Friday, December 30, 2005

Truth, Justice, and the Bushbucker Way

It is, finally, not possible to overstimate the hubris, the chutzpah, the balls-to-the-wall rattail towel-snapping locker room skull-boning fratboy daring do of the Bushies, especially the Bushbucker-in- chief, as they launch a criminal inquisition to find who outed the secret, illegal NSA spy operation, designed to monitor Americans communicating with foreigners (Dan Eggen carries today's Washington Post account--straightforward.) It looks like Arthur Sulzberger will finally have a case worth fighting, as opposed to the Judith Miller farce--well, farce but that her shilling for the Bushies helped promote their adventurism in Iraq. Whoever talked to the New York Times about the Bushbucker's circumvention of the law and wholsesale invasion of people's privacy is a classic whistleblower, exposing high crimes and misdemeanors. The people who outed Valerie Plame, on the other hand, were, in towel-snapper fashion, seeking vengeance against a whistleblower by attacking his wife. Dare we call that cowardice?

The Bushies don't shy from calling the NSA whistleblower(s) a traitor, or worse. If that be treason, we should all plead guilty.

Shall we then call the Bushies "swaggering cowards"--think of the hollow man who in the wake of Katrina's destruction of New Orleans, stood in front of a cathedral in an empty park in that ruined city to tell a television camera what he planned to do for the people there. They, by the way, are still waiting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Let the Elephants Roam

The following is a guest blog by Marc Bekoff, professor ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, devoted in the truest sense to understanding animals and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve as unique beings.

The article in today's Washington Post by Robert Strauss about elephants in zoos ("The Elephant in the Room") contains a lot of faulty reasoning and self-serving claims for keeping these wonderful and magnificent beings in cages that are far too small for them. For example, Mark A. Reed, the executive director of the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas and the head of the Elephant Task Force of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) made the following statements:

"They are a flagship animal. To some people, elephants mean Africa or Asia. I look at them as the representatives for species in the wild."

**Captive animals are hardly the representatives for their wild relatives. Anyone who's seen elephants in the wild (and I have) knows that zoos cannot possibly provide what these individuals need. Furthermore, zoos ship elephants and other animals around as if they're a piece of furniture ignoring the fact that elephants are extremely social, bright, and emotional beings who live in long-lasting families in the wild and who grieve the loss of friends and family. Elephants are viewed as money-making commodities rather than highly emotional beings who don't like being ripped apart from family and friends.

"What people forget is that sooner or later, every animal in every zoo is going to die, no matter how well we treat them," Reed said, noting that no one has accused any zoo of intentional abuse. "Just because elephants can walk 50 miles a day, it doesn't mean they do -- or even want to."

**Michael Hutchins, formerly of the AZA, has also offered the same sort of vacuous claim--Reed and Hutchins seem to think that this biological fact justifies keeping animals in horrible conditions. One could make the same claim for individuals of *all* species, including humans, and the slippery slope onto which this argument goes is a very dangerous one---a first-grader could likely pick away at it ... To hear people from the AZA make this claim to justify keeping animals in cages is especially disturbing.

Reed also said that just like humans, elephants would rather stay put, and they do if they can find water, shelter and food.

**Once again this is just vacuous. How does he know this? People often makes these claims that individuals are happy or content, but then criticize people who say that individuals would rather "not" do something or don't like something--it's OK for them to make these sorts of attributions but not for those in other camps....Let's not forget that concerning Ruby, another captive elephant who was shipped around as if she was a piece of furniture. Someone from the AZA said she's happy and doing well but then accused others of being anthropomorphic for saying she wasn't happy or that she wasn't doing well ....What self-serving double-speak ...

"Some of this is our own fault. We put up signs at the fence that say an elephant can walk 50 miles in a day and people then say they have to walk that far," said Reed. "We make sure our elephants get exercise, but three, four, five miles is plenty, we feel."

**What does he mean "we feel?" Once again he makes a guess that's self-serving because of how little zoos can really offer elephants and so many other animals

"My first animal contact was seeing Rosie the elephant at the Portland, Oregon, zoo when I was 3 1/2, in 1954. It had a huge impact, and I know it is why I am in this line of work," he said.

**Of course, that's why he feels good about his line of work - keeping elephants in cages that aren't and can't be large enough --

Marc Bekoff


Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall (EETA):

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Faux Science

Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the expression, "willing suspension of disbelief," by which readers suspend their critical faculties and accept the reality of a poem or story, even if it is irreal in terms of the natural world, inconsistent, fantastic, in order not only to enjoy it but also to derive from it, if it be art as opposed to crap, some insight into the human condition. The physical universe is the putative world of science, wherein events, forces, physical objects--reality--can be explained in terms of natural phenomena, and those explanations can be verified through experimentation. Scientists like to say that science is self-correcting, that if work can't be replicated, it will be cast out.

Yet, many scientists seem collectively to have suspended their disbelief when it came to Hwang Woo Suk's bold claims, beginning in 2004, of having cloned a human embryo, then of creating 11 patient-specific lines of cloned embryos, and finally of cloning a dog. A top geneticist told me years ago that dogs and humans were perhaps the most difficult animals to clone, so Hwang's accomplishments represented technical tours de force. According to his overheated claims, which both echoed and amplified those of other stem cell researchers, science journalists, patient advocacy groups, and the scientific journals that published his work, his accomplishments threw open the doors for producing stem cells for curing Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and other ailments. With this therapeutic cloning technology he was going to use the patients own genetic material to produce stem cells that would replace what had failed or vanished. Because they were derived from the patient, the new cells would not be rejected, the theory goes.

Problem was, as I've said before and the press has widely reported, Hwang faked his results at least for the May-June 2005 paper and, based on evidence gleaned from that, for the 2004 embryo cloning and dog cloning, as well, and he did so by taking advantage of Western, especially American, scientists' "willing suspension of disbelief." In short, they believe not only in the efficacy of therapeutic cloning but also in the need for America to stay in front of the field. In fact, as Rick Weiss pointed out in the December 24, Washington Post, a chief worry is that exposure of Hwang will tigger demands for increased regulation of research and make less likely a weakening of federal limitations on embryonic research. As if to prove the point, for Christmas, the Post ran a story by Rob Stein on how the scandal had already spurred calls for greater oversight.

I'm interested here in the apparent lack of due diligence by scientists and journal editors. Nicholas Wade reports in the Christmas New York Times that Nature did not seek data that would have conclusively proved--nor data that would have disproved--Snuppy a clone, before announcing the dog's arrival. Hwang was smart: by the time he'd popped Snuppy on Nature, it had twice lost out to archrival, Science, and although the Nature editors would deny it, I have to think they were primed for a headline paper. Data presented for the second paper in Science, at the request of reviewers was problematic, it turns out, but inexplicably neither Science nor its reviewers flagged the problems at the time. The journals say it is not their role to police scientists, but surely editors and reviewers should demand the data--all of it--and if it can't be produced or it's not right, they shouldn't run the paper. As the situation now stands, it appears that fact checkers at a top-flight magazine are more thorough than editors and reviewers at Science and Nature, who seem all too willing to suspend their disbelief for members of the club whose results they approve.

Equally inexplicable is how scientists from around the world could have visited Hwang's lab in Seoul to learn his efficient cloning technique and not seen the famous stem cell lines, not been able to replicate Hwang's results (the sine qua non of experimental science), and, despite that, not raised an alarm.

The big unspoken explanation for all of this is money, the corrupting power of money on science. Stem cells, therapeutic cloning, genomics--nearly all biology is promoted on the promise of curing some degenerative disease or congenital defect or cancer. The Bushies, backed by the "right to death by execution" crowd have stymied federally funded stem cell research, but other countries, states like California, and industry are forging ahead. The goal often appears more to patent and cash in than to elucidate fundamental biological processes. That requires proprietary information, the antithesis of what science demands.

It's inconceivable that something as fundamental as, for example, Newton's second law (f=ma) would be copyrighted or patented, so that anyone applying it would have to pay royalties. Yet businesses, institutions, and groups are permitted to patent individual genes. An army of scientists and their institutions would deny it, but the result is Hwang Woo Suk.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Righting the Record

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post deserves today's Diogenes Award--given sporadically to the reporter who shines the light of truth on the myths and lies mouthed by people in power and amplified by a noncritical press--for exposing as "urban myth" the claim that a "leak" that U.S. (non)intelligence agencies were listening in on Osama bin Laden's satellite phone conversations caused him to stop using that form of communication. The Bushbucker-in-Chief made the charge in his press conference Monday morning (12/19/05), while denouncing the New York Times report on NSA spying. The Washington Times published that "leak" on August 21, 1998, and Osama switched off his phone--according to the legend and the Bushbucker-in-Chief. But, Kessler explains, references to Osama's fondness for satellite phones began appearing in 1996 , with sources including the Taliban and Osama himself, and the Washington Times simply referenced that fact as a small part of a long profile on the man. The first story relating specifically that the U.S. had intercepted Osama's phone calls came in the L.A. Times on September 7, after Osama ditched his phone, Kessler said.

Left unsaid is that Osama would have to be flat stupid to believe that no one could listen in on his satellite phone calls--and he's not stupid.

To be fair, the Bushbucker-in-Chief seems merely to have been spouting received wisdom, "urban myth," Kessler calls it, that has appeared in at least one book, in the report of the 9/11 commission, and wherever people who don't bother to research anything, including, presumably, reporters and editors for the Washington Times, are given access to a computer or podium.

Kessler contacted the Bushies, who stood by their man's claim that a leak derailed America's pursuit of Osama by alerting him to danger from his phone. That they do and he does explains as much as anything why Osama bin Laden is still at large and why the Bushies are bogged down in Iraq. The Bushies aren't hunting terrorists with intelligence, with the mental adroitness needed to switch tactics to meet new situations. Flat-footed, ham-fisted, they're battling fear with ignorance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

[Un]Intelligent Design Loses A Round

Federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District in Pennsylvania ruled resoundingly against [Un]Intelligent Design, saying that as Creationism by another name it violates the Constitution's establishment clause. The news reports are everywhere I'll just provide a busy link to the entire 139 page ruling.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush's 9/11

The Bushy gave a press conference this morning and spent much of it defending his use of the NSA to spy illicitly on Americans who dare to contact someone abroad (full transcript at the Washington Post and other web sites). This dog doesn't want to rehash, so he'll focus. Reiterating the reasons he must act like a dictator and bypass the Constitution and supporting laws, which he denies doin, the Bushy said, "First of all, right after September 11, 2001, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war." He asked his hatchet men and women to come up with a laundry list of tactics. "We've got to be fast on our feet," he says, "quick to attack and prevent."

On numerous other occasions, the Bushy says, "everything changed after 9/11"--for him maybe.

Certainly, before 9/11 some people were quite concerned about radical Islamic terrorists, as well as other fringe groups--does the Bushy recall Oklahoma City? They had blown up embassies, effectively sunk a U.S. Navy warship, attacked the World Trade Center, and served notice that they intended to fly several planes into tall buildings. That threat was considered real enough that the president was given a special briefing on it during his vacation in August, a month before the event. No fast and nimble response there--he let it ride.

September 11 happened for many reasons, but it hardly represented the commencement of a "different kind of war," except in the delusional mind of the Bushy. The "intelligence failures" leading up to 9/11 included prominently the failure of the Bush and his Bushies to apply "intelligence" to warnings and data they had. The war was different to the Bushy because he didn't know the past--remember Condoleeza Rice even (mis)categorized that August briefing as "history."

It's by no means certain 9/11 could have been prevented, but an attentive president would have promptly ordered beefed up security at the airports and more urgent searches for potential terrorists.

That's the Bushy way: Pay no attention until a disaster strikes and then claim no one possibly could have foreseen something so monumental, something so profound it changes all previous relationships and equations.

The terriors didn't suddenly morph into something more diabolically malign after 9/11. That's a Bushy myth to excuse his inattentiveness. It's a myth the media has allowed to go unexamined, to the misfortune of us all, for it conceals the slothful, uninformed man who has brought so much misery and death to the world through his acts of omission and commission.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Listening to Bushy

Listening to Bushy speak with his hands from the oral office, I hear the voice of delusion, of dualism run amok in a brain that atrophied long ago. We're in Iraq for the wrong reasons but we have to be there nonetheless because to leave would be to admit defeat and leave America open to terriors. The Bushy says that those of us who opposed his decision to go to war have to support him now because there is no choice but to stand and fight. That's the old LBJ/Nixon Vietnam argument. Now, as then, there is delusion here of the first rank, based on "faulty intelligence"--and not the sort invented by the intelligence agencies. He ends by saying that America celebrates Channukah and Christmas and then quoting a Christian hymn, lest his base forget. This nonsense from a man whose administration harasses students for ordering by interlibrary loan, Mao's little red book--note to the data miners, I have Mao's Selected Works and the Modern Library edition of Das Kapital. While he talks, his hands tell a story told by"an idiot, full of the sound and the fury," signifying blood and death for no reason.

There are always more than two simple choices, as anyone with a working brain knows.

King George

The King came out all a swagger yesterday to announce, in effect: I set the National Security Agency to spying on individuals, and I intend to keep doing so. I don't care who says it's illegal. I dare Congress or anyone else to do anything about it. I am King George, chosen by the Lord to fight the terrior heatherns. Anyone who challenges me defies God's will and betrays me. In yer face....

He figures Congress will cave if only because his own party won't challenge him. Various Democrats will huff and puff and then roll over. Thus, the putsch is made.

I'd like to be wrong and see enough people in Congress rise up to impeach, but I fear they won't. As Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer report in today's Washington Post the NSA spying is just part of a larger program of domestic surveillance, involving NSA, FBI, DoD, and who knows who else. At least some of it violates various laws the Bushy has sworn to uphold, not that he cares for laws. This man, we have been repeatedly told, bases his decisions on his "gut," his instinct; otherwise, he remains deliberately ignorant.

And he gets away with it--time and again.

Executive editor Bill Keller of the New York Times issued a statement Friday, 12/16, attributing the long delay in publishing the NSA story to real journalistic concerns for truth, accuracy, and national security. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post offers a slightly different take, complete with the observation that the revelation was coming out no matter in February in a book by James Risen, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. It appears that the Times editors forgot their responsibility to print the news, so the people can decide.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Snuppy, Clone or Fake

Hwang Woo Suk's decision to withdraw his June paper in Science, announcing creation of 11 patient-specific cloned lines of embryonic stem cells, even while noisely proclaiming his innocence, raises questions about the validity of his other breakthroughs in cloning human embryos and a dog--Snuppy the Afghan. Time named the dog the "invention of the year," in it's November 21 issue. Nature (subscription required) carried Hwang's initial report on August 4. No one, it seems, has independently verified that Snuppy is a clone. In light of what's happening now, it's long past time to do so, and Nature should take the lead in demanding that Hwang provide the necessary genetic material to an independent lab.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Who Spies?

It appears that the Bushbucker-in-Chief at least condoned, and may have ordered, the torture of prisoners taken during the "war on terrior," thereby contravening international agreements, common human decency, and probably a few laws along the way. (Torture: The Road to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, edited by Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of New York University's Center on Law and Security, reprints many of the Bushies' documents promoting "enhanced interrogation" and redefining torture.) Bushy and Cheney certainly fought the McCain-sponsored bill banning torture.

Now, it appears that the Bushbucker-in-Chief also approved extensive, probably illegal eavesdropping by the ultrasecret National Securiy Agency on electronic and telephonic communications by Americans. That revelation by the James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times comes hard on the heels of an NBC investigative report on Department of Defense spying on antiwar activists. The FBI is doing it, too, and doubtless more. Dan Eggen of the Washington Post looks at some of the legal issues in the NSA case.

The Bushbucker-in-Chief's contempt for the Constitution and laws of the land is as great as his disregard for international treaties and basic human rights. Revealing its true nature, Congress, which rose to new heights of moral outrage in impeaching Bubba for receiving blow jobs and using his cigar as a dildo, can't be bothered to pursue open violations of the law and Bushy's oath of office, presumably because a majority of the Republican majority cares only about power and privilege. The Republicans of conscience--that might be an oxymoron--in the Congress should remember that it was the Democrats, then in control of Congress, who challenged LBJ on Vietnam. Certainly, John McCain held firm on torture and Republicans in the Senate joined in blocking renewal of the Patriot Act, but they have more to do.

The question here is why the New York Times withheld publication of the NSA spy story for a year. Ostensibly, the editors--and who else, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher?--were honoring the request of the Bushies, who claimed the revelation would harm national security. Think about this: As Ken Auletta points out in his account of the Judith Miller affair in the December 19 New Yorker, Sulzberger saw the fight over Miller's source as his Pentagon Papers--his father having fought to the Supreme Court for the right to publish those secret papers that exposed many of the lies of Vietnam. As everyone knows, Miller was defending a source who had attempted to damage the wife of a man who had exposed a lie the Bushies had used in justifying their war against Iraq, and she ultimately talked and talked.

But the Pentagon Papers were not only about freedom of the press but also the right of the people to know what their government is doing and the obligation of the press to tell them. So while Sulzberger, Jr., was propping up a sound principle with a bogus support--and then watching it collapse--he and his paper were ignoring the lessons of the Pentagon Papers. They sat on evidence of violation of the law by the president for at least a year, buying the argument, which was used in attempts to suppress the Pentagon Papers, that publishing the story would damage "national security." Right. The spying, the lies, the torture, the corruption, the disregard for the Constitution, international agreements, and human rights--they threaten the nation.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Modest Proposal for 2006

It is easy to lament at times like these the absence of a parliamentary system in the U.S. Since we're not about to get one any time soon, I propose adding this simple question to every 2006 ballot.

Shall President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard (Dick) B. Cheney be removed from office for crimes against humanity and failure to uphold their oaths of office?

That would give the people a chance to be heard, and since Bush believes in the power of democracy, why should he refuse to stand before it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

U.S. Torture?

European governments wanted a fig leaf, and Condoleezza Rice provided it with her assertion that the U.S. abides by the U.N. convention against torture--or requires that its "personnel" do so, according to the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler. It's not clear whether that statements covers mercs. But what matter. European politcians can be as cynical as America's. Dr. Rice would no more lie about important matters than would General Powell or the Bushbucker-in-Chief. Right. While the American media and European foreign ministers are congratulating themselves for asking hard questions before giving Dr. Rice a pass, her top legal adviser at the state department, John B. Bellinger, III, is quoted by the BBC as having admitted that the U.S. has not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit all "terrior" suspects in its custody.

But let's assume Dr. Rice means what she says and from the president on down, Americans abide by their own laws and international agreements. That would seem to suggest that if torture was approved and conducted in the past, everyone involved should be prosecuted and or impeached for violating those laws and treaties, not to mention their oaths of office. It torture occurred without approval, then everyone involved should be prosecuted. Unless arrests are made and cases prosecuted, we are left to assume Dr. Rice is lying.

Reports are that Dr. Rice shares the Bushy's messianic complex. That means that the Truth they serve is greater than any lie they might have to tell the infidels in order to serve it--see Seymour Hersh in the December 5 New Yorker on the Bushy's belief that god has chosen him. He believes in he has a divine right to rule. It's time to recognize--past time--that the man is not only willfully ignorant but also, to be polite, delusional. As such, he is a danger to others--witness the body count in Iraq. Problem is that in this Post-Modern Age of Non-Reason such delusional think passes for faith and is celebrated by many people--far too many. When it comes to humans, it appears that Bufon was closer to right than Darwin; the species is devolving.

Monday, December 05, 2005

What Are We Fighting For?

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for?"
--Country Joe MacDonald, "The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag"

First, the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment can't congeal around an Iraq strategy, reports Robin Wright in the Monday, December 5, Washington Post, with appropriate quotes from the usual suspects. Then today, December 7, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Shalaigh Murray report that Democratic Party leaders fear a voter backlash next fall if they take a strong position in favor of a quick pull-out of troops from Iraq. There's a lot of rumbling about not wanting to leave an unstable situation and not wanting to cut and run, but not wanting the current situation either. For balance, there are a few calls for withdrawal by the end of 2006. These are good stories, but who cares what the Democrats think? With a few exceptions, they have allowed fear and itimidation to rule them.

Don't any of them understand that their colleague, John Murtha, is talking for at least a sizeable part of the military.

For some of us, war is always a matter of conscience, and this one never passed muster. Now the stench is so strong that it has even begun to penetrate the noses of Washington's olfactory challenged officialdom. In short, the only reason to fight this war is because we are fighting it, and what the troops are fighting for is honor and devotion to each other. That is no lie; the lie comes from the Bushies who pretend that the war is about something else--substituting a new explanation for each one that falters on "reality."

As Juan Cole lays out in, the Bushies have succeeded in handing Iraq to Iran by replacing Saddam with a Shiite theocracy. And he does not even deal with the ethnically cleansing Kurds.

The real question is why the foreign policy elites, not to mention the elected officials, of the Democratic and Republican parties are so impotent in the face of the willful ignorance of the Bushbucker-in-Chief, an ignorance that is responsible for 10s of thousands of death?

For a change of pace, check out my dog genome blog at

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Who the Good Guys Are....

I finally understand. When the Pentagon pays (the Washington Post has it, as does Mark Mazzetti of the L.A. Times, who broke the story earlier in the week) to "place" stories in Iraqi papers, it is: (1) following local custom; (2) correcting the propaganda of the "insurgents"; and, (3) simply putting the "true facts that never get reported" out there--especially the ones relating to white phosphorus use as an incendiary weapon and private contractors ripping off the U.S. and Iraq and killing carloads of Iraqis with impunity, and the fact that no one wants us there, and we have no reason to be there, except that we are there. Of course, if abuses happened, we'll investigate, say the Pentagon perpetrators--wink, wink, nod, nod. Brilliant. Dictators don't seize power; they come to power because the people who could stop them not only refuse to do so but also collude in their rise to power, for what are often the most venal of reasons. But sometimes there is a Cicero willing to stand firm against the infidels, even at risk to himself. The people are speaking, as they have spoken. The question is: When will a leader emerge to speak truth to corrupt and decadent power.

"O tempora! O mores!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

(Un)Intelligent in Kansas

This dog had tried to find some light shining through the dense fog that settled over Kansas after the board of education voted a few weeks ago to redefine science to include the supernatural, especially the [un]Intelligent Designer. I thought the religion department at KU had provided that hint of enlightenment when its chairpersonage Paul Mirecki offered a course for the spring 2006 semester, Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies. Bravo, I said. I did time at KU in the mid 1970s--had a nightmare about it recently, but also met some fine, intelligent people there--and so I take a personal as well as sociological interest in what happens there.

But now, my friend David, who tipped me off to this course in the first place, sends notice that the course has been withdrawn because in an e-mail Professor Mirecki called the supporters of the (u)ID, "fundies"--I haven't a clue what that means but judging from the response in Kansas it must be "repugnent and vile," as KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway reportedly said. The public officials supporting the (u)ID had a field day. The story sounds like a bad farce.

It would be glib to say, "Watch what you put in e-mail, because whatever you write might come back to bite you." That's true, of course. But I'm thinking that the place being Kansas, that land over the rainbow where supenatural explanations for common events are encouraged, we might have to conclude that the (u)ID didn't like having Its work called "myth" and so moved to mute the infidel by turning his own words against him. At least now we know that the (u)ID is computer literate--and watching.

The Irreality of the Bushbucker

So let's see: The majority of Americans want out of Iraq. The Iraqis want Americans out of Iraq (mostly so they can have at each other). The world wants the U.S. out of Iraq. The Bushbuckers intend to stay in Iraq until they have achieved total victory. The U.S. is promoting "democracy" in Iraq. The U.S. boasts that it is the world's greatest "democracy." Democracy is based on the principle of majority rule and one person=one vote. That's enshrined in the U.S. Constitution the Bushbuckers have sworn to uphold. I won't even ask what is wrong with this picture. The answer is too depressing even for this dog, but here it is: We are ruled by a functionally illiterate autocrat and a band of corrupt thugs, and our political system is too dysfunctional--and inherently undemocratic--to allow for their removal from office.

(See the official "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" at this Washington Post site.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tall Tales

I promised myself to post no more blogs until I'd finished a long article on the dog genome for the Bark, but I couldn't resist this story from today's L.A. Times about the U.S. military paying to plant stories in the Iraqi media. Why not advertise? Hire the world's top ad agencies to sell the Iraqi people on the wonderful new democracy we're creating for them from the barrel of a gun emerging from a dense cloud of white phosphorus smoke.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Data Mine This...

"So we cheated and we lied and we tested
"And we never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do." Stephen Stills, "Southern Cross."

Stills, of course, laments lost love, but everytime I hear those lines, I think of the Bushbuckers. That should be their motto, especially the Bushbucker in Chief.

Despite their repeated incompetence--or maybe because of it--I read the report by Walter Pincus in today's Washington Post, "Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Surveillance," with a mixture of anger, amusement and absurdist resignation. After all, Pentagon spooks were involved in sculpting the scant information on Iraq into a justification for war, knowing everything they reported was wrong. Their counterparts in the FBI can't find the anthrax mailer. The CIA is best equipped, it appears, for torturing people held in secret prisons in order to obtain confessions known to be fabricated. As to 9/11/2001--what can one say--that the intelligence agencies appear collectively to have had everything but last names, flight numbers and dates. In that light, what should one make of the Pentagon's expansion of its capacity for domestic spying, especially through the [un]poetically named Counterintelligence Field Activity. The agency's computer programs will sweep the web and our email into Pentagon databanks, where they will languish until time comes to cherry pick the information to justify another war--say, against Syria--or another secret arrrest, extraordinary rendition, and torture.

That's what passes for the clandestine war on "terriors." It is a sham. There is no evidence that increased funding and personnel has improved or will improve the quality of the information the intelligence agencies disseminate--that is, they might be able to gather every byte of data in the world, but they can't properly analyze or report it. Increased funding and personnel appear primarily to increase the capacity of these agencies for mischief, corruption and incompetence. Throwing more and more money at them is the equivalent of throwing more money at the missile defense system in the hope it will suddenly work. It's not happening.

Incompetent or not, the more profound question is why we should permit the military to spy on American citizens within our borders. But in asking that, I realize it's a false question. We. the people, are not being given the opportunity to approve this invasion of our rights. It is being imposed from above by a crew of Bushbuckers who, during their nearly five years in power--yes, only 5, they have 3 more, mein gott--"have never failed to fail."

Pesticides and Parkinson's

Maria Cone of the L.A. Times examines the link between exposure to chemicals in the environment, especially pesticides, and Parkinson's Disease. It's an issue of interest to me because of my Parkinson's, and I have no doubt that, as the story says, exposure to certain chemicals in certain quantities can trigger or help trigger Parkinson's in some people. Look at someone who's been spraying pesticides for twenty or thirty years, and you'll see how bad that shit is, and then recall the number of times your own home was sprayed or you gave a flea bath or dip to the dog. Pesticides are intended to kill; little wonder then that they also affect people.

I don't mean to belittle this research. The people doing it have been voices in the wilderness for too long. But there is not much news here, either; vague statements about percentages and speculation about multiple chemical assaults at various timess substitutes for hard science. Throw the speculation, however informed, away and what's left is a plea for more money for more research--a lot more--and not just about the role of toxic chemicals in Parkinson's. We need to learn why and how people react so differently to the same environmental insult--and that brings us to genetics, which this article tends to downplay, if not ignore.

Far from showing how much we know, stories like this one reveal our ignorance of the way the brain works and way genes interact with the environment. They also show how industry invariably looses its "biostitutes" (biologist + prostitute) to pick studies apart rather than to join the search for truth. The result is "politicized science" in which people stake out and tenaciously defend their intellectual turf instead of engaging in the free inquiry that is the sine qua non not just of science but of all critical thinking.

Still, short of any compelling evidence to the contrary, I'll blame the (Un)Intelligent Designer for Parkinson's and all other debilitating diseases. The dude clearly has a sick sense of humor and a malevolent spirit, to have turned these things loose.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

White Phosphorus, Take 4

Back to incendiary chemicals. Jeff Marley, who blogs "World Opinion Roundup" for the Washington Post, picks up on the now suppressed, by Blair, Daily Mirror report of a Bushbucker threat to bomb al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar --who said the U.S. hasn't been targeting journalists in Iraq--and a more comprehensive citation for the Defense Intelligence Agency communique from April 1991 on white phosphorus. I went looking on Gulflink, a DOD site maintained by the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, and found among the declassified documents posted there, this investigation into whether Saddam and his troops used "chemical weapons to suppress the Shiia rebellion in southern Iraq after the Gulf War [March to April 1991] and if US forces were exposed to these agents as a result of any such use." The document cited by Marley and others, including me in "Take 3," deals with chemical weapons use against Kurds to the north.

The investigation itself--A Case Narrative Close-Out Report, submitted May 10, 2000 by the special assistant--was called inclusive, although elsewhere the report says that both the CIA and DIA independently ruled out Iraqi use of chemical weapons against its own people following Gulf War I--got that Cheney/Bush? Of interest here are several statements in Part II. Investigation, A. Scope: "What constitutes a chemical weapon is outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention and includes toxic chemicals and their precursors (defined in accompanying schedules), munitions and devices specifically designed to deliver those chemicals, and equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of such munitions. The toxic chemicals include nerve agents, such as sarin, soman, and VX; blister agents like mustards and lewisite; and other less well known agents. However, the difference between these chemical warfare agents and other substances not classified as chemical warfare agents (e.g., white phosphorous and napalm) is largely technical and legalistic [italics added]."

Part of the reason for that, we are told, is that it is often difficult to tell what caused a wound. Thus, "Blisters result from exposure to blister chemical warfare agents as well as contact with acids and incendiaries such as napalm and white phosphorus."

The mainstream American media have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to protect their Bushy partners in disinformation and wondering whether they are becoming obsolete. Certain editors have attacked blogs even while their reporters continue to present nothing but the Bushy line. They need to cover stories like the threat against al-Jazeera, the targeting of journalists, and the use of white phosphorus as a lethal weapon--that they don't seems partly to do with journalistic jingoism, the belief that foreign journalists can't possibly be better than American reporters--guess again. Like many bloggers, I do this in free time I don't have, with virtually no financial resources. Yet, for now, these important stories are being best covered by bloggers with help from a few large media outlets, like, in this case, the Washington Post. If the mainstream media falters, the way GM has, it will be because it has become enamored of its own voice pontificating and forgotten how to find and present the facts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

(Un)Intelligent Design, Again

A friend sent me this notice that faculty at the University of Kansas department of religious studies have decided to call (Un)Intelligent Design by its proper name and will offer for the Spring 2006 term a course, "Special Topics In Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies." At least there is one bastion of light and reason remaining in the state where the board of education, eager to prove the case for (un)intelligence, has redefined science to allow for proof by the supernatural, by which one must assume they mean faith. Now, the religion department under Paul Mirecki has determined to call this bit of pseudo-science by its proper name---"Intelligent Design" = "Mythology." Now (Un)Intelligent Design's creators and defenders are squirming and protesting because the last thing they and their "theory"can tolerate is proper naming. Improper naming thrives on ignorance, superstition, and confusion. Proper naming brings clarity and right order.

Monday, November 21, 2005

White Phosphorus, Take 3 Think Progress » Exclusive: Classified Pentagon Document Described White Phosphorus As ‘Chemical Weapon’

This wee tidbit from Think Progress appears to say that when it comes to deciding whether white phosphorus is a chemical weapon or a particularly foul incendiary weapon--when used against people rather than as a smoke screen or target marker--that Pentagon likes to have it both ways. If used by our "enemies" against our friends WP is a WMD, a proscribed chemical weapon, but used by us against our enemies it is a venerable incendiary device. What changes, of course, is not the chemical structure of whie phosphorus but our relationship to it and all it represents--recognizing, or course, that humans fire the rounds.

I don't care whether white phosphorus is classed as a chemical weapon or an incendiary device or any other euphemysemeemweapon, because in essence, its use as a weapon intended to kill and maim is beyond the pale. I seem to recall an old adage that goes like this: If you adopt the tactics and methods of your enemy in order to defeat him, you also defeat yourself, for you are then your own enemy.

White Phosphorus, Take 2

The New York Times weighs in on the use of white phophorus in Iraq with a story by Scott Shane, "Defense of Phosphorus Use Turns into Damage Control," that is, sadly, pathetic, even by the Times' degraded standards for covering weapons use and possession in Iraq. The article spends most of its ink attacking the Italian television documentary, which at this point is the equivalent of bashing a dead cockroach, since that program's faults were exposed after its first airing, and bemoaning the subsequent "public relations" failures of the Bushies, as they first denied, then admitted (kind of), then effectively said, well, we in fact outed ourselves, but don't worry we were careful. Shane doesn't deal with the issue of civilian casualities. (For a more complete discussion, scroll down to my November 19 entry, "The Fire This Time.") Of "shake and bake" artillery bombardments, employing both white phosphorous and high explosves to flush out and kill guerilla fighters in Fallujah, Shane says nothing. Nor does he mention how white phosphorus was reserved for "lethal missions," according to an account in the Army's own Field Artillery Magazine. No, as Shane and the Times tell it the use of white phosophorus as a weapon wasn't as problematic as the subsequent bungling of the response to the Italian documentary. Shane cites an unnamed State Department official, who would not comment for the record but who "privately" dubbed the Bushies' response to the white phosphorus report "a public relations failure." (What is the Times policy on anonymous sources?")

"Public relations, indeed: The use of white phosphorus raises concerns because people can't forget the searing image of the Vietnamese girl running naked down the road, in flames....Death by fire, disfigurement by fire are terrifying to most sentient creatures, even among us fire dependent humans--and maybe that is because we are fire dependent. White phosphorus is nasty; the Times should look again.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"What It Is Now"

The title of this blog comes from Mark Knopfler, "What It Is," from Sailing to Philadelphia, but today it's Bob Graham, former Senator from Florida and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, telling what it is in an op-ed--"What I Knew Before the Invasion"--for the Washington Post. He chaired the Intelligence Committtee during the run-up to the vote that Bush claims authorized his going to war with Iraq--as opposed to an outright declaration of war presumably--and to keep it short, Graham says that the Bushies cooked the books, showing members of Congress and the public unclassified intelligence briefings that led to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a growing menace. The classified material, he says, was laced with doubts and caveats. Moreover, Graham says: "In February 2002, after a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan, the commanding officer, Gen. Tommy Franks, told me the war was being compromised as specialized personnel and equipment were being shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for the war in Iraq -- a war more than a year away." Privy to those classified briefings, Graham voted against the war. His colleagues in Congress should have been more vigilant. But I think Graham should have been less the good scout and told people the hidden truth in plain English. His service now is to expose Bushy's new lie--that everyone had the same "intelligence reports" he had.

The L.A. Times's Bob Drogin and John Goetz produce the goods on Curveball, the primary source for the Bushies claims about Saddam's capacity for producing WMD, especially biological weapons. Curveball's handlers in the German intelligence agency, BND, repeatedly warned the Bushies that their man's information was highly suspect and that Curveball himself was "'not a psychologically stable guy,'" according to Drogin and Goetz. Their exhaustive investigation revealed, they say, "that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed." In essence, the non-reality based Bushies ignored evidence provided by UN weapons inspectors and anyone else that Curveball was wrong. Surprise.

Drogin and Goetz don't say it, but when you add a compliant press, lazy and frightened Congress and public to the mix, you get ignominy, torture, white phosphorus, wasted lives, one nation in ruins and another bankrupted economically and morally.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Fire This Time

White phosphorus, Willy Pete, WP. It's weaponized to burst into dense smoke spewing yellow flames when exposed to oxygen--meaning air--and it burns hot enough to melt flesh. We didn't use it in Fallujah in November 2004, when we pretended to drive the insurgents out--no matter what that Italian television network RAI says. Wait, we did use it, but only to create smoke to conceal our stealth movement through those narrow, twisted streets. No, we did use it in the other way, too, and, in fact--take that you Italians--we're so honest we even reported it ourselves. We used it on insurgents, not civilians. We know that because all of the 300,000 or so civilians had left before we rolled in. We told 'em to leave, anyway, and if close to 100,000 remained and some of them got burned--well, shit happens. WP is not banned by any international treaty that we signed, not that we pay any mind to treaties. It's not like we firebombed the whole place or anything, although maybe we should have.

White phosphorus is a waxy solid which burns easily and is used in chemical manufacturing and smoke munitions. Exposure to white phosphorus may cause burns and irritation, liver, kidney, heart, lung, or bone damage, and death. White phosphorus has been found in at least 77 of the 1,416 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. For a good history and disquisition on phosphorous, see this Denver Univeristy site. It's nasty.

The Independent today has a fine review article, taking the U.S. and Britain to task for using incendiary bombs (M 77s), cluster bombs, and white phosphorus [Note: The military and most of the American press use "phosphorous," but "phosphorus" is the preferred spelling] in Iraq, especially white phosphorus. The March-April 2005 Field Artillery Magazine carries a bare bones account of the use of WP in Fallujah in November 2004, and the shells weren't fired just to blow smoke.

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition," report Captain James T. Cobb, First Lieutenant Christopher A. LaCour, and Sergeant First Class William H. Hight. "We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosives]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." Elsewhere, they talk of reserving WP for "lethal missions."

Lethal, indeed: weaponized white phosphorus ignites when exposed to air and burns until it consumes itself or is deprived of oxygen. It sticks like superglue to skin and basically melts its victim down to the bone unless they find a way to suffocate it. It will "steal your face right off your head." (The Grateful Dead, "He's Gone.") The phosphorus pentoxide in the smoke becomes a heat producer when it encounters moisture and thus can damage eyes, lungs, nasal passages.

Arguably, when used for "lethal missions," WP becomes a chemical weapon, a WMD, the very thing the Bushbuckers started the war to find and eradicate. The Pentagon disputes that, of course, saying that WP is ever and always an incendiary weapon. For legal purposes the distinction is important--the use of chemical weapons would violate international law--but whatever it is technically and legally, practically it is nasty shit, intended to inflict pain, suffering, and death. Ethically and morally, the use of WP against people is unjustifiable.

Cobb, LaCour, and Hight say that they encountered no civilians in their southern sector, and we can believe them, but there were civilians in Fallujah, and they were exposed to white phosphorus. We don't do torture. We don't use chemical weapons. Except when we do, and whether we are signatory to the appropriate treaties or not matters less than that we have become worse than our enemies. Because we have stooped to the level of hatred, oppression, violence, and torture of our worst enemy, we will never defeat them. We can only hope to hold the people who order the use of these weapons and these abuses accountable for their crimes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Their Hypocrisy, Again

A wee update, because Dick Cheney, at least in the eyes of the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin, is the administration's "biggest attack dog"--not to mention the speculation that he is also Bob Woodward's source on Vallery Plame (rejected in today's Wall Street Journal). I think calling Cheney any kind of dog is an insult to dogs, but granting the metaphor, I'll say that he most closely resembles the fell war dogs the Spanish unleashed on Native Americans during the Conquest. Those creatures attacked, killed, and maimed men, women, and children. There are even reports of Spaniards feeding captives to their dogs. The legacy of that abuse lingered for generations and affected the non-use and use of dogs in the American military, as I show--not to be self-promoting--in A Dog's History of America.

Now, back to Cheney's attack, from November 17. The Bushbuckers are at it again with Bushy and Dickie double-teaming the Democrats criticizing their abuse of intelligence prior to invading Iraq, as if Republicans weren't doing the same. Cheney, the man with the different agenda, who couldn't be bothered to protest the Vietnam War or fight in Vietnam, or do anything but serve Dick Cheney's lust for power, declared the charges, reports the Washington Post and virtually every other media source, "reprehensible." Bold talk from a man who can't reveal why he wanted to go to war or the names of the people who helped design his energy policy or what he and the Hypocrite in Chief really knew about planned terrorist attacks prior to 9/11--and typically twisted in logic. What's reprehensible are wars of aggression. What's reprehensible is torture. What's reprehensible is fearmongering. What's reprehensible is lying about your reasons for war. What's reprehensible is repeatedly putting the same troops in harm's way because you know your war is so unpopular that were you to implement a draft, you would face a popular uprising on your own shores; what's reprehensible is designing communities to waste energy.

And while I'm lodging my protest, let me ask what is democratic about an election in which people vote not for individual candidates but for slates or one in which huge percentages vote to approve a constitution they have never read, simply because their imam tells them to?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Their Endless Hypocrisy

Sometimes--I should say, often--it helps to get the news from abroad, like reading this evening how Rummie, that Antediluvian Bushbucker who doubles as Secretary of Offense, declared that the current mess in Iraq is all Bill Clinton's fault [registration for the Guardian may be required], because between puffs on that cigar dipped in Monica Lewinsky's vagina, Mr. Bill endorsed the notion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. That's true, but Rummie and the other Bushbuckers aso need to remember that Bubba did not invade Iraq and start torturing people. These bushbucking hypocrites are the worst kind of cowards, as I've said brfore and will doubtless repeat; they lack even the courage of their nonconvictions.

No, this dog has erred: the Bushbuckers are devoid even of nonconvictions. Why else would they suddenly pretend to be following the lead of Bubba, whom, while he was in office, they considered worse than the Great Satan.

Monday, November 14, 2005

CIA Torture Chambers

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz reviews the flap over Dana Priest's report last week in the Washington Post on the CIA's secret torture chambers. The right attacks her and the Post for having printed the story, as if it were an act of betrayal and compares the unnamed official who leaked the information to Priest to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and possibly others who outed Valerie Plame. Kurtz cites specifically the ethically challenged bombast William Bennett, who demands outrage and punishment. Problem is these eejits are barking up a false equivalency. The people who outed Valerie Plame committed a crime as part of an effort to supppress the truth and continue to hoodwink the American people about the reasons for war. The sources on torture chambers revealed the existence of places where people kept without any legal rights are brutalized in apparent violation of U.S. law, international law, and basic human rights. (Apparent is operative: see, among others, Jane Mayer's "A Deadly Interrogation" in the November 14 New Yorker.) Well, the hypocritical right is, by definition, irrational.

The left, Kurtz says--here, he is pursuing a false dichotomy--attacks the Post for not naming the countries hosting these torture chambers. The Post and Priest offered mumbo jumbo arguments for not doing so--protecting those nations from attack primary among them. But the arguments don't wash. The countries were named by the Financial Times and other publications. More to the point, why should the Post protect anyone involved in these activities? It has long been a favorite tactic of torturers to work in anonymity because their filthy work can't stand the light, so illuminate them.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


When the Hypocrite in Chief, the Bushbucker himself, starts accusing his "[domestic] opponents"--the foreign ones are rotting without trial or even knowledge of what they are alledged to have done--of "trying to rewrite" history and being treacherously untrue to their nonconvictions, not to mention traitors to the troops and the Bushbucker, it is time to duck and cover. The Hypocrite in Chief asserts that the Congress had access to the same "intelligence" he received and that intelligence agencies around the world endorsed the view that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to make or obtain nuclear weapons. That last bit of intelligence was leaked to Judith Miller at the New York Times, which ran her scoop on the front page, and the Bushbuckers then proclaimed that the Times, that notorious liberal rag, was itself reporting on the Sadman's evil. There was more.

But the Bushbuckers were making reality and intelligence reports match their desire and to deny that now is simply to perpetrate the lie. Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus attempt to set the record straight in the Washington Post by observing ever so politely that, in fact, Congress didn't have access to the same "intelligence" the top Bushbuckers did. Of course, the Bushbuckers also forced a vote right before the 2002 midterm elections, which guaranteed that weak-kneed Democrats like John Kerry and John Edwards would vote for war. And many Democrats and Republicans simply didn't read what was available. Why bother? Paul Wellstone was dead by then--at whose hand?--and there was no one else to mount an articulate campaign against the Bushbucker's perfidy. Robert Byrd tried, but he was a voice in the wilderness, burdened by his past. The opposition in the House and Senate agreed to be defeated by the majority. Like Bob Graham of Florida, they hemmed and hawed but finally did not break ranks--thus, Graham has never revealed what he learned from the intelligence committee investigating the attacks on 9/11/2001, because that information is classified, and he's a good trooper.

Well, the time is long past when that lame excuse works. The Bushies didn't just manipulate intelligence, they also fabricated it--the link between al Qaeda and Saddan Hussein and Iraq's nuclear weapons program, to name two. They engaged in the worst sort of fear mongering, and they lied repeatedly about what was happening--that inspections weren't working, when, in fact, they were. In Bushworld, inspections weren't working because the inspectors failed to find the promised WMD. In the Sunday, November 13, Washington Post, John Edwards takes a significant step forward and admits that he was wrong to vote for the war, and that, had he known the evidence was cooked, he never would have done so.

More significant, he argues for a change of "strategy," and here's where the Hypocrite in Chief shows his true ignorance. The Bushbucker doesn't begin to understand that it is possible and sometimes necessary to change one's approach to a problem or a war. Bushbucker lacks the imagination and knowledge to that. All he can do is stay the course, which in this case means stumbling around in the lightless void that his mind, while Cheney and Rumsfeld attempt to shape Iraq to their dystopic vision.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Their Hypocrisy

Of the Bushbuckers it must be said--to paraphrase Val Kilmer memorably playing Doc Holliday in the otherwise immemorable Tombstone: "Their hypocrisy knows no bounds." On November 7, the L.A. Times reported on a warning sent by the IRS to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena that it risked losing its tax exempt status because on October 31, 2004, its former rector, Reverend George F. Regas, delivered a sermon denouncing the war of aggression in Iraq. The church's lawyers are careful, but I need not be. This threat is clearly another Bushbucker attempt to stifle free speech. The Bushbuckers are the same crew, after all, who happily court right wing churches, where the preachers sermonize and pass out Republican literature and, in some cases, cast out political apostates, meaning non-Bushbuckers. This politicization of the IRS surpasses anything Nixon achieved, yet it arouses barely a whimper. Bravo, boys and churls who rule the union. Once again, you have distinguished yourselves as craven hypocrites. Party on.

There's more. Cheney's no hypocrite on the matter of torture--he endorses it, as Dana Priest reported in the November 7 Washington Post, but the chief Bushbucker himself excels at hypocrisy, claiming in Panama--notice how he went to a country Poppy beat up on to get some good press on trade--that the U.S. doesn't torture, but it needs to maintain its secret torture chambers and maximum flexibility--that is the ability to torture. That must be why he's working so hard through Cheney to get Congress to amend its act reiterating that torture is not permitted in or by Americans in order to allow appropriate exceptions--not that the Bushbuckers would ever use them--or to drop it completely.

The WP reports today, November 8, that the ethically challenged Senate Majority leader Bll Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert are calling for an investigation into who leaked information on those secret CIA torture chambers to the WP--better to ask why the paper played along and withheld the locations of those prisons. The dynamic duo claim that release of the information harmed U.S. interests. If it did, bravo. U.S. interests should not lie in the torture of prisoners; rather, those practices are antithetical to all we putatively stand for because they make us no better than the people we claim to be fighting and they serve as a rallying point--rightfully so--for those who do hate America. But Frist and Hastert can't be expected to know that; they lack the brains.

The great irony here is that a lot of the information on those CIA torture chambers might have come from a Republican senator or staffer, according to CNN, citing Trent Lott. Indeed, there are Republicans, like South Carolina's Lindsey O. Graham, who recognize that the existence of those secret prisons is the real scandal--see the Washington Post again. They need to be shut down and the people who set them up--including the Bushbuckers who approved them--prosecuted.

Meanwhile, what about Syria? In his blog--Early Warning--for November 7, the Washington Post's William M. Arkin discusses the status of Pentagon plans for invading Syria. It's just a cross border jaunt, after all, and now the Bushbuckers can hang it on the UN's investigation of Syrian involvement in the assassination last February of Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Bushbucker needs another diversion, fast, and Syria is the easiest target. Be prepared.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

America the Ignorant

The Kansas Board of Education has decided to teach that the theory of evolution is "controversial" because DNA, among other biological entities, cannot be explained through natural processes alone--in other words to teach (un)intelligent design without using that phrase, presumably because they lack courage of their nonconvictions. In doing so the board has alligned itself with the Taliban and other reactionary fundamentalists, who prefer fantasy to truth--or, let us say, the quest for truth and understanding. My modest proposal is that since genetics cannot be explained through reference to natural processes alone, the ranchers and farmers of Kansas be forbidden to grow or raise any plant or animal that has been subject to genetic manipulation. That's because the scientists doing the manipulating can't possibly know what they are doing, unless the (un)intelligent designer tells them. Indeed, the only exception allowed is if the scientist can certify and prove that the (un)intelligent designer has spoken to them and directed their work, step by step.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hurricane Wilma

We got knocked offline, literally, for 48 hours, beginning with the arrival of the first tropical storm gusts of Hurricane Wilma, about 2:30 a.m., October 24. I'm watching satellite images of the storm approaching the Gulf coast and then zap--we're blinked back to the pre-electrical age, to conjure images of candle making and whale slaughter. But what was the nature of the hurricane that brought more devastation to Miami-Dade County than anything since Andrew blasted ashore in '92--and Andrew was a tightly wound category 5--the highest--monster? The early analyses and reassessments underscore the difficulty we have measuring, much less reconstructing events, even, or maybe especially, those we have lived through.

Initial reports were of a hurricane that contrary to expectations--meaning to notoriously unreliable models--ramped up to Category 3 status before landfall near Naples, Florida, and lost little power on its rapid crossing of the peninsula, blasting the Southeast coast with winds of 120 to 125 mph. The University of Wisconsin's Tropical Cyclone site, in the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), reflects that assessment in its excellent storm track map.

But several days later, University of Miami researcher, Sharanya Majundar, concluded that Wilma was primarily a Category 1 storm that crossed Florida with 85 mph winds, about what Katrina carried on its run in the opposite direction a month earlier. The October 29 Miami Herald (registration required) carried a good story on the issue, proposing that microbursts could have abounded or that coming in across the Everglades, the storm picked up debris with which to batter buildings and vegetation. For now, there is debate without resolution.

Although officialdom seems to have embraced the lower classification, no one who experienced the storm--at least among the people I've talked to--believes that Wilma was Category 1, the same as Katrina when it crossed Florida. Wilma wind gusts in the range 0f 120 to 125 mph were recorded in Broward County and on Miami Beach. That's Category 3. But those were gusts, and, indeed, from my unscientific perspective the pulsating quality of these winds was what was remarkable, especially after the elongatedd eye passed far enough to the west of Miami Beach that we had no calm.

Instead, the wind shifted in the blink of an eye from the southeast to southwest and turned explosively concussive, percussive. Blowing at its sustained rate of 85 mph--or whatever--enough to bend the palms double, their fronds whiplashing air and ground and any object within reach--the wind would seem to pause, take a breath as it were, then boom. A wall of wind would burst forth, driving the frenzied palms supine, snaping tree limbs, uprooting banyans that had escaped Katrina. The house would vibrate and emit a deep, rolling rumble, like far distant thunder. After five minutes or so, that onslaught would pause, meaning the wind speed would collapse back to its base of 85 mph for a momentary inhalation before exploding again. I don't have official records, but by my calculation, that pattern repeated itself continuously for an hour to an hour and a half, and it was brutal--to plants, buildings, people and critters, physically and psychologically--after especially after the prolonged onslaught, the softening up, as it were, from the southeast.

The westerlies might have benefitted imperial Spain by blowing the treasure fleets from the New World to the Old, but from my experience the west wind is an ill wind for the Southeast coast of Florida, bringing hot, humid weather, if not storms.

Perhaps, Wilma seems all the more intense because it passed by day--Katrina passed through at night, as did Andrew (largely). We watched and, like people through time, we might have overestimated the power of what we observed, but I have to use the qualifier because, as I said, all the people I talked to after the storm--those who were here--said, yes, this Wilma was powerful, worse than they expected, considerably worse than Katrina, just look at the destruction. Yet, they always added, Andrew was much worse. I add that by way of illustrating that people are quite capable of judging relative strength, even if they lack precise data.

By any measure Wilma was a brutal storm, especially those winds that hit us on Miami Beach from the southwest. That said, except for considerable damage to our vegetation--three trees gone and two more in need of righting, if we can stand them back up, along with some loosened roof tiles, we were lucky. Our 1925 house stood up to another hurricane--the 1926 storm that flooded Miami Beach and Andrew, and now Wilma, the most destructive among them.

I'd rather it didn't have to do so. After two hurricanes and two near misses that produced prolonged tropical storm force winds this year, most people I know are hurricane weary, and there is still a month to go in the season. That's right, a month was added to the traditional season because global warming keeps the tropics hot.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Dog Story

Rising from the mire of depressing news is the tale of Laurel, Maryland, lawyer and Army captain John E. Smathers who for 18 months devoted himself to finding and flying to this country, a little pariah dog he'd adopted in Iraq. Ruben Castaneda tells the story in today's Washington Post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Spy Games

If I were going to write a rank spy novel that was so outlandish, it could only be based on real people and events, I would have as my morally and ethically challenged agent a reporter for the "paper of record." I thought the conspiracy crowd would invent that plot line in the wake of Judith Miller's bizarre account of the principles and facts that led her to spend 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about conversations she had with Cheney operative Scooter Libby over another CIA agent, who happened to be married to a former ambassador and part-time Company contractor, who was exposing as fake one of their chief justifications for invading Iraq--that Saddam was trying build a thremonuclear weapon. But I've not seen that the conspiracy crowd wants to go near this one.

Eric Alterman , a respected and rational writer, called Miller, "the Manchurian reporter.' That's close. I always figured that she went to jail not to protect a source for a Valerie "Flame" article she never wrote--and how can anyone believe she doesn't remember who gave her the name?--this is the same woman who had a fit after Robert Novak "scooped" her in outing "Valerie Plame"--rather she sat in a cage for 85 days so she wouldn't have to reveal the prime sources for her bogus WMD reports for the New York Times. Those sources would invevitably reveal the depths of her connection to the Bushies and blow her cover, if she had a cover to blow.

Were I inventing a "Judith Miller" and wanting her story to make sense--and right now it doesn't--I would make her a double player in the Great Game--first, as a card-carrying journalist and, second, as an agent of some obscure intelligence service, acting out of a sense of duty, a love for adventure, and overarching arrogance paired with extreme self doubt. The only way for this fictional agent, "Judith," to deal with her subpoena is, in fact, to resist until she can exact a promise that the prosecutor won't question her about her conversations with anyone but Libby--and that because Libby is basically irrelevant. Who seriously doubts that the chief bushbucker himself, along with his Dick, ordered the exposure of Valerie Plame--the Bush is all about petty vindictiveness? Why Fitzgerald took that deal is another question, especially in light of "Judith's" selective memory of sources names, but once he did accept it, she was home free. Or so she thought. She didn't consider that in order to protect her covert identity, she would have to discredit herself as a reporter, in large measure by portraying herself as a clueless ditz, who can't recall the name of the source for whom she spent 85 days in jail or much of anything else of substance. The irony there is that jail time as a martyr to the First Amendment was supposed to redeem her journalistic reputation after the WMD debacle. (It did for the Society of Professional Journalists.)

I say debacle, but from the standpoint of the Bushies, she performed to perfection, consistently placing complete bullshit about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction on the front page of the New York Times, which most memorably in the case of Saddam's nuclear dreams, the Bushies, most visibly Cheney and Rice, then used as "objective" evidence. Everyone knows how much they hate the Times, so no one would seriously believe that anyone at the Times would be working for them, would they?

I don't think that reality based Judith Miller is a secret agent for any national security agency. She would be more understandable if she were, because now we're left to believe that she is a lousy reporter who allowed herself to be duped repeatedly by her "sources" and made things up as she went along or out of hubris or a need for the attention of powerful men became a fellow traveler with the neocon Bushies. By all accounts, including her own, she is "Miss Run Amok," who has used her close personal relationship with New York Times's publisher Arthur Sulzberger. Jr., to do what she wanted within the Times.

The question is why he allowed her to do so, why Bill Keller allowed it? As by now, scores of people who have read Sunday's New York Times have observed--just, for example, see today's Financial Times--you don't want to let Judith Miller get her hands on....the wheel of your car, unless you're willing to sail off the cliff into a crowd of people.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"Request for Domestic Covert Role Is Defended"

Right! That's the headline for Walter Pincus's article in today's Washington Post, detailing how the defense department wants to spy domestically in order to find people who might make good informants, and we're supposed to trust them not to abuse that "limited" authority and the Congress to make sure they don't. It's hard to know any longer whether to laugh, cry, or howl--the 50th anniversary of the first public reading of which was yesterday, 10/07. We're to trust the people who don't believe they have to follow international conventions against torture of prisoners, people who have slaughtered thousands in a war of aggression launched on the basis of trumped up "intelligence," people who regularly mislead and lie to recruits--the list goes on--not to mention a Congress which loudly approved the "war," condones the torture, and ignores every sort of incompetence and negligence? Right!

And speaking of that war, there's a growing, gnawing sense among people on the ground that the Bushbuckers' form of democracy in Iraq is fueling the "insurgency"--in quotes because we all should recognize by now that it's a civil war--and not creating the glorious model society they keep praising, according to today's Los Angeles Times. I wonder when the Bushbuckers will back a new strong man.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Harriet Miers +Torture + 9/11 + Just Say No!

Forget about Harriet Miers stands on a woman's right to control her own body or the right of men, women, cats, dogs, and all other living creatures to fornicate with and pledge undying love for whomever they please. She's not going to reveal her thoughts on those topics anyway. But do ask her about the torture of prisoners of war/terrorists/people the Bush and his Bushies dislike, and do ask her about that August 6, 2001, briefing at the ranch in Crawford, which she reportedly arranged. The Smoking Gun carried it when released back in April 2004, and Editor and Publisher referenced it on October 4, 2005. As a reminder, the briefing was titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S." History, Dr. Condi Rice called it in her testimony before the 9/11 commission. But presidents don't get briefed during their vacations on "history," especially the ahistorical Bushbucker. And history does not say the FBI has some 70 investigations underway because it has identified “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.” So Miers should be asked why she deemed this little memo important enough to interrupt bushwhacking but then, apparently, let it slide, as did the chief bushucker himself. Did they need time, date, and flight numbers? Did the Bush nod off and take his minders with him to his dreamland?

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Orleans Renewed

The Washington Post reports today that more than a few people would like to see the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and perhaps other parts of the drowned city restored to bayou or, at least, not rebuilt, since they will surely flood again. That doubtless doesn't please those residents who want to return, nor should it. But it's typically American. New Orleans is an environmental, economic, social, and political disaster, to be sure. There are abudnant reasons to return the Misssissippi to its historic course and let the bayous replenish themselves and the lower Ninth Ward return to cypress swamp--with considerable help from us. There are also numerous--and excellent--reasons for rebuilding those poor neighborhoods. But rather than do both, Americans will engage in dualistic argument, reflecting our cultural divorcement from "nature."

There is no reason, except a lack of imagination, not to combine the two needs--to remake the Ninth Ward and New Orleans in general as an eco-Venice for the 21st century. That's right--bring the river and the wetlands into the city and design the city to accommodate itself and its citizens to nature, rather than bending nature to the needs of humans. To do that, first expropriate the slumlords and then sell the property back to the people who lived there, at a reduced rate. That's an ownership society! Replace the streets with canals and only allow electric or human power. Follow the Dutch model and build houses that can float on a flood. Alternative power; the latest sewage and water treatment. Since the former residents are now stakeholders, if they want to sell, they can.

What right do outsiders have to make suggestions and policies? Well, last I checked the federal government is picking up the tab for rebuilding, which gives us all a vote. What's needed is the "vision thing."

Monday, September 26, 2005


Word for the day:

bushbucker n. 1. A person who ostentatiously struts through bushes while shirking their responsibilites.

2. A blame gamer, a poltroon who seeks through surrogates to blame others for their disasters.

3. A megalomanic fabulist who offers bogus justifications in seriatum for otherwise unwarrantted attacks on individuals or nations.

Bush and his Bushies are bushbuckers.

bushbuck v. 1. Ostentatiously to strut through bushes while shirking the responsibility of one's work, school, or office. [can be used metaphorically]

President George W. Bush bushbucked on his Crawford, Texas, ranch while New Orleans drowned.

2a. To blame others, usually through surrogates, when something goes wrong on your watch. 2b. To direct the blame game while disavowing it.

President George W. Bush bushbucked local officials in Lousiana for his administration's feeble response to the drowning of New Orleans.

3. To offer a bogus justification for an attack on a person, persons, or nation, and each time the bogosity is exposed offer another bogus justification, indefinitely, while continuing the attack.

The Bushies bushbucked the war in Iraq with removing WMDs, keeping terriors [sic] from our shores, deposing a brutal dictator, improving the lot of the Iraqi people, especially the women, creating a shining example of democracy in the Middle East.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bush Speak

So why is that the media doesn't show that the Bush is speaking to an empty square in a ruined, deserted city in a made television extravaganza. It's not surreal; it's irreal. He looked like Max Headroom. He sounded like a checked out eejit, desperate to sound like he cared about an event that was and is totally beyond his comprehension. He couldn't have an audience there for fear they would hoot and jeer him out of town. If he truly wanted to make New Orleans rise from the rubble better than ever, he would make sure that the people who were flooded out had their homes rebuilt on stilts, solidly, and that they were owners not tenants of some slum lord. That's an ownership society. He would restore the wetlands and run canals through the former swamp of the 9th Ward, but Bushy's whole effort is about making money for the rich.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Katrina + Bush

The Bush has long said that it's better to fight the "terriers" in Iraq than it is to have them attack us at home. Now we know why. Responding to a question at a brief press conference yesterday, according to Elisabeth Bumiller and Richard W. Stevenson in The New York Times, Bushy said: "I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm? And that's a very important question." That came after a comment that Katrina had "exposed serious flaws" in the ability of governments at all levels to respond to a catastrophe and that he, the Big Bush accepted responsibility for the federal government's failures whatever, if any, they might be. Once people buy that, blame shifting will jump into overdrive so that soon the federal government and Bushy will be fully exonerated. Let's say the Bushy's will try to make it that way.

But it might not work. Eric Lichtblau reports in today's NYT on the posting at the National Archives of a re-redacted monograph on aviation failures, prepared for the 9/11 Commission but originally released in such highly censored form that it was worthless. (Yes, the Bushies did the censoring.) Now, it is clear that as early as 1998, the FAA knew "that Al Qaeda could 'seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark.'" In 2001, the FAA was receiving a virtual flood of information about Al Qaeda and planes. No wonder the Bush was given a vacation briefing on the same subject. No wonder the Bushies don't want the full report released. Increasingly it does appear that they had everything but flight numbers and dates. 9/11 Commission material can be found at the National Archives--that is, as much as the Bushies have allowed to be releaed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina, take 4

The AP reports from the Bush's tour of New Orleans today that he sought to clarify his comment on the Thursday after the storm that no one thought the levees would be breeched. According to AP reporter Jennifer Loven, Bushy "said he was referring to that 'sense of relaxation in a critical moment' when many people initially thought the storm had not inflicted heavy damage on the city." Right. We'll just lay aside for now just what that "'sense of relaxation in a critical moment" means--if not something like "letting your guard down" or "walking off bcause everything is cool." The Washington Post, reported on Sunday, September 11, 2005, in its excellent post mortem, that the National Weather Service, which Pennsylvania's junior Republican Senator Ricky Santorum wants to block from issuing public forecasts, reported at 8:59 a.m. on August 29--the morning Katrina hit--that a levee on the Industrial Canal had been breeched and the 9th Ward was going to flood. Other reports followed and by Monday night--that night--it was clear the city was filling up. Bushy is right that a lot of naive people, including reporters, had initially cheered that New Orleans had once more "dodged" the big one, but anyone paying attention knew what the commander-in-chief should have known--New Orleans was going under. So Bushy's clarification is best seen as a confession of ignorance. It reminds me that this is a man who four years earlier had not taken seriously a CIA briefing about a certain terriorist group planning to use jet planes to attack the U.S. And that's not blame gaming.

At the same press conference, the Bush, like other white Republican politicians and Clintonistas, denied that race played a role in the horror of New Orleans. Of course, were the Bushies to admit that racism exists, they would have to change their tune on civil rights and affirmative action--either support them in the name of the equality they say already exists or become more openly honest about their racism. Bushy might ask New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin about this one. In an interview with Gordon Russell of the heroic Times-Picayune, Nagin confirms that black people were turned back from crossing a bridge out of the city into a largely white parrish and goods were stockpiled outside the city but never brought in. I'm sure there are other explanations, but I can't think of them.

That is not to say that poor whites are not also ignored; they are. The Bushies like poor white people only if they can be persuaded to enlist and to vote for Bushies out of fear of raging yellow, bown, and black people. Otherwise, they have no use for them. Poor blacks, though, suffer discrimination on account of caste--race--as well as class.