Archive for July, 2006

What a weird song title – just who is Benjamin Breeg?

Here’s the video, which will hopefully not get yanked offline:

Is it fuckin’ cool?! I hope so; I haven’t even watched it myself yet! That’s how fast you’re getting this.

Up the Irons!

Hot… so hot

Man, it was hot this weekend. We either hit 100 or got damn close to it here in MN. I’m lovin’ it — I much prefer hot weather to cold weather. I wish I could box and store this heat for the winter.

I love a good heatwave; makes you realize it’s summer out. Mmm.. hmmm… Of course, today it was hot as hell out but I never even saw the sun. It was a weird day; thick clouds all around and rain in the morning, but the heat stuck around — stick being the operative word as it was beyond humid out today. I played a couple hours of disc golf and when I was done my T-shirt felt like I had been swimming in it.

Global warming is fuckin’ great!

Perhaps you’ve seen news reports of Israel blowing the ever-loving shit out of Lebanon in a Middle East already drowning in tension. What’s this all about? Is it really just about one captured Israeli soldier?

Jeff over at Rigorous Intution implies that Israel is working behind the scenes with American neocons to spark a war with Iran:

Israel’s war upon Lebanon would be a disproportionate response if Israel were actually responding to the kidnapping of two of its soldiers. It isn’t, of course. (If it were, we may have seen a limited cross-border incursion that resembled a rescue mission, rather than these blunt-force deep attacks on Lebanese infrastructure.) Rather the war, like most wars of aggression, is a response to the pathological necessities of the aggressor’s ideology.

America’s Countdown: Tehran has been stuck at 20 minutes and holding for a couple of months now, derailed by Iran’s rational posture regarding its nuclear ambitions and the ongoing thwarting of anything approaching even the Bush administration’s benchmark for a casus belli. Israel’s hawks, by smashing in the back door, are baiting Iran to action, which would goad the US to crash through the front. Israeli military claims, trumpeted by FoxNews, that the Haifa rockets were fired by Iranian Guard units, and the absurd suggestion that Hezbollah intends to transport their captured soldiers to Iran, say forcefully that this isn’t about Lebanon, though for now it will be mostly the Lebanese who perish.

Could it be that this war is just a provocation for Iran? Iran has already taken the bait by saying they will defend Syria if Israel attacks Syria. Israel has reportedly given Syria a 72-hour ultimatum to stop Hezbollah activity within its borders or face attack. Interestingly, this warning was revealed by a Pentagon official. Other neocons are insisting that Syria and Iran are behind the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier(s) that is the ostensible impetus behind the attacks.

Meanwhile, the right-wing talk show hosts are already saying that we’re witnessing the beginning of World War III or World War IV, depending on how you count (I prefer WWIV). Since they are the mouthpieces of the ones planning and instigating these wars, I tend to believe them.

This is a dangerous game the neocons are playing. First, they accuse Hezbollah, Syria and Iran of making a dangerous bid for more influence (how does supposedly masterminding the kidnapping of one or two soldiers in Gaza gain you more influence? The neocons never seem to explain that line of reasoning), then they let Israel go nuts and bomb the hell out of whoever they want — so of course they go after Hezbollah in Lebanon since Lebanon can’t really fight back.

What’s next according to the neocon plan? I’m guessing that Israel will try it’s best to lure Syria into the fight. Syria would be stupid to fall for this, but if they are attacked I’m sure they will respond. Israel doesn’t want to be seen as being the aggressor so I doubt they will simply invade. They need a pretext. Hezbollah provides that as a terrorist organization that is supposedly hiding in Lebanon and Syria. Israel can claim to be chasing fleeing Hezbollah fighters right into Syria.

That still doesn’t absolve Israel’s actions in the international community, however. They need something more. No doubt the neocons will try to manufacture some sort of excuse for Israel — just as every other part of this exercise in preemptive warfare has been manufactured. If the neocons can’t deke Syria and Iran into open warfare they’ll have to go through the tiresome process of starting a Coalition of the Willing (part 2) and convincing the U.N. Security Council that we need to invade and conquer Iran before they attack us with their mighty turbans.

We just have to hope that Iran and Syria keep their cool while the pressure all around them mounts. They last thing they should do is make any threatening moves. That will only spell destruction for them and their people.

They need to stall for time before the neofascists manage to draw them into a fight. What they really need is, well…. us! We, the people of the United States of America, need to take back our government from the tyrant Bush and end his reign of terror across the globe. Only then will the situation return to some level of calmness. As long as Bush is in power the King of Terror rules.

[from digg]
The Reverend Dr. Bill Lawson compared Lay with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus Christ, and said his name would eventually be cleared. “He was taken out of the world right at the right time,” he said. “History has a way of vindicating people who have been wronged.”

read more | digg story

This is something that I saw and thought nothing of. .At first. … But then I began to realize what a twisted world we live in if some “reverend” in a church of followers of Jesus Christ, has compared his saviour, his hallowed friend Jesus — to Ken Lay, a man who duped and betrayed thousands, if not millions of people. What the fuck is this guy on?

Somebody get the reverend a fuckin’ bible. If you can get that shit out of the bible, then you can truly get anything out of it. Did he not learn anything in seminary school? How can he compare a man like Lay to Jesus? The man was a crook! He screwed over his entire company and all the shareholders, and made millions in the process. What a fuckin’ dick. ’nuff said.

I’m sure all his Republican buddies still love Kenny Boy. Hey, they profited from his schemes too, and they knew when to get out — when he was.

But what I find most interesting about this article, is actually the first section with the interview of Lay’s stepson:

Lay’s stepson David Herrold told the nearly full First United Methodist Church that Lay was wrongly convicted, and he was angry about the portrayals of his stepfather in the media.

“He did have a strong faith in God and I know he’s in heaven, and I’m glad he’s not in a position anymore to be whipped by his enemy,” Herrold said.

“His enemy”? Who would his enemy be? The American people? The criminal justice system? His former cow-0rkers and shareholders? …. God?

Think about how messed up this guy and his rationalizations are. I don’t know how he can justify Lay’s actions and still continue to call himself a rational and intellectually honest person. Maybe he doesn’t call himself that, I dunno. But what really intrigues me (and scares me) is the idea that people like Ken Lay and his stepson and the Reverend have a logical and moral system that is utterly divorced from my own, and from most of the rest of the country’s. They exist in a moral plane of evil and amoral action.

Are there people who are… just, plain… evil?

A disturbing thought. One that needs closer examination.

But not too close.

Oh man, this is good stuff:

The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of revealing Plame’s CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration’s motives in Iraq.

This is great news. I think it’s clear that Dick started this whole fiasco, so it’s fitting that he would be sued for it. Will this be a civil suit? I would imagine so, but I’m not sure. If so that would mean she could really only nail him for cash, but it certainly would provide some negative PR for the Bush administration.

Nail the hypocritical fuckers. They’re always complaining about leaks — except when they’re the ones doing the leaking.

Bush Attacked by Rabid Turkey!

What a fearsome attack by the turkey!! Bush is surely finished now. Whole swarms of turkeys will track him wherever he goes. He messed up big. They first thing they tell you is “don’t piss off turkeys” in politics.

Okay, so I just found a picture and made that up. But Fox News makes up news all the time, so why can’t I? And really, don’t we all secretly wish that GW would be eaten alive by vicious swarms of malignantly insane turkeys prowling the earth searching for prey among the weak and stupid? I mean c’mon; everybody wishes that.

I think we’ve really learned a lot here today, children. Let’s all prey for the president’s immediate emasculation by turkeys in the hope that it will improve the sociopolitical milieu of our times. No doubt the current political paradigm is trending towards a cancerous expansion of power reminiscient of the archetypal slide into oligarchical totalitarianism so familiar in history that it calls for the only remedy that could be carried out forthwith, which is the president being fed to a ravenous squadron of rabid turkeys. Duh.

That’s a great picture, though. Bush would be a funny guy if he weren’t so sociopathic.

President Bush is infallible! He can do no wrong!

So says a Justice Department Lawyer To Congress: ‘The President Is Always Right’:

LEAHY: I don’t think the President was talking about the nuances of the law of war paradigm, he was saying this was going to tell him that he could keep Guantanamo open or not, after it said he could.

BRADBURY: Well, it’s not —

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRABURY: It’s under the law of war –

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRADBURY: The President is always right.

This is what I’m talking about when I bitch about fascism. This whole idea that our leaders are somehow infallible in completely antithetical to the American Way. We were raised with the notion that it’s okay to question authority and then this dumbass comes around says that President Bush is “always right” by virtue of… what? His power? His name? I have no idea how Foolio plans on justifying that statement. It was probably just an idiotic one-off, but it points to an underlying authoritarianism in government. Remember, these are the people Bush surrounds himself with — so of course they will kiss his ass. But saying he’s infallible to Congress? That’s just fucking nuts.

Besides, George Bush is, if anything, always wrong.

Great interview of John Dean. Scary stuff:

Olbermann and Dean go over the dramatic shift in neoconservativism towards authoritarianism. Dean says that approximately 23 percent of the population is ready to follow any strong, authoritarian leader right over the cliff. Logic, reality and American values don’t enter into it; certain people are followers. According to Dean, the vast majority of those people are of a conservative mindset, and their loyalty is absolute, even to the point of betraying everything they stand for if Dear Leader demands it.

Also hinted at is the vested interest of the current government in ratcheting up the fear level by playing up nonexistant terrorism threats. There’s a definite political advantage to keeping people afraid and it seems clear that the Bush/Cheney cabal have exploited this fact to strengthen their hold on power.

Watch the whole video for more. It’s about 10 minutes and touches on a lot of interesting subjects.

Is today April Fools or something? I just read, on the AP wire, a completely positive story about ‘shrooms (psilocybin) that didn’t have any “drugs are bad! Just say no! Boo!!” bullshit. Okay, there was one line in there about not doing it, but the rest of the story was extremely reasonable, fair and accurate. What the hell is going on here? Did drug paranoia suddenly wear off when I wasn’t looking? This is amazing. Check out the article for an informative look at the drug psilocybin, which is found in so-called “magic mushrooms”:

Psilocybin’s effects lasted for up to six hours, Griffiths said. Twenty-two of the 36 volunteers reported having a “complete” mystical experience, compared to four of those getting methylphenidate.

That experience included such things as a sense of pure awareness and a merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe, and deeply felt positive mood like joy, peace and love. People say “they can’t possibly put it into words,” Griffiths said.

Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40% ranking it in the top five.

About 80% said that because of the psilocybin experience, they still had a sense of well-being or life satisfaction that was raised either “moderately” or “very much.”

Read the whole article for more.

I… I’m in shock. The mainstream media has produced an article that touts the spiritual awareness gained from ingesting a controlled substance?!

Seriously?!! Am I high?! Is this a prank? I’m flabbergasted! Where’s the customary scare-tactics, fear-mongering, lies, distortions, half-truths, Republican-rhetoric, hate and demagoguery that I’m so used to? My whole worldview is shattered. Must’ve been a mistake over at the AP. The editor must be new. He didn’t get the memo: You’re only supposed to mock or lie about drugs in the mainstream media. If there’s a positive scientific finding you’re supposed to ignore it, not write up a glowing story on it! Jeez, somebody give this guy a copy of The Complete Works of Nancy Reagan.

I think I need to go lay down.

Sad news: Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett has died

Syd Barrett, RIP

I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, so this one hits close to home. Syd’s era isn’t my favorite part of Pink Floyd’s catalog, but he was really the cornerstone of the band. Everything they did after that point was influenced by Syd in some way or another. Pink Floyd’s second masterwork, Wish You Were Here, is considered a concept album directed at Syd Barrett. It’s one of my favorite albums and a fitting tribute to the genius that was Syd.

Looks like Syd may have died from complications related to his diabetes:

Syd Barrett, the troubled genius who co-founded Pink Floyd but spent his last years in reclusive anonymity, has died, a spokeswoman for the band said Tuesday. He was 60.The spokeswoman – who declined to give her name until the band made an official announcement – confirmed media reports that he had died. She said Barrett died several days ago, but she did not disclose the cause of death. Barrett had suffered from diabetes for many years.

Barrett co-founded Pink Floyd in 1965 with David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, and wrote many of the band’s early songs. The group’s jazz-infused rock made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene, and the 1967 album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” – largely written by Barrett, who also played guitar – was a commercial and critical hit.

However, Barrett suffered from mental instability, exacerbated by his use of LSD. His behavior grew increasingly erratic, and he left the group in 1968 – five years before the release of Pink Floyd’s most popular album, “Dark Side of the Moon.” He was replaced by David Gilmour.

I’m actually kind of surprised that Syd lived this long. He had long since fried his brain on LSD. Actually, that might not have been the case. Gilmour has speculated that his mental problems were deep-seated and that he would’ve flipped out either way. In Gilmour’s eyes, the drugs just acted as a trigger, although Pink Floyd’s sudden fame might have been even more disorienting for Barrett.

Either way, it’s sad to see Syd go. I’m not sure that his life was all that great these days, though, so it may be a blessing for him to go peacefully. His stature in the music industry will only continue to rise with his passing. He founded one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever, and his creativity sparked their genius long after he was out of the group.

Let me be the first imagination-deprived blogger to say: Shine on, you crazy diamond.

The Mexican election battle is still going strong, despite claims of victory by the rightist candidate Calderon:

Despite what both Calderon and Lopez Obrador tell their supporters and what you read in press reports, the next President has yet to be officially declared. IFE is not the body responsible for officially announcing the next President. Rather, it is TRIFE (Electoral Tribunal) that will make an official announcement by early September, after addressing complaints filed by each party. The parties have four days to file their objections following the results of the tally sheet count — which was concluded last Thursday.

Last night, the PRD, Lopez Obrador’s party, delivered their official complaint to the tribunal.

TRIFE, a supposedly non-partisan, independent body, has the responsibility to examine irregularities brought forth to them. TRIFE, will therefore, have to consider facts such as:

  • Why hundreds of thousands of ballots have yet to be included in any count;
  • Why ballots have been found, literally, in the trash;
  • Why there was a massive amount of “drop-off”, i.e. where people showed up to vote but did not cast a vote for president;
  • Why, on Election Day, Casilla workers in places like Queretaro and Salamanca were caught on video, stuffing ballot boxes and changing tally sheets.
  • The use and role of public expenditures on Calderon’s campaign;
  • The intervention of the current President, Vicente Fox (a member of PAN), which benefitted Calderon, during the campaign, and which is illegal according to the Electoral Commission’s rules.

That’s quite a list of accusations. It seems that there were serious irregularities, despite claims that the election was fair. It’s not clear which party was behind the crimes, but it could well be all of them.

Still, many crimes like stuffing ballot boxes and refusing to count all of the votes cast point to a high degree of “access” to the ballots themselves. It is not beyond belief that PAN, the present ruling party, was behind much of the electioneering.

Whatever the case, I’m hoping for a quick and correct resolution to the crisis in Mexico. I hope people keep spilling out in the street. I heard that far more than the reported crowd of 100,000 came out to assemble in Mexico City. That’s a good start, but they’ve got to keep up the pressure. Remember Ukraine and what their people did to preserve democracy. In November 2004 the Ukrainian people rose up. The American people did not.

Let’s hope Mexico grabs the flame of liberty.

The title references a quote from a North Carolina state senator:

But the court, in six opinions spanning 123 pages, rejected the broader challenge to the Texas plan, holding that there is nothing inherently unconstitutional about redrawing congressional maps in the middle of the decade in order to give one party a political advantage. The ruling opens the door for state lawmakers to redraw congressional maps whenever there is a shift in political power, instead of after the federal census at the start of each decade, as has been customary.

The ruling was a disappointment for reformers who hoped the court would rein in partisan gerrymandering, which has been blamed for a host of ills, from noncompetitive elections to increased animosity in Congress. Armed with sophisticated computer programs, legislators have drawn maps to create safe congressional districts with clear partisan majorities. And it has worked — two years ago, nearly 98 percent of House incumbents won re-election.

As one North Carolina state senator put it, “We’re in the business of rigging elections.”

Yep, and that’s why we can’t get rid of these clowns. They’ve used every trick in the book to make sure they are re-elected, as might be expected. Congress Critters are only human after all (okay, that might be open to debate in James Sensebrenner’s case), but a 98 percent re-election rate for incumbents is unacceptable.

As another US News article makes clear, we may be living in “A Fake Democracy”:

But redistricting isn’t the only culprit. The skyrocketing cost of running for Congress is also stifling competition. In 1990, successful House challengers spent an average $282,000 on their campaigns, as measured in current dollars. In 2004, winning challengers shelled out an average $1.6 million each. At the same time, the chances of winning plummeted. In 1990, 16 challengers won. In 2004, just five did. “In the last election,” says Sheila Krumholz, acting executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, “a challenger who spent less than a million dollars technically had zero chance of winning.”

What kind of democracy is this if only rich people can get elected? At least we know the upper class is well (very well) represented; but what about the underclass? How can we call this a democracy when 90% of the people aren’t represented in Congress at all?

What would explain why only five challengers managed to take office in the 2004 elections? I’ll tell you: This government sounds more like an oligarchy than a democracy. From the article:

Two years ago, nearly 98 percent of House incumbents seeking re-election won, capping a decade of partisan stasis unmatched in U.S. history. “House elections … are starting to take on all the suspense of contests for the old Soviet Union’s central committee,” writes Juliet Eilperin, author of the new book Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives. What happened to the institution the Founders designed to be more responsive to voters than any other? The answer has to do with redistricting, money, and an increasingly polarized “red”/”blue” America. At a moment when the Bush administration is aggressively pushing democracy abroad, there are serious questions about the health of the American democratic experiment at home.

Bush’s focus on democracy in other places is a useful distraction while he steadily chisels it away back home. His actions have been opposed to democratic principles in almost every decision he made.

Dubya’s “democracy”-export plan continues in Mexico, where there have been discoveries of uncommonly large amounts of blank ballots:

…That’s noteworthy in light of the surprise showing of candidate Senor Blank-o (the 827,000 ballots supposedly left “blank”).

We’ve seen Mr Blank-o do well before – in Florida in 2000 when Florida’s secretary of state (who was also co-chair of the Bush campaign) announced that 179,000 ballots showed no vote for the president. The machines couldn’t read these ballots with “hanging chads” and other technical problems. Humans can read these ballots with ease, but the hand-count was blocked by Bush’s conflicted official.

And so it is in Mexico. The Calderon “victory” is based on a gross addition of tabulation sheets. His party, the PAN, and its election officials are refusing Lopez Obrador’s call for a hand recount of each ballot which would be sure to fill in those blanks.

Blank ballots are rarely random. In Florida in 2000, 88% of the supposedly blank ballots came from African-American voting districts – that is, they were cast by Democratic voters. In Mexico, the supposed empty or unreadable ballots come from the poorer districts where the challenger’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) is strongest.

I wonder if they’ll trot out the “they’re too stupid to vote properly” excuse again? That’s usually a winner. Speaking of winners, they’re saying that Calderon is the winner, but I’m with Palast on this on; it’s just not clear who the winner is yet. Count those “blank” ballots and maybe we’ll have a clearer picture.