Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back at ya, Mormons! An atheist attempts to convert LDSers

This is too good: An Australian atheist, annoyed by LDSers (Mormons) knocking on his door on Saturday morning and attempting to convert him, decides to get his revenge. And what better way to go about it than givin' 'em some of their own medecine: He goes door-to-door in Salt Lake City, trying to spread the gospel of unbelief. Frickin' hilarious. (HT: Sullivan, who is on a major LDS trip right now.)

I love how he dresses up in the suit and everything. I don't know what overall reaction he got, but the ones in the video are pretty negative. The old guy who hits him with the broom is priceless. It feels so good to have a tiny symbolic smidgen of proselytizing shot back at the LDSers. Of course, I suspect the irony is lost on most of them (at least the ones shown in the video). What is it about most religion that ruins people's sense of humor? Nietzsche would not approve.

One quibble: I disagree with his choice of Origin of Species as his "holy text". The whole "Bible-is-to-Christianity-as-Darwin-is-to-atheism" analogy is off. Origin of Species is a scientific text, and is (as far as I know) silent about the whole existence of God issue. Certainly Darwin's work forms a major component of many atheists' world views, but many people are happy believing in both. The guy should have carried a copy of Sam Harris' The End of Faith or something (see sidebar) similar.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

We don't need no fundie wingnuts

What Jonathan Singer says:
If November 7 showed us anything, it was that the Democrats clearly do not need the suppport of Evangelical voters in order to create an electoral majority. And a report by Neela Banerjee in today's issue of The New York Times should put to rest the theory that the religious right is at all interested forging any semblence of compromise or comity with progressives, be it on social issues or even issues such as the environment.
Few things annoy me more than watching Democrats sell progressive values down the river in order to chase Evangelical voters who aren't going to vote for them anyway. For many the tribal affiliations are too strong. Don't bother.

Some fun quotes from VLWC

1: "WaPo won't call the situation in Iraq a civil war because the White House isn't using that term...Does this mean I have to wait until Bush calls himself a lying, incompetent douchebag before I can accurately describe him?"

2: "After visiting Estonia, Bush plans to visit Andorra, Brigadoon, and The Shire, in hopes of replenishing the Coalition of the What-The-Fuck-Did-We-Get-Into?"

3: "If American politics were a boxing match, whenever the Repub fighter took a break from punching the Democrat in the groin, the MSM ref would warn the latter that the crowd was tired of partisanship."

Keep the bon mots coming, my friend.

SF Bay Area Rocks!

Now that San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker-Elect of the House, conservatives are trying to launch "San Francisco Values" as a smear. Kos (a Bay Area resident himself) lays the smackdown:

Did you hear that O'Reilly invented the slur "San Francisco values"? Yeah, he also thinks he invented sliced bread and fire.

But let's talk about "San Francisco values", you know -- tolerance, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

Since O'Reilly boycotts everything he hates, I look forward to his boycott of all Bay Area-origin products. Same with every conservative who bashes San Francisco and the Bay Area. So no iPods or anything Apple. No HP computers. No Google. No Yahoo. No eBay. Those conservative bloggers using Blogspot, MovableType, or TypePad? Sorry. Those products are Bay Area-based.

Also no Adobe or Macromedia products. No computers, either, since most run on AMD or Intel. No tax preparation using Intuit products. Cancel your Netflix subscription. Cancel your TiVo subscription. Remove your Network Associates or Symantec virus protection software from your computer. Unplug your Netgear wifi router.

Don't wear Levis (or any kind of jeans), Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, or buy your kids Gymboree. Avoid LeapFrog learning toys. Boycott Pixar movies. Boycott any movie using George Lucas' ILM special effects shop. Stay away from Treos and other Palm devices. Don't let Charles Schwab manage your portfolio. Don't bank at Wells Fargo.

Yeah, those "San Francisco values" sure are dragging the region down. Making it weak as it falls behind the rest of the country -- the parts that don't share "San Francisco values" -- economically and socially.

Or, maybe -- just maybe -- it's made the region a magnet for the world's smartest, most innovative, most entrepreneurial individuals and an incubator of the world's most dramatic technological advances.

Speak on, my Bay Area brother! "World's smarties, most innovative, most entrepreneurial individuals..." I like the sound o' that!

What American dialect do you speak?

Here are my results from this quiz (HT: Majikthise):

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

Philadelphia

The Northeast

The Midland

The South

The West

Boston

North Central

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

It seemed pretty accurate. I don't use the word "pop" for "soda" anymore, but I used to and it took a long time for me to change. It's interesting that I didn't get the most "Minnesota" (North Central) dialect, even though I grew up in Minneapolis, as did my father. Maybe because my mother learned English in Hong Kong, that skewed my accent. It could also be that time spent on the East Coast in college and on the West Coast has modified my accent. Also, my acting and singing training might have changed my speech somewhat.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iraq is lost. Start saving Iraqis.

This despondent article in The New Republic by George Packer (HT: Kevin Drum) paints a horridly bleak picture of life in Iraq:
The ministry of health is dominated by Moqtada Al Sadr's movement, and, when I called Osman while he was visiting his brother one night, he had to leave the room before talking with me: It was too dangerous to be overheard speaking English on his cell phone. After a couple of days, Osman, who is a doctor, decided the hospital was too dangerous and unsanitary. He smuggled his brother back into their house, but word of his survival has spread. And, if his brother's name was on a death list, Osman's name will quite likely be on one now, too.
Here's what Packer thinks we can do:
If the United States leaves Iraq, our last shred of honor and decency will require us to save as many of these Iraqis as possible. In June, a U.S. Embassy cable about the lives of the Iraqi staff was leaked to The Washington Post. Among many disturbing examples of intimidation and fear was this sentence: "In March, a few staff approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate." The cable gave no answer. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad does not issue visas.
[...]
We should be ready for desperate and angry crowds at the gates of the Green Zone and U.S. bases. We should not allow wishful thinking to put off these decisions until it's too late. We should not compound our betrayals of Iraqis who put their hopes in our hands.
I think Packer makes an excellent point here: our ability to influence events in Iraq is low and decreasing rapidly. This is something both honorable and useful that it is within our power to do. But it's painfully necessary to ask the obvious question: How likely is it that Bush and his underlings will prepare intelligently for such a contingency, given that to do so would require acknowledgement of just how bad things are? I hope some reality-connected State Department staffers or level-headed millitary officers somewhere are preparing for these events on their own initiative, because I highly doubt they're going to get much useful guidance from the top.

Packer uses an ominous analogy:
To me, the relevant historical analogy is not the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, leaving thousands of Vietnamese to the reeducation camps. It is the systematic slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of every Cambodian who appeared to have had anything to do with the West.

I just finished reading this book by Rajiv Chandrakeraran. It was pretty scary. It's about the Coalition Provisional Authority that administered Iraq during the first year of the occupation. It's a pretty damning portrait. The depth of the cronyism and isolation that went on in the Green Zone was absolutely spectacular. The number one criterion for a job administering Iraq: partisan loyalty to the Bush administration. Don't speak Arabic? Never been to Iraq? Have no experience in post war reconstruction or conflict resolution? No problem, as long as you have the correct opinion on Roe v. Wade and have had an internship at a conservative think tank.

The horrors are too many to count: Groups of three people assigned to do the work of thousands. A massive dearth of Arabic speakers. People promulgating flat taxes and free trade and other conservative economic agenda items while basics like electricity and security go neglected. And the complete lack of understanding of the sheer scale of the problem at the top.

You can see the first flickers of the firestorm that is consuming Iraq in the pages of this book. I don't know how accurate a portrait this book is as I have no other depictions to compare it to, but if it is anything close to accurate this occupation was doomed, doomed, doomed, from the very beginning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

South Park's Guide to Church of Latter-Day Saints

Now that Mitt Romney's candidacy for president in 2008 is more in the news, it's time to review his religion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. And what more scholarly, objective, and informative source could there be than South Park? (HT: Sullivan).

I hasten to add that I find the founding story of Christianity just as "dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb". (And from what I know about the founding stories of other supernaturalist traditions, they are no better.) People who believe that a virgin was inseminated by God and gave birth to a guy who could raise people from the dead have no business looking down their noses at some guy who claims to have found some gold plates in a forest. I always find it funny when Christians mock Mormons for being weird. Once you admit the existence of an omnipotent God whose ways are mysterious, you really don't have any grounds for dismissing anything as weird.

Shrinking McCain; bloggers and primaries

It's time to start taking a hard look at all the 2008 presidential candidates. I think McCain needs to get a lot of skeptical scrutiny. Atrios has taken to calling him "St. McCain" because of the laudatory treatment he gets from the press. He points to this LA Times opinion column that emphasizes McCain's unsettling preoccupation with national prestige:
McCain, it turns out, wants to restore your faith in the U.S. government by any means necessary, even if that requires thousands of more military deaths, national service for civilians and federal micromanaging of innumerable private transactions. He'll kick down the doors of boardroom and bedroom, mixing Democrats' nanny-state regulations with the GOP's red-meat paternalism in a dangerous brew of government activism. And he's trying to accomplish this, in part, for reasons of self-realization.
[...]
If his issues line up with yours, and if you're not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he'll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable. Nowhere is that more evident than in his ideas about the Iraq war.
One thing to note: right wing bloggers don't like him. See the 11/17 Blogometer for a summary:
Just in case we haven't made this clear enough, we'll do so now: righty bloggers don't like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (and for many of them, that's putting it mildly). Some people fail to understand why McCain's support for campaign finance reform so irks conservatives but as Team McCain's interaction with right blogger stalwart Captain's Quarters illustrates, it simply does.
It will be interesting to see if the right wing blogosphere starts coming into conflict with the Republican establishment more. They haven't been considered as influential, though they were a huge part of Dan Rather's ouster at CBS. I remember someone saying that the right wing blogosphere isn't as influential because it tends to echo what goes on in other parts of the right wing noise machine, rather than stake out its own positions. But on many recent issues (McCain, immigration, Harriet Meiers, and Senator Martinez as head of the RNC), it seems the right wing netizens did not or will not swallow what the Republican establishment is putting forward.

One place where the lefty netroots has been influential has been in primaries: because there's less interest in general, a small group of enthusiasts can have a great deal of influence. Various 2008 Dem presidential hopefuls have paid courtesy calls at Daily Kos, and offending the netroots is something they would be loathe to do. It will be interesting to see if the righties get to exert similar influence on the Republican choice.

UPDATE: More good discussion of the LA Times column here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

This is very bad: Iraq television controlled by militia

Why does the San Jose Mercury News of all papers have this story? (HT: DHinMI on Kos)

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.

[...]

Al-Maliki's administration acknowledged it was powerless to interrupt the pro-Sadr program on the official Iraqiya channel, during which Sadr City residents shouted, "There is no government! There is no state!" Several speakers described neighborhoods and well-known Sunni politicians as "terrorists" and threatened them with reprisal.

"We'll obviously try to control them as much as we can, but when they (kill) more than 150 people in bombings, they have the right to speak," said Bassam al Husseini, one of Maliki's top advisers. "What are we going to do? We can't stop this. It's too hot right now."

Does the US have any way to stop this? Does anybody? It sounds frighteningly analogous to the calls to genocide that went out over the radio in Rwanda. I don't know what we can do. Issue pleas for calm? Patrol the streets more? Ask neighboring countries to help? What could they do?

Certainly, the Bush administration needs to pull its head out of its ass and confront the reality of what's going on. But I guess at this point it probably doesn't matter whether Bush sees reality or not, because I don't think there's a thing he can do either way. I'm pretty much in despair.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Move along, no civil war to see here...

I think that unless the Sunnis start wearing blue and the Shiites start wearing grey, the Whitehouse will be unable to call what's going on in Iraq a civil war. From the NYT:
He [White House spokesman Scott Stanzel] also repeated the administration’s insistence that Iraq was not in a civil war. “We’re constantly asked that question, and while the situation is serious, Prime Minister Maliki and President Talabani have said they do not believe it is a civil war,” he said.
The LA Times is now calling it like it is, though (HT: tristero on Hullabaloo):
Iraq's civil war worsened Friday as Shiite and Sunni Arabs engaged in retaliatory attacks after coordinated car bombings that killed more than 200 people in a Shiite neighborhood the day before.

If you thought YOUR gaming group was bad...

...listen to some of the people this person has gamed with. WARNING: Very disgusting imagery. Don't follow that link or read this post if you vomit from disgusting depictions of human beings. I probably shouldn't link to this, as it perpetuates the stereotype of gamers as complete reject fuck-ups. I suspect these portraits are fictional. But some things are just too gross to pass up. Here's a sample:
Dr. Disgusting
This clown. Ewww... Makes my flesh crawl just remembering. Outwardly, he looked fine. In shape, well groomed, clean, drove a nice car. He played in Fat Nasty's group, and his eyes got all glittery and he began to lick his lips and smack them like he was eating something good whenever combat started. He also wanted intense descriptions of what the dead NPC's looked like after a combat. He stripped them, not to search them, but to ask what the dead bodies looked like. He always played Cyberdocs, Cleric/Necromancers, and the like, and kept collecting "the best parts" of female corpses. I never asked him what the 'best parts" were, since I had a feeling I knew the answer.[...]

The Incredible Filthy Perverted Chick
Because her back and arms and breasts and face were covered with huge zits that looked like cysts. She would often squeeze them into her palm and lick her palm clean. I mean, seriously, it looked like she was squeezing a white chocolate Hershey's kiss into her hand and licking it off. brrrrrr... She had brown crusted dreadlocks, greyish looking skin, hairy armpits and legs and shoulders, and she didn't wash a pair of black levi's she bled through one time for a week. I kid you not, there was this dried crusty blood stain on the ass, crotch and inner thighs of the pants. One of the girls mentioned it, and she replied that pads and tampons were just devices invented by men to destroy women's natural majik (you could hear the damn spelling) and she wouldn't fall for it.
[...]
Then, she decided that not only was she a witch and the reencarnation of some long dead probably never alive anyway mythical druidaic priestess who once ruled over the entire Ireland druid religion until a Roman assassin killed her because she refused to marry Julius Ceaser, she decided she was a nympho.

She went after Fat Nasty's group first, thank all the Gods ever imangined, that ever existed, ever will exists, and maybe even some that don't. She asked me if I wanted a blowjob, I asked her if she wanted tasered in the crotch. She thought about it and said "Maybe." and I ducked away and hid behind my wife until she went back into the stock room.

You do not want to know what we heard about coming from the stock room, what once in awhile some of us walked into, or what she invited some of us to do with her. Oh, my GAWD! Cthullu himself would run off screaming and burn off his genitals with a book of matches rather than EVER want to consider the digusting things we accidently saw over a course of 6 months.

That line about Chthulhu is so excellent.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The empty soul of the conservative movement

The conservative civil war exists on many fronts: political, intellectual, religious, social. Here's a salvo from Austin W. Bramwell, former director of the conservative flagship National Review:
Until recently, it has been almost impossible for me to speak candidly
about the conservative movement, for it was my strange fate to serve as director and later trustee of the movement’s flagship journal, National Review. Earlier this year, at William F. Buckley’s request, I resigned both positions. I can therefore now declare what perhaps has oft been thought but never, at least not often enough, expressed. Notwithstanding conservatives’ belief that they, in contrast to their partisan opponents, have thought deeply about the challenges
facing the United States, it is they who have become unserious.
[...]
In short, the steps in the causal logic whereby Iraqi democracy defeats anti-American terrorism are so numerous and doubtful that it becomes impossible to believe that Bush’s supporters have ever actually thought them through. Those who wonder what error befell the conservative movement since Bush took office are asking the wrong question. Since 9/11, the conservative movement has not
made unsound or fallacious arguments for supporting Bush’s policies. Rather, it has made no arguments at all. T.S. Eliot once asked, “Are you alive or not? Is there nothing in your head?” The answer: “Nothing, again, nothing.”
Nice, but it would have been more useful to hear this before the war started.

Should we actively attempt to manipulate the earth's climate?

This Rolling Stone article describes an interesting potential solution to the global climate change problem:

Wood's proposal was not technologically complex. It's based on the idea, well-proven by atmospheric scientists, that volcano eruptions alter the climate for months by loading the skies with tiny particles that act as mini-reflectors, shading out sunlight and cooling the Earth. Why not apply the same principles to saving the Arctic? Getting the particles into the stratosphere wouldn't be a problem -- you could generate them easily enough by burning sulfur, then dumping the particles out of high-flying 747s, spraying them into the sky with long hoses or even shooting them up there with naval artillery. They'd be invisible to the naked eye, Wood argued, and harmless to the environment. Depending on the number of particles you injected, you could not only stabilize Greenland's polar ice -- you could actually grow it. Results would be quick: If you started spraying particles into the stratosphere tomorrow, you'd see changes in the ice within a few months. And if it worked over the Arctic, it would be simple enough to expand the program to encompass the rest of the planet. In effect, you could create a global thermostat, one that people could dial up or down to suit their needs (or the needs of polar bears).
(HT: Crooks and Liars) I seem to recall reading somewhere that during the Cold War, John Von Neumann (inventor of the architecture of the modern computer) proposed that the US should use climatological warfare to cause crop failure in the USSR, and to be ready with countermeasures if they tried to do the same thing to us. I'd much rather see such manipulations done for the benefit of the world, rather than as a form of warfare. But of course such attempts make one nervous.

I think the law of unintended consequences could come into play in a huge way here. Given that the world climate is a chaotic system, who knows what such a manipulation might trigger? But if it looks like the alternative is a 20-foot increase in world-wide sea levels, I'd say try spraying the particles.

Panda porn helps pandas mate

Apparently, showing pandas video footage of panda mating helps under-socialized pandas figure out what to do:

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - After years of painstaking research, scientists say they have unleashed a baby boom among one of the world’s most beloved but endangered animals, China’s giant panda.

A bit of panda porn has helped too, they say.

“It works,” enthuses Zhang Zhihe, a leading Chinese expert, about
showing uninitiated males DVDs of fellow pandas mating.

(HT: VLWC) But what about their morals? Are we breeding a generation of panda degenerates?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A great anti-torture rant

Journal of Applied Misanthropology has a great little rant on the stupidity and immorality of torture:
Practically, torture causes someone to tell you what he thinks you want to hear, not what is true, and torture can never determine if someone truly does not know something or is merely claiming not to. (Further, if you torture a man to the point where you're sure he doesn't know what you need to know, you've just tortured an innocent man (or at least tortured someone for no reason)). There's reasons that confessions made under torture are not admissible in any civilized court, and these reasons have as much to do with pragmatism as compassion -- anyone will confess to anything, given sufficient "incentive", and once you've extracted a confession and placed an innocent man in jail (or killed him), you've still got the actual criminal running around free.

[...]

Ethically, torture is a moral abomination. One cannot engage in it and remain fully human; it requires turning off any sort of ethical sense or code of moral conduct. A nation which engages in it as a matter of policy loses any moral high ground which might give it cause to claim the right to do so in the first place.
I'm glad to hear the libertarians (e.g. Sullivan) up in arms about this issue. Although I'm not a libertarian, I'm happy to make common cause with them on this issue.

Respect my (moderate) authoritah!!

C-List Blogger

I'm a C-list blogger, according to this technorati-powered site. (HT: Feministing) According to their criteria, that puts me in the "middle authority" category:
The Middle Authority Group [C-List Bloggers]
(10-99 blogs linking in the last 6 months)
This contrasts somewhat with the second group, which enjoys an average age not much older than the first at 260 days and which posts 50% more frequently than the first. There is a clear correlation between posting volume and Technorati authority ranking.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Poppy Bush attacked in Abu Dhabi for W.'s actions

People are now openly disrespecting George W. Bush in front of his father (HT: nyceve on Kos). While part of me feels bad for him, I'm glad to see that this is happening. W. deserves no aura of deference:
President Bush's father was forced into an emotional defense of his son yesterday in the Persian Gulf when an Arab audience launched a blistering surprise attack on his first-born.

"We do honor Americans, and I believe that they are highly respected in our country. However, we do not respect your son, and we do not respect what you are doing all over the world," college student Nevine Al Rumeisi told the former President at a leadership conference in the United Arab Emirates.

Her comment was roundly cheered by the business and political leaders gathered in once pro-American Abu Dhabi.

Americans need to see how much Bush is damaging us. Might it be possible to reach the approximately 33% of people who still support Bush with the message that he is weakening America? I hope so. I know his approval rating is very low right now, but it amazes me that a third of Americans still support him, despite all that's happened. What would Bush have to do to lose those people? Cancel the Superbowl?

Iraq opinion polls: Why are we in Iraq...

...if the majority of Iraqis want us out within a year? (HT: Sullivan) If World Public Opinion is anything close to accurate, we have no business being there much longer.

Some statistics for Iraqi population as a whole (polling was done in September '06):
  • 71% want us out within a year.
  • 78% think we're provoking more conflict than we're preventing.
  • 53% think a timeline for withdrawal would strengthen the Iraqi government.
  • 61% Approve of attacks on US forces.
Has anyone ever won a counter-insurgency war (short of genocide) when 61% of the population supports attacks on the occupying power? That seems like a pretty big nail in the coffin. Anyone out there have any clever plans to get around this? Anyone? Baker? Baker? Anyone?

Read the article for interesting breakdowns by ethnicity and comparisons to a similar poll done back in January (things have gotten less favorable for the occupation since then).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's his party (the CT for Lieberman party)

This is pretty frickin' funny. One John Orman, a professor of politics, actually went to a CT registrar's office and attempted to officially switch his voter registration to "Connecticut for Lieberman". Since he's the first person to do so, he considers himself the only person actually in the CT for Lieberman party:
Although that switch isn’t official yet, Orman waggishly proceeded to convene a one-man party organizational meeting and elected himself "chairman."

Chairman Orman also passed some rules for the party, including one requiring that, "If you run under Connecticut for Lieberman, you must actually join our party."

Another of his tongue-in-cheek party rules reads as follows: "If any CFL candidate loses our party’s nomination in a primary, that candidate must bolt our party, form a new party and work to defeat our party-endorsed candidate."

Sounds like Orman is having a blast.

Suspect detention hypocricy

I often don't link to Greenwald because I think everyone should just read him all the time, but this was a particularly juicy bit of calling Republicans on their bull:

Sen./Chairman Martinez protests the treatment of terrorist suspects . . . (by Vietnam)

Behold the sheer savagery of the Communist Vietnamese regime -- arresting people and holding them for a full 14 months without formally charging them with a crime (but then giving them a full trial). Is it any wonder that Sen./Chairman Martinez was so outraged by this case?
[...]
Just compare the treatment which Foshee received from the Vietnamese government (and which has Sen./Chairman Martinez so upset) to the treatment which, say, Jose Padilla or Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri or Maher Arar received (and are still receiving) from the U.S. Government (treatment which Sen. Martinez not only defends but also voted just last month to legalize), and then ask yourself whether you would prefer to be a terrorist suspect in the U.S. or in Communist Vietnam. Is that a close call?
He goes on to quote Billmon that any attempt on the part of the United States to chastise other countries for such abuses would, alas, trigger a "global laughing fit". It's pretty sad that things have sunk this far. Democrats: high up on your list of priorities should be something about salvaging the national honor.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Main Stream Media: No friends of the Dems

This diary on Kos sums it up rather nicely:

BREAKING STORY: DEMOCRATS DIVIDED OVER CHECK

[...]

"Clearly democrats are divided over basic issues like how much to tip" said another independent witness to the event, Glenn Beckman. "I'm not affiliated with any political organization," Beckman continued, "but the democrats are divided and republicans are united, and if we learned anything from the last election, it's that America is predominately a republican country. Republicans really won that election."

Beckman then asked if anyone knew if FoxNews was hiring.

[...]

Early word is Fox News will be preempting all coverage of the Iraq War for the next six months to discuss whether "TipGate" is enough of a scandal to end the democratic reign of Washington, now in it's second week. "This is a matter of vital national importance," said Fox News chief of programming Roger Ailes. "The American people deserve to know why John Murtha only tips 18% and Nancy Pelosi feels she can simply add to his tip to bring it back up to 20%. Why, that means Nancy Pelosi tipped like 22%! This scandal will stain Washington forever."


Today's New York Times Op-Ed page was a great example of this kind of thinking, with Maureen Dowd and Thomas B. Edsall both construing the recent House Democratic vote for the #2 position as some kind of earth-shattering catastrophe for Speaker-elect Polosi. (She backed Murtha, Hoyer was elected.) For more on the psychopathology of the punditocracy, see Digby:
I have long written about the Washington press corps as a bunch of "Mean Girls," "Kewl Kidz" and the like, often drawing criticism from women who think that I am being sexist by using the terms I use. (I even got a thorough rhetorical thrashing from one of the blogosphere's most famous feminist scolds for using the term "Heathers") Mostly I assume we all "get this" on an instinctive level because it's something we've either observed or experienced in our childhoods and so it is a very quick way to understand the phenomenon.
and Sarah Robinson on Orcinus:
I've been arguing that "adult supervision" is one of the most important frames for us to be working right now. As long as the MSM continues to behave like a bunch of trivial, self-centered pubescent girls, it won't take too much conscious effort to make our spokespeople look like serious grown-ups by contrast. The victory begins when we start insisting that there are more adult and worthy things to talk about than hair, clothes, parties, who's going with whom, and who's got the better ratings. Queen bees regard anyone with power who'll return a phone call as a "friend" -- so as soon as they see that there are grown-ups in charge exercising authority and setting standards, their natural kiss-up reflex will kick right in, and the eye-rolling should stop forthwith.

Back in the 70s, the GOP coined the phrase "liberal media" to combat what they saw as the mainstream media's queen-bee assault on their values. It's high time we mounted a similar campaign pointing out that junior-high social rules and behavior are beneath the dignity of the national media of a great nation. It's also a grossly immature misuse of power that diminishes the ethical and cultural stature of a great profession. The Kewl Kidz need to either grow up, or go home.

Say Hello to Uncle Ho

Bush's visit to Vietnam gave us this funny image of Bush standing in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh. Maybe Bush is smiling because he's thinking "Thank God I got out of having to fight that guy."

GQ Interviews Al Gore; is he running?

Get your Gore porn here. (HT: Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy). Another interesting Gore article is this one from SFGate.com, which lists some advantages Gore has (e.g. The Illusion of Incumbency), and has this handy guide to figure out whether Gore is really running for prez or not:

HOW TO TELL GORE IS RUNNING (OR, IT'S THE WEIGHT, STUPID): When Al Gore started to run for the presidency in 2000, he was thin. By the time the race was over, he had gained a lot of weight (like Clinton in 1992), and then he kept on gaining weight in the months after the election. (Who could blame him?) He also grew a beard.

However, by December of 2002, by the time he announced he was not running for the presidency in 2004, he had slimmed down again. That meant that he had strongly considered running, was getting himself into presidential trim and then decided against it.

Big Al is back to being pretty big right now, or at least he was a few months ago when he was going around promoting An Inconvenient Truth. But if he shows up on TV six months from now, looking 40 pounds lighter while promoting The Assault on Reason, then get ready, he's running.

ANOTHER WAY TO TELL IF GORE IS RUNNING: An Inconvenient Truth will probably be nominated for an Oscar. It's the third highest grossing documentary in history and the most successful documentary of 2006. It will probably win. If you see a chubby, happy Al Gore standing next to the producer and director, celebrating the win at the Oscars, forget it, he's not running. Nothing to do with Hollywood plays well in the heartland (except the movies themselves). The cultural resentment of Hollywood is almost pathological in certain sections of the country. However, if Gore chooses not to be there -- if he's at the spa that day -- then you can take it to the bank. Big Al's running.

Creeping theocracy watch: the Keroack appointment


I like tristero's take on Hullabaloo:
Y'gotta hand it to Sacha Baron Cohen. He really is as brilliant and daring a comic as everyone says he is. Fresh off the spectacular success of "Borat," Cohen posed as an utterly deranged abstinence-only rightwinger and managed, apparently, to get himself hired by the Bush administration to oversee the only federal program that oversees family planning!
[...]
Kudos, Sacha! You haven't lost your touch. That such an obvious fake could get himself hired by the Bush administration really goes to show how utterly clueless they are. And how good you, Sacha, are at slipping into these preposterous characters.

Oh. Omigod. Wait a minute...
Digby and Feministing have more on what sounds like an atrocious appointment. Anyone who thinks the wingnut fundies aren't a political force that needs to be fought constantly isn't awake to what the hell is going on. I hope we'll see more oversight from the new Democratic Congress, but the executive is still completely in the thrall of people who, to put it generously, have a very different way of thinking about health issues than the readership of this blog.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Giuliani: "Hard a-starboard, helmsman!"

Folk like Greg Sargent are saying things about Giuliani:

Translation: Giuliani is laying the groundwork to make the case to social conservatives that he isn't the social liberal he's been made out to be. Maybe he'll blame the liberal media for painting him as a liberal, or something.

Seriously, Rudy's impending effort to pull off a convincing ideological self-transformation is going to form one of the more interesting storylines to watch as we move into the Presidential race. As someone who's seen him up close undergoing previous political mutations over the years, I can tell you that he's way better at distancing himself from the reality of his own past -- and sounding awfully sincere in the process -- than many people might think.
...that sound a lot like what I was saying in this post:
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.
I love it when people more famous than me say things that I've been saying. Mr. Sargent is more sanguine about Giuliani's chances than I am. I don't doubt Mr. Giuliani's ability to appear conservative, but when the Republicans have a genuine wingnut conservative to compare him to, I wonder how well Rudy's right-wing "drag" will hold up.

Of course, perhaps we should consider the possibility that Rudy has been a right-winger all along, and has only adopted his lefty stances on social issues to get himself elected in New York City. (Maybe that's preposterous; I don't know much about his history.)

American public: not a bunch of wingnut puritans

I'm not always the biggest fan of the American public and its positions on things (what percentage believe in the virgin birth again?), but when wingut puritan wackos start acting as if their wack morality is somehow "mainstream", it can be quite refreshing to take a look at what the American public actually thinks. Here's a reassuring tidbit quoted on Feministing:
Of the nearly 1,110 U.S. adults they surveyed, 82 percent supported programs that discuss abstinence as well as other methods for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Half were in outright opposition to abstinence-only education.

Even among self-described conservatives, 70 percent supported comprehensive sex ed., while 40 percent opposed the abstinence-only strategy.

Americans: not nearly as puritanical as the right-wing noise machine would have you believe.

Rumors about Rove's departure

Think Progress quotes the White House Bulletin (subscription required):

The rumors that chief White House political architect Karl Rove will leave sometime next year are being bolstered with new insider reports that his partisan style is a hurdle to President Bush’s new push for bipartisanship. “Karl represents the old style and he’s got to go if the Democrats are going to believe Bush’s talk of getting along,” said a key Bush advisor.

Other elements are also at play: The election yesterday of Sen. Trent Lott to the number two GOP leadership position in the Senate is also a threat to the White House and Rove, who worked against him when he battled to save his majority leader’s job after his insensitive remarks about Sen. Strom Thurmond.

And insiders report that Bush counsel Harriet Miers isn’t a fan, believing that Rove didn’t do enough to help her failed Supreme Court nomination among conservatives. In fact, one top West Wing advisor said that the unexpected ouster of Rove aide Susan Ralston over ethics questions was orchestrated by Miers as a signal to Rove to leave. The advisor said that Rove is aware of the situation and that a departure might come in “weeks, not months.” A Rove ally, however, noted that he has a record of out-witting his critics.

Atrios is skeptical. I wouldn't be too surprised either way, but I have no inside info. This administration is already running around like a headless duck.

Bush goes to Vietnam...

...about 40 years later than many of his generation had to, but I suppose I should give him some credit. Maybe he was trying to make up for the time he was AWOL from his Air National Guard duty.

It is amazing how someone could talk about the American Vietnam experience and draw the lesson that we quit too soon:
“We’ll succeed unless we quit,” Bush said. “The Maliki government is going to make it unless the coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it.”
And what's so great about helping the Maliki government "make it" anyway? They are infested with Shiite death squads and very chummy with Iran. Once again let me quote Riverbend on what all our effort in Iraq has bought us:
“Ladies and gentlemen- to your right is the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to your left is the Dawry refinery… Each of you get this, a gift bag containing a 3 by 3 color poster of Al Sayid Muqtada Al Sadr (Long May He Live And Prosper), an Ayatollah Sistani t-shirt and a map of Iran, to scale, redrawn with the Islamic Republic of South Iraq. Also… Hey you! You- the female in the back- is that a lock of hair I see? Cover it up or stay home.”
This occupation is completely screwed. It's a hopeless failure, but even if by some extraordinary effort it did "succeed" in propping up Maliki's regime, we'd still end up losing strategically. At least in Vietnam, there was perhaps a reasonable expectation that if we had helped the South Vietnamese win, that regime would have been friendly to us (though I admit my knowledge is pretty sketchy here). I have no such illusions about any regime that emerges from the current chaos in Iraq.

Vast Left Wing Conspiracy has a nice reaction to Bush's Vietnam trip:
And what's left to add, when Sgt. Awolski says this?
"Laura and I were talking about how amazing it is that we’re here in Vietnam," the president said.
Why doesn't he toss in the punchline, "Dick Cheney would have been here, but he had other priorities"? Because nobody could fucking fail to see what a sick joke these guys are, and how perverse it is that this clown is representing us — or, in fact, doing any job more demanding than clearing brush from his goddamn ranch.
P.S.: The AP report on Bush's Vietnam trip contained this little detail:
Interest in Bush’s arrival seemed subdued compared with the massive, joyous crowds that stayed up late for President Clinton’s unannounced midnight flight into Hanoi’s international airport in 2000.
Oh my! No Tony Snow party favors for that reporter!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trent Lott? I see GOP minority outreach is in full swing


(Image stolen from billmon.) Trent Lott (R) is now Minority Whip in the Senate. I'll refrain from making the obvious joke and say only that right wingers don't seem to be too happy about this. I don't normally link to right wing blogs, as doing so increases their prestige, but when they cry out in collective dismay it's too fun to pass up:

Trent Lott Voted To Senate Minority Whip Spot…Why, God, Why????? (UPDATED)

[...] If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear to everyone now that the GOP could care less to be in the majority. They couldn’t handle it when they had it, spent like democrats, acted like cowards, and now with the announcement of Mel Martinez as GOP head coupled with this news it’s pretty obvious they could care less if they ever get it back. Gee, I wonder how many times we’re gonna have to hear about his Strom Thurmond gaffe in the next couple of years???
In case you don't remember, Trent Lott was ousted from GOP leadership in 2002 for praising Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential run. Now he's back (Lott, not Thurmond. Thurmond lived a long time, but not that long. He's the angel pictured over Lott in the image above,). I'm sure his presence will improve the Republican party's standing among minority voters and those concerned about issues of race. Ha ha ha.

Wouldn't it be nice if the GOP actually gave up bigotry as an electoral strategy?

Pro-Dem feel-good montage



Here's a little medley of moments from the 2006 campaign, including the famous "macaca" quote, Rove expressing confidence, Bush saying Rumsfeld will stay, Rush Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox, etc. (HT: David Kurtz at TPM)

I don't like Bush, but a Voodoo hex?

Found this little gem over at Talking Points Memo:
A renowned black magic practitioner performed a voodoo ritual Thursday to jinx President George W. Bush and his entourage while he was on a brief visit to Indonesia.

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and broccoli before drank [sic] the "potion" and smeared some on his face.

"I don't hate Americans, but I don't like Bush," said Pamungkas, who believed the ritual would succeed as, "the devil is with me today."

First of all, although I share Mr. Pamungkas' (forgive me if I got your form of address wrong, but I don't know how Indonesian names work) dislike of Bush, I do not believe in the supernatural forces required to make such a ritual work. It does make for some great protest theater though. Sure beats holding up an "Impeachment Now!" sign in some free speech zone somewhere. Heck, he made Internal Monologue, which is pretty good for some voodoo practitioner in Indonesia. I feel sorry for the animals killed, but I kill animals (indirectly) for much less noble causes than protesting Bush (e.g. because they taste better than the soy substitutes), so I really have no moral grounds on which to complain.

Second of all, how exactly does Ki Gedeng Pamungkas expect to able to tell if his ritual has succeeded or not? President Bush seems pretty "jinxed" already. (Maybe some other practitioner of the dark arts got to him first.) Maybe this latest ritual will drive Bush's approval rating even lower than the low thirties in which it's currently wallowing.

Colbert on Rush Limbaugh

Poor Rush Limbaugh. He finally broke down and admitted that for a long time he's been "carrying water" for people who don't deserve it. Life is hard shilling for Republicans. After all, he's only paid millions of dollars to do it. No wonder he needed those painkillers and trips to the Dominican Republic with stashes of dubiously perscribed Viagra. Fortunately, he has upstanding right-wingers like Stephen Colbert to defend him.

Will Al Franken run for Senate in Minnesota? It's sad the Norm Coleman (R) has Paul Wellstone's seat. I hope somebody unseats him in 2008.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

FOX news propaganda memo

OK, you already knew this, but FOX news are blatant Republican propagandists. We have a memo from Huffington Post here outlining the spin FOX was supposed to put forth on November 9th. It sounds like they did, according to the links you can follow from this Crooks and Liars post. Remember, Dan Rather was ousted from CBS over the faked memos about Bush's lack of National Guard service. Will anything similar happen here? I highly doubt it.

If FOX news wants to be a propaganda organ, that's fine. But they shouldn't pretend to be a news organization. And for God's sake (rhetorical theism only--I haven't converted) everyone needs to stop treating them like one. I'll still refer to them from time to time, but when I do I will keep in mind what they are, and constantly remind my readers of the same.

Greenwald on German prosecution of Rumsfeld

Greenwald comes out against prosecution of Rumsfeld et. al. in German courts:
But Germany continues to claim the power to subject other countries' citizens to its laws, to be convicted by its judges and sentenced by its government, even if those citizens have nothing whatsoever to do with Germany or with German citizens. That is nothing less than a claim to worldwide power -- to subject individuals to the rule of the German political system even though those individuals have no say in that system and no representation in it. In short, it is the assertion of government rule without even the presense of consent by the governed.

What possible justification is there for the German Government to assert legal power over other countries' citizens for acts that were not committed in Germany or to German citizens? And how can anyone justify having Americans subjected to trial by German courts and German judges under German law, when they have no representation whatsover in the German system of government?
I was happy about this development when I first heard about it (and reported it here), but I think Greenwald has a good point. I did argue that it should be the United States that prosecutes Rumsfeld and the other torturers (which I suspect include Bush, but let's get the evidence). I was arguing from a point of national honor, but legally it would be more sound, since there's no doubt about jurisdiction.

It seems to me that no matter what the Military Commissions Act says about who can be prosecuted, if Rumsfeld violated treaty law he can be prosecuted. According to the Constitution, treaty law supersedes all other kinds of law, so Congress can't just override it without actually amending the treaty. I assume that the Geneva Conventions are part of treaty law, no?

Computers are better than people

...when properly programmed, of course. Computers have the wonderful trait of being devoid of the self-serving biases that plague humans. Of course, computers can be programmed by biased humans and end up running biased programs, but at least computers are at least capable of acting without prejudice. This is very difficult for humans to do. Especially when drawing congressional districts. Andrew Sullivan has a good post about using computers to do this highly controversial task. Here's North Carlolina's congressional districts now:


Look at that absurd red one, and how the blue and brown ones in the east are all mixed together. That is very silly and probably the result of Gerrymandering (Wikipedia has a good article). Here's a map done by an algorithm:


Much more contiguous and nice, no? And look how it respects county lines! (I think those are county lines; if not someone let me know what they are.)

But of course this brings up the following question: Should Democrats be fair and nice, or should we use what state legislatures and governorships we control to Gerrymander in retaliation? I'm not sure about this. Doing the right thing is good, but letting Republicans get away with dirty tricks without any consequences is bad. Is there some other way for us Democrats to retaliate against Republican Gerrymandering without doing it ourselves?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quiverfull movement: fundies with lots of babies

(Photo stolen from Newsweek)

This is pretty freaky:

Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship--"Father knows best"--and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power.

Though there are no exact figures for the size of the movement, the number of families that identify as Quiverfull is likely in the thousands to low tens of thousands. Its word-of-mouth growth can be traced back to conservative Protestant critiques of contraception--adherents consider all birth control, even natural family planning (the rhythm method), to be the province of prostitutes--and the growing belief among evangelicals that the decision of mainstream Protestant churches in the 1950s to approve contraception for married couples led directly to the sexual revolution and then Roe v. Wade.

Lefty reactions here and here. Newsweek story here. And I thought Evangelical Christians were getting on board with the environmental movement. I guess these folks aren't.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just say no...

...to publicly financed sports stadiums that primarily benefit wealthy team owners. Seattle did:
SEATTLE, Nov. 12 — Empowered by a wave of venture capital, a hiring boom and pride in its homegrown billionaires, this city has decided it no longer needs a mediocre professional basketball team to feel good about itself.

On Election Day, residents rebuffed their once-beloved Seattle SuperSonics, voting overwhelmingly for a ballot measure ending public subsidies for professional sports teams.
I'm glad to see cities refusing to kowtow to the extravagant demands of team owners. "Gimmie this and this and that or we're taking the team somewhere else." The whole racket reminds me of those awful Indian dowry extortion stories you heard about a while back. (The woman who famously resisted a dowry extortion attempt has now married someone else.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Here come old flat-top...

Here's the new Senator from Montana, Jon Tester. I bet he's gonna be sick of that Beatles song before too long.

Nobody likes a loser (well, OK, 31% like a loser)

Newsweek has Bush's approval rating at an all-time low of 31%. Bwahahaha!

Progressive blogs and Dem establishment

The New York Times has a pretty decent article on the uneasy alliance between progressive blogs and the Democratic establishment:
Like the music obsessives who plunked down $500 for first-generation iPods, Web-based activists served as the party’s early adopters in 2006, just as they provided much of the early money and vigor behind Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. This year, they coalesced around dozens of House and Senate candidates in highly unfavorable states or Congressional districts, showering them with seed donations and praise while softening up G.O.P. incumbents with amateur opposition research, campaign stunts and homemade Web advertising.
However, it falls into one rather annoying lazy trap:
They were also sometimes poor judges of what will sell in the larger political marketplace; most of the 19 netroots-supported candidates listed on ActBlue, an online clearinghouse for donations to Democrats, lost on Tuesday.
The point of picking those 19 candidates wasn't to pick 19 winners. The point was to pick 19 candidates that represented progressive values who had a decent shot at winning but weren't getting enough support from other sources. If ActBlue just wanted to back winners, it would be a no-brainer to pick 19 safe Democrats and then brag about having a 100% average. Confessore, and anyone else writing about politics at the NYT, should know that.

One of the main strategic shifts the netroots has been screaming for has been the spreading out of money across more candidates. Why spend $1,000,000 on giving one House member a 90% chance of winning when you could spend $200,000 on 5 House candidates and give each a 33% chance of winning? The first strategy yields .9 victories per million spent. The second strategy yields 1.65 victories per million spent. Now you can mock the second strategy for having a 67% failure rate vs. a 10% failure rate for the first strategy. But the second strategy gets you more victories per dollar, which is what it's all about. It also makes the Democratic party a presence in more areas. The ActBlue page was trying to implement the second strategy, so of course the majority of the candidates won't win. If they did, that would mean ActBlue miscalculated and didn't put enough Democrats on the list.

Now in the real world, it's hard to judge some of these percentages and numbers. How much is required to give a longshot candidate a decent percentage chance of winning? Where would spending money be a waste? But some things are obvious. For example, according to this, Hillary Clinton spent almost $36 million in this campaign cycle. Her opponent was not particularly strong, and she won 67%-31%. Now I bet if she only spent, say $33 million, she still would have won. And if she had given that $3 million to several Democrats in narrow House races, she could have tipped the balance in a few. I think that would have been a better allocation of Democratic resources. Of course, she's saving it for a presidential run, but even so she could have built up a lot of Democratic goodwill for that bid if she had dropped some serious dollar on other Democrats.

I think the folks at the DCCC and the DSCC should read this article about the manager of the Oakland A's from the New York Times Magazine. I'm not into baseball, but it's a fascinating article about exploiting market inefficiencies. I think the baseball situation depicted here is very analogous to the situation faced by a Rahm Emanuel or a Chuck Schumer:
And there did, indeed, appear to be a secret. A leading independent authority on baseball finance, a Manhattan lawyer named Doug Pappas, pointed out a quantifiable distinction between Oakland and the rest of baseball. The least you could spend on a 25-man team, if everyone was paid the minimum salary, was $5 million, plus $2 million more for players on the disabled list and the remainder of the 40-man roster. The huge role of luck in any baseball game, and the relatively small difference in ability between most major leaguers and the rookies who might work for the minimum wage, meant that the fewest games a minimum-wage baseball team would win during a 162-game season was something like 49. The Pappas measure of financial efficiency was this: How many dollars over the minimum $7 million does each team pay for each win over its 49th? How many marginal dollars does a team spend for each marginal win? Over the past three years Oakland has paid about half a million dollars per win. The only other team in six figures has been the Minnesota Twins, at $675,000 per win. The most profligate rich franchises -- the Baltimore Orioles, for instance, or the Texas Rangers -- have paid nearly $3 million for each win, or more than six times what Oakland paid. Oakland seemed to be playing a different game from everyone else.
Someone needs to do a similar analysis with DCCC, DSCC, RCCC, and RSCC and make sure the Dems are winning the efficiency game.

UPDATE: Oops, Atrios already wrote this post, just more succinctly and less kindly.

Dems to push for Iraq withdrawal

This is a good development:
WASHINGTON - Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the next few months but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.

The Iraqi government must be told that U.S. presence is “not open-ended,” said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress that convenes in January.

“We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Levin said on ABC’s “This Week.”

I'm glad the Democracts are not waiting for the James Baker panel's advice. I agree with what John in DC writes here (HT: Atrios):
This is a trap. Democrats cannot - can not - own the administration's current course in Iraq. If Democrats buy off on a policy that they know is not the right policy, then they will be buying off on future failure in Iraq. They will own Bush's bad policy. And that is insane. If the bipartisan group can't come up with a real plan, a good plan, the best plan, then let the Republicans in the group come up with their own wacky plan that will fail. The Democrats can issue a dissent that respectfully says they disagree, and why. And when all hell breaks loose over the next two years, the Dems can say "I told you so."
I also agree that it is unlikely the Baker panel will really give candid advice. Bush isn't capable of hearing it:
Oh yeah, one final rather important point. Check out the first line of that paragraph - James Baker is testing the waters as to how much change in Iraq policy the White House will tolerate. Excuse me? So, that means the guy running this panel isn't going to give his honest advice - he's only going to give the closest to honest the White House will let him give. That is totally messed up, incredibly dishonest, and it's the very reason we're in this predicament to start with.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mail-in rebate: RIP, and good riddance

This article in the NYT caught my sleepy eye:
The end of the mail-in rebate is near.

Its passing may not be mourned, not by consumers or even by retailers and manufacturers of electronic gear. The marketing tool forced customers through an onerous and usually confusing process of cutting out proof-of-purchase logos, Universal Product Code stripes or box-top flaps and mailing one of them along with receipts and an application to a post office box with nine numbers to obtain a discount — typically weeks or even months later.

Consumers did not like them and, it turns out, retailers and manufacturers ended up unhappy about them as well. In recent months, big chains like Best Buy and OfficeMax have announced their demise. Best Buy said that it had eliminated more than 65 percent of mail-in rebates, and by April they will be a relic. OfficeMax, the No. 3 office supplies store, made a clean sweep of them this summer. Internet rebates are also disappearing.

Amen. Any system that depends on "breakage" (i.e. consumers not being able to use it) in order to function deserves to be junked. Read the article to see how integral this was to the whole rebate racket. When I worked at Microsoft, we used rebates to lower the "psychological price" of our games, knowing that only about 20% of consumers actually jumped through the hurdles necessary to obtain their $10 or whatever.

I know that this improvement in our consumer life isn't going to solve global climate change or cure human stupidity, but it is the sort of baby step forward that makes the world a better place. If I ever make a contribution to society as positive as the elimination of the mail-in rebate, I know my time on earth will not have been wasted.

A plea for socialized medecine

Now that I've had more substantial interactions with this country's health care system (or at least part of it), I'm more aware of the problems. (I think we got great care, but the billing is very confusing and I still don't have much idea how much it's going to end up costing.) Our country is going to have to reform healthcare for reasons of economic competitiveness, if nothing else. This Slate article makes the case (HT: Minipundit). I think the government shouldn't meddle in things the private sector does well. Unfortunately, it seems like the private sector isn't doing such a great job, when we compare the US to other countries.

PS: If we have to call it something else for political reasons, that's fine. And yes, I'm aware that this issue was used to bash the Dems with in 1994. Maybe the Republicans should make it the centerpiece of their agenda, in a Nixon-goes-to-China sort of way. That would make me take notice and give those pathetic LOSERS a second look.

Lots of work to do

Maybe with the new Congress, the company that made that purity ball video I showed you earlier will stop getting funded by the federal government.

Howard Dean vindicated

Salon chimes in for Dean (this article doesn't mention the Carville-Dean spat) (HT: Crooks and Liars):

But this week, [Dean] is enjoying vindication far earlier than he ever expected.

Despite all the complaints and demands directed at him over the past 18 months, Dean stuck to his principles. He and his supporters in the netroots movement believed that their party needed to rebuild from the ground up in every state, including many where the party existed in name only. These Democrats prefer to think of their party as one of inclusion and unity. They openly disdain the divisive strategies of the Republicans who have so often used racial, regional and cultural differences to polarize voters.

And they believe that relying on opportunistic attempts to grab a few selected states or districts as usual -- rather than establishing a real presence across the country -- conceded a permanent structural advantage to the Republicans that would only grow more durable with each election cycle.

James Carville thinks Howard Dean is to "blame"

In a rather odd turn of events, James Carville (the bald Clinton supporter with the toothy grin you see on cable TV a lot) is blaming Howard Dean for...I don't know what, not having an even greater Dem victory, I guess. OK: He thinks Dean lost some potential House pickups because of spending money on the 50-state strategy. (He doesn't talk about how many House seats we got because of the 50-state strategy.) He wants the DNC to replace Dean with Harold Ford of all people:
Says James Carville, one of the anti-Deaniacs, "Suppose Harold Ford became chairman of the DNC? How much more money do you think we could raise? Just think of the difference it could make in one day. Now probably Harold Ford wants to stay in Tennessee. I just appointed myself his campaign manager."
Harold Ford is one of the Democrats who lost in this election (for Senator from Tennessee). Needless to say, the netroots (Yours Truly included) are outraged at this suggestion. Howard Dean is an important piece of the Democratic revival that led to our success this cycle. I like what Kos has to say on the subject:
Dear Everyone Who Thinks They Singled-Handedly Won the Last Election,

The DNC and Howard Dean couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

The DCCC and Rahm Emanuel couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

The DSCC and Chuck Schumer couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

The netroots and grassroots couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

The 527s and unions and allied organizations couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

The big dollar donors couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.

They were all part of a glorious puzzle. And working together, even if not always harmoniously, led to great, great things.

Hugs and kisses.

kos

p.s. As for the know-nothing pundits in DC and the DLC? Well, we won because they were ignored.

Rumsfeld: War Criminal

Apparently, prosecutors in Germany might charge Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials (HT: Sullivan--maybe all my readers should just read him, too). Here's why they're doing it now:
In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say, means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case — that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue — has been proven wrong.

"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor's previous inaction no longer hold up.

As a point of national honor, I think the United States should bring these authoritarian thugs to account, not Germany. But because of the passage of the shameful Military Commissions Act, we may have to outsource justice along with so many other things. Sign of the times, perhaps.

Evangelicals envy Catholics and Republicans

Apparently, they want a gay sex cover-up scandal of their own:
Sheldon disclosed that he and “a lot” of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile ... but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”
(Emphasis added.) No surprise that Sullivan is on this (HT goes to him). I hasten to add that the scandals are not equivalent: Haggard's only real crime is uber-hypocricy and destructive lack of self knowledge. Doing meth is probably a bad idea, and hiring a gay prostitute is not exactly a socially acceptable thing for an evangelical leader to do. But I don't think either should be crimes (though they certainly are under current law). Using the Internet to solicit sex from underage people whom you have a responsibility to protect is a crime, and should be. Widespread sexual abuse of kids and an entire institutional hierarchy covering up for those who did it is a travesty of a different order altogether. The Evengelicals have a ways to go if they really want to equal the Republicans and the Catholics in the gay scandal area.

Here's an idea: How about gay people just get to be gay? (And straight people get to be straight--heteros shouldn't forget that many puritans want to control our sexuality, too.) Enough with this destructive closet hypocricy crap.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Daily Show on Haggard: icky new camera angle

Jon Stewart on Haggard and the closet:

HT: Sullivan

Markets are not omniscient

I predicted (OK, it was more of a guess than a prediction) a Democratic Senate takeover on October 25th. If only I had put my money where my mouth was:

(HT: Atrios) Tradesports was predicting Republican control with a 70% probability right up until election day. So much for the vaunted ability of markets to divine outcomes. It seems as though they just reflect the thinking of the participants. If that thinking is off, the market will be off, too. Maybe that's why CEO pay has rocketed off into the stupidosphere.

Joyous Graphic of the Day


This, from the New York Times, shows the conservative to liberal movement of committee chairs in the House. It's pretty frickin' huge. Sweet.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Creepy puritanism watch: purity ball fun

ENOUGH about the election. Now is the time on Internal Monologue when we make fun of puritans!

OK, well maybe we don't make fun of them, we just show their promotional videos and assume that our readers can snort with derision appropriately. HT: Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon, whose sentiments I must echo:
If you weren’t already completely grossed out by this phenomenon, just wait until you hear the guy explain about a 17-year-old girl sitting in her dad’s lap and explaining that she doesn’t need boyfriends because she gets everything she’d need from them from Daddy.
The creepy quote starts at about 1:49 into the video. I didn't hear "17-year-old-girl", but he does talk about a teenage girl sitting in her dad's lap and explaining how she didn't need a boyfriend. The idea that a father's "Godly affection" can satisfy the romanto-erotic needs of his heterosexual teenage daughter is some combination preposterously naive and deeply sick. I don't know whether to laugh or call Child Protection Services.

You know, the idea of a fancy night out for fathers and daughters would be nice if it didn't have all the creepy sexual overtones. The puritans, in their effort to stamp out every form of pleasure, force sexuality to leak out in the weirdest, most inappropriate ways. It's perverted, man. I'm having a puritanical reaction just looking at the stuff. (And yet like the puritans, I still look. The exquisite pleasure of being morally offended!)