Thursday, February 28, 2008

My kind of chain letter

Tom Levenson of The Inverse Square goosed me with the 123 meme. On p. 123 of the book closest to me at the time I was tagged, here are sentences 6 through 8:

By 461, the likely year of Patrick's death, the Roman Empire is careening in chaos, barely fifteen years away from the the death of the last western emperor. The accelerated change is, at this point, so dramatic we should not be surprised that the eyes of the historians have been riveted on it or that they have failed to notice a transformation just as dramatic -- and even more abrupt -- taking place at the empire's periphery. For as the Roman lands went from peace to chaos, the land of Ireland was rushing even more rapidly from chaos to peace.
The book, of course, is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, whose title is not made to frighten readers away with its scholarship, but which seems to me after about 80 pages and a browse through the bibliography to be expert, well written, and insightful. That could just be appearance, though, since I'm weak in history.

I cheated a little on this, since actually The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli, as translated by William J. Connell, was on top of How the Irish, but in my defense, p. 123 of The Prince doesn't have even a fifth sentence. However, to be fair, here's a quote that spans from p. 122 and concludes the book:
This barbarian domination stinks to everyone. Let your illustrious house therefore take up this enterprise with that spirit and that hope with which just undertakings are taken up, so that under its insignia this fatherland may be ennobled, and under its auspices that saying of Petrarch may be realized

Virtue against fury
Will take up arms, and may the struggle be short;
since the ancient valor
in Italian hearts is not yet dead.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another war criminal

To the large list of Bushists who are guilty of the war crime of torture, add another name - Steven Bradbury.

A few of the other prominent users, exponents, and defenders of torture:

  • Duhbya
  • Darth
  • Rummy
  • John Yoo
  • Alberto Gonzales
  • Michael McConnell
These men and many others can, by the precedent of Nuremberg, be called to answer for their crimes by an international jurisdiction.

Scofflaws, conspirators, and willful criminals

No one cares about the rule of law any more. Natch, that only applies to Democrats.

No doubt the Bushists have had the chance by now to be absolutely sure that culpable or embarrassing emails are now nothing more than bits scattered in a degaussing wind.

Ne'er the Twain shall meet

The Constitution is in tatters, and the Justice Department is too ornery to look into alleged Bushist crimes, but Congress wants Roger Clemens investigated for perjury. Yeah, he probably lied under oath, and that's bad, and he's a well-known pinhead diva, but is this really that important?

(Note: I was hoping to find a delicious pun riffing on the shared name Clemens that would connect mark twain's meaning - 2 fathoms or 12 feet - with Roger's Red Sox uniform number, 21. Y'know, did he play in the Palind[r]ome? But today it seems that lame is all I have - like Clemens's alibis about steroids.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

White House clears brush in Texas

Does anyone else find this headline weird?

White House to veto foreclosure bill
Last I looked, the veto power was solely granted by the (former) Constitution to the President. And 'President' has fewer letters than 'White House' anyway.

Nuts, no rotting vegetables handy

I'm sitting in the Orlando Barnes & Noble and the PA touts the book-signing to come later in the afternoon of Newt Gingrich. Ah, so that's why the two dopes at adjacent tables just segued from tsk-tsking about affirmative action to the saintly wonders of free market capitalism. Did you know that the market fixed the economic damage of the Great Depression? Neither did they, but they think they know it. As it happens, they also mistook Michigan State for the University of Michigan when they bemoaned affirmative action, but what's a few mere facts among conservatives.

That Newtie could title a book Real Change and not be laughed into a low-rent whorehouse suggests how faith-based our national conversation is. He's pretending to be a rational seeker of the right hard choices irrespective of ideology. Yeah, right. Still, his fans think he's great. After all, they agree with his sclerotic, faux intellectual, reactionary nostrums.

I left before the two Republicans got fully wound up into the perils of Medicare, but I did hear one describe how some group he was in would always call an ambulance rather than the EMTs because of better reimbursement. So, one perverse incentive vitiates an entire program! Or that's the reasoning of conservatives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Everybody rationalizes, why not Joe Lieberman?

For full Matt Bors cartoon, click the image.

Too true

For full Jeff Stahler cartoon from USA Today, click image.

Skipping the advice part

Theocons and Bushists alike got what they wanted on the Supreme Court because of the Gang of 14, not despite it. It was a faux compromise in which the Democrats got taken for everything and the Republicans gave up nothing at all. Roberts and Alito are both on the Court, aren't they?

Yet that wasn't enough for the right-wing radicals. They wanted the nuclear option. They wanted to go to war against Democrats and the traditional, rule-based collegial way the Senate has deliberated about judicial appointments for decades.

The oddest thing is that the deal cut by Democrats will severely hinder the next Democratic President's appointment of more liberal judges. Witness what happened to Bill Clinton while the Republicans held the Senate. He got Steven Breyer and Ruth Ginsburg. Breyer especially is very centrist.

The avidly hypocritical Republicans will filibuster any Democrat's nominees without compunction. They will call moderates extreme, where for their part the Democrats have called Republican-appointed extremists moderate. Four of them sit on the Supreme Court.

It really doesn't make sense that James Dobson, Orrin Hatch, and Richard Land dislike McCain for the outcome of the Gang of 14 negotiation. They must dislike him for the disloyalty they perceive in it.

As ever, they simply want silent obedient consent.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cultural blindness

... or is that blindness to the cultures.

Click image to see full Tom Toles cartoon in the Washington Post.

Corvair stories

What sort of mathematical decay is Ralph Nader on? From a butterfly-effect 2.7% of the Presidential vote in 2000 to 0.3% in 2004, where will he wind up in 2008? I'm hoping for linear - minus 2.1%.

His mania for attention through running for President against the Democrats calls into question the validity of all his prior work.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not normal

This made-for-TV murder mystery is not that interesting, though maybe it could be a good episode of "Monk". What interests me is this:

"I remove my cellphone battery periodically, and I've taught many people to do the same," noted John Gilmore, a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is challenging the Bush administration in court on wiretaps. "What can you do when the FCC mandates tracking capability to every cellphone? On the lame excuse that once in a while someone calls 911 and can't give the address."
Who needs an ankle bracelet?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Infuriating Broderism

Scot Lehigh gets back to the naive, sanctimonious bullshit today:

[I]f a new president was genuinely willing to reach out and compromise, some of the reflexive partisanship might start to fade.
Lehigh speaks lovingly of the center without ever acknowledging that the hard-right Republican Party's success at moving the center waaay over to the right came because the Democrats were not partisan enough in the face of Newt Gingrich and Duhbya. Lehigh approvingly quotes Garrison Nelson:
The moderates have basically been disenfranchised by the polarization of contemporary politics. The center wants back in the game - and that is the appeal of both Obama and McCain.
This is not just wrong. It's a lie. The left has been disenfranchised. That's why we "raucous left-wing advocacy groups" have to fucking scream to be heard. We're up against the combined power of the monolithic Republican political operation with its dominating media machine. That's why we view calls for civility as patronizing; pundits like Lehigh are constantly telling us to lie back and think of England.

Now, I'm sure that most of us would love to get back to comity and mutual respect. But, despite their disingenuous claims, the Republicans would not. Polarization and vilification have worked for them.

True constructive bipartisanship will never happen until the Democrats gird up and say, "NO MORE." We've compromised and compromised and compromised for little or nothing.

It takes both sides to achieve a fair bipartisanship, just as it takes both sides to fight. The Republicans have won too much by unilateral warfare on their political opponents to give it back in a make-nice compromise.

So, please, pretty please, stop telling Obama he has to take on his own party, when for seven years and longer, the Republicans in lock-step power have taken no prisoners other than Joe Lieberman and the psychotic Zell Miller among the Democrats.

Phrasiarism charges

Thursday morning, WROR played an old ad from Bob the Builder. It had a catch-phrase, "Yes, we can!" Man, is Obama ever in deep yogurt now.

Hillary has been quick to attack but also ran afoul of the cynical googlers. Yep, she has cribbed from Bill. (Or maybe he cribbed from her in the first place.)

Mike Huckabee has been playing "More than a Feeling" without permission, just to prove how cool he is. Or was in the 1970s. If I said he was playing to his bass, I'd be cribbing, too.

John McCain has a slogan up on his web site: "Ready to Lead on Day One." Wasn't that Hillary's slogan? No? McCain added "to lead", and that makes it different and all better? Nope, just IOKIYAR.

Oh, and back to Obama. Ted Kennedy called him, "Ready to be President on day one." Is that safe from the originality cops?

Seriously, can we stop this bullshit? It doesn't make anything better.

(Hat-tip 55-40 for the pointer to TPM.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No mistake

Long-lasting embassy attacks such as this only occur with the connivance of the local authorities. Remember the Tehran hostage crisis?

Good will write-down

Carl Pope lays out with eye-opening clarity one dire result of globalization on the future of American business.

The problem is not China. The problem is a business model in which companies outsource manufacturing under short-term, low-cost contracts to the firm that will follow their design standards most cheaply. All that is really Fisher-Price about Dora the Explorer is the design--the product itself is made in a factory over which the company has almost no control. It doesn't manage the working conditions, environmental standards, or safety practices. As a result, it no longer controls the product itself.
The race-to-the-bottom business model, where relationships are brief and uncommitted, is suicide in the long term. Once brand value is depreciated by inevitable product safety scandals, why would a domestic company be any more trustworthy than a foreign one?

Bleeding your brand is just another form of living off your assets. What will we do when everything is gone? Sell our souls? Fat lot they'll bring.

They only do this because you let them

Glenn Greenwald nails the coming shit-storm that Obama (or Hillary) will have to endure at the hands of the right-wing smear merchants and their captive media:

What our political establishment relies on more than anything else is keeping Americans distracted away from what they are really doing and focused instead on how Mike Dukakis looks in a helmet and whether he'd want to murder his wife's rapist; on blue dresses and penile spots; on the inspiration for Love Story and who invented the Internet; on how John Kerry looks in windsurfing tights, on how manly George Bush's brush-clearing is, and whether Nancy Pelosi's scarf-wearing means she loves the Terrorists. That's how our Beltway culture remains indescribably broken and corrupt without much protest or backlash.
Update: Yes, I was trying to recall an Everclear line with my title. Only later did the line echo true in my head, "They cannot hurt you unless you let them."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

One-eyed man

People believe whatever they want to believe, based on supposition, rumor, happenstance, and gossip. When even the priest doesn't believe it, his parishioners still do - even if they have to make shit up to believe.

“I think the dirt gets blessed by the priests, doesn’t it?”
Uh, no. Tens of thousands of people come to a shrine for "healing" dirt that the priest buys and has trucked in so that everyone can have a little holy mud in their reliquaries.

As a piece of journalism, though, the story is clearly thought, well written, and pithily illustrative.

Consider the source

Oddly, this item, which is full of evidence of ignoramuses, probably represents progress. After all, there's this:

The panel includes the word “evolution” in state science standards for the first time
So, even if the willful idiots from the Christian fundies won 4-3, at least kids will learn the ideas of evolution (hopefully well beyond the groundbreaking but now dated work of Darwin), and those ideas have the power to convince the open-minded.

More power to ... me!

Taking a cue from the man who appointed him, Judge Jeffrey S. White wildly overreaches. Constitution? That old thing?

Never mind the First Amendment. A Cayman Island bank needs relief.

Power of naivete

John McCain says that Barack Obama is naive. Here's the rejoinder I hope for:

Since John McCain has spent twenty-six years in Washington, it's no surprise that he believes that's all that matters. You and I know better. We know that America needs a change from the tired old politics of the past. We can make that change - yes, we can!
In politics, it's always a good idea to leave this unsaid: "Suck on this!"

Not maxed out

I touched on Barack Obama's public finance dilemma yesterday. One more thing: Since he's raising his money in small dollar amounts from hundreds of thousands of contributors, why is the democratization of campaign funding even an issue? He has already done that, following the groundbreaking example of Howard Dean.

I don't know what it says that Hillary Clinton didn't learn Dean's lesson and is now scrambling to catch up. But Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe emphasized large wealthy donors to Democrats, and the politics of their period showed it.

While the economy of the 1990s is attractive, I don't want to return to the politics of that decade.

Raising McCain

Fantasy attack slogans (mostly too harsh for the Democrats to actually use):

  1. McCain - Bush with a bad temper
  2. McCain, kissing the ass that crapped all over him
  3. A hundred years? We were asking about Iraq, not your next birthday.
  4. Last of the Keating Five
  5. McCain, now endorsing torture!
  6. So full of shit his name should be john
  7. McCain, his trophy wife's older than Obama
  8. McCain, pundit man-crush
  9. Coming in 2009: the next generation of Republican Viagra ads
  10. McCain and Lieberman deserve each other
  11. McCain: moderate waterboarding
  12. McCain - only married twice
  13. If you like Bush, you'll love McCain
The sad truth is that the Republicans would swiftboat the fact that the North Vietnamese tortured McCain until he broke and signed "confessions". Even in a viciously snarky posting such as this, that's just too far to go.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Which principle?

Obama should not put the principle of public campaign finance ahead of the necessity of evicting the Republicans from the White House. Restoring good government and hopefully the Constitution has to come before the current ineffectual regime of public financing.

John McCain has already played the system, as Republicans so often do. When he was down, he borrowed money, essentially even if not contractually against the possibility that he could pay it back with federal funding even if he himself could not raise the money. When the private funds started to roll in again, he declined the public funding. Whether this is legal is a good question, but the toothless FEC will do nothing timely or significant to punish it.

Further, the settled race in the GOP would permit McCain to spend his primary funds to fluff his own reputation, while Obama and Clinton would have to continue their primary spending against each other for as long as the race remains in doubt - possibly all the way to the convention. The head start this would give McCain would be invaluable.

Democrats and Republicans alike have opted out of the system before. I'm sure that they will again.

Obama's going to need every advantage he can get. Giving one away at this stage would be stupid politics.

The department of duh!

News flash: Obama is running the Deval Patrick playbook. Oh, never mind. Not news.

Hillary would never use anything from Bill, right?

Former U.S. Constitution - Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution of the United States had a good run. It lasted from 1789 to the first decade of the 21st century, more than twenty-five times as long as the Articles of Confederation that it repealed and superseded. Despite the Constitution's original sin in slavery, a sin that led via the Electoral College to its death despite America's bloody Civil War of expiation, the Constitution was a durable foundation. It deserved better treatment of its aspiration to just and effective government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

It's impossible to put an exact date on its demise, since it was not openly repealed or superseded. Instead, it was simply ignored by the Executive, with the active connivance of the Judiciary and the meek acquiescence of the Legislative branch.

The first step on the path that overturned the Constitution, however, can be dated to Dec. 12, 2001. On that infamous date, the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore accepted the captious and torturous logic of the Bush attorneys and ruled against all proportion that equal protection of voters required stopping the vote count in Florida.

Now, in another attempt to lock the barn door after the horse has been stolen, I'm setting for myself a project: to show the tatters of the old Constitution paragraph by paragraph.

When we get to writing a new Constitution, we need to remember these Bushist days. We also need to remember the flaws of the "Great" Compromise that our forebears mistakenly left in place after the Civil War. We won't get a perfect result. Given the deep and rigid divisions in America, we probably won't get a result as durable as the just abrogated Constitution, but we need to make every effort to avoid obvious errors such as allowing a candidate who loses the popular vote to nonetheless become President.

Monday, February 18, 2008

American intellectual - oxymoron?

Susan Jacoby had a piece in the Washington Post that I wanted to comment on, but then I wanted to comment on Howard Gardner's piece, too, and pretty soon I needed to write a long post of my own:

I don't know a time in my lifetime when America has been hospitable to intellectuals. I've known a few places, usually in selective educational institutions.

The public schools, for all their real and important virtues, don't qualify. In elementary school in the 1960s, a friend told me that I'd be more popular if I would let my grades slide. I could see the truth of what he told me, but that wasn't who I was. Thank goodness I could play Little League and thus avoid complete nerdiness.

This of course was a time when Spiro Agnew and his ilk were attacking "pointy-headed professors" and "nattering nabobs of negativism". If the facts and the law don't help your case, pound the table.

Are Americans dumber today? I'm not sure. We read less, no doubt. But as a nation, we are much more serious about education than we were in my day. In suburban Boston, the public schools provide great opportunities to get a better education than I got. Granted, I was in Knoxville, Tennessee, not exactly the city on the hill, where my mom used to say about the famed local private school, "Why pay for an inferior education when you can get one free?" But what I see offered in affluent communities and what I see achieved on standardized tests by those communities is exceptional.

Our national conversation is indeed broken, perhaps beyond repair. There is no price to pay for being wrong on the facts, only for being wrong in pandering. The conservatives proudly nominate dunces whose stated role is to channel the nation's gut. This usually winds up - predictably - following prejudgements rather than information. Hence Duhbya's happy embrace of his own stupidity and indifference to learning.

In this way, the arrogance of ignorance is hurting us.

Where once, in a less hype-driven and demagogic age, Walter Cronkite and his intimate circle of competitors might have called bullshit (naturally in much more polite terms), nowadays there is only a ceaseless repetition of rhetorical formulas that permit sheeple to continue to believe the ignorant, ill-informed biases that they had before tuning to Fox News. The Bushist/PNAC marketing campaign for war in Iraq is of course the perfect example.

Still, I don't think the problem is video. New communication techniques surely could deliver thought-provoking content. The printed word is not the right medium for all content. A blend of print, graphics, still photos, video, and audio has the promise to be able to deliver much better knowledge than print alone.

Why, then, were so many Americans so willingly taken in by the thin bullshit of Duhbya's shifting and insufficient rationales for war? Why do 30% of Americans still support a man who makes Nixon look good? Hell, he makes even Agnew look good.

There are two groups of the ignorant - those who would rather know and the ignoramuses. American society used to identify the ignoramuses and isolate them. It no longer does. Sheesh, Ann Coulter is still on TV.

Ignoramuses have one great virtue - they are easily parted from their money or their consent if you flatter them. If you tell them they're smart, they'll know you're trying to pull something, but tell them they're the salt of the earth and the true Americans, and they'll lap it up like a barn dog around horseshit. Give them cover to rationalize their own ignorance, and they'll elect you President. Twice. Duhbya's father's problem was not that he was too goofy; pork rinds and other bullshit image-making notwithstanding, he was too up East effete smarty-pants intellectual. New world order? No, thanks!

One of the great, ahem, assets that the Republican Party won when it pried the white part of the old Confederacy out of the Democratic coalition was tobacco country. Yes, it's a failing and killing industry, but it owned the crown jewels of persistent, proudly ignorant denial. In short, the tobacco executives and advertising men knew how to appeal to ignoramuses - by stroking their anti-vanity vanities. Since Democrats were stupidly and coincidentally giving up their own working class bona fides at the same time, conservatives were able to yank the country hard to the right.

Many of the same people who despise education and the educated take great pride in their ability to spot a phony. Their record for the past 40 years, however, is an almost unblemished record of the inability to spot a phony. I can think of few people I'd rather not have a beer with than Duhbya. That smirking, self-entitled jerk has no common touch; instead, he is constantly engaged in pumping himself up and putting down his "lessers". Yet the very people he most patronizes like him.

Who's to blame? I'm not sure that's an important question. I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around. But a few observations:

  • My father called bullshit on practically every commercial on TV. When I saw the supermarket tabloid headlines, I could see through their weasel words.
  • The schools deliver content but not critical thinking. Critical thinking is dangerous, particularly in the Bible Belt. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Powell, generously gave me permission to believe evolution, but offered, "It's just not nice."
  • The repetition of lies triumphs over simple facts. Just ask the Swiftboaters and Fox.
Solutions? That's hard. There may not be any. It hardly seems that blogging and viral video are strong enough counters to cable TV. Not enough on-message repetition.

I heard John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, speak recently. Messages are getting harder to deliver in any way that doesn't turn off their intended recipients. Walsh's prescription is grassroots contact and persistently exhibiting the values we stand for, presumably intelligent values.

Maybe the most important thing we need to do is take on the role of the boy who pointed out that the emperor was streaking.

CW polluted me, too

Something from Paul Krugman's column today that I didn't know:

L. B. J. declared his “War on Poverty” 44 years ago. Contrary to cynical legend, there actually was a large reduction in poverty over the next few years, especially among children, who saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.
That's a forty percent reduction in six years.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

And these are teh good points

Honestly, it's the things John McCain brags about that are the scariest.

Click image for full Steve Benson cartoon.

Old enough to know better

Click image for full Matt Bors cartoon.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yeah, we got email

What this says is that the ISPs are cavalier about what they give to the government and are likely to err on the side of too much. They don't really care about their customers' privacy or legal rights. They just want to keep the government happy and doing business with them.

After abrogating treaties

The Bushists have happily abrogated treaties, which are the law of the land according to the U.S. Constitution that was in force before 9/11. Why not move on to making treaties without any action by the Senate?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bullshitter in chief

Duhbya claims against all facts that the Democrats in the House are endangering the country, and even with his long record of self-serving, fear-mongering bullshit, he gets the headline "Bush: Inaction on FISA endangers U.S."

The CNN story is terrible - it puts three Republicans and unnamed intelligence sources up against one paragraph from Nancy Pelosi, and not even her strong paragraph. It also pushes this Bushist lie:

The current laws are set to expire at midnight Saturday. The nation's intelligence agencies then will have to go to court for warrants to listen in on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas.
No warrant has ever been required for overseas surveillance. Yet apparent Bush stooge Adam Levine puts it out under his byline, though I'm confident it came from the White House. (He couldn't possibly be this Adam Levine, could he?)

All the current authorizations to surveil whoever survive the expiration of the Dissect America Act. There are still easy ways to obtain more approval for surveillance orders. Corporations are still immune if only they get certifications from the Justice Department that their actions will be legal - even if those certifications are, like everything else from this lawless regime, transparently bullshit.

  • No less current surveillance
  • New surveillance orders are easy to obtain
  • Immunity going forward is easy to obtain
Are the Bushists really this lazy? Probably. But even I don't think that's why Duhbya is fighting this battle.

What I think:
  • They cry Chicken Little every chance they get so that they can blame Democrats when another attack comes, never mind whether there's any real connection.
  • They failed to immunize the telcoms for their illegal spying, and they fear the telcoms will roll over on them.
  • They are surveilling all of us much more extensively than has been reported so far.
This is the Bushists' idea of a win-win-win.

Finally, the Democrats (go Nancy! go Harry!) have not cowered in the corner. Finally, they have counterattacked instead of arguing with Duhbya.

Democrats immediately said that the expiration of the temporary law would have little, if any, immediate impact on intelligence gathering. "He has nothing to offer but fear," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after Bush's address.

"I regret your reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a letter to Bush, in defense of his colleagues in the House. "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way."

As ever, I wish they would counterattack even more fiercely.

I would say (over and over and over again) that Duhbya has again lied to America for craven political reasons, that he and his party are untrustworthy, and that the politics of fear are disgraceful and un-American. But, hey, I'm an extremist, obviously.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Get out and stay out

The Republican Party from top to bottom says with their feet and in one voice, "We are the party that opposes all Congressional oversight of the Executive."

Of course, President Barack or Hillary will need oversight, like ... Bill Clinton's penis.

Preemptive strike

Duhbya orders the Navy to shoot down a dead spy satellite, and with his tattered credibility he expects us to believe that this is not a reply to the Chinese? Ah, riiight. We just happened to modify three missiles for the purpose.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Upside of Hillary

Despite my support of Obama (now that Edwards is out of the race), there are some things to look forward to if Hillary becomes President. One of them is the frank exchange of views that would take place with U.S. "ally" Saudi Arabia, which has to be one of the most repressive regimes on earth.

Of course, the frankness would take place out of public earshot, but I giggle uncontrollably at the thought of Hill having King Abdullah into the Oval Office. You can bet she wouldn't let a photograph be taken of her seated lower than a member of the House of Saud, the way Duhbya let his stature lapse with Bandar. Put ol' Abdullah into a beanbag chair! Maybe Hillary would show just a scosh of that cleavage which brought such cluck-clucking from the punditaliban. Then she could smile and tell him which camel he can stick his wah'habi into.

Update: A belated valentine for Hillary.

Diet and exorcise

Let the nuns marry Jesus, but for priests to do that would be so gay. It's pretty funny for someone who has only been married to the church to say:

"According to what I could perceive, the devil was present and acting in an obvious way," he said. "How else can you explain how a wife, in the space of a couple of weeks, could come to hate her own husband, a man who is a good person?"
Wieslaw, buddy, you need to pay closer attention to the non-celibates and involuntary celibates around you.

Rev. Jankowski also blesses us with this:
Typical cases, he said, include people who turn away from the church and embrace New Age therapies, alternative religions or the occult. Internet addicts and yoga devotees are also at risk, he said.
I'd say the devil works in mysterious ways, too, though he sure has kept up with trends.

Bullshit comes due

Only people paid to believe and people insanely infatuated with Duhbya believed he could possibly broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace as the lamest duck ever. Sure enough, both governments would fall from a deal.

I had a news hook here somewhere

This story is two months late. It should not have been printed after this year's college essays have virtually all been submitted. A timely story would be about waiting for the answer. That's what seniors and their parents are doing now.

Yeah, I know, picky, picky, picky. It's just that I'm one of those parents. I haven't even seen my daughter's essays, but I'm waiting.

"Middle school melodrama"

This is real insight:

In this middle school melodrama, Fox News gives MSNBC wedgies and steals its lunch money, and MSNBC tries to act even tougher. (CNN is the National Merit Scholar who does the work, stays out of trouble, and is reliable but somewhat dull.)
The press likes the juvenile level of our political discourse. And if CNN is a National Merit Scholar, we are in a world of trouble.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Making up the law

Can a man who obviously doesn't believe in law over necessity remain on the Supreme Court?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin M. Scalia echoed the administration's view when he said in a BBC Radio interview yesterday that some physical interrogation techniques could be used on a suspect in the event of an imminent threat, such as a hidden bomb about to blow up. "It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," Scalia said. "And once you acknowledge that, we're into a different game: How close does the threat have to be? And how severe can the infliction of pain be?"
Never mind Scalia prejudging the case in favor of his political cronies, he plainly shows the willingness to make up the "law" as he goes. The whole doctrine of originalism, like rigid federalism, so zealously adhered to by Scalia and his ilk, can be discarded when necessary to achieve the "right" outcome. After Bush v. Gore, this shouldn't be a surprise.

What it should be is impeachable.

Descent into evil, with lawyers

All the legal rationalizations in the Bushist world won't change the brute, ugly fact that torture is immoral. It's also illegal under American law, though in today's environment of fear and Democratic acquiescence, you never know how long that will remain true.

Duhbya promised moral clarity. Who knew that it would be immoral clarity.

Online TV

I watch a lot of small screen - sports, movies, nerd shows - but, except when my daughter has the remote, hardly any TV shows.

One show I found in the fall that I liked a lot was Life, starring Damian Lewis, whom I had last seen in Band of Brothers, which was terrific. Lewis doesn't have a large range of emotional expression, but I like what he does with what he has. And I'd watch Sarah Shahi wash dishes - after all, her small range of emotional expression plays across that gorgeous Persian face. I've had a crush on Brooke Langton since The Replacements, and she is subtly expressive in this role. And I've enjoyed Adam Arkin's quirky roles since Northern Exposure.

What I like about Life, though, is the writing, which shows the characters searching for calm in a chaotic world. I used the writers' strike to catch up on the eleven existing episodes by watching them all online.

It's ironic that the WGA strike drove me to the exact medium they deserve a piece of, but this would have happened in any case because I just don't do appointment viewing, haven't since day 4 of 24. TV is all going to be online eventually. Sporting events will show live; will anything else?

We're not there yet. NBC's posted episodes are technically awful, heavily pixelated and in a display tool that really sucks. They're trying to preserve DVD properties, I guess.

NBC is not spending a lot online, probably because they're not making a lot. I am so sick of Vera Wang's Serta commercial and Toyota's park-by-braille bonehead that I actually missed longer station breaks with more variety of commercials.

Did the writers win by winning a piece of this? If so, it's a long-term win. There's not much online. Yet.

Photo credit: Trae Patton/NBC - publicity photo used by both the Boston Globe and the NY Daily News, but if you don't want me to use it, just say the word, and it's gone.

Monday, February 11, 2008


If you love Obama and hate Hillary or vice versa, please go and read Paul Krugman.

We ain't breaking China

A friend sent a link to this James Fallows piece in The Atlantic about China's $1,400,000,000,000 in U.S. Treasury bonds. Yes, that's the right number of zeros - $1.4 trillion dollars, a bit more than $4500 for every mother-loving one of us.

This was my response (lightly edited):

Yeah, there it is. No reason I can see for optimism about the U.S. dealing with this massive debt overhang - our political and media culture is too broken and too infantile, all the way down to the electorate.

The third rail of American politics is more general than just Social Security. It's telling voters that they have to pay for what they want, Want, WANT!!! Just try to tell us we have to take any bitter medicine.

Duhbya's constant requests that we "sacrifice" by taking borrowed money and going shopping is the perfect example of our childishness. A mess of pottage.

The Chinese will have to unwind their position. A wise steward of the American economy would be urging them to start now, since the longer it builds, the harder the fall will be. The only safe way I can see is for them to convert their liquid holdings into assets, but that becomes a political problem (and I have to concede that being economically overwhelmed by an authoritarian and mercantilist nation like the PRC is scary).

We were a debtor nation before Duhbya's disastrous, Nero-fiddling regime, but American policy in the last 7 years made it much worse. Clinton's austerity budgets made a big difference and started us down the path back to solvency, back to where we wouldn't have to sell off the family silver to keep us in la dolce vita for another year.

If I were managing the Chinese dollar-denominated nest-egg, I'd be looking into the third world economies in Africa and Latin America where the dollar is a parallel (or even official) currency, and I'd be quietly buying up natural resources and viable business assets. I might even send American agents to do the deals. I'd be looking for equity bargains in the U.S. but at levels that don't provoke SEC reporting (<5%?), but I wouldn't buy anything blue chip. Anything selling for a premium now is a sure loser. But I'm not a very sophisticated investor. Thoughts?

I'm pretty sure we'll pay no thought to the morrow. The question is how a gimlet-eyed misanthrope like me can make money off this - or at least protect some of what I already have. Get there first, I guess.

Where were you in 2000?

Setting: Interrogation room in the Seattle Police Headquarters.

"So, Huckabee, what were you doing on the night of December 12, 2000?"

"Detective, I told you, it was nearly eight years ago. How could I possibly remember that? What has that got to do with my police report?"

"Think back. It was an important day."

"I was probably Christmas shopping at the local Bible-believing book store. My opponent is trying to steal my caucus right out from under your nose."

"Any witnesses to this alibi? Or had they all been raptured?"

"I don't know about witnesses, Detective, but I expect to be taken when the Rapture comes down upon us. But what about the caucuses?"

"You ever heard of adverse possession, Reverend?"

"What kind of possession? I've never taken drugs in my life."

"Sure. You're not just another Bible-banger like Ted Haggard?"

"No, sir, just a good Christian come to report an election theft."

"What I'm saying to you, Huck - that your real name? - is that the Republicans established adverse possession over election returns, and the Supreme Court approved it in 2000."

"December 12th?"

"You got it buddy."

"So there's nothing you can do for me?"

"I could, but I don't like you, see? Stirring up trouble. I'm gonna send your fingerprints to Washington, and I'll bet we find a match. I got my eye on you, bub."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anonymous entertainment

Just to get the vituperation out of the way up front: Scientology's empirical teachings are as ridiculous as those of many other religious traditions, Mike Huckabee's for example. Mitt Romney's, too. I'm not too keen on the whole virgin birth myth, either, nor on transubstantiation. Hindu cosmology is wacko. Islamic science used to be pretty good, though it has fallen on hard times for the past several hundred years and shows little sign of recovering - quite the contrary in fact.

Scientologists, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims are probably all evil or good in about the same proportions, which is to say in proportions that don't respect stated belief or lack of it.

I'm an atheist; as a group, we're no better morally than anyone else. Nor are we worse. We do tend to be better at distinguishing empirical fact from the made-up metaphysical bullshit that charismatic leaders can't seem to avoid, but even among us you'll find all sorts of believers in crystals, the Force, etc.

The strangest thing is what happens to the metaphysical bullshit once the charismatic leader is no longer around to make up metaphors and call them doctrine. His words harden into coprolitic dogma. So, because Jews thousands of years ago wrote about nature as they understood it then, fundamentalist Christians refuse to find any factual errors in a text plainly littered with them.

Really, though, it's a happy day when people hold a party to protest Scientology in such an entertaining way.


Saw a lapel pin at a party caucus on Saturday: "What would Nixon do?"

No such luck this time.

Click image to see full Mike Lane cartoon.

Right-wing pundits are revolting!

Sure, they'll all be back in lock-step come November, but for now I can still enjoy their suffering.

Click the image for the full Matt Bors cartoon.

Lunatic fringe

Every campaign has its lunatic fringe, but Hillary wasn't expecting her fringe to be quite this lunatic.

See the full Steve Benson cartoon by clicking the image.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Orwellian bullshit

Mukasey says he can't investigate something that John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales excused in memos that transparently excused criminal behavior because they were written on Department of Justice letterhead.

I mean, seriously, I'm reading The Count of Monte Cristo, and there's nothing in its persecution of Edmond Dantès that is so abusively unjust.

Chuck Schumer must be sooo proud.

Clear and present danger

The criminal current President says that waterboarding is not torture, flying in the face of centuries of understanding of what the word torture means. Duhbya says waterboarding can be used on his say-so without breaking the law.

He'd probably say that looting the treasury of California for Enron's corrupt gain is not a crime either. He'd probably find nothing wrong with trumping up a false case for war. He'd probably claim the right to disregard laws he doesn't like. He'd probably instruct the Navy to disregard a court ruling. He'd probably tell his attorney general to lie to Congress. He'd probably withhold all information from Congress, obstructing every investigation of his official malfeasance, misfeasance, oh hell, just overwhelming criminality.

I'm sure there's some special rule of the Bushists that only other people can be waterboarded "legally", that they are as usual immune from all consequences. If not, I'm sure they can make one up and pretend that it has always been true.

I don't care what they say. It's all bullshit anyway.

Lie there and take it

The Bushists lie. Ho hum, that's not news.

When they hide evidence and then destroy it, they claim the problem is that the court didn't ask specifically enough for tapes the court didn't know existed.

But even that is a lie. One court was still asking for evidence specific to the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah as the decision to destroy the videotapes was being made. The government was still submitting summaries that conveniently neglected to mention that the tapes ever existed.

The Bushists protect lies with a bodyguard of lies. There's no truth at the middle of this onion.

Mercy for the horse?

There's no reason to punish the horse he rode in on, but the right response to this little bit of whining is ... left to your imagination.

Or, in the politesse of Washington, "Send us nominees who aren't committed ideological Republicans hacks, and we'll consider it."

Crap, I just can't be polite when imagining a conversation with Duhbya.

Friday, February 8, 2008

If the founders were alive today...

... they'd be pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

And George W. Bush, petty tyrant and emissary of corruption that he is, would be rounding them up, waterboarding them, and having them shot for treason.

Three questions

  1. Is the Constitution still in force?
  2. Does the government of the United States reflect the will of the people?
  3. Do the media provide the straight story of what actually happens?

Sorry, no to all three.

The Bushists have executed a coup d'etat against the Constitution. The Democrats, by and large, have wrung their hands about it and done nothing.

The primary process is designed by insiders for insiders. It's impossibly muddy, random, arbitrary, and unrepresentative. The Electoral College (and who would have thought that that was worthy of preservation when shredding the rest of the Constitution?) is obsolete but serves conservatives now, just as it did when the "Great" Compromise instituted it. Even the House of Representatives relies on districts built for specific outcomes, not to represent the will of the people.

Worst, lobbyists buy the legislative provisions they want. We get crumbs.

The media is corrupted by its slavish adherence to the establishment. Afflict the comfortable? But they invite me to parties!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The little things in life

One of the joys of the doom of Mitt Romney's Presidential candidacy is the prospect of Eric Fehrnstrom unemployed. Too bad a hired lip, who has mastered the bullshit, passive-aggressive rejoinder the way he has, will always have a comfortable home in the Republican lie-rarchy.

He was so good at getting under my skin that I noted his name the first time I ever heard of him, which must have been 2001 or so.

Trilateral omissions

Tom Tomorrow perfectly captures the fundie, wealthy, and bully factions of the Republican Party, as represented by the three remaining candidates.

And, by the way, what was I thinking to consider McCain only a bully panderer, when he is clearly one of them. Maybe I was confused because he's a paleocon bully, not a neocon bully.

Click image for full cartoon in Salon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Democrat to be named later

On the upside, the Super Tuesday message from Democrats may be that the whole Bill Clinton fiasco in South Carolina reminded them of the downside of the huge itinerant soap opera that the Clintons are. Though much of that is not their fault, it's still true, and maybe Democrats are ready to take a chance on someone else. (Who could that be?) I know I am.

Obama's weakness is still that he's inexperienced. There's just no getting around that fact. I'd love to see him announce the intention to appoint Al Gore as his chief of staff, but that's just a blogger fantasy with about as little likelihood as finding a pony in Iraq.

Obama's nomination against McCain has a downside. There are still a bunch of old white guys who wouldn't admit to racism but who would hesitate to vote for a black man. Of course, it's also true that many of them would hesitate to vote for a woman. Hell, even John Edwards wasn't going to win many of these guys.

Is this why I'm tired?

John McCain just put a down payment on the nightmare scenario. The GOP standings are very clear, despite the maunderings of the media that the race is still up in the air:

  • McCain - 616
  • Romney - 295
  • Huckabee - 170
If Mitt Romney weren't so obviously a two-faced smarm peddler, he might have won enough fundie delegates away from Mike Huckabee. As it is, Romney and Huckabee have to combine to deny McCain the nomination. Who's going to emulsify that combination of oil and water (snake and holy)?

So, the Republicans who despise McCain because he's a teensy-weensy bit heterodox seem to be deciding that 95% of a loaf is better than Hillary, even if they supposedly lose Ann Coulter in the bargain. Who knows, maybe they'd like to lose her, though they haven't usually shown that sort of good judgement.

Once the war for November starts in earnest, count on the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham experiencing foxhole conversions and supporting McCain. Otherwise, they'll have to take a woman and a Clinton or a black man with Muslims in the woodpile.

I'd really like to escape this nightmare and get some rest...


Finally, there's proof that liberalism is the work of the devil:

Should I, like the Reagans, change my address?

Brain food

I guess Kate Capshaw's character in Temple of Doom was right to faint when offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spoon monkey brains directly out of their skulls. Not that I needed much encouragement, but I'm striking brains off my list of potential edibles. At this point, here are the risks:

  • pig brains (the new one) - unnamed inflammatory syndrome, no eating required
  • human brains - kuru (not a large risk outside Papua New Guinea, particularly for those of us who long ago struck "long pig" from our diets)
  • cattle brains - bovine spongiform encephalopathy (love that phrase), a/k/a mad cow or Creutzfeld-Jakob type II
  • sheep brains - scrapie (not known in humans)
  • squirrel brains - another spongiform encephalopathy, possibly afflicting Mike Huckabee
  • deer and elk brains - chronic wasting disease, yet another spongiform encephalopathy
The story sources to Dr. Aaron DeVries this claim:
The disease bore no resemblance to mad cow disease.
Except, it's not transmissible from human to human, it shows neurological symptoms, and it's associated with using brains for food, all true of BSE. True, the symptoms are not an invariable decline to dementia and death, but that's hardly "no resemblance". I'd like to know more about what the Minnesota Dept. of Health or the CDC did to rule out another prion-based disease.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What to look for on Super Tuesday

Imagine Ted Baxter reading this: As the votes roll in across this great nation, you'll know it's a good day for John McCain if Mitt Romney fails to hold Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton should also do well there, having fired back at Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama with a Kennedy endorsement of her own - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

And blah, blah, blah...

Oh, yeah, turnout! What's the turnout going to be like?

Please, please, please, let an underdog win somewhere, so we can use our canned Super Bowl analogies. (Shh, we can always say that Mike Huckabee wanted to be the New York Giants today but couldn't quite put together the power rush.)

And now, the latest update on Natalee Holloway and the dirtbag van der Sloot... (I'm totally up to date on that because I spent a couple hours in a pizza place that had Headline News on, and -- barf!)

What to look for on Super Tuesday: the votes. They come in plenty fast these days (most of the time).

No one needs a bunch of well-turned-out vacuous news commentators to predict the outcome with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter (ha!), hypocrites all for caring about John Edwards's haircut when they have stylists on staff. We can all wait for actual news.

Meanwhile, as they media bloviators are forced to wait along with the rest of us, could they cover Duhbya's irresponsible budget and the FBI's request to tag us all with biometrics when we can't even agree to tag explosives? How about some coverage of that?

Monday, February 4, 2008

This meddlesome judge

The nerve of some federal judges who won't bow and scrape to Preznit Duhbya! While I'm making ecclesiastical references, how many divisions does Florence-Marie Cooper have?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hundred years war

For full Mike Lukovich cartoon from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, click the image.

Even hate my rock and roll

For full Steve Kelley, Times-Picayune, cartoon, click the image.

"Why I ignore the Intertubes"

"Stream of spam offers little insight". I know I'm marginal, but what is Brian C. Mooney? Good phrase this: "relentless media coverage of the irrelevant and banal", but Mooney applies it to the Internet, not to the MSM.

As always, the bipartisan group of former diplomats and members of Congress is the serious group.

Remind me, why is that again?

Beating its own record to rack up the largest annual corporate profit in American history, Exxon Mobil Corp. said yesterday it earned $40.6 billion for the year, reaping the benefits of crude oil prices around $100 a barrel.
Benefits, huh? When their major cost goes up, their profit goes up? Yeah, sure, price changes can show the impact of increased demand, and that demand is inelastic. Exxon Mobil just bumps up its bite, too. Corporations exist to price-gouge; that's what this is.

Forty billion dollars will buy a lot of politicians. Or a lot of gasoline:
The annual profit was enough, at $3 a gallon, to buy nearly four 15-gallon fill-ups for the roughly 243 million registered passenger vehicles on American roads.
Update: Beth Cravens cartoon - click image for full cartoon.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Looking on the bright side

Most people who run for office don't want to be issue candidates. They want to win, not move the conversation. John Edwards wanted to win but he exited as an issue candidate.

Paul Krugman bids Edwards a fond farewell by explaining how Edwards actually did move the conversation. All that effort and sacrifice had good effects on the Democratic Party. Now maybe, it will have good effects on America, indirect though they may be.

Krugman does miss with this:

It’s true that Mr. Obama has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing: the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.
This should have been true. Edwards was the candidate who gave the working class a seat at the table, and he did get some union support because of it. But the truth is that Edwards was more popular with liberal, educated, relatively affluent white guys like me, and there just aren't enough of us to win any vote.

Image used without permission. If they mind, I'll take it down!

Parroting the news

So, it turns out that the Iraqi authorities had nearly every particular right, while the press officers from the American military now have to send out higher ranking officers to, ahem, correct the record.

I don't know that officials of my government were lying. They could have simply been mistaken. But I am very tired of being unable to rely on public statements, delivered with such certitude, that should be made with care instead of ideology.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Give us your tired, your poor - we'll tranq 'em

This sort of abuse is never far away when guards grow comfortable with more coercion. Do I have to keep repeating plaintively that this is exactly why we have to have due process if we want to have liberty? We can't stay free by leaving it to the discretion of someone in the heat of a moment. I barely recognize my country any more.

But the wingnut fear-mongers want less oversight.

Want a friend in Baghdad - get a dog

Well, maybe instead an African gray parrot that says, "Down with Bush!" Sounds pretty smart - I hear Brandeis has an opening for an intellectually talented African gray.

Baghdadis care enough about pets to venture again to al Ghazl market, which has been bombed again and again. While I doubt they treat their pets as if they are their children, the way we Americans do, this still says much about their humanity.

The CNN story is really two stories, probably the one filed by the local stringers Ahmed Taha and Jomana Karadsheh and the other massaged with the official U.S. government line by CNN editors. In the Iraqi story, the bombers were Down Syndrome dupes; in the American story, vicious terrorists. Iraqi, 98 dead, 200 wounded; American, 27 and 53.

What's true? I have no way to know, but I do know that my government has lied to me over and over and over again.

There's something unique in the writing of this story, too. It reads like a report that's not determined to contribute to a specific narrative. It contains the obligatory spin quotes from Americans, the interpretations that could well be true but which are given too prematurely to show any deference to the slow truth of what actually happened.

Maybe we should try treating people from the rest of the world the way we treat our pets.

Image from Wikimedia Commons under GFDL.

Clinton's popularity

Bill's, not Hillary's.

There is no doubt that Bill Clinton has a magnetic effect on people. But that's true of many politicians. The Washington press corps keeps telling me that Duhbya has it, too, though frankly their other work - and the obvious smirking disdain he feels for all of us - makes me very skeptical of that claim.

In any case, it has become an article of faith that Bill is popular and that his administration was popular. I don't remember it that way.

What I recall is that most everyone liked the boom times but didn't give him too much credit for them, a little but by no means most of it. For various reasons, most people viewed him positively, though even staunch Democrats had misgivings, and liberals like me could enumerate his many failings to go with his many, though relatively small, successes.

I think Bill got high popularity marks not so much because people liked him, really liked him, but because they saw what a royally screwed up raw deal he was getting from the VWRC. They knew he didn't deserve that, and they answered pollsters accordingly.

Don't we all do that to polls? Figure out what question they're really asking and answer it. So, for example, if they ask, "Do you approve of the job that Congress is doing?", are they asking, "Did Congress fulfill its appointed mission from the 2006 election?" If so, HELL NO! But if the pollster's asking, "Do you prefer having the Democrats in charge of Congress?", sure, o.k., yeah.

One large basis of Hillary's candidacy is the popularity of Bill. Sure enough, his administration was miles ahead of Duhbya's unbroken serial fuck-up. But is that enough to convince the voters? I'm not sure it's deep enough for that.

I saw a Hillary ad tonight, and she touted her 35 years of experience. That experience is real, but it comes entirely via partnership with Bill, and that makes it very difficult to assess separately from him.

If we're going to vote for a nonetheless Constitutional third Clinton term, and it's going to be a referendum on the first two, can the less gifted politician in the family actually deliver it? Against Mitt Romney, sure, but how about John McCain? Putting a natural bully in the White House, after Duhbya has shown how easily bullied the Congressional Democrats are, scares me.