August 31, 2006

Alas, Babylon!

Long ago, I had just read four or five post-apocalyptic books in the space of about a year, including Stephen King's "The Stand" and Niven and Pournelle's "Lucifer's Hammer", and I asked for feedback about other good post-apocalyptic books. One of the most often recommended books to me was Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon!", a post-nuclear war story set in the heat of the 1950's or 1960's Cold War.

In this world, the Russians and Americans are aggressively poking at each other all the time, and the war begins like something out of Clancy's "Red Storm Rising". It quickly escalates into a massive nuclear exchange, and most of Florida's major population centers are wiped out. Randy Bragg, a resident of a small town in Central Florida, gets a little bit of advance warning from a relative and so has a couple of days to prepare.

Then the nukes go off, and the rest of the book deals with how this small town (especially Randy and his extended family and neighbors) struggles to survive despite avoiding heavy damage or significant nuclear contamination. It was only a little bit dated, and the main characters were fairly well fleshed out and likeable. I would've liked to read more, but the plot kind of skips ahead in time, overlooking the resolution of some issues I wanted to read more about, finally coming to an end several months after the attack.

Definitely one of the classic finishing lines of dialogue, but you can really only appreciate it if you have read the book.

Posted by Observer at 10:04 PM | Comments (3)

August 30, 2006

Lie Timeline

The online version of Mother Jones has a nice Iraq War timeline laid out. Here is one of my favorite parts:

August 14, 1992:

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many."


Posted by Observer at 02:40 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2006

Constitutional Radicals

Ok, I thought all this time that part of being "conservative" was the idea that judges should be "strict constructionists". That is, according to a conservative, the big problem with our country is liberal, "activist" judges who spout nonsense about the Constitution being a "living, breathing document" that must occasionally be modified or reinterpreted to fit the problems of the modern world.

Even the Boy King goes on and on about "strict constructionists", and he always looks so proud for about a half-second after he says that, as if he's going to get a lollipop (or maybe a stiff drink) for saying it right.

Why is it, then, that all of a sudden, conservatives are applauding the notion of judges reinterpreting the Constitution in order to give President Bush unchecked power? According to their stated logic, the War on Terror is such a grave, such a new threat that we must act differently than ever before. As though the all of the previous wars we've been through, not to mention the Cold War in which we practiced hiding under our desks in case of nuclear attack, were mere nuisances compared to the mighty battle we must arm ourselves for now.

Of course, this about-face, just like the Supreme Court's once-in-a-lifetime ruling in Bush v Gore to take over duties traditionally left to states (remember "States' rights", that quaint old conservative rallying cry?), doesn't make sense. It isn't consistent with conservative principles, and the argument doesn't even hold water. The self-contradictions are embarrassingly apparent, and these aren't stupid people. So what are they really doing?

Simple, in order to be a conservative now, you need only do anything or say anything to support the Bush Administration. That's the one and only qualifying condition, that you cannot criticize the Chimperor. And so all these intellectuals who are tied to this huge fucking albatross that is blighting our country do the only thing they can: muddy the waters. Make it seem like, hey, there is a reasonable case for warrantless searches. Hey, there is a reasonable case for preemptive war. For big tax cuts on the rich.

What must it be like to live life without a shred of intellectual integrity? I wonder if they just convince themselves that maybe they have a point or that the money and fame is worth it. I don't know, but one thing that puzzles me about smart people who support this administration is: how do they sleep at night, knowing what damage is being done to our country, how many soldiers are needlessly dying, every single day?

I couldn't.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2006

Up $130

I had my worst night yet at poker last night, losing $175. It was another night when I just couldn't get any cards. I only had two big hands all night (flopped a set of fives and flopped a broadway straight with A-Q), and I got paid off a couple hundred for the two hands combined. I only lost two big ($50) hands, one on a bluff and one when I was really stupidly thinking top pair was the best hand. The rest of it was just chipped away by me spending 2-8 dollars to see a flop with a decent hand (I got dealt pocket 5's four times) but ultimately getting chased out.

I only ended up regretting maybe 2-3 folds, none of which would've won me much money. Two losing sessions in a row, though, even spread out over two months, have brought my overall total down to Earth a little bit. I still had a lot of fun. I don't think I played great, but I was tired and feeling rusty after not playing for a while.

The one guy who played super loose last time and lost over $500 was catching cards all night, and he ended up winning about $300-$400. The poor guy to my left was gone after about 45 minutes, having lost $180 when his flush lost to a full house made on the river, then losing with a full boat to a bigger boat. Ouch. He left the table, figuring it just wasn't his night.

Posted by Observer at 09:03 PM | Comments (4)

Clinton and 9/11

The ultra-liberal network, ABC, is apparently coming out with a documentary within the next couple of weeks that (surprise!) blames pretty much all of the events of 9/11 on Clinton. Pretty incredible, given all the documentation we have of Clinton doing a good job in the war on terror while Bush fucked around on his ranch and worried about tax cuts for his Enron buddies.

William Rivers Pitt of Truthout has done the legwork on debunking this myth that Clinton somehow bears much responsibility for 9/11:

Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against terrorism that were unprecedented in American history. He poured billions and billions of dollars into counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum of the intelligence community. He poured billions more into the protection of critical infrastructure. He ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack. He order a reorganization of the intelligence community itself, ramming through reforms and new procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were held three times a week to assess looming conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave in the last three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered a major address to the United Nations on the matter of international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our generation."

Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he was thrown out of office by his own army. His replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks, terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed across the world, and bomb plots against American embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns, these victories were never revealed to the American people until very recently.

In America, few people heard anything about this. Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media, which was far more concerned with stained dresses and baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist network, the actions were dismissed by partisans within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that everything the administration was doing was contrived fakery.

The bombing of the Sundanese factory at al-Shifa, in particular, drew wide condemnation from these quarters, despite the fact that the CIA found and certified VX nerve agent precursor in the ground outside the factory, despite the fact that the factory was owned by Osama bin Laden's Military Industrial Corporation, and despite the fact that the manager of the factory lived in bin Laden's villa in Khartoum. The book "Age of Sacred Terror" quantifies the al-Shifa issue thusly: "The dismissal of the al-Shifa attack as a scandalous blunder had serious consequences, including the failure of the public to comprehend the nature of the al Qaeda threat."

In Congress, Clinton was thwarted by the reactionary conservative majority in virtually every attempt he made to pass legislation that would attack al Qaeda and terrorism. His 1996 omnibus terror bill, which included many of the anti-terror measures we now take for granted after September 11, was withered almost to the point of uselessness by attacks from the right; Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of the threats Clinton spoke of.

Clinton wanted to attack the financial underpinnings of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its money-laundering operations. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, killed Clinton's bill on this matter and called it "totalitarian." In fact, he was compelled to kill the bill because his most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its criminal executives in Houston, were using those same terrorist financial networks to launder their own dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders.

Just before departing office, Clinton managed to make a deal with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to have some twenty nations close tax havens used by al Qaeda. His term ended before the deal was sealed, and the incoming Bush administration acted immediately to destroy the agreement. According to Time magazine, in an article entitled "Banking on Secrecy" published in October of 2001, Bush economic advisors Larry Lindsey and R. Glenn Hubbard were urged by think tanks like the Center for Freedom and Prosperity to opt out of the coalition Clinton had formed. The conservative Heritage Foundation lobbied Bush's Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, to do the same. In the end, the lobbyists got what they wanted, and the Bush administration pulled America out of the plan. The Time article stated, "Without the world's financial superpower, the biggest effort in years to rid the world's financial system of dirty money was short-circuited."

This laundry list of partisan catastrophes goes on and on. Far from being inept on the matter of terrorism, Clinton was profoundly activist in his attempts to address terrorism. Much of his work was foiled by right-wing Congressional conservatives who, simply, refused to accept the fact that he was President. These men, paid to work for the public trust, spent eight years working diligently to paralyze any and all Clinton policies, including anti-terror initiatives that, if enacted, would have gone a long way towards thwarting the September 11 attacks. Beyond them lay the worthless television media, which ignored and spun the terrorist issue as it pursued salacious leaks from Ken Starr's office, leaving the American people drowning in a swamp of ignorance on a matter of deadly global importance.

Over and above the theoretical questions regarding whether or not Clinton's anti-terror policies, if passed, would have stopped September 11 lies the very real fact that attacks very much like 9/11 were, in fact, stopped dead by the Clinton administration. The most glaring example of this came on December 31, 1999, when the world gathered to celebrate the passing of the millennium. On that night, al Qaeda was gathering as well.

The terrorist network planned to simultaneously attack the national airports in Washington DC and Los Angeles, the Amman Raddison Hotel in Jordan, a constellation of holy sites in Israel, and the USS The Sullivans at dock in Yemen. Each and every single one of these plots, which ranged from one side of the planet to the other, was foiled by the efforts of the Clinton administration.

There's a lot more there. Should be required wingnut reading. Maybe those fuckwits would learn something about how a real leader behaves instead of the hollow incompetent we are cursed with.

Posted by Observer at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2006

This Isn't Even Wrong!

Sometimes answers are just so far off base that I am reminded of the famous (among scientists) story about a great Physicist who once wrote on a student's paper: "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong!" because the student was so far off base that he wasn't even addressing the question. I got that feeling when reading a Post reporter's answer to criticism levelled at him during a feedback session. Media Matters has more:

Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman participated in an August 25 online discussion on the newspaper's website:

West Coast: Dick Cheney said he was stuck with the grave decision of whether to shoot down the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania or not. The recently released NORAD tapes confirm that the government first knew of the flight one minute before it went down. Is Cheney lying, again, or was he thinking very fast that day, with his drama unfolding within 60 seconds? I've yet to read anywhere that Cheney has been queried about his story. THANKS.

Jonathan Weisman: If I can get him on the phone, I will query him. Cheney's statements present a quandary for us reporters. Sometimes we write them up and are accused of being White House stenographers and stooges for repeating them. Then if we don't write them up, we are accused of being complicit for covering them up. So, all you folks on the left, what'll it be? Complicity or stenography?

We can't speak for all the "folks on the left," but we suspect most of them would choose "Option C: Journalism."

Indeed, several participants in the online discussion made exactly that point. As one put it: "[R]esearch and intelligent questions based on said research that makes up 'Reporting'. Retyping statements without research is 'Stenography'. Avoiding asking tough questions because it makes your original stenography look really, really bad is 'Complicity'." Weisman, showing nothing but contempt for his readers -- and, though it seems he didn't realize it, for his profession -- responded with a series of churlish comments like "Please apply for my job" and "Sometimes, you folks really drive us nuts."

We can assure Mr. Weisman that the feeling is mutual.

The column also has some very telling statistics comparing coverage of the Ramsey trial to the NSA illegal eavesdropping ruling last week and comparing the wiretapping scandal coverage to the Monica coverage. Yes, the media is a business, and they're out to make money, but that's not their only job. They are also supposed to serve the public interest, which is not necessarily what the public seems to be interested in.

If you saw a parent tell a kid to stop playing video games and finish his homework, would you criticize the parent? If the traditional media were the parent and found that their kid had an addiction to video games, Daddy Media would probably just go out and buy more games. After all, he probably works for the video game industry, so he'll make more money that way.

Posted by Observer at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2006


No real message, I just thought this one by Chip Bok was funny:

Posted by Observer at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)


From Mike Luckovich, courtesy of

Posted by Observer at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

Truth To Power

Here is a nice article with quotes from a war widow who confronted Bush about Iraq. She said things to him that, if he were a real Christian instead of just a dry drunk facade, should make him change course:

I said, "As President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war." [...]

He said, "Terrorists killed three thousand people, we had to go to war."

Can you believe this guy has been telling the lie for so long that he may actually believe Iraq was a valid response to 9/11?

We literally sat knee to knee...I looked deep into his eyes and talked to him about love and losing people and that he was responsible for this. I said, "I didn't vote for you, but you are my President. And you're not serving me." [...]

I said, "As a Christian man, you realize that when you've made a mistake it's your responsiblity to end this. And it's time to end the bleeding and it's time to end the war." [...]

I told him, "It's time as a Christian to put our pride behind us."

This president doesn't know the first thing about being a Christian. He sure knows how to fake it, but his actions remind me an awful lot of the villains in the Bible, not the heroes.

Posted by Observer at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)


I see a tropical depression forming and potentially moving into the Gulf of Mexico, and I don't worry about whether a hurricane will hit the coast. I mean, it's going to happen somewhere, so I don't really worry about it. But the drought around here is so bad I find myself hoping for a coastal hit that carries the remnants right over us because that is just about the only way in hell we will ever get rain again, it feels like.

What is more likely is that Ernesto will hit New Orleans again, the levees will breach (again), and what little has been rebuilt will be destroyed (again), and then the ConservaBorg will find a way to blame it all on the Democrats (again).

Posted by Observer at 10:30 PM | Comments (4)

August 24, 2006


I suppose as a scientist and an observer, I feel compelled to make some comment on the big breaking news story of the day, that Pluto will no longer officially be designated as a planet.

I'm not really sure why anyone should care, honestly. It's just a big spherical blob of icy debris out there in the Kuiper Belt, one of the largest comets in the solar system (but not the largest, thanks to new discoveries). Whether it is called a planet or not doesn't change the reality of what it is.

I kind of liked the idea of setting Pluto's diameter as the minimum size for a planet. This eliminates the biggest asteroid, Ceres, from consideration but gives astronomers a chance to discover more planets way out at the edge of the solar system, which would be fun. Then again, if they discover 40 more objects bigger than Pluto in the next 40 years, then it would get to be a beating. Statistically, there should only be a couple more bigger than Pluto, so it probably would've worked out fine.

The thing that bugged me earlier in the week was hearing that not only was Ceres going to be given consideration for planet status but also Pluto's companion, Charon. Since when does an object orbiting a planet suddenly get planet status? Hell, Charon is about the 7th or 8th biggest moon in the solar system, if memory serves. Let's have planet Ganymede before Charon gets the nod, what say?

I wasn't surprised to read that the convention was full of lots of fighting and arguments. As one of my old profs used to say, "2 Astronomers, 3 opinions".

Posted by Observer at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

Case Study

This AP article is a great study of what the whole liberal media thing is a myth. "Corruption Dogs Both Parties" says the headline, but when you read the story, you find references to a lot of really big, ground-breaking, unprecedented Republican scandals like Cunningham, Ney, and DeLay (and a few others associated with Jack Abramoff). These are scandals that cost billions, changed laws and hurt the war effort.

Stacked up against them are the pathetic Louisiana guy Jefferson who took a bribe and put it in his fridge and one other Democrat whose donor violated some technicality of campaign finance law.

And of course, nowhere in the article does it talk about how most Republicans continue to defend DeLay or who are trying to downplay Abramoff's influence, etc. Meanwhile, Democrats have wasted no time distancing themselves from and denouncing clowns like Jefferson who give the party a bad name.

Republicans really can't denounce DeLay for giving the party a bad name. After all, he is just following the party's basic philosophy of looting the treasury for personal gain.

For the media, it's all just a happy game of "on the one hand..." and gosh, we just can't decide what the truth is so we're going to quote two experts and give them equal credibility and muddy the waters and then you go and vote for which guy has the best hair and can buy the most ad time.

Posted by Observer at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

August 22, 2006

New beginnings

Well, the Cowboys are looking good in pre-season, for what little that is worth. I fear that they'll have to win a lot of 16-13 games unless the offensive line can protect Bledsoe long enough for our talented bunch of receivers to get open deep. The Rangers, of course, are fading right on cue during Cowboys training camp, doing poorly against the surging A's and now in the past two days dropping two at the Double-A's in Tampa.

Sadly for the Rangers, the problem this year hasn't been pitching nearly as much as an abysmal offense. Signing Carlos Lee hasn't been the huge boost they needed since, after all, he isn't that much different from the much-beloved (but having a subpar year) Kevin Mench. I don't see a lot of help on the horizon, either, because we'll have pretty much the same guys back next year, and they'll get outslugged a lot.

Premier League soccer is now taking over for baseball as a second interest, and the season started up this past weekend. If you want to learn about the game and become a fan, Bob Sturm has an excellent introduction to the league, all the different teams, how it works, all the different tournaments, etc. There's a link at the end, too, to a good ESPN column written by a guy trying to decide which team to cheer for. Like me, he picked Tottenham, but for different reasons.

I honestly can't see how anyone can beat Chelsea this year as they got even better and deeper than last year while the main competitors (Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal) made what might generously be called sideways moves. I fear a dropoff for the Spurs, who finished fifth last season, but I'll follow Man U as well if only because I enjoy watching Rooney play and I've kind of gotten to know the rest of them. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to see Ronaldo leave for some other team so Man U will be a little less hateable.

Posted by Observer at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006


The cable started working again today as if by magic. Still, the countdown is on until the Earthlink hardware gets here and we can ditch cable internet. I wonder if Earthlink phone service is any good.

First day was super super busy, mostly because I was way behind after not having internet from home last week. But I muddled through and can catch up on all the unfinished stuff later this week. Of course, to top it all off the car battery died, so I'll have to take that in for replacement first thing tomorrow.

I brought D*niel to the office this afternoon for a while, and he was great. He's very conversational when I meet students or other faculty in the halls or walking across campus, and he does a great job in my office at keeping busy with his things. I made the mistake of taking some of his train tracks to my office this morning in order to be ready for him, but he caught me. He was really really mad and screaming at me when I went out the door, demanding the return of his tracks.

I only took a few from one of his bins (he has so many that he never uses them all), so I walked him back to his room, showed all of his remaining track and convinced him that he wasn't really missing anything after all. Oh, and potty training is finally catching on for the boy. We bribe him with Smarties (little rolls of mini sweet tarts) every time he successfully pees on the potty, and he's going on the potty a lot more than in his diaper now. He can almost sit down and pee on command (after which he always says really loudly "Oh boy! I get SMARTIES!!"). Pooping is still a ways away, but after months of trying, we've finally got some progress.

The older kids are all started in school, and all three of them have screwed-up schedules, so I have been bugging their counselors to call me so we can fix things. So far, they're swamped, but I don't want the kids to join their classes too late, so tomorrow I'm going to start being a real pest about it. I'm also making an effort to sit each one of them down for about 5-10 mins when they get home to systematically go over each class that day to make sure I know about homework, upcoming tests, papers, projects, etc. that are due.

I've found that relying on them to remember these things themselves as opposed to playing on the Gamecube just doesn't work. Now, they are old enough to have some responsibility for these things, but I think we should be helping prod them a little, too. It's a fine line. C*dy is starting up soccer practice soon, and J*stin's running times have been phenomenal compared to the start of the summer. His new coach is first rate and a really nice guy. This year is going to be big for him and will set up a senior year where I think he might seriously be in the top 10 runners statewide.

Who knows? He might not need my standard job benefit tuition waiver if he wants to go to college. If he keeps running like this, he might just get a scholarship/free ride somewhere. He's also in Honors English, which is pretty damn huge considering he was three grades behind in his Reading/English skills when he got here five years ago. Now if we can get his head on straight with Math and Spanish, he'll have a decent high school transcript.

Posted by Observer at 10:35 PM | Comments (1)

August 20, 2006

First Day

Already I've had two students email and ask me if it is ok if they miss the first day of class (after all, it *IS* bid day for the sororities!). I responded by saying, "Would you miss your first day on a new job?"

I plan to depart from my usual tradition of doing only course philosophy on the first day. We are going to cover some stuff that's going to be on the first test, that's for sure.

Maybe I'm just cranky that the cable company continues to fuck us over. It's going to be a long week waiting for Earthlink, having only AOL dialup.

Posted by Observer at 07:42 AM | Comments (4)

August 19, 2006

Hop, Skip, Jump

Well, we're back online at home at creepy-crawly dialup speed thanks to a free AOL trial disk. This will last us until we either get new high speed internet (from Earthlink or ATnT, I guess) or until the cable company fixes our connection. Once the new high speed provider comes online and the cable modem is fixed, we'll tell the cable company to go to hell. Too bad we can't throw out the whole cable service, but the DVR is too handy and the TV service has been extremely reliable.

Posted by Observer at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

Surprise, Surprise

So the cable repair guy finally came to the house Friday morning and said the reason the signal is so weak is that an amplifier in our neighborhood is not working properly. As we guessed from the beginning, the problem was something Charter screwed up externally, not something inside our house, so they damn sure should have been aware of it.

So he left around 930am and told us he would call in the job to fix the amplifier, and we would have service by the end of the day.

We knew better.

I called yesterday evening to find out the status of our "must do" fix only to discover that Charter is now waiting on the city to issue a permit for the repair, and that will take 3-10 business days.

We'll go ahead and let them fix it. Meanwhile, I'm going to CompUSA today and getting a modem so we can have dial-up access for the immediate future. Then we'll probably switch over to Earthlink. I imagine that the hardware for Earthlink will arrive right about the time our cable modem is finally working again.

At which point I can freely tell the cable company to fuck off. Now I have to spend the weekend at the office pretty much to get my pre-semester work done instead of at home where I can be useful.

Posted by Observer at 07:53 AM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2006

It's Official

I'm more addicted to blogs than M*chelle. That's now an explicit statement rather than an implicit assumption. :)

In other news, supposedly it's all getting fixed up today... Still waiting for ideas about alternatives to cable internet.

Posted by Observer at 11:14 AM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2006


Still no internet at home, but at least today looks like it will be a surprisingly light day in terms of advising incoming students, so maybe I'll be able to get some work done or find enough stuff online to print out so that I can work offline at home. We've been lied to by our cable company (surprise!) three days running now about whether someone was coming out to fix the problem, or at least we've been lied to by the customer service reps they've contracted out to deal with customers.

Who the hell am I supposed to call when I want to complain about customer service? We're exploring other options for high-speed internet. Suggestions welcome. If I knew of something I could get working right away, tonight, I'd probably go ahead and sign up for it.

Posted by Observer at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2006

How To Win

The Poor Man has a great new strategy to win the War on Terror for Andrew Sullivan and all the other "serious" pundits (many of whom are of age to go into the military and none of whom have joined) who think we need to Stay The Course in Iraq:

OK, hereís my strategy for defeating Islamic terror at its roots and democratizing the Arab Muslim world:

1. First, find an empty beer bottle.

2. Next, I want all Republicans and Republican media mouthpieces like yourself, Sully, to start telling everybody that this empty beer bottle is actually full of terror! When people question whether there is really any terror in the bottle, deride them as unserious, or as being terrorist sympathizers, traitors, anti-Semites, or whatever. When pressed to prove that the bottle is actually full of terror, admit that, well, maybe you canít meet every nit-picky courtroom standard of proof on this, but terror canít be defeated unless we understand about unknown unknowns and all that. I mean, maybe the bottle isnít really 100% full of terror. But hereís the thing: CAN WE AFFORD TO TAKE THAT CHANCE!?!?!

3. Having identified where terror is, there is only one thing to do. Andrew Sullivan, I want you to eat that glass bottle.

4. Chew it up, real, real good. Shatter the glass with your teeth, and then grind the broken glass between your molars. Pay no mind to the pain as shards of glass tear open the soft tissues of your mouth - you canít make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, after all. When people point and gasp at the blood and shredded flesh leaking from between your lips, explain (as best you can manage with your mangled tongue) that, no, itís not as bad as he press makes out - in fact, it actually tastes really, really good, and in a little while you are going to eat a handful of rusty tacks (Syria) and that pile of red-hot coals (Iran). Because this is just the first step in a serious, brilliant, and amazingly far-sighted anti-terror, pro-democracy strategy.

5. Eventually, of course, people are going to realize that chewing on broken glass really isnít particularly effective either as an anti-terror policy, or as a way of promoting democracy abroad. Actually, youíd have to be kind of a retard to think otherwise. So maybe you should stop now. But! you can point out To stop chewing this glass bottle would show weakness to the terrorists! It would send a signal that all the terrorists would have to do is stab our mouths with glass fragments and we would give into their demands! No, regardless of whether or not there was ever any terror in that bottle - and hindsight, I feel compelled to remind you, should not be mistaken for wisdom - it is now vitally important that you keep chewing until al-Qaeda disbands and every country in the world is peaceful and free. We must stay the course.

This has the advantage of being just as effective as the Bush Administration plan in Iraq but also much cheaper and much more fun to watch.

Posted by Observer at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

Who Da Boss?

Apparently, the cable company. After a brief victory in reestablishing our internet connection, Friday morning, the signal from the cable company into our house became too weak to pick up for our modem. And so now we wait for a week or more for a technician to come out and tell us what we already know, that sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning, the signal from the cable company was weakened (probably they split some off into another neighborhood or something) and who knows if our service will get going again?

In the meantime, I will probably only briefly check email/blog once a day when I have a chance to get in to work. It's killing poor M*chelle's blog addiction, and Michelle's mom is now bored out of her skull, too, without stuff to do online. On the bright side, we're all doing a lot more book reading and productive stuff now. :)

Posted by Observer at 12:25 PM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2006

Imagine a World...

... in which the media truly were liberal. You might then be reading editorials like, oh, this one from BuzzFlash:

The pattern continues. A terrorist plot is uncovered just as the masses start to question national security strategy. The day after Senate Democrats brought a vote to pull out of Iraq, we catch a few idiots in Miami who were supposedly trying to blow up the Sears Tower, despite the fact that they lacked the means and ability to do so. Then there were the guys busted for supposedly plotting to blow up a New York subway exactly a year after the London bus bombings. And don't forget the release of new Osama bin Laden tapes just before the 2004 election as well as the very day after the Supreme Court decision striking down the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals. And now today, a few men in England were arrested for a plan to blow up planes flying to America, just a day after Connecticut voters flatly rejected Joe Lieberman and the war in Iraq.

We certainly can't deny that there may have indeed been plans to commit these acts. But the timings of the arrest announcements are awfully suspicious. All three were still in the works and had been monitored for several months by very capable intelligence agencies. While the exact nature of today's arrests is still unclear, none of the plans seemed to have been immediate or imminent threats. The decision of when to intervene has been arbitrary, making the coincidental timings pretty convenient.

Just imagine for a moment a commentary like that appearing in your local paper or on a major network (broadcast or cable) or even a televised talk show. Someone seriously questioning the current administration on every little detail, even if it may sound crazy at first.

The point is not that BuzzFlash might be right (I think they might, actually). The point is that this particular point of view is not given any legitimacy in the traditional media, and that's part of the reason claims of "liberal media bias" or so bogus.

Anyway, Hunter at Daily Kos has another perspective, also not found in the traditional media:

Although we do not yet know the scope or details of today's announced counterterrorism bust, it's generally worth noting that the British are a hell of a lot more competent in wrapping potential terrorism up than we seem to be, and that the British have accomplished this via normal law enforcement techniques coupled with apparently excellent human and signals intelligence. It's also worth noting that at present, foreign involvement with the plot seems at this early stage to be primarily Pakistani in origin -- one of those countries that has unambiguous ties to terrorism, as opposed to oh, say... Iraq.

That seems to be one big difference between U.S. and U.K. efforts in the War on Terror. Despite the obvious political and strategic bungles of the Blair government, the U.K. is beginning to show a history of wrapping up terror plots and arresting those involved, and seems even to have managed to have done so within the context of law.

Posted by Observer at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Stupid Hawks

The people who have been wrong about the Iraq War from Day One continue to promote newer, better rationalizations for why we should continue listening to them. Jacob Weisberg in Slate (yet another bastion of the "liberal" media, yes indeed!) is the latest to declare Lamont's victory a disaster for Democrats, who have apparently been taken over by the same dirty hippies who nominated George McGovern for president in 1972 as a Vietnam War protest, only to see him demolished by Nixon in the general election.

So now, apparently, the lesson we are supposed to learn from Vietnam is that even if a war is a bad idea, you have to go along with it if you want to be taken seriously and get elected.


Digby explains:

Weisberg admits that Iraq is a terrible mistake just as Vietnam was, but opposing both of those wars makes Democrats look like wimps who don't understand islamofascismtotalitarianwhatever and that spells doom for the Party. Again, what this means is that if somebody wants to wage a cynical, immoral, useless war for no good reason, Democrats simply have to go along with it if they want to be taken seriously. Why that should be, I don't know. It seems to me that people who recognize when something is immoral, useless and stupid should be the ones taken seriously.

Guess who gets the legitimization of more airtime and print in the ultra-super-duper-liberal Traditional Media: pro-war or anti-war voices?

Please tell me you didn't have to think about it.

Digby continues, quoting Weisberg:

It isn't just Iraq, of course. It's what people like Weisberg assume opposition to Iraq "really means." He beats the hell out of a leftwing strawman who thinks that terrorists are no threat:

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush's faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism. Politically, it points the way to perpetual Democratic defeat.

I'm getting really tired of this. I would really like to see some evidence.

No kidding. I don't know of any major political leader who is just saying get out of Iraq and then cover your ears and sing "La la la" and hope nothing bad happens. Of course not, but the Bush administration is great at assigning strawman arguments to liberals that the media dutifully repeats (i.e. the Democrats can't be serious about winning the war on terror or have forgotten the lessons of 9/11 because they elected Lamont).

We're not just saying get out of Iraq. We're saying try something else. New, competent leadership plus oversight of the war would be item number one on the agenda. We were the ones who thought Afghanistan was a great idea and should be pursued more vigorously (without all of our resources being drained off in Iraq). We were the ones who said protect our homeland, beef up port and border security. We were the ones who said leave Iraq alone because we'll only make it worse, not to mention damage our global image by starting a preemptive war.

What is so fucking crazy about that?

This assertion misrepresents the far more complex view that many of us have that challenges the the GOP's silly neocon manicheanism. If Weisberg wants to endorse Bush's absurd formulation that's his privilege. But it is not the only valid way to look at it.

First of all, there can be no debate that there was a "cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11." We've seen Karl Rove's power point presentation and we've been through two elections. The result of that is that we now have a government suffering from "cry wolf" syndrome in which nobody knows whether you can believe what they say. That is a very dangerous and stupid thing to do.

Bush politicized 9/11 and the War on Terror? You think? Huh, I'm trying to think of when the last time the terror alert level was raised in the U. S. since it was raised 8-10 times during the 2004 election year. Oh, right. It hasn't been, barring a couple of categorical raises (like NY transit, which later had its funding cut for security in favor of hotbeds like Wyoming).

How much would you be willing to bet that between now and the 2006 mid-term elections, we see the nationwide terror alert level increased?

Link via Atrios, who also notes:

Look, it's simple. Every time the Democrats do anything Republicans run to reporters and say how wonderful this is and how it means the downfall of the Democratic party and blah blah blah. Hell, when Dick Cheney shot a man in the face they were claiming it'd be good for poll numbers. The press always believes it, and too often Democrats do too.

There are exceptions to this rule. Occasionally, something happens which invariably makes Republicans look bad, in which case they blame it on the Democrats (usually Clinton).

Posted by Observer at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006


If you aren't familiar with the Daily Kos website and what a plurality of its members believe about Bush and America, this diary is a great primer. The basic summary, written for the benefit of Republicans: Your President Done Fucked Up.

Of course, the foul language will give most true wingnuts the vapors. They can't handle the f-bomb unless the Vice President says it, in which case it gets a chorus of "hell, yeah!"

Posted by Observer at 08:26 PM | Comments (0)

Cut and Run

The latest version of the Republican Democrats-are-filthy-cowards talking point goes something like this: By cutting and running from Iraq like Democrats want to, we will only encourage Osama bin Laden and others like him. After all, cutting and running from Beirut/Lebanon and Mogadishu (Somalia) only encouraged terrorists that they could chase us out of countries and planted the seeds of bin Laden's organization.

One problem, Republicans: That statement implies that Saint Ronnie (Reagan) and Bush Sr. were responsible for 9-11.

Better rethink that one, fellas.

Agree or disagree on when/if to get out of Iraq. As Atrios and others have said repeatedly: those of us on the left are not the ones who shit the bed. We don't necessarily know how to unshit the bed, but we do know that the first order of business is to vote out the idiots who DID shit the bed because all they know how to do is keep shitting the bed.

BTW, comments fixed now. Our hosting company disables them if we get spammed too badly (even if the comments don't get through the filter, MT-blacklist uses up CPU time blocking them), but I know now how to get them working again without waiting for help. I always appreciate the heads-up when comments are broken (thanks, S.A.).

Posted by Observer at 07:34 PM | Comments (0)


What Wes Clark says:

Despite what Joe Lieberman believes, invading Iraq and diverting our attention away from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is not being strong on national security. Blind allegiance to George W. Bush and his failed "stay the course" strategy is not being strong on national security. And no, Senator Lieberman, no matter how you demonize your opponents, there is no "antisecurity wing" of the Democratic Party.

Exactly. It's about time some Democrats stood up and actually started answering the previously rhetorical "Is the world safer now that Saddam has been ousted?" question Republicans so love to ask. The actual answer doesn't look good on them.

Since Gore and Hillary seem unelectable and since the next presidential election will almost surely hinge on national security issues, here's hoping Wes Clark is given a shot by the Democratic party to be the nominee. And with any luck, the Democrats will respond effectively when the inevitable liberal-media-assisted Swift-Boat-style groups start to spring up to criticize him.

Posted by Observer at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

With Friends Like These

I guess I misspoke yesterday. Why should wingnuts worry about depicting anti-war Democrats as wild-eyed, angry, extreme left-wing liberals when CNN will do it for them? I also said it would happen "by November". I should have said "before 12 hours have passed".

Gee, it sure is swell that we liberals have such great friends in the liberal media out there. Just IMAGINE what kind of horrible slant would be on the news if it were actually a corporate, conservative bias! No, go on, really. It's easy!

They would probably try to say Lamont is some kind of space alien or Scientologist trying to construct orbital mind control lasers to make Bush change his mind about stem cells. Since they aren't saying anything off the wall crazy like that, they must be balanced and fair!

Posted by Observer at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2006

Tomorrow's News Today

Despite some last-minute desperation propaganda by Fox News (click the link for TV screen shots) and endorsements by most major wingnuts, it looks like Lamont is going to beat Lieberman and earn the primary win for Democrats in Connecticut.

Chris Bowers has already anticipated the reaction of the "liberal" Traditional Media, which echoes what I said a couple of days ago. No matter what happens, this is a disaster for Democrats:

No matter what happens later today, Wednesday will be the worst day of press for the progressive netroots in years. If Lamont loses, we will be branded as ineffectual, irrelevant, extremist, and destructive. If Ned Lamont wins, we will be branded as powerful, relevant, extremist, and destructive.

If you believe that John Kerry was some ultra-liberal Democrat (as opposed to a mainstream Democrat), that Al Gore claimed to invent the internet, that we shouldn't question our president during a time of "war", that Bush won in 2000 and 2004 fair and square ... then I'm sure you'll believe that Lamont is some super-extreme wild-eyed hippie peacenik who thinks All Wars Are Bad.

I guarantee you by November, that's what Republicans will be saying. Nevermind that Lamont and Lieberman have the same positions on almost every issue except the war. Doesn't matter. Lamont is about to turn into a Puppet of the Moonbat Blogs, Too Wild-Eyed, Angry, Crazy and Liberal to be a U. S. Senator during the War on Terror.

And Lieberman? God help him if he tries to run as an Independent. You think he'll get the backing of the ConservaBorg? He'll only get backing insofar as Republicans have maxed out their contributions to the Republican and want to throw some money to Joe to split the Democratic vote, kind of like they are doing with the Green Party in some states (like Pennsylvania where Santorum is really struggling and with luck will lose his re-election bid).

His best bet is to just retire and join Zell Miller and a host of others as a Fox News Democrat. He'll probably be guest-hosting Rush's show before long, but he'll always claim he's a Democrat.

Posted by Observer at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2006


I suppose I'm due one about every seven years. I got a speeding ticket this morning on the little speedtrap road leading into campus, in a part I've never seen the cops set up. My mind was wandering, but I felt safe because I was behind someone else who was speeding about 50 yards in front of me. Didn't matter, they had a ticket factory set up with three cops writing as fast as they could pull people over.

It's the exact same infraction as seven years ago: 42 in a 30. Time for some online defensive driving. I suppose I'll have to be more careful about red lights for the next year. Good thing I remembered to put the new insurance card into the glove compartment and put the registration renewal sticker on the car a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, no ticket for the asshole in the 4-runner who tailgated me about 3-5 feet behind for a mile before I turned onto Speedtrap Drive. He went another way, the bastard.

Posted by Observer at 09:35 AM | Comments (6)

August 06, 2006


If you read Atrios or Kos over in my sidebar, you should know something about the big primary in Connecticut coming up on Tuesday. The unheard of is happening ... an incumbent Democratic senator is being challenged by an outside who isn't supported by the Washington establishment (i.e. big campaign bucks from lobbyists). And it is starting to look like the upstart Ned Lamont may beat Joe Lieberman in the primary, putting Lamont on track to become the new Democratic senator from Connecticut.

There's a lot of talk over What This All Means in the Traditional Media. Lamont's biggest distinction from Lieberman is two-fold. First, he is fully against the war, and he's highly critical of the Bush administration. Lieberman sometimes makes noises critical of the war, but he also is a Fox News Democrat who loves to make the party look bad. Republicans love the guy because he says things like, "We shouldn't be criticizing the Commander in Chief during a time of war."

Which brings me to the other main difference, and that is that Lieberman is a Republican enabler. He pretends he's pro-choice, casting a vote against Alito for the Supreme Court, but when it really counted, during the vote to filibuster Alito, Lieberman stepped aside. It was pretty maddening for pro-choice Democrats, and that's just one example where Lieberman tends to sabotage Democratic unity.

The funny thing about the Traditional Media is that, as usual, regardless of the outcome of the situation, it will be bad for Democrats. You see, if Lieberman wins the primary, it means that Democrats want someone who will mostly support Bush but only be different on some minor issues, who will gladly appear on Fox News to try to reach out to the Republicans, etc. But Democrats tried that strategy in the presidential election, nominating one of the party's moderates (Kerry) who was a lot like Lieberman in the conservative vs liberal scorecard.

Didn't matter. Kerry will forever be known as the "second most liberal senator" or some such bullshit because some think tank made it up and all the Traditional Media outlets picked it up. And the pundits know this, so they're fully ready to bash the Democrats for being too unimaginative, for continuing to try things that don't work, for continuing to pander to the right in order to win elections because they don't have any real principles or bold visions like the Boy King.

On the other hand, if Lamont wins the primary, it means the crazy liberal moonbat extremists (you know, the 58% of Americans who favor withdrawal from Iraq within the year) and bloggers have taken over the Democratic party, pulling the wheel screeching to the left, and there's no way the Democrats can get elected by pandering to their base of all things (uh, what the hell have Republicans been doing for the past 6 years?).

So as usual, anytime Democrats are in the news, it is just another excuse for a media narrative that they can't get their shit together. This is the kind of look-down-your-nose attitude that the Traditional Media has had for Democrats really since the Lewinsky scandal and the last days of Clinton. I, for one, would love to see Democrats nationalize the Congressional elections and make it all about the war and accountability. You know, hold some hearings about war profiteering and the way the war is being run, like we always do (except for this war). I think given the natural strength of incumbents, it is their only chance to take one or both houses of Congress.

Posted by Observer at 11:16 PM | Comments (6)

August 04, 2006

Protecting Your Constituents

Republicans running this country have proved that they are good at one thing and one thing only: protecting the super-rich. Not the ordinary rich, mind you, the people who are well off but could still be financially ruined by a $500k medical bill for a family member (the recent bankruptcy bill ensures they'll be screwed). No, I'm talking about the 0.1% of people in the country so rich that literally no financial problems can touch them. They just don't have to think about money, but they do (often obsessively).

The best way to protect these people is to reduce inheritance taxes (the so-called Paris Hilton tax break). That way, these CEO's making billions can give their fortune away to their kids without worrying about taxes. Republicans try to sell it by saying that the estate tax hurts farmers and small business owners trying to pass on their assets to the next generation, but that's a pretty ridiculous myth as Kevin Drum points out:

There's an abstract sense in which every small business "could be" affected by the estate tax, but in reality virtually none of them actually are. The CBO estimates that even under current law a mere 485 small businesses are affected by the estate tax each year ó note that that's not 485 thousand or 485 million, it's 485 ó and if the exemption were raised to $3.5 million, a change that even Democrats endorse, the number would be reduced to 94.

Ninety. Four. The entire business community is practically giving itself whiplash making a U-turn on the hated minimum wage in order to reduce the estate tax on 94 businesses each year. Wow.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, I see in the fine print here that the Republican legislation would increase the size of the estate tax exemption to $10 million per couple by 2015 and then index it to inflation thereafter. It's funny how indexing for inflation is out of the question when it comes to something like the minimum wage, but turns out to be an essential safeguard when it comes to making sure that a $10 million estate tax exemption doesn't dwindle away to nothing due to future congressional inaction.

Think of it: in terms of actual purchasing power, that $10 million exemption could easily decline to $9.5 million, or even $9 million, if future congresses were to dilly dally over passing an increase. Thank God America's future heirs to great fortunes are being protected from the ravages of inflation by today's Republican Party.

The ironic thing is that the super-rich already pay less than their fair share of taxes thanks to off-shore financial transactions that hide their money from the gummint. When caught, they always claim that, oh, their crooked financial advisor led them astray! But they are rarely caught and, in fact, enforcement of the tax code has gone way down during this administration. That's a calculated strategy (pulled off by very simply reducing the number of auditors at the IRS) and a back-door tax cut for the super-rich because Congress hasn't had the guts to just do it out in the open.

All you have to do if you are one of these elite is give the Republican party enough money to ensure they stay in power. How much? Oh, let's say an average of $1 million per family. Sounds like a lot, but if it lets them save $50 million in taxes, then it's pretty hard to find an investment with a better (or dependable) return.

The claims here are documented elsewhere, but I'm too lazy to look up all of the links right now. Just blogging because I can't sleep.

Posted by Observer at 05:34 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

Lack of Direction

Democrats are often criticized in the traditional media, which I know is hard to believe with the media being so ultra-liberal and all. The biggest criticism is supposedly that Democrats have no principles, that they just say whatever they need to say to get elected. Republicans, on the other hand, have these deep, guiding principles that they believe in, no matter what actual facts stand in the way, and so they are inherently somehow better. Echidne, a guest blogger for the Rude Pundit, has a fine rant in response (link via The Sideshow):

The media isn't helping to keep us from veering towards the United States of Wingnuttia. Time and time again they describe the heinous deeds of the rabid rats from the right and then ask: "But what do the Democrats STAND for?" As if there is no better plan for the future than destroying the world while waiting for the apocalypse to happen. Or rather, while helping it all along. Imagine what these journalists would have asked about the opposition to Ghenghis Khan. Sure, he kills and spits people and such. Sure, he gets his kicks from torture. But do you present any credible alternative at all? Do you have a plan?

Isn't trying to keep this country going a credible alternative? Isn't trying to conserve what is worth conserving (now that the conservatives stand for destruction instead) a credible alternative? Isn't sanity a credible alternative to madness? I guess not.

The traditional media simply isn't allowed to call any Bush Administration idea crazy or stupid or ill-conceived or irrational. Anything that is obviously fucking stupid on its face ("let's cut taxes to increase revenue!" or "let's make up a reason to invade another country!"), it's another "bold" idea from that charming maverick in the White House who may be stupid, but he's surrounded by incredibly, wonderfully capable and intelligent people.

Posted by Observer at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

You Have Failed Me for the Last Time!

A funny diversion on YouTube is Episode 1 and Episode 2 (about 5 minutes each) of Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager. It's a story about Darth Vader's younger brother, who manages the day shift at a grocery store. Not bad at all for an amateur effort.

Posted by Observer at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2006

Is He Gonna Die?

The title quote is from an old Eddie Murphy routine about people who watch scary movies. What genius.

Anyway, I was surfing around today and ran across this article in which Stephen King and John Irving basically express their hope that J. K. Rowling won't kill off Harry Potter in the final book. This quote from Rowling is ominous news for Harry's best friends:

"I can resolve the story now and it's fun in a way it wasn't before because finally I've reached my resolution, and I think some people will loathe it and some people will love it, but that's how it should be."

"We're working towards the end I always planned but a couple of characters I expected to survive have died and one character got a reprieve," she said, declining to elaborate.

Asked about the wisdom of killing off fictional characters, Rowling said she didn't enjoy killing the major character who died in book six -- for the sake of those who haven't read it yet she avoided naming the victim -- but she said the conventions of the genre demanded the hero go on alone.

Remember all of the traps Harry had to get through in the first book? The ones that peeled off (without killing) Hermione and then Ron before Harry had his one-on-one encounter with Voldemort? I wonder if that's kind of how Rowling intends to finish the series, although maybe with killing off Ron and/or Hermione instead of just incapacitating them.

After all, when she wrote that first book, she didn't know for sure that it would get picked up for the whole series, so she may have already showed us her favorite ending.

Posted by Observer at 11:03 AM | Comments (3)

Popularity Breeds Contempt

You know, you can tell from recent comments that my goal for this blog is not to have a lot of readers. If I wanted a super-popular blog to draw a bunch of readers and charge revenue for ads, I would just write about Pokemon all the time.

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

August 01, 2006

Republican Foreign Policy

Via Toles:

At some point, do you suppose the Traditional Media will take some time away from the Celebrity Scandal of the Day to ask, "Has the War on Terror made America safer?" or "How much has the War in Iraq cost vs how much it would cost to secure all of our ports and borders?" or "What is the best realistic outcome for Iraq at this point in terms of U. S. interests, and is it at all better than the status quo in 2002 under Saddam?"

Unlikely. Instead, the next unfortunate Democrat to run for President will instead have his or her military record questioned, his or her ethics questioned, and every important political position will be taken, according to the Traditional Media, because the Democrat only wants to be elected and doesn't really believe in anything. And the election will eventually be decided by who has the best haircut or something, provided Diebold doesn't just cheat (again) to keep Republicans in power.

Posted by Observer at 10:55 PM | Comments (2)