Democrat and Independent Thinker..."The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." -Nietzsche

Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann

Monday, August 20, 2007

IRS Piles On

For those who struggle to pay their bills, who watch their housing payments rise out of reach with their adjustable-rate mortgages, who lose a job or who fall victim to illness, losing one’s home can feel like hitting bottom. But one more financial indignity may await as the fallout from the great housing boom ripples across the United States.[...]

Notices of unpaid taxes, unanticipated and little understood, will probably multiply as more people fall behind on their mortgages, said Ellen Harnick, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan research and policy center in Durham, N.C.

Foreclosure is one way that beleaguered homeowners can fall into this tax trap. The other is when homeowners are forced to sell their homes for less than the value of the mortgage. If the lender forgives that difference, they are liable for income taxes on that amount.

The 1099 shortfall, as it is called, stems from an Internal Revenue Service policy that treats forgiven debt of all types as income even if the taxpayer has nothing tangible to show for it, unless the debt is canceled through bankruptcy.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bush Operating Theory on Wiretapping

He’s operating on The Theory Of We Get To Do Whatever The Fuck We Want, and so he’s doing whatever the fuck he wants.

There's no better explanation of it anywhere.

Mark Teixeira Tribute

Oh yeah, I'm a major Braves fan...

From the mouths of soldiers...

A group of sergeants in the 82nd Airborne gives us the report that General Petraeus never will:

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

h/t Think Progress

Ugh! Wash those clothes people! Or better yet, don't buy in the first place.

BlondeSense Liz has an excellent post about China and the environment.

Billydoom's sister has been living in Shanghai for the past few years. Shanghai boasts being a fabulous international city but it is also polluted to the point where it's unbearable in the summertime for those unaccustomed to breathing air that you can see and eat. Her husband comes back to the states in the summer just so he can stay alive. The Chinese citizens don't have the luxury of heat in winter or air conditioning in the summer. It's not like manufacturing plants provide heat and a/c to the workers or they have such luxuries at home either.

The clothes you buy from China are made under extreme conditions by people who wear gloves and coats all day while they sew your garments in winter and sweat all over the garments in the summer and god knows what sort of particulates they cough on said garments.

Why anyone thought Beijing would be a good place for the summer Olympics next year, beats me. Anyone who's been there will tell you that just standing there fills your lungs with un-coughable phlegm. How athletes will compete makes you wonder.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Barry Bonds - Traitor and Terrorist!

Via Ana Marie at Swampland, I found the following at The Smoking Gun:

Meet Jonathan Lee Riches. The federal prisoner/habitual litigant recently scored headlines with his insane $63 billion lawsuit against Michael Vick (who allegedly stole Riches's dogs, sold them on eBay, and used the proceeds to buy weapons from the Iranian government). Riches, who is doing a decade in prison for fraud, is at it again, this time filing a loony--though quite funny--complaint again Barry Bonds, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, and Hank Aaron's bat. In his lawsuit, Riches, pictured in the below mug shot, weaves an intricate conspiracy theory involving television ratings, steroids, the cracking of the Liberty Bell, Colombian narco-terrorists, and secretly recorded conversations for which journalists Robert Novak and Judith Miller have transcripts.

What are the complaints? Let's see...bat assault, HGH violations, treason, major fraud, skimming the books, illegal moonshine, terrorism, social security fraud, treason, stalking, identity theft, copyright infringement, false information, illegal electronic wiretapping, and bad debt.

And where is Mr. Riches? Wait for it... South Carolina, of course!

Good luck with that, Mr Riches. Especially the illegal wiretapping bit. We're in need of a good precedent.

UPDATE: Riches has been up to this thing for awhile. Check out more of his kooky lawsuits at Dreadnaught.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rudy! and Mitt! and South Carolina

I really cannot pretend to know who South Carolina Republicans will favor in 2008 overall. The wingnuts in this state are unfathomable to Democrats here. I'll give it a shot, nevertheless.

But, I will bet you dimes to dollars that it will not be Rudy Giuliani. One of the reasons will be articles like this in the New Yorker:

The South Carolina State House, a grand, copper-domed structure in downtown Columbia, is a showplace for the state’s long history of hellbent defiance. The most prominent feature on the grounds is a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers, whose virtues “plead for just judgment of the cause in which they perished.” Beside it, atop a thirty-foot pole, waves the Rebel flag, the object of fierce national debate a decade ago, when it flew above the capitol dome, and no less conspicuous now, in its new location. Among the nearby statuary stands a life-size likeness of Benjamin R. (Pitchfork Ben) Tillman, the four-term United States senator who led the movement that disenfranchised black voters in 1895 and instituted Jim Crow. Inside the building, cast-iron staircases rise to an elegant lobby, and portraits honor the men who shaped the state’s querulous history, including John C. Calhoun, who contrived the rationale—nullification—for Southern secession, and Strom Thurmond, who led the South out of the Democratic Party. The lobby opens at either end to the state’s two legislative chambers, which, in March, ratified an amendment to the state constitution that bans not only gay marriage but gay civil unions. That month, the state house of representatives also passed a bill requiring any woman considering abortion to reflect upon an ultrasound image of the fetus.

It was here that Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s thrice-married, anti-gun, pro-gay, pro-choice former mayor, found himself one morning in April, in what appeared to be a critical moment in his young campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. The previous day, during a campaign stop in Florida, he was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if he supported the public funding of abortions. Giuliani seemed flustered by the question and finally answered, “If that’s the status of the law, I would, yes.”

Even before Giuliani began his run for the Presidency, the consensus, sounded in news columns, blogs, and political journals, was that he could not survive scrutiny of his political heterodoxy and his personal imperfections by the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Now, as Giuliani made his way into the capitol, his candidate smile firmly fixed, he was met by reporters. “Mayor, you talk about being a straight shooter,” one said. “Is this position you have on abortion something that’s going to shoot a hole in a key Republican plank?” [...]

At Magnolia’s, Giuliani’s advance people tried to fill time. Barry Wynn, his South Carolina campaign chairman, talked up his candidate’s chances, solicited donations, and took questions from the waiting group seated before him. Someone asked what effect the Christian right would have on Giuliani’s prospects. “Good question,” Wynn replied. He lives in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, the home of Bob Jones University. In South Carolina, another way of saying Christian right is “Greenville Republicans,” the group credited with John McCain’s undoing in his 2000 run against George W. Bush. Wynn’s uncle was Lester Maddox, the axe-handle-wielding Atlanta segregationist who became governor of Georgia. Wynn himself is a former state Party chairman. “I’ve already talked to a lot of people I consider very hard-core social conservatives, part of the religious right, who are supporting Rudy Giuliani,” Wynn said.
Lordy, where do I begin? Let me just go paragraph by paragraph.

First of all, let me just say that I was at the state house about a year ago. The dome cannot be missed. It can be seen many city blocks away. If the damned old Rebel flag was still flying there, you could see it quite far away. I looked for the Confederate soldier statue, which just about every southern city of middling size has on main street, and I couldn't find it. So, no, it is not "no less conspicuous now". It is considerably less conspicuous unless you just go traipsing around the grounds hunting for it.

Yeah, there probably is some statue of "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman who was a racist, a former governor, and a four term U.S. Senator but the truth is that no matter how he is demonized, and perhaps rightly so, he was a man of his time. That time being the freakin' 1890's. You know, a hundred years ago!

Don't talk about John C. Calhoun. Just. Don't. He was the Vice President of the United States, after all, and he wasn't voted in by just South Carolina.

Yeahyeahyeah, Strom Thurmond, blahblahblah. For the first 50 years of his life, he pandered to the racists even though most everyone knew he wasn't that much of one himself. For the last 50+ years, he was a burden to good, real Democrats in the state but all in all, was a pretty good Senator to the people of South Carolina.

Yep, they did do that banning gay marriage thing which totally sucked. I haven't been able to find the voting records for the legislature on anything, much less this, as the Republican's have been doing a bang up job of keeping their doings under wraps as much as possible. But, just off the top of my head, I'm betting that the opposition didn't get much traction because a whole lot, if not the majority, of Democratic legislators in the state are black and anti-gayness is preached in black congregations quite virulently here as it is in much of the country.

The House did vote on that ridiculous bill about abortion, was roundly and passionately lambasted for it all across the state, and the Senate had enough sense to effectively gut it.

That's right. Anti-abortion forces are not all that powerful here except in the most wingnuttery factions.

So... you might be saying about now, well then, if so, then Giuliani must have a good chance in SC.

Uh. No.


"Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s thrice-married, anti-gun, pro-gay, pro-choice former mayor"

of New York-fucking City!

(Hey! Don't pounce on me! I love New York City. Minus the Yankees and the Mets.)

I'm just sayin'.

I'm saying that I don't care how many people fawn over him while he's down here, say nice things about how they're going to vote for him, blahblah, it ain't gonna happen when they enter that voting booth!

In most cases, they are just being polite. Yep. Polite. They don't want him to get his feelings hurt and they want him to feel welcome.

They are not going to elect a philanderer who's on this third marriage to clearly a money grubbing social climber divorcee (there is almost nothing worse to be in this state), who is going to try to take away their GUNS!

And they are damned sure not going to vote for a New Yawk City Mayor!

Articles like the one in The New Yorker are just going to bring that reality home to them.

Now, let me add a caveat here. I'm talking about South Carolinians. Not transplants. Not second generation or probably even third generation transplants. Basically, if your granddaddy wasn't born and raised here, you aren't considered a "real" South Carolinian. You're just a guest. To be treated politely, even indulged, definitely excused, but never to be taken seriously in polite company. In my experience, by far the largest segment of the "religious right" are not native South Carolinians. They are transplants brought in by Bob Jones University or the spawn of those transplants. The natives that are the "religious right" are the holy rollers, pentecostals, Church of Christ country folks who don't know any better and aren't all that active politically or socially, and even those who are comprise only a very small eeny-meeny micro-segment. The vast, vast majority of native Southern Baptist South Carolinians are not that "right", not even that "religious" but only devoted church goers, and don't even know what evangelical means.

Seriously. I'm not kidding!

I just had to explain what evangelical means to my sister who is a lifelong devoted Southern Baptist two or three time a week church-goer and she's not a dummy either! She's very intelligent and would no sooner go to one of those mega-churches (we have one or two that do their business in big auditoriums) than she would go to the moon. A really big traditional church, sure, like Taylors First Baptist where the minister is the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. But, they are moderate traditionalists. They don't run around on a stage with a microphone headset screaming at people that they've gotta preach the gospel or go to hell. That is Bob Jones territory and natives avoid it like the plague unless they are just ignorant and misguided (as some probably are).

Unfortunately, there's no getting around the fact that these transplanted BJU'er's are allowed to vote but I don't think the natives are outnumbered yet. So, no, it just ain't gonna happen for Rudy in SC, I don't think.

Now, I could just stop here, but since I'm at it, let's talk Mitt!

I frequently take casual polls of all my family, friends, and acquaintances on Rudy! and Mitt! Some are Dems, some are Repubs, but all are born and bred South Carolinians.

(Not my choice... I've lived all over the country and I like people from all over, it's just that here at home it's what I fall into, if you know what I mean.)

Here is how that conversation goes, invariably:

Me: "So, y'all think Rudy is going to win in South Carolina?"

Them: "Bwaaahahahahahaahaha!"

Me: "Uh, I guess not. Why do you think?"

Them: "He's a low-down cheater! His kids won't even talk to him! He's an ass! He's a New York Yankee! He'll try to abolish guns!"

Me: "So, how about Mitt Romney? You think he'll win SC?"

Them: "Bwaaaahahahahahahahahhahhahahahahhahahahahahahaha!"

Me: "Uh, I guess not. Why do you think?"

Them: "He's Mormon!"

Me: "Is that enough to keep him from winning SC?"

Them: "Bwaaaahahahhahahhaaahahahahahahahahahhaahhahhaaha! He's crazy! He's in a cult! He wears special underwear, for God's sake!"

OK. So that is how it is. Now you can say how awful, how prejudiced, how backward, how whatever-you-want-to-say, and I really wouldn't argue with you. But, that is how it is.

We are an idiosyncratic people here in South Carolina. Just like Vermonters, Mainers, Texans, Bostoners, Philadelphians, or wherever else in this country that is a little eccentric, peculiar, and out of the mainstream.

But that is just how it is.

What Republican has a chance in SC? Hmmm. Many men will like Fred Thompson, I'm betting. But his wife is a fatal flaw when it comes to South Carolinian women. Women here look on her and then look on both of them with disgust. And they will likely deride their menfolk who favor him. They may vote for him, but it will be sheepishly.

A lot of the women may actually like Tancredo. Huckabee* may charm them but he's too extreme on the abortion issue.

The secret truth about abortion here is that those who actually get abortions are more likely to be from "good Republican" households, or the daughters of those households who have been so kept in the dark about sex that they end up getting pregnant. The poor just end up having the children. And, heck, alot of the dumb redneck poor vote Republican anyway. Most middle-class Democrat families have well informed daughters unlikely to get pregnant.

If McCain re-positions himself on Iraq, he can and will win them all back if he gives it half a shot. The immigration issue hurt him badly, but the war is a lot more unpopular here than most would think, especially considering the response of the wingnut crowd in the SC Republican debate. If he can overcome his immigration fiasco, and take a more reasoned approach to Iraq, he will take SC Republicans hands down.

UPDATE: Changed from Brownback to Huckabee. What was I thinking? As if there's a dime's worth of difference.

Resistance against tyranny...

bluegal, either this bluegal or this bluegal...(shows you how much I'm plugged in!...not that it matters because I like both of those sassy gals) over at Crooks and Liars mentions the REAL ID brohaha today:


The cards would be mandatory for all “federal purposes,” which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Citizens in states that don’t comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.
Admittedly, I don't cover enough of South Carolina politics on this blog so I thought I'd take a moment to weigh in on this issue.

South Carolinians will be getting their passports in droves. Why? Because it will be a cold day in hell before South Carolinians will be dictated to by the federal government on an issue such as this, in case we hadn't made that clear by now. Uh, duh.

Basically, the SC State Senate said, uh, no. No unless the feds pay for it.

The SC House? They didn't just say no, they said "HELL, NO!" Period.

Here is how the SC bill reads:


S 449
SECTION 1. Chapter 1, Title 56 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:


"Section 56-1-85.
The State shall not participate in the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act."


No if's, and's, or but's. No clauses. No question.

Actually, an earlier resolution, (H 3989) , passed by the legislature, made it's standing quite clear:


Whereas, the State of South Carolina recognizes the Constitution of the United States as our most fundamental charter of liberty and the Bill of Rights as affirming the fundamental and inalienable rights of Americans, including freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and freedom of privacy; and

Whereas, the Constitution of the United States grants to the federal government the ability to make only seven mandates on the states, and that these mandates are...
And where did I get much of this info? Here! Yeah, no kidding... I can't help it but I'm LMAO. They actually WROTE it!

Deliciously, they began their entry with these words: "Building on its tradition of being at the forefront in the resistance against tyranny, the state of South Carolina..." Because, really, there's just no getting around that bit of truth, at least as far as the tyranny of an overreaching federal government is concerned.

You know, like the imperial presidency which we now have, and a gutless Congress made up of those who face their constituents a few times a year (maybe more in election years) instead of facing them every morning when they go out to get their paper off the lawn.

Just ask Tarleton and Cornwallis about Cowpens for, uh, one thing.

And no, let's not make this about the civil war where the issue was the unconscionable scourge of slavery but the reason or the "cause" was dyed-in-the-wool anti-federalism.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heard "Democrat" Party used lately?

Yeah, me neither. I bet this, from back in February, is why....


Way to go Rep. Weiner (D-NY)! You should get all the credit.

Hat tip to Humor Has It

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Freaky!

Possible UFO's in Haiti?


UFOs Spotted In Haiti - Watch more free videos

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ground meat, indeed

Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq

Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis

Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday August 12, 2007
The Observer

Lieutenant Clay Hanna looks sick and white. Like his colleagues he does not seem to sleep. Hanna says he catches up by napping on a cot between operations in the command centre, amid the noise of radio. He is up at 6am and tries to go to sleep by 2am or 3am. But there are operations to go on, planning to be done and after-action reports that need to be written. And war interposes its own deadly agenda that requires his attention and wakes him up. [...]
When he emerges from his naps there is something old and paper-thin about his skin, something sketchy about his movements as the days go by. The Americans he commands, like the other men at Sullivan - a combat outpost in Zafraniya, south east Baghdad - hit their cots when they get in from operations. But even when they wake up there is something tired and groggy about them. They are on duty for five days at a time and off for two days. When they get back to the forward operating base, they do their laundry and sleep and count the days until they will get home. It is an exhaustion that accumulates over the patrols and the rotations, over the multiple deployments, until it all joins up, wiping out any memory of leave or time at home. Until life is nothing but Iraq. Hanna and his men are not alone in being tired most of the time. A whole army is exhausted and worn out. You see the young soldiers washed up like driftwood at Baghdad's international airport, waiting to go on leave or returning to their units, sleeping on their body armour on floors and in the dust. [...]

... It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.

They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'

The first soldier starts in again. 'My husband was injured here. He hit an improvised explosive device. He already had a spinal injury. The blast shook out the plates. He's home now and has serious issues adapting. But I'm not allowed to go back home to see him. If I wanted to see him I'd have to take leave time (two weeks). And the army counts it.' [...]

When the soldiers talk like this there is resignation. There is a corrosive anger, too, that bubbles out, like the words pouring unbidden from a chaplain's assistant who has come to bless a patrol. 'Why don't you tell the truth? Why don't you journalists write that this army is exhausted?'

Much more at the above link. Many thanks to Booman Tribune's Stephen D.

Hillary Repugs "Life Preserver"

Grassley 'Sure' Hillary Will Be Democratic Nominee
by: Douglas Burns
Saturday (08/11) at 21:54 PM

Veteran U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley acknowledges that his Republican Party faces some significant challenges but he predicts the GOP will avoid a political drowning thanks to a life preserver coming its way from the Good Ship Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"The Administration is very unpopular but don't forget all the negatives that Hillary Clinton's got," Grassley said. "And some Republicans say the only way we can win is if Hillary Clinton's our opponent. Well, she's going to be our opponent."

Is the Iowa pol sure of that?

"Yeah, I'm sure of that," Grassley told a gaggle of reporters in the press area off stage in Hilton Coliseum several hours before the Iowa Straw Poll speeches started.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

At the time....

This cracked me up... (my emphasis added)
Colonel Blashford-Snell first encountered a Double-Nosed Andean tiger hound called Bella in 2005 when he was carrying out reconnaissance for this year's expedition in the area near Ojaki.

He said: "While we were there, sitting by the fire one night, I saw an extraordinary-looking dog that appeared to have two noses.

"I was sober at the time, and then I remembered the story that the legendary explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett came back with in 1913 of seeing such strange dogs in the Amazon jungle.

"Nobody believed him, they laughed him out of court."

Transformative

Excellent article on John Edwards in RollingStone:
If you last tuned in to Edwards during the son-of-a-mill-worker days of 2004, the difference in his vision will surprise you. Gone is the cautious centrist groomed by uberconsultant Bob Shrum as a sort of Bill Clinton Lite. For 2008, he has been replaced by what the campaign hopes will play as the Real John Edwards, a shoot-from-the-hip progressive who won't scare away moderates. "Incremental steps don't work," Edwards says today. "We are not in that place in America anymore. We need huge changes. And it's going to require a president and a people who are willing to do some things that may feel dangerous in the short term."

Take global warming: While Clinton spouts happy talk about ethanol and "clean coal," and Obama focuses on a technocratic proposal to lower the "carbon intensity" of auto fuel, Edwards has a plan that would make the Union of Concerned Scientists proud. "We need an eighty percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050," the candidate told Rolling Stone in a wide-ranging interview. "You start by capping carbon emissions in America. Beneath the cap, you auction off the right to emit any greenhouse gases. And you use that money --$30 to $40 billion -- to transform the way we use energy."

Or poverty. Ending deprivation at home -- by making it easier for workers to unionize, raising the minimum wage to $9.50, cracking down on predatory lending, and providing matching funds to help low-income Americans save -- remains the hallmark of his candidacy. But informed by his travels in Africa, Edwards now proposes spending $5 billion a year to educate 100 million children worldwide, improve drinking water and sanitation in developing countries, and slow the ravages of HIV and AIDS.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

House follows Senate over the cliff

The Democratic controlled House joined the Democratic controlled Senate in selling out the Constitutional rights of the citizens of this country to the Bush regime...

Aug 5, 1:00 AM (ET)
By CHARLES BABINGTON
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government's abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States.

The 227-183 vote, which followed the Senate's approval Friday, sends the bill to Bush for his signature.

Late Saturday, Bush said, "The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has assured me that this bill gives him what he needs to continue to protect the country, and therefore I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk."

The administration said the measure is needed to speed the National Security Agency's ability to intercept phone calls, e-mails and other communications involving foreign nationals "reasonably believed to be outside the United States." Civil liberties groups and many Democrats said it goes too far, possibly enabling the government to wiretap U.S. residents communicating with overseas parties without adequate oversight from courts or Congress.

The bill updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. It gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that "foreign intelligence information" is at stake. Bush describes the effort as an anti-terrorist program, but the bill is not limited to terror suspects and could have wider applications, some lawmakers said.

The government long has had substantial powers to intercept purely foreign communications that don't touch U.S. soil.

If a U.S. resident becomes the chief target of surveillance, the government would have to obtain a warrant from the special FISA court.
Congressional Democrats won a few concessions in negotiations earlier in the week. New wiretaps must be approved by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general, not just the attorney general. Congress has battled with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on several issues, and some Democrats have accused him of perjury.

The new law also will expire in six months unless Congress renews it. The administration wanted the changes to be permanent.

Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush's veto threats and the impending August recess.

"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. "I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

Roveamort, the evil behind the "throne"

via Crooks and Liars

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Knack

See the group but the spectacular riff is cut down.

My Sharona

The death of disco and the rebirth of rock and roll.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Freakin' hilarious



via the ever hilarious bogol

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Disgrace

What strikes me most profoundly about the Bush commutation of Libby is how Bush is apparently impervious to the fact that his entire administration, not just this one act, has possibly done irreparable harm to the nation.

I remember how agonized LBJ was over the Vietnam War and the protests which tore the country nearly asunder. I recall how Nixon seemingly aged 20 years during Watergate.

Both men were at least honorable enough to suffer, visibly, and to spare the country further infliction of themselves upon it.

Bush could not care less. Despicable.

Peeved

More at The Agonist:

The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Question...

Please tell me if this page loads slowly for you. My poor BlueKitty may be slowing the speed of the page loading, and if so, I'd really like to know. The poor blue baby may have to go.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dream Speech

At the Washington Monthly, Ted Sorensen has written the speech he would most like to hear given by the Democratic Party Presidential Nominee, whoever he/she may be. It is exactly what I'd like to hear, too.

My fellow Democrats: With high resolve and deep gratitude, I accept your nomination. It has been a long campaign—too long, too expensive, with too much media attention on matters irrelevant to our nation’s future. I salute each of my worthy opponents for conducting a clean fifty-state campaign focusing on the real issues facing our nation, including health care, the public debt burden, energy independence, and national security, a campaign testing not merely which of us could raise and spend the most money but who among us could best lead our country; a campaign not ignoring controversial issues like taxation, immigration, fuel conservation, and the Middle East, but conducting, in essence, a great debate—because our party, unlike our opposition, believes that a free country is strengthened by debate.

(snip)

Let me assure all those who may disagree with my positions that I shall hear and respect their views, not denounce them as unpatriotic as has so often happened in recent years. I will wage a campaign that relies not on the usual fear, smear, and greed but on the hopes and pride of all our citizens in a nationwide effort to restore comity, common sense, and competence to the White House.


In this campaign, I will make no promises I cannot fulfill, pledge no spending we cannot afford, offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, and propose no foreign commitment we should not keep. I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a liberal, in the same sense that Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, and Harry Truman were liberals—liberals who proved that government is not a necessary evil, but rather the best means of creating a healthier, more educated, and more prosperous America.


They are the giants on whose shoulders I now stand, giants who made this a better, fairer, safer, stronger, more united America.
By making me your nominee, you have placed your trust in the American people to put aside irrelevant considerations and judge me solely on my qualifications to lead the nation. You have opened the stairway to what Teddy Roosevelt called the “bully pulpit.” With the help of dedicated Americans from our party, every party, and no party at all, I intend to mount that stairway to preach peace for our nation and world.


My campaign will be based on my search for the perfect political consensus, not the perfect political consultant. My chief political consultant will be my conscience.


Thank you for your applause, but I need more than your applause and approval. I need your prayers, your votes, your help, your heart, and your hand. The challenge is enormous, the obstacles are many. Our nation is emerging from eight years of misrule, a dark and difficult period in which our national honor and pride have been bruised and battered. But we are neither beaten nor broken. We are not helpless or afraid; because in this country the people rule, and the people want change.


True, some of us have been sleeping for these eight long years, while our nation’s values have been traduced, our liberties reduced, and our moral authority around the world trampled and shattered by a nightmare of ideological incompetence. But now we are awakening and taking our country back. Now people all across America are starting to believe in America again. We are coming back, back to the heights of greatness, back to America’s proud role as a temple of justice and a champion of peace.


The American people are tired of politics as usual, and I intend to offer them, in this campaign, something unusual in recent American politics: the truth. Neither bureaucracies nor nations function well when their actions are hidden from public view and accountability. From now on, whatever mistakes I make, whatever dangers we face, the people shall know the truth—and the truth shall make them free. After eight years of secrecy and mendacity, here are some truths the people deserve to hear:
We remain essentially a nation under siege. The threat of another terrorist attack upon our homeland has not been reduced by all the new layers of porous bureaucracy that proved their ineptitude in New Orleans; nor by all the needless, mindless curbs on our personal liberties and privacy; nor by expensive new weaponry that is utterly useless in stopping a fanatic willing to blow himself up for his cause. Indeed, our vulnerability to another attack has only been worsened in the years since the attacks of September 11th—worsened by our government convincing more than 1 billion Muslims that we are prejudiced against their faith, dismissive of international law, and indifferent to the deaths of their innocent children; worsened by our failure to understand their culture or to provide a safe haven for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees displaced by a war we started; worsened by our failure to continue our indispensable role in the Middle East peace process.


We have adopted some of the most indefensible tactics of our enemies, including torture and indefinite detention.


We have degraded our military.


We have treated our most serious adversaries, such as Iran and North Korea, in the most juvenile manner—by giving them the silent treatment. In so doing, we have weakened, not strengthened, our bargaining position and our leadership.


At home, as health care costs have grown and coverage disappeared, we have done nothing but coddle the insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care industries that feed the problem.


As global warming worsens, we have done nothing but deny the obvious and give regulatory favors to polluters.


As growing economic inequality tarnishes our democracy, we have done nothing but carve out more tax breaks for the rich.
During these last several years, our nation has been bitterly divided and deceived by illicit actions in high places, by violations of federal, constitutional, and international law. I do not favor further widening the nation’s wounds, now or next year, through continuous investigations, indictments, and impeachments. I am confident that history will hold these malefactors accountable for their deeds, and the country will move on.


Instead, I shall seek a renewal of unity among all Americans, an unprecedented unity we will need for years to come in order to face unprecedented danger.


We will be safer from terrorist attack only when we have earned the respect of all other nations instead of their fear, respect for our values and not merely our weapons.


If I am elected president, my vow for this country can be summarized in one short, simple word: change. This November 2008 election—the first since 1952 in which neither the incumbent president’s nor the incumbent vice president’s name will appear on the national ballot, indeed the first since 1976 in which the name of neither Bill Clinton nor George Bush will appear on the national ballot—is destined to bring about the most profound change in the direction of this country since the election of 1932.


To meet the threats we face and restore our place of leadership in the free world, I pledge to do the following:


First, working with a representative Iraqi parliament, I shall set a timetable for an orderly, systematic redeployment and withdrawal of all our troops in Iraq, including the recall of all members of the National Guard to their primary responsibility of guarding our nation and its individual states.


Second, this redeployment shall be only the first step in a comprehensive regional economic and diplomatic stabilization plan for the entire Middle East, building a just and enduring peace between Israel and Palestine, halting the killing and maiming of innocent civilians on both sides, and establishing two independent sovereign states, each behind peacefully negotiated and mutually recognized borders.


Third, I shall as soon as possible transfer all inmates out of the Guantanamo Bay prison and close down that hideous symbol of injustice.


Fourth, I shall fly to New York City to pledge in person to the United Nations, in the September 2009 General Assembly, that the United States is returning to its role as a leader in international law, as a supporter of international tribunals, and as a full-fledged member of the United Nations which will pay its dues in full, on time, and without conditions, renouncing any American empire; that we shall work more intensively with other countries to eliminate global scourges, including AIDS, malaria, and other contagious diseases, massive refugee flows, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and that we will support the early dispatch of United Nations peacekeepers to halt the atrocities in Darfur. I shall make it clear that we do not covet the land of other countries for our military bases or the control of their natural resources for our factories. I shall make it clear that our country is not bound by any policies or pronouncements of my predecessor that violate international law or threaten international peace.


Fifth, I shall personally sign the Kyoto Protocol, and seek its ratification by the United States Senate, in order to stop global warming before it endangers all species on earth, including our own; and I shall call upon the Congress to take action dramatically reducing our nation’s reliance on the carbon fuels that are steadily contributing to the degradation of our environment.


Sixth, I shall demonstrate sufficient confidence in the strength of our values and the wisdom and skill of our diplomats to favor communications, negotiations, and full relations with every country on earth, including Cuba, North Korea, Palestine, and Iran.


Finally, I shall restore the constitutional right of habeas corpus, abolish the unconstitutional tapping of private phones, and once again show the world the traditional American values that distinguish us from those who attacked us on 9/11.


We need not renounce the use of conventional force. We will be ready to repel any clear and present danger that poses a genuine threat to our national security and survival. But it will be as a last resort, never a first; in cooperation with our allies, never alone; out of necessity, never by choice; proportionate, never heedless of civilian lives or international law; as the best alternative considered, never the only. We will always apply the same principles of collective security, prudent caution, and superior weaponry that enabled us to peacefully prevail in the long cold war against the Soviet Union. Above all, we shall wage no more unilateral, ill-planned, ill-considered, and ill-prepared invasions of foreign countries that pose no actual threat to our security. No more wars in which the American Congress is not told in advance and throughout their duration the true cost, consequences, and terms of commitment. No more wars waged by leaders blinded by ideology who have no legal basis to start them and no plan to end them. We shall oppose no peaceful religion or culture, insult or demonize no peace-minded foreign leader, and spare no effort in meeting those obligations of leadership and assistance that our comparative economic strength has thrust upon us. We shall listen, not lecture; learn, not threaten. We will enhance our safety by earning the respect of others and showing respect for them. In short, our foreign policy will rest on the traditional American values of restraint and empathy, not on military might.


In the final analysis, our nation cannot be secure around the world unless our citizens are secure at home—secure not only from external attack, but secure as well from the rising tide of national debt, secure from the financial and physical ravages of uninsured disease, secure from discrimination in our schools and neighborhoods, secure from the bitter unrest generated by a widening gap between our richest and poorest citizens. They are not secure in a country lacking reasonable limitations on the sale of handguns to criminals, the mentally disturbed, and prospective terrorists. And our citizens are not secure when some of their fellow citizens, loyal Islamic Americans, are made to feel they are the targets of hysteria or bigotry.


I believe in an America in which the fruits of productivity and prosperity are shared by all, by workers as well as owners, by those at the bottom as well as those at the top; an America in which the sacrifices required by national security are shared by all, by profiteers in the back offices as well as volunteers on the front lines.


In my administration, I shall restore balance and fairness to the national tax system. I shall level the playing field for organized labor. I shall end the unseemly favors to corporations that allow them to profit without competing, for it is through competition that we innovate, and it is through innovation that we raise the wages of our workers. It shames our nation that profits for corporations have soared even as wages for average Americans have fallen. It shames us still more that so many African American men must struggle to find jobs.


We will make sure that no American citizen, from the youngest child to the oldest retiree, and especially no returning serviceman or military veteran, will be denied fully funded medical care of the highest quality.


To pay for these domestic programs, my administration will make sure that subsidies and tax breaks go only to those who need them most, not those who need them least, and that we fund only those weapons systems we need to meet the threats of today and tomorrow, not those of yesterday.


The purpose of public office is to do good, not harm; to change lives, help lives, and save lives, not destroy them. I look upon the presidency not as an opportunity to rule, but as an opportunity to serve. I intend to serve all the people, regardless of party, race, region, or religion.


Let us all, here assembled in this hall, or watching at home, constitute ourselves, rededicate ourselves, as soldiers in a new army. Not an army of death and destruction, but a new army of voters and volunteers, in a new wave of workers for peace and justice at home and abroad, new missionaries for the moral rebirth of our country. I ask for every citizen’s help, not merely those who live in the red states or those who live in the blue states, but every citizen in every state. Although we may be called fools and dreamers, although we will find the going uphill, in the words of the poet: “Say not the struggle naught availeth.” We will change our country’s direction, and hand to the generation that follows a nation that is safer, cleaner, less divided, and less fearful than the nation we will inherit next January.


I’m told that John F. Kennedy was fond of quoting Archimedes, who explained the principle of the lever by declaring: “Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world.” My fellow Americans—here I stand. Come join me, and together we will move the world to a new era of a just and lasting peace.


h/p Crooks and Liars

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Obama may take SC, not Edwards

You would never know it by the pundits on "Meet the Press" this morning, but Barack Obama spoke to a huge RACIALLY DIVERSE group in Greenville, SC yesterday. I saw the news coverage and the audience was at least as white as black.

3500 crowded into a mall here to hear him speak.

3500!!!

In Greenville, SC, home of Bob Jones University!

Read about it in our Republican (hard) leaning newspaper here, here, and here.

You'll note how hard The Greenville News pushes for school vouchers, which has been roundly voted down by not only the populace of SC, but by the State Legislature. Repeatedly.

Obama is going to hurt Edwards far more than Clinton in SC, unfortunately. I talked to black voters in the first Edwards primary victory and they were all voting for Edwards. I talked to black voters in the Kerry/Edwards election poll lines, they weren't voting for Kerry, they were voting for Edwards.

This doesn't bode well for Edwards.

Feeling blue?

I go by the name BlueKat, but I'm not one of the blue people of Kentucky.


Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining.
Shine on the one that's gone and proved untrue.
Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining.
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cracking the brands

One of our best SC Dem bloggers, Tim from Crack the Bell, is involved with a brand study of 2008 presidential candidates for SC by a SC market research firm. It's very interesting, and, as far as I can tell, is dead on target on each and every candidate.

No surprise that John Edwards is most in tune with SC voters and most sensitive to the needs of the poor.

It's extremely frustrating to me that Clinton still comes out on top despite her numerous negative factors.

You can download the entire studies free of charge here.

Mitt's Bitch

Oh, hells bells! I've had a link up to a site named The Shot under my "Southern" category for I don't know how long. I found it in links of some of my fellow southern bloggers, most likely SC bloggers.

Lately, I've been feeling a little more under the weather with my mastocytosis, so I've been neglecting this poor blog and just hanging out, checking out other blogs, especially The Swampland as this week one of my heros and mad crushes, Mudcat Saunders, has been there stirring up a little fresh hell. I know that's no excuse for neglecting my few faithful, but I do appreciate your continuing checks for new material here. I feel guilty because I haven't been really sick and I know some of you worry. Having masto is just like you might feel when you feel like you are coming down with the flu most of the time when I'm symptomatic. Sometimes, not often, its like having the flu, when it's very active. I'm okay, just symptomatic and a little too bleech to fight it very well due to stress, so don't y'all worry, it's not like I'm dying.

Anyways...! I was just getting around to following some links that had been recommended for Saunders as he was getting his feet wet in the blogtopia (yes, Skippy coined that term) and y'all know that I don't want to miss anything.

And guess what I found?

And, at the beginning of the week, Ben Smith at The Politico revealed that the National Journal’s Hotline had to end its use of a South Carolina political Web site after learning that it had strong ties to a firm connected to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.


The site, The Daily Shot, is part-owned and written by employees of a political consulting firm that works for the former Massachusetts governor. The Hotline acted after more than a month of private complaints from the campaign of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of Romney’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, people involved in the discussions said.


Holy bejebus!

Needless to say, it is coming off my links list immediately, and I urge my fellow southern liberal/Democratic bloggers to take it down posthaste.

Why dint y'all tell me? I feel so dirty and eeeyew... used!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Al Gore

I supported Al Gore in his first campaign for the presidency. I met the man at a reception, listened to his speeches, and campaigned like a dog for him, including participating in taking polls, stuffing envelopes, making get out the vote calls, you name it.

When he was selected as Bill Clinton's running mate, I couldn't have been more thrilled. I thought he made an excellent Vice President.

Again, I supported him against Bush and was devastated when he did not win the Supreme Court decision.

I had written him off as a "goner". I had even gotten to the point that I was being irritated by so many urging him to run again this time.

However, this man who is before us today, this man as represented on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, this man, I could support again.

I don't think he will run again. I'm not sure that I would support him over John Edwards if he did decide to run. I think that if you want to be president, then it must truly burn in your belly, not be something you decide at the last minute to pursue.

However, I would no longer completely rule out the possibility.

Al Gore on The Daily Show, Part 1

Part 2

Monday, May 28, 2007

Don't tell...

Tinkerbell:
At a recent U2 concert in Dublin, Bono asked the audience for total quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started slowly clapping his hands, once every few seconds.

Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone:

"Every toime I clap my hands, a child in Africa doies!"

A voice pierced the quiet from the front of the crowd with a broad Irish accent.

"Well, feckin stop doin it, then!"

Immigration

Recently, I've modified my views on immigration. I've come to the conclusion that the only answer is to actually put illegal immigrants on the fast track to citizenship. In fact, to make citizenship mandatory.

Why? Because once they are citizens, their employers must pay them at least the minimum wage, offer them benefits if their other employees are offered benefits, and they will be required to pay taxes and their medical bills along with the rest of us. All of which will solve the disparities of having so many millions of illegal immigrants in our society.

It's not the "illegality" of their presence that is the problem. The problem is that their status as "illegals" allow them to be both taken advantage of and to take advantage of available services.

So, I was especially interested in this additional Krugman column (excerpt):

In 1910, almost 14 percent of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn’t get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population — in general, the poorest and most in need of help — denied any political voice.

That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn’t have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal and sustaining its achievements, by creating a fully enfranchised working class.

But now we’re living in the second Gilded Age. And as before, one of the things making antiworker, unequalizing policies politically possible is the fact that millions of the worst-paid workers in this country can’t vote. What progressives should care about, above all, is that immigration reform stop our drift into a new system of de facto apartheid.

Now, the proposed immigration reform does the right thing in principle by creating a path to citizenship for those already here. We’re not going to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, so the only way to avoid having those immigrants be a permanent disenfranchised class is to bring them into the body politic.

h/t Tennessee Guerilla Women

Bush's Betrayal

Paul Krugman, Trust and Betrayal:

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

Friday, May 25, 2007

INTERNATIONAL THINKING AT ITS BEST!

My mother just emailed me this, and ya gotta admit, it's amusing.

What is the truest definition of Globalization?
Answer: Princess Diana's death.
Question: How come?
Answer: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was drunk on Scottish whisky, followed closely by Italian Paparazzi, on Japanese motorcycles; treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines. This is sent to you by an American, using Bill Gate's technology, and you're probably reading this on your computer, that use Taiwanese chips, and a Korean monitor, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by Indian lorry-drivers, hijacked by Indonesians, unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen, and trucked to you by Mexican illegals..... That, my friends, is Globalization.

What Keith said...

Here.

As for me, I'm sorry to say I was not surprised. I mean, really. Did we expect them to grow a spine? It's just sad. Sad, that just before Memorial Day, our Congress has signed the death warrants of who knows how many more of our soldiers, not to mention civilians, contrary to the wishes of over 70% of the American people, all to appease a spoiled brat who would piss his pants if a watergun were aimed at him by a two year old.

I've never seen my 80-something mother, a devoted lifelong Democrat, ever be so disgusted and enraged with her party and her government.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Edwards Speech

John Edwards speech to the Council on Foreign Relations:

"As all of you know, we need a new strategy for rebuilding a strong military for a new century.

Any new strategy must include new preventive measures to win the long-term struggle and fuel hope and opportunity. This includes strong and creative diplomacy, and also new efforts to lead the fight against global poverty. I've proposed a plan to lead an international effort to educate every child in the world. As president, I would increase foreign assistance by $5 billion a year to make millions of people safer, healthier, and more democratic, and by creating a cabinet-level post to lead this effort.

Any new strategy must improve how we gather intelligence. From my years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know how difficult this can be. We must always seek to protect our national security by aggressively gathering intelligence in accordance with proven methods.

Yet we cannot do so by abandoning human rights and the rule of law. As two former generals recently wrote in the Washington Post, "If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable ... we drive ... undecideds into the arms of the enemy." And we must avoid actions that will give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law.

As president, I will close Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture. Measures like these will help America once again achieve its historic moral stature -- and lead the world toward democracy and peace."

This kind of speech, plus his healthcare plan is why I support Edwards.

Native or Indian?

Okay, I'm still here for the time being and I have a question. American Indian or Native American?

I'm watching Tavis Smiley interview Dick Wolfe on PBS and he just said that that the "politically correct" terminology was now American Indian instead of Native American.

Who says so? When did this happen? He says it's settled because the Smithsonian opened a museum named The Museum of the American Indian.

So what? I'm part Cherokee and part Catawba and I'm sure that my great(+)grandmothers had nothing whatsoever to do with the West Indies, or India.

I don't know that either offends me personally, however, we are referring to peoples native to the continents of the America's, so Native American simply sounds more correct.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sorry, folks, but I am dealing with serious issues surrounding my illness and the devastating financial repercussions ensuing from this most rich of all nations inability to provide healthcare for it's citizens in need.

The only bright spot in my life right now is that my doctor is attempting to get me into a National Institute of Health clinical trial which will pay my transportation to Bethesda and resultant medical care.

So, since it is believed that I am suffering from one of the rarest diseases in the world, there is, at least, that.

Vote Democratic!

And don't lose me. I will return again. When, I cannot say.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Here are a few bits to chew on...

God exists since mathematics is consistent, and the Devil exists since we cannot prove it. Andre Weil, (1906 -?) In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1977.

I don't believe in mathematics. Albert Einstein, (1879-1955) Quoted by Carl Seelig. Albert Einstein.

Suppose we loosely define a religion as any discipline whose foundations rest on an element of faith, irrespective of any element of reason which may be present. Quantum mechanics for example would be a religion under this definition. But mathematics would hold the unique position of being the only branch of theology possessing a rigorous demonstration of the fact that it should be so classified. F. De Sua, (1956) In H. Eves In Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1969.

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Pensees. 1670.

The excitement that a gambler feels when making a bet is equal to the amount he might win times the probability of winning it. Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

In my opinion, a mathematician, in so far as he is a mathematician, need not preoccupy himself with philosophy -- an opinion, moreover, which has been expressed by many philosophers. Henri Lebesgue, (1875 - 1941) Scientific American, 211, September 1964, p. 129.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why I am not an atheist

I am not an atheist because I am not arrogant enough to think that I am so wise as to know that God does not exist.

Ever since I posted on Pascal's Gambit (or Wager) I have found numerous references to it in forums and on blogs, etc. Usually it is being used by atheists in various ways, always claiming it to be fallacious or easily refutable or otherwise faulty. However, in order to do so, they invariably change Pascal's assumptions to suit their purpose and then declare "Eureka! Wager disproved!"

It doesn't work that way, folks.

For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.

However, you can think of it this way:

If you believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are infinite.

If you believe in God, and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are nil.

If you do not believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God still does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are still infinite.

If you do not believe in God and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are still nil.

Either way, the odds are always in favor of the House (or God), because our belief or non-belief in him has no bearing whatsoever on his existence or non-existence. If he exists, he holds all the cards.

If you are turned off, or disillusioned by the Christian God concept because of fundamentalists or whatever, that's fine. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what form of God we're talking about here. An active, prescient God who directs us all in everything we do. An inactive, detached God who set everything in motion and then disengaged. A good God who has a nifty little heaven set up for all believers and a nasty little hell set up for all non-believers. A God who transforms us into another reincarnated being after death. A God who does nothing whatsoever with us once our time here on earth is finished.

IT JUST DOES NOT MATTER, PEOPLE. Whatever you think, whatever you believe, whatever you've been taught, whatever you've read, whatever you've envisioned or prophetized or proselytized, it JUST DOES NOT MATTER.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? You, me, the preacher, the priest, the rabbi, the master, the bodisattva... we are all just little bitty human beings running around on a teeny tiny planet in a gi-normous, unending Universe and it does not matter what we believe.

We don't know that there is not a God. We don't know that there is a God. God doesn't flicker on and off like a neon light depending on what one little human is thinking one second as compared to what another little human is thinking the next second.

God either exists or not. What we think has no bearing on his existence. Just because you imagine there is a God does not make God materialize. Just because you think there is no God does not make God disappear.

If there is a God, when you die, God will do with you whatever he will.
If there is no God, when you die, then nothing will happen.

I've studied Buddhism pretty extensively, and the problem I have with reincarnation is that something has to set that in motion which means that there would have to be a God. And, if there is a God, then he may or may not reincarnate you because it will be his choice what to do and he will do as he will. So, you can have no true assurance of reincarnation.

No matter how well educated you may be, or how intelligent, or how knowledgeble, you, my friend, are not all-knowing.

You can feel self-assured all you want, but you can have no assurance of anything except that one day you will die and on that day, and not until that day, you will know the truth.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Intact dilation and extraction

is what the media has allowed to become better known as "partial birth abortion" in support of those whose agenda is against the health of living women and for unborn fetuses, whose use by medical professionals has been outlawed and upheld by the Supreme Court today.

What does this mean? It means that physicians will now induce labor so that these fetuses will be expelled vaginally, or will perform cesarians.

Both of which are much more harmful for the living woman, but will achieve the same effect ultimately.

John Prine

will be on Austin City Limits Saturday night at 11pm. Just a note to myself if no one else. I love John Prine.


Artist: John Prine
Song: Jesus the missing years
Album: The Missing Years
[" The Missing Years " CD]

(spoken)
Jesus.... the missing years

It was raining. It was cold
West Bethlehem was no place for a twelve year old
So he packed his bags and he headed out
To find out what the world's about
He went to France. He went to Spain
He found love. He found pain.
He found stores so he started to shop
But he had no money so he got in trouble with a cop
Kids in trouble with the cops
From Israel didn't have no home
So he cut his hair and moved to Rome
It was there he met his Irish bride
And they rented a flat on the lower east side of Rome...
Italy that is
Music publishers, book binders, Bible belters, Money Changers,
Spoon Benders and lots of pretty Italian chicks.

Chorus:
Charley bought some popcorn
Billy bought a car
Someone almost bought the farm
But they didn't go that far
Things shut down at midnight
At least around here they do
Cause we all reside down the block
Inside at ....23 Skidoo.

Wine was flowing so were beers
So Jesus found his missing years
So He went to a dance and said "This don't move me"
He hiked up his pants and he went to a movie
On his thirteenth birthday he saw "Rebel without a Cause"
He went straight on home and invented Santa Claus
Who gave him a gift and he responded in kind
He gave the gift of love and went out of his mind
You see him and the wife wasn't getting along
So he took out his guitar and he wrote a song
Called "The Dove of Love Fell Off the Perch"
But he couldn't get divorced in the Catholic Church
At least not back then anyhow
Jesus was a good guy he didn't need this shit
So he took a pill with a bag of peanuts and
A Coca-Cola and he swallowed it.
He discovered the Beatles
And he recorded with the Stones
Once He even opened up a three-way package
In Southern California for old George Jones

Repeat Chorus:

The years went by like sweet little days
With babies crying pork chops and beaujolais
When he woke up he was seventeen
The world was angry. The world was mean.
Why the man down the street and the kid on the stoop
All agreed that life stank. All the world smelled like poop
Baby poop that is ..the worst kind
So he grew his hair long and thew away his comb
And headed back to Jerusalem to find Mom, Dad and home
But when he got there the cupboard was bare
Except for an old black man with a fishing rod
He said "Whatcha gonna be when you grow up?"
Jesus said "God"
Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?
I'm a human corkscrew and all my wine is blood
They're gonna kill me Mama. They don't like me Bud.
So Jesus went to Heaven and he went there awful quick
All them people killed him and he wasn't even sick
So come and gather around me my contemporary peers
And I'll tell you all the story of
Jesus...The Missing Years

Repeat Chorus:

We all reside down the block
Inside at ....23 Skidoo.

In Memoriam

To life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh, yeah, we're safe...

I know all the facts are not in yet, but I think the incompetence of the Blacksburg, VA police is self evident.

What a total fuck up! I wouldn't even trust them to find all the bodies.

I would say that the FBI should have been sent in by noon, at least, if I even thought the FBI were competent enough under this administration to do a decent job.

What does the Department of Homeland Security do, exactly? Our largest universities apparently haven't even gotten a memo about how to provide security on enormous campuses, even against a lone gunman.

They send emails? EMAILS???? How ridiculous is that?

How about a bloody, fucking siren?!? Just a simple, low tech siren that sounds to alert everyone to get into a room somewhere and lock the g*ddamned door! Maybe a different sounding alarm to alert everyone to vacate the buildings in case of a bomb threat?

Is that too complicated to fathom?

Not only was this act unconscionable, the response was, also.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In Defense of Hip Hop


Frank Zappa on Crossfire

Yeah, I can't believe I'm about to defend Hip Hop either. Or rap. Or any of the truly misogynist crap that passes for it. Personally, I never listen to either. Still, I gotta say that I'm with Snoop Dogg.

It is musical artistic expression. I don't like it, but I recognize it as art. It is profoundly anti-American to censor art in any way, shape or form. It is a violation of the First Amendment, clearly, to censorship art.

Don Imus, Glenn Beck, or any other political, cultural or other commenter does not qualify as artistic expression. They do have Freedom of Speech, but Freedom of Speech does not allow defamation, libel or slander of specific individuals. Which is what occurred in the Imus situation. Too bad, so sad. I would not have accepted his apology until I received a check from my libel suit.

Music lyrics which do not defame, libel or slander specific individuals are protected under the 1st Amendment. One can speak out against it, one can boycott it, one can protest it, but one cannot censor it.

Otherwise, I'll let Zappa have his say.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007

Goodbye and rest in peace, my favorite contemporary author.

As a memoriam, of sorts, below is re-published poputonian's post from Digby's Hullabaloo:

"Last year, Vonnegut published another best-seller, this one called A Man Without A Country. Vonnegut's humor will make you laugh, but his fatalism will make you cry. In typical Vonnegut fashion, the points he makes throughout the book are woven together with the flair of a creative writer. The two main complaints he emphasizes are unmistakable: the senseless killing being perpetrated by America, and America's addiction to fossil fuel. America is destroying the planet, which leads Vonnegut to reject the country he once fought for.

Overall the book is about politics, government, and philosophy, but on its sweeter side it is about people and family, about community. It might well be his best work ever. At one point in the book, Vonnegut describes how children learn to be creative, or how they came to use their brains to think and imagine; no sounds, no pictures, just thinking and imagining:


We are not born with imagination. It has to be developed by teachers, by parents. There was a time when imagination was very important because it was the major source of entertainment. In 1892, if you were a seven-year-old, you'd read a story--just a very simple one--about a girl whose dog had died. Doesn't that make you want to cry? Don't you know how the little girl feels? And you'd read another story about a rich man slipping on a banana peel. Doesn't that make you want to laugh? And this imagination circuit is being built in your head. If you go to an art gallery, here's just a square with daubs of paint on it that haven't moved in hundreds of years. No sound comes out of it.

The imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues. A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo. But it's no longer necessary for teachers and parents to build these circuits. Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there's the information highway. We don't need circuits any more than we need to know how to ride horses.

(snip) Have you ever served in a war? Have you ever been held captive? Vonnegut was an American prisoner of war, held in captivity in Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. That was the night the British intentionally massacred 135,000 people. Killed them all dead, in one night.


It was pure nonsense, pointless destruction. The whole city was burned down, and it was a British atrocity, not ours. They sent in night bombers, and they came in and set the whole town on fire with a new kind of incendiary bomb. And so everything organic, except my little POW group, was consumed by fire. It was a military experiment to find out if you could burn down a whole city by scattering incendiaries over it.

Of course, as prisoners of war, we dealt hands-on with dead Germans, digging them out of basements because they had suffocated there, and taking them to a huge funeral pyre. And I heard -- I didn't see it done -- that they gave up this procedure because it was too slow and, of course, the city was starting to smell pretty bad. And they sent in guys with flamethrowers.

Why my fellow prisoners of war and I weren't killed, I don't know.

I was a writer in 1968. I was a hack. I'd write anything to make money, you know. And what the hell, I'd seen this thing, I'd been through it, and so I was going to write a hack book about Dresden. You know, the kind that would be made into a movie where Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and others would play us. I tried to write, but I couldn't get it right. I kept writing crap.

So I went to a friend's house -- Bernie O'Hare, who'd been my pal. And we were trying to remember funny stuff about our time as prisoners of war in Dresden, tough talk and all that, stuff that would make a nifty war movie. And his wife, Mary O'Hare, blew her stack. She said, "You were nothing but babies then."

And that is true of soldiers. They are in fact babies. They are not movies stars. They are not Duke Wayne. And realizing that was key, I was finally free to tell the truth. We were children and the subtitle of Slaughterhouse Five became The Children's Crusade.

Why had it taken me twenty-three years to write about what I had experienced in Dresden? We all came home with stories, and we all wanted to cash in, one way or another. And what Mary O'Hare was saying, in effect, was, "Why don't you tell the truth for a change?"

Ernest Hemingway wrote a story after the First World War called "A Soldier's Home" about how it was very rude to ask a soldier what he'd seen when he got back home. I think a lot of people, including me, clammed up when a civilian asked about battle, about war. It was fashionable. One of the most impressive ways to tell your war story is to refuse to tell it, you know. Civilians would then have to imagine all kinds of deeds of derring-do.

But I think the Vietnam War freed me and other writers, because it made our leadership and our motives seem so scruffy and essentially stupid. We could finally talk about something bad that we did to the worst people imaginable, the Nazis. And what I saw, what I had to report, made war look so ugly. You know, the truth can be really powerful stuff. You're not expecting it.

Of course, another reason to talk about war is that it's unspeakable.
I can sense the brain circuits of the right-wingers, or the flag conservatives, or the authoritarian followers, as they try to process Vonnegut's words: Just how courageous was he in battle? Prove it. Did he have any serious injuries, or just superficial ones? Did he have the right attitude, that of a soldier dedicated to his country? Does Vonnegut think any war is worth fighting; is the Constitution worth fighting for?


It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the U.S. Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale."

George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with any doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In these Times, and kiss my ass!"

Outrageous, I say!

Secretary of Defense Gates is outraged at the "hardship" that was caused to servicemen and their families by someone leaking the Iraqi tour extension to 15 months.

Yeah, right. It was the leak of the information that causes the hardship.

Not the 3 month extension.

The hypocrisy of this administration knows no bounds.

The inhumanity of this administration knows no bounds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why? Please tell me.

I came across the following at Alicublog and I had never read it before. It's amazing how the tears return even now, 45 years later, when I was not yet even in pre-school when it happened. Perhaps that is why. Perhaps it was so traumatizing for me because I was so young. I don't know.

Having lived, no, experienced the Kennedy assassination, segregation, the civil rights movement, the King assassination, the race riots, desegregation, the Cold War, the Bobby Kennedy campaign and assassination, the Vietnam War, the peace movement, the Manson murders, the hippie movement, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Soviet invasion of Poland, the Olympic Israeli massacre, the women's liberation movement, the sexual revolution, Watergate, the oil/gas shortages, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the communist Soviet Union, the greed/speed/coked out 80's, massive inflation, recession, the near collapse of Wall Street, and now the rise of global terrorism targeting the western world, and heaven only knows what else I've left out due to sheer exhaustion of thinking about and living the above, there is one thing I know.

I know that we are experiencing the worst Presidency in my lifetime, and, I think, in the history of the country.

My mother is in her 80's. She has experienced all of the above, plus The Great Depression and World War II.

She is absolutely certain that we are experiencing the worst Presidency in the history of the country.

What was media obsessed with today? The parentage of a 7 month old infant and the rantings of a foolish old radio personality.

Why?

Breslin and the Gravedigger

Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor

Jimmy Breslin

Newsday's Jimmy Breslin wrote the following article for the New York Herald Tribune in November 1963.

Washington -- Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for." Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. "Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday," Metzler said. "Oh, don't say that," Pollard said. "Why, it's an honor for me to be here." Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. "That's nice soil," Metzler said. "I'd like to save a little of it," Pollard said. "The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I'd like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I'd like to have everything, you know, nice."

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. "He was a good man," Pollard said. "Yes, he was," Metzler said. "Now they're going to come and put him right here in this grave I'm making up," Pollard said. "You know, it's an honor just for me to do this."

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.

The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. "What time is it?" a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. "Twenty minutes past three," he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn't at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn't know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. "They'll be used," he said. "We just don't know when. I tried to go over to see the grave," he said. "But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn't get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I'll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it's an honor."

Posted: 16 November 2003
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