Monday, July 31, 2006

Why?

When I look at the political battlefield for 2006, I see a multitude of Republican vulnerabilities -- issues and screwups that will make every incumbent Repug mumble, shuffle and try to change the subject:
  • Osama bin Laden
  • Afghanistan
  • WMDs
  • Iraq/al Qaeda ties
  • Iraq reconstruction
  • Iraqi democracy
  • 2500+ dead Amercian soldiers
  • Social Security reform
  • Culture of corruption (Tom DeLay/Jack Abramoff)
  • Oil company profits
  • New Orleans
  • Katrina
  • Terry Schiavo
  • The deficit
  • George Bush
  • Dick Cheney

Pretty much every Republican in America is vulnerable on most if not all of these issues. So what are the Dem's stressing with their "Six for '06" campaign?

• “Real Security At Home And Overseas”

• “Better American Jobs — Better Pay”

• “College Access For All”

• “Energy Independence — Lower Gas Prices”

• “Affordable Health Care — Life-Saving Science”

• “Retirement Security and Dignity”

If this was couples therapy, it would be time to reach for "Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus."

Maybe the Big Six polled through the roof. Maybe offering a positive agenda is the way to go. And it sure beats the "We can do better"nonsense they trotted out a month or so ago. But this seems to me to be a monstrously stupid approach.

This kind of approach only reinforces the perception of the Democrats as the Mommy party. I don't really think people need to be reminded of that. What they need reminding of is that Daddy is an alcoholic, abusive psychopath who is spending his childrens' meager inheritance on his violent, drunken binges. Democratic silence on these issues is a huge missed opportunity to force Republicans to fragment over their litany of failure.

Fareed Zakaria gets it:
[If I were running against conservatives,] I would make up a campaign commercial almost entirely of Donald Rumsfeld’s press conferences, because the man is looking — I mean, it’s not just that he seems like a bad Secretary of [Defense]. He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he’s living in a different world, not a different country.
Matt Stoller gets it, too. Why doesn't the Democratic Party?

Random observations

On the back of a US twenty dollar bill says it "In God We Trust" above a picture of the White House.

I am now holding a British ten pound note which, at current exchange rates, is its rough equivalent. On the back of the UK currency is a picture of Charles Darwin.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Strategery

Ad Nags's article about Lieberman is making the rounds through the blogosphere this afternoon, largely because it tips off the NY Times's decision to endorse Ned Lamont over Holy Joe in the August primary:

The editorial page of The New York Times on Sunday endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with Mr. Bush on national security.
But I thought the real money quote was this one, a little further down:
“I want to assure you that I’m not surprised that I am in a fight for the Democratic nomination,” he said. “I always expected that I would have a primary challenge based on Iraq. I was hoping that God would send me a poor challenger. I am being tested with a rich challenger.”

Pretty much his and King George's plan for taking on Iraq itself. No doubt Joe sees this battle as more important than the slaughter he feels is going so well for our troops and Iraqi citizens. Let's hope it works out as well for him in Connecticut.

Never retreat, never surrender

This from the recent article on the attempt by the White House to take another bite at the dictatorship apple, White House Bill Proposes System to Try Detainees - New York Times:

“This draft shows that the executive branch doesn’t think the Supreme Court got the questions on the Geneva Conventions right in Hamdan,” said John C. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who as a Justice Department lawyer helped draft the president’s original order establishing the military commissions."

Like the Tim Allen character in "Galaxy Quest," the Bush backers refuse to admit that theirs is a make-believe world. And so it falls to John Yoo, self-styled legal scholar, to characterize the Bush Administration's open defiance of the Supreme Court, and their continued mau-mauing of the Constitution, as an attempt to correct the Supreme Court's mistake -- as if there had been any doubt for the last 203 years about whether the President was obligated to defer to the Supremes in such matters.

Many folks have argued that Yoo, a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law, should be disqualified because of his politics, or for his role in the infamous torture memo. I think he should be disqualified for his shocking ignorance about the basics of Constitutional Law.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your peeps, Doc

The American Psychological Association is under fire from some of its members and other professionals for declaring that it is permissible for psychologists to assist in military interrogations.

An online petition against the group's policy has garnered more than 1,300 signatures from members and other psychologists. Protest forums are being planned for the APA's convention next month in New Orleans. And some members have threatened to withhold dues or quit.

The unrest stems from an APA policy, issued last year, that says that while psychologists should not get involved in torture or other degrading treatment, it is ethical for them to act as consultants to interrogation and information-gathering for national security purposes.

That stand troubles some members of the organization in light of the reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

"The issue is being couched as psychologists helping out with national security at the same time that psychologists are opposed to the issue of torture," said Chicago psychologist William Gorman, an APA member who signed the petition and works with refugee survivors of torture. "That stance in the present context appears to me incongruous."

News reports have said that mental health specialists who are helping U.S. military interrogators have helped create coercive techniques, including sleep deprivation and playing on detainees' phobias, to extract information.


I guess that "First do no harm" thang doesn't apply here.

Oy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I heart Senator Snark

via Raw Story:
A United States Senator has introduced an amendment to re-name the Republican energy bill after an infamous Ex-Exxon-Mobil executive, RAW STORY has learned.

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) filed the amendment today. It would re-name the bill itself, "The Lee R. Raymond Oil Profitability Act.”

Earlier this year, Raymond received the largest exit package in U.S. history--worth nearly $400 million--to step down as CEO of the oil giant.

Democrats have blasted previous Republican-backed energy packages as handouts to corporations not in need, while gas prices soar for consumers.

“While gas prices have soared, the Republican Congress has showered oil companies with special favors,” The New Jersey lawmaker said in a statement. “These companies reap record profits while consumers struggle. Lee Raymond symbolizes the excesses of Big Oil, so this bill should carry his name."


You may remember Senator Lautenberg from this previous delightful bit of snark:
Just two days after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) forced a closed session to highlight an alleged lack of progress into a probe of pre- Iraq war intelligence, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) staged another act of political disobedience today.

Lautenberg filed an amendment to change the official name of the "Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act 2005" to the "Moral Disaster of Monumental Proportion Reconciliation Act."

I'll take my good news where I can.

The Big Picture from the Big Suit

David Byrne Journal: 7.22.06: Blowback

(C)ommentators have pointed out that previous Israeli invasions and “security measures” all but created — as in gave popular support to — both Hamas and Hezbollah, just as recent U.S. policies in the “war against terrorism” has had the effect of serving as a recruiting poster for anti U.S. causes. Similarly, the “war against drugs” in Latin America — a policy that was perceived locally as an attack on poor rural farmers rather than on drug kingpins — might also be seen as the seed that grew into the current wave of anti-American leaders and popular sentiment. The blowback isn’t always immediate or an exact mirror of the policy or action — it sometimes takes years to manifest and may pop up in wildly unexpected forms.


Cause and effect being so esoteric a concept that we cannot possibly expect those with the power to make war to understand it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

From immoral action to immoral inaction



emptywheel @The Next Hurrah lays out the cynical posturing that is the Bush response to the ongoing tragedy in Lebanon.

In Iraq, we did and continue to do great evil through our actions. Now we do evil by our failure to act.

Combined with Condi's dog whistle call-out to the rapture crowd about "birth pangs," it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they really do want World War III.

It may well take divine intervention at this point to stop them from getting their wish.

The Big Lie

Think Progress » Sen. Inhofe Compares People Who Believe In Global Warming To ‘The Third Reich’
In an interview, he heaped criticism on what he saw as the strategy used by those on the other side of the debate and offered a historical comparison.

“It kind of reminds . . . I could use the Third Reich, the big lie,” Inhofe said.

“The big lie,” is a propaganda technique Adolf Hitler attributed to Jews in his book Mein Kampf. It involves telling lies “so colossal” that no one would believe “others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”


Meanwhile:


Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial" and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years.

I, Nostradamus:
A dangerous world increases the need for comfort, and if filling that need requires a belief in the objectively false (like Saddam-9/11 links, or Iraqi WMDs), so be it. Pointing out that Bush did nothing to prevent 9/11, or has made us less safe with his new crusade, is unavailing. The faithful vest in the object of their faith attributes based not on reality, but the size of the hole they expect him to fill. A sickening spiral ensues: the further Bush drifts from the moorings of reality, the stronger the support from his disciples becomes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wolcott

No snark. No showy metaphors. Just blunt outrage.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Half an O. Henry story

From the AP:
Despite the heat wave that pushed energy use to an all-time high this week, experts say Governor Schwarzenegger probably does not have to fear the blackouts that ended former Governor Davis' political career.

And he has Davis to thank for that.

The long-term contracts Davis signed, at great political cost, guarantee plentiful energy for the next few years at what now look like good rates.

Davis was recalled from office in 2003 partly because of the energy crisis.

The other half, were this an O. Henry story, would involve Schwartzenegger sacricifing something of value in return, or paying a price for failing to do so.

O. Henry, of course, wrote fiction.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A better analogy than Vietnam

I am not a good enough student of history to be able to make the argument, but I have been concerned for several days that as the Israelis continue to inflame and provoke, there is a precedent even more horrifying than America's Waterloo. But Yglesias is, and he confirms my intuition:
The current dynamic, in essence, is that various elements -- mostly in the United States and in Israel, but also elsewhere throughout the West -- see Hezbollah's cross-border raid as providing a useful pretext for launching a preventative war against what's seen as rising Iranian and Hezbollah power. You can get a flavor of this line of thinking from the Washington Post's headline "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace".

In 1914, Germany viewed war with Russia as inevitable and thought it was better to fight sooner rather than later and therefore sought opportunities to get into war. Similarly, when it took office, the Bush administration was convinced that war with Iraq was inevitable and began casting about for opportunities to fight one. As of a month ago, Bush and Israeli leaders were convinced that despite the Cedar Revolution and six years of waning Israel-Hezbollah tensions that war was inevitable, and now they’ve found an opportunity to fight it. Significant elements of American opinion likewise see a clash with Iran as inevitable and have been persistently trying for the past several years to find a saleable pretext for starting one, and many see the current crisis as promising in that regard.


Santayana was an optimist.

Naivete, indeed (Weekend WOTD)

Andrew Sullivan is in some ways the most entertaining voice on the political scene. He is in turn insightful, insane, introspective and knee-jerk stupid.

On the whole the good Sully has been making more points than bad Sully lately, but today's post, "War and Naivete" is bad Sully resurgent. He quotes a reader's criticism of another post Sully implicitly endorsed criticizing the Iraq war, and Sybil Sully agrees with the criticism.
I'm angry at the unnecessary bungling of the war in Iraq, but the following caveats must be made:

a) there was no obvious, easy alternative that would have solved all our problems. A rapidly failing state in Iraq, hemmed in by sanctions and inherited by Saddam's psychopathic sons was not a recipe for success either...

But let's be precise here, because Sully has often fallen into this trap. (Not that he is the onoly one.) There are three different classes of problems being conflated here: problems, America's problems, and Sully's problems. Separating them is essential, and makes the errors here rather plain.

The (assumed, but not empirically verifiable) fact that Iraq was a failing state was a problem, but pre-invasion it was not America's problem. Reducing the threat of terrorism for Americans was clearly America's problem. But that threat was not ameliorated, and obviously could not be ameliorated, by invading Iraq. The fact that the war was bungled is unfortunate but irrelevant to that conclusion. And finally, the perceived need to kick somebody's butt -- anybody's -- in order to compensate for unacknowledged feelings of powerlessness... well, that was Sully's problem. (Of course it didn't happen because of Sully's tantrum. It happened because of the tantrums of more powerful but even less insightful men.)

And as long as he is as unwilling to acknowledge the extent to which such simple schoolyard psychology lit the fuse on this ongoing disaster, he will continue to periodically rise to WOTD status.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All the President's earplugs

From Ken Silverstein @ Harpers:

I reported in May that despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq, no National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been produced on that country since the summer of 2004. The last NIE, a classified document that the CIA describes as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue,” was rejected by the Bush Administration (after being leaked to the New York Times) as being too negative, though its grim assessment subsequently proved to be highly accurate.

The situation has gotten even darker since my initial story—a United Nations report cited in Wednesday's New York Times found that an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day in June—and I've learned from two sources that some senior figures at the CIA, along with a number of Iraq analysts, have been pushing to produce a new NIE. They've been stonewalled, however, by John Negroponte, the administration's Director of National Intelligence, who knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version. That could create problems on the Hill and, if it is leaked as the last one was, with the public as well.

“What do you call the situation in Iraq right now?” asked one person familiar with the situation. “The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters.” Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”


They proudly telegraphed their M.O. a few years ago. Every time I see them bending over backwards to avoid acknowledging the nightmares pressing up against Bush's bubble, I am reminded of the Ron Suskind piece in the NYT in October, 2004:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
How can anyone be surprised now? Mein Kampf was published in 1925, long before WWII and the Holocaust began. Nobody took him seriously, either.

Gilliard has it, too



No, I am not going to let go of this. Steve Gilliard found a bigger copy of the picture.

I don't care what the clinical diagnosis is. What I see here is incredibly offensive, and demands action. This kindof non-consensual touching (what lawyers sometimes refer to as "battery") would get a janitor fired, and yet our President makes a habit of it with impunity.

Do we get Ginsu knives, too?

OK, I'm hooked. Every since Rapture Ready popped into Left Blogostan's collective consciousness last week, I've been strolling through every day or so to sample their philosophical wares. Today I clicked through on "Instant Nullification," assuming that Mr. James would describe how the body housing my agnostic soul was going to be incinerated when Jesus came back to clean up the 'hood, but no:

I really don't think many of us realize what an incredible transformation the rapture implies. Any situation in your life that appears to have you in its grasp will remain down here the day you're caught up into glory. If you're like me, I can think of several situations that I would love to leave behind. I've listed below some of the prime examples of why someone should wish for instantaneous nullification:

    • Health problems
    • Problems on the job
    • Moral failures
    • Economic hardships
    • Legal problems
    • Business failure
    • Marital or relationship difficulties
    • Trouble in school
    • Mental distress

Here are some more specific situations that may or may not apply to you:

    • Your only friend in life chases squirrels and goes by the name Fido.
    • You're so sickly that your life insurance company will only carry you on a week-to-week basis.
    • In school, you're failing everything except study hall and lunch.
    • Your children are into so much trouble that the police have more pictures of them than you do.
    • Everyone else's money talks--yours only stutters.
    • Your car is so rusted it weighs half of what it did brand new.
    • Your web page is getting two hits a day--you and your brother.
    • You're not affected by financial reversals. You're already broke.
    • You had to let your maid go because your husband wouldn't.
    • As a child, both of your parents helped you run away from home.

Better than an intervention by Dr. Phil and a link from Atrios combined.

Time: All previous issues are now inoperative


PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION



Remember last week? It was supposedly the end of the All Hat, No Brain Cattle era of foreign policy in the Bush Administration, spun so nicely that you'd have thought that the Bushistas had a choice in acting like grown-ups for a change.

Well, diplomacy is, like, so last week. Here's the latest:

If warfare is a violent contest of political will, then cease-fire agreements are its scoreboards. And the Bush Administration wants to make sure that when hostilities are halted in Lebanon, Hizballah's score is a round zero. That's why even as most of the international community clamors for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting that has so far killed 300 Lebanese (mostly civilians) and 29 Israelis (15 of them civilians), the U.S. is dragging its feet — as a matter of policy. While other Western and Arab powers will engage players from Hizballah and the Lebanese government to Iran and Syria, the U.S. remains key to the diplomatic process — for the simple reason that it is the only one capable of persuading Israel to accept a truce. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won't head for the region until early next week, a delay calculated to give Israel more time to succeed in its objective of eliminating Hizballah as a military threat. A senior Administration official told CNN Wednesday that the U.S. was giving Israel's military operation time to "defang" Hizballah, saying Rice would press for an end to the fighting only "when conditions are conducive to do so."
How fucked are we? So fucked that the assministration is actually getting good advice these days from Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oh. My. God.

Raw Story has this picture up on their front page:



The caption reads: "Bush 'playfully' slaps Rep. Al Green at NAACP convention."

I can't find the picture anywhere else. But if this shot is what Raw says it is, then stupidity is no longer Boy Blunder's biggest problem.

Think about the last week's events: talking to Tony Blair as if the Prime Minister was a lowly underling. Manhandling Andrea Merkel. And now slapping a black Congressman, who looks every bit as happy to be touched as Merkel was. It seems the pathology that has been covered with duct tape and baling wire for the last six years is all finally bursting out into the open, all at once. The dismal polls, the cognitive dissonance between Bush's bravado and the constellation of disasters that make up his unsalvageable legacy, the loss of power are all finally shattering the false front that has protected our dry-drunk-in-chief from himself.

Long ago, I saw what may well have been a psychotic break in progress. At first it seemed funny. Then the realization that a human being was actually falling apart before my eyes triggered a mix of fear and horror and (only later, I must admit) sympathy. The guy I saw go off the rails was just a student I didn't know in a class I barely remember. I don't know what happened to him -- I don't think I ever saw him again. At worst, he might have been a danger to himself, or to a handful of people around him.

But if the guy manifesting "a collapse of the "ego integrity", a state of mind where the person is unsure of who they are, where they are, what they are doing and how they should be behaving" is the President of the United States -- and not just any president, but a president who has cultivated a support system that encourages blind faith in his infallibility -- there is nothing remotely funny about it. It is an incipient nightmare of unimaginable magnitude.

Please help hunt this story down and do with it what we did with the Merkel grope. The world needs to confront this danger now.

Update: Less egregious, but supportive of the diagnosis: on his World Tour 2006: Unhinged, there was also this:

Merkel greeted Bush wearing faded blue jeans as the U.S. president and his wife, Laura, arrived in the tiny Baltic town north of Berlin aboard the Marine One helicopter.

They walked past a red-coated band playing a medley of songs like "Hooray for the Red, White and Blue," and Bush plucked the conductor's wand from his hand and led the band for a few notes.

Then he and Merkel posed for pictures with the band as its members played on, Bush startling a woman playing a flute by poking her on the shoulder.

Maybe they're all bloggers

via Political Wire:
In the Connecticut U.S. Senate race, Ned Lamont (D) has surged ahead of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and now holds a razor-thin 51% to 47% lead among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.


The poll also shows Joementum winning in November. But just wait untill the folks in CT see Joe's temper tantrum after he loses the primary.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Advantage, blogosphere




















The instant I saw the stills of Bush's groping of Chancellor Merkel, I knew it was and should be the indelible image of how our stumblebum in chief is screwing up the G8 summit (and everything else he touches).

At first, the MSM seemed not to get it. But the blogosphere exploded.... and the MSM actually picked up on it. Last night it got prominent play on The Daily Show. Today it was a page one, column one story in the SF Chronicle. Not just the Preznit's gaffe -- the story was about how the Internets gave the story legs. We aren't going to replace Old Media's fact-gathering function any time soon, but we are beginning to influence the editorial function. Would the NYT have issued a correction to the incredible gaffe in Anne Kornblut's Hillary smear if not for the firestorm in the lefty blogs? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, Dubya's harassment continues to reverberate. Today TRex at FDL nailed Merkel's reaction:
Chimpy interrupted a conversation between Chancellor Merkel and Romano Prodi, the new Italian Prime Minister, to give Merkel a rather ham-fisted impromptu shoulder rub, which clearly not only squicked her out, but also managed to piss her off enough to result in the photo at the top of this post, in which she seems to be giving vent to the same frustration that all Reality-Based Americans currently feel toward (him)."

Squicked. I had to look it up, but it is perfect.

Update: via BoingBoing (reverberation is built right into the name), another apt characterization:



(Like Kirk's first officer, Shrub is baffled by many normal human customs. OTOH, Spock was smarter than most humans, so the comparison is flawed.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

DeLayed reaction

Former Christian Coalition president Ralph Reed conceded the GOP race for Georgia's Lieutenant Governor to state Sen. Casey Cagle at 9:52 Tuesday night.

"We're very proud of the race that we ran. It was a very positive campaign about the issues," Reed told his supporters. "Tonight, my candidacy for lieutenant governor comes to an end."

Ygelsias so nails it

From TAPPED via Eschaton, Yglesias comments on the deflation of the Leo Strauss worship found at Balkinization. (Got that?) All important, but check out this bottom line:
(T)he current campaign to defend and spread liberal principles against Islamist extremism is being spearheaded by people who neither understand those principles nor have any real affection for them.


Indeed.

Cold comfort

Anybody remember the gushing (pun intended) story on 60 Minutes a few months ago about how the Candian oil sand reserves would solve all of our energy problems?

There’s an oil boom going on right now. Not in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or any of those places, but 600 miles north of Montana.

In Alberta, Canada, in a town called Fort McMurray where, in the dead of winter, the temperature sometimes zooms up to zero.

The oilmen up there aren’t digging holes in the sand and hoping for a spout. They’re digging up dirt — dirt that is saturated with oil. They’re called oil sands, and if you’ve never heard of them then you’re in for a big surprise because the reserves are so vast in the province of Alberta that they will help solve America’s energy needs for the next century.

Within a few years, the oil sands are likely to become more important to the United States than all the oil that comes to us from Saudi Arabia.

I remember seeing it, and being more than a little skeptical, and thinking it was grossly irresponsible for CBS to join the cheerleading for maintaining our spendthrift status quo.

It seems CBS was indeed full of a dark brown substance albeit one that is not petroleum-based.

Wired Magazine's Autopia reports that
according to Western Oils Sands, one of the major players in the oil sands project, the cost of extracting the oil is "skyrocketing." The cost of its project jumped 50 percent over the previously estimated bill of $7.3 billion, thanks to increasing costs of labor and supplies. Competitor Nexen says its oil sands costs will rise 10 percent, while Shell says the cost of its oil sands plant went up 50 percent.

According to Western, oil sands are a mixture of sand, bitumen and water. Bitumen is a heavy viscous crude oil that contains high amounts of sulfur. Bitumen can be processed into high quality, synthetic oil.

The environmental cost is also steep, as Al Gore told Rolling Stone that "four metric tons of landscape is torn up for every barrel of oil."

So while there may be lots of oil in the sand, it won't come cheaply.
The $200 fill-up is coming.

Monday, July 17, 2006

With apologies to Professor Lakoff

I know -- we are supposed to drop the Preznit Moron meme. I agreed with that suggestion. But...but...but. There was the pig fixation. There was the open mike gaffe. But those are all chump change compared to the series of photographs Steve Gilliard has up at his blog. The pics show the Shrub initiating totally inappropriate physical contact with German Chancellor Merkel, and her stunned, horrified response. Maybe you will have a different reaction, but they give me the willies. Take a look and tell me what you think.

What time and fear and alcohol can do

Who said this?
Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life--except religion. . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our 'godly gift' of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”

A man who has violated his own premise by helping to create another department in which gullibility is a virtue -- Christopher Hitchens.

Errata

A few days ago I went off on Victor Davis Hanson again, and in my zeal I made an error.

Hanson said this:
Meanwhile, because of the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's energy sector has been purged of corruption (such as the U.N.'s scandal-plagued oil-for-food program).

I commented thusly:
Yes, Vic, perhaps the Iraq oil industry has been purged of corruption. (We seem to have taken over that function.) But more to the point, it has also been purged of the ability to produce oil.

However, by giving credence to Hanson's ability to get even basic predicate facts right, I made a significant error. From today's WaPo: Corruption Cited in Iraq's Oil Industry
U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker told Congress last week that "massive corruption" and "a lot of theft going on" in Iraq's government-controlled oil industry is hampering the country's ability to govern itself.

"It took me about, you know, a second and a half to realize that, obviously, there was massive corruption going on, because the numbers just didn't add up," Walker said, referring to a trip he took to Iraq this year in which he was shown figures on oil production and revenue.

Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office, made his remarks at a House Government Reform subcommittee meeting last Tuesday called to examine implementation of the Bush administration's 2005 "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." He said one of the failures of the U.S. program was related to the prewar assumption that Iraq would be able to pay for its reconstruction "in large part through oil revenues."

He said about 10 percent of Iraq's refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels are being stolen, in part because the subsidized Iraqi price of gasoline, about 44 cents a gallon, is less than half the regional price of 90 cents a gallon. "That provides a tremendous incentive to be able to steal these fuels and be able to sell them for whatever purposes, corruption or otherwise," Walker said.

Walker noted that oil production, which was to provide prime support to the new government, is below prewar production and distribution levels, complicated by the insurgency and difficulties in maintaining the aging oil infrastructure.

Bluememe regrets the error.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What PZ said

PZ Meyers is one of several I've seen pointing out the obscene reaction of the Rapture monkeys to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Yes, they really are Praying for the mushroom clouds.

But the unique value-add from PZ is this observation:
It must be painful to be so crazy, yet not quite so crazy that you don't notice that the rest of the world thinks you're crazy.

A great throwaway line, but it triple-distills an essntial truth. It is the same truth contained in the Doonesbury strip in which the doctor asks his Creationist patient if he wants penicilin or a newer antibiotic that takes into account the way bacteria have evolved in the last 50 years. It is the same truth revealed in the fact that all but the wingnuttiest creationsits want their kids to learn evolution.

The cognitive dissonance has to be incredibly corrosive for the fundies cursed with enough gray matter to see the logical absurdity of the consequences fo their faith. Perhaps that explains the vicousness of their attacks on us -- if they were truly confident in their beliefs, it wouldn't be so easy to make them foam at the mouth.

Of pots and kettles and such

Condi:
Rice rejected the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq have shaken Middle East stability, arguing, "Those hostilities were not very well contained, as we found out on Sept. 11, and so the notion that somehow policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque."


WaPo's Fred Hiatt:
The movement to combat democracy

SOME AIM TO REBUILD AUTHORITARIAN RULE
By Fred Hiatt

When communism collapsed in 1991, no one expected democracy to triumph everywhere and instantly. But no one expected the other side to fight back, either. After all, what was "the other side''?

Yet as President Vladimir Putin hosts the first summit of Group of Eight leaders in Russia, the most notable thing isn't that his country has failed to become the consolidated democracy that the G-7 countries expected when they invited Russia to join a decade ago. What is remarkable -- but has been little remarked on -- is that Putin has become a leader and an emblem of an active movement to combat the spread of democracy.

"What seems to be the case,'' Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me, "is that governments that are authoritarian have decided to fight back.''

Lugar chaired a hearing last month on "The Backlash Against Democracy Assistance,'' which is the title of a report he commissioned from the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, federally funded organization created in 1983 to promote democratic institutions around the world. The organization found the backlash to be most pronounced in what Carl Gershman, NED's president, calls ``hybrid regimes'': autocracies that maintain some nominally democratic processes, usually including elections, and that generally claim to be democracies.


Mustache of Freedom:
(W)hy do parties like Hamas and Hezbollah get elected? Often because they effectively run against the corruption of the old secular state-controlled parties, noted Mr. Ezrahi. But once these Islamists are in office they revert to serving their own factional interests, not those of the broad community.


I believe shrinks have a word for this phenomenon:

Interesting take on nuclear power

I've been opposed to nuclear power since .... well, forever. Before Chernobyl. Before Three Mile Island. But if you take the global warming crisis seriously, then I think you have to go back and go through the whole risk-benefit analysis again on nuclear power. Chernobyl was a horrible tragedy, but if the choice is (and maybe it is and maybe it isn't -- I'm just throwing a hypothetical out there in a bottle with a lit rag in the end) another Chernobyl on e one hand or Al Gore's worst case scenario on the other, how sure are you that your first answer is the best one?

I am not saying that I am ready to embrace nukes -- not by a long shot. But read this thoughtful discussion from Monbiot.com.

I am not sure I agree with everything there, but I do think it is a good discussion to have. As the post points out, there are huge and difficult problems with decommissioning and disposal that have not been solved. There are lots of reasons for that, but should we assume that they are therefore unsolveable?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Martingale school of foreign policy

Glenn Greenwald catalogues the way the Neocons are seizing upon the escalating violence in the Middle East as an opportunity to have the war they really, really wanted all along.

One of the most widely known and widely ridiculed "systems" for casino gambling is the Martingale system.
Most players in the casino are looking for a system to help them get the edge. Many of them stumble upon or hear about a surefire system that involves doubling their bets after each loss. They figure that sooner or later they have to win. This system that is called the Martingale system and it has been around for years. It has also been the ruin of many players. Here is how it works. You make a bet and if you lose you double your bet. If you lose again you double your bet. You keep doing this until you win and then go back to your original bet.

The Martingale System assumes two facts: that the there are no table limits, and that the player's pockets are bottomless. If either or both of those assumptions is false, the system generally leads to disaster.

I don't use the Martingale system, because it is so obviously, fatally flawed. I don't like casinos, because the games are all stacked against players. Las Vegas was built as a monument to, and using the money taken from, those who believe in "systems," "luck," or some oxymoronic combination thereof.

But it looks like I will be financing a Martingale play after all.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hurray for Captain Spaulding

One of today's Raw Story headlines:

NYT: Retailers eye teen lingerie market: Developing...



Captain Spaulding, Animal Crackers:


'We took some pictures of the native girls but they
weren't developed. But we're going back again in a
couple of weeks !'


I know, I know. Just looking for berries.

Your handbasket is waiting

Departures to Hell every hour on the hour.

What with the quiptillion briquettes sprinkled around the Middle East by Bush and Iran and Hezbollah and Al Qaeda who knows who else, it ain't going to take much more Israeli lighter fluid to make one giant fireball over there.

Back home, Arlen Specter appears to have successfully presided over a capitulation that makes Lee's surrender to Grant look like a win-win compromise.

Bush's untrammelled ability to bring us to the end of days will soon be realigned with his desire to get there.

I remember reading long ago about a Zen Master who, forced to retreat by a hungry tiger, fell off a cliff. For a few moments his fall was broken by a berry vine. Mere seconds before the vine would certainly give way and send him to his death, the master plucked a berry into his mouth, and said, "My, what a sweet berry!"

I'm no Zen Master. Here's the best I can do:


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Billmon: Gore Agonistes

Billmon wistfuly reviews An Inconvenient Truth. But what he really is talking about isn't the show, but the theater:

At one point, Gore spoke of his initial confidence, back when he was just a junior U.S. Senator, that if he could put the scientific evidence before Congress and the public, they would do something about it. And he talked about how disappointed he was when he realized it wasn't so – not when virtually every industrial lobby in Washington had a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

I thought it was a telling moment, and it reminded me of a line from John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger, in which the angry anti-hero Jimmy describes his aging father-in-law as "an Edwardian plant, wondering why the sun doesn't shine any more."

I don't say this as an insult – or at least, not in the way Osborne meant it. I'm an old plant myself, increasingly out of place in, and out of touch with, this not-so-brave new world we now live in. I'm also enough of a policy wonk to admire Gore's slide show, which takes an enormously complex topic and turns it into a presentation that's both scientifically accurate and engaging enough to be worth a hundred minute movie. Al's fighting the good fight, and I salute him for it.

But there is something tragic, even a little pathetic, about Gore's stubborn faith in the ability of facts and reasoned argument to save the world. The scenes of him schlepping through airports – alone, laptop in hand, on his way to yet another city to show his slides to another room full of college students or environmental activists – hit the edge of bathos. They make Al look too much like Willy Loman. "Attention must be paid to this man."

This is the Al Gore the Washington political press corps never seemed to grow tired of mocking: The earnest wonk who takes serious ideas seriously, and assumes his audience does, too. Up on stage, in front of such an audience, Al is clearly in his element. He’s articulate, funny, even endearing – as when he rides an accordion lift to the top of the viewing screen to illustrate the soaring rate of increase in atmospheric CO2. It’s a reminder that Al’s at his best when he’s being himself, instead of imitating Bill Clinton’s folksiness (which only made him look like Salieri next to Clinton's Mozart) or playing the know-it-all bully of his first presidential debate with Bush.

But in our increasingly debased political and cultural climate, just letting Al Gore be Al Gore isn’t commercially viable, not even in an art house documentary.


I wish I could present a contrary view. But I can't. Like bacteria reacting to antibiotics, too many people have evolved a form of immunity to facts and reason. And, like bacteria, they are unable to recognize that they are killing their host.

I found Gore's movie compelling and motivational. But then, Edwardian plant that I am, I always was a sucker for logic.

Armageddon watch: Arthur Silber connects the dots

Arthur Silber thinks Israel's rapid escalation of the recent conflict with Hezbollah, and the Bush Administration's lack of reaction, are all about Iran.

Here we go.

Winner, and still WOTD champion: Victor Davis Hanson

One of these days I really will retire Vic's number and let other worthies have their chance at wanker glory. But VDH so encapsulates the pathology of the wingnutosphere that he is unlikely to lose many fair WOTD fights until then.

Anyway, Vic's latest is a humdinger. Of all things, he exhibits a fit of pique at ... Commander Codpiece himself. Now there are at least 1.5 kajillion things sentient beings could be pissed at the Bush Adminstration about. And the title of Vic's piece certainly promises that he is on to one of them: Instead of giving excuses, give us facts.

Alas, it is not to be. The fact is that Vic doesn't mean facts as residents of the realityosphere would recognize them. He defines facts as "all the insane, alternative universe stuff that has to be true in order to permit me to keep believing the nonsense that is my worldview."

Here are a few of the "facts" Vic wishes his godhead would get out there:

The Arab world's perennial grievances against the United States don't hold up either, given that America has saved Muslims in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait and Somalia, and provided billions in aid to Egyptians, Jordanians and Palestinians.

That is a typically dense (in both senses) Hansonesque payload of nonsense. To wit: (1) Afghanistan is not looking like a shining example of much of anything these days; (2) The fact that some Muslims may have benefited from our Clinton-era actions in the former Yugoslavia is likely overshadowed in the eyes of the average Middle Eastern Muslim by the fact that that was Europe, which we are rightly seen to treat very differently; (3) Kuwait? You gotta be kidding me. The assertion that Gulf War I was in any way about helping Muslims or that it in fact helped ordinary Muslims in any way is beyond absurd; (4) our aid to Egypt helps the near-dictatorshp there maintain its iron fist against a surging Islamist opposition; and (5) just for the hell of it, even if we have done something good there, does it follow that all would be forgiven for other bad acts, no matter their number or magnitude? If I burn your house down, then drop a quarter in your tin cup when you are living in the street, I shouldn't expect much gratitude.

Next:
The Bush administration can also use history to show that, despite what detractors say, its techniques aren't so unreasonable. It's worth reminding the American public that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and shut down newspapers; that Woodrow Wilson imprisoned prominent dissenters like Eugene Debs; and that Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese-American citizens and secret military tribunals for German saboteurs (six of whom were executed) and allowed for the coverup of military catastrophes (such as the hundreds killed during training exercises for the Normandy landings).

In other words, there's an advantage to providing historical perspective by engaging one's critics and answering their charges. The public, for example, should be informed that the accusation that the U.S. went into Iraq for oil ("no blood for oil,'' as the slogan goes) is not merely inaccurate, but crazy. For starters, gas prices skyrocketed once we induced risky change in the Middle East. How does that benefit the American people? Meanwhile, because of the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's energy sector has been purged of corruption (such as the U.N.'s scandal-plagued oil-for-food program).

Wow. Just.... wow. When I studied Con Law, the Japanese Internment cases were considered by one and all to be one of the darkest episodes in our nation's history. We studied some of the 1st Amendment cases from WWI, but it was the dissents from Oliver Wendell Holmes -- dissents defending speech and criticizing an over-reaching executive -- that we lauded. It just boggles my mind that Vic wants Maximum Leader to point to these horrors as precents for his current lawlessness.

Yes, Vic, perhaps the Iraq oil industry has been purged of corruption. (We seem to have taken over that function.) But more to the point, it has also been purged of the ability to produce oil.

As for Vic's blithe dismissal of the blood for oil rap, I give Vic credit for doing his part to save energy by recycling his arguments, and will simply recycle my own smackdown as well.

And finally:

Here at home, we are witnessing the end of the multicultural dogma. Yes, there are really evil people who wish to kill us for who we are, not what we do...

Once again, thanks for being such a good envirnomentalist. My rebuttal dating from January, 2005 is here.

Congrats, Vic. You still da man.

WOTD runner-up: Sully

There are things I can actually respect about Andrew Sullivan: his willingness to question at least some of his own beliefs. His willingness to hash out some difficult issues in public in a process that sometimes borders on the masochistic. That makes him more honorable than the resolute wingnuts who cling ever more tightly to their delusions.

So what to make of this?

In the last few years, I have gone from lionizing this president's courage and fortitude to being dismayed at his incompetence and now to being resigned to mistrusting every word he speaks. I have never hated him. But now I can see, at least, that he is a liar on some of the gravest issues before the country. He doesn't trust us with the truth. Some lies, to be sure, are inevitable - even necessary - in wartime. But when you're lying not to keep the enemy off-balance, but to maximize your own political fortunes at home, you forfeit the respect of people who would otherwise support you - and the important battle you have been tasked to wage.

Credit Sully for half-insight. He sees that he was a fool to trust Bush. But like a dry drunk, he has not addressed the real problem, and remains vulnerable to the next demagogue. What he cannot yet see is his own pathology: the willingess to suspend disbelief in his tribal longing for a chief who will promise to protect him against all evil.

That makes him a salvageable wanker, but a wanker nonetheless.

Almost as much as an orchestra seat to Aida

Shakespeare First Folio fetches 2.8 mln pounds

A rare mint condition First Folio edition of William Shakespeare's plays fetched 2.8 million pounds at an auction on Thursday.

The result at Sotheby's in London was below the top estimate of 3.5 million pounds and less than the saleroom record for a comparable copy of $6.2 million made at Christie's, New York, in 2001.

Several copies of the First Folio have also been sold privately, including that purchased by John Paul Getty from Oriel College, Oxford, for an estimated 3.5 million pounds. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought another, according to media reports.

Printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death and containing 36 plays, only about 250 copies of the First Folio survive and most of those are incomplete.

The volume up for sale on Thursday has been in the Dr. William's Library -- a research facility for English Protestant dissent -- since about 1716, making it the longest uninterrupted ownership by a public library of any copy.

I'm going to pick up a copy for my personal library right after I convince Gates to sell me the Codex.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to: tell how things are going with the wars

When things are going well, high-profile visitors such as the Secretary of Defense and the President announce visits well in advance, and arrive amid much pomp and circumstance, as they do when visiting the rest of the civilized world.

When things are not so hot, you see headlines like these:

Rumsfeld makes surprise visit to Iraq

Rumsfeld makes surprise Kabul trip


Bush makes surprise visit to Iraq

This posting is a public service of the Bluememe News Service.

Holy moly! Olbermann asks The Question!

I just watched Keith on Countdown talking with Howard Feinman about Rudy Giuliani's meandering campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. It started with a discussion of Rudy's recent campaign appearance in support of Man-dog Santorum. But then Keith read the Coulter quote about the 9/11 widows and talked about how Rudy was going to going to have to face The Question evenutally despite his attempts to avoid it. Feinman agreed.

No need to credit me, guys. Your willingness to follow up will be enough for me.

Just do it.

Fuhrerprinzip in action

Think Progress » Justice Department Lawyer To Congress: ‘The President Is Always Right’

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony from Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel. When questioned by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on whether the President’s interpretation of the Hamdan case was right or wrong, Bradbury replied, “The President is always right.”





I am looking forward to reading John Dean's forthcoming book about the growing authoritarian streak in conservative politics. On the other hand, I have already seen the movie.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Republican says US readying crackdown on leaks

The Bush administration is preparing a crackdown on intelligence leaks to the media and will try to pursue prosecutions in some recent cases, the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra also suggested some unauthorized leaks could have been deliberate attempts to help al Qaeda.

"More frequently than what we would like, we find out that the intelligence community has been penetrated, not necessarily by al Qaeda, but by other nations or organizations," he said.

"I don't have any evidence. But from my perspective, when you have information that is leaked that is clearly helpful to our enemy, you cannot discount that possibility," he added.


That's odd; I always assumed that spies wanted to transmit information back to their mother countries or organizations through channels a bit more discrete than the front page of The New York Times. Of course, I don't have any evidence of that.

The enemy of your enemy...

Whitehouse holds fundraising lead for Senate fight

Democratic Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse cracked the million-dollar fundraising mark for the second quarter of 2006, possibly on his way to a healthy cash advantage for the fall campaign.

The former attorney general's receipts overshadowed Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee's best stretch of fundraising to date and underlined the zeal that Democratic contributors around the country have taken to the cause of seizing majority control of the Senate.

...

On the Republican side...the classic dangers of a bloody primary are "just a given" in the race between Chafee and Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey, Duffy said. "The danger to whoever emerges from it is that you may be broke and you're a little bit battered and your 'negatives' are higher," Duffy said, meaning that that attacks of a primary tend to move the electorate to negative views of winner and loser alike.

...

Laffey's campaign said he has between $900,000 and $1 million in the bank, after taking in about $360,000 -- his fourth consecutive quarter in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. So while Whitehouse and Chafee surged, Laffey essentially held steady, suggesting the possibility that he has hit his ceiling as a fundraiser, Duffy said.

...

Another telling figure for the Republicans is the breakdown of money they have available, under federal election law, to spend in the Sept. 12 primary and in the general election.

Chafee reported that he has $1.1 million for the primary and $300,000 for the general. Laffey reported that he has between $670,000 and $770,000 for the primary and about $230,000 for the general.

The figures raise the prospect that either man, as winner of the GOP primary, would start the general election against Whitehouse -- should he defeat underdog Sheeler -- with a big financial problem.


Although Laffey is running neck and neck with Chafee in a June poll, he didn't help himself much last week when he more or less suggested last week that the only good moderate, elderly Republican is a dead moderate, elderly Republican. Even if his electability quotient drops to nothing, however, he sure has enough cash on hand to bloody up Linc in the near term to discourage the Republican base from showing up in November. Given that Chafee is now in a dead heat with Whitehouse, he can't afford to lose any Republican votes, even if they're holding their noses when they cast their ballots.

With "progressive" organizations like these...

I can't imagine y'all stop here before or instead of Firedoglake, but just in case you missed it, check out NARAL's latest suckup to power here.

The one thing I've never been able to figure out with the reasoning behind Joe's infamous quote--you know, "In Connecticut, it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital." If the rape victim happens to find herself in, say, South Dakota or Iowa or--well, anyplace where hospitals ain't so handy--would Joe suggest that the Catholics or the rape victim should shut up and just deal with it?

Yes, they really are that stupid

As manifestly absurd and manipulative as the Bush spin on the deficit numbers is, and as consistent with previous bamboozlements as their crowing is, you might think the press would avoid adopting the "look how much better things are getting" happy horseshit being shoveled.

You might think that the press might notice and point out that the goalposts on this metric, as with so many others, have been mounted on low-friction dollies to facilitate easy movement.

You'd be wrong.

Nota bene: deliberately lowballing a prediction, then beating your own estimate is not the same thing as winning. (OTOH, that is how the press covered Bush's appalling debate performances, so I can understand why the White House tends to stick withthis tactic.)

Brad DeLong explains in more detail.

Shine on you crazy diamond

A small lesson on staying the course

Elapsed time from this



to this:



3 years, 8 months.

Elapsed time from this



to this



and this



and this:



4 years, 10 months. And counting.

Bonus observation: it is very hard to find the kinds of gripping war images from Iraq that one finds for almost every other war, despite the daily reports of bombings, shootings, beheadings, etc. Why is that?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Today's nutshell moment

Lieberman campaign files forms to run as petitioning candidate - Newsday.com
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman filed paperwork Monday that will allow him to collect signatures to petition his way onto the November ballot if he loses an August primary.

Lieberman's campaign announced the move in an e-mail to reporters.

The three-term senator faces a tough Aug. 8 primary challenge from Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. Lieberman, who has been criticized by fellow Democrats for his support of the war in Iraq and a perceived closeness with President Bush, is popular among many unaffiliated and Republican voters in Connecticut.

Lieberman also filed papers with the secretary of the state's office Monday to create a new party called Connecticut for Lieberman.

If Dubya's kissing cousin deserved re-election in any way, shape or form, I would think he would make it clear he understands that what his constituents want to know is whether Lieberman is for Connecticut, and not the other way around.

Yglesias nails it

The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics @ TPMCafe

Captures perfectly the pathetic, dysfunctional pyschology of the rubes like Sully and the TNR crowd who keep rattling other people's sabers.

More framing discipline

Arthur Silber has more good advice about how not to frame the debate on Iraq. In short:

1. Don't talk about it in terms of incompetence (Which is also Lakoff's point);

2. Don't talk about it in terms of bad intelligence; and

3. Assume the press will do the government's bidding.

The third point isn't really so much about framing, but the first two are important to remember. The decision to wage war on Iraq was (and the decision to wage war on Iran will be) a policy decision. Intelligence will always be fixed around the policy, and competence would have led to further imperialistic pursuits. Doing the wrong thing well would not have been better in the long run.

We went to war in Iraq because the neocons wanted to, and they used whatever tools fell to hand to get there.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

See? See?

B. Jay Cooper, "former deputy press secretary to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and served as communications director of the Republican National Committee under four chairmen," had an OpEd in the Houston Chronicle a few days ago. It was titled Don't paint all of us with Ann Coulter's tainted brush:

I'M a Republican. Ann Coulter does not speak for me. But a lot of people think she does.

The loudest, noisiest, most sensational and now, most repugnant, voices on the Republican side of the political spectrum are defining Republicans. I could blame cable television, but it is tough to blame cable for preferring long-legged blond female Republicans to balding middle-age guys like me. They sure make for better-looking TV.

To me, Ann Coulter's exercise of her right to free speech is the political equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. She crosses the line of decency. To me, individuals who engage in name-calling and hate speech to get attention, sell books, increase speaking fees and feather their own nests, are speaking for themselves, not any political party.

My problem is the popular presumption that she represents the Republican Party. We all get painted with her tainted brush. As a result, the popular perception holds Republicans are against almost everything from abortion to homosexuals. And nasty about it to boot. I feel safe in saying that the vast majority — I would guess all but one — of Republicans is not against grieving widows created by the worst crime ever committed against America.

There you go -- more evidence that the polite company Republicans want to throw Coulter under the bus.

It's as if the the whole Republican juggernaut existed in a Road Runner cartoon, and Wile E. Coyote's Acme Political Domination Machine had a slot marked "to immobilize, insert monkey wrench here," only the monosyllabic bird was to friggin' stupid to read it.

Perhaps we should rename the Democrats the Learned Helplessness Party.

Friday, July 07, 2006

What it has come to

Here's how you will know when the terrorists have won: when mainstream news outlets and the millions who still pay attention to them will be thrown into a duck-and-cover tizzy by the online rantings of few clueless nutjobs with as much chance of pulling off a serious act of terrorism as I have of winning a Saudi lottery.

The Raw Story, today:

One former intelligence field officer says, and two other CIA officials confirm, that the alleged plot by Muslim extremists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in New York City was nothing more than chatter by unaffiliated individuals with no financing or training in an open forum already monitored extensively by the United States Government, RAW STORY has learned.

“The so-called New York tunnel plot was a result of discussions held on an open Jihadi web site,” said Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer and contributor to American Conservative magazine, in a late Friday afternoon conversation. Although Giraldi acknowledges that the persons involved – “three of whom have already been arrested in Lebanon and elsewhere - are indeed extremists," their online chatter is considerably overblown by allegations of an actual plot.

“They are not professionally trained terrorists, however, and had no resources with which to carry out the operation they discussed," Giraldi added. "Despite press reports that they had asked Abu Musab Zarqawi for assistance, there is no information to confirm that. It is known that the members discussed the possibility of approaching Zarqawi but none of them knew him or had any access to him.”

In other words, now.

I leave reconciling this triumph of terror with the crowing of the 101st Keyboarders as an exercise for the reader.

Evil v. Stupid

George Lakoff had a very interesting piece up at @ HuffPo a few days ago. (OK, a week ago.) He argued that the Bush moron meme does not serve our long term interest.

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush's plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush's "failures" and label him and his administration as incompetent. For example, Nancy Pelosi recently charged "The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader." Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point.

Bush's disasters -- Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit -- are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault. Bush will not be running again, but other conservatives will. His governing philosophy is theirs as well. We should be putting the onus where it belongs, on all conservative office holders and candidates who would lead us off the same cliff.

To Bush's base, his bumbling folksiness is part of his charm -- it fosters conservative populism. Bush plays up this image by proudly stating his lack of interest in reading and current events, his fondness for naps and vacations and his self-deprecating jokes. This image causes the opposition to underestimate his capacities -- disregarding him as a complete idiot -- and deflects criticism of his conservative allies. If incompetence is the problem, it's all about Bush. But, if conservatism is the problem, it is about a set of ideas, a movement and its many adherents.

On the one hand, I think Lakoff presents a false dichotomy: Bush can be both evil and stupid.

And I have certainly helped to to further the moron meme.

But I think Lakoff is right in a very important way. The Republican machine can compartmentalize and minimize the long-term damage from this train wreck of an Administration by adopting the moron frame. They can flood the Bush compartment and still keep the Titanic that is their bigger conservative disaster afloat. That is, if we are somehow able to succeed in convincing the media to start treating Bush as an idiot, the conservatives will be able to argue that the countless failures of the Bush Administration are tied to Bush's stupidity, not -- perish the thought -- the fundamental wrong-headedness of the policies themselves.

Stupid versus evil? Evil it is.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Soon to be imported from China

From the (UK) Independent:

News reporting about disasters and public disorder in China could become a crime under a proposed bill which would ban the spread of information about catastrophes without official permission.

Government officials say the legislation is aimed at stopping "irresponsible journalism", but there are fears it could be used to stop any reporting that does not meet official approval.

The proposed Law on Response to Contingencies threatens fines of up to £7,000 for misleading reports and requires journalists to get government approval before divulging news of natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, riots and other unspecified "sudden events" or "contingencies".

Cheney will love it. The WSJ will applaud. Malkin et al. will cheer.

Only a matter of time.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oh, no

Over the weekend, Murray Waas broke the story that Dubya's fingerprints are all over the Plame leak. The blogosphere celebrated the story, as did I.

I just saw Lawrence O'Donnell on Olbermann. And I think we all got it wrong.

O'Donnell observed that the information leaked to Waas seemed like an authorized leak, and supplied the answer to the obvious "why" question.

They're laying the groundwork for pardoning the bastard.

The narrative they are setting up goes like this: The President authorized declassifiying infomration in order to counter WIlson -- all strictly by the book. Somehow the game of telephone and the understandable but overzealous actions of his loyal serf led to the unfortunate and illegal Plame outing. It isn't fair to Libby to ask him to take the fall for the unintended consequences of his loyalty, so he will be pardoned.

Fitzgerald had better make something happen soon -- indict Cheney, issue a report, something -- or he is going to wind up next to Lawrence Walsh in the CouldaWouldaShoulda Prosecutor's Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Perfect

Sammy @ King of Zembla has the perfect rejoinder to rejected monarchist John Yoo's lame complaint about the Hamdan decision.

Monday, July 03, 2006

From the mouths of naifs

I followed a link from Wolcott's blog to the David Byrne Journal, which I had never seen. He draws a powerful analogy between the subject of the documentary "Blind Spot -- Hitler's Secretary" and the willfully blind serving Bush today.

Psycho killer, indeed.

Now that's a lede

Murray Waas makes my day in the NATIONAL JOURNAL:
President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's statement.

Bush told prosecutors he directed Cheney to disclose classified information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson.

Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.

I don't know if this helps Libby, but it sure doesn't help Bush.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Coulter: neither grateful nor dead

Coulter's plagiaristic proclivities are not news, but coverage by the mainstream is. The New York Post has a rather damning piece.

Heh.

Ann Coulter Republicans by the score

The gates of hell really seem to have been flung open. Feministe has as good a rundown as any. Or you could look at Greenwald's discussion as referenced in the previous post.

Maybe this is why wingnut traffic is down

I've bitched recently about how the comments section on my Coulter piece at Raw Sotry has been befouled by a wingnut troll and the foolish lefties who so willingly followed him into the gutter.

This morning I noticed that Glenn Greenwald, who normally has some pretty high-level discussions in his comments section, is now being heavily trolled, too.

Also noted yesterday was the fact that traffic in the wingnutosphere has been falling.

Perhaps there is more than coincidence here.

The blogosphere has served very different functions for left and right. For the right, it has generally amplified messages that originated elswhere -- White House talking points, Fox News, etc. The Killian memo snafu may have been a notable exception, but overall the right has many broadcast arrows in its quiver that are more central to its game plan than blogs are. Its centralized, top-down message is easier to transmit anyway.

For the left (and not-so-left libertarians as well), the blogosphere has been far more important. It has been virtually the only place to confirm facts, to find sustenance, to find and indeed create the messages, and to fight the Bush-Cheney juggernaut that has cowed the mainstream media into following the party line.

Against that background, if you were able to command the 101st Keyboarders, how would you deploy them? Would you continue to duplicate existing secure lines of communication, or would you send them out on sorties to disrupt the vital lines of your enemy?

I strongly suspect that the recent influx we are seeing is no accident. If the signal to noise ratio in our blogs is sufficiently degraded, they can make the web as useless as a tool of protest as a CB radio. At the very least, of they can force us all to shut down comments, they significantly reduce the collaborative nature of our work, and probably reduce our significance as a movement. If we respond by banning and/or deleting troll marks, we can be sure the New Republic and the New York Times will accuse us of violating the very principles we espouse. From a right wing perspective, there does no seem to be a downside to the strategy.

After the right pulled stunts like the phone-jamming thing in New Hampshire in 2002, no one can dispute their willingness to deploy such tactics. I have no evidence that such an order went out in this case, of course, but circumstantial evidence does support the hypothesis.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tomorrow's news today

Thursday: In a comment, Dr. Bloor predicted:

Tomorrow's headline: "Gonzales claims President has authority to issue signing statements in response to SCOTUS decisions."


Saturday: CNN.com - Gonzales: Gitmo ruling 'hampered' war on terror - Jul 1, 2006

Gonzales emphasized that the court ruling didn't say "that we could not continue to hold enemy combatants indefinitely for the duration of hostilities, which was something the Supreme Court said we could do..." The prison was established in early 2002.

"That path is still available to us. The president of the United States can continue to hold enemy combatants at Guantanamo. But we are looking at ways to provide as many tools as possible to the president of the United States in dealing with terrorists," he added.


Newspapers seem reluctant to tell us what really happened yesterday. We happily tell you what is going to happen tomorrow.

No wonder they hate us.

Pajama Logic

Something that has been bothering me lately is the fact that my Raw Story editorials have been greeted with utter silence from the A-list blogs, both left and right. When I make good arguments, I'd like them to be widely disseminated; if I make a bad one, I'd rather be called out for it than ignored. (The silly flame war now raging in the comments section at Raw is a triumph of the trolls over clueless, easily distracted lefties.)

Well, I have to say that my record of A-list obscurity remains unbroken (other than a passing mention @ Glenn Greenwald's place.) But a B-list winger has taken on my Coulter piece. That piece also generated the pointless flame war in the comments section @ Raw and attracted a couple of rabid and incoherent comments here -- I am gobsmacked at the reflexive fury we generate among certain wignuts simply by mentioning her name. Kinda supports my argument, I think.

Anyway, a blog called "Classical Values," complete with pictures of Roman statuary and marble columns, subtitled "End the Culture War by Restoring Classical Values," has taken on my Coulter column. (Those classical values apparently include links to "Communists for Kerry" and a what appears to be a soft porn site called "Stacked and Packed,"
but I will not resort to classical fallacies like ad hominems or guilt by association. Nosiree.) What I am presuming elevates this blog to B-list staus is its inclusion in the vaunted Pajamas Media constellation. (Yeah, I know right wing websites are in free fall. Indulge me.)

As I will assume you recall, my Coulter piece urges Democrats and the media to force Republicans to choose between aligning with Coulter and her loathsome provocations, or disclaim her and thus alienate wingnuts like the one who turned the Raw Story comments into a cesspool. That Hobson's choice would make Coulter as effective a fulcrum in fracturing the right as they made Michael Moore in dividing the left in 2004.

In Is cosmic accountability a dead issue?, someone named Eric Scheie argues:

Well, as I said, I'd buy tickets to a Coulter-Moore debate. However, I'm not sure that as a political tactic, guilt by association works all by itself. The Democrats didn't lose simply because Michael Moore was in their party, but because he (and his followers) were perceived as within or close to the party mainstream. Ann Coulter has positioned herself far to the right of Bush, and I seriously doubt she'll be sitting next to any former president at the next Republican convention.

There's no denying, of course, that Ann Coulter is a Republican. But does this means that every other Republican can be held answerable for her?

As I've pointed out, in addition to being a Republican, Ann Coulter is also a Deadhead. ...

I think this calls for some serious questions. Not for Ann, but for all Deadheads.

I'd like to ask every last one of them the following:

Are you an Ann Coulter Deadhead?

Don't we have a right to know whether the other Deadheads are in favor of "poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen"?

I for one am sick of the fact that the gutless media cowards allow them to duck the tough questions by hiding behind their tie-dyes. (Or their skulls wrapped in the American flag!)

I don't know if ridicule is considered a classical value, so I will stick to the basics.

First Eric says that the Michael Moore gambit wasn't about guilt by association -- by asserting that "The Democrats didn't lose simply because Michael Moore was in their party, but because he (and his followers) were perceived as within or close to the party mainstream." I guess I'm only a stupid moonbat, but that sure sounds like guilt by association to me.

In any event, the "classical" logical fallacy (OK, one of them) Eric demonstrates with his main argument is the question-begging analogy.

The question Eric begs is whether attending Grateful Dead concerts is logically equivalent to serving an essential role in maintaining the coalition that has ruled the United States for the last six years.

I will grant Eric that endlessly meandering improvisations without structure created by people who appear to be under the influence of hallucinogenic substances do bear a certain resemblance to Grateful Dead concerts. But there are a hundred ways in which the absurdity of the analogy shows through.

Does Coulter write books arguing that Rolling Stones fans are traitors? Does she call female fans of Green Day witches and harpies? Has she advocated the poisoning of Sting's deserts? Do Newsweek and Chris Matthews offer her a platform from which she bashes Jerry Garcia's enemies? And, most important of all, does the Dead machine benefit when Coulter vicously insults other bands?

Never mind that, as pointed out in my original piece, Rudy Giuliani has actually run away from the Coulter question -- in other words, that I presented factual evidence to support my hypothesis. But I do mind that Eric has has perhaps forgotten to answer my questions, so I will ask him directly: Do you think the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies? Do you think it is OK to advocate poisoning Supreme Court Justices? Do you think it appropriate to talk about fragging John Murtha?

Eric, are you an Ann Coulter Republican?



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