May 31, 2006

Sploosh!

M*chelle has some pictures up today along with the lengthy birth story for the official record. Highly recommended reading.

In other news, potty training had a little setback (a wee setback?) this morning as little D*niel decided to go into the bathroom on his own while Daddy got a new book to read with him on the potty. Well, D*niel didn't put the seat down, and when he went to plunk his little bare butt on the toilet, he went SPLOOSH! right into the drink.

Not a happy camper, and he's still telling Mommy about it right now. Fortunately, he got right back on the horse (as it were) and has tried a few more times today. Our 12-year-old (C*dy) claims that D*niel peed for him (I was in the other room and didn't even realize C*dy was trying to pitch in on this one), but it was only a few drops. Even if that happened, there was no immediate reaction from anyone, so that was a missed opportunity.

He's done brushing his teeth and coming over now to kiss me goodnight. It is a very fun feeling to watch that boy lay his eyes on you and start running across the room, because you know he's going to plant a little bird peck on your cheek and say "night, night". As he gets better at expressing himself, those neat little moments are more and more common, but the whiney moments are also increasing as he starts to wonder why Snack/Drink On Demand or Cookie For Breakfast or 24-Hour Thomas on TV isn't an option for him.

Posted by Observer at 09:05 PM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2006

Good Day

Today was C*dy's 12th birthday. He had a friend over, and I took them to go see X-Men 3, for which I will offer my four word review: "What were you expecting?"

It was fine. There was a bit more permanent death going on than I expected. I guess I was spoiled by reading 200+ issues of the comic when all the main characters kept living through all kinds of crap. It seems kind of unfair that a movie gets to kill off so many major characters all at once.

Anyway, we came home and C*dy collected his birthday loot. Looks like I got him the wrong Mario game, so I'll have to see if I can rectify that tomorrow. Baby B*n has a fairly predictable schedule now, but it still doesn't include a nice long sleep during the night so much. M*chelle is doing great with it, and I can usually sleep through most of it, but if it wakes up the toddler (which it does about half the time when baby screams), that's my job.

D*niel is still testing his boundaries, and he earned himself a time out today. We sat him in a chair for two minutes, and M*chelle nearly had to punch me to keep me from laughing when D*niel started saying angrily (with emphatic pointing), "Mommy go to your room!"

In other news, part of my job is being on a committee that advises students trying to get into medical school. We practice doing interviews with them to get them ready. One recent practice I had with a student went very poorly for that student. He had gotten a real interview at a school last year, but he blew it, and I think he was feeling that when he came in to see me.

I totally understand what it is like to blow an important interview (or professional talk). It's not a pleasant thing, and it sticks with you forever. To this day, I still have trouble giving talks to colleagues but no trouble teaching students, and part of it comes from a fear that I'll blow another talk.

I really sympathized with the guy, so I gave him some advice, talked to him about how he should approach the same question he blew last year, told him he had a lot to be proud of. Basically, it was a lot of stuff he needed to hear, because he's a nice guy, a good student, and it would be a shame to not see him through to some professional training. And by the way, he's a right-wing fundie homophobe, but he's too young to really have any informed opinions, so I didn't hold it against him (plus he's going for dentistry, so professionally, it's not important). Probably has goofy parents or something, the poor kid.

I found out this morning from a couple of colleagues who practiced with the same guy later that he aced their interviews, and after each interview, he said the real key was that he got the advice he needed from me. It's really nice to contribute that way, and it's even nicer that it is recognized and appreciated. So rare among undergraduates, which is one reason I like being on this committee, because we deal with so many rare (in a good way) undergraduates.

Posted by Observer at 11:05 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2006

Lock 'Em Up

Glenn Greenwald wrote a good piece over the weekend about the apparent need of the Bush administration to imprison journalists. The whole article is, as usual for Greenwald, quite thorough with supporting evidence and verbiage from across the conservative-to-liberal spectrum on the importance of constitutional safeguards. Here are a couple of the highlights:

As one can say for so many core American political principles, the U.S. Government under 42 different Presidents has thrived and defended the nation for 220 years without the need to imprison journalists for the stories they publish, but the Bush administration is the first to claim that it has to dismantle these liberties because it is too weak -- and America is too weak -- to maintain national security unless we radically change the kind of country we are.

[...]

That's how this group of Bush followers thinks America is supposed to work. If you are a U.S. citizen, the President can unilaterally order you abducted and imprisoned; does not have to charge you with any crime; can block you from speaking with anyone, including a lawyer; can keep you incarcerated indefinitely (meaning forever); and can deny you the right to any judicial review of your imprisonment or any mechanism for challenging the accuracy of the accusations. And oh - while it would be nice if we could preserve all of that abstract lawyer nonsense about the right to a jury trial and all that, we're really scared that Al Qaeda is going to kill us, so we can't.

[...]

if there is any defining American principle, it is that the President can't throw U.S. citizens in jail without charges and a trial. Since the 13th Century Magna Carta, not even the British King could do that. But there are virtually no American political principles left which are not being called into question, if not overtly attacked, by Bush followers. Prohibitions on torture, the right to a jury trial, the obligation of the President to obey the law, the right of the press to publish stories without criminal prosecution -- all of the values which have distinguished this country and defined who we are as a nation for the last two centuries are all being debated and assaulted.

What do you do with people who never learned that American citizens can't be imprisoned by Executive decree and without a trial, or that American journalists aren't imprisoned for stories they write about the Government's conduct? People like this plainly do not embrace, or comprehend, even the most basic principles of what America is.

I can't wait to sit down and read this guy's book. He's one of the few bloggers out there who regularly writes original, compelling essays on current events.

Posted by Observer at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2006

Mess With the Bull, You Get the Horns

Principal Vernon from "The Breakfast Club", who was a pretty good bit player in a lot of movies, will be missed.

Posted by Observer at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

The Media *IS* the Issue

From Media Matters' Jamison Foser:

The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor easy.

Even many members of the media have stopped contesting this painfully obvious point, instead offering dubious justifications. Bill Clinton's "scandals" made for better stories than George Bush's, we are told, because they were simpler and easier for readers and viewers to understand. "Sex sells," while George Bush's false claims about Iraq are much harder to explain.

This excuse is simply nonsense.

First, what's so hard to understand about this? George Bush and his administration systematically distorted available intelligence to lead the nation to war on false pretenses. His administration has been marked by corruption, incompetence, lies, secrecy, and flagrant disregard for bedrock constitutional principles. None of that can be too complicated: Polls suggest that the majority of Americans believe all of those things.

Second, even if it were true that Clinton's "scandals" were easier for consumers of news to understand, the ease of explaining an affair would, if we had a serious and functional news media, be more than offset by the far greater importance of Bush's misdeeds.

Finally, this is such a grotesque distortion of the media's treatment of Clinton that it is difficult to explain by anything other than outright dishonesty. Reporters who offer the excuse that they and their colleagues covered Clinton "scandals" so much because sex sells, and is easily explained and understood, are cherry-picking. They are ignoring the obsessive coverage they gave to Clinton "scandals" that had nothing to do with sex, and that were not widely understood.

They are ignoring, for example, years of coverage of Whitewater, an obscure land deal in which the Clintons lost money and that was investigated by multiple independent counsels, congressional committees, federal agencies, and every news organization in the country -- none of which found any wrongdoing by the Clintons. Whitewater had nothing to do with sex, and nobody understood it -- probably because there was nothing to understand. And that's not even going into Travelgate, Filegate, Vince Foster's suicide, or the myriad other "scandals" the media covered that did not involve sex.

Eric Boehlert, author of the excellent new book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, May 2006), has offered one example of the obsessive coverage the media gave Whitewater:

In the 24 months between Jan. 1994 and Jan. 1996, long before Monica Lewinsky entered the picture and back when Whitewater was about an alleged crooked land deal, Nightline devoted 19 programs to the then-unfolding scandal and investigation, for which no Clinton White House official was ever indicted.

[...]

But during the 24 months between Sept. 2003 and Sept. 2005, Nightline set aside just three programs to the unfolding CIA leak investigation, for which Libby, an assistant to the president, was indicted. On the night of the Libby indictments, Nightline devoted just five percent of its program to that topic.

Exactly one year ago, we referred to "the most obvious example" of this:

The same news organizations that pursued the Whitewater "scandal" as though it were Watergate, Teapot Dome, and the Lindbergh Baby all wrapped into one virtually ignored Bush's controversial sale of Harken Energy stock. The basic information about that sale -- that Bush, while serving as a Harken director and member of the company's audit committee, dumped more than 200,000 shares of the company's stock shortly before Harken publicly announced massive losses -- was publicly available long before Bush ran for president. Yet The Washington Post, to name one news outlet, gave the matter a total of 26 words of attention during the 2000 presidential campaign. The July 30, 1999, edition of the Post reported:

Even now, questions linger about a 1990 sale of Harken stock by Bush that was the subject of a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That's it. Twenty-six words.

[...]

To sum up: In the months before the 2000 election, newly disclosed documents revealed that shortly before he dumped his Harken stock, George W. Bush had been told that the company faced a "liquidity crisis" and was "in a state of noncompliance" with lenders and that its plan to raise money was being abandoned. The documents revealed that the SEC -- which, at the time, was run by a close ally of Bush's father, then-President George H. W. Bush -- never bothered to interview Bush about his stock sale during its investigation of the matter.

And The New York Times completely ignored it. Completely. The Washington Post completely ignored it. USA Today completely ignored it. ABC, CBS and NBC? Ignored, ignored, ignored. CNN? CNN is an all-news channel; it has a whole day to fill with news every single day. Surely CNN managed to squeeze in a mention or two of new evidence that a major-party presidential candidate may have made a fortune in an insider-trading scheme that was covered up by cronies of his father the president? No, CNN didn't even mention it. Not a word.

We can hear the apologists already: The media ignored these revelations because insider trading is too complicated. To which we say: So was Whitewater. Or maybe the apologists will argue that there was no story because the transaction had already been investigated by the SEC, with no finding of wrongdoing by Bush. To which we say: Whitewater had been investigated, too. Repeatedly.

Why do we insist on revisiting ancient history? Because the same garbage keeps happening over and over again. Because too many people -- journalists, activists, progressive leaders -- downplay the media's failings. Sure, they went overboard with Clinton, they say, but sex sells. But it wasn't just sex, and it wasn't just Clinton. Sure, they were a bit unfair to Al Gore, someone might concede, but he had it coming -- he was stiff and insincere. But it isn't just Al Gore. Sure, too many reporters may have been complicit in the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's smears of John Kerry, but he invited it by speaking openly and honestly about his service. Sure, Howard Dean's "scream" was overplayed, but he had it coming -- it was crazy! Sure, media elites fawn all over Bush, but he's just so likable! And John McCain, too. And Rudy Giuliani. They're all just so real and authentic.

At this point, you'd have to be blind to miss the pattern. Every prominent progressive leader who comes along is openly derided in the media as fake, dishonest, conniving, out-of-the-mainstream, and weak. We simply can't continue to chalk this up to shortcomings on the part of Democratic candidates or their staff and consultants. It's all too clear that this will happen regardless of who the candidate or leader is; regardless of who works for him or her. The smearing of Jack Murtha should prove that to anyone who still doubts it.

Meanwhile, any conservative who comes along is going to be praised for being strong and authentic and likable. Ask yourself: What prominent Republican is routinely portrayed in the media as a phony the way Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton are?

[...]

The New York Times -- the same newspaper that couldn't be bothered to report a single word about new evidence suggesting that George W. Bush possessed insider information when he dumped his Harken stock -- this week devoted 2,000 words and a portion of its front page to examining the state of the Clintons' marriage, tallying the days they spend together and rehashing long-forgotten baseless tabloid rumors of a relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Canadian politician Belinda Stronach.

Rather than ignore or denounce the Times' decision to interview 50 people for a story about the Clintons' private lives, the Washington media elite embraced it, turning the pages of the nation's most influential newspapers into glorified supermarket tabloids. And television, predictably, was worse.

[...]

If the media are going to put candidates' personal lives on the table, it's time they do so for all candidates. If common decency and the shame that should accompany behaving like voyeuristic 10th-graders aren't enough to convince the David Broders and Chris Matthewses and Tim Russerts of the world that the Clintons marriage is none of their damn business -- or ours -- then basic fairness dictates that they treat Republican candidates the same way. Because the only thing worse than a bunch of reporters peering into bedroom windows of candidates is a bunch of reporters peering into the bedroom windows of only one party's candidates.

Take John McCain, for example. He divorced his first wife (after having a series of affairs) to marry (a month after his divorce) a wealthy and politically connected heiress ... just in time to launch his political career. And what of his relationship with the second (and current) wife? Let's apply the New York Times test to them, shall we? How many days a month do they spend together? How many days are they apart -- she in Arizona and he in Washington, or traveling the country raising money? How close can they really be, given that he reportedly had no idea his wife was addicted to painkillers she was stealing from a charity she founded -- had no clue of an addiction that caused her to check herself into a drug treatment center.

Is this the sort of thing that should be a front-page story in The New York Times? No. Is it the sort of thing that Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and David Broder should tout and hype as a "hot topic" of McCain's presidential campaign, and speculate about endlessly? No. But there is simply no justification for covering John McCain and Hillary Clinton in such disparate ways. If Hillary Clinton's marriage is relevant, so is John McCain's.

And so is George Bush's. The New York Times repeats Globe speculation about Bill Clinton, so when can we expect to read on the front page of the Times about the Globe's report that George and Laura Bush have broken up and are leading "separate lives" in part because of "booze problems"?

We expect that some of our readers are angry that we're raising these matters. Good. You should be angry that anybody would raise John McCain's wife's addiction to painkillers, or a supermarket tabloid report about George and Laura Bush's marriage. It is, as David Broder once wrote, no way to pick a president.

But if you're angry about this, you should be far more angry that for years, the media has employed a double-standard in covering progressives and conservatives. You constantly hear about the Clintons' personal lives on television; you read about it in the newspaper. John McCain doesn't get the same treatment; nor does George Bush or Rudy Giuliani. Intrusive, irrelevant tabloid-style coverage of candidates is wrong. Intrusive, irrelevant tabloid-style coverage of some candidates, while others are afforded an appropriate zone of privacy is even worse. And it can't go on.

Ah, but it will go on, because the media does have a bias in favor of the the corporate power and status quo, and the industry is protected from external forces trying to change it by the very power structure it reports on. The best hope is that blogging, as imperfect as it is, will end up having more credibility and more popularity and more influence that the so-called liberal media, and that includes the whole blogosphere, even the wingnuts.

Hell, it's already true that the average number of unique daily visitors to sites like Daily Kos absolutely crushes the ratings of cable news networks (pick your favorite), and readership is growing.

Posted by Observer at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2006

Da Vinci Movie

For my birthday today, I got a gas grill (admittedly, a few days ago) from M*chelle and my mom, a gigantic chocolate cake from Costco (chocolate cake, chocolate icing and chocolate mousse filling), an edger and hedge trimmer (that I had asked for but forgot) from M*chelle (combined birthday and father's day gifts), some money from various relatives that I used to buy some things (and will continue to use in the near future) like an illustrated version of "The Da Vinci Code" and a couple of Shumard Red Oak trees for the front yard (size to be determined by price and availability but I want some shade on this south-facing house quickly!).

I also took myself (and our 16-year-old J*stin) to go see "The Da Vinci Code" for my birthday today. I've been wanting to see this movie since I heard about it a long time ago because, like many, I really enjoyed the book and wanted to see a lot of the symbols and puzzles and locations on the big screen. I wasn't disappointed.

I admit if I hadn't read the book, I don't believe I would've been able to follow this movie. Thinking back on it, I imagine I could find a few plot holes (why does character X do ABCDEFG when he could've just started at G ... you know, those sorts of things), but I'm pretty good at suspending my disbelief and going along for the ride.

This was a fun, puzzle-solving, somewhat unconventional movie. Yes, there were chases and shooting, but the climax scenes of the movie were surprisingly peaceful and just neat. This is one of the best translations of a bestseller I've seen recently, ranking up there with "The Hunt for Red October" and "Disclosure" as fun mind candy.

Posted by Observer at 08:55 PM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2006

Funny Video

I found a link to this in comments over at The Sideshow. Watch this brief video of Bush discussing immigration, and pay attention to what is happening over his shoulder.

Posted by Observer at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

Baby Update

A majority of my readers (2 out of 3) have expressed a preference for a baby update (my wife will be updating soon, I'm sure, and already has a couple of pictures up), and since I'm not motivated to rant about something other than marvel at last night's awesome Ranger game where we came back from 7-0 down with 5 home runs in the last four innings to beat Oakland ...

Little Obi-Wan is now 12 days old. His little circumcision ring fell off pretty quick, and we think he has recovered from that just fine. His cord fell off a couple of days ago at last, so he had his first real bath on that day. He doesn't much like sponge baths. Gets too cold. Fortunately, our hall bathroom has one of those heater elements in the ceiling, so if we turn that on 15 minutes ahead of time, we can get the room all toasty for him.

He seemed to like his real bath just fine. M*chelle put a wet warm facecloth on his tummy to keep him warm, and he was all right. Screamed when we took him out, of course, just shivering head to toe, but once he's swaddled, he's fine. He's eating and pooping pretty good, but his schedule still hasn't settled down, and he's tough to burp. Either M*chelle pats him for an hour, or she lays him down and his spits up and gets unhappy.

His first checkup went fine, that was about 72 hours after the birth, and we now have baby announcements. We got some decent ones with our own photo printed out at W*l-Mart for 40 cents apiece, postcard size. I can see now why that area of the store is always so crowded. It costs a lot less to just take your memory stick into the store rather than trying to print them up at home. Faster, too.

Email me an address, and we'll send you a baby birth announcement!

In other kid news, D*niel is pretty jealous and wants a lot of mommy time right now. So he's been pretty difficult (well, more than usual, which is still pretty low maintenance) since we brought B*n home. We're trying to find things to keep D*niel busy besides D*ra, L*ttle Einsteins, the B*ckyardigans and Th*mas the Tank Eng*ne. The refurbished YMCA that we belong to has a nice playroom for toddlers, so I'm going to try to take him there regularly this summer so I can exercise instead of going to the mall playgrounds so much.

We're also starting potty training. I have the oven timer going off every thirty minutes to remind us to get that boy on the potty, and it's a big pain. D*niel sat on the potty for a good 20 minutes this morning, then got up to put his books away into the wooden book box (that doubles as his step-up to the toilet). Before you know it, he had a nice pee right into the box all over his books. Argh.

I had to laugh, but I didn't want to laugh in front of him to encourage him to keep doing that. Better luck next time. If he knew he was going to get a new diecast train after his first successful potty, I'm sure he'd have been trained months ago, but that's hard to explain to a 2 year old.

B*n is up and down through the night, and M*chelle has the night shift. I keep D*niel out of their hair in the mornings since that is when mama and baby like to sleep the longest. There goes the oven timer, time for another potty session.

Posted by Observer at 11:24 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2006

B.J. Speaks

Mike Farrell, who gained fame playing a combat surgeon on M*A*S*H and who has been a passionate and eloquent anti-war spokesman in the past, speaks up about the current farce in Iraq while discussing the new show "Baghdad ER":

I cringed at the gore, was sickened by the death, wept at the frustration and resignation of the medics, at the faith of the chaplain, at the simple, shocked, blank expressions on the faces of kids younger than my son – victims of this fool's war. Listening to the bravado of some, aching to comfort those who came in knowing they were hurt but not how badly, made me want to scream. Watching this horrifying, endless process, the tears on my face kept drying from the heat of my anger. Glorious, generous, talented, dedicated human beings forced to be part of this circus of carnage made me so furious I couldn't speak at the end.

I loathe the people who have created this monstrosity. I want the criminals who lied and cheated and pretended and twisted and perverted reality - and those who rationalized their crimes - so they could send over 2400 servicemen and woman to their death, nearly 18,000 to come home torn - some never to be whole again - thousands more to suffer mental damage, and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians to be swept into the garbage can of "collateral damage," to pay. These bastards and their apologists should be stripped naked and forced to walk the main streets of America, allowing every city and town that has lost a loved one to injury or death in this shameful catastrophe to heap on them the scorn they deserve.

John F. Kennedy said America would never start a war. Well, it has now, and its architects have damaged our character, poisoned our standing in the world and soiled the soul of what was once the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Oh, but God forbid anyone get "angry" about all of this! And, really, the important issue as we all know is "Are the Clintons having regular sex?"

Posted by Observer at 12:05 AM | Comments (3)

May 24, 2006

Now We're Cooking With Gas

For my birthday, M*chelle and my mom pitched in on a new gas grill, and I guess I'll try to break it in on Friday by grilling up some burgers. As I've always said, nothing beats a 100-degree heat index day like standing over a 500-degree fire.

I've only ever used charcoal to grill, and it's hard to cook stuff well on that because I could never keep the heat even over the grill, constant over time or predictable over a few minutes or an hour. It tasted great when it came out right, but based on what kind of shit (literally) gets into ground beef these days, I got to the point where I didn't feel comfortable grilling burgers since I didn't always know for sure if they got cooked fully or if there were little pockets of undercooked nasty mixed in there.

Anyway, guess it's time to break out the big grilling cookbook and try to figure out how to turn this contraption on. Any tips would be welcome.

Oh, when I bought a propane tank, the poor guy unlocked the cage, hauled out a big heavy tank and started to hand it to me. I said, "Hang on a sec. Do you think I could have that one in the middle instead of this one?" He looked at me for a split-second and started to turn around, and I had to stop him, "I'm kidding!" He thought it was funny, too, fortunately for me.

That kind of humor makes me think back fondly to my college days when I used to just love engineer vs physicist vs mathematician jokes. You know the ones I'm talking about, right? I imagine they're easy to find with a Google search, but I'll work from memory...

A physicist, an engineer and a mathematician are umpires at a baseball game, and on a close play at the plate, the runner is called out. The manager comes out to argue and talks to each umpire in turn. The physicist says, "He has to be out. He started running from third base at an average speed of 30 feet per second, and that ends up taking more time than the time from when the outfielder caught the ball until the catcher made the tag. It's simple, really."

The engineer says, "Look, buddy, I got it all right here on the replay monitor. You can measure for yourself that when the tag was applied, there was still 3.42 inches of space between the outer boundary of the runner's foot and the edge of home plate. I've seen this kind of thing a thousand times."

The mathematician says, "He's out because I *SAY* he's out."

Posted by Observer at 11:37 PM | Comments (2)

May 23, 2006

Netiquette

TBogg has some funny tips on blogger etiquette as it pertains to being racist without really admitting it.

Posted by Observer at 11:50 PM | Comments (4)

May 22, 2006

Thought Experiment

Atrios tries to imagine what life would be like with a balanced traditional media that did stories not only on the sordid history of the Clintons (which is the only story you'll typically get about Hillary, rather than talking about her political stands) but also on the history of Republican candidates.

Remember while you read this that it is totally made up. It is a great example of evidence against the old "liberal media" myth. We can point out lots of places where the traditional media is unfair to liberals or bending over for conservatives, but rarely do people on our side show you what kinds of articles are missing from the media for it to truly consider being balanced.

It's not that I would like to see more of these articles. I wouldn't. I'd like to see less of them about liberals, if anything. But if you're going to degrade one side (for example, by doing process stories about how Gore is only talking about global warming as a way of positioning himself for a possible presidential run instead of just maybe because it is something he has believed he needed to talk about for 25 years), then please go ahead and screw the other side, too (for example, well, pretty much any story behind the policies this administration comes out with ... like why they support putting gay marriage bashing amendments on state ballots during presidential election years or why abortion is still legal despite them controlling all three branches of government).

Anyway, the (made up) article:

Washington, DC, May 23 - Republicans say it is inevitable that some voters would be concerned and even distracted by the numerous personal indiscretions of the various candidates likely to seek the office of president, and express concern about whether they would be likely to repeat such behavior while in the White House.

While former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani's popularity increased after the events of September 11, pushing his personal issues into the background, Republicans worry he would bring to the White House the kind of activities which marred his tenure at Gracie Mansion.

Giuiliani's behavior led to a judge barring the presence of Judith Nathan, with whom he began having an affair during his last term as mayor, from the mayoral home. The judge's order also criticized Giuliani for the emotional harm he inflicted on his children.

Twice-married Virginia Senator George Allen faces questions over claimed sadistic treatment of his siblings and his fondness for confederate memorabilia despite his having grown up in California. While divorce alone may not disqualify him from the ballot in Republican voters' eyes - they overlooked it in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became the first, and only, divorced man to be elected president - it is still expected to impact his standing with conservative religious voters. Senator McCain of Arizona is in a similar position.

Thrice-married former Speaker of the House New Gingrich also concerns Republicans as he gears up for a potential presidential run. Gingrich, currently 62, began dating his geometry teacher, and future wife, while he was still in high school. He later served her divorce papers at her hospital bed where she was receiving treatment for cancer. He divorced his second wife after it was revealed that he had been having a long-running affair with a staffer 23 years younger than him during the Clinton impeachment saga.

Just think for a minute about how incredibly unlikely you are to see that kind of story come across the AP wire, for example, and then ponder the idea of a liberal media.

Posted by Observer at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

Still Going...

Now that Gore is back in the limelight with his new movie, it'll be interesting to watch the "Smear Gore" media machine cranking back up. Drudge kicked off a new idea today, reporting (falsely) that Gore's entourage of five cars travelled 500 yards to the premeire. In fact, the whole promotional tour is going to be net carbon neutral (they're probably offsetting the carbon consumption by building windmills or something).

Before you know it, they'll be talking about "Earth tones" and "invented the internet" et al. And then the traditional media will be wondering why a good guy like Gore can't get elected, and people will blame it on the wingnut media. But who needs enemies like that when "liberal" media sources like Time, Newsweek, the NY Times or the Washington Post will happily pass along the smears.

Bob Somerby has the whole Gore history, chapter and verse. It would be nice if people would familiarize themselves with it before braying "liberal media" all the time.

Posted by Observer at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2006

History Lesson

Via.

Posted by Observer at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)

The Standard Playbook

Glenn Greenwald makes a funny point about the delicate sensitivities of wingnuts who are just shocked, shocked! that people would dare boo the war hero John McCain:

National Review Editor Rich Lowry can't believe that John McCain, whom Lowry notes is a "war hero," was treated so disrespectfully when he spoke last night at the New School in Manhattan. Lowry finds it "incredible" and "amazing" that a war heo would be subjected to heckling when giving a highly controversial speech praising a highly unpopular war.

Apparently, heckling a war hero during a speech is a despicable act. But it's perfectly OK to waive purple band-aids at decorated, wounded war veterans; and it's fine to accuse them of being soft on Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein even after they voted for the Iraq invasion and co-sponsored creation of the Homeland Security Department; and there is nothing wrong with going to the floor of the House and labeling a war hero a "coward" and then following it up with a year's worth of accusations that they are also a traitor. Calling into question a war hero's patriotism, their courage, the seriousness of their war wounds, and their allegiance to the United States is all perfectly fine. Just don't boo them at a speech.

When the going gets tough, the wingnuts run home to mommy. When they don't have anything better to do, they fall back on the "I'm a victim" card and complain about how awfully those angry liberals are. It would be fun to watch if so many people didn't buy into their crap.

Posted by Observer at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2006

Too Much Basketball

Me: "J*stin, C*dy, you boys are out here arguing and yelling so loud that I can hear you from in the library in the house, and that's quite a feat."

C*dy: "Well, that's because I should have nine points, and he says I only have seven!"

Me: "Ok, well, that's all I have to hear. Inside, both of you."

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

Crashing the Gate

The founders of Daily Kos have written a book. It's short, readable and interesting, but I didn't enjoy it all that much because I've read so much like it already on his site. That's the problem with bloggers writing books. Most of the stuff that they say in the book that is worth being said has already been said on their blog, if you keep up.

For example, just today on Kos is this interesting advice to Democratic candidates on the upcoming elections:

1. Don't run against Bush, or even the current administration. They aren't running again. They don't have any elections left.

2. And don't run on "incompetence." That gives the right an easy answer, which they're already starting to use -- "Yes, these people were incompetent. Vote for this Republican, because he is competent." And you're back where you started.

3. Here's your message:

What you are seeing is the failure of right-wing conservatism. The failures since 2000 are not Bush, or Cheney, or incompetence; they are the logical end result of their philosophy of government. When you vote for people who believe government is the problem, this is the government you get. When you vote for people who believe corporations are more important than people, this is the government you get. If you vote for these people, you will get more of the same. It is time to say, "We tried it, and we don't like it." It is time to stop voting for the right-wing Republican agenda, and start voting for progressives who believe in government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.

But if you don't read Kos on a daily basis, I think you would like this book. It is a kind of opinion on politics that you just don't see anywhere else, lots of stuff that goes against the conventional wisdom. And it isn't just contrarian for the hell of it. There are good reasons to believe that the conventional wisdom in the Democratic party is simply wrong right now (recent elections should tell you that), and the authors talk about why it's wrong, why it hasn't changed, why it should change, and how it has to change.

Basically, it is a political road map to how to the Democrats can regain their proper footing in the national debate, especially given the traditional corporate media environment we're facing today. If you like "inside baseball" kind of political writing, this is great.

Posted by Observer at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2006

We Have Met the Enemy...

...and he is us. Toles again:

Posted by Observer at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Hedge Your Bets

Our church youth department has decided that nights out for the kids are a lot cheaper if they don't meet at the church and pay for a bus, so the new policy is parents drop the kids off at the destination. Tonight's destination of the month was a movie about 20 minutes away from the house, so I figured better to just go to the movie with the kids rather than there-and-back twice in two hours.

C*dy got to bring along a friend and, at the last minute, Ashl*y finished enough of her catching up in Math to satisfy the Homework Czar (me) so it was me and the three of them to see "Over the Hedge". I haven't been too impressed with kids' movies lately, and this one had a fairly stupid and pointless plot.

That being said, I laughed out loud three different times in this movie, and that is extremely rare for me at a movie. The whole movie would've been the funniest thing (in terms of laughs per minute) I've ever seen if they just cut out the rest and showed the 30 minutes where Steve Carrell's squirrel character was the main thing on the screen. He was kind of like the vermin in all the Ice Age trailers chasing the acorn but a little softer, better facial expressions and more personality.

This is worth looking at on DVD just for that. Bunch of other movies in the trailers looked like red meat for the kids, too. I imagine by the Xmas holidays, we'll have several good new choices at Blockbuster.

Posted by Observer at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2006

Ripped Off

We finally got a chance to watch the "Survivor" finale that we had TiVo'd while M*chelle was in the hospital giving birth. Of course, it sucked that we read the inevitable spoilers in the paper on Monday, but it was still interesting to see how it played out.

Basically, they screwed Terry. The last immunity challenge, instead of being pure endurance and willpower like EVERY OTHER final immunity challenge, was based on balancing on little water platforms. Females always have an edge at these kinds of things, not least of which is because in this case, Danielle was much lighter and so didn't have her feet submerged.

So anyway, Danielle won and got to pick which guy to lose to in the final two, and she picked Arse. Bleargh. Terry totally deserved it. At least Cirie ended up getting a car thanks to an audience sympathy vote in the finale. Very unsatisfying ending.

Posted by Observer at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Blue vs Red

Billmon has updated the Red vs Blue America map based on current approval ratings of the president. Let's just hope the map looks similar in November so we can get a majority in Congress and start some fucking oversight.

Link via Froomkin.

Posted by Observer at 12:55 PM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2006

It's All Relative

Via First Draft comes a link to this fine rant about the latest news regarding the NSA. Jon Stewart had a funny bit on this on last night's "Daily Show" too which is worth catching on the web or TV if you get a chance. Fox News' response to the report that the NSA is collecting information about every phone call, even domestic calls (oh but they're not eavesdropping without a warrant, never never never, trust them!), was priceless.

Anyway, this rant will help to remind you that while I may get angry sometimes, a true angry rant is actually much different and more fun to read:

We get this quote from new White House Disinformation Ejaculator, Tony Snow:

“Let me remind you, it’s a war on terror. And there are people — I guarantee you — the president is not talking about breaking the law, but al Queda does not believe in transparency. What al Queda believes in is mayhem and the president has a constitutional obligation and a heartfelt determination to make sure we fight them.”

No, Tony – let me remind You. I’m a fucking American citizen and a human being. The government has no, let me repeat, NO fucking business collecting information on my phone calls or listening to my phone calls – especially without a warrant. Just because President My Penis, Mightier Than the Sword thinks he’s James Fucking Bond with a Bat-phone to God doesn’t mean that anyone in this administration gets to listen in when I call the bank/doctor/pharmicist/therapist/Tom Delay’s gay ex-lover.

And if you macho men think you can drag your filthy fingers thru America’s private lives in an attempt to intimidate the Press, well… you can go fuck yourselves from here to Peru and back. “Constitutional obligation”? Go piss up a rope, Tony. Your boss couldn’t pass a Jr. High Civics exam if you filled the answers in and asked him to write his name on the top of the paper, so don’t try wrapping a red, white and blue ribbon around your cock before you skull-fuck the press. You know, the guys and gals who are asking you questions while the NSA is rifling thru their phone records to see if somebody with a fucking soul decided to say “Enough is enough!” and call them?

This administration has shown itself to be nothing but a bunch of greedy, cowardly, insecure, impotent, backstabbing, traitorous, incompetent sonsabitches with no regard for Life or the American Ideal. So, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t believe a word of your horse shit, Tony.

Finally, here’s a little feedback you can take to your boss, from a genuine American citizen:

I’ll take my chances with al Queda, George. You just stay the fuck away from me and leave me the good and Hell alone. I’ll be safer that way. Oh yeah – where the fuck were you on 8/6/01, you fucking nozzle?!? Fuck you.

Remember, there was a time when it was considered normal for patriotic Americans to get pissed off when government interfered with their personal business (like threatening to register their guns). We usually called people who felt this way "conservatives" or "libertarians".

Posted by Observer at 07:29 AM | Comments (6)

May 16, 2006

Shorter Tax Policy

I'll save you lots of time and energy: Whether taxes are cut or raised has no measureable impact on economic growth.

Put another way, shouldn't conservatives be really pissed off that all of these tax cuts that have driven the nation into record debt ... all of these cuts have resulted in no real difference in the economy. We basically gave away billions to the rich for no good reason.

I mean, from the standpoint of a Republican, there was a very good reason, because the very rich gave some of that back in the form of campaign contributions and the like. But from the standpoint of the supposedly "honest" crowd of right-wing economists who just argue until they're blue in the face about how much these tax cuts are trickling down and helping us out of the recession, etc. ... the cuts aren't working.

Maybe it's worth thinking about why we don't hear much from those economists these days. There's an old saying I'll paraphrase because I can't remember and can't find the link: you will have a really hard time getting a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Posted by Observer at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

Worried Now?

Atrios raises a good point. For months now, lots of journalists and editorial writers have complained about special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. He has run a careful, thorough investigation over the Plame leak, and in the process he has had to question some journalists under oath. And, big surprise, it has turned out that many of them were being dishonest with us publicly about how much they knew, etc. Moreover, columnists and editorials have complained about all this questioning of journalists, worrying that he was stifling the free press and all that.

Well, now it turns out that the investigative apparatus of the federal government is actively seeking out leak information by getting phone records of journalists suspected of receiving leaks as well as suspected leakers from phone companies without a court order. When someone leaks something bad, like the fact we are collecting tons of phone records illegally, or someone leaked the name of a CIA operative or we're torturing people, remember that the problem is not the illegal or immoral behavior by the administration. Rather, the problem is the leaker, who is supposedly damaging national security by telling the terrorists what we're doing (as if they never imagined we might be trying to tap their phones).

So, anyway, where are all of the editorials and bitterly complaining columns about this behavior? All I hear are crickets chirping. Thanks, liberal media!

Toles has a good one on all this:

Posted by Observer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Home!

Here's a brief version of the birth story.

We went to the hospital on Sunday at 2am since M*chelle was starting to have some pretty painful contractions. By the time we had our friend over to watch the kids and all the stuff packed in the car, the contractions were five minutes apart. It would help at this point to briefly restate our experience with D*niel nearly three years ago.

With that one, there was some show right around his due date, and so we went just to be on the safe side. When we got to the hospital, we learned that M*chelle was having contractions but not really feeling them. After a night of monitoring, the doctor decided to induce with pitocin, and broke M*chelle's water with a little plastic hook. That's when the really painful part of labor began and M*chelle started feeling the contractions. With an hour or so, D*niel was born. There was no epidural, just a dose of stadol through the IV.

With B*n, M*chelle was feeling the contractions strongly from about midnight on, worse as the night went on. When we got to the hospital, we were a little worried this was false labor, which M*chelle experienced back during week 33, but the nurse told us that M*chelle was 6 cm dilated. So we figured this is the real thing.

By about 7am, after a couple of two-hour doses of Stadol and contractions 2-5 minutes apart, our doctor checked and said M*chelle is at 9.5 cm. About 45 minutes later, the doctor decided to go ahead and break M*chelle's water to get things moving. Shortly after that, M*chelle wasn't really feeling an urge to push, and an hour after that, the doctor announced M*chelle was at 8 cm. Not to mention that she had already done a fair bit of pushing back when she thought she was at 10cm after her water was broken.

Apparently what had happened was that the bag of water had bulged to the point that it caused part of the dilation, which then reversed briefly after the water was broken. So we had more time to wait while the true dilation took place. By about 10 hours into labor, M*chelle was just hurting too much, and it was sapping the energy she needed to push, so she reluctantly accepted the epidural.

That was pretty traumatic, almost as traumatic as the initial botched insertion of the IV when M*chelle first got to the delivery room (recall she has a deathly fear of needles, which is the main reason her childbirths are normally drug-free). But it turned out to be a life-saver, because the baby's position was face up, and then (we found out later) after the water was broken, the baby rotated about a quarter turn to come out.

About 2.5 hours of pushing later (three hard pushes during contractions about every 2-3 minutes), the baby's head was clearly visible but it was just very slow going because of the positioning and angle of the head. There was some distress at the fetal heart monitor, and so finally the doctor decided to resort of forceps for the last little bit. That plus an episiotomy made us very glad for the epidural decision earlier.

B*n was born, but he wasn't breathing. His APGAR test after the first minute was a seven, and his little baby station table was surrounded by six doctors. Our doctor discouraged pictures because there was still some uncertainty, but M*chelle and I were very scared. We finally heard our first cry after that first minute, and that was a big relief. As the minutes passed, his cries got louder and louder, and his color pinked up just fine. His five minute APGAR score was up to 9 (out of 10).

As a precaution, they needed to take B*n to the NICU, so M*chelle only got about 30 seconds with the little guy before he was whisked away for six hours. Only the first hour was spent in the NICU. The next five were in the general nursery with a control freak of a nurse who I really disliked. I don't know because I'm no expert, but it sure seemed to me that a lot of the tests and so forth she was doing, especially during the last two hours, could've easily been done in our room instead of isolated away from the mother.

But finally at about 7pm, he was all ours (though we had to chase the control freak out of the room in the end with a few forceful "ok thanks bye" kinds of comments). M*chelle was still really sore, more from the pushing than anything else, and it had been an emotionally draining day for both of us.

Through the night, both M*chelle and B*n got better and better, and by morning, they were ready to discharge us as soon as we got our 24 hour blood test done. Now we're home, and we just finished sharing a big piece of a 0th birthday cake for B*n that we bought at Costco. I've left out the role of other family who was there and who helped out, etc., but M*chelle will tell the whole story with lots more details on her blog, I am sure.

Posted by Observer at 05:54 PM | Comments (5)

May 14, 2006

Ben

Our new son, Ben, was born today at 1:24pm. It was a long and difficult labor and delivery, but it looks like everything is going to be fine. More later.

I may slip and call him "Obi-Wan" occasionally, but it is not on purpose.

Posted by Observer at 07:29 PM | Comments (4)

Maybe It's Time

Looks like we're heading in to the hospital. We're just waiting now for a friend to arrive to watch the kids. M*chelle is worried that this labor is going to stop because she went through something similar through the night during the 33rd week, and it slowed/stopped on its own. But now she's 3-4 cm dilated, maybe more, so we have to at least go in and have it checked. I think I'm in a bigger hurry to get to the hospital than she is!

Posted by Observer at 02:37 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2006

The Proper Perspective

Tena at First Draft tells it like it is on the whole NSA wiretapping/phone scandal:

I keep seeing and hearing this idea out there that maybe some phone tapping isn't such a bad thing. Bill Maher was on about that again tonight on his show - apparently he thinks his ass is so fucking precious that just a little taste of fascism is ok, as long as it keeps those ports in San Pedro from getting blown up. Here's a thought, Bill - If you're so fucking worried about it, why don't you move?

The idea gets stretched alllllll the way over into: "if they had been allowed to wiretap before 9/11, they could have stopped it." That's popping up all over. So I'd like to explode this stupid idea. It's simple. The FISA Court existed in 2001, prior to 9/11. In August of 2001, Bush received a Daily Presidential Briefing titled: Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U. S. My understanding of the FISA Court is that if the president had read his goddamned briefing and paid attention to it and turned around and called the head of the CIA and asked them to take that information to the FISA Court and get a warrant, it would have been granted more likely than not. So maybe 9/11 could have been stopped. The tools were there. But Bush didn't use them. Because Bush didn't give a fuck. What's more, he still doesn't.

There have been some polls reported that a majority of Americans approve of this kind of activity, but the polls themselves are highly questionable in terms of methodology. Thanks again, liberal media!

Posted by Observer at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2006

Fresh Meat

The new press secretary, former Fox News jackass Tony Snow, held his first press briefing today. As usual, Holden over at First Draft has a transcript. Remember the "West Wing" episode where Josh tried to wing it through a press briefing because C. J. had a root canal? This was worse. Delicious.

Posted by Observer at 02:54 PM | Comments (4)

Break Time...

Too many finals are swimming around in my head, so time for a brief grading break. Here's my question for today. It isn't a new one. Recently, wingnuts picked up and started broadcasting the idea that Bush's tax cuts have made the tax system more progressive.

That's right. A president who represents the far right wing of a party whose center is devoted to tax cuts for the rich has somehow screwed up and made the tax system more fair to the poor. Now I accept that Bush is incompetent, but when it comes to giveaways to corporations and the wealthy, they're actually quite good at it.

The tax system has, no surprisingly, gotten a lot more regressive since Bush took office, and his goal is the continue that trend. Why are wingnuts trying to proclaim the opposite?

I think I know the answer, but I would like to hear one of them say it. Basically, they're lying and trying to muddy the waters so people will think it doesn't matter which party is in power. It's just all so confusing, and there are so many numbers and percentages and experts arguing over this marginal thing and that rate and that loophole and blah blah blah I give up. That's their goal.

Which brings me to my real question of the day: What do you suppose it is like to get up in the morning and realize that all of your God-given talents, all of your education, all of the investment in your health and well-being by yourself, your family and your friends, all of it ... is contributing to your purpose in life, which is to intentionally mislead as many people as possible. What is it like to lie for a living? To be a professional liar? Not just a con-man, mind you, but someone who goes on TV or radio and intentionally comes up with arguments that will mislead people.

I don't know how these people live with themselves, honestly. If I didn't have some overall purpose in life, some positive sense of direction, some feeling that I'm leaving the world a little bit better off than when I got here, I would be pretty unhappy. I mean, being married and raising kids is a huge part of that, but I think having some kind of career where you are helping people out (who need the help), even in an indirect way, is a big part of being happy.

Maybe it's just me. It's part of what drove me into a career of teaching.

Posted by Observer at 09:44 AM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2006

Still No Baby...

Well, if we make it through tonight, my last final is tomorrow morning, and then I'm done (except I probably oughta attend graduation on Saturday).

It was too bad on "Survivor" tonight that Arse won the immunity challenge. I really wanted to see him go. In the end, though, it probably doesn't matter. I can't believe Terry would lose the last endurance challenge when he has dominated those challenges in the past, and he'll surely get Shane's vote and at least one of Courtney, Bruce or Danielle. He's got to be the favorite to win.

From the looks of the previews for Sunday's finale, I would guess that Danielle is next to go, and so the final three will be Terry, Aras and Cirie. Terry will have to choose which person to take with him to the end, and he might pick Aras just because everyone seems to like Cirie. I'd like to see Cirie finish 2nd, though, because I think she gets $100k for that. She's played a good game, especially considering she's never had a ghost of a chance in any immunity challenge and most of the reward challenges.

Posted by Observer at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2006

Giving Up?

You know, they say that this season of "American Idol" has had the highest ratings of any season so far, and I'll admit that the overall average talent level has been better than in the past, possibly the best ever. But I think I'm done with the show. It was fun to follow for a while, if not for the "watching a train wreck" factor, then for the soap opera style stories that were fun to follow (if you have TiVo and can fast forward through the stupid and poorly produced music videos, the time-filler medleys, and the astoundingly large fraction of the show eaten up by commericals).

Tonight, the only one of the remaining contestants who has a chance of recording an album I might listen to someday got voted off. The other three are good, but there's a great big "who cares?" factor about the winner now. Like Clay in a previous season, it's obvious that whichever person wins, they will be eclipsed by the album sales of Chris Daughtry, who got voted off tonight.

My disinterest with "Idol" is to the point now when one of them starts singing (even Chris if he's forced out of his natural genre), I just stare at my wife, waiting for her to nod, indicating a mutual agreement that we fast forward for about two minutes. I think I'm prepared to skip the rest of the season.

Contrast this with "Survivor", which has contestants and a storyline not nearly as fun as the one when fireman Tom won. It's a little better than Guatemala, but not the best show they've ever had. Still, the show is just much more interesting to watch. It's like watching a dissection of the human psyche sometimes, with challenges and forced decisions (like when one person has to decide which of the remaining contestants gets to see a family member and which gets nothing and then the messy aftermath) instead of scalpels.

It's just interesting to watch, and I wouldn't fast forward through any of it. "Idol" is just the same karaoke every week if there isn't some element of human drama to it, and that element is fast going away for me. For example, if the three judges had to decide amongst themselves which one to vote off, which one wouldn't participate the following season and would be replaced, you put all the negotiations on camera, including the reaction to the final vote and the aftermath, and I'd watch that with great interest.

Hell, at this point, watching a video of 30 minutes each showing their contract negotiations for all four of the "hosts" of Idol would be a hell of a lot more fascinating than the two hour finale with two mediocre singers and four mediocre performances spread out over two hours (sorry, about 85 minutes if you leave out commercials).

Posted by Observer at 11:06 PM | Comments (1)

Office Hours

Since I gave final exams, I've emailed about 30 students their final grades. Of the 30, only three scored below the cutoff grade that they needed in order to pass whatever grade threshold they were shooting for (whether it is A/B, B/C, C/D or D/F). Guess which three are demanding to come to my office to examine their tests?

I know, I know, it's a biased sample. Still, they're going to discover that I graded the final very easily, so there's no wiggle room. Maybe my wife will give birth tonight and I can just skip the whole rest of the term and let a colleague proctor my other final.

Posted by Observer at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2006

Dilated

My wife is 3-4 cm dilated, and the doctor was able to touch the baby's head during today's appointment, so it looks like we'll go any day now and for the first time, M*chelle might not make it all the way to her due date. I guess we need to figure out a name for this little guy.

Posted by Observer at 12:58 PM | Comments (4)

Call a Wahmbulance

First, it was poor Washington Post ombudsman Debbie Howell, who just could not fathom how people could criticize her using FOUL LANGUAGE (which, gentle lady that she is, Ms. Howell would just NEVER use such awful language!) just because she hadn't, you know, done her job. Why on Earth, she wondered, would people get SO UPSET just because she got an important fact wrong that just happened to paint Democrats in the standard bad "pox on both houses" light while talking about a purely Republican scandal. It was an attack on the most attractive target in all creation for the traditional "liberal" media: the Angry Left.

Well, now Richard Cohen has joined the bash-fest. He wrote recently that he didn't like Colbert's performance at the correspondent's dinner. He didn't think it was funny or appropriate, blah blah blah. Basically, it was a typical piece by what few traditional media outlets covered the speech. In summary, how dare a two-bit comic like Colbert be so rude as to bluntly criticize the leader of the free world through humor. Well, his poor little inbox got flooded with OVER A THOUSAND emails, many of them critical of his column. The NERVE of those pesky readers to actually RESPOND to the email address he posts at the end of his column with FEEDBACK! And so NEGATIVE! Oh mercy!

Pundits like Cohen are a dime a dozen. They like to say they're liberals, but when the chips are down, they'll bash Democrats with the best of 'em. Their greatest fear is the blogosphere, which (some sites anyway) has more readers and more influence and works a fair bit harder on the research than lazy pundits like himself who woke up today and realized that "knowing the right people" doesn't mean a goddamned thing now that the Internet is turning political discourse back into a meritocracy. You want to be listened to, Cohen? Write something worth reading. Do your homework.

Athenae over at First Draft has more to say on this, referencing a discussion by Steve Gilliard:

Steve points out something I think is interesting:

Civility is more than politeness, it is defending your prinicples when they are attacked in a way consistent with them. An agressive defense is a civil response. When someone sweep a broad brush over people who support and defend you, it is not only uncivil, but cowardly to not respond in defense.

When Mr. A and I first got married we had a rule. We argued all the time but rarely fought. And the difference was this: an argument is, "I think you're wrong and here's why." A fight is, "I think you're wrong because you're an asshole."

What I think a lot of the Kool Kidz are taken aback by in the blogosphere is passionate argument. I don't think it's the cussing and I don't think it's sexual innuendo and I don't think it's so-called "irresponsiblity" or whatever. I think they're honestly surprised by people being as worked up as they are about something as boring as, you know, issues, man.

We saw this over and over with lil' Debbie Howell asking how people dared attack her. Jeffrey Dvorkin over at NPR has carved out a tidy little career being condescending and nasty to listeners who actually give enough of a shit to send him an e-mail. They simply cannot believe people have the nerve to not just write them a dry little couplet but to actually get upset over something. To take politics personally. How ... old-fashioned. They have no framework to process people who are as informed and as engaged as they are, actually asking them questions to which they might have to think to come up with the answers.

I've said this for a long time, that hard-news journalists are not the ones threatened by bloggers, that pundits and columnists are. Look at how bloodless much of political commentary has become. Charles Krauthammer opines from a comfortable position among the powerful, as does Richard Cohen, Joel Klein and now Miss Ana Marie. Nobody's got any skin in the game, so they never raise their voices loud enough to make anybody else at the party uncomfortable. We do. We yell and scream and bicker and they call it uncouth when what it really is is exactly what it should be: red-blooded mudfighting over the people and policies that shape our lives and determine the fate of our national soul. We get excited about stuff, and they react in one of two ways: to make fun of our depth of committment and level of caring, and to deplore our temerity in speaking out against the most uncivil administration in our nation's history.

We're having an argument. They're having a fight. It's pathetic.

People like Bob Somerby may not be 100% happy with the state of discourse in the blogosphere. Lord knows it isn't perfect. However, it is nice to know that we finally have a megaphone and can compete with the blowhard, blow-dried pundits of the world who try to frame the issues.

Like Steve said, there's no shame in fighting back. It's not being angry. It's doing your duty. It helps if you are civil, but it isn't required. He continues here:

This is also not a loyalty test based on belief. This is about solidarity. We cannot ask the Democratic Party to present a unified front while ignoring vicious and unfair attacks on ourselves. If we don't stand for each other, how can we expect anyone to take us seriously?

This doesn't mean blind agreement, but collective defense, like NATO. That doesn't mean France and the UK agree on trade policy, but if someone attacks France, the UK puts those differences aside and joins in the common defense. But if Italy joins the attack on France, you don't continue to defend Italy as an ally. They are no longer part of the common defense.

When someone goes after our fellow bloggers, we engage in collective defense. If you go after Peter Daou, don't think he stands alone, because he doesn't. If you take him on, you better be prepared to take on a bunch of other people. Not because we agree with every word, but because if he acted responsibly, we are honor-bound to stand by him as he has stood by us.

I like the NATO analogy. It fits. Greg Sargent had a good thing to say about this yesterday, regarding journalists attacking blogs:

No more blog-baiting, ladies and gentlemen. And one more suggestion: If you call people "fanatics" and describe them as "crazed" and "ignorant," then (a) don't be surprised when they get angry about it; (b) don't complain when the folks you've described in this way aren't particularly civil in return; and (c) and don't use the anger you provoked to argue you were right in the first place. Agreed?

Oh, and Mr. Cohen? If you want to see some "uncivil discourse" filling up your inbox, why don't you try writing a column about how we need sweeping new gun control legislation? Maybe then you'll see the difference between people trying to participate, however imperfectly, in a discussion and truly angry people. Try to understand that there's a difference between "Hey, jackass, you're wrong!" and "Hope your life insurance is paid up, pal."

Update: Glenn Greenwald has more on the uncivil behavior of Democrats in the eyes of the traditional media in Washington. They are trying to portray Democratic calls for investigation as political payback instead of genuine investigations into governmental wrongdoing. That's your "liberal" media at work!

Posted by Observer at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2006

Welch = Another Murdoch?

Here is a really good diary from a Kos diarist today about Jack Welch, chairman of General Electric, and his influence on GE-owned NBC. This is a great example of why I claim the news has a corporate, generally Republican bias rather than the liberal bias so many people believe.

Posted by Observer at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

GOP 2006 Slogans

The helpful crowd over at Daily Kos has been brainstorming, trying to come up with some slogans Republicans can use for the 2006 elections. Here are some of my favorites:

The Best Government Money Can Buy.

We Bet YOUR Farm ... And Lost. Sorry!

Republicans Love Our Children. We Just Hate Yours.

Vote for Us, or Diebold Will Do It for You.

It's Still Bill Clinton's Fault!

America: We Broke It, We Own It.

We Stand For Failure -- Literally!

GOP: We're the Devil You Know.

We're Fighting the Good Fight Against Peace and Prosperity

The Faggots Are Coming! The Faggots Are Coming!

Because bin Laden Is Really a Mexican

Debt: The New Wealth

9/11. 9/11. 9/11. Did We Mention 9/11? 9/11.

Mourning in America

Republicans: We're Doing a Heckuva Job, Brownie!

If You Don't Vote for Us, We Give All the Guns to the Gays.

We Put the Fun in Fundamentalism!

Making Tomorrow's Enemies Yesterday.

Building a Bridge to the 14th Century.

Some of Our Best Friends Are Black.

Come for the Hate. Stay for the Intolerance.

Vote Republican or We'll Shoot You in the Face.

Give Us One More Change: The Third War's the Charm!

Vote GOP, Because There Is Still Way Too Much Breathable Air.

GOP: Minorities Now Welcome (to enlist).

Posted by Observer at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2006

With Highlights Like These

The president recently revealed a notable highlight of his presidency: catching a big fish.

Seriously.

Boy, I'm sure glad the "grownups" are in charge.

Posted by Observer at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2006

Balls and Strikes

I can't stand watching Ranger games on TV when they play the Yankees. First of all, it's pretty sickening to see so many bandwagon Yankee fans in the stands, even when the Rangers are the home team. Second of all, the Rangers usually lose.

But the worst is watching the ball-strike calls. I know I'm just a stupid, biased fan, but you know what? The Yankees get marginal ball-strike calls a whole lot more than any other team in baseball, and that's true throughout the whole lineup. It drives me crazy to see a game like yesterday in which the Yanks get eight walks and the Rangers get one, and we have a pitcher on the mound who has had good control all year.

I understand the Yankees have traditionally had a good approach the hitting, lots of plate discipline, etc. So does Oakland, and in my opinion, the Oakland hitters (or any other team you care to name in the American League) don't get the kind of ball-strike calls as New York. If I have to watch it on TV, I start screaming out "THAT WAS A STRIKE! STRIKE! RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE! JESUS!" within a few batters.

So I listen on the radio and my blood pressure stays down while the Yankees come in here and squash a nice winning streak. God, I hope they don't make the playoffs.

Posted by Observer at 09:04 PM | Comments (2)

May 05, 2006

I Smell Hookers

The director of the CIA decided to resign today, and he didn't even wait until the end of the day Friday where you are supposed to go to bury all stories. Why would he resign effective immediately without any warning like this? The mainstream media is telling the story as part of the White House staff shakeup, as if it is a story on equal footing with replacing press secretary Scott McClellan with Tony Snow, but the director of the CIA is a different animal.

Josh Marshall's crew has been looking into a possibly related story, which is crooked defense contractors lining up hookers for Republicans at the old Watergate hotel (you would think Republicans would know enough to stay away from that place) back when Goss was a lowly representative. I'm happy to speculate that he's resigning because something on this is going to come out soon, and he needs to be off on a remote island someplace when it does.

As Marshall wonders, it is a little curious why our liberal media today is spending so much time talking about a possibly drunk-driving Kennedy when the hooker scandal is so much more serious and salacious.

Oh wait, it's not curious.

Update: Think Progress has a primer on Goss' potential scandalicious problems. If we had a half-decent media out there, this sort of thing would be prominently placed in tomorrow morning's (and Sunday's) papers, not to mention on the Sunday talk shows. But instead, it will likely just be treated as a non-surprising, everyday kind of staff turnover, like some intern just up and quit or something.

Posted by Observer at 01:12 PM | Comments (2)

Conservative vs Republican

Since I started this blog, I've had an issue over labels. Do I call people who support Bush "conservatives", "Republicans" or simply "Bush supporters". Calling them "conservatives" has really never seemed fair, because Bush has very little in common with classic conservatism, as it is usually defined by limited government and sound fiscal policy. About the only place he seemed to agree with traditional conservatism was on the social aspects.

I'm not the only one who has had this problem. Across the blogosphere, liberals have been wondering aloud why self-styled "libertarians" or "conservatives" were voting Republican or supporting Bush while maintaining a shred of integrity. Atrios, among others, calls such small-minded thinkers "Glibertarians".

Like with the war, liberals like me were right from the beginning, and now that the rest of the world seems to be coming around to our point of view, we of course have no credibility in their eyes. We're just a bunch of Bush-haters, but wingnuts who now dislike Bush are much more serious thinkers.

Glenn Greenwald talks about this today and has some good quotes from the past which anticipated just this tactic. Now that it has become apparent to the wingnuts (it only took five years, imagine that) that Bush is a miserable failure, they are now labelling him a "liberal". You see, conservative governing philosophy can't fail, only the people who try to implement it incorrectly can fail. If that's not an irrational and irrefutable way of thinking, I don't know what is.

It reminds me of what communists were saying after Russia went down the toilet. Communism is great! It just wasn't implemented correctly. Guess what, Republicans? You're waking up today to a world in which your view of America has been discredited and your misguided loyalty to an incompetent and corrupt administration has led to fiscal, social and moral disasters at home and abroad. Let's home the Democrats can show some leadership in the decades to come and get this mess cleaned up. I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Observer at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2006

First Place

The Rangers are hot now. The offense is waking up a little bit (scoring maybe 4-5 runs per game instead of 3), and the starting pitching is continuing to be awesome, continuing the trend that started with opening day (not counting R. A. Dickey's sad attempt to be Tim Wakefield, Jr. ... I sure wish him luck on that, because it would be awesome for us if he could pull it off, he's just not ready yet). Today, our ace Millwood had the kind of game you want from an ace, so maybe he's getting back on track.

The best thing is that finally, FINALLY, after all these years, we're the team sending off young pitchers who continue to struggle in their new homes, and we're the team you send your perennial piece of crap pitching prospect to and suddenly he becomes a shiny diamond. I'm talking mostly here about John Koronka (the jury is still out on Rheinecker and Tejeda since they haven't had a chance to prove themselves), who has been quite simply great for no good reason. He pitched 8 and a third last night, and Millwood followed that up with a complete game 4-hitter tonight, and we're really not walking many people (that will be tested with the Yankees over the weekend, though, who always walk a ton).

And to think we're still due to get our supposed number two guy Adam Eaton back in June. And Kameron Loe has been great, too, though I suspected good things were coming from him after last season's growth. And then Vicente Padilla, who we got for a reasonable price, has been great. In short, there's basically no night when you look at the pitching matchup and wince on the Rangers' behalf, and I can't tell you how long it has been since any Ranger fan could say that.

If only Cordero had been pitching well or we had settled on Otsuka as our closer from the beginning, we'd be 4-5 games up on the A's and nearly double digits on the Angels and M's already. It's still early, and the pitching can still go to hell. The acid test for a pitching staff in Texas is always August and September heat. I'm worried that the young ones (Loe and Koronka) will break down a bit, but with Eaton coming back with fresh legs, maybe we'll be all right.

I'm still worried about the offense. Kevin Mench has been wonderful after a slow start, so I'm not worried about him. Texeira and Young are doing what they're supposed to do. Blalock may be coming around, but I see no signs of a career year from him yet, and we need it. Wilkerson has been disappointing so far, but I'll give him another month since he's on a big upslope right now. With Ian Kinsler gone (who was hitting better than Soriano before he got hurt and also playing great defense), Mark DeRosa has been superb, and he has no business being that good.

We need a few of those "he has no business being that good" players to last for the season if we're going to win the division. So far, so good.

Oh, and I continue to get good laughs out of Terry winning all the immunities on "Survivor". He won tonight, and so with the idol, he's good all the way to the final three. For some reason, they aren't doing a two-hour finale on the Sunday after the final five show, and I'm not sure why. If I were Terry, I would think about tanking the next immunity challenge just to screw up the voting at the end with the individual immunity idol. I hope Terry isn't being so damned cocky that everyone ends up hating him and voting for the other person he takes to the final two.

If I were in Terry's shoes, I'd be cocky, too. I mean, the other tribe is being really rude about their superior numbers, and there's no doubt they'd have kicked Terry's ass off the island a long time ago if they had a chance. Terry has beaten them all fair and square, and I really hope he gets the million.

Posted by Observer at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2006

Guess the Sponsor

The state legislature in Texas is considering changing the school funding around. Right now, it is mostly based on property taxes, and inequalities among districts are fixed somewhat by "Robin Hood" rules so that rich districts pay off poor ones and everyone has equal levels of schools, in theory. In practice, there's still a huge disparity, but it has been worse in the past.

Anyway, the legislature is considering reducing property taxes by about a third, making up the funding with a dollar-a-pack cigarette tax as well as closing a whole bunch of loopholes in the business tax (right now, less than 10% of businesses pay any taxes, and the ones who do are considered to be too dumb to know how to game the system). So I'm getting ready to listen to the Ranger game, and it's a political ad.

On comes this folksy voice, "Why, can you believe the legislature is thinking about raising our taxes? They're talking about raising business taxes, which everybody knows get passed on to consumers, and they're talking about a charging a DOLLAR a pack on cigarettes, which will hurt all kinds of average Texas who happen to be smokers. Be sure to put a call in to this number and let those crazy politicians in Austin know that you don't think we need any new taxes!"

Then the disclaimer. "Paid for by ..." Take a guess at what fine corporation is trying to help us Texans out by helping us avoid a big fat tax hike (without mentioning property taxes will be reduced at the same time).

Posted by Observer at 07:12 PM | Comments (6)

May 02, 2006

List of Lies

This is a good diary, a nice compilation of false right-wing talking points from recent history. You'll be surprised at how many there really are when you sit down and go through them.

Posted by Observer at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

Message: I Don't Care

Boy, the Iraqis must really be confused. First, we were going in there because they had WMD and were months away from using little unmanned drone planes to drop nuclear warheads on Manhattan. Then it was because they had those little bioweapon trailers that they were going to use to turn the US into some kind of Stephen King post-apocalyptic nightmare. Then when those didn't wash, we were going in there to spread freedom, and all the wingnuts stained their fingers purple to show just how much they cared for the little brown people over there who hated us because darnit, they just didn't know any better.

Apparently, caring about the Iraqi people has again gone right out the window. The reason we've been losing in Iraq, apparently, is that we have lacked restraint, which basically translates into "we haven't caused enough collateral damage to scare the civilians into helping us". It's time to take the "smart" off of the "smart bombs" and to hell with the consequences.

Don't the Arabs understand that we're only hitting them harder because they won't tell us they love us?

This is what passes for "serious discourse" on the right. We on the left who have opposed the war from the beginning were just doing it because we're stupid, backwards hippies who haven't thought deeply about the need for war like they have. The fact that we turned out to be right gives us no more credibility, obviously, because the only people wingnuts are willing to listen to are those who thought the war was a great idea and would be a smashing success from the very beginning.

These are the people of combat age who (most of them) sit behind their keyboards (or in the past "had other priorities" and so avoid their chance to serve their country when at war) and exhort our troops into harm's way at every opportunity while at the same time disparaging people like Cindy Sheehan or returning anti-war veterans who have a much better idea than they do if the idea of the sacrifices and horrors of war. They haven't met a Democratic veteran yet who isn't a traitor to his or her country.

Posted by Observer at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Golden Boy

Glenn Greenwald has a good essay up today about wingnut reaction to the news recently reported that confirms (again) that, yes, Valerie Plame (Joe Wilson's wife) was covert when she was outed. And moreover, she was working on the Iranian WMD problem that is now so front and center to the Bush administration.

It's really amazing what kinds of arguments the wingnut mind can generate if it starts from the unassailable premise that Bush is a Golden Boy who can do no (intentional) harm. If Bush were caught on video tomorrow screwing a farm animal, the wingnuts would blame the animal and call for the jailing of the cameraman who recorded it for harming national security in a time of war.

It's hard to spend much time pitying such people. It's not like they're exactly sympathetic characters. But I do feel some sadness sometimes for people who apparently love America so much and yet have gotten themselves into a situation where they feel emotionally that they have no choice but to support a man who is weakening not only the physical country but the ideas it has stood for. In their long, twilight days when they have more time on their hands to read and think about the long-term, I hope they can come to some kind of peaceful truce or even understanding of the "reality-based world" they are so busy arrogantly deriding today.

Either that, or they can just shrivel up in a stew of personal bitterness after their heroes are inevitably trashed by objective historians or jailed by law-abiding prosecutors. If not that, then by the unavoidable events that will follow the dramatic lessening of America in the decades to come.

Posted by Observer at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

Mistake Accomplished

Think Progress marks the anniversary of Bush's famous photo-op on board the aircraft carrier with a table showing just how much progress we've made in Iraq in the past three years.

As Colbert said (paraphrasing), "They say that the government that governs best governs least, and by that standard, the Iraqi government is a spectacular success."

Posted by Observer at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)