Saturday, April 11, 2009

The End of Christian America

From the article:

There it was, an old term with new urgency: post-Christian. This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.

While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world." As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.

That was a pretty wordy way of saying, "Worship any god(s) you like. It is your right under the Constitution to do so or not as you choose. Keep it to yourself. Respect my rights as well and quit trying to elect people and pass laws that will force me to believe as you say you do or there's gonna be trouble."

Many conservative Christians believe they have lost the battles over issues such as abortion, school prayer and even same-sex marriage, and that the country has now entered a post-Christian phase. [...]


I walked in the door about ten minutes ago with my new dead-tree copy of Newsweek and posted this on the strength of the cover. Now I am going to go sit on the couch and read the rest of it.

Saturday give-Emmylou-an-assist Music Blogging

Kieran Kane with Emmylou Harris ~ This Dirty Little Town

Thanks to neddysea, UK.

The Rankin File

A comment in response to last week's video:

Gordon, if you like Cookie Rankin, you will love the rest of her family. - montag

Well, Montag ol' buddy, ya got that one right!

Here's a twofer from this fine Canadian group from Cape Breton. First, a number from the Heavy Metal end of their repertoire ta suck ya in:

The Rankin Family ~ Movin' On

And something a little sweeter and more poignant:

Borders and Time

Thanks to lbrankinfiles.

Thought for the Day

A few minutes ago I was in the 'reading room' as I am every morning, with my copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac and next to today's date was:

When you drink from the stream, remember its source.

A little further ponderin' upon the vicissitudes of life and a Grand Question came to me:

When Repugs drink the koolaid, do they remember it comes outta Limbaugh, Hannity, Rove, etc., etc.'s ASS?

Heh. Life is good.

Fairey Swordfish

Following up on my earlier post, some lovely footage of these old crates.

Note the crew 'walking the prop' to pump oil out of the bottom cylinders so it will start without bending the connecting rod or blowing the head off and the low-tech starting system ("Goddamit, Gord, she stalled! Get out there and crank! Move yer ass, we're only forty feet up!"), and the mosquito abatement effect when it does start. Carbon footprint my ass, go sink something!

These things weren't very fast and had about the same stall speed as a grocery cart, but they were deadly. The brave pilots would try to fly them so low in the attack that the enemy gunners couldn't depress their guns enough to shoot at them, and if they did, the big round somewhat hopefully named motor could stop a lot of lead from reaching the pilot, and could keep running with minor bits like a few of the cylinders and heads, etc. shot away.


Thanks to unapro3, Oz.

I'm disgusted with the U.S. Navy

Captain Phillips, skipper of Maersk Alabama and hostage to drugged-up Somalian thugs, obviously read my earlier post and followed my advice:

[...] You better just jump overboard and swim for it and pray that the nearby US warship blasts those pirates to Kingdom Come if they point their weapons at you. Best of luck.


Reporting from Washington and Nairobi, Kenya -- Adrift with his captors in sight of U.S. warships, the American sea captain being held for ransom by Somali pirates briefly escaped their lifeboat by jumping overboard, a U.S. official said Friday, but was recaptured and brought back.

Where was our fuckin' Navy? Why, right there! And they screwed the pooch.

They should have had a gun team - .50 cal, 20mm, 5-inch .38, a sharpshooter with an M-14, whatever, in position to take advantage of Captain Phillips' jump. There was a window of a few seconds between the time he jumped and the time the thug fired warning shots at him to force him back aboard.

In those few seconds the pirate should have died. If this had been a SWAT situation in L.A. or NYC, he would have.

What's the Navy for? Why, to keep the sea lanes open, among other things. What do we pay them for? They let four clowns with Kalashnikovs buffalo three goddam warships, and weren't ready to take them out when they had the chance. What the fuck good are they?

You fucked up, Canoe Clubbers. I'm disgusted with you.

There will be more on this. Latest report is that many, many pirates, with hostages in tow, are converging on the area. I hope they don't have enough dope to try and seize one of our destroyers. Shit, at the rate our Navy's going they'll get it and we'll be ransoming off one of our first-line men-o'-war. Won't that look wonderful?

And fuck you, Repugs, kudos to the French. My condolences to the family of the hostage who was killed, but the Frogs had the balls to go do it.

This shit has to stop, even if innocent people have to die, I'm sorry.


I heard earlier that the Somalian pirates were paid $80 million in the last year, mostly by the companies insuring the ships. Why don't you insurance companies just pay them first so they can get stoned and not have to go out to sea in the first place?

Kill 'em off or pay 'em off, makes no difference to me, but this shit is getting ridiculous.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Some F-22s'll send them pirates skedaddlin', you betcha!"

I posted the other day about SecDef Gates' decision to cut some useless pork outta the military budget.

But wait! When ya shake a tree, out come the squirrels...

Think Progress, with links and video:

Last year, the New York Times revealed that numerous cable news “military analysts” never disclosed their ties to military contractors. Yesterday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney appeared on Fox News to discuss the Somali pirates situation, and managed to use it as an opportunity to shill for the F-22:

McINERNEY: I’d put F-22s and combat air patrol out there, two of them, with tankers. … The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter canon.

“It doesn’t take an Air Force general to see how bizarre McInerney’s military reasoning is,” [...]

(207 comments so far. Heh.)

There's video, but if ya wanta watch a useless old fart prattle nonsense, just come on over for coffee. It'll be more fun. Or just read on...

I think perhaps a coupla googolzillion bucks worth of strike fighters, air tankers, airfields and support personnel to try and catch an outboard-powered fishing boat at 1000 miles an hour maybe, just maybe, might not be the most efficient way to help with the piracy problem. Might save the old coot's job, but he shoulda been saving his money in case sanity ever struck DoD, and struck it has. Except him.

So what, you may well ask, is your solution to the greatest danger to maritime commerce in three generations?

Maritime commerce has been in danger before. Here's my cost effective low-tech answer:

Click to embiggen.

The artwork shows a Stringbag bearing down on a famous high-seas raider of yore. Got the sonofabitch too!

These old planes did pretty good at Taranto, Italy as well, and since Somalia used to be called Italian Somaliland, I'm sure there's some museum display somewhere that's itchin' fer a repeat against them Eyetie wogs!

We could probably build hundreds of these things from scratch for the price of an F-22, and the old general could keep his job. Win-win!

All we need is goggles and scarves. Fixer can drive, I'll drop the fish and fire the Lewis gun, and we can discuss who gets to crawl out and handle little in-flight repair jobs should the unlikely (cough) need arise.

I'm rarin' ta go! What could possibly go wrong?


I couldn't resist. When yer retired, screwin' around becomes an art form! Thanks for the canvas, Fixer.

House Judiciary Committee releases report on the imperial presidency

From Margie Burns.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has released its copious report on abuses of presidential power in the administration of George W. Bush. “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush” runs 541 pages and covers five major categories of presidential overreaching—politicization of the Justice Department, assaults on civil liberties, misuse of Executive branch authority, retribution against critics, and government secrecy. The report is authored by Majority (Democratic) staff on Judiciary. The breakdown of major abuses is preceded by an overview and followed by recommendations for future policy. (Warning: Owing to the length of the report, downloading is slow.)

Don't forget to eat while you're reading the report.

Repug teabaggery

I couldn't resist. Watch Rachel try to hold it together and Wonkette sail through as cool as a cucumber. Funny.

By the way, the best definition of 'teabagging' is in Spanish. I'm sure the Repugs do this with each other a lot and have to let it steep a long time due to their very small teabags.


Also see TEABAG PARTY! Heh.

Listen to me ...

The Communist Chinese are our biggest trading partner. Communist Vietnam welcomes American tourists by the thousands and also has a vigorous trading program with us. (Remember that we actually fought a war with them that cost us 58,000 souls) We deal with the Russians, who are still more Communist than not (we might be visiting there next year as well).

What the fuck is the problem with Cuba? Ain't nobody else in the world seems to give a shit. Many of my Canadian and European friends have been there and say it's beautiful. Mrs. F's grandfather used to tell us stories about how the nightlife in Havana and how we should get there if it ever becomes possible. What the fuck? It's a piddly little island. Let's get over the fact that Fidel has outlasted 9 U.S. Presidents, giving the finger to each of them.

Ooh, the Rethugs are worried about Cuba's civil rights record. What about the Chinese? What about what the Vietnamese did to our soldiers? Yet we exchange with them. Even Iran, part of "The Axis of Evil" sells us oil and we gladly take it. And what about the hypocrisy?


I couldn't agree more. But it's a bit unseemly to make that argument when Americans are holding their own prisoners in Cuba, some of whom have tried to kill themselves out of despair that they will never even be given a trial or know if they will see the outside world again. I assume they don't have worms in their rice, but they have, by all accounts suffered quite a few beatings and worse. And many of them are innocent.

I think American congressmen who to Cuba probably need to be a little bit circumspect about lecturing anyone about wrongfully imprisoning anyone. Shamefully, the US doesn't exactly have a lot of credibility on this issue.


It's about time (it was about time 20 years ago) we get over whatever hangups we have with Fidel and Raoul and start interacting with one of our closest neighbors. Cuba poses no threat to the United States and it might be nice for two generations of Americans to finally reunite their families; for those here so long to return to the land of their birth, whether to stay or to visit.

I'm tired of the false outrage over something we ignore over and over again if it benefits us and the visit by members of Congress this week was a refreshing change. It seems Fidel felt the same way.

Let's get off our high horse with regard to Cuba. Communism, human rights, or any other issue have not stood in the way of relations and trade with our Cold War enemies, they shouldn't when speaking of Cuba either.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quote of the Day

El Rude-o

A Message From the Left to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, et al: Blow Us:

(photo of Obama with the troops)

And you, too, Dick Cheney. Suck it. Hard.

Not just on Iraq, either. The boy's got a way with words, don't he?

Russell Dunham dies at 89; Medal of Honor recipient


Russell Dunham, a World War II Army veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor, the military's highest decoration for valor, after he assaulted three German machine gun emplacements, killed nine German soldiers and took two prisoners, died of congestive heart failure Monday at his home in Godfrey, Ill. He was 89.

Go read this. Godspeed, Mr. Dunham.

Politics is a street fight, not a seminar

No shit. Good read by P.M. Carpenter.

Reassuring, since someday soon Mr. Obama will indeed take ownership of the GOP's economic sewer. But that day, obviously, is not yet upon him; it looks as though the multitudes may grant him 180 days or so before they reckon he's had plentiful time to stop and reverse three decades of criminal incompetence and carefree madness.

[...] The price of bank nationalization might be Obama's super-ambitious plans in other realms [my emphasis]
Which, of course, no one among the left wishes to see sacrificed -- including Paul Krugman.

It was a simple trade-off. You pick, which do you want? An immense and politically bankrupting disruption in the already neurotic financial markets just to achieve an oligarchic dismantling that can at any rate be accomplished in two, four, or six years hence? Or, however disagreeable the terms, economic stabilization now, accompanied by -- or so the strategy goes -- vast sociopolitical advances in health care, education and renewable energy?

We can't have both, not immediately. We could in the best of both worlds, perhaps, but we dwell in only one -- and its atmospherics are far less academic than Prof. Krugman's. Politics is a street fight, not a seminar.

President Obama is laying the groundwork for changes that should have been made thirty years ago, but we got Reagan instead. Nothing's immediate, but we have to start somewhere. And give it our best. 'Peachy' is young and fulla piss an' vinegar, in the nice way, maybe too nice, but he can do it if anyone can. If anyone can.

21st century pirates, 19th century solution?

I was reading about the negotiations to free Captain Phillips of Maersk Alabama* at the Beeb:

*This is not the first time this ship has been seized, but it was done previously with lawyers who steal without a gun on behalf of white-collar criminals. Go read the last paragraph at the link.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the navy had called his hostage experts "to assist with negotiations".

He said the FBI was now "fully engaged in this matter".

Oh effing swell. With the Federal Bureau of Ineptitude on your case, Captain, given their 'hostage negotiation' record, you're toast. You better just jump overboard and swim for it and pray that the nearby US warship blasts those pirates to Kingdom Come if they point their weapons at you. Best of luck.

Captain Phillips gave himself up to the pirates as a hostage. While I am not sure it was the right thing to do, it was his call and I certainly won't second-guess him from the safety of my keyboard. I applaud him for his concern for his men and for his bravery.

Analysts have said the negotiations could be lengthy, with the pirates keen to extract a ransom for the captain as well as compensation for a boat that was wrecked in the attack.

Pirates? Want compensation for a boat used in an attack on a merchantman? That'd be like 'compensating' a failed liquor store bandit for his car that got wrecked runnin' from the cops. They got some brass ones, those guys! Heh. They'll be lucky to keep their lives!

And the lifeboat is thought to be equipped for a week at sea, although the ship's owners, Maersk, said it had run out of petrol and was "dead in the water".

Screw the petrol. Wait 'til they run out of drinking water and they'll be more amenable to listen to reason. We will see.

There are lotsa piracy-related links at the Beeb site, but this one got my attention:

Could 19th Century plan stop piracy?

Shorter: Nope. Read on...

If the navies of the world need some advice on ways to stop piracy off Somalia, they could look to Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary in 1841.

"Taking a wasps' nest... is more effective than catching the wasps one by one," he remarked.

Palmerston, the great advocate of gunboat diplomacy, was speaking in support of a British naval officer,Joseph Denman.

Denman had attacked and destroyed slave quarters on the West African coast and had been sued by the Spanish owners for damages.

It was British policy to try to destroy the slave trade, but this sometimes ran into legal complications.

The slavers had lobbyists? Figures.

With Somali piracy still threatening shipping, it sounds as if modern navies need a few Captain Joseph Denmans, or the like-minded American, Commodore Stephen Decatur.

Sent to attack the Barbary pirates off North Africa in 1815, Decatur simply captured the flagship of the Algerian Bey [ruler] and forced a capitulation.

The United States' very first foreign war was over this exact same issue:

The Marines Hymn contains a reference to this conflict in the opening line: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..."

No such action against the "wasps' nests" along the Somali coast is possible today, even though the UN Security Council has authorised the use of the "necessary means" to stop pirates on the high seas and hot pursuit into Somali territorial waters.

Phooey. Damn and blast!

Everything has to be done in accordance with "international law" and this is interpreted as complying with the conditions of the International Law of the Sea Convention.

This convention, in article 105, does permit the seizure of a pirate ship, but article 110 lays down that, in order to establish that a ship is indeed a pirate vessel, the warship - and it may only be a warship - has to send a boat to the suspected ship first and ask for its papers.

This is hardly a recipe for a Denman - or Decatur-type action.

I will bet that deep inside Pirate Headquarters, those clowns are well aware of this and are laughing their fool heads off that the very people they are sticking up have made it nearly impossible to protect themselves from it in any meaningful way.

What to do, what to do?

Since writing in December last year about the legal problems involved, I have had a lot of e-mails from people angry at the ineffectiveness of the measures taken so far and proposing their own solutions.

These include:

* Convoys. Already done in the case of aid ships going into Kenyan and Somali ports
* Arming the crews. The crews might not want this, though in the latest case the American crew of cargo ship Maersk Alabama did fight back
* Arming merchant ships with heavy guns. Ship owners might not want to risk an engagement at sea
* luring pirates into attacking apparently unarmed ships which then declared themselves as warships. Would this be in "accordance with international law"?

Maybe not, but 'Q-ships' work!

* Other ideas suggested would appeal to officers Denman and Decatur. Fixer, Gordon, quit with the letters already. I get it.

I mighta made part of that up...

I understand that the maritime powers have hamstrung themselves and made piracy nearly impossible to deal with, but something needs to be done to make this sort of criminal enterprise less appealing. Short of fixing Somalia so it works and less of its men have to turn to crime to survive (some always will), perhaps we need to go back in time even further for a solution. Simply put:

A pirate is a robber who travels by water.

How did governments fight back against the pirates?

Successful pirate attacks became so frequent and troublesome that governments were forced to take strong action. In the 18th century, they sent heavily armed naval warships to the pirates' favourite hunting grounds. Terrible battles were fought, during which some of the most famous pirates, such as Bartholomew Roberts and Blackbeard were killed. Other pirates were captured and put on trial, and were then executed amidst great publicity. Bodies were coated with tar and hung in special iron cages as a dreadful deterrent to others thinking of taking up piracy.

Works for me.

Prosecutors Who Screwed Up Sen. Stevens' Corruption Trial Were Bush Appointees

I've had the same thought as Tony Peyser:

Call me crazy, point to my tin foil hat
Say my idea's weird & unconventional
But could that botched case have been
Not an accident but maybe intentional?

Then again, maybe they were just typical Bush appointees - good Repugs and incompetent.

Kill 'em all ...

No amount of legislation would have prevented the gun violence over the past few weeks. While I'm of the firm opinion there are too many idiots out there with guns and there should be tighter supervision of sales, nothing is gonna prevent a nut from losing his grip. It's easy enough to get a firearm if you really want one, as we've seen in countries with strict gun laws. An assault weapons ban would do little because there are many rifles that can be modified for automatic operation that would avoid the ban. When there's a will, there's a way. I just wish there were more education in their use, and abuse, before someone is allowed to carry. There should be some sort of proficiency requirement.

My biggest fear is that when someone is confronted with a deadly force situation and decides to react, the 'collateral damage' will be worse than the carnage inflicted by the nut. By god, I've seen how the New York City Police shoot, and those guys go through yearly quals. In a shooting incident on the streets of Queens last year, people on the elevated train, 50 feet above, were dodging bullets. I can imagine what somebody who hasn't fired his pistol since he bought it would do. "Look, I got the guy but I killed everybody else too, even some people on the next block."

Also, the right-wing gasbags fomenting revolution don't help either. The talk and scare tactics have been the push needed to put these nuts over the edge and kill everybody in the house. While I'm a staunch defender of the 1st Amendment, there have to be consequences for people who knowingly spread lies and distortion to whip up unrest. It is like yelling "fire" in a movie theater. The NRA also bears major responsibility for their anti-progressive propaganda. This cannot be tolerated and I'm glad to see David Shuster and Rick Sanchez, among others, stand up to these people. We all should, gun owners and opponents alike.

Once you take aim and fire, it's just like an email. You can't get the bullet back. The right to keep and bear is enshrined in our Constitution, but I wish more people would buy guns for their hobbies of target shooting and hunting (and become proficient in their use) instead of as penis extensions. Similar to speaking of dicks, there's always a guy out there with a bigger one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And on Fixer's block...

Gleefully gleeped from YubaNet.

!אױ גװאַלד

Tomorrow begins Passover for our friends of the Hebrew persuasion, and we wish them a fine observance. This might be a little previous, but whaddya do with all the leftover matzo when it's over? A little planning, what could it hurt?

By the way, I like matzo fried with maple syrup. I'm not all that Jewish, though, although I haven't let that stop me from writing about their tribe before.

If you would like subtitles go here.

They should change the last line from "'cause it's not all that bad" to "'cause it doesn't go bad", but maybe that's just me. I've never been able to tell if it's stale or not just by eating it.

They missed a very good use for surplus matzo. You'd think since it's the month of Nissan on their calendar that they'da put שתיים and שתיים together and thrown in that it's a very good backing for bondo on rusted-out body panels. Maybe they couldn't get it to rhyme.

Yay! for American sailors!


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- The American crew of a hijacked U.S.-flagged cargo ship retook the vessel Wednesday from the Somali pirates who seized it far off the Horn of Africa, Pentagon officials said.

Capt. Joseph Murphy, an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told The Associated Press that he was called by the Department of Defense and told the crew, including his son Shane, the second in command, had regained control.

"The crew is back in control of the ship," a U.S. official said at midday, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the record. "It's reported that one pirate is on board under crew control -- the other three were trying to flee," the official said. The status of the other pirates was unknown, the official said, but they were reported to "be in the water."

"Trying to flee" - I'll bet there's some blown-up Yamaha outboards in the shop in old Mogadishu tonight!

Damn, I hope someone got some vid of our guys throwin' those pirates over the side!


Here's an MSNBC report. Or here. Jim Iwonteventrytospellit is doing the best he can with preliminary reports, but he don't know jack shit! Heh.

Quote of the Day

BuzzFlash lead in to Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead (NYT):

You don't say. They are praying for the return of Dick Cheney and the conquest of the Middle East. They probably have prayer rugs made of $100 bills just to kneel before portraits of Darth Vader Dick!

Military caught on tape cheating Vets out of health care as policy

We've posted before on the military cheating Vets out of the long term care that's due them for PTSD. They've been caught at it by 'Sgt. X' and still no one's listening.


Last June, during a medical appointment, a patient named "Sgt. X" recorded an Army psychologist at Fort Carson, Colo., saying that he was under pressure not to diagnose combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Listen to a segment of the tape here.

For more than a year he's been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army's confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X's wife has to go with him to doctor's appointments so he'll remember what the doctor tells him.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor's appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn't accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected -- that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation -- and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

When [Army sawbones] McNinch learned he would be quoted in a Salon article, he cut off further questions. He also said he would deny the interview took place. Salon, however, had recorded the conversation.

A recently retired Army psychiatrist who still works for the government, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said commanders at another Army hospital instructed him to misdiagnose soldiers suffering from war-related PTSD, recommending instead that he diagnose them with other disorders that would reduce their benefits. The psychiatrist said he would be willing to say more publicly about the cases and provide specific names, but only if President Obama would protect him from retaliation.

Less money for damaged soldiers = more money for the military industrial complex and cushy post-retirement jobs for generals + hides the true cost of Bush's Imperialist Oil War.

Go read the rest, please.

If you are aware of a soldier who has served or is serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts and is having trouble getting a PTSD diagnosis or proper benefits, please contact Mark Benjamin at mbenjamin (at) salon (dot) com.

NOW on PBS did a report on a similar situation last week. See it here.

Thousands of U.S. troops are getting discharged out of the army. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries, and haven't been getting the care they need. The Army's been claiming these discharged soldiers had pre-existing mental illnesses. But health advocates say these are wrongful discharges, a way for the army to get rid of "problem" soldiers quickly, without giving them the treatment to which they're entitled.

NOW covered this issue last summer, and this week we revisit the army's controversial position and follow up with affected soldiers we met.

As a result of the media attention from our report and others, the Department of Defense revised its criteria for diagnosing pre-existing conditions and, now, fewer soldiers are receiving the diagnosis, making more of them eligible for care.

I suggest we e-mail President Obama and demand he do the following:

1) Issue an Executive Order to SecDef and the VA to knock off the cheap shit NOW. INSIST that Veterans be properly diagnosed and cared for.

2) Make retaliation against those GIs and Medical Officers who come forward and speak out a court-martial offense, and a criminal offense in the VA.

3) Review all previous diagnoses of 'pre-existing personality disorders' and 'anxiety disorders'. ALL of them.

4) By all means have the Armed Forces Committee, the JAG Corps, and DOJ investigate this, but take care of the Veterans first.

Just as a closing thought, now that Senator DOH! (Party of No - NC) has heard from every Post Commander of VFW, AL, DAV, MCL, VoteVet, and every other Vets outfit in North Carolina, he has dropped his obstruction to the appointment of Tammy Duckworth to Veterans Affairs. I think General Shinseki and Major Duckworth will do what's best for our Veterans. If they are allowed to.

Crossposted at The American Patriot Institute.

Barry in Iraq ...

A White House slideshow of the President in Iraq via Mr. Aravosis.

If ya got nothing to hide ...

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to "go nuclear" over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward. [my ems]


What happened to "accountability"? The Republicans, the Party of Cover-up.

Great thanks to Maru for the link.

This ...

Is gonna save GM? Olbermann called it right, paraphrasing: It's great to zip around through city traffic ... until you're squashed like a grape. The Misfit thinks similarly.

Wasn't the Segway supposed to "change the world"? What happened?

Speaking truth ...

To the boil on the ass of America. Somebody with a brain got past Rush Lintball's screeners and gave the gasbag what for:

CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Rush, listen, I voted Republican, and I didn't -- really didn't want to see Obama get in office. But, you know, Rush, you're one reason to blame for this election, for the Republicans losing.

First of all, you kept harping about voting for Hillary. The second big issue is the -- was the torture issue. I'm a veteran. We're not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea. There's other ways of interrogating people, and you kept harping about it -- "It's OK," or "It's not really torture." And it was just more than waterboarding. Some of these prisoners were killed under torture.

And it just -- it was crazy for you to keep going on and on like Levin and Hannity and Hewitt. It's like you're all brainwashed.

And my last comment is, no matter what Obama does, you will still criticize him because I believe you're brainwashed. You're just -- and I hate to say it -- but I think you're a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just has got to be - there's got to be something wrong with them. His only defense against the caller is to say he's not a Republican... [my ems]

Rush probably had to drop 2 Oxycontin after that. Heh ...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What a Killer Was Watching

Did a steady diet of right-wing radio and Glenn Beck influence Richard Poplawski, the man who allegedly murdered three Pittsburgh cops? Max Blumenthal reports.

Shorter: Yes.

On April 6, two days after the 22-year-old Richard Poplawski allegedly murdered three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a radio host named Alex Jones settled in before a microphone in his studio in Austin, Texas to do some damage control. “The mainstream media has certainly enjoyed tying me into this story,” Jones complained. “They’re attacking me and saying I’m delusional and there’s no New World Order… The Second Amendment, what the country’s founded on—it’s all my fault!”

Poplawski was a neo-Nazi wannabe who railed against blacks, Jews, “Zionists,” and gun control. And like many members of the far-right fringe, he allegedly visited Jones’ Web sites and posted alarming reports by Jones’ writers on the white supremacist message board, Stormfront. (Poplawski’s posts are here (no link from me - G), authored under the handle, “Braced For Fate.”) While Alex Jones generally avoids overt racism, he has found an eager audience on Stormfront by conjuring dark visions of an impending New World Order, claiming FEMA is secretly building a national concentration camp network, and announcing that President Barack Obama has planned mass gun seizures on his way to establishing a leftist dictatorship. “Remember, the first step in establishing a dictatorship is to disarm the citizens,” warned a March 13 commentary on Jones’ website, Prison Planet.

But hysterical warnings of government gun grabs and a socialist takeover of the U.S. are no longer the sole proprietary interest of fringe players like Jones. In the Obama era, Jones’ conspiracy theories have graduated to primetime on Fox News. And radicals like Poplawski are tuning in. [...]

'Radicals' seems to be shorthand for 'unhinged right-wing loonies with guns who just need a little push'. And the 'tard gasbags are there to give it to 'em.

...Jones interrupted a live broadcast by Fox News host Geraldo Rivera (Rivera was reporting at the time on “the secret world of restroom gay sex”)...

I'm glad Geraldo has found his niche...

David Neiwert, a veteran reporter on right-wing militia movements and author of the forthcoming book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, explained that by co-opting conspiratorial rhetoric from the farthest shores of the right, mainstream conservative talkers can inflame the passions of paranoiacs like Poplawski to a dangerous degree. “It’s always been a problem when major league demagogues start promulgating false information for political gain,” Neiwert told me. “What it does is unhinge fringe players from reality and dislodges them even further. When someone like Poplawski hears Glenn Beck touting One World Government and they’re gonna take your gun theories, they believe then that it must be true. And that’s when they really become crazy.”

So where was all this talk of 're-education camps' and 'staging crises to impose martial law' and other stuff like that during the Bush years?

Why, on lefty blogs like this one, of course.

Here's the difference:

If you go back through the 12,000+ posts of the Brain, no links, heh, you will find a lot of stuff on these subjects, but other than some 'pitchforks and scythes' type metaphorical calls to action, you will not find one instance of where we actually called for armed insurrection against Bush, or with an eye towards launching the unhinged to violence against wingnuts-at-large. We called for Bush's and others' deaths many times, but only after due process of law. I think me 'n Fixer challenged everybody on the right to fistfights many times. There weren't any takers.

Of course there are fringe lefty loonies too, like PETA and Earth First, but I haven't heard of a Liberal going 'round the bend and shooting up right-wingers on the advice of lefty gasbags. We did advise folks to keep their weapons clean and their powder dry to protect themselves.

The far-right gasbags have kicked it up a notch into very dangerous territory. Freedom of speech does not permit shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater unless it's on fire and what they're doing is exactly that. People are already being killed by the fringe moron 'tards who believe the lies they tell.

The Repugs are out on their ass, and the shoe's on the other foot now. They're whiny-ass sore losers and will do anything, and I mean anything, to try and regain power by means outside the electoral process which threw their flunkies out, including inciting and fomenting deadly violence against those who disagree with their crap. They will disavow it and say they're not to blame for what their misguided and crazy followers do, but they are.

Someone, somehow, has to shut these bastards up before they burn this country down and get more people killed. In the meantime, keep your weapons clean and your powder dry like never before. Truth and reason are powerful things, but they ain't shit in a gunfight.


Grandpa Eddie's got a much better post on this than I could ever write.

The Torture Report

Andrew Sullivan, a gay Repug whom I respect because he may have seen the light. And unlike many Repugs, he admits it:

It's been another huge day of data-gathering in the years-long bid to get to the bottom of the secret and illegal torture program set up by Bush and Cheney as their central tool in the war on Jihadist terrorism. You can download the leaked - and devastating International Committee of the Red Cross report here. You can read about the chilling similarities between the Bush-Cheney techniques and those used by the Soviet gulag here. You can read more details of how doctors were implicated in monitoring and measuring the torture of human beings here. If you need confirmation that this new data is real and dispositive, then go read the partisan right blogs. Their total radio silence tells you something.

When the Repugs are quiet about anything, they're guilty as sin and know it and hope you don't think about it. When it suits them they understand TR's "speak softly". Most of the time they just "carry a big stick" at high volume, even if their 'stick' has the political and ideological equivalent of cotton candy wrapped around it. Seemingly tasty and filling, but no nutritional value and it's bad for you.

Just as a 'cotton candy' afterthought, my old friend Dave is an electrician. I saw him once prepare to do some work under a house in a very low crawl space that had about fifty years' worth of spiderwebs and their unappetizing content. He took a stick and painstakingly rolled up all the spiderwebs around it. He emerged from the crawl space and handed it to me with a big grin, "Here, have some bug-flavored cotton candy!". As yucky a treat as I've ever been offered. Fits what the Repugs are up to to a metaphorical T.

Sugar ain't the reason ...

Your kids are bouncing off the walls like the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz, it's the rocket fuel:


My friend was really upset about this.

I'm upset that if you pull this shit in China you get executed.

What are the consequences here?

There are no consequences here. Do you think Pfizer will face any consequences in the U.S. for testing drugs on unwitting Africans?

A group of Nigerian families has sued the drugs giant Pfizer following the deaths of 11 children and injury to others who are said to have taken part in tests of a drug to treat meningitis.


The lawsuit, filed in a US District Court on Wednesday, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of 30 children who took part in trials in Kano, in northern Nigeria.

The suit alleges that the drug company did not obtain consent and did not explain that the proposed treatment was experimental.


They'll settle with the families for a pittance (for Pfizer, more than these poor people will see in ten lifetimes) and will be off the hook for what basically amounts to premeditated murder.

In the United States, only the average person is held accountable for their actions. If you have money, or are a big corporation, laws are merely a speed bump on the road to big profits.

Of Dogs and Cats ...

I saw this some years ago and Ms. Manitoba dug it up the other day. Makes me giggle each time. Heh ...

Quote of the Day



The problem is that conservatism has shot its wad and there's nothing left. It's not a matter of individuals; it's a matter of philosophy. No matter who they trot out to mouth their tired old saws and boring mantras, nobody wants to hear it.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Presidentialism ...

This post stays on top today - G

Watching Euronews this weekend, I got to see a lot of our President speaking. I must say, it's nice to have someone who doesn't embarrass us at every turn. Speaking with my cousin in Germany confirmed many in Europe like him and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding our foreign policy. He's saying the right things.

While I have great reservations about his Wall St. resurrection plan (more of the same to me), I do admire his vision in the international arena. His policy toward Iran, popular in Europe, is designed to get the Persians talking to us in an atmosphere of mutual respect. There is a reason our puppet, the Shah, was run out of there 30 years ago (read up on the history of the area) and a people who've been a civilization 5000 years before anyone realized there were two more continents to the west do not respond to threats from 'upstarts'. Something the Chimp and the neocons never understood. It's nice to see diplomacy given a real chance and hopefully, dialogue with Iran will ratchet down some of the tensions in the area.

His handling of the North Korean launch, though, does nothing to change the status quo in that region. While I understand quite well the fine line one must walk on the peninsula (close to a million men under arms on the north side of the DMZ and an insane leader who would think nothing of sending them south), Obama must find a way to break the 50 year cycle of demands and saber rattling while the North Korean people slowly die. Shoulda shot the thing down (as opposed to blowing it up on the pad; on North Korean soil - big difference in message), unless that weapons system doesn't work quite as well as the Bush Pentagon said it did. Diplomacy, in this case, probably won't work (though the South Koreans are very inclined to wait the Kim regime out though it might seriously bite them in the ass anyway) as there are already forces aligned to block any more sanctions. It seems Obama did the best he could in that sticky situation.

In all, I'm impressed with our President on this trip. He made a good start on rebuilding the American brand and repairing the damage the Republicans did to our international relations. Now, if he'd only realize his economic team is sleeping with the enemy ...

Gates Announces End To Production Of F-22

Think Progress

The decision is welcome on two fronts. First, the F-22 contributes little to U.S. national security. It has not flown a single mission in the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns. Further, as the Center for American Progress’s Larry Korb explained in 2005, the F-22 was designed to address threats that the U.S. last faced during the cold war:

The F/A-22 Raptor is the most unnecessary weapon system being built by the Pentagon. In fact, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld tried to do away with it in the summer of 2002 but backed off when his Air Force secretary threatened to resign over the issue. It was originally designed to achieve air superiority over Soviet fighter jets, which will never be built.

I think most of the fixed-wing aircraft combat usage in Afghanistan and Iraq these days is for Close Air Support (CAS). The planes for that are not first-line strike fighters of course, but they still fly too high and too fast to be very discerning about their targets. I propose a retro alternative that can fly low enough and slow enough that the pilot can tell a war party from a wedding party. For a buncha guys only with weapons to be a wedding party, it would have to in a pretty secure and liberated part of the country!

Empty yer Kalashnikov one last time at this, Osama. It will look good in Paradise if yer heater is still smokin' when you arrive. Kiss yer ass goodbye, but be sure to get yer lips off yer ass before you get there. That wouldn't look good at all. Heh.

Maybe you can pick yer nose with the tailhook too.

Douglas Skyraider - "A propeller-driven anachronism"

Speaking on behalf of anachronisms everywhere, just, sighhhh...

Italy muzzled scientist who foresaw earthquake

Raw Story

A powerful earthquake tore through central Italy on Monday killing more than 90 people as Renaissance buildings in a historic town were reduced to rubble.

We're not unfamiliar with earthquakes out here in California. I shudder to think of all the unreinforced masonry there must be in a medieval Italian town, or how you would go about earthquake-retrofitting it without destroying it. We have been reinforcing buildings out here since the Long Beach earthquake of 1933, and we don't have very many brick homes for the same reason. Frame houses will shake around a lot, but they'll stay standing even if they are damaged, and if one does fall on you, you stand a better chance of surviving than if tons of masonry fall on you.

That said, my heart goes out to the affected folks over there.

Probably the most research on earthquakes in California is in how to predict them. See the Parkfield earthquake experiment just for one. It looks like this is coming along OK.

The quake hadn't been completely unexpected. Italy muzzled a scientist who foresaw it.

"Vans with loudspeakers had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses after seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani predicted a large quake was on the way, prompting the mayor's anger," Gavin Jones reports for Reuters.

Jones adds, "Giuliani, who based his forecast on concentrations of radon gas around seismically active areas, was reported to police for 'spreading alarm' and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet."

The Telegraph reports he also "posted a video on YouTube in which he said a build-up of radon gas around the seismically active area suggested a major earthquake was imminent."

I am glad Mr. (Dr.?) Giuliani was able to foresee the event, but I think the science of earthquake prediction is not yet at the point of being able to give practical timely warning. It's not his fault that his warning was considerably previous, he tried to do good.

The problem is with human nature. To most people, I think, 'imminent' means 'in the next ten minutes'. They'll evacuate buildings and hang around with their day on hold for maybe an hour or two, then the prediction is called hogwash and it's back to business as usual. Thirty days is an eternity.

So's a week. I offer as example the fact that the attack on Pearl Harbor was predicted to happen on or about November 31, and the military in Hawai'i was on full alert for several days around that time frame. By the time the attack actually came on December 7, all hands had stood down and were caught completely by surprise.

Obviously, predicting an earthquake thirty days out is useless, good intentions notwithstanding. A day in advance might be too much. Research must continue until the authorities can say with great finality, "GET OUT NOW!". Until that day...

In other words, if you are going to run in circles, scream and shout "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!", there had damn well better be pieces of it on the ground you can point to or people will think you're a quack, however correct your prediction turns out to have been later.

Alternatively, of course, the day may come when an accurate prediction will be possible several days out and we can mark our calendars. Until that day...

Just as an aside, livestock, pets, and other animals seem to be pretty good at sensing imminent earthquakes, though not good enough that dumb ol' humans can pick up on what they're saying unless they're abnormally alert. Gummint scientists, in their wisdom, deny that any such of an unscientific thing could possibly occur, even though it's been goin' on since before science. Us dumbass country f**ks have animals we can watch, but I guess city folks only have pigeons. Heh.

Since seismology and vulcanology are closely related and intertwined, whatever we do, we must not let Governor Jindal hear about earthquake research lest he deem it 'liberal pork' or 'anti-christian' or something equally ludicrous!

Repugs: effectively cornered within just Dixie

P.M. Carpenter comes up with some odd conclusions, but some of his piece is spot on:

You know the right is in big, big trouble when even David Horowitz, one of the movement's leading intellectual charlatans and classic paranoids, begins to realize that so many around him are just plain nuts.

Yeah, thinkin' everybody's crazy but you is a symptom of something. Heh.

If the GOP leaves its fantastical condition untreated -- which, it appears, it is likely to do -- then the party's prognosis is likely terminal. Perhaps in 30 years, 40 years, the general electorate will forget what the "tenets of Reaganism" inflicted on this nation and once again become seducible. But I'm skeptical that the GOP can survive in the wilderness that long; it is already effectively cornered within just Dixie.

Watch it! A rabid, red-eyed beast frothing at the mouth is at its most dangerous when cornered. I think we are seeing signs of their desperation and they're liable to do anything. Anything, even if it brings our nation down.

Oh, the irony...

Ironic Times

Ohio Man Charged With Drunk Driving On Motorized Bar Stool
However, GM has expressed interest in vehicle.

Chinese Beer Surpasses Bud Light as World’s Best-Selling
American century officially over.

The Chinese have beer as good as Bud Light? I didn't even know they had horses!

Big Bank Stress Test Results Due Shortly
Just before autopsy reports.

Cyber Spies Hack Into Systems Worldwide, Steal Everything
There is nothing left.

Ho hum, yawn...

Gregory: will no one bash Obama but me?

The Bobblespeak Translations translates yesterday's Press The Meat for us.

First, Dave Gregory interviews Fritz Henderson, replacement CEO at GM:

Gregory: look the reality is Obama is a fascist - now say it!!!

Henderson: Obama told me not to

Gregory: how can you and I work together to destroy the unions?

Henderson: see me in the green room

Gregory: people think GM cars totally suck

Henderson: that's true

Gregory: how do you win consumers back?

Henderson: two words: big fins

Gregory: you are the worst spokesman ever

Henderson: yeah I know

And later during the panel discussion:

Gregory: Bibi says the messianic crazy people should not have nukes

Kay: well Bush is out of office

Gregory: How do we handle a girl named Israel?

Gerson: Weaponization is easy - comedy is hard

Dave: I do it week after week

Gregory: Obama has a weird approach to foreigners - he listens to them instead of killing them

Gerson: fuck him

Rogers: it's almost as if after Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II we decided to elect a man without dementia or psycho-sexual hangups

Gerson: jesus Dave even I think you're in the tank for the GOP - Obama had to take on big business

Gregory: will no one bash Obama but me??

Rogers: Obama is doing the right thing

Kay: sorry dancin' dave i think Obama is right here

Gregory: [ weeps openly ]

Gregory: today we celebrate two rites of spring - the cherry blossom festival and Karl Rove and I will interpret Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps on the White House Oval - don't miss it!!

Get a tan first, Dave. Yer liable to blind someone.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cape Breton Island Celtic Music Blogging

A Celtic tune done in the Cape Breton Island style. Lovely.

The video for the single, "The Drunken Piper", featuring the vocal stylings of Cookie Rankin. From Natalie MacMaster's 1996 release, "No Boundaries".

I know I must yank my head back south of the border sometime, but this is soooo much fun...

Cookie Rankin & Natalie MacMaster ~ The Drunken Piper

Thanks to lbrankinfiles, Canada.

Sunday Crazy Frog First Lady Music Blogging

I'm on a roll today! A 'French' roll. Heh.

Mme. Sarkozy has a nice new Gibson 'Legend' guitar now, too, courtesy of Mme. Obama. Expensive and worth every dime to post-Bush international relations with our first ally.

Carla Bruni ~ L'amour

Thanks to Traumwetter, Germany.

Sunday Crazy Quebecker Really Music Blogging, Eh?

I've been a fan of these Canuckistanian gals since I can remember. This is a very pretty song.

Kate & Anna McGarrigle ~ Petite Annonce Amoureuse

Thanks to limeyloop.

Pope, extra ribbed

Ooh! Does he come in bright colors and flavors too? Easy-opening wrappers?

Mark Morford with a column on the unconscionable statement by The Wrongly-Accused-Of-Being-Infallible Old Fart that condoms make AIDS worse. Worth a read, but I'll distill it down to this:

[...] Perhaps we should look at it differently, and use Benedict as our grand reminder that the general Rule of Divinity still holds true: the more you claim to be some sort of inviolable authority on things sacred and holy, the less you are to be trusted and the more we should all hope and pray for your urgent obsoletion. Simple enough?


Sirota on drugs

Hmmmm. Maybe the title of this post didn't come out exactly right...

David Sirota on The War On Some Drugs in the wake of Secretary Clinton's honest and astonishing and astonishing in its honesty statement about who's partly to blame for the real Drug War in Mexico.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Americans spend about $9 billion a year on Mexican pot.

Add that to the roughly $36 billion worth of domestically produced weed, and cannabis has become one of the continent's biggest cash crops. As any mob movie illustrates, mixing such "insatiable" demand for a product with statutes outlawing said product guarantees the emergence of a violent black market — in this case, one in which Mexican drug cartels reap 62 percent of their profits from U.S. marijuana sales.

That last stat, provided by the White House drug czar, is the silver lining. Every American concerned about Mexico's security problems should be thankful that the cartels are so dependent on marijuana, and not a genuinely hazardous substance like heroin. Why? Because that means through pot legalization, we can bring the marijuana trade out of the shadows and into the safety of the regulated economy, consequently eliminating the black market the cartels rely on. And here's the best part: We can do so without fearing any more negative consequences than we already tolerate in our keg-party culture.

Though President Obama childishly laughed at a question about legalization during his recent town hall meeting, his government implicitly admits that marijuana is safer than light beer. Indeed, as federal agencies acknowledge alcohol's key role in deadly illnesses and domestic violence, their latest anti-pot fear mongering is an ad campaign insisting — I kid you not — that marijuana is dangerous because it makes people zone out on their couches and diminishes video gaming skills.

(This is your government on drugs: Cirrhosis and angry tank-topped lushes beating their wives are more acceptable risks than stoners sitting in their basements ineptly playing Halo ... any questions?).

This entirely leaves out the question of whom would you rather share the highway with - a guy blowin' a .3 who has to close both eyes to get an idea of where he's going, or a stoner who wants to sit there an extra second or two to make sure the light is really green and not just trying to fool him?

Pleae read the rest.