say this headline I thought it was a misprint. How could anyone, let alone the wife of the founder of Jack in the Box and the former mayor of a major American city, lose a billion dollars playing slot machines.

I knew Maureen O'Connor when she was mayor of San Diego, I had two friends on the city council and was a familiar face at City Hall. So it was sad to see that she had become the victim of a horrible addiction.

There is little difference between video poker machines and crack pipes. Both are media to deliver a mind numbing euphoria. The victims of crack tend to be young minorities while video poker victims tend to be the elderly. And, of course, pervading crack is a major felony while in many places offering video poker gambling is perfectly legal.

Maureen got in trouble when she started visiting the many Indian casinos in San Diego's back country. I've never opposed Indian gaming, not because I thought in a noble pursuit but because whites had been robbing Native Americans of their pride and property for two centuries and I didn't see a problem in them returning the favor.

But casinos are a curse. They victimize the vulnerable. In California, at least, Indian casinos are generally located on unlit, rural roads that become death traps when the casinos release their drunk and depressed victims to drive home.
A half century ago Rod Serling wrote a classic Twilight Zone episode on this subject. A slot machine obsessed Franklin (above), calling to him, following him, taunting him, bankrupting him, and driving him to suicide.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Now a Cuba Meteor

That meteor exploding over a city in Russia was spectacular. The near Earth fly-by of a dinosaur extincting asteroid was kinda scary. Last night there was another meteor exploding, this time over Cuba.

Imagine if these exact things had happened exactly 50 years ago, in 1962, during the Cold War when the US and Russian nuclear arsenals were on a hair trigger. We all wouldn't be obsessed with things like sequestration or the  Kardashians. We'd be plotting how to steal that fresh meat away from a gang of mutant cockroaches.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dorner and the Burning Cabin

In case you were interested, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's SWAT team deliberately burned down the cabin Chris Dorner was holed up in.

The pyrotechnic tear gas used against Dorner is intended for use in outdoors crowd control as the explosive charge spreads the tear gas widely quickly. They are also sometimes used on hardened targets like concrete bunkers. SWAT has cold tear gas for uses on flammable structures.

They are not for use on wooden structures because pyrotechnic tear gas canisters burn at over 1000 degrees F. There is no benefit to using pyrotechnic tear gas on a small wooden structure except it greatly increases the probability of the building catching fire.

To a certain extent I understand why the SWAT team used an incendiary weapon. Dorner had already shot two deputies during the siege and the police were both scared and wanted vengeance. If they had had access to Hellfire missiles they would have used them. Hell, they would have nuked the cabin if only Kim Jung-un had returned their call.

Just don't believe the story the fire was an "accident."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lying Liars

I still want to parse the SOTU address but let's get rid of a few minor stories.

Stiffing the Citizenry
Remember that $1.2 million reward that was offered for information on murderous rogue cop Chris Dorner? Well, that was all a lie. Now that the most wanted man since Osama bin Laden is a smoldering pile of ash (allegedly) the smart money is predicting that officials will invoke the fine print clauses in the reward offer and keep all the money.

Rubio's Watergate
Marco Rubio's lunge for water during the official reply to the State of the Union address was a sign that Rubio is not ready for prime time, but not for the reason you think. The reply to the SOTU is prerecorded. Rubio did multiple takes of his short speech, at least one in Spanish. Between flop sweat and blown lines, the take where Rubio reaches awkwardly for a little water was just his least worse performance. His takes after that one were pathetic.

Crying for the Caroline
Mark Sanford, last seen abandoning his wife, children, and responsibilities as governor of South Carolina to chase tail in Argentina, is back. The truth is there are few jobs available for serial liars with a proven history of gross betrayal except as Republican politicians.

The Man In the Iron Mask
Israel is getting all Kafkaesque on her citizens. The story of "Citizen X," as far as what is known which is not very far, is chilling. It was only after he was tormented into committing suicide that a little of his story has been released. Arrested in secret and held secretly for crimes so secret only secret charges were ever filed, he was disappeared into a secret section of a prison. No one knew where or why he had disappeared.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dorner and the Mad Trapper Story

Finally, after weeks of nothing, a cornucopia of things to writer about. First, the Chris Dorner standoff last night reminds me of the famous true story of the manhunt for the Mad Trapper of Rat River.
Mad Trapper's destroyed cabin.
Several years ago while flying from Inuvik to a lake at the headwaters of the Porcupine River our bush pilot took a detour over a stretch of wilderness. Our pilot wanted to see the the place where the hunt for Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper, had begun.

In the winter of 1931, fur trappers in a remote region of the Yukon complained to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that a rogue trapper was messing with their equipment. Johnson shot at the Mounties sent to investigate then barricaded himself in his 8 by 10 foot cabin.

Mounties retreated and returned to Johnson's cabin with reinforcements and dynamite. After a short siege in minus 40 degree temperatures the Mounties tossed dynamite on the roof of Johnson's cabin. The explosion destroyed the shelter (see above). When Mounties approached the ruins of the cabin to remove Johnson's corpse the very much alive Albert Johnson fired at the officers from a bunker he had dug under the floor of his cabin.

The Mounties retreated to their barracks for still more reinforcements. The returned to find that Johnson had set out on foot towards Alaska during one of the coldest winters in Yukon history.

Mounties tracked Johnson from the ground and air for weeks. Johnson was traveling by snowshoe faster than experienced guides could follow him on dogsleds. The Mounties blockaded the only passes over the Richardson Mountains so Johnson climbed a 7,000 foot ridge during a blizzard without any climbing gear.

Johnson couldn't hunt or light a fire because either action would reveal his location to his pursuers. In less then three days he traveled over 85 miles across rugged wilderness, in darkness (at that latitude and time of year the nights are 22 hours long), in temperatures so cold spit would freeze before it hits the ground.

Airplane pilots finally found Johnson's fresh trail on the frozen Eagle River. They trapped Johnson in the open. A firefight broke out where one Mountie was seriously wounded. It took nine bullets to kill Albert Johnson.

During the manhunt, Johnson killed one Mountie and wounded two. He performed feats of survival that natives to the Yukon considered impossible. And to this day nobody knows who Albert Johnson was, even if that was his real name, or where he came from. He has become a Canadian legend.
A painting hanging in the Mad Trapper Pub, Inuvik, Canada

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I Believe

I believe...

The Pope is resigning because he is sick. I've thought that homophobic misogynist was a sick, deeply disturbed individual since he was a 14 year-old Nazi.

Chris Dorner is a murderous sociopath. At the same time I believe the LAPD is and has been a corrupt street gang that routinely engages in recreational torture.

President Obama is most similar to Grover Cleveland. Both were far better than any of their Republican opponents but both surrendered too easily to Wall Street aristocrats.

Malala Yousufzai deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for advocating the education of women. Her courage and dedication deserve to be celebrated and encouraged.

Republicans hate Americans. They intend to trash the economy to punish America for reelecting the President. Republicans would filibuster an Arbor Day resolution if it were proposed by President Obama.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dorner: the Unusual Suspect

The hunt for the cop killing ex-cop would be farce if innocent people weren't getting shot and killed.

Police, armed for war, have been going door-to-door in Big Bear during a bitter blizzard searching for Chris Dorner even though he is almost certainly nowhere near that mountain resort. Dorner knows police tactics - if he leaves an obvious clue, like his burned out truck, it is because he wants the police to overreact to it. Dorner likely had another car, unregistered and probably bought for cash, stored in Big Bear waiting to swap out for his easily identified truck.

Every clue the police are chasing is something Dorner left behind deliberately. They are false clues. The police themselves are behaving like imbeciles - shooting at innocent citizens and running around like Keystone Cops.
If Dorner's goal was to embarrass the LAPD, he has succeeded.

Where is Dorner now? 
Possibly living in an SRO in one of those dangerous neighborhoods where police are afraid to go except in groups with tactical backup. He is probably not far from Los Angeles because Dorner knows he is most vulnerable when he travels. He would choose a place with few security cameras, Beverly Hills is out, and he has probably established his presence there so he wouldn't be a scary new face.

That said, Dorner is holed up. He has supplies of food and water for several weeks. He'll have enough cash to stay off the grid indefinitely. Having made his intentions known, Dorner will now lie low while police agencies exhaust themselves in the manhunt. He will not venture out of his room where he might be accidentally spotted unless it is absolutely necessary. When his hunters are tired and bored Dorner will strike again then retreat back into hiding.

Dorner probably has an extensive arsenal stored in several caches. He likely bought the weapons legally, with cash. Since background check information (as an ex-cop Dorner would pass background checks with ease) is quickly destroyed, there will be no records of what and where he bought his weapons and munitions.

A Note to the Police
I don't have any actual knowledge here, only what I have learned from movies (the Bourne trilogy), books (1984), and TV police procedurals. Also, if one wants to learn how to be a successful murderous lunatic one ought to study the Beltway Sniper, what worked and where they failed. Their success hinged on striking quickly and disappearing. Their failure came in driving around too much and sleeping in their car where they could be stumbled upon and arrested. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

American Police State: Beserker Division

It's safe to say the LAPD is scared shitless. Yesterday morning police in Torrence shot up a car carrying two petite Latino women, wounding both, who they had mistaken for a 277 pound black male. The police made no warning before they riddled the car with bullets. The women had made the critical error of delivering newspapers from a blue pickup truck in a neighborhood where a Los Angeles police officer targeted by a lunatic ex-cop lives.

A short time later other police officers spotted a similar truck nearby and emptied their weapons on it also without warning, their panicked gunfire failed to hit the driver.

The Madnesss of Chris Dorner
I am a lunatic with lethal combat skills. ~ Xena
The cause of this hysteria is a rogue police officer who has vowed to kill as many Los Angeles police officers, and their families, as he can.

Simply put, Dorner broke the Blue Code of Silence and ratted out fellow officers who had abused prisoners. The LAPD ignored Dorner's accusations and then fired his ass for being a disloyal cop. Dorner thought about things for a couple of years and decided his best course of action was to go batshit insane.
I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! ~ Al Capone, the Untouchables
He has published a manifesto announcing his plans to kill corrupt Los Angeles cops, up to Chief of Police Charlie Beck. He also plans to kill their families because Dorner has no family of his own. To the joy of conservative commentators, Dorner used his manifesto to praise Piers Morgan and Barack Obama.

Dorner has already put his plan into action, killing the daughter of one of his police targets and her fiance. He has ambushed a few cops as well, killing one.

Dorner is not some jihadist or KKK survivalist. He is not an amateur wacko. He is a government trained killer determined to take as many police with him to his grave.

As of now police forces have Dorner pinned down in the San Bernardino Mountains. Or Las Vegas. Or San Diego. Or Arizona. Or Mexico. Basically they have Dorner trapped somewhere between the North Pole and the Equator.

Until Dorner is caught (fuck that, they intend to shot him down like a mad dog, collateral victims be damned) nobody in Southern California is safe either from Dorner or the police hunting for him.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Tool Using Animals

Orangutan spearfishing.
We humans like to think we are so damn smart, you know, we make tools and such. Some claim human toolmaking is proof of God. The fact is, a whole plethora of animals are adept at making and using tools.

Building Houses
Humans make houses and even build whole cities. So do birds and prairie dogs. Weaver finches make elegantly constructed nests. Octopi will take a stone and carve out a proper den for themselves. Termites build temperature controlled highrises.

Manipulating The Environment
Beaver dam complete with spillway.
Human scientists are still trying to figure out why beavers build dams. Theories include underwater food storage, protection from predators, to create an environment for the growth of yummy tubers, and because they just hate the sound of running water. Damsel fish plant, tend, and harvest fields of a particular fungus. Ants, of course, care for herds of aphids like tiny sheep ranchers.

We pride ourselves in thinking that nothing is more human than making and using weapons.
A lot of animals have come up with clever ways to create weapons. You've already seen the orangutan spear. The blanket octopus (above) will take the tendrils from a Portuguese Man O'War and wield them like a poisonous whip. Several birds are know to steal human bread and use bread crumbs as bait for fishing. Elephants will use their trunks to throw rocks at predators or annoying humans. The cleverest weapon user is the dolphin. He will grab a poisonous sea snake by the mid-section and swim through a school of fish swing the snake around. The angry snake bites at the fish. The paralyzed fish make an easy feast for the dolphin.

Tool Boxes
Crows and ravens have long been observed choosing and using twigs as tools to get at nutritious insects. What is less well known is that if they find a particularly useful tool they keep it and use it again and again. Some birds have collected a number of twigs and keep them together in a kind of tool box.

A fascinating blog on the subject is Animals Don't Think, kept by someone who knows animals are, in fact, very good thinkers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Drone Wars

There is a violence that liberates, and a violence that enslaves; there is a violence that is moral and a violence that is immoral. ~ Benito Mussolini
There are countless reasons to be disturbed by America's reliance on armed drones to assassinate our enemies.

These drones are inhuman robots flown by nerds with joysticks thousands of miles from the actual carnage. To these nerds it is just another video game to enjoy and the targets are nothing more than pixels to be obliterated.
One group of horsemen resembled a budding rose as bombs fell in their midst. ~ Vittorio Mussolini describing bombing villagers in Ethiopia
It is dishonorable. These are not people being killed in battle but victims ambushed in their sleep. Assassination has been a weapon of war since the dawn of civilization and it all those thousands of years it has always been considered the vile action of cowards and brigands.
Supporters claim these drones strike with laser-like efficiency but they are still blunt cudgels not sharp spears. More innocent children have been killed in the drone attacks than bad guys.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It is an act of war for a manned bombers to fly over sovereign airspace to drop bombs on people. It is, somehow, something less than war for the CIA to send unmanned drones to do precisely the same thing. Mostly this is because all sides, the US government and the foreign nations that have been violated, have a vested interest in pretending that acts of war are not acts of war.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

California In the News

Texas Poachers
If I owned both Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell. ~ Gen. Philip Sheridan, 1866
Texas Governor Rick Perry is using Texas tax money to seduce businesses to leave the Golden State and move to Baja Oklahoma. It makes sense. While California is a strong pro-union state, Texas has a massive slave (prison) labor resource. While California has a highly educated workforce, Texas schools teach creationism - a dumb worker is a happy worker.

State Budget Balanced
Now that the state has a Democratic governor and super majorities in the legislature, California was able to balance its budget easily. They did it by eliminating corporate tax breaks that paid companies to build useless structures like sports stadia. Oh, and we raised taxes on golfer Phil Mickelson.

Gaseous Prices
The price of produce is going up as the quality declines. This is because of a combination of drought and hard freezes. Gasoline is breaching $4.00 a gallon because this is California and the oil companies don't need to explain themselves to us peasants.

Black Bear Sighted in Desert
The bear on the California flag is a grizzly bear which was hunted to extinction in the state in 1922. A black bear was sighted recently in the high desert in eastern San Diego County. Don't know yet if it had migrated from the San Bernadino Mountains or was an illegal alien from Mexico.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Next Great Republican Purge

Joe Stalin (left) and three friends from the Russian Revolution. By 1938 all three had been purged from the Communist Party by their old friend Joe and executed on his orders.
One thing that endlessly amuses me is the habit of the Republican Party to emulate their old adversary, Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, and hold periodic party purges. Often they attack those who stray from orthodoxy in some small way and become RINOs.

Currently, the Republican Politburo has pointed its long knives at the Tea Party. Karl Rove, the Bush family's longtime executioner, has been tasked with driving Tea Party radicals from the Republican Party. There may not be show trials followed by firing squads, but with Rove you never now for sure.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Superbowl Stats of the Day

  • There are 48 minutes of commercials in the Superbowl.
  • There is eleven minutes of actual action in the average NFL game. 
  • There are 450 minutes of pre-game shows before Superbowl LXVII.
  • They could broadcast every minute of action in every Superbowl from 1967 to 2010 in that time.
  • Watching every minute of every commercial in every Superbowl game take a day and a half.
They say an actor hasn't truly made it until he has appeared on Broadway and a singer isn't truly washed-up until she performs on the Superbowl halftime show. So sorry, Beyonce.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The NRA's "Death List"

The National Rifle Association has published a list of its enemies. A well thought out list. An extensive list. When the NRA published such a list there is certainly the implied threat that "you're dead to me" will simply be translated to "you're dead!" The NRA's death list is frighteningly extensive.
  • The Elderly (the AARP, Grey Panthers)
  • Jews (American Jewish Committee, B`nai B`rith, Union of American Hebrew Congregations)
  • Minorities (NAACP, La Raza, Congress of National Black Churches)
  • Women (National Organization for Women, General Federation of Women`s Clubs, League of Women Voters, YWCA)
  • City Dwellers (Urban League, United States Conference of Mayors)
Just about every association of doctors and nurses is targeted. School and teachers groups are bulls-eyed. Religious institutions including the Catholic Conference and United Methodist Church are listed.

Scores of actors are on the hit list including tough guys like Sean Connery, Mark Harmon, Sylvester Stallone, and George Clooney. They also are targeting American sweethearts like Tara Lipinski and Mary Lou Retton. Britney Spears is on the list, which is just cruel given her troubles.

The Hallmark Greeting Card company is on the list, as are the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams football teams. Alan Colmes is pissed he didn't make the list.

They were careful not to put any sitting government officials on their list but the NRA does target a couple of retired judges. Just a hint, you know.

Friday, February 01, 2013

National Review Defends Hitler

Nazism may have been an ideology to which the United States was — and to which the president is — implacably opposed, but it is hardly “senseless.” ~ Eliana Johnson, National Review Media Editor
If ever there was an opinion by a conservative spokesperson that deserves extensive repetition it is these words from an employee of the flagship publication of American Republicanism.
[The Nazi Party's] political leaders campaigned on a platform comprising 25 non-senseless points, including the “unification of all Germans,” a demand for “land and territory for the sustenance of our people,” and an assertion that “no Jew can be a member of the race.” ~ same woman, same publication
Let's see what National Review considers "sensible."
  • The conquest of Germanic peoples in Austria, Sudetenland, and Poland.
  • The invasion and occupation of France and Russia to obtain "lebensraum," living space.
  • No German can be a Jew; no Jew can be German.
The actual text quoted by Ms. Johnson reads, "Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race."

I have read three days of National Review Online (a painful activity) and found none at the magazine willing to contradict Ms. Johnson's position although I give credit to the readers who are nearly unanimous in their condemnation.

I won't say that Ms. Johnson is anti-Semitic, although her other writings show a clear hatred of Semite Arabs. Ms. Johnson does senselessly hate President Obama to the point that when the President criticized the Holocaust she felt the need to irrationally defend Nazism.

To Ms. Johnson, if Obama condemns the Holocaust then Hitler must have been right.

A gigantic hat tip to TeamSarah4Choice at Daily Kos for discovering this.