Sunday, April 30, 2006

Whoa, there

Um... perhaps I should reconsider.

My intent in whining (and yeah, I cop to it being very much a whine) was certainly not to piss off the folks who do particpate and contribute. I want to encourage more of that, not insult the few who have been doing it. I guess I was being kinda like the professors I had who bitched at the students who did show up to class about the ones who blew off attendance.

My line about blowing smoke up my ass was ill-considered. I use it in many contexts to describe compliments I receive. It was intended as self-deprecation, not as an insult to those who have taken the time to chip in.

My apologies to anyone who might have been offended.

Colbert's "Crossfire" moment

My religious conversion - that is, the event that made me nto a religious watcher of "The Daily Show" was Stewart's smackdown of the bloated, self-important foolishness of Crossfire -- -on Crossfire. For me, it had a modern Christ-driving-the-money-changers feel to it.

My watching of "The Colbert Report" has been a little less devoted. He's obviously extremely talented and quick on his feet, but the 100% in character thing is sometimes hard to take -- a little too much Tony Clifton-esque at times.

But all is now forgiven, Steven. I am born again.

Last night Colbert offered up the bravest and most biting comedic payload yet -- not on TV in front of his disciples, but in George Bush's face, at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. The smackdown extended to the press corpse, too.

Editor & Publisher has the highlights. Read the whole thing. Crooks&Liars has the video. Watch it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nice try, folks

OK, we seem to be stuck in a rut here.

1. I pour my heart out into my blog, bent over a hot laptop trying to cook up postings that I think you will like.

2. Your response is, um, "low touch."

3. I go into my Jewish mother guilt mode, whining about how "You never call, you never write..."

4. A few of you blow some smoke up my ass about how my prose and logic are so compelling that comment is superfluous.

OK, so then it would follow that Digby, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and PZ Meyers must be talking some serious smack, because their postings generate hundreds of comments a day.


If you want to flatter me, comment. Point me to stuff that interests you. Point me to stuff that pisses you off. The sound of one hand clapping is not very motivational.

Et cetera.

Friday, April 28, 2006

You mean "How many miles per dead soldier does your SUV get?" didn't win?

Regular readers will probably remember that somebody at Chevrolet had the brainstorm of allowing hoi polloi to create our own commercials for the some of GM's dreadnaught-class SUVs, and that I joined many in the subversive rabble in doing my best Cecil B. DeBluememe. Incredibly, my contribution is no longer accessible on Chevy's website. But I can tell you that the tagline was this posting's headline.

Anyways, I bring it up now because, after weeks of waiting on pins and needles, I just received an email from GM's version of Simon Cowell:
On behalf of Chevy and the all new 2007 Tahoe, we’d like to thank you for your outstanding effort in the Chevy Online Apprentice contest. Thousands entered, millions checked out the Tahoe site and your response was overwhelming.

The commercial you submitted was strong but, after careful deliberation, we’ve decided to go in another direction....

And I was so sure that ridiculing their products and the people who buy them was the right call for GM.

Not dead yet

Tim Karr reports that Congressman Markey has been sufficiently energized by the noise we blogosphericals are making that he is going to try introducing his net neutrality amendment on the floor of the House.

As Tim acknowledges, the amendment does not have a snowball's chance in Hell at this point, I think anything we do to push this issue into the light of day helps us.

Keep fighting.

Today's puzzler

Number of days my piece American Samizdat, which warns of the very real danger that the Telcos and Cable Companies will destroy the Internet, has been up @ Raw: 3

Number of days Melinda Barton's piece, The Left's Own Religious Whackjobs, which warns of the dangers posed by (certain) atheists, ran prior to being yanked: 2

Number of comments Ms. Barton's piece received: 325+.

Number of comments on my piece: 6

Please share your thoughts, else I will begin writing about the evils of extreme vegetarians and para-military biodiesel squads.

Now you're talking... er, doing

Congress Members Arrested at Sudan Protest - Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON - Five Congress members were willingly arrested and led away from the Sudanese Embassy in plastic handcuffs Friday in protest of the Sudanese government's role in atrocities in the Darfur region.

"The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a Holocaust survivor who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said from the embassy steps before his arrest.

Four other Democratic Congress members — James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Jim Moran of Virginia — were among 11 protesters arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor subject to a fine.
If any of these fine folks are your representatives in Congress, please thank them for this. We tend to spend more time worrying about Iraq and Iran and the criminals in the White House, but Darfur is genocide happening on our watch. We can stop it if we have the will.

The Editors

are is back. We missed you, The.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's almost a good idea

Philosophically minded folks like myself often ask ourselves purely hypothetical questions. One of the perennnial favorites is, "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" A more recent, equally absurd hypothetical question is, "If the Republicans proposed something that made sense, would you support it?"

Believe it or not, today presented us with a close call -- or at least the closest facsimile we'll ever see. - Senators to push for $100 gas rebate checks - Apr 27, 2006

I was an econ major in college. And we talked about exactly this kind of thing, though in a context that would make bona fide conservatives blanch.

One of the basic assumptions of of economic theory is that the tax code makes rational actors alter their behavior. We buy less of goods that are taxed more heavily; the assumption underlying the infamous Laffer Curve is that high marginal income tax rates discourage work. (I have always referred to it as the Laugher Curve because it takes that assumption, encourages it to smoke crack, and posits that decreasing tax rates also increases aggregate tax revenue, ad infinitum, until a tax rate approaching zero yields tax revenue approaching infinity.)

How does all that apply here? We have a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents/gallon on gasoline. According to economic theory as understood by Miton Friedman, that tax should reduce consumption. Uncle Miltie thinks that kind of distortion is a bad thing. I think it is an essential and beneficial tool. Countries like Germany, France and Britain have much higher per gallon (liter, actually) taxes, and it is the reason Euros drive small, economical cars, and one of the reasons they have good mass transit.

The idea that is that that tax code can be a form of behavior control. If the government taxes a specific item with a per-unit levy, but offers lump-sum subsidies regardless of whether recipients continue to buy that good, it can size the tax and the subsidy such that there is no net impact on the average rational user.

As I recall, that kind of behavior control used to be seen as liberal social engineering, which the conservative types abhored. But as strange as it might seem, that's exactly what Bill Frist proposed today: leave the gas excise tax in place, but offer a lump sum subsidy to everyone regardless of whether they consume any gasoline at all. If they did this the right way, I would, as a rational actor and follower of politics, be forced to support it.

Lucky for me, though, I am not forced into cuddling up to these unsavory bedfellows. First of all, the budget is so massively out of balance that there can be no justification for ANY broad tax reduction. Second, the string to which it is attached is opening up ANWR to drilling, so in effect Frist wants to bribe us into wanting to help Big Oil in much the same way Big Oil has bribed him. (There's also the fact that going through the massive expense of printing checks, as opposed to simply giving people credit on their annual tax returns, betrays the transparent grandstanding behind their thinking, but that's a minor point.)

Thanks for saving me from having to ever agree with you, schmucks.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Like I was sayin' part II

Raw Story is giving above the fold coverage to a Reuters report about how little class mobility there really is in America today. America's rags-to-riches dream an illusion: study is certainly important, but may I present an excerpt from a column I wrote last May:
Americans have always believed, in a way Europeans have not, in class mobility. The world’s tired, poor, huddled masses head for Lady Liberty, work hard, and rise into the middle class or even higher. As a result, America has thought itself to be a less class-based society, and its social policies have done less to favor the poor than those of most European nations. In the American mythos, poverty was largely a consequence of personal failure.

If that myth was ever based in fact, the reality is now clearly otherwise. Indeed, the myth of actual class mobility was interred by no less than the Wall Street Journal, arguably one of the holiest books of the capitalist religion, in a page one story on May 13th.

"Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or in Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity," the Journal noted. The WSJ also noted that a recent study (by a Federal Reserve economist, no less) showed that, "Only 14% of men born to fathers on the bottom 10% of the wage ladder made it to the top 30%. Only 17% of the men born to fathers on the top 10% fell to the bottom 30%."

If you notice my output dropping off from time to time, that's one reason: the been there, done that, why-isn't-anyone-paying-attention feeling.

Oh, and a long runs of posts devoid of feedback/interaction don't help either....get it?

Like I was sayin'...

The Raw Story | Outed CIA officer was working on Iran, intelligence sources say

The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Several intelligence officials described the damage in terms of how long it would take for the agency to recover. According to their own assessment, the CIA would be impaired for up to 'ten years' in its capacity to adequately monitor nuclear proliferation on the level of efficiency and accuracy it had prior to the White House leak of Plame Wilson's identity.

I said this almost three weeks ago:
What if it wasn't an accident? What if they outed her not (or not just) to get at her husband, but to get at her?

Think about the demonstrated disdain of Bush and Cheney for any and all intel that contradicted their preordained conclusions about Iraq. Then think about the neocon arrogance that then, as now, targeted Iran as next on their regime change to-do list.

In that context, Valerie Plame's knowledge of what was really going on in the WMD arena did not make her an asset -- it made her a very dangerous woman. When Joe Wilson went public with the truth about the way the Administration cooked the books on Iraq, the Administration must have been concerned that Valerie Plame would do the same when they turned their guns toward Iran.

What if they wanted us to think that their purpose was to smack Joe Wilson, but only as a smokescreen for their next Crusade?

Since then, I have heard nothing that dissuades me, and I see this as corroboration of my hypothesis. The Bush junta was very concerned about Plame's close connections to the enemy -- no, not Iran, silly. Plame was too close to the real enemy: the facts.

Somebody in Congress gets it

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has an excellent editorial in today's MercuryNews. Google's HQ is in her district, so her position should be no surprise, but I take nothing for granted.

On the other hand, the map on the Save The Internet site shows that Henry Waxman has not yet committed on net neutrality. He's a good guy on many issues. But his district is Hollywood ground zero, and I would guess he is being leaned on to oppose the Markey amendment. The movie and record studios may be the only people on earth more afraid of the Internet than the Bush Administration.

If you live in Waxman's district, make your feelings known.

Save the Internet: Sign on to Co-Sponsor the Markey Amendment

Get your butt over to Save the Internet and do it. NOW.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

IOKIYAR, Kansas style

Murray Waas throws another high hard one: in today's NATIONAL JOURNAL: Is There A Double Standard On Leak Probes?, he points out that assclown Senator Pat Roberts, best known for his divide-and-conquer approach to stovepiping the cooked intel in the run-up to Iraq (see post earlier today), is also responsible for one of the worst secruity breaches in a decade:

(T)hree years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

On March 20, 2003, at the onset of military hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces, Roberts said in a speech to the National Newspaper Association that he had "been in touch with our intelligence community" and that the CIA had informed President Bush and the National Security Council "of intelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad."
After opening his speech with the information about human intelligence and Saddam Hussein's location in a Baghdad bunker, the senator said that President Bush had conferred with his top military advisers and had "authorized a pre-emptive surgical strike with 40 Tomahawk Missiles launched by ship and submarines and so called bunker bombs by F-117 stealth aircraft. I do not have a damage assessment. The Iraqi's report 14 killed and one wounded and are reporting damage in residential areas."

At the time, it was one of the most sensitive secrets in government that the CIA had recruited Iraqi nationals who claimed to have infiltrated Hussein's inner circle to be able to follow his movements at the onset of war. But after the bombs and missiles hit an Iraqi governmental complex known as Dora Park, located on the Tigris River south of Baghdad, Hussein either was not there, or escaped unharmed.

Whether or not Roberts' comments were inadvertent, former intelligence officials said, they almost certainly tipped off the Iraqi dictator that there were spies close to him. "He [Roberts] had given up that we had a penetration of [Saddam's] inner circle," says a former senior intelligence official. "It was the worst thing you could ever do."

What repercussions, if any, occurred in Baghdad as a result of Roberts' comments could not be determined, according to sources. After the missile and bombing attack on his bunker, it is possible that Hussein suspected that he had a spy or spies within his entourage, intelligence officials said. One former official said that the Iraqi dictator "very well may have thought he had been located because of electronic monitoring." Two former intelligence officials said the disclosure by Roberts may have made it more difficult to launch a second missile or bombing attack against Saddam Hussein in the early days of the war.

A spokesperson for Roberts did not respond to numerous phone messages seeking comment for this story, and did not respond to an e-mail inquiry.

A Republican congressional aide who was familiar with the March 20, 2003 speech and who spoke to Roberts about it around the time it occurred, said that Roberts' comments were a "mistake" and a "dumb act," and "not done with bad intent." The aide suggested that Roberts might have been carried away by the moment, or acted out of "self-aggrandizement."

What more do you need to know about the dysfunction and decay that define the Republican party than exactly this: that "mistakes," "dumb acts" and "self aggrandizement" are seen as exculpatory, so long as it is one of their own that is stupid or grandiose.

Holy Gaucamole, Batman

Indications that we who blog have an effect out in the real world are still a bit scarce, as is evidence that the blog-reading community is a force to be reckoned with. But once in a while the virtual escapes into the real with measurable results.

Exhibit A: Glenn Greenwald's book is up on Amazon for pre-sales. (I ordered mine this morning.) Check out this screen cap from Amazon's list of top sellers:

#3. Ahead of "The DaVinci Code." Ahead of The MOF's "The World is Flat." Ahead of "Cobra II."


Applied Philosophy

If you took philosophy classes in college as I did, you will be familiar with Zeno's Paradoxes. (Zeno was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, and a pretty sharp cookie.)
Among the most famous of Zeno's "paradoxes" involves Achilles and the tortoise, who are going to run a race. Achilles, being confident of victory, gives the tortoise a head start. Zeno supposedly proves that Achilles can never overtake the tortoise. Here, I paraphrase Zeno's argument:

Before Achilles can overtake the tortoise, he must first run to point A, where the tortoise started. But then the tortoise has crawled to point B. Now Achilles must run to point B. But the tortoise has gone to point C, etc. Achilles is stuck in a situation in which he gets closer and closer to the tortoise, but never catches him.

What Zeno is doing here, and in one of his other paradoxes, is to divide Achilles' journey into an infinite number of pieces. This is certainly permissible, as any line segment can be divided into an infinite number of points or line segments. This, in effect, divides Achilles' run into an infinite number of tasks. He must pass point A, then B, then C, etc. And what Zeno is arguing is that you can't do an infinite number of tasks in a finite amount of time.
Now if you are thinking, "well yes, Your Blueness, that is dazzling erudition, but what the hell does it have to do with contemporary politics?" Lots, young Grasshopper.

Here's one Seantor who sure acts as if he is thoroughly familiar with Zeno's Achilles Paradox:

Sen. Roberts seeks delay of Intel probe
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panel’s inquiry into the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.

The inquiry has dragged on for more than two years, a slow pace that prompted Democrats to force the Senate into an extraordinary closed-door session in November. Republicans then promised to speed up the probe.
An aide to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, said that Democrats are aware Roberts is mulling a decision on whether to divide the inquiry and that Rockefeller is unlikely to oppose such a move if Roberts goes through with it. But one Democrat who has followed the probe said separating the controversial elements would relieve pressure on Roberts to complete the entire inquiry soon.

Sentient readers will recall that Roberts already divided this job into two once before, in order to ensure that the really damaging stuff did not come up until after the 2004 election. Now he is going to trot out the same schtick just in tome to push the real thing past November 2006.

Senator Rockefeller must not have learned philosophy. Indeed, given his consistently spineless acquiesence to Roberts, and his willingness to fall for the same patently obvious trick over and over again, it seems increasingly likely that he is incapable of learning, period. You can hardly criticize the Republicans for using the same lame-ass tactics when the Democrats keep falling for them.

He's fooled you once, Senator. Don't get fooled again. Zeno would be so disappointed.

(Oh, and here's an erudution super-double bonus at no extra charge: One of my all time favorite short stories, "Playing Trombone" by Nicholson Baker (Atlantic Monthly, 1982), is about a trombonist appropriately named Zeno. As far as I can tell, it is not available online.)

American Samizdat

New piece up @ The Raw Story. Not quite as as leading edge as it was when I submitted it last week, now that Digby and Atrios and Josh are all piping up, but such is life.

The fact that my thunder is largely dissipated due to delays beyond my control is not important. The fact that I now sound like a Johnny-come-lately is not important. No, my pique is irrelevant.

Seriously, folks. Make some noise and stop these thieving bastards.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"No one could have anticipated," part XII

Rebuilding of Iraqi Pipeline as Disaster Waiting to Happen - New York Times
The project, called the Fatah pipeline crossing, had been a critical element of a $2.4 billion no-bid reconstruction contract that a Halliburton subsidiary had won from the Army in 2003. The spot where about 15 pipelines crossed the Tigris had been the main link between Iraq's rich northern oil fields and the export terminals and refineries that could generate much-needed gasoline, heating fuel and revenue for Iraqis.

For all those reasons, the project's demise would seriously damage the American-led effort to restore Iraq's oil system and enable the country to pay for its own reconstruction. Exactly what portion of Iraq's lost oil revenue can be attributed to one failed project, no matter how critical, is impossible to calculate. But the pipeline at Al Fatah has a wider significance as a metaphor for the entire $45 billion rebuilding effort in Iraq. Although the failures of that effort are routinely attributed to insurgent attacks, an examination of this project shows that troubled decision-making and execution have played equally important roles.

The Fatah project went ahead despite warnings from experts that it could not succeed because the underground terrain was shattered and unstable.

It continued chewing up astonishing amounts of cash when the predicted problems bogged the work down, with a contract that allowed crews to charge as much as $100,000 a day as they waited on standby.

The company in charge engaged in what some American officials saw as a self-serving attempt to limit communications with the government until all the money was gone.

And until Mr. Sanders went to Al Fatah, the Army Corps of Engineers, which administered the project, allowed the show to go on for months, even as individual Corps officials said they repeatedly voiced doubts about its chances of success.

The Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, formerly Kellogg Brown & Root, had commissioned a geotechnical report that warned in August 2003 that it would be courting disaster to drill without extensive underground tests.

"No driller in his right mind would have gone ahead," said Mr. Sanders, a geologist who came across the report when he arrived at the site.

KBR defended its performance on the project, and said that the information in the geotechnical report was too general to serve as a warning.

Do you have a joke that you can hear, or even tell, over and over again, and laugh every time?

Mine is the "Does your dog bite?" gag from Peter Sellers' "The Pink Panther Strikes Again."

I have to believe this is a lot like that. These guys must laugh their asses off after each iteration of the "no one could have anticipated" riff.

And on and on.

Fucking hilarious.

32 - Bush's approval ratings slide to new low - Apr 24, 2006

You were expecting a picture of Magic Johnson maybe?

In strange company

Free Press has a news page where they list top stories about the net neutrality battle. Check out the company we now keep. (And yes, we are now feeling sufficiently self-important to flirt with the editorial "we.")

We are amused.

Psychology for dummies

(updated below)

CAIRO, Egypt — Osama bin Laden issued new threats in an audiotape broadcast on Arab television Sunday. And he accused the United States and Europe of supporting a “Zionist” war on Islam by cutting off funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
His words, the first new message by the al-Qaida leader in three months, seemed designed to justify potential attacks on civilians — something al-Qaida has been criticized for even by its Arab supporters.
President Bush was told about the tape Sunday morning. The intelligence community has informed the White House that it believes the tape is authentic, said Bush’s spokesman, Scott McClellan.

The al-Qaida leadership is on the run and under a lot of pressure,” McClellan said at a Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where Bush was having lunch with military families.

Projection is one of the defense mechanisms identified by Freud and still acknowledged today. According to Freud, projection is when someone is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses so they attribute these impulses to someone else. For example, a person in psychoanalysis may insist to the therapist that he knows the therapist wants to rape some women, when in fact the client has these awful feelings to rape the woman.

Update: Great minds and all suchlike.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Empire Strikes Back: Astroturfing Network Neutrality

Since I rang the bell about the threat posed to network neutrality by the Joe Barton Bill working its way through the House, I've been trading emails with Tim Karr of Free Press, who has been doing really good work on this issue. He alerted me to the industry's new astroturf assault on network neutrality, cynically called The Future... Faster!

Their website reads like a blurb for Milton Friedman's old "Free to Choose" TV series, positioning the telcos as the defenders of our most precious rights. And they make themselves sound like a broad coalition of freedom fighters:

The Future…Faster effort is building a broad coalition of communications and high-tech industry leaders, civic groups and other associations, as well as individual Americans who share our belief that in today's choice-filled communications world, consumers, the economy and American innovation are best served by market-driven competition.
But here's who they actually are, in their own words:
The Future…Faster® effort is organized by the United States Telecom Association.

Members of the USTA include AT&T and Verizon:
A Verizon Communications Inc. executive yesterday accused Google Inc. of freeloading for gaining access to people's homes using a network of lines and cables the phone company spent billions of dollars to build.

The comments by John Thorne, a Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, came as lawmakers prepared to debate legislation that could let phone and cable companies charge Internet firms additional fees for using their high-speed lines.
The owners of the pipes make it sound as if supply is tight, and price discrimination is the answer. But (a) there is still plenty of unused bandwidth out there (which is why prices are falling) and (b) the very idea of price discrimination in an environment where both buyers (that's us) and sellers are both paying to hook up to the Web is, well insane. In a sane world, you might expect those who regulate to question such nonsense. But whaddaya know -- the FCC appears to be in the bag:
(F.C.C. Chairman Kevin) Martin also said he supports the right for network operators to differentiate their networks and prioritize traffic on their networks.

"We need to make sure we have a regulatory environment (in which network operators) can invest in the network and can recoup their costs," he said.
And who is Kevin Martin? A former lobbyist at "Wiley, Rein, and Fielding, 'Rated Top Telecommunications Lobbyists' according to an article on their website. The firm represents the Bells as well as Viacom/CBS, Gannett, Belo, Emmis, Gray Television, and Motorola." Are you begining to get the sense that the fix is in here?

Big Telecom and their congressional and regulatory lapdogs will brand us as hysterical. They will claim they would never "block or degrade" traffic. But if that is true, why did they object to the Markey amendment to Barton's bill, which would have locked that promise into law?

There are very few things I agree with Glenn Reynolds about. Turns out this is one of them. But make no mistake: he doesn't really have a dog in this fight. His viewpoint will continue to be heard, because it generally aligns with those of the owners of the pipes. We, on the other hand, will be reduced to the equivalent of tin cans and string if the Big Telecom pulls this one off.

Anyway, Free Press just launched a new website devoted to this issue. Go there. Take action. And spread the word about this callous attempt to kill our Internet.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Damned by faint praise

The outcome of the 2004 United States presidential election would be different if a new ballot took place this year, according to a poll by Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times. 47 per cent of respondents would vote for Democrat John Kerry, while 40 per cent would support Republican George W. Bush.

Michael Dukakis should trounce Dubya. Kinky Friedman should wipe the floor with him. Hell, Lyndon LaRouche should beat him, though it might be close.

If in April 2006 John Kerry only wins by seven points, I'm taking all that nascent optimism about the midterms and burying it out back next to my bomb shelter.

The Keyboard Kommandos return

That's why I wear my Senior Recidivist title with pride. Welcome back, The.

Daily Howler: Will they axe our Gore again?

I've noticed the whispers about the possibility of Al Gore running again. I love the idea of having a bona fide environmentalist in charge, and the post-2000 Gore is passionate and fiery in a way not seen in a lefty (Al Sharpton excepted) in decades. But Somersby reminds us of the problem:

Is Al Gore “the near-perfect Democratic candidate for 2008,” as Richard Cohen said in Tuesday’s Post? In a rational world, it would seem that he should be—and Dems could use a near-perfect hopeful; it’s hard to spot a White House winner among the projected Dem field. As Cohen noted, Gore was right on Iraq—the day’s leading issue—and he was right-from-the-start on global warming, which is achieving consensus status as uber-issue of the future. But no, Gore isn’t currently perfect—because of two things which Cohen omitted from his column. For one thing, Cohen omitted those dismal numbers—Gore’s Cheney-like favorable-to-unfavorable ratio (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/06). And oh yes—the pundit also omitted the reason for Gore’s ugly numbers. Wouldn’t you know it? Richard Cohen forgot to mention the endless, crackpot press corps war which produced those horrible numbers for Gore—a war which was staged by Cohen’s colleagues and oh yes, by Cohen himself. And no, it isn’t just Cohen’s past work which leaves Gore less than currently perfect. If Gore ran again, we know what would happen. Alpha male pundits would start to churn their thousand-and-one brainless anti-Gore scripts—and betas like Cohen would curl up and die. Cohen praises Gore today—but he’d surely turn tail tomorrow. Dems who fail to grasp these points are living in a fantasy world.
Why isn’t Gore currently perfect? Because his numbers are amazingly bad—the legacy of that disgraceful press corps war. It’s utterly silly to say “Run, Al, run” unless we’re prepared to tackle this problem. How many times—in how many elections—do we plan to play the poor, hapless fool?

THOSE STUBBORN FACTS: Again, here are the numbers from that Roper survey, conducted in February (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/06). For each person, we list “favorables” compared to “unfavorables.” It’s absurd to call Gore near-perfect without discussing these unfortunate numbers—and without discussing the recurring press conduct which explains where these numbers came from:

John McCain: 40 percent favorable; 18 percent unfavorable
Rudy Giuliani: 49-15
Hillary Clinton: 42-40
Al Gore: 27-46
George W. Bush: 36-49
Dick Cheney: 29-50
Bill Clinton: 49-33
Condoleezza Rice: 44-27

I skipped over a long and dead-on indictment of Cohen and his cohort for creating this problem. Go to Daily Howler and read the whole thing.

Perfect storm

DU has an interview with Kevin Phillips that is worth a read. The money quote:
Q. The Democrats are rubbing their hands with glee over their prospects in the November elections. Are the Democrats able to project a compelling alternative to Bush's policies?

Phillips: Once or twice a decade, the Democrats seem to manage. I'm not sure if this will be the year. But if it's not, they have a big problem. As you've heard several times at least, in an eight-year sequence, there tends to be a 'six-year itch' in the mid-term election of the second term. This is historically when the party in power loses a number of seats. Now if the Democrats simply gain just 2 Senate seats and 10 in the House, they will be painted as losers because of the historic pattern and bad doubly because Bush is so vulnerable.

The stakes are very high. It's sink or swim for the Democrats. The Democrats will need to speak with a somewhat unified voice, a hard-hitting voice. They will need to review the long list of vulnerabilities of George W Bush and figure out the smart way to talk about them. It doesn't seem like it should be too demanding, but given their record over the last 25 years, you can't be sure that they will do it that way.

I think that's exactly right. The opportunity facing the Democrats isn't a softball; it's t-ball, with no fielders. And yet they hold the bat as if it was radioactive, convinced the ball will hit them back.

Watching them is kind like watching your kid in the third grade spelling bee: we all know the answer, but our knowledge of the obvious is not helpful.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Another nutshell moment

via Raw Story, from the NYT:
This week the cost of the metals in a penny rose above 0.8 cents, more than twice the value of last fall. Because the government spends at least another six-tenths of a cent -- above and beyond the cost of the metal -- to make each penny, it will lose nearly half a cent on each new one it mints.
That's right. This administration is so incompetent it loses money printing money.

Their secret?

(wait for it....)


Stories you might have missed, from a news agency you surely will

My local newspaper is a Knight-Ridder paper. I have my issues with it (they give fools like Victor Davis Hanson way too much ink), but the fact is that the Knight Ridder DC bureau has been among the strongest over the last few years. When the NYT and WaPO were banging the Iraq drum, K-R reporters like Warren Strobel were getting it right. I don't know what will happen to that kind of reporting now that McClatchy has bought most of the K-R properties, and others remain on the block. As noted in the must-read piece from Ariana (and the reader comments that follow) about the boardroom intrigues at the Times, party politics cannot be completely ruled out as a factor in the sale/break-up of K-R.

But the K-R team is going out in a blaze of glory

First, Tom Laseter in Iraq, from Tuesday:
U.S. officials were warned for more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq's security forces and taking control of neighborhoods, but they failed to take action to counteract the threat, Iraqi and American officials said.

Now American officials call the militias the primary security concern in Iraq, blaming them for more civilian deaths than the Sunni Muslim insurgency.

U.S. officials concede that they did not act, in part because they were focused on fighting the Sunni-dominated insurgency and on recruiting and training Iraqi security forces.

"Last year, as we worked through the problem set, that [militias] wasn't a problem set we focused on," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top American military spokesman, said at a recent news briefing.

U.S. inaction gave the militias time to become a major force inside and outside the Iraqi government, and American officials acknowledge that dislodging them now would be difficult.

Among U.S. officials' missteps:

White House and Pentagon officials ignored a stream of warnings from American intelligence agencies about the mounting danger posed mainly by two powerful Shiite militias, the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army.

A group of high-ranking Iraqis appointed in 2004 to persuade militia leaders to disband their groups received no funding and was allowed to wither away.

U.S. diplomats in Baghdad were slow to recognize that the majority Shiite population's ascent to political power would expand rather than diminish militia activity.

Acting against the Shiite militias would have raised doubts about the administration's reliance on training largely Shiite security forces to replace U.S. troops in Iraq.

The other story is a bookend to a well-reported 2004 story. Remember when Colin Powell trumpeted a report showing that terror attacks worldwide had declined because of Fearless Leader's fearless leadership? And then a few days later sheepishly admitted that they had miscounted, and the number of attacks had actually gone up? (Said increase was not Fearless Leader's fault, of course.) We haven't been hearing much about that metric lately, have we? I think I know why. A few numbers from the (revised) U.S. State Department summary for 2003:

Terror attacks worldwide: 208
Killed: 625
Wounded: 3,646

Which brings us to the piece from Warren Strobel in today's paper.
he number of terrorist attacks documented by U.S. intelligence agencies increased sharply in 2005, surpassing 10,000 for the first time, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers.
We won't see the full report until next week, according to Strobel. And he says the criteria have changed since 2004, so your mileage may vary. But from 208 to 10,000+ is a staggering increase. Heckuva job, Georgie.

I don't have time right now, but there is a database of terror stats here. I sure wish I knew a statistics guru who could crunch these numbers for me....

Anyway, enjoy the truth that K-R reporters bring you while you can.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Iran diplomacy claims debunked

(Updated below)

Yesterday I pointed to the devastating summary of Bush's failures in Rolling Stone. It was a good compendium -- but it's already out of date. Events proving the seismic magnitude of this newly revealed failure have not yet played out, but the fundamental dishonesty of the Adminstration's posturing about Iran is now indisuptable.

Kevin Drum connects the dots on a huge story that puts WPE's "we want to solve this issue diplomatically" onto the same scrap heap where we find the indentical claptrap they once spouted about war as a last resort with Iraq.

Turns out that Iran made diplomatic overtures to us in 2003:
(In a message conveyed via the Swiss Embassy), the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

And how did our blessed peacemakers respond?
Realists, led by Powell and his Deputy Richard Armitage, were inclined to respond positively to the Iranian offer. Nevertheless, within a few days of its receipt, the State Department had rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer.

Put that together with Sy Hersh's article (and my column), and war starts looking, to coin a phrase, like a slam dunk.

The Administration simply must be made to address these charges. If this story breaks into the mainstream, maybe we can force these punch-drunk madmen to back away from the precipice.

Update: via Glenn Grennwald, Scott Ritter sees the same thing:
...I say be careful of falling into the trap of nonproliferation, disarmament, weapons of mass destruction; this is a smokescreen. The Bush administration does not have policy of disarmament vis-à-vis Iran. They do have a policy of regime change. If we had a policy of disarmament, we would have engaged in unilateral or bilateral discussions with the Iranians a long time ago. But we put that off the table because we have no desire to resolve the situation we use to facilitate the military intervention necessary to achieve regime change.

It’s the exact replay of the game plan used for Iraq, where we didn’t care what Saddam did, what he said, what the weapons inspectors found. We created the perception of a noncompliant Iraq, and we stuck with that perception, selling that perception until we achieved our ultimate objective, which was invasion that got rid of Saddam. With Iran, we are creating the perception of a noncompliant Iran, a threatening Iran. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. Now that we have successfully created that perception, the Bush administration will move forward aggressively until it achieves its ultimate objective, which is regime change.


(Updated below)

President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).

Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.

How low can he go? Just wait until $73/barrel oil finishes reverberating through the economy.

Update: If Jason Leopold is right, temperatures in the mid-20s are likely soon:
Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.

The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

In an interview Wednesday, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a "subject" of Fitzgerald's two-year-old probe.

"Mr. Rove is still a subject of the investigation," Luskin said. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that prediction again Wednesday.

(If you are too young to understand the relationship between the picture and the story, go here. And come back when you are older.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wow... they've lost the Mustache of Freedom

Greg Djerejian @ The Belgravia Dispatch does battle with Instant Pudding, who is getting a mite defensive in the face of all those mutinous generals. It is a pretty good post, but what caught my eye was this quote from Tom Friedman:
If these are our only choices, which would you rather have: a nuclear-armed Iran or an attack on Iran's nuclear sites that is carried out and sold to the world by the Bush national security team, with Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon's helm?

I'd rather live with a nuclear Iran.

While I know the right thing is to keep all our options open, I have zero confidence in this administration's ability to manage a complex military strike against Iran, let alone the military and diplomatic aftershocks.

As someone who believed — and still believes — in the importance of getting Iraq right, the level of incompetence that the Bush team has displayed in Iraq, and its refusal to acknowledge any mistakes or remove those who made them, make it impossible to support this administration in any offensive military action against Iran.
If ours were a parliamentary democracy, the entire Bush team would be out of office by now, and deservedly so. In Iraq, the president was supposed to lead, manage and hold subordinates accountable, and he did not. Condoleezza Rice was supposed to coordinate, and she did not. Donald Rumsfeld was supposed to listen, and he did not. But ours is not a parliamentary system, and while some may feel as if this administration's over, it isn't. So what to do? We can't just take a foreign policy timeout.

One by one, the self-styled middle course types who sailed off to war on the battleship G.W. Bush are heading for the lifeboats. Reynolds, Hindraker and Malkin are going to get a little lonelier with each passing day.

Well shut my mouth

My Left Wing founder Maryscott O'Connor stopped by and commented on my Monday post about (what I characterized as) the relatively small spike in her web stats as a result of the WaPo piece. Here's what she said:
Traffic is quadruple what it was.

Page view and visit time averages are the same. Which is quite something. It means people are staying.

On the day of the story, traffic spiked at ten times its usual rate, some 14000 visits that day. It's leveled off at approximately 7000 visits a day, as opposed to the 1700 a day before the Post piece was published.

All in all, not bad; I didn't have any expectations of more than a blip increse, so I'm pretty satsfied with the results.

So much for Sitemeter and my ability to judge the numbers based on their graphs, I guess. And I am heartened by the fact that the change in her traffic is a step function rather than a pulse.

I slouch corrected.

On the other hand, how many of those new readers are like me -- members of the lefty community who got out our ruts and added her to our daily routes out of solidarity? I'm not sure how you would judge this, Maryscott, but I think it is a meaningful question.

This touches on one of the fundamental questions I have about the effectiveness of all of our efforts in our only slightly permeable bubble. On my good days, I feel like I am helping to change the world. Other days I worry that we are a few thousand hooligans all yelling into the same well.

Today the sun is shining in a cloudless sky. I will choose to believe that Maryscott and I, and all of you who agitate and argue, are all making a difference.

Quite the summary

A while back I had the idea of putting together a wiki cataloguing the thousands of crimes, failures and other lapses of the Bush presidency. The topic is so massive that I think we all tend to lose the forest for the sheer volume of trees, and the big picture is simply too large for most of us to fully grasp.

But now we have a pretty good flyover, and it is devastating. Check it out: Rolling Stone : The Worst President in History?

Amazing stuff. Read the whole thing.

Snark of the day

Josh Marshall:
Fox is reporting that Fox's own Tony Snow may be Scott McClellan's replacement as White House press secretary.

Isn't that more like an interdepartmental transfer than a job change?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

As ye sow

I heard a segment on NPR this faternoon in which the reporter spoke with people from several different walks of life talking about how the rising price of petroleum was affecting them.

I'm guessing a bunch of people were surprised when they heard the farmer talk about how severely it affected him. He said that farming is a "petroleum based industry," which you might not have heard before, but you are going to be hearing a whole lot as the Peak Oil shit hits the fan. This particular farmer said he generally uses 100 gallons of diesel a day just to run his two tractors.

As oil prices sprial upward, they are going to have effects that most people would never dream of. I don't know what the percentage of the food we eat is the embodied cost of the oil used to plant it, fertilize it, insecticide it, pick it, transport it, process it and package it, but I would not be surprised at all if the number exceeded 50%. Think about where the food on your table came from -- how many miles away was the farm -- 100 miles? 1000? You probably don't have a clue, and neither do I. But the entire agriculture infrastrucure we rely upon is based on cheap oil.

For example, California's Central Valley, which produces, just to pick the first statistic I could find, "approximately 95 percent of the processing tomato crop in the United States and about 40 percent of the world's production." Think about the diesel consumed getting your tomato paste to you if you live on the east coast. Now think about diesel at $5/gallon.

This is going to hurt all of us, but the farmers are at the leading edge of the supply chain, and they are feeling it right now. My first thought when I heard the story was that this presents a political opportunity if we can get these folks to connect the dots between the Iraq disaster and the pain they are now feeling. But then I thought about Bush's tanking numbers in the Grain Belt and other farming-intensive regions, and I realized that could well be exactly what is already happening.

James Howard Kunstler has been all over this issue for quite some time. We're going to be wishing somebody had paid attention very soon.

If there was some magical way to limit the effects of the coming denouement to the Red State fools who voted for Bush out of jingoism and racism and homophobia (I wonder who that farmer on NPR voted for?), that would certainly be poetically just. But we will all reap what they have sown.

What should we make of this?

As you know, The Washington Post did a profile/pigeonholing/hatchet job on MaryScott @ My Left Wing on Sunday. As a blogger feeling under-read, I was curious to see how it affected her traffic. You can see the stats here. Traffic was up - double or maybe even triple the normal weekend numbers, up to about 20,000 visitors. But that is far below the spike I would have expected. When I get a link from Raw Story or Buzzflash, my stats at least triple, and sometimes are 5X normal. That's just for a blurb on a website with signifcant overlap with this one. The Sunday WaPo (dead tree version) has a circulation of about 1,000,000. This was a front page story, and it was in the online WaPo as well. It was covered in most lefty blogs. So why didn't her numbers go through the roof?


(1) Most WaPo readers just don't care -- For the average WaPo page-flipper, an article about the blogosphere was kinda like an article about life in East Fonglipistan. Both places are filled with exotic, unsavory people speaking strange tongues. They aren't interested in taking a trip to either one.

(2) Most WaPo readers are not online -- I have no idea if this is true, but it would explain quite a bit. We in the 'sphere know what rank nonsense fills the WaPo editorial page. We know it because we have alternative, reality-based sources of information. As a result, we take what the WaPo tells us with a golf ball-sized grain of salt. If the reason WaPo readres do not choke on the happy horseshit they consume is because they simply do not know any better, that would explain a lot.

Other ideas?

I think this is an important question because our "fringeness" is a problem to be overcome. I'm confident in the truth value of what we say, but puzzled by the small number of folks willing to even be exposed to our viewpoints. If a front page story in the WaPo won't bring hoi polloi around for a looksee, what will?

Monday, April 17, 2006

The return of July Canute

Regulars will perhaps recall that last month one July Canute a strange person, proudly self-identifying as a Democrat and anti-Semite, left some rather nasty, OT comments both at Raw Story and here, and I wondered aloud whether to try to engage her in this space. I decided to try, but she flew the coop without further discussion.

Reader Randy alerted me to her equally bizzare re-appearance over at the General's place. I guess dialogue would have been the sound of one hand clapping after all.

Orwell would be so very proud

From the (U.K.) Sunday Times Online:
The American military is planning a “second liberation of Baghdad” to be carried out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed.

Pacifying the lawless capital is regarded as essential to establishing the authority of the incoming government and preparing for a significant withdrawal of American troops.
Helicopters suitable for urban warfare, such as the manoeuvrable AH-6 “Little Birds” used by the marines and special forces and armed with rocket launchers and machineguns, are likely to complement the ground attack.

I'm so confused. Here's the high-level messaging over time:

(1) First liberation of Baghdad, topping of Saddam statue, etc. April, 2003.

(2) Mission Accomplished -- end of combat ops in Iraq, May 2003.

(3) Three years of progress.

(4) Second liberation of Baghdad, 2006.

Can anybody else spot the logical flaw here? And no, I don't mean the low probability of the condition precedent -- the formation of a government. Partial credit given for explaining the tragic illogic of deploying air power to pacify a country you claim to control.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Why the WaPo hatchet job matters

(Updated below)

Everybody is talking about the hatchet job the WaPo did yesterday about "My Left Wing" in particular and by extension, the left blogosphere. There have been two kinds of reaction I have seen: anger (which should also makes us laugh at ourselves a bit, I guess) and headscratching about said reaction. PZ Meyers offers an exemplar of the latter:
I'm baffled by it all. Shouldn't we be angry about war and torture and tax breaks for the rich and incompetence and corruption? Isn't anger and opposition the appropriate response?
He's right, of course. And we need to own our passion, and the strength it gives us. Think about how the Far Right works -- I suspect that the James Dobsons of the world would not tremble at the prospect of being labeled angry by the mainstream press. But there is another aspect to this.

The circles in which Washington Post and New York Times reporters eat their cocktail weenies are only dimly aware of us. David Finkel, the reporter who wrote the story, knew nothing about blogs before shitting on them. The people he works with, and many of the folks who read the Times and Post, know nothing about the blogosphere. We could not be more alien to the old guard if we were gansta rappers. So articles like this one damage us because they provide convenient labels, which are then used to dismiss us as unworthy of further thought or discussion.

To those who live in and profit from the status quo, the fact that our anger is justifed and rational is beside the point. The fact that we are mostly rational and fact-based in our arguments is meaningless. We are "angry," ergo we are marginal. We are angry, ergo our positions are irrelevant. The anger label is their way of innoculating themselves against having to confront the uncomfortable truths we throw in their faces.

And I'm not willing to dismiss the possibilty that the choice of an angry woman as our avatar as a coincidence. How has the right chosen to label Hillary Clinton -- the moniker calculated to turn Joe Sixpack permanently against her? That's right -- "angry." You can almost see the loaded word "hysterical" lurking in the shadows. If they want to label the Democrats the "Mommy Party," they want to make us the PMS wing.

I'm not in any way suggesting that we moderate or throttle our message, or our anger. I'm with PZ Meyers on this one. And I think the article betrays the very real fear we have put into the old guard in places like the Washington Post, and I take that fear as evidence of some measure of our effectiveness. But we also need to understand what the labeling is really about, who it is aimed at, and make sure we find ways to frustrate their attempts to frame us.

Update: For now, I don't know how to fight the Post's marginalization gambit. But I do know I have no intention of running away from my anger. So I've added My Left Wing to the blogroll, and I intend to make it a stop on my daily rounds. I suggest you do the same.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Scalia pathology watch

I'm not the only one talking about Scalia's apparent pathology. The Washington Post asks a polite WTF. AmericaBlog also notes what they call his "erratic" behavior.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon Stewart said that the Bush Administration is so bad that if someone hurled his own feces in a Cabinet meeting, they'd name a state after him. At this rate, it won't be long before Scalia puts that hypothesis to the test.

Bilmon gives a history lesson

Bilmon's posts @ Whisky Bar were so sporadic for a while that I thought he had left us, and I dropped him from the coveted Bluememe blogroll. He's back, and in fine form. His latest post Munich is a good read, and he's back in our blogroll's good graces.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Another reason to love San Francisco

You gotta love a place insane enought to have Lombard Street. But that's the kindof vanilla weirdness that folks from Dubuque will understand. There's a whole 'nother San Francisco --

via Boing Boing: BRING YOUR OWN BIG WHEEL. A race, for adults, down Lombard Street, on Big Wheels.

I left my heart...

Wanker du jour: David Brooks

The rolling disaster that is the inarguable legacy of the Bush presidency is now triggering an avalanche of delusional introspection, finger-pointing and revisionist history from the neocons and those who enabled their insanity.

With yesterday's column, "Exodus mindset reminds us what Iraq could become" (behind the Selective wall, but reprintined in my local paper today), David Brooks gives us the singular pleasure of the verbal equivalent of a shotgun seat for his auto-colonoscopy. As you might expect, it ain't a pretty sight.

Bobo employs a horribly trite rhetorical device to share his internal debate: he names the internal voices "Mr. Future" and Mr. Past." Anyone care to wager which of those two wears the white hat in Bobo's movie?

Bobo puts all that is reality-based in the mouth of evil Mr. Past, though he exaggerates for dramatic effect. Mr. Past opens the dialogue:
Your problem is you don't understand the limits of what governments can achieve...The central lesson of the past three years is that societies are not that malleable... We need to change our mentality, scale back to more realistic expectations.

A bit too cynical perhaps, and drawing an overbroad conclusion, but Mr. Past sounds like a reasonable man.

And in this corner, Mr. Future:
The Exodus story reminds us that human beings can transform themselves and their situations. It reminds us that people who embark on generational journeys are the realistic ones...
So, let's review. Mr. Future bases his, um, futuristic argument on the Old Testament story. I'm not big on Biblical scholarship, so in case you are as ignorant as I am about the details, here's the Wikipedia summary:
The Exodus begins after Pharaoh's consent, and the Israelites leave Rameses to go to Succoth. The nobles of Egypt object to Pharaoh's consent, and so Pharaoh gathers together a large army to chase after the Israelites, who have by this point reached the Red Sea. Fortunately for the Israelites, they are divinely guarded, and are able to escape through the Red Sea, when Moses causes the waters to part. The waters collapse once the Israelites have passed, defeating Pharaoh, and the Israelites joyfully sing the Song of the Sea (13-14).

The Israelites continue their journey into the desert, and once in the Wilderness of Sin, they complain about the lack of food. Listening to their complaint, God sends them a shower of quail, and subsequently provides a daily shower of manna from heaven. Once at Rephidim, the thirst of the people gets to them, so water is miraculously provided from a rock.

OK, got that? The future is the 3000-plus year-old Old Testament. Mannah from Heaven. Parting of the Red Sea. I guess the future does not belong to the reality-based community.

But Bobo ain't through. Aligning Dubya's criminal folly to Moses is only the half of it:
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. learned from Exodus that it is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve.... So of all the lessons to learn from the past three years, the worst would be to settle back into your coldhearted acceptance of the status quo.
Just as there is no ethical, moral or logical line these fools will not cross if it serves them, Bobo proves there is no rhetorical device too reprenhensible. Can you really imagine Martin Luther King cheerleading for the Iraq war? Is there no end to the variations on "Hope is a plan" these fools will try to foist upon us?

Next time, Bobo, keep the pictures of your colon to yourself.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Scalia to Constitution: Vaffanculo

I'm really beginning to wonder if Scalia is beginning to manifest some sort of serious, organic cognitive problem. There was the episode -- in church -- when he flipped off a reporter.

And now there is this:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says refusing to recuse himself in a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney is the "proudest thing" he's done on the court. Critics questioned Scalia's impartiality in the 2004 case upholding Cheney's request to keep the details of secret White House strategy sessions private — after Scalia took a hunting trip with the vice president just weeks after the court agreed to hear the case.But Scalia tells law students at the University of Connecticut that he's proud he didn't allow himself to be chased off the case, saying, "For Pete's sake, if you can't trust your Supreme Court justice more than that, get a life."
This is an amazingly concentrated dose of pathology, even for Scalia. First, for a guy reputed to be very bright and a legal scholar, his sentence construction is surprisingly childlike and ignorant. "Proudest thing" is just plain wrong -- the thing isn't proud, Nino; you might be proud of it, but I assure you, it ain't proud of you, and couldn't be even if what you did was something to be proud of. Dubya's syntax is so utterly bolluxed 24/7 that I would never bother to correct him this way, but Justice Scalia normally meets a higher standard.

But that's not the worst of it. Think about how Earl Warren might have answered the question -- would his proudest moment be ending legal segregation in Brown v. Board of Ed? Establishing the right of an indigent criminal defendent to a public defender? Now as a sworn enemy of all things progressive, Scalia would not be expected to have that brand of nostalgia. But he has been party to many conservative milestones -- do none of them rate higher than covering the Dick's butt? There is something pathetic and alarmingly regressive in placing the protection of your playground pal above the big picture stuff.

And finally, the idea that we are supposed to trust our high government officals to police themselves is so absurdly at odds with the express intent of the guys who designed and built our system that a so-called strict constructionist like Scalia should be incapable of even uttering the words.

Scalia is now 70 years old. So I have to ask: is he beginning to lose it?

Perhaps Dr. Bloor, if he still haunts these parts, could favor us with a more professional diagnosis.

Shameless Commerce diversion

Loyal reader esoder reacts with horror at the appearance of advertising here on the previously pristine Blue Meme lawn.

While I understand and indeed applaud the suspicion that professional pundits are all bought and paid for, rest assured that these minor changes will not change my editorial viewpoint one iota. Just as I always have, I will continue to defend Jack Abramoff, Halliburton, Enron, and, most of all, our President against the scurrilous charges leveled by the cowards in the liberal media.

Oh, and can I interest you in my new Miracle Diet?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


One of the things that has been evident to me for some time is the tremendous opportunity presented to us to peel off some of the support Republicans have taken for granted from more libertarian conservatives who must be livid at the kleptocractic ways of the current Republican regime. If we focus on the "keep your grubby hands of my Internet/birth control/end-of-life" stuff, there are millions of real conservatives who agree with us on a few basic and literally life-threatening issues.

A case in point: I was checking to see who has pointed to Blue Meme recently, and found this:

The Guns Network LLC ~ Discussion Forums - More great legislation from the morons in Washington.

That's right, kids: a pro-NRA site, linking approvingly to my post.

There are kajillions of things on which The Guns Network and I will profoundly disagree, including, but not limited to, guns. But it seems we can agree that George W. Bush and his cronies in the Congress are very bad news.

Effective, if temporary, coalitions have been built on far less.

I link to a couple of self-described conservatives in the blogroll. This is something else entirely. Can we work with people with whom we profoundly disagree to serve a greater good? What if such an alliance is the only way to get rid of Dubya?

My brain hurts.

Generation gap?

It just occurred to me that the term I am using may be new to some readers here (assuming that my ancient cultural references have not already scared off everyone under 40). So just in case, the rich history of the term "Non-denial denial" is explained here.

See, it's a Watergate reference....

You know, Nixon....

Who was elected when Paul McCartney was in that other band from before Wings...

Oh, never mind.

Now come back here with my dentures.

Non-denial denial, part 3

(Updated below)

White House denies report on Iraq WMD - Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday angrily denied a newspaper report that suggested President George W. Bush in 2003 declared the existence of mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq while knowing it was not true.

"It's reckless reporting. Everybody should be agitated about it," White House spokesman McClellan told reporters of The Washington Post report.

On May 29, 2003, Bush hailed the capture of two trailers in Iraq as mobile biological laboratories and declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

Two days earlier, on May 27, 2003, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) team faxed its preliminary report on the mobile labs. This report concluded the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons, the Post said.

McClellan said Bush made his statement based on the combined conclusions of the CIA and DIA that were given to him in a May 28 white paper.

Shorter version: "We're not liars -- we're just incompetent!" That's somewhat less culpable in the eyes of the law, to be sure, but we are in desperate times indeed when the White House is comfortable having raised its grade to mere negligence.

And note that Scotty says the reporting was "reckless" -- not wrong, not false, just reckless. As pointed out on Monday, we should all feel free to adopt these non-denial denials in our own lives : "Boss, your suggestion that I embezzled $100K from the company is reckless, and I am quite agitated about it."

Update: Just saw John Dean on Olbermann, who echoed my point above, even going so far as to use the word "incompetence."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A few flies in the ointment

As part of my continuing education in the ways of the Internet, I decided to give blog ads a spin today.

They're context sensitive -- picking up on what I post and serving up ads accordingly. Smart.... but not smart enough.

Below is the ad first placed here in response to the preceding post.
I am guessing that y'all are not the target audience for Christian filtering.

On the other hand, maybe I'm reading it wrong. Perhaps there are those among you who are looking for a tool that can effectively block Christians.

Lost in the noise: House committee voted to kill the Internet

(Updated again below)

There has been so much going on lately with plans to nuke Iran and the like, that a major story seems to have slipped under the radar for the entire blogosphere.

We've been jawing for weeks about the plans that Big Telecom have for discriminating between the bits they like and the bits they don't flowing through their pipes into our houses. Last week Matt @ MyDD flagged the very dangerous bill working through the House right now.

That bill took a big step toward being enacted into law last week, and it seems nobody noticed.
A House subcommittee handed phone companies a victory Wednesday by voting 27-4 to advance a bill that would make it easier for them to deliver television service over the Internet and clearing the way for all Internet carriers to charge more for speedier delivery.

The lopsided vote was a defeat for Internet and technology firms like Google and Microsoft, which had hoped to amend the bill to enforce a principle called network neutrality and preserve the status quo under which all Internet traffic is treated equally.

Earlier in the day, the subcommittee voted 23-8 to reject an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would have inserted specific language designed to enforce network neutrality and prevent the feared creation of fast and slow lanes on the Internet.

Markey said his amendment was necessary to protect the "Internet as an engine of innovation" and ensure that new services had an equal chance to sprout.
Supporters painted defeat of Markey's net neutrality amendment in bleak terms.

"Members from both sides of the aisle endorsed a plan which will permit cable and phone companies to construct 'pay as you surf, pay as you post' toll booths for the Internet," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington.

But Sonia Arrison, director of technology studies for the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, dismissed concerns that the proposed bill would lead to a two-tiered Internet.

"There's plenty of competition," Arrison said. "The market will take care of it."

Ah, yes... the market. Just as the market driven television and radio airwaves have been well-allocated by the market? Just as the oligopolistic and largely bootlicking newspaper industry reflects the market?

Cough, cough (bullshit) cough.

I don't mean to say that the free market is a bad thing. It is a good thing, but it has fatal flaws. Perhaps the biggest one is that in many industries the big just keep getting bigger, and eventually dominate in ways that hurt everyone else. I'll save the economics lesson for another time, but there are industries where, if left alone, the market eventually reduces to no more than a handful of "competitors" who don't actually do much competing.

Telecom is one of those industries. A few players have now bought and paid for enough Congresscritters (and, presumably, Senators) to get what they want, which is unfettered power -- to set prices, of course, and to grow larger, but that ain't all.

There is now an ugly symbiosis between the telecoms and their regulators in Congress. An unfettered, content-neutral Internet has zero direct cost to the telecoms, but muzzling the political rabble certainly won't displease them -- the more you own, the more you tend to value order. On the other hand, we have become a growing thorn in the side of the political establishment, and making it easier for their corporate keepers to keep us out is a high (if unstated) priority. So I have no doubt that, behind closed doors, the ability to shut us up was integral to the game plan.

From the carrier's standpoint, my ones and zeros are no different from Instapundit's ones and zeros, which are no different from's ones and zeros. But mine are the ones with a bullseye painted on them. So it doesn't surprise me that the conservative blogs aren't talking about this. But I am surprised that the left hemiblogosphere isn't making a serious stink about this.

Anyway, six Dems joined the evil Republican majority on this bill in the subcommittee vote. It now goes before the House Energy and Commerce Committeewhere it is expected to be taken up the week of April 24.

We need to get our shit together and make some serious noise about this. We can't afford to lose this fight, or we may not have the tools for the next one.

Update: I cross-posted @ dKos, and it got a ton more comments over there. Several of the commenters there, like Jeff Kaplan here, pointed that a bunch of folks have been paying attention and are taking action. Go here right now and sign up to make your displeasure known. Later tonight I will try to pull together a buch more resources and update this again with more action items.

Use it or lose it, people.

Update #2

OK, friends. This is where the rubber meets to road -- where we protect the real "crown jewel" of our democracy, which is our ability to effectively communicate and participate in it. So do the following:

  • Go to the Center for Digital Democracy, which has collected a bunch more sites and action items.
  • Here's the list of members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. If any of them represent you, contact them directly.
And as Jane Hamsher would ask, come back and tell me what you have done. The line for gold stars forms to the left.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Will somebody please call him on this?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about Dubya's long-distance relationship with the truth. My thesis was that he lies because there have never been external negative consequences to his lies, so he never developed the capacity to care about the difference between truth and fiction. Today's performance offered an excellent example of his pathology, and the obsequious retinue that enables him: he tried to dance his way out of one lie with another, and nobody seems to called him on it.

So now WPE has admitted authorizing the leak that went to from Scooter to Our Lady of the Chalabi Hobby, the spin is flying thick and fast. Here's how Dubya himself spun it today (in response to a question from a student, natch, not a reporter):

Q Sorry. (Laughter.) My question, sir, is -- well, as Anthony eluded to earlier, and as you're aware, we have many students at SAIS who are currently working for or considering working for the State Department, the various intelligence agencies, and such. And how do you respond to the recent report by Prosecutor Fitzgerald that there is, in his words, "evidence of a concerted effort by the White House to punish Joseph Wilson," who himself has a distinguished record of government service.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. No. I -- this is -- there's an ongoing legal proceeding which precludes me from talking a lot about the case. There's also an ongoing investigation that's a serious investigation. I will say this, that after we liberated Iraq, there was questions in people's minds about, you know -- about the basis on which I made the statements, in other words going into Iraq. And so I decided to declassify the NIE for a reason. I wanted to see people -- people to see what some of those statements were based on. That's what I wanted to see. I wanted people to see the truth. And I thought it made sense for people to see the truth, and that's why I declassified the document.

Now there are so many things wrong with this statement, but I want to pick on just one obvious piece.

Bush says "I decided to declassify the NIE..." But here's the thing, folks: that is another lie. In fact, the NIE is still classified. Bush only declassified one small part of it -- what was effectively a footnote. The main body of th NIE, according to the discussions I have read, was far more consistent with the Joe Wilson/reality-based view than it was with the Bush fantasy.

We can't expect those in the audience at Johns Hopkins to call him on this. But where the hell is the White House Press corpse on this?

Non-denial denial: part 2

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday dismissed as "wild speculation" reports that his administration has considered nuclear strikes against sites in Iran to prevent the nation from building nuclear weapons.

Bush addressed the issue during comments at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

He emphasized that his administration is trying to resolve concerns over Iran through diplomacy.

"The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon," the president said.
"And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation. Which is, kind of a -- you know, happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."

Still no denial.

Kids, try this at home: when your folks ask if you have been smoking pot, say, "Mom, Dad, you are just engaging in wild speculation."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Non-denial denials

U.S. Seeks to Dampen Talk of Iran Strike - Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON - The White House on Sunday sought to dampen the idea of a U.S. military strike on Iran, saying the United States is conducting "normal defense and intelligence planning" as President Bush seeks a diplomatic solution to Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

Administration officials — from President Bush on down — have left open the possibility of a military response if Iran does not end its nuclear ambitions. Several reports published Sunday said the administration was studying options for military strikes; one account raised the possibility of using nuclear bombs against Iran's underground nuclear sites.

Britain's foreign secretary called the idea of a nuclear strike "completely nuts."

Dan Bartlett, counselor to Bush, cautioned against reading too much into administration planning.

"The president's priority is to find a diplomatic solution to a problem the entire world recognizes," Bartlett told The Associated Press on Sunday. "And those who are drawing broad, definitive conclusions based on normal defense and intelligence planning, are ill-informed and are not knowledgeable of the administration's thinking on Iran."

Anybody see a denial in there? Bueller? Anyone?

For the terminally dense: the fact that the Administration doesn't want us talking about this (or, to be really precise, the fact that they SAY they don't want us talking about it) is not at all the same thing as saying "Of course we are not planning to nuke Iran." In fact, they are effectively telegraphing the opposite message.

The tricky thing here is that, at least in theory, diplomacy is indeed strengthened to some degree if (a) Iran thinks Bush is a bit nuts and (b) Iran thinks the threat of war is credible. Though I think the conservatives wildly overstate its importance and effectiveness, that is essentially the way they think Ronnie Rayguns single-handedly beat the Rooskies. The problem is that (c) short of a gigaton-class doomsday, the war threat simply isn't credible, and (d) Bush may actually be nuts, in which case the whole thing moves beyond high stakes chess and into the realm of horrors rarely seen in human history.

Which is why I am not comforted one bit by such non-denials.

Somebody's ass in my briefcase


There are a couple of wonderful lines I remember from a largely forgotten 1981 film, "Absence of Malice." I haven't seen the movie since it first came out, but as I recall Wilfred Brimley plays a U.S. Attorney cleaning up a mess of a federal investigation involving the selective leaking of information by a different government official to a reporter. (As I dimly remember it, Brimley stole the movie.) Brimley had two lines that have stuck with me, and that are totally appropriate to the current situation.

Upon being grudgingly informed that there had been a leak, Brimley says:
You had a leak? You call what's goin' on around here a leak? Boy, the last time there was a leak like this, Noah built hisself a boat.

And when discussing the consequences of the local shitstorm:
Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ - e'scuse me, Angie - is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in muh briefcase.

And there's a line I hadn't remembered that I want to remember now:
We can't have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons. It ain't legal. And worse than that, by God it ain't right.

Wilfred was the essence of the crusty but ramrod-straight prosecutor, just like you would expect Central Casting to deliver. Patrick Fitzgerald's style is rather different, but it wouldn't surprise me if Fitz saw that movie and was affected by it.

Reader esoder has been waiting with baited breath for me to weigh in on the revelation that Dubya approved the leak of parts of the NIE to Judy Miller. I'm not sure I have much to add at this point.

One interesting observation is that, although we still carp, and justifably so, about the quality of press coverage and commentary (witness today's obscene WaPo editorial), things have changed pretty significantly for the better now that Shrub's numbers have tanked. This story is getting significant play, and shills like David Brooks are being forced into ever more extreme contortions to explain away the damage. The spiral will continue. Exhibit "A" is the headline from Newsweek online: Leaker in Chief?

One reason for that is discussed by Steve Clemmons in a recent The Washington Note. He points out that part of the context of this revelation is the conviction of Larry Franklin for leaking to AIPAC. (They've gone after others as well.) The cabal's official spin away from the apparent contradiction is, predictably, that "it isn't a crime when the King does it." That may convince rubes like Bobo and Krauthammer, but the folks who inhabit the bowels of the federal government have to be pissed. They will increasingly get their digs in. As I predicted long ago,
I'd wager there are many, many people these thugs have stepped on over the last five years who are just itching to get their licks in. There are scores of scores to settle, and enough scandals, illegality and plain old fuck-ups in need of daylight to allow the victims of every last one of them a measure of payback.

A year ago, they were all too scared to speak up. But Bush's aura of omnipotence has been nullified. There are too many leaks and too much heat for the Godfather to enforce the code anymore. A positive feedback loop is now feeding on itself -- leaks beget more leaks, disloyalty embodens further disloyalty. The worse it gets, the worse it will get, and the pace will accelerate.
And as they plot Doomsday in Iran to draw our fire away from their earlier crimes, the maligned folks in the military and the intelligence community will continue to let the leaks drip, drip, drip, keeping our royal thugs on the defensive 24/7. The nearly open war between the White House on the one hand and uniformed military and the career intel folks on the other is a cause for cautious optimism: what if Bush says, "fire," and the generals refuse?

The other important thing here is that Fitz seems to be accomplishing one of his primary tactical goals, which is to drive a wedge between Scooter and his old bosses. There is a fine line there: if Bush decides to pardon Scooter, the game is over. I suspect Fitz is trying to make the White House the apocryphal frog in the pot of hot water. He's raising the temperature so gradually that maybe they will never take that extreme step, which would now bring on a shitstorm of protest. (OTOH, the bombing of Iran would be an ideal bit of covering fire to distract attention, wouldn't it?)

And finally, what I take away from Fitz's move -- Libby said it, but Fitz made it public, and chose to do so now -- is that maybe, just maybe, Fitz is playing the big game we all hope he is. The big game being the saving of our Republic. When the Libby indictment came down, I was among the many who expressed disappointment at the thin gruel he was offering. But I have gradually been won over. I no longer think he is settling for small change here. I think he's just a lot smarter and more patient than I am, and waiting for the right moment to go all in. Limiting the Libby indictment to perjury/obstruction seemed cautious or even cowardly at the time; now, as Scooter augers himself deeper and deeper into the muck, it looks like tactical brilliance.

I think I'm going to rent Wilfred's shining moment and see how it holds up today.

see web stats