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31 March 2008


by: blackdog

I'm in more than a bit of a quandary, not knowing which way to go on an issue that affects me deeply. I can't go into details about any of it, it is private and I don't mind mine so much but I do value others. I wish I could, I need the community to advise me, do I stand off and act aloof or do I rush in to the rescue? And either way, which one would be more effective for the one most affected? How do you know? As I already stated, this affects me greatly. And with my wounded baggage how could I be a knight in shining armor for anyone? I wish I knew and could decide, but maybe the best course is to take some time and see what settles. This is about an affair of the heart, that's really all I can say. Any counseling would be appreciated.

This one took me broadside by surprise. But it did ignite a flame that never really burned out. As far as my perception is concerned politics are now way out there, lightyears away.

I have given more than enough hints, several of you will figure this out. Please be discrete. Maybe I shouldn't even be doing this at all. But it has me that bugged.
but now since I have not yet gone to bed, where I really need to be I will reveal this much:

You have always had my permission to call me Bradley, or Birdley or whatever. I am just a little surprised. I hope you come out of this better and more sound, although at this time that may seem shallow. We have been here before and know what it takes some time to get through it. Get through it and continue, there are few like you. Plus, I give a shit. Call your Dad, he was always a neat fellow. He loves you like nobody's business.

She answers:

Bridley, I did call my Dad and yes he does love me alot. I've talked with him 3 times in the last 2 weeks. I know you give a shit. Thanks also for the list of girls. I really appreciate it. I remember checking out Missouri Mule before and she seems to be a really neat person. That's the reason that Carol and I get along, we too are alot alike.

Now I know I need to go to bed. With the Woof. How do you mend a broken heart? Time and communion. Time is not a good answer, attitude has to be adjusted in the face of different situations. Like I can figure that out.

Once upon a time I loved that lady, more than the moon and the stars.

That's my quandary.

Sorry about being such a lush.

And I should not have let on this much, but it means so much to me. Maybe to her.

Romantic? Fool is more like it.


by: Minstrel Boy

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

I ran this on my own goddamn fucking harp and sword and came in at 37.1%.

It looks like I'm the potty mouth asshole here. I fucking apologise and shit.
30 March 2008

The Federal Reserve under Fire, Part Two

by: Dark Wraith

Federal Reserve under FireIn Part One of this series, the current state of the U.S. economy was cast in the light of the monetary policy regime of the Federal Reserve under George W. Bush. That article followed up on themes presented in previous articles written by the author, including Prelude to Finale and Part Two and Part Three of "The Economics of Wreckage." In this second and concluding part of "The Federal Reserve under Fire," a summary of monetary and fiscal policy activities by Presidents in the post-World War II era is provided to illustrate the choices and consequences that have faced Presidents of the United States in the last half of the 20th Century, with implications for what lies ahead.

President Eisenhower, in the face of the relatively mild recession of 1958, resisted the harangue of Republicans in Congress to cut taxes and, in so doing, was able to oversee a government that had several years of balanced budgets. He argued that the huge tax cuts of 1954 had been enough in the way of fiscal stimulus, and he was proud to point out that the majority of the money from that round of tax cuts had gone to people of more modest means. The fiscal discipline he imposed as chief executive officer of the United States would prove exceptional, particularly in light of the howl from his own Republican Party as it obsessively paraded its pandering wares for the low-taxes crowd of that day.

President Kennedy, fully infused of a more enlightened Keynesian advisory slate, and with the excuse of having inherited from Eisenhower a sluggish economy, actually appealed to Congress for legislation to cut taxes. At the same time, he was laying out plans to take the country onto the entrance ramp of a long, wide highway of massive growth of government. His vision was dutifully and honorably fulfilled by his successor, President Johnson, who knew full well, as did his ill-fated predecessor, that a completely compliant Federal Reserve stood ready to monetize what would become a spiral of expenditures far beyond the means of even the United States, especially in the face of inadequate tax revenues. The Great Society (Johnson's follow-on to Kennedy's New Frontier) and the Vietnam War (Johnson's high-octane version of Kennedy's advisory actions in southeast Asia) would together become, first, the engine of fiscal policy permanently masked as economic stimulus; second, the wedge by which the public sector would become permanently entrenched as an integral and significant part of the American economy; and, third, a means by which monetary and fiscal policy distinctions could be better and more systematically blurred on a nearly permanent basis.

Duties and Tools of the Federal Reserve
In principle, the Federal Reserve has three functions, the first two of which it has carried out with what has arguably been a considerable degree of clarity and strength. The Fed regulates and supervises banks; the Fed provides banking services for banks (as a competitor with private financial institutions that offer the same); and the Fed conducts monetary policy.

Regulation and Supervision: The seven Governors, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, of the Federal Reserve Board construct bank regulations. Sometimes, as with many federal agencies, these rules rise to the level of regulatory law; in other circumstances, the regulations are interpretations of federal laws enacted by Congress. The application and enforcement of these regulations created by the Board of Governors is the responsibility of the 12 Reserve (or "District") Banks, each overseeing the banks in its own geographical region. Application and enforcement is carried out through bank audits, dissemination of information, and other activities. In summary, regulation is carried out by the central Board of Governors, and supervision is carried out by the Reserve Banks.

Banker's Bank: Just like any other business enterprise, a bank needs a place to deposit its money and get other important financial services. The Federal Reserve offers the entire range of such services a bank might need, but the Fed operates as only one possible financial institution banks may use for such purposes. Certain private, commercial institutions offer the same services, and the Fed's participation in this market is generally to ensure a degree of competition and encourage innovation.

Monetary Policy: Technically speaking, the Federal Reserve has three tools by which it can conduct monetary policy. One is the "required reserve ratio," the fraction of demand deposits a bank must keep on hand to satisfy claims on its customers' checking accounts. The level at which this required reserve ratio is set has the consequence of determining the factor by which new money entering the system will multiply as the result of loans and deposits. A higher required reserve ratio will slow down the multiplier effect; a lower required reserve ratio will increase the multiplier effect. As a tool of monetary policy, this required reserve ratio is blunt in the sense that relatively small changes in it can have fairly dramatic effects on how fast the money supply grows; as such, the ratio is set primarily for its function of imposing upon member banks a minimum amount of money that will be in the vault for customers and for those bearing checks from customers. In times when people have worries about the banking system and their money, the Fed might set the required reserve ratio higher than in times when people are quite confident about the economy and its banking system.

The second tool of monetary policy is the "discount rate," which is the interest rate at which the Federal Reserve, itself, would lend money to member banks. The Board of Governors sets the discount rate about eight times a year, moving it up and down, or leaving it alone, to signal broader Fed policy intentions. Typically, banks would prefer not to step up to the so-called "discount window" for a loan because they can borrow from each other in the "Federal Funds market," even though the "Federal Funds rate" (or "Fed Funds rate," for short) is higher. The Federal Reserve sets the discount rate (logically, because it is the lender at the discount window), but it cannot "set" the Fed Funds rate because this rate is driven by the supply of and demand for lendable funds in the banking system.

The Federal Reserve does set a target for the Federal Funds rate, and it tries to move the actual rate toward the target rate by the third of the three tools of monetary policy, the so-called "open market operations" (OMOs), which are executed by the Domestic Trading Desk at the Reserve Bank of New York (the "Empire" bank). These OMOs are carried out every day, and they are the activity of the Federal Reserve in the financial markets that powerfully affects the supply of money in the banking system. Policy expressed through the open market operations is set in meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), on which the seven Governors are voting members, as well as the presidents of four Reserve Banks on a two-year, rotating basis, and the president of the New York Reserve Bank on a permanent basis. The FOMC makes decisions about how much liquidity the banking system should have at a given time, and the directives to add liquidity to or drain liquidity from the system are transmitted to the Desk in New York for execution by traders who then enter the open market for Treasury securities and offer to buy them from or sell them to member banks. If the Desk is a net buyer, that causes demand for Treasuries to increase, which drives their prices up (which pushes their yields down), and the result is that banks receive money from the Fed for the Treasuries they sell to it, induced as the banks are to sell some of their Treasuries because they can fetch the rising prices of them. On the other hand, if the Desk is a net seller of Treasury securities, that causes the supply of those Treasuries to increase in the open market, thus driving their prices down (which pushes their yields up), and the result is that banks surrender money in exchange for the Treasuries they are buying, induced as they are to buy some Treasuries because the falling prices are making them more attractive investments.

In the case where the Desk is a net buyer of Treasuries from member banks, money is flowing into the banking system as the Desk pays the banks for the assets it has purchased, so the cash is being deposited in Federal Funds market in the names of the banks the Desk is paying. This makes the Fed Funds rate drop because the supply of lendable funds is rising, meaning the system has more cash money to lend. In the case where the Desk is a net seller of Treasuries to member banks, money is flowing out of the banking system (and into the vault or shredder at the Fed), making the Fed Funds rate rise because the supply of lendable funds is decreasing, meaning the banking system has less cash money to lend, since it spent money buying those Treasury securities the Desk was offering. The result of these open market operations is that the liquidity of member banks' asset portfolios is altered: when the Fed is pursuing expansionary monetary policy, the asset portfolios of member banks is becoming more liquid (tilted toward more cash that can be lent), causing interest rates banks charge for loans to drop; when the Fed is pursuing contractionary monetary policy, the asset portfolios of member banks is becoming less liquid (tilted more toward Treasuries, which cannot be used for lending), causing interest rates banks charge for loans to rise.

The Purpose of Monetary Policy: Theory and Reality
Ideally, in carrying out its duties to conduct monetary policy, the Fed has one and only one goal: maintain the stability of the aggregate price level. That means the Federal Reserve, in managing the money supply, is charged with preventing inflations and deflations, especially those that would persist long enough to embed expectations of future continuations of price increases or decreases into wage levels, interest rates, and prices for goods and services. To that singular goal of maintaining stability of the aggregate price level, the Fed would oversee a growth rate of the money supply that matched—and did not go above or below—the real growth rate of the economy. In other words, sound monetary policy would be to the exclusive and singular end of ensuring that the money available to the American economy was just enough, no more and no less, to provide the cash the economy needed for its transactions. This would mean that the money, itself, was completely neutral with respect to effect and did not, because of an over- or under-supply of it, distort growth, expectations, aggregate demand, or aggregate supply.

Unfortunately, monetary policy can affect the short-term real growth rate of an economy, and the neo-Keynesians have not been afraid to use this as a tool of intervention in the business cycle, particularly to the end of stimulating the economy, whether or not the economy needed any stimulus. President Kennedy's Fed was certainly not the first to understand that excessive growth of the money supply can create a short-run stimulative effect, and the Federal Reserve came in the neo-Keynesian era to embrace an expansive understanding of the goal of monetary policy (and, by implication, of the authority of the Fed) that included "assisting" the economy in times of economic hardship. The worst part for the Fed of abandoning a more parsimonious goal of controlling the aggregate price level was that, once it had become an instrument of fiscal policy—indeed, of social and public policies—its Board of Governors found itself less and less able to stop the integration of the Fed into the machinery by which the U.S. Treasury funded government operations.

The Federal Reserve of the Nixon years continued this abandonment of the mission of the central bank, which arguably culminated when the Board, under the chairmanship of Arthur Burns, monetized the price shock of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. As excess money was already spreading through the American economy, causing general and escalating inflation, the solution proffered by Nixon and the federal legislature of the time was to impose wage and price controls, which are essentially the legislative version of curing inflation by putting a cork into the wound of a person bleeding profusely from a gunshot to the abdomen. With the Fed pumping money into the system to keep aggregate demand strong, inflation accelerated; far worse, however, expectations that the inflation would continue and accelerate started to set in.

For Nixon's successor in office, Gerald Ford, that meant keeping the money printing presses rolling to forestall the gathering and inevitable storm of a recession that would be caused in part by interest rates rising because of the expected inflation premium in them starting to embed and grow. Ford's solution, facile as it was, had as its hallmark a public campaign to "Whip Inflation Now," as if it would be by some decision of the economy's consumers, workers, and merchants that inflation would abate and expectations of it would vanish.

It was then left to President Carter to do what had to be done. At first, he approached the problem much as Ford had done, putting the burden on the economy's participants to deal with the matter. He dubbed his campaign the "Moral Equivalent of War," which has the unfortunate but telling acronym "MEOW." Carter was not, however, a stupid man by any means, and he did understand what had to be done. In 1979, he appointed Paul Volker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and gave him the charge to do what was necessary: crush the money supply, which would send real interest rates (the actual price of money) through the roof because the expected inflation premium already in those rates was sky-high, and draining liquidity from the banking system would put those interest rates into nose-bleed territory. Sure enough, Volker's Fed sent the U.S. economy into a brutal recession, in part because the peanut farmer from Georgia understood that the pain of austerity was the prelude to rebirth of an American economy able to carry on in the last two decades of the 20th Century. By the end of Carter's one term in office, he was overseeing budget deficits that were minuscule, even in inflation-adjusted dollars, compared to what his successor, Ronald Reagan, was about to allow, encourage, and use to the purpose of inappropriately projecting American military and financial power.

At first, Volker's attack on the money supply did nothing to dampen expected inflation, and this was because no one actually believed the Fed really was Hell-bent on killing inflation; after all, Presidents had for years been promising to deal with it, and yet it had just kept getting progressively worse. The price spiral of something close to hyper-inflation began to abate only after just about everyone became convinced that old "Tall Paul" Volker did not care how badly the economy suffered under constrained liquidity. Finally, as President Carter was swiftly vanishing into history as some kind of pariah to economic pundits and short-sighted historians, expected inflation premiums began to disappear from interest rates, from wage and salary demands, and from prices of goods and services. The falling interest rates, in and of themselves, began to breathe life into what had been a moribund economy.

Ronald Reagan rode into office in 1980 on the strength of what had been done by his immediate successor, and the Gipper was able to stride to the podium in his first address as President to gravely announce, "We're in an economic mess," affording him the populist high ground for his tax cuts to be passed by Congress, attended as they would be in the years that followed by rising budget deficits and a return to neo-Keynesian policies heavy on the interlocking relationship between industry and government, but with a Republican twist of no "countervailing force" (as economist John Kenneth Galbraith called it) of powerful unions to ensure the rights and wages of workers in the final plunge toward the 21st Century.

Government unable to resist the whine of greedy, pandering Republicans for tax cuts coupled with big government spending on government/industry projects: this is the legacy of Republicans from Richard Nixon forward. Government unable to resist the equally tiresome whine of greedy, pandering Democrats calling for a government war solution to everything from poverty to communism in southeast Asia coupled with big spending on government/industry projects: this is the legacy of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, but the legacy ended there: both Carter and Clinton oversaw controlled government spending and tax rates that brought in sufficient revenues to meet government expenditures; and Bill Clinton actually oversaw budget surpluses in his last years in office, notwithstanding the still-noisy bleatings of historical revisionists trying to find some shred of equivalence between President William Jefferson Clinton, who reined over the longest peacetime expansion in modern U.S. history, and President George W. Bush, Jr., who collaborated with his Republican-led Congresses to initiate, prosecute, and consummate the recklessly irresponsible fiscal policies of the period from 2001 to the end of 2006 that have finally brought the American economy to the brink of deep recession.

Morning in America, Nightfall of Empire
Jack Kennedy was no Dwight Eisenhower, who stood firm against tax cuts, industrial policy, and monetization of government excess. For that matter, no Republican since Ike Eisenhower has been an Ike Eisenhower. The idealized versions of everything from Jack Kennedy and "Camelot" to Ronald Reagan and "Morning in America" are the fine stuff of American mythology, but the blindness to realities and complexities of the economic leadership these men provided the American people clouded a firm understanding of the long-term consequence of short-term policy actions they and their ilk pursued, particularly those policy actions funded by expansionary monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve as it persistently strayed into management of the economy. This blindness to consequences is still happening: most Americans have not the slightest clue as to what has caused this nation to now stand at the precipice of an economic chasm of severe recession attended by high inflation. Quick fixes of massive infusions of liquidity are not going to work, and neither are fawning tax rebates; yet, these are the solutions being pursued right now by the United States government. Both the wildly excessive infusions of money and the too-late-to-matter tax cuts will make the problems worse and the subsequent, reparative fiscal and monetary policy actions extraordinarily more painful.

The current Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, is no Paul Volker; and George W. Bush is no Jimmy Carter, who stood firm against the economic mess that nearly two decades of decadent use of the Fed had finally produced as the lasting legacy of both Democrats and Republicans who could not keep their whims of Empire and its glory from infecting prudent central bank policy. The United States has now, in seven short years, returned to the brink of the brutal combination of recession and inflation happening at the same time, a mix for which the cure of sustained, contractionary monetary policy will hurt the American people like Hell and politically damage the President who has the courage to put into place a Federal Reserve Board of Governors with the will to administer the near-lethal regimen.

The American people of today will soon have to deal, as the people of Mr. Carter's time did, with the awful and painful solution to the reckless malfeasance and incompetence that will have been the legacy of irresponsible leadership. George W. Bush might be able to depart the White House before the full force of disaster of his economic recklessness becomes apparent to the American people, but even that is not assured: already, many believe that the U.S. is in a recession, even though the majority of Americans have yet to feel much pain other than high fuel prices and the discomfort of getting scared by stories of other people losing their homes in foreclosure. In truth, the American people have not yet even begun to feel a real recession.

But they will. They'll get their paltry tax rebate checks, and when they go out and blow that Fed-printed (and foreign-lent) money to make themselves feel better in their own households, they will see the economic equivalent of tossing tens of millions of lit matches onto a smoldering sea of gasoline that is the excess liquidity by which this Federal Reserve has been keeping the U.S. economy alive even as Mr. Bush and his Congress were digging its grave over the past seven years.

When the economic downturn actually does hit, the American people will scream bloody murder, and they will want the head of the President who is in office when the word "stagflation" comes into vogue, once again. George W. Bush might not be as lucky as, say, John F. Kennedy, the latter having been long in his tomb before the consequences of neo-Keynesian policies he started and his successors continued led to the last round of debilitating stagflation.

For those who reminisce fondly about Jack Kennedy, the good news is this: President Kennedy is a footnote in history; as such, all manner of greatness can be ascribed to him that is nothing more than the expression of fantastic minds imagining a better time than now. President Bush, on the other hand, will suffer the unfortunate advantage of being not a footnote in history, but instead the very definition of the trajectory of the 21st Century for this nation. Kennedy and Bush are, however, of a kind in that the repair of their errant policies will be in the hands of a successor. The United States was most fortunate that several stood to the task in the wake of Kennedy and his otherwise failed successors.

For the President who will succeed George W. Bush, history will allow no breathing room to govern and leave office without facing either the fury of economic disaster or the wrath of an American people who cannot imagine that they must, as part of their citizenship, pay for the failure a prior leader who finally became apparent for the incompetent, dense, prevaricating war-monger that he had always been.

The time of reckoning is soon; but as bad as the economy may get, the worst part is this: not one of the candidates running for President of the United States in 2008 is a Dwight Eisenhower, a Jimmy Carter, or even a Bill Clinton; to that extent, then, the American people will get what they deserve.

Unfortunately for the next President, that same American people will surely want someone other than themselves to blame for the insufferable outrage of inevitable consequences.

The Dark Wraith welcomes readers to the comedic tragedy of Empire in its final act.

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · · ·

Lowballing Iraq Conflict Costs

by: Foiled Goil

The $3 Trillion War

Excerpts from Vanity Fair:

After wildly lowballing the cost of the Iraq conflict at a mere $50 to $60 billion, the Bush administration has been concealing the full economic toll. The spending on military operations is merely the tip of a vast fiscal iceberg. In an excerpt from their new book, the authors calculate the grim bottom line.

by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes
On March 19, 2008, the U.S. will have been in Iraq for five years. The Bush administration was wrong about the need for the Iraq war and about the benefits the war would bring to Iraq, to the region, and to America. It has also been wrong about the full cost of the war, and it continues to take steps to conceal that cost.

To understand why the true costs of the war are so much higher than the official estimates, we can start by looking at America’s veterans. No one has suffered more from the administration’s blindness and stinginess. To date, more than 1.6 million American troops have been deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations. More than 4,000 have been killed. More than 65,000 have been wounded or injured, or have contracted a disease. Of the 750,000 troops who have been discharged so far, some 260,000 have been treated at veterans’ medical facilities. Nearly 100,000 have been diagnosed as having mental-health conditions. Another 200,000 have sought counseling and re-adjustment services at walk-in vet centers.

No adequate preparation was made for casualties on this scale. The Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) and other agencies have been overwhelmed—both by the need for immediate medical care and by the demand for disability benefits. Already, a quarter of a million returning veterans have applied for disability benefits. Not surprisingly, many disability claims are complex: the average veteran cites five separate disabling medical conditions. The least fortunate among the veterans have suffered unimaginable horrors: brain trauma, amputations, burns, blindness, and spinal damage. Because a greater number of the injured are surviving today, the relative costs of long-term care will be greater than for any previous war. This is the surge the administration doesn’t talk about.

The administration’s dishonesty when it comes to casualties and health care has been twofold. First, by failing to take into account the long-term burden of caring for veterans, it has vastly understated the true cost of the Iraq war—by hundreds of billions of dollars, as we’ll see. Second, from the outset the administration has reported casualties in a way intended to downplay the human consequences of the war.

The Pentagon is highly secretive about the total number of casualties. While it reports deaths of service personnel from both combat and noncombat operations, the official tallies list only those wounded in combat. The military has considerable discretion in deciding how a particular case is classified.

The Pentagon has classified more than half of those who have had to be medically evacuated from Iraq as noncombat casualties. It maintains a separate, hard-to-find tally of military personnel wounded during noncombat operations, a figure that includes those injured during vehicle and helicopter crashes and training accidents, as well as those who become physically or mentally ill during deployment, or who succumb to the exotic diseases common in the region. We found this list almost accidentally, when the V.A. published a complete casualty tally in a fact sheet in September 2006. This report in turn was linked to the full Department of Defense tabulation. The Pentagon has since demanded that the V.A. release only the combat-casualty figures, and the Pentagon’s newly reorganized Web site makes it hard to locate and interpret the full casualty report.

With a mind-set like this, it is little wonder that the administration was caught flat-footed.

The calculations we used to arrive at the conservative $3 trillion estimate for the cost of the Iraq war are conceptually simple, even if sometimes technically complicated. The basic framework for the calculation can be divided into 10 steps:

  1. Total appropriations to date…

  2. Add operational expenditures hidden elsewhere in the defense budget…

  3. Correct for inflation and the “time value” of money…

  4. Add future operational expenditures (both direct expenditures and those hidden elsewhere in the budget)…

  5. Add the full costs of health care and disability payments for returning veterans. This is one of the biggest long-term financial obligations we face…

  6. Add the cost of restoring the military to its pre-war strength…

  7. Add budgetary costs incurred by other parts of government…

  8. Add interest. The U.S. has borrowed most of the funds used to wage the Iraq war. We will have to repay this debt with interest…

  9. Estimate the cost to the economy…

10. Estimate the macro-economic impact…

A realistic but conservative estimate for the war’s macro-economic impact is roughly $1.9 trillion.

Most economists would not count both interest and economic costs, because doing so introduces an element of double counting. Thus, the total cost of the war ranges from $2.8 trillion (in strictly budgetary costs) to $4.5 trillion (if one adds in the economic costs). These numbers reflect what we have called our “moderate” scenario. We also considered a “best case” scenario, in which the U.S. would withdraw all its combat troops much sooner, and fewer veterans would need medical care and disability pay. Even under this unlikely and extremely optimistic scenario, the total cost of the war comes to nearly $2 trillion.

Under the circumstances, a $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and in all likelihood errs on the low side. Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to Iraq, or to the rest of the world.

The president and his advisers wanted a quick and inexpensive conflict. Instead, the Iraq war is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The chronic underestimation of costs, verging on outright deception, has continued.

Most Americans have yet to feel any of the costs of the Iraq war. The price in blood has been paid by members of the volunteer military. The price in treasure has been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for the war—in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed. They cannot. Americans will have to pay for the war at some point—and when they do, they will be paying not the Bush markdown but the full price.
Vote for John McCain, for more of the same?

· · · ·

One, Two, Three, Four

by: Debra

How white of him. Why doesn't he just pat her on the head and offer a handkerchief? I honestly can't stand the man and the more time that passes and the more I learn about him, the less I like him. His attitude will ensure a Republican victory in November to an old man and a perfectly picked Veep choice. On the bright side, we can probably avoid martial law or a "surprise" terrorist attack.
"My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," Obama told reporters in Johnstown, Pa. "Her name's on the ballot, and she is a fierce and formidable competitor, and she obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best president."
No, that was Edwards, but it's too late to fix that now.

When the sad number of 4000 was reached and breached, security contractors weren't included in the body count. With over 150,000 of them in Iraq to support our troops by getting paid more than the enlisted men they replaced, they have should be included in the dying also. They meet all of the qualifications. The first is being dead, followed by dying in Iraq doing jobs that the military doesn't have the manpower for. And their families have just as few answers as military kin do. Country Joe sang it best. Too bad Iraq doesn't rhyme with much.

My two favorite teams. The Cincinnati Reds and who's ever playing against the Dodgers. Especially when they win.

Just rewards only apply to the poor. Others when they screw up, get millions of dollars in stock options. Meanwhile, Bank of America continues to get every last dime in fees from those of us who don't have millions, and never will. Some of their customers are homeless because of the games that Countrywide played, but that's another issue, isn't it?


· · ·
29 March 2008

Blackface and Gay Ridicule at North Dakota State University

by: Dark Wraith

Officials at North Dakota State University are under fire for a performance held by a student organization to raise money for a diabetes charity. The students of the university-supported, coeducational Saddle and Sirloin Club for agriculture majors depicted what multiple eyewitnesses to the event described as two simultaneous skits, one involving a Caucasian student in blackface and afro wig receiving a simulated strip tease/lap dance from a White woman, the other involving two male students in cowboy attire having simulated anal sex.

The blackface act appeared to be some kind of parody on an "Obama girl" video, "I Got a Crush on Obama." The homosexual act appeared to be a parody of the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain about an intimate relationship between two modern cowboys. During the sex act skit, an Obama sign was used as a prop and was ripped at the finale.

The North Dakota Democratic State Convention will be held shortly, and Democratic candidate Barack Obama is expected to make an appearance. His campaign has released no statement regarding what many have interpreted to be an attack with racist, mysegination-baiting, and homosexual overtones made upon him in the performance by the North Dakota State University student organization.

NDSU President Joseph Chapman issued a written statement regarding the event: "The students’ actions were entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated as the Office of the Dean of Student Life moves forward with an investigation. NDSU does not and will not ignore acts of intolerance at our institution and or in our community."

However, NDSU Dean of Students Janna Stoskopf, in addressing the scope and character of the school's on-going investigation into the incident, had this to say: "One of the issues here is how do we balance what our policies and expectations about behavior are with the issue of freedom of speech," thereby indicating that the university will not test the performance against the common law distinction between "speech" from "conduct" and furthermore will not apply a Miller v. California-type of test that would contemplate the university community's standards in the context of the prurient nature and lack of serious artistic merit of the performances put on public display by the Saddle and Sirloin Club.

The outcome of the NDSU investigation is not expected before the end of the academic year in early May, so those involved in the offensive, sexually charged parodies of gays and of a Black candidate for President and a White woman who supports him are unlikely to receive any official punishment before they have completed their studies for the term.

· · · · ·

Earth Hour

by: Foiled Goil

Earth Hour


Marijuana Is Deadly

by: Konagod

The New York Times was full of interesting stuff today.
Gang Fights in Prison Injure 22 and Kill One

That's right here in the lovely state of Texas. Something seems horribly wrong if you can't control gang activity IN a prison.
A federal prison in Texas erupted in violence early Friday when two gang-related fights broke out almost simultaneously in facing housing units. One inmate was killed, and 22 were injured, officials said.

It was the second outbreak of fighting in a federal lockup in Texas in three weeks.


The dead inmate was identified as Servando Rodríguez, 38, an illegal immigrant serving 54 months for marijuana and parole violations.

That's 4 1/2 years for marijuana and whatever the parole violations where. Probably marijuana-related. I guess he won't have to finish his sentence. Now there's an open bunk for the next marijuana conviction.

In other news, keep an eye on your automotive underbelly, especially if you drive a large SUV. Catalytic converters are becoming hot items in our new economic reality, thanks to trace amounts of platinum.
Inside the lobby of the New Windy City Mufflers and Brakes shop, Mr. Fernandez said he had heard a rumor that catalytic converters had suddenly become the rage on the black market here, but he did not believe it until his went missing on a well-lighted North Side street.

Theft of scrap metals like copper and aluminum has been common here and across the country for years, fueled by rising construction costs and the building boom in China. But now thieves have found an easy payday from the upper echelon of the periodic table. It seems there may not be an easier place to score some platinum than under the hood of a car.


People who may have thought their lives had nothing to do with the booming commodities market are finding out the hard way where their connection is — in their car’s exhaust system.

The catalytic converter is made with trace amounts of platinum, palladium and rhodium, which speed chemical reactions and help clean emissions at very high temperatures. Selling stolen converters to scrap yards or recyclers, a thief can net a couple of hundred dollars apiece.

None of this may matter in the long run though. When a giant particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland starts smashing protons this summer, some scientists fear the earth may be sucked into a black hole.
But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

That would certainly take care of my daily frustrations: the lawn mower maintenance, the roof replacement, garden pests intent on destroying our tomato crop, and of course the credit card bills and other financial woes would get sucked into the hole along with everything else. And an early end to a nasty presidential campaign with no winners needed.

Fire this baby up!

In a worst case scenario, it wouldn't even be important that I give a photo credit to Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times. When we're all possibly getting a free ride to the other end of the universe, who cares?

Crossposted from konagod

The Descent of Iraq

by: Dark Wraith

Operation Iraqi FreedomFor reasons somewhat opaque, and possibly without first informing the United States of the plan, the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chose earlier this week to confront forces of political/military rivals in Baghdad, Basra, and elsewhere, focusing principally on the armed forces of anti-American Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who had for seven months maintained his part in a truce with the U.S. by which his soldiers would not attack American military and civilian personnel and assets and the U.S. military would allow al-Sadr's civil and armed forces to maintain order and provide services in Shia-dominated neighborhoods and regions.

To that effect, then, al-Sadr has posed as a moderate, a deeply weird thought in and of itself, even by Iraqi standards. According to some intelligence (and one must obviously be cautious in choosing which lie to embrace), in trying to rein in his more violence-prone followers, al-Sadr's purges of insubordinate commanders under him has driven them to become provisionalized as "Special Units" funded by Iran and other forces that will benefit from the mayhem created by an American-supported central government unable to exercise even minimal control over the country it supposedly governs. The rival Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (ISCI), another Shia faction, is ostensibly funded largely by Iran, as is al-Sadr, himself, and his political wing; but because the ISCI is dominated by more urbane, wealthy Shias, the Bush Administration has chosen to throw the lot of the United States behind it, hoping that, in doing so, a relatively friendly political/military countervailing force would win upcoming elections and suppress the more urban, gritty Shias of al-Sadr's faction, perhaps eventually breaking the back of his thuggish Mahdi Army.

One of many deterrents to a final victory by Prime Minister Maliki's forces is that quite a few members of the government's own military and police contingents are aligned with or sympathetic to al-Sadr or some other faction (of which there are scores); and to make matters even more interesting (read that, "really complicated"), as noted above, while U.S. analysts, tacticians, strategists, and politicians are focused upon Iranians as the shadow agents provocateurs in this drama, plenty of other countries and their intelligence agencies are in the mix, too, providing everything from intelligence to disinformation to war matériel. Even the United States government—having as little credibility as it does, anyway, in its pronouncements—would sound like a cabal of conspiracy theorists if anyone were to say officially that these other countries are, and have all along been, far more a part of the problem than contributors to some solution favorable to American interests.

Fortunately for common sense, however, most of the spiraling violence is nothing other than a brutal, armed expression of putative power centers clashing over control of resources. Sooner or later, these aspirants to the throne of King Oil would have been compelled to slug it out, given that this is historically and traditionally the way ownership rights are established and enforced when it comes to vast, valuable resources, be they diamonds, precious metals, or hydrocarbons. It seems at this point that "sooner" rather than "later" has become the option of choice. Note here (and this point is being made by virtually no other analyst) that the timing of this explosion of violence in Iraq comports quite conveniently with the recent leap in world oil prices to over $100 per barrel. That is not coincidence.

It goes without saying, of course, that none of this horrendous violence would be happening if the United States, along with a handful of faithful allies, had not invaded Iraq and utterly destroyed a stable, if authoritarian, sovereign state. Although retrospect is irrelevant, now, it might still be worth asking if anyone notices that Saddam Hussein managed without breaking a sweat to do what the combined armed forces of the United States, Great Britain, and other countries have over five years been unable to do, despite incurring a cost to date of more than half-a-trillion dollars, 4000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, a million Iraqi refugees, and a dream-come-true opportunity for political hegemony for Iran, as well as for such other countries as China, Russia, Syria, and, yes, even Israel and a few of our purported friends in Western Europe.

George W. Bush will leave office fairly soon. We as a nation will eventually move on. We as individuals, for the most part, will deny personal blame for the enormous tragedy that was once the nation of Iraq.

The Iraqis, on the other hand, will continue for a long, long time to live in the Hell we (yes, we) created of their world. Someday, perhaps a few of those Iraqis, their children, or their children's children, will bring that Hell back to our shores.

Then, of course, we shall once again be thoroughly shocked, outraged, and ready for battle.

History will not repeat itself; history will, instead, fulfill our failure.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · · · ·
28 March 2008

My Sweet Lord

by: blackdog

This is one of my favorites, it calms me down a bit. And calming down is a requirement anymore.


Farmer Bob cut me a CD some years back with several versions of this, and somehow I've misplaced it. Maybe it will turn up. George Harrison was my favorite Beatle, when he died I thought I might too.

I just love that chorus. And when the percussion steps in, well...

Should add that I dedicate this to my friend Julie. She's wishing the same.

Another performance.

But my all time favorite version of this is this one.

Billy Preston, not bad. Almost everyone is in this one, I need a bucket for my tears. But my blood pressure is way down, the Woof is asleep at my feet and the world seems a little bit better for the moment.


New great grand-cousin has arrived!!!

Proud Momma.

Daddy, careful, he's a lawyer.

I guess this day worked out pretty well after all, I only wish my Aunt was still around to see this. She was a sweetheart.

6 lbs ! oz, 19". a little heavier and shorter than I when I first saw this world some time back. This has been a good day.

War Surge

by: Foiled Goil

Saying that 'the surge is working' ...

by Meteor Blades:
...has worked pretty well for the Cheney-Bush regime the past few months. It certainly calmed down the megamedia, which – after years of publishing and broadcasting stuff about Iraq quaffed from the Kool-Aid fire hose – had actually started doing the job they should have started in January 2002 when the White House initiated its march-to-war publicity tour. After years of fawning and phony patriotism in the aftermath of September 11, the megamedia finally began to make visible some ugly truths that had previously been confined to the world of the bloggerati.

Then came the "surge," the escalation designed to undermine the lukewarm recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Within a couple of months, the coverage, except for the McClatchy people (and a few others whom you can call journalists without meaning the word as an epithet) were right back where Editor and Publisher Editor Greg Mitchell wrote about in So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits--and the President--Failed on Iraq.

As I noted two weeks ago in Megamedia Coverage on Iraq Fuels Ignorance, one measure of how lousy coverage of the war affected Americans was the plunge in those who knew how many of their fellow Americans had died because of the Iraq invasion and occupation. In August 2007, 54% could correctly put the number of deaths at 3500. By the first of this month, only 28% could say the number had reached 4000. […] Of course, the U.S. media have never done a good job of covering the Iraqi fatalities and other horrors of that continuing disaster.

As clammyc points out today in his Diary, Iraq is imploding right before our eyes, the surge isn’t working. It never was.

CNN senior military analyst Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Sheppard, says: "This is intra-Shia. This is not Sunni vs. Shia, this is not civil war, this is not sectarian violence, it's intra-Shia politics for control of the government." Yep, all those previous problems have been resolved, this is something new and it’s being dealt with. Uh-huh.

Of course, intra-Shi’ite violence is occurring. But something new? Do the names Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr not ring any bells? Moreover, it’s not just a clash in Basra, as if the situation in Basra weren't bad enough.

From the BBC — Baghdad under curfew amid clashes

From The Guardian Mass grave found in Iraq

From Der Spiegel — Americans Caught in Crossfire between Radicals and Iraqi Government

From The New York Times: Thousands in Baghdad Protest Basra Assault
The United States ordered embassy personnel to stay in reinforced structures because of incoming fire that killed an American on Thursday, the second U.S. fatality this week in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Meanwhile, says McClatchy, the President makes a speech. Bush: 'Normalcy is returning to Iraq'.
Bush gave a litany of economic and political developments in Iraq, such as falling inflation and the approval this month of a provincial powers law, that he said showed that the "surge" of 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq last year has met its goal. That goal was to improve security so that Iraqi leaders could begin political reconciliation.

"The surge has opened the door to ... strategic victory," Bush declared.
Ah yes, stay the course. 4004 dead American military personnel as a consequence of an invasion and occupation based on lies. If you don't count the suicides. 4313 dead "coalition" fighters altogether. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more dead Iraqis.

Normalcy in Iraq.
•   •   •   •   • Warlord vs. Warlord

Both sides in this struggle are essentially militias. Both sides have ties to Iran. And as for protecting "the Iraqi people," the side backed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and by U.S. air power) has, ironically, less support—at least in many Shiite areas, including Basra—than the side that he (and we) are attacking.

In other words, as with most things about Iraq, it's a more complex case than Bush makes it out to be.

The two Shiite parties—the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi army—have been bitter rivals since the early days of post-Saddam Iraq. And Maliki, from the beginning of his rule, has had delicate relations with both.

Sadr, who may be Iraq's most popular Shiite militant and who controls several seats in parliament, gave Maliki the crucial backing he needed to become prime minister. However, largely under U.S. pressure, Maliki has since backed away from Sadr, who has always fiercely opposed the occupation and whose militiamen have killed many American soldiers (until last year, when he declared a cease-fire).

Maliki has since struck a close alliance with ISCI, which has its own militia, the Badr Organization, and whose members also hold much sway within Iraq's official security forces (though more with the police than with the national army). This alliance has the blessing of U.S. officials, even though ISCI—which was originally called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq—has much deeper ties with Iran than Sadr does. (ISCI's leaders went into exile in Iran during the decades of Saddam's reign, while Sadr and his family stayed in Iraq—one reason for his popular support. As Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations has noted, SICRI was created by Iran, and the Badr brigades were trained and supplied by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.)

Sadr's Mahdi army and ISCI's Badr Organization came to blows last August in the holy city of Karbala. This fighting—and his growing inability to control criminal elements within the Mahdi army—spurred Sadr to order a six-month moratorium on violence, which he renewed last month, against the wishes of some of his followers. (This moratorium is a major reason for the decline in casualties in Iraq, perhaps as significant as the U.S. troop surge and the Sunni Awakening.)

The fighting this week in Basra may be a prelude to the moratorium's collapse and, with it, the resumption of wide-scale sectarian violence—Shiite vs. Sunni and Shiite vs. Shiite. […]

The current fighting in Basra is a struggle for power and resources between those warlords. It's hard to say which faction is more alluring or less likely to fall under Iranian sway. Neither seems the sort of ally in freedom and democracy that our president conjures in his daydreams.

Times Online: Areas of Baghdad fall to militias as Iraqi Army falters in Basra
Iraq’s Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen.

Washington Post: U.S. Armor Forces Join Offensive In Baghdad Against Sadr Militia
U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.

FACTBOX - via AlterNet: Security developments in Iraq at 1930 GMT on Thursday.

Reuters, via AlterNet: Iran cleric calls on Iraqis to end their fighting
A hardline Iranian cleric called on Friday for the Iraqi government and a Muslim Shi'ite militia to stop fighting and strike a deal.

Ayatollah Ahmad Janati made his appeal in a sermon broadcast on state radio on the fourth day of a crackdown launched by U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, himself a Shi'ite, against a Shi'ite militia in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The fighting has exposed a deep rift within Iraq's majority Shi'ites and put pressure on Maliki, whose forces have failed to dislodge fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr from Basra. US Airstrike Kills at Least 4 in Baghdad
A U.S. helicopter fired a Hellfire missile during fighting in a Shiite militia stronghold of Baghdad Friday, killing at least four people as deadly clashes broke out in Iraq's oil-rich south for the fourth day.

American jets also dropped bombs overnight in Basra in the first use of U.S. air power in the southern oil port since the Iraqi government launched a crackdown against Shiite militias there earlier this week.

CNN: Baghdad on lockdown as rockets, bombs fly
Baghdad was on virtual lockdown Friday as a tough new curfew ordered everyone off the streets of the Iraqi capital and five other cities until 5 p.m. Sunday. […]

U.S. warplanes pounded Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood Friday, killing four people and wounding five.

Other U.S. planes bombed Shiite militia positions overnight in the southern city of Basra, a British military spokesman said. […]

New clashes erupted Friday in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killing at least four people, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

Thousands of al-Sadr's supporters took to the streets in Sadr City and another Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad to protest the crackdown launched by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Basra this week. The protesters called al-Maliki the country's "new dictator" and demanded his dismissal.

The fighting threatens to end al-Sadr's seven-month-long suspension of his Mehdi Army militia, regarded as a key factor in Iraq's dramatic drop in violence in recent months. Cost of Iraq War and Nation Building
The US budget for Iraq in FY 2007 came to $4,988/Iraqi. This is triple Iraq's per-person GDP. It's like spending $121,000 per person ($484,000 per family of 4) in the US.


Before the war, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsay estimated the cost at $100 to $200 billion. So the White House got rid of him and "re-estimated" the cost at $50 to $60 billion. It's now over $500 billion.

National Priorities Project: Cost of war — $506,367,000,000 +

March 27, 2008 DoD Casualty Count: 4004

· ·

yes, but whose prayer? WILL IT BE GRADED?

by: astraea

I remember my kids in first grade, Catholic school, being asked to write a prayer, which was graded. Odd, it seemed, a teacher judging such an intimate thing between creator and created. And, yes, that cause and effect relationship my italicised words imply simply reflects the limits of human understanding. Time and space, requirements for action, after all, are properties of matter, and thinking about that will ultimately cross your eyes. So to grade the approaches of the humble mortal, most especially a small mortal, to the question of What Beats Our Heart seems impious to me. I would cut out the middlemen in the equation entirely, but that's just a general hands on tendency here. As Jung said (all things being equal ultimately, that 1st Law of Thermodynamics), any interaction changes all parties involved, transforms all the players.

At the same school, my oldest son made his first Communion, which also requires first Confession, a spotless white soul. He had to write it all out, his sins, with hesitant yet firm pencil on brown, blue-lined paper. And being a mother, I kept it. (Hell, I have their umbilical cord stumps. Some distant day, they might be cloned.) His first sin was saying bad words. Second, being mean to his sister. Third -- best of all, yet troubling -- was killed alotta ants.

I suppose my reaction tells me more about me than him... and maybe that's the whole reason for these exchanges, on all sides... the ritual, the robes, the bread, the wine. Hm.

Anyway -- THE BELOW. Whose nation? Whose prayer?

from JewsOnFirst

Christian Right group that controls National Day of Prayer
bars all but fundamentalist Christian clergy

A "Task Force" linked to Focus on the Family excludes Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and even moderate evangelical Christians from participation in the thousands of events it organizes around the United States on the first Thursday in May -- May 1st this year. "Task Force" organizers must sign a fundamentalist statement of faith and a commitment to invite only Christians to participate, JewsOnFirst reports.

Nevertheless, last year the group obtained proclamations from every governor in the nation. This year, is encouraging our readers to get involved in exposing the group's discriminatory behavior. If you are interested, please reply by email or use the contact information in our report, which you can read here.

27 March 2008

Road Story (with road cookies)

by: Minstrel Boy

One thing you have to remember about most of these road stories is that they happened a long time ago, before I got clean and sober and my memory, well, shall we just say, it's spotty, for the most part, and let it go at that. There. That's better.

One of the things people always want to ask about is the cookies. Road cookies. Some folks call them groupies but I prefer cookies. It's a much nicer metaphor and summons up images of sweet smells and enticing flavors and a nearly endless variety of little snacks.

That's all it is too. Little snacks. Diversions. Treats. It shouldn't be something viewed as exploiting or degrading. Those kind of things ruin it all. I'm talking about consensual, adult (or close enough for plausible deniability), goofing around. Where nobody gets lied too or about, nobody expects more than what is there present and visible.

It works both ways too. Usually there are only two reasons somebody picks up an electric guitar and puts in the time and effort it takes to learn how to play it well enough to approach making a living. Sex and revenge. Anybody tells you different is probably a lying son of a bitch. Sex and revenge. Primal and powerful stuff. While the football heroes and class king and his court were all getting the shit beat out of them on Friday night my band and I were setting up to play the dance. More than once the cheerleaders ended up in our van while the boyfriend was in the ER getting his stitches done or the cast cured. Nights like that were among the best because they involved sex and revenge. Most of the time it involved a beating or two come the next school week, but most of my school weeks involved that shit anyway so it was just one more little point on my side of the scoreboard.

Once the road started being involved it got even cooler. There was a transactional thing that goes down between a traveling musician and the road cookies. We provide them an opportunity to act out their best mainstream pornolit Erica Jong zipless fantasies and then poof! we're gone. Nobody left behind in town to tell their mommies, daddies, and friends at church what depraved little minxes they are. All the dirty little secrets and desires are allowed to run rampant around the cheap little hotel room or the bus's back room for a little while and then they all get safely tucked away back inside their nice, dark, safe little closets. And, we're gone.

It's like an adolescent version of peek-a-boo. When we're out of sight, we don't exist on the physical plane anymore.

Every once and a while though, local stuff would rear its ugly head. Sometimes things we thought were all about some good clean dirty fun would turn ugly in a southern gothic sort of way.

I was playing with, shit, I don't even remember. We were a great big hit that night though. There was a whole passel of local talent who talked their way into our breaks. Some of them even broke out some pretty good local swamp grass (hey, it might have been Florida or Mississippi) to compete with our 1 toke Maui stuff. We were having a great time. The ratio of girl to band guys was working out to be around three to one while at the same time showing every indication of expanding before the night was through. On our way back in to play the drummer and I were talking about seeing Superfly Jimmy Snuka and some other "tag team" greats of wrestling. I was going to need a drool bib to get through the next set without shorting my gear.

The last break showed an increase in the number of young women on the tour bus, along with some pretty telling asides. There were references to starting rosters, second strings, and props. Yes sir, this was shaping up to be a legendary performance back at the old hotel.

It was an old hotel too. Every deep south town has at least one of them. It's not a chain, it's local owned and operated. There's somebody at the desk all the time, usually chatting on the phone, but eager and willing to assist a guest.

I don't know what it was that set the inbred kid at the hotel desk that night off. I don't know what rang his bells. It might have been seeing five of us going up to our rooms with nearly fifteen local girls. It might have been the fact that two of us were "colored" to use their most polite terms and the girls were all very, very white. We'd been playing a place that served liquor so any questions of underage were not on us. The bar's supposed to check that shit.

We weren't even being that loud. Or kinky. At least not in my room anyway. I figure three to one odds is about all the kink this old boy can manage. It's a lot of work trying to make sure that nobody feels left out or neglected, it takes sensitivity and common sense. All of which can be in short supply after a long night of music and debauchery both imagined and executed.

About an hour and a half into the festivities the knock at the door was followed by a voice proclaiming that owner of the hotel was on his way. We figured "So what? There's plenty of beer and dope for one more." The owner arrived and said that he needed to check the place out for damage. We said cool and offered both beer and dope. Satisfied that there was no property damage being done he left to consider his next move. After another thirty minutes or so, and extra paragraphs on some small town girl's penthouse letter, the knock on the door was followed by a loud voice saying:

"If you don't have this sinner's convention wrapped up and over in fifteen minutes I'm going to go get the Sheriff!"

It didn't help matters that when I opened the door to the room the first thing I said was "Well Goddamn Mr. ------, I thought you said you didn't want to come up here again tonight."

What chilled me to the bone was the little girly voice coming out of one of the rooms where at least eight commandments were being gleefully and happily broken.

"Well you just go ahead you old fart. Call my Daddy! See how long you get to keep this fleabag shithole open after that bullshit!"

A firm grasp on what constitutes the better part of valor had the whole band, mostly clothed and semi-packed, on the bus, on the way out of town in less than ten minutes.

Two stowaways were discovered at the pancake stop and left behind.

This wasn't 'Nam, there were rules.

harp and hangover

And The Rock Cried Out - No Hiding Place

by: Debra

From JMS' (Joe Michael Straczynski for those who aren't fans) script to the Universe's ears. May those who have dragged us into an illegal and immoral war understand that eventually it all catches up with you. The innocents should not be the only ones who pay the ultimate price. Sooner or later, justice will be served, hopefully in our lifetime and before it is too late to undo the damage the crew without a clue has caused. Plus the music is good, Marva Hicks can sing.

Maybe, just maybe, we (or your descendants) will live to see a time when this is true.

"Declaration of Principles

"The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice. The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gayan or Minbari. It speaks in the language of hope; it speaks in the language of trust; it speaks in the language of strength, in the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. And always it is the same voice. It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us and the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born. It is the small still voice that says, 'we are one'. No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star. We are one! No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear. We are one, here, gathered together in common cause. We agree to recognize this singular truth, and this singular rule: that we must be kind to one another, because each voice enriches us and enables us. And each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future. We are one. We are one."

Listening to: The Isley Brothers - Fight the Power
via FoxyTunes



"Bush's War" Should be Required Viewing

by: blackdog

Really excellent Frontline from PBS on "Bush's War". I was up at 3:30 this morning and couldn't sleep. Since the collapse of the KATV antenna that supplied me with ABC and PBS I haven't been watching much TV lately, and I really do miss PBS, but now that I do have a somewhat better intertube connection I am able to take advantage of it.

As is normal for Frontline, this one is highly professional with numerous sources, graphic video and consistently clear narrative. They did not pull their punch.

This should be required viewing by all.

"Why are they fighting, Mommy?"

by: spyderkl

School Girl and I had an interesting conversation this morning before school. It started with the mittens in this post. She asked me to read the first one. I did. Then she asked what the number meant. I told her. And then...the really tough questions began.

"Why did they die, Mommy?"
"They died while they were fighting in war, baby girl."
"Where are they fighting, Mommy?"
"They're fighting over in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"What are they fighting about?"
"You know, baby, there are lots of grownups who are trying to answer that question. The people who started it, the ones who know for certain, will probably never tell us. They'll carry that around with them until the day they die. We can just hope for and work for this to be over soon. But hurting somebody is never, ever right. That's what Daddy and I believe."

Actually, there are plenty of grownups who do know why we're fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reasons are pretty damned ugly. But I thought that would be a lot for a 6-year-old to digest on the way to school, so I let it go.

Evil Mommy


by: Foiled Goil

"Cheers and Jeers: Thursday"


by Bill in Portland Maine
It starts with an innocent sentence fragment plucked like a ripe tomato from a broader statement:
"For the first time, I have seen Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus in agreement."
[Click] The Rube Goldberg machine activates.

Someone sends a tip to Drudge, who catapults it with one of his little flashing sissy lights. Red State, Instapundit and Powerline howl: How DARE those traitorous liberals besmirch the good name of General Petraeus by comparing him to Osama bin Laden! Never mind the context, there are some things in this country that are just flat-out unacceptable. This is so typical of the Blame-America-First crowd and an insult to the troops! Sign the petition!!!

Michelle Malkin finds the statement so odious that she pulls her cheerleader costume out of mothballs and tears up her lawn doing a spastic loony dance.

Fox News picks it up. The screen crawl slithers by every three minutes:


The surrogates---O'Reilly, Morris, Hannity, Cavuto, Barnes, et al---swarm. "Shameless!" "Treason!" "They're helping the terrorists win!" they shout.

Rush Limbaugh, who doesn't really give a crap, goes on a multi-day tirade, knowing that the fracas will translate into more money for him.

Stories appear in Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post: UNHINGED! Liberals Reignite "General Betray Us" Campaign In Attempt To Doom Surge!

CNN and MSNBC, not wanting to miss out on the drama, pick up the story. Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs sob openly. Joe Lieberman claims Democrats are responsible for the deaths of all 4,001 American troops in Iraq and then, just before he plugs the GOP Happy Caribbean Fun Cruise hosted by Tom DeLay, calls for an end to the bipartisan bickering "that the Democrats started."

The cascade continues as The Washington Post and The New York Times report on the "story." Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack suggest the irresponsible statement has set back the training of the Iraqi forces by at least six months. The AP's Nedra Pickler provides balanced analysis by interviewing the founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Dick Cheney. Then the networks weigh in---the anchors reflecting the seriousness of the situation with their solemn tones and furrowed brows. Their eyes say it all: "Awful...just awful." Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch unleashes a 'down' arrow: "Surge savior savaged---again!---by ax-grinding libs. Al Qaeda to send flowers to DNC?"

President Bush calls the statement "cowardly" and says the only way to make up for such heinous rhetoric is another $100 billion emergency supplemental for Iraq and retroactive immunity for all registered Republicans and their supporters.

And then the cherry is placed lovingly on top of the shit sundae as the House and Senate condemn the statement with official resolutions.

Just one inconvenient hitch: a Democrat didn’t say it. John McCain did.

Nothing to see here. Please move along.

Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!] RIGHT NOW! [Gong!!]



Money: Yours + Mine = Theirs?

by: Foiled Goil

Senate Finance Committee Inquiring Into Sale of Bear Sterns To JP Morgan Chase

March 26, 2008, (PDF):
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are inquiring this week into the terms of the recent, taxpayer-backed sale of the failing Bear Stearns investment firm to JPMorgan Chase. In a letter to the firms’ chief executive officers, as well as to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Bank CEO Timothy Geithner, the Senators requested exact details of the sale agreement, how and by whom it was negotiated, and all parties to it. The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over U.S. debt and the Treasury-backed securities used to guarantee the Bear Stearns deal.

“Americans are being asked to back a brand-new kind of transaction, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. With jurisdiction over federal debt, it’s the Finance Committee’s responsibility to pin down just how the government decided to front $30 billion in taxpayer dollars for the Bear Stearns deal, and to monitor the changing terms of the sale,” said Baucus. “Economic times are tight on Main Street as well as on Wall Street, and we have a responsibility to all taxpayers to review the details of this deal.”

“Separate from the question of what was needed, or not, to avoid a market panic in the Bear Stearns case are the implications of the deal for the taxpayers,” Grassley said. “Congress has a responsibility to look at whether the taxpayers will lose money here, what kind of precedent this sets for federal involvement when other firms over-extend themselves, how this will affect the marketplace in other direct and indirect ways, and whether top executives will come out better than the rank-and-file workers who weren’t in the room negotiating the deal.”

The text of the Senators’ letter follows.

"Us versus Them" The Money Party (5)

By Michael Collins, March 26, 2008:

We have been warned again and again that seeing the world as an "us versus them" proposition is a fatal error. It's polarizing. It leads to "class warfare." It absolves "us" of the collective responsibility we all have in a democracy. Can't have it, not allowed.

Well, here's some news for "them". It is precisely an "us versus them" world. We live in a nation where tremendous wealth calls the shots without respect or regard for the public will, fails miserably again and again, and then hides behind "collective responsibility." We're supposed to believe that somehow "we all allowed this to happen."

This point is critical: If "we" all allowed it to happen then "they" aren't responsible, ever. They have the ultimate "Get out of jail free" card. Kill, maim, steal, lie, cheat, etc. etc. and all they have to do is say everyone was in on it; therefore, they are not responsible. Starting a war based on lies that breaks the bank of the federal budget while the richest 1% get tax cuts is just one example of the fraud perpetrated by our "public servants." Did you have anything to do with that?

Now the "D" word is being used - we're on the verge of a major depression or, at least, a calamitous recession, take your pick. How did this happen? See if you can identify your role. How will they blame us in order to survive and do it all over again?

In 2001 the loser won. We had a president selected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The prevailing justices stopped a state recount, defying their long-held bias in favor of states' rights, a position they'd held before and returned to following their presidential intervention.

Then the looting began with a stunningly consistent display of greed and avarice bringing us to these perilous times.

So gear up, get in shape, and be ready to hear that we are to blame for this worst of all possible worlds created by The Money Party and its minions. They'll soon be blaming us for this on a regular basis at a major media outlet near you. As the economy continues its collapse and the truth about Iraq and other national "security" lies emerges, you'll hear stories about a great national soul searching and reflection on how "we" got where we are.

But consider this: People can't make rational decisions on major matters without a free flow of information on the topic at hand. We have had nearly zero accurate information on vital issues and events since 9/11 and we had very little during prior decades.

The mainstream media was just doing its job as the public relations shop for corporate America. The Bush economic plan was a pyramid scheme from the start. The various details were all offered to make more money for the very few at the top. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a fact easily discernible with just a little research. But there were huge profits to be made chasing those phantoms. The human sacrifices in deaths and injuries are no surprise either. Who in power honestly believed that U.S. troops would be welcomed in a nation that we'd bombed and starved for over a decade?

The subprime loan scheme was a loser from the start and the investments offered in the form of aggregated subprime loans were almost laughable. Yet the regulators and press said very little to question this practice despite ample evidence of danger.

You don't sell garbage and call it a great investment. You don't create a financial house of cards that benefits the few and call it an expanding economy. The lack of reporting on this wasn't a matter of "errors of omission." We were told a series lies which were repeated again and again.

Financial schemes that benefit the very few are a common theme in most modern wars. Yet as it relates to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, this issue was barely covered or discussed. The profit motive behind the new endless war rarely if ever made the OpEd pages.

Those who claim that average Americans bear responsibility for this array of tragic mistakes fail to acknowledge the massive lockdown of accurate information which was replaced by false story lines which deliberately mislead and deceive.

We've had sparse information, relentless propaganda from the White House, and a timid Congress. Despite that, a majority of citizens have learned enough to know the nation has been headed in the wrong direction for years. Even though the mainstream media are now "embedded" as an ally to war and destruction, 70% of citizens oppose the war based on their own information gathering and evaluation.

Despite the many lies told again and again, without any alternative sources of information to reveal the truth, the "us" segment of the population has lost almost all faith in the current political rulers. That's why a recent poll showed the president with a 77% disapproval rating. The people have done their homework and their decision is in: The Money Party has reached its lowest point ever. It is a miserable failure.

It's time to speak up and state the truth - the massive failure of this government, at home and abroad, is a man-made national tragedy.
(Author's note: This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to the original article.)

· · · · · ·

On Modern Education

by: Dark Wraith

In a recent blog discussion thread on an unrelated topic, the passing claim was made that Americans are unable to contemplate complex ideas, and from that proposition, blame was laid upon "[T]he school system [which] is set up in this country to prevent free thinking taking roots." Republished here in edited and expanded form is my response to that and other claims about the principal cause of the problems with our education system in this country. In foreword, I caution readers that, when I address issues of education, I am often less than diplomatic, and I tend not to mince words to spare the feelings and edify the ideas of others with opinions that differ from my own. For one thing, I'm too old to care; for another, little is to be gained by the overly cautious word against cultural, academic, and societal trends that have the force of hurricanes in imposing their half-baked, poorly constructed theories upon the uninformed, the unwilling, and the vulnerable. In summary, as a people, we have been getting hit by one shock wave after another for decades, and the meek voice is one that will be swept aside; thus—and even though the strong voice will likely be swept aside, as well—I write upon education matters with other than the meek voice.

Speaking as an educator of almost thirty years, the free-thinking student is generally undesirable if that freedom of thought has no tether to knowledge of facts, ability to reason, or capacity for meaningful expression. We long ago abandoned teaching students how to think in the disciplined, rigorous ways that require the use of valid logic as the framing guide in which accurate and deep understandings of history, the arts, science, and mathematics can be brought to bear upon a problem, proposition, or idea at issue. Modern American pedagogy offers not even so much as a worthwhile mechanism by which to implement standards for effectively, consistently teaching and insisting upon proper grammar, even though mastery of constructive thinking and expression are at very heart of shaping a young mind for higher expressive thought and communication. From long and grueling personal experience, I can assure readers that, unless one is very much in love with subject matter at its deep, technical level, teaching is no fun when it requires as much discipline, effort, and continuing thought on the part of the teacher as on the part of the student.

When I was the director of education at a school for court reporters, I had an English teacher with a Master's degree from a most reputable university. She resolutely refused to teach English grammar, even though the course to which I had assigned her was "English Grammar I." She hated grammar, did not understand essentials of it, and knew very well that "grammar is dead," anyway. She wanted to give her students "writing assignments" because that's what is important: all students have to do is write and write—and especially, they should write about their feelings and their opinions—and they will get the education in English they need. She stormed into my office one night after class, frustrated to no end because my curriculum was hard-core grammar, and she was supposed to have covered the topic of what are called "gerunds" that night, and she simply could not, for the life of her, understand what these gerunds were all about. She said, "F*ck gerunds." I fired her.

Ultimately, she was the winner in a way. The accreditation board for the school finally ordered me, under threat of pulling the accreditation, to abolished the two-course sequence in English grammar. I was told, "Grammar is dead."

It is important to point out that exceptional writing does not flow from perfection in form and grammar. I have invited a number of bloggers to contribute at Websites of Dark Wraith Publishing, and many of these writers are not top-notch grammarians; nevertheless, they are good or great writers, and that is why I deem their work important and worthy of publication and exposure to a wide audience. My assessment is good, too: the ability to write well is, to some extent, a gift, but it is a gift enhanced by elements of early life in school, at home, and in other venues that brought forth something special, perhaps not entirely well-formed in terms of grammar and composition lessons retained, but special nonetheless in terms of essential understanding of what makes for a good read.

People learn in different ways and, to some degree, at different rates; and it is surely insufficient to anticipate that teaching will, in and of itself, be enough. Some students will emerge of their own accord as great in math, writing, art, or some combination of areas; most, however, will have to be given years and years of prescriptive, structured, and (unfortunately) repetitive lessons to induce retention and usage. Higher-level expectations brought to bear too soon and in inappropriate venues do not have positive effect and can, in many cases, have disastrous long-term consequences. This is true whether it be the average fifth-grader being taught algebra or the college student being harangued to write and write, regardless of individual ability to form essential thoughts, much less the capacity to express thought in a readable way.

Specifically, that fascination with simply "writing" at the expense of writing from clarity of thought and productivity of expression has gone from brushfire in the 1980s to full-blown conflagration in the current era. Colleges have become nearly obsessed with "writing across the curriculum," holding seminars, pumping out e-mail newsletters, and going so far as to stand upon the precipice of evaluating teachers in part upon how much they integrate "writing" into assessment and evaluation at the course and classroom levels. The assumption, of course, is this: if students write and write and write, sooner or later, they'll write well and communicate meaningful thoughts about the subject matter at hand. (I must note, here, that I am valiantly resisting the urge to conflate this myth with the somewhat erroneous idea that, if a bunch of monkeys are allowed to type long enough, a Shakespearean sonnet will emerge from one of their pages of random characters.)

Old methods and methodologies are the stuff of trash bins when it comes to academia. Our education system flits from one pop-academic airhead theory to the next, and I have seen enough of these brainstorms pushed into service to make me thoroughly suspicious of anything new, whether it be a new idea about how teachers should be "learning facilitators" or some new, high-tech toy the IT department has been suckered by academic-corporate marketers into buying for every classroom on campus. As the uselessness of one pedagogy or toy after another becomes too obvious to ignore, and as a new crop of academics desperately publishes reams of research to get doctorates or tenure, what do we get? Why, we get a brand new banquet of pop-academic airhead ideas, the latest and biggest of which these days is stampeding the ivy under the banner of "assessment," which is the Son of Frankenstein billowing forth from the "accountability" craze that expressed itself legislatively with the abomination of No Child Left Behind and other initiatives that have now fully infected and misdirected critical and precious resources in schools from kindergarten through college.

Whatever the academic fad du jour might be, the results are predictable: in K-12, teachers who are, themselves, the products of woefully inadequate education from their youth clear through to their suspiciously easy degrees in education are expected to impose upon their students standards that the students cannot meet because the teachers cannot teach to standards that are utterly detached from genuinely worthwhile arcs of education; and all of this happens in the context of administrators whose academic training is even more miserable than that of the teachers they oversee; and those administrators are flogged along by school boards comprising ambitious know-nothings cowering to the mindless masses of voters who will shoot down pathetically inadequate school levies, then go out and mortgage their lives to the hilt for their own consumption overdrive.

Do people want something better? No, not at the price they have clearly, unambiguously—over and over again, from one school district to the next, from one state to the next—demonstrated that they are willing to pay. No, not at a price that would include a direct cost in the fifty to sixty thousand dollar-a-year range for starting teachers; no, not at a price that would include giving up the economies of scale of giant, mausoleum-style, mass-education schools and replacing them with lots of small, intimate, localized learning centers; and, no, not at the awful price of resolutely and consistently standing up to pop culture by telling the kids, "No, no, no. Not television, not your iPod, not your friends at the mall. First, foremost, and every day and night, your studies... and I will be there to support, help, and believe in you."

The price of educating kids the right way—the way a whole lot of people know very well is the right way—is far, far too high.

Oh, yes, and one more thing. "No more of this 'some people just aren't good at math or science or reading or whatever' nonsense." Do Americans have even the slightest clue as to how ingrained in our culture the excuses for academic failure are? Finding excuses for failure are so much easier than living for reasons to succeed.

As a side note, when the kids decry the difficulties of living in a household where parents insist upon high academic standards, those youngsters can be comforted with the certain knowledge that, when they grow up, they can go on the Oprah Winfrey Show and tell the world about how terrible their childhoods were. (Dear GOD! Expectations?! O, the horror... the horror!)

I need to address one last, really important matter, here. To be a good teacher means commanding respect rather than demanding compliance. The teacher who bullies, cajoles, threatens, and otherwise terrorizes students is doing nothing even remotely related to teaching.

The same goes for the society, itself, and its instrumentalities in law enforcement: we are ruining one generation after another of kids by terrorizing them with massive police raids at schools, making them accept that they have no privacy or speech rights we don't "let" them have, and refusing to deal with the school bullies who create miserable hierarchies of brutality.

And finally, the same goes for parents: violence in word and deed is not merely the raised voice, the threatening hand, or the inappropriate willingness to punish; violence can also be done to children by giving them the awful example of a parent unwilling to live a circumspect life, full of learning, occasioned by fun and games, and always willing to show love even in the most difficult of times. It is, indeed, hard to grow up; do it, anyway. It is also hard to remember being a child; do that, anyway, too.

Here's some good news. At the end of the day, nothing of what I wrote above is actually important, necessary, or even advisable. We are in the decline of Empire. Quite honestly, we would be wasting our time trying at this late hour to do for our children that which we willfully declined to do when we had some chance of making their lives better than ours. At this point, it is better to go out and spend that tax rebate check, bemoan the price of gasoline, and whine about all the ills of society that some new President should fix at the behest of an electorate standing in the breach of a society unable to cure itself through the will and personal sacrifice of its citizenry.

Here's one last piece of good news. Given the current state of our education system, only a few of today's kids will grow to adulthood smart enough to grasp who is to blame for the grim world in which they will live. At the very least, we had damn well better hope these kids don't figure it out before we are all safely in our graves.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·
26 March 2008

all my questions now answered

by: astraea

So. Obama gives a speech that sets race relations and media reaction in the good old USA on an adult level, a place where we can move on, heal, and grow. And as the light begins to shine through, Hillary deliberately stirs up the dust again. Hill, I now believe what they say about you. This is the way Democracy has been sold out and run into the ground, and you've just made clear that you'll be more of the same. I understand reasonable compromise, cutting losses, and living to fight another day. But you've sat down with Scaife.

You've been played, my dear, all in the greedy hopes of siphoning off from McCain some of the fear-frayed moderates, and also smearing Obama. Like McCain, you're more of the same and we're sick of it. It's over.

Josh is so right...

I don't know just how this went down. But the idea Sen. Clinton and her staff went into an editorial board meeting with Scaife and his lackey reporters without a clear sense that they were going to get at least one choice Jeremiah Wright question just somehow doesn't ring true to me.
--Josh Marshall

related colbloggination:

Episode 367 Linkcap Recap
Clinton Supporters Boycott the Internet
LA Times’ Stark Contrast
Pat Buchanan Slams Barack
Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on “700 Club”
McCain Denounces Falwell and Robertson
McCain Has a Change of Heart
Vote for Your Candidate and Support Pennsylvanian Schools
Profiles of Presidential Candidates
Where Your Money Won’t Go
TIP OF THE HAT: Fox’s “The Moment of Truth”
How to Cheat a Polygraph
WAG OF THE FINGER- Happy-Go-Lucky Troops
The War in Afghanistan

Lush and the Lady

by: blackdog

This is the lady that the most horrible pos lush limpball described once upon a time as being "ugly". Now Bill Clinton is a fairly big fellow, and I believe could easily KO the limpball with a single punch. But for some reason he did not act in that manner, maybe he has a measure of control.

But the remark by the limpball was enough to get the most remarkable writer and comedian Al Franken, now a candidate for the Senate from Minnesota to write a book, "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot". I'm still looking for that book, although it may be something that I already know. I think this lady is kinda cute, she is attractive.

If I was her father, and had the chance, lush limpball would have at least one less ball.

A Complicit MSM? Do Tell.

by: Foiled Goil

Conflicted, Compliant and Sometimes Culpable

By Devilstower:
NPR's On The Media can be as frustrating as the rest of the network's lineup. They often offer amazing "behind the scenes" insights, but rarely do any of the facts presented there translate into a change in coverage -- even on NPR.

After five years of the Iraq War, reporter Bob Garfield has created a retrospective of media failures; a "greatest misses" of the war that just won't end. The string of Fourth Estate failures includes not simply failing to challenge the obvious misinformation in the run-up to the war, but actively participating in the creation of the Iraq is a Threat mythology. The "best" of our media didn't just parrot what the administration said, it created an ouruboros of lies.

Garfield goes on to recount the "spontaneous" press conferences that were run from a script, the death of Pat Tillman, the... hell, the everything that came out their mouths of the last six years plus.

The invasion of Iraq is the single stupidest thing the United States has ever done as a nation, and not all the fault lies with Bush, or with the Senators who voted him authority. A big, heaping, stinking, steaming load of blame goes to the media that tried to treat this as the next great news spectacular. They spent more time picking theme songs and graphic designs, working out electronic maps and cool ways to use Google Earth, than they did trying to learn the truth.

It's not the blogs that are a threat to the traditional media. The fingers around their throats are their own.

But don't worry. I'm sure new sets, more dramatic sound effects, spiffier graphics, and more screaming pundits will set things right.

25 March 2008

Ahhhh Shit

by: blackdog

Just received a bit from my friend Julia this morning and it isn't good news at all. Yesterday I mailed her with this after hearing that she recently had another intensive examination:

If I could be so bold, what was your prognosis? Don't forget that you have many listening and hoping. You are a special person. Thanks for being a friend. The Woof just came in to add his three cents, he agrees. He says, just for you, "woof"!

Then this morning I received her reply:

Funny you should ask. I just got the news. I'm done. I have about six months or so no one can tell. There are no more drugs out there that work on me. I'm just trying to figure out how to get Clay home without messing up his assignments. I'm calling the Red Cross to day. I have been rather weak and I'm looking into hospice when the time comes or just stick it out here or go to the hospital when its time. Been reading the prayer about dying that your friend sent ask him to send it again I accidentally deleted it but it has really helped me. The only thing I cry about is missing everyone and seeing my son grow even more. Right now I have some strength but that could all go away in a little while. Don't worry about me, stay close to Allison she is sad, watch over her.

There are only one or two around here that most likely sent her that prayer, please send it to her again. I ask this with respect. My heart is breaking.

From Allison just a bit ago:


Today Julie told me the doctor gave her 6 months and that Hospice is lined up for her.

She is still planning a trip to San Diego to play a little more before she goes.

Clay, their son, will be stationed in San Diego soon.

I'll be going to her home on Friday for a visit.


It's hard to talk now, okay.

More later.

She's one of the few I will allow to call me by that name, I may add more about both of them later, they are a team.

A little more from Allison:


What got me today was that Julie cried because she will miss everybody.

In my life I have never heard her cry and it really got me.

Feeling the sadness.

Can't talk now.

More later.


Something strange going on, will advise as I get it.

So far I don't get it. Now I do.

What You Don't Hear About The Iraqi Civil War

by: Foiled Goil

The Iraqi Civil War Bush and the Media Don't Tell You About

By Raed Jarrar, Foreign Policy in Focus


While the majority of Iraqis know that the current Sunni-Shiites tension did not exist before 2003, no one can deny that after five years of U.S. occupation, sectarian tension is now a reality. Sectarianism is another disaster that was brought to Iraq by the war and occupation of Iraq.

The U.S.-led invasion did not only destroy the Baath political regime, it also annihilated the entire public sector including education, health care, food rations, social security, and the armed forces. The Iraqi public sector was a great example of how millions of Iraqis: Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, all worked together in running the country.

Sometimes I feel like Iraqis and Americans are analyzing two different wars happening in two different countries. In one narrative, there is a civil war based on ancient sectarian hatred where a U.S. withdrawal will cause the sky to fall. In the other, there is a country struggling under occupation to get its independence back where the occupation is not welcomed and it is causing political, not sectarian, splits and violence.

According to the Iraqi mainstream narrative, the foreign occupation is the major reason and cause for violence and destruction. Foreign intervention is not only destroying Iraq's infrastructure, but it is also splitting Iraq's formerly integrated society. In addition, Iraqis are fighting among each other over fundamental questions about the future of their country, but the central conflict is not between Sunnis and Shiites, it is between Iraqi separatists and nationalists.

This Iraqi-Iraqi conflict is in many ways similar to the U.S. civil war: Iraqis who are for keeping a central government are fighting against other Iraqis who want to secede. But the major difference is that the United States was not under a foreign occupation that was destroying nationalists and funding and training separatists.

The last couple of years witnessed numerous examples of how the Bush administration systematically took the side of separatists in the Iraqi executive branch against nationalists in the elected legislative branch, repeatedly bypassing the Iraqi parliament. In each of these cases, there was the potential for reaching compromises that would have satisfied both nationalists and separatists. However, the aggressive support of the U.S. government for the separatist executive branch against the parliament has made it impossible for Iraqis to settle their differences.

Understanding these nuances of the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict reveals how the war is a political struggle that will end as soon as the U.S. withdraws, not a religious war that will intensify after Iraqis take their country back. The United States is not playing the role of a peace-keeping force, or a convener of reconciliation. It is seen by a majority of Iraqis as one side of the conflict and will never be a part of the solution.

On the one hand, the best way to guarantee that no al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations will exist in Iraq is to let Iraqis rule the country by themselves. They have been living in Iraq and ruling it for the last thousands of years, and unlike the occupation authorities, they have been successful in protecting Iraq from the intervention of foreign countries and organizations.

While many Iraqis appreciate the sense of responsibility to fix what the U.S. invasion has broken in Iraq, and it has broken a lot, prolonging the occupation is only making the situation worse.

The best way to help Iraqis is to end the occupation of their country and to believe in their right and capacity for self-rule and self-determination. Setting a timetable for a complete withdrawal is the first step to help Iraqis begin the long process of reconciliation and reconstruction.

Turning the current occupation into half or one-quarter of an occupation will not change anything on the ground in Iraq. Pulling out some of the troops and leaving some exceptions indefinitely is not a new strategy, it is a continuation of decades old military interventionism that will likely reduce some of the violence but it will keep the Iraqi people from starting the political, social, and economic reconciliation that is sorely needed.

Last November marked the 1245th anniversary of the construction of modern Baghdad by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur. During the last 13 centuries, Baghdad had been attacked and occupied 20 times before the U.S. army became its 21st foreign invader.

The time is different now, but the politics of the invaders still sound the same.

· · · · · ·

Road Story

by: Minstrel Boy

This is one of the more epic moments of a Minstrel Boy's career. It had a little bit of everything.

I was excited about this show to begin with. I was playing with a southern rocker who has been around for a long time and written some great grits boogie stuff. His music really showcased some of the things I do best. Swooping and snotty slide guitar licks, fatback rhythm guitar. Even some times in there for me to turn it all up and soar. We were the second of three acts, our job was to get the crowd ready for the headliners. We were given free rein to go out and kill. The blowoff band didn't care, they were perfectly willing to wait until the crowd quit yelling for us and started yelling for them, no matter how long it took.

We were also playing the Murph (the football stadium in San Diego). It was very close to a hometown gig for me. I had spent heavily on making sure I had a lot of my friends in the audience, and they were throwing a full on beach party for us after the show. It was stacking up to be one of those peak performance nights. Everything was looking great.

Usually before a show I've very quiet and contained. I keep to myself saving it for the stage. This time though I was almost jumping outside my skin. It was all starting to climb up my ass. I left the green room and went around the back of the stage to take in the crowd and check out the first band.

They were doing alright. Not shining but not sucking either. I was looking out over the folks in the standing room area and I saw HER. Everything you would dream about on a California afternoon in the early summer. Blonde, no wait, that really can't explain this girl's look. Beach Blonde, California Blonde, Look at this girl and Jan and Dean songs start playing in your head blonde. Tanned, together, totally drop dead gorgeous. If this girl was carnival food she'd be babe on a stick.

Normally I don't get noticed much in situations like this. I'm nobody's poster boy anything. One of the reasons I started playing was that I took an honest assesment of myself in the mirror one day and said "Dude, if you don't learn to play an electric guitar, you're never going to get any." Most of my assignation and even first contact stuff comes after the show. After they've seen me in action.

Out of somewhere in serendipity she noticed me. She smiled and beamed. Maybe it was the backstage pass thing hanging off my neck, maybe it was that I was flanked by a couple of security guys, who knows? Something made her look at me and smile. I beckoned her to come over and talk to me. She asked if I was with a band and I told her my band was on next. I told her that I would get her up closer and that I would get her a pass for backstage if she would like one. She explained that she was with a friend and before I saw that the friend was just as beautiful I said that there woudl be no problem with that told the muscle head in the tight tee shirt to rustle up two backstage passes and then I asked his running mate to please clear the two ladies a path to the lip of the stage.

Once everything was all arranged, names (now long forgotten) were exchanged, and an invitation for the beach party that was expected to go late into the night and deep into the weekend was issued I excused myself and told her I needed to get ready for my set.

Backstage I deal with my stage fright with a lot of ritual and routine. Going through the same things night after night gets me ready for the action to come. Having a familiar pattern focuses me in the ever changing world of performance. I sit by myself and go over the proposed set list, making sure I have each guitar voicing and tuning all ready to go. I go over the cues and licks of each song. This was long before I sobered up so I also got my dope ritual happening. A shitload of coke and an equal dose of heroin. Then it's time to throw up. I can't blame that on the dope, most of the time I still throw up before a show at fifteen years clean and sober. It's more a stage fright thing. I throw up, brush my teeth and feel better.

This time, I threw up, brushed my teeth and threw up again. There was plenty of time for another tooth brushing, but I figured I might have mixed a little too heavy on the coke end so I hit half a joint and down a couple valium with a double shot of irish whiskey. Things settled down a little bit and I chased it with a club soda and started feeling ready to go.

Right before I went on I did one more little booster shot. Not the monster I did a half an hour ago, just a little booster. I always felt that heroin and coke together was a perfect performing dose. I could ride the coke rush out onto the stage and then the heroin would even things out and let me play. Fuck it, it worked for me. Being the professional that I am I made sure to wipe the blood off my arm and roll down my sleeve. Appearances must be kept up don't you know. . .all about the presentation baby.

Our set was going great. Halfway through the first song I look over the front of the crowd and see the California Blonde and her buddy the Other California Blonde right there at the front of the stage, right in front of me. I smile, they smile back. I spend the rest of the song paying attention to my performance enough to keep things rolling. I also spend my spare moments working the Blondes.

We get into one of my favorite songs. I really get to do some totally rude slide guitar licks. Tonight, I'm on. Even the singer is amazed. Normally I'm a real lunch pail kind of guy. Get the job done is what I do. Tonight though I'm all over it. I'm roiling in between the phrases, growling and threatening musical violence, sounding like I'm ready to explode at any moment. When my solo comes I'm all over the first few notes like Mike Tyson on Michael Spinks, it's out there full bore from the starting gun and halfway through the first verse I'm showing no signs of letting up. By the time the chorus rolls by the singer is jumping up and down pointing at me to take another. I take another phrase and it's even better. I'm all over this, I look at the Blondes and they are beaming at me, glowing and stuff. Usually I don't get much looks, even when I'm soloing, a lot of the time I play with my back to audience or I'm focusing on the rest of the band. Not this time, I start moving over to the girls, slinging my hips and my licks all over the stage. I lean into the girls who reach for me. I lean a little closer, wailing away on the guitar the whole time, leaning closer and closer, almost touching.

Then I threw up again.

harp and sword
24 March 2008

Cloned Stem Cells Cure Parkinson's Syndrome In Mice

by: Minstrel Boy

Maggie Fox, Science and Health Editor for Rueters News Service

In today's Washington Post writes:

Researchers who used cloned embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease in mice said on Sunday they worked better than other cells.

The researchers were trying to prove that it is possible to make embryonic stem cells using cloning technology and use them to provide a tailor-made treatment.

They took mouse embyros, inserted the nucleii from skin cells of the subject mice who had been given a specific symptomatic array of Parkinson's. They used the cloned embryos to grow the exact stem cells they needed to address the disease.

The mice got better folks. From having distonic paw movements and compulsively circling in one direction they became normal mice. When the mice were killed and autopsied, they found that the introduced stem cells had bound with other cells in the body to create new nerve tissues where previously there had been diseased tissue.

By using cloned cells specific to the patient, things like inflammation were greatly reduced and the ability to target exact types of cell and body locations were enhanced.

We're a long way from being able to bring this type of treatment to humans. Many levels of scientific discipline must be met and surmounted.

Oh, and before we forget, another thing that must be surmounted is the fact that we have a religiously deluded incurious son of a bitch in the White House who wants to send these scientists to jail and then straight to Hell. That's right. His decision on this issue did not come from studying the science. Bush can't understand that shit. Besides, it would require him to do uncomfortable shit like think and read and learn. Rather than go through all those messy, icky mental gymnastics our President based his decision on the word of Ted Haggard, who paused long enough from snorting methamphetamine off the butts of gay hookers long enough to explain to him that God was very much against this type of research.

I cannot find words to express my disdain and disgust for this. I haven't the writing skill it requires. My mother is condemned to a life of limitations and poor health because of this man's delusions of God and grandeur. I am foursquare behind a strict interpretation of the separation of church and state. I am all in favor of allowing people the liberty to follow their hearts and their inner voices in the matters of religion. Let me say this. When you inject your brand of religion into the policy and government, you have not only violated the Constitution, you have injured my mother you bastard. Every day she, and the patients with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Spinal Cord and Brain Injuries (and your foreign policy is making more of these motherfuckers every single day!) are forced to endure symptoms that have a very promising path to treatment and cure because of your religion is a day that I despise and hate you more.

Know that. I know you won't have any long dark nights of the soul behind this. That takes a fucking soul in the first place.

harp and sword

There's No One Like You

by: Debra

OMG! Whatever happened to having a sense of humor? I've been reading (and starring) Stuff White People Like almost since it began. What a hoot! When he did the top 10 ten rap songs and I realized that I have a couple of them on my iPod, but Going Back to Cali by LL Cool J (this video is hysterical and helps to prove the point) didn't make the list I was so heartbroken I almost choked on my tea. I think I'm white but somebody forgot to inform the genes that determine how much melanin I display. As usual the commenters at ABC have gone off the deep end, proving that they come from the shallow end of the gene pool. Oops, Gato Barbieri just finished and the Scorpions are up, my German blood shows up occasionally.

Armchair warriors, indeed. On to the next milestone that people will ignore. The only thing that Cheney regrets is not being able to drop a nuclear bomb. He probably gets a stiffy just thinking about it. Noble, necessary and just. That would be my description of the war crimes that Bush and Cheney should both be charged with, not a description of an illegal and immoral war perpetrated on people who had done nothing and were capable (at the time) of doing nothing to us.

How can he go back to something he can't do in the first place?

I'm running the new Firefox Beta and while I like some aspects of it, I miss some of my extensions. Specifically Tab Mix Plus (just found a build that works), Colorful Tabs (now that one is working) and Forecastfox. There are a couple more that I wish were working, but I'll just have to wait.

Don't drink the water. Or bathe in it, brush your teeth or cook with it. No wonder people think that bottled water is better. If you live in Alamosa, CO, it is. Makes you wonder how many other city's community water systems are in trouble. Other than all the drugs and hormones that they admitted to a few weeks ago.

Selfish and stupid. Deliberately bringing a child into the world when one knows it will die shortly after it's born, usually painfully and completely unaware, is cruel. No matter what your religious beliefs, you are not putting the child's welfare ahead of your own personal interests. Purposefully having a child whose mental impairment means that someone will have to care for it for the rest of its life, is cruel. With the technologies of today, that child could outlive the parents by many years and then who is going to love them? Who is going to fight for the benefits that they will need? Because with the growing lack of compassion people have for those less fortunate, they will have a miserable and lonely life after the parents are gone. What kind of parenting is that? Maybe because I'm watching my mom lose her mind and realize that if it happens to me there will be nobody to make sure that I'm not living on the street that allows me to take the "cold" view.

I'm more than a little tired of the sexism/racism question in the race for president. For me it's empty suit against another dynasty. I can't and probably won't vote for Obama. I live in California so my vote really doesn't count. Otherwise John Edwards would be my candidate but the media made sure that wasn't an option for me.

Oh boy, another day, another stolen laptop with unencrypted patient data. No wonder people aren't as worried about their phones being tapped and their internet habits being tracked as they should be. With all the data that has been lost over the last five years it's no surprise that the average person doesn't care.

You don't say. Wow, a newspaper that states the obvious like it was a new phenomenon. Of course health costs are cutting into wages, Bush's plans have done so much to help the economy. Of his friends and cronies. Walgreen showed a profit for its second quarter, what a surprise. Not.


· · ·

The Federal Reserve under Fire, Part One

by: Dark Wraith

Federal Reserve under FireIn a recent interview broadcast on CNBC, Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings, called for the Federal Reserve to be abolished, pointing out that the central bank's current policy has never worked in the past and will surely lead to even more problems that will eventually have to be fixed at great and escalating cost. Rogers was referring specifically to the Fed's policy of allowing the U.S. dollar to 'debase' as the means of boosting U.S. exports and curtailing foreign imports. More broadly, the attack by Mr. Rogers was on the extraordinarily loose monetary policy now being pursued by the Fed, a policy designed to rapidly infuse large sums of money into the United States economy to stave off a deep, impending recession. This Fed policy has been addressed and condemned in numerous articles here at Big Brass Blog, most recently in "Prelude to Finale."

Although Rogers' prediction of the severely adverse consequences of current Federal Reserve policy is entirely accurate and consistent with predictions made in numerous articles and videos here, his prescription of eliminating the Fed is not going to happen, nor should it. The Federal Reserve system is deeply embedded in the overall banking structure of the nation and far too highly integrated into the broader financial matrix of the larger world; it cannot be removed, either by law or by circumstances. Moreover, far too many people (and Jim Rogers should not be one of them) who call for dispensing with the Federal Reserve seem to be utterly clueless that monetary policy is only one aspect of the Fed's overall mission and activities. No responsible person in his or her right mind would actually leave the United States without a central bank: for one thing, the previously regulated banks in this country would run amok; and if that is not bad enough, more importantly, the United States as an economic entity with sovereign currency would be eaten alive, especially right now with the dollar under such siege because of the Bush Administration's years of hopelessly—now, just about catastrophically—incompetent policies.

People think terrorists are bad when they knock down $31 billion worth of property on continental U.S. soil? Watch what would happen if every industrialized nation of the world saw the opportunity to turn into a fast-moving, viciously efficient, mercantilist predator feeding on the carcass of a nation that had no central coordination to control currency flows and no central bank to enforce and define its currency. Although the current Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, is a lousy incompetent cut from the same mold of political fealty as everyone else President George W. Bush hires, Mr. Bernanke's choice to debase the American dollar is a whole lot different from a willful choice by the government, itself, that would turn the greenback into carrion abandoned in the field for every manner of predator and scavenger to carve up.

And speaking of terrorists, a worthwhile question, albeit one that will go unanswered, is thus: Where were both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush while the Chinese were sucking the American economy blood-dry by pegging the yuan at a mind-numbingly low rate to the U.S. dollar? The criminal madmen comprising the diffuse lore of convenience called "al-Qa'ida" are utter pikers compared to what the communists in Beijing have done to the economy of the United States under the guise of much-heralded "free market reforms," a feel-good term the Sino-gerontocrats have used and U.S. politicians have swallowed to the magnificently effective end of keeping the Americans from breaking the back of the Chinese currency manipulation strategy that for years pegged the yuan-dollar exchange rate at a ridiculous level of 8.28:1. (The Chinese are still pegging, but it is now looser, thereby giving the impression that some kind of float is happening.) For well more than a decade, the Chinese have been using the United States as their wet nurse, all while leading gullible American politicians and financial controllers to believe that, somehow, the "free markets" concept exists somewhere in the same universe with exchange rates fixed at levels radically divergent from purchasing power parity.

The naïve chain of logic that free markets lead to an expanding middle class that then demands greater civil freedom falls apart immediately when the entire predicate of free markets is nothing more than a ruse to bluff Westerners into a false mentality that currency manipulation on a grand, multi-year scale is other than a policy of mercantilism being pursued by entrenched authoritarians who shoot peaceful demonstrators by the thousands and brutally crush dissent in their occupied territories. The rulers in Beijing are not stupid enough to pursue any economic policy that might ultimately threaten their strangle-hold on absolute power; but the application of that basic axiom of authoritarianism seems to have been persistently, oddly, and perhaps tellingly absent from U.S. trade relations with China through several Administrations in Washington.

No, the United States will not abolish the Fed, nor should it, despite the central bank's history of surrendering its independence in conducting monetary policy. It will be the next regime at the Federal Reserve that will have to undertake the unenviable work, cruel as it will be to average Americans, of cleaning up the mess this Fed—first under the progressively addled leadership of Alan Greenspan, then under the obsequious hand of Ben Bernanke—has had a major hand in creating.

One good part about the draconian, contractionary monetary policy regime to come is that a Leftist writer like Naomi Klein can write a sequel to her breathless tome, Shock Doctrine, in which she may continue her curiously selective story of the evils of those who have to crush the money supply to finally fix the economic catastrophes created by neo-Keynesianism gone mad.

The great part about what is to come in terms of cure will be to see how John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama faces the awful news that actual leadership will fall on his or her shoulders, and real leadership requires meting out pain on a scale the American people have not come even close to feeling for a very long time.

A fun sideshow would be to watch a Hope-'n-Change sort of President trying to figure out why soaring rhetoric doesn't fix real economic problems.

Then again, the sales pitch in this election cycle seems to be all about believing in the future. Apparently, the past seven-plus years have not taught Americans much of anything about the difference between hope and reality.

This series will continue and conclude with a brief overview of Presidents, their fiscal and monetary policy regimes, and the consequences thereof.

The Dark Wraith encourages readers to be of good cheer (despite all reasonable evidence that such an attitude is sheer folly).

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · · ·

U. S. Iraq Deaths Reach 4000

by: Foiled Goil

Iraq Coalition

DoD Confirmation List
Mar 23, 2008 — Total 4000

US troop coffins

U.S. death toll in Iraq reaches 4,000

Grim milestone reached when IED kills 4 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000.

The grim milestone came on the same day that rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.

Last year, the U.S. military deaths spiked along with the Pentagon's "surge" — the arrival of more than 30,000 extra troops trying to regain control of Baghdad and surrounding areas. The mission was generally considered a success, but the cost was evident as soldiers pushed into Sunni insurgent strongholds and challenged Shiite militias.

When the 1,000th American died in September 2004, the insurgency was gaining steam. The 2,000-death mark came in October 2005 as Iraq voted on a new constitution. The Pentagon announced its 3,000th loss on the last day of 2006 — a day after Saddam Hussein was hanged and closing a year marked by rampant sectarian violence.

· ·
23 March 2008


by: blackdog

From Signs of the Times, about 4 minutes is all I could get, but funny as hell, enjoy. SOTT has all three segments, it's pretty good, just scroll down a bit and you will find it.

spring, beauty, flowers, poetry

by: Minstrel Boy

voices to voices,lip to lip
i swear(to noone everyone)constitutes
undying;or whatever this and that petal confutes...
to exist being a peculiar form of sleep

what's beyond logic happens beneath will;
nor can these moments be translated:i say
that even after April
by God there is no excuse for May

-bring forth your flowers and machinery:sculpture and prose
flowers guess and miss
machinery is the more accurate, yes
it delivers the goods,Heaven knows

(yet are we mindful,though not as yet awake,
of ourselves which shout and cling,being
for a little while and which easily break
in spite of the best overseeing)

i mean that the blond abscence of any program
except last and always and first to live
makes unimportant what i and you believe;
not for philosophy does this rose give a damn...

bring on your fireworks,which are a mixed
splendor of piston and of pistil;very well
provided an instant may be fixed
so that it will not rub,like any other pastel.

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneyed son for a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

each dream nascitur,is not made...)
why then to Hell with that:the other;this,
since the thing perhaps is
to eat flower and not to be afraid.

e.e. cummings (tulips & chimneys XXXIII)

Now, because we are also beginning a new baseball season, I want to take a moment and remember someone who was not only the finest songwriter I've ever known, he was a good and decent guy. He wrote some of the best songs in the American songbook. Like he lived his life, he wrote them quietly, he was almost embarrassed when he'd perform them. Still, he would touch some great beauty. Steve Goodman and I for a few years when I was in San Diego made a little tradition of attending each other's home opener together. I was able to introduce him to the joys of fish tacos from a pushcart by the beach, he pointed out the guys in the left field bleachers at Wrigley who, in the fifth inning of an opening day unfurled a "Wait Till Next Year!" sign. Steve, very early in his life was diagnosed with leukemia. At the age of twenty he knew what was going to kill him, and he knew it would kill him soon. I loved that guy. I've told many people when I explain how much I hate traveling on the wrong side of the Pecos river that I've only known one person in my life from Chicago that wasn't an asshole, and he died young. This is Steve Goodman, a good man, a cub fan, refusing to go down without letting us know what was on his mind. . .

Finally, because one good Goodman truly deserves another, this is my favorite song of his. This was the last song he and I played together. There isn't a recording or any film of our performance, but this is one of his best done by him at his best.

I miss you buddy. Bring on Spring!

harp and sword

Recession, Central Bank Intervention, and Tax Rebates

by: Dark Wraith

Congress recently took upon itself the responsibility for approving of a nice tax rebate check for taxpaying Americans who are then going to go out and spend that money to try to stave off a recession. Unfortunately, by spending that money, all that will happen is that those brave American consumers will throw instant gasoline onto the smoldering fire of spiraling inflation waiting to happen.

Has anyone bothered to ask who's paying for those rebate checks? The U.S. government surely isn't; it bleeds red ink by the hundreds of billions of dollars in budget deficits every year anymore. Ah, of course: it's the Chinese, the Arabs, the Japanese, and the Europeans who are lending us all those greenbacks for the rebates, just like they've been lending us hundreds of billions of dollars all throughout the years of this irresponsible Presidency; and the Chinese, the Arabs, the Japanese, and the Europeans have all those greenbacks to lend us is because we gave them those greenbacks in trade for their cheap imports.

And by the way, those who labor under the impression that this is a great time to jump into the stock market are off their rockers. Over the past several months, the Federal Reserve in coordination with foreign central banks has poured close to half-a-trillion dollars into Wall Street, and every last dime of that money has been sopped up by powerful, global traders who then sell off, thereby sending stocks back down to where they were before the money got pumped in.

Essentially, the Fed is handing hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthy for the privilege to the American economy of preventing a full-blown crash of the equities markets. At the end of the day, all this will do is make the necessary time of reckoning that much more severe and that much more protracted.

Yes, the money all those central banks have been lending us for our beyond-our-means spending came from us. When we buy imports, what we are doing is trading American dollars for foreign merchandise. The foreign merchandise goes into our homes, bellies, and gas tanks, and the American dollars we pay go into the coffers of the foreign central banks; and because American dollars cannot be spent anywhere else except here in the United States, those foreign central banks repatriate those dollars to our shores by buying our corporations, our shopping malls, our land, and other assets, and by lending huge sums of money to our companies, our consumers, and our government at every level from the municipal to the federal. In the past few months, as our own central bank scrambled frantically to stop the United States stock markets from collapsing in a major crash, those foreign central banks stepped in to help by participating in what amounted to massive investment syndicates to push tens of billions of dollars into the top end of the Wall Street banking and investment system. Much of that money those foreign central banks directly infused vanished within a matter of hours or days as the stock indices went up temporarily, and then dropped right back down to where they had been before the infusions. In other words, the money pumped the stocks up, and then the profit takers sold off to skim the gains, effectively drawing the foreign central bank infusions right back out of the system.

More recently, those foreign central banks holding hundreds of billions of dollars participated substantially in the bailout of Bear Stearns, notwithstanding the mainstream media's treatment of the bailout as having been done by the Federal Reserve, which in reality participated in its most significant role by taking the bad mortgage-backed securities off the books of Bear Stearns and putting the mess into the portfolio of the Fed.

If that sounds like bad business all the way from the part where we're being bailed out by foreign central banks holding dollars they got by selling us cheap imports to the part where our Federal Reserve is now in the business of sopping up the bad investments of a major Wall Street firm, then you are well on your way to being as cynical as the author of this article.

Enjoy those rebate checks, good readers. It's the least you can do for your children and grandchildren, who will be the ones who pay for them.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

· · · ·

Spring Fevered

by: Foiled Goil

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.
The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.

~ Henry Van Dyke


You Can Never Hold Back Spring

By Tom Waits

You can never hold back spring
You can be sure I will never stop believing
The blushing rose that will climb
Spring ahead, or fall behind
Winter dreams the same dream, every time
Baby, you can never hold back spring

And even though you've lost your way
The world is dreaming, dreaming of spring
So close your eyes, open your heart
To the one who's dreaming of you
And, you can never hold back spring
Remember everything that spring can bring

Baby, you can never hold back spring
Baby, you can never hold back spring

22 March 2008

May the Bunny Take a Dump in yer Shoes

by: blackdog

Enough said already. I just love when theological titans of such staggering stature square off against all the moral depravity of this most horrible world, after all, it is Eve's fault. Gawd hisself tolt us to watch out, that he'd kick our collective ass and turn us into salt shakers or something like that. That dang tree of knowledge is where all this come from. I knows my bible, watch out you nasty heathens. I will whoop you with a can of whoop-ass and a cat-of-nine-tails, if I can find one. Tomorrow I be sanctified by blood, I drink of it and pretend to not be a vampire.

Update or downdate, not sure which

Just to make sure your digestion is not so well I offer this.

I must credit the source of both pictures, Crooks & Liars.

Bat-shit crazy.

Hopes ya'll gets un agg ur two.

Cornbread for Easter

by: blackdog

A most excellent interview I just heard on local NPR today on Mary Twedt's show. It was about the Crescent Dragonwagon's latest book, the Cornbread Gospels.

She does a pretty good job, she can make me hungry most any time. Oh, this is Mary.

I live for cornbread, in any version.Will have me a big skillet full tomorrow, along with some other fixin's. Woof will make out well too.

Ganache With Fresh Raspberries

by: Minstrel Boy

Last night we were strolling through the local Farmer's Market and I found some beautiful, fresh garden raspberries from one of the local guys. They were lovely thimble sized beauties. I figured the bags of frozen berries in the freezer would keep but knew that I should get these babies into a ganache as fast as possible.

I assembled the ingredients:

1 gallon manufacturing (high butterfat content) cream
24 ounces fresh raspberries
1 1/2 pounds of sweet butter
10 pounds of 72% cocoa mass bittersweet chocolate.

Next the butter is chopped up into chunks and put on a medium flame with the cream.

The big thing here, and the main thing that sets my ganache apart from the products of others is that I do not allow the cream to boil. While it's heating I whisk it occaisionally to achieve a loose liason with the cream. If the cream were to boil that would be broken. It increases both the richness and the creamy texture of the ganache. I like it that way. It's a little harder to work with and handle but I think it's worth it.

Next I chop up the ten pounds of the chocolate.

It's a coarse chop that mainly speeds and ensures an even melt when the hot cream and butter are introduced. Ten pounds chopped looks like this:

That's a turkey roaster bottom, it's a great size and shape for this. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to not have bowls and pans large enough to allow for some vigorous mixing.

Hot cream and butter mix goes over the chopped chocolate

This is slowly and gently mixed until it gets smooth and dark and glossy and sexy.

From looking like this:

To looking like this:

Then, and I like this part, I take my hands and moosh up the berries. I've used an old fashioned potato masher, but this is far more fun.

That goes into the ganache:

Mixed evenly, then covered closely and into the fridge overnight. Where it is waiting to be rolled into nearly 16 dozen balls this afternoon.

10lb batches, is about as big a batch as I have been able to manage by myself. The 500 truffle order I have means that I get to do this two more times over the next five days.

My work is cut out for me. I love it.

harp and sword
21 March 2008

Pulse of the Electorate: Your Personal "Plan B"

by: Dark Wraith

Regarding the Presidential candidates and how you will vote in November, which of the following expresses your current plan in the event that your chosen candidate is not nominated?

  — Poll results —

I Just Don't Get it

by: blackdog

Just read an article from the New York Post about former gubernor Elliot Spitzer who hopefully has not really been reduced to this level, I mean really, maybe he and his wife need some serious counseling to keep their marriage but this seems bizarre.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has gone into therapy in the wake of the hooker scandal that swept him out of office, a Spitzer insider told The Post yesterday.

As part of the therapy, Spitzer will explore whether he has an addiction to sex, the source said.

Now this seems odd to me. Why would anyone question why someone may have an addiction to possibly the most profound instinct that exists in all, whether they be animal, plant or whatever. I am not aware of any serious, violent behavior from his escapades which would indicate some sort of mental aberration, and he did pay for all of it on his dime, not ours. I'm not going to go into the issue of how he aggressively went after others as a prosecutor with such behavior, that's not the point.

To suggest that he is "addicted to sex" seems ludicrous if not peculiar. Hell, just ask any young pre-adolescent fellow, assuming they don't run screaming to the thought police about some older fossil who made an unusual approach. Since I'm not about to do that today and end up in a lockbox overnight, let me explain.

In a galaxy far away, in a time long ago, boys and girls still grew up. As they approached a most formative point in their development their hormonal structure went apeshit and rapid changes occurred. One major part was that they became sexual critters, suddenly the difficulty of childhood gave way to a much larger and more formidable world. But the majority dealt with it, with little help from their peers, since most will never actually sit down with a kid and attempt to explain this shit that is happening to them, especially now when all are to be feared for their nefarious interests.

Jeez, when I was about 12 i got an erection that lasted almost three years. I always laugh at the ED ads that say "if your erection lasts more than four hours", or whatever, "see your Doctor"!!! Your Doctor, is he/she a ho? And what if it's 3:00AM?? Gee I wonder what one could do to settle the pot down just a bit.

Now don't jump my ass, I understand some of the implications of being a less than faithful partner to a spouse, someone that should be more than a good friend. But I just felt that the entire landscape of sexual behavior is so poorly understood in this most pious and moral nation.

I wait under my rock for the answer from above.

20 March 2008

Obama Has A Right To Privacy, Too

by: Foiled Goil

The Eternal Value of Privacy

Bruce Schneier, WIRED — May 18, 2006:
The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies -- whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility of their being and their cause.

It's intrinsic to the concept of liberty.

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

State Department: Someone snooped in Obama's passport file

On three occasions since January, Sen. Barack Obama's passport file was looked at by three different contract workers, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The State Department hires contractors to design, build and maintain their systems and help employees with searches. McCormack said two of the contractors in the Obama case were "low-level" personnel and the other was in a mid-level position with no management role.

The breach seems like "imprudent curiosity" among the contract workers, said McCormack, adding that senior management at the State Department was not aware of the incidents until Thursday afternoon. Breaches occurred January 9, February 21 and March 14.

Obama's campaign is asking for a complete investigation to find out who looked at Obama's passport file and why.

"This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton in a statement.

"Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."

"Sed quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?"

· ·

Songs to yer Woof

by: blackdog

It's one thing to be a slouch, and not to be a grouch,
Than not to have a brain,
The White House may be sinking but they are sadly stinking,
To only have a brain,
As I hang upon this pole, with a shrub in control, in my rags and so,
I only wish I had a brain to bring a measure of control to this mess on patrol.
The rest of the world should know, if I get off of this pole,
Things may change.


Least I hope so. I love singing stuff to the Woof, he likes it too. Makes going to bed easier and we both rest well.

Not sure what I'm trying here. Of course you know the tune.

I can only wish my mind worked more brightly than it does.

Where's that flashlight?

What is this?

by: blackdog

This should scare you to the point of suicide, it sure does me. I used to like this guy but he decided to change in a way not to my tastes. He evidently learned to eat shit as a main course. And enjoy it. Since he has expressly adopted this diet even after being treated by his party almost as poorly as the guards treated him as a POW, I disavow him completely.

This guy can and will say anything. Regardless of lessons not well learned. I can't trust him at all.

On a better note, spring has sprung, officially.

What If The Earth Is Just One Big Science Experiment?

by: Debra

Biblically correct, now that's a mouthful. A book written by many men (Ruth and Esther were tokens used to prove a point but Mary, the mother of Jesus and a major part of a world religion, gets scant mention much less her own book, why is that?) to reflect their point of view and the parts that didn't fit in, were discarded. Now some of the "believers" are conducting museum tours and explaining to the young and impressionable that thousands of years of history never happened. Oh sweet Jeebus, how much dumber is our population going to get? Tyrannosaurus Rex was a vegetarian because Adam and Eve hadn't sinned yet, so there was no death? What planet do these people come from? They most certainly didn't evolve from intelligent humans. That Bible belt is cinched a little too tight and preventing oxygen from circulating through their very little brains. No wonder there are very few "American" doctors in practice, you have to have a science education in order to understand how the body works. Praying doesn't help cure disease.

This will really throw a spanner into the works. Not only is the moon not made of cheese, but it isn't even made of the same materials as the Earth and Mars is made of something completely different than the other two. Maybe since we are supposed to be made in God's image, he's just trying to find out whether intelligence waxes or wanes with each succeeding generation. I think we are in the wane phase.

Funny how when I was growing up on an Air Force Base, science was accepted as tradition and you were expected to do well in it. I got kicked out of Sunday School (Southern Baptist) for asking impertinent questions like "if you lived on an island and had never seen a white man, does this mean you go to hell because you never heard of the Bible or Jesus Christ?" When I was told yes, I answered "I don't think God does that, he wouldn't punish innocent people for an eternity just because they had never heard of him." And out the door I was pushed and told never to return. Forgiveness seems to be a sin, unless you're a Republican who has committed a sexual indiscretion.

Then I got involved with the Pentecostals. Now that was an adventure. Reality went on a long hike because only a chosen few will be saved. Once again I was shown the door. This time because I thought it didn't make sense that a person who had committed murder, rape, robbery and other trespasses of the Ten Commandments could repent on his deathbed at 75 and he would go to heaven, but a person who had followed the Commandments to the letter would go to hell because he hadn't accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. An exemplary life doesn't count but crying and begging for forgiveness of heinous crimes does. Didn't sound logical then and it doesn't sound logical now. Jehovah's Witnesses are sure I'm not going to heave either. That's okay, it doesn't sound like a very happy place.

Almost 7 billion people on the planet but just 144,000 are going to qualify to go to heaven. One would have to ask what kind God would do something like that. Maybe a scientist who was looking for deviant bacteria and a way to inoculate the space population from contamination would be my guess.

Debsweb and IIRTZ


The Inevitable Collapse Of The Dollar

by: Debra

We are not invincible and other countries are beginning to believe that. We use the world's resources and contribute nothing but trouble.

This is going to get nasty, not that you would see this on American television. Until it's way too late.


· ·

Majority Against "War" In Iraq. Dick: "So?"

by: Foiled Goil

War Is Bad For the Economy

Chris Bowers, Open Left:

As already linked by fladem in quick hits, this is it. This is the message that is both the winner for 2008, and for a long-term progressive mandate for sweeping change in governance:
More than 7 out of 10 Americans think government spending on the war in Iraq is partly responsible for the economic troubles in the United States, according to results of a recent poll.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last weekend, 71 percent said they think U.S. spending in Iraq is a reason for the nation's poor economy. Twenty-eight percent said they didn't think so.
…When 71% of Americans view spending on war to be a drag on the economy, the justification to reduce military spending is accepted by a supermajority of the public, and skepticism about engaging in future military operations of this scale is cemented in the public consciousness for decades. If war spending is understood to be bad for the economy, then over the long-term people will want to spend less on the military, engage in fewer wars, and attack the root cause of wars like Iraq in order to prevent them from happening. Winning an election on the platform that Iraq is bad for the economy thus becomes a long-term progressive mandate.

The idea that war spending is bad for the economy is also, brilliantly enough, exactly the message we need to win in 2008. It fuses the two main issues in the minds of the electorate, Iraq and the poor economy, into a simple elevator pitch that people already understand and accept. About 60-65% of the nation thinks that the Iraq war was a bad idea, 75% think that the economy is bad, and so it makes sense that about 70% of the country think that spending our money in Iraq is hurting the economy. The country already believes this message, and so we are halfway home.

…This is our mandate for sweeping progressive change in governance. Let's step up and grab it.

Cheney On Two-Thirds Of The American Public Opposing The Iraq War: ‘So?’

From Think Progress:

This morning, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:
CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
See the video here.

· · ·
19 March 2008

Wesley Clark on Torture

by: Minstrel Boy

Wesley Clark writing in the Washington Monthly lays it out, straight, and clear.

Some excerpts:

Torture is illegal, ineffective, and morally wrong. The United States has signed numerous treaties condemning torture and abjuring its practice. Those treaties are the law of the land. And, yes, waterboarding is torture: in the past, we convicted and punished foreign nationals for torture by waterboarding. There are no legal loopholes permitting torture in "exceptional cases." After all, those were the same excuses used by the torturers we once condemned.

No pussyfooting there.

The honor of the American man-at-arms is one of our most potent weapons. It is enshrined in the Geneva Conventions. It encourages our enemies to surrender to us on the battlefield. It protects any of our own soldiers who may have been captured. It encourages noncombatants and civilians to trust us and cooperate willingly. And it does not countenance the abuse of captives in our care.

We have known this from the outset of the Republic. General George Washington emphasized the proper treatment of Hessian prisoners during the Revolutionary War, reasoning that we might win them over. In many cases, we did just that. During the Civil War, we issued the Lieber Code, emphasizing that torture to gain confessions or information was never permissible. Ever since, it has been the standard to which the American armed forces have adhered.

I absolutely concur with that. The history is absolutely accurate. George Washington (against the desires and wishes of many of his staff and soldiers) stood resolutely against any abuse or torture of prisoners. By the end of the war, there were instances of Hessian troops murdering their non-coms and officers and surrendering en masse in the expectation that the American rebels would give them better treatment and better opportunity than they could reasonably expect in their own country and army. There are proud descendants of these same Hessian troops who live in western Pennsylvania to this very day.

Until now. Until weak, fearful leaders had so little belief in our values and principles that they gave away our birthright and proud claim in order to follow a shadowy emulation of the very dictatorships and tyrannies we had struggled against. For shame, America, that we aren't brave enough and strong enough to live our values.

Yup, that about sums up our current administration. We not only didn't turn those assholes out when we had the chance we re-elected those cowardly motherfuckers.

Now, please go read the whole thing.

harp and sword

One Very Dark Night

by: Minstrel Boy

Nearly forty years ago, a guerrilla leader, let's call him Lt. Colonel Victor Charles, realized that he had spent nearly his entire adult life at war. He had fought the French, the Japanese, the French again, and now the Americans. He was tired. He had talked with a man he grew up with and trusted who told him that there were Americans living in his village. These Americans lived among his people. They worked in the rice fields and helped them with medicines for their children. One of the Americans (OK, it was me) was teaching the children of the village to speak English and was trying to teach the other Americans Vietnamese. His friend had told him about a program that the Americans had called "Chu Hoi" which in Vietnamese means "Welcome Home" or "Open Arms" that if he came to these Americans they would help Lt. Col. Victor Charles and his family. He searched his soul and his conscience. He decided to give it a try.

He came in. I was one of the first to talk with him. I didn't waterboard or mistreat him. I gave him the respect that one soldier gives to another. He told me that there was valuable and specific intelligence he could give me. Things that would save American lives. I told him that if the things he told us proved out we would bring his family (a wife, a young son, and a small daughter) out of the place they were living and bring them all to America. They would be given help getting started in their new life. I told him that he could count on my help from then on.

On another very dark night two other members of my team and I snuck into the little town where his family was. We were very stealthy, this was not a "friendly" town. There was no safe way for us to alert his family that we were coming. Quietly we skirted the shadows and hugged the dark walls. We moved quickly and very, very quietly. We silently broke into his house and sneaked like thieves into the room where his wife was sleeping. I woke her up, and quickly and quietly told her that we were there to take her and the children to where her husband was, I told her the name of the bhuddist monk who performed their marriage was and some other information that only her husband would know. I told her to get dressed as quickly as possible, to tell her young children to do the same. I asked her to tell her children that we needed them to be extremely quiet while we left the town. No, they didn't need to bring anything. Speed and silence were more important than any possessions. There would be new things for them, in their new life. She was terrified but she began to do the things she needed to do to go with us. The children were tired and frightened too. I watched the young boy (he was about seven or eight) struggling very hard to put on a brave face. I told him my name and asked him if he had ever heard about the American Indians. His face brightened and he nodded. I told him I was an Apache Indian, just like Geronimo, I told him that I would be his friend and that I would take him to his father. He pointed at me and said, in a whisper, "Geronimo." I nodded and we left.

Bear was carrying the little girl, the young boy wanted to try walking by himself but was too small to keep the pace that we were needing to set. I put him on my back. He was a lot lighter than the 85 lb pack I was used to carrying and he clung to me in frightened excitement.

We got out without being noticed and made it to our extraction point with ease. A tiny PBR chortled into a backwater eddy and we got aboard. The Boat Captain, a Chief Boatswain's Mate, made a crack about "hauling gooks" and I brought him up short. I told him that as of now, these were Americans who were being rescued. We then transfered to a helicopter for the ride back to our main base at Dong Ap Bai.

The reunion was beautiful. As soon as they saw each other the fear and apprehension of the long night evaporated. We brought them a big meal of Vietnamese food and left them alone.

Over the next week we carefully and exhaustively debriefed Mr. Victor Charles. We got some beautiful, actionable, intelligence regarding some choke points on the Ho Chi Minh trail. We got names and locations of "shadow government" operatives and, most importantly, the names, ranks, and duty stations of three agents who were in the provincial government. These all proved to be accurate very quickly.

After two weeks had passed Lt. Col. Charles and his family were spirited away from us and we went about our tasks.

Nearly a year and a half later I was in a bed at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. I had a tube in my chest to pump my left lung back up and keep the chest cavity drained of some pretty noxious fluid. I had just about every antibiotic known to medical science of the time dripping into my arm about as fast as they could pump it in. I was not only wounded pretty severely, I had been wounded in the rain forest jungle and there were bugs and rot beyond name and number floating around what blood I had left.

At one point I was visited by a Captain from the Special Warfare Command in Coronado who, after inquiring about my condition and wishing me a speedy recovery told me that they had been getting postcards delivered to the Silver Strand that were small progress reports from a "Chu Hoi" who had settled his family in Chula Vista. He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a letter. It contained a family picture of Lt. Col. Charles, his wife and children in front of a small Pho stand they had just opened in Barrio Logan. On the picture was written "Thank you to the Brave SEALs who brought my family to this beautiful land." There was also an invitation for us to share a bowl of "the best Pho in the barrio" with them any time.

When I was able to get around I went there. The first person I recognised was the young son. He recognised me instantly, clapping and shouting "Geronimo! Geronimo!" I picked him up and put him down pretty quickly, I didn't want to rip any stitches. I spoke to him in Vietnamese and he began to look uncomfortable. Then I was greeted by Mr. Victor Charles, American Entrepenuer, who told me that there was an "English Only" policy for family and staff in the little restaurant. He said that they were real Americans now and that he wanted his children to get the best advantages they could when they were going to school.

Over the last decades I have been given the huge gift of being able to watch this family grow. I have seen them bringing more members of their family to this country and bit by bit prosper. The little boy opened a custom tailoring shop near the entrances of the Marine Recruit Depot by downtown San Diego. Turning out sharp marines and sailors in custom tailored dress uniforms that used to be the sole province of the China and Singapore sailors. I played the harp at his wedding to a beautiful young woman from Orange County. I just picked up a gorgeous jacket and slacks combination that was designed and sewn by his daughter, Po.

Given a chance, given the opportunity, I believe that most American servicemen would jump on a job like the one I did on that dark night so many years ago. No matter the risk, no matter the danger, it is something I would gladly do again.

When I was watching "Full Metal Jacket" for the first time I howled with laughter at the Marine Colonel outside of the city of Hue who told Joker "Inside every gook is an American waiting to get out." The rest of the audience didn't grasp the absolute truth of that statement as well as I could. At that point in time we were lucky enough to have a program like the strategic hamlets and Chu Hoi. We were able to accomplish parts of our mission without having to sacrifice parts of our souls.

Both programs were later discarded, it appears they were only photo and propaganda ops to begin with. They weren't sexy like body counts and bullshit press conferences touting the victory that was always just around the corner.

Still, there is an extended family in San Diego who have whole heartedly embraced the dream that is an America that I still believe in.

I would not trade the events of those dark nights for the world. I hope that someday we can again be that light in the darkness, the place that people dream about coming to stay.

I hope, through the bitterness and cyncism we old grunts are apt to lapse into. I hope along with Barak Obama when he talks about how much better we can do.

Dum spiro, spero.

harp and sword

Let The Good Times Roll

by: Debra

Worried about how you are going to feed yourself during the Depression? This is a project you can do yourself, or better yet, get some of your neighbors to participate (that way they won't steal from you) and you can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables which means you won't have to pay exorbitant prices for poor quality food at the few grocery stores that are left. Unless you have the gas (for your new jet) to go somewhere else.
The company, which collapsed suddenly last week when real estate clients withdrew $17 billion in two days, will provide psychological counselors, called employee assistance professionals, to help workers handle the news that their plans and perhaps their dreams have abruptly and dramatically changed.
Cartoon by Gordon Campbell

And the doofus we have now, makes Alfred E. Neumann look intelligent.Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it? Too bad about the treasure, money, and lives lost because dimwit and the rest of the crew without a clue think that everything is hunky dory. Or at least going to plan. Their plan to destroy the nation we live in and make it look like their latest "success".

By hook or by crook, one way or the other.


· · ·

Economic meltdown a GIGANTIC FRAUD - A PONZI SCHEME... Steve Watson/Larry Elliott

by: Jersey Cynic

From Steve Watson at Infowars:

A leading economic journalist has described the current financial crisis as a "gigantic fraud", the fallout of a deliberate and preconceived profit agenda to enslave the middle classes in a debt bubble.
The economics editor of the London Guardian, Larry Elliott, has hit out at the global financial elite in a refreshing piece that marks a rare shift away from the establishment hackery we are used to from the corporate media.

In an article titled America was conned - who will pay? Elliot writes:

Indeed, it is somewhat surprising that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans.
Business, of course, needs consumers to carry on spending in order to make money, so a way had to be found to persuade households to do their patriotic duty. The method chosen was simple. Whip up a colossal housing bubble, convince consumers that it makes sense to borrow money against the rising value of their homes to supplement their meagre real wage growth and watch the profits roll in.

As they did - for a while. Now it’s payback time and the mood could get very ugly. Americans, to put it bluntly, have been conned. They have been duped by a bunch of serpent-tongued hucksters who packed up the wagon and made it across the county line before a lynch mob could be formed.

Elliot also states that the debate is now not about whether the US faces a recession, but is about how deep it will be and how long it will last, comparing the downturn to the South Sea Bubble crisis in 1720, and declaring that the "Ponzi securitisation scam has been exposed."

A Ponzi scheme, named after Charles Ponzi, is one that offers abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. The high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays require an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going, meaning it is inevitable that it will eventually collapse.
Elliot, like former chief economist of the World Bank turned whistleblower, Joseph Stiglitz, points a finger of blame squarely at former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, stating:

"In the longer term, lessons must be learnt from the turmoil. One is that you don’t solve the problems of a collapsing bubble by blowing up another, which is what Alan Greenspan did after the dotcom fiasco in 2001 - the most irresponsible behaviour of any central banker in living memory."

Last week we highlighted the fact that Greenspan, instead of trying to act to reverse the damage he has done to the US economy, is actively encouraging its further demise by urging foreign states to abandon their dollar peg.
Another cogent point Larry Elliot makes is the following:

"If this is, heaven help us, The Big One, one of the only consolations will be that the repugnance at the orgy of speculation that has sapped the strength of the US economy will put a new New Deal on the political agenda."

It should be added that, given that this crisis has been engineered by a financial elite Ponzi scheme, we should be extremely wary of any "new deal" that is brokered by the financial and political elite posing as our saviors.
There are already talks of a "new world order" emerging from the fallout of the current economic meltdown. A consolidation among the big financial institutions does not spell good news for ordinary Americans and people across the world who have been effectively herded into this current crisis by the financial elite.
We, along with others such as Stiglitz, have repeatedly warned of the quickening of an agenda of economic catastrophe allied to the "solution" of predatory globalism.

Nevertheless, while CNN and other mainstream outlets continue to parade economic "experts" who ludicrously suggest that the destruction of the dollar and the economic downturn is "not necessarily a bad thing" for America, it is a refreshing change to read a mainstream report that actually hints at the reality of the situation the US and the rest of the world now faces at the hands of the elite.

From Larry Elliott - Economics Editor @ The Guardian -- America was conned - who will pay?

crossposted atBlondesense

Five Years Later, No End In Sight

by: Foiled Goil

Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark

David M. Herszenhorn, NYT:
At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Getting at the true cost of the war is difficult. Expenses like a troop increase were paid from the base defense budget, not war bills.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

Among economists and policymakers, the question of how to tally the cost of the war is a matter of hot dispute. And the costs continue to climb.

All of the war-price tallies include operations in the war zone, support for troops, repair or replacement of equipment, reservists’ salaries, special combat pay for regular forces and some care for wounded veterans — expenses that typically fall outside the regular Defense Department or Veterans Affairs budgets.

The highest estimates often include projections for future operations, long-term health care and disability costs for veterans, a portion of the regular, annual defense budget, and, in some cases, wider economic effects, including a percentage of higher oil prices and the impact of raising the national debt to cover increased war spending.

Bush: Iraq War Worth It

Terence Hunt, HuffPo:

President Bush says he has no doubts about launching the unpopular war in Iraq despite the "high cost in lives and treasure," arguing that retreat now would embolden Iran and provide al-Qaida with money for weapons of mass destruction to attack the United States.

Bush is to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on Wednesday with a speech at the Pentagon. Excerpts of his address were released Tuesday night by the White House. [snip]

In his remarks, Bush repeated his oft-stated determination to prosecute the war into the unforeseen future.

"The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable, yet some in Washington still call for retreat," the president said. "War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq, so now they argue the war costs too much. In recent months, we have heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war.

"No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure, but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq," Bush said.

"If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate and Iraq could descend into chaos," Bush said. "Al-Qaida would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq's borders, with serious consequences to the world economy.

"Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened with new recruits ... new resources ... and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America," Bush said in his remarks. "An emboldened al-Qaida with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. Iran could be emboldened as well with a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East. And our enemies would see an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and lack of resolve."

Looking back, Bush said, "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting ... whether the fight is worth winning ... and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision and this is a fight America can and must win."
Bush said the past five years have brought "moments of triumph and moments of tragedy," from free elections in Iraq to acts of brutality and violence.
"The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of American cities. Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely we will face this enemy here at home," Bush said.

Bush said anew that the war was faltering a little more than a year ago, prompting him in January 2007 to order a big troop buildup known as the "surge."

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around; it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," he said.

"In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his terror network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated," the president said.

"The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists' defeat. We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast _ the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage."

A War In Name Only

DaveKoll, KOS:
The War in Iraq is over.

It has been over for years but Americans have failed to realize this; we continue to waste thousands of lives and trillions of dollars to keep fighting a war that has already been won. On May 1st, 2003 President George W. Bush stood on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared "Mission Accomplished."

The mission was accomplished. Whether or not the reasons we went to war with Iraq were justified (they were not), whether or not Iraq had any links to 9-11 (they did not), whether or not Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction (he was not), America went to war with Iraq and won.

But we never accepted it.

Instead of withdrawing after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, our forces remained, as occupiers, to assist in the formation of a new, democratic Iraqi government. Since that time we have been engaged in a violent occupation while still insisting on speaking with the lexicon of war. Our politicians and journalists use words like ‘surrender’ and ‘victory’ and ‘defeat,’ yet none of these terms are applicable to our military actions overseas. There can be no surrender, or victory, or defeat, when there is no institution that is capable of surrendering to us, claiming victory over us, or defeating us.

The enemies we battle in Iraq are un-coordinated militias with no single affiliation, who attack us for occupying their sovereign nation. Most are local members of the Sunni and Shiite tribes, battling each other for control. A few call themselves Al Qaeda in Iraq, who were not there when we first invaded. Some are foreign fighters from Syria, Iran and Pakistan, drawn by blood-lust and the possibility of power. They are all insurgents, battling each other and us for control of a weak Iraq but they are not an army and this is baby-sitting, not a war. If we leave, it will not follow us to our shores.

One of the largest hurdles we have to overcome in withdrawing our troops from Iraq is in moving past these semantics. Too many chicken-hawks bristling with false machismo refuse to end the occupation because they erroneously equate closure with defeat. It is not.

We must realize and accept that the Iraq War is over and that the actions and occupation of the last five years will continue on for the foreseeable future if, as is currently the case, there is no clear stopping point.

If there is no quantifiable goal then there can be no end.

I urge anyone who has an interest in bringing our troops home, who does not wish to needlessly sacrifice the lives and limbs of our bravest citizens, who does not wish to cripple America’s ability to respond to real threats and real wars, who does not wish to continue to spend trillions of dollars on an unnecessary occupation while our nation’s infrastructure crumbles and our cities decay, to cease calling the Occupation of Iraq by what it is not: a War.

Mar 17, 2008 — Operation Iraqi Freedom:

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3988
U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 2

Total: 3990

· · ·
18 March 2008

Sir Arthur Clark

by: blackdog

Rest in peace, old friend, you opened my eyes in so many ways. May you travel down paths that you tried to describe to the rest of us. Thank you for all you gave us.

Bless you dear Sir.

What a great loss.

Hooterville, Chimpyville, What's The Difference?

by: Debra

80 years, YouTube and a United States press that can't be bothered to report the truth. It's so much easier to worry about whether or not Heather Mills got as much money as she deserved for being married to one of the Beatles. Or whether Brtiney should pay the lawyer fees for her ex-husband. Anything except how the realities of the sub-prime crisis are affecting those who've lost everything. People like you and me, not those "other" people. You know the ones the Republicans want you to think they are. The ones without education or are illegal aliens, welfare mommies or drug addicts. Nope, these people are melanin impaired, have all their teeth (at the moment) and used to have good paying jobs.

It must make O'Lielly feel so good to know that not one of these people admitted to being a veteran. As if that was important at this point. Ownership society, my ass.


· · ·
17 March 2008

rocks and hard places

by: astraea

St Paddy's day. Blessed green. May I offer a brief review...

THE FIELD never forgets the Irish famine which took perhaps a million lives and cast its people across the seas, their population dropping from 8 to 5 million. As a class, the McCabes, farm labourers, were all but wiped out. What is the field, but their bodies, a people so poor, so exploited, and abandoned that many were left were they fell. In other ways, it was an awakening. It was a blight that destroyed the major food crop of the people -- a blight precipitated by destructive farming methods, concentration of landholding, dehumanizing racial and religious prejudice; in sum, the general economic rape of a land and people by an imperial overlord.

Please see this movie. See it as a tale for our own time. Bull McCabe is indeed a man between a rock and hard place. How do we forgive? How can we find a way to peace, to justice? How to serve the dead and the living? So many rocks and hard places in The Field. Like the Irish, it has the complexity and fatalism of the ancient Greeks.

Did I mention the acting? Richard Harris is perfect. Amazing. Sean Bean too, as ever. But to watch John Hurt eat that sandwich is worth dying for. It's a heartbreaker -- and a joy knowing that such creatures exist to break our hearts.

Monday Morning Blues

by: Debra

Help the little people? Not on your life. But help a company that produces nothing but paper that says it is worth something, the candle burns all weekend until there is a solution. Even a bad one. Our tax dollars at work, doing everything but provide services to the citizens.Remember when they refused to bail out New York City?
The Fed will provide special financing to JPMorgan Chase for the deal, JPMorgan Chase said. The central bank has agreed to fund up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns' less liquid assets. Risky bets on securities tied to subprime mortgages -- loans given to customers with poor credit history -- crippled Bear Stearns, the nations' fifth-largest investment bank.
Hell, no. $30,000,000,000 of our money goes to guarantee the purchase of Bear Stearns because they were incompetent greedy bastards and have 'less liquid assets'? That's just outrageous. Why are we providing our money to help one business acquire one grossly incompetent business?

We can't fund programs helping our veterans.

We can't fund programs that give children insurance.

But over one damn weekend, we find $30 billion to fund greed. It's ridiculous. Pathetic enabling crap.

And it's money wasted, completely wasted. Just like the billions poured down the gullet of Detroit. Because you pull the Band-Aid off slowly or quickly, we're trying to allow these people to feel no pain, when pain is exactly what they deserve.
When you are poor and have financial problems, it's always your fault and it's up to you to figure your way out. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is willing to help someone who already can't pay their bills. Something about not being a good risk. If it only worked like that for the people at the top, maybe a little more thinking (such as simple arithmetic instead of compound interest) would have provided a few level heads and prevented what looks like the second Depression in my mother's lifetime.

On a really sad note, Tom and Steve Hilton from If I Ran The Zoo are experiencing the physical loss of their father after the recent loss of their mother. My heart goes out to the guys (we've shared a few beers, which was cool because one of them lives on the other side of the country) and hope that this next few days and months eases the pain and returns the happy memories of childhood. And Steve per one of our conversations, another good one is "when you get to the dead skunk, turn right. Quickly."

Oh no, it's that green drinking day. Again. Just without the music, Guiness or soda bread but I am making the non-tradtional Corned Beef and Cabbage, otherwise known as a New England Boiled Dinner.

Don't you wish you owned gold instead of dollars? I own neither, but I can dream. This is going to be a really bad roller coaster ride. Like one of the ones where the majority of riders gets killed. It took a lot for me to ride Revolution at Six Flags after watching that movie.

Speaking of movies, I watched Waitress a few weeks ago, I had put it off because I knew it was going to be painful to see all that talent go to waste. What a great movie and what a supreme loss of talent. Adrienne Shelly definitely had a lot to contribute. Nathan Fillion wasn't bad either.



Spring Almost Here

by: blackdog

Used to live in a place with a well drained sandy loam soil that existed just downstream where the Arkieville River comes out of it's trellis drainage pattern, slowly eroding bits of the Ouachita Mountains and the Ozark Dome and becomes a meandering river that deposits all that great stuff in regular floods, and as a meandering river over many millennium, not just 6000 years, there are oxbows and canebrakes all over the place, the soil here was simply naturally excellent.

No rocks on the surface, none at all, pea gravel in evidence deeper down, but not to excess (I did work for a geotechnical firm), and a bounty of trees and other native plants that every season added their plethora of mast that was absorbed by that lithosphere, a truly living soil. So I scritched mah head one morning and wondered what to do.

A garden! Yeah! That would be great! Live off the fat of the land! It was still winter, but I marked off my spot, 40'x100' that I would use, drew up a plan, after reading lots of stuff about how to perform this like a General marshaling his forces for an invasion, and started. Laid out stakes and nylon staging to delineate the different sections, kept up on the drawing, which I still have somewhere, it was a good plan.

Borrowed a Troy-Built Horse to break the sod, mostly bermuda which is a real invasive bitch to deal with. But that non-cohesive soil was perfect, all I had to do was set the drag bar, start the motor and sit down and watch this fine tiller work slowly without me behind it, I was watching and doing various things that I will not go into here in detail. Suffice it to say that this was the easiest plot to till that you could imagine.

After several hours the plot was prepared and looked wonderful. I had visions of all sorts of wonderful veggies in my head as i looked at the freshly tilled area, reset the stakes and staging according to the plan and proceeded to wait for the last frost day for some, but the cooler crops I put in immediately.

This was before I had the pleasure to re-meet with my old friend, Farmer Bob, who just happened to live only about a few miles to the north. We had a period of about 8 years where we didn't connect and I didn't know he was there at the time. At this time as well we had goats, dairy goats that is, Nubians and one mix, just 4, and an unusual thing friend goats do as you approach them if they recognize and accept you is to squat and take a leak, wherever they are. Used lots of wheat straw in the goat barn, and it quickly filled up with pills and urine, so we mucked it out regularly and placed it under the plants and on the paths of the garden. Every time it rained, the garden was more than a little bit fertilized. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever bought for my X was a big wheelbarrow. We needed it. That Christmas morning I took her for a ride in it and damn! We had a flat tire! She wasn't that big!

I won't go into all the details of all the different plants we had, there were dozens. It grew like ape and quickly I realized that just like all the books said, allow room for expansion, it became somewhat difficult to negotiate the place, but not impossible. The enormous amount of goat laden wheat straw keep the weeds down to a manageable level and within weeks we were eating fresh radishes, and as the days rolled on so much more. Of course, radishes are really quick.

It was a work of art, I have photos but none are of a digital nature or I'd show them here, you will have to use your imagination for now. My giant sunflowers were at least 10' tall, with flower heads over 1' in diameter, almost like trees. I had tomatoes, several varieties, until November. Okra, squash, zucchini, cantelopes, cabbage, well the list is long. Eggplant, corn, numerous peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, onions, and more. Little Man, the Appaloosa really liked the corn stalks, but I was careful not to give him too much. We had catnip for the Saki cat, she liked to roll in it, wish I knew what that must have felt like.

The most amazing thing about this is that I had it made then and wasn't aware of it. We would get up in the morning (mostly the wife), milk the goats, clean up and disinfect everything, take off to work, return after 8 hours, do it again, tend the garden, mow grass, fix dinner with fresh veggies of all kinds and mostly just enjoy the tranquility.

Spring is springing. Sometimes I wish I could go back.

Tunes For St. Patrick's Day

by: Minstrel Boy

From the pen of William Butler Yeats.

The tune is "Maid of the Mourne Shore.

It was down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.
She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

In a field down by the river, my love and I did stand
And on my leaning shoulder, she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy , as the grass grows on the weirs
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.
She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

This is a lovely tune when played on the harp. Yeats is my favorite of the Irish poets.

For the Irish experience in America, this has always been one of my favorites.

Paddy on the Railway

In eighteen hundred and forty one, I put me corduroy breeches on
I put me cordury breeches on, to work upon the railway.

Fiddle-mee-oh-ree, Areee-ay (3x)
A workin' on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty two, I left the ould world for the new
Bad cess to luck what brought me through, to work upon the railway.
Fiddle-me-oh-ree etc.

In eighteen hundred and forty three, 'twas then I met Miss Biddy McGee
An iligant wife she's been to me, while workin on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty four, me hands were hard, me back were sore
Me back were gettin' mighty sore while workin' on the railway.

In eighteen hundred forty five, I found meself more dead than alive
I found meself more dead than alive, while workin' on the railway.

It's "Pat do this!" and "Pat do that!", without a stocking or cravat
Nothing but an ould straw hat while Pat worked on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty seven, sweet Biddy McGee she went to heaven
She left one child, she left eleven, to work upon the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty eight I learned to drink me whiskey straight
It's an iligant drink what can't be bayte when workin' on the railway.

Here's to the Irish among us. Slainte!

harp and sword

None Of The Above

by: Konagod

Married, single, divorced or widowed.

We've all seen those options on various forms for classifying our status. And while it's not surprising in states like Texas where recognition of same sex relationships is about as likely as a tax on the Southern Baptist Church, I think we expected a bit more from states such as Connecticut which do, in theory, recognize civil unions. It's actually not such a surprise that it is not working. Separate but equal just doesn't cut it.
Eager to celebrate their partnership, Tracy and Katy Weber Tierney were among the first in line when Connecticut created civil unions three years ago as a way to formalize same-sex relationships without using the word “marriage.”

But when Tracy was giving birth to their son, Jake, five months ago, a hospital employee inquired whether she was “married, single, divorced or widowed.”

“I’m in a civil union,” she replied. When the employee checked “single,” Tracy protested. “I’m actually more married than single,” she said, leaving the employee flustered about how to proceed.

And the case made by the states against same sex marriage is infuriating.
The state also argues that the plaintiffs have no case because they are free to marry, just not to someone of the same sex, and that there is no gender discrimination because men and women are equally constrained.

Nice logic. We have the right to marry -- it just can't be the one we love.

Frankly, until the playing field is level and there's full equality, I have no interest whatsoever in participating. I probably can't afford it.
For Jean Csvihinka, 48, who works at a bank in Milford, getting a civil union meant paying tax on an additional $6,000 a year. Ms. Csvihinka said that adding her partner, Gina Bonfietti, 43, a self-employed piano technician, to her health insurance obligated her to pay a federal tax on the value of the additional coverage that married couples would not owe, and that since the civil union she has also had to pay tax on her daughters’ coverage even though the girls were on her plan, tax-free, before. She said she was told that “it’s a systems issue.”

Experts blame some of these problems on the disconnect between state taxes, which civil union couples can file jointly, and federal taxes, which they cannot because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Since we obviously cannot rely on the states or voters to rectify this problem, we are probably at the mercy of the judges.
Amy Pear, a 39-year-old police captain in Middletown, said she was reminded again this month of her own murky legal status when she returned home from an overseas trip with June Lockert, 46, her better half for the last 14 years.

Arriving at Kennedy International Airport, the couple were asked whether they were one household. Captain Pear said she explained that they were, in Connecticut, because of their civil union. She said the customs officer sent them back to be processed separately since the federal government took a different view, and remarked “Welcome home” as she passed.

Welcome home, my ass! If there is one thing I expect (or demand) to see happen during the next administration, it would be to resolve this absurd discrimination and let us have the basic human dignity of our relationship being recognized and putting an end to the second tier status. The current murky waters are completely unacceptable.

Crossposted from konagod

Inner City Blues

by: Debra

The times may have changed but every word still sings true. Especially for the last two weeks of my so called "life". Lately, I've lost the energy that makes me want to have my voice heard.

Way too short, just like his life.



FISA Bill: No Amnesty, No Immunity

by: Foiled Goil

EFF Applauds House Passage of Surveillance Bill with No Telecom Immunity

Bill Would Allow Spying Cases to Proceed Fairly and Securely

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"We applaud the House for refusing to grant amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, and for passing a bill that would allow our lawsuit against AT&T to proceed fairly and securely," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Amnesty proponents have been claiming on the Hill for months that phone companies like AT&T had a good faith belief that the NSA program was legal. Under this bill, the companies could do what they should have been able to do all along: tell that story to a judge."

"This newly-passed House bill represents a true compromise on the amnesty issue: customers whose privacy was violated would get their day in court, while the companies would be allowed to defend themselves despite the Administration's broad demands for secrecy," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We look forward to assisting the Senate in its consideration of this compromise solution, which EFF believes is the only reasonable response to the White House's attempt to evade court review of its illegal spying program and the phone companies' collaboration in it."

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. The Hepting case is the leading case aimed at holding telecoms responsible for knowingly violating federal privacy laws with warrantless wiretapping and the illegal transfer of vast amounts of personal data to the government.
EFF vs. AT&T (Extreme linky goodness.)

An overview of the NSA's domestic spying program

Ars Technica:
In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Siobhan Gorman pulled together the disparate threads of reporting on what's known of the NSA's secret domestic spy program, and combined them with some of her own reporting to confirm, once again, that the NSA's program is another incarnation of the Pentagon's erstwhile Total Information Awareness program. Gorman also describes how Carnivore, the SWIFT database snooping program, and basically every other "Big Brother" database and data snooping program that the executive branch has developed over the past two administrations* feed information into the NSA's TIA-like system, which then looks for suspicious patterns in the data.

Gorman's article provides a great overview of how these programs fit together in the architecture of the modern, post-9/11 surveillance state, and it's required reading because it comes at a critical time in our national debate about privacy and the limits of executive power. However, if you've been following this topic closely then you know that most of the information in the article has been public since 2006.

In this post, I'm going to walk back through some of the previous reporting on the topic, both my own work and that of others, and offer corrections and adjustments where necessary based on the WSJ piece. My hope is that readers and reporters who are so inclined can dig through the details and links and follow up on any leads that others may have missed.

(Continue this article here.)

The Intelligence Cover-Up

NYT Editorial
For more than two years now, Congress, the news media, current and former national security officials, think tanks and academic institutions have been engaged in a profound debate over how to modernize the law governing electronic spying to keep pace with technology. We keep hoping President Bush will join in.

Instead, the president offers propaganda intended to scare Americans, expand his powers, and erode civil liberties — and to ensure that no one is held to account for the illegal wiretapping he ordered after 9/11.

What Mr. Bush wants is to be able to listen to your international telephone calls and read your international e-mail whenever he wants, without a court being able to prevent it or judge the legality of his actions.

… Mr. Bush said it was vital to national security to give amnesty to any company that turned over data on Americans without a court order. The purpose of this amnesty is not to protect national secrets — that could be done during a trial — but to make sure that the full damage to Americans’ civil liberties is never revealed. Mr. Bush also objects to a provision that would create a committee to examine his warrantless spying program.

The president will continue to claim the country is in grave danger over this issue, but it is not. The real danger is for Mr. Bush. A good law — like the House bill — would allow Americans to finally see the breathtaking extent of his lawless behavior.

· · · · ·
16 March 2008

Prelude to Finale

by: Dark Wraith

In a recent discussion in comments at Big Brass Blog, the possibility of the U.S. boycotting the upcoming Olympics in Beijing was mentioned, and one comment was to the effect that, while China has some disagreeable policies, much more concern should be directed toward policies here in the United States. This idea is rather common, and it merits an article that will include a sampling of links to articles and videos I have published over the past three years to establish that I have consistently and unambiguously predicted the economic disaster now so evident that even mainstream journalists and media talking heads can opportunistically discuss it in passing.

The truth of the matter is that U.S. policies and their consequences are so intertwined with China's that no wall of economic or political logic can be built that would separate what China has been doing for years with respect to international trade and what has ultimately come about here in the United States as a result. I will explain this in technical detail (and the technical aspect is surprisingly simple to demonstrate) in the upcoming, fourth and final part of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage," Part Three of which was a fairly rigorous survey of neo-Keynesian economic policy and the consequences of the Bush Administration's overuse and misuse of it. However, as a leader for the final installment of my frontal assault on both neo-Keynesianism and the Bush Administration's economic policies, I herewith offer a series of brush strokes concerning why China and its actions are inseparable from what has happened in this country.

Exchange Rate Manipulation
The poorly understood, if nothing less than spectacular, center piece of Chinese trade policy with the United States has for years been the yuan-dollar exchange rate. If China had not been "pegging" the yuan against the dollar (and doing so at an exchange rate so removed from purchasing power parity reality that even I cannot help but grin at the decade-plus highway robbery) a few minor things would have been different. In my February 2006 graphical post, "A Walk-Down Primer on the U.S. Trade Deficit with China," I set forth the chain of policies and consequences on both sides of the Pacific that were inexorably taking us to a very grim period, one now just about at hand.

First, Jobs
We would not have lost millions and millions of American jobs. While our nativists have been ranting about those brown people from Mexico overrunning our borders with actual, real human capital to feed our demand for cheap labor, the Chinese were sitting back, running a currency gambit that sucked the very life out of our economy by making our stuff expensive in China and their stuff ridiculously underpriced here in the United States. This was discussed in Parts One, Two, Three, and Four of my video series, "Exchange Rates." Yet, somehow, not one serious word has ever been mentioned about erecting punitive fences to stop the madness of China buying dollars and paying for them with yuan to keep the dollar artificially strong against the yuan. And to make this pegging trick happen requires constant, consistent, conscious policy actions by the Chinese central bank, all while both the Clinton and Bush Administrations were too stupid to deal with the war-by-trade the Chinese were waging against our industrial base. Instead, it has been easier all along, on the one hand, to swallow the bilge the communist rulers in Beijing have pumped out about "market reforms" and, on the other hand, to point fingers at the scourge of Paco and Manuel sneaking into this country, what with that strong U.S. dollar they could earn, to work at jobs most precious Americans wouldn't even consider doing. We'll believe murderous communist thugs and let them suck our economy blood-dry; but, by God!, we shall be safe from Hispanic brown-skins taking our highly sought-after, minimum-wage jobs. (To be fair, it is always more exciting to organize a mob than to hold a class in macroeconomics.)

Second, Asset Values
The real estate price run-up that began in the 1990s would not have happened nearly to the extent that it did. As explained in my May 2005 article, "Exchange Rate Regimes," when greenbacks flow out of this country through international trade, they eventually land in the central banks of our trading partners. That flow of short-term dollars in exchange for short-term goods and services is called the "current account." Current and capital account flowsWhen we import more than we export, there is a net outflow of greenbacks, and we are said to be running "trade deficits," and, as a consequence, those central banks overseas build up "foreign reserves" of greenbacks; but the only place U.S. dollars can be spent is in the U.S., which means those dollars have to return as long-term investment here by foreigners. This backflow, which matches in size the current account, is called the "capital account." Hence, if we have a negative current account, we'll have a positive capital account of the same magnitude; and this is how the debt-fueled economy of the United States was getting its power juice: foreign central banks—China's, the Arab countries', Japan's, and those of other countries all over the world—were pouring the greenbacks they had earned into everything American, including consumer loans; mortgage-backed securities; corporate debt, from bonds to commercial paper; municipal bonds; land; and stock in IPOs, secondary offerings, shelf registrations, and secondary market equity. As set forth in my article, "Seven Principles of Macroeconomics," it was a propulsion system driven by foreigners who were selling us cheap, short-term consumer goods in exchange for us, in the long-run, selling them claims on our future expected cash flows. As long as just the private sector and mere municipalities of the U.S. economy were holding out their hands for this money, the system functioned well, and the debt allowed the United States as a macroeconomy to realize what are called "gains to leverage" without incurring substantial increases in risk that can ultimately attend too much of that leverage.

Nevertheless, it was all that money in foreign reserves focusing down on the American economy that allowed us to use so much debt to live beyond our means, compliments of foreign lending sources paying us in the here and now for our land, for our shopping malls, for our buildings, for our wars, for our research and development, for our meds, for our groceries, for our nice cars, for our municipal bonds to build sports stadiums and pretty greenspaces, for our theme parks, and for every other manner of desire we have to be profligate in our pleasures and patterns of lifestyles. In exchange, all we ever had to do was surrender our future cash flows, and those of our children, and those of our children's children.

Third, Industry Consolidations
Among the many excesses we were allowed as a debt-sopping nation, our corporations were able to use money they could not possibly have generated through the old-fashioned means of merely selling their wares. The debt available to corporate America through combinations of our own Federal Reserve printing money and foreign lending afforded the more entrepreneurial of corporations the ability and funds to go on buying sprees of other corporations, and the most pernicious of these excesses resulted in consolidations into oligopolies of what otherwise could have been relatively competitive industries. The most obvious example of this is in telecommunications, but that is by no means the only place it has happened: well beyond the radar of most Americans has been consolidation in all manner of other sectors, from agriculture and banking to information technology and distribution.

Fourth, Deficits
The Bush Administration has run staggering budget deficits every year, save for 2001, when it was still facing the daunting task of overcoming the year-over-year budget surpluses it had inherited from the Clinton years. It was the constant, reliable, predictable presence of foreign central banks at the fire-sale Treasury auctions (where the government raises money to cover the shortfall between tax revenues and government expenditures) that kept the consequences of Republican profligacy from constricting capital markets enough to send shock waves through the economy; but as long as foreigners were at those auctions ready, willing, and able to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to the government, the private markets did not get hit in any obvious way with the consequences of capital scarcity, even though the constrictions on available global capital were starting to show more than a few years ago, although back then, the cracking infrastructure of global capital flows was not noticeable other than as odd features like the rapid ascendance of sub-prime mortgage instruments and curious but barely noticeable loosening of rules regarding lending practices and banking risk exposure allowances.

Now, those raging budget deficits have cut so severely into the global supply of capital funds that the "sub-prime mortgage crisis" has occurred, and this is overwhelmingly the result, when all is said and done, of the largest government on Earth going on a multi-year, borrow-and-spend spree that has finally collapsed the ability of those world-wide capital markets to feed both the private and public sector debt follies of this nation.

Finally, Visions of Empire
The overwrought, fevered plans of world control foisted by neo-conservatives into overriding foreign policy by the Bush Administration's warhawks would long ago have slammed head-long into the hard reality of a public being denied its credit-based consumerism had our very own Federal Reserve not been printing money like it was going out of style. As I showed in Part Three of "The Economics of Wreckage," the U.S. central bank, even after it claimed it had stopped doing so, was pouring staggering billions of dollars into the economy at a rate that would make the most proliferate counterfeiter blush. The only measures of self-control to which the Fed was able to hold true were that it stopped printing the highly liquid money ("M1," as it is designated) used by common people and it stopped reporting its stunningly irresponsible growth rate in the kind of money ("M3," as it is designated) that can be used by high-end banks.

But here's the secret. Recall above that the Chinese were pegging the yuan-dollar exchange rate by entering global currency markets to purchase dollars with yuan. Of course, this will ultimately cause severe inflation in China—a spiral which is now just beginning and which readers following links above to my articles and videos will see that I unambiguously predicted would occur—as all those yuan it has for years been pumping out come washing back to its shores; but a far more immediate opportunity came to the minds of the geniuses at the Fed and in the White House: if the Chinese are hammering the global currency markets, buying up dollars to make them strong and paying for those greenbacks with yuan to make the Chinese currency persistently weak, what is to keep the United States from ramping up its printing of dollars, knowing as it does that the Chinese central bank is going to sop them up as soon as they hit the global currency trading streets? This calculus by the White House and its rubber stampers at the Fed had all the elements of a symbiotic relationship made in Heaven: the Chinese wanted to keep the dollar strong against the yuan to keep Chinese imports in the United States cheap, and the government of the United States wanted a ready buyer for debt of any kind, so why not supplement those auctions of Treasury bills, notes, and bonds with some of that special, green paper we call "U.S. currency" (which is nothing other than Federal Reserve debt backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America)? That is one of the reasons why, in the graph of the growth of the money supply aggregates, republished below, the growth rate of M3 has been skyrocketing.

M1, M2, and M3 Money Stocks, 2000 to Present

Illiquid money aggregates are perfectly suitable for use in global currency trading, and our U.S. Treasury, in coordination with what is suppose to be an independent Federal Reserve Board, has been double-dipping into the global capital river. Instead of stopping the Chinese from playing their currency manipulation games, the Bush Administration has been using the Chinese pegging to keep its own game of unsustainably low taxes and out-of-control, misdirected spending from reaching the crisis stage.

And Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the End Game
Unfortunately, the game clock is running out before President Bush can exit the White House and leave the blame to the next President, who will have to clean up the terrible mess with draconian policies we haven't seen since President Carter dealt with similar (although not nearly as severe) problems at the end of the 1970s. For those who don't keep up on historical trivia, Mr. Carter was a one-term President, principally because he did what had to be done, which hurt like Hell and deeply offended the sensibilities of Americans who like their dire consequences without the dire part.

The bottom line is clear, though: responsibility for the problems we are now facing can be laid right smack at the doorstep of the Bush Administration, where those problems will now trip up not just the neo-conservatives trying to slip out to resume their lives as unregistered foreign agents, but will also trip up the Chinese government, which has been working in concert with a White House that is not only too stupid to understand the destructive, long-term consequences of its foreign policies, but is even too incompetent to hold off the shockwave of those consequences long enough to get out of Washington before all Hell breaks loose.

The good news for Mr. Bush is that it is still illegal for a mob to chase down and hang the President. The bad news is that the global capital markets have no such qualms about doing that to the American people who were led by such a fool.

The Dark Wraith will return later with further instructions on how to be scared to death of what is to come.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

Four Of The Best

by: Debra

And I think it's Roger Daltrey (but I'm not sure) playing harmonica with BB, Etta, Chaka and Gladys.

Just how I live my life, It ain't nobody's business.


Fratto, Annotated

by: Foiled Goil

From the March 14, 2008 statement by White House Deputy Press Propagandist Secretary Tony Fratto on the FISA House Amendment Bill:

Today, the House of Representatives took a significant step backward in defending our country against [George Orwell Bush] terrorism and passed a partisan bill that will please
Fourth Amendment
class-action trial lawyers at the expense of our national security. Their bill would make it easier for
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects
class-action trial lawyers
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, against
to sue companies whose only "offense" is that they are alleged to have assisted in
unreasonable searches and seizures
efforts to protect the country after the attacks of September 11. These companies,
but upon probable cause,
already face multibillion-dollar lawsuits
supported by Oath or affirmation,
but even the status quo -- which our intelligence professionals have said is undermining our ability to get cooperation from the private sector -- is better than the alternative proposed in the House bill, which would preserve these lawsuits
and particularly describing the place to be searched,
and give trial lawyers
and the persons or things to be seized
more weapons to attack companies for doing their patriotic service.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny;
when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

~ Thomas Jefferson

· · · · ·
15 March 2008

For Tibet

by: Dark Wraith

China at Nightfall

From Pakistan to Kenya, from Armenia to Burma, peoples of the world are rising up against the fist of oppression, rebelling against tyranny, demanding that they be given their property in freedom.

This day in Tibet, the people are in open revolt against the thugs in Beijing who would dare to pretend to legitimate leadership. Once again, men and women are turning away from the lies of rulers who speak of "freedom" in the same breath that they demand of their citizens surrender to "order" and "security." People across the world are choosing no longer to live in fear on their knees, but instead to fight and die for their future.

For their battle, the Tibetans are honored; for their sacrifice, they are praised; for their example, they are remembered.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

Worst Pun Ever

by: Debra

"In Fyfe, Scotland, there's an annual tench-eating competition [tench are small fish like sardines]. The world champion, Sven from Finland, was in Fyfe to defend his title. Local boy Hix won through to the final and it was a contest between him and Sven. The result was that Hix ate 27 tench and Sven managed only nine - so Hix was crowned world champion. The headline?

One To Three For Fyfe's Hix, Sven Ate Nine Tench."


War is "Romantic"? Read It and Weep

by: Missouri Mule

The Draft dodging chicken-hawk, AWOL National Air Guardman thinks war is romantic and is envious of the U.S. troops now on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dig this: While Bush was speaking about the problems and progress on the war he had this to say:

"I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.."

"It must be exciting for some ways romantic, in some ways, ya know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks. " Bush said.

So now dying on the front lines of the war is romantic. Who knew?

Quite a statement coming from a delusional cowardly cheerleader, eh?

Three words to Bush: SIGN UP, BITCH!

Loonie Tunes

by: blackdog

For your viewing pleasure, enjoy.

Courtesy of Hoffmania.

Beware the ides of March, it was last year on this date that my mother fell and broke her skull. Just about a month later, the ides of April, I had emergency surgery.

No mas.
14 March 2008

FISA Fight Against Immunity And Spies Who Don't Love Us

by: Foiled Goil

Classified documents show telecoms don't deserve immunity

CNet News:
Classified documents and testimony about the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program show that it's not necessary to grant retroactive immunity to telephone companies accused of unlawfully opening their networks to government spies, key congressional Democrats said on Wednesday.

In a five-page statement (PDF), U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and 18 Democrats on that panel contended the Bush administration has "not established a valid and credible case justifying the extraordinary action of Congress enacting blanket retroactive immunity."

Skepticism about the Bush administration's once-secret eavesdropping program is nothing new for the Democrats who signed onto the statement. The key difference here is that they say their latest conclusions are based on a series of classified reports and briefings to which many of them only recently had access.
The House Democrats' latest report reveals several reasons that they have concluded retroactive immunity is not appropriate.

One is that telecommunications carriers approached by the government took "variable actions" in response. It's not exactly clear what that means, as the report's authors said they weren't at liberty to unveil classified details, but apparently the companies engaged in "a variety of actions at various times with differing justifications."

Siobhan Gorman's article in WSJ gives some details on how the spying on Americans program works:
The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency's mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

FISA fight: Leadership maneuvers you'll actually like

Kagro X gives a little FISA fight run down:

Perhaps you've heard about how House Republicans have used the motion to recommit to trip up various versions of the FISA bill that don't give retroactive amnesty to the telecom companies. And perhaps you're concerned that despite the much-improved FISA language coming to a vote in the House this week, it'll be undercut by another such motion.

Well, dig this:

The RESTORE Act, H.R. 3773, passed the House last year without including retroactive amnesty for the telecom companies and sent it on to the Senate.

When the Senate took up the issue, it opted not to deal with H.R. 3773, but instead passed its Rockefeller-backed FISA bill ( S. 2248 ) that did include retroactive amnesty. And there was a tremendous uproar among immunity opponents over the procedure the Senate used, making the Bush-backed Rockefeller legislation the base bill, and the immunity-free Judiciary committee bill the substitute, creating an uphill battle for the fight against immunity. That situation created a lot of ill will toward Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But here's the interesting part. Rather than send S. 2248 to the House once it passed, Reid sent the bill on a little detour. With the unanimous consent of the Senate, he stripped out the language of H.R. 3773 and substituted in the language of S. 2248, vitiated the passage of S. 2248, and sent the amended H.R. 3773 back to the House.

That put the House in the position of considering the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773, as opposed to the original version of S. 2248. What difference does that make? Well, it makes no substantive difference, in that H.R. 3773 as amended now included retroactive immunity, along with all the other garbage we didn't want the Senate to pass.

So, what's a House that's opposed to retroactive immunity to do? Amend H.R. 3773 to take it back out, of course. And that -- along with a number of other substantive improvements -- is what Chairmen Conyers and Reyes plan to do, in the form of an amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773.

Sounds like a joke, doesn't it? The sort of thing people say when they make fun of the legislative process: the House amendment to the Senate amendment to the bill H.R. 3773.

Only guess what's special about offering an amendment to the amendment that isn't true of just starting over with a new House bill that doesn't have immunity in it?

You can't move to recommit an amendment to an amendment.
Bet that just really ticked off the move to recommit Republics! Is that why the House went into a secret session last night?
The House of Representatives has met in a rare closed session to consider proposed revisions to foreign intelligence surveillance law, the subject of continuing conflict between President Bush and Democrats. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, there were emotional exchanges about the unusual meeting, which came after President Bush repeated his opposition to Democratic legislation he asserts would harm U.S. security against possible new terrorist attacks.
Anyway… today, the House passed the FISA Amendments Act:
The House has just passed the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes, by a vote of 213-197-1. The revised House legislation to amend FISA grants new authorities for conducting electronic surveillance against foreign targets while preserving the requirement that the government obtain an individualized FISA court order, based on probable cause, when targeting Americans at home or abroad. The House bill also strongly enhances oversight of the Administration’s surveillance activities. Finally, the House bill does not provide retroactive immunity for telecom companies but allows the courts to determine whether lawsuits should proceed.

[Read more on the FISA Amendments Act here.]

US House Approves Intelligence Measure Over Bush Objections

Voice Of America:
Republicans had hoped that consideration of the bill in a rare secret session would give Democrats the opportunity to vote against their leadership and approve a version of the bill that was supported by President Bush.

But by a vote of 213 to 197, the House approved a version of the legislation that would require more judicial supervision of electronic surveillance. The House measure also does not provide retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies facing lawsuits stemming from their cooperation with the once-secret anti-terrorist eavesdropping program.

The immunity provision was strongly advocated by President Bush, who has threatened to veto the House bill, which still needs to go back to the Senate for approval.

House votes 213-197 to reject retroactive telecom immunity

CNet News:
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday narrowly approved an electronic surveillance expansion without immunization for any telecommunications companies that illegally opened their networks to intelligence agencies.

The 213-197 split, with most Democrats voting in favor of the bill (PDF) and most Republicans opposing it, hardly means that the political tussle over retroactive immunity is over. It now shifts to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he was "encouraged" to see the House vote.

But the primary obstacle remains President Bush, who has threatened a veto. The White House circulated a statement after the vote calling it a "a significant step backward in defending our country against terrorism" that was "not a serious effort to move the legislative process forward."

Of course, the pResident says that he will veto this bill, if it passes when it gets back to the Senate, because it doesn't give him the blanket immunity for the telecom companies that have cooperated with his illegal spying program, which we are told was initiated after September 11, 2001:
"This litigation would require the disclosure of state secrets that could lead to the public release of highly-classified information that our enemies could use against us," Mr. Bush said. "And this litigation would be unfair because any companies that assisted us after 9/11 were assured by our government that their cooperation was legal and necessary."
AFTER September 11, 2001?

Dear Media: Please Stop Repeating This Lie
AP: Bush says the House version "would cause us to lose vital intelligence on terrorist threats" and would not give liability protection against lawsuits to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the government after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

NYT: Some 40 lawsuits are pending in federal courts, charging that by cooperating with the eavesdropping program put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the phone companies violated their responsibilities to customers and federal privacy laws.

AP: Bush opposes it in part because it doesn't provide full, retroactive legal protection to telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
That bold part -- that part of the "reporting" that doesn't have quotation marks around it and doesn't have any correcting remarks after it and doesn't have a bullshit flag preceding it -- is a lie. How is it a lie? Let us count the ways.
Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.
Really, though. You would think that whole WMD in Iraq thing would have taught you guys a lesson about repeating administration lies as fact. Try harder to stick to the truth next time, not the spin.

And don't fall for the scaremongering propaganda that spews forth from Bush and his lock-step neo-cons:
Anyone with a passing familiarity with the issues knows this is all horsepuckey. The FISA law permits intercepts with a rubber stamp warrant from the FISA Court, or without a warrant for thirty-six hours until a warrant can be obtained. The PAA says that all existing wiretaps can continue for one-year without renewal. All existing wiretaps can be expanded to include any additional subjects that are part of the same group. And the telecoms have immunity from liability for any new "taps" if there is a warrant authorizing the activity.

· · · · ·


by: blackdog

I like my neighbor Steve, but I really can't stand his car or his taste in music, a little car that most likely gets pretty good fuel economy until he turns on his sound system. This monstrosity has not one, but two 15" woofers mounted in the plate between the trunk and rear seat, powered by some sort of amplifier that looks like a bundle of heat sinks in the trunk, but one thing was done well, being that 12VDC is rather meager for all those potential watts of output, the power supply cables to it are at least the same size of those that supply the starter motor, if not a bit larger. Shit, anyone sitting in the back seat may be liquidated, starting with their inner ears.

Anyway you notice what seems at first to be a minor earthquake as he gets within about 5 blocks, then window panes begin to buzz from the thumping rhythm of the bass, and it's always, and I mean always some rap crap.

Well, back to the point, stupidly I pulled one of the best reads from the Rude Pundit awhile back, but to err is human and even though I go as blackdog, the real blackdog has four feet, I have only two, which explains why I fall down more than he does.

Here it is for your reading pleasure, be careful with your beverage.


Inauguration Fun in Three Parts:
Fun with the Inauguration, Part 1: Let us say, and why not, that yesterday a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit was inaugurated President of the United States. There in the spankin' new Cadillac limo, cruisin' past all the protesters, was a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit which, being a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit, didn't really pay attention to the thousands of citizens who thought perhaps America might be led more competently if, say, a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit hadn't been elected. There, outdoors, in the cold, the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit was extra steamy. The onlookers were pleased at the chilled air because if it had been more temperate, well, then they would have had to hold their noses while the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit took the oath of office from the gasping visage of William Rehnquist, six-foot tall steaming piles of shit being noted primarily for their stench.

Then, the quarter million or so gathered, watched in awe as the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit made its inaugural address. Who would have thought a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit would understand such notions as "liberty," "freedom," and "idealism." There's a certain cognitive dissonance that must occur when one witnesses such things, for surely a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit has few purposes other than to rot. Oh, sure, sure, some would say, "That may be a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit, but that six-foot tall steaming pile of shit is my President" and give him a pass. Still others might say that the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit delivered one eloquent barnburner of a speech, that the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit needs only lay out a single path and consequences be damned. Many, though, would watch the speech and shrug and think, "Who the fuck cares what a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit has to say?"

Oh, how the six-foot tall steaming pile of shit, newly re-inaugurated, danced, danced, danced the night away before heading back to the White House for a well-deserved night's sleep, thinking, "My, how wonderful America must be, how great God is, if a six-foot tall steaming pile of shit could find itself here."

This was just too good to be denied. For the full item, here. You will have to scroll down a bit to the proper date, which is 1/21/2005.

When I read this I can only wish that I had written it. It represents my feelings about the shrub most succinctly.

Wow, that's a fancy word.

Abigail Adams' Coffee Ginger Cakes, Modified and Made

by: Dark Wraith

Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword was kind enough to offer Abigail Adams' recipe for coffee ginger cakes (with a cross-post of the recipe at Big Brass Blog), so your host decided to take upon himself the task of bringing the recipe to life with a post explaining what transpired in the process.

Although I had planned to make a full batch, limits on available ingredients, as well as limits on my appetite, compelled me instead to make a half-batch. That created an unexpected challenge: this seems to be a recipe that does not scale linearly; in other words, simply taking half of every original measure is not quite right. A little experimentation resulted in the conclusion that, although everything else is fine at exactly one-half of its measure in the original recipe, somewhat more than half as much flour is required; otherwise, the batter comes out too thin. I also discovered that molasses makes for one really sticky batter that is beyond my patience in trying to roll out. That's why my variation on the recipe is for coffee ginger cupcakes.

Now, as fair warning to those who will make this, cakes and certain other snacks and desserts that would have appealed to the tastes of a late-18th/early-19th Century person would often be, by today's standards of sweetness, somewhat on the joyless side. I speak from the experience of having been raised in a very old family, where many times I was less than thrilled with what the old people of my father's generation called "dessert." In fact, when I first bit into one of these coffee ginger cupcakes I had made, I was taken aback by how much it reminded me of cake-type snacks I had been fed in my youth. Interestingly, whereas back then I would have quietly disposed of the offending thing, I now find the whole experience entirely pleasing. The cake is heavy, with an immediate sense of dryness that only after a few bites gives way to a deep, rich feeling in the mouth. As you'll notice in the last picture, I did allow for my more modern sweet tooth to have some fun by dusting the cupcakes with confectioner's sugar. It adds only a marginal sweetness overall, but it does take away the initial, almost bitter grab, especially at the crustier edges.

With all of that having been said, here are the step-by-step measures, pictures, and final results.

Step 1

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon soda

Into a large bowl, combine and sift ingredients three times.

Step 1 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 2

1 egg

Work by hand into the sifted flour mixture.

Step 2 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 3

½ cup dark molasses
½ cup hot, strong, black coffee, freshly brewed
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Slowly bring just to simmering boil, then remove from heat right away.

Step 3 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 4

Slowly stir hot molasses-butter-coffee mixture into flour mixture, making sure to thoroughly soak all flour, leaving no lumps or beads of flour. Do not, however, whip the batter.

Step 3 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 5

Lightly butter the bottoms of the cups in a 12-cup muffin pan, then pour batter, filling each cup no more than about three-quarters of the way to the top.

Step 5 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 6

Bake in 400° F oven for 16 to 18 minutes. Slide a toothpick in at 16 minutes to see how close to being done they are. When toothpick comes out clean, remove immediately and let cool.

Step 6 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 7

½ cup confectioner's (10X) sugar, poured into shallow bowl or onto deep plate

After about 15 minutes, remove cakes from muffin pan. This might require using a thin fork along the side of each one to carefully lift it out of its cup. Dip the top of each in confectioner's (10X) sugar, and place on wax paper to finish cooling.

Step 7 for coffee ginger cupcakes

Step 8

Serve, eat, and enjoy.

The Dark Wraith, with the help of Minstrel Boy, has once again delivered the evening's nourishment.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·
13 March 2008

Saddam/Al Qaeda Report

by: Foiled Goil

Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda

March 13, 2008
ABC News has requested and obtained a copy of the Pentagon study which shows Saddam Hussein had no links to Al Qaeda.
Read the full .pdf report here.
It's government report the White House didn't want you to read: yesterday the Pentagon canceled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's availability and didn't make the report available via email or online.

Based on the analysis of some 600,000 official Iraqi documents seized by US forces after the invasion and thousands of hours of interrogations of former officials in Saddam's government now in US custody, the government report is the first official acknowledgment from the US military that there is no evidence Saddam had ties to al Qaeda.

The Bush administration apparently didn't want the study to get any attention. The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website yesterday, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report was made available to those who asked for it, and was sent via overnight mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

Asked yesterday why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail."

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

Pentagon Report on Saddam's Iraq Censored?

March 12, 2008
ABC News' Jonathan Karl Reports: The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study [.pdf] that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online.
The primary target, however, of Saddam's terror activities was not the United States, and not Israel. "The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq." Saddam's primary aim was self preservation and the elimination of potential internal threats to his power.

Bush administration officials have made numerous attempts to link Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terror group in their justification for waging war against Iraq.

"What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations February 5, 2003.

On June 18, 2004 the Washington Post quoted President George W. Bush as saying: "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush said.

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," The Washington Post quoted Bush as saying. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."

"We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's Meet The Press March 16, 2003.

"But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives. And the cost will be much greater in a future attack if the terrorists have access to the kinds of capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed," Cheney said.

''There is no question but that there have been interactions between the Iraqi government, Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda operatives. They have occurred over a span of some 8 or 10 years to our knowledge. There are currently Al Qaeda in Iraq,'' former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a interview with Infinity CBS Radio, Nov. 14, 2002.
DoD Confirmation List: U.S. Deaths — 3987 as of March 12, 2008.

· · · ·

Bill O'Riley, Educator

by: blackdog


Holly crapola, I'm staggering around after this most extreme bitch slap to my consciousness, what is wrong with these people? O'Liley claims to be "educating" his audience. As if he was. He is, but to the audience's lack and his gain, spelled $$$. They obviously "just say no" when it comes to possibly the most major drive in any species on any planet, anywhere, yeah, that sex thang, which proves them to be nothing more than stinking liars that will do and say anything for more money. How does lust for money overcome lust for procreation? And they call this "fair and balanced". News, that is. I guess the right-wing is mentally unbalanced, they confuse procreation with wealth, to the ultimate demise of us all.

If you want to screw a knothole in a tree, telephone pole or whatever that's your problem, not mine, and don't tell me about it, that shit is private, I don't want to hear about it so keep your mouth shut and hope that the Federal Government isn't looking over your shoulder. I really can't understand why these pious asshats get the time of day, but then I do understand that there are several thousand, hopefully not too many millions that watch this shit (Faux) every night. My ancient parents watch this shit with a bowl of popcorn. Jeebus.

At least when you spend several $thousand for an encounter, you may be better off than when you only throw down a $twenty. The obvious assumption being that your paid partner might have been vetted properly and is not an infectious threat. Nevada gets it almost right, but for the rest of this nation, please try to pull your head out of your ass.

If you have the psychic endurance for it, here it is.

Talk about being fucked.

I don't celebrate Governor Spitzer's fall from grace, he was dumb enough to get caught and in his situation he should have known that he was a major target of the "vast right-wing conspiracy". Being stupid is not what I want to see in those that may be capable and effective on the job, for them to allow for their "nasty habits" to bring them all the way down is disgusting, and as I have seen from some comments from the Wraith and Tom over at Blondesense there is a distinct odor of strong stink in the air.

Call me what you may, but I am tired of this shit.

But damnit, how long will it take for this bunch of deluded puritanical idiots to realize that most people like to fuck? And some have the resources to acquire it as a service.

Because One Good Abigail Adams Deserves Another

by: Minstrel Boy

And I mourn the fact that strong, intelligent and resourceful women like her only seem to be noticed if they are married to someone like John Adams. Had there been a more open society Abigail would have been of even more consequence.

This is another of her recipes. It was developed to help bolster the use of coffee as the stimulant beverage of choice over the taxed and despised tea. Abigail served it at her famous coffee gatherings in Braintree. They were notable for their free wheeling and fascinating conversations.

Coffee Ginger Cakes

Sift together three times: 5 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon Jamaica Ginger and 1 teaspoon soda. By hand, work in 1 egg.

In a double boiler combine 1 cup New Orleans Molasses, 1 cup hot strong coffee, 1 cup butter (2 sticks) and 3 teaspoons Madagascar Vanilla Liquor. (the old New England "Blackbirds" or slavers used to put halved vanilla beans into jugs of whiskey or rum it was an early form of vanilla extract). Heat until butter is completely melted.

Add the liquid into the flour mixture a little at a time and shape into a soft dough. Roll thick and cut into large round cakes. Bake at 400° (Abigail's recipe says "a hot oven") for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with coffee and conversation.

Writer's note: If you do not have HBO make some of these and insinuate yourself into the house of someone who does and insist on watching John Adams.

Who knows? Maybe we will finally get around to giving him the monument, or the face on a coin or bill that he deserves. I'm ready to ditch Jackson, Kennedy, or Grant in favor of Adams.

harp and sword
12 March 2008

The Ambiguity of Darkness

by: Dark Wraith

The recent media-frenzy about former-Governor Elliot Spitzer's forays into the consumer sub-culture of high-priced hookers—a frenzy in which I, myself, participated with some degree of shameless abandon—has elicited in some quarters worthwhile and insightful responses and reactions. In one vein are those like Robert Scheer who point out the scope and depth of the staggering problems this country now faces in the wake of what will have been eight years of sustained, unmitigated fiscal, political, diplomatic, and military recklessness. These looming disasters are the hallmarks and legacy of the Bush Administration, and they will come whether we like it or not, and they will arrive regardless of whom we elect as our next President. As Scheer makes fairly apparent, in the larger scheme of things, the story of Spitzer's fall from grace does not qualify by any reasonable standard as newsworthy. Sadly, though, sex sells; and sleazy sex sells big-time.

Another thread, one from the conservative perspective, is well represented by Terence Corcoran of the National Post, who highlights the excesses of Elliot Spitzer, the media-hyped hero-prosecutor of white-collar criminals, the lionized hero-prosecutor who abused law enforcement power and public treasure to destroy more than one man he could not defeat in court because at least some judges and juries knew very well the government's cases were based on phenomenally novel interpretations of complex statutes. Other juries, however, swallowed Spitzer's bilge hook, line, and sinker, and were all too happy to hang the rich and powerful regardless of whether such vengeance had any semblance of relationship to the rule of law. It has been only since the Bush Administration turned this nightmarish authoritarian capriciousness in law enforcement on the general population that most civil libertarians have started squealing like stuck pigs, crying about the abandonment of "rights" that, in reality, have been under attack for decades, if not all along. It has something to do with whose ox is being gored, of course; but it smacks of gruesome disingenuity to cheer the destruction of rich corporate executives that was done using the very same methods now decried as horrendous when used against the common man and woman.

Yet another angle has been taken by those discussing the perspective of prostitutes, particularly those sex workers who command the staggering fees Spitzer and other men of wealth and power are willing to pay. Well represented in an article by Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword, this approach offers insights into the thinking of the prostitutes, themselves, on what they do, why they do it, and even what they believe is in the minds of the men who pay them for sex.

As good as all of these conversations are, what is missing in all of this, it seems to me, is the perspective of a man who pays for high-priced sex workers. Although it would necessarily—and perhaps rightly—bring down upon the writer a firestorm of criticism, it would also, if it were written honestly, offer an invitation to a dialog that could lead to a definition of issues, the setting forth of clear-cut problems, and maybe even the fielding of posible solutions. (Or not.)

As oddly diverse as my life has been, I cannot do any of that. I have never paid a person thousands of dollars for sex, although I went to places where those kinds of ladies and their prices were common; and the people with whom I worked—powerful, wealthy men—did throw down that kind of money and would have been more than glad to put a girl for me on a company credit card. As happened to be the case, though, by the time I was a consultant traveling in circles far beyond my breeding or personal worth, I had long been fully engage in the long-term stages, fitful as such efforts always are, of full-blown war between my will and my wants.

I do remember things, though; but my own, personal memories have nothing to do with Mayflower Hotels, knock-dead beautiful women, and breath-taking pursuit of a high life of abundance in everything from the love of a good woman and kids to the wines, women, and music of fantastic days of respect and nights of abandoning excess.

All I could tell you about is a dark, grim world that was the nature and reflection of my own dark, grim heart. (God, I hope it was only my heart and not my very soul that was involved; but I suspect otherwise, now that I look back.)

I think most people would not care to read about that seamy place, either the one within or its shadow without, unvarnished and disturbing as some of the imagery of senses and sentiments might be. Aside from how troubling such a tale would necessarily unfold in narrative, its substance and consequences really have nothing whatsoever to do with the terrible economic crises facing this country and nothing whatsoever to do with the wholesale destruction of the remaining shards of civil liberties and rights being plowed asunder by both Republicans and Democrats. Quite honestly, the substance and consequences of a pathetic story of common sin and unglamourous self-destruction really have nothing to do with the motives and misdeeds of the rich and famous, either.

Nevertheless, I am thinking just now that maybe I should tell you a story later tonight. If I do, it will be written in the third person, of course; I may be forthcoming, but I'm certainly not stupid.

I am going to the store to buy some food, and then I shall make my dinner. The time in these endeavors will be spent thinking about whether or not my planned writing assignment is worthy of pursuit. A post-script will be provided at the end of this article to explain whether or not I shall proceed.

The Dark Wraith will return.

9:10 p.m. EDT

Never mind.

Some things are better left unexpressed. The story of the day is about powerful, well-to-do men; beautiful, expensive women; and exotic, dangerously titillating, naughty sex stories set in lovely, five-star hotels.

The ambiguity of darkness leaves too many people unsatisfied. It's sort of like the inevitability of this nation's collapse into the misery of a degraded, authoritarian state: no one likes a story without a happy ending.

Unfortunately, the 21st Century, like its backdrop in darkness, has no exit.

The Dark Wraith stands down on the matter, now.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

Fiscal Conservatives

by: blackdog

From Think Progress via C-Span2.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI

When President Bush took over, leading economists were debating the consequences of this great nation being debt-free. Standing tall in the world with no claim on it by foreign powers. But this President made a different choice. Instead of keeping our nation on the path to economic security and prosperity, to new investments in our health care system, our students, our seniors, and our veterans, the President who called for responsibility squandered away the surpluses he inherited, mortgaged away our children and grandchildren’s futures, and compromised the quality of working Americans’ lives.

How can we measure the magnitude of the harm done to our economy and our people done by this administration’s decision to deviate from the responsible policies of President Clinton?

The first chart shows the budget plans of President Clinton as he left office and the budget formulated by President Bush. As you can see, the Clinton line — represented in blue based on his levels of taxation and spending — has budget surpluses every single year of this decade. In contrast, the Bush budget line — represented in red — has deep record-setting deficits in every year after 2001.

This next chart illustrates the value of the differences between the budget landscape planned by President Clinton and the one created by President Bush. As you can see, the difference between the two is a staggering $7.7 trillion. This number represents the fiscal harm that President Bush has inflected on our nation. This number is the Bush debt. […]

Like most concepts of enormous size, this amount takes some thought to comprehend. $7.7 trillion is $25,000 owed by every adult or child in the United States.

As I've mentioned before, I just can't begin to imagine the complete and total throw away of this staggering amount of money, basically for nothing. Every reauthorization of either the Clean Water Act or the Safe Drinking Water Act has a breakdown on how much money is desperately needed to address infrastructure issues. If I recall correctly, those numbers combined are a small fraction of $7.7T.

Fiscal conservatives? Really? By what measure?

Drunken sailors on leave with someone else's credit card is more like it.

Update From Hoffmania!

Federal budget deficit swells

The Treasury Department says the federal deficit swelled to $263.3 billion in the first five months of this budget year as record spending during the period outpaced record revenues.

The department's latest snapshot of the government's balance sheets, released Wednesday, shows that the deficit for the budget year that began Oct. 1 was up a whopping 62 percent from the red ink of $162.2 billion for the corresponding five-month period last year.

The latest year-to-date budget deficit of $263.3 billion was an all-time high, the government said.

If this is all conservatives can drag up then I quit. Used to be a time when conservatism meant something besides being dumber that the average dirtclod. It meant that you were a dirtclod.

With apologies to some that are truly fiscally conservative. In the real sense of the term.

The Voting Follies

by: spyderkl

I've been thinking about writing this for a while now, but certain things like life have been interrupting. However, the saga is still ongoing - and it looks like it'll be going on and on until at least November.

The voting follies are in full swing here in Colorado, and they go something like this:

Late last year, our Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, decertified almost all of the electronic voting machines used in the 2006 elections. Of the four different kinds of machines used here, three were declared unusable; the only ones that passed were manufactured by Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, Inc.

Since the vast majority of voting machines in the state were now unable to be used, and the election being less than a year away, there was a problem. How, exactly, would people vote without the electronic ballots? There is still an ongoing battle over what sort of ballot will be used. At one time, the idea of an all-mail-in election was suggested, but rejected. This past week, a bill allowing for an all-paper-ballot election passed through committee and is on its way to another vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee. This plan has been endorsed by our Governor, Bill Ritter, and many of our legislators. Our Secretary of State, as well as most of our county clerks, opposes this plan. His idea is to recertify the formerly unacceptable machines in time for the general election.

As has been reported earlier, Coffman has some, um, interesting ties to Premier Election Solutions. To be more accurate, members of his campaign staff, both those who were around for his Secretary of State bid in 2006 and his current campaign to replace Rep. Tom Tancredo in CO-6. It might possibly have something to do with his claims that their electronic voting machines were perfectly acceptable for use - and possibly why he's so eager to recertify the other machines in time for November. But perhaps that's just my overly suspicious nature. Yes, that must be it.

This isn't the end of The Voting Follies here. There'll be more, really really soon.

Evil Mommy

11 March 2008

Twang Me, You Saxy Thang

by: Foiled Goil

EDITED and UPDATED 11:15 PM, 12 Mar 08:

Curses! Foiled again! I have now replaced the "newer" youtube video version originally posted here with an "older" newer version that works. And, here is the original 45 rpm record golden oldie version ( c. 1958 ), for those who want more sax and less violins.

To my fellow Rebel Rousers: tune up your happy feet.

We may as well laugh, sing, dance and enjoy each day, while we can. The rickety old handbasket to Hell is sinking fast, so let's have a little fun on this ride and keep it a-rockin' and a-rollin' in this ol' diner.

Here's the "older" newer version of a great golden oldie by Duane Eddy:

Ya with me?

· ·

Long Speak with Father

by: blackdog

Just had a rather long talk with Father Tyme. It was worthwhile, I go to sleep on it. No pictures now, nothing, not squat. I'm sorta bummed.

Trog69, I need you. Never forget that we share similar paths. We may meet on one, I hope we do at some time. You are worth it.

Your humor and invective is appreciated here, I recall someone saying that "Trog rocks".

For better or worse I pulled two posts here for lack of attention, not that I care about that so much, but a comment or two is appreciated, remember that we are a family, and a close one at that.

Get with the picture. Damn it. Do I have to act like a Father? You don't want that. And that wasn't to Trog, that was to the rest of you. We have to be civil to each other. At all costs. A family has responsibilities.

Trog, I will still look into your mirror and contemplate the whichnesses of the why. Take care compadre.

Go to get the Woof and reheat the treats we fixed a' la Minstrel for a later night snack. Irish Stew, not bad. Bed coming up soon.

I go to bed thinking that Ann Coulter is not under my bed, and that the Dark One will not skewer me easily, nor will the Minstrel sing a song about my death tonight. But I do go to bed with the hope that our connections become more firm.


The Fox and the Weasels: CENTCOM Commander Resigns under Pressure from White House

by: Dark Wraith

Admiral William FallonIn the wake of a favorable profile article just published in Esquire magazine, CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon, a former fighter pilot with the nickname "Fox," has resigned. The Esquire article, written by former Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett, describes what had been the Admiral's on-going "challenge" to official Bush Administration policy regarding Iran: Fallon had stated in interviews and in meetings with Mideast leaders that an unprovoked, preemptive U.S. attack on Iran was "not on the table," directly contradicting saber-rattling words by White House officials including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who have both asserted that "all options" (presumably including aggressive war) are, indeed, on the table. In fact, Fallon's attempts to reassure friendly regimes in the Middle East were in direct contradiction to the standing views not just of the Bush Administration, but also of leaders in Congress, among them three U.S. Senators currently running for President: Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with Republican John McCain, have all refused to categorically rule out a military option against Iran, leaving Fallon with no one other than fellow military commanders to publicly or privately express grave reservations about commencing a third war to complement the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the United States is mired with attendant, perilous depletion of the war-making ability of its armed forces.

Admiral Fallon's disputes with White House decision-making have not been limited to military and diplomatic policy regarding Iran. When the Bush Administration appointed General David Petraeus to head military operations in Iraq, his first meeting with Admiral Fallon in Baghdad turned ugly when Petraeus, having attempted to ingratiate himself to the CENTCOM head, received a sharp rebuke. Although, in the Esquire article, the Admiral denies this exchange transpired, sources familiar with the incident report that Fallon called Petraeus "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and went on to add, "I hate people like that." The disconnect between Fallon's view of Petraeus and that of members of Congress was stark. When Petraeus testified on the Hill, congressional representatives fawned shamelessly over him; and the U.S. House of Representative went so far as to overwhelmingly pass a resolution condemning the anti-war group for having mocked Petraeus' name in an advertisement opposing the Bush Administration's plan to send a "surge" of troops to Iraq, a plan Petraeus had been installed, at least in part, to promote.

A permanent replacement for Admiral Fallon has not been named, but it seems certain that the choice will be governed not by the need for top-notch command-level leadership, but instead by the ideologically driven imperative of White House officials to empower only those who are certain not to deviate in words or actions from Bush Administration war-making policies, guided as they are by neo-conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney who have never served in the armed forces. Concern is being expressed in some quarters that the resignation of Admiral Fallon has removed one significant remaining barrier to a pre-emptive attack on Iran that would not only solidify Bush's legacy as a war President, but also embroil his successor, whoever ends up being elected, in three simultaneous wars. Because such a scenario now looms considerably more feasible in the wake of Adm. Fallon's resignation, the candidates running for President might very well find their unwillingness to take war with Iran off the table a moot point.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

Indian Pudding (first posted 11/02/06)

by: Minstrel Boy

I'm reposting this because it is one of my favorite recipes, but also because HBO is running a series based on David McCullogh's brilliant biography of Adams. Adams was a politician to the bone. He knew how to play the game very well. Had he been a better liar we would be spending money with his visage on it.

This dish has a long and storied history in America. It was a favorite dish of my favorite of the Founding Fathers, John Adams. He had it for dessert at night and then reheated in the morning and served with cold milk. He also drank hard cider at every meal. There are no monuments to Adams, he knew that there most likely would not be and was bothered by that knowledge. Yet, he was instrumental in almost every single event in our early history. His ranting and railing at the Continental Congress was the stuff of legend. His outburst before his resolution on "independency" was brilliant stuff. He pointed out that King George had already declared the colonies to be in rebellion and that Congress had yet to do so. He, with remarkable self-awareness told Jefferson that he should be the writer of the Declaration because "I'm not half the writer you are, and besides, I'm obnoxious and disliked." I think I admire Adams most because of his human failings. I understand his single minded pursuit of excellence. I admire his fidelity and love of his wife and family. I am in awe of the courage it took for him to stand in the Court of St. James as the first Ambassador and be ignored. That he was able to rise above his frailties and truly achieve greatness was brilliant and courageous stuff. Would that we had politicians of that mettle now. Since we can't seem to find anyone that is willing to act like John Adams, at least we can eat like him. There are many variations to this dish. This recipe is from the lovely and strong Abigail. It is plain and simple. I will list some of the possible variations after the original has been presented. My kids adore this. When I would have it on the table they would, when they were little, exclaim "Indian Pudding! 'Cause we're Indians!" (the last words shouted at proper war whoop volumes) My stock reply was always to say "Indeed you are my darlings."


1 quart scalded milk
1/3 cup corn meal (she means yellow or yankee corn meal here)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 good teaspoon ginger (slighty more than level will do nicely)

Scald the milk and strain through a sieve into a double boiler pan with the corn meal (milk skin is icky and I have discovered that tossing it to the dogs keeps them out from underfoot while I'm moving about the kitchen, they also manage a good floor cleanup while they're at it). Over rapidly boiling, salted water (there's some scientific principle about salting the water, it makes it go a little hotter or a little cooler I never can remember which one) mix together with the salt and cook, stirring often (you don't have to do this constantly but scorching and lumping are to be discouraged) for 20 to 25 minutes. You're looking for a thick, rich porridge here. Bubbles should bulge and hiss steam like Yellowstone mud pots and the granularity of the meal should be tenderized. Mix in the molasses (and I like to start with 3 tablespoons of good maple syrup then top off with a viscous dark blackstrap molasses to make 1/2 cup) and the ginger and transfer to a buttered soufflé dish (see that's not a totally single use item) or a sturdy baking dish and bake at 300° for about 2 hours. This is orgasmic if you serve it with a top flight vanilla ice cream.

Now, to variations. Dried fruit can be added without any changes at all. If you choose to add eggs, you will be making it more of a custard and will have to increase the milk proportionally. You might be tempted to add cinnamon or nutmeg or a dose of brown, white or maple sugar. Resist these foolish thoughts! Think of John Adams scowling at you for putting on airs! Molasses and ginger were huge treats at a colonial New England table. Cinnamon and nutmeg were only available through the same East India Tea Company bastards that were fouling up a pretty good system, while ginger could be smuggled easily by good neighbors like Hancock through New Orleans from the Islands. Show your solidarity with our Founders, eat some Indian Pudding, drink some hard cider and imagine Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine taking turns bitch slapping our current President while John Adams, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Jay, Jefferson and a handsome young Hamilton smoked their pipes and offered technical advice.

crosspudding at harp and sword

Straight From The "Whores's" Mouth

by: Minstrel Boy

With the fall from grace of Eliot Spitzer I took it upon myself to call the beautiful April. She has first hand knowledge of this world. She works as an "escort" in Palm Springs.

At the beginning of the call she was a little taken aback. Her work as an escort is one of the things we simply don't talk about. In the interest of fairness and equity, she's never asked me about road cookies, except from the standpoint of new things to try. I've never thought about asking her, it just has not been a subject that I ever felt like broaching. I've been around the world a few times, liked it every trip too. However, I've always been more comfortable leaving the hows, whys, and intricate manners of that world alone. Especially when it comes to April. Neither of us has a great history of dealing with complications in relationships, it's kind of the main reason we've stumbled into what ever you might call what we have going.

I told her that I wanted to understand how arrangements like Spitzer's work. She said "Just like my agency. The client (not trick, not john, not customer) calls the agency and requests company for an agreed amount of time for an agreed upon fee. "Extras" are negotiated between the escort and the customer. The agency provides access to the woman and nothing more."

I had to ask "What does the customer get for the money." She said "Discretion mainly. We won't ever call them at home or intrude on the rest of their lives. They can ask us to do things that their wives and other non-professionals won't do." I figured Shit! Minefield! Change this topic! Now!" She said "Mostly, it's pretty mundane stuff." (my head says "I don't even want to get into what she thinks is exotic" and I tell the fucking head to shut up)

I had to ask though "What were they talking about when they mentioned he was into dangerous stuff? Condoms? Is the guvner one of those bareback riders?" She said "That's what it sounded like. (short pause) I. Never. Do. That. Ever. There's not enough money in the world for me to do that. Not with a bloodtest from yesterday. Never. Is that what you were worried about?" I told her that was not something I was concerned about. The only times I ever doubt her judgement is when she hangs in there with me. She laughed, that's a good sign. So I plunge on.

"When they talk about the discretion and the privacy how far should it go? Should a girl take extra time in an arrest situation to protect the privacy of a client?" She said without a second of hesitation "Of course. That's part of the deal. That's the main part of the deal. Because my agency is in Palm Springs we get a lot of big names. Business names, Show Business names, Political names. They come to us because they can't hang out in the singles bars or other pickup places, and, most of all, they know we won't talk about it. If we see them somewhere else, we look the other way, and they do the same."

I asked how pervasive these arrangements are in the halls of power. She said "Think about it for a second. Imagine you're a rising young star and you get tired of not being able to just latch onto a good healthy sport fuck without endangering your career. Or, you are afraid to ask your wife about maybe bringing in a third party for a three for all, you just want some no strings fucking, you have the money to pay for it and when it's over everybody goes about their business. Doesn't that make sense? What if you're a Congressman or Statie who talks about morality and sanctity of marriage but your wife quit giving head six years ago? If you like head, and want head, why not just get an escort who will go down and seem to enjoy it?"

I said "So privacy, and lack of inhibition is the main attraction?" She said "Yes. An escort service should be the ultimate safe sex." I asked if she was worried about her agency being outed and she said "We have tapes and records, too many captains of industry and politics would fall. So would the city and county governments, to say nothing at all of the police force. Including the feds."

I left it at that. I thought about getting into pricings but decided against it. After all, I love this girl.


In another call I asked the beautiful April how pervasive her service was in the society and culture where we live. She said, "It's pervasive and infiltrated enough that one of the girls I work with was at the fundraiser you played over the weeekend in Malibu. She said you spent most of the weekend hanging out with that backup singer you used to date. Is that pervasive enough for your ass?"

This means that the girl she is talking about was staying in the home of the event's organizer, either as a full pledged guest herself or as the escort of another invited guest.

harp and sword

hmmm... it would put the swiftboaters in dock. can't be bad.

by: astraea

State Lawmaker Wants To Ban Anonymous Posting Online

I like tI like it. Comments would be worth reading. A good for instance: Now Playing at Matt Welch on Bill Moyers Journal. Serious piece, great watch, far better discussion than the sunday shrills, tweety, fox blowhards, et al. Now look at the comments. Ties??? Speaks buckets about our shallow callous glom-driven shouted-over psyche.

Waxman Calls for Blackwater Investigations

by: Foiled Goil

Chairman Waxman Calls for Blackwater Investigations

The Gavel – March 10th, 2008:

This morning Chairman Henry Waxman of the Oversight Committee sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service (pdf), the Small Business Administration (pdf), and the Department of Labor (pdf) to request investigations into whether Blackwater has violated federal tax, small business, and labor laws through improper classification of security guards as “independent contractors” rather than “employees.”

The executive summary of the memorandum to Committee staff (pdf) explains:

On October 22, 2007, I wrote to Blackwater CEO Erik Prince raising concern that Blackwater evaded millions of dollars in federal tax payments through its improper classification of security guards as “independent contractors” rather than “employees.” My letter was based in part on a March 2007 Internal Revenue Service ruling, which concluded that Blackwater violated federal tax law by designating an armed guard as an independent contractor. Committee staff estimated that Blackwater failed to pay or withhold up to $50 million under its contract with the State Department.

Since then, the Committee’s investigation has revealed two other contexts in which Blackwater appears to have improperly exploited this “independent contractor” designation. First, despite the fact that Blackwater is one of the largest private military contractors, receiving nearly $1.25 billion in federal contracts since 2000, Blackwater has sought and received special preferences normally reserved for small businesses. As it did in the tax context, Blackwater claimed that its security guards were not “employees” for the purpose of counting the company’s total number of staff. As a result, Blackwater obtained small business contracts without competing with other qualified bidders that properly designated their guards as employees. The Committee staff has identified at least 100 small business set-aside contracts. worth over $144 million, that have been awarded to Blackwater since 2000.

In addition, Blackwater has refused to cooperate with an audit by the Department of Labor into Blackwater’s potentially discriminatory employment practices. The audit seeks to determine whether Blackwater has complied with affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws imposed on all federal contractors. Blackwater has argued that it is not bound by these laws since it classifies its security guards as “independent contractors” rather than “employees.” On this basis, Blackwater has refused to turn over documents requested by the Department of Labor, stalling the Department’s inquiry for the last six months.

In all three instances, Blackwater has asserted in official communications that its security guards are independent contractors because the company does not exercise sufficient control over their activities in Iraq or Afghanistan. Blackwater has claimed in official communications that its security guards are “in no way directly supervised or controlled by Blackwater”; that they “do not report to any of the Blackwater entities regarding their work in the field”; and that they “do not report to Blackwater regarding their operations in country.” Blackwater has also claimed that it “plays no role in the development or planning of the contractors’ security missions” and “has little if any knowledge regarding the location or activities of these independent contractors.” According to Blackwater, its “only real involvement is to pay the independent contractors.”

All of these claims appear to be false. [snip]

· · ·

Soda Bread

by: Minstrel Boy

This is the real thing too. To be fully appreciated you make it the day before it is served. That gives the bread a chance to calm and settle in both flavor and texture.

This is the recipe from my aunt in Ireland. It's what she serves. The additions and variations that I go into at the back end of it come from all over. Even Liverpool, the Irish colony in Britain.


3 1/2 cups cake flour (the finer grind helps with the texture)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°

Sift the dry ingredients together at least 3 times. You have to achieve an even distribution of the soda. It's critical. Place the sifted batch into a large mixing bowl (leave yourself plenty of stirring room, you won't have time later to be delicate) and form a depression in the middle of the dry stuff. Pour 3/4s of the buttermilk into the depression and begin to stir briskly. You want a dough that is very soft and raggy. With the rags and lumps being very squishy. You want to feel that if you added another glop of liquid you might have a batter. Add the remaining liquid sparingly. If you over add liquid don't be afraid to toss a handfull of flour into it. It's fucking Soda Bread, not rocket science.

Speed however, is important here. The chemical reaction of the soda and the buttermilk has begun and you want this puppy in the oven while it is still churning internally. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it quickly. We aren't looking for the traditional smooth and elastic ball of dough. What we want is a mostly cohesive lump of sog that will contain the bulk of the ingredients. That's all.

Shape it into a slightly domed hemisphere of about 6 to 8" round. Use a very sharp knife to cut a 3" cross in the top. Use a very sharp knife because you do not want to squish or compress any of the lovely CO2 bubbles which are forming madly away inside your ball of goo. Gently transfer this to a lightly floured baking sheet (corn meal makes for a great sheet duster too) and carefully put it into the middle rack of the oven. We take care at this part because the CO2 bubbles are very vulnerable at this point. We want them to be there so we are going to be gentle, aren't we?

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then without opening the oven, reduce the temperature to 400°. Bake at 400° for another 30 minutes.

To check your loaf for doneness thunk it sharply with your finger. If it sounds hollow, it's done. For a crusty, crunchy loaf (my favorite), cool it on a rack. For a softer crust wrap immediately in a cheesecloth.

This is one of the ultimate breadsops ever invented. It will clean every drop of broth from a soup or stock from a stew. It's murder on gravy.

Spotted Dog

Is simply soda bread with a handfull of raisins added at the kneading. If you must, you can also add a teaspoon of sugar. I don't, but it's been done. This is more of a teabread.

Treacle Bread

2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
healthy pinch of ground ginger

The directions for treacle bread are the same. Remember Speed Saves This. Don't lollygag or dally. Turn to and turn it out. It will be great.

harp and sword
10 March 2008

Elliot Spitzer: Governor by Day, John by Night

by: Dark Wraith

Elliot SpitzerNew York Governor Elliot Spitzer is expected to announce his resignation in the wake of reports that he had been a client of a prostitution service under federal investigation. Although The New York Times initially reported the story as if Spitzer was actually involved as a principal of the criminal enterprise, federal investigators are now indicating that initial suspicions that Spitzer was taking bribes from a company called QAT (pronounced "cat") were the result of money transfers he had made to buy sex from the company's dba, Emperors Club, which charges clients an hourly rate of between $1,000 and $5,500.

That's right: Men pay this prostitution service anywhere from a grand to fifty-five hundred for every hour they have with an Emperors Club prostitute.

Once more for the record: Rich men are paying one thousand to five thousand five hundred dollars per hour for butt, a rate that would compel any normal man, regardless of how desperate he was, to opt instead to beat his own meat like it owed back rent.

But Elliot Spitzer paid it (along with room service, liquor, cab fare, and train tickets), as apparently did other men, given that the Governor is identified in the government's criminal complaint as "Client 9." According to the Associated Press, Spitzer is currently linked to at least one session with a sex worker, an encounter that lasted four hours. No indication has yet been given as to whether the entirety of that four hours was devoted to sexual intercourse, a prospect that would go a long way toward explaining his lean, healthy appearance and apparently continued dedication from his wife, who was by his side when he made a rather vague announcement on Monday of his legal problems. His three teenage daughters were not at the news conference, where he took no questions and seemed, for one reason or another, to be contrite.

More news about clean-cut governors, their ladies of ill repute, and four-hour sex sessions with room service later here at Dark Wraith Publishing.

· · · · ·

Poetry That Sings

by: Minstrel Boy

From atlargely.

It's by Larisa Alexandrovna. It's one of the absolute best things I've ever read. I will be exploring her writing much more. I found her blog through buzzflash.

Here is the excellent poem.

Speaking to Jingo-Man

You cannot press me silent

Bruiser, because I don't have

Enough flags attached to my house,

Or because I don't like your lists and eyes

On lists, or threaten fists against

Me if I won't sit still.

You cannot shove me quiet

Brother, because I don't have crosses

On my wall or because I don't read your

Book or Books of Books, or

Threaten to get your hooks on

Me if I won't agree.

You cannot strike me still

Buster, because I don't rage

Along with you to make the world

Genteel or because I don't want your goods

Or wares, or forced words on worlds,

That don't speak for me.

You cannot hit me -free -

Bully, because my eyes can see

The past and all the other eyes that came

Before mine enough to know that you

Can't have your lies for long before the

Rot stinks up the place.

Goddamn, that's some good stuff.

harp and sword

Pharmaceutical Water

by: Dark Wraith

Bad WaterNow that the Associated Press has published a short article disclosing the presence in drinking water of all kinds of pharmaceuticals, ranging from antibiotics and anti-convulsants to mood stabilizers and sex hormones, the officials are reacting rather predictably: EPA's head of water safety is mumbling, "’We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously"; but the real winner is from Tom Curtis, deputy executive director of the The American Water Works Association, who claims, "[The public] doesn’t know how to interpret the information” from tests for water pollutants. His assertion rests on the matter of the extent to which modern testing methods can detect very low concentrations—in parts per billion—of contaminants; but his assertion also ignores the lack of large-scale, conclusive studies on long-term—indeed, life-spanning—effects on biological systems of very low-level consumption of these contaminants. As an alternative to simply dismissing public concerns about these trace amounts of medications showing up in the water people drink every day, it would be best to take the cautionary approach of the doctor quoted in the original AP article, who said, "That can't be good."

At the same time, however, pointing the finger of blame at the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association, municipal water treatment facilities, or even the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs showing up in tap water is an exercise in misplaced responsibility. The principle reason meds are floating in the water is none other than modern American culture and its utter obsession with what has been rather prejudicially described by this editorialist as the Church of Medicine.

Eating what is quite literally a pharmaceutical dosage load in the hundreds of billions of pills every year, and being utterly convinced that there is no way to reject these prescriptions, the American public is pumping through its collective body phenomenal amounts of chemicals that then get expelled through urine and feces; then, for some inexplicable reason, those very same Americans comprising that worried public get all kinds of excited because their bodies are doing exactly what bodies do: they expel waste, toxins, and all other manner of things they do not need or are finished using.

And then, for some even more inexplicable reason, that same American public wants the government to make this consequence of the national obsession with the pill-driven lifestyle of modernity go away. Instead of pointing the finger at the source of the pollution, which is people who just cannot turn down the prospect of pain-free, mentally "stable" near-immortality, that American public wants action to clean up the water.

Funny thing about water, though. If we look into a pool of it, we're probably going to see our own reflection.

Perhaps the EPA can do something about that problem, too.

The Dark Wraith, for his own part, will be using distilled water.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·

Irish Stew

by: Minstrel Boy

This dish is the Irish version of Jewish Pennicilin (or chicken soup). It will cure what ails ya. It is very simple, so simple that it really does not tolerate a lot of dressing up or innovation.

I do many simple recipes. Here's the thing though. Simplicity demands perfection. Do these simple things perfectly and the result will be as dramatic as the long and involved three day process dishes.


2lbs boneless leg of lamb, well trimmed and cut into 1/2" cubes
small amount of olive oil
1 3/4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (red or new potatoes will do, I go with cheap in the bulk bag russets)
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks (remove the strings first you barbarian)
3 large leeks, white portion only, halved and washed, sliced very thin
2 cups lamb stock (use low sodium chicken stock if you don't have lamb stock)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
salt (kosher or sea salt is best)
fresh ground pepper
coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Brown the lamb meat in the olive oil in a separate skillet. Drain well. Add all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, and parsley in a slow cooker. Set the cooker to low and walk away. After about two hours add in the salt and pepper to taste. When the lamb meat is fork tender (about 4 hours in my crockpot) it's ready. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley when the bowls are ladled.

Serve with soda bread or lots of crackers.

This is even better the next day.

Expect the soda bread recipe soon.

harp and sword

More music for Trog69

by: Debra

This was a favorite of mine also, thanks for reminding me, it definitely rocks and is going on to the iPod.

Too bad the Brian Setzer embed one was disabled by request.

It's Not The Income, It's The Outgo

by: Debra

Inequality myth my ass. Hoo boy, where to start. Don't you just love when professors conveniently present "facts" that support their point of view and ignore reality as they drive down their privileged streets?
First, we can easily dismiss the notion that the poor are getting poorer. All the Census Bureau tells us is that the share of the pie consumed by the poor has been shrinking (to 3.4% in 2006 from 4.1% in 1970). But the "pie" has grown enormously. This year's real GDP of $14 trillion is three times that of 1970. So the absolute size of the slice received by the bottom 20% has increased to $476 billion from $181 billion. Allowing for population growth shows that the average income of people at the bottom of the income distribution has risen 36%.

They're not rich, but they're certainly not poorer. In reality, economic growth has raised incomes across the board.
And prices haven't risen at all. An apartment that rented for a few hundred dollars in 1970 now rents for over a thousand. The price of food, gas, and clothing have risen more than 36% in 38 years.
The supposed decline of the poor and middle class is exaggerated even more by the dynamics of population growth. When people look at the "poor" in any two years, they think they're looking at the same people. That's rarely true, especially over longer periods of time.
When Lisa Marie Presley (I'm sorry but talent definitely skipped a generation) feels that she can redo one of her father's records and picks In The Ghetto, maybe not all that much has changed for certain segments of the population. And once again, New Orleans is conveniently forgotten.

Being of the new breed of conservative, he brings up immigration.
Since 1998, the U.S. population has increased by over 20 million. Nearly half of that growth has come from immigration, legal and illegal. Overwhelmingly, these immigrants enter at the lowest rungs on the income ladder. Statistically, this immigrant surge not only reduces the income of the "average" household, but also changes the occupants of the lowest income classes.
Overwhelmingly? Well, I live here in Silicon Valley and there is plenty of immigration. From China and India. They have these cute visas and have taken away the well paying jobs from those who have blue eyes and those jobs that are left are either outsourced or pay so little that only illegals who live twenty to a home and don't mind eating rice and beans as their daily meal can afford to live on the salary. Caucasians are in the minority and if blacks aren't driving the buses, garbage and tow trucks, they are nowhere to be seen.
Something similar happens with the distribution of income. People keep entering the distribution line from the bottom. Even though individuals are moving up the line, the middle of the line never seems to move. Hence, an unchanged -- or even receding -- median marker could co-exist with individual advancement. The people who were at the middle marker before have moved up the distribution line. This is the kind of income mobility that has long characterized U.S. income dynamics.
Is that why with a Master's degree both my brother and myself are making less money than we did in the eighties? In reality, we entered from the middle and educated our way to the bottom.
That broad swath of economic advancement shows up in personal consumption. According to the Labor Department, personal consumption spending has risen by $2.5 trillion since 2000. More Americans own homes and new cars today than ever before, despite slowdowns in both industries. Laptop computers, iPhones and flat-panel TVs are fast becoming necessities rather than luxury items.
I live in a mobile home that I don't own and my brother has a house that is worth less than his home loan and he's had that house for over five years. Neither of us have new cars but I do have a flat panel tv. I got it when I wrecked my car and decided that since we were entering the digital age and it didn't look like my income was going to improve any time soon, I might as well bite the bullet and get a small one while it was on sale since going to the movies or a concert is not in my budget. A real vacation or buying new clothes is totally out of the question. So is the iPhone and I hate to break it to you, but a computer isn't a luxury anymore, it's what you need to survive in today's world. They recognize that in developing countries but I guess when you are devolving it just isn't considered important.

I made more money in the eighties on a secretarial salary and it certainly went a lot further than it does now. I lived by myself, had a new car and was able to go out to dinner whenever I wanted. Now my 77 year old mother and I share a trailer. I drive a fourteen year old car that guzzles gas and we go to the Vietnamese soup place every couple of months because it's cheap and I get tired of cooking sometimes. As soon as I get $1500 together, I'll be filing bankruptcy and can take those classes on how to spend money I obviously don't have so I won't get into debt again.

And during the summer, I grow my own vegetables. One, because they taste better and two, because then I can afford meat. Go back to your tenured job where you get to spout this crap and leave the rest of us alone. I can't afford the blood pressure medicines I need after reading your rosy view of your world.



The Grand Obnoxious Party

by: Foiled Goil

The lock-stepping, rubber-stamping, do-nothing-good, wah-wah-wah GOP obstructionists are still at it. Shame on them.

Procedural Pandemonium!!!!

by Kagro X

Well, OK, it's not pandemonium. But guess what? House Republicans are being petulant children again, and they're using the House procedural rules to play their games.

And you'll never guess what procedural device they're using to make their mischief.

Remember the motion to recommit? It's back (it never left, actually), and it's at the center of an annoying time-waster of a trick that looks like it's going to become standard Republican operating procedure for the next few weeks.

Here's what's happening.

At the end of consideration of pretty much any bill of any substance on any issue, a Republican offers a motion to recommit the bill to committee, with instructions to strike out everything in it and substitute in its place the text of the Senate-passed FISA bill -- the one with retroactive amnesty for the telecom companies.

It doesn't matter, for the Republicans' purposes, that the bill they're trying to pull this trick on has nothing whatsoever to do with FISA, electronic surveillance, or any related topic.

It matters to the rules, of course. And so every time, without fail, a Democrat raises a point of order against the motion as non-germane, the presiding officer sustains the point of order -- because it's quite correct and the Republicans know it. Still, each time the Republicans appeal the ruling of the chair. That prompts the Democrats to move to table the appeal, on which the House then holds a vote.

So in the end, the Republicans don't succeed in actually getting a vote on, much less passing, the Senate FISA bill. But they get to make trouble, rack up Democratic votes against it, and in fact end up getting a second bite at the motion to recommit apple, since the first one they offered was ruled out of order.

And that's where Republicans have been making even more trouble.

You may recall that the other day, mcjoan told us that Congressional Dems may just have to run out the clock on the 110th without getting anything major done. Now it looks like House Republicans have decided to make sure even less gets accomplished, by proposing amendments to every bill through the motion to recommit, but then declining Democratic offers to accept those changes, preferring to kill entire bills and their own amendments with contrived delays.

Congratulations, then, to the Republicans, for inventing the House equivalent of the filibuster. Or at least the House "hold." Granted, in the other body, just one Senator can do this all alone. But among the House Republican Borg, there is but one collective mind. So when one pulls this delaying move, all are sure to follow, committing their votes to it just as readily and robotically as they did in their glory days as the Rubber Stamp Republicans of old.

Look for more of the same in the coming days.

In sum, our country under Bush has become the opposite of what we always thought it was. So what should we call Bush’s two terms, how will it be known by future generations? I think the appropriate term should be "The American Dark Age". It seems to me that this term is appropriate when referring to these eight years under Bush. He wants to leave a legacy, and he sure has. Let’s give his legacy an appropriate name.

· · · ·
09 March 2008

Sunday Not So Funnies

by: Debra

A true Bushie, a founding member of the crew without a clue. Poor widdle baby, it's always everyone else's fault. Or maybe it was just a bad plan that was doomed from the start, killed thousands of troops in the middle and now the end looks like it's surging back to the middle.

So women can perform well under fire, which is why she got the Silver Star. And she's alive to receive it. Congratulations, I hope it helps with the nightmares.

Slap another yellow sticker on the car, nothing is too good for our troops in Iraq. Not even water.

Europe got its massive unmanned space truck into orbit to resupply the International Space Station. I hope they get this thing built before it's time to be decommissioned by the end of the next decade.

Did you know that crime pays? Not for the criminal but for everyone else involved. Especially for private prison management companies. They're doing a great job too. As long as you don't count the murderers who get out and do it again. Why aren't anger management classes required before release? Does it cut into the profit or does it make sure the same people keep ending up behind bars?

You are what you eat. Or drink. Which means that the people we thought were batshit crazy, probably have mad cow disease. When they start falling down for no reason, we'll know for sure. Because it isn't like there is decent government oversight, it got drowned in the bathtub.

You don't have to live in this country to be crazy as well as stupid. What kind of drugs are they on to think that this will help the peace process with the Palestinians? It looks more like the piece by piece process.

Another aspect of the housing crisis that people forgot. Who needs a McMansion when the kids are gone, the housework is overwhelming and there is way too much space to rattle around in?

Oh well, that explains the bad attitude. I was born in Britain. On an Air Force Base which is considered to be United States ground just like the Consulates, so I can still run for President. Just like McCain. Unfortunately.


· · · · ·
08 March 2008

Hastert Seat Taken by Dem Physicist

by: Dark Wraith

Bill FosterIn a special election in the solidly Republican Chicago exurbs comprising Illinois' 14th Congressional District, Democrat Bill Foster, a businessman and former physicist at Fermilab, has defeated Republican Jim Oberweis, a dairy industry magnate, to complete the remainder of the term of Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

After Republicans lost control of the House, Hastert resigned from Congress to take a job as a lobbyist before tougher congressional rules on such employment by former congressmen took effect. His resignation was among the first of what would become a historic number of GOP lawmakers resigning or otherwise announcing they would not run for re-election.

Despite support from Hastert, presumptive GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, and other noteworthy Republicans, and despite some rather ugly divorce-related allegations about the Dem candidate physically abusing his spouse, Oberweis lost to Foster by a convincing margin that sends a strong warning to the Republican Party that no seat, regardless of what long-time, high-profile Republican has held it, is safe in this election year when the economy is coming apart at the seams and voters are looking for leaders representing a new direction for the country.

· · · ·

It's Bad

by: Dark Wraith

The New York Times is offering yet another article announcing the hot news of a multi-faceted, ugly economic downturn right on the American doorstep. In due time, I shall remind readers of article after article (and even videos, for cryin' out loud) I have published over the past nearly three years warning of the ungodly, inevitable consequences of the economic policies of the Bush Administration. Right now, I am savoring—indeed, licking my very chops—at the prospect of putting into print, "I said this would happen." In that glad time, I shall spare no invective and mince still fewer words condemning the people of this Administration; and no less shall I rip a proverbial New 1 for the spineless Democrats who could have stopped this economic catastrophe but chose not to do so.

That's right, it was a choice those congressional Democrats made every last time they walked into the Capitol Building without a filibuster plan or articles of impeachment. One more time: It was a choice. And it was a choice both Hillary and Barack made, along with every other gutless wonder in Washington.

Now, we all pay, and pay dearly we shall. You want to know how bad it is?

Real bad.

Bad as in...

"Chinese cat food" bad;

"For some reason, you vaguely recall what Ann Coulter looks like naked" bad;

"Hillary Clinton wants to use you to get back at Bill" bad;

"Bill wants to use you to get over Monica" bad;

"Buzzards are circling the bank where you have your life's savings" bad;

"The hamburger in the quarter-pounder you ate two years ago has just been recalled" bad;

"Now, every time you get mad, you say 'Moo!'" bad;

"Your new girlfriend wants you to dress up like an Iraqi and she'll dress up like Lynndie England" bad;

"The photo you took of Barack Obama seems to show a heretofore unnoticed birthmark in his scalp that looks like '666'" bad;

"You go in for minor surgery and the anesthesiologist asks you about your organ donor status" bad;

"You leave the hospital having no idea why you have an incision in your kidney area" bad;

"You get arrested by a cop who runs a side business selling 'modified' Tasers to the Israelis" bad;

"That same cop offers to sell you a diaper before his interrogation starts" bad;

"Your kids stop playing Cowboys versus Indians and start playing CIA versus Detainees" bad;

"Next year, Dick Cheney becomes the CEO of your company" bad;

"Sometime later, you get invited on a Go Hunting with the CEO excursion" bad;

"John McCain becomes President, and the first thing he says is, 'It's payback time, Hanoi!'" bad;

"The next President of the United States ends up being Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain" bad.

Yes, folks, it's that bad.

Oh, and by the way: don't say I didn't warn you.

The Dark Wraith couldn't resist that parting shot for the evening.

· · ·

For Tali

by: Debra

Popcorn is one of the few songs that my brothers and I agree on, it brings back good memories. The original was done by Gershon Kingsley but we prefer the more famous version by Hot Butter from their album At The Movies. The ending is a little rude, I hate when a song isn't finished correctly.

It definitely gives me happy feet and I tend to hit repeat when it's on the iPod.


Attack Of The Stupids

by: Debra

Hazardous to their character, because being exposed to people with differing viewpoints or things known as facts might cause them to question your perception of reality? Ah yes, by all means let the stupid and uneducated homeschool their children. Please, let us continue to become more fractured and clueless as a society. One that practices even more intolerance and shortsighted thinking without an ounce of logic or the ability to recognize (a run on sentence) that with over six billion people on the planet maybe exposure to different cultures and thinking as opposed to bigotry might help us get ahead in the future. Instead of returning to our puritanical past, the one of scarlet letters and people were burned at the stake as witches.
"The parent-child relationship existed long before any government and makes it the responsibility of the parent to educate the child," he said. That responsibility includes protecting one's children from "things hazardous to the child, emotionally as well as physically," he said.

Long, 54, said he specifically objected to his children being taught in school about evolution and homosexuality.

"I want to keep and protect them until I feel they're mature enough to deal with these issues," he said. "I believe the creator wants us to protect our children from things we believe are hazardous to their character."
I believe that being exposed to stupidity on a daily basis is hazardous to their character and wonder what his opinion of incest is. A game the whole family can play? After a little research I found that the whole case started because one of eight of Mr. Long's homeschooled children complained that it was being mistreated and the juvenile court judge found that the children were poorly educated. What a surprise that isn't.

Yes, there have been children who have excelled by being homeschooled, but that was because they were too smart for a one size fits all education system and their parents had the ability to inspire their children to achieve, as opposed to being taught bigotry, racism and hatred of those who don't share your religious beliefs or just aren't like you.

Meanwhile, the Governator babbles on about every child deserves a quality education and then cuts funding through the bone to the marrow. In a few years not only will we have lost our status as major world economy, but we'll also have the distinction of having some of the world's most undereducated populace. It's absolutely fascinating how much like a third world country we are becoming. Now all we need are the floods, storms and being ignored by the federal government and we can be just like New Orleans or Tennessee.

Was the cost factored in to the economic stimulus plan? $42 million to let the taxpayers know their rebate is coming. Isn't that what the "news" and presidential speeches used to be for?

I didn't weigh in on the Charlotte Allen article since I was too stupid to understand what she was saying since I spent most of my life admiring Marie Curie and her Nobels chemistry and physics instead of reading romance novels that have no possibility of coming true (unlike science fiction, which has) or swooning over a candidate who doesn't have any concrete plans (at least not revealed to those of us little people) to go with his promise of "change". Why, even little Debbie didn't think it was funny and it's been a long time since I thought she was good at her job.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the stupidest President of them all? That would be Mr. Waterboard himself. Don't we wish. Guy can't even swallow a pretzel correctly.

Finally, a good reason for homeschooling. Because we just haven't had enough school shootings, now some states are allowing hunting education classes. As if people actually depended on that skill for their daily meal.


· ·

The Economics of Wreckage, Part Three

by: Dark Wraith

In Part Two of this series, post-World War II Keynesian policy was described in terms of the means by which real productivity gains were achieved in the American economy by coupling industrial policy with expansionary monetary policy to increase aggregate price levels faster than wages and salaries could keep up; the latter mechanism, expansionary monetary policy, was used to induce the labor force to work harder (more productively) to keep up with rising prices. The graphics presented in that installment speak for themselves: real wages—the compensation to labor net of inflation—have been at a virtual stand-still for decades; worse, in every inflation cycle, wage increases have lagged overall price increases by time frames measurable in years. This was precisely the desired effect described by the great 20th Century economist John Maynard Keynes: as long as wages are "sticky"—that is, unreactive to price run-ups in the short run—then the aggregate supply curve is not perfectly vertical, which means that stimulating aggregate demand through fiscal and monetary policy will result in real output increases. If that aggregate supply curve actually were vertical in the short run—a condition economists call "perfect inelasticity"—then suppliers would have no incentive to increase real output in the face of rising aggregate demand because there would be no greater profit since all factors of production would be absorbing their share of the price increases caused by government spending paid for by printing money at a rate in excess of the real growth rate of the economy.

Short-Run Aggregate Demand CurveThe graphic at left illustrates the aggregate demand curve for a national economy. Like its microeconomics cousin, which is called a "market" demand curve (for a single good or service), the aggregate demand curve slopes downward, but that is where the similarity ends. A market demand curve is downward sloping because of the Law of Demand, which asserts that, as the price of a good or service rises, consumers will tend to buy a lesser amount of it because its price relative to substitutes is rising, thereby inducing consumers, to the extent that they can, to substitute away from it. In the national economic frame, however, when the aggregate price level rises, households cannot substitute away because the model is encompassing all goods and services of the economy, meaning that no substitution effect can occur. The national, aggregate demand curve slopes downward simply because, as the aggregate price level—all prices in the economy taken as a whole—rises, national income of households must be spread over a higher overall price base of goods and services, meaning that less total output can be purchased.

Short-Run Aggregate Supply CurveThe graphic at left illustrates the Keynesian short-run aggregate supply curve. Once again, like its microeconomics cousin, which is called a "market" supply curve (for a single good or service), the aggregate supply curve slopes upward, but the similarity ends there. A market supply curve slopes upward because of the Law of Supply, which asserts that, as the price of a good or service rises, producers will re-allocate productive resources toward making and selling that good or service because not doing so means incurring the rising opportunity cost of continuing to use those productive resources for goods and services whose relative prices are now falling with the rising price of the good or service under consideration. The overall, aggregate supply curve cannot be upward sloping for this same reason, though, because, again, the entire output and price level of the whole economy is being represented, which means the aggregate amount of output being supplied is not responding to shifts in productive resources away from other goods, since all goods are under consideration to begin with. The aggregate supply curve slopes upward for another reason, and this is where the Keynesian short-run scenario diverges from the long-run view held by the previously dominant, so-called "Classical" school of economics. Keynesian economic theory holds that, as the aggregate price level rises, in the short-run, producers can make greater profits because not all of the input factors they use will be getting an immediate and commensurate share of that inflationary price run-up. The founder of Keynesian economics, John Maynard Keynes, called this phenomenon "sticky wages," because labor contracts do not have instant adjustments for inflation, so workers who are facing rising prices for the goods and services they buy have to work harder, at least in the short run, to keep up with inflation. This effect affords businesses the ability to make more money because they can charge higher prices for their output, but they do not immediately have to pay their workers—and possibly some of their other productive factors—higher wages, even thought they, the producers, are making extra money because of the price run-ups in the products they produce and sell. Hence, in the Keynesian short-run economy, an increase in the aggregate price level actually causes an increase in real output. This means the graphical depiction of a short-run aggregate supply curve represents it as upward sloping; and, quite importantly, that slope is very shallow in the short run because only a small amount of inflation at the retail level will drive producers to create considerably more output since workers will ramp up their productivity smartly in the face of the need to make more money to maintain their lifestyles in the face of rising retail prices and stagnant wages and salaries.

Long-Run Aggregate Supply CurveThe graphic at left depicts how an economist of the Classical school of economics would depict the aggregate supply curve. Focusing on the long-run, a Classical economist would point out that it would be entirely illogical for any model to assert that a mere aggregate price level increase could possibly affect real (inflation-adjusted) aggregate output. Any short-run "stickiness" of wages or compensation to any factor of production would surely be temporary; in the long-run, every factor of production must command its share of an aggregate price level increase (otherwise, it would not be an "aggregate" price level increase, anyway), which consequently and necessarily means that the aggregate supply curve—at the very least, the long-run version, which is all that matters to a Classical economist—simply has to be completely insensitive to inflated prices once the inflation has settled into the overall, aggregate price structure and level of the economy. To this point, a true Keynesian would most likely agree; although John Maynard Keynes is famous for his statement, "In the long run, we're all dead," Keynesian economics as policy guidance certainly was not intended to play a short-term trick to death lest it lose its effect. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened; neo-Keynesians and their Presidents in the 1960s and 1970s kept trying to stimulate the economy over and over again with short-term punches of money, providing liquidity for everything from social programs and war on through to amelioration of the OPEC oil embargo price shock.

With the aggregate supply/aggregate demand model in place, the first panel below depicts the Keynesian short-term economy as a robustly downward-sloping aggregate demand curve and a very shallowly rising ("highly elastic," in the terminology of economics) aggregate supply curve. At their point of intersection, the aggregate price level is just sufficient for the aggregate amount of output being produced by the national economy to meet the amount of national income able to afford to consume that output. At an aggregate price level higher than equilibrium, more output would be supplied than could be afforded, and the aggregate price level would have to back down as inventories built up; at an aggregate price level lower than equilibrium, national income could buy more, which would cause inventories to be wiped out too quickly, and the aggregate price level would be bid upward to the equilibrium aggregate price level.

Original Position of Economy

The next panel, below, gets down to the Keynesian policy action. Fiscal stimulus supported by printing money in excess of the real growth rate of the economy is enacted. Because this is demand-side policy initiative, it kicks the aggregate demand curve outward from AD0 to AD1 as the demand side of the national economy as a whole feels the effect of what appears to be greater national income. The aggregate price level rises a little bit, which is the same thing as saying that a small amount of inflation ripples through the economy, and this is the real bite in Keynesian economic policy: the aggregate supply curve is so flat because labor cannot immediately get its share of the inflation being created by the injection of excess money into the economy, so businesses can increase real output and make higher profits because one of their big costs—wages and salaries—is not being paid more even though what they produce is commanding inflation-pushed, higher prices in the marketplace. That's why the aggregate price level in the short run does not shoot straight up to exactly reflect the excess money that was printed: labor is actually being forced to higher productivity instead of higher pay, which means inflation does not get out of hand, and real output—gross domestic product, by one measure and standard—goes up.

Government Prints Money to Stimulate Aggregate Demand

The third panel, below, is when the piper starts to get paid. Some of those previously "sticky" wages start coming unstuck as businesses, producing more output, have to start bidding for workers and have to deal with existing workers' contract renewals. Other factors of production previously not getting their share of the inflation settling into the economy start demanding their fair share, too. All of this means that the aggregate price level rises more aggressively. With more inputs costing more money, businesses find that the greater profits they were previously realizing with higher output prices and fixed input costs are eroding, and aggregate output begins to ease back. A further problem emerging is that, whereas that jump in real GDP might have been attended by lower unemployment, now that real GDP is pulling back, unemployment is retracing its steps back upward. This was the difficulty faced by neo-Keynesian policy in the 1960s and 1970s: fiscal stimulus designed to push the unemployment rate down to some target would do so only for a while; then unemployment would start rising again, which gave Congresses, Presidents, and ever-willing-to-help Governors of the Federal Reserve the impetus to hammer the economy with more stimulus, continually chasing an elusive, desirable "natural unemployment rate" that kept slipping away into stronger and stronger spirals of inflation.

The Short-Run Aggregate Supply Curve Steepens

The next panel, below, takes the long view the Classical economists had described. At the end of any series of short-run plays to push real GDP higher by stimulating aggregate demand, the end result will be that all factor prices will finally impound their share of the inflation created by fiscal stimulus paid for by increasing the money supply at a rate faster than the growth rate of the real economy. The so-called "monetarist" school of economics, in its modern form, asserts that a central bank should have one and only one duty with respect to monetary policy, and that duty is to rigorously maintain the stability of the aggregate price level. To this end, propping up the pandering fiscal programs of Presidents and Congresses, helping out the economy when recessions are looming, and all manner of other excuses for manipulating the money supply to one intended purpose or another will lead to one and only one thing: inflation. In another vein of modern conservative economic thought, the so-called "supply-side" school of economics points out that, if the long-run aggregate supply curve really is vertical ("perfectly inelastic," in the terminology of economics), then aggregate demand-management policies are exactly useless except to create inflation; on the other hand, stimulating the aggregate supply curve to shift to the right would not only cause real output to increase, but would also cause the aggregate price level to decrease, meaning that supply-side fiscal policy would increase GDP and deflate prices. (The part the supply-siders avoid discussing at length is the very real possibility that, just like aggregate demand-management policies have a consequential, show-stopper effect on the supply side, aggregate supply-management policies might very well have a similarly consequential, show-stopper effect on the demand side.)

The Long-Run Aggregate Supply Curve Emerges

The fifth panel, below, shows the short-term view of what will ultimately come about from the best efforts of policy-makers to use excess growth of the money supply to prop up the economy. The aggregate price level is now higher, GDP has returned to what it was before the fiscal stimulus was executed, and the aggregate supply curve is steeper, reflecting the inevitable expectations in factor markets that hints of price increases in output markets have to be matched as rapidly as possible by commensurate increases in compensation, meaning that producers have less room to increase real output to make higher profits before the factors of production start demanding higher rewards. Although businesses can postpone this era of reckoning—and with the help of certain Presidents and Congresses, they have—the eventual effect is that even the short-run aggregate supply curve becomes more and more inelastic, to the point where inflationary expectations become so embedded that factors of production act with forethought to anticipated excess growth of the money supply, and no one believes the Federal Reserve when it claims that it has stopped accommodating uncontrolled spending and irresponsible tax cuts.

The New Short-Run Aggregate Supply Curve

As mentioned above, the Keynesians certainly understood the long-run effect of excessively expansionary monetary policy and would have prescribed using growth of the money supply only in a disciplined, counter-cyclical manner. Unfortunately, the temptation for most Presidents and their yes-men has been too great, and such expansionary policies have rarely abated and, as would have been prudent, reversed during economic booms. As the shining example of where this leads, the result was that the short-run aggregate supply curve became less and less elastic through the 1970s, and markets for labor, as well as for other factors of production, became so proactive that inflationary monetary policy actions in support stimulative fiscal policies came to be expected in advance of their actual occurrence, so, by the end of the '70s, large and increasing "expected inflation premiums" were finally being impounded into wage increases, into price increases of final goods and services, and into interest rates on loans. The effects became utterly debilitating: interest rates were impounding such high expected inflation premiums that they were causing a major slowdown in the U.S. economy, and the government had no more room to use fiscal or monetary policy as a countervailing force. The short-run aggregate supply curve had become every bit as perfectly inelastic (vertical) as the long-run version, so any stimulus to push the aggregate demand curve outward resulted in nothing but pure inflation from the get-go. In what arguably stands as the sublime example of a U.S. President falling on his sword, President Jimmy Carter in 1979 appointed hard-core monetarist Paul Volker to head the Federal Reserve. Volker immediately set about crushing the money supply, commencing a long, grueling process of absorbing all of the excess greenbacks that had been pumped into the economy from the era of Jack Kennedy on through to Gerald Ford. Because interest rates are the price of money, when the Fed rapidly contracted that money supply, interest rates—already high because of the expected inflation premium being impounded in them—went into orbit. Mortgage interest rates. for example were in the 25 percent-plus range. Worse, because labor, capital, wholesale, and retail markets did not believe for a minute that the Fed was finally serious about defeating inflation (Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" campaign comes to mind), the expected inflation premiums in interest rates and other price increases did not vanish, certainly not until everyone finally grasped that Volker meant business and did not care just how close to death the economy was getting in the regime of interest rates that, in another time in history, would have gotten bankers burned at the stake.

Eventually, after the American electorate kicked Carter out of office for being such a terrible President, the expected inflation premiums began to vanish from interest rates and other prices, and the economy got back on its feet and grew fairly comfortably throughout the first part of the 1980s. The aggregate supply curve, which had become so perfectly vertical, settled back to a more flattened, Keynesian short-run profile, and modest counter-cyclical policies by the government could once again work. A sustained stewardship over monetary policy by Governors of the Fed who considered their exclusive job as maintaining stability of the aggregate price level allowed markets the confidence to view the aggregate supply and demand conditions as reflecting far more of the real, normal, private activity of the economy than the dynamics caused by opportunistic government intervention.

Interestingly, as shown in Part One of this series, the years of the Bush Administration have been hallmarked by yet another factor of production experiencing "sticky" compensation: the stockholders, themselves, of publicly held corporations have had flat to negative real returns on their investments during the period from 2001 to present, indicating that common shareholders, be they investing in blue-chip stocks or run-of-the-mill NASDAQ equity, are losing to inflation. This means that businesses have had not one, but two resources from which they have been profiting through increases in productivity: both human capital and financial capital have been contributing to real economic growth in which they have realized little, if any, inflation-adjusted reward. The aggregate supply curve is not vertical in the short run only to the extent that suppliers are able to achieve real increased profit by raising prices and increasing output without having to pay labor more. As was demonstrated in Part Two of this series by the very fact that wages and salaries have persistently and consistently lagged general inflation throughout the last half-century, at least for several generations the short-run aggregate supply curve has been relatively flat for considerable periods; but now, in these first years of the 21st Century, that short-run flattening effect has been boosted by the depletion of real gains by not one, but two factors of production, labor and equity capital. This goes a long way toward explaining why rewards to other factors like land, physical capital, and the human capital of top managers have been rising so aggressively: they have had extraordinary leeway to absorb part of the share being lost both by rank-and-file workers and by similarly rank-and-file equity investors.

But surely, one might argue, a President as conservative as George W. Bush, buttressed by a solidly Republican Congress, would not have gone hog-wild with using monetary policy to prop up fiscally irresponsible spending and taxation policies just to keep the American economy growing. Unfortunately, the record—the part the Federal Reserve still reports—speaks otherwise. The last graphic, below, tracks the three broad monetary aggregates, M1, M2, and M3, with the reporting of last of these, M3, having been suspended by the Fed in early 2006 for reasons that are rather immediately obvious.

M1, M2, and M3 Money Stocks, 2000 to Present

In the Summer of 2004, the Federal Reserve Board, under the leadership of its new Chairman, Ben Bernanke, intoned that the central bank would no longer pursue an "accommodative" monetary policy, which was taken to mean that the Fed's excessive printing of money—first, to blunt the recession of 2001, then, later, to prop up massive tax cuts and a global war on terror, among other things—was at an end. The graphic above tells a decidedly different story.

By way of brief explanation, the three money stock aggregates go in order from money that is the most liquid—that is, the most easily traded for goods and services—on through to money that is relatively illiquid. M1 reports the amount of cash and currency, plus demand deposits (bank checking accounts), Travelers Cheques, and negotiable order of withdrawal accounts (such as "checking" accounts at credit unions). M2 includes M1 and money market accounts, small time deposits, and smaller savings accounts. M3 includes M2 plus large time deposits and very large savings account-type instruments, institutional money market accounts, short-term repurchase agreements, and other large deposits like those in eurodollars. In the money aggregates graph, above, the Fed was, indeed, serious about clamping down on growth of the money supply, as long as "money supply" is taken to mean M1, the cash, currency, and checking accounts most normal people have; in fact, by 2006, the central bank had brought the year-over-year growth rate of this money stock down to an average of about zero, indicating a strict monetary discipline in line with an anti-inflationary policy regime.

However, the growth rates of the broader money aggregates render compelling evidence of a far different Federal Reserve when it comes to money in the larger metrics. After what appears to have been a spirited contractionary effort at the beginning of the post-accommodative period, the central bank let loose of M2 and M3. The growth rate of M2 has been slowly accelerating to the point where it stands at better than five percent, which is unquestionably much higher than that of the economy. But the big not-so-secret secret is M3, the aggregate the Fed stopped publishing in March of 2006. This broad, huge money stock, representing everything in M1 and M2, plus giant institutional deposits, eurodollars, and others masses of big money, has been growing at an accelerating rate that now tops fifteen percent a year, roughly five times the most optimistic estimate of the growth rate of the American economy; and this has been going on since long before the recent, widespread talk of a looming recession.

Worse yet, all three of the aggregates were growing well above the growth rate of the economy throughout the Bush Administration, with the growth rate only of M1 finally being cut to nearly zero in order for the Fed to show grave dedication to fighting inflation.

Recall the explanation above about what happens to the aggregate supply curve when economic stimulus through expansionary monetary policy continues for too long. Once that curve has become highly inelastic, all the demand-management policy initiatives in the world will do no good to pump up real GDP; and with a Federal Reserve allowing the total money supply to grow at an ever-accelerating rate, the inevitable spiral of inflation will most assuredly come, and it will be the next President, his or her Federal Reserve Board, and the Congress that must take the drastic, painful, awful steps necessary to rectify, repair, and clean up what will by this time next year be an economic catastrophe created by the stupefyingly irresponsible policies of George W. Bush, his Federal Reserve, and a Congress controlled for most of his Administration by Republicans who, in retrospect, appear to have had no grasp of the long-term consequences of their economics policies.

As John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we're all dead." For the United States, the long run is about to arrive.

The Dark Wraith trusts the American electorate to vote for a President thoroughly capable of managing the economics of wreckage.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·
07 March 2008

Too Funny

by: blackdog

My hero

This was just all too real, funny, yes, but in a tragic sort of way when you get down to it.

From Crooks & Liars.

Now as I am a bit of a pos in some ways I can truly say that this is a really commanding pos in all ways. Everything this pos touches turns to shit.

When, oh when can we be rid of this most magnificent pos?

Oh yeah, it's snowing, but not the event that was predicted. Free chips here, but BYOB.

Mental Health Implication for Repeated Deployments

by: Minstrel Boy

This morning's L.A. Times has a fascinating article.

Short version: It's the third and fourth tours that cause the breakdowns.

Some excepts:

More than a quarter of higher-ranking enlisted soldiers showed signs of mental health problems after being sent to war zones for the third or fourth time, a sharp increase over those on their first or second deployments, according to a military study issued Thursday.

By higher ranking enlisted soldiers they mean the senior NCOs who make the snap decisions that directly effect the survival of the troops in their sphere.

The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers -- the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat -- reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours.

"Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater," said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. "They're not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.

They are driving the army straight into the ground. Also, these type of endless and back to back deployments have never happened. No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops. I wrote a while back about what the problems Alexander had encountered after ten years of continuous warfare.

Army healthcare officials said it was difficult to assess whether rates of mental health problems on third or fourth tours were abnormally high, noting that they had little information from other conflicts or the civilian world to compare.

File that last under the "no shit sherlock" tab. No other nation or armed force has ever put this kind of pressure on their soldiers. The Army, using neocon magical logic, points out that because only a quarter of our NCOs are going nuts that the training and treatment system must be working. Anyone got a barf bag?

Go Read The Whole Thing.

We are rapidly approaching critical human mass. Should the army begin to break in the field there will be terrible consequences.

harp and sword

One Picture

by: Foiled Goil

Worth a thousand words:

Bush For McCain

h/t to Hobson's Choice:

"Just in case you needed any more reasons not to vote for for McCain."

· ·
06 March 2008

To Trog69

by: blackdog

Just thought you needed special mention, since you are such a dedicated and important commenter around here, I appreciate you highly, as I'm sure do many others.

I look for the glint in your telescope mirror from afar, some day we will be looking down the throats of each other's scopes.

Take special care Trog69, you are unique.

Now I take the Woof to the bed to lie down and sleep. Snow, so what.


by: blackdog

Courtesy of the National Weather Service:





Have any of you seen thundersnow? It's weird, usually the temperature is just at freezing or slightly above, and the big, wet flakes are so thick and coming down so fast that you really can't see much at all, but then a mild flash of light from the obscured lightening, followed by muffled thunder. Mostly what you hear is the steady hiss of falling snow.

One night in Neosho it did this and within about 7 hours or so we received about 21". Sorta put a damper on getting around in a big way. Had seen it earlier one night at Farmer Bob's when in central Arkieville it snowed 12-14" overnight, almost unheard of this far south. I remember driving home, couldn't even see the road, lucked out mostly and made it without mishap. I couldn't see the road because everything was uniformly covered with snow, the ditches were level with everything else, almost no other idiots out but me.

I won't go riding around tonight, but I will watch, got some stale chips and assorted other chow, Thundersnow is pretty weird, but neat.

You Don't Say

by: Debra

A transparent society only works when the balance of power is equal. In other words, watching the watcher watch you only works if you are able to prevent the watcher from from using what he watched against you indiscriminately. No wonder everybody who isn't on some kind of watch list wants immunity.

Today I pick up my new phone and I'll find out if the echo is because of the crappy phone or if someone is listening in. I'm betting that it won't make a difference because I've been hearing the same clicks and echoes for the last three phones. And why yes, I do have Verizon.

Officials ignore the will (and the votes) of the people.

Eye contact? Or a new way for the narcissistic to be noticed? I wonder how long it will take for the usual suspects (Britney, Paris, Nicole, Pamela Sue, Jeremy Piven) to participate?

Home foreclosures hit a record high. Again. Unfortunately, records are also being set that include people who are falling behind on their payments. That cliff is getting awful close and the lemmings are headed there full speed ahead.

Umm, eff u? Or how about this oldie but goodie, we got ours we don't care about you?

If corporations such as subsidiaries of Halliburton manage not to pay Medicare or Social Security taxes, among others, what makes anyone think that they are going to use their part of the economic stimulus package here in the US? All that money is going to be spent and the US economy won't see a dime.

Gotta go, I have a 10 am meeting with a lawyer to declare bankruptcy while I still qualify for Chapter 7. The ambulance bill was the last straw, so I'm going to try the preemptive strike strategy. Beat everyone else to the courtroom.



The Movie Meme

by: Minstrel Boy

Is up and running at Harp and Sword.

My taste in movies runs somewhat to the obscure, but there are some well known classics. Please go visit and try your hand.
05 March 2008

McCain = Bush = McSame

by: Foiled Goil

George W. Bush has endorsed John "more wars" McCain.


A liberal group called the Campaign to Defend America greeted the endorsement with a television advertisement that equated McCain with Bush, saying he was "McSame as Bush," particularly on the Iraq war.

"A trillion dollars in Iraq over the next 10 years. McSame as Bush," the ad's narrator says as Bush's head is removed from his body in the ad and replaced with McCain's.

Here's the Campaign to Defend America ad:

McCain = Bush = More of the same.


Photos from Think Progress

McCain does not agree "that there has been widespread corruption" in the Bush administration, and suggests that he would not support independent investigations into the administration.

More of the same? Is that what YOU want?

Eyes on the prize, people.

· ·

McCain's vision: war as a way of life

by: astraea

Go. Read it all. Share. This is the issue, the one you won't be hearing: as the press hates Hill, they love McCain. And more war makes a draft inescapable.

Matt Taibbai,

McCain Resurrected

McCain's entire career has been dedicated to the idea that America must always have the right to solve its problems by force. Throughout his political career, he has argued for increased use of force in virtually every military engagement the U.S. has been involved in since Vietnam. He complained about Bill Clinton's "excessively restricted air campaign" in Kosovo, campaigning strenuously for a ground invasion. During the 1994 flap over Pyongyang's nuclear program, he called for "more forceful, coercive action." Even before the latest Iraq War, McCain argued way back in 1999 that the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein was "to strike disproportionate to the provocation."

The most frightening example of McCain's fondness for force is on display in his own book, Faith of My Fathers, when he complains about the politicians who refused to allow pilots like him to attack, say, Soviet ships unloading arms in Vietnamese port cities. "We thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots," he writes.

Bombing Soviet ships, of course, would probably have started World War III, but McCain's vision, then and now, encompasses war as a way of life....

No wonder John Hagee endorses him.

Of course, actions speak louder than words, louder even than Hagee's bluster.
About 151,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of their country, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) research published on Wednesday.

So. Who are the jihadists here? What morality, this?

Arson, Rape, and Bloody Murder

by: Minstrel Boy

Is the title of one of my favorite songs from my IWW songbook. My copy was at one time owned by Big Bill himself. The Wobblies were a rowdy bunch. They were not interested in civil disobedience at all. Frankly, they were fed the fuck up with civility.

This rememberance started over at my buddy Konagod's yesterday. He went off on a rant about the cost of the Iraq war and the frustration of the endless primary. I just went off.

The whole song is about making fun of the folks in power. The idea is to come up with funny, and humiliating things to do to them. Feel free to join the fun in comments. As you put them up, I'll enter them into the body of the post.

Also, this post should not be read silently. It should be sung out loud. For those of you who don't remember the tune, here's John Brown's Body or, as I prefer, "Teacher Hit Me With a Ruler."

We'll force hillary to use a brooklyn accent when she speaks (3x)
then tell her to shut up


Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
When the revolution comes!

We'll make Barak Obama wear a flag in his lapel (3x)
then we'll make him take it off.


We'll have John McCain scrub the floor down on his knees (3X)
And live on Minimum Wage


We'll have Dick Cheney sport a pimple on his nose (3x)
And we'll take away his guns


We'll make Michael Chertoff build that fucking fence himself (3x)
and stay on the other side


then we'll make Rush Limbaugh get prescriptions for his dope (3x)
Prescriptions in his own name


We'll have Annie Coulter working shifts at Mustang Ranch (3x)
and we'll laugh at all her johns

(from reader Paul)

We'll drive that assclown Romney in a cage on his car roof
And he'll clean up his own shit.


(from blackdog)
get the shrub in the lockbox with the cheyney for a pal (3x)
we get to throw shit at them


(two from trog)
We'll have Dubya complete his hitch 'cause we're running out of fodder. (3x)
And defermentBoy is comin' too!


We'll have Blackwater scum marry the widows that they make. (3x)
And the widowers' will get some too!

CHORUS(I thought this one up while I was waiting for the dentist)

We'll make Mike Huckabee give head to Louis Farrakhan (3x)
That's punishment enough for both.


(this one came to me while my dentist, Sweeny Todd, was drilling away humming to himself)

We'll frogmarch Karl Rove into a Mexicali Jail (3x)
Let Paco steal his shoes.

(three from the anonymous lurker)

We'll make Hillary and Barack campaign in Michigan again. (3x)
And then not count the votes.


We'll take Dick Cheney on a hunt and shoot him in the face. (3x)
And then drink all his beer.


We'll make Huckabee repudiate Intelligent Design (3x)
And then not let him evolve.

Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Free beers for each and every worker
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
When the revolution comes

*it will NOT be fucking televised*

The Wobblies were not playin'. Sing this song loud and imagine what it would have been to be standing in the middle of some Pennsylvania Hard Rock Coal miners, or some Oregon/Washington lumberjacks, or the Anaconda strikers in Bisbee, Arizona. Big strong men who were fed the fuck up. Standing together. Shouting this defiance.

Then examine your silence folks.


Thanks to Grumpy Old Man, the German workers are striking.

harp and swords'r'us

A Message to Ralph

by: Foiled Goil

· ·

Ralph nader on The Daily Show - March 4th (in case you missed it)

by: Jersey Cynic

Here is the link

Here is the video:

Here are my notes:

Jon askes Ralph why he is running. His running is about THE SYSTEM. The two parties have shut out the people in Washington. It's corporate occupied territory. It's a non-competitive system. He explaines how it's near impossible to get on the ballot. It's a preditory practice against small candidates.
It's called Gerrymandering

Ralph explains how we have a closed electoral system and when you do that, you keep out the good ideas of the small parties. YOU ARE CLOSING OUT THE PEOPLE

He explains how the dems sued them 24 times in 12 weeks to get them off the ballot in 2004 and how the judges are partisan and don't like the little guy.

It is a determined autocratic effort to stiffle free speech.

Ralph explains that when you run for office it's speech - assembly -petition, you know -- THE FIRST AMMENDMENT!!!! (my bold - my exclamation)

Jon says Ralph is all about protecting the consumers and the consumers of democracy. It's about exposing a system, not necessarily the people within it.


Ralph emphasizes that they are not representing the people and Washington should be shut down. They shut us out of the government.

We've got to get into the electoral arena.


Thank you once again Jon Stewart. You are, always have been, and always will be MY MAIN MAN! (after my hubby of course)

crossposted atBlondesense

Snowblind Friend

by: Debra

Brilliant lyrics and still topical after all this time, which goes to show how well the war on drugs has succeeded.
He said he wanted heaven, but praying was too slow so he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow.
Lying on the pavement with the misery on his brain,
Sort of like the people who wrote Clinton off yesterday.


· ·
04 March 2008

332 million dollars per day

by: blackdog

According to Hoffmania, that's what it is, flowing like a rampaging river out of control into the debacle that is Iraq, a flow of money like that should bring out all the very best capitalists, since with almost no oversight of the flow, any idiot could stand to make out like a literal bandit.

Now I have to be careful here, astronomical numbers like this don't easily roll off my toung, but I'll try.

$3,000,000,000,000.00, I think I got that right, and never forget that eight cents might be on the very end, the projected cost of the shrub's misadventure in Iraq, from Joseph Stiglitz, A Nobel Laureate who used to work for the Clinton administration, back when there was such a thing as a surplus. Remember that?

That's a damned large number, three thousand billion, three thousand, thousand million, gawd, maybe the only one I can appreciate, three thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand. I only have 18 toes. No dew claws.

Imagine if you will, that there was a place where you could put 3 trillion ping-pong balls, all white but one, which would be bright red. Could you find it in a lifetime? Maybe that place would be something like the stoopperdome, it just might hold that much, but I'm not in the mood to work it out right now. That's for the more energetic of you to consider, I will listen. Assume the diameter of a ping-pong ball is about 1.25", that's a good place to start, then don't forget the geometry, they are spheres, not cubes.

Also figure that if you could find that one red ping-pong ball, you would receive $3T dollars in cash and prizes, donated lasciviously by the neo-con idiots who obviously have fewer toes than I.

Yeah, I know, Iraqi oil was going to pay for all this and we would be greeted as "liberators". Flowers flying, tank drivers being assaulted and smooched by women who in the joy of the moment shook off their burka and acted like those ladies in Paris some years back, which I believe really was a liberation, in stark contrast to an occupation, which was the whole firckin' point.

$3845/second, that's a pretty good flow of cash and it seems like it may go on for a long time.

I go back under my rock, as soon as all the water drains out. Rained like hell last night, to be followed with some snow.

Rant and Grr, it's almost all I have left, pun intended.

One of the more interesting programs I listened to recently was an interview on NPR with Joseph Stiglitz about his recent book, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.

United Technologies Corp. Initiates Hostile Takeover Bid Of Diebold Inc. For $3 Billion

by: Jersey Cynic

UTC's HQ is located right here in Connecticut. Here is the headline story from the Hartford Courant:

UTC Target: ATM Maker
(not one word in this story about Diebold's voting machines -- "Diebold services ATMs and check cashing machines, among other products")

"Diebold represents an excellent fit with UTC, with its strong market position, U.S. footprint and balance between product and service revenues," David said in a statement issued by UTC. "In addition, Diebold will benefit from UTC's international presence and "disciplined operating systems"

UTC is among the world's top 10 defense contractors

I'm glad to see that I am not the only one wondering why it would be in the public interest for a charter member of the Military Industrial Complex to own a voting machine company?

At least the NYTimes mentions Diebold's voting machine business in the first sentence

Maybe it's just the "conspiracy theorist" in me?

Crossposted atBlondesense

03 March 2008

The Evening News

by: blackdog

With Katie Couric.

Wow, what a real travesty of journalism. Almost twenty minutes went by, with several pharmaceutical ads thrown in before any mention at all was made of news outside the border, that being a 7 second mention of something about a missile attack by someone against somebody against al-quaida-in-somalia.

When are they going to deal with al-quaida-in-carlisle?

It's difficult to sleep peacefully around here, knowing that freakish muslims are sneaking around in the rice paddies plotting against stout-hearted christian sorts. And some of them might be named Hussein.

I have to waste time worrying about this sort of shit.

Give me Dan Rather anyday.

I will proceed to peroxide my ears just to be safe.

Damnit. I should have added that this was the only mention of international news during the entire program.

Pain Ray Crowd Control

by: Foiled Goil

How To: Stop A 500 foot Monster, Continued

David Hambling:

Last week's entry on How To: Stop A 500 Foot Monster seems to have struck a chord, judging from the number of suggestions for the best military hardware to take down rampaging.

Several new options were put forward which deserve some serious consideration -- ones we'll be forwarding on to the secret monster-stopping divisions of the various defense ministries.

There were a few suggestions for the Active Denial System or "pain ray." This shows the right kind of instincts: against sci-fi monsters, a sci-fi ray gun feels about right. Unfortunately, the depth-of-penetration problem is even more severe here, as it is carefully designed so that the beam only goes through about 1/64" of skin. In fact this is one of the ADS' selling points, that it will only have surface effects. I have previously described some of the more unusual tests of the Active Denial System, including experiments with military dog teams, but I don't think they ever tried it on anything larger. It's highly unlikely you could get any sort of a reaction from a very thick-skinned monster without redesigning the system from the ground up using a beam with a longer-wavelength.

The Pentagon's Ray Gun

CBS News:
Straight out of Buck Rogers and perfect for crowd control, this non-lethal weapon could help eliminate the deaths incurred while trying to control crowds, especially in Iraq. David Martin reports. [after brief commercial: 12:23 .swf]

You have to feel the ray gun to believe it, and there's only one way to do that. Martin, who voluntarily became a target, described the sensation of being hit by the ray gun like scalding water.

What makes this a weapon like no other is it inflicts enough pain to make you instantly stop whatever it is you’re doing. But the second you get out of the beam the pain vanishes. And as long as it's been used properly, there's no harm to your body.
Video: Pain Ray vs. 60 Minutes (Updated)

Noah Shachtman:
If you just saw the 60 Minutes segment, and want more info on the Active Denial System, we've got links galore, below.

02 March 2008

Thucydides, Live from Baghdad

by: Minstrel Boy

This is a reposting that was originally written in June of 06. Not much on the ground in Bagdhad has changed. Not really since Thucydides was writing either. I thought that this would be a nice revisiting.

dateline 431 BCE, Book III, the revolution in Corycea, describing the city and the people leading up to the rising of the city...

In peace and prosperity both states and individuals are actuated by higher motives, because they do not fall under the dominion of imperious necessities; but war, which takes away the comfortable provision of daily life, is a hard master and tends to assimilate men's characters to their conditions.

When troubles had once begun in the cities, those who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further and further, and determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. A conspirator who wanted to be safe was a recreant in disguise. The lover of violence was always trusted, and his opponent suspected. He who succeeded in a plot was deemed knowing, but a still greater master in craft was he who detected one. On the other hand, he who plotted from the first to have nothing to do with plots was a breaker up of parties and a poltroon who was afraid of the enemy. In a word, he who could outstrip another in a bad action was applauded, and so was he who encouraged to evil one who had no idea of it. The tie of party was stronger than the tie of blood, because a partisan was more ready to dare without asking why. (For party associations are not based upon any established law, nor do they seek the public good; they are formed in defiance of the laws and from self-interest.) The seal of good faith was not divine law, but fellowship in crime. If an enemy when he was in the ascendant offered fair words, the opposite party received them not in a generous spirit, but by a jealous watchfulness of his actions.72 Revenge was dearer than self-preservation. Any agreements sworn to by either party, when they could do nothing else, were binding as long as both were powerless. But he who on a favourable opportunity first took courage, and struck at his enemy when he saw him off his guard, had greater pleasure in a perfidious than he would have had in an open act of revenge; he congratulated himself that he had taken the safer course, and also that he had overreached his enemy and gained the prize of superior ability. In general the dishonest more easily gain credit for cleverness than the simple for goodness; men take a pride in the one, but are ashamed of the other.

Thucydides could be writing today. The places on the map may change, but as long as things are done by humans, with human natures, the results will be the same. When Athens (where they proclaimed loud and long about their love of peace while belligerently carving an empire) and Sparta (where the main focus of their military machine, considered the best in the world, was to keep the helots, greek slaves who dreadfully outnumbered the Spartans, from rising again to wipe out their brutal masters)wnet to war it was entirely avoidable. The Spartans, like Saddam were kept in a box of their own construction. They were loathe to deploy their vaunted army, because as soon as their backs were turned the helots would rise, fight, and maybe this time win. The Athenians, like the Americans, were vain, boastful, hypocrital, frivolous, and their own worst enemies. Thucydides was an Athenian general who was exiled after a victory. Over the next 28 years of warfare Athens would prove far more effective at beating itself by exiling, executing, or otherwise alienating its best and brightest military minds. Over and over they would return to demagogues like Alcibiades who would lead cavalry charges straight to ruination and defeat. The Scicilian campaign was disasterous for Athens but Sparta was in a poor position to capitalize. In the end, it was the Persians, financially backing one side, then the other, who were the real victors. Athens and Sparta never regained their pre-emininence in the world. They muddled through, both bruised and bleeding until first Alexander, then the Romans came in and took over.

The text quoted here came from

I would not recommend tackling this history like a novel, but there are certain very critical parts to read.

Book 2, the funeral oration of Pericles. A classic example of an "us and them" deliniation. He also warns the Athenians that if they cease to follow the ideals that made them who they are, the Spartans win, regardless of any outcomes on the battlefield. I was reading this passage again and again during the NeoCon bullshitstorm trumping up our disasterous and idiotic Iraqi adventure.

The last gasp of the Athenians in Sicily Book 7, para 75 is heartbreaking. I read this and imagine a last stand in the Green Zone, or even worse, a disaster as they try to fight their way out of it.

Thucydides was the founder of modern historiography. He wrote in a personal style that focused on the nature of the events, and the results politically, spiritually, and economically. He was recording the death of the places and world he loved. Go, read him. Then read the papers today and tell me we have progressed much past the Bronze Age.


With the Iranian President visiting Bagdhad and being praised by Al-Maliki, look again to Thucydides and remember that the real victor in the war between Sparta and Athens was Persia. Gold and diplomacy accomplished for them what force of arms had failed to bring about.

harp, sword, and shitty attitude

Electronic Vote Fraud, 2008?

by: Foiled Goil

Anybody who trusts electronic voting machines should have their head examined:

Are you going to let them do it, again?

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Sunday Night Graphics Fun

by: Dark Wraith

Bush the Toilet Troll

William F. Buckley, Jr.: "Now, listen, you goddamned queer..."

by: Dark Wraith

This is a video capture of William F. Buckley, Jr., in a debate against Gore Vidal during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August of 1968. Several versions of this YouTube video are available, and all appear to have had Buckley's invective " goddamned queer" partially masked, but it was well documented, and the audio of the immediately subsequent threat of physical violence Buckley made to Vidal is still entirely discernible. Enjoy the following clip of this eminent representative of conservatism as he publicly disgraces himself.

Yes, this is the brilliant debater, rhetorician, and scholar over whose grave the mainstream media and its pundits, both conservative and liberal, are now blubbering.


Who's to say?

War monger? Promoter of intolerance? Filthy rich pretty-boy shill for everything ugly about conservatism?


Pseudo-intellectual who could not utter a compound sentence without several pauses to find something inadequate to say?


The Dark Wraith trusts that Mr. Buckley will finally now take Gore Vidal's advice and "shut up."

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Under the Rock is Safer

by: blackdog

Came out from under my rock for just a minute to get a bone and what do I see?

I told that damn cat to back off, to no effect. Next thing you know, there will be cats playing poker.

Bill Buckley won the Cold War

by: blackdog

Just heard on NPR about an article out there by George the Will, I refuse to post a link to crap like that, but the essence was, in the unimagined wisdom of the illustrious writer and hack, the Will, who can make connections between seemingly unrelated points better than any bloodhound, that William the Buckley won the Cold War. Everyone should know that George the Will is, in his own mind, the most articulate and wise fellow out there, even better than William the Buckley, he was just waiting for the Buckley to drop dead before he made any accolades and attempted to steal his anointed position as top sack of shit of conservative values.

After hearing this, my head is literally reeling, as if someone had caught me unaware with a nine-iron, my back is aching like a mother but in a way, this actually makes the pain recede a bit, let's see if I can paraphrase.

William the Buckley, the princely lard of conservatism with the wordiness and silver toung that no parrot can come close to matching and wouldn't want to. But in his own mind, the George of Will, claims that the William of Buckley creates the "National Review", from this results the nomination of Barry Goldwater way back when, from there the "conservative revolution" takes over the repukelikan party (a lousy party, I may add, no free anything), from there comes the gawd of conservatism, Ronald Ray-Gun, and under his wise guidance viola!! the Soviet Union meets it's end. Damn, talk about following the dots!

An amazing set of connections that all will agree that only one and I repeat ONLY ONE conclusion can be made,

William Buckley, Jr. won the cold war.

Shit, I go back under my rock, I knew it was safer there.

Did I really hear that or am I becoming delusional?

Empires and Patriots: A Short Note

by: Dark Wraith

Along with the people of Kenya, Pakistan, and other nations around the world, it is now the people of Armenia who are taking to the streets in massive protests against a rigged election.

We here in the United States, of course, are so much more civilized: just like the Russians, we simply certify the lies of the rulers, snivel, blog, and whimper, then move on with our lives.

And just like Vladimir Putin and his ruthless oligarchs, George W. Bush and his Republican Party had the masses pegged perfectly for the sheep they are.

Our Founding Fathers would have been so proud of us.

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01 March 2008

The Statins Ruse

by: Dark Wraith

Health Beat has a two-part article, "The Cholestrol Con," by Maggie Mahar, about how the American public once again got hoodwinked into spending billions of dollars on useless drugs that researchers knew were no better than cheap, over-the-counter products. In this case, for most people, it turns out that aspirin and fish oil supplements are every bit as effective against heart attacks as those fancy, expensive statins middle-aged people pop like candy. It seems that eight of the nine doctors on the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute panel of "experts" who had been recommending the statins were also on the money-bag list of the pharmaceutical companies making the over-hyped meds, which are sold under such names as Lipitor, Crestor, Mevacor, Zocor, and Pravachol.

The ever-gullible public, genuflecting as it invariably does to the religion of "Medical Science," bowed down, believed, and paid the staggering price for yet one more of modern medicine's false promises of near-immortality.

As much as some scholars lament the utter loss of inductive critical thinking skills among Americans, the far greater tragedy apparent from this latest madness in the litany of pharmaceutical scams and misdeeds is that, somewhere along the way, the meatloaf-dense consumers of this great country unplugged their hotline to Clueville, thereby ensuring that they are primed and ready for the next promise of life everlasting from self-serving professionals who, if they did the same thing on street corners, would be called the whores they are. (The difference being that, whereas a prostitute will don scrubs for a big tip, the medical expert will sport fishnet stockings only for a generous consulting fee.)

Won't it be great when we get that universal healthcare coverage? That way, we can all foot the bill the next time tens of millions of suckers desperately want to make their donations to the Church of Medicine.

The Dark Wraith can hardly wait to be shaken down for that scam.

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Bill Maher on a roll

by: blackdog

When Bill Maher hits it, he can be pretty good, again courtesy of Crooks & Liars.

Here goes, I hope you find it as much fun as I.


Remember how he was crucified after 9/11 for saying that the terrorists who had hijacked the planes and committed that murderous act were not cowards?

Maybe the act could be described, albeit poorly as cowardly, but those murderous bastards were certainly not cowards.

How many people have been attacked and in some cases ruined for speaking out about the atrocities or just stupid policies that are being committed by their own country now?

And this is really nothing new, but after 9/11 it seems to have become vogue, again.

The Rule of Law and the Imperative of Appeasement

by: Dark Wraith

Now that U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has determined that White House aides John Bolton and Harriet Myers committed no crime in refusing to comply with U.S. House of Representatives subpoenas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that a civil lawsuit will be filed claiming Bolton and Myers are in contempt of Congress.

To clarify a legal point concerning Pelosi's latest attempt at pretending she and her cowardly Dem cohorts have a spine, a civil lawsuit carries no possibility of imprisonment of the law-breakers, and it will very likely go nowhere anyway because the federal judiciary has recent, mandatory precedents handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court giving President Bush and just about everyone around him sovereign immunity from civil prosecution. See, for example, Tenet v. Doe, 544 U.S. 1 (2005), wherein the Bush Administration reached all the way back to the era of our last dalliance with an authoritarian unitary executive, the fawningly revered Abraham Lincoln, for case precedent.

That means Pelosi's pathetic attempt at appeasing the core of so-called "liberal" Congressmen demanding impeachment of George W. Bush is nothing other than an exercise in the politics of futility. Madam Speaker, of course, knows that.

Madam Speaker also knows that she and her fellow cowards, despite their transparently disingenuous posturing against the wanton, seven-year spree of law-breaking by the Bush Administration, will nevertheless get re-elected.

Madam Speaker may be an appeaser, but unlike those who vote for her kind, Madam Speaker is not stupid.

The Dark Wraith encourages everyone to rush out and vote for some more of that auld-timey Hope 'n Change snake oil.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

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November Election Results Leaked

by: Foiled Goil

From The Onion:

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

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