Friday, November 30, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, cheating on YOUR taxes

Part of the DailyKos name-that-scandal contest.

When it's ripe

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

After all, bullshit is important to me.

(Hat tip Philosoraptor.)

NYTimes off the reservation

The New York Times treads right up to the line and, though it doesn't quite say openly that Rudy Giuliani is a compulsive liar, cheat, and bullshitter, nowadays, that's close enough for plaudits.

Here's the clearest of many illustrations:

In a recent radio advertisement by the campaign about his health care proposal, Mr. Giuliani repeated another false statement that he had been using on the campaign trail.
Frank Luntz's take on the Republican attitude toward bullshit is also instructive:
“When he talks about New York, people see it,” Mr. Luntz said of Mr. Giuliani, “and they feel it, and if a number isn’t quite right, or is off by a small amount, nobody will care, because it rings true to them.”
Whether something's true or not doesn't matter. Only fooling the people with their feelings matters.

There's also some compulsive reportorial "balance". Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama get dinged. (I bet John Edwards wishes he were in the story, too, even to get corrected!)

Obama exaggerated the degree of increase in the public debt. He said "doubled". The Times should have served its readers better by noting the facts: From Jan. 20, 2001 to today, the national debt has increased from $5.7 trillion to $9.1 trillion, an increase of a mere 60%.

No time at the moment to check Hillary's NIH statement.

Update: Hard to be sure what Hillary said or meant to say without context, but it is true that NIH funding has increased in every area under Duhbya.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ten bucks on the Washington Spectator

OK, I have plenty to read, and I usually toss all the offers right into the recycle bin. But the Washington Spectator started its offer letter this way:

I won't mince words. Our government is run by criminals and liars, the opposition party lacks a backbone, and the corporate-controlled media gave up reporting most real news a long time ago.

So, I'm going to have a first hand look. Sadly, I can't help Molly Ivins, but at least I can send a check in the direction of Lou Dubose.

Middle school

Mike Huckabee wants to be a political Jackie Gleason, "Boom, Hillary, to Mars." Personally, I'd prefer to have grown-ups in charge, after eight years of the Bushist faux grown-ups. But Huckabee correctly assesses the maturity of the core Republican voters, many of whom never graduated emotionally from middle school.

And, of course, CNN calls Huckabee's juvenile taunt "witty". Not just a quip, but witty! I can't believe how debased our national conversation is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Perfect illustration

Hillary is toying with asking Colin Powell to help restore America's reputation. Huh? He had his chance, and he completely blew it. This is the perfect illustration why I don't like Hillary. For cryin' out loud, can we please have a goddamn change!

Boltin' from Bolten

Tattered remnants of Josh Bolten's Labor Day deadline to follow the rest of the Norway rats (Rove, Gonzo, ...). The AP lives Memento every day but doesn't take notes. Or maybe it doesn't read them. Whatever.

Al Hubbard worked on Social Security, SCHIP, global warming, and a proposal I had not previously heard about to tax health insurance benefits. Yeah, that's good for the middle and working classes. Good riddance!

One popular idea

On the Republican platform.

Republicans love tax cuts. They especially love cuts that help what Duhbya lovingly called his base when he appeared in black tie before a very wealthy donor group in 2000.

It's ironic that only when Duhbya is joking are his words true. It's inexplicable that the Democrats have not played that clip over and over again. Someday I'll hunt it up and link to it. But I digress.

Of course, the GOP loves tax cuts. Who doesn't? Even liberals like me would prefer to pay less - fairly, of course - if only all other things would remain equal. Opposition to taxes is the policy position where the Republicans are best aligned with Americans at large.

The Republicans love tax cuts so much that they live in a universe where two plus two may not equal four. Their rhetoric frequently changes the plain meaning of numbers, not just words. In their lexicon, a vote not to raise taxes is a tax cut. On the other hand, a Democrat's vote not to cut taxes is a tax increase. Then, the GOPers count these instances up, including all the procedural votes as if they were distinct proposals. Ordinary people would call this sleight of tongue lying, but the press plays along.

I can't wait for the Republicans to take this one step further. I don't see why they would scruple against saying that a tax that continues in force from a previous year is not a tax increase this year. After all, they seem to think that the only legitimate tax rate is vanishingly above 0%. I once played poker with a seemingly good guy who proposed in all seriousness that even a flat tax was unfair to the rich - that each person should be assessed the same dollar amount regardless of income, much less wealth. Of course, he worked in the rarefied world of private finance, where the only poor people he ever saw were beggars on the streets of Boston.

I suppose the government should live off nothing like an air fern. Well, except for the military-industrial complex - they can't be expected to survive without public funding.

The Republicans are not satisfied to distribute their tax cuts evenly. That's not what they're about. They want to change the tax burden of the wealthy, and you just can't do that if all you're rebating to them is $300. Those greedheads need five figures at least to notice.

What the GOP has found, however, is that your average middle class American can be bought off for $300. Normal people do notice a couple of days wages.

Best of all, this chicken feed is hardly noticeable to the Treasury, which is under dramatically more duress from the self-entitled wealthy.

It's shocking that the American middle class acquiesces to this bad bargain. Even capuchin monkeys show outrage at unfair treatment - if one gets a grape, they all want grapes, not some lesser treat. Yet we Homo sapiens accept a few crumbs from the floor around our betters' table!

The press does notice this, especially conscientious stalwarts like Paul Krugman. It's hard to imagine that anyone who is paying attention could miss the brute, incontrovertible fact that the Bushist tax cuts tilted overwhelmingly to the rich - and overwhelmingly again to the very rich. But that's just the problem: Americans are not paying attention. If they were, they'd be in the streets with pitchforks.

In any case, the press doesn't let a few numbers interfere with the tax cut narrative of something for everyone. Reporters never call bullshit on their captiously deceitful source of Republican spin. They seem to think that spin is valuable to them and that the spinners wouldn't bless them with it if they were to evaluate it as semi-numerate adults. Or maybe it's those exclusive cocktail parties again that the reporters are just dying to be invited to, like uncool teenagers who want the jocks and cheerleaders to like them. As if!

If the Republicans really wanted to help everyone, they wouldn't have started with the inheritance tax. Grover Norquist labelled it the death tax, and the Democrats didn't respond by calling it the Paris Hilton tax or the billionaire playboy tax. Allowing the tax-free passage of estates worth more than $3 million to heirs who didn't earn them and making that a pseudo-populist issue is a dramatic accomplishment of wool-pulling. Oh, those poor, poor trust fund babies, how they have suffered!

Sincere broad-based tax cutting would start with FICA and Medicare, the slightly regressive, mostly flat payroll taxes that fund Social Security and health care. Instead, Republicans tell us that all those trillions we've paid since Social Security taxes were responsibly raised in 1983 to anticipate the demographic bulge of the baby boomers went to fund the rest of the government and we won't pay them back. That stance is the only rationale for claiming that SSA is in financial trouble.

Sincere broad-based tax cutting would have long since relieved the middle class from inflating into the sights of the alternative minimum tax. But the Republicans haven't done that, have they? They prefer that middle class taxpayers feel the bite of a tax intended to make sure the wealthy pay fairly, in hope that they'll stay in the bad bargain that delivers those tiny crumbs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disinformation from GOP, Inc.

More on the Republican platform.

In the face of the unpopularity of the Republican platform, the disinformation was easy. First, they worked the refs assiduously for a long time. If the media continued to report facts and call bullshit on the bullshitters, there was no hope.

But advertising provided the perfect model of field-tested deceit that was credible to mass audiences. It had worked beautifully with cigarettes for years. Clearly, for a manageable price - since corporations used it every day - it could convince Americans to believe many things that were not true.

Advertising was also a way to exert power over the media. After all, corporations were already paying news outlets for the eyeballs of their readers. Why weren't the newspapers, radio stations, and TV networks grateful to the very people who were paying the bills? Instead, the journalists would actually bite the hand that fed them. That had to stop. But how?

The answer was to appeal to the vanity, laziness, and greed of the reporters and editors. If flattery, convenience, and sales worked with products on essentially all Americans, why wouldn't it work on underpaid hacks?

Appealing to laziness was the easiest. Corporations had been writing press releases forever, but that hadn't done the trick.

papers might edit PR's pearls lightly and print them verbatim - the desired result - but hoity-toity outfits like the New York Times would still make Mobil actually pay for its advertorials on the op-ed page. Their flacks just didn't have enough letters following their names, or failing that, at least some impressive title. Manager of public relations just couldn't hold a candle to senior fellow.

What the conservatives needed to thrust their propaganda was to dress it up as serious intellect, an alternate academy. In the 1970s, they increased funding of the American Enterprise Institute by a factor of eight. In 1973, they started the Heritage Foundation. In 1979, they started the Claremont Institute and the Pacific Research Institute. In 1982, they started the Manhattan Institute (motto: "Turning intellect into influence"). John Stossel is a trustee, but he never thrusts the propaganda, right? More important, they turned their sights to the nefariously independent judiciary by starting the Federalist Society, expropriating the good name of historic liberals for their reactionary cause.

From all these hifalutin' drunk tanks, uh, think tanks, the conservatives generated a huge volume of thinly sourced "research" that was very useful when planting stories in the willfully naive press. Like their creationist friends, they started with their ideologically correct conclusions and searched for fig leaf rationales to fortify them, not even bothering to justify them. It's enough to fog the subject with doubt so that people can believe what their prejudices tell them.

Besides, a white paper is sooo much more appealing than a press release.

Since the conservatives have ready access to piles of cash (Olin, Hertz, Scaife, to name a few), they found several ways to reward helpful journalists, so that they could buy houses on Martha's Vineyard despite toiling in a thoroughly middle class profession. First, of course, was the creation of parallel, ideological media such as Fox News and the Washington Times. This provided good conduits for cash to right-thinking (and I do mean right) journalists. Just look how often Anne Kornblut shows up on Fox in a red suit. Then, there's the rubber chicken circuit, which pays thousands to business-friendly reporters. Hello, Cokie and Stephen Roberts. Then of course, there are also the appearance fees for laughing along with Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and hundreds of other wingnut gasbags on talk radio.

The conservatives are businessmen, of course, so they want value for their money. Accordingly, they exploited their foundations to start the gravy train rolling for young conservatives who otherwise would wind up drinking three-martini lunches near Wall St. Ramesh Ponnuru Dinesh D'Souza, for example, couldn't reason his way out of Hanover, but he has spent the last twenty years suckling at the teat of rightwing private foundations. Whew, at least he's not taking public money for his sinecures. (Corrected, with apologies to Ponnuru and thanks to Ben in comments.)

Ironically, the wingers have proven willing to buy and pulp hundreds of thousands of unreadable books in order to subsidize their greatest thinkers and writers. Maybe it's not so ironic. Their core constituencies are not great readers of anything other than the Wall Street Journal or the King James Bible. It is ironic that a subsidy method pioneered by Jim Wright would be acquired and used by Newt Gingrich, the very man who used its scandal to bring down Wright's Speakership, especially given its existing popularity in the Conservative Book Club and Regnery Press.

I suspect that conservatives also provide direct payments to favored journalists, but I don't have any evidence for this. If it's true, it's also easy to hide.

With all this money and ease floating around, maybe flattery is not really necessary. And, clearly, conservatives have not flattered journalists as a group. What they have done instead is to coopt journalists into the ruling class in Washington. The price has been low - a few shrimp here, a few canapes there. Invitations to the cool parties, once punished by their peer group, become the currency of influence. That's why Tim Russert is "tough" in the useless way of always reinforcing the conventional narrative.

Then, there were the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the erosion of ownership limits. What a bonus! The moneyed interests could now employ economies of scale to commoditize conservative messages, as they own more and more of the media.

The GOP board of directors probably didn't have the vision to set the steps from the beginning and then execute a fixed plan. That probably would not have worked in any case. Flexibility is essential in any campaign, and they read situations and media well and improvised well.

Update: Someone has been ego-surfing. No harm in that. How'd you think I found the link, anyway? I knew there had to be a reason this post got comments! The NRO denizens were probably starving for some place to comment.

Update (2/12/2012):  I had left out the word not in the sentence about the King James bible and the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Republican platform

Finally getting back to how we got where we are today.

What Republicans want to do to America is not popular. Why have they had so much success implementing their platform?

First, what is their platform? I divide it into two parts, what the party elders really want and what issues they use to win votes. Naturally, there are issues that cross the line and play in both parts. There is even a small amount of heterodoxy in the Republican Party since it is a coalition between economic and social conservatives.

Still, the economic conservatives dominate the party's power. They toss the religious conservatives a bone now and then (and sometimes the fundie foot soldiers do notice that they are being taken for a ride), but the wealthy interests always come first.

So, the real platform:

  • Low taxes for the wealthy
  • Power concentrated in the hands of a few
  • The end of unions
  • Return to economic organization closer to feudalism than to laissez-faire
  • The end of science-based and meritocratic regulation
  • Foreign policy based on the economic interests of their real constituency
  • Oh, and even lower taxes for the wealthy
Of course, these are all fundamentally elite economic issues with concentrated power and wealth as the end goals.

This sort of platform is, needless to say, difficult to sell to well-informed voters in a democracy. The Republicans have responded over the past 40 years with a mixture of:
Coming when I get around to it: Details on the Republican tactical mixture.

Nice little business ya got there

Shame if anyt'ing happened to it. Powerful software companies threatening small businesses. Obviously, they're not doing it for deterrent effect. They're maximizing revenue. Would it be impolite to call it an extortion racket?

The asymmetry of power is what concerns me. This is what happens when campaign funding-raising is done from corporate interests, who then get to write the laws in a way that helps them.


While I agree with most of SMOC's work, know and respect a member of its board, and don't find it hard to believe that both officials and private citizens may have crossed the line into bigotry, suing people who are exercising their Constitutional rights is bad and actionable when a corporation does it, and it's bad and should be actionable when a public agency does it.

I'll be interested to learn the specific allegations. If they are about speech, this lawsuit is worse than misguided; it's an abuse.

Count the votes

Imagine, a close election followed by a hand recount in order to get the result right, not just a fast result.


Everyone who comments on the news is self-important, not excluding someone like me who doesn't even have much of an audience.

What's annoying about Katharine Seelye is her complete self-satisfaction. She's just thrilled she's writing about convention blogging nine months early. She's so smug to think that bloggers and useless MSMers like her will be interviewing each other in 2008. Most likely, she'll be interviewing bloggers, not the other way around. Not that I'm important enough to be there, but why would any of us want to hear the conventional wisdom from her?

And of course Seelye, typically, gives Republicans equal credit for something they're hardly even doing. You watch, their bloggers will all be from the MSM, trying to be cool and failing abjectly.

Bite your tongue

It's hard to understand how a teacher in the Sudan could be so obtuse as to not know that everything associated with the Prophet Muhammad is subject to primitive taboos and hypersensitivity. Here in the U.S., with only small direct exposure to Islam, I nonetheless refrain from nicknaming co-workers named Muhammad, in case 'Mo' would be offensive.

The power of names is a curious subject, not limited to Islam. Why else would an entire Commandment be wasted on taking the Lord's name in vain? Nonbelievers like me could suggest many other topics that seem to us more important or at least slip it into the prohibition of graven idols, but Yahweh put both of them into the top ten separately. Oops, there I go, putting vowels into the Tetragrammaton, which of course I shouldn't be using at all.

I have also heard Christians from evangelical Protestants to mainstream Catholic priests utter the name Jesus in self-conscious tones of piety. Jesus Christ, what's up with that? I also remember my own youthful and failed attempts to strip these petty blasphemies from my speech.

J.K. Rowling wrote the latest naming taboo for He-who-must-not-be-named. I always cheered Harry's casual use of Voldemort, even when his elders were uncomfortable.

Still, the Sudanese response is wildly disproportionate, typical of sharia advocates throughout the Islamic world. No doubt there's a thread of misogyny in it. Let's lash another uncovered Western slut! Yay! Honestly, the irresistibility of female skin and hair to fundamentalist Muslims is something they confess every time they put their chattel women in another shapeless bag.

Can Islamic societies ever be truly pluralistic? Not without the liberation of Muslim women. If they're married to a man named Muhammad, they've got to be able to yell his name in less than pious tones.

Update: Another thought - this is a great object lesson for the 7-year-old students in the severe limits that sharia places on democracy. Religious law can be such a potent tool for tyrants.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Case of missing perspective

OK, I'm a New England Patriots fan. Yes, I think they could go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. But I have no desire to replace Yankees fans from the 1990s. So, I'm obliged to slam the idiots who wrote the first and the last of these letters.

Both call this objection to running up the score "politically correct". Seriously. It's elementary good sportsmanship not to run up the score. These are the kind of people who can see the offenses of their opponents but not of their team. It would not surprise me to find out that they also believe torture's fine so long as we're the people doing it but is outrageous from anyone else.

Good sportmanship is PC. OK, we liberals who get blamed for PC will take this one.

Beyond vanitas

No idea why I'm blessed with free copies of the Harvard fanzine, 02138. However, as a compulsive reader, I crack it open to see what my most self-involved classmates and fellow alumni most desire in flattery.

The November/December issue (not online yet but presumably destined to show up here) does have a significant story in it, "A Million Little Writers", by Jacob Hale Russell. It explains why there have been so many recent plagiarism scandals at the self-appointed capitol of American intellec-, uh, power elitism (and I say that with the greatest affection).

The long-time practice in the natural sciences has been for grad students to do the experiments but for their professor the principle investigator to be primary author on all publications. I've seen this up close from a responsible scientist who was significantly involved in steering research and in editing resulting papers. I've also known many grad students who resented a system built on expropriation of their work.

The article makes it clear how widely this practice has spread to the social sciences and humanities. Charles Ogletree's accidental theft of verbatim paragraphs from a Yale professor (how embarrassing!) happened because of the mistake of an assistant. Ogletree acted as manager of the team that wrote "his" book but put his own name alone on the title page, having consciously taken ownership of someone else's words, thinking they were written by a research assistant.

It's hard to see how putting your name on someone else's words is not plagiarism just because you hired that person for starvation wages. Yet that seems to be how the academy treats it.

Ogletree, by the way, is by no means the only Harvardian to succumb to this temptation. The story also names Alan Dershowitz, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Roland Fryer.

In business, this is nothing new. Vice presidents who share credit are as rare as CEOs who share their multimillion dollar bonuses. After all, sharing is regarded as weaknesses among executives and would-be CEOs.

Not that individual artists haven't tried this before. When I read The Executioner's Song, what, 30 years ago, it seemed to me a poorly constructed pastiche of the work of research assistants. It hadn't even been effectively edited, which would have helped immensely to improve a book that had about half as much to say as it actually put into print. And of course, there's the "atelier phenomenon" of Renaissance artists, as Dean of Arts and Sciences Harry Lewis is quoted describing the story's subject.

Shorter Mark Halperin

"I've totally screwed up my readers since 1990, but listen up: A pox on both parties' houses, and here's my 'deeper question'."

Sunday comics blogging - more torture

After you've followed the link on the image to Salon, stick around and read Glenn Greenwald here and here on Joe Klein, Time, and the thorough irresponsibility of the Beltway pundits.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Remember those heady days when Russia was a fledgling democracy trying to build institutions of democratic succession? Well, the new tsar has put an end to that Western nonsense.

As for who lost Russia back to authoritarianism, there's plenty of blame to go around. Most of it belongs with Russians, of course, but a couple of U.S. Presidents failed to engage strongly, and there's then-Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, whose plan to reform the post-Soviet economy was an abject failure.

Of course, I'll always remember Duhbya's insight-free assessment of Vladimir Putin's (non-existent) soul. Not that Bill Clinton did much better.

Will turning off your cell phone be suspicious?

A journalist gets around to a story that was implied a couple of months ago but not clearly stated. The government can track you by your cell phone if it wants to; all it needs is a judge who's not conscientious about the Fourth Amendment.

It's great to get this story at all, but it was obvious to me nearly two months ago. Doesn't that mean it should have been obvious to many more knowledgeable people - including a few journalists who presumably should have sources I don't have - long before that? Aren't they even trying to read between the lines?

How long before a prosecutor argues in court that the mere fact a defendant turned off his phone is suspicious? If he had nothing to hide, why would he want to be off the network?

Maybe this has happened already. If so, did anyone notice?

Marketing debases

All the major corporations jumping on the green bandwagon really care about only one kind of green. As soon as the environment is no longer profitable for them - or no longer as profitable as they think the next trend could be - they'll drop it.

Most Americans don't seem to distinguish between the underlying truth and marketing truthiness. We need to.

A little random history:

  • We bought cigarettes because they were associated with coolness.
  • We bought beer because it was associated with sex (never goes out of style).
  • We bought SUVs because they were associated with macho and safety.
  • We bought Duhbya because he was associated with regular guys (despite the patent, obvious unreality of this claim).
  • We bought bad loans because we were suckers.
  • We bought the Iraq war because it was associated with al Qaeda (only in the marketing, of course).
We really need to turn our collective bullshit detectors back on and then turn them up.

3% solution

Getting an initiative petition onto the Massachusetts ballot takes 3% of the voters. So, we'll get to consider again repeal of the state income tax, which we voters defeated in 2002.

It's ironic that the same people who yell at the Legislature for ignoring the expressed will of the people, say, on the surtax, are so keen to do it themselves on taxation as a whole.

Last, anti-tax advocates who want to live in a state like Alabama go visit and see if they really like the consequences in poverty, subsistence economics, low education levels, pollution, and lack of public institutions before they bring it home to successful, wealthy, well-educated Massachusetts.

What these "libertarians" are really trying to do is solve a problem for about 3% of the population, the people already at the top of the heap, who think they should be paying less than their share because they can.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Linking one thing to another

On a lazy day after feasting, a link to Paul Krugman is always worthwhile. To think that I was just saying the same thing, though not as well, to my mom last night.

Speaking of corporate governance, the Boston Globe catches up a bit today on the narrow opaque governance of Fidelity. I'm sure I wasn't the first to notice, but I did scoop the Globe by two weeks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


The Native Americans who mourn on Thanksgiving are missing the point, I think. Thanksgiving is a holiday of aspirations. No, the pleasant mythic story of a feast of cooperation at harvest time does not reflect the harsh, real history, but it reminds us of what gifts we have received and what gifts we should give. The history is in fact a goading reproach to European-Americans to remember the deeds of our forebears and to better them.

At least that's what I think, sated on turkey and every starch under the New England sky.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Duhbya "truly is somebody who believes in democracy"

Pervez Musharraf believes in democracy, just not for Pakistanis. Like our Dear Leader.

Wait for Dana Perino's tell-all


Scotty McClellan now teases his White House memoir, implicating the whole Bushist conspiracy in the outing of Valerie Plame. Duh!

Odd how obvious lies become credible news instead of he-said-she-said-shrug news only when a Republican confesses.

And, of course, Dana Perino, instead of resigning on principle when asked to lie, follows Scotty's example and ignores the plain meaning of words. When she publishes her memoir of lying for a living, I'll bet they put a picture of her on the cover.

No one who has worked in the Bushist apparatus has any credibility at all. They should be believed only when what they say is obviously true from other sources.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Tom Friedman has been insane for quite a while, but it has never been so obvious as now. Maybe he thinks he's George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, but he's really a bad novelist trying to plot the world so that all the roles are filled by people has already heard of. That way, no one has to hire a new casting director.

Could we furlough him back to shifting the toy soldiers around his counterpane?


NYC firefighters despise Rudi. Giuliani's spokesman then steps in it:

"There are many, many 9/11 families who lost relatives who are very, very supportive of Rudy and what he did before and after 9/11," Safir said. "It's sad when people get used politically."

Of course, Howard Safir wants to be used. Not sure about the others.

Show us your tits

Mobs form easily in the presence of alcohol and idiots. The New York Times reports:

Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.
The appropriate response of a reporter in this situation is to be arrested or call the bluff. And, when writing the story, to tell readers what happened.

But that's not the most important thing missing here. Free speech rights protect one testosterone-soaked moron shouting, "Show us your tits." Four hundred morons is a public disturbance not protected by the First Amendment.

If someone shouted, "Moon us," to a bunch of hairy-assed Jets fans, do you think the security guards wouldn't escort him from the building?

Even scarier

The plasticity of DNA will continue to be a source of fear for the people who oppose stem cell research. This breakthrough, if it actually helps allay fears over research, will only help temporarily.

If a scientist can turn a skin cell into something indistinguishable from a fetal stem cell, can she turn skin into a fetus next? When those who resist biological research cotton onto this - and they will, they'll be moving toward a complete ban on manipulation of human DNA by any means. No delivery of gene therapy by infection, ah, inoculation with a virus to deliver the repaired gene. No cancer treatments that change the operation of somatic cells, turning up genetic repair mechanisms or turning them off, as required. No gene therapy at all. If God made your genes fail, that's your fate.

It is a scary world, no doubting that. If the past is any guide, our children will see things that would give even me the willies. But, otherwise, we stop and accept the things that kill us simply because they are already familiar.

Plausible deniability

There's a whole new genre of psychological studies that purport to conclude that some vice of an individual is useful to society as a whole. The invisible hand driving this is evolution in social species.

I think the research is interesting but doesn't justify the conclusions it is used to reach. Yes, people respond to incentives by cheating. Yes, they rationalize violating their ethics without giving them up. If hypocrisy is so useful, I guess that's why we still have Republicans!

Is this denial? Is it a utilitarian good? In a modern society, or only in a tribal one? The answers from this article are, I think, yes, yes, and huh?

The general form of the psychologists' reasoning seems to me to have a hidden premise that human nature can be rationalized as a good thing no matter what our sense of morality may tell us. In this non-normative world, deceit is a good thing because it's useful - just so long as there's not too much of it. The problem is, they are describing what is and then they are concluding that it must be good because it gave rise to us. I think we've been down this road before...

But maybe I'm just in denial about denial.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Where'd that quote come from?

No real journalist would use faux in this context without attributing it to someone, but in this case the lazy reporter thrusts forward Republican propaganda. These pro forma sessions are needed to keep Duhbya from arrogating yet more power.


Brent Bozell is such a hypocrite that 'hypocrite' is not an emphatic enough word. Since it's built out of 'hypo-' for too little and '-crite' for (self-)criticism, let me suggest substituting 'homeo-' for its association with homeopathic remedies that are so diluted they are unlikely to contain even a single molecule of the original active ingredient.

Bozell criticizes Carole Simpson for endorsing Hillary Clinton. Simpson is no longer a working journalist! Yet Bozell, despite ample appearances on Hannity & Colmes, has not raised a peep about Hannity's fundraising for Rudy Giuliani.

Really, you can't take conservatives seriously about anything.

(Note: No mention of this from Peter Schworm, who needs to get better about context.)


The inmates at Guantanamo can argue for their release. They can even present evidence. Doesn't mean we have to listen. K's innocence or guilt is not important.

The Bushists again care not at all for the rule of law, even from their own Supreme Court.

(See, I told you Farah Stockman could do good work.)

Lock 'em up

The Washington Post does actual investigative reporting in this story. Maybe this will keep John Solomon out of political reporting in something he actually does well.

There was a complete lack of appropriate experimental control in the original forensics of bullet lead analysis. And this comes on the heels of many other instances in the recent past where forensics labs can measure something very precisely but have no idea what their measurement means.

In this case, the FBI assumed that bullets in the same box were likely to have the same measured composition and that that composition was systematically different from bullets in other boxes. It turns out that they were wrong on both counts and at least a few innocent suspects were convicted as a result. The tire expert in My Cousin Vinny was confident of his evidence, and it all fell apart. At least he was honest enough to admit it. The FBI, typical of bureaucracies, buried its error under vague memos.

When did testilying become so acceptable?

House of Saud

Call Duhbya! There's no justice, no human rights, and no democracy in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi Arabian human rights attorney is asking the government to allow him to represent a woman who was gang-raped -- and then sentenced to prison for speaking out about the case.

The attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, had his license revoked last week by a judge for speaking to the Saudi-controlled media about the case, al-Lahim told CNN.

The judge more than doubled the sentence against al-Lahim's 19-year-old client because she spoke to the media about the case, a court source told Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.

The woman -- who was initially sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes -- had her sentenced increased to 200 lashes and was ordered to serve six months in prison under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law.

I'm sure a democracy advocate as resolute, barrel-chested, and big-packaged as Duhbya will want to invade immediately to rectify that. Plus, fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, so he'll be able to convince Americans, despite our lack of will in spreading his kind of democracy.

The House of Saud is a blight on the earth. What comes after may be worse.

Not a Reid in the wind

The Senate remains in session to prevent recess appointments. Finally, Washington Democrats give us something to be thankful for!

Ooh, Josh Bolten's gonna be pissed

Remember the Labor Day deadline for resignations from sinking ship, uh, Bush Administration? The AP doesn't.

The deadline was why Karl Rove toddled off down the hawser in August. To resign later was to risk the wrath of Josh Bolten, White House chief of staff. What I said at the time:

Did Rove leave because Josh Bolten said he had to? That Rove had to leave now or commit to stay to the end? Sure, Josh Bolten is telling Duhbya that Rove has to leave! Pigs would have to fly a lot further than Texas to make that true. If you believe that, don't take any sales calls from subprime mortgage resellers.
Now, Fran Townsend is leaving, no reason given. Think Bernie Kerik could do this job from prison?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday comics blogging

(Click the image and enjoy.)

Simple answers

Simple answers are seldom right. Occasionally, they're right enough. While it's clear that the effects of racial apartheid redound to America's detriment even now, serious liberal thinkers have to acknowledge that social problems among African-Americans didn't all start with the slave trade. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., acknowledges this:

The sad truth is that the civil rights movement cannot be reborn until we identify the causes of black suffering, some of them self-inflicted.
I've resisted this truth, too, but the persistent labelling of education as "too white" has convinced me that there are know-nothings in the black community who would prefer to keep everyone down if their street cred would otherwise become less valued. (This goes on in white working class communities, too, where it is a grave sin to git above your raisin'.)

Gates's own research doesn't show the correlation he thinks it shows between early property ownership and today's celebrity-level success. He has found that 15 of 20 black successes have ancestors who owned property before 1920, when only 25% of black families did own property.

Is this really a surprise? Put differently, what percentage of slave descendants today would have no property-owning ancestors if a quarter of their group held property three generations ago? The rough answer I get is about 10% (0.75^8). I would expect a control group to show a higher level of legacy than Gates's twenty selected successful people.

But this is just a rejection of an argument, not of Gates's opinion that there is a dire problem that concerns all Americans (and in many ways extends beyond race to social class). That problem is: What should we do about the persistent underclass?

Was Reagan that oblivious?

Lou Cannon tells us that Ronald Reagan could not possibly have been willing to use racism while having on occasion shown personal concern for blacks. Why, he even had a couple of 'em up to the house one time! OK, sorry, that's unfair, but even Cannon has to admit that Reagan supported continuing Jim Crow voting discrimination.

Uh, Lou, wake up. Even Reagan could not have been oblivious enough to fail to understand the symbolism of advocating states' rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi. If Reagan was not a bigot personally, he didn't mind bigotry much in others.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What they do, not what they say

Sheryl Gay Stolberg is completely captive of the Bushist narrative. She starts out with the assumption that their propaganda is unassailable fact.

Duhbya is not interested in democracy, not in the Middle East, not in Russia, not in Pakistan, and not even at home. He never has been interested beyond his own and Karl Rove's ability to manipulate democratic institutions. The voters are onto him now. Who knows whether the press will ever come along.

Duhbya's use of democracy is as propaganda for the consumption of voters and the press. Like the flag, democracy is popular as a slogan. Duhbya used it that way as a pretext for accretion of power through war.

I'm sure Karl Rove will take this to his grave, and we won't get confirmation, but I believe that Rove's shallow analysis of history convinced him that WWII was the tipping point that made FDR's majority permanent. He thought that Iraq would finally reverse the New Deal and what came after once and for all.

Good news on nukes

Sounds like an oxymoron - and still could be - but helping Pakistan's military government guard its nuclear weapons is a good idea. Of course, the protective effects of our dollars is not nearly as great as if our people were on site. Basically, we're spending on promises, but it's still short money.

I expect this of my government: We have programs that track every single nuclear weapon at every single site in Pakistan and that we are prepared to respond immediately with force to any breach of their facilities by our enemies.

That inconvenient First Amendment

Hudson (Mass.) High School has run afoul of the First Amendment and should lose this case, if the actual facts are as stated in this story. Teenagers shouldn't lose the right to hold unpopular political views because they attend school.

When I attended public high school in Tennessee, the teachers couldn't drum my unpopular views out of me. To their credit, for the most part the they didn't try. My fellow students did try, and that too was freedom of speech.

The school administrators in Hudson claim they acted to ensure a safe and appropriate school environment. Instead, they mostly showed their own inexperience with the web. They objected to a link on the site to a video of a beheading, presumably in the Muslim world, possibly one of the ones committed in Iraq.

If they blocked only the videotaped beheadings, their actions are consistent with this claim. If they blocked the entire conservative web site, well, that sounds as though the plaintiff's claim is true.

The story does leave a lot to be desired. For one thing, there's very little from the school district, a single quote counterposed against three plaintiff sources, two of which give multiple quotes or paraphrases.

There's nothing objective about what the plaintiff is seeking. He says it's not about money - so what is it about? Hudson should be settling; what poison pill is keeping them from simply admitting they were wrong.

And, of course, calling the Rutherford Institute a think tank is ridiculous. It's a legal advocacy group. No reporter would call the ACLU a think tank - for the simple reason that it isn't.

My own experience of Hudson High School's commitment to the First Amendment isn't legally probative, but it gives some context. In 2004, as a proxy for a Democratic candidate, I took part in a debate before students with the Republican challenger. Conservative viewpoints were well and vocally represented; I had to respond to numerous challenges to Democratic positions on immigration, bilingual education, public expenditures, and taxation. The teacher in charge squelched some students who all fell into the disruptive know-nothing category. Conservatives were probably over-represented in that group, like this girl from the 2005 article about filing the lawsuit:

"We already feel we are getting the liberal side in class," said junior club member Sarah Berube.
Oh, that pesky liberal bias of facts...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Freeh association

Louis Freeh is advising Rudy Giuliani on homeland security, as if he had a good record in that department.

There are other interesting names on Rudy's fund-raising letter:

  • Ted Olson, bargaining for a Supreme Court appointment
  • Bill McCollum, impeachment prosecutor
But, there's a business return envelope, so minus $1 to the campaign to take the next step toward American fascism.

Petition for redress

So, another right bites the dust. You can no longer sue the government even with physical evidence of its acts if only the government says that your evidence reveals a state secret - even if that government has previously revealed related "state secrets" and the government sent the now-suppressed evidence to you.

Oh, I suppose that the appeals court - a panel from the Ninth Circuit, now defanged I guess - could hold differently in the divided cases brought by Americans, uh, non-Muslims. Don't bet on it, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strong distinction

This bill draws a strong distinction between Congressional Democrats and the Bushist Republican Party. I'm not optimistic about its outcome in reality, but it is correct image-making.

Make no mistake about it, though. Congress has the power to withhold funding for any President's war. Duhbya needs a supplemental to keep funding his misadventure. He cannot Constitutionally appropriate funds all by himself, even though he often borders on implying it.

Meanwhile, the Bushists are playing chicken. Duhbya is willing, even eager, to deny the troops everything if there's any provision he doesn't like in the supplemental appropriation.

The skittish Democrats appear to believe that Duhbya would order continuance of the status quo level of funding even without legal authority. That could be the source of his willingness to veto any bill that's not wholesale Congressional surrender.

I'm sure we can count on a memo from the John Yoo justifying dictatorial powers for a war president. Never mind that we've had nearly 220 years since this Constitution was enacted and never before allowed (or needed) such evisceration of democracy. The Bushists don't care a fig for history or law, though; they only crave power (which is why Rudy Giuliani is their natural successor).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


He promised to make sure the Justice Department follows an ''unswerving allegiance'' to the law and the Constitution.
I am not sure these words mean what Michael Mukasey thinks they mean. But then he's used to changing the meaning of words to suit his Bushist masters.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Benazir Bhutto has

She actually stands for something, unlike the Congressional Democrats. She shares ambition with them as a character trait, and that's probably driving her insurgency of the human rights lawyers, but she's willing, unlike Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, to take a stand and put herself at risk.

Maybe he'll get to the truth...

Yeah, Michael Mukasey could always waterboard the U.S. Attorneys to find out what happened under Gonzo.

But he'll never touch Karl Rove, you can take that to the bank.

Never support a liberal or a Democrat who could actually win

Richard Cohen should be fired for his own navel-gazing irrelevance. Seriously, he's "liberal" for the neocon Washington Post, and he would never think to do anything but pox-on-both-their-houses columns that make lots of conventionally "wise" media narrative points and thrust the Rovian propaganda.

Seriously, Mike Bloomberg? Cohen has twenty candidates to choose from and he wants the other mayor of New York with all his foreign policy experience in a scenario as likely as a wookiee plucking his eyebrows?

Without looking at Eschaton yet this morning, I'd be willing to bet that Cohen is already Atrios's wanker of the day looking for a centrist pony who won't disturb the villagers but will be just the ass-kissing "centrist" they love more than anything.

No one should take the Post seriously until they fire this vapid waste of pixels. I guess that's my pony.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday comics blogging

Depends what the meaning of strike is.

The hard bargain

Asking soldiers (and yes, by soldiers I mean Army soldiers, Marines, sailors, and Air Force personnel) to risk death, maiming, disability, and inevitable trauma in the service of the United States is a deadly serious request, never to be done lightly. To protect our Constitution, we ask men and women to surrender the rights they would normally have to choose for themselves, to speak freely, and to avail themselves of civilian legal remedies. We ask them to put on hold their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The Bushists asked this of our soldiers in Iraq without conscience and largely without experience. They went to war as if they were opening a marketing campaign, not a military one that would have human beings kill and be killed. The Bushists were despicable in this and still are.

Yet military defense remains a necessity in a dangerous world. What, then, are the circumstances under which civilian leadership may honorably choose to risk the lives of soldiers? What do we the citizens of America owe our soldiers as sacred duties before, during, and after every war?

Before war, we owe our soldiers (and our civilians) a fair and open debate on the merits of going to war. In most circumstances, those merits are poor, as they were in the drumbeat for Iraq, especially when there remained effective and progressing alternatives to invasion. War is a last resort has to be real, not lip service.

When political opinion is manipulated by unreasoning fear and anger into lashing out, the results are predictably poor. The nation must air the facts soberly and honestly. Afterward, a supermajority must still favor war.

During war, we owe our soldiers a fair allocation of the risks of fighting. This means that sending the civilian population to the malls to shop is out of hand not enough. A politician who is willing to risk your son but not his own is not a man (or woman) to follow to war. A politician who refuses to ask sacrifice of America as a whole deserves impeachment for that alone.

A good benchmark of the real need for war is the willingness of the government to draft soldiers into the war without favoritism. For Iraq, we have had no general draft at all; for Vietnam, we had a working class draft that the affluent and well-connected could and did escape, Duhbya and Darth of course included. If the nation is really at risk to a degree that justifies war, compulsory service has to be an acknowledged possibility at the outset.

If war is really important for our safety, we must pay for it honestly to the degree possible not leave it to our children to pay for. Obviously, some accrual of debt is probably inevitable in a major war, but the political tactic of extreme deficit financing used by both LBJ and Duhbya are an inducement to fight without sufficient justification.

After war, the nation owes the men and women who fought our gratitude, no matter the result or the political climate. The soldiers did not make the grand decisions, but they risked all for us, even if in retrospect the cause might not have been just.

Our gratitude cannot solve every problem that a returned veteran may have, but we should in every case sign up for this:

  • Health care for physical and mental injuries for the rest of their lives
  • Recognition and recompense for the disabilities that every war causes
  • Pensions that keep body and soul together
  • Family support that recognizes the cost of war borne by the families of those who serve
Last, of course, we owe our veterans perennial honor on days like today. History may little note nor long remember what we say, but we should say it anyway.

Update: Thanks to Philosoraptor host Winston Smith, there's a discussion of this post here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Drowning in a sea of ... petrodollars

This is a very interesting article. I don't have time to read it at the moment, since I have an oil-fired furnace and I need to better insulate my house, but the first page strikes me as the sort of clear analysis you hardly ever read in the Washington Post any more. I will get back to it.

Would subpoenas be too harsh?

OK. Michael Mukasey has been sworn in. I don't blame the Bushists for keeping it private. Mukasey took an oath to the Constitution. Will the Democrats in Congress at least try to find out immediately if he takes that seriously, or if he'll continue to be a dutiful Bushist?

Please, Henry Waxman or Pat Leahy, push on Duhbya's new AG and find out. There's plenty of work due to make the Department of Justice a wee bit more transparent. Get started.

Limits of science

Science is rational in the long run, but in the short run it always reflects the society it comes from. This article on the Neanderthal extinction shows that in spades, posing all sorts of current concerns that have been proffered as explanation for that extinction:

  • Gender roles (women in combat?)
  • Genocide (given our depredations of other primates, this would be my guess)
  • Climate change (a too fashionable hypothesis these days)
  • The superiority of Homo sapiens (never heard that one before)
  • An epidemic in a small population
Most of these may have had a partial effect on the extinction. That's the way of real events. The idea of a normal accident, where no one cause is enough but where a snowballing sequence dooms the victim, is useful here, too. For example, if the balsam forest dies out in the Southern Appalachians, did the balsam woolly adelgid cause it? Global warming? Acid rain? Evolution into too narrow a niche?

You usually can't pick just one.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Nomination Calvinball

The way we nominate major party Presidential candidates is laughably irrational and unfair, and in the run-up to 2008 chaos is breaking out everywhere, as the market incentives (i.e. the power of voting early) push states to move their primaries up.

Howard Dean has slapped Florida down, not on general principles but because Democrats there scheduled their primary outside the DNC's rules. The RNC, for its part, just yesterday had its own slap-fest, halving allocated delegates for New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wyoming.

Now Massachusetts is talking about Sec. Bill Galvin's proposal to move our primary up to the super date of Feb. 5. The alternative is probably to have nothing left to vote on.

It's obvious to everyone that we need a national solution that breaks the New Hampshire/Iowa monopoly. Well, it's obvious to the other 48 states, anyhow.

There's one thing about starting small that I would like to preserve. Confining an early round of primaries (caucuses should just be abolished; they're a ridiculous anachronism and they're too easy to buy) to a small enough place for retail politics gives an opening for an insurgent candidate. Heaven knows there are few enough of those in our elite-dominated system to give up any more.

Insurgencies only matter for Democrats. The last time Republicans nominated an insurgent was 1964, and even then Barry Goldwater was at least a Washington insider. The party fathers learned not to do that again. Fortunately for them, Republican voters follow. Democratic voters occasionally lead their timorous "leaders" in a new direction, which we desperately need now.

The problem with starting small is that small states are not representative of America. They're too white, too rural, too conservative. Problem is, once you pick a big city, you've picked a big state, and you lose the virtue of small size.

We need a nominating calendar that is representative but starts small. We also need to rotate who goes first. Sorry, New Hampshire, there's no good reason for your primacy. Since I'm not running for President, I can say that without fear of retaliation, and anyway I'm posting pseudonymously.

I'd like to see a calendar like this:

  • Late winter - the retail primaries, a handful of rotating small areas not limited to entire states, say three million eligible voters all told. Partial-state primaries could be run in districts built from two or three Congressional districts.
  • A month later - weed-out primaries, a much larger set of districts, say thirty million eligible voters
  • A month after that - decision day, a hundred twenty million eligible voters
  • A month after that - tie-breaker day, all the rest, about thirty million
If your vote comes too late to decide anything in one cycle, it'll be early in the next cycle.

To achieve this probably requires the force of law. Of course, it's a flight of fancy, and it will never happen this way.

Fidelity to...

For those executives who thought they might supplant Abby Johnson at the helm of Fidelity when dad retires, they're leaving the door ajar a tiny bit. My advice: Don't bet on it.

The dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal told me lots I didn't know. Fidelity is a corporate governance scandal waiting to happen. The board is basically Johnson, Inc.

I guess I really ought to pay more attention to my tiny little proxy statements. But with Robert Gates gone to Washington, it takes more research to find out which fund directors to vote against.

Obsessive self-abuse

The Washington Post will be damned if you or I or anyone else can let go of their obsession with where Bill Clinton's penis wandered off to. It's unbelievable the depths to which this once proud institution has stooped. Who would have thought, ten years after, they'd still be wallowing in this tawdry story without a speck of ruefulness at their role.

There's even a wingnut in the comments who wants the press to follow Bill around now. And Republican apologists everywhere say it's about the lying, not about the sex. What a bunch of dishonest peeping toms.

Not with a bang but with a whimper

Senate Democrats didn't care enough to filibuster Mukasey, so a man who can't tell whether waterboarding is torture is now nominally in charge of enforcing the law in this country, which has lost its moral bearings.

Republicans, of course, happily assented to evil with a banal face.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Must help Republican fear narrative

When else would CNN be interested in dead Ethiopians? Ever?

For sure, this deserves reporting, but not as a top story.

This just in - panic!

So. There was a single, brutal murder in Needham and the ensuing manhunt. There were 12,000 reverse 911 calls, though the panic that spread next probably took other, less institutional paths.

A pizzeria staff called down a police siege on their own location because a patron:

  • Ordered a pizza and soda but didn't eat it right away
  • Kept getting up and looking out the window
  • Changed clothes (into a suit - murderers are known to carry those to throw everyone off the trail) in the bathroom
During the stand-off, the pizza suspect tried to call 911, but the dispatcher was swamped, and it took multiple calls to get through.

So. Two events, and the police communications infrastructure was stressed almost to breaking. We are so not ready for a mass casualty event. Needham probably doesn't have to worry about being a target of terrorism, but it has been six years since 9/11, and an ordinary chemical explosion could always release a cloud of chlorine gas.

The Most Rev. Peter Beinart

Beinart reviews Paul Krugman. One throwaway line is:

Icon destroyers are most powerful when they hail from within the priestly elite.
Beinart, with his Council on Foreign Relations pedigree, wants only the elite to change America - after the irresponsible elite, including Beinart himself, have thoroughly screwed it up.

Calling Krugman a member of the "priestly elite" is a smear. He has been more the lonely dissenter in a sea of elite media groupthink. Beinart hails from the priestly elite. For all I care, he can go defrock himself.

And of course, Beinart can't help propounding his own thoroughly discredited point of view on foreign policy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Future GOP ticket?

Smiling faces of future fascists. Rudy promised anti-abortion judges. Did he also offer the Vice Presidency to Rev. Pat Robertson, certifiable lunatic? They sure look like running mates.

I think this wins the nomination for Giuliani. But let the cross-dressing ads begin. C'mon, Mitt, you have no principles.

Why not rationalize?

Everyone else does, now including capuchin monkeys. Rationalization of individual choices is not, I think, the interesting case, nor the source need of the behavior. Rationalization is essential to belonging to the in-group, so all social animals with significantly complex brains need it, since they gain great survival advantages by membership.

Take a look at human society. There's no end of truly weird things people can believe in order to belong. There are even a few people who still believe in Duhbya.

Zell Miller not available

The typical Bushist tinkering with the make-up of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is exceptional mainly for its bald-faced evasion of the spirit of the law. The Bushists are happy with the thinnest rationalization if it permits them to make an unprecedented evasion of the law's obvious intent. I mean, for chrissake, Abigail Thernstrom on the commission as a Republican is bad enough, when she has long stood for dismantling any civil rights protections that recognize the power asymmetry of historical discrimination. Flying a flag of convenience as an independent? Retch.

Of course, if the letter of the law is too clear and detailed to evade by pretext, the Bushists are willing to redefine the words. This is, after all, how they achieved power in the 2000 election debacle.

The dismal legacy of Bushism that I (idiosyncratically) rank worse than Iraq and Katrina is a thoroughgoing assault on the Constitutional rule of law, which otherwise might be a means to repair America and to prevent further Iraqs and Katrinas. But Duhbya's entire presidency has been a Tory coup d'etat in slow motion, and I refuse to ignore that fact.

A bridge to sell

Abstinence alone doesn't work. Why should it? Puberty now often starts at age 10 for girls, and the raging hormones of teenagers are a compelling biological reality. It's very hard under the circumstances of reality to get most kids to wait for something they want and that we want them eventually to have, particularly if we don't give them a wider perspective of sex.

Yet the God-squad-fearing Congress and Duhbya can agree to waste more money on abstinence-only education after it has been proven not to work. Faith means never having to try anything else.

Look, no one is arguing for school-sponsored teen orgies. The liberal position is that abstinence should be included in sex education and that teenagers should be discouraged from early or promiscuous sex. That sounds pretty moderate to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Me or your lyin' eyes

A phrase I like:

Concluding that something science proves is wrong because it conflicts with the Bible is like looking at a mountain, looking at a map, and deciding the mountain is wrong because the map doesn't mention it.

The policy of the United States

... is to torture prisoners and to call it something else. It's immoral, despicable, and illegal, but the Senate Judiciary Committee has acquiesced to it, when they should have exposed it in stark relief for the Constitutional crisis that it is.

I am ashamed of my government, which is nothing new, but I am also ashamed of my party, a morally equivocal shell of its former self, made to look better than Republicans only because the Republicans on the committee voted unanimously to condone evil. In favoring torture, they do have party discipline to line up and rubber-stamp whatever Duhbya wants in his infantile and unyielding manner.

Idiot deal-makers

Can we Democrats stop trying to make deals with those who refuse to show any good faith? Like the T1000, Duhbya can't be bargained with, he doesn't feel pity, and he will not stop.

The Inquisition among us

One American in ten agrees that waterboarding is torture but wants American interrogators to use it. Ten percent aren't even rationalizing the evil that they are willing to do.

Personally, I think these people should be lined up against a wall and shot.

Heh. Not funny. All the hyperbole that's left to satirize these brownshirts has to be too extreme to be funny.

Let's bring back trial by ordeal! Oh, right, Guantanamo, Jose Padilla, the black sites, extraordinary rendition. I'm too late again with my helpful suggestion.

In case you haven't noticed, the rule of law is over in this country.

Can happy news last?

The morning after the Red Sox won the World Series again (!), I wrote this to a couple of friends:

How sweet it is.

“You’re growing up at a time when the Red Sox winning seems normal,” I said to my daughter this morning. She just rolled her eyes. But there has been a sea change that will become more obvious as kids grow up, replacing the old dread and fear that we have felt for years in varying degrees.

As a naturalized citizen of Red Sox nation, I’ve felt less dread than native citizens, and 2004 cured me. I think 2007 will cure a lot more people of the anhedonic expectation that the Sox are going to break our hearts every year.

Current 40-man roster is here.

I’d keep Lowell if possible. Does the job, not a prima donna. He’ll be expensive after this year but not as expensive as A-Rod, since he’s the AL MVP. I just don’t see a clubhouse fit for A-Rod, even though I’d love to have 150 RBIs. Still, I would guess that Lowell may not stay – unless he’s smart enough to overrule his agent and stay with a winning franchise.

I think Schilling’s through here. The possible competitors for the starting rotation next year:
  • Beckett
  • Matsuzaka
  • Lester
  • Clement
  • Wakefield
  • Buchholz
  • Schilling
I think Schilling falls off this list due to expense and the need to bring the young pitchers along. Clement is a big question mark, however, and if he’s not recovering well, Schilling is a possibility. I’m a fan of Wakefield because he eats up innings and saves the staff. He’s a little scary in the postseason, but I think he’s worth it.

The bullpen competition shapes up as:
  • Papelbon
  • Okajima
  • Delcarmen
  • Snyder (spot starter again, too)
  • Hansen (could compete for a starting job, too)
  • Donnelly
  • Gagne (many fans will have a heart attack, but this acquisition is going to work)
  • Timlin (probably odd man out at his age, but his postseason gives him a little opportunity)
  • Tavarez (really, I doubt this, despite his yeoman work in the spring)
Pick twelve! Here’s my guess:
  1. Beckett
  2. Matsuzaka
  3. Buchholz
  4. Clement
  5. Wakefield
  6. Lester
  7. Papelbon
  8. Okajima
  9. Delcarmen
  10. Gagne
  11. Hansen
  12. Donnelly
Any of the last three could get bumped, as could Clement.

Among position players, Mirabelli is gone. The Sox may invite him to camp, but Kevin Cash is Wakefield’s next catcher. He may not be the catcher of the future since he’s already 30, but he’s the bridge to whoever comes up next.

The infield is set with the exception of third, depending on what Lowell finds in the free agent market. If the Yankees buy him, we’ll just have to rationalize that he’ll never again have a year like 2007. Of course, Lugo has been weak, but I’d give him another year – or half anyway. I really miss Orlando Cabrera. Subs, whatever. Hinske’s gone – surely there’s someone cheap, young, and better. Cora could stay or go.

The outfield really depends on who wants who. Crisp and Drew are available for trade, I would think. Manny’s contract is still too big to move anywhere but New York. If the Yankees really want him badly enough to take all of his contract, I might reconsider A-Rod to replace those RBIs. Of course, he’d need to let Dustin Pedroia kick his ass to get into this club.

Ellsbury should get 500+ at bats in 2008, which ought to be exciting.

Will Dave Magadan get offered a manager’s job?

Of course, events have immediately outpaced my opinion. I don't care that Schilling's a Republican; if he wants just one year at moderate money, keeping him would be a good idea. The Sox picked up their option on Tavarez. That's a good short money move, but he's still not guaranteed a spot on the 25-man major league roster come April. Also, I had not been aware that Clement could file for free agency, and he did.

Oh, and in the outfield, I don't see Drew as movable, so I guess Crisp has to go. Coco never got it going here, but I like his playing style as a complement to the big boppers. Still, he had two years to prove his offense, and he never did.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Useless establishment Democrats

... can't even say no to torture. What a thing to happen on Guy Fawkes Day.

Perfect example of "even-handed" press bullshit

"Missteps on both sides" caused the demise of the bipartisan SCHIP bill. No, the cause was Duhbya's bullshit and the captive media's unwillingness to characterize it as anything but his point of view.

"Missteps on both sides made compromise impossible." But the Democrats have already compromised.

Duhbya had no intention of ever signing any such bill. The problem is not the small amount of extra money. The problem is that any successful program leads voters to expect value from their government, and the Bushists only want to provide largess for their rich buddies.

Owe my soul to the company store

Not surprisingly, lenders and loan servicers are stealing from the very people who are in trouble. Is it any wonder many of the people who lose their homes leave them in less than perfect shape?

It really should not be a surprise that a substantial number of American corporations are thoroughly corrupted by the lust for money. And now, of course, they own both the press and the government, so there are few restraints. Business ethics? Don't make me laugh like Bela Lugosi.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday comics blogging - the antidote

Mike Keefe nails the Bushists and their apologists, a better response than my previous post.

Sunday comics blogging - wingnut edition

The perfect, and I mean perfect, example of wingnuttery - self-righteous, self-pitying, and self-deluded. Here's a cartoon that equates hostile questions with waterboarding. Here's a cartoon that thinks everything liberal is answered, "Ted Kennedy," and that that's a perfectly fair, reasonable, and rational rejoinder. Reminds me of "high-tech lynching" in its puling pusillanimity.

The amazing thing is that conservative whiners like Larry Wright, who are so afraid of my man Ted, ever got out of kindergarten.


Flying around with a former drug dealer is the best thing to happen to Fred Thompson lately. At least it keeps his moribund campaign in the news and gives him a chance to spin some homespun platitudes. This guy has obviously turned his life around - he's a Republican!

Fred could use a stimulant, though, and this guy sold marijuana. Funny he never did any time for it even after a probation violation.

Nowadays, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people serving mandatory minimum sentences in prison for similar crimes, thanks to Republicans and Democrats trying to out-tough each other. I notice no one asked Fred if he would pardon them. To spin it a Republican way: It would save the country a hell of a lot of money.

NFL/NBC stupidity

The NFL on NBC wants to be "green", so they've turned out their stage lights. What a crock! The problem is not lighting where it's needed. The problem is all the wasted lighting, especially all the star-dimming light pollution only visible as backscatter or from satellites.

Really, the best revenge would be to turn off this dog of a game. It can't stand up to New England-Indianapolis anyway.

In 1945, Duhbya's policy a war crime

Read it and weep for what has been done in our name.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Beggar the future

Public education is the lifeblood of American democracy. As the South's record in recent elections shows, an undereducated population is ripe for political manipulation, even against its own economic interest. Of course, there are cultural and social factors at work as well, and the people are not stupid, despite what Hollywood says. I still retain my dual citizenship!

Poverty tracks very closely with poor scholastic achievement, and this report paints a bleak picture that's getting bleaker.

If there's a silver lining, it's the fact that public school achievement has been improving despite the demographic slide in socio-economic status. What, that's impossible? You haven't heard that? You've heard just the opposite?

There's a more than 25-year upward trend in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - as a whole and every major demographic.

There's good and bad news in public education. Too bad we never hear the good news.

Letter to Chuck Schumer

Sen. Schumer,

You have given your assent to torture when your moral and legal duty was to oppose it. Opposition to waterboarding need not be paramount; it is still well below the minimum standard for any law enforcement officer, much less the highest in the land.

When the International Criminal Court asserts its jurisdiction ex post facto against the Bush administration, as the Allies did at Nuremberg, you'll be in the dock, too. I'm sorry to say that you'll deserve it, and it breaks my heart. But you've given your consent to continued crimes against humanity, and that stain requires punishment.

Next year's fast on Yom Kippur cannot atone for this, but on that holy day you should remember what you could have done on this day.

What right have I, a Gentile, to hector you about your faith? You let me worry about the mote in my eye.


Update: This would have been better with a citation from Jewish scripture, not the mote-beam story from Matthew. Sorry!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Counting noses on Mukasey

Will Michael Mukasey's nomination get out of Senate Judiciary? The forces of good need eleven votes. There are three Republicans whom one might consider possible:

  • Arlen Specter (R-PA) - no way; he'll weasel again
  • Charles Grassley (R-IA) - nope; one teensy imperfection won't change Grassley's mind
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - again, no way; his bipartisanship is limited to talk
So, it's up to the Dems, and as usual they're not likely to be up to it. Sure votes to reject:
  • Joe Biden (D-DE)
  • Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) (good riddance Lincoln Chafee)
  • my man Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Likely votes:
  • Pat Leahy (D-VT) - as chair, holding his fire
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Russ Feingold (D-WI)
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY) - dithering while he changes his mind, but he will
So, it comes down to Dianne Feinstein (D?-CA), based on her defense of Southwick and the bizarre requirement that only extraordinary causes should prevent a nominee from getting a vote. The Republicans would never agree to that, were they in the majority, and it's a token of stupidity that Democrats do.

I'm not optimistic that we'll run the table. The next line of defense is cloture. Based on the Southwick vote, 62-35, there's hope. Three Democrats voted for cloture and against the nomination (punks!):
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Inouye (D-HI)
  • Salazar (D-CO)
Other Dems might reject evil here, even if they let Southwick pass.

Look, this isn't even a close call. An AG who won't identify waterboarding as torture is worse than no AG at all.
Asked whether Bush was saying he would not nominate anyone if Mukasey were rejected, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "We don't believe it would come to that. No nominee could meet the test they've presented."
What she means is no nominee the Bushists would present could meet the test. Still, any honest nominee could easily meet this kindergarten-level test.

Update: I was proven wrong probably even before I finished this post. See my intemperate follow-up.

Rules for thee and not for me

So, the Bushists acknowledge that it was their fault, but ... tough. The problem with successful government programs is that they make people expect successful government programs, and only Democrats can develop those.

John Kerry nails it:

"Everything the administration does is ideological," Kerry said. "They bend the rules and break the rules for their cronies, but they're unwilling to protect the people who most need it. We think it's disgraceful."
All this about and annual expenditure that's less than the money the Bushists spend in Iraq each second. No child left behind, my ass.

Heroin vs. heroism

Save addicts' lives but give them an excuse to stay out of treatment? Or let some die when they get to the ER too late?

The liberal answer is of course to intervene in whatever way in the immediate crisis. The conservative answer is that they makes their choice, they pays the price.

Cars have air bags, seat belts, windshields that shatter to pebbles, collapsible steering columns, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, and traction control. Drivers, including me, still drive too fast, too carelessly, too rashly. We don't think car owners are morally unworthy of saving.

Still, at some point, it takes a heroic choice for an addict to overcome. The conservative wants this to happen instantaneously without bothering him. The liberal will give the addict another chance, whether it's likely that he'll take it or not.

Rift between corrupt monarchies

What's Bandar up to? If the Bushists had just treated us with respect, we could have prevented 9/11. Wow.

The House of Saud and the Bushists have held hands for a long time. Is this just morning-after remorse? Or a veiled threat? Is it coincidental that oil is bumping up against $100 a barrel?

Calling all Riyadhologists to figure this one out...

Sauce for the goose

When the Chinese sent us cheap but lead-filled toys and cheap but antifreeze contaminated wheat gluten and toothpaste, we were outraged. We should have been. There appears to be little effective product safety regulation by the Chinese government, though dip into the wrong till and the same government will bill your family for your bullet.

Will we be equally outraged at General Mills in Ohio for filling our freezers and our stomachs with E. coli? 'Cause I have to tell you, food safety regulation in this country is pretty weak even when Democrats or responsible Republicans (oxymoron!) are in charge, and right now we have a bunch of caveat emptor advocates sleeping at the switch. Like the Chinese government, the Bushist lackeys take as their overwhelming interest the protection of money and those who already have it.

One step toward greater food safety would be to outlaw subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in farm animals. At least, that would help retain antibiotic effectiveness for humans who become acutely ill from mishandling of meat. But I suspect it would also reduce the frequency of virulent strains such as E. coli O157:H7. (Of course, outbreaks, even vegetable contaminations, are about mishandling of cow shit, mostly.)

I find this parallel to the wheat gluten scandal to be sickly funny:

It said the pepperoni came from a separate supplier, not produced at the plant itself, but it declined to release the name of the pepperoni distributor.
Remember how outrageous it was that the Chinese companies wouldn't provide any information and their government wouldn't force them to? Now they have company.