Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why right wing advocacy groups are more effective

Kos observes:
MT-Sen: Newspapers will come wrapped Election Day in a pro-Burns ad paid by the NRA. Two things -- 1. Notice how the NRA is actively working against Jon Tester, despite Jon having a perfect gun record. The NRA will always oppose Democrats at the federal level no matter how gun friendly they might be. That's how movements succeed. Not like the jokers at the LCV and Sierra Club and NARAL who think endorsing Republicans and helping them get congressional majorities is somehow advantageous to their agenda;
Any progressive group that supports any Republican at the fedral level is practicing political suicide/treason/stupidity.

How serious are the Christianists?

Very serious, says tristero on Hullaballoo:
Sam Rosenfeld and Matt Yglesias are wrong. The movement to establish an American theocracy is serious, relentless, and very, very dangerous.

[...]

But the fact that I find christianism utterly repulsive when it's not just silly doesn't take away from the fact that many, many Americans are deeply attracted to it. Many more Americans have trouble distinguishing between the more diluted versions of christianism and their own desire to have a meaningful place for religion and national pride in their lives.

It is a serious mistake to underestimate these people. They have more cash, and more followers than we do. More importantly, they know, as we yet don't, that they are in a culture war. And they know, as incredible as it surely sounds to Rosenfeld and Yglesias, that the culture war is a continuation of the ancient struggle between the priests and the philosophes and ideals of the Enlightenment. Go ahead, Matt and Sam, read what they actually say. Listen to their speeches. That's what this is about.
Emphasis added. I often find myselft wondering how alarmist Internal Monologue should be about the Christian Theocratic movement in the United States. Sometimes they seem like harmless dupes of the Republican plutocrats (though now that I think about it, they do plenty of harm in that role), but then I think about the prevalence of Creationism, "Abstinence Only", Anti-gay bigotry, and the rest of their agenda and how far it has penetrated into mainstream American life. And I think about their persecution complex. And their eschatology. And their blind support for Bush and his ilk. And I find myself agreeing with tristero.

I think a key component of this fight against Christianism is ripping away the protective veil of automatic respect that crazy, hateful ideas get when they are presented as religious ideas (e.g. all who don't believe as we do are going to burn in hell, and it is right that they will). In this respect, I am in agreement with Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith (see sidebar).

New Pentagon PR war

Because if you can't make the occupations work in reality, maybe you can make them work in virtual reality. Just read this on Kos:
Pentagon memo reveals launch of new PR war

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is buttressing its public relations staff and starting an operation akin to a political campaign war room as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld faces intensifying criticism over the Iraq war.

In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said new teams of people will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record."

[...]

The plan would focus more resources on so-called new media, such as the Internet and Weblogs.

Emphasis added. Does this mean we're going to have more drive-by Pentagon propaganda here on Internal Monologue? I hope it's better than their previous pathetic attempt.

Poor Wolf Blitzer: not immune to the slime machine

Wolf Blitzer is terribly and shocked and saddened that a Republican operative attacked his patriotism. This is really funny. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bush regime attacked Nathan Hale's patriotism ("You only had but one life to give for your country?!?! You must want the terrorists to win!!"). As usual, Greenwald has a great perspective:
But Wolf Blitzer isn't surprised and upset over Lynne Cheney's use of this "ally-of-the-terrorist" weapon. He's surprised and upset that she used it against him. He thought he was exempt, that he has proven to them through many years of obsequious and mindlessly glorifying "journalism" that he is a Good Boy, that he is one of them. It's one thing to label as "pro-terrorist" most national Democratic politicians, American citizens who oppose the war in Iraq, or anyone who criticizes the Commander-in-Chief in any meaningful way. To Blitzer, that is all fine and acceptable and to be expected.

But Blitzer is different. The Cheneys know him and know that he has shown his Loyalty. Why are they doing this to him?
Poor guy. I feel about Mr. Blitzer the sort of the way I felt about Roy of Sigfried and Roy when he got mauled by that tiger. Yes, it's bad. But what did you expect? What made you exempt?

NOOOO!!!! Intellectual property law strangles YouTube!

Apparently, now that they're owned by Google, Viacom is not giving them a free pass (HT: Sullivan, a fellow YouTube embedder):

When people clicked on links for [Comedy Central clips], they got a stark message: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."

Users of YouTube who had posted Comedy Central clips in the past said they received emails late Friday from the site informing them that, if they did it again, it would "result in the deletion of your account."

YouTube - a year-old web site that offers video clips of homemade films but also is the go-to site for countless snippets taken from commerical TV - has had copyright trouble in the past. But this appears to be the largest purge to date at the site.

Where will I find all those Daily Show, Colbert Report, and South Park clips which my readership counts on being able to see? Bummer, man. So far, my embeds still work, but I fear that soon many of my posts will be encumbered with broken links.

YouTube, the Napster of 2006. Well, we'll see what we can do. Maybe I can give them an ad or something in exchange for being able to post small clips.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bilal Hussein: free him or charge him

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article up on Bilal Hussein, an AP photographer currently held by the U.S. Military who has not been charged with any crime. This story hasn't gotten a lot of air (I only knew about it vaguely before the Greenwald Article), so I thought that I'd refer to it here in hopes that more people learn about it. Here's an excerpt:
Hussein's detention in April was preceded by months of vicious complaints from Bush followers that his photojournalism was anti-American and suggestive of support for the insurgents. Before there were even any news reports anywhere about Hussein's detention, Michelle Malkin learned of Hussein's detention -- she claims "from an anonymous military source in Iraq" -- and blogged about it. At the time, she claimed that "Hussein was captured earlier today by American forces in a building in Ramadi, Iraq, with a cache of weapons." It will surprise nobody that, as was conclusively revealed once AP was able to talk publicly about Hussein's detention, many of the "factual claims" on which these accusations were based are just outright false.

The power to detain people indefinitely -- meaning forever -- without so much as charging them with any crime is, of course, the very power that Congress just weeks ago vested in the President when it enacted the so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006. While it is customary for soldiers captured on a battlefield to be held as prisoners of war until the end of hostilities, Hussein and many (if not most) of those who have been detained around the world were not captured on any battlefield at all, nor were they caught in the act of waging war against the U.S.. Instead, they have simply been arrested in apartments, homes, and off the street and then thrown into prisons with no charges or process of any kind.
Glenn Greenwald is a treasure. I don't know if Bilal Hussein is guilty of anything or not. If he is, he should be charged with a crime. If he isn't, he should be released. This throwing people in prison indefinitely stuff is what our country was founded to put an end to. It is un-American. Of course, this disgusting Congress did try to give this administration that power, but Congress can't nullify the Constitution just by passing a law.

A lot of people in the lefty blogosphere get into huge arguements about whether or not it is appropriate to use the term "fascist" when describing the Bush administration. I do not think it is the right term--delusional kleptocratic wanna-be authoritarians seems more fitting (but I guess that's not too far from a definition of fascism.). But incidents like this sure do provide good fodder for the opposing point of view. Imprisioning journalists is one of the cliches of dictatorship.

Here come the planes...

...my favorite Laurie Anderson song, O Superman, was nominated for best 80's video on Sullivan's site. Very performance arty and minimalist, so maybe not everyone's cup of tea. But the song is strangely tender and moving. It was written at a time when answering machines were quite new and strange. The line "smoking, or non-smoking?" sounds so dated now. But I think the song holds up well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No Foley report until after election

How unsurprising is that?

Maybe Ken Mehlman thinks porn reduces rape, too...

...so that's why he accepts campaign contributions from a leading maker of gay porn. (For the whole porn reduces rape idea, see this post.) Now, as Josh Marshall says, gay porn tycoons have every right to participate in the political process. But when Republicans make political hay out of gay bashing (and run ads accusing opponents of accepting porn money), it's pretty hypocritical for the head of the Republican National Committee to be accepting these kinds of contributions.

Now the question I want to ask is, what is Mr. Boyias getting from Mr. Mehlman? Why would a producer of gay porn contribute to Ken Mehlman of all people? Is he buying the rights to the Foley story?

Rush Limbaugh and Michael J. Fox

I haven't posted on this whole disgusting episode, in which Rush Limbaugh accused Michael J. Fox of faking Parkinson's symptoms and being exploited by Democrats (never mind that he does have Parkinson's and that he's supported Republicans like Arlen Specter who've supported biomedical research). This Keith Olbermann segment is a great summary of the whole thing (HT: Firedoglake):

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rape is down in the US. Why?

The good news is that incidence of rape in the United States is down 85% from 1979 levels. Violent crime dropped only 59%. Why did rape decline more than overall violent crime? Could it be a statistical mirage, due to the fact that rape is under-reported? But why would it become more under-reported in recent years? One would think the opposite would be the case, with increased awareness and education on the subject (let's hope).

This guy (Anthony D'Amato) has a guess: increasingly easy access to porn has lowered the incidence of rape by providing an outlet for sexual urges that would otherwise be channelled in a criminal direction. Here's his abstract:
The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.
I read the paper and while the thesis seems plausible, I wasn't particularly impressed with the methodology though: comparing rape incidence rates between the states with the highest Internet use and lowest Internet use. Is Internet use really a good proxy variable for porn use? I know there's a lot of smut on teh Internets, but there's other stuff too, like political blogs of unusual acumen.

Glenn Reynolds seems to find the thesis pretty plausible:
Hmm. What's different since 1970? Lots of things, of course, though bared midriffs and short-shorts are back. But probably the most relevant difference is porn. In 1970, some people argued that porn caused rape. Since 1970, though, porn has exploded. In 1970 you had to work pretty hard to find porn. Now you have to work nearly as hard to avoid it.

But rape has gone down 85%. So much for the notion that pornography causes rape — or, at least, if it did have much effect in that direction, it would be hard to explain how rape rates could have declined so dramatically while porn expanded so explosively.

So while I won't go so far as to argue that porn actually prevents rape, it seems clear that the claims of some people — including a commission headed by former Attorney General Ed Meese back in the 1980s — that pornography promotes rape are, at best, overstated. I suspect, though, that anti-pornography crusaders are unlikely to heed this lesson.

I agree that while porn may not be the cause of the decrease in rape, it's pretty hard to argue that it causes rape, given its recent ubiquity and the recent percipitous decline in rape incidents.

Friday, October 27, 2006

NBC licks rectum of Dear Leader Bush

Colorful language warning...oops too late. Think Progress via Kos:
NBC is refusing to air an ad for the new Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up & Sing.” Variety reports, “NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it ‘cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.’”
What I don't understand is that Bush is at 38% approval rating, with very high disapproval. Couldn't NBC make some money of disparaging Bush? Don't late-night comedians disparage him all the time? Doesn't Conan O'Brien make Bush jokes? (Yes, he does.)

What is going on here? I can completely understand when corporations do anything to make a buck. But when they turn away money I start scratching my head. Does their viewership skew so wingnut that if they aired these ads they'd lose so many viewers that it would be counterproductive? Or is there some Republican agenda here? Who is doing it, what are they getting for it, and who is letting them get away with it?

Another explanation is that this is all some kind of Weinsteinian publicity stunt, in which case NBC played right into his hands. (And so did Internal Monologue.)

And kudos to the Dixie Chicks for bashing Bush long before it was cool to do so!

UPDATE: Greenwald posts on this, and is excellent as usual.

I have a fanmail address!

This site decided I was worthy of having a fanmail address:

Zachary Drake
c/o JE Talent, LLC
323 Geary Street, #302
San Francisco, CA 94102

It should work; it's my agent's address. I'm sure fanmail.biz just pulled me from some database (probably imdb.com).

Of course, if you're a fan, you're better off just emailing me.

War games off coast of Iran

That fleet I mentioned earlier is apparently in position:

There is a massive concentration of US naval power in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Two US naval strike groups are deployed: USS Enterprise, and USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. The naval strike groups have been assigned to fighting the "global war on terrorism."

War Games

Concurrent with ths concentration of US Naval power, the US is also involved in military exercises in the Persian Gulf, which consists in "interdicting ships in the Gulf carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles"


Kos, Joan Blades, George Lakoff, and Paul Pierson on one stage

UPDATE: I posted a revised version of this on Kos.

Just got back from this event, which was pretty cool. I'm very familiar with Kos and Lakoff, and know a lot about Joan Blades' MoveOn.org, so there wasn't a whole lot of new information for me. I hadn't heard of Paul Pierson before. Here are some interesting tidbits I heard at the panel:
  • Paul Pierson made the point that one must keep in mind that politics is not just a popularity contest. It is also a contest of organization, and a contest between institutions. One can win an election even if your ideas are less popular if you have better organization and more robust institutions. The Republicans have been able to do this, as this figure illustrates:
  • Markos made the point that he's less concerned with the division between "right" and "left" and more concerned with the divisions between establishment-driven candidates vs. people powered candidates, between Democratic appeasers and Democratic fighters, and between those who speak to issues and those who speak to values. Obviously, he prefers the latter type in all cases.
  • Joan Blades is very optimistic about the groundswell of progressive action she's seen this election cycle. George Lakoff is more pessimistic, and sees the power of the Republican ground game.
  • Paul Pierson and Markos both use a wave vs. levy (or dam in Markos' case) metaphor for this election: there's a Democratic wave, but it's crashing up against a powerful Republican levy: incumbency, sophisticated get-out-the-vote operations, coordinated media, etc. The levy has been weakened, but no one knows how strong it really is. It could hold and the Democrats optimism could be a dud. Or it could break completely and the Republicans could get totally flooded.
  • George Lakoff pointed out that George Bush saying something to the effect of, "We're not staying the course" was really bad framing. When you "negate" a frame with "not", you're still invoking the frame. "Stay the course" evokes three powerful frames: morality = strength, achieving a goal = traveling to a destination, and morality = staying on a narrow path. That's why they hammered the phrase "stay the course" so much. But then declaring that you're not staying the course, indeed declaring falsely that you've never been about staying the course, makes you look weak and immoral (and you're a liar to boot).
  • Joan Blades founded a new organization, momsrising.org.
  • This panel will be on NPR's World Affairs Council on Monday at 8pm (at least in the Bay Area, I'm not sure about other places).
I asked a question about ballot initiatives and the California ballot initiative process, but there wasn't time to get to it. (Markos said in an earlier post that he voted "No" on all CA ballot initiatives as a protest to the broken process. I wanted him to elaborate on this.) Also, there was surprisingly little talk about Iraq, a fact that Paul Pierson pointed out.

Is belief in God socially useful?

Lizard at Journal of Applied Misanthropology was asked the following question:
Is there not some social utility in having human beings who feel a direction connection to God/Yhwh/the universe/Whoever and to His/Her/its creations? Can we not expect it to deeply influence their behavior in a way more profound than an intellectual acceptance of a systm of morality?
Follow the link to read Lizard's response. Here's mine:
Ah, yes, the "Noble Lie" argument. I share [Lizard's] disdain for it. And I agree that science provides us with a more firmly grounded connection to the universe. Here's my favorite: All living creatures on earth are members of the same family. Not some hippie-dippy, "spiritual", abstract kind of "family", but all are literally cousins, albeit very distant ones. To riff on an old exclamation, You WILL be a monkey's uncle (if you're male), indeed you already are.

But my main objection to the "noble lie" argument is that it assumes that belief in God will "deeply influence their behavior" in a positive way. I think this is a very difficult question to answer in the affirmative. God seems to tell some people, "Thou shalt engage in socially useful behavior!" but he seems to tell other people (or even the same people) "Thou shalt vote for [a] pathetic, incurious, narrow-minded jerk who will do enormous harm to your country." And of course, God often seems to say "Go kill person/nation/ethnicity [fill in the blank]" as often as he issues the contrary command.

Certainly there have been studies showing that regular church attendance in the United States is positively correlated a number of socially desireable outcomes, but the causal relationships are by no means easy to tease out.
Much has been written on this topic, of course. It is extremely difficult to evaluate the utility of something as widespread, ingrained, and ancient as belief in God (or more broadly, supernatural reinforcement of morality). It's too much a part of much of society. But I don't think the assumption that belief in God will make us better should be accepted automatically. Wouldn't it be better to make people believe in being better people? Why not cut out the spiritual middleman (not hard, since he doesn't exist anyway) and extoll virtue directly?

(Of course, we can have a whole separate universe of debate about what virtue is, but I actually think that many American atheists and believers have a good deal of overlap on that:Many athiests I've talked to (including myself) have a moral system that is recognizably Judeo-Christian in origin, it is the theological accoutrements that we find objectionable. Of course there are Nietzschean and Randian atheists who might claim their morality is derived from a completely different set of ideas.)

And extolling virtue directly might not as easily engage all those parts of the brain that get people all fired up. But maybe that would be a good thing. Certainly, there are parts of the world that would benefit enormously from an epidemic of religious apathy.

The Six Burdens of Sanity

Orcinus found this on the web:
"Sanity," says Akhtar, "has its own burdens, and fundamentalism is the treatment for those burdens." His argument spins on six specific burdens of sanity:

-- Factual uncertainty: the need to carry on even when we don't know all the facts
-- Conceptual complexity: Our ability to interpret the world, and choose our path among many
-- Moral ambiguity: There are almost no one-size-fits-all laws and rules. How do we make the punishment suit the crime?
-- Cultural impurity: Human culture is a mix of many influences, which can make establishing one's own identity difficult
-- Personal responsibility: Sometimes, shit happens. Sometimes, it's our fault. How do we accurately assign responsibility?
-- The confrontation of our own mortality: Death comes to us all, though we almost compulsively deny it.
It goes on to explain how there are normal ways of relieving these burdens, but when those are unavailable, one will turn to the fundamentalist solutions to these problems.

A lot has been written about the psychology of fundamentalism and authoritarianism, and rightly so. I think it is probably one of the most important psychological problems facing civilization today. Of course, the fundamentalists might think that skeptical pluralism is the main problem to be solved. Of course for a fundamentalist, all fundamentalists of a different kind must also be considered problems.

It's like the classic Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati: Liberal groups are opposed to conservative groups, and peaceful groups are opposed to violent groups, but all fanatical groups are opposed to all other fanatical groups.

51% of Americans support Impeachment

Newsweek/MSN has a startling finding from their poll:
Other parts of a potential Democratic agenda receive less support, especially calls to impeach Bush: 47 percent of Democrats say that should be a “top priority,” but only 28 percent of all Americans say it should be, 23 percent say it should be a lower priority and nearly half, 44 percent, say it should not be done.
OK, 28% of Americans say impeaching Bush should be a "top priority" and 23% say it should be a lower priority. Doesn't that mean that 51% of Americans support Bush's impeachment? Is that not a majority? Shouldn't the headline scream: MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SUPPORT BUSH IMPEACHMENT?
Thanks to other bloggers for pointing this out, including SSquirrel and The Talent Show:
But, it's sad when a major media outlet like Newsweek is consumed with playing the same song that they end up burying a lede like this[...]Now wait a second...doesn't 28% plus 23% equal 51%? I'd think that a poll showing the majority of Americans favor impeaching the President would be pretty newsworthy, especially considering that this far exceeds the numbers of a President that actually was impeached. If the majorities favoring impeachment and repealing Bush's tax cuts is how Newsweek defines "less support", then the GOP is in a lot more trouble that I thought. I still can't bring myself to start celebrating before the polls even open, but it's nice to hear.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Jersey Court rules same-sex couples must have same rights

They didn't say it has to be called marriage, but the NJ court said same-sex couples must get the same "rights and benefits":

The Legislature has recognized that the “rights and benefits” provided in the Domestic Partnership Act are directly related “to any reasonable conception of basic human dignity and autonomy.”....It is difficult to understand how withholding the remaining “rights and benefits” from committed same-sex couples is compatible with a “reasonable conception of basic human dignity and autonomy.”

....Disparate treatment of committed same-sex couples, moreover, directly disadvantages their children. We fail to see any legitimate governmental purpose in disallowing the child of a deceased same-sex parent survivor benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act or Criminal Injuries Compensation Act when children of married parents would be entitled to such benefits.

....Gays and lesbians work in every profession, business, and trade. They are educators, architects, police officers, fire officials, doctors, lawyers, electricians, and construction workers. They serve on township boards, in civic organizations, and in church groups that minister to the needy. They are mothers and fathers. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. In light of the policies reflected in the statutory and decisional laws of this State, we cannot find a legitimate public need for an unequal legal scheme of benefits and privileges that disadvantages committed same-sex couples.

Kevin Drum adds:
Good for them. I suppose this will spark another frenzied and cynical round of "scare the evangelicals" from Karl Rove & Co. just in time for the midterms, but you know what? Let 'em. Liberals shouldn't run scared from this stuff just because there's an election coming up.

Stephen Colbert on D&D



I love the part where Stephen Colbert talks about meeting Len Lakofka at GenCon 10. The Assassin's Knot rocked, especially for the time it was released: 1983. My only objection was that Colbert mentioned the spell heal light wounds, but I'm almost sure it should have been cure light wounds.

And unlike Colbert, getting a girlfriend didn't stop me from playing Dungeons & Dragons. Neither did getting a wife, or even getting a son. I'm hardcore.

And in no way did D&D Online: Stormreach make tabletop D&D obsolete. I haven't even played Stormreach.

Quote of the Day

 "Democrats who hoard cash for future political ambitions will find that we have long memories (otherwise called "Google")."
 
 
Here's a quote from me:
 
"The Internet: Everything you've always wanted from God, with the additional bonus of actually existing."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rush Limbaugh attacks Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson's

This is pretty sick:
"He is exaggerating the effects of the disease," Limbaugh told listeners. "He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."
Rush apologized, then renewed his attack from a different angle:
After his apology, Limbaugh shifted his ground and renewed his attack on Fox.[...]Then Limbaugh pivoted to a different critique: "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician."
(HT: Crooks and Liars, but the whole blogosphere has it.) Well, if Democratic politicians were the only ones supporting an avenue of research that might lead to a better treatment for my debilitating condition, I'd "shill" for them, too. The "rights" blastocysts that are already going to be thrown away, vs. potential treatments for devastating illnesses. Seems pretty obvious which way to go to me. Those who carry "every zygote is sacred" to its logical conclusion find themselves in the ridiculous (and forturnately, rather unpopular) postition of opposing this kind of research. It think the Democrats are perfectly within their rights to bludgeon Republicans over the head with this at every opportunity. And I'm glad Michael J. Fox is lending his name and story to the cause.

Purple Alien espouses liberal religious doctrine



A purple alien with a chipmunk voice reprimands humanity for its evil ways and demands that humanity follow certain moral principles before being allowed to join galactic civilization. These principles just happen to be the guiding principles of Unitarian Universalism.

While it's fun to fantasize that there is a multi-species civilization of UU aliens out there, I think this falls into the common science fiction/religious fallacy of imagining a higher power that just happens to share all of your own values. It's just as likely that the galaxy is populated by religious nutcases. In fact, if the ratio of liberal religionists to fundamentalist fanatics on Earth is any indication of the distribution of such beings in the universe at large, it's far more likely that the universe is populated with the Taliban than with Unitarian Universalists.

Of course, my hope is that dogmatic religion is a delusion unique to our species. So far, we've been spared religious idiocy from outer space, (though some religions claim alien influence), but the terrestrial varieties of theological foolishness are pernicious enough.

New Jersey court to rule on same-sex marriage tomorrow

10 am is the time, according to rubber hose (HT: Atrios). Sullivan mentions it, too. Will this be the "October surprise" that rallies the Bush supporters? No matter what the wingnuts do, Let's hope same-sex marriage becomes legal there. The more it becomes legal and normal, the more ridiculous the "same sex marriage will end our civilization" argument will sound. And, of course, it's the right thing to do. What should gay people do with themselves, if not have the option to settle down and get married?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why does Lieberman sound like Nixon?

I'm not sure that this is an entirely fair comparison, but Joe Lieberman has recently been saying a lot of things that echo what Nixon was saying about the Vietnam war.

Both people are trying to reassure the American voters that they want to end a war that they were very enthusiastic about prosecuting. Under Nixon, the war dragged on another 3 years. Now Joe doesn't have the authority to run the war, but his rhetoric played a key part in cowing Democratic opposition to Bush's "strategies", if they can be called that. For him to now claim to want to end the war is pretty ridiculous and is an obvious "blow with the wind" political ploy.

Articles about Republicans

This is a list of articles about Republicans that I'm posting as part of Chris Bower's election project. If I can use Internal Monologue's limited clout to sway the Congressional election just a teeny bit away from the Republicans and to the Democrats, then I will be happy. This is a very important election. This is a list of negative news articles about Republicans in many of the House and Senate races. By linking to them, I hope to increase their prominence in various search engine rankings. It will be interesting to see if this works, how the search engines respond, and how the targeted Republicans respond. You can find the "source code" here.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan aka Vern Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Horrible 80's videos

And now for something completely frivolous...Andrew Sullivan has begun his 80's videos series. Here's the honorable mention in the "worst" category: Animotion's "Obsession".


It's pretty cringe-inducing. My favorite part is where the male lead singer is dressed as a Valentino-style character and just stares at the camera and raises one eyebrow. I shudder to think what the winners in this category will be like.

"Stay the Course" out the window

I guess we're not "staying the course" in Iraq any more. Bush has "cut and run" from that phrase. Josh Marshall:

My God, it's a bloodbath.

No, not Iraq. That's horror, tragedy. I'm talking about the way the press is turning its hacking, slicing knives on the White House for the pitiful 'stay the course' debacle. The Times and the Post are holding a veritable northeast corridor schadenfreudethon.

Say Ruttenberg and Cloud: "The White House said Monday that President Bush was no longer using the phrase “stay the course” when speaking about the Iraq war, in a new effort to emphasize flexibility in the face of some of the bloodiest violence there since the 2003 invasion."

Hey Joe, where ya going with that $387,000 in your hand?

Joe Lieberman is claiming $387 ,000 in petty cash in his campaign expenditures, according to numerous reports around the blogosphere. This is probably illegal, unless he can produce the log showing what it was used for. Lamont's campaign has filed a complaint. But before the Lieberman campaign will produce the log, they're making the strange demand that Lamont and his wife release their tax returns first. This is rather odd. It's like saying, "Before I comply with the law, you have to do something that would help my campaign." If fact, it is saying that if my understanding of the rules is correct.

If we win, let's not be wimps

Krugman (HT: Digby) makes an important point:
Now that the Democrats are strongly favored to capture at least one house of Congress, they’re getting a lot of unsolicited advice, with many people urging them to walk and talk softly if they win.

I hope the Democrats don’t follow this advice — because it’s bad for their party and, more important, bad for the country. In the long run, it’s even bad for the cause of bipartisanship.

There are those who say that a confrontational stance will backfire politically on the Democrats. These are by and large the same people who told Democrats that attacking the Bush administration over Iraq would backfire in the midterm elections. Enough said.
[emphasis added] Damn straight. Republicans have been acting like bullys and thugs for years and now that it looks like they might lose power, there's all this talk about making nice and letting bygones be bygones. Forget it. The Republicans deserve a good working over, and our country needs it to recover from the disasters of the past 6 years and to prevent the remaining 2 from making things even worse. The American people are fed up with the Bush andministratioin, and want to see the Democrats really oppose the Republicans. Digby adds:

The chattering classes are all abuzz with the notion that now is the time to bind up the nation's wounds and work across the aisle. (I can't help but wonder why they didn't see the need for such rapproachment during the last decade of slash and burn GOP partisanship.) This pattern is well documented. They will continue to drain the treasury and play our their "movement" experiments and then have the democrats step up and clean up the messes they make until this is stopped. The conservative movment is a failure and it must not be allowed to govern this country anymore with its lies, debts and dangerous foreign policy.

[...]

The Democrats have to be the "grown-ups" yes. And one of the unpleasant tasks will be figuring out what went wrong, putting safeguards in place so the same things don't happen again and making people take responsibility for their actions. That is what adults do. Letting bygones be bygones and simply blathering on about how we all need to put the unpleasantness behind us and get along will not win the respect of the American people nor will it fix the problems this nation faces. (That, after all, is the indulgent mommy model that the Republicans have been using as a club to beat us over the head with for the last 30 years. No more.)
A while back, I had an analogous post on the subject of whether Democrats should retaliate against negative, personal ads with similar ads of their own. Needless to say

Those who want Democrats to be all concilliatory are essentially asking the party to castrate itself. Forget it. Should the Democrats win, Sock it to 'em, Pelosi!

Even Joe Lieberman now wants to end Iraq occupation

Matt Stoller at MyDD compares Lieberman's switch on the war to Richard Nixon's statements about how he wanted to end the war:

Nixon and Lieberman are very similar politicians, and it's not just that they both liked to use murky slush funds.

On Ending the War

EXAMPLE ONE

"I want peace as much as you do." - Richard Nixon, 11/3/69

"No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do." - Joe Lieberman, 10/18/06

EXAMPLE TWO

"I want to end the war." - Richard Nixon, 11/3/69

"I want to help end the war in Iraq." - Joe Lieberman, 8/11/06

On Support for the War

"Many others -- I among them -- have been strongly critical of the way the war has been conducted." - Richard Nixon, 11/3/69

"I have been very critical of a lot of the mistakes the Bush administration has made in Iraq." - Joe Lieberman, 10/18/06

While I'm glad Joementum finally has come around, it's rather late and politically suspect.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Human Flesh: the other white meat

A new Japanese wine-tasting robot has a disturbing thing to say about human flesh:
When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.

HT: Majikthise, who says "We're done for." I disagree. There's no reason robots would want to eat bacon or prosciutto. Lindsay is projecting her own appetites on to the robot, who, unless it was designed by a movie-villain creator, would be unable to derive nourishment from either bacon or human flesh.

The danger is now that the information is out there that humans taste like yummy pork products, there will be more cannibalism.

Google bombing the election: an awesome idea

I plan to participate in this as much as my childcare and other duties allow:
What
The utilization of Google Adwords and simultaneous, widespread embedded hyperlinks in order to drive as many voters as possible toward the most damning, non-partisan article written on the Republican candidate in seventy key US Senate and House races. The campaign will run from Tuesday, October 24th until Tuesday, November 7th.

[...]

Why
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the number one way that voters use the Internet for political action is to search for information on candidates. During the final two weeks of the election, it is reasonable to expect that as many as twenty million voters will be searching for information on candidates online. During this key time, this project will help push the most negative article written by a non-partisan media source on all key Republican candidates to the forefront of any search for that candidate. The negative article will appear both high on all Google searches for the candidates, and as an advertisement that appears whenever anyone searches for that candidate. By giving this article two prominent locations on Google searches for the candidate, and because it will come from a non-partisan source, it will increase the likelihood that the article will be seen and trusted by those searching for information on the candidate.

How
The campaign will proceed as follows:
  • Step One: With help form readers at Dailykos and MyDD, I will compile a list of seventy article, one for each targeted race. Every article will focus on a different Republican candidate, and will be written by as generally trusted a news source as possible. It will also present as unflattering a view on the Republican candidate as possible. All of these articles will be placed into a database that I will maintain with the help of willing volunteers.

  • Step Two: Once the database is complete, BlogPac will purchase Google Adwords that will place each negative article on the most common searches for each Republican candidate. Simultaneously, I will produce an article on MyDD that embeds that negative article into a hyperlink that names the Republican candidate. I will then send a copy of that post out to as many bloggers as possible, who can also place the post on their blogs. One posting of this article will be enough.

  • Step Three: All further discussion of the Republican candidates in question on all participating blogs should include an embedded hyperlink that will increase the Google search rank of the article on the given candidate.
The result of this should be that the most damning, non-partisan article written on every key Republican candidate for house and Senate will appear both high on every Google search for that candidate, and automatically as an advertisement on every search for that candidate. BlogPac will cover the costs. The netroots will supply the research.

Letterman interviews Stewart on Bush



(HT: DailyKos)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Prison Camp Interactive Game


The Red Cross/Crescent have teamed up with the Nobel Prize folks to produce this somewhat clunky but strangely compelling interactive "game" about running a prison camp according the Geneva Conventions (HT: Mad Latinist via email). I played and got a "Well-Intentioned Humanitarian" rating. I did a good job, but there were some things I got wrong. (Hint: The guard tower in the upper left is not required by the Geneva Conventions!)

Your tax dollars at work: cost of Iraq occupation

This cost of Iraq war counter currently tops 355 billion. [Blogger won't let me embed the javascript version, and the other one has black text that makes it unreadable on my background]

Imagine spending this amount of money to kill and wound thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, turn world opinion against us, quagmire our military, and enormously increase the regional influence of Iran. Oh wait, you don't have to. Because we've already done it.

Republicans want us to be afraid

Atrios, in response to the Republicans' desperate fearmongering ads:
Terrorism

The point of terrorism is, as the name suggests, to terrorize. Not simply to kill and destroy, but to frighten the broader population. It puzzles me why the RNC has found common cause with terrorists in their new ad campaign, and it puzzles me more why they want to highlight the fact that over 5 years after 9/11 George Bush has failed to catch the guy responsible.


It is very strange that they're proud of this.
Kos agrees. The funny thing is, the public now trusts Democrats more on how to handle terrorism. So I don't really see how these ads can be effective.

To reflect the increasing Republican emphasis on this tactic, Doonesbury has introduced a new character, Fear Itself.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Silly Web Stuff: How many Americans have your name?

HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
37
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

(HT: rubber hose) Excellent! I only have to defeat 36 other "Zachary Drake"s before I can be the only Zachary Drake in all of America! Except for all the Zachary Drakes that have arisen since the 1990 census, as apparently this site uses that data. But those Zachary Drake's would either be young, inexperienced whelps or recent immigrants not yet wise in the ways of our land, so they should not present too much difficulty.

My wife would have a much more difficult time playing this game which I've dubbed "Name Highlander" ("There can be only one!"), as she would have to defeat 2,369 other people to lay sole claim to her first and last name. Interestingly enough, my son Quinlan apparently has no fellow first namers in the country, but 8,309 people have Quinlan as a last name. The shorter form of his name, Quinn, is much more common.

Another fun name applet is the Baby Name Voyager, which allows you to see how a name's popularity has risen and fallen over the years. It can tell you, for example, that people generally stopped naming their kids "Rupert" and "Enid" in the 1950's.

Santorum's ridiculous "Eye of Sauron" analogy


Well, this little event brings together three of my favorite things to blog about: Lord of the Rings, Republicans saying batshit crazy things about Iraq, and Steven Colbert clips on YouTube. Earlier, the Republican senator from Pennsylvannia Rick Santorum gave us this doozy of a quote, which attempted to use an analogy to Tolkien's saga to justify our invasion and occupation of Iraq:

“As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else,” Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

“It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.,” Santorum continued. “You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States.”

In the clip above, Steven Colbert makes sense of this analogy for us (HT: Crooks and Liars). Maybe in this analogy we liberal bloggers could be the fighting Uruk-Hai or something.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

CT Senate race gets even wackier

Whoda thunkit, but the Connecticut senate race just got even more wacky and interesting. Kos has a good post. And this is how interesting Matt Stoller over at MyDD thinks the race is:
You know you're in an incredible political environment when you're at an event where egomaniac Ralph Nader is wandering around, and not only is no one paying attention to him, but Ralph Nader himself doesn't even expect anyone to pay attention to him.

[...]

It's not your normal white picket fence suburban election, with attack ad facing attack ad. No, this is more like a white picket fence election that suddenly gets bored with life and decides to live in the forest, take a bunch of LSD, trout-fish naked, and taunt a bear cub before ending its life suddenly and with total and inexplicable resolution on November 7. Well not really, but there's no analogy that I can think of summarizing what's going on. What has happened is that Joe Lieberman competed in a Democratic primary, lost, and is now competing in a Republican primary, and is losing again.
It turns out the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, who has been completely silenced and unsupported by the Republican party, is refusing to be a "team player" and is laying into Lieberman with a vengeance. (Note that this is all second hand; I haven't seen the two debates.) He even ganged up on Joementum with Ned at one point:
Schlesinger: If you had someone doing a job for eighteen years, and after eighteen years, their record was one of complete failure, what would you do? What do you think should happen with that person?. . . Ned, you're a businessman: what would you say about someone like that?

Lamont: I'd say, "It's time to go, Joe!"

Lieberman thought he could be the Republican candidate, and is shocked to find himself slammed from the right. What this means politically of course is that if Schlesinger can pick up a few percentage points from Lieberman, he could easily throw the race to Lamont. Of course, if he picks up more than a few percentage points, Lieberman and Lamont could end up splitting the Democratic/Independent vote and he could eek out some sort of slim victory (extraordinarily unlikely, but at this point, who's to say?). Either way, it looks bad for Lieberman.

The Kos post has a great quote from the comments section of the MyDD article:
How often do you get a three-way race in which the Democrat is supporting the Republican while fighting against the Democratic infrastructure, the Republican party is supporting the liberal New England Jew instead of the right-wing millionaire, and the Republican nominee is running against the Republican party?
Cue the circus music, support Lamont, and enjoy the show. After that shameful military tribunals bill, it's good to have something fun to watch.

Riverbend posts again, supports Lancet study

Riverbend has posted again after a disturbingly long hiatus:
The latest horror is the study published in the Lancet Journal concluding that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war. Reading about it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded like a reasonable figure. It wasn't at all surprising. On the other hand, I so wanted it to be wrong. But... who to believe? Who to believe....? American politicians... or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?
There had been speculation that she had been killed in the occupation/civil war. The folks on Kos are relieved she's alive. I add my voice to the chorus.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

US debt to China to blame for N. Korea test?

This article by Irwin M. Stelzer in the conservative Weekly Standard argues that this is so:
But in a booming economy, a continued deficit of $248 billion is hardly chopped liver, as the analysts in New York's delis say. And when those deficits result in stacks of IOUs held by China, America's diplomats are forced to walk softly, lest they antagonize so large a creditor.

It is this fiscal situation, this unwillingness to rein in spending so that the boom in tax receipts can be used to provide support for American diplomacy, that has made it impossible for America to have an effective foreign policy. Indeed, it is arguable that George W. Bush has presided over the largest decline in America's ability to influence world events since, well, since the 1920s, when we decided it was in the nation's interests to let the world take care of itself while we partied at that era's equivalents of today's discos--the jazz joints and speakeasies that offered solace to the Wall Street crowd after a hard day of share-price manipulation.

(HT: Sullivan) I don't usually quote the Weekly Standard, but this guy has a point. How do you take a tough stance towards someone when you're dependent on them for credit or oil? Just another example of Bush making America weaker. These things have got to be turned around.

China has a lot of leverage with North Korea: by cutting off food and oil shipments they could cripple the regime. But we don't have a lot of leverage with China. If they wanted to start holding Euros instead of dollars, they could inflict a lot of damage on our economy. (Of course, this would be very bad for them, because then we wouldn't buy as much of their stuff. As China's regime justifies its authoritarianism by delivering rapid economic growth, any economic move against the US would put their own stability in grave danger.)

Of course, with North Korea threatening another test, even China may decide it's had enough with its weird and defiant ally.

Ignoramuses at the helm

UPDATE: Kos has front-paged this.

[Colorful language warning] OK, just a quick post. This NYT editorial, by Jeff Stein, national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, really pissed me off this morning:
FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?
[snip]

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?
He goes on to describe several cases of appalling ignorance on the most basic questions. For example, Willie Hulon, the chief of the FBI's new national security branch, was unable to answer whether Iran was Sunni or Shia. Chief of the FBI's national security branch. I cannot get that through my skull. (In case you don't know, it's predominantly Shia). And it gets worse from there. Go read it. I hope to God that this editorial was false or exaggerated, because if this level colossal fucktardic ignorance is as prevalent in high levels of government as Mr. Stein depicts, we are so completely fucked than I can't even wrap my head around it. No wonder our Mideast policy is to self-destructively assbackwards and fucked non-consensually in the ass with a fucking cactus every which way from Thursday. It's like trying to drive a car without looking out the window. I really can't believe it.

I am reminded of the following quote: Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

Maybe we should make reading this a prerequisite to holding any government position involving national security or Mideast Policy.

God damn this pisses me off. This administration and political movement rewards head-up-your-ass ignorance with the highest positions. May November be a cleasing deluge.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Ring to rule them all, and in the White House bind them...

HT: Sullivan. I guess the only thing to do is to find a new Isildur.

The myth of the "Independent Republican"

Glenn Greenwald:
Genuine Republican independence in the Congress is a myth. It doesn't exist. They have spent the last five years as a pitifully obsequious appedange to the Bush agenda.
Read the post, he has some great examples in the UPDATE section of key votes where the Republicans totally toed the Bush line. The Democratic attack machine (which as far as I can tell right now is the blogs, Doonesbury, and two shows on Comedy Central) has got to start slamming McCain and his ilk. And what better way to do so than showing what a bunch of Bush-lackeys they are.

In the future, I hope chilren will ask, "Mommy, Daddy, what did you do to fight the bad Bush people?" And I hope we have good answers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Culture of Planning

A great rant over at Orcinus:

You almost never hear stories like this in the US. Almost every county and region in the country, and every state and government agency involved in land use and infrastructure, has a regional master plan on file somewhere. Planning commissions large and small are already working 20 years out, penciling in where the major roads will go, where the water will come from, where the houses and shopping centers will be, how many schools and firehouses and sewer plants they're going to need, and how they're going to finance it all. When's your road up to be re-paved again? Odds are that City Hall can tell you, up to 10 years out.

[snip]

In short, everybody who knew how to do anything -- and especially those doing it in the interest of the people of the United States, rather than for the benefit of one or another corporate profiteer -- was gradually cut out of the process. Ridiculed and belittled as "the bureaucracy," these people had once been the eyes and ears of our common interest. For fifty years, they'd developed and maintained our visions of a future that included clean water and food, immunized kids and effective epidemic response, safe roads and buildings (and levees), good relationships with the world's other nations, and (in more recent years) responsible environmental stewardship. They monitored leading indicators, tended the engines of our prosperity, and looked ahead to the changes that would be required to keep America competitive.

And now they are gone.
Read the whole thing. It's an interesting take on a part of American culture that seems under attack by the American right wing.

Your political identity is formed in your early 20's?

Kevin Drum links to a very interesting graph from the New York Times. It shows how the political climate in your 20's can affect your lifelong political outlook. It seems as though Bush is turning off a whole generation of people to the Republican party.

US Carrier group headed towards Iran

There's been a lot of talk in the lefty blogosphere recently about US Naval deployments close to the shores of Iran. AlterNet:
The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.
Billmon and Digby have both mentioned it. The best coverage on the fleet movements and their proximity to the midterm elections seems to be this Kos diary by Steven D. I wish I could say that this was all tinfoil hat speculation, but I would not put it past this administration to launch airstrikes against Iran in an effort to salvage the midterm elections. I can only hope that saner heads in the US military prevail and prevent this immoral and counterproductive action. And I hope the American voters don't fall for such a ploy.

Glenn Greenwald gets it on political passion

There's a reason Greenwald is so popular. Here he talks about howBeltway Democratic consultants have until recently essentially castrated the Democratic party with their fear of anything that smacks of real political passion:
The single most erroneous and destructive premise among the Beltway political class -- which includes the Democratic consulting class along with their intellectual twins in the David-Broder-led punditry circles -- is that anger and passion are the enemies of successful political movements. They preach a mindset of fear and defensiveness -- never articulate a view too strenuously and never be driven by principle or passion because to do so renders one an unmoderate extremist who will alienate normal Americans.
He points how various successful Democrats have done well by ignoring these kinds of folks and speaking passionately about issues. One of the worst legacies of the Clinton era has been this tendency for all Democrats to try to triangulate the way he did, regardless of how radical the Republicans are or what crazy stuff they try to pull. Triangulation can be useful, but if who you're trying to triangulate against keeps moving to the right, you can be suckered into falling off your base. Fortunately, this cycle seems to be the beginning of a Democratic awakening, assisted greatly by the unfolding consequences of Republican governance. (I'd say Republican "implosion", but that implies that they tried to succeed and failed, when in fact failure of government to do anything, other than line their own pockets, is one of their primary objectives.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More evidence Lieberman is a Republican

Atrios, Crooks and Liars, and presumably a bunch of other folks point to this TPM cafe article:
Joe Lieberman is declining to say whether he thinks it would be a good thing if Dems win control of the House of Representatives. Lieberman -- who needs GOP votes as an independent -- was asked in an interview published today in the Hartford Courant whether America would be better off if his lifelong party took back the House. The Courant reports that Lieberman responded: "Uh, I haven't thought about that enough to give an answer." Lieberman also wouldn't say whether he'd vote for Dem John DeStefano, Jr., for governor, who, as the Courant noted wryly, is "mayor of the city where Lieberman has lived since the 1960s." Lieberman also observed that there's "not enough patriotism" in Washington. More from the Courant interview after the jump.
Any Democrat who supports Lieberman is inviting a betreyal. The lefty blogs have been shouting this for a long time, but there are still some DC Democrats who are supporting him, or at least not lending their support to Lamont, who could really use it. I could post every day some piece of evidence that Lieberman is running as a Republican. I hope in the debates he gets pounded on these issues: Does he promise to caucus with the Democrats? Will he support Democratic House candidates (apparently not)? Who's funding him right now? Control of the Senate could very well hinge on what Lieberman decides to do, unless Lamont can defeat him. Any Democrat who has lent him credibility since he lost the primary has a lot to answer for in my opinion.

Giuliani flip-flops on assault weapons ban

(HT: Sullivan) Those of us on the left need to start getting the negative memes out there for the possible Republican 2008 presidential nominees. So far, McCain and Giuliani have gotten a lot of laudatory treatment from the press, especially for their "independence". So I think it's important to point out when they sell out their convictions for partisan gain. The Stranger notices how Giuliani has changed his tune on the assult weapons ban now that he's stumping for Republicans. Giuliani in the past:
Someone who now voted to roll back the assault-weapons ban would really be demonstrating that special-interest politics mean more to them than life-or-death issues.
Giuliani now, stumping for McGavick in Washington (good luck with that: Cantwell (D-WA) is ahead 50-41):
The assault-weapons ban is something I supported in the past.
Translation: I wanna be president sooo bad. (To be fair, Senator Clinton is having to do something similar). As the 2008 Republican nominating process shapes up, I'm going to have fun watching Giuliani tacking desperately to the right. All those Republican primary voters are going to have such wonderful reactions to his pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and pro-gun control views. And the best thing is there's going to be a Republican running to the right of him who is going to be pointing all this stuff out.

The big question in my mind is, if the Republican establishment gets behind Giuliani, will the base swallow their objections and obediently follow? Or will they rebel by staying home or supporting a more right-wing candidate?

But let's concentrate on 2006 for now...

Microcredit guy wins Nobel Peace Prize

The guy who figured out that poor women in the developing world are often a good business investment won the Nobel Peace Prize. I think the whole microcredit movement is one of the more interesting things to happen in the improving people's lives department in a long time. I hope it can scale upwards and benefit even more people.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bush State of Denial watch: midterm elections

It's funny to see how Bush's general obliviousness to the most important matters of state (Iraq, Katrina, budget defecits, et cetera) has now spread to the upcoming midterm elections. Right now, it looks like the Republicans could get electorally slaughtered, and apparently Bush has no plan to deal with a changed political landscape where his stooges don't run everything. Sullivan:
Some Republicans think the president is out of touch with respect to the Congressional elections, and their potential aftermath. He is said to have no plan if things go awry. That's not like this president, is it? Just ask the troops risking and losing their lives because he had no plan for the post-invasion in Iraq.
Here's a quote from the USNews.com article he links to:

Some Republican strategists are increasingly upset with what they consider the overconfidence of President Bush and his senior advisers about the midterm elections November 7–a concern aggravated by the president's news conference this week.

"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing. If Democrats win control of the House, as many analysts expect, Republicans predict that Bush's final two years in office will be marked by multiple congressional investigations and gridlock.

What about Rove, the alleged political genius behind Bush? Has he lost influence? Of course, if this is true, Rove was the one who twisted Foley's arm into running for Congress again. So maybe Rove is in the Republican doghouse at the moment.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Political Blogosphere's Top 50

No, Internal Monologue did not make the cut. But The Hotline's Blogometer blog directory is still a useful resource. It lists the top 50 political blogs by Alexa traffic (my rank Alexa rank is 3,798,763!). I find that I regularly read 13 of the top 50, and that I don't spend too much time in the conservative blogosphere. (Andrew Sullivan is about as far right as I can go, and a lot of the wingers consider him a liberal.) Of course, there are many blogs I read that are much lower in the rankings. So I think I can consider myself "well-read" in the liberal blogosphere.

Jon Stewart lambasts Bush

Maybe attacking Bush is almost too easy, but Jon still manages to make it fun. Crooks and Liars, as usual, has the video.

Republicans can dish it out, but can they take it?

Both Taylor Marsh and Jerome Armstrong at MyDD quote this Washington Post story about Democrats "going personal" in their political battles against Republicans. They both approve, and so do I.

You know those movies where the nice kid is constantly bullied and bullied and he "turns the other cheek" but really he's just wimping out and you're screaming at him to finally get some cojones [thanks Mad Latinist] and lay the smackdown on the assholes who richly deserve it? That's exactly how I've felt observing the Democratic party these past few years. And in those movies, there's usually a moment where the nice kid's finally had enough and his anger bursts out and he (it's usually a he) hits back. And everyone feels good. Everyone shouts "yes!" in their hearts. Could we be having one of those moments now?

Yes, maybe the nice kid in his anger goes too far. And he comes to realize that those bullies are pathetic wimps. And maybe in the future, he doesn't have to hit back because he has his self-respect and doesn't need to. But you can't go from "not hitting back due to wimpiness" directly to "not hitting back due to strength". You have to stop at the "actually hitting back" stage, and stay there until those who are bullying you, and more importantly you, yourself know in the gut that you have that strength.

Now of course "hitting back" can mean lots of different things in the political arena. And I'm not advocating that false slander be answered with false slander. Lord knows, there are plenty of very true things to beat Republicans over the head with. But Democrats can't be afraid of using ridicule, harsh accusations, attacks from third parties, and negative ads. These are important weapons in the political arsenal and if someone's smackin' you with them, it is more pathetic than noble to refrain from responding in kind. Conventional wisdom has it that if John Kerry and his advisors in the 2004 campaign had come to this realization sooner, we might not be slogging through a second term of W.

Was Iraq better off under Hussein?

This question is probably impossible to answer with any degree of objective certainty. But Billmon takes a stab at it, using what data he could find:

But it's hard -- or should be -- for Shrub to take much comfort even in that, because while Saddam ruled Iraq for almost 24 years, the Cheney Administration and the U.S. Army have had the place in their tender care for less than four. Two million divided by 24 equals 83,333 deaths a year. But 655,000 divided by four equals 163,750 deaths a year -- almost double Saddam's annual output.

Or, if you prefer to use more "conservative" estimates for both:

  • Saddam: 31,250 deaths a year (750,000 divided by 24)
  • Cheney Administration: 87,500 deaths a year (350,000 divided by four)

But that makes the comparison look even worse.

We also shouldn't forget that Hussein has a line drawn under his column in the record books. Shrub and company do not. The civil war they have helped unleash in Iraq could last for a long, long time.

This is pretty grim arithmetic. But the fact that the question can be resonably posed and that decent data exists to support an answer in the affirmative is a pretty damning indictment of our occupation. And what exactly are we getting from all this bloodletting? The NIE says that it's just a great recruiting tool for terrorists, our military is stretched thin (with Bush at the helm, that wouldn't be such a bad thing were it not for all the suffering it causes what with extended deployments, stop-loss, etc.), and the occupation has been a convenient excuse for all manner of domestic Republican excresences. So even if 655,000 higher than the real number of deaths for which we are responsible, we still have to wonder what benefit we, the world, and the people of Iraq are supposedly deriving to compensate. My answer: little or none.

Great anti-Bush ad: talking to the shrub



And it wasn't produced by the usual Democratic ad consultants. Kos talks about it here.

"Get outta there" watch: Brit Army chief wants out of Iraq

Tony Blair gets a well-deserved smackdown from General Sir Richard Dannatt (HT: Welshman on Kos):
The head of the Army is calling for British troops to withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk catastophic consequences for both Iraq and British society.

In a devastating broadside at Tony Blair's foreign policy, General Sir Richard Dannatt stated explicitly that the continuing presence of British troops "exacerbates the security problems" in Iraq.

Who is left in the stay-the-course crowd besides Bush, his dog, Blair, and Lieberman? OK, too many people. But the rats are jumping from the sinking ship. If only this had happened sooner. As in before the war.

Dixie wants out of Iraq, too

The American South, until recently supportive of the Iraq occupation, has recently soured. This doesn't surprise me too much, as the South is probably bearing a greater share of the military burden.

In some ways, I'm sad that it's taken America as a whole a long time to come round to a war-skeptical point of view. On the other hand, it seems we have done so faster than in Vietnam, and with fewer casualties on both sides. (My knowledge is sketchy, but I'm pretty sure "excess deaths" in Vietnam were a lot more than the recent 655,000 estimate that Lancet produced for Iraq.) So maybe that's progress, and I should be grateful. It still seems like a colossal stupid waste of human life that could have easily been avoided, though.

No caviar for Kim Jong Il

This will teach North Korea to fizzle a plutonium bomb in defiance of the world community:
The new American resolution, to be formally introduced this morning, would declare North Korea’s actions to be a threat to international peace and stability and would require countries to freeze assets related to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs and ban the sale or transfer of materials that could be used in them. It would also ban travel by people involved in the programs and bar the sale of the luxury goods used to reward the regime’s elite
(emphasis billmon's) Let's hope North Korea doesn't launch a war to seize South Korea's supply of Manalo Blahniks. The resulting refugee crisis may overwhelm retail stores throughout northeastern China.

Lancet: Invasion caused 655,000 more Iraqi deaths

This is pretty sickening, but not really surprising given the devastation and chaos Iraq has suffered. Lancet is a very prestigious publication, and from what I've read their methodology seems sound. Majikthise:

A new study by American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that there have been 665,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the U.S. invasion of 2003. This study, published in the Lancet, is the best scientific estimate of deaths attributable to the invasion. All other methods for estimating the number of deaths pale beside a population based study.

Instead of extrapolating the death toll from police reports or media coverage, Iraqi scientists fanned out over the country and asked Iraqis how many members of their households had died since 2003.

Of course, the increasingly isolated klatch of people who still think Iraq was a good idea and that we're about to turn a corner in another Friedman or two are sliming this study with all they've got. According to Majikthise their arguments don't amount to much:

Here are today's popular bleats:

1. 655,000 is an awfully big number. That would mean that this war killed a whole lot of people. (Jane Galt)

2. If 770 extra people were dying in Iraq every day, why don't we hear about them on the news? (Gateway Pundit)

3. The study was published before the election. (Instapundit) (Political Pitbull)

4. The peer-reviewed paper must be bogus because the editor of the Lancet goes to anti-war rallies. (Anti-Idiotarian Rotweiler)

5. The pre-invasion death rates are too low. Surely, Saddam was filling mass graves two months before the invasion. (Chuck Simmins) [UPDATE: Chuck disputes this characterization of his views in a comment below, and I think he's right. He doesn't say Saddam was "filling mass graves". He merely pointed out that the pre-invasion violent death rate struck him as too low. I think he has a point. I wonder if there's some confusion as to what constitues a "violent death" according to the study's criteria.]

6. Those peacenik scientists wish there were more dead Iraqis. ("When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges," Omar Fadil.)

7. I just know the study's wrong, but I can't figure out how. Math people? (Michelle Malkin)

8. Sure the study's methodology is standard for public health resesarch. But don't forget that public health is a leftwing plot. (Medpundit)

9. These "statisticians" say that you can take a small sample from a large population and learn a lot about the whole population. As if. I'll believe those 665,000 Iraqis are dead when they tell me so. (Tim Blair)

Obviously, war supporters desperately don't want this to be true, because this many deaths completely overwhelms any possible nebulous down-the-road benefits that this war might someday bring in their deluded wingnut fantasyland. How bad does the news have to get before it penetrates their bubble of denial?

Possibly over half a million dead people because of Bush's criminal, insane, immoral, counter-productive misguided delusional boondoggle. Even if this excess death estimate is off by a factor of 3, it's still a number soul-numbingly large. I wish I had done more to oppose Bush and oppose this atrocity of a war.