Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I'd Be Upset Too

New York is resolutely liberal city, and, as such, has been the butt of conservative jokes for decades. Conservatives might have a little more hatred for San Francisco, but New York is top of the list of cities that conservatives point to as the opposite of the small town virtues they idealize. So why hold the convention there?

Well a big draw, of course, is Ground Zero. Ground Zero highlights the biggest and best reason to vote President Bush a second term, apparently. I think that this This Modern World cartoon puts that decision in perspective.

And of course that's why New Yorkers are just a little bit upset. The Republican Party is capitalizing on a tragedy that affected all Americans, but New York more than most of us. And it's doing it to promote an agenda that most New Yorkers disagree with. And on the sidelines of all this is the fact that most Republicans at least pretend that New York is an evil corrupt place and that New Yorkers are an evil corrupt people (at least compared to those gentle and noble people who populate other parts of the country).

Of course I'm not a New Yorker, so perhaps I'm not entirely correct in my assessment of the situation.

I Hung My Head

Here's a touching shot from the convention floor.

The Announcer asked this person "What is that on your chin?" Pat Peel, Delegate from Texas replied "I have a purple heart, I hurt myself this morning- uhh - swimming a river I think it was."


DNC Chair Terry McCaulliffe had this to say about the "Purple Bandaid."

It is inexcusable for a Republican delegate to mock anyone who has ever put on a soldier's uniform. It is inexcusable to mock service and sacrifice. Our service men and women put their lives on the line every day. If they are wounded in the line of duty it is because they are fighting on the frontlines for freedom. Anything but complete respect for their service is unacceptable.

Mindful of the fact that over 3,700 purple hearts have been issued during the Iraq war so far and none of us know how high that number will climb, I call on John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, before they speak, to tell their delegates to disavow these tactics.
For myself, I have a hard time imagining the sort of person that could be proud of this sort of behavior. Are these conventioneers not aware that thousands of soldiers have received Purple Hearts? Or do they think John Kerry is the only one?

Ketchup? Catsup?

Here's a nice story from New York, where, if you hadn't heard, they are holding the Republican Convention this week.

FOX News Channel commentator Cal Thomas noticed something was different yesterday when he ordered his ham and cheese omelet in the restaurant at the Double Tree Hotel. The usual bottle of Heinz ketchup was missing from each table. When Thomas asked for some, the waiter brought him ketchup in an unmarked dish. Turns out the Illinois GOP delegation is staying at the hotel. "We were afraid the Heinz bottles would offend the delegates," the mousy management explained. They should have gotten a supply of the special W ketchup being distributed as some events.
Nice. Does it strike you that a defining characteristic of Republicans seems to be pettiness? But perhaps this kind of activity is just an aberration.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

Perhaps this will be my final post on this subject. But if history is any judge, I'd say probably not.

At any rate I had considered putting together all the claims by the swift boat vets and how they had been refuted; but it turns out another person with more ambition has already done it. So I am going to suggest those of you who still think maybe the Swift Boat Vets aren't liars go check it out.

An Interesting Admission

From Robert Novaks latest article.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, one of the party's foremost leaders from the South was asked about George W. Bush's chances in November. He replied, in a moment of rare candor: "If this campaign is about Kerry, Bush will win the election. If this campaign is about Bush, he will win my state." That is, the GOP must make sure the focus is on Sen. John Kerry to avoid being reduced to the solid Republican South -- and a lost election.
For those playing along at home, how is this different from saying that President Bush doesn't have a record to run on?

Monday, August 30, 2004

Something You'll Probably See elsewhere

This is from a very interesting column by Lloyd Grove at the New York Post, in which he also discusses the Republican Party's plan to dress people up as dolphins.

That's kind of funny in a pathetic kind of way. This, on the other hand, is downright enraging.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert - having already enraged some New Yorkers with his remarks about local office-holders' "unseemly scramble" for federal money after 9/11 - yesterday opened a second front. On "Fox News Sunday," the Illinois Republican insinuated that billionaire financier George Soros, who's funding an independent media campaign to dislodge President Bush, is getting his big bucks from shady sources. "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."
Just in case you missed that. Dennis Hastert doesn't know where Soros gets his money (and, frankly, can't be bothered to do some research and find out). So it must be from drugs.

Because if I was making a ton of money off of illegal drugs, the first thing I would want is to legalize drugs so that, well, prices for drugs would plummet and I'd have to start paying taxes. It all makes perfect sense.

A Generic Story

Here's a Generic story that you can plug into the article you like, all related to the Protests in New York.

Of course we hear at Make Me A Commentator!!! do not condone illegal behavior of any kind. But (insert commentators name here) misses the mark a bit in their critique of the (insert civil disturbance here).

For one thing, he seems to buy the notion that the actions of a few individuals are completely representative of liberalism as a whole. I doubt he would feel as comfortable making that comparison if we were to suggest, for example, violence directed against homosexuals or terrorism inflicted on Abortion clinics was somehow representative of American Conservatives as a whole.

He also equates this with the lies of the Swift Boat Veterans, claiming that if we liberals wanted President Bush to condemn those Swift Boat Veterans, shouldn't Kerry be required to condemn the actions of (insert protest group here). The difference being that every day we are finding out about links between the Bush campaign and the swift boat veterans, and Senator Kerry has no connection to said group. I suspect that makes no difference; if there is one thing Conservatives love it's when Liberals condemn other Liberals.

At the end, it's rather sad that a few irresponsible individuals are being used to paint the entire Democratic Party/Liberal movement. But I suppose that's how things go in Conservative Babylon, where there are a million free lance optometrists willing to squash motes like flies while becoming enraged at any suggestion that they might have a few beams of their own.
Thank you. This won't, of course, stop us from making our own comments on specific articles later, but if we miss any this should provide at least partial relief.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Round the Horn, Sunday Sequel

LEFT is RIGHT has a piece on the Progressive Democrats of America which is well worth checking out.

MercuryX23's Fantabulous Blog has a story on a particularly great band and their political leanings.

Musing's Musing has a piece on our brilliant President who never reads polls or newspapers.

Pen-Elayne on the Web has an article on the recent dust up over passing secretes on to the Iraelis.

Respectful of Otters has an illuminating piece on the sort of campaign our beloved President is running.

Ricks Cafe Americain puts some of the Swift Boat Vets statements into perspective.

Rook's Rant has a bit on exactly how dirty this election is turning out to be.

rubber hose has a piece on that greatest of subjects, Spam from Africa.

Sooner Thought has the Seattle Time's endorsement of Kerry. Four years they endorsed President Bush, but have changed their mind.

Speedkill runs the numbers on a recent ad for George W. Bush.

Steve Gilliard's News Blogs has a piece on the protests in New York that is somewhat comforting to those who are worried (like me, I have to admit).

Trish Wilson's Blog has a nice story on Pro-Feminist Men.

Yellow Doggeral Democrat has an interesting exploration of the intersection of language and law in Guantenamo.

And that's the list I hope. I may not be updating very much for the next couple of days; hope that I will be able too, but we'll have to see what life has in store.

New Quote - Huvvah!

And, as always, a new Quotes Page. And later on, our special supersized version of Round the Horn will continue and conclude.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Round the Horn, Saturday Double Header

Unfortunately called due to rain. But, luckily it's everybody-gets-a-link-to-a-great-story-by-a-member-of-the-liberal-coalition day.

Here's a very laugh-inducing story from And Then . . .

archy has an important story on Native America's struggle to get the vote.

Bark Bark Wolf Wolf has snap shots from the campaign trail of President Bush.

bloggg has a piece on a recently passed bill to make us all a little sicker.

Chris "Lefty" Brown's Corner has some nice and meaningful commentary by our very own President Bush.

Collective Sigh has some really solid and interesting analysis on the American Health Care System and how we could approach improving it.

Corrente has a story on the limits of free speech in this country.

Dohiyi Mir has the story that President Bush does not, apparently, believe what the Swift Boat Veterans are saying.

Echidne of the Snakes has a piece on the new director of MIT and certain questions that way this story was related.

In relation to President Bush's condemnation of "Shadow 527's," The Fulcrum has some relevant questions.

Gamer's Nook has a piece on that special gift for the Cthulu Fan who has everything.

The Gotham City 13 have a nice story on an upcoming film about our President that will be a tad more . . . respectful than Fahrenheit 9/11.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has a bit on Dick Cheney's comments on Gay Marriage.

Iddybud has a piece that suggests that even before the convention, New York's law enforcement community isn't too keen on protests.

The Invisible Library has a story on the possibility of a Twilight Zone/Planet of the Apes crossover.

It's Craptastic has a piece on his gratitude to the news organizations of America for covering the important stories.

Kick the Leftist has a nice piece on Alice Cooper's opinion on rock crossed with politics.

That's the first half. I'll do the other half this afternoon or tomorrow.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Compare and Contrast

Salon has a selection of conservative commentators (and one member of the Democratic Leadership Council a very moderate liberal organization) giving advice on how President Bush could win this upcoming election. The first, by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey is interesting.

"To succeed in November, President Bush must both mobilize his base and engage nontraditional voters by putting a big, bold idea on the table. That is what Ronald Reagan did in 1980 with income tax cuts, and it is what Republicans did in 1994 with the Contract With America, when we won a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Both were historic victories won by campaigning on big, bold ideas that attracted millions of new voters to the process.

It's time for the next wave of bold ideas.

Now think back to Tuesday when we talked about an article by Bruce Bartlett, in which he argued (somewhat convincingly) that President Bush is unlikely to make any great strides forward.

Incidentally in case you are wondering what Dick Armey's big proposal is? Personal retirement accounts, which basically means funneling social security money into the hands of Wall Street analysts and stock brokers. But that's a subject for another time.

Low updates today

For various reasons. I'll do Round the Horn tonight or tomorrow. In the mean time here are the lyrics to a current favorite song, Neil Youngs, "Leave the Driving ."

Leave the Driving

Out on the old coast highway
Flying through the night,
Jed got stopped by the CHP
For speedin' and no brake lights.

Rolled down the driver's window.
Slipped his gun down under his seat.
The glove-box was full of cocaine
The trunk was full of weed.
"Driver's license and registration,"
Said the officer with his flashlight.
Search around the floor of the car,
Smellin' like something ain't right.

Jed's life flashed before him,
Like a black and white super-8.
He heard the sound of the future
On a scratchy old 78.
Nothing was still, all was moving
When the flashlight found the gun.
Then Jed pulled the trigger.
In a split-second tragic blunder.

"It makes you think about living,
What life has to tell,"
Said Jed to Grandpa,
From inside his cell.
Camouflage hung in his closet.
Guns all over the wall.
Maps of buildings for engineers
And a book with no numbers to call.

The whole town was stunned.
They closed the Coast Highway for 12 hours.
No one could believe it,
'Cause Jed was one of ours.
Meanwhile across the ocean,
Living in the Internet,
Is the cause of an explosion
No one has heard yet.

But there's no need to worry.
There's no reason to fuss.
Just go on about your work now.
And leave the drivin' to us.
And we'll be watching you,
And everything you do.
And you can do your part
By watchin' others too.

Grandpa put down the paper,
Staring in disbelief.
Jed had always been good to him.
Never gave him any grief.
The moral of this story
Is try not to get too old.
The more time you spend on earth,
The more you see unfold.

And as an afterthought,
This must, too, be told,
Some people have taken pure bullshit
And turned it into gold.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

So What do the Vets Think?

I know it seems like I'm all Swift Boats, all the time these days, but the truth is I just can't get enough of this story. It's like the "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" of political issues. A song I just can't get out of my head no matter how hard I try.

Like that song, it's also a pretty inconsequential issue compared to things like our economy or the reconstruction of Iraq.

But here's an interesting story from the New York Times on how this story is playing among the Vietnam Veterans community. Surprisingly some of them are taking John Kerry's side, while others stand with President Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

"This new stuff from the Swift boat opponents of Kerry does not surprise me," said Charlie Brown, of Seattle, who was an Air Force medic in Vietnam and 1967 and 1968. "There was a right and a left among guys in Vietnam back in the 60's. And there's a right and a left now."
It's a nice article in that if you like the Swift Boat Vets, you'll find evidence that some people believe in them. And if you don't like the Swift Boat Vets, you'll find that some of them agree with Kerry.

The Ann Coulter Method of Arriving at the Truth

In her latest screed, Ms. Coulter proposes two methods of evaluating the truth. "the O'Reilly method (randomly coming out in "the middle" of every issue) [and] the Matthews method (deciding, ab initio, that any criticism of Kerry could come only from bottom-feeding, politically motivated whores)" There is also, of course, the Coulter Method (simply believing all criticism of Democrats/Liberals, no matter how mean-spirited or unlikely).

Ms. Coulter's reason for believing the Swift Boat vets? There's a lot of them. "For starters, 254 swiftboat veterans say Kerry is a fraud; 14 say he's a hero. . . . we're talking about 35-year-old memories here; 254 memories to 14 memories is what we used to call "evidence."

Yep it's the number of witnesses that matters most. That's why in all the courtrooms across the land they have those giant scales. All the witnesses for the defense go on one side and the witnesses for the prosecution go on the other. That's why its good to have a lot of overweight friends (like me, for example); they make you more likely to be found innocent.

Well, let's pretend to take this argument seriously for just a second. Ann Coulter says that 254 is more than 14, and that those 254 say that Senator Kerry is a Fraud. But what does being a fraud mean? Well some of those 254 (relatively few) are making accusations about how Mr. Kerry got his medals. But in most of those cases, the Swift Boat Veterans are the odd men out. You would think that if we did get a court room together, pulled in all the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who had actual knowledge of the action and all of those who support Kerry's version of the events (which would, of course, include the Navy).

The other possibility is that 254 Swift Boat Veterans think that Kerry is a jerk, and 14 think he's a good guy. I'm not sure what the significance of that figure is, though. I mean 100% of the Ann Coulters think that Kerry (and every other liberal democrat) is a jerk.

In case you are wondering the Bryant method of arriving at the truth is to sit around and drink a lot of Coke and Pepsi and then type what ever comes into your head. Not very scientific.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

More Swift Boat Stuff

The Navy has released records that apparently support John Kerry's position in his debate against the Swift Boat Veterans. It is an interesting part of this debate between the Swift Boat Vets and John Kerry, that the Vets are also impugning the Navy. They are in effect saying that the way the Navy hands out medals is corrupt, or was corrupt. And that's why John Kerry got so many medals. I can't help thinking that is not the sort of argument that is going to get the Navy in a very appreciative mood.

Fake News Story

In an exclusive to the Fake News Service, we have learned that Senator Kerry is dropping out of the race after reading a particularly trenchant article by Ben Shapiro (who some call the Boy Prognosticator).

At a press conference, Senator Kerry looked emotional as he said, "It has come to my attention that my campaign is about nothing but my service in Vietnam. According to America's most reliable columnist, Ben Shapiro, I have no other plans or programs. Allow me to quote Mr. Shapiro. "John Kerry's entire presidential campaign has been predicated upon the idea that he won some medals in Vietnam -- and that, as a medal winner, he'll be a friend to American soldiers."

The Senator stood silent a moment, quivering with emotion, and then said, "I must apologize to the American people. I could have sworn I was putting forward plans to improve our education, to improve our Foreign Policy, to work with our allies in containing terrorism, to provide more support to emergency first responders and to get our economy back on the right track. I know that many Republicans might disagree with my plans, but I thought that at least I was putting them before the American people."

He looked down for a moment and then continued, "It's clear, however, that I wasn't. I was simply running as a guy who won some medals in Vietnam. So I must withdraw my bid for the Presidency. This is 2004, not 1970. America needs a President who's focused on the here and now."

Sources close to the Senator stated that Ben Shapiro's charges relating to the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may have had more to do with the Senator's decision. "I mean, the guy has extensively responded to these charges. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have both debunked these claims. And yet Ben Shapiro is out there saying that Senator Kerry hasn't responded to them at all."

On Kerry Campaign Staffer, her head in her hands, said, "Look, Shapiro is out there saying that the Senator refuses to release his records. It must be true, or Shapiro wouldn't dare to say it. But I could have sworn that we did release those records. And Senator Kerry offered to answer any questions." At that point the staffer became too emotional to continue.

In the last lines of his enormously influential essay, Shapiro writes, "Sen. Kerry, you wanted to relive the Vietnam era, and now, you've got it. All you have to do is release your records. Now's the time: Either put up, or shut the hell up." The Senator has apparently decided to take Young Ben's advice.

This has been a Fake News story. We now return you to our regularly scheduled commentary.

Appeasement Redux

One of my favorite arguments in the run-up to the Iraq war was that those who didn't think we should invade Iraq immediately were somehow appeasing Iraq (an argument that Walter Williams returns to today, which triggered this column). They would pull out the "low, dishonest decade" and talk about what made Chamberlain think he could appease Hitler. Appeasement has since been such a dirty word that they probably were very happy to find an excuse to use it against their political enemies. And, to a certain extent, the tactic worked. President Bush got his Iraqi War Resolution, and the critics of the war were, for the most part, shunted off to the side. They've made a comeback since then.

But returning to Appeasement. Appeasement in the 1930s meant giving Germany large stretches of Czechoslovakia in order to keep him from taking more. Appeasement in the 2000's means not immediately invading your enemy. That's quite a slope isn't it? What will appeasement be in 2070?

Good ol' Walter Williams, not satisfied with repeating an argument from 2002-3, also feels the need to bring back a smear from a few weeks ago. The "sensitive" smear. But we've been through that enough times, I won't inflict that on you again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Heads I Win Tails You Lose

What's the Swift Boat Veterans story really about? Scott Rosenberg over at his blog at Salon.com presents an interesting view. It might be more about Senator Kerry's response than about the actual charges.

Facts are nearly irrelevant here; this is about punching John Kerry and seeing whether he punches back, and how hard. If he fails to punch back, he's exposed as a sissy who's not tough enough to defend America. If he does fight back, the Bushies simply point at him -- as they have already begun to -- and claim that he's lost it, he's "wild-eyed" and unreliable and unfit to be president.
Tough needle to thread, but Mr. Rosenberg prescription makes sense to me too. Challenge the President directly on the legitimacy of these accusations, of these attacks.

The Second Term

Going back to Townhall, we have this analysis from Bruce Bartlett.

As the Republican National Convention approaches, pressure is building on Present Bush to lay out a second term agenda. With John Kerry running no worse than even in most polls, many Republicans believe that Bush needs a big idea of some kind to galvanize his supporters. I think they are probably going to be disappointed.

The fact is that very few presidents ever have a meaningful second term agenda. First of all, they don’t need one to get re-elected because they cannot run for a third term. Second, they don’t have the time or the political clout to get anything big through Congress because they are lame ducks.
This just gosh-darn inspiring. Vote For President Bush; He's unlikely to do much.

Of course Mr. Bartlett' analysis assumes that nothing big is going to happen during the second term. It also ignores rumblings that a war with Iran may be already in the build up phase. But still it is nice to know.


Good old Cal Thomas writes today on the cinematic endeavors of the Republican Party.

The Republican National Committee has released a "documentary" to counter Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film (available for viewing at www.rnc.org) chronicles John Kerry's statements about Iraq and proves to all but the most partisan that this is a man who is a political opportunist and a vacillator who cannot be trusted with the power of the presidency.

Opening with Kerry's pledge at the Democratic National Convention last month to "never mislead us into war," the film shows how Kerry consistently favored using force to oust Saddam Hussein until it proved politically advantageous for him to reverse course.
Well first of all, there is a bit of a difference between an independent film-maker like Michael Moore and film, made by a party, distributed on the internet for free. Frankly I don't think Mr. Moore is worried about competition that decides to give away their movies, any more than Brittany Spears is worried about guys who sing and hold up signs saying "Will Sing for Food."

Interesting how this is one of those areas where the RNC doesn't trust capitalism. You see I am a capitalist. I think you need some government protections, but for the most part free markets work to provide the best goods. In Mr. Moore's case, he successfully put out a film that a lot of people wanted to watch. It did extremely well for a documentary. If I remember correctly, it made more money than any other documentary previously released.

So naturally the Republican response is to release an internet movie for free.

Anyway in another of the endless sacrifices I make for you, I ended up watching the movie. I particularly liked the bit where they show a moment of Kerry on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Matthews asks Kerry if he is an Anti-War candidate. Kerry answers "Yes . . . ." because then the movie immediately cuts him off and moves on to playing the theme song from Flipper.

For those who don't know here's the run down.

Senator Kerry disagreed with the timing of the first Iraq war and so voted against it.

He has long been concerned about the potential threat from Iraq (like almost every other politician), and felt that the Clinton administration and the congress wasn't doing enough to solve that problem.

He felt that President Bush should have had the authority to invade Iraq, so he voted yes on the Iraqi War Resolution.

He feels that the Bush administration made several very serious mistakes in the build up to the war, particularly in how they handled the diplomacy.

President Bush asked for $87 billion to fund the war in Iraq. Senator Kerry felt that the money should be paid for, in part, by rescinding some of the enormous tax cuts President Bush had given to the wealthy. There were also problems with some of the way the contracts were set up in that they would not allow the free market to determine the best price for the services rendered. For these reasons Senator Kerry voted against the bill. Two further points that you all know. The vote was not close, Senator Kerry knew that the soldiers would get the money. And President Bush threatened to veto the bill if it didn't come to him in an acceptable fashion.

Cal Thomas says that all who watch this film, except the most Partisan, will walk away with a negative view of Mr. Kerry. I guess that by the most partisan, he means those who know the record.

But it's like I always say, reality itself is partisan.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Can we talk?

There's a good article by Paul Loeb today over at Working For Change on how President Bush and others respond to criticism and questioning of their policies.

A former Air Force Colonel I know described the administration's attitude toward dissent as "shut up and color," as if we were unruly eight-year-olds. Whatever we may think of Bush's particular policies, the most dangerous thing he's done is to promote a culture that equates questioning with treason. This threatens the dialogue that's at the core of our republic.
I don't know how many of you have seen that movie Cool Runnings. It's the story of the first Jamaican Bobsled Team. Kind of a feel good movie. Anyway when they get to the Olympics the captain of the team comes to really admire the Swiss team (I think). He admires them so much that he tries to get his team to act Swiss (which, needless to say, they don't appreciate).

One of his teammates finally says, "Im telling you as a friend, if we look Jamaican, walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and is Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican." Maybe we ought to try debating American.

For 200 years we've been debating and arguing and discussing and hashing out our differences. Now we are in the 21st century and all of a sudden that's not the way it works? I disagree. I think we need some good old American debate and discussion, argument and dissent.

President Bush, apparently, has a different idea about how to conduct a political campaign in America. He and his advisors want him to face only crowds of people who support his policies and love him personally. So much that, as Corrente reports, some guy lost his job for questioning President Bush.

This might also be influenced by the fact that I finally saw Outfoxed this weekend which contains a nice montage of Fox Poster Boy Bill O'Reilly saying over and over again that those who oppose President Bush are traitors, and should be in what he ominously describes as the Spotlight.

Fortunately in my mind we have a candidate on the Democrat Side who understands the American way of debating. John Kerry isn't out there in small handpicked audiences; he's in front of thousands, hecklers and all. He's not afraid of the "bully" tactics of the right, and that's one of the reasons I support him.

The Future is Now!

Interesting editorial by Matthew Hindman and Kenneth Cukier over at the New York Times today, based around Google. I'm sure we've all used Google at some time or another; it's my favorite search engine beating out Yahoo and Excite (both of which I also use). Google is just very very easy to use. But Hindman and Cukier do point out an interesting facet of Google's success.

Behind Google's complex ranking system is a simple idea: each link to a page should be considered a vote, and the pages with the most votes should be ranked first. This elegant approach uses the distributed intelligence of Web users to determine which content is most relevant.

But what is good for Google is not necessarily good for the rest of the Web. The company's technology is so strong that its competitors have adopted a similar approach to organizing online information, which means they now return similar search results. Thus popular sites become ever more popular, while obscure sites recede ever further into the ether.
I'm not sure there's an easy answer to this question, and Hindman and Cukier don't seem to have one either. I suppose a simple answer is the market economy. If you have someone who's providing a service, do you really need other people who provide the same service? It's a tricky question. To personalize it a bit, once you have Atrios and Daily Kos and Corrente and This Modern World do you really need a Make me a Commentator?

But of course viewpoints are different than services. By their very nature, they are individualized. What I do is different than other blogs because it's me whose doing it (doesn't mean I'm better, and in some cases I'm probably worse, just different). So to ask that is kind of like saying once you have Chocolate Donuts and Bear Claws and Cheese Danishes and Maple Logs do you really need Strawberry Crullers?

Perhaps I personalize this issue too much. At any rate, it's nice to have Google to blame for the fact that I don't get a million hits a day.

Evil as a Precondition to Evil

Evil is what evil people do. Evil comes from Evil People they produce it. Or, if you prefer, they are the conduit whereby evil comes into the world. So a system or a machine or an animal can't really be evil. It is only the use of that system or machine or animal by an evil person that creates the evil.

Jay Bryant writes a thoughtful article today at Townhall in which he proposes a discontinuity between the methods of repression of societal control and the use of those tools to create an evil society.

Some other factor is needed beyond the incrementalism of the anarchy-repression continuum. Otherwise you do not get to the Gulag, the gas chambers or the mass graves of Iraq. And that factor is what liberals miss because, well, because they don't believe in it.

That factor is evil - specifically, evil intent on the part of national leaders. A leader who seeks a better life for the people may define that goal in a way that moves up or down the continuum. But that's not what Hitler, Stalin or Saddam was trying to do.

They were not overly harsh on people suspected of crimes, or treason. They invented those charges against utterly innocent people in order to terrorize, bolster their power, serve some ideological objective or feed their blood lust. They were, in a word, evil.
To put it another way, there's no need to worry about John Ashcroft having the kind of power he has (or the even greater power that Patriot Act II will give him) because he's not evil. And therefore we will never go all the way to a Stalinist or Nazi-Like state.

He then lectures us on our inability to perceive evil, a favorite subject of right wing columnists. Just in case you don't know there is Evil in the world. The sort of Evil that motivates Al-Qaeda or a Stalin or a Hitler.

In fact the problem I have with Mr. Bryant isn't that I don't think evil exists, but that I think he short changes what we might call the banal evil.

For example is it evil to gossip about a neighbor out of spite trying to tear him or her down? Although it scarcely compares with sending thousands to their death, it is certainly evil.

Is it evil to, if you are a reporter, out of laziness and ambition to turn in phoney baloney stories? Yes.

These sorts of banal evils are all around us. And a repressive society creates the opportunity to give these evils greater reign. How many witches were burned at Salem because of simple spite? How many Jews went to their death because of Nazi Officer's petty ambition?

Life is all about the desire to act and the power to act. If your desires are evil (even in a banal sense), but you lack the necessary wherewithal to achieve your desires than your desires do very little real harm (except to yourself in a spiritual sense). If you have the power to do evil but your desires are to do good than, again, little danger to your neighbors. If you are a mean or a spiteful or a lazy or an arrogant person, and you are put in a position of power, odds are you will use your power in lousy ways.

This is not to suggest that we need to drop the Patriot Act (although parts of it could certainly go) or abandon law enforcement. It is simply to suggest to that Mr. Bryant is naive when he suggest; ". . . we face, moreover, no danger of becoming evil incrementally. The continuum we are on doesn't go there."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

New Quote

And a new Quotes Page. This quote might seem a little obscure; but it's a song I heard Friday at work (in a live version), and it's one I've always liked, so you're stuck with it.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Young Americans

There's an interesting article at the Times today on the difference between America and Europe. By far the most interesting part of the article are the pictures, which you can look at there on the right.

The article itself is a comparison of the nobility of Europe and the Nobility of America and how they aren't the same. What interesting about the article is the not-so-latent assumption that the European and American Upper Classes are the ones that matter. You can tell that by the way the author starts her fourth paragraph. "It may be a truism to say that Americans and Europeans regard each other with deep ambivalence."

But the pictures are well worth looking at.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Latest Iteration

Apparently Senator Kerry not only ran away from combat, he also shot himself in order to a) get an extra medal or b) run away from combat faster. This is the theory being reported by Michelle Malkin yesterday on Hardball. To his credit Chris Matthews clamped down pretty hard on her. But there the accusation is; Kerry shot himself to fake an injury.

Once again I am compelled to ask exactly how stupid do they think we are?

And the answer comes back, "just stupid enough."

And in a nice bit of serendipity, the spell checker here at Blogspot suggested "malign" as the correct spelling of Malkin.

Round the Horn Part 999.49 Baseball!!!

It's time for Round the Horn, our weekly round up of articles by other members of the Liberal Coalition.

First up is a powerhouse of a hitter, Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with a great post on two deservedly celebrated composers. Also, last week, I inadvertently missed the link when I was doing my round up, so here is the link to that great story on Terrorists influencing Elections.

Batting second, Gamer's Nook has a very interesting piece on a scientific experiment in Austria involving Teleportation.

Third to the plate we have All Facts and Opinion with thoughts of the late and missed Jerry Garcia.

And batting clean up we have mighty Left is Right, putting the ball in the bleachers with a great story on one of many over-the-top attacks on Senator Kerry.

Now stepping to the plate in the fifth position on the line up is Chris "Lefty" Brown's Corner telling the sad, but true, story of Fresno, a town that could use a hand.

Batting at the number six position is Mercury X23's Fantabulous Blog, who belts a story to deep left field on the ever popular subject of Nazi Comparisons.

Heading the plate is . . . And Then with an interesting read on the recent rulings on File Sharing. I don't 100% agree with her analysis, but it is worth thinking about.

Standing in the Batters box in position eight is Kick the Leftist, and with a mighty remembrance of conventions past, he paints the ball into the bleachers.

Finally in the ninth position we have Sooner Thought with a good post on Zell Miller, a Republican's favorite Democrat.

Oh, and you probably already know this, but my use of baseball terminology shouldn't be assumed to add or diminish from any of these stories; in my mind they are all great, just used the baseball terminology because I like to mix things up a little.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

John Kerry Speaks

This is from remarks he made on August 19, 2004.

Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam ... Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: 'Bring it on.'

“I'm not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America-then, now, or ever. And I'm not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me. And let me make this commitment today: their lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health care, and our security - the issues that really matter to the American people.
Mr. Kerry does put his finger right on one of President Bush's strengths. President Bush can let his supporters make the most vicious attacks on John Kerry and appear above the fray. Of course that hasn't stopped him from running a very negative campaign of his own, but he does benefit from attacks made by "independent" groups like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Our Brave President

I'm assuming most of you have heard of the speech Vice President Cheney gave in New Mexico at which all attendees were required to sign a pledge to vote for President Bush? Well it turns out that story might be more representative than I originally thought.

Around the country, Bush is campaigning at events billed as "Ask President Bush." Only supporters are allowed entrance. Talking points are distributed to questioners. In Traverse City, Mich., a 55-year-old social studies teacher who wore a small Kerry sticker on her blouse had her ticket torn up at the door. "How can anyone in the United States deny someone entry?" she asked. "Isn't this a democracy?"

At every "Ask President Bush" rally, Bush repeats the same speech, touting a "vibrant economy" and his leadership in a war where "you cannot show weakness."
So says Sidney Blumenthal of President Bush's campaign.

Not a very encouraging picture. Isn't a campaign about convincing people that you have the right vision to lead America forward? How can you convince people if you only allow people who already agree with you to attend? I suppose it does play better on TV if everybody agrees with everything you say. And I'll bet it makes President Bush feel good to see how many people agree with him.

For the record, Senator Kerry isn't using the same sort of ideological litmus test on his visitors; seems like he can handle a few questions from people that don't agree with him.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Anarchist Vote

According to the Village Voice, some Anarchists are going to vote against President Bush in the fall election. Other Anarchists are saying that voting is the same as selling out, and that those who are voting are not really anarchists at all. But that fails to deter the voting anarchists.

Howard Ehrlich, of Baltimore, also embraces his right to "engage the political system."

"I will certainly vote against George Bush because he is leading the nation to further violence and eroding civil liberties," said Ehrlich, who is editor of Social Anarchism, a 3,000-circulation magazine.
"I guess," said Bryant about to repeat a line that millions of commentators, including himself, had said millions of times before, "President Bush really is a uniter and not a divider."

Flip Flops

The charge is often more important than the proof. In 2000 Al Gore was a serial liar who didn't know who he was. That of course wasn't exactly a fair representation of Al Gore but it stuck long enough to let President Bush nearly win.

This time around it's the Flip-Flop Mantra. Future President Kerry is a flip-flopper. We can't trust him with our kids futures because he constantly changes his mind. Of course President Bush's supporters are having a hard time coming up with actually flip flops to trumpet so they are often reduced to a little bit of Make Believe. Take the following example, pointed out by E. J. Dionne, Jr.

When John Kerry said he still would have voted to give the president the authority to wage war in Iraq, the Bushies accused Kerry of being a flip-flopper.

How can sticking with a past vote make you a flip-flopper? Well, Kerry -- like many Americans -- is now critical of how Bush waged this war and how he failed to plan for its aftermath. The Bushies seem to be saying that Kerry should have known better than to give Bush the benefit of the doubt.
President Bush and Senator Kerry will debate three times before we vote. I hope that Kerry has the sense to ask some tough questions about President Bush's own flip flops. How he opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security then supported it. Or how he opposed the formation of an independent 9/11 commission and then supported it. And so on and so forth.

Of course I also think it would be nice of Kerry to put President Bush on the spot regarding some of the statements his allies in the Conservative Media make. But I know that's a pipe dream.

The World Is Full of Crashing Bores

The world sure is a scary place for Conservatives. I mean look at this commentary by good old Ben Shapiro, Boy Prognosticator.

"Let's be honest for just a moment. This isn't about friendly competition. The only reason many of us care about the Olympics is because we want to watch American athletes beat the snot out of everyone else. The idea that the Olympics revolves around some phantom "family of nations" ideal is purely delusional.

. . . If there is a family of nations, it's a vicious, homicidal, perverted, degraded, dysfunctional, inbred group of mongrels. But more likely, the "family of nations" is a myth. And if even the Olympics can't hide the fact that the "family of nations" is a naively feverish, phantasmagorical vision, how can John Kerry and his followers stand behind such a patently false idea?

Good use of the word "mongrels" there; that's sure not to offend anybody.

Here are the three positions on other nations.

The Supposed Conservative View, expressed by young Ben above. All the other nations are backstabbing dog, we live in a Hobbes state of nature where we have to expect all the other nations to stab us in the back constantly. Of course the upshot of this theory is that if the United States (and, of course, Israel) are the only decent nations on the face of the earth, why do we allow the other nations any illusions? This view of course negates the need for a State Department; other nations should damn well fall in line or get the crap beat out of them.

The Supposed Liberal View, also expressed by Young Ben. All the other nations are our friends. It's our duty to get along no matter what other nations or individuals do. Other nations probably know better than we do what we should do; so we should listen to them. Very few liberals actually have this view, of course, but it's a convenient caricature.

The Realistic View, shared by most liberals and conservatives. Some nations are our friends, some nations are our enemies. Our diplomacy and our military power are both essential to our safety. Other nations attitudes to the United States vary widely, from outright hatred to warm hearted friendship. It's realistic to work with those nations who can work with, and to take appropriate actions against those nations we don't get along with.

It's also worth noting that no nation on Earth likes the idea of being treated like a "mongrel" any more than we would.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Something to Consider

I don't think there's anybody who finds it easy to write about race, but sometimes doing the easy thing isn't an option.

In this country we have, with shameful regularity, tried to restrict the vote to whites as much as possible. Some of you might be thinking that this is a Southern thing; but while a lot of the most open and obvious examples of voter discrimination are from the Southern States, the north did their fair share to keep Blacks, Hispanics and other immigrants from voting. It would be nice to believe that those techniques are in the past.

Sadly this appears not to be the case. Bob Herbert has a editorial at the New York Times this week which reports that voter intimidation might be alive and well and funded with tax payer money.

State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved.

The trouble with this case, in my mind, isn't the investigation; it's the secrecy. We are supposed to be the Sunshine State; it's probable that a little bit of sunshine would reveal what fraud they are looking for and how interrogating elderly black women plays a role in stopping those who committed voter fraud.

I mean I'm sure that Florida's governor and it's law enforcement agencies want a high voter turnout. A little clarification of their position might reassure these voter registration organizers, so that their valuable efforts can continue.

Some of you might argue that revealing the parameters of an investigation might make it easier for the guilty parties to cover their tracks. Under normal conditions I would agree. If it is a choice, however, between ensuring the sanctity of our voting system and catching some alleged crooks, well I chose the former.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Sensitivity Training

This weeks Top Ten Conservative Idiots over at Democratic Underground has a story on Sensitive Wars.

John Kerry recently commented that "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."

Well not only President Cheney, but also Rush Limbaugh and others immediately hopped on that usage of the word "Sensitive" there. Of course what Kerry means is that he wants our soldiers to be "in touch with their feelings" which is why he will be appointing Dr. Phil as Secretary of Defense. Job one, apparently, is making sure our soldiers understand that it's alright to cry.

Oh wait a second, here on planet earth, the word Sensitive also means aware. He's really saying that he feels he can make our security apparatus more aware of threats from our enemies. I guess that's not as crazy as I thought it was.

Plus, if you check out the post at Democratic Underground, you'll see a nice instance of President Bush using the same language.

The Axis of Nuance

Once thing about the Axis of Evil is the complete lack of nuance. As we are learning from the campaign, nuance is bad. It's evil, really. Only monsters like Democrats and John Kerry understand nuance. I mean we have wars on Drugs and Terrorism; when are we going to get the desperately needed War on Nuance?

Take Iran for example. If ever there was a hotbed of nuance. For example, did you know that many Iranians are happy that we took over Iraq? After all there was a long war between Iran and Iraq and the Iraqis killed thousands of Iranians. So Iranians hope that we can exercise some kind of control over the Iraqis. Isn't that confusing? Evil Nuance.

Also it turns out that there are large groups of Iranians who would like to see a more Democratic system of government. And yet these very same Iranians would not like to see the United States invade and impose Democracy. They would rather see Iran evolve away from theocracy, which is less likely with America standing over the Ayatollah's shoulder saying, "Change or Die!"

It's almost like many Iranians don't much care for their leaders and yet don't like the idea of their leaders being pushed around by us. The fiendish nuance appears in every corner of Iran.

Anyway if you want to read an article just filled with this diabolical nuance, check out this one in today's New York Times. I look forward to a day when we can rid the world of nuance.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Photo Log

As previously mentioned, I spent Friday Night in an Orlando hotel (embassy Suites) and so was able to witness Charley First hand. Well, as near hand as I could from my hotel room. My room had two rooms in it; a bedroom and a living room, with the bathroom in between. Well the Bedroom had a big window to the outside of the building, so I decided to sleep in the living room (which had a window open to a big open space in the middle of the hotel (kind of like an atrium). Here's a picture of my bedding arrangements.

They passed around a note to let us all know what to do in preparation of the hurricane (from whence I got the idea to sleep away from the window). It also suggested filling the bathtub so we could still use the toilets. As you can see I followed that advice too, although it was not needed.

Here was the view from my window at about 4:30 or so? Not to exciting, although you can see the rain sort of.

On the road the next day I ended up taking I-4 in the direction of Tampa, which proved a less effective strategy for leaving Orlando (since all the Tampa Evacuees were also using that road). On the way, however, I did see some evidence that Charley was an anarchist hurricane, hating signs that told people what to do.

As you can see by this picture, some creative people, frustrated at the stop and go traffic on the I-4 decided they would create an additional lane. As if the situation weren't dangerous enough.

Eventually I got off of the I-4 and traveled up Apopka Vineland and some other surface streets until I could get to the Florida Turnpike. This gave me the opportunity (The Chinese, as you know, use the same character for crisis that they do for opportunity. Usually that's kind of use as a motivational image, but I can sort of see it going the other way.) to see Charley's damage from a somewhat closer vantage point.

This next one might be hard to decipher, but half the road was covered by a fallen tree which we had to drive around.

Anyway, my own experience was pretty mild, but there are plenty of people who have had tough times. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to lend a hand, but one organization who always gets called into these situations is the Red Cross. So you might consider dropping them a few bucks or finding the time to give blood.

Problems Afoot

There are some problems with Blogger right now that prevent me from putting up my photos. Hopefully I will be able too later on this afternoon / evening.

Edited to add: I think I has the solution.


A new quote at the top (I hope, Blogger is acting fiddly), and a new quotes page is coming soon.

And here's your new Quotes page.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


Well, for those who don't know I spent last night down in Orlando (and the night before that actually). So I got to go through the hurricane, which didn't effect me very much. The hotel where I was staying was a bit clear of the path, I think. And after a bit I'll upload my pictures and relate my story (such as it is).

But about 6:30 or so last night, I went down to get some Ice and I was thinking about a really funny bit I could have shared with you. Basically I would switch personas (as I often do) into someone very clueless and self involved, and pretend that my harrowing story of being trapped in a hotel would make a good movie. This was particularly funny as I thought about writing about my long trek to get the ice (It was a long way from my room, nearly a minute).

But the idea died about there. The problem is who exactly am I making fun of? In my mind it would just be me (or some aspect of myself) that was so terminably clueless as to imagine that being trapped for a couple of hours in a hurricane would be a springboard to Hollywood success.

But once you let an idea out of your head, anybody could do anything with it. For example, somebody could suppose that I was making fun not of myself but of the survivors of hurricane Charley in Orlando. The ones who suffered large property damage or the ones who lost loved ones. They might assuming I was suggesting these people are clueless or that they are self dramatizing their life or that the hurricane hadn't really been all that bad.

And some people would agree with what they assumed was my opinion, and others would, quite rightly, think I was somewhat a horrible person for denigrating the suffering of others.

So I dropped it in a rare bit of self-censorship. But now I'm not sure I made the right call. After all my reasoning kind of rests on assuming that people are going to misread my intent. But doesn't that assumption eventually lead to no communication? I mean this post one could worry that it is self aggrandizing or indulgent.

'Tis a fine line. But I suppose you just have to do the best you can, which is a cliche, but it's all I've got.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

I'm in a hotel in Orlando and i am not able to leave. So this is good.

In other news, Rush Limbaugh demonstrated his standard coherence relating a Washingt Times article.

Now, granted, this is an intelligence official, not bin Laden using the slogan, but they think that if - if bin Laden is going to launch an attack, or Al Qaeda's going to launch an attack on this massive a scale prior to the election, he, obviously he's trying to affect the election, and the conclusion is that they'd like to get rid of Bush.

Now, I wonder why. If -- if this is true -- we're just asking here -- this is true, why would they want to get rid of Bush? Why they going to get -- maybe -- all right. To survive? Of course, Mr. Snerdley. Way to go, Snerd. It's to survive. They'd rather -- they'd much rather have some softie who's going to farm out our -- our security to international organizations and others, oh, like -- like John Kerry.
This is so mind boggling stupid it's hard to work up much energy to refuted it. But here goes.

Al-Qaeda believes that they have God on our side. They believe they are going to win. This is the same sort of mentality as that of a thief or a murderer who doesn't think of the punishment because they are sure they won't get caught. Any sensible person would say, "Hey, fighting the United States isn't a smart thing to do."

Not Al-Qaeda. They want a showdown with the United States and they are getting it with President Bush. Why would they want a change? And in fact, other Al-Qaeda operatives have expressed a preference for President Bush.

Of course you might say "Well, so President Bush will kill more terrorists; doesn't that mean we should vote for him?" Well I'm all for killing terrorists; but the end goal isn't to kill terrorists, it's to make America safer. I think Senator Kerry will do a better job at making America Safer (which will include, of course, going after terrorists).

John Kerry Speaks!

This line was quoted by the Daily Howler (which is brilliant in case you don't know), but it's worth repeating.

Yes, I would have voted for the authority [to go to war]. I believe it's the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.

And my question to President Bush is, Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace? Why did he rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth? Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war? Why has he not brought other countries to the table in order to support American troops in the way that we deserve and relieve a pressure from the American people?
The Bush campaign and their helpful friends in the "Liberal" media are helping create the impression that this is brainy incomprehensible nonsense. Back in the old day, the Media would make statements such as this one, which is clear enough to begin with, even simpler to understand. These days, our "liberal" friends in the media make this statement seem even more confusing.

If I was in the media, I'd put it somewhat like the Daily Howler put it; "Bush deserved to have the authority, but he used it unwisely!" Seems like that's not that hard to understand. I mean you might not agree with Senator Kerry's assessment, but why do we have to pretend thinking he screwed up is somewhat incomprehensible?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Round the Horn on the Road

Probably a short edition this week, because i'm on the road. Due to worsening storm conditions I may be stuck here through Saturday, so might not be able to update for a while. In the meantime check out these posts.

Iddybud has a good review of a book I mentioned earlier this week called Bush on the Couch.

Respectful of Ottors has a nice story about how Sandy Berger has been cleared of wrongdoing. So I'm guessing everybody who was calling for him to be strung up is now apologizing for their error. Or not.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has a tone poem on how to vote in case of a terrorist attack. .

Bark Bark Wolf Wolf has a comment on a favorite episode of the West Wing.

This is short, but if I can I'll do another mini one tomorrow.

An Anouncement

We hope you have enjoyed our special programming of Bush Bashing. We now return you our regular program . . . of Bush Bashing.

No, seriuosly, I'm on the road today, and I'm already running behind, so I'll try to post tonight. But for the rest of the day, you're on your own.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Clarification

For those who don't' know me very well, and may not understand where I am coming from, it may have appeared as if some of the posts before were critical of the United States Military, and the troops in the field.

I just want to clarify that I think, with a few scattered exceptions, that our troops have performed admirably. I think we should all be proud of the work our soldiers are doing under very trying circumstances.

However, I remain very critical of the decisions made by the administration that have failed to use these soldiers in the best way possible.

To be specific, I think we should have done more in Afghanistan to prevent it from returning to a warlord state. The decisions not to do that were not made by any soldiers on the ground and I am well aware that we still do have a troops in Afghanistan, who must be operating under very difficult situations. My criticism is not aimed at them; but at a policy of minimal involvement in Afghanistan that has made their situation more difficult. There is clearly a difference between doing nothing and doing sufficient. We are somewhere in that grey area.

I think that the Bush Administration, specifically Donald Rumsfeld, tried to pursue the Iraq war on the cheap, which lead to, among other things, the looting of the Iraqi Museum referenced below. I'm not arguing that American soldiers should have, on their own, run over to the museum and protected it from the loiters at the cost of their own lives. That would be ludicrous of me to suggest that. While I strongly deplore the loss of historical artifacts caused by the looting, I would not want to sacrifice troops mindlessly to protect them.

I am suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, and others who planned this war failed to anticipate the looting and other civil unrest (seduced as they were by Ahmad Chabili and other Neo-Conservative's visions of happy Iraqis throwing flowers). Why didn't our troops go into combat with the proper equipment and the proper training and the proper numbers? Why did we allow the looting? Again, because the Bush administration was trying to hide the cost of this war from the American people, and wanted to believe that they could accomplish their foreign policy goals without harming their Domestic agenda (of, as we discussed yesterday, enormous tax cuts).

I hope this clarifies my position for any who are confused.

Who's Next

Incidently, if you think our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were big success, they are starting to be rumblings that we might heat up the war in Iran before the November elections.

My first piece of evidence came from listening to old Rush Limbaugh at lunch yesterday. Rush was talking about Senator Kerry's rationale for supporting the Iraqi War Resolution (IWR), and suggesting that if Iran is next on the list. He speculated that, by Kerry's own rationale, if the vote on an Iranian War Resolution (confusingly enough, also IWR) comes before the election than Kerry will be duty bound to vote for it. Hilarious.

I was surprised to hear Iran had been put back on the table, frankly. I don't think there's anybody who doesn't know that the odds of us invading Iran are reasonably high if we reelect President, and much lower if we elect Senator Kerry. Which, to me, doesn't seem like a selling point. But maybe I'm just out of step with my fellow Americans.

But Rush isn't really the sort of guy you can take seriously on these sorts of issues. Today's Salon had an editorial, however, details the number of respected White House advisors who are pushing an "invade-Iraq" policy.

". . . the perception that the neocons -- including Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith -- have been routed, or are in retreat, could not be further from the truth. They are as firmly in control of the levers of real power in the government as they were in the yearlong, synchronized buildup to their war in Iraq. Not a single National Security Council or Pentagon official who eagerly rode the bandwagon for the war has been fired. Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and aide John Hannah continue to enjoy the full confidence of the vice president."

So the people who got us into Iraq are all still advising the President. That's comforting.

It was stated quite expressly by Rice this past weekend: Don't worry about our failure to find any evidence of WMD after our preemptive war on Iraq -- we may be forced to take such preemptive action very soon against its neighbor, Iran.

If that October surprise doesn't rally voters back around Bush and ensure four more years for him and the neocons, what will?

The pattern of preparation for this is all too familiar from the buildup to war with Iraq. First, the war drums are sounded by the same old "experts"; then they are amplified by alarmist columnists. Once you see Krauthammer or Ledeen opining, as they have over the past two months, that Iran's nuclear capability poses the gravest possible threat to Civilization as We Know It, and that The World Cannot Afford to Wait and Negotiate, then you can guarantee -- conveniently close to the election to panic voters into supporting the president -- that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will pick up the chorus.

Ledeen has already written at least two columns on the subject. Krauthammer, prophet of the Iraq war, has made quite clear his determination to unleash a new one.
We'll see what happens. Personally I don't think it's that crazy to assume that the Bush Administration will continue to do what they've already done. I leave it up to the reader to determine whether or not that is a good idea.

Time to Forget

You're free to forget. So forget! So said the broadside put out by the Diggers in 1966 to berate their fellow hippies. And it seems fitting when we talk about the looting spree that occurred shortly after United States troops conquered Iraq. Salon printed a story on the incident, as did many others.

On April 10, a day after Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed and Baghdad was in the hands of U.S. military forces, the National Museum of Iraq was ransacked. In a matter of hours, thousands of Iraqis, some thought to be working for art dealers, clambered into the museum that had been closed to the public for years. After two days of looting, almost all of the museum's 170,000 artifacts were either stolen or damaged. Ancient vases were smashed. Statues were beheaded. In the museum's collection were items from Ur and Uruk, the first city-states, settled around 4000 B.C., including art, jewelry and clay tablets containing cuneiform, considered to be the first examples of writing. The museum also housed giant alabaster and limestone carvings taken from palaces of ancient kings.

"It's catastrophic," says Gibson, who is also head of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, a consortium of about 30 U.S. museums and universities. "It's a lot like a lobotomy. The deep memory of an entire culture, a culture that has continued for thousands of years, has been removed. There was 5,000 years of written records, even Egyptian records don't go back that far. It's an incredible crime."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered a particularly cogent defense of the United States failure to protect the Museum, saying, "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?'"

Already some of you are saying, hey, what's this? Why are you getting all hung up on some moldy old relics. Well for one my training is in History and I have a particular fondness for mold old relics. Someday I hope to be one.

But more importantly, this is a convenient place to grab hold of a larger issue. We invaded Iraq and, in essence, eliminated the legal and governmental structures that would have prevented these sort of lootings from happening. And then we stood by and let this and a thousand other lesser crimes occur and did little. Why?

If you see Control Room, and I urge you to if you get the chance, one of the more interesting scenes involves a United States Military spokesman explaining to a CNN reporter that the Iraqi people are responsible to police themselves. It's time to forget what happened 20 days ago when we invaded and took over.

What if we had clamped down on the looting right off the bat. What if the United States government had listened to experts within the State Department, and others like McGuire Gibson (referenced in the Salon article) and been prepared to impose order on the Iraqi people? Some would have been angry with us; but in the long run might not our willingness to enforce civil behavior have paid big dividends? Particularly now as we are facing insurgencies left and right.

It's hard to say, and I suppose, since that moment has passed, we may as well forget. Flowers are lovely.


So about Afghanistan. You know that country where Al-Qaeda was? How are things going there? Well, fortunately, they must be going great. I mean you don't see a lot of news about Afghanistan, unlike some countries (cough cough, Iraq, cough cough). So I guess everything there must be going great. Or, alternative, we just don't give a damn about Afghanistan and have happily let them drop off our radar. Take your pick.

John Sifton, a human rights worker reported on Afghanistan about a year ago, and the picture he painted wasn't a pretty one.

"Something is rotten in the Islamic State of Afghanistan," an old Afghan is saying to me one night after dinnertime. He is a Kabuli, a local humanitarian worker, and he seems to like making literary jokes. We have just dined together on fried chicken and rice in his small apartment. He is explaining why he is pessimistic about Afghanistan's future.

"The leaders are criminals," he says, referring to Afghanistan's warlords. It is a cool spring night earlier this year, and the old man is sitting on his couch across from me, lecturing me about the past. All of Afghanistan's current military and police leaders, he says, have blood on their hands from past war crimes. Specifically, he refers to the civil fighting in Kabul from 1992 to 1995, detailing how various commanders, including Fahim and Sayyaf, were involved. They killed, he says, and now they rule.

"Like Hamlet's uncle," he says. "But," he continues, "they have no remorse."
And things have continued in that vein since then. Check out this overview of Amnesty International's 2004 Report on Afghanistan.

A deteriorating security situation undermined human rights. Serious human rights abuses and armed conflict continued in many areas. The criminal justice system remained ineffective and was a source of violations rather than a mechanism for providing justice. Women and girls in particular faced discrimination in the justice system. Police lacked pay, training and control structures. Prison conditions were poor. Detainees were held for excessive periods before appearing before a judge. Women and girls faced a high level of violence. Rape and sexual violence by armed groups was reportedly common. Violence in the family, and forced and underage marriage, were widespread.
We invaded Iraq for a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons seem pretty shakey now (like the connections between Iraq and Al-Qaeda or the Weapons of Mass Destruction). But some of them are still relatively plausible. For example the Iraqi people were oppressed by a cruel dictator and were in a rough spot, so it's only human to want to help them out. Or the idea that an Islamic state that embraced Capitalism and Democracy would have a liberating effect throughout the middle east. And of course, now that we have invaded, don't we have a responsibility to help them get back on their feet?

Funny thing, however, the Afghans fit all those criteria too. They were being oppressed by the Taliban, now they are oppressed by the warlords. Rebuilding them into a stable capitalistic democracy would have roughly the same effect as rebuilding Iraq (as near as I can tell). And of course, we did invade Iraq and topple their government.

Plus, according to the CIA world book, Afghanistan is the worlds largest producer of Opium. Perhaps we might have helped them do something to contain that problem, seeing as it affects us as well.

But Afghanistan hasn't been on President Bush's radar screen for quite a while. Pity, really.

Bush Bashing, Day 3

Well,this is the day I'm scheduled to talk about President Bush's accomplishments in the realm of foreign policy. Such a wide banquet to choose from, I had better state at the top what subjects I'm not going to dive into.

I'm not going to cover President Bush and the Attacks on September 11th. I'm not going to cover the untruths that the Bush administration spread to get us to invade Iraq. And I'm not going to cover the Patriot Act. These subjects are too big to cover properly in one day, and have been very well covered in the past.

Instead I'll be going over some of the other subjects, like Afghanistan. Like our failure to maintain the peace in the days following our invasion of Iraq. And so on and so forth.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Education: Smarten Up!

If I had an additional day, I probably would have given further time to education, the environment, and so on. As it is, I have to wrap this up tomorrow, so going to do Education quickly.

I was listening to Molly Ivin's Bushwhacked as I drove around today; she was covering the Texas "Miracle" and the fuzzy accounting that was used to promote that testing.

Basically here's how it works in theory, if I understand correctly. Students are graded every so often. If the test scores for the school improve, the school receives more money. If the test scores for the school drop, the school gets less money. This has several negative effects; one being that struggling schools are going to continue to struggle. Ambitious motivated teachers will seek postings in more successful schools (where they are better compensated). Programs not directly tied to increasing test scores will be cut.

And there is no proof that doing better on this standardized test will lead to greater success later in life. Even during the Texas "miracle" when scores on the state test were jumping by leaps and bounds, scores on the SAT and the ACT remained constant.

Conservatives see the educational process as kind of like a factory (and they have for years). Kids go in, educated students come out. The factory workers (i.e. teachers) aren't producing the right kind of kids? Well start scaring them so they work harder or better. Cut their salaries, mandate longer hours, and so on and so forth. The problem with this mentality is that teachers aren't factory workers. I personally think we, as a society, should treat teachers more like we treat doctors or lawyers.

Incidently if you are pro-teacher and you want to get really mad, check out these words by David Horowitz, which go some way to understanding the conservative view of teachers (for a good rebuttal of Horowitz, check out this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow).

The first step in understanding the public education mess is to realize that IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY. Teachers -- despite the widespread myth -- are overpaid and underworked. . . . As a result of the contracts negotiated by their unions, teachers are not required to be at their job more than six hours and 20 minutes a day. When you add to that the fact that teachers only work nine months out of the year, and then calculate teachers' pay on the basis of the eight-hour-day and 11-and-a-half-month year that the rest of us work, the pay for a seventh-grade science teacher in New York City is between $60 and $70 an hour. That amounts to an annual salary of well over $100,000.
Of course another key to understanding conservative disdain for teachers is that they tend to vote Democratic.

For some real anger about President Bush's educational plans, check out this article by Greg Palast. For a more satirical look, check out this article by Joyce McGreevy.

There should, perhaps, be a limit to how much you can steal from the American Taxpayer

Perhaps. I don't want to go out on a limb, but this article (published February 5, 2002) by the invaluable Molly Ivins did raise certain questions about the wisdom of rewarding companies that defraud the American Government and the American Taxpayer.

On Jan. 25, the administration ordered federal agencies to review their contracts with Arthur Andersen and Enron, saying the scandal swirling around the companies raises doubts about whether they should continue to receive taxpayer money.

This would be well and good if the same administration had not, on Dec. 27, repealed a Clinton-era rule that prevents the government from awarding federal contracts to businesses that have broken environmental, labor, tax, civil rights or other laws. What we have here is not so much hypocrisy as complete incoherence. Shouldn't they have to wait at least a month before they contradict themselves? Or maybe the Bush doctrine is that you can give government contacts to chronic lawbreakers as long as they're not in the headlines.

The repeal of the Clinton rule by the Bushies -- nicely timed for minimum attention between Christmas and New Year's -- stopped federal agencies from considering the lawbreaking record of corporations in the process of granting contracts. As you know, many corporations repeatedly violate the law, and if and when they are caught, they pay a slap-on-the-wrist fine and continue on their merry way. A study by Associated Press found hundreds of contractors that remain eligible for federal contracts despite having been convicted of or sued for defrauding the government.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce naturally denounced the Clinton rule as "blacklisting" and even organized a National Alliance Against Blacklisting with other business groups. Blacklisted for repeatedly breaking the law? What a dreadful thought. Lawbreakers have to make a living, too, so why not reward them with millions of taxpayer dollars?
Thank goodness President Bush and the "adults" are back in charge of the treasury.

Bush Verses Science

Now let's move beyond the deficit and start talking about the consequences of President Bush's other domestic policies. When President Bush took office, new federal safety guidelines protecting workers from repetitive stress injuries were about to become law. These regulations had been under developement for 10 years; President Bush, with help from Congressional Republicans, killed them almost immediately. Molly Ivin's pointed out the particular foolishness in these actions.

business can be counted upon to threaten to shut down or move to Taiwan if forced to do anything to protect workers' health or safety.

But remember the key question: "How much does it cost not to do it?'' The labor unions were claiming that repetitive stress costs up to $9 billion a year. So, as Jonathan Alter reported in Newsweek, the Republicans commissioned a study to refute this absurd claim from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The NAS report came out in January, and it says that repetitive stress costs $50 billion a year in lost wages and productivity.

So it costs significantly more to deal with the consequences of a preventable workplace injury than it does to fix it. Not to mention (and who would?) the human misery involved. But the business community decided to call in its campaign contribution chips to kill the measure anyway. Go figure.
The science on repetative stress injuries is pretty cut and dry to any reputable scientist. And these regulations would made millions of workers lives less painful. Oh well.

The Economic Outlook from Ground Level

So what does this all the economic gloom and doom mean for the little guy? Zompist paints what has to be a somewhat discouraging picture (thanks to Random Goblin for pointing this out).

I'm looking for work right now, and pickings are very slim... if anything it seems worse than the last time I was in the market, three years ago. There aren't many programming jobs, and competition is high, not only from a glut of IT workers left adrift by the crash, but from outsourcing. (A friend of mine has the charming job of moving jobs overseas. He reports that India is no longer the hot place to go; it's the Philippines.)

Job security is dead. My father worked for one company his whole working life. Recruiters are amazed that I worked for one company for over ten years, and I was recently shocked to realize that, with three years' experience, I've been here longer than most of my co-workers.

I took a pay cut to come here, and I'm wondering if I'll need to take another to be competitive. The expectation of higher salaries as you get older, which so far has covered up the stagnation of the middle class, is no longer to be counted on.
I am obviously in a different field from Mr. Zompist, but I have to say his observations square with my own. I am at an ok job, but a good part of my decision to stay here is because I have little confidence in my ability to find anything else (not to mention the beating my stocks are taking). Economic conditions are shakey. I hope things pick up, but we'll have to see.

How many of you feel like the economy is doing all that it could for you?

Say why does everything suck?

If you want to understand the Bush Economy, you need to read Paul Krugman. He's smart, he knows his stuff, and he knows how to explain it.

I quoted him in the last post, but he has another brilliant article this very day detailing the excuses and spins the Bush Adminsitration and their buddies are using to derail speculation that maybe President Bush's economic policies have something to do with the economic down turn.

"Officials often claim, falsely, that the 2001 recession began under Bill Clinton, or at least that it was somehow his fault. But even if you attribute the eight-month recession that began in March 2001 to Mr. Clinton - a very dubious proposition - job loss during the recession wasn't exceptionally severe. The reason the employment picture looks so bad now is the unprecedented weakness of job growth in the subsequent recovery.

Nor is it plausible to continue attributing poor economic performance to terrorism, three years after 9/11. Bear in mind that in the 2002 Economic Report of the President, the administration's own economists predicted full recovery by 2004, with payroll employment rising to 138 million, 7 million more than the actual number.

The whole article is entertaining, and of course, relevant to our discussion.

Who's Loaning Us Money?

Where does the money to pay for President Bush's Deficits come from? I mean a deficit implies that the United States is borrowing money to make up the difference between national expenditures and national revenues, doesn't it? So who's loaning us money?

Well some of the money is coming from foreign nations; possibly this part of our debt is no problem. I mean if, say, Japan wants to call in the money we owe them, we'll just beat the crap out of them. Maybe. But, unfortunately, a lot of that money has been loaned by ordinary American's like you and me (as well as corporations and local governments and so on and so forth). Everytime you buy a Treasury Note you are, in effect, loaning the Government money. A lot of people have T-Bills in their portfolio.

Here's Paul Krugman's sobering analysis of the long term effects of President Bush's deficits (which I previously quoted).
Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid — which didn't exist in the 1950's — and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)

The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk — they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts — right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent — not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent.
Something to consider. But of course, the working poor, those "Lucky Duckies" have life a little too easy anyway.