Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Congressional Democrats begin impeachment of Gonzales

Jay Inslee (D-WA) has introduced a bill to begin an impeachment investigation of Gonzales. Follow the link to C&L for news video. There's a diary on Kos, but it doesn't seem to have more information. It does have some transcript of the NBC coverage:

From NBC's Mike Viqueira
A group of House Democrats will introduce a resolution calling on the Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) will sponsor the measure. It will be dropped in the hopper tomorrow.

It's too early to say whether it will actually get anywhere.

Here's the text of resolution...

RESOLUTION
Directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and
misdemeanors.
1 Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall
2 investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the
3 House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales,
4 Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes
5 and misdemeanors.

Let's hope this passes. Getting rid of Gonzales won't be enough, but it's a start.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Republicans going down with the president

Digby quotes Matthew Yglesias on the very odd behavior of the current Republican party:
Much of the crisis in Washington today boils down precisely to the congressional GOP's unwillingness not so much to "do the right thing" but unwillingness to even be petty and power-hungry; their decision to see their job as backstopping the president come what may rather than to jealously horde[sic] the powers of their own offices.
Then she goes on to say:
This is why our institutions are failing. The founders never counted on politicians "doing the right thing." Profiles in courage are always in short supply and no government can depend upon good intentions. But they did assume that they would, at least, want to preserve their own careers and constitutional prerogatives. The modern Republicans are so committed to their party that they will follow their 28% president over the cliff, and that is a mindset we haven't seen since the civil war.
The big question in my mind is whether the current crop of Republican candidates are craven opportunists cynically feeding the Republican base what they want to hear, or whether they actually believe the bile they're spouting (e.g. doubling Guantanamo Bay). Let's hope we don't have the opportunity to find out.

The housing slump

Atrios' explanation for what's happening with housing:
While it's rather obvious, sometimes I think the "how'd it happen" of the housing bubble isn't explained clearly. The short answer is that cheap money was made available to more and more people.

Potential home buyers for the most part don't really care what the sticker price is on the house; they care about the monthly mortgage payment. In the early days of the house price boom, the "culprit" was simply low long term interest rates. People with good credit were getting cheap 30 year fixed rate mortgages, allowing them to buy a more expensive home for a cheaper monthly payment. As housing prices started to go up, subprime lenders started to jump in and widened the pool of people for whom cheap money, at least temporarily, was available. Uncle Alan Greenspan blessed the use of ARMs, and lenders began offering very low teaser rates that would balloon after a few years. People either didn't understand what they were getting, other than that promised home, or assumed that they'd be okay because continuing positive housing price trends would always give them a way out. Later, more corrupt lending practices grew, with lenders handing out high rate no doc loans to anyone who asked. And then, of course, there were the flippers, the amateur investors who dove in towards the end of the boom, as always happens in bubbles, further driving up prices.

Housing is a bit different than financial assets are - they're illiquid and also something people use and not simply investments - and the bubble's decline won't really seem like a "burst" (though the bursting in related markets, such as financial assets spun off from mortgages, might come with a tremendous popping sign). Still it looks like we're heading towards bad.

Oh great, now we're fighting the Kurds, too?

According to Bob Novak (yes, the same Novak who originally outed Plame as a covert operative):
The morass in Iraq and deepening difficulties in Afghanistan have not deterred the Bush administration from taking on a dangerous and questionable new secret operation. High-level U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas and capture their leaders. Through covert activity, their goal is to forestall Turkey from invading Iraq.
(HT: quaoar on DailyKos) This whole Turkey-Kurd conflict has been simmering for some time. A skillful U.S. might be able to finesse it and keep these two allies from going at it. But now it looks like we might be taking sides. Of course, this carries big risks:
Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.
The Kurds are the one Iraqi faction that has been relatively pro-U.S., but when they find out we're helping Turkey go after their militias, that might change. I don't know if it will be possible to go after the PKK (Kurdish militia) without alienating the majority of Kurds. I don't know what the relationship is between the PKK and "mainstream" Kurdish politics. But this sounds like yet another dangerous taking of sides in a region where every time you take a side you get a whole bunch of people really pissed at you.

BREAKING: Christianity revealed as Jewish prank

The game is up:
In a breathtaking announcement today, Rabbi Soyvitch Goldberginsky told a slightly confused gathering of End Timers at a How to Dress for the Rapture: Boxers, Briefs or Dangler’s Puffery seminar in Las Vegas, Nevada that the basis for their religion, the founding gospels of the New Testament were in fact part of an elaborate gag perpetrated by “…a few wisenheimers back in the day. The guys were sitting around, tossing shrimp at pigs for who-knows-why, when one of them says “Hey, what if we say that God shtupped a zaftig and Jr. will give everyone a Get Out of Hell card? And they will have to sing ass-kissing songs and feel bad a lot of the time, just like us.”
Isn't this kind of similar to Nietzsche's conception Christianity: a vehicle for spreading slave morality and ressentiment to the gentiles?

Of course, there's a lot more to Christianity than belief in the idea that "God shtupped a zaftig", but that is a central tenet of orthodox (with a lower-case "o") Christianity. And it is pretty funny. And also pretty un-original, as far as mythology goes. Gods had been shtupping zaftigs and goddesses had been getting shtupped by whatever the male equivalent of a zaftig is long before the great monotheistic shtupping allegedly took place.

Venn diagrams online


This diagram, from a DailyKos diary, was made with this online applet. Unfortunately, it is impossible sometimes to get the areas proportional to your data:
The applet draws Venn Diagrams with 3 circles. It attempts to make each of the zones (the set intersections) proportional to the population (value) assigned to the zone. Note that, in general, the areas will be approximate, as an ideal solution is generally not possible using circles.

Maliki not too keen on this whole "arming the Sunnis" thing

Iraq's prime minister, Maliki, doesn't like Petraeus arming the Sunni militias and has asked Bush to remove him:

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.

Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general’s moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa’eda.

One Iraqi source said Mr Maliki used a video conference with Mr Bush to call for the general’s signature strategy to be scrapped. “He told Bush that if Petraeus continues, he would arm Shia militias,” said the official. “Bush told Maliki to calm down.”

What are we doing in Iraq again?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Republicans: "We're losing the youth! Quick, quash the YouTube debate!"

Image from KCRG.com

Seems young folks are turning away from the Republican party in a pretty big way. Given this reality, one would think Republicans would jump at the chance to engage young voters by having a YouTube sponsored debate like the one the Democrats had. But it look like it might not happen:

NYT:
The Republican CNN-YouTube debate, scheduled for Sept. 17 in Florida, may move to another date, given reservations that some of the presidential candidates have expressed about both the date and the format.
Xinhuanet.com (why does China's official news agency often come up first in Google searches about American politics?):
Four days after the Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN/YouTube.com, only two of the nine Republican presidential candidates have agreed to participate in a similar debate for their party on Sept. 17.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and congressman Ron Paul of Texas are the only two that have agreed to take part in the debate, co-hosted by the Republican Party of Florida, according to a report published by The Washington Post Friday.

"Aside from those two candidates, we haven't heard from anyone else," said Sam Feist of CNN, which is co-sponsoring the debate with YouTube, the popular video-sharing site.

Melissa Ryan on MyDD:
It looks like the GOP YouTube debate is a bust. The partisan Democrat in me is of course happy see see the GOP show it's true colors. Is anyone surprised that most of the Republican field fears having to answer questions submitted by ordinary Americans? But I also crave opportunities to get people reengaged in the political process, no matter what their affiliation. For that reason I'm disappointed that the Republican debate may not happen.
Bwhahaha! Recipe for becoming a minority party:
  1. Alienate minorities by leaving them to die (Katrina) and demonizing them relentlessly (immigration).
  2. Turn off the next generation of voters by failing to understand new media (YouTube), and whipping up furor about issues that young folk think about completely differently (gay marriage).
  3. Staunchly stand by George Bush as it becomes abundantly clear that he is a hideously bad president.
  4. General awfulness in so many areas (Fiscal Policy, Iraq, Gonzales, etc.) that your brand is tarnished for decades.
Some right-wingers do understand the importance of the Internet. The folks at RedState are wisely asking the Republican candidates to reconsider their shunning of YouTube:

Republicans cannot write off the Internet. Thus far, the Democratic candidates have dramatically outperformed Republicans online, most alarmingly in online fundraising. We believe this is a direct result of failing to effectively engage the medium and seize the tremendous opportunity of bottom-up grassroots activism. If you approach the Internet from a position of paralyzing fear, you will be out-gunned, out-manned, and out-raised at every turn. It is fundamentally unacceptable to surrender to the Democrats on one of the most important battlefronts of this election.

And Republicans cannot write off the youth vote. A recent poll showed Democrats with a staggering 24-point advantage among 18 to 29 year old voters. Once a generation of voters is lost like this (just think of the New Deal or Reagan Generations) they are extremely difficult to get back. We are under no illusions that a YouTube debate alone can change that, but denigrating the way millions of young Americans live and communicate does not help.

(HT: Terryus commenting on MyDD) I think the Republican party as it currently exists is going to have a very hard time being empowered through "bottom-up grassroots activism". How can authoritarians really empower their base to make real decisions? What if the base wants things that big corporations don't? (Witness the paralysis on immigration reform.) It's been an enormous struggle to for "bottom-up grassroots activism" to change the Democratic party, and there's still so much to do. I think the Republican hill will be even steeper to climb.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday baby blogging, part 2

Bush administration: winning the war against data

According to the LA Times, the Bush administration is going to stop reporting on the number of hours of electricity per day Baghdad is getting:
WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only "an hour or two a day" of electricity. That's down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year.

But that piece of data has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly "status report" for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.
Kudos to my Senator Barbara Boxer for calling bullshit on this:
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who sharply questioned Crocker about electricity during a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, sent a letter to the State Department last week complaining about the new measurement[which doesn't include avg. hours of electricity]. She said she was concerned the White House was trying to obscure the deteriorating situation in Baghdad, the focus of Bush's "surge" of 30,000 additional troops.

"The president continues to keep information away from the American people and the Congress," said Boxer, who advocates withdrawing troops. "It's obvious that he wants to paint a rosy picture."
By now, anyone who finds this this kind of behavior on the part of the Bush administration surprising should immediately be screened for excessive credulity disorder. It's exactly the sort of maneuver one can expect of them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Aquafina and Dasani are tap water

Buying bottled water may be convenient, but you're basically getting filtered tap-water:
Pepsi's Aquafina and Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani are both made from purified water from public reservoirs, as opposed to Groupe Danone's Evian or Nestle's Poland Spring, so-called spring waters shipped from specific locations that the firms say have notably clean water.
(HT: Feministe) I once talked with a water engineer at a party and he said bottled water is a racket. He said the FDA actually has much stricter standards for what comes out of your tap than what goes into those bottles.

VLWC on Libertarianism

I like VLWC's take on Libertarianism:
"Libertarian" is an impressionistic term like "emo," for which no two people agree on a definition. It can mean:
  • I'm an independent thinker who cherry-picks the best parts of right- and left-wing politics
  • I hate any sort of government or governance (see also: "fair-weather anarchist")
  • I'm a Republican in sheep's clothing (see also: "I'm an Independent" and "Reynolds, Glenn")
  • I'm a disgruntled Democrat
  • At my high school, the cool kids read Ayn Rand
  • I'm attracted to fringe candidates

Was Pat Tillman fragged?

Image taken from kestral9000 on DailyKos

There's a lot of evidence coming to light that NFL player-turned soldier Pat Tillman's friendly fire death was not an accident:
(AP) SAN FRANCISCO U.S. Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former professional football player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
See TPM Muckraker and kestrel9000's diary on DailyKos for more information and analysis.

I don't know enough ballistics to say with any, but 10 yards seems awfully close. And we do know that the military lied repeatedly about the circumstances of his death. The Tillman death cover-up and the Jessica Lynch-as-Rambo fabrication are two of the most despicable examples of "human interest" war propaganda our government has foisted on us.

Friday baby blogging


Here's Quinn with his cousins. It was easy to make him laugh: saying "Buh buh buh buh buh buh buh!" with an ascending intonation cracked him up without fail.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Sarah!


Today is my wife's birthday, and everyone should celebrate! (The image above was yanked from someone's myspace page, though I don't know why I'm giving them credit because I'm sure they yanked it from somewhere else.)

A fun gay marriage song


(via Sullivan, of course)

Gonzales perjurs himself

Liar liar liar:
WASHINGTON - Documents show that eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

(HT: BarbinMD on DailyKos) This sounds pretty clear cut. Can we prosecute the guy yet? Or at least impeach him?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gonzales: you can't make this stuff up

A snippet of Gonzales testimony, as quoted by Kos:

SCHUMER: I'll let you speak in a minute, but this is serious, because you're getting right close to the edge right here. You just said there was just one program -- just one. So the letter, which was, sort of, intended to deceive, but doesn't directly do so, because there are other intelligence activities, gets you off the hook, but you just put yourself right back on here.

GONZALES: I clarified my statement two days later with the reporter.

SCHUMER: What did you say to the reporter?

GONZALES: I did not speak directly to the reporter.

SCHUMER: Oh, wait a second -- you did not.

(LAUGHTER)

OK. What did your spokesperson say to the reporter?

GONZALES: I don't know. But I told the spokesperson to go back and clarify my statement...

SCHUMER: Well, wait a minute, sir. Sir, with all due respect -- and if I could have some order here, Mr. Chairman -- in all due respect, you're just saying, "Well, it was clarified with the reporter," and you don't even know what he said. You don't even know what the clarification is. Sir, how can you say that you should stay on as attorney general when we go through exercise like this, where you're bobbing and weaving and ducking to avoid admitting that you deceived the committee? And now you don't even know. I'll give you another chance: You're hanging your hat on the fact that you clarified the statement two days later. You're now telling us that is was a spokesperson who did it. What did that spokesperson say? Tell me now, how do you clarify this?

GONZALES: I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you.

Contempt

It's not just what I feel for the Bush administration, it's what the House Judiciary Committee is voting on today. A summary of the options:
  1. Try to negotiate a settlement acceptable to both the Congrses and the White House
  2. Roll the dice on statutory contempt and see what the U.S. Attorney does
  3. Use the inherent contempt procedure, either after statutory contempt has failed, or as a concurrent threat to encourage the U.S. Attorney to move
  4. Create some new procedure legislatively, and hope it stands up to court challenges from the "administration" when Congress actually tries to use it
  5. Move to impeach, whether the target be Gonzales (as the U.S. Attorney's boss), Bush (for misapplying executive privilege claims), or Cheney (if Congress believes it has established a connection between him and this particular obstruction, which to this point they apparently do not, despite Senator Whitehouse's revelations yesterday)
  6. Do nothing, and hope some future administration does the same thing but is in an even weaker position politically when it does so, and can be brought to heel
Go option #3!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Fundie Freakazoids

With all the Pottermania going on, we should remember that some people REALLY don't like Harry Potter:

That's an excerpt from the movie Jesus Camp. Of course, some people derive enormous sadistic pleasure from the fact that Harry Potter drives some Christian wackos nuts:
In any event, my enjoyment of the books is enhanced by the knowledge that it also drives the fundamentalist right nuts. Ever since the books gained great popularity, they've been on the warpath against Harry Potter, as you can see from the excerpt from Jesus Camp above, in which we see the head of the camp telling children that Potter should be put to death. (Talk about Republicans for Voldemort!)
To be fair, the woman doesn't say Potter should be put to death. She says that had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death. Of course, if Harry Potter had been in the Old Testament, then I imagine it would have been quite different. Maybe sections of it would be less excruciatingly dull.

Anyway, it's funny how seriously these kids books get taken. CLS on Classically Liberal has an explanation for this odd phenomenon:
But fundamentalists do think that there is truth in these books. Unlike most rational people, they do believe that witches and spells exist. They have no choice since the Bible condemns such things. To say they don’t exist questions the infallibility of Scripture. Most people are not offended by the theme of the Potter series because they don’t believe the “dark forces” actually exist.
I'm not sure I buy this explanation entirely. The bible has condemnations of a lot of things, but the idea of the occult seems to touch a nerve. Not as much as sex does, but more so than wearing clothes made from more than one kind of cloth or keeping holy the Sabbath. Fundamentally, I think these people object to use of the imagination for creating anything outside their own narrow conception of Christianity.

This Potter hysteria is exactly analogous to the fundie hysteria about Dungeons & Dragons in the '80's. In a way, I'm surprised they're still at it. Dungeons & Dragons was easy to demonize because most people don't actually know what it is, and geeks back then were not as well understood or accepted as they are now. But attacking Harry Potter makes you look colossally stupid, because everyone at least knows what Harry Potter is. And people like him. And he's essentially decent. So it's hilarious that they're painting him and his pals as tools of Satan. Doesn't the Christian right wing have more political savvy than that? Shouldn't their grand poo-bahs get the message out that attacking Potter will not help the already desperate Republicans in the 2008 elections?

I can understand attacking hip hop lyrics or Grand Theft Auto III or violent movies, because those things often do revel in immorality. But as far as I can tell, the moral underpinnings of the Harry Potter books are pretty conventional. If Harry Potter had been a science fiction story, with cool technology instead of cool magic, they probably wouldn't care. But because it's a "Petronus charm" instead of a "nanotech countermeasure", some people get all a-lather.

Sometimes I'm annoyed that Harry Potter is so popular. I read the first book and have seen all the movies and they're fun, but I don't find them so utterly fantastic. But if Harry Potter is driving a subset of the fundies mad with jealousy and driving them into fits of rage that make them look like a bunch of dumbasses, then I'm all for it.

As a parting gift, I suppose I have to post this Jack Chick cartoon on the evils of Harry Potter:

People have very different ideas about things than I do. I am constantly amazed at how human beings inhabiting the same physical reality can have such radically different beliefs about things. Was The Enlightenment just a pipe dream? Sometimes I think so.

A Harry Potter product you won't see

From an interview with Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling:
"The funniest one ever -- it was a product proposal that was sent to them -- was a Moaning Myrtle lavatory seat. We've got the plans for it framed in the office loo."
From that same interview:

On criticism of the books from Christians in Britain and the United States:

"I had one letter from a vicar in England -- this is the difference -- saying would I please not put Christmas trees at Hogwarts as it was clearly a pagan society. Meanwhile, I'm having death threats when I'm on tour in America."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Props to Ron Paul and Mike Gravel on drug policy

One issue I feel strongly about but haven't blogged about for a while is the futility and stupidity of our nation's drug policy. According to the recent article in the NYT Sunday Magazine,
[Republican candidate Ron Paul] detests the federal war on drugs; the LSD guru Timothy Leary held a fundraiser for him in 1988.
While I disagree with Ron Paul on government spending on social programs and health care (he's against it, I think we need more & better) and numerous other things, I think he deserves mad props for being against the war on drugs. As far as I know, he's the highest profile politician to publicly take this position. Where are the Democratic candidates on this? Back in April, Ariana Huffington lamented their silence:
But a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them -- not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson -- even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

I don't know how much has changed since then, but apparently the ice is starting to break a bit. here's Drug WarRant:

But from the brief recaps I've seen around the web, the drug war got some play, with Gravel and Kucinich, of course, but also with Biden, Dodd, Richardson, and Clinton at least, giving some mention to things such as eliminating mandatory minimums and crack/powder disparities, and making needle exchange available to reduce HIV.

At that site you'll also find the usual graphs that make plain how incarceration-happy we are:


Poking around the web, I did find one Democratic candidate who spoke out against the Drug War: Mike Gravel:

“The scourge of our present society, particularly in the African-American community, is the war on drugs,” Gravel said in response to a question about the high rate of HIV/AIDS infections among black teenagers.

Then he said this about the other Democrats on the stage: “If they really want to do something about the inner cities, if they really want to do something about what’s happening to the health of the African-American community, it’s time to end this war. There’s no reason to continue it in the slightest. All it does is create criminals out of people who are not criminals.”

His words drew applause from the mostly black audience, but not even a nod of agreement from the other Democrats on stage with him.

It's pathetic that the only people speaking out on this on the Democratic and Republican sides are Mike Gravel and Ron Paul, respectively. The "fringe" candidates are the only ones who seem willing to state the obvious: our current policy isn't working. This seems to be one area where the Democrats aren't any better than the Republicans. While there can be a lot of disagreement about what we should be doing, I don't think anyone can say our interdiction & criminalization policies have been successful. Can we stop acting all Iraq-ish on this and at least have the courage to look at reality?

Happy 2nd Anniversary to us!

Not my blog anniversary, that's a while off yet. But my 2nd wedding anniversary is today! Here's a recent photo of us in the park near our house.

I'll spare my other readers the puke-inducing mushy sentiments that I wish to express on this happy occasion, and confine them to a medium where only their intended recipient will need to be confronted with them.

JetBlue: "We only have room for the right wing"

JetBlue recently caved to pressure from FOX News viewers and sort of withdrew its sponsorship from YearlyKos. Apparently, all it took was 1,200 e-mails. This is sad, but it makes me feel like the occasional angry e-mail I send out probably does do some good. Anyway, the Kossacks are annoyed with JetBlue, and so some folks came up with this little video to make fun of them:

Republicanism makes us weaker

This Krugman column in todays NYT really got me angry. It turns out that France and Japan have faster and cheaper broadband than we do:

The numbers are startling. As recently as 2001, the percentage of the population with high-speed access in Japan and Germany was only half that in the United States. In France it was less than a quarter. By the end of 2006, however, all three countries had more broadband subscribers per 100 people than we did.

Even more striking is the fact that our “high speed” connections are painfully slow by other countries’ standards. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, French broadband connections are, on average, more than three times as fast as ours. Japanese connections are a dozen times faster. Oh, and access is much cheaper in both countries than it is here.

Grr! Having a lame health care system I can live with. But having slower Internet connections is absolutely intolerable. Why has this happened? According to Krugman:
Bad policy. Specifically, the United States made the same mistake in Internet policy that California made in energy policy: it forgot — or was persuaded by special interests to ignore — the reality that sometimes you can’t have effective market competition without effective regulation.

You see, the world may look flat once you’re in cyberspace — but to get there you need to go through a narrow passageway, down your phone line or down your TV cable. And if the companies controlling these passageways can behave like the robber barons of yore, levying whatever tolls they like on those who pass by, commerce suffers.

Bush should declare a state of national emergency and appoint someone capable...oh forget it.

I'd be interested in a conservative take on how and why this Internet gap is developing, and what a conservative solution would be.

I'm tired of hearing how my country is getting its ass kicked on metric after metric of standard of living. It's especially worrisome to hear about this broadband discrepancy, because technological innovation has always been a core strength of the U.S. economy. But if the infrastructure isn't there to allow it to flourish, the next World of Warcraft could very well be a foreign product. Not that that would be the end of the world. Maybe the U.S. deserves not to be top-tier country. But I have enough American chauvanism to feel bad when I see my country falling behind the rest of the world.

Perhaps back in the olden days when it was concerned with fiscal responsibility and governmental restraint, the right-wing played an important role in generating and maintaining American prosperity. But now it seems their just an enormous economic and moral drag on the country. First they cripple American stem cell research, then their fear of regulation gives us shitty broadband.

If I was trying to hamstring the 21st century economy of a country, biotechnology and Internet connectivity might be two areas I'd try to sabotage. Oh, and I'd trick the country into an immoral, unpopular, and enormously expensive foreign occupation that accomplished nothing and inflamed the whole world against it, further decreasing its ability to perform economically. To top it off, I'd stoke native fear and xenophobia, so that foreign travelers felt very unwelcome and thus inclined to take their business elsewhere.

Bush and Cheney might as well be Al-Qaeda moles. At least then there'd be the possibility that they'd be discovered as such and thrown out. As it is, we're faced with the depressing reality that they are the face of America. Depressing.

Fred Thompson: Pro-choice lobbyist

Republican right-wingers hoping that Fred Thompson will save them from the current crop of Republican candidates will be very disappointed to find out that their guy did pro-choice lobbying work. Now some on the right think this isn't that big a deal.

I, for one, am happy to know that someone isn't as firmly anti-choice as their current stance in the Republican party would suggest. But I'm tired of the Republican party's cynical posturing on this issue. It's pathetic to see candidates like Giuliani with pro-choice records pander desperately to the right-wingers. Who are they fooling?

The Pasport Backlog

Kos posts about the current backlog of passport applications, citing it as an example of how Republicanism can't work. I happen to have some inside info on this story, from my ultra-secret contact in the State Department, known on this blog only by the code name "Maestro". Here's my comment to Kos's post:

It's even worse than you think (0 / 0)

I have a friend who works in counter-terrorism in the State Department. The friend's area of expertise is Central Asia. You'd think he'd have some pretty important business to attend to these days, what with everything going on there. But guess what my friend will be doing for the next few months?

Passport backlog work.

Yep, and my friend is not alone. Counter-terrorism specialists are being pulled from all over and flown to special offices to work six days a week on clearing out the passport backlog. So critical counter-terrorism desks are sitting empty. This increased emphasis on passports is actually decreasing our security, because critical State Department personnel are being yanked from their jobs and assigned to look over the mound of applications.

Pretty messed up, no?

This passport backlog is a matter of some personal concern to me, as we have applied for a passport for Quinn so we can go on a cruise with my wife's family at the end of December. Even a Republican government should be apple to approve an application for a baby in time for December. Fortunately, Maestro has offered to unofficially expedite Quinn's application, but I really hope pulling such strings will not be necessary.

Of course, a delayed passport pales in comparison to crippling the State Department to deal with this problem. Ugh. Maybe this is all a part of the Bush administration infighting that we're always hearing about. It wouldn't be the first time State has been undercut by other branches of the "unitary" executive.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Context is everything


You can control the content of your ad, but you can't control what gets put next to it. 14 more if you follow that link. (HT: Sullivan)

Robotron 2084 watch

Checkers has been solved, i.e. reduced to tic-tac-toe. If played perfectly, it will end up a draw (HT: Sullivan).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I may be a fanatical D&D Miniatures collector...

...but at least I didn't have them on my wedding cake:

HT: Wizards of the Coast. Apparently, the cake is a re-creation of one of their Dungeons & Dragons Online adventures. The Huge Red Dragon figure in the center would set you back about $65 on e-bay these days. I'm glad I already got one. The wedding must have been recent, because those ice elementals are pretty new.

Kansas Republicans try loyalty oaths

Not a good sign for the Kansas GOP.

Swords vs. Guns


In fantasy, swords beat guns, as evidenced by this little video here from Academie Duello (HT: Almost Infamous) and by the fact that in Star Wars, light sabers are better than guns.

I think deep down, we hate technology, and long for nature, our true unfettered human spirit, to pour forth and wipe it out. I think Lucas played on this desire in Return of the Jedi, when he has the primitive, naturalistic ewoks triumph over the tech-heavy imperial stormtroopers.

But of course we're smart enough to know that it's just a fantasy. The ewoks of the real world get slaughtered. And technology has become too much a part of us to ever cast it aside. We are Darth Vader: we couldn't survive without the technologies that make us strong. We are the imperial stormtroopers.

Economics term of the day: Sunk Costs

Atrios recommended reading up on the term "sunk costs". Wikipedia is of course the font of all knowledge:
In economics and in business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with variable costs, which are the costs that will change due to the proposed course of action. In microeconomic theory, only variable costs are relevant to a decision. Economics proposes that a rational actor does not let sunk costs influence one's decisions, because doing so would not be assessing a decision exclusively on its own merits.
A useful term to know when discussing what our future involvement in Iraq should be.

The disappointment of fine print

Oh, it's only temporary. And Cheney will take control. Darn. (Via VLWC.)

Badges!?!?! Romney needs those stinking badges!

In an incident that is sure to spawn endless The Treasure of the Sierra Madre references, one of Romney's aides apparently made false law enforcement badges for campaign staff:
In an apparent violation of the law, a controversial aide to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney created phony law enforcement badges that he and other staffers used on the campaign trail to strong-arm reporters, avoid paying tolls and trick security guards into giving them immediate access to campaign venues, sources told the Herald.
The bogus badges were part of the bizarre security tactics allegedly employed by Jay Garrity, the director of operations for Romney who is under investigation for impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states. Garrity is on a leave of absence from the campaign while the probe is ongoing.

A campaign source said Garrity directed underlings on Romney’s presidential staff to use the badges at events nationwide to create an image of security and to ensure that the governor’s events went smoothly.
Via Crooks & Liars, where Steve Benen comments:

One guy allegedly impersonates an officer? Romney has plausible deniability. A whole group of aides are all given phony badges, which they’re encouraged to use? Romney starts to look like he’s the head of some kind of criminal enterprise.

How could the candidate not know?

P.S.: Here's an interesting bit of "stinking badges" trivia from the above-linked Wikipedia entry:

The film is the origin of a famous line, often misquoted as "We don't need no stinking badges!" The correct dialogue is:

Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya): We are Federales... you know, the mounted police.
Dobbs (Bogart): If you're the police, where are your badges?
Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya): Badges!? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!

If you think civilian air travel sucks...

...try getting to Baghdad as a civilian:

Getting from BIAP to the IZ (the International Zone, aka the Green Zone) is an adventure all by itself. First you haul your gear to a bus stop that feels like Crematoria. Then you get on the bus and ride for 45 minutes to an army base. Then you get off that bus and wait an hour to catch another bus. Then you get off that bus and wait for an hour to catch yet another bus to yet another base. Then you wait in the sun yet again – and by this time you’re totally fragged from the heat – and take another damn bus to a helipad.

All this takes hours. You will be no closer to Baghdad than you were when you started. There are no short cuts.

Once you make your way to the helipad you will wait for a flight on a Blackhawk or a Chinook. If you’re a civilian like me, you will fly last.

(HT: Sullivan)

Friday, July 20, 2007

American monarchy watch

Bush says it's justice department won't prosecute any contempt charges Congress might make against people stonewalling the U.S. Attorney firing investigation:
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.
All you impeachment doubters: I told you so. There is no other mechanism by which to reign in this administration. They see themselves as above everything. The hubris of these people is absolutely disgusting. This is who Republicans are: supporters of unlimited authority for Bush and Cheney. What vileness oozes from these people. Their political movement must be destroyed. It makes me fucking sick.

UPDATE: Of course Greenwald has a detailed take on this. He's less outraged, because he's familiar with the umpteen previous times this administration has done exactly this sort of thing. I like what he says here:

At this point, the blame rests not with the Bush administration. They have long made clear what they believe and, especially, what they are. They have been rubbing in our faces for several years the fact that they believe they can ignore the law and do what they want because nobody is willing to do anything about it. Thus far, they have been right, and the blame rests with those who have acquiesced to it.

It has been six months since the Democrats took over Congress. Yes, they have commenced some investigations and highlighted some wrongdoing. But that is but the first step, not the ultimate step, which we desperately need. Where are the real confrontations needed to vindicate the rule of law and restore constitutional order? No reasonable person can dispute that in the absence of genuine compulsion (and perhaps even then), the administration will continue to treat "the law" as something optional, and their power as absolute. Their wrongdoing is extreme, and only equally extreme corrective measures will suffice.

Amen. Democrats: what is a majority for? Attack this president with everything in your power. Yes, the Republicans will obstruct and defend him. Let 'em do it. Let them stand up for their idol. Let the American people see who these people are. It's going to take more than a Senate sleep-over. You can't remove a tumor by giving the patient Tylenol. You have to do surgery. True, the Republicans probably won't let you, because they're married to the Bush administration, but at least you will be able to look the American people in the eye and say we did everything in our power to get rid of this atrocity of an administration. Who knows? It may even work.

Decades from now, people will scratch their heads and say "Why didn't anybody stop this guy? It was so obvious and blatant!"

Maybe it's time to send my representatives some more impeachment postcards...sigh.

We definitely felt this...


A 4.2 magnitude quake happened nearby early this morning at 4:42, when Quinn had finally gotten to sleep after a difficult wakeup. He slept right through the quake, but it was pretty scary. Some store windows in Berkeley were shattered, and some people in Oakland lost power. Everything seems OK here.

Apparently Kos felt it, too.

This is very bad: Cheney in power during Bush colonoscopy

TPM:

Be Afraid, Be very, very afraid. This headline is now running at CNN as a Breaking News flash ...

President Bush temporarily will transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush has a colonoscopy Saturday.

So making Dick Cheney acting president for maybe an hour or two. Hmmm. Checklist. 1. Invade Iran. 2. Rule Pat Leahy 'Special Legislative Enemy Combatant' ...

Assessment, assessment, I love you, assessment, you're always a Friedman away!

The Republicans try to move the goalposts figuring out whether what we're doing in Iraq is working or not, for about the umpteenth time. Sullivan reacts:

It seems to me that we should stick to what we were told in the first place.

The surge can be definitively judged by September - eight long months and several thousand deaths after it began; it should be judged by exactly the same criteria the administration and Congress agreed upon in the first place; and the key criterion should be movement toward a political settlement, evidence that a national Iraqi government can begin to stand alone, as a unifying force in what was once Iraq. If there is evidence of a political breakthrough by then, if there are clear signs that the Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds are reconstituting a viable national government and want the US to stay to help them, then that is one thing. If we are supposed to judge the surge a success based on military progress against 5 percent of the insurgency, no deal. This al Qaeda stuff is so obvious and transparent a piece of distraction it should be treated as the tiniest factor that it is. It's not about Iraq or about America. It is about rescuing the Republican party and saving face for Bush and Cheney. It's about constructing a new narrative to rescue a failed policy. We are not that stupid. No young Americans should die for such partisan posturing, however coopted the military has become, however awful the immediate future is.

If we had a president we could trust, it would be one thing. We don't.

By the way, I think even tom Friedman, the man who said "the next six months is critical" for so long that Atrios named the period of six months after him, is getting tired of the occupation:
We owe Iraqis our best military — and diplomatic effort — to avoid the disaster of walking away. But if they won’t take advantage of that, we owe our soldiers a ticket home.

A good summary of the Senate sleep-over

TPM Election Central has a nice guide to the all-night Senate session that took place last night. Their summary:

The GOP won -- today, at least. Sen. Mitch McConnell prevented the crucial ten Republican defections. Much of the media is portraying the Democrats as either obstructionists -- which must rankle them, since they weren't the ones filibustering the defense bill -- or as losers. And since the Dems didn't break the filibuster, that last part is true enough.

Looking beyond the day's vote, however, reveals a more complicated picture. After the Democrats lost the Iraq battle over the supplemental appropriation in the spring and didn't launch another fight against the war, many on the left were disillusioned with the Democrats. Antiwar liberals appear much more energized now, so clearly today's events had one positive effect for Reid: It appeared to shore up his support on the left again.

More importantly, by raising the Iraq debate in the summer, the Democrats have created something of a public expectation that September is the beginning of the end for the war. Even Fred Barnes's summation piece for the Weekly Standard is titled "McConnell Holds The Line; At Least Until September." The benefit for the Democrats of the July push, even the unsuccessful one, has been to redefine the debate over the war.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More neocon jokes!

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Joe Lieberman are all flying over New Orleans in a Blackhawk, surveying the progress that has been made in rebuilding the city and the levees. As they fly over the Ninth Ward, Cheney looks out the window, grins, and says, "You know, I could throw a thousand-dollar bill out the window right now and make one of those poor bastards very happy."

Bush says, "Well, I could throw ten hundred-dollar bills out the window right now and make TEN people very happy."

Not to be outdone, Lieberman chimes in, "Oh yeah? Well, I could throw a hundred $10 bills out the window and make a HUNDRED Americans very happy."

Hearing this, the copter pilot rolls his eyes and says, "Man, I could throw all three of you out the window and make 300 million Americans very happy."

From the same place as the others.

Get your dose of Comedy Central videos


It's been a while since I've linked to Crooks & Liars for some Comedy Central political vids. So here's Colbert on the Sen. Vitter (R-flaming hypocrite) hooker scandal. The Daily Show does not let the opportunity to gloat slip by either. The video showing Vitter's wife standing next to him is pretty excruciating. She looks so miserable. Maybe he could resign and the governor could appoint her to fill out his term. It's the least she deserves after what he's put her through.

If you want something more substantive than sordid sex scandals, The Daily Show also covers the confirmation hearings for Bush's candidate for Surgeon General. Of course, the whole thing focuses on his notions about what's wrong with anal sex.

Neocon jokes

From Sullivan:
[W]hy do you never want to date a neocon? Because they always say they're going to pull out and they never do.
And another:

Q. How many neocons does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Neocons don't bother with light bulbs. They declare a War on Darkness and set the house on fire.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Larry Flynt has more names

The publisher of Hustler claimed in an interview with Larry King that he's got more names of politicians involved in prostitution, including another Senator. (HT: a gnostic on DailyKos.) Somebody needs to do a pre-emptive confession, I suspect. Or come out in favor of legalizing prostitution.

I'm surprised they don't carry these already

Walmart to test Bible action figures in US:
Wal-Mart said Tuesday it will test sales in some stores of biblical action figures whose makers say they are aimed at Christian parents who prefer their children play with Samson, David or Noah rather than with a comic book character or Bratz doll.

[...]

One2believe Chief Executive David Socha said his products were part of a "battle for the toy box" with dolls and figures that he said carry negative messages.

"If you're very religious, it's a battle for your children's minds and what they're playing with and pretending. There are remakes out there of Satan and evil things," Socha said.

I don't suppose it's occurred to them that Satan is a biblical character. I bet that if they included a Satan figure in their toy lineup, it would sell better than some obscure Old Testament prophet. I'd also like Leviathan and Behemoth action figures (from Job); they would make good D&D monsters. The figures from Revelation would be pretty weird looking, and might frighten young children. I also think there should be a scantily clad Salome (complete with seven removable veils), and dolls depicting the hot and sexy lovers in Song of Songs. Then the toys might actually be cool. But I'm sure they'll pick only very boring characters that don't translate well into action figures.

Maybe D&D Miniatures should come out with some biblical characters. It would be cool to have combat stats for David and Goliath. Then they should come out with miniatures for characters from other faith traditions. And then you could have them fight each other. That would be awesome. It would spark huge arguments about which figures should be able to beat which other figures, and whether they are appropriately costed or not, and how the game designers are so prejudiced against this or that religion, etc. I get excited thinking how offended people would get.

Unfortunately, I don't think my religion, Unitarian Universalism, would be a good source for either action figures or D&D Miniatures. Somehow, the prospect of having my Thomas Starr King figure fight my Ralph Waldo Emerson does not get my adrenaline pumping.

An unflattering portrait of a Democratic political consultant

From dday on DailyKos:
[...]In increasingly out-of-touch fashion, he claimed that there will be another terrorist attack between now and next November, that the public will run into the arms of the Republicans as a cause of that, and that Democrats are essentially helpless to do anything about that. This, of course, completely neglects what has happened in this country since the war in Iraq, and how America has given up on the idea of "strong on defense" Republicans, particularly given the facts of today's NIE, which suggests that, nearly 6 years after 9/11, precious little has been done to protect the homeland. Consultant X (I'm going with Consultant X from this point forward) argued that none of that matters, that people will trust Republicans more on security. This is a DEMOCRATIC consultant, mind you. Apparently he's made a conclusion that it's impossible for Democrats to argue that the imperial adventure in Iraq, that ignoring our allies, that engaging in horrific acts like suspension of habeas corpus and torture, that inflaming the Muslim world, has made us less safe. In fact, he said that any Presidential candidate basing their campaign out of "getting us out of Iraq" will lose. First of all, that's not really even what any of the leading candidates are doing. Second, he's essentially saying that Iraq will NOT be a major issue in 2008, echoing the sentiments of Karl Rove and others. So he would squander the historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capitalize on a trashed Republican brand by utilizing the one significant issue on which Democrats and Americans are in perfect agreement. This guy is PAID to advise Democrats.

It struck me that this guy was simultaneously claiming that we cannot impeach because we would lose the election, but that we're going to lose the election anyway. In fact, he believes that institutional forces make it nearly impossible to elect a Democrat President. He said "Look at history. You guys haven't been around long enough. Carter barely won in 1976 because of Watergate (an IMPEACHMENT! The logic is air-tight!). Clinton is a once-in-a-lifetime politician, only comes around every 30 years." He neglected to mention Gore, a bland politician (at least in 2000) who won. Or the fact that we've taken 3 out of 4 Presidential elections, and lost the other one by a football field's worth of folks in Ohio. Or that America in 2002 and America in 2007 are completely different. But never mind that. He's saying that it's nearly impossible to win the Presidency, but we shouldn't impeach because that'll cost us that Presidency that's nearly impossible to win.[...]

This mentality is what the progressive blogosphere is struggling against, when we're not struggling against Republicans.

Handsoap

(via Sullivan)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Republicans: still the party of Bush, still the party of occupation

Much has been made of recent Republican "defections" on Iraq. Mainly this is because a few Republican senators have made some meek little noises about the need for a change in strategy. But the overall Republican stance is still pro-Bush and pro-occupation. As Greenwald points out, no leading Republican presidential candidate has come out against the occupation. To do so would be political suicide.

As for the rank and file, Republicans still support Bush, the occupation, and even Bush's handling of the occupation by substantial margins. The latter is really quite baffling to me: Republicans support Bush's "handling of the situation with Iraq" by a 59-33 margin, according to the CBS poll to which Greenwald links.

These folks really are living in a different reality than the rest of us. It's pretty scary to realize how people can have completely different views of the same situation. So don't let Republicans off the hook for this disastrous occupation. They're still the ones driving this whole thing. And they haven't changed. Even after all this time.

How journalism works...by Tom Tomorrow


Go see the whole This Modern World strip. (HT: Greenwald)

Least favorite task of political wives:

Image from Pam's House Blend.

Standing by your husband after he gets caught up in a hooker scandal. Pam says "All I know is the woman's body language speaks for itself". Remember, this is the woman who publicly threatened to cut off his penis if he ever cheated the way Bill Clinton did. I feel pretty bad for her.

Remember Internal Monologue's sex scandal amnesty offer: If you come out in favor of decriminalizing prostitution, or even initiate a serious public discussion about taking a look at some of the really messed up ways our society deals with sex, I'll give you a break and not mock you mercilessly for your sexual foibles. But if you're a "family values" panderer who blathers on about the sanctity of marriage and how gay people and liberals and secularists are a threat to it, then I feel fully justified in making fun of you when your home phone number turns up on the call sheet of a Washington DC prostitution ring.

Who will be the first politician to step forward and say, "I did X, Y, and Z, and I don't think that should be a crime for me or for anyone else"?

[crickets chirping...]

What I did this weekend


My character, Rynthal Cormaeril, is the purple wizard in the center of the lower ship being flanked by the two green sahuagin. (Don't worry- he took a diagonal 5' step and blasted them both with a cone of cold, braving an attack of opportunity from one of them, which missed. And yes, I know you normally would cast defensively in that situation, but Rynthal is a conversion from 2nd edition AD&D and has only minimal ranks in concentration. Given his relatively high armor class, my choice of actions was the better one under the circumstances.)

The adventure was a great high-seas pirate epic put together by my awesome Dungeon Master, Paul (whose myspace page can be found in the sidebar and who occasionally comments here on IM.)

WWII Opinion polling

From TPM

Yes, they had opinion polling back in the 40's. And unlike the current war, WWII polled pretty well. Maybe because we had achievable objectives, the backing of allies, and a president not in the grip of batshit crazy beliefs. As Josh Marshall points out, many war defenders says that if WWII and FDR were polled as much as Iraq and Bush, similar disapproval would be seen. As you can tell from the graph, that is utterly false.

Yay! Can we leave Iraq now?

"We'll take it from here." Image of Maliki from msnbc.com.

Does anybody besides the Bush administration want us to stay? From a couple days ago:
BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country when American troops leave “any time they want,” though he acknowledged the forces need further weapons and training.
(HT: VLWC)

Friday, July 13, 2007

IM Gaming Vacation

Image from Paizo.com

Internal Monologue will go on vacation this weekend for a massive D&D marathon. I think that's OK since half my readership will be playing in the game along with me. OK, not half. But a substantial portion.

A special thanks goes out to my wonderful wife Sarah, who is a goddess for allowing me to disappear for an entire weekend. I love you so very much.

Why Republicans have trouble with the minority vote

Image from The Detroit News

Here's yesterday's NAACP's Republican candidate forum: 8 empty lecterns and Tom Tancredo (R-CO). (HT: Jeffery Feldman on DailyKos). All the Democrats managed to show up when the NAACP invited them. Now of course there are other ways to reach out to minority voters than showing up at the NAACP. But you don't hear about Republicans doing a lot of those things either. It doesn't help that this cycle the Democrats have a very ethnically diverse group of contenders, while the Republicans present a monolithic facade of racial uniformity. After the Katrina response and the recent anti-Hispanic immigrant bashing, the Republicans should be jumping at the chance to symbolically say "you're important" to the non-whitefolk of the nation. But I guess they've strapped themselves to an obsolete vision of what America is. I hope their electoral obsolescence quickly ensues.

News flash: Birth Control works

From Feministing:
A new report reveals that the teen birth rate has hit a record low, and not because of a decline in teens having sex (thanks, abstinence-only!), but an increase in condom use.
Speaking of birth control, why the hell are Democrats in Congress continuing to fund abstinence-only education, after it's been shown not to be effective?

Homer Simpson gets "Left Below"


Via Slacktivist, who continues to slog through the Left Behind series so he can tell us how it is both bad literature and bad Christianity.

Edwards says Bush's remarks "border on the delusional"

(I posted a slightly different version of this on DailyKos.)

Edwards earns some points with me:
The president's remarks today defending his Iraq policy without regard to actual facts border on the delusional. The president claimed that the same people attacking U.S. troops today are the ones who perpetrated 9/11. It must be nice to live in a world where your actions have no consequences. There was no group called Al Qaeda in Iraq before the president's disastrous mismanagement of the war gave them a foothold, a fact the president flagrantly ignores. After being discredited again and again, the president is still trying to link Iraq and 9/11 - a rationale for the war that virtually everyone except Dick Cheney has now recognized was false.
(HT: TomP on DailyKos) My only point of contention with Mr. Edwards is that I don't think Bush's remarks border on the delusional. They crossed that border some time ago. Frankly, I think the border between Bush and delusion needs a lot more security. Maybe I should form a heavily-armed militia group that patrols that border and stops him from attempting to cross illegally. That border is way too permeable, and it is a grave threat to national security.

Better yet, I think Congress should build a fence between Bush and delusion to prevent his anti-American influence from destroying our country. Then I think Bush should be forced to speak English instead of his incomprehensible native tongue, Delusional. Sometimes I'm shocked when I read the newspaper or listen to the radio or watch TV and I hear politicians and pundits speaking not a word of English. They're all speaking Delusional. Especially when talking about Iraq or how Democrats need to kowtow to Bush or they will suffer electoral defeat.

This is America, and I don't think the official business of the country should be conducted in the language of Delusion. America has too many people from Delusion already, and it corrupts our culture. Hearing our leaders speak and act Delusionally only encourages more Delusionals to undermine our American freedoms, like the right not to be arbitrarily imprisoned by some Delusional who doesn't know that in America we don't have kings, or vice-kings.

How can our public education system cope when it's flooded with so many Delusionals? These Delusionals, (via their corporations and lobbyists) take government money that should be spent taking care of real Americans. I say we throw the Delusionals out of the country, and if they want to come back they can only come back as guest workers with no political power whatsoever.

Harriet Meirs claims to be immune to subpoena

Hunter's reaction on DailyKos:

This morning, Harriet Miers refused to appear after being subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. I don't mean she refused to answer certain questions -- I mean she, through the White House, declared herself immune to subpoena, period.

This is -- yet again -- a remarkable situation. Harriet Miers isn't merely refusing to answer certain questions under the rubric of executive privilege, the White House is asserting that her very person is immune to constitutional oversight, and that thus she may ignore congressional subpoenas in their entirety.

That's an astonishing claim, if for no other reason than it is flatly, unambiguously, and laughably wrong. It's not even a debatable statement, but one of those now-regular White House quasilegal statements that mocks well-known and well-established laws to such an extent that no other conclusion can be reached but that the White House legal team is willfully setting out to break laws just to demonstrate that they can.

Impeach. Impeach. Impeach. The law breaking is so flagrant now. Enough is enough is enough is enough.

Humans and their virtual selves


If you missed this feature in the NYT Magazine, you can see a slide show of it here. It's a series of game players and their avatars with a little bit of biographical info about each. (HT: Sullivan, who is shocked that someone would play a game 55 hours a week. Obviously, Mr. Sullivan has a good deal to learn about geekdom.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

George W. Bush: Felon

Apparently, it is a felony to order someone not to appear before a Congressional hearing. (Note that executive privilege is not an exception to this-you have to appear to invoke the privilege.) Bush ordered Harriet Miers not to appear before a House panel investigating the US attorney firings. He's in big trouble. This is rapidly developing...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The pathetic hypocricy of humanity

For some reason, the worst crimes of humanity (genocide, torture, rape, murder, unnecessary war) do not depress me the most. It's stories like this one from Reuters that make think humanity really needs to be wiped out and replaced by robots who have better brain design:
Many women who value the option of over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills for themselves may worry that it's not a good idea for women in general, a small survey suggests.

[...]

All of the women had used an Internet service to get emergency contraception pills, and when surveyed, nearly all said they would have used non-prescription pills had they been available.

Yet fewer than half said they fully supported making emergency contraception available over-the-counter to everyone.

Many other women supported the idea of non-prescription pills, but expressed reservations. Often, they worried that easier access to emergency birth control would encourage other women -- though not themselves -- to be promiscuous or have more unprotected sex.

(HT: Feministing) "I should have emergency contraception available, but you shouldn't because it will let you be a dirty slut." The war on sexual hypocrisy is going to be a long, hard slog. It seems like in the area of sex, people are enormously willing to have different standards for themselves than those they would impose on others. It's really pathetic and sad and indicative of some pretty messed up reality-warping ideas. Can't we just admit that we're sexual beings and proceed from there?

This isn't the first time I've ranted about the problem of exceptionalism.

Nyuk nyuk nyuk

Jay Leno quote:
Sen. John Edwards began what he's calling his poverty tour today. He's visiting people who have no money and no hope. His first stop: John McCain's campaign headquarters.
(via Sullivan)

Dave Kilcullen: The surge explained

Here's an article which my super top-secret mole (known on Internal Monologue only by the codename "Maestro") high in the government pointed out to me. Really, this mole exists. I promise you. And this mole does work in the Bush administration. OK, maybe not high in the Bush administration. But the tip did come from a .gov address, and I know my mole is not particularly skilled in e-mail address falsification, unless Maestro has learned these skills recently as part of some super top-secret training program. I fear for Maestro's job security in communicating with a known subversive such as myself, but fortunately for Maestro the article in question is already highly public and has been commented on by numerous folk, including Andrew Sullivan, so I'm surprised I hadn't come across it already.

The article is titled "Understanding Current Operations in Iraq" and was posted by Dave Kilcullen on June 26, 2007. It is an insider's view of "The Surge" and the strategy behind it. Although I think our entire presence in Iraq is hopelessly stupid and immoral, I did find the article useful in understanding what we are trying to accomplish:

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain – as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Some of the strategy does seem to have a "more of the same" ring to it:
Unlike on previous occasions, we don't plan to leave these areas once they’re secured. These ops will run over months, and the key activity is to stand up viable local security forces in partnership with Iraqi Army and Police, as well as political and economic programs, to permanently secure them. The really decisive activity will be police work, registration of the population and counterintelligence in these areas, to comb out the insurgent sleeper cells and political cells that have "gone quiet" as we moved in, but which will try to survive through the op and emerge later. This will take operational patience, and it will be intelligence-led, and Iraqi government-led. It will probably not make the news (the really important stuff rarely does) but it will be the truly decisive action.
This sounds an awful lot like, "As they stand up, we'll stand down, except this time they actually will stand up." Any US plan for Iraq that has contained the phrase "viable local security forces" does not have a lot of successful predecessors to look back on. When the "really decisive activity" will be police work, you need really good police who have not been infiltrated or co-opted by an armed militia or other group that doesn't have the national interest at heart. And so far that has proved extremely difficult. I just don't think the Iraqi government is up to the task, because it is too weak and commands too little loyalty.

And even if this surge does manage to decrease the amount of insurgent, terrorist, sectarian, revenge-driven, and criminal violence (and Iraq seems to be suffering from all of these) for a while, what does this accomplish? It gives room for "political development", but from all I've seen the politicians aren't particularly interested in national reconciliation. They seem more interested in using the might of the U.S. military to take out their rivals. If there was a broad national consensus on what post-occupation Iraq could look like, but that vision was being sabotaged by a few violent extremists, then perhaps a "surge" would have a chance of working. But I do not think there is such a consensus.

One of the biggest doozies in this article is where Kilcullen says:
On June 15th we kicked off a major series of division-sized operations in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces. As General Odierno said, we have finished the build-up phase and are now beginning the actual “surge of operations”. I have often said that we need to give this time. That is still true. But this is the end of the beginning: we are now starting to put things onto a viable long-term footing.
AACK! (Emphasis mine.) Viable long-term footing? What the hell is he talking about? I thought the whole point of the surge was to build a security environment so that the Iraqi government could take over and we could get out. Now Kilcullen is saying that the surge is setting the stage for "viable long-term footing". Who wants to be in Iraq long term (aside from Halliburton and a clique of deluded imperialists)? What does long-term mean? My understanding is that logistically the army is going to have to start drawing down in March. Things are already completely over-strained. And politically, American support for this cratering, as it ought to. So what exactly is Kilcullen saying when he's talking about "long term"? There is no long-term for the U.S. in Iraq.

As Sullivan said of this article, "I'm still a skeptic, but I'm a better-informed skeptic after reading this." I think I'm more than a skeptic, but the same sentiment applies. Numerous right-wingers have seized on this article to justify their continued support of the war. But I remain deeply unconvinced. The fundamentals are still wrong: nobody here, there, or anywhere else wants the U.S. occupying Iraq, there's no broadly accepted plan for a peaceful Iraq, a majority of the Iraqi population approves of attacks on U.S. forces, and the Iraqi government does not have the power (either moral, political, or military) to overcome the sectarian divisions in Iraqi society. And the overall level of violence does not seem to be decreasing over time. Oh, and we have about 1/4 to 1/3 as many troops as standard counter-insurgency doctrine suggests we should have for pacifying a country with Iraq's population. How is our presence making things better? Why are we still there?