Thursday, January 31, 2008

Easier for me - were you voters saying something?

Peter Canellos, chief purveyor of the Washington conventional wisdom for the Boston Globe, says our choices are now "clearer". Simpler would be more like it. Yep, now they fit on a couple of coin flips. Especially simpler to cover.

Pete, buddy, we're looking for stark choices, not eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

Oh, and after the jump, I don't think the word skewed means what you think it means.

But you heathers now have the race you, uh, already had: the multi-culti black guy vs. the woman. I'm sure you're prepared to have fun setting that up on a tee for mancrush McCain.

Of pizza and roadkill

Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray says I should support Hillary Clinton because she's a woman. Now that my man John Edwards has bowed out of the race, why not?

The problem with Hillary is not that she's a woman. The problem is that she's a difference-splitting, triangulating centrist. She and Bill too have pounded on the door for admission to the club instead of pounding the door down. They continue to do this even after the club viciously hazed Bill - really, both of them - for eight solid years.

Even after David Broder's famously bitchy, "They came here and trashed the place, and it's not their place," the Clintons still want to be the token trailer trash (well, Bill anyway) who get invited to Kennebunkport with the swells. They don't get the fact that they're the token minority in the all-white fraternity and that everyone makes fun of them, even to their face. Or maybe they get it, and they just sit there and take it because they like the attention.

I know that practically everyone in Democratic circles has agreed to look back on the (first?) Clinton administration as the golden age, but it wasn't that great. Sure, compared to Duhbya, Bill was a great President, but that's like saying week-old frozen pizza is better to eat than week-old roadkill in July. Is that really the height of our ambition?

The Republicans are actively evil, while the Democrats dither and compromise. Of course, I'll support Hillary if she is the nominee. No more roadkill! I even like Hillary better than Mike Gravel (maybe he's out of the race but the media skipped his press conference), but she has just moved up one notch to second.

American government needs big changes. Ron Paul would try radical change but in a completely bassackwards direction. Of those candidates who remain, only Obama is at all likely to deliver those big changes - and even he is not very likely to manage it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No law, only power

When you buy a pig in a poke, this is what you get. Banal bullshit delivered with a smile.

Yet there is no one in the Senate who will cast aside loyalty to colleagues' vacations to say, "Here I stand. I can do no other." We get a little from Dodd, a little from Feingold, a little from Boxer, a little from Kennedy, but no one addresses the fundamental corruption of our political system.

The Constitution and the rule of law that were hallmarks of the old order have vanished under the Orwellian onslaught of the Bushists. Chuck Schumer must be so proud.

L'etat c'est moi

Duhbya does not recognize any restriction on his power. He's the very elected king that the Founders rejected.

Nothing to see here. The coup has happened. Move along. You have no rights.

Oh, the Minuteman Memorial? That's now a gravestone for the Constitution.



By the way, the single most important and non-negotiable aim of the Bushist invasion of Iraq was always to establish permanent bases there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't let the door hit you in the ass

Rudy's out, Florida be praised.

Since I've been running down his chances for a long time, some past comments...

July 16, 2007
:

Rudy the authoritarian gets it next. At some point, someone is going to make a commercial using all the stills and videos of Giuliani in a dress.
Sept. 8, 2007:
Rudy Giuliani has insinuated his America's Mayor branding into the media narrative, but his real appeal is visceral. Rudy is America's Augusto Pinochet. He is offering to save America from the brown people as long as we don't look too closely at how he does it. This is obviously his appeal to the anti-democratic reactionaries known as strong Republicans. I still don't think even Rudi's faux tough enough to look macho in a dress, and I expect Romney to put cross-dressing fashion ads in heavy rotation if he needs to.
Nov. 30, 2007: Rudy Giuliani, cheating on YOUR taxes

and...
The New York Times treads right up to the line and, though it doesn't quite say openly that Rudy Giuliani is a compulsive liar, cheat, and bullshitter, nowadays, that's close enough for plaudits.
Jan. 18, 2008:
Rudi, ah, Rudi, it's not that we hardly knew ye. It's just that you are too obviously a mean, authoritarian SOB. And to the Republican base, those are your good qualities. I never thought a repeat cross-dresser could win in the Republican Party; his poll numbers were a media creation doomed to die embarrassingly. Except that nothing embarrasses Rudi, not even all that icky personal stuff.

Live boy or dead girl?

No branch of government is clean in Louisiana. But don't sneer at the Cajuns for Edwin Edwards and Huey Long and now John Weimer - the federal gummint is corrupt, too, by money and by power.

Judge Robert Nader, dissenting, could barely contain his disbelief, saying the initial decision was infected by “approximately $1 million in contributions from a very financially interested individual” to Judge Batchelder, a Republican, and to the local Republican Party.
Make no mistake about this, though, both parties are to blame.

But any state where judges raise campaign cash to run for office is more subject to this obvious conflict of interest.

Yum, tasty bullshit!

You could have a nose full of head cold and still smell the reeking bullshit that Duhbya is feeding America. But Peter Canellos, ever the wide-eyed credulous innocent, wraps it up in lace doilies and calls it dessert:

Last night, it was possible to envision what that presidency might have looked like - and to hope that it's not too late to make good on some of its promises.
If Canellos is trying to cop a sinecure in the Duhbya Presidential Liberry, he should remember that the actual books will fit in an unused liquor cabinet and that most of the work will involve dressing up as a pony and posing with Bush Pioneers in the Neoconworld theme park.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Youth in Asia (and vigor, too)

Maybe Duhbya did us a favor. He certainly put a fast end to the talk of the 21st century as the second American century. No lingering death, that. America as Karla Faye Tucker, now there’s some gallows humor.

The nightmares of others

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this is the nightmare scenario. Either one is pretty bleak.

Actionable intelligence

This CNN summary of this CBS story strikes me as the unvarnished truth.

  • Saddam needed WMD to survive in a rough neighborhood.
  • He wanted WMD.
  • He didn't have WMD.
  • He knew he couldn't stand and fight against the U.S. military, but he was caught between us and Iran.
  • Duhbya is different than his father or Bill Clinton, and Saddam didn't figure that out in time.
  • Saddam was a bad, violent, self-aggrandizing man.
  • Interrogation works.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

No news hook

So if you're one of those readers, nothing to see here. I've been saying that newspapers risk their core readership by catering to readers who are really interested in picture books. If that's you, this is all going to be text.

No surprise, this assessment of audience is not a scoop. The New York Times had it months ago. The whole industry is grappling with it.

It seems to me from outside that the Times understands that its market is changing radically. It's the number one national newspaper, but it understands that most other papers cannot aspire to that. The Times has managed the Boston Globe as a regional newspaper for New England, and I think that's the correct business decision. The Globe was the Times's major competition in the region, and it made sense to combine and segment the market.

I don't mean that this is good for journalism, but I don't see anyone talking about putting the media ownership genie back in the bottle. What's happening to newspapers happened to national banks thirty years ago - they're getting much bigger and many fewer. The cause is the same, too - less government regulation.

This is definitely worse for journalists, too. If one reporter's work is read many more places, the other reporters whose work would have been in that news hole no longer have jobs. This economy of scale also provides much more homogenized content.

What I don't understand is the newspaper industry's continued reliance on dead-tree circulation figures. Yeah, I know that's how they get paid. But they need to be talking up all the eyeballs they get on the web, because that's obviously where readers are going. They need to get paid well enough by advertisers on-line to survive. They are going to have to sell this. If they don't figure that out, since the on-line subscription model failed, we're all going to be looking at picture books.

Sunday comics - logic?

Click the image to see Mark Fiore's complete animation.

Sunday comics - behind the chemical shed

For the full cartoon from Adam Zyglis in the Buffalo News, click the image.

"Heh, I like the way that Mitt Ronmey treats his dawgs."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Unshared prosperity

The Washington elite, press and politicians, don't usually get just how divided the country is by Republicrat economic policies that beggar the poor and the middle class to keep the financial markets in gravy. That way, they can fling off a few inconsequential (to them) campaign contributions to keep the cycle rolling.

This report hooks readers with race:

Mr. Mattingly added that, in a county where the large businesses are run by white men and “ancient parochial attitudes” persist, voter enthusiasm for Mr. Obama had a logic that went beyond simple loyalty.
But class is the underlying fact made visible by skin color. This is why Democrats must be class-conscious, why I support John Edwards, and why I prefer Obama to Hillary, even if a Clinton supporter gave this perfect quote:
“She’s about better pay and education for the kids,” Ms. Willis said.
Update (4/16/2011): Minor edit to clarify.

The technological animal

"I can walk without canes, but it's not real pretty," [Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill] said.
Sounds gorgeous to me.

Money leaves a trail

The financial straits of the Salem schools need to be addressed, and that's what the story is about, but I want more. Some forensic accounting is needed to find out what went wrong and who's responsible. School systems often have poor internal controls (though at least we're not talking 5 billion euros here), but there should still be enough of a paper trail to get to the bottom of it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ranch for sale

Come 2009, Duhbya's toy ranch in Crawford will have served its photo op purpose. The White House press office's claim to the contrary is proof.

Sing this corrosion to me

Why work for a scoop when you can predict the future? I'll give Chris Cillizza this: At least, he matched up his predictions against reality and found them often wanting.

So, what's the harm in it? Here's how it works:

  • Reporters, whose job is to report what has actually happened, give their take on the conventional wisdom on the press bus. There's some variation from one reporter to the next but not enough - that's why it's the conventional wisdom. Besides, they really want not to be blatantly wrong.
  • Once the CW goes out under their names, they commit to it. To stay consistent, they then are much more likely to write stories that reinforce their predictions.

If you think this is nonsense, read Influence, by Robert Cialdini. Ch. 3, "Commitment and Consistency", should convince you. Here's the opening:
A study done by a pair of Canadian psychologists uncovered something fascinating about people at the racetrack: Just after placing a bet, they are much more confident of their horse's chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down that bet.
It should be just as unethical for a reporter to place bets as it was for Pete Rose.

Six months in blog years

I've been at this for six months now, give or take a day. Don't be fooled by the items from before July. While I did write them, most of them were comments somewhere else that I've collected to help out my many coming biographers. Heh.

Six months in blog years is a long damn time. It gives me new respect for the early adopters who have been at it for years. Damn, how did I miss that boat? I have a four-digit DailyKos ID, so I coulda been a contendah, but for now a white noise generator on the web would probably get more hits than I get.

Yep, Google Analytics is a mixed blessing. Where before I merely suspected, now I know I'm being ignored! But I'm also thinking about driving traffic more systematically, while still retaining the job that actually pays the bills.

There are two problems for a single-author blog. One is those days you don't have anything to say - not frequent for me, but fatigue and hopelessness do strike every now and then. The other is those days when the aforementioned job seems secondary, and you want to post a dozen items, which could get you fired and your laptop repossessed.

So, ignoring those difficulties, I've posted another bloody survey. Click away, my lovely readers. All three of you. Tell me what you want so that I can see if that fits into LL! Note, however, that I did not include STFU for drive-by trolls. Let them put that in comments if they wish. I'll try to be polite to them. Maybe we could work out a reciprocal trolling agreement to drive traffic. Every Ali needs his Frazier.

See, you can get anything you want... (maybe)

You want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud.

I've been playing this song for six months. I can play for another six months. I'm not proud ... or tired.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Need for a welfare state

Democrats are so afraid of losing their jobs they won't take a stand. They play it safe and the country suffers.

Republicans solve this with a welfare state for ex-pols. In many cases, they're better off financially after defeat or retirement than before it.

We Dems need to compete, if only to help get the weak, used up old toothless Democrats to shuffle off into the sunset.

I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss LBJ. Now that man could twist some arms.

Slammin' the spam

My inbox tells me I can have a penis like a fire hose made of mountain ash. Heeey, babyyy!

Finally, as a middle-aged man, I understand what teenage girls feel when confronted with Cosmopolitan. They are fifteen; I wish I had one attribute of a fifteen-year-old.

The spammers are really missing an unfilled need, though. What 50-year-old guys really need is not more priapism than you can shake a stick at. We already have white chest hair and dunlop's disease, and the combination is mutton dressed up as ram.

What we need is a daily flatulence prevention drug. Then at least we won't be repulsing others with anything but our personalities.

Then, too, imagine the political uses, as TML did on the phone! Put the Republican Presidential candidates on a maintenance dose and silence all their verbal effluent. No more wingnuttery with the overpowering odor of bullshit.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh would go broke, and Big Pharma would lose one of their best customers, so maybe it's not a net profit-maker.

Get ya Sulzbergers, hot off the grill

The New York Times is the establishment. It has endorsed both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Some liberal media. The Times's conscious self-importance completely pollutes its political coverage with Elisabeth Bumiller, William Kristol, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, and the ever useless David Brooks. Friedman used to have a reputation for insight, but that was all bullshit, too.

Still, the Times does publish Paul Krugman. It got more than it expected in that bargain. An economist? How interesting could he be? It's not called the dismal science for nothing. The fact that as an amateur journalist, he is the smartest opinion writer in the whole damn world ought to be a reproach to all those others who fancy themselves to be professionals when they're really just schmoozing hacks. But they're too busy with cocktail parties and getting on TV to blush.

Even so, I come to praise NYT, not to bury it. The Times gets newspapering, at least at other desks. It wants readers, not semi-literate TV viewers who are looking for the latest drama of Dr. Phil checking out Britney's panty lines - or her lack of them.

NYT's science coverage is a clear case in point. Here's a sampling of stories from the past two weeks:

If I don't notice stories like these because I'm fixated on our Potemkin political culture, a friend emails them to me - because they are meaty, not frothy. They contain all sorts of worthwhile topics. So, to the Times - and my friend - keep it up.

Confluence

The first credible virgin birth (stillborn, true) is a sexually transmitted disease! Built out of chunks of DNA contracted out not to grave-robbers but to white-coat factories.

Only tool a hammer

For the Republicans, cutting taxes for the rich cures all ills. At least all the ones that matter.

How has that worked out so far?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bullmitt

I'm no fan of the smarmy, dishonest, pandering excrescence that is Mitt Romney, but seriously who besides a reporter cares about the middle school social organization of the Republican candidates!

Fundies

I grew up among fundamentalist Christians. As is true of Christians in general, many fundies are genuinely sweet people who pray sincerely for the redemption of people like me. A few of them will tell you that they will pray for you in that arrogant way of those who suppose themselves godly and most others ungodly.

Fundies see the world differently than I do. For them, what is right is immutable from what was put down on paper in an incomplete but poetic translation of a 2000-year-old book and its even older predecessor. No learning about what it true in the world can change that law.

I see the world first through what is and only then ask what should be. I notice that the Bible, which the fundies suppose to be the inerrant, literal word of God, is littered with the ignorance and conventional belief of its time of writing - firmament of stars, piscine whale, morality of enslavement, etc. It makes much more sense to me that its authors were men striving for moral meaning. The myth of divine inspiration would be much more plausible had God revealed something now known but then not, say, that the earth revolves around the sun in an ellipse.

What do these fundies, for whom belief trumps knowledge, want? The answer is: everything. They want everyone to be like them. They want a society where everyone goes to a "Bible-believing" (meaning, literalist) church on Sunday morning, where the Ten Commandments really are the foundation of American law, where the Enlightenment is forgotten as a bad dream.

Political fundies want to bring their beliefs, no matter how refuted, into the public square, but they want them to be immune from criticism or even question. They want their imputation of sin to be enough to carry the day, no matter that many others may dissent. They are not tolerant of dissent.

For those fundies who claim that liberals are intolerant of their dissent, the key distinction they need to learn is between tolerance and blind acceptance. All creeds have the same legal status, but that doesn't mean they are all equally plausible, nor that we should refrain from pointing that out, just that we should refrain from punishing those who hold those beliefs. So, just as I am tolerant of magic crystal believers, Scientologists, and cultists of every kind, I am tolerant of people who believe that the world was created in six days. Their beliefs are ridiculous, and I'm happy to say so, but belief is no cause for punishment. The golden rule bargain that I make when ensconcing this tolerance into secular law protects me as well when I believe something far-fetched or wrong-headed.

What do political fundies (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, etc.) want?

  • No abortion for any reason - This is their great uniting cause. It has added Catholic voices to their Protestant and usually anti-Catholic beliefs. This shades into prohibitions of any birth control other than abstinence.
  • Subservience of women in their traditional roles
  • Nothing taught in public school that might lead a child to question fundamentalism, no evolution, no sex ed of any kind, no acceptance of homosexuality or, often, even sexuality in general, no science that transcends engineering and seeks causes that might not point back to God
  • Prayer everywhere inflicted upon non-believers
  • Punitive approaches to social problems, such as drugs, crime, and poverty - Their root cause is sin and alienation from God, so the people just have to decide to escape them.
  • Free market economics - Huh? Never mind that Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple; they're back. Never mind that Jesus pursued his ministry among the destitute poor, not the prosperous; now the poor will be always with us, and it's their fault anyway.
  • Subdue the earth - Environmentalism is nature-worship.
  • Messianic foreign policy - Some even want the bring the Apocalypse, but at least they generally want to intervene for religious reasons, and they are not shy about declaring our current conflict a war of faith.
  • Public support for their proselytizing
In short, political fundies reject the great achievement of the Founders in constituting a secular government that could escape the constant sectarian killing that had beset Europe for generations. For a while.

The nightmare scenario

John McCain, the Republicans' great white-haired hope, is the last man standing. He picks Mike Huckabee to balance the ticket and reunite the bullies and the fundies. The wealthies decide that this is going to work for them.

We Democrats nominate Hillary, but the fight with Obama is too bitter to heal quickly. Hillary picks another bloodless centrist technocrat, say, Bill Richardson to balance the ticket, appeal to the Hispanic vote, and keep it in the Clintonista house.

Duhbya lies low. The swiftboaters find a picture of Hillary walking past a protester holding a sign that says, "Hanoi Hilton is too good for baby-killers," or whatever the Rovians want to Photoshop into it. The MSM says that they have to cover it since Drudge did and the story is in play. And anyway she should have ripped that sign up on the spot.

Sean Hannity wets himself with excitement. Chris Matthews slurs, "See, I told you she was an unfeeling bitch." Rush Limbaugh feels so good that he actually kicks the pills - except for Viagra, Cialis, and every other ED remedy he can shop for. Ann Coulter writes a book called Liberal Torturers, in which she lays all torture in the history of the West and most of the East at the feet of blood-sucking liberals. Inquisition? Liberal Jews in Spain. Jeanne D'Arc? The French, for chrissake. Salem witch trials? Massachusetts!! She appears on the cover as a dominatrix clad in studded black leather.

We need all this circus because the economy is totally in the shitter. The vacillating Dems in Congress fight Duhbya's $150 billion self-stimulus plan to leave no billionaire behind. Then they cave. The Republican media operation successfully blames the Dems for their one-month delay, despite the obvious fact that the stimulus where they applied it couldn't possibly have helped in the vital short run. For that, the money needed to go to people who would spend it, instead of just making their ill-advised investments whole and rewarding bad choices.

McCain wins, and nothing changes.

Nothing, that is, until the cancer comes back on his left cheek or until 2012, when he's 76 and too old to run for reelection.

Make way for President Huckabee!

I didn't say this had a happy ending.

Update: Found that picture!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

President by popular vote

Small, rural Republican-leaning states are not going to cede to the rest of the country the disproportionate power of their voters. If nothing else, the National Popular Vote approach is bargaining leverage.

This process-based opposition to NPV needs a couple of notes:

[T]he electoral voters of a state that did not join the compact would be rendered irrelevant. That would be a violation of natural justice. (emphasis added)
A clearer way to put this would render 'electoral voters' as 'electors', as the Constitution does, and then it's hard to see what "natural justice" an elector should expect, since there's nothing natural about the position. NPV would not render the vote of any voter irrelevant. Quite the contrary - Democrats would still want to seek votes in Utah, Republicans in D.C.
[I]t is not hard to envisage an interstate compact with less attractive outcomes: a compact between the 11 largest states to vote for a president who would commit all federal funds just to those 11 states.
I find it hard to imagine anything resembling this passing the Senate.

Some of Evans's Constitutional objections make more sense. Of course, we all know how the Bushist Supreme Court would rule on those.

Psychology

You can build a market on psychology. But if even a fundamentally sound market always ebbs eventually, how could anyone think that a market built on feelings could last forever? Did the "masters of the universe" think they were using the Force?

I've got a bad feeling about this.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How did they miss me?

I'm so white it would be a relief to find some ancestry from outside northern Europe. I'm a walking collection of recessive pigmentation traits. If I sit in the sun unprotected for a few seconds, I can get enough vitamin D for the whole day.

I'm a heterosexual man, fond of pretty women and sports, often at the same time. At age eight, I already knew I wanted to be a scientist (didn't happen, by the way), but a first career as that age's Tom Brady definitely appealed to me even then.

My parents taught me Protestant Christianity. It didn't take in the end, but they gave me what all parents at the time thought they should give.

I grew up in the South, Tennessee to be exact, a Democrat by birth, inheritor to that complicated and often sullied legacy.

In short, by demographics, I was the natural target of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy to move Southern Democrats into the Republican Party, racism, regionalism, and conservativism intact.

How did the Republicans miss me?

In short, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ugly, callous Southern white men who killed Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman in Philadelphia, Mississippi, who bombed those young girls in Birmingham, who viciously murdered Emmett Till, who clubbed or shot the Selma marchers, who stood in the schoolhouse door - those ugly, callous terrorists were my people, and my parents taught me to be ashamed of them by simply showing me their own shame.

In one way, my mom and dad were radicals. They believed in the power of words and ideas to change the world. They had learned this from their parents, who in their place and time had also been progressive on race, and so they passed it on to me.

King believed this, too, painfully, passionately, sacrificially. That a black man could come up in the American South of the Depression and WWII and Jim Crow and not become a violent revolutionary still fills me with awe and wonder. I could not have done it. But when I hear "I have a dream", I still tear up. Every time.



When King went to Memphis in 1968, he knew he was a target. He knew he might not live out the next day. Yet he was at peace.



He went as he must, as a lamb of God. He went because it still then was an issue whether the black men who carried away the garbage of Memphis were indeed men.

We should all remember that this was only forty years ago. While America has been much changed by his life and by his passing, there is much still to be done.

Ron Paul's "reasonable approach"

Millions of Americans held in bondage, and Ron Paul's chief concern is property rights of the slaveholders! Seriously.

So, should the Union have appropriated the money necessary to liberate the human chattel before or after the bombardment of Ft. Sumter? Ya think that appropriation would have passed with the Confederates still in Congress?

And Paul's second concern was Lincoln's expansion of federal powers in the face of insurrection. Yet he has been a loyal Bushist for most of his back-bench Congressional tenure.

This man is a lunatic even for a Republican.

(Yeah, this is late, but today is a day we honor a man who saw beyond pat and foolish formulas, libertarian or otherwise.)

Popular view of _______ losing complexity

Today, CNN impersonates a "serious" news outlet with this headline and teaser:

Please, could someone name me one topic on which the popular view is gaining complexity? The politics of Survivor, maybe. And why is that (besides entropy, of course)?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cherche le bucque

When large sums of money are involved, people cheat - antidepressants, statins, whatever the FDA doesn't oversee carefully. And with Republicans in the executive, that means everything. Democrats might be better, or they might not.

So, next time you hear "9 out of 10 dentists recommend," think: If an ad says it, maybe they shot the other 90 dentists who didn't recommend. Same goes for Coke and Pepsi ads, except they can run as many trials as they need to get the "right" result.

Suffer the little billionaires

Duhbya has his priorities straight:

Families of four earning less than $24,900 a year would not get a rebate under the White House plan, said Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Quick economic stimulus happens at the bottom of the income spectrum, but Duhbya will always favor the wealthy.

Sunday comics - strike hard

Click image for full Matt Bors strip. You won't be disappointed.

Also, check out the first call I've heard for a bloggers' union.

Sunday comics - double shot

Click image to see M.E. Cohen editorial cartoon.

Haven't looked at Duhbya's stimulus package, but I expect to find that it's just as much a fraud as his flight deck package.

Sunday comics blogging - memories of 2000

Click image for full Scott Adams "Dilbert" cartoon.

When the press was saying in 2000 how much better Duhbya would be to have a beer with than Al Gore, I had a bad attitude. Still do.

The irony of this cartoon: A bad attitude is necessary, but not sufficient, so even Dilbert isn't thinking clearly. (Idiot! Analyzing the logic of a joke.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Defending the English teacher

Imagine how much community support an English teacher, instead of a coach, would get in this situation.

GOP contender - Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is a raging fundie. Duh. He's the complete fundie wet dream - if fundies would admit to having those. He's a young earth creationist. As a bonus for the Republican base, this means he is very capable of believing claims about the world that are glaringly refuted by the actual world. He wants to amend the Constitution to conform to his God's law. As a Southern Baptist pastor, he thinks that women should prayerfully submit to their husbands' authority. He's a Confederate sympathizer who believes that, for instance, the country has no business telling people how to educate their children. No Brown v. Board of Education for this nullifier.

Why is that not perfect? Well, Huckabee has dissented from the One True Faith of the wealthies. He has raised taxes slightly to help poor people. That's why he's pushing the lyingly named Fair Tax, which beggars the middle class to help the wealthy add extra gates to their secure vacation home communities.

But more important, the wealthies are scared shitless (and since their shit don't stink, that's bad) by the thought of one of them in power. They'd rather have a triangulating, compromising Democrat in power and hamstring him (or her!) with campaign cash, private jets, and deftly applied, heavily lobbied resistance. This has worked for them in the past, and it's definitely the low risk strategy, especially with levellers like John Edwards almost dead at the hands of the corporate media. What hasn't been tried because of its sheer unpredictability is putting a pre-Enlightenment fundie at the helm.

Huckabee is fundie to the core. But he doesn't have the support of the wealthies. Is this the election in which the fundies throw off their chains and take the GOP away from their betters? He has a few bully credentials, but they're too mixed to bring him all the way to 50% plus 1.

GOP contender - McCain

John McCain is not a fundie and not one of the wealthies, and he has disappointingly shown a tiny wee skosh of perspective about bullying everyone in sight.

For cryin' out loud, he's against torture, which is now a core Republican value. You'd think that the Republican base would show him some solicitude since he has actually been on the receiving end of North Vietnamese torture, but the inner dominatrices that they've become really embarrass them. They wish he would just keep quiet about the torture so they can ignore the moral meaning of that brass-studded leather underwear they have on.

Oh, sure, he didn't actually prevent any torture, but he publicly showed up the President in the middle of some presidentin', and that sort of fealty to what's real instead of what's Republican is a sure sign of deep-seated disloyalty.

It's not the only one. There's McCain-Feingold, too, which unfairly restricts the wealthies from jamming their propaganda down all our throats over their airwaves. Never mind that everybody is taking Rte. 529 around that. (Huckabee's even pushing the definition of 'non-coordination' to include people who used to be part of his campaign, sort of like those Romney lobbyists who don't run his campaign.)

But McCain served in the military, heroically, some say. Doesn't that put him in good with the bullies?

Look, if you haven't been paying attention for the past fifteen years, logic might compel you to think that matters to Republicans. It doesn't. What you say outweighs what you did. Saxby Chambliss or Max Cleland? Duhbya or McCain? Duhbya or Al Gore? Duhbya or Kerry? Veterans groups went along with the attacks for purely ideological reasons. Republicans who have never been under fire will swiftboat anyone they need to. They're attacking McCain again even now.

But of course the worst of McCain for the Republican base is that he tried to take down Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (may he rest in ... a lake of fire). Since their followers are Christians, there's never going to be any forgiveness for McCain's transgression.

What McCain does have is the man-crushes of all the late-middle-aged dopey white pundits. Chris Matthews and Tim Russert act like 12-year-olds with this month's Penthouse around McCain. It's really hard to explain. Maybe they bonded over shared self-service colonoscopies.

In sum, McCain, despite being a doctrinaire conservative on every significant issue, has offended all three of the core constituencies. Against that, the media fellate him regularly (if you're offended by the word, what are you doing here? - also I heard it on "House" just last night), and that helps him keep a good attitude. I don't see how he can possibly win any vote but the press bus, but I have to admit I was premature to stick a fork into his campaign. I'll still wind up right, I think, but McCain can't win without a major implosion of both his opponents.

GOP contender - Romney

Mitt Romney is a classic wealthy. How dare you mere reporter point out my bullshit! "Listen to my words." Romney believes in his own divine right even if he has to wear special underwear. Mitt has plenty of money, which helps him cover the fact that he has trouble with message discipline (though still much better than Huckabee's). Since he's had control of the business agenda his whole career, he's convinced that he can say the most ridiculous things without the people he hasn't laid off calling him on it.

I once worked for a company whose CEO sent a voicemail to the whole company saying that he would rather choke to death on his own vomit than sell to a certain software bottom-feeder. Three months later, he did sell out to that exact company. Oh, he had hedged that he would almost prefer asphyxia. Really, aspiration drove him, either way. Jimi Hendrix, no thank you. Walk away with $290 million, giddy-up!

Mitt would never say anything as plebeian as that. Jeepers Crow, no. But situational lying is a necessary skill in the rarefied heights of companies such as Bain that profit by deal-making instead of making products. "We really want to make this deal, but there are a couple of problems." Yeah, and one of those problems is we're really buying your competition, but we want our competition to pay a premium price for you.

Mitt won't mention bodily fluids, no, but he is more than happy to make obviously stupid, pandering, and anti-Constitutional appeals to the bullies. "Double Guantánamo," for example. The bullies aren't very smart, so they'll buy it.

So here we are. The heretic Mormon with no common touch and the glaring willingness to transparently lie and bullshit is the only contender who hasn't queered the deal with the most important three Republican constituencies. Even though he has a long history of previous lies and bullshit to appease us in Massachusetts ("I'm prochoice", "I'm moderate", "I'm for universal health coverage"), he has tried to atone for those, and the fundies will have nowhere else to go, other than to stay home, so most of them will rationalize the gaping doctrinal chasm.

The only barrier that lies between Romney and the nomination is the Republican Party's appetite for more bullshit. Since Duhbya still pulls 30% in the polls, and those are the people who will vote in Republican primaries, I think they're licking their chops. It's Romney's to lose.

Wealthies

Oh, the wealthies! For them, the business of America is ... enriching them. They talk like free marketeers, but they really want to restore feudalism, this time with regular bathing (for us - cold water's fine) and central heating (for them). They can't see why any further governing charters were needed after the Magna Carta. The goddamned common people have so perverted that noble agreement between the king and the lords that they think they're equal to the peerage. The wealthies cherish places like South Korea, where a man can be convicted of crimes but set free because his company is too important to the economy!

The wealthies say, "Give us your tired, your poor, ... and we'll work 'em until arthritis slows 'em down, and then we'll deport 'em back to Chiapas." They couldn't give a shit about race; it's class that matters to them. If you're management, that is, if you know how to get lots of work out of others, welcome to the country club! If you're labor, they'll outsource your lippy ass to Elbonia. Commonweal? That's their idea of oxymoron.

There's one aspect of racism that has always benefited the wealthies. When working class whites hate their black class counterparts, the wealthies can pay them less. Take a look south if you need evidence. Right-to-work is only partly about being a pissant non-joiner; it's also about not having to join anything that has darkies in it.

As with immigration and partly with race, most of the Republican platform doesn't cut any ice with the wealthies. They aren't going to teach creationism to their kids, but teaching it to yours gives them another competitive advantage in the next generation. They would love tuition vouchers to reduce their costs at elite prep schools, so they have common cause with the fundies who want a subsidy for their segregation and fundi-Christian academies, but their reasons aren't the same.

Likewise, their reasons for a bullying foreign policy only overlap with the bullies' reasons. The bullies love a good stand-up fight - as long as they are never out-gunned - but the wealthies love a good profit. Halliburton is the canonical example, but there are a thousand others. As long as they can keep us scared enough to fund rilly, rilly big shews of force, the wealthies don't actually need a war, but they miss the excitement of the Cold War terribly.

The nexus of the bully-wealthy connection and alliance is Blackwater. It doesn't hurt that Erik Prince is a fundie, too. (Why doesn't he run for President? Oh. My. God. Please, please, keep that thought a secret.)

Bullies

Who are the bullies? They're the guys who are the source of the gender gap. They prefer to solve every problem with force. Kid won't say "yessir", smack him around. Woman wants a divorce, submit to this (good fundie cross-over). Female orgasm? Illegal in Alabama unless provided by a man. Addict steals; ten years behind bars with no rehab. Death penalty! Death penalty! Death penalty! Murder/death/kill. The law? The cops are the law, and all the stuff that happens in court is doo process.

Oh, and turn the Middle East into a glass parking lot. Solve all our problems. Any ragheads left? Torture 'em.

Prominent bullies: Rush Limbaugh, John Bolton, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Duhbya. True to form, physical courage is not required to be a bully, just power. Darth is a bullying wealthy who also exploits the bullies. He'd be the perfect nominee except that he's more despised than even Duhbya.

The great intellecutal, untellicable, unintelligle, smart-ass neocons think they're bullies, but they're really just useful pussies. They have advanced degrees and academic pedigrees - how tough could they really be? Paul Wolfowitz gives himself twirlies without being held upside down in the locker room toilet.

GOP constituencies

Laughing the pretenders out of town leaves three guys who might just possibly win the Republican nomination, and they're a scary trio. One is an open theocrat and Confederate sympathizer. One will clearly and obviously say anything in the whole damn world to win - no, scratch that, it's worse, he'll say everything at one time or another if that will save the best for numero uno. The third is already 72 years old, though half the fossils in the media (think David Broder) would volunteer tonight to have his baby if only they had wombs, and he has deeply offended all the key Republican constituencies.

There are three constituencies that matter in the modern (ouch, oxymoron) Republican Party:

  • fundies - a 2000-year-old human-written book is never wrong
  • bullies - my country, right or wrong, I'll kick your ass
  • wealthies - pro-business means never having to say you're sorry
Sure, there are gun nuts, xenophobes, and racists, too, spread liberally (ouch again) through the first two categories and even leaking into the third (remember Henry Ford?).

The fundies and the bullies do the work and provide the votes, but the wealthies, true to form, own the party and run the show. The fundies are pretty pissed, uh, are waxing wroth over this. The Bill Clinton penis hunt distracted them for a while, but now again they want to be darn sure that they get their turn before the apocalypse. Some of the loonier fundies need their turn to help bring the apocalypse. As soon as possible. No shit!

Scoundrels

Used to be that patriotism had monopolized the last refuge of a scoundrel. The false bravado of Duhbya and Darth shows there are still plenty of scoundrels who call themselves patriots.

But there's a new competitor - well, not that new - Christianity. When I was a kid, it was mainly the preachers' kids who were scoundrels. Or maybe I was just naive then and didn't notice all the greedy businessmen wrapping their sin up in scripture and calling it piety, when it's really just marketing.

By now, though, there's a whole parallel economy run by people who have forgotten that Jesus's founding ministry was among the very poor and downtrodden. He wasn't trying to get scrolls on long haul trucks or to put his stamp on government. He was trying to help people in need.

Originally a comment on TennViews.

Random thought

Sure, this is hopelessly retrospective - and egotistical - but if Bill Kristol can get a gig with the New York Times, despite all the nasty things he has said about the press in general and the NYT in particular, when can I expect the Wall Street Journal or Fox News to hire me? OK, or someone like me with a longer history of celebrity?

Friday, January 18, 2008

GOP standings to date - the pretenders


Eliminate all the options that are impossible and whatever is left, however unlikely, will happen.

Starting with the pretenders:

  • Duncan Hunter, who he? He has a delegate because he is a delegate. Shift a few bellwether brain cells, and he could be tied with Rudy Giuliani
  • Rudi, ah, Rudi, it's not that we hardly knew ye. It's just that you are too obviously a mean, authoritarian SOB. And to the Republican base, those are your good qualities. I never thought a repeat cross-dresser could win in the Republican Party; his poll numbers were a media creation doomed to die embarrassingly. Except that nothing embarrasses Rudi, not even all that icky personal stuff.
  • Fred Thompson was the guy you date, not the guy you marry. Seriously, does that show how gag-a-maggot the Republican Party is, or what? Fred jumped the shark (I am so glad I finally learned what that means) before he even jumped into the race. He wanted the Presidency as a retirement gift, and even the Grand Old Party is not that senescent.
Ron Paul needs a category all to himself. He has managed to attract all the scruffy Objectivists who think they're the second coming of John Galt, whoever he was (the man ain't got no culture), and evidently some of them know how to charge a credit card on the Internet. He's right about Iraq for all the wrong isolationist reasons, and the rest of his platform would have been neandercon in the 19th century, which is where he evidently found a wormhole from which to emerge into contemporary Texas daylight. Good thing, too - in any other state except maybe Louisiana, more people would laugh at him than vote for him. OK, maybe Idaho, too.

More to come...

Can I get a head-line?

CNN's headline, "Army: Some troops suffer brain injuries and don't know it" would be funny if it were about, say, professional wrestlers or beer-can-forehead-smashing Hell's Angels.

How about "Army: Undiagnosed brain injuries common"? Are those words too big?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Full of Mitt

So, Mitt Romney makes a big deal that "lobbyists aren't running his campaign," but, when challenged by a reporter who names a particular lobbyist who's a senior advisor to Mitt, he gets bent out of shape and repeats his narrow parsing formula over and over again.

Let's get this out in the open: No lobbyist manages campaigns. They're disjoint sets.

Mitt changes his positions with the political wind and his need to tack into it. Mitt claims to be places he wasn't with civil rights pioneers he never met. Mitt makes substance-free statements intended to be misinterpreted. There's nothing that comes out of his mouth you can trust.

It's all bullshit. He's playing to the Republican base.

Harry Reid, slow learner

Bipartisanship is a chimera of tasty bullshit. You'd think that Harry would have found a sweeter taste by now.

The Bushists will demagogue any issue, but they are particularly scurrilous when they think they can cut taxes for the very wealthy.

Nice guy neo-Confederate

Mike Huckabee:

I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn't matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag — you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole.
These aren't even code words. These are out and out appeals to bigotry. Just in case we weren't listening, he said them twice in different locales.

By the way, we settled this one 140 years ago when we disposed of the treason symbolized by the Confederate battle flag, and we settled it again 40 years ago, when that so-called heritage symbol suddenly became important again in another attempt to resist and deny racial justice.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is why Republicans don't get black votes.

Crime and entertainment cheek by jowl

Nothing else to report on. This is the important stuff anyway.

Yeah, true confessions, I clicked on "Zoo Tiger Attack".

Minutes to midnight

Is anyone surprised that the White House overwrote its email backups? Wake up Rip Van Winkle.

Let's add it up:

  • They revealed this at the last possible moment...
  • only when directly ordered to...
  • despite missing emails being an issue in several investigations.
  • They studied absent emails in secret...
  • but won't release the study they're being sued to release...
  • because, they claim, they (conveniently) think it's not reliable.
From the Washington Post's (better) coverage:
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) told the National Archives in a letter last month that White House officials had told his investigators they found "numerous days with few or no emails for certain White House components" during a 2005 review of White House computer servers.

"More than two years after this problem was first discovered by White House staff," Waxman said, "the White House still has not identified the cause of the problem, determined the volume of emails lost, or developed a plan for restoring those emails that were lost."

In a related controversy, House investigators have determined that hundreds of thousands of e-mails from former presidential adviser Karl Rove and other White House aides are missing because they were sent using external accounts set up by the Republican National Committee.
The White House is run by scofflaws.

Ain't I sweet? I could have called the Bushists a criminal conspiracy...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pseudo-legal theft

So, the DEA seizes a boat you own part of, doesn't notify you, doesn't prove it was used as alleged, auctions it off very cheap, and when you win the case is ordered to reimburse you 1% of its value.

Civil forfeiture, as used in drug cases such as this, is an open invitation and strong incentive for theft under color of authority. The Supreme Court has ruled that it doesn't violate the Constitution, despite the words that conclude the Fifth Amendment:

[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Despite having only taken a philosophy of law course and no actual law courses, I know how to read, and I see the injustice anyway.

See, I'll defend the rich when they're wronged, too.

Bushist Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that investors who allege they were defrauded (and have a good case) cannot recover damages from corporations that knowingly aided and abetted the corporation committing the alleged fraud. Guess who was in the majority. Yup, three of the same five who ruled for Duhbya in Bush v. Gore and the replacements for the fourth and fifth, the Bushist heart of the Court.

This is a perfect illustration of how far the "center" has moved to the right. The minority opinion argues that the majority relied on a precedent where the aid to the fraud was not knowing in order to extend what I would call a privilege of fraud to companies who do know exactly what they're doing.

In Bush-world, corporate officers who do things that they know are sub rosa are still blameless, and injured investors can't recover from them.

Update: Corrected for Sandra Day O'Connor's departure and William Rehnquist's death.

Anger management

I showed a friend this blog, and he gently characterized it as "raw".

What does he mean, I wondered? Sure, I show my anger from time to time, but I also show humor and analysis and even some good news.

Uh, true, but you really have to look hard for items where those attributes dominate.

Satire is hard, takes time and thought and good writing, but it's more effective than pure outrage. Heaven knows our times demand outrage, but I've got to keep a little perspective, too.

Who knows, this might last a week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A theory collapses

Since I'm a blogger, not an elite journalist like Joe Klein, I have to admit my errors. It looks as though my diagnosis of the Minneapolis bridge collapse was full of crap, which is not really a surprise, especially given the title I put on the entry.

On the subject of the media, though, I was still spot on.

Lub-dub

It took since 2006 for Merck and Schering-Plough to the get data all the way to even! Ouch.

Are they going to refund all the prescription costs for 2007? Not on your life (literally).

UFOs bypass Central Park! Again!

Lots of weird shit happens in Texas - their political exports especially - so UFOs over central Texas ought not to be too much of a surprise. But look out, now everyone who sees something they don't understand will be on the phone to CNN. Oooh, it's the end times; the sky is falling!

Stephenville is only an hour and a half from Crawford. That's something weird that I'd like to see explained.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why not a chickenheart?


Truth be told, I find the regrowth of rat hearts exciting. I suppose I should get out more.

It's important in the world of 21st century hype, to understand what the scientists (Harald Ott and Doris Taylor) didn't do. They didn't grow a new heart in a petri dish. They started with living heart, killed it by stripping out the cells, and regrew functioning cells using the protein matrix (of connective tissue) as a structural guide.

In a way, regrowth would be better, even though it's not as impressive as culturing a new heart. I know I'd much rather have a treatment that repairs my heart than one that replaces it via open heart surgery. But the scientists are working on culturing because of problems with in situ regrowth.

What I'm really looking for is in situ cartilage regrowth, especially in my knees.

Jonah Goldberg newspeaks

As seen in Salon (h/t John Scalzi), here are some of the assertions of the type that have gotten Jonah Goldberg the nickname the Doughy Pantload:

  • fascism = socialism
  • nationalism = communitarianism
  • national socialist = socialist
  • totalitarian = organic
  • totalitarian = holistic
  • subordination = inclusion
  • It Takes a Village = state parenting
  • real militarism = metaphorical efforts against crime, poverty, drugs
  • regimentation = consensus
  • socialism = state-run economics, regardless of who benefits
  • nationalized = socialized (Eisenhower must have socialized the National Guard!)
  • marxist = fascist (!?)
  • liberal = free market
  • classless = socialist (So America is - or thinks it is - socialist?)
  • populist = liberal (Tell that to George Wallace.)
Goldberg couldn't make a distinction between his ass and a hole in the ground. Hey, they're topologically similar; they must be the same thing.

Then there's this quote:
[T]he only reason [Mussolini] got dubbed a fascist and therefore a right-winger is because he supported World War I.
See Scalzi for the definitive smack-down of this ahistorical claptrap. Goldberg is essentially a fascism denier. This is his logic: Those Indians tried to sully our good name by having the nerve to catch smallpox from the blankets we Europeans gave them for that express purpose. Those Guantánamo terrorists are continuing their asymmetrical warfare against all right-thinking Murkins by trying to commit suicide. That Mussolini may have founded fascism and called it a right-wing movement, but he was really just an old lefty.

There is no worthwhile way to engage this sort of incoherent "argument" other than ridicule. Goldberg's rhetoric can't even fig leaf his obvious intent to propagandize. It's intellectually bankrupt in all aspects, a logorrhea-covered exercise in self-service colonoscopy.

Goldberg is using words that are in the dictionary, but he's making up their meanings as he goes along. Even worse, at whim or necessity, he can switch meanings within the confines of a single paragraph.

He says he's not making the argumentum ad hitlerum, but in nearly every paragraph that's exactly what he's doing. X breathed and was bad. Y breathes. Therefore, Y is bad. He is breathtakingly, uneducably, irredeemably stupid. With a big, albeit uncomprehended, vocabulary.

The completeness of his turgid, ridiculous unclarity is visible here to those of us who aren't wearing his bullshit-colored glasses:
You don't have conservative groups talking about what kind of condoms you should use or what positions you can be in.
Earth to Jonah! Talked to the Christian right lately? Oral o.k.? Anal? Gay? How's the Pope's tolerance of any use of condoms coming along? Masturbation? Fantasy?

In the end, Goldberg's words about Mussolini apply better to himself:
He was sort of a buffoon in that sense; he was constantly changing his definitions of fascism and talking out of one side of the mouth, then out of the other side of his mouth, largely because of the sort of pragmatic idea he had about politics.
I haven't read his book, and I won't. His own words in this interview irrefutably expose him as an ass, unworthy of even an hour wasted reading his prose.

What he wants to say - but which wouldn't get for him all this undeserved attention - is that liberals are not like him. Thanks be to god! Instead of defending that clear and unarguable thesis, he muddles all the meanings he touches.

Why newspapers are dying

There are many reasons for the slow wasting away of newspapers. One that has been missed is this: Newspapers were accustomed to being the only game in town, and the market for current events has become much more segmented than their traditional model.

Oh, sure, TV came along in the 1950s and brought competition. However, at the time, TV took its news values from print. It covered stories in something approaching depth, and it had pictures to boot. Still, there were only three networks, and they were broadcasting.

Even before cable, though, entertainment values oozed in. Remember weather girls? Now all news readers have to be beautiful. No more dour serious journalists. Sports segments got longer and longer. Eventually, the hard news pieces got softer to keep up, and network executives found that they could capture a lot more eyeballs with puppies and missing persons than with the arcana of the federal budget.

Still, newspapers didn't adjust their audience expectations. True, virtually all the evening papers closed, the need for them erased by the nightly news. But the big three were broadcasting to everyone, so newspapers continued to write for everyone.

The advent of cable TV news further segmented the market. It wasn't, of course, the only force. News magazines spawned celebrity gossip-zines.

Newspapers refused to give up their long lost broad audience, but cable started narrowcasting to niche audiences. Bill O'Reilly owns the delusional, ossified, egotistical gasbag segment, despite lots of competition, but even his audience is not very large. Multiplying him a hundred times (oh, god, please, NOOO!) chips a lot of eyeballs off the front page of the Boston Globe. Chris Matthews takes the blithering sexists with poor impulse control. Jon Stewart takes the kids who grew up with TV and already know it's all bullshit. Keith Olbermann wins people who want to giant slalom between news and punch lines, while Stewart is in a quick slalom.

Newspapers kept trying to be everything to everyone, and no matter how many soft features they add or news you can use they deliver about how to get your Christmas tree out the door without scratching the paint, they're still bleeding readers. They're even bleeding guys like me, and the reason is that they're in a niche market, too, but they haven't dealt with that yet.

Meanwhile, the core audience for newspapers, people like me who want deeper coverage of the news, even when there's no way to get good art, are finding less and less in them to justify the gray ink all over our hands. We want to know what actually happened yesterday. We don't want reporters striving for a scoop to pretend to know what's going to happen tomorrow or next week. We want some seasoned insight about what topics touch what other topics and the benefit of the reporter's contacts, as long as the reporter vets the quotes for bullshit and bluntly puts it in context.

Instead, newspapers are taking their news values from TV, which means they value entertainment more than information. Their medium is just not well-positioned to compete in entertainment (though the web is changing that).

True, the core readers of newspapers are not 100% of adults, not even close. But we're at least a quarter of the population, and we tend to be affluent, aware, and sometimes even influential, just the perfect eyeballs to deliver to advertisers.

And the papers are screwing that up, too, alienating us by trying to hang onto what they've already lost.

Convenience vs. liberty

I hate reading reports such as this. Involuntary commitment or guardianship of any kind should not be done this lightly.

"Unbefriended elders", now there's a short sad phrase for something most people fear desperately as they age. I hope to live long, but I plan to make some younger friends along the way, not only to keep me young but to make sure I'm not bereft and alone.

Is it Monday already?

Please click the panel to see Charles Fincher's cartoon. Please - maybe he'll take The Illustrated Daily Scribble back off hiatus.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blind spot

Journalists don't ever take responsibility for anything they choose.

The war is still going on in Iraq, but like Afghanistan before, the American media is not interested in it any more, and they aren't reporting on it at all.

But Tom Foreman still wants to pretend that they're not setting the news agenda. All these blond white girls are going missing! They're setting the news agenda.

Can sports announcers even see?

Idly watching Indy vs. San Diego as I blog. Bob Sanders just hurt his hand, and the replay is completely obvious about it getting wedged between a teammate and the ball-carrier. His hand or wrist could easily be broken. Yet the announcers can't figure it out.

This happens all the time. It's usually worse when they're trying to watch the game instead of the monitor, which is almost always a better view, but this is on a replay.

Look, my eyes aren't that great; I've worn glasses for 35 years. I only played one year of football, and the total moron who coached that team didn't teach me anything about football. These professional announcers, one of whom is Dan Dierdorf, who played in the NFL, should be able to see all kinds of things I don't see. Yet they repeatedly fail to deliver anything but canned background stories and hoary old cliches.

At least they can see that Reggie Wayne scored a touchdown...

"I bet they are challenging that." Ya think?

I really believe that the reason the Patriots are better than everyone else is that Bill Belichick is about 40 IQ points above the average NFL coach. And that still only puts him about 140.

Seems as if Idiocracy is here already.

The impeachment remedy

Impeachment is a political remedy. It has due process trappings and procedural analogies to criminal procedure, but its only authorized punishment is removal from office and disqualification from eligibility for office, and it is specifically exempted from the prohibition against double jeopardy.

Impeachment was intended to be an extraordinary remedy, and that's why the Republicans were wrong to pursue it against Bill Clinton. If lying about blow jobs in Washington were extraordinary, we'd all know that the country was run by lesbians - and they'd be doing other things that the likes of Ken Starr would find unspeakable (but would document and footnote with prurient glee anyway).

The wimpy Washington Democrats have failed to make this distinction, too, or they would be able to distinguish between the Constitutional abuses of the Bushists and the marital abuses of the Clenis. Instead, Nancy and Harry let the conventional post-Democratic Beltway narrative and their own preference for playing it safe to bollix them.

Ironically, the Bushists' transparently bogus Constitutional interpretation of the Presidency constrains them to accept impeachment as political. If the President is immune from the law, as they have repeatedly claimed in a reprise of Nixonian defenses, impeachment is the only remedy between elections for an Executive run amok.

But logic and law don't work on these guys. Need an example? All the Republicans who pursued Clinton on grounds that no impact on government now blithely accept Duhbya and Darth's blanket claims of immunity.

The only goals the Bushist Republicans (practically speaking, all the party's officials) pursue consistently are their own power and tax cuts for the wealthy. When they have those, they don't need logic or law.

Originally a comment on Philosoraptor.

Actual business news

Here is at least one piece of the supposed synergy between Bank of America and Countrywide. I still wonder whether BoA is also keen to hide its own, separate exposure.

Sunday comics - Cheshire candidate

Click image for full cartoon from Beth Cravens.

Sunday comics blogging - balloonacy

Click the image to see full Tom Toles cartoon.

Let's hope we're not taking the Steve Fossett path.

Be sure not to miss the cartoon within the cartoon!

Hunting for statistics

Looking through Obama's web site for his program for the middle class, I found this claim (after clicking out of what for me was the premature video plea to join him):

[O]ur share of twenty-four-year-olds with college degrees now falls somewhere between Bulgaria and Costa Rica.
Really? I found this surprising. Since the GI Bill, the U.S. has democratized college attendance. For decades, we have led the world in percentage of college graduates in every rising age cohort. When did it change? What's his source?

Unlike John Edwards's campaign site, Obama's doesn't have any citations at all. Alas, what I thought were my exceptional Google skills haven't found a satisfactory answer. I did find three items that bear on this:
  • Remarks (pdf - see p. 7) from Austan Goolsbee, a Chicago School of Business economist, that appear to be Obama's source (and make clear that Obama's "somewhere" is needlessly vague)
  • NSF statistics from 2003 about college grads in the workforce, particularly this part of Table 4:


  • A very old (1990) article that incidentally provides stats about the annual cohort of graduates
There's something between the latter two bullets that doesn't make sense. American higher ed is producing roughly a million graduates a year, as stated by the old article and confirmed historically by the NSF table. And that makes me question the data I still haven't found that Goolsbee is alluding to.

The graduation rate of a million per year means that there should be between 5 and 7 million graduates 29 or younger. This assumes that most people graduate before age 30 and that the vast majority of graduates are citizens, but those seem like pretty safe assumptions. Where are the missing grads, then?

It is true that these age cohorts have increased in size without a corresponding college building boom. In percentage terms, of course this matters.

But, unfortunately, to really understand this and its public policy implications, I need more information. Any reporter out there want to ask the Obama campaign or Goolsbee? Nah, didn't think so.

Update: Found the missing grads! The NSF, inexplicably, wasn't looking for them! The survey was designed to look for graduates whose degrees had been granted more than three years before.

I'd still like to see the full international table of degree rates.

Update: Anonymous "goolsbee" provides the goods.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blue states and Europe

Paul Krugman makes the case for European economic parity with the U.S.

Furthermore, the American states that are the most similar to Europe in social welfare policies, taxation rates, regulation, and liberal outlook are the most successful states. We have more and better education, higher wages, more valuable real estate (a mixed blessing, true), and more innovation and entrepreneurship.

The market has spoken in political economy, and Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, and Washington, among others, are the best answer. A mixed economy performs better for more people than either a laissez-faire economy or a socialist economy. Deft regulation beats no regulation or heavy-handed regulation.

But I said something really nice about him, too!

Dan Balz of the Washington Post is one of those bullshit Washington political reporters who won't touch anything of substance about politics as long as there's a horse race story to tell. Horseshit, more like it.

The tone and upshot of the story shows that it has one audience, John Edwards. Its whole point is when are you going to triage yourself out of Obama's way?

The story contains all the elements of Beltway bloviation:

  • The airy refusal to acknowledge the press's own role ("Edwards is the forgotten man")
  • The pretense of insight on the part of the reporter (whole damn piece)
  • Rampant use of conventional narrative ("angry populist of Iowa")
  • Ha-ha stereotype ("Southern-fried" - aside: when a Yankee uses Southern-fried, it's an insult; not a serious social problem, but akin to calling Hillary the little woman)
  • Retrospective out-size claims of importance ("everything on the line in Iowa, a state that was a must-win contest for him")
  • Fox-perfected "some say" with not a single quote ("has offended many Democrats")
  • Vacuous authenticity claims ("shift from optimism to anger as the sign of an opportunistic politician" - aside: if you're not angry after 7 years of Bushism, you've probably already had a lobotomy)
One reason newspapers have fallen on such hard times is that we readers are firing their asses, since their product is so insipid and inconsequential. Oh, and self-important, I almost forgot that.

More judicial bullshit

Try to wrap your head around this "logic":

"Criminal conduct is not per se outside the scope of employment," a requirement for bringing a claim under the Alien Tort Statute, said the decision by appeals Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.

The four men challenged the methods Rumsfeld and the military officers used, but the former detainees don't allege that the defendants "acted as rogue officials or employees who implemented a policy of torture for reasons unrelated to the gathering of intelligence," the court said.

"Therefore, the alleged tortious conduct was incidental to the defendants' legitimate employment duties," the ruling added.

Three Bush-appointed judges say it's o.k. to commit crimes as part of their "legitimate" duties that they couldn't commit if they were rogue officials.

The law in the hands of Bushists really is an ass.

"Democrat Schwarzenegger"

This sentence is too weirdly framed not to draw a comment:

He is facing a repeat of the financial crisis that undid Gray Davis, former governor, the Democrat Schwarzenegger ousted in a turbulent recall election.
The efforts required to butt Democrat up against Schwarzenegger must have required almost as many steroids as Ahnuld shot up in his firm-man-tittied heyday.

At the very least, any decent editor would have insisted upon "... Democrat whom Schwarzenegger ...". And if whom is too priggish about pronoun case, I don't care, use who or that. But, even better, how about this?
He faces a repeat of the fiscal crisis that he used in 2003 to oust former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in a turbulent recall election.
Somebody once said, "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity," but this is pretty stupid even for the AP. (And I say that knowing that a good friend, whose name is already in my keyword list, worked for the AP for years without becoming stupid.)

Fourteenth amendment? Never heard of it

The Federal Appeals Court in the Boston district made this breathtaking statement:

The [jury] instructions also erroneously appeared to equate acting based on any perceptions of a person's race or ethnic heritage with illegal discrimination.

Race or ethnic origin of a passenger may, depending on context, be relevant information in the total mix of information raising concerns that transport of a passenger 'might be' inimical to safety.
Congratulations, you've just legalized racial profiling! How'd you like a trip to Disney World?

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This was not the only issue on appeal. Why did the court go this far?