Friday, August 31, 2007

Please, sir, may I have another

Harry Reid is signaling his willingness to compromise with "anti-war" Republicans on Iraq. How is that news?

What the Democratic "leadership" seems unwilling to do:

  • Take a firm stand, even one favored by the majority of the American people
  • Distinguish Democrats from Republicans at high relief
  • Hang Duhbya's quagmire around the neck of every Republican in Congress, no matter how chummy they may be
These steps would all be good politics, and by good I mean both successful and good for the country. How can it be that the Washington Democrats have spent decades in politics and haven't figured out the most basic aspects of it?

UN-diana Jones

I got a good laugh at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when the packing crate containing the deadly ark disappeared into a secure government warehouse, ever ready to renew its mischief in case Spielberg couldn't think of any better sequel scenario (not to worry). Now that a can of Saddam's old phosgene has been discovered at the UN in New York, the comic foreboding seems a lot less comic. That stuff might not melt your screaming face, but it'll definitely do a number on your lungs, since it reacts with water to form hydrochloric acid.

It would be interesting to know how potent the sample remained. Since it was in an oil suspension, I assume that it was both safer to handle and more long-lasting than had it been stored as a gas.

Update: Phosgene only on paper, it turns out.


A couple of housekeeping items up front:

  • Larry Craig is not a credible witness in his own defense.
  • Craig did not commit any lewd act whatsoever.
  • People should be arrested for having sex in public bathrooms.
  • Craig is a gay-bashing jerk even if he is gay (which would also make him a self-loathing hypocrite).

Much as I'd like to pile on, the fact basis in this case does not appear to support conviction for anything. The so-called evidence is:
  • Craig hovered outside the officer's stall and "fidgeted" with his fingers. Can't imagine an innocent explanation for that. Maybe we should call Roseanne Rosannadanna.
  • He blockaded his stall door with his luggage. Was he supposed to put it next to the toilet? Sure, that's what I want my bags soaking in.
  • He tapped his foot! Imagine. He could have been playing with his ... iPod.
  • He played footsie with the undercover police officer. While definitely suggestive, this is an ambiguous act, and he only did it once. I'm sure that ambiguity is part of the game, but the police need more than just that. (Working vice, they're probably used to running hookers in without ever getting a price negotiated.)
  • Craig did unusual things under the divider with his hands, though there's no allegation that he made any widely-known gesture.
This stakeout seems a little like a racket to me. Engage in some ambiguous behavior that might be flirting, get arrested under the time pressure of making your flight, plead guilty, pony up five hundred bucks, and walk away without ever having to register as a sex offender.

Reminds me of a time I got stopped for speeding in New Hampshire. The two cars in front of me had NH plates and got to go on their merry way with nary a blue light. At the time, Massachusetts issued single plates for the rear, so it was obvious I was an out-of-stater. Ah, revenue enhancement - and the $55 price was low enough that it didn't pay to fight it.

The problem with working up real, non-extortionate lewd conduct raps is that you have to wait around for real hook-ups or something really unambiguous. My own untrained instinct tells me that Craig has a point about entrapment. Would he have gotten a free trip downtown if he pushed that?

I did enjoy the officer's refusal to accept Craig's bullshit, even though he was using interrogation techniques to try to elicit a confession. It's a little scary that the officer demanded Craig confess just because all his other would-be trysters had owned up but I suppose normal for his job.

Anyone else wondering why David Vitter is still in the Senate? Couldn't have anything to do with orientation, could it?

The meaning of 'terrorism'

What is the meaning of terrorism - the word, not the sociology? (After all, this is a blog, not a dissertation in political science.)

The Bushists and their wingnut bloviators have used it to mean:
  1. Violence directed at Americans

  2. Any criticism that makes them sufficiently angry (which is to say, virtually all of it)
These self-centered definitions excuse them from having to subject their own behavior - and our own as Americans - to even the Golden Rule. We're Americans, we don't do terror, we're special.

It's typical of Republicans to build a rhetorical universe in which they win by definition and facts don't matter. Governments find this blurring of distinctions useful - witness the Greek government following the same path the Bushists have taken domestically. Forests or SUVs, fire can be a terror weapon, but I think a crime needs to meet specific and narrow factual criteria to be called terrorism.

The meanings of words do matter, as Republicans used to tell us when they were crawling into every orifice Bill Clinton had (ouch!) and bleeding out like a three-pepper Thai dinner. The word terrorism has a real, specific meaning: violence for political ends that targets innocent people. There's still lots of room for argument about what target and innocent mean in this context.

In WWII, the Nazi bombing of London was, we all agree, terror bombing. We've all seen movies of the plucky English and Winston Churchill still plying the streets between Luftwaffe raids. What then about the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo? Or the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which possibly saved my grandfather's life)? We Americans often rationalize these horrific swords from the sky against infant and soldier and toothless elderly alike as attacks on the military infrastructure close to their incinerated homes. In truth, we know that we chose to kill all those people for minor direct military gain. And maybe Hiroshima was even the right choice at the time; war grays every boundary, and its terror did give tremendous indirect military gain by intimidating the Japanese into surrender.

Does the use of terror bombing against primarily civilian targets count as terrorism in a war that's already in full swing? We've been in the age of total war for well over a century. Southerners still hate Sherman for it. Moral or not, the norm of both "civilized" and "uncivilized" forces is to accept significant collateral killings. Most of us who are not pacifists agree that WWII was a just war, yet its collateral killing was worse than any previous conflict, and we and our allies always rationalized collateral killing and often (Curtis LeMay...) embraced it.

There is of course a very real difference on the subject between America and al Qaeda, just as there was between us and the Nazis. We have used technology to make our weapons ever finer and more discriminating, not in every instance (e.g. cluster bombs) but to a large degree (however, don't believe the missile videos from the First Gulf War were anything but cherry-picked). The real terrorists of al Qaeda, on the other hand, have used technology to be more and more indiscriminate.

We Americans are also likely to fall back on the Japanese perfidy at Pearl to ease our consciences, even though that was an attack on a legitimate military target, which means the perfidy was their use of diplomacy as a tool of war. They talked to cover a sneak attack that launched an aggressive war of choice. They, like Duhbya, felt they had no choice, or at least that was their rationalization. They, like Duhbya, pretended to seek peace long after the decision to make war had been made.

The attack on the WTC was obviously terrorism. While there's no doubt that a nation's economy is critical to any war effort, civilians engaged in their ordinary jobs are not a legitimate target. The same goes for Iraqis in Baghdad trying to earn a living.

The attack on the Pentagon on 9/11 was a little different. The Pentagon is the nerve center of our military and thus a legitimate - but still outraging - target. Only an infantile wingnut could claim that I don't want to defend it and the men and women who serve our country there and elsewhere.

My point is that understanding the world is important to achieving what we want to achieve. Blurring distinctions such as this only helps the political cause of American right-wingers and Bushists, who seem determined to efface any distinction other than us vs. them.

Of course, the attack on the Pentagon used a terrorist weapon, and I don't mean air attack. It intentionally murdered innocent civilians, typical of al Qaeda operations.

Logically, the attacks on the marine barracks in Lebanon, on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, on the Blackhawk in Somalia, and on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen were all attacks on military targets. Heinous and wrong, sure, but acts of war not of terrorism.

The import of all this is that the GWOT, as many others have proven over and over again, is a misnomer, and not just because Saddam was not a terrorist against us. The notion of a global war on terror is not even coherent, especially given the too-ironic use of fear in selling it.

What the PNAC neocons and the Bushists would like us to believe is that we're fighting at least a global war on jihadism (in the extreme sense of jihad). Of course, Iraq doesn't fit that formulation either - or didn't until we whacked the hornets' nest.

But, of course, if Duhbya could understand distinctions such as this, he could have understood the hostilities between Sunni and Shi'a in time not to provoke the hornets.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Did IQs just drop while I was away?

The AP reporter who filed this Fred Thompson puff piece should be fired. Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. Now. The editor who didn't refile it into the trash should be canned, too.

The AP knows that the faded red pickup is bullshit, that it's just a campaign prop, that it is only marketing not related to reality, like the Iraq war. But that doesn't matter. The AP wants to print bullshit. There's just no other plausible explanation.

The weird thing is that Thompson has political advisers who apparently want to bring the truck back for 2008. Or maybe they just want to get stupid stories like this printed, since we all know that the voters are too stupid to respond to anything more hifalutin' than pork rinds, aw shucks, Ah cain't tawk too good bullshit.

Here's another load of yummy BS. Ah, Tennessee voters - and I used to be one - must be credulous idiots. Not only that, Tom Humphrey thinks they're proud that they're stupid, and he's happy to play to it any time. Some are, maybe many.

Getting back to the science fiction theme of the headline, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Or maybe we're all just lost in the Sinai, though I don't think that's the promised land up ahead, 'cause Moses sure as hell ain't leading this particular double-wide handbasket.


Who will Duhbya nominate to replace Gonzo? Nobody knows, but reporters are desperate to tell us. After yesterday's Chertoff embarrassment, the AP finds its best Time above-it-all shrugging tone, but Mooney is still willing to transcribe what any unnamed Republican source says. Really, the rule should be: You want to float a name? You have to go on record. Otherwise, the reporter is just collecting guesses and bullshit and feeding it to us.

One particular paragraph cracked me up:

Other potential prospects include former Solicitor General Ted Olson, a GOP stalwart who argued Bush's case before the Supreme Court in the 2000 Florida recount
Uh, no. That smarmy SOB will never get Senate confirmation as long as any Democrat has even one ball. (Oh, shit.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Baby birds

Time expects us to swallow the Bushist spin they regurgitate to "explain" why Gonzo resigned now. First, there's the sweet photo op of lunch with Duhbya and Laura. I wonder: do they get a second, fresh serving after the photographers are shooed away?

Then, there's the Josh Bolten deadline myth again. Why's the weather so nice in August? Josh Bolten told it that it had to leave now or stay until 2009. When senior White House aides jet off to cushy lobbying jobs next year, ya think we'll hear about Josh's deadline then. Tut-tut, how can Condi leave now? Suuure.

The story does quote Pat Leahy and Nancy Pelosi, posing their quotes as rebuttal to unnamed Republican sources who fear those nasty Dems will politicize the confirmation process. But the quotes are just boilerplate and, let me tell you, did not originate in response to the quote they are juxtaposed to.

In short, the Time story is almost pure Republican spin.

Run, Fred, run

Every time something political happens, CNN quotes undeclared candidate Fred Thompson's reaction to it. With this kind of free press, why would he ever declare his candidacy?

The national media is just as corrupt as the politicians they're in bed with, sometimes literally.

A little brush clearing

Gonzo was no longer a firewall. In light of the Kuttner plan, his continued inflammable presence among the Bushists had become a danger to Duhbya, however unfortunately remote. They must have decided that they needed a fire break instead of a firewall.

That means they fear a wildfire the most. I say, burn, baby, burn.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Women and girls as chattel - or worse

Even if I didn't have a daughter, this would be heartbreaking:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The family of a 7-year-old Afghan girl raped by two men has come forward to demand justice, defying social customs that view such attacks as a stain on the victim's honor.
We have such people in the West, maybe more than in the East, and sometimes they get away with their crimes because they are powerful or lucky or because we neglect justice. But our culture no longer establishes an ethos that degrades women in this indefensible way. Even in Charlestown or Dorchester or the Angiulos' neighborhood of Providence, where the police hear only silence, a crime such as this would be avenged.

The way to subvert radical Islam is through women. They know they're oppressed. Ask the women in Saudi Arabia, our "friend". Or, go back in time not so long and ask how English and American women lived under the rule of thumb, for example.

Profit vs. security

Do I really have to say which one the Bushists choose?

Ed Markey says:

If the Bush administration tries to bend the law, it is going to discover that there is a new sheriff in town.
Let's hope this is more than an empty threat.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trust us

The White House will not permit any oversight or even transparency. The only remedy is to begin impeachment or to deny budget authority.

Note: This suit wants to apply FOIA to memos about the missing emails, not the missing emails themselves, which might contain a few justifiable secrets among the craven political calculations.

Romney's credibility

Mitt Romney was lying about his abortion views when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. He was always anti-choice, but he knew he couldn't win with that position in Massachusetts, so he said what he had to say to get elected. He told honorific stories of his mother's pro-choice leanings even though all the evidence indicated she had held no such views. A man who would lie about his mother is truly a man who would lie about anything.

Romney also knew that he could run and win honestly in Utah but that that would be a political dead end, and he had the Presidency in mind from the very beginning. Just what America needs - another dishonest scion of a failed Republican.

In 2002, Romney did provoke Shannon O'Brien into trying to find some way to make a distinction between their views, and she made consistency of the age of consent and the age of parental consent to abortion an issue. This only made her sound extreme, even though it was perfectly reasonable. The moral of the story is to attack his credibility instead of his position.

Of course, Romney can't admit his duplicity, even though it would help him if the ardent anti-abortionists could trust his current desire to overrule Roe v. Wade. But admitting the truth would cast him as an opportunist, which of course he absolutely is.

Mitt Romney believes he is entitled to the Presidency. He does not feel obligated to sell himself truthfully.

The law unto himself

Ed Brown, convicted tax evader, wears a badge. He takes for himself the right to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. Sounds like Duhbya! Oh yeah, both are idiots, too.


Duhbya points to Vietnam now as an argument not to leave Iraq. If only we had stayed the course in Southeast Asia, maybe we could still be there, too. And damn that Gen. Lee, "we" could've won the Civil War, too, if he hadn't caved at Appomattox.

Duhbya is playing to the neoconfederates; they're his only remaining base. Given their passion for reenacting Civil War battles, I'm surprised there's no trend toward reenacting Tet and Khe Sanh. Probably too hard to find anyone to play the VC.

This moron couldn't learn the lessons of history if they were delivered in Zen koans complete with a good slap upside his head.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

To impeach or not to impeach

The American Prospect (subscribe to the dead tree edition - I do) offers two liberal perspectives on impeachment:

  • Harold Meyerson takes the point of view of the Democratic Congressional "leadership".
  • Robert Kuttner argues for sterner stuff along lines I've walked before.
Both agree the Bushists deserve impeachment and removal for real and serious high crimes and misdemeanors. Meyerson spends a fair amount of copy trying to distract from the merits of the case against these witless would-be tyrants using humor. For me, he just wasn't funny enough to accomplish that.

Meyerson does admit:
This kind of assault on the Constitution is precisely what the founding fathers were guarding against when they crafted its language on impeachment.
Hard to argue with that...

Once the topic of just desserts is finally done, Meyerson starts with:
First, there's no way that there will be sufficient votes to remove Bush and Cheney from office.
Given the primary loyalty of Republicans to their party instead of their country and its ideals, this is true. It also doesn't matter. Politics is about drawing strong and definite distinctions between you and your opposition. John Kerry didn't have a clue about this in 2004, though he appears to have finally learned. Unfortunately, the Democratic caucuses haven't learned this obvious, elementary lesson. Maybe the Blue Dogs just don't want to learn, and the "leadership" lets them lead their more clued in caucus-mates around by the nose.

Democrats and liberals continue to labor under the misapprehension that they should be concerned with governance. This shows them to be slow learners - they've had a decade at least to cotton onto the idea that there is no compromise possible with this bunch of nefarious Republicans, instead only the chance of getting taken - again.

The political point of impeaching Duhbya is to tie his lousy, no-account ass around the deserving necks of every Republican who won't abandon the Bushist abrogation of the Constitution. The Constitutional point of impeaching the Bushists is of course more important - and more obvious.

Meyerson's second reason not to impeach is that Nancy Pelosi would become President and that this would boomerang with the electorate. Uh, wouldn't this only be possible if conviction were possible in the Senate? No matter, I have a rejoinder: Impeachment could boomerang if it were an elite process inflicted upon the country. Democrats need to convince their constituents that impeachment is a necessity of our democracy. Shouldn't that fundamental principle be obvious?

If Pelosi's succession were still a problem, there is no reason not to make a suitable compromise. Tell President Cheney that he can only escape war crimes prosecution if he appoints Chuck Hagel president before resigning. He can only pardon himself for violations of U.S. law.

Third, Meyerson says, the precedent set by changing the party in command of the Executive Branch via impeachment would be bad. This is exactly wrong. The Founders put this remedy in place for that very need. If that is a reason not to impeach Duhbya and Darth, it's a reason not to impeach any President or Vice President ever.

It's no wonder Meyerson writes a column for the Washington Post.

Papers, please

When the police can stop you for no specific cause and, under threat of suspension of your driver's license, force you into a Breathalyzer test, the difference between America and a police state is - politeness. Yeah, there's a difference of degree, too, but that's easy to change when everyone in politics periodically goes through a paroxysm of "toughness", which the voters lap up eagerly. (Witness Iraq.)

I've been through two internal domestic checkpoints, one in Maine looking for drunk drivers, the other in New Hampshire looking for illegal aliens. I didn't match either target, but I still felt the hot breath of the law on the back of my neck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not a libertarian

Even though I think marijuana should be legalized, stories like this keep me from drawing the same conclusion about opiates. Here's the money quote:

"You've got three choices," [Dotson] said. "You either die, go to prison or get saved. Mostly, people around here are dying."

Safe at home

Endeavour is safely on the ground. Grissom, White, and Chaffee were important to me when they died in Apollo I, as were the two crews lost on shuttle orbiters. So were these astronauts, even though I could not name them, not even the teacher.

The shuttle program is a mess of reduced expectations:

NASA has outlined an ambitious shuttle launch schedule to complete assembly of the international space station. If all goes as planned, NASA will fly 14 more missions before the fleet is retired in 2010.
Fourteen missions in 40 months does not show spaceflight to be routine, which was the goal of the program. That was probably too much to hope for.

Let them eat cake

The Bushists will force your children to do without medical care to avoid the possibility that single-payer would work for them and not for insurance companies.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Margin of safety

If the pumps fail in a noreaster, how long before the tunnel is flooded and impassable? How long do I have to get out of the tunnel before I'm swimming? What if the leak volume rises by an order of magnitude?

What I'd really like to see is a graph of pump output volume and precipitation over the past three years. C'mon, it's pretty obvious that the single slurry-wall construction technique used on this tunnel has failed. Twenty years ago, a municipal water pipe might have contributed significantly to this problem, but that's mostly fixed by now, right?

This is ground water, and it's unlikely ever to be fixed within design specs, which means a shortened safe structural lifetime. Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff's offer of $300 million to get out of jail is a pittance.

(Image from a March 2005 report from the Federal Highway Administration that expected leaks to be fixed by the end of the summer of 2005.)


Leona Helmsley is no longer with us. Of course, she was never with the likes of me. Her sense of what the world owed her is largely the Republican platform.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

One view from the field

Ouch. Let the swiftboating begin. Maybe the Romney boys can pitch in with that war effort.

Some notable excerpts:

What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins.
Futility is the word for it.
These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric.
Wingnuts may say that we need to crack down, that we can't "win" unless we are just as feared and brutal as the insurgents. What a win that would be!
[W]e see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
B-, b-, but an armed society is a polite society!
The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security.
Take that, Pollack and O'Hanlon!
[T]he most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably.
Damn Saddam provided electricity, water, and sewerage better than we do!
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
An amazing bunch of guys.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blaming the victim

The New York Times favors us with this captious nonsense:

Why did so many homebuyers ignore recent lessons — to be skeptical about can’t-lose, instant-wealth machines like tech stocks — and start viewing real estate as such a certain and profitable bet?
Earth to the Gray Lady: Home buyers in the subprime market were not investing; they were buying a place to live. The forgetful idiots were the investment "professionals", those Ivy League refugees from real work, who can't remember the frequent consequences of leverage and debt.

Better to burn out than fade away

Too much blogging today, but let me say this: Tonight the Red Sox won the division. Too bad Yankees; you're playing for the wild card.


America needs this:

why aren't Democrats doing more to aggressively discredit the Republican candidates?
This need has been obvious since Duhbya "won" in 2000. Democrats should be on this message all the @#(*$ing time: You can't believe a single goddamn word the Republicans say.


Public relations is a synonym for lying.


“We did not cover ourselves in glory,” said one Democratic aide, referring to how the bill was compiled.
The Congressional Democrats covered themselves in shame. They valued their vacations more than the Constitution.

The Bushists and their Republican enablers, of course, actively attacked the Constitution. The Democrats were merely too lazy to defend it.

Recycling - even Republicans do it

Tony Snow is going to take a pass on selling this stale, shopworn bullshit. They said this in 2003 and every few months since then. When is the press going to report the context?

"For the twelfth time since the invasion in March 2003, the White House hinted of troop withdrawal plans in the indefinite future."

"Lt. Gen. Odierno stated that the surge escalation will end sometime in 2008, tripling the length of the plan when President Bush first announced it."
Is the whole press corps smoking so much pot that they can't remember hearing this stuff before? Or are they just eager to get over to the RNC cocktail party to graze on primo jumbo shrimp and Grey Goose martinis?

Michael Deaver dead at 69

Deaver taught the Washington press corps that they could be manipulated and like it. He made all those pretty Reaganite pictures that meant so much more than mere words and lowered the common denominator - though not nearly as far as subsequent GOP media people. But Deaver was never evil like Lee Atwater or Karl Rove or smarmy like Ken Mehlman and Ed Gillespie. I guess he could always leave the dirty work to Roger Ailes, who has a network full of hacks who are both evil and smarmy. Ironic that CNN has the headline before Fox, though there's as yet no story to link to.

It's continually amazing how the depredations of the Bushist regime make me nostalgic for previous, less nasty Republican Administrations - for just a second or two, anyway.

Update: I had forgotten about Deaver's felonies. Just another Republican criminal, I guess, even if he did have a pleasant manner.

Beach-front property

If not for the downturn in real estate, some huckster refugee from the Florida swamps would be selling Arctic ocean-fronts.

Gripe, gripe, gripe

What could go wrong with a beautiful cable stay bridge if the anchor plates warp? I don't think we want to find out some February during a nor'easter.

What I definitely do not want is bland reassurances from public officials. If Bernard Cohen and Michael Capuano want to reassure me, they'll give me facts that reassure me, not just words.

I also don't want he-said, she-said, dueling-report stories from the press. There are actual facts out there somewhere, even if they're not in the reports themselves. Here are a few critical questions the reporter should have asked:

  • What tests (x-rays, ultrasound, whatever) did Wiss Janney perform to reassure themselves and the state Department of Transportation that the warping they found is safe? (Today's follow-up story suggests that they didn't perform any tests, that they simply noted the proximity of warping to welds and excused it because of that.)
  • Did the state deploy any instruments to determine whether the warping is getting worse, particularly in light of the fact that the number of known warped plates has grown from three to six? If not, why (the hell) not?
  • What record-keeping and reinspection is the state doing to monitor the scope of the warping?
"I don't know," might have been the answer, but even that presumably temporary ignorance would inform me, the reader, enough to make my own judgement instead of guessing whose report is correct.

With all this said, it appears that the main disagreement is how fast to progress the investigation. Capuano was asking the right questions, and Cohen, despite what sounds like a bureaucrat's instinct to minimize problems, seems to be following up. But I'm a grown-up; give me the straight story.

Of course, the press doesn't ever print all of an interview, even in an interview format. The public officials may have said what I want to hear.

For those who've never been interviewed or who like to talk (me, most politicians, Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail), the cardinal rule of message control with the press is: Have your message ready, deliver your message, and then put the rest of the conversation off the record. (Gets you out of the interview quicker, too!)

In this case, I would have said, "We think our engineering report is right, but we take these questions seriously, and we will stay on top of the structural health of the bridge so that it's never an immediate risk." Or, better, "X-ray crystallography shows that the warps occurred during welding on the first three plates. We'll be performing similar tests on the latter three, as well as repeating the tests on the first set to see if there has been any further warping."

Friday, August 17, 2007


Everything James Comey said was true.

Mr. Ashcroft, the notes said, reviewed his legal objections to the eavesdropping program and complained to Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card that he had been “barred from obtaining the advice he needed on the program by the strict compartmentalization rules of the WH,” a reference to the extreme secrecy imposed by the White House.
Now I understand why John Ashcroft threatened to resign, despite hailing from the right wing of the right-wing Republican Party. The White House wanted carte blanche from him. "Trust us," they said, but he must have been affronted by their refusal to trust him. I would have been.

The only thing that matters to the Bushists is total, unequivocal, personal loyalty. Alberto Gonzales is attorney general because he has it, shows it, flaunts it. He says to Congress, I dare you to try anything against me. I am consigliere to the don.

FBI apologizes

In response to Steven Seagal, the FBI has released the following statement:

The Bureau regrets that it has been unable to provide Mr. Seagal with his day in court. All Bureau personnel have been occupied with on-going surveillance operations.
This was redacted from the original version for its unprofessional tone:
Many of those surveillance operations involve listening to conversations between Dawna and Raeann filled with "like, y'know, totally" - in Arabic where available, of course. These conversations, however tedious, are more interesting than Mr. Seagal's films, though we were pleased to see him killed early in Executive Decision. (Some might say that his character was killed in the movie, but we know from our wiretaps that grandiose faux heroism is all there is to his so-called personality.)
Let's see him jump that snark.

Yesterday's news

The New York Times, in its infinite wisdom, headlines "In Surprise Move, Fed Cuts Key Rate". The Washington Post concurs with "Fed Makes Surprise Move to Calm Markets", though that headline will probably be gone soon. The LA Times has a similar headline on its front page, "Fed delivers unexpected rate cut to calm markets".

Who was surprised? Certainly not the financial markets. This rate cut clearly leaked yesterday in the middle of the afternoon.

I wonder how transparent the leak was. Did everyone get it or just the important players? Silly even to ask the question, I know.

Won't get fooled again

Karl's last task is to write the "Petraeus" report. I'm sure it will be a doozy. But the American people have a severe case of buyer's remorse, and they are finally skeptical.

Just think of all the pain they could have avoided for us if they had been skeptical in 2000. Or 2002-03. Or 2004. But better late than never, even if 43% remain resolutely ovine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crazy political junkies

I've never called C-SPAN, but I might. At least I'm only level 2 crazy.

See the whole Get Fuzzy strip here. (Single cel posted under Fair Use. Use it or lose it.)

Enemy of the State

Just think what Tom DeLay could have done to Democrats if he had had great tools like this.

If you think Google Earth is great, wait till you get a look at this (in your dreams).

Free market

When the free market is powerful enough to get Iraqi women to risk stoning, not to mention STDs, you know it's a powerful force. They're selling the only thing they have of value.

Oh, it's their children's hunger that drives them? Not some entrepreneurial instinct suppressed by Saddam?


The idiotic faith the Bushists had in the "free" market to solve all economic problems in post-invasion Iraq meant that they didn't plan to employ people at even a subsistence level. What else is new? These boneheads don't even understand that markets in the best of circumstances require time, regulation, and safety nets.

This is exactly the kind of freedom that the Bushists would like for us to have in America. Think how much better urban street corners would be if former welfare mothers would just compete with crack-head skanks to deliver better services at lower prices!

'Race to the bottom' takes on a whole 'nother connotation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can't take it

The White House wouldn't know outrageous if it bit 'em in the ass. They can dish it out, but they can't take it, like bullies from time immemorial.

Hill's response is note-perfect, too (and I'm not a Hillary supporter):

Apparently I've struck a nerve, the White House just attacked me a few minutes ago. Not only have I said it and am saying it, I will keep saying it because I happen to believe it.
Don't apologize. Don't explain. Don't back down. (Well, if there's new information, that's different. Wouldn't want to be a Bushist.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Data mining vs. connecting the dots

The NSA is collecting your email. Does it have to go offshore? No, they only have to have a reasonable belief it's going somewhere outside the U.S. Like, maybe, Canada, 'cause we know we can't trust anyone who's so damn polite.

Are they keeping your email for posterity? Who knows? Probably. I mean, they're scanning it for keywords and analyzing context, so the temptation to archive it has to be great. My suggestion: If you have anything you want to keep secret, disguise it as spam; there's no way they'll keep all of that.

Of course, the NSA data mining program is a state secret, so no one is allowed to know this for sure. It's just obvious. If someone could prove it, he might have standing to sue, and the Supremes already bolted out that procedural escape hatch, so that they didn't have to face the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment.

I'm sure they're not interested in your correspondence with Amy, Mistress of Pain. But just in case, better mention Cialis or Viagra whenever you beg her for mercy. And you'll have to tell her that you'll cut up your credit card if she keeps threatening to give you a jihad-on.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove roves

Why is Karl Rove leaving the White House now? In any Bushist media event, always look for the lies.

It's not to spend more time with his family, but it is a pretty funny joke that the White House has put that out as their protective lie, since everyone knows that more time with family is a synonym for fired.

No, Turdblossom was not fired. Are you kidding? He's one of two indispensable men in the Cheney administration. (The other is Darth Cheney himself.)

Did Rove leave because Josh Bolten said he had to? That Rove had to leave now or commit to stay to the end? Sure, Josh Bolten is telling Duhbya that Rove has to leave! Pigs would have to fly a lot further than Texas to make that true. If you believe that, don't take any sales calls from subprime mortgage resellers.

Rove left because he thought he would be more effective outside of the White House than in it. He also chose a time when Duhbya has had a slight uptick in the polls into the mid-30s. The fact that the uptick comes from weak-minded Republicans who believe the "surge is working" propaganda because they so devoutly want to believe it.

Why would Rove think himself more effective outside the White House? A few reasons:

  • He's unpopular and knows that his distance will help Duhbya, his creation.
  • He hopes that people who don't pay attention (swing voters!) will now stop thinking about how thoroughly his specialty, propaganda, dominates the Republican playbook.
  • The phone works to Texas. The press might ask if Rove's home includes a secure video link. Better avoid deceptive denials - ask him if he will have access to a secure link of any kind.
  • Everyone knows that Duhbya is a lame duck already. We're all dreaming of 01.20.09 and the relief that day should bring. Rove outside the White House has much more maneuvering room to find and help the Republicans in 2008. He says he's out of politics. Right! This operator couldn't leave politics without a do-not-resuscitate order.
  • He probably is ready to cash in. The book story is probably true, and Rove knows his wingnut market won't be interested in history, so his self-serving inside spin has a limited shelf life. Also, the speech circuit beckons. Still, loyal Republicans don't have impoverished retirements, so this is probably a minor consideration. Halliburton directorship, anyone?

The only safe way to keep the whole lot of these authoritarians from major post-office bad press is to get another authoritarian Republican elected in any way possible. There are only three Republicans who can possibly win in 2008 - Romney, Giuliani, and the one remaining Thompson. Outside the White House, Rove can play footsie with all three.

Rove's favorite would have to be Thompson. He's an actor and a bullshit artist. He's from the South and has long experience faking populism. He has major feet of clay and no clear principles but lusts for power. In short, he's a perfect Republican cipher into which Rove could pour the Bushist bullshit. (Of course, Giuliani would be better thematically, but will he take direction?)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Is the escalation working?

In today's media environment, anything positive that a liberal says about the escalation will become Bushist propaganda instantly and permanently. On account of this, anti-war liberals should not take the Lieberman path.

But that's a different question from the original one: is the surge working?

Since they're politicians, the Bushists did not set any specific criteria for success. That's too risky; better to have latitude after the fact to argue the escalation was a success. I hope they had eyes-only objective criteria written down somewhere in advance but with this bunch of losers, I doubt it.

What hopes did Americans have when the escalation began? I see the goal as improving security to gain two things:

  • a greater sense of safety and relief for those Iraqis on all sides who are tired of violence - that way, they might stop supporting or acquiescing to their faction's killers
  • a chance for the Iraqi political authorities to reach compromise and institute effective civil government
The first is primary since it's the mechanism to bring about the second. The proof of success of the escalation would be a lasting effect on the level of violence in Iraq - fewer dead, fewer bombings, etc. It wouldn't hurt if the infrastructure improved at least to Saddam-provided levels.

Has violence diminished? Early in the escalation, the answer was unequivocally 'no'. More Americans were dying; no fewer Iraqis were dying. Now, I don't know.

If the trend in violence is clearly not better, the escalation failed. If it is better, the escalation still has some hope of success.

Normally, I would say that judging this is complicated by the fact that the U.S. military won't try to keep civilian casualty statistics. But since nothing coming out of the executive branch is credible in the Bush Administration, at least without outside confirmation, we'll just have to rely on the information of others.

For now, that information is equivocal. Most of the positive news emphasizes a lower death toll month-to-month, often following a bad month. Really, I'd need to see a clear trend to reach even a tentative conclusion.

If by some miracle the escalation has actually worked, we won't actually know until it is over. Mere suppression by superior force of the civil war engulfing Iraq is not enough achieve lasting civil order.

We're not going to get that sort of clear indication, I'm afraid. Instead, we'll get mushy, cherry-picked statistics and sweet, too-good-to-be-true anecdotes such as the one the Washington Post published Thursday.

Politically, liberals should say things like, "There would be more hope if the Bush Administration had pushed the Iraqis to get off their duffs and achieve some, any political progress. That would make use of the sacrifices of our troops."

Ten little Napoleons

We've done away with the Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus. Why stop there? Let's get rid of the presumption of innocence, too.

Slowly so that even a journalist can understand: Until the alleged crime is proven in court, there should be no legal consequences of having been accused. The government should not beggar someone on the basis of arrest.

Oh, and by the way, the raises that are such a good way to pander to ignorant outrage without enlightening it are no doubt ordinary step raises required by contract, not special performance rewards.

I'd be happy to recover salary payments made between arrest and conviction, should that occur.

People like us

To call the Wall Street Journal editorial page Neanderthal would be a grave insult to Neanderthals. Geico, so easy Paul Gigot can do it.

Today, however, the lead editorial in the Journal says:

Serving as lender of last resort in these conditions is the proper function of central banks.
Sounds about right, but it's funny how rich investors deserve interventions in the market to save them from themselves, while the rest of us can go hang when we need something done outside one market or another. Oh, sure, the WSJ frames their opinion in free market terms when arguing against a rate cut - "bring the markets' risk appetites back in line."

Here's the basic contradiction:
  • Lose your health insurance, get sick, and need protection from creditors - tough.
  • Lose your head, go long in risky securitized mortgages, suffer a downturn that busts you - too much danger to the economy, we'll help.

Free market advocates are always willing to let the free market work as long as other people are the ones suffering.

Update: Quentin Hardy, you go, boy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Giuliani on the pile

... but it's not a pile of rubble. The giant, narcissistic jerk says:

"This is not a mayor or a governor or a president who's sitting in an ivory tower," he said. "I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. ... I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."
Of course, the Washington Post headlines it "Giuliani Talks About Ground Zero Risks", not "Giuliani Spent Much Time on Steaming Pile". They wouldn't want to speak ill of a Republican.

Cindy vs. Nancy

Cindy Sheehan has never been predictable; grief will do that. I'm pretty sure her quixotic run for Congress against Nancy Pelosi will go nowhere except in the media, and I don't want it to go even there.

Still, I can understand Sheehan's frustration. We put our hopes and cares into the election of a Democratic Congress, and we haven't gotten what we believe we earned, which is an assertive, coequal branch of government that has the will and the spine to bring the Bushists to heel.

Token Democratic quote

The AP via CNN quotes every Republican in sight, but the only Democrat it can find to quote is Ted Kennedy, and even he gets sandwiched between massive slices of white-bread Republicans. Here's the quote (or paraphrase) sequence:

  • Chertoff (R-Jafar)
  • Gutierrez (R-who?)
  • The White House (R-bunker)
  • Duhbya (R-blithering)
  • Perino (R-flack)
  • Chertoff again (R)
  • My boy Teddy (D)
  • Gutierrez again (R)
  • Chertoff again (R)
  • McConnell (R-tobacco) (Mitch)
  • Kyl (R-loon)
  • Cornyn (R-Texas, 'nuff said)
  • Grassley (R-semi-sane)
  • "Some lawmakers" (R-who-the-hell-knows?)

I thought this had to be written by Nedra Pickler, but, no, the byline when I found it was Suzanne Gamboa.

At least someone at AP slipped this nugget of dissonance in for the Republicans:

Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush has used his executive authority in the past to improve immigration enforcement, such as by strengthening border enforcement. She was pressed on why -- if the new changes were such a good idea -- Bush hadn't done them already.

There was another AP story that CNN could have taken. It actually quotes not Democrats but labor sources. Has AP decided to play both sides of the street separately instead of striving for balance?

Generals say the darn'dest things

The war czar thinks a draft is "on the table" to address the vicious cycle of redeployments to Iraq and its undoubtable effects on the troops and their families. In a dictatorship, this might make sense, but a democracy will not tolerate a draft to sustain a war that only a quarter of the people support.

On the other hand entirely, national acceptance of a draft is a good criterion of minimum support for a war. If the country won't accept conscription to fight, maybe the country has no business starting a war in the first place.

Courtiers of conventional wisdom

The move of the Democratic Party upscale, chasing campaign contributions, was not the only force that led us from a robust and liberal democracy in 1978 to the threshhold of fascism today. Just as important and harder to reverse has been the transformation of journalism.

Most journalists today are courtiers of the conventional wisdom. They think journalism happens at press conferences, and they're happy to write up what they hear as if it were news just because someone important says it. They think that any context they provide should match the consensus narrative of the press corps.

What happened? No single event gave us the Kewl Kidz media. Instead, a series of societal changes all pushed our public discourse in the same direction:

  • Repeated right-wing assertions that the media was biased against them
  • The end of the Fairness Doctrine
  • The advent of cable news stations
  • Narrow corporate dominance of media
  • The ascendancy of entertainment values pretty much everywhere in society
In the 1970s, the people who brought us news evidently thought of it as good for us, like compulsory schooling, spinach, and cod liver oil. They were right, but we preferred cotton candy and Paris Hilton.

You may think of the prior era's ethic of journalistic objectivity was wrong, foolish, or impossible - or all three. I don't. I think it served us well. But that doesn't matter; it's only of academic interest.

That "objective" media environment is not coming back. McClatchy may fight a rear-guard action against reporting that starts from ideology instead of reality, or perhaps it will simply step into the barely served market for left-liberal reporting. If so, a good slogan could be A bias for facts, since most of the liberal world wants to know what actually is true.

(More to follow on the individual bullets as time permits.)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Two immigrants dead

Today, the Boston Globe juxtaposed two stories on the front page:

I've met Martha Coakley, and two friends know her well both personally and professionally and trust her. Still, I can't help believing that Powers Fasteners, the epoxy manufacturer, is not the culprit in the Big Dig fiasco. As reported, the criminal indictment says that Powers didn't warn loudly enough about the characteristics of an epoxy that the company claims they didn't think was being used because they assumed their apparently too quiet warnings had been heeded. This is an indictment for manslaughter based on a thin rationale:

"They had the opportunity to make clear the distinction in the products and raise the red flag at that time and possibly change the course of events; they did not do so," Paul F. Ware Jr., the special prosecutor overseeing the Big Dig investigation, said...

I hope that the Powers indictment is merely the first of several indictments. It could be a public threat to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, Gannett Fleming, and Modern Continental.

Araujo's death in custody by comparison looks like a simple case of the police reflexively saying, "No. You can't help. Get out of my lock-up." Cops are used to dealing with people who are trying to put one over on them, especially related to drugs, so it takes some way to set yourself apart to get prescription drugs to someone who has been arrested. This immigrant family apparently did not have any pull.

I suspect that the Feds will investigate by interviewing a few people. They'll hold a press conference, tsk-tsk sadly, and say that these things unfortunately happen. Then they'll close the books without doing anything.

This matters to me beyond simple human empathy because I have family members who rely on or have relied on insulin, thyroid, and anti-seizure medication to live normally. I would use every bit of pull I have to get them their medications, but then I'm a white male affluent suburbanite with an elite education and useful connections in politics and law. On the other hand, I also have a relative whose every approach to law enforcement would be a scam, whose arrests provide the only tracking data we get, so I'm not claiming this is easy to get right 100% of the time.

Resignation Day

If only Duhbya were boarding Marine One for the last time, having said his choked-up goodbyes to the White House staff... If only.

A good fantasy life can help get us to 01.20.09.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Other people's problems

There are no firewalls in the residential mortgage market. Subprime lender collapses lead to problems up market.

In turn, this artificially adds to the real estate price drag, further deflating a sector that was one of few bright spots in the Bush economy and whose psychological effects on homeowners helped maintain spending. With those effects reversed, there's one more deflationary force in an economy that has massive debt bombs lurking around every corner.

If our huge outstanding note is coming due, the hangover will be painful.

Democrats who don't dirty their hands with politics

Democracy requires more than one party or at least more than one faction. In Massachusetts, we've managed to do o.k. with schisms within the Democratic Party, even now that we have a Democratic governor for the first time in nearly two decades.

Much of the South has two conservative parties. It's hard to see how that's better for democracy.

In any case, I think Democrats are less dangerous in unified government than Republicans. The reason is that Democrats are more fractious and prone to dissent, even from each other. Jimmy Carter and Tip O'Neill butted heads, for example.

David Brooks's Republicans who "hate" Duhbya nonetheless keep their mouths shut in public. They follow the corporate model, where direction flows from the top and fealty is required for continued membership. (This looks like leadership, but it's often really just coercion.)

I'll worry about the Democrats becoming unbeatably dominant when they show the slightest understanding that they need to be in politics before they get to do governance. Right now, I don't see them coalescing around a pointed message that distinguishes them from the Bushists.

The very least they should be doing is forcing the Republicans to obstruct popular law every week. The Dems need to make their opponents pay a political price for thwarting the will of the people. To do this, they should have a consistent media narrative that they repeat over and over and over and over again until the media can remember it. But despite the last 25 years of Republican PR and propaganda techniques as an example, they can't seem to manage that.


On this date in 1974, Richard Nixon in deep disgrace announced his resignation from the nation's highest office. How is it that 33 years later, many of the same authoritarian Republicans hold power? How is it that the Republican Party, once host to "a cancer on the Presidency", has now metastasized into a self-sustaining monolithic organism with no higher purpose than tribal loyalty to its own power? How is it that the Democratic Party is so easy to bully and so unable to deliver a sustained and pointed political message? How is that the American people aren't more dissatisfied? How did self-government become too much trouble?

I've just written a letter to my daughter, who is the same age I was when Nixon resigned. I had to apologize for the tattered state of American democracy. But I am going to go upstairs and fly the flag in honor of a time not so long ago when the Constitution worked.

First clue

Robert E. Murray was completely certain that an earthquake caused his mine's cave-in rather than the other way around, and his certitude was the first clue that might be full of it. The media lapped it up in their usual haste, but at least in this case the AP followed up.

So did the LA Times, which found that the Murray mine uses a dangerous technique called room and pillar:

The final column to be slashed is known among miners as the "suicide pillar."

We may never know what in all likelihood took the lives of six men, but the liability management plan may already be in place. The civil standard of proof is preponderance of evidence, and a plausible story goes a long way toward blunting seismographic records.

It's also interesting that three of the miners are Mexican citizens. I'm guessing this is not a union shop, and I wonder whether they were working legally.

Update: Murray a complete phony. See Crooks & Liars.

Non-defense of TNR

On Philosoraptor:

I'm not saying that the TNR diary is true, and TNR has had lots of trouble over the years with fact-checking and PNAC-worthy neoconservatism, but you'll need a helluva lot better source to disprove it than freaking Ann Althouse quoting the Weekly Standard quoting an unnamed source and a military investigation that had significant incentives not to uncover any dismal realities that may have existed.

So, the most that Bushists can claim is that they have a little tiny piece of the truth that liberals like me didn't have first. They can't then "reason" that we don't have any of the truth, though that's what they're trying to do.

And, by the way, let's recall that the whole Stephen Glass embarrassment happened when Michael Kelly - one of theirs - was in charge of TNR. Mighty convenient how that has gone down the memory hole.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

If engineers were like pundits

"It's obviously George W. Bush's fault that the I-35 bridge collapsed. This is another Katrina by a thousand cuts. If the President had seen to our infrastructure the way he has seen to Iraq's--"

"Jane, you ignorant slut, this tragic bridge collapse is clearly the fault of the feather-bedding union highway workers, who were too stupid to stop taking up concrete when the bridge wobbled. I guess they were all Wobblies!"

"Dan, you bloated, blithering gasbag, this accident is an indictment of all Republicans. Tom Pawlenty, the Republican Governor, had recently vetoed a plan to raise funds for highway repair. He won't be--"

"Jane, you vicious lesbian hag, it's no wonder you're a socialist Democrat. You can't even get the Governor's name right. It's Tim, you research-free imbecile, not Tom."

"Dan, Tim, Tom, now he's ready to consider a gas tax incre--"

"Jane, you pathetic loser, don't change the subject. Any tax increase, you're for it. Money won't bring those people back."

Ladies and gentlemen, our national dialog.

That said, since I'm an amateur pundit, I have a theory about the bridge collapse, which I'm going to render here, despite a lack of obvious qualifications.

I think the bridge collapsed due to a perfect storm of three factors. Foremost, the pier in the Mississippi on the south end of the bridge had been severely scoured by the turbulent river water flowing out of the lock to the west.

Note: This CNN video was shot from the south end of the bridge, not the north end as the newsreader claims. The position of the Cedar Ave. Bridge (a/k/a 1oth Ave. Bridge) to the east makes that obvious. This position caused the security camera to miss the initial collapse on the south end.

With the pier essentially standing on water, the structural integrity of the bridge relied on the stiffness of the traffic deck to transfer load to other parts of the structure. Once the repaving team started to take concrete off the deck (factor two), the bridge started to wobble. The more they took off, the worse the wobble was.

In short order, the strain was too great, and the steelwork that held the span to the abutment on the south bank, no doubt weakened by road-salt-hastened corrosion (factor three, the least important), failed suddenly. The miracle is that it didn't fail with rush hour traffic on it and kill hundreds instead of tens.

What caused the rest of the bridge to fail? As the deck and truss to the south slewed east, the only remaining sound members of the south span were the tensile members - the steel truss - and they pulled the middle span of the bridge down.

I don't know why the span between the north pier and the north abutment failed. The north pier survived upright; maybe it suffered severe enough excursions south that its steelwork simply failed at the north abutment.

If this turns out to be right, it's still not a validation of Bill Kristol blathering on about subjects he obviously has no clue about.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Philosoraptor comments

I self-assess at (e) Beside self with pissed-offedness and (b) It affects my reasoning/judgment a little bit, but my anger may color my response. One thing that might (or might not) suggest (b) is an accurate assessment of my derangement is that I am increasingly alienated from politics in general and dissatisfied with the Washington Democrats, despite being a lifelong Democrat myself and having long been a party regular. So it's not as if I'm reckoning the Democrats to be halo-wearing demigods the way wingnuts wax rapturous about Duhbya.

The Bushists and other Republicans had more "high-level contacts with Saddam" than al Qaida could ever imagine.

American government policy

Programmers taking pay cuts? Say it ain't so!

A government policy has worked. The point of H1B visas and tax policy that encourages globalization is to deflate American worker salaries and leave more for management and capital.

Stuffed ballot boxes at Internet speed

Now Diebold voting machines are vulnerable to viruses. If something really important were involved, say, dollars instead of the mere lifeblood of self-government, I'm sure Diebold would get something, anything right.

Let's just leave our democracy lying out in plain sight and hope no one steals an election. Oh, crap, too late.


Monitoring the courts is their right, but these church-goers would be more effective and more Christian, too, if they took a less punitive approach to drug abuse. Of course, the historical success of the Christian churches has moved many of them from succoring the downtrodden to treading down on them instead.

Comparative advantage

As a market incentive for the Chinese to continue to pirate everything that can be copied, Microsoft has lowered the price in China of Windows Vista by two thirds. No doubt, Microsoft was responding to its particular assessment of how to maximize revenue.

The irony, of course, is that Microsoft has just made it easier to do business in China than in the United States - with an American product. Software piracy is a comparative advantage in the global economy over the relative obedience to intellectual property law seen in the United States.

An American government that was interested in the fate of its people would protect its economy from this perverse incentive. Ours has failed at this under the bipartisan elite consensus that globalization can do no wrong.

Globalization is working out pretty well for CEOs and investors, who are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. The future of the American middle class looks pretty grim, however.

Why America is in trouble

The Bushists, led by Duhbya the Wiretapper-in-Chief, demagogued this bill (of course). The lily-livered Democrats failed to find any guts at all to protect the Constitution. And once passed, the Bushists continued to demagogue the issue.

This is all about politics, not security. The GOP politics is anti-Constitutional universal surveillance, and the Democratic politics is timidity in the face of Republican willingness (really, eagerness) to call them names.

And both sides say the new law has to be fixed. What needs to be fixed is the ruling class. But an early vasectomy for George H. W. Bush would only have prevented the most glaring part of the problem, not all of it.

Regular guyism

Can you imagine your words transcribed into a headline in a major metropolitan newspaper?

"I heard Rudy was here today," Mitt Romney told Stephanie Burrows, 18, who works behind the counter, as she recalled later. As he left with his ice cream, he said with a grin, "But everyone knows I'm the regular."

Read the rest of it. It's all baloney.

News flash: None of the people running for President are regular guys. The Democrats aren't (and if you think Dennis Kucinich is, you're not a regular guy, either), and the Republicans sure aren't.

But the media insists on force-feeding us this sort of obvious bullshit about favored candidates or candidates with favored PR people or candidates whose regular-guyism happens to fit into the conventional wisdom.

Mitt Romney is about as close to being a regular guy as Paris Hilton. Yet for some reason the media keeps looking for the regular guy in the elite, wealthy Republicans just when they need it. Duhbya is one breathtaking example. Regular guys bear the consequences of their choices; he never has.

You may recall that the agreed media narrative killed Al Gore's much more legitimate image-making about his regular upbringing in 2000. The media selectively attack any attempt by a Democrat to show the common touch.

Still, it's all image-making, and the media get co-opted into it mostly by one side. Oh, I'm sure the Boston Globe will print some hagiographic look back at JFK again soon, but he's really the only Democrat who still gets that kind of treatment.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A bridge (or two) too far

The bridge collapse in Minnesota is not directly Duhbya's fault, but the anti-government environment he and his fellow conservatives have engendered for thirty-five years has succeeded in giving us a media environment in which it's just impossible to imagine actually solving the problem of deferred maintenance (just another form of deficit spending).

Here's Time's take on the insoluble problem:

It would be so expensive to fix hundreds of thousands of bridges that it's just not going to happen. But these numbers highlight the problem of the nation's infrastructure. No word is likely to make taxpayers' eyes glaze over more quickly. As a result, officials at all levels of government tend to defer maintenance on bridges and roadways; the voters wouldn't stand for the required expenditures, estimated at more than $9 billion a year. They might, however, be willing to pay for more frequent and thorough inspections, which could distinguish the structurally deficient bridges in imminent danger of failure from those that aren't.
Some liberal media! Remember when the press reported facts about what had already happened and let the future take care of itself. There was always another day to report the new events of that day.

While I'm skeptical that $9 billion a year would be enough, that's not a lot compared to Iraq. Maybe we'd need more than one month's worth of the cost of that clusterf**k.

Apocalypse now

Everyone knows that Tom Tancredo is an idiot, even if at least one Congressional district is willing to elect him. But to advocate bombing Mecca and Medina is like going all in against a billion people with nothing better than "bring 'em on".

Think it out a little and you have to realize that his willingness to hold holy places hostage would work out in the end to require that we be willing to engage in nuclear genocide. Otherwise, it's pretty hard to overcome the violence that would unleash from the aforementioned billion, who would be about as angry as a billion Catholics would be after the bombing of Vatican City. Tancredo is spouting bin Laden level lunacy. I had no idea that he was so eager to bring the Rapture!

None other than Bay Buchanan is his spokeswoman. She's a frequent commentator on CNN. Can you imagine someone correspondingly insane from the left getting a mainstream media gig that good? Nah gah happen.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Nobody loves you when you're down and out

One trillion dollars, and that's just direct costs, not interest on debt or opportunity costs. You watch, even direct costs will go much higher. Ah, the invasion that was going to pay for itself...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why we need better Democrats

Every time I read something like this about Washington Democrats scrambling to give Duhbya what he wants, I want to give up, have a nice life, and spend my energy more productively. The Democrats - my Democrats - have the power to take their time and make sure of good legislation, but they are too cowed to use it.

The Washington Democrats:

  • believe they have a winning hand for the 2008 elections even though they are fifteen months away
  • are standing pat (the Kerry strategy) on that hand in abject refusal to recognize that political landscapes always shift and always require dynamic responsiveness
  • fear the admittedly potent smear machine by which Karl Rove and his attack pundits feed the lazy, lapdog mainstream media
  • don't trust the American people (with much good reason) to see through the Republican media narrative

I think Americans have finally gotten it. I think they know Duhbya's goading proposals are so much bull, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I know if I were in Washington, I wouldn't want to stay there without hope for the restoration of Constitutional government. I'd be pushing for an up-or-down vote on this whole concept of coequal branches of government that the Bushists have so much obvious contempt for. I'd be thinking that if the people don't want that or don't have enough sense even now to see how to get it, then I might as well grow tomatoes.

Cancel Congress's summer recess

Dear Nancy and Harry,

Please do the right thing and cancel Congress's summer recess. I know that you want a vacation like everyone else, even if you don't want it as much as the Vacationer-in-Chief. But it's the right course to stay in Washington and keep after the Bushists, who are rotten to the core.

Stand together in the Capitol rotunda together and make these points:

  • The obstructionism of Republican Senators has stagnated the legislation America needs - SCHIP, stem cells, Iraq withdrawal, a dozen others. When the Republicans give up standing in the schoolhouse door, they can take a vacation, but not until then.
  • Investigations into the deep corruption of the Bush Administration cannot wait even a day. If your colleagues across the aisle will pressure Duhbya and Darth to give up their ridiculous claims of executive privilege, they can take a vacation, but not until then.
  • The Iraqi Parliament may think it deserves a vacation. We disagree. The Republican Party has influence in Baghdad and should be hammering Maliki and his coalition to make some real progress. Americans are dying on a daily basis to keep Maliki in power. The least he and his cronies can do is work toward something on a daily basis. We can't keep the Preznit from taking August off, but the Republicans in Congress haven't earned a vacation and won't get one until they get something done about this, too.
  • Yes, we Democrats would love to have an August break. We have families, too. We need time off to recharge and refresh. But we see the sacrifices that normal Americans make, especially the awe-inspiring sacrifices of our uniformed personnel and their families, and we Democrats believe it is a small sacrifice for us to work through August.
  • If the press wants to mail it in from Martha's Vineyard, that's up to them. We Democrats aren't looking for coverage, though that would be nice; we're looking for progress.
And since you control the calendar, I'm sure you can schedule your home-state downtime in big enough weekend chunks to do some good. Just don't let the Republicans know until the last minute.

Of course, an important benefit is no recess appointments!

Best regards,