When Fame and Honor Collide

You probably see things named for famous people all the time. In our area, there's a Nimitz Freeway and Macarthur Boulevard named after the WWII warriors. For the most part, localities or organizations assign these names to honor people who've done something duly important.
In most cases, localities choose these names upon the namesake's death. The ubiquitous Martin Luther King Boulevards around the country are an example.

However, some entities choose names ONLY after death. For example, the US Postal Service requires stamp subjects be tits up before they can adorn a stamp. These laws and ordinances help save potential embarrassment when the locality chooses a living person who later turns out to be a lying chump. One example is Cincinnati.

That city amended its charter to allow living honorees so they could feed baseball player Pete Rose's mammoth ego. The Pete Rose Way signs went up and a few years later, Pete Rose himself crashed down. Charlie Hustle turned out to be a compulsive gambler and was banned from baseball. A controversy ensued when the pro-Pete/anti-Pete lobbies squared off to argue about the propriety of naming something after a disgraced baseball player. The argument, much like the ban from baseball, probably smolders to this day.

It seems this idea of naming things after living famous people is out of hand. The last in the current class of Navy aircraft carriers has George HW's name all over it. Washington National airport became Reagan National when the Republicans swept in - along with the Contract on America - and needed to "honor" the incontinent old fart. We expect the ruling party will push to name the replacement for the World Trade Center something like "The George W. Bush Freedom From Terror Building". We're sure his outsized ego will be touched at the gesture. Heck, he'll even start trying to convince people it was a bipartisan move because Democratic loon Zell Miller backed it.

We work just down the street from Mineta International airport, named after Norman Mineta. He got the nod because he was a congressman who brought home the pork for his district in Supersize Me portions. He's also the only Democrat cabinet Secretary on Team Incompetent. Yes, he's still alive, although probably embarrassed at having to serve under the Moron-in-Chief.

So now that the "honor" gloves are off, how about naming a bridge to nowhere for Ted Stevens of Alaska. Or how about the new Tom Delay Home for the Criminally Insane? I know I'd vote for the Scooter Libby Chair on Ethics at Pepperdine University or naming K Street in Washington for Karl Rove.

Come on people! Let the love flow! Give these richly deserving citizens their due before the whole damn lot of them shuffles along to the afterlife they dwell on so often.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, March 31, 2006

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Valley of the Nerds

"High school is neither a time nor a place, it's a state of mind."
- Musician, Frank Zappa

Nearly all of us have heard of Silicon Valley. For the geographically uninitiated, the words conjure up a nice peaceful valley, filled with smart people, and tucked away in some vague corner of California. However, the real Silicon Valley is a little different.

For example, Silicon Valley has no silicon as far as we know - unless you count the stuff trucked in to make microchips. For those frequently mistaking the two, there's no silicone either - unless you count the boobs of sunglasses-bedecked trophy wives who cruise around in a large-scale Mercedes or the occasional high-end sports car.

Neither is it a geographical place, except in the broadest sense. First, there's no real valley. It's is a loose description of the southern San Francisco Bay where high-tech companies have congregated. It is a place of cookie-cutter, low-rise office buildings and clogged freeways. Most buildings sit surrounded by acres of parking lots that don't fill up until 11 am and are far from empty on weekends and late at night. There are big, toilet brush-like palms around many to reflect the new age spirit of California. Unfortunately, they look out of place betwixt all the native redwoods and live oak.

Silicon Valley even has its own local annexes. The "I-680" corridor runs nearly 50 miles north and is scattered along its length with high-tech companies who've moved to the burbs. Other companies congregated in San Francisco where there is a section called, "Multimedia Gulch".

But at its most powerful, Silicon Valley is a state of mind. It was the scene of the Great Dot Com boom where every idiot with a hare-brained idea was showered with money by rookie venture capitalists who hadn't yet learned the concepts of profit and loss.

During the height of the boom, high tech workers moved effortlessly from one company to the next. Back then - eons in gigafast Internet time - breathing was a more important job skill than an actual ability to do something useful. Software developers sat for 16 hours a day - typing code like demons and kept awake with massive infusions of gourmet coffee - as they created the next "killer app". They were the masters of the universe…with stock options.

The Valley also ushered in peculiar changes in corporate culture. Gone were the shirts, ties, and pocket protectors of previous geekified generations. In were the green spiked hair, ripped jeans, and shoeless grads and dropouts of nearby UC Berkeley. The venture capitalists all came from more tony Stanford and wore chinos, knit shirts, and Rockports - the newly established fashion of "business casual". No use being uncomfortable as you make your first million they said.

In exchange for the 16-hour days and lack of a social life, companies reformed the corporate experience to provide facsimiles of those things to avoid "useless" time off.

Instead, there were party nights, movie nights, and ice-cream socials. Workers no longer needed to leave work to care for those pesky details of everyday life. Companies offered on-site dry cleaning, car detailing, oil changes, haircuts, and windshield repair. If all that not running around overstressed you, most companies offered chair massages by licensed massage therapists.

No time for exercise? Companies built onsite swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, and gyms.

Hungry? Endless supplies of free gourmet coffee and soda gushed forth. Companies offered fruit or bagels at least once per week and opened subsidized cafeterias where employees ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring items like Mushroom and Eggplant Ragu over Creamy Herbed Soft Polenta with Parmesan and Chopped Basil.

Then the bust hit.

All those stock options - in some cases paid in lieu of living wages - were worthless paper. When the end came, the spoiled wunderkinder of the Valley did what any rich, spoiled kid does…they packed up their laptops, looked for a Starbucks with a free wifi hotspot, and planned for a year off to cycle around France. Most figured things would rebound as they always had in their twenty-something experience.

When they returned from France - mostly broke, but confident of the next big payoff - many found things had changed. The hare-brained idiots were gone. The 25-year old Stanford biz grads no longer had money to lend (or in some cases, eat with). The car-detailing business had closed and many developers found their formerly high paying jobs had moved to Bangalore where a princely sum is a damn sight less princely than the Valley.

Today, the Valley is a more mature place. Actual adults head most of the companies now. With a glut of workers, they no longer find it cost-effective to offer chair messages and bagels on Wednesday. And, no more six-month paid sabbaticals every five years either. That shit costs money and Dubya and the boys have yachts to buy and dividends to reinvest.

Some things remain the same. People still work 16 hours a day. Now the companies don't watch over their social well-being like a fraternity housemother. Most places told the green hairs to get a haircut, but most drew the line at "business casual" because even CEOs don't like wearing a coat and tie. There's big work these days for business analysts to do cost projections and business cases. Back in the boom days, a developer wouldn't have known what these bean counters were doing if one came along and amortized his ass.

So, Silicon Valley is like lots of other places, neither a time nor a place, but just a (downsized) state of mind.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, March 30, 2006

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The CEO President

There are managers and there are leaders, but they couldn't be more different than night and day.

A Manager is the titular head of a group of people. In today's world, companies encourage the use of the word "resources" in place of "people"; because that's exactly how Managers must perceive those they manage to survive.

Managers assign tasks to "resources" - who they combine with other resources - to create, in most cases, an unholy mess. The Manager monitors the progress of the mess, submitting the proper paperwork, nodding at the right places, and kissing the proper asses to smooth the way. At the end, and if the mess hasn’t been too catastrophic, the Manager gets some sort of reward for managing all those "resources" in a relatively benign way. Frequently, the reward is a disproportionate "bonus" based on the work of those who got squat in return. Sometimes the reward is more "resources" with which to create even larger messes.

By contrast, leaders are anti-managers. They have ideas and they invite people (never resources) to journey with them to some shining new place. They do as little paperwork as possible and they most assuredly don't kiss anyone's ass or nod when they don't have a clue what's going on. While a Manager takes refuge behind the failure of a subordinate "resource", a leader says, "Get off their back. If there's a mistake here, it's my fault." Exceptionally good leaders learn from those failures and use them to create even shinier new places.

Our current Tree Stump-in-Chief fancies himself a "CEO President". This oxymoron is the most dangerous hybrid of the concepts of managing and leading. CEOs, most of them anyway, are managers. Their work consists chiefly of delegating work to others and watching them do it. They are nearly always blind to the difference between two other key concepts - delegation and abdication. Presidents simply lead.

In Shrub's case, this is best shown by our crisis du jour, Iraq.

Commander Bunnypants listened to some loony neo-con Managers tell him that if we mugged Saddam and took over Iraq we'd been in ass-deep clover. Not once did he question this advice. Not once did he become curious enough to ask how we would do it. Not once did he ask who would do it, how much it would cost, or what would happen if he got exactly what he asked for and won the war.

He then delegated the doing to incompetent bunglers like Rummy, Dick, and Condi. At least he thinks he delegated. In fact, he abdicated. That means he turned over the whole damned thing to someone else, save for the early-going photo ops where he could take credit for how swimmingly he'd done - and headed off to clear some Crawford brush. He abdicated every detail to the bunglers, proving himself a more incompetent than usual Manager, let alone a competent Leader.

Now that a thousand "you're doing a heckuva jobs" are dirty water under a bombed out Baghdad bridge, he's not sure how to act. First, he claimed we were all blind and stupid. "OF COURSE! Everything's finer than fine." Then, he alluded to some vague notions of possible errors, the infamous "mistakes were made", small and infinitesimal though he swears they may be. He even threw in some "accountability" by jailing a few hapless Army privates for hooking wires to Iraqi "privates".

A Leader would likely have never gone to the God-forsaken sandpit to begin with and if they did, they'd sure as hell would have noticed something wrong before the three-year mark.

When watching this cluster-fuckbomb, we find ourselves wondering where the hell all the Leaders are. George Marshall was able to rebuild all of Europe quicker and cheaper than George has mucked up Iraq. George Washington managed to whip the British despite the fact his "army" was less than half the size and composed of men who knew about as much about warfare as Dubya does about the National Guard. For centuries it seems, we've always been able to find a Leader when we needed one, but no more.

There is not a single Republican or Democrat we'd trust to plan a birthday party for the Omnipotent Daughter, much less lead a country. Instead of Leaders, we have a Congressful of bribe-taking, forked-tongued, asshats who can't agree on a single thing - no matter how small or trivial. They're backed by a Judiciary of troglodyte nutcases bent on ushering us into the 18th Century. And the Executive - Big Giant Stupid Head at the helm - is the worst of the bunch. They couldn't figure out how to use a phone and call a terrorist even if they had his data-mined phone number.

We're sorry to say that about the only thing our current "Leaders" can lead is a slow-tramping death march right into the bowels of the outhouse. It stinks to high-heaven and there's no end in sight.

As Shrub might say, "That's some damn fine leadin' we're a-doin' here!"

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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Zen and the Art of Commuting

Most modern workers spend an appreciable amount of their time commuting to and from work. Some do it in cars, others take trains or ferries, a few even fly.

On morning commutes, people are thinking and gearing up for the day ahead. More than a few are dreading the prospect of what awaits them. That's why the rate of heart attacks is higher on Monday mornings. The shock of it all is apparently too shocking for some of us. However, it's also when most people have their best ideas. We suppose that if you think a good idea on how to reorganize your department for the fifth time this year balances out a potential heart attack, you're certainly management material.

In the evening, people are tired or in a hurry to do something they haven't been able to squeeze into their busy lives - say blogging for instance. Statistically, commute times are longer in the evening than the morning. Counter-intuitive we know, but there you go. How DO more people come out than go in?

We haven't seen the statistics for heart attacks and having good ideas on the way home, but we guess both are lower. First, the relief of being released from a cubicle farm is enough to lighten the load for anyone. Second, you're out of ideas. The well probably ran dry along about 11 that morning.

The trick to overcoming the boredom and frustration of a commute is to take a Zen approach. Just sit back and relax, because you're not going anywhere fast.

We like to enjoy the view. This works if you're fortunate enough to commute in a beautiful place. Northern California has enough folded green mountains and sparkling Bay views to overwhelm all but the most jaded commuters - even if power lines, instant communities, and huge smog-belching semis sometimes mar the view.

We even find ways to make the bad things about the roadside environment look better. Have you ever looked at the gentle rise and fall of a power lines beside the highway? It's beautiful in its own sine wave kid of way. The huge latticework towers, silhouetted against the sky, even evoke strength and architectural beauty if you're open to the experience.

Counting how many cheaters drive in the HOV lanes is another of our freeway games. It's an interesting psychological exercise in how people tick. Are there characteristics about them that seem to correlate to this dishonest behavior? (Aside from being predominately men, none that we can see.) What about the kinds of cars they drive? (There do seem to be more junkers and fast cars than family sedans.) Sometimes we do the math to show that 23 cheaters times the $273 (who came up with that number?) fine equals $6279 the state could use to ease our debt crunch.

Nature even abounds. On trips across the San Francisco Bay, nature treats commuters to a never-ending display of fauna. Hundreds of bobbing grebes float next to a flock of pelicans. Funny cormorants drape themselves over the power line towers - wings outstretched like crucifixion victims - trying to catch the rays of sun.

So, you see, beauty is where you find it - even if it is from the windshield of a car crawling through the long death march home. Maybe a little highway Zen will save you from that Monday morning heart attack.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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Big Tony Knows How He'll Vote

It's clear from their actions that the Emperor and his court jester Dick wouldn't know the Constitution if it walked up and pissed on their shoes as they richly deserve. They don't have use for such niceties as due process, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press out in the wild badlands of Texas and Wyoming. The evil twins only seem to care about those parts of the Constitution that strike their fancy. Freedom of religion (as long as it is evangelical Christian) and freedom to make a buck (we know it's not there, but they don't seem to) are tops on their list.

Despite their simpering about "judicial activists" who "interpret" the Constitution, they seem to like playing fast and loose with it too. Exhibits A-D: warrantless wiretapping, holding people without charges for indefinite periods, torture, and the old Two Prisoner Monte game they've been running in Europe. And these are the things we know about.

In addition to the aforementioned hanky panky, Pat Robertson's prayers were answered and the members of the Big Dick Rod & Gun Club were awarded two (for now) seats to fill on the Supreme Court. The Roberts and Alito confirmation hearings were long on the abortion issue and short on most everything else, but the judicial Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb and their conservative cohorterie on the court are headed for their first brush with the Presidential shenanigans soon.

First up is whether the detainees at Guantanamo have any legal standing under US law. It's nice to know that justice Antonin "Big Tony" Scalia has kept an open mind as he prepares to hear the case.

In a speech at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, Scalia pronounced himself, "astounded" by the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to the prison. "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," Newsweek quoted Scalia as saying. "Give me a break."

A Swiss audience member, apparently more familiar with the US Constitution than Big Tony, challenged Mr. Miscarriage of Justice Scalia. His response? "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy," Scalia raved.

We believe he based that brilliant legal argument on Article 1776 of the US Code. It apparently stipulates, "If Big Tony's kid is out on the battlefield all amendments to the US Constitution are automatically abrogated in favor of the esteemed wisdom of Mr. Antonin Scalia who will lead us into the blinding light of justice spurned."

Some people may ask why the administration is making such a hubbub over the trials if the bad guys are indeed as bad as Dub claims them to be. One answer might be that through the sheer incompetence of his prosecutors, they can't even manage to carry out a sentencing trial for someone who confessed and has been convicted. The depths of incompetency in ever facet of the administration continues to boggle our omnipotent mind daily.

After all, Zacarias Moussaoui is still spouting lunacy in court, the prosecutors are busy shooting themselves in the foot, and if the sentencing phases continues on its present course the government will be lucky if Zack is sentenced to 20 years at hard labor as the CEO of Dubai Ports World and fined to a $16 million bonus for being the nuttiest darn guy the court has ever seen.

The administration apparently has little to worry about with Big Tony on the case though. However, in view of the good justice's decision to decide the facts about the case before the case, we'd like to give him a little tutorial on a law that he should know well by now. Title 28, Section 455 of the U.S. Code says:
"Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Now we're no Supreme Court justice - hell, we don't even play one on TV - but we figure our legal mind is at least as good as Big Tony and his ideological sidekick Lil' Sam Alito and we think that passage means Big Tony should be a good little boy, recuse himself from the case, and crawl back beneath whatever rock Reagan found him under.

And if our idea of "fairness" was the same as Big Tony's, we'd assume to know exactly how Alito, Roberts, and Clarence "There's a Pubic Hair on My Coke" Thomas would vote, even if they were sensible enough not to mutter it aloud.

Nope, we won't call for them to recuse themselves. We won't pretend to know how they'll vote (although we do have our suspicions). We'll give them the fair chance to hear arguments and decide the case on its merits because we're not a believer of "judicial activism" either. It seems we're more respectful of the Constitution than Big Tony.

But then, that's not hard is it?

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, March 27, 2006

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As We See It: License to Scare Edition

It's been a busy week with lots of news and no time to comment on it. Here's the latest installment of As We See It.

The Name is Irhabi, 007 Irhabi

Sticks and Stones Will Break Our Bones, But Names Will Sometimes Hurt Us

Noblesse Oblige Dubya Style

Nitro Death Match - Russell "The Crushin' Cheesehead" Feingold vs John "The POWerful POW" McCain!

Laura & Ludmilla -The Newest Bond Girls

Searching for Better Poll Numbers Where No Man Has Searched Before

Headline: Bush Charm Offensive to Tell Good News

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, March 26, 2006

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Work, Who Needs It?

We have to say right up front that we believe work is one of the most boneheaded concepts ever devised by humankind. If you believe God created humans in His image, then why are we not lounging around on a celestial divan as angels peel grapes and minions from hell cool us with palm frond-shaped fans? Where is our fluffy carpet of clouds? Why aren't we free from want? It seems to us that if you believe in a God, this may very well be the first chink in your defense of them. Man created in the image of God? Bah! More like created in the image of God's mule if you ask us.

Work kills many people, either from the classic mine disaster type ending or from the stress that causes heart attacks in middle age. At best, it wears us down long before we reach the true physical limits of our bodies. If work was a child stroller, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would be recalling it as the most dangerous product ever invented.

Work is scurrilous in other ways too. It's been said that money is the root of all evil and work is the method whereby all but the richest millionaire kids get it. Most of us work an entire lifetime producing crap that is completely useless, except as a convenience. In fact, most things we make don't even take a serious run at utility. Do we really need a million different types of jeans or gell foot pads so we too can "gel like Magellan"? We say let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and be naked. It's cheaper and requires way less work. No shoes, no jelly pads for our feet. It seems a good trade to us.

Like money, work brings on almost as many wars as religion. Country A has a failing economy because it needs oil to keep its factories running and its crap-production up. When they run out, they invade Country B in an attempt to get more. If they just stopped making all the crap no one needs, say Hummers for example, there'd be no need for the oil and no need for the war. They could all get back to the religious warfare that’s been soldiers' and diplomats' bread and butter for eons.

Well, we're fed up and we're not gong to take it anymore! As a species, we need to contemplate how to get out of this fix. True, it requires some of that infamous thinking outside the box, but if we can figure out how we could get around this mess without anyone making the boxes to begin with, we'd all be better off. Clearly, we need to work on a solution!

Damn, there's that work thing again.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, March 22, 2006

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Sunset Over Brussels

Considering the train wreck our daily life sometimes seems, we've actually been lucky on the whole. We have a wonderful family, enough to eat, and a more than adequate roof over our heads. We've also had opportunities to do things many people only dream about. Take travel for instance.

We've been to every continent on Earth (except Australia and Antarctica), 24 countries in all. We've ventured to the far-northern ice of Greenland and south to the chilly interior of southern Argentina. We hurried east when Americans fled Teheran and crawled west, all the way to South Korea. We've taken in all 50 United States and all but three Canadian provinces. We've gone to touristy places like Paris and out of the way spots like Uruguay. There were a few hellholes along the way, Saudi Arabia comes to mind, and plenty of very nice spots as well.

All that travel and the people we've met along the way have informed our view of the world in a way that would have been impossible had we stayed at home. It also gifted us with spectacular memories of the wonderful and beautiful things we've seen. From time to time, we like to run through them like a virtual scrapbook in our head. Here is one we've thought of lately.

Sunset Over Brussels

In our younger Air Force days, we sometimes worked long hours trotting around the globe. For the most part, the trips had a sameness that any airline pilot would instantly recognize. On the fifth flight of the day between Point A and Point B, the excitement of flying becomes a bit muted.

It was on one of these seemingly endless days that we found ourselves riding in exhaustion and trapped in our screaming, creaking old warhorse of an airplane. We'd left Germany earlier in the day for a trip back to our temporary base in the England.

Around sundown, we ran into conditions that sometimes happen on exceptionally clear days. The ground directly beneath us had already slipped into darkness while the sun was still setting brilliantly in front of us.

As the darkness of the ground and the majesty of the sunset became apparent, each person on the normally talkative crew took note and quieted down.

Like magic, all the voices and radio calls crackled away and we were left with the screamingest silence we've ever heard. The airplane was normally so noisy it required yelling to communicate without a headset. However, the sound it made in that moment transformed the ugly beating of propellers churning the sky into the white noise of an ocean wave heard from a seashell against your ear.

Below us, Brussels was alive with an electrical life. Its broad avenues were clearly marked on the dark carpet of the ground - sparkling, twinkling, and pure. Above, the sunset stretched out before us and into infinity.

At the top, the sky burned with ferocity. Huge clouds helped break up the blinding reds, oranges, and blues into a painting unlike any mere mortal ever painted. First, a band of daylight blue delicately mixed with the soft white clouds. Bands of orange and vermillion were next. Each ray shooting into the daylight above and down into the darkness below. Then came a thin line of purple marking the line where day turned into night. Finally, the lights of Belgium merged into the purple, gradually gaining strength as the sun moved west.

We rode on in that splendid roaring silence for nearly a half hour before the sun outpaced us on its journey to pull darkness over North America's shores. During that half hour, no one on the crew said a word. Even the most jaded of us saw a beauty that is rare in today's world and we all took a silent oath to enjoy it and share the solitude with our brothers.

Just as the last specs of light fell into darkness, the radio scrambled to life with the voice of an air traffic controller. The sound startled several of us as we jumped out of our reverie and joined the work-a-day world once again. Just as suddenly as it had disappeared, the noise of the airplane came rushing back. We began to talk as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. And we suppose nothing out of the ordinary did happen, because sunsets happen every day and every one of them is beautiful somewhere in the world. You just have to be in the right place at the right time to see them.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, March 21, 2006

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The Tepid War

As we slog into the fourth year of the "quick war", like a muddy and exhausted Bill Maudlin grunt emerging from a foxhole, it's time to pause and look at the crossroads where we find ourselves. But first, a quick historical review is in order.

WWII was what pundits refer to as a "hot war". There were clearly defensible reasons for it. Bloodshed was on a level that makes Gulf War II look like a paper cut. It was a defining moment in our nation's history. We became the world's arsenal and our soldiers spread out across the world in a true and capable coalition. We fought for a well developed sense of right over wrong and largely managed to stay within those bounds.

The period immediately after WWII was a short slide into a "cold war". Hasty decisions and behind the scenes politicking during WWII handed us a very complex world rent with traps and problems. Because of those problems, the world spent the next 50 years on the lip of the atomic escarpment wondering what fool would shove us over the edge into nuclear holocaust. But the cold war wasn't always cold. Sometimes it had hot spots - usually directly related to something not cleaned up in the messy aftermath of the big hot war.

Korea was the first hot spot. It was the first time someone had jostled those on the atomic cliff and we damn near went ass over tea kettle off the edge as a result. The only things saving us were a few Hail Mary passes and a lingering fear on the part of the Chinese that a few nukes might fare quite well against human wave attacks. The result was a stand-off that remains today. And the current administration's response is to hope that Kim Jong Il - a raving loon if ever the world has seen one - will somehow stop being a loon and instead become a productive member of the global society. One look at the Fratboy's ringing diplomatic successes and Kim's penchant for Elvis pompadours may foreshadow things to come.

Vietnam was next. It was the hot war that Top Gun Tex and Deferment Dick sat out. We fought it because of post WWII diplomatic failures and it ground on far longer than it should have. The US placed itself in the unwinable position of not wanting to fight the war on a grand scale, but not wanting to adjust to the Vietnamese's scaled down war plan either. Dozens of misguided diplomatic forays were tried and none worked. Finally, the US decided the annoyance wasn't worth the time, declared victory and went home.

Though that seems like a valid response to the current quagmire, there is an important distinction. Except for a few interested parties, no one much cared what happened to the Vietnamese except the Vietnamese. There was little risk of nuclear conflagration over a spit of land with no great natural resources or industry of value. In leaving, the US could jettison a huge liability for little more than a temporary loss of prestige on the global stage. The loss of prestige is still there, but that's what the world has come to expect from us now.

Today we're in the midst of Gulf War II. We went there for dubious and constantly shifting reasons and those reasons have become even less clear over time.

We started out with a shock and awe big bang that went well because the military was allowed to do what it does best, fight wars. The infamous "Mission Accomplished" sobriquet wasn't entirely a farce. If restricted to the simple soldier's definition of, "the big war is now over and someone will begin pacifying the place now," it wasn't entirely untrue. The problem was that Dub and Dick - with their excellent military backgounds - didn't understand what that meant.

Don Rummy explained it to them like this, "It means we can all head off to the ranch for a big barbecue and quail hunt," and they promptly went on an extended vacation. The soldiers thought it meant, "Fun's over, let's pack up and go home." Clearly, no one had bothered to think about winning the peace - such a small detail we know.

So, the military went about not pacifying because that's an oxymoron and not what they do. They fight, they don't make peace. Dub and Dick were having a splendid time back in Crawford ignoring hurricanes, trying to pass ill-fated social security reforms, and generally shooting themselves, and at least one guest - in the face.

Meanwhile, the rest of us, along with the poor forsaken Iraqis, are stuck smack in the middle of a "tepid war". It isn't hot in the sense that thousands of people die each day. It isn't clearly defined like a big war either. In a sense, there is no enemy because the ones propped up at the beginning all turned out to be made of straw.

It's not a cold war. There isn't some evil empire - despite what George pontificates - waiting to send us all into that long, cold, nuclear winter. It's not clearly defined enough for this category either. There is no big faceoff between global ideologies. No, pretty much everyone agrees that Saddam was an asshole who's better off in the clink than running the streets of Baghdad.

So that leaves us with a tepid war. One that wasn't forced into being by huge events on the global stage. Hundreds of nukes are not pointed at each other waiting for the lunatic call to launch. In fact, the few nukes we thought they had turned out to be made of straw too. But none of this - not the lying, not the ineptitude, not the craven disregard for human life - is enough to change something that is immutably true...this tepid war means something.

The Iraqis, a grossly dumped upon people, have had their country turned from shithole to really, really degrading shithole without electricity and sewage service. Things don't even work as well as when Saddam ran the place, and he was a raving madman. They need help now, even if they do keep going back to avenge religious slights that happened thousands of yeas ago. Our point here is Mr. & Mrs. Baghdad didn't sign up for this crap and more than you or us. Their "superiors" did it.

Secondly, there is the oil. Try to ignore it if you like, but it isn't just about about Chevron and Exxon profits, it's about whether your lights come on more often they do in Baghdad. It's about whether you have a job to pay the bills. And more importantly, China is mighty oil-thirsty these days and a restive dragon will be all up in our face breathing oil-fueled fire if supplies get too tight. You might argue the point that Iraq has no nukes, but NO ONE believes China doesn't.

So here we are at the crossroads where Captain America has driven us. He's suddenly decided not to drive the bus anymore because it's no fun when people actually expect the bus to go somewhere. There is a great temptation for all of us to hop off the bus and start walking home, but that still leaves that nasty mess to clean up. What about the innocent Iraqis, the freezing upper Midwesterners, and the thirsty Chinese? Who's going to mop up all that spilled milk. We're thinking George is going to be too busy making useless speeches and revised strategeries.

We're in a hell of a pinch that's getting considerably tighter. The Iranians are talking about the Great Satan again and may or may not have nukes soon (which doesn"t really matter since they already said they want nukes). Kim Jong Il is one haircut away from leaping across the nuclear divide. Terrorism is still an issue, although one that now seems oddly quaint and almost safe in comparison. We still don't have reforms we need for domestic programs, we're spending money faster than we can print it, and the administration has grown fond of using the Constitution to wipe its well-upholstered, lobbyist besotted-ass.

We're an omnipotent being and we don't know how the hell to get out of this mess. It's so large and complex I'm not sure a really smart person could pull our ass out of the fire...and George's report cards from Yale reveal what a smart guy he is.

No ladies and gentlemen, our ass is in the fire. We have zero good options and damn few even acceptable options. Whatever happens, we're in for a rough ride.

We're beginning to think maybe the survivalists just had the wrong year back in Y2K. Maybe the real problems are right now in Y2.06K.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, March 20, 2006

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As We See It: St. Patty's Day Edition

Happy St. Patty's Day to Ya Me Bucko!

I Asked Duke and He Said It Was All OK and Above-Board

Wagging the Dog AND the Doghouse

Plots At Every Turn I Tell Ya...It's That Al Franken and His Commie Friends Again, Isn't It?

In the Wake of Divorcing Nick, Jessica Found Politics

Republicans Scramble to See How They Got Into This Mess

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, March 17, 2006

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The Swami of Crawford Looks Into His Balls

The Swami of Crawford has been peering into his crystal ball lately, trying to develop a strategery that'll pull his turban out of the couscous. Polls are down, tensions are up at home an abroad, and the Swami is playing a quick little game of "I spy, with my little eye...":
  • Nearly three years into the War Against Terror, For Freedom, and Against Accountability (WATFFAA), the swami is seeing a hazy ball. The flowers that were to have been thrown at the feet of our brave boys have, embarrassingly, turned out to be improvised explosive devices (IEDs). So, with poll numbers crashing like a lead-filled quail, he's decided to do something bold and decisive. He's launched Operation Swarmer - the largest military operation since Mission Accomplished. He's rooting out bad guys and probably a few family goats and camels as we speak. He's sent his minions of PR out to let everyone know this is an operation being waged in large part by Iraqis and based on Iraqi intelligence. However, he's again asking us to trust him because he forbade any media from actually seeing the Iraqis in operation. Need to know and all that you understand. Besides, when it turns out he attacked the wrong country or something equally inept, he can blame it all on the Iraqis and no one will ever be the wiser. The first rule of Swamidom - always leave yourself an out.
  • He also sees a flourishing Iraqi democracy that grows stronger by leaps and multi-ethnic democratic bounds. Aside from a nascent civil war, the inability for any two Iraqis to agree on how many cubes of sugar to put in the tea, and the Parliament closing itself after a 30 minute debate on what to have for lunch, things are going swimmingly. The Swami says, "just keep saying it's a success. Sooner or later they've got to believe me."
  • The Swami is also concerned about Iran. He's taken to telling them they better watch out or he'll poke 'em real hard with his magic, unending army. The Iranians, obviously cowed by this impressive display of sabre-rattling say, "OOOOOO! You and who else's army? If you want, we'll talk to you about taking Iraq off your hands, but we're not letting any nukes go. The reactors make dandy popcorn poppers."
  • The Swami wants to keep our "coalition partners" in the loop, so he sent Assistant Swami and Dominatrix Condi on a swing down Sydney way. We can see why he sent her. She cracks a mean cat-o-nine tails, looks great in vinyl, and she's one smart lady. She says the Iraq transition will, "take time". No shit. That Condi is smart as the whip she wields in her private moments with the Prez.
But, we shouldn't be so hard on him, even if his turban is wrapped a little loose. He's new to this omnipotent biz and we've been around a long time. We know how hard it must be to gaze into your crystal ball and see anything when the twins have been using it as a munchie tray at frat parties and Barney and Mizz Beasley have shed hair all over it.

No worries though. We expect he'll be getting the hang of things real soon and if he doesn't there's always 2008. Nearly 36 percent of the population says he's right on top of things. It's true that most of them live in Crawford or are on the payroll, but that's no reason to judge.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, March 16, 2006

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Blind Boy Bob: The Ragin' Cajun CFO

In Sunday's rant we introduced a little piece of imagery that seemed to resonate with some of you. In describing the weekend Republican shindig in Memphis, we mused that the sight of a Republican listening to the blues on Beale Street - the home of the blues - would be an odd sight indeed.

We were thinking about that image while stuck in traffic this afternoon and began to wonder exactly what a Republican bluesman would look like. Here's the picture we painted in our head:
  • Name: Blind Boy Bob (aka, "The Ragin' Cajun CFO").
  • Hometown: Stamford, CT.
  • Age: 63.
  • Size: 5' 11' tall and approximately 256 pounds. Dresses right.
  • Race: White, but very tanned and leathery.
  • Hair: Silver with a huge bald spot showing the distinct impressions of hair plugs.
  • General Appearance: Dark Brooks Brothers suit with fashionably slight fraying at the cuffs. Power tie bearing a stain from a spill of Quinta do Noval 2003 Vintage Port that occurred after the braised lamb shanks at Le Cirque. American flag lapel pin on his right lapel and an RNC elephant pin on the left. New York Stock Exchange Member tie tack encrusted in delicate diamonds. Well worn black, but very shiny wingtip shoes. Brown Borsalino Como hat with a badly broken brim. Wayfarer sunglasses attached to a gold chain around his neck.
  • Bling: Mammoth Yale Law School class ring on his right ring finger. Left ring finger bears a light spot from wedding ring recently taken by his 46 year-old ex-wife in a divorce settlement.
  • Instrument: Very old and scratched Gibson Western classic guitar named "Bunny" after his childhood sweetheart. Wears specially designed pewter finger picks to cover his daily manicure. When playing numbers requiring a bottleneck, he uses the neck from a bottle of 1970 Lafleur wine, specially reworked by his personal glass artisan at the Lennox crystal works.
  • Travel Arrangements: Rides to gigs in a standard Greyhound bus, but buys out all the seats because the other passengers are always, "smelly" and has the interior steam cleaned before he will enter it.
  • Sample Set List:
  1. "The Crash Came Early One Mornin' and I Was Caught Sellin' Short"
  2. The "I Been Indicted Blues"
  3. "I Swung My Club, But I Missed My Putt (One Mornin' at St. Andrews)"
  4. "Drivin' Mizz Titleist"
  5. "Them Income Tax-Captial Gains-Piss Me Off Blues"
  6. The "Let 'Em Eat Cake, But Not Before I Get My Piece Rag"
  7. "Don't Worry 'Bout Them Lil' People Blues"
  8. "My Ex-Wife's a Bitch Rag"
  9. "She Popped My Cork, But The Champaign Was Flat"
  10. "The Cost Cuttin' Cuss From Crawford (Texas Swing Mix)"
Yeah, that'll about do it.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, March 14, 2006

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From the Poobah Files: The Day Evergreen Disappeared

In the spring of 1974, I was a student at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Each time I hear of a tornado, I think back to that April day and remember the record-breaking 148 tornadoes that tore a wide swath of destruction through the Ohio Valley. More than 5,000 people were injured and 315 killed.

I heard the first report about the storms while driving to work at a local newspaper. A forecaster at Louisville's Standiford Field had just delivered a warning when he spotted the largest twister to hit Louisville touch down across the airport. The next day I learned the tornado had crossed the airport, and a nearby freeway, before leveling Freedom Hall, the huge exhibition building at the state fairgrounds. It continued into Louisville's downtown, damaging dozens of buildings and killing several people.

I raced for the office because I knew things would be heating up in the newsroom. I arrived not long before the first warnings were broadcast for our area.

The entire staff spent the night huddled in the darkened print shop in the basement of our building. Some slept on the floor, others curled up more comfortably in huge dumpsters filled with curiously comfortable shredded paper. We took turns going outside to catch radio reports about the storms. We mostly heard more dead air because nearly every electrical grid in the state had been wiped out by early evening and most stations were off the air.

Those inside tried to use the intermittent phones to contact civil defense, families, friends, or anyone else who could provide personal news or information for the morning edition. By midnight, we'd reached no one and realized there would be no morning edition.

At about 7 am, the lights came back on. We, and apparently our immediate vicinity, seemed no worse for wear. When the wire machines finally clattered back to life, they were midway transmitting the usual morning farm reports. The news was of pork bellies and the price of tobacco rather than the death and destruction all around us.

When tornado news finally did begin coming through, it was universally bad. Several Kentucky towns, including Brandenburg, were totally flattened. When I visited Brandenburg later that week, I found the filthy outlines of a town where nothing stood taller than three feet high except for the town's water tower, which got through unscathed. Farther north, Xenia, OH had also been hit. A larger town than most of the Kentucky burgs, it became the nexus of tornado coverage much like New Orleans stood in for the entire Gulf coast in the wake of Katrina.

Access to the hardest hit areas was tough, so several of us volunteered for rescue and cleanup crews so we could get into the damage areas. My assignment was to join a group of about 30 UK students sent to clean up a crook in the road near Frankfort. Its name was Evergreen.

It was a long, uncomfortable ride in the back of a U-Haul truck. We rode in darkness with our equipment scattered around us. The big rolling door remained closed because dust and debris kept rolling in when it was open.

As we approached Evergreen, the truck repeatedly lurched as it went off road and crept around downed power lines and trees. When we finally rolled to a stop, I flung the rollup door open and was immediately engulfed in a choking cloud of fine-grained dust, yellow and pink bits of insulation, and swirling papers.

The air was alive with the sounds of bedlam. Workers yelling, heavy equipment and chainsaws howling like banshees, barking rescue dogs, and hammering overwhelmed our own conversations and the far-off sounds of sirens. The air tasted sour and foul and our eyes stung from the grit.

For as far as I could see, a crazy carpet of wood and scrap metal covered the gently rolling pastures. Personal effects lay everywhere. Next to the truck, a family picture lay in the middle of the road - a Mom, Dad, and young daughter ripped from their frame and crushed under the weight of rescue vehicles. There were clothes strewn in the trees and toys - bent and twisted - lay about. Nearby, a family station wagon was upended in a swimming pool next to a naked concrete slab with a hedge under where the front windows of the former house used to be.

Our cleanup area was the Evergreen Baptist Church and our first encounter with it was impressive. The steeple had flown off in one piece and landed miraculously upright in a field about 500 yards away. The cross was intact and the copper sheeting on the roof still held fast. The sanctuary roof had torn away and the pews sat out in the open, covered with dirt and bits of stained glass. Most still held hymnals and donation envelopes in their seatback racks. Signs at by the altar still held the passages and hymn references from last Sunday's services. Up behind the altar we found the baptismal pool filled with unholy and stinking water, shredded Bibles, and bits of altar flowers.

The two-story community section was splayed open to nature. Roughly half of each room was missing, collapsed in a heap, or flung out across the hills in the form of broken wood and vinyl siding. In the half rooms that were left, things were oddly undisturbed. Pictures still hung on the walls, straight as they day they were put up. The pastor's desk faced out into space with papers and his personal Bible still on top. Frilly drapes hung undisturbed, covering unbroken windows facing out on more destruction on the other side of the undamaged walls.

A huge oak that once shaded the front steps on sweltering Bluegrass days was missing all but the sturdiest of its limbs. A strip of aluminum window frame punctured one side, just above a 2X4 that had gone clean through the thickest part of the trunk.

I remember working harder than I ever had in my life, pausing only for the occasional drink or donut from the Red Cross and Salvation Army teams that passed through periodically. All of us chopped and hacked the larger debris into more manageable pieces while others hauled it off into great heaps. Periodically, some mechanical monster would rumble through, pick the filthy stuff up in its great steel maw, and drop it into a waiting dump truck. Evergreen was being moved, stick-by-stick, to a dump.

Equipment was short, so everything was pressed into service. A local farmer who owned a prized team of Belgian draft horses hitched them to a huge and ancient cargo wagon and filled in as a makeshift dump truck. He told me his own house and his daughter's mobile home were gone. He said, “Hell, I ain't got nothin' to worry about. I'm alive. The kids is alive. We can rebuild the house.” He smiled though a few soft tears. I couldn't tell if they were from the dust or from the shock.

After 12 hours, all 30 of us climbed back into the truck for the ride back to Lexington. The door stayed closed then too. While we'd been a fairly chatty lot on the trip down, there was nothing but stunned and exhausted silence on the way back.

When we arrived and climbed slowly out of the truck, I looked around. All of us looked more of less the same. Our faces were streaked black with the ever-present dust, tiny trails carved in the dirt by steams of our sweat. Those who'd worn gloves had brilliant white hands at the ends of coal miner arms. Clothes were torn. A few still wore their disposable dust masks up on top of their heads, to tired for the trouble to take them down.

I went home for a quick shower and a bite to eat before returning to the paper. We'd arranged with another paper to print for us until our damaged plant in Cynthiana could get back on its feet. Even though I was the paper's production manager, I was pressed into service as a reporter. My account of the day in Evergreen ran page one, above the fold. It was the first story I'd ever had published. Although I can't recall many of the details, I'm sure it was much like this post, mostly a catalog of emotions rather than dry facts about how many millions of dollars in damage had occurred.

But, I still remember how the story ended. It was much like this post as well. I wrote about arriving back home and said, "I'm not sure how I feel right now. There were so many things to see and do and feel all day. I was almost too busy to feel until now. And then it occurred to me that what I really felt like as a dirty sweat sock and it seemed to me that was as apt a description as any."

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, March 13, 2006

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Dear Republicans: We Told You So

This is one of those posts that swings on a "yes...but" statement. We'll apologize right up front for that, but - there's that giggling little word - "we told you so".

This weekend's Republican tete-a-tete in Memphis was more than just an excuse to go to Beale Street, listen to some blues - although the sight of a Republican listening to the blues is amusing - and bash liberals for the end of the world. It was also about their upcoming strategery for keeping their stranglehold on all three branches of government.

There was plenty of talk about getting back to core conservative values - (BTW, have you noticed that Republicans never call themselves Republicans anymore? So much for the party of little elephants and Big Tents) - those conservative values being to redistribute the nation's wealth among as few people as possible, grinding everyone not of the Christian persuasion under the jackboot of religion, giving corporations legal rights in excess of individual rights, and sealing the deal with as much spying, cronyism, war, and environmental pillage as possible. And don't even get us started about shooting old guys in the face.

You didn't hear much about why they are so vociferous about getting back to those values. In a political process probably not seen since the days of Warren G. Harding, mention of the Grand Old Patooties' leader was strictly verboten. Except for a pandering expression of solidarity from John "I Sold My Soul to the Anti-Christ" McCain, you heard nary a word about the Frat Boy-in-Chief. In Ashcoftian splendor, he was even unable to muster enough votes to beat that congenital idiot from Virginia, Senator George "I'm So Frickin' Stupid Even Bush Fired Me" Allen.

In fact, the few words you did hear were forced through the hard panting of Ironman Triathalon contestants trying to get as far away as possible from His Incompetence.

"If I knew then what I knew now, I would have never voted for him again," was a familiar refrain. So was, "he lied", "his conduct of the war was inexcusable", "no one could defend his response to hurricane Katrina", and a host of other cockups from Medicare snafus to botched medical savings accounts and his flat-footed War on Whatchamacallit This Week.

It's bad enough when Democrats say these things. They are supposed to know better, but many of them seemed to have lost sight of that in the post 9/11 "you're a traitor if you question His Highness" miasma. The best that can be said for the spineless Demotwerps who kept giving the bastard what he asked for, is that they were stupid. Maybe even criminally so. But at least when they voted for him and he inevitably screwed it up beyond belief, they had the good sense to attack him - however weakly - like the Texas cur dog he is.

The ones who were really insane were the nitwits of his own party - the ones who kept voting the dumb bastard in, closing ranks to protect him from every f*ck up, making excuses at every turn, and abandoning the true principles of conservatism without even a nudge from the impotent Dems on the other side of the isle.

They didn't wimper a word of protest as he dragged us into Viet Raq with a long trail of non-existent WMDs, torture, and mismanagement in tow. They offered only faint murmurs of protest when he sold our great-great-great grandchildren down debt river. They figured a dozen or so hearings that never blamed anyone for anything were a sufficient enough response to the travesties of Katrina.

And now?

Now they have the unmitigated gall to abandon him. Now that the damage is done. Now that his record of incompetence and cronyism is unsurpassed. Now, after voting him back in on a promise of four more years of the same damn thing, they've decided to get a conscience.

"He's a hack...he's a lying charlatan...how could we have been so hoodwinked by the clever bastard?"

Clever bastard?! Dear Bible-thumpin', anti-choice, Christian God in heaven! The man has all the perception of your average Gale Norton-hewn tree stump! Hoodwinked?! If the rube of all rubes took you in, you've got to have the largest grifter target painted on your backside the world has ever seen!

Here, you sanctimonious know-it-alls, is a true and simple fact. He gave you exactly, word for word, what he said he would deliver. He gave you something that no other politician in history has ever been able to pull off. He gave you 100%, Grade A, bird-flu-mad-cow-infected, prime servings of every promise he ever made.

We tried to tell you. We pointed out the chimp was acting like, well...a chimp - flinging poop in all directions and managing to cover himself and you in it at the same time. We begged, we pleaded, we cajoled, we marveled at your stunning level of self-deception - but you wouldn't listen. Like arsonists drawn to a whorehouse fire, you gazed into his wretched, smirking eyes and fell in love. Then you did what all destructive lovers do. You gave him another chance.

If you were a hard working, single Mom from Topeka writing to Dear Abby about being jilted for the 15th time by your lovable but cheatin' man, it would be a little humorous. But you're not. So we'll tell you what Dear Abby always tells Jilted in Topeka when she writes in for advice, "wake up and smell the coffee honey! You made this bed, now lie in it."

Which is just another way of saying, "we told you so".

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, March 12, 2006

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As We See It: Lame Duck Edition

In this week's edition of As We See It:

"Maybe If'n Ah Fake One Ah Them Heart A-Ttacks They'll Leave Me Alone."

Bush: "Prezident Patootie is Ah Man Ah Kin Work With"

Interior Secretary Gale Norton Deploys Her Golden Parachute

Got Civil War?

Lame Duck Dubya Leaves Port

Stupid Decision 2008: Republicans Prepare for the Next Election

We're also promoting a few causes celebre this week. Stop by these places to get the lowdown:

Let the Sun Shine In!

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, March 11, 2006

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Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Yesterday's cross-post at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks and Bring It On resulted in some good debate about the merits of a DNC plan to data mine various sources for a "targeted" list for donations and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Our position, shared by some, was that it was a bad idea. However, a substantial number disagreed.

We read the comments closely and carefully considered their well-framed arguments, most of which we had considered before writing the post. In some cases, we didn't wholly disagree with them, but we remain unconvinced - and here's why.

When new ideas surface, people usually ask one of two questions at the outset of the debate. One is "can we do this?" The other is "should we do this?"

Clearly, the answer to the first question is mostly yes:
  • Is it technologically feasible to build such a database? Yes.
  • Is the data already in the public domain? Yup.
  • Can it help defeat Republicans? Possibly, although I'm considerably less convinced than our dissenters.
But when we ask "should we do this?", it seems to us the answers are less than clear.

The Poobah strongly believes that just because data exists in the public domain it is no good argument for harvesting it. The private data of private citizens should belong to those citizens. We don't have laws to that effect, but we should and we would heartily endorse any effort to roll back the damage already done. We're not being Pollyana about this. We know this is very unlikely and monstrously difficult, but so is gun control and quite a few people believe that is an issue worth fighting for.

Some would argue that the mining furthers the goal of getting a more sane set of laws via new candidates, but we're old enough to not hold our breath for that one. We also believe that from a purely moral standpoint it's wrong. It's a bit like saying it's OK for me to rob a bank because my next door neighbor did it. Both of us would be equally wrong.

We believe there is real danger and substantial annoyance involved with data mining. The more hands that touch a piece of data, the more likely it is to be changed without permission, used for some purpose that was never intended, or fall into the hands of someone who shouldn't have it. It also helps propagate a problem that is already out of control.

Our guess is that if you asked a victim of identity theft, they would be considerably more concerned than most people about their data being handed out to yet one more faceless entity. Even if they are well-meaning democrats. They understand the true value of data in a way that a non-victim probably doesn't. They know the damage that errors and theft of their private data can cause. For them, this is not an academic question, it is real damage pure and simple.

Consider this - there is probably no more loathed job in the world than telemarketer. Who out there has never cursed their existence when the phone rang? If you say, "not me" I'd submit your idea of the truth is akin to Dubya's. The fact that this data is in the hands of a political party rather than the hands of say, Citibank, doesn't matter a whit. A nuisance is a nuisance, no matter who does it or what high purpose they have.

How about spam? Much of that arrives courtesy of public domain data. Several years ago a local candidate for a county office here - as it happens, a Republican - decided he'd go the data mining route and send spam e-mails and telesolicit potential supporters. He lost the election and the incessant calling and e-mailing was cited as a primary cause.

We'll concede that data mining could produce data with the potential to bolster democratic candidates, but we believe that's questionable too. Many people, including us, make it a point to never buy or donate anything to an entity that telemarkets or spams. Many "targeted" campaigns rake in more money for the subcontractor than for the company or organization that hired them. Learning from the lessons of the Food for Oil Program, we'd prefer it get there by a more direct route. It's a bad move because it offends many of the same people we are trying to sway.

Case in point? Today's monthly solicitation from the DNC for money to beat the bad guys. We get plenty of e-mail from them too.

Do we donate?

Not anymore. Their constant cry for alms has worn out its welcome. We've never been much of a believer of tithing, regardless if for a church or a political party. We have a firm policy of never donating to a telephone solicitor, e-mail spammer, door-to-door shill, or mass mailer. We do donate - plenty, in fact. But, we believe that's our choice and we shouldn't be hounded or goaded into doing it regardless of how good the cause may be.

To those who disagreed, we believe you made some very persuasive arguments. We're proud that you stand behind them and are open to debate. This sort of debate is vital to choosing the best path and we think you've helped that along tremendously. If only more people took the time for that, we wouldn't be having this conversation to begin with.

Oh, and by the way, this isn't a big enough issue to stop us from voting the slimy asshats out. That is important, but for us, not as important as sticking to what we believe is right while defending you for sticking to your guns as well.

The Poobah salutes you!

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, March 09, 2006

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A Bad Idea Is A Bad Idea, Even If It Is Ours

You know, a bad idea is a bad idea, no matter who comes up with it.

Exhibit A, a story about some well-connected Democrats led by former Clinton aide Harold Ickes. Ickes icky idea is to data mine a variety of sources to identify Democrats who presumably would vote along party lines and cough up enough cash to blunt the Republicans' control of all things governmental.

"The Republicans have developed a cadre of people who appreciate databases and know how to use them" Ickes said. "Appreciate" them, hell they love them. The cadres go by the initials FBI and CIA and work under the auspices of the UnPatriot Act. Nobody swings a virtual pick any better than these guys and they have the data nuggets to prove it.

Ickes rationalization sounds awfully familiar, almost Bushonian in it moral relativism. "It's unclear what the DNC is doing. Is it going to be kept up to date?" Out-of-date information is "worse than having no database at all," he says. Remove the reference to the DNC and insert "the American people" and we could swear his voice sounds just like Alberto Gonzales channeling Bush's need for more data in the War on Whatever It Is This Week.

As usual, the Republicrats beat the Democans to the punch. That bastion of American unity, the RNC, started several years ago to build a database of voters centered around what they call "anger points". Hate abortion, here's the list. Hate liberals, here's the list. Think Karl Rove is the latter day coming of Jesus and Bush is his God, here's the list. Members of a South Dakota abortion cult, well, you get the idea.

We're sure the Republicans will piss and whine about this move, much as they piss and whine about many other "unfair" and "damaging" practices they employ themselves. You really have to hand it to them, hypocrisy, like evolution, is a concept well beyond their comprehension.

However, we're equally sure many Democrats will support this high-tech gold panning operation, claiming that if the other side does it they have to too. This argument is akin to India and Pakistan both claiming they need nukes to "protect" themselves from one other. The idea that some idiot zealot with access to the button might solve the problem - by annihilating both - once and for all never seems to occur to them.

Here's the bottom line - defeating Republicans is an admirable goal. There's no one more foursquare behind the idea than us, but a bad idea is a bad idea whoever comes up with it. Until now, the idea of snooping on their fellow citizens has been the clear province of Republicans. They snoop, they spy, they collect more data than they can use in 100 years - and they're damn good at it.

But snooping is wrong. We need more protection from this sort of intrusion, not less. We've already slid down the slippery slope, fell off the cliff at the edge of the river, and are now floating helplessly toward Niagara Falls. One can only hope we'll survive the fall long enough to swim to the Canadian side where, hopefully, cooler heads prevail. Eh?

It's time for Democrats to do something they've been awfully loathe to do recently - stand on principle. Forget this cockamamie idea and leave the spying to Bush. We're not foolish enough to think money is unimportant to the political process, but we're also not foolish enough to completely abandon bedrock principles in the face of a "they did it so we have to too" mentality.

Leave that to Bush, because that's exactly the type of reasoning that Dad and Bar imbued in the poor little bastard when he was a kid - you don't have to follow the rules, because we're above all that.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, March 08, 2006

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