Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush's ratings speech 

In an effort to boost his poor ratings on Iraq, the president today will say the same things he's been saying for years - perhaps with the words shuffled around a bit, or will announce redeployment after the Iraqi election of the 30,000 additional troops currently deployed to bolster security during the elections. Pretend it shows progress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Torture worked to make McCain give no useful information 

NewsMax seems to think it productive to torture people if it unmasks useless, coerced information. What is that other than torture for torture's sake? If it weren't so sad, it would be funny. Well, funnier than it is.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dobson gets membership in "It's OK if You're a Republican" club 

Last year, I'd collected 11 election 2004 endorsements made by James Dobson, for the purpose of pointing out that in all 11, he begins by lying, "I hardly ever make political endorsements."

Although my memory isn't clear, I believe the reason I didn't call foul on Dobson making endorsements at all was because I'd assumed that Dobson's Focus on the Family was allowed to make political endorsements. I was wrong - Focus on the Family is barred from making political endorsements.

Amnesty redux 

His desired second-term agenda nicely composting by now, Bush drug up his abandoned policy position of granting temporary amnesty to undocumented workers. This was the third of four reasons I could think of for voting for Bush in 2004 - all policies he had abandoned or neglected at the time I wrote,

3. Policy of granting temporary amnesty for undocumented workers from Mexico

These workers are indeed contributing to our economy and deserve to enjoy the protections and benefits they deserve as well as pay full taxes. It wass a step in the right direction - the stated policy should not be condemned. But again, Bush does not seem interested in following through.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Define "rushed" 

From CNN,

Despite calls in Washington and Iraq to pull out foreign troops, the U.S. general in charge of helping Iraq create an army says training troops to replace coalition forces cannot be rushed.

It's been 73 weeks since the hand over of "sovereignty" to Iraq and 2 years and 28 weeks since Bush declared the end to major combat. That's a lot of time to get Iraqi forces to be able to stand up on their own. During the 2004 presidential debates, Bush claimed there were 120K Iraqi security personnel up and running. I don't see what will happen between now and an "unrushed" readiness.

John Murtha's idea that Iraqi forces will not be ready until they're forced to get ready makes a lot of sense: we've been attempting to get them ready for two years already. Something needs to shift - "staying the course" seems to mean making excuses instead of making peace.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Countdown's political bloopers 

Keith Olbermann presents the greatest of political bloopers (8.5 MB WMV), most of which you've heard of but never seen, including,

*UPDATE: Thanks to Ivan for pointing out in comments that the Kennedy "Jelly Doughnut" story is an urban legend.

Republicans for Humility: why Bush is a jerk 

Well, he doesn't say he's a jerk, but that is the sense one gets when reading William Frey, M.D.'s Confessions of a Repentant Republican,

While President Bush emphatically rejects the suggestion that "extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq," senior military and intelligence officers report a different reality:

Vice-Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, tells the Senate Intelligence Committee, "Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment."

CIA Director Porter Goss testifies, "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists."

Gen. George Casey, the most senior commander of coalition forces in Iraq, tells a Congressional panel that coalition forces "feed the notion of occupation" and "fuels the insurgency".

Gen. John B. Abizaid of the U. S. Central Command testifies that it is critical to "reduce our military footprint" in the region to "make clear to the people ... that we have no designs on their territory and resources."

Larry Diamond, former advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, states,  "Intense opposition to U.S. plans to establish long-term military bases in Iraq is one of the most passionate motivations behind the insurgency...There are many different strands to the violent resistance that plagues Iraq: Islamist and secular, Sunni and Shiite, Baathist and non-Baathist, Iraqi and foreign. The one thing that unites these disparate elements is Iraqi (or broader pan-Arab) nationalism-resistance to what they see as a long-term project for imperial domination by the United States...Neutralizing this anti-imperial passion - by clearly stating that we do not intend to remain in Iraq indefinitely - is essential to winding down the insurgency."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a veteran of Viet Nam, states, "We should start figuring out how we get out of there... I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Reconsidering Iraq given Bush's hard-headedness 

I've been among those who have always been against the invasion of Iraq (at least since the UN inspections failed to validate all the terrifying WMD claims made before the 2002-2003 inspections) but supported "finishing the job" of regime change rather than pulling out and leaving Iraq in a worse mess than when the Ba'athists were in control. On 6/14/2005, I wrote,

Had he won, I had intended to give Kerry six months to show progress in Iraq before changing my tune to "bring 'em home now." ... Yet ... I keep thinking it's better to launch a war that ought not have been launched and stay as long as innocents are militarily threatened than invading and saying, "Goodbye, we sorta screwed up, sorry."

Some would argue that our presence there is inciting much of the violence, a point on which I certainly agree. However, if we left, Turkey would likely enter from the north and Iran from the east. Which I believe would be more of a negative than we have now; In fact, it would be a formula for a regional war we'd jump right back into.

Now we're four months beyond that six months I wished to give Kerry and both rationally and intuitively, I feel my position changing to "the sooner we can responsibly pull out, the better. My reasoning:

My "plan" for Iraq has called for repositioning coalition troops to protect Iraq's international borders and providing air support to Iraqi forces. The most interesting part of John Murtha's idea is to position troops completely "over the horizon" - I assume this means moving our presence completely out of Iraq to friendly nations such as Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar. Combined with the new facts - that 80% of Iraqis want us out now and our being "in" is not improving the situation, but making it worse the only smart paths into the future involve a major shift in strategy - any of which which Bush insanely rejects out-of-hand. Given his adversity to nation building, it looks like we're in for killing more "bad guys" is the only path he's willing to take. But this is clearly not working towards a stable Iraq - the opposite, if anything.

It seems to me that Bush would be more willing to declare victory again and pull out to "over the horizon" where we could both lend air support to Iraqi forces and protect Iraq's international borders. This way, Bush could claim Iraqis are killing the "bad guys" in the name of freedom and Iraqis would be forced to build their own nation and defenses.

It's a bummer that Bush has no confidence in our military doing anything but killing terrorists, but that's the reality. And a policy of assisting from "over the borders" would allow Bush to pretend to save face as if it were the next step in getting Iraq to stand on it's own.

Here is Bush looking for an exit strategy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pretty bubbles 

I figured this story was only "of local interest" so forwarded it to local friends, but everyone seems to love it on general principles. So here it is: a kitchen chemist's quest for colored bubbles.

House fire! 

I caught about 45 minutes of debate on C-SPAN over the Republican's sham resolution to immediately pull out of Iraq. It reminded me of Question Time in the House of Commons ... uproars, shouting down and, running about.

Here is Rep. John Murtha's resolution, introduced to encourage debate about hat the hell we're trying to do in Iraq (the resolution was not up for debate or voted upon),

Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency,

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;

Whereas, Due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

The sham resolution introduced by the Republican majority to avoid debate on the Murtha resolution,

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

Following are a few notable video excerpts of the rancorous session. Tom Lantos (D-CA) tries to clarify whether they are debating the Murtha or sham Republican resolution after Steven Buyer (R-IN) spoke of Murtha's resolution. The Speaker said it was "a matter of debate". Pandemonium. Buyer recants and apologizes.

Jean Schmitt (R-OH) calls Murtha a coward, uproar ensues. Schmitt withdraws her disgusting statement.

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) lets loose.

The sham Republican resolution was defeated 400-3. Bush fired back at Murtha's resolution earlier today,

So long as I am Commander-in-Chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground ... So we will fight the terrorists in Iraq, and we will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory our brave troops have fought and bled for.

Just minutes later, CNN breaks a story that the top commander in Iraq has submitted a plan for withdrawal,

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.

Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades -- usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each -- begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.

Ha ha ... classic.

If you didn't watch the video clips linked to above, you can get a hint of the uproarious session from this New York Times or Washington Post article.

Vatican launches another salvo against ID 


VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

They have nothing to lose 

So they keep on lying.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rush 2005 

Truth is realer than fiction (Flash).

PS:RE: - Bob Woodward's recent revelations have nothing to do with Fitzgreald's charges: whether Libby purgered himself in testimony to the Grand Jury.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Haymaker Humanist here 

You are one of life's enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on Earth. Probably what first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy.

You can't see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn't lay down your life for a concept though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful, irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way.

Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You'd probably open another bottle and say there's no contest.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My plan for Iraq + Edward's plan 

Two days ago I linked to the United Methodist Bishops' statement admitting fault for "complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.". I also suggested members of Congress ought to issue a similar statement. Today, John Edwards writes in the Washington Post,

I was wrong.

Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake.

Thanks for admitting fault, John. As a nation, we have a lot of work to do in the international arena and identifying the problem (posed by the invasion in the first place) is the first step in rectifying the results of an ill-conceived and ill-prosecuted regime change.

Edwards also issues in the same letter a plan for Iraq, which is curiously similar to a few points I posted to Sean Hannity's discussion board three weeks ago,

  1. Commission friendly Muslim countries to train and command Iraqi forces.
  2. Cancel as many foreign contracts as possible. Recruit Iraqis into a CCC-like program so they can rebuild their nation themselves.
  3. Western military forces role is curtailed to maintaining Iraq's borders and offering air support to Iraq forces until Iraqis can provide security without help.
  4. Communicate to Iraqis that this is precisely what we're doing.

Hannity's discussion board is a gathering point for bushbots, yet surprisingly, there wasn't a single person who claimed that the points I enumerated were inferior to "staying the course". Replies were unanimously along the lines of "You would have beaten Kerry" and "good plan although it would take a decade to enact." People understand that Bush is prosecuting an ineffective war even if they support the idea of the war in general.

I anticipate that without a major shift in strategy, more and more Americans will be disapproving of Bush's war even though those that approve have already dwindled to a paltry 30%.

Mandate my ass. I supported Kerry/Edwards in the election despite the fact they went against my wishes posted the day of Kerry's acceptance speech last Fall: To unequivocally admit,

I was wrong.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Last Supper beverages 

Watch the Prince of Peace turn water into wine coolers.

Oops! Sorry! 

Congressional Democrats (and for that matter, Republicans) ought to issue a statement similar to that made today by United Methodist Bishops,

WASHINGTON - Ninety-five bishops from President Bush's church said Thursday they repent their "complicity" in the "unjust and immoral" invasion and occupation of Iraq.

"In the face of the United States administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent," said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.

From the full statement,

As elected and consecrated bishops of the church, we repent of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the face of the United States Administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent. We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated. Although we value the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the military, we confess our betrayal of the scriptural and prophetic authority to warn the nations that true security lies not in weapons of war, but in enabling the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized to flourish as beloved daughters and sons of God. We confess our failure to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to be a people who welcome and love all those for whom Christ died.

Credit where due 

I don't remember when I last heard so many lies in rapid succession as Bush shoveled in his Veteran's Day speech - that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq was a declaration of war ("Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." - Bush, 10/7/02), that intelligence wasn't manipulated - they didn't even play straight with Colin Powell (video) ...

So, I'm feeling kinda bitchy. But surprisingly, Rick Santorum brought some joy to my day by coming up with this apt comparison,

[Santorum] said Bush made a mistake by labeling it a "war on terror," which Santorum equated with calling World War II a "war on blitzkrieg."

More "funny because it's true" humor from the RudePundit,

The Rude Pundit's not sure, but did the President of the United States admit today, in his great and mighty Veterans Day speech, that going into Iraq ain't gonna do jackshit to stop Islamic fundamentalist hatred of America? Bush said, in answering his critics (like, you know, his own State Department) that going into Iraq has increased the amount of anger against us, "We were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001...[The hatred] existed before we were in Iraq, and it will exist after we're gone." [Quotes are approximate - no transcript yet.]

So, like, let's see if we've got this straight: Bush essentially stated that nothing will change for Americans because of our Iraqi venture. That wasn't off the cuff, that wasn't in answer to a question, that was his goddamned prepared speech. Yet, as he continues to say, we must stay the course. And that course would be to ensure that nothing changes for the United States, save the loss of thousands of lives, limbs, and minds, and, of course, our national identity and treasury.

And lastly, credit to all the vets we're honoring today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Kerry Legislative Victory Forces Administration to Facilitate Congressional Oversight,

In an overwhelming rebuke to the Bush administration's attempt to hide alleged CIA secret prisons from Congress, the Senate voted 82-9 today in favor of an amendment by John Kerry that will require the Director of National Intelligence to report on the reported clandestine detention facilities.

The Kerry Amendment requires classified reports to Congress providing a full accounting on any clandestine prison or detention facility operated by the United States government, regardless of its location.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One would think 228 years is long enough to work out voting snafus 

Hopefully, this will bring much needed attention to problems inherent to electronic voting,

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election - and was told he had already voted.

Elections officials said a Los Angeles County poll worker had entered Schwarzenegger's name into an electronic voting touch screen station in Pasadena on Oct. 25. The worker, who was not identified, was testing the voting machine in preparation for early voting that began the next day.

Somehow, Schwarzenegger's name was then placed on a list of people who had already voted, said Conny B. McCormack, the Los Angeles County registrar.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cardinal Paul Poupard on a tear against Creationists 

... Defending the Theory of Evolution,

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.

His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the US, who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better".

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Vatican: Earth still orbits Sun, Pope still a monkey's uncle 

The Vatican on Intelligent Des- ... er, evolution,

"[We] know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," [Cardinal Paul Poupard] said.

"The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."

Poupard and others at the news conference were asked about the religion-science debate raging in the United States over evolution and "intelligent design."

Intelligent design's supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."

"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

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