February 28, 2006

Supporting the Troops

One of the arguments I used to hear about the war is that it must be a good idea because the troops enthusiastically support it. The administration tries on occasion to back up this myth by holding staged press conferences with troops in the field. If only the "liberal media" would report on all the good news that our soldiers see over there, why, we'd see that we're winning now more than ever! As evidence, I often hear about the incredibly high rate of re-upping, where soldiers who have just come back from Iraq really feel compelled to return.

But do they return out of a sense of loyalty to the cause? Out of loyalty and support for Bush? No. They usually return because they don't want to leave their buddies behind. They feel like they have to help all of the other people over there still in this mess. A recent poll shows accurately just how little support this war has among our troops.

And so now, how best to support them? What say we honor their wishes and bring them home? Then let's pay through the fucking nose for credible internationally-based organizations to go in there with real humanitarian aid. Maybe soon, without the American soldier burr under their collective saddle, the Iraqis will calm down and we can get some real reconstruction going instead of paying Halliburton to figure out new ways to defraud the government. The sooner we bring our soldiers home to be with their families, the sooner we can begin the long task of rebuilding our military, especially the National Guard. Oh, do some of those returning soldiers need jobs? Hey, there's a big future in port security if Republicans care enough to fund it.

Posted by Observer at 11:28 AM | Comments (7)

Wingnut Surprise

Today, all over the right-wing blogosphere, patriotic Americans are coming out and saying they were wrong about this Iraq war and wrong to blindly support Bush all this time amidst so many clear signals of corruption and incompetence. They're saying that the war in Iraq has been a tragedy, and they are accepting their part of the responsibility for promoting it while at the same time questioning the patriotism of those of us who thought the war was a mistake from the beginning. They are offering heartfelt, wrenching apologies to our troops and promising to make whatever personal sacrifices will be necessary to make it right.

Ha! Had you going! Here's what's really going on:

As pretty much everyone (including the Father of Modern Conservatism himself) now recognizes, the pet neoconservative project of invading and bombing Iraq in order to transform it into a pro-U.S. beacon of peace, stability and freedom is a wholesale disaster, an abject failure on virtually every level. The cost of our little adventure is incalculable and will be with us for a generation, at least – the destruction of American credibility; the indescribable weakening of our military which leaves us vulnerable to real threats and enemies; and the staggering cost in both money and lives. And in return for these incomparable harms, we have installed pro-Iranian Shiite theocrats in one of the Middle East’s most strategically important countries and have brought that region to the brink of full-scale sectarian war. A more destructive and complete disaster is hard to imagine.

For the last couple of years, the tactic of war proponents was to simply deny reality and pretend that the disaster in Iraq was just fiction, nothing more than the invention of an American-hating media. That little tactic isn’t working any longer. All but the hardest-core Bush loyalists have abandoned this war long ago. And anyone with eyes can see that our Iraqi project is a disaster – at best, it will achieve nothing in exchange for the incalculable costs our country has endured and will have to pay for a long time to come. At worst, it will ensure the opposite of our goals.

Finally forced to accept the reality of their failure, war proponents have only two choices left: (a) admit their error and accept personal responsibility for their horrendous lack of judgment and foresight, or (b) blame others for their failure while insisting, in the face of a tidal wave of evidence, that they were right all along. Guess which option these Shining Beacons of Personal Responsibility are embracing?

Ooo! Ooo! I wanna guess! Ummmm... are they being cowardly dumbasses?

For the entire war, the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. On virtually every matter relating to the war, the Congress deferred to the Bush Administration and “interfered” with nothing the Commander-in-Chief wanted. Bush followers have controlled every aspect of this war from start to finish. If they were looking for someone to blame for its failure, one would think they would look to those who controlled the war top to bottom, back and front. One would be wrong.

Woo! I got it right! I get a lollipop!

The finger-pointing began this weekend when Bill Kristol, unquestionably one of the most influential war proponents most responsible for our invasion, essentially acknowledged that his Iraqi project was failing by blaming the military for failing to fight the war hard enough. Just like the slightly modified Leninists that they are, neoconservatives are blaming the faulty and insufficiently loyal implementation of their theories for this failure while insisting that their theories remain pure and good (“Communism didn’t fail because it’s a wrong theory, but because it was poorly implemented by Stalin”).

In fairness to Kristol, he has been blaming Rumsfeld and the military for a couple of years now for the failure of the war. But that’s only because Kristol has long recognized that the war was failing, and got an early jump on his campaign to ensure that he is not stuck with the blame. The consequences which will be unleashed by a failed war effort in Iraq are astronomical. This war failure is killing George Bush’s presidency, and someone is going to be saddled with an extreme amount of blame and guilt over what has occurred.

What we see now are the rats on the sinking ship scrambling around desperately to point fingers in order to ensure that the blame and the consequences are heaped on someone – anyone – other than them. For Bill Kristol to go on national television and blame the Bush Administration and our country’s military for the failure of his war is an act that is as despicable as it is revealing of the true magnitude of the desperation of the war proponents.

And then we have those self-defenders who will sink a level lower than even the level to which Kristol descended by seeking to blame war opponents for the war’s failure. At least Kristol had the intellectual honesty and decency to try to shove the blame onto those who actually influenced the prosecution of the war (the Defense Department and the military). These "blame-the-war-opponent" types are actually trying to blame their own failures on people who control nothing and influenced nothing.

Yes, you thought that the failure of the war in Iraq was the fault of the Bush administration and the Republican party who have controlled every aspect of this failed war from misleading start to tragic finish. But no, in fact, they share none of the blame. The failure of the war can be laid entirely at the feet of those of us who questioned it in the first place. Those of us whose patriotism has been routinely questioned, those of us who have no power (and our nose is constantly rubbed in this fact when Republicans win elections, no matter that they cheat), those of us who had no say ... it's all our fault. It's so obvious I don't know how I missed it.

In a parallel universe where responsible people control the debate over the war, people are right now quoting Howard Dean's pre-war comments to one another and hoping he runs for president. He was right about every single claim he made at the time. That much has been proven. Oh, but he screamed at a political rally once, so in this universe, we aren't allowed to take him seriously.

Posted by Observer at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

Little Green Book

Guess I should do some more book reviews. It has been a while. Today, I'll review a book that I've read twice in the last few months before loaning it to my brother so he can use it to take my money at the next poker game I attend: Phil Gordon's Little Green Book.

This short book is highly distilled and very readable. What few stories are in here are direct and to the point. Most of the book is advice presented in a form that makes it easy to retain. Just the general ground rules for how to win in no-limit hold 'em. I've read quite a few books about poker and poker strategy, and the hardest thing is trying to retain that knowledge during a game. There is so MUCH going on during a typical poker game, I barely have time to pause and reflect on what various books tell me I should be doing. I'm too busy panicking because I have pocket kings and an ace just flopped and now I can't remember who opened the betting in the first round, who raised and how much, and what various player patterns are and who is trying to represent a bogus hand and who is playing tight and oh crap it's my turn, uh, I fold.

This book probably won't be appreciated if it is the only poker book you ever read, but it probably is the only poker book you need to read. That's simply because it is hard to imagine you can process and keep handy all of the very good information in this book and still have room to take in more. Sure, other books may recommend variants on some of Gordon's advice in various situations, but Gordon's book is more about a basic approach than specific hand strategies. He explains his rules and also talks about when it makes sense to break them and why he uses them, so you can take what you want from the book.

Another strength of this book is that he distills a lot of good advice from other poker books, like Mike Caro's book of poker tells. Rather than a chapter on each tell, Gordon has a little summary paragraph, so the whole thing is a little easier to quickly digest. He also distills advice from other players, among my favorite is: re-raise to isolate. If you've got the nuts before the flop, you need to raise big to chase people away except for maybe 1-2 people, because even aces are going to get cracked if enough people are drawing against you. Reading about all those tells really for the first time, I was pretty shocked at how many tells I have that I didn't know about.

For example, I made a big mistake last time I played poker because the one killer hand I had with a big pot, I had the shakes something awful when I placed my bet. That's a huge tell, and it is telling people they better not call. Fortunately, someone was dumb and called me anyway. Another is the way I stack my chips. I was stacking my net profit differently from my starting stake, which tells people I'm tight and also predicts I probably won't bet big and dip into my starting stake unless I have the nuts. I also began the night openly declaring (the first time anyway) that I would have to quit after I lost my starting stake of $60, and sure enough, the prophecy fulfilled itself. In my second game, I declared no real limit, and I did fine, end up $80.

Posted by Observer at 01:48 PM | Comments (3)

February 26, 2006

Munchkin

I saw the Steve Jackson card game "Munchkin" at the comic store today, so I sprung for it. I'll have to try it out on the boys sometime this week. I also bought a nice floor lamp for the library. Now I have an old comfy rocking chair, a little two-level table, a fake tree (housewarming from my dad and stepmom) and my new lamp set up in one corner of the library, right across from my eight shelves full of books. It's a quiet, sunken room, and I'm going to be spending a lot of time there reading and grading. Mmmm, I love this house more every day.

Also, we're in a much more walker-friendly area, so I sent C*dy and Ashl*y down to Blockbuster on foot. Beautiful day for it. About 60 and sunny with no wind, crisp and clean after a much-needed 3+ inch soaker of a storm over the past 48 hours. It is about a 15-20 minute walk for them down the sidewalk of a moderately busy street, and it is impossible to get lost since there are basically no turns. The library is about 2-3 minutes in the other direction. I got another 2-at-a-time monthly pass from Blockbuster last weekend, mostly for the kids to use, and they're taking full advantage.

Posted by Observer at 04:45 PM | Comments (3)

February 25, 2006

Make Me an Offer

We had a guy look at the house over the weekend and make us an offer. It was a competitive offer, well within 10% of our asking price, so we countered that we would split the difference but didn't want to be nickel-and-dimed with little repairs and certainly weren't interested in springing for big repairs, like replacing the roof (which is old, yes, but also in fine shape). The buyer accepted our counteroffer, so now we sign some papers and go through the vetting process for the next ten days. If all goes well, we close on March 31, and we'll pull a few thousand equity out of the house. That would be about the best situation we could've hoped for when we first put the house on the market a few weeks ago.

Posted by Observer at 08:27 PM | Comments (1)

At It Again

Via Media Matters, we find that the two flagships in charge of the vast ultra-liberal, terrorist-loving media conspiracy, didn't get the recent memo that they are supposed to talk about facts rather than Bush press releases:

A Washington Post editorial adopted several claims that the Bush administration has made in defense of its agreement to let a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) manage six U.S. ports, even though those claims are contradicted by the Post's own news reporting. News reports in the Post and The New York Times also cited without challenge the administration claims about the length of the review, even though their own previous reporting directly contradicted the claims.

I expect this kinda crap from the wingnut editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the like. They regularly ignore their own reporting to endorse ConservaBorg propaganda points. But when we liberals have friends like the Post and the Times, who needs enemies?

Posted by Observer at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

Poker Crime

I read in the paper last week that poker nights are becoming a target for holdups around here. A small armed crew drives around late nights and looks for houses with lots of cars parked out front, lights on and an open door. Usually means there is a big group of guys inside playing poker and lots of cash on hand. So they break in, grab the cash and run, and a lot of people are afraid to report it because they're worried they're doing something illegal.

Kinda scary. I'm sure at the poker games I've been to, there has probably been a few thousand in cash in the room, easily, so it sure beats the hell out of knocking over a 7-11 or something, plus no surveillance cameras.

Posted by Observer at 09:52 AM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2006

Crying Wolf

Dan Froomkin's column today is chock full of goodness, as usual. He includes a brief transcript of an interview Karl Rove did with Fox apologist Tony Snow, who despite all of his incredible journalistic acumen, can never seem to find a single flaw with the Boy King. During the interview, Snow included one of the more recent lines of argument used by Bush supporters: "It's not like somebody comes in and shakes the president awake every time somebody has a sale that involves a foreign company."

My response: Well, when DO they wake him up? I mean, they didn't stop his bike ride a few months back during a terror alert when a private plane flew too close. They didn't bother to tell him when the Vice President shot a guy in the face. Hell, they let him keep reading "My Pet Goat" for eight minutes when the towers were hit.

Over in Crooked Timber, they raised a good point about this, too, which was linked by Kos:

“The president is a sock-puppet moron” is supposed to be a snide criticism, not an exculpatory point.

Anyway, from Froomkin, I followed a link to this very good column by William Greider. Greider earned my respect a long time ago (1993, to be exact) as a serious good-government deficit hawk with his book, "Who Will Tell the People?" He documented a lot of the really bad ethical abuses going on by Democrats, which the Republicans promptly raised to the tenth power when they took the majority, then squared it again when Bush took over.

So Greider has a lot to say about wingnuttia's sudden aversion to fear-mongering:

A conservative blaming hysteria is hysterical, when you think about it, and a bit late. Hysteria launched Bush's invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the "long war" now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush's butt in 2004.

Bush was the principal author, along with his straight-shooting Vice President, and now he is hoisted by his own fear-mongering propaganda. The basic hysteria was invented from risks of terrorism, enlarged ridiculously by the President's open-ended claim that we are endangered everywhere and anywhere (he decides where). Anyone who resists that proposition is a coward or, worse, a subversive.

Greider, to be fair, doesn't think this port deal is anything to worry about, but I remain extremely skeptical. To say this is ok because it represents "business as usual" doesn't pass for me. Democrats even well before Kerry brought it up in the election, were having a cow over port security, but the super-duper liberal media somehow never managed to cover it because Britney was having a kid or Lindsey Lohan ran over a photographer or something. Or the Sunday shows were too busy asking John McCain and Joe Biden how smart they are or telling them what mavericks they are.

I forget who said this, but I read it somewhere else today (probably from one of Sideshow's usual million great links to follow). It's not that we liberals are fear-mongering this port security issue. It's that we're genuinely AFRAID of the UAE controlling our security, and we have damned good reason for that.

Posted by Observer at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

Hunter Diary

Hunter over at Daily Kos has a good diary that kinda vents and summarizes how incredibly stupid the ConservaBorg arguments are. What's funny is that when this all started, I kept hearing that "extreme liberals" were saying it is racist to oppose giving away our port control to the United Arab Emirates. Three days later, that is the argument coming out of Rush's hydrocodone portal. Supposedly, all us liberals are a bunch of racists! This is from the crowd that routinely throws terms like "raghead" around to cheering crowds of supporters, among other worse (and more detailed) comments.

Like Hunter, I don't see what's so hard here. UAE has close ties to bin Laden. They impeded our investigation into 9/11. Hell, by Bush's standards, we should be fucking INVADING them, but being the peace-loving liberal that I am, I'll settle for NOT GIVING THEM CONTROL OF OUR PORT SECURITY.

Posted by Observer at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

Who's In Charge

Atrios has a good point today about calls for withdrawal from Iraq. A lot of Republicans like to say that they let the military officers on the ground advise them on what they should do. You know, for example, they like to say that if the generals over in Iraq say they need more troops, we'll send them. Nevermind that they SCREAM for more troops and are ignored. Or that they ask for more troops in advance (like Shinseki) and get fired for saying something the Boy King doesn't want to hear.

No, Bush makes it very clear that the civilian leadership is completely in charge (as it should be). The problem is that he really doesn't take advice from the military unless it happens to coincide with some political need at the time:

Military leaders on the ground can't publicly disagree with the civilian leadership. They aren't allowed. What they can do is, you know, call up their buddy Jack Murtha and let him speak for them. Which is what they did.

And we all know how that turned out, with the wingnut crowd calling this highly decorated and well respected military veteran a "cut and run" coward.

Posted by Observer at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Some hope

There are more likeable characters on "Survivor" this time around. Unfortunately, they're all being voted off. Terry and Don are two of the old guys. Terry is a retired fighter pilot, and Don is a retired astronaut, and they bonded right away. Terry, the natural leader of his tribe, got sent to Exile Island last night and found the immunity idol seemingly within minutes. They gave clues as to the idol's whereabouts each week, but it was pretty obvious after the first week that it was near a y-shaped tree. I was really glad to see Terry find it.

Unfortunately, Terry's tribe is down to five people now, and the tribe full of asses (except for Bruce, whom I really like) has seven. I hope they mix up the tribes next week so some of the asses can get picked off. This could be a fun Survivor to watch if Terry and Don's alliance gets down near the end.

The funny highlight of this week was the ass tribe winning an outhouse/shower. While they were trying to decide whether to use it to keep things dry, etc., one of the lazy guys said he didn't care either way but he had to go. "I got a deuce to drop," he said, then he came out rubbing his belly saying he felt like he lost ten pounds. That was worth a laugh, just because he clearly didn't give a damn about all the other egos standing around with their jaws on the ground.

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

February 23, 2006

O Brother

For the record, here is a photo of one of the Idol guys (Elliot Yamin) from last night who the judges think is great but I think is very ordinary. And here is a photo of Delmer from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Spittin' image, I tell ya.



You be the judge. There's a ringer for George Clooney's character and John Turturro's character on there, too.

Posted by Observer at 10:13 AM | Comments (1)

The Salem Hypothesis

Via Pharyngula, I heard for the first time of the Salem Hypothesis:

It was proposed by a fellow named Bruce Salem who noticed that, in arguments with creationists, if the fellow on the other side claimed to have personal scientific authority, it almost always turned out to be because he had an engineering degree. The hypothesis predicted situations astonishingly well—in the bubbling ferment of talk.origins, there were always new creationists popping up, pompously declaiming that they were scientists and they knew that evolution was false, and subsequent discussion would reveal that yes, indeed, they were the proud recipient of an engineering degree.

Along the same lines, you can waste a good hour reading the funny talk.origins jargon file. I've never known many super-religious people, but I will say that the one I knew best was an Electrical Engineer.

Posted by Observer at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

Hell Freezes Over...

... as a traditional media outlet (60 Minutes) does a show on global warming, about which there is as much unanimity as any issue in the scientific community aside from, say, evolution or the big bang. And they don't go bending over backwards for "balance" by quoting some paid shill like Fred Singer.

Someone actually had the guts to go on the air and say "2 + 2 = 4" without adding that "some experts claim 2 + 2 = 5 or even 6!". Then again, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Of course, there's no doubt they'll be lambasted by the wingnutosphere for their ultra-super-duper extra-crispy socialist communist tie-dyed hippie granola-eating pinko terrorist-living Islamofascist supporting liberal bias, right after the next report about how some Democrat's 2nd cousin's stepbrother's uncle once sat in a seat on an airplane next to Jack Abramoff, and so both parties are equally corrupt.

Wow, this cruddy sickness I have is cranking my cranky sarcasm up a notch today.

Posted by Observer at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

We're All Pinheads Now

Oh'Really? joins the pinhead brigade, advocating the position that we "cut and run" from Iraq. Huh. He must want the terrorists to win. Damn liberal media.

Posted by Observer at 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

Missed Opportunities

Here's a shocker. Republicans are suddenly shocked, shocked! to discover our port security is lax and that Bush doesn't really pay attention to it. These same Republicans have had many opportunities to improve port security in the past, but they blew them off. Kerry pointed this out many times during his campaign and in debates, but the media was too worried about whether he was being rude or exactly how far over the fence he threw his medals or how he flip-flopped on some phony tax vote.

Link via firedoglake.

Posted by Observer at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

Dryer

We have the weirdest damn problem with our dryer. Before we moved, we could reliably dry a normal load of clothes in about 40-50 minutes. Now it takes 70-80 minutes. We clean the lint trap regularly, of course, and I put a new venting hose on the back which isn't kinked up or anything (no more than our last one), and from the wall, it travels about six inches to get to the outside. Feeling the outside vent while the dryer is going, and there is plenty of air coming out. And the temperature or humidity outside is unrelated to the drying time, pretty much.

The dryer just isn't drying our clothes as quickly, and we can't figure out why. Any suggestions? My last guess is that there is a bunch of crap stuck between the other side of the lint trap and the exhaust vent at the bottom of the dryer, but then it would seem the airflow outward would be noticeably restricted. I wonder, though, if there's an easy way to check that.

Posted by Observer at 01:34 PM | Comments (4)

Selective Outrage

As Glenn Greenwald notes today in a thorough and excellent discussion of the UAE-port controversy, something really stinks about the wingnut outrage over Bush's decision. Why are the ConservaBorg suddenly jumping down Bush's throat instead of willing to trust his judgement, like with violating FISA and the 4th amendment, for example? You either trust and support your leader or you are cheering the terrorists on, right? Isn't that what we've been told about our "disloyalty" here on the left?

Posted by Observer at 10:53 AM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

From Randi Rhodes, talking about Bush trying to transfer control of our major ports over to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates:

We don't negotiate with terrorists. It's sticker price. No haggling!

I'm looking forward to the time, oh, a few days from now, when suddenly the wingnuttosphere convinces itself that anyone who questions this deal and questions our president is really an America-hating bigot. It's like watching a werewolf transform. Kinda shocking at first, but then you get used to it.

Posted by Observer at 03:09 PM | Comments (5)

The Difference

A comment we usually hear from traditional media types is that they must be doing a good job because after all, heh heh, both sides complain loudly about their performance. The problem is that the complaints from the left have a different tone and purpose compared to complaints from the right. Over here on the left, what we want is the truth, reported objectively. We want the deeper story. We want investigative journalism. We want the media to report (at least sometimes) what we *should* know, not what we want to know. And we get really, really mad when the media, in a lame attempt to appease the never-satisfied wingnut crowd, repeat some Republican talking point.

Like this whole thing with Jack Abramoff. It's quite clear that this is a purely Republican scandal. Abramoff got up in the morning with the sole purpose of enriching himself and enriching Republicans. But in the traditional media, they want to use various constructions of "pox on both houses" here to paint the Abramoff thing as a scandal that encompasses both parties. Now I'll grant you that the fundamental thinking behind that is true, that both parties have been involved in corruption and legalized bribery in Washington forever. But in this case, that's not true. Just as Democrats took all the heat for the corruption prior to 1994, which helped Republicans get elected, so Republicans now hold all the power cards and should pay the consequences when problems erupt.

Another story getting big play now is the inexplicable decision by the Bush administration to allow an Arab company to control some major ports. I haven't really seen any Republicans in favor of this. I mean, it looks like pure payola to some Bush cronies, and finally, it seems to have gone too far. And yet this morning on the radio, I hear the guys talking about the news, and they are going out of their way to try to drag liberals into this. One of them said that he's sure some liberals are in favor of these Arab companies controlling our ports because to think otherwise would be knee-jerk racism. Say what? Honestly, what serious person on the left is arguing this? What elected official is expressing this sentiment? What major liberal blogger is expressing this belief?

They're not, but the instinct of the media now is to paint both sides in a bad light. It makes both sides mad and provides some comfort to the media. As long as they are getting criticized from both ends of the political spectrum (as if a libertarian - facism axis doesn't also exist), they figure they're doing a good job being "balanced". So we on the left get mad about this know-nothing approach to the news, about this intellectually lazy reporting. What would satisfy us? The objective, honest truth. Investigative reporting, regardless of whose ox is gored.

Why are the wingnuts on the right so upset? You think they want to see the truth reported? What planet are you living on if you think that? They don't want to see the truth in print about Iraq. They don't want to see the truth about Tom DeLay or Jack Abramoff. They don't want to see the truth about taxes and the deficit (truths I've documented here ... see my sidebar). They don't want to see the truth about 9/11 (how many of them gave "Fahrenheit 9/11" half a chance?).

No, what they want is total obedience. As Matt Stoller demonstrates, the right wing won't just quit bugging the traditional media because they write a feel-good story about Bush. Or because they allow a Cheney spokesperson (or Cheney himself) to just get on a major news show and lie without being challenged. Or because they allow Bush to script what few press conferences he holds. No, they won't stop until the traditional media is completely subservient to their goals of the moment (if they could ever articulate any goals other than blind support for Bush and hatred of liberals).

So, yes, both sides are pulling on opposite ends of the rope. In some sense, bloggers like me do it because we know we have to. And boy when we get mad about it, the traditional media sure gets its back up (see the Washington Post ombudsman crap I've referenced recently). They're just not used to us fighting back so vigorously, I guess. But we pull on the rope for different reasons, and the media can't just go on chanting "we're neutral" as if nothing is wrong.

The dialogue and the media in this country is broken. Republicans are HAPPY about that because it advances their cause. Liberals and Democrats are not. That's the difference.

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

February 20, 2006

Moral Coward

Josh Marshall has a good summary of the latest attempts to absolve Dick Cheney from any responsibility for anything. It's really so sad and transparent. And, of course, pretty much insignificant except for how it reveals the character of this administration and Cheney himself:

All available evidence suggests that the Mr. Cheney is a man of deep moral cowardice. Makes a mistake and shoots his friend; blames the friend. Only he won't do it directly. So he gets underlings to do it for him. Forced to speak out publicly, he appears before a ringer-journalist guaranteed not to press uncomfortable questions.

It's all of a piece with the man's record. He's afraid of accountability. That's why he's such a fan of self-protecting secrecy. That's why he's big on smearing government whistle-blowers. It's really just two sides of the same coin. He's afraid of accountability. It's the same reason why he's such a notorious prevaricator -- lies to avoid accountability.

These are all the hallmarks of a moral coward.

Hey, but at least he's competent, right?

Posted by Observer at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2006

Done At Last

Just miscellaneous catching-up-on-life crap today.

For some reason, grading exams took me forever this weekend. I've had some distractions, sure, but I usually get tests graded in 36 hours. This time, I felt like I was working almost the whole time, and I just now finished. I really enjoy our "library" off the main entrance to our house, between the foyer and the computer room/office. It is sunken and very quiet, and once I get all of our bookshelves put together and the room laid out properly, it will be a very nice place to read and grade. Also close to the stereo, so I can listen to classical music as "white noise" to drown out other sounds in the house.

On the down side, the foyer-to-living-room-to-kitchen-to-office-to-library-to-foyer is a big circular racetrack that Daniel really enjoys. I think I've watched him do a virtual Indianapolis 500 past me as I've sat in my rocking chair plowing through exams. The rocking chair is just big enough for one dog to squeeze in next to me, and that's usually Bella. The other dog sits at my feet on the floor, unless someone is in the living room on the couch, and then I'm yesterday's news.

Another down side is that it is directly below the upstairs game room, so I've had to tell the boys (plus C*dy's friend who spent Saturday night) to stop stomping around up there about ten times or so. Finally tonight I made them sit down there while I stomped around upstairs so they could get an appreciation for how loud they are. Didn't have a problem after that.

Poor M*chelle has been barfing all weekend. I think it is a pretty bad chest cold, but with her pregnancy already causing her to teeter on the edge of barfing under normal circumstances, the cold has pushed her over the edge. Anti-nausea medicine has helped a lot, but it also knocks her out, so I've mostly been on my own this weekend, which also slowed the grading pace some. I hope she is feeling better tomorrow. I hate so much to see her suffering. Drives me crazy, and I feel like I can't do anything to help.

D*niel also had an extremely bad diaper rash this weekend thanks to the latest round of diabetics (and possibly also his sudden addiction to orange juice which has been temporarily suspended). Poor little guy had a rough two days, but the antibiotics were over and no more oj, so the butt paste and talc worked their magic and he's fine now. He got to take a shower this weekend just to get clean everywhere, and he really really liked it.

My mom and stepdad came down today to help install the last of our new kitchen appliances (well, the fridge isn't new ... 3-4 years old now). This was the microwave/range hood. That thing was a real sumbitch to install. Thank God my stepdad is so handy and so willing to help. Now the only old thing in our kitchen is the oven, which seems to have random temperature variations, usually to the hot side, so that we have to be really careful not to burn things. Maybe this summer we'll get around to that one. Our new dishwasher, about a $400 Kenmore from Sears, totally rocks, and we use that every single day (sometimes twice), so that's money well spent. The new cooktop is nice, too.

Our overall short-term debt level is about twice as high now as it was six months ago, though, so I'm definitely eager for extra work. I got to do a couple of workshops this month, so that'll be some extra pay, and another curriculum evaluation project is on the horizon. No book reviews later, but I wouldn't have had time for them anyway. Between now and the end of Spring Break, I mainly want to relax, finish some things in the new house, finally completely clean out the garage in the old house, and mostly just sit on the couch and stare at the wall enjoying doing nothing.

Bad weather this past weekend slowed down traffic on our old house. We haven't had too many nibbles yet (the first couple which seemed perfect couldn't get their finances in order apparently).

Oh, and on the windows. My mom recommended some storm windows, a cheap solution for at least a few years. We're going to look into that, after we get another couple of estimates on replacing the bow windows anyway.

Posted by Observer at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Helpful Hint

Can someone please tell Jim Brady and ombudsman Deborah Howell at the Washington Post that this is what a real correction looks like? Note particularly the lack of whining and absence of trashing those who pointed out the error.

Posted by Observer at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2006

Things That Make You Wonder

So now there's a whole bunch of speculation as to exactly what happened during Cheney's hunting trip. Firedoglake, at least prior to their Cheney poetry contest, has been extracting lots of interesting stuff from this story. Is it irresponsible to speculate that Cheney might have been drunk when he shot his friend? Or, as ConservaBorg like Peggy Noonan used to say during the Clinton years, is it irresponsible NOT to?

I don't care about this much except for the laughs. It's sadly funny and a nice little microcosm of the whole administration, right down to the victim apologizing to the Vice President for any trouble the shooting might have caused him. But I will say I find the whole drinking angle weird. Cheney is now saying that he may have had "a beer" with lunch several hours before the shooting. Contrary to what ConsevaBorg (who apparently have less hunting experience that even someone like me, who was dragged on hunting trips throughout childhood) are insisting, it is perfectly normal for a cooler of beer to be present on a hunt.

The fact that popped out at me was that Cheney didn't go with his friend to the hospital. Instead, he went back to the ranch and "had a cocktail", according to several people who were there. Now why would you go back to the ranch and have a drink publicly in front of several eyewitnesses instead of going to the hospital with your friend? Could it be you want to be sure there is an explanation in case some deputy DOES manage to make it on to the property to administer a blood-alcohol or breathalyzer test? Just seems odd.

In the end, though, it's hard to care. This guy is responsible for stuff a lot worse than a guy getting an inadvertant shotgun blast to the face (especially since the victim seems fine with it). Let's hope he eventually pays for it. That's only likely to happen if Democrats gain control of one or both houses of Congress.

Posted by Observer at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

Snail Mail Troll

We went over to check the mailbox at the old house last night. We haven't changed the address formally yet because we don't want to start the clock on that process until we have to. We ran into problems with that time limit running out when we moved previously.

Inside was an envelope with no return address and a three-page single-spaced typed letter, anonymously sent in response to my little LTE which appeared in the paper last weekend. I'll leave the actual contents to your imagination, but it was basically a Doc (troll) wannabee without all the death threats and cussing.

I got a good laugh out of the guy trying to argue that Jimmy Carter was a racist, uncaring bastard and that Democrats have always been responsible for keeping blacks down. Most of the letter had logical arguments of that quality. Even with a return address, though, I wouldn't bother with the guy. He's a self-described 78-year-old lifelong Republican who says he has lots of black friends. Uh huh. I'm sure you cried a river when MLK Jr was shot, pal. Whatever. Not what I would consider to be a persuadable person. Head much too deeply buried in his ass.

It reminded me of an old saying that is usually applied to the sciences. You would like to think that revolutionary change comes about as a natural part of the scientific process, that theories are challenged, tested, abandoned, reworked and so forth. But in reality, the way that a revolution in scientific thought occurs is that the older generation that resisted the new theory has to literally die off and let the better (or differently) educated younger generation have a go.

The same thing is true in politics, and it is one reason my main work-related passion in life is educating young people. It is also one of the reasons groups like "Young Republicans" REALLY creep me out. I mean, when you're young, aren't you supposed to have some time to be a bleeding heart, give-peace-a-chance idealist for a little while? What kind of childhood do these kids have where they grow up and think people like Dick Cheney are their heroes?

People like my snail mail troll are hopeless. This guy I'm sure has talked himself into being the reincarnation of Rosa Parks. He's probably got himself convinced that back in the day he was one of the freedom fighters, not one of the guys cheering lynchings or throwing rocks through the windows of the first black family house in the neighborhood.

I can tell because he really spent a lot of time trying to convince me that Republicans like him haven't been on the opposite side of every battle Coretta Scott King fought during her life. Uh, hello? One of the largest voting blocs in your political party is essentially people who think the Confederacy was a pretty good idea.

Oh well, while Anonymous Sean Hannity Senior types up his little hate mails, I'm going to help educate the next generation so that maybe some of them can learn to think on a higher plane than a dumbass old fart dittohead.

Posted by Observer at 07:19 AM | Comments (6)

February 16, 2006

Replacement Windows

For the record, replacement windows cost about a fucking gazillion dollars. Or at least an order of magnitude over what I thought in my foolish brain. We just had a guy from Sears come out for the first of three estimates to replace all of the single-paned windows in our house with coated, double-paned windows, and he smacked us with a five-digit price ($18k) for the effort.

Just two of the three big bow windows on the lower floor, on the exposed south front of the house, a total of six windows since each is in three parts, were going to run us about a third of that. Suddenly saving a hundred or two hundred a month on our energy bills doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I'm in to long-term savings for a big up-front price, but man, if it takes 10 years to pay for itself, that's a damned long time horizon.

We'll see over the next few days where the estimates from Home Depot and Lowe's come in, including other factors like who exactly is doing the installing, what possible extra costs there are, etc.

Posted by Observer at 05:55 PM | Comments (7)

Responsibility

So I guess Cheney was on TV yesterday saying he takes "full responsibility" for the shooting, just like Bush took "full responsibility" for the "mistakes" in intelligence gathering leading up to the war.

So what?

Taking responsibility is more than just admitting it. Responsibility means consequences, and where are the consequences for these guys personally? Taking responsibility for a hunting accident means calling police right away, letting yourself be interviewed and/or tested to ensure there are no drugs or alcohol involved, basically turning yourself in right away. Not holding everyone off for a day so we can all get our story straight, not going on Faux news instead of holding a press conference, and certainly not carrying on your regular job and schedule as though nothing happened.

Taking responsibility means accepting consequences, and until anyone in this administration suffers a consequence for anything other than disloyalty to Bush, they can take their canned apologies and shove 'em up their asses.

Posted by Observer at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

Fer Examper

Peter Daou has a very nice laundry list just from the last few weeks showing the media following Republican/Bush-supporting narratives, and he challenges wingnuts to come up with anything close. After all, it appears according to the wingut crowd that it's the media's fault that it is a big deal that the Vice President of the United States SHOT a man and didn't tell anyone about it (or let police question him) for almost 24 hours.

Well, they've blamed the story on the media. Only a matter of time before they blame it on Clinton. Still another 24 hours or so before my over/under deadline on that passes.

Posted by Observer at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

Good Protest/Bad Protest

I found this while browsing around today:

Apparently it is ok for some political expressions during State of the Union addresses (ink-stained fingers to say what great news is coming from Iraq), but others are not so good (like reminders to all the chickenhawks that war sucks).

Huh.

Posted by Observer at 07:41 PM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2006

Starting from Sunday at noon...

... when the Cheney hunting story was first released, when will a wingnut construct the first half-baked argument that the primary responsibility falls on Bill Clinton? I'm setting the over/under at five and a half days.

Oh, and I see here that the guy who got shot is still, uh, extremely stable. Nothing to see here, hey, let's tell some self-deprecating jokes about it and laugh it off. If having a mild heart attack due to birdshot being lodged in your heart, going back and forth to ICU and having the surgeons deciding to leave a lot of birdshot embedded in your skin is "extremely stable", I really, really hope the poor guy doesn't actually get unstable.

Posted by Observer at 02:20 PM | Comments (2)

Warm Fuzzies

Peter Daou has the feel-good post of the day, a love letter to the liberal side of the blogosphere, which includes excerpts from the great Glenn Greenwald post I excerpted a couple of days ago as well as Digby's post about the "fever swamps" of the angry left. Daou searches for the larger context and has lots of good thoughts, closing with some rousing words:

The attempt to marginalize progressive bloggers as part of an angry, unwashed, irrational mob is in full swing, but truth-telling has a self-sustaining power. Bloggers will continue to cut through the fabricated storylines, providing clarity, sanity, honesty, and an abiding loyalty to the Constitution and to the principles our country is founded upon.

History will look kindly on them.

From your lips to God's ears, Peter. History is written by the winners, and right now, the crowd of "party over country, win at all costs, we hate the liberal media and the terrorists they love, go fuck yourself, Bush is right no matter what" is winning elections, even if they have to cheat to do it. As Digby says, we have to make our case, and we have to *win* without expecting any help from the traditional media:

I have written before about this and made it clear that I do not wish to destroy the mainstream media. I do not believe that this country can do without a credible press. But after waiting in vain for more than a decade for the press to shake off its torpor and exert its prerogatives as the fourth estate, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that our (and their) only hope was to join the fray and pull as hard as we can on the opposite end of the rope.

I see that the press does not know what to make of this. And I see that many Joementum Democrats don't get it either. They remain convinced that the country will wake up one day and see that our arguments are superior. They are wrong. This political era will be remembered for its brutal partisanship and sophisticated media manipulation in a 50/50 political environment. Democrats have been at a huge disadvantage because of the Republican message infrastructure and the strange servility of the mainstream press. So, we are pushing back with the one tough, aggressive partisan communication tool we have: the blogosphere.

The mainstream press is going to have to get used to us because we aren't going anywhere.... It's a new day. We angry denizens of the fever swamps have emerged from the slime to fight back. We couldn't wait any longer for the professionals to get the job done. At the rate they're going we'd be extinct within the decade.

That's damn right.

Posted by Observer at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

What We've Learned Today

Atrios summarizes what he's learned from wingnut blog coverage of the Dick Cheney hunting incident:

Every conservative on the internet is an avid hunter and they've all been shot multiple times.

Shotguns aren't really guns, just toys. You can't really hurt people with them, only animals.

It's standard hunter etiquette to yell and scream at your fellow hunters as they're stalking their prey.

The most dangerous place to be is behind the people with the guns.

And Dick Cheney was not drunk, so stop saying that.

The incredibly socialist, terrorist-loving, liberal, pot-smoking, tie-dye wearing, crusty establishment, did I say liberal already? media has made a point to use terms like "peppered" or "sprayed" or "pellet gun" instead of "SHOT" or "SHOTGUN". I know this sounds incredible, but it is almost as if they're trying to make this seem like it's NO BIG DEAL which we surely know cannot be the case because the liberal media attacks the Bush administration every single possible chance it gets.

A surgeon posted this diary to Kos yesterday about what it is like treating patients who have been shot in the face with a shotgun.

I haven't examined Mr. Whittington, the man the Vice President shot, nor seen much detail on his case. But facial plastic surgery is what I do, and I have seen fairly awful traumas to the area. Both during residency in the US and as a volunteer in Kosovo, it's my judgment that it doesn't get a lot worse than a shotgun discharge to the face - few traumas cause pose a greater challenge to surgeons in my field.

Patients with shotgun injuries to the face need to be intubated and sedated at once. Protection of the airway is paramount because hemorrhaging is virtually certain. The primary concern here is aspiration of the hemorrhaged fluid. A secondary concern is emesis of ingested fluid from the fast bleeders in the area - particularly the superficial temporal artery, the angular artery, or the facial artery.

Once the patient is stabilized, the attending physician will examine, visually and by palpation, from the scalp downwards and outwards. He or she will be looking for bone fracture, nerve damage, asymmetry - that sort of thing. It's not typically possible to assess the sensory or motor functions of the face at this stage because the patient is unconscious - and this is probably why Mr. Whittington is in the ICU.

At this point I'd order radiographs to see how much damage is done, and ideally an MRI except that if they use steel shot in Texas, you can't do that. So a CT is probably indicated - lateral obliques through the orbits especially. The anatomy is complicated and fragile in the area, so you really need to be careful.

Finally, surgical repairs. The surgeon will carefully assess and reduce any jaw or bone fractures, debride any remaining shot, bone fragments, and soft tissue that can't be salvaged and then put any displaced but viable soft tissues back where they're supposed to go. And a 28 gauge round contains, depending on the shot size, somewhere between 200 and 400 individual pellets. For a surgery like that, I'd expect to be in the OR pretty much all day. This is not a 90 minute rhinoplasty.

Assuming the patient survives to this point, a complete facial reconstruction procedure can be undertaken, which, assuming good patient health and no postoperative infections, can take several years. Careful counselling both of the patient and his family is indicated, and the surgeon needs to be very honest about expectations.

Oh well, I'm sure he's "extremely stable" and pretty soon we'll find out he's downright happy that he was shot because it has given him time in a hospital bed to relax and let others do the work for him, and God Bless the Vice President anyway. In fact, it's almost certainly the fault of the guy who got shot. Somehow with this administration, it turns out that the veteran -- uh, I mean victim -- is always the one at fault when things get fucked up as a result of their incompetence.

Posted by Observer at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

One of These Days...

... someone from my side of the family is going to find this blog. I hope they understand the reason I don't go out of my way to tell people in the family about this blog. Sure, there are the occasional "day in the life of..." stories here that I probably should share more with family, but it is mostly about politics. Politics and family are like the streams from the ghost-catchers in "Ghostbusters". They should never cross.

When they do cross, it should be at the end of the movie when everyone is about to get up and leave anyway and there should be a very good reason for it.

Oh, and Humbaba linked to a neat list of popular games that deserves its own post. I had no idea Heroclix was so dang popular. Maybe we'll have to check that out. Do that many people really still play "Dungeons and Dragons" to make it #2 on the list? The boys are just starting to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh again. I'm surprised to see that so far down on the list while Magic is still so far up the list, but I guess it's different for everyone. The first game title I recognize after #3 Magic is #11 Axis and Allies, which I've always thought was okay but not as good as Diplomacy (which is, excuse me what is this bullshit? 85th on the list).

One of my all-time favorite games that is still probably too tough for the boys is "Acquire". I was glad to see that make the list. I have two copies of that game collecting dust on the kids' gameroom bookshelf right now. I haven't been keeping up with Steve Jackson games since I stopped playing INWO. I wonder if Munchkin is good. The premise sounds cool.

Posted by Observer at 10:31 AM | Comments (6)

February 13, 2006

Knee Jerks

I heard on the radio and have seen online lots of negative reaction from the wingnut crowd about Al Gore's speech in Saudi Arabia yesterday. Everyone talks about how crazy he is or how he doesn't know what he's talking about, or how it's treasonous to criticize America from foreign soil, or how dare he criticize us in front of a bunch of ragheads.

Here's the thing, though: nothing he said is wrong. In fact, as usual in his carefully crafted speeches, the assertions he makes are quite simply common knowledge. Do we not hold lots of Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo without due process? Isn't it true that the majority of the country opposes this (in polls)? Isn't it true that the government of Iran is incredibly corrupt and dangerous and that Arabs need to join the West in criticizing them? Isn't it true that we need energy independence from the Middle East region?

I mean, what's controversial about any of this stuff? To read the wingnuts, you'd think Gore just went over there and burned the Boy King in effigy. I find it interesting to watch the ultra-liberal socialist media frame these speeches as "Gore on a Dean-like crazy rant, tilting at windmills, and no one cares." That is, if the speeches are even covered.

What great friends we liberals have in the media, eh? Sorry fucks.

Posted by Observer at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

Crime and Punishment

Jane over at firedoglake has very good coverage with lots of good quotes from commenters and emails (mostly hunters) about the incident with the Vice President shooting a hunting buddy. Kinda weird that the news about this didn't get out for almost 24 hours and that it was because one of the members of the hunting party leaked it to a local paper. Would we even know about this otherwise? Here's my question: what if the buddy dies? Would Cheney simply not be charged?

And there's no question the buddy is seriously wounded. I mean "getting peppered" shouldn't land you in the ICU. "Getting SHOT" is what lands you in the ICU. Are there going to be no charges there? I mean, I'm sure the buddy isn't going to personally press charges, but doesn't local law enforcement get involved at some point in an accidental shooting? I know they do if there is a death that results from an accidental shooting (right?), so why not if it's a serious injury instead of death?

In a related story, the Boy King has called for the arrest of the leaker and a ticker-tape parade for Cheney, who liberated the ranch.

Posted by Observer at 01:40 PM | Comments (3)

Throttling

I knew it. It's one big reason we quit Netflix. I knew it. They throttle their heavy users. That means if you cross a certain threshold and start going through too many DVD's per month, they delay shipping new movies out to you. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that they delay "received" dates online as well, as a way of inserting an extra day or two into the turnaround time.

After the first few months on Netflix, we started having that problem. We would go through times when we had lots of time to watch movies, and we would never have enough to watch. Then we'd go through times where we had no free time, and those Netflix movies would be sitting on the TV stand, burning a hole in my brain, because I knew we were wasting money while they were just sitting there instead of being watched or being in transit. Stupid of me, I know, but everyone has their litte pathologies.

Anyway, after a few months of heavy use, we noticed a huge slowdown in how fast we were getting our movies, and that's a pretty big deal if you are quickly going through a TV series season, like "24", where you really want that next DVD right then and there if you have time to watch another episode. Recently, when we wanted to watch season 4 of "24" on DVD, we decided to get it from Blockbuster (real world Blockbuster, not a DVD-by-mail membership).

At the counter when we were checking out the first two, I got a monthly pass. That means you can have one, two or three DVD's out at a time (fee depends on the number), and you can recycle them as often as you like simply by visiting the store and using it like a library. Well, the cashier tried for about two minutes to sell us on the Netflix-style service, talking about how much money we would save and how great it is and so on. I told her no thanks.

I still say you can't beat DVD-by-mail for hard-to-find stuff. I let the boys go through the entire DVD archive of episodes of "Starblazers" and "Robotech", and things like that, and they loved it, and every once in a while we would mix in some other new release. But if you're just getting major releases or TV show series that are present in quantity at the real store, it's best to just buy a month, burn through everyone you want to watch, then cancel. Works great especially over the holidays when the kids are at home, either Xmas or summer.

We probably burned through about 20 DVD's (thanks mostly to the kids) in the month over the holidays, and we could've done twice that many had we not had all the Xmas stuff to do, including travelling, then the first part of our getting ready to move. With Netflix, we'd have been lucky to get through 8-10, I think. And there was no waiting, and the kids got to go to the actual store and pick out the movies and watch 'em that night, which they find a lot more fun than picking them out online and waiting until they reach the head of the queue. Kids are all about instant gratification.

Getting a month pass at a blockbuster about every six months or so works best for us, let's us catch up on all the marginally worth watching new releases from the past six months. If there's a movie I just can't wait for, I either buy it or just do a one-time rental. Otherwise, we've got so much great stuff on the DVR, who has time to watch all that plus some movie that you picked just so there would be something in your queue?

Posted by Observer at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

February 12, 2006

Riddle Me This, Batman

Funny Toles today:

Posted by Observer at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

Good Conservatives

I try to be careful about language on this blog. No, seriously. I try my best to label the people who agree with Bush as "Bush supporters" rather than "Conservatives" because generally, Bush supporters are the antithesis of the conservative movement of the past forty years. That's not to say they're liberal. Hell, no. They're just off in a different, very authoritarian direction.

Meanwhile, over in wingnuttia (mainly populated by Bush supporters and people who don't support Bush because he doesn't simply execute his political opponents routinely), the definition of "liberal" has definitely changed over the years. Glenn Greenwald explains:

It used to be the case that in order to be considered a "liberal" or someone "of the Left," one had to actually ascribe to liberal views on the important policy issues of the day – social spending, abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, immigration, "judicial activism," hate speech laws, gay rights, utopian foreign policies, etc. etc. These days, to be a "liberal," such views are no longer necessary.

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush. [...]

The minute a Senator [like Bob Barr] with years of conservatism behind them deviates from a Bush decree on a single issue, they are no longer "conservative." George Voinovich became a "liberal" the minute he refused to support John Bolton’s nomination; John Sununu is now "liberal" because he did not favor immediate renewal of every single provision of the Patriot Act which Bush demanded, and Senators like Chuck Hagel and John McCain long ago gave up any "conservative" status because of their insistence on forming opinions that occasionally deviate from the decrees from the White House.

People who self-identify as "conservatives" and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. That’s because "conservatism" is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as "liberal" is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government.

That "conservatism" has come to mean "loyalty to George Bush" is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. It is not only the obvious (though significant) explosion of deficit spending under this Administration – and that explosion has occurred far beyond military or 9/11-related spending and extends into almost all arenas of domestic programs as well. Far beyond that is the fact that the core, defining attributes of political conservatism could not be any more foreign to the world view of the Bush follower.

As much as any policy prescriptions, conservatism has always been based, more than anything else, on a fundamental distrust of the power of the federal government and a corresponding belief that that power ought to be as restrained as possible, particularly when it comes to its application by the Government to American citizens. It was that deeply rooted distrust that led to conservatives’ vigorous advocacy of states’ rights over centralized power in the federal government, accompanied by demands that the intrusion of the Federal Government in the lives of American citizens be minimized.

Is there anything more antithetical to that ethos than the rabid, power-hungry appetites of Bush followers? There is not an iota of distrust of the Federal Government among them. Quite the contrary. Whereas distrust of the government was quite recently a hallmark of conservatism, expressing distrust of George Bush and the expansive governmental powers he is pursuing subjects one to accusations of being a leftist, subversive loon.

Indeed, as many Bush followers themselves admit, the central belief of the Bush follower's "conservatism" is no longer one that ascribes to a limited federal government -- but is precisely that there ought to be no limits on the powers claimed by Bush precisely because we trust him, and we trust in him absolutely. He wants to protect us and do good. He is not our enemy but our protector. And there is no reason to entertain suspicions or distrust of him or his motives because he is Good.

We need no oversight of the Federal Government’s eavesdropping powers because we trust Bush to eavesdrop in secret for the Good. We need no judicial review of Bush’s decrees regarding who is an "enemy combatant" and who can be detained indefinitely with no due process because we trust Bush to know who is bad and who deserves this. We need no restraints from Congress on Bush’s ability to exercise war powers, even against American citizens on U.S. soil, because we trust Bush to exercise these powers for our own good.

The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary "conservative" is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who – at least thus far – have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.

And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.

It is hard to describe just how extreme these individuals are. Michelle Malkin is the Heroine of the Right Blogosphere, and she believes in concentration camps. As an avid reader of Michelle’s blog, I really believe that she would be in favor of setting up camps for Muslim-Americans and/or Arab-Americans similar to the ones we had for Japanese-Americans which she praises. Has anyone ever asked her that? Could someone? I don’t mean that she would favor interning them indefinitely - just for the next few decades while the war on terrorism is resolved.

And as excessive as the Bush Administration’s measures have been thus far -- they overtly advocate the right to use war powers against American citizens on American soil even if Congress bans such measures by law -- I am quite certain that people like John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Jeff Goldstein, to name just a few, are prepared to support far, far more extreme measures than the ones which have been revealed thus far. And while I would not say this for Jeff or perhaps of Jonah, I believe quite firmly that there are no limits – none – that Hinderaker (or Malkin or Hewitt) would have in enthusiastically supporting George Bush no matter how extreme were the measures which he pursued.

We have heard for a long time that anger and other psychological and emotional factors drive the extreme elements on the Left, but that is (at least) equally true for the Bush extremists. The only difference happens to be that the Bush extremists control every major governmental institution in the country and the extremists on the Left control nothing other than the crusted agenda for the latest International A.N.S.W.E.R. meeting.

And the core emotions driving the Bush extremists are not hard to see. It is a driving rage and hatred – for liberals, for Muslims, for anyone who opposes George Bush. The rage and desire to destroy is palpable. When John Hinderaker removes those tightly-wound glasses and lets go of the death grip he maintains on the respectable-corporate-lawyer facade, these are the sentiments which are always stirring underneath:

You dumb shit, he didn't get access using a fake name, he used his real name. You lefties' concern for White House security is really touching, but you know what, you stupid asshole, I think the Secret Service has it covered. Go crawl back into your hole, you stupid left-wing shithead. And don't bother us anymore. You have to have an IQ over 50 to correspond with us. You don't qualify, you stupid shit.

The rhetoric of Bush followers is routinely comprised of these sorts of sentiments dressed up in political language – accusations that domestic political opponents are subversives and traitors, that they ought to be imprisoned and hung, that we ought to drop nuclear bombs on countries which have committed the crime of housing large Muslim populations. These are not political sentiments, and they’re certainly not conservatives sentiments, but instead, are psychological desires finding a venting ground in a political movement.

It’s not an accident that Ann Coulter and her ongoing calls for violence against "liberals" (meaning anyone not in line behind George Bush) are so wildly popular among conservatives. It’s not some weird coincidence that the 5,000 people in attendance at the CPAC this last week erupted in "boisterous ovation" when she urged violence against "ragheads,’ nor is it an accident that her hateful, violence-inciting screeds -- accusing "liberals" of being not wrong, but "treasonous" -- become best-sellers. Ann Coulter has been advocating violence against liberals and other domestic political opponents for years, and she is a featured speaker at the most prestigious conservative events. Why would that be? It's because she is tapping into the primal, rather deranged rage which lies in the heart of many Bush followers. If that weren't driving the movement, she wouldn’t provoke the reactions and support that she does.

The combination here of rage and fear is potent and toxic. One of the principal benefits of the blogosphere -- with its daily posting and unedited expressions of thought -- is that it reveals one’s genuine underlying views in a much more honest and unadorned fashion than other venues of expression. For that reason, the true sentiments of bloggers often stand revealed for all to see.

And what I hear, first and foremost, from these Bush following corners is this, in quite a shrieking tone: "Oh, my God - there are all of these evil people trying to kill us, George Bush is doing what he can to save us, and these liberals don’t even care!!! They’re on their side and they deserve the same fate!!!" It doesn’t even sound like political argument; it sounds like a form of highly emotional mass theater masquerading as political debate. It really sounds like a personality cult. It is impervious to reasoned argument and the only attribute is loyalty to the leader. Whatever it is, it isn’t conservative. [...]

For a glimpse of how actual conservatives quite recently used to think, one should read this article at FreeRepublic.com, which decries the dangerous loss of liberty and privacy as a result of the Clinton Administration's use of a "secret court" (something called the "FISA court") which actually enables the Federal Government to eavesdrop on American citizens! Worse -- much worse -- the judicial approval which the Government (used to) obtain for this eavesdropping is in secret, so we don't even know who is being eavesdropped on! How can we possibly trust the Government not to abuse this power if they can obtain warrants in secret?

Conservatives used to consider things like this to be quite disturbing and bad -- and the eavesdropping then was at least with judicial oversight. Now, George Bush is in office, and all of the distrust we used to have of the Federal Government exercising these powers has evaporated, because we trust in George Bush to do what is best for us. He should not just have those powers, but many more, and he should exercise all of them in secret, too, with no "interference" from the courts or Congress.

That is why I say that whatever else these Bush followers are, they are not conservative.

They aren't libertarian, either, that's for damned sure. I honestly don't know what their overriding philosophy is going to be once Bush is no longer in power. Whatever it turns out to be, you can be sure that hatred and ignorance will be its core values.

Posted by Observer at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2006

Smoke 'Em

So far, the new "Survivor" has some promise. I was glad to see the astronaut and the fighter pilot form an early alliance of two. The one guy they're featuring prominently is Shane, a three-pack-a-day smoker who is using this experience as a detox, and he's seriously screwed up. He almost quit, then he settled down and started acting like a regular asshole again instead of a fucked-up-in-nicotine-withdrawal asshole. Not really a fun villain, just a jackass who needs to go.

I like the idea of the hidden immunity idol from last time, and they really made it more important this time. If you have it, you can reveal it after the vote, and the person with the 2nd most votes is gone. I'd be really surprised if the Japanese guy they left by himself on the island with the idol for three days didn't find it. Doesn't seem like it should be that hard when you've got nothing better to do for all that time.

Posted by Observer at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

Just Wondering

Why is it that when the Associated Press has a story about Abramoff and his supposed ties to Democrats, it's "Prominent Democrats Linked to Abramoff" or some such, but when it is Republicans, the headline just reads "Three More Lawmakers Linked to Abramoff"? I mean, come on, liberal media, you're supposed to be working for us! Sheesh!

Oh well, at least my LTE got published this morning. I hope it makes a few wingnuts spit up their coffee.

Posted by Observer at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2006

Same Story, Different Day

I saw this AP article in the local paper this morning, and it is apparently everywhere. It is basically a story created out of nothing to say that Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader, was dirty with Abramoff money. The ultra-super-duper-liberal media is, for some reason, trying their damnedest to make the Abramoff thing a bipartisan scandal, and it's pretty sad to see how far they'll go to do it. Not surprising, mind you. Just sad.

Josh Marshall has been blasting this apart all day and Media Matters has exhaustive coverage. The bottom line is that, like a lot of Democrats, Reid got money from Indian tribes. That's because, historically, Democrats do a lot more for Indians than Republicans do. When Abramoff started representing the tribes, a lot of that money shifted to Republicans.

So how does the liberal media interpret this? Well, since Democrats are still getting money from tribes who are connected to Abramoff, then the Democrats are all just as guilty as the Republicans. You know, the ones who went on all-expenses-paid golf trips to Scotland or got huge bribes to change their votes or introduce legislation, etc. These same Republicans who introduced and voted for legislation to protect business interests in the Marianas Islands so that they could keep paying sub-minimum wage, keep workers in prison-like conditions, force female workers to have abortions (yes, you read it right, and it is a fact). Any Democrat who tried to find out about this stuff met with a brick wall.

But according to your liberal media, Democrats and Republicans are both equally bad, so it's a whole pox on both houses thing. A Democratic staffer wrote to Josh Marshall to talk about this. He pointed out that a lot of Democratic staffers are there because they believe in the government and they're trying to make things work better. Republicans do not think the government is the answer, and so they are out to undermine it and make it look bad every chance they get, and if they can profit from it and/or get more money to ensure they stay in power, it's a double-bonus. It's a recipe for the moral and ethical swamp that is Congress these days.

This from the "patriotic" party. What a bunch of sorry fucks. Oh, and of course, thanks, liberal media!

Posted by Observer at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2006

Another Myth Destroyed

Apparently, there are still people out there who are paid to propagate stupid, easy-to-destroy myths about Clinton, the deficit and the economy. This time it is Robert Samuelson, a columnist for the ultra-liberal, terrorist-loving, granola-eating, socialist Washington Post, who is probably getting payola from some Republican outfit for pretending to be vastly dumber than he really is. Brad DeLong (link via Political Animal) demolishes it, but of course, he won't get the readership and exposure of Samuelson, and so the wingnut myths get a fresh second wind.

Thanks, liberal media!

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

LTE: The King Funeral

Liberals must have spoken their minds again, because it looks like a bunch of strong, brave, patriotic Bush-supporters have a case of the vapors. Those poor, persecuted Republicans are always being victimized by something, I guess. Sorry, we forgot that President Bush is only allowed to attend events filled with hand-picked supporters so that he doesn't have to hear criticism.

What is it with all of these Emily Post Republicans? Those clowns were on the opposite side of Coretta Scott King during every important fight of her life, and yet somehow they get to advise the rest of us on appropriate behavior during her funeral?

When I die, I hope that my family and friends will speak at my funeral and, among other things, talk about the things that were important to me. I suspect most people feel the same way, even a lot of Republicans, and good for them!

Thanks to Atrios and First Draft for the inspiration on some of the wording.

And here is a good Kos diary with a must longer and more impassioned version of the same argument. Much better written than mine, anyway.

Posted by Observer at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2006

Forgive Me...

... But surely it is not outlandish to suppose that this false alarm about nerve gas in the Senate building isn't a coincidence? Funny with the last time there was a similar scare over anthrax, it was when they were debating the Patriot Act and, huh, look at that, the Patriot Act is up for renewal, plus all of these inconvenient hearings going on and all. I guess I'm just crazy.

I see it wasn't worth raising the terrorism alert level or anything. Then again, nothing has been since the presidential election of 2004 (except once, briefly, to orange for mass transit systems only in New York after the London bombings).

Huh.

Posted by Observer at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

Terror Graph

So I'm surfing around over at The Sideshow, always full of good links and comments, and I run across a reference to this story, in which someone uses the Terrorism Knowledge Base (which uses data published by Homeland Security) to talk about the rate of attacks. I decided to use the analytical tools myself and came up with this graph of the number of terrorist incidents per year (both domestic and international):

The data prior to 1998 was measured very differently and so doesn't make for a useful continuous graph. So take a good long look at this graph, especially since September 11, 2001 and even more especially since we began the war in Iraq.

So, um, are we winning the Global War on Terror? To be fair, I acknowledge that this chart includes incidents in Iraq, which would not have taken place prior to our invasion. There were 40, 240 and 180 incidents in Iraq in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, so that's not much of an effect on the overall chart. The graph below shows domestic incidents within the United States only and doesn't include attacks on our troops in Iraq, which would skyrocket the 2003, 2004 and 2005 numbers.

Now, I'll grant you that since 2001, the trend is downward in terms of domestic incidents only. As an honest scientist, it's only fair to point that out, but with numbers ranging from 5-40 per year, the shot noise is enormous. I could also point out that the average number per year under Bush dwarfs what we experienced under Clinton (by any measure, even going to different tools beyond the graph). Of course, analysis like this invites critics to say, "Oh, I suppose you're hoping for more incidents to make your point. You're cheering for more terrorism to prove Bush wrong or make him look bad."

Actually, no. It's just data. We scientists look at charts like this as only one tool in the overall analysis of a situation. Correlations do not mean causations. Just because the terror rates have risen overall or shrunk domestically doesn't mean Bush necessarily was the cause. But there is obviously reason to believe that what we're doing is exacerbating the problem, thanks largely to the War in Iraq.

We won't know for sure just how bad Bush has made the problem for decades. Right now, it is entirely possible that some kid in Iraq just got his parents shot up by a stressed-out soldier for no good reason. What if for the next 30 years he dedicates his life to revenge and sets off a big bomb here in the year 2036? By then, it'll be too late to blame it on Bush.

I guess my point is that it is very difficult to use statistics like this to prove anything. However, the administration loves to tout them (selectively) when they try to measure their success in the War on Terror, so that makes them fair game. A better measure, though, is common sense. And that means asking what the hell we went into Iraq for and why. To me, the question of "Are we safer?" puts the burden of proof on those who want war, not on those who oppose it.

Posted by Observer at 08:55 AM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2006

Old Faithful

One problem with moving and fixing up the old house for sale is that I'm just not much of a handyman. It comes from long years of practice at avoiding manual labor whenever possible. Oh, I can do things around the house, and the more practice I get, the easier it becomes, but I don't practice very often.

I had to caulk up a big gap in the exterior brick off of our old garage today, so that means popping the cap off of a big tube of exterior "brick" caulk and loading up the caulk gun. Well, I had no problem loading the bath/tile caulk into the gun for fixing the upstairs window leak (and that hasn't leaked since, but M*chelle did the caulking). This one wasn't working, though. I turned the little endpiece until it felt flush with the bottom of the caulk tube then started squeezing, but nothing was coming out.

So I kept it up and kept it up and finally, when I had the butt of the gun on the floor so I could squeeze the handle with greater leverage ... POP! ... a caulk geyser. Fortunately, it all came off of my hands and clothes pretty easily, and I was able to proceed from there to fix up the hole rather messily. At least you can't see daylight through it anymore, just a big plop of dried caulking now. I came home and used the rest of the tube to caulk some gaps in the brick in the side of our new house along with our bedroom window.

I also need to finish replacing bulbs in the old house. Now *there's* something I'm good at, light bulb replacement! There are still at least 8-10 fluorescent bulbs at the old house that need to be replaced with incandescant bulbs. I'm not leaving my pricey energy-saver bulbs behind, that's for sure! By the time I'm done with the new place, I will have replaced roughly 50 regular bulbs with energy savers. It's a cost investment, sure, but I'm saving an average of 40 watts per bulb (most of them are 14 watts replacing 60, but not all), so that's a kilowatt-hour every 30 minutes. If the light bulbs in our house are on for an average of three hours per day, at about 15 cents a kilowatt-hour, then we're saving almost a dollar a day just with the bulbs. They'll pay for themselves in maybe six months (some have paid for themselves already because I've been using them at the old house for a couple of years, and these bulbs last 6-10 years).

The energy saver windows will likely do even better. I know a typical square meter of single-pane lets through (via conduction) about 100 times more heat/cold than a double-pane window, but that doesn't take into account the helpful effect of blinds or curtains and also assumes continuous airflow past the windows. Still, it's at least a factor of 10 or so, I imagine, and there are a TON of square meters of window glass on this house. With the tinting to cut down on radiant heating during the summer, we'll be able to save quite a bit. Big initial investment, though, and I hate going so deep into debt.

In the long run, it all pays for itself and then some, I guess. One we get these windows in and the rest of the bulbs and a new dishwasher to replace the crappy one the new house is currently cursed with, I'm going to pucker up tighter than ... well, you can make up your own joke. Let's hear it for 0% cards!
They've saved me thousands in interest over the past few years, for sure, and I have great credit so it is normally easy to transfer balances around to ensure I always have most or all of my debt at 0%. I'm starting to get charged a little bit for balance transfers, though, which is new this past year from all the credit card companies and SUCKS, but I still come out way ahead by avoiding interest.

Too bad our prospective homebuyers don't have such great credit. Apparently, this family with four kids really likes our house and wants to live in the neighborhood (our house is the only 4-bedroom for sale and cleaned up really nice), so they are the perfect buyers. But it's looking like they may not have the credit rating to make an offer. Very frustrating.

Posted by Observer at 08:02 PM | Comments (5)

February 06, 2006

Championships

I didn't watch the game too close, but people down here (mostly anti-Steelers, granted) are complaining that Seattle got jobbed by the refs pretty hard, enough to turn the outcome of the game. Even though the margin was 11 points, it still looked pretty much like anybody's game to me. You know what, though? Just getting there is still pretty sweet, and Seattle fans will probably never forget it.

Maybe it's from watching all of the great Cowboy-49er shootouts, but to me, the conference championship games have always been a lot more exciting and rewarding than the big clown show that follows. I still remember Alvin Harper catching a slant over the middle to seal the deal against SF, just as I'm sure Niner fans remember "The Catch", but few of us could cite a memorable play from the Super Bowl that followed either game.

It's easier to say that and be all magnanimous, though, knowing your team has five rings.

Posted by Observer at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Short Memories

According to the "libertarian" wingnut crowd, Bush has the right to ignore the Constitution and eavesdrop on American citizens whenever he feels like it. First of all, if you don't think this has been used against political opponents, you haven't been paying attention. This administration ALREADY routinely equates political opponents with terrorist sympathizers, with troop-haters. It's not a stretch, believe me.

Anyway, secondly, one thing I keep hearing is that this "War on Terror" is different from any other war we've faced, that the danger is greater to Americans, etc. You know, maybe it is just me but about thirty odd years ago, didn't we face the threat of total nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Evil Empire? Nobody had to violate the Constitution brazenly and routinely to fight the Cold War. We preserved our liberties and fought the war, because our liberties are in large part what separate our society from theirs.

The president broke the law. It wasn't some huge, gigantic important issue like lying about a blowjob, I know. I understand that. But still, he broke the law.

IMPEACH.

Posted by Observer at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

Well, Darn.

The Steelers won, so now they have as many Super Bowl titles as the Cowboys. I didn't watch much of the game since we were cleaning up and organizing around the new house, so I can't really comment on much of anything, including the commercials. There's just so much to do with both the new house and still a little bit left with the old house that it's hard to sit still and watch tv right now. I miss having nothing better to do but watch something I TiVo'd for an hour or so.

We went on a big trip today to check out Ikea. I really had high hopes, but honestly, we just couldn't find anything that would fit with the stuff we already have. Probably more of an indictment of our crap than Ikea's taste. There were some super-nice bookshelves there, but they were too pricey and not really good for paperbacks. Nothing else really struck our fancy, so that was about an hour's drive for nothing.

We did find a nice little card table with padded chairs at Target on the way home. That'll be a good dueling table for the boys and a good poker/game table as well. Very comfy. I built a new deck the other night so I could start dueling the boys again. The Yu-Gi-Oh gods have decreed a new "ban list" that bans a lot of commonly used cards. There were about 7-10 cards that were so useful and powerful with all deck types that they were in everyone's deck, so now they're gone.

The boys don't like it; they don't appreciate the challenge of building a new deck with different cards. I think it's fantastic and makes for much more interesting and diverse decks. I'm sure they'll come around, but if their friends don't play by the same rules, they'll have to keep changing their decks when they want to duel at school or what have you.

They've also started releasing "structure decks" that have some very rare and useful cards that are almost impossible to get at random out of packs. These are cards that are only useful with certain deck types, but since they were so rare, everyone pretty much used the same three or four deck types. Now that they're easy to get, there are lots and lots of different deck types being built around a few rare cards that work well together, etc. So it's fun to build and experiment with decks again.

Since we haven't bought packs in a long while, we're about six or seven sets behind the most current sets that are being issued, and that means buying boxes of those older sets is a lot cheaper than buying the more current boxes.

Posted by Observer at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2006

Fitting End

A fitting end to the season will be this coin-flip of a Super Bowl. I'll take Seattle, 24-17, just because i know this will basically be a home game for Pittsburgh fans, who are absolutely come-out-of-the-woodwork-when-they-are-winning insufferable. I want them to eat some Super Bowl losses like we Cowboy fans had to do in the 70's. See how it tastes, guys.

Also to stick one in the eye of the stupid Aggies for trying to make a big deal out of the 12th man thing. I'd love to see what would happen if the Aggies found out some other school had trademarked "bonfire" or "incredibly gay yell leaders". I guarantee you they would just go right on doing it.

I made four trips to the dump today, and I'm only about four back-and-forth trips to the new house away from cleaning all of our stuff, every last scrap, out of the old house. Then we have a few more things to do, ideally, on the list my brother gave us to help sell the house. We'll likely get that done tomorrow, taking advantage of the good weather. I suppose I'll watch some of the Super Bowl, but it's tough to care much. I don't really love or hate either team, just mildly annoying with Pittsburgh fans. Plus it would be nice to see Seattle win and make all the East Coast media types picking Pittsburgh shut up for a few milliseconds.

By the way, it's really tough to move into a new house and not spend about $10k getting every single update/fix we can dream of RIGHT NOW so we can enjoy it for the maximum amount of time. After feeling downright HOT in D*niel's south-facing room with the giant bay window when it was only 65 degrees outside, I'm totally going to figure out some solution for that or that place will be an absolute oven in the summer, not to mention outrageous electric bills. Aluminum foil over the windows is the cheapest way to go but incredibly tacky.

Double-paned windows would obviously help, but I think more heat is getting in through radiation as opposed to conduction. I don't know if I want to mess with installing blackout shades along with the blinds. It's damn unwieldy, especially with the bay window configuration. I guess I need to look up some energy efficiency tips.

Posted by Observer at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)

February 03, 2006

Common Themes

Here are a few things which bear repeating once in a while.

The Republicans control all three branches of government and have for almost every bit of the past six years, and during that time, the national debt has more than doubled. And as I've shown in the past, 9/11 and the economy have very little to do with it. It's all about the tax cuts and the war, combined with a refusal to cut any programs and instead to dramatically increase the size of government. Remember, *Republicans* are in charge here.

We liberals supported the invasion of Afghanistan, the hunting down of Osama bin Forgotten, and the destruction of the terrorist-sponsoring Taliban government.

Keeping in mind that the Republicans are in charge, know that if they wanted to ban partial birth abortion once and for all, they could do so tomorrow. They simply refuse to include an exception to preserve the life of the mother, which guarantees that the courts (no matter what kind of judge is ruling) will strike it down. They do this purposefully to keep the issue alive to drive their base to the polls. Not only do they not care about life in these tragic cases, they are actively manipulating the issue.

By the way, the Republican Congress is thoroughly, thoroughly corrupt. Trading campaign donations and perks for legislation was once a big story, even a scandal. Now it is standard operating procedure.

The Republican administration is routinely and brazenly violating the 4th amendment by illegally eavesdropping on phone conversations on American soil without a warrant. Requiring that the administration get a warrant is hardly burdensome, especially since the FISA court in charge of such things grants them about 99% of the time and is willing to grant them retroactively up to three days after the fact. Reporting on this behavior cannot possibly be harming national security because the terrorists have already demonstrating that they know we're listening, plus the president himself has already discussed the program at length in press conferences with far, far more detail than was ever initially released by the press.

The war in Iraq was based on lies. There is plenty of evidence now that the administration knew what they were saying publicly was false. There is plenty of evidence now that they planned to go to war no matter what, and there is plenty of evidence that they ignored all attempts to plan for the postwar reconstruction because they were worried about negative details getting out and dampening the public's enthusiasm for invasion. Over 2000 of our soldiers have died and many times that number are crippled physically or emotionally, and at least ten times that number of Iraqi civilians have died for this.

If you have small children and you support this war, I think you ought to take a look at what is happening to some of the kids over in Iraq who have absolutely no fucking idea what is going on or why they hurt. It's pretty easy to forget how evil war is, how necessary it is to be the very last resort (not a vanity war of choice), because the "liberal" media doesn't show us these pictures for fear of appearing "biased".

America is being led by arrogant pricks. We're supposed to be the good guys, the ones the world look up to as a city on a hill. We have to take America back.

Posted by Observer at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

Blah Blah First Amendment Blah Blah

Glenn Greenwald had a very good summary about the whole Cindy Sheehan dust-up during the State of the Union. It's funny how the "liberal" media has widely reported her arrest but hardly whispered about her complete exoneration and public apology from capitol police for screwing up. Anyway, included in his multiple quotes from wingnut blogs is this gem:

[Jack Patriot is a blogger] who, despite naming himself "Jack Patriot" and putting an American flag at the top of his blog, is tired of having to hear about 'blah blah First Amendment blah blah".

That pretty much sums up the wingnuttosphere, doesn't it? We're all super American kick-ass Patriots who love the flag and love our troops and love everything America stands for. Except when we'd rather not.

That, and they get the vapors any time some liberal gets "angry" and starts using cross words.

Posted by Observer at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

Lost and Found

I've been really really really absent-minded lately about putting stuff down and forgetting where it was. I had D*niel's diaper bag in hand yesterday morning after coming back inside specifically to get it after D*niel was already in the van. Well, I put it down somewhere and went to the bedroom to get something else, and holy crap I couldn't find that diaper bag. I swear I looked for five minutes for that thing and finally just gave up and left. That kind of thing has happened at least three times in the past month. I know it's just because of tired brain. I sure hope so! I'm too young to go bonkers.

Well, we had a similar problem with the checkbook. I misplaced it somewhere, and I really needed to balance it for month-end. So we spent about an hour looking for it last night to no avail. We find out today that I left it on the car roof, drove off and it fell into the street. Some old lady walking picked it up, tried to call the number. Of course, we've moved and that number is disconnected. So she and her husband drive by our old house, and of course, we're not there. But they get the realtor number off the sign and call my brother who then calls me and I went over this afternoon to get it from them. A thousand thankyous later, I have the checkbook back. I'm definitely sending that guy a Starbucks gift card or something in the mail after I finish kicking myself.

I figured out the other day that I've lived in 8 different places in the last ten years. For someone who hates moving as much as I do (especially considering the zillions of books I have), it's just insane. I told M*chelle last night that I'm not budging from this place for at minimum 15 years unless it just burns to the ground or something.

Posted by Observer at 10:14 AM | Comments (5)

February 01, 2006

Clean 'Em Up!

When it is time to go somewhere and take all of his trains with him, D*niel starts saying "Clean 'em up!" as he packs all of his trains and tracks into little carrying cases (the little soft plastic cylinders that extra track comes in make for great carrying cases). We've been doing the clean up patrol at the old house to get it ready for sale, and I have to say, we've worked our asses off on this move since a month ago, especially in the past week where we haven't had a moment's rest. And it's a sucky time of year for both of us, very busy at work with lots of extra commitments.

But somehow we've worked in enough time and roped the poor kids into all kinds of crappy chores over at the old place. C*dy is a lot like me at his age, a real work dodger. Unfortunately for him, I know all the tricks. I know how to look busy but not be doing anything, how to suddenly find something else really important to do, like go stand in the other room, when chore time comes around. "Oh," I would say, "I'm sorry, I forgot that needed to be done." My siblings hated me for it, but I got out of a lot of work. C*dy isn't so lucky, because when he goes to find a hiding place from work, I'm waiting for him with a broom, cheerfully telling him, "Oh good, you're in here now, so you can start sweeping."

Oh, that boy gets *SO* mad when I get cheerful and start assigning chores, but usually he works instead of shutting down. It's tough right now because we're all under a ton of stress. We knew it was going to be this way when we decided to move, though, and this is temporary, and we'll come out the other side in great shape.

Anyway, we were at the old place two days ago, I guess, and I asked my brother what else he felt we needed to do to get the place ready to sell. Mind you, this is after the place was emptied out, after the maid team spent 3 hours going over the place, after M*chelle and I had worked our fingers to the bone getting everything done, after the carpets were cleaned (by the way, don't *ever* rent one of those do-it-yourself things from the store ... there's absolutely no comparison). Anyway, he started ticking things off.

Oh, you should rub this window ledge down with linseed oil to hide those cracks, maybe get some stain. That tile needs to be fixed. You need to get the cobwebs off the upper part of the living room ceiling. Clean up the rest of the trash in the backyard. Touch up paint on the exterior doors and patio area where needed. Remove all the baby locks in the house (ARGH! Those were HELL to install!). Remove the curtain rods in the kitchen and the curtain on the back door. Unscrew this. Caulk here. Remove that. Plant pansies in the front and turn over all the soil in the front garden, even though yes it will be beaten down when the rain pours off the roof the very next time. By the time he was done, we had a "to do" list of chores a mile long.

I wanted him to tell me everything he would do to get the house sell-able, but I didn't promise that we would do everything he asked. Still, the advice was valuable and we're going to do everything he asked us to do that is physically possible. Our old house officially went on the market today, but my brother had his realtor sign in the yard since the weekend, and he already had a showing scheduled for this evening for a family with four kids who drove by and saw the sign.

Knowing that really lit a fire under me and M*chelle, so we worked hard last night and this afternoon to get it ready, and we've knocked off most of the list. The garage is the dumping ground for all trash and yet-to-be-sorted crap, and I'll do that this weekend along with the rest of the list. The report from tonight's showing was positive. The potential buyers are checking their credit tomorrow morning in the hopes of making us an offer, but we're told not to get excited or optimistic. I understand how it goes, but hell, I'm just happy the first people to look at the house had a good enough impression to go to the trouble to make an offer. If it goes through, it would be a freakin' miracle.

When I look at the house empty now, I'm really glad we moved all of our stuff out. I think it looks a lot more ready-to-move-in, which for most people is more important than a sad looking vacant house. I'll tell you what's bad is a vacant house that hasn't been cleaned up. That's what looks abandoned and crappy. A vacant house that is spotless, now that's attractive. And that's what we've got now.

One of my last jobs today was taking the blower to the barns. One of them apparently had a bit of a rat/squirrel problem because we left some old Christmas candy there one time. So here I am with a blower trying to blow all of this powdered shit out of the barn, and I swear I must've breathed in a few good lungfuls. So if I die of hantavirus in the next few months, you'll know why. I couldn't shower quickly enough after being immersed in a tornado of dusty shit in that damned barn.

The sad thing is, we need a barn at our new place, so I'll probably have to spring for another barn pretty soon (the barns we had came with that house). We'll just be really careful that it closes up tight and we don't leave anything edible in there.

Posted by Observer at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)