Saturday, September 30, 2006

Political term of the day: Dog-whistle Politics

Dog-whistle politics refers to the practice of using coded language in political speech that only your intended target audience can hear. The rest of us just find it confusing if we hear it at all. George W. Bush used the technique in the presidential debates. Remember when he mentioned the Dred Scott slavery case? Everyone was scratching their heads wondering what the hell he could be referring to. But it was actually quite obvious, once you let Google do the work for you: anti-abortion activists see themselves as similar to anti-slavery activists. For them, Roe v. Wade is like Dred Scott. So when he criticized Dred Scott, he wasn't just stating the glaringly obvious (that slavery is wrong), he was sending a message to anti-reproductive rights folks that he's on their side, without alerting pro-choice people that this is the case.

A more recent example of this technique might be his seemingly bizarre statement that Iraq is "just a comma". Some on the left have asserted that this is a reference to the saying, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." So the hidden, dog-whistle meaning would be "don't judge Iraq just yet, because God has more in store." Ironically, this comma saying is used widely by the progressive United Church of Christ, who attributes it to comedian Gracie Allen. (The UCC was the group that had those ads about religious inclucivity that were deemed too "controversial" to air on major networks.) This makes me wonder whether this particular comment was Bush dog-whistling to Evangelicals, or whether he was just being stupid and contemptuous of all the suffering and death that's going on in that area, or having his usual difficulties with the English language.

Update: Language Log supports my hunch that "comma" is not Evangelical dog-whistling.

Internal Monologue gets 10,000th visitor!

Someone in the UK was looking for "driven to insanity. monologue" on Google UK and stumbled on to my blog (and promptly left). But this person has the honor of being my 10,000th visitor since I installed Sitemeter (and I'm proud to say I started my counter at zero).

Coup in Iraq?

Man, the news does not stop tonight. Is there a coup going on in Iraq? There's a curfew. Somebody got arrested. Was it Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr? Here's Iraq the Model:
Earlier on Friday, al-Sharqiya and al-Hurra TV networks reported that the home of a senior lawmaker from a "large political bloc" was raided by a joint Iraqi-American force. The identity of the lawmaker was kept secret "due to the sensitivity of the case" the report said.

The news also indicated the politician was arrested after a bomb factory and at least one VBIED were discovered during the raid. So some people are speculating that the current escalation is a reaction to the arrest.

Others believe the situation is connected to the threat a senior aide to Sadr made during the Friday prayers.

Hazim al-Aaraji, one of the closest aides to Muqtada al-Sadr warned the government on Friday that the Sadr movement would "start a revolution to topple the government if anyone dared arrest or harm Sayyed Muqtada…"
[formatting changed slightly] I wonder whose side Bush thinks we're on. What a clusterfuck.

Republican sex abuse scandal: Hastert knew?!?

Oh my God, this could be huge. See Daily Kos and other places. Speaker Hastert knew about this? Pelosi called for ethics hearings and it passed 410-0. In 10 days there must be a report. I'm sure I won't be able to keep up with this. If Republicans were trying to cover this up, they are a bunch of sick fucking hypocrites.

Cold War vs. "War on Terror"

Here's a cartoon that says something I and others have been trying to say for a while now (HT: Mad Latinist):

Republican resigns for soliciting 16-year old page

[Updated Below]

Pretty creepy:

ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former teenage male pages. In one message, ABC said, Foley wrote to one page: "Do I make you a little horny?"

In another message, Foley wrote, "You in your boxers, too? ... Well, strip down and get naked."

Foley, as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet.

(HT: Firedoglake) The irony is almost too heavy-handed to be believable. I had heard about this a day or so ago but I didn't post on it because it seemed like it could be some kind of smear campaign, but he's resigned and the Florida Republicans are scrambling to find someone to replace him for the November election. Poor kid: becoming a congressional page only to get hit on by a congressman. To the kid's credit, he reported it. Apparently, this story has been kicking around for quite some time: some prominent blogger (I forget who) claimed to have received these emails 11 months ago, but didn't publish them because they couldn't be verified.

Update: Crooks and Liars:
Later on Ross says that one page said his "entire class was warned about Foley from people involved in the program". Now if warnings were issued, then why was action never taken? Sounds like the leadership in Congress really needs to be asked some serious questions about this.
Could the Republican party be having their own pedophelia scandal, complete with cover-ups by leadership? (OK, technically it's ephebophilia, not pedophelia, because it involves teenagers, not kids.) Can't let the Catholic Church get a monopoly on enabling hypocritical sexual abuse now, can we?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Descriptive Blogrolling: Kudos to Progressive Gold

Remember back when I advocated "commented" blogrolls over "naked" blogrolls? OK, you probably don't. But I'm happy to point out Progressive Gold's blogroll as an example of the sort of thing I'd like to see more of in the blogosphere: each link comes with a brief description of what the blog or website is about. I don't think Progressive Gold did it because of me, but it's good to see the notion cropping up in other places. I hope this becomes the standard form for blogrolls.

Friday cat blogging with baby bonus

The quote on my sweatshirt, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on." is from The Tempest. So far, Kitty and baby Quinn have been getting along just fine. Kitty seems somewhat circumspect around Quinn. She'll sniff him occasionally, but usually keeps her distance. The one exception is when I'm sitting at my computer with Quinn on my lap on this pillow. She'll often jump up and join him, or at least check him out before running off.

The Daily Show on Bush and NIE

Jon Stewart has a great little segment on Bush's incoherence on Iraq and the recently partially released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). See the video on Crooks and Liars.

Lieberman: pro-torture, but against violence in video games

It's funny to recall how Lieberman worked himself up into a moral tizzy about video game violence back in the 90's, but today voted to allow the Bush administration to torture people. OK, technically he voted for a bill that included provisions allowing the Bush administration to determine what acts constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but given what we know about the Bush administration that basically means allowing them to torture.)

Atrios has the appropriate reaction:
A hideous human being, a disgusting moralist who is morally bankrupt...Today Joe voted for torture. A sick and twisted man, obsessed with his own image and his desire for Tim Russert's love. One of David Broder's Wise Old Men, one who hates the constitution, human rights, and the rule of law.
The same could be said of the other 64 in the "yea" column, but Lieberman is supposed to be so "principled" and "moral". And he used to be a Democrat. We need to rid the senate of him. Support Lamont.

It's gross to change my son's dirty diaper, but seeing the shit stains on our country's moral soul inspires far a disgust far more profound.

And by the way, Iraq is spiralling further into hell (HT: Sullivan).

Photo of waterboard used in torture

To illustrate what our government is doing, it is now helpful to visist Khmer Rouge prison museums. There, you will find instruments of torture, such as a waterboard. Here's a photo, courtesy of blogger David Corn (HT: Sullivan):


Go read the post. There's another view of the waterboard and an illustration of the waterboard in action. And here's the most important quote:
Why is this relevant to the current debate? Because the torture techniques of North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and its proxies--the states where US military personnel might have faced torture--were NOT designed to elicit truthful information. These techniques were designed to elicit CONFESSIONS. That's what the Khymer Rouge et al were after with their waterboarding, not truthful information.

Bottom line: Not only do waterboarding and the other types of torture currently being debated put us in company with the most vile regimes of the past half-century; they're also designed specifically to generate a (usually false) confession, not to obtain genuinely actionable intel. This isn't a matter of sacrificing moral values to keep us safe; it's sacrificing moral values for no purpose whatsoever.

(emphasis added) I am deeply ashamed to be following in the footsteps of some of the vilest regimes in modern history.

Christian Americans more pro-torture than secular Amercians

Bwahwahwahah. American Christians are so full of it. OK, I should say a lot of them are full of it. They claim they're all moral, but according to this poll from a year ago they are more likely to think that it's OK to torture suspected terrorists than secular people are:
(HT: Slacktivist, a Christian whose writing and thinking I respect immensely, and who is rightly disturbed by this poll.) Note that the poll asked about suspected terrorists. Not known terrorists or convicted terrorists, but suspected terrorists. Is it OK to torture them? I'd say hell, no. But apparently a lot of people disagree. And the Christians are more pro-torture than the seculars.

Given what happened to the leader of their weird cult, you'd think Christians would endorse torture as a rate significantly less than us secular folk. But no. You'd think that all that time spent contemplating the suffering of some guy getting nailed to pole two thousand years ago would drive home the evil of torture. But I guess not. Maybe it just fills people with a sense of self-righteousness or a desire for revenge.

As much as I disparage the monotheistic religions, my suspicion is that Christianity is not the causative variable here. I suspect that conservatism or authoritarianism are closer to the root of the issue. And in America these traits have a positive correlation with Christianity. Or maybe secular people tend to be wealthy and more educated, and that's what makes them more anti-torture. Of course, I'm just talking out of my ass here. I'd be interested in seeing more data on this.

But the poll does raise the question: What's the point of Christianity if it doesn't make you a better person? Or do Christians somehow come to believe that torture is good? Of course, I know that for many Christians it's not about being good, it's about being saved. But this poll does seem to undercut the moral argument for religion. Chrisianity doesn't seem to work: it may make you feel good, but it doens't seem to have much effect on your moral behavior. Of course, you might think that torturing suspected terrorists is somehow moral. But I don't think you can make the argument that it is Christian, if Christianity has anything to do with the morality Jesus preached in the Gospels. (Yes, I know there are dispensationalists who think that stuff doesn't apply, but if we can't take a text to mean what it says, how can we define anything at all?)

Calm down on torture and imprisonment?

My Left Wing has a different take on the shameful bill that recently passed the Senate. Here are some of the main points:
All this bill is, is an utterly MEANINGLESS piece of kabuki theater.
...
1) Congress has NO authority to decide if these things are legal or not. That's up to the COURTS to decide.
...
2) The torture is happening the same, regardless of whether this bill passes or not. ...
3) Bush cannot claim retroactive immunity based on Unconstitutional law.
...
4) A Democratic congress will easily reverse this bill.
It's worth taking a look at the whole post. Thereisnospoon has a good point. We shouldn't let this shameful grandstanding distract us from the major political fight right now, which is getting as many Democrats elected to congress as possible. Still, I disagree that people shouldn't be angry about this bill. Whether or not it's constitutional or meaningful, it still reflects the moral direction of the country, which is pretty sick. I wonder what international reaction to this will be. If I have time I'll poke around and get some foreign reaction, but it's likely I won't have time.

Bush can imprison whomever he wants

I step out for a week to have a son and what is my government doing? This is insane. Bush can declare anyone an enemy combatant, imprison them without trial forever, and then gets to decide what is and is not torture? This makes me sick. I'm angry the Democrats did not filibuster this.

Of course, the blogosphere is in flames. Digby here, Sullivan here (and many other places. Say what you want about Sullivan, he's been on top of this issue for a long time), the superb Greenwald here. It's pretty clear that our hard-won freedoms mean nothing when there are political points to be scored. Sad, disgusting, and awful. And don't buy this bullshit"three valiant Republican Senators" narrative that the mainstream media seems so enamoured with. These three all voted against the habeas corpus amendment that Specter introduced (HT: Atrios). Watching McCain allow the Bush administration get away with some of the very same things that were done to him in Vietnam is like watching a battered woman go back to her abusive partner. Pathetic.

Fortunately, the 2006 election prospects are looking bright for Democrats. It's going to be fun (but a bit scary) to watch the Bush administration contending with a Democratic Congress. (And you can bet that I and the rest of the progosphere will be breathing down their necks to make sure they call the Bush administration to account.) We gotta make this fraud proof, though. I cringe when I think of all the Diebold machines that will be determining the fate our political future. (Yes, after this was revealed count me in the "worried about election integrity" camp.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Joe Lieberman's Day Off

Via Blogometer, here's a funny video re-edit of the iconic 80's flick that pokes fun at Joementum for missing so many Senate votes.

Certainly more entertaining than the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

I think Internal Monologue might have to be renamed Zac's YouTube Selections.

Iraqis want us out (except the Kurds)

Yo! All you "stay the course" folk, get a load of this: if you believe in Iraqi democracy, I think you should support American withdrawal from Iraq. Or at least relocation of US forces to the Kurdish-dominated areas. Take a look at this graphical representation of Iraqi opinion on the matter from the Washington Post (HT: Kevin Drum via Atrios):

Can we please quit this ridiculous "we must stay the course" charade? The American public has turned against this war, the Iraqis want us out, our army is overextened. What the hell are we waiting for?

Palpatine talks to Vader after Death Star explodes

Here's a funny little Star Wars parody scene (HT: Mad Latinist):

It's funny that in episodes IV, V, and VI, we see plenty of Vader reprimanding his own subordinates (as only Vader can), but never Vader getting chewed out by the Emporer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The NIE and Iraq

Apparently, our intelligence agencies are not drinking the same Kool-Aid as the Bush administration. The national intelligence estimate has some pretty glaringly obvious conclusions about how Iraq has worsened the terrorism situation. (Though apparently the White House is refusing to release the whole document, so who knows what else is there.)

Sullivan thinks it's time to either withdraw from Iraq or "up the ante" in a major way. My opinion is that increasing the strength of our occupying forces may have been a viable option a couple years ago, but not now. Persuading the public to ramp up for a war that a solid majority of Americans oppose is not going to work. And my suspicion is that increased military presence in Iraq would exacerbate the anti-American sentiment already prevalent throughout the Muslim world.

Even if we did succeed in stabilizing Iraq, the only thing we would accomplish from a geopolitical standpoint is building up an Iran-friendly state. People say we have to "win" in Iraq or it will become a haven for terrorism. But even if we "win", the Shia government we stabilize may follow in Iran's footsteps and support groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Certainly any government of Iraq that had any democratic legitimacy would be anti-Israel, unless a sea-change in Arab opinion were to take place.

I don't see how we are not completely fucked in Iraq. Given that we are fucked, why stretch our already breaking military further? If it's going to be a victory for our enemies whether we "win" or "lose", why throw away more American lives? If Iraq is going to be a haven for violent anti-Americanism, let's at least save ourselves the embarrassment of attempting to build that haven. Phased withdrawal, please. And let's make sure those phases don't take too long. Of course violent jihadists will cheer and claim victory when we leave. But they will do that no matter when we leave. So unless we plan to stay in Iraq forever, let's take our lumps now and get out of there.

Make your own motivational posters!

Via rubber hose, here's one of those do-it-yourself toys that make the Internet such a wonderful thing: Make your own motivational posters! Here's one rubber hose did:

Orcinus on Clinton, Democrats, and the MSM

It's been said before, but Orcinus says it well:
When it comes to the left, the mainstream media have exactly two all-purpose storylines going. We will always be portrayed as either spineless wussies, or angry loonies. The only choice we have here is to decide which one we're going to play to.

Given that choice, I'll go for angry loony every day of the week.

[...]

I say it's high time we borrow this [Republican] strategy, and put it to work. Let go of the fear. Accept that they're gonna say what theyre gonna say. Stop apologizing for anything. And let's bring on the angry Democrats.
Yes! Let's at least be entertaining! Kicking ass is fun.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Allen claims he invented the term "macaca"

(Photo from Sullivan's blog.) While Allen's claim that "macaca" was just an invented nickname he came up with on the spur of the moment has always rung false to me, this photo makes that claim sound even more dubious. I believe he came up with it at the spur of the moment, but the fact that when he reached into his mental grab bag for a spur-of-the-moment nickname and came up with a monkey-derived insult that's a racial slur in the area his mother comes from says something about his psychology. It's particularly pathetic because Allen doesn't have the excuse of growing up in a particularly racist culture. He grew up in an upper middle class family in California (his dad was a famous football coach). All his racist cultural traits were adopted delibrately. (OK, it's possible his family environment was racist, but it didn't have all the cultural trappings of the racism that Allen seems to flaunt.)

I might be able to forgive a racial slur if wasn't a part of a pattern: displaying the Confederate battle flag, associating with known racist groups, reacting oddly to questions about his Jewish heritage, etc. Add to that his anti-gay bigotry and support for the Bush administration, and you have one Senator who needs to be retired. And remember, this guy was going to run for President in 2008. Let's make sure he loses to Webb in 2006.

Olbermann shows how we should be talking about Bush

Via Crooks and Liars, Keith Olbermann lays into Bush like never before (they have the video). Olberman's reacting to this Bill Clinton ambush on FOX news that Clinton turned around and make Chris Wallace look like a chump. He thanks Clinton for calling Bush and his minions on this anti-Clinton revisionist history we've been seeing recently. And he calls Bush a coward.

Now one can read this kind of rhetoric in the progosphere all the time, but there's a great sense of uplift to hear this come from a news anchor on a prominent mainstream cable network. I'm tired of Bush getting the kid glove treatment. Someone needs to call him the corrupt criminal he is. It's so refreshing to hear Keith's special comments. Why aren't more TV pundits willing to go into this territory? I understand that these editorials are increasing his popularity a good deal.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Liquids and gels back on airplanes

(HT: Sullivan) But only if you buy them in the airport:
He said that most liquids and gels that air travelers purchase in secure areas of airports will now be allowed on planes. He called the new procedures a "common sense" approach that would maintain a high level of security at airports but ease conditions for passengers.

That means that after passengers go through airport security checkpoints, they can purchase liquids at airport stores and take them onto their planes. The new procedures go into effect on Tuesday, Hawley said.
When I put on my tinfoil hat, I wonder how much the airport vendor lobbyists had to do with this. Seems like a reasonable compromise, though. Or more reasonable than the previous rule, anyway. Sullivan thinks this particular London plot was probably "hyped for political purposes", and I agree. I'd go further and say that the whole airline terrorism threat is highly overblown. Indeed, the entire "War on Terror" is overblown, though I do think we need to take the weapons of mass destruction scenario seriously, especially as the technology proliferates. But keeping nukes out of Al-Qaeda's hands has nothing to do with bringing orange juice with me when visiting mom. Now I can, I'll just have to pay more.

Sullivan on McCain

I keep reminding myself of the hideous irony: John McCain has just allowed the U.S. president to use some of the techniques the North Vietnamese once used on McCain when he was a P.O.W. If that doesn't make you sick to your stomach, then I guess you'll never understand why so many of us feel so strongly about this.
I don't feel I can raise the proper amount of noise on this, given my new status. But this is sick and sad. I want nothing more than to pull the American flag up out of the shit this administration has trampled it in. That's why I have it in my blog's sidebar: so it can be associated with something other than what my government is doing while waving it.

I worry about this administration, but I worry more about the America that would let this happen. I'd like to think that Bush is just ramming this immorality down our throats, but the sad truth is that there are many of us who are cheering him on as he does so.

Unlike Sullivan, I've pretty much given up on McCain. He's too willing to suck up to who he needs to get the nomination (the Christianists, this administration), even though they've treated him like crap when it suited their purposes. I would not be surprised if this whole intra-Republican torture debate turned out to be some kind of fraudulent political kabuki staged by the administration to distract the electorate and the punditocracy (I've read this hypothesis in various places around the progosphere).

Internal Monologue is back...but only for babies!


Here's why it's hard for me to get worked up about Internal Monologue's usual topics these past few days. Quinlan Francis Drake Taylor ("Quinn") was born Thursday September 21 at 5:16pm, weighing 7 pounds, 15.5 ounces, and measuring 20.75 inches in length. Baby, mother, and father came home from the hospital today and are doing very well. So far, Kitty has not eaten him. And yes, we plan to sing him the appropriate Bob Dylan song a lot.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

National ID card: an idea whose time has come

I must second Kevin Drum on his motion to have a national ID card provided for free to all Americans. Having 50 different driver's licenses is just ridiculous from a security standpoint. And if everyone had a photo ID, all of these voter fraud vs. disenfranchisement arguments could go away. (Or the Republican "supress the minority vote" stance would be revealed for what it is.)

I'm not sure why people object to this ID card so much. If people are so concerned about the government intruding on their lives, it seems like the first thing to do is get rid of the Bush administration. Yes, an ID card may make you easier to track or something, but that's small potatoes compared to the notion that you can be declared an "enemy combatant" and held indefinitely without trial and subjected to "alternative interrogation techniques" (i.e. torture).

Daily Show on gays in the military

Via Crooks and Liars:


The Army is lowering recruiting standards across the board, but they're still excluding homosexuals. "Islamofacism" is an existential threat worse than anything the United States has ever faced (bullshit, but that's what Bush is spouting), but we wouldn't want any gay Arabic translators. Time to end this crap. I'd love to hear some Democrats make some noise on this. Time to lead, people. If you want some enthusiastic support from this blogger, some public statements on this would go a long way. Can someone point me to Democrats who've gone on the record supporting a lift of the ban?

The Pope vs. Islam

Boy I love it when intolerant monotheists go at each other! I agree with Kevin Drum that this Daily Show segment captures what's going on better than most stuff out there:

Despite my track record of Vatican bashing (do a search if you want examples), I'm leaning towards the Pope in this little spat. I must add my voice to the chorus of folk (including Journal of Applied Misanthropology and Andrew Sullivan) who say those people who are protesting this seem awfully thin-skinned. If an imam said something equivalent criticising Christianity or Judaism, I highly doubt Christians and Jews somewhere would start throwing fire bombs. The violence our country engages in is sometimes sick, wrong, and misguided, but at least in the area of religious provocation we seem to have a welcome nonchalance. I find it difficult to believe that people even care so much what the Pope says. As far as I'm concerned the Pope is a joke. But people take him seriously. And the response to his disparaging quote kinda proved he had a point, didn't it?

This whole episode reminds me of the Danish cartoon fracas and the Salman Rushdie fatwa. It's really incomprehensible to me what pisses people off so much. Aren't there more important things to worry about? I guess I don't have a right to tell people what to be mad about, but it does seem puzzling.

A while back, War Nerd wrote this armchair psychoanalysis of the Iraqi insurgency:

Massacres are much easier to take when you've got a huge birthrate to replace your losses, and shame trumps dying to young males. That's why it's always been ridiculously easy to get cannon fodder: young guys like the idea of killing and dying, but go ballistic if somebody humiliates them.

[...]

So think of Iraq as a high-school kid. Naturally, to him, sexual humiliation like Abu Ghraib is way, way worse than a piddling little massacre. I kind of admire that about them, the way they care more about some infidel flushing a Koran than about whole families blasted.

[emphasis added] So is this kind of thinking at work in these "cultural" issues that inflame the Muslim world, much to the condescending puzzlement of the West (myself included)? Granted, War Nerd is an insensitive misanthropic bigot (and a fictional personality), but how right is he here? How prevalent is this kind of thinking? Are we just being selectively fed these images and stories of "the rioting offended Muslim", or do they really reflect an underlying reality?

Update: Slacktivist wrote about this event a few days ago:

1. If you feel your religious tradition has been slandered, falsely accused of promoting violence and the "command to spread by the sword the faith," then it's probably best not to respond to such remarks violently. Bombing churches tends not to be an effective way of convincing others that your religion has not become corrupted by the adoption of violent coercion as a means of spreading/defending the faith. It may, in fact, be counterproductive -- reinforcing and providing evidence for the negative criticisms of your faith.

Also: If you're upset with something said by the Roman Catholic pontiff, then it makes no sense to take out this anger with violence against a 1,425-year-old Greek Orthodox church. That makes about as much sense as invading Iraq in retaliation for Sept. 11.

Internal Monologue author is homeless stalker


Here's the publicity photo for a movie I'm starring in, Cassandra's Echo. It's premiering at the 2006 FAIF Film Festival on Tuesday October 10th, 4:45 pm Screen #3 of the Mann Chinese 6 in Hollywood (next to the famous Graumann's Chinese Theater). Festival schedule here, purchase tickets here. I will try to be there, but with the new baby (he better be born by then!) I might not be able to make it.

I'm not really a creepy homeless stalker (I have a home), but I play one in this movie. I get to mutter a lot of strange, portentous things at the main character and lumber around the streets of San Francisco. This movie is an indie thriller with a creepy script that was a lot of fun to make. It was shot on a very small budget but with a great deal of professionalism. I haven't seen it yet, but the producers will send me a DVD after the premiere if I can't make it.

UPDATE: The film festival seems to have exceeded its bandwitdth. I should have hosted the picture on my own blog rather than embed it. That's the better practice in general. As soon as I can get a copy of it, I'll do that, but I might be in the hospital by the time the site is back up.

UPDATE II: Done.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Paternity leave update

My wife and I will probably be leaving for the hospital tonight, but there's a chance we won't. So this could be my last post for a while. Keep insulting Bush and his enablers while I'm gone.

Diebold machines openable by minibar key!

If this is true, then it's pretty frickin' mind-blowing. Well, actually it's not that surprising anymore. But in any decent Democracy it would be mind-blowing:
The access panel door on a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine — the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus — can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet.
(Emphasis in the original, HT: lamertstrether on Daily Kos.) I agree with this commenter on Kos (via Corrente):
Princeton needs to release the software they used to change the vote. Widespread access to this would end all e-voting immediately.
I think this would be a good solution. Or better yet, as a form of civil disobedience someone should actually hack a real election. They should create an absurd result, such as making the communist, or a joke write-in candidate like "E. Leckshin Steeler" win. That would make headlines all over the country, and get this debate out of the theoretical and into the real. This reminds me of times when people had trouble getting Mirosoft to fix security flaws. Sometimes, the only way to get Microsoft to deal with a security flaw in Windows is to publish the flaw or exploit the flaw yourself. Then they are forced to deal with it.

Now normally I'm all in favor of using new technology, but until electronic voting is much more secure, I can't be in favor of it. With financial tranactions, it's easier to catch fraud because the person who lost money is always going to find out and raise the red flag. With votes, there's no way to do this. Ideally, we should have the ability to individually verify that our vote was counted the way we want.

Paper ballots can be messed with too, but it's much easier for one security break to affect an entire system with electronic voting. And the fraud can be done much more surreptitiously. I don't expect voting security to be perfect, but it's got to be better than it is. Now we know these machines are both physically and electronically. (If you haven't heard about this story yet, I urge you to follow the link.)

I have stayed away from the procedural voting issues before, but there's just too much evidence of too much shenanigans not to make it an issue.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sam Harris on Liberal denial of Islamic extremism

Via Kevin Drum, I came across this LA Times editorial by Sam Harris which accuses liberals of having a "head in the sand" attitude about Islamic extremists.

I have been a supporter of Sam Harris' book End of Faith, because I think it provides a much needed antidote to the pieties and politeness surrounding religios dogma in our society. But here I think he gets a lot of things wrong. Or rather, I think he's attacking a conspiracy theory America rather than Liberal America:
At its most extreme, liberal denial has found expression in a growing subculture of conspiracy theorists who believe that the atrocities of 9/11 were orchestrated by our own government. A nationwide poll conducted by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that more than a third of Americans suspect that the federal government "assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East;" 16% believe that the twin towers collapsed not because fully-fueled passenger jets smashed into them but because agents of the Bush administration had secretly rigged them to explode.
While these statistics are somewhat disturbing, I don't think they suggest a particularly liberal form of malaise. Indeed, Harris does not even present evidence that these conspiracy theories were held more by Liberals than by those with other political leanings. Nor does he present evidence that Liberals hold more dangerous conspiracy theories than Conservatives do.

I find myself largely agreeing with Kevin Drum's critique:
It's that broad support that we need to target, and that's why we should focus our efforts on things like public diplomacy, economic engagement, and working seriously with multilateral institutions. It's not because liberals don't understand the threat, it's because liberals seem to be the only ones who do understand the threat these days — namely that public opinion in the Muslim world is our biggest problem, and conventional military action only makes this problem worse. Harris has some catching up to do if he wants to join the conversation.
That being said, I think Harris does have a point that there is some real violent pathology in certain forms of Islam, and that it is more widespread than some kind-hearted liberals would like to think it is. But I think he misses the mark when he accuses liberals of letting our hatred of Bush blind us to the danger of Islamic extremism. I would say it's the opposite: because we liberals are aware of the danger of Islamic extremism, and because we see how much worse Bush's actions are making it, therefore we hate Bush.

Iraq is making us weaker

Via Balloon Juice, here's a long and detailed report on how the Iraq occupation has decimated our Army's fighting capability. It was put out by Nancy Pelosi's office. Here's the intro:
The U.S. Army’s preparedness for war has eroded to levels not witnessed by our country in decades. As deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan continue unabated, there is a very real prospect that Army readiness will continue to erode, undermining its ability to meet the theater commanders’ needs and foreclosing any option for the U.S. to respond to conflicts elsewhere around the globe. The degradation of Army readiness is primarily a function of unanticipated high troop deployment levels to Iraq, chronic equipment and personnel shortages, funding constraints, and Pentagon civilian mismanagement.
Now I'm pretty anti-war in most cases. I require an enormous amount of convincing before I can come to believe that killing lots of people is the best available solution to a problem. But I do think having an army ready to fight is a good idea. Apparently, those who run our military do not. I guess that this is more evidence that the Bush administration doesn't even take war seriously.

We need to get out of Iraq, if only because we have to be ready to deal with an actual threat if necessary.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

An rose by any other name...but not an astronaut

OK, something trivial is pissing me off. I know that what with Darfur and our nation's constitutional crisis and Iraq and global climate change, this is pretty small potatoes. But I've been in extensive discussion with Grishnash and Mad Latinist on this, and thought I'd share my outrage with the world.

Why do we have all these different words for "someone who goes into space"? Astronaut, cosmonaut, spationaut, taikonaut, and now the Malaysian "angkasawan" (and yes, they use that term on their English website). It's a ridiculous Orwellian relic of the Cold War, and needs to be reformed. I can understand why each language might want its own word for something (though I think the French are fighting a losing battle). That's not the problem. What annoys me the fact that we call people of a certain profession from one country one name ("astronaut") while we call people with the exact same profession from another country another name ("cosmonaut"). And other countries do the same thing. There's no reason for this, other than to emphasize the nationality of the person to score political points. Space brings out the mindless flag-waver in everyone, I guess.

We don't do this with any other profession I can think of. Even at the hight of the Cold War, Soviet generals were still "generals"; Soviet scientists were "scientists" even if they were commies through and through. (Mad Latinist did point out the Premier/Prime Minister distinction, but I think that's another example of using language to fabricate a sense national difference.)

The astronaut/cosmonaut/etc. distinction is even more meaningless today when a German might fly to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz, then fly back on the American Space Shuttle. Is she a cosmonaut on the way up, and an astronaut on the way down? Does it matter if she was an East German before the Wall came down and trained with the old Soviet program, or a West German and trained with NASA? What if she's trained with both?

In protest of the jingosit liguistic hackery, I'm going to call all such people "space workers" until the terms are sorted out more to my satisfaction. "Space worker" is a lot more accurate than "star sailor" (astro=star, naut=sailor) anyway. And it removes that halo of science fiction romance from their job description.

Robert Frost, updated for the 90's

Whose crack this is I think I know
His house is in the Village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To steal some cash and snort some blow.

My strung out whore must think it queer
To stop without some needles near,
Between the park and Avenue A
She knows that smack is comon here.

She gives her nipple pierce a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the beep
Of my dealer calling for his take.

This coke is lovely, white and cheap
But I have promises to keep,
And deals to do before I sleep,
And deals to do before I sleep.

This parody of Robert Frost's classic "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was written by someone in my college sketch comedy group back in the mid-90's. I think it was Alexis Soloski, but I'm not sure (it wasn't me, though I wish it was). It popped unbidden into my mind as I woke up this morning, and it seems like the sort of thing that should be on a blog somewhere. You can find the original in a zillion anthologies or here or about a zillion other places on the web.

Small victories: Operation Rescue loses tax status

Via Feministing, here's the NYT:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service has revoked the tax-exempt status of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue West for prohibited political activity during the 2004 election.

Bush the war criminal

Here's something I don't quite understand in all this sick and immoral torture legalization debate: why does it matter what law Congress passes? If Bush ordered torture or inhumane and degrading treatment, that is a violation of the Geneva Convention. The United States is a signatory of the Geneva Convention. Therefore, if Bush violated the Geneva Convention, isn't he a war criminal regardless of what US law says? Unless the US secretly withdrew from the Geneva convention, I don't quite understand why any of this crap going on in Congress right now even matters. Do treaties of this kind have to be backed up by additional laws? Can Congress effectively abrogate the Geneva Convention by passing laws that contradict it?

Another question: Why doesn't some foreign government charge the Bush administration with violations of the Geneva Conventions? Would that be the diplomatic equivalent of farting at the dinner table? Or are other countries just afraid to expose the framework of international law (including the Geneva Convention) for the toothless sham our government has made of it?

Perhaps someone with expertise in these areas could enlighten me.

What the Bush administration is all about

Cronyism above all else:

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

(HT: Digby) One common theme of this administration is that politics trumps competence ALWAYS. Katrina, Iraq, the FDA, judicial appointments, you name it. My contempt and loathing for this administration is very high.

Update: Billmon is on this story:
Chandrasekaran's article [quoted above] is taken from his new book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which is definitely a great title as well as a great gag ("This doesn't look like Kansas, Toto!") I wish I'd thought of it. The book appears to be part of a trend on the part of the Washington Post and its reporters to tell the paper's readers all the things they badly needed to know three years ago about the conduct of the Iraq War.

Israelis and war

There's a fascinating interview here. Michael J. Totten, in an effort to get outside the Israeli "left-wing bubble", talks to Yaacov Lozowick, author of Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars. But he ends up hearing a critique of the recent Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah war very similar to what he heard from the leftist Peace Now people he interviewed earlier:

MJT: Why was it stupid?

Lozowick: It was stupid because we stumbled into what…it wasn’t a full-fledged war, but it was pretty close to it. From the perspective of the people living up north it was a full-fledged war. So we stumbled into what was an almost full-fledged war with absolutely no prior strategy.
(HT: Sullivan) What fascinates me is how differently Israel and the United States react to their failed wars. Israel seems to have no problem figuring out pretty quickly that the whole venture was completely FUBAR. Furthermore, it seems that there isn't a whole lot of left/right division on this. There may be disagreement about what should have been done differently but no one in the Israeli political mainstream seems to be claiming much of a victory. They seem united in their disappointment and anger.

Contrast that with the United States in Iraq: You have the Left saying (correctly) that it's a fucked up civil war with no good options and that we need to figure out how to get out, and the Right living in a "stay the course" fantasy, insisting that corners are being turned and that pulling out will shrink our nation's moral penis in an intolerable fashion. And a similar left/right division has existed in the United States for over three years. Yeah, the specifics have changed, and there's been a general souring on the Iraq occupation recently, but the left-right divide is still clear as day.

I guess the conclusion that I draw is that both Israel and the United States have militaristic, right-wing elements, and that the American ones have the additional property of being either dumb as rocks or psychologically incapable of admitting failure. If the Israelis can do it, why can't we?

Bloomberg thinks terrorism overblown

Via Minipundit, I discover that according to this Rolling Stone profile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks the threat of terrorism is overblown:
Nowhere is Bloomberg's independent streak more evident than in the way he handles the dicey political territory of terrorism. Say the threat is dire, and you look like a fear-monger; say it's overblown, and you look naive. Bloomberg, who has seen the intelligence reports and has dispatched NYPD officers to London, Afghanistan and the Middle East to investigate the jihadist threat, doesn't hesitate. Americans, he tells me, are "too freaked out" about the threat of another attack. "There is a much greater risk from lifestyles that hurt you - smoking, walking across the street without looking both ways, not putting bars in the window if you've got kids and you live above the first floor, those kinds of things."
Amen. I'm glad to hear a nationally prominent politician saying something like this. Apparently, he's "secretly" (guffaw guffaw) contemplating an idependent bid for the presidency in 2008. I don't know much about Bloomberg, but the fact that he's a Republican of course turns me off. (Apparently he became a Republican partially to avoid a crowded Democratic primary field.) He does support marriage equality, which is good, but not terribly surprising for a mayor of New York City.

If he does run, I'll at least take a look. But his backing of Lieberman and raising money for Bush and other national Republicans are enormous strikes against him in my book. Anyone who supports the national Republican party these days is part of the problem. Yes, there are individual Republicans who are good people and have good ideas. But the Republican leadership is corrupt, vile, wingnut-pandering and enormously destructive to this country. Any good ideas Lincoln Chafee might have put forward don't counterbalance the incredible damage the leadership that he supports has caused. (I feel like screaming that until it sinks deep into the conventional wisdom.)

It'll be interesting to see what happens if Bloomberg does run. Will he hold on to his marriage equality and terrorism-is-overblown positions when trying to run in a national race? If he does, I'll give him a good deal of respect despite his association with Bush. But he's got a lot of work to do to dig himself out of that Bush-supporting hole he's in.

Insurgents' secret weapon revealed!

Who would have throught that gloriously pessemistic war critic Billmon would make a major contribution to the struggle against the Iraqi insurgency by deducing the existence of a high-tech weapon no one thought the insurgents could possibly have:

"We've seen almost total loss of advanced brain functions among scores of top commanders and officials -- Sanchez, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rumsfeld, Cambone, Pace, you name 'em," one doctor explained. "The vice president's office, for example, is practically a coma ward. And yet most of these people have been nowhere near the fighting."

Pentagon researchers say they are exploring the possible use of a "stupid ray" or some other high-tech device by the insurgents.

"The implications are pretty grim," one scientist said. "Some of the worst-hit patients haven't even been to Iraq. If the terrorists now have a weapon that can reach all the way to Washington D.C., we've probably lost the war."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Joe Lieberman doesn't mention Iraq

It's been a while since I've taken a cheap shot at Joe Lieberman (CT-Lieberman), but this post prompted me to do so.

According to the transcript on Lieberman's website (congrats on finally getting that up, by the way), Lieberman didn't say the word "Iraq" once in his September 15 speech at Fairfield University. LamontBlog and Atrios give him grief for this, but I'm not sure that's entirely fair. After all, the speech is titled “A Report to the People of Connecticut on the War on Terror” and we all know that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror. So there's no reason for Joe to mention it.

Of course, given that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, the good senator might have taken a moment to explain what it is exactly we're doing there (aside from depleting our military and bolstering Iran). I'm sure that Lieberman's next speech will spell all that out in great detail. [insert link to .mp3 of crickets]

Friday baby blogging


I hope to have photographs instead of ultrasounds in a few days, but until then here's a preview of the baby. He's hard to see, but the thing in the center that looks vaguely like an Asteroids spaceship outline is his nose (or his nose hole--ultrasound has an annoying way of seeing through your unborn child's flesh), and his right eye is just above it in the image.

This reminds me of one of those images where people claim to see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in an armpit stain or something.

Internal Monologue on paternity leave soon

Within the next few days, it is likely that Internal Monologue will be going on paternity leave for a period of time. I'm sure all the Bush idiocy, ridiculous puritanism, theist delusion, and funny YouTube videos will be there for me to comment on when I get back.

I will continue to post as time allows, but if there's an extended gap you know the likely cause.

Why the military is against torture

Sullivan has an excellent post that drives at the heart of why the military is pushing back so hard against Bush's contempt for the Geneva conventions and for standards of decency in general. It's a letter from a marine who fought in Iraq in Desert shield/Desert Storm (Gulf War I) :
Looking back, I think that one of the main drivers in these [surrendering Iraqi] men's heads was that they knew, absolutely, that they'd get fair treatment from us, the Americans. We were the good guys. The Iraqis on the line knew they had an out, they had hope, so they could just walk away. (A few did piss themselves when someone told them we were Marines. Go figure.) Still, they knew Americans would be fair, and we were.

[...]

We don't have that reputation for fairness anymore. Just the opposite, I think. And the next real enemy we face will fight like only the cornered and desperate fight. How many Marines' lives will be lost in the war ahead just because of this asshole who never once risked anything for this country?
Read the whole thing, but I think it's obvious who "this asshole" is referring to.

Our country's honor is important, both morally and practically. Bush and his actions have stained that honor immesurably. And many are eager to drag our country down into this vileness. You don't have to look too hard in the blogosphere to find people shouting for torture, pre-emptive nuclear strikes, permanent incarceration without trial or due process, and disregard for civilian deaths: the very evils that we're supposed to be fighting against. There is a lot of pressure pushing this country in a sick, ugly direction. But when I read letters like this one, I'm reassured that many Americans still believe that we're something more than just a tribe of thugs with a better military than everyone else. May these sentiments prevail in the current political conflict.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Google's slide to the Dark Side

From Google's Investor Relations site:
Our informal corporate motto is "Don't be evil."
I think that's going to be difficult if this Raw Story snippet is to be believed (I've had some trouble with Raw Story in the past):
Google is "eager" to work with the Republican Party and has boosted its presence in Washington, D.C., according to Roll Call.

"Google, one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley, is ramping up its political clout in Washington, D.C., while taking a series of steps to court Republicans," report Tory Newmyer and Paul Kane for Roll Call. "The company is filing paperwork today to open its first-ever political action committee, and later this month, it will make an endangered GOP incumbent the beneficiary of its first-ever Washington fundraiser."

"The search-engine giant this month also deepened its ties to Republicans by inking a deal with former GOP Sens. Dan Coats (Ind.) and Connie Mack (Fla.) to lobby on its behalf," the article continues.

(HT: Progressive Gold) It's so funny how companies try to maintain their ideals. But the forces of the market are strong. It's probably a wise move for Google to butter up Republicans, just as it's probably a wise move to play ball with China. It's a good investment. But don't try to kid us on how radical and different and cool you are. You are a big corporation, and you participate in all the good and evil that big corporations must participate in if you're going to be successful.

"Don't be evil" is a good motto, but how much revenue growth would Google really be willing to sacrifice to achieve it? Now of course, some would argue that supporting Republicans isn't evil. But if my understanding of Google's culture is correct, most of the people there aren't supporting Republicans because they like their politics. So far, buyblue.org shows Google to be a 100% Democrat giving company. And it's headquartered in the Bay Area of California, one of the more Republican-hostile places in the country. So even if you think dealing with Republicans isn't evil, I bet the folks at Google think it is. But they're doing it anyway.

When I was at Microsoft, I remember how we thought we didn't need to pay attention to Washington DC. We were so profitable and "new economy" and fast and agile we didn't need to sully our hands dealing with those slugs in Washington. But that changed awfully quick once the anti-trust suit started rolling. Now Microsoft gives over 1.1 million in political contributions, according to the buyblue.org site, with a bit more than half going to Republicans.

I don't blame companies for doing this. If politicians can be bought, corporations would be foolish not to buy. What's $1.1 million when billions in revenue or tens of billions in shareholder value are at stake? (The only real question is asked here by The Exile: Why are American politicians so cheap?)

Public Financing of Political Campaigns might be an improvement over the system of legalized bribery that currently exists. But money will find a way to exert its power. My high school history teacher said any group of people with more economic power than political clout will seek to find a way to translate the former into the latter. I hope people-powered politics can counter this, but there's a lot of work to do.

Reid says no to warrantless wiretapping

Looks like Bush will be rebuked by the Senate, thank goodness. As usual, Glenn Greenwald has the details:
Sen. Reid stated flatly and unequivocally -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the Specter bill was not going anywhere, that it would not be enacted. I then asked him how he could be so certain about that -- specifically, I asked where the 51 votes against the Specter bill would come from in light of the support it enjoys from both the White House and at least some of the ostensibly "independent" Republicans, exacerbated by the fact that all 10 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of it yesterday (at least they voted in favor of sending it to the Senate floor).

In response, Sen. Reid explained that our system does not allow every bill to be enacted simply because a majority supports it, that Senate rules allow minority rights to be protected, clearly alluding to a filibuster.
There's more on the Kos front page. I'm happy for two reasons: one, because the executive should not be able to spy on people without a warrant, and two, because this is part of a broader pattern of resistance to the Bush administration from both Democrats and even some Republicans that is long overdue. Bush and his crew are reckless, unpopular radicals and they should be treated that way by all.

Bush is a failure


Swiped this picture from uggabugga. Several lefty bloggers (e.g. Digby UPDATE: and Atrios) have noted the following irony: On the one hand, Bush and his minions have been saying that the "War on Terror" (a phrase that deserves quotation marks if there ever was one) is this huge, existential conflict of unparalleled import. On the other hand, they don't seem that interested in capturing Osama bin Laden. If this is World War IV and terrorists are as dangerous as the Nazis, shouldn't Osama bin Laden be Hitler? (Of course it isn't and of course they're not and of course he isn't, but the Bush administration clearly says otherwise.)

I think that capturing Oasama bin Laden is more a point of honor and justice than something that will actually make us safe. But that's because I believe the whole terror threat has been ridiculously over-hyped. If I actually thought "The War on Terror" was as important as Bush has been saying it is, I can't imagine being so flip about not capturing him. As I see things now, it's just one point of national embarrassment among many.

Just as with their actions on Iraq, it's clear to me that the Bush administration doesn't really take "The War on Terror" seriously. What they take seriously is trying to get political mileage out of it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In space, which direction do you pray?

One of the fringe benefits of not adhering to certain religions is that you are spared dilemmas of the following kind:
We all know that Muslims have ceremonies. There's washing before prayer, praying a few times a day, and facing Mecca. But what if you're in space? Water and zero gravity don't go together and water is very scarce in space. The sun sets and rises a lot more often if you're in orbit. And as for which way Mecca is at any given point in time..
Mad Latinist offers some advice in the comments section, as does yours truly:
I think that spacecraft should install special rotating structures that you can strap yourself to that can pitch, yaw, and roll and are controlled by a complex array of motors hooked up to a positioning computer and operate in such a way as to always point you to your desired holy site (Mecaa, Jerusalem, the Indianapolis Convention Center, etc.)

Then I think the other astronauts should, as a prank, reprogram this device so that people ended up facing the wrong direction:

"Ha ha! You were praying towards Disneyworld!"

"Oh yeah, well your prayers were going towards the World's Biggest Ball of Twine!"

It's VERY easy to hack a Diebold machine


I've been waiting for someone to do a demonstration like this (HT: Jules Siegel on Kos). Now some folks at Princeton have shown just how vulnerable this particular machine is. I've stayed away from the whole vote fraud issue because of lack of expertise, but when the hacking is this easy to do, and it's this obvious how someone could do it, I've got to give it some play:
For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.
[emphasis mine] They have a demonstration video on their site. It's pretty scary.

This Kos commenter points out something particularly annoying about this whole business:
We must not forget that Diebold produces most of the ATM machines. There is no way they would be out there with this many holes in them. They are capable of producing a fairly secure system, but the opt not to. Why can't we vote electronically with the security of an ATM? Because they know most people care more about their money than their freedom.
(Another points out that the voting machines and ATMs are made by separate divisions.)

Garrison Keillor on "Homeland" Security

Garrison Keillor has a great essay up on the ridiculousness of some of our current security procedures (HT: Sullivan). He also makes fun of the word "Homeland":
It all began with the name Homeland Security. Somebody with a tin ear came up with that, maybe the pest exterminator from Texas, or Adm. Poinduster, because, friends, Americans don't refer to this as our homeland. It's an alien term, like Fatherland or Deutschland or Tomorrowland. Irving Berlin didn't write "God Bless Our Homeland." You never heard John Wayne say, "Men, we're going over that hill and we're going to kick those krauts out of there. And we're going to raise the flag of the homeland."

"Homeland" was a word you heard shrieked by a cruel man flicking his riding crop against his shiny black boots: "Zie homeland--ve shall defend it at all costs, achwohl!" Americans live in Our Country, America, the nation of nations, the good old U.S.A.
He also raises a frightening possibility:
God forbid somebody shows up at an airport somewhere in the world with an explosive tucked in his lower colon. The Achtung people will come up with some new security procedures that will effectively kill airline travel...
We've got to get it into our heads that there is an acceptable level of risk when it comes to airline terrorism. If terrorists blow up a plane every so often, it is a tragedy, but it's not worth strangling our economy or throwing away all scraps of dignity or comfort in order to avoid. I'd like to see some of the billions of dollars that these airline procedures must be costing us (in lost productivity alone, if nothing else) used instead to infiltrate terrorist groups or to set up false recruitment operations. I'd also like to see a good cost-benefit analysis for some of these anti-terror policies (and throw in one for the Iraq occupation as well.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jon Stewart on Bush's speech


Crooks and Liars has the video of Jon Stewart's response to Bush's speech. I didn't think the Little Richard part was so great, but Stewart was pretty funny.

Iran's best friend: Bush

OK, I'm going to complain about Iran: Given all we've done for them recently, they should like us more. We toppled hostile regimes in two neighboring countries (Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq), and are now spending lots of money and lots of troops to prop up a friendly regime in Iraq. We've improved their strategic position enormously, and of course continue to fund them through vast amounts of oil consumption. Really, Despite Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric, Iran has no greater friend than this administration. Maybe there's a secret pro-Iranian lobby group influencing US policy.

Iran's Ahmadinejad and Iraq's Maliki: feel the love

Glen Greenwald's most recent post and this one from Tuesday have a lot on the recent Iran-Iraq festival of love, and the incoherence of the US supporting the Maliki regime in Iraq but opposing the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime in Iran. Why they punditocracy's heads aren't exploding with the utter stupidity and self-contradictory shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot-ness of the Bush administration's Iraq and Iran policies is a great mystery. You shouldn't have to read blogs to learn this kind of stuff. (To be fair to the MSM, Tim Russert did ask Dick Cheney about this in this interview that Greenwald links to).

The two 9/11's

Bouncing around the progressive blogosphere, I've found a lot of people with ambivalences similar to my own about all the 9/11 memorial activity. This one on Legal Fiction captures what for me is a very important distinction:
But then I figured it out — there are actually two 9/11s. The first one is — the day. The attacks themselves with the lost lives and the tragic heroism and everything else we remember all too well. But that 9/11 no longer exists. Or more precisely, it’s been pushed aside by the second 9/11. And the second 9/11 is the political prop — a mangled, grotesque doppelganger of the first one that has been whored out on the political street for over four years now. The second 9/11 is the source of policies that have made the world far worse, and have killed many times the number of people who died in the Towers. And so, what’s truly tragic about the second 9/11 is that it threatens to forever stain the legacy of the first 9/11. Specifically, given the policies that have been (or will be) taken in its name, I fear that history may not care about what happened to us on the first 9/11, but will instead care only about what we did in response to the second one.

Bill Clinton reads blogs

From this Kos story:
But he did talk about Iraq, and healthcare, the Medicare drug benefit, energy policy, the estate tax, homeland security and protecting our ports, global warming, blogging, and just about everything else you can imagine. The least of which was "The Path to 9/11" and the fantastic work the blogging community did in the past 10 days in making it an issue. Yes, he reads the blogs, and has been for a while. That's why we were there.

[...]

What we did talk about was the rise of the left-wing blogs as a reality-based medium. He's very impressed by the amount of research and fact-checking that happens on the blogs on a daily basis, particulary compared to the traditional media. (Kind of makes you want to double-check everything you write, knowing that Bill Clinton is reading, huh?) He was impressed and grateful for the work done in pushing into the mainstream the travesty that the ABC/Disney movie was.
Does he still read The New Republic? Anyway, I think the blogging medium has arrived. Opinion makers take it seriously. Now if only my Sitemeter ratings were high enough to get me invited to such events. But I've got a ways to go before I reach that level.

Terroism Hysteria watch: enough is enough!

Attaturk on Eschaton and on his own blog are finally saying enough is enough when it comes to fearmongering, and that this goes for Democrats as well as Republicans:
I don't want to sound like Billmon here, but neither party has the guts to stand up and truly inform the public on the general "ineffectiveness" and weakness of terror groups. Anyone who actually said so would have the bodies of innocent civilians thrown at their feet and the "fear" words would come in a Katrina-level deluge. Osama and his pals got incredibly lucky on September 11th, so tragic is fate. Yes, they are highly dangerous and intelligence and police work is required. Sadly, any rationality to this clear fact cannot be engaged in now without scorn being brought down upon your head. Being afraid is the mode we are supposed to have, no matter how many times a 73 year old phrase about fear being the only thing to fear is tossed out.
This is going to be a very hard point to get across to the people of America. Images burn themselves into the deepest parts of our minds, but statistics about the extreme unlikihood of actually getting killed by a terrorst bounce off the surface. Add to the fact that an entire political party is basing itself on exploitation of the misperception of terrorism, and you have an obstacle almost impossible to surmount. It is hard to avoid Billmon-esque pessimism here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seven Against Dweebs: Conservatives for a Democratic Congress

Andrew Sullivan links to this Washington Monthly special featuring seven conservative commentators hoping for Democratic control of one chamber of Congress, or at least saying divided government would be good for conservative principles. Let's hope we get a chance to find out. And let's work hard to bring it about! You can always give a few bucks to a Netroots candidate. To maximize your political dollar's effectiveness, consider checking out some of the lower-profile races.

Here's one you don't have to be too geeky to get...

Get Motivated! (if you're a gaming geek)

An old Dungeon Master of mine (not that kind of Dungeon Master, this kind) sent me this link to a bunch of gaming jokes done in the style of corporate motivational posters. I apologize to my non-gamer readers (if I have any non-gamer readers!) who probably won't get the jokes. Here's one to start off with (which has the added bonus of violating Disney's intellectual property rights, which I plan to do at every opportunity now that they've decided to become purveyors of right-wing propaganda that's both false and dull).


If you're not a MMORPG player, you probably don't know what this means. But you know where to look...

The Onion commemorates 9/11

NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole

The Onion

NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole

NEW YORK—New York Governor George Pataki thanked President Bush for providing "ample, unquestioning financial support" for the $175 million pit.

The Onion has a new "Blog" feature (well, new to me, anyway) that allows you to paste headlines, blurbs, and a small picutre into your blog. The Onion's novelty has worn off somewhat for me, but sometimes they just hit the nail right on the head. I thought this 9/11 story would be a great first use. It echoes the sentiments in the Olbermann editorial I just linked to and in this Billmon post. Billmon takes the most despondent pessimism about our country and makes it fun to read:
The physical symptoms -- a lost war, a derelict city, a Potemkin memorial hastily erected in a vacant lot -- aren't nearly as alarming as the moral and intellectual paralysis that seems to have taken hold of the system. The old feedback mechanisms are broken or in deep disrepair, leaving America with an opposition party that doesn't know how (or what) to oppose, a military run by uniformed yes men, intelligence czars who couldn't find their way through a garden gate with a GPS locator, TV networks that don't even pretend to cover the news unless there's a missing white woman or a suspected child rapist involved, and talk radio hosts who think nuking Mecca is the solution to all our problems in the Middle East. We've got think tanks that can't think, security agencies that can't secure and accounting firms that can't count (except when their clients ask them to make 2+2=5). Our churches are either annexes to shopping malls, halfway homes for pederasts, or GOP precinct headquarters in disguise. Our economy is based on asset bubbles, defense contracts and an open-ended line of credit from the People's Bank of China, and we still can't push the poverty rate down or the median wage up.
Mahablog once described a different Billmon post in the following way:
This bleak but brilliant post by Billmon exemplifies why we bloggers are either the last, best hope of civilization, or the last, best chroniclers of the end of civilization.
Let's hope it's the former. (I've used this quote before, and I think it applies here, too.)

Keith Olbermann on 9/11

It's great to see a media figure speak the truth to the Bush administration. 5 years later, the World Trade Center site is still a hole in the ground. Here's the video, via Taylor Marsh.

I don't really know what to say on this anniversary. I worry about our fetishization of this event. It strikes me as too much like the South chewing over its defeat in the Civil War, or the Shia celebration of their leader's defeat in the centuries-old schism that produced the divisions that burn with violence to this day. But the shock and grief are real. I'm sad they've been politicized and poisoned by this administration. I'd like to feel I can put forward some token of remembrance, of grief, of respect for the dead, without at the same time contributing to an atmosphere of self-justification and blind lashing out. I don't want to feed sentiments which get corralled by people to twist the path of this nation to serve their profit and their mind-warped plans. I'd like to remember those moments and actions in which we did really come together as a nation.

I like Andrew Sullivan's way of marking the day: posting items which show defiance against everything Al Qaeda stands for. Here's one that quotes Thomas Jefferson. There are many more.