Monday, January 31, 2005

Picture of the day

I'm calling this one "Tear in the Horizon."

fractal art

Get 'Em While They're Young

What ever happened to Youth In Rebellion? Well, looks like they're
growing up to be Young Bushies. Consider a recent survey from the Knight
Foundation, which presented the full text of the First Amendment to high
school students and asked them what they thought of it. More than one third
of those polled say it goes too far -- and about half of those polled singled
out "freedom of the press" especially, arguing that newspapers should be
required to vet their stories with a government censor before publication.

The First
Amendment Center
has an interesting discussion of this survey.

Of course, I may be all wrong about the Youth of Today. Maybe they're
just planning for future careers as government media lapdogs -- after all,
it's a job that pays really well.

And if you thought the Patriot Act was bad ...

From the Blogging of the President comes this from the ACLU.

Freedom is on the march, all right, heading straight to Canada is my guess.

Latest Frank Rich Piece (NY Times)

Frank Rich takes a good look at the inaugural festivities, with their bloated & lavish display nominally presented as a "tribute" to our fighting forces. One paragraph:

Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal "salute" to the troops, the "Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball" attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising "operational security" by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an "overpaid" reporter was tantamount to that of an "underpaid hero" in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with "deafening silence," reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics "Clap your hands, hoo!" and "Dance to the beat" to "a group of soldiers missing hands and legs."

Watching the Iraqis Vote

Does anyone else feel the same sense of writhing embarrassment I do about this? Those folks looked so proud & happy to be voting, despite not being entirely aware of what they were voting for, and the vote itself is ultimately meaningless on almost all levels. The US government is apparently (& unfortunately) prepared to stick it out over there until they get what they want (ie, oil oil oil). After all, it's not their kids that are over there dying.

What happens when the Iraqis realize their votes mean little or nothing in the end?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Straight Eye for the Queer Guys

Buried in the Washington Post's Fashion & Beauty section is an article by Robin Givhan about how Dick Cheney managed to disgrace the United States at the recent ceremony to commemorate the liberation at Auschwitz.

that happening dude

Message to Sick -- I mean Dick:

Love the way you fit in there, Dick -- good job. The solemnity of the occasion is raised to a whole new level with your thoughtful choices. The ski cap and the faux-fur trimmed parka add just the right touch. (I don't care what Mr. Blackwell has to say!) You look like a man with a message -- someone burning with the desire for freedom to be made over by a few fellas who really know their fashion.

Or at least like somebody that was expecting something really cool like a football game with maybe some beer or something, instead of some boring thing that went on & on and it was outside in the cold already! Geez, can't a guy catch a break?!

The Other Pea in the Pod

And many thanks to zhakora for inviting me to share in Musings. She and I share a similar mindset, a similar perspective, a similar outlook on the sad state of the world around us -- and also a rare appreciation for such pop-culture aberrations as snowman porn.

In fact, in the two years we've known each other, I think our only serious conflict erupted on a road trip when I began to sing along with "My Ding A Ling". She was appalled that I knew the lyrics to this bit of early-70s playground innuendo, and even more appalled that I was willing to share this bit of knowledge with her.

Ah well, even the best of friends must occasionally be at odds.

So anyways, I'm here. I'm going on 42, I'm female, I'm struggling to make ends meet, and I've about had it with the world I live in.

And I think, in this day and age, an awful lot of people will be able to relate to that.

Swimming in Circles...

... or, what happens when pop culture run amok meets the degrees of separation mind-set.

The Poseidon Adventure, that terrific time-capsule flick from 1972 from perpetually pessimistic producer Irwin Allen, featured Shelley Winters in a prominent role. Many years later, she would have a much smaller role in the solemn adaptation of Portrait of a Lady, directed by Jane Campion and starring the excellent Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich. Alas, Ms. Winters and Ms. Campion did not enjoy the happiest of collaborations. Subsequent to making this movie (surely not a coincidence!) all Jane's marbles apparently rolled away, lost. So she made Holy Smoke! with the awesomely talented Kate Winslet, who herself made a big boat picture. I forget the name.

Paging Christopher Cross.

Picture of the day

fractal art

Your Tax Dollars At Work

I bet you thought all your tax money was going toward keeping fourth-raters of the fourth estate busy writing glowing praise about our laudable government. Well, here's some good news, from the New Scientist about how the rest of our tax dollars are being spent:

THE Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

Other ideas included chemical weapons that attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats to troop positions, making them uninhabitable. Another was to develop a chemical that caused "severe and lasting halitosis", making it easy to identify guerrillas trying to blend in with civilians. There was also the idea of making troops' skin unbearably sensitive to sunlight.

The proposals, from the US Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, date from 1994. The lab sought Pentagon funding for research into what it called "harassing, annoying and 'bad guy'-identifying chemicals". The plans have been posted online by the Sunshine Project, an organisation that exposes research into chemical and biological weapons.

Spokesman Edward Hammond says it was not known if the proposed $7.5 million, six-year research plan was ever pursued.

Obituaries are NOT funny

I may have to change this pov.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


From the BBC web site. Every American proud of having voted for Bush and proud of our undertaking to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to Iraq should take a good long look.

Iran is next

The Financial Times has an article about how Halliburton is phasing out its Iranian operations.

'nuff said.

Gee, really?!

Bush says in his radio speech that "violence will not end with the election" in Iraq.

Given that the election is likely to be of no ultimate value whatsoever, given that it cannot be seen as representing all or even the majority of the Iraqi people, it's a tragic shame that is costing lives every day that it's even proceeding. It is meaningless.

Bush also said that "Over the past year, the world has seen successful elections in Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Georgia, Ukraine and the Palestinian territories." He's not clever enough or ironic enough to leave out the USA, but it's certainly an interesting omission to those of us who fear the US is on a fast declining slope to disaster.

Link(s) of the Day

An excellent analysis of the utter chaos brewing on the world front as a result of the criminal irresponsibility of the Bush administration.

(One thing especially worth noting is that the article stresses that the rest of the world is cutting its ties to America as fas as they possibly can. And who can blame them? Recently, I've been coming across articles and commentaries that stress just this. See the Washington Post and the Financial Times (via the Washington Note blog -- an excellent blog!) for more. (The FT piece is especially good and informative.))

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bush meets the press ...

Today has been the deadliest day so far for American occupiers of Iraq, 37 dying in Operation Blood for Oil. The total death toll for soldiers killed is now pushed past 1400, and a quick poll up at the cnn web site querying whether you would be willing to give your life for Iraq's "freedom" is currently skewed 10/90 (the nays have it, as they say). I only wish that the war criminals that planned & put this insane war into action had asked themselves that question 22 months ago. (Putting them on the front lines is an appealing vision, too.)

So, what happens? Bush gives a press conference and says that today was "a very discouraging day." I'm sure that the parents of those killed appreciates Bush's sorrow and that they feel that their children have died in the glorious fight for freedom. (Yes, that is sarcasm dripping down your screen. How many more parents have to lose their children for no good reason before this country wakes up? It's bad enough when you lose a child -- imagine losing a child for nothing. Does anyone in Washington even care? No, I don't think so either.)

Of course, we can take comfort in how well things are going in Iraq (Our Leader's point of view, certainly not mine). From an AP article:
Unwavering in the course he has set, Bush pledged: "We'll have the troop levels necessary to complete the mission. And that mission is to enable Iraq to defend herself from terrorists -- homegrown or terrorists that come in from outside of the country."
Wow, so that's why we went to war! Man, I was thinking it was those non-existent WMD! Memo to Bush: most Iraqis think we're the terrorists, having invaded their country, destroyed its infrastructure, killed thousands of Iraqis (to free them, you know), tortured who knows how many more, and leveled whole cities. Gosh, the nerve of them not to understand that we're doing this for them, darn it!

"I've heard talk that we are occupiers," he [Bush] said. "No, the United States and our troops and our coalition are there to help the Iraqi citizens."
Huh? We're not occupying Iraq? Have the soldiers moved next door to Iran already?

The general populace misses the good old days under Saddam -- that should give us some little clue what the Iraqis think of us. "Occupiers" is probably one of the nicer words they use.

Finally, facing damage control front & center like the manly man he is, Bush says that, not to worry, the vote this weekend in Iraq is already a success! Never mind that, according to Time magazine, most Iraqis are too scared to vote and have no idea who is running anyway -- the candidates can't campaign, since they're threatened with being be-headed if they do. Boy, I'd say freedom is on the march, all right.

From the same AP article is a quick paragraph about Social Security:

He recognizes that some people are worried about the political risks and financial costs of overhauling Social Security by creating private investment accounts -- a step that could cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion in transition costs. "What you're hearing a little bit is whether or not it is worth the political price. I think it is," he said. He pledged to lead a battle in Congress and travel across the country to convince Americans the system is in trouble.
I haven't thought much of the collective intelligence of my countrymen since they voted Bush back in office, but I'm hoping that where their own futures are concerned, they'll be a little smarter and realize that Bush is trying to pull a con just like he did with the WMD in Iraq. The simple truth is that Social Security will need some fixing, at some point, say 30 years from now. Bush is against Social Security on ideological grounds. He's not trying to fix it, he's trying to ruin it for good. And we must not let this happen -- the elected officials in the Senate & House need to know that we're not buying what Bush is selling. They were elected to represent us, and if they don't, they should not be re-elected, not even as dog catcher.

Leave Social Security alone until there is a fiscally responsible president in office.

There are genuine crises in this country -- the widening gap between rich and poor, income not rising in step with the cost of living, medicare, an election system that is mired in controversy, if not outright dishonesty (ask yourself this: if Diebold can make ATM machines that are accurate, shouldn't they have done just a bit better with voting machines? not to mention the lack of paper trail (something else ATMs manage just fine)). The fiscal infrastructure of our country is a mess -- the deficit is ballooning out of all control, the dollar is falling, our trade deficit is colossal ... these things should be addressed by a governing body that is fiscally responsible and not asleep at the wheel. I've been very disappointed in the elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, because they don't seem to be interested in doing what is right and good and best for the majority of Americans. The Democrats have slouched along not really trying to put the brakes on an out-of-control fascistic agenda promulgated by the Republicans.

Everybody has a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Snowed over

We've been getting an awful lot of snow around here, these last weeks (enough already) and to "celebrate" I suggest a visit to the KamaSutra Snowman site. Be advised that the page contains snowman nudity. If that sort of thing offends you, you should stay away from it. (& if that sort of thing titillates you, you have more to worry about than being offended.)

Thumbs up :-)

... and hearty and heartfelt congratulations to Teri Hatcher for winning her Golden Globe last week. She's always been under-rated as an actress (if you don't count her mermaid days ) and it's delightful to see her, at age 40, finally getting some of the credit she deserves.

She's fond of animals, too.

(And, as you can see below, she .. ah .. can still vamp it up. Go, girl.)

teri hatcher

Thumbs down :-(

... to Micro Express, a computer company that takes your money, and gives you back lousy service, poor technical support, and, hey, if your warranty is expired, they don't even bother to answer your emails begging for help.

Way to go. I wouldn't buy a usb cable from these guys, and would caution anyone against buying anything from them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Charlotte MacLeod, RIP

Mystery writer Charlotte MacLeod, who wrote gentle, intriguing, character-driven mysteries, has died.

What the obituary fails to capture or mention is that Ms. MacLeod was a very sweet lady, an excellent conversationalist, and a dedicated cat lover. I was priviledged enough to spend some time with her on a number of occasions and though I didn't know her particularly well, I enjoyed her company a great deal and the more time I did spend with her, the more I enjoyed it (always a good barometer for measuring a person ).

She'll be missed.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Propaganda at its "finest"

The Social Security Administration has been co-opted in the plan to "sell" privitization to the public, with directives issued as to how to respond when panicked people call them up & want to know if Social Security is really on the brink of disaster. Yes, they will tell them (no doubt relieving their minds a great deal), follow our great leader and his plan, he is great & good ... blah blah blah. Worse still, the monies for this campaign are to come from the SS trust fund! Nobody asked me if I wanted my future retirement money squandered on a propaganda campaign to destroy one of the greatest hallmarks of democracy that we've managed to create in this country: namely, a sense of entitlement for everyone, not just the rich. We might not have much when we retire, but we know we'll have something. That entitlement, the brainchild of the Roosevelt administration, is about to be ripped from us after 70 highly successful years. It must not happen.

Don't buy the lie.

This is Iraq all over again. It's insane that it's even happening. Surely it wasn't so long ago that if someone had used taxpayer funds to pay a journalist to hawk their platform (without actually admitting to what he was doing, even) or if the government wanted to use our Social Security monies for what is basically a publicity campaign (without even a passing mention of the truth), those concerned would be cut to shreds by the press and public.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times has an op-ed piece on this subject which includes a link to the excellent & informative Roger Lowenstein article about Social Security.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Best of Times, Worst of Times

On the one hand, we have ABC "News" featuring a peek into Barbara Walter's exclusive puff piece -- ah, interview, I mean -- with Dubya and Laura Bush. The quotes give some (scary) insight into the Bush worldview.

Reading the article I couldn't help but wonder if Bush perhaps says something, and then ever after believes it to be true, despite all evidence to the contrary. The article states "Bush repeated that his administration will continue to make the war on terror a priority and continue its pursuit of bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks." There have been many reports (especially in the foreign press) that the hunt for bin Laden has been quietly scrapped. What is the truth here?

Another quote from the article:

To avoid anticipated shortfalls in Social Security funds, Bush proposes restructuring the system by basing it partly on private accounts. "I believe the dynamics have shifted on Social Security & I believe there's a lot of young people in this country that want to see leadership, because they're pretty sure they'll never see a dime unless the system is strengthened and modernized."

Saying the system will be in the red by 2018 and broke by 2040, Bush said his first task will be to "convince Congress that we have a problem."

Where are these numbers coming from? They are not true. Bush wants to destroy Social Security on ideological grounds. He doesn't give a fig whether other folks have enough to live on in their golden years. He's never had to worry about financial shortfalls (he sure isn't worried about running up a massive debt, either) because he's always had everything he wants, and he always will. It's ludicrous to suggest that Social Security can be improved by privitization -- see Paul Krugman's insightful op-ed pieces in the New York Times for the reasons why. He can say it better than I can.
Not surprisingly, Bush has no regrets about waging a war of aggression on Iraq, saying that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people (see the British journal the Lancet) is "worth it."

Bush is quoted as saying: "I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction — like many here in the United States, many around the world. The United Nations thought he had weapons of mass destruction... Saddam was dangerous and the world is safer without him in power... The removal of Saddam Hussein has made America safer because a dictator, a tyrant, a thug, with whom we had been at war in the past, who was destabilizing a vital part of the world, who was paying the families of suicide bombers, is no longer in power..."

Several points spring to mind:
  • if the UN believed that Iraq had WMD, it's surely probable that they would have sanctioned Bush's war
  • as it is, and as Bush characteristically fails to mention, the UN sanctions and inspections were working and there was absolutely no need for war
  • yes, Saddam was a bad guy, but the fact remains the United States had no right to invade Iraq: this is the most troubling thing of all, this lack of respect for international laws and the inherent belief that the US can do anything it wants
And finally (and getting to the other hand now ), is the world safer with the US mired in a horrible war which has destroyed whole cities and crumbled to bits the infrastructure of what used to be a sovereign nation? Well, according to the National Intelligence Council, the short answer would have to be "no." The Washington Post has an article reviewing the findings of these advisers to the CIA, the gist of which is that Afghanistan used to be the place for the up and coming terrorist, but these days, baby, Iraq's pulled ahead and running away with the race, thanks to the war and the incompetent way the US has handled every phase of "helping" Iraq achieve "democracy."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Thin Edge of the Wedge

I mentioned the other day how alarmed I was at the "covert propaganda" by the Bush administration, uncovered by the US govt itself and being found to violate federal law. The story was never big, and it's fast been buried. A bigger ripple has been made by the news that the "journalist" Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education to shill for the inane & unworkable educational policies put forth by the Bushies. It's a bigger story, but it still isn't causing the sort of resonance and alarm it deserves. Anyone who has studied the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s knows how important Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda machine was in creating a mythos of Hitler as a leader without parallel, ready to lead the thronging masses that didn't really know his agenda but adored him anyway and followed him blindly into wars of aggression conducted on the shaky groundwork of a network of lies. (Does any of this sound in the least familiar?) The same thing is happening now -- people who voted for Bush still believe that Saddam & Osama are in the same bowling league and that dirty bombs are hidden all over Iraq & sooner or later, darn it, we'll find the confounded things.

Can no one think ahead to see where all this is heading?

Link of the Day

... may be found here.

Less is More, Debts are Assets ...

From many news sources comes the word that once again the US trade deficit has achieved new highs (lows?), with the trade gap in November topping $60 billion for the first time ever.

Though economists are apparently united in concern that America's debt is too heavy a load, we need not worry, according to Treasury Secretary John Snow, who "...said in a telephone interview that the deficit was a sign that the American economy "is growing faster than those of our trading partners in the Eurozone and in Japan."

Um. Okay. Meanwhile, though, it's important to keep in mind that our deficit with China is now topping $16 billion.

The New York Times article goes on to say: "He [Snow] blamed the United States' wealthy trading partners for growing too slowly and failing to buying enough American goods and services. He said that Europeans and the Japanese needed to expand their economies and buy more American products to improve the United States' trading picture..."

Since a lot of the rest of the world is fed up with the US & our insane policies, people just aren't buying American any longer. Is Snow unaware of this?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

(Was Barbara too busy to read it to a young Dubya, or was he simply too .. ah .. challenged to take it in? First Iraq and now Social Security. Obviously Dubya learns from past mistakes and blazes new trails of righteousness & good.)

According to a speech Tuesday, Social Security is headed for disaster (finally, something he & I can agree on! it's just the details we differ on...). Dubya said in part:
"...if you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act right now."
Welllllllll .. not exactly, unless Dubya gets his way & ruins the system with the same skill he's using to bring democracy to the Iraqis (ever stop to think that democracy isn't something that shoudl be forced on a people, but rather something that they themselves should choose?).

On an upbeat note, however, he managed to pronounce the two syllable word "bankrupt" five times without mishap.

Link of the Day

The Snowman.

(If I were really nasty, I'd take the opportunity to point out that the aggressors in the video have the same intelligence gathering skill as the Bushies.)

Secrets to Success in the Bush Administration

Be incompetent.

Next year, this guy'll be getting the Medal of Freedom, you wait & see...

Monday, January 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

“A 'No' uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”

-- Mahatma Gandhi

(I would suggest that the senate keep those words in mind when they confirm Torture-fetishist Gonzales as attorney general, but I doubt many senators have ever seen the quote, much less let its import sink in.)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Propaganda alert

There is an article at the New York Times web site about how the Bush administration broke the law by producing "news segments" about drugs which constitute "covert propaganda."

This is just a small blip on the radar, given what the Bush administration is capable of, but I think it's important nonetheless for several reasons:
  • the allegation comes from within the government itself, via the Government Accountability Office
  • taxpayer funds were used to generate propaganda, which is prohibited by law
  • and there is a telling quote from the office that created the propaganda, saying that the GAO was creating "a mountain out of a molehill" and that they had not, in fact, broken any laws at all
In the Bushtopian Mind-Bending Alternate Reality, breaking the law is not, really, breaking the law at all, as long as they're the ones not breaking it.

Do you follow that?

So much of what the Bush adminstration says is so much propaganda that it's easy to evoke scary parallels to Joseph Goebbels, another government official of old with an eye for news "packaging" (& similar disdain for the truth) and who would be right at home these days in the White House. He & Karl Rove would have lots to talk about ...

Friday, January 07, 2005

Shameless self-promotion

Alternative Reality

I woke up this morning and settled into a form of consciousness by having my morning tea & checking several major news sites. These are bleak days -- not just due to winter & cruel natural disaster -- but things were more or less "normal" until I hit the top page of the Washington Post website, which featured prominently a story about Albert Gonzales. The subheading read:

Attorney general nominee says protections of the Geneva Conventions do not apply to alleged terrorists.

Call me crazy, but here I was thinking that folks are supposed to be considered innocent until proved otherwise. If someone is alleged to have done something, it's just that: an allegation, as yet unproved in a court of law. I know that everyone is assuming that Gonzales will become Attorney General with little trouble, but how can this be? How can a man who holds such contempt for due process, a man who has shown himself so willing to bend the law in such perverted ways (torture anyone?), be even up for consideration, much less considered a done deal?

I'm becoming increasingly aware that I have no representation in the government. The elected officials who are supposed to represent me and my best interests -- the interests, as it were, of an ordinary, average American -- simply no longer exist.

Is this a nightmare I'll awaken from? Or was George Orwell only off by 20 years but right in every other aspect?

It's sickening. And there is no end in sight.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Social Security

Paul Krugman has an op-ed piece designed to debunk the Bush administration's desire to "save" Social Security by privitization.

(Personally, I wonder about putting the bedrock of retirement for most Americans (the ones without trust funds) in the hands of someone expecting to be beamed up for the Rapture any day now.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

And the Ultimate Upper

(Way way upper...)

Here is an article about how the Bush administration is concerned about the chain of command in the event of the Rapture. After Bush, of course, Dick Cheney stands second in line to the presidency, but there are concerns about his health "especially after the shock of witnessing his boss disappear through the ceiling of the Oval Office."

Well, yeah.

But at least they're still bright enough to grasp that Dick is likely to be left behind, eh?

Ultimate Downer Holiday

... which may be summed up by one word: tsunami.

There aren't any words to adequately express how awful a disaster this is, and I'm not even going to try to find any.

But if you do have anything to spare & want to help, do so with wisdom: visit here.

And if you're interested in what the Religious Right is doing, in its infinite compassion, Working for Change has a survey of sorts.