Wednesday, November 29, 2006

E pluribus recta

Sometimes I am amazed at the facts I can pick up whilst wandering semi-aimlessly through the labyrinth of knowledge and fantasy that we call the interweb.

Today I learned that E pluribus unum is no longer the national motto of The Amerika. E pluribus unum, for those few of you who may not speak Latin, means “From many, one,” and it originally alluded to the uniting of the 13 colonies to create The Amerika. The motto was first selected in 1776 and features prominently in the Great Seal of The Amerika.

As a motto, E pluribus unum is very cool. I like the fact that it is in Latin because I am a geek. I like that besides reflecting the beginnings of The Amerika, the motto reflects the diverse plurality of our contemporary society. I like that it is all-inclusive.

In contrast, our current motto sucks. “In God We Trust” has been the official motto since 1956, although it first appeared on coins in 1864. The slogan “In God We Trust” was made up as a reaction to pressure from obsessed Christians during the Civil War. And as a theory, I would guess that it became our official motto in the 1950s as a reaction to the godless atheism of those pinko Russkie commies. Which is, as you probably know, also how a reference to God got into the Pledge of Allegiance.

I came to the topic of mottos today when Crooks and Liars led me to Pam’s article about the new US $1 coins. It seems that both mottos, the cool Latin one and the creepy superstitious religious one, are going to be engraved on the sides of the new coins instead of the front or back. Much like British £1 coins have their varying inscriptions around the edges. And, guess what – the Christians are pissed off that the reference to God is not going to be as obviously visible as it is on our other coins. You can read their whining here.

I know that the US Mint doesn’t give a shit what Max thinks about the coins, but here we go. You should remove the reference to God completely. You are alienating atheists, and you are alienating people who do believe in God (or whatever), but find it vulgar that you continue to associate God with money. Hasn’t it ever dawned on you that the association is in extremely poor taste?

That’s it. I don’t really care what the money says or where the words appear. As far as I’m concerned, the new dollar coins could say “FUCK OFF WORLD” right across George Washington’s forehead. Oh, and by the way, the new coins might not be worth very much by the time they get into circulation next February.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Twin Terrors

This post is not an attack on Jenna and Barbara Bush. I understand that most 25 year old girls are a bit stupid, and it’s not their fault that their dad is the worst “president” ever. I cannot explain the secret service’s disinterest in protecting the girls, but it seems that they don’t hold the wellbeing of their charges as a top priority. I would also like to add that everything in this post is hearsay.

The news has offered some entertaining stories about the Bushettes in Argentina over the last couple of days. There was the handbag that was stolen under the watchful eyes of the secret service, alleged nudity in hotel corridors (according to an Argentinean tabloid), and reports of further episodes of lax security. There was also the rumour, later denied, that the US embassy in Buenos Aires had requested that they leave the country.

Every time I see a headline about a Bushette, I am reminded of one of the stories I heard when Jenna was spending a summer in Prague. She was staying at the ambassador’s residence, and the lads of the Marine Security Guard detachment at the embassy were often recruited to accompany her out. I knew several of the marines that were here back then, and I heard the following story from a few of them.

Some of the Marines were out in a bar with Jenna, and the boys were explaining to her that only half of them could drink at any one time. Even when not on guard duty at the embassy, they were on call and at least half of them had to be stone cold sober. After the boys had completed their explanation, Jenna thought for a minute and then asked, “What do you do with the other half of your drinks then?”

For real.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I have just watched a clip of Richard Dreyfuss on “Real Time with Bill Maher” over at Miss Mickey’s blog, Future Corpse. To use Miss Mickey’s words, Richard Dreyfuss’ words are “powerful and inspiring”. To me, Dreyfuss’ message was about taking personal responsibility. Here is some of what he said.

The clip started off with Dreyfuss pointing out that a fundamental problem is that we, the people, don’t really know what’s going on as far as what our government is actually doing and the reasons they have for their actions. He reminded us of something Dan Rather had said, that the press does not ask certain questions anymore. Dreyfuss expanded that to include the people, stating that we do not ask questions of our government.

Maher questioned whether people know anymore what civics is.

Drefuss defined civics as, “learning of the tools of maintaining a republican democracy.”

He pointed out that it was an idea held by the founding fathers that the people are sovereign. He then spoke about the problem of “who whispers in the sovereign’s ear,” which he defined as “Rupert Murdoch, the guy who owns Viacom and the guy who owns ABC.” And, of course, we don’t know if they also have their own agenda.

But back to personal responsibility…

“Unless the society stands against certain things, they will have endorsed certain things, like torture, leaving the Geneva Convention, and lying to the Congress about the reasons for war.”

Dreyfuss mentioned that the legislative and judicial branches of government have dropped the ball, that they are not doing “their duty” to keep the executive branch in check, to keep the president’s powers within a limited scope. Which will be even more dangerous for the future than it is for the present.

…and then back to civics and personal responsibility…

“You can actually learn the constancy of curiosity and the constancy of outrage. You can learn that it is okay to keep asking the questions and to be dissenters. And if you don’t, if you’re not taught it, then you don’t know it. But we owe ourselves and the United States that we will pass off to our children to relearn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility and debate. And those things are the non-partisan basis of democracy, and without them you can kiss this thing goodbye.”

I have nothing more to add.

The clip and Miss Mickey’s words are here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Get your kid out of my face - I’m not interested

A funny thing happens to people when they have children. First, they consider that their new baby is the centre of the universe and the most exciting thing ever. That’s great. But then some parents take that a step too far by forgetting that their baby is merely the centre of their universe, and other people just aren’t really interested.

I have been excited by a few babies in my lifetime: my own Little Sister, my nephews and my niece, and the babies of a few close friends. That’s it. Babies just don’t do it for me. I think they generally look like cabbages for about 6 months, and they don’t do anything even remotely entertaining for at least a year. I don’t ask other people if I can hold their babies, and I don’t stop to admire babies in their prams. I don’t volunteer to baby-sit and I don’t change diapers.

Today I saw a headline on the Huffington Post that said: “Mothers Protest Airlines with Nationwide Airport Nurse-In”. Cool, I thought, I like protests in airports, so I went on to read the Washington Post article: Mothers Rally to Back Breast-Feeding Rights.

In spite of my non-fascination with babies, I am all in favour of breastfeeding. So as I read the article, I was waiting to be offended on behalf of breastfeeding mothers everywhere. Imagine my surprise when I found myself instead offended by the mothers, and specifically by the breastfeeding mother who had been escorted off a plane, thereby inspiring the protests.

First, the “baby” she was breastfeeding was not a baby. The Washington Post story had said only “toddler”, but looking round I found the kid was 22 months old. Yuck. But more importantly, the flight attendant involved in the incident had not told the mother that she could not breastfeed, s/he had merely asked her to cover up.

I would have done the same.

The protesting ladies say that breastfeeding is “normal” and “natural”. So it is, ladies, but so are masturbation and having sex. We don’t participate in either of those activities on airplanes, now do we? Certainly not without covering up!

I do accept that breastfeeding is good for babies. And I guess some women like having their nipples sucked raw several times a day. I completely support the right of women to breastfeed on airplanes. BUT I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT!!!

I don’t care how natural it is, I don’t want to be forced to look at your brat sucking your tit. Okay? Got it? Go ahead and breastfeed, but cover up and be discreet. The rest of the world is not enthralled by your child or your bovine motherhood rites.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Draft Again

Okay, so this morning I was reading stories about Rep. Charles “Insanity” Rangel and his 2nd proposal for a military draft. I had read about it yesterday, but as the general consensus was that Rangel’s proposed legislation wouldn’t go anywhere, I was not inspired to write about it.

Then today I came across a story on ABC News about the current high school drop-out epidemic.

A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of American students were dropping out or failing to graduate in the nations largest 100 public school districts.

The article doesn’t mention the military as a consequence of dropping out of school; it discusses only poverty, crime and shortened life span in that context. But I can make that leap myself. The poverty draft has come up on these pages before. And it is well-known that the military will take recruits without diplomas and with the promise of a GED (high school equivalency exam).

This all got me thinking further. I remembered that the US confers citizenship as a reward for military service. And then I wondered if military service is ever offered as an alternative to jail time or criminal prosecution. It was easy enough to find an answer because it is a real issue. According to, courts did sometimes offer the choice of jail or the military during the time of the Korean and Vietnam wars. But the military’s current recruiting regulations forbid accepting such cases. If they are following their own rules, which is doubtful.

“There’s no way to recruit within the rules and be successful.” – a recently retired army recruiting-station commander. (as quoted in Vanity Fair, September 2005, see Max.)

But “Insanity” Rangel says, “I don’t see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft.” And Senator John McCain wants to substantially increase the number of US troops in Iraq. And I am very sorry because I don’t believe in the incoming Democratic Congress and I do believe that the future is uncertain.

I found an interesting article on CNN, of all places. It’s all about how we are already ready for a draft. Of course, Selective Service. According to the article, 93% of men between the ages of 18 and 26 have registered, as required by law.

And then it’s all would we, wouldn’t we… well, this is how we’ll do it if… (kind of O.J. Simpson style, I thought).

Basically, if we do raise troop levels in Iraq or start a war somewhere else, we will need a draft. The only way to avoid a draft would be to significantly raise volunteer levels. Volunteer levels “surge” when The Amerika is attacked. Two examples: Pearl Harbor and 9/11 – both attacks that the government could have prevented, but chose not to. Hmm, makes you think…

For a detailed outline of “What Happens in a Draft”, see the Selective Service website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

CNN's Offensive Pig

White people campaigning for Keith Ellison

I finally had a chance today to watch this clip on Media Matters. It has provided another point for the long list of reasons why I hate CNN.

The clip is CNN’s Glenn Beck interviewing Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever to be elected to Congress.

Actually, it is not an interview at all – perhaps that came later. The clip is mostly Beck’s disclaimer, in which he prefaces his ridiculous ‘non-accusation’ with statements along the lines of, “I have Muslim friends, I have been to mosques, I love Muslims.” All stupid declarations that warn you that he is about to say something exceptionally idiotic. And then he did.

“I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’…I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”

Very much to his credit, Ellison handled the ‘non-accusation’ well, responding in an intelligent and controlled manner, and without becoming defensive. Perhaps he was seething on the inside. I would have been.

Glenn “Offensive Pig” Beck may as well have said, “Sir, you are not white and you are not Christian. What gives you a right to sit in the House of Representatives?”

And Beck obviously had not done his homework. Ellison has been open and forthcoming about his religion and what it means for him in a political context. A quick google search turned up these quotes from May 2006:

“I think it’s time for the United States to see a moderate Muslim voice, to see a face of Islam that is just like everybody else’s face. Perhaps it would be good for somebody who is Muslim to be in Congress, so that Muslims would feel like they are part of the body politic and that other Americans would know that we’re here to make a contribution to this country.”

“My faith informs me. My faith helps me to remember to be gentle, kind, considerate, fair, respectful. But I don’t make my faith something that other people have to deal with.”

Beck also made the statement that Ellison’s district was “heavily immigrant with Somalians”, and went on to imply that Ellison had only won his seat in Congress because his district is Muslim. I did not find information as to how many Somalians live in Minnesota’s 5th district, but I did find here that the population of the district is only 23% minority. What this means to me, is that some of the people that voted for Ellison must have been white and non-Muslim.

Beck made a complete arse of himself. His comments were nothing more than a blatant and shameful display of racism and ignorance. Not really surprising on CNN.

* Keith Ellison quotes from The Hill.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

O.J. Simpson – What a Cunt

On the 27th and 29th of this month, those of you in The New Amerika can watch on TV as the murderer O.J. Simpson describes how he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1994.

O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened – brought to you by Fox Television.

Now, if I had killed my ex-husband* and got away with it, the last thing I would do would be to describe to the world how I had actually done it. I would keep quiet, continue my charade of innocence, and not draw attention to myself in hopes that the world would eventually lose interest and leave me in peace. And even more so if I had children because I would want them to be left in peace (the poor motherless things).

But not O.J. Simpson, because he is an absolute cunt. His 2-part television interview is timed to coincide with the release of his book, If I Did It** (for which he was reportedly paid $3.5 million).

O.J. Simpson stood trial for murder and was acquitted. Practically all of the evidence had pointed to his guilt, but the jury was too star-struck or too retarded or too something to reach the correct verdict. Or maybe it was that the prosecutors had fucked up. Or the judge. Or that the investigating policeman was a racist. Who knows. Maybe Simpson’s book will also offer a theory on that. But because Simpson was tried and acquitted, he cannot be tried again for the same crime.

“…nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” – Article V, Bill of Rights.

So Simpson is protected by the law against “double jeopardy” as he was protected by his right to trial by jury and as he is now protected by his right to freedom of speech.

You go, O.J. I hope your children hate you.

* I did not kill my ex-husband; he killed himself.

** Published by HarperCollins. Fox and HarperCollins - both owned by News Corp, the company founded and controlled by that amoral neo-con arse-licker Rupert Murdoch.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on 9/11

I was over at Stop the Lie yesterday where I found an article about a symposium that had taken place at UC Berkeley on Saturday. The all-day event, called Lifting the Fog was dedicated to examination of the destruction of the World Trade Center through real science and use of the Scientific Method.

This is exactly what I am talking about. I know people think I am a whacked-out conspiracy theorist. Fine – use whatever label you want. But the participants in the Lifting the Fog symposium are real scientists who have done real research and have found evidence that conflicts with The 9/11 Commission Report.

Lifting the Fog does not claim that the neo-cons were behind 9/11, or that aliens hijacked the planes, or that Osama bin Laden is hiding on Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. What Lifting the Fog does say is, ‘Here is our evidence. It does not match with the “official” story. We are calling for a wider investigation.’

Through the story on the symposium, I found the Journal of 9/11 Studies, an online collection of articles “covering the whole of research related to 9/11/2001. One of the editors of the journal, Steven Jones, is one of the key people from Lifting the Fog. As a well-respected professor of physics at BYU, Dr. Jones represents the high level of science behind these projects.

As I said when I reviewed Loose Change, and it bears repeating here, “the only fact is that we don’t know what really happened on 9/11.

Meanwhile, the other Max has ordered copies of the 9/11 Commission Report for us and we are both also reading alternative theories of what happened and we are starting the Max2 Think Tank. We’ll figure things out eventually. Anyone care to join us?

Lifting the Fog’s own website is here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Change afoot?

I have been asked for my reaction to the outcome of this week’s elections in The New Amerika.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning and heard on the radio that the Democrats had taken over the House of Representatives, I thought that was better than if they had not. When I got home last night and heard that Donald Rumsfeld had resigned, I got a bit more interested. And then this morning when I woke up, I heard that Jim Webb had won the senate race in Virginia and so the Democrats had taken over the Senate too. That brought a smile to my face.

However, I find it hard to believe that there will be any substantial changes in policy in Washington. The only reason that Democrats look good is that we compare them to Republicans, who are mostly slimy, corrupt, power-hungry, immoral, loudmouth liars. But Democrats too vote in favour of laws that go against our Constitution. Democrats too are interfering with our rights as free people.

I have twice written about the Military Commissions Act of 2006:
Overwhelmed and bewildered…again, and
Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Überpresident.

Keith Olbermann has also spoken out strongly against the Military Commissions Act, although his videos that I had linked from here have been removed from YouTube “due to terms of use violation.”

Today I am not going to write about the Act itself, only about how many Democrats voted for it.

In the House of Representatives, 34 Democrats voted “aye” and 7 registered a “no vote”. In the Senate, 12 Democrats voted “yea”. Therefore even if the balances in both houses had already changed, the Military Commissions Act would still have gone through.

I’ve got another one for you: the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007. Hidden in there is a provision that revises the Insurrection Act and basically repeals the Posse Comitatus Act.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont had this to say about it:

“It also should concern us all that the [Act] includes language that subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.”

For a complete analysis that should scare the shit out of you, I recommend this article by Frank Morales.

And here are the numbers. In the House of Representatives, 168 Democrats voted for the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007. In the Senate, the Act passed by “Unanimous Consent”.

Is anything going to change in Washington because the Democrats are now the majority in both houses of Congress? I really doubt it, but I would love to be proved wrong.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Darwinian Demo

Survival of the fittest - I remember learning that term in grade school. I have been fascinated ever since by the concept that it represents, and I love seeing it at work. I am a big fan of the Darwin Awards.

Imagine my delight this morning when my eyes hit upon this headline: Woman fatally bitten by snake in church. Please, I thought as I clicked on the headline, don’t let it be a cleaning lady finding a snake under a bucket. I want to read about crazy bible thumpers who speak in tongues and believe in George W. Bush and the Rapture. My atheist prayer was answered.

Kentucky. East London Holiness Church. Snakes handled as part of religious worship. Crackheads.

But I learned something. I had known for a long time that some people play with venomous snakes in church, but I never knew why. According to the Yahoo! news story, it says in the Bible that a true believer will have the ability to “take up serpents” without coming to any harm. I wondered where in the Bible, and even which Bible.

A quick Wikipedia search gave me all the answers I wanted, including the history of snake handling and the passage at Mark 16:18.

They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

So now that this woman has died of a snakebite, should we expect that the rest of the congregation will learn something and leave off with the snakes? Apparently not. According to Wiki, a bite is explained by the fact that the woman’s faith was not strong enough or that she had sinned or that God was sending a message.

Good work, Darwin.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

In satura veritas

In satire there is truth. From The Huffington Post:

“So tomorrow is the big day. That’s when we go out and vote for a bunch of people who we think are going to suck less than the last people we voted for. But come on, let’s be honest -- even the new people we’re voting for are eventually going to suck just as much -- if they don’t already.”

These are the opening sentences of a very funny blog by Josh Jennings. Whilst the rest of the blog made me laugh a lot, it was clearly written as satire – in contrast to the opening lines, which, though tongue-in-cheek, are just the plain truth.

There are many reasons why I have not voted since the presidential election in 2004. One is that I believe that our elections are no longer free and fair (see my post of Sunday, 5 November below). Another is that it is one of the ways in which I can demonstrate my belief that our system of government is not legitimate, i.e. by not participating in it. A third is that I am not sure if absentee ballots are ever even counted. I know my vote for president is not counted in the state of California because the results are always decisive before postal votes are (or would be) tallied.

But my main reason for not voting can be expressed exactly how Josh Jennings put it. All politicians suck. Democrats might be better than Republicans and Libertarians might be better than both, but comparing politicians is like trying to rate whose shit smells less. You really just don’t want to be sniffing at any of it.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Lord Acton’s dictum (1887)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Max’s Time Travels

Welcome to another episode of Max’s Time Travels. Today, boys and girls, we travel back in time to August 1974. Are you ready?

But let’s start in the present. This morning I was reading a story about a hidden camera investigation at Orlando International Airport. What the investigation found, surprise surprise, is that TSA-Fatherland Security workers are inefficient and don’t know how to do their jobs, and that Aviation Authority workers are blind morons.

I think we have all noticed unattended bags in airports. My reaction to an unattended bag is instant suspicion, which is obviously a result of having spent a lot of time in Israel. If I see a bag which appears to be unattended, I will first look around for the idiot who left it there – he is often easily recognised by the gormless look on his face. I will speak to him and admonish him and command that he stay with his bag.

If I cannot spot the bag’s owner, I will speak up and ask in a loud voice whose bag it is. If no one claims the bag, I will report it straight away to an airline or security worker.

In contrast, TSA and Aviation Authority workers paid no attention at all to bags left unattended at the airport in Orlando, including one left for an hour just outside the Aviation Authority Office.

But I am not going to write about how pathetic some airport workers are, with their imagined authority and overall uselessness. And I am not even going to write about Rep. John Mica, Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, whose reaction upon being told of the bag that sat by itself for one hour was, “It doesn’t bother me – did it explode? That doesn’t pose a risk.”

Because I promised you time travel, so here we go…

The same article explains why one might need to be concerned about unattended bags: “Bombs in several airports, including Los Angeles (1974), Frankfurt (1985), Seoul (1986) and Algiers (1992) took multiple lives and injured scores of people.” I read that line and did a double-take. Los Angeles? 1974? I never knew about that. So I did some research (this is the going back in time part).

It was easy to find what had happened. A bomb had been left in a coin-operated public locker in Terminal 2, between the Pan Am and Korean Airlines counters. It exploded on the morning of 6 August 1974 at 8.10 PDT.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive, the bomb killed 4 people and injured “at least a score”. According to Wikipedia, 2 were killed and 17 injured. According to the NBC Evening News, 2 were killed and 39 injured (Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive).

It took quite a bit longer to find out who had placed the bomb, and I finally found that on msnbc. It was the Alphabet Bomber, which was something that finally sounded familiar to me. The Alphabet Bomber, as he had been named by the media, was a Yugoslav immigrant named Muharem Kurbegovich, who called himself “Aliens of America”, although he acted alone. For details of his other activities, see the link above.

Kurbegovich was arrested on the 21st of August 1974.

I was 8 years old in 1974 and I was away at summer camp at the time, which would explain why I had never before known that the airport in my hometown had been bombed that August.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Free and Fair?

If you are American and you still think that we have free and fair elections, then you are either ignorant or delusional or you have been living as a hermit in the forest for the past decade or so.

Some of the stories have eventually become mainstream news, so we have all been made aware of problems with electronic voting machines, long lines at the polls, and discrimination based on race, age or socio-economic status. But many people still do not want to admit that these sorts of things can happen in the United States of America.

Well, folks, get your heads out of your butts because voting problems are rampant in The New Amerika. Today I found an article in Mother Jones entitled Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America’s Worst Places to Cast a Ballot (or Try). In the article, Sasha Abramsky presents a list that is not exhaustive, but is representative of the problems with the polling systems in many of our states. The cases that Abramsky highlights are not merely suspected, hypothetical or alleged. In fact, they are all documented obstructions that are proven to keep people from voting or voting effectively.

I will not repeat or summarise what Abramsky has written. Please follow the link above and read the article for yourself.

The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. - Josef Stalin