So far, so good. I'm losing about 2 pounds per week by basically avoiding snacks (no more than one small snack per day) and only eating until I'm full (instead of eating until I have to stop because I'm stuffed). It's very difficult to toss the last third of a yummy supper, but I'm getting used to doing it when I don't give myself small enough portions. I even threw away a quarter of a personal pizza last week because I was too full to finish, and that was tough just because I felt like I was wasting money ... sounds silly, but it was tough mentally! I also try to avoid having my snack at night, avoiding all food after supper, though I haven't been religious about that. I think I've broken through the 200 pound barrier for good now!
The blue dots are daily first-thing-in-the-morning (when I weigh the least) measurements, and the pink is the five-day moving average.
There was a glitch around day 40. That's when I was running around so much and we had nothing to eat at home, so I had Ch*ck-Fil-A for lunch (love those big waffle fries) and then What*burger for dinner with a chocolate shake indulgence. Took my body about a week to recover from that day and get back on track! I still have fast food sometimes (take out burgers or Ch*ck-Fil-A), but not twice a day and no shakes.
Other days, I really didn't do anything special. It's not like I starved myself or did anything different at all on days before a big weight dip. I'm still trying to do 40 minutes or so on the exercise bike twice a week, but that doesn't seem to particularly correlate with day to day weight loss. I'm not entirely sure what does, and I've been paying close attention to this recently as I was anxious to see if I could get below 200 and stay there. But I determined not to "cheat" and skip a meal or starve myself just to break through 200, just see if it happens as part of the normal habits I'm in now.
I figure if it doesn't level off soon, I'll start eating more to make it level off somewhere around 180. It would be very easy to eat more than a paltry one of Mich*lle's yummy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. My clothes fit a lot better now, and it's nice not to have a gut that sticks out over my belt.
I should be clear after the last couple of days' posts that the fault for this atrocity in Congress that declares it okay to torture people and/or detain them indefinitely without a hearing (I guess we shouldn't bother making those lists of "bad on human rights" countries any more, eh, State Department?) ... the fault lies entirely with the Republicans, who overwhelmingly supported this bill while Democrats overwhelmingly (but not completely) voted against it. They didn't have quite the votes for a filibuster, so that was academic, but I find it hard to believe they couldn't have slowed the process down somewhat to prevent the bill from passing before the recess.
Glenn Greenwald has some good words of advice for the morning after:
Now that the torture and detention bill will become law, it is necessary to focus on the political implications of what happened yesterday and, more broadly, what has been done to our country by the Bush administration and the blindly loyal Congress for the last five years. It goes without saying that the conduct of Democrats generally (meaning their collective behavior) was far, far short of anything noble, courageous or principled. And one could, if one were so inclined, spend every day from now until November 7 criticizing the strategic mistakes and lack of principle of Beltway Democrats and still not exhaust the list.
But that's all besides the point at the moment, because -- right now -- everyone has to answer for themselves these questions: (1) do you believe that the incalculable damage imposed on this country by the Bush administration and its followers (including in Congress) can be impeded and then reversed and, if so, (2) how can that be accomplished? For those who have given up and believe the answer to question (1) is "no," then, by definition, there is nothing to discuss. You' ve decided that there is no hope, that you're done fighting and trying to defend any of your beliefs and principles, and you're ready to cede the country to those who are in the process of destroying it.
But for those who believe that the answer to question (1) is "yes" (and I believe that emphatically), then the answer to question (2) seems self-evidently clear. The most important and overriding mandate is to end the one-party rule to which our country has been subjected for the last four years. Achieving that is necessary -- it is an absolute pre-requisite -- to begin to impose some actual limits on the authoritarian behavior and unchecked powers of this administration -- because, right now, there are no such limits.
And, independently, killing off unchallenged Republican rule is the only possible way to invade the wall of secrecy behind which this administration has operated and to find out what our government has actually been doing for the last five years. Shining light on the shadows and dark crevices in which they have been operating is vitally important for repairing the damage that has been done. If nothing else, a Chairman Conyers or a Chairman Leahy, armed with subpoena powers, will accomplish that. [...]
A Democratic victory is an instrument -- an indispensable weapon -- in battling the growing excesses and profound abuses and indescribably destructive behavior of the Bush administration and their increasingly authoritarian followers. A Democratic victory does not have to be seen as being anything more than that in order to realize how critically important it is.
A desire for a Democratic victory is, at least for me, about the fact that this country simply cannot endure two more years of a Bush administration which is free to operate with even fewer constraints than before, including the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney will never face even another midterm election ever again. They will be free to run wild for the next two years with a Congress that is so submissive and blindly loyal that it is genuinely creepy to behold. A desire for a Democratic victory is also about the need to have the systematic lawbreaking and outright criminality in which Bush officials have repeatedly engaged have actual consequences, something that simply will not happen if Republicans continue their stranglehold on all facets of the Government for the next two years. [...]
My personal list of disagreements with most Democrats on a variety of issues is quite long. But the need to restore the rule of law to our country and to put an immediate end to the unlimited reign of the increasingly sociopathic Bush movement is of unparalleled and urgent importance, and it so vastly outweighs every other consideration that little else is worth even discussing until those objectives are accomplished.
We are a country ruled by a President who has seized the power to break the law in multiple ways while virtually nothing is done about it. Yesterday, we formally vested the power in the President to abduct people and put them in prisons for life without so much as charging them with any crime and by expressly proclaiming that they have no right to access any court or tribunal to prove their innocence. We have started one war against a country that did not attack us and, in doing so, created havoc and danger -- both to ourselves and the world -- that is truly difficult to quantify. And we are almost certainly going to start one more war just like it (at least), that is far more dangerous still, if the President's Congressional servants maintain their control.
For all their imperfections, cowardly acts, strategically stupid decisions, and inexcusable acquiescence -- and that list is depressingly long -- it is still the case that Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this torture and detention atrocity. The vote total on yesterday's House vote on Heather Wilson's bill to legalize warrantless eavesdropping reflects the same dynamic: "On the final wiretapping vote, 18 Democrats joined 214 Republicans to win passage. Thirteen Republicans, 177 Democrats and one independent voted nay." And, if nothing else, Democrats are resentful and angry at how they have been treated and that alone will fuel some serious and much-needed retribution if they gain control over one or both houses.
By reprehensible contrast, the Republican Party is one that marches in virtually absolute lockstep in support of the President's wishes, particularly in the areas of terrorism and national security. It was a truly nauseating spectacle to watch each and every one of them (other than Chafee) not only vest these extraordinary powers in the President by voting in unison for this bill, but beyond that, blindly oppose every single amendment offered by Democrats -- including ones designed to do nothing other than ensure some minimal Congressional oversight over these extraordinary new presidential powers. It was like watching mindless zombies obediently marching wherever they were told to march. That has been how our country has been ruled for the last five years and, unless there is a Democratic victory, we will have more of that, and worse, over the next two years.
There is one other consideration which, by itself, ought to be determinative. The only branch of government that has shown any residual willingness to defend the Constitution and the rule of law is the judicial branch. But critical Supreme Court decisions such as Hamdan -- which at least affirmed the most minimal and basic constitutional protections -- depend upon the most precarious 5-4 split among the Justices. One of the five pro-Constitution Justices, John Paul Stevens, is 86 years old. If George Bush has free reign to replace Stevens, it will mean that the Supreme Court will be composed of a very young five-Justice majority of absolute worshippers of Executive Power -- Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito and New Justice -- which will control the Court and endorse unlimited executive abuses for decades to come.
In a GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats cannot stop a Supreme Court nominee by filibuster anymore because Republicans will break the rules by declaring the filibuster invalid. The only hope for stopping a full-fledged takeover of the Supreme Court is a Democratic-controlled Senate.
Continued unchallenged Republican control of our government for two more years will wreak untold damage on our country, perhaps debilitating it past the point of no return. There is only one viable, realistic alternative to that scenario: a Democratic takeover in six weeks of one or both houses of Congress. Even that would be far from a magic bullet; the limits imposed by Democrats even when they are in the majority would be incremental and painfully modest. But the reality is that this is the only way available for there to be any limits and checks at all.
In the real world, one has to either choose between two more years of uncontrolled Republican rule, or imposing some balance -- even just logjam -- on our Government with a Democratic victory. Or one can decide that it just doesn't matter either way because one has given up on defending the principles and values of our country. But, for better or worse, those are the only real options available, and wishing there were other options doesn't mean that there are any. And there are only six weeks left to choose the option you think is best and to do what you can to bring it to fruition.
As if I needed another reason never to vote for a fucking Republican ever again for the rest of my life under any circumstances.
Atrios has the text of some of the speeches given on the Senate floor today in opposition to the torture bill. They are very good speeches by people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and John Kerry.
But unless these same senators are willing to propose a filibuster to stop this bill, that's all they are. Speeches. Stop lecturing us and act on your principles, Democrats! You were elected to LEAD, not to avoid fights but to stand up for our country.
Stand up and don't give a damn inch to those bastards.
Atrios and Digby have some really good, important stuff today (and Glenn Greenwald has been good all week on the torture issue). Here is one of the best essays about it I've read today.
I think the theme for the day is this: Congress is about to pass a law that basically institutionalizes torture against anyone we feel like, including U. S. citizens. You may not think that it does, but it does. After all, torture is o.k. when we are pursuing some terrorism plot, and if you are a suspected terrorist (which in Republican-speak, "suspected terrorist" ALWAYS EQUALS "terrorist"), then they can do whatever they want to you.
Torturing is stupid and morally wrong. It's about as close to an evil, inhuman act as I can imagine. So where are all the "religion scolds" on this one? You know, Democrats like Holy Joe Lieberman and Barack Obama who are always scolding us liberals for not taking "morals and values" voters and issues "seriously"?
Where are they now? Why aren't they speaking out against this distinctly unholy piece of crap law Congress is trying to pass?
I mean, it goes without saying that Republicans are reflecting their rank-and-file Moron American supporters when they vote for torture, even though it goes against any semblance of Christian beliefs. It's red meat for the reactionary nutballs out there whose foreign policy amounts to, "Ok, whose ass are we gonna kick next? You want a piece of us?"
But I sure as hell expected better from Democrats.
One of the great pleasures in life that I have is giving reality checks to students who blow off my class. I really like it when dumb guys (who never attend class except for exam days) jockey for position before a test so that they can sit next to someone they can copy off of. But then, oops, the exam is in two different versions, essay format, with no overlap between questions.
I enjoy watching the sense of panic creep over dummy's face as he flips through his test, eyes darting to his friend's paper, trying in vain to find something worth copying. Dummy's body language gets more and more uncomfortable as the minutes roll on. Lots of biiiiig stretches, lots of loosening the collar, lots of looking around trying to find something, anything that might be a lifeline.
Finally, after about 40 minutes, all of his buddies have gotten up and left and actually tried their honest best on the test. Poor dummy finally gets up and starts the long, slow walk from the back of the classroom up to the front. Dummy tries to time it so that he can turn it in without everyone else around him realizing that it is mostly blank, but no such luck. The added bonus is that his test is very easy to grade.
It's really amazing after all these years that the word still hasn't gotten fully around on this campus that mine isn't a blowoff class.
Books 7 and 8 in the New Jedi Order series are a duology called "Edge of Victory" by Greg Keyes. The first of the two books, "Conquest", is the better of the two. At this stage of the war, the invading Yuuzhan Vong have paused to regroup and put a bounty on all the Jedi in the galaxy, hoping for collaborators to turn them in and save the Vong the trouble.
Luke catches wind of a plan to take the students at the Jedi academy (now located near the old rebel base from "A New Hope") and sends some reinforcements. Anakin, the youngest and most powerful of Han and Leia's Jedi kids, also goes on his own and ends up one of the only survivors on the world besieged by both collaborators and the Vong. Anakin's friend and new love interest, another teenager named Tahiri, is captured and subject to brutal genetic experiments while Anakin rushes to find her.
There aren't too many subplots in this one, and for once (true for both books) we don't have a situation where all of the major characters miraculously end up on the same planet at the end. So most of the focus is on the development of Anakin, and I have to say that so far, this is the best book of the whole NJO lot, a really refreshing change from what has come before. Anakin's journey is really good, and a lot of neat revelations about Anakin, the Force, and the Vong are mixed in along the way. Though it is the first of a two-book set, it stands alone just fine.
The second book is "Rebirth", and it has a lot more plots going on. It's a very different book from the first one and more middle-of-the-road in terms of quality. This book has at least three major plots going on, jumping between them all the time, often disconcertingly. The Anakin/Tahiri story continues, but it isn't nearly as good as the first book. The major plot development here is that Luke and Mara give birth to a child (well, just Mara) after Mara has another bout with the Vong disease she picked up several books ago.
The new child is, of course, extremely strong in the force, bonded tightly with Luke and Mara, and is named Ben. Not much of a surprise there, but a good pick of a name nevertheless (that's our newborn's name ... or my young apprentice, as I call him).
...that the answer to the question "Are we better off without Saddam in power in Iraq?" given what it has (and will continue to) cost us to accomplish this goal is not obvious. Of course, given that this is the traditional media reporting, the article in which the combined insight of several intelligence agencies (many of them liberally sprinkled with partisan hacks) says Iraq has hurt and not helped the Holy War on Terror ... this report is reduced to a "on the one hand..." article.
On the one hand, you have a multiyear study, the combined effort of our best and brightest in intelligence, saying the war is a failure. On the other hand, you have a fuckwit senator like Bill Frist saying, "I know you are but what am I?" And so the Moron American will come away figuring that the truth is somewhere in the middle, and since we're in a global war right now, we probably should keep voting for Republicans who are so much better at keeping the country safer (after all, reports to the contrary with lots of documentation are always counterweighted with Republicans saying "Nuh uuuuuuuh...").
That's seriously how this country works. How appalling.
Recently in the news has been the story of the supposedly independent Republicans in the Senate (what a joke) "standing up" to the Bush Administration over their wish to essentially scrap the Geneva Conventions and torture whoever we feel like whenever we feel like it. This goes hand-in-hand with the Republican theory of terror: if a person is a suspected terrorist, then he is by definition a terrorist and deserving of no rights or dignity.
As many, including Digby have reported, this whole "negotiation" in the Senate over whether or not we should change the law so it is legal to torture people has always just been a sideshow. After all, why should the Bush administration even care what a Senate bill says? They passed an anti-torture bill last year, and Bush just issued a "signing statement" that said he could ignore it if he felt like it. No, this is just a show to keep Republicans front and center in the news and the war on terror front and center (FEAR FEAR FEAR!) in the minds of the Moron Americans. Don't worry, the media is playing along perfectly, good soldiers in the war against everything we used to stand up for as a nation.
Beyond that, though, there is clearly a moral case to make against tortue, and it is sometimes so obvious that you wonder what has made the Republicans (supposedly the party aligned with Christianity) lose their perspective on it.
A Christian minister by the name of pastordan regularly posts some pretty good essays to Daily Kos, and today's is a real model of why it is wrong for us to use torture:
What is happening on Capitol Hill today is plainly evil. As defined by Walt Lowe in the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, evil is
that which causes harm, depriving a being of some good which is proper to that being. Moral evil (in religious terms, sin) is the result of a deliberate choice.
Sen. McCain tells us "there are no losers in this deal," which is patently false. The losers are those who suffer from coercive techniques - whose definition is still left up to a cold and reckless White House - those who are charged with carrying out the policy, despite their objections, and anyone who gives a damn about life, liberty, and the rule of law. The administration has chosen its path, and the Republican Congress has wickedly chosen to follow its lead.
The new interrogation policy, if ratified, will cause harm. Obviously, it will harm prisoners lost in some black hole in the second or third world, subject to tactics that haven't quite been made public for what should again be obvious reasons. It will deprive them of goods which are proper to them, namely liberty, dignity, due process, and the fundamental right not to have to have the shit kicked out of them on the authority of an unaccountable regime.
Less obviously, this policy harms us all. Aside from the damage it does to US moral authority abroad, and the danger to which it exposes captured American troops, it degrades our shared humanity. I am less of a person because of this shocking and disgraceful policy, and so are you.
What our elected officials intend to carry out is, in a word, evil. It is time for our leaders to say so.
They won't, of course, unless one of them has a sudden attack of conscience.
More likely, they will have to be dragged into finding their consciences, kicking and screaming. It is our responsibility to do the dragging. If necessary, we will need to raise the stakes to such a point that they cannot resist the pressure. Anyone - anyone - who accomodates torture takes part in evil. That might not make us all equally responsible, but it does make us all guilty. May God have mercy on me for what is being done in my name. I do not want to be safe at that price.
Many people are asking what can be done now. I have to say, I don't know. We can try shaming our representatives into doing the right thing. Some have called for civil disobedience. We'll see what shakes out in the next few days.
I can say this much, however. Should some US Senator step forward to filibuster this awful bill, he or she will have my full support, and the support of millions. Screw political calculation: we are fighting for our nation's soul. I would rather have every last Democrat voted out of office than that they should be complicit in evil. Some will no doubt deride that as politically naive. I don't care. It is faithful.
In my faith, we often speak of the necessity of maintaining love for one another despite the consequences. I worship a God who would rather have gone to the cross than abandon his people in their suffering. Which makes another point raised by Walt Lowe all the more profound:
One repeatedly encounters testimony to the deep and almost inexplicable comfort which individuals have found in the simple fact that another person was present, sharing in some miniscule way in the pain the experience.
Jesus died alone because good people could not find the courage to overcome evil. But his sacrifice is being re-presented in secret jails across the world owned and operated by another imperial power, our own. There is no reason for the prisoners of those facilities to suffer and possibly die alone. Whether we are religious or not, we have a fundamental human responsibility not just to speak out against the abuses perpetrated upon them, but to stand in solidarity with them. They may be our enemies, but have we not been taught to pray for our enemies? Have we not been taught never to return evil for evil?
The religious among us can take comfort in God's steadfast and transformative presence. I expect the non-religious have their own sources of strength. Whatever the case, I believe we are obligated to reach inside ourselves and find what it takes not to resist evil, but to overcome it by good. I don't much care how that is accomplished, but I do know that it begins by finding a way to be present with those who suffer at the hands of our government, if only through our prayers, and by pulling our leaders into naming what has happened to our nation for it is: evil.
There is little doubt in my mind that this administration is systematically practicing evil. It is as plain as the nose on your face, but you won't hear the super-duper-communist-marxist-liberal media talking like that. Hell, you won't even hear them quoting any Democrats who have legitimate criticisms. They won't even cover it when we torture people to death. Not good for business, you see.
These are dark days indeed.
Billmon has some interesting and scary speculation today about what Iran must be thinking:
The Iranians must see the same signs we all do: the deliberately incited media frenzy, the melodramatic warnings from exile groups, the intelligence strong arm tactics, the stovepipe operations, the efforts to discredit the UN inspectors, and now the military deployments. How can they be so seemingly certain it’s just an elaborate bluff? Even the Israeli air assault on Lebanon doesn’t seem to have made a dent in their confidence.
It finally occurred to me that I may have been looking at this the wrong way. I’ve been thinking about an American air strike as the Cheney Administration's way of kicking over the table and ending the chess match. But the Iranians may see it as simply another move on the board -- a disastrously bad move they could then exploit to improve their position.
It’s not so much that the Iranians want the Americans to attack their country, but they may be fully prepared to deal with it and use it to their own Machiavellian advantage -- not just politically and diplomatically, but also to advance their alleged nuclear ambitions. They may even be counting on it.
There's a lot more there, not all of which makes sense to me, but it makes for a good read nevertheless.
Survivor has been fun so far. I don't really see what the big deal is dividing them up along racial lines. For the first time in my memory, I saw a tribe throw a challenge today just so they could get rid of someone today (and if they hadn't, I imagine the tribe that lost the first challenge would've lost the second, too, but they don't know that). Then they made the mistake of sending a strong, smart guy out to exile island, and to no great surprise, he made pretty quick work of finding the hidden immunity idol. All in all, lots of fun. Yul, who found the idol, is definitely a favorite for me, so I hope he'll go far.
A useful exercise: if the idea that the Bush administration is considering withdrawing troops, but only after the U.S. midterm elections, doesn't give you pause to consider whether such a move might have political considerations behind it, substitute "Clinton" for "Bush" in that sentence and try reading it again.
You can hear the howls of outrage from the editorial patriot guard now, can't you? Politicizing warfare. Putting his electoral fortunes and those of his party above the interests of national security.
Undermining our brave men and women in uniform.
And they would be right to howl. It is idealistic to expect that our most fearsome weapon, our ability to wage war, should never be used for domestic political means. It is idealistic to expect that no politician would ever view the death of a soldier or sailor as something less important than his or her personal future. But it is right that we should hold such sacrifices, such service, above any future determined at the ballot box.
What kind of mental disconnect must one have in order for your top two priorities in this world to be "Support the Troops" and "Support the President" when the president is the one putting our troops in harm's way for no good reason? When he is the one politicizing the war, using their deaths for political advantage?
Because he says stuff like this:
A couple of days ago, a man wrote a letter to the Watertown Daily Times saying, in effect, that he would not vote for Bob Johnson just because Viggo Mortensen thought he ought to. He was absolutely right. I hope he and everyone else, including all of you in this room, will educate yourselves about the issues and make up your own minds as to how you wish to vote in November.
In his letter, the gentleman also used a Robert Heinlein quote to imply that my field of knowledge, owing to my profession, was relatively narrow. I am an actor, in case you did not know. I did not say: "I am just an actor". I said: "I am an actor." I do not need to apologise for my line of work, which in fact involves regular efforts to try and see the world we live in from points-of-view different than my own. Neither do I need to apologise for volunteering to help Bob Johnson receive the necessary media exposure to have his views heard more widely in this congressional district.
I do not live in a Beverly Hills mansion. I do my own laundry, my own dishes, and take out the trash. I clean my house as often as seems necessary -- not that I am overly meticulous about it, as friends and family can attest to. I am an active and engaged parent, and do my best as a citizen to stay informed about current events. It does not matter if I am an actor, a plumber, a teacher, or anything else. It does not matter if I am employed and relatively well-off, or under-employed and economically disadvantaged as so many people in this part of the country are.
I am a citizen of the United States of America, whose government is meant to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people". I vote, and I pay close attention to what politicians say and even closer attention to what they do. I try to keep in mind the admonition of the great teacher Plato: "One of the penalties of refusing to be involved in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." We have certainly seen the proof of that statement in this country over the last five years or so.
Billmon has a very nice side-by-side between George Orwell's book about Politics and Language and some recent speeches by Bush administration officials. It's really amazing how they're reinventing the wheel, yet no one in the traditional media bothers calling them on it.
Damn liberal media.
Via The Sideshow who got it from someone else, etc. comes this insightful comment about campaign finance:
The Republican fallacy that campaign contributions is a form of political/ free speech needs to be assaulted directly.
If you get pulled over by the police for breaking the law, you can't make a financial contribution to the arresting officer on the grounds that it is free or political speech.
When you go to court, you can't make a financial contribution to the prosecution, to the jurors, or to the judge.
However, you can give campaign contributions to the legislators... you know, the guys who make the laws that the police officers follow, that the prosecution enforces, the jurors decide, and the judge adjudicates.
And yet the last one is "free speech", all the rest are "bribery".
Next time I get pulled over, maybe I'll ask the cop if he or she plans to run for office someday, then offer a campaign contribution. I wonder if I could get busted for bribery on that one.
Bob Somerby today has a very good example of exactly how the administration continues to claim that there was a relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda, even when study after study after study (including reports written by Republicans) continue to prove them wrong. It is a great example of pushing propaganda over truth, and it is a key component to this administration's mastery of the press.
As long as the attention span of the Moron American continues to be about 30 seconds or less, be assured that this kind of governing (by either party) will continue.
Glenn Greenwald today does a good job of explaining the thought processes that motivate what passes for conservative talking points in the War on Terror.
All you have to remember is that if the Infallible President accuses someone of being a Terrorist, then by definition they are a Terrorist. There is no need for a trial, no need for mercy, no need for a closer look. That means any time you question the president's judgement, you are by definition supporting terrorists and terrorism in general.
I'm not saying it is a smart argument. It's just how they think. I amuse myself sometimes when I think of how they would react to a Clinton Infallibility Doctrine. Those poor fuckwits.
And poor us, because they're running the show right now.
The Cowboys were impressive tonight, beating up on the Redskins convincingly despite about 10 dropped (catchable) passes and several big penalties (most of which were deserved). The defense held the Redskins to 10 points, 7 of which were on a 100-yard kickoff return after the Cowboys went up 17-3.
Apparently, Terrell Owens broke his hand at some point, but we'll see how it looks after the bye week. I wasn't too surprised at the Jacksonville loss in week one, and I felt most of that was Bledsoe having a bad game plus a couple of bad breaks. If Bledsoe can just be decent for most of the season with a QB rating of 80 or better, then I think we should make the playoffs. After that, it depends on who's healthy and if Bledsoe can get hot for the playoffs.
Joe Scarborough is certainly not my favorite person in the world. He was a Republican representative who was swept into office during the 1994 takeover of the House. My memory is fuzzy on this, but I'm pretty sure he left on his own after three terms, respecting some sort of term-limits pledge (which countless Republicans conveniently forgot about). Now he's a center-right blowhard, and of all the people on the right side of the spectrum, I have to say he is one of the few who isn't just lockstep loyal to Bush. He's still got some pretty dumb ideas, but at least he can recognize just how much Bush is betraying traditionally conservative governing philosophy:
Compare Clinton’s 3.4 percent growth rate to the spending orgy that has dominated Washington since Bush moved into town. With Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, spending growth has averaged 10.4 percent per year. And the GOP’s reckless record goes well beyond runaway defense costs. The federal education bureaucracy has exploded by 101 percent since Republicans started running Congress.
Spending in the Justice Department over the same period has shot up 131 percent, the Commerce Department 82 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services 81 percent, the State Department 80 percent, the Department of Transportation 65 percent, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development 59 percent. Incredibly, the four bureaucracies once targeted for elimination by the GOP Congress—Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development—have enjoyed spending increases of an average of 85 percent.
It’s enough to make economic conservatives long for the day when Marxists were running the White House.
This presidency wouldn't have half as bad as it is if we had one of the two parts of Congress performing its consitutional oversight duty. If Democrats by some miracle can overcome all the obstacles and win control of the Senate or House this November, I think the next two years will be bloody but ultimately very good for the country. Someone needs to turn the lights on in D. C. and squash all the fucking cockroaches before they all scatter back under the baseboards.
If Democrats do win back control of the House or Senate, then Bush is going to need to start handing out some pardons. I'll put the over/under on pardons for administration officials at 20, citing the need to avoid "divisive partisanship" when the terrorists are out there trying to kill our families.
Book 6 in the New Jedi Order series is Kathy Tyers' "Balance Point". Tyers did a pretty good job, I thought, with the immediately-after-Jedi "The Truce at Bakura", which I liked well enough to put in the top third of the Star Wars novelizations, so I was hopeful.
Unfortunately, I'm seeing a trend in these NJO books, like I complained about in my review of the previous entry. All the main characters somehow manage to converge on a single planet. Combat and evacuations ensue. After about the 5th or 6th emergency planetary evacuation under fire, that plot device is wearing extremely thin.
There is some character development here, and the overall plot advances in two key places incrementally. At this point, though, I'd rather just read a detailed timeline of key plot advancements than have to wade through another one of these books just to find out what's going on. In fairness, my 17-year-old has absolutely devoured this series and can't wait to talk about it. So I guess I'm doomed to read at least a few more. At least they read quickly.
I suppose I should mention something a little more specific or this will just sound like every other NJO book review from this point forward. Ok, the Han/Leia relationship is advancing realistically, given events in the previous few books, but neither of them is given much to do. Anakin (one of Han and Leia's three kids, aside from the twins, Jacen and Jaina) is probably the most fun character to follow, and Tyers does a good job with him.
Jacen is pretty scared to use the force, afraid of the dark side, so he more or less gives it up until events conspire to make him change his mind. Luke and Mara play a big role in this book, but their storyline just isn't all that compelling.
And then the bad guys, the Vong. For a good story, you need a good villain, and no author has really done a good job of imbuing them with enough personality to hate them. They're just not evil enough. One problem is that in the Star Wars Universe, there's really nothing to compare to dark side Sith when it comes to evil, entertaining villains. I would rather have seen the galaxy invaded by some force under the influence of an ancient Sith cult than these bioweapon creatures.
Dick Cheney has been making a big deal lately about how we haven't been attacked since 9/11 and "that's no accident". Of course, he's forgetting about the anthrax stuff that happened a week or two after 9/11 and ignoring the responsibility of his administration for the 9/11 attacks, but hey, since when does reality get in the way?
So I was thinking to myself, what if there *were* another attack? Surely if Cheney is crowing about their record now, then another attack would be bad for this administration?
Actually, no, because here's what would happen if we got hit again:
First, wingnuts would scour all the liberal blogosphere for various random comments (that, in all likelihood, they themselves planted anonymously) and then accuse liberals of cheering for the terrorists. After all, the terrorists made the administration look bad, and that's what liberals want more than anything, right?
Second, of course, more of our freedoms would be taken away. I mean, that's happening anyway with Congress falling all over itself to find a way to let the administration wiretap anything it wants to without a warrant, and there's nary a peep from so-called libertarians. I wouldn't be surprised to see some incarnation of the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts come up, trying to arrest people for criticizing the president (this, from the same party supposedly fighting against "fascism").
Third, they'd find a way to blame Democrats, probably for obstructing important legislation or something, or they'd blame some activist judge (probably appointed by Reagan) for interfering with what Bush is trying to do. They'd also find a way to blame Clinton. There certainly wouldn't be any hearings about administration's potential failings.
I've got The Crud, and it sucks. Thank God for liquid Tylenol. I'm going to go knock myself out now.
P. S. Don't spill scalding hot water on the top of your foot. Makes it hard to sleep.
Now the government wants to use microwave beam weapons for crowd control. Gee, I wonder if it would be used on liberals or conservatives?
Remember that news story last week about the major new offshore oil find in the Gulf of Mexico, the one that is supposed to really help our oil reserves and all that? Made the front page of a lot of papers, including USA Today.
I wonder if these details will also be reported as prominently (or at all).
The announcement claims that the discovery could increase US proven reserves of oil by as much as 50%. However, the total amounts are highly speculative. Additionally, the discovery likely won't impact oil markets but could potentially impact natural gas markets since the discovery is probably mainly natural gas. The area will not come online for at least 4 years and, at a full rate, for at least 7 years. Further, it is likely that there are political motivations behind the announcement, as the vote to open offshore drilling in the United States is upcoming in the US Senate.
[skipping some technical details...]
6. The US Senate is weeks away from voting on the lifting of the 25-year ban on offshore drilling off the majority of the coasts in the US. This offshore drilling bill was approved in the House of Representatives but political analysts believe the bill will face more opposition in the Senate. The oil industry stands to make high profits if Congress will open up Florida and the Offshore East coast to drilling. To date the offshore drilling bill has not been approved by both houses because of environmental interests. A large potential oil “discovery” in the Gulf would provide evidence that the passing of the offshore oil bill would be beneficial.
7. Related to point #6, the announcement is reminiscent of the Mexican "huge oil discovery" announced last year, of a possible 10 billion barrels, which was quietly revised this year to around 43 million barrels, a downward revision of 99.57%. This similar "discovery" was made in Mexico last year a few months before the Mexican parliament was to vote on Pemex (state oil co)'s budget and rights to expand drilling. This illustrates the potential political pressure to announce oil and gas discoveries.
Peak oil, anyone?
I'm going to pretty much ignore every stupid "9/11 anniversary" thing I see today, for many reasons. First of all, by re-celebrating the tragedy all over again, it seems to me we are just allowing the terrorist incident to echo. The power of an attack like that is not in the attack itself but in the aftereffects, the fear, the things we do to ourselves (like sacrificing our liberties, for example).
Everyone who goes all maudlin on a day like this is really only doing Osama a favor. And think about it for a minute, of all the people out there who are making a big deal about the 5th anniversary of this event, are any of them who are doing so actually primarily looking out for your best interests?
Of course not. They're just selling something, whether it is a paper or a war or a candidate, they're all just whoring out 9/11 to advance their own ends, not yours.
So do yourself and your country a favor and get on with your life. That's how we win. Well, that, and improving foreign relations so we can cooperate better with more countries in pursuing terrorists and beefing up intelligence and port security in ways that square with the constitution.
John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids" is one of the classics in post-apocalyptic literature, and I finally got around to reading it this week. Written in the early 1950's and set in England, the book ages well.
This is written as a personal journal by a survivor who writes a few years after the first scene. The background is that, either through some kind of alien invasion or bio-engineering gone wrong, spores of a new species of plant called a triffid are released. Within a few years, this plant has spread worldwide, largely due to intentional cultivation since triffids have lots of naturally valuable side products that come from harvesting them.
Triffids also seem intelligent and sometimes hostile. The grow to man-sized or larger, are mobile (but can't see), instinctively intelligent, and they sport a poison lash with a range of a dozen feet or more that has great aim for the head. They also make a clicking noise that almost sounds like communication.
Once they become widespread, the Earth encounters some sort of comet (or maybe a satellite bombing) that makes about 99% of people blind. Amid the widespread panic, the few sighted people try to find one another and figure out the future, and the triffids begin systematically attacking humans.
Most of the story involves the diarist, a man named Bill, as he moves from one situation to another, trying to find a group, getting separated from a group, trying to survive by scavenging for necessities in deserted cities and fighting off swarms of hostile triffids.
It wasn't great, but I'm sure for its time, it was quite a startling novel. Definitely worth checking into if you like this genre.
Today, via Orin Kerr, comes a remarkable interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, and one of the people with primary responsibility for war planning. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, he says, Donald Rumsfeld told his team to start planning for war in Iraq, but not to bother planning for a long stay:
"The secretary of defense continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."
Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.
Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.
"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.
"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."
...."In his own mind he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out. But a lot of us planners were having a real hard time with it because we were also thinking we can't do this. Once you tear up a country you have to stay and rebuild it. It was very challenging."
In a way, this is old news. As much as it beggars the imagination, there's been plenty of evidence all along that Bush never took the idea of rebuilding Iraq seriously. The plan was to remove Saddam from power, claim victory, and get out.
However, this is the clearest evidence I've seen yet. The guy who was actually in charge of logistics has now directly confirmed that Rumsfeld not only didn't intend to rebuild Iraq in any serious way, but threatened to fire anyone who wasted time on the idea. Needless to say, he wouldn't have done this unless it reflected the wishes of the president.
And this also means that all of Bush's talk about democracy was nothing but hot air. If you're serious about planting democracy after a war, you don't plan to simply topple a government and then leave.
So: the lack of postwar planning wasn't merely the result of incompetence. It was deliberate policy. There was never any intention of rebuilding Iraq and there was never any intention of wasting time on democracy promotion. That was merely a post hoc explanation after we failed to find the promised WMD.
Of course, the wingnuts who *say* that the Iraq war was all about spreading Democracy (and those Arabs damn well better appreciate it or we'll blast 'em!) are the ones who are "serious", the ones we should be paying attention to. The people who say the Iraq war was built on a bunch of lies are basically just a bunch of traitors who should have no voice in the government.
The biggest threat is the large majority of Moron Americans who will continue to ignore most everything except the latest missing white woman, who will continue to think there's not a dime's worth of difference between who's in power, and who will continue to vote for whichever person the media portrays as more likeable. When people don't choose to get informed, the nation suffers.
One of recent finalists for the prestigious Hugo Award is called "Mother of Storms". As is often sadly the case with science fiction, the premise here has a lot of promise, but the book doesn't live up to it.
This is set in 2028, some years after a "minor" nuclear war has devastated the United States and given much more political power to the United Nations, which effectively governs the world and tells every country what to do. It even pre-emptively enforces arms control treaties with tactical nuclear strikes, when necessary.
One of these nukes melts a big bunch of frozen methane in the Arctic, and as a result (since methane is a greenhouse gas), temperatures during the coming summer rise 10 or 20 degrees above normal. This is enough to greatly warm the water and expand the potential zones for hurricane formation and strengthening. The result is a summer full of massive hurricanes which devastate pretty much everything on the planet under about 1000 feet above sea level.
To stop the warming, a couple of different plans are hatched to try to "shade" the Earth, one of them involving an astronaut linking up with a system of robots and essentially becoming incredibly mentally enhanced. At the same time, another character gets network privileges to a complex data network on Earth and also does the same thing, becoming a virtual god.
While that's going on, the book follows a woman who is the world's most famous porn star on a deeply interactive/immersive broadcast system and her new boyfriend, who is trying to redeem himself in the eyes of a granola environmentalist woman. Meanwhile, a relentless, distraught father is trying to avenge the brutal rape and murder of his teenage daughter 10 years ago, following a path that will eventually lead him to the highest levels of government.
And this was in the running for a Hugo?
Oh well, way too long and not really my cup of tea. I only read it because I thought a good weather sci-fi book would be right up 17-year-old weather-obsessed J*stin's alley. Unfortunately, it was neither good nor appropriate for a kid. The most redeeming subplot involved the super-intelligent virtual people, and there were some good crunchy weather passages. With just that and a little more, this would've made a really good short book, like what used to be published back in the 50's and 60's.
Here is a good Kos diary that summarizes the highlights of how the Clinton administration and the Bush administration dealt with the Al Qaeda threat prior to 9/11. It makes for a nice, fact-filled (and truly based on the 9/11 commission report) counterpoint to the wingnut propaganda film that ABC plans to air this weekend.
Time for more 9/11 hilarity from that bastion of super-ultra-liberaldom, the New York Times:
From the New York Times review of Path to 9/11:
The Sept. 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat.
What the 9/11 Commission actually says (pg. 118):
Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton’s problems. He told them to ignore them. Berger recalled the President saying to him “that they are going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing.” All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements.
This is what happens when people learn about the 9/11 Commission by watching Path to 9/11.
This is how myths are born (like Reagan being a big tax cutter or Bush being a strong leader). Link via Atrios.
Remember, this is the New York Times reporting this shit now.
Remember how the Bush administration, with the help of a whole bunch of corporate-thinking political appointees, went out of their way to assure the rescue workers that the air was safe around Ground Zero? Guess what? They knowingly lied.
I'm sure you are just as shocked as I am.
That ultra-super-duper-liberal network, ABC, is about to broadcast a "docudrama" about the path to 9/11 which basically lays the blame at the feet of the Clinton administration. You may wonder how they can manage to do that when the 9/11 commission chronicled all the things Clinton tried to do (while Republicans opposed him every step of the war), all the things he *did* do, to try to get bin Laden.
Simple. They just made shit up..
They even went so far as to say things that are completely against the 9/11 commission report, then they tried to say the show is based on the report! And they are producing a study guide for kids in school, screening it for wingnuts only (President Clinton can't get a copy, but Rush Limbaugh has had one for weeks).
With friends like these, liberals hardly need enemies.
Following Humbaba's lead (not the humbaba at blogspot.com, mind you), I decided to try to lose some weight by simply not eating all the time. I've actually never tried in my entire life to lose weight, but too many morning donuts and junk food in grad school plus M*chelle's awesome baking/cooking have over time jacked my weight up from about 150 (when I moved to Seattle at the age of 22) to about 180 (when I moved here at 28) to I don't know how much over 200 (probably never over 220). Probably depends on how much I'm wearing and what time of day it is.
So about a month ago, I decided to just stop eating snacks. Limit myself to one yummy peanut butter chocolate chip cookie per day (no popcorn at night, no other afternoon snacks, no candy at the office), and also try to not just stuff myself at normal meals. I eat until I'm full (and I pay attention to how full I feel whereas I used to just finish whatever if I really liked it). I still eat the same stuff, which isn't diet food by any stretch of the imagination. I also exercise once or twice a week on the stationary bike going about 10 miles in 40 minutes on a decently high setting, but I was doing that before and not losing any weight. That's more for my heart.
So far in the first month, it seems to be working well. I'm losing about a pound and a half per week. I felt kind of hungry the first week, but I got past that. Now I'm to the point where I can't eat as much anymore at once, so I guess my stomach capacity has shrunk. I'm going to keep it up until my weight reaches some lower plateau (and then I'll have to decide if I want to do something more) or until I reach the 180's. At this rate, it'll be around the end of the Fall semester that I get there.
Here's the progress so far. Day 1 was August 6, day 31 is today. It looks like the real weight loss started after about 14 days (pink is the five day moving average), but I'm not sure why because I really didn't do much different before or after 14 days.
Having quads on the turn on the button plus one guy with a full house and another with the nut flush betting into you.
From the always readable Media Matters column by Jameson Foser, who wants to know why traditional media types these days are so reluctant to use the word "liar" to describe a politician, even if they know he or she is lying:
That certainly seems to be true now, but it wasn't that long ago that the nation's leading political reporters showed far less restraint. Indeed, when Bill Clinton was president, some of the media's most influential voices seemed quite comfortable calling him a "liar."
On June 16, 1999, the CBS Evening News aired a story on then-Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign announcement, during which CBS played a clip of reporter and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer interviewing Gore:
SCHIEFFER: He made the announcement in the little town where he spent summers on the family farm. But as a senator's child, Gore has always been more a man of politics than a son of the soil. Like his dad, he served in the House and the Senate before he was Bill Clinton's running mate. In the White House, he says he wants to champion family values. So I asked him, how does that square with his vociferous defense of the president during the Lewinsky scandal?
GORE: I made a commitment. He's my friend and m -- and my co-worker, and I keep my commitments. I take them --
SCHIEFFER: But he turned out to be a liar.
GORE: -- very seriously. Le -- let me -- let me finish my answer, i -- if -- if I could.
That's how Bob Schieffer described the sitting president of the United States: "[H]e turned out to be a liar."
(For the record, the CBS Evening News segment included an extended exchange between Schieffer and Gore in which Schieffer grilled the vice president about President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Absent from the CBS Evening News report about Gore's campaign kickoff was any mention of why Gore was running or what he would do if elected. We were reminded of the segment by this Daily Howler post.)
By comparison, Schieffer described President Bush as a man of "integrity" during a 2004 appearance on CNN's Larry King Live.
Bush has lied about everything from war to cheese, and yet Schieffer describes him as a man of integrity. But he was comfortable flatly declaring Bill Clinton "a liar." Lying about life and death, apparently, is one thing -- but lying about an affair is going too far.
What is perhaps most incredible about Schieffer's harsh assessment of Clinton is that it elicited not a word of protest from his colleagues in the media (or from much of anyone else.) Imagine what would happen if the host of a network news program, in the midst of interviewing Dick Cheney, referred to George W. Bush as a "liar." Among other things, Howard Kurtz would dedicate the next year of his life to the media's "war on Bush."
But Bob Schieffer isn't alone in taking a different approach to presidential lying now that George W. Bush is president. Washington Post columnist David Broder -- the "dean" of the Washington press corps -- was asked in an online discussion about President Bush's obvious lie about his summer reading list:
Charles Town, W.V.: Do you believe for one minute that George Bush reads (and understands) Camus and Shakespeare?
David S. Broder: Is that a requirement for the presidency?[sic]
Faced with an obvious lie by the president, Broder essentially said, "Who cares?"
Things have really changed since 1998, when Broder said of Bill Clinton "The judgment is harsher in Washington. ... We don't like being lied to."
Broder, Schieffer, and the rest of the nation's political media elite were once quite comfortable calling the president of the United States a liar. Now they hesitate to even say that a claim is factually incorrect.
Thanks, liberal media! At least you are willing to stand up to power and bravely practice journalism SOME of the time, at least when a Democrat is the target.
Oh, and there's more:
The typical explanation -- from journalists and observers alike -- for why news stories should not state that a claim made by a political figure is false is that to do so would be to make an inappropriate judgment that is best left to the reader. As Lehrer said: "I'm not in the judgment part of journalism. I'm in the reporting part of journalism."
While shying away from making judgments about matters of fact, of readily-discernable truth, journalists do make judgments all the time. In particular, judgments about how events and actions are likely to be received by the public are a regular feature of political reporting.
We frequently note the tendency by journalists to tout the political advantage Republicans are likely to gain from ... well, from just about everything. Author and blogger Glenn Greenwald made the same point this week.
In other words, reporters often refuse to offer their judgment about matters of fact, but they do offer their judgment about the potential political effects of events and actions.
This is completely backwards.
Consumers of news lack the time, expertise, and, in many cases, ability to determine which of two contradictory statements by competing political figures is true. They often lack the resources to determine if, for example, President Bush's claim to have "delivered" on the promises he made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is true. That's where news organizations should -- but, with depressing frequency, have not -- come in. They have -- or should have -- the expertise and the time to assess those claims, and to report the facts. That's what readers, viewers, and listeners need. That's what journalism should be all about.
On the other hand, as consumers of news, we don't need journalists telling us what the "political impact" of something is going to be; how it will "play at the polls." It's our job to decide that. It's our job to decide who we'll vote for and why; how we'll assess the parties' competing agendas and approaches to the problems we face.
Instead of telling us how they think we'll react, we need journalists to give us the information upon which we can make an informed decision. To tell us the facts, and the truth, and the relevant context. Then we'll tell them the political impact.
Yeah, it's funny how journalists get all high and mighty about "well, regardless of you stupid angry bloggers think, it's not our job to express an opinion in a news story." Fucking hypocrites.
Poker is still fun, but I'm playing so tight that I have to fill the time between played hands (lots of time) by browing or grading or something. Anyway, about the best thing I read today is this essay by Glenn Greenwald about the essential cowardice of the Bush supporters, which is pretty ironic given how much they like to beat their own chests and talk about their bravery.
Our great country is being governed by a party of cowards.
Well, I decided to jump into online poker at fullt*ltp*ker.com. Playing for fake money was kinda fun, but I like playing for small amounts of real money. I've spent a few hours today in the nickel/dime no-limit area and am more or less treading water. Fun!
Oops, spoke too soon. My A-K just got cracked by a pair of tens, so now I'm down a little. :)