Friday, December 28, 2007

For those of you with bad memories...

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Bhutto killing blamed on al-Qaeda: "Pakistan says it has intelligence that al-Qaeda assassinated opposition politician Benazir Bhutto at an election rally on Thursday."

Pervez "after me, the deluge" Musharraf's government is blaming the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on al-Qaida. The problem with this is that Musharraf's government has had ties to al-Qaida. The Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency has actually used al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan to prepare personnel for use against India. Musharraf's finger pointing raises more questions than it answers. He should have stuck with the "some other guy did it" defense.

Does the US really need Pervez Musharraf as an ally? Should we really be supporting yet another tin pot dictator whose only demonstrated capability is suppressing lawyers and judges?

If anyone out there has an example in which the doctrine of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" hasn't come back to bite us in the butt I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated in Pakistan -

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated in Pakistan - "RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 27 -- Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday at a political rally, two months after returning from exile to attempt a political comeback."

President Musharraf, it looks bad when your political opponents are assassinated.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Turkey Reports Airstrike on Iraq - New York Times

Turkey Reports Airstrike on Iraq - New York Times: "ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish jet fighters bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq early Sunday, Turkey's military said, marking an escalation of force against the outlawed separatist group. An Iraqi official said the planes attacked several villages, killing one woman."

This is interesting because the US would have had to have allowed it. The US maintains a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over Iraq. We have good to excellent radar coverage extending well beyond Iraq's borders. The only reason I can see that the CAP didn't drop the Turkish aircraft is that they were told not to.

The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization. The best solution is for the Kurds in Northern Iraq to police the PKK themselves. If they're not going to do that then they're going to keep giving Turkey an excuse to come over the border and handle the problem their own way.

EDIT: BBC quotes a Turkish General as saying the US gave advance approval.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Musharraf ends emergency rule

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Musharraf ends Pakistan emergency: "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has lifted a state of emergency and restored the country's constitution."

Musharraf deserves no credit at all for this. This is, after all, a democratic crisis he created.

His days are certainly numbered. He has lost the loyalty of the middle class. Pakistani lawyers rioted in the streets. History students (people smarter than me) will tell you that the loyalty of the middle class is very often the tipping point for revolution.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I guess Rumsfeld won't be traveling to France anytime soon

BBC NEWS | Europe | Col Gaddafi faces torture lawsuit: "A Palestinian-born doctor jailed in Libya for allegedly infecting children with HIV has filed a suit for torture against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi."

I know, I know, diplomatic immunity and all that but this is important. Gaddafi very much wants to play big kids. If he wants to have relations with first world countries then he needs to clean up his act. One of the many things he needs to do is reject torture.

Silly dictator, only America is allowed to torture.

There needs to be a turd smoking section in hell for these guys...

Study Faults Charities for Veterans: "Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading watchdog organization and federal tax filings.

Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation's largest, gave less than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax filings showed."

I saw this on Wonkette.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Chaplain gets plea bargain in sex case

Lawyer: Priest will plead guilty to sex charges - Navy News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Navy Times: "An HIV-positive Catholic Navy chaplain plans to plead guilty Thursday to charges involving sexual misconduct with an unspecified number of men, according to his attorney, who said the priest has known of his HIV status for more than two years."

Lieutenant Commander John Thomas Matthew Lee was facing life without parole if he didn't take the pre-trial agreement.

The Marines have not released the charge sheet on Lee so there is a lot that we don't know. Two of the charges are aggravated assault and indecent assault. Lee's attorney says that his client is "extremely remorseful." Lots of monsters are "extremely remorseful" after they're caught.

Can someone please explain to me why professions dedicated to helping others attract ambulatory turds like Lee?

EDIT: Lee's sentence has come down. He got twelve years with all but two of those years suspended. I am truly saddened by this. He raped a midshipman (Naval Academy cadet). Two years time served is not enough for someone like Lee who abused his authority and preyed upon people who came to him for help.

If you look at the left boot of the Marine following Lee you will see he has a dog tag in the laces. The other one is probably worn around his neck. The thought is that you won't lose your head and your feet at the same time and your buddies will have an easier time identifying your body.

It is men and women that have to think like that who were burdened with a sexual predator.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Homeopathy is quackery

BBC NEWS | UK | Concern over HIV homeopathy role: "Doctors and health charities have expressed concern about a conference which will examine the role of homeopathy in treating HIV. The event includes discussion of what have been described as 'healing remedies' for HIV and AIDS."

If they're going to play doctor, then they should be liable for malpractice. It is time we started to hold "complementary and alternative medicine" aka "evidence-free medicine" practitioners accountable for their claims.

Rather than burden you with a long-winded rant, I'll just point you at Ben Goldacre's blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Michigan Messenger:: Crucifixes Sold in U.S. Are Made in Chinese Sweatshops, Rights Group Says: "Crucifixes marketed in the United States by a Christian retail group are made in a Chinese sweatshop with working conditions that are appalling even by Chinese legal standards, according to a report by a U.S. human rights organization."

This is Ed Brayton's article out of the Michigan Messenger. You can go to the source report here.

The sweatshop made lots of things besides Christian trinkets but Ed is quite rightly putting the Association for Christian Retail in the lead.

It's more than a little ironic that yuppies in line at Starbucks will demand fair trade coffee while American Christians are decorating their living rooms with tchotchkes made in sweatshops by child labor.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dobby... please... nobody believes you

BBC NEWS | Europe | Putin says US behind poll boycott: "Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of pushing Western observers into boycotting Russian elections."


"The OSCE's election monitoring unit announced earlier this month that it would not attend Russia's election, saying Moscow had refused to provide visas to its staff."

You cannot simultaneously deny visas to election observers and complain about not having election observers. What upsets you is that you can't get election observers you can control.

Putin's latest antics out of WaPo:

"MOSCOW, Nov. 25 -- Russian riot police detained the leaders of an opposition party Sunday and violently dispersed what officials described as an illegal rally and march in St. Petersburg."

Some helpful vocabulary from the folks at Merriam Webster:

Kleptocracy: government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed; also : a particular government of this kind.

Jeffersonian democracy is not for everybody, but a kleptocracy isn't for anybody.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Knucklehead from Falwell funeral sentenced

Times Community Newspapers - Police briefs: "Liberty student sentenced for bomb possession Mark David Uhl, of Amissville, was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for possession of an unregistered explosive device, according to The Lynchburg News and Advance. He also received three years of probation and is required to meet with a mental-health counselor."

This is the Liberty University student who manufactured and intended to employ five IEDs in order to prevent a disturbance at Jerry Falwell's funeral by Fred Phelps and his band of merry men.

Maybe someday he'll write a book and explain how homemade Napalm would be used to prevent a disturbance. The kid's got issues, that's for sure.

It's a pretty light sentence considering the seriousness of the act.

Blogged about previously here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

America's war returnees: many troubles but more help |

America's war returnees: many troubles but more help | "Many have trouble transitioning from combat dangers to a normal routine at home. But sometimes just identifying the problem is the issue.

The Army has improved its process by adding a second mental-health assessment three to six months after its initial screening, which is completed as soon as a soldier returns from war. This second screening has allowed the Army to unmask troubling trends among its soldiers: a fourfold increase in relationship problems compared with those reported in the first assessment, a surge of major depression among many, and increased alcohol abuse. [emphasis mine]"

This article lacks the insight I'm used to in Christian Science Monitor articles.

I have not read the Journal of the American Medical Association article that spawned this.

The results don't sound that remarkable. Battle stressed troops will maintain duty performance above all else. By the time a battle stressed troop has problems that show up at work their entire private life is in shambles.

I don't believe these problems are suddenly manifesting themselves at 120 days post deployment. I believe it's taking 120 days for things to get so bad that the warriors can't hide it anymore.

In case you haven't heard anybody else say this before, I will: the Army is screwing up an entire generation of warriors.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The NOVA documentary on Kitzmiller

I watched the NOVA documentary on the Kitzmiller case. The interviews with the defendants brought a new perspective. I still don't agree with them, but it was interesting to hear their side. Otherwise it was the high-quality well-researched fare we're used to from the NOVA folks.

I actually think Ed Brayton's talk on Kitzmiller was more informative.

I would also recommend Ken Miller's talk.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's day

Today I made a point of meeting up with a vet buddy. I don't know if the distinction will make sense to you but we're not really friends... we're buddies. We are bound by our common experiences in the service of our country.

This guy is a Vietnam era vet. He did in-country time in Vietnam and a career's worth of running all over the globe until his retirement. Like most vets I know, he went were he was needed and he did what needed to be done without regard for his health. Not surprisingly, his health is not the greatest.

In a typical meeting I start the conversation with something from current events and we end up swapping war stories. Eventually the conversation will turn to my buddy's health. My buddy is in his final few years and he knows it. Furthermore, as his physical health slips away his emotional health is also declining and he's aware of that too.

He's not asking for pity, he really just wants a listener. I think my buddy is one of those guys that thinks out loud. He's trying wrap his mind around the fact that he is dying a little bit at a time. The pills that stop the pain cloud his mind so he divides his time between living and existing. He goes out in the morning and socializes until he can't take the pain and then he goes home and takes his pills.

It is not how any vet, any man or woman of action, would imagine their end.

A gibbon?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Former prison commander gets 2 years

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US ex-commander sentenced in Iraq: "A US officer in Iraq has been acquitted of aiding the enemy by lending a mobile phone to a prisoner, but sentenced to two years in prison on lesser charges."

That's a slap on the wrist.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Potemkin would be proud

Tough Punishment Expected for Warhead Errors - "The Air Force has decided to relieve at least five of its officers of command and is considering filing criminal charges in connection with the Aug. 29 'Bent Spear' incident in which nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly flown from North Dakota to Louisiana, two senior Air Force officials said yesterday."

The legend of Potemkin villages is that one of Catherine the Great's ministers, Grigory Potemkin had mock villages constructed along the Dnieper river in order to impress his boss. The story is very probably false but it gives us a great label for sham enterprises.

It's been over sixty years since the United States actually used a nuclear weapon in war. I'm not complaining mind you, but this has allowed the nuclear arm of the Department of Defense to evolve into its own reality. The nuclear DoD is a veritable Disney Land of hypothetical questions and their accompanying hypothetical solutions.

In the kill-people-break-things branch of the DoD you periodically have to saddle up and go shoot somebody. Combat is a harsh teacher and units learn hard, invaluable lessons. The nuclear DoD has no such crucible. Officers who give great hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions get promoted. Some of these officers are good officers who have never been tested under pressure and some are officers who lack the character to persevere. To all but the most discerning observer, one who has actually seen a good man crack under pressure, both categories of officer look exactly the same.

And that, gentle reader, is how we got into our current situation. Supervisors at all levels found false comfort in their loose-leaf binders full of unread regulations and meaningless inspection results. This is not just a Minot AFB problem or even a USAF problem. The nuclear DoD is the single greatest collection of rear-echelon Formica-blind never-beens to ever wield a coffee mug.

In defense of Grigory Potemkin, at least he knew the villages weren't real.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

With Tight Grip on Ballot, Putin Is Forcing Foes Out - New York Times

With Tight Grip on Ballot, Putin Is Forcing Foes Out - New York Times: "Nearly eight years after Mr. Putin took office and began tightening his control over all aspects of the Russian government, he will almost certainly with this election succeed in extinguishing the last embers of opposition in Parliament.

Strict new election rules adopted under Mr. Putin, combined with the Kremlin’s dominance over the news media and government agencies, are expected to propel the party that he created, United Russia, to a parliamentary majority even more overwhelming than its current one."

So while the state of affairs in the US is pretty poor, at least we can say we're not as bad as Russia. At least not yet.

Former Iraq prison commander to be court-martialed

The Associated Press: Ex-US Commander at Iraq Jail Faces Trial: "BAGHDAD (AP) — A former U.S. commander at the jail that held Saddam Hussein will face trial next week on charges of aiding the enemy by providing a cell phone to detainees and acting inappropriately with an interpreter, the military said Saturday.

Army Lt. Col. William H. Steele, a reservist from Prince George, Va., pleaded guilty on Oct. 7 to three of seven charges, which carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison, forfeiture of pay and dismissal from the Army, according to the military."

I've blogged on this guy before.

Even though the aiding the enemy charge could be a death penalty offense, it is now a non-capital trial.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for the men and women who had to obey this ambulatory turd's orders. During his Article 32 hearing (pretrial hearing similar to a grand jury) there was testimony about him menacing his tower guards with a pistol. Worse still, imagine being a prisoner, with all your means of self defense taken away from you, in a prison commanded by a madman.

On a side note, LTC Steele is looking at long sentence in a military prison. My bet is that his sentence will be ten years or more. During that time, at least some of the military policemen that suffered under his command will have the opportunity to serve as guards in the facility where prisoner Steele will be serving out his sentence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Me and the phoney

So apropos of nothing, a gentleman came up to me and said "I just got back from Afghanistan." I retired from the military this year. I've got a pretty good sense of who has been and done and who has not. This guy did not have the vibe of a GI. He had the vibe of a pudgy dweeb who watched a war movie once and played make believe.

I asked him a few questions about his service in Afghanistan and he couldn't give respectable answers. So I started to turn away from him before I got annoyed. He then told some ridiculous story about putting a dismembered head into his lieutenant's helmet while the lieutenant slept.

I turned back around and he had this stupid smirk on his face. I said words to the effect that he had committed a war crime (depends on the source of the head, but it's not like he knew the difference). I was annoyed and it showed.

Pudgy dweeb changed the subject very quickly and soon left me lock jawed and trying to stare a hole in his back.

I see the guy fairly regularly. We don't talk.

He was pretending to be a National Guardsman. I have considered learning his name and reporting him to the NGB. For the time being I have decided not to hunt him and humiliate him. This is the new mature me.

But schmucko is hanging by a thread.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tax-evading couple arrested at their N.H. compound - Los Angeles Times

Tax-evading couple arrested at their N.H. compound - Los Angeles Times: "Federal marshals posing as supporters peacefully arrested a couple convicted of tax evasion who had been holed up in their New Hampshire mountaintop home for months, vowing to die fighting rather than surrender."

Smart cops. Who knew we had them?

If you weather the registration scheme and read the article, you'll find that the Brown family was preparing for their own little Waco.

Full points to the US marshals.

I'm not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV

U.S. Issues New Rules for Iraq Security Firms - New York Times: "With Blackwater and other private contractors in Iraq facing tighter scrutiny, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law. The measure would require the F.B.I. to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing."

I can see how this might work if all of the PMC employees are US citizens. But all of the employees aren't US citizens. How would it be possible to extend US law to non-US citizens for crimes committed in a third country against that third country's citizens?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ex-Paratrooper Is Suspect in a Blackwater Killing - New York Times

Ex-Paratrooper Is Suspect in a Blackwater Killing - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — The former Blackwater USA employee who is the sole suspect in the killing last Christmas Eve of a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president is a 27-year-old former Army paratrooper from Montana who now lives in Seattle, where he spends much of his time renovating his small home.

The former employee, Andrew J. Moonen, is identified in numerous government and company documents and is known to scores of Blackwater and government officials, but Congress, the State Department and the company have been keeping his identity confidential."

They outed him. I wonder which "they" did it? Blackwater has good reasons for keeping their mouths shut. Congressional Republicans need Blackwater to succeed. I'm betting an aid to a Democrat forwarded an e-mail.

I'm all about Mr. Moonen facing justice for what he did. I don't think throwing him to the dogs was the right thing to do. Crazies all over the world will be buying plane tickets to Seattle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Just don't say "When suddenly..." because this was completely predictable

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Sixty hurt in China balloon blast: "More than 60 students were injured when hundreds of balloons exploded at a school in northwest China's Gansu province, state media reported."

They filled 1,500 balloons with hydrogen to celebrate the opening of a sporting event. Was this some sort of population control measure?

Friday, September 14, 2007

My veteran's disability rating came through

I'm eligible for vocational rehabilitation which will be a huge "leg up" on starting my post-military life.

I don't want to give you the impression I'm badly off because I'm not. I've still got all the parts I had when I joined up in 1981. It's a matter of wear and tear and I consider myself pretty lucky.

The Veteran's Administration is swamped. Paperwork doesn't exactly fly through channels these days and it wasn't particularly fast before. As I said earlier, I'm not the neediest of the applicants and my expectations were not great. Additionally, the doctor who evaluated me is known for his low ratings.

But my package is back and I'm rated high (disabled) enough to receive vocational rehabilitation so that's a huge load off my mind.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I can't tell you why this upsets me so much

Serco Careers: "Job Description Participates as temporary full-time member (Personal Effects Specialist, or Photographer, or Administrative Speciaialist) on a Serco, Inc. team of 96 contract employees working on-site in a fast-paced operational/warehouse environment for the US Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at the Joint Personal Effects Depot (JPED). Receives, inventories, sorts, cleans, photographs, packages, and ships to family members (next of kin) all personal effects belonging to military service members and others, including defense contractors, who are killed or severely injured worldwide, especially incident to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Such a horrifying statement made in such a mundane, dehumanizing way.

First seen on Wonkette.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

E! doesn't get it

Griffin's 'offensive' Emmy speech to be censored - "'Kathy Griffin's offensive remarks will not be part of the E! telecast on Saturday night,' the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said in a statement Monday. In her speech, Griffin said that 'a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.'"

I guess my first question is: When did E! become an arbiter of good taste?

My second question is: Why does the media take Bill Donohue seriously? CNN, who has a reputation to protect, quotes documented nutter Bill Donohue as expressing outrage on behalf of Catholics. Donohue called Griffin's speech "hate speech." This is the Bill Donohue who thinks it's okay to say things like "gay death style." I do not think "hate speech" means what Mr. Donohue thinks it means.

E! screwed up. Mr. Donohue continues to screw up. Kathy Griffin continues to be Kathy Griffin and she's allowed to make jokes about Jesus.

If your belief system is that fragile, maybe there are other problems.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I'm out of sync with my country

Washington - Politics - Senate - House of Representatives - Rumors - Secrets - New York Times: "IN this era of blogosphere gossip, viral e-mail and infinite YouTube video archives, the open secret — unacknowledged by its keeper, theoretically hush-hush but widely suspected or known — arguably should be a thing of the past in public life."

I found this article interesting for its perspective. The author goes through a number of sex scandals and (at least in my opinion) misses the actual misconduct associated with them. This phenomena is not unique to the author, in fact I think I'm probably the one with the problem.

Let's start with Representative Mark Foley. Congressional pages are supposed to be in their Junior year of high school. Minimum age is 16 years old. Most of the pages will be 17 and some will be 18 years old. Sex with minors is a felony in the District of Columbia. The fact that Mark Foley's preference in partners was same-sex is not nearly as relevant as the fact that his preference was for children. If you have sex with children then you go to jail and all this tittering about homosexuality has nothing to do with the fact that the man is a pedophile and a sexual predator.

Another fun one is Jim McGreevey and his "I am a gay American..."speech after he was caught giving a former lover a government job with a 6-digit salary. I could care less about McGreevey's sexuality. His abuse of power at the expense of the taxpayers? That's a big deal. McGreevey's coming out speech was a brilliant "wag the dog" move.

Senator Craig's current situation is in the same category. First off, what he did was a misdemeanor. I find the whole public restroom-gay meeting place thing hugely annoying. I really don't know where America draws the line on public decency but I'm positive that have sex in a public place is below the line.

Interestingly, Craig was voting just the way he said he would. He ran as a conservative Republican and voted accordingly. Sure, he's a hypocrite but he's a consistent hypocrite. Playing with other men's wee-wees in bathroom stalls doesn't change his voting record. Idahoans got what they voted for.

There's one real victim in the Craig case, Mr. Craig's wife. Her husband has been having sex with strangers which places her at increased risk for venereal disease. Her husband took a vow which he's broken. Those are issues for the Craig family to settle within the Craig family.

If the American public is really this easy to distract, we don't need journalists. We can all go to TMZ and read gossip to our heart's content.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Things you shouldn't bother saying

Idaho Senator Says He Regrets Guilty Plea in Restroom Incident - New York Times: "BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 28 — Senator Larry E. Craig said Tuesday that he regretted his guilty plea in connection with an airport restroom incident, and he accused an Idaho newspaper of hounding him in recent months."

There are some phrases that carry a meaning well beyond the combination of words. One of those phrases is "I'm in charge here." Generally, if you have to say that something has happened that shows you're not in charge and you're trying to gain or regain control. "I'm not gay" is another of those phrases. If Senator Craig hadn't just recently entered a guilty plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct he'd be holding a press conference on the importance of traditional family values instead proclaiming his heterosexuality.

The article quotes Senate Republican leadership as saying it's "a serious matter." I beg to differ. Iraq is a serious matter. The deficit is a serious matter. The public shaming of a hypocrite is not a serious matter. The public shaming of a hypocrite is more like an entertaining diversion before getting back to business.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Treating the trauma of war – fairly |

Treating the trauma of war – fairly | "Bennington, Vt. - The high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is one of the many 'inconvenient truths' of this war. Inconvenient largely because it is costly: The most effective and humane means of treating PTSD are time-intensive and long-term.

The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: 'personality disorder.' While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering."

I joined back in the 80s. Back then, the understanding was: "Go where we send you, do what your country needs done and your country will take care of the rest." This is still partly true. You still go where you are sent, and you still do what needs done but the country does not take care of the rest.

It is my hope that one day we have a government that deserves the loyalty of the young men and women that do its dirty work.

Hopefully, the Veterans Administration is overturning these diagnoses.

Monday, August 20, 2007

APA Rules on Interrogation Abuse -

APA Rules on Interrogation Abuse - "SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 19 -- The American Psychological Association ruled Sunday that psychologists can no longer be associated with several interrogation techniques that have been used against terrorism detainees at U.S. facilities because the methods are immoral, psychologically damaging and counterproductive in eliciting useful information."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Torture doesn't work. Torture did not work during the inquisition. Torture did not work during the Salem witch hunt. Torture has been the source of demonstrably false information during the war on terror.

A freedom-loving people does not condone torture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The First Post: bunch of slobs

The First Post: Pic of the Day: food queues in Iraq

I can't tell you why stupid stuff like this pisses me off... but it does. The lazy, incompetent bastards at The First Post have captioned the above picture "US soldiers push back Iraqi women..." Two guys wearing "chocolate chips", carrying Kalashnikovs, one not wearing a helmet and the other wearing a black "fritz" helmet are not US forces. The uniforms and equipment are consistent with Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Guard. I really couldn't tell you which, but then again it's not my picture, not my web page and it's not my job to write the caption.

It would be nice if the people writing about Iraq actually knew something about the subject, but that's really too much to ask.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

This is not a double post

Guilty Plea Entered in Falwell Bomb Case - "LYNCHBURG, Va. -- A Liberty University student who pleaded not guilty last month to charges of possessing a bomb the night before the Rev. Jerry Falwell's funeral changed his plea in federal court."

Gomer started listening to his lawyers and changed his plea. He's looking at up to 10 years federal time. The federal system does not have parole.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Falwell funeral IED suspect pleads not guilty

WAVY TV 10 - News, Weather, Traffic, Sports for Hampton Roads, Virginia - North Eastern North Carolina - Liberty U. student denies making bomb; trial scheduled: "LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - A Liberty University student pleaded not guilty today to charges of possessing a bomb the night before the Reverend Jerry Falwell's funeral in May."

Well, we'll see how it goes. I think he's a pissant with delusions of grandeur. That's no big deal, except he's a pissant with violent delusions of grandeur.

Maybe he can start a prison ministry like Kent Hovind.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's called a straw man argument

I don't know who produces these videos. They can be pretty hateful. I think theism's role in modern society is something we need to evaluate. Crap like this does not contribute to the discussion.

First seen on Sandwalk.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Former Army officer admits accepting kickbacks

Former Army officer admits accepting kickbacks: "Standing bolt upright in federal court in Austin on Monday, his cleanly shaved head shining above a charcoal gray suit, retired Army Maj. John Allen Rivard pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges for receiving kickbacks on contracts he administered while serving in Iraq.

Rivard, 49, used to live in Georgetown. His roommate there said Rivard began sending his friends and family envelopes of cash after he was deployed to Iraq in 2004."

This schmuck was low-hanging fruit. He was mailing home envelopes stuffed with money. Not exactly a criminal mastermind.

I do not care for the plea-bargain at all. In fact, I don't even care for the venue. This open running sore on the buttocks of humanity should have been brought back on active duty and tried under court martial.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Health workers released

Nurses' return ends 8-year ordeal in Libya - International Herald Tribune: "SOFIA: After more than eight years in prison in Libya, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor stepped off the French presidential plane in Bulgaria's capital early Tuesday, greeted by the hugs of crying relatives and Bulgaria's top officials."

I am very glad they're finally free.

The NY Times has a blog entry about the final bill for their freedom. Libya made out like a bandit. Sadly, other countries are watching and I'm sure this case will be the first of many governmental hostage-takings.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Steady progress on imprisoned health workers

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya revokes HIV death sentences: "Death sentences on six foreign medics convicted of infecting Libyan children with HIV have been commuted to life in prison by Libya's top legal body.

Relatives of the 438 children earlier dropped calls for the death penalty, after accepting compensation reportedly worth $1m (�500,000) per child."

So now 6 innocent people are just sentenced to life in prison instead of condemned to death. I guess that's progress. It would be nice if it didn't take a $438 million dollar bribe to get it, but progress is progress.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Apparently religious freedom is only for a select few

Hindu prayer in the Senate draws protesters - "WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Three protesters disrupted a prayer by a Hindu chaplain Thursday at the opening of a Senate hearing, calling it an abomination and shouting slogans about Jesus Christ."

In my search for a Christian leader condemning the bigotry I found the American Family Association website. It wasn't what I was looking for.

Hopefully, we're just going through a phase and we're going to grow out of this.

If you'd like to watch the incident on YouTube, the link is here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - Ex- convicts and addicts may get DoD clearance - Ex- convicts and addicts may get DoD clearance: "Under the law, members of the military services, employees of the Department of Defense or contractors working for the Pentagon cannot receive a security clearance if they were convicted of a crime in any U.S. court and went to prison for at least one year; if they are unlawful users of illegal substances; if they are considered mentally incompetent or if they were dishonorably discharged or dismissed from the armed forces. "

This has nothing to do with existing law limiting “... the ability of the Department to manage its security clearance program and may create unwarranted hardships for individuals who have rehabilitated themselves as productive and trustworthy citizens.” The DoD really isn't about forgiveness and rehabilitation.

I believe this is being driven by the private military contractors (PMCs). PMCs such as Blackwater who draw from a candidate pool of increasingly dubious quality. The current DoD security clearance standards force at least some hiring standards onto the PMCs.

I will agree that a guy who smoked pot in college has not demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy, we could change that. But someone with a year or more in prison? A service member who was dishonorably discharged? I'm sorry both of those are signs of both bad character and terrible judgment.

If you'd like to read a little more about PMC hijinks, this is a good link.

First seen on Wonkette.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Reservist fighting his fifth war call-up - 07/08/2007 -

Reservist fighting his fifth war call-up - 07/08/2007 - "The 26-year-old Port St. Lucie man has been ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., on July 15 for his fifth deployment. And that has compelled Botta, a first-generation American who counts himself a quiet patriot, to do something he never thought he'd do: sue the Army."

Thirty-seven percent of the active duty Army has never deployed. This guy already has four deployments since 2001. I understand the whole "take the money... do the job..." thing, but I think Eric has earned a break.

The target tempo is one deployment every four years. Naturally, some jobs are going to get hit harder than others. An infantryman is going to go more times than a drill instructor. But five times in six years is ridiculous.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Moral gymnastics

Bush Rationale on Libby Stirs Legal Debate - New York Times: "In commuting I. Lewis Libby Jr.’s 30-month prison sentence on Monday, President Bush drew on the same array of arguments about the federal sentencing system often made by defense lawyers — and routinely and strenuously opposed by his own Justice Department."

I'm personally upset about two facets of this case. The first is the failure to indict Carl Rove. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was actually convicted of interfering with the leak investigation. Mr. Libby was not the source of the leak. There is credible evidence that Carl Rove was the source of the leak. Somehow, Carl Rove hasn't been indicted.

The second upsetting facet is the government's schizophrenia on sentencing guidelines. Victor A. Rita, a veteran of two wars, obstructed a federal investigation into the possible violation of gun registration laws. Mr. Rita was sentenced under the same guidelines as Mr. Libby. While Mr. Rita did commit a crime, his crime pales in comparison to ending the career of a CIA officer who hunted weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Rita appealed his sentence all the way to the Supreme Court saying it was unnecessarily harsh. The Justice Department filed a friend of the court brief defending the federal sentencing guidelines. Those would be the guidelines that president Bush said were excessive in the case of Mr. Libby.

For those of you who have lost track of the Valerie Plame case, I recommend going to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The one statement that isn't there is the president's press secretary, Scott McClellan's statement that: "... if someone commits a crime, they're not going to be working any longer in this administration." Those are good words. That's an appropriate standard for government service at the highest levels. Sadly, I think they're just words. I think Carl Rove endangered Valerie Plame, her sources and our country for political ends and I think he's gotten away with it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I hope he used sunscreen

An airman at a deployed location saw a picture of a guy marshaling a tanker in his underwear. Gomer decided he could do the guy in his underwear one better.

While white socks can be worn with boots, the pants must be bloused in a manner that conceals the socks. I think this troop might be in trouble.

I like this kid, he's got a sense of humor. Sadly, his commander probably doesn't have a sense of humor. In fact, making the boss look stupid is a surefire recipe for closed-door unpleasantness ending in a reduction in rank.

I happen to think that unit wise guy is right up there with the chaplain in importance. One of the great unit wise guys of all time was Skippy. I heartily recommend Skippy's List to anyone serving in or alongside the Army.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I just knew if I blogged enough...

Kasparov's opposition movement holds anti-Putin rally in Moscow - Los Angeles Times: "MOSCOW -- Chess champion Garry Kasparov and allies in Russia's most vocal opposition movement held their latest showdown today with President Vladimir Putin's government, keeping up their frequent protests with a demonstration in central Moscow."

This is actually the second opposition rally in a row that Putin hasn't broken up. He's on a streak.

While I don't get many hits from Moscow, I'm sure this is because President Putin is reading my blog.

Another possibility is that with his stranglehold on the media and his 81% approval rating, he's stopped caring.

But I think it's this blog that changed his mind. I used to just stand around and scream at street signs, but now that I've got a blog I know I'm making a difference.

A liberal is a conservative who's been booked...

Accused Al Qaeda operative can't be jailed indefinitely, appeals court rules - Los Angeles Times: "WASHINGTON — In a setback for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that an alleged Al Qaeda operative arrested in the United States and detained in military custody for four years cannot be held as an enemy combatant."

Americans need to get off their butts and start defending their rights while they still have rights to defend.

Make no mistake, this case is going set an important precedent. Al-Marri was arrested in Illinois on credit card fraud, labeled an "enemy combatant", pulled out of the court system and thrown in the brig on Fort Brag, NC.

Al-Marri is most likely a real-live bad guy. He probably did come here with the intent to do evil. But if al-Marri can be labeled an enemy combatant, stripped of his rights and indefinitely confined without due process, then so can you.

The term habeas corpus dates back to the Magna Carta in 1215 CE. It literally means "to have the body." It is a requirement to show cause for confinement. While our Bill of Rights are amendments to the Constitution, habeas corpus is actually written into Article I. It is a basic human right.

A few words on the difference between a right and a privilege. A right is something you have and a privilege is something you're given. Privileges can be taken away and rights cannot. Freedom must not become a privilege.

The title for this entry is from a joke my dad used to tell: "You know what a liberal is? A conservative who's been booked! Know what a conservative is? A liberal who's been mugged!" The issue of perspective is worth considering. If you were wrongly accused of terrorism, how confident would you be that your liberties were protected?

As an aside, the LA Times has one of the worst "free registration" schemes I've ever seen. If they've put the article behind a log-in screen do a Google search. There's lots of content of equal or better quality out there.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

So much for my beloved stereotypes...

Cool Reception for Bible Park in Bible Belt - New York Times: "The congregation sometimes assembles here for open-air services, said the pastor, Bryan Brooks, with the trees and pastures across Route 840 for a backdrop. But that view may change, because the land beyond the road has been proposed as the site for a theme park called Bible Park USA on over 100 acres.

The proposal has ignited fierce opposition to the project. The park, which would be in Rutherford County in an area known as Blackman, would be about 35 miles southeast of Nashville."

Well I would have thought that a Bible-based theme park in the heart of the so-called Bible belt would have been a slam dunk. Blackman, TN is about 315 miles south of Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. The Creation Museum didn't face anything like this kind of local opposition.

Reading the article, it sounds like the locals are going into this with their heads up and their eyes open. It is reassuring to me that even though the developers surrounded themselves with an air of being good Christians, the overwhelmingly Christian population of Blackman saw through the pretense. The project is facing three major hurdles: its 100-acre size, its special tax relief, and its representation of Christianity. The developers are in for a tough fight.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Oh, to feel the wind in your hair...

Truck hits wheelchair, hits road | Chicago Tribune: "PAW PAW, Mich. -- Ben Carpenter is used to being on wheels. Just not in this way.

Carpenter, 21, was taken for a 2-mile ride down a two-lane highway after the handles of his wheelchair got stuck in the grille of a semitrailer truck as he crossed an intersection in Paw Paw."

Ben looks awfully serene in the picture. Maybe he's just patiently waiting for the trucker to get close enough to strangle.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

People who didn't listen in school continued...

An Australian TV station constructed a Trojan Horse and attempted to deliver it to various institutions.

It's one of my favorites.

Where do pollsters find these people?

Eppure si muove…or does it? � "A case in point is the following. The GSS folk actually made the mistake of asking the following question as part of their science module:

Now, does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

Here we go. Now what follows is real social science data folks. No joking around:

Earth around sun 73.6%
Sun around earth 18.3%
Don’t Know 8.0%
Refused 0.1%"

Holy Schnikes. That's 26.3% of the respondents who either thought the sun revolved around the earth or didn't know the answer.

I see a couple of things happening in the near future. I see Galileo getting retried in absentia for heresy and I see physics instructors battling against the effort to get "Intelligent Falling" into their textbooks.

I hope there's some huge flaw in polling methods, that they're surveying people outside a bar at closing time or something.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

There is no such thing as a "good" execution

ACLU: Who's botching the executions? - "COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- At Christopher Newton's execution by lethal injection last month, it took 90 minutes and at least 10 stabs of the needle for the execution team to find a vein. The procedure was so drawn out the staff paused to allow Newton a bathroom break."

Articles like this are interesting to me. I am strongly opposed to the death penalty so these debates about the finer points of killing have the air of arranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. They totally miss the point of the killing itself. Once you're calmly strapping a man to a table for the sole purpose of extinguishing his life, does it really matter if the table is padded or not?

I believe killing is only acceptable in self defense and in war.

The idea that the death penalty deters murderers has been thoroughly debunked. Furthermore, we know we have sentenced innocent people to die.

I think that there should be greater media coverage of the actual executions. I think the American taxpayer should see and hear exactly what they're supporting, know without a doubt what is being done in their name.

Hopefully, after enough education and reasoned debate the people of the United States will realize their mistake and stop killing their own citizens in the name of law and order.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

East Indies Trading Company Still has Influence

Council bans boy, 6, from flying Jolly Roger at pirate party - because it is 'unneighbourly' | the Daily Mail: "A six-year-old boy's birthday plans were thrown into disarray when council officials told him he could not fly his pirate flag."

I am not clear on how the dad ended up talking with the town council about birthday party preparations.

The picture kinda gives me the creeps. The red, white, and blue costume reminds me of the SUV-driving anti-pirates that we have here in the United States.

I like the cutlass, though.

Monday, June 4, 2007

General Discharge Recommended for Anti-War Marine � Idaho Falls, Pocatello - Weather, News, Sports - Discharge suggested for anti-war Marine: "KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A military panel in Kansas City, Missouri, has recommended a general discharge for an Iraq war veteran who wore his uniform during a war protest."

The article says Adam Kokesh won't lose any military benefits. That's not completely correct. I know that you have to have an Honorable discharge for Montgomery GI Bill benefits. Kokesh is currently a graduate student at George Washington University, so he might miss the $1,000 a month payout.

This is still a whole lot better than the Other Than Honorable that was under discussion. An OTH would have cost him many more benefits.

Brand New Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat: Carpentry Against Climate Change - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Brand New Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat: Carpentry Against Climate Change - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News: "Greenpeace likes to think big -- its latest publicity stunt is the recreation of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat. The idea is to focus the attention of world leaders on the need to address climate change and to prevent major catastrophes -- including floods -- in the future."

They released 200 pigeons. They lost my support right there. I hate pigeons.

First seen on Foreign Policy.

House Elf has Delusions of Grandeur

‘I’m a pure and absolute democrat. It’s a tragedy that I’m the only one’ News World Europe TimesOnline: "“Of course, I am a pure and absolute democrat,” he said. “But you know what the problem is – not a problem, a real tragedy – that I am alone. There are no such pure democrats in the world. Since Mahatma Gandhi, there has been no one.”"

I was going to say that President Putin has more in common with Dobby the House Elf than Mahatma Ghandi, but Dobby had good intentions and Vladimir Putin does not.

Russia is not obliged to be a Jeffersonian democracy. There's no single perfect system of government that all countries must adopt. But Russia's government, in whatever form it takes, must be responsive to the needs of the people and take care that the people possess the means to assert those needs.

I would think that freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and some form of an elected government would be the standard for any first world country.

Vladimir Putin disagrees.

Vladimir Putin is the guy who closed an opposition newspaper. [here]

Vladimir Putin is the guy who closed the last independent television station in Russia. [here]

Vladimir Putin is the guy who had an opposition leader arrested before a political rally. [here]

Vladimir Putin is the guy who banned direct election of governors as a "counter-terrorism" measure. [here]

Sunday, June 3, 2007

If one standard is good then two standards must be better

BBC NEWS | Europe | Putin warns Europe in missile row: "Moscow may target weapons at Europe if the US builds planned missile defence facilities in the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said."

I like to pretend I know everything, but I don't. One of the things that I don't know is how missiles attained their special status. We have tanks, and we have anti-tank weapons. We have combat aircraft and we have anti-aircraft weapons. We have ballistic missiles and somehow anti-missile technologies are destabilizing.

Russia is upset about anti-missile technology because the Strategic Rocket Forces are the only remaining component of Russian armed forces that anyone respects. Anything that reduces the threat of their ICBMs directly reduces Russia's perceived military might.

There are two countries with deployed Anti-Ballistic Missile systems. The United States is one, and Russia is the other. That's the same Russia that goes nuts anytime anybody else tries to field a defensive system. Apparently Russia is the only country that has the right to defend their soil.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Andrew Speaker should talk to this guy

County violated rights, law, ACLU says: "Earlier this week, Daniels said he was told that his TB bacteria may be developing resistance to all antibiotics, and a portion of his lungs might require surgical removal. He said he was advised to write letters to his child in Moscow so the boy would have communication before his father's death."

This is a snippet out of an article discussing a 27 y/o male who has spent 10 months in jail for no other reason than to ensure that he takes his TB medications. He had been in a county sanitarium for indigent TB patients but was non-compliant and health officials upped the ante.

The ACLU is involved, trying to get Daniels out of the jail.

I learned about this on Slate.

Well other than that Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?

ABC News: TB Quarantine Raises Legal Questions: 'I'm a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person,' he told the newspaper. 'This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I've cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing.'

Speaking as someone who has done a lot of stupid stuff in his life, explaining does not make things better.

I just hope he didn't infect anybody and there isn't somebody out there with a life threatening disease who doesn't know it.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Antiwar to the Corps -

Antiwar to the Corps - "In a case that raises questions about free speech, the Marines have launched investigations of three inactive reservists for wearing their uniforms during antiwar protests and allegedly making statements characterized as 'disrespectful' or 'disloyal.'"

Imagine that, a combat veteran wearing a uniform in an unauthorized manner or at an unauthorized time while speaking out against a war.

In this case, a mock patrol on the streets of Washington, DC, I believe the wear of the uniform was central to the protest and the protected speech.

The USMC is screwing up. The protesters brought no disgrace or dishonor to the USMC. They performed an act of protest while expressing their personal opinions, nothing more.

Furthermore these individuals are in the Individual Ready Reserve. The IRR is a limbo status members serve in after their separation from active duty. Members in the IRR receive no pay and no benefits but are technically still in the military and can be recalled to active duty in times of national emergency. Extending military regulations to a member in the IRR might be legal, but it's a huge stretch.

The protesters are being threatened with Other Than Honorable Discharges. That's actually a big deal. It is the worst discharge you can receive without being court-martialed and is reserved for serious misconduct. Most veteran's benefits are denied to people who receive OTH or lower discharges. Being a disrespectful loudmouth is not serious misconduct and the OTH discharges are unwarranted.

I can't tell you how I know this, but being a disrespectful loudmouth usually results in nothing more than a closed door session with the First Sergeant during which said loudmouth is reminded that nobody cares what he thinks. The loudmouth then serves penance doing assorted dirty jobs until the First Sergeant gets distracted with someone else.

The USMC's reaction to these men attending a protest in uniform is disproportionate to the offense. Particularly in this case, where the offense was committed while exercising their First Amendment rights.

Adam Kokesh, one of the three facing an OTH discharge maintains a blog here.

Police officer mistakenly shoots daughter

Police officer mistakenly shoots daughter: "STRATFORD, Conn. — An off-duty police officer shot and wounded his 18-year-old daughter after he mistook her for an intruder in their Connecticut home."

This guy is a schmuck on so many levels....

I am an NRA life member. I am a former NRA pistol instructor. I just retired from 26 years in the USAF where my job responsibilities included going to war and preparing others to do the same. I know a thing or two about the use of force.

This is the same pocket speech I give my friends when they say they want to keep a gun in their bedroom. These are the things I want my friends to have in their bedrooms in order of importance.
FLASHLIGHT. Most of the time you spend in your bedroom is at night when it's dark. Flashlights should not be black because that makes them hard to find when it's dark. For home defense a small, bright flashlight that has momentary switch on the tailcap is best.

Why is a flashlight important?
It helps you move safely and quickly at night, it helps you identify the problem, it can actually blind a dark-adapted intruder.

MOBILE PHONE. For an increasing number of people their only phone is a mobile phone. For folks that have a landline, keeping the mobile phone in your bedroom gives you a ready back-up form of communication that you can take with you.

Why is a phone important?
It's how you're going to call for help. The sooner you call for help, the sooner help will arrive. Firemen are better trained and equipped than you are for fire. Medics are better trained and equipped than you are for medical emergencies. Police are better trained and equipped than you are for bad guys. All of these people will tell you that the sooner you call for them the more good they can do.

FIRE EXTINGUISHER. Fires can spread very, very quickly. Most fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m and during most of that time, you're in the bedroom. [more here]

Why is a fire extinguisher important?
It can help you escape. Life is precious. A house is a thing that can be replaced. Additionally, a face full of monoammonium phosphate will at least delay an intruder.

LOADED HANDGUN IN A LOCKED BOX. Loaded because in the very rare instance that you'll need it, you're going to need it right then. A handgun because it's usable with one hand so you can use a phone or a flashlight. Locked box because because responsible gun owners keep their guns out of reach of people who shouldn't have them like kids or crooks.

Why is a handgun important?
Honestly, it's not. I put it last for a reason The number of bad guys that will actually break and enter your home is very small. The best place and time for dealing with these guys is while they're outside your home at the doors and windows and not in your bedroom. Your local police department most likely has a crime prevention officer who can give you lots of really good advice on how to keep the bad guys out.

Credit Pharyngula.

Here we go again

Faulty fax, mistaken as threat, prompts evacuation of stores - The Boston Globe: "ASHLAND -- In a scene reminiscent of the Cartoon Network bomb scare that paralyzed the Boston area in January, police shut down a strip mall yesterday in this small western suburb after employees at a Bank of America branch mistook a botched fax for a bomb threat."

We as a species are really, really bad at risk perception. Yes, terrorists are a threat to your life, but they are not nearly as much of a threat as not wearing your seatbelt or smoking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TB Patient Says He Was Advised Not to Fly - New York Times

TB Patient Says He Was Advised Not to Fly - New York Times: "A man who may have exposed passengers and crew members on two trans-Atlantic flights earlier this month to a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis knew he was infected, and had been advised by health officials not to travel overseas."

I'm sure stuff like this happens more often than we know. Part of the problem is probably lack of knowledge on his part. The bulk of the problem is that he's a selfish twit who placed his needs and wants ahead of the safety of others. For that, I'd like to see him face criminal charges.

Chapter One In Which Our Hero.....

I've been ranting, so here's some humor.

This guy has been investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers using office supplies. He was kind enough to document his work and share his results with us. Hopefully, this is the first in a series of videos. A stack of flaming modular furniture would be cool.

Ever wonder who actually buys all those penis enlargement pills, healing bracelets and plans to earn millions of dollars by selling other people plans to make millions of dollars? This guy, that's who.

Off of Denialism.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation - New York Times

Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 29 — As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

Told ya so.

Now, for the attention-span impaired: 1) TORTURE IS IMMORAL and 2) IT DOESN'T WORK.

Can we stop now? Please?

Is Fred Phelps a Christian?

It is long past the time for the US Christian community to engage Fred Phelps. We as a society look askance at all Muslims for their failure to contain extremism within their ranks. Yet where is the public outrage at Fred Phelps' hate speech? Why aren't US religious leaders speaking out about this guy? Why are we leaving the heavy lifting on this issue to the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens? We need public, reasoned, point by point rebuttals to this guy. Wouldn't the most credible people to do this be religious leaders?

Silence is not acceptable. Awkward looks, hand wringing and mumbled qualified apologies are not acceptable. Religion, any religion, must not be allowed to serve as an excuse for bigotry.

If real life were like the movies a ray of sunlight would strike Fred Phelps and he'd vanish in a puff of smoke. But real life isn't like the movies and Fred Phelps isn't going to just go away.

My wish for Samuel Cheney is that he live a long life that's full of wonder and that he be surrounded by people he loves and who love him. And I think he's off to a great start.

First seen on Pam's House Blend.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cellphones can disable Nissans - Los Angeles Times

Cellphones can disable Nissans - Los Angeles Times: "Nissan North America has a warning for customers: Placing your electronic key too close to your cellphone could leave you stranded.

The automaker is asking customers driving new models of two of its flagship sedans to keep their car keys and cellphones at least an inch apart to avoid disabling the 'intelligent keys.' "

I think Nissan is off to a good start but they need to do more. Perhaps they could get the steering wheel to burst into flame if a cellular phone is used by the driver while the vehicle is moving. That would be good.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ex-Uganda health minister charged

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ex-Uganda health minister charged: "Uganda's former Health Minister Jim Muhwezi has been charged with embezzlement and abuse of office."

Uganda cleans their own house. Good stuff.

This is actually strike two for the guy. He was fired from the post of Education minister but worked his way back into the government.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya clears medics of defamation

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya clears medics of defamation: "A Libyan court has dismissed defamation charges against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor already sentenced to death in a separate trial.

The six have been convicted for infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes Aids."

The defendants have been sentenced to death. Their final appeal is coming up.

The defamation charges stem from the defendants' claim that they were tortured. Hopefully, the dismissal will open the door to throwing out the confessions.

Releasing the six innocent health workers would somewhat help Libya's crackpot despotic third-world reputation.

There's some good background here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Low caste Indians set to convert

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Low caste Indians set to convert: "Thousands of tribal and Dalit Hindus in India are to embrace the Buddhist faith at a huge gathering in Mumbai.

The ceremony, which may be presided over by Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is billed as the largest religious conversion in modern India.

The converts hope to escape the rigid caste system in which their status is the lowest."

Ah, an opportunity to do a mercifully brief version of a previous post.

One of the roles of a mythology is to either help maintain a societal status quo or provide an initiative for change.

The Hindu religion supports the caste system.

The Dalits are the lowest caste.

Dalits are converting to non-Hindu religions.

Upper castes are passing laws to make conversion harder. [here]

Casting off a belief system that is used to oppress you is good. Replacing the belief system with another one is unnecessary but a personal choice they're entitled to make.

Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons - Los Angeles Times

Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons - Los Angeles Times: "EUGENE, ORE. — A federal judge Thursday sentenced Animal Liberation Front arsonist Kevin Tubbs to prison for more than 12 years, rejecting arguments that he was a minor player just trying to save animals and protect the Earth.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken declared that four of the nine fires Tubbs was involved in — at a forest ranger station, a police substation, a dealership selling SUVs and a tree farm — were acts of terrorism intended to influence the conduct of the government or retaliate for government acts. "

Reading the article, it sounds like Tubbs is a dumbass that got in way over his head. Nonetheless, I agree with the judge's ruling.

Let's talk a little about terrorism. I think the term is used way too often. Recently, a Vatican spokesman accused a comedian of terrorism for making fun of the Pope. [here] That's just stupid, but there really is a disagreement on what the word means. Congress in Title 22 United States Code says: "the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents" [here] The US DoD definition is: the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. [here] The best attempt I've seen to define terrorism is this Christian Science Monitor article.

Briefly, all terrorist acts are also criminal acts and include a premeditated theatrical element meant to cause fear in a population or a society.

The public perception that you need to be a Muslim to be a terrorist is bigoted and unhelpful.

Activist groups in the United States seem to be increasingly willing to employ violence to achieve their aims. All of these violent acts are crimes, but more seriously, some groups are willing to commit acts of terrorism. When you talk about a terrorist act, the victims are the public at large.

I am baffled when any organizations is able to maintain political legitimacy and support terrorism (explicitly or implicitly). Let's take the phrase "political wing of a terrorist organization." I believe you can take "political wing" out of the phrase without significantly changing its meaning. You either condone terrorism as a means of achieving a goal or you don't. If you condone terrorism then you don't get to play politics. It's like saying you're a vegetarian that eats meat. You can't be a political organization that uses violence. Violence is what criminal organizations use.

Within the US there are two (often intertwined) groups that dance back and forth across the terrorism line; the animal rights and environmental extremists. (I believe our abortion clinic bombers, while intending to cause fear, are still in the "lone nut" category.) I don't understand how they get away with it. I cannot wrap my mind around the "sure, they lit fire to a car dealership, but they were trying to save the environment so it's okay" logical back flip.

For a nice and easy example, it would seem to me that once an organization like PETA got linked to violence their money and support would quickly dry up.

But I'm wrong. It is absolutely possible to victimize a population and have that same population support you.