Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Entrepreneurship At Work Worldwide

...For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.

“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”

Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of pets in the United States.

No one knows exactly how melamine (which is not believed to be particularly toxic) became so fatal in pet food, but its presence in any form of American food is illegal.

The link to China has set off concerns among critics of the Food and Drug Administration that ingredients in pet food as well as human food, which are increasingly coming from abroad, are not being adequately screened.

... In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.

For their part, Chinese officials dispute any suggestion that melamine from the country could have killed pets. But regulators here on Friday banned the use of melamine in vegetable proteins made for export or for use in domestic food supplies.

... Melamine is the new scam of choice, they say, because urea — another nitrogen-rich chemical — is illegal for use in pig and poultry feed and can be easily detected in China as well as in the United States.

“People use melamine scrap to boost nitrogen levels for the tests,” said the manager of the animal feed factory. “If you add it in small quantities, it won’t hurt the animals.”

The manager, who works at a small animal feed operation here that consists of a handful of storage and mixing areas, said he has mixed melamine scrap into animal feed for years.

He said he was not currently using melamine. But he then pulled out a plastic bag containing what he said was melamine powder and said he could dye it any color to match the right feed stock.

He said that melamine used in pet food would probably not be harmful. “Pets are not like pigs or chickens,” he said casually, explaining that they can afford to eat less protein. “They don’t need to grow fast.”

I like that. Children aren't like pigs or chickens either. At least, they aren't in some parts of the world,

but as to whether or not that includes America depends on their family's income.

This isn't a China problem. This is an unregulated global corporate agribusiness problem. Regardless of what they claim, businesses importing and selling this tripe have the responsibilty to assess and quality control their product.

But, it's nice to see American and Chinese based global free enterprise have so much in common. Ruth at Correntewire points to another thing they have in common:

BANGKOK, Thailand - The United States and China want to amend a major report by U.N.-sponsored climate researchers to play down its conclusion that quick, affordable action can limit the worst effects of global warming, according to documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press...

Business as usual.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Eclipse of the West

In the New York Times Book Review today:

Decline and Fall
Steven Coates

On the long hot summer afternoon of Aug. 9, 378, near Adrianople in the Roman province of Thrace, Gothic tribesmen — Germanic warriors from across the Danube — annihilated the field army of the Eastern Roman Empire, butchering thousands of soldiers and the unpopular emperor Valens. But only in a narrow sense are those hours of slaughter the point of the title of Alessandro Barbero’s “Day of the Barbarians.” For as Barbero convincingly maintains, the battle of Adrianople, though little known today, “changed the course of world history” and began the chain of events that led to the sack of Rome in 410 and, soon after, to the inexorable eclipse of the West.

Barbero, a professor of medieval studies at the University of Piemonte Orientale in Vercelli, Italy, strongly suggests that it didn’t have to be that way, in no small part because these Goths, the first to enter the empire in force, came not as invaders but as immigrants. Despite the popular notion that it was already tottering in the fourth century, Rome was still mighty, defended by an army of over half a million men. It was also an empire that “barbarians wanted to join.” Its “open and composite” governing class promoted a universalist “melting pot” ideology, and the army, Barbero shows, was an assimilation machine, efficiently melding willing barbarians into its multiethnic, multicultural polity.

So in many ways it had been natural for Valens to acquiesce when, two years before the fateful battle, a mass of desperate Gothic tribes, already dependent on the Romans economically and terrorized by the Huns, begged to be allowed to cross the Danube and settle within the empire’s bounds. The new immigrants would pay taxes, supply recruits for the Roman army and farm the empire’s underpopulated northeast corner (Adrianople was in what is now European Turkey). But what might have been a grand opportunity turned into a colossal failure of crisis management, one that exposed the empire’s every failing and fissure. Barbero’s narrative skillfully exploits the tensions inherent in these events; it is excruciating to watch the scales tilt grain by grain against the Romans...

Now somehow that sounds familiar. What does it remind me of?

Or maybe it was this:

Although it doesn't repeat itself, history does rhyme, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Max Cleland Gives the Figurative Finger to Dear Leader

...and his sycophant Wolf Blitzer, too. Watch it and read it at Atrios's place.

...this is not a test of the president's will, you know? And Congress is not trying to tell the generals what to do.

The truth of the matter is, there is no strategy that the president is telling the generals to do. You see, that's the problem.

I mean, more and more, generals are coming out of the military, particularly the Army, and saying the war is unwinnable militarily. It is essentially a political war that we're going into. And we're on the wrong side of it. We're trying to occupy a nation that doesn't want us there.

Secondly, we're going after the wrong enemy here. Al Qaeda is morphing around the world. They morphed most recently into North Africa. And George Tenet's book just coming out in the next few days says his concern is still about al Qaeda in the United States.

So, we need to withdraw from Iraq, withdraw our ground forces from there, because we are not part of the.. solution. We're part of the problem there.

The United State of Sanctimony

Sarah and Xan point to real terrorist activity going on right here at home that somehow Saints Guiliani and McCain, along with the main$tream talking heads, seem to ignore.

All that delusion about a democratic republic has been determined to be Satan inspired nonsense designed to keep the Righteous at bay.

This has been the rationale the inner circle of the Rethuglican party used to steal the last couple of Presidential elections, and believe it, even if their approval rating is in the lower 20 percentile, they'll use it again next year (thanks, Avedon).

They don't care about the lifestyle of their candidate(s), it's the Higher Cause they facilitate that's important. And all that money the government has, even if at this point it's all electrons and promises? That goes to the Righteous, too, by virtue of their sanctity.

Still, there are a few people with money that manage to keep a couple of rational voices talking. Keith Olbermann let the Divine St. Rudy have it with both barrels this week:

Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center, and the breaking of what Senator Obama has aptly termed "9/11 Fever," it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history's great ironies.

Only in this America of the early 21st Century could it be true, that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation, and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded, would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, more over, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.

And now, that Mayor - whose most profound municipal act in the wake of that nightmare was to suggest the postponement of the election to select his own successor - has gone even a step beyond these M.C. Escher constructions of history.

"If any Republican is elected president - and I think obviously I would be best at this - we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it. "

Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was "back... on defense," Mr. Giuliani continued:

"But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer."

...Yours, Mr. Giuliani, is the same chilling nonchalance of the madman, of the proselytizer who has moved even from some crude framework of politics and society, into a virtual Roman Colosseum of carnage, and a conceit over your own ability - and worthiness - to decide, who lives and who dies.

Rather than a reasoned discussion - rather than a political campaign advocating your own causes and extolling your own qualifications - you have bypassed all the intermediate steps, and moved directly to trying to terrorize the electorate into viewing a vote for a Democrat, not as a reasonable alternative and an inalienable right ... but as an act of suicide.

...Even to grant that that formula - whether posed by Republican or Democrat - is somehow not the most base, the most indefensible, the most Un-American electioneering in our history - even if it is somehow acceptable to assign "casualties" to one party and 'safety' to the other - even if we have become so profane in our thinking that it is part of our political vocabulary to view counter-terror as one party's property and the other's liability... on what imaginary track record does Mr. Giuliani base his boast?

Which party held the presidency on September 11th, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe, and the remains of the dead, recovered - and not being used to fill pot-holes, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted - the postponement elections - and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?

Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?

Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik's Organized Crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?

Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party rode roughshod over Americans' rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counter-productive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq, than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?

Drop this argument, sir. You will lose it...

Unfortunately, the only people the argument will lose will be the 70% of Americans that are reality based people.

You know, the kinds of people the Rethuglicans are working hard to purge from the voter registration lists. For the Glory of God, of course.

While the Soros wing of the Carlyle Group has its advocates, the really big money of the Company still rides on the Dominion, and it won't stop trying to keep the public asking all the wrong questions about the world we live in.

The result of this is a exponential expansion of the garbage in-garbage out meme propagation process.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cornered Market

Paying more for gasoline this week? Suspect there's a method to this madness? You'd be right, and the Dark Wraith nails the pattern.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Somewhere, a village has lost another idiot

Pharyngula catches another live one, where they find that Democratic Congress is conspiring to make Al Gore look right:

...As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects...

Now this may be satire, or it may not be. Like Laden says, there's a fine line between serious and satire. In the multiverse, we call it a semipermeable brane.

[ Carina Nebula Panorama from Hubble]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Protection Racket

via Atrios:

MANCHESTER, N.H. - - Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.

“If any Republican is elected president - - and I think obviously I would be the best at this - - we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it,” Giuliani said...

Well, obviously.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Does Halliburton Have a Headquarters in Dubai?

Will the ursine defecate in the arbor?

Hell, yes, Steve Clemmons.

Not that Wolfie didn't know or anything.

I find Blumenthal's observations interesting, too.

...State Department officials familiar with the details of this matter confirmed to me that Shaha Ali Riza was detailed to the State Department and had unescorted access while working for Elizabeth Cheney. Access to the building requires a national security clearance or permanent escort by a person with such a clearance. But the State Department has no record of having issued a national security clearance to Riza...

Everybody hints about the Mossad. Nobody ever mentions or thinks about the Saudi secret police. Who do you suppose might have better motive, opportunity, or financing?

About Time

However, I will believe in the sudden growth of a collective spine when I actually see it:

WASHINGTON - A historic veto showdown assured, Democratic leaders agreed Monday on legislation that requires the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from
Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

"No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech in which he accused the president of living in a state of denial about events in Iraq more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion...

I wish 'em luck. But the Saudis will be pissed: their Consigliere wanted a reduced presence, not a complete withdrawal. It may be, however, that they know this will get sunk. It may be simply designed to do some pre-2008 posturing.

No Other Conclusion is Possible

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Water Roulette in the Warming Greenhouse

A change in the world's weather patterns means that they're much less predictable.

Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

Hey, the Gulf Coast of the United States is developed. Just not civilized.

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields 40 per cent of the country's agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation's farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

A ban on irrigation, which would remain in place until May next year, spells possible ruin for thousands of farmers, already debt-laden and in despair after six straight years of drought.

Lovers of the Australian landscape often cite the poet Dorothea Mackellar who in 1904 penned the classic lines: "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains." But the land that was Mackellar's muse is now cracked and parched, and its mighty rivers have shrivelled to sluggish brown streams. With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared...

Environmentalists point to the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El NiƱo weather patterns, blamed on global warming. They also note Australia's role in poisoning the Earth's atmosphere. Australians are among the world's biggest per-capita energy consumers, and among the top producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Despite that, the country is one of only two industrialised nations - the United States being the other - that have refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol. The governments argue that to do so would harm their economies.

Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia's farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees.

Faced with criticism from even conservative sections of the media, Mr Howard realised that he had misread the public mood - grave faux pas in an election year. Last month's report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted more frequent and intense bushfires, tropical cyclones, and catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The report also said there would be up to 20 per cent more droughts by 2030. And it said the annual flow in the Murray-Darling basin was likely to fall by 10-25 per cent by 2050. The basin, the size of France and Spain combined, provides 85 per cent of the water used nationally for irrigation...

Excerpts from UN's IPCC report on the threat of global warming to Australia and New Zealand:

"As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in south and east Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and eastern regions."

* "Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland's tropics. Other sites at risk include the Kakadu wetlands ... and the alpine areas of both countries."

* "Ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and south-east Queensland (Australia) and Northland to Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) are projected to exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by 2050."

* "Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increases in droughts and fires."

* "The region has substantial adaptive capacity due to well-developed economies and scientific and technical capabilities, but there are considerable constraints to implementation ... Natural systems have limited adaptive capacity."

But not to worry, because, you know, Drudge sez global warming's a hoax, 'cause, you know, the 2006 hurricane season wuz normal and New Orleans ain't underwater again.

This is likely because the El Nino pattern built over the Pacific last year, bringing Category 5 hurricanes to the Western Pacific instead of the Atlantic last year.

And leaving central Australia dry as a bone.

Incidently, it doesn't help that interpreting the data has become more difficult, with different factions arguing about what things mean, and some estimates just plain wrong.

Of course, this is what happens when governmental data has to pass through a Regent University (or equivalent) political filter, with Big Oil funding their own think tank propagandists.

We Don' Need No Steenkin' Congrezz...

Scott Horton @ Harpers, via Lukery, via cd,

In June, a case is slated to go to trial in Northern Virginia that will mark a first step in a plan to silence press coverage of essential national security issues. The plan was hatched by Alberto Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty—the two figures at the center of a growing scandal over the politicization of the prosecutorial process. This may in fact be the most audacious act of political prosecution yet. But so far, it has gained little attention and is poorly understood.

In the summer of 2005, Alberto Gonzales paid a visit to British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith. A British civil servant who attended told me “it was quite amazing really. Gonzales was obsessed with the Official Secrets Act. In particular, he wanted to know exactly how it was used to block newspapers and broadcasters from running news stories derived from official secrets and how it could be used to criminalise persons who had no formal duty to maintain secrets. He saw it as a panacea for his problems: silence the press...

...Could the United States gag the media to prevent its publication of classified information? “It depends on the circumstances.” Gonzales explained, “There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility...

Rather than approach Congress with a proposal to enact the British Official Secrets Act—a proposal which would certainly be defeated even in the prior Republican-led Congress—Gonzales decided to spin it from whole cloth. He would reconstrue the Espionage Act of 1917 to include the essence of the Official Secrets Act, and he would try to get this interpretation ratified in the Bush Administration's “vest pocket” judicial districts—the Eastern District of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit. The key man for this project was to be Paul J. McNulty, the man he soon picked as his deputy.

In May 2005, they had found the perfect case. Lawrence Franklin, a key aide to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, passed a classified policy memorandum to two employees of AIPAC, a lobbying group geared to advocate Israeli interests with the U.S. Government. It seems clear that Franklin and the two AIPAC employees had a common object, which was to invite critical public attention to U.S. policy towards Iran.

The case was passed to Paul J. McNulty while he was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Even at that point, Virginia's Eastern District had a well-established reputation as the most political U.S. attorney's office in the country. Among McNulty's key cases had been the “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh and the mentally unhinged Moroccan “twentieth hijacker” from 9/11, Zararias Moussaoui. Both cases had been sensationalized in the media. Less well known were the dozen odd cases of contractor abuse emerging from the Abu Ghraib scandal, investigated by the Pentagon's CID, and referred to McNulty. Nothing ever came of those cases; indeed, McNulty made sure of that.

McNulty quickly concluded that the AIPAC case would provide the perfect opportunity for the Gonzales project—converting the Espionage Act into the equivalent of the British Official Secrets Act...

Let's imagine America with the Gonzales-McNulty contortion of the law in effect. We'd never know how the Bush Administration came to embrace torture as a tactic in the war on terror. We'd know nothing about the torture-by-proxy system developed with key administration allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen—not to mention the system of “blacksites” established by the CIA in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. We wouldn't know that the administration was violating the FISA statute with a massive surveillance program. And to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, that's just the known unknowns.

This would be a dream world for Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. And a nightmare for the rest of us. And the AIPAC case could, if it succeeds, bring the nation much closer to its realization.

I am sure if they dig far enough back, say to the Civil War, or the War of 1812, and have the correctly worded signing statements approved by pocket Federal judges, Abu Gonzales and his Dear Leader can do pretty much whatever they want.

If they start doing this, why imagine all the laws passed since 1776 that can be creatively interpreted with the right signing statements.

Especially, as Darth Cheney is so fond of reminding everyone, in a time of War.

Rome in Warp Drive

The ancient Republic existed for a long time before it became an Empire.

The image of a burning cross , an anathema to those of us favoring America as a Union Republic, has become the icon of a major Christian sect.

Its political arm is referred to as Christian Reconstruction.

These are the people Der Decider has decided should run the inner machine of American government.

If there was ever a doubt that chaos is the plan of multiple factions jockeying for control of this land, that this was ever allowed and implemented should end that doubt.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Civil Discourse

What the Dark Wraith saith.

A Glock is a useless waste of engineering.

All due respect, to those of you who own guns, but that kind of gun exists for one reason: to kill people.

It's bad enough cops have it. But really, what good does it do in civilian hands? Exactly how frequently are you going to use it to defend the Constitution of the United States?

Believe it or not, there are people who feel it their job to defend the Constitution. With firearms. And if they happen to want to force a citizen to do something, and if the citizen use a Glock to argue with them about it, guess who is going to win that argument in the long run? It won't be the citizen.

The reality is, the only thing a small easily concealed semi automatic handgun in civilian hands can do is be used against another civilian.

Does someone want to be militia? Fine, join the National Guard. Someone doesn't agree with what the National Guard is being used for? Fine. Just as long as they don't use a handgun to frame their arguments.

Because let's face it: with what the armies of the world are packing, even if you had to defend your home against an invader, a piddly Glock would be about as useful as a peashooter.

We need better weapons to change things, and the Power we must use does not come from the barrel of a gun.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Effective Sargeant Schultz Defense

What does an effective Attorney General do?

Why, fire any honest Republican Federal Prosecutors Dear Leader might have accidently appointed and who might feel obligated to investigate people like Duke Cunningham, or Jack Abramoff, or the outing of the CIA agent keeping you from a lucrative war, or prosecuting the tobacco companies or Halliburton or anyone else in Bu$hie's Ba$e, and replace them with Regent University TheoCon Faithful who realize the need for discretion in the government's Reconstruction for the Faith.

Oh, yeah, and forget everything when asked.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Distraction of Destruction

With the image of a young psychopath dressed in a death wish fetish saturating the main$tream media airwaves and inciting every unstable high school devotee of mass murder to disruption, Abu Gonzales testifies to Congress about his perjury before Congress concerning knowledge of firing of politically Unfaithful Republican prosecuting Federal Attorneys.

However, I am told by the reasonable that promotion of this image and its associated nonstop Terra has nothing to do with the fact the main$tream media is completely corporate Republican owned and operated.

And that they really, really, don't want to talk about Gonzales.

But it still looks like a Sith Lord mind trick to me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Memoriam

All the good people keep checking out, while the bad guys party on.

Vonnegut's last steady writing gig was with In These Times. So they posted a few he wrote for them in his honor. Let me lift some material for you, if you're not familiar with the soul of Billy Pilgrim:

Cold Turkey

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas...

Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
"As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere...

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president...

I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.

But I’ll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver’s license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.

And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused and addictive and destructive drugs of all: fossil fuels.

When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won’t be any more of those. Cold turkey.

Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t like TV news, is it?

Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.

And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.

Or how about I Love You Madame Librarian

And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: Our daily sources of news, papers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books can we find out what is really going on. I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published near the start of this humiliating, shameful blood-soaked year.

In case you haven’t noticed, and as a result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war lovers, with appallingly powerful weaponry and unopposed.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were.

With good reason.

In case you haven’t noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound and kill ’em and torture ’em and imprison ’em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven’t noticed, we also dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O’Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and the Chicago-based magazine you are reading, In These Times.

Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed that there were weapons of mass destruction there.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn’t even seen World War I. War is now a form of TV entertainment. And what made WWI so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun. Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don’t you wish you could have something named after you?

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now am tempted to give up on people too. And, as some of you may know, this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.

My last words? “Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.”

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.

What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without a sense of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations and made it all their own?

Say this: go out, quickly, while you still can, and find a copy of Slaughterhouse Five or Cat's Cradle.

Read it.

You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's not a bug, it's a feature

Now what was that he said? Oh, it's taken care of all right.

A single person can change every single electronic vote across the country without detection.

While revelations surrounding the mysterious 18,000 "undervotes" in the November 2006 U.S. House election between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan in Florida's 13th Congressional district continue to inform the nation about the dangers of electronic voting machines, new information has recently come to light exposing a shocking lack of responsible oversight by those entrusted with overseeing the certification of electronic voting systems at the federal level.

An investigation into what may have gone wrong in that election has revealed a serious security vulnerability on some, and possibly all, versions of the iVotronic touch-screen voting system widely used across the country. The iVotronic is a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting machine manufactured by Elections Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), the nation's largest distributor of such systems.

The vulnerability is said to allow for a single malicious user to introduce a virus into the system which "could potentially steal all the votes in that county, without being detected," according to a noted computer scientist and voting system expert who has reviewed the findings.

And yet, despite their federal mandate to serve as a "clearinghouse" to the nation for such information, a series of email exchanges between an Election Integrity advocate and officials at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) has revealed that the federal oversight body is refusing to notify states of the alarming security issue.

The recent email conversation shows that even in light of the EAC's review of the warning from the computer scientist who characterized the "security hole" as severe, needing to be "taken very seriously," and among the most serious ever discovered in a voting system, the EAC is unwilling to take action.

Recent reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have taken the EAC to task for a failure to meet their legislated mandate for informing the public and elections officials about such matters. However, a review of the email communications to and from the EAC's Jeannie Layson shows that the federal body is steadfast in their refusal to take action to alert either elections officials or the public about the security risk recently discovered by a team of eight noted computer scientists.

The EAC's current Chairwoman, Executive Director, Director of Voting System Certification, and other top officials at both the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), and even the GAO, were included in the series of email communications...

The new ES&S iVotronic vulnerability first emerged on February 23, 2007, when the Florida Dept. of State released a report detailing their findings from the investigation into what happened in Sarasota's still-contested Jennings/Buchanan race. That election was ultimately decided by just 369 votes. The state's official findings included a report [PDF] conducted by an eight-member computer science and technology team under the auspices of Florida State University (FSU). The report sought, unsuccessfully, to determine the cause of the unexplained "undervotes" reported by the iVotronic touch-screen voting systems used in Sarasota's portion of the FL-13 race on Election Day and in early voting.

Although the reason thousands of votes turned up missing from those systems remained unknown, the study team did discover a serious security flaw in the iVotronic system that is used in Sarasota and many other jurisdictions across the country (and even the world, as France is set to use the same systems in their upcoming Presidential Election...)
[thanks, cd]

Once again, we have the best $elections money can buy.

It's a New World to Order, alright!

Every Day Occurence. Twice.

The good Doctor has a point:

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation is improving" in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Uniter

He's not a divider. Chris Floyd:

Top UK cabinet official Hilary Benn (son of the inestimable old Labour lion, Tony Benn), has finally admitted in public what every sentient being realized more than five years ago: that the "War on Terror" is a propaganda ploy that has only enhanced the stature and support of Islamic extremists, by imputing world-historical significance to criminal acts by small groups.

As noted, this is extremely old news; but the self-evident bullshit of the "War on Terror" trope has not prevented it from permeating public discourse and distorting public policy across the globe. Practically every government in the world has used the "War on Terror" as a justification for augmenting its power, repressing dissent and stifling the liberty of its people. And, as Benn notes, it has given every little knot of religious cranks a heady dose of inflated self-importance, being told that they have the power to bring down Western civiliation if they aren't stopped – much as the yellow elephants of America's trembly Cheeto Brigade bloggers have been puffed up by the notion that they are engaging in World War III (or IV, depending on the flavor of crankery) against the Islamofascists, just like Grandpappy facing down Hitler. (Except, you know, without all the bullets and blood and marching and stuff.)

I suppose Benn's remarks, and the change in the UK's official policyspeak, should be welcomed in the "better late than never" department. But this change in rhetoric will certainly not stop the British government – under Blair or his long-time co-conspirator, Gordon Brown – from continuing its construction of a modern-day "police state lite" whose draconian strictures already make the Bush Administration look like, well, Tony Benn or Tom Paine. Nor does Hilary Benn acknowledge the also obvious and oft-confirmed role of the policies of the Anglo-American coalition in fomenting and exacerbating terrorism as the angry and revengeful asymmetrical response to state terror on a massive scale, as in the monstrous war crime in Iraq, which has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and sparked a Biblical-scale exodous of refugees fleeing the conquered land...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

American Theocracy

This has been out for over a year now. Read what Kevin Phillips had to say about his own work.

Go out and read it if you haven't, or read it again if you already have.

The piece about Christian Reconstructionism is particularly sobering. The Dominionists' creed is summarized well here as well as elsewhere on this site. Realize that Bu$hie has used them everywhere in his government.

His Base has promoted them all throughout their corporate structure.

They're dedicated and mindless Borg, entirely predictable, and absolutely ruthless.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Insider Trading

Tomorrow we head back to the land of frost from the land of the sun.

There's nothing really I can say about this place that I haven't said before.

The wounds here in Atlantis have healed somewhat since the summer of 2005. But there's no scab over the wound: it seems infection has set in. The victim is in denial of the damage done.

On Emerald Coast, every other house or condo is for sale now, and the rubes customers seem to be leery of buying million dollar homes with the waves crashing yards away.

The Wise spread their wings and leave. The sharks hedge their bets. The spiders invite the flies to rest in the web.

This has not halted the developers, or quenched the real estate hysteria they'd have you in. Twenty story high rises countinue to go up, that will mostly stand empty. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent cleaning sand from the interior and spreading it on the beaches, only to have storms take it away to long shallow sandbars. These foster sea life referred to the locals as "pests", the dogfish, the sargasso weed, the hydra and the jelly.

Some buy into the dream, the Faithful, the True Believers who support their Dear Leader and his vision of Hegemony. The Faithful think that their Faith protects them, that the plots and the data the people of science warn mean nothing. The science is marginalized, and the scientists are reviled.

And the ice melts, the heat moves, and the old patterns change.

Out to sea, the wave builds.

In the Heartland, so does the outrage. Lee Iaococca, of all people:

...On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will...

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

It's good to see you waking up, sir. But to answer your question: it's because Chaos is the plan. The Leaders? They've got a piece of the hurricane and they're counting on the wave.

Like Krugman points out (thanks jurrasicpork)

In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.”

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter.

The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.

But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge.

Kay Cole James, who had extensive connections to the religious right and was the dean of Regent’s government school, was the federal government’s chief personnel officer from 2001 to 2005. (Curious fact: she then took a job with Mitchell Wade, the businessman who bribed Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.) And it’s clear that unqualified people were hired throughout the administration because of their religious connections...

You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins.

Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Mr. Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Mr. Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Mr. Robertson.

The Bush administration’s implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right’s strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions.

Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent’s Executive Leadership Series.

The Faithful need their Holy Thunder. They need Real Wrath of God stuff. Heaven forbid people look on the Wave as a force of nature, plan for it, and deal with it before it happens... Atlantis works better as a legend, to make the slaves fear.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lying Because They Can

It's been an insane week, and I'm charging out the door for a long drive to an even more insane place with my entire family and my little dog, too.

Meanwhile, Lambert seems to have been the victim of a disinformation scam. As usual, it's impossible to tell whether this came from a source within the government or was simply some hayseeds having fun. And they wonder why we stay anonymous if the NSA knows who we are...

I like his response:

...So much for the changing stories. Frankly, I don’t care what the motivations were: Malice, curiosity, profit, anger, whatever. I guess I’m with the Bible on this one: “By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16) And, in this case, the fruits are a wounded C-list blog, another one of the endless series of talking points and anecdotes for the VRWC, and the classic ratfucking Rovian ploy: Fake evidence on a story, make sure the evidence surfaces, reveal the fake, and discredit the entire story. We’ve seen it before with the TANG records.

One thing we know with Republicans: When their stories change, they’re lying.

Implications for disinformation campaigns in 2008
It’s unfortunate that we live in a political environment that is not sane. We’ve got a Vice President who’s annointed himself as a fourth branch of government (whether before, or after, he shot an old man in the face is not clear), a media environment where that yawns when a Federal court hands down a judgment that says Bush is guilty of 30 felonies, where massive, illegal, and unconstitutional surveillance has become the norm, where Republican presidential candidates believe in the power of imprisoning American citizens with no charges or review, and where secret prisons and torture are the new norm.

Oh my goodness. Do I sound like I’ve lost my sense of humor? Like I can’t take a joke?


Not only is the political environment insane, the administration is the very reverse of open and transparent. Therefore, the rest of us—those of us on the outside, not on the cocktail wienie circuit, certainly not wired enough to get into Porkers, take photographs, fake one, get away clean, and then write an Op-Ed about it—have to do the job that our famously free press should be doing. (With sites like TPM, this is changing. But it hasn’t changed enough yet.) Since it’s clear that neither the press nor the administration has any interest in telling the truth, we have treat politics as a form of police work, and look for the modus operandi: “A criminal’s characteristic patterns and style of work. Far from propagating conspiracy theories, Xan analyzes Rove’s M.O. and concludes that the techniques that Coptix used to plant and propagate disinformation in our blog are the same techniques that Rove would use...

I agree.

But now I'm off to Atlantis, to watch my wife drink the wine while my girls lie in the sun.

I'll be the gaunt man running eternally under the sun, stopping only to drink the hot black coffee and endlessly looking at the horizon.

It's a life.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Gone Fishin'

More notes from Atlantis next week, unless the Big Kahuna finally hits.

But I think that's a still a ways out at sea.

Wolfie's Saudi Squeeze Joins The Aristocrats

And it's good to be Consort.

Murray Waas.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

...And the Worms Ate Into His Brain

Are some viral memes created by viruses that cause memes?

A parasitic microbe commonly found in cats might have helped shape entire human cultures by manipulating the personalities of infected individuals, according to a new study.

Infection by a Toxoplasma gondii could make some individuals more prone to some forms of neuroticism and could lead to differences among cultures if enough people are infected, says Kevin Lafferty, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a survey of different countries, Lafferty found that people living in those with higher rates of T. gondii infection scored higher on average for neuroticism, defined as an emotional or mental disorder characterized by high levels of anxiety, insecurity or depression...

T. gondii infects both wild and domestic cats, but it is carried by many warm-blooded mammals. One recent study showed that the parasite makes normally cautious rats outgoing and more prone to engage in reckless behavior, such as hanging around areas frequently marked by cat urine, making the rats easy targets.

Scientists estimate that the parasite has infected about 3 billion people, or about half of the human population. Studies by researchers in the Czech Republic have suggested T. gondii might have subtle but long-term effects on its human hosts. The parasite is thought to have different, and often opposite effects in men versus women, but both genders appear to develop a form of neuroticism called "guilt proneness."

Other studies have also found links between the parasite and schizophrenia. T. gondii infection is known to damage astrocytes, support cells in the brain that are also affected during schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to the parasite are also more likely to give birth to children who will develop the disorder.

In light of such studies, Lafferty wondered whether high rates of T. gondii infection in a culture could shift the average personality of its individuals.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," Lafferty said.

The distribution of T. gondii could explain differences in cultural aspects that relate to ego, money, material possessions, work and rules, Lafferty added. In some countries, infections by the cat parasite are very rare, while in others nearly all adults are infected...

Despite its association with neuroticism, Lafferty doesn't think all of the cat parasite's effects on human culture are bad.

"After all, they add to our cultural diversity," he said.

More on this here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Signs from the Gods

For those that believe in such things, anyway. [thanks yet again Avedon]

If the God of Peace were inclined to wrath, Arthur Silber's gone and documented the reasons for the Plagues the Empire has coming. Not that wrathful-type deities spare the innocent living in the belly of the Beast, but just for the record, when Armageddon arrives there will be more than a few of us awake for it. We've been trying to give the Beast indigestion, but in order to have heartburn, it seems a heart is requisite.

But once again, with feeling, a God of Peace isn't a God of Wrath. They're very different sorts of memes. Civilized deists like Oliver and other Christian and Jewish and Muslim (and Hindi and Buddhist et alia) Dems for peace aside, this poll is probably representative of America's tendency not to look at the world around it too deeply or think much about what it believes. But don't be confused: if you pray for your God to smite your enemies, chances are the God you want will be the God you get.

But maybe John Titor was on the right track. With two top-spin, dual positive singularities in your ride you can trip to a bubble of the multiverse where nobody's got Cthulhu dreams of righteous glory on their squamous Imperial minds.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Money as Debt

Check it out. It seems reality-based to me. [thanks to Avedon, again]

April Fools Blinking at Each Other Not Believing the Joke

It's apparently a sad day for the Imperial Dominionists, and hopefully not an April Fools:

LONDON, March 31 — After more than a week of mounting confrontation over its 15 captured sailors and marines held in Iran, Britain sounded a more conciliatory tone on Saturday, saying it had responded to a diplomatic message from Tehran and was ready to peacefully resolve the issue...

The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, also indicated for the first time that Britain regretted the incident.

“The message I want to send is I think everyone regrets that this position has arisen,” she said after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Germany. “What we want is a way out of it...”

I'm sure she does, but maybe not for the reasons this man can accept:

But the overtures seem to have been rebuffed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who was quoted by Iranian state radio as saying that Britain had not followed the “legal and logical way” to defuse the crisis.

“After the arrest of these people, the British government, instead of apologizing and expressing regret over the action taken, started to claim that we are in their debt and shouted in different international councils,” Mr. Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. “But this is not the legal and logical way for this issue,” Reuters reported from Tehran...

Perhaps what Mr. Ahmadinejad wants is for Britain to, you know, put those things away.

Perhaps his message isn't framed simply at Britian, or America, or Blair, or Bu$hie at all. Maybe he realizes (although maybe not, you never know how smart these idiots are) that the real motivation for the conciliatory tone is that the Big Boss Hawg behind the gunslingers is the only playah that seems to be blinking, and he is blinking at its hired guns as much as anyone else:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 28 — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics...

The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.

They brokered a deal between the two main Palestinian factions last month, but one that Israel and the United States found deeply problematic because it added to the power of the radical group Hamas rather than the more moderate Fatah. On Wednesday King Abdullah called for an end to the international boycott of the new Palestinian government. The United States and Israel want the boycott continued.

In addition, Abdullah invited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Riyadh earlier this month, while the Americans want him shunned. And in trying to settle the tensions in Lebanon, the Saudis have been willing to negotiate with Iran and Hezbollah.

Last week the Saudi king canceled his appearance next month at a White House dinner in his honor, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The official reason given was a scheduling conflict, the paper said.

Mustapha Hamarneh, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, said the Saudis were sending Washington a message. “They are telling the U.S. they need to listen to their allies rather than imposing decisions on them and always taking Israel’s side,” Mr. Hamarneh said.

In his speech, the king said, “In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism.”

He added: “The blame should fall on us, the leaders of the Arab nation, with our ongoing differences, our refusal to walk the path of unity. All that has made the nation lose its confidence in us...”

That is some serious blinking. But you can only send your Consigliere to speak to the Idiot Son so many times. It was okay when the Idiot Son was playing target and using his War on Terra as an excuse to shoot up things the Big Boss didn't particularly like either . But it's obvious the dumb Kid has some in his posse that simply enjoy shooting up the place.