September 30, 2003

Stupid Conservative Myth #6

Time to demolish another dumb dittohead delusion:

Liberals believe that gender roles are artificial, but being homosexual is natural.

It isn't necessarily a myth that liberals believe this, but it is a myth that the belief is mistaken. I'm coming into this one with a fair bit of ignorance, so I took my own advice and got myself educated a little bit. I read this definition of gender roles on the web, which sounds reasonable:

The behaviors, attitudes, and activities expected or common for males and females. Whereas sex roles are essentially biologically determined (ensuring successful reproduction and forming the basis of sexual division of labor, in which women are associated with childrearing), gender roles (behavior that is considered ìmasculineî or ìfeminineî) are culturally determined. In the United States, for example, men are generally expected to be independent, aggressive, physical, ambitious, and able to control their emotions; women are generally expected to be passive, sensitive, emotional, nurturing, and supportive. These traditional gender roles frequently come under attack, especially from women.

Clearly, if gender roles are culturally determined, then they are "artificial" (nurture, not nature) things. It seems to me if we could show that definitions of masculine and feminine behavior vary a lot from culture to culture, then that would demolish the first part of the myth. The pioneering work on this subject was done in New Guinea by Margaret Mead who studied several different tribes which were not in contact with one another and found that their gender roles varied remarkably. Mead argued that cultural factors are at least as important as biology in determining these roles. Without knowing much else, I am inclined to believe Mead's general hypothesis, but I could probably be educated further on this.

With less confidence, I would also venture forth with the hypothesis that gender roles reflect the conservative "control-freak" side. I find the (stereotypical) conservative obsession with the military, abortion (more on that next time), censorship, corporal punishment and child discipline in general, religion and the state, the drug war, the 50's, etc. to all be similar in the sense that they reflect a conservative's desire for control and conformity. To be fair, I think a lot of the liberal instinctive opposition to these conservative ideas is just as knee-jerk.

I recall visiting Texas A&M once for an academic conference (it was a few yeras ago, so some of my details may be off ... sorry about that). It is a very conservative school with a strong military presence on campus (big ROTC program). Their Memorial Building was built in memory of various people who have died (can't recall if they were all veterans or alums or what). When you enter that building, which is really one of the hubs of campus, there is a big sign that greets you at every doorway that says "Hats Off!" The sign instructs you not to enter the building without taking off your hat, out of respect for the deceased. My thinking was, "Sure, fine, I can respect that," but I also wondered why make a big fuss.

Why *force* people to take their hats off? What's the conservative kick with conformity? Isn't it possible to show respect in your own way without having to follow orders? Anyway, I think the conservative support for "traditional" gender roles is part and parcel of this whole theme. Deep down, they feel that women should stay at home when they have babies, breastfeed, etc. The whole "barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen cooking my supper" thing.

So what about homosexuality and the ever-so-popular "natural laws". What the hell are natural laws anyway? Can someone recite them all? Is it just stuff from the Bible? Well, I know that homosexuality is found in other species besides humans, so it seems "natural" in that sense.

My favorite argument against homosexuality is something like: Hey, if everyone were homosexual, the species would die out! Well, yeah, but are homosexuals trying to convert the whole species? Gimme a break! Last time I looked, even though homosexuality is becoming more and more prominent, the population of the Earth is still increasing just fine. Even in countries where homosexuality is accepted as part of the "spectrum" of normal. So that whole argument really reeks of insecure paranoia.

So I'm stuck here, because I can't even see a rational reason to support the statement that homosexuality is not "natural" somehow. I can't really argue both sides successfully. Oh well, makes for a relatively short refutation of the myth and leads us to item #6 that you must believe in order to be a good conservative:

Women should know and stick to their proper subservient place in the social order.

I covered their beliefs having to do with homosexuality earlier in another item. I'll publish the complete list plus a few more when I'm done with the series. I keep thinking of new myths to debunk, though, so it may go as high as 30 or 40. I'll finish the original list of 20 first, of course. Next up is capital punishment and abortion.

Posted by Observer at 07:09 AM | Comments (4)

September 29, 2003

First Exam Follies

Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Posted by Observer at 04:22 PM | Comments (8)

Closing Ranks

The Washington Post continues covering the blown cover affair with a few new details. Wilson himself verifies that several reporters called him asking about his wife shortly after the alleged leak. It's still hard to believe that people in the Bush administration actually *shopped around* the information about Wilson's wife to at least six different journalists before Novak finally bit. How incredibly cynical.

Some bloggers are suggesting the White House release phone records to show who called whom back on that fateful day. After all, they recently released their phone records (to a conservative reporter, natch) in an attempt to embarrass Wesley Clark (long story, but the so-called liberal media tried to turn a Clark joke about the White House not returning his calls into some sort of Gore-like "problems with the truth" scandal). So there is a precedent here, and it would answer any questions pretty quickly.

Bush himself says he has no plans to ask his staff who was doing the leaking. That's the kind of leadership we've come to expect from President Flight Suit. I'm sure it is too much to ask that he might legally be considered an accessory or at the very least obstructing the investigation, that there be legal consequences for the president. After all, there's not a blowjob involved.

Posted by Observer at 07:42 AM | Comments (1)

September 28, 2003

Pass the Effing Popcorn

Well, although this made the front page of the Washington Post, some other local scandals knocked this off the front pages of our local paper. Still, imho, it's a big story, because *finally* someone in the worst administration in history is going to end up going to jail for something. That something is "outing" an undercover CIA agent as an act of political spite.

A little background: Bush originally misled Americans into thinking Saddam had been busted trying to obtain Uranium in his State of the Union (this may turn out to be true, that Saddam really tried it, but when we in the US checked on this by sending ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to do some digging, he reported "no way is it true"). Wilson came out after the speech and told this story, making Bush look pretty stupid. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was on TV this morning getting hit with it again. She now claims that she may have been told before the SotU speech but then later "forgot" the Africa claim was bogus. I have to say, her memory makes her very highly qualified to be a top member of *this* administration.

Anyway, shortly after Wilson came out, Robert Novak published a column about the incident with an "oh by the way" mention that Wilson's wife happened to be an undercover CIA operative. Novak's source was a senior administration official, language that usually means cabinet level or higher (maybe a total of a dozen people) in the administration. Now, it just so happens that outing an undercover operative is a federal offense with mandatory jail time attached. Somehow, though, the press doesn't really seem to care about it.

I mean, when Hillary tried to fire a bunch of political appointees in the travel office (which is not against the law ... quite contrary, it is traditional when administrations change), that was above-the-fold front-page news for weeks on end. Just as one example. You all know there were dozens during the Clinton years. But hardly a peep about this "outing". Until now.

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. That was shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account eventually touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

This news comes shortly after the CIA completed its own internal investigation into this matter and handed the case over to the Justice Department to pursue further. It probably would've ended there. I mean, this *is* the Bushco Justice Department, and they've never met a Republican that they thought needed to be prosecuted. I guarantee you it would've ended there for the media. Except for one official (again, there are only a dozen or so it could be) who *finally* had an attack of decency, ethics and morality to call a reporter and make sure that this gets pursued. That same official will undoubtedly be forthcoming with the investigation and finger those responsible.

I never watch the morning news shows, but Rice and Colin Powell were on separate shows this morning and were each very briefly asked about this at the tail end of long lie-filled discussions and evasions on Iraq. Both of them briefly said that they had absolutely no idea what any of this is about. What a complete steaming pile of bullshit.

I mean, if I'm Tim Russert (the "Meet the Press" host) and the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, you know, the person responsible for all issues related to INTELLIGENCE in this country, claims she doesn't know anything about the outing of a CIA agent or the news that someone has leaked to verify it along with the names of those responsible, THEN I WOULD FUCKING ASK A FOLLOW-UP!!! But no, it was time for commercial. The guys on "This Week" gave Colin Powell the same kid-gloves treatment. Unbelieveable.

In the end, although I have to say that I'm taking a great deal of satisfaction in watching this story unfold (Eschaton said it best: "Pass the effing popcorn."), and I will cheer when someone goes to jail for this, the most serious thing about it is that it happened. People in the entire administration *know* it happened, and they're acting like it is no big deal or just another thing to deny.

Corrente has more on this, including a choice quote from George Bush, Sr:

Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.

Further down in the original Post article, the senior administration official who is now admitting that this all really happened has an interesting take on the matter:

Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

And so the White House has finally revealed its priorities. They've found something worse than a federal offense, something worse that what conservatives would consider traitorous behavior: a political blunder.

CalPundit had the following commentary this morning, and I couldn't have said it better:

Now that this story has been confirmed, it really makes you face up to the true contemptibility of the whole affair. Think about it: two top White House officials, the ones who run this country and are supposed to guard the security of our country, blew the cover of a CIA agent solely to gain some petty revenge on a minor political opponent.

I just don't know how much worse it gets than that. As much as I despise the team in the White House, I always thought that ó in their own way ó they were doing what they thought was best for America. I never thought they would betray their own country just out of spite. I really didn't.

But if they'll do something like this, they'll do anything. I guess Krugman was right all along: these are radical ideologues who care about nothing except staying in power and will do anything, no matter how craven and malevolent, to get what they want.

It's enough to make you sick.

Unlike CalPundit, I do not even pretend to be surprised.

Posted by Observer at 10:38 AM | Comments (6)

September 27, 2003

Write What You're Told!

Thanks to Cursor for the pointer to this. Scott Rosenberg had an excellent response to conservative complaints about "liberal" or "anti-Bush" media bias on Iraq:

[Conservative blogger/pundit Glenn Reynolds says,] "It's not the reporting of criticisms or bad things that's the issue... It's the lazy Vietnam-templating, the 'of course America must be losing' spin, the implicit and sometimes explicit sneer, and the relentless bringing to the fore of every convenient negative fact while suppressing the positive ones that's the issue. It's what the terrorists are counting on, and it's what too many in the media are happy to deliver, because they think it'll hurt Bush."

Notice that an argument that, at bottom, is about demanding that the U.S. media suppress bad news from Iraq has been inverted into an argument that the problem is really with the suppression of positive news (no examples provided). A neat trick.

Let's take it phrase by phrase: "Lazy Vietnam-templating" is not a charge I would level against, say, Max Cleland, who is the most forceful recent applier of the Vietnam analogy and who is far more qualified than I or most other commentators to apply it. If an observer feels that the U.S. is making the same mistakes in Iraq that it made in Vietnam, surely his duty is to speak loudly and try to get the U.S. to change its policies before we lose this war the way we lost Vietnam, and before too many more American servicepeople pay the price of our mistakes. This isn't "lazy ... templating," it's fair debate. So pace Reynolds, arguing that we should not oppose policies that we think will lose the war doesn't help the terrorists, it helps our democracy.

Then there's the reference to "'of course America must be losing' spin." Notice how the entire issue of whether the U.S. is winning or losing is bypassed, and the possibility that some of us actually feel the U.S., following the current botched Bush policies, is losing is reduced to a matter of "spin." But what if it's not spin? What if you're a journalist on the scene in Iraq and what your eyes and ears tell you is that the U.S. is losing? According to the Jim Marshall/Glenn Reynolds argument, are you supposed to just shut up? [...]

Personally, I wish the news from Iraq were better. I wish the killing would stop, and Iraq would quickly become a beacon of light and democracy to the Middle East, as the cakewalk-neocons promised us. But that isn't what's happening. And since it's clear President Bush is not going to change his policies in order to win the international cooperation that this nation-building project was always going to require, a patriotic American who believes we are on the wrong path has no choice but to say, "Bush is the problem." If he can't figure out that his policy is a disaster and we need to change course, the only way to get the U.S. -- and Iraq -- back on track is to change presidents.

Reynolds suggests that people like me are focusing on the bad news from Iraq in order to "hurt Bush." That's backwards. I want to "hurt Bush" (note to FBI: I mean politically "hurt" -- "hurt" meaning see him lose elections) in order to improve the news from Iraq.

Now for me personally, I have a hard time buying a media bias after the travesty of reporting by people like Judith Miller and other major media outlets leading up to the war (not the mention the million other examples I've pointed out in the past). Not only did they actively spread what we now know is a bunch of crap about all the WMD that Saddam had, they also failed to quash the Bushco disinformation campaign that had Saddam himself basically giving the orders for the planes to fly into the towers.

So to come out *NOW* and start bellyachin' that not everything in the press is coming up roses in Iraq. I mean, I'm sorry, but it just shows how empty the whole "liberal media" argument is, because it is trotted out EVERY SINGLE TIME a negative story appears. It brings to mind the old "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" argument.

Posted by Observer at 07:49 AM | Comments (4)

September 26, 2003

Fun with Cards

Tuesday night at suppertime, the doorbell rang. 16 weeks ago when that happened, it was the cops asking about broken windows up at the school. Today, though, it was the UPS guy with the latest delivery: two new boxes with 36 packs of Yu-Gi-Oh cards each. I had told the kids that once their punishment was over (it ended this past Sunday), I was thinking about ordering new cards, but only if I knew they would keep doing chores around the house to earn money. I said I would wait until they had each earned 10 dollars and then I'd order them. Of course, I had ordered them last week, but I wanted to give them some incentive.

Anyway, I had said on Monday while at supper, talking loudly to Michelle, that I was expecting a book to come in the mail this week. That's what I told the kids the last time we got a box full of cards, that it was just books. That was right before Cody's birthday and a week or so before the fateful window breaking where the boys got into so much trouble. Cody immediately got excited and said, "Hey, that means more cards!" He laughed, "You liar!"

I faked innocence and annoyance, "Oh, come on, I was just kidding around last time. You know I'm in the middle of the semester now, and I need a replacement for the textbook I lecture from. I'm just anxious for it to arrive because I need it for my class." I told them this story because I knew that otherwise, they would have their noses glued to the window every afternoon looking for the UPS truck. And they don't know that I would *never* lecture from the stupid textbook.

It worked. By the time the box finally did arrive, they were kinda-sorta convinced it wasn't for them. I brought in the box, and I said, "Look, I'll open this after supper and prove it to you that there's a textbook in here, ok?" I had Justin fooled, because he ate quickly and left the room to watch TV. There was a pile of clean, unfolded laundry on the couch, but he just ignored it. Sarah proceeded to tell us about her school day and so on, but Cody was watching me and that box like a hawk.

So after we had finished, I made a big production of bringing the box over to the table and cutting it open. I said, "Now look, see, I'm just gonna pull this book ... HEY!! SOMEONE PUT TWO BOXES OF YU-GI-OH CARDS IN HERE!!"


Within two minutes, after lots of laughing and excitement, every kid was offering to do every chore in the house to earn money. Let's see, the baby's laundry was folded. All the other laundry, sheets, towels, the works was folded and put away. The kids' bathroom was cleaned. The trash was taken out. The table was cleared. A cushion on the couch was re-covered (after needing a washing to get rid of Pug pee). Dishes in the sink were washed, and they were still clamoring and bugging for more chores. Even Daniel caught onto the mood, maybe, because he took to a faint little giggle for the first time ever in response to Justin making some faces at him.

In the end, we distributed the chores well enough that each kid had some multiple of $3 to their name. That's how much I charge them per pack, about $1 less than they'd get at the store and just a shade over the price I pay by mail order - so in a way, we're earning a "profit" on the transaction but we also grossly overpay for chores. My stepdad, John, once came to visit and saw a list on the fridge showing how much we pay for each chore, and he complained to my Mom that he wants to come down here to earn some money because he doesn't get paid for that stuff at home!

Justin put on a show of saying he'd save some of his money for later, but he broke down and spent all $12 he had (he still had some money left over from before the 16-week punishment began) to buy four packs. Cody got three packs (he's been working hard ever since I told them last week I was thinking about buying more cards), and Sarah got two. Hell, I even opened two myself (I paid for 'em, dammit!).

We sat around the supper table for nearly an hour after supper gawking at everyone's new cards, and there were some really good ones in these new expansion packs. It's nice after playing with the same decks for basically four months that we have some new cards to mix in. These should last us until Xmas, when the kids will get their next big infusion of cards.

It will take a week or two for the kids to understand the rules and effects of these new cards. I try to teach them during battles and such, because that's the only time I get their full attention and focus when they can actually apply the rule on the card to a situation in the game. Needless to say, partly because of the new cards and explanations, each duel took nearly a half hour last night (some nights they average 5-10 minutes each), and Cody even beat me, winning seven cards from the "old" box. Now the bets don't matter because they call me "Dad" all the time anyway. I'll still make the bets, though, as long as they want to keep dueling.

Posted by Observer at 07:10 AM | Comments (4)

September 25, 2003

Fossil Fuel Alternatives

It's funny, the way conservatives are so in denial about humanity's effect on Carbon in the atmosphere. Last night, I was browsing around and searching and decided to check out some right-wing blogs to see what they were saying about global warming. A common thread in the first two or three I stumbled across (aside from Clinton is the anti-Christ, all Democratic candidates are socialist liars, liberals are traitors for criticizing the war) was that "there's no way humans could affect the Carbon in our atmosphere more than a volcano!".

The discussions were usually many posts old (often more than a week), but I left a comment on one that was only a day old for the heck of it. It's depressing when the facts are just *right there* for anyone who cares to ask for them. God, I wish people would get educated about stuff they care about. I mean, if it is *so* important that you are going to base your vote or your political affiliation on it, get all the damn facts about it! Why the hell do people believe such nonsense? Argh. This kind of thing makes me glad I am a science teacher so that I can at least have a tiny little effect on educating a few people how to separate the good and the bad ideas.

Conservatives love to say shocking things like, "The long term goal of Al Gore (or liberals in general) is to eliminate the fossil fuel industry in the United States." Or that "Al Gore wants to eliminate the internal combustion engine." The thing is, those statements are true but sorely lacking in context.

A good book on the fossil fuel outlook can be found in Kenneth Deffeyes' "Hubbert's Peak". In this book, Deffeyes describes the peak, which is coming up probably within the next 5-25 years, depending on whose numbers you believe. Hubbert's Peak is the peak extraction rate for fossil fuels over time. As technology and exploration improves, the extraction rate increases over time. Eventually, though, dwindling reservoirs will cause the extraction rate to turn downward until we finally just plain run out of coal, oil and natural gas.

At our current rate of consumption, a few order-of-magnitude calculations reveal that the Earth's crust just can't hold as much fossil fuels as we plan on using. Within the next 50-150 years, we will *have* to eliminate the fossil fuel industry and the internal combustion engine. Gore realizes this, but when was the last time any of his statements were accurately reported by the media in their proper context for the Moron Americans who think he wants to confiscate their cars? Pfft.

So we're going to have to eliminate the usage of fossil fuels. My take on this is that we don't know what adding a bunch of Carbon to the atmosphere will do, so why risk it? Why not find some alternatives right now *before* we throw all that Carbon up into the atmosphere? What Gore proposed is throwing a bunch of economic incentives at fossil fuel industries to make them more efficient and make them at least *explore* the idea of putting less CO2 (and associated gases like sulfates) into the atmosphere. Oh well, I guess that makes him some sort of eco-freak, but it sure makes sense to me.

There was a lot of noise about the Kyoto protocols, which were supposed to also give incentives to some countries to cut back on Carbon emissions. This was the treaty Gore helped negotiate in Japan in 1999, but because it didn't require binding commitments on the part of developing countries, the US wasn't on board. The Senate voted down a resolution (not a formal treaty vote because Clinton never sent it to the Senate) 95-0, because even Democrats knew that voting for it was suicide given the media spin they would get. European countries ratified the treaty, but only on the condition the US would ratify, and since they knew the US wouldn't, it was a little cynical of their politicians to vote yes and then blame us when the treaty fell apart. Some countries abide by the protocols anyway.

Anyway, the sad thing about Kyoto is what a truly tiny step it would have been. With Kyoto ratified, Carbon emissions by 2050 would be 90% higher than present-day. Without Kyoto, it would be 100% higher. None of the climate models really see much of a difference, but Kyoto was only supposed to be a principled first step toward reduction of CO2 emissions (which is exactly why it inspired such widespread panic in the oil industry). Even with that, it was 95-0 against.

Of course, with Bushco in office now, there's essentially zero hope for any progress on this front. They're editing out sections on carbon emissions, temperature trends and the greenhouse effect in their EPA reports, putting oil lobbyists in the White House to draft legislation, etc. The only hope for progress on this issue lies with the Democratic party for now.

Well, I shouldn't say that. We citizens can exert our economic power to seek out renewable energy resources so that companies have an economic incentive to do the research to make them more cost effective (right now, wind and solar are very very expensive compared to fossil fuels, but that will change once we pass Hubbert's Peak ... too late to do anything about a potentially harmful greenhouse effect, though). Personally, I use Green Mountain, which uses windmills to generate power and charges a few percent over standard energy companies, thanks to some subsidies.

At any rate, suppose by some miracle everyone were to decide that fossil fuels are awful and we should seek an alternative. What Carbon-free energy alternatives exist that can satisfy world energy needs (currently estimated to be about 10 Terawatts, or 10 trillion watts)? Nuclear can't do it, even if they could figure out what to do with the waste (France used to dump it all in the North Sea ... now only a lot of low-level stuff, which is still bad). The Uranium in the crust is even less abundant than fossil fuels, so with a nuclear-only plan, we'd run out of fuel in a few decades (unless everyone switched to complex and dangerous breeder reactors ... long story, but it wouldn't be worth it).

Solar and wind power aren't always there when you need them (though you can distribute the sites all around the world, store power, etc. to get around this). They also require huge areas of land (they have a low power density). Current US energy needs could be satisfied with windmills carpeting the Dakotas and Texas, but we really don't want all those windmills. Plus, how are we going to satisfy our energy needs in 100 years when they have quadrupled? Eventually, you run out of land.

Other forms of energy generation, such as biomass burning, hydroelectric power, etc. aren't realistic either. The only hope, in my opinion, is if Physicists can figure out how to make fusion viable (maybe sometime I'll post a primer on nuclear fission, fusion, uranium, depleted uranium, different kinds of nuclear weapons, fuel rods, meltdowns, nuclear waste, cold fusion, etc ... I give that lecture to my class occasionally just for the hell of it, and it is always a really big hit). Or if we get desperate enough to put *vast* solar arrays into orbit, where square footage isn't an issue. Very costly, though. Of course, the fossil fuel industry has greatly pressued the US government not to fund energy alternatives, including fusion research. Thanks a lot, morons.

The bottom line, if you are conservative or not, we are going to run out of fossil fuels in 150 years at the *very* latest (likely closer to 75 years). The sooner we pull our collective heads out of the sand and start seriously funding research into alternatives, the better. Don't expect that to happen under this administration's "leadership". Or with a Republican Congress, for that matter.

Posted by Observer at 07:13 AM | Comments (8)

September 24, 2003

Stupid Conservative Myth #5

Global warming is in the news. Even yesterday, a big glacier showed further signs of melting in the arctic, which is widely seen as a symptom of global warming (to be fair, it could be a local "weather" effect rather than a climatic indicator, but that's not how it is reported). So it's time to talk about another myth held by know-nothing conservatives. These may seem silly on the surface, but these statements that would ordinarily make no common sense are instead common knowledge in the world of Faux news, talk radio and conservative blogs and message boards. This one is one of my favorites:

Liberals believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical, documented changes in the earth's climate, and more affected by yuppies driving SUVs.

Well, there are three parts to this one. First, can we document changes in greenhouse gases (such as Carbon Dioxide, hereafter CO2), and can we show that humans are responsible for those changes? Second, can we show that global temperatures are indeed rising, and how does this look in a historical (geological timescale) context? Finally, can we show that increases in greenhouse gases are affecting global temperatures?

Of course, some nutballs don't even think the greenhouse effect is real, so maybe I should start there. Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb infrared radiation effectively. Because incoming sunlight is mostly in the visible band of the spectrum, it isn't blocked (much), so it warms the Earth. Outgoing "Earthshine" is mostly in the infrared, so the gases tend to block this and warm us up by about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (33 C). We know the amount of the warming because we have a "control" nearby (Earth's Moon) which is at the same distance to the Sun, basically, but with no atmosphere, and the average temperature of the Moon's surface is 60 degrees F cooler than Earth. Ok? So the greenhouse effect is real. In fact, without it, the planet wouldn't be habitable.

Charles Keeling did the primary work on beginning to measure levels of atmospheric CO2. He put detectors all over the world, and his measurements became the famous Keeling curve:

The wiggles in the curve are due to the photosynthesis cycle in the northern hemisphere (which has more vegetation and so affects the CO2 level worldwide, even in the southern hemisphere, because the atmosphere mixes so effectively). The general rise is due to ... what? Well, there are some who believe that volcanism and other natural sources (such as geysers, thermal vents, etc) are affecting the CO2 levels in the atmosphere more than humans (represented above by yuppies in their SUV's ... in reality, cars only represent about 1/3 of our total emissions).

There's an easy way to check this, described in more detail in this FAQ. Carbon comes in three isotopes. Normal Carbon (C-12) is the most abundant, but you also have a little bit of C-13 and C-14 (Carbon with 1 or 2 extra neutrons in the nucleus). C-14 is, in fact, used in radioactive dating for organisms that have died within the past 100k years or so, but that's another story. It turns out that "natural" C-12 emissions tend to have some C-14, because they represent carbon reservoirs that were in the atmosphere more recently. Fossil fuel reservoirs have essentially zero C-14 because they've been buried so long that all the C-14 has decayed away (half-life is 5700 years) without being replenished from the atmospheric carbon (which itself has its C-14 replenished by cosmic ray interactions in the upper atmosphere).

Ok, I realize I just lost all the conservatives, but the rest of you bear with me. The summary is: Fossil fuels and natural sources of Carbon have different "isotope fingerprints". As Carbon has increased in our atmosphere in the past 200 years, the isotope fingerprint of the Carbon has changed to more closely reflect that of fossil fuel reservoirs. This shows that the majority of the increase has been due to human activity. So that's the first part. Sorry, yuppies, but your SUV's are, indeed, causing much larger changes than any natural process. At least on a decadal timescale.

How does the Carbon in the atmosphere today compare to the geologically recent past?

During the past 450k years, the Carbon level has never been as high as it is today. How do we know Carbon abundances from long ago? In the recent past, tree rings and other natural indicators can give us some indication, but most of our information comes from ice cores. Each year, new snowfall leaves a new layer of ice on top of glaciers. This ice has air bubbles trapped, relics of the ancient atmosphere. By drilling into the ice and getting ice cores from glaciers, we can look at the properties of our atmosphere from long ago. You can also estimate temperature by looking at Oxygen isotope ratios (why they're related is complex but generally accepted) or what kinds of organisms were dominant at the time.

So the Carbon abundance is unprecedented for the last 450k years, but what about further back? It is clear from other indicators that Carbon abundances were *much* higher in the past. That's because of the Faint Sun Paradox, which is a long story for another time. Basically, though, the Sun was about 30% fainter long ago, but Earth's temperatures were similar to today, and the reason for the balance is the increased amount of CO2 back then. So over the very long haul (billions of years), natural sources *have* had a much greater effect that what we are currently doing. However, we are changing the composition of the atmosphere much more rapidly than it has ever been changed before.

What about temperatures? Are they rising as well? And is this linked to Carbon abundances? Again, viewed over the past 160k years, the data is pretty convincing:

This graph leaves off the past 15 years, during which average global temperatures have risen by about 0.6 degrees Centigrade, making current temperatures unprecedented in recent geological history. I also detect a strong correlation here between Carbon levels (blue) and Temperature levels (red). This is the kind of stuff Buscho recently tried to suppress.

When you talk about temperatures rising, you have to be careful not to confuse "weather" (e.g. Canada had a hot July) with "climate". Weather means short term localized variations (like the famous of example of Greenhouse supposedly being warm enough 1000 years ago for Viking settlements) with global average temperatures, which better indicate trends. So we have a good understanding of what temperature is doing now and in the geologically recent past. But what about the future?

That's tricky. We know that Carbon abundances in our atmosphere will roughly triple (at least) by 2100 (that's from simple math, looking at the rate of energy usage and emissions vs the total CO2 in the atmosphere). How will this affect temperatures? Will they continue to track CO2 as in the past? Here is a graph showing a variety of generally accepted and scrutinized models:

How much the temperature will change depends on feedbacks. Positive feedback, for example, occurs when increased Carbon warms the atmosphere, which prompts more evaporation. Since water vapor (in the form of high thin clouds) is a major greenhouse gas, that can warm the Earth still further. Another example would be warming temperatures causing more ice to melt, which exposes a darker surface. Since the Earth's surface would be better at absorbing light energy, that would warm us up.

Negative feedback would be if the increased temps cause more water vapor in the form of low, thick clouds, which would tend to cool us off (blocking visible light instead of mainly infrared). Some claim that increased Carbon will result in accelerated plant growth (the "CO2 is plant food" argument), which will soak up the excess and be a negative feedback to the system. But there's no way the biomass can soak up *that* much CO2 (even faster growing plants eventually decay on timescales of decades, releasing their sequestered Carbon), so that doesn't really work.

We honestly have no idea how much positive/negative feedback we'll see over the next 100 years, hence the wide range (in degrees C) in the models. If the change is only a degree or so, that's no big deal. If it is 3+ degrees, that can change the models an awful lot and cause feedbacks to become very unpredictable. does the conservative myth stack up? Well, we *do* currently affect the Carbon in the atmosphere at a faster rate and in greater quantities than any natural process. Carbon has been higher in the past due to natural processes, but for the very distant past, the Sun was fainter which made more greenhouse gases a good thing. So the status of the myth is somewhat mixed, if you look at it in detail (which is impossible for conservatives who wouldn't read to this point anyway). On the very long term (billions of years), Carbon has been higher in the past, but humans are affecting the totals on a timescale of decades, not billions of years.

This leads us to item #5 that you must believe in order to be a good conservative:

The only good science is science that agrees with conservative, corporate governing philosophy. Evolution, global warming and the big bang theory are all ideas dreamed up by godless big government liberals to put in their crazy textbooks and poison the minds of our children.

The important question now is: How should we respond to the increasing CO2 and increasing temperatures? Is anything being done? This is long enough, so I'll talk about that tomorrow. By the way, an excellent video on this whole topic is called, "What's Up With the Weather?", and it has a pretty cool website associated with it.

Posted by Observer at 07:10 AM | Comments (18)

September 23, 2003

Home (Sort of) Alone

Well, it's Michelle's first official day back at work. The weekday school at the church she works for is looking after Daniel for three hours a day on MWF, then I take him home because I'm done with my classes by then. On TR (which is how they abbreviate Tuesday/Thursday around here), I don't have classes or office hours, so I stay home with Daniel and catch up on writing lectures, designing homeworks, grading, constructing exams, etc.

At least, that's the plan for this semester, and I think it will work great. So far, the day has been great. Daniel slept a lot and has been very content, so I've gotten a lot done. He did stick his foot in his own poop while I was changing him (a three-wipe diaper, yuck), but aside from that, he's been a trooper. Meanwhile, here's Cody's assignment from school that he brought home to work on:

Things I Like To Do

My two special things to do are playing video games and cards. My cherished game for Nintendo 64 is Gauntlet Legends. My favorite card game is Yo-Gi-Ho.

I play with my brother, sister, my mom and my dad. I feel very excited when I beat my dad and I feel happy while playing chess. I play them every day and every night.

They make me laugh and they are fun. My most prized thing is my Yo-Gi-Ho cards.

I'm surprised he said Gauntlet because it seems like every time they get that system out of the cabinet, it is to play Pokemon Stadium 2. When they finally get a good Pokemon game out for the GameCube, look out! Or a good Yu-Gi-Oh game for that matter. There's a dueling game out for Playstation 2 but not for GameCube yet. Bummer.

All three of the kids are getting better at dueling. Cody now beats me about once a week. If Cody would stop tinkering with the deck I helped him build, he'd be even better than that, but at only nine years old, I suppose I shouldn't be able to expect him to understand how great special summon monsters are and how crappy the whole fusion/ritual summon thing is in the game.

Justin and Sarah, about once every 2-3 weeks. It doesn't sound like much, but after I started off by losing once to the three of them combined in the first 4-5 weeks or so, it is progress. We have some new cards coming in later this week that they'll get to earn money to buy, etc., so that will freshen up the nightly duels as well. I'm really surprised and happy so far that the whole Yu-Gi-Oh nightly dueling thing is still a big hit. Makes the money ($700+ so far including Xmas gifts from last year, etc) well worth it.

Posted by Observer at 02:02 PM | Comments (5)

Another Missed Story

From Tom Tomorrow, who orginally got this from The Left Coaster:


WASHINGTON - President Bush said Wednesday there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 ó disputing an impression that critics say the administration tried to foster to justify the war against Iraq.

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties," the president said. But he also said, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."


Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.


(Emphasis added)

I saw a similar angle in our local paper, which is progress, but of course, it appeared in a short little column back on the Op-Ed page, not on the front page, above the fold where it belongs. A similar pattern was followed by the so-called liberal media nationwide (though Humbaba will be satisfied to note that Seattle was an exception). Regarding Bush's disavowal of the Saddam - 9/11 link and the contradiction with his stated reasons for going to war, we have this story from Editor and Publisher:

And according to some newspapers, it was a big story. The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune (both owned by the Tribune Co.) ran front-page stories on the revelation Thursday. But an analysis of most major American newspapers found the story either buried deep within the paper -- or completely absent.

Of America's 12 highest-circulation daily papers, only the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Dallas Morning News ran anything about it on the front page. In The New York Times, the story was relegated to page 22. USA Today: page 16. The Houston Chronicle: page 3. The San Francisco Chronicle: page 14. The Washington Post: page 18. Newsday: page 41. The New York Daily News: page 14.

The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal didn't mention it at all.

Large papers outside of the top 12 that ran the news on Page One include The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Posted by Observer at 07:03 AM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2003

Stupid Conservative Myth #4

I was going to say something about conservative idiots, but I guess if I've learned anything in the last couple of weeks, it's that they do just fine speaking for themselves. So. On to stupid conservative myth #4:

Liberals believe that there was no art before federal funding.

Objectively, I am certain that there is no one in existence who would make this claim with a straight face, but I guess it is fun to think liberals believe that. Of course, most great art occurs without any involvement from the public sector. But I will take the opportunity to probe the issue of whether federal funding of the arts is appropriate when budgets are being cut and we have huge deficits, etc.

First, I'd like to point you to a very good book, "Leaving Town Alive" by John Frohnmeyer, an Oregon Republican who was selected by George Bush Sr. in 1989 to head the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing is a better defense of arts funding than I can muster in a few paragraphs, and his story of conservative attempts to muzzle what they consider to be offensive art is funny and sad. It's unbelieveable how obsessed some of these Republican slackjaws are with homosexuality. Personally, I've never seen why it's such a big threat to society or marriage or whatever, but that's a topic for another myth.

For me, personally, I don't think it should be a huge priority, but I also don't think it should be zero. I think the government should play some role in helping artists establish some legitimacy through official recognition, and they can only do that through funding. A lot of times, private organizations will decide on what to fund by looking at decisions of the NEA, which pays various respected artists in a given field to form a panel of judges. Without the NEA's credibility, funding and organization, this sort of thing just wouldn't get done.

Art wouldn't wither on the vine without the NEA, but it would be less. I think part of our duty to humanity as a civilized country is to further art and culture in some sense. To help contribute something for future generations to learn from and appreciate. If 0.01% of the federal budget (which is within a factor of two of being mathematically accurate, actually) is going to the arts, that doesn't *seem* outrageous to me (but I do recognize my ignorance on this point). I've seen a lot of good stuff that wouldn't be as good (or even possible) without the NEA's backing and (more importantly) the NEA's recognition.

Another line of argument goes like this: Whom do we want to fund art in this country? People who happen to be wealthy enough to afford it or people who are in some sense "artistically literate"? I realize those two sets of people has some intersection, of course, but if we are going to fund art on some sort of subjective basis of merit, I would rather the decisions be made by the latter group. That can be done if art funding is done collectively, even at a very low funding level. Is 0.01% too high or too low? I'm not qualified to say, haven't looked into it enough.

Would I passionately defend the NEA's budget? If the chips were down and I had to make a choice between funding the NEA and funding school lunches or something, then yeah, the NEA is expendable. But we're a wealthy country, and it shouldn't come down to that choice.

At any rate, this leads to item #4 that good conservatives must believe:

The Arts Community is just a mutual affirmation society for queers and ivory tower liberals. The federal government should be prosecuting some of these artists, not funding them. We don't need any more art anyway.

Next up on the list: global warming. Pet issue of mine (toothy grin).

Posted by Observer at 07:02 AM | Comments (12)

September 21, 2003

I Minded That a Lot!

Here is a pretty funny interview given by Al Franken to Beliefnet about religion and the Bush administration. Some of the best excerpts:

What do you make of the use of religious language by President Bush?

Sometimes itís ok and appropriate for a president to use God. I probably wouldnít if I were president. He wears his religion on his sleeve and yet this is the least Christian administration I can think of, in terms of Christ certainly as I understand it.

How so?

Well, he seems to have very little regard for the poor and the meekÖ
Thereíd been this article about Bush & God in Newsweek. It describes this Bible group that Don Evans [Bushís Commerce Secretary and longtime friend] got Bush into when he stopped drinking. [Newsweek writer Howard] Fineman describes it as scriptural boot camp. Ten guys and each week theyíd study a chapter of a book over two years and analyze them line by line. Over two years, they read Luke and Acts.

So I was at the White House Correspondents dinner and found myself seated at the table next to Don Evans. I was all set to ask about the tax cut. And I said, ìSo you know what Acts is about?î

And I saw sort of this blank thing go over his eyes and then sort of a quick look of panic and he said, ìNo.î And I was absolutely shocked. And I said, ìWell your tax cut so heavily favors the rich, and Acts is so socialist almost.î

And he said, ìBut, ah! Acts contains the Parable of the Talents.î Now just as it so happens, I knew that actually wasnít true. I knew the parable of talents was from Matthew. And he said, ìAre you sure?î And I said, ìYeah.î It was just a complete fluke that I knew that. My son the year before had been assigned some New Testament reading in high schools as part of a civilization class and talents was part of what he was assigned.

But I realized that these guys didnít read these books line by line for two years and discuss them for two years ñ- they couldnít have! I know these guys arenít the smartest guys in the world but theyíre not that dumb. I remember stuff I read in high school that I didnít really read that well but we discussed in class for a like a weekó-ya know what I mean?

I just have to believe that what he told Fineman was a lie. That was the only conclusion I could come to. Then I talked to Fineman and he remembered talking to Bush during the primaries in New Hampshire. Howard asked him what selection of the Bible heíd read that day because the campaign was saying that Governor Bush read the Bible every day.

And we tracked down the transcript and Bush was totally defensive and it seemed to me from the transcript that he really didnít read the Bible every day. He just said he did ñ- which is, like, a very weird thing to lie about. [...]

And then I also read a thing like when he was asked about whether Jews went to heaven and he said, ìNo.î

Did you mind that?

Yes, I minded that a lot! And how the press saw that as a huge gaffe and how Karl Rove thought that was like the best thing he said in the campaign, because it just assured the Christian right that he was one of them. Thatís how these guys think. [...]

Whatís wrong with the religious right?

They sometimes forget we donít live in a theocracy. They can be in the public square and express their opinion but to expect other people to alter their behavior to say that, for example, that homosexuality is immoral because it says so in the BibleÖI mean it also says you canít eat pork. I donít see a lot of orthodox Jews saying people who eat pork shouldn't be allowed to get insurance benefits.

I mean thereís stuff in the bible how about how to sell your daughter. They kind of are pretty selective about what is important and what isnít. I think slavery is ok in the bible. Itís stupid! Itís like the dumbest thing that they want to proscribe other peopleís behavior based on their belief.

The whole interview is pretty good. I'm reading Franken's book now, too. I hope I can finish it within the next 12 hours.

Posted by Observer at 07:36 AM | Comments (7)

September 20, 2003

"Smiley Face"

Fittingly, PvP Online has been running a cartoon series all week about a troll on message boards making people all mad. Friday's installment was another gem.

Posted by Observer at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)

Spinning the Truth

Paraphrasing a point made also recently by Corrente (and Paul Krugman): If Bush were to say the Earth is flat, the mainstream media would report it as: "Shape of the Earth: Views Differ."

If Gore were to say the Earth is spherical, the mainstream media would report it as: "Serial exaggerator Gore is into the ozone again with the truth. This time he claims the Earth is spherical when it is really an oblate spheroid!"

We all know this is true. We've seen example after example over the years (and particularly during the election). In a way, it is old news, but it still pisses me off, so there's my daily whine about it. With apparently less than 36 hours to live, I better squeeze in all the rants I can.

Posted by Observer at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2003

Seasons in Hell

I recently finished "Seasons in Hell" by Mike Shropshire, who covered the Texas Rangers for a Fort Worth paper back during the 1973-1975 seasons. As you might ascertain from the title, they were pretty bad years for the Rangers, and Shropshire fills the book with quite a few funny stories. The whole book is worth it just for the quotes from 1973 manager Whitey Herzog:

On starting pitchers: "They didn't tell me that Mike Paul and Rich Hand were a couple of shitballers," Herzog offered cheerfully. "Or that Pete Broberg was a big cunt."

On his entire pitching staff: "It's like they're afraid they might get the clap or something if they throw strikes."

On his catcher: "If Rich Billings is the starting catcher again, we're in deep trouble." When that evaluation was passed along to Billings, he simply nodded and said, "Whitey, obviously, has seen me play."

On team defense: "Defensively, these guys are really substandard, but with our pitching, it really doesn't matter."

On Alex Johnson's poor clubhouse demeanor: "A guy like that can poison a ball club. But how do you poison this club?"

On young pitching prospect Lloyd Allen: "Lloyd hasn't yet learned how to work the hitters with varied pitch selection and changing speeds. But even if he could, it wouldn't do much good because when he throws the ball Lloyd has absolutely no idea where it's going."

Then there are quotes like this from different people on visiting Cleveland:

Anonymous Ranger pitcher: "I made the mistake of trying out a Mexican restaurant in Cleveland. The food wasn't so bad but a rat crawled up on my plate and started fucking my enchilada."

Dick Bosman on being traded to Cleveland: "There's a bright spot to this. When you're playing for Cleveland, at least you don't have to come in there on the road."

On a first-inning base hit in Cleveland: "There goes his perfect game," Harold McKinney said. "There is no such thing as a perfect game in Cleveland," Randy Galloway responded.

This book wasn't as good as Jim Bouton's famous "Ball Four", a knuckleballer's really funny account of 70's baseball, which is the best baseball book I've read out of the lot (authors such as Ron Luciano, David Wells, Joe Morgan and Kirby Puckett are on that list, so that may not be saying much). Bouton's book is typified by quotes like this: "When I came in, it was 4-0. When I left, it was 7-0. To be honest, I wasn't crying when the other guys got clobbered. You stand out less in a crowd."

Posted by Observer at 03:59 PM | Comments (5)

Perspective and Politics

In his blog, Chuck says he's not going to delete me even though he thinks I'm politically wrong on pretty much everything. We still may move (Michelle and I) just because we don't want to see Chuck put in that position between us and his deeply hypocritical friend (who has apparently deleted his own blog for now in a fit of childish pique), even if his friend is totally misguided. We'll see. I left this response in Chuck's comments:

Someday when you have the spare time (yeah right) and the mental energy to lose the blinders for a while, Chuck, you would be welcome to actually come over and have a discussion in my blog. There's a reason I'm kicking Doc's ass.

(Cue patriotic background music.)

It is because I am curious enough about the issues that I investigate things on my own rather than relying on what talk radio tells me. It is because I keep an open mind and can therefore choose the best among competing ideas rather than the one idea that happens to be endorsed by some interpretation of the Bible or some conservative blowhard or what Uncle Ron spouted off about last Thanksgiving. It is because I have the capacity to change my mind and admit when I am wrong.

It is because I have the facts, the logic, the intellectual integrity, a broad understanding of our constitution and its history, and the best interests of the greatest country in the world on my side. And I am absolutely 100% determined to see to it that mean-spirited, dumbass conservatives don't lead America into the gutter.

People like Doc *ALWAYS* resort to illogic, avoidance of issues, name-calling and a variety of other debating tactics that any accomplished high school debate team member could demolish (and I wasn't even on the debate team). It's the old: If the law is on your side, pound the law. If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If neither is on your side, pound the table.

I respect conservatives who are intelligent and have principles. For example, if you are deeply pro-life, so much that the issue is everything you vote for, then I totally respect your vote and your opinion. Likewise if you are totally in favor of dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society because of some sort of libertarian philosophy (but I will insist you be consistent about it, which means disagreeing with just about everything else the Republicans do).

We can agree to disagree, respectfully. But I will always happily take the battle to conservatives who think and reason like Doc. Not because I expect to change any minds but because it is simply my duty as a proud American. Because I love America and I want it to be great.

And though Doc may attempt out of desperation to make it personal, it isn't. It's just politics. You have to keep a perspective (which I think you and Lauren do) about that sort of thing.

Posted by Observer at 07:54 AM | Comments (10)

September 18, 2003

Sad. Funny. Typical.

Here is a quote from the embarrassingly ridiculous conservative who is a friend of the person gracious enough to provide me a place for my blog to call home:

It's interesting how liberals will screech about the first amendment, but then virtually attack someone who exercises it, if they're not espousing liberal crap.

The very same nutball has now asked his friend and my host to delete my blog. It's up to Chuck, and I for one am sorry he has been put in this position. I have nothing but kind words and appreciation for the blog hosting, and if I have to move, it will be without hard feelings. If I do move and am not allowed to leave a pointer here, I will email those of you who read (including Doc, because I wouldn't want him to miss a single solitary word) and let you know where to find me.

I mean, this is way too much fun. No way will I stop blogging. And now that I know it really really really *bugs* people like Doc, it's even more satisfying. Woo hoo!

Posted by Observer at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

Texas Redistricting Update

I liked his last cartoon so much, I thought I'd share another important Ben Sargent update on the redistricting battle in Texas.

Posted by Observer at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

Stupid Conservative Myth #3

Time, boys and girls, for yet another myth that stupid conservatives believe:

Liberals believe that guns, in the hands of law-abiding Americans, are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese communists.

Not sure what the main point of this one is. There's another stupid myth later about guns and the NRA, so I'll save the gun talk for then. So let's talk about how liberals are apparently in favor of putting nuclear weapons technology into the hands of Chinese communists. The root of this story goes back to a failed missile launch in 1996. At the time, a US company (Loral) had been granted a "waiver" to put a "black box" guidance system on Chinese rockets (for reasons why we would do this, see below). It was one of many routine waivers.

But the rocket crashed and, presumably, the Chinese military were able to then get their hands on the black box and learn something about guidance systems from it (although later reports by various agencies greatly downplayed the significance of this, saying it would have at best a marginal impact, if any, on Chinese technological research). After the crash, trying to help the Chinese troubleshoot the cause, someone from Loral faxed the Chinese some documents which may or may not have contained sensitive information. Note that this was done without the knowledge of *anyone* in the government. The Security Council didn't even find out about the incident until 1998, when Loral was requesting another waiver and the justice department tipped them off that they had been looking into it.

Nutball conservatives are convinced that because Clinton received some campaign contributions from Loral's president, Clinton sold out his principles to allow Loral to consult and/or "sell" technology to the Chinese. Of course, any transfer of sensitive documents that took place did so without Clinton's knowledge or approval, and there was never any "sale" involved. At least, no such accusation was ever formally entered into the record, even by the blowjob-obsessed idiots in the House of Representatives, who were damned well looking for ANYTHING to pin on Clinton. Their actual investigation exhonorated him but criticized the waiver policy in general, but of course the waiver policy was a product of the Reagan and Bush administrations. Oops!

A very brief internet search reveals a bunch of loonies who think Clinton is the devil and wanted the Chinese to kill us all as long as he could get some campaign cash out of the deal, but also a treasure trove of informative articles archived by the Washington post dealing with key events in this story. Here is some important perspective from one of those:

A reconstruction of the administration's handling of the 1998 launch permission ñ technically a "waiver" of prohibitions against some high-technology dealings with China ñ reveals a complicated, and in many ways mundane, picture of a bureaucratic process propelled by a policy forged in the Reagan and Bush administrations.

For the past 10 years, the U.S. government has permitted ñ even encouraged ñ U.S companies to launch commercial satellites atop Chinese rockets. Not only are the Chinese launches cheaper than those of other countries ñ a boost to U.S. industry in a highly competitive business ñ they are seen as facilitating future U.S. commercial entree into other lucrative Chinese markets and, most important for policymakers, as enticing China into a more cooperative relationship on such sensitive issues as nuclear proliferation. [...]

The initial policy decision to allow U.S. satellite makers to launch their products atop Chinese rockets had its roots in the shutdown of the space shuttle program after the 1986 Challenger crash, and the failures of several satellite launches using U.S. rockets. On Sept. 9, 1988, the Reagan administration announced it would reverse policy and allow China to launch American-made commercial satellites within a year.

Before the new policy could be implemented, however, Tiananmen Square happened. After the bloody, June 4, 1989, Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, the Bush administration ñ followed by Congress ñ imposed sanctions prohibiting exports to China of weapons as well as hardware and technology that could be used for military purposes. Although the sanctions also prohibited the Chinese launch of U.S.-made commercial satellites, a provision was included for case-by-case waivers if the president determined a launch to be in the national interest.

Bush signed three waivers covering nine separate launches of satellites manufactured by U.S. companies ñ including the Loral-made satellite destroyed in the 1996 crash. Clinton has signed eight waivers covering 11 launches. The waiver process is fairly routine, with negotiations between satellite firms and government agencies often beginning years before a proposed launch.

A quick search of Bob Somerby's Daily Howler archives reveals the incredibly dishonest and rotten way that the right-wing media took hold of this story. Since that's all most of the wingnuts listen to, it is no surprise that they think Clinton is some kind of traitor. Kind of like how the mainstream media is the only thing most Moron Americans listen to, so it is no surprise they think Iraq and Al Qaeda are linked.

And so at the end of the day, it turns out that the claim that Clinton somehow sold nuclear missile technology to the Chinese is completely full of crap. It has been extensively documented, and the accusation thoroughly refuted, both by the bipartisan report of the congressional investigation and by other organizations like the non-partisan Federation of American Scientists, which routinely advises the government about science and technology issues, regardless of which party is in power.

So why do conservatives still accept it as gospel? This takes us to item #4 that you must believe in order to be a good conservative:

Every single negative accusation made about Bill and/or Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with that administration is absolutely, positively true. No amount of evidence to the contrary can change that FACT.

Corollary: If any Republican is guilty of any similar accusation (i.e. "lying to the American people", "adultery", "favorable treatment of campaign donors", "too much polling", etc), you must COMPLETELY ignore it and focus ONLY on Clinton. It may help to cover your ears and go: LA LA LA LA LA LA LA...

Posted by Observer at 07:02 AM | Comments (18)

September 17, 2003

Supply Side Jesus

Here's an excellent cartoon contributed to BuzzFlash by Al Franken and Don Simpson, an excerpt from Franken's book about Lying Liars. What if Jesus were a supply sider? It offers some good perspective on the recent Alabama tax vote and the whole "What Would Jesus Do?" mentality vs what religious conservatives *really* do. It's pretty harsh satire, but if the shoe fits...

Posted by Observer at 09:01 AM | Comments (3)

Jury Award Limit Update

Ben Sargent has an important update regarding the recent law that passed which protects malpractice insurance companies by allowing the legislature to cap the maximum possible jury awards.

Posted by Observer at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

The Tax-Cut Con

Paul Krugman has a tour de force article in the latest NYT magazine (the link I provided doesn't require registration or anything) regarding tax cuts and the role of government, in some sense a preview of his newly released book, "The Great Unraveling". If you have 10-15 minutes, it is well worth a read to get yourself educated on the current debate over taxes.

Krugman puts the current American tax burden into proper perspective, both compared to other countries and other decades in America, then he talks about the political rationale for cutting taxes. Meanwhile, he demolishes the whole supply-side argument with simple, clear facts, including the fantasy that Reagan's tax cuts did anything except put us deep into debt, just as Bush's tax cuts will do.

Tax-cutting conservatives are trying to force Americans to make a choice (though they don't say this): Do we want super low taxes and give up the social safety net programs of the New Deal and the Great Society (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), or do we want the same modest taxes we've had for decades (with a lot of prosperity in the mix, I might add) and keep these intact, along with paying down the now monstrous debt? Conservatives are betting they can sell the former, but their vision of a pre-Depression level federal safety net is bleak. Not that they care, because they're all filthy rich. These geniuses have figured out how to say "Let them eat cake" in a way that makes the Moron American middle class think they're receiving a favor.

I can understand their philosophy and even respect it (though I disagree with it). What pisses me off is the fact that they *know* people wouldn't support it, so they are intellectually dishonest when they try to sell it to the public. That kind of shit is exactly the opposite of what made America great, but the greedy jackasses funding all the PR nonsense just don't give a damn.

You may wonder why no one questions their patriotism? Why is there not a continual uproar over the wealthy and their corporations doing business via foreign tax havens, avoiding taxes however they can while Bush asks us all for sacrifices? Why is there no outrage over the fact that they got theirs and now they say screw the safety net for everyone else? I'll tell you why: they fucking own the media. And every time they hear someone call it the liberal media, they're laughing all the way to the (offshore) bank.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Surprise, Surprise

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Liberal critics had hinted that US President George Bush would try to use it as his "September surprise"; a report by the Iraq Survey Group which would prove that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction. But now the Sunday Times of London, and other publications, say that the report has been delayed "indefinitely" because the group was unable to get any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Somebody remind me again why it was so important to invade? Apparently, what little pro-WMD intelligence there was should've been treated much more skeptically given the stakes. And of course, there remains no tie between Iraq and Al Qaeda. And we had to ditch many allies for this, sacrificing a tremendous amount of post-9/11 goodwill.

Careful, don't step in the leadership.

Posted by Observer at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Stupid Conservative Myth #2

Here's the second in the list of stupid myths about liberals propagated by simplistic dittohead conservatives. You know, I do realize that most of these points are so silly that it's like knocking down a straw man, but the scary thing is, there are a *lot* of people out there who base their entire political philosophy on crap like this, so I think it is worthwhile to take some time to formally expose it:

Liberals believe that the same teacher who can't teach 4th graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex.

So I guess the gist of this one is that we shouldn't teach sex education in the schools. It's not clear to me whether it would be ok in high school but not elementary school. At any rate, I think everyone agrees that in a perfect world, it would be parents doing the lion's share of the sex education and the teachers working on reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic.

And who says the teachers can't teach kids to read? Our kids' reading scores across the country seem to be more affected by social changes in the structure of the family (parents working longer, single parents, etc) rather than changes in educational philosophy or teacher competence. I think with proper support of good parents, the teachers can do an awful lot. So I would first dispute the assertion that teachers can't teach our kids how to read. Where is the data to support this ridiculous claim?

But of course that's not the root of the whole problem, which is, again, rotten parents. Whether they are rotten on purpose or because of circumstances beyond their control, the fact remains that there are a lot of kids out there who just aren't getting any guidance at home. Or they're getting really bad guidance. As a society, I think it is a bad idea to just write them off (very economically costly, too, in the long run).

This gets to the heart of my political philosophy: Give kids a fair chance. It's not a kid's fault that he/she has rotten parents. When we can reasonably help, we should do so. Spending very modest amounts of money to provide training for sex education (which I think is a *lot* easier to teach than reading not only because the kids are naturally a lot more interested) would save us from the social and economic costs of sexual problems (diseases and underage pregnancies, to name a couple) that cost a whole lot more down the road.

You want to say that it isn't the gummint's business to talk to kids about sex? Well, who the hell will do it when the parents aren't up to the task? Should the schools provide the good parents with a smooth way for good parents to avoid having their kids in the sex education classes? I could be convinced of this, but I'm not sure the cost would be worth it.

That brings us to #3 on the list of things you must believe in order to be a good conservative:

The gummint has no business trying to teach our kids anything at all about sex. Only parents should talk about sex with kids. If the parents aren't there or won't do it, tough luck for the kids. Think of it as a form of natural selection.

Posted by Observer at 11:44 AM | Comments (3)

Iraqi Blog?

Lots of really good new comments stretching back over the past six entries. Don't miss.

I was pointed to an interesting blog the other day. The author claims to be a woman blogging from inside Iraq. She sounds credible, but I honestly have no objective way to judge that. At any rate, there's plenty of interesting stuff there, including this:

One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- weíll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone whoíll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasnít too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Letís pretend my cousin is a dolt. Letís pretend he hasnít been working with bridges for over 17 years. Letís pretend he didnít work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Letís pretend heís wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- letís pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Letís just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

Something you should know about Iraq: we have over 130,000 engineers. More than half of these engineers are structural engineers and architects. Thousands of them were trained outside of Iraq in Germany, Japan, America, Britain and other countries. Thousands of others worked with some of the foreign companies that built various bridges, buildings and highways in Iraq. The majority of them are more than proficient- some of them are brilliant.

Iraqi engineers had to rebuild Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the ëCoalition of the Willingí was composed of over 30 countries actively participating in bombing Baghdad beyond recognition. They had to cope with rebuilding bridges and buildings that were originally built by foreign companies, they had to get around a lack of raw materials that we used to import from abroad, they had to work around a vicious blockade designed to damage whatever infrastructure was left after the warÖ they truly had to rebuild Iraq. And everything had to be made sturdy, because, well, we were always under the threat of war.

Over a hundred of the 133 bridges were rebuilt, hundreds of buildings and factories were replaced, communications towers were rebuilt, new bridges were added, electrical power grids were replacedÖ things were functioning. Everything wasnít perfect- but we were working on it.

And Iraqis arenít easy to please. Buildings cannot just be made functionary. They have to have artistic touches- a carved pillar, an intricately designed dome, something uniqueÖ not necessarily classy or subtle, but different. You can see it all over Baghdad- fashionable homes with plate glass windows, next to classic old ëBaghdadií buildings, gaudy restaurants standing next to classy little cafesÖ mosques with domes so colorful and detailed they look like glamorous Faberge eggsÖ all done by Iraqis.

My favorite reconstruction project was the Muíalaq Bridge over the Tigris. It is a suspended bridge that was designed and built by a British company. In 1991 it was bombed and everyone just about gave up on ever being able to cross it again. By 1994, it was up again, exactly as it was- without British companies, with Iraqi expertise. One of the art schools decided that although it wasnít the most sophisticated bridge in the world, it was going to be the most glamorous. On the day it was opened to the public, it was covered with hundreds of painted flowers in the most outrageous colors- all over the pillars, the bridge itself, the walkways along the sides of the bridge. People came from all over Baghdad just to stand upon it and look down into the Tigris.

So instead of bringing in thousands of foreign companies that are going to want billions of dollars, why arenít the Iraqi engineers, electricians and laborers being taken advantage of? Thousands of people who have no work would love to be able to rebuild IraqÖ no one is being given a chance.

The reconstruction of Iraq is held above our heads like a promise and a threat. People roll their eyes at reconstruction because they know (Iraqis are wily) that these dubious reconstruction projects are going to plunge the country into a national debt only comparable to that of America. A few already rich contractors are going to get richer, Iraqi workers are going to be given a pittance and the unemployed Iraqi public can stand on the sidelines and look at the glamorous buildings being built by foreign companies.

The author makes comments about those who doubt her authenticity in early blog entries, but even though it feels real and looks legit, I just don't know. I hate stuff like this, because it is really well-written and has believeable stuff. I'm looking forward to the so-called liberal media getting on the story of cost overruns and the like (if true, so I could see some kind of objective confirmation of this blog), but it'll probably be about five years too late if it ever happens.

Posted by Observer at 07:07 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2003


For those who follow and react to blog/comment debates as I sometimes do, today's PVP Online is priceless.

Posted by Observer at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Shorter Lord Farquaad

Again, in the spirit of Busy, Busy, Busy, I present to you a shorter version of Bush's recent speech on Iraq. I must also credit John Lithgow as the voice of Lord Farquaad from "Shrek":

Some of you may die, but it is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Thanks to an emailer to Eric Alterman's blog for this one.

Posted by Observer at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

Stupid Conservative Myth #1

Saw something funny on another website recently. It was one of these mass infinitely-resent emails that conservatives send to one another as part of their mutual affirmation society (talk radio isn't enough, it seems). It contains 20 things that you supposedly must believe in order to be a "GOOD Democrat".

It's pretty typical sound-bite talk radio conservatism, the kind that falls apart under any kind of serious scrutiny. Oh sure, there are gems of truth embedded in it, but I thought it would be worthwhile to blow away most of these stupid myths. There are 20 of them, so I'll take them one by one in the weeks to come.

So we begin with Stupid Conservative Myth #1:

Liberals believe the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding.

Ok, it's not meant to be serious of course but to poke fun at silly liberal beliefs that Big Government can solve every problem and so on. But let's look at the general sentiment behind it seriously. A typical conservative response (indeed, the one I first read) might be that "sexual abstinence" and "safe sex" are what prevent the spread of AIDS, not government funding, but then how do they expect that to come about? Good parenting?

Ok, great, we're all in favor of great parents. So what if the kid has really shitty parents? Do we just write that kid off? I mean, sure, shitty parents shouldn't have kids, but we haven't legalized neutering idiots, so in the real world, what do we do with their kids? How is that kid supposed to know what is up? Who is going to teach that kid what he or she needs to know?

Some volunteer? There aren't enough to make up for all the shitty parents, so at some level, *someone* is going to have to pay a qualified and trained professional to do the job. Who's going to do that? Bill Gates? Nope, it's the gummint! So in that sense, federal funding (and state and local funding) to promote education about AIDS can and does help prevent the spread of the virus.

I started this series as a single comment on a conservative blog that Chuck also graciously hosts, but I think the whole list is too long to discuss in a huge comment strand, so I am trying to organize it here. I don't know if the original list poster will participate, but I hope he does (from what little I've read, he looks like a true blue dittohead). At any rate, here is his response to my point:

Oh joy, email that ends in .edu, let me guess, you're a tenured professor at a liberal university somewhere, right? No, not the gummint, if the parent't are that shitty, the job probably falls to the kid's school nurse, so it's not the government, but me who has to foot the bill with my property taxes. Personally, I say let the fittest survive (and use condoms), and let the laws of natural selection apply.

My response to that:

Let's see, each part in turn: I'm a non-tenured (renewable one-year contract) science instructor at private southern University associated with a branch of the Christian Church. I got a good laugh reading that you think I am at a liberal university. This is Bush country here. Democrats don't even bother to run candidates for most elections. And I spent my whole childhood around here.

I hate to tell you this, but the kid's school nurse works for the gummint, unless it is a private school. Maybe not the federal gummint (but part of her salary is likely subsidized by the feds), but the state and/or local gummint. I don't know how you differentiate between the levels (is federal gummint crappy but state and local gummint okay?). Are you saying local gummint is ok because you pay the bill more directly somehow through property taxes? I guess I don't get that.

Still, it is the gummint educating kids about AIDS, and the funding for that education comes from all levels. If some of that funding went away, the situation would deteriorate. That's all.

I'm not saying it should be infinitely funded, but I think for a nationwide problem, the feds can probably respond more effectively with a greater economy of scale than the local governments, so the answer to what level of funding is appropriate is likely greater than zero (but I couldn't give you an exact dollar amount without doing more homework, something that debating the original assertion doesn't require).

But apparently that doesn't matter much because your position is we should let the kids die. Great, now that's cleared up. I'm willing to end the discussion on #1 right there by saying we differ on basic principles of humanity.

Perhaps I'll get a more serious defense than "let the kids die" in the comments, but I doubt it. So I propose Item #1 that you must believe in order to be a good conservative:

1. The gummint should never try to educate people about sexually transmitted diseases. If somebody is stupid enough to get AIDS, we should let them die.

Posted by Observer at 07:04 AM | Comments (12)

September 14, 2003

Those Who Forget History...

I've posted this before, but in light of comments by Rumsfeld et al (not to mention blog comments I've read recently) regarding the Iraq war lately, I think it bears repeating:

Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

- Herman Goering (Hitler's chief deputy) at the Nuremberg trials

Posted by Observer at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

A Grand Day Out

I told Michelle that if Daniel does get a little brother or sister in nine months, we'll tell him someday that it was because the internet was down. Michelle is on the pill and everything (going on 2nd month now), but given the birthdays of the four kids (all within 30 days of mid-June), I'm thinking mid-September is her Very Fertile time of the year, so you never know...

We all went out to the library yesterday. On my advice, Cody had read the excellent "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls a few weeks ago. One of the few books I read at a very early age and never, ever forgot. Cody really liked it, so we checked out the movie version, which he's eager to see. He also got the picture/storybook version of "The Hobbit" (I have the leather-bound versions of both "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" which are highly recommended Christmas gifts for Tolkien fans).

Although Justin is totally into the movie versions of LotR that have come out so far, they've been a little bit over Cody's head. He's interested, but the movies are a little too long and complicated for him to follow. Sucker that I am, I bought the regular DVD versions of both movies, but I really, really want the super-extended editions when they finally come out. I am waiting for the super-extended DVD box set of all three movies to come out, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it will come packaged with some other bonus DVD that you have no other way of getting (so that I would feel again like a sucker if I shelled out $25 for the extended "Fellowship" DVD that is out and for the extended "Two Towers" DVD when it comes out in a couple of months). I will rent the extended "Two Towers" from Blockbuster like I did for "Fellowship" just to satisfy my initial craving.

Anyway, I figure Cody will really like "The Hobbit", which is not much harder to read than the whole "Harry Potter" series (and he polished that off easily), and then he'll want to watch the LotR movies with the rest of us. Justin, meanwhile, has gotten started on the various "Redwall" books by Brian Jacques. I've never read any of those, but I've heard they're not bad for kids. Justin's reading skills have really improved this past year (especially over the summer when he had little else to do). He can read chapter books really quickly now, and he can discuss the plot with a lot of understanding.

Anyway, we ran a lot of other errands, too, yesterday, and I'm happy to report that the kids all had really good days. There was a time not too long ago when we simply wouldn't venture out for too long with all three kids (now four with Daniel, of course) in tow, and such trips would inevitably end in time out or other punishments for one or more of them. Now, though, it is pretty routine for me to take them myself to the library each Saturday and other places, and they are pretty good.

I voted yesterday, too, but pretty much everything I voted against passed anyway. Oh well, that's life in the Bible Belt for a crazy liberal like me. We have a new law here now that says if the doctor cuts off your leg by mistake, a jury doesn't get to decide your reward. Instead, that number is decided in the legislature by members bought and paid for by the insurance lobby. Man, insurance is a great racket to get into when you can totally control all conceivable costs. Why pay out millions in damages to suffering patients when a few tens of thousands in the pockets of the right legislators will do?

Posted by Observer at 09:48 AM | Comments (16)

September 13, 2003

Broken Pipe

Well, stupid cable internet has been on the fritz since Thursday at noon. I brought the whole family in to work today so at least we could check email via the campus computer labs. The kids are having a blast surfing the various kid sites on the internet down in the lab. Not having internet is so bad at home that I almost considered watching TV the other day.

But I got over it.

Posted by Observer at 03:03 PM | Comments (4)

September 12, 2003

Who, Me? Cynical?

Paul Krugman, as usual, has the best summary of events since 9/11:

In my first column after 9/11, I mentioned something everyone with contacts on Capitol Hill already knew: that just days after the event, the exploitation of the atrocity for partisan political gain had already begun.

In response, I received a torrent of outraged mail. At a time when the nation was shocked and terrified, the thought that our leaders might be that cynical was too much to bear. ``How can I say that to my young son?'' asked one furious e-mailer.

I wonder what that correspondent thinks now. Is the public - and the news media - finally prepared to cry foul when cynicism comes wrapped in the flag? America's political future may rest on the answer. [...]

Now it has all gone wrong. The deficit is about to go above half a trillion dollars, the economy is still losing jobs, the triumph in Iraq has turned to dust and ashes, and Mr. Bush's poll numbers are at or below their pre-9/11 levels.

Nor can the members of this administration simply lose like gentlemen. For one thing, that's not how they operate. Furthermore, everything suggests that there are major scandals - involving energy policy, environmental policy, Iraq contracts and cooked intelligence - that would burst into the light of day if the current management lost its grip on power. So these people must win, at any cost.

The result, clearly, will be an ugly, bitter campaign - probably the nastiest of modern American history. Four months ago it seemed that the 2004 campaign would be all slow-mo films of Mr. Bush in his flight suit. But at this point, it's likely to be pictures of Howard Dean or Wesley Clark that morph into Saddam Hussein. And Donald Rumsfeld has already rolled out the stab-in-the-back argument: if you criticize the administration, you're lending aid and comfort to the enemy.

This political ugliness will take its toll on policy, too. The administration's infallibility complex - its inability to admit ever making a mistake - will get even worse. And I disagree with those who think the administration can claim infallibility even while practicing policy flexibility: on major issues, such as taxes or Iraq, any sensible policy would too obviously be an implicit admission that previous policies had failed.

In other words, if you thought the last two years were bad, just wait: it's about to get worse. A lot worse.

This is why I harp so much on corporate media bias. I really do believe that the way this administration manipulates public opinion and uses the tools of power so brazenly (and unethically), it will be critical that the media *not* act like lapdogs and frat drinking buddies to Bush this time around.

Honestly, I don't have much hope for the mainstream media. They've already decided that Dean is "too liberal" and Kerry is "too artificial" (like Gore), and if Clark enters the race, he'll be labelled with the wild-eyed "Ross Perot" mantle. In other words, any conceivable Democrat who could run for election has *already* been marginalized, and every time 9+ Democrats appear on a stage to debate, one gets shades of 1984 and Mondale's campaign against Reagan (whose administration also masterfully controlled the media, as described in "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency" by Mark Hertsgaard) all over again.

I think the combination of "Operation Flight Suit" stunts and the usual dirty tricks will suffice to make the election another coin toss. With all the nonsense floating around about the unreliability of electronic voting machines (which you can find out about here), which are owned and operated by Republicans who say they are committed to reelecting Bush (not to mention the fact that the mainstream media outlets are *also* owned and operated by Republicans with similar leanings), let's just say right now I'm not confident.

Posted by Observer at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2003

He Gassed His Own People

I think we can all agree that if he gassed his own people, he's a menace rather than a leader of a country:

The burning ruins of the World Trade Center spewed toxic gases "like a chemical factory" for at least six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despite government assurances the air was safe, according to a study released on Wednesday. [...]

Last month, an internal report by Environmental ProtectionAgency Inspector General Nikki Tinsley said the White House pressured the agency to make premature statements that the air was safe to breathe.

The EPA issued an air quality statement on Sept. 18, 2001, even though it "did not have sufficient data and analyzes to make the statement," the report said.

The White House "convinced the EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones," Tinsley said. Among the information withheld was the potential health hazards of breathing asbestos, lead, concrete and pulverized glass, the report said.

I hope the GOP convention, scheduled for a week before the third anniversary of 9/11 in New York City (by an administration that doesn't know the meaning of the word "shame"), turns into the PR disaster it ought to be. It just depends on how well they can control the massive protests and (of course) the media.

Posted by Observer at 07:39 AM | Comments (5)

September 10, 2003

Who Was Being Honest?

Prior to the war, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, et al were talking about how Iraq would be a cakewalk. We'd have a 3-6 month MAX occupation, followed by a fluorishing democracy with Iraqis throwing rose petals at the feet of the happily departing marines. BuzzFlash was saying this:

If we [the US] launch the war [on Iraq] over the objections of our friends, we may find none of them eager to put boots on the ground to help with reconstruction. So we could end up with 100,000 American soldiers pinned down indefinitely, undertaking the type of nation-building that Bush used to reject. But nation-building may be the least of our burdens... Post-war Iraq promises to be a magnet for Al Qaeda operatives eager to resume the fight against America. If we canít prevent terrorist attacks in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, imagine what we can expect in Iraq.

Today, another attack in Iraq took 3 lives and wounded some people. It's just another in the continuing (and predictable) stream of bad news coming from that country. And people say they're thankful Bush was president when 9/11 came down? Thankful for what? For the massive deficit? For the department of homeland security? For the completely ridiculous and unnecessary Iraq war (which of course is *now* necessary because of the mess we've made)?

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Bush is effective, all right. Like pancreatic cancer.

Posted by Observer at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

So This Is What Jesus Would Do...

Apparently, he would vote down the proposal in Alabama to shift the tax burden from "the least of these" to the wealthy, in an effort to properly fund the schools, police, prisons, etc.

Posted by Observer at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

Bogey Golf

I finished Alan Shipnuck's "Bud, Sweat and Tees" recently. This is sort along the same lines as John Feinstein's "A Good Walk Spoiled". But where Feinstein is focussing on the majors and the great players most of the time (some time is spent talking about people trying to qualify, and I found that part and the Ryder Cup stuff really fascinating), Shipnuck focuses on Rich Beem and his on-and-off caddy, Steve Duplantis, who are basically overgrown juvenile delinquents who happen to make a career in professional golf.

The story of Beem's first tournament win is very gripping, and at first, the stories of the profoundly messed-up personal lives of both characters is really interesting. You know, like slowing down to watch a car wreck. About halfway through the book for me, that really started to grate. Like many of their friends keep saying, how could these guys collectively be so stupid and make so many obviously bad choices to blow the precious successes that they've had? If these were characters in a fiction novel, I'd get irritated because they aren't believeable enough.

Anyway, if you've ever watched much golf, read Feinstein's book first, then Shipnuck's is a close second. I've read a couple other books on golf, and these two are probably the best I've come across so far. The funny thing is, I'm not really a golf fan. I never watch it on TV these days (except if the Ryder Cup comes on, I might make some time for that, but not like for a Cowboys game). But when I was growing up and spending the occasional weekend at Dad's, there were a lot of long afternoons in front of the TV (before I was old enough to drive) where Dad would be watching golf. It was the only TV in the house, and there weren't GameCubes or anything like that.

Also, my Dad did go out of his way to help me learn the game. I still play with him a couple of times per year, and I usually score around 100 (my goal is bogey average of one-over-par per hole, which would be about 90), depending on the difficulty of the course. It's really hard to justify playing more than that given the expense of playing at nice courses like my Dad plays at. And of course, I would never spring for decent clubs. I'm still using the same ones from my days on the high school golf team.

Posted by Observer at 08:33 AM | Comments (8)

September 09, 2003

Graph Worth 1000 Words

Stolen from Eschaton, who got it from the Washington Post (not sure if this will appear on your screen unless you have a Washington Post cookie in your browser, but I'll try it...)

Note that the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy will only increase as the years go on, dramatically so if and when the estate tax is eliminated.

Posted by Observer at 10:26 PM | Comments (5)

Historical Revisionism

Along with all the new book links, I've updated my list of blog links as well. I don't think it is too bloated yet, but I don't always have time to check each one every day. A new blog I've recently been looking at is called Thinking It Through by Thomas Spencer (a faculty member at a college in Missouri). He's got some good stuff lately. First, a pointer to a thoughtful Slate article about phony comparisons of post-war Iraq with post-war Germany:

As American post-conflict combat deaths in Iraq overtook the wartime number, the administration counseled patience. "The war on terror is a test of our strength. It is a test of our perseverance, our patience, and our will," President Bush told an American Legion convention.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice embellished the message with what former White House speechwriters immediately recognize as a greatest-generation pander. "There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes," she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas, on Aug. 25. "But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officersócalled 'werewolves'óengaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with themómuch like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants." [...]

According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germanyóand Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan casesówas zero.

So, how did this fanciful version of the American experience in postwar Germany get into the remarks of a Princeton graduate and former trustee of Stanford's Hoover Institute (Rumsfeld) and the former provost of Stanford and co-author of an acclaimed book on German unification (Rice)? Perhaps the British have some intelligence on the matter that still has not been made public. Of course, as the president himself has noted, there is a lot of revisionist history going around.

Spencer continues with commentary:

I'm really about to give this administration an F for its knowledge of American history. Like so many other things, they apparently believe in a "faith-based" approach to history as well. It's seen as merely another tool for use by the administration's agitprop machine.

Next, quoting Skeptical Notion's Morat:

Our country is led by people who have a righteous certainty in their beliefs. People to whom facts and data are irrelevant to the truths that live in their own hearts. Anyone who disagrees with them is, by definition, acting on bias or ideology alone, because the Truth is as the Bush administration decrees.

I have met people like this before. Talked to them, argued with them, spent years learning how they think. Talk to perpetual motion enthusiasts and Young Earth Creationists long enough, and you'll start to understand the Bush Administration mindset. Especially the Creationists.

It's not a problem to discard data and expert opinion when it contradicts the Truth, because that data is flawed and those experts definition. Bush will follow this path to the bitter end, and I sincerely doubt anyone can sway him. Because he believes, to his very core, that his policies will work. And no data, no facts, no expert can make him believe otherwise.

And in another vein, quoting Billmon gets this gem:

Power, a good friend recently remarked, is an odd thing -- it's most impressive when it isn't being used. A wise hegemon goes to great lengths to conceal the true extent of its power. It always leaves something in the tool kit, so to speak, so that enemies and allies alike can never be sure exactly what's in there.

But the Bush Administration has let the cat out of the bag. It has exposed to the world the limits of U.S. military power -- both in terms of the size of the forces (divisions, troops) and the relative ineffectiveness of those forces on a complex social and political battlefield like the one America faces in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

Even more to the point, Bush has signaled that the financial and political burdens of unilateralism are simply too great for any U.S. administration to carry for long. Forced to choose between greater mobilization at home (more troops, less tax cuts) and compromise abroad, Bush appears to have opted for the latter.

These events no doubt will be noted, and closely studied, by friend and foe alike.

Most of it is quoted, but I appreciate a blogger who quotes only the best stuff from blogs I'd never have time to follow. Lots of thoughtful stuff is out there, and the few blogs I link tend to filter it all out and get the best of it. I have to be careful not to let my list get too bloated.

Posted by Observer at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2003

Perpetual Motion Machine

What Josh Marshall said:

We went into Iraq to eliminate Saddam's stock of weapons of mass destruction, to depose a reckless strongman at the heart of a vital region, and to overawe unfriendly regimes on the country's borders. Agree or not, those were the prime stated reasons. Now we've got a deteriorating security situation and a palpably botched plan for reconstruction. And our effort to recover from our ill-conceived and poorly-executed policy is now the 'central front' in the war on terror, which is among other things extremely convenient.

The president has turned 9/11 into a sort of foreign policy perpetual motion machine in which the problems ginned up by policy failures become the rationale for intensifying those policies. The consequences of screw-ups become examples of the power of 'the terrorists'.

We're not on the offensive. We're on the defensive. A bunch of mumbo-jumbo and flim-flam doesn't change that.

Posted by Observer at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Shorter Speech

In the spirit of Busy, Busy, Busy, I offer a summary of Bush's speech last night (stolen from a clever commenter on Eschaton:

Everything is fine and going according to our plans, and in any event, none of it is my fault.

By the way, the $87 billion he asked for is equivalent to $300 for every citizen of the United States. As a down payment.

Posted by Observer at 07:25 AM | Comments (5)

September 07, 2003

Planet Media

The Daily Howler has a good entry here about press coverage and lies. A recent piece by David Greenberg is the Columbia Journalism Review seems fairly representative of the attitude of mainstream media. Bob Somerby of the Howler discusses:

Question: On what distant planet does Greenberg reside? To what distant planet does Greenberg repair to see the press corps described in this passage?

GREENBERG: Every day, journalists struggle to reconcile two clashing professional mandates. On the one hand, their stature rests on a reputation for fairness and objectivity; if they appear to be taking ideological shots at a president, their credibility suffers. Yet they also hearken to the muckraker's trumpet, the injunction to scrutinize and challenge the powerful. One principle calls for restraint and evenhandedness, the other for skepticism and zeal.

Does that sound like the press corps you see on this planet? But then, Greenberg seems to be from another world. Incredibly, hereís his present-day synopsis of recent Big Pol lies:

GREENBERG: To the axiom that journalists love lies, however, thereís one important corollaryóand it helps explain Bushís Teflon coating. Reporters like only certain lies. Perversely, those tend to be the relatively trivial ones, involving personal matters: Clintonís deceptions about his sex life; Al Goreís talk of having inspired Love Story; John Kerryís failure to correct misimpressions that heís Irish. Here, the press can strut its skepticism without positioning itself ideologically.

Amazing, isnít it? That an Insider Scribe can still be penning such an utterly mind-boggling paragraph? [...]

According to Greenberg, George Bush is a lucky man. By some sort of puzzling happenstance, journalists love a type of "lie" that only Big Democrats make! Bush hasnít uttered this type of misstatement, which helps explain his great Teflon. But this is complete, utter nonsense. In fact, Bush has made many "relatively trivial [misstatements], involving personal matters"óthe type which Greenberg says that scribes love.

Early in 1999, for example, he said that his family connections had played little role in his business career. In June 1999, he said in an NBC interview that he had never lived in Washington. He made many remarks about his military service that have turned out to be shaky at best. He repeatedly bragged about attending San Jacinto Junior High; in fact, he only spent sixth grade at that school, then switched to an elite Houston prep school.

These are precisely the kinds of "lies" that Greenberg says his journalists love. But on Planet Greenberg, one more thing seems to be true. Journalists seem to love such "lies" only when theyíre uttered by Dems. And like the rest of his puzzling caste, Greenberg totally misses this pattern. Sadly, strange ETs from our press elite arenít equipped to observe this striking fact.

But ... but ... but it's just plain rude and unpatriotic to point out Bush lies. Pointing out Bush's lies means you are letting the terrorists win. So I guess we should be thanking our liberal media for screwing Gore, who probably would've stuck us in some situation where we had a huge deficit, lots of unemployed, a recessionary economy, a bloated federal bureaucracy, erosion of our constitutional rights by an ever-growing government and a war we don't know how to fight or win with no apparent ending.

Oh, sorry, wait a minute...

Posted by Observer at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Operation Flight Suit

Paul Krugman summarizes the latest administration about-face on Iraq and the UN:

Just four months after Operation Flight Suit, the superpower has become a supplicant to nations it used to insult. Mission accomplished!

I'm sure the liberal media will bring this up when discussing Bushco's foreign policy credentials during the 2004 presidential debates. Right after they're done talking about Howard Dean's haircut or John Kerry's breakfast.

Posted by Observer at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2003

Same Old, Same Old

Come on now, don't even pretend to be surprised by news like this:

Two top Environmental Protection Agency officials who were deeply involved in easing an air pollution rule for old power plants just took private-sector jobs with firms that benefit from the changes.

Days after the changes in the power-plant pollution rule were announced last week, John Pemberton, the chief of staff in the EPA's air and radiation office, told colleagues he would be joining Southern Co., an Atlanta-based utility that's the nation's No. 2 power-plant polluter and was a driving force in lobbying for the rule changes. Southern Co., which gave more than $3.4 million in political contributions over the past four years while it sought the changes, hired Pemberton as director of federal affairs.

The sad thing is that stuff like this is all legal. Clinton's staff did this stuff, too. And it will continue to happen until we have meaningful ethical rules for politicians. I just don't understand how these assholes rationalize it and look at themselves in the mirror or tell their families what they've done.

Posted by Observer at 08:22 AM | Comments (4)

September 05, 2003

Rules of the Game

Apologies for the long post, but this one is important. This post is not about the political debate but about the rules of the debate. One of the great successes of conservatives over the past two decades has been the promotion of the "liberal media" myth. This business of "working the refs" for more favorable calls has turned reality on its head and made honest, objective debate impossible. The media's reaction to Al Franken's book is a perfect case study of this phenomenon of how the rules have changed for the worse.

You see, the so-called liberal media doesn't seem to be living up to the whole push-the-liberal-agenda orders that Karl Marx is issuing from his grave. I say this because of the way Al Franken is being treated in so many newspaper articles following the great success of his book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". I knew it wouldn't be long before this story got the attention of my local liberal media outlet (oh, did I mention they endorsed Bush along with Republicans in about 90% of races at the federal and state level -- oh but trust me, they are flaming liberals ... yeah, whatever).

The front page teaser reads, "Is Al Franken a Lying Liar, Too?" Sigh. They just don't get it. Sure enough, the subtitle on the story is something like, "our intrepid reporter puts the screws to Franken about his claim", and the whole interview is basically the interviewer asking Franken things like, "Well, when you wrote to John Ashcroft pretending to be xyz as a prank, wasn't that a lie?" To his credit, Franken is pretty patient with this line of questioning, explaining how pranks are different from fundamental dishonesty in political discourse. Eventually, though, Franken responds to about the fifth similar question and says something like, "Look, if you want to pretend that you don't know it is satirical, to deliberately misunderstand when I proclaim myself king of the world, if you want to be a dishonorable person, then there's nothing I can do to stop you, but it is not even in the same ballpark, not even equivalent, and you know that." Franken does defend himself pretty well, but the questions are embarrassingly slanted.

I hope Franken writes another book (or at least a lengthy introduction in the paperback version) about the way the mainstream media is treating him. There was even a sidebar in which a conservative columnist was asked to name his favorite three liberal liars. The best he could come up with was James Carville, Molly Ivins and Brant Gumbel. What a stupid list! I mean, I could understand Carville screwing around with the truth when he was working for Clinton because he was a political operative playing dirty politics with a bunch of radical conservative idiots (note that he wasn't a pundit or author or member of the media at the time). But Molly Ivins? Excuse me? When did she lie? Let's have some quotes and refutation with references we can all check! And Bryant Gumbel? How come he is all-of-a-sudden a major liberal spokesperson? He's just an annoying overinflated ego who really doesn't get involved in political discussions at all (but he's from Hollywood, and he's annoying, so he must be a liberal).

Anyway, the point is they only included this list for "balance". It's like I've said so many times before. If someone claims that 2 + 2 = 5, and I say 2 + 2 = 4, the media is such that they will claim both sides have legitimacy. They'll say, well, Observer makes a convincing case, but one wonders why Observer doesn't spend any time discussing the weaknesses of mathematics, like their problem with division by zero. It seems that Observer only really cares to win one for his side. When you are talking about objective truth, there shouldn't be any "sides" in honest reporting.

This whole business is depressing but far from surprising. Conservatives know how to work the media, and it shows. They know that the media will try so very, very hard to pretend to be balanced that they won't dare write a story making a conservative look bad without lots of caveats and "balancing" information about something a liberal has done, even when it is far less consequential. Unless it's Al Gore, in which case they'll go overboard and accuse *him* of lying when it is actually Bush who is making stuff up. Oh sure, they'll say, Bush's economic numbers don't add up, but hey, Al Gore says he invented the internet, and heck, Bush doesn't know any better anyway. He's just plain folks like the rest of us, not some fancy liberal in earth toned suits.

Michael Tomasky has some commentary about the criticism about Franken's book as well as Joe Conason's "Big Lies", which talks about right-wing lies:

Our time is distinguished by two characteristics. First, it is an age of dispassion, detachment and ironic distance. Second, it is the postliberal era, a time when presumptions that held sway in society for half a century have come under harsh re-examination. These circumstances leave the liberal political writer painted into a corner. It is unfashionable today to take one's own side. It is assumed that only the stance of ironic distance -- a stance that embraces no actual commitments and instead flings acid at both sides -- has access to the truth

This is exactly what drives the stupid kind of interviewing of Franken. The idea that in order to have credibility to the readers, media types assume that they have to equally bash both sides, even though objectively only one side has a logical case to make. It is unfashionable for liberals to promote their beliefs, even when by any objective measure, they are what's best for this country. Or, at the very least, it is unfashionable to criticize out-and-out lies by conservatives. Heaven forbid you appear "unbalanced"!

Conason and Franken are neither ironic nor distant. They are committed liberals. (And while Franken is of course a comic, he is very serious about his new book, which I know because I happened to be down the hall from him at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government while he was working on it.) To Jack Shafer, writing in Slate last week, this makes Conason and Franken, by definition, propagandists, virtually indistinguishable from the Sean Hannitys and Ann Coulters they attack. "Their primary mission isn't to uncover lies and reveal the truth," Shafer wrote. "If it were, they'd chart the deceptions and propaganda emanating from both political wings. Their only goal is to win one for their side."

Notice especially the middle of those three sentences. I would not argue that liberals should abandon self-criticism; I've engaged in a lot of it over the years, and will continue to. But why should that be the definition of credibility? Aren't there others? Rush Limbaugh spreads vicious lies about the Paul Wellstone memorial. Al Franken corrects them. The Republican right doles out phony propaganda about its history on race, class politics, a whole host of things. Conason calls them on it -- as he did on Whitewater, about which he was prescient and dead right (though he suffered no small amount of ridicule back in 1995 and 1996 for having the courage to say so). From the one side, lies; from the other, attempts to correct the historical record. That, too, is a form of credibility, and I have trouble seeing why such authors are supposed to give equal time to liberalism's flaws in order to get their credibility tickets punched. (Needless to say, I think you should buy both books if you haven't.)

They want to "win one for their side"? More power to them. A third distinguishing characteristic of our age is that the avatars of contemporary conservatism want to wipe every vestige of liberalism from the face of the earth, just as Rameses ordered Moses' name removed from every obelisk. They are serious about it. Someone needs to push back. Irony and dispassion won't bar the gates. Commitment will.

Media Horse continues with commentary about a Steve Weinberg review in the Washington Post:

A similar angle to Jack Shafer's appeared in a Washington Post review of Joe Conason's "Big Lies."Ý Steve Weinberg's review was generally positive.Ý But, like Shafer, he also included comments suggesting the credibility of "Big Lies" is undermined by a "failure" to scrutinize liberals:

Granted, the book's credibility would be heightened if Conason spent more space examining the alleged hypocrisy and lies of, say, Bill Clinton.

In fact, the credibility of "Big Lies" would not be heightened in the least by trashing the Clintons.Ý The book's title clearly states that its objective is, specifically, to examine "the right-wing propaganda machine and how it distorts the truth."

What that means is that if "Big Lies" succeeds in defining "the right-wing propaganda machine" effectively, and informing the reader about how that right-wing propaganda machine distorts the truth, the book has entirely succeeded in its intended and stated purpose.

Weinberg adds:

But polemicists can be excused for a relatively narrow focus; that is, after all, part of a polemic's definition.

Actually, there is nothing to "excuse" when anyone, polemicist or not, states their intended purpose and follows through without broadening it.Ý There is nothing inherently more credible about a broader focus.

Weinberg proves Mr. Tomasky's point, as he seems to go out of his way to include negative criticism of "Big Lies" in his review so that it comports with current standards, which do not permit unequivocal praise of liberals by liberals.Ý But each of those criticisms is more transparently bogus than the last:

Much of the evidence Conason provides is derivative, as his endnotes make clear. Many times evidence bearing on a target's stated point of view ought to go beyond a reference to a newspaper or magazine story. To put it another way, Conason should have actually sat down with Cheney, Coulter, Hastert et al. to probe their actions and words as reported elsewhere -- if his targets would have been willing to risk serving as sitting ducks.

"Big Lies" proves a case by presenting credible and copious evidence.Ý The strength or quality of that evidence would not have been improved in any way whatsoever had it been created by the author, rather than cited from other credible sources.Ý Weinberg fails to explain why he suggests otherwise.

For the most part, however, Conason mounts a persuasive case from the sources he does use. When Conason says that his targets are hypocrites or downright liars, he is often right.

Actually, Conason is correct in every instance his targets are said to be hypocrites or downright liars.Ý Weinberg should have either stated as much or, if he disputed that claim in any specific instance, cited it ("often" implies "not always").

More than likely, however, "often" and "for the most part" (which appears to mean "aside from not creating his own evidence...") are included in order to avoid unqualified praise of a liberal.

Although Conason's language is usually glib and sometimes cleverly smart (or smartly clever), his thinking often transcends glib and clever to warrant the phrase "downright deep." Perhaps it's my own liberal bias, but I've never read anything by Coulter, O'Reilly or Limbaugh that I consider downright deep.

Modern conservatism is by definition "not deep," so it is nearly impossible for a conservative commentator to be known for his or her depth.Ý Factor in the general dishonest and/or crude approach of the three wingers cited and it's completely impossible.Ý These facts are self-evident to every moderately sentient person, so there is no need to include a "liberal bias" caveat here.

As noted, these criticisms were part of a generally positive review - one that is the best any liberal author can expect in these times.Ý But what is truly Orwellian is the compulsion on the part reviewers like Shafer or Weinberg - who acknowledge that "Big Lies" is factual, tempered, conscientious, scrupulously researched, and successful in proving the case it sets out to prove - to nevertheless attempt to demonstrate their own credibility by criticizing it as less than credible...for not being a different book than it purports to be.

I find it sadly ironic that one of the things conservatives have criticized (correctly) the most about liberals, their post-modern tendency to say "everything is relative", is now being used as a conservative tool to establish their ideas as legitimate.

Posted by Observer at 07:19 AM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2003

Discover Some Honesty

Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Posted by Observer at 07:23 AM | Comments (6)

September 03, 2003

How We Got Here

Molly Ivins offers some valuable perspective on Iraq:

At the beginning of the summer, several of us who are not exactly upbeat about our prospects in Iraq urged the administration to Do Something before it was too late -- like, by the end of the summer.

Now what? Our people are over there liked staked goats in the desert, the administration won't ask other countries or the United Nations for help, they won't send more troops, and the NGOs are pulling out. There was no apparent connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda before this war, but there sure as hell is now. We have already lost more soldiers in the "peace" than we did during the war.

And still no weapons of mass destruction. I realize all the good little boys and girls are supposed to "get over" the missing weapons of mass destruction, but I cannot brush this aside with the careless Èlan of the neo-con hawks ("doesn't matter," "makes no difference," "who cares?"). Public officials need to be held to some standard of accountability for what they say.

In a separate column, I will try to Be Constructive about our current plight, but I think it is important to remember how we got here. May I remind you of what we were repeatedly told?

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." -- Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." -- George W. Bush, Sept. 12, 2002

"The Iraqi regime possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons." -- Bush Oct. 7, 2002.

[Many more similar quotes follow...]

Now, of course, we're going to be told that discovery of WMD "programs", even if years old, is going to be enough to retroactively justify our preemptive strike. Then we're going to be told that the reason this is all going so badly is that all of us treasonous liberals back here at home aren't on the Bush bandwagon and that we are sapping morale and encouraging the terrorists and so on.

Sometimes there is just so much bad news that it is too fucking depressing going through it all and posting about it (which is why it took me so long to post anything today).

Posted by Observer at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2003


Continuing in the occasional series of books that I've read in the past and would like to recommend, I offer Michael Crichton's "Disclosure", which was also made into a very good movie, even though a lot was left out in the movie. This book is about a guy working for a techie company in Seattle trying to manufacture CD-ROM drives (among other things). He's trying to work his way up the corporate ladder when his boss brings in a new manager for the position he thought he was about to inherit. The new manager is a woman, an ex-girlfriend, and she's really vicious.

She comes on to him, and he (who is married with kids) rejects her. He finds out the next day she is pursuing a sexual harassment claim against him and trying to run him out of the company (with the support of his boss). It probably sounds like pretty run-of-the-mill potboiler stuff, and for some, it probably is. I couldn't put the book down. The plot is very fast-paced, and there are lots of neat surprises. I bet it's a good book to read on an airplane since it only takes a few hours.

Anyway, it isn't going to win any literary prizes I'm sure, but it's a very engrossing story.

Posted by Observer at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2003

Book Links

I've finally acted on an earlier suggestion and listed the books I've mentioned in my blog (listed in the sidebar alphabetically by author's last name). The links point to the relevant entry from the archives (and in those entires, you can usually find links to Amazon that show you the book). In some cases, I've mentioned a book more than once or mentioned several books in a series with just one link. I've tried to link to the most descriptive entry in this case, and that usually has pointers to other mentions of the book anyway. Some links point to the same entry where I mentioned several books, so you may have to read down a bit to find what you are looking for.

Hope you like it. It wasn't as big of a pain as I thought it would be.

Posted by Observer at 10:48 PM | Comments (1)

Decisiveness Is All

I just finished reading "You Back the Attack, We'll Bomb Who We Want" by Micah Ian Wright. It is a book with about 50 redone war propaganda posters, updated to modern times, along with commentary on each subject covered. A very quick read, and it has an associated website that I've mentioned before. Here's an excerpt from the forward (by Kurt Vonnegut):

Psychopathic Personalities (PP's) is a medical term for smart, personable people who have no conscience. PP's are fully aware of how much suffering their actions will inflict on others, but they do not care. They cannot care.

An American PP at the head of a corporation, for example, could enrich himself by ruining his employees and investors, and still feel as pure as the driven snow. A PP, should he somehow attain a post near the top of our federal government, might feel that taking the country into an endless war, with casualties in the millions, was simply something decisive to do today. And so to bed.

With a PP, decisiveness is all.

This poster is my favorite. Thanks, corporate news!

Posted by Observer at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)