Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Mighty, They Are Afallin’

Thursday looked to be a long road day, so I gassed up the T’bird at the local self-service discount station for the exorbitant sum $2.399 per US gallon of 91 octane unleaded. Smokin’ hot sweet Jesus! That’s steep!

Later, I was cruising up California 4 which parallels the San Joaquin river as it runs about due west before it empties into to San Pablo Bay. Eric Flint through one of his characters in 1632 made the observation, “You can’t live forever, so why not get where you’re going?” I’m down with that, as I was cruising at 80 mph.

Pretty quick I got some hills between me and the non-commercial stations programmed into my radio’s memory. As I was not about to start rummaging around my back seat for CDs at that speed I hit the search bar and found some vintage rock and roll which took me back to the party time of misspent middle years.

The commercials about blew my mind or what’s left of it these days. Some Ford dealer is bailing on the behemoth SUVs, offering $9,000 off the sticker price of top of the line Expeditions. Explorers are not getting as much discount, but the reduction is sizable. I had seen the on-line headline that demand for SUVs had fallen, I had ho-hummed it and skipped onto something juicy like the Aussie sheep with the 58cm length wool coat. SUVs going for less than list in California? I thought it would never happen.

It took a few minutes to connect the dots. High gas prices, less demand for gas guzzlers. Finally.

For some reason, the people who drive them think they are safer than your standard family sedan. Well not really, they tip over fairly easy, and can’t stop worth a bleep. As a matter of fact the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration waived stopping distances for SUVs. If they were held to the same standards as other passenger vehicles, precious few of them would be legal on the highway.

I think my biggest nightmare is to look in my rearview mirror while I’m doing my best to get where I’m going and see a blonde tailgating me in a SUV while yakking on her cell phone, applying mascara, smoking a cigarette, and sipping on her latté. Let us hope that the Bird has what it takes to get on down the road.

Who knows? With Dubya in the driver’s seat, we might see gas go up another half a rock or so before this fall’s elections. I can’t wait until our Senator Feinstein introduces relief legislation for all the SUV owners.

Hoo Boy! Do we live in interesting times, or what?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Uganda Smokers Face Fines After Cigarette Ban
Reuters Headline (See Story)

The anti-smoking movement looks to be gaining adherents is Africa. The article cited is a fun read with some interesting views on how to go about enforcing a law banning satisfying one’s addiction.

And the letters pages of Ugandan newspapers have kept up a lively debate on the subject. Many readers praise the move, with one suggesting that members of the public team up as ad-hoc courts if someone is spotted breaking the law.

"If one was seen smoking by five people, the five can divide themselves. One becomes the magistrate, another the arresting officer, two of them eyewitnesses and the fifth the prosecutor ...The punishment should be of a community service nature since the culprit has offended the community."


Kangaroo courts? Why not?

Monday, May 17, 2004

What Goes Around Comes Around

There’s an old adage, maybe even a biblical quotation, “He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword.”

VP Cheney’s office has been accused of being responsible for leaking the fact that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA officer. A felony on the face of it. The FBI has been investigating, but only the most naïve would expect an arrest and prosecution. No surprise there. Orwell told us a long time ago that some pigs are more equal than other pigs.

The act that got Wilson in hot water with the Bush regime was to go public with the fact that there not only was no proof Saddam bought yellowcake uraninite (a feedstock for nuclear weapons material) but he had developed irrefutable evidence the whole issue was based on forgeries.

Bush, who never needed any help getting his foot in his mouth, accused Saddam of buying yellowcake from Nigeria in his State of The Union address which was televised world wide. Several months later, Wilson’s refutation appeared as an editorial in the New York Times. When Wilson proved unassailable, Cheney’s office got into the act.

It would appear that the intelligence community decided to not take the exposure of one of their own laying down. Seymour Hersh was the reporter selected to carry their riposte. His article in the New Yorker Magazine has painted Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Rice as being the source of permission for American soldiers to beat up on Iraqi “detainees.”

The Pentagon mouthpiece was busy denying everything in this morning’s news briefing, but you’d hardly expect them to do otherwise.

According to Secretary Powell, America’s position in world opinion has slipped on account of the “excesses” depicted in leaked photos from Abu Ghraib prison. I disagree. The whole Iraqi venture has shown us to be inept bullies, not the bulwark of freedom which we were under other governments.

Rather than trying to get out of this mess Dubya is sending a brigade of troops from the Korean garrison. This is looking more like ‘Nam every day. I don’t know why I’m upset about it, I get to stay home with the women and kids this time.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

More Trouble In Paradise?

It would appear that the blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is going to land a little higher than a 21 year old pregnant PFC, higher even than the Commander of the 800th MP Brigade which is currently being touted as the head “goat.”

The time honored Washington tradition of leaks comes to fore one more time in Seymour Hersh’s article, THE GRAY ZONE, in the New Yorker Magazine. (See Story)

The world seems to be outraged at the “humiliation” heaped on Iraqis detained for various crimes against humanity. Jeesh! Get real. Those bastards deserve to be taken out back and shot.

But none of this would have come up had not we been stampeded into an unneeded and costly war which has diverted us from the real enemy.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Now and Then

What with world revulsion at events in Iraq I have no choice but to compare the Vietnam experience.

If prisoners really needed to be mistreated, they were turned over to the Viets to be held at Con Son prison. What Vietnamese students and dissidents bore under the ministrations of our gallant allies would make the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib seem like show and tell in kindergarten.

Al Zarqawi’s committing capitol murder on video tape to be shown on television is a new low in stupidity, however. I imagine more than one enraged rifleman will be a tad quicker on the trigger as a result of seeing Nicholas Berg’s killing.

This is the face of war
and every day it continues is another day where ordinary humans are so brutalized that the commission of revolting acts become mundane aspects daily life in the combat zone.

So far, there have been no reported “Pinkville” massacres ala My Lai, but it looks like we are going to be there for a while, so there’s still plenty of time.

Thirty years from now, derelicts clothed in tattered desert pattern cammies will be cadging coins to buy cheap booze to blot out the memories.

That’s the glory of war.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Experts fear `dirty bomb' attack in U.S., Europe
Chicago Tribune Online Headline (See Story)

Way back in the bad old days of the Cold War, the U.S. feigned bio-war research in an attempt to bluff the Soviet Union into expending time, energy, and resources on developing ineffectual weapons systems.

The joke was on us. With typical Soviet single-mindedness, they not only developed highly effective weapons grade anthrax, but also developed artillery shell and aerial bomb fillers for battlefield deployment.

The infection and mortality rates associated with weapons grade anthrax boggle the mind. It is bad news stuff. The worse news is that the deadly material itself was largely abandoned in place or dumped into the nearest lake when the USSR collapsed.

Tajikistan experienced attacks as part of an ongoing insurrection in 1999, but after a single AP news release, the story was hushed up.

In 2001 when the alliance with Uzbekistan came out of the closet, US Army Chemical Corps officers were shown barrels of weapons grade anthrax sticking up out of the mud on what had been the bottom of the Aral Sea some decade gone by.

The point I’m trying to make here is pretty obvious. There are tested weapons of mass destruction pretty much ready to go. All an attacker need do is ferret out who has them or knows where they are to obtain them. Dirty bombs are theoretical. No one has tested them yet. On the other hand, the Soviet Union thoroughly tested it’s bio-weapons every step of the way.

I don’t expect the bad guys to come after us with weapons that might fizzle. When they come, they will be bringing a load of bleep that works. Now might be a good time to stock up on Cipro which is the approved drug to treat inhalation anthrax. I got mine.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

FDA Defends 'Morning-After Pill' Decision
Reuters Headline (See Story)

Contraception as a personal decision is yet again buried in the muck of Contraception as a religious issue and Contraception as a political issue.

Years ago, I moved back to California from Colorado. I don’t think the ink was dry on my California driver’s license before I received a jury summons. The case was misdemeanor child molestation. The complainants were three seventeen year old girls; the defendant was a man in his early twenties.

Interestingly enough there is great variation among “the several states” as to when post-pubescent adolescents may legally engage in sexual intercourse. A man who has sex with a female who has not reached the legal age of consent commits statutory rape, which is now considered a big time no-no.

At the time California’s age of consent was 18 while Colorado felt 16 year olds were sufficiently mature to make their own decisions in the matter. I was always curious as to the why of that. I mean, what do Colorado girls know that California girls don’t?

It turns out that the difference is public money. California has a staggering teenage pregnancy rate. Pregnant girls tend to become high school drop outs and, consequently, welfare recipients. The state legislature decided the best way to handle the situation was to outlaw sex under the age of eighteen. That didn’t slow things down a bit, California kids are still breeding like bunny rabbits.

The statutes, of course, haven’t slowed the pregnancy rate either, but to balance things off, fathers are thrown in jail for a few years, thereby insuring the taxpayers would pick up the tab for his room and board as well as seeing to the needs of his family. Not bad, huh? Could this be one of the reasons California has been branded “The Land Of Fruits And Nuts?”

Years ago, a French pharmaceutical house developed and marketed the RU-488 morning after pill, a post sexual congress contraceptive. The Barr Pharmaceutical Plan B morning after pill follows with a couple of decades experience in the application of the basic ingredient, proestrogen, as an-after-the-fact contraceptive.

FDA quails in the face of disapproval from the “American Family Values” administration, disingenuously claiming to base their decision on just how young a female should be before she is unable to make her own decision in the matter of next day contraception.

As long as that issue is up in the air, no woman is allowed to make her own decision in this very personal matter. A doctor's concurrence in the form of a prescription is needed. Lots of luck to the woman who enjoyed a fun evening at the beginning of a three day weekend until the condom broke. You can always name the little tyke Dubya and hope he or she is a tad smarter than his or her namesake.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Fears Rise With 'Hot Lab' Building Boom
AP Headline (See Story)

The Fed seems to have gone nuts about 9/11. We’ve used it as a pretext to invade Iraq. I’ll grant you, Iraq and Saddam both had something of an unsavory odor, but what price do we need to pay to clean it up and why us?

On the basis of some perceived threat to yet be demonstrated, we have gone bananas building so-called secure labs to evolve the state of the art in bio-war. Are we using 9/11 to get back into an arms race?

I write sci-fi as a hobby and one of the things I have in the hopper is a (hopefully) fictional account of what one unstable human can do when given access to killer bugs. The Fed says it can’t happen that way, and I cite the title article:

Boston's mayor and Massachusetts' governor are convinced the lab will be well protected, and provide a boost to the local economy. Federal officials insist that no deadly germs have ever escaped from U.S. laboratories, and say the planned facilities will be even more secure than their predecessors.

To this I say BULL BLEEP! There was a domestic attack using weapons grade anthrax in 2001 that has never been solved. To help the investigation along, the University of Iowa, which was the largest repository of anthrax strains, destroyed their entire stock before it could be used to help trace the material used in the attack.

Some aware citizens have started NAMBY lawsuits to keep these killers out of their neighborhoods. I say be careful there folks. If you piss off the Fed they can call you a terrorist, lock you up in a Navy brig, and throw away the key. You might want to look up the Nazi policy called Nacht und Nebel.

May we live in interesting times.

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