January 31, 2007

Molly

Molly Ivins made the world a better place, and she contributed a whole lot to my political education with her wonderful writing. I could only hope to live a life that has such a widespread and positive influence on the world.

Posted by Observer at 08:47 PM | Comments (3)

January 30, 2007

9/11 Perspective

David Bell points out that in comparison to other wartime casualties, 9/11 was a pretty minor incident:

IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Of course, now that Bell has touched the 9/11 hot stove, he'll be criticized across the blogosphere, I'm sure. Mostly by the same people who minimize Iraq war casualties (about 3,000) by comparing them to casualties suffered in World War II or Vietnam or the murder rate in Philadelphia or the rate of deaths due to automobile accidents, etc.

Why is it ok to minimize Iraq war casualties while simultaneously freaking out over 9/11 casualties?

Bell continues:

Of course, the 9/11 attacks also conjured up the possibility of far deadlier attacks to come. But then, we were hardly ignorant of these threats before, as a glance at just about any thriller from the 1990s will testify. And despite the even more nightmarish fantasies of the post-9/11 era (e.g. the TV show "24's" nuclear attack on Los Angeles), Islamist terrorists have not come close to deploying weapons other than knives, guns and conventional explosives. A war it may be, but does it really deserve comparison to World War II and its 50 million dead? Not every adversary is an apocalyptic threat. [...]

Seeing international conflict in apocalyptic terms — viewing every threat as existential — is hardly a uniquely American habit. To a certain degree, it is a universal human one. But it is also, more specifically, a Western one, which paradoxically has its origins in one of the most optimistic periods of human history: the 18th century Enlightenment.

Until this period, most people in the West took warfare for granted as an utterly unavoidable part of the social order. Western states fought constantly and devoted most of their disposable resources to this purpose; during the 1700s, no more than six or seven years passed without at least one major European power at war.

The Enlightenment, however, popularized the notion that war was a barbaric relic of mankind's infancy, an anachronism that should soon vanish from the Earth. Human societies, wrote the influential thinkers of the time, followed a common path of historical evolution from savage beginnings toward ever-greater levels of peaceful civilization, politeness and commercial exchange.

The unexpected consequence of this change was that those who considered themselves "enlightened," but who still thought they needed to go to war, found it hard to justify war as anything other than an apocalyptic struggle for survival against an irredeemably evil enemy. In such struggles, of course, there could be no reason to practice restraint or to treat the enemy as an honorable opponent.

Ever since, the enlightened dream of perpetual peace and the nightmare of modern total war have been bound closely to each other in the West. Precisely when the Enlightenment hopes glowed most brightly, wars often took on an especially hideous character. [...]

The war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

I think the argument can be made that we should have thought of the attack as a crime and pursued the perpetrators like any criminals, even if they were in another country. In a way, that's what we were doing in Afghanistan, although we used the attack as an excuse to wipe out the very bad Taliban (who, remember, were good friends of Bush, having visited Texas in the 1990's to talk about oil pipelines and so forth) who had housed the terrorists willingly.

Like most people, I was okay with that. What I'm not okay with with is unilaterally suspending a lot of our freedoms as a response or going to war with a country that had nothing to do with any of this. I'm really glad to see most Americans are finally on board with this, though it would've been better if they had woken up to this really obvious fact before re-electing the Boy King. I mean, that 2004 election, like the 2000 election, shouldn't have been CLOSE except that America is full of a lot of easy-to-manipulate morons and a traditional media that uses stupid, lazy scripts to cover elections.

Posted by Observer at 11:42 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2007

Racism?

When we liberals in 2003 doubted that Iraq was capable of the kind of stable, Democratic government we have over here in America, concerned wingnuts worried that we were racist for underestimating the freedom-loving ability of the proud Iraqi people.

Now that the Boy King's vanity war has gone badly, according to the same wingnuts, it is apparently due to the "limitations of people in that part of the world", so we should bomb the hell out of them (more rubble, less trouble).

How are opinions like this given any standing in rational political discourse? It is like going to a mathematical conference in which one person says "2 + 2 = 4," while another presenter says "The number three is green except when it is purple," and both are given equal credibility. No, it's worse than that. Imagine the mathematicians walking around saying the "2 + 2 = 4" guy isn't a "serious" person and we should only listen to the second guy. That's our traditional media for you these days.

Posted by Observer at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007

West Wing

Having finished season five of "24", we're now on the 7th and final season DVD of "West Wing". In my opinion, this show hasn't been totally excellent since about the 3rd season. However, it is still damned good, and I am really going to miss it a lot when it is over.

I've been looking for other things to watch on TV, too, for times I need to kill some time with the toddlers in the family room. I've been watching old "Smallville" reruns because I'm a total sucker for superhero stories and myths and all the old comic-book stuff. "Smallville" is basically "Buffy" with a male lead who isn't cool, a blurrier distinction between good and evil (a shady, brilliant and kinda slimy young Lex Luthor is one of Clark's best friends), and a lot less blood and gore. Even James Marsters (Spike from "Buffy") has a four-episode arc as a villain.

In "Buffy", the plot-mover was the hellmouth and vampires. In "Smallville", the root of all things weird is the meteor shower that brought young Clark Kent to Earth (and is repeated sixteen years later during the series when I guess the writers needed a deeper well of weirdness to draw upon). Clark Kent has his tiny gang of people in the know, and he spends most of his time trying to keep his identity secret.

A plot device in about half the episodes is that he has to reveal himself to some major character, but then events conspire so that this revelation is undone (usually amnesia but sometimes it is stranger). Probably the most jarring thing about the show is that a good 20% of each episode is spent on close-ups of each character in which their face fills the entire screen, often while they are not even talking, just staring off into space looking thoughtful or frightened or sad or whatever. It's like looking at a slide show of posters of the major characters instead of a TV show sometimes.

I would say of the twenty or so episodes I've watched so far, about two or three have been really good (especially one in which Clark's girlfriend Lana and Clark's dad Jonathan both die but one of these is undone) and only a couple have been embarrassingly bad. It is what it is: mindless fun that's really best to watch when you are distracted with a baby.

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

January 27, 2007

WATBs

Republicans are playing the part that gives their lives meaning: Whiny-Ass Titty Babies. Those poor things! They're upset that they've been mostly shut out of any legislative action in the House during the past few weeks (after TWELVE YEARS of shutting Dems out of everything and throwing every inconvenient rule or restriction to the winds).

Cry me a fucking river, ok?

Posted by Observer at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2007

Hindsight

It's funny how so many people like, say, Toby Keith or supposedly liberal Joe Klein (or Joke Line as he is affectionately known in the EXCELLENT comment section of Time's new multi-author blog), are suddenly full of "Hey, I was against this whole Iraq War thing from the very beginning" fervor.

Sorry, guys, but at the time, you sure didn't act like you opposed the war. In fact, you spent most of your time making fun of us liberals who opposed our glorious Commander in Chief who was trying to fight the turrists and make us all safe while bringing rights to all the women in the Middle East and bringing freedom and Democracy to the ungracious Arabs (when we didn't feel like bombing the hell out of them indiscriminately). Or maybe they were protecting us from mushroom clouds over New York City. Or freeing up all the people who were being tortured and raped. Or something.

Funny how even with all of these newly discovered dirty anti-war hippies who hate America, the Sunday talk shows still can't manage to find people to speak out against the war. Instead, the panels to this day are always stacked with pro-war talkers despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans are against this whole thing now and want it to end.

Thanks, "liberal" media! It's great that you have helped our country to be so very, very much safer thanks to the glorious Iraq adventure. Thousands of military families with dead or wounded sons, daughters, mothers and fathers will be eternally grateful. God, I still can't believe how the Iraqis just can't stop showing their gratitude to our troops. When IED's go off, they kind of look like flowers (of fire) for a moment, after all.

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

January 25, 2007

Stomach

Glenn Greenwald comments on the purging that is going on among the ConservaBorg over who is loyal to the Boy King and who is expressing some measure of common sense about the war:

The Bush following warriors do always seem to reserve their most vicious and patriotism-impugning attacks for the veterans and combat heroes who disagree with the Leader. In his CNN interview, Cheney said several times that the only question is whether we have the "stomach for the fight" in Iraq. As always, it's just a matter of who has the courage and who doesn't.

Apparently, Dick "other priorities" Cheney has the sufficient courage for war, but Vietnam veterans Chuck Hagel (and Jim Webb and Jack Murtha and on and on) lack that courage, the "stomach." It's amazing how often it works out that way.

These sorry bastards talk a big game about sacrifice, but when they think of "sacrifice", they just mean things like "making myself mentally uncomfortable by watching horrible news footage from the troop-hating media" or "taking the time to write a blog post about how great the president is and how important that we support him" or "go shopping to support the economy".

Sacrifice, to them, means taking the trouble to explain to stupid liberals why our troops should go ahead and extend their tours of duty for another six months.

God, it makes me sick to my stomach.

Posted by Observer at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2007

Democratic Response

From newly elected senator James Webb from Virginia:

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.

Financially.

The damage to our reputation around the world.

The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.

And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

I like it. Can you imagine any Republican senator speaking so frankly and honestly about the problems we face, both foreign and domestic? Oh, I can imagine any of them giving this speech, but it wouldn't be honest because it doesn't reflect how they vote and act, which is usually in lockstep with the Boy King.

Posted by Observer at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2007

Alternatives

I'd rather have a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than watch that smug, arrogant numbskull of a president give a speech. Fortunately, there is a third alternative: poker! I finished in the money in two tournaments today, one of them a no-limit hold'em freeroll (won $2) and one of them a $1 entry tourney where I also won $2 (net $1). I might have done better, but I had to sit out each tourney for nearly an hour for supper and taking care of the little ones while M*chelle went to a big meeting at the church.

My bankroll on FTP is nearly up to $30!

Posted by Observer at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2007

Bye Tuna

After two weeks of dithering, Bill Parcells resigns as Cowboys head coach and (supposedly) retired from football. Gah, who can we get as a stopgap until Cowher is available next season (I'd love to drive Steeler fans crazy by hiring him)? Too bad Sean Peyton went to the Saints last off-season or we could just promote him.

I wonder who we'll end up with? Please not another Chan Gailey/Dave Campo clone. I want a coach who will take control of the team, not just ask Uncle Jerry Jones about every little thing like those two had to.

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

January 21, 2007

Recommendation

After staring at the paperwork for a couple of hours, I decided to try an online tax filing system (T*rboTax) this year, especially once I realized we were probably going to have to itemize deductions. I knew if I did it myself, I'd make a bunch of mistakes.

I have to say, I was very impressed with the site I used. I didn't download any software, just used their browser-based system. It was really easy and fast, and it saved me at a bare minimum a few hundred dollars, well more than I paid for the service. I can't e-file until the first week of February, though. The IRS says it needs time to make sure it is correctly interpreting a bunch of last-minute crap passed by Congress, especially with regards to deducting sales taxes.

I say just ask Chloe at CTU. If she doesn't know the answer, she'll have an old boyfriend who could figure out the whole thing (or already has) in fifteen minutes.

Posted by Observer at 10:36 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2007

Making Shit Up

Jamison Foser catches our wonderful friends in the "liberal" media making shit up about liberals again to make them look bad. I think we've all had just about enough of "shady land deals" that in reality don't amount to anything wrong at all with the whole Whitewater thing and all, but not the flagship papers such as the NY times or the Washington Post.

Now they're trying to make Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and John Edwards look bad. This paper (the Post) is the same one that devoted all of 26 words to candidate Bush's extremely shady stock transaction with Harken (dumped a bunch of stock thanks to insider info before it tanked) prior to the 2000 election.

Posted by Observer at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2007

21

We're on hour 21 now of the fifth season of 24. Pretty good, as usual, but everything falls apart if you think about it too much. Oh well, good brain candy. We have the first four hours of the current season (6) on DVR, so we'll probably keep up with it in real time this season just to see how frustrating that is.

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

January 18, 2007

Dumped

It is fun to watch the defenders of the intellectual facade of the wingnuts when the rug gets pulled out from under them. For example, you had people who would argue that we needed to increase the number of troops in Iraq by 100,000 (and anything less would be a horrific, cowardly mistake) suddenly finding out two months later that Bush thinks he can get the job done with only 20,000 more.

So now you have to turn around with a straight face and argue that 20,000 was the right number all along, and thank God we have a president with so much good, strong leadership who makes all of these wonderful, unpopular decisions.

It happened again lately with the warrantless wiretaps. For months, wingnut talking heads have been busy telling us just how critical it is that we have an agile, quick system to wiretap on anyone we need to, including American citizens on our soil, without a warrant.

Liberals have been complaining that, you know, the whole idea of a WARRANT is what the Constitution says you need to do, but wingnuts responded with a bunch of handwaving. For example, they would say, no, you don't have time to get a warrant, and we liberals would say, uh, you can get the warrants retroactively, so what's the problem, and then the wingnuts would say, "Look! A terrorist!" or whatever.

Anyway, now it turns out that the Bush administration is coming out today saying that it's no big deal to get warrants after all, and they're going to start doing that again. What's a poor wingnut intellectual to do when the rug gets pulled out like that by a sudden about face?

Simple! Get booked on more TV shows and just start talking authoritatively about some new topic, comforted in the fact that the only place you will ever be made to look like the fool you are is the blogosphere, certainly not in the traditional media.

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

Relative -gates

Remember Travelgate? This Kos diarist does. When the Clintons fired a bunch of mostly administrative personnel in the White House travel office, culminating an internal investigation that had begun during the previous administration, it was a HUGE scandal. "Travelgate" was fodder for not just wingnut radio but countless hours of air time on such "liberal" media outlets as CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and virtually every major newspaper in the country.

It is instructive to compare the outcry over this firing of a bunch of staffers to the current housecleaning going on among U. S. attorneys. It appears that, following a key provision inserted into a homeland security bill during conference committee without debate by Arlen Specter, the Bush administration has begun firing various U. S. attorneys for no good reason and replacing them with political loyalists who are less likely to prosecute Republicans.

So, um, where are all the headlines, liberal media? Where are all of the opinion columns with expressions of deep concern over an out-of-control executive branch? Where are the editorials? Where are all of the front-page speculative stories, keeping the subject alive? Where are all of the minute long segments and "tut tut" looks by the anchors, major networks?

I'll tell you: they're all in the same fantasy world that believers of the liberal media myth inhabit.

Posted by Observer at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2007

Snowed In

After a weekend winter storm that turned out to be pretty much a bust, all we had on tap for this week was supposedly a few little flurries as most of the bad weather went South of us. At least until about 5am this morning when everything sprung back up over the top of us, with essentially no warning, and so now we're socked in and everything is closed.

It is supposed to stay below freezing and cloudy all day, so this 1-2 inches of ice and snow should be around through the night and into tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if they close things tomorrow, too.

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

Who Was Right

Kevin Drum tries to explain why pundits think the anti-war left still has no credibility among the "Gang of 500", a term for the major pundits, journalists and editors and "important people" associated with or covering the government, despite being right about the Iraq war from the very beginning:

If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

Is this true? I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not. [...]

Atrios still has his archives, but he didn't post obsessively about the war and didn't write the kind of essays where he explained his position in detail anyway. [...]

The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right. It's the wrong unit of analysis. After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it. Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success. But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately.

Atrios responds:

I opposed the war primarily because it seems like a bad idea to go to war for no reason. And there was no reason. I don't really know why I have to keep explaining that.

Not only was there a no good reason, but it was transparently sold with lies in a hostile divisive political campaign. I'm sorry some people believed those lies. I'm sorry journalists like Tom Ricks who recently asserted that he "thought that at most they would find some old mustard gas buried out in the '91 war that somebody had forgotten about" didn't share that information with the rest of us at the time, but you go to war with the shitty pundits and journalists you have, not the shitty pundits and journalists you'd like to have.

It's true that the I never made any real predictions about the precise nature of the consequence of the Iraq war. That's because I thought, wrongly apparently, that the transparently shitty awful reality of war should be enough to deter a war for which there was no reason to engage in. Yes, again, I'm sorry there were morons who were frightened by Colin Powell's vial of talcum powder, but again you go to war with the shitty pundits, bloggers, and journalists you have not the ones you wish you had. Sorry. I thought "oh my god we're going to go kill a bunch of people for no reason and get a bunch of our own troops killed for no reason and then occupy a country with incompetent leaders" was transparently a good argument against the war. My bad, apparently that isn't a good enough argument for opposing the war. What the hell was I thinking?

Obviously, being anti-war just means you aren't a "serious" person according to, you know, our "liberal" media that clearly being run by a bunch of dirty fucking hippies.

Keep in mind that the media likes to conflate the "anti Iraq war" crowd with the "anti-war all the time" crowd. They never seem to think it is relevant to mention that almost all of the "anti Iraq war" crowd was "pro Afghanistan war".

I've also appended some of the better comments in response to Drum's original post, comments separated by --:

If you launch a preemptive war when there is nothing to preempt, then it is a failure from the get-go. That's why the war's opponents wre right from the start.

--

How about opposing the war because it took money and resources from a more important goal: finding the 9/11 perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

--

Look at who the media had represent the anti-war side back then: Janeane Garofalo. [sp]

And the media protect their own even today, no matter their track record.

Being right on basically everything is what has doomed Al Gore to being on the Board of Apple, Inc.

--

Kevin wrote: "I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not."

Here is what Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, who led the House opposition to the authorization for Bush to "use military force" against Iraq, said in November 2002:

Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted, and illegal. The Administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. Nor is there any credible evidence that Iraq possesses deliverable weapons of mass destruction, or that it intends to deliver them against the United States.

I think that sums it up pretty well.

--

The only person I know who can express satisfactorily the depths of anger, disorientation and sadness that I feel is Arthur Silber (http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com). I think he coined the term "narcissistic jingoism" to sum up all the self-righteous smugness that most in the U.S. feel about the good intentions the country (supposedly) brought to Iraq and the anguish about all the blood and treasure expended by the U.S.

What about all the death and destruction heaped on Iraq? Why isn't that the constant question?

--

Here is why Brent Scowcroft was against the war (writing in the Wall Street Journal 15 August 2002):

"But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence."

--

I'm just curious about something. Why the hell is it incumbent upon us to explain ourselves, when we were the ones who were right?

It's instead the responsibility of anyone who ever supported this obscenity for even a second to do the explaining, I do believe.

Glenn Greenwald has more on this topic today. It's a good read.

Posted by Observer at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2007

First Day

My teaching load is shifted a bit this semester, and I'm now teaching a class on Tue-Thu and two classes on MWF, instead of the usual case of having all three classes on MWF. I don't like teaching on Tue-Thu. I think it is too hard for students to pick up on Tuesday where we left off five days ago, plus its a really long (75 mins) class instead of the usual 50 min class on MWF.

I wrote a longer post about enrollments and other issues this semester, but it is a little too close to work related, so I had to delete it. If you are a regular and want to hear the funny story, email me or leave a comment. :)

Posted by Observer at 07:38 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2007

Change of Heart

The Mahablog reads about a conservative's change of heart on the Bush administration and shares some commentary.

First, former wingnut now on the road to sanity, Rod Dreher:

As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.

In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.

The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.

Mahablog responds:

Like so many loyal soldiers of movement conservatism, Dreher’s earliest political memories are of the Carter Administration and the Iranian hostage crisis, followed by the triumphant ascension of Ronald Reagan. He was 13 years old when Reagan was elected, so you can’t fault him for viewing these events through a child’s eyes. The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish.

He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,” so one does not have to think real hard to know who’s right or wrong. In the minds of righties, Republicans/conservatives have an inherent virtue that keeps them on the side of the angels. What passes for “critical analysis” among righties is most often just the unconscious jerking of their knees in support of their faith.

Dreher’s is the voice of a man who realizes his faith has been betrayed. Dreher again:

As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

The answers to your questions, Mr. Dreher, are (1) yes, and (2) because you were brainwashed. As I wrote previously,

I noticed years ago that the rank-and-file “movement conservative” is younger than I am. Well, OK, most people are younger than I am. But surely you’ve noticed that a disproportionate number of True Believers are people who reached their late teens / early twenties during the Carter or Reagan years at the earliest. They came of age at the same time the right-wing media / think tank infrastructure began to dominate national political discourse, and all their adult lives their brains have been pickled in rightie propaganda.

Because they’re too young to remember When Things Were Different, they don’t recognize that the way mass media has handled politics for the past thirty or so years is abnormal. What passes for our national political discourse — as presented on radio, television, and much print media — is scripted in right-wing think tanks and media paid for by the likes of Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife, and more recently by Sun Myung Moon. What looks like “debate” is just puppet theater, presented to manipulate public opinion in favor of the Right.

In this puppet theater “liberals” (booo! hisss!) are the craven, cowardly, and possibly demented villains, and “conservatives” are the noble heroes who come to the rescue of the virtuous maid America. Any American under the age of 40 has had this narrative pounded into his head his entire life. Rare is the individual born after the Baby Boom who has any clue what “liberalism” really is. Ask, and they’ll tell you that liberals are people who “believe in” raising taxes and spending money on big entitlement programs, which of course is "bad".

Just one example of how the word liberal has been utterly bastardized, see this Heritage Foundation press release of March 2006 that complains Congress is becoming “liberal.” Why? Because of its pork-barrel spending.

But I want to say something more about betrayal. One piece left out of most commentary on the freaks (not hippies, children; the name preferred by participants of the counterculture was freaks) was how betrayed many of us felt. Remember, we’d been born in the years after World War II. We’d spent our childhoods dramatizing our fathers’ struggles on Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima in our suburban back yards.

Most of us watched “Victory at Sea” at least twice. Most of our childhood heroes were characters out of American mythos, like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone (who seemed an awful lot alike). Further, some of the scariest times of the Cold War unfolded during our elementary and middle schools years. We grew up believing the Communists would nuke us any second. Our schools (even Sunday School, as I recall) and media made sure we were thoroughly indoctrinated with the understanding that liberty and democracy were “good” and Communism was “bad,” and America Is the Greatest Nation in the World.

For many of us, these feelings reached their apex during the Kennedy administration. I was nine years old when he was elected. He seemed to embody everything that was noble and good and heroic about America. I remember his tour of Europe the summer before the assassination. I watched his motorcade move through cheering crowds on our black-and-white console television and never felt prouder to be an American.

But then our hearts were broken in Dallas, and less than two years later Lyndon Johnson announced he would send troops to Vietnam. And then the young men of my generation were drafted into the meat grinder. Sooner or later, most of us figured out our idealism had been misplaced. I was one of the later ones; the realization dawned for me during the Nixon Administration, which began while I was a senior in high school. Oh, I still believed in liberty and democracy; I felt betrayed because I realized our government didn’t. And much of my parents’ generation didn’t seem to, either.

The counterculture was both a backlash to that betrayal and to the cultural rigidity of the 1950s. And much of “movement conservatism” was a backlash to the counterculture, albeit rooted in the pseudo-conservatism documented earlier by Richard Hofstadter and others.

(And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”? Did some hippiechick sitter drop Dreher on his head when he was a baby?)

Rod Dreher and others of his generation are now old enough that their children are at least approaching adolescence, if they haven’t already arrived. What “earliest political memory” will imprint on them? What form will the inevitable rebellion against their parents’ generation take?

What's fascinating to me about the wingnuts is just how quickly and suddenly they come out of denial. They don't just start to say, hey, maybe Bush is kind of a bad guy or kind of incompetent. Usually, they are banging the Bush drum loudly and calling everyone else a traitor, and then one day, they wake up and act like they just figured out something nobody else knows.

It tells me that it's not really a question of Bush's credibility. It is a question of how long a wingnut can stand arguing in favor of a position he or she knows is an utter fabrication. You can't just "sort of" go against Bush. It's all or nothing.

Posted by Observer at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2007

How It Should Work

Jamison Foser explains how the media would work if instead of a liberal, conservative or corporate bias, it simply had a bias toward BASIC COMPETENCE AND RELEVANCE.

Posted by Observer at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2007

Still Waiting

Bunch of rain today, but only a little was freezing. It's cold enough now that all the trees and power lines are sagging with the weight of some ice. I hope we don't lose power, or it'll be damned cold in this house. A big shot of frozen stuff is supposed to hit us early tomorrow morning and lasting until Monday, but I'll believe it when I see it. Satellite loops look promising.

We're spending our spare TV time right now plowing through Netflix DVD's of the last season of 24. I am considering recording this season's episodes on our DVR starting tomorrow night, but our DVR has a nasty habit of erasing saved shows once in a while, and we still don't understand why. It isn't set to clear space for new shows, and we haven't been close to full when the shows were erased in the past. It just suddenly happened.

We're also two discs into season 7 of West Wing, but that's on hold until we're done with 24 because I got my Netflix queue screwed up. 24 is good mind candy, but I like West Wing a lot better. I was amused by Steven Brust's comments on 24, but I couldn't link to that direct post, so just follow the link and scroll down to see it.

Posted by Observer at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2007

How Wingnuts Think of the Troops

Avedon Carol pulls some great stuff from a couple of updated Glenn Greenwald post and adds some good comments besides. It is truly appalling how wingnuts speak of our troops in Iraq.

Go read it.

Posted by Observer at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

Ice Storm Warning

I just love seeing those words in the forecast. Tough break for the kids that the storm is scheduled to happen over the weekend, with Monday already a school holiday. They'll not likely miss anything, but I'm sure they'll have fun playing in the ice outside.

The downside is that they won't be out for long, so we'll spend the weekend inside a house with 2 adults, 2 teenagers, 1 adolescent, 1 toddler, 1 infant and 2 pugs. This is the sort of situation that makes me LOVE having a two-story house, to banish at least some subset of the kids to the upstairs.

I think I'll cook some burgers out on the gas grill tomorrow night. By then, we'll supposedly have about an inch of ice accumulation on the ground, temps just below freezing and a brisk north wind. Now THAT's some barbecue weather! Much better than starting up a 500 degree fire while it is already 105 outside during the summer.

Posted by Observer at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2007

Car Woes

While we were driving down to Port A on vacation, we noticed the A/C wasn't cooling correctly, and that's the first I noticed it since we spent a few hundred bucks about a month ago on routine scheduled maintenance, including fixing a battery cable. I thought maybe they had knocked something loose, allowing a leak, etc., so I took it in today.

No such luck. Much bigger problems. The guy starts talking about the ACCM, the compressor, an oil leak, contaminated pipes needing flushing, blah blah blah. I could see the little slot machine numbers spinning around in my head and wondered where they would land.

Oh, he said, we can get the ACCM fixed plus a belt replaced for $500. Ok, I can live with that.

Unfortunately, when they fixed the control mechanism and ran the A/C, they found deeper problems which I alluded to above. Total to fix everything will be around $1600, which approaches the value of the car. I'm going to swallow hard and pay it because that car is worth a whole lot to me (very cheap to own a paid-for car, if you average it out and can absorb the occasional big repair bill). I just hope we can get a few more years out of it.

Posted by Observer at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2007

Bad Sprain

I took J*stin to the orthopedic doctor earlier this week, and his "broken ankle" from the ER was reclassified as a "very nasty sprain". Apparently, if a ligament detaches and carries a tiny sliver of bone with it, that doesn't count as a break. It also isn't something that they'll fix unless you're a pro athlete and can pay for it.

The ligament will likely just float around there for the rest of his life. He has more. It just means his ankle will be easier to hurt, which explains (to me, anyway) the problems I've had with my own right ankle ever since I got a really bad injury in college on a bad landing while playing Ultimate frisbee. My shoulders dislocate very easily, too. That's from too much Nerf football throwing in my youth. My rotator cuff is probably nothing but scar tissue.

Anyway, J*stin should be out of his velcro cast and walking with just an ankle brace in his shoe within a few weeks.

Posted by Observer at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2007

Bitching

I just have to vent this somewhere: I suffered two horrendous beats in a freeroll I was in today, but I still managed to overcome them and make the final table. Once I raised it to 10x the big blind when I had AA, and I got a caller with K8 offsuit. The flop came K-8-4, and I lost about half my stack.

I was mollified somewhat when I got KK and raised it up to 6x the big blind with a QJ suited caller. The flop gave my caller a flush with a bunch of undercards, and we both ended up all-in. Luckily for me, another diamond came off, giving me a K-high flush vs QJ-high flush.

The final table was the worst, though. I had a serious shot at winning this freeroll. I went all-in twice against the same guy, and I would've been the chip leader by a sizeable margin had I won either hand. First hand I had AJ vs AT, and we ended up with a push. Then I had AJ vs Q9, and he got a 9, so I was out.

Still, it is always nice to make the money in a freeroll. My bankroll is back over $20 now after I pissed about half of it away on a nickel/dime ring game. From now on, I've sworn off ring games, and I'm sticking to either freerolls or $1-$2 entry tournaments, which is what I seem to be best at.

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

Trending Badly

The GAO has released a report on the status of the Iraq situation, and the graph is pretty damned depressing. Even as we have continued to increase the number of Iraqi batallions, the number of insurgency-related attacks on all targets have trended up, up, up.

I'm pretty skeptical of the graph showing the increased numbers of trained batallions, myself. I think a lot of them are getting trained and then deserting once they get their equipment so they can go fight for whatever faction they are a part of.

Posted by Observer at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

Comet!

Don't miss the new comet!

Posted by Observer at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2007

Trust HIM?

As Josh Marshall succinctly puts it, the Boy King's grand New Way Forward for Iraq to be unveiled tomorrow essentially amounts to him saying "Trust Me."

After all, the American people are clearly against it. The troops are clearly against it (even though dickheads like Lieberman are willing to lie about this fact). But Bush isn't listening. He's the decider, and he's decided to send more troops into the wood chipper like a consummate Chickenhawk.

Fortunately, with the Democrats in control of Congress, maybe they can get Bush's attention by cutting off the funding for this stupid vanity war and get Bush to focus on Afghanistan, where the real problem is, and back off to "over the horizon" in Iraq.

Posted by Observer at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2007

Home

Port A was great, very relaxing. The drive there and back wasn't too bad, especially since I got to stop at the cool candy shop on the way back at the outlet mall and get a ton of dark chocolate. I did manage to catch most of the Cowboys game. It was a bizarre game, which is to say business as usual for the Cowboys this season.

Would've been nice to see them win, but they would be just crushed in Chicago, I am sure. I don't know how our offense only managed to score 13 points against a couple of cornerbacks just picked up off the street. I hope we get a lot of stuff figured out this off-season, because I'm looking forward to seeing what Tony Romo can do at QB over the course of a season with the whole off-season and pre-season to prepare instead of getting thrown to the wolves at halftime of week 6 or whatever.

I hope T. O. isn't back. I hope Parcells is back. I hope the defense gets its act together because giving up 34 points a game or whatever they did in the last 5-6 games really sucks. Can we hire away whoever coaches Seattle's secondary? That guy deserves one hell of a raise. Either that, or we're incompetent on offense all of a sudden.

Posted by Observer at 09:06 PM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2007

Vacation

We're leaving this morning for Port Aransas for the weekend. Looking forward to the quiet and the ocean and some good food.

Today is our 5th anniversary!

Posted by Observer at 07:11 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2007

Taking the Battle to Them

Someone needs to remind the wingnut trolls of the world that the one of the most fundamental ideas of America, one of the main reasons the colonists set out for this New World, one of the main reasons we sought our independence, is that there be NO RELIGIOUS TEST for people who seek public office.

Newly elected Representative Keith Ellison is on the job:

The first Muslim elected to Congress says he will take his oath of office using a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson to make the point that "religious differences are nothing to be afraid of."

Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., decided to use the centuries-old Quran during his ceremonial swearing-in on Thursday after he learned that it is kept at the Library of Congress. Jefferson, the nation's third president and a collector of books in all topics and languages, sold the book to Congress in 1815 as part of a collection.

"It demonstrates that from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Quran," Ellison said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Meanwhile, you get bloggers who claim to be UberPatriots or whatever saying we should force Ellison to swear himself in on the Bible (which version would be okay, by the way?). Or, better, that the Constitution and religious freedom are incompatible. The concept of irony is just totally lost on these clowns. Like their Boy King, they don't even know how to fucking read.

I will grant, however, that the vast majority of the right wing blogosphere is either silent or supportive of Ellison on this matter. It's just the usual 2% of the population, the howler monkeys, who are making fools of themselves over this.

The more I think about this, the more I like the message this sends to the Islamic countries of the world. They'll hear we have Muslims in our government, and we're pretty much okay with it. That's how you "win hearts and minds", though I'll grant it is just one tiny step forward amidst a hurricane of backwards. Could you imagine the reaction in Saudi Arabia to the elec ... oh sorry, no Democracy.

Nevermind.

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

January 03, 2007

ER

J*stin (our 17-year-old) really hurt his ankle coming down off a layup yesterday while playing in the driveway with a couple of his friends who came over. I didn't see it, but when he came in, it was swollen a bit with no discoloration. He was really groaning about the pain. We put some ice on it, and I sent him off to elevate it.

By the time M*chelle got home, it had swollen a LOT more and looked bad, so M*chelle said take him to the ER, and I didn't question it. I expected to be there until the wee hours, and my worst fears were realized when we arrived at about 7pm and found a jam-packed waiting room. Fortunately for us, though, the line for getting treatment on broken bone type issues was much shorter than the line for antibiotics or whatever everyone else was there for.

We were called back in 15 mins, and 15 mins after that, the doctor had us ready to go for X-rays. An hour after we arrived at the hospital, J*stin found out he had a broken ankle and was getting into a splint and learning how to use crutches. We were in and out of there in two hours, tops, and I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing.

The break is kinda weird. From the X-ray, it looks like he strained his ligament so bad that one of them popped off the outside of his ankle, pulling a fingernail-sized sliver of bone with it, which is now floating in tissue a few millimeters from the bone itself. I have no idea how they're gonna fix it, but we'll see the orthopedic guy on Monday of next week.

Poor J*stin's track season is out the window, and he'll have to get in shape from almost ground zero once it is rehabbed, just to get ready for the Fall cross country season. If he were a baseball player, I'd say he's injury-prone. I'm sure his coach will be thrilled.

Posted by Observer at 03:04 PM | Comments (0)

Young Republicans

I've known a few of this breed in my time, especially as an undergraduate, and I swear this cartoon hits the perfect note.

Posted by Observer at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2007

The Year in GYWO

If you want to spend a good hour of laughs, go catch up on the past year of Get Your War On cartoons, starting at the link and going forward. There are just too many good ones to quote, lots of laughs.

Posted by Observer at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2007

Highlights

Wow, if you missed the highlights of the Oklahoma vs Boise State game, do yourself a favor and go find 'em. People were buzzing about it while I was playing in a cash tournament tonight, and I finally turned it on in time to watch Boise State make a 4th and 18 touchdown on a hook-and-ladder play with about 7 seconds left in the game, and that's only a small part of the highlights.

I won cash in two tournaments today, $3 in a freeroll (finished 9th out of 1800) and $4.43 in a huge $2.25/entry cash tournament (so $2.18 of profit for finishing 141st out of 2140), and I could've done a lot better in the latter but got two horrible two-out beats, one of which I recovered from and one I didn't. The $2.25 tourney was a lot more educational, as the level of play was significantly better than the freerolls I'm used to. First place would've been over $800, but I'm happy to just to make the money (for now).

Posted by Observer at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

Frustration

I don't know where this came from, but I thought it was pretty amusing. This is how I feel when the Internet connection goes down for some unexplained reason:

Posted by Observer at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)