March 31, 2007

Prediction

Oh, this is depressing, having to make a prediction about the upcoming Rangers' season. All they did was polish the old crap with few meaningful replacements, and this is a team that has finished above .500 one time in seven years. Their very existence is to validate "Moneyball", I think, only they've got the shitty end of the deal while the A's have it good.

Will Ron Washington bring some of that A's magic with him as he replaces Buck Showalter? Will his bubbling, positive attitude mean 20 more wins for this team, which is probably what we need to win the division? I think it has to because most of the other moves this offseason were a wash. The only good thing I see, for now, is that we seem to be pretty deep starting-pitching-wise. That's assuming the bloated spring ERA's for our top three starters are just blips and shouldn't be trusted more than their regular season career averages.

Put me down for 85 wins, which is four over the 81-game .500 record mark, but I think we'll finish about 10 games behind either Oakland or Anaheim, as usual.

Posted by Observer at 10:18 PM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2007

Tears for Fears

Advising season is upon us, and many students hoping to attend medical school are now watching the wave of their dreams crash on the rocky coast of first-year science courses at the University level (as opposed to their high school where they got a 564.56 GPA or whatever because they could pass a standardized multiple-choice test). I have the unpleasant task of telling students that you can't flunk classes or score solid C's and D's across the board and expect to get into medical school.

Such meetings often end in tears, and I'm really trying to be nice and encouraging and suggest alternatives, etc. I've got a whole "Mr. Rogers" vibe going, but it is never easy for a student used to cruising to easy A's in high school to come face-to-face with the consequences of a D in Introductory Chemistry. And it only gets harder from here.

I really really hate being the bearer of bad news.

Posted by Observer at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 29, 2007

Seer and Oracle

A few days ago, I wrote:

If I'm a wingnut looking for a blog post of the day, I can simply scan comments on a big blog like Daily Kos. Eventually, I'll find some idiot on there who advocates an end to all wars or a treason trial for Bush right this second or who is cheering for a health problem like Tony Snow's or Elizabeth Edwards' cancer because the target is just so damn evil. A more advanced form of this is to make a comment like "Ha! I'm glad so-and-so's daughter died because he's a jerk!" anonymously, then quote it on your blog as though it was made by a purity troll on Daily Kos or Atrios or whatever.

However the comment came into being doesn't matter. The next step is to act like that comment is run-of-the-mill representative, and bam, you've demonized liberals.

World Wingnut Daily follows the script to the letter.

Posted by Observer at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

Dennis the Menace

If you watch the Daily Show regularly like I do, then you caught Dennis Miller's little piece of performance art the other day. I think the last time he was on the show, he actually tried to have a conversation/debate with Jon, defending his points and so forth. At one point, Miller was talking about how Bush is misunderstood, etc. like Lincoln or Truman, and Jon laughed incredulously, "Are you trying to say Bush is the equivalent of Truman or Lincoln?!?"

With the audience laughing, Miller knew he had made a fool of himself in his mindless adherence to the Bush Loyalty Oath thing or whatever he's done to ingratiate himself with the moneyed wingnut crowd. This time, Miller was determined not to make that same mistake, so he came out and basically barely let Jon get a word in. It was six minutes of material. Sadly, the only things he had to say were jokes about the appearances of Reid and Pelosi.

You know you got nothing when the best critical jokes you can come up with about the other size involve how "stiff" they are or how their face looks funny. Miller was on to promote his new talk radio show. I am actually looking forward to that. Miller is going to get to connect with the wingnut radio caller crowd who naturally will hate all of his obscure cultural references. His lack of respect for just about everything means sooner or later he's going to inadvertantly make a few jokes about the wrong people, which will alienate his authoritarian-loving potential audience.

I don't know if it'll be Magic-talk-show failure, but it's going to be a flaming train-wreck, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

Posted by Observer at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2007

More, Please

In a rare show of truth-telling, a CNN reporter talks about how ludicrous John's McCain's view of Baghdad is. McCain seems to think that, thanks to the "surge" he supported, you can drive around or stroll around Baghdad anytime you like. The CNN guy reports that McCain's comments drew uniform laughter right down the line from all of his military sources.

Eventually, there has to be some kind of Republican implosion here. For the past six years, the party has existed on the concept of absolute and total loyalty to Bush, willingness to tell any lie or say anything to support the Boy King. But everything he has been involved in, from the federal budget to Katrina to foreign policy (North Korea, for example) and Iraq, has turned to complete shit and obviously needs a change in the direction of competence.

The only way any Republicans are going to be elected to anything in a competitive district will be to run away from Bush as fast as possible. The transition from unswerving loyalty to trashing Bush and talking about the need for change is going to be abrupt, and it's going to come soon. And the concern trolls will tell us that we shouldn't question the sudden changes in attitudes among Republican candidates. "Why are liberals complaining now," the concern trolls will ask, "after all, Republicans are now saying what you guys have wanted them to say all along, so criticizing them for hypocrisy makes liberals look petty and partisan. Let's move on."

Posted by Observer at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2007

Troll Ecology

Karen Tumulty of Time is still trying to figure out this blogging thing, and commenters bring her up to speed on a couple of troll classifications, to which I'll add a couple more.

First, there's the plain old troll. This is the person who in the real world is called a "consultant". Consultants are like pigeons. They fly in, shit all over everything, then fly away (except they get paid handsomely for it). Trolls don't generally know or care much about the blog they are commenting on. They just know that it doesn't match up with their beliefs and so the author must be an asshole worthy of abusive contempt, ad hominem insults, Rush Limbaugh approved false talking points, etc.

Then there's the stalker troll. These are trolls who keep showing up over and over on a website, like my pet troll used to do here until he started making death threats. Stalker trolls take political arguments very personally, and they won't let you out-nasty or out-argue them. These are the ones who will go to great lengths to prove that virtually every blog owner has a commenting-ban-line that can be crossed, no matter how "open" they claim to be about comments. Stalker trolls usually need their IP's blocked. Stupid ones can be blocked with a simple string identifier since they aren't smart enough to change their handle.

There's the purity troll. These are the ones who advocate only the extreme end of the spectrum of positions. If you are a liberal but kinda support some wars (like Afghanistan), that's bad news in the purity troll's eyes. For the purity troll, you must be against all wars all the time. Or you must be against all abortion all the time. Or against all government programs or all taxes all the time. If you aren't "pure" on the issue, prepare for abuse. Liberal purity trolls are the ones wingnuts like to quote when they are attacking strawmen.

For example, if I'm a wingnut looking for a blog post of the day, I can simply scan comments on a big blog like Daily Kos. Eventually, I'll find some idiot on there who advocates an end to all wars or a treason trial for Bush right this second or who is cheering for a health problem like Tony Snow's or Elizabeth Edwards' cancer because the target is just so damn evil. A more advanced form of this is to make a comment like "Ha! I'm glad so-and-so's daughter died because he's a jerk!" anonymously, then quote it on your blog as though it was made by a purity troll on Daily Kos or Atrios or whatever.

However the comment came into being doesn't matter. The next step is to act like that comment is run-of-the-mill representative, and bam, you've demonized liberals. The classic example of this is the equating of Moveon.org with left-wing fanatics because some purity troll submitted an ad that compared Bush to Hitler that Moveon.org deleted within like 10 minutes or something.

Finally, there's the concern troll. This fits most so-called liberal pundits like Joke Line or Michael Kinsley. These are people who will claim they are strident liberals until they're blue in the face, but most of their writing expresses condescending concern that Democrats are screwing up *again* or gives compliments to "brave", "bold", "straight-talking" or "principled" Republicans.

Democrats shouldn't oppose the war, they say, because they'll look back in the face of Bush's "bold" leadership. We should move on, they'll say, and stop arguing about the past. These are the people who told Gore supporters in 2000 to "get over it". When a Republican is enmeshed in a scandal, the concern troll's response is "Hey, I'm a lifelong Democrat, but I don't see what the big deal is here just because so-and-so (a Republican) killed his wife. I hope Democrats don't overreact to this and politicize it, because that would be far worse than the original crime."

You wonder if you could shoot the concern troll and then tell him or her to get over it, to move on, because after all, the shooting is in the past, and you need to show you're made of sterner stuff than that.

Concern trolls are wolves in sheep's clothing. They like to wrap themselves up occasionally in their supposed passion for their liberal (or conservative) cause, but most of their writing undercuts the very causes they claim to care so deeply about. They act surprised and oh-so-wounded when attacked by "angry" or "shrill" "partisans", astonished that someone would question their motives.

One of their favorite constructions is "some say". Like "some say" that John Kerry is a flip-flopper who only wants to raise taxes and take away our freedoms. "Some say" that Kerry lied about his service in Vietnam and is actually by some measures a traitor to our country. They'll follow that up by expressing concern that Kerry would respond to "some say" with some sort of vicious partisan attack like calling someone a LIAR (imagine a sharp intake of breath and fluttering hanky). "What a horrible thing to say! So partisan and short-sighted!" the concern troll would say.

Concern trolls and purity trolls are natural enemies, like Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil, only I find Illuminati alignments make more sense than standard role-playing alignments. In Illuminati, the opposing alignments are corporate vs government, liberal vs conservative, weird vs straight, peaceful vs violent, and fanatic, which is its own opposite. Trolls are fanatics, and all fanatics are diametrically opposed to one another.

As such, the concern/purity trolls like to accuse any of their critics of being a member of the opposite group. Makes them easier to hate.

Posted by Observer at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2007

Those Were the Days

Remember the good old days when PANIC-INDUCING political corruption involved Al Gore make a half-dozen fundraising phone calls from the White House instead of across the street at Democratic headquarters?

Back then, it was talk show fodder for weeks. Now, though, pundits are profoundly uninterested, even insulted, by the idea that the politicization (and illegal obstruction of ongoing investigations) of the Justice Department is even a story.

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

Rules We Live By

Via Atrios:

Move On is a left wing extremist organization because it once held an open contest in which someone submitted an ad which compared Bush to Hitler which they promptly removed after it came to their attention.

And Tom DeLay is a respected former Congresman.

Got to love the wonderful perspective provided to all of us by the fringe left-wing liberal media.

Posted by Observer at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

Warning: Highly Addictive

It's old-school fun: on-line artillery. Watch out for the wind.

My highest number of kills so far is nine nineteen thirty-one.

Posted by Observer at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2007

What's Wrong with the Paper

One of the Time correspondents is moderating a forum including Democratic presidential candidates about health care policy, and like most journalists there, she has a bit of an attitude that it is all so BORING!

On a personal level, I agree that issues like this tend to give me tired-head, but this raises the question of why people in the media, whose job it is to serve the public interest and cover things like this in an interesting an informative way, tend to fall down on the job.

In my experience teaching science at the college level, I find that Journalism is a degree that many students "settle" into when they can't handle things that are hard. Basically, they can't handle science or even business. Complex topics involving any kind of math frighten them, so they run to the liberal arts (one reason why "Innumeracy" plays a big role in the news). Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but I'm talking about typical students

Now, you can get a very good liberal arts education with an emphasis well away from math and science, and many do, but I don't run across a lot of journalism majors who are into it for the classic "Woodward and Bernstein" truth-to-power vibe. They're in it because they can more easily perceive the path to employment than with English or History.

The journalistic role models these days are the millionaire pundit celebrities like Tim Russert or a network news anchor, not investigative reporters like, say, Sy Hersh. A lot of people look at the pundits like Joke Line and figure, "Hey, that looks easy," and for the most part, they're right. I'm not saying *I* can do it right now, but if I got paid for it, I'd like to think that with a few years experience and full-time practice, I could cover the issues better than the kind of tossed-off pseudo-analysis I see in most traditional media outlets, including Time.

Or if not me, then surely someone who scored a bit higher on the SAT verbal section and has taken some, you know, actual classes in the school of journalism. Small wonder that most of the journalists that populate the traditional media have a lazy, cynical attitude.

Part of this, in my opinion, is the fault of the corporate ownership of newspapers and networks. They have little interest in promoting investigative journalism unless it is really splashy, like an investigation of a celebrity kid's paternity (but make sure they aren't actually investigating the parent corporation, of course). Part of it is the ongoing war on the media, begun in earnest during the 80's by right-wingers and the "liberal media" crap Rush Limbaugh always pushes, which has made a large segment of the population lose respect for the media's role in the public debate.

Anyway, small wonder that you have a media populated by people who couldn't be more BORED with important public policy issues. Look at the role models. Look at the quality of students getting journalism degrees. I wish there were an easy fix. Shifting to a model with greater feedback, like blogs, is a good way to start if that feedback is taken seriously.

I still get some news from the local newspaper I read every morning, but for analysis and perspective, I NEVER trust the local paper, even when its broad take is something I agree with. If I care enough about the issue, I'll go find out what people I respect are saying about it, not the vacuous pundits or the heavily-edited-by-corporate-ownership newspaper. Reading the paper these days is only useful insofar as it reveals what scripts the traditional media is pushing (like "Hey, look, Al Gore is a hypocrite!"), and, of course, for some local news and sports.

Posted by Observer at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2007

Used...

E. J. Dionne talks about the US Attorneys scandal and explains succinctly exactly how the "sensible centrist" pundits will be used in the days to come:

The Washington conventional wisdom machine always defines "fairness" as a carefully calibrated point exactly between the positions of the two parties, no matter how outrageous one of the positions might be. By making ludicrous demands on Congress -- that it accept interviews with White House advisers Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and others in secret, not under oath and without transcripts -- Bush will encourage supposedly moderate voices to call for "compromises" that are really administration victories.

If it hasn't already happened, I'm sure within the next week, the "sensible centrists" who helped enable the Iraq war along with countless other failures of this administration, the Broders, the Kleins, the Kinsleys and so on, will do two things. First, they'll ask over and over again what's the big deal? Aren't both sides equally horrible, equally political? Didn't Clinton do something like this (no, he didn't, assholes, and since when is "Clinton did it" a valid excuse for a Republican president)?

Second, they'll wonder why "liberals" and left-wing fringe types are so angry and unwilling to "compromise". After all, liberals have the crazy, end-of-the-political-spectrum stance that White House officials who orchestrated what amounts to obstruction of justice should be required to testify in public about it under oath, not least of which is because they've shown such a willingness to lie in the past. On the other hand, Bush has offered essentially a big middle finger to Congress, so obviously, the correct and proper action must be a compromise somewhere in the middle. To disagree with this is to be a wild-eyed extremist.

The next time one of these clowns puts his house on the market, I'm going to offer one dollar so I can get it for half-price.

Posted by Observer at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007

Oversight

This is what happens when the Congress has a backbone and performs real oversight on the other branches of the government. This will definitely not be the last time that documentation requested by an investigating committee flatly contradicts the public statements and testimony of a Bush administration member.

The sad thing is that it took six years for it to happen the first time because Republicans are so completely bankrupt, but that's what happens when you invest all your chips in the miserable failure that is the Boy King.

Posted by Observer at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

Real Liberals

Pundits like Joke Line and Michael Kinsley like to talk about how they are really liberals at heart, and so why are all the nasty fringe left-wing commenters picking on them just because they have a chuckle about how "clueless" and "unprincipled" the Democrats are or how "bold" Bush is. As we keep trying to tell them, if you really care about the opinions of liberals like us, and you want us to think well of you, then write as though liberal ideas mean something to you. Quit trying to undercut our leaders, the right wing doens't need any of your help to do it.

Want to see what a true liberal opinion columnist writes like? Here is some of the latest from Jamison Foser of Media Matters. Just imagine for a moment, seriously, the likelihood of seeing something like this in the pages of Time or on your editorial page in your local paper.

Media coverage of the prosecutor purge has been marked by what seems to be a stunning lack of memory by the political press corps.

For example, just three weeks ago, Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury, making false statements to investigators, and obstruction of justice. You might think that would come up in coverage of President Bush's unwillingness to allow his top aides to testify before Congress under oath, in public, or in any setting that would involve a permanent, objective record of their comments.

Yet the White House press corps seems to have forgotten all about Libby's conviction -- they haven't asked Tony Snow a single question about it during the daily press briefings since Bush refused to allow Rove and others to testify under oath. A president who just three weeks ago saw one of his top aides convicted of perjury and making false statements to investigators now refuses to allow other aides to testify under oath.

And apparently nobody in the White House press corps thinks to ask Tony Snow if that's because Bush is afraid of another of his aides committing perjury -- or whether his refusal to allow a transcript is because he's afraid of them getting caught. Nobody remembers Libby's conviction well enough to ask Snow how the White House can possibly insist that a transcript is unnecessary given Libby's own willingness to lie under oath.

And it isn't just that the question has gone unasked in Snow's press briefings: the Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC have all neglected to bring up the Libby conviction in the context of the administration's refusal to allow transcripts or statements under oath. [...]

Perhaps more troubling is that political reporters seem to have forgotten that this is not the first time President Bush has acted to head off an investigation involving his close friend and attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. As we noted last week, Bush personally quashed a 2006 investigation of his administration's warrantless domestic spying operation. Journalist Murray Waas reported last week that Bush did so after receiving advice from Gonzales -- and after Gonzales was informed that his own conduct would likely be a subject of the investigation.

Incredibly, this hasn't come up in media coverage of President Bush's efforts to slow or thwart an investigation involving Gonzales; it has apparently been forgotten by the nation's leading news organizations.

The likelihood of something like this appearing in your local traditional media outlet is ZERO because there simply are no outlets for true liberalism except online. Well, maybe the occasional city weekly newspaper right next to all the phone sex ads.

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

Graphical

These graphs are probably the best political news I've heard in some time, almost as good as Dems retaking the House and Senate in the 2006 elections.

Suck it, wingnuts.

Posted by Observer at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007

Routed

We've been having internet difficulties for going on a week now. The computers are all connected, but the connection is S-L-O-W. Pages often just won't load, and when they do, they don't load completely. Some sites are faster than others, but most just plain won't work unless you are very patient. I had been having this problem a few months ago trying to connect one of our iMacs to the internet.

It's a fairly new computer, but it just wasn't connecting right. The speeds were horrible. My old G3/300 was working better and more reliably than the newer iMac. My guess was that it was the router, which for some reason wasn't working with the newer, faster Macs. The router is probably 4-5 years old, at least.

So with this latest episode, I finally got the brainpower to realize testing the router is easy. I connected directly to the cable modem and visited this speed tester and got a blazing fast result. All the other pages I normally visit loaded perfectly and fast. Hooked up everything to the router again, and we were back to crawling. When the speed meter loaded, it was about 100 times slower.

So I went to the nearby CompUSA and got a new Linksys router. Hard to find wired routers these days... everything is wireless. Anyway, with the close-out clearance price, it was only fifty bucks. Plugged it in, futzed with a couple of settings, and bang, our connection is good as new. That's my technological accomplishment of the year.

Posted by Observer at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007

War on Gore

I've read a lot of good stuff today, mostly random comments sprinkled around various blogs, but by far, the most comprehensive and convincing articles I've read today were two:

Eric Boehlert on how the ultra-liberal flagship socialist fringe left-wing New York Times has been treating Al Gore lately (which is consistent with the past eight years or so).

Josh Marshall with a valuable, informative reset on the whole U. S. Attorney scandal. It's actually pretty amazing when you stop and think about it just how brazenly the law has been broken here. I would think that if Alberto Gonzalez doesn't resign, he'll be impeached. Either way, the hearings will be great. Now that the Dems have subpoena power, they need to use it to perform the oversight that has been so sadly lacking for the past six years.

All KINDS of cockroaches are going to be scurrying for cover as the lights get brighter and brighter on the executive branch.

I was looking forward to reading more Swampland comments for Michael Kinsley, but he didn't post today. Kinda weird that he's a guest-blogger for a week, and he doesn't post anything after a few short posts yesterday. Surely a few robust commenters giving him hell isn't going to spook him, but it might have pissed him off enough that he wants to take his ball and go home.

That would be a shame because for all his current faults, I thought better of Kinsley than that. He seems like the kind of guy who could use a good blogging experience. He'll take some pretty hard punches from the peanut gallery, but if he rolls with them and enters into a dialogue, he could really improve. It's helped Joke Line, though he's still petty and condescending toward his critics. At least he seems to be listening and softening his stances a little here and there.

Posted by Observer at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2007

Schooling

Commenters at Swampland are giving Michael Kinsley a lesson in why vapid pox-on-both-houses punditry doesn't work in the blogosphere. Here are some of the highlights:

Michael Kinsley needs a refresher course in criminal law. [...]

Some crimes that a special prosecutor might one day look at:

1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to “impede” it in getting information.

2. Calling the Prosecutors.........18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c), which applies to anyone who corruptly “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,” including U.S. attorney investigations.

3. Witness Tampering. 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b) makes it illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses.

4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not, as § 1512 (c) puts it, to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.

--

I'm sure they intend to get Senate approval for all these interim USA appointments...some time in 2009.

--

Why people care:

(1) It's not about illegality-- no one is saying that. It's about FIRING USAS WHO INVESTIGATED REPUBLICANS, AND DIDN'T INVESTIGATE TRUMPED-UP CHARGES ABOUT DEMOCRATS.

No one ever argued that Nixon violated the law in the Saturday Night Massacre, either.

(2) The White House and DOJ LIED TO CONGRESS about (1) the reasons for the firings, and (2) the degree of communication b/w the WH and DOJ.

(Etc.) The provision allowing the WH to appoint their cronies w/o senate confirmation was slipped into the bill by a Specter staffer, w/o the knowledge of any senator. That staffer is now a USA. Also, this raises concerns, ie in NJ and Pittsburg, that unfired USAs are politicizing their investigations. That's bad for rule of law and respect for the rule of law.

Punditry 101: Learn facts and arguments, THEN opine. Do not pass go, go directly to TPM to learn some facts. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/usa-timeline.php

--

"There is one guy who is explicitly temporary, but they insist that they intend to get Senate approval for every US Attorney they put in place. Is that right? And have they kept their word on this, at least so far?"

They only backed off using this provision AFTER the attorney scandal came to light. That is what oversight means, Mr. Kinsley.

--

Oh, this is funny...Michael Kinsley starts a paragraph with this gem:

"For late arrivals..."

Late arrivals?

Uhhmmm that would be you Mr. Kinsley. Go visit Talking Points Memo and McClatchy News, do some reading, find out what the issues really are and get back to us when you're up to speed, m'kay?

--

If you can't see anything wrong with the politically motivated abuse of the position of US prosecutor then you have no business being a pundit.

OK--in words of nearly one syllable--the firing of Carol Lamm halted an investigation into criminal acts by Republicans in Congress. Another example: the prosecutor in Washington State was fired because he refused to, in his words, "drag innocent people before Grand Juries".

So is your position really that it doesn't matter if real crimes are not investigated and/or innnocent people are prosecuted for political reasons?

--

The Sen. Spector aide who slipped the provision in the Patriot Act is now a US Attorney. Get this. He wasn't confirmed by the Senate. I guess we are all just crazy liberals with conspiracy theories for finding something strange with this.

--

Well Mr. Kinsley is serving as an excellent replacement for Mr. Klein so far.

Deliberate obtuseness about a simple issue. CHECK.

Failure to address the simple issue despite it being clearly and repeatedly pointed out by readers. CHECK.

Now we will see if we can get the Trifecta. Will Mr. Kinsey lose all interest in this matter to gush about some insignificant bit of trivia? Double points if it's a snit of some kind attributed to a Democratic presidential candidate.

Is there any chance we can replace Kinsley with his old pal Pat Buchanan? It would at least be a refreshing change of pace.

--

Kinsley: "Help me out here, AnaMarie. I am confused about the administration’s use of this provision. Has it ever put a US Attorney in place and not submitted the name to the Senate for confirmation?"

Mike, do you realize just how stupid asking this question makes you look?

Seriously, Mike, if at this point in the story you have to ask this question you're revealing yourself as simply unqualified and too ignorant to opine on the subject. If this represents your level of understanding of the facts why should we seriously consider anything you have to say on the subject?

Just to be clear on your question:

The Adminstration appointed Tim Griffin, long time head of opposition research for the RNC, to the US Attorney office in Arkansas that has all of the Clinton investigation files without Senate confirmation. That, alone, doesn't pass the smell test of appropriateness.

Furthermore, here's what Sampson said in an email about this appointment:

"I think we should gum this to death: ask the Senators to give Tim a chance, meet with him, give him some time in office to see how he performs, etc. If they ultimately say "no never" (and the longer we can forestall that the better), then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in "good faith," of course."

Source: http://tinyurl.com/37d8ru

Answer this Mike: Is it appropriate a) For the Attorney General to appoint the former head of RNC opposition research as US Attorney in the office that has all of the Clinton investigation files and b) To deliberately "run out the clock" on Senate confirmation? If not, what should be done?

--

The reason we are making a fuss, Mr. Kinsley, is because deliberately interfering with the prosecutorial function constitutes "Abuse of Power", which was the second Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon:

"In disregard of the rule of law: he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch: including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division and the Office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force of the Department of Justice, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws by faithfully executed.

In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

(Approved 28-10 by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, July 29, 1974.)"

As I said before, some of the best political blogging on the internet these days is being done in the comments section at Swampland. The signal-to-noise ratio in comments is extremely high compared to other liberal blog comment sections, and the commenters know they have a big audience and so are putting some time and effort into their writing, much more so, I imagine, than the post authors who are either ignored or ridiculed.

Posted by Observer at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2007

Used To Be...

Michael Kinsley used to be my hero back when he was writing for "The New Republic". I followed him over to Slate, read a couple of his early books, then watched in sadness as he went down the road toward Sensible Moderate Pox on Both Houses Millionaire Pundit Land, to figuratively hang out with Broder, Russert, Klein, Dowd and the whole idiot gang.

Kinsley is the "guest" at Time's blog this week, so he'll get to meet all of the excellent commenters who have been beating down Joke Line for over a month now (to see the effect, today Klein finally FINALLY admitted in plain English that he was wrong about something important). It's going to make me sad-happy to watch.

Posted by Observer at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

Swatting Flies

Time for another edition of Swatting Down Stupid Wingnut Arguments:

Today, it's the "Valerie Plame wasn't really covert!" argument. The simple, one sentence response to this is: Uh, the Director of the CIA has certified that Plame was indeed covert and that the CIA was taking active measures to protect her identity when she was outed by various Bush loyalists in an attempt to spin Joe Wilson's criticism of the administration.

The more thorough debunking of the whole line of reasoning is here, but it'll give you tired-head.

Posted by Observer at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

More Fake Balance

Better writers than me have done a good job of summarizing the current scandal involving the Bush administration's selective firing of various U. S. attorneys. This is obviously a slam-dunk case of wrongdoing, and there's just no way to argue it.

It is interesting, therefore, to watch as various traditional media outlets bend over backwards to try to provide "balance" by promoting the memes the ConservaBorg are desperate to convey to the Moron American masses, such as "Clinton did it, too!", which is the most common. Just read through Greenwald's post (linked above), and follow his first two links (to Talking Points Memo and the Carpetbagger Report). It'll take maybe 5-10 minutes, and you'll know everything you need to know about what is going on, why it is wrong, what the wingnut talking points are, and why they are wrong.

Armed with this knowledge, go read or watch you local "liberal" media's coverage of this issue. For me, it is depressingly predictable and frustrating. The wingnuts are banking on the Moron masses not caring enough to find out that they're full of shit, just like with everything else. All they have to do, they figure (correctly), is muddy the waters and promote a "pox on both houses" attitude among the electorate, and their job is successful.

Until our side comes up with a way to consistently and convincingly combat this immoral willingness to shamlessly lie and mislead by wingnuts, we will be stuck in a rut, and it won't matter who the candidates are for either side in 2008. It'll be another "who do you want to have a beer with?" election. Is this what our troops are fighting and dying for?

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

March 17, 2007

Stupid LTE's

Here's a letter from today's letter-writing troll to the paper:

While doing research for a class I'm taking, I came upon some interesting statistics. When people and the media speak of the cost of fighting the war against terror, give them these facts to think about: In four years, we've lost a little more than 3,000 soldiers killed in Iraq, compared with 58,000 killed during eight years of U. S. participation in Vietnam.

To help put this into perspective, Iraq is roughly equivalent to Texas in size and population, and during the past four years (2001-2005), according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's crime records, 5,400 people have been murdered in Texas. So why aren't the "doves" screaming about withdrawing from Texas? [...]

The truth is very simple. The number of soldiers in Iraq during that time frame, on average, was about 150,000. The average population of Texas during that time was approximately 23 million according to the US Census Bureau. If Texans were murdered AT THE SAME RATE as soldiers in Iraq, we would have had about 460,000 murders, and I guarantee you people would be "screaming" about it! And, sadly, this analysis doesn't even consider the far more massive numbers of physical and mental casualties on our troops and unlucky civilians in the war zone.

Put another way, instead of being safer for a solider to serve in Iraq compared to living in Texas, as the writer suggested, it was actually around 100 times more lethal. That's a pretty big difference between assertion and fact, don't you think? I wonder if I would be taken seriously if I made an offer on the writer's house that was 100 times below market value after claiming to do some "research!"

Since the writer was researching this matter for a class he is taking, I would be interested to find out his grade! I can also suggest an alternate assignment: maybe he can discover why his sources are trying to mislead him? To me, that seems to be the most interesting aspect of all this since this kind of argument has been put forth (and debunked) repeatedly since the early months of the war, often by people who know better.

Posted by Observer at 08:51 AM | Comments (4)

March 16, 2007

Three Reviews

Since they're all becoming a bit of a blur, here I will review the most recent three stories in the "New Jedi Order" series I've been reading. First, a quick reset. When last we left, the three young Jedi who get most of the attention are all kids of Han and Leia's. Luke and Mara have a little one named Ben, but he's still just an infant. The three kids of Han and Leia are the twins, Jacen and Jaina, and then their younger, more powerful brother Anakin. Anakin was probably the most fun to follow, but then the cabal of writers and idiots in charge of the series decided to kill him off in the last book.

First in the sequence is "Dark Journey" by Elaine Cunningham. This book largely follows events in Jaina's life after she escaped from behind enemy lines, leaving behind Anakin's dead body and her brother Jacen, who was captured with the help of Vergere, a force-strong alien female who somehow manages to gain the trust of the Vong while sometimes helping and sometimes hurting the New Republic. There's a lot of grieving, but since Anakin isn't an established Movie Main Character, it doesn't just overwhelm the book like Chewie's death overwhelmed two or three books in the series.

Most of the action takes place in the Hapes cluster, which was last visited in Dave Wolverton's "Courtship of Princess Leia", which I read and reviewed over a year ago. This book isn't quite so good. The only real plot point here is the new triangular relationship established between Jacen, Kyp Durron (a fairly strong Jedi who flirted with the Dark side in past books) and Jag Fel (a character who brings to mind Miles' father from the Bujold series, but without nearly the pages needed to flesh him out), who is not Force-sensitive at all but still a very good pilot. From an overall series standpoint, virtually nothing happens here except maybe a new wrinkle/strategy for fighting the Vong, which a good book from the X-wing series could develop in ten pages and then get on with life, and the book's slow pace is indicative of that.

Jaina has not been drawn in this series as a very interesting or sympathetic character (at least for me), and this book is no exception. Since she is the central character, the book is therefore bound to rank low on my list, regardless of its other merits, which I think are relatively few. Aside from the plot points I've mentioned above, the rest of the book is either a poor shadow of the X-wing series or a tedious examination of the family suffering felt by Han, Leia and everyone around them, which I saw more than enough of previously.

Now, this book isn't laughably bad like, say, the immensely disappointing "The Crystal Star" from the post-Jedi series (one of a handful of books in which a kidnapping or potential kidnapping of the young twins is a central theme), which I haven't reviewed on this blog yet, but it is at the bottom of the middle tier. There's a BIG GAP between the middle tier and the few books in the bottom tier of Star Wars literature.

On to the next in the sequence, a two-book set called "Enemy Lines" by Aaron Allston, who did very good work with Michael Stackpole in the X-wing series, which I mentioned above and read/reviewed earlier. This story is basically a logical continuation of X-wing, in that it focuses on Wedge Antilles and his squadron of pilots, only now they're fighting the Vong instead of the remnants of the Empire. Allston's strength is the nuts and bolts of a big fight in space, the strategy and tactics of both sides. That's most of what this book is about.

The major plot points: Jaina and Jag now have a real relationship, and everyone is now moving on past the death of Anakin. Missing twin, presumed dead Jacen, isn't mentioned much. The potential kidnapping of Ben (Luke and Mara's force-strong infant) has apparently (blessedly) been limited to only one mention in one book, not here. Also, there are so many people in the New Republic trying to cut deals with the Vong invaders that the old guard of the rebellion (including Luke, Leia, Han, Lando and Wedge) feel like they basically have to start up a new rebellion in secret against the remnants of the New Republic and the Vong, so that will change the politics of the whole series in a good way, I think, give it some life. The refugee crisis is still immense, but this book isn't really burdened with that nearly so much compared to the first several books of the series.

Oh, there is a side plot in which Luke and Mara visit the new shattered world of Coruscant to confront some weird, semi-robotic dark Jedi presence while trying to stay clear of all of the occupying forces, etc. It was really just an excuse to get some of the New Republic Intelligence guys together from the X-wing series for a reunion, so I didn't mind so much that the whole thing was basically a meaningless loop. If the larger plot isn't being advanced, as long as the books are amusing, I'm okay. That's the difference between Allston's book and Cunningham's.

Finally, a book that may go into the top part of the middle tier is Matt Stover's "Traitor", in which we follow Jacen's path since his capture at the end of four books ago in the series. This one is largely an exploration of Vergere, a Yoda-like figure who annoyingly loves to have socratic dialogues with everyone that can be interpreted many ways. Every once in a while, she will say something direct which has some effect, but it can take several pages of slogging through dialogue like "Everything I say is a lie, isn't it?" or "Who is the teacher and who is the student? What is the difference?" until you get to that point.

Anyway, Vergere takes on a new "training" of Jacen, promising her masters, the ones in charge of the Vong invasion, that she will turn him into a willing ally and important sacrifice to their gods. She achieves this transformation by essentially torturing him for weeks until he learns to ignore pain, which makes it easier for him to cope with whatever the Vong throw at him. Then she somehow robs him of his Force awareness and makes him bond with the brain that will eventually be the heart of the new Vong homeworld. It isn't clear whether she is doing this to help or hurt him or the Vong, and by the end of the book, it still isn't clear what her agenda is. Jacen gets through it and throws a big monkey wrench into the Vong homeworld, the effects of which we'll see in later books, I suppose.

Ultimately, Jacen comes out of it very confused about light-side vs dark-side of the Force issues, and we learn Vergere is as powerful in the Force as any Jedi, but she doesn't see much of a distinction between "sides" of the Force and doesn't consider herself anything close to a Jedi. The issues explored in this book have the potential to completely revolutionize the whole Jedi order, and maybe in the end, this book will be the true heart and meaning of the whole series. If so, it ranks pretty high in my book. I'm worried that Jacen will just be "deeper" now but everything else will go on as if nothing much happened, in which case I will look back on this story with annoyance. Kind of like the Star Trek: TNG episode where they discovered warp drive is ripping holes in the fabric of the Universe and vowed never to use it lightly again, a change in policy that was never ever mentioned again as they spent every episode warping about the galaxy from here to there, etc.

I'm not sure if this one was a page-turner because the plot developments were interesting or because I was trying to cut through all of the stupid socratic dialogue (even Anakin's ghost showed up, but he was talking like Vergere!) to get to the point. Fix that problem, and I'd put this in the top tier, especially if its significance casts a shadow on the rest of the series and beyond. At the very least, I can say that I've got enough desire now to see the rest of the series through, something I didn't have so much after "Dark Journey" (which caused me to take a break of at least a few months).

Posted by Observer at 07:24 AM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2007

Confession

The headlines this morning talk of one of the 9/11 "masterminds" confessing to the whole plot after years in Guantanamo. Why is this news? I mean, the guy has been through God knows what in the last 5+ years, and now he trots into court and essentially reads a prepared statement (that was then edited before being released!), and we're all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief that everything is all settled. That maybe Osama is no big deal after all since we have this Khalid guy?

Of course, like anyone, I would love to get some genuinely good news in the War on Terror, whether from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or even from here in the U. S. But you're kidding yourself if you think this article constitutes news of any kind. This guy could've said he's King of the Fairies in Pixieland and probably believed it after all this time. I imagine wingnuts will be jumping up and down declaring victory over this. Sadly, though, no news coming from Guantanamo can be good, just from an objective standpoint. Garbage in, garbage out, you know?

That's why liberals like me never wanted it in the first place. Attaturk has more on all of the crimes Khalid has confessed to (quite a list!) as well as the timing of this article. I'm actually not too suspicious about the timing. These days, every week is some new horrific news about the Bush administration, so any kind of government-generated news like this is bound to "bury" a bad story.

Posted by Observer at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2007

No Such Luck

Well, the two little ones are mostly okay now, though they are both really whiny today. Part of that, I am sure, is boredom because only daddy is home to entertain and there's no school (and no segment-killing errands to the mall playground while people are sick). D*niel has gotten so used to my routine that anytime I say I'm going out, he says, "Does running errands have a playground?" as if "running errands" is "the mall". They do have good playgrounds at both of the malls close to us, and D*aniel always has a blast there.

Anyway, the illness chain of pain continues as now C*dy has come down with the barfs, which kept him up all night and are making him miserable today. Unfortunately for his friend, C*dy just spent the last 48 hours basically eating, sleeping and playing Xbox in the same room as said friend, who is now virtually certain to come down with whatever C*dy's got, and it will then spread through their house. Oh well, we DID warn them that a bug was spreading in our house before the friend came over. I turned away my own Mom today, who had offered to come down this week to visit and help with the kids. It was painful to do it, believe me! I hope everyone is healthy soon.

Couldn't really sit comfortably at the computer yesterday, so I absorbed a lot of TV, including American Idol. I found a pretty good website to follow called Vote for the Worst which encourages everyone to vote for the worst contestant for the humor value. They predict through some other call-tracking website whose data-gathering technique was not revealed that Sanjaya is not only safe this week but was the #3 vote-getter. That's hilarious, because he has been pretty comically bad from the start.

It's the judges' fault for letting him get this far, if I'm being honest (my Simon impression). The whole show last night was pretty boring for me, not my kind of music. The only half-decent Diana Ross remakes that were sung were blasted by the judges for straying too far from the original. Yes, and next week they'll be back to telling people not to sing it like the original because they suffer by comparison, etc. Oh well, as long as I have a good book in front of me (or a half-decent book, even), it is fun to watch and laugh once in a while.

Update: Oh well, I guess that website wasn't all that reliable. Sanjaya was in the bottom three, but he was safe.

Posted by Observer at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

Why Tigana?

The spam has gotten less these days, for what reason I don't know. Maybe I've stuck with this version of MT for so long, the spammers have passed me by and aren't backwards compatible or something. I'd really love to just be able to stick with this blog engine for a while longer, if only to delay the inevitable rebuilding of my blog and all internal embedded links in the sidebar from the ground up.

Anyway, what's weird is that I would guess about half of the spams that I see (the ones that aren't automatically blacklisted and denied) are directed toward a single post, my review of Guy Gavriel Kay's "Tigana". I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Oh well, time to go see if I can get back onto a normal sleep schedule and hope we get through the night without someone in the house vomiting.

Posted by Observer at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

Normal Again

I've gradually felt better after sleeping through the night and most of the morning, but poor little D*niel spent the night throwing up, and poor mommy (M*chelle) was up with him the whole time. So she had to forget about work today to take care of all of us sick people and catch up on her own sleep. D*niel is feeling better now. He kept down an apple and a few other little things today.

He came out tonight after a long nap and said, "I think I can feel better if I eat some potato chips now." So we obliged, and he has had lots of water. Baby Ben has seemed to come out of his illness from over the weekend, but just when we think we're out of the woods, he'll barf up a bunch of food. So for now, he's mostly on formula, which he's thankfully drinking a normal amount of for now.

I've found lately that I'm getting good at making Ben smile and laugh no matter what mood he's in. It's nice to have that bond with him. He's a real go-getter. Wants to go walkabout (or crawlabout) all the time, and he gets pretty mad when we gate him off to trap him in a room, no matter how big or how many toys. He'll butt his head or push with his hands against our bedroom door if he wants in. We have a long mirror in there resting on the floor, and he likes to visit the other little baby he sees there and babble at him.

Politics-wise, I've been keeping up with current events. I like how firing a bunch of US attorneys for not being sufficiently Republican is apparently no big deal to Republicans, but when a bunch of holdover Travel Office staffers were let go after an audit uncovered problems after Clinton took office, that was a HUGE NATIONAL SCANDAL.

I have to say I also find it pretty funny how "RULE OF LAW" Republicans are now acting like lying to Congress or perjury or obstruction of justice are just "technicalities", and they're all but demanding pardons for Libby. Of course, the game in reality is that they're asking for immediate pardons, trying to set the limit of the debate WAY out there so that when Bush pardons Libby after long, painful, careful consideration, people will think it was the middle-of-the-road solution.

It's the most common tactic of Republicans these days, shifting the so-called "Overton Window" to the right while trying always to marginalize the left as "fringe" even when the polls show our views are firmly in the mainstream on most issues ranging from the war to taxes to health care. Fox News is critical to doing this, and I for one am glad to see Dems refusing to debate on Fox News. Marginalizing Fox will help bring the window of respectable debate back to the true center instead of the right wing.

Posted by Observer at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007

Can't Get Warm

Well, whatever our little one came down with a couple of days ago has passed on to me, so now I've got some kind of flu bug. I remembered Humbaba's trick for keeping warm, but I don't have a warm hat. I just put on a hooded sweatshirt, and I finally got kind of warm. Anyway, this sucks.

Posted by Observer at 07:43 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2007

Travelogue

For those who like a good trip story, one of the radio guys I listen to, Bob Sturm went to England for a few days to watch some Premier League soccer, including the recent big match in which Manchester United visited Liverpool.

The one and only time I ever went to Europe, it took me 4-5 days to get my sleep schedule figured out. Then again, it was a high-stress trip as I was nearing my PhD completion, and it wasn't fun. Plus, I used to have insomnia pretty bad back then, one reason I'm such a voracious reader. I wish I had had more time then to see the sights.

Oh, and since my plans to start another big series (Martin) were delayed for a few years with a nice save from Humbaba, I have to find something else to read. I have several stand-alones, but I really feel like diving into another long, solid series. I don't want to learn 15 new character names and personalities only to have the whole story go up in smoke after a mere 300 pages, at least not right now.

For lack of anything better on my immediate bookshelf, I've decided to plow through the last eight books or so that I have left to read of "The New Jedi Order", which I dropped for a while after they decided to kill off one of the few non-movie characters I was interested in following. The next books are by the same guy who did good work on the "X-Wing" series, so maybe it won't be so bad.

Posted by Observer at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2007

Robin Hobb

I've had book reviews out on the web, mostly speculative fiction, for probably more than a dozen years now, and people who have read them often will send me advice on what else I might enjoy. Usually, I can pick through that advice and find out what I would really like and what people are just trying to push on me that probably isn't my style. Acting on several different recommendations over the years, I picked up the first book of Robin Hobb's "Farseer Trilogy", which is called Assassin's Apprentice.

I had avoided this for a while because I was pretty dubious about picking up another fantasy book about an assassin, having been spoiled by Brust's Vlad Taltos series. It's the same reason, in some sense, that I avoid vampire books, having read enough Anne Rice and John Steakley and seen enough on TV and movies lately that I just don't feel up to another vampire story. I worried that this would be a juvenile attempt to write a fantasy story about some super-cool ninja-style assassin with special powers and stupid dialogue, directed to the Piers Anthony crowd.

Then I read the first few chapters and realized my worries were definitely unfounded. This is a story for grownups, not because of language, sex or violence, but rather because of the carefully crafted plots and characters, the subtle writing and symbolism and the gritty "reality" of life.

Yes, the main character is an assassin, but that's because he's a royal bastard whose father is dead and who wants to serve his king somehow and find a way to repay the generosity of those who took him in. The trilogy starts with young Fitz as a child, raised by a stablemaster who takes pity on the boy, then it follows him into early adulthood while the kingdom around him undergoes all kinds of violent convulsions, mostly thanks to a horrible war thrust upon them by barbaric raiders who have a way to turn their human captives into a living zombie-like state that can't be cured.

Impressed, I looked up a bit more about Hobb and realized that it is actually Megan Lindholm, who co-wrote the very good stand-alone novel The Gypsy with Steven Brust. Hell, if I had known that, I would've read this series a long time ago. I'll have to review that book sometime, but back to this series...

Being a bastard is dangerous, of course. Some in the royal line want him dead, just to remove a potential competitor for the throne someday. Others want to keep him close and keep him loyal, including the king, who sees that Fitz is trained to be a royal "helper" who keeps the kingdom stable by poisoning the odd noble here and there who is causing trouble during the war or various other missions.

But there is also the Fool, the court jester, a really neat character who is a prophet in disguise. Few take him seriously, but the Fool sees Fitz as a catalyst who can change the course of history for the better. And so the Fool gives Fitz advice and glimpses of his future while Fitz is trained to help the king with his limited "magical" powers, equivalent to a sort of telepathic gift. Fitz also has "the wit", which means he can bond with an animal as a sort of familiar, in the classic fantasy role-playing sense.

The books are long, and the plot is very dense. I think I've written enough to give you a flavor for what the story is basically about. It's a little slow at times, but in retrospect, I can't imagine anything I would've have seriously chopped out. There are a few really great villains, and most everyone else is human in the best possible sense, with secrets, flaws, personality tics and unpredictability, even the so-called "bad guys" in many cases.

The first trilogy ends with a very long quest (no spoiler there since "Assassin's Quest" is the title of the third book), and to me, that part was the weakest and most boring portion of the whole six books. I was disappointed that the story took the turn that led to the quest, and I was disappointed with the way it was resolved, partly because I was so fond of the characters who were lost or changed so deeply as a result.

The fourth book (first book of the "Tawny Man" trilogy) was maybe my favorite, taking place about ten years after the end of the third book. It actually served as an excellent and very moving epilogue to the first series. You could read those four books right there and have a very fine fantasy set and be done with only a few loose ends. But the last two are great, and the sixth book ends with all of the promise I had hoped to see fulfilled in the third book. There are many emotionally draining, uplifting and satisfying scences in the second trilogy, more so than the first because it is more "grown up" (Fitz is a middle-aged man by this time, after all), and I liked the second trilogy better overall.

But you really need to read the very good first trilogy to fully enjoy the even better second trilogy. This set of books, like I said, is long and dense and took me the better part of two months to fully get through (which is why I haven't posting many new book reviews lately, been waiting to finish this). Hobb has another trilogy set in the same world called "The Liveship Traders" which I'm sure will be good, and she is writing a fourth trilogy set in a completely different world, I believe, that is just coming out with the last book within months.

I may wait a while to read the "Liveship" trilogy just to give my brain a chance to rest and recuperate, but I will definitely read it and the fourth series as soon as it is all out in paperback. Of all the new authors I've tried in the past few years, Hobb/Lindholm is the best, and that's facing some stiff competition with the likes of Elizabeth Moon's "Paksennarion" and Bujold.

I also note that a lot of the same people who like George R. R. Martin are big fans of Hobb's series, so I already went and got the Swords trilogy by him. I'm sure it will be excellent, and I may read that one next.

Posted by Observer at 06:58 AM | Comments (10)

March 08, 2007

Blistered

Joke Line tries to talk about the latest nonsense "scandal" to erupt for a prominent Democrat, the issue of Obama's blind trust investments. Like the Gore energy bill, there's really not even an issue here. The real story, like with every non-scandal from Whitewater onward, is why these stories are getting such prominent play by our "liberal" media.

The comments to this post alone could be edited into a very good book on why the traditional media is so broken and why "liberal" pundits like Joe Klein are hurting us more than helping us.

Posted by Observer at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

Winning

The First Conservative Rule of Iraq is that any news is good news. If the insurgents melt away in the face of our "surge" into Baghdad, that's great news, shows us Bush is a genius and we are winning. If attacks increase, that's also good news because it shows how desperate they are. It proves the insurgency is in its "last throes".

So this news that the insurgency is alive and thriving must be the bestest news ever! We're winning even harder!

Posted by Observer at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2007

Bad Behavior

Notice to any member of Congress who supported the horrible bankruptcy bill two years ago that basically screwed people over in return for campaign contributions from credit card companies and banks.

Don't think some stupid grandstanding at a committee hearing is going to make things right. You can publicly scold these companies all you want, but that doesn't matter when you let them write the laws that you pass!

This applies to members of both parties. I expect this kind of behavior from shitty Republicans. Democrats can and should do better.

Posted by Observer at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

Straight from the Talking Points

Yesterday, in anticipation of how the traditional media would respond to the Libby verdict, Media Matters released a summary of its research to date on the various aspects of the Wilson/Plame affair. For example, it is hard to imagine that still, after all this time, people are still trying to claim that there was no crime committed, that Plame wasn't really covert. At least, it is hard to imagine until you remember that the traditional media will happily propagate the most outrageous crap, especially in the interest of "on the one hand..." reporting, which makes them look balanced.

You know, like "Mathematicians unanimously agree that 2 + 2 = 4, but an expert working for the non-partisan Math Facts Institute has published a petition with 30,000 signatures claiming that 2 + 2 = 5, a fact that has left many professionals stunned. If 2 + 2 really does equal 5, then the mathematics community has a lot of explaining to do."

That's the kind of crap you expect from Fox News, but these days, you can also read a whole laundry list of false statements supporting the Bush administration's position on this from such ultra-liberal socialist left-wing fringe islamofascist sympathizing America-hating outlets as, you know, The Washington Post.

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

March 06, 2007

Fitzmas!

March 6 will be known as "Fitzmas" for now, anyway, since federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald managed to attain guilty verdicts for Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby today, mainly for obstructing the investigation. The verdict here was never all that important, though. What really matters now is whether all of the information that came out during the trial can now be used to fix the problems inherent in the current relationship between the media and government officials. And, most importantly, whether the thread can now be followed to those higher on the power food chain, to Karl Rove, George Bush or, highest of all, Dick Cheney.

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

March 05, 2007

Blame

Kinda funny to watch the ConservaBorg react to the Walter Reed scandal. They keep flailing around, trying to figure out someone, ANYONE, to blame it on other than the Bush administration. Hell, even the troops make convenient scapegoats at this point, so painting them as a bunch of belly-achers is an argument making the rounds. Or firing the "few bad apples" who were nominally in charge of things.

Another funny one is trying to paint this as a failure of "government-run health care". That would be great, but oops, it turns out Walter Reed has been undergoing major and systematic privatization, replacing career professionals with private firm low-bidders, cutting costs on facilities and services, etc. Prior to that, things weren't great, but they were a lot better. And then Bush poured thousands of wounded into the new-and-degraded system.

This has been another edition of "right-wing pundits can say ANYTHING THEY WANT without facing any accountability from the traditional media that pays them to appear and argue things." Tune in next week for Ann Coulter's post-"faggot" CNN tour de force.

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

March 04, 2007

Fixed

We had been hesitant to hire a contractor to fix the tile problems in our kitchen and upstairs bathroom, mainly because I feared how much chaos it would introduce into the household, especially if the process dragged on for longer than a few days. I thought about putting it off until Spring Break when I could be here every day to kind of supervise, but then a tile in the kitchen cracked. The tile there had buckled, popping about 12 tiles up, due to some water getting in somehow through the outside wall. We think we have identified and will fix this before it rains again.

Anyway, my brother had helpfully provided me with some names, but most of those I found were up closer to his part of the area we live in. I didn't want to make a contractor drive an hour each way just to fix some tile, but I was about to pick someone off the list. Anyway, on that day, a husband and wife contracting team left a flyer on our door, so since they were local and it seemed like fate, we gave them a call and asked for an estimate.

They gave us a very reasonable estimate, and they could also work around our schedule. They were sympathetic to our situation as they have eight kids to our five. They promised to be in and out and done over this weekend, and they were good to their word. The replaced the tile in the kitchen, and it looks great. They also pulled up all the tile in the upstairs bathroom, replaced the floor beneath it with a sturdier piece of plywood and tile backing (the old tile had been glued directly to the plywood, apparently), and put sturdier stuff down, replacing and resealing the toilet in the process (it had been leaking a little and we hadn't known).

It's a real relief that they didn't pull up that tile and reveal some kind of extensive water damage or a broken pipe under our kitchen or something. Anyway, about six hundred dollars later, all is well. I'll have to give my brother their contact info, because this team was very helpful, and we may use them again for other projects. I would much rather shell out a few hundred than tackle some of the big projects we could do around here (like removing paneling, painting and/or texturing, tile work, etc). I'm the anti-handyman. I can't even caulk in a straight line.

Posted by Observer at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2007

Comments

The best reading on the internet lately has been the comment section of Time's blog, especially this one, where we discuss why the traditional media wrings its hands over the hateful comments of a few anonymous posters (probably trolls trying to make liberal web sites look bad, to be completely honest) while at the same time lauding the accomplishments of Ann Coulter (who implied John Edwards is a "faggot" this weekend) or Michelle Malkin (whose list of craziness is more impressive, believe it or not).

Digby has more on "normalizing crazy".

Posted by Observer at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2007

Rare Form

Bob Somerby is always at his best when writing about Al Gore and how the media treats him. This latest column isn't related to the electric bill fiasco (which I'm surprised Bob hasn't talked about yet, but he largely reacts to columnists more so than front-page news articles, and the columnists haven't gotten around to reacting to the laundered Gore press release yet), but it is instead about how pundits today talk about Gore.

It is really amazing how little accountability there is with these people. Aside from plagiarism, is there any instance in the past 20 years in which a major columnist for a major news outlet been fired for any reason? Such as basic incompetence or inaccuracy? When pundits like Joke Line talk about their lack of "security" these days, what with decreasing readership, all of the rabble in the blogs causing trouble and questioning them and criticizing them with FOUL LANGUAGE no less, it makes me laugh. As a commenter to Klein said, when someone like Jonah Goldberg has a syndicated column in many major newspapers, why worry about accountability? There's obviously none.

Well, to be fair, none for right-wing pundits. Liberals (well, at least those who refer to themselves as liberals) have to be a lot more careful not to criticize the corporate owners, etc., but they're still fine as long as they bash Dems once in a while.

Posted by Observer at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2007

Another Update...

...to the professional hit job on Al Gore earlier this week. Media Matters has looked into the organization that started this, and naturally, they are primarily funded by the oil industry, which lately does have a lot of money to throw around (remember those quarterly profits?). Ultra-liberal socialist/communist hippie-loving fringe left newspapers like the Washington Post have proceeded to pretty much publish the anti-Gore press release verbatim, labeling it as from some kind of "libertarian" institute, with headlines and initial paragraphs that are highly misleading.

You know, I'd like to meet an actual libertarian someday, so I could ask him or her why they aren't more pissed off (and speaking out) at all of these stupid fucking Bush-supporting Republicans who try to pretend they are libertarians so the media treats them as neutral observers, even though they hold essentially no libertarian positions (except wanting lower taxes, but mostly for rich people).

Crooks and Liars has the video of Keith Olbermann's excellent response. Keep in mind that Olbermann's show, along with Stewart/Colbert represents pretty much the only two hours in the 24 hour news cycle (actually about 240 hours spread out over many different networks) that you could actually say is consistently trashing Republicans (though Dems are not immune on either show). FAIR has the details. I say bring back the Fairness Doctrine. It's the only way to make the corporate owners of the media outlets play fair.

Posted by Observer at 08:52 PM | Comments (4)

HoMM V

Heroes of Might and Magic V is finally out for the Mac. No demo, but the press is good for the identical Windows version. Supposedly loyal to the fine tradition in Heroes III (a game I still play) with just spiffier graphics and more options. I hope they didn't screw up the game too much, because Heroes III is my favorite turn-based game ever, even better than Civ.

Posted by Observer at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)