Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pentagram vs. Pentateuch

I'm used to fantastic lunacy from Protestant Christians, but every now and then a Catholic Christian goes head to head with them in lyrical insanity, and it makes for head-turning reading:

THE REV. Ron Barker, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, deserves praise for having the courage to stand up and ban the Harry Potter books at St. Joseph's School in Wakefield ("Man from ministry bans Potter," City & Region, Oct. 25). These books, although fiction, can be very harmful to impressionable children, as witchcraft is a very real and dangerous practice in our culture today. There is a cult attitude that borders on frenzy around these books, and they can be spiritually harmful to children. There are plenty of good books out there that do not have occult themes. I pray that other schools will follow Barker's lead and get these books out of our schools. (emphasis added)
Pentagram vs. Pentateuch, I see that every day. Halloween is probably evil, too.

Valerie Plame

On the Daily Show:

Mr. Novak has about as much credibility as this administration.
Robert Novak is such a rank and open propagandist that it's a puzzle why anyone listens to him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Under the wonderful hair

... there's a lot going on.

And what has happened to the American "can do" spirit? I will tell you what has happened: all of this is the result of the bitter poisoned fruit of corruption and the bankruptcy of our political leadership.

It is not an accident that the government of the United States cannot function on behalf of its people, because it is no longer our people's government -- and we the people know it.

This corruption did not begin yesterday -- and it did not even begin with George Bush -- it has been building for decades -- until it now threatens literally the life of our democracy.

For what it's worth (not much), I endorse John Edwards.

Telecom amnesty is about one thing only

Litigation it ain't. Security? Nope.

Amnesty is about hiding the truth from us little people, the truth about how thoroughly the phone company despises privacy and law (see The President's Analyst) but even more important the truth about how thoroughly the Bushist regime keeps us all under surveillance.

Oh, Blackwater, keep on rolling

Immunity and opacity are the "principles" of the Bushist regime. A democracy would insist on accountability and transparency.

Feeling good

My heart bleeds for Yankees fans. Yeah, right. Gracious humility is just not an option for them, so I get to have victory and schadenfreude at the same time.

The money quote:

"I go through a lot of trouble here," said Henry Rodriguez, 25, who proudly wore a flat-billed Red Sox cap. "People honk their horn, yell, '[Expletive] the Sox!' It feels good."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Trade you Sharpton for O'Reilly, Malkin, Limbaugh, etc.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wonders why we still listen to Al Sharpton. Good question!

Still, it's hardly a reasonable place to start asking that question. Rev. Al has been wrong about lots of things, about Tawana Brawley the most viciously. But he's a piker compared to practically any wingnut pundit bloviator.

Why does anyone still listen to the entire Fox network, to Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, David Broder, or a thousand others? They obviously couldn't find their often ample asses with both hands and a map, yet the elite media keep thrusting them at us instead of finding better analysis.

So, by all means, leave Rev. Al to talk to himself - it's my guess he won't try silence - and find someone fresher and more likely to make a valid point. But while you're firing idiot pundits, make a very long list.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Faith-based bias

The Washington Post thinks it's perfectly fine to have a science vs. religion discussion and not to invite anyone to speak from a scientific point of view! This explains a lot about their coverage of Iraq.

Update: Buried inside the site, one out of thirteen.

"Liberal" media

The media keep thrusting propaganda at us. Rudy Giuliani is "liberal" on social issues, they say, which means he's their kind of "liberal", i.e. not one at all. David Greenberg drives a well-earned stake through the heart of that particular political blood-sucker.

If you've managed to keep liking President Bush, you'd have no trouble loving President Giuliani.
It appears that the Republicans are not going to run attack ads against Rudi, showing him in a dress putting lipstick on his own pig and looking well past too weird for the base. Surely we can get a 529 to do it for us.

Regional paper

I love World Series coverage as much as the next fan, but the Boston Globe's front page treatment of our beloved Sox underscores the Globe's role under the ownership of the New York Times. That role is AAA, the regional newspaper that leaves serious stories to Daddy.

Sunday comics blogging

Something in the air today about smelly dog butts!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Denounce torture or else!

I guess the Dems finally got good poll results on demanding that Michael Mukasey denounce waterboarding before becoming attorney general. Or maybe it was Christopher Dodd's threat to filibuster FISA and the fear that that could spread.

I don't care what got them to stand up. I only care that they are promising to. We've sunk so low that it's good news for the opposition Congressional "leaders" to demand that the nominee for AG abjure torture.

Better news would be for them to make it stick. After that, we still have a long way to go to establish again that we are a nation of laws, but it would still be progress.

Red Sox static

What I want to know is this: The team with the second highest payroll in Major League Baseball and the most loyal fan base has a radio "network" that can't give me a consistent signal from any station, much less from a single station, on short trips in Metrowest, less that 30 miles from downtown Boston. Sometimes the New York stations come in better, which is why I got to hear the Yankees' homer announcers wailing, weeping, and gnashing teeth about the plague of insects in Cleveland. Twenty years ago, before a local station took 1120, I could even pull in KMOX out of St. Louis almost as well as WRKO in Boston. Is RKO putting most of their clear-channel power into the freaking ground?

This is important because I expect to be driving home tonight in the middle of World Series game 3, and I'd like to give a listen. Most days, what with Howie Carr and Rush Limbaugh and all the other wingnut bloviators on RKO, I'd really rather hear static.

Standards of evidence

Conservative voices in today's media environment assume that they deserve a double standard in evidence:

  • If it's possible that what conservatives claim is true, however likely to be false, the media are entitled, even obligated, to treat it as true.
  • If it's possible that what liberals claim is false, however likely to be true, the media are entitled, even obligated to treat it as false.
The media could make an even-handed attempt to discern falsehoods and say so, but they don't. They've been infected by he-said-she-said-knowing-shrug - the Time Magazine approach to journalism that put me off ever reading it again in the 1970s, fer chrissake.

This double standard replicates one enforced in commercial speech. A corporation may make an ad that claims all sorts of nonsense, and it's not false advertising unless there's definitive proof that the ad is a knowing lie. They can ruthlessly cherry-pick data - "three quarters of surveys show Ford is better", but maybe they discarded a dozen other surveys that didn't fit. This is the conservative "truth".

Yet another corporation that wants to criticize another company's product must have definitive proof. This is what conservatives expect of liberals and, since the media accept the double standard as part of the game, what the media expect, too.

Update: Just when I need an example, I find a pointer from Atrios to this Media Matters piece.

Standards of credibility

It's no surprise that I think our national conversation is thoroughly messed up. It's dominated by bullshit and rampant insiderism. No opinion or analysis can be so vapid (think Cokie Roberts) or so wrong (for example, the whole industry of Iraq cheerleaders) that it lowers the credibility of any pundit. Andrew Sullivan is only the most recent exemplar.

At least - and it is a small virtue - Sullivan admitted error. The usual wingnut tactic, adopted as well by Karl Rove and the Bushists, is never to admit error. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Duhbya himself show by their behavior that they would rather be loudly, biliously wrong than to risk inconsistency with past errors and thus to risk learning. Learning is very dangerous to the conservative world view, since that view mostly consists of speaking from prejudice and fixing the facts around it to any degree necessary.

Even so, networks and talk show hosts continue to invite proven idiots to comment without the slightest acknowledgement that what they say today has little or no chance to be both insightful and true, based on past experience. Hell, Bill Bennett and Peter Beinart are in the Rolodexes already, why not take the lazy way and call them? Who needs a real anti-war liberal who actually got Iraq right in real time? With the guys we've had on before, we're getting known quantities who know the politesse of network talk. Even if the people who pay attention know that the known quantities often spout utterly specious useless crap.

Battle of hot air

The scientific consensus on human causes of global is not new, except to Andrew Sullivan and others like him. It has existed since the early 1980s. Political resistance to that consensus hasn't changed it; it has merely trumped up ignorant doubt among the voters using essentially the "research" paradigm pioneered by the Tobacco Institute and the Institute for Creation Science (sic).

The climate change consensus existed during the Clinton administration, as it still does during the Bushist reign. Clinton and Gore had no need to suppress the actual science.

Now, of course, global warming deniers' comparisons to Clinton and Gore suggest a rhetorical trap. Do they have something from Newsmax or NRO alleging a suppression of dissent on climate change by someone connected to Al Gore? Is the fact that the UN's reports don't include Singer's dissent evidence for them of symmetrical suppression of scientists? Or did a denier's peer reviewed grant application get rejected? Well, out with it, then.

I will say this: Democrats are much more tolerant of mixed messages from the scientists in their administrations. This is true, I believe, because Democrats are more comfortable with dissent in general. Republicans, on the other hand, hearken to the corporate model, where the one version of the truth is handed down from the executive suite. The Bushists explicitly believe this - see Yoo, John.

Of course, science is not certain. It's empirical, not subject to certainty. It's qualitatively different from logic and mathematics. Their epistemic justification still has to deal with the often faulty reasoning power of humans, but at least they don't have to deal with the whole host of other sources of error and misinterpretation that are inherent in any study of the world.

The right question is: Based on our current knowledge, what should we do? We have three options - something, continued study, and nothing. Expense and confidence in our knowledge both do figure in a rational choice, but the expense is a balance of expenses since there is a large expected expense of doing nothing, too.

One source of my confidence in the scientific consensus is past cases. When scientists ascribed the ozone hole to freon, industry and its Republican handmaidens shrieked that the science wasn't certain, just as they do now (and as big tobacco has done for more than 40 years). Scientists not employed by the industry turned out to be right.

At this point, when deniers ("skeptics") suggest that maybe it's cheaper to address symptoms rather than causes, it sounds as though they're saying: "Hey, we ran the clock out on our opportunity to address the problem before dire consequences, and now it's too late to stop them." Hidden of course is the fact that mitigation is still possible even now that they have succeeded in causing us to miss out on prevention.

(Adapted from this comment on Philosoraptor.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wong-Baker FACES

I happened to see a Wong-Baker FACES pain scale chart today. The one I saw was customized locally (from memory):

  • 0 - calm, relaxed, asleep
  • 3 - complains of pain but can manage it, some movement in response
  • 5 - moans, reacts to pain stimuli
  • 8 - constant moaning and movement
  • 10 - intolerable; constant movement
Where on this scale does torture lie? The Bushists have said that only pain comparable to major organ failure qualifies. Is that a 10? Or is 10 too low?

Update (2/24/09): Since this is one of my perennial search engine hits, it behooves me to maintain it, and the image I link to above is broken. Here's another and another, although these use a 0 to 5 scale instead of 0 to 10, but that does appear to be more common.

Silent penance in some abbey for failed pundits

Just turned off Bill Maher's panel discussion. Is there anything rational about a media culture in which Andrew Sullivan can admit to having finally accepted the scientific consensus on global warming and then belabor Hillary Clinton for not having a strong enough plan to cope with it?

Really, can we at least agree to send the psychopathically certain - and wrong - off to silent penance in some abbey for failed pundits?

Sullivan wouldn't even admit to having been wrong. Instead, he made some excuse about now having the scientific evidence, while slamming the standards of truth of liberals. What a piece of work!

Reality journalism

The Bushist FEMA says they learned the lessons of Katrina. And the primary lesson they learned was that they needed better PR, so they put Duhbya on the ground early and played at journalism with a fake press conference. The news networks, true to form, thrust it forward live, doing their best to speak the truthiness of power instead of the much more troublesome truth.

There is no problem so large that these morally bankrupt cretins believe they can't solve with artificially flavored bullshit.

Update: The Bushists have actually enforced some consequences on the originator of this abomination. Unprecedented but welcome all the same!

Appetite for Muzak

Repressive regimes one and all suppress music that they find arousing rather than sedating. The state mercantilists of the P.R.C. want all the dulcet sounds in their economic elevator to be nicey-nice. The once and future Soviets could never stand rock or jazz - too "decadent".

Conservatives and Constitutional "originalists" sometimes suggest that the freedom of speech ensconced in the First Amendment pertains only to political speech. Over and over again, authoritarians have shown that the edgy speech of artists (and charlatan pretenders, too) is something they rightly fear and is vital to human freedom, including political freedom. Protecting that is the essential job of the free speech clause.

American conservatives, like the communists before them, love to attack Hollywood. Their reasons are similar.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are in tatters. How many people care? I mean, besides us.

A sampling:

  • Article I – usurped by the unitary executive
  • First Amendment – establishment of religion routine; free speech zones and a lapdog transcriptionist press; assembly routinely curtailed; redress against government activity suppressed
  • Fourth – gone
  • Fifth – gone for some time regarding seizure of tainted property
  • Sixth – Jose can you Padilla?
  • Eighth – waterboard this!
  • Ninth – now applies solely to the government
  • Tenth – power to the people? How quaint.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How do you know they're lying?

Their lips are moving? Nope. The Bushists lie even when they're not saying anything. Their intent is always to deceive. That's what they did when the White House OMB censored Julie Gerberding's testimony to Congress.

The people and their representatives don't need to know what is likely to happen with continued global warming, do they? Democracy is sooo much trouble.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Missile offense

Robert Gates wants "definitive proof" of Iran's missile capabilities. How refreshing!

It's also pretty nonsensical.

If you think through it, it's pretty obvious that any supposed nuclear threat from Iran has nothing to do with traditional war between nations. If Iran launched nuclear war, goodbye Iran. Even Ahmadinejad, even the looniest mullahs don't want to meet the Prophet that fast.

The threat of Iranian proliferation is that a nuclear weapon might leak out to a non-state actor, e.g. al Qaeda. Of course, that worry already exists in Pakistan, and we luv them. Y'know, an obviously stable military democracy. (Is there a word for exponential oxymoron?)

The real thing that Gates is doing is making a concession to Russia. Even that is mostly window dressing, since American anti-missile technology is not good enough to be a real threat to Russia.

Still, it's rational for Putin to be concerned about it. He has met Duhbya, so he knows the guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed. More to the point, Duhbya is prone to believing his own bullshit, and he might overplay his hand regarding Russia if he believes that classic Republican bullshit about missile defense.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Consider this, fourth place Mitt

The next time you say something negative about Massachusetts and its liberals, just remember that, unlike your xenophobic party, being a Mormon didn't keep you from getting elected here.

Paper tiger

The goal of violent rivals is to dominate the threat display and thereby to win the contest without risking death. The Bushist neocons, led by Darth Cheney, missed that lesson due to cultural hostility to modern biology.

So, they invaded Iraq because they wanted to, and now faced with a real threat of proliferation from Iran, all they have to choose between is nuclear bombardment and faux tough talk that the Iraq fiasco shows is idle.

The mullahs in Tehran are another reason you keep your powder try and stay out of wars of choice.

Prosecution complex

Who has time for justice? We've got a war on. We'll just accuse a buncha A-rabs of helping Palestinians in a way that might encourage them to support Hamas. Would be better to arrest Fatah for corruption; that helps Hamas, too.

the jury’s verdict called into question the government’s tactics in freezing the assets of charities using secret evidence that the charities cannot see, much less rebut.
I would expect Republicans to completely miss the point and focus, as they always do, on how bad the bad people are, nevermind that they can't seem to identify them, even with all the surveillance and special laws passed in the well-nursed panic of the last six years.

Just like Iraq, they just have to do something, even if it's not on point.

Republican values

Profits first.

An unprecedented national survey of pilots by the U.S. government has found that safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than previously recognized. But the government is withholding the information, fearful it would upset air travelers and hurt airline profits.
I'm so relieved I don't have to be an adult in GOP-land.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pump up the velocity

So, Daisuke Matsuzaka is hitting 97 mph on the radar gun. That's gotta be good news for the Red Sox, right? Just remember that it's a Fox radar gun. My guess at reality: 93 mph.

On the other hand, MLB's Gameday app is going along with it. Gameday, by the way, is running about 30 sec. behind Charter.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Four colonels

The U.S. military takes the security of nuclear weapons more seriously than prohibitions of torture, and it should. But couldn't it take both seriously?

By the way, if you thought the problem with the handling of these nukes was immediate risk to American citizens, please! This was about security of the weapons. While they were mistakenly flying around, their security was too light and lax.

Ten days to degauss

What's that portable MRI truck pulling up to the White House? If they can get their email backup tapes erased in the next ten days, they can't even be cited for contempt. Let's cater this and make a party out of it. I'll bring the bourbon.

End of law

American Leona Helmsley politicians of both parties have proven and are proving that the rule of law is too much trouble - if you're rich and powerful enough to have a lobbyist and to make campaign contributions. Only the little people obey the law.

Britney Spears and Michael Vick really missed out. If they had made campaign contributions while they still had resources, they could have bought their way out of the celebrity fixes they're in.

At least the long-suffering Fourth Amendment is out of its misery. Now the authority of Congress to pass laws that anyone with the slightest bit of pull has to obey looks really weak. Duhbya doesn't obey, and now the telecoms, not to mention Halliburton, Enron, and Blackwater.

The telecoms, by the way, employ lawyers. There is no way the plain meaning of their statutory responsibility to maintain confidentiality could have been difficult for them to interpret. They chose to violate them under the extortion and transparently bogus legal rationales of the Bushists.

Congress, if you're listening to anyone who has this perspective, prove me wrong. Go ahead, punks, make my day.

Note: My own Congressman, Jim McGovern, is most heartily excepted from this screed. Ted Kennedy, too.

Let their noses run?

It may be best to ban children's cold medicines due to their risks. But it's hogwash to do so on the basis of a claim that one study shows that they work no better than placebos. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that they work and also plenty of anecdotal evidence that drug studies are not reliable at a count of one.

Krugman, national treasure

Although due to my own procrastination I never bought the late, unlamented TimesSelect, I missed Paul Krugman while he was behind the pay wall. If there's another columnist who is as consistently right about everything he writes about, I'm not reading her.

I hate being pessimistic, but the Pelosi-Reid fiasco that lobbyist-friendly Washington Democrats have become suggests to me, too, that President Hillary would not bring me any of these priorities:

  • Restoration of transparent Constitutional democracy
  • Departure from Iraq
  • An apt successor to the New Deal
On the contrary, from President Obama or President Edwards, I believe we would get a liberal path, not just the path of a New Democrat.

Update: Krugman's blog, Conscience of a Liberal, added to my blogroll.

God's punishment or obvious evolution

Methicillin-resistant staph is killing people. Fundamentalists are in the brain-blowing position of having to assert that their God is taking lives randomly to send us a vague message of ... what exactly? Is that moral? Wouldn't they be better off blaming this on evolution and the effects of antibiotic abuse? Then God could still be a good guy.

But they don't actually want that. They want, in best Old Testament fashion, to have the biggest, baddest tribe-defending fearsome God in greater Palestine.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bushism with a smile

Michael Mukasey will be confirmed as Attorney General. He shouldn't be, but the quailing, temporizing Democrats won't have the backbone to say what's obvious: No man who talks in newspeak about torture and who reads the Constitution in favor of Bushist power grabs deserves to be AG.

Bu-, bu-, but doesn't the President have the right to appoint who he wants to the Cabinet? NO! If he did, there would be no advice and consent clause. The Senate cannot rightly approve a man who does not believe in the Constitution.

AP is like Blogspot

Some of it's good, and some of it's crap.

Here's one of the good stories, not good news but real journalism that doesn't put truthiness on an equal footing with truth.

It's very interesting to me that huge retailers, as standard practice, evaluate their receipts in terms of paycheck cycles. It makes perfect sense now that I've heard about it for the first time. Where has this kind of report been before?

There are the top-end haves, and in today's economy they're getting, well, everything. The have nots are skipping meals, according to statistics from the well-known ultraliberal front group, Wal-Mart.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Which side are you on?

You can be for the feudal greed-heads or you can be for the ordinary people trying to earn a living and support their families. You cannot be for both.

Mark Mays, the greed-head thanks-dad president of this division of Clear Channel, makes more than twice as much money in a year as all of the original 48 sign-hangers combined.

My recommendation: Start calling sign advertisers and tell them you won't do business with them as long as they do business with Clear Channel. Hit the bastards where they live!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Home field

Unlike the Red Sox, we held home field advantage in the Massachusetts Fifth. Congratulations, Niki Tsongas. It was too close for comfort.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

No lie too odious

There is literally no lie too nasty, no threat too uncivil, no power too immoral to use in defense of conservatism. Remember, this stuff came out of Rush's own mouth. It's not the interpretation of some liberal. He's proud of it!

Rush's dittoheads (I almost typoed 'dildoheads') have lately been screaming their misunderstanding of freedom of speech because Harry Reid and forty-two other Senators sent Clear Channel a letter criticizing his 'phony soldiers' comment. It works like this: Rush gets to say his piece, but he's not guaranteed a radio show to do it, and he's not immune from the free speech of others about him and what he says.

Will these brownshirts now scream in defense of the unnamed reporter whom Rush threatened with Enemy of the State style victimization, including penury? Yeah, dumb question. Of course not, they'll be screaming their offense that someone would question their favorite lying, drug-addled, multiply divorced, Viagra-to-Santo-Domingo hate talker.

Some of them, given the address of the reporter's children's school, would show up there to menace them. They belong to the conservative movement and the Republican Party, which have failed utterly to keep their own house in order.

Goaded by Rush and Michelle and all the boys on Fox, this angry, vicious band of wingnuts will start America's second civil war. They'll kill a lot of people like me before they're done.

Defending the loons and dim-bulbs of academe

(From Philosoraptor)

If I admit that academia is liberal and that sometimes that's bad, will you admit that taking at face value anything George Will or David Horowitz has anything to do with is naive?

I know that George Will wants his readers to assume the definition of social justice that supports his thesis - because advocates for minorities use it in a specific way. Does the textbook he refers to use it that way, too? And what words intervene between the tiny little quotes? I never assume that a right-wing propagandist is leveling with me on the facts.

Really, if you take the word social and the word justice literally, who could oppose them? I mean, other than Michele Malkin. Could that have been the intended meaning?

Some of the anecdotes in the Will column would be disturbing - if they are fairly rendered. I don't assume that they are; too many times I've seen Horowitless allegations turn out to be fart when he alleged diarrhea.

Last, who would want an Ayn Rand social worker!

"Suck it up and will yourself to victory."

"But I came here looking for marriage counseling!"

"Tough, and oh by the way, I charge psychiatrist's fees."

It's a caring profession. Sure, there are conservatives who could do it, but not any of the ones who have a nationally syndicated column.

I mean, Charles Krauthammer! He must have gone into psychiatry because he enjoys screwing people up. Have you every known anyone as bitter and unpleasant?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Consequences for some

There's no doubt this Lt. Col. deserves a court martial - he already pled out three charges. The allegations are serious, too - going native in a war zone is bad, and dangerous to more than morale.

My real questions:

  • Why are there consequences for this guy but hardly any for anyone else in the command structure, say, for other clear misbehavior such as Abu Ghraib?
  • Why is it that practically all the officers who find themselves punished are reservists (Janis Karpinski, for example), not regulars?
It's hard to draw any further conclusions, though, since the story itself is so badly written (or edited) that it's hard to tell even so basic a fact which charges are have been dismissed, which Steele has pled guilty to, and which are still pending.

A couple of questions:
  • Did the prisoner to whom Steele lent his cellphone turn out to be an enemy, or was policy the only victim? (If so, it's a less serious crime.)
  • Did Steele irritate his command by running too soft a prison? (Yep, a loaded question and not the first.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Karl Rove's dream

Vladimir Putin has done what Karl Rove wanted to do - create a permanent majority. Condi Rice has been expressing the Bushists' dismay, but they're really only jealous.

All-white jury

You might think we were past the day of the all-white jury in a racially charged case. But in the Florida panhandle, no.

It's not as though the guards were charged with murder. They showed no intent to kill the teenager. But they killed him nonetheless. I don't see how that's not at least involuntary manslaughter.

Remember also that this was another brilliant innovation brought to us by the Bush family, Jeb in this case. Every one of them thinks he's the cream because he rose to the top, when they're really just toilet floaters.

Fox "News", by the way, keeps this off its front page. That way, John Gibson can claim it doesn't exist.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pay it forward

Liberty Mutual's current ad campaign is terrific. Of course, it's marketing and thus not something I would ever take on faith about the company. But their ad agency created a good message whether it's true about Liberty Mutual or not.

Altruism can infect other people who witness it - and what a glorious infection to have. These ads pointedly show a diverse mix of people learning from strangers to be better people. The rednecks in the early model Chevy pickup belie their stereotype, and I really like that.

On a similar theme, the movie Pay It Forward had great potential, but its director, Mimi Leder likes bittersweet endings and ambiguous morals. I don't blame her - Hollywood is filled with Potemkin endings tacked onto stories that need to be hard. But Pay It Forward is the opposite; it's a bitter ending tacked onto a plot that demands perseverance of its characters, gets it, and then exacts the worst blood sacrifice.

Leder did need to back away from the saccharin possibilities, but she backed waaay too far away. Killing Haley Joel Osment's character in the final sequence whipsawed me to the conclusion that the rest of the story was a happy lie. The movie needed to acknowledge that altruistic examples couldn't solve problems easily, but an assault could have done that without the self-abnegating death of hope.

Psilocybin ponies

Governments tend to disproportionate responses to publicly visible events. As the father of a 17-year-old myself, I feel for the Dutch girl's family, but bringing prohibition to magic mushrooms because of a single death that can't even fairly be ascribed to the mushrooms suggests the convenient use of her suicide to enact a policy that the government already wanted to enact. (Remind you of anything?)

Wikipedia claims that the LD50 of caffeine is lower in rats than the LD50 of psilocybin.

Jon Keller's bias

I've always found Jon Keller's political analysis pretty friendly to Republicans without his actually coming right out and saying so. Typical of TV news, he tends to pose objective news sources against GOP propaganda and then split the difference.

His son's working for Ogonowski, which Keller didn't disclose. He's an insider, his son's an insider, and they both know it's an insider's game, so they don't see a problem. The rest of us, hoi polloi, would rather know a germane fact such as this, but our needs as news consumers are not paramount in today's media environment.

Though Keller claims ignorance of the need for disclosure, characterizing it (in paraphrase, anyway) as academic, only a true numbskull could have failed to notice previous calls for disclosure of conflicts of interest in all spheres of American life. Not that they are often heeded, but they are a social norm even if more honored in the breach.

Keller also evades the easy distinction between bias and conflict of interest. Bias is hard to prove; conflict of interest is objective. Reporting on a campaign your son is working on is an undeniable conflict of interest. If Keller were a purchasing agent dealing with a company for which his son was a salesman, his company would at least disclose this fact widely, not blandly back him the way his boss did.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tucker Carlson should die

On Bill Maher, he's the glibbest, stupidest person ever to speak a complete sentence. He can't distinguish between the New York Times hiring private security and the U.S. Government hiring mercenaries. Isn't that much stupidity inevitably fatal?

You can bet on one thing: If a bus hits him, he'll have his mouth open, and bullshit will be coming out.

Why not Kim Possible?

So, with all the news in the world, CNN leads with Hannah Montana ticket scalpers and disappointed tweener girls. I could understand it if Disney owned them. At least then there would be a venal motive.

Biting through their tongues

Will the Alzheimer's wingnuts now forget the Petraeus-MoveOn dust-up and land on Lt. Gen. Sanchez with both hooves?

No doubt they'll have a different critique than I do: Sanchez is belatedly trying to absolve himself of guilt over the disaster in Iraq and particularly over Abu Ghraib. When he could have made a difference, did he do anything? That's what I want to know.

Bush v. Gore, part deux

"Josh, get me Wilhelm Rehnquist."

"Mr. President, it is a privilege and an honor to serve you today, but Mr. Rehnquist has gone to that great vote-suppression paradise in the sky."

"Yeh, right, I remember appointin' that Roberts guy, the one who actually made it through Harvard on his own. Y'know, nevermind Roberts just yet. Get me Jim Baker."

Ring. Ring.

"Uh. Hello."

"Jimmy White Shoes!"

"Mr. President. Is there a geopolitical crisis?"

"You're durn tootin'."

"Did you bomb Iran?"

"Nah, not yet, but I like the way McCain sings the Beach Boys. I need your help with another recount thing."

"Sir, you're not running for anything."

"But that damned Al Gore just won a Nobel Prize! There's gotta be something I can do about that. I own the damn Supreme Court."

"Mr. President, they don't have jurisdiction. The Nobel Committee is in Norway."

"Damn Norwayians. And after we rescued them from ..."

"From the Nazis?"


"Sir, I recommend that you issue a statement that says you're happy Gore won the prize. You can't let the media see you when you get churlish like this."

"Good idea, Jim. That Dana Perino can look as girlish as she wants, but I can't. I'm the decider and the protector. I have to look stern but confident, and Karl's not around anymore to remind me."

"Mr. President, if I might change the subject: About the recommendations of the ISG..."

"Jimmy, gotta cut you off and get to my morning weight lifting."

"No twelve-ounce curls, I hope--"

Dial tone.

"Mr. President, you have a call from Henry Kissinger."

"Should I tell him to call back later, much later?"

"Nah, I'll take it. Just give him five minutes to listen to that klezmer hold music he hates so much."

Duhbya admires his manicure and peers vacantly out the Oval Office window. He wishes Laura hadn't made him send Condi off to State. He thinks he'll arrange a visit to Foggy Bootie soon.


"Hullo, Herr President."

"Hey, Hanky Panky. What can you do for me?"

"Alvays right to the point, Mr. President. I called to cheer you up. Remember that I never became President, even after my Nobel Peace Prize. You are still dear leader of the free vorld."

"Who was that guy you shared the prize with? The Big Tho or something?"

"Le Duc Tho, sir."

"Don't sound very appetizin' if you know what I mean."


"Nevermind. You got anything, Hanky? 'Cause I gotta go."

"Mr. President, have Condi declare that peace is at hand, then find someone to negotiate with, and maybe you can win a prize, too. Or you could continue the true legacy of Alfred Nobel."

"Come again. You lost me."

"Nobel invented dynamite. You could just keep blowing up evildoers."

"There you go, Panky. That's the nicest thing you ever said to me."

Dial tone.

"Josh, get me Petraeus."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Freedom ain't free

While Ronald Taylor has been in prison for a crime that DNA says he didn't commit, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, and Phil Spector have beaten open and shut cases. And Duhbya and his doughty band of war criminals remain in unimpeached power, while Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a blow job.

Taylor's take on justice for the poor:

"They don't have the finances. They don't have nobody to help them," he said. "I think something needs to be done about that."

Jangle, jangle, jangle

Jim Ogonowski is trying to tie Niki Tsongas to Duhbya! It's the lamest childhood taunt: You are one, too.

Anyone whose bullshit detector doesn't go jangle, jangle, jangle over this has turned it off.

Villain of the piece

It's obvious that my parents saddled me with an unamerican moral when they read me The Emperor's New Clothes. Those pinko-leftist-commies (oops, Ten Commandment violation) told me that the loud-mouthed boy was the hero, when in fact he was the villain. No society should have to tolerate a mere boy savagely violating the community's values by speaking up against his royal elders and betters.

No, I'm not thinking of Graeme Frost and SCHIP, though I could be. Where did that little twerp get off taking government help and then not keeping quiet about it? He's one of those people who will take your money and then has the cheek to disagree with the President's valiant attempt to keep other children from the forcible imposition on them of health care that could damage their (and our) God-given free market.

I'm thinking of Jimmy Carter, a loud-mouthed ex-President, who repeats to us what his lyin' eyes tell him about torture, and this is treated as news by the lib'rul media. A society that valued Republicans would not regard this assertion as printable:

But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them.
Can you imagine the gall of the man! It's like President Duhbya says: We're Americans. We couldn't possibly do anything wrong; God wouldn't let us. Nothing we actually do could possibly be torture, no matter what's in Jimmy's dictionary - did he get it from France? We do all that stuff in the Yoo memo that Gonzo signed off on and all the stuff that Rummy wanted to do, but there's still quite a bit left that Darth Cheney wants to do. And even that wouldn't be torture.

And think about Jack Bauer. He tortures on 24 - because he has to. We do, too - to protect Murka. If you say anything different, we'll ship you to Guantanamo, you ultra-left dweebs.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Codifying ignorance

The Bushists think they are the first people ever to think about security, just because they rebranded it "homeland security". Here's the money quote:

"Homeland security both as a policy matter and as a concept didn't exist prior to 9/11 and prior to . . . President Bush assuming office," said Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser. "We believe that we had an obligation, regardless of who the next president is, Republican or Democrat, to leave them the benefit of our thinking."
The Bushists didn't know about it because they resolutely refused to listen to all the warnings and briefings and policy documents to come out of the Clinton administration. The Bushists were singing lullabies to Duhbya all of summer 2001 so that he could get away and clear brush for the cameras. (And, please note, no one resigned from pangs of conscience.)

And, now, at this late date, they have the utter, arrogant, absurd gall to emphasize disaster preparedness! These people have been obviously full of shit since their very first step onto the public stage. It didn't take Katrina to tell a lonely few of us. Why did so few other people notice?


A psychiatrist brings down his own house by sleeping with a patient. But his good conscience won't permit him to cover it up.

When was the last time an American politician did something so redemptive? When did a politician last resign even for guiltless principle?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The open and shut society

Now Duhbya can stop any suit against the government, and the courts can't be bothered to do anything. Right to petition for redress of grievances? Another clause declawed.

Grab some cash and make a stash

Not rich enough to hire lobbyists? Sorry, you middle class little people get the check. The investor class's wallet is in the other Ferrari.

Why not tax this income as ... income? The only rationale advanced in the story is some dark and vague possible adverse economic effect. Couldn't that effect just as easily be positive - maybe move some creative minds back into creating value instead of siphoning off cash with the pretext of financial market efficiency?

Americans used to be embarrassed by selfishness, but that is so retro at this point.

Is a week long enough?

The Boston Globe runs essentially candidate biographies a single week before voting. Eric Moskowitz tells us in both articles that Jim Ogonowski is a regular guy, citing as one reason Ogonowski's desire to make Duhbya's tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. I've learned not to trust the press on that question, thank you. Moskowitz also accepts Ogonowski's characterization of Niki Tsongas as favoring amnesty for illegal immigrants, when what she wants is enforcement in employment and a path to citizenship.

At least Moskowitz sprinkles in a little policy content into the atmospherics. But the Republicans have to be happy at Moskowitz's transcription of their theme into print.

I hope Niki comes out of Lowell with a big lead. I think the suburbs will go to Ogonowski.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Duhbya will even spare an evil-doer the death penalty if it enhances his power. And you know it's painful to him when his two core principles collide: I-have-the-power vs. snuff-the-criminal. But for the sake of future Cheneys, he has to grasp every possible power.

If this were about mercy, well, the Presidential power to commute the sentence is just sitting there in the Constitution, feeling pretty lonely now that the veto power has been featured in so many threats.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


It's a terrible personal tragedy that Pete Domenici (R-NM) has a progressive, judgement-destroying dementia. It's also a powerful metaphor for the Republican Party.

The further irony is that the GOP will not demand the resignation of someone who is medically and incurably unfit to serve, while it will demand the resignation of someone who pled guilty to soliciting gay sex.

Of course, crass partisan political calculations about the appointment of a successor are more important than anything to them.

Because he can't fire 0-Rod

If the Yankees manage to win tonight, Steinbrenner (convicted of breaking campaign finance law on behalf of Republicans) will believe that his threat made the difference. Those Republicans who believe that bullying is the natural right of the powerful will agree.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Granddad in cool shades

The New York Times publishes John McCain's presidential obituary today. The press still likes him, and they can't resist retelling the consensus narrative about the plain-spoken maverick, but they won't hide his mossy jokes and irrelevance any more.

McCain's on a nostalgia tour. He's not a hot act any more. (What, you think something matters other than entertainment values?)

When something unfair succeeds

The statistical targets in No Child Left Behind are absurd on their face. Steady improvement forever cannot happen, and expecting it is unfair.

However, I have to admit that the federal threat to sanction school systems for poor performance has stimulated significant progress and creativity. The very act of paying attention socially and politically has paid dividends that previous testing regimes (NAEP, for example) did not provide.

So, maybe I need to eat a little crow and reconsider some of my opinions. Maybe fairness is not a vital aspect of the shared goal of bringing everyone forward educationally. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Ed Reform Act of 1993 brought not just the MCAS but also new state funding to local districts, where NCLB did not, and that's one reason that Massachusetts scores first or second of all states on the NAEP.

It is still true that standardized testing is more limiting than a mythical true measure of educational success. But it works at the low end as a gross measure of progress, and that's where America has its greatest educational challenges.

This reminds me a bit of the basic skills movement in the 1970s. Even though the thinking behind that movement was simplistic and tended to dumb down the curriculum, it provoked public school systems to try at least to give their students those foundational abilities. And it did raise minority achievement.

Perhaps the best way to improve our urban public schools is to focus new programs on them periodically, and maybe the focus matters more than what exactly the ideology is. Of course, do this too often and someone's bound to resort to marketing to respond to a real problem. Oh, yeah, already happened - vouchers.

Update: It's statistically astute to start with the lowest achievers. Helping them can do the most to your average scores. But you'd better start young, and Boston has.

Too good to be true

The Plainfield, N.H., anti-tax loonies failed to notice that another of their beliefs was too good to be true. Their transparently bogus and thoroughly litigated legal theories would have conveniently excused them from paying taxes. Their new "friends" turned out to be U.S. Marshals, who arrested them.

There are other loonies:

Yesterday supporters of the Browns posted outraged messages on the couple's MySpace page. "Browns Kidnapped by US Marshals!" one posting read. On another website, one supporter wrote: "My God, it's a police state. Get your guns ready."
Apparently now, kidnap means any arrest I don't agree with, and police state means any state that has police. These people are a dictionary unto themselves, too, having learned their newspeak skills from Duhbya.

72 virgins

Trying to update my earlier post with the actual link to Youtube, I haven't found the clip I was looking for. But the 72 virgins concept has been worked over to great effect, and the whole (non-jihadi) world can always use a laugh irrespective of politics. Enjoy:

Personally - and, sorrrrrry, I know this is sacrilegious - if I were a Muslim woman, and I read about the jihadi's virgins, there is no way I would die with my hymen intact. Not exactly what the jihadis were looking for in their misogynistic world...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Prior restraint

While I sympathize with the firefighters' families, as I did with the Murphys when their daughters became bitterly famous by dying young, blonde, and pretty, this was by definition prior restraint.

A judge who can't keep the clauses of the First Amendment straight is probably out of her depth ruling in a case such as this. This was a press freedom case, not a free speech case.

In any case, WHDH lost its scoop to media outlets with more backbone, such as the Boston Globe. It would be helpful to know who was spreading the information, as it's obvious that was the intent.

I have to ask: Would any newspaper in 2007 have the courage to publish the Pentagon papers about Iraq in the face of Bushist legal challenges? (And my guess is that Raw Story doesn't have enough lawyers, but that's just a guess.)

Water torture

Every country has its fools. In America, I would guess that this guy was trying a publicity stunt to try to get his daughter a less boneheaded swim coach. Maybe that's his motive in China, too. At least the girl lived through it.

I do have to ask why CNN ballyhooed the local report of the girl's face turning blue at the same time publishing a photo that demonstrates the report was false, even metaphorically. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, I guess.

It only hurts when I laugh

How many people have the Bushists tortured for you and me?

There's no statute of limitations on war crimes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

On street parking available

Parking in Cambridge is serious business. Maybe the alleged perpetrator thought of himself as a liberator. Maybe there's a mental health diagnosis in here somewhere.

The claim made by the Middlesex ADA that the stolen property was worth over $100,000 is wildly high. It must include the full boat price of reinstallation. A single parking meter can't cost $800, can it?

But anyway, there are 123 new free spaces. I remember the challenge it used to be to play softball in East Cambridge without getting a ticket.

Vanilla vs. vanilla

Niki Tsongas is a vanilla Democrat. Jim Ogonowski is a vanilla Republican. It's pretty obvious which is worse.

I can't believe the Globe story didn't include the date of the special election, Oct. 16.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Heart of snarkness

Howie Kurtz perfectly represents the disastrous irresponsibility of political journalism:

[J]ournalists are examining her personality quirks precisely because she is doing so well, and because it's more fun than analyzing her health plan. [emphasis added]
As if the world exists for his amusement, he goes on to fill pages and pages with slams directed at Hillary Clinton's laugh, with a brief slap at Barack Obama's ears. (Somehow, Fred Thompson's wattles missed the cut, as did the actually relevant scariness of Rudy Giuliani's eyes, because, y'know, it's o.k. to look funny if you're a Republican.)

Kurtz has the obscene unmitigated gall to call his column "Chucklegate", probably congratulating himself on the subtle irony of further debasing the already hackneyed -gate suffix. What a hack!

And to justify his focus on the inconsequential, he hides behind Jon Stewart, who is doing comedy! I would fire the whole useless lot of mainstream pundits. They are too lazy, stupid, and vapid to be paid a single shrinking dollar for reinforcing each other's witless 7th grade (slow track) narratives.

Kurtz follows Stewart "because he's got a small army of kids poring over the TiVo for ridicule-worthy sound bites." Ridicule! That's what he thinks his job is. Why does he still have it?

The origin of originalism

In the beginning, there was strict constructionism. And the righteous wing saw that it was good.

In time, however, strict constructionism was tainted by the undeniable fact that it arose in support of racism and Jim Crow segregation. The Republicans needed a new brand, and the Federalist Society obliged with originalism.

Jeffrey Toobin does me a favor to remind me of this history, now that the wingnuts are in charge of the asylum. It's a shame we liberals didn't bork at least Scalia and Alito. In their world, no Constitutional freedoms may attach to new media such as blogging.

The Crits, by the way, made their own extremist fears come true. Law today is a tool of the ruling class.

Something rotten Countrywide

The allocation of risk and reward in the American economy is corrupt:

C.E.O. paychecks, which came partway back to earth in 2002, more than doubled between 2003 and 2006. And with those huge paychecks came renewed incentives for malfeasance. Once again, executives could become richer than Croesus by creating the illusion of success, even for a little while.

Bushist heir

Rudy Giuliani, the obvious Bushist heir to the unitary executive, that is, to the realization of fascism, isn't conservative enough for the righteous wing, so much so that they are willing to threaten the Republicans with a holier than thou Nader (but then that's redundant).

Of course, given Dobson's history of proteges like Ted Haggard, they'd better be very careful not to nominate a closeted, self-hating gay man! That would really blunt one of their obvious lines of attack. Maybe that's one reason Dobson is against a third-party effort.

I'm really looking forward to the ads featuring Rudy in a dress!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lead, follow, or get out of the way

Harry and Nancy, this newspaper gets delivered to your office every damn day. Today would be a good day to pay attention.

Surveillance state

The only privacy we have left is inside our heads, and maybe that's enough. --Tom Reynolds (Jon Voight), Enemy of the State

Want to drive into a city but you're not willing to pay taxes to maintain the roads? User fees, extracted by transponder. It'll even be pitched as good for the environment since it gives an incentive to take public transportation.

Want to be able to find missing persons like the woman near Seattle. (And who doesn't?) Get a routine court order for cell phone proximity records - if you're not the FBI and can't mail-merge a National Security Letter. It's not a nefarious conspiracy, but a cell phone can be used to find political dissidents. It's only a matter of time before it actually happens.

Sure, but who would do that? Well, Tom DeLay used the FAA to find the Democrats from Texas when they were fighting his eventually successful attempt to change the rules for the sole purpose of helping Republicans.

You think there are any records of what you have watched, purchased, eaten, written, or surfed that can't be obtained by an interested bureaucrat? Nope. Sorry. Duhbya has the power, and everything goes down on disk these days. Searching it is not Constitutional, but the Washington Democrats are meekly acquiescing.

So don't be surprised if the NSA knows every move you make in a few years. Or today.

(Cross-posted from KnoxViews in response to a blog about this.)

Twelve angry men is not enough

Eyewitness identification of a stranger is often not strong evidence:

Nationwide, misidentification by witnesses led to wrongful convictions in 75 percent of the 207 instances in which prisoners have been exonerated over the last decade, according to the Innocence Project, a group in New York that investigates wrongful convictions.
Justice is still something at least some Americans value.

Colson vs. Hitchens

Hard for me to take a side when a Nixonian and a Bush enabler duke it out. Better to have a beer and watch the bout, hoping for MAD.

Honestly, is there anything a conservative can do so that the media stops publishing him? Colson, Liddy, North, even Nixon himself, Novak. If Spiro Agnew had lived long enough, he'd have had his own syndicated media gig nattering on about liberal nabobs of negativism. The wingnuts would have loved that. Bribery? No one would have cared.

Meanwhile in Talibanistan

In the war against the people who actually attacked us and those who harbored the attackers, "peace" and "democracy" are going so well that:

Karzai said Saturday he would be willing to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give militants a position in government in exchange for peace.
Of course, the Bushists are certain we've forgotten who Mullah Omar is.

Meanwhile, the body counts are flying. Is he dead? Yes. Is he one of ours? No. Then he's a militant Talibani.