Monthly Archives: August 2005

Katrina-propa-Gate

Perhaps responding to the criticism that Bush has been largely AWOL on Katrina, even though hundreds if not thousands of Americans have died, the White House has now put up its "hurricane relief" page, which you can see here.

Right now, the photo on the page shows Bush engaging in (according to the caption) a "video teleconference with federal and state emergency management organizations".  I guess it is meant to convey the Bush is "on the job", although there are only three people in the conference room: Bush, Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, and someone on a video monitor.  From the looks of it, the guy on the screen is merely the news talking head (I think there is a scroll at the bottom of the screen).  I wonder where all these other "organizations" are.  Of course, when you read the fine print, you see that the photo was taken in Crawford on Sunday, well before the hurricane hit.

So I’m not sure it conveys the impression that Bush is now on the case: a photo from Sunday of a near-empty conference room.

But the worst thing about the web page is the banner:

Titlebar2005

That’s Bush, talking to some Average Joe who just happens to be holding an American flag.  Ah, the appeal to patriotism.  One gets the impression that Bush is speaking to a hurricane victim, something which, of course, he hasn’t done.  It recalls images of Bush standing with that firemen on the rubble of the WTC.

But again, the banner, like the whole web page, is meant to convey the impression that Bush is being all Clinton about this — i.e., that he is on top of the situation and feels are pain.  It’s crass and manipulative, especially while Americans are dying.

Opportunity Cost For Iraq

Via Corrente:

Philly’s own Will Bunch follows the money (via the man in the grey turtleneck here)

Yes, if you follow the money it turns out Bush took the money that should have been spent on New Orleans levees and pissed it away in Iraq. In fact, the very levee that burst, 17th Street, was a victim of Bush cutbacks:

It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

— Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

***

With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until until it’s level with the massive lake.

***

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to
order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

The 2004 hurricane season, as you probably recall, was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:
(via Attytood)

Remember how, over and over again, Bush fucks the Blue state cities, especially the port cities? Because they’re not part of the base?

Remember the idea that the war in Iraq has an opportunity cost (back)?

The Katrina disaster—the dead, the billions in damages, the loss of a city—is the opportunity cost of Bush’s war in Iraq.

Just follow the money.

Texas “Pro-Lifers” Show Pro-Death Stripes

From Feministe–the "pro-lifers" have managed to target a certain population for death in Texas.

AUSTIN – Texas doctors who perform abortions without parental approval or after the third trimester could face capital murder charges because of a new law that takes effect this week, a prosecutors group says. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association has outlined that scenario in its new book updating the Texas penal code and in public presentations around the state. The group says such charges could occur under the new law because of the 2003 fetal protection law.

Key legislators said Monday that wasn’t their intent.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, who pushed the parental consent measure, said in a prepared statement that her legislation was strictly limited to giving parents the right to consent when a minor is considering an abortion and to preventing late-term abortions.

"There were no discussions about the death penalty during our legislative discussions of this issue," Nelson said.

A capital murder conviction can result in the death penalty.

Sgt Thomas Strickland

Here’s a passage from Sgt. Thomas Strickland, a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq, from his blog earlier this month:

What the fuck has my chain of command been doing? We were winning somewhat when I left. And now we’re being pinned down in our own fucking homes? Insurgents are pushing locals out of their homes and taking over my area at will? What kind of fucktarded plan have we been half-assedly executing? Obviously the kind that neglects sound contact with locals. Obviously the kind that gives further distance to unbridged gaps between soldiers and locals. Obviously the kind that has shown enough weakness when confronted by the insurgency that it has been encouraged to grow.

Back home (the USA kind) I have no home, no job, and my commander in chief is on vacation (he’s about 20 days behind Ronald Reagan right now in the race to become the most vacationing president ever. Hey W! we all got our fingers crossed! Here’s to you and two more years of presidency…er vacationing!). Luckily pretty much everything that is important to me can fit into the back of a truck. Luckily I just paid off one of those.

In their fear to build relationships and get out of their hiding holes the FOBbits above me have fucked my friends and I.

Two days later, Sgt. Strickland was killed when his truck overturned.

The Apocalypse

Well, let’s see.

The death toll from Katrina is rising.  Snakes, gators and corpses are floating around in New Orleans, making the second evacuation difficult.  Attempts to fix the breaks in the New Orleans levees have failed.  There are whitecaps on Canal Street.  Prisoners stranded in a New Orleans prison have rioted, taking a deputy, his wife and their four children as hostages.  The Mississippi coastline doesn’t exist any more. 

658 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday in a stampede (following rumors of a suicide bomber on a bridge).

Last evening, I went to the store as the outskirts of the remnants of Katrina came to North Carolina.  As I left, I looked in the sky and saw something I never saw before — a double rainbow.  The higher rainbow was fragmented and didn’t last long, but the lower one was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  It was the complete arch, and I could see where both ends hits the horizon.  And it was solid, like a kid had painted it.

Things are getting surreal.

[Note: I don’t intend to be doing blow-by-blow Katrina updates, as other sites are doing them much better.  I do, however, highly recommend the New Orleans Times-Picayune website for breaking news and updates.  They’re no longer publishing on paper, and they have relocated to safer ground to get the news out via the Internet]

UPDATE:  This is what Bush did yesterday…

Captcapm10208301856bush__capm102

A Million Ways

Partly because I’m over 40, and partly because I believe that music videos jumped the shark about 15 years ago, it’s no surprise that I never heard of "OK Go" and their video for "A Million Ways".

But no more.

This is a great video (and a great song).  No fancy shots, no babes, not even a single video cut.   Just the band (4 guys) dancing in their backyard.  Obviously a lot of work went into the choreography, and these guys are not professional dancers by any means.  But that’s what makes is so good.

Watch the video (Quicktime mov format — may take a while to load)

Classic Definition Of A ‘Quagmire’

Who said this:

"For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of, uh, the struggle over who’s going to govern Iraq, strikes me as a classic definition of a ‘quagmire’."

Answer: Dick Cheney

Crooks & Liars has the audio (from an NPR interview conducted in 1991), if you don’t believe me.

Oy

According to Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, there’s an email making the rounds.  It carries the picture below and the following text:

Hurricanefetus

The image of the hurricane above with its eye already ashore at 12:32 PM Monday, August 29 looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks). Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development (see sign with picture of 8-week pre-born human child below). In this picture, and in another picture in today’s on-line edition of USA Today*, this hurricane looks like an unborn human child.

Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers – FIVE are in New Orleans
www.ldi.org (‘Find an Abortion Clinic [sic]’)

Baby-murder state # 1 – California (125 abortion centers) – land of earthquakes, forest fires, and mudslides
Baby-murder state # 2 – New York (78 abortion centers) – 9-11 Ground Zero
Baby-murder state # 3 – Florida (73 abortion centers) – Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne in 2004; and now, Hurricane Katrina in 2005

God’s message: REPENT AMERICA !

Where’s Bush?

FEMA is calling Katrina the worst disaster to hit America . . . ever.  Parts of New Orleans are on fire, even though most of the city is underwater.  There are fears that the entire city could turn into a "toxic lake", as the flood waters continue to pour in.  Over sixty people are known dead (so far) in Mississippi.

Where’s George? 

He’s taking a break from his vacation to survey the damaged states coordinate with federal and local authorities to make sure relief is provided give speeches in Arizona and California about Iraq (comparing it to World War II) and Medicare.

AmericaBlog has more.

UPDATE:  A photo from the White House website (taken today) should be captioned "Let Them Eat Cake!"

Cakeeater

Compare:

083005aerial1

UPDATE AGAIN:  Bush must have finished eating the cake: "Bush Cancels Vacation to Focus on Relief".

FINAL THOUGHT:  The press is reporting that Bush will be returning to Washington to "personally oversee the federal effort".  Gee, only weeks ago, they were boasting about how Bush wasn’t really on vacation since you can run the country from Crawford (with faxes, internet, phones, etc.).  So . . . um . . . which is it?

George Will On Intelligent Design (And Penguins)

Marchofthepenguins200x330 When he’s right, he’s right:

"March of the Penguins" raises this question: If an Intelligent Designer designed nature, why did it decide to make breeding so tedious for those penguins? The movie documents the 70-mile march of thousands of Antarctic penguins from the sea to an icy breeding place barren of nutrition. These perhaps intelligently but certainly oddly designed birds march because they cannot fly. They cannot even march well, being most at home in the sea.

In temperatures of 80 below and lashed by 100 miles per hour winds, the females take months to produce an egg while the males trek back to the sea to fatten up.

Returning, the males are entrusted with keeping the eggs warm during foodless months while the females march back to the sea to fill their stomachs with nutriments they will share with the hatched chicks.

The penguins’ hardiness is remarkable, as is the intricate choreography of the march, the breeding and the nurturing. But the movie, vigorously anthropomorphizing the birds, invites us to find all this inexplicably amazing, even heroic. But the penguins are made for that behavior in that place. What made them? Adaptive evolution. They have been "designed" for all that rigor — meaning they have been shaped by adapting to many millennia of nature’s harshness.

Mmmmmm.  Apparently the ChildCare Action Project (sorry, that’s the best link) movie reviewer thinks differently:

March of the Penguins has it all! Love! Romance! Terror! Sex! Hardship! Violence! In my opinion, March of the Penguins is pure entertainment. If you like to think movies are "real world", this one is.

Emperor penguins make their "migratory" march to their breeding grounds … 70 miles from their ocean home. Nearly single file, thousands of penguins march to the relative safety of their birthplace to start the cycle again. They choose this remote location because as the summer and fall months come, the ice gives way to the ocean. But under the ice blanket of their breeding grounds is solid earth.

How they remember to get there is part of God’s Design. While the location never changes, the path does. Storms and the ever-changing face of ice create many roadblocks, but they never fail to get to their destination.

"Part of God’s design", because God hates penguins, I guess.  (It’s worth noting that the G-rated documentary scored 97 out of a possible 100 in the CAP rating system — it lost points because in one scene, the penguins screw, and some penguins die in another scene.  Apprently, dying animals is ungodly.)

Class Warfare

The average CEO makes 430 times as much as the average production worker.  That’s data from 2004, presented here.  In 2003, that ratio was 301-to-one.  In 1990, it was 109-to-one.

[Defense contractor CEOs, while not as rich as their brethren in real dollars, are really seeing a post-9/11 surge.  Defense CEOs make 160 times more than army privates, up from 89-to-one in 2001.   United Technologies CEO George David made $88 million in 2004, a year in which the Army cancelled its Comanche helicopter contract with United Tech, because it sucked.  It would take the average Air Force airman 3,634 years to make as much as David did in 2004 alone.]

The poverty rate rose again for the fourth year in a row.  It is now, according to the AP, at 12.7%.  That means that in the U.S., the wealthiest country in the world, over 37 million people are living in poverty.

In related news, Republicans are attempting to repeal the estate tax — a "tax paid by only the wealthiest 1% of Americans — those who inherit estates worth at least $1.5 million". 

Because the rich have suffered enough.  Or something.

An Open Letter To Mr. Prager

Dear Mr. Prager:

It’s kind of easy to win a debating point when you get to speak for *both* sides of the debate, as you’ve done in your latest piece.  It allows you to misprepresent the position of your opponent, who is not there to correct you.  (Do you now see why some liberals refer to the right wing media and blogosphere as "the echo chamber"?)

So that is my "just one question" to you.  Do you *honestly* believe that most liberals will answer your hypothetical question as you suggest?

Sorry, Mr. Prager, but liberals believe that terrorists are evil.  We believe that suicide bombers are evil.  We believed that Saddam was evil.  We believe in freedom and human rights and democratic election of leaders.  We believe in lots of things, and if you get your head out of places where it shouldn’t be, you’ll see that neo-cons and liberals share at their cores many of the same moral values.

Our opposition to the war is NOT because we have different values than conservatives.  We just differ in how to achieve those goals.  In a nutshell, we believe that Bush’s democracy-spreading strategy is *counter-productive* in the long run. 

We believe that it will create more unrest in the Middle East, and convert yet another country into an Islamic society where terrorism can breed (even if the government itself is not terrorist-supporting). 

We don’t believe in the "domino theory" — i.e., that once Iraq becomes an Islamic democracy (whatever that means), the democracy "coodies" will spread to surrounding nations.

We believe that the Iraq invasion has turned bin Laden into even MORE of a folk hero among radical islamists around the world.  (And yes, Mr. Prager, we believe that terrorists *are* around the world — not just an Iraqi issue).

We believe the illusory justifications for invading Iraq in the first place, as well as the non-existent post-war planning, have diminished our country’s moral credibility on a global scale. 

And as for homeland security, which is ostensibly why we went in Iraq in the first place, we believe that nothing we are doing will ultimately make America safer (indeed, we believe the opposite).

Finally, taking the foregoing together, we don’t believe it is worth the cost of soldiers’ lives, especially when the end result is proving to be a mirage.

Yes, terrorists are evil, Mr. Prager, but this isn’t a comic book, and that’s only a small part of the analysis.

These anti-war concerns should not be difficult for an educated man to comprehend.  Nothing we say is "nuanced".  Your misrepresentation of the anti-war sentiments leads me to conclude that you are either (a) stupid or (b) intentionally disingenuous.

And I don’t think you are stupid.

So feel free to disagree with the anti-war view, and poke holes in it if you want. Mock it, satirize it, whatever.  But don’t misrepresent it in order to give yourself some moral high ground that you lack.

And if I’m wrong, and you are indeed so stupid that you can’t *understand* the anti-war position, be a man and say so.  Or at least educate yourself until you can.  Then, and only then, should you come near a computer keyboard to criticize it.

The “You Graduated In A Crappy Year For Music” Meme

From Doghouse Riley, it goes something like this: you "list Top 100 Pop Hits for your graduating year; hilarity results". Doghouse struck out the songs he hated, bolded the songs he approved of, and added comments.  Me, too.

  • 1. Call Me – Blondie
  •      Not her best…
  • 2. Another Brick In The Wall – Pink Floyd
  •      A classic, even if the movie sucked…
  • 3. Magic – Olivia Newton-John
  •      Not a classic, and the movie really sucked ("Xanadu")…
  • 4. Rock With You – Michael Jackson
  •      Before he got creepy, he was good…sometimes…
  • 5. Do That To Me One More Time – Captain & Tennille
  •      Because "Muskrat Love" didn’t quite kill us…
  • 6. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
  •      Like every other song written in the 1950’s
  • 7. Coming Up – Paul McCartney
  •      A guilty pleasure, I admit….
  • 8. Funkytown – Lipps, Inc.
  •      Please get this out of my head!…
  • 9. It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me – Billy Joel
  •      Billy was threatened by the punk craze, so he tried to pretend he was a part of it
  • 10. The Rose – Bette Midler
  •         Maudlin, but a good movie…
  • 11. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes
  •        Yup, a guilty pleasure.  Good bass line
  • 12. Cars – Gary Numan
  •         Classic.
  • 13. Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson
  •         Never heard of it.
  • 14. Working My Way Back To You-Forgive Me Girl – Spinners
  •         The only thing worse than one bad song, is two bad songs smushed together.
  • 15. Lost In Love – Air Supply
  •         Someone cut off theirs, please.
  • 16. Little Jeannie – Elton John
  •         A totally unmemorable song from someone who should have faded into oblivion.
  • 17. Ride Like The Wind – Cristopher Cross
  •        The only good thing he ever did.
  • 18. Upside Down – Diana Ross
  •        Terrible and trite.
  • 19. Please Don’t Go – K.C. & The Sunshine Band
  •        Don’t remember it.  Certainly not on a par with their real hits.
  • 20. Babe – Styx
  •        Doesn’t ring a bell.  A ballad, was it?
  • 21. With You I’m Born Again – Billy Preston & Syreeta
  •         The title alone is vomit-inducing.
  • 22. Shining Star – Manhattans
  •         Not the worst, but not very good.
  • 23. Still – Commodores
  •         Still sucks.
  • 24. Yes, I’m Ready – Teri De Sario With K.C.
  •         Perry Como would have been proud.
  • 25. Sexy Eyes – Dr. Hook
  • 26. Steal Away – Robbie Dupree
  • 27. Biggest Part Of Me – Ambrosia
  • 28. This Is It – Kenny Loggins
  • 29. Cupid-I’ve Loved You For A Long Time – Spinners
  •         My God.  ANOTHER medley?
  • 30. Let’s Get Serious – Jermaine Jackson
  • 31. Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer – Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes
  • 32. Sailing – Christopher Cross
  •         Only a good song to listen if you are, you know, actually sailing…
  • 33. Longer – Dan Fogelberg
  •         Not Dan’s best…
  • 34. Coward Of The County – Kenny Rogers
  • 35. Ladies Night – Kool & The Gang
  • 37. Take Your Time – S.O.S. Band
  • 38. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) – Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer
  •         The opening bit (the slow part) is slow and sexy…
  • 38. Too Hot – Kool & The Gang
  • 39. More Love – Kim Carnes
  • 40. Pop Muzik – M
  •        The beginning of the techno-80’s craze
  • 41. Brass In Pocket – Pretenders
  • 42. Special Lady – Ray, Goodman & Brown
  • 43. Send One Your Love – Stevie Wonder
  • 44. The Second Time Around – Shalamar
  • 45. We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard
  • 47. Heartache Tonight – Eagles
  • 48. Stomp – Brothers Johnson
  • 48. Tired Of Toein’ The Line – Rocky Burnette
  • 49. Better Love Next Time – Dr. Hook
  • 50. Him – Rupert Holmes
  • 51. Against The Wind – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  •         Not Bruce.  Nice try.
  • 52. On The Radio – Donna Summer
  •         Sorry.  Another guilty pleasure.
  • 53. Emotional Rescue – Rolling Stones
  • 54. Rise – Herb Alpert
  • 55. All Out Of Love – Air Supply
  • 56. Cool Change – Little River Band
  • 57. You’re Only Lonely – J.D. Souther
  • 58. Desire – Andy Gibb
  • 59. Let My Love Open The Door – Pete Townshend
  •         You get the feeling he wrote it in 5 minutes, while drunk.
  • 60. Romeo’s Tune – Steve Forbert
  • 61. Daydream Believer – Anne Murray
  •         Great song done horribly.
  • 62. I Can’t Tell You Why – Eagles
  • 63. Don’t Let Go – Isaac Hayes
  • 64. Don’t Do Me Like That – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • 65. She’s Out Of My Life – Michael Jackson
  • 66. Fame – Irene Cara
  •         There were better songs in the rest of the movie.
  • 67. Fire Lake – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  • 68. How Do I Make You – Linda Ronstadt
  • 69. Into The Night – Benny Mardones
  • 70. Let Me Love You Tonight – Pure Prairie League
  • 71. Misunderstanding – Genesis
  •         Before we all got sick of Phil Collins…
  • 72. An American Dream – Dirt Band
  • 73. One Fine Day – Carole King
  • 74. Dim All The Lights – Donna Summer
  • 75. You May Be Right – Billy Joel
  • 75. Hurt So Bad – Linda Ronstadt
  • 76. Should’ve Never Let You Go – Neil Sedaka & Dara Sedaka
  • 77. Pilot Of The Airwaves – Charlie Dore
  • 79. Off The Wall – Michael Jackson
  • 80. I Pledge My Love – Peaches & Herb
  • 81. The Long Run – Eagles
  • 82. Stand By Me – Mickey Gilley
  • 83. Heartbreaker – Pat Benatar
  • 84. Deja Vu – Dionne Warwick
  • 85. Drivin’ My Life Away – Eddie Rabbitt
  • 86. Take The Long Way Home – Supertramp
  •         Really good.  Should have been higher.  Waaaay higher.
  • 87. Sara – Fleetwood Mac
  • 88. Wait For Me – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  • 89. Jo Jo – Boz Scaggs
  • 90. September Morn – Neil Diamond
  • 91. Give Me The Night – George Benson
  •         Close, but not quite.
  • 92. Broken Hearted Me – Anne Murray
  • 93. You Decorated My Life – Kenny Rogers
  • 94. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
  •         Marching band?  Too cool.
  • 95. I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince
  • 96. In America – Charlie Daniels Band
  • 97. Breakdown Dead Ahead – Boz Scaggs
  • 98. Ships – Barry Manilow
  • 99. All Night Long – Joe Walsh
  • 100. Refugee – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

From An Iraq Veteran

Via The Green Knight:

[T]he only way that we can maintain our way of life is to have a strong defense…. And we had that before we started this little adventure here. Now we’re beginning to eat it up….The equipment and the people are getting chewed up and spat out. And that’s not the right way to defend our country…..

I tell you I was in Iraq and we saw some of the peace protests that were done at that time. And I felt like people really cared about me because they were taking the time to address the issues. And get really involved and do something rather than just emit jingoistic slogans….

There seems to be no real mission right now. We keep talking about winning and fighting terrorists. But terrorism is a technique. You can’t win against terrorism. We’ve talked about turning it over to the Iraqi Army and we’ve talked about the constitutional process….But the fact is we got about 140,000 of America’s best and brightest sitting in the desert and just sort of standing in a kill zone…. So we need to tell them what the goal is, what they have to achieve….

Mr. Rumsfeld, the civilian head of the Pentagon right now, he comes from a corporate world where everything is measured. And every night our commanders in Iraq have to submit all kinds of data…. And yet there seems to be no metric that defines our success. And the only numbers we hear are changed constantly…. We have the generals saying one thing. The civilian leadership saying another. And none of it seems to make any sense.

More veterans speak out here and here.

Fox News Viewers Whine

After devoting so much time and energy bashing other countries, including our historical allies, Fox News viewers gripe:

"Where is the international help for the United States? We are always one of the first to come to any aid when disasters strike around the world. Where is our help?? Now is the time for other nations to come to our rescue!" Debbie (Normal, Il)

"It is truly amazing that other countries have not offered assistance to the devastation on the gulf coast. Is not the USA the first to offer assistance to other world disasters? Maybe we should quit this freebie attitude and look after our own." Bob

"Let’s see how many countries come to our aid in the aftermath of one of the worst hurricanes to hit our shores in history. It’s my guess that it will be up to the everyday working taxpayer." Kerry

Let me take a stab at why other countries aren’t chipping in to help.

(1)  We’re the richest country in the world!!!

There.

Oh, but interestingly enough, one country is helping out:

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — After a four-hour closed-door meeting Monday, Jesse Jackson and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez announced a plan to help the poor in the United States weather the storm of rising fuel costs this winter.

Chavez said that the Venezuelan-owned, Texas-based Citgo Petroleum Co. would offer to poor schools, hospitals, churches and other groups 66,000 barrels a day of oil products refined at its U.S. plants.

Will redstaters accept the oil, even it comes from Chavez, in a Jackson-negotiated meeting?

Stupid Neo-Con Logic

This is the mind-numbingly stupid thing that columnist Lorie Byrd actually wrote (apparently, in earnest), at Townhall:

What is rarely, if ever, addressed by the opponents of President Bush and the current war is whether or not the decision he made was a correct one if everything we thought about the status of Saddam’s WMD capability had been correct.

In other words, invading Iraq was right because in a hypothetical world, Iraq could have had WMD. 

The next time I give a poor performance in the sack, I’m going to turn to my complaining lover and say to her "Yes, but can imagine how I would have been if I were good?"  That should shut her up, according to Byrd’s logic.

Bush’s AIDS/Africa Policy

Bush likes to talk about how he is helping fight AIDS in Africa by, among other things, "build[ing] the health system capacity" there.

Yeah, right.

Bush’s war against AIDS in Africa has a strong enemy: Bush himself.  Like his approach to terrorism, Bush’s unreality-based views of the world are merely prolonging the problem he seeks to prevent:

A senior United Nations official has accused President George Bush of "doing damage to Africa" by cutting funding for condoms, a move which may jeopardise the successful fight against HIV/Aids in Uganda.

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]," Mr Lewis said yesterday. "To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa."

The condom shortage has developed because both the Ugandan government and the US, which is the main donor for HIV/Aids prevention, have allowed supplies to dwindle, according to an American pressure group, the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change).

In 2003, President Bush declared he would spend $15bn on his emergency plan for Aids relief, but receiving aid under the programme has moral strings attached.

Recipient countries have to emphasise abstinence over condoms, and – under a congressional amendment – they must condemn prostitution.

“More Costly Than The War To End All Wars”

That’s what the Christian Science Monitor says about Iraq.  And yes, that’s adjusted for inflation:

Despite the relatively small number of American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (140,000), the war effort is rapidly shaping up to be the third-most expensive war in United States history.

This conflict has already cost each American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001.

If the war lasts another five years, it will cost nearly $1.4 trillion, calculates Linda Bilmes, who teaches budgeting at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. That’s nearly $4,745 per capita. Her estimate is thorough. She includes not only the military cost but also such things as veterans’ benefits and additional interest on the federal debt.

But even in stripped-down terms, looking only at military costs and using current dollars, the war’s cost for the US already exceeds that of World War I.

That’s in money, not in blood and tears. Fatalities from the combined Afghanistan-Iraq conflict now exceed 2,000. American participation in 1917-18 in World War I, a war infamous for its trench-warfare slaughter, resulted in 53,513 US deaths.

In constant inflation-adjusted dollars, the current conflict is the fourth most costly US war, behind World War II, Vietnam, and Korea….

Last week, President Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the US will "finish the task" in Afghanistan and Iraq to honor those already fallen. Some analysts say Bush’s statement implies that he anticipates the war lasting a long time.

Before the war is over, military costs may reach $500 billion, reckons Gordon Adams, an expert at George Washington University in Washington. He wonders if President Bush will make an "electoral calculation" next spring by pulling 30,000 or so troops out of Iraq before the midterm congressional elections. That would lower costs.

In terms of expenditures per soldier, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the most costly ever for the US, experts say. That’s because of expensive technology and equipment, the Pentagon’s heavy reliance on well-paid private contractors for some security operations, the higher pay and other inducements for an all-volunteer force, rising fuel costs, and difficulties in supplying troops in the Middle East.

Military costs run at least $6 billion per month, Mr. Adams calculates. Military estimates, he says, are based on oil costing $36 per-barrel, not the current $67. Fuel is a major bill in military operations, and the US must import much of the fuel it uses in Iraq.

Military costs are only one aspect. Spending for reconstruction and security, so far, add up to $24 billion for Iraq and $7 billion in Afghanistan, Kosiak figures. He puts the combined ongoing military and reconstruction costs at $7 billion to $8 billion per month.

In her estimate, Ms. Bilmes figures on $460 billion in military costs for the next five years, plus $315 billion in veterans’ costs, $220 billion in added interest, and $119 billion for the economic impact of a $5 increase per barrel in the price of oil through July 2010. "I tried to be conservative," she says. (Her oil-cost estimate is based on the 15 percent reduction in Iraqi oil output since before the Iraq invasion and the increased instability in the Middle East.)

From one standpoint, the US economy should find it easier to absorb the present war. Today’s defense budget is about 4 percent of gross domestic product, the nation’s output of goods and services. That compares with 6.2 percent in the 1980s, 9.4 percent in 1960 (Vietnam), 14.2 percent in 1953 (Korea), and 38 percent in 1944 (World War II).

In that respect, today’s war "is much cheaper," says Kosiak.

There’s No Place Like . . . Hey!

A pair of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the "Wizard of Oz" were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids Saturday night.

Few details were available on the theft Sunday evening.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Leigh Serfling confirmed the theft of the slippers to the Herald-Review on Sunday, but declined to comment on any of the specifics surrounding the case until Monday morning.

[Source]

Put out an APB on John Waters, I say.

Space Movie

It’s only ten second long, but you need to check out this movie (mpeg format) taken from MESSENGER:

The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005. Several hundred images, taken with the wide-angle camera in MESSENGER’s Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), were sequenced into a movie documenting the view from MESSENGER as it departed Earth.

Comprising 358 frames taken over 24 hours, the movie follows Earth through one complete rotation. The spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America when the camera started rolling on Aug. 2. It was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth – farther than the Moon’s orbit – when it snapped the last image on Aug. 3

Dodged A Bullet? Not So Much.

Looks like things are not going so well for New Orleans.  A two-block section of the levee apparently gave way last night.  Reports suggest that 80% of the city is flooded.

Noaerial

Of course, I’m sure there’s plenty of Louisiana National Guardmen to help out, right?

As southern Louisiana wades its way out of its terror and destruction, they will find that thanks to the Bush Administration there will be over 4,000 fewer Louisiana National Guard and Army Reserve troops available to assist in this emergency. Why? Because those troops are over in Iraq getting shot at and helping to deliver the country into Iran’s waiting arms.

Just Check The Idiot

Atrios points to a Washington Post editorial, calling it "the stupidest thing I have *ever* read".  We tend to agree.

The opinion piece is about Intelligent Design, and it is written by Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for WaPo.   That probably explains the strained sports analogies.

It’s called "Just Check The ID", and it goes a little something like this:

Athletes do things that seem transcendental — and they can also do things that are transcendentally stupid. They choke, trip and dope. Nevertheless, they possess a deep physical knowledge the rest of us can learn from, bound as we are by our ordinary, trudging, cumbersome selves.

What are you saying?  I’m fat?  Well, fuck you too, Sally!

Ever get the feeling that they are in touch with something that we aren’t?

You mean, besides body-altering drugs and over-inflated paychecks?

What is that thing? Could it be their random, mutant talent, or could it be evidence of, gulp, intelligent design?

Ummmm . . .  no.  No, it couldn’t.

The sports section would not seem to be a place to discuss intelligent design, the notion that nature shows signs of an intrinsic intelligence too highly organized to be solely the product of evolution. It’s an odd intersection, admittedly.

You think?!?

You might ask, what’s so intelligently designed about ballplayers (or sportswriters)? Jose Canseco once let a baseball hit him in the head and bounce over the fence for a home run. Former Washington Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte gave himself a concussion by running helmet-first into a wall in a fit of exuberance.

Trust me on this, Sally.  Even if I never heard of Jose Canseco and Gus Whoever, I still wouldn’t even ponder the connection between intelligent design and ballplayers.

But athletes also are explorers of the boundaries of physiology and neuroscience, and some intelligent design proponents therefore suggest they can be walking human laboratories for their theories.

Athletes are explorers of the boundaries of physiology and neuroscience in the same way that the local junkie is a "pharmacological scientist".

First, let’s get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is a form of sly creationism. It isn’t. ID is unfairly confused with the movement to teach creationism in public schools.

Sally, there is no movement to teach creationism in public schools.  That movement got trounced years ago (giving rise to the new ID tactic).   Where have you been?

The most serious ID proponents are complexity theorists, legitimate scientists among them, who believe that strict Darwinism and especially neo-Darwinism (the notion that all of our qualities are the product of random mutation) is inadequate to explain the high level of organization at work in the world.

I don’t want to get too far down the rabbit hole, but the world is not highly organized.  It’s randomness far exceeds its structure.  Have you ever seen two birch trees that look exactly alike?  Or humans?

Creationists are attracted to ID, and one of its founding fathers, University of California law professor Phillip Johnson, is a devout Presbyterian. But you don’t have to be a creationist to think there might be something to it, or to agree with Johnson when he says, "The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can’t account for that."

Why not?  Seriously, why not?  Because eyes, lungs and cells are "marvelous", they can’t be explained by evolution (which, by the way, does explain those things)?  Since when do subjective assessments ("marvelous") of a trait have to do with objective determinations of that trait’s origin?

By the way, what makes Phillip Johnson an authority on the "science" of ID?  Is it because he is a law professor, or because he is a "devout Presbyterian"?

The idea, so contentious in other contexts, actually rings a loud bell in sports.

"Actually, this square peg fits rather nicely in this round hole."

Athletes often talk of feeling an absolute fulfillment of purpose, of something powerful moving through them or in them that is not just the result of training.

"Son of Sam" and Jeffrey Dahmer spoke of the same feeling.  Your point?

Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a neuroscientist and research professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, is a believer in ID, or as he prefers to call it, "intrinsic intelligence."

Sounds like "intelligent design" and "intrinsic intelligence" have nothing to do with each other (except that both phrases have the world "intelligent" in them). 

"Intrinsic intelligence" suggests that the factor at work comes from within each person.  But the touchstone of "intelligent design" theory is that the force at work is something extrinsic, i.e., God.

Schwartz wants to launch a study of NASCAR drivers, to better understand their extraordinary focus.

Could it be explained by . . .  Jesus?

He finds Darwinism, as it applies to a high-performance athlete such as Tony Stewart, to be problematic. To claim that Stewart’s mental state as he handles a high-speed car "is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation," Schwartz said.

If indeed that is Schwartz’s position, then he is an ass.  Darwinism involves the evolution of species over geological time.  It does not account for — nor does it try to account for — minor variances within a species. 

I am, for example, taller than most people.  Darwinism does not attempt to explain that.

Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be "making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence." It’s fascinating thought. And Schwartz would like to prove it’s scientifically justifiable.

Schwartz, by the way, is a Buddhist.  Wonder how that would fly with the ID people.

Steve Stenstrom, who played quarterback for the Bears and 49ers, works as a religious-life adviser to athletes at Stanford, where he organized a controversial forum on intelligent design last May. "I don’t think it’s a reach at all," he said. "Talk to any athlete, and if they really are honest, they realize that while they have worked and trained, and put a lot of effort into being great, they started with some raw material that was advantageous to them, and that it was meant to work a certain way. We all recognize that we have a certain design element."

If Steve Stenstrom were "really honest", he would acknowledge that he has no first-hand idea of what goes on inside good athletes.

A strict Darwinist would suggest this is an illusion and point out that there are obvious flaws in the body. Peter Weyand, a researcher in kinesiology and biomechanics at Rice University, observes, "Humans in the realm of the animal kingdom aren’t terribly athletic."

And some of them aren’t terribly bright either (Sally, I’m looking at you).

Racehorses are much faster, and, for that matter, so are hummingbirds. We seem to have a basic quest to go higher, farther, faster — one of our distinguishing features is that we push our limits for a reason other than survival, and construct artificial scales of achievement — but we have some built-in debilities. Human muscle can only get so strong, it will only produce as much force as it has area, about 3.5 kilograms of weight per square centimeter. "We’re endowed with what we have by virtue of evolution, and it’s not like engineering where we can pick materials and throw out what doesn’t work," Weyand said.

And why is that, Sally?  Because, as a species, in order to survive, it isn’t necessary for us to run 50 yards and catch a ball made of pigskin.

Our bodies break down a lot. If we were designed more intelligently, presumably we wouldn’t have osteoporosis or broken hips when we get old. Some evolutionists suppose that the process through which people evolved from four-legged creatures to two, has had negative orthopedic consequences.

Yeah, but evolution isn’t done yet.

We are flawed cardiovascularly. Horses carry much more oxygen in their blood, and have a storage system for red blood cells in their spleens, a natural system of blood doping. Humans don’t.

Humans don’t have spleens.  You heard it here first.

Also, while a lot of aerobics can make our hearts bigger, our lungs are unique. They don’t adapt to training. They’re fixed. We’re stuck with them, and can only envy the antelopes.

So, because no human can ever train enough to run as fast as an antelope, that is evidence of intelligent design?

Yeah, God.  Why are you holding me back?

Besides, you’re wrong.  Humans, through training, can change the physical cahracteristics of their hearts and lungs.

None of which satisfies Schwartz, or Stenstrom. "I don’t think we can attach athletic design to ‘better’ design," Stenstrom said. ". . . Some people are designed with an ear for music, others with a capacity to think deep thoughts about the world."

Which means that BOTH of your "experts" think your theory is bizarre, Sally.

Schwarz finds little or nothing in natural selection to explain the ability of athletes to reinterpret physical events from moment to moment, the super-awareness that they seem to possess. He has a term for it, the ability to be an "impartial spectator" to your own actions.

Unlike the rest of us clods, who walk slow on burning hot sand.

"The capacity to stand outside yourself and be aware of where you are," he said. "Deep within the complexities of molecular organization lies an intrinsic intelligence that accounts for that deep organization, and is something that we can connect with through the willful focus of our minds," he theorizes.

Unlike the rest of us clods, who stand in the rain and wonder why we are wet.

Crackpot speculation? Maybe — maybe not.

Whatever it is, it’s not intelligent design.

ID certainly lacks a body of scientific data, and opponents are right to argue that the idea isn’t developed enough to be taught as equivalent to evolution.

Then that should end the debate, and render your article moot.

But Darwin himself admitted he didn’t know everything about everything.

Neither does Mr. Schwartz.  Again . . . your point?

"When I see a tail feather on a peacock, it makes me sick," he once said, before he understood it was for mating.

So, Darwin couldn’t explain peacock tails, but then he learned that peacock tails are for mating.  Good thing he didn’t pack up his bags and just attribute it all to a deity.

And try telling a baseball fan that pure Darwinism explains Joe DiMaggio.

Shorter Sally: athletes are great physical specimens, and only God could have made them so.

Oh, and steroids.

As Tommy Lasorda once said, "If you said to God, ‘Create someone who was what a baseball player should be,’ God would have created Joe DiMaggio — and he did."

Yeah, but then who created Tommy Lasorda?

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be wary of the uses for which ID might be hijacked. In the last year, numerous states have experienced some sort of anti-evolution movement. That makes it all the more important for the layman to distinguish the various gradations between evolutionists, serious scientists who are interested in ID, "neo-Creos," and Biblical literalists.

Not to mention good athletes from mediocre has-beens.

One of the things we learn in a grade school science class is a concrete way of thinking, a sound, systematic way of exploring the natural world.

Yes.  I hope there’s no "but" coming…

But science class also teaches us how crucial it is to maintain adventurousness,…

Is there anybody out there who would agree with this?

…and surely it’s worthwhile to suggest that an athlete in motion conveys an inkling of something marvelous in nature that perhaps isn’t explained by mere molecules.

Again, just because it is "marvelous", does that mean it is divine?  And why is it less marvelous simply because there is a knowable scientific explanation, i.e., evolution?

Johann Kepler was the first to accurately plot the laws of planetary motion. But he only got there because he believed that their movements, if translated musically, would result in a celestial harmony. He also believed in astrology. And then there was Albert Einstein, who remarked that "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." Historically, scientific theorists are sandlot athletes, drawing up plays in the dirt.

Well, they do more than "draw up plays".  They actually test out the "plays".  And eventually, the truth comes out.  It’s like the guy who first came up with the curve ball.  He theorized and tried it out.  It worked.  He developed it further, by moving his fingers over the seam of the ball.  He learned to move his wrist a certain way.  Was the curve ball divinely inspired?  No, like science, it was a process of experimentation.  And now every pitcher knows how to throw one.

Intelligent design theory, at least the version being pushed by The Discovery Institute, does not rest in scientific proof.  At its core, the theory is philosophical, not scientific.  It is unprovable (or un-dis-provable).  Hence, it is not science.

Sally, stick to what you know.  Presumably, that is sports.  Presumably.

“The Da Vinci Code” Movie

Conservative Christian blogger La Shawn Barber is up in arms about the upcoming release of the movie version of Dan Brown’s best-selling book, "The Da Vinci Code".

She acknowledges that the book/movie is "fiction", but

that’s hardly the point. In a world hostile to the faith,…

What evidence is there that the world, or even the United States, is "hostile to faith"?  The only evidence of that lies in the fact that we don’t allow faith to mix with government, because that raises the thorny question of . . . whose faith should be allowed to rule.

…we must be prepared to defend the faith when confronted by questions and absurd arguments made on the nonsense within the pages of this book.

That’s a very telling admission.   Note how mere "questions"  "confront" faith — causing a threat from which faith must be "defend[ed]".

Yup.  God gave us free will and an inquisitive mind, but if someone, you know, uses it, that’s an affront to God’s creation.  Go figure.

So . . . "hostile to faith", my ass.  These people are merely paranoid.  They don their sanctimonious suits of armor merely because a fictional movie might cause someone to question their own faith.

But I especially like the comment from one of La Shawn’s readers.

Can you imagine… just imagine… what muslims would do if such a book/movie were made about islam?

-They commit terror in the face of Korans in the toilet
-They riot when someone suggests Mohammad would’ve married a Miss Universe contestant
-They issue a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for the “blasphemous” Satanic Verses

Talk about "hostile to faith"!   Or does "faith" only mean "Christian faith"?  To cast stones against "Muslims" in this way is like commenting that "Christians" are like Eric Rudolph or Fred Phelps. (e.g., "Christians — they blow up abortions clinics and kill people")

Here’s the skinny: every religion has its extremists, whether they be Christian-based or Islam-based.   Don’t attack other religions with a stereotypical and false image, and then whine about how Christianity is under siege.

But our commentator goes on:

I think the DaVinci Code’s movie release may provide an opportunity for Christians to show that we can oppose such a blasphemous work without resorting to violence…

Was there a doubt?  Is Christianity suffering from some bad PR problem because the violent tendencies of its adherents?

Look, I will be the last person to begrudge anybody, Christian or otherwise, not to voice their opinions.  But to protest a fictional movie like "The Da Vinci Code" will only convey the message that Christians are threatened by its " religious" message.

My advice?  Leave it alone.  It’s a movie, for crying out loud. 

And have conservative Christians learned nothing from Schiavo?  Their proselytizing turns people away from Christianity.  In the end, they merely (and literally) are preaching to the converted, and it causes mainstream Christians to wretch.

Punishing Competence

What happens if you actually do your job, and the result is a potential embarrassment to the Bushies?

You get demoted:

A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.

The demotion removes her from the elite Senior Executive Service and reassigns her to a lesser job in the corps’ civil works division.

Ms. Greenhouse’s lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq.

Dick Cheney led Halliburton, which is based in Texas, before he became vice president.

"She is being demoted because of her strict adherence to procurement requirements and the Army’s preference to sidestep them when it suits their needs," Mr. Kohn said Sunday in an interview. He also said the Army had violated a commitment to delay Ms. Greenhouse’s dismissal until the completion of an inquiry by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Katrina Blogging

KatrinaWDSU (New Orleans) has a blog with good up-to-the-minute coverage.

Wikipedia has good coverage round-up and background, although it is not as up-to-the-minute (and beware the troll attacks).

Obviously, my decision to have a Katrina slideshow is affecting loading time of the sidebar, but I will maintain it throughout much of the day.

UPDATE 11:17 a.m. EDT: Katrina downgraded to Category 3; also reports suggest that the storm surge, while extremely high and breaking the NOLA levees at places, is not the 28-foot monster as feared.  But even though things look bad in The Big Easy, start looking for the phrases "dodged a bullet" and "bad, but could have been worse" to show up in media reports regarding New Orleans.

One wonders how the Louisiana National Guard will fare in the aftermath of Katrina.  Here’s a prescient article from August 1, from an ABC affiliate in Louisiana:

JACKSON BARRACKS — When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem.

"The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard.

Col. Schneider says the state has enough equipment to get by, and if Louisiana were to get hit by a major hurricane, the neighboring states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have all agreed to help.

"As Governor Bush did for Ivan, after they were hit so many times, he just maxed all of his resources out, he reached out to Louisiana and we sent 200 national guardsmen to help support in recovery efforts," Col. Schneider said.

Members of the Houma-based 256th Infantry will be returning in October, but it could be much longer before the rest of their equipment comes home.

"You’ve got combatant commanders over there who need it they say they need it, they don’t want to lose what they have, and we certainly understand that it’s a matter it’s a matter of us educating that combatant commander, we need it back here as well," Col. Schneider said.

And even if commanders in Iraq release the equipment, getting it home takes months.

"It’s just the process of identifying which equipment we’re bringing home, bringing it down to Kuwait, loading it on ships or aircraft however we’re gonna get it back here and then either railing it in or trucking it in, so we’re talking a significant amount of time before that equipment is back home," Schneider said.

Katrina Is Really Really Bad – Part II

From the NOAA:

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

Katrina Is Really Really Bad

Look.  We know that all hurricanes are bad.  And we know that category 5 hurricanes are really bad. 

But something like this hitting New Orleans is perhaps the worst.  New Orleans lies below sea level, and is protected by levees.  It’s basically a large bowl, and even in normal weather, water has to be pumped out of the basin.  And those pumps rely on electricity, something that is unlikely to work in the wake of Katrina.

Read this, published in American Prospect, on May 23 of this year.  And as you read, keep in mind that they are predicting 28-foot storm surges, and that Katrina will hit New Orleans at high tide:

In the event of a slow-moving Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane (with winds up to or exceeding 155 miles per hour), it’s possible that only those crow’s nests would remain above the water level. Such a storm, plowing over the lake, could generate a 20-foot surge that would easily overwhelm the levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical "bowl" of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops — terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.

***

A direct hit from a powerful hurricane on New Orleans could furnish perhaps the largest natural catastrophe ever experienced on U.S. soil. Some estimates suggest that well over 25,000 non-evacuees could die. Many more would be stranded, and successful evacuees would have nowhere to return to. Damages could run as high as $100 billion. In the wake of such a tragedy, some may even question the wisdom of trying to rebuild the city at all. And to hear hurricane experts like Louisiana State University’s Ivor van Heerden tell it, it’s only a matter of time before the "big one" hits.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Here’s an article from 2002:

Imagine what a disaster it would be if a hurricane-driven storm surge up to 20 feet high swept into New Orleans or another Louisiana coastal city.

That’s exactly the type of thing a team of Louisiana scientists will be thinking about over the next few years. Their task is to come up with such scenarios and try to figure out both what would happen and how best to recover.

The Louisiana Board of Regents recently approved a $3.7 million grant for the five-year study. The money comes from the state’s share of the national tobacco lawsuit settlement.

Ivor van Heeden, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center, will head the effort.

The coastal wetlands that protect New Orleans and other coastal cities in Louisiana are shrinking, making people more vulnerable to hurricanes.

Even a slow-moving category 3 hurricane, which has sustained winds of 111-130 miles per hour, could flood New Orleans, van Heerden said.

"If you flood it completely, you are going to have 13 to 17 feet of water in the city. That forces people to get up on their roofs," van Heerden said. "There would be upwards of 400,000 people trapped because a large number will not evacuate, a large number don’t own motor vehicles, some are disabled or street people."

One idea on how to rescue those people is what van Heerden and his associates call "Operation Dunkirk." Private boats from the North Shore would be used to reach people in New Orleans, van Heerden said.

The name comes from the World World II evacuation of Dunkirk, where a flotilla of private boats shuttled across the English Channel to rescue Allied troops who were trapped by the Germans in France.

Van Heerden said authorities would obviously use helicopters too, but noted that an inundated New Orleans "would stress every resource we’ve got."

The health of people stranded on their roofs would also be a concern.

"Typically, they don’t take clothing, food, water and, particularly, medicines," he said.

Getting the stranded people out of the city would be just one of many difficult aspects of post-storm recovery. Pumping all the water out of New Orleans, most of which lies below sea level, could take up to nine weeks, he said.

"The flood waters are going to contain a myriad of chemicals, in additional to animal corpses — be they wild animals or pets — or even human," he said.

"We could have fairly large and widespread disease outbreaks, and not just one disease," he said.

Dengue fever, West Nile or some other type of encephalitis and cholera are just a few of the potential illnesses, van Heerden said.

Houston’s experience with Tropical Storm Allison last year showed buildings would have to be decontaminated, a time-consuming task, he said.

"Maybe we will have 700,000 people homeless," he said. "We will have to build tent cities. Where are we going to build them? When you concentrate people like that, the disease potential goes up enormously. … This would be a catastrophe, a national catastrophe, and the economic impact would probably exceed $50 billion."

Mastheadhurricanekatrina

No You Can’t Have A Pony Update

The sidebar has been modified (temporarily) to provide Hurricane Katrina current webcams, maps, and updates.  Some of the webcams from New Orleans and Baton Rouge will probably go down (either deliberately or due to the hurricane), but that’s the nature of the biz.  Once it all, uh, blows over, the sidebar will return to its regular pointless status.

Reality TV Comes To Iraq

From the New York Times:

Reality TV could turn out to be the most durable Western import in Iraq. It has taken root with considerably greater ease than American-style democracy. Since spring 2004, when "Materials and Labor" made its debut, a constellation of reality shows has burst onto TV screens across Iraq.

True to the genre, "Materials and Labor" has a simple conceit at its heart – Al Sharqiya, an Iraqi satellite network, offers Baghdad residents the chance to have homes that were destroyed by the war rebuilt at no cost to them.

The same network also broadcasts a weekly show called "Congratulations!" featuring producers who help young, poor couples marry, and another that follows TV crews on road trips to hand out $1,000 to lottery winners.

This summer, a rival network, Sumeria, began running "Iraq Star," an amateur singing competition that bears more than a passing resemblance to "American Idol."

The phenomenon is a testament to both the globe-straddling reach of American popular culture and the ease with which people in other parts of the world – even those who are hostile toward the United States – adapt that culture for their own uses.

First we gave them "Shock & Awe", now they have "Materials & Labor".  Great.

Overheard in New York

I’m becoming a big fan of this website, whose name is self-explanatory: http://www.overheardinnewyork.com.  Check it out.

Speaking of New York, why can’t Ann Coulter shut upUPDATE (8/29/05):  Apparently conservatives are thinking the same thing.  The Arizona Daily Star has dropped Ann Coulter as a syndicated columnist, with this explanation:

Finally, we’ve decided that syndicated columnist Ann Coulter has worn out her welcome. Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives.

Pro-Bush Supporters Attack Themselves

OopsProtest Warriors is a conservative activist group.  Their tradmark is to show up at progressive rallies posing as liberals and carrying signs that say things like: "Communism has killed only 100 million people; let’s give it another chance!" and "The ACLU – we don’t hate religions – we just hate Christianity!"

Get it?  Because people will read the signs and say . . . "Hey, wait!  You’re not one of us!"

Thus proving . . . um . . . I don’t know.

Anyway, according to this report, they showed up at an anti-Sheehan rally in Crawford, Texas.  They were carrying signs that said: "Say NO to war (unless a Democrat is President)!"

And then…

In one heated moment, members of the pro-Bush crowd turned on what they mistakenly thought were a group of anti-war protesters, cursing them, threatening them and tearing down their signs. A police officer rushed the group to safety.

Heh.

UPDATE:  Ohmigod!  It happened again!  Can’t the right just learn to get along?

Operation Yellow Elephant In Action

Hats off and kudos to this kid who went to a meeting of college Republicans, passing out recruitment fliers (you know, because Bush has called for sacrifice, and because the military news people.

He filmed it.

Best part is when he is chastized:

One thing you’re missing the point on… there are some people..and you need to be more sensitive to it… there are some people here tonight that would like to serve our country, and would like to do it. But, for one reason or another they’re unable to. You need to realize there are people out there who would do that, people right in this room. But they can’t do it… you’re not being sensitive to those people who do not have the opportunity to do that for one reason or another.

Yeah, must suck.

That’s Why We’re Fighting?

Here’s what they’re saying at RedState about the rationale for the war (hey, at least somebody’s saying it:

The black-and-white, "get the bad guys" approach can be heard from the Democrats and their allies in the MSM and the American left. They are the ones with the GET OBL! mentaility, as if removing the main bad guys will solve the problem of terror….

He’s right.  Getting rid of bin Laden or the "main bad guys" isn’t going to solve the problem of terror completely, but it is far better than getting rid of lots of "little bad guys", many of whom weren’t terrorists to being with.  And that is all we are doing in Iraq.

And besides, doesn’t our failure to get bin Laden increase his mystique in the Muslim world?  Which, in turn, creates more terrorists?

So now we observe the idiocy of the right.  It’s like saying that capturing Hitler wasn’t going to end Nazi ideals.  Well, we killed Hitler, and although there are still Nazis today, it did kind of put a rather huge dent in the fascist movement, wouldn’t you say?

But what’s the alternative he offers?

The President has articulated a vision wherein democracy, free societies with free institutions, defeats terror.

Well, clearly that is Bush’s vision, but he fails to explain how free societies and democracies defeat terror.  I envision a world where free chocolate ends all racism and sexism, but my thinking that doesn’t make it so.

Those interests mentioned above want . . .

Here we go.  When a conservative starts to write about what liberals "want", you know the next thing out of his mouth is simply and flatly a desparate lie.

Those interests mentioned above want to turn Iraq into a mindless pursuit of WMD…

See what I mean?

…while the President speaks of the broader goal of squeezing the area in which the terrorists are welcome.

Hey, to be totally honest, I’m not worried about terrorists living in Iraq.  Better there than here, or London.  When you squeeze the toothpaste tube hard, the toothpaste doesn’t disappear — it just gets all over the places.

Friday iPod Random Ten

  1. Laurie3Language Is A Virus – Laurie Anderson
  2. Black Coffee In Bed – Squeeze
  3. The Color Of The Night – Lauren Christy
  4. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – The Supremes
  5. Marathon – Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris (Orignal Cast)
  6. Goodnight Tonight – Paul McCartney
  7. Year Of The Cat – Al Stewart
  8. Mummer’s Dance – Loreena McKennitt
  9. The Old Crone (Port Na Callich) – Capercaillie
  10. Prologue – Renaissance

This Can’t Be Good

From Reuters:

BAQUBA, Iraq (Reuters) – Thousands marched in adoring praise of Iraq’s deposed leader Saddam Hussein on Friday, offering a stark display of the loss of power and leadership felt by some of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.

Drawing inspiration from the Baath party strongman, who now languishes in jail awaiting trial, marchers in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, danced and chanted his name and condemned plans by the Shi’ite and Kurdish-led government to push through draft constitution to create a federal Iraq.

They accused the Shi’ite Islamists in government of kowtowing to Iran, Iraq’s non-Arab neighbor where many Shi’ites sought refuge during Saddam’s rule, and the United States, which backs the government with some 140,000 troops.

"Bush, Bush, listen well; We all love Saddam Hussein!" crowds chanted. "We reject the American and Iranian constitution" and "No to a constitution that breaks up Iraq," their placards read.

Okay.  It’s Baquba, a heavily Baathist part of Iraq.  But still…. thousands?

If nothing else, it puts the whole neo-con "this was like ilberating the Jews in WWII" meme in perspective.  How many Jews liberated from concentration camps in WWII held "We love Hitler" rallies?  I’m going to guess — none.

Jon Stewart and Christopher Hitchens

TdshitchensAs I watched "The Daily Show" last night, in which Jon Stewart debated Christopher Hitchens about the Iraq War, I thought many things:

"This is how it should be done.  None of the screaming pundits, like on Fox, MSNBC, or even CNN.  It’s intelligent AND entertaining"

"Damn, Stewart is good.  He’s going toe-to-toe with Hitchens"

"”Tell me why I’m wrong’, Stewart says.  That’s the way to ask a question"

"DAMN, Stewart is good.  I always knew he was articulate but…"

"SERIOUSLY, DAMN!  Stewart is good!"

And it went on like that.  I think it was the first time when I heard a progressive make the point — clearly — that the anti-war crowd isn’t against fighting terrorism, it’s just that we think the way Bush is conducting this war is counterproductive.

It really was an intelligent conversation, and one in which (in my view) Stewart got the best of Hitchens, who was selling the virtues of exportable democracy [read: Crusades without the God].

And it came after a wonderful send-up/analysis of Bush’s rhetoric — which amounts to nothing but repetition of the same platitudes.

I wish I had a full transcript of clip.  But for now, Wonkette’s abbreviated segment will have to suffice (yes, she was bowled over, too, although I thought Hitchens wasn’t as bad as she suggests):

Stewart: The people who say we shouldn’t fight in Iraq aren’t saying it’s our fault. . . That is the conflation that is the most disturbing. . .

Hitch: Don’t you hear people saying. . .

Stewart: You hear people saying a lot of stupid [bleep]. . . But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. . .

Hitch: [Sputter]

Stewart: They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence…

Hitch: I’m sorry, sunshine… I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn’t give. . .

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. . . . That’s not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.

[Audience erupts in applause]

Hitch: You want me to believe you’re really secretly on the side of the Bush administration. . .

Stewart: I secretly need to believe he’s on my side. He’s too important and powerful a man not to be.

Hitch: [Sputter, return to talking about his latest book.]

UPDATE:  Crooks and Liars has the vid.  I thought they might.  They note that it was "heavily requested", so I suspect others will be talking about this today.

Taking Powerline Seriously

Paul Mirengoff makes it clear why the other guys at Powerline don’t let him post so much.  Today he writes about "Taking The President Seriously":

The subject on yesterday’s edition of the O’Reilly Factor was how long we have to turn things around in Iraq. O’Reilly thought that President Bush has about six months to show the American people that we’re making progress.

I need to make a countdown thingee for my sidebar.

Bill O’Reilly is as astute as they come, and —

Wait.  Say that again?!?

Bill O’Reilly is as astute as they come, and  his —

Bwaaaaa-hahahahahahahaha! [sniff, sigh, chortle]. 

Okay.  Well, let me compile a short list of possible "theys":  drunks, pathological liars, rocks.

Bill O’Reilly is as astute as they come, and  his nervousness about the situation in Iraq is understandable. However, I think the best answer to his question is that we have until January 2009, when Bush’s second term expires, to turn it around.

Right.  The salient factor should be the presidential elections, not the congressional elections.  And sure as hell not the death of American soldiers, or innocent Iraqis, or even, you know, whether or not a victory is even possible.

It’s the president’s decision how long we stay engaged, and at what level. I believe that Bush is committed to winning in Iraq and, if neccessary, will take all the time available to him to accomplish this.

Call it the Military Corallary to Parkinson’s Law.

Nor, under our democratic system, is there anything improper about this single-minded approach. We decide public policy through elections, not polls.

Right.  Once elected, our leaders should stop listening to the people.  That’s the democratic way, don’t you know.

When Bush ran for president last year, the military situation was probably comparable to what it is today.

Except for the fact that insurgency attacks were less frequent than now, and there were 680 fewer U.S. casualties than now.  Other than that, pretty much the same.

Bush promised to stay until the job was done. He set no timetable, nor did he say or imply that the job would be completed soon.

Ummm . . .

103002

Whatever.

He was re-elected with a majority of the votes cast. He’s entitled to stay the course.

It’s about him, don’t you see.  The presidency is an entitlement, not a position of public service and responsiblity.  He doesn’t serve us; if anything, we serve him.

O’Reilly and his guest Douglas Brinkley pointed to the 2006 elections. But I doubt that the congressional elections will constrain Bush. First, there’s no reason to believe that the Republicans will suffer significantly due to the war.

There’s no reason?  How about polls showing dissatisfaction with the war, and with those (primarily Republicans) who support it?

The 2006 math is quite favorable to the Republicans keeping solid control of both Houses, barring overconfidence, arrogance, or corruption on the part of a critical mass of the party’s incumbents.

I think it’s the corruption part you need to worry about most.

And individual members who think the war is hurting them will tend to distance themselves from Bush.

And Bush won’t be constrained even by members of his own party.  He’s a fucking king, don’t you understand?

Second, I doubt that Bush would change course significantly even if he thought doing so would materially affect the 2006 elections. As Bush spelled out before an Idaho crowd last night . . . "Terrorists will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated." I don’t expect the president to opt for "emboldened" in the hope of influencing the 2006 election.

That, of course, presumes what most people have rejected by now: that the "terrorists" fighting in Iraq represent the worldwide population of terrorists and potential terrorists.  The sad news, which holdouts like Paul Mirengoff  seem to forget, is that even if we defeat every insurgent in Iraq, that will only make worldwide terrorism worse.  (See, e.g., Tube, London).

America isn’t used to having a president who does what he says he will do.

Really.  Let’s go to the way-back machine, to the Presidential debates of 2000:

LEHRER: New question.

How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force? Generally.

BUSH: Well, if it’s in our vital national interests. And that means whether or not our territory — our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances — our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear, whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be.

Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped.

And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

***

The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.

[Source]

But like it or not, George W. Bush is such a president.

Not.

Iraqis Cannot Agree On Constitution?

The Associated Press is reporting:

Parliament announced it had no plans to gather Thursday night and no date for a future session, signaling Iraqi factions were failing to agree on a new constitution before a self-imposed midnight target.

It’s the "no date for a future session" part that is alarming.  It’s one thing if they are negotiating, haggling, horse-trading, or even arguing, but if (as it seems) they’re not even going to meet, then the process of forming a democracy is effectively over.

I wonder what happens then.  Chaos, I expect.  And our soldiers will be in the thick of it.  For a "noble cause" of an Iraqi government which isn’t there (much like the WMDs).

UPDATE:  But on the other hand, Bloomberg is reporting:

Iraqi lawmakers today plan to vote on a new constitution, paving the way for an October referendum. Leaders of the Sunni Muslim minority have refused to endorse the document, saying it will divide the country along ethnic and religious lines.

So which is it?

UPDATE 2:  Aaaah.  I see.  They’re only pretending to vote on the constitution today.

Blogenlust’s Guide To Wingnut Logic

This is hysterical and spot-on.  I suspect it will be updated often so bookmark it and keep checking back.

Blogenlust’s Law:

As an online discussion among wingnuts grows longer, the probability that a Clinton will be blamed for something approaches 1 (i.e., certainty).

The "Even Clinton Agreed" Corollary to Blogenlust’s Law

There is equal probability that a wingnut will point to Clinton as an example of what not to do as there is that they will justify a Bush action by saying "Well, even Clinton agreed."

The BJ Corollary:

Anything can be justified absent blow jobs.

Parallel to the BJ Corollary:

Blow jobs are worse than or equal to any bad act.

The Michael Moore Rule:

In a discussion among wingnuts, the probability that Michael Moore’s name will be mentioned increases in direct relation to the size of his waist.

The Bernie Goldberg Postulate: 

In a discussion among wingnuts, the probability that someone will be blamed for any given situation is inversely proportionate to the power they hold.

The O’Reilly Rule

The volume level (including ALL CAPS) of those defending a position is inversely proportional to how defendable that position is.

The Santorum Slope:

In order to show that society’s problems stem from liberal influences, a sequence of increasingly unacceptable events is shown to follow from liberal influences on society, even though conservative institutions are technically responsible.

The Brent Bozell Theory of Moral Decay

Anything bad that happens follows from the exposure of Janet Jackson’s nipple.

The Robertson-Falwell Corollary to the Brent Bozell Theory of Moral Decay

Anything bad that happens (e.g., 9/11) follows from God’s hatred of homosexuality.

The These Colors Don’t Bleed Rule

The number of magnetic "Support the Troops" ribbons on your car is directly proportional to your car’s ratio of miles per gallon.

The Max Cleland Maxim

Military service is the most honorable and admirable thing you can do for your country, if and only if  you are not running against a Republican in an election.

The Cindy Sheehan Corollary to the Max Cleland Maxim

Raising a child who serves his/her country is the most honorable thing a parent can do if and only if they support the war.

The 9/11 Implication

If 9/11, then anything can be justified.

Generik’s Law of Martyrdom and Underdoggery

As the power and influence of the Republican Party grows, the level of howling about how oppresed and victimized they are increases.

Stay And Leave

I’m glad I’m not the only one confused.

Bush gave another "stay the course in Iraq" speech yesterday.  Which I would expect him to do.

But then there’s this story from today’s Financial Times:

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.

Seems like a bit of a disconnect there. 

Garance Franke-Ruta over at Tapped offers a possible explanation:

I wonder if what we’re in fact seeing is a White House strategy of maximizing harm to domestic political opponents (by continuing to cast them as peaceniks unwilling to defend America) while slowly bowing to public opinion (which has turned against the war). For all his vaunted stubbornness, the president has actually changed course and bowed to public opinion on numerous occasions in the past (creating the Department of Homeland Security, for example, and establishing the September 11 commission and allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify before it), but in every one of those instances he has ultimately managed to spin the shift in his favor. A political strategy of using the next six to nine months to continue to paint the Democrats as weak on national security, to be followed by a declaration of success and public return of some significant fraction — but not all — troops in advance of the mid-term elections, to be followed in turn by attacks on anti-war Democrats who wanted the United States to pull out "too early" and before the job was done, doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility.

Sounds very plausible to me.

Concept Of Time Eludes O’Reilly

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, on his show The Radio Factor, August 22, complained that Grandparents Day this year will fall on 9/11:

"Now, listen to this. September 11 not only the day of the attack, but it’s Grandparents Day. Can you imagine who made the calendar on Grandparents Day on September 11, what a genius this was?"

The answer?  The "geniuses" were the 1979 Congress.  President Carter signed the bill into law, which says that National Grandparents Day will be the first Sunday after Labor Day. 

This year, that day happens to fall on September 11.

Note to Bill:  People in 1979 were not aware of events that were to unfold in 2001.  Welcome to the space-time continuum.

Tomorrow:  O’Reilly wonders why he can’t put on his socks after he puts on his shoes.

Mmmmmm . . . Fresca

20050615frescasmI love my Sprite "Aruba Jam".  Ever since I started looking for a non-caffinated, no calorie soft drink, "Aruba Jam" has become my favorite beverage of choice.  I got into Fresca too, but Aruba Jam is even better.

Problem is, my stores haven’t been stocking it lately.  How come?  Could it be a Natalee Holloway thing?

Hmmmm.  No answers can be found through googling.  I guess — wait!  What’s this?  Fresca is getting a "makeover"?  Cool.

But even cooler is the two new Fresca flavors: Sparkling Peach Citrus Fresca (WOW!) and Sparkling Black Cherry Citrus Fresca (ugh!).  Okay, since they won’t give me my Aruba Jam, I’ll try the Peach Fresca.  Now where is it?

Scientist Observes B.S.

Trex_150 The Discovery Institute has a list of 400 scientists who doubt the central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution (or, at least the Discovery Institute says the scientists doubt evolution). 

Here’s the current Discovery Institute list in PDF format.

And here’s a profile on one of those scientists, Robert C. Davidson (he’s on page ten of the above list, 4th name up from the bottom):

Bob Davidson is a scientist — a doctor, and for 28 years a nephrology professor at the University of Washington medical school.

He’s also a devout Christian who believes we’re here because of God. It was these twin devotions to science and religion that first attracted him to Seattle’s Discovery Institute. That’s the think tank that this summer has pushed "intelligent design" — a replacement theory for evolution — all the way to the lips of President Bush and into the national conversation.

Davidson says he was seeking a place where people "believe in a Creator and also believe in science.

"I thought it was refreshing," he says.

Not anymore. He’s concluded the institute is an affront to both science and religion.

"When I joined I didn’t think they were about bashing evolution. It’s pseudo-science, at best … What they’re doing is instigating a conflict between science and religion."

I got Davidson’s name off a list of 400 people with scientific degrees, provided by the Discovery Institute, who are said to doubt the "central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution." Davidson, at 78 a UW professor emeritus, says he shouldn’t be on the list because he believes "the scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming."

He’s only one scientist, one opinion in our ongoing debate about evolution and faith.

But I bring you Davidson’s views because I suspect he is a bellwether for the Discovery Institute and intelligent design, as more scientists learn about them. He was attracted to an institute that embraced both science and religion, yet he found its critique of existing science wrong and its new theory empty.

"I’m kind of embarrassed that I ever got involved with this," Davidson says.

He was shocked, he says, when he saw the Discovery Institute was calling evolution a "theory in crisis."

"It’s laughable: There have been millions of experiments over more than a century that support evolution," he says. "There’s always questions being asked about parts of the theory, as there are with any theory, but there’s no real scientific controversy about it."

Davidson began to believe the institute is an "elaborate, clever marketing program" to tear down evolution for religious reasons. He read its writings on intelligent design — the notion that some of life is so complex it must have been designed — and found them lacking in scientific merit.

Then Davidson, who attends First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, heard a sermon in which the pastor argued it’s foolish to try to use science to understand God.

Science is about measuring things, and God is immeasurable, the pastor said.

"It just clicked with me that this whole movement is wrongheaded on all counts," Davidson said. "It’s a misuse of science, and a misuse of religion.

"Why can’t we just keep the two separate?"

That’s a good question, especially coming from someone who believes strongly in both.

Read more about intelligent design "lists" here:  Project Steve

In Which I Become A Hypochondriac

Daydreamfadeoutl I’ve noticed that my tendency to daydream has declined rapidly in the past few years.  Not that I ever daydreamed to excess, but in those quiet moments alone at home, my mind would occasionaly indulge itself with flights of fancy.  But not so much anymore.

I’ve also noticed that my mind is quite as sharp as it once was.  Not that I have become dotty, but I seem to forget things more often.  Inconsequential and forgettable things mostly, but nevertheless, there’s a hole in the seive somewhere.

So I kind of freaked out when I read this:

Study Links Daydreaming, Alzheimer’s

A new Washington University study shows the part of the brain used to daydream is the same where Alzheimer’s disease develops — in some people — later in life. It suggests the normal brain activity of daydreaming fuels the sequence of events leading to Alzheimer’s.

"The implication, albeit a speculative one, is that those activity patterns in young adults are the foothold onto which Alzheimer’s disease forms," said lead researcher Randy Buckner, associate professor of psychology. He said they may lead to a life-long cascade that ends in Alzheimer’s disease in some people.

***

Researchers at Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh used five imaging techniques to map the brains of 764 people. The subjects fell into three groups — people in their 20s, and older people with either early-stage dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

When they compared images, they found that parts of the brain involved in musing, daydreaming or recalling pleasant memories in young people were where evidence of Alzheimer’s disease appears.

Oh, great.

The Other Crazy Pat

WorldNutDaily has an exclusive.  The old headline, as reported here, was

"Rock Legend Shreds Cindy Sheehan ‘Peaceniks’"

but apparently the editors at WND had second thoughts about being on the side of someone involved with rock (aka "the devil’s music").

And who is that "rock legend"?  Why, Pat Boone, of course, who became famous for taking songs from black musicians like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, adding whole milk, and whiting them up for the suburbs.

Anyway, Pat Boone apparently thinks that Cindy Sheehan and her co-horts are "the very same people that were the dropout, turn-on, anti-war peace activists back [in the Vietnam War era]", which is one of those silly laughable lies based on, well, nothing. 

First of all, Cindy Sheehan is roughly my age, which means she was about ten years old — tops — during the Vietman War era.

Secondly, prior to the Iraq War, Sheehan was:

no rebel. The mother of four was a youth minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in quiet, conservative Vacaville.

But I’ll let others skewer Pat Boone and the WND article.  People like World O’Crap and Sadly, No.  Read them.

Soldiers Are Special

I don’t get it.  The rightosphere is all up in arms about a barroom attack in Seattle in which two guys, soldiers who had just returned from Iraq, got savagely beaten.

Obviously, any illegal altercation which leaves two men seriously injured is stomach-turning.  But sadly, there are probably hundreds of bar fight every day in this country of ours.  Why is this one so special?

Oh, right.  Because the victims are U.S. soldiers.

It should be stressed that they were not beat up because they were soldiers (it involved territoriality over some women, as many barfights do).  In fact, I can’t find any news report suggesting they were wearing uniforms.  But I’m sure the right wishes that they were beat up because they were soldiers; then they could blame Cindy Sheehan for the "climate of hatred" and/or try to make a connection between the assailants and the anti-war movement.

So I wonder what is the real motivation for plugging this story.  Maybe it’s their way of re-emphasizing their support of the troops.  Yet, where has been the outrage about the lack of armor, and Bush’s decision to cut veteran’s benefits for returning soldiers?

Come to think of it, how are these two soldiers going to pay their medical expenses?  Is the military going to help out?

RIP: “Your Ad Here”

Wargravestones This is rather disgusting:

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) – Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

Families are supposed to have final approval over what goes on the tombstones. That hasn’t always happened.

Nadia and Robert McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said "Operation Iraqi Freedom" ended up on his government-supplied headstone in Oceanside, Calif., without family approval.

"I was a little taken aback," Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he first saw the operation name on Patrick’s tombstone. "They certainly didn’t ask my wife; they didn’t ask me." He said Patrick’s widow told him she had not been asked either.

"In one way, I feel it’s taking advantage to a small degree," McCaffrey said. "Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact."

The owner of the company that has been making gravestones for Arlington and other national cemeteries for nearly two decades is uncomfortable, too.

"It just seems a little brazen that that’s put on stones," said Jeff Martell, owner of Granite Industries of Vermont. "It seems like it might be connected to politics."

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it isn’t. "The headstone is not a PR purpose. It is to let the country know and the people that visit the cemetery know who served this country and made the country free for us," VA official Steve Muro said.

That last quote cracks me up.  "No, it’s not public relations; we’re just informing the public!"

Wonkette sees the not-too-distant future:

You20think20were20kidding

Pat Robertson Bears False Witness

UPDATE:  Later today, Pat admitted he called for Chavez’ assassination and apologized.  It took 48 hours to get from A to Z, while taking a few lying diversions in between.  Now watch as the Christian Coalition falls all over itself to praise Pat as a stand-up guy.  And by the way, I find his excuse rather lame.

Let’s look at what Pat Robertson said Monday, verbatim:

"You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United … This is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Here’s Pat’s excuse lie:

"I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should ‘take him out.’

Pat, you did say "assassination" AND "assassinate", and you said (immediately right after) that we "oughta go ahead and do it".   (Then, moments later, you mentioned "taking him out".  But you clearly talked about assassination.)  See, there’s this new invention called videotape…

But then Pat make matters even worse:

"And ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him.  I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time."

Pat doesn’t explain what he actually meant by "take him out", only what he could have meant.  He’s being cagy with us, or he thinks he is.   And of course, even though he admits he was using ambiguous language in part, it’s the AP’s fault for misinterpreting him!

What a wanker.

Upcoming:  While stealing his neighbor’s garden shears, Pat see his neighbor’s wife, and secretly desires her.  So he steals her mail.  On the sabbath.

UPDATE:  I hope Pat isn’t planning on visiting England soon:

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has set out a list of "unacceptable behaviour" which could see extremists deported from Britain.

Fundamentalists who engage in the activities on the list could also be prevented from entering the country.

The types of conduct to be outlawed include inflammatory preaching and publishing views fostering hatred or fomenting terrorism.

The banned list applies to any non-UK citizen, either living in the country or abroad.

Fundamentalist?  Check.  Inflammatory preaching?  Check.  Publishing views fostering hatred?  Check.  Non-UK citizen living abroad?  Check.

I Knew There Was A Reason I Liked Him

In today’s Washington Post, Gary Hart talks about the timidity of the left:

History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we’ve blown up, and weakening America’s national security.

But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on?… In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."

To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration’s misfortune is the Democrats’ fortune, is cowardly….

The real defeatists today are not those protesting the war. The real defeatists are those in power and their silent supporters in the opposition party who are reduced to repeating "Stay the course" even when the course, whatever it now is, is light years away from the one originally undertaken. The truth is we’re way off course.

Via Americablog.

Vietnam Comparisons Obsolete?

Neo-cons get upset when progressives like me liken the Iraq War to Vietnam.  "They’re not the same," the neo-cons cry.  "The Vietnam War was in Southeast Asia, and was in the 1960’s mostly.  This is totally different!"  And then they compare the Iraq War to WWII.

But seriously, maybe they’re right.  Vietnam was also a more popular war for most of the 1960’s.  So says this Gallup poll analysis:

The latest quarterly average for Iraq shows that 50% say it was a mistake to send troops (the most recent single measure on this indicator, from an Aug. 5-7 Gallup Poll, shows 54% saying the war was a mistake).

In the comparable quarter for the Vietnam War (the third quarter of the war’s third year — that is, the third quarter of 1967), Gallup found 41% saying the conflict was a mistake. It was not until the third quarter of the fourth year of the Vietnam War (August-September 1968) that a majority of Americans said the war was a mistake. In short, it took longer for a majority of Americans to view the Vietnam War as a mistake than has been the case for Iraq.

Circle Of Death

Commenting on Bush’s speech, in which he says that "we owe something" to our fallen soldiers — which is why we need to keep fighting in Iraq — I wrote (yesterday):

You gotta love that logic:  we should continue to allow our soldiers to die, so that those who have already died will not have died in vain.

Mr. President, does the phrase "throwing good money after bad" mean anything to you?

In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd, who clearly reads my blog,  says the same thing:

"We owe them something," [Bush] told veterans in Salt Lake City (even though his administration tried to shortchange the veterans agency by $1.5 billion). "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."

What twisted logic: with no W.M.D., no link to 9/11 and no democracy, now we have to keep killing people and have our kids killed because so many of our kids have been killed already? Talk about a vicious circle: the killing keeps justifying itself.

It’s okay, Maureen.  I won’t sue.