Friday, May 05, 2006


Rummy lying or did Zarqawi grow his leg back?

Remember Zarqawi? You know..the guy they use to "prove" there was an Al Qaeda - Saddam connection? The guy who was supposedlly in Bagdhad to GET HIS LEG AMPUTATED??!?!?!?

Watch the video for yourself. Look around 1:50 (preview) and again around 25:20 (more extended portion) you see he is clearly walking without a limp in SAND!

They must have some pretty amazing prosthetics in Iraq. On top of
that..even if he was a below the knee amputee... how do you explain the
refitting for new prosthesis with the obvious weight gain in recent years?

"Arguments of convenience lack integrity and inevitably trip you up."
-- Donald Rumsfeld, in Rumsfeld's Rules
Mything the Point ©:
"Examining unexamined myths America accepts on faith value."


Mugged by the neo-conservative agenda...

That throbbing in the back of your head -- that's not your imagination.

That was the Senate passing a new supplemental spending bill for over $100 Billion to cover the costs of the war and hurricane relief.  That's right.... another 100 Billion dollars!   Before we invaded, people were claiming the whole war AND occupation combined would cost less than a 100 billion dollars.  So how did we get stuck turning $100 billion into just  another down payment?

I realize all the money will not be going to Iraq, but come on... H.R. 4939 is the fifth "emergency" appropriation passed by congress since we invaded Iraq and we still don't know what happened to the money we already spent.  

Am I the only one who feels like a mugging victim , slowly regaining consciousness and wondering, "How the hell did we get here?"

100 billion.

It's hard to wrap your head something that big, even with a 100 billion neurons at your disposal.   When I started looking for something to represent the idea of 100 billion my first thought was "that's the number of stars in our galaxy!"  That's true, but that's a little too abstract -- even for me.  I wanted to find something closer to home.  It turns out a mission to Mars would probably cost $100 billion.  That is pretty good considering we spent $100 billion on the International Space Station, and it's still not finished.

Being a down to Earth kind of guy, I wondered what $100 billion in real estate would look like.  It was hard to find -- partly because a lot of New Orleans is still under water.  However, they say we can probably bring it back for $100 billion.  The risk, of course, is like sand castles at the beach, it will all wash away when the sea comes in again. Between you and me, I want something more substantial.

That got me wondering what kind of stuff you could buy for $100 billion.  If you are a fan of one stop shopping, you could spend $100 billion and buy Google.  That's pretty cool.  But everyone knows savvy investors diversify. If you want to buy stuff online, $100 billion would cover all of last year's e-commerce sales.  If you are old school and don't like using your credit card online, you could use the $100 billion to buy all of last year's  trade between China and the ASEAN nations.

We shouldn't forget it takes energy to make all that stuff.  That is probably why China just signed a  $100 billion natural gas deal with Iran.  It will take them 25 years to go through all that.  Who knows what the cost for gas will be when that contract is up for renewal.   That's the kind of uncertainty that forces people to plan for the long haul.  That's one reason the people of Taiwan are  going to invest 100 billion NTD (New Taiwan Dollars) in Wind Power.  That's a good start.  Don't get wrong.  I'm not knocking renewable energy.  I'm just saying all the renewable energy in the world won't remove the need for conservation.  That is why I was glad to learn that California recycled 100 billion aluminum cans since they began their recycling progam.

It's nice to see something positive being done.  It inspires you to look for other positive things.  That is how I discovered Crayola has manufactured 100 billion crayons over the last 100 years.  They also make it easy to visualize all those crayons.  Think of it this way: if everyone in the world shared those crayons, we would all get our very own 16-count box of Crayolas. Now that is something I can feel good about. Of course, every time I see a kid with a crayon now, I'm going to be reminded of the fact they are the ones who will be paying the bills for this war -- which is sad, especially since Bill Cosby wrote a book describing how we could reform our entire educational system for $100 billion.

The intergenerational burden of this conflict got me to thinking about ways we could actually divide up 100 billion dollars.  For example, we could give 1 dollar to every person who ever lived. This deal would only be offered to card-carrying Homo Sapiens.  Neanderthals would have to fend for themselves.  It would be a waste of money to give it to a Neanderthal.  What's a Neanderthal going to do with a dollar? Eat it?  Of course, a dollar  doesn't go very far and you would get a bigger bang for the buck if you gave all the money to one guy.  Someone like Bill Gates.  I know -- that's silly. He already has $100 billion of his own. Besides, concentrating money like that makes you weird.  Here's an actual Bill Gates quote:

"I have 100 billion dollars... You realize I could spend 3 million dollars a day, every day, for the next 100 years? And that's if I don't make another dime. Tell you what-I'll buy your right arm for a million dollars. I give you a million bucks, and I get to sever your arm right here."
 I guess it's true what they say about serial killers.  They always look so normal.  Which got me to wondering...what would a normal person do with $100 billion?  I'm not the first person to ask the question, but I don't think I can improve upon the keen insight of idyllopus:
You don't build a 100 billion dollar empire without being fully, richly aware you've buried a lot of people in the process.
Apparently, the same thing is true when you dig a 100 billion dollar hole.

If a neo-conservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality,
what do you call someone who was mugged by neo-conservatives?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Mything the Point of "History Will Judge."

That's the sort of thing leaders confident of their vision like to say. You can't really argue with it, never mind if it has the hollow ring of "famous last words." It's a great way of postponing debate. After all, no matter what your critics think, they can't refute the findings of future historians.

This useful tool for kicking problems down the road has been getting quite a workout recently. Unfortunately, you go down that road far enough you can get run over by history.

Some would say the president is an authentic American hero. Others would say he is America's Nero. Three years into this war, five years into this administration is a good time to review some history ...


When he was installed, Nero was an adolescent, so the early part of his reign was characterized by direction from older figures like Seneca.

When he was installed, Bush had no foreign experience at all.   In fact, he had been outside the US of A only once before becoming president.    During the early years of his administration, policy was characterized by direction from older, more experienced hands like Cheney.


In 58 A.D., Nero proposed a major tax reform program. He moved to abolish indirect taxes on the entrance and exit of commodities passing from one imperial province to the other. The contrast between Nero and the senate became clear. The abolition of taxes was a threat to the great Italian land owners, namely the senators, who found themselves facing competition from provincial producers. The landed aristocracy became the enemy of the emperor.

Starting in 2001, Bush proposed a major tax reform program. He moved to abolish the estate tax, while simultaneously lowering the tax rates for wealthy Americans. Bush wanted the free transfer of wealth from one generation to the next of American oligarchs. The contrast between Bush and his predecessor became clear. The lowering of tax revenues threatened social programs and discretionary spending that affected millions of Americans. The wealthiest Americans became the biggest supporters of the president.


In 62 AD Tigellinus prompted Nero to pass a series laws known as "lex maiestatis" or (laws for the defense of the State) that were put to deadly use against anyone considered a threat although the primary victims were Christians.

In Oct. 2001, John Ashcroft  helped Bush push through Congress a series of radical changes to over 15 different statutes in the cynically named "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" Act, aka the "USAPATRIOT" Act.   These were put to use against anyone considered a threat although the primary victims were Muslims.


In 64 A.D. a great fire swept through Rome and left much of the city in ruins. Although it was widely rumored that Nero himself had the fires set, that was never proven. However, it is true his ambitious building campaign following the fires represented to many an exercise in private selfishness at a time when public reconstruction was needed most.

In Sept. 2001, a great fire swept through lower Manhattan and left much of New York's financial district in ruins, the Pentagon was also severely damaged.    While it was rumored that Bush himself had been warned of the attack, it was never proven. However, it is true his ambitious campaign to revamp government following the attacks represented to many the realization of a private agenda shrouded in secrecy at a time when public policies based in honesty were needed most.


In 65 A.D. Nero's artistic inclinations, present since his accession, became truly public, and in a display which shocked conservative tastes he appeared on stage and sang for audiences.

In March 2004 Bush's comedic pretensions shocked the public when he appeared on stage and joked about the absence of WMD in Iraq.

That was shocking, but the real kicker came the following year.

In Sept. 2005 Bush's shocked the public with another politically tone-deaf performance when he appeared at a Republican fund-raiser strumming a guitar while New Orleans drowned.


In 67 A.D. Nero left Rome for a tour of Greece, during which his extravagances alienated him further still from general citizens and military commanders alike.    More crucially, in his paranoia he ordered a popular and successful general to commit suicide, a decision which left other provincial leaders in doubt about his next move and inclined toward rebellion rather than inaction.

In Feb. 2003, while still at war in Afghanistan, Bush mobilized troops with the intention of using Iraq as a "test case" for the so-called "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive war against potential threats.    The grandiose plans alienated him further still from general citizens and former military commanders alike.   In his drive to promote this agenda he ordered a popular and successful former general to commit political suicide in front of the UN Security Council.   This decision left other alliance leaders in doubt about his next move and inclined toward rebellion rather than inaction.


In 68 A.D. Vindex revolted in Gaul on principle.   Clodius Macer followed suit in Africa, but for purely opportunistic reasons.   Galba  declared his allegiance to the Senate and the Roman people, rather than to Nero.   Such unrest in the provinces, coupled with intrigue at Rome among the praetorians provided Nero's enemies, especially within the Senate, with their chance to depose him.   He committed suicide.

In March 2004, The "Coalition of the Willing" began to splinter.   Spain revolted, as did Poland, Honduras and others.    The next year, Uzbekistan declared its allegiance to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and forced US troops to leave the country.   Such unrest provided Bush's adversaries with a chance to assert their view of a "multi-polar" world.


In 69 A.D. Rome descended into Civil War... a period known as the "Year of the Four Emperors (Nero, Otho, Galba, and Vespasian).   For many, this marks the end of the "Golden Age" of Rome.

Moving forward, a storm is gathering.   The radical policy commonly referred to as "The Bush Doctrine" is driving countries normally at each others throats into each others arms.   A consequence of this realignment may be for OPEC members to decide their future is better assured  by cooperating with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.    One consequence of that relationship would be for OPEC to denominate oil in euros instead of dollars.    For many, that would mark the end of America's global hegemony.


"We learn from history that we do not learn from history."
- GB Shaw quoting Hegel

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