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Terribly Sad
Friday, July 21, 2006

I support the existence of the Country of Israel. I also support the formation of the Country of Palestine. I do not support the horrible war that Israel is visiting on Lebanon and Gaza. I do not support the attacks of Palestinians and others on Israel (though I find it easier to understand the attacks of the weak on the powerful -- what else are they supposed to do...) I do not support the acquiescence and complicity of my government in the slaughter. Terror is terror whether it is carried out by nation-states or small groups. It is never justified.

This is just more horror visited on the world. Nothing good will come of it in the short or long run. It emboldens the stupid and the rash. It supports only the convictions of the worst. We will not have peace through the killing of children. We will not have peace through war.

I'm sorry.

Garbage in, Garbage out
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The National Asset Database

[It] so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

This would be funny if it was.

American Naivete
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From Riverbend's Baghdad Burning via the NYT:

We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?

It's not naivete, it's forced denial.

Wonderful Greenwald essay
Thursday, May 11, 2006


Better late than never: thanks Steven Colbert
Thursday, May 11, 2006

My three favorites

I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

I stand for this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things, things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.

Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration ? You know, fiction !

More non-surprises
Thursday, May 11, 2006

New evidence, however, suggests that these [abstinence only] programs have contributed to soaring rates of unplanned pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and, yes, abortions among women who are young or poor.

hmm, why can't I get paid big bucks to do nothing badly?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I must not know the right people... If enough circumstantial evidence [NYT] piles up in the forest. Does it make a stink?

Good for whom?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A very well documented discussion of what's good for whom from FAIR. Short version: rich get richer and the poor get ... ignored. Wait, that's not news.

pretty pictures
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I take issue with the presentation and some of the conclusions being promoted (there are several correlation must mean causality issues for example) but the pictures are nice.

Billmon - exactly
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?

If you want, read the whole thing. It's good.

Systemic problems
Thursday, April 6, 2006

Insurance companies: what's their goal? To make money for shareholders or to help those that get hurt?

"If last year's hurricane season had occurred 10 years ago, it would have been devastating for the company," said Allstate Vice President Fred F. Cripe in an interview. "Last year, it was merely disappointing."

Disappointing? Whoa. What's your purpose?

Good news, bad news from American Scientist
Monday, April 3, 2006

Good news:

Propensity for Deep-Seated Receptors Make Bird Flu Tough to Transmit

Two new studies may knock back the notion that avian flu will emerge as the world's next great flu pandemic. That's because the same characteristic that makes the flu so deadly also makes it very difficult to transmit from person to person, according to studies appearing in the journals Nature and Science.

Bad news:

Studies: Sea Levels May Rise More, and More Rapidly, Than Previously Believed

Sea levels may rise higher and faster than previously believed, according to new studies that synthesize the latest research into melting glaciers and ice sheets with fossil review of impacts from long-ago periods of climate change. The research, published in the journal Science, comes in with a new upper limit for sea level rise: It's possible that seas could climb as high as 20 feet by the end of the century. Such a dramatic jump would swallow low-lying islands and atolls and would advance on heavily populated coastal areas on every continent.

Civilization is nothing more than an elaborate game...
Saturday, April 1, 2006

Dave Pollard:

Civilization is nothing more than an elaborate game we have all agreed to play because the rules appear to be mostly fair, and the scorekeeping mostly truthful.

Those of us on the pessimistic side of the blogosphere have been predicting the collapse of civilization in this century, brought about by some combination of overpopulation, overconsumption, global warming, the end of oil, epidemic disease, cascading natural disasters and universal access to recipes for weapons of mass destruction. What we may not have noticed, like those in the Great Depression who didn't call it that until it had been in full swing for four years, is that civilizational collapse has already begun. Not with any of the aforementioned 'bangs' but with a whimper: the loss of importance of law and truth, as the belief and respect of many for them has slowly eroded to nothing.

Depressing thoughts: the game is already over, we just haven't realized it. I think he may well be right.

Greed all around
Thursday, March 30, 2006

"All you need is love or a blank paycheck," Speiss said.

Apple Computer / Apple Corporation / Music / etc... Blah.

More Harper's
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Arkansas science teacher was ordered not to tell his students the actual age of stones. A poll found that Americans trust atheists even less than Muslims, recent immigrants, and lesbians, and a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, found that confident, self-reliant children tend to grow up to be liberals, while whiny, annoying children tend to grow up to be conservatives.

What about whiny, self-reliant children?

Capitalism means you can't stand on principles
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

from Harper's

Colgate announced that it would buy Tom's of Maine for about $100 million.

James Howard Kunstler opens up
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's a rant, but it's a good one:

It was interesting to note over in England how many people were out enjoying themselves in the public realm, with other people. By public realm I mean in the streets, the cafes, the pubs, the parks, the riverside promenades and other places explicitly designed for humans to enact their hard-wired social proclivities. Everywhere I went in Oxford, Cambridge, and London I was amazed at the hordes of young people so obviously enjoying the company of groups of their friends, and what a contrast this was to the current culture back home where you hardly ever see anything but a couple, or perhaps two couples, out in a bar or restaurant, and where the Starbucks cafes are filled with solitary individuals, and the streets are for cars only, usually with lone occupants. It was also startling in England to see groups of old people walking together in the streets or sitting on a blanket in the park, because in America old people have been conditioned to go about outside of home only in cars. Today's older Americans have spent their entire lives in a car-obsessed culture in which walking is seen as uncomfortable at least and at worst socially stigmatizing, something only winos do.

Erosion happens
Monday, March 20, 2006

In both the natural and the political world:

To understand just how House Republicans are eroding the legislative process, one must first understand how the chamber's committee system is supposed to work.

This is a very depressing article from the LA times on the changes occurring in the federal government's legislative process. If true (and I have a feeling that it is), then why hasn't it been more reported? Facts like the amount of time between bill introduction and hearings should be easy for reporters to gather. Will the other shoe ever drop?

Minimum wage
Friday, March 10, 2006

Over the past ten years, Members of Congress have raised their own pay by $31,000, but the minimum wage hasn't gone up a cent. It's still just $5.15 - $10,700 a year for a full-time worker. No one can live on that. It's more than $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. In the wealthiest country on the face of the earth, no one who works for a living should have to live in poverty.

Senator Kennedy wants to do something about it.... You can sign up to show your support.

Rumsfeld says Iraqis will need to fight their own civil war
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Or something like that.

Jonathan Schell is worth reading
Friday, February 24, 2006

Via Tom's Dispatch.

Schell steps back from Ground Zero to view the crisis of the republic.

hallmarks of a moral coward
Monday, February 20, 2006

Josh Marshall:

It's all of a piece with the man's record. He's afraid of accountability. That's why he's such a fan of self-protecting secrecy. That's why he's big on smearing government whistle-blowers. It's really just two sides of the same coin. He's afraid of accountability. It's the same reason why he's such a notorious prevaricator -- lies to avoid accountability.

Thanks Dick.

Apathy - why we keep fighting
Friday, February 17, 2006

Roger Ebert on Why We fight:

One watches "Why We Fight," and nods, and sighs, and leaves.

What it says should concern us, but apparently it does not.

White house to review spying rules
Friday, February 17, 2006

This makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Having an opposition party in this country would be a good thing.

From my brother
Thursday, February 16, 2006

Very cute (and true)!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pain rays are U.S.:

The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture.

The medical model of human as a system of sub-systems implies that you can cause pain without causing damage. A holistic or autopoietic model implies that this is nonsense. I'm depressed that we're working on such a thing. It's so open for abuse (warning, graphic and disturbing images).

Trust ............................. Gap
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The NYT gets it:

We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

Don't drink the water
Sunday, February 12, 2006

It looks clean but that's mostly marketing:

Bottled water, the designer-look drink that has become a near-universal accessory of modern life, may be refreshing but it certainly isn't clean. A major new study has concluded that its production is seriously damaging the environment.

death by a thousand blows
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Just in case you hadn't noticed, we're in a Bushworld too absurd for words. But that hasn't stopped this administration from yakking its collective head off.

Tom Engelhardt waxes sarcastically about our administration's efforts to destroy the country while staying in power.

The dark humor is a natural reaction but probably a disservice. Still, what can the real opposition do when the putative opposition is all too ready to get along. Speaking truth to power is hard. Authenticity is hard.

tragic regardless of your viewpoint
Tuesday, February 7, 2006

This is from the World Socialist website but it's terrible regardless.

One of the terrible legacies of the criminal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the number of maimed, sick or traumatized former US soldiers—many of them barely in their twenties—who will require medical assistance for the rest of their lives. For political reasons, the scope of the tragedy is barely being reported despite the impact it is having on a significant layer of young men and women, their families and communities.

Even worse, however, is the cost to the Afghani and Iraqi societies.

We need an independent counsole
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Must read article from the Nation's Ari Berman.

Krugman nails it again
Saturday, February 4, 2006

In case you haven't read this yet, it's worth it.

So President Bush's plan to reduce imports of Middle East oil turns out to be no more substantial than his plan — floated two years ago, then flushed down the memory hole — to send humans to Mars.


In other words, this administration is all politics and no policy. It knows how to attain power, but has no idea how to govern. ... [I]t's why the state of the union — the thing itself, not the speech — is so grim.

Hello Ohio?
Friday, February 3, 2006

House Republicans are taking a mulligan on the first ballot for Majority Leader. The first count showed more votes cast than Republicans present at the Conference meeting. Stay with for updates.

via Roll Call via Bruce Schneier.

With plans like these...
Thursday, February 2, 2006

US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

One sort of, kind of has to hope that we remain incompetent.

how does this sort of thing keep happening
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

From Harper's:

It was revealed that Senator Bill Frist's AIDS charity had paid almost a half-million dollars in consulting fees to Frist's political friends...

Shouldn't people have more sense and politicians less guile?

Media Matters Matters
Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lies, hypocrisy, etc. the entire Media Matters piece ought to be a must read for all, especially for reporters...

The Washington Post repeated GOP spin that the NSA spying is a clear winner for them; the Post didn't bother to include so much as a hint that an apparently illegal violation of civil liberties ordered by a wildly unpopular president might not be as much of a slam-dunk winner as Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman would have us believe.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Who's the leech?

Stan Cox asks
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Is it possible for a corporation that sells everyday, necessary products like food to do three things at once: (1) pay a living wage, (2) charge prices that most people can afford and (3) provide an acceptable return to its shareholders?

Go and see for yourself...

Remember, the law only applies when convenient
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Alberto Gonzales on FISA:

But Gonzales said following that law would overly burden the government with paperwork and other requirements when it needed to respond quickly.

Um, you really can't make this stuff up.

Connections and consequences
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Paul Krugman explains some of why you can get powered up in Iraq. To condense:

The US decided to base electricity generation on natural gas but instead of building the required pipelines, they pushed to concentrate on oil production.

The US choose not to raise electricity prices for fear of creating unrest but also removed tariffs so that richer Iraqis bought lots of power hungry new appliances and toys.

It's hard to do things right if you don't understand how things connect.

the fourth
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

how quaint.

Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

Global Guerrillas... growing disruptions
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

As we coast along the crest of sword, remember to:

... be prepared to see a growing emphasis on the selection of targets ... that cause cascading system failures -- failures that maximize the scope of the damage to the scale free and tightly coupled networks we see in developed countries.

... guerrillas don't need to achieve either an absolute moral or economic victory. All that is needed in this hyper-competitive globalized economic environment is an effort that damages the ability of the target state to compete -- Adam Smith's invisible hand will quickly take care of the rest.

Go girl
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Molly Ivins:

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes. The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. Who are you afraid of?

Who is the dummy?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

You decide:

So, the question for the American people remains — is Bush so ill-informed that his war policy is guided by a false historical analysis and so forgetful that he can't remember important events in which he played a leading role?

Or does Bush think that the American people are so gullible that they will buy whatever he sells them — as long as he does it with a folksy charm?

Why do they hate us?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Let me count the ways

This was another example of how what we do there does not fully register here. There are tens of thousands of Pakistanis in the streets and outraged--as they should be--at the violation of their national sovereignty (by a supposed ally!) that led to the killing of their fellow citizens. If it turns out that General Pervez Musharraf knew about the attack in advance and okayed it (explicitly or implicitly), he may well have trouble staying in power. Meanwhile, this certainly makes one (or should make one) think of that old, cliched question: why do they hate us? Hey, I know; it's only a dozen or so lives. But here you have the big, bad U.S. of A. raining death down from the sky with impunity, treating faraway villagers as nobodies that no one in Washington needs to worry about. No one pays for this. No one is punished. Can you spell "resentment."

Global warming is just a theory
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Let's ignore it.

A team of biologists and climate scientists says in a new study that it has linked the extinction of a widespread group of animals to global warming.

Besides, it'll cost too much to fix and only the little people will be hurt... sigh.

Say it loud, Al!
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Man, I wish this guy had fought for his victory. Man, I wish this guy had campaigned harder. Man, I wish our SCLM had given him a break.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

After Downing Street, After lies about Iraq, WMD, After dropping the ball on Al Quaida, After Katrina, After Medicare, After deficits, After all this corruption and mismanagement and lying and stealing and death... Can we please impeach him and Cheney and fire Rumsfeld and move on. For god's sake, let's stop the repression.

Nuclear thoughts
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm probably being dreadfully naive but why is it that we get to decide who does and doesn't get to build nuclear power plants or even nuclear weapons? Why is no one pointing out that the US under Bush et. al. is investing heavily in new types of nuclear weapons and not pursuing disarmament? Why are we being referred to the security council for ditching the ABM treaty (don't hear much about that anymore), nuclear proliferation (our own), etc., etc.

Do I want Iran to have nuclear bombs? No. Do I want the U.S. to have nuclear bombs? No. Do I trust my government? What reason has it given me lately for trust.

Way to help our allies
Sunday, January 15, 2006


Rallies around the country continued fitfully today to protest the United States airstrikes on a Pakistani village that were intended to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader of Al Qaeda, but killed at least 18 civilians.

Molly Ivins
Sunday, January 15, 2006

She is so often on target, it's scary.

My theory is that they don't tell him anything, that's why the president keeps sounding like he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Irony from high places
Saturday, January 14, 2006

The United States will not allow Spain to sell military aircraft with American technology to Venezuela, saying the sale would aid the increasingly "antidemocratic" government of President Hugo Chávez and would destabilize the region, the American Embassy announced Friday.

Ha, ha, these Washington guys sure are funny (NYT).

Chávez: democratically elected.

Bush: one election clearly stolen (from my point of view at least) and another that smells pretty fishy. And talk about destabilizing!

A surprisingly fine editorial from the NYT
Friday, January 13, 2006

Confirmation hearings seem unlikely to shed muck light on what a person really believes now. The NYT calls him on several statements but it doesn't seem as if enough attention is being paid by the people that can actually do something about it.

I can't tell whether Alito is a reasonable man or a man on mission. I fear the latter and wish there was something that could be done to stop his nomination and find a justice closer to the center. Alas, "the worst are full of passionate intensity and the center cannot hold."

US army in Iraq institutionally racist
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Imagine that.

It's often that of which we are not aware that turns our greatest assets into flaws. I think that almost all of the men and women serving in the US Army are great people and want to help and do great work. But their leaders have failed to train them and guide them so that are trapped in a morass. Damn sad.

Bush's failed anti-terrorism strategy
Tuesday, January 10, 2006

From Michael T. Klare via Tom's Dispatch:

President Bush has essentially guaranteed America's failure. In the final analysis, the President's incompetent management of the war on terror has helped the jihadists take better advantage of their strengths while exploiting America's weaknesses. This does not bode well for the future of global peace and stability.

Don't bet that it can't keep getting worse
Monday, January 9, 2006

From the Observer:

Hunger strikers are tied down and fed through nasal tubes, admits Guantánamo Bay doctor

You can't make this stuff up
Sunday, January 8, 2006

As usual, this would be funny if it was.

In 2003, lawmakers tried to get a handle on Bush's use of signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill that required the department to inform Congress whenever the administration decided to ignore a legislative provision on constitutional grounds.

Bush signed the bill, but issued a statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.

There ought to be a law... of course, if there was it would be ignored.

Howard, Howard, Howard
Sunday, January 8, 2006

Telling it straight! Yes!!

And I think, frankly, that Joe is absolutely wrong, that it is incumbent on every American who is patriotic and cares about their country to stand up for what's right and not go along with the president, who is leading us in a wrong direction.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006


"There is a battle for the future in science and technology. That's what is going to govern the future of our country. Not increasing investments in those areas sends a signal the country is going to regret," said Dr. Harold Varmus, a former NIH director and Nobel Prize winner who now heads the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Blank checks and balances
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bruce Schneier:

if people from both the Legislative and the Judiciary branches knowingly permitted unlawful surveillance by the Executive branch, then the current system of checks and balances isn't working.

Government out of balance.

Standing up, sitting down, training wheels
Monday, December 19, 2005

Those delightful Iraqi troops. They even get to play with pretend guns

U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns.

Aren't they cute.

I'm all for it
Monday, December 19, 2005

Democracy Now:

President Bush has admitted he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without ever seeking court approval. Famed constitutional attorney Martin Garbus and former intelligence officer Christopher Pyle both say it is an impeachable offense.

No matter where you go
Monday, December 19, 2005

There you are. Are successful people happy or do happy people become successful?

The results of all three types of studies suggest that happiness does lead to behaviours that often produce further success in work, relationships and health and these successes result in part from a person's positive effect

Situation Normal: Rich get Richer
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From the Florida Sentinel:

A FEMA program to reimburse applicants for generators and storm cleanup items has benefited middle- and upper-income Floridians the most and so far cost taxpayers more than $332 million for the past two hurricane seasons, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found in a continuing investigation of disaster aid.

United States: world power, two year old, or both
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Toronto Star says that the US walked out of climate talks because they got mad at something Paul Martin said.

Wah, Wah. That Mean Mr. Martin called me names.

I dislike headlines like this. The country didn't walk out; probably about half of its citizens agree with Martin and wish our delegation had stayed.

Meany, Meany, I'm not listening

Aside from the fact that it's obvious that the US was looking for any excuse to learn, blaming our reaction on an exceptionally mild remark from Martin is almost insulting.

They're my toys and you can't play anymore. Wah

Truth stranger than fiction, blah blah blah
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From Harper's Weekly:

Iraq's Victorious Army Group was holding a contest to see who could design the best website to promote their message of jihad. The contest winner will receive Allah's blessings and be allowed to fire three rockets at an American military base.

Mike Wallace points out the obvious
Friday, December 9, 2005

Do you think that [your lack of experience] has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?

Thanks Mike!

Pelosi tries to hold someone accountable for something
Friday, December 9, 2005

Not that it will work.

I hope this is true
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

"As a matter of US policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT (Convention against Torture), which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to US personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," she said.

Though it's hard to know why anyone would believe her or the rest of this administration.

Robbing banks makes money
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Just like torture and illegal renditions save lives. The ends don't justify the means. My government isn't mine.

WSWS scores (though it's unlikely anyone will notice)
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

It is worth pointing out that it was Lieberman who, in September 1998, gave a scathing denunciation of President Clinton's conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair. This speech contributed to the political atmosphere in Washington in which the House Republicans could proceed to impeach Clinton for lying about a sexual affair. The senator from Connecticut has delivered no such moralizing sermon against George Bush and Richard Cheney for lying about a war that has cost the lives of more than 2,100 Americans and well over 100,000 Iraqis.

This is so obvious I don't know why anyone has to even say it... It's also so important that everyone should be saying it. Why isn't anyone listening?

Open Letter to O'Reilly
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Here's my response to Bill O'Reilly's latest inanity (see Media Matters for full details):

To Shane Coppola and Bill O'Reilly,

"Very secret plan" indeed. That's the silliest thing I've heard for a long while.

Unless the O'Reilly factor is supposed to be fictitious entertainment, it needs to be shut it down. Though many people appear to find it entertaining, spewing venom, attack and innuendo is not news. Bill O'Reilly talks about "secret plans" without proof, he talks about the main stream media advancing an agenda without proof, he says he will name names but does not, then he names three names but fails to back up his accusations. I'd be curious so see some links to "left wing smear sites going after anyone who stands for Christmas"; I'd be curious to understand how Stalin, Hitler, Zedong and Castro run "secular, progressive" societies; I'd be even more curious to understand why you let O'Reilly continue to blather on without regard for the truth or the basic standards of argument and conversation.


Gary King

Josh Marshall calls the NYT on "higher standard"
Thursday, December 1, 2005

From the NYT today:

Though some Republican officials said Democrats ... were equally guilty of questionable behavior, including lobbyist-paid trips and underreporting of campaign contributions, they acknowledged that Republicans, because they control the White House and Congress, are being held to a higher standard by many voters.

Josh Marshall notes that standards have nothing to do with it;

It's simply that the vast majority of the public corruption in Washington is being done by Republicans. Full stop. End of story.

There goes the liberal main stream media again, showing such bias towards the left, not. Way to say it Josh!

Ring the bells for impeachmnet
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No one can claim that any of this was unexpected. The dangers had been foreseen by numerous analysts and commentators long before the war started but they were ignored in Washington, mainly for ideological reasons.

Martin van Creveld, one of the world's foremost military historians, says that the Iraq war is the "most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them". He also thinks the Bush should be impeached.

I'm all for it.

Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman shows an astounding lack of insight. The word "tool" keeps coming to mind (thanks to

Winner: didn't get the message award
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Michael Brown:

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown announced that he was starting a disaster-preparedness company.

(reported in Harper's).

Bruce Schneier comments on Domestic Surveillance
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bruce Schneier weighs in on the increasing powers of the military to spy on US citizens.

Domestic Surveillance
Monday, November 28, 2005

The excellent Walter Pincus reports that

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

and the Democratic Veteran has excellent followup.

This is bad shit.

Wow - close to 2/3 or American's think Bush misleads
Monday, November 28, 2005

From a Harris Poll (via the WSJ).

While the telephone survey of 1,011 U.S. adults indicates about 64% of Americans believe the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends," opinion on the topic is clearly divided along party lines. A large majority (68% to 28%) of Republicans say the Bush administration generally provides accurate information. However, even larger majorities of Democrats (91% to 7%) and Independents (73% to 25%) think the information is generally misleading.

America: police state?
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bruce Scheier writes about the FBI policing efforts running up to New Year's day, 2004. On the basis of a rumor, the FBI collected gobs of information without telling anyone, probably still has the information and can use it for whatever purposes it deems fit without judicial oversight.

This isn't about our ability to combat terrorism; it's about police power. Traditional law already gives police enormous power to peer into the personal lives of people, to use new crime-fighting technologies, and to correlate that information. But unfettered police power quickly resembles a police state, and checks on that power make us all safer.

Compare and contrast with police efforts in Rotterdam

September 2005, Rotterdam. The police had already identified some of the 250 suspects in a soccer riot from the previous April, but most were unidentified but captured on video. In an effort to help, they sent text messages to 17,000 phones known to be in the vicinity of the riots, asking that anyone with information contact the police. The result was more evidence, and more arrests.

I think I know what kind of state in which I want to be living.

Scheier closes with this thought:

As more of our lives become digital, we leave an ever-widening audit trail in our wake. This information has enormous social value -- not just for national security and law enforcement, but for purposes as mundane as using cell-phone data to track road congestion, and as important as using medical data to track the spread of diseases. Our challenge is to make this information available when and where it needs to be, but also to protect the principles of privacy and liberty our country is built on.

Right on Bruce!

Reality on the ground... hope sinks again
Saturday, November 26, 2005

Holy Shrinking safety Batman, soon it'll be hard to go to bathroom in Baghdad.

Thanksgiving thoughts from Alter-net
Thursday, November 24, 2005


One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims


This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class -- one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.

I personally don't want to get rid of Thanksgiving. It's good to thankful for all we have. I would, however, like to move it away from its Pilgrim past. Maybe we could have a day of remembrance in November and move Thanksgiving to April or May as a sort of Spring-is-here, It's-great-to-be-alive, Winter-is-over.

Black Phosphorus
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Even if the US is right on the legality, there is no question that it has inflicted a serious propaganda blow on itself.


Jonathan Schell
Tuesday, November 22, 2005


We all keep referring to the "Bush Administration," yet administering seems to be the last thing on its mind.

Liars - why don't we care enough?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

From Harper's

A White House document showed that executives from large oil firms met with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force in 2001; the document was released a week after representatives from those firms testified before a Senate committee that they had not met with the task force.

Welcome Mr. Cronkite
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

For months, media watchers have wondered if we would any time soon witness another "Cronkite moment" -- some sort of dramatic statement by a mainstream media figure that would turn hearts and minds against an ill-advised war, for good. It hasn't happened. But perhaps a not-very-famous, 73-year-old gentleman named John Murtha will be the new Cronkite.

Thank you John Murtha!

Message: I'm embattled and embittered
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

This was a speech that presented Bush's case implausibly and inappropriately. It's hard for a president to sound unpresidential on a patriotic holiday, but Bush achieved that dubious distinction today.

the End of News?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In late September, the Government Accountability Office—a nonpartisan arm of Congress—issued a finding that the Bush administration had engaged in "covert propaganda," and thereby broken the law, by paying Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, to promote its educational policies. The GAO also faulted the administration for hiring a public relations firm to distribute video news segments without disclosing the government's part in producing them.

Read the whole review.

Why does Jimmy Carter Hate America?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S. custody.

Didn't he hear George say that "We don't torture"?

Well worth reading for a good summary of the many, many things that are heading in the wrong direction.

Interesting advice
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

CNN has a collection of advice e-mailed to the President. Who knows how filtered or selected it is but it's interesting regardless to hear (supposedly) real people talking. It's no surprise, but many still do not get it... I don't understand why anyone thinks it's important to be "united" in the good and bad or how someone can wave the canard of "if you don't like, leave". Sigh.

Posts I liked
Monday, November 14, 2005

Once upon a time... takes Nicholas Kristof (pay only link) sharply to task.

Meanwhile, Eric Alterman points to a funny Danial Day-Lewis:

"The media are sick and tired of people in my profession giving their opinion, and yet you're asking me my opinion. And when I give it, you'll say, 'Why doesn't he shut up?'"

Josh Marshall recommends a Truth and Reconciliation Commission today and reveals prescience back in 2003.

While it's conceivable that bold American action could democratize the Middle East, so broad and radical an initiative could also bring chaos and bloodshed on a massive scale.

And finally, the sad humor of political comics.

Guilty until dead
Monday, November 14, 2005

Senate votes down legal relief:

"What this will show is that we have abandoned the rule of law and are afraid to justify our detention and treatment of prisoners in a court of law." Jonathan Hafetz, a constitutional law expert at New York University law school.

Whatever happened to Truth, Justice and the American Way?

Look here if you want to do something about and talk to your senator.

Robertson forgets his bible again
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Conveniently forgetting that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, that Christ came for the sinners, not the saved and Jesus' discourse on the Temple of Siloam, Robertson covers himself with stupidity, callowness and theological foolishness again:

Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

How someone as mean-spirited and just plain silly as Robertson can have anything to do with something purportedly intelligent is beyond me.

White Phosphorus
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Just bad. Just bad. Just terribly bad.

It's about time
Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Nation takes a stand:

"The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, and there is good reason to think they are right. But we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of prolonging the war will be worse."

Josh Marshall
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Josh Marshall says it:

The executive is in corrupt hands. Nothing will change till that does

Lying, lying, lying: impeach.

Amy Sulllivan: "Bush's war on faith"
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The IRS is going after an Episcopal church that had the gaul to host a political speech against our great leader. Remember, in the United States, only speech we like is free.

Next, we can break the shackles of gravity
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

[The Kansas vote is] 'the next step in breaking the shackles of evolution.'

Says former Kansas school board chairwoman Linda Holloway.

Kansas intends to continue it's work by repealing the law of gravity (it's not a real law in any case), ignoring the limits on the speed of light, redefining pi, and permitting more than one thing to be in the same place at the same time (after all, think of the space we can save...).

This is so typical
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

We learn that the CIA is likely to be holding uncharged people prisoners in secret black prisons in foreign countries and is probably using torture... What's the first thing that comes to Frist and Hastert's minds? Stop the leak:

Congress's top Republican leaders today demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects.

Why not, "stop the prisons!" Damn, it sucks being the dominant power.

To be fair, other legislators like Chris Shays (R) and Nancy Pelosi (D) do advocate investigating the prisons too.

War is hell
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

It doesn't get any better.

"Burned bodies. Burned children and burned women, white phosphorus kills indiscriminately." said Jeff Englehart, former soldier in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division who had taken part in the Falluja offensive (lightly edited)

But don't worry, we're just being conventional.

The U.S. military says white phosphorus is a conventional weapon and says it does not use any chemical arms.

And the victims are just conventionally dead.

An incendiary device, white phosphorus is used by the military to conceal troop movements with smoke, mark targets or light up combat areas. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980.

The United States did not sign the relevant protocol to the convention, a U.N. official in New York said.

After all, we're the United States. We're the good guys. We don't need to sign treaties because we know we're only and always going to do the right thing.

Science, religion, etc.
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Maybe we should have laws required the teaching of alternate views of God? After all, Intelligent Design is just a theory and the idea that the Christian God is the intelligent designer is also just a theory... Perhaps the designer is actually Krishna or enlightenment or Odin.

Monday, November 7, 2005

We don't torture and we're not going to but we won't put up with any rules that might get in the way...

Cheney's camp says the United States does not torture captives, but believes the president needs nearly unfettered power to deal with terrorists to protect Americans. To preserve the president's flexibility, any measure that might impose constraints should be resisted. That is why the administration has recoiled from embracing the language of treaties such as the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which Cheney's aides find vague and open-ended.

Why don't people minds explore when they try to hold these thoughts in mind and maintain consistency?

Let's be clear
Sunday, November 6, 2005

David Sirota:

And let's be clear - the perception that we were misled is consistent with the actual facts of what happened.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Non-denial, denials, part 1

Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, Romania's prime minister, insisted on Thursday there were no C.I.A. bases inside the country. "I repeat: we do not have C.I.A. bases in Romania," he told journalists.

Of course not, the CIA has CIA bases in Romania.

Non-denial, denials, part 2

When reporters asked Romanian government officials whether Romania had ever cooperated with the United States over receiving detainees ... "In the portfolio of projects of the Romanian government, there is no activity as the one that you refer to."

Hint, just say "No". It sounds better, it's stronger and it just might be believed.

and Part 3:

Marius Bercaru, spokesman for the Romanian Intelligence Service, said in a telephone interview and later in a written reply that "the Romanian Intelligence Service does not have any intelligence on such detention centers in Romania."

Hmmm, I think he just said "I don't know" in 15-words. It's a bad sign.

Not getting the picture... the Bush years
Thursday, November 3, 2005

George says:

"Look," he said, "I understand not everybody agrees with the decisions I've made, but that's not unique to Central or South America."

"Truth of the matter is," he went on, "there's people who disagree with the decisions I've made all over the world. And I understand that.

See, it's not just our neighbors to the south that think I've done stupid things, ... it's everyone! This is the good news? No, George has an answer:

"But that's what happens when you make decisions."

Whoopts, he forgot to say "bone-header, completely pointless, unethical, stupid decisions". Idiot. Can we impeach him now.

Unhappy news
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Some quotes from the news:

The Delay Case:

"It says that the judges who we elect can't be trusted to apply the law neutrally in cases that in some way, shape or form bear on their political beliefs," Silver said. "If that's true, we really need to revamp the whole system.


The United States lags behind several other nations when it comes to medical errors, high out-of-pocket health-care costs, and foregone health care as a result of those high costs, according to a new survey released Thursday.


With a 51-48 vote, the Senate approved requiring the Interior Department to begin selling oil leases for the coastal plain of the Alaska refuge within two years.


Bush and other drilling advocates argue that the country needs the estimated 10.5 billion barrels of oil ... The United States now uses about 7.3 billion barrels of oil a year.

So we're going to trash this place for oil that will last little more than a year at present consumption rates. Hey, I've got an idea. Let's just all shot ourselves in the foot and hop to work.

Sorry, feeing bitter.

Sounds peachy to me
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Elizabeth de la Vega via the Nation via my brother.

The presidential fraud is wider in scope and far graver in its consequences than the Enron fraud. Yet thus far the public seems paralyzed.

Twice nothing is still nothing
Thursday, November 3, 2005

In the "can't do anything right department"

Commanders in Afghanistan said security at the prison had been redoubled after the detainees escaped.

I bet the escaped Mr. Faruq has memories that make his hatred burn:

Most details of his interrogation are unknown, except that the questioning became prolonged, extending to around-the-clock sessions, American officials said. Some interrogation specialists have said he probably was left naked most of the time, with his hands and feet bound.

We sure showed him that America is like a great satan.

The 8.5 pound solution
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Expensive Humvee armor (74 million pounds) is no match for the used 8.5 pound artillery shells that can be purchased on the Iraqi black market. Bummer. Maybe it's time we realized that we are part of the problem.

Not in my name
Thursday, November 3, 2005

A European Union commission is investigating reports that the CIA has set up a network of secret jails in Eastern Europe to detain suspected terrorists.

If this is true, then it's one more nail in the coffin that holds American democracy. We kissed moral supremacy good bye when we invaded Iraq and have been burying it ever since. Damn, this shouldn't be happening with my money.

Can we please impeach the man. Please.

Conservatives say "just let 'em die"
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

After all, it's better to let your daughter risk cancer than do anything that might hint of condoning sex.

Pesky liberals respond:

Alan Kaye, executive director of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, likened the vaccine to wearing a seat belt.

"Just because you wear a seat belt doesn't mean you're seeking out an accident," Kaye said.

Damn them.

Three cheers for Harry Reid
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

See his statement over at Talking Points Memo. I'd call it a must read (or maybe I'd make a bad pun and call it a Must Reid!).

Intelligent Falling
Friday, October 28, 2005

From the Onion:

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down,"

After all, gravity is just a theory and those so called clever scientists have been ever so long trying to combine it with quantum mechanics.

"Three years ... too late"?
Thursday, October 27, 2005

I'm not sure what this person means?

"It is extremely unfortunate and inappropriate for so-called peace groups to stage a vigil ostensibly in support of our deployed troops," said Meredith Leyva, chairwoman of Operation Homefront. "The debate over Iraq is three years and two Iraqi elections too late."

I find this comment insulting. Does she think we protest because of the 2000 American deaths? Did she sleep through all the other protests? Many have been against this war long before it started.

What's a factor of two between friends...
Friday, October 21, 2005

There go the lungs of the planet... Not to mention bio-diversity, the possibility of new drugs, indigenous peoples, etc... Wait. That wasn't a sentence. Oh well.

How hot can you go?
Thursday, October 20, 2005

More importantly, how hot will we go? Unfortunately, no-one knows. The reporter Mike Davis, however, has a story printed over at Tom's Dispatch that indicates it may get a lot hotter than most anyone has expected:

Where other researchers model the late 21st-century climate that our children will live with upon the precedents of the Altithermal (the hottest phase of the current Holocene period, 8000 years ago) or the Eemian (the previous, even warmer interglacial episode, 120,000 years ago), growing numbers of geophysicists toy with the possibilities of runaway warming returning the earth to the torrid chaos of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM: 55 million years ago) when the extreme and rapid heating of the oceans led to massive extinctions.

Between peak oil, global warming, and America's apparent self-destruction... the world my kids will live in may be a very bleak place.

Training and health care are competitive advantages
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ontario Canada has a new Toyota plant and the United States doesn't. The main reason: workers in Ontario are easier to train.

... Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. ... "The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.

Gary Fedechun is the president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association so he could be accused of bias. On the other hand, Toyota is going to Canada in spite of the more than double sized incentives offered in the states.

Another advantage:

Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada...

Though it looks as if America is never going to even try the experiment, maybe you can do well by doing good.

I hope everyone starts walking
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

From Bruce Schneier: if you're on a cycling path in Scotland, you'd better not walk on it! I hope that some savvy protesters start walking the path every day; or even start walking their bicycles. Stupidity will not protect anyone from terrorism.

Dave Pollard quote
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

From How to Save the World:

But the answer to the plight of the "underdeveloped" nations is not more development. It is an end to exploitation, tyranny and overpopulation.


I signed the pledge
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why will I only support candidates for office who

  • Acknowledge that the U.S. was misled into the war in Iraq
  • Advocate for a responsible exit plan with a timeline
  • Support our troops at home and abroad

Because in Iraq, today, American troops are causing more damage and death than they are preventing. Worse, they are doing it in my name. War is not an answer; war destroys answers; it destroys options; it destroys hope. As a country we must stand for our highest ideals not because it is convenient or profitable, but because it is right.

Have you?

If you care about Iraq and don't read Juan Cole
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Then you are kidding yourself. Thoughtful, well written, reality-based. This quote is from September 25th, 2005.

Let's get them out, now, before they destroy any more cities, create any more hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, provoke any more ethnic hatreds by installing Shiite police in Fallujah or Kurdish troops in Turkmen Tal Afar. They are sowing a vast whirlwind, a desert sandstorm of Martian proportions, which future generations of Americans and Iraqis will reap.

The ground troops must come out. Now. For the good of Iraq. For the good of America.

Impact of Inequality
Sunday, October 16, 2005

Great snippet from Social Design Notes on a new book.

Richard Wilkinson is a professor of social epidemiology, an expert in public health. From that vantage point he sees the world in terms of its physical and psychological wellbeing, surveying great sweeps of health statistics through sociological eyes. He has assembled a mountain of irrefutable evidence from all over the world showing the damage done by extreme inequality. However rich a country is, it will still be more dysfunctional, violent, sick and sad if the gap between social classes grows too wide. Poorer countries with fairer wealth distribution are healthier and happier than richer, more unequal nations.

Methinks they protest too much...
Friday, October 14, 2005


he service members were excited about the opportunity to speak with the President. No one intended to tell them what to think or how to express themselves; going through likely questions in advance was meant solely to help the troops feel at ease during an obviously unique experience.

Facts and theories
Sunday, October 2, 2005

I suspect that many others have already weighed in on this (and you can find them here if you want), but facts are facts and theories are theories and a lot of heat in the "evolution" vs "intelligent design" debate arises from an unfortunate elision of the difference. That (many) things fall when we drop them is a fact. That it is harder to go uphill than downhill is a fact. Gravity is a theory that explains those facts. That the earth is really old is a fact (unless you want to discount a lot of evidence). That animals change when their environment changes is a fact. Evolution is a theory that explains those facts. So is Intelligent Design. It would be hard to disprove the theory of gravity on scientific grounds -- there is to much else you'd have to give. It would be almost as hard to disprove evolution. On the other hand, it would be impossible to disprove Intelligent Design. And that is the rub. Teach if you want, but don't pretend it's science.

By the way, this must be one of the better blog names that has nothing to do with the current debate!

First we said, then they said... will he listen?
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Echoing comments long bruited about amongst the anti-war crowd, Michael Schwartz posted an eloquent description of the problems in Iraq in mid-September.

Not long after Baghdad fell to American troops, it was already apparent that the United States was part of the problem, not part of the solution, in Iraq; and that, as long as the American military occupied the country, matters would just get worse. Every passing month has only predictably confirmed that reality. There's no reason to believe that the next year of our military presence will be any less destabilizing than the last.

Now the generals running the Iraqi war effort are echoing those opinions:

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. generals running the war in Iraq presented a new assessment of the military situation in public comments and sworn testimony this week: The 149,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are increasingly part of the problem.

But will the man putatively in charge ever start listening?

Apes! Apes? Apes...
Friday, September 30, 2005

Sad juxtaposition:

Some of the great apes - chimps, gorillas, and orangutans - could be extinct in the wild within a human generation, a new assessment concludes.


Gorillas have been seen for the first time using simple tools to perform tasks in the wild, researchers say

We have much to learn and time is running out.

Who gets pardons
Friday, September 30, 2005

Why does the president get to give pardons? Who decides? Mail fraud, drug dealing, mailing a threatening letter... why is GWB involved at all? Who are these people?

Fox guarding henhouse, part 2
Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Brown told congressional investigators Monday that he is being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting.

Reporters without Borders on cyber-dissidence
Monday, September 26, 2005

Weblogs can matter because they allow the human voice to get out. Reporters without Borders explains how to speak when speech isn't free. Ars Technica has a write up.

Michael Schwartz: reasons to withdraw
Friday, September 23, 2005

Michael Schwartz pens an excellent essay on why the American presence in Iraq is more likely to stimulate a civil war than prevent it. The main lines of opinion are that we need to stay until the Iraqi's are ready to help themselves -- the paternal response. Schwartz argues that Americans are actually the main cause of the violence and, more importantly, that the violence will only get worse if the Iraqi's "stand up" and act the way we want them to.

Another "it'd be funny if it wasn't so aggravating"
Thursday, September 22, 2005

From the Washington Post via Bruce Schneier. Oh, and watch out for those pressure cookers.

Last throes
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Summarized from Harper's Index:

At least 167 Baghdad residents were killed in 14 separate bombings, with 570 wounded. The next day 40 people were killed with car bombs and guns. Twenty-one more were killed the next day, 52 more the day after that, and 7 the day after that.

That's a pretty clear downward trend. We're winning!

At least 30 more people were killed the following day.


Krugman, the Left Coaster and a shadow government
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Krugman on Race and Katrina:

For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need. […] … To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

and the Left Coaster on a Shadow Government:

Why should everything go through Congress, especially when Congress is controlled by a bunch of selfish, greedy, and immature thugs, republicans all? Get outside the box a bit This could be done. To put to the torch the lie that government is the problem. Because it's not government that's the problem, it's the people executing it that are the problem.

Sounds like a great idea to me... Maybe we could expand on Edwards "two Americas" theme.

The best government money could buy... wanted more
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ex-Iraqi defence minister wanted over $1bn fraud

  • Warrant issued after army left with old weapons
  • Allawi regime blamed for lack of checks on ministry

Health insurance, not
Friday, September 16, 2005

Our economy continues to do "great". How about this wonderful statistic. Just think of all the money these companies are saving.

About 60 percent of companies nationwide offer health benefits to employees, compared to 69 percent in 2000, the survey found. Most of the companies that eliminated health benefits have fewer than 200 employees.

Google knows all
Friday, September 16, 2005

This may not last but it's amusing while it does:

Major CNN story
Friday, September 16, 2005

Headline news:

From my brother.

Dopes dupe dummies
Thursday, September 15, 2005

There's an old Mister Boffo strip that shows a group of neredowells reading the paper at a bar. The headline reads "Dopes Dupe Dummies while Dingbats Doze". One of them opines "Let's put it this way, none of us came out looking too good."

That's how this story in the NYTs leaves me feeling. The US bungles it's (then) major focus on the (so called) war on terror, makes truly asinine freshmen like mistakes, etc. Yet somehow the (so called) opposition in this country shows an equally impressive lack of talent in getting the message out and still loses. My gawd. We're a democracy. We deserve what we get. Damn.

double serving of SAT words
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

From Andrew Sullivan. "Catastrophic Insouciance" has a nice ring to it and this post adds what ought to be another nail to a fundamentally flawed presidency and a deeply flawed human being.

Chertie, you're doing a heck of a job...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Or not.

All true
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"George Bush... does not attack those who falsely accuse him of the most horrible acts and neglect. Instead, he doggedly goes on helping the least among us."

In an alternative universe, perhaps.

Probably clueless, possibly evil
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Eight children, locked in meter high cages, with alarms and blocked with heavy furniture.

"This year they have played and had fun and laughed like no other children have, which they have never been able to do," the woman said.

Ohio. Hang your head.

Extra, extra: Peggy Noonan makes sense
Sunday, September 11, 2005

I guess big storms really can bring out the best in people:

People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

But still wearing rosy glasses:

But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down their stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people.

That's a nice myth but not true:

The Associated Press reports that thousands of people are accused of using ATMs to steal $15 million from a credit union whose computer security system was damaged on September 11.

I guess we all want so badly to believe the best... especially of white New Yorkers. Class and race, class and race, class and race and gender.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

James says it:

Here we are coming up to the 4th anniversary of that horrible day, and Ground Zero still lacks a memorial or even a palatable design, Osama Bin Laden is unapprehended, Iraq is a vale of tears, and a dorky "Freedom March" is being staged in Washington. One can only hope that the dead of New Orleans receive a more decent and deserving memorialization than the dead of 9/11 have gotten.

I am so angry
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Many other weblogs are giving excellent, detailed reporting of the disaster caused by the Bush administration's failure to plan, failure to foresee, failure to act, failure to acknowledge, failure to do anything quickly enough to help. I am so angry. I am angry at so called Christians celebrating this as an act of their vengeful god; I am angry at my government's pitiful, pitiful attempts to blame this on the black, the poor, the other guy, anyone but them. I am angry at politicians who "feel their pain" and at those who don't. There is no excuse. This is criminal. I can barely concentrate.

Living on the edge
Sunday, September 4, 2005

The dominos fall:

THE International Energy Agency has warned of a global energy crisis sparked by the damage Hurricane Katrina has inflicted on strategically important oil refineries.

We're out on a limb with little flexibility or room for error.

Seeing it coming (apart)
Saturday, September 3, 2005

A history of FEMA

In June, Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency's government employee union, wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency's decay. "Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation's emergency management capability is being eroded," he wrote. "Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors."

Judge not, lest ye yourself be judged
Friday, September 2, 2005

Disturbing, non-biblical and damn depressing.

More reasons torture sucks
Monday, August 29, 2005

From Tom's Dispatch.

Ah, Pat, it's the first commandment
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson forgets he's supposed to be a Christian minister.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.

Another sign that the religious right may be more about being on the right than being religious.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

From Tom's dispatch:

In short, Sudan embodies a collision between a failed state and a failed energy policy. Increasingly, ours is a planet whose human population is devoted to extracting what it can, regardless of the human and environmental cost. The Bush energy policy, crafted by oil companies, is predicated on a far different future from the one any sane person would want his or her children to inherit -- a desolate world that few Americans, cocooned by the media's silence, are willing to imagine.

Damn depressing if you have a conscious and live in the so called developed world.

Civilian uses of UAVs
Saturday, August 20, 2005

EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) has a summary of the civilian uses of unmanned arial vehicles (UAVs):

The federal government's redirection of military technology toward the civilian population is troubling. The use of UAVs gives the federal government a new capability to monitor citizens clandestinely, while the effectiveness of the expensive, crash-prone surveillance planes in border patrol operations has not been proved. The costs of these unmanned aerial vehicles outweigh the benefits.

You can see their bias but it is troubling. Why do we need to do this? Do we (the people) want to do this?

Hedonic Treadmill
Monday, August 15, 2005

This just in from the rich not only look happier than you, they are happier than you.

As we've feared all along, it's hard to keep up with the Joneses.

The hedonic treadmill requires a specific type of relative income effect, one where "keeping up with the Joneses" means continually increasing one's own income, because we are convinced that the Joneses are increasing theirs.

Like the red queen, we must run as fast as can just to stay in place. Alternatively, we could change the playing field.

Juan Cole presents an alternative history
Friday, August 5, 2005

Oh wait, this is real. Very awesome.

More torture. Why don't we feel tortured by it?
Thursday, August 4, 2005

More reports of us torturing them and then us lying to us about the torture. This sucks.

Bill McKribben on this "Christian Nation"
Thursday, August 4, 2005

And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox ... illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.

That's hitting the nail square on the head. What I'd really like to hear, however, is the response from the Christian right. How do they reconcile their lives with their lies?

Why do reporters keep writing this?
Monday, August 1, 2005

and how can anyone read it without laughing?

Rove was the first person to tell a Time magazine reporter that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, but did not disclose her name, according to the reporter.

Oh, I see. He didn't say her name. Well then. Everything is just fine. Hunky Dory. Peachy. Great. My gawd.

Oh, also, I have to agree. Novak is an ass. If I was his boss, I think I'd fire him.

Networks of abuse
Monday, August 1, 2005

The practice of concealment has been a part of local enforcement culture since the 1950s as the church was cementing its role as a social service powerhouse - an institution that urged young Catholics to seek careers in public service, including law enforcement.

Cops, priests, fire fighters, ... the good guys (and they were mostly guys). They worked together, grew up together, helped each other out. Sometimes that was good. Sometimes, it was really, really bad. Kudos to the Toledo Blade and its investigative reporters.

Really sad
Sunday, July 31, 2005

From this Week:

Suicide epidemic: Suicide is now the leading cause of death among young adults in China, the government said this week. A quarter of a million Chinese kill themselves every year, and another 3 million make unsuccessful suicide attempts. Many suicides are college students who leave notes expressing their regret at failing to live up to their parents' expectations. "Society is full of pressure and competition, so young people, lacking experience in dealing with difficulties, tend to get depressed,"

Ouch. What a horrible thing poor self esteem is.

Architecture of surveillance
Friday, July 29, 2005

Bruce Schneier comments on a MediaLab experiment:

We're building an infrastructure of surveillance as a side effect of the convenience of carrying our cell phones everywhere.

the Real Crime
Thursday, July 28, 2005

From Frank Rich vis Jonathan Schnell via Tom's Dispatch:

The real crime here remains the sending of American men and women to Iraq on fictitious grounds."

Yup. Can you impeach a vice president?

Monday, July 25, 2005

From Seattle Times:

The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.

Why do American's work so hard?
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Because we're sick. We have a collective national anxiety disorder.

Mark Morford at SF Gate takes the national pulse and finds it thin and reedy. Most of us work too hard for too little that is real and valuable. At the same time, we scoff at those who live alternative life styes while thinking:

Oh you're so lucky that you have the means to do that, we think. I'd love to do that but I can't because I have too many a) bills b) babies c) doubts, we insist. We always think such lives are for others and never for ourselves, something people with huge chunks of cash reserves or huge hunks of time or huge gobs of wildly ambitious talent can do. It is never for us.

And truly, this mind-set is the national plague, a fate worse than death.

And while it must be acknowledged that there are plenty who are in such dire financial or emotional circumstances that they simply cannot bring change, no matter how much they might wish it, you still always gotta ask: How much is legit, and how much is an excuse born of fear?

Fear, as Frank Herbet wrote so long ago, is the mind-killer. The political left is pretty sure that all those orange alerts were suspiciously timed to keep the public rallied behind Bush et. al. out of fear. We all fear change and death. We are all burdened by much needless fear that keeps us from connecting with others (they won't like me if they know the real me). The thing is, is that:

The powers that be absolutely rely on our lethargy, our rampant doubts, the attitude that says that it's just too difficult or too impracticable to break away. After all, to quit a bland but stable job, to follow your own path implies breaking the rules and asking hard questions and dissing the status quo. And they absolutely cannot have that.

So why do we work so hard, and "play" so hard, and spend so hard. Because we're afraid.

It is not for everyone. It implies incredibly difficult choices and arranging your life in certain ways and giving up certain luxuries and many, many people seemed locked down and immovable and all done with exploring new options in life, far too deeply entrenched in debts and family obligations and work to ever see such unique light again. Maybe you know such people. Maybe you are such people.

But then again, maybe not. This is the other huge truism we so easily forget: There is always room. There are always choices we can begin to make, changes we can begin to invite, rules we can work to upset, angles of penetration we can try to explore. And if that's not worth trying, well, what is?

It might not be Rove
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Geov Parrish at Working for Change points out that it might not be Rove and why that matters.

It's easy, and fun, to imagine Karl Rove in handcuffs. It's far more damning to get to the heart of what actually happened here. In all likelihood, Rove did not do what he is accused of.

But somebody did.

We need to continue to focus on the crime and not worry so much about the person who committed it.

My two cents regarding Olen
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm going to steal my two cents from Lance (via Atrios):

But Olen, who didn't like it that the nanny was exposing the Olens' personal lives on the web, thought it was fine for her to expose the nanny's personal life in the New York Times. This in itself was the act of a bully. But it was also the act of a person with very little self-awareness, because the portrait she paints of herself is far worse than the sketch the nanny drew on her blog.

Exactly! Olen comes off as a complete idiot in the NYT piece.

Imagine the shoe on the other foot
Monday, July 18, 2005

Imagine that the "bad guys" did this to an American (civilian or soldier)

He was forced to dance with a male interrogator, was subject to strip searches for control measures, not for security, and he was forced to perform dog tricks


handcuffing detainees to the floor, covering one prisoner's mouth with duct tape, ``improperly'' playing loud music, and depriving detainees of sleep.

Imagine how the Congress and the Senate would react.

Imagine how the media would react

I think foreign policy should take the golden rule very seriously!

Three cheers for New Zealand
Friday, July 15, 2005

This probably isn't how Daniel Morgan wanted to achieve his 15-minutes of fame, but sometimes we take what we can get!

A New Zealand man who removed a condom during sex with a prostitute has been fined for putting her life at risk.

Daniel James Morgan, 48, was ordered to pay NZ$400 (£153) plus costs in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the country.

In my opinion, this is how woman and sex ought to be treated in the civilized world. I'm so tired of the horrid double standard that denigrates prostitutes while ignoring their well heeled clients. It's a job and it should be treated as such so that woman aren't abused because of it.

Debt for arms
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

David MacKay's Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms is dedicated to the campaign against the arms trade. Their G8 briefing points out that:

The G8 represent the world's eight most advanced economies, an exclusive club which meets every year to develop a common agenda in global politics. Yet most of those countries also rank inside another group of eight; the eight biggest arms exporters in the world. In fact of the G8 countries, only Japan fell outside the top 10 exporters of major conventional weapons in 2003.

They also make the connection between third world debt and the arms trade. A lot of the debt we're talking about relieving comes directly from weapons sales that the G8 (governments or their corporations) encouraged:

In 1994 it was estimated that one fifth of the debt owed by poor countries is due to past arms sales.

In this sense, some large part of debt relief is really an under the table, temporally delayed payback to the Halliburtons o the world.

It doesn't make sense to talk relief on side of our mouths while pushing the drugs of war with the other.

Take a bath
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Scientists (don't you love those scientists) have now concluded that daily showers may be a health hazard. It turns out that manganese in the water can be vaporized and breathed in while showering leading to brain and spinal cord damage. Ouch!

Monty Python: yes, yes, yes, yes, ... no
Monday, July 11, 2005

Rove wasn't involved. No sir, Rove had nothing to do with it. Nope, Rove was not involved with the leak in any way... Or maybe he was. No comment.

George Bush is simply not the representative of good
Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tom's dispatch:

Whatever he may be -- and it's worth saying this exactly at such a moment -- George Bush is simply not the representative of good. While holding up the banner of democracy, he and his men, experts in vote suppression and gerrymandering on their home turf, have created an ever less democratic, more intolerant, more police-ridden, more liberties-impaired America. That's simply their record on the ground. But after a while, as you watch the carnage from London to Baghdad, you say these things -- or write them -- and then you just throw up your hands in despair. Why write more?

Again and again I wonder about democracy and representative government. It doesn't work unless most everyone plays the game and yet here we have an administration that has pretty clearly not been playing the game for the last 5 years... the outrage and the protest and the agony are there (certainly they are here in my heart and mind) but they are not enough, apparently, to change the tide or stem the flow. My gawd, what would Bush, et. al. be doing if there wasn't an opposition!

David Sirota tells the right the left
Sunday, July 10, 2005


your war-mongering policies and devotion to creating a constant state of panic/fear in this country has made America less safe, especially in light of your negligence on homeland security. Your heated rhetoric that indicts the strength and patriotism of progressives is a sad attempt to cover up your own pathetic failures.

(Establishment) Left:

... if you continue to pathetically cower in the face of all of this; if you continue to ignore the courageous lawmakers in your ranks who know the party needs to stand up; if you continue to defend the Iraq War in light of public opposition to it, in light of proof that the Bush administration lied about it and in light of proof it made America less safe; and if you continue to have positively no courage of any convictions and positively no ability to give voice to the concerns of the majority of Americans, then you will unfortunately continue losing elections far into the future.

Facts may twist the truth around and they certainly don't do what I want them to but we still ignore them to our peril. On the other hand, denial and cognitive dissonance are powerful allies in the fight against truth. What to do about this to do.

Why I'm not seeing War of the Worlds
Sunday, July 10, 2005

I was excited about War of the Worlds. I enjoy summer action flicks and this looked to be a good one. But then Tom Cruise came out and lambasted Brooke Shields and waved his ridiculous and harmful scientology beliefs in everyone's general direction. So I've decided not to see the movie, or any of his other films (not that that will make a big difference to the bottom line!). It's one thing to have beliefs. It's another to talk trash at people who don't deserve it. As far as I can tell, scientology is a marketing scam wrapped in the first amendment flag of freedom of religion. It's wrong. It's harmful. It's another case of the evils of fundamentalism.

If true, I'm glad I don't know Brit Hume
Friday, July 8, 2005

What is patriotism?
Thursday, July 7, 2005

Is it the unthinking support of your country, regardless of its actions? Is it the search for the better angels of our natures? Is it something uses to sell cars? What does Amy Robach, an MSNBC Live anchor, think? She said:

There were a couple of protesters we heard with a few signs, but for the most part, looks like a very patriotic crowd.

after a broadcast of President Bush's Independence Day address at West Virginia University.

One interpretation is that patriotism and protest are incompatible, at least when the president is speaking at an independence day event. As I'm not sure how aware she was of this conclusion, I think the criticism (and here) is a bit overblown.

Happy Birthday Dalai
Thursday, July 7, 2005

Seventy years old! Will the world listen?

Thursday, July 7, 2005

There is no excuse for attacks on the innocent. My heart goes out to these victims just as does to those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and America.

Ouch - from Harper's
Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Toyota announced that it would open a new $800 million plant in Ontario. The company turned down hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies in the United States because, when compared to Canadians, U.S. workers are too hard to train, often illiterate, and expensive to insure.

Is the United States special?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Michael Ignatieff sounds off in the New York Times magazine:

It may be that other nations just have longer memories of their own failed imperial projects. From Napoleon onward, France sought to export French political virtues, though not freedom itself, to its colonies. The British Empire was sustained by the conceit that the British had a special talent for government that entitled them to spread the rule of law to Kipling's ''lesser breeds.'' In the 20th century, the Soviet Union advanced missionary claims about the superiority of Soviet rule, backed by Marxist pseudoscience.

What is exceptional about the Jefferson dream is that it is the last imperial ideology left standing in the world, the sole survivor of national claims to universal significance. All the others -- the Soviet, the French and the British -- have been consigned to the ash heap of history. This may explain why what so many Americans regard as simply an exercise in good intentions strikes even their allies as a delusive piece of hubris.


A relativist America is properly inconceivable. Leave relativism, complexity and realism to other nations. America is the last nation left whose citizens don't laugh out loud when their leader asks God to bless the country and further its mighty work of freedom. It is the last country with a mission, a mandate and a dream, as old as its founders.

All of this may be dangerous, even delusional, but it is also unavoidable. It is impossible to think of America without these properties of self-belief.

Halliburton burning
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career."

-- Bunnatine Greenhouse, top Army Corps of Engineers contract oversight official, turned whistleblower

From the Huffington Post.

Progress, regress
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Yeah! Danica Patrick placed fourth in the Indy 500

Boo! The owner of Formula One thinks women are appliances:

"You know, I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

What an idiot.

Jonathan Schell at Tom's Dispatch
Monday, June 27, 2005

"As Schell in his reporting from Vietnam and his more recent writings -- including his insightful book about our violent last three centuries, The Unconquerable World -- has made so clear, there was really only one lesson, only one genuine lesson anyway, to be learned from Vietnam: Don't do it. Tom "

And so the Americans and the Iraqis of Charlie Company, like the United States and Iraq in general today, are led, by choice on the one side and by bribery and compulsion on the other, to play roles in a script that has little or nothing to do with the situation they are actually in. In this situation, it is not necessary to form a whole sentence to tell a lie. Use of single words or phrases -- "Iraqi sovereignty," "freedom," "election," "security," "democracy," "anti-Iraqi forces," even "courage" and "cowardice" -- involve the speaker in deception, for they are the constitutive elements of a framework of thought and belief that is itself a fabrication.

Schell even provides a good answer to the "Why doesn't the Bush administration see that it is failing?" question:

... [T]he fundamental error of the United States has a long pedigree. It is the imprisonment of the human mind in ideology backed by violence.


Once the mind is in the grip of such a system, every "actually existing" horror can be seen as a mere imperfection in a beautiful larger picture, every defeat a stage on the way to the glorious future. The simpler and more coherent an ideology, the better it can withstand the assault of fact. So today in Iraq, every act of torture, every flattened city, every gushing sewer, every car-bombing and beheading, is presented as a bump on the road to "freedom" for Iraq, or for the Middle East, or even for the whole world, in which our President has promised an "end to tyranny." (It's apparently a rule of ideology that the more sordid the reality, the more grandiosely splendid the eventual goal must be.)

Bruce Schneier reads Newsweek
Monday, June 27, 2005

Bruce Schneier (who wrote Beyond Fear) comments on a Newsweek article on the excellent - if dangerous - training the CIA is providing for Iraqi insurgents and Al Queda terrorists. (Note, the CIA might not see it that way). It's a depressing read especially for those of us who realize that Iraq was never part of the war on terrorism [sic] before we invaded and made it so.

Must see map
Monday, June 27, 2005

Iraq war casualties.

I wonder who they voted for...
Monday, June 27, 2005

From the Globe and Mall:

Nearly half of American adults mistakenly believe that surgery can spread cancer, according to a new survey, and more than one in four thinks that a cure for cancer exists but is being kept from the public by a profit-driven health-care industry.

It would be interesting to see the correlation.

Brilliant tactics, not
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hmm, we want to prevent terrorism. Terrorism is a global, essentially borderless phenomenon. That means we'll want the help and support of many other nations; the only way to succeed is to work together. Or not.


First, the United States has allowed the C.I.A. to pursue a policy of renditions - abducting terror suspects from foreign countries and taking them to third countries that are known to use torture. That has rankled senior European counterterrorism officials, who have continued to try to build criminal cases against terrorism suspects through surveillance, wiretaps, detective work and the criminal justice system.


"The American system is of little use to us," said a senior Italian counterterrorism investigator. "It's a one-way street. We give them what we have, but we are given no useful information that can help us prosecute people."


Sharing access to suspects is another sore point. In Germany, counterterrorism officials were furious when a criminal trial against Mounir el-Montassadeq, a suspected associate of several Sept. 11 hijackers, crumbled and he was released.


And the Bush administration has refused to allow the Spanish authorities to interview Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a central Qaeda suspect, to bolster their case against two men on trial in Madrid on charges of helping to plan the 2001 attacks.

Actually, the Italian procsecutor sums it up pretty well:

"I feel the international community must struggle against terrorism and international terrorist groups in accordance with international laws and the rights of the defendant," Mr. Spataro said. "Otherwise, we are giving victory to the terrorists."

Why does he hate America so much?

Billmon is always worth reading
Saturday, June 25, 2005

From Punch Drunk:

All along, the bedrock of Rove's political "philosophy" has been the conviction that propaganda will always trump reality -- as long as the desired message is consistent with existing popular myths and prejudices. And his preferred tool for meshing the two has always been the conservative base and the enormous gravitational pull it exerts on the weak-minded middle.

James Wolcott
Saturday, June 25, 2005

He's a bit all over the place but all the places he is are interesting!

Nice lions
Saturday, June 25, 2005

From the Week: Three lions rescued a young girl from men who were trying to force her into a marriage, Ethiopian police said this week. Amazing!

Of course, given the way humans treat lions, it may not have been all that bright on their part.

Troops press offensive
Monday, June 20, 2005

I heard the military was hiring better PR and advertising firms to improve the United State's image in the world (apparently actually changing our behavior was deemed too difficult ??). But then today I saw this headline:

Troops press offensive as Baghdad restaurant bombed

So I guess we're still having press problems...

Yes, I know it's a bad pun.

I'm afraid this may not be confined to chimps
Friday, June 17, 2005

A paper published in Nature last year suggested female chimps learn from their mothers how to gather termites much faster than males - who prefer to spend more of their time playing.

(sorry, lost the link! Might have been Harpers)

If it walks like a duck
Friday, June 17, 2005

But at a briefing on Thursday, Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush's press secretary, said "different circumstances require different strategies" and denied that Mr. Bush was muting criticism of allies while increasing pressure on countries like Iran.

From the NYT.

Scary (George) Lowe Down
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

From Buzz Flash: George E. Lowe says:

The buzz phrase that Pat Robertson has used is that separation of church and state is a lie of the left.


The only way you can get Christ back is if you destroy the Dome of Omar and the infidel structures and build the third temple. And if the Jews don't build the third temple, Jesus can't give his abomination of desolation. Once they build the third temple, Jesus comes back and he brings the raptured church back with him, armed with NRA Uzi and AK-47s, and they run us all for a thousand years.


Exactly. And they have to have Armageddon because their doctrine won't bring Jesus back unless they have Armageddon. That's their whole point. That's why they've got to get Bush to trigger Armageddon. So they're happy to make all sorts of deals with the Likud and welcome anything that stirs up conflict. I don't know if you've read Damascus Gate,but the fact is that the Christian right wants to destroy the Dome of Omar. They don't care what happens. If we've been trampling on the Koran and putting it down the toilet or doing whatever else we did with it -- wait until we, with wink or nod, allow the destruction of the Dome of Omar by crazy right-wing ultra-Orthodox extremist settlers. Wait until that happens. And the Christian right's hoping for it.

He wrote a book about it called It Can Happen Here. It sounds unbelievable but I'm worried he may be right.

Fired up Gore
Monday, June 13, 2005

It's about time he got some respect.

Last Saturday in San Francisco, the self-described "guy who used to be the next president of the United States" delivered an hour-long multimedia presentation on the scientific evidence of global warming to hundreds of guests crammed into a tent for the culmination of the city's five-day-long U.N. World Environment Day celebration. The audience, peppered with celebrities, members of Congress, U.N. officials, and dozens of mayors from around the world, erupted into a standing ovation when Gore wrapped up his quasi-evangelical call to action.

The main stream media painted Gore into a corner (and, to some large extent, Gore let them. Sigh.) I'm glad he is out there still fighting the fight.

Colson Felt Nixon.
Sunday, June 12, 2005

From Eschaton.

Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC's "Today" show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring "the confidence of the president of the United States." Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times's Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The "Today" host, Matt Lauer, didn't mention any of this - or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson - and he was ubiquitous - ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a "former White House counsel."

Felt was a hero. He did the right thing. Colson was a craven thug for Nixon. He did the wrong thing. Colson is now a born again Christian. I have big problems with him going on the circuit to pimp for teh Republican right and bigger problems with him accusing Felt of dishonoring anyone or anything. What is anyone thinking? Nixon dishonored himself! Do police officers dishonor criminals when they arrest them?! My gawd, doesn't anyone have a brain anymore?

We are standing on a breaking web
Saturday, June 11, 2005

Chip Ward from Tom's Dispatch

Because the patterns we are trying to understand are so vast in scale, so long in scope, and fluctuate chaotically over time, it is hard to tease out trends from the variations that are possible. Could the dramatic climate changes we are experiencing just be another spike in a long, spiky record of the earth's climate? Maybe significant numbers of us can continue to believe this a while longer; but as the scientific evidence mounts and man-made influences seem ever more likely to be the culprits, the fear that we could cross a kind of climate tipping-point with catastrophic consequences for life on Earth will become more palpable. Yes, there are unknowns in the global climate prediction game, but does Russian Roulette make more sense if you can show that there is only one bullet in the chamber instead of two?

If inaction risks drought, flood, monster storms, pestilence, epidemics, extinctions, ecological dysfunction, refugees, war, and more squalor (as even the Pentagon suspects may be the case), not to mention all that potential underwater real estate in Manhattan, Miami, and New Orleans, then we would be prudent and wise to take precautionary actions now. That we continue to ignore the signs all around us is not just a political failure, though it certainly is that. It is undoubtedly also a failure of empathy and awareness. I suspect we will not find the political will to stop the damage we are doing until we begin to see ourselves within the picture frame and realize that it is in our self-evident self-interest to act boldly and soon.

the Ethical Brain
Friday, June 10, 2005

(Corrected on 25 June 2005. Fixed my misspelling of Brain. How embarassing! ).

American Scientist has a book review of Michael S. Gazzaniga's book the Ethical Brain. The review, written by Patricia Churchland, is captivating and well reasoned. The book itself sounds truly fascinating.

From the time of Socrates to the present, people have sought to give a natural basis for morals—that is, to understand how a moral statement about what ought to be done can rest on hard facts, albeit facts about conditions for civility and peace in social groups. How can ethical claims be more than mere conventions? How can such claims be rooted in facts about human nature but have the logical force of a command?

Developments in evolutionary biology have helped to explain the appearance of moral motivation in humans and in other eusocial animals—animals that display behavior involving cooperation, sharing, division of labor, reciprocation and deception. In these species, various forms of punishment (shunning, biting, banishing, scolding) are visited on those who threaten the social norms. Ethological studies help us appreciate that, at a basic level, human social behavior has much in common with that of other species.

Developments in neuroscience hold out the promise of extending the naturalistic perspective to aid in the understanding of how the brain and its circuitry underlie the capacity to learn social norms and to behave in accordance with them. Many of us ponder the possibility that discoveries about brain function and organization will challenge the conventional wisdom on which our system of justice relies and will allow us to see more deeply into the biology of social behavior, including moral behavior. In his new book, The Ethical Brain, Michael S. Gazzaniga takes an unflinching look at the interface between neuroscience and ethics, and offers his own thoughtful perspective on some of the tough questions.


Other topics covered, if not fully, then sufficiently well to provoke thought, concern the neurobiological and evolutionary explanations of religious beliefs, in all their amazing variety and conflicting manifestations. Gazzaniga discusses also the remarkable nature of autobiographical memory, and the susceptibility of memory to suggestions, reconstruction, invention and wholesale confabulation. Because it is brief, compelling and free of technical jargon, the whole book can be easily read during a transcontinental flight.


So they made a few changes
Thursday, June 9, 2005


WASHINGTON -- The White House said Wednesday that changes in government reports on global warming by a former oil industry lobbyist were part of a normal review and did not violate a pledge to rely on sound science.


"The reports are based on the best available science," said Scott McCellan

I think he's using "based" in the same way that that fertilizer is "based" on decaying cow poop. Or perhaps he meant to say that the reports, like the administration, is base. Or biases. It's hard to say. Clearly, this is an issue that will take more time to study.

May the farm be with you, always
Thursday, June 9, 2005

I hope that you've already seen this and had a good laugh. If you haven't, it's not too late! Thank god that some people have too much time on their hands!

I expect that the irony is lost on Bush et. al.
Monday, June 6, 2005

From the Washington Post:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- President Bush urged the nations of the Western Hemisphere on Monday to work together to prevent governments in the region from backsliding to authoritarian rule.

More bad news on AIDS
Monday, June 6, 2005

from the Guardian:

The Aids pandemic is outpacing many countries' efforts at prevention, UN officials say, acknowledging that the goal of containing the disease by 2015 may now be unrealistic.

Taking it back
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

I'm very happy that people still have this kind of energy and creativity.

On May 27, a group of concerned citizens hijacked a million dollar Leo Burnett ad campaign designed for the Chicago Housing Authority, turning it into a scathing critique of Chicago's public housing policy and privatization practices.

An administration that holds no one to account
Monday, May 30, 2005

The Bush administration is not only accountable to no one (I'm the president, I don't have to answer questions -- sad to say, I can't find this quote but I'm very sure that Bush said something like this. Here is the best I've found; any help appreciated. ) but it also holds no one accountable. Rumsfeld and his gang are still with us, the ones that setup up Abu Garib and Guantanamo as places where torture was almost inevitable are still with us (though many low level soldiers and one reservist have gotten scolded), even the folks who

... concluded it was unlikely that aluminum tubes sought by Baghdad were for use in Iraq's rocket arsenal.

have gotten job performance awards for the last three years.

The intelligence commission said the analysts failed to seek or get information from the Energy Department and elsewhere indicating the tubes were the kind used as rocket-motor cases by the Iraqi military.

Maybe performance means that they're good actors?! Nonetheless,

A Pentagon spokesman said the awards to the analysts were to recognize their overall contributions on the job.

Meaning, I guess, that though their analysis was wrong, it was wrong in exactly the way we wanted it to be.

Listen to Meyers, Listen to the NYT
Monday, May 30, 2005

We've heard this before (many times before):

Meanwhile, on ABC's "Good Morning America," Myers said the U.S. may begin to withdraw some troops "as Iraqi security forces get better and better." However, he did not specify a timetable.

Meanwhile, Operation lighting doesn't sound particularly hot (NYT).

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 30 - The violent backlash to the largest Iraqi-led counterinsurgency operation since the downfall of Saddam Hussein continued today in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

The article is a litany of few successes and many failures. Suicide bombings, a "surprisingly" coordinated insurgency, ethnic tensions, links to Iran, and so forth.

In our name, Iraq faces another crisis
Monday, May 30, 2005

What do you do when all the doctor's are fleeing (NYT)? They have been threatened, attacked, kidnapped, killed and I can't blame them. Iraq used to have the best medical system in the Middle East. After sanctions, wars, and now the collapse of civil institutions, they barely have access to medicines. We're fighting the wrong battle over there. We're creating enemies, not friends.

Moyers vs. Tomlinson
Sunday, May 29, 2005


"This was brought home to me in November 2003 by a phone call from an old friend complaining about Mr. Moyers" bias and the lack of balance on the Friday evening lineup. He explained the foundation he heads made a six-figure contribution to his local public television station for digital conversion. But he declared there would be no more contributions until something was done about the network's bias."

Moyers, discussing a donation from a woman whose Firefigher husband responded to the 9/11 attacks and was killed doing his job

Apparently, that's Kenneth Tomlinson's method of governance. Money talks and buys the influence it wants.


Framed above my desk at my office is the check she made out to Channel 13, "NOW," for five hundred dollars. When I go discouraged or need to remind myself that public media truly matter, I look at that check and think of the woman who wrote it and the husband who did his duty, and their belief in us. And I will take, over the big check that Ken Tomlinson could have gotten from a demanding right winger, I would take the widow's mite any day.

See Moyers speech for the full story.

Another true yet unflattering comparison
Sunday, May 29, 2005

From (the very nicely redesigned) Social Design Notes:

Nasty Uzbekistan

After this weekend's massacre in Uzbekistan, ... The state run television has replaced domestic news broadcasts in the region with art movies, music clips, and nature photos.

Wonderful (yes, there is sarcasm here) America

From the New York Times, May 15:

"Executives at National Public Radio are increasingly at odds with the Bush appointees who lead the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


The corporation's board has told its staff that it should consider redirecting money away from national newscasts and toward music programs produced by NPR stations."

Oh, and if you haven't seen Bill Moyers's response to the new Bush appointed chairman of CPB, Bill Tomlinson, you should.

Don't call them mercenaries
Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Week has a short and (not so) sweet summary of America's use of hired help in Iraq.

How many contractors are in Iraq?

About 20,000, at the cost so far of $30 billion. Many were hired directly by the Pentagon, but most work for companies paid by the U.S. to do reconstruction projects. These armed contractors nearly outnumber the troops from all of America's allies in Iraq combined.

What do military contractors actually do?

Nearly everything.


In the Persian Gulf War, contractors handled about 1 percent of the military's functions. In Iraq today, they have taken on as much as 30 percent of the military's functions in Iraq, if you count reconstruction. (Emphasis mine)

Why use them?

military analyst Herbert Howe of Georgetown University, the Pentagon is finding that it can cut both the financial and psychological costs of war. "If you get highly skilled people whose deaths do not carry the same political baggage," Howe said, "it makes sense to hire these guys."

And best of all, it's a growth industry.

Recently, giant defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman have been buying up small security firms "like mad," said international security expert Deborah Avant of George Washington University. "This is where they think the future is."

This is really depressing. It's bad enough when a government goes to war to fight for land or principles or what have you but what justification is there for fighting for profit. How can a Christian president reconcile paying people to kill. I'm pretty sure that Jesus wasn't rescinding the "Thou shall not kill" bit when he said he came to bring a new covenant.

Big bullies beget little bullies
Thursday, May 26, 2005

From a report on the Amnesty International report:

"When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse,'' Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan wrote in the introduction to the 308-page report. "The U.S.A., as the unrivaled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behavior worldwide.''

Of course, this is just more evidence that AI is off it's rocker

The White House dismissed the report as "ridiculous and unsupported by the facts.'' Many conservatives have been critical of Amnesty International in recent years for what they perceive as an anti-American and anti-Israeli bias.

It's hard to listen and learn when you equate bias with criticism. After all, why does William Schulz hate America so much?

"We here in the United States have a special responsibility," he said, "both because we're Americans and because of the role that the United States plays in the world, to make sure that our human rights record is as clean, as exemplary as possible.'

Modern day alchemy
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

We never succeeded in turning lead into gold but modern day alchemists turn propaganda into truth on a regular basis. Cold fury talks about the triumph of the Newsweek caused the deaths story:

This is how popular mythology is created and how war propaganda becomes so common, because it is repeated so often and questioned so rarely, that it is widely accepted as "truth."

Newsweek didn't cause the deaths. The story was old news to anyone with their nose to the wind. At most, the story was another thing to get mad at but it paled in comparison to other prisoner abuse stories, lousy economic conditions, being occupied, and so forth.

I agree with both of them
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

From Harper's weekly:

In Britain, Ford Motor Company suspended seven workers when they were caught looking at woman-on-octopus pornography on company computers. "Management," said an employee, "didn't see the funny side."

Yes, they should have been suspended for doing this on company time but... there is a funny side.

Do you get the memo?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Most of our media hasn't but at least Walter Pincus keeps up! Half of us have know this for several years. Half of us continue to deny it in part beacause its hard to admit you're wrong.

"the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak,"

-- Robert Walpole, former national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs

"many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs."

-- Walter Pincus, Washington Post

An Iraqi informant named "Curveball" provided key information on Iraq's alleged mobile biological facilities but German Intelligence said it "was not sure whether Curveball was actually telling the truth," his information was "problematical".

By late January 2003, the number of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf area was approaching 150,000, and the invasion of Iraq was all but guaranteed. Neither Bush nor Powell reflected in their speeches the many doubts that had surfaced at that time about Iraq's weapons programs.

Instead, Bush said, "With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region." He added: "Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own."

As Bruce Cockburn says "what step are you gonna take to try and set things right"? Perhaps more to the point, what step am I going to take?

Not a holy war?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tell that to Cpl. Jason Dominguez (from Washington Post):

Two seats away, Cpl. Jason Dominguez shouted as he led the fighters in prayer.

"This is your chance to rid the world of these evil bastards," he began, struggling to be heard over the rumble of the Amtrac armored vehicle's engine and the roar of the exhaust.

"We ask the Lord God to help us and Jesus to protect us," Dominguez, in black sunglasses, camouflage and body armor, yelled hoarsely as huddled Marines clenched their hands and bowed their heads over the muzzles of their rifles.

Why do we always miss the part about "thou shall not kill"? Neil Postman has a wonderful old book, Crazy talk and Stupid talk, that shows how language is abused and misused. One form of abuse is where we mix nationalism and religion. Nuff said.

the great American challenge
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

From Tom Dispatch:

They are genuinely frightened by a world that feels like its spinning out of control. Unable to cope with dizzying changes they can't fully grasp, but which leave so many feeling cheated of a better life, they simply want to annihilate the forces of change. It's fear of an unpredictable, uncontrollable future that breeds the violence. If you can't beat 'em, they say, then nuke 'em.

The fear won't go away any time soon; nor will the people who express it through all sorts of apocalyptic metaphors, including "the nuclear option." Somehow, those of us who believe in choosing our own moral values have to learn to talk to and live with our compatriots who need universal, absolute values in order to survive. Figuring out that "somehow" may be the great American challenge of the 21st century.

As Frank Herbert wrote: "fear is the mind killer". It's next to impossible to argue with someone who is afraid. Furthermore, some of the fear is justified: change is scary; things fall apart; cracks are opening beneath our feet.

Why care?
Monday, May 23, 2005

I'd expect that everyone who reads this webblog know all about the Downing street memo and the almost complete lack of coverage it has received.

I guess we've all become inured to the lying and hypocrisy. Where is the outrage? Where are the people who should be marching (and I include myself in the question)? Watching TV? Shopping? Too busy working (my excuse). What will it take before I wake up?

Which way did it go?
Saturday, May 21, 2005

MOSCOW - Villagers in central Russia are mystified by the sudden disappearance, overnight, of the town's lake.


Um, Rumsfeld. Shinseki!
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More from operation Matador and the Washington Post:

Marines said many of the foreign fighters fled west into Syria or to Husaybah, a lawless Iraqi border town where foreign fighters and local tribesmen have battled each other this month for control, shooting it out in the streets with AK-47s and mortars

But the Marines lack the manpower to go into Husaybah.

Hmmm. Ironic, isn't it.

"I'd much rather foreign fighters come out and shoot at us. We can respond to that," Kalouf said, as the Americans got ready to head back across the Euphrates. "We can't stand all their IEDs and mines, crap like that. Because we can't do that.''

We have to do house to house because we don't have the troops to fight. Kind of sucks.

Operation Door and Mat
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bits from a Washington Post article on Operation Matador.

A handful of Marines involved in Operation Matador walked out of homes with a pillow or blanket to cushion the ride in the Amtrac. Sometimes, Marines agreed at one commandeered house as they drank a rousted family's tea, they beat up suspicious-looking men if that was what it took to get information that could save lives.


At the end of a day of searches, Marines generally commandeer houses for the night, shooing the families out in case the Americans' presence makes the homes targets for attack.


Before dawn Friday, Brown got up and washed the tea glasses used by his Marines. He left them drying on the family's sideboard. It doesn't pay to make enemies, Brown said.

Unfortunately, Brown's dish work isn't going to help if his buddies keep beating people up, stealing, and generally making a mess of things.

Why don't we impeach Bush?
Monday, May 16, 2005

It's clear he lied. Repeatedly. Aggressively. Disastrously. He is not serving the interests of this country or this country's people.

The only one we're fooling...
Monday, May 16, 2005

Is us. Er, the US. That's right. The good ole US of A, which, if I recall correctly, stands for the United Sitizens of Amnesiacs. Remember, there's nothing so galling that you won't be able to forget about it by the morning.

So while we are busy trashing Newsweek and saying "oh gosh, how awful" and "we would never do anything bad like that.", the rest of the world already knows better:

Religious leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan appeared skeptical of Newsweek's apology.

Mullah Sadullah Abu Aman, an Islamic cleric in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan, told Reuters, "This is a decision by America to save itself."

Eh, what's that. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Never heard about 'em. Terrorists in Iraq before the war? You don't say?

Why exactly is anyone supposed to believe anything we say? (Other than the threat that we'll bomb them)?

Clearly un-American
Monday, May 16, 2005

It's clear that Senator Carl Levin is not really an American. Just look at what he says:

"We have to look in the mirror at ourselves as well as pointing fingers at others," said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

We're Americans. We're never wrong (highly recommended, by the way). We don't need to be sorry. You should happy that we choose to bomb you and not some other members of the (ever growing) axis of evil.

To H1-B or not to H1-B, that is the question
Monday, May 16, 2005

Ars Technica has a nice brief sumary of what's wrong with H1-B. Particularly galling when you think about it.

The critical point here is that the balance of power in this relationship is entirely skewed toward the employer. If the employer fires the foreign worker, then the worker has to leave the country. Or, if the employer doesn't renew the worker's visa application after three years, then the worker has to leave the country. Finally, the worker will definitely have to leave the country after six years when the H-1B visa expires... unless the employer has been sponsoring him for a green card (i.e., an immigrant visa) and he's now eligible for it.

I guess abolition is a battle you have to keep fighting over and over again in different guises. It also links to a nice essay by Norm Matloff on the same issues. It's pretty clear that H1-B is more about making American companies extra profits than it is about a labor shortage but giving the lies the government is shoveling, it's no surprise that the rest of the gang is also getting in on the act.

Obviously a red herring
Monday, May 16, 2005

Created by the almighty to confuse the foolish evolutionists

The jellyfish have eight sensory clubs, each of which has four eyes, which send nerve impulses to the various organs. The fact that the box jellyfish evolved such complex eyes without the need for a brain to process the data is a highly interesting one.

Don't be taken in.

The Cold war: loser/loser
Friday, May 6, 2005

Excellent reading at Mother Jones. Many think of the cold war ending with the US the winner and Russia the loser though its clear by looking at our cities, schools, hospitals and infrastructure that many of our weapons programs did more damage to us than to anyone else by moving money, focus and concern in all the wrong directions. Now, however, Tom Engelhardt points out that the US is seeing real competition from newly created power blocks. It's an interesting time.

A third limit on American power is only now coming into sight: the beginning of the formation of regional power blocs (not necessarily military in nature) in opposition to the lone superpower's various goals. While Greater Europe, still in formation, represents one of these blocs; and some greater Asian combination another (as was indicated by the surprising, if tentative, recent détente between China and India as well as the shaky proto-military alliance between Russia and China); perhaps the least expected and commented upon of these blocs lies far closer to home, consisting of a growing set of left-leaning democracies in Latin America determined to pursue their own collective interests whatever the Bush administration has in mind.

Then there is our disastrous adventure in the Middle East:

The war in Iraq has also left the Middle East increasingly destabilized; oil prices on the rise; the dollar undermined; and the U.S. military desperately overstretched, if not incapable of dealing with other major global challenges. No wonder the President clutched the hand of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah the other day down in Crawford. He needs whatever help he can get.

Very worth reading in full.

Excellent Jonathon Schell piece on TomDispatch
Friday, May 6, 2005

Nuclear dreams don't die any faster than radiation decays. TomDispatch and Jonathan Schell (author of the exquisite The Unconquerable World) remind us that many of the governments of our world -- including our own -- remain addicted to the idea of nuclear weapons. Why spend money on weapons whose use would make us more of a pariah than we already are? Why spend research dollars trying to make them more effective killers -- ask Japan how effective they were right from the beginning? Why spend money maintaining weapons we shouldn't think of using when there are better things worth doing.

Why take this drug?

Is it better to give than to receive?
Sunday, May 1, 2005

As our politics veers further and further towards the "christian" right, Americans seem to be answering no.

Dr. Jeffery Sachs is an economist, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Project. Working for Change has an article about him.

Sachs points out that the U.S. gives the lowest amount of national income as official development assistance of any of the 22 donor countries in the Development Assistance Committee.

"Americans do not believe this, but it's true. Americans believe, when they're asked in opinion surveys how much aid we give, they believe first that the official aid is roughly 25 to 30 times what it actually is, and they believe that the private giving is many times more than the official giving. Both of these are simply wrong," he said.

The official giving this year will be about $16 billion of official development assistance in a $12 trillion dollar economy. That's about 0.15 percent of our gross national product.

Private charity will offer about $6 billion. If you add it all up total U.S. giving is about 0.2 percent, or about 20 cents out of every 100 dollars.


Names of shame
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

One could tell from the start that the PATRIOT act was a bad idea. You don't need to give things special names unless you've got something to hide. Now for more fun (via Ars Technica via Wired News).

... thanks to the PATRIOT act, banks are spending billions on highly sophisticated, government-mandated anti-money laundering (AML) software that will track every last transaction of every last customer in order to build up individual customer profiles and look for "suspicious" activity. And when they find some suspicious activity, they're going to want an explanation out of you, regardless of whether or not you fit any sort of terrorist profile

This probably won't catch terrorists or real criminals -- they'll know (or learn) how to avoid the problem quickly enough. It won't stop corporate tax evasion -- they have lawyers and lobbyists in the right places. What it will do is make my life and your life more of a pain. Thanks George.

Disturbing, not surprising
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Gotta stay on message all the time:

The State Department has traditionally put together a list of industry representatives for these meetings, and anyone in the U.S. telecom industry who had the requisite expertise and wanted to go was generally given a slot, say past participants. Only after the start of Bush's second term did a political litmus test emerge, industry sources say.

Listening only to those that agree with you... seems like that could cause problems somewhere down the line.

Sex and the Catholic church
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why some people think that the hierarchy doesn't "get it":

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who belonged to the Hitler Youth before he became a priest, won the papacy by a landslide and styled himself Benedict XVI. The new pope dislikes homosexuality (he moved quickly to condemn a Spanish bill that would permit gays to marry), abortion, and the death penalty, but he loves little kittens. In 2001, he ordered Catholic bishops to hide allegations against pedophile priests from the public.

From Harper's weekly.

Then there's Cardinal Law (and here). Don't get me talking.

Jim McGovern: What I didn't see in Iraq
Thursday, April 21, 2005

From the Nation:

What worries me almost as much as our misguided policy in Iraq is that so many of my colleagues and so many citizens have become resigned to the fact that the war will go on. Congress is not being inundated with letters and phone calls and faxes and e-mails and street protests demanding an end to our presence in Iraq. President Bush's re-election seems to have taken much of the energy out of the antiwar movement. My recent visit to Iraq only strengthened my belief that this war is wrong. And only renewed, passionate dissent by the American people can end it.

Other countries have uprisings and government overthrows. We're too busy shopping. (and no, mister secret service man, I'm not advocating violence - just free speech; remember, there is a difference).

To judge or not to judge...
Thursday, April 21, 2005

"If you mean go back to hateful people and judgmental people, with an undercurrent of racism, sexism and homophobia, yes, we'll go back to normal." Alice Norby, organizer of an anti-homophobia day at a Chicago Highschool

Jacques Jacobs, youth pastor at Family Harvest Church in Orland Park, seized the opportunity to oppose the movement this year and gave away shirts with "Crimes committed against God" slogan to students.

"Judge not, lest ye yourself by judged" Jesus

What the hell are we fighting for?
Sunday, April 17, 2005

Steven Bodzin writes a wonderful piece over on TomDispatch entitled "The Quest for Desired Endstate".

Bush's inaugural imprecision epitomizes the armchair-warrior class. Sept. 11 inspired brave rhetoric, but these thinkers' vision of resolution is as vaporous as their destructive fantasies are cold steel. If they won't tell us what the desired endstate is, there's no way for us to gauge our approach to victory.

Bodzin captures the essential problem with calling our Iraqi obsession and all the rest a war: we can never win because we have no way to know we've won. Terrorism is like murder, rape, and child abuse: utterly repugnant, with victims on all sides and best handled as crime, not war.

Anti-teenager laws in MN
Sunday, April 17, 2005

From Orcinus:

One of the more troubling aspects of anti-terrorism laws generally -- and the Patriot Act in particular -- has been the likelihood that they are open to a kind of prosecutorial abuse: namely, that they can be used to charge people whose crimes have little or nothing to do with terrorism.


Applying anti-terrorism laws to cases involving troubled teens strikes me as deeply wrong-headed. Not only do we dilute the meaning of terrorism, and expand the law into places it was not intended to be used, but we really blur the line between intention and action.

He refers to two obviously different cases involving teens in Minnesota that have been dealt with using anti-terrorism laws in exactly the same way. Bureaucracies thrive on bad distinctions. Laws can't be used to replace thinking. It's very troubling.

Byron Williams on Christian Fundamentals
Friday, April 15, 2005

I saw this over at Working for Change. I think that Byron Williams is on the money.

A genuine definition of Christian fundamentalism would demand that love, justice, hope and opportunity be central to its understanding.

Women Inside NIH Describe Sex Harassment
Thursday, April 14, 2005

Depressing. Appalling. Disheartening.

WASHINGTON -- Women at the National Institutes of Health faced sexual intimidation and repeated disregard of their concerns for the welfare of patients in AIDS experiments, according to testimony by two senior female officers and documents gathered by investigators.

This immature, inappropriate, male dominated, bullshit has to STOP. Women are people too. AIDS patients are people too. Research subjects are people too. I'm reminded of Emotional Intelligence and its lack. I'm reminded on Anna Quindlen suggesting that we will all be much better off as the standard for morality, kindness and decency becomes that of a reasonable woman rather than that of a reasonable man (here too). I'm reminded that we have such a long way to go (and a million other links).

This is crazy
Thursday, April 14, 2005

If you thought that Tom Tomorrow was being harsh, then take a look at this:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [viz. not in his/her house or car] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

This sounds like a law being to be abused. But I guess abuse is what makes Amerika great now a days.

My god, they mean what they say
Sunday, April 10, 2005

Parody can't match this stuff.

Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that [Justice] Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

I used to be a Christian; I used to know Christ personally. Frankly, these people don't have Jesus anywhere near their hearts.

Election - Iraqi style
Saturday, April 9, 2005

I've seen no other piece that gives a more powerful sense of America's Baghdad as it exists today, of what exactly the election meant, of the degree to which it was fought out in the media as much before an American as an Iraqi audience, and of why the lack of Sunni voter turnout is sure to prove such a disabling factor in Iraq's future.

That's Tom Engelhardt's introduction to Mark Danner essay from the NY review of books. Danner's essay is impressive and difficult to summarize. He is providing a view of Iraq that is very hard to find elsewhere; both because we are all so cut off from Iraq as it is and because our government profits from hiding the real Iraq from us. This is very worth reading.

Gender Benders
Thursday, April 7, 2005

Over on ITConversations, Dr. Moira Gunn talks with Johns-Hopkins' Deborah Rudacille about gender. About 2.5-% of people are born neither exactly male nor female (and on a planet with 6-billion people, thats a lot of people.

It's a fascinating discussion about what it means to be human (versus male or female) and about how we (as a culture) need to continue to expand our definitions.

There is also a deeply troubling summary of the horrors of DES (diethylstilbestrol), a hormone that was prescribed for pregnant women in the 50's and 60's and that was used in animal feed through the early 70's. I assume that the doctors and scientists prescribing the stuff meant well but the shortsightedness of their actions is appalling. Sadly (but not surprisingly) this is another case where we don't seem to have learned anything from our history (cf. genetic engineering, etc.)

America's continuing shame
Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thomas Friedman again

Of all the stories about the abuse of prisoners of war by American soldiers and C.I.A. agents, surely none was more troubling and important than the March 16 report by my Times colleagues Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt that at least 26 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 - in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide

It's not just un-American and inhuman. It's wrong. It's immoral. It's evil. Erring on the side of life? Yeah, right.

Why does anyone listen to David Brooks?
Thursday, March 31, 2005

The United States is seriously screwing with the world and Bush et. al. are seriously screwing with the United States. David Brooks writes about which baseball team he should root for. Why pay the man for such drivel!

Thomas Friedman on Geo-Greening by Example
Thursday, March 31, 2005

If anything Friedman understates the problem.

How will future historians explain it? How will they possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency.

Krugman on Greenspan
Thursday, March 31, 2005

I'm not an economist but Krugman usually seems smack on target.

That was the bait; now Greenspan has pulled the switch. The sequence looks like this: he pushed through an increase in taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used the overall surplus, mainly coming from Social Security, to argue for tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people but are worth a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to maintain the tax cuts while cutting Social Security benefits. He never said, ''Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working families so that we can give big tax cuts to the rich!'' But that's the end result of his advice.

I don't understand how the Fed can be non-political in practice if for no other reason than that the person running it has some strongly vested interests in the status quo and in helping those well off become better off. There is something wacky about the whole thing.

Better than I could say it
Wednesday, March 30, 2005


What I finally had to confront was the fact that truth alone is impotent in the face of modern propaganda techniques — as developed, field tested, refined and deployed by Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, the think tanks, the marketing departments of major corporations, the communications departments of major research universities, etc. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, the peculiar vulnerability of historical truth (which means political truth) is that it isn't inherently more plausible than outright lies, since the facts could always have been otherwise. And in a world where the airwaves are overloaded 24/7 with the mindless babbling of complete idiots, it isn't very hard to make inconvenient facts disappear, or create new pseudofacts that reinforce whatever bias or cultural affinity you want to cultivate — particularly if the audience is already disposed to prefer your reassuring lies to discomforting truths told by strangers.

As a friend of mine said, they don't care what you think; they already know that you're not going to vote for them.

This is funny and you'll burn if you see it
Wednesday, March 30, 2005

But what the heck, you only live once (at a time...)

These tortuous times
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Eric Alterman

United States, under the leadership of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, is operating a police state at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere in military and secret prisons throughout the world, where innocent people are being jailed, tortured and sometimes murdered without concern for their guilt or innocence. This is not empty, anti-American rhetoric, it is verifiable truth, and aside from the moral revulsion it causes in anyone who claims to be interested in such matters, it also undermines any claims we might have to the moral leadership of the world community. Do I exaggerate? I think not. Does anyone care? You can bet the rest of the world does.

I'm not sure that there is anything left to say except that it doesn't appear to matter what we say.

Old but good Slow Poke comic
Sunday, March 20, 2005

Old, funny and (sadly) still relevant:

Mark Kleinman wonders why some lives matter more than others
Sunday, March 20, 2005

One thing that really makes me mad is hypocrisy. When right-to-lifers go ape over Terry Schiavo and don't give a rat's tonsil over kids like Sun Hudson, when Bush talks about caring for kids while pushing a budget that leaves hundreds of thousands more at a risk for daily hunger, when the administration talks tough about WMD and gives Pakistan a free ride... These are sad times.

Some Tsunami summarization
Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Washington Post has a nice graphic of the deaths caused by the tsunami. Damn sad.

I don't think Kristof gets environmentalism
Friday, March 18, 2005

Last Sunday, Nicholas Kristof wrote an odd piece that takes environmentalists (as a class) to task for being "alarmist". This was my first exposure to the man and I'm not impressed.

Kristof writes a fine opinion piece. This is easy because he can make statements like "[Environmentalists] have an awful track record" without explaining what he means, backing it up or clarifying which statements of which environmentalists. He also fails to note the obvious claim that alarming statements are made in the hope of producing change... Burglar alarms are supposed to scare off the burglars. We don't say "oh, the alarm went off again and nothing was stolen. It's such an alarmist alarm!".

Malthus, Erlich, and others did have the time scale wrong (the green revolution and massive infusions of fertilizer have seen to that) but even a cursory inspection of the planet shows that we are pushing well past its carrying capacity. Natural systems are breaking down. Pollution is rampant. People are starving to death and 45-million children in America go hungry every day.

Finally, it's a terribly ironic joke that Kristof can say "So it's critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I'm afraid we don't have one." and yet not make the obvious substitution of "environmental" with, oh... I don't know... "united states foreign policy", "Bush administration domestic policy", and so on.


Some clippings from Harper's Weekly
Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sort of a weblog before there were weblogs, Harper's Weekly is an odd amalgam of the previous week's news. Here are my three favorite bits from this weeks:

  • Other studies showed that. ... soap and water are effective in cleaning your hands. (my comment, thank god for that!)
  • Prince Charles visited New Zealand, where he was met by a woman with the words "GET YOUR COLONIAL SHAME OFF MY BREASTS" written across her bare chest. The Prince smiled. (my comment, oh that stiff British upper lip).
  • It was revealed that the United States had held children as young as eleven years old at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, (my comment, damn, I wish I wasn't from this country sometimes)

Ummm, huh?
Thursday, March 10, 2005

From the Independent: US sent hundreds of terror suspects to foreign prisons

We're the United States. We don't do torture.

In every instance the complaint against the US is the same, that, in violation of previous US practice and the spirit of international treaties outlawing torture, it routinely handed over prisoners to countries where the use of torture was commonplace.

Our response:

US officials told the Times that rendition was just one among several methods of dealing with terrorist suspects, and that it had made every reasonable effort to ensure that transferred prisoners were treated properly

So let's understand this properly. We take people from their homes or while they are traveling, we don't charge them, and we send them to foreign countries that are known to use torture. We then claim that we try to ensure that the transferred prisoners are treated properly. If we want to ensure that they are treated properly, why transfer them? I know prison space is low here but I don't think that the desire to prevent overcrowding is the reason.

I feel sick. I feel sickest knowing that there is about jack squat that I can do to change this. Some democracy, huh.

He says, she says
Thursday, March 10, 2005

George W. Bush: democracy is gaining ground in the Middle East; this is a vindication of US policies.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit wonders what model Bush is talking about:

Bombs are exploding everywhere and Iraqis are killed everyday.

Bush says the Palestinian vote is a sign of progress; Gheit says:

Maybe things will get better, but we see what we see... [similar polls had been held seven years ago.]

I personally don't think either of them are correct and it's pretty clear that posturing is being done. On the other hand, Bush's remarks and nothing if not self serving and fit into his general delusions so if I had to make a bet, I'd go with Gheit.

Now that is tact
Monday, March 7, 2005

When it comes to putting your foot in it, you can't do much better than Edward Luttwak. When interviewed in La Repubblica about the death by "friendly fire" of a just released hostage, he said that

Mr Calipari's death was "the sort of thing that happens all the time in a war", and he advised Italy to "take an aspirin and go to bed, you'll feel better in the morning".

Who said "with friends like these, who needs enemies."?

UNAIDS Report was released Friday
Saturday, March 5, 2005

From the VOA: UNAIDS Lays Out Scenarios From Dire to Hopeful for Africa.

There are three scenarios: the really bad, the bad and the not so good. Given humanity's penchant for picking short term success over long term survival, I'm not feeling too optimistic. Still, the report is a good start and may end up lighting one of the sparks we need.

Thomas Friedman: no mullah left behind
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Thomas Friedman has this to say over at the NYT:

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

Um, not very? Why don't we learn to think about second order consequences? (Do we even learn to think about first order consequences?).

Just some headlines
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Molly Ivins on the Bush budget: screw the children:

[George Bush] really doesn't see any connection between government programs and helping people. Promoting the general welfare, one of the six reasons the Constitution gives for having a government in the first place, is not high on his list.

Richard Manning on the economy of hunger: another way Walmart et al. give us apparent cheap prices while really passing the costs onto the community (and, of course, the rest of us).

It has become increasingly difficult to work at small-town food banks because often one knows the client not as a beggar from beneath the bridge, but as a neighbor or colleague.


Many of [these people], report the food bank people, work full time for minimum wage and no health insurance at the ring of chain stores that has suburbanized this once unique mountain town.


Hunger in America is no longer a matter of falling through the cracks, of happenstance and misfortune. Hunger has been institutionalized as a part of the economic fabric, including especially the business of selling food.

and the larger picture is even uglier:

Simply, small subsistence farmers are unable to sell to the chain stores because they cannot meet the stores' conditions. At the same time the big companies are murdering the local markets that used to sell the farmers' products.

And NIH scientists think we're studying the wrong microbes:

WASHINGTON - More than 750 scientists have signed an open letter to National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni, saying a funding shift that has directed large amounts of money to study a few microbes considered bioterrorism

First, they came for the jews
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Ron Herbert explains this old lament in simple terms:

As a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?


Mr. Arar was the victim of an American policy that is known as extraordinary rendition. That's a euphemism. What it means is that the United States seizes individuals, presumably terror suspects, and sends them off without even a nod in the direction of due process to countries known to practice torture.

Policies like this murder our future.

What me, disingenuous?
Wednesday, February 23, 2005

My brother wonders:

I just heard George saying something along these lines: "the reports saying that we are going to attack Iran are ridiculous, having said that, all options are on the table". This strikes me as a oddly disingenuous...

Frankly, I sometimes doubt that Bush is capable of disingenuity (disingenuousity, hmmm). It would require him to be genuine first.

Monday, February 21, 2005

This ABC News story mentions an army specialist who had been photographed holding a weapon to an Iraqi prisoners head. The specialist:

told investigators he considered those kinds of pictures bad because they would enrage the public.

ABC can quote me as saying that we are in big trouble as long as morality is defined by what gets you in trouble rather than by universal ethical principles.

Greenspan Spins
Friday, February 18, 2005

How condescending:

Greenspan uttered the belief that the creation of private accounts could bolster the sentiment of wealth among less wealthy Americans.

Greenspan admitted that private accounts would not drastically improve the situation in the Social Security but they could help to create "a sense of ownership" among American people.

"These accounts, properly constructed and managed, will create … a sense of increased wealth on the part of middle- and lower-income classes of this society, who have had to struggle with very little capital," Greenspan said.

Hey, lets make people feel better without improving anything?!

Bigotry lives on
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

From Orcinus:

... racial bigotry is like a virus, too. Given the proper iteration -- especially by disguising itself as part of the discourse over the "war on terror" -- it can quickly spread from the fringes into the mainstream. Of course, it always takes special transmitters, modern-day Typhoid Marys, to do it. The Washington Times and Michelle Malkin fit that description to a T.

Some courts still understand
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

That democracy is something you have to fight for and that laws exist to make that fight fair. Writing about the McDonald's libel case, the European Court of Human Rights said:

"The denial of legal aid to the applicants had deprived them of the opportunity to present their case effectively before the court and contributed to an unacceptable inequality of arms with McDonald's,"

Anyone with a brain and the ability to use it should know that McDonald's goal is to sell burgers cheaply at a high profit. If that means destroying rain forests, pumping cows full of chemicals, putting meat handlers lives at risk, producing a potato monoculture, and creating jobs that are so demeaning people end up less skilled after working them than they were before they started! then so be it. I'm irate. So be that too.

Budget busters versus bluster
Sunday, February 13, 2005

Paul Krugman and Molly Ivins deliver powerful blows against Bush's redistributive budget. Why the hell aren't more people (and especially politicians and the press) yelling? Bush is stealing from the poor and giving to the rich and the military while pretending to be God's gift to the world. It is appalling.

Sick sickness policies
Sunday, February 13, 2005

Ellen Goodman writes about the lack of paid sick time coverage over at Working For Change. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but this is a problem I've never thought about. If someone had asked me, I'd have guessed that every worker gets some paid time off each year. I would have been wrong. Not surprisingly, the US is missing the boat:

In 117 countries workers are guaranteed a week or more. Our own federal government gives employees 13 such days.

But hope and help may be on the way:

Momentum is building in the states, where 21 bills were introduced last year. California has become the first state to have partially paid leave. Could this be contagious?

As the battle for social security wages on, let's be sure not to forget about all the other problems.

Good insights on RFID and privacy at Ars Techncia
Friday, February 11, 2005

Hannibal at Ars Technica provides some good insights on the pluses and minuses of RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags and their use in public schools. I'd agree with him that it's a very bad idea to socialize children to think that constant surveillance is a good thing. I've been struck recently with the obvious thought that it only takes one generation for things to become normal - no matter how bizarre they may be. If you've grown up with it, it might as well have been around forever.

Security and convenience are strong arguments in part because the benefits are easy to see whereas the social costs are much less tangible (you have nothing to be afraid of if you haven't done anything wrong). People shop at big box stores because the benefits (low price) are obvious and the downsides (ruined lives and a ruinous economy) are pushed to the margins. I need to think about this some more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Richard W. Stevenson has an oddly titled piece over at the ledger:

Bush Budget Thrives on Cuts Across the Board

WASHINGTON -- President Bush proposed a budget Monday that would scale back or eliminate scores of agriculture, education, health, environmental and other domestic programs to help him meet his goal of slashing the deficit while providing more money for national security.

Thrives? Cuts? How do you thrive on cuts? Bush Budget Makes Cuts across the board would be more accurate.

I guess I'm just one of those wacko liberals but I see education, agriculture, health, and the environment as vital to our national security. What does it matter if we stop the "terrorists" (whoever they are) if we all unlearned, sick and live on asphalt?

John Emerson on Activism on the Internet
Tuesday, February 8, 2005

John Emerson of Social Design Notes provides An Introduction to Activism on the Internet, a primer of "principles, techniques, and examples of electronic advocacy". It looks promising.

Josh Marshall sums it up
Monday, February 7, 2005

It ought to be up to the administration to explain how going hugely deeper into debt while reducing social security benefits is a good thing for the nation. Unfortunately, this is America and the reporters blabber about nothing and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

ACLU Pizza Advertisement
Thursday, February 3, 2005

I'd strongly suggest taking two minutes to watch this.

Powerful stuff.

Krugman nails it again
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Everybody (here, here) is already linking to Paul Krugman's column (NYT, free registration required) but I'll add mine anyway!

I find him refreshingly clear:

Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.

They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

It's been clear for a while that privatization has even less to do with Social Security than the Iraq war had to do with WMD. If the economic reasoning above doesn't bring that point home, then I wouldn't be surprised to find us occupying Iraq on some sort of trumped up version of fighting terrorism. What's that? We are? Oh. Damn.

Quote for the day
Monday, January 31, 2005

From working for change:

'Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob. Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we.'

-- The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, on the animated character some rightwing Christians claim is gay.


Down with Freedom, this is America
Monday, January 31, 2005

Truly scary:

A new survey of 112,003 students released today finds that one in three say the press ought to be more restricted -- and 36% think newspapers should get "government approval" before stories are published.

The numbers: 32% say the press enjoys "too much freedom." Some 37% say it has the right amount, with 10% voting saying too little. The survey found that a bare majority, 51%, said newspapers should be able to publish freely, with 36% okaying government approval.

In addition, nearly three-fourths of students polled, 73%, either did not know how they felt about the First Amendment or admitted taking it for granted, while half thought the government had the power to censor the Internet. Meanwhile, 75% wrongly believed flag burning was illegal.

The study was sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The foundation's president, Hodding Carter, called the results "not only disturbing; they are dangerous."

As Tommy Smothers used to say: "This is America, you can say what you want to... And you'd better say what you're supposed to say."

Goes around, comes around
Monday, January 31, 2005

Kevin Drum has an excellent piece on why when it comes to blocking judicial nominees, the filibuster is about all that Democrats have left. In short, the Republicans keep changing the rules (sound familiar).

When Democrats were in the majority, Republicans defended these traditional Senate rules and used them freely to block judges they had strong objections to. But when they became the majority party themselves, they gradually decided the rules should no longer be allowed to get in the way of unbridled majority power.

It's not right; it's not fair and unless our democracy really fails, it's very short sighted.

If you don't see it...
Monday, January 31, 2005

From Harper's weekly:

International monitors gave the election their seal of approval, though all 129 of them stayed inside Baghdad's Green Zone.

Ummm, how's that again?

The rules change: removing the public from public complaints
Friday, January 28, 2005

As the internet reduces barriers to communication, focus groups are able to rapidly mobilize opinion and steer discussion. This is positive in that it gives a voice to the powerless who have something to say. It is negative as it reduces the time for thought and reflection and it can be used equally well by the powerful who have something to sell.

In this light Todd Shields discusses how the FCC is trying to cope with the change back in a December 2004 article in Media Week.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell told a congressional panel that the number of indecency complaints had risen from roughly 14,000 in 2002 to more than 240,000 in the 2003.

However, 99.8-% of complaints were filed by a single activist group: the Parents Television Council.

How do government groups and organizations cope with mob rule in an era of instant messaging and cell phones? Counting the number of voices works when the voices are independent but that's not something that can be relied on anymore.

Maria Cavanna
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Poem by Maria Cavanna:

I cannot see the numbers of which you speak


that one mother clutches the body of her child

the eyes glazed, head limp and limbs dangling


that one child wanders through the debris

fear and desolation in his endless cries


that one young man searches the ruins frantically

incomprehension in his blinded soul


that one suffers

and pray that it ever may be so:

that the numbers mean nothing

but that I feel the pain

of one soul

Newsweek of all places
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Two articles in this week's Newsweek highlight the disparity between Bush's thoughts and reality. One discusses how America's dreams are often the rest of the world's nightmare:

The U.S. Model: For years, much of the world did aspire to the American way of life. But today countries are finding more appealing systems in their own backyards.

In another, Fareed Zakaria picks Bush's inaugural address to pieces by highlighting his overweening hypocrisy. He quotes an Indian businessman friend saying:

"America positions itself as the moral arbiter of the world, it pronounces on the virtues of all other regimes, it tells the rest of the world whether they are good or evil, ... No one else does that. America singles itself out. And so the gap between what it says and what it does is blindingly obvious - and for most of us, extremely annoying."

I think that this is exactly right. The trouble, as the first piece says is that:

... Americans do not realize this, [because we are] lost in the reveries of greatness, speechifying about liberty and freedom.

Good summary of word, deed and the space between
Sunday, January 23, 2005

From the Nation, John Nichols summarizes the disparity between Bush's words and actions.

Just as the President hit the point in his second inaugural address where he declared to the dissidents of the world that "when you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you," authorities were removing peaceful protesters from the regal one's line of sight.

My favorite part:

Speaking of what he called the "essential work at home," the President said he was determined to "make our society more just and equal." But how does he reconcile that pledge with the growing gap between rich and poor, assaults on affirmative action programs..., and scheming to dismantle the safety-net protections of Social Security, Medicare and other programs?

The income disparity of the United States (a measure of how evenly wealth is spread among a population) is very skewed. It's so bad that we rank with countries like Moldavia and Turkmenistan (not to disparage either, by the way). In comparison, other developed countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Japan have a much more equal distribution. Though some seem to think it doesn't matter, I think that this is a bad thing. Without hope, people start to do terrible things.

Bush is fond likes to quote Lincoln, I hope he also remembers that a house divided against itself (whether by race or income or class) cannot stand.

By the numbers...
Sunday, January 23, 2005

We all know that their are lies, damn lies and statistics but taking as a whole, these numbers tell a pretty damning story.

Continuing unreported bias
Friday, January 21, 2005

From the excellent Media Matters:

Media Matters for America inventoried all guests who appeared on FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC during the channels' January 20 inauguration coverage. Between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Republican and conservative guests and commentators outnumbered Democrats and progressives 17 to 6 on FOX, 10 to 1 on CNN (not including a Republican-skewed panel featuring Ohio voters), and 13 to 2 on MSNBC. Moreover, the rare Democrat or progressive guest usually appeared opposite conservatives, whereas most Republican and conservative guests and commentators appeared solo or alongside fellow conservatives.

As the old saw goes, it's not what we don't know that hurts us, it's what we don't know that we don't know. Of course, the "facts" we know that aren't actually true are the most damaging of all. The convenient myth that we have a liberal media is yet another excuse to stop thinking.

Selected quotes from the web
Thursday, January 13, 2005

This makes us safer how?

Last January, several British Airways flights to Washington Dulles International Airport were canceled or delayed at Heathrow at the request of U.S. officials following intelligence warnings that they might be carrying terrorists. No one was arrested, nor were the cancellations officially explained.

Short, to the point, sums up the problem:

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency.

I say denial, you say "Person of the Year":

Bush was named "for reshaping the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes - and ours - on his faith in the power of leadership," the magazine said on its website.

(I wish that it was only the choices that bled).

CBS, Dan Rather, etc...
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Excellent numbers

Excellent cartoon:

Listener-supported audio programs, interviews and important events.

Excellent summary of related stories with significantly different outcomes.

It was the best they had
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

But it was never a good enough reason to start a war (I could say especially one you didn't know how to finish, but I'll try not to). Now that we've finally given up completely, I'm not sure how we'll be able to live with ourselves. Oh, right, denial is more than a river in Egypt.

Bush and Roosevelt shouldn't share the same add
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

To use images of FDR creating social security in an add attempting to dismantle it is the most appalling gall. Not surprising; still disgusting.

Standard deflection tactic number 17
Friday, January 7, 2005

Accuse your opponent of extreme positions.

To say that there were irregularities, to say that things must be better, to say that our elections should be cleaner and more transparent is not to say that the election was stolen. It's true that some on the left think that it was, but I believe the bulk of opinion is that Bush won; he won dirty and it was very messy but dirty and messy can't be equated with stolen.

Why it is hard to trust...
Friday, January 7, 2005

From ABC news...

Gonzales defended the January 2002 memo to Bush in which he argued that the fight against terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

In his Senate testimony Thursday, he said, "I consider the Geneva Conventions neither obsolete nor quaint."

It's one thing to say "X" and then later say "I was wrong, not X". It's another to say "X" and then say "not X" with no explanation in the apparent hopes that no one will notice. Sadly, however, not enough people will notice... the continuing (re)birth of cynicism in the face of hope.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

(Copied from unCLog)

I think that you should know about Orcinus if you don't already. It's well written, thoughtful and the implications of David Neiwert's opinions are chilling. If I stand anywhere on the political spectrum, it's on the left. I stand there because I think that the left is interested in personal freedom, dignity, and the rights of the individual. I stand there because I think that the right is, by and large, interested in itself. I stand there because I fear the hate I see engulfing this country as the politics of scarcity become a dominant theme. Some of this hate comes from the left, but most of what I see and certainly the most galling examples (e.g., Coulter or Limbaugh) come from the right. Neiwert argues all too convincingly that America is in danger of seeing the rise of another form of fascism.

Women in the lead again!
Thursday, January 6, 2005

Though I'm not sure that this is what feminists had in mind?!

He cited 10-16-year old girls as a main driving force for convergence technologies. They want to be connected all of the time to the Internet, to music, to their friends. Motorola's 'seamless mobility' vision meets their needs, as ultimately this will be capable of moving between networks and devices seamlessly, for always-on access to digital content and communication, it seems.

Now that's helpful
Monday, January 3, 2005

This just in...

"We take this issue very seriously," said Ken Barun, McDonald's Corp. senior vice president who oversees the company's "balanced lifestyle initiative". "Our role, when we saw this as an emerging issue, was to become part of the solution." One solution, he said, is an adult "Happy Meal" offered at some locations featuring a salad and a pedometer.

I hate to be too sarcastic, but when an adult happy meal is part of the solution offered by corporate America, I have to wonder how seriously they are taking the problem.

Stingy is as stingy does
Sunday, January 2, 2005

Please go read these at This Modern World

Misplaced priorities.

Can you say "American Gulag"?
Sunday, January 2, 2005

US Said to Mull Lifetime Terror-Suspect Detentions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts, The Washington Post reported Sunday.


As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Gulag Bay, plans to ask the U.S. Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told the newspaper.

I'm appalled.

At least we've decided to start doing the right thing
Friday, December 31, 2004

The United States contribution for the disaster in Indonesia is now $350-million, 20-times it's initial amount. That, at least, is a good thing.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq concludes that those who planned the war suffered from "stunted learning and a reluctance to adapt."

"Reluctance in even defining the situation . . . is perhaps the most telling indicator of a collective cognitive dissidence on part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even when they were fighting it."

Of course Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who as chief of the Central Command led the war planning in 2002 and 2003, states in his recent memoir, states, "I was confident in the Phase IV [occupation and stabilization] plan."

Given how things are actually proceeding, it shouldn't be all that hard to decide who has the more believable story.

Very odd
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Rather than the traditional egg hunt, this group, calling itself the American Clergy Leadership Conference, sponsored a nationwide "Tear Down The Cross" day for Easter, 2003. Last week, leaders in this radical cause presided over a Washington prayer breakfast featuring messages of thanks from the presidents. Former Senator Bob Dole came in person.

I suppose being associated with humility and sacrifice is such a downer.

Talk... Walk
Wednesday, December 29, 2004


"The United States, at the president's direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.


The Bush administration yesterday pledged $15 $35 million to Asian nations hit by a tsunami that has killed more than 22,500 60,000 80,000 plus people, although the United Nations' humanitarian-aid chief called the donation "stingy."

Where did the money go?

The estimated budget for the [inaugural] is $30-40 million, but that will not cover security costs.

and remember, the security is going to be unprecedented.

It's all political
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I'm not sure that he knows what that word means:

"No inaugural events are political events; this is a bi-partisan celebration."

Said Greg Jenkins, the Inaugural Committee Executive Director, when pressed about politicizing the events for members of the military.

Something can include both parties and stand be political. Besides, anything that involves the President of the United States is political whether or not you or they or anyone else wants it to be.

Walk the damn walk already
Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mr. Bush has always done a good job talking the talk.

''The Christmas season fills our hearts with gratitude for the many blessings in our lives, and with those blessings comes a responsibility to reach out to others," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

''Many of our fellow Americans still suffer from the effects of illness or poverty; others fight cruel addictions, or cope with division in their families, or grieve the loss of a loved one," he said. ''Christmastime reminds each of us . . . we are called to love our neighbor just as we would like to be loved ourselves. By volunteering our time and talents where they are needed most, we help heal the sick, comfort those who suffer, and bring hope to those who despair -- one heart and one soul at a time."

But actions speak louder than words and while "do as they say, not as they do" works well, "do as I say, not as I do" is only hypocritical. Frankly, the only response to a president who mouths these platitudes while presiding over cuts in social service programs, growing poverty, hunger and homelessness at home, destruction abroad and the attempted dismantling of our social safety nets is rage, the sad head shake and a befuddled wonderment. Has he no shame?

Did you hear about the altered Mousepox virus
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A pointer to a posting from my other weblog...

More talk about Social Security
Saturday, December 18, 2004

This from the Register-Guard:

Social Security "reform" is really an ideological issue dressed in financial clothing. That's why President Bush is adamant that widely accepted common-sense strategies such as raising the income cap on Social Security taxes are out of the question. He has no intention of pursuing any course that would leave the existing Social Security system fundamentally unchanged.

It's obvious that Social Security is not currently a big problem, let alone a crisis! Like WMD, and fighting Sadam bin Laden [sic], this crisis is designed to produce fear and destroy thought. The democratic leadership needs to be unified and make it clear that this emperor is as naked as the last.

Christmas for some
Monday, December 13, 2004

From Daily KOS, an AP story about holiday shopping trends:

Marshal Cohen, senior industry analyst at NPD Group Inc., a market research company based in Port Washington, N.Y: "For the luxury market, it feels like Christmas, but to everybody else -- the midlevel and lower-end customer -- it is not going to be a great Christmas."

After all, we all know that Jesus really came to hob knob with the rich and powerful. Whoopts, gotta watch that sarcasm.

Things I read last night
Thursday, December 9, 2004

This is probably echo chamber material but...

  • Ellen Goodman wonders how our nation simultaneously preaches abstinence to the young and pushes Viagra / Intrinsa to the old.

Is it just remotely possible that our society is suffering from a raging hormonal imbalance? We are trying to control the sex drive as if people were cars that needed to be equipped with the right set of brakes and an optional overdrive.

  • Molly Ivins speaks truth about torture in America -- it's horrible but it can (and does) happen here.

My question is: What are you going to do about this? It's your country, your money, your government. You own it, you run it, you are the board of directors. They are doing this in your name. The people we elect to public office do what you want them to. Perhaps you should get in touch with them.

  • WAMC's Alan Chartock interviews Paul Krugman (whose most recent column on Social Security is also a must read)
  • More gloomy financial news from the Financial Times and the Economist
  • A story about how hard it has become to enter this country (which dovetails nicely with All Things Considered's story about foreign muscians having Visa problems.

Compassion is in short supply but it remains our most valuable and inexhaustible human resource.

Funding (Military) Science
Monday, December 6, 2004

The National Science Foundation's budget gets cut but the military feels no pain.

From FYI: The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News, Number 156: December 7, 2004

Defense Department Appropriations Bill Complete

ARMY 6.1 funding will increase 7.1% or $27 million from $381 million to $408 million. The request was $318 million.

NAVY 6.1 funding will increase 2.5% or $12 million from $484 million to $496 million. The request was $477 million.

AIR FORCE 6.1 funding will increase 9.4% or $31 million from $331 million to $362 million. The request was $346 million.

DEFENSE WIDE (DARPA, etc.) 6.1 funding will increase 19.3% or $40 million from $207 million to $247 million. The request was $190 million.

While we're busy fighting terrorists
Monday, December 6, 2004

The World Trade Center attacks killed less than 3000 people. This attack killed 15,000 on the first day and has continued to kill 100s and 1000s in the succeeding years. In the first case, America was attacked. In the second, America harbors the attackers. In the first case, America has paid the victims and their relatives an average of $1.8 million dollars. In the second, Union Carbide has paid each of the 500,000 victims about $550. Union Carbide has also spent $2 million on cleanup over the last 10-years. That's less than $14 per person per year. If I had any Union Carbide stock, I'd sell it today. If I worked at Union Carbide and could find anything else to do, I'd quit today.

Of course, it's not the easy. I am probably wearing clothing and eating food and sitting in an office made with things that have been sullied by Union Carbide (fictitious but no less culpable) hands. As Thich Nhat Han says, we all connected in a web of interbeing (or dependent origination in Tibetan terms). We can wash our hands, but they won't come clean so easily.

National Science Foundation budget cuts
Monday, December 6, 2004

Thomas Friedman has good idea that won't go anywhere

You give me an America that is energy-independent and I will give you sharply reduced oil revenues for the worst governments in the world. I will give you political reform from Moscow to Riyadh to Tehran. Yes, deprive these regimes of the huge oil windfalls on which they depend and you will force them to reform by having to tap their people instead of oil wells. These regimes won't change when we tell them they should. They will change only when they tell themselves they must.

I've never understood why Bush wants to go to Mars. Sure, it would be a great achievement but we live in world of poverty, terror and violence and it would be much much better to do something about that first (or even at the same time!). As Friedman points out, having sustainable alternative energy sources would do so much good in so many areas even ones that seem far afield on their face.

Nell Newman on Flexitarianism
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

In an interview, Nell has a nice quote: "I was a vegetarian for three years as a kid. Now I am a "flexitarian." My friends say it's a PC name for hypocrite. I eat a little bit of everything. Ninety percent of what I eat is organic, and any meat I buy is organic, but when I go out to dinner, I don't always investigate the ingredients. I don't say no when I go to a friend's for dinner and they've prepared a non-organic meal."

It's not science if we don't like it
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's hard not to sound like a broken record (and what, by the way, are we going to do when no one remembers what a record is or why it skipped!) but how much science does it take to make something clear

In a speech to senior officials at the meeting, Paula J. Dobriansky, the United States under secretary of state for global affairs, said that once the full science report was released early next year, "the United States will take the findings into account as it continues to review the science on climate change."

What do we need -- writing on the wall?

What goes around
Monday, November 29, 2004

They say that "What goes around comes around" but it often seems that what comes round goes to someone other than the one that started it going. Environmental predation on a global scale is rapidly destroying the ability of many to live well or to live at all. Tree miners reap the profits and the people just weep:

Logging blamed as Philippines flood toll rises

Phillipines officials say the death toll from landslides and floods unleashed by a tropical storm in the Philippines has exceeded 300...

The environment is more than a food and raw resource production facility. It also participate in cleaning the air and water and in ameliorating weather and other surprises. We harm systems we don't understand and then are surprised when the unforeseen happens. I read Paul Hawken's the Ecology of Commerce way back when it was first published. One important point he made then that remains true now is that America exports environmental disaster to the rest of the world. We have the rules and the money to make things at least appear OK but we assume that the "world" will produce our toys cheaply and the only way that can be done is via shoddy environmental practices.

Process Dynamics make it hard
Monday, November 29, 2004

My brother sent me this Washington Post article the other day (I'm not sure how long the link will work). The article is a decent summary of some of the interrelated problems coming down the pike that the current administration is completely ignoring (and, for what it is worth, that the Kerry administration would probably mostly ignored too). I've been reading One with Nineveh and the Tyranny of the Moment. Here's my brief stream of consciousness sound byte.

The dynamics are hard. Very hard.

Globalization and information tend towards a politics of scarcity even (especially) where there is plenty. Then also tend towards increased speed and the loss of contemplation. We (our politicians) can't think about solutions for weeks or even days before the media has crystalized around a few dominate thoughts / "solutions". The less time we all have (really, the more things we have forcing themselves upon us), the less we can cope and the present moment recedes, disappears, crumbles.

Walmart... low prices are not enough
Sunday, November 28, 2004

We all know that we can't get something for nothing and that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Unfortunately, the lure of low prices makes these truths easy to forget. Walmart offers inexpensive stuff but it's not cheap. As Umbra says over at Working for Change:

Sadly, in our economy, low prices and wide profit margins are considered good, while work conditions and environmental and social impact are seldom considered at all.

This, of course, is just the old saw that we need to externalize prices but how are we going to do that? It should be obvious that Walmart is sucking the blood out of the very people who `need` it's low prices:

In short, Wal-Mart disables and replaces small businesses that may have provided health care coverage and higher wages to employees, forcing people to ask the government for assistance or go without health care -- ultimately the costliest solution.

But, somehow, it is neither obvious nor talked about -- except in the true alternative press. Atrios has ideas about using economics to fight back. This is the obvious solution (though hard to implement with kids!).

Good News
Thursday, November 25, 2004

It happened in England, but I bet they are one happy and thankful family!

A teenage girl has become the first known person to survive rabies without a vaccination, say doctors

It's nice when a medical procedure works and doesn't seem to expensive. It's also cool how the immune systems works when given extra time.

Just in case you haven't seen this
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I think you should: "Sorry everybody". My picture isn't there, but my spirit is!

Don't bother me with theories
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Gravity, quarks, friction, evolution...

Don't bother me with theories. Much has been written about the "dumbing of America" but what is going on with our country:

  • Harper's weekly points out a poll saying that half of America believes humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years (is this the same half that voted for Bush?)
  • A grilled cheese sandwich sold for 15,000 British pounds in order to "raise money for charity" (how, by the way, can you raise money when you're already the high bidder?! What are you going to do, hold another auction!?)

I was waiting in a doctor's office this afternoon and spent my time thumbing through Newsweek and some fashion magazine. I've no doubt that there is a correlation between America's quest for cosmopolitan perfection and its idiocy. How can we talk about what is real when we spend so much time focused on money, fame, thinner thighs, better baubles and the perfect martini?

How, in a nutshell, do we craft a society where people get what they need, not what they want? More importantly, how do we do this without being like cultural elitists or sounding like one? I don't think that this is a question of high and low culture, I think it's a question of life and death.

Guantanamo on the Hudson
Monday, November 22, 2004

In my opinion, what we're doing in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay is bad enough -- you don't make the world safer or better for anyone by treating people like dirt. But what happened during the RNC in NYC was nominally worse because the New Yorkers were Americans exercising their rights or sometimes just exercising. Though it was hard to believe that cops would treat protesters this way (perhaps I'm just too naive), I heard enough awful things from enough people that I couldn't believe it was just a hoax. Now here's a piece in the Guardian that gives the story more legs. God, how I wish that the people responsible could be removed from power and fast.

Chickens coming home
Sunday, November 21, 2004

From MSNBC (of all places):

the U.S. wants others to clean up the mess it has made. Indeed, since 2001, foreign financiers have seen federal projections swing from a 10-year surplus of more than $5 trillion to a deficit of more than $2 trillion, a swing of $7 trillion. They see that Bush's plan to make permanent its substantial first-term tax cuts would add another $2 trillion to the 10-year deficit. His determination to partially privatize Social Security could cost yet another $1 trillion to $2 trillion. Finally, traders and investors discount Bush's ability to cut spending in any meaningful way, since 80 percent of the budget is comprised of virtual untouchables such as defense, homeland security, legally mandated retirement and medical entitlements, and interest on the federal debt.

It's bad news for America that our chickens may be coming home to poop in our henhouse (sorry, messy metaphor...). I wish I saw solutions that aren't at least four years off. But I don't.

Don't stop thinking about (Tom) Tomorrow
Friday, November 19, 2004

If you don't know about Tom Tomorrow's work, you should. His latest cartoon perfectly characterizes the "cultural" divide in less than 50-words.

Delaying the inevitable?
Friday, November 19, 2004

Though originally from Talking Points Memo, I found it on Working for Change's quote of the day:

These folks talk about values and decency, but then think it's okay to change the rules once it appears one of their own may have broken them. This amounts to a work release program for the ethically challenged. We should all remember that a decade ago, Mr. DeLay helped to create this rule. Republicans said at the time they were the party of reform and good government. Now they've become the party of moribund hubris.

-- Rep. John Dingell on Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as quoted by Talking Points Memo

This from Molly Ivins:

Moral values. DeLay is going to give born-again Christians a bad name.

I don't have much to add except for my continuing bafflement that such hypocrisy survives unchallenged by the media -- OK, that's not a surprise -- or most of the democratic establishment.

What was that line about "Destroying..."
Monday, November 15, 2004

the village in order to save it"? This just in from Iraq:

While U.S. forces have won a military victory, the process of rebuilding Falluja, assisting about 150,000 residents who fled, and preparing it for January elections could take months.

I know that this isn't an original observation but, please, how much damage do we need to inflict before we get it through our heads that we're not helping anyone but the bad guys.

What is Allawi, brain dead?
Monday, November 15, 2004

What kind of idiot would allow himself to be quoted:

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he did not believe any civilians were killed in the offensive, which has left 38 U.S. soldiers, 6 Iraqi troops and more than 1,200 insurgents dead.

Any rational person knows that you can't crush a city of 300,000 without causing pain for everyone -- even if a large portion of them have fled. Where, by the way, have they all fled too? I don't think Holiday Inn Iraq has the room (in fact, I don't think Holiday Inn Iraq exists). And what, by the way, are they supposed to return to? Fallujah is in ruins. This isn't a success. This is a PR victory for any terrorist with half a brain to exploit.

What's good for Bush may be bad for business
Sunday, November 14, 2004

The larger point of the James Wollcott piece I mentioned yesterday was that US may be in trouble in world markets. Think about it:

  • There are fewer foreign students applying to both and graduate schools that ever before (and the ones that are applying are having a harder time with the whole byzantine visa process).
  • US based multinationals like McDonald's, Dinsey, Walmart, and Coke are seeing profits plummet.
  • New York is at the bottom of the list as a possible venue to host the next Summer Olympics

One of America's happier myths is that of the "Great Melting Pot". We all know that those who lived through it often found the pot to hot and the melting more painful than ideal but it's still a myth that bottoms out in truth. As a country, we owe much of success to the values of tolerance, diversity, skepticism and dissent. If we lose these values, we lose much of what makes America worth fighting for.

Universal insights?
Saturday, November 13, 2004

From James Wolcott:

In a related story in this morning's NY Times, Coke's chief marketing officer [... said] that Coke would do less "tactical" local advertising and devote more attention to Coke's broad appeal.

"We want to promote the bigger global ideas that are based on universal human insights."

What insights does Coke represent? "Sugary water is bad for you?" Where do marketing people learn to talk?

Please don't tell us what we don't want to know
Saturday, November 13, 2004

From the Winston-Salem journal, we have a story about the FDA disinviting a researcher whose research goes against Pfizer's Bextra talking points.

A local researcher's invitation to participate in a federal drug-safety board meeting was rescinded after he spoke out about his concerns regarding the safety of some arthritis drugs.

The FDA can invite whom it wants but given our administration's track record on science for the funded interests, this doesn't look good

Every silver lining has its cloud
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

From Aljazeera, regarding the alarming Arctic Climate Impact Assessment:

Their report says: "Extensive oil and gas reserves have been discovered in Alaska along the Beaufort sea coast and ... offshore oil exploration and production are likely to benefit from less extensive and thinner ice."

Maybe this is all part of the plan. Hey, global warming isn't so bad if we can extract more oil because of it!

All your bodies is ours
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

From USA Today via via the Daily Kos:

For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey's prescription because she did not believe in birth control.

If this is what they mean by compassion, I don't want to get on.

to the NYT
Tuesday, November 9, 2004

I'm tired of reading NYT reporting that fails to cover the facts, fails to dig into story behind the story, reports opinions as facts and, in short, does a lazy job of reporting the news. I'm not asking that every story be worthy of a Pulitzer, but as the "paper of record", the NYT has a greater responsibility to do the hard work and to ensure that its reporters do the hard work. We keep hearing Democratic slant and Republican slant on stories that are about actual _facts_. These stories are often covered in a he-said-they-said manner without making any effort to report what is going on -- politicians exargerate, they make mistakes and they lie. It's about time that the reporters notice the difference.

A ready and recent example of the NYT's lax reporting is covered on

Open Letter to the Boston Globe
Sunday, November 7, 2004

The November 7, 2004 article by Anne E. Kornblut and Susan Milligan entitled Bush's agenda may face hurdles talks about Bush's "unexpectedly large reservoir of political capital" and "his strong victory last Tuesday". This presentation of Bush's victory fails to conform to the facts. Bush won by a slim margin. 56-million people voted against him and his policies. Many that voted for him voted because of religious beliefs, not because they agree with his policies. To suggest that Bush has political capital and a strong victory continues to distort the facts and continues the mainstream media's slide towards being only a puppet of the right.

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