31 May 2005


    Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord.
      The Letter of Paul to the Romans
      Chapter 12, Verse 19

Today's news brings more stories of abuse at Guantanamo. Last week, Rob posted this to his blog, Laughing at the Pieces. He clues us in on a great OpEd in the NY Times. It argues that we are doing more harm than good there, and that we should shut it down.

In my comment I said the author was exactly right, but there was no chance of it actually hapenning, mainly because administration is entirely unwilling to admit a mistake. However, it occurs to me that there's more to it than they. If they shut down the Gitmo prison, it would offend their base. The core of their constituency believes that every prisoner deserves imprisonment, torture, and death. They still want payback for 9/11. And they don't much care who they pay back.

When the abuses at Abu Ghraib were first coming out, I heard a comment that remains with me today. I forget the exact wording, but the gist of it was: after what they did to the towers, who cares if we tortured a few of them. That the tortured prisoners had nothing to do with 9/11 was lost on this normally well-reasoned individual. Another comment came only a few weeks after the attack from someone impatiently asking how long before we'd see some dead Arabs.

When people made speeches, they always said that what we wanted was justice. We didn't; we wanted revenge, pure and simple. To put it in movie terms, we claimed to be Steven Seagal in Out for Justice, but we were really Mel Gibson in Payback.

Pearl Harbor evoked that same desire for revenge. The difference was, it was easier to figure out who's ass we wanted to kick. There was a sovereign nation saying, "Yeah, that was us. Bring it on, there's more where that came from!" So off we went. Of course, we still managed to unload on undeserving parties. We locked up American citizens without cause or due process, simply because of their ethnicity. We're back in that business again, although this time, with the exception of Jose Padilla (that we know of), we've focused on citizens of other nations.

I remember learning of an Army unit that was entirely of Japanese descent. They were one of the most decorated (if not most decorated) in the European theatre. They fought and died for a country whose freedoms were denied to their families. When I heard the dead Arab comment, it occurred to me that, but for the utter devastation, plenty of Arabs could be found among the dead at Ground Zero (not counting the terrorists). How many Muslims are serving in the Armed Forces right now? Yet so many in our country see them all as no different than Muhammad Atta.

We finally apoplogized to Japanese Americans and in some small way tried to make amends. We look back now at the internment camps and ponder how wrong were. We try to forgive ourselves for what we did in our blind rage, and perhaps comfort ourselves saying we know better know. But of course, we don't. I believe what we've done in the wake of 9/11 will one day be regarded as worse than Japanese internment. I do think we will one day manage to look back, wondering how we could be so wrong, and assue ourselves we'll not make that mistake again.

I hope I live to see that day, and I hope we'll keep our word.

27 May 2005

Retractions and clarifications

    No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.
      Francois De La Rochefoucauld
This quote seems tailor-made for the current administration. The Newsweek story has quickly taken a back see to filibusters and Michael. Yet I keep hearing bits and pieces of news that make me think there is little that Newsweek needs to apologize for.

Yesterday, according to this Associated Press report, U.S. officials confirmed five cases in which a prisioner's Quran was mishandled. But they're quick to point out that there is "no credible evidence" of Quran flushing. They won't give any details of what was done to the Quran in those five cases, but Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, commander of the Gitmo prison assures us that none of them involved a toilet. They did admit, though, that in three cases the mishandling seems to be have been deliberate.

The use of the word "mishandling" instead of "desecration" is dubious in itself. It's a softer word that implies that mistreatment of the Quran was mild at best. The fact that no one will divulge nature of the mishandling leads one to believe that it might have been worse than the term suggests. That is was done intentionally would only make it worse. It's like the term "detainee" instead of "prisoner".

So what did Newsweek really do then? Based on this A.P. report, quoting the prison commander himself, the only thing they got wrong was the nature of the Quran's mistreatment. I find it hard to believe that that one element of the story is enough to push Afgan rioters over the edge. "They desecrated the Quran? Hmmm, I'm kind of annoyed at that.... wait, a what? A TOILET? ARRRRGH!!!" And riots ensue.

And I think I'm going to be sick if hear one more person in the Bush administration say that Newsweek is responsible for damaging our image with the Muslim world. They're saying this after, mind you, after reports confirming wide-spread prisoner abuse in Afganastan. It'd ludicrous.

There's also this, from Air Force General Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:
It's the -- it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran -- and I'll get to that in just a minute -- but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after-action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.
So, if you ask the U.S. authories in Afganastan, they're not even blaming Newsweek for the riots (though I think the Whitehouse has since explained to them why they're wrong). (Thanks to Keith Olbermann for this link.)

And speaking of retractions, my comments on this Seething in the Wilderness post included the following:
That said, I wish Newsweek had somehow been more careful. People lost their lives and now it will be harder to uncover the truth.
I take it back. Newsweek is not to blame for the subsequent spew from the Bush administration. That would be like blaming a mugging victim for using an ATM on a bad street.

If you haven't, take a look at Keith Olbermann's last three blog posts (starting here). His is fast becoming my new favorite political blog, and he has this issue pegged.

By the way, one of my favorite Olbermann is an aside, where he says he's finally recognized the Fox News Channel. It's "the newscast perpetually running on the giant video screens in the movie 1984." Boy ain't it.

25 May 2005

Things heard round the house

    The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
      H. L. Mencken
I just thouht I'd share a few quotes from today:

Daddy (to daughter): Finish what you're doing. [Pause.] Actually, finish what you're supposed to be doing.

Daddy: What is that?
Mommy: This is a glove that was blown up and decorated as a turtle. It was given to me as a keepsake for all eternity. Guess how many I have.

Mommy: Where is Sleeping Beauty's head?

19 May 2005

Creeping back to life

    I'm creeping back to life
    my nervous system all awry
    I'm wearing the inside out.
      Pink Floyd
Did I say that out loud? Apparently not. Haven't said much of anything. Yet again, it has been a case of blogus interuptus. Here's some of the stuff I wanted to blog about but didn't get to....

The albatross was indeed bad news for the crew of H.M.S Surprise. As for me, I did eventually get out of the traffic Jam (thanks Rob).

I managed to find another (traffic jam - not albatross) when someone knocked some wires across the PA Turnpike, stopping traffic in both directions. It did afford me the opportunity to listen to "In the Strawberry Fields," the second essay in Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser (of Fast Food Nation fame). I've now finished listening and recommend it highly. I've already offered my rant on pot laws, but there's more to gnash your teeth over in the first essay, "Reefer Madness." The third essay is the story of the American porn industry, the people who brought it into being, and the politicians who tried in vain to enforce their views on morality. Check it out (Schlosser's book, not porn). (Hell, if you want some porn, go for it.)

Meanwhile, as Sharon told everyone, we're soakin' up the sun. It's gonna be awhile before I get tired of watching that meter run backwards.

Speaking of power, did you know that the energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton locomotive during the course of one year is enough to power 160 households for that year? That's why GE is working on a hybrid diesel locomotive. How cool is that? A key component of hybrids is regenerative braking, where the energy used in breaking is captured and stored, typically in batteries. It made me think, why aren't they using regenerative braking in commuter trains? They wouldn't even need the batteries; they could simply feed power back into the system for use by other trains. It turns out that the London Underground and Lyon Metro did just that. We need more of this.

I read that some subways use their motors to brake the train, but the electricity is not used. It is dissipated as head through radiators on the top of the car. What a waste.

Oh yeah, awhile back Jeri blogged about Jupiter. Well, I finally got off my ass and brought out the telescope. Jupiter was out, big and bright. I had to use a filter to dim down the brightness a bit so I could see the cloud bands. No red spot though.... The Galilean Moons, however, were bright and clear. Calisto was at the far end of its path (as we view it). BTW, that link has a cool animation that shows how the moons look from a terrestrial telescope.

Saturn was also out, rings and all. I could see Titan as well. Nearby in the sky was the quarter moon. When the moon is not full, it's a great time to view it. The shadow throws the surface features in stark relief and you can really see them.

So there ya go, that's what I can remember. Maybe I'll get some stuff up a little more often....

06 May 2005

Stuck in traffic

    Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,
    They've all gone to look for America
      Simon and Garfunkle
I wish I was on the New Jersey Turnpike. I am 7.1 miles north of the Maryland House rest area on I-95, just past a bridge labeled MD Route 155. I'm blogging now thanks to the USB modem cable on my cell phone. I admit, I'm doing this mostly because I can, geek that I am. However, it's one more way to kill time while I sit, engine off, waiting....

I just openned the sun roof and, standing on the seat, could see no sign of movement. There is an interesting person in a pimped out Chevy Cavalier who is talking to his friends on the bullhorn he has installed under the hood. There is person in a Honda insight enjoying his big battery as he reads. I'm saving gas myself, having turned off the engine ten minutes ago....

Ah well, back to H.M.S. Surprise. They've just seen an albatross. This can't be good.

04 May 2005

I see you!

    I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
      Johnny Nash
You might notice that the shadowy figure in my office has been replaced by a much clearer picture of yours truly. Thanks to the acquisition of an old wireless PC card, I was able to move my camera to the window sill. Now I'm no longer back-lit. Try to contain your excitement.

02 May 2005

"Closure" for Richard Jewel?

    Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
      1 Peter 2:12
Awhile back, when Eric Rudolf was about to plead guilty for the 1996 Summer, Olympics bombing, I blogged about Richard Jewel.

For no particular reason, I goggled his name today and found this story. It says a lot of what I was thinking. It also has a few tidbits about where Richard Jewel is now. He's a cop, finally, somwhere in Georgia. I wish him all the best.

Off shore, just

    'Marchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that leg? -- I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed!'
      Moby Dick
How do you bring lots of cheap foreign labor to America without the pesky immigration issues? Call them sailors and keep them on the boat!

That's exactly what California company SeaCode plans to do. Read about it here. Not all coverage is as negative, of course. The industry publications are lauding this inovation. They say we should hear them out before we call it a "sweat-ship." I have, and I will.

This seems a dangerous trend, because it allows corporations to maintain a workforce outside of any governments jurisdiction.