Above the Fray

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Alice and the Word Thing

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass Chapter VI

Same question and same answer now:

A close look suggests that the feds' definition of a "suspected terrorist" may not meet the laugh test. [...] When Americans hear Bush say "terrorism surveillance program," they should recognize that the crosshairs may very well be on them.

The rest of the story.[homage to Paul Harvey]

February 8, 2006
A terrorist on every corner? JAMES BOVARD

President Bush and Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales insist that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of American citizens is a necessary "terrorist surveillance program." And polls show that most Americans support permitting the government to tap the phone calls and e-mails of those considered "suspicious."

But what exactly does that mean? A close look suggests that the feds' definition of a "suspected terrorist" may not meet the laugh test.

In the mass roundup of more than 1,200 people shortly after 9/11, for example, it took very little for a Muslim or Arab illegal immigrant to be considered a "suspected terrorist," according to a 2003 report by the Justice Department's inspector general. Arab students were locked up as suspected terrorists for working at pizza parlors (in violation of their student visas); a Pakistani immigrant was jailed after attracting attention because he and his Queens housemates let their grass grow long and hung their underwear out to dry on the fence; and one Muslim was arrested because "he had taken a roll of film to be developed and the film had multiple pictures of the World Trade Center on it but no other Manhattan sites," the inspector general noted. Some FBI agents were even instructed to look in phone books to find Arab- or Muslim-sounding names, according to Newsweek columnist Steven Brill.

The Department of Homeland Security in May 2003 urged 18,000 local and state police departments to treat critics of the war on terror as potential terrorists, according to a confidential DHS memo made public in 2004. Suicide bombers, the feds told local lawmen, could be detected by such traits as a "pale face from recent shaving of beard"; they "may appear to be in a 'trance' "; their eyes may "appear to be focused and vigilant"; and their clothing may either be "out of sync with the weather" or just "loose."

The Transportation Security Administration is also extremely arbitrary in how it designates names for its "no-fly" list. There are an estimated 70,000 names in the registry — many of them stuck there for reasons that even the government cannot explain. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) were placed on the list. Everyone with the common name of "David Nelson" is treated like a would-be bomber — as are 4-year-old children unlucky enough to have a name matching one on the list.

Since December, according to media reports, TSA agents have been chatting up airline passengers to determine if they are terrorists, looking for such warning signs as "involuntary physical and psychological reactions" — including whether people appear stressed out, frightened or deceptive. The number of people who fear flying outnumber Al Qaeda associates by at least a few thousand-fold, yet visible anxiety will be enough for the TSA to justify taking people aside for far more intensive examination.

And the Pentagon has its own catchall definitions of suspicious and/or terrorist-related behavior. Its "counterintelligence field activity" program, ostensibly set up to protect domestic military bases and personnel, has been covertly gathering information on Americans who have done nothing more suspicious than protest against the Iraq war, including at last year's antiwar rally at Hollywood and Vine. Names gathered in such fishnets are being added to a Pentagon database involving the "terrorism threat warning process," according to Newsweek.

When Americans hear Bush say "terrorism surveillance program," they should recognize that the crosshairs may very well be on them. The more expansive and arbitrary the definition of "suspected terrorist," the more of our rights the feds can violate. Invoking the word "terrorism" must not raze all limits on the government's power to target citizens who pose no threat to public safety.

A terrorist on every corner?

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Rant for America

This is a very articulate essay on what is wrong and what needs to happen:

Reclaiming the American Consensus

Emerging from moral bankruptcy requires that we properly reframe the issues:

We must not surrender flag and faith to those who would use both to support a war which honors neither.

To those who would attempt to silence Americans with the call that “We must support our troops,” we must meet squarely on the issues: The troops are our sons, our daughters, our husbands, our wives. They volunteered to defend our nation, not to pursue a hidden agenda of those who do not honor our nations values. We must never abuse their courage, their patriotism, and their sacrifice.

To those who insist we must spread liberty: Our founders established our nation as a beacon of liberty. We must never confuse the defense of liberty with the pursuit of an agenda of domination that is offensive to our democratic values and counterproductive to our security, inflaming the passions and determination of those less powerful.

To those who exploit a climate of fear to assert that we must now abridge fundamental liberties for the sake of security, we must remind of the insights of wiser Americans,

"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

"Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have." Harry Emerson Fosdick

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy" .... "We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties." James Madison

To those who claim that we who oppose the war in Iraq are "anti-American", we must confront with the truth that we who oppose the occupation come from all points on the political spectrum - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - left, right and center - and include the majority of Americans. To those who persist in challenging our patriotism, we must remind of the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "To announce that there should be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, it is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people."

The issues that unite the growing American "antiwar majority" today are principles that since our founding have defined what it means to be an American. So ingrained have these core American values become in our national psyche that even those who seek entirely opposing goals routinely give them rhetorical lip service:

War only with prior constitutional consent obtained for justifiable, non-aggressive, honesty-stated purposes.

No ambition of empire, or desire to dominate, and rejection of the role of world policeman.

Belief that only a society that both respects and actually practices individual freedom, rather than seeking the illusion of security through authoritarian measures, will succeed in preserving and spreading genuine liberty.

The conviction that no man, including the president, is above the law.

An uncompromising belief in the humane treatment of even our most despicable enemies...

Similarly, previous generations of Americans - left, right, and center - have been unified in the belief that not only is such conduct essential for the safety of our own captured servicemen and women, but that any nation which does not adhere to its own basic values (regardless of any self-proclaimed virtue) would cease to possess the moral prerequisites for genuine success.

...Our present need for "the decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is no less compelling than it was for our founders. But the primary need for realigning our actions with our values is not improved public relations. The most compelling need is, for the benefit of our own society, to reaffirm moral constraints upon our actions, individual and collective, without which the character of our nation will be diminished...

...The unifying values implanted by America's founders - values of liberty, non-aggression, and antipathy to authoritarian government – have historically prevailed only despite significant opposition from Americans with less honorable priorities. Indeed, the very eloquence with which Jefferson, Madison, and other founders defended civil liberties and warned repeatedly of the dangers of unrestrained executive power and the pernicious consequences of war and empire is primarily because their views were not universal....

Today the rhetoric of this consensus American vision of liberty and non-aggression remains unscathed. But the substance of the beliefs of our founders (which constitutes the basic “common ground” of our political compact) is under assault. Certainly no one overtly challenges our commitment to “liberty” and “democracy”. Yet we witness proponents of “freedom” at home and abroad advocating perpetual military occupation, rationalizing permanent detention of American citizens without charges or trial, and those who claim to respect the “rule of law” remaining silent while administration lawyers concoct methods for the president to evade American legal prohibitions of torture and promote the legal theory that the president has the “inherent authority” to “set aside” American law.

How have conscientious and patriotic Americans come to support policies so antithetical to our values?

How can so many remain unmoved when all evidence shows our stated justification for our first ever pre-emptive war is unsubstantiated?

How can a self-proclaimed Christian, writing in his weekly column in National Review, the “flagship of the modern conservative movement”, bemoan that our nation is not willing “...to fight this war the way it needs fighting, with grim ferocity and cold unconcern for legalistic niceties? To lay waste great territories and their peoples, innocent and guilty alike, to level cities, to burn forests and divert rivers, to smite our enemies hip and thigh, to carry out summary execution of captured leaders...”?

How can anyone have their “faith renewed” by British police putting “Five in the Noggin” of a suspected bomber?

How can so many who profess “moral values” remain missing in action as the president claims the right to legitimize torture? How can they remain in denial even as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an Air Force colonel with congressional access to suppressed Abu Ghraib evidence, reports, “The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. we're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience.”? How can 20 million radio listeners a week applaud as a mocking Rush Limbaugh maligns Sen. Graham as a “Republican in Name Only” and shamelessly promotes “Abu Ghraib Day” parties?

Most sobering is that these perverse sentiments do not result solely, or even primarily, from the shameless exploitation of fear. Rather, they arise as the unintended consequence of a world view that derives it strength from a direct appeal to and diversion of American's most honorable instincts.Support for virtuous goals may mutate over time into support for malignant policy....

..Reestablishing an American consensus for honest, reality based policy, one which pursues non-expansionist national defense while protecting civil liberties, requires the integrity to refrain from short-sightedly exploiting the twin passions of fear and hope...

...The cult of empire is propped up by a ubiquitous and effective spin machine. Megastar media surrogates saturate the airways with their 24/7 presence. They advance a creed of conquest that confuses strength to defend the nation with the pursuit of world domination. Their message thrives on the demonization of both foreign power and domestic dissent. While they peddle a creed that holds in contempt both the actual exercise of liberty and the practice of authentic faith, these false prophets cloak their message with a veneer of professed moral and patriotic values. And they have infected our culture with their audacious claim that their values reflect the values of America...

...The moral blind spots displayed by those who profess respect for the "rule of law" and "moral values" regarding a presidential "inherent right" to "set aside law" and legitimize torture are symptoms of the "moral bankruptcy" of which Eisenhower warned...

These blind spots reflect a void in the soul of America. Filling this vacuum requires rejecting false idols, repairing a flawed paradigm, and restoring a consensus based upon authentic American values. No simple formula will address all issues. ...But the "common ground" to be found in the still revolutionary vision of America's founders - a vision embracing individual liberty, opposing wars of conquest, protecting the rights of dissent, limiting presidential powers, and maintaining the moral high ground with unambiguous rejection of any legitimate role for torture - maintains it power by virtue of its moral authority...

Those supporting current policies will continue to use all the resources of their propaganda machine to attempt to perpetuate their distorted view of the role of power, of empire, and of America's role in the world. And they will continue to appropriate the rhetoric of “freedom” to promote policies which repudiate the substance of the American vision of liberty.

We must reframe the terms of debate to reclaim America's authentic vision.

We cannot permit a war begun for the purpose of disarming a tyrant to be used to justify the permanent unwanted occupation of a foreign land.

We must never enable the rhetoric of patriotism and faith to support a policy of domination pursued through deception.

Nor the rhetoric of fear to blind us to the dismantling of the legal framework for our freedoms.

We can no longer tolerate business-as-usual politicians in either party who will not act to reassert historic constitutional restraints on executive power, end a misguided war, and repel the perilous assault on civil liberties.

Effective action requires that we first overcome our own denial.

We cannot absolve ourselves from responsibility by pointing to our cowardly media.

John Locke, intellectual mentor to America's founders, stated in his Essay on Human Understanding in 1689 “It is vain to find fault with the arts of deceiving, wherein men find pleasure to be deceived...

Overcoming this human frailty remains a formidable challenge.

Is this some loonie liberal ranting?.. I think not. Go read the rest of the article.. read the whole site!
Confessions of a Repentant Republican

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Merry Christmas

[Snark Alert]

Merry Christmas
Boy, do I feel Target's pain. They exile specific reference to Christmas in their ads and store decorations in order not to offend people who 'don't celebrate it' (except perhaps as a secular exercise in demonstrating love through stuff), and then they get slammed for offending Christians, at least the Christians whose principal exercise of faith would appear to be lying in wait to make people feel guilty for something. In all of this, the guiding principle seems to be to 'not offend', but the principle has evolved quite far from its origins in Golden Rule manners to mean something like 'don't say or do anything that the most sensitive person with the largest chip on his shoulder could interpret, on his most truculent day, into something offensive'. "...
...The attempt by the Christian right to put a lien on anything red and green is as outrageous as the political right's appropriation of the flag, and I hope they wake up and start being extra-Christian around the holidays, instead of extra-self-righteous and extra-nail-everyone-they-can-catch for offending them or not displaying enough pietism. (Of course my idea of being extra-Christian is heavy on turning the other cheek, hating the sin and loving the sinner, hoping for a lot of redemption, seeing God's goodness in everyone wherever possible, helping the meek to inherit what they're too shy to ask for, and like that.)...
...I am not a Christian, so if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas in this environment, I have alternative ways to take it. One is to enjoy the experience of being wished well by another, impute good will to the source, and enjoy the second Christmas incrementally more.

Another is to take offense, and here the options are rich and varied:

"How dare you address me in this matter without being fully informed of my confession! You are thoughtless and careless to bet the odds on (i) the Christian preponderance in the US population (about 3 in 4) and/or (ii) my name, rather than making inquiry of me or my friends before you say something nice to me. You should be ashamed."

"Ah, 'Merry Christmas', you say. I bet you mean that in the imperative mood, ordering me under cover of a greeting to convert to your religion. You're a child of the cossacks and the inquisition, and so are the stores with their holly and ribbons, just carrying on centuries of oppression and abuse. You should be ashamed."

"Merry Christmas? You said that out loud, here in a government institution [I teach in a state university]? Do you realize you're creating an establishment of religion? You should be ashamed."

Once I get in this track, my friend can't win. "'Happy Holidays'? You sound like a Wal-Mart sign. I only celebrate one of them, and I'm offended that you blur your greeting over the one[s] I don't."

I could easily produce a similar paragraph on alternative ways to take a merchant's, or a friend's, attempt to be nice while not giving offense by saying "Have a nice holiday."

The point is that we have as strong a duty to take things as though people mean well, even if we could nail them for making a mistake, as we do to be gracious and thoughtful on the sending side. Anyway, I cannot for the life of me understand how a reasonable person of any faith can take offense at someone's well-meaning attempt to spread cheer, or turn it into a trap. (I don't even mind being proselytized, within reason; it's a compliment that someone wants to save my soul and often leads to an interesting theological argument.)

Jews are about one American in fifty, Moslems another one (depending on how you count). The idea that the popular culture of December in the US should ignore or hide its religious sources, or that it should not be overwhelmingly Christian-flavored, seems to me to get it completely wrong. Nobody's rights are violated by demographic facts....Michael O'Hare

My proposed greeting for this time of year: "Happy Holidays, and to Hell with Bill O'Reilly.".. Mark Kleiman

The Reality-Based Community

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gary Hart

"Micah 6:8: 'What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.'"

...I keep coming back to those values of Jesus – tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, a sense of social justice and equality. Otherwise, a mass democracy of 300 million people simply will not work...

...I’m not "uncomfortable" with the way Jesus is being tossed around – I’m angry about it. I’d go well beyond discomfort.

I think the religious right is making Jesus into some kind of Old Testament wrathful prophet who is judgmental, divisive, and opposed to any notion of liberalism, whereas the teachings of Jesus tell quite a different story. He was tolerant. He was forgiving. He preached love, not hate. In many ways, the literal reading of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, particularly not filtered through the later apostles in the New Testament, but the literal teachings of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels, are almost totally at odds with the teachings of the present-day religious right...

... the reason you can’t mix religion and politics is, religion is about absolutes, right and wrong, good and evil. Politics is about compromise. If you cannot compromise on issues that are not central to a person’s faith – and that’s about 99% of the issues our country faces – then the country doesn’t work. The government doesn’t work. That’s why we’ve had government grinding to a halt in recent years. People are frustrated by it...

..The separation [of church and state] was not just to protect the state from the church, but to protect the church from the state. The people who are trying to insert themselves into positions of authority in government, through the Republican Party, ought to be awfully careful, because the same state that takes them in is a state that can turn around and, if it chooses to, by using the same authority, begin seriously to condition their behavior. People with a bit in their teeth, and the arrogance of power, don’t think that way, but they ought to...

BuzzFlash Interview: Gary Hart:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Freedom Dust

It can only be days before Fox News starts referring to white phosphorus as 'freedom dust.

One of the many minor irritations about the War on Terror is that its architects are having so much more success vanquishing language than they are getting the psychopathic malcontents to put down their weapons...

Marina Hyde: 'The war on the literal'

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ethics Snark

Snark or irony.. or just an observation:

President Bush earlier this month ordered refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including those governing the protection -- and leaking -- of classified information. Not that there was any problem, but it's always good to keep up on these things.

As for the rest of the executive branch, we thought we'd check in with the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, the person who 'provides overall direction to the executive branch ethics program and is responsible for ensuring that OGE fulfills' its obligations.We checked the Web site:

"Vacant, Director." "Vacant, Special Assistant to the Director."

In fact, the job of director has been vacant since December 2003.


Cunningham's Hard Cell: The Void in Government Ethics

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Question for Thanksgiving

This is something that can be asked about a lot of newspaper 'filler'

"Lots of people are traveling today. For some reason, even though this happens every year and we all know it happens every year, this is the lead news story everywhere - Fark"

Progressive Review

This isn't a stunning observation, just thought it was funny.. and so it goes..

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Murta's real proposal

John Murtha (D-PA) has stepped in a fire ant hill. As a backer of the Iraq war, he has now come out for withdrawal. This has the republicans really upset, since he was a hawk and one of the 'good' Democrats. [possible parallel to Johnson losing Cronkite during the Vietnam war?].

As important as this declaration is, I think his other declaration is perhaps more important in the broader picture.

...as Murtha so aptly said, 'the future of our country is at risk' and it's time to stop reaching across the aisle to a GOP that does not share our values, makes little effort to be honestly bipartisan and has no respect whatsoever for those who make such efforts...

The Blue Dog Coalition was created in 1995 and came about to promote positions "...which bridge the gap between ideological extremes" according to their House web site. "Many of the group's policy proposals have been praised as fair, responsible, and positive additions to a Congressional environment too often marked as partisan and antagonistic," say the Blue Dogs in their mission statement.

Time for Blue Dog Democrats in House to disband

What I hope he is declaring is 'no more Mr, Appeasement', no more dealing with the Bullys [sic], as if they play by the same rules.

Since the 90's, the leadership of the Republican party has allowed Bullys to take over. Since 2000, this leadership has controlled the mechanisms of our government and nation.

This initial phase of defense [dealing, denying, disbelief, deferring, wishing will make it so...] against Bully behavior has gone on just a bit too long.

John Murtha is signaling that we need to go to phase 2: Declaring that the game is up.

As Murtha is/was a hawk, and is a conservative leaning Democrat this may be a tipping point. I hope more citizens [conservative and liberal] begin to declare the same thing.

Then we can get to phase 3: Driving the SOBullys out.

All together now:

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more! [Howard Beale, Network (1976)]

Note: When I use the term 'Bully', I am not referring to the ordinary cartoon of a thug. I am using it as short hand for clinical, but functional Personality Disorder[s]. ie. Borderline, Narcissistic, Antisocial, and/or Paranoid.

I suggest a visit to the Bully Online web site. This is one of the most comprehensive collections of resources on work place bullying. The information here is very dense [might say wordy] so I have abstracted some of it. The data fit isn't exact since I am extending his model to group behavior, but I will let you decide if there is any congruence.

What is bullying?
The common objective of these offenders is power, control, domination and subjugation..[Or as I say PMSS]

Some characteristics [This is the short list!]:

Jekyll & Hyde nature

Constantly imposing on others a false reality made up of distortion and fabrication

Compulsive liar [convincing, practised] and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment

Displays a great deal of certitude and self-assuredness [arrogance]
much controlling behaviour and is a control freak

Self-opinionated and displays arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement and sense of invulnerability and untouchability

Narcissistic need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate

When called to account, immediately and aggressively denies everything, then counter-attacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, quickly feigns victimhood

Shows a lack of joined-up thinking with conversation that doesn't flow and arguments that don't hold water

May pursue a vindictive vendetta against anyone who dares to held them accountable

Belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to account

Gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to

Spiritually dead although may loudly profess some religious belief or affiliation

Aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive, rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills

The way they the bully treats their targets:

[These generally are a pattern, not an incident, an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time.]

...refusal to acknowledge you and your contributions and achievements or to recognise your existence and value. belittled, demeaned and patronised humiliated, shouted at and threatened

constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism marginalized, overruled, ignored, sidelined, frozen out...

Reacting to Bullys: Why don't you stand up for yourself?

PS. Revisit the film Network. Pay particular attention to Ned Beatty's riff on Corporate Cosmology. The 'New World Order' thing is not so new doncha know.

For catharsis [of sorts], get The Wild Bunch. LoL

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The new Enemies List

We were assured that the new laws of the Patriot Act would not be abused. That the information was secure and was only going to be used for security purposes... Well looks like that isn't true...


Spurred by paranoia and aided by the USA Patriot Act, the Bush Administration has compiled dossiers on more than 10,000 Americans it considers political enemies and uses those files to wage war on those who disagree with its policies. The "enemies list" dates back to Bush's days as governor of Texas and can be accessed by senior administration officials in an instant for use in campaigns to discredit those who speak out against administration policies or acts of the President.

The computerized files include intimate personal details on members of Congress; high-ranking local, state and federal officials; prominent media figures and ordinary citizens who may, at one time or another, have spoken out against the President or Administration.

Capitol Hill Blue has spoken with a number of current and former administration officials who acknowledge existence of the enemies list only under a guarantee of confidentiality. Those who have seen the list say it is far more extensive than Richard Nixon's famous "enemies list" of Watergate fame or Bill Clinton's dossiers on political enemies.

"How is that you think Karl (Rove) and Scooter (Libby) were able to disseminate so much information on Joe Wilson and his wife," says one White House aide. "They didn't have that information by accident. They had it because they have files on those who might hurt them.". . .

Rove started the list while Bush served as governor of Texas, compiling information on various political enemies in the state and leaking damaging information on opponents to friends in the press. The list grew during Bush's first run for President in 2000 but the names multiplied rapidly after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and passage of the USA Patriot Act.

Using the powers under the [Patriot] act, Rove expanded the list to more than 10,000 names, utilizing the FBI's "national security letters" to gather private and intimate details on American citizens....

The US Government has used the authority given to them in a time of National Crisis, with the understanding that it was to be used solely for the defense of this nation, to compile a database of information about thousands of US Citizens for the sole purpose of Black Mailing those people into doing what this administration wants them to do.

The Power given to Bush to protect America has been used to further his own political agenda to the detriment of our Security, liberty, and democracy


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Privatizing Torture

This editorial is focused on bringing Dick Cheney up short for his advocating a CIA exemption on torture:

There was always a brooding, Hobbesian Cheney just beneath the misleading openness he learned in his native Wyoming. But this week, the vice president took a turn into the deepest heart of human darkness. This week, unprecedented in history, an elected vice president of the United States of America proposed that Congress legally authorize the torture of foreigners by Americans...

Towards the end of the article, a point is made that is a bit tangential but one that points to a bit of a flaw in the 'the private sector does it better, cheaper' argument:
Bassiouni then told of the private contractors who operate wholly on their own. He outlined how team after team of interrogators comes in. The first team says they "got something," so the second has to "get something," too.

They charge $200 per hour per person to interrogate, and more than likely, they draw out their time clock by torturing prisoners. For four men for four hours, that's $3,200 of taxpayer money paid for the ugly demeaning of everything America once stood for.

By setting profit lines on torture, you get the 'consultant game' of inflating bills. That is, to maximize profits, torture more and longer, regardless of the value of the results.

You may think that this statement is OTT, but I remind you that private, for profit companies have one mission: the maximization of profits for their shareholders. Social goals do not enter into the equation. [exceptions to this rule are few, and usually only occur in closely held companies.]

Intended or not, the employees are put in a 'double bind' of goals and objectives. [Read G Bateson for a more detailed description and the psychological consequences of 'double binds'..'a Theory of Schizophrenia' ]

Or, as my good friend, Frank Carney used to say: " since the goals create a catch 22 for individuals. the system will eventually drive the individual into criminal or crazy behavior"

For an expanded discussion on the ethics of 'profit maximization', see Mark Kleinman: one two three

More on this later...

Source article:
Georgie Anne Geyer: 'The dark heart of Dick Cheney'

Democrats to Blame for everything

Delay is reaching a bit here..

In a speech to a group of conservative academics and policy experts, DeLay blamed the runaway spending of recent years on minority Democrats.

When he took questions, the first came from a senior official at the American Conservative Union, who asked DeLay,

"How large does the Republican majority in the House and Senate need to be before Republicans act like the fiscal conservative I thought we were?" [washington post]

Humor in Journalism | Needlenose

Friday, October 14, 2005

Best Metaphor of the Week Category

I have a collection of 'astounding quotes' from Pppundits. Some day I will post them, but that is for another time.

Hands down, the terse summary [bold face] is one of the best examples of 'clear, concise, complete' LOL [notice that I did not say accurate!]

...While McInturff thinks that Bush’s approval rating actually may actually hover between 40 and 45 percent, he says that’s still problematic terrain from which to govern. 'It is a very difficult place to be.'

And he's the Republican half of the polling team. Peter Hart, on the other hand, thinks Shrub is really fucked:
'His trampoline [is] made of cement', Hart said.

Whiskey Bar: With Paid Hirelings Like These . . .

Friday, October 07, 2005

Supremes in Conflict

Progressive Review POCKET PARADIGM:

"If the Supreme Court is going to take up the issue of the morality of euthanasia, then more than a few of its members should recuse themselves for conflict of interest - Sam Smith"

Interesting point..LOL

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Movie Snark

Just for fun, I would like to point y'all to a site that features irreverent film reviews. Every Sunday, she rips into one of the oldies or one of the newies.

ALERT: lots of snark, but that's what makes it so amusing doncha know....

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Scientist

Like Hollywood filmmaking, scientific research has grown prohibitively expensive over recent years; and mad science, once a quaint cottage industry, is now the sole province of evil multinational conglomerates or shadowy government agencies. This means that without grants or corporate sponsorship, the criminal misuse of basic and applied research is now beyond the reach of the average small businessman.

As a result, today’s mad scientist is no longer an outcast visionary, no longer a demented genius laboring in secret to avenge himself upon the world. Now he’s just an employee with a 401k. But there was a time, not so long ago, when the typical mad doctor worked out of a one-man laboratory; occasionally assisted by an unpaid university student from Wittenburg or a hunchback on flex time. In that far simpler era, it wasn’t necessary for the fledgling mad scientist to labor in a high-tech facility a hundred feet below Area 51. All he needed was a finished basement, a 220-volt outlet, and the aspiring madman was ready to jump in and start reanimating corpses.

Sadly, those entrepreneurial days are over...

Second ALERT: during the week, she rips up the writers at Town Hall, and other PPPundits of the right. Avoid if you have a right leaning short fuse..

World O'Crap The Ape Man (1943)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New Orleans and Theatre

This is hard to believe:

War and Piece::

Dutch viewer Frank Tiggelaar writes:

There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.
ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event.

Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

Here is a press release from someone that is there.

Senator Mary Landrieu reports that the big levee-fixing operation she watched with GWB yesterday turns out to have been merely a show for the cameras.

Landrieu Implores President to "Relieve Unmitigated Suffering;" End FEMA's "Abject Failures"

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., issued the following statement this afternoon regarding her call yesterday for President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts within 24 hours.

Sen. Landrieu said:

"Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims -- far more efficiently than buses -- FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe.

Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.

The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government.

"Mr. President, I'm imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources -- military and otherwise -- necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding."

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

Arthur C. Clarke

And so it goes..

Thanks to: Kevin Drum, Mark Kleinman, and Avedon Carrol

Friday, August 19, 2005

I love book Reviews

Jon Carroll:

"I had read virtually none of the books Wilson wrote about. I had heard of less than half the authors. It didn't matter. His prose was so muscular and matter-of-fact, even when he was discussing matters of high art. I knew I could never write like Shakespeare or Hemingway, but it seemed possible that, with application and time, I could write like Edmund Wilson.

I still read criticism of books I will never read. I suspect lots of people do. Part of it is to get a gloss on the culture -- ah, Bret Easton Ellis, looks like I won't have to crack the latest novel either -- but also to listen to the sound of thinking.

It's not about agreeing or disagreeing -- opinion isn't really the point of criticism, although that's what everybody takes away from it -- it's about watching a thesis being developed, about watching an idea being defended"