Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Orbiters have now been sent to every planet from Saturn on in. Pluto is the only planet that has not been visited by a fly-by mission, the New Horizons mission will do that in 2015.
Within the span of a single human lifetime, we will have gone from being able to briefly touch space with sounding rockets to sending robotic probes to all nine planets, into the Kuiper Belt and into interstellar space. If you're not awed by that, then maybe you ought to take a deep breath and look up to the night sky.
We may be looking at the end of the deep space missions, though, because there is little plutonium-238 left for the powr supplies of future probes. That would be a damned shame.
(Yes, I know that Pluto has been "demoted" to a "dwarf planet" by a bunch of humorless bastards. On this blog, Pluto is a planet. Suck it up and drive on if you don't like it.)
Women should be allowed to serve aboard submarines, and the Navy is “moving out aggressively” to make it happen, according to the service’s top civilian.Yup, the bubbleheads will be all a-twitter over this at the idea that their ancient boys-only club is about to have its walls breached.
“I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday in a statement to Navy Times.
His comment comes one week after Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told congressional lawmakers that he thought it was time to end the ban against women on submarines.
Mullen’s successor, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, also said he is “very comfortable” addressing the crewing policy.
“There are some particular issues with integrating women into the submarine force; issues we must work through in order to achieve what is best for the Navy and our submarine force,” Roughead said in a statement. “Accommodations are a factor, but not insurmountable.”
Their wives will be even more upset because, after all, no man can be trusted to keep his dick in his pants. They're more than likely to be ranting about "only a slut would want to serve on a submarine."
Same old shit, different naval warfare community. All of the same tired old excuses as to "why women can't serve on our submarines" will be trotted out and they will be identical to the old excuses that were raised when women became aviators and ship-drivers. There won't be any real difference to the arguments that the submariners will make now.
Which is why they will lose and women will serve on submarines.
Sedition gets a miscreant ten years in the Federal slam.
As the corruption case against former Rep. William Jefferson was about to go to trial in June, prosecutors learned from their star witness that she had had a sexual relationship with the undercover FBI agent who drove her to all the meetings where she secretly taped and delivered cash to the New Orleans Democrat.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The writer should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. And he should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a sharp wooden rail.
Assholes on the Right, such as that clown, lost an election. They lost an election because they backed an administration that ran this nation into a ditch and then they backed a ticket that appeared to be comprised of the political analogues of Grandpa Munster and Anna Nicole Smith. And because they lost a free and fair presidential election (arguably the first free presidential election in 12 years), they are now acting like a bunch of deposed thugs, trying to scheme their way back into power.
They lost a presidential election and two congressional elections. That's called "democracy," folks. If you lose, you bide your time, you learn from your defeats, you recast yourselves and you go out and persuade the people to give you another chance.
What you do not do is try to arrange a military coup (not the first time the Right has had such dreams, by the way). You do not engage in mob rule (an old fascist trick).
Anyone who calls for the overthrow of our duly elected by military force is not a patriot. Anyone who even thinks of that is a seditious bastard.
And anyone who thinks that such a thing would be a "bloodless coup" is one seriously delusional sick fuck. A lot of us who believe in democracy also have guns and a lot of us will stand up for our liberty our country and our Constitution.
Count on it.
Postscript: Anyone who also believes that the military is some unthinking monolith that will unquestioningly follow the orders of a handful of generals who decide to overthrow the government is both inexperienced in military service and seriously unhinged from reality. The coup plotters, and those who encourage them, could very well wind up on the wrong end of a series of firing squads.
Postscript II: ThinkProgress is reporting this morning that the website which posted the vile spewing of that seditious bastard has taken the column down. But since nothing ever truly vanishes from the Internet, it still can be found. If you look at Newsmax's list of
P.S. III: TPM has the full text of the rantings of the seditious bastard.
McChrystal immediately decreed that the [International Security Assistance Force] troops were going to learn how to get along with the local population. It took less than a week for him to start to make his point. He was part of a convoy blasting through city streets at 60mph when the speed limit was 20mph. The soldiers were driving heavily armored vehicles right down the middle of the road, pointing their weapons at civilian vehicles, forcing them to the side. When the convoy stopped, McChrystal took aside the commander and dressed him down. "This is exactly the way you create the ugly ISAF," he said in a low but cold tone. He issued a directive: from then on, all ISAF forces would obey local driving laws.If that sounds familiar to you, it should, for the very same point was made in an opinion piece by a Marine captain two years ago:
On a highway north of Kabul last month, an American soldier aimed a machine gun at my car from the turret of his armored Humvee. In the split second for which our eyes locked, I had a revelation: To a man with a weapon, everything looks like a threat.We keep having to learn the same frelling lessons, over and over and over again.
I had served as an infantry officer in Afghanistan in 2001-02 and in Iraq in 2003, but this was my first time on the other end of an American machine gun. It's not something I'll forget. It's not the sort of thing ordinary Afghans forget, either, and it reminded me that heavy-handed military tactics can alienate the people we're trying to help while playing into the hands of the people we're trying to defeat.
Welcome to the paradoxical world of counterinsurgency warfare -- the kind of war you win by not shooting.
Some people do seem to understand, but not enough. We will never have enough troops in Afghanistan to crush the Taliban. Trying to kill off a guerrilla movement is like trying to swat smoke with a hammer. Those who complain about the use of guerrilla tactics by the enemy with lines such as "they won't face us straight on" only betray their own ignorance about the matter at hand.
When you are fighting an insurgency, the "battlespace" (a word I personally despise, by the way) is not any given stretch of territory. You do not measure success in a counterinsurgency by how many people you kill or how many bombs you drop or how many rounds of ammunition you expend. It is very rarely that any conventional force has managed to simply kill its way out of an insurgency.
Does anybody still not get this?
The battlefield is the people in an insurgency. When your forces are foreign to the country, you are already starting from behind the power curve. If you act brutally towards the people, you will only drive them into the arms of the insurgency and you will seal your defeat. The actions of Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion won no support for the British cause during the American War of Independence; the actions of Tareton's Raiders did more to win Southerners to the side of the rebels than did any number of fine speeches and leaflets.
I am solidly pessimistic on Afghanistan. We have had nearly eight years, now, to get this right and the enemy grows stronger and stronger. The "host nation government" is thoroughly corrupt, of the brothers of the president, one is allegedly a major drug trafficker, the other is allegedly a corrupt tycoon. The very recent presidential election was so riddled with vote fraud that a Chicago machine politician would have been embarrassed. The Afghan Army is largely ineffectual. The Taliban is making considerable hay out of all of this.
You have a shot at winning a counterinsurgency by making lives better for the people. You have a chance at winning by persuading them that they will be better off if they cast their lot with the government, not through speeches or propaganda, but by deeds. Good roads. Clean water. Schools. Medical aid. Economic development. Jobs. You win through all the stuff that the bombastic thugs in the party of Hoover deride as "nation building".
Yes, military force is part of it, security has to be provided. While that grabs the headlines, it is not the most important piece in the game. We cannot simply kill our way to victory, for if that was all it took, the Soviets would have won their Afghan War in the 1980s (and we would have won in Vietnam). It is very disquieting that there seem to be a lot of self-styled experts, both in and out of the military, who have not grasped the task at hand.
Gen. McChrystal gets it. I am not sure how many others do.
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We probably should pass a law that gives free sedatives to Fox News viewers.
Monday, September 28, 2009
It is worthwhile to remember that well into the onset of American participation in the Second World War, the Republican stalwarts were calling it "Mr. Roosevelt's War." A majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate opposed the Selective Service Act of 1940. The Lend-Lease Act of 1941 was enacted largely along party lines, with most Republicans voting against it. If I recall correctly, President Roosevelt structured the "Destroyers for bases" deal specifically to avoid having to put the issue before Congress and incur the wrath of the GOP.
That GOP attitude against the Second World War carried into the 1970s, until Bob Dole was slapped down hard by public opinion for referring to the Second World War as one of the "Democrat wars" during the vice-presidential debate with Walter Mondale in 1976. By then, WWII had become "the good war", in contrast to the fucked-up war (Vietnam) and it became political folly to criticize American involvement.
Republicans would just love it if everyone conveniently forgot that their attitude towards Nazi Germany was to turn their backs on the war as not their problem. If there was a party of appeasement in the 1930s and up until Germany declared war on December 11th, 1941, it was the Grand Old Party.
It could be that she wants to be in a position to prevent Dick Cheney from being tried for his crimes. Maybe she is being a good daughter, like Gudrun Himmler Burwitz.
Or maybe she really does believe that torturing people makes this country safer.
Fuck them. Everything which was in place which enabled the greedy fucks from the brokers filling out the "liar loans" paperwork to the financiers who packaged the worthless loans into AAA-grade securities is still in place. In not very many years from now, when greed overruns institutional memory, we will be right back where we were when things started to fall apart in `07 and really went over the edge in `08.
(And let us not forget that if the ideological idiots of the GOP had been in control of Congress a year ago, we'd now be enjoying a repeat of the Great Depression.)
We simply cannot trust those greedy fuckers to not be greedy. If it is not clear to you why, when it becomes available in a few days, listen to "the Return to the Giant Pool of Money" from "This American Life".
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Yesterday morning, with rain in the forecast for today, I went flying. It was a fairly routine local flight, made more to warm up the engine, boil off any condensation and to keep rust at bay (for me and the engine) than for any other reason. It also gave me a chance to fill up the tanks; I had not done that after my last flight as the line at the gas pumps was too long. Besides that, long experience has shown me that the bugaboo of atmospheric water condensing on the walls of a partially-filled fuel tank and contaminating the fuel really doesn't happen over much less a period of time than months, so if I've taken off with fuel tanks and finish the flight within 1.5 hours, I often won't bother refueling after such a flight.
So, as the first decade of the 21st Century shambles towards its close, I went flying in an aircraft made 60 years previously. As I said, it was a routine flight. But for how many thousands of years had people dreamed of flying and yet, there I was, flying. Those dreamers, spread over all those millennia, would have been astonished and probably delighted to have sat in my airplane, seeing the landscape laid out from over half-a-mile up in the sky, as we flew through the sky at a speed that would have been beyond their comprehension (120mph). It was impossible to do, in their day, but there I was, flying through the sky in an airplane that is now considered to be ancient, outmoded and slow.
And so we progress. Within less than two centuries, we have gone from being able to travel maybe fifteen miles a day across land (if the roads were tolerable and there was an inn to stop at) to being able to journey from a home in Boston to a relative's home in California in less than a day. We seem stalled at that speed for the last fifty years, but that will eventually change, as it always does. After all, took nearly two thousand years to get to the point where overland travel was appreciably faster than it was in the height of the Roman Empire.
If we can keep our civilization intact over the following centuries, I do believe that humans will venture to the stars. The technology to do so will be as unimaginable to us today as the inner workings of an aircraft engine would have been to a Sumerian, but provided that we do not destroy ourselves or our habitat on this big blue marble of a planet, the technology will come and we will go to the stars.
A still more glorious dawn awaits.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Even as it was revealed earlier this week by the Iranians that they have been constructing another nuclear facility, which apparently is in a tunnel and has been known to the intel community for years (and which explains the Bush Administration's interest in deep-penetration weapons), the Iraq debacle continues to poison attempts to deal with Iran. You may recall that over six years ago, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell made a presentation to the UN Security Council on the case that Iraq was developing nuclear and biological weapons.
Except, of course, Iraq wasn't doing any such thing. The purported "mobile biological weapons lab" was a hydrogen-generating truck for launching weather balloons. The "centrifuge tubes" were casings for short-range rockets (that the casings were not suitable for centrifuges was known at the time). Colin Powell's presentation, and probably through little fault of his own, was a mixture of misreadings of data, disinformation and outright lies, all of which ultimately traced back to Dick Cheney and his minions.
The rest of the world is operating on the basis of "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Thanks to Chimpy and Darth Cheney for that. That is why, no matter how good our information is on Iran, the rest of the world will be slow to believe us.
The medium sized (smaller than a SLR, larger than a credit card) digital cameras are useful, but they have their limitations. These next two photos were taken with a Canon A95 Powershot, vintage 2004.
The top film speed of the camera is ASA 400. That means sometimes you have to use flash if you have no decent way of steadying the camera. Here, with a black cat like Teddy and a dark-green cat bed, there was no choice, which results in "laser eyes".
The next area that can screw you up is the autofocus. It is faster in many situations than using the focusing window on the LCD screen to try and focus manually, but notice where the camera focused the shot. It wasn't focused on the exterior of the cat condo, nor on Gracie, but on the back inside wall of the cat condo. If what I wanted was to see the striations of the inside of a corrugated paper box, it worked fine.
I presume a decent SLR would have done better, but SLRs are not good for "wow, I ought to grab that shot."
Friday, September 25, 2009
Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross -- a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate -- sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment (PDF) and an independent appraisal (PDF) say it was worth.Now it turns out that the total price of the property and its business, including some intangibles, was about $1.25 million. Prescott, Arkansas has a population of 3,686 in the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Nevada County (pop. 9,955).
The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 -- an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.
"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
One might wonder if it was reasonable to pay $1.25 million for a property worth less than a sixth as much in order to take over a drugstore in a small town that has at least one other pharmacy. The drug store does about $1 million in sales a year. One might think that for an ongoing business of that volume, $500,000 would probably be on the high end of a sales price.
There used to be a trick some of the Chicago cops used to have when they pulled you over: They'd offer to sell you the pen that they would otherwise use for writing the ticket for what they thought was a fair bribe ($20-$100 back then).
This has the same odor.
The world took its first concerted step towards getting rid of nuclear weapons today when the UN security council voted unanimously for a resolution on disarmament and non-proliferation.It may be counterintuitive to argue that nuclear weapons actually make the world safer, but I maintain that they do. Twice in the last century, the largest powers in the world went to war to settle their differences. In both wars, the initiating parties thought that they could win a fast victory at little cost. They were wrong, both times, and in each war, tens of millions of people were killed.
The summit in New York represented the first time the security council had met to focus on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Barack Obama, who at the same time became the first US president to chair a council session, described the resolution as "historic", saying it "enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons".
Nuclear weapons remove the fantasy of a cheap and easy war. Nuclear weapons make it clear to both sides of a potential conflict that there will be a hideous cost to starting a war. There always was that cost, of course, but the concept that a salvo of missiles will quickly obliterate a nation's major cities is a far easier concept to grasp than the idea that the other side will build a massive fleet of bombers and then firebomb your cities to ashes. For generations, weapons designers rationalized their inventions by saying that they would make war too terrible to fight. The invention of high explosives, long-range artillery, aerial bombardment, machine guns and chemical agents did not make war too horrible to consider. Only nuclear weapons have achieved that.
Nuclear weapons kept the United States and the Soviet Union from going to war over a series of crises. Nuclear weapons forced India and Pakistan to back down from the brink of war in 2002. For the last 35 years, nuclear weapons have kept the Arab states bordering Israel from trying to wipe it out.
Nuclear weapons keep us safe. Removing nuclear weapons from the world will destabilize the world. It is a really bad idea to try and do so.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
There were several factors.
First off, between 1973 and 1979, the price of gasoline nearly quadrupled.
Second, in 1979, the depreciation rules changed. Before then, people who had enough money that they needed tax shelters bought airplanes and leased them to Fixed-Base Operators (the outfits at airports who sold, rented and fixed airplanes and sold fuel). In the 1970s, a 4 year old airplane on a rental flight line was considered to be ancient. The airplanes over three years old were sold on the used market, which kept the cost of used airplanes fairly reasonable. Now, it is not unusual to find airplanes approaching 40 years old for rent.
Third, there were some pretty hefty wins for the plaintiffs in lawsuits. Some were insane, alleging that airplanes 30 and 40 years old were unsafe. Cessna refused to make new single-engined airplanes, stating that the liability insurance premium was at least one third of the cost of a new aircraft. (Federal law was changed in the mid 1990s to limit liability to 18 years and Cessna went back into production on three models of piston airplane, the 172, the 182 and the 206.)
Fourth, and often most ignored, the young boys who had been around to see the Golden Age of aviation, to read the pulp magazines about the Thompson Trophy races, who were agog at the tales of the aces of the Great War, who read the news coverage of Charles Lindbergh's flight to Paris and who saw Lindbergh on his flights around the U.S. in the Spirit of St. Louis after his historic flight, those fellows began to age out of flying. Their younger brothers, who had been in the war, were not as enamored of flying. Their children were even less so, especially as flying had begun to lose its romance and travel by airline became more and more like riding a livestock car. The youngest of the "boomers", "generation x" and the "echo-boomers", if they were at all interested in flying, discovered flight simulation.
If you go to a general aviation airport now and observe the pilots, it looks like an AARP festival. There are still people in their 40s or younger who are flying, but not in the numbers it would take to replace the active pilots over time.
Go to Google Earth sometime and, in the "fly to" box, enter "KBED". 20 years ago, there were many more tiedowns and many more airplanes there. 30 years ago, there was a waiting list to tie down at many airports where now there are empty places. At KCGF, on the west (left) side of the airport, you can see a black asphalt tiedown area with maybe eight airplanes in an area that could once hold fifty or more.
General aviation may not be dead, but it is a pale shadow of what it once was, and it all began to fall apart thirty years ago.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named Paul G. Kirk as the interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Thursday.Time was that the governor in Massachusetts appointed interim Senators and that was it (sort of the way that ex-governor of Illinois Blagojevich did). In `04, with the chance that John Kerry would resign his Senate seat, the Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature rammed through a bill to require a special election in order to deprive then-governor Willard M. "Flip-Flop" Romney of the power to appoint a replacement.
Kirk will fill the U.S. Senate seat left empty by the death of former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Patrick said Kirk will begin serving immediately.
That was fine, the idea that a governor gets to appoint a political crony to the job for a year or is kind of grating. But this new power of the Massachusetts governor to appoint a short-term interim Senator is just offensive. After all, Minnesota got along just fine with only one senator for half-a-year while Norm Coleman was throwing his hissy fits. Normally nobody would give a fuck, but this change in the law in Massachusetts for a placeholder Senator was done solely to give the Democrats a shot at 60 votes in the Senate.
I'll bet that as soon as the special election is held and a new Senator is on the job, that the Massachusetts legislature will repeal the "special appointment" law. That will be close to the penultimate in cynical politics.
When Bill Sparkman told retired trooper Gilbert Acciardo that he was going door-to-door collecting census data in rural Kentucky, the former cop drew on years of experience for a warning: "Be careful."Is there anybody who is surprised that this has begun to happen?
The 51-year-old Sparkman was found this month hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.
British travel firm Miles Morgan Travel are taking reservations for this unique cruise that will commemorate the Titanic's tragic voyage in April 1912.If they agree to have a firing party ready to shoot every idiot who tries to stand at the bow and yell "I'm King udda Woild", then it could be interesting.
Our voyage of a lifetime will sail from Southampton on 8th April 2012 the twelve night cruise on board the MS Balmoral and will follow the RMS Titanic's original itinerary, passing by Cherbourg on the French coast before calling into the Irish port of Cobh.
From here the ship will sail across the Atlantic, arriving at the Titanic site on April 14th/15th exactly 100 years on from this tragic voyage, where a memorial service will be held to pay tribute to the brave passengers and crew who perished on that fateful night.
(I threw in the Donner Party reference as a bit of pure snark, but after I wrote it, I googled it and sure enough, there really is such a thing.)
If you get pulled over by a cop in Connecticut, it would be a good idea not to say "bite me" to the officer.
American officials grudgingly acknowledge the Taliban’s skill at using guerrilla-style attacks to manipulate public impressions of the insurgency. “We assess that the primary focus of attacks in northern provinces such as Kunduz is to create a perception that the insurgency is spreading like wildfire,” the American official in Afghanistan said. “But I think it’s more of an ‘information operations’ success than a substantive one of holding any territory.”Well, no fucking shit. Part of what a successful insurgency will do is convince the people that the government cannot do anything for them, that the government cannot provide a measure of security. (I've written a bit about this before.) When government officials, military officers and politicians from the party of Clowns blather on about "we haven't been defeated on the battlefield", all that they are doing is betraying their own ignorance.
The history of both conventional and irregular warfare is full of examples of combatants that lost battles and yet won their wars and vice versa. Even one battle can be a military victory when one looks at the butcher's bill and yet a loss when one looks at the objectives of the combatants. The Japanese Navy technically won the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, fought during the Guadalcanal Campaign, but as the objective of the Japanese Navy was to support their forces ashore and the objective of the U.S. Navy was to prevent that, the Japanese lost the battle. It is worth keeping in mind that George Washington lost almost every battle he fought with the British Army. 
Military power is used to further a national objective. Military power is not the end-all and be-all. Any fool can count forces and the dead on either side, but that is not the measure of who the victor is in a battle or a war. If the people running our government in the agencies involved with the fight in Afghanistan do not understand that, then they are fools, we are truly screwed and we are tromping down the path towards another defeat.
 Old story: A Marine officer was a guest at a formal dinner thrown by the officers of a British
Army regiment at their headquarters. Before the dinner, the Marine was given a tour of the regimental museum, which included a display of enemy flags captured on the field of battle. One of the flags was an American Colonial flag, which was taken at the Battle of Bunker Hill. One of the British officers observed: "As you can see, we still have the flag."
The Marine grunted and then replied: "We still have the hill."
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Tom Ridge: "We can never be failsafe.... we cannot create a perfect failsafe system....we cannot be breathless about it." He made the case that the U.S. needs to fund foreign aid in order to put a better face on the U.S., other than the image that has been projected to the world over the last eight years (that of a nation which uses torture, murder and aggression to deal with the world).
Jon Stewart also got in a nice smack at Dick Cheney, too.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.Aww. Wouldn't that be a damned shame? Boeing would be out because of the little brouhaha over the tanker contract. Because of other fraud charges, basically nobody could sell military airplanes to the Feds anymore. Blackwater, of course, would be barred. So would General Dynamics and smaller outfits such as IIF Data Solutions and Dynamics Research Corp.
This could be a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, over in the House Judiciary Committee, it turns out that the rat bastards in the party of Hoover did an ol' switcheroo on the original draft of the Patriot Act back in 2001.
The party of Hoover will, of course, try to blame the entire mess in Afghanistan on Obama. That is sort of like having a baseball game where the starting pitcher throws for eight innings, leaves with a seven-run deficit and then blaming the relief pitcher for the loss. Bush had seven years to do something about Afghanistan and he did nothing. It is beyond the point of dispute that Bush neglected the Afghan War.
If Bush's intention was to set the stage for a Taliban victory, he could hardly have done a better job of it. What we now have is a counter-insurgency war to fight to prop up a government that (a) is largely despised by the locals, (b) controls little more than the capital city, (c) has hardly anything in the way of an effective army (after seven years), and (d) blatantly stole an election in order to remain in power. Add to that mix the fact that the counterinsurgency war has to be fought largely with foreign troops in a land that has a centuries-old tradition of armed hostility towards foreigner armies. If there is a more potent recipe for disaster, I do not know what it is.
One other thing to keep in mind, especially when evaluating rumors that this general or that general is threatening to resign: Where were all those generals who threatened to quit when Bush and Rumsfeld under-resourced the Afghan War for seven years? Where all those high-profile generals were who resigned because Bush and Rumsfeld sent a small fraction of the forces needed to establish security in Iraq after Baghdad fell? Where were those generals who publicly quit because Rumsfeld refused to do any post-war planning for Iraq?
Good luck finding any. When Gen Shinseki said in 2003 that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to secure Iraq, not a single general stood up for him, (and come to think of it, even Shinseki didn't step down in protest). Whatever their misgivings, they all fell right into line behind Chimpy and Darth Cheney. But now that the president is a Democrat, the generals have found their balls?
I don't buy it, not for a picosecond.
Think Progress's transcript:
NINA OWCHARENKO: Well, it has massive new federal regulation. So you don’t necessarily need a public option if the federal government is going to control and regulate the type of health insurance that Americans can buy.Either Bill O'Reilly really does care about average people or the zombies are about to rise.
O’REILLY: But you know, I want that, Ms. Owcharenko. I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have a option, that if they don’t like their health insurance, if it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks.
My money is on the zombies.
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I can think of two reasons why the President did not appear on Fox News's Sunday blabfest. First off, it is apparent to a casual observer that Fox News is largely a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party. Second, when you are trying to persuade people, there is little point in talking to people who have made their minds up.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I wonder if anybody has bothered to track down that guy and ask him how it worked for him.
My take on it is that if a person really believes that he or she is going to be wafted up to Heaven, and they are so sure of it that they have one of those "in case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned" bumperstickers on their car, then they are probably going to a special spot in Hell. My suspicion is that if there really is a Heaven and Hell and all of the rest of that noise, that those in charge are not going to be too enamored of those folks who ran around proclaiming their piety.
(Those folks who use their self-styled piety as a club against other people are probably going to be standing in line for their Daily Pineapple.)
Right. Like that's a great idea that the wizards of BofA thought of. Except, of course, it isn't, Federal law now requires that. The credit card companies all fought that, but they lost, and now they are taking credit for it.
Scum-sucking weasels, all of them.
It's sort of like the auto companies, which spent years and years trying to fight off a requirement that new cars come equipped with air bags. Once they lost and the cars were coming off the assembly lines with air bags, the car companies touted them as a great safety feature and gave every hit that they were installing air bags because the auto companies really gave a frell about their customers.
Bunch of lying fucks.
Deep space probes have a lot of different sensors, but the public reputation of any one probe lives and dies by its cameras.
You can see more images from Cassini here.
Monday, September 21, 2009
September has been a welcome change and this past weekend was simply gorgeous, with skies so blue that it could hurt your eyes. My home airport has a restaurant on it that is open four days a week for breakfast and lunch. Last weekend's traffic was insane.
This is a Cessna P337, also known as a pressurized Skymaster. The Air Force bought Skymasters (not the pressurized models) during the Vietnam War, probably the last piston-powered combat aircraft the U.S. purchased. They were used for observation, spotting and forward air controlling duties. They were the "slow FACs" (fast FACs, F-100s and F-4s, were used in high AAW threat areas).
This photo was taken the weekend before, when the skies were gray and threatening to rain.
This is an old tall building that is located many, many miles from a city or any similar building. I have no idea why it was built or by whom.
I did check FlightAware on Sunday morning, as I was doing my flight planning. There were over a hundred single-engine Cessnas on IFR flight plans, with Skylanes being the most numerous of the bunch.
US officials told me in April 2008 that President Bush had been warned by his military commanders that Afghanistan was going from bad to worse. More troops and money were needed; reconstruction was at a standstill; pressure had to be put on Pakistan; the elections in April 2009 should be indefinitely postponed. Bush ignored all the advice except for asking the Afghans to postpone the elections until August.Widdle Georgie Bush had a bad case of Short-Timer's Disease. He was on his way out and he couldn't be bothered to pay any attention to what he could kick down the road. The thing that ought to gall Republicans is that if their guy had won last year, he would have been fucked just as badly by Bush.
He left everything else to his successor to sort out. When Obama took over in January, the crisis was much worse and Pakistan and Afghanistan immediately became his highest foreign policy priorities.
Those two stores have a connection.
When the state and its employees violate your civil rights, you can sue both the government body and the individuals who violated your rights. The individuals, be they cops, drug agents or school administrators, are partially protected by a doctrine known as "qualified immunity". To boil that down (and probably oversimplify it), that means that individuals, who are acting for the state, are immune from civil liability so long as a reasonable person in their position would not have understood that their actions were not legal. Put it another way, if they reasonably believed that what they were doing was legal, they don't have to pay you.
Police have been operating under the civil doctrine of qualified immunity for a long time. If what they do is wrong, they can be sued. That is what the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, MD is doing. That's why the City of Los Angeles had to cough up over $100 million after the Rampart Scandal broke.
If what they do is really wrong, they also have criminal liability and they can go to jail.
Last year, there were just over one million police officers in this country. Every one of them can be held liable for their actions. Every one of them should know that, yet they go out and do their jobs. The vast majority of them do fine work. Some of them bring dishonor to their badge.
So why does the CIA get to operate in a realm of "we can break the law, we can torture and murder you if we want to and there is nothing you can do about it, neener, neener, neener"? I find it very hard to believe that any reasonable person would have understood that beating someone to a pulp was a legal method of interrogation. I find it impossible to believe that any reasonable person would have understood that it is permissible to use such brutal methods of interrogation that the prisoner died.
What happened, of course, is that we had an administration which had no clue as to how to interrogate people, other than that which they gleaned from bad spy thrillers. We had an administration which believed, as did Richard Nixon, that whatever they did was legal and that attitude percolated down to the interrogators in the CIA. We had an administration which employed lawyers who knew or had reason to know that torture was illegal and they smarmed and weaseled and connived to produce legal opinions that "black" was "white", "up" was "down", "2+2=5" and "torture" was "enhanced interrogation".
The CIA appeared to not have the institutional memory of the FBI. The FBI knew full well that stepping outside of the bounds of the law, now, even if the politicians now seemed to support it, would come back to haunt them, and they largely refused to do it. The CIA was not that smart and that is a piss-poor reason to not hold them accountable, even though seven former CIA directors would have you believe that the CIA should not be held accountable for acts of torture and murder.
Attorney General Holder is doing the right thing in dragging this whole sorry mess out into the open for a proper investigation. The President did the right thing in not trying to stop him.
The Rule of Law must prevail if our status as a free nation is to mean anything at all.
 That doesn't mean the state is off the hook, the actions of the state's agents may still be found to have been outside the law and then the state has to pay you.
 Unfortunately, most of them are protected by their fellow cops. Perjury and evidence-planting are not unheard of in order to accomplish this.
 Whatever happened to "if you are caught, we will deny any knowledge of your actions"?
 The FBI knew better, which is why their agents refused to participate in Dick Cheney's Wide World of Torture.
 The FBI's abuse of Natural Security Letters as a substitute for search warrants is a topic for another time.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Of course, those feeble-minded folks include the editors of the New York Times. But what the hell, they also bought into the "we have to go to war now" lies of the Bush Administration during the run-up to the Iraq War, so we all already knew that they are a pack of retards.
Well, it seems that the cops involved and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department is doing the usual things that cops do when they fuck up: Circling the wagons. The cops's excuse is "our guys did what they are supposed to do", which means that they are supposed to invade the houses of people they know are innocent, kill their dogs and terrorize the residents.
The house was owned and occupied by a married couple. The husband is the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland. He is still pissed off.
Way to go, guys. You've now convinced a whole lot of white folks that the cops will search the wrong house, lie to cover up their mistake and, if they can get away with it, try to press charges to cover up what they did.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
First the minor reason as to why they are wrong: The Department of Justice under the Bush Administration was a badge-toting goon squad which functioned at the behest of the Republican party. That is a point which is beyond debate. That prosecutors in Bush's DoJ declined to pursue an investigation is meaningless. Nobody with an IQ above room temperature should be shocked at the idea that the Bush DoJ was not going to pursue an investigation that could end with the then-current vice-president being indicted.
Second, and more importantly: The underlying criticism of war crimes tribunals ever since the Nuremberg Tribunals has been that war crimes trials are "victor's justice", in that you have to be defeated in order to be tried for war crimes. If you win the war, you stay in power and nobody touches you. As the argument goes, nobody sought to try Stalin for invading Poland, Finland or the Baltic nations. Admiral Donitz was sent to prison for ten years because on his orders, U-boats sank merchant ships without warning, yet the exact same practice was carried out by American submarines against Japanese shipping and no American naval commander was ever tried for ordering that practice.
If holding people accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity is to ever mean anything, it has to be more than a legal way to hang defeated enemy leaders. It has to be more than a punishment levied against lesser-rank nations, whose leaders manage to get themselves arrested. Beyond that, the Bush Administration's Justice Department tried and convicted Chuckie Taylor for the use of torture against his own people in his own country. If we are not going to hold our own people accountable for the use of torture, than the Federal anti-torture is a fucking joke.
We have to do this, we have to investigate our own use of torture and, where appropriate, bring the miscreants to trial. If we do not, then we betray our own principles as a nation.
One submarine captain torpedoed and sank a Japanese hospital ship. His boat was ordered to terminate its patrol and return to base. Upon arrival, he was immediately relieved of his command, court-martialed, convicted of negligence and received a letter of admonition, which had no effect on his career whatsoever, as he was a lieutenant commander at the time and retired as a flag officer.
What is it with those chowderheads? They cheered on starting a war that has destabilized the Persian Gulf area, will end up costing two trillion dollars or more and cost five thousand Americans their lives. In the midst of greatly increased military spending, they also rammed through huge tax cuts for the wealthy and they enacted an even nicer program of socialized medicine for senior citizens. But talk about helping all Americans and trying to do something about both the burgeoning costs and the structural unfairness of health care as it exists in this country and they just go into batshit unhinged hateful racial-tinged bigotry and craziness.Then I saw this article about the GOP Hate Machine, which is enough to chill your blood.
But fuck it. I saw this video at BadTux's blog yesterday and I'm just going to cave in and post it.
Gentle Reader, try to have an enjoyable weekend.
Friday, September 18, 2009
As the Bad Astronomer noted, it is unclear if there will be a program to fly it.
I suspect that when historians look back on the 20th Century from a vantage point of a few hundred years, the cancellation of the Apollo program and the termination of the production of the Saturn V rockets will be among the greatest errors of the century.
The understated bit of news is that the investigation began while Bush was still in office, though after Alberto the Toady was gone.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Unwinnable War in Afghanistan|
Anyway, the other night, my VCR decided that it didn't want to tape the Daily Show, so I watched it on line. At the end of the show, the web site flipped over to a Patton Oswald clip:
|Patton Oswalt - I Hate|
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I was wrong and I am sorry for that.
The percentage of imbeciles is closer to 61%.
It is about time that some degree of realism has taken hold. Nobody has ever put forth a single rationale as to why Iran would want to fire nuclear missiles at Europe. Given that there are two nuclear-armed European states in NATO, both of whom have SSBNs, firing a nuclear weapon at Europe would be akin to national suicide.
The main effect of Little Georgie Bush's plans for an ABM system is Europe has been to piss off the Russians for no goddamn good reason, other than to give joy to the aging and decrepit Cold Warriors in the party of Clowns. No sanctions against Iran would be possible, let alone effective, without Russian cooperation. Russian cooperation will be needed in the event that the Balkan Wars unfreeze. One might even argue that the Russian smashing of the Georgian military last year was a big "oh yeah, well, fuck you" right back to George Bush.
Putting in a missile defense system in Europe and then negotiating a further reduction in nuclear weapons between Russia and the U.S. were obviously conflicting plans. President Obama chose the smart route.
Time to stop with this nonsense and just ram it to the party of Clowns.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|One Year Anniversary of Lehman Brothers Collapse|
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
[Rush] Limbaugh is up to something wicked. He's plainly trying to rally white conservatives into thinking that now that we have a black president, blacks are rising up to attack white kids! Christ have mercy, what is wrong with these people?Jesus motherfucking Christ on a lame mule, you're only now just figuring this out? Conservatives have been playing the "nigger, nigger, nigger" card for longer than any of us have been alive. What the hell did you think the "Willie Horton" ad by the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 was all about? What did you think was the foundation of the presidential campaigns of George Wallace in 1968 and 1972? What did you think Jesse Helms ran on for every one of his campaigns for the U.S. Senate?
Dreher continues on:
But as far as I'm concerned, if the Limbaughs of the world are going to be doing this kind of thing, and trying to blame, with no logical grounds whatsoever, a black president for black-on-white violence, and if they're going to do this in an increasingly hysterical atmosphere of protest against that black president, I don't want to talk about these things at all. Now is not the time. With this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, they are quite simply tearing the country apart.That is exactly what they want. Pay attention, Rod. What the hell do you think all the rhetoric about "take back our country" is all about? The Right didn't suffer a coup, they lost a series of elections! What the Right is upset about, most of all, and what they are protesting, is that a majority of American voters took power away from them. They simply cannot countenance the idea that they lost, and worst of all, they lost to a Black man. Hell, I doubt if they'd have been any more upset if Hillary Clinton had declared that she was a dyke and then won the presidency.
Where do they think this is going to go?
I am glad that there are conservative thinkers who are finally waking up. The shame of it is that it has taken them so goddamned long.
Sully is right, this naked race-baiting by Limbaugh, Beck and others is evil. But he shouldn't hold his breath waiting for large numbers conservatives to denounce the race-baiters. It's never going to happen.
UPDATE: Don't hold your breath waiting for Beck and Limbaugh to condemn shit such at this beating. (H/T)
It seems insane that there are so many different uniformed forces tramping around DC.
"Pigs in Space" is too obvious. Sorry
Before Chimpy's massive reorganization of the Federal police apparatus in 2002, the goons from ATF were part of the Treasury Department. Now, both the ATF and the FBI are in the Department of Justice. (The ATF would like you to forget that there was a time in the 1930s that they were a part of the FBI.)
You'd think that there would be some way to get these clowns in the same room and knock their frelling heads together in order to get them to grow up and start acting like adults. Sadly, no, it seems.
This question is unanswered: If the two agencies are racing each other to get to the scenes of high-profile crimes, are there other crimes that should be investigated but they are both ignoring, because those crimes didn't make the news?
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Arizona State Capitol Building For Sale|