January 31, 2004

Is Anyone Accountable?

Paul Krugman has an excellent column up summarizing recent events, and you should read the whole thing, but here is the powerful opening:

George Bush promised to bring honor and integrity back to the White House. Instead, he got rid of accountability.

Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified — under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less — because Saddam "did not let us in.")

So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush — and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry. [...]

A grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged — and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.

Posted by Observer at 07:17 AM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2004

Be Prepared

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

Posted by Observer at 07:39 AM | Comments (3)

January 29, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #18

Time for another heapin' helpin' of conservative bullshit:

Liberals believe conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a liar and sex offender belongs in the White House.

Ok, I'm not sure which conservative this myth refers to, because I don't know how old the original list is. Maybe somebody like Oliver North? Of course, he told the truth to Congress in exchange for immunity, but the fact of the matter is that he violated the law. But Democrats were hot on the trail of a scandal and wanted to embarrass Reagan, so fair's fair, I don't think the guy should go to jail. Oh well, as I've said before, no politician tells the truth all the time, whether they be liberal or conservative, and that brings us to the second part of the myth.

First, yes, Clinton lied. I know that's going to come as a shock, that a bleeding heart liberal like me could say something horrible about Clinton, but get over it. But what about the sex offender bit? This apparently relates to an alleged sexual assault that occured in the late 70's by Clinton against Juanita Broderick. I don't pretend to know what happened. During the Paula Jones mess, she told a few different stories, filed conflicting affidavits (under oath), contradicted her own testimony under oath and so on, so she just wasn't a reliable witness. That doesn't make her story false, but if you are going to call the president a sex offender, I think you need to have your ducks in a row.

I mean, here Michael Moore calls Bush a "deserter", which isn't technically correct but pretty close to the AWOL truth, and Peter Jennings upbraids Wesley Clark for not disowning the man as a supporter. What the hell?!? When is Jennings going to give Bush hell for 1% of the things his supporters have said about Al Gore? Where was the media bashing Republicans for implying the president is a sex offender? Where was the media bashing Republicans for propagating the "invented the Internet" or "Love Story" myths?

Oh right, it was the media that propagated those myths. You know, with friends like these, who needs fucking enermies? Yeah, the so-called-liberal-media were snugly in the pockets of their conservative corporate editors and publishers, who voted for and donated to the Bush campaign by more than a two-to-one margin over Gore.

I've probably just about beaten this horse to death, but I'll say it once more. They all lie, but it is the big ones that matter. The life and death lies. Lies that directly involve the job you are elected to do. Bush lies, and he lies big, and that's why honest and principled people (including conservatives) have a problem with him. Hell, I'd hate him just because of his nutball right-wing policies, I'll admit that. He didn't have to fucking lie to get us into a war or lie about the whole Plame thing or lie about his tax policy to get me to oppose his presidency. But he did, and nutball conservatives need to stand up and closely examine the man who is leading this country straight to hell, because every single American deserves better than the president that Scalia, Rehnquist, Kennedy, Thomas and O'Connor appointed for us. Even them.

I hope when Bush is voted out of office that they eventually name a building for the guy, and I hope it is around here. That would make it convenient for me to make a special trip over there just to spit on it.

Posted by Observer at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2004

Seeing Red

Sometimes, the staggering level of dishonesty coming from our government at every level is just too much, but you have to start facing it at some point. The budget deficit is a great place to begin. Simply put, Bush's tax cuts have been an unmitigated disaster, as liberals (like Paul Krugman) knew they would be all along. Like with the war, Democrats were just simply left with their mouths hung open at the audacity of this administration, bludgeoning their way through to disaster time and again.

Some Democrats thought it was politics as usual and tried to compromise. These poor, well-meaning politicians were nevertheless depicted as little short of traitorous when the elections came around by Republicans. And, as usual, the so-called liberal media did little to stem the tide, continuing to portray Bush as a "uniter", trying to reach out across the aisle to those stubborn old Democrats, who are in the minority anyway and lost the presidential election (uh...even leaving aside Florida, who won the popular vote again?).

And even now, Republicans try to paint the deficit problem as being caused by out-of-control spending. Ok, wait a minute. First point. Weren't all the smart-ass conservatives always trying to point out that tax cuts would *increase* tax revenue by stimulating the economy, the stock market, etc? They claimed it did during the Reagan era (and they were totally wrong then, too ... if you want the boring details, I'd be happy to provide them, but I do try to keep my 10 readers awake whenever possible). You know, the whole supply-side economics, Laffer curve nonsense? So, ummm, conservatives ... uh, wha' hoppin'?

Well, screw it, Krugman explains it better than I can:

Even conservatives are starting to admit that George Bush isn't serious when he claims to be doing something about the exploding budget deficit. At best — to borrow the already classic language of the State of the Union address — his administration is engaged in deficit reduction-related program activities.

But these admissions have been accompanied by an urban legend about what went wrong. According to cleverly misleading reports from the Heritage Foundation and other like-minded sources, the deficit is growing because Mr. Bush isn't sufficiently conservative: he's allowing runaway growth in domestic spending. This myth is intended to divert attention from the real culprit: sharply reduced tax collections, mainly from corporations and the wealthy.

Is domestic spending really exploding? Think about it: farm subsidies aside, which domestic programs have received lavish budget increases over the last three years? Education? Don't be silly: No Child Left Behind is rapidly turning into a sick joke.

In fact, many government agencies are severely underfinanced. For example, last month the head of the National Park Service's police admitted to reporters that her force faced serious budget and staff shortages, and was promptly suspended.

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does the math. While overall government spending has risen rapidly since 2001, the great bulk of that increase can be attributed either to outlays on defense and homeland security, or to types of government spending, like unemployment insurance, that automatically rise when the economy is depressed.

Why, then, do we face the prospect of huge deficits as far as the eye can see? Part of the answer is the surge in defense and homeland security spending. The main reason for deficits, however, is that revenues have plunged. Federal tax receipts as a share of national income are now at their lowest level since 1950.

Of course, most people don't feel that their taxes have fallen sharply. And they're right: taxes that fall mainly on middle-income Americans, like the payroll tax, are still near historic highs. The decline in revenue has come almost entirely from taxes that are mostly paid by the richest 5 percent of families: the personal income tax and the corporate profits tax. These taxes combined now take a smaller share of national income than in any year since World War II.

This decline in tax collections from the wealthy is partly the result of the Bush tax cuts, which account for more than half of this year's projected deficit. But it also probably reflects an epidemic of tax avoidance and evasion. Everyone who wants to understand what's happening to the tax system should read "Perfectly Legal," the new book by David Cay Johnston, The Times's tax reporter, who shows how ideologues have made America safe for wealthy people who don't feel like paying taxes. [...]

And this was part of a larger con. What's playing out in America right now is the bait-and-switch strategy known on the right as "starve the beast." The ultimate goal is to slash government programs that help the poor and the middle class, and use the savings to cut taxes for the rich. But the public would never vote for that.

So the right has used deceptive salesmanship to undermine tax enforcement and push through upper-income tax cuts. And now that deficits have emerged, the right insists that they are the result of runaway spending, which must be curbed.

While this strategy has been remarkably successful so far, it also offers a big opportunity to the opposition. So here's a test for the Democratic contenders: details of your proposals aside, which of you can do the best job explaining the ongoing budget con to the American people?

I don't really have a favorite among the Democratic candidates. My sympathies are certainly with Dean, because he seems to be the most outspoken and the most passionate, and I believe these times call for passion. But the other frontrunners would be fine, too, Kerry, Clark, or Edwards. Bush must go, and it doesn't matter which Democrat wins. And any Democrat should be a shoo-in, especially given that Congress will definitely remain solid Republican (thanks in part to continuous gerrymandering ... I mean redistricting in Texas and Colorado), and most people seem to like gridlock.

At least with a Democrat in office, we could stop the bleeding and veto the extension of these incredibly stupid budget policies, we could stop all the right-wing nutball judges from being appointed, we can turn the executive branch back into a simalcrum of a service-oriented organization instead of a partisan hack fantasy workshop for fuckwits. Maybe we could get our foreign policy back on a sane track and off this pre-emptive strike bullshit. Maybe we could live in a country where hope is the main thing and not fear.

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

January 27, 2004

King Books

I realized last night that I hadn't done a pure "book" post in over a month. Well, looking down the sidebar list of books I've already mentioned in previous posts, I see at least one omission from my top 20 favorites, and that is Stephen King's "The Stand". I like most of King's stuff, but "The Stand" is clearly his deepest and most inspired novel. It doesn't necessarily stand up to a re-reading like, say, "Lord of the Rings", but it is absolutely a page-turner the first time through.

I know King is no literary great. His writing style is horrible to some, tolerable to others, etc. I don't really care about that as long as it is a good, fast-moving story to get immersed in. Some of the characters are fairly stock in this book, but with the right setting and the right plot, they work great. I love fiction with a little supernatural thrown in more than I like just pure fantasy, and King puts in just enough creepy magic to make it something you can imagine vividly.

The basic plotline is that a super-virus is released accidentally from a research facility, and it goes on to wipe out about 99.999% of the population (which still leaves a few thousand people alive) in America. Events in the rest of the world are only vaguely hinted at. An evil timeless being takes human form and goes by the name Randall Flagg, sensing his time has come. He proceeds to gather up all the bad people to Las Vegas, where they prepare to make war on all the good people, who gather in Boulder thanks to the supernatural guidance of an old woman named Mother Abigail. And it goes from there, with many twists and turns, etc. Some people told me if I liked King's book, I would like a book called "Swan Song" by Robert McCammon, which is Stand-like, but McCammon's book was terrible and made me appreciate King even more.

The story became a TV miniseries several years ago, and that wasn't bad at all. I don't think there was any way they could give it a movie treatment and tell the whole story in 2-3 hours, so a miniseries was the only way to go. I liked a lot of the actors in it, especially Gary Sinise. Like the book, it's something fun to immerse yourself in for six hours. A good rental from Blockbuster if you have time for that sort of thing. Also by King, the novel "It" is just a small step down in quality and readability (also a decent miniseries). I've read 4-5 others by him, but nothing I would very strongly recommend.

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

January 26, 2004

Wakka-Wakka-Wakka-Fruit

If, like me, you are an old gamer who just can't handle all the different controls, moves, hidden features, etc. on today's games (despite the fact that everyone on the planet under 12 years old acts like they were born to do it), go read today's PVP Online.

Posted by Observer at 09:52 AM | Comments (2)

Policy Assessment

One of the big crazes sweeping campuses and corporations is the idea of assessment. In order to properly assess, you have to set goals and define measurable means of progress. Only by setting out conditions beforehand (say, stock price target, productivity gains, satisfaction ratings, etc) for success can you truly measure yourself. It does no good to assess yourself by writing the criteria after the fact. Every corporation knows this.

So why is it that the assessment criteria for Iraq have changed so drastically, and why is the corporate Republican structure ok with it? The answer to the first question is "because it can". The media is allowing Bushco to get away with claiming that the most important victory in Iraq is somehow improving the human rights conditions over there (meanwhile, have you seen Azerbaijan lately, a staunch American ally?). They're pushing the idea that Dean is a fringe lefty for pointout out the obvious fact that Saddam's capture hasn't done anything to make America safer. If anything, the long-term situation is worse now that we've created more enemies over there during the occupation.

The answer to the second part is that corporate Republicans will say or do whatever it takes to keep this gravy train going. Assessment be damned, profit is the bottom line. I mean, I think everyone, conservative and liberal, statist and libertarian (if those are the correct pole designators), agreed before the war that we better hope we find a whole bunch of WMD ... and quickly.

Now that we haven't, now that person after qualified (and in-the-know) person has come forward like David Kay over the weekend, now that we know Iraq hasn't had significant WMD *programs* (not even WMD's!) since the 90's, why are conservatives everywhere pretending that this Iraq war is a smashing success? How, exactly, have we been made safer? Art Silber has a very good commentary on this, including excerpts from an excellent column by David Hackworth. Do yourself a favor and get caught up on the war you'd probably much rather forget about.

Posted by Observer at 08:20 AM | Comments (2)

January 25, 2004

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Before I forget, there are some new pictures of our 6-month-old Daniel over in my wife's blog, and if you scroll down below those, you'll find an absolutely must-read apology letter from 11-year-old S*rah to 9-year-old C*dy. It's blog gold, I tell you. Anyway, on to my story.

We went to our first comic-store Yu-Gi-Oh tournament on Saturday. Quite a different experience compared to the big mall event, but certainly fun. We were numbers 17-20 to register out of 32 who were allowed to compete (more than 32 showed up, so the others just watched and waited to duel/trade with the losers). This time there was no time limit on the duels, and each match was best two out of three.

J*stin and C*dy both lost their first matches. From what they told me, their opponents were similar to just about everyone else there. We were hopelessly outclassed, not skill-wise really but card-wise. I now have a much better understanding of what my commenters were saying in response to last week's tournament story ... it kinda sucks battling someone when the playing field is tilted pretty wildly against you by money. Anyway, my first opponent had a whole bunch of expensive cards but no real good idea of how to play them. I beat him twice without much difficulty (didn't even take damage in the first duel of the match).

My second opponent was this college kid who looked pretty swift, and he had just dispatched C*dy. S*rah, meanwhile, had also won her first match (must've been a lucky matchup ... she's not bad, but compared the opponents the rest of us saw, she would've been beaten soundly as she has the weakest deck of the four of us), and she got started on her second match as I got started on mine.

Well, right off the bat I got an unlucky draw. My deck is tilted slightly in favor of monsters as opposed to "effect" type cards, because if you can't draw monsters, you are virtually defenseless. So I opened with zero monsters, of course. I managed to draw one on my next turn, but he was organized enough to kill that. Then he played a $40 card on me that essentially gives him the automatic win if I couldn't summon monsters right then and there. The most valuable card in our four decks combined is worth about $25.

So I was down one, and we started on the second duel. This time I was well-prepared thanks to an average opening draw, but again, he brought out a very valuable card that I've only read about. I kept having to ask to read the cards more closely because I just never play with them. I'm not familiar with the effects. I was lucky that my deck was versatile enough to kill his super cards. He got too aggressive after his first easy win and kinda blew his whole wad early. Once he was more or less out of cards, I started pounding on him. Took a while, because he just kept on pulling out these awesome cards.

Sheesh, he might as well have been slapping money on the table. Oh, you're about to win? Here's a $20 card. Didn't work? Here's a $50 card. Here's a $40 card, etc. In the end, I managed to win, and so it was time for a third duel. I think I flustered this guy a little because I was really taking my time, and he was doing his entire turn in about 10 seconds. Oh well. And here I usually complain about how slow the kids are!

Turns out I won the third duel in much the same way as the second. I waited for him to hit me with his best barrage, cleared the field with what I had saved up, then I took advantage of the fact that he had run out of options. It was a really good battle, and it made the whole tournament worthwhile, playing and beating someone like that. I think he was pretty shocked to lose, actually, and his friends kept razzing him about getting knocked out so early. Well, crap, buddy, give someone else a shot, eh?

So then my third round (by this time, the 32-person tournament was down to 8 players) was against the guy who had just finished handily dispatching poor S*rah in two straight, quick duels. He was very friendly, much nicer and less intimidating than my 2nd opponent, but like everyone else, he killed me with money. First turn out of the gate, blam blam blam blam, $40, $40, $50, $25 and I've got nothing to do. It doesn't help that I gave C*dy my two most valuable cards to help him rebuild his deck (and I was stupid not to ask for them back as loaners when Cody got knocked out).

Well, I lost that first duel pretty quick, but I came back and won the second duel. Again, it was a struggle. A common theme here, besides expensive cards everywhere, was players who weren't all that skilled. They were sloppy and used to bludgeoning their opponents, and they didn't really *focus* on trying to win. This 3rd opponent made several very basic mistakes in the rules, but to be fair, his friends were distracting us both by talking to him during the duel (grrrr, go away).

Third duel, I just didn't have the cards to keep up with him. I kept it close and lasted for quite a while, but damn, I felt like I had brought a knife to a gunfight, you know? So I lost, and then my opponent got his clock cleaned in the semi-finals. All the losers got a little tournament pack of cards, which was a nice return for the $5 entry fee, and the top four finishers got $10, $10, $20, and $40 of store credit, respectively.

I figure that if I combine the very best cards from all four decks plus buy a couple more key cards online, then all that concentrated deck power would probably give J*stin, C*dy or me a chance to win one of those tournaments. But if we're all participating at once, our good cards are too diluted to be competitive. On the other hand, just going there to duel new people and all that was pretty fun, so we might go back anyway. I think I'm going to get pretty tired of losing to money, though, and I very much want to avoid a card "arms race" with other kids.

I've heard that some places have "draft" tournaments, where they throw x number of cards into the pot and the players sit around drafting from the pile until they've built a deck. Now *that* sounds like fun, albeit extremely time consuming. It has the double benefit of adding additional strategy to the game and levelling the playing field for not-so-rich people like me. Well, I shouldn't say it like that. I mean, if I really had to, I could spend the $200-$300 it would take to make my deck the equivalent of the kind of stuff I saw today, but ... well ... blech.

Posted by Observer at 07:28 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2004

Why Ask Clark? Ask Bush!

Our so-called-liberal-media was at it again during the Democratic debate. Peter Jennings told Wesley Clark that he was basically unethical for not repudiating Michael Moore, who refers to Bush as a deserter (technically, Bush was AWOL for a year or so, which isn't the same thing). Unfortunately for the corporate media, Jennings' high-handed attempt to scare Democrats away from the Bush AWOL issue may backfire. Moore is firing back with both barrels, and he has the documentation to back it up.

David Neiwert has the complete roundup, and I sure hope it becomes an issue. It speaks very loudly and accurately to Bush's character that not only was he AWOL but he has since lied about it, and it speaks even more clearly about conservative hypocrites that they overlook it (but watch how often they throw around the "draft dodger" term, even when it doesn't apply, like with Dean).

Posted by Observer at 08:39 AM | Comments (5)

January 23, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #17

Here's the next one on the list of things believed by the far right knuckleheads in this country:

Liberals believe that the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge.

Well, ok, a couple of things. First, socialism seems to be working pretty good for many European countries. I wouldn't want to live in Sweden, myself, but a lot of people seem pretty content with what they've got. That's not the kind of country America has been, historically, and I think that's a good thing. Just because I don't feel threatened by European socialism or certain ideas associated with socialism (like universal health care, far more progressive taxes, etc) doesn't mean I want America to be a socialist paradise. We've gotten to be the greatest nation in the world with a mix of capitalism and, yes, socialism. If you're pretending socialist ideas haven't helped make our country great, you're in denial. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Just as an aside, let me talk about universal health care in its broadest terms. We as a society have decided, I think, that we are willing to provide health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. If someone walks into the hospital suffering from a heart attack (ok, maybe they aren't walking in, but still...), I don't know of anyone, even the most heartless bastard I can think of, who would look that person's family in the face and tell them to go to hell if they can't pay for treatment.

So my premise is that we're all in agreement that people who need treatment are going to get treatment if we can make it possible in America. With that said, it would be much cheaper for us to have everyone insured, even if it means a massive government subsidy for doing it. Insured people are more likely to receive preventive care instead of ER care, which is much more expensive (and less beneficial unless you are on the verge of death, of course). The insurance net also helps hospitals stay afloat with a more predictable income. It just makes the whole industry work better, with fewer uncertainties. Socializing the costs of health care is a slam dunk to me. We can argue over details, sure, but ultimately, such a system would be a big improvement in our country.

Social security, medicare and various forms of welfare are part of the safety net in this country as well, and most people agree they are a good thing. Undeniably socialist at their core, but they are an expression of our compassion as a society. Libertarians hate that kind of crap, I know, but my point is that there is a lot of socialism in this country, and this is a damned great country to live in, despite the idiots currently in power (who are trying their best to change that).

Anyway, the second part about "the right people in charge": I think it is important to have the right people in charge. One of the earliest lessons we all learn in American history is how great George Washington was. He was so popular at the time of his presidency, he probably could've declared himself king and gotten away with it. Instead, he stepped down and made way for Jefferson, who then stepped down, etc. We were blessed early in our history with some extraordinary leadership, and it had a lot to do with our success, no doubt about it.

Posted by Observer at 07:02 AM | Comments (5)

January 22, 2004

JPG Worth 1000 Words

My sweetie has posted my favorite picture from the weekend tournament. Looks like all three kids are really enthusiastic about trying a local tournament this weekend, so maybe I'll have another (not quite so long) story to tell soon.

Posted by Observer at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

Life Is Too Short

Welcome to readers coming over from Wampum's Best New Blog Nominations (quite an excellent reading list there, by the way). This little blog is just my venting outlet and probably has a grand total of 10 regular readers, one of whom threw my name into the nominating ring (aw, shucks). I talk mostly politics (usually metablogging by linking to others and commenting but occasionally with original posts, like the Stupid Conservative Myths series, coming up on #17 now), but when I have a good story to tell, I'll talk about adventures in parenting as well. Anyway, you can read a bit more about what to expect from this blog in my first entry from about a year ago.

I saw the State of the Union speech starting up after American Idol Tuesday night. As quickly as I could, I got the "Fellowship of the Ring" bonus DVD #1 started up. Life is too short to watch that miserable failure smirk his way through more lies. I read after that he referred to evidence of "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." What the hell does that mean? Is that like coloring books related to WMD programs? I heard, too, that Democrats were a little unruly during the speech, which I'm fine with. I think it would've been a good idea for the Democrats to watch on TV from a "free speech zone" a couple of miles away.

Anyway, the Center for American Progress, the new Progressive think tank trying to counter the network of Scaife-funded nutball think tanks on the conservative side, has a detailed response to the State of the Union, pointing out the various lies and misleading statements. Check it out. It is an excellent, well-documented list.

Posted by Observer at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2004

Tournament Report - Part 2

This won't make a lot of sense unless you read part 1 first. Both parts are about equally long.

We arrived at the tournament site about 45 minutes ahead of time on Sunday and sure enough, the crowds were only about 1/2 to 2/3 of the size of Saturday's crowd, which the paper reported to be about 3,000 people registering by lunchtime. One reason I wanted to go early would be so that we'd have a chance to warm up by dueling, so we sat down in line and dueled right there. I dueled C*dy three times in a row and wiped the floor with Mr. Millennium Puzzle winner (who, of course, was still wearing his status-symbol red lanyard from yesterday while Justin and I trudged around in our trashy black lanyards). J*stin, meanwhile, dueled another kid who was near us in line.

The line began moving earlier than we thought, and we got tickets to the 11:15 round (the first round started at 11:00). We walked quickly right to the designated tournament area and found it empty except for a few staffers. They explained that their area started 15 minutes after the other two, so we were glad to be first in line. They let us in early, and since most of the spectator crowd was watching matches in progress elsewhere, the noise level and distraction level was much nicer for me. I felt a lot more comfortable and a lot less rattled than Saturday.

We were all three split up (S*rah didn't attend this day ... she decided she had enough of waiting around with a bunch of smelly boys) to our separate duels. Across from me sat a kid about J*stin's age, long hair, kinda slow by the name of Rob (names of others changed). I later learned from Rob's grandfather that Rob is dyslexic and has some of the same learning disabilities as J*stin. But for now, I was ready to duel Rob, and that grandfather was standing behind us (behind the little wall that closes in the dueling area) and watching.

Rob had some good cards, but he wasn't ready for the kind of deck that I was playing. I beat him in about four turns, and that was the end of the duel. Took maybe five minutes. Meanwhile, *another* nine-year-old kid, call him Squirt, had just won his duel right next to us. It was clear from the judges that they intended to match me up with Squirt in the second round. I couldn't tell from where I was sitting how Justin and C*dy were doing. Pretty quickly, Squirt sat himself across from me and asked for a practice duel.

That actually worked just fine for me, to see what kind of deck he had in the first place so I could think of a strategy. But before we started, Squirt said, "So what kind of deck do you have? Beatdown? Control?" I told him my deck was a mishmash of a bunch of different cards and themes that I thought work well together, and I liked to be ready for lots of different kinds of opponents. He got really cocky, "Yeah? Well my deck is a burn deck, and I'm gonna BURN you [complete with finger pointing]. I always win with it. Really! I never lose!" I just nodded and smiled and decided it wouldn't feel too bad to smoke this kid to make him swallow a spoonful of humility.

So as we're waiting, C*dy walks by, having lost his first round. No big deal, we both agree. He's just here today to duel for fun, so losses don't affect him at all. He tells me he's going to go back into the registration line to get another blue ticket because they aren't doing standby lines on this day. J*stin, meanwhile, appears to have won his first duel, because he's on the far side of the dueling area, waiting for his second duel.

So after a couple of aborted practice games (one because we had to move to different seats and one because the real second round was about to start), we finally began. Squirt had some very powerful, very rare cards, just like the kid who beat me Saturday, and he knew how to use them. But this time, my head was pretty clear, and we both played fast. Bad news for Squirt, because generally the longer the duel goes, the better my deck performs, and we had time to play many rounds, even in just 5-6 minutes.

In the end, I was able to survive his initial onslaught, and then I pounded him down to zero. He took the loss very well considering he was so cocky to begin with. The judge came over and congratulated me, gave me a little pack of cards for a prize (but not a special tournament pack that C*dy was looking for when he won on Saturday, just a normal pack you could buy from a card store) and a ticket to the Millennium Puzzle area where I could battle a Duel Master and try to earn a coveted red lanyard, etc.

I knew the line to get into the final area would be getting longer as more winners accumulated from the various tournament areas, so I got right over there. Pretty quickly, J*stin came over to meet me and told me that he had lost his second round. Once again with the "he cheated" talk. I asked J*stin to explain, and from what I could tell, it sounded like the other kid made a legal play that J*stin just wasn't familiar with (even though I've used the same play on J*stin at home before). Anyway, I had the same kind of talk with J*stin that I had the day before about sportsmanship, why cheating accusations are not appropriate, how tough the competition is, etc., and I was thinking I'd give anything to reverse our positions right now, but it was my name and ID number on the ticket and not J*stin's.

Oh well, J*stin went back to the registration line, and I was allowed in to the Millennium Puzzle area within a few minutes. I sat down across from the Duel Master (all six of them in that area were dressed in black and white, suits, ties, formal clothes). He was extremely friendly, patient and helpful. It also helped my nerves that there was no time limit for this duel. Right as we were starting, C*dy comes up behind me to tell me he has another blue ticket. I turned around and basically begged him to just wait and watch quietly so I didn't have another brain-rattling bunch of interruptions like with Sarah on Saturday.

He did, and as we dueled, J*stin got his blue ticket and came over to watch as well (C*dy, bless him, whispered to him to keep his mouth shut). So the Duel Master had a good deck, of course, with a lot of interesting card effects, but like with Rob and Squirt, his deck just didn't match up well with my kind of deck. I was a little worried of the unknown on the first turn, but with every play he made, his deck turned out to be pretty mundane and ineffective against what I was using. Within about four turns, I had overwhelmed him and WON the duel (woohoo!!), even though he stopped me from using a move I thought was legal with my Giant Orc card (and further reading tells me he was right; I was relying on the card's misleading text, not the official online tournament rulings).

Ahh yes, sweet satisfaction. I immediately resolved to reward myself with a small spending spree at the card store and also not to duel any more that day, both so I wouldn't beat some poor kid again and also because I wanted to end on a winning note. And yeah, I put on my red lanyard and strutted around like I owned the place just like C*dy (who had by now put his red one from yesterday back on so nobody would mistake him for some ordinary mortal). It was a silly kind of day.

C*dy dueled again. He beat Mr. "I never lose" Squirt in the first round, too. I guess they both went back to the registration line at about the same time and got matched up by the judges because of their similar ages. He was just dueling for fun, and he lost in the second round against Rob (the guy I beat in the first round earlier!).

While C*dy was dueling with Rob, I got to know Rob's grandfather. We talked while the two kids were dueling, so that's how I learned a bit about Rob's background. Rob is a really nice kid, and I'm glad he got a chance to get to the final round. I don't think he won there, though. I noticed very few red lanyards walking around, and one guy watching the Duel Masters area figured that the contestants won only about one out of every three matches against the Duel Masters. I figured C*dy and I were pretty lucky that we had matched up well with our assigned Duel Masters.

I took C*dy to lunch in the food court while Justin was waiting in line for his second duel. After lunch, C*dy proceeded to the open trading/gaming area to find someone to duel or trade with, and I went over to talk to J*stin. He was still in line, so I had someone hold his place and called him over to sit him down. First, I explained to him again the importance of good sportsmanship, told him not to be nervous, lots of good players here, etc. Then I said, "Let me see your deck."

I edited out 6-8 of his weakest cards and replaced them with the strongest cards from my deck. All three of us, since Christmas, have very strong, rare cards in our decks, but each of us has different cards. I gave him one of S*rah's powerful cards that she had donated to the cause, too. That really seemed to help his confidence. When he finally got his chance to duel, he won twice in a row with ease (only once using a card I gave him). His poor second round opponent hardly knew how to play (that kid only won because he was matched with someone equally inept in the first round).

And so at last, J*stin would get his chance to go to the Millennium Puzzle round. Thank God. If we had never gotten to that final round, I know he would've been really disappointed with the whole day. The line for the final round was about 30-40 minutes long by this time, so we got ready for a long wait. I told Justin that I was very proud of him and reminded him that even if he didn't win, he did well to get this far.

Obviously, with C*dy and I both wearing our winning red lanyards, I knew J*stin would be crushed if he didn't win (but again, it wouldn't be as bad as if he had never made it this far, so that was some consolation). C*dy would rub it in, too, in his none-too-subtle-9-year-old fashion. I wasn't optimistic. J*stin is pretty good and getting better, but as a duelist, he's still a notch below myself and C*dy. If he had the quick math skills to do some mental addition/subtraction, it would really help his strategy, and he also needs a dose of patience and politeness.

Anyway, while Justin waited, I got him lunch. Oops, no one else in the line had eaten because they had all skipped lunch to duel, and it was about 2:00 by now. Yeah, yeah, get your own, pal. With J*stin taken care of, C*dy and I went up to the little stage area they had for shows, trivia contests and demonstrations, which was about 30 yards away from the Millennium Puzzle area. We had someone take our picture up against the big cartoon Yu-Gi-Oh background, and then we went over to the card store so I could spend some of my reward money that I gave myself!

I bought an individual card for (gack) $15 that I had seen lots of people using during the tournament (and it was a very good card), and I asked about one other card that Squirt had used on me. The guy actually took some time with me (he probably remembered me from yesterday when I spent about 80 bucks on various things, but who knows?) and searched through his stock but couldn't find the card. All I really wanted to do was check the price anyway, so I thanked him and took C*dy over to watch Justin duel.

J*STIN WON!!! Oh, I was absolutely elated. J*stin wiped the floor with his opponent, attacking quickly and ending the duel in just three turns before the Duel Master could get any of his powerful card combinations organized. One of the cards that I had given him had proved to be a key to his victory. Justin was just beaming with a big goofy smile. Like with C*dy, I probably told Justin how proud I was of him four or five times.

Meanwhile, card shop guy had left his station to come over and find me (because we were only 10-15 yards from the card shop). He showed me the card I had asked about earlier, and I pulled out my wallet, "Oh! Great, how much?" He gave it to me and told me no problem, I could have it. !!! Wow! Of course, this guy was probably flushed with thousands in cash from all the kids spending money all weekend, so he didn't care, but hell, it was a card worth about $20!

What a great day. We finished it off by having someone take a picture of all three of us with our red lanyards up on the stage, and then I let Justin do some card shopping as a reward like I did with C*dy. I was happy for the opportunity to give that little card shop some more business. With that accomplished we headed home. Had to run a few errands along the way, and it took some convincing to make Justin and C*dy not walk around in every store wearing their status-symbol red lanyards.

When we got home and unloaded the car, uh oh. C*dy couldn't find his deck. Not in his tin, not in my bag, not in the car, not anywhere. Oh crap. Even though his cards were in card protectors, lots of kids have similar colors. I knew that even if we went back to the mall, we had no hope of recovering his deck unless some honest kid turned the cards in to someone. We did go back, a sulking C*dy with us all the way, and we found some of the people C*dy had talked to or traded with, but no cards. Mall security and tournament staff couldn't help either.

When we got home, I immediately began Operation Rebuild C*dy's Deck. All of us met in the kitchen and laid all of our cards out on the table, and I asked for donations to help rebuild C*dy's deck to the way it was before. Fortunately, C*dy had a few of his best cards in his hands while trading, so he didn't lose those. And about 30 out of his 40 cards were fairly common and easy to replace from our pile (though some of the replacements were a little painful as we now have 2 copies of a given powerful card in our decks instead of 3 copies -- most cards are limited to 3 copies in a deck, but some are limited to 2 or 1).

One of C*dy's lost cards was one he got for Christmas, "Snatch Steal", a copy of which I had acquired by trading on Saturday, so I donated that to the pile, along with another very powerful card. And in the end, the other two kids came together and were very selfless. I think they really sympathized with C*dy, and I'm proud that they donated cards to him without any thought of repayment or anything. C*dy's deck is still missing two rare, powerful and kinda expensive (one is $7, one is $25) cards, but he's going to save up for them and buy them next time he has a chance.

All in all, a very rewarding and fun weekend, even with the bad news at the end (which didn't turn out to be so terrible). It was very exciting to play different opponents, as we were all getting bored dueling each other's decks, which don't change much. On Monday, we scouted out a couple of local comic shops that have gaming areas in the back, and the bigger of the two has tournaments (which S*rah pronounces "tortamits" unless I make her say it slowly) every Saturday at 11am with a $5 entry fee (and decent prizes for the winners). I told the kids we might go to some of those if they want to save up their money to pay the entry fee for themselves. We'll see, it could be something we add to our usual Saturdays out and about.

The end! :)

Posted by Observer at 07:07 AM | Comments (11)

January 20, 2004

Tournament Report - Part 1

The big Yu-Gi-Oh mall tour hit our town over the weekend, and we all had a blast. The kids (9-year-old C*dy, 11-year-old S*rah and 14-year-old J*stin) had been talking about it off and on for a couple of months since I first learned about it online. Then last week, all the kids' channels (like Nickleodeon, Cartoon Network, etc) started running commercials for it. They were pretty excited the night before, but I don't think they had a good idea of how to prepare. When it came time to go, we had to run them around getting their decks organized, cards they wanted to trade, etc.

We got there on Saturday about 15 minutes before the thing started (this mall is about 20 minutes from our house), and the registration line was already about 500 people long. Fortunately, it was only about a 30-minute wait to register due to an efficient and fast-moving crew (which was happily a theme throughout the weekend ... this thing was very smoothly run by a well-trained staff). So we registered and got our official duelist numbers, badges (held around our necks by black lanyards), pack of free stuff, and a blue dueling ticket. The idea is you take your ticket to one of three dueling areas at the time designated on the ticket, and they'll let you in to the dueling area (which is enclosed by a small waist-high wall).

Within the dueling area, you are sort-of randomly matched up (and they were careful not to match up people who knew each other) by one of the many judges, and they give you 15 minutes to complete your duel. If you aren't done within 15 minutes, they award the victory to whichever player has the most life points left (regardless of any other advantages). If you win your first duel, you are matched up against someone else in your dueling area who also won. If you lose your first duel, you're out.

Now you can go back and try to duel again, but in order to do that, you either have to wait in the registration line again to get a new blue ticket (with a time about 2 hours away usually) or you can wait in a standby line at one of the three dueling areas. They take 1-2 people from that line every 15 minutes when they start a new round if they get an odd number of ticket holders due to no-shows. But the wait in the standby line is indefinite, so it can be very frustrating. Unless you have someone (aka "willing parent who isn't also dueling") standing in the registration line to get you blue tickets over and over, you are looking at a minimum of two hours between official dueling opportunities.

Unofficial dueling opportunities were everywhere. All over the mall floor, kids spread out and started dueling each other or trading cards or both. Random kids will walk up to you and without any preamble blurt out, "Do you want to duel?" or "Do you have any cards to trade?" My rule with the kids was: no trading unless you clear it with me (because I have some idea of the rarity and value of the cards, and they generally don't ... I didn't want them taking advantage of another kid or vice versa). They made several trades, only a few without my approval (and one of those was pretty bad for Justin, actually). I even made a trade that I was very happy with, got a rare card called "Snatch Steal", a valuable card ($20ish) I had bought C*dy for Christmas.

So, with blue tickets in hand, we lined up for our first dueling chances. C*dy was first, scheduled 15 minutes before us in another dueling area about 40 yards away from us. He was busy dueling when the three of us were let in. I sat down, and I found myself a bundle of nerves! I don't know why, I guess I just get the equivalent of really bad stage fright in any kind of competitive situation. I had really mixed emotions about dueling, because I really wanted to watch the kids (and I also felt bad about the possibility of knocking out some 9-year-old). I was also out of practice. We hadn't dueled much at all over the past couple of weeks thanks to the poker craze taking over the house (and S*rah hasn't dueled much due to being in trouble for her attitude ... long story).

Across from me sits ... a 9-year-old boy. With his tiny little hands, he shuffles his deck like a pro. I also notice that pretty much every duelist has their cards encased in plastic sleeves (I have some sleeves, but they are for baseball cards, and the Yu-Gi-Oh cards just slide right out when you try to duel with them on), so all four of us (me and the kids) looked like total rubes playing with our "naked" cards. We cut each others' decks, and we're ready to begin.

Bang, bang, bang, this kid across from me (sitting next to his Dad, who is dueling one position away from us) starts wheeling out some very powerful cards that work well together. My first turn is a feeble attempt to set up a defense and get organized while I try to figure out whether to be aggressive or defensive. He blows away my defense and launches a strong attack, but I have several good cards in my hand and am ready to get back at him. So I'm thinking ... hmmm ... and then over my shoulder is S*rah. "Dad," she says, "they are going to make me wait outside because I don't have enough cards in my deck."

Argh. The minimum number of cards that should be in a dueling deck is 40. I assumed S*rah's deck should be fine, but I neglected to take into account that she doesn't take care of her cards well at all. She basically threw together 32 cards that were on her floor, some good, some not, and came ready to duel. So I have to apologize to my opponent, get my tin of cards out and quick as I can, dig through and find some cards for S*rah. I gave her six since that's all she asked for, and got back to my turn.

I didn't do badly, and on my opponent's next turn, he set himself up for another killer attack. Back to me, thinking thinking thinking how to respond, trying to remember how to play, trying to keep in mind what all his cards do (because he's playing a lot of extremely rare cards I've never seen before), and Sarah is back. "I need two more cards, Dad." Argh. I'm totally frazzled now, and I give S*rah two more cards from my tin, again apologizing to this kid across from me.

Before I know it, the judges are saying "Two minutes left!" (remember they have a rule that duels can only last 15 minutes, and if unfinished, the win goes to the current leader in life points). Gah, just about everyone else looks to be done with their rounds of dueling, but here I am, having done zero damage to my opponent while down to about half of my original life point total. But I am ready. I have been hoarding my good cards carefully, and this kid has been too aggressive. He's got a good set on the field, but he's vulnerable if I break through because he's got nothing left in his hand.

And so my turn comes around at last, and I begin my sequence. Kill that, destroy that, summon this, special summon that, change that this way, and all of a sudden, he's wide open to an attack that will leave him almost dead. "Time!" And the duel is over, and I didn't launch my attack. I could have insisted. I could have asked the judge to allow me to finish my turn (especially since I didn't go first), but amidst all the chaos and confusion, my one thought was, "This kid across from me deserves to win." So I didn't say a word. I reached across the table and shook his hand.

The guy behind me watching from the crowd was a friend of the kid's dad. He kinda looked at me, because he could see my hand and what I was setting up for and how I played the duel, and he told the kid, "You are lucky they called time." I said something that probably came out as a stammered congratulations but was intended as, "Well, I might have taken the lead there, but I think it would've been anyone's duel after that. He really blew me away, how quick, how smart and how good he played." I shook hands all around, congratulated the dad, too, and went over to see what was going on with the kids. I was a bit rattled about losing and disappointed that I didn't play better, but I was also very engrossed at what the kids were doing.

Well, as soon as I walk out of the dueling area, C*dy is coming up to me and saying, "I won!" If you win twice in a row in your dueling area, then they give you a pack of cards as a reward and send you on to the "Millenium Puzzle" area. There you line up to duel one of the Official Duel Masters, who are "pros" (if there is such a thing in card gaming) with their own decks. You duel one of the six pros, and if you win, you get a red lanyard to replace your black lanyard. The red proclaims you a millenium puzzle winner, and you get a little necklace with a pyramid shaped trinket just like the puzzle on the TV show, and you get to sign the official Duel Masters book kept in a locked display case.

So I sent C*dy packing to get in line at the Millenium Puzzle area, and I watched Justin and Sarah. These two kids, whom I beat about 80-90% of the time combined on average, both won their first duels (of course) and are still in the tournament area working on their second duels. Sadly, they both lose. J*stin was responding a lot like me, a bundle of nerves. S*rah didn't seem to care much. I was glad they both at least won one duel. Disappointed but realistic (because there are a *lot* of very good duelists here who play in weekend comic-shop tournaments all the time while we never have), we go over to see how C*dy is doing.

I arrive in the middle of his duel, and he is dominating. I am watching a doctor perform open-heart surgery, only it is C*dy clinically dispatching a Duel Master just like he does to me so often. The Duel Master is very good -- he makes no mistakes, but his deck doesn't match up well with C*dy's at all. I think the reason C*dy loses as often as he does to me is because in a way, my deck is tuned to beat his deck. Against a random deck, C*dy is much more powerful, and it shows. C*dy wins, and I am left beaming. I'm so proud of him. He's trying to play it cool, and he can barely contain it. I know he's totally wired, very satisfied (definitely a "cat that ate the canary" grin on his face strutting around with his status-symbol red lanyard and puzzle necklace for the rest of the day), and I tell him how proud I am of him. I may have done that three or four times. It's a blur.

We decided to go have lunch at the food court, and after that, C*dy and J*stin decided to risk the uncertainty of a standby line. S*rah asked, "How come there aren't any little girls here?" I looked around and decided that, yes, it was pretty much 95% male (about about 60% of the participants were under 16). She didn't really enjoy her second duel in that first round earlier. The boy she was playing was rude, and S*rah knew the rules better than he did (which really hurt her opponent's 14-year-old ego, I think), but he managed to win anyway. By the time we were done with lunch, S*rah decided she didn't want to wait for another duel.

I let her go shopping for herself in the little toy store that was right near the dueling area, and I went back and forth between watching her and watching the boys wait in line. The two boys waited for about 90 minutes before finally being let in. S*rah was very patient. It helped that I let her spend a little bit of her money that she had saved up in the toy store, so she had something to play with and look at while she waited. Unfortunately, both boys lost their duels, and J*stin came away insisting that his opponent cheated.

J*stin has that kind of problem, with social graces and all, and he does that to C*dy, too. Any time C*dy makes a move that J*stin doesn't understand immediately, the first words out of J*stin's mouth are, "You cheater!" Well, it is one thing to throw that sort of accusation around at your little brother in your own home, quite another agianst another kid in public with his parent watching.

But I worried for nothing because pretty soon, the other kid was calling J*stin a cheater, too, because J*stin made a math mistake on his calculator when subtracting his own life points after an attack. It looked to me like the kid had a legitimately better deck and game, what little I saw splitting between watching him and C*dy, so I spent about the next 20 minutes calming J*stin down and explaining to him "it's just a game" and "the other boy didn't cheat, he's just like you" and "don't be a poor sport", etc.

Meanwhile, C*dy was a bit disappointed that he didn't win a "tournament pack" for beating the Duel Master at the end. We had all heard you get a special pack of cards you can't get anywhere else for doing that, but apparently, not here. So as a consolation and also to appease my pride-swollen head, I allowed C*dy to spend 20 bucks at the makeshift card store that was set up near the open dueling area. My God, the guy at the card shop was pulling in money at a rate of thousands of dollars per hour, and it was all cash. His prices weren't that bad, either, on some things. If you knew your card values, there were some decent buys there, but it was a raving mob around the display case.

We managed to get through the crowd to buy card protectors for each of us (and they work great and look good, so that was the best buy of the weekend) along with a special pack for C*dy, among other things. He and Justin both spent their savings down to zero very quickly. Sarah was definitely ready to go by this point, and C*dy was, too. Of course, it was easy for C*dy to pass on further dueling since he accomplished all you can on his first try. J*stin was disappointed that he wasn't going to get another chance, and I worried that he was going to spend the next few weeks consumed with thoughts that he got screwed or cheated or whatever out of his chance.

Now understanding the mechanics of the event a little better, I felt comfortable promising the boys that we'd go back on Sunday when it would be less crowded and we could arrive earlier. Leaving early Saturday meant avoiding another 2+ hour wait, and it gave us time to enjoy the park on a nice, sunny day. Justin and I worked off our nervous energy (I was *still* rattled, and I'm still not sure why) throwing a little football around while S*rah and C*dy climbed all over the structures in the park.

We got home, and I settled in to watch four hours of "Lord of the Rings" to get my mind off the tournament for a while. J*stin came out before bedtime and asked if we were doing our nightly duels tonight. I said, "Geez, J*stin, we spent six hours immersed in Yu-Gi-Oh today! Give me some time with your mother!" And so we slept, and I slept better than I thought I would. And then came Sunday ... [to be continued tomorrow]

Posted by Observer at 07:09 AM | Comments (2)

January 19, 2004

Weather is Not Climate! [Smack!]

Al Gore gave a rip-roaring speech about global warming last week, and you can imagine how it was reported in the mainstream press. Well, some of you can. Some of you don't believe that the mainstream press has a conservative bias, so you can't accurately imagine what they said about Gore. So go visit The Howler if you want to see what kind of tripe was being pushed. The most common meme was noting that on the day of Gore's speech, it was extremely cold outside.

Hey! **SMACK!** Weather does not equal climate, you morons! I've discussed global warming at length back here, if you really want to know the whole story. I'll agree not to talk about the heat in the south if you nutballs will shut up about a cold snap in the Northeast. Did you guys set a record for cold weather? Well, guess what, just a couple of weeks ago where I live, we set a record high of 80 degrees! First week of January, and it was 80 freakin' degrees!

But you didn't hear me going on and on about stupid global warming, did you? NooooOOOOOoooo. That's because I deal in SCIENCE, not propaganda and bullshit.

Which brings me once again to my point about conservatives from the Clark discussion. If conservatism is so great and adhered to by all these intellectuals who are surely smart enough to understand that ONE DAY OF LOCAL WEATHER IS NOT INDICATIVE OF LONG TERM GLOBAL CLIMATE TRENDS, who are superior in every way to us stupid bleeding-hearts, why do they feel the need to lie so much about virtually every important issue facing our country?

Posted by Observer at 07:09 AM | Comments (3)

January 18, 2004

Stupid Clark Bashing

The mighty wurlitzer (the right-wing media) is in full-throated roar, trying to say that Wesley Clark flip-flopped on the Iraq war. They're trying to make it look like Clark supporting the Iraq invasion from the beginning and only backed off when it looked like it was going bad (question -- when in the hell did it ever look like it was going good?).

Many bloggers are all over this one, including Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. Basically, it started near the bottom of the conservative media food chain with Matt Drudge, who cherry-picked and used a serious of misleading ellipses, quotes out of order, out of context, etc. to make it seem like Clark testified before Congress in favor of the invasion of Iraq and full support of Bush.

If you actually go back and read the whole transcript, though, you find out that there were two people testifying on that day, Wesley Clark and neo-con hawk Richard Perle. The committee specifically invited one person who was against the war and one person who was for it. In fact, the entirety of Clark's testimony is quite clear that he favored waiting for a very long time, invasion is a last resort, let the UN work some more, wait for more, better evidence of WMD to come in, etc.

Further, after Clark was done testifying and left the chamber, Richard Perle sat down and blasted him, talking about what a shame Clark was so against this wonderful war in Iraq, etc. PERLE IS ONE OF THEM! He's a neo-con war supporter through and through, one of their leaders, and HE IS THE ONE who branded Clark as anti-war! But now conservatives are desperate to smear the guy, so they're acting like Clark flip-flopped on the war.

Conservatives love to talk a big talk about how wonderful and grown-up their philosophy is. How young people are stupid and liberal and old people are more intellectual and conservative, etc. Liberals think with their hearts and conservatives think with their brains, all that nonsense. Well, ok, if conservatism is so great and wonderful, WHY THE FUCK DO THEY HAVE TO LIE ALL THE TIME? And I mean about big, important stuff, not the stupid little stuff every politician lies about. I mean, if the war is and has always been such a great idea, why not take a principled stand in favor of the war and say, look, Clark here is anti-war and we think he's wrong? Now you, the voters, should choose who is right.

That's me, the stupid liberal idealist thinking the nutballs in charge will look inward and find some semblance of integrity, some sense of ethics and morals. You know, something like a conscience.

Posted by Observer at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2004

Photo Op

You have to be careful when Bush does a Photo Op these days, because it almost always means he's about to piss off whomever he is pretending to pander to. In the past, he's done photo ops at hospitals, schools, head start programs, no child left behind programs and so on, and each time, within a week, the administration quietly announces some deep cut or elimination of the program. And they totally get away with it because the so-called-liberal media never gives him a hard time for it.

Well, now he's doing it with Martin Luther King. He visits the grave of MLK and then, the very next day (of course, Friday, the day when all bad news goes to get buried), he appoints an unrepentant segregationist, Charles Pickering, to the federal judiciary. I mean, this guy is a real piece of work, and if you don't believe me, check out his record. He's opposed by basically everyone except the lowest right-wing slugs on the evolutionary food chain. I'm sure my nutball trolls love him ... anything to fuck over those minorities, who are taking over with all their special rights and affirmative action, eh?.

Oh, and guess what else? He's a perjurer! Yes, I know, I know, now that Clinton isn't in office, perjury is officially No Big Deal. I mean, I remember when Clinton lied under oath, and it was the END OF THE FUCKING WORLD. I guess the whole lying under oath thing doesn't matter know. You know, rule of law and all that is a nice dog-and-pony show for the rubes, but when it comes to good ol' boy conservatives, hey, everybody does it! What's the big deal?

This guy's record should be front page, boldface, and his picture needs to be right next to Bush for a while so people can see just what Bush stands for. Will it? Or will some Democrat get slimed by association with some shady character? I'll just wait for the next time it happens. Shouldn't be long. They'll have Howard Dean's picture side by side with some scumbag wife-beater (a link currently working its way up the conservative troll food chain, soon to be in the mainstream media, just like Bush the First did with Willie Horton and Dukakis -- oops, too late, thanks to liberal media bastion ABC for dredging up this smear). Then I'll ask, hmm, why isn't the more direct, relevant and correct association of Bush and Pickering being talked about? But then, you already know the answer: it isn't in the interests of the corporate media to bring down Bush with negativity.

Speaking of associations, Dennis Miller recently made a fool of himself, complaining about how liberals are equating Bush with Hitler. That's because of the MoveOn.org commercial contest (really quite a good bunch of finalists, you should check it out), in which a couple of entries made that Hitler-Bush link (the entries, which were not edited or controlled by MoveOn in any way, were pulled from the contest because many liberals have a sense of decency and good taste). But oh those poor sensitive, quivering-lip conservatives: "Pwease mommy, hide us fwom those mean owe wibewas who use nasty Nazi wangwage and make us cwy." Give me a fucking break.

As Atrios has pointed out, Dennis Miller himself made comparisons between New Gingrinch and the Nazis in the mid-90's! Not to mention that hundreds-per-day rate by conservative trolls of equating liberals of all kinds with Nazis. Don't believe me? Try doing a google search on "Hitlery" or "Feminazi" or just visit a conservative chat board. Go ahead, try it.

Well, maybe conservatives shouldn't try it. They might get their purty little eyes all offended by the horrible language and Nazi references of ... well ... their fellow conservatives.

Posted by Observer at 08:04 AM | Comments (5)

January 16, 2004

Isn't It Ironic?

Normally, Steve Gilliard would be all over this, but since he's out sick for a week, I will summarize this one as best I can. As the eyes of the Moron American begin to glaze over at the sight of Iraq news, we see this important story. It seems that the majority Shiites and their de facto leader, al-Sistani, are demanding nothing less than direct elections. And they want them quickly.

The US is trying to bullshit their way into a puppet government, saying, "Oh, well, we can't have direct elections, but we'll have caucuses and the governing council will choose leaders for a constitutional convention, etc." It is basically a way to let Iraqis feel like they voted but the US will still get to install their pals (i.e. con man Ahmed Chalabi's cronies). Most Iraqis are cynical enough (and they pay a lot closer attention to the news than we Americans seem to) to know when they're being led down the garden path, and al-Sistani is no exception.

He knows that direct elections will put the Shiites into power at last. The US supposedly wants to squelch elections because they fear the Baathists (Saddam's old party) has enough organization left to win back some power, but seriously, no one wants to be associated with the Baathists right now. And with Saddam gone, there's no compelling reason. But the Shiites have reason to go out and run for office and vote. No, the reason the US doesn't want direct elections is that they know the new regime will look a lot like Iran.

And the sad thing is, the whole reason the US has tolerated the presence of Saddam for all these years (despite his oh-so-horrible human rights abuses that we're now all upset about) is that he was pragmatic enough not to go down the fundamentalist road that associates with the likes of terrorists (including Al Qaida, which is why there are NO MEANINGFUL LINKS between Saddam and bin Laden). Hell, even after the war started, Saddam sent out a memo warning his people not to ally themselves with foreign fighters because he doesn't trust terrorists. So we figured that Iraq may be bad, but at least they aren't as bad as, say, Iran or Afghanistan.

But now, if we allow these elections, we'll end up with a government that looks a lot like Iran or what used to be in Afghanistan (and may yet make a comeback if we don't stick it out). Maybe then Bush will understand the meaning of irony because that would be a major setback in the war on terror (and other Muslim countries will most definitely notice). If we don't allow the elections, it may be even worse, because we'll be in the role of the imperial occupiers, and they will be fighting for the cause of self-determination. And make no mistake, they *will* fight.

And the battle, if we choose to fight it, will breed a new generation of terrorists who previously had no real axe to grind with the United States. It looks like a win-win for the likes of bin Laden.

Feeling safer yet?

Posted by Observer at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2004

Foot Soldiers in the SCLM

Where would the so-called-liberal-media (SCLM) be without wonderful foot soldiers like Chris Vlasto, producer for ABC? Read Atrios' history lesson (the linked post and the one below it) for a little perspective on how the media treated Clinton vs how they treat the Boy King today.

And, again, I must ask you to come with me to the land of the fantasy hypothetical. Imagine a CNN reporter saying the following in regards to a Bush speech on the war, tax policy, health care, states' rights, etc:

Does this make Bush a hypocrite? No. It makes him a Republican.

So what's your response here? Ah yes, more evidence of the liberal media, bashing Republicans and our president (during a time of war no less!) every chance they get. You'd stick that in your pocket and, despite any protests I might make that Bush is *really* being a hypocrite and Republicans all are the same way on that issue, you'd blame it all on the liberal media.

Now to the actual quote from CNN's Bill Schneider regarding Howard Dean's stance on Bosnia vs his stance on Iraq:

Does it make him a hypocrite? No. It makes him a Democrat.

With friends like these, what liberal needs enemies?

Posted by Observer at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

Fast and Furious

The lies from Bushco are coming out so fast and furious that I can't even keep up. Other blogs are doing a great job. Cursor, as usual, has a great roundup, from the constantly changing rationale for our brand new pre-emptive strike policy to the jaw-dropping quote from Bush: "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have." Anyone who seriously believes that needs heavy drugs right now.

Then there's yet another national security problem that hasn't ever been addressed. The Bushies are so concerned about O'Neill releasing secret documents (that turn out to be not secret after all and if anything, not related very much to the Iraq war), but where's the investigation over them releasing so many secret notes and documents to Bob Woodward for his book a while back?

And speaking of the whole Iraq thing, Media Horse has a very good summary of that lie. Bush is now saying that Iraq regime change has been the policy since the beginning (verifying the whole O'Neill story, regardless of the document shown on TV), but he's saying they were just continuing the policy of Clinton. Well, Bush also said at the beginning that they were definitely *changing* Clinton's policy in many areas, specifically including Iraq. So one of those statements was a lie, just from a standpoint of pure logic. And it is also becoming clear that Bush's regime change plans were a lot more aggressive and detailed than Clinton's, as Atrios points out.

We liberals knew that, of course, but it is nice to see corroboration from multiple independent sources. I wonder who cares, though? Surely none of the nutball conservatives who see no wrong. And the mainstream media will drop this story like a hot potato as soon as Howard Dean changes into some new outfit so they can treat him like Al Gore some more. Bob Somerby is all over this in his usual incomparable fashion, and as the election draws near, he becomes more and more of a must-read every day.

It's really frightening to see the Howler and Paul Krugman just days ago predicting that the pundits would start obsessing over clothes soon, and right on cue, Maureen Dowd and a few other people started mentioning Clark's and Dean's clothes in their columns and news stories! No issues here, just clothes! It is astonishing what passes for intelligent discourse among our mainstream media, truly.

Atrios also has an educational comparison between the media's treatment of Bush's wife vs Dean's wife. Both are trying to be the anti-Hillary to avoid a huge backlash, and Bush is getting all kinds of warm fuzzies for it while Dean is being accused of putting up some kind of facade to placate the public and the media. Thanks, liberal media!

On an unrelated note, Art Silber always has plenty of new stuff up worth a read, and this essay on Dick Cheney's gay marriage stand in the context of his lesbian daughter is a great study of personal and political ethics. It's hard to know which is worse, the fact that so many Americans are consumed by hate and fear of homosexuals so as to press for these stupid policies or that politicans are spineless enough to cater to them instead of standing up for what they know is right. Yes, I understand that politicians are supposed to represent and advance the interests of their constituents, but there's a little thing called leadership, a quality very sorely lacking in this administration because it requires courage and integrity, and politicians are supposed to exercise it sometimes to get good things done in the face of irrational opposition.

Finally, I noticed this excellent story in the NY Times magazine over the weekend, and Silber points to it as well. It is a lengthy exploration of one commander's efforts to combat the insurgency in Iraq. The reporting here, the storytelling, is really good. Compare an important, substantive, educational story like this one to the stories cropping up from pundits about Wesley Clark's sweaters or just about anything on Faux News, and you'll see just how far the mainstream media has to go in order to reach some semblance of journalistic usefulness. The NY Times, despite its many flaws, remains one of the few outlets regularly publishing this kind of thing.

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

January 13, 2004

Priorities

Boy, isn't it funny how quick the Bush administration was jumping all over Paul O'Neill for supposedly revealing secrets. Now they're starting a big investigation and everything. You can sure tell they're eager to get to the bottom of this potentially devastating hole in our national security. How's that whole Valerie Plame thing going, anyway, Mr. President? You still trying to get to the bottom of that, or are you more like OJ, looking for the real killer out on the golf course?

If you haven't been following the story, former treasury secretary (and, by the way, member of the National Security Council, so he was in a position to know things) Paul O'Neill is coming out now and saying Bush wanted to invade Iraq from day one. To most of us, this isn't news. We knew all along the Iraq invasion made absolutely ZERO sense in the context of the war on terror, that it was based on trumped-up bullshit.

No, what's news is that the media is using this as an excuse to somehow "discover" what was obvious all along: that the invasion of Iraq was motivated by who knows what, but it certainly didn't have anything to do with terrorism. Revenge? Surely they aren't that childish. Oil? Seems too simplistic, but the controversial "secret" document O'Neill supposedly revealed is a map divvying up Iraq's oil fields, and this was from the time of Cheney's infamously secretive energy policy task force. You know, the task force that purported to decide policy for a huge chunk of our economy but kept all deliberations totally secret including the members of the task force. When Hillary did this with health care, it was the end of the fucking world (and of course, she caved pretty quickly and told all), but what else do you expect from hypocritcal conservatives?

Anyway, aside from revenge or oil, the list of reasons that they may have thought were legitimate runs thin quickly. And don't get me started on the whole humanitarian thing. That's just total bs, and it is most definitely *not* the argument they were advancing to justify this before the war. They're only using it now to cover their backsides, and even then, it is ridiculous because we support so many other regimes with far worse human rights violations and so forth (and anyone who thinks we won't continue doing so indefinitely needs to read some history).

Posted by Observer at 07:00 AM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #16

Here's the next one on the delusional list conservatives repeat to themselves before bedtime so that they can avoid reality before Rush gets out of his next rehab (or, if there is any justice is this country, prison term):

Liberals believe Hillary Clinton is honest, trustworthy, and didn't have a clue that Bubba was cheating on her.

Here's a tip for you conservatives out there: All politicians lie, and we liberals are all too well aware of it.

Sometimes they lie about stupid little stuff, like marital affairs that really aren't anyone else's business anyway. Sometimes they lie about moderately important stuff (visiting a "Head Start" program to tout it, then cutting the funding, that sort of thing), but you can swallow it because you believe in the bigger picture. Sometimes, though, the lies are huge. Those are the lies that are used as pretext for war ("Gulf of Tonkin" incident, Iraq WMD claims along with shifting justifications for war) or lies about matters of national security (like the fiction that Bush is doing all he can to find the Valerie Plame leaker).

Face it, conservatives: you've got a liar for a president, and he lies about the big, important stuff. All the time. The proof is plain as day (and I've been laying it out there for nearly a year now, not to mention the many other bloggers doing it more often and more thoroughly), and it will continue to be so even though you may hold your hands over your ears and scream "Clinton!" over and over. The sooner you wake up and smell this simple truth, the sooner you will be capable of making a positive contribution to the political discourse of the greatest nation on the Earth.

When Clinton lied, no one died.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 AM | Comments (3)

January 11, 2004

Holiday's End

Today is the last day of my three-week University holiday. Have I mentioned before that I love my work schedule? Ah well, it was a very busy time. I totally slacked off on Friday and did nothing except watch the baby all day. It was great, and it was actually the first day like that for the whole holiday. With Christmas shopping, company, kids home from school, errands to run, etc., there was something to do pretty much every day. But it is a good kind of busy.

Yesterday, I finally got around to taking down the Christmas lights around the house. We have quite a few, I think 25 different strands in all. Michelle tells me that a lot of people leave the lights up year round in Canada but just don't turn them on until the holiday season. Ugh, tacky. Of course, if it were 10 below zero in January like it is now across places like Nova Scotia, I think I could see the point of letting the lights stay put for a while.

The kids are starting to get excited about the big Yu-Gi-Oh show coming to town next weekend at a nearby mall. Apparently, they visit about one mall per month, and this will be their only stop near us. The show goes all day Saturday (starting at 10am) and all day Sunday, and it will probably be a madhouse. I don't know how anyone will get any normal shopping done during that weekend in the mall with a zillion Yu-Gi-Oh freaks crowding the concourse.

I found out a little bit about how the whole thing works. They have little shows, seminars, games and such, but the big point is the dueling. They have an open dueling area, but then they have a sort-of tournament. Everyone who wants to participate stands in a gigantic line, and they let people into the tournament area four at a time (I don't know how they pick the four, whether it is just the next four in line or what).

That group of four has a little mini-tournament, and the winner (who wins two mathces in a row) of the group goes on to play one of the official tournament duel-masters. If the entrant wins against the duel-master, then he or she wins a little tournament pack of cards (which can contain some rare cards you can't get any other way) and a little medallion. I don't know if there are any other rewards, like a chance to go to a national tournament, but I don't think so.

My worry about the whole day will be keeping track of all three kids without them running off, talking to strangers, having their cards stolen, etc. I have a feeling it will be like herding cats through a Rottweiler breeding farm.

Posted by Observer at 08:58 AM | Comments (4)

January 10, 2004

Fun With Bias

Atrios and his commenters have been on fire lately, with lots of good stories. Just yesterday, there were some good transcripts from both NBC Nightly News and Paula Zahn's CNN show in which Howard Dean is slimed pretty thoroughly.

The CNN sliming (and transcript) is the more interesting of the two. Basically, what Dean said a few weeks ago on the campaign trail was:

The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far – which is nothing more than a theory, it can’t be proved – is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not.

What so-called-liberal-media outlets like CNN are doing is distorting the quotes, just like they did with Al Gore. They're saying Dean needs to apologize for promoting conspiracy theories about 9/11, encouraging people to believe that the president knew before-hand about the attacks. Of course, the only way to make it sounds like Dean is actually encouraging conspiracy theories is to quote only the first sentence of what he said. So that's exactly what they do. And when they're challenged on it? Well, go read the transcript. They act like it is the challenger who has a problem. Being shrill or something, no doubt.

I mean, it's actually beside the point that there is real evidence to that effect (e.g. Ashcroft started taking charter flights only instead of commercial flights after he got briefed on the danger, various FBI reports that are now public and were clearly brought to the president's attention early on, etc). The thing is, Dean is trying to *discourage* conspiracy theories, pointing out that the main motivator for them is the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy. They won't come clean with the 9/11 commission and release all the details.

Maybe Dean is being a little tricky pointing this out, but you know what? Bush has it coming. That's the price you pay for all the secrecy. When you put the workings of the government into a black box, you can't get mad when people ask what's inside (same with Cheney's energy policy committee). That's exactly why Republicans had a cow with Hillary's health care plan, supposedly hatched in secret (but bear in mind, she acknowledged everyone she consulted with, unlike Cheney, and in the middle of the process, she released all the transcripts and so forth, but too late because the criticism was too much by then and Republicans weren't going to let it die since it was a good campaign issue).

Posted by Observer at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2004

Nelson Laugh ("HA ha!")

Thanks to CalPundit for the link. Here's a fun Simpson's quiz. I got 10 out of 10, baby! Test yourself ... if you dare! Muhahahahaha.

Posted by Observer at 09:21 PM | Comments (1)

Highlights

Over at Wampum, they're running the Koufax awards for various blogs. Best blog, best post, best series, best theme, etc. Makes for lots of very good reading, especially the nominations for best post of the year. Among my favorites:

Why does the Republican party support late-term abortions?. Yes, you read that right. Read the details about how Republicans have shamelessly manipulated abortion politics at the expense of the unborn children they say they care so much about.

Open Source Politics has a very thorough summary of the problems many ordinary centrist Americans have with Bush and why he pisses so many of us off.

South Knox Bubba has a funny-because-its-true post summarizing the GOP Bizarro World of politics. From Clear Skies to Smaller Government to "Mission Accomplished", it's quite a list of reality-challenged conservatism.

Whiskey Bar's Billmon has a good post summarizing some of the best WMD-related quotes from the past year.

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

January 08, 2004

Think What You're Told!

Art Silber at "The Light of Reason" has a good (lengthy) post recently about "Moral Bullies". It goes back to the whole capture of Saddam Hussein and how, if you didn't express full, complete and unqualified support for Bush and the war on that day, then you were basically on the side of the terrorists. If you were rash enough to state the obvious, that the capture of Saddam Hussein doesn't make us any safer, then you might as well be flying a plane into a building.

After all, that's the way the mainstream media is treating Howard Dean for saying the same thing, even though 60% of people polled recently thought Saddam's capture didn't improve anything in terms of our safety over here. They're acting like Dean is beyond the pale and hates America, but he's telling a truth that needs to be heard, and he has been right on the war from the very beginning.

Of course, Dean has been endorsed by Bill Bradley, who was the media's darling in the 2000 primary (when the media first decided they really hated Gore and started going nuts tearing him down). I wonder if we'll hear about how Bradley is trying to abuse the system or how Bradley didn't give Joe Lieberman a phone call beforehand or whatever. I greatly dread what the media is going to do to Dean, and I hope his defenses are up to the task.

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

January 07, 2004

Boys Playing Poker

So it seems that the two boys, 14-year-old Justin and 9-year-old Cody, want to learn how to play No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. This is the poker game I described back here that is *the* popular game now among poker players. Basically, everyone is dealt two cards face down. There is a round of betting. Then there's "the flop", in which three cards are dealt face up in the center of the table, community cards for everyone. Then betting, the a 4th card, then betting, then a 5th card.

The goal is to take your two cards and the five community cards to make your best five-card poker hand. Lots of strategy involved, and most hands are decided even before the flop takes place, at least among the professionals. Among amateurs, virtually every hand enough people have enough stupid hope to keep it alive so they can see the flop. Then once you've seen the flop, even though your hand totally sucks, you figure you've already invested so much in the hand you might as well keep going and see if you can draw two more clubs to a flush or whatever.

Anyway, so first I had to teach them how to rank poker hands. We did a 5-10 minute tutorial, and I wrote out a list for them, "high card, one pair, two pair, three-of-a-kind, etc." and explained how to break ties between similar hands, etc. After three nights of poker, about an hour per session, they're still having some trouble with the concept of ranking hands, not to mention how and when to bet. To keep it simple, we're just playing with antes, not small and big blinds, etc. Here are some typical hands so far...

Hand #1:

Me: Ok, the bet is to me, and I'll bet 50 cents. Cody?

Cody: I check.

Me: (shaking my head) Uh, you can't do that...

Hand #2:

Me: Cody, you open the betting this round. I've already folded.

Cody: I bet one dollar.

Justin: (throws one dollar plus a nickel into the pot)

Me: (withering glare at Justin). It seems that Justin has called your dollar and raised you all of five cents, Cody.

Cody: Ok, I call.

Justin: (starts to throw another nickel into the pot)

Me: Don't even think about it, Justin.

Hand #3:

Me: Cody, your bet.

Cody: I bet ... (counting white, red and blue chips) ... (still counting) ... (STILL counting) ... sixty-five cents.

Justin: (already holding four blue chips, worth one dollar total, in his hand before Cody has even bet) I call!

Me: No, Justin, you raised. Cody, it's thirty-five cents to you to keep playing. *sigh*.

Hand #4:

Me: I bet fifty cents.

Cody: I raise you and bet a dollar.

Justin: (throws eight red chips into the pot quickly, each worth ten cents) I call.

Me: (waiting)

Justin: What?

Me: You only threw in eighty cents, Justin. The bet was one dollar.

Justin: Oh (throwing in two more reds), well, I wasn't finished betting!

Hand #5:

Me: Ok, Justin, you open the betting.

Justin: I fold.

Me: Uh, well, uh ... ok, then!

We get a lot of crazy hands. I'm trying to teach them to be judicious, but the luck of the draw sometimes lets them win some big pots. And the boys will go "all in" at the drop of a hat, even if they're holding a 6-2 off-suit (then they spike three sixes so any lesson I might have is wasted). It's not their money, of course. I stake everyone four dollars (10 nickel white chips, 10 dime red chiops and 10 quarter blue chips), and we go until there is one winner with all the chips.

We started playing with coins since I didn't own any poker chips, but I don't trust sticky-fingers Cody with a pile of quarters in front of him. Plus it is hard for the boys to count coins, tell easily between nickels and quarters, etc. So after much searching around town yesterday, I found a neat billiards store that sold poker chips. I thought I would get some of those nice clay chips like they use in casinos, but crap, they're expensive! We're talking 50 cents and up per chip. They feel so nice, though.

In the end, I got a set of 300 plastic poker chips (included in the set are yellow and green chips ... ugh) including a round chip holder for just $35. It is almost exactly like the one my dad always had when I was a kid. Now I know what to ask for on my birthday (5+ months away, but hey, I am hard to shop for, so I have to grab ideas when I can): some nice cards and some nice poker chips! My brother says he's going to try to get me into a 10-person hold 'em game that is held every once in a while with about a $10-$20 buy-in.

I doubt I'm ready for that, not so much because I'm a bad poker player but because I'm a homebody. The idea of a night out playing poker is amazingly unappealing, but curiosity might get me to try it once.

Posted by Observer at 07:47 AM | Comments (7)

January 06, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #15

Here's the next one on the list from your favorite right-wing idiots:

Standardized tests aren't racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are.

Ah yes, standardized tests. This whole piece of nonsense comes from "The Bell Curve", a thoroughly execrable piece of work that purports to prove that minorities (particularly African-Americans) are genetically inferior in terms of intellectual capacity. The place to go for the real information is a great compilation of essays by Jacoby and Glaubermann called "The Bell Curve Debate" (though Stephen Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" is also quite good).

One of the most memorable highlights was a brief analysis of the IQ tests referenced by the original authors of the Bell Curve, a couple of wingnuts (funded by the whole right-wing think tank network) named Murray and Herrnstein. Most of their key references are from white supremacist literature, which is a bit lacking in scientific methodology to put it politely. Aside from various basic mathematical and logical errors, one IQ test that was offered to Africans was in English (which none of them spoke). Included in the test was a picture of people playing tennis, but the net was missing, and as a measure of their intelligence, the Africans were asked what was missing from the picture.

It's just anecdotal, I know, but that kind of nonsense is all over the place among the research in the original "Bell Curve" book. Gould also has some very good essays in both books about the nature of intelligence (and varieties of intellectual capabilities that can and should be measured if you want to get down to the nuts and bolts of it). The "Debate" book contains some really good debunking essays along with references to what little actual work has been done that has some respectable scientific status.

As is usual with this sort of work, it becomes clear that the authors are very clever. They knew that the work they were presenting didn't pass muster, and so one is left to wonder what their true motivations actually were, because it certainly wasn't related to science. Racism is likely too simplistic a motivation, but the stink of it is pervasive.

What about racial quotas and set-asides? Well, that's a complex topic, but Chris Rock (a comedian) has a very good take on it all. He says he hears all the white people complaining about how blacks get this benefit or get into that college or get this contract or whatever because they're black. Well, tough shit, he says. He points out that even with his money and his fame, just how many white people would willingly trade places with him? If all these whites think blacks have it so great, how many of them would trade places with a black man, even a successful one? Precious few, and that's pretty much all you need to know about the significance of the mythical "quotas" and so on.

I really don't care about quotas, affirmative action, legacy admissions (racism that favors whites getting into college), etc. It's just not an issue that's big on my list, but I guarantee you that I'm paying attention when someone brings it up. Republicans love to bring up that along with gay rights to get their hate-filled base crawling out of the woodwork (just watch it happen again this year). Anyone who thinks the Republican party doesn't pander to the racist vote has their head in the sand (or is likely a member of the mainstream media ... same thing).

Posted by Observer at 07:08 AM | Comments (4)

January 05, 2004

Anniversary

Michelle and I have many anniversaries in our very eventful time together (around two and a half years now), but today is one of the big ones: our second wedding anniversary. I spent the first 33 years of my life looking for two things: true love and a true best friend. I've had many friends come and go, and I've had many long-lasting and rewarding friendships/relationships, but I never kidded myself that I had found that special bond with anyone. And I've had a few "loves" come and go, but in my heart of hearts, there was always a shadow there, a feeling that I was missing out on something truly wonderful.

When I met Michelle (a complex story that will always be ours alone), it took a matter of days to know that my search was over. It took a matter of weeks for us to remove the substantial obstacles that existed to our being together, and that includes planes flying into buildings, an obstacle that we quite literally drove around. In a matter of months, we were married, and in the time since, we've grown more deeply in love and had a wonderful baby boy together.

How can we celebrate something so small and so big as an anniversary when every day feels like a celebration of our lives together? Who cares? We're together, and nothing could possibly make me happier.

Posted by Observer at 02:45 PM | Comments (3)

Right Shoe, Left Foot

Thanks to Atrios for the pointer. Suppose an article from the Associated Press were to read:

For a brief time during his speech on Sunday, President Bush seemed to be hewing to a New Year's resolution to stick more carefully to the facts on taxes, the budget and more. But old habits die hard.

Now, hold on a minute, you might say. Look at that biased writer, implying that President Bush is a liar in the first paragraph of a newspaper article! It's supposed to be a *news* story, for crying out loud, and there is the stupid liberal reporter, editorializing in the lead paragraph. You could stick that in your pocket and say, see there, more proof that your mainstream media is liberally biased.

Seriously, stop and think for a moment. What would your first reaction be to that statement? And what if I tried to defend it by saying, hey, look, Bush really does lie, so it's not bias. Just play out the argument in your head. Really. Take a moment.

All done?

Now here is the actual first sentence from the news story:

For a brief time in their debate Sunday, Democrats seemed to be hewing to a New Year's resolution to stick more carefully to the facts on taxes, the budget and more. But old habits die hard.

It's a fun mental exercise, isn't it? And it's so easy these days thanks to your so-called liberal media! What a fun election year this will be, eh?

Posted by Observer at 09:34 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2004

Cowboys Rising

It makes sense, in a way, for the horrible years to be sandwiched by playoff losses in the first round to the Carolina Panthers. We lost in the first round to Carolina in '97, and then had five miserable seasons under Chan "Ho" Gailey and Dave "5-11" Campo, then lost in the first round to Carolina in '03. Next season is going to be damn fun to watch, because there is no question that this team is going to get better.

They may still only win 10 or 11 games in the regular season, because that usually depends on the luck of the draw, how good your opponents happen to be in a given year, the bounce of the ball, small number statistics, etc. But they will be better, and they will be competitive in the playoffs, one of those dark horse teams no one else wants to play.

The Football Genius (Bill Parcells) has now had a season to see what he wants to keep and what he wants to chuck. Quincy is serviceable and cheap, and if he improves even a little, he'll be in the top half of QB's, and that's all you need in a ball-control offense to go very, very far nowadays. Most importantly, we need *both* a good pass rusher to replace Ekuban and a good runner to replace Hambrick. We may not get both, but I think Parcells will find solutions there because the owner (Jerry Jones) will bust a gut to make it work, even if means a bad salary cap situation down the road.

Other than that, just spare parts. A better-than-average corner or a name change for poor Mario Edwards would be nice. That poor guy isn't bad, but in the last half of the season, if a deep ball came his way, he got flagged no matter what, it seemed. He has a dark cloud around him, and he'll do very well somewhere else, maybe in the AFC with different refs who don't know his rep. A new punter is easy to find, because our guy is the worst in the league (maybe injury-related, but it lingered all season).

I also think we're out from under the albatross of Joey Galloway's contract, at last. He was the anti-Herschel Walker. We traded away two first rounders for a guy who was injured for a whole year and ever since, he hasn't met a sideline he didn't like. Joey got tackled by the sideline about 9 times for every one time he was tackled in the field of play. That's assuming he ran a decent route and bothered to get open. He hardly bothered to block downfield when needed, either. Goodbye, have a nice life, and let's get someone useful in here to join up-and-coming Antonio Bryant.

Other than that, we just need seasoning, and these guys are going to be a great team for several years, especially if someone decent takes over after Football Genius inevitably walks after the 3rd or 4th year (we'd be lucky to keep him for four years). The off-season is going to be fun as we acquire pieces to the puzzle. We've got a decent offensive line, a defense that could be one of the great ones if it had a good pass rush, a decent QB, a couple of good tight ends (after many years of busts), etc.

Most of the losses this season came in games where we needed breaks and didn't get them (we got absolutely zero breaks in the Carolina game last night, and several went against us, including some horrible calls). Next season, we won't need so many breaks to beat good teams. Look out for them Cowboys!

Contrast this hope with the Rangers, who continue to suck despite bringing on an ostensible Baseball Genius in Buck Showalter. That's going to take another depressing few years (about the length of Chan Ho Park's remaining contract) to clean up, I fear, especially now that ultra-conservative asshole owner Tom Hicks has decided he doesn't want to spend like Steinbrenner after all, despite the taxpayer-built stadium (surprise!).

Posted by Observer at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2004

An Obvious Step

Time magazine now reports that the FBI is asking White House officials to sign one-page agreements that release reporters from confidentiality agreements regarding the blown cover of Valerie Plame. As many of us said long ago, this is something that the President of the United States could have done himself had he truly been interested in getting to the bottom of this national security scandal.

He didn't. He hoped to brazen out the scandal and let it die in the back pages of the compliant media just like every single other problem with this administration (while the Whitewater non-scandal took up the front page of the "liberal" NY Times dozens of times over many years during the Clinton years). Fortunately, some career law enforcement types and others (including a source in the White House) had enough of a patriotic spine that they refused to let this die.

Someone may finally pay for this, and the fact that has taken this long should be a profound embarrassment for Bush and any patriotic conservative who claims to support him. The fact that most conservative Bush supporters don't consider it an embarrassment simply reflects a total lack of shame and perspective on their end.

Posted by Observer at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #14

Here's another one from the list of myths held by stupid conservatives:

Liberals believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, General Robert E. Lee or Thomas Edison.

I'm not really sure how to refute this. Speaking personally, I guess I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I don't know who Margaret Sanger is. I suppose I could look it up, sure, but off the top of my head, I've no idea. I know Steinem was pretty big in the feminist movement in the 70's, but that's about all I could tell you now.

About the only feminist author I've ever read was Naomi Wolf's "The Beauty Myth", which I thought was very interesting. I mean, it's hard to really discuss or even empathize with the feminist movement unless you have the facts and figures in front of you to see what women are so pissed off about. There are several books, I'm sure, that lay it all out, and Wolf seemed to do a fine job of it. I presume Steinem was one of the first of this era to do that in book form.

So from my liberal perspective, I'll take Jefferson first, then Edison (I am a scientist, after all), then Lee. And I'd take a whole lot of other people in front of Lee. But this isn't a myth about me personally. It's about all liberals. So where does it say on my vast liberal conspiracy club card that I can find this list that ranks people in order by historical significance? Who really believes this nonsense?

Probably a few academics have ventured such a hypothesis, which probably makes sense in a certain context (like if you think everything depends on women's rights), a scenario played out in an academic journal or book. But if you believe that "liberals" buy into it because of a few weird cases which supposedly represent the mainstream of liberal thought, well, you know where that road leads. And lately, there's a lot more wackiness that passes for conservative philosophy among actual elected politicians than among liberals.

Posted by Observer at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2004

Resolved

Tom Tomorrow has a funny cartoon recently about keeping terrorism in its proper perspective:

Stupid Conservative: General Tommy Franks says that if there's another major terrorist attack, it may well cause Americans to question the constitution and begin to "militarize our country" -- and I think he's probably right!

Tom: Hold on there, Cowboy. You think this is the worst crisis this country has ever been through? What about the Civil War? Two World Wars? And the Cold War -- remember that one? Korea, Vietnam, constant threat of nuclear annihilation?

Our constitution faced serious challenges each step of the war -- from Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus to the Japanese internment camps to the cointel program -- but it survived pretty much intact.

But now, because of nineteen psychopaths with boxcutters -- and the fear of what their friends might do -- you're ready to scrap our system of government entirely, to trade in Democracy from a military government -- all on the off chance that it'll keep you a little bit safer?

Stupid Conservative: Actually, I'm just hoping to see you and your liberal buddies behind razor wire.

Tom: Yeah, I figured as much.

I will argue with his assertion about the worst crisis this country has ever been through. We don't know yet how bad the crisis is or how much worse our response will make it. But I think it speaks some truth to the inner fascist in so many conservatives. You know the ones I mean ... the stupid ones, the jackasses who bray threats, the trolls.

My New Year's resolution is to take absolutely zero shit from the fuckbrained conservative trolls of the world. The bottom line is that they are most definitely *not* part of the solution to what ails this country. They are part of the problem, and humoring them by adhering to the rules of a rational debate (when they clearly have no intention of doing likewise) is just a waste of time.

Maybe people are going to say "a pox on both your houses" for such an attitude, and that's fine. People who are not ready to accept that there is a fundamental difference between lying and calling someone a liar and proving it are not ready for a rational debate anyway. People who are ready to believe that "Bush-hatred" (which is, anyway, definitely a far smaller fraction of liberals than "Clinton-hatred" among conservatives back in the day) somehow neutralizes the policy-based (not personality-based) liberal point-of-view aren't ready either.

Then there are the people who think Bush's policies post-9/11 have made America safer, have weakened the terrorists. Sorry. Prove it. George Soros makes the case to the contrary at length, and the circumstantial evidence certainly seems to indicate otherwise (this excerpt from Uggabugga and thanks to The Sideshow for the pointers):

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: al Qaeda is not a state power. In fact, taking the adminstration at its word, the most recent alert was triggered by the concern that al Qaeda would hijack an airliner (or two). What more proof do you need that these guys don't have any weaponry? Sure, they are a menace with truck bombs, but the Bush adminstation has been treating al Qaeda as if they had submarines and jet fighters and laser guided bombs. They don't. The core is about 2,000 guys, mostly in Afghanistan. They were not captured when there was the opportunity (immediately after September 11), and now, two years later, it will be much harder to get them - partly because of the Iraq invastion, partly because the global (and expecially Islamic) community is less likely to go along.

And then you have the people who believe there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media. Heh, don't get me started. Anyway, Happy New Year to all.

Posted by Observer at 08:12 AM | Comments (3)