Saturday, September 29, 2007

Define "Selfish"

(this post is purely personal stuff, and should be skipped by serious readers)
I guess I'm getting old. Tonight, it came into my face in an odd way. It reminded me why I'm terminally single.
(story starts here):
I have a woman friend, who I love. But we can not live together (we've tried it, twice) and we're OK with that. So, we sometimes get together and end up having sex (old habits die hard), but there ain't much romance.
Tonight she asked if I wanted to "see a movie", which usually means "eat, drink, and end up in bed together". We've seen this scene before.
I was watching Baseball (and football, and soccer) and, well, lazy. So I said "not tonight".
Does this make old?
I like casual sex (hey, I've already said that I failed relationships 101), but sometimes it fails to excite me. Consider this the closest thing you'll read to my "singles" profile.
Added: Do you use spellcheck? Because I almost never do.

Taking a Poll

I just got off the phone, a call from a pollster. It was actually kind of fun, playing with the slanted questions. The poll was being conducted by a "taxpayers advocacy" group, and had lots of weasel phrases like "wasteful spending" and "government excess" in the questions. It was obvious what results the poll was designed to show, and I doubt that my answers will have any statistical significance, but it shows a certain political philosophy. The anti-tax crowd opposes the basic idea of a government providing social services as wasteful. So here's me, the liberal, saying "hey, I want a strong social safety net, and I'm willing to pay taxes to provide that." The person taking the poll seemed to have a hard time understanding my philosophy, and repeatedly asked me if I properly understood the question. The underlying attitude seemed to be "don't you know that taxes are bad?", but I wouldn't bite. Taxes aren't fun or sexy, but they are the price you pay for things like fire departments, schools, roads, and all the other societal needs that we take for granted. I'll re-use one of my favorite graphics now:

Fairly Ironic

Cernig at The NewsHoggers caught this:

Doubtless egged on by their own equally-crazed versions of Kyl and Lieberman, Iran's parliament has passed a non-binding resolution of its own:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's parliament on Saturday approved a nonbinding resolution labeling the CIA and the U.S. Army ``terrorist organizations,'' in apparent response to a Senate resolution seeking to give a similar designation to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The hard-line dominated parliament cited U.S. involvement in dropping nuclear bombs in Japan in World War II, using depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting the killings of Palestinians by Israel, bombing and killing Iraqi civilians, and torturing terror suspects in prisons.

``The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror,'' said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.

The resolution, which is seen as a diplomatic offensive against the U.S., urges Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government to treat the two as terrorist organizations. It also paves the way for the resolution to become legislation that - if ratified by the country's hardline constitutional watchdog - would become law. The government is expected to wait for U.S. reaction before making its decision.

In reality, there's a strong case to be made. The CIA does have a worse international record than Iran's revolutionary guard.

Added: Ahmadinejad also invited shrub to come and speak at any Iranian university shrub chose.

Wind Advisory

I'm watching a football game, and every few minutes there's a warning crawling across the screen "wind advisory for gusts up to 40mph". I cannot think of a more useless warning. Yeah, it's windy. That happens a lot here. Why bother with a warning?

Added: My back yard is a pine forest. Tree branches have fallen. Should I be doing something with duct tape to stop it?

Zymurgian is off on another river trip (probably left the spot in the photo this morning), one that I chose not to go on. I have a bit of a personality conflict with the trip's leader, but now I kinda wish I went.

I've enjoyed 'ol Bruce Springsteen for a long time (first saw him somewhere back in the 70's), so I'm glad he's speaking out:

“This is a song called Livin’ In the Future. But it’s really about what’s happening now. Right now. It’s kind of about how the things we love about America, cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battlin’ Boston… the Bill of Rights [holds up microphone, urging crowd to cheer] … v-twin motorcycles… Tim Russert’s haircut, trans-fats and the Jersey Shore… we love those things the way womenfolk love Matt Lauer.

But over the past six years we’ve had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeus corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and its people, an attack on the Constitution. And the loss of our young best men and women in a tragic war.

This is a song about things that shouldn’t happen here—happening here.”

What's catching your ear?

Congressional Stupidity

In the latest example of stupid "gotcha" politics, Mark Udall (CO-2) plans to introduce a bill condemning Lush Rimbaugh's "phony soldiers" statement. This is an obvious counter to the congressional condemnation of's "Betray-us" ad. And both are equally stupid, for the simple reason that congress should instead be protecting the 1st amendment of the constitution. Freedom of speech isn't limited to only inoffensive words.
I would never waste my time listening to Lush's bigoted, dishonest, arrogant bloviating, but (like the ACLU) I give him the right to speak. The MoveOn ad expressed an opinion, Lush expressed an opinion, and I'm expressing an opinion. Agree with the opinion, or disagree with the opinion, it should not be an issue for congressional condemnation. By playing political "gotcha" with these type of issues, both sides appear merely petty.
It's not like there are any more important issues for congress to attend to, are there?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Somewhat Good News

I'm glad to see the U.N. putting further sanctions against Iran on hold for now, insisting that the IAEA report in November be heard first.

Six key nations and the European Union agreed Friday to delay until November a new U.N. resolution that would toughen sanctions against Iran, waiting to see if Tehran answers questions about its disputed nuclear program.

A joint statement from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany with E.U. support said they would finalize the new resolution and bring it to a vote unless reports in November from the chief U.N. nuclear official and the European Union's foreign policy chief "show a positive outcome of their efforts."

The United States, Britain and France had been pushing for new sanctions now to pressure Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, but Russia and China wanted to give Tehran more time to comply with U.N. inspectors.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied, however, that the agreement was tantamount to a cave-in by the United States, which has been pushing for new sanctions for months.;_ylt=ArqVVX5p0dp54ct4uEkRXt2WwvIE

I continue to hope that we can tone down the rhetoric on Iran, and actually engage in dialogue, as we really don't need any more enemies in the area.

Of course, there are questions about Iran's nuclear program as to whether they are seeking weapons or energy. The right-wing seem certain that it is a weapons program, but I have yet to see any actual evidence (Sweaterman, please feel free to post the technical info if you get a chance; I bow to your expertise). Nuclear power for electricity makes sense for Iran, as they are growing more modern and generating electricity by burning oil is very inefficient and pollution intense (note the poster: we were happy to give the Shah nuclear power).

In the end, I trust El-Baradei and the IAEA a hell of a lot more than the neo-con war-whores.

Oh, and I liked this:

Can't Forget the Friday Boobie

I've gotta find some new photos, but here's a nice blue footed boobie.

Crazy Talk

A lot of crazy people said crazy things this week. Somehow, I can't drum up much outrage. I expect crazy people to say crazy things.
So here's my simple test: Who would you rather have a conversation with?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Lush Rimbaugh?
(No substitutions)

Added: I'd choose Mahmoud, although the conversation would be somewhat limited. He doesn't speak English, I don't speak Farsi, and neither one of us is fluent in conversant Arabic. And I bet it would still be more coherent than trying to talk with Lush.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good Satire 2

Once again, Andy Borowitz made me laugh. Tell me if it's wrong:

Just days after asserting that there are no homosexuals in Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today invited United Nations inspectors into his country to search for homosexuals.

“We have nothing to hide,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. “You can search the entire country – even the airport bathrooms.”

While some senior U.S. diplomats expressed skepticism about the Iranian president’s offer to allow U.N. inspectors to search his country for homosexuals, Mr.Ahmadinejad attempted to silence the skeptics by permitting the use of “advanced gaydar technology” as part of the proposed inspections.

“In Iran we have the most advanced gaydar in the world and we are prepared to share it with you,” he said.

In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, it was unclear as to who would lead the U.N.’s inspection efforts, but most diplomats assumed that the task would fall to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

At a press conference at the United Nations, Mr. ElBaradei acknowledged that he had no previous experience searching for homosexuals, but said that if chosen to lead the inspection effort he would make sure that the inspections were “rigorous and thorough.”

“The possibility that Iran may possess homosexuals is a serious matter to the world
community,” Mr. ElBaradei said. “There has been evidence for some time that Iran may be attempting to build a Broadway musical.”

We need this kind of satire (and to all my gay friends, understand that the joke is subtle.)

Limits on Help

I'm a helpful guy. I'll help you move. I'll help you with emotional trauma. I'll feed and/or house you if I can.
But I have my limits.
Tonight, I got a test of limited.
A good friend of mine is moving out of state, for good reasons (helping his family). We have a trailer packed.
Then, in a typical case of bad planning, he needed to wire up to the trailer lights. There are no trailer light connections on his truck. It's dark. So, he's trying to wire trailer lights from scratch. And maybe I'm an asshole, but I hate automobile wiring. I don't want any part of it (I had a job installing car stereo systems years back. I hate automobile wires).
Never attempt to help someone who's wiring trailer lights. It's a recipe for disaster.
Understand, to do this you must spend time underneath the backside of a vehicle. I've milked goats and cows, and by comparison, they have better backsides than vehicles. And then you see that the muffler is loose. So there's another be the dark...
I don't do trailer lights anymore (unless I have to).

Daniel Ellsberg

Sometimes, the big guys say it better than I can. Daniel Ellsberg, in a speech Sep. 20th:

I think nothing has higher priority than averting an attack on Iran, which I think will be accompanied by a further change in our way of governing here that in effect will convert us into what I would call a police state.

If there’s another 9/11 under this regime … it means that they switch on full extent all the apparatus of a police state that has been patiently constructed, largely secretly at first but eventually leaked out and known and accepted by the Democratic people in Congress, by the Republicans and so forth.

Will there be anything left for NSA to increase its surveillance of us? … They may be to the limit of their technical capability now, or they may not. But if they’re not now they will be after another 9/11.

And I would say after the Iranian retaliation to an American attack on Iran, you will then see an increased attack on Iran – an escalation – which will be also accompanied by a total suppression of dissent in this country, including detention camps.

It’s a little hard for me to distinguish the two contingencies; they could come together. Another 9/11 or an Iranian attack in which Iran’s reaction against Israel, against our shipping, against our troops in Iraq above all, possibly in this country, will justify the full panoply of measures that have been prepared now, legitimized, and to some extent written into law. …

Please go read the whole thing. I'll wait.

Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred. It’s not just a question that a coup lies ahead with the next 9/11. That’s the next coup, that completes the first.

The last five years have seen a steady assault on every fundamental of our Constitution, … what the rest of the world looked at for the last 200 years as a model and experiment to the rest of the world – in checks and balances, limited government, Bill of Rights, individual rights protected from majority infringement by the Congress, an independent judiciary, the possibility of impeachment.

Is it alarmist? You bet. If you are not alarmed, you're not paying attention.

And on the other hand, the people who have this unrestrained power are crazy. Not entirely, but they have crazy beliefs.

And the question is what then, what can we do about this? We are heading towards an insane operation. It is not certain. It is likely. … I want to try to be realistic myself here, to encourage us to do what we must do, what is needed to be done with the full recognition of the reality. Nothing is impossible.

What I’m talking about in the way of a police state, in the way of an attack on Iran is not certain. Nothing is certain, actually. However, I think it is probable, more likely than not, that in the next 15, 16 months of this administration we will see an attack on Iran. Probably. Whatever we do.

And … we will not succeed in moving Congress probably, and Congress probably will not stop the president from doing this. And that’s where we’re heading. That’s a very ugly, ugly prospect.

I have to express my own belief: if we attack Iran, America as we knew it will be dead. The economic repercussions alone will destroy our way of life. The diplomatic repercussions will leave America as a global pariah, standing alone. In the eyes of the Middle East, we will truly be at war with Islam, and they will retaliate.

In the wake of the Lieberman/Kyl amendment, this is a very real possibility. And it is truly frightening.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm going to throw out a few different stories on Iraq, then make some stupid comments, and hopefully, find some logical conclusion.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has listed Iraq as the third-most corrupt nation on the planet. Somehow, Haiti, winner of the 2006 Corruption World Cup (Iraq won the bronze that year, too) is no longer as corrupt as Baghdad.

The ranking comes as the State Department has barred its anti-corruption officials from publicly testifying to the House oversight committee about how bad the corruption situation is in Iraq. Maybe that goes a ways toward explaining why Transparency International considers 19 countries less corrupt than the United States.

Well, that makes me feel much better about all our progress. Of course, there is always Blackwater:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 25 -- A confrontation between the U.S. military and the StateDepartment is unfolding over the involvement of Blackwater USA in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square Sept. 16, bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions between the military and private security companies in Iraq, according to U.S. military and government officials.

In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department's authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," the official said.

"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term." The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis."This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

And the State Department is being held accountable, right? Here comes Henry:

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - A leading Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of interfering in congressional inquiries into corruption in Iraq's government and the activities of U.S. security firm Blackwater.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman said State Department officials had told the Oversight and Government Reform Committee he chairs they could not provide details of corruption in Iraq's government unless the information was treated as a "state secret" and not revealed to the public.

"You are wrong to interfere with the committee's inquiry," Waxman said in a letter to Rice. "The State Department's position on this matter is ludicrous," added Waxman, a vocal opponent of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the letter or Waxman's allegations of interference but it has in the past dismissed the California lawmaker's comments as partisan.

Waxman said security contractor Blackwater, which was involved in an incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed last week, said they could not hand over documents relevant to an investigation without State Department approval.

"Congress has a constitutional prerogative to examine the impacts that corruption within the Iraqi ministries and the activities of Blackwater may have on the prospects for political reconciliation in Iraq," Waxman wrote to Rice.

BLACKWATER UPDATE....Apparently there's a major State-Defense bureaucratic battle brewing over the role of Blackwater contractors in Iraq:

"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath [of the shootings in Nisoor Square last week], and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."

...."This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone — even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

....A State Department official asked why the military is shifting the question to State "since the DOD has more Blackwater contractors than we do, including people doing PSD [personal security detail] for them....They've [Blackwater] basically got contracts with DOD that are larger than the contracts with State."

There are plenty of other juicy quotes in the story too, including one from a Lt. Colonel who — if I'm reading it right — says that no one believes Blackwater's story that it was Iraqis who fired first in the Nisoor Square incident.

In related news, David Kurtz reports that (a) the State Department has refused to allow Blackwater to testify at congressional oversight hearings, (b) Condoleezza Rice has also refused to testify, and (c) nobody else from State will testify either unless it's done in closed session. In other words, Blackwater's actions, just like its employees, are in a legal limbo that prevents any effective oversight from either congress or the judicial system. Nice work if you can get it.

Okay, that's not a surprise with this administration. But maybe congress should take this into account before debating this:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will ask Congress Wednesday to approve nearly $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, increasing initial projections by more than a third.

In remarks prepared for a Senate hearing, Gates says the extra money is necessary to buy vehicles that can protect troops against roadside bombs, refurbish equipment worn down by combat and consolidate U.S. bases in Iraq. A copy of the remarks was obtained by The Associated Press.

In that prepared testimony, Gates said, "I know that Iraq and other difficult choices America faces in the war on terror will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the president and in the wider public debate."

"Considering this, I would like to close with a word about something I know we can all agree on — the honor, courage and great sense of duty we have witnessed in our troops since September 11th," his testimony said.;_ylt=AplKF1tMQ8r5Q4QdgIpr33GWwvIE

After all, if we don't waste $190 billion in Iraq, we might be tempted to spend $35 billion on children's health care. Instead, we can have this:

Reuters reports civil war violence on Tuesday; major attacks:

'DIYALA - A U.S. soldier was killed in Diyala province when an explosion hit his vehicle, U.S. forces said.
BAGHDAD - Two car bombs killed six people and wounded 20 in the Zayouna district of eastern Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. . .
BAGHDAD - Twelve bodies were found in different parts of Baghdad on Monday, police said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded four in eastern Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb near a police station wounded seven people, including a policeman, in the Karrada district of central Baghdad,
police said. . .
MOSUL - A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up near a police colonel, wounding the officer and nine others in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .
FALLUJA - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and wounded another in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. . .
BASRA - A suicide car bomb killed three people in an attack targeting a police station in the southern Shi'ite city of Basra, police and a health official said. Up to 20 people were wounded. Basra lies 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad. . .
KIRKUK - A roadside bomb wounded two people in southern Kirkuk, police said.
HAWIJA - Hussein Ali Saleh, head of Hawija City Council, was wounded when a suicide car bomber targeted his convoy on a road near the town of Hawija, 70 km (40 miles) southwest of the city of Kirkuk, police said. Two of his guards were wounded.'

Look, I don't care how many times shrub says "progress", the facts just keep getting worse. I could go on about the refugee crises, cholera, or the destruction of archaeological sites, but the reality is simple: The sooner we leave Iraq, the sooner Iraq may heal. Our continued occupation will only continue to make the situation worse.

GM and UAW

I admit that I was truly surprised to wake up to the news of the strike settlement between GM and the UAW. I had expected the strike to become a long power struggle. First, I'm pro-union. I believe that organised labor is good for America by helping maintain a level of stability for the working class.
But I'm also quite cynical. Our current corporations are much more concerned about quarterly returns for the investor class, and workers are seen as a cost to be reduced. It's a short-sighted business philosophy, but in our current era of globalization it is pervasive.
So I expected that GM would hold out in an attempt to break the union. Pensions and benefits are so last century. The CEO's pay would allow them to wait the workers out, or so I thought.
The real problem that faces GM is not workers pay and benefits, but the failure to make new innovative products. Simply put, GM is no longer the leader in making good automobiles. The car that is most in demand? The Toyota Prius. GM doesn't make a car that competes. If U.S. automakers want to thrive, they need to make innovative automobiles with higher fuel efficiency, alternative fuel capability, electric cars, and (of course) greater quality and reliability.
I'm really glad to see the settlement, as it shows that organized labor still has a presence in America. But we need a hell of a lot more of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beard Season

This is a boring personal thing (as opposed to the boring political things), but I'm entering beard season. Those who know me are used to this. I wear a full beard in winter, and a slight goatee in summer. It's been my way since I was 15 (yeah, I could grow a full beard at 15), and with our recent frost, I stopped shaving. That was on Friday. Now I get to spend the next week or so looking like a derelict.

Harsh Liberty

Our shrub has an interesting way of phrasing things:

I can think of no better way to work toward freedom than to strategize with leaders from around the world who are willing to take the harsh steps necessary to spread liberty.

If Iraq is an example of the "harsh steps", maybe we should rethink the whole "spreading liberty" thing.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Today is the 50th anniversary of the "Arkansas 9" which effectively led to school desegregation in the south, yet racism is still widespread in America. The case of the "Jena 6" is only the latest example.

When the word "racism" is used, most immediately think of relations between white Americans and African-Americans, but it applies much more broadly than that. Look at the whole immigration debate. Or the mainstream view of the Middle East. There is a frequent tendency to demonize the "other".

Here in my region, the group most likely to be derided with negative racist stereotypes are Native Americans, followed by Hispanics. Simply put, they are the most visible minority in the area. The local bigots probably hate black folks, too, but there just aren't as many of them around here.

I've always had a hard time understanding prejudice. I grew up in San Francisco, in a working class neighborhood. It was about as multi-ethnic as you could possibly find. Because I grew up playing with kids with a variety of skin color, I thought it wasn't important. Until I was old enough to see that the rest of the country wasn't like my neighborhood. During the civil rights movement it was hard for me to understand why people had to fight for equality. I though all people should have equal rights, for the simple reason that we're all people.

It seems simple enough, but there is a common mind-set that sees the world in a framework of "us vs. them". Perhaps it is a vestige of tribalism, but we now live in a global world where tribal definitions no longer apply.

Which brings me back to the current American attitude towards the Middle East. Many Americans were willing to embrace the war on Iraq after 9/11 because they saw all Arabs as "them". Today they are reacting to Amadinejad with the same racial hatred (OK, he's an easy target) , but I wonder how much the public understands of the history of American-Iranian relations.
May I make a simple suggestion? When you think a group of people is the "other", stop and eat, drink, and yes, have sex with them. You'll realize that they are just people. They may have different habits, but they still have the same feelings and hopes that you do.

A Side Note on the SCHIP Bill

One interesting side of the SCHIP bill is its funding source (yeah, shrub plans to veto it, so this post is mostly irrelevant). The bill would pay for children's health care by raising the tax on cigarettes by $.61 per pack, which makes me wonder if this would be a stable source of funding.
Allow me to throw out a personal perspective: I'm a smoker. While I've tried to quit multiple times, I'm still a nicotine addict. My state sees taxing cigarettes as a politically safe way to raise revenues, as a tax on "sin". But here's where it gets problematic: every time the tax goes up, I cut down my smoking. The tax increase is actually good for me, as I damage my health less for financial savings, but it doesn't help the state's revenue.
I don't have a problem with raising the cigarette tax (heck, if they raise it enough, I might actually quit), but I question it as a reliable source of funds. The percentage of smokers in the population has been steadily dropping, and the remaining smokers are (like myself) smoking less. It's an interesting conundrum.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quoting Others

Hunter (at the place you must already know) has this:

Congratulations on your purchase of your new 110th Congress! These care and feeding instructions will help ensure many years of future enjoyment of your Congress: please read them carefully.


As packaged, your new Congress contains:

  • 1 Capitol (white)
  • 435 live Representatives (also mostly white)
  • 100 live Senators (mostly blazingly, translucently white)
  • Congress Chow, in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in cash
  • A variety of checks and balances. You may set these aside: they don't
    actually do anything.


  1. Soon after installing your new Congress, a green, cash-rich buildup may occur. This buildup is a normal part of the ecological balance in your Congress; the murky green colors will fade slightly as the ratio of legislators to beneficial lobbyists finds a natural balance.
  1. Do not expose your Congress to direct sunlight, as this may cause excessive "loss" of Senators and Representatives. In order to best ensure the health of your Congress, keep it in a dimly lit place, preferably near a variety of restaurants.
  1. If your Congress begins looking drab, place an American flag behind the tank. This will stimulate your Congressmen into a variety of unusual displays. When the effect fades, add more flags.
  1. Do not taunt your Congress. Their feelings are easily hurt, and may result in uncontrollable, deafening wailing. If this happens, add additional flags.
  1. A certain amount of sexual perversion is normal. If your household includes children, place your Congress in a location where children will not have direct access to it. Positioning your Congress away from telephone and other communications equipment will help prevent a buildup of prostitutes.
  1. As normal behavior, your Senators and Representatives will travel in schools. You may notice portions of your Congress from time to time erupt in panic over an unseen enemy, usually hippies or communists. This is normal, and will usually resolve itself through a series of sternly worded but ineffectual bills.
  1. Your Congress is a carefully organized hierarchical society. Watch them work together to build highways, bridges, and overfunded vanity projects. Do not, however, expect them to show interest in you or acknowledge your presence in any way. If that's what you wanted, you should have bought a dog.
  1. Under optimal conditions, your Congress may develop one or two Presidential Candidates. The bright colors and dramatic displays of these creatures can provide hours of entertainment. While Presidential Candidates may add excitement to your Congress, note that they are territorial and prone to fighting: keep Candidates separate as much as possible. Also, be aware that Presidential Candidates require ten times the amount of nutrition of other legislators, so feed regularly.
  1. Clean your Congress every two years to remove buildup and prevent disease. Wipe your Congress with a disinfecting solution made up of cursory debate, weakly contested primaries, and embarrassingly shallow campaign coverage. It won't make the slightest bit of difference, but what the hell -- it will give you something to do.

All sales final. No refunds. May exchange for identically dysfunctional Congress only.

And then I read this over at Girls Are Pretty, and it sort of make sense:

Today you’re going into the jungle to hunt and kill some toucans. Along the way you’ll stumble upon a tribe of savages who will think that you are their God because you look like the cave painting someone did of their God one time, and they’ll all bow down to you and tell you you can have anything you want as long as you finally make the trees bear fruit again. If you don’t make the trees bear fruit again, they’ll burn you because that’s what it said to do within the instructions someone once wrote on the cave wall near the painting of God.

“Okay,” you tell them. “First thing I need is as many dead toucans as you can bring to me.”

They run out into the woods and start strangling toucans. They bring back to you a big pile of the birds and lay them all at your feet. You start to bag them up when the savages ask about the trees bearing fruit. You’ll say, “I have to confess, I don’t know how to…”

Just then, one of the savages will point up at the trees. Bananas will be growing from their branches like you’re looking at them in fast-forward. God, the real God, must have made that happen. He must hate toucans too and he’s rewarding you for getting so many of them to die by letting you keep your life as well as all those toucans. Congratulations and have fun eating toucan salad sandwiches for the next year and a half.

OK, it's an analogy stretch, but it makes sense to me.


Explanation: Today, the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south at 0951 UT. Known as the equinox, the astronomical event marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the south. Equinox means equal night and with the Sun on the celestial equator, Earth dwellers will experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Of course, for those in the south, the days will grow longer with the Sun marching higher in the sky as summer approaches. A few weeks after the September Equinox of 1994, the Crew of the shuttle orbiter Endeavour recorded this image of the Sun poised above the Earth's limb. Glare illuminates Endeavour's vertical tail (pointing toward the Earth) along with radar equipment in the payload bay.See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.


Real Money

Last night, Zymurgian and I were talking about the economics of the war in Iraq. I pointed out what else we could be doing with the money .
CHICAGO, Sept. 21 -- The money spent on one day of the Iraq war could buy homes for almost 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children, or could outfit 1.27 million homes with renewable electricity, according to the American Friends Service Committee, which displayed those statistics on large banners in cities nationwide Thursday and Friday.

The war is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, according to the group's analysis of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes.

We need to stop bleeding our country. We need the money here.

Another River Pic

Because I wanted one.
Added: Please engage in a moment of "noise" for Marcel Marceau.

Jerry Joseph

One of my favorite musicians, Jerry Joseph (, is playing in town tonight. Though Jerry isn't a big name in music, he is a big influence. He's written many songs for Widespread Panic (, and with Dave Schools formed the indie-rock monster that was Stockholm Syndrome. Jerry's own description of his style is good:

"It's very hard to be objective. The show's sound is an angry little bald
man screaming about whatever for two hours. I'm a little guy with a Napoleon

Jerry is a loud, in your face, highly literate, political songwriter. It's a thinking person's rock (some of his lyrics only make sense if you've read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tolstoy, Chomsky or Bukowsky), and definately unique. Video links at Jerry's site. Added: link to one:

And if you like that, you can go here to download live shows (free and legal):
There are about 200 live recordings of Jerry with the Jackmormons and over 20 Stockholm Syndrome shows to choose from (the archive has over 43,000 shows by over 2,500 bands to choose from, so it's a wonderful place to browse for new music).