Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Vocals by Susan McKeown, bass by Lindsey Horner. Lyrics by Robert Burns.

If you have difficulty understanding the lyrics, try a coupla shots of DoubleWood as seen in the video. If that doesn't help, try a coupla more shots and read them:

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Happy New Year, folks. It cannot fail to be better than the last eight. Come January 20, perhaps we'll at least stop digging the hole we're in.

The Last Road Trip

Mark Morford on cheap gas:

Something is deeply wrong. Something is bizarre and upside-down and perverse and it's not just fish pedicures or Rod Blagojevich's hair or the fact that people still care in the slightest about the sad and toothless chyme that is Britney Spears' White Trash Lite™ career.

It's gas. The price of oil. Or I should say, the stunning, creepy, impossibly low price of Satan's lubricant, Bush's blood, our own personal Jesus. Have you noticed? How could you not?

But on the whole, it is not good news. Normally, the price of a barrel of crude drops a couple hundred percent in less than a year and we'd be out celebrating, joyous in the knowledge that ExxonMobileShellScrewYou must've just shoved an enormous drill bit the size of Sarah Palin's vacuity deep into Russia or Venezuela or a precious Alaskan wildlife preserve and come up with enough pure, sweet crude to last us until you're very, very dead and your grandkids are using the burned-out hull of your Chevy Tahoe XLT as a bomb shelter against the global warming food riots.

Not this time, baby. No one, not even the most right-wing, SUV-loving Peak Oil denier, is claiming the crash in oil prices is actually a righteous and positive sign overall, despite how some economists say it's the one thing that's kept us from complete fiscal Armageddon, at least for now.

This is what it really means: massive production slowdown, worldwide. It means: Auto industry collapse. It means: demand is so freakishly low that even coddled Saudi sheiks are parking their chrome Mercedes McLaren SLRs at the guest mansion and driving the lowly Cayenne Turbo to their gilded office towers made of diamonds and virgins and cheap immigrant labor. See? Bleak all around.

You have but to ask yourself: What can I do in the midst of one of the most savage economic recessions since the Depression, when Americans can't afford a good latte anymore and retail's in a tailspin and no one's buying anything over ten bucks?

Is the answer not obvious? Did you not read the headline to this column?

That's right: Road trip. A big one. [...]

Go read about One Last Binge before the hammer falls, for fall it must and fall it will, and we will all be the better for it.

"Brute" Krulak, 1913-2008

Another good one passes. LATimes:

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, celebrated for his leadership in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and for his authoritative book on the Marines, "First to Fight," died Monday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. He was 95 and had been in declining health for several years.

In a career that spanned three decades Krulak displayed bravery during combat and brilliance as a tactician and organizer of troops.

"Brute was very forgiving of young Marines who made mistakes," said retired Col. G.I. Wilson, a combat veteran. "But he was hell on senior officers who preferred careerism and bureaucracy over decisive action. He detested those who lost sight of looking after their enlisted Marines and young officers."

That's old school leadership. We need more of it today, from the Oval Office on down.

In World War II, as a lieutenant colonel, he led a battalion in a weeklong battle as a diversionary raid to cover the invasion of Bougainville. Although wounded, he refused to be evacuated. For his bravery he was awarded the Navy Cross.

Under heavy fire from the Japanese, the Navy sent patrol boats to evacuate wounded Marines. Krulak befriended one of the young commanders, John F. Kennedy. Decades later the two shared a drink of whiskey in the Oval Office after Kennedy was elected president.

In 1984, his book "First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps" was published, examining the history and culture of the Marine Corps. It remains on the official reading list for Marines and has been said to carry the DNA of the organization that prides itself on being the worst enemy that a foe of the United States can imagine.

"The Marines are an assemblage of warriors, nothing more," Krulak wrote. He called on Marines to maintain a "religious dedication" to being ready to "go and win -- and then come back alive." He disdained Pentagon bureaucracy and, even as he celebrated the Corps' history, he called for Marines to "remain on the cutting edge of the technology that will keep its specialty effective."

Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and author of books on Marines in Vietnam and Iraq, said Krulak "was legendary for the depth of his intelligence."

I read General Krulak's book about three times before it got on the Marines' Required Reading List. Hell, I read it before Marines were required to know how to read!

Semper Fi, Brute.

They Lied With Their Boots On

Our old buddy Commander Jeff Huber sounds off on BFMs, propaganda, neocons, and War For The Rest of Our Lives.

Merry Christmas, fellow citizens. Odds are now almost certain that your country will be in a state of war throughout your lifetimes, and possibly throughout your children’s lifetimes as well.

As in the principles of war, “objective” is a prime tenet of information operations; but there’s a difference between the way objectives work in warfare and how they’re used in propaganda. In warfare—theoretically, anyway—the objective is supposed to be straightforward and tangible, and all operations and tactics should support the primary goal. In information operations, the objective, at least the stated one, is so vague and flexible that it doesn’t need to have anything at all to do with the actual military operation. In fact, it’s best if it doesn’t; the less any statement meant for public consumption has to do with reality, the greater freedom of movement the information operator (aka “bull feather merchant” or “BFM”) has.

Four months after Petraeus turned over command of a “tamed” Mosul, the city’s police chief defected and insurgents overran the city. When Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi security forces, his recruits disappeared into the desert night along with about 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols. As commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, he created “Awakening Councils,” groups of former Sunni militants that Filkins says “are credited by American officials as one of the main catalysts behind the steep reduction in violence there.” More that 100,000 of these former anti-U.S. guerillas have been armed to armpits and put on the dole so they won’t attack Nuri al Maliki’s government forces. Creating the Awakening Councils was the single dumbest thing—among a field of highly qualified contenders for the title—that we’ve done in Iraq, and now, it’s one of the most compelling reasons for us to stay there forever: if we leave, the gravy spigot runs dry, and all our beautiful ugliness will melt out the drain pipe when the Sunni gunmen go back to their old line of business.

Here's the money shot, my emphasis:

And thus it is that our catalyst of victory is the machinery of our failure; we’ve succeeded so well in Iraq that we must stay there always. Permanent occupation of Iraq was the operational and strategic objective all along, of course, even before 9/11, even before young Mr. Bush was selected to head the neoconservative ticket.

The BFM work-around to ignoring international agreements and mandates from the commander in chief is pure magic:

Q: When are armed troops in a combat zone not combat troops?

A: When we call them something else.

Presto, change-o, give them a different name and grind the new president’s campaign promises into his eye like a broken whiskey bottle. Maybe the BFM expression for that sort of thing is “following orders from the bottom up.”

Note to President Obama: You're going to have to kick some serious ass, young man, to keep these assholes from continuing to fuck things up. If you need any help, I know a few guys around here that would just fucking love to.

In the America ...

The Founders envisioned, George W. Bush would never have made it to a second term. He would have been hauled off in irons as soon as he declared war on Iraq. I agree with Bob Herbert. He should not be allowed to go quietly. We should run him out of town (and into jail, but I have no influence with those who handle that).


When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.


I think it's what befuddles me most about America of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. How we can look at the illegality, incompetence, and criminal ineptitude of George Bush and his cronies and not demand his incarceration? How can we have elected him twice (yes, I understand about 2000, but he got the job regardless) when it was apparent from the beginning that he was a disaster waiting to happen? I will even posit that if 9/11 happened under a Democratic administration, there would have been an impeachment for incompetence soon after.


The catalog of his transgressions against the nation’s interests — sins of commission and omission — would keep Mr. Bush in a confessional for the rest of his life. Don’t hold your breath. He’s hardly the contrite sort.

He told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: "I don’t spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don’t worry about long-term history, either, since I’m not going to be around to read it."


Had we any self respect left, the new Congress would begin impeachment proceedings as soon as they are sworn in and have the FBI waiting for him as he leaves the White House on Inauguration Day.

Instead, we will let him go on his way, probably free from prosecution, adding another failure to the long list he's complied throughout his life. Another failure, another bailout.

And you can't blame Bush for everything. He is a stooge, a puppet, a willing idiot who filled a President's suit while others - smart, calculated, criminals - wrote the words and policy initiatives he parroted. I doubt any of his fuckups arose from an original thought on his part. In a sane world, there would be many trading business suits for orange jumpsuits on 21 January.

While I have zero hope there will be any accountability for what happened to this country over Bush's term, I'd like to think an Obama administration will at least play by the rules (mostly) and give a thought or two to the average American, more than we ever got from Bush and the Republicans.

And a parting thought. In a sane world, the Republican Party would have disappeared years ago.

I'm going to work. If you really have to go out tonight, try and be safe. It's amateur hour on the roads New Year's Eve and the idiot meter will be pegged. To all of you who'll be standing out in Times Square tonight (Temp - 15, Wind Chill - 0), are you fucking crazy?

Have a happy, healthy, and safe new year. As I did on Christmas, I wish you all health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Thanks to Maru for the link.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So, when are you going to win?

(This post will stay on top all day. - G)

The morality of it aside (Israel becoming what they despise the most - turning the Gaza Strip and, to a lesser extent, the West Bank into the world's largest concentration camp) when are they gonna finally have success?

This crap has been going on since I was a little kid, a cyclical occurrence as predictable as the changing of the seasons. With each incursion, with each air strike attack, another generation of Palestinian bomb throwers is born - the seeds sown in autumn that will bloom in spring. They've built walls and closed borders, yet the problem still exists. When will Israel learn they are just prolonging the agony?

Every nation has the right to defend themselves from attack, that fact is not in dispute but what Israel is doing is neither keeping their homeland safer, nor is it doing anything to reduce the threat of terror. All it does is pass the hate to another generation.

I'm not saying I have a plan to wage peace in the area, lord knows, both sides have issues that have merely been deferred for 60 years but this cycle of bombing and retort ain't working and it's making things worse. Smarter people than I on both sides should understand this too yet, aside from some feeble attempts, they all default to violence. Were it not for American Presidents going back to Truman, even those false starts would never have happened. The search for peace in Palestine is rapidly becoming a waste of time.

Our unqualified support for Israel should end - it is not the 51st State. One of the reasons we have the problem today is because of our 'big brother' attitude. Had Israel the incentive to live in peace with her neighbors (especially after the '67 war), instead of looking to us (be it militarily or diplomatically) to ensure their sovereignty and protect them from retribution, they might have worked something out by now - at least, the conflict would be over, one way or another, years ago. We should be willing to broker a peace there only if both parties are committed. Basically, they should come to us and ask we get involved. Pressure from the U.S. for them to sit down when it is not in either party's interest can never ensure a lasting peace. Allowing the Israelis to run roughshod over the Palestinians won't either. We should be involved only as an objective arbiter, not as the guarantor of Israel's future.

And don't think I'm defending the Palestinians, who have their own sins to atone for, but they are desperate. Israel has encroached on their land for decades with settlements and military fortification, finally resulting in walling the Palestinians out. There is an economic blockade in place, so the Palestinians can't supply daily needs - there is no economy of any sort there. That means there are a lot of young men who cannot find work. Guess who they blame for their situation, rightly or wrongly? When half a man's family is killed in an Israeli air strike - innocents all - from whom does he seek revenge? They join groups like Hamas and Hezbollah because they see no future for themselves or their people. They blame Israel and their protector, the United States, and they strike at the closest target.

I'm not saying it's right but it has become their only recourse, and many Arab nations are willing to help them (with military and logistic support), a counter to the U.S., thus prolonging the conflict. As we have seen, the range of Hamas' rockets have improved markedly over the past few years. Abdullah the Bombmaker ain't whipping these things up in his garage. As I sit here, watching the news this morning, the conflict threatens to get much worse before it gets better.

What can we do? Not much until Bush leaves. He has been instrumental in prolonging the conflict with is lassiez faire attitude and with three weeks left of his miserable tenure, he will continue to do nothing. After Obama's appearance at the AIPAC conference during the campaign, I doubt there will be much change in policy toward Israel. Until there is a concerned effort to rein in Israel's aggression and until the Palestinian lands become a functioning nation, nothing will change. Desperate men will do desperate things and as long as Israel is allowed to respond with such disproportionate force, hatreds will continue and many more will be motivated to join the fight on both sides.

President Obama will have a chance to do something worthwhile there. Let's hope he seizes it and gives the issue the attention it deserves. We are hopelessly entangled there at this point and a strong President has the capability to make a real difference. If we're ever gonna "win the War on Terror", there has to be peace in Israel and Palestine. It is one of the roots of Islamic terrorism (Arafat was the granddaddy) and until it is nipped, anti-Israel (and in turn anti-U.S.) sentiment will grow, pushing any chance of peace farther from reality.

War Without End

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the crux of the biscuit vis-á-vis the whole goddam Middle East and is the main underlying cause of our problems in the region, especially under the Bush And His Neocon Masters regime. God's little joke of putting a lot of oil there is the other 'underlying' cause, without which we could have just GTFO a long time ago.

Israel as a state began in my lifetime. I was three years old at the time, and even after 60 years I ain't got a clue what to do about it. Well, actually I do, but it wouldn't be very nice, and my cure would be worse than the disease so be glad I'm not in charge. Or not. Nobody else seems to know what to do either. There is nothing reassuring about anything involved in the matter. Let me just say that oil, religion, territorial disputes, and centuries-old hatreds are a witches' brew that could leave a great smoking hole in the Earth, and just might.

Trying to follow up on Fixer's post above would be like trying to sing with Emmylou Harris as my opening act, so rather than even try something that in(s)ane, I just went looking for something by somebody smarter than I am on the subject, and I think I came fairly close with a post at The guy put a lot of work into it, with many, many links.

It also disgusts me to watch how international opinionators, bloggers, journalists, and so-called “experts” reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to simple black-and-white digestible chunks. If you’re a progressive, Israel is the big nasty bully, the evil empire terrorizing the oppressed Palestinians fighting for their right to what they consider their ancestral homeland. If you’re a conservative, Israel is the strong ally of the U.S. defending itself against those nasty terrorist suicide bombers who want to perpetrate another Holocaust. These positions become litmus tests, recyclable cliches’ that people of all sides spout like they’re watching some giant game of football, only the ball is a bomb and the playing field is the Holy Land.

As a wise man once said, terrorism is what the big army calls the little army. How different is bombing civilians from the air from a suicide run into a cafe or a school? Why is one considered an acceptable, desired part of modern warfare, while the other is considered barbaric and inhumane? Is it because air attacks enable distance for the supporter as well as the pilot? Can we make ourselves feel better about the carnage if we can’t see the faces of those whom we kill?

Each side thinks they are ordained by God to fight or defend the land they claim as theirs, given to them by blessed, bloody sacrament. Hamas’ Khaled Meshal has said that the “time for the third Intifada has come” in response to the bombings, ordering the militia to attack Israeli targets and soldiers in response. Israel, which was apparently plotting this operation even as it was negotiating a cease-fire with Hamas, seems bound and determined to do a big solid for the major oil companies with its continuing bombing runs, showing not even the slightest sign of remorse.

Where does it end?

I'll let you read the rest for yourself. Hint: he knows exactly what needs to be done, like we all do, but it ain't gonna happen the way things are or are likely to be until both sides get so disgusted with themselves as well as each other that some hero emerges and makes it stop. Don't hold yer breath.

Reviving Infrastructure

While the above photo may look like trying to undo some of Bush's neglect, it's actually from a three-pronged article in the LATimes about the Stilwell Road, the modern view of the road by India and China, and one old Veteran's memories of the racism involved in building it. Well worth a read.

More than 1,100 American troops died building the road in what is now Myanmar. Today China and some in India see the long-neglected route as their lifeline.

Evelio Grillo is one of the few vets still alive to tell the tale of the Stilwell Road.

Grillo also tells of boneheaded officers who ordered him to measure the road with lengths of chain for hours on end until someone finally pointed out that the Army jeeps had odometers.

Why do I have no trouble at all believing that? Similar experiences with officers, no doubt.

More than half a century later, China now is working to resurrect it as the first major overland trade route since World War II with India, where business leaders, politicians and bureaucrats also are pressing their government to formally commit itself to the road as a link between the world's two most populous nations.

The road's western end, close to the Indian state of Assam, has been swallowed up by the jungle, and portions of it can be traveled only on foot. In the east, the upgraded section near the Chinese border is busy, but most of the traffic consists of small traders and tourists on short visits to gamble, or to see transsexual burlesque shows in Myanmar.

Yeah, that's my idea of the dream vacation too...

Squeezing the hand of his son and namesake, California Superior Court Judge Evelio M. Grillo, the old vet smiles at the memories of winning enough poker pots from his war buddies in Burma to buy his mom a house in Tampa, Fla.

But he'd rather forget most of his two years at war. Grillo had to suffer the indignities of racial segregation on the 58-day passage to India aboard the Santa Clara, where the only comforts were reserved for the white officers.

Grillo remembers most of them as vulgar racists, and wrote in his memoir, "Black Cuban, Black American," that the road builders assumed that the white men giving them orders in Southern drawls had been selected because they were "deemed to know how to handle black men."

The black GIs had to bunk in the ship's windowless, foul-smelling hold, stewing in the "stench cooked up by the sweat, the farts and the vomit of 200 men," he recalled in the memoir.

Been there, done that. And then the ship left the dock...

The men who built the road weren't honored for their feat until 2004, when the Defense Department marked African American History Month at Florida A&M University.

Figures. Enjoy, if such is the correct word, the rest.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The GOP's White Supremacy

Good piece at HuffPo on a subject that makes me feel all warm and tingly: the death, a much deserved and painful one I hope, of the Repuglican't party. Here's a coupla excerpts:

Let's be thankful for one thing about Bush's presidency: the white male leadership of the Republican Party showed the world once and for all that its cronyism, corruption and discrimination completely outweighed any shred of competence. And that it can no longer count on white votes to carry its divisive, prejudiced agenda, both because there are proportionately fewer white voters, and because outside of the Deep South and Appalachia, white voters are increasingly disgusted by the Republican Party. GOP leaders, not all stupid, have seen this coming for some time now, as one predominantly white suburb after another has fallen to the Democrats. And so for years they have been hanging their hopes on the perceived social conservatism of African-American and, especially, Latino voters. The 2008 elections put the final nail in that coffin, as even with the specter of same-sex marriage, supposedly conservative non-white voters stayed away from the GOP in numbers larger than ever before despite the stock Republican gay-baiting. For those of them who did want to take a stand, in California, Florida and Arizona, for instance, they voted against same-sex marriage rights and for Democrats. This presents a challenge for progressive Democrats, certainly, but one that pales in comparison to what the fast-shrinking GOP faces. Another fiasco by Republicans this year was their latest attempt at swaying Jewish voters away from the Democratic party, especially in Florida, this time with accusations that Obama, among others, is weak on Israel, and hints that he was a Muslim. The result: just 1 in 5 Jewish voters picked McCain. Perhaps the fact that there are only three Republican Jews in Congress (versus 42 Democrats) should have been a hint that there was far more work to do there than simply brandishing the specter of Islam in the White House. And that the party's rush to out-Christian itself is probably unlikely to appeal to people who are, well, not Christian, including Jews, Muslims, and agnostics, to name a few.

It is no coincidence that at the same time, the GOP has shriveled into a more uniform party than at most times since the 1960s. Like a restricted country club that would rather die than change, the Republican Party is marginalizing itself for the sake of the white men who run it. "Barack The Magic Negro" and Palm Beach aryanists are just the more bizarre manifestations of a party that has wallowed for so long in the privileges of its white male supremacy that it does not even realize that everyone has left the plantation, and they are not coming back.

Pick yer own goddam cotton, assholes. I hope you rot in hell.

Gifts for the Blessed

This one's time is slightly past, and I apologize for my tardiness. It's funny anyway.

Mark Morford

11 skewed ideas to make your holiday a bit more fun, strange, blasphemous

2) Wi-Fi detector shirt
Because few things say "I never want to have sex and really love being 34 and living with my parents" than a battery-powered T-shirt that actually shows the signal strength of the Wi-Fi connection around your very being. Matches perfectly with your "Meh" or "got root?" megageek hoodie. Watch hot girls avoid you like water shuns oil! Fun at all those parties you will never be invited to.

3) Gasoline storage tank
Genius! Fill your backyard reservoir with cheap gas right now, then chortle gleefully when 2010 comes and your friends are all paying 10 bucks a gallon to fill up their wimpy Prii, and suddenly there's you, roaring out to the Home Depot parking lot and burning donuts in your '96 Camaro filled with $1.19 unleaded. Dude! Foresight!

Note to Bustedknuckles, who was the first to bring this thing to my attention: They've discovered it in Frisco. Now everybody will want one!

5) Giant 1/3 scale remote-controlled tank
Military fetishists! Rural backwoods survivalists! Dick Cheney! Now is the time to pull out that last ten grand from the bomb shelter and get yourself a huge remote-controlled tank, an exact scale replica of the ones they used to thwart Commies and crush Saddam and run over Falun Gong believers in China. Apocalypse is nigh, after all. Why not destroy the lawn first?

Be sure to photograph yourself next to your Tiger 1 or Joseph Stalin 2 (biggest gun ever!) and send it in to the site for manly posterity. Chicks really dig that stuff. "My, you've sure got a giant turret, Ned!" she will surely gasp. "Does it spin around and rumble and shake my bowels? Can we keep it in the house? Will it terrify the dog and ruin the garden?" Hell yes, baby.

Truth is, no matter how bleak and economically depressed our country may be right now, in comparison to some of these developing regions, we are blessed beyond belief. We are packed with gifts and miracles, plenty to go around. What, you were saving up for a new Chrysler Sebring? As if.

Truth is. me'n Mrs. G opted out of the whole gift deal this year. Her family decided to forego gifts for the adults years ago and it's been a blessing. Mrs. G managed to get presents for 5 kids for $33, and it was all stuff they wanted. The woman is a genius, and not just for marrying me...

We are not going to be much help at consumer-spending the nation out of the depression the Repugs got us into. Tough shit.


If you use Firefox this article may be of interest.

Oh, the irony...

Ironic Times

Big Three Automakers Face Bankruptcy, But Vow to Rebound
Shown: 2009 Chrysler Cerberus, a thrifty 40 mpg sedan based on East Germany's popular Trabant.

White House Issues Blistering Rebuke to NY Times for Article Blaming Bush Policies for Mortgage Meltdown
Claims story was based on faulty intelligence.

From "The Year In Pictures":

Hitler's Gold Bookmark Found
Discovered in current owner's copy of new Ann Coulter book.

Palin Receives Blessing Against Witchcraft
But after Katie Couric interview.

I don't know what his beef is.” — President George W. Bush, after dodging shoes thrown at him by a man who shouted, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

Beijing ends 500 years of tradition as it sends the navy out to attack pirates

Times Online (UK)

From the dockside of the Yalong Bay base the three decorated vessels that weighed anchor and slipped off into the tropical seas yesterday afternoon might have been any normal coastal patrol.

For Beijing – and for governments watching across the globe – it was the beginning of a new era in world naval history. The interests of China now extend far beyond its borders but this was the first time in more than five centuries that it has travelled outside its territorial waters to defend them.

The last time a Chinese military fleet set sail for anywhere as far afield as Africa with the prospect of a fight at the other end, the ships were 400ft (122m) wooden junks and the commander was a Ming dynasty court eunuch called Zheng He.

— Zheng He is also known as Cheng Ho, or the Three Jewel Eunuch Admiral

Sounds more like the No Jewel Eunuch Admiral to me...

I will assume that today's Chinese sailors are fully equipped, and I wish them well. The whole world is watching this development. Please read the rest.

This is why ...

You ain't seen much of me for the last few days. I been playing Norm Abram* again.

*For those who don't know, Norm Abram of The New Yankee Workshop.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Banks Of The Ponchartrain

I'm not sure who everybody is, but the lovely and extremely talented Mary Black is Nanci's backup vocalist. From GainControlAgain, whom I think assumes we know this stuff.

From 1990 Irish TV.

Me like furrin TV!

Nanci Griffith

"Barack Obama has little in common with George W. Bush, thank God"

Here's Daddy Frank on Obama's choice of Rick Warren as his inaugural invocationalist. Pops has been on vacation or something and sounded off on this kind of late to my way of thinking, but better late than never, which is when I want to hear about this shit again.

You can go read what he has to say, but there's a slight upside:

There is comparable anger and fear on the right. David Brody, a political correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was flooded with e-mails from religious conservatives chastising Warren for accepting the invitation to the inaugural. They vilified Obama as “pro-death” and worse because of his support for abortion rights.

Stoking this rage, no doubt, is the dawning realization that the old religious right is crumbling — in part because Warren’s new generation of leaders departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P. It’s a sign of the old establishment’s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik, known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik’s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples.

Cizik’s ouster won’t halt the new wave he represents. As he also told Gross, young evangelicals care less and less about the old wedge issues and aren’t as likely to base their votes on them. On gay rights in particular, polls show that young evangelicals are moving in Cizik’s (and the country’s) direction and away from what John McCain once rightly called “the agents of intolerance.” It’s not a coincidence that Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which spent more than $500,000 promoting Proposition 8, has now had to lay off 20 percent of its work force in Colorado Springs.

Anything that causes the religious right to start crumbling and financial discomfort to the agents of intolerance is a step in the right direction.

By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.

I'm kinda wondering if Obama is even smarter than we give him credit for. Perhaps he knew that turning over Warren's rock would expose some of his (and others') crap to the light. Where it cannot live.

Clean Coal. Yeah, Right...

This video accompanied an article at Treehugger. There are many more to see.

The Noose Tightens

A little post-Christmas cheer from Newsweek Online. I love the title, but need to add 'If Only!'.

Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and other top Bush officials could soon face legal jeopardy.

Go read. I'll cut to the chase:

But for those interested in tougher sanctions, one other possibility looms. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of "The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld," points out that over 20 countries now have universal jurisdiction laws that would allow them to indict U.S. officials for torture if America doesn't do it itself. A few such cases were attempted in recent years but were dropped, reportedly under U.S. pressure. Now the Obama administration may be less likely to stand in their way. This doesn't mean it will extradite Cheney and Co. to stand trial abroad. But at the very least, the threat of such suits could soon force Bush aides to think twice before buying plane tickets. "The world is getting smaller for these guys," says Ratner, "and they'll have to check with their lawyers very carefully before they travel." Jail time it isn't—but it may be some justice nonetheless.

I think they should have to check with their lawyers to see if it's OK to go out in the front yard of their fortified undisclosed-location compounds, but that's just me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Emmylou Blogging

We're headin' for home today. I thought this was a fitting 'get outta town' song.

Emmylou Harris & The Hot Band Life in Budapest 1988

Leaving Louisiana

The next time I'm in Paris ...

I'm inviting myself to dinner at Chris' relatives' house. Anybody who serves two cheese courses is #1 with me.

All I want for Christmas ...

Is this. I can put it in the back yard and plink .22 rounds off it from my kitchen window. It's even bronze so it'll last a while. Beats shooting at the neighbors. Heh ...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Secular Humanist Progressive XMas!

Seasonal Forgiveness My Ass

Guardian (UK)

'Tis the night before Christmas and the season of goodwill. The mood is forgiving. Our faces warm with mulled wine, our tummies full, we're meant to slump in the armchair, look back on the year just gone and count our blessings - woozily agreeing to put our troubles behind us.

As in families, so in the realm of public and international affairs. And this December that feels especially true. The "war on terror" that dominated much of the decade seems to be heading towards a kind of conclusion. George Bush will leave office in a matter of weeks and British troops will leave Iraq a few months later. The first, defining phase of the conflict that began on 9/11 - the war of Bush, Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden - is about to slip from the present to the past tense. Bush and Blair will be gone, with only Bin Laden still in post (my em). The urge to move on is palpable.

Yes, the new year would get off to a more soothing start if we could all agree to draw a line and move on. But it would be wrong. First, because we cannot hope to avoid repeating the errors of the last eight years unless they are subject to a full accounting. (It is for that reason Britain needs its own full, unconstrained inquiry into the Iraq war.) Second, because a crucial principle, one that goes to the very heart of the American creed, is at stake. And third, because this is not solely about the judgment of history. It may be about the judgment of the courts - specifically those charged with punishing war crimes.

This is why there must be a reckoning. Bush will do all he can to avoid it: and it is wholly possible that one of his last acts as president will be to cover himself, his vice-president and all his henchmen with a blanket pardon. Even if that does not happen, Barack Obama is unlikely to want to spend precious capital pursuing his predecessor for war crimes.

But other prosecutors elsewhere in the world should weigh their responsibilities. In the end, it was a lone Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean court, who ensured the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. A pleasing, if uncharitable, thought this Christmas, is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush will hesitate before making plans to travel abroad in 2009. Or indeed at any time - ever again.

The rest of the world needs to STFU about this and very quietly issue arrest warrants. Give it a little while 'til the criminals think all is forgotten, then invite them to come over...

It would be best if we could chew these shitstains out of our national skivvies ourselves, but if we are unwilling to do so I'll settle for somebody else doing it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O Holy Night

Sometimes even I remember that Christmas was supposed to celebrate the birth of our savior. Too bad the goddam religionists fucked that all up too.

Merry Christmas.

Celtic Woman, starring the angelically lovely Chloe Agnew, performs "O Holy Night," from the Celtic Woman concert at Slane Castle, in Ireland.

This song was never broadcast on television, or released in the DVD of the concert.

An Alternative Christmas

The other day, our friends Bev and Bentley gave us a copy of a hilarious CD called "Bah! Humbug: The Alternative Christmas Album". Funnier'n shit!

I tried to find "The Man Who Slits The Turkey's Throat At Christmas" and a coupla others at YouTube, but no luck. These will have to do. These are not your father's Christmas songs. Unless he hangs out with me, that is! Please enjoy these in the spirit in which they are intended. Heh.

Bill Barclay - The Twelve Days of Christmas

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

That time ...

It's that time of year again, when all the holidays converge. I actually do enjoy Christahanukwanzaa, just the whole idea of the fellowship and goodwill these holidays promote. Too bad we can't have that feeling all year long; the world would be a better place.

As all the regulars here know, I'm not a religious man. Got no use for organized religion and the ceremony that goes along with it. I am, however, a big fan of Jesus Christ. I don't worship him, don't think he's the Son of God, but I do agree with his philosophy. If more people would take his advice (peace, love, goodwill), we'd be a lot better off.

Christmas to me is a time to be with people you care about, helping out others who aren't as fortunate, and good food and drink. Last year, we took you to Germany with us for a traditional European Christmas with my family, but this year we're staying home and doing a quiet celebration with those we care for.

Billy Squier - Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You'

And I generally don't wish for presents or material things but I would like the world to be a better place. My wish is to see our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan to spend next Christmas at home with their families and I most desperately pray the people in those lands are blessed with peace in the new year.

I also wish for tolerance here at home. After 8 years of divisiveness and hate, I would hope people (especially the religious ones - remember Jesus?) opened their eyes in the new year. To accept peoples' differences instead of hating them for it.

John Lennon - So This Is Christmas

I wish for prosperity for those who don't have it, for those who are struggling to put food on the table and shelter over their heads. As we feel no qualms about dumping money and resources into places that are in "the national interest", the health and prosperity of the world is in our national interest. As we've seen with this financial crisis, too much of what we do is global for us to ignore or exploit those in foreign lands who need our help. Yes, we're not doing well here but believe me, we're still doing far better than others.

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas

And in closing, on behalf of my family, Gordon, and the rest of the staff here at the Brain, I wish you all a happy holiday, regardless of which one (or all/none) you observe. I wish you all health, prosperity, and, most of all, peace.

In the 21st Century, after ten thousand years of recorded human history, you would think we could take peace for granted by now. You would think we'd have matured as a race at this point but even the most 'civilized' of us still have the taste for war and oppression. We've collectively done such amazing things, things we take for granted today that a mere century ago would have been thought a miracle. You would think we could settle our differences by a means other than death and destruction. It's time we looked to the future collectively, not as a group of 200 disparate political entities but as a mature race of humans, dedicated to protecting the only place we have to live and those who share it with us. I pray we grow up.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's catching on ...

I thought I was the only crazy one but a lot of people are getting a big kick over the shoe-throwing thing. It's even come to the U.S.:

CHICAGO, IL (AP)- Residents in Chicago took their frustrations out on a cardboard cutout of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Monday.

A radio station came up with the idea of throwing a shoe at the makeshift governor as a fundraiser for a local charity.

Participants got three throws for a dollar.


Put up one of Bush and your charity will reach its fund raising goal with me. I'd be there all day, laughing maniacally, handing out money and throwing shoes. Heh ...

Since when ...

Has Hawai'i been some exotic foreign destination? Are they saying Steve McGarrett, Thomas Magnum, and Don Ho weren't Americans? Or is it just that the first black President, who happens to be a Democrat, hails from there?


For those of you who aren’t clear, Hawaii is one of our 50 states.


Merry Christmas

Me'n Mrs. G are heading out to the coast for our annual War On Christmas, so I'll just leave you with this pretty song. There's no movie, so just close your eyes and listen to it, and if you can't pretend for a minute that you're not a godless commie Librul fuck and get a little Christmas nostalgia, then just pretend the Star Of Bethlehem was a cosmicly serendipitous old time GPS that led to guys like Rick Warren. There, that oughta get ya in the spirit.

All seriousness aside, Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah or Kwanzaa to you all, or if you just like to paint yourself blue and dance nekkid out in the woods to celebrate the return of the Sun, I hope it's not too cold. See yas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm not gay, but I won't be drinking his water or eating his goddam donuts

I don't like Rick Warren any more than most of us do. I need some of his viewpoints like I need another itchy asshole, and I wish Obama had chosen someone more along the lines of Rev. Lowery who will get the Last Word at the inauguration, but frankly, he's just going to give one little speech that probably won't be remembered ten minutes after it's over by anyone except people who already fall for his shit. He's not going to be influencing policy like the christofascist whackjobs have been for at least the last eight years, maybe more like thirty.

Here's a coupla opinions from some gays in the know.

Hilary Rosen:

The gay community was hit harshly with realities over the last few weeks as a cabinet and senior White House staff was chosen in a Democratic administration that did not include a gay or lesbian appointee* and Pastor Rick Warren was chosen to give the Invocation on Inauguration Day.

(*This takes nothing away from open lesbian Nancy Sutly, new chief of the White House Council on Environmental Quality but that post is outside the power center of the White House and very issue specific.)

There's also the new SecNav, but I digress.

So despite my view that Inauguration day is a celebration that shouldn't be marred by the messy process of political compromise, I accept that for President-elect Obama, Inauguration Day is his first day of governing. He made a choice I disagree with and I won't soon forget the smugness of Warren's response. But, Barack Obama will own this inauguration, not Rick Warren. And I still believe in Barack Obama.

I still believe that he will lead our country to greater prosperity; health care for all; an energy policy that promotes a clean environment and a new economy. And I still believe that President Obama will work to enact public policy for to improve the lives of LGBT Americans. There will be missteps and compromises along the way. And those that simply don't understand what it means to be different in this world will have far more influence than I'd like in the debate. But the messy process of governing will also bring about progress in an Obama administration that will propel equality significantly forward.

Bob Ostertag:

It's just plain sad what the gay and lesbian movement has come to. November 4 was so extraordinary, so magical. The whole world seemed to come together. Except for gays and lesbians in California. We were supposed to feel crushed over Proposition 8. And now the whole scenario is gearing up to repeat itself on January 20: the whole world will celebrate the inauguration of the first black American president and the end of the George Bush insanity - the whole world except gays and lesbians who will be protesting Rick Warren's presence at the inaugural.

How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.

[...] We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.

Rick Warren is now the flash point, the one all our political allies, even Barack Obama, are supposed to denounce because he doesn't pass gay marriage the litmus test.

[...] The quote that got all the attention was when Warren said gay marriage would be on a par with marriage for incest, pedophilia and polygamy. And yes, I think that's off-base. Not up there are the scale of the whole God-sent-his-only-Son-to-die-on-a-cross bit, but weird nonetheless. But let's look the rest of the interview, the parts that didn't get as much attention as that one line:

Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage? A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.

Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?

A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]

Yeah, he's a chubby little devil all right, but I'm the last one who'd bring that up, tending toward the chunky as I do. I must admit to enjoying tales of wingnut hillbilly heroin use, though. Heh.

Just a reminder to all those gays and lesbians who never look beyond their cultural ghetto: we've got some serious problems going on in the world today that need to be addressed now. Global warming in particular can't wait. For thirty years Evangelical Christians have been the anchor that has pulled this country to the right, giving us first Reaganism and then Bushism. Wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And a decade of world-threatening climate change denialism.

At a minimum, 80 million Americans identify as evangelicals, and up to double that depending on how you define evangelical. They are the largest single religious group in the country, and the fastest growing. They are not going away. Somehow, some way, queers are going to have to share this country with all these people.

I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn't homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who "don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles." I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn't care less about what they think of gay marriage.

Those quotes are the opinions of others and not necessarily mine. I'm just throwin' 'em out there for you. Plenty more at each post. There are no doubt many, many others. Personally, I believe in not sweatin' the small shit, and in the overall scheme of things Obama and us are going to be up against, this is small shit. Just my ever-so-humble opinion.

Taliban Eggs

From Doonesbury's milblog The Sandbox.

Many areas of Afghanistan are boulder-strewn. In one place on the J-bad Highway where the passes open up into a mountain-bordered plain, it actually looked like a boulder farm.

Thousands of large round boulders appeared as if they'd been purposely arranged in rows. I chuckled to myself from the turret of the humvee as we rolled along. We would encounter these fields in many areas of the country, and some were just mind-boggling. Like a carton of bb's scattered on a living room carpet, the thousands of boulders had been there for eons.

SGT Burt Schtickum, (who is still recovering from a torn aorta and resultant valve replacement that he narrowly but miraculously survived), decided that the fields of large round rocks were, in fact, Taliban eggs. Taliban, SGT Schtickum reasoned, were hatched from these eggs-cleverly-disguised-as-rocks in much the same way that killdeer hatch from eggs that look like pebbles.

The eggs, he maintains, have lain dormant for generations, Godzilla-like; and are activated to spawn by contact with diesel exhaust. Fiendish. As we patrolled, this sage of Afghan naturalism explained, we stirred our own foes with the exhaust plumes belched from our humvees.

It's hard to argue with the sheer Darwinian logic SGT Schtickum applied to explaining the constant supply of Taliban we were presented with.

The video below is from one of our drives through the fields of Taliban eggs. We were on a back road in Kapisa Province when we were suddenly surrounded by scads of them. As you can tell from the quantity of unspawned Taliban, we're in deep over there.

Jeebus, talk about a highway to nowhere! No wonder these guys got time to think up stuff like that! Comin' up with silly shit's better than fighting, though.

Maybe she's too honest? Or smart?

So tell me ...

Why I should think this whole Rick Warren thing is "much ado about nothing"?

When Obama invited Rick Warren to speak at the inauguration, he set off a major discussion about about what this says to the LGBT community, the Liberal (and Religious) Left, and the Religious Right. What's clear is that this particular decision has some hidden ramifications that will not be fully manifest for a very long time ...

I love everybody who says it's a good thing he's there so the god-people will warm up to Barry. Know what I say? Fuck 'em. I don't care if the 'religious right' likes the Dem candidate or votes for him. If it were up to me, I'd propose legislation to make abortions legal up until 2 hours before birth, just to watch the Jesus-freaks' heads explode. I'd make a law to give condoms to kids as they enter kindergarten, just to see the same result.

Tell me, why should we 'reach out' or 'be more understanding and inclusive' and 'tolerant' of people who have zero tolerance of anyone who doesn't share their twisted worldview? Why should we give a damn about people who enabled the Republican Party to become what it is?


Michelle Goldberg goes on to note that even when asked, Rick Warren is unable to distinguish his differences with James Dobson except as a matter of style. Furthermore, Warren believes that there is a strict hierarchy of authority which includes the fundamental correctness of the patriarchy. And he even admits to believing Jews are going to hell. If he thinks Jews are going to hell, what do you think he believes will happen with those Muslim allies he's now cultivating?

It seems that Obama and his team made this particular decision without truly understanding the overall consequences.


I'm tired of these self-appointed mouthpieces for god telling me I don't have morals because I don't believe. I'm tired of the gullibility of their flocks, believing everything that comes from the pulpit without question, for years voting against their (and our) best interests; throwing their support to anyone who says the right things to them.

This is a group of people who have been played for fools since Reagan ran for President and I'm supposed to take them seriously? This is a group of people for whom the name hypocrite fits so well. We have to sit and listen to their sanctimony and lecturing about the 'sanctity of marriage' and the 'culture of life' and 'heartland values' to the point of retching, yet the 'bible belt' has the highest divorce rate, the highest rate of teen pregnancy, and the lowest standard of education in the country? Horseshit. None of them have anything to say that a thinking American should listen to.

These are people who link distribution of AIDS medicines in Africa to belief, or at the least, acceptance of their 'principles'. It's easy to find converts at the end of the proverbial 'barrel of a gun'. When you refuse to provide education and appropriate birth control (condoms), when you turn a life and death situation into an opportunity to proselytize, it is you who have lost touch with 'moral values'.

When you marginalize an entire segment of the population, when you deride other religious groups for not believing as you do, and when you withhold information and prophylactics that can save a large number of lives, you have no regard for the 'culture of life'. When you care more for a group of cells forming inside a woman's body than you do actual living, breathing human beings, when you encourage people to deny health care on religious grounds, and when you applaud the efforts of terrorists who would kill those who provide that health care, you do not have anything resembling values.

Rick Warren represents these people.

So tell me again, Mr. Obama, why we should even admit these people are alive, let alone give them a position of stature at an event they've done their best to make sure would never happen?

I'm more than willing to give Barry the benefit of the doubt when it comes to cabinet appointments. Most of them look level-headed, qualified, and professional, but allowing Rick Warren this national stage is nothing less than an outrage.

Mr. Obama, everyone makes mistakes - I've made more than I want to count - but the true measure of a leader is to admit them and learn from them. It's time for you to admit you made a big one 'palling' up to Rick Warren. It's time to disinvite him and bring on someone more appropriate. As I said in a comment on an earlier post on this subject when Gord asked me just whom he should ask:

Who should he have used, Rev Wright?

Anybody but a man who believes political assassinations should be SOP in our foreign policy (a 'man of god' no less - Jesus weeps). Maybe a guy who wasn't a part of the bunch who now basically form the core of the Republican party? Maybe a woman whose church embraces gay couples in their congregation?

In fact, I have a friend who's a Presbyterian pastor in Detroit. His congregation can boast quite a few gay couples among the membership.

If Barry really has to have a religious man at the inauguration, I'll give him Pastor Pete's number. I'm certain he'd be honored and quite willing.

And that was just off the top of my head. Rick Warren has nothing to do with change, Mr. Obama. All he, and the rest of his slimy brethren, wants is to maintain the status quo and, naturally, the political power they've accrued over the past 30 years. With Rick Warren giving the invocation at your inaugural, Mr. President-elect, you're helping them do just that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How The Mighty Have Fallen...

I've been a fan of Byron Berline for almost forty years. Three-time National Fiddle Champion, in bands like Country Gazette, The Flying Burrito Bros., Berline, Crary, & Hickman, now with The Byron Berline Band and owner of Byron's Double Stop Fiddle Shop, I don't think he needs money. But, O to have come to this:

Mrs. G, who is a bigger fan of this gent than even I am, found that while Tube cruisin' and instantly e-mailed it to all her Bluegrass friends. Heh.

Byron's, er, accompanist is a 92-year-old golf pro named Duffy Martin. To see more of his peculiar, er, talent, go here and listen to him talk about a little gadget he invented. If I was a churchgoer, I'd definitely want one of these. Funny. Worth a look.

Saturday Crazy Cajun/Shetland Music Blogging

GainControlAgain brings us a unique foreign perspective on some of our own American music. Your favorite college dropout radio station WKFAG* is proud to present this kind of stuff we might otherwise miss.

*'W' - Eas' Coas', 'K' - Lef' Coas', 'FAG' - Fixer And....Hmmmmmmm. I might wanta rethink them call letters a little....

From 1988 UK Documentary "Aly Meets The Cajuns" Aly Bain talks to DL about the song and then accompanies on the performance.

About the interview, been there, done that, but never in French!

D.L. Menard & The Louisiana Aces - "The Back Door"

Read more about Aly Bain and D.L. Menard.

Saturday Emmylou Blogging

From one of my favorite YouTube channels, GainControlAgain(UK).

Emmylou on the Rodney Crowell song she recorded for her Elite Hotel album.

Rodney's the guitar picker on the right in the red shirt. I'm a fan.

Emmylou Harris - 'Til I Gain Control Again

Cocaine Flashback

Alla yas ol' farts like me'll like this one. Speaking only for myself, it's waaaaay too late to heed the anti-blow message at the end! Heh.

Tom Rush - "Cocaine"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Russian ship visits Cuba

Politics and Bush's depredations on the nation in what's left of his slide to oblivion have got me bored to shit today, although I think I'm in love with my fellow Angeleno homey, Hilda Solis.

RUSSIAN WARSHIPS arrive in Cuba; first such visit since end of Cold War.

I got no idea what the grand scale strategy is, but speaking as a former enlisted man, I know what the below-decks buzz is - a) Cuba's a helluva lot better place to be than Murmansk or Vladivostok this time of year, and b) lotsa rum and hot Latin babes!. A liberty call to remember! I wonder if there'll be enough crew left to get that thing back to Russia...

I just hope there's no room on that tub for them to take a buncha my '59 El Caminos home with them. Oh, the barbarity...


I have another excuse for my lack of prolific today besides boredom.

I'm in charge of both snow removal and dog poop removal around here. I try to not combine the two tasks, even though it would be more efficient. Since the Automatic Wind Direction Changer on my snow thrower works so well, that is to say no matter what direction the wind is blowing from, changing the direction of the discharge chute will automatically cause the wind to shift and come from the exact direction in which you wish to discharge snow, and since whatever is being pulverized by the augur will then blow back right square in yer face and all over yer bod, I try to get rid of the dog poop prior to snowthrowing. Dog poop ain't bad all over your jacket until you go inside and throw your jacket over a chair to dry and it thaws out. Then, dog poop is, well, shitty.

Yesterday I went on a dog poop walkdown before it started snowing. Success! I kicked a nice frozen dog turd to the edge of the driveway and rared back to do it again with some serious altitude and distance to kick it all the way to the neighbor's yard. What I failed to notice was the snow-covered rock the turd had landed on. I think my big toe is broken.

Yeah, I'd be laughin' too if it didn't hurt so much...

Quote of the Day

Mr. Aravosis:

... The problem isn't that Obama talks to Rick Warren, or even meets with Rick Warren. Hell, if Obama wants to meet with Ahmadinejad, more power to him. But I don't see him inviting the Iranian leader to the inauguration dais. There's a difference between reaching out to bad guys and legitimizing them ...

So help me ...

I'd better not hear any of this Jesus-crap from my doctor, pharmacist, or cashier:

Well, the threatened "right of conscience" regulation was pushed through by President Bush on Thursday as a "midnight regulation." This regulation would allow anyone to refuse to participate in medical procedures they feel goes against their religious beliefs. "Employees" are defined broadly: from the pharmacist filling a prescription for antibiotics to a cashier refusing to ring out oral contraceptives, to the one who cleans the surgical tools after a procedure involving a blood transfusion ...

Because it ain't gonna be pretty. You don't wanna do your job? Find another one. There's a thousand motherfuckers who are out of work waiting to take yours.

I gotta try that. "Sorry, sir, it goes against my religious beliefs to work on your piece-of-shit old Caddy." Guess where my ass would be?

Just shut the fuck up and do the job you're being paid to do.

How it happened ...

No time to sit and bitch this morning so I'll direct you to Krugman, who has a great essay up on the how and why of the financial mess we're in:


Meanwhile, how much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?

Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.


This mess didn't surprise folks like Krugman and those of us who've been running around last few years with our hair on fire. I just figured the bottom would fall out sooner.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Old-Tech Approach To Piracy On The High Seas

So I was reading an article about

The US government said Wednesday that it believes a new UN Security Council resolution on Somalia authorizes air strikes against pirates in Somali territory.

Air strikes? Gee, ya think? Like fuckin' DOH!

However, contrary to an earlier draft, the final version of resolution 1851 does not explicitly say Somali air space can be used.

"The resolution urges countries to establish an international cooperation mechanism as a common point of contact for counter-piracy activities near Somalia," the State Department said in response to a reporter's question to clarify the situation.

Still no fuckin' clue. Yeesh.

Look, folks, fuckin' up pirates is low-retro-tech shit. Here are two entertaining and dramatic approaches from the past.

First, Captain Gallery's USS Guadalcanal task force in action against U-505 off Africa in WWII. We could get that sucker outta mothballs and fix up some F4Fs and have at 'em!

Another approach to air-to-sea tactics:

There's nothing new to be learned about dealing with low-tech ships at sea. Just do it. If ya don't let 'em make it back to land, no problema with violating anyones's airspace. Sink enough of their ships and boats, they'll have to start a Victory ship-like assembly line to keep up, thus creating employment in Somalia!

More Afghanistan: Let's Score The Dope First!

Another interesting piece about Afghanistan in an interview with former NYT correspondent Stephen Kinzer at Truthout, with video:

Resisting foreign armies is something Afghans have been doing for thousands of years - they're probably better at it than anyone else in the world. The British learned this in the 19th century, the Soviets learned this in the 20th century. We shouldn't have to repeat those very painful lessons. So that's the first part: we should not be escalating our military presence there. What do we do instead of that? I think we need a dual process; a process that goes on within Afghanistan and a process that goes on in a much broader region. Within Afghanistan, it's important to understand that what we call the Taliban is actually a very broad coalition of tribal factions and warlords and other groups. Afghanistan is a place of constantly shifting factions. A faction that might be on your side today might not be tomorrow. A Taliban-allied warlord may not necessarily be anti-American, and if he is today, he might not be tomorrow. This system of flexible alliances holds out great opportunity for sophisticated diplomacy. There's a great possibility that once the United States is not seen as an invading force, it will be able to persuade a number of these warlords or factional leaders to shift their alliances. We ought to test that.

At the same time, we need to be negotiating throughout this region. This is not a problem anymore that can be solved within Afghanistan. It has long since become a regional problem. Just in the last week, after this recent attack on a concentration of American trucks, the American commanders started talking about alternative routes into Afghanistan for their supply convoys. They're talking about doing that from central Asian countries or even from places originating in Russia*. So this shows you what a regional dimension is involved here. Pakistan is a deeply influential player in Afghanistan. We need Pakistan to take a more resolute position, but Pakistan, like any country in the world, is only willing to make security concessions when it feels safe. Right now, Pakistan's security focus is - and has been for nearly all of its existence - on India. Its policy of insisting on having a pliant government in place in Afghanistan, and supporting favorable factions inside Afghanistan, is based almost entirely on its desire to counter India. India has been opening up consulates in Afghanistan, and there's talk about Indian military aid and Indian development aid in Afghanistan. Until the Pakistan-India confrontation can be ratcheted down several levels, there probably won't be peace in Afghanistan. Iran is another country that can have great influence inside of Afghanistan. Parts of Afghanistan used to be in Iran - it has tremendous ability to influence some large regions of Afghanistan.

Gee, all that sounded swell...

*I heard that Russia is already facilitating supply routes like this for other NATO nations.

We're now spending $4 billion per month on our war effort in Afghanistan. The total annual value of the poppy crop in Afghanistan is also about $4 billion. Today, the proceeds from nearly all the poppies growing in Afghanistan go into the pockets of the warlords. We are very rightly concerned about that. The money that's being used to finance the war against us is in part coming from the Afghan poppy crop. In addition, we're turning the poor farmers who grow most of these poppies into enemies by pursuing our traditional policy of burning fields and spraying with them from above with herbicides. How can we resolve all these problems together - not to mention that people are dying on the streets of Hamburg and Chicago every day from the heroin that comes from Afghan poppies?

My suggestion is that we abandon the idea of wiping out the poppy fields. That's like wiping out the Taliban. It's a great idea, but it's just not practical. Therefore, since it's not possible to do what we would like to do in our fantasies, what would be a realistic approach?

I'd like to see the United States buy the entire Afghan poppy crop. We would be paying as much as we pay each month for our war effort in Afghanistan. We could use some of that crop to make morphine for medical use, and the rest, we could burn. This will have the effect of, A, dramatically reducing the income that pours into the coffers of many of the most brutal Afghan warlords; B, showing poor Afghan peasants that we're actually buying something from them, giving them some money to live on rather than firing predator drones into their wedding parties; and C, presumably impacting the heroin supply worldwide.

Those last three paragraphs, folks, are the best examples of 'No Shit, Sherlock!' I've seen in a long time. I've been down with that idea for years.

Expanding on Mr. Kinzer's idea, I think a possible good use for our troops would be to protect the poppy crop and the poppy farmers from retaliation from the warlords who would come down on them like a sledgehammer if they sold the opium to us. It would mean a long-term military presence there, but over time would weaken the warlords/tribal factions/Taliban/whomever, perhaps make them more amenable to making deals with us.

We used to protect Vietnamese rice farmers so they could harvest their crop and sell it on the open market rather than let the Viet Cong 'tax' them out of it, aka 'steal' it. Problem was, given our government's short-term approach to things, after the harvest was over we would leave and expose the farmers to retaliation. There's next year and the next crop to consider.

Either we GTFO of Afghanistan or we make a long-term commitment there, and come up with a smarter plan than Bush did, which shouldn't be too hard. One problem we have is that 'commitment' runs in four-year stretches in this country. The Afghans have been doing what they do for thousands of years. Whether we act like guests instead of invaders is a key thing. They like guests. They destroy invaders.

This is just one element of a regional problem that stretches from the southern tip of India up through Central Asia, and from Bangladesh to Turkey.

The more I read and learn about Afghanistan and the region, the better I feel about finally getting a President who reads and listens and invites opinion. What difference it can make will not be instantly apparent. I can say this: like the Vietnamese, who are now doing OK, the Afghans are going to be there long after we leave, no matter how long we stay there.

We abandoned Afghanistan once, after the Russians left and Afghanistan was no longer useful to us. If going to do that again, let's get it over with sooner rather than later. If we're not, we have to do things differently than under Bush.

Stop and think about what will really be in America's interest over the long run.

Cheney Taunts Bush, Pardon Me or Else

We all know that Cheney just announced, out loud and on camera, that he authorized torture, a criminal act that the United States has executed war criminals for in the past. Here's one man's opinion why. Links at site.

With his ABC interview Vice President Dick Cheney put a smoking gun on the table. He admitted that he, along with other top administration officials, personally approved the CIA's waterboarding of prisoners. That he said it unapologetically is merely his low-keyed way of declaring open war.

President Bush has been working on his legacy by circulating an upbeat, 2-page talking point memo with a description of his successes in office. Bush likes to white-wash and obfuscate. Cheney prefers a more aggressive approach.

Just as an aside, if Bush's "successes" took up all of two pages, he must print awful big!

Always blunt, two-fisted, and condescending, the question is, why admit that he approved waterboarding? And why now? Maybe it was egotism, pure and simple, his own version of a legacy campaign where he takes credit for a policy that he asserts made America safe. But to his detractors it is an admission of guilt that is prosecutable, as damning as Jack Kervorkian's 60 Minutes interview that landed him in prison.

What he is responding to is the accusation in the just released Senate Armed Services Committee Report on the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody that condemns the Bush administration in no uncertain terms:

There are those who see the vice president's admission as part of a strategy to force the president to pardon him and all those named in the Senate Report: Rumsfeld, Meyers, and Rice. If Bush doesn't pardon them, they will certainly be pursued by those in the new administration who will not let-bygones-be-bygone.

Since Bush has been famously reticent to grant pardons both as governor and president, then Cheney's ABC interview with Jonathan Karl is a way of provoking Bush to act while he still can. If Cheney is pardoned then he'll have it both ways: maintaining that what was done was legal and being protected from prosecution.

I hope that deep down in his prehensile brain, Bush knows that he was so punk'd by the neocons that he made the decisions that have made him the Worst President In Our History in almost more ways than he can count with both shoes and his pants off and will simply let them twist in the wind should the incoming administration decide to do the right thing and prosecute them. He's a petulant, vindictive sort and just might.

We will have to wait until all the new people are in place and see what happens. There is something to be said for not announcing plans to go after these criminals while they are still in office. Let 'em think 'bygones are bygones' and that they're going to get away with it until they're out of power and it's too late to foil the process.

Bush himself, of course, will be untouchable at Estancia del Chimp-o in Paraguay. He doesn't owe Cheney a damn thing.

If I were the new Prez, I'd take advantage of the expanded executive powers Bush declared about locking up American citizens indefinitely without charges or due process and round up enough neocons to replace the existing detainees at Gitmo. Then I'd sign on to the International Criminal Court and transfer them slowly, one case at a time, to The Hague, Cheney last. If he lived that long. It would be a fitting end for him to die alone and powerless, incommunicado in a concrete and steel cage in jailhouse orange with nothing but a Gideon Koran for company.

Picture it ...

Paris 1814*:


What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.

They have license to break the law. That's what we're deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn't be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they've broken. And I can't think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.


Maybe a second American revolution is what's needed? When you have a group of 'untouchables' who can perpetrate crimes in our name without fear of punishment, you have what amounts to a monarchy.

It's the reason Cheney can come on the TV and basically admit he authorized and condoned war crimes, and do it unrepentantly, and leave the studio a free man, we no longer have the America we used to know.

When Bush can come on the TV and say "so what" when the point was made that al-Qaeda wasn't operating in Iraq before we invaded under false pretenses, we have a government that no longer cares for the lives of Americans.

When we have an opposition party who takes prosecutions "off the table" before the first investigation is begun, you know something is seriously wrong with the system that values the Rule of Law above all else.

Maybe the whole bunch should be rounded up and taken away (read what you will into that) - they're all complicit in creating an 'elite class' for whom crime and punishment have no meaning, for whom laws are merely speed bumps on their way to furthering their self-interest.

At the very least, there should be term limits for those in Congress. Politics should be a calling, not a career, not a chance to become a feudal lord, making decisions for his serfs without thought for their lives or well-being. The American political system is not even a shadow of its former self, the Constitution now "merely a piece of paper" for those in power, but used as a club to keep the proles in line.

The election last month proved the American people have had enough. The sad thing is, we've elected a party (our only choice) that neither has the will, or the stomach, to uphold the law. While, hopefully, they won't be as blatant in their lawbreaking, the fact they are letting Bush/Cheney walk makes them merely the flip side of the same coin.

I'll believe in the American system again when those in the leadership stand up and say "we will not abide lawbreaking by anyone" and takes action to back it up. Until then, get off my back about retiring in Europe. When the rich and politically connected begin to pay for their crimes, I'll begin to have faith in my country again. We're supposed to have voted for change but I get the sinking feeling we voted for business as usual.

*Thanks to Virgo for the Moyers link.