Monday, June 30, 2008

Bob Barr gets something right

... and that's news, though less so lately.

"It probably wasn't any one thing," he said during our conversation last week outside the White House.

"But perhaps listening to the attorney general of the United States, in a purportedly conservative Republican administration of George W. Bush, justify to the American people that the writ of habeas corpus, the great writ, the foundation of civilized society as we know it, is no longer important. Watching a president and his attorney general try and torture the language of the law and the language of the Fourth Amendment to justify warrantless spying on American citizens in their own country in the name of being a commander in chief.

"Those are so dramatically inconsistent with any notions of legitimate, constitutional, conservative government, that I certainly could not be party to, or remain in a party that advocated those procedures."
Aside from the misplaced esteem for conservatism, he gets everything right.

Sadly untested

John McCain's lack of command experience is soooo sad.

No matter how much the McCain surrogates may mewl and wail about Obama surrogate Wesley Clark's comments, it is an objectively unassailable fact that McCain has no war-time (corrected) command experience. Courage and military service, sure, but not in a command role.

It's interesting to note the McCain campaign's response is to pretend that Clark disrespected McCain's courage and service and to use that pretense to attack. The obvious on-point rejoinder that Obama has no military command experience either leaves the two candidates on par, and the McCain camp can't surrender their perceived advantage even though the fact is that McCain was what business these days calls an individual contributor.

Update (7/4): The definitive account from Media Matters of this affair's complete, abject ridiculousness.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Only rare human beings think for themselves. Most of us choose to follow along with the predominant crowd. In the state of nature and probably also in a developed society, this is adaptive behavior in the short run, but it risks a lemming plunge together over an easily seen cliff.

Peer influence is a tremendous prejudicial force in human groups (and groups of other animals, as well, I'm sure). It leads to the Gloucester 17, to obesity in relationship cohorts, to religious beliefs, to the acceptance of bald political lies.

If your friends are fabulists, their most outrageous lies become the received wisdom of your peer group, and it's afterward unshakable, despite the only evidence for it being rumor deriving from very unauthoritative sources such as "some guy" or an email or a posting on the Internet with circular or non-existent sourcing.

People believe what they want to believe, what they choose to believe. Only a precious few compare their beliefs to their experience and reject their false beliefs.

More than a day late

Now the Swifties are concerned with their good name. Where were they in 2004 when it mattered, when the Swift Boat Liars were everywhere? Why aren't they all pillorying T. Boone Pickens, Texas bullshit artist?

Stole it fair and square

Can we now dispense with the fiction that Zimbabwe is a democracy? Robert Mugabe is President for Life.

If violently stealing an election doesn't justify revolution, I'm not sure that any political crime could, but I still have no idea whether it's practical in Zimbabwe.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mitt right but stupid

Look, non-proliferation has always been a liberal approach to a national security problem. The internationalists were for it, the conservatives simply wanted to use military force. Anyone ever heard of preemption? Of course, the internationalists were not all liberals, but the driving force behind engaging adversary and ally alike to reduce the spread of nuclear weaponry was us libs.

People who have a brain understand that arms control and preemption may both be needed at different times. You can tell liberals from conservatives by which stick they reach for first.

Mitt Romney gets points for saying so but only enough to get him the booby prize.

What's really stupid on his part, though, is that his definition of 'bipartisan' is "caving to the conservatives". I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he labors under this misconception, since that has been the Broderist, Liebermanesque definition for the past twenty years.

True to form, John Roberts totally misses the obvious logic of the story.

Friday, June 27, 2008

They call Obama arrogant

I'm actually glad David Addington and John Yoo took their surly, unaccountable Bushism before Congress. Maybe if they piss off enough Representatives and Senators, those two war criminals among others will wind up hog-tied on a slow boat to the Hague.

There is very little in intent that distinguishes the Bushists from Vladimir Putin (or even Robert Mugabe). Sadly, there is very little in effectiveness that distinguishes our Congress from the Duma or whatever rubberstamp legislature Mugabe is bullying at the moment.

I am dying to hear these words, "Sergeant-at-Arms, take these men into custody."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When the bullshit hits the bone

Antonin Scalia's Second Amendment:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Even so, the D.C. ordinance was too broad a restriction.

My view: The Second Amendment's purpose is to vest in the people enough power to forestall both invasion and coup d'etat. For that purpose, the people individually and collectively have the right to arm themselves, but the regulation clause allows reasonable restrictions consistent with the purpose.

This means there's no bright line, and we'll have to continue to argue about it for a long time. If I want an RPG launcher to defend myself against the (mythical) black helicopters, well, that's still illegal, though I hear they're readily available in Baghdad.

What's to be done to keep people from killing each other? Handgun - or all firearm - registration would be consistent with my interpretation. That would drive the gun nuts crazy, especially if Obama wins, and for sheer entertainment value, I would recommend it as a next step in D.C. (Of course, since Congress has final Constitutional authority over D.C.'s laws, if local officials passed this, they'd probably get their 35-year-old home rule revoked in a hurry.)

It'll be interesting to see what happens to gun crime rates this summer and fall. And, when I say 'interesting', I mean from a safe distance. But it is clear that the ban hasn't been, ahem, 100% effective up to now. The question is whether we'll find out that it used to be 50% effective.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dobson: Bible means what I say

James Dobson can accuse Barack Obama of editing the Bible to fit his worldview, but he can't recognize his own editing. Dietary laws in the Old Testament aren't relevant, but despising homosexuality is. Etching the Ten Commandments in stone in Alabama in a courthouse is a cause celebré, but slavery is passé.

Dobson may call himself a Bible literalist, but the Bible, especially the Christian Bible, is so filled with contradictions that Obama is right to say that it's not a clear basis for a modern secular government. No matter what Dobson's "traditional interpretation" may be, there's no way it's less a distortion than Obama's.

And, of course, Jesus was a liberal (though not a statist liberal).

Still and all, Obama has to expect to be attacked about everything. His Christianity is just another thing that thoroughly political wingnuts like Dobson, far from trying to understand and accommodate even in honest disagreement, will try to muddy up with invidious comparisons.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Serious about winning

The thing I like about Obama's decision to forgo public financing of his general election campaign is that it shows he's serious about actually winning the White House. I am sick and tired of fighting the good fight and losing. I want a President who'll call up Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and say, "Don't send me any more of this barely budged Bushist bullshit like FISA. I'll send it back to you in a Chicago second."

Based on the headline, I thought I was going to have to agree with David Gergen. Since he's one of the most self-fluffing Beltway blowhards, I was happy to find that his piece is full of little slaps and digs, not to mention inaccuracies and missing context (of course no credit to Washington outsider Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, which laid the groundwork for Obama's). So, after all, I don't have to say nice things about him and his sweet chum Cindy McCain.

Of course, it's not good that Obama had to reverse his previous pledge, and there has always been a little sniping at Republicans who diss public financing. Now the shoe is on the other foot, though, and Obama needs every advantage he can get. It's going to be a long and bitter campaign.

Yes, Obama's can rightly argue that his private campaign finance model of many, many small contributions is better reform than public financing. It's true. It's also a rationalization. In the impure business of politics, I can live with that. I can rationalize it.

Obama is going to need every cent he can lay his hands on. CNN characterizes his coming media campaign as "shock and awe", but he'll be facing guerrilla warfare from the Scaifes, the Pickenses, and all the other scurrilous wingnut manipulators of public opinion. They don't care what lies they have to tell to keep their boys in power. It'll take a lot of slapping to slap those bastards down.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pot calling the Charlie Black

Remind me, who's still running blood 'n' guts McCain's campaign?


If you work for a large, publicly traded corporation, you're going to have to get sent to re-education camp from time to time. Hell, I've had to wear Spock ears at a kick-off meeting for a small corporation. Executives believe that all their serfs should love the brand just as much as they profess to.

I'm sitting though a bit of propaganda today, shields up, trying to let only enough through that I can pass the assessment at the end and stay out of dutch with HR. I'm doing this six months late, so I just know that Catbert, evil HR director, is waiting to nail me if I even think of stepping off the one true path (until the next executive shows his impact by changing it).

But what I just saw turned my stomach too much to let pass uncommented: The brand evangelists asked various people from the business side what brand they identify with, and they managed to find ordinary-looking, non-insane people who would admit that they identify with Disney, Coca-Cola, Google, Starbucks, BMW, Apple.

Think about that. These people are proud that advertising has worked on them, that their self-images are bound up with a corporate image created for the express purpose of extracting money from their wallets!

So now the corporation I work for is asking me to identify with its brand, to go to war with its logo on my chest and to return with my shield or on it. But the executives know enough at least to identify with third party brands, since the only brand that really matters to them is their own brand, as represented as well as possible by their résumés.

Agonizing reappraisal

I remember riding across West Tennessee to see my grandparents as a boy. The two-lane highway was built on a berm to keep it up out of the bottom land. The bottom land was the alluvial plain of the Obion River, if memory serves, and since the Obion has three forks that drain a large chunk of northwest Tennessee, it probably does.

More than once, the rivers were up. The time I recall most vividly, the water lapped up onto the road in places, and my parents were quiet and as grim as the wet gray sky.

Endless water, passive on the surface but implacable, where farms soils used to be reliable and firm, changes your view of the permanence of the landscape. At least it changed mine.

Still, river water recedes. What will we say when sea level rises enough to take the summer homes of seacoast millionaires? Oops?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

T. Boone Pickens, lying sack of shit

Pickens's promises are worth exactly as much as the hot air he makes them with. The swiftboating financier said that:

he would give $1 million to anyone who could disprove a single charge the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made against Mr. Kerry.
Oops, now there are conditions and a narrowing of what counts as a charge to just the advertisement. By doing so, Pickens acknowledges that the Swift Boat Liars lied.

Obama had better be ready. They'll be coming after him next. It's what the Republicans do. Since their programs are unpopular, it's all they've got.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No vaccination against bullshit

Time carries a story about Gardasil, Merck's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is an attempt to prevent the cervical cancer that is a common sequela of its sexually transmitted and often asymptomatic infection. You probably have had it.

The Time story is completely useless. It's a he-said-she-said between parents whose children had some adverse health event after a vaccination and scientists who say there's no statistically significant correlation. But of course the anecdotes are much more vivid than the confidence intervals, so they get much more ink.

The constant exhibition in our media of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies helps keep us all stupid. It's why most of us still believe that a full moon brings out the crazies - if we run into a crazy driver and notice the moon is full (or even almost), we leap to the false conclusion that the full moon caused the craziness.

Wolf whistles

One of the things that's most irritating about Wolf Blitzer and many of his fellows in the elite media is their bare-faced ability to pretend they don't remember or understand the effects their own behavior has on American politics.

If he thinks changing your mind is fine, where the hell was this judiciousness in 2004 or 2000?

And why won't he critique John McCain's mind-changing (and law-skirting) on campaign finance?

Animal source

All the reporting on salmonella in tomatoes omits the salient fact that the source the FDA is looking for is an animal source, probably either people or livestock. There is a vanishingly small chance of a wild source with reptiles the chief suspect in that case.

The media also failed to note from the beginning that last summer's fresh spinach, contaminated by E. coli, was tainted by an animal source. Of course, once the finding was confirmed, they did report it, but it was obvious before.

I suspect that the FDA scientists soft-pedal this knowledge out of deference to the industries they regulate. Especially under Republicans, the inmates are running the asylum.

Loonier even than usual

This creationist is way loonier than even the usual run of creationist, and that's saying something. Even so, his buddies among the Christian fundamentalist martyr-wannabes defend him.

Update: Finally the story reaches CNN.

They couldn't print it if it weren't true

Last Sunday, Sally Jacobs in the Boston Globe profiled Michelle Obama's experience at Princeton. The piece as a whole was o.k., but one sentence on the front page before the jump galls the hell out of me:

Just last week the Barack Obama campaign took on an apparently baseless rumor that she had once been taped talking of white Americans as "whitey."
Responsible reporters and their editors do not report rumor, dammit! If the rumor becomes the story in this world of Drudge, they do not use weasel words like 'apparently', and they are professionally obligated to tell the back story. Instead, Jacobs let that sentence alone describe this bullshit smear.

Jacobs and the Globe failed on all counts.

Friday, June 20, 2008


You didn't know that the AP had a photographer on Mars? And that damn NASA Phoenix is stealing his shots!

Let me tell you this AP, you don't get control of an image by slapping an "AP images" bitmap into it, even if you also cropped it and sharpened up the contrast a little.

Click each image for its original location.

Billion buys a lot of CNN

... but Ross, nobody out here among the non-billionaires gives a shit what you think even if you're right.

How did this guy get to be a media darling? Money.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Impolite question

Why is it that the McCain campaign gets both the argument and the rebuttal in this story?

It starts out as a McCain response and segues into another McCain response. McCNN, the most trussed name in news.

Then there's the content: Obama's camp claimed discussions about public finance of campaigns. The McCain camp hotly denied negotiations. But for that nominal difference - and the McCainiacs whining claim that this constitutes a lie, the two stories track exactly.

The tempest over the meeting, anyway, shows a desperate McCain camp that will try anything to muddy up Obama.

This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just trying to help

Despite all the paper trail and all the centralization of authority and all the urgings from the White House and the Cabinet to "take the gloves off," some naifs still found it plausible that the desire to torture prisoners came from below. Rummy was just trying to help with their desperate pleas for guidance; he didn't really want to torture.

Rumsfeld is a man who modeled military strategy on the successes of the Wehrmacht (note: no, I'm not calling him a Nazi). Blitzkrieg, centralized command and control, shock and awe. He was not a Secretary who fostered improvisation (other than planning for security post-campaign). He was not shy about slapping down anyone who had the temerity to disagree with him.

If some colonel had written him from Guantánamo demanding guidance on torture and Rummy didn't want it, could anyone in the world believe he'd meekly go along? Bullshit.

Torture was the considered policy of the Bushists from very early on. It was obvious to anyone strong enough to notice that the emperor wasn't even wearing a fig leaf, much less new clothes.

No dirtying up the blonde

If Michelle Obama had done what Cindy McCain did, she would have gone to jail. That's just how race and money work in this country. The thing is, I'm sympathetic to people who are in pain, as Cindy apparently was, though I could understand it better if John had needed the stolen pain meds. (My sympathy doesn't extend to Rush Limbaugh, but he's another white wealthy who escaped the law.)

On the other side, I don't expect the right-wing slime merchants to show humane mercy toward anyone who's in their way.

All they have

Mike Huckabee claims he wants John McCain to win, yet he urges Republicans to win on the issues. These two propositions contradict each other.

All the Republicans have is demonization. We'll see a lot of it, no matter how much Huckabee auditions for the nice guy role.

Off the reservation

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (ret.) tells the truth, and you know how much the Bushists hate that:

"There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes," Taguba says. "The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account."
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keeping margins high

Without war on the cheap, Iraq would not have provided enough room for hefty profits by privatized logistics companies. There are a lot of words for this. I choose corruption.

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Ave.

It's an immutable law that sequels only get worse. And even the original Bushist production was pretty shitty.

(O.K., not quite immutable. Aliens is better than Alien.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gore in the streets

I heard a couple of people claim tonight that Presidential elections don't make a difference. What I don't understand is how anyone can claim that after the last seven years.

Here are a few items that would be different had Florida's will been done and this man been rightly elected President:

  • No war in Iraq with its price of 4000 dead and $3 trillion.
  • No willful and bogus exaggerations of the scope of AUMF.
  • No torture.
  • No John Yoo claims of unfettered executive power.
  • No reverse Robin Hood tax cut.
  • Continued fiscal health.
  • Few and uncontroversial signing statements.
  • Two justices of the Supreme Court who would be at least moderate and thus: No series of decisions in favor of the imperial executive. Also, no Ledbetter decision against a clearly fair and just cause of action.
  • More effective financial regulation (since Democrats actually believe in it) of the credit markets.
  • Research dollars for alternative energy would already be bearing fruit.
I'm sure there are a thousand more.

Freedom for those who have the information

Bushists of course oppose freedom of information wherever it has previously existed. They tell us that we have nothing to fear if we are not criminals. Imagine if they applied the same standard to themselves!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Comfort for the still living

I lost a dear friend this week, a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable friend. I could say that about several other close friends, but today, at her memorial service, I saw how many hundreds of other people lost her, too.

In her honor, we shared comfort and bereavement alike. We told stories of her life and of her gifts to us, of her cancer and of her love for her family. And we tried to reassure each other.

"She's here among us."

"Her heart energy is strong."

"She has embarked on a new journey."

"I like to think that there's one more star in the sky."

"Her name on my lips keeps her alive."

"She was a gift."

Today, in a Unitarian-Universalist church filled with Buddhists, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, and yes many Christians, we remembered our friend and loved one. She brought us all together, maybe because she was a seeker and not a finder. Her husband recounted that she had introduced him to Buddhism, but she went to Narragansett Bay to body surf when he took meditation retreats. He called her spiritual but admitted that she denied that label to herself. Nature and family were her sacred practices. One woman who spoke noted that our friend held no dogma but took what she found to be good and kept looking.

How to make sense of death is where religion starts. Even when it seems obviously made up - even when I'm telling myself what I know is a wishful tale - there's nothing to be gained by irresponsible truth-telling. Empiricism can wait for the morning. If seeing auras helps you grieve, I can understand that.

So, I took all the comforting words in the spirit they were given - and gave at least one of them myself. That didn't mean I needed their metaphysics, but many of their metaphors are a comfort.

Because this comfort in the face of ephemeral, inscrutable life is so important, it is useful and good even when the stories themselves never could have happened in the world of short lives and long death that we live in. This importance and the inability we disparate and desperate humans have to resolve the conflicts between the given stories are, together, why we have to put religion beyond law, as the Founders did in the First Amendment.

Tomorrow, we can debate all we want the mythic stories that are commonly believed in all the world's traditions. Today, everyone alive who has lost someone they love needs something to hold onto when that person is gone, even if that something is each other.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kids these days

We didn't have no stinkin' habeas corpus in the Hanoi Hilton.

Stooge of plutocracy

Krugman makes the case against laissez-faire:

Hard-core American conservatives have long idealized the Gilded Age, regarding everything that followed — not just the New Deal, but even the Progressive Era — as a great diversion from the true path of capitalism.

Thus, when Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, was asked about his ultimate goal, he replied that he wanted a restoration of the way America was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

Grover Norquist is a stooge of the plutocracy. He took Ec 10 at Harvard, believed it all, and forgot all the ifs, ands, and buts.

Roger Ailes doesn't give a damn

Fox "News" is a blight upon the American media landscape. Could their reactionary politics be any better displayed by their slips of the tongue?

As it turns out, yes:

[Liz Trotta's] mea culpa followed that of former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas a week earlier after he made a similar crack at a gathering of the National Rifle Association.

In other news, Fox News Channel announced today that it was hiring Mr. Huckabee as a contributor.
If Huckabee had said something about whitey, well, that wouldn't be so easily forgiven.

(Of course I mean the evil Roger Ailes, not the good one.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We're voting Republican

truth has this at Main St. USA, with another bonus.

McCain shortlist

Bobby Jindal? I don't think so. McCain's flirting with him for the publicity benefits, but the only realistic aspect of Jindal is that he's short enough to share a podium with McCain.

The weird, out-there exorcism probably wouldn't make much difference in a nation with millions of young earth creationists, yearners who see the virgin Mary in fogged windows, and suckers for faith healers.

Tax the poor, feed the rich

All you need to know about the tax plans of blood 'n' guts McCain is here - more trickle-down so that Cindy can keep everything. Oh, and Obama's is even more fiscally responsible.

First Amendment

The Bill of Rights gets free speech right. Unlike Canadians and Europeans, I fear government regulation of speech more than all the jerks who are offensive with it. It's only a matter of time before an administration or a bureaucracy chooses self-protection over liberty. Given a third term, the Bushists might well trim the edges of free speech further than free speech zones and Ari Fleischer warnings.

I'm not interested in restricting robust dialog because it might hurt the feelings of someone who needs a thicker skin. We've seen hypersensitivity from just about everyone at one time or another from fundie Christians to Muslims, from feminists to conservative men who are tired of having their penis-centrism mocked, from Confederate sympathizers to respect-hungry rappers.

Adapted from a comment on this Philosoraptor thread.

Blood in the water

Lesson to the Obama campaign: Don't apologize, don't back down. It just brings more shark attacks.

Who pays?

House Republicans say, "Our financier buddies screwed up the economy, and we'll bail them out, but you little people can go screw. See, equality!"

CNN, a bum rap?

Lobbyists, we report, you decide. Poor lobbyists! They're people, too. They have feelings. And some of them (a very small proportion) look thanklessly after the public interest instead of the usual run of special pleadings for moneyed interests. Those moneyed interests are not in the business of bribery; their business is to fall just short of bribery.

Of course, blood 'n' guts McCain gets a prominent mention as a reformer of lobbying. Ha! At least CNN notices that he's on both side of this, too - strongly worded statements in bed with the very behavior they decry.


Watchdog groups say lobbying gets a bad rap because success in the profession is often heavily influenced by wealth and who wields it.

Question for the Ron Paul devolution

Libertarianism is founded on the marketplace, but it's the province of one of America's several lunatic fringes. Why hasn't it done better in the marketplace of ideas?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Regrets? Bring 'em on

Was anyone anywhere with any IQ expecting Duhbya to show regret, much less remorse? Duhbya, whose only act of self-examination ever was prompted by alcohol - and probably even that due to an ultimatum from Laura and not the hokey, unbelievable story Duhb himself tells?

No, he'd rather rationalize the deaths of 4000 Americans in Iraq by sending more to die there. As long as no one he knows dies there...

"One of the lessons of Iraq is that in order for a democracy to develop or for an economy to develop there has to be a measure of security, which is now happening," he said.
Lesson of Iraq? This man allegedly majored in history at Yale.
He said reports that the United States wanted to develop permanent bases in Iraq were "erroneous."
Yep, that's already done, and he doesn't want any more. Besides, the Bushists just use a different adjective instead of 'permanent' - 'enduring'.

Prevailing wind

Blood 'n' guts McCain tacked hard into the prevailing wind to visit the far-off land of Bushist Republican dead-enders. Now that the nomination is in hand, he's sailing back downwind seeking the center of the electorate.

Now, he's saying mean things about the sainted Duhbya:

"Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war," McCain says over mournful strings against a bleak backdrop, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "I hate war, and I know how terrible its costs are."
How many issues can McCain take both sides of?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I will veto every gin and tonic

Making a story out of a slip of the tongue? Easy pickins! Get the reporters (and bloggers) out on the veranda with some gin all the sooner.

CNN notices

McCain bullshits on a daily basis. Finally, some reporters are noticing. Delicately though - McCain is "incorrect", not full of crap.

The weird thing is that McCain's comment was so inconsequential in the first place. Why would he even want to deny that he said the media failed to notice Hillary's compassion?

Pandering maverick

At least blood 'n' guts McCain is consistent on the foolish gas tax holiday. It's something he hasn't flip-flopped on lately, which is something of a miracle. But even this is a transparent pander to people who can't think of a more intelligent way to vote themselves $25.

It's hard to imagine how McCain ever got a reputation for straight talk.

Writes like buttah

The New York Times buries the lead:

“We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic crisis by some accident of history,” Mr. Obama said here to 900 invited guests, a relatively small audience for him. “This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.”

He added a moment later: “We were promised a fiscal conservative. Instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. And now John McCain wants to give us another. Well, we’ve been there once. We’re not going back.”

My guess: The reporter and his editor wanted to write their own lead. They may have fancied that their job. They just didn't do as well as Obama (though it is a creditable article).

Nervous? It's what we do...

Hillary's most fervent supporters committed themselves to realizing a possibility that had seemed since 1920 laughably impossible. Shirley Chisholm had made a statement, but compared to masculine reality she had been performance art, serious but not lasting.

Now, Hillary was real. She was so close. Those who had come to believe that they love her and that she carried their personal hopes were also so close that they could read the joy like Braille in everything they touched.

That's a hard dream to defer, especially when the other side is celebrating the victory of a dream held in abeyance just as long. Jealousy is impossible to avoid.

Political decisions are emotional decisions, by and large. This one is no different. Some Clinton supporters will come around; some will not.

History suggests most will vote for a Democrat:

In the modern era, the pledge of mass defections by disappointed primary voters isn't rare -- but it rarely has a major influence on election results. The number of voters who identify with a given party may shift dramatically over time -- but among that self-selected group, loyalty tends to be remarkably high, with greater than nine in 10 usually supporting their party's presidential nominee, according to exit polling over the past few presidential cycles.
Eventually, the hot emotion of losing this dream until the next time will subside, and most of Hillary's supporters will make a decision between Obama and McCain. And there is just not much in McCain to inspire their belief or their joy.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Still quacking

Another overseas trip for the domestic audience:

The tour is meant to focus on leaving behind the bitterness over Iraq and setting a brighter tone for U.S.-European relations in the future.
And when I say domestic, I mean Laura.

Ebb and flow of historians

Duhbya's right in theory. Historians can get it wrong. Of course, when they move away from a cherished conservative myth, they're revisionists, while they're only coming to their senses if they ever (never!) learn to love Duhbya.

Darth Cheney provides a perfect example:

Vice President Cheney has also argued that history will vindicate Bush. Speaking at a Washington luncheon last week, Cheney recalled that former president Gerald R. Ford was "attacked from every conceivable angle" for pardoning Richard M. Nixon, but he said that "the consensus now is that Gerald Ford did the right thing."
If this is even numerically true, if, it's ripe for revisit and revision. Ford's pardon of Nixon led the permanent Republican apparat to conclude that they could shred the Constitution with impunity. It's a major reason we are where we are today with the lawless Bushists.

In the case of Duhbya's legacy, the contradictions and oozing bullshit of this administration are too great to overcome. Some historian someday will say of Duhbya, "Well, he wasn't the anti-Christ," and Bushist partisans will shout, "Vindication!" It'll probably be a Harvey Mansfield protégé.

Duhbya aggrandizes himself as a stalwart holding the line against an existential threat. He thinks that because Japan and Germany have become democratic allies, Iraq will be. (Why not Iran, too?) Even if one accepts the parallel arguendo, the Americans who made the post-war era so successful with respect to old adversaries planned and improvised, two ground-laying tasks that the Bushists have been unable to manage. They also knew when a real existential threat, communism, was better contained and competed with than warred against. Duhbya and his would-be successor John McCain haven't shown that degree of fine judgement.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gotta be the alpha dog

Looking back on 2000 in light of 2008, maybe it wasn't such a grievous error for Al Gore to keep Bill Clinton away from his campaign.

Some actors just can't handle a supporting role.

When the going gets tough

... the tough go shopping. Especially now.

Click image for full Berkeley Breathed cartoon.

Sez who?

The Washington Post asserts that Obama vs. McCain is about Iraq, not the economy. It just can't be about the economy, or it's a Democratic walk-over. The press needs a contest, but they like to narrow the contest to a simple one-on-one, so the election can't be about more than one thing.

Of course, adults know that elections are about many things. They aren't thematically simple. If you've ever been to democratic debate - a New England Town Meeting or any other legislature - you know that coalition majorities get cobbled together out of disparate and sometimes contradictory factions.

The modern American media is just not prepared to deliver any themes that are not simple enough for a kindergartener to understand. So they give us bullshit like this.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stewardess, I speak jive

O.k., I'm a fifty-year-old white guy, so I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of pop culture. But even I know that Obama's fist bump with Michelle was, uh, not worthy of commentary.

Fox News wants to know:

Is that sort of a signal that young people get?
Of course, I do still play basketball, and you know how African that is, so I can be expected to know the strange ways of Fox's stereotyped mysterious Negro. Thing is, I also play tennis, America's number two Republican sport after golf, and middle-aged tennis players know this, too. They probably picked it up from Fox broadcasts of NFL football.

Fox's audience lives in the 1960s, but they resent even that touch of modernity and wish they lived in the 1950s, before women and black people ran for President, when Spike Lee wasn't even an uppity gleam in his daddy's eye, and when all the girls wore dresses and blond hair.
These are the same people who forty years ago thought that a soul handshake was an assault on the dignity of America.

What I want to know is where Fox finds so many announcers who are so willing to pretend abject ignorance of their own era. Are they all fundamentalist Mormons?

You might ask

"CNN" interviews Fareed Zakaria, introducing him as a preeminent foreign affairs analyst and by the way host of a show on CNN.

You might ask:

  • Who wrote the questions?
  • How can Zakaria be "preeminent" (or even eminent) when he got Iraq so wrong?
  • Isn't this "interview" really just a tool for promoting the network?
  • If he thinks President Obama would only improve America's image briefly, does that mean he doesn't even remember Bill Clinton's world-wide popularity?
  • Does Zakaria even know any Kenya farmers, or is he sharing sources with Tom Friedman?

Shrimp cocktail and finger sandwiches

Obama has pissed off the press corps by taking some time away from them. Naturally, they write about their grievance, rather than, say, finding a story about policy. Oh, how dull that would be! And work...

Better serve them shrimp cocktail, finger sandwiches, and lite beer and win them back.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shut up and go away

No, not you Hill. Your husband.

I'm not one of the majority of Democrats who want Hillary as VP. I have to admit my opposition is not reasoned; it's instinctive (what we call it when we choose by gut). I'm ready for someone new. I'm tired of Bill and his perpetual media circus (even though it's not all his fault).

Jennifer Granholm would be perfect. Would Canada cede her birthplace, Vancouver, to allow it? They'd have to do it retroactively.

Nah, still not Constitutional, though I'm sure the Republicans would consider it. After all, they ran two Texans in the last two elections, despite the Electoral College rules about that.

Memo to Candy Crowley

Your impatience means nothing to me.

Damn straight!

This video convinces me that Obama is ready. Unlike so many other Democrats, he won't be moved off his mark just because the press bus is in a tizzy.

Died a-bornin'

Campbell Brown, who is too young to remember, finds some of the common threads that link 1968 to 2008. I'm too young myself to have mature memories, but I remember the titanic struggle America fought to try to grow into the outsize ideals that the Founders and Abe Lincoln and even FDR left still unrealized.

I remember a time when political violence robbed us of the people who might have led us from the mountaintop to the promised land - JFK, MLK, and RFK - a time when hope for a new flowering of freedom and democracy died a-bornin'. And Richard Nixon won the Presidency.

This is why those of us of a certain age feel gnawing fear even as we rejoice at the possibilities and promise of Barack Obama. To live in fear is to die by degrees, but I hope Obama listens to his Secret Service detail.

Image from Wikimedia Commons under CCA 2.0.

Bird on a wire

In fifty-plus years, authoritarian Republicans have devolved the things they wave around all the way to a pair of panties: "I have in my hand a pair of panties that has humiliated over 317 al Qaeda terrorists at Guantánamo." Just like Ann Coulter's fantasy drinking buddy Joe McCarthy, Dana Rohrabacher pretends that concern for security policy is his chief goal, when in fact unfettered power and political gain are the real purpose.

Look, Dana, no matter how many times you say that the prisoners should be just as happy as Mel Gibson cheek to jowl with Goldie Hawn's thong, you're off point. Even Divine's panties wouldn't be torture (well, maybe), though they'd definitely violate the Geneva Conventions.

Your cry of panties, panties, panties is the puerile stunt of a manipulative 10-year-old. It's waterboarding that's torture, and you're defending it by trying to distract the media into immature giggles. It's as if a murderer, caught with a smoking gun in one hand and a pillow with a through and through in the other, defends himself by saying, "Well, I didn't suffocate that dead guy."

An official defense of torture (again, the waterboard, stupid) that helps it continue could be a war crime.

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

McCain, more Bushist every day

McCain flip-flops on the surveillance state. It turns out that he loves Big Brother after all.

It's especially amusing when a politician does a 180 and then sends out a message that gratuitously and dishonestly insults people who hold the position he himself used to hold:

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.
Four more years! Who needs the Fourth Amendment? Who needs Congress?

More Bushist depredations of the Constitution.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama's social network

Americans should be immune to the big media campaigns that pretend to be national conversations about democracy. But they aren't. Not yet.

At the same time, voters are getting harder and harder to reach. Direct mail goes into the recycle bin. Caller ID makes telephones inefficient. Cell phones are impossible to district and then to reach. Newspapers are bleeding readers.

That leaves door-to-door, and no one can run for President by going door to door. Republicans assert this truth this way:

John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, flatly declares that what got Obama the nomination "is not a general-election strategy" and contends that Obama's operation will be weak against McCain's crossover appeal in such states as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nevada.
It's true that primary campaigns and general elections are much different animals. Shannon O'Brien ran a great primary campaign for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 but faltered in the general.

There's new feature of politics since then, though, that the McCain campaign ignores at its peril. Social networks and grassroots organizing are back because they have to be. Republican social networks have mattered before, but the evangelicals are much more divided in 2008 than they were in 2000 and 2004.

On the other hand, social networking tools and principles tested by Deval Patrick in winning the governorship of Massachusetts in 2006 have changed the game. Howard Dean started it, but Patrick brought it to fruition. It's not an accident that much of Obama's infrastructure sounds
like Patrick's.

After all, who would you prefer to hear about politics from - a neighbor you can have an exchange with or a blithering talking head like Chris Matthews? And, I hope, if voters are hearing from their neighbors, they'll stop being taken in by all the bullshit covering our TVs.

Lieberman's only hope

Harry Reid has to keep smarmy jerk Joe Lieberman in the caucus of Senate Democrats. I don't have a lot of confidence in Reid, I'm sure he'd rather not be biting his tongue. I'm sure he'd rather not be choking down Lieberman's consistent bullshit.

Come 2009, there's only one scenario in which Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats: 59 Democratic Senators. Otherwise, he's out on his Fox-beloved ass. Let him caucus with John McCain and the Republicans.

Bushist defense

Nothing new here. We already lied in defense of the previous lies.

Oh, and everyone else was just as stupid as we were.

(Shhh, never mind the liberal blogosphere.)

Green with envy

Absolutely no substance at all, but good for a belly laugh, and I don't know anyone who doesn't need one of those on a daily basis.

Duhbya lies about his taxes again

This is a lie:

Allowing the cuts to expire would add $1,900 to the tax bill of a family of four with an annual income of $60,000, Bush said.
There might be one family somewhere that matches these numbers, but the clear intent is, as usual, deceit.

This is the typical Bushist bullshit that lies with the word average:
All told, he added, 43 million families with kids would have to pay an average tax increase of $2,323.
It's really helpful that Bill Gates has kids, but Duhbya is probably also counting Paris Hilton and Warren Buffett's adult "kids".

Note also that CNN/Money reports these bogus numbers with complete abject credulity. After eating seven years of bullshit, you'd think they would have learned how stupid that is.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Rictus and The Blink


Republican strategists knew that Obama would be taking the stage an hour later to deliver a typically hypnotic speech in front of an SRO house of ecstatic devotees. So the fact that they threw McCain into the gladiator-pit of American TV armed only with his own charisma -- which, of course, is to say without any weapons at all -- is further proof that it's now Amateur Hour at the GOP. To which -- John Hagee and Jeremiah Wright aside -- one can only say: thank God.

Mitt Romney's Massachusetts GOP

Oops. Ogonowski misses the mark.

No giggles on the press bus

If you're John McCain, you get to say that you represent change, and no matter how laughable that obviously is, Newsweek will write it up as if it's a straight line.

David Vitter watch, day 326

Eliot Spitzer is in the news again. David Vitter, not so much.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Stories of survival such as this small collection have fascinated me for almost as long as I've been able to read. I remember a specific book of stories from second grade.

I've long prepared mentally for all sorts of disasters - finding the gap in a pi-cross-sectioned concrete garage form if an earthquake hits Boston, not going gently in a terrorist situation, finding the exit in a plane crash (yes, I do read the cards and orient myself to all the exits), swimming down an avalanche, getting lost in the mountains, preventing hypothermia, surviving if shipwrecked or cast away.

Much of it is the romance of imagining myself in danger, but I have gotten lost in the mountains. Since it was in familiar territory and there was no immediate danger, I quelled my rising fear, took off my cotton sweatshirt to keep it dry in case I had to spend the night out, and sat down to think. Panic, says Time, can be useful. The trick is not to panic when that would be counterproductive.

Preparation also makes it easier to help others caught in a disaster. Unlike Rick Rescorla, I'm no hero, but I am ready enough to help that I'll never be classified with Kitty Genovese's neighbors.

The fire this time?

One angry man with nothing to lose can be a fatal danger to tyranny.

[O]n May 12, 2008, he lost what he told TIME was "my own reason for living." His daughter, Guo Hongli, 15, was crushed to death in the collapse of the now infamous Juyuan Middle School, 60 kilometers north of Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu.


The real problem Obama faces - besides uniting the party - is recovering the sweetness of his message. The pastor-boating dirtied him up pretty effectively, no matter how irrelevant and smear-filled most of it was.

O.k., he is a politician after all. He has to fight in the gutter; that's just the way it is. But he needs to regain his ability to get voters to look at the stars.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No flag pin

Robert Byrd, the oldest and longest-serving current Senator, is shown here scandalously missing a flag pin. Instead, he has a pin representing the Constitution. Obama, are you listening? Do this. Go the flag one better.

Image severely cropped and used under Fair Use.

Managing a legitimate result

For all the pundits, bloggers, and politicians who called on Hillary to quit, for all the tiresomeness of the endless primaries and their shallow coverage in the media, and for all the ridiculous complications of the Democrats' baroque procedure for selecting a nominee, I've come around to equanimity about Hillary's continuing in the race. It's best to see this process, however imperfect, to its end.

Think of the alternatives:

  • The superdelegates short-circuit the process and king-make - either way.
  • Either candidate drops out before actually being beaten.
Of course, Florida and Michigan bollixed up what would have otherwise been a clear procedural picture, and the DNC had to improvise. What they did was showcase an open process where everyone had a say. I'm sure there was some choreography behind the scenes, but they made a solomonic decision that didn't smack of one side cheating the other.

Wednesday, we Democrats will find ourselves here: The voters will have finished their say. The delegates they have already chosen are narrowly for Obama. The superdelegates have held back (enough!) from tipping the contest. They have let the voters choose so that the final outcome is legitimate. Based on Howard Dean's, Nancy Pelosi's, and Harry Reid's public statements, I believe that some Democrats in Congress decided to wait so that their votes would ratify the decision of the voters and not overturn it. Quite a restrained decision to be made in a smoke-filled room!

There's now a context in which to unite. That's still not guaranteed to happen. Whether it actually does hinges on Hillary's generosity and that of her core supporters. But to come out of the primary season in early June with a narrow but legitimate victory by one candidate is about all we could hope for.

Of course, all bets are off if Harold Ickes and Hillary take their beef to the floor of the convention.


I haven't watched the HBO docudrama about Florida in 2000. It would provoke too many painful memories. Maybe someday when I'm feeling too good and need a downer...

One thing I have to say for Hillary Clinton: If Al Gore had shown her tenacity in 2000, America would be a lot different today. Hillary is counting up the popular votes to achieve the desired outcome, but the vote itself is a total muddle. How do you count Michigan? How do you count caucuses? She is of course counting in the most advantageous way possible.

The problem with applying that lesson to 2008 is that Harold Ickes's threat of a floor fight is an extortionate threat to throw the election to McCain. It puts personal ambition ahead of party and country by risking four more years for the disastrous Bushist Republicans.

Don't get me wrong. All of these candidates compromise for their ambition. McCain kissed so much Bushist and fundie ass over eight years that he learned to like it. Obama cut ties to his church to try to stop the bleeding rather than help his congregation. Hill's just one of the bunch.

Still, the one outcome worse than a Pyrrhic victory is a Pyrrhic loss.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bleating idiot sheep

Click image for full Berkeley Breathed cartoon.

Set for life

... unless you write a candid book.

Click image for full G.B. Trudeau cartoon.

Settling for a visit with Tim Russert

See you on the Vineyard!

Click image for full Jan Eliot cartoon.

Conservative meaning of "for truth"

If the right wing puts "for truth" at the end of the name of one of their pressure groups, Warning! They're going to lie to you.

This vidlet from an abstinence-only group, Parents for Truth, pretends to want comprehensive sex ed, but then finds terrible content in a program, and the blond mother and the black teacher agree that they have to do something about it. Trouble is, their characters include a 13-year-old white girl from an affluent family, when the program that has the objectionable content is for 15-year-old black inner city boys. And it's an HIV prevention program, not a general sex ed program.

The abstinence-only video objects to three things:

  • Showering together is a "green light" activity.
  • Having a partner search you for a condom is a suggestion.
  • There's information about bringing a partner to orgasm.
Since the program's materials are for sale and not available for free viewing, I can't be sure what they contain - and they could have information that even I would object to. But I can explain all three of these easily and reasonably.
  • Showering together by itself is unlikely to transmit HIV.
  • The condom hunt is a playful way to overcome objections to use of a condom after the teens have already decided to have sex.
  • The last is probably a way to give alternatives to intercourse, again to teens who have chosen to have sex anyway.

Do as I say

... not as I do.

As close as anything, this is Duhbya's creed. Culture of responsibility, my ass.