Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nice to have friends ...

From the Weekly Standard (

After Katrina:
Three things President Bush could have done to curb the political fall-out.
by Fred Barnes
08/29/2006 12:00:00 AM

HURRICANE KATRINA caused the greatest natural disaster in American history. President Bush couldn't change that. But Katrina also was a political disaster for the president. And Bush, given a year to think about it, realizes he could have avoided that. What might the president have done differently? At least three things, starting with his decision two days after the levees broke--and New Orleans began to flood--to fly over the city in Air Force One without landing. Bush now knows he should have landed.


It's nice to know the self-described leading "conservative" news magazine thinks Job No. 1 and Problem No. 1 with the continued devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana is ... protecting the President's bum area from a nasty political diaper rash.

It's also bad when the very first two sentences of your 1,000 word essay are flat out wrong. The devastation of New Orleans was caused by human error. The fact that half of the population of New Orleans still cannot move back to their homes is due to human error. The fact that nobody today can tell these 200,000 citizens when or if they can ever move back to New Orleans is due to continued human error. But for Mr. Barnes, Job. 1 is protecting the President from any responsibility for any part of these human errors.


Here's a very different take ...

August 31, 2006

How to Reduce Urban Poverty Without Really Trying
By Robert B. Reich

Even though the national economy keeps growing, the number of impoverished Americans doesn't drop. According to the latest census report, household incomes edged up slightly in 2005. But 37 million people are still living below the poverty line, about the same as in 2004. (Small comfort: Last year was the first one poverty hasn’t actually increased since 2000, just before Bush took office.) About one out of four New Yorkers, for example, is living in poverty. New York’s mayor has appointed a commission to come up with ways to reduce that number.

Before Katrina hit, about one in four residents of New Orleans was also living in poverty. Today, New Orleans’ poverty rate is much lower. But that’s not because it did anything New York or any other city should try to emulate. New Orleans lowered its poverty rate by having a flood that wiped out the homes of its poor, and then made it hard for them to ever come back.

More than half of the people who lived in New Orleans before Katrina have still not returned. The poor have no place to return to. Their former houses are in rubble. Housing projects are closed. Poor neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward are still devastated. Inexpensive housing, even rental housing, is hard to find.

It’s an old story, really. Areas of any town or city where the infrastructure is most ignored – like the Industrial Canal levee that burst on the morning of August 29 a year ago – have the lowest property values. So that’s where the poor live. When there’s a flood or a leak of toxic wastes or any other calamity, these places are the first to become uninhabitable. Which means, the poor often have to leave. Then the political and moral question is whether anyone cares enough to help them return and rebuild.

Sometimes cities actively try to get rid of their poorest citizens. Not long ago officials in Fall River, Massachusetts, tried to raze a low income housing project and not replace it with any other affordable housing. Other cities have been known to give the poor one-way bus tickets out of state.

But more often it’s a matter of simply doing nothing. Last September, President Bush promised more than sixty billion dollars for the first stages of getting New Orleans back on its feat. But he made that money contingent of the city of New Orleans developing a recovery plan. The mayor of New Orleans appointed a commission to do that, but nothing came of it. The congressman who represents New Orleans came up with a proposal but the White House rejected it. The New Orleans City Council seems deadlocked. The governor of Louisiana had her own commission but it hasn’t come up with a plan, either. A year after Katrina and there’s no plan to redevelop its poorest neighborhoods, no housing for the displaced, barely a trickle of money to help them.

And since the poor who used to live in New Orleans don’t have their own money to rebuild there, they’ll probably stay where they are now – in Houston or Dallas or Birmingham or Jackson, Mississippi. At least until those cities figure out how to reduce their own poverty rates and send the poor somewhere else.

-- Guest contributor Robert B. Reich was Labor Secretary during the Clinton administration and is now a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Will you make up your minds?


WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.

And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism." (Full story)

White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.

"I think it's an appropriate definition of the war that we're in," said GOP pollster Ed Goeas. "I think it's effective in that it definitively defines the enemy in a way that we can't because they're not in uniforms."


Let's see. Under the only way in which Fascism has ever been defined, it means an authoritarian, militaristic, highly controlled and regulated national government led by a dictator like ... er ... Mussolini ... or ... er ... Adolf Hitler.

So now, according to BushCo, Fascism doesn't mean that at all. It means well ... them ... over there ... you know ... the ones we're fighting ... or might fight in the future ... whoever they are ... you know ... the ones who hate us ... those guys.

Obviously we're suddenly hearing the 'f' word because internal Repub. polling is showing the War on Terror is not pulling 'em into the used car lot like it used to. And the "world war 3" phrase deflated immediately upon its first trial balloon a month ago. Hmm ... can't use communist. Can't use evil empire cuz there is no empire to be evil. Can't use godless heathens cuz they are devout religionists. Can't use infidel cuz it brings up all that Crusades baggage.

How about Really Really Really Really Bad People ?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Orleans -- A Tragic Farce

If any country has the capability to respond to a large natural disaster, it is the United States.

For the past year, the US has utterly and completely failed.

Even the President sort of admits it. But not really.

Today, the President at least did not say things have gone "swimmingly."

But the President gave no assurance nor credible evidence of how he intends to fix what he and everyone in the long chain of authority have done wrong during the past 12 months.

No firings. No re-organizations. No shake-ups. No new leaders. No new faces. No anger.

The President of the United States stood in New Orleans today, 8/29, and admitted his "team" screwed up horribly.

Then he announced his same "team" would be in charge of fixing their own fuck-ups.

But this time they would do it "right."

The President's quoted statements from 8/29/06 are baffling and sad.

"The rebuilding is just beginning," he said. One year later. Isn't this what you are supposed to say one day later? One week later? One month later?

"It will take a long time," he said. One year later. Isn't this what you are supposed to say one day later? One week later? One month later?

"If there is another natural disaster, we'll respond in better fashion," he said. How does this help the 1,800 people who are dead? Many of whom would be alive now if the President and his team and responded last year "in better fashion"?

How does this help the approx. 200,000 people who cannot move back to their homes in New Orleans because their homes are destroyed or still uninhabitable?

On 8/29/06, Mr. Bush read from a prepared statement, written by a staffer, which told New Orleans residents what they already knew:

"Unfortunately, the hurricane also brought terrible scenes we never thought we'd see in America," Bush said. "Citizens drowned in their attics. Desperate mothers crying out on national TV for food and water. A breakdown of law and order and a government, at all levels, that fell short of its responsibilities. When the rain stopped ... our television screens showed faces worn down by poverty and despair. And for most of you, the storms were only the beginning of our difficulties."

Note the repeated reference to viewing the "terrible scenes" through a television screen. It's as if the President is describing a TV series he watched that didn't have a happy ending so he changed the channel. The last line of his statement is oddly truthful: "And for most of you, the storms were only the beginning of our difficulties." And whose fault is that?

Note the odd juxtaposition of personal pronouns ... "And for most of you, the storms were only the beginning of OUR difficulties." A Freudian slip? Wouldn't a more logical and parallel construction read: "And for most of you, the storms were only the beginning of your difficulties."

And why qualify this statement by saying, "And for most of you ..." ?

Haven't all of the people of New Orleans suffered to some extent over the past year?

This President has called himself a "uniter" and "the decider." Why during the past year has he neither "united" or "decided" regarding this mess that used to be a city called New Orleans, Louisiana?

He apparently has "decided" that his team screwed up. Why are they still working for him? Where is his specially commissioned report detailing exactly what was done wrong, who did it, and how it is being fixed? Where is the decider?

The complete failure of the President's team during the past year has resulted in the most racially divisive tragedy in US history since the 1964 Watts riots. Where is the uniter?

There are still dead bodies being found in New Orleans. Year old, massively decayed corpses. Why? There is still no official body count. Why? A President who calls himself the "decider" should be firing anyone and everyone who is unable to answer these simple questions.

It is good this President calls himself a "uniter." But calling yourself a uniter requires being one. Without that, the President is reduced to a personage like Bob Dole referring to himself in the third person. Uniting in this case means trying to repair the horrible open breach which has occurred between Black and non-Black Americans because of the failure of the President's team in New Orleans. The levees of New Orleans were not the only thing that breached August 29, 2005. What was breached was a compact between the United States, its President and Black American citizens of the United States in which Black American citizens are guaranteed full and equal protection and consideration under the laws of the United States regardless of previous laws, standards or customs. That compact was breached on August 29, 2005 and has still not been plugged.

The President could have prevented the breach from happening. He did not. He has now had a year to repair that breach. He has not. He had the chance to do it again on 8/29/06. He did not. A uniter would. A decider would.

It's Illegal to Say You're Being Spied On ...

``That very fact - whether they were subject to surveillance - is a privileged fact,'' Tannenbaum said.

Judge to Rule Soon on Wiretap Lawsuit

Wednesday August 30, 2006 4:01 AM


Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A federal judge suggested Tuesday that he would try to keep alive a lawsuit that challenges President Bush's domestic wiretapping program, while taking steps not to disclose classified information.

U.S. District Judge Garr King said he expected to render his decision next week in a case involving an Oregon-based Islamic charity that the government said had links to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The charity believes it was illegally wiretapped and says a document the government accidentally gave to its lawyers in 2004 bolsters its case.

The government said the document must be kept secret and any further court action involving it would lead to security breaches. The government has asked King to dismiss the charity's lawsuit.

In a hearing, King and the charity's lawyers talked about ways to keep the lawsuit alive without disclosing information about the classified document. Government lawyers resisted the idea.

King said federal judges handling similar cases in which national security concerns and the rights of plaintiffs clashed had tried to find ways around the problem, such as editing sensitive documents.

``It seems to me the cases have instructed the courts to be original,'' King told lawyers from the Justice Department. ``I don't hear that from you at all.''

Justice Department lawyer Andrew Tannenbaum said that U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte had reviewed the case and determined that the government cannot confirm or deny information about intelligence-gathering without tipping its hand to terrorists.

``That very fact - whether they were subject to surveillance - is a privileged fact,'' Tannenbaum said.

What do scientists know about science?

Pope prepares to embrace theory of intelligent design

John Hooper in Rome
Monday August 28, 2006
The Guardian

Philosophers, scientists and other intellectuals close to Pope Benedict will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican's view of evolution. There have been growing signs the Pope is considering aligning his church more closely with the theory of "intelligent design" taught in some US states. Advocates of the theory argue that some features of the universe and nature are so complex that they must have been designed by a higher intelligence.

A prominent anti-evolutionist and Roman Catholic scientist, Dominique Tassot, told the US National Catholic Reporter that this week's meeting was "to give a broader extension to the debate. Even if [the Pope] knows where he wants to go, and I believe he does, it will take time. Most Catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so." In 1996, in what was seen as a capitulation to scientific orthodoxy, John Paul II said Darwin's theories were "more than a hypothesis."

Racism, being a thing of the past ...

On August 27, Hispanic pro-immigration demonstrators raised a Mexican flag over a U.S. post office in Maywood, Calif., Saturday as part of a counterdemonstration against Save Our State, an anti-immigration group that claims California is becoming a "third-world cesspool."

Is Whining a Viable Military Strategy?

8/29/06 -- Associated Press.

(AP) Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday he is deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in "manipulating the media" to influence Westerners.

"That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he said during a question-and-answer session with about 200 naval aviators and other Navy personnel at this flight training base for Navy and Marine pilots.

"What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is," Rumsfeld continued, launching an extensive broadside at Islamic extremist groups which he said are trying to undermine Western support for the war on terror.

"They are actively manipulating the media in this country" by, for example, falsely blaming U.S. troops for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"They can lie with impunity," he said, while U.S. troops are held to a high standard of conduct.

Later, at a Reno, Nev., convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rumsfeld made similar points.

"The enemy lies constantly - almost totally without penalty," he told the veterans group, which presented him with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award.

Rumsfeld often complains about what he calls the terrorists' success in persuading Westerners that the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a crusade against Islam. In his remarks at Fallon he did not offer any new examples of media manipulation; he put unusual emphasis, however, on the negative impact it is having on Americans in an era of 24-hour news.

"The enemy is so much better at communicating," he added. "I wish we were better at countering that because the constant drumbeat of things they say - all of which are not true - is harmful. It's cumulative."


2,631 dead US soldiers, 67,000 wounded US soldiers, and 12 US soldiers killed in Iraq just this weekend is not what keeps Mr. Rumsfeld "up all night."

No. It's the lies.

Purpose: To Screw Up?

8/29/06 Reuters News Service:

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, former commander of military relief operations after Katrina, said the need for accountability had slowed the flow after some of the money given out quickly after Katrina ended up in wrong hands. "This thing's going to happen, but the bureaucracy is there for a purpose and it never moves fast enough," he said.

Thanks for Caring.

8/29/06 -- Reuters News Service

"If there is another natural disaster, we'll respond in better fashion," Bush said.

John Birch Society: Bush is a Fascist

And these guys voted for George Bush ... twice ...


On Monday 8/28, Dick Cheney said in a speech to the VFW in Nevada:

"I know some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet's nest," Cheney said. "They overlook a fundamental fact. We were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway."

We were not in Albania on Sept. 11, 2001 either -- and the terrorists hit us anyways -- so ...


This Just In ...

8/29/06 -- Associated Press.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with Iraq's deputy prime minister in Baghdad in a visit he said was to promote "the rule of law."

Err ... right.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Glacier Formation 101

So some guy at a self-described "conservative" website decides that a recent BBC news story about the growth of certain glaciers in the Himalayas is "proof" that global warming is a fraud. Let's recall glacier formation 101.

Glaciers are nothing more than snow. If summer temperatures do not melt all the snow that falls in the winter, the snow keeps building up year after year and gradually condenses by weight and pressure into ice. Large bodies of ice are plastic and flow under the force of gravity. We call large bodies of ice flowing under the force of gravity a glacier.

The amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold is controlled by temperature. As temperature increases, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. A volume of air at 80 degrees F can hold more water vapor than the same volume at 33 degrees F or -20 degrees F.

If the average winter temperature of a mountain mass increases slightly, snow fall amounts can increase. If this increase in snowfall is not balanced by an increase in summer melting, then glaciers in that mountain mass will tend to grow. If the winter temperature on a mountain mass warms slightly, snow fall can increase significantly. If there is not an equivalent increase in melting, glaciers grow. This is how glaciers form.

Oh. Andean glaciers are melting so fast it is now estimated that many will disappear in 30 years.


8, no ... 12 More Dead for "Nothing."

President Bush: “The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.”

Reporter: “What did Iraq have to do with that?”

President Bush: “What did Iraq have to do with what?”

Reporter: “The attack on the World Trade Center.”

President Bush: “Nothing."

--- Presidential Press Conference, August 21, 2006.

According to a Zogby poll of US troops stationed in Iraq conducted on February 28, 2006, approx. 90 percent of US troops in Iraq believe US troops are in Iraq in "retaliation for Saddam Hussein's role in 9-11."

Eight more US soldiers were killed in Iraq on the weekend of August 26 and 27, 2006.

The U.S. military reported two new U.S. military deaths Tuesday, 8/29/06. One service member died in fighting in Anbar province west of Baghdad Sunday and another died Monday of wounds sustained in a vehicle accident in Balad north of Baghdad, the military said. At least 2,631 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. -- Associated Press.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What the US is not Importing.

The US is not importing the wisdom, intelligence and hopes of other countries.

This is because, in part, we US citizens have had it drilled into our skulls since we were kids that the US leads "in everything" and it is the job of people in other parts of the world to copy us and learn from us.

I watched the movie "The Right Stuff" the other night. It struck me how astonished US leaders and the US public were in the 1950s and early 1960s that the Soviet Union (or well, anyone but the US) was the first society to launch a rocket into space, launch an orbiting satellite into space and put the first human into Earth orbit (Yuri Gagarin). Why should this have been so surprising?

Since before Dmitri Mendeleev (who invented the Periodic Table of the Elements), Russian people have long been adamant and successful at pushing the boundaries of science and applied science. A bunch of Prussian and Germanic folk (Albert Einstein, Kurt Godel, Ernest Schrodinger, Werner Heisenberg) and a Russkie (George Gamov), an Italian (Enrico Fermi) a Dane (Neils Bohr) and a Brit (Paul Dirac) developed the physics which made nuclear power and space travel possible. A Brit (Charles Darwin) developed the only viable explanation for biological evolution. Another Brit, Newton, developed a coherent theory of gravity and motion. A Scot, James Clerk Maxwell, developed the unified formulae for electricity, magnetism and light. A Frenchman, Becquerel, discovered radioactivity. A Polish woman, Marie Curie, isolated radium. A Belgian monk, Gregor Mendel, discovered inherited traits and genetics. The list goes on, with apologies for those individuals and nations not mentioned.

So why was the US in the late 1950s so astonished that another country would be first to conquer space? Isn't that like a Boston Red Sox fan being astonished that the New York Yankees know how to hit a home run, throw a curve ball or steal second base?

Any nation, or its leaders, can be enablers or disablers of its citizens' ability to become educated in science, mathematics, biology etc. Hitler's irrational hatred of Jews cost him World War II by driving out the country's best and smartest scientists, thus depriving him of nuclear weapons. Joseph Stalin horrendously retarded his country's intellectual growth by slaughtering anyone he thought an enemy. Mao Tse Tung: same thing. Pol Pot: same thing. Joseph McCarthy: same thing. Strom Thurmond: same thing. Augustus Pinochet: same thing. Fidel Castro: same thing. Mobute Sese Seko: same thing. P.W. Botha: same thing. Robert Mugabe: same thing. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi: same thing. Saddam Hussein: same thing. Nikolai Ceaucescu: same thing. Idi Amin: same thing. George W. Bush: same thing?

Ahh ... good ole GWB. Doubts evolution. Doubts the physical effect of greenhouse gasses. Can't explain why. Doesn't offer any competing scientific theories. Won't produce a presidential science advisor to do the same. Cannot express. Can only suppress. Don't know much about history. Don't know much biology. Don't know much about a science book. Don't know much about the French I took. Thanks Sam Cooke.

GWB is the first US President since when (Andrew Jackson? Andrew Dice Clay?) to not commit the US to a serious program of scientific advancement; and adopt a leadership role in that effort by declaring the importance of science and science education. Take that back. Ronald Reagan expressed almost no interest in science or funding for scientific advancement, except for Star Wars and other secretive military uses. Like GWB, Reagan displayed throughout his life a marked lack of personal interest or curiosity in any facet of science.

This is distressing if only because Washington, Jefferson and Franklin were active scientists and science enthusiasts. All three conducted and reported their own observational experiments, avidly read the scientific publications of their day and debated the theories therein, and said scientific education and advancement was a cornerstone of the American experiment.

So where to? Unlike the US presently, most other countries on Earth are committed to the principle of scientific education and scientific advancement as a cornerstone of their elevation to "developed" nation status. They take science seriously. Not just applied science, but basic science, which is the source of applied science.

Science is like sports. You are a Yankees fan. I'm a Red Sox fan. Yankees and Red Sox meet for 5 games in August. Yankees shellac the Red Sox five games straight. Same rules, same bat, same ball, same 9 people on the field. Yankees sweep. Nobody argues about the "meaning" of the game. Nobody argues about "how do you define winning anyways?" The Red Sox don't go to court to seek an injunction against the Yankees in the 7th inning of game four. The Red Sox don't "deny" they got their butts whupped. They take it.

Science is like sports. It contains a ruthless fairness. Whoever puts up the best game is the winner -- until someone else knocks them out. The rules are the Scientific Method. Anyone, even the guy at the pizza shop, is welcome to devise a way to falsify Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. If he can do it, show his data, and it is reproduced by other scientists, then that guy kicks Einstein's butt.

The world supremacy the US has enjoyed since after World War II is solely due to science. The US is now losing it, like a guy with a trust fund blowing it all on booze, cars, chicks, coke, Quaaludes, bad stock investments and shiny, ugly furniture.

Basic problem. Americans think science is for nerds who can't get dates. Americans think high school sports have meaning. What meaning? Nobody in their right mind would encourage a 10th grade boy to spend all his time in an activity that has a 1 in 10,000 chance of producing a viable career upon graduating (girls are excluded because all true sports fans know that girls sports anfter high school are beneath them. get married and have a baby). Plus all sports, even for the 1 in 10,000 who actually make it to the professional level, leave you physically crippled and unemployed by your late 30s if you're lucky. And searching for a "new" career. Usually at a car dealership. With a mullet.

I cannot here even fathom all the reasons, and roots for those reasons, why Americans find science and learning in general so distasteful and well ... un-American. Suffice to say it exists and is the dominant influencing force in our culture. A lazy way to explain it is that Americans are lazy. Learning physics and math feels like work. It's so ... serious. It's not ... fun.

I like to ask people at night at an unguarded moment to look up into the sky and name me a few stars, a few constellations. They can't. How about the Pole Star? The Big Dipper? Can't. I mention that people 3,000 years ago could do it lickety split. The response, if any except hostility, is that ... well ... we don't have to know that stuff now. People back then did. Or something.

Here's another one. Point to a tree. Name it. Not Bob. Maple, pine, oak, birch. What? No response.

Another one. Pick up a rock. Name it. Sedimentary, Igneous or Metamorphic. No response.

Something closer to home. What is a cathode ray tube? No response. It's a television screen.

Something closer to home. What is a microwave? No response. It's a stretched out light wave.

Something closer to home. How does a refrigerator make things cold? No response. When pressure is relaxed in a compressed gas it becomes colder.

Something closer to home. Where does your tap water come from? When it goes down the drain, where does it go? No response.

If you ask these basic questions to most Americans they will immediately become hostile because they do not know the answers. They become hostile because they know deep down they should. Americans don't like feeling dumb or being treated as dumb but they are too lazy to make themselves less dumb. So hostility and denial are the paths of least resistance.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bomb the Whole World?

"When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: 'If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow, how close would they be then?" -- Newt Gingrich, New York Times, August 25, 2006.

How does a sane person respond to this Einsteinian "thought experiment" of Mr. Gingrich? Just 30 days ago, Mr. Gingrich, trying to sell some book he wrote in crayon, was telling anyone who would listen that World War III was underway vis a vis the 2006 South Lebanon War. Now that last month's World War III has proven to be the shortest World War on record (and the smallest too), Mr. G has discovered the real threat facing the World is North Korea Fed-Exing a nuke to Iran. First of all, think of the shipping costs on that, especially if it's overnight or 3-day delivery. And what about insurance? Do you put it in packing peanuts, bubble wrap or both?

And what about Russia? Unlike North Korea, they have lots of nukes to spare and have good diplomatic and economic relations with Iran. Shouldn't we be more worried that Iran will buy a nuke from Russia? Plus they can use Fed Ex Ground rather than Fed Ex Boat or Fed Ex Air.

And what about Luxembourg? Just sitting there quietly, perhaps too quietly. What if they bought a nuke -- Newt?

And what about some African soccer team that's pissed they lost the World Cup, again? Hell, what about the US soccer team? They got their butts kicked and could want revenge on Brazil or Antarctica or something. What about the Red Sox? What if they nuke the Yankees for spanking them five games in a row at Fenway?

The threats boggle.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Patrick Buchanan: A National Treasure

“As Rome passed away, so, the West is passing away, from the same causes and in much the same way. What the Danube and Rhine were to Rome, the Rio Grande and Mediterranean are to America and Europe, the frontiers of a civilization no longer defended.” -- Patrick J. Buchanan, from his new book, not available yet in Spanish.

Buchanan incorrectly chooses the Roman Empire as a historic analog to his vision of the West and the US. The Romans built roads extending outward -- not walls looking inward. Buchanan's vision of the US is post-Roman Empire -- feudalism -- the US as a castle with moat and walls.

Mr. Buchanan rails about "illegal" immigration because it is a simplistic "gotchya" type of claim. If, for example, the US banned all immigration then ... surprise ... all immigrants would be "illegal" immigrants. If, on the other hand, the US relaxed immigration rules then the number of illegal immigrants would magically drop. As if by magic!

Mr. Buchanan argues by tautology. If the speed limit is dropped to 10 mph then most car drivers would become "illegal drivers." If all parking was banned, anyone parking a car would be an "illegal parker." If all immigration to the US is banned then all immigrants become "illegal" immigrants.

Then "they" just shouldn't come in to the US is Mr. Buchanan's rejoinder. But they will, Pat. You know they will. But build a bigger wall, Pat says. But Pat, they will just tunnel under it. You know they will. But arrest them on the other side, Pat says. But Pat, that's what we are doing now. These people are risking their lives to sneak into to the US through a godforsaken desert, risk getting arrested and risk dying ... just to pick lettuce for nothing an hour. If they are now willing to pay their entire life savings to risk dying in an unventilated box car and being a criminal in the US just to pick lettuce for $10 a day and be treated like slaves, how do we say no? Lower the illegal immigrant minimum wage?

Mr. Buchanan wants to immediately find and deport all 10 million illegal immigrants in the US. Who is going to pick the lettuce? Is the US going go "vegetable free"? Meat free? Who mops up the blood and brains of pigs and cows in the slaughterhouses of the US?

First, we are told the problem is not immigration -- the problem is people breaking the law by entering the US illegally. But the same people then say they want all legal immigration to stop, for awhile at least, from certain countries perhaps. So the "problem" is not illegal immigration -- it's immigration period. Illegal immigration is just a shill, a talking point and a debating niblet. No discussion of who will pick the lettuce or mop up the pig and cow brains.

If these want to solve the "problem" they cite, they should call for massive infusions of US money into Mexico to increase the standard of living for Mexicans to a point where there is no longer an economic incentive for a Mexican person to attempt to emigrate to the United States -- or raise the minimum wage for picking lettuce and mopping up pig and cow guts. But these folks are the same who oppose all US foreign aid; favor South American governments which keep most of their citizens living in poverty; and brand as "leftist threats" any South American government which attempts to eliminate gargantuan separations between the richest few and the poorest many.

The US as a gigantic gated community. Good luck with that.

Patrick Buchanan deserves credit for at least being truthful to himself and his own beliefs instead of lying about them. He says in his new book that the Mexican government has a secret plan (remember this guy was Nixon's speechwriter) to flood the southwestern U.S. with Mexicans and by doing so "reclaim" the southwest US as de facto Mexican territory.

If so, good. It doesn't take a Beavis or Butthead to realize that a US state called ... NEW MEXICO ... was probably mostly inhabited by .... MEXICANS ... for a long time. So what's the problem with some NEW Mexicans in NEW Mexico? What do you want there, Norwegians?

A true Zen guy, Pat Buchanan "unanswers" the big question by asking it. Mexican people should be able to live in New Mexico USA or Texas or Arizona or Southern California. Why the hell not? So should Norwegians and Finns but they will need mega sun block cream. D.H. Lawrence liked it. And he was a Brit. Johnny Cash liked it. He wrote the Ballad of Ira Hayes. Geronimo liked it. He was an Apache. Navajos like it. Their language helped win WW II.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Anthropic Principle and Powerball.

Means, well, that because the laws of physics have allowed "us" to be created, the ultimate "equation" of physics (and the Universe) is that everything exists precisely as it does so as to allow us to exist. So the Anthropic Principle is "proven" by the fact that we exist. And because we do exist, this "proves" the Anthropic Principle. To support this, folks make endless lists of how if various sub-atomic and cosmological parameters were just a tiny bit different, we would not exist (or life as we know it would not etc.) And then use these endless lists of miraculous, fortuitous circumstances as proof of the Anthropic Principle.

This is sort of like saying that if I win the Powerball at an odds of 1 in 280 million, the 'basic laws' of Powerball were specifically designed so that I would win. And the proof is that I won.

Far too many trees have been killed by authors and scientists contemplating the "miracle" that the Earth is just the right distance from the Sun to allow liquid water to exist. And the Sun is "just the right size" for a planet situated at Earth's distance from the Sun to maintain liquid water on its surface. Venus is too close. Mars is too far. Etc.

Well, durr. If the Sun was slightly smaller, Earth would not be at the "magic" distance to retain liquid water on its surface. Mercury or Venus would. If the Sun was slightly larger, Mars would be at the "magic distance" -- not the Earth -- and Martians would be claiming the whole Universe was miraculously made just so "they" could evolve and take notice.

The most recent minimum estimate of the size of the Universe is approx. 78,000 million light years. That's 6 trillion miles times 78,000. That's the minimum size. The number of galaxies, each comprised of billions of stars, is estimated at 100 billion. The probability of life evolving in such a vast place is much better than buying a Powerball ticket. A Powerball winner is not special. It's just a random number on a ticket. If you win Powerball, you weren't "meant" to win Powerball according to some ancient and timeless rules of Powerball. You just got lucky. And if you were meant to win, why not on the very first ticket you bought rather than the 1,000th?

Every other "miracle" of scientific laws which allow life on Earth to exist and is extolled by the Anthropic Principle can be torn down by basic logic. If protons decayed in 10 years instead of 10 to the 38th power years, life would not exist on Earth. But so what? If protons decayed in 10 to the 37th power years then life would exist just as it does today.

You can erase or alter any fundamental physical law that life as we know it depends on and say that if these laws were abolished, life would not exist. But so what? That is no different than saying if the Universe did not exist then life could not exist. Well, durr. Until Powerball existed, there were no Powerball winners. That doesn't mean the laws of the Universe were designed specifically at the moment of Creation to allow Powerball to develop so that there might be Powerball winners today. It just sort of happened. Like winning Powerball. Or losing Powerball.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Anna Taylor, Hugo Black and Samuel Adams

From American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency
Case No. 06-CV-10204. August 17, 2006.

"The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment Rights of these Plaintiffs as well."

"James Madison wrote that: -- The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. THE FEDERALIST NO. 47, at 301."

"Justice Black wrote that -- The founders of this Nation entrusted the law-making power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times. It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand. Youngstown, 343 U.S. at 589.

"With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made by parliamentary deliberations. Youngstown, 343 U.S. at 655 (Jackson,
J., concurring)."

"Justice Black wrote, in Youngstown:

'Nor can the seizure order be sustained because of the several constitutional provisions that grant executive power to the President. In the framework of our Constitution, the President’s power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker. The Constitution limits his functions in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad. And the Constitution is neither silent nor equivocal about who make laws which the President is to execute. The first section of the first article says that ‘All legislative powers
herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.' Youngstown, 343 U.S. at 587-588."

"Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote:

'It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad. Any process in which the Executive’s factual assertions go wholly unchallenged or are simply presumed correct without any opportunity for the alleged combatant' to demonstrate otherwise falls constitutionally short.
Hamdi, 542 U.S. at 532, 537."

"The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself. We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all “inherent powers” must derive from that Constitution."

"The irreparable injury necessary to warrant injunctive relief is clear, as the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs are violated by the TSP. See Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479 (1965). The irreparable injury conversely sustained by Defendants under this injunction may be rectified by compliance with our Constitution and/or statutory law, as amended if necessary. Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution."

"As Justice Warren wrote in U.S. v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258 (1967):

'Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.' Id. at 264."


Date: August 17, 2006


American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency
Case No. 06-CV-10204


In 1979, Anna Diggs Taylor became the first black woman judge to be appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Nineteen years later, she became the first black woman Chief Judge for that circuit as well.


This is the most thoroughly depressing court case I have ever read in my life. Not because of Justice Taylor's decision. But because this case ever arose. And that Team Bush knows most Americans don't even care. That's why Team Bush is now appealing Justice Taylor's decision.

The President here argues the Constitution has granted him the "inherent" authority to violate the US Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution allows the President to violate the Constitution, since the Constitution itself creates the powers of the President. Nowhere does the Constitution say the President has the right to violate the Constitution. This is no different than saying the rules to Go Fish say that I can break the rules to Go Fish. Seven year old kids try to say this when playing Go Fish. It is pretty pathetic that a 60 year old man is now trying to say this.


Go here to read the entire decision:

Terrorists v. Martha Stewart

"Bush and his Republican advisers have one hope: that last week's terror scare will awaken Americans to the fact that the nation is indeed engaged in what the president and Prime Minister Tony Blair quite correctly have been calling a war to preserve Western civilization. If that happens, the president will find himself blessed with a more conservative Congress, which would be good news for corporate America, desperate to have its research and development tax credit renewed, and the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley relaxed."

Irwin M. Steltzer, columnist, the Weekly Standard, issue of 8/21/06.

From UK reports, the "terrorists" apprehended in the UK last week had not even made the "liquid bombs" they are alleged to have conspired to want to make. It is also unclear as if these men actually possessed airline tickets or passports to get on any flight in the first place. Reports also say the UK had been following these gents for months but only arrested them just two days after Joe Lieberman's loss, during a rapidly escalating debacle in Lebanon, and well before these gents had actually (a) made bombs and (b) secured the necessary airline tickets and passports to get on a plane and (c) actually gone to Heathrow with said explosives to board said plane. From a prosecutor's standpoint, a much stronger case would exist against these men if police could have continued to track these men until they actually possessed the necessary prerequisites of the crime they are alleged to have conspired to commit.

Based on what has been released thus far, the UK police have the equivalent of a tape of some wannabe Mafia guys sitting in the backroom of a seedy bar talking about maybe whacking some guy.

The "war against western civilization" drivel is as ridiculous as some wacko Islam cleric saying there is a "war against Islam." Where's the war against Saudi Arabia? The war against Indonesia? The war against Sweden? The war against Canada? The war against Luxembourg? The war against Kuwait? The war against Portugal?

The end of Steltzer's column in priceless. The "war on terror" apparently has nothing to do with stopping terror, but is really about electing a more conservative Congress that will "relax the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley." What is Sarbanes-Oxley exactly and how does it relate to the war on terrorism? Here's a basic overview of Sarbanes-Oxley from Wikipedia:

"The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745, also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002 and commonly called SOX or SarbOx; July 30, 2002) is a United States federal law passed in response to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals including those affecting Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom (now MCI). These scandals resulted in a decline of public trust in accounting and reporting practices. Named after sponsors Senator Paul Sarbanes (D–Md.) and Representative Michael G. Oxley (R–Oh.), the Act was approved by the House by a vote of 423-3 and by the Senate 99-0. The legislation is wide ranging and establishes new or enhanced standards for all U.S. public company Boards, Management, and public accounting firms. The Act contains 11 titles, or sections, ranging from additional Corporate Board responsibilities to criminal penalties, and requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement rulings on requirements to comply with the new law."

So is Mr. Steltzer saying that Islamo-fascist terrorists are so determined to keep Sarbanes-Oxley as US law they will bring down western civilization to do so? And wouldn't the downfall of western civilization sort of cause Sarbanes-Oxley to be relaxed, given that the US Congress would not exist any more? Wouldn't that mean that the terrorists would lose by winning?

So shouldn't Mr. Steltzer be rooting for the terrorists since their victory would abolish the US Congress and thereby abolish Sarbanes-Oxley?

Or is Mr. Steltzer admitting that the "war on terror" at this point has nothing to do with a "war on terror" but is a useful canard to elect a more conservative Congress this November? Doesn't it sort of sound like Mr. Steltzer wants more "terrorist threats" between now and November, if only to increase the chance that Sarbanes-Oxley will be relaxed?

How come we haven't heard more about this ...

My fellow Americans. We have learned through well-placed and highly confidential channels that the terrorists who threaten our great Nation, and indeed all western Nations, have as their most important goal preventing Congress from relaxing the mandatory reporting requirements for US corporations as set forth in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. We have learned these terrorists will stop at nothing and spare no amount of human life to ensure the specific corporate reporting requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are continued for years to come. If the terrorists win, this will mean continued excessive paperwork for US corporations and the need for more federal employees to read what these corporations submit for years to come. High-placed corporate officials could face criminal prosecution for failing false or misleading reports, resulting in the loss of some of our best and brightest corporate officials to a minimum-security federal penitentiary for weeks or months. We could lose Martha Stewart again -- and this time for two years because it would be a second offense. I do not have to explain the impact of this on every American. Millions of American households would be deprived of festive, creative table centerpieces and wall decorations that cost just a few dollars to make. Untold billions of radishes would be wasted instead of crafted into tasteful, nutritious and aesthetically pleasing garnishes to a lightly steamed haddock entre with fluffy rice lightly scooped and spread over this healthful source of Omega fatty acids. The health and aesthetic senses of our entire great Nation, and wherever else the Martha Stewart empire reaches, is at stake. That is why we must not let the terrorists succeed in preventing Congress from relaxing the reporting requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley in the next session. Thank you and join me in asking God to confer his Blessing on this United States of America.

Bush: It's un-American to oppose breaking US laws.

CAMP DAVID, Maryland (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Friday he thinks U.S. courts will uphold his belief that a National Security Agency eavesdropping program does not violate the civil rights of Americans.

At a news conference, Bush said he strongly disagreed with a ruling on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit that wiretaps under the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program" violated freedom of speech, protections against unreasonable searches and a constitutional check on the power of the presidency.

The Justice Department had immediately appealed the decision.

"I believe our appeals will be upheld," Bush said.

He said those who applaud the decision "simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live" and pointed out the arrests made last week in a British terror plot.


So now it's un-American to oppose the US Government breaking US laws. And US people who want the US Government to obey US laws are somehow clueless. And that an alleged airplane plot in the UK somehow makes it OK for the US Government to violate US laws.

What about the Mafia? The Mafia have always been breaking US laws ... it's sort of their way of doing business. So if the Mafia is breaking US laws that means the US Government can break any law it wants to arrest the Mafia? So if anyone breaks US law the US Government is allowed to break US law to arrest them? And it's un-American to say otherwise?

Do Ya Think? Part 2.

Romney sees Katrina damage firsthand during Mississippi visit

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) --Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney got to see a little of what was left behind on Thursday, 8/17/06 as he visited the Gulf Coast amid his ongoing groundwork for a possible presidential campaign.

"It's a lot worse than the TV shows it," Romney told reporters.

Is it 1973 yet?

So long as President/media portray a withdrawal from Iraq as a defeat; and proponents of a withdrawal as "defeatists"; and the "cause" of going to Iraq as noble and sound; equate "supporting the troops" with not withdrawing from Iraq; and refuse to define what "victory" means and how we will able to recognize this "victory" when and if it happens, it is thoroughly predictable that a large # of Americans will continue to equate withdrawal as defeat and anything but withdrawal as somehow staying on the road to "victory."

This is how the US people were convinced to tolerate and support the Vietnam War for so long. Nixon cynically played both sides of the coin (ya think?) by campaigning in 1968 and 1972 for a continued and escalated war as the best plan to end the war.

Not surprisingly, the Cheney wing are now saying the best way to end the Iraq war is to bring it into other countries near Iraq, or if that fails, the whole Middle East. The only way to mop up one spot of dirt on the floor is to mop up the whole floor ... or well ... just rip up the whole floor and put in a brand new one.

Mission creep was coined in Vietnam and is now the only viable strategy for Team Bush in the Middle East. Three card Monte is another name for the same game.

Team Bush seems to have forgotten that "enemies" only surrender if they believe they have absolutely no other option. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong took strategic refuge in Laos and Cambodia. So the US bombed the hell out of Laos and Cambodia. Like Hezbollah, the Viet Cong took strategic refuge in civilian villages. So we wasted civilian villages (and coined the phrase collateral damage to de-humanize the carnage).

Escalation in Vietnam only ended when it became apparent even to the Defense Dept. that escalation meant radically expanding the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia, which would require an enormous increase in US troops and fighting an increasingly dispersed enemy who had many years to study and adapt to US tactics, weapons and had learned the way to win was to keep the US bogged down in thousands of small scale "flushing out" operations in which the Viet Cong would have a small, but decisive advantage. The Viet Cong knew that if they could reduce the US troops to fighting with small arms and in small numbers, the military asymmetry of US techology and air power would become radically diluted.

The Viet Cong were prepared to fight a "long war" and gambled the US was not and could not. This lesson is now being applied in the Middle East, notwithstanding Rumsfeld's statement the US is committed to a "long war." Just last week, Israel decided against the long war option in southern Lebanon.

Iraqi combatants know that the US public will not tolerate high numbers of US casualties, and this has forced the Marines into a position of keeping their personnel behind secure positions. But this defensive posture also prevents the Marines from doing much. And because the US has a goal of winning "hearts and minds" in Iraq, the US cannot use its air power, armor etc. to create enough military asymmetry to convince Iraqi combatants that resistance is futile and they must surrender.

A propaganda video by Hezbollah on Al Jazeera states plainly that Hezbollah carefully studied the Vietnam War to devise their recent strategy. Has the US done the same?

Reasons to be Upbeat, Part 1.

"I was depressed to learn that we've been fighting in Iraq for nearly as long as we fought Germany during World War II. But once I started to think more positively, I realized that three years is really not bad. The Iraq war has been going on for less time than the Thirty Years War! And it's been much shorter than the Hundred Years War. This realization made me feel a lot happier."

Rosa Brooks, columnist, LA Times. 8/18/06.

Ms. Brooks forgot all this other good news:

1. Three scientists employed by coal industry have proven climate change does not exist.
2. Huge budget deficits are great for future, unborn generations. Just ask them.
3. No country or group will ever dare mess with US again.
4. The rebuilding of New Orleans proceeding better than anyone expected.
5. Government corruption, waste and fraud at all-time low.
6. More Wal-Marts than when president took office.
7. Iranian president's new weblog is really boring and lacks kool flash movies and informative pop-up ads.
8. Kenny Boy Lay never had his appeal heard so there's a good chance he was innocent after all.
9. Colin Powell tanned, fit, well-rested and ready for many retirement years to come.
10. As number of people still alive in Iraq decreases over time, deaths per month will decrease.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Random, chaotic mutant found in Kansas

(AgapePress) - A conservative member of the Kansas State Board of Education claims the "lying liberal media" defeated her in last week's primary election. She and other conservative Republicans lost their 6-4 majority and control of the Board just nine months after voting to enact science standards that require critical analysis of evolution -- including scientific evidence refuting the theory -- in school classrooms statewide. Incumbent Connie Morris, who was narrowly defeated in a highly publicized primary race in western Kansas, claims she was the victim of media bias.

Although four born-again Christians remain on the State Board of Education, Morris believes the newly empowered liberal majority will waste no time adopting new science standards. In January, she says, when the new members are sworn in, the Board will likely rescind the existing standards and adopt new ones that "let government schools teach children that we are no more than chaotic, random mutants."


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mind Lost, approx. 2003

By Jeremy Pelofsky

LANCASTER, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - President George W. Bush strongly defended his Iraq war policy against Democratic demands to bring U.S. troops home and warned on Wednesday that if America leaves, Iraq could become a country controlled by terrorists willing to use oil as a weapon.

"Leaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom," Bush said.

Do Ya Think?

TORONTO (Reuters) - Drugs are no good without food in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and the essential role of proper nutrition has been forgotten, the United Nations World Food Program said on Wednesday.

Carter on Bush

From the August 2006 edition of the German magazine Der Spiegel:


"The US and Israel Stand Alone"

Former US president Jimmy Carter speaks with DER SPIEGEL about the danger posed to American values by George W. Bush, the difficult situation in the Middle East and Cuba's ailing Fidel Castro.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Carter, in your new book you write that only the American people can ensure that the US government returns to the country's old moral principles. Are you suggesting that the current US administration of George W. Bush of acting immorally?

Carter: There's no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unprecedented departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents.

SPIEGEL: For example?

Carter: Under all of its predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of preemptive war. Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis. Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state, which I describe in the book. This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this. The other principle that I described in the book is basic justice. We've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.

SPIEGEL: You also mentioned the hatred for the United States throughout the Arab world which has ensued as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Given this circumstance, does it come as any surprise that Washington's call for democracy in the Middle East has been discredited?

Carter: No, as a matter of fact, the concerns I exposed have gotten even worse now with the United States supporting and encouraging Israel in its unjustified attack on Lebanon.

SPIEGEL: But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?

Carter: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.

SPIEGEL: Do you think the United States is still an important factor in securing a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis?

Carter: Yes, as a matter of fact as you know ever since Israel has been a nation the United States has provided the leadership. Every president down to the ages has done this in a fairly balanced way, including George Bush senior, Gerald Ford, and others including myself and Bill Clinton. This administration has not attempted at all in the last six years to negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement between Israel and any of its neighbors or the Palestinians.

SPIEGEL: What makes you personally so optimistic about the effectiveness of diplomacy? You are, so to speak, the father of Camp David negotiations.

Carter: When I became president we had had four terrible wars between the Arabs and Israelis (behind us). And I under great difficulty, particularly because Menachim Begin was elected, decided to try negotiation and it worked and we have a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt for 27 years that has never been violated. You never can be certain in advance that negotiations on difficult circumstances will be successful, but you can be certain in advance if you don't negotiate that your problem is going to continue and maybe even get worse.

SPIEGEL: But negotiations failed to prevent the burning of Beirut and bombardment of Haifa.

Carter: I'm distressed. But I think that the proposals that have been made in the last few days by the (Lebanese) Prime Minister (Fuoad) Siniora are quite reasonable. And I think they should declare an immediate cease-fire on both sides, Hezbollah said they would comply, I hope Israel will comply, and then do the long, slow, tedious negotiation that is necessary to stabilize the northern border of Israel completely. There has to be some exchange of prisoners. There have been successful exchanges of prisoners between Israel and the Palestinians in the past and that's something that can be done right now.

SPIEGEL: Should there be an international peacekeeping force along the Lebanese-Israeli border?

Carter: Yes.

SPIEGEL: And can you imagine Germans soldiers taking part?

Carter: Yes, I can imagine Germans taking part.

SPIEGEL: ... even with their history?

Carter: Yes. That would be certainly satisfactory to me personally, and I think most people believe that enough time has passed so that historical facts can be ignored.

SPIEGEL: One main points of your book is the rather strange coalition between Christian fundamentalists and the Republican Party. How can such a coalition of the pious lead to moral catastrophes like the Iraqi prison scandal in Abu Ghraib and torture in Guantanamo?

Carter: The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God's ideas and God's premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases -- as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world -- it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, fundamentalists don't believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.

SPIEGEL: So how does this proximity to Christian fundamentalism manifest itself politically?

Carter: Unfortunately, after Sept. 11, there was an outburst in America of intense suffering and patriotism, and the Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous. For three years, I'd say, the major news media in our country were complicit in this subservience to the Bush administration out of fear that they would be accused of being disloyal. I think in the last six months or so some of the media have now begun to be critical. But it's a long time coming.

SPIEGEL: Take your fellow Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton. These days she is demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But she, like many others, allowed President Bush to invade Iraq under a false pretext.

Carter: That's correct.

SPIEGEL: Was the whole country in danger of losing its core values?

Carter: For a while, yes. As you possibly know, historically, our country has had the capability of self-correcting our own mistakes. This applied to slavery in 1865, it applied to legal racial segregation a hundred years later or so. It applied to the Joe McCarthy era when anti-communism was in a fearsome phase in the country like terrorism now. So we have an ability to correct ourselves and I believe that nowadays there is a self-correction taking place. In my opinion the election results in Connecticut (Eds: The primary loss of war supporter Senator Joseph Lieberman) were an indication that Americans realized very clearly that we made a mistake in going into Iraq and staying there too long.

SPIEGEL: Now even President Bush appears to have learned something from the catastrophe in Iraq. During his second term he has taken a more multilateral approach and has seemed to return to international cooperation.

Carter: I think the administration learned a lesson, but I don't see any indication that the administration would ever admit that it did make a mistake and needed to learn a lesson. I haven't seen much indication, by the way, of your premise that this administration is now reconciling itself to other countries. I think that at this moment the United States and Israel probably stand more alone than our country has in generations.

SPIEGEL: You've written about your meeting with Fidel Castro. He appears seriously ill now and Cuban exiles are partying already in the streets of Miami. You are probably not in the mood to join them.

Carter: No, that's true. Just because someone is ill I don't think there should be a celebration of potential death. And my own belief is that Fidel Castro will recover. He is two years younger than I am, so he's not beyond hope.

SPIEGEL: You sought to normalize relations with Castro, but that never happened. Has anything been achieved through Cuba's isolation?

Carter: In my opinion, the embargo strengthens Castro and perpetuates communism in Cuba. A maximum degree of trade, tourism, commerce, visitation between our country and Cuba would bring an earlier end to Castro's regime.

SPIEGEL: You've been called the moral conscience of your country. How do you look at it yourself? Are you an outsider in American politics these days or do you represent a political demographic that could maybe elect the next US president?

Carter: I think I represent the vast majority of Democrats in this country. I think there is a substantial portion of American people that completely agree with me. I can't say a majority because we have fragmented portions in our country and divisions concerning gun control and the death penalty and abortion and gay marriage.

SPIEGEL: As president, your performance was often criticized. But the work you did after leaving office to promote human rights has been widely praised. Has life been unfair to you?

Carter: I've been lucky in my life. Everything that I've done has brought great pleasure and gratification to me and my wife. I had four years in the White House -- it was not a failure. For someone to serve as president of the United States you can't say it is a political failure. And we have had the best years of our lives since we left the White House. We've had a very full life.

SPIEGEL: Do you feel you achieved even more out of office than you did as president?

Carter: Well, I've used the prestige and influence of having been a president of the United States as effectively as possible. And secondly, I've still been able to carry out my commitments to peace and human rights and environmental quality and freedom and democracy and so forth.

SPIEGEL: Does America need a regime change?

Carter: As I've said before, there is a self-corrective aspect to our country. And I think that the first step is going to be in the November election this year. This year, the Democrats have good chance of capturing one of the houses of Congress. I think the Senate is going to be a very close decision. My oldest son is running for the US Senate in the state of Nevada. And if just he and a few others can be successful then you have the US Senate in Democratic hands and that will make a profound and immediate difference.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Carter, thank you for the interview.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

And Then There was Revelations ...

"But then, Hezbollah is not a conventional enemy." -- some person recently.

Is there not a pattern emerging where none of the new "enemies" are "conventional enemies."

Does this not mean that the "unconventional enemy" is now becoming the new "conventional enemy"? And adjustments must be made to this new reality?

Take off the blinders for a minute and consider the possibility there is not a conspiracy. That World War III, IV or VII or whatever you might call it is not now underway, about to begin or germinating in the ground as we speak.

Consider the possibility that Arab states have enacted a de facto Monroe Doctrine which tells western nations to keep their hands off the territories of the Arab speaking world.

Consider the possibility that Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan are not engaged in an epochal effort to enslave and indoctrinate the entire world under the edict of Islam, but are instead most interested in defending certain parcels of territory from encroachment by others.

Consider the possibility that 9/11 was not the tip of the iceberg of a Reich-like millennial struggle for global supremacy but was the work of a small group of homicidal, fanatical, demented nut jobs whose influence and power peaked at 9/11 and has been on the wane ever since.

Consider the possibility that the cell which unhatched 9/11 might have been the equivalent of several hundred Timothy McVeighs -- no more and no less.

Consider the possibility that the apocalyptic screeds in Revelation might have been written by a Samuel Taylor Coleridge of 75 A.D. hopped up on some desert hallucinogen and added to the Bible to give it some spice after all of Jesus' un-Vince Lombardi-like admonitions to turn the other cheek and accept the thorned helmet with grace and aplomb.

Or, take a step back, count to the cubic root of i, take a breather, and check out the Sunday morning service at the Unitarian Church in your home town. You might meet a guy named Don. He seems like a nice guy.

Why not a speech for volunteers?

"Vietnam cost the Democrats 40 years in the foreign policy wilderness." -- some person this week.

Vietnam informed every small country in the world exactly how a small country could defeat the full onslaught of the US military. The USSR ignored the lessons of Vietnam, invaded Afghanistan in 1980, tried to hold it, and had their keisters handed to them. The US helped "create" Osama bin Laden and the Taliban as a counter against the USSR in the 1980s, just as we helped "create" Saddam Hussein during the 1980s as a strategic foil to Ayatollah Khomeini. We could do "business" with Hussein, it was said. Reagan's sole military foray into the Mideast resulted in 280 Marines dying due to the lack of any clear reason for why they were even there. At least Reagan, and then Bush Sr., understood or were correctly counseled against placing US forces into foreign countries where their mission was unclear and their chances of any success were at best 50/50. Reagan and George Bush Sr. clearly learned the "lesson" that Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did not learn in Vietnam.

I am not a fan of Ronald Reagan, but he at least had the foresight after Lebanon in 1982 to understand the finite limits of US military capabilities once deployed in hostile, foreign territories where they would be isolated, hard to protect and resupply and vulnerable to hit and run tactics. G.W. Bush has ignored these lessons and now the price of his ignorance is being dearly paid in form of dead and mangled bodies of U.S. service men and women stuck in a place where even their leaders cannot explain what exactly they are risking their lives every day to accomplish.

If the solution in Iraq is to carpet bomb the place, then why has GWB not exercised his extra-constitutional powers to do just that? If anti-war protests in 1968 prevented the US military from achieving full victory in Vietnam, why has GWB not firmly repudiated this "losers attitude" by unleashing the full might of the US military on the Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq so that peace and normalcy is allowed to settle after the dust? Who precisely is stopping George Bush from using every military tool possible, including massive bombing and ground forces, to bring Iraq back into normalcy? The U.S. Congress? Has the US Congress passed resolutions forbidding the President from unleashing unlimited military force on Iraq? And if not Congress, then who has? Precisely who is stopping George Bush from using every military tool at his disposal to bring peace and normalcy once and for all to Iraq? The American people? They re-elected him in 2004 with a mandate which GWB asserts gives him the right to take whatever steps are necessary in Iraq, no matter how brutal or harsh. So who is stopping him? Sweden?

Even if Democrats (or whomever) are "accommodationist", George W. Bush by his own statements has no legal or political reason to bend the slightest to their accommodationist ideas. He has carte blanche by the Republican Congress and the 2004 electorate to do whatever it takes by any means necessary to complete his mission in Iraq. So who is stopping him? Don Rumsfeld? George Bush asked for, and has received, virtually unlimited authority to conduct the Iraq War in the way he sees it to achieve victory. So who is stopping him from achieving it? The Iraqis? Well, blow them up then. Problem solved. If Bush's generals say the US force in Iraq must be doubled, then why doesn't Bush double it? Why isn't he visiting high schools and colleges urging young people to enlist to go to Iraq? If the US needs 250,000 new troops in Iraq, why can't George Bush ask for national airtime and give a Presidential speech asking for volunteers and explaining why?

Has GWB become our Baghdad Bob?

"This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional." -- Conservative columnist George Will, Washington Post, 8/15/06.

USA president Bush says 2006 Lebanon War was a decisive defeat for Hezbollah.

Even Israel does not believe that.

USA Sec. of State Dr. C. Rice clearly stated at beginning of Lebanon War that it was premature for a cease-fire and that a cease fire would have to wait until conditions were "conducive," etc. etc. This obviously meant that USA believed the "conducive" conditions would occur when Israel had succeeded in its Shock and Awe objective of wiping out Hezbollah as a military entity; and the US refusal to broker a cease fire was part of a tacit agreement with Israel to give them enough time (and advanced bombs) to achieve the goal.

But Shock and Awe failed. Hezbollah is still there.

How can Bush say Israel won a decisive victory when Israel's military objective completely failed?

Does Bush think Hezbollah is going to scratch their heads and say "we lost" just because Bush said so?

Does Bush believe anyone in the world, outside of the Republican Congress, believes such a statement?

Does Bush think the Arab world believes such a statement?

Does Bush think Osama bin Laden believes such a statement?

Does Bush think Hamas believes such a statement?

Does Bush think Iran and Syria believe such a statement?

Does Bush think Russia and China believe such a statement?

What happens to the level of respect accorded to the US by other nations when Bush says this?

This statement eerily resembles the Watergate tapes of Richard Nixon just a few weeks before his resignation.

Even as Congress was measuring Nixon's neck circumference for a trophy mount, Nixon is heard on the Watergate tapes confidently outlining all the ways in which he will be vindicated and his enemies will be shamed and defeated.

As recounted in Blind Ambition by John Dean, Sen. Barry Goldwater and three other Senators had to go to the White House and perform an "emergency intervention" by telling Nixon to his face his cause was hopeless. This was done because Goldwater and others were getting bad signs that Nixon was becoming psychologically unhinged (and according to Dean, had taken to drinking himself, alone, into a self-pitying, maudlin and paranoid stupor). Goldwater et al. felt that if they did not step in forcefully and privately, Nixon might provoke a constitutional crisis by refusing to honor a Senate confirmation of a vote of Impeachment by the House of Representatives.

A man without eyes can only swing wildly. Like Nixon in 1974, Bush has apparently become so insulated by toadying, protective enablers that he is allowed to freely speak and convince himself that his utterances make sense and are viewed as credible by other world leaders.

When does our President start discussing the whereabouts of the missing strawberries?

Where to next, Mr. and Mr. President?

Dear Mr. and Mr. President of the USA:

Where to next?

Invasion of Iraq was to create opportunity for "new" Mideast.

Israel attack on Hezbollah was to create opportunity for "new" Mideast.

Action in Afghanistan was to create "new" Afghanistan.

Have they done so in the way you wished, planned, predicted and promised?

If these three roadside stops are part of a "long war" -- where is the next stop and when do we get there?

Ironically, the Lebanese stalemate may actually enhance "security" by showing that a well-armed Arabic military group can hold its own against a highly technologically advanced western military force. If 9/11-style terrorism is the outgrowth of extreme military asymmetry, the 2006 Lebanese war may send a message that this extreme asymmetry is eroding and with it the impetus for 9/11 tactics. Was the secret plan to let Israel fight so that it could not achieve a decisive victory and thus restore Arabic faith in the power of advanced weaponry -- not terror bombings -- as the tactical tool of choice in the new Middle East?

As ever, frustration among American types at the "impotence" of the long war eventually devolves to a claim that US and allies did not succeed because they are "too civilized" and were not "allowed" to cause the amount of destruction, grief and mayhem necessary to bring the opponent to its "knees."

But in 2006 Lebanon, the USA allowed Israel to take all the time it wanted and use all the weapons it had to bring Hezbollah "to its knees." The adage that one must destroy the country to save it has been fully tested in 2006 Lebanon. Much of Lebanon's infrastructure has been completely destroyed by advanced US-sourced weaponry built precisely to destroy infrastructure as quickly and effectively as possible. There is no doubt the bombs did exactly what they were designed to do. But despite their overwhelming effectiveness, the strategic purpose of using them has completely failed. My mind's eye sees a well-designed hammer pounding a well-designed nail into the beams and joists of a building so crooked and poorly designed that it will topple no matter how many nails are pounded into it.

So what is next, Mr. and Mr. President and Vice President? And where to next?

The principle of "Shock and Awe" has now failed twice.

The US has doubly lost. Its primary tactical method has twice failed to produce the outcome it was designed for; and its use has shifted much of the world's opinion from the US as a constructive entity to a destructive one.

How do you now intend to "win the peace" now -- to use President Nixon's phrase in Vietnam -- with your one-tool tool box empty and discredited both militarily and diplomatically? At what date after 9/11 does the phrase "we do not negotiate with terror states" devolve into "we do not negotiate with anyone?" When does the roar of Shock and Awe become the same as one hand clapping?

If Iraq and 2006 Lebanon were part of a plan to contain Iran and chill its aspirations as a regional power, how have these objectives been met by your chosen strategy? It is well known that Iran contributed greatly to the military infrastructure, materiel and strategy employed by Hezbollah. Doesn't the 2006 Lebanese War, which has now reached a draw, suggest to Iran that its military materiel and strategy can withstand any tactical threat by the US short of nuclear weapons? Would it not be surprising to assume that lots of countries and non-countries with defensive ambitions are now knocking down arms dealers doors to buy what Hezbollah has?

The infrastructure and tactics used by Hezbollah are useless for offense. They only work for defense. An advancing force cannot carry hardened bunkers carved into a hillside along with its troops as they try to take and secure a new front. As soon as a force tries to advance and occupy new ground, all of the value of Hezbollah's tactics and materiel become useless. Ambush is a useless tactic for an advancing force. How do you "ambush" someone's house when they are home? How do you ambush a force which is entrenched in territory you wish to occupy but do not because they do?

Then there is the oil weapon. As US oil supplies continue to dwindle, as US oil demand continues to skyrocket, as India and China's economic infrastructure place more and more demand upon oil supplies now available to the market, US dollars flow outward to entities like Iran and entities increasingly allied more toward Iran than the US. Would it be "shocking" to imagine these oil dollars will be used to buy and develop arms and hardened defensive military infrastructures of the type employed by Hezbollah? Every nation a fortress? Should it be "shocking" to see that Venezuela is now using a sizeable chunk of its oil windfall to go arms shopping in Russia with what amounts to a blank check?

Shock and Awe was intended to demonstrate that US military capabilities due to highly advanced weaponry are so superior to any potential enemy that any resistance would be suicidal. This has now been proven false -- twice. To make matters worse, Mr. and Mr. President, your complete confidence in Shock and Awe has led you to abandon any other tactical method and to openly ridicule and disavow them. You can't change course now because you have openly ridiculed the value of any other tactic except Shock and Awe and ridiculed as unpatriotic weak-kneed terrorist coddling pussies anyone who suggests the US might well consider an option other than Shock and Awe or even suggest that Shock and Awe is not suited for every single occasion. Has the US become the man with a hammer who sees nothing but nails?


Monday, August 14, 2006

Why no US troops in Lebanon?

1. 280 dead Marines in 1982.

2. All available US troops now bomb fodder in Iraq.

3. Like Willy Loman, USA not well liked in Arabic world right now.

4. US thought shipping US bombs to Israel would be enough.

5. Lots of Lebanese civilians killed by those bombs.

6. Relatives might want revenge.

7. Shipping US troops to Lebanon would drop GWB even lower in polls.

8. US troops in Lebanon would become Quagmire #2.

9. US troops under GWB never go into a country as "peace keepers"
because peace is for pussies.

10. Death is life leaving the body.

What's a world without Commies?

The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991 was unnerving. Nobody in the USA knew what to think of it. The mortal enemy and (mortal enemy ideology) which had controlled and dictated nearly every aspect of USA actions outside its borders since 1945 no longer existed.

Just think. The entire US defense and state departments, the country's entire non-domestic infrastructure, every textbook and think-tank and top secret report and bulletin, the mission statement for the country's entire military, were all suddenly and crushingly obsolete. All those nukes and no one to aim them at. No dominoes left to fall -- and nobody left to push them.

BushCo. now try to make the "war on terror" into the new Cold War -- but the details do not fit nor does the conceptual model.

Even a cursory reading of 1950s historic material shows the USSR was just as afraid of the USA as the USA was of USSR. It was like a dog barking at itself in the mirror, baring its teeth, and then seeing the dog in the mirror baring its teeth, and then the escalation took off from there. The post-WW II era left these two countries armed to to the teeth with brand new weapons technology, light years more advanced than pre WW II, with nothing to do with it except use it. Coming out of a 5 year war where each country's military was allowed to call all the shots, these military factions were little interested in giving up their place at the head of their respective nation's table. The USA and USSR military each felt compelled to call WW II the "first step" in a "long plan" to achieve this or that objective and to achieve "true security." True security meant rushing in to control virtually every corner of the world the other guy hadn't already gotten to first.

The USA is now, in some respects, like a heroin addict who steals TVs to buy a fix and forgets that if he wasn't a heroin addict he could buy 12 TVs a week or open a whole TV shop. Oil is our heroin. Chasing the mythical goal of total oil control has now cost us $300 billion in Iraq and will likely cost another $200 billion more. $500 billion could've bought a lot of oil. And we don't have a barrel to show for it. Using $500 billion to GET OFF oil might have put us far down the road to getting us off oil. But the USA, in some deep ways, is a profoundly anti-intellectual society. Given spending the same money to (perhaps) develop energy security by spending $500 billion to bomb a country and the same amount of money to wean us off oil, most Americans would choose bombs. Spending money on bombs supports the military, which is always great. Spending money to wean us off oil means paying a bunch of weird scientists, who should just go out and get real jobs instead of sucking off the government tit.

So far in Iraq we've spent $300 billion and have nothing to show for it except dead bodies. The USA is not more secure as a nation. Iraq is in a shambles, we've ripped apart our own Constitution, the mythical "free oil" we sought in Iraq is not flowing, we are far more addicted to Mideast oil than ever before, and we have no money for scientific research to wean ourselves off oil. How is this behavior not unlike a heroin addict?

The USA has no means to stop Syria and Iran from buying arms from the Soviet Union or China or elsewhere and supplying them to a non-state group like Hezbollah. If anything, the July-August 2006 southern Lebanese War has emboldened this strategy because it has worked. So long as arms proliferation continues, and countries and their corporate sponsors earn $$$ by selling them, it is hard to imagine this 2006 war dissuading any small country, or faction within a country, from not becoming emboldened by what has just happened. If Hezbollah can grind Israel to a stalemate even with Israel being supplied with advanced US bombs, this must tell any other group to consider the option of defense rather than the option of giving up.

BushCo should understand well what happens when a conventional force fights an unconventional force on the home turf of the unconventional combatants. It happened in Viet Nam and is happening now in Iraq. The unconventional fighters disappear to come back another day -- the conventional forces march in columns back to their troop carriers and don't come back. The Viet Cong knew the US forces would eventually leave. The Iraqis of whatever contingent know the US will eventually leave. Hezbollah knows the Israelis will leave southern Lebanon since they cannot hold it forever and Hezbollah knows they can set up a new front at the edge of whatever "new" security zone Israel attempts to establish. Hezbollah states that they have studied in detail the Vietnam War for strategy pointers. Has the US? No. Because half of the US still thinks we "won" the Vietnam War or would have won it if traitorous commies like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. hadn't screwed it all up (at least until they were assassinated, of course). Oh, John McCain screwed it all up too by faking his capture, imprisonment and torture by the Viet Cong all so he could come back home and defeat America.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The End (or Beginning) of News

Maybe it's just me ... but.

News through newspapers now seems almost comically inconsequential. You just get the sense that the reporters are not even trying anymore.

All print news outlets, traditionally the place you looked to get anything non-superficial, are sinking fast due to loss of readership and advertising. They are desperately chasing "readers" or "eyeballs" by becoming even more vapid, superfluous and unnecessary. Since the first sharp decline in newspaper readership in the 1970s, the mantra of newspapers has been to be "more like TV." For the last 30 years newspapers have tried to ape the "success" formula of TV by trying to become as vapid, superfluous and idiotic as TV. It hasn't worked. People already have an information outlet as vapid, superfluous and idiotic as TV. It's called TV. And now there are 500 channels of it instead of just 3.

Newspapers over the past two decades have actually ADOPTED the idea that reporters should phrase their stories (including vocabulary usage) to people with a pre-high school reading level. This also means that stories should be short, and never long. (Because TV has removed peoples' attention span for stories that require more than 1 minute to read, about 300 words). This means that newspapers have "strategically re-geared" their "information product" to ... people who don't really want to read and who really don't like reading news.

What a great marketing concept. Isn't this like a record company marketing its singers to people who don't like to listen to music?

Meanwhile, the people who do like to read, who know how to read, who would like to read real, informative stories can no longer find them in newspapers. Why? Because newspapers have decided their target demographic does not include ... drumroll please ...


Let's shift our product toward the people who never wanted our product anyways.

Let's shift our product away from the people who really do want our product.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pity George Mitchell's Homeland

If Israel has a right to exist, if its people have a right to exist, then does not Lebanon and the people of Lebanon? Is Lebanon not a sovereign country, a member of the UN, a country with an enormously long history and culture and a legacy of millions of Lebanese immigrants and their descendants now living in the USA? Not to mention former U.S. Senator George Mitchell of Maine, a Lebanese-American from right up the street from me in Waterville, Maine. The media's myopia on this particular issue is very disturbing, as if Lebanon simply does not exist, its people do not exist, and those who do are either Hezbollah, sympathizers or too poor, young or infirm to jump out of the path of a 6,000 pound bomb aimed at their house.

Has the phrase, "We're doing all we can to minimize civilian casualties", become the equivalent to the shouts of a barker at one of P.T. Barnum's side shows?

I thought Lebanese people and Lebanon were the "good guys and good women" of the Mideast whom "we" wanted to use as a symbol for the rest of the Mideast to become westernized, democratized etc. How can they when they are dead and/or much of their country is destroyed? How can Lebanese people be expected to "embrace the West" when the West has stood idly by during this bombing orgasm and has actually sold and shipped most of the bombs falling down on them? Will the West embark on a Marshall Plan to rebuild Lebanon when this conflagration ends? If not, how can the material, economic, emotional or spiritual seeds of "westernization" ever germinate and take root?

Sadly, it seems Bush & Co. have no clue what they intend to do or will do when and if the bombs finally stop dropping. Bombs now seem to be the end all and be all. From bombs, democracy will magically spring. Children will appear, limbs intact from the craters, waving flowers and ballots. Isn't this what Americans were told in 2003 would be happening in Iraq today, in 2006? Is it?