October 31, 2003

Miles To Go

I needed a break from depressing political books, so I finally jumped back into Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan series by reading "Young Miles", which is a compilation of two novels sandwiched around a short story.

Very good stuff. Even an improvement on the already good first parts of the series. By the end of second novel in the omnibus, "The Vor Game", I was really turning the pages quickly and setting aside time to finish reading, which is not something I've done much of lately. Four kids, two dogs, sexy wife, work, cards, blogs, etc. means I don't do too much reading now, so it has to be gripping to get my attention. This fits the bill. It's always a smart plot, with Miles Vorkosigan somewhat similar to Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos, though in a completely different milieu. Definitely looking forward to the next one.

I went out and bought the next omnibus, "Miles, Mystery & Mayhem", at the bookstore yesterday evening, but I couldn't find the one after that, "Miles Errant". This should last me at least another week or two. I also noticed Brust has a new series out set in Dragaera (Vlad Taltos' world), and I can't wait for that one to be all finished. I couldn't find that Tuchman book I mentioned yesterday, but I did get "The Amber Spyglass" for Cody, which is the third book in that series by Philip Pullman. He says big thumbs up so far.

Posted by Observer at 07:10 AM | Comments (7)

October 30, 2003

Recommended Reading

A lot of politcal blogs are basically meta-filters, pointing you to lots of different things that they feel are important, often 5-10 outward-leading links per day. I like that, because I've learned how to filter that with practice to find a lot of really neat stuff without slogging through a million links by doing some filtering of my own, but I try to be a little different with this blog by sticking to just one topic in a day and quoting extensively so you don't have to keep clicking through every time you want to get to the bottom of a story that may be interesting (kind of like the Howler does). It means that I don't point out a lot of stuff that I find interesting.

Sometimes, I see so many really interesting but really lengthy things in one day, I just have to link out and recommend that you follow. For example, Corrente has some interesting quotes providing a deeper understanding of the ecology and the economics of the California fires. I don't know if it is right, but it made me want to know more.

Also, Digby at Hullaballoo has some thoughts on General Wesley Clark (one of the Democratic candidates, in case you forgot) and his critics. Clark is criticizing a lot of what's going on in Iraq, and some so-called liberal media critics are pounding him for basically being disloyal and equating his criticisms with Republican criticisms of the war in Bosnia It's part of the whole maddening and super lazy "a pox on both houses" reporting that posits a demonstrably false moral equivalence on war between Democrats and Republicans.

Later in the same blog is a fascinating but very long post on how and why issues get framed as contests between "strict father" conservative ideas and "nurturing mother" liberal ideas. Digby talks about how Clinton overcame this (by casting it as a contest between status quo and change). Many good comments, too, talk about why the fiery Howard Dean and Wesley Clark can and (we hope) will overcome this framing. Gore sure couldn't, and it's no thanks to the lazy clowns in the "liberal" media.

Elsewhere, Hesiod of Counterspin Central responds to rumors that Bushco may want to pull out of Iraq in March so that it won't be an issue come election time. Although there are some liberals, like Michael Moore and a few others, who want US troops out of Iraq immediately if not sooner, etc., I think most liberals (including all of the serious Democratic candidates) understand that now that we're in, we've got to stay the course and clean up our own mess.

It's certainly fair to demand accountability, fair to ask what the plans are before we hand Bush another $87 billion check, fair to ask why the same people who screwed up and started this whole pre-emptive bullshit should be trusted with rebuilding Iraq. But no serious, credible liberal wants us out before we've at least put most of the pieces back together (or handed it off to a true multinational coalition), and don't let any shit-for-brains conservative try to tell you otherwise. If Bush *does* try to pull out before he objectively "should", the talk radio nuts are going to be right out there with the "hey, isn't this what you liberals wanted all along ... why are you complaining?" line. I'm telling you right now before you hear it that it is 100% crap.

Finally, you probably don't have time for the Iraq and Vietnam comparison (with quotes from a book I'll need to read by Barbara Tuchman about Vietnam called "March to Folly"), but if the war interests you, and you'd like to have a deeper understanding of the level of anger and frustration among war critics, you need to make the time to read Art Silber for a primer. It's long, and it has a lot of sub-links well worth reading. Go get educated. Carpe Datum.

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

October 29, 2003

Space Weather

If you haven't had a chance, you should check out today's Space Weather. There's an awful lot of solar activity going on right now, and the coronal mass ejections are causing geomagnetic storms here on Earth that are just about unprecedented in the thirty or so years we've been looking. At about midnight Central time last night, there was a big peak, and auroral activity was reported as far south as Mexico. If you live up north and you have clear skies, you should peek outside tonight and keep an eye on the news.

Posted by Observer at 02:09 PM | Comments (2)

When His Lips Are Moving

How can you tell Bush is lying? This reminds me if the run-in between Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly at the book show. Al told Bill that Al needed a picture of O'Reilly for the cover of his "Lies" book. Al said something like, "I'd like to get a picture of you lying, so pretty much anything you can give me with, you know, your mouth open, would be great."

Yesterday, Bush held a press conference about various issues. He was asked about the recent spate of violence in Iraq, including the rocket attack on the hotel where Wolfowitz was staying. He repeated the old line that the increase in anti-US violence just tells us that they're getting more desperate and that we're winning. That begs the question of what exactly would constitute evidence that we're doing poorly in Iraq? I mean, if you follow Bush's logic, we'll know we're doing just *great* in Iraq when a nuclear weapon explodes in a US city thanks to some Iraqi insurgents. That just shows how desperate they are, you know?

It gets better. Some brave soul asked Bush about the leak scandal in which an operative's cover was blown by a senior administration official. It was pointed out that if Bush really wanted to get to the bottom of this, he would simply ask everyone on his staff to sign a legal affidavit under oath that they didn't leak the information. Or better, personally interview all of them, etc. Bush did the usual, "Oh, well, the Justice Department should handle this. It's out of my hands." There's some moral clarity for you. There's taking personal responsibility, taking charge. Nice going.

Someone else asked if Bush was ready to retract his "Mission Accomplished" speech now that the war has dragged on for so long. Bush said he was glad he had a chance to clear that up, because the White House had been accused of hanging that big "Mission Accomplished" banner behind Bush when he gave the speech when actually, it was the sailors on the ship who hung the banner to indicate that their ship's mission was over. Bush laughed off the idea that some overeager White House staffer tried to make everything look all rosy.

Well, turns out a few hours later, the Navy is denying that they had anything to do with the banner, and then a little bit after that, the White House admits that, oops, yes, it turns out they *were* the ones who put the banner up. Media Horse has full coverage. Now, it is plausible that Bush is so stupid and out of the loop that he wasn't aware of this fact, but of course, it I thought that, I would be doing the typical liberal sin of underestimating our brilliant commander. So I won't. The jackass lied again. He's so used to lying without being called on it that he even lies about all the small stuff now, secure in the fact that it will be forgotten soon by the corporate media. Anyone who bothers to point out that Bush lied about the banner is probably just another liberal Bush-hater anyway who hates America and wants the terrorists to win.

When Clinton lied, no one died.

In other news, I keep tweaking my sidebar as I find new blogs that are kept well up-to-date and are good reads. I'm trying to keep the list small, but they're all worth checking out daily. There are so many issues out there that I just don't have time to cover. A good one I recently promoted to the sidebar (from my bookmark list) is The Light of Reason by Art Silber, a libertarian who always makes me think. I took the Daily Howler off because I thought he was going on hiatus, but he keeps on posting great stuff, including a great take on the Krugman review I posted last week that I hadn't considered, so he's back on the list. If you have any doubt about the malicious incompetence of our mainstream media, the Howler's archives of the 2000 election (among many other things) are required reading.

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2003

Girls Gone Wild

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

Posted by Observer at 07:03 AM | Comments (5)

October 27, 2003

Packed House

Really funny Tom Toles cartoon I had to share:

Posted by Observer at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

Aluminum Foil

You may recall that one of the chief reasons for us going into Iraq was the supposed evidence that Saddam was trying to obtain and purify Uranium for a nuclear weapon. We didn't want the smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud, we were told (although now we're being told that Bush never claimed Saddam was an imminent threat, and it's the CIA's fault anyway that we invaded, but oh, the invasion is completely 100% justified, just not our fault, etc.). Bush made mention of the aluminum tubes that had been discovered in his State of the Union address (the same one with the misleading statement about uranium and Africa).

At the time, Bush was claiming that aluminum tubes found being shipped to Iraq were usable in a centrifuge that would be used to purify raw uranium ore into purified weapons-grade uranium. But all the objective experts were saying, uh no, those are rocket tubes. Completely the wrong size and specifications (and material) for use in a centrifuge. I've complained about this before, of course.

Well, now we find out how the administration *really* felt about those tubes, thanks to some reporting from the Washington Post yesterday:

In their march to Baghdad on April 8, U.S. Marines charged past a row of eucalyptus trees that lined the boneyard of Iraq's thwarted nuclear dream. Sixty acres of warehouses behind the tree line, held under United Nations seal at Ash Shaykhili, stored machine tools, consoles and instruments from the nuclear weapons program cut short by the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Thirty miles to the north and west, Army troops were rolling through the precincts of the Nasr munitions plant. Inside, stacked in oblong wooden crates, were thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes.

That equipment, and Iraq's effort to buy more of it overseas, were central to the Bush administration's charge that President Saddam Hussein had resumed long-dormant efforts to build a nuclear weapon. The lead combat units had more urgent priorities that day, but they were not alone in passing the stockpiles by. Participants in the subsequent hunt for illegal arms said months elapsed without a visit to Nasr and many other sites of activity that President Bush had called "a grave and gathering danger."

You read it right. Those horrifying and dangerous aluminum tubes were sitting in a stockpile by the *hundreds*, and our troops were given orders to completely ignore them for months. That tells us that the tubes were *not* considered to be a threat or evidence for a WMD program, and they knew that before they went in. Not only did Bush not tell the truth about those tubes, but he and his administration knew it was a lie all along. Hell, Cheney even repeated this lie a few weeks ago, and the press dutifully reported it on page A29 and dropped the subject. (If Clinton had lied to a reporter, though, whoa boy, look out!)

The Post goes on with news of what David Kay's team found when they went looking for evidence of WMD in Iraq (hint: it rhymes with "hero"):

No evidence mattered more to the nuclear debate than Iraq's attempt to buy aluminum tubes overseas. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, among many others, scorned the Baghdad government's explanation that it sought the tubes as artillery rocket casings. By August, news accounts made clear that the U.S. government's top nuclear centrifuge experts dissented strongly from the claim that the tubes were meant for uranium enrichment. [...]

Participants in the Pentagon-directed special weapons teams, interviewed repeatedly since late last spring, noted that Kay's operation has taken no steps to collect the estimated 20,000 tubes in Iraq's inventory -- some badly corroded, but others of higher quality than the ones the U.S. government intercepted in Jordan three years ago and described as dangerous technology.

So people are going around saying the world is a safer, better place without Saddam in power in Iraq. My question is: exactly what threat did he pose to anyone? Our own intelligence showed that the answer was "not much", that the sanctions (however flawed and hurtful toward the civilian population) were working. The intelligence was discarded purposefully, and now Congress is trying to blame the CIA.

I'm counting the days until the adults are back in charge, at least in the executive branch. Our great country is being driven into the ditch by a bunch of delusional liars. And that is no damned exaggeration.

Posted by Observer at 06:58 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2003

Smackdown

Skip this one if you don't care about football or baseball.

Well, the Cowboys were rudely brought back to Earth, 16-zip, by a very angry and very good (but currently underachieving) Tampa Bay team. Tampa Bay right now reminds me of the 80's Cowboys. They were really good when they were motivated, but after a while, they lost the habit of playing well and so they ended up underachieving most years. I'll bet Tampa is gone before the NFC championship game in an upset, unless they play the Cowboys in the playoffs, that is.

My Cowboys are in over their heads, but it is still a hell of a lot better than getting embarrassed every week. Even though they got shut out, they played at Tampa's level. There were about five pivotal breaks in the game, all of which went Tampa's way (including 3 turnovers and a missed opportunity for a fumble recovery by the Cowboys). The Cowboys did great just to hold Tampa to 16. Quincy was horrible, but I'm sure he learned a lot today. I just hope he applies it and gets better.

Next week, they get back to playing a team they should beat, arch-rival Washington. Their last 9 games are pretty tough, all in all, but they need the tough competition if they are to have a prayer of going anywhere in the playoffs. Today was an indication of how far they have to go. I expect by the end of the season, they'll be much better, which is really optimistic considering they're 5-2 now.

They're still 1-2 years away from contending seriously for the Super Bowl, but they are definitely on the upslope, and that's always fun while it lasts.

I was also very happy to see the Yankees not win the World Series. Super happy for Pudge Rodriguez of the Marlins, formerly of the Rangers. If he can retain this level of play for another 3-4 seasons (which is how good he was until about 2-3 years ago, when he started getting hurt a lot), he'll be a no-brainer pick for the best catcher ever in baseball. Couldn't happen to a nicer, humbler guy.

Posted by Observer at 06:31 PM | Comments (6)

October 25, 2003

Lecture-Head

Sarah came home from school yesterday very excited. "Dad!" she said, "I have really big news!" She looked around, "Where's Mom?"

I said, "She's still at work. She'll be home in about two hours."

"Oh." She paused for a few seconds, and then skipped over to throw herself in the recliner, "Well, I'll tell you then!" Belatedly, she thought for a moment and added, "Can you keep a secret?"

Apparently, I qualify as someone worthy of a secret because I am a sentient life form who is not one of her stupid brothers. I said, "Sure thing, Sarah. What's up?"

She gave me an ear-splitting grin and stage-whispered, "I have a boyfriend."

I tried to maintain a poker face, "Oh?"

She said, "Yes, a REALLY CUTE guy asked me to go out with him in the lunch line today!"

"What's his name?" I asked.

"Chris!"

"But what about that other guy you were talking about? Ryan?" Ryan was the boy she'd been going on about for a month. I actually laid eyes on him during one morning in the cafeteria when Sarah and I went to "Donuts with Dad." He was a thin kid, neat short haircut, wire-rimmed glasses, and he chomped down his donuts with his mouth wide open. I had told Sarah at the time that he looked like a good match since they both eat with their mouths open. That had earned me a smack in the arm.

Sarah shrugged when reminded of Ryan, "Oh, him? Hmmm. Well, I don't know. I guess I don't know if he really likes me or anything." He vanished from her thoughts like a flickering candle in a hurricane.

I said, "Well, that sounds great. So where is he taking you?"

"Huh?"

I explained, "Well, are you actually going out somewhere, or are you just 'going out'? Is he going to call you or anything?"

She said, "I don't know." She started giggling and her eyes lit up, "I really can't wait for Mom to get home!"

Michelle got more details out of her than I did, and they're going to do something girly to celebrate this weekend.

I have to say I'm impressed with Chris. When I was in 6th grade, there's no way I would've had the courage to ask out some girl I had a crush on. Of course, I expect that Chris and Sarah may not be an item by Monday. At the most, it will last a week or two, but it's all very exciting.

She told me a little more in her room later when we were doing our nightly Yu-Gi-Oh duel, but she stopped short when Justin knocked on the door to ask a question. "Here comes motor-mouth," she said.

I said, "Hey, now, don't call him that!" Of course, I had just called him that at supper because he just talks *so* loudly at the table, interrupting anyone else just to say what's on his mind, and we're trying to break him of that habit. So I'm a hypocrite.

She said, "Oh ok, lecture-head."

Posted by Observer at 10:57 AM | Comments (3)

October 24, 2003

Malpractice Makes Perfect

Cursor pointed me to this excellent article in Washington monthly about how Republicans are screwing around with lawsuit caps and so on. I had mentioned this previously here when talking about the vote on malpractice lawsuit caps in Texas, and we had a good discussion. Anyway, the article is really long, probably a 10-15 minute read, but I will excerpt a few highlights:

When he went out on strike last January, Dr. Robert Zaleski had his 15 minutes of fame. The Wheeling, W. Va., orthopedic surgeon was one of two dozen surgeons to walk off the job in January to protest his state's high costs of malpractice insurance. Arguing that "frivolous lawsuits" were driving up insurance premiums and forcing physicians to leave the state, Zaleski and his colleagues threatened to stay out for 30 days unless the legislature passed a bill that would cap non-economic damages in such suits at $250,000. [...] Zaleski himself was even personally invited to attend a speech President Bush delivered in Scranton, Pa., where he railed against the threat to patient care posed by out-of-control lawsuits. [...]

Upon closer inspection, however, it appears that Zaleski may be more a source of the problem than a victim of it. Between 1987 and 2002, according to the West Virginia Board of Medicine, patients filed 14 lawsuits against Zaleski, eight of which resulted in payouts that together came to $1.7 million. By contrast, according to a Public Citizen study, only 1 percent of the state's doctors made five or more malpractice payouts over the past decade. And while Zaleski says the settlement figures are misleading because they also include defense costs, his record is hardly squeaky clean. In a 1985 lawsuit (one not among the 14 reported to the Board of Medicine), he admitted in a deposition to being addicted to prescription painkillers for a substantial part of the time that he was operating on people in the early 1980s. Not only was he a drug addict, but to maintain his Percodan habit, Zaleski allegedly wrote prescriptions for other local addicts, who filled them and kicked back some pills to the doctor, according to court documents that include copies of the prescriptions and depositions from some of the addicts.

Given this history, the real scandal may not be how high Zaleski's insurance premiums are, but the fact that he can get insurance at all. Zaleski's malpractice record may have been extreme, but it was not unusual among the doctors who walked out of West Virginia hospitals in January. According to a Charleston Gazette report, nine of the 18 doctors striking at Wheeling Hospital, including Zaleski, had cost their insurers more than $6 million in malpractice settlements and judgments. [...]

Not all the physicians angry about malpractice lawsuits and high insurance rates have such checkered histories as Dr. Zaleski. Many ethical and responsible doctors say the system invites frivolous litigation, subjecting them to considerable hassle and anxiety. One result, they argue, is an increase in "defensive medicine"--when doctors schedule too many tests, just to be safe--which contributes to higher health care costs for everybody. But even the respected General Accounting Office (GAO) has recently concluded that there's little evidence to back the striking doctors' main claim, which is that lawsuits are forcing many of them to abandon the practice of medicine or to avoid high-risk procedures.

And while there's no doubt that malpractice insurance is getting more expensive across the board--about 30 to 40 percent, on average, during the last three years--this increase is largely due to the ailing stock market and poor business practices in a virtually unregulated industry. As a result, there's no reason to think that capping jury awards would bring premiums down, a fact the insurance industry itself acknowledges. Robert E. White Jr., president of First Professional Insurance Company, the leading medical malpractice insurer in Florida, told the Palm Beach Post in January, "No responsible insurer can cut its rates after a [medical malpractice] bill passes." The one surefire way to bring down the number of big-payout lawsuits is to reduce the number of those doctors who inspire most of them. But state medical boards--which are run by doctors--have been notoriously reluctant to aggressively police their own.

The whole article goes on to talk about how Republicans frame the malpractice debate as a lawyer problem rather than a doctor problem. It details the tactics Republicans use to make people mad about it (including doctors adding line-item "skyrocketing malpractice insurance" fees to bills, which outrages senior citizens on fixed incomes, even though the number and average amount of malpractice claims has been dropping recently (prior to any lawsuit caps). The article also explains why malpractice insurance companies jack up the rates anyway. Basically, because they can, and the media is too stupid or lazy to do the math and/or the research to call them on it. They just assume that because they heard about a multi-million dollar verdict somewhere from some guy who lost a leg, the problem must be widespread.

There's also a note about the history of lawsuit caps in California:

California passed its law in 1976, after malpractice insurers, blaming out-of-control lawsuits, suddenly hiked doctors' premiums by more than 300 percent in a single year. Some years after the law took effect, insurance premiums had shown no sign of going down. California doctors ended up suing Travelers' Insurance Co., alleging that it grossly overcharged in the name of a non-existent malpractice crisis. (Here, too, the plantiff's bar came in handy: A trial lawyer won the doctors a $50 million refund.)

Finally, the article proposes some sensible solutions. All in all, it's a good primer on an issue that's going to be very prominent in the 2004 elections, especially if Dr. Howard Dean is the Democratic nominee.

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

Kim-Hatred

Molly Ivins recently had a good column on Bush-hatred:

I'm a card-carrying member of The Great Liberal Backlash of 2003, one of the half-dozen or so writers now schlepping around the country promoting books that do not speak kindly of Our Leader's record. As a group, we are making satisfying inroads on the bestseller lists.

Our points of view vary, our modes of attack differ -- some of us are funny and some somber -- but it continues to amaze me that there is so little overlap in what we have written. What's wrong with this administration is not a short list.

Nevertheless, we are, one and all, being dismissed by right-wing media, with their unmistakable lock-step precision -- that everybody-singing-off-the-same-page that so distinguishes the right -- as "Bush-haters." Not a radio call-in show goes by, not a right-wing host fails to mention that I am "just another Bush-hater."

With that in mind...

President Flight Suit recently commented on the problems with the government of North Korea:

President Bush on Wednesday called North Korea's Kim Jong Il a failed leader who builds nuclear weapons while his people go hungry.

"I just can't respect anybody that would really let his people starve and shrink in size as a result of malnutrition," Bush told reporters in an interview aboard Air Force One en route to Australia from Indonesia. "It's just unconscionable that that many people are starving in the 21st century."

Asked whether he regrets comments earlier this year in which he said he "loathed" the North Korean leader, Bush was unrepentant. "I feel strongly about failed leadership dashing the hopes of the people, in this case creating incredible starvation," he said.

So, according to conservatives, the problem is not the objective evidence that North Korea's government is a dismal failure. The problem must be that Bush has too much "Kim-hatred" to have a serious and trustworthy opinion.

Posted by Observer at 07:35 PM | Comments (1)

Stupid Conservative Myth #10

Here's another belief held by stupid conservatives.

Liberals believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.

Honestly, I have no idea whether real liberals truly believe this or whether it is actually true. This is one of the few on the original list that ranks more as a snide comment than as a legitimate critique of liberalism. Maybe there's academic research regarding this, but I'm not familiar with it at all. Maybe when Rush Limbaugh gets out of rehab, he'll be able to confront this idea based his own experiences:

The rehab facility he’s rumored to have checked into now for 30 days, Sierra Tucson–which will neither confirm nor deny that Limbaugh has checked in–is just outside of Tucson in the Sonora Desert, a setting with a "quiet beauty, inherent strength, and enduring ability to inspire," as described on the facility’s website. [...]

"Sierra Tucson utilizes many different types of therapeutic modalities to access underlying issues," the website of the roughly $1000-a-day treatment center explains. "Each modality is designed to unearth vital information from different angles and pathways into one’s self." [...]

From "psychodynamic role-playing and yoga" to "adventure therapy," "Climbing Wall," "the desert experience" and "equine-assisted therapy" (yes, bonding with horses), Limbaugh may just think he died and went to "feminazi" hell. The website depicts photos of people with a decidedly Berkeley look sitting around on the floor in what seem like consciousness-raising sessions. [...]

"Self-discovery often crystallizes during an experience that requires physical and mental exertion in the face of a potentially fearful activity," the description for the Climbing Wall says. "With its height and verticality, the Climbing Wall serves as an important therapeutic metaphor."

Yes, I’m sure some of you would pay to watch Limbaugh scale that wall. But me, I’d like to observe him during "creative expression therapy," which includes "art therapy, journaling, meditation" and "clap outs, historygrams, reading assignments" as well as…"sculpting." These techniques, the website explains, "deepen the journey to self-discovery." [...]

Another of the therapies, "experiential therapy," the website notes, "was developed during the early 1970s," a decade that cannot be among Limbaugh’s favorites. "This type of therapy helps individuals experience the issues they are dealing with through acting them out, role-playing, guided imagery, projecting, and the use of props. By physically, emotionally, and mentally expressing one’s self, individuals are assisted in unlocking hidden issues and in working through them."

Posted by Observer at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

Evolution of an Economist

Paul Krugman has evolved from your basic economics columnist for the New York Times into one of the most honest and important voices speaking out against the current administration. An article in the latest NY Times Book Review explains how he evolved:

When The New York Times tempted Paul Krugman to try daily journalism, no one, including Krugman, could have anticipated what was to come. Krugman was an Ivy League professor of economics, a scholar acclaimed for his youthful brilliance, and an author of learned books and occasional commentary on international money crises. All clues pointed to a master of the tedious. [...]

As a class, political columnists do not shrink from the occasional well poisoning, but on matters of etiquette they are conservative to the verge of stuffiness, and they tend to view plain speech as the mark of the ill-mannered bumpkin.

The good opinion of his colleagues does not seem to concern Krugman. His indifference toward journalism's conventional etiquette may even contribute to his success. By speaking rudely about the President and his policies he gave loud voice to what many of his readers had been wishing somebody important would say ever since Bush was created president by Supreme Court fiat. [...]

In his view the mainstream media gave Bush a free pass in the campaign and let the public down by neglecting to focus on what the candidates were saying, preferring instead to dither about the style in which they said it, their wardrobes, their performance skills, and their physical appearance. [...]

Krugman entered the journalism scene at a moment when most of the big newspapers and networks and the Bush political group were harmoniously telling the same story. The narrative line held that though Clinton may have left the economy in good shape, he was not to be trusted, especially not with other men's wives and daughters, so the nation was now fortunate to enjoy the governance of good, honest, born-again George W. Bush.

Their story line "had it that George W. Bush was dumb but honest," Krugman notes. After September 11 that was no longer good enough for a nation under attack. And so "the new story was that he was a tough-minded hero, all determination and moral clarity," he writes. "The overwhelming evidence that neither of these pictures bore any resemblance to reality was simply brushed aside."

From the beginning Krugman was persuaded that the story presented by press and television was false. He has spent the past three years "providing a picture of the world that differs greatly from the vision of most other mainstream pundits," he writes. "At a time when most pundits were celebrating the bold vision, skill, and moral clarity of our leaders, I saw confusion, ineffectuality, and dishonesty."

Why was he able to detect "the outrageous dishonesty of the Bush administration long before most of the rest of the punditocracy"? Well, for one thing, because his training as an economist enabled him to see what most journalists couldn't. He did his own arithmetic—"or, where necessary, got hold of real economists who could educate me on subjects I wrote about—and quickly realized we were dealing with real mendacity, right here in the U.S.A."

As Krugman saw it, the nation was obviously not fortunate to have Bush in charge. Then what made so many reporters in the press and television persist in a happy story line? His explanations, scattered throughout his book, are not much different from the self-criticism journalists enjoy heaping on themselves. This will not make them more palatable to media people, for Krugman is still a greenhorn in the business, speaks with a very sharp tongue, and obviously thinks most of them were pathetically inept during the first years of Bush and during the run-up to the Iraqi war. Why, he wonders, did most mainstream journalists remain so calm, so uninterested, while he grew increasingly alarmed?

When criticizing the press and television he suggests a terrible-tempered professor heaping scorn on the doltish freshmen of Economics 101. Their failures, he says, resulted from intellectual laziness and not doing their homework. Mainstream journalists, he thinks, are easily gulled by politicians and their press agents because they are captives of Washington "groupthink." He sees them as a group of Washington insiders, all attending the same dinner parties, all attuned to a common story line.

Krugman is that rare bird among political pundits—a Washington outsider. He teaches at Princeton and lives in New Jersey. This, he says, meant he was never "part of the gang" and so could not be "bullied" or "seduced" into into seeing things the administration's way. With characteristic immodesty he states that he was doing a first-rate job of exposing Bushian flimflam while his colleagues were letting the public down. Thus: When the first Bush budget appeared, "it was obvious to me that...he and his people were simply lying about all the important numbers."

As for the tax-cut plan which Bush the campaigner presented as a boon to the middle class and one which would easily fit into a sound budget, "It took only a bit of homework to show that both claims were just plain untrue— but for some reason almost nobody in the media was willing to do that homework."

Krugman was flabbergasted:

I had trouble believing what was happening. Was the presidential candidate of a major political party really lying, blatantly, about the content of his own program? Were the media really letting him get away with it? He was, and they were.

The Bush plan for Social Security reform "was a fraud from the start," he writes. "The mendacity in the administration's Medicare plans was subtler, but equally stark." Few in the media seemed to notice. [...]

Events have proven him correct about much of what he has said during the past three years. Most notably, the tax cuts for the most affluent have not been paid for by an expanding economy. Instead they have helped convert the Clinton administration's $230 billion surplus into a $500 billion deficit. Krugman also foresaw the likelihood of a "jobless recovery," which now appears to be in progress as the economy fails to create new jobs.

Probably his most provocative writing appeared after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center when it took courage to speak sharply about the administration. Ten weeks after the attack he wrote that an honest picture would show "politicians and businessmen behaving badly" and getting by with it because "these days selfishness comes tightly wrapped in the flag."

This referred to Congress's voting $15 billion in aid and loan guarantees for airline companies "but not a penny for laid-off airline workers"; to a House-passed "stimulus" bill which provided $25 billion in retroactive tax cuts for corporations but almost nothing for the unemployed; and to efforts to open public lands to oil and logging interests "under cover of the national emergency." [...]

A sense of propriety, of dignity, sits heavily on the "commentariat," as Krugman calls it. In the code language of the trade, a colleague like Krugman is said to be "shrill" or "strident," words commonly used to caution a colleague that he is being crude and undignified.

He's shrilliant. And the lazy corporate commentariat can go right straight to hell. They can consider it a scouting mission, because they are leading us there quickly.

Posted by Observer at 06:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2003

Time to Get Out the Tinfoil Hat

...because apparently, Tom Tomorrow can read my mind.

Posted by Observer at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Logical Thinking

An excellent summary of the illogic behind pro-war arguments from Art Silber at Cold Fury:

I have to note still again the unbelievably dishonest nature of the argument that "nobody...has made a remotely persuasive case for why it would have been good to keep Saddam in power." Listen up, Goldberg and all you other hawks who believe this crap and haven't learned the basics of thinking: nobody made that "persuasive case" -- because nobody ever tried to. Nobody believed it was good "to keep Saddam in power." Nobody. Got it, you stupid morons? Jesus.

That is not the question, and it was never the question. Talk about shifting the burden of proof. If you want to initiate an invasion, begin a lengthy occupation, lose American lives, and massively distort the American economy for many decades to come, the burden of proof is yours, not mine, and not the burden of anyone else who opposed this war.

And you have to be able to persuasively demonstrate that your plans can actually succeed. You can't, and you never have -- and there are no examples from history to show that an entire region can be rebuilt in this manner. [...]

You have to be able to show that the war and occupation of Iraq will diminish the terrorist threat to the United States. You can't, and you never have -- and there is growing evidence that the war and occupation may be having precisely the opposite effect. And you have to be able to show that the occupation itself is not inextricably intertwined with a corporate statist system which is corrupt to the very core. You can't, because it is.

While I'm thinking about illogic, I'm also going to have to assert here that anyone who wanted Clinton out of office for his sexual proclivities (e.g. consensual affair with Monica) has absolutely no right to support Governor Gropinator out in California. If there were ever any doubt that Republicans care only about power, not morals, nor ethics, nor consistency, it just vanished like a fart in the wind.

Likewise, anyone who wanted Clinton out of office for lying about sex is going to have to kick Bush out for lying about war. At least when Clinton lied, no one died.

At least, in my ideal world where things make sense.

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Five and What?

For the past three seasons, this beaten-down Cowboys fan has lived through consecutive 5-11 dismal seasons. Usually most of those five wins have been sprinkled in the first part of the season, so I was allowed to hope for a little while before the 7-game losing streaks set in.

After beating Detroit convincingly yesterday (they looked as bad as Dallas has the last three years), the Cowboys are 5-1. They are still going to get their butts kicked by Tampa Bay, but at least they will be somewhat competitive. If they get the breaks and some turnovers, there's a chance the game will even go their way.

It's just nice to finally have a decent team to root for. I know we Cowboys fans are spoiled by success over the last 30 years (which is about how long I've been rooting for them, actually), and that 90's team under Jimmy and Barry wasn't very likeable. But this team under the Big Tuna (Bill Parcells) is really neat. Not brash and cocky but very workmanlike and enthusiastic. It is an easy team to get behind.

I can't fully enjoy it, though, because I have the crud. Had it on and off for at least a week now, and for the last four days, I could hardly talk. I barely made it through class Friday, and I am lucky that today is exam day in one class and film day in the other two. I couldn't croak out 10 minutes worth of lecture today if my life depended on it. I really hope little Daniel doesn't catch it.

Speaking of which, don't neglect to catch all the family pics on Michelle's page! Scroll all the way down to the bottom to see all of 'em spread out over 4-5 posts.

Posted by Observer at 09:39 AM | Comments (7)

Are We Safer?

Is it ok to start asking that question now in regards to the Iraq war? Are we safer than we would be had we not invaded Iraq? Well, conservatives say, that's a no-brainer. Saddam was an evil tyrant who murdered his own people, blah blah blah. Furthermore, they say, we haven't been attacked by terrorists within our own borders (a convenient narrowing of the criteria). And also, you can't turn back the clock and see how the parallel universe plays out, so you can't say we're *not* safer.

First of all, I think you can rationally guess what would've happened had we not invaded Iraq. We could've concentrated more effort and more money on rebuilding Afghanistan and flushing out the last remnants of the Taliban, including maybe finding bin Laden with a better-financed search. We also would have more money for places we're vulnerable, like ports. We would also be economically less vulnerable, because we wouldn't be facing as large a deficit. Plus, with the information we now know that the claims of Saddam's imminent development of WMD's were at the very least overstated (and quite possibly completely wrong), I don't think we would be in any additional danger had we not gone in.

As for the "not being attacked by terrorists". Somehow, I think if we *had* been attacked by terrorists ten times in the last year, conservatives would still be trotting out their defense of the Iraq invasion in full-throated roar just like now. They would say it is all the more important that we show strength to the Arab world or some such. What will happen if we do get attacked? Conservatives will immediately, *IMMEDIATELY* blame liberals for encouraging the enemy by poor-mouthing the president, the war, etc.

All in all, it is impossible to have an honest debate about this with a pro-war conservative, I find. Not because pro-war conservatives are dishonest, mind you. It's just that there are too many speculative things that could go either way. A proponderance of the evidence is against the war, but it isn't beyond the shadow of a doubt, so you can't convict.

The only way this ongoing tragedy in Iraq and in our own country can possibly end is with the election of someone besides Bush. At this point, I'd even accept a prgamatic Republican. Anybody but Bush and his ridiculous team of idiots. I wonder if any Republican of prominence will be brave enough to mount a significant primary challenge. And if they do, how will they suffer at the hands of Karl Rove?

Posted by Observer at 06:56 AM | Comments (4)

October 19, 2003

Yu-Gi-Uh-Oh

I spotted the 2nd Matrix movie on DVD at Wal-Mart the other day. Gah, I'm such a horrible impulse shopper. But, hell, it was only fifteen bucks! I also spotted Yu-Gi-Oh tins there, on sale SUPER cheap ($25 is much less than even the cheapest online places, especially for the rarer tins, and these were all priced equally), so I bought four (one for each kid besides the baby, and one for me!). Tins have one very useful card virtually impossible to find anywhere else along with five booster packs, and they make for a handy card storage container.

Oh, and I also bought the Yu-Gi-Oh GameBoy Advance game earlier in the week to try ... err, so the kids can try it out, of course. It was just a coincidence that buying the game also lets you have three cards, two of which are incredibly handy and you can't get anywhere else. So I get home all hot to play this new game, and the kids tell me the battery recharger for the GameBoy doesn't work anymore. Doh! So I had to spring for a new one of those (only ten bucks, though).

And while I was at GameStop, I was drooling over the GameBoy Advance SP, which is a super-duper version of the GameBoy for $100. It has a very well-lighted screen (which is the big weakness of the first edition GameBoy Advance) and a battery pack more like a cell-phone, easy to charge and very long-lasting. It also has a flip-up screen and is easier to hold (for me, at least). I am proud to say I controlled myself. I mean, I intend to buy it for the kids for Christmas, of course, but if I bought it now, I don't know if I'd be able to control myself from giving it to them (or worse, playing with it myself on the QT).

I sprung my new cards on the kids last night, and Cody's first reaction was total excitement. We got a good eyeful, and he was hot to trade for 'em. He kept asking how I got 'em. I told him he could earn the money for cards like that of his own, or he could wait until Christmas. "When is Christmas?" he asked. I told him two months away, and that bummed him out pretty good. Justin and Sarah reacted similarly, though not as bummed out. Cody is the only one more obsessed than I am, and that's saying something. I made it worse for all of them a few days ago when I told them I'd take them to a big Yu-Gi-Oh convention/tournament at the local mall in January. They're very excited about it.

I'm trying to avoid rationalizing myself into giving all three kids their new tins right now. I tried to enlist Michelle's help to prevent me from doing it, but she just laughed. She knows the power my twisted logic can sometimes have over rational decisions. We'll see if Cody gets it in his mind to do chores, but it will take him a while to earn $25 for a new collector's tin of his own. I have a feeling he'll have to wait for Christmas. Meanwhile, I have to decide if I want to buy them individual really good cards for Christmas or just more packs and hope we get lucky. The individual cards would undoubtedly strengthen their decks more than the packs, but they'd have more fun getting and tearing open the packs.

Posted by Observer at 07:23 AM | Comments (4)

October 18, 2003

Run, Forrest, Run!

Took Justin to his last cross-country meet of the season this morning (at five freakin' thirty am to meet the team bus). Ever since he rejoined the team, he's been improving his times. I think he appreciates the ability to be on the team, and he really wants to try. Of course, it also helped that Michelle and I promised to kick in $20 for a top-ten finish (he usually places middle of the pack of 70-100 runners in a 2-2.5 mile race).

Maybe it also helps that his team really cheers for one another. I know back when I was in 8th grade, if I came around a corner and saw the whole female half of the team cheering me on, I'd run just a wee bit harder. Anyway, the night before the race, Michelle decided on a lark to cook us all pancakes. Yummy supper! Very bad for us, but very yummy. I think coming down off the sugar high gave me a migraine the day after (or it may have been watching Texas getting their butts kicked by OU 65-13), but it was almost worth it. I love breakfast for supper, when my stomach can handle it.

Well, the pancakes, the monetary incentive, the cheerleading, *something* "lit a fire under his butt" according to his coach. She said she'd never seen him run so fast. He shaved two minutes off his average 2-mile time and finished 11th, winning a little medal (the top 15 get medals, usually). He didn't let go of that medal until about three days later. I don't think he's ever won anything before, at least that's how he acted. He was so proud, and we were proud of him, too.

We went to the library later that day, and I ran into a colleague of mine from the department. I didn't even get a chance to say, "Hi! How are you doing?" before Justin was holding up his medal and showing it to the guy, who looked awfully confused. Justin also brought it out front and center when we went to visit my dad's (see previous post), and I wouldn't be surprised if he took it to school on Monday.

We went ahead and gave him a consolation prize of ten bucks for finishing 11th, and we'll see how he does this week in a somewhat larger race. He has continued to improve his times all week, and I think he is finally figuring out that running isn't so tough if you just decide you want to try to win. Michelle cooked pancakes again for him last night for good luck. I skipped them ... it was tough, but I really don't want a repeat of that horrific headache I had last Saturday that took me about 12 hours to sleep off.

Posted by Observer at 09:27 AM | Comments (4)

October 17, 2003

Round and Round

I kept forgetting all this week to write about the weekend that just passed! Last Sunday we went to visit my dad's for a visit, just to have lunch and talk for a while. We got the whole crew loaded into the van by about 11:30am, although my sweetie forgot her purse.

Non-football fans please skip the next three paragraphs.

We got there about 15 minutes after kickoff, so I missed the first few plays of the Cowboys-Eagles game. I got to hear about it on the radio, though, and I saw the play on the highlights later where the Eagles tried an onside kick, and some alert special teams player for the 'boys returned it for a touchdown.

Three seconds into the game, we were up 7-0 (WOOO!!), but I was still pretty worried. I mean, it has been soooo long since the Cowboys have been any good. I'm just not used to believing in them right now. And hey, sue me for being a Cowboys fan, all right? I grew up with them. My dad loved and still loves the Cowboys, and it rubbed off on me. Anyway, the Eagles have whooped us six times in a row, usually by really embarrassing scores (and that infamous streak started three years ago when the Eagles kicked off on opening day with an onside kick and recovered it). I figured for sure they'd beat us handily, even though we were favored by a point.

But the Cowboys stuck it out and ended up winning 23-21 in a very exciting game. I can't believe they're 4-1. Cowboys fans are starting to print playoff tickets, but I'm not so sure. Let's see if we can take care of business against Detroit this Sunday before Tampa kicks us in the butt the following week. We also missed the last part of the game because dad wanted me and the boys to see a race.

There was an Indy car race at the nearby speedway, and my stepbrother works there. Since it wasn't a sellout, he was able to comp us some tickets. Well, this was my first experience at a race, and I'll tell you the weirdest thing by far is the sound. If you have never been just outside a raceway during a high-speed auto race, you should go just to hear it. It is absolutely unearthly. It is a strange humming sound from the combined engines, and it gets louder and fainter, changing in pitch as they circle the track. And it is *LOUD*. Holy cow, it sounded like a spaceship was landing in there.

Outside, we got to witness the redneck rodeo. Security guards at the gate were inspecting coolers, preventing anyone from bringing in glass containers and what not. One guy looked like he just walked on off a "Cops" episode. Standing there half-shaved, cigarette dangling, wife-beater t-shirt, screaming "Goddammutherfuckin' security fuckin' guards! What the fuck is their fuckin' problem? Fuck!" The kids and I were properly initiated, I think, into the race fan community. I had to laugh because it was so stereotypical, I would never have believed it had I not witnessed it.

And we got another dose before we even sat down. When we got to our seats, we saw they were taken, so amidst all the noise, we're trying to communicate the problem in the universal language of "look here, you moron, read these tickets two inches from your nose and move because you *know* you aren't supposed to be in these seats." I mean, I've poached good seats before at baseball games, but you have to know when you do that, if the real ticket holders show up, you just quietly slip away. This Hispanic-looking couple, though, was being difficult. The guy just looked at us and shrugged his shoulders, leaving his embarrassed female companion to argue with us.

What made it worse is that the whole conversation was subject to the constraint of the car noise, which was ear-splitting when the cars passed our position. I felt like I was in "When Harry Met Sally" in that scene where Harry and his friend are talking about Harry's wife leaving him while in the middle of a football crowd doing the wave. Anyway, after about the third yelled request (over the noise of the race cars), these geniuses scooch down so that they're only taking up like one and a half seats.

No way, we were trying to communicate, yet again, that ALL FOUR seats were ours, and we intended to claim them fully. Finally, my dad gets right down in the lady's face (because the guy is trying to ignore us and look around us to see the race, but the lady looks like she's ready to rumble) and says, "We have four seats! CUATRO! These are our seats!" Dad isn't what you would call culturally sensitive.

Well, that did it. She got up all huffy, yelling, "Hey, we speak ENGLISH! You don't have to yell, you jerk!" Finally, they moved out, and I'm looking at my Dad thinking, uh, if they speak English, why didn't they freakin' move in the first place? I say thinking because there's really no way I could communicate any kind of subtle or complex idea verbally to my dad. The noise was just too much.

We bought some ear plugs to make it manageable. Cody really hates loud noises (he poo-poo'd the blue angels air show last year for the same reason), but he was ok with the earplugs on. There were a couple of pretty spectacular crashes while we were there, and it was interesting to watch. Without a scanner to listen in on coversations between the pit team and drivers and so on, though, I have to say I wouldn't want to go back (and maybe not even with the scanner). It was a good one-time thing.

We left just before the race ended and got out to the nearby highway to meet Michelle and Sarah, who were driving up to meet us. Sarah had earned herself a brand new Lion King DVD, but there wasn't a DVD player available at the grandparents' house (since the Cowboys game was on). She had brought it anyway, just in case, but then she left it behind. Definitely not a happy camper there.

But dad mailed it to us, and Sarah got to watch it finally Friday evening once she was all caught up on her homework. Daniel was a trooper the whole day, even when Michelle and my stepmother went shopping (recall Michelle forgot her purse ... which I blithely told her as we were driving away she wouldn't need since we were just spending the day at the house up there -- doh! I gave her all the cash I had). He's still such a great, happy little (well, big) baby. We just fall more and more in love with him every day.

All in all, quite the adventure.

Posted by Observer at 09:41 PM | Comments (2)

The Nightmare Is Over

Here is an article from the January 2001 Onion that is worth another look. It is called "Bush: Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over". It is the usual Onion satirical fare, but it hits startlingly close to the truth (keep in mind, this is 7 months prior to Sept 11, 2001):

WASHINGTON, DC—Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.
"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?" [...]

Turning to the subject of the environment, Bush said he will do whatever it takes to undo the tremendous damage not done by the Clinton Administration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He assured citizens that he will follow through on his campaign promise to open the 1.5 million acre refuge's coastal plain to oil drilling. As a sign of his commitment to bringing about a change in the environment, he pointed to his choice of Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior. Norton, Bush noted, has "extensive experience" fighting environmental causes, working as a lobbyist for lead-paint manufacturers and as an attorney for loggers and miners, in addition to suing the EPA to overturn clean-air standards. [...]

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders. "Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

"For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. "And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that's all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up."

An overwhelming 49.9 percent of Americans responded enthusiastically to the Bush speech.

"After eight years of relatively sane fiscal policy under the Democrats, we have reached a point where, just a few weeks ago, President Clinton said that the national debt could be paid off by as early as 2012," Rahway, NJ, machinist and father of three Bud Crandall said. "That's not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in."

"You have no idea what it's like to be black and enfranchised," said Marlon Hastings, one of thousands of Miami-Dade County residents whose votes were not counted in the 2000 presidential election. "George W. Bush understands the pain of enfranchisement, and ever since Election Day, he has fought tirelessly to make sure it never happens to my people again."

Bush concluded his speech on a note of healing and redemption.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."

Posted by Observer at 06:51 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2003

My Way Or the Highway

Eschaton pointed me to this interesting article about (dare we hope?) the unravelling of this putrid administration. It seems the Boy King wants to assert himself, but his regents are ignoring him. Petulance and obstinance appears to be his new political strategy now:

Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used. [...]

Kinda sucks to feel lied to, eh? Kinda sucks to see people promise one thing and then immediately go out and do the opposite, doesn't it? You reap what you sow, big guy.

On Monday, reacting to reports of internal conflict among his top advisers, the President told one regional broadcaster: "The person who's in charge is me."

Bush's attempt to assert himself extends beyond the executive branch. Late Tuesday, in a brief, brusque arm-twisting session with nine senators, the President made it clear that he was not there to answer questions or debate the merits of his $87 billion Iraq and Afghanistan aid package. He demanded that the aid to Iraq be in the form of grants, not loans, as some of the senators have urged. [...]

At one point, as he discussed the question of providing some of the money as a loan, Bush slammed his hand down on the table and said: "This is bad policy."

When Collins tried to ask a question, the President replied: "I'm not here to debate it."

One participant told The Inquirer that some of the senators, particularly those who have never been on the opposing side of an issue with Bush, were "surprised by his directness." It was clear he was not there to engage in any give-and-take, the participant said.

Surprised by his directness? What the hell?!? You expect this administration to negotiate? This administration's entire concept of leadership revolves around Flight Suit Worship and strong-arming tactics. The question is, are you senators going to do anything about it or just keep rubber-stamping every piece of crap that is shovelled from the White House toward Congress?

Bush failed to sway any of the pro-loan Republicans.

For now, sure. How long until Karl Rove starts getting nasty, threatening to fund strong primary opponents against these senators? It would be nice if these senators showed some backbone and held out against Bush on *any* policy. Personally, I think any aid to Iraq should be in the form of grants, and we can pay for it by eliminating all the stupid tax cuts and raising some rates to make the system fairier, but what do I know?

That failure was in sharp contrast to the President's lobbying of House members last week. Zach Wamp, a Tennessee Republican who had pushed a loan plan, backed away after meeting with Bush. "If his eyes had been lasers, mine would have burned out," Wamp said then.

Congratulations, Tennessee voters! You've elected a bunch of Republicans to office and gave more votes to Bush than Gore, and look what kind of leadership you got yourselves! Any principled stand by your representative can be shot down by the cannon laser eyes of the Boy King! Is that going to be Wamp's next campaign slogan: "Re-elect a Loyal Servant Who Doesn't Question Authority!"? Actually, that probably sounds really appealing to a lot of control-freak Republicans now that I think about it.

Posted by Observer at 02:01 PM | Comments (1)

Lecture Fun

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

Posted by Observer at 06:59 AM | Comments (2)

October 15, 2003

Holy Unbelieveable Plots!

Classic Tom Tomorrow this week about the blown cover scandal. It's worth viewing by following the link, but here's the text:

Narrator: On the eve of war, the president makes a startling allegation!

Bush: -- and so you see, Saddam is secretly conspiring with such supervillains as Catwoman and the Joker! We cannot wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a cloud of laughing gas.

Narrator: Unfortunately, the story is discredited after Batman returns from a fact-finding mission!

Batman: Citizens of Gotham City, it is my duty to inform you that Catwoman and the Joker are in fact safely incarcerated in Gotham State Penitentiary!

Robin: Holy false rationale for war, Batman!

Narrator: Shortly thereafter, a columnist goes public with a momentous revelation!

Robert Novak: Senior officials have informed me that Batman is really millionaire Bruce Wayne! And you have to ask -- how much credibility does a millionaire playboy really have?

Commissioner Gordon (on phone to Batman): Batman! You cover's blown!

Police Chief O'Hara: Faith and Begorrah!

Narrator: A national furor ensues!

Man on the Street #1: This leak has destroyed Batman's effectiveness as a crime fighter!

Man on the Street #2: Nonsense! He was never really a crime fighter -- he was more of a crime analyst!

Man on the Street #3: The whole story is much too complicated. I suggest we ignore it.

Narrator: Batman holds a press conference!

Reporter: Who's responsible for this leak, Batman? The Riddler? The Mad Hatter? Mr. Freeze?

Batman: Well, citizens -- let's just say that I hope to see Karl Rove frogmarched out of the White House -- in Batcuffs!

Narrator: And finally, the Justice Department is forced to launch an investigation!

Attorney General Ashcroft: This matter will be handled by non-partisan career bureaucrats -- like Mr. Penguin here!

The Penguin: We'll get to the bottom of this -- right, boys?

Masked Penguin Goons: You bet, boss!

Posted by Observer at 06:55 AM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2003

Fiscal Conservatives in Bizarro World

Thanks to Atrios for this link about fiscal conservatives:

Federal tax receipts relative to the overall economy have reached their lowest level since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, while government spending has climbed to the highest point since Bill Clinton declared the era of big government over, according to new figures released by the Congressional Budget Office.


Posted by Observer at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

Stupid Conservative Myth #9

Here's another belief held by conservatives. You know, the ones that try to suppress the speech of others, but then as soon as you start arguing against them, they cry victimhood: "Oh poor wittwe me, just twying to exewcise my fiwst amendment wights, and the big mean bully liberals are attacking me!" The ones who spent years referring to liberals as traitors, communists, scumbags and unpatriotic cowards but are now saying that liberals are harming the nature of political discourse by being impolite. Well, anyway, here's another deeply stupid belief of theirs that I'm going to blast into deserved oblivion:

Hunters care more about nature than loony activists from Seattle do.

Omitting for the moment the very small cross section of people who are both hunters and loony (presumably environmental) activists from Seattle, then this is total bullshit. Why? Well, when is the last time that hunters, as a group, have taken a proactive interest in nature for some reason other than to promote and encourage the interest of hunters? I don't mean to pick on hunters here, but that's what was mentioned in the list, so I'm going with it (I will talk more explicitly about 2nd amendment rights, etc, down around myth #12).

When is the last time a group of hunters marched on or demonstrated against some polluting coal mine or some company that was fouling a creek which in turn killed a bunch of animals? When is the last time a group of hunters lobbied Congress for changes in clean air and clean water policy? Again, I'm sure some hunters support these things. Hell, maybe most of them do, but it isn't a very big part of their lives because they don't go to the "loony activist" extreme.

Now, I mean, you have to define "loony". Given that the author of this list is such a moron, "loony" probably means anyone holding an idea that disagrees from present Bush administration policy. Want to save an old growth forest? Loony. Want to explore alternatives to fossil fuels? Loony. Want to put limits on how much power plants can pollute the air and water? Loony. Sierra Club? Loonies. Greenpeace? Total freakin' loonies. Earth First? Shoot 'em.

Such "loony" activists put their money where their mouth is, proverbially. They go out of their way and probably with some personal sacrifice (including getting thrown in jail, or spending the weekend holding signs and chanting while being herded by police, or spending some time every week getting politically involved, or donating to groups that buy land for preservation). Hunters as a group are far more likely to make their sacrifices for whatever cause the National Rifle Association is pushing that week.

Not that there's anything wrong with that (hunters and loony activists both have every right to political expression), but come on, when is the last time an interest group, composed mainly of hunters, lobbied for anything that didn't have to do with gun rights? I don't see the NRA issuing press releases criticizing Bush's crappy environmental policies (I checked their web site and didn't find a single solitary *WORD* about the environment), and I guarantee you a lot of those policies are going to seriously cramp the style of the hunting community at some point. But they're too blinded by 2nd amendment fervor (as if the Democrats, if in power, would be bold or organized enough to do anything substantive to curtail gun rights).

You could say they can't see the forests for the trees.

Posted by Observer at 07:03 AM | Comments (14)

October 13, 2003

WWRD?

From Bill McClellan: What would Rush do?

Somewhere in a parallel universe, where we are the same people but things have happened in slightly differently ways, Rush Limbaugh greets his loyal listeners this morning.

"Lots to talk about today. You all know already that Bill Clinton, our former president, has admitted an addiction to prescription drugs.

"It's interesting to see the way the liberal media are playing this. I'm looking at a copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Saturday, October 11th, edition - the day after the big announcement. Well, the story is on Page 2, and right next to his photograph, in large boldface print, is the following quote: 'I take full responsibility for this problem.'

"That's interesting, folks, because if you look at his actual statement - not what the liberal media say he said, but what he really said - you get a different take on it. First, he says he's got back problems. So he's blaming it on that. Then he says he had surgery, but the surgery wasn't successful. So he's blaming it on the doctors. Then he says the pain medication was addictive. So he's blaming it on the pharmaceutical companies. Folks, he blames it on everybody but himself! But as long as he puts in that obligatory line about taking responsibility, that's what the liberal media are going to grab: Clinton takes full responsibility!

"Here's another interesting thing in his statement. I love this one. He says a lot of athletes have admitted drug problems and have been treated like heroes. Huh? Can you name one athlete who admitted a drug problem and was then treated like a hero? How about Darryl Strawberry? Maybe liberals thought Strawberry was a hero, but I don't think most of us felt that way. And then Clinton says, 'I refuse to let anyone think I'm doing something heroic here.'

"You want to know what that's about? He's telling his friends in the liberal media how he wants this thing played. He wants to be called a hero for admitting his problem. That's why liberals confuse so many people. They mean the opposite of what they say.

"And I'm telling you folks, the liberal media are going to do it. He's going to be a hero. I can already see the spin on this: Clinton accepts responsibility! Doesn't blame others!

"I know you don't believe me - 'Rush, not even the liberal media can pull that one off!' - but just watch. I'm telling you. Just watch.

"Another thing. I heard him on the radio the other day. He was whimpering, 'I want to tell you about this because you're like family to me.' If there are any liberals out there listening, I'd like to ask you this: Weren't you people like family six weeks ago? How about six months ago? Two years ago? But he didn't feel the need to tell you then, did he? So why now? You think it could be because he's been caught? Because his high-priced attorney has told him he'd better act remorseful?

"Speaking of getting caught, have any of you read about those tapes and e-mails the cops have? Heh, heh, heh. You won't read them in the mainstream press, or hear about them on the Clinton News Network, but they're a hoot. He sounds like he's auditioning for a part in the next Cheech and Chong movie. He calls money "cabbage," and he refers to his favorite pills as "blue babes." It's always interesting to hear the way somebody talks when he thinks nobody is listening.

"I know what liberals are going to say: 'This is a time for compassion.' Let me be very clear about this, folks. I have compassion. But my compassion is for all the people who believed in the guy. He was their shining star. He could do no wrong. But you know something? I probably don't have to worry. Because his followers are going to still believe in him. That's the thing about liberals! You can't convince them! You can show them the facts. You can say, 'Look, here is what he really said, and here is what he really did,' but they don't want to know the truth. That's the big difference between them and us. Liberals are afraid of the truth."

Posted by Observer at 01:25 PM | Comments (3)

Tax Cut Math

One of the more insightful passages of Al Franken's latest book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them deals with the myths surrounding tax cuts. Franken presents these arguments as a dialogue between a waitress and a lawyer. I will paraphrase here, leaving some parts out:

Lawyer: How much do you make?

Waitress: $25k a year. And I'm not paying any taxes this year. Bush just gave me a $365 tax cut.

Lawyer: Sure, you're getting a $365 income tax cut, but you're forgetting the $3,825 that was withheld in payroll taxes.

Waitress: Oh, I don't mind the payroll taxes, because I'll get back every cent in Social Security and Medicare when I retire.

Lawyer: Bush raided the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to pay for my tax cut. He took a $4.6 trillion ten-year projected surplus and turned it into a $1.8 trillion deficit. Say, do you have kids?

Waitress: Two! Teddy's six. He has some learning disabilities, and Debbi's two. Quite a handful for a single mom like me.

Lawyer: You know, my oldest son has a learning disability, too. Good thing I have him in private school, because the public schools are cutting back on special ed.

Waitress: Yeah, I know. They told me that next year Teddy's not getting special ed. Also, they're cutting the after-school program.

Lawyer: That's because Bush proposed cutting the 21st century community learning centers by forty percent. You may be saving $365 in income taxes, but that after-school program was spending $700 per student. So in a sense, you are already down $335.

Waitress: But he cut my taxes 100 percent!

Lawyer: If I were you, I'd be thinking about health care. Here in Texas, the're reducing eligibility in the children's health insurance program from $30,520 down to $22,890. So you are losing health coverage on both your kids, which was worth about $2,896 right there.

Waitress: But what if my kids get sick?

Lawyer: Just hope they don't. Because of the huge tax cut, the federal government can't fulfill its normal obligations to the states. Since you are a single mom on a fairly low salary, you must live in some subsidized housing, right?

Waitress: Yes, we get a section 8 housing voucher in the mail every month.

Lawyer: I'm afraid that's about to disappear. If you live in a two-bedroom apartment with minimum amenities and rent in about the 40th percentile range, that works out to about $747 per month.

Waitress: That's about right.

Lawyer: So your voucher to help cover 1/6 of your housing costs for a year is worth $1,464. Sorry, *was* worth. So now, less your tax cut, you are down about $4,695.

Waitress: Well, as long as I have some child care, I can at least work without worrying about my kids, right?

Lawyer: Texas is getting less funding for its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. So they're cutting back on Child Care and Development Block Grants.

Waitress: But I don't get block grants.

Lawyer: Yes, but your child care provider probably does. Or did, I should say.

Waitress: Are they doing something to my bus route to work, too?

Lawyer: Probably. The state senate just cut public transit funding by 29 percent. They were going to upgrade the buses to cut down on the toxic emissions. Now they're keeping the old buses and raising the fares.

Waitress: Debbi does get asthma on bad smog days.

(long pause)

Lawyer: Well, I should get back to work.

Waitress: So I take it you're not voting for Bush next time?

Lawyer: Are you kidding? I make $250k a year. I love Bush!

Waitress: How big is your tax cut?

Lawyer: $6,000. That's about sixteen times as much as you. And of course, the program cuts don't affect me. But the big payoff comes when my mother passes away. If she can hang on until 2010, I'm getting $12 million. Tax free. That's about a six million dollar tax break.

Waitress: Oh, the repeal of the death tax. I guess that's fair, because that money was already taxed once when it was earned.

Lawyer: Oh, no no. It's mostly capital gains. Never been taxed, and now it never will be. Unlike your tips.

Posted by Observer at 07:00 AM | Comments (3)

October 12, 2003

Stupid Conservative Myth #8

Here's another myth held by idiots:

Liberals believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.

Do liberals believe this? Not in such absolute terms, but I do think this statement goes to the sympthies of liberals, for better or worse. I think a better way to state the general liberal viewpoint is that when businesses control a given aspect of our lives (for example, if schools were privatized nationwide) then they have far less accountability than the government. Accountability is a strong check against corruption in politics, and if you want to see a government in which a few business and a few powerful families control everything, just check out Mexico sometime.

Do businesses themselves create oppression? Only with help. For example, when a new Wal-Mart moves into the neighborhood, they tend to crowd out other businesses by competing on the basis of price and efficiency. They also tend to depress wages because they make up a large fraction of the low-skill retail jobs. And the reason they can get by paying so little is because they are very firmly anti-union, and that can only happen when the law and the government (which is supposed to enforce the law to prevent such oppression) is on their side.

So customers should shop elsewhere, right? The magic market will punish Wal-Mart by having them lose business due to protests or what have you. No, not exactly. Sure, people have a responsibility to get themselves educated about the what is going on and then make their choice on where to shop if that's a priority. But in the end, the cheap prices trump just about everything.

However, the prices at Wal-Mart do not accurately reflect the cost to society of manufacturing and selling the product. If Wal-Mart weren't able to squash unions, for example, that would drive up wages at their stores and subsequently drive up prices. They would then be less able to drive other places out of business, and we would not only have people making something closer to a living wage, but we'd have more of a diversity of products and services. Maybe they wouldn't be delivered as efficiently as Wal-Mart, but maybe that's a small price to pay for the benefits.

So who is at fault for Wal-Mart ruining the neighborhood, proverbially? Is it the consumers who are voting with their feet? Is it the government for lack of oversight? Shouldn't the consumers get to be the ones who decide where they get to shop? Yes, sure, but consumers should also get to decide issues that revolve around their quality of life. The same consumers who are shopping at Wal-Mart have also expressed a preference over the decades for unionized labor (though that has seriously declined in the last 20 years), for living wages, for family-friendly environments at work, etc. They express this preference by voting, actually voting, not shopping.

They vote to give governments the power to check certain business practices deemed harmful to the community. For example, if a strip club opens next door to my house, which is next door to the elementary school, then it may get tons of business. But the neighborhood citizens have the right, through government, to restrict certain things, even though they may be prosperous. So it isn't a black-and-white, get-the-gummint-off-our-backs issue.

I would say that businesses usually do not create oppression. They instead create jobs, prosperity, and quality of life. But *some* businesses, when they get too monopolistic or too involved in self-regulation (i.e. oil industry executives writing laws to govern pollution) can definitely create a problem, because there is no effective check to balance their power. That situation is also called "crony capitalism", and it can bring countries to ruin if it goes too far. We've seen it happen all over the world, most recently in the Pacific rim countries in Asia.

Does government then create prosperity? No, but it sure enables it. By providing a set of laws governing contracts, businesses, consumers, etc., the government gives a framework in which capitalism can thrive. But don't kid yourself and think we have some kind of pure capitalism in this country. Far from it. The government subsidizes new inventions, new businesses, etc. all the time. Some businesses exist solely to service the government (for example, the defense industry).

Government certainly has *something* to do with prosperity. If it were otherwise, we wouldn't have kicked Russia's ass in the Cold War and left them in such a sorry state today while we thrive. So I think it would be more accurate to say that liberals believe in a capitalism (well, most of them ... there are still some socialists and communists, sure, but every group has its fringe) that is tempered by smart government. Conservatives like to say they don't want gummint interfering in business, but they sure don't turn down the subsidies when they get handed out.

Posted by Observer at 08:13 AM | Comments (4)

October 11, 2003

Polite or Honest?

Paul Krugman comments on civility in politics with his usual expertise:

It's the season of the angry liberal. Books like Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," Joe Conason's "Big Lies" and Molly Ivins's "Bushwhacked" have become best sellers. (Yes, I've got one out there, too.) But conservatives are distressed because those liberals are so angry and rude. O.K., they admit, they themselves were a bit rude during the Clinton years — that seven-year, $70 million investigation of a tiny money-losing land deal, all that fuss about the president's private life — but they're sorry, and now it's time for everyone to be civil. [...]

Some say that the right, having engaged in name-calling and smear tactics when Bill Clinton was president, now wants to change the rules so such behavior is no longer allowed. In fact, the right is still calling names and smearing; it wants to prohibit rude behavior only by liberals.

But there's more going on than a simple attempt to impose a double standard. All this fuss about the rudeness of the Bush administration's critics is an attempt to preclude serious discussion of that administration's policies. For there is no way to be both honest and polite about what has happened in these past three years.

On the fiscal front, this administration has used deceptive accounting to ram through repeated long-run tax cuts in the face of mounting deficits. And it continues to push for more tax cuts, when even the most sober observers now talk starkly about the risk to our solvency. It's impolite to say that George W. Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

On the foreign policy front, this administration hyped the threat from Iraq, ignoring warnings from military professionals that a prolonged postwar occupation would tie down much of our Army and undermine our military readiness. (Joseph Galloway, co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," says that "we have perhaps the finest Army in history," but that "Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy that Army.") It's impolite to say that Mr. Bush has damaged our national security with his military adventurism, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Still, some would say that criticism should focus only on Mr. Bush's policies, not on his person. But no administration in memory has made paeans to the president's character — his "honor and integrity" — so central to its political strategy. Nor has any previous administration been so determined to portray the president as a hero, going so far as to pose him in line with the heads on Mount Rushmore, or arrange that landing on the aircraft carrier. Surely, then, Mr. Bush's critics have the right to point out that the life story of the man inside the flight suit isn't particularly heroic — that he has never taken a risk or made a sacrifice for the sake of his country, and that his business career is a story of murky deals and insider privilege.

In the months after 9/11, a shocked nation wanted to believe the best of its leader, and Mr. Bush was treated with reverence. But he abused the trust placed in him, pushing a partisan agenda that has left the nation weakened and divided. Yes, I know that's a rude thing to say. But it's also the truth.

Posted by Observer at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2003

Hoist by His Own Petard

What does the phrase mean anyway? Hey, I'm always looking for opportunities to educate myself and others (the title of this blog could be loosely translated as "seize the data" or "get educated"):

"For 'tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his owne
petar" -- Shakespeare, Hamlet III iv. "Hoist" was in Shakespeare's
time the past participles of a verb "to hoise", which meant what "to
hoist" does now: to lift. A petard (see under "peter out" for the
etymology) was an explosive charge detonated by a slowly burning
fuse. If the petard went off prematurely, then the sapper (military
engineer; Shakespeare's "enginer") who planted it would be hurled
into the air by the explosion. (Compare "up" in "to blow up".) A
modern rendition might be: "It's fun to see the engineer blown up
with his own bomb."

It's time for embarrassing conservative news of the week, which is always released by conservatives on Fridays in an attempt to bury it. Hard to believe, but, finally, Rush Limbaugh says something honest:

"I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication."

For the legal consequences, we turn to Billmon:

In the state of Florida the penalties for possessing certain drugs are based solely on the actual gram (or kilogram) weight of those drugs. OxyContin (oxycodone) is one of those drugs and is listed as a Schedule II narcotic.

Mr. Limbaugh is alleged to have possessed as many as 1000 tablets of OxyContin (oxycodone) on several occasions. OxyContin is manufactured in 10 mg 20 mg 40 mg 80 mg and 160 mg tablets. One thousand tablets at the smallest 10 mg dosage would contain 10 grams of oxycodone. One thousand tablets at the greatest 160 mg dosage would yield 160 grams of oxycodone. Either amount would make Mr. Limbaugh subject to the Florida State statutes regarding "Trafficking in illegal drugs."

Please note that the below statutes do not contain any provisions for personal use and that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people incarcerated in Florida prisons for the exact same offense(s) that Mr. Limbaugh is alleged to have committed.

Florida Statutes
893.135 Trafficking; mandatory sentences;
(c)1. Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 4 grams or more of oxycodone, or 4 grams or more of any mixture containing any such substance, but less than 30 kilograms of such substance or mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as "trafficking in illegal drugs," punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If the quantity involved:

a. Is 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.

b. Is 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.

c. Is 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 calendar years and pay a fine of $500,000.

Note that mandatory minimum term. Conservatives are really big on those. So I'm sure the dittoheads wouldn't want to see Rush get the slap-on-the-wrist treatment from some creepo liberal judge -- given that drug dealing is just another form of terrorism and all.

In addition, if these drugs were mailed to him across state lines, then he'd be subject to even stiffer federal sentencing guidelines, thanks to the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Oh, and pass the effing popcorn.

Posted by Observer at 04:19 PM | Comments (7)

Anti-Cheating 101

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

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (13)

October 09, 2003

Selective Outrage

Here is a pretty good rant about the California governor's election by someone with more perspective and knowledge than me. Of course, any time a Democrat gets screwed over, you get the usual Republican morons dancing in the streets (and vice versa), but with this one, I think Republicans had better be careful what they wish for. There are a lot of scenarios in California now that can play out very, very badly for the Republican machine.

You know, I remember a time when conservatives were just *floored* with indignation over the moral depravity of Hollywood celebrities and the whole culture out there. I guess that's just Democratic celebrities. Or presidents. I get some small comfort watching Republican pundits enthusiastically embrace the Gropinator while all the consensual stuff Clinton was involved with is horribly, horribly worse. Not that most of them had any credibility with me to begin with, but maybe it wakes up some fence-sitters.

The thing is, for me, the whole lying and shaking his finger in my face is no big deal. Every single politician in the history of the world has lied to the electorate (or at the very least misled them "for their own good" or for whatever reason). Clinton was more brazen than others, but not nearly as brazen as Bush has been on occasion. With Clinton, what bugged me was more the embarrassment to the country of all his antics while supposedly married and the leader of the free world and all that.

That's why I wanted him to just resign and hand it over to Gore. Clinton must've had a screw loose to try to get away with that kind of nonsense (and yeah, I know JFK did it ... different era), and that right there was enough to disqualify him from the office. For me. It kinda goes without saying that Bush never was qualified for the office to begin with, and with his lies, Bush has done more harm to our nation than Clinton ever dreamed of.

You know what they say. When Clinton lied, no one died. So don't get me started on some moral equivalence bullshit about the lies. I'll take Clinton's lies every day of the week, 365 days a year, over the fuckwit currently occupying the oval office.

Pretty sad that Gore would've made a great president, yet *Gore* is the one the so-called liberal media branded as a liar (a charge that Bob Somerby over at the Daily Howler eviscerated long ago). Oh, I'm sure Gore has passed off a whopper or two, because he is a politician after all, but he isn't even in the same ballpark -- no, not even the same league -- as President Flight Suit.

Posted by Observer at 06:36 AM | Comments (4)

October 08, 2003

Priorities, Priorities...

A couple of weeks ago, a "senior administration official" told the Washington Post that "two top White House officials" had leaked Wilson's wife's name to several reporters, an act that we now know was treasonous, unlawful and damaging to our national security. So I'm wondering: Do you think the Bush administration is searching more diligently for the "senior administration official" who ratted out the traitors to the Washington Post or the "two top White House officials" who actually committed the crime?

Is there really any doubt whatsoever as to the answer?

Posted by Observer at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Franken Shoots. He Scores!

I notice Ahnold won the governor election out there in California. What a train wreck. I am completely ignorant of California politics and Gray Davis, but it seems to me that most of the trouble and discontent out there was caused by the whole Enron thing, and that wasn't Davis' fault, was it? Why is Davis now out of office while Kenny Boy Lay of Enron is still hitting the slopes in Aspen?

Oh well, I suppose it's payback time. I'm sure by the time 24 hours have passed, they'll have their first 10,000 signatures on a Recall Ahnold petition. And if Ahnold doesn't get 50% of the vote, it goes to whomever else gets a plurality. Based on what little I know, it might actually end up being some competent Republican like McClintock (by competent, I mean not a cartoon character, not necessarily a good guy) or maybe this time some bigger Democratic names like Feinstein will climb into the race. It's fun to watch, but I'd hate to be living in California, which has just officially replaced Florida as the national laughingstock.

My reading pace has slowed to a crawl since classes have really gotten into full swing. I find myself reading less than 15 minutes a day lately because there are just too many other things competing for my attention. That's the only reason it took me so long to finish the truly funny and worthwhile "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" by Al Franken.

To be fair, there are a couple of parts of the book that didn't work so great for me. I like it best when he simply quotes some conservative pundit at length and then counts lie after lie after lie, usually with a lot of sarcasm and humor thrown in. I think I got the biggest kick out of the Ann Coulter chapter. At one point, she claimed that the NY Times hadn't prominently covered the death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt. She was trying to show how out of touch the so-called liberal elite media is with the common man.

Franken reproduced a copy of the front page of the NY Times on the day after Earnhardt's death, circled the prominent front-page story about Earnhardt and wrote "See!" with a big arrow pointing at it. I mean, you can't get a more solid refutation than that. And he has that kind of tongue-in-cheek thing throughout, with some really good jabs, too, about how hateful, dishonest and mean some of these people really are.

I was thoroughly entertained, and even though I read a copy that I had checked out from the library, Michelle was interested in it, so I used that as an excuse to buy the book. I get a big discount at Bookshop anyway, and I had some bookstore gift certificates to redeem, so there's all my rationalizations. I almost bought Krugman's latest book while I was there in a spending frenzy, but then I saw that it was mostly recycled columns, many of which I'd already read. Too bad. I mean, it's good reading, but I was hoping for something fresh.

I'm glad Franken wrote a better book than his last two efforts, one of which was mediocre ("Why Not Me?") and one was awful ("Oh! The Things I Know!"). This is his best book, much better even than "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot", and I really hope the success propels him to continue with more such books.

Posted by Observer at 07:05 AM | Comments (3)

October 07, 2003

The News Piles Up

Credit where credit is due... USA Today had a *lot* of good, informative articles on Monday. I get a free copy every day on campus, but I rarely make the time to read through it. Yesterday, I had to sit in the office and make a ton of copies since our secretary was off for jury duty, so I found a lot of gems that I will share.

First, how many ways did Bushco screw up in Iraq? Well, here's another one:

As a direct result of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq without sufficient forces to secure and protect its nuclear research and storage facilities from rampant looting, enough radioactive material to build scores of dirty bombs now is missing and may be on its way to the international black market.

It didn't have to turn out this way. In the weeks before the invasion, the U.S. military repeatedly warned the White House that its war plans did not include sufficient ground forces, air and naval operations and logistical support to guarantee a successful mission. Those warnings were discounted — even mocked — by administration officials who professed to know more about war fighting than the war fighters themselves.

But the war fighters were right. Military commanders weren't given enough manpower and logistical support to secure all of the known nuclear sites, let alone all of the suspected ones.

It wasn't until seven of Iraq's main nuclear facilities were extensively looted that the true magnitude of the administration's strategic blunder came into focus.

The White House knew all along, for example, that enormous quantities of dangerous nuclear materials were at the Tuwaitha nuclear storage facility near Baghdad, sealed and accounted for by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency. Soon after the war began, the IAEA warned the White House that it should strive to secure the facility quickly. When word of looting at the site began to leak out through the international media, the IAEA again warned the White House.

The looting, however, went on for more than two weeks before the U.S. took any action. When the site was finally secured and U.S. authorities permitted a brief inspection by IAEA officials, the inspectors were inexplicably forbidden to check the status of highly radioactive materials that could be used in dirty bombs. Many of these materials are now unaccounted for. What the inspectors were allowed to verify is how much uranium is now missing: at least 22 pounds.

Other looted nuclear sites include the Baghdad Nuclear Research Center, where significant quantities of partially enriched uranium, cesium, strontium and cobalt were stored. U.S. survey teams have not been able to determine how many of those materials are missing.

It takes only a small amount of such materials to arm a dirty bomb. The 22 pounds of missing uranium, for example, could arm a device that could shut down Capitol Hill or the New York Stock Exchange for weeks, if not months.

Properly built and encased with radioactive materials, a dirty bomb can kill thousands and render large areas uninhabitable for months or years. While their destructive capacity pales in comparison to that of actual nuclear bombs, a dirty bomb's capacity to inflict terror should never be underestimated.

Should an organization such as al-Qaeda acquire a dirty bomb, it is unlikely authorities could keep it out of the U.S. or prevent it from being detonated [especially with the "ignore it and it will go away" approach that Bushco is applying toward port security]. Under such circumstances, a terrorist group would not even actually need to possess a second device; it would merely just have to say one was planted in a U.S. city. Imagine what the outbound highways would look like or the overall effect on our economy, our security, our civil rights, our way of life.

From Cursor, there is a good summary of yet another lie by the Bush administration, described by the New York Times:

The New York Times reports that statements by Bush administration officials that oil revenue would cover most of Iraq's rebuilding costs, were at odds with the findings of a U.S. government task force that was secretly established last fall to study the country's oil industry.

You know, you'd think they'd have just about run out of things to lie about by now. But it's not just the dishonesty that makes this administration so special, it's the way they look out for the little guy, especially when the little guy is a major corporate donor trying to screw over a family farmer:

The Bush administration has adopted a new policy that aims to cut off farmers' ability to sue pesticide and herbicide makers when bug-and weedkillers don't work as promised on their labels and damage crops.

The new position, not announced publicly, is a sharp reversal in federal policy toward hundreds of thousands of farmers or anyone else who might claim damages from pesticide use.

In recent years, the government generally has supported people's right to sue manufacturers of pesticides that are alleged to have harmed crops or not performed as promised. But the administration is taking the position that federal law bars such suits, according to legal briefs and an Environmental Protection Agency memo obtained by USA TODAY.

Finally, I read yesterday that New Hampshire is suing oil companies over the presence of MTBE in their groundwater. I mentioned this before, the whole problem with groundwater contamination and why we drink bottled water and so on. MTBE is bad news biologically for humans, and it is becoming more and more embedded in our hydrologic cycle every day.

From the article:

The state environmental department said MTBE was detected in 15% of public water supplies in 2002, including 33% of public water supplies in Strafford County.

Heed said preliminary figures for 2003 show that more than 40% of public water supplies in Rockingham County were contaminated.

"The problem appears to be worsening," Heed said.

In Washington, House and Senate negotiators trying to work out a federal energy bill have been considering whether to ban MTBE.

Wanna take just a WILD guess as to whether those negotiations are going to adversely affect the oil industry? No, really.

One final story, stolen from Atrios:

In honor of the the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, Bush has announced Marriage Protection Week. [...] This is of course no coincidence, as it wasn't a coincidence that Bush took the podium on the Martin Luther King's birthday (the real one, not the holiday) to condemn the University of Michigan's affirmative action program as a quota system - a complete lie..

The media loves to ignore these little coinkydinks. Bush voters understand them. He's just playing to his base...

Posted by Observer at 06:42 AM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2003

Attack of the Moron

Remember that stupid conservative who I banned from commenting on my site? Well, he's back in all his glory on his own blog. Go pay him a visit and have a good laugh. I will be happy to link him frequently here just so he doesn't think I'm completely ignoring him. Hell, I should sidebar him. He makes conservatives look worse than I ever could.

His latest post is to complain that I am violating his first amendment rights by blocking his comments. This from the guy who tried to have my blog shut down! No, wait, it gets better. Now he's sending my wife emails offering to help her abusive ex find us. Fake death threats weren't good enough, I guess, so he needed to get his unique point across another way.

It's nice to keep in touch with the conservative base, in a way.

If you'd rather spend your time more constructively, I'd like to point out many good comments in some recent threads (particularly SCM #7 thread on capital punishment and abortion) and not just because they're being nice to me. Someday soon, I'll get the script working to show the 5-10 most recent comments in my sidebar so that's easier to keep track of.

Posted by Observer at 09:14 PM | Comments (10)

Conservative Talking Points

Conservative Factoid of the Day: Bush claims that 2 - 1 = 4.

Conservative talking points in support of this fact:

  • First of all, anyone who wants to complain that 2 - 1 = 1 under certain "rules of mathematics" is just making a mountain out of a molehill. Really, nobody in America cares about this sort of unpatriotic, anti-Bush partisan crap anyway.

  • You know, maybe that is false, but when Bill Clinton lied about a blowjob, the Democrats sure didn't jump all over him like they should have.

  • Bush doesn't really pay attention to tiny details like this. He's more of a big picture guy. The fact that liberals are saying 2 - 1 = 1 just shows that they don't "get it".

  • People who keep insisting over and over and over and over that 2 - 1 = 1 are just being shrill. They should calm down and take their medication. Or just shut the hell up. That act is so tiresome.

  • Regardless of the reports we hear from the liberal media, it is still a free country, and people are allowed to say 2 - 1 = 4 if they want to.

  • I hear Al Gore claimed that 2 - 1 = the Internet. Ha ha!

  • Some liberals are questioning the intelligence and ability of our president because he insists very reasonably that 2 - 1 = 4. What are they trying to do? Help the terrorists demoralize the country? If you love this country, you should support the president and our troops! If you don't, get the hell out.

  • Liberals are just pointing out that 2 - 1 = 1 because they're desperate for an issue coming into the next election. They know they don't stand a chance against our man in the election unless there are distracted by some kind of nonsense. Hey, look over there, a terrorist!

  • Liberals are just trying to dispute this issue because they are afraid. Afraid of being wrong.

  • It's common knowledge that 2 - 1 = 1. That's old news. The liberal media is just bringing this up to try to make the president look bad when they should be paying attention to all the positive things going on in this country.

  • Liberals have tried to underestimate Bush in the past, tried to insult his intellect, and look what it got them.

  • Liberals say they are interested in the truth, but that's the biggest lie of all. Truth isn't in their vocabulary. What was the question again?

Feel free to include your own in comments.

Posted by Observer at 02:37 PM | Comments (5)

This Isn't Complicated

Some popular blown cover talking points (for a more complete list, check here):

They're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Uh, this from the party of the WHITEWATER investigation?!?

The reason the White House hasn't done anything about this since July 14 is that it is just another routine anonymous leak. As press secretary Scott McClellan remarked, "Are we supposed to chase down every anonymous report in the newspaper?"

As David Corn (who has been pushing this from the start) indicates:

He was arguing that a serious leak attributed to anonymous sources was still not serious enough to cause the president to ask, what the hell happened? And he made it seem as if the White House just ignored the matter. Not so. Mitchell's remark [that she was contacted immediately after the column about Wilson's wife] and even the Rove-friendly account of the Rove-Matthews conversation [in which Rove told Matthews that Wilson's wife is now "fair game"] are evidence the White House tried to further the Plame story--that is, to exploit the leak for political gain.

Rather than respond by trying to determine the source of a leak that possibly violated federal law and perhaps undermined national security ( The Washington Post reported that the leak also blew the cover of a CIA front company, "potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure"), White House officials sought to take advantage of it.

So it wasn't just another anonymous leak. It was a purposeful attempt to discredit Wilson. The White House can't pretend to be ignorant about it, because it was orchestrated as part of their broader PR strategy.

She wasn't even undercover. Hell, everyone knew that she worked for the CIA. No laws were broken here.

CalPundit has done the legwork to gather all the evidence currently in play here. His conclusion:

Four separate ex-CIA employees are now on the record saying Plame was undercover and ran a network of informants, and a fifth who knew Wilson and had 24 years at the Agency says he didn't know Plame worked there — which means her status was hardly common knowledge. Against this, we have Robert Novak's increasingly lonely assertion that Plame was 'an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives' and 'It was well known around Washington that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.' Who do you believe?

What's funny is that the original author of the "everybody knew" argument claimed that someone told him in casual conversation months ago about Wilson's wife. So now people are wondering, hey, maybe the FBI should question this columnist and find out who was spreading this around in casual conversation. You know, that's against the law and all.

And if you want to get down to technicalities about breaking the law or not, Clinton's lawyers had a pretty good case that he didn't technically commit perjury. Not that it mattered. What he did was *wrong*, and this administration was supposedly to be about restoring honor and dignity to the White House. I guess that just means no blowjobs. Everything else is fair game.

Liberals are only faking the outrage. All they really care about is scoring cheap political points. They don't really care about national security.

Actually, a lot of conservatives who are trying to maintain a shred of respectability are also publicly concerned about this. As a liberal, I am genuinely outraged. I consider this behavior treasonous, and I fully expect that the person or persons responsible will serve prison time. They had damn well better. If Bush really cared about national security, he would implement common-sense things like proper funding for port and shipping security (ideas that liberals are currently pushing for in Congress).

Wilson is a partisan Democrat only out to make trouble for the White House because he has it in for Bush.

Actually, Wilson served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, earning very high praise from Bush's father for his professionalism. Wilson has donated $1000 to Kerry's election campaign this cycle, but he donated $1000 to Bush the elder's campaign back in 1992. Hardly the act of a flaming liberal. The only people right now impugning the credibility and career of Wilson are career conservatives covering for Bush. Everyone else (including Wilson's longtime colleagues and other neutral observers) agrees that Wilson is the kind of person who should represent America abroad and so forth. He's a stand-up guy with a lot of integrity. You can look it up.

By the way, since when did affiliation with the Democratic party become an automatic disqualification from expressing an opinion? Why aren't reporters looking up campaign contributions from Rovert Novak et al? Of course, it doesn't matter in the end in this story, because Wilson isn't the story. The leak is the story.

And we haven't even gotten into the bigger scandal yet. What could be bigger than outing an undercover agent? The cover-up. The Justice Dept. allowing the White House a window of opportunity to destroy evidence. An Attorney General and staff with obvious biases and close ties. As the Daily Howler has pointed out, the so-called liberal media, if they are going to be consistent with the Clinton rules need to not only demand an independent prosecutor, but a career Democrat. After all, they weren't satisfied with a moderate Republican running that investigation, so they threw Robert Fiske over the side for the foaming-at-the-mouth Ken Starr, and the rest is a case study in the perversion of justice (and just plain perversion all around).

As time goes on, the scandal seems to deepen every day. Just a couple of days ago, Novak talked on CNN about a former front company that Wilson's wife used to work for named Brewster-Jennings and Associates. He wanted to bring it up solely to point out that she used it to contribute $1,000 to Al Gore in 1999. That's the only reason to bring that name out into the public light, and it makes you wonder who leaked this classified information to Novak.

It just shows you that national security just doesn't matter to these guys if it gets in the way of political spin. Remember when they decided to go ahead and let Fox broadcast the bin Laden tape because they felt bringing Al Qaeda into the news along with the Iraq buildup would cement the link, even though they were previously worried about bin Laden sending out coded messages to operatives in the US? It reminds me of the quote from Ripley in "Aliens" talking to the company guy, Burke. Something like, "You know, those creatures are pretty bad, but at least they're not fucking each other over for a goddamned percentage."

CalPundit comments on Novak's latest blunder:

Look, I wouldn't be surprised if exposing this company does no harm [it probably doesn't]. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if it did. What do I know? But it might. And if the only reason for bringing it up is to let everyone know that Valerie Plame gave money to Al Gore — well, words fail me.

You know, a lot of conservatives are resisting the idea that the Plame affair is for real because it's just so far-fetched. Why would smart people like Karl Rove or Scooter Libby expose a CIA agent over something as trivial as Joe Wilson writing a New York Times op-ed? Especially when doing so didn't really do much to discredit him anyway?

Well, why would anyone feed Robert Novak information about a CIA front company just so that he can make the point on national TV that Valerie Plame is a Democrat? Is it really worth doing that just to add minutely to the Republican meme that this is all a partisan feud rather than a genuine national security matter?

Why indeed. The bottom line, I think, is that these guys just don't care. When it comes to dealing with enemies, they lash out with everything they've got no matter how trivial it is and no matter what collateral damage it might cause. There's just no sense of proportion at all.

I wonder what's going to be next from them?

I don't see why the "blown cover" scandal is so complicated. Two top white house officials have been implicated in the treasonous act of exposing an undercover operative. The six or more journalists who received this information have refused to come forward to identify the leaker out of respect for confidentiality agreements and their reputations. I think the burden really should be on the officials who broke the law.

There is one very easy and quick way to end this scandal. Top white house officials (a group of no more than a dozen people) need to each publicly release any and all journalists from any agreement or expectation of confidentiality regarding statements made about Joseph Wilson's wife. President Bush can hasten this along by publicly or privately asking his staff to do this.

Why hasn't this happened in the nearly three months since the law was broken? What happened to moral clarity?

Posted by Observer at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2003

Stupid Conservative Myth #7

Here's stupidity #7 from idiot conservatives:

Liberals have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.

To be technical, I'm a liberal, and I support capital punishment. I also oppose abortion under many different circumstances, but I'm not 100% sure where I would draw the line. Polls showing support of the death penalty in the United States show that there are plenty of liberals who support it, which is why you see so few Democratic politicians running on an anti-capital punishment platform. I'm not sure who would support "abortion on demand". What is that, anyway? So much for the myth.

The philosophical reasoning against capital punishment is pretty solid in theory. Having the state formally execute someone makes everyone a party to a killing, no matter how richly deserved. There are many people who want no part of that responsibility, and it is ethically questionable to force them to participate. The big problem with the death penalty is the discriminatory aspect. Throughout history, minorities have been far more likely to be put to death than whites, way out of proportion with the actual murder rates for each group.

For me, that's not an ender. I do think the death penalty needs to be fixed immediately, before any more executions take place. Some rules need to be put in place to prevent discrimination in trials, perhaps by putting the life/death decision in the hands of a judge rather than a jury or by increasing the power of appeals courts, making it easier for them to reverse a jury-declared death penalty unless the case is rock solid. Some of these fixes are simple. I mean, there was a famous case in Texas where a guy was sent to death row after his lawyer repeatedly fell asleep during trials. So rules of basic judicial competence and fair trials are the first obvious fix.

I couldn't say put an end to the death penalty in good conscience. The thing is, if anyone ever seriously hurt or killed a member of my family, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not rest until they were dead. I would do the killing myself if necessary, even risking jail time or what have you. If there were a circumstance where I couldn't seek out that vengeance (like if I got hurt or killed at the same time), I would without question want the perpetrator to die. That probably sounds pretty savage and horrible, but it's also brutally honest. And if that's what I would want, I wouldn't want to deny some other person the same chance to ensure that a criminal pays the ultimate price. So I would support fixing the death penalty, but I wouldn't want to end it.

As for abortion. As a guy, this is an easier issue and less personal than for women. No one would ever want to have an abortion, I'm sure. It's a horrible, horrible thing. If Michelle and I were to get pregnant again by accident, I sincerely doubt we would resort to an abortion. Another child would be a burden but also a blessing, and I think we would just make it work.

I do recognize that sometimes abortion should be a choice that a woman is allowed to make. Certainly in cases of rape or incest. Should it always be allowed in the first trimester? What about kids under 18 making that choice? When should a fetus have a right to life? The moment of conception? It is a philosophically impossible question to answer. I honestly don't pretend to know the right answers. I can only speak for myself, and by that principle, I doubt a one-size-fits-all abortion law will ever really work.

Posted by Observer at 08:35 AM | Comments (10)

October 04, 2003

Test of Patriotism

Paul Krugman is back to writing columns after a book tour, and he has some great commentary on the blown cover scandal. It is worth quoting in its entirety:

On July 14, Robert Novak published the now-famous column in which he identified Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a C.I.A. "operative on weapons of mass destruction," and said "two senior administration officials" had told him that she was responsible for her husband's mission to Niger. On that mission, Mr. Wilson concluded — correctly — that reports of Iraqi efforts to buy uranium were bogus.

An outraged President Bush immediately demanded the names of those responsible for exposing Ms. Plame. He repeated his father's statement that "those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources" are "the most insidious of traitors." There are limits to politics, Mr. Bush declared; Mr. Wilson's decision to go public about his mission had embarrassed him, but that was no excuse for actions that were both felonious and unpatriotic.

Everything in the previous paragraph is, of course, false. It's what should have happened, but didn't. Mr. Bush took no action after the Novak column. Before we get bogged down in the details — which is what the administration hopes will happen — let's be clear: we already know what the president knew, and when he knew it. Mr. Bush knew, 11 weeks ago, that some of his senior aides had done something utterly inexcusable. But as long as the media were willing to let the story lie — which, with a few honorable exceptions, like David Corn at The Nation and Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps at Newsday, they were — he didn't think this outrage required any action.

And now that the C.I.A. has demanded a Justice Department inquiry, the White House's strategy isn't just to stonewall, Nixon-style; as one Republican Congressional aide told The New York Times, it will "slime and defend."

The right-wing media slime machine, which tries to assassinate the character of anyone who opposes the right's goals — hey, I know all about it — has already swung into action. For example, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page calls Mr. Wilson an "open opponent of the U.S. war on terror." We've grown accustomed to this sort of slur — and they accuse liberals of lacking civility? — but let's take a minute to walk through it.

Mr. Wilson never opposed the "war on terror" — he opposed the war in Iraq precisely because it had no obvious relevance to the campaign against terror. He feared that invading a country with no role in 9/11, and no meaningful Al Qaeda links, would divert resources from the pursuit of those who actually attacked America. Many patriots in the military and the intelligence community agreed with him then; even more agree now.

Unlike the self-described patriots now running America, Mr. Wilson has taken personal risks for the sake of his country. In the months before the first gulf war, he stayed on in Baghdad, helping to rescue hundreds of Americans who might otherwise have been held as hostages. The first President Bush lauded him as a "truly inspiring diplomat" who exhibited "courageous leadership."

In any case, Mr. Wilson's views and character are irrelevant. Someone high in the administration committed a felony and, in the view of the elder Mr. Bush, treason. End of story.

The hypocrisy here is breathtaking. Republicans have repeatedly impugned their opponents' patriotism. Last year Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Democrats "don't want to protect the American people. . . . They will do anything, spend all the time and resources they can, to avoid confronting evil."

But the true test of patriotism isn't whether you are willing to wave the flag, or agree with whatever the president says. It's whether you are willing to take risks and make sacrifices, including political sacrifices, for the sake of your country. This episode is a test for Mr. Bush and his inner circle: a true patriot wouldn't hesitate about doing the right thing in the Plame affair, whatever the political costs.

Mr. Bush is failing that test.

Posted by Observer at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

Why Bother?

Great quotes from GREAT men:

Patrick Henry: Give me liberty, or give me death!

John F Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Abraham Lincoln: Freedom is the last, best hope of Earth.

Martin Luther King: I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Winston Churchill: We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!

Doc: You suck. You're dead.

This blog is now read-only for drunk morons who make death threats. Write privileges (i.e. comments) are gone. I tried to warn him off for his own good, but he's too stupid to listen to even that.

I mean, if the guy ever had a point, he'd be worth it just to use as an excuse to talk about issues, but about the only use he has is personifying the ignorant and violent-tempered dittohead set. And he accomplished that long ago. Now, I'm no longer entertained. Just annoyed and bored, so he's banned.

He's just not worth the bother. Life is too short for stupid trolls. Smart trolls are welcome, always. I love a good debate.

Posted by Observer at 08:59 PM | Comments (2)

Schadenfreude

Great post recently from Cold Fury's Arthur Silber on the all the Rush Limbaugh news. As you may know, Rush made a racist comment during his ESPN commentary (he commented that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was being overrated by the media because he's black, etc.), and he recently resigned over that "to protect ESPN from the backlash". And then at about the same time, it comes out Rush is a drug addict (on prescription pain killers like Oxytocin) and he's been breaking some laws to feed his habit. I was trying to think about what I wanted to say about this, if anything, and then Eschaton pointed me to Silber's commentary, which perfectly expressed the thoughts I couldn't find words for.

First, Eschaton/Atrios:

I'm not obligated to feel or express any compassion for Rush Limbaugh. There are 6 billion other people on this planet, almost all of whom are more worthy than Rush of any emotional energy I wish to expend. My attitude - and approach to this blog - is that it's fair to treat people with about the same degree of fairness and venom that they treat others. And, by that criteria, Rush is truly in a class of his own.

Then Silber:

So Limbaugh is importing into a sports show all of the arguments for and against affirmative action, when he easily could have phrased his comments differently, completely avoiding the issue. It's an awful lot of weight for a sports show to carry, and it involves issues that most people don't care about at all when they're just getting ready to watch a football game. [...]

But the major point is this: he's saying all this from the vantage point of a very rich, very powerful white guy. I'm not saying that has any bearing at all on the truth or falsity of what he's saying; it doesn't -- the other arguments stand or fall on their own merits. But that's the stance and the position from which he's saying it. No wonder a lot of blacks got pissed off. I think it's perfectly understandable. [...]

We have certain laws on the books now -- and those laws have been and are being used against a lot of people, and a lot (most, if not almost all) of those people are black, and/or poor, and/or people without the kinds of advantages that Limbaugh has, or anything close to those advantages. Beyond that, Limbaugh himself vigorously supports the War on Drugs. Limbaugh is one of the the theocratic Republicans, who believe that their version of morality ought to be enforced on everyone else, at the point of the government's gun. And beyond that, Limbaugh has spoken out repeatedly against the "weakness" and general moral depravity of people who abuse drugs of all kinds. [...]

So given all that, why in the hell should Limbaugh himself be given any kind of break at this point, again assuming they already have evidence that he's illegally bought drugs over a period of years? I say he shouldn't be. Arrest him today -- unless the government is prepared to release everyone now in jail on similar kinds of charges within the next three to six months. And if the government isn't willing to do that, which of course it isn't, arrest him tonight.

But the ESPN story and the drug story aren't two different stories: they're the same story. A rich, powerful white guy gets away with all kinds of things [Ken Lay, anyone?] that non-rich, non-powerful, non-white guys don't. [...] The whole system is designed by them and for them. (And permit me to observe one more time: no, folks, it ain't capitalism, not the kind of laissez-faire capitalism I advocate. It's corporate statism writ large.) [...]

The theocratic Republicans -- a bunch of rich, powerful white guys -- want a huge number of laws telling all the rest of us how to live our lives. But of course, none of those laws are to be applied to them [Treason scandal, anyone?]. They'll go on living their lives however they want -- and if they happen to get caught breaking some of those same laws, then they won't be treated the way all the rest of us would be, and they may get away with it altogether [Iran-Contra, Savings and Loan Bailout, etc., etc.].

Rich, powerful white guys have made and are making most of the laws -- and they want to make a lot more of them. They want to control all the rest of us -- but no one controls them. They do whatever they feel like doing, whether it breaks the laws they themselves support or not [like, say, lying to Congress]. The laws aren't for them -- they're for us. It's not only blacks who should be pissed off -- everyone who is not one of them should be pissed off, too.

But it's all the same story, and it's one story: Limbaugh and his cronies control all the levers of power, they make the laws, and they determine the policies of our government in almost every area.

It's their world. We just happen to live in it, too.

I'll be interested to see just how Rush gets treated with respect to the ordinary first-time possession offender, and I'll be interested to see if his stance on the drug war and drug users changes as a result of his experiences. Not incredibly interested, mind you. I couldn't give a rat's ass what comes out of that idiot's piehole. It's just schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortune of others -- a term many liberals have become acquainted with during the past week).

Posted by Observer at 07:06 AM | Comments (4)

October 02, 2003

When Good News Is Bad News

Every Friday, like clockwork, administrations have learned to release bad news because no one pays attention to the papers on Saturday. Bushco is no exception. You'd think by now the liberal media would be onto this ruse and start carrying important stories through to Sunday or Monday, but until the heads of the Worldwide Socialist Conspiracy can get their game plan in order, we have to rely on blogs. From The Sideshow and Jake Tapper comes word of a Washington Post story about a study of the Clean Air Act:

A new White House study concludes that environmental regulations are well worth the costs they impose on industry and consumers, resulting in significant public health improvements and other benefits to society. The findings overturn a previous report that officials now say was defective.

The report, issued this month by the Office of Management and Budget, concludes that the health and social benefits of enforcing tough new clean-air regulations during the past decade were five to seven times greater in economic terms than were the costs of complying with the rules. The value of reductions in hospitalization and emergency room visits, premature deaths and lost workdays resulting from improved air quality were estimated between $120 billion and $193 billion from October 1992 to September 2002.

By comparison, industry, states and municipalities spent an estimated $23 billion to $26 billion to retrofit plants and facilities and make other changes to comply with new clean-air standards, which are designed to sharply reduce sulfur dioxide, fine-particle emissions and other health-threatening pollutants.

The report provides the most comprehensive federal study ever of the cost and benefits of regulatory decision-making.

As Tapper noted in reaction:

The study contradicts an entire corpus of industry-funded, conservative and libertarian propaganda about the overwhelming and burdensome costs of environmental and workplace regulation. Worse, it came out under the most conservative administration in decades. Indeed, the report contradicts the Bush administration's own theology regarding regulation. No surprise, then, they released it when they did.

Conservatives often (falsely) accuse liberals of wanting things to go bad in Iraq. They say that bad news from Iraq is good news for liberals. It isn't. Bad news for America is bad news for everyone. But when it comes to the environment and the EPA, any kind of good news, news that endorses liberal ideals and also happens to be good for air quality or what have you, is most definitely buried and treated as bad news by this administration.

They *want* it to be insanely difficult for polluters to cut back on emissions so that they can have an excuse to ignore the problem (and keep getting fat contribution checks). Publicly financed campaigns, folks. It means more candidates putting the best interests of America above the best interests of donors. Not every time, but a lot more than now.

Posted by Observer at 09:55 AM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2003

New Digs

Welcome to the new home of Carpe Datum. I may be experimenting with my templates a bit in the weeks to come. I really like the smilies over on the bulletin board group Michelle reads, so I'm going to steal some of them occasionally, like the little rant smilie:

Michelle thinks this one suits me.

Posted by Observer at 10:46 PM | Comments (6)

Tricksy Libruhls!

Eschaton and Talking Points Memo are publishing more details about the Blown Cover scandal as they come in, along with links to the best commentary. These are the best places to go to keep up. Here are some highlights for today. First, from The Poor Man comes this summary of conservative blogger and pundit reaction so far:

Why would master do this? Why he tricks us, and betrays us?

No, it couldn't have been master! Master is good and kind, and gives us wriggly fishes from his table, so juicy sweet! No, no, never master!

But why would the names of lady spiesies be in the newspapers? It's so confusing, it makes our brainses feel all swirly and bad!

No, master never said those nassty things! Never! It was the lady spysy herself who did it, never master! Gollum! Gollum!

It must have been ... libruhlss!! Yes, libruhs, all conspirings and scheme-ings! Tricksy, sneaksy, and false! Libruhls have always hated the precious! They want to destroy the precious! But we won't let them, will we, precious! We will wring their necks!

Some conservative bloggers have gone on to say that the real scandal is that the White House blundered in many ways (as I mentioned last time, political blunders are apparently more troubling than felonies to this bunch). One was asking Wilson in the first place to do this job instead of an unqualified yes man. Having a bunch of yes men dictate foreign policy is exactly what got us into this stupid quagmire in Iraq in the first place! But that just shows you how much conservatives value conformity, how they place loyalty above all else. Apparently, it would've been more loyal for Wilson to come back from Africa and support the Bush team 100%. Loyal to what, though? Certainly not loyal to this country. Just to Bushco, and that, in the end, is all that matters.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune also points out why Americans should want an independent investigator instead of the partisan justice department involved:

The Justice Department has responded affirmatively to Tenetís request for an investigation. But get this: When Justice informed the White House of the investigation Monday evening, it said it would be alright if the staff was notified Tuesday morning to safeguard all material that related to the case. The staff had all night to get rid of anything incriminating.

Under the "Clinton Scandal Rules", the person who notified the White House prior to the actual beginning of the investigation would also be subjected to harsh questioning and asked for resignation papers. Do you think anyone is going to ask about that in the White House press corps? Or do you think they'll laud Bush's sudden attack of leadership, saying he wants to get to the bottom of this because it's such a top priority (even though he sat on it for 11 weeks and it only became a story because of a leak to the Post a few days ago).

If Bush wants to get to the bottom of this scandal so badly, he only needs to do one thing: Have every member of the White House staff sign a letter publicly proclaiming that they release reporters from a need for confidentiality regarding this issue. Then reporters wouldn't have to worry about violating "the code". Of course, reporters might want to think whether effectively suborning treasonous behavior is a little more important, but I can understand that that's a really tough issue.

Novak himself tried to indicate "what's the fuss?" by saying on TV that Wilson's wife was just an analyst and that revealing her name, while technically illegal, didn't endanger anyone or anything, blah blah blah. Even though that logic is deeply flawed, Novak isn't even telling the truth, as Larry Johnson (a former counter-terrorism official at the CIA and State Dept.) indicated on PBS Newshour:

I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been under cover for three decades. She is not as Bob Novak suggested a "CIA analyst." Given that, i was a CIA analyst for 4 years. I was under cover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the CIA unti I left the Intelligence Agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it. The fact that she was under cover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous. She was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she works with overseas could be compromised...

For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal... and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that, well, this was just an analyst. Fine. Let them go undercover. Let's put them go overseas. Let's out them and see how they like it...

I say this as a registered Republican. I am on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear, of an individual who had no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it because the entire intent was, correctly as Amb. Wilson noted, to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision-making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly what was a false policy of suggesting that there was nuclear material in Iraq that required this war.

This was about a political attack. To pretend it was something else, to get into this parsing of words. I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.

Bush's new tack is trying to explain all this away as just a routine but unfortunate leak of classified information, the kind of thing that goes on all the time. Yeah, well, so do hotel-room break-ins, as Nixon would be the first to remind us. I seriously doubt this will go anywhere except to get a couple of staffers (maybe even some top staffers) fired with some prison time to boot. I mean, I don't doubt that Cheney knows everything, but it is conceivable that the Boy King has been sent to the ranch/golf course while all the heavy lifting goes on. Who could prove it, though?

If the Moron-American is paying attention, he'll realize that, hey, maybe Bush was bullshitting with all that talk about moral clarity and rigorous ethical standards and the importance of national security, etc. Lots of bloggers are doing Bush "then" and Bush "now" quotes, but we've been doing that ever since the campaign (with things like nation building and deficits, for example) and nobody seems to care. I've seen enough conservatives now call for justice that I'm wondering if Bush may finally have found the one thing he can do to unite the political spectrum.

Posted by Observer at 07:25 AM | Comments (9)