Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Cost of War

War squeezes businesses owned by reservists
Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:18PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Having served in Iraq, Dave Krasner is now back home in Boston, struggling to keep alive the small computer consulting company he left behind.

"I love my country. But what do I do now?" said Krasner, a National Guardsman whose firm was buried in debt while he was away at war for much of 2004 and 2005. "My credit was wrecked. The SBA (Small Business Administration) turned me down for loans. So have banks. I can't face my children. They see me as a hero."

More here ...

I don't presume to speak for the right wing conservatives among us, however, I can speculate on what their response might be:

"We're big on national security and therefore we thank you for your service. We're also all for small business, too. However, we're also really big on individual responsibility so ... best of luck, you're on your own.

"To provide anything for you would smack of commie-socialism. It just wouldn't be .. well ... Right! Dunt'yasee?

"On the other hand, underwriting huge subsidies for large pharmaceuticals and hellatiously profitable oil companies is only good business. Dunt'yasee?

"If your business was big enough and could make sizable political contributions ... if you could handle 'no-bid' contracts ... if you were part of the military industrial complex ... maybe things would be different. Dunt'yasee?"

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cactus Rising

White Sands National Monument
New Mexico


Here are the numbers.

Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much

CHICAGO - When Jon D. Miller looks out across America, which he can almost do from his 18th-floor office at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, he sees a landscape of haves and have-nots - in terms not of money, but of knowledge.

Dr. Miller, 63, a political scientist who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at the medical school, studies how much Americans know about science and what they think about it. His findings are not encouraging.

While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue." At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.

Over the last three decades, Dr. Miller has regularly surveyed his fellow citizens for clients as diverse as the National Science Foundation, European government agencies and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. People who track Americans' attitudes toward science routinely cite his deep knowledge and long track record.

"I think we should pay attention to him," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who cites Dr. Miller's work in her efforts to advance the cause of evolution in the classroom. "We ignore public understanding of science at our peril."

Its a good read ...

I'd link to the original in the NYTimes but I don't have a subscription. And that costs money!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Here's how its done ...

Iced!: Democrat William Jefferson, the Louisiana congressman famous for allegedly storing $90,000 in his freezer, was indicted yesterday on 16 charges including bribery, obstruction of justice, and racketeering. Jefferson, who was re-elected in 2006 while still under investigation by the FBI, has not resigned, although Republican lawmakers are moving for his ouster. Bloggers agree it's about time.

Liberal Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report urges Democrats to dissociate themselves from Jefferson ASAP: "If the bribery charges have merit, and it appears they do, I don't want him in our caucus; I don't want him in our party; and I don't expect him to get any support from Democrats anywhere."

More ...

Some could take a lesson. Some certainly SHOULD! I think its called "having some modicum of ethics". But what do I know? I'm a liberal.

GOP Senators Who Voted For Clinton Impeachment Dead Silent On Libby

Bob Geiger on Huffington Post

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) was aghast. He was indignant as hell about how having a high public official involved in something like perjury and obstruction of justice can damage the very foundation on which our nation was built -- and he had the harsh words to show for it.

"By his words and deeds he chose to place himself above the law. By his words and deeds he has undermined the rule of law in America to the great harm of this nation," the Kansas Republican said. "By his own words and deeds, he has undermined the truth-finding function of the judiciary, at great harm to that branch of our government. By his words and deeds, he had done great harm to the notions of honesty and integrity that form the underpinnings of this great republic."

And here's the Brownback kicker: "We have lost many things over the past few months: trust in public officials, respect for the rule of law, confidence in the truth of the White House's public statements. But perhaps the most tragic loss has been the steady erosion of our societal standards."

That's Brownback in his closed-door impeachment statement on President Bill Clinton, that was read into the Congressional Record on February 12, 1999.

You didn't get all excited thinking he was commenting on that Scooter Libby thing, did you?

More stomach turning hypocracy on the right ...

Bush Evokes Revolutionary War to Bolster the U.S. Cause in Iraq

By JIM RUTENBERG / New York Times

MARTINSBURG, W.Va., July 4 —

Facing renewed wrangling with Democrats — and possibly some Republicans* — over continuing the Iraq war, President Bush on Wednesday took Independence Day as an opportunity to hark back to another bloody war with no apparent end in sight.

Reading aloud from an article about the first Fourth of July celebration, in Philadelphia in 1777, and its “grand exhibition of fireworks,” Mr. Bush told the audience of Air National Guard members and their families at the base here, “Our first Independence Day celebration took place in a midst of a war — a bloody and difficult struggle that would not end for six more years before America finally secured her freedom.”

Addressing National Guard members with the 167th Airlift Wing who were gathered in a cavernous airplane hangar here, he said, “Like those early patriots, you’re fighting a new and unprecedented war — pledging your lives and honor to defend our freedom and way of life.”

Full article ...

Wonkette comments:

Bush compares Iraq to the American Revolutionary War. But in the way, obviously, that makes the exact opposite of sense. Apparently the wealthy foreign occupying power are the scrappy colonists, and the local insurgents represent Great Britain.


Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.

June 26th CNN Article

It must be the liberal media bias at work.

An insight into insurgency

Red Dawn (1984)

The AC went out late yesterday afternoon on the hottest day of the year - 110*F at the height of it. By bed time the temperature in the house had risen to 89*F. Basically, the temperature had equalized with the out doors night time temperature.

In any case, sleep came hard so I stayed up for a while and caught most of the movie "Red Dawn", a 1984, "B" movie staring a very young Patrick Swayze and an equally young Charlie Sheen about the invasion of the United States (between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River) by the combined forces of the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Several teenagers headed for the mountains to hide out while family members were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and, in some cases, executed. In retaliation, the teenagers waged a insurgent style resistance to the occupying forces.

I was struck by how blatantly patriotic it all seemed when the insurgency was ours - against an invading army from foreign parts. It seems to me there are some lessons to be drawn from this "B" movie ... and some insights into the mentality of some of the insurgents in Iraq.

I'd never been particularly fond of the movie in the past. It hasn't improved much with age ... however, it does offer some interesting contemporary parallels that, in many ways, were prophetic. All you need to do is a little mental role reversal to see life from the other guy's point of view.

If you have a couple hours with nothing better to do, rent it and give it a watch.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Poll Question: "If there is an all-out war between the United States and various radical Muslim groups worldwide, who would you rather have in charge — Democrats or Republicans?"

The answer:
  • 41% said Democrats
  • 38% said Republicans
  • 9% thought either was would be OK
  • 12% Didn't know

Of course, we have to have some skepticism the validity of the poll ... it was conducted by Fox News ... who, in my opinion, are not above making up their own "facts".

The xenophobic killing of other people is usually a slam dunk issue favoring Republicans. They call it "national security". But, now, thanks to Bush, they can't even get a plurality of voters to buy into that line of horse pucky about their strength in the area of "national security" anymore.

On Patriotism

For all those pseudo-patriots out there who wrap themselves in the flag,, denouncing any descent as giving aid and comfort to an enemy and characterizing any questioning of authority as unpatriotic:

The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.

Sidney J. Harris (1917-1986)
Columnist for
the Chicago Sun-Times

Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill and calling for larger spurs and brighter beaks.

Richard Aldington (1892-1962)
English Poet and Writer

Apple Introduces 'I-Scooter' 'get-out-of-jail' gadget

Cupertino, CA, 7/3/07:

Impressed by Bush's successful partisan 'commutation' of Scooter Libby's jail sentence, Apple Computer announced they are rushing into production a brand new item. "We've been thinking along these lines for some time," said CEO Steve Jobs. "and, seeing the president commute Libby's jail term that way just lit a fire under us. We should have this new product in stores by the end of the week."

"We are calling it the 'I-Scooter', or our 'electronic get-out-of-jail-free' gadget." he said. "The way it works is this: "The moment you are arrested, you simply press a button - the product only has one button - which automatically enrolls you in the Republican Party, and give you an identity as a White House staff person. That's all there is to it. Of course this will be an expensive item and not for everyone. It is sort of a niche item and Democrats will be unable to obtain one for example."

More on that thought here ...

Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq

New U.S. data show how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of the war-torn nation.

By T. Christian Miller, (LA) Times Staff Writer
July 4, 2007

The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government's capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.

The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq — a mission criticized as being undermanned.

"These numbers are big," said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. "They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It's the coalition of the billing."

Read the rest of it here ...

While over 3,500 American military deaths are reported in Iraq ... the deaths of American contractors are not as rigorously reported and they are certainly not included in the total we read in the newspapers every day. Without their inclusion in the count, we are being misled about the true cost of this war.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Floods are judgment on society, say bishops

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Sunday Telegraph (UK)
2 July 2007

The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.

Bishop of Carlisle: Floods are judgment on society

The Bishop said pro-gay laws were to blame for the floods

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.

Read the rest of it ... god willing.

Does it ever occur to these arrogant S.O.B.s that, if these natural disasters are, in fact, the wrath of god ... that it could just as easily be an expression of his annoyance at ignorant, fundamentalist, hate-filled assholes like those presuming to know the will of god? Or at our willingness to tolerate them?

An Oldie but a Goodie ...

Bill Gates recently (in terms of geological history at this point, I'm sure) gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1 : Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grand parents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6 : If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7 : Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8 : Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9 : Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10 : Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11 : Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

When is a bishop like a suicide bomber?

The Independent (UK)
Published: 03 July 2007

On the face of it, the Bishop of Carlisle and the young man who staggered blazing from that Jeep at Glasgow Airport on Saturday afternoon don't have a lot in common. The Right Reverend Graham Dow is a grey-haired man with a twinkling smile, rarely armed with anything more lethal than a crozier.

That wannabe martyr - his 72 expectant virgins currently tapping their fingers impatiently in Paradise - had a head wreathed in fire and a Molotov cocktail in his hand. The Bishop of Carlisle is a diocesan bishop in the Church of England, not a sect commonly associated with acts of terror, while the as-yet-unnamed jihadi is, one guesses, an adherent of Wahabi Islam, a sect which very much is. And yet, on a spiritual level, it seems that they do share one thing. They both believe in a vindictive God.

Finish the thought here ...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Home, home on the range

The New Place -
About 4 miles down the road from the old place.

Floor Plan for the New House
(north - and front of the
house - is at the bottom of
the diagram, by the way.)

The gray areas are ceramic tile ... 16" tiles throughout the high traffic areas. The front of the house is a northern exposure ... not shown in the plan but evident in the photograph is a roughly 3' high wall around a small courtyard at the front entry, adjacent to the driveway. there's room for a table and a couple chairs - a great place for morning coffee with the newspaper.

Built in grill on the back patio.

My office off the living room has French doors. It has a built in "partners" desk with room enough for two people to work across the desk from each other without getting in each other's way. Along with the built in desk are built in book cases that will certainly come in handy.

The pool table is slated for the living room along with a conversation area (in what's labeled the dining area) ... sans TV. The TV goes in the family room and one alter to pop culture is enough for us.

I've lobbied successfully to put book cases in the living room conversation area provided I don't totally jam them up with books. My compromise is to put our growing collection of Southwestern pottery in the upper shelves ... out of the reach of the cats.

Candy gets BRs 2 and 3 plus the casita (with bath) at the front of the house, basically the North wing. Normally, the casita is used as guest quarters and is separate from the house. This unit was the model for the site. The casita was used as the sales office and it was connected to the main house with a doorway - which explains the $300+ fire door with deadbolt between the casita and the house.

The fireplace in the family room of this 2,300+ s.f. home is one of several upgrades.

Not shown is a doorway from the second bath to the side yard. At one point, someone had the idea of putting a pool on the property (there's certainly room) and the door would have allowed for a shower and changing area. Candy and I are considering putting in a resistance pool ... one of those narrow thigees with a current that lets you swim upstream for great distances without going anywhere at all. My vote is for a wading pool .... but I think it's probably a battle I can't win. Also not shown in the diagram is a sliding glass door from the family room out to the back patio.

Candy and I are currently fighting over where things will go, what furniture needs to be replaced with new stuff and what to trash.

Closing is scheduled for August 20th. We're shooting to close on our current house (provided we can find a buyer) a week or two later. I don't mind owning two houses for a little while, but I don't want to make a habit of it.