Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nature as it really is.

A somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at nature, as it really is. Not quite the tree hugging experience some imagine.


And they're from the government and here to help you.

Mary Jo Pletz was facing some difficult times. Her infant daughter had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She needed to stay home and care for the child and there were so many doctor’s appointments. Yet the family needed the income she could earn from working to pay for all of this. Pletz thought outside the box and came up with a solution.

She began selling items on eBay. She also discovered that there are lots of people who have items they want to sell but who, for various reasons, aren’t anxious to go on-line themselves and those people were happy to let her sell their items on their behalf and keep some of the profit. Pletz did very well it and had sold well over 10,000 items. Her customers were happy too. With around 11,000 ratings left Pletz her approval rating was 99.9 percent positive. Out of the thousands of customers she had only 14 were unhappy.

What a great testimony to the workings of a free market. She was filling a need. She benefited from doing so. The clients who had her sell their goods were happy. The eBay customers who purchased the good were happy. This is win-win-win all around. So who was unhappy? The state of Pennsylvania of course.

Pletz discovered that the government was unhappy when she answered her door one day to find some suited thug operating a state protection racket. He made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. He informed her that the Godfathers down in Harrisburg had heard about her little venture. They weren’t happy.

It seems Pletz had gone into business without kissing their ring first and offering them a sufficient bribe in order to leave her alone. She was told that she could be fined for selling on eBay because she didn’t have an auctioneer’s license. And the fine could be $1,000 for every item she sold. Quick math told the woman that she could be held up for $10 million. One shouldn’t upset the Family.

She closed up shop and took a part-time job as a dental assistant. She also had to hire an attorney to try and protect her from the workings of the Mob. But she also fears that if convicted she can be forbidden from working as a dental assistant -- that too is a licensed profession. And while she has a license it can be stripped from people who are convicted of a crime, even if its a candy-ass, ridiculous crime invented by morons who ought to be dangling from the nearest lightpost ala Mussolini.

Of course the reason the Mob in Harrisburg wants the licensing is “to protect the consumer”. Never mind her 99.9 approval rating in customer service. Notice that protecting consumers never is mentioned when it comes to government agencies like state schools, the DMV or any other department. Surely on-line sellers can’t even do 1% of the damage done to decent people by government officials.

And this is a perfect case to prove the point. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer they are 400 retail drop-off stores in Pennsylvania for internet sales. And 14,000 residents of the state earn most their income from internet auctions. But Pletz is the one they picked to make an example in order to scare the others in paying protection money.

Barry Fallon, 61, had a similar experience to that of Pletz. He had an ISold It franchise store. He was doing well and providing a service customers were willing to pay for -- willing enough that he was also providing jobs to three employees. The state went after him and basically shut him down.

Of course the Mob has protection rackets that favor certain groups. And in this case the group protected were the old fashioned kind of auctioneers. One of them told Fallon that he’d front for him for a fee of $1 per item sold. Then his buddies in the Mob would leave Fallon alone. Fallon explained: “It’s like the buggy-whip manufacturers deciding whether these newfangled automobile manufacturers can do it without a buggy-whip license.”

State Rep. Michael Sturla (D) is the chairman of the House Professional Licensure Committee. He says he wishes the state “will walk away from that one [Pletz] and prosecute somebody else.” Apparently the public is too sympathetic to Pletz, she doesn’t look like the rapacious capitalist that the regulators like to concoct for PR purposes. Sturla isn’t quite willing to let go of controlling every aspect of human existence though he is willing to ease up a bit -- especially when it generates negative publicity like this case. He wants to create an electronic auctioneer’s license and require each recipient to be bonded for $5,000 to “protect consumers”. Apparently this politician thinks that restricting competition is good for consumers. He hasn’t taken Econ 101 apparently.

Sen. Rob Wonderling (R) has introduced legislation to exempt eBay sellers from the licensing requirement entirely. Of course he’s not proposing getting the Mob out of the protection racket. He just prefers they not expand it into this new realm.

On it’s behalf the State claims that they are “complaint driven” implying that someone actually complained that Pletz did something wrong. Of course, they won’t reveal who complained or about what. So you just have to take their word for it.

To quote Ronald Reagan: government isn’t the solution. It’s the problem.


Just blame the moon.

Just in case you think that American politics has a monopoly on clowns be assured this is far from the case. Politicians the world over are a species unto themselves -- unfortunately they are not an endangered species. But we can always hope.

New Zealand’s Labour government is pretty absurd. Lead by the vicious Helen Clark this government has more than a touch of nastiness and authoritarianism to it. No doubt in previous life Clark had some experience in the SS or the Stasi. Now New Zealand still remains one of the most economically free countries in the world. And their social liberties are damn good in my opinion -- especially when compared to the sad state of affairs in the United States.

Where Clark and he co-criminals are particularly venomous are in matters having to do with staying in power. They are a desperate lot and they will do whatever it takes, no matter how dishonest, corrupt or despicable to stay in power. For instance they recently “reformed” the election code and basically have forbidden private individuals from expressing public opinions about the Clark regime. Technically speaking these people are still free to speak but they must register with the government, report on what they spend, publicize their home address when they do speak out, etc. And the financial restrictions are so onerous that any organized group would find it difficult to do more than publish one newspaper ad critical of the Clark regime.

In other words they have done their level best to stamp out free speech when it comes to dissent against Clark and her fellow Stasi members. This was pushed through parliament with the help of an unsavory much of miscreants. The Green Party scuttled all pretences at supporting civil liberties in order to prop up Clark on this matter. Still that wasn’t enough. The supposedly Right-wing Christian United Future party supported the bill. But Clark bought them out by offering party leader, Peter Dunne, a seat in the cabinet. Dunne can’t refuse anything that makes himself look important and principles take a distant second to promoting Dunne.

And the worst of the lot is a vile and dishonest politician named Winston Peters. Peters and Clark worked out some deals after Clark nearly lost the last election. Peters got what he wants, which is mainly high salaries for himself, and Clark got Peters to prop up Labour. They bent the rules so far that Clark made Peters the Foreign Minister yet claims he is not part of the cabinet. This highly unusual arrangement allows Peters to travel the world at taxpayer’s expense and make a fool of himself in multiple nations. This is quite a step up for someone used to making a fool of himself in just one country.

But the most recent asinine example of the intellectual types that run Labour came when Justice minister, Annette King, tried to explain away rising youth crime rates under the Labour government.

The tiny nation of 4 million was recently shocked when there were 10 murders in one month. This is about double the normal rate. Now whether this is part of a trend or a mere blip on the screen is not the issue. What is the issue is the lunacy, quite literally, that struck the Minister. She blamed the killings on the “full moon” and a “hot summer”. But then Labour’s friends in the Green Party got tricked into voicing support for banning the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide or H2O. So apparently the Kiwi Left is particularly susceptible to crazy theories.

For the record there is no correlation between full moons and crime. Early studies that thought there were didn’t take into account that the period studied had the full moons falling frequently on weekends. And crimes do go up on weekends. When they factored that into account the spike disappeared. Study after study has failed to find any lunar effect on crime rates. In fact, we aren’t finding evidence that the moon really has any impact on human behavour at all.

The word “lunatic” was originally coined by our superstitious ancestors who believed the moon did change human behavour. Today we apply it to people who are just crazy. New Zealand’s Justice minister qualifies as a lunatic. However, given the moral tenor of the rest of the vermin on the 10th floor of the Beehive (NZ’s parliamentary office building) she may be the least repulsive of the lot.

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Here's an interesting problem.

I'll be curious to see what happened here. And since I'm not a tin foil hat type, ranting about 9/11 or similary silly conspiracy theories, I suspect there will be some sort of reasonable explanation. But what we've got here is the voter turnout for precinct D0001 in Florida. As you can see they had a voter turnout exceeding the total number of voters registered. Click on the chart to enlarge it.


Have I been sleeping?

I’ve been lucky until tonight. I haven’t had to watch any of the superficial sound bites that pretend to be campaign commercials. Unfortunately that winning streak was just smashed. I sat through a Hillary Clinton ad.

Now forgive me, but apparently I’ve been Rip van Winkle or something. Apparently I’ve been asleep for decades. Hillary went into her spiel and ended it mentioning “my thirty-five years of experience”.

And I had to scratch me head. What thirty-five years of experience?

Is being married to a politician now considered “experience” when it comes to the presidency? Is Laura Bush now in the running for 2012. Apparently we are into some sort of dynasty thing. We get a Bush, then a Clinton, then a Bush, and now apparently a Clinton.

The one thing about the election is that the more they campaign the more I’m convinced we’d be better off it a bolt of lightening took out everyone of them.

Of course when the Republicans are campaigning the Democrats look good and when the Democrats campaign the Republicans look good. I suspect the winner will be which ever one manages to campaign the least.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rogue choir boy threatens to bring down civilized society!

Dear Reader, I confess. I have been negligent. Far too much time has passed since I last hurled my verbal javelin at the brain-dead bureaucrats who infest government schools. I have had a good excuse -- with the presidential battle heating up there were other fish to fry, fish that stunk even more than the typical pencil-pushing imbeciles that run the schools.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before some bumbling Bozo in the school system would redirect my attention toward the menace that is state education. And, as usual, it was some poor student who had to suffer due to the duncical policies of the education establishment.

Christopher Berger is an 18-year-old high school student at Grayslake Central High School. Now often you will hear the phrase, “he’s no choir boy” when talking about teens. Not in Berger’s case. He really is a choir boy. This kid is so together that he really doesn’t need high school -- it probably stands in his way of getting an education. When he’s not in choir he’s an athlete at the school -- in three sports. He is a member of Future Business Leaders of America and spends some of his spare time training to be a fire fighter. In other words this is the sort of dream kid that government schools love to pretend they turn out.

In fact, they did turn him out, literally -- they threw him out. Worse yet, they sent the cops after the boy. If you look at the photo you will get an idea of the serious crime committed by this choir boy. In his hand he is holding something called a Multitool. Anything resembling a Swiss Army knife is a multitool. They are those weird devices that have tiny screw drivers, miniature scissors, itsy-bitsy pliers and the like, all crammed into one device. I’ve always assumed them to be more gadgety than useful. Apparently the dolts running Berger’s school see them as weapons of mass destruction.

Berger’s grandmother bought one for the boy’s father. The father decided to give it to the son. And the son accidentally left it in his jacket pocket at Christmas and forgot to remove it when he returned to school. He didn’t give much thought to it. The problem started when he accidentally left his jacket in the school cafeteria. School officials saw the jacket and searched it -- these guys are so vigilant they could work at the airport. And they discovered the multitool. Well, things went on high alert from that point on.

No doubt Homeland Security was put on full alert. President Bush immediately ordered plans for the invasion of Iran to be resurrected since this new threat was discovered. In some Pakistani cave Osama bin Laden shuddered with horror as his new plot to topple the Great Satan had been foiled. Yes, the world was saved at the very last minute. For this dangerous device contained, and I hope you are sitting down, a 2 inch knife.

When the jacket was traced to Berger he was promptly thrown out of school for two days. But these defenders of Western civilization weren’t satisfied. Office Ken Arnold (no doubt a direct descendent of Benedict) gave the poor kid a police citation which will require the boy to defend himself in court. What was our dangerous choir boy charged with? According to the Chicago Sun-Times “Officer Ken Arnold states that [Berger] endangered the life of other students by leaving a knife unsupervised.” Obviously Officer Ken’s mother beat him with a stupid stick -- often.

What is worse is that the clowns in the local police department are saying this happens all the time. They brag that students are frequently charged with endangering the lives of others for owning pocket knives.

If accidentally leaving an unsupervised multitool with a 2 inch blade is endangering the lives of others then the police better crack down on the local steak house! Have you seen the steak knives that they routinely just hand out to people? My god, the humanity!

Officer Ken was obviously being lenient. No mention was made of the tiny flashlight which is included with the tool. Do you have any idea how many people could be blinded by that? What if some Al Qaeda deep cover operative at the school grabbed this flashlight and rushed down to O’Hare airport. Before Homeland Security could figure out how to tie their shoes, this villain, who no doubt is a gay Mexican illegal immigrant, could have used that flashlight to blind pilots of departing aircraft In minutes dozens of planes could be crashing into buildings. Thank Jesus for Officer Ken.

Here is what gets me -- Officer Ken seems to be permanently stationed at the school. Ken “stupid stick” Arnold is the Student Resource Office at the school. It’s bad enough that these kids have to be around “educators” but no kid is safe in the same room with a cop. The idea of having one permanently stationed in a school ought to send shivers down the spine of every parent.

It’s bad enough one of them could be living down the road, without you knowing it, but allowing them near impressionable children is just going too far. I think we need an on-line registry so we can keep track of them. I do appreciate the uniforms and specially colored cars so we can spot this menace quickly. But some of them try to disguise themselves as decent citizens. That can’t be tolerated. Some even have pages at MySpace!

If you don’t think that America is in the grips of irrational panics and run by blithering fools then you aren’t paying attention.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The grand inquistion: destroying teens to save them.

It appears the entire student body of Parkland High School ought to be registered sex offenders, if the law were applied. But the local police and district attorney are not going to apply the law because virtually the entire school is guilty of possession of child pornography.

State police have been sent to the school to scare the bejeesus out of the students into co-operating. Apparently images of two girls were distributed by cell phone from one student to another. In one case the girl involved had taken a photo of her breasts herself. District Attorney James Martin said of this girl, “she’s a victim and she’s not a victim.” There’s a clear legal standard.

Another girl was photographed having oral sex with an unidentified boy. Police can’t, or won’t, say if this is was done with her knowledge. So we don’t know if she too is “a victim and not a victim”.

Police have gone to the school to ensure that every student erases any such images from their cellphones or the students face prosecution for child pornography. In fact, the district attorney is being very careful with his wording. He said: “Our thrust has been to get the kids to come forward and we’ve indicated we will not charge them for possessing the images.” Please note that that the word indicated is one of those lovely weasel words. It doesn’t mean “promised” it merely means that the district attorney has said this is possible. It is a sign of something not a confirmation.

The real reason that they are hedging and hawing over this is that if they actually applied the laws as they stand they would have to prosecute most the teens at this high school and many in other schools who also saw the images. Samantha Smith, a junior at the school, clearly noted the problem: “The school isn’t going to get everybody because it is everybody. I don’t know anybody who didn’t get the pictures.” And in this case the everybody includes about 3,200 students.

Now, to prosecute 3,200 students means around 6,400 angry parents. It means outraged grandparents and cousins. It means pissed off neighbors. In other words it means the district attorney would be toast in the next election. So here the law will be selectively enforced to save the DA’s ass.

But as noted the DA only “indicated” that there won’t be prosecutions. He hasn’t promised it. And he’s also being very political here. He wants to have the option to prosecute someone just in case the anger goes the other way. He said: “I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the participants at this point.” Actually that should have been what he was going to do “to the participants” not with. With implies they are happy participants in the DA’s actions and I doubt that is the case.

The DA refers to the participants which, I assume, includes the girl who took a photo of her own breasts, that’s the girl he said was “a victim” and “not a victim” at the same time. So the DA is implying that they face a real possibility of being prosecuted as child pornographers even though they were the children in question.

This wouldn’t be the first time. The courts have backed up the sex panic laws that apply to kids as much as adults. Teens who stupidly record their own sex lives, in any way, can be, and have been, prosecuted as child pornographers. The Florida state appeals court has ruled that this legit. In the case they heard a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy took some sexual photos of themselves. These digital photos were then sent from the girl’s computer to the boy’s e-mail. At no time did they distribute the photos to anyone else. Court records are unclear but somehow the police learned the photos existed and both teens were arrested for victimizing themselves. And the boy was charged with possessing child pornography (the photo of himself and his girlfriend) as well.

Now the courts have ruled that the teens can have sex without facing prosecution. But if they photograph those acts then they become heinous criminals, a threat to Western Civilization, cause Jesus to weep bloody tears, and encourage terrorism. Well, not quite but damn close.

The robed morons in Florida had some unique arguments in the case. Judge James Wolf though it fine to ruin the lives of these kids in order to not ruin their lives. He argued, in the majority opinion, that it didn’t matter that these “victims” hadn’t shown their own photos to anyone. He said they could still sell the photos to child pornographers (someone should let this moron know that because one is a minor in the law doesn’t make one a child -- teens are not children. They may not be adults yet but neither are they children.) Apparently the judge imagined that these two kids would be able to find child pornographers. Perhaps they are listed in the Yellow Pages. And he assumed these pornographers, who didn’t exist in the case, would actually want to buy these photos.

But this ignoramus said “the statute was intended to protect minors like appellant and her co-defendant from their own lack of judgment...” Even if one accepts that premise how does turning these teens in sex offenders protect them? They face a life time of harassment because they did something silly as teens. Apparently the judge is like the Inquisitors who were willing to execute someone in order to save them.

He also wanted them convicted because the “mere production of these videos or pictures may also result in psychological trauma to the teenagers involved.” If it were a crime to be stupid this man would have been jailed long ago. Does this “judge” actually think that these photos, taken by the teens themselves, are actually more traumatic than being arrested, hauled before idiots in robes, and convicted as child pornographers? Talk about irrationality in the courtroom.

The reality is that pornographers who want photos of teens of that age can find them legally and easily because that is the age of consent in most of Europe. The U.S. is unique in having a much higher age of consent than other countries when it comes to such matters. The age of consent for porn used to be 16 in the United States: so it is unlikely any of the teens we are talking would have been criminals under the old law. The law was changed by one of the worst attorney general’s in U.S. history, Ed Meese. Meese was a professional panic-monger when it came to sex and he was doing his level best to eradicate the “porn menace”.

Meese had the federal law changed to 18-years-of-age. He argued that while 16-year-olds might be able to consent that teens younger than that can’t. But some teens who are 14 appear to be 16 so to protect them he had the law raised to cover all teens until they turn 18. The idea was supposedly to protect teens younger than 16, not teens older than 16. Of course once Meese got his way things really took off. In fact, at that time the U.S. government claimed there was a massive increase in child porn. Duh! What they didn’t tell the public was that the porn in question had been legal until a few days earlier. The increase was entirely due to the change in definition. But with the increase in arrests the sex panic industry got rolling.

From that point, until today, the police and prosecutors, under both Democrats and Republicans, have been expanding their ability to arrest and incarcerate Americans for having consenting sex lives and sometimes for less. During the reign of Attorney General Janet Reno, a real sexaphobic monster, things got worse. Some of the cases I remember include a university student arrested for owning a video of teenage girls, fully dressed, using a mink’s tail to pretend to whip each other. A grandmother who went to take a bath decided to bath her infant granddaughter at the same time. The husband thought it was beautiful and took a photo. They were prosecuted as child pornographers and the grandmother accused of “imminent lesbianism”. In another case a man was convicted for owning a photograph of a teenage boy who was shirtless. The courts ruled that since the man allegedly found the photo appealing it qualified as child pornography.

No one questions the necessity of the law to protect children. But there is plenty of reason to think the law defines child far too broadly. And there is plenty of evidence that prosecutors are doing more harm to the alleged “victims” in these cases then they are doing good. The reality is that the legal system is exploiting a common fear among parents and that fear is being used to harm lots of teens in the process. When teens are traumatized by police, courts and being registered sex offenders, in order to protect them from themselves then things have really gotten out of hand.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

The mind of Hillbilly Huck

I’m no fan of Mitt Romney. I was far more sympathetic to his candidacy before he went whoring after the votes of the Christian Right by abandoning his previous support for individual liberty in regards to social issues. But he decided that the “base” for the Republican Party is a gaggle of socialists of the soul. He had a “revelation” (such things are popular to Mormons) and stabbed freedom in the back for his chance at the White House.

Here is the funny thing. While trying to pander to the fundamentalist fascists Romney is under attack by them. And the main reason for the attack is that he isn’t a fundamentalist.

Rev. Huckabee, the dumbest and most dangerous of the candidates, has been bitch-slapping Romney rather consistently. The Politico column at CBS found this interesting. That column noted that the Hillbilly Huck “continued to attack former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, while offering implicit support for his other rival.”

Rev. Huck, the former televangelist knows a thing or two about hypocrisy. Considering some of the shenanigans from fundamentalist ministers I suspect they have an entire course on hypocrisy in Bible college. Rev. Huck praised John McCain saying “we have a civil approach to presidential process. Neither of us has sought the office by cracking the kneecaps of the other.” He then attacked Romney for lying.

So immediately after saying he has a “civil approach” to seeking the presidency he acts totally contrary to that position. Rev. Huck is blatantly dishonest about his morality. Remember when he commissioned a hit television commercial on Romney and then pulled it. He calls a press conference to praise himself for his own vaunted morality citing the fact that he was refusing to run this hit piece on Romney. And then he immediately shows the commercial to a room full of reporters in order to guarantee that the contents of the commercial are widely disseminated.

This is like someone saying: “I never slap my wife like this,” and then hitting her across the chops in order to illustrate his point. Among Romney’s sins, outlined in the hit commercial, was Huckabee’s whine that Romney didn’t have people executed when he was governor. This is the “who would Jesus execute” theory of religion.

Now why all this animosity toward Romney? I think I know. If you want to understand you have to think like a fundamentalist. If you don’t want to go through the pain of a lobotomy then shut down your critical faculties and go tribal.

In fundamentalist circles there are Christians who believe exactly what you do. These are “real” Christians. Then there are Christians who believe most of what you do but differ on some small points. These people are like second-cousins that you acknowledge exist but with whom you prefer not to associate.

Then there are those believers who differ on issues you think important. That means you define them out of Christianity entirely. You call them apostates, heretics or whatever. You crack their kneecaps every chance you get. And among these “unbelievers” you have a gradation with some being more heretical than others.

Now the typical fundamentalist is convinced that everyone who isn’t involved with some backwater tent revivalist, or who isn’t trapped by black/white literalist thinking, is morally evil. This includes, of course, most people who think of themselves as Christians.

I remember a debate between a fundamentalist mullah and George Smith, author of the book Atheism: The Case Against God. In the audience was a friend of mine who is a Catholic. He, of course wanted to side with the fundie on the question of a deity. So he tried to offer some suggestions regarding how to debate George on the matter

But the fundamentalist was then asked, during the Q&A period, if he considered his Catholic supporter to be a Christian or not. He hemmed and hawed for a bit of time and said: “I’m trying to figure out how to answer that.” The questioner suggested he try doing it honestly. Rather reluctantly the minister confessed that anyone who was a good Catholic was not a Christian and was doomed to hell.

This is the fatal flaw of the Religious Right and one which has not been exploited by the opponents of these theocrats. The fundamentalists who are the core of the Religious Right hate their fellow campaigners and believe that conservative Catholics and Mormons are doomed to eternity in hell. They avoid the issue because their immediate goal is political power. After they get power they confess that they will be quick to strip away religious liberty from heretics and sinners. Merely demanding answers from them, regarding their hatred for other believers, will splinter their coalition.

The Mormons, for instance, are fine as long as they vote for the fundamentalists. And Mormons flocked out of their temples to put George Bush into office. It was a campaign of Mormons for Morons. But the fundamentalists aren’t too keen to return the favor. They don’t want to turn out on behalf of a Mormon no matter how conservative he becomes.

John McCain, however, is Episcopalian. That is suspiciously similar to Catholic to the fundie but sufficiently Protestant to be considered a Christian heresy. But Romney’s Mormonism is completely beyond the pale.

I suspect this is the reason that Huckabee is being sweet to McCain while cracking Romney’s kneecaps every chance he gets. The fundamentalist view is clear. Mormons are satanic -- more so than even Catholics. Huckabee’s position on Romney is not political. It is theological. And it is one indication as to why Huckabee isn’t fit to sit in the White House.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

U.S. tax funds supports theocratic regime.

Don’t you just feel patriotic, so proud of your country and your president? Remember how Afghanistan was ruled by theocrats who were killing people in the name of religion. And then Jesus led George Bush to “liberate” Afghanistan. So the president, ignoring all the personal costs to himself (okay, he wasn’t dying and he receives more income from the government than he pays in taxes) sent American troops to bring freedom to Afghanistan.

God bless George. At the cost of billions of dollars and over the body of dead soldiers Mr. Bush enlightened Afghanistan and installed a government more to his liking. But pardon me for the confusion: exactly how does the current, US taxpayer supported government differ from the Taliban?

Journalism student Parwiz Kambakhsh, 23, read an article that was critical of Muhammad’s views on women and added a comment agreeing with the article. Well, he should critical. This so-called prophet was nothing more than a perfect example of the barbaric thinking of a barbaric age.

So Mr. Kambakhsh said what any educated, rational person would have to say. He didn’t write the article in question but he agreed with it and added some comments about the ignorance of Muhammad in regards to equal rights for women. If anything Mr. Kambakhsh was far too kind.

But with God’s help George Bush has installed a new government, one enlightened by Bush’s own values. So Mr. Kambakhsh received the sort of enlightened treatment that made it worth sending American soldiers to their deaths. The Afghani National Directorate of Security raided Mr. Kambakhsh’s home and confiscated his computer.

Of course, since Afghanistan’s government was installed by the enlightened Bush administration, it has procedures to deal with problems like this. So Mr. Kambakhsh was given a trial and the Afghan court decided that the young man should be executed. Hey, what is this? Texas? Aren’t you glad George sent Americans to die in order to “liberate” Afghanistan?

Mr. Kambakhsh read the article “The Koranic Verses That Discriminate Against Women” by one Arash Bikhoda, a pen name that means “Godless” in Persian. But the judges in the trial claim that Mr. Kambakhsh “confessed” to writing the article even though it is widely known to have been written by someone else. As the saying goes: “We have ways of making you talk.”

The local provincial attorney-general, who owes his job to the Bush administration, said that article was insulting to Islam (so what?) and that it is not a violation of rights to arrest people for reading articles critical of Islam. He said the trial was held in a “very Islamic way”. The information ministry for the U.S-installed regime said it is “confident that since the primary court’s ruling is not the final decision, Afghanistan’s judicial system will handle the issue of the death penalty very carefully and implement justice.”

Obviously the ministry is staffed by idiots. It is already too late to implement justice. In a just society people are not arrested for reading articles critical of some barbaric religious belief. In a just society they are not put on trial for this “crime”. Justice was already thwarted and mocked long before this disgusting sentence was imposed.

But, my fellow Americans, take pride. You helped fund this travesty of injustice because your tax moneys are supporting this regime. Take heart that the blood of American soldiers was spilled, and their lives snuffed out, so that the Bush regime could install a government that allows people to be arrested, tried and sentenced to death merely for reading articles critical of the moron who founded Islam.

If Mr. Bush didn’t have his lovely little war think of what it would be like. Instead the Taliban would be ruling the country and executing people for criticizing Islam. God bless America and God bless George Bush. Praise the Lord and vomit.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Right hypes panic for political ends.

The headlines were scary. Supposedly a flesh-eating virus was ravaging the gay community. Right-wing theocrats were in a dither. The crazed "Americans for Truth" group demanded to know why schoolchildren weren’t being taught that being gay was evil -- as if that would make any difference in the number of people who are born gay.

Christian groups called this “another homosexual disease” as if diseases have a sexual orientation. A rather young researcher, Binh Diep, seemed to encourage this hysteria. He warned: “Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable.” Of course the religious Right jumped on that claim. The Conservative Voice crowed: “Those who denigrate the biblical data regarding God’s abhorrence of homosexual activity thereby aid in the furthering of widespread, deadly diseases.”

They claimed that “homosexual men are 13 times more likely to contract the potentially deadly, drug-resistant strain of staph infection, but the fear is that, because the infection is spread via skin-to-sking contact, homosexual men may soon spread it to the general population.”

What’s wrong with these panicky statements? Almost everything. They are just flat out wrong and wrong on several levels. But since the Christian Right hates homosexuals with an irrational intensity the facts don’t matter. They are happy to lie in order to slander the gay community.

The stronger version of the staph infection does exist but it is not exclusive to the gay community by any means. In fact, long before it appeared in the gay community it cropped up in other locations. Newsweek reported: “Once restricted to hospitals, these virulent forms of staph have increasingly afflicted day-care centers, schools, gyms and other public areas in the last decade.” If you read that carefully, something the conservatives aren’t doing, you will see that this infection has been around for a decade and is only now showing up in one section of the gay community, a small number of cases in the Castro area of San Francisco. In other words, this disease was found in the general community long before it was found in the gay community. The gay community isn’t infecting the general population but the general population was the source for the virus that infected a small number in the gay community. The Christian Right typically has everything backwards.

Newsweek notes that this strain of the infection, USA300, “has been around since 2002 and has appeared in at least 38 American states.”

Researchers said gay men were more likely to become infected but that is based on a rather limited study. They said that only one in 588 residents of the Castro have this variant of the infection. I’d like to see the actual numbers of infections because the Castro is not that big an area. I was just there recently at the Castro Theater for a concert. Depending on how widely defined “the Castro” is we are talking a neighborhood of a few thousand to maybe 10,000 people.

Certainly the heart of the Castro is mainly businesses and restaurants. But just outside that central business district it is residential. But these are mostly single homes or Victorians that at most have three apartments. A typical block could have between 12 and 15 buildings. They wouldn’t average more than 2 people per housing unit. Many of these building are single dwellings. If we average two units per building and two people per unit we are talking about between 96 and 120 people per block (counting both sides of the street). Even that may be high. Some of the blocks, such as Collingswood only have residential units on one side of the street with parks and schools taking up the rest.

A quick look at Google maps indicates that the Castro most likely covers about 4o blocks of area being nestled between Diamond Heights and the Mission area. Of course the study may have used different parameters for defining the neighborhood. But if it is 40 blocks then I’d estimate the total population of the area at between 4,000 and 5,000 people. Now if the infection rate is one in 588 that would mean the infection rate is based on less than ten cases of infection. Even if the number of residents were twice what I’m estimating then the number of infections would be less than two dozen. This is hardly a representative sample.

Before version of staph, MRSA, was found in the Castro it was also found in other parts of the country. For instance MRSA was detected in two day care centers according to a study from 1998. In one 3% of the children were infected and in another 24% were. For comparison the infection rate in the Castro was 0.0017%. I don’t remember any fear-mongering being done by the Right about the threat to the wider community posed by children.

In this study it was shown that 7 members of a high school wrestling team were infected. This included “persons whose MRSA-positive infection were identified at a hospital laboratory from January 1, 1993 through February 28, 1994. The “attack rate for the team was 21.9%.” This is well in excess of infection rate in the gay community yet again there were no Right-wing reports about the dangers of wrestling. And note that this infection took place almost 15 years ago. So it is difficult to see how people can claim the “wider community” is threatened by gays who have the infection today considering that the wider community had the infection first.

Six years ago the University of Southern California football team experienced an outbreak of MSRA. All the infected individuals were “healthy college-aged males who were active participants on the football team.” In 2003 “17 football players from a team of 107 (15.8%)” were diagnosed.

In each of these cases, and there are many more, the infection hit a segment of the wider community and did so at rates far exceeding the rate that caused the panic about gay men in the Castro. Compared to similar outbreaks at day care centers or sports teams the infection in the Castro is very low. And these other cases prove that the infection can’t spread from the gay community to the “wider community” because it was in the “wider community” before it was in the gay community.

What we have here is another politically motivated panic. Politics is ripe with such panics. A small bit of information that is factual is exaggerated, intentionally, by an organized political force in order to stampede the public and politicians into supporting measures which the special interest groups wishes imposed.

In this case the fear mongering is targeting the gay community. The goal is to scare the shit out of Christians and Right-wingers in order to keep them dedicated to the antigay jihad. This blog has repeatedly argued that much of modern politics today is fear-based and built around exaggerated, or completely bogus, threats. It is my firm belief that this is true with terrorism, immigration, drugs, global warming and a host of other issues. The perceived threat is vastly more scary than the reality. This appeal to fear is intentional. And it is engaged in by both the Right and the Left. The prophetic H.L. Mencken warned: ““The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Almost a century after H.L. Mencken issued his warning things haven’t changed much.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Drama group told to register toy gun with police.

If you want an idea of how England is being regulated to death by morons at all levels of government all you have to do is see what recently happened to the Carnon Downs drama group.

The group puts on pantomimes and sometimes they use a toy gun which shoots out a flag that says “bang”. And other times they use plastic swords.

The bureaucrats that run the Health and Safety Executive have detailed rules about what one is allowed to do with fake weapons on stage. Linda Barker, of the drama group, said: “The cutlasses count as weapons even though they are replicas and made of plastic and apparently they could be mistaken for real ones.”

And one of the rules is that these faux weapons have to be registered with the police. Barker noted, “It gets a bit farcical when you are dealing with plastic swords. It is not as if anyone is likely to be scared by them.”

The group was told that when the toys are not being used on stage that they are required to keep them under lock and key. The plastic stage props have to be kept in a secured case, in a locked room with only restricted access. Elaine Gummow, co-director of the drama group said this “is perhaps a sign of the times that health and safety is everywhere.”

One of the bureaucrats said: “We do not want to stop people putting on pantos or having fun as long as the risks are sensibly managed.” Of course, when they say “managed” what they mean is managed by them.

After the police were informed they told the drama group that they were also required to inform the fire brigade.

Not long ago actor Ewan McGregor said that the “ludicrous nanny state” in England may drive him out of England. “If anything drives me out of the country it will be that...” McGregor said, “Today, health and safety are out of control.”

The bureaucrat who said they don’t want to stop fun didn’t explain how towns in England had to actually cancel traditional Christmas lighting displays as a result of the micromanagement of the unelected bureaucrats. In Clevedon the local businesses canceled their display after they were told that attaching lights to either buildings or to light poles was too risky. One trader said: “The rules and regulations regarding Christmas lights have changed to such an extent that to put the illuminations we have used is near impossible.” A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said that “exhaustive safety concerns are ruining the festive spirit.”

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

Recently I was having dinner at a local restaurant and bite into something hard that really shouldn’t have been there. My jaw felt sore but after a day or two it seemed fine. A few days later the pain really started. I called around the local dentists and found only one that would fit me in. He quoted a price of $160 for the appointment. With no other option I took it.

The dentist himself rarely appeared during the entire appointment. An assistant took an x-ray of my top left molars. The dentist put in a brief appearance to look at the tooth and the x-ray and tell me it was fractured. He then wanted to send me to a specialist for a root canal and then to come back to him for a crown. I have no idea what the cost would be since I didn’t have the cost of the specialist or the root canal. But just the first dentist alone, with the first visit, wanted $1,300+. Add in the root canal and this first useless visit and the cost most likely would have exceeded $2,000.

As for the severe pain the dentist suggested I buy some over the counter pain killer -- the very kind of pain killer that was already failing miserably. To be fair, I don’t blame the dentist for his refusal to prescribe a pain killer. The drug cops, in order to expand their field of operations, have been harassing doctors who dare to try to alleviate patient pain. The government wants you to suffer in order to protect you from yourself.

But what really pissed me off was that by the next day it was quite clear that they had diagnosed the wrong tooth. Originally I told them it was my left side but that it sometimes felt as if it was the top and sometimes the bottom. I couldn’t tell because the entire jaw was throbbing. But as it got worse it was more clearly the bottom jaw. Yet the tooth they diagnosed was on the top.

A conversation with someone reminded me that Tijuana is filled with dentists so I flew down that Sunday night to make an appointment on Monday morning. The dentist there fit me in his schedule a couple of hours after the call. He checked the teeth and said it looked like there was a small fracture in a lower molar. Then came my first surprise. To x-ray the tooth he used a small plastic device, which acts as the film, that was attached to his laptop. After the x-ray is taken the image appears instantly on the laptop. My U.S. dentist wasn’t this advanced.

From the x-ray it appeared that a root canal would be needed. My last experience with a root canal was very unpleasant -- lots of pain that the dentist kept telling me couldn’t be happening but was. The dentist assured me that it would be different. I went ahead with some reluctance.

The pain killer was injected and he waited and waited. He kept asking about how numb my lips were feeling. And when I told him they were numb to the center of my lip it was time to start. I can honestly say that there wasn’t any pain during the entire process. He did the root canal and packed the tooth scheduling me for a crown on Friday.

During this first session he spent over two hours working on my tooth. He was the only one who did the work. He didn’t bring in a second-stringer. There was no pain whatsoever. He warned me the jaw would be in pain when the shot wore off. It did. And when it got bad I called him and he suggested a pain killer which I can purchase over the counter -- you can’t get in the U.S.

I went back a few days later to have the crown fitted and then again the next day to have it attached. Only on the third visit did another dentist handle it because my original dentist had no appointments. This dentist constantly kept fitting the crown and filing away at it to make sure there was perfect fit. And then as a bonus I decided to have my teeth cleaned as well. That cost $30 extra.

There was nothing second rate about the care I received. I got prompt care directly from the dentist. It was accurate, pain-free and effective and it cost a fraction of what I was paying at home. Even with my flight the total cost was about half what I would have paid at home. So even the cost were relatively pain free. The most painful part of the experience was dealing with the travel Nazis at the airport and waiting in line with thousands of people trying to get permission to re-enter my own country on my way back to the airport.

Of course you can seek treatment in the United States if you wish. Or you can take a medical vacation in Mexico. What you’d save, depending on what needs to be done, can pay for the trip and still put extra money in your pocket. Of course, if you have third party payment for your care you may not worry about the costs -- and that’s one of the reasons that medical care in the U.S. is so expensive.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Theocracy on the installment plan.

If there is any question as to how dangerous Hillbilly Huckabee is he has put those questions to rest. He is dangerous -- Constitutionally lethal. Huckabee gave an interview on how he plans to impose his antiquated theology on the country. His goal is to impose theocracy.

He wants Constitutional amendments to bring the Constitution into line with his fundamentalist authoritarianism. In particular he wishes to ban abortion and to nationalize marriage. At the same time Huckabee is demanding that Biblical mandates be imposed on the entire country by force he shows he has little understanding of the Bible itself -- typical fundamentalist.

For instance, Huckabee claims that the Biblical definition of marriage shouldn´t be changed in any way. Really? He claimed: "Marriage has historically, as long as there´s been human history, meant a man and a woman in a relationship for life."

Apparently Rev. Huck hasn´t read his Old Testament for a while since he´s pretending there was no polygamy. Yet the number of polygamous marriages in the Old Testament are legion. So either Rev.Huckabee is ignorant about the Bible or he´s lying.

Rev. Huck says that, at this time, he isn´t pushing to amend the Constitution on other issues. Right now, he wants theocracy on these two issues because they "talked about in the political realm.¨ Apparently if other issues become political fodder later on then Rev. Huck would be open to resolving those issues using his theology.

He says that because some states have civil unions for gay couples then the federal government must nationalize marriage. But if the states obey the Bible then there is no need for federal intervention. In other words, if the states impose Huckabee´s Biblical views then ought to be free to control such matters. If they don´t do this then the Constitution ought to be amended to force all states into compliance with Scripture.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Well worth reading.

Reason magazine has published a good article outlining the Ron Paul scandal and who was behind the vile newsletters that were published by Paul´s office. I recommend it.

I have been out of the country for some dental work and can´t attach my computer to the net here. So my apologies for being out of touch. I have material to post when I return home.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Skunks and their tactics.

The people at the Mises Institute, who were closely tied to the Ron Paul newsletters that have so many people sick to their stomachs are stooping to a new low. These people have no shame.

These people, who inhabit the fringe of the Far Right and consort with racists and bigots of all types, have two labels they pin on anyone who disagrees with their racialist/isolationist perspective. And by isolationist I don’t mean non-interventionist foreign policy -- anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a hardcore non-interventionist.

They label anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of Lew Rockwell and the Nazi friendly Hans Hermann Hoppe as either a “neo-con” or a “beltway libertarian.” Few libertarians of any kind are neo-cons even if they might be hawks. And beltway libertarian is their smear name for anyone who disagrees with Rockwell’s non-libertarian agenda.

The purpose of such smears is to inculcate, in the minds of their followers, that all non-Rockwellians are evil. This is the tactic of cults. The purpose of this is to prevent people from abandoning their own personality cult for any other libertarian group. It is meant to secure funding and support by demonizing the entire libertarian movement except for their own sect thus giving the deluded followers no other options for activism.

The reality is that Rockwell and crew are pretty much on their own. Few other prominent libertarian groups associate with them. Most just keep their distance and the one reason they have done this is precisely because of the sort of wrenching bigotry that we saw in the Paul newsletters.

Now the Rockwellians are trying to pin the blame for the newsletters on Cato. In a very thinly veiled attack they claim that the “hate-filled Beltway Losers” (isn’t it rich that people associated with the editor of those racist articles are calling other people “hate-filled”?) either “wrote it [the Kirchick article] or coached the author.” What evidence do they present for this? None of substance.

They note that Kirchick was able to find the Paul newsletters at the University of Kansas and that a former major funder of Cato is a patron of that University. Talk about stretching. This is almost as rich as Paul’s paranoid delusions about the NAFTA Superhighway.

The whole proof, offered by one of the head cheerleaders for a revived Confederacy, Thomas di Lorenzo, is this: “How on earth would a kid just out of college know to go to the library in Kansas, of all places, to dig up such stuff?”

First note what is missing. The Rockwell crowd, many of whom may be authors of some of these disgusting articles, have not challenged the veracity of the newsletters. They aren’t even trying. They are merely trying to divert everyone’s attention from the vile writings of their leader and perhaps, themselves.

There are numerous easy ways for someone to search libraries across the country and see what publications they have in inventory. Any journalist or researcher can do it quite easily. di Lorenzo ought to know this but his article on Rockwell’s site is not meant to tell the truth it is meant to divert people from paying attention to the truth. He also neglects to note that the author of the article also had to go to the Wisconsin Historical Society for copies. Di Lorenzo neglects to mention that source because he can’t find any tenuous connection between the Society and Rockwell’s imaginary foes at Cato.

If you don’t believe that it is easy to find old copies of Paul’s and Rockwell’s newsletter go here and you will see the search returns on one research sit,e which easily informs anyone that the Paul newsletters are on file at the University of Kansas.

Di Lorenzo has absolutely nothing but that doesn’t stop him. Such is the level of his scholarly research. He claims that one paragraph in the New Republic article resembles something on a web site run by a Cato employee. That would be Tom Palmer who is one of the honorable libertarians who has tried to expose the bigots and lunatics that Rockwell is promoting.

Di Lorenzo actually didn’t reprint said paragraph. He merely claimed it existed. That makes it difficult to compare. But let us saw that the Palmer paragraph and one Kirchick paragraph were similar. What would it prove? Nothing.

Jamie Kirchick obviously used the Internet to research his article -- everyone does these days. If Kirchick did a search on the Mises Institute and racism he would find many hits -- unfortunately. And some of those hits would direct him to Palmer’s web site. From that site he could easily glean information which, if he verified it elsewhere, he could freely and legitimately use in his article. At best di Lorenzo’s paranoid screed could charge that Kirchick researched his story. Instead the demented di Lorenzo tries to argue that this means Palmer was either the real author of the New Republic piece or “coached” Kirchick in writing it. That is real paranoia, even worse than the demented bullshit that Rockwell and Co., published in Ron Paul’s newsletters.

Former Rockwell writer, Wendy McElroy, warned on her blog, “whoever is publicly candid about what they know of this debacle is likely to become the target of retaliatory viciousness.” Wendy knows these people well.

But let us just pretend that di Lorenzo’s wacky delusions are accurate. So what? Isn’t the issue still the newsletters themselves? What they said is critical and many libertarians want to know why Paul published this crap. Many more are asking Lew Rockwell to 'fess up as to his role in these hateful articles. Those are the issues regardless of who exposed this disgusting collection of newsletters. Shit stinks no matter who finds it.

So Dr. Paul, please tell us who was working with you as the editor of that newsletter and is responsible for those articles. Mr. Rockwell were you the editor? Did other Mises Institute associates write the material? Was Gary North involved? Which articles did you write yourself? Maybe after we get answers to those question we might have time to pursue you diversionary claims.

A skunk doesn't actually defend itself. It's tactic is to try and spray it's opponent with a vile stench while it beats a hasty retreat. This disgusting odor is secreted from a gland inside the the skunk's asshole. The similarities are interesting.

Note: Ludwig von Mises was never associated with the Mises Institute since he died before it was founded. Many of the ideas they promote are quite different from what Mises actually believed and espoused.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

And the top election issue is bullshit.

Recent revelations are depressing enough. So once again I turn to humor for some relief. And what is the big issue in this campaign? The same as in all campaigns -- bullshit. Enjoy.

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters


Ron Paul inflicted with political alzheimer's.

Pathetic. In one word that sums up Ron Paul’s response on CNN to the newsletter scandal. What Paul is asking people to believe is utterly absurd. Here is the scenario and Paul’s response:

1. His newsletter published horribly bigoted statements along with absurd conspiracy theories for a period of years -- please remember this is not a once off situation but years worth of diatribes. Paul does not refute the accuracy of the statements attributed to his newsletter. That is not in the debate.

2. Paul claims he did not write it.

3. Not only didn’t he write it, he says, but he never read it either, except maybe periodically. This also implies that no one ever mentioned the content to him either.

4. Paul previously said a “former aide” wrote it. Now he says he can’t remember who wrote it. So some faceless, nameless entity inflicted all these opinions on Paul’s newsletter and he never noticed.

5. Paul’s campaign also told CNN that they will not investigate to determine who did write it.

This is beyond belief. I put this in Loch Ness monster, Easter Bunny territory myself.

Paul says that the reason he doesn’t know who wrote these pieces is that the newsletter was going through transitions “about that time”. The problem is that this transition wasn’t a few weeks, or a few months but years. When the publication runs pieces like this for years on end that is not transition -- that is policy.

These remarks went on for well over a decade. The time frame alone repudiates Paul’s counter-claims -- not that facts will have any effect on the Paulists, they are immune to facts.

Paul used the typical politician’s tactic to avoid answering on CNN. He spent most of the time trying to discuss other things including what he called a campaign to keep him from speaking out. He went on about how the war on drugs is racist, which it is, and that he opposes that war, which he does. But he means to imply that means he couldn’t be racist. That is faulty logic at best. One can oppose the war on drug and still be a racist because one can oppose the war for reasons other than the impact it has on black people.

Paul also stated that it is impossible for a libertarian to be a racist. I wish he’d stop calling his populist/social conservative viewpoint libertarian. He has libertarian elements for sure but who doesn’t. While I think any racist is disgusting that they are disgusting doesn’t mean they can’t be libertarian.

Libertarianism means you don’t wish to initiate force or fraud against another person. It is a political viewpoint but that doesn’t preclude racism. One can hate certain people without wanting to engage in force against them. Now if Paul knows anything about libertarianism he would know this. His argument is false. Worse yet by invoking it he associates all libertarians with himself and considering the stench from his newsletters that argument, while not necessarily helping Paul, just manages to pass the stink on to all libertarians by implication.

Unfortunately there are bigots in libertarianism: as there are in any political philosophy.

Paul is refusing to name the author and the reason isn’t memory failure. After all “Ron Paul and Associates”, which published this trash, was a relatively small outfit. And if he truly can’t remember he could find out relatively easily but he is refusing to do that as well. He can’t name his ghost writer for these comments because to name him will reveal that Paul is still associated with him. The “former aide” wasn’t fired as people think. He moved up in his association with Paul not out. All the evidence points to a confidant and adviser to Paul, someone who remains a close friend and who is still closely connected to racist groups.

To reveal the author for Paul means revealing an ongoing connection which will actually compound the problem not answer it. Paul’s refusal to answer is damage control.

It is sad to see Paul reverting to the old, tired claim of politicians that they “can’t remember.”

Is Paul a racist and a bigot? I suspect that he is to one degree or another but I don’t know how much. He clearly wasn’t disgusted by the newsletter at least not enough to stop it from happening again, and again and again and again. It went on from the 70s into the 90s. In 1988 when he was running for the Libertarian nomination for the presidency some of these issues were brought up by his opponents. If he truly never read his own publication then the content was made aware to him on numerous occasions. At best Paul enabled a racist to promote hate in Paul’s name and never took action to stop it. He is still refusing to take action and refusing to name the author.

Paul’s final defense is to ask us to believe that he doesn’t pay attention to his own affairs or what is done in his name. He doesn’t read the publications he sends out. In fact, he doesn’t even write his own material. He doesn’t investigate it when problems are brought to his attention. In other words his defense is that he isn’t a bigot but that he is totally inept in such matters. And he wants us to put him the White House -- well we had enough of that kind of presidency already.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Do not watch this video if you are stuck-up prude or lack a sense a humor. This is especially true if you fit both categories. I've never seen the show before, not even when I lived in the UK for a bit, but I found this rather amusing and thought we could use a change of pace.


Hoisted by his pitard but has he learned his lesson?

U.K. television presenter Jeremy Clarkson wanted to prove a point. And strictly speaking he did -- just not the one he intended.

In recent months England has been shocked by the systematic lose of personal data on millions of people. Inept bureaucrats now handling mountains of data on individuals as part of their fake “war on terror” -- fake because they aren’t engaging in surveillance on terrorists but on millions of innocent people.

Well, data disks with records on people seem to disappear right and left inside the Labour government. No one apparently knows who has what or where it is.

Clarkson thought the fury over these lost records was a tempest in a teacup and he set out to prove how harmless it is to have personal information in the hands of just about anyone. Poor Jeremy decided the way to prove his point was publish details about himself in a major newspaper. So he published his bank account details including his account number and sort code. And for good measure he even told people how to track down his home address.

He bragged: “All you will be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing.”

Clarkson wasn’t so smug when he got his next bank statement. A sum of just over $1000, £500 to be exact, had been extricated from his account and donated, on his behalf, to the charity Diabetes UK.

Of course in the world of surveillance the laws on privacy only apply to the private sector not to the State -- where they are needed the most. So when Clarkson attempted to find out who had taken the money from his account he was told that the Data Protection Act didn’t allow the bank to tell him. And they told they can’t prevent it from happening againg.

Clarkson admitted: “I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.” He wrote: “Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick coctail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”

Close, Mr. Clarkson, but no cigar.

The problem isn’t just with the loss of the data. The problem is with the very collection of it.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A core Republican value?

One clear sign of the utter moral bankruptcy of the political Right these days is a comment made by the batty Kathryn Jean Lopez. Normally one would ignore this woman but she writes for William F. Buckley’s web site. Buckley always prided himself as being the Holy Inquisition for conservatism and regularly published encyclicals reading out of the conservative movement people with who he disagreed. And there is no question that the Buckley brigade have had a major influence shaping modern conservatism -- and not for the good I should note.

Lopez says that McCain can’t win as a Republican because “on a whole host of issues” “he’s not one of us”. Fair enough. But what are these defining issues. She lists some as “water boarding, tax cuts and the freedom of speech.” Apparently the use of torture methods are now one of the Republican parties core values -- one that is so important that it is used to write a leading Republican out of the race -- at least in the eyes of Lopez. Is this woman entirely loopy? I suspect she isn’t more loopy that what passes as conservative these days.

The conservative movement has never really been pro liberty. They have always been pro-past. Whatever the past was they intended to keep it. Lopez, however, doesn’t want merely to embrace the recent past. Apparently she thinks that conservative values means embracing the Holy Inquisition and torture. Disgusting.

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Physician, heal thyself.

One of the good votes that Ron Paul cast was against the Patriot Act. And Paul roasted his fellow congressman for voting for the bill screaming about the immorality of voting for legislation which these men had not even read.

Now we have articles which were published in Paul’s name which prove to be very troublesome -- meanspirted and quite bigoted. And there is no question that they are genuine and that his office published them and distributed them. Paul’s justification is that he didn’t write them, even if they were put out in his name, but also that he never read them. Physician, heal thyself.


Hindsight on New Hampshire

Now I can look at my forecasts with the virtue of hindsight -- which is always easier.

I’ll start with the big error. I really thought Obama was going to win New Hampshire. What went wrong? He was so far in the lead there in the days before that it seemed a sure thing. I suspect that was part of the problem. A lot of Obama’s support came from independent voters but the same group was attracted to McCain.

I suspect some of them looked at the polls and saw Obama with a 10 point lead and figured it was safe to vote in the Republican primary for McCain. The funny thing is that his lead may have been his undoing. In addition there is another factor. Some individuals who planned to vote against Obama didn’t want to say they were going to vote against because they didn’t want anyone to perceive them as racist. That is still a touchy issue. That might have a slight effect however. In addition I suspect the big win in Iowa scared the hell out of the establishment Democrats who were behind Hillary and they doubled their efforts while the Obama supporters felt they had it in the bag.

However, there is something else to consider. Technically Obama is in the lead when it comes to delegates from New Hampshire. According to CNN the number of delegates elected for Hillary were 11 but Obama picked up 12. Where one gets votes also counts. So Obama trailed slightly in the popular vote but won in the delegate vote. For the time being the Democratic race remains open but I’m still inclined to think Obama will lead the ticket.

The Republican race went pretty much the way I predicted it would. McCain had an easy victory and Romney came in second. I still contend a ticket with both those men is the best chance the Republicans have of winning the White House -- they can write off the Senate and the House now.

Huckabee was in a close race with Giuliani for third but Hillbilly Huck pulled it off as I thought he would. Giuliani’s campaign is dead as they come though not as dead as Fred Thompson’s who has proven to be unable to handle himself without a script.

New Hampshire ought to have been better for Paul. It was worse. He dropped from 9.9% in Iowa to just over 8% with two percent of the vote outstanding. He picked up no delegates in New Hampshire. He only got two in Iowa and the Wyoming caucus went by with hardly anyone noticing and he got zero there.

And the New Republic article detailing the articles in the Ron Paul newsletters from the past was far more devastating than I expected. James Kirchick did his homework and the magazine reprinted the full newsletter articles in pdf format so people could see what they said in full. The Paulists will pick on a couple of times when Kirchick did overstate his case. But there was more than enough meat there to mean big problems for Ron Paul.

This story is just starting. Paul’s publication printed comments that were viciously bigoted or disgusting. For instance consider this about Martin Luther King: “He was a comsymp, if not an actual party member... he also seduced underage girls and boys.” Paul says he didn’t write it. Yet this newsletter ends with: “My wife Carol, and our children and grandchildren, join me in wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. May we start to confound the plans of the Trilateralists....” (A nice touch of conspiracy paranoia to follow those vicious remarks about King.) Please note Paul’s wife is named Carol. He says he didn’t write it but the end of the piece is directly from Paul. That’s hard to explain away.

Some of the worst comments were reserved for gay men. Get this comment:
First, these men don’t really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners. These conditions do not make one’s older years the happiest. Second, because sex is the center of their lives, they want it to be as pleasurable as possible, which means unprotected sex. Third, they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.
When some gay advocacy groups meet with in the White House during the reign of the first Bush Paul’s newsletter wrote, “the organized forces of perversion were feted in the White House.” His newsletter then said: “I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities. They could also not be as promiscuous. Is it any coincidence that the AIDS epidemic developed after they came ‘out of the closet,’ and started hyper-promiscuous sodomy? I don’t believe so, medically or morally.”

That “medically” reference would imply that Paul wrote it.

Another article wrote about the gay news magazine The Advocate doing a story on anti-gay remarks made by commentator Andy Rooney (who also made anti-black remarks on other occasions). The Paul newsletter basically defends Rooney and says: “The reporter--who certainly had an axe to grind, and that’s not easy with a limp wrist--claimed that...” Now that’s real cute. No doubt Ann Coulter found it hilarious. One subscription letter signed by Paul said: “I’ve been told not to talk, but these stooges don’t scare me. Threats or no threats, I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through that one.) The Bohemian-Grove--perverted pagan playground of the powerful.... “ This is tin hate material.

One of the worst, in my opinion, was that he reprinted advice on how to care for an AIDS patient. He called it “excellent advice” and “commonsense precaution” that would be illegal due to hate crime legislation. But he said these suggestions “give us an idea on how we should actually proceed.”
1) Wear rubber gloves when handling the clothes, dishes, etc. of the patient. 2) Use paper plates and cups and burn them afterwards. 3) Boil all his laundry for at least 15 minutes. 4) Pour a half cup of Clorox in his bath water before draining it. 5) Always wipe the toilet seat with a soapy paper towel. Do not put the towel in the toilet, but in a paper bag to be burned. 6) No kissing, since AIDS can be transmitted by saliva. 8) Do not allow the patient to eat in a restaurant. 9) Do not allow the patient to drive or operate machinery due to mental impairment.
That has to be the most ignorant piece of advice I have read ever on this topic. And that was in 1990, long after we knew better about the disease.

These revelations, and no doubt more will be coming since the publication was printed for years, are very damaging. Paul has tried to claim it was done when he wasn’t looking. Sorry, but that doesn’t wash. The articles like this appeared over a period of years and were printed from his office in Texas. He has also claimed it was ghost written by an aide. As we understand it much of it was but that “former aide” is still closely connected to Paul. But some of the comments, like the letter appear over Paul’s signature. It is hard to keep excusing this. Paul’s campaign, in my opinion, is official over. The questions is how long he will wait to announce it. I suspect early February.

One clear sign of this will be if we see how his spending goes over the next couple of weeks. If he is planning on dropping out his spending will decline as he save his war chest for other ventures. He has a tidy sum of money at his disposal to use in other ways if he drops his campaign.

The big looser in this election are easier to pick out than the winners. On the Democratic side Richardson, Kucinich, Biden, Gravel and Dodd are totally out of the race, no matter what they say officially. Edwards is holding on still but still in third in what will be a couple’s game come November. He can hang on with the hope of being someone’s running mate.

On the Republican side Fred Thompson is history. His was the most anticipated candidacy that went no where. And Rudy is history as well. He didn’t do well at all. Ron Paul is now dead in the water. He polled worse than expected and he can’t blame the publicity on his hateful newsletters for that -- the news only broke after the voting started and didn’t get wide enough play to materially impact the total. Paul was failing without help from his own newsletter. But add that to his poor showings and he’s out of there. Maybe now his fans will understand that flooding on-line polls isn’t the real world.

And I think Huckabee is a goner. He’ll do well in some other states. But that man can’t win the presidency. The fundies may have enough influence in the Theopublican Party to put Huck in as a kamikaze candidate -- the last last hurrah of the dying theocratic vision -- but I suspect that more sane Republicans will want to save the party from total oblivion and that is why McCain and Romney will share a ticket in November. If the Democrats were smart they go with with Obama and Clinton in second position. A lot of people who don’t trust Hillary as president might be willing to have her as vice president. At least under the Democrats the president actually runs the White House not the Vice President -- something not true today.

If you want to hear an interview with Mr. Kirchick click below.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Loony Pat strikes again.

Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network is off finding gay plots to undermine "family values." This is the sort of twisted thinking of the Christianists. Sure, the whole purpose of the "gay agenda" is so guys can use the ladies toilet! Now from a libertarian perspective the issues the morality mullahs are howling about here are about equal protection before the law, not about anything close to "special rights" or "special privileges". So why does Robertson say that gays shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else?

His answer is shocking. He claims that gays shouldn't have their civil rights because "2% of our population could consider themselves gay or homosexual, and about 1% would consider themselves lesbian. That's it!" Actually that is quite a lowball figure and no doubt as accurate as his prediction of massive hurricanes hitting the US in 2006 -- there were none that year. He said God told him this but apparently God was drinking a bit that night -- or Pat was! So the reason we shouldn't protect the equal rights of people who are gay is because there aren't enough of them. He emphasizes this again later. "There's one thing about having ten, fiftenn percent or twenty of our population being discriminated against, that's a different matter." Apparently there is no such thing as individual rights which apply equally to everyone regardless of what group they belong to or even if they are minority of one. Pat says rights require numbers. If there aren't enough of you tough luck. There are fewer Jews in the United States than gay people. Would Rev. Pat say they don't deserve rights?

And if this premise is true in America is it true everywhere? Born-again Christians are well under 1% of the population in China. According to Pat's numerical theory of rights that would mean that it is perfectly fine for the Chinese government to refuse to grant rights to Chinese Christians.

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Pulling out the crystal ball.

With the New Hampshire primary beginning in a few hours I thought I give my thoughts on what I am expecting to happen.

The big winners will be Obama and McCain. New Hampshire is a more educated state with more affluent individuals who tend not to be attracted to the Loony Left or the Religious Right. McCain will bounce here precisely because Huckabee is a fundamentalist fruitcake and Romney is a wannabe Christianist.

I say wannabe because Mr. Romney was not so infected with lunacy in the past. He remade himself to win over the Know Nothing born-againers in the GOP. Poor Mitt he’s been out-Jesused by Rev. Huckabee, who as a former televangelist, preacher knows precisely how to sucker amens out the congregation.

And Mitt is going to have a hard time convincing the faithful in the GOP (God’s Own Party) that he’s even a Christian. Giuliani can’t do it and he’s a Catholic so it will be tough for a follower of a charlatan who’s fraudulent claims are easily documented as bogus. Whatever Old Joe Smith said his book of Abraham wasn’t written by “Father Abraham himself” but is just a typical death certificate that accompanied a mummy to the hereafter. Unfortunately for Joe something called the Rosette Stone eventually allowed others to decipher the parchment he bought from a traveling circus.

At least Huckabee makes sure he follows a faith old enough that such inconvenient documentation isn’t quite the same problem. Alas none of that helps Huckabee in New Hampshire where fundamentalists are as rare as black folk at a League of the South klavern. Huck is more like a smiling, corn cracking Mussolini than anything else. Of course if you take out the hoakey cornball, the TV evangelist grin and the Jesus-mongering you get Rudy Giuliani. Our two battling El Duces will be competing with each other for third. I would normally guess that Rudy will beat out Huck but he's been crashing so badly that Huck may find it easy to top him. In fact Giuliani has done so badly he could be beaten by Paul and that means Rudy will be in the low single digits.

Lucky for Mitt a lot of Republicans in New Hampshire remember him before he tried to play the Jesus card in the election and shifted all his decent positions on civil liberties to the indecent views of the rabid religionist. Without those memories he’d be doing much worse. I think he can pull off a second place here. Hillbilly Huck has a chance of pulling third partly because of his boost after the hicks in Iowa shouted hallelujah for him last Tuesday. If Rudy can’t win pull into third in New Hampshire I think he’s finished and not a moment too soon.

The Paulists are in for another disappointment. Paul just missed 10% in Iowa (he got 9.9% actually but most press round up the numbers). In New Hampshire those positions he takes that are libertarian will have some appeal and that ought to serve him well. Unfortunately for Paul he also cobbled onto his campaign some very unlibertarian positions as well and those don’t set as well with the “leave us alone” types.

Paul has added some populist measures to his political mosaic and here he is having some problems. Hillbilly Huck is also something of a populist and some Paul support may be seeping into the Huck camp as the populist crowd look for a candidate who might win the nomination instead.

Paul also has a new problem. His past associations through newsletters he published under his own name are coming back to haunt him. Old Ron Paul Reports will be subjected to scrutiny by the New Republic and the word is already out that they contain some outrageous material that many people will find offensive. Lucky for Paul the announcement only came today and the material won’t be out till tomorrow so most voters are likely to miss the story until after they have voted.

But for Republicans in New Hampshire the kind of inflammatory statements that are being discussed won’t be appealing. Those who do hear about the story will be much less inclined toward supporting Paul. The most the Paul campaign is saying now is that while the articles were penned in a publication carrying Paul’s name he didn’t write them. From what I know this is true. Much of the material that Paulists drool over as coming from their White Knight was, in fact, not written by him. The Paul campaign has a small problem here. If they reveal that much of what comes out in Paul’s name is not authored by him there is a risk that supporters will loose some of the awe they have for the material he produces since he didn’t produce it.

However, some of that same material is clearly a liability today. So they can’t quite embrace it either. They merely say that he didn’t see everything that was published and that material was written by others. How much they don’t specify and, to my knowledge, they don’t reveal the actual identity of the real author. Again the behind-the-scenes talk is that the actual author is a top Ron Paul supporter and a close associate to this day. So they might not wish to name him now because they want people to believe that association is an old one and not a current one. And the alleged author, who is a big Ron Paul cheerleader, isn’t going to fall on his sword by admitting he penned those pieces -- at least he hasn’t so far.

All this will be bad for Paul in New Hampshire. However, South Carolina is up next and racism isn’t quite so unacceptable there -- at least not in Republican circles. In a general election it would hurt him there, because of the black vote, but he won’t be on the ballot in any general election there and blacks don’t vote in the Republican primary. Some of the League of the South types won’t be offended but they already consider Paul a supporter of their plans to resurrect the Confederacy. But none of this really matters for Paul since his support in South Carolina is significantly below what he’s polled so far. Most polls show him running with about half the support he can expect in New Hampshire. What this means effectively is that once South Carolina votes the Paul campaign will effectively be over.

On the Democratic side Hillary is in trouble and knows it. She is too obviously manipulative and insincere for her own good. Obama will easily defeat her in New Hampshire. He trounced her in Iowa and he will do it again. South Carolina polls currently show in the lead there by a small margin. But I expect that margin to grow substantially. Obama will get three wins in a row and that will set the tone for the rest of primaries. As I see the real question is who will the V.P. candidate for Obama. I think the Democratic nomination is not going to be messy and it will be Obama by a landslide.

The Republican race is going to a major mess for sometime to come. The Republican Party has contradictory strands. You’ve got neo-cons, Christianists, neo-libertarians, conservative traditionalists and such all hobbled together into one incoherent whole. None of the groups particularly like each other and are held together mainly by a stronger dislike for the Democrats. But this coalition is unraveling fast. And certain a Huckabee nomination ought to chase out the libertarians who have been hanging on with visions of Barry Goldwater dancing in their heads.

This is the problem the Republicans have in November. George Bush has energized the Democrats because he has been such a piss-poor president: not just inept and incompetent but wholly destructive. Worse yet these traits helped push independent voters, who have been securing Republican victories in recent years, over the Democrats. The Democrats didn’t attract these voters, the Republicans merely disgusted them. So all that the G.O.P knows it can count on is the coalition. But a Huckabee nomination will chase out many of the small government types. And that leaves the Republicans counting on just the neo-cons and the theo-cons -- a coalition that first wants to save your soul and then declare war on you. (Oops, I forgot they don’t declare war they just do it.)

But with the GOP so splintered now and Republicans knowing they are in for a major whooping come November they might just coalesce around more electable candidates. That ain’t Huck. A Romney/McCain or McCain/Romney ticket might just win them the White House. But Obama will be a formidable candidate. He speaks well -- he may say absolutely nothing of substance -- but he sounds good when he’s saying it. And in today’s America that counts for something.