Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Opening Salvo

Most Conservative Columnists haven't responded to the Alito Confirmation yet. Most of them will take the opportunity with their regularly scheduled column to do that (some may have responded to it at their blogs, but I'm not interested in searching through Republican Blogs just now).

There is one article up at Townhall, by Curt A. Levey, which focuses on how the Democratic Party has apparently misjudged the American people.
Faced with the opportunity to prove their independence from ultra-liberal interest groups, Senate Democrats struck out Tuesday when they voted almost unanimously against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Come November, Democrats will bear the cost at the polls.
This is a nice way to spin it. Total crap, of course, but effective enough.

Alito was an extremist nominee, but our party failed to make that case effectively, getting sidetracked into dead ends like his belonging to an alumni group several decades ago. Alito believes in the power of the executive (and particularly this executive) to do whatever the hell it wants to do. Alito will support Executive Torture and Executive Wiretapping. Presumably he's also cool with Executive Outing of CIA Agents.

But we failed to make that case, and by we I mean Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary,, in particular. So Levey might be right, there might be a price to pay come November.

Of course, I don't know how that will overcome Republican Ethics Scandals, or the President's illegal wiretaps, or ongoing trouble in Iraq, all of which could move voters as well.

I've seen the future and, boy, it's rough

One of the things about reading so much conservative commentary (as I do), is that you get a feel for what's coming. Not always, but sometimes.

This week some 19 Democrats voted with the Republicans in favor of cloture. Here's atypical response from Conservative columnist and bloggist Michelle Malkin.
And thanks to the principled Democrats who know you and your record best for standing up in your defense.
So that's nice for a change.

Of course the moment those Democrats disagree with Malkin, one presumes they will be back to being unprincipled or batshit crazy.

The more typical response I will hear all weak will be to happily piss on Kennedy and Kerry and Democrats in general for failing to stop Alito. I expect I will get to catalogue many examples of that. And I will.

But like the song says, "I would rather drink 6 razor blades, razor blades from a paper cup."

The Bush Economy

As we go into the State of the Union, in which Bush is sure to tout his economic success, let us consider some recent economic trends.

The savings rate for last year ended up a negative number. Which indicates that Americans are spending all the money they are getting and dipping into money saved previous years.

Since we know, according to Bush Supporters, that this economy is on fire, there can only be one answer. Americans are stupid and spending money like fish because they don't realize they should be saving money.

But wait, why did they save money in previous years (in fact, every year since the great depression, the last time (1932 and 1933) when the savings rate dipped into a negative number), and not this year? Hmmmmm perhaps America is in the grip of some kind of stupification ray that is making us all spend money hand over fish. Er, fist. Given that we know, according to Bush and his supporters, that the economy is doing great, this can be the only logical answer.

Come to think of it, I had a really hard time finding my glasses this morning.

Also, apparently wages are up the smallest amount in 9 years. That's probably just a clerical error. Since we know the economy is going great, I'm sure that America's business owners and managers are just having a hard time filling out all the paperwork to process all the raises they intend to give. Probably another effect of the stupification ray.

So remember, the economy is going great. Who are you going to believe, President Bush or your lyin' eyes.

Childlike Fantasy Realms

Hamas, as we all know, did very well in the recent Palestinian elections. This proves the need for genocide. Palestinians do not want peace with Israel, they want to eliminate Israel. So the only sensible solution is to eliminate Palestinians. Also liberals who believe that Palestinians and Israelis can peaceably coexist (in the same region, if not the same towns) are living in childlike fantasy realms.

Genocide. That is what Cal Thomas and Dennis Prager are calling for.

But that's not their main point of course. The main point is that liberals live in childlike fantasy worlds (Prager) or in extreme denial (Thomas).

Palestinians do not have their own nation. They do not have an army (they do have some sort of security force). They do not have control of their destinies. They are kept in racial enclaves. What more can Israel and the rest of us take from them?

Their lives. We can start killing them until they stop fighting back. Perhaps in childlike fantasy worlds where revenge and violence and cruelty leads to a happy ending, after we slaughter a bunch of them for electing terrorists, they will get the message and become nice little lap dogs. But I doubt it.

Once we return to violence as the solution to this problem, the inevitable ending is genocide.

Is it childish to believe there can be peace someday between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Maybe. But it's a damn site better than the alternative.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Alito is more or less in

For those of you in need of some rallying after the Alito Confirmation (sure to occur tomorrow), you might check out this post at firedoglake.

Did you Know?

A bad man walks very fast.

A bad man is afraid the devil (Ol' Scratch) is coming to get him, and so is a-scared to stay in one spot for very long. A good man knows he doesn't have anything to fear from the devil, so walks a bit more leisurely-like.

For those curious, I walk very very fast.

It's a problem that effects us all (but mostly liberals)

Suzanne Fields, conservative commentator, picks an unusual cultural touchstone for her latest article; The Colbert Report and "truthiness."

She does get the essential concept of "truthiness," that is truths that are from the heart not supported by facts or logic. And then she uses it to discuss Columbus day.
Columbus Day celebrations, for example, once were occasions for celebrating the achievements of Christopher Columbus, but it has become the venue to indoctrinate impressionable students, telling them how much better the world would have been if Chris had not sailed that Ocean Blue. "Since the 1970s, the dominant voices within academic history have worked to generate a widespread cynicism about the nature of Western democracies, with the aim of questioning their moral and political legitimacy," says Keith Windschuttle, an Australian historian who wrote "The Killing of History."

. . . Such ideological history can be the result of sloppy research and a dependence on questionable secondary sources, but more to the point, it derives from politically correct manipulation that replaces the disinterested search for truth with emotional appeals to denigrate and deconstruct the legacy of Western culture.
Of course the problem with this is that I know that the version of Columbus's story I was taught in elementary school was chock full of "truthiness," as well. And whatever the ideological motivations regarding anti-Columbus historians, they are no more offensive than your own ideological motivations in criticizing such work. Probably less so. Writing an anti-Columbus book doesn't imply that you can't write your pro-Columbus book in response. Writing off one side of the debate as motivated by "truthiness" is on more shaky ground, in my opinion.

John Leo Discovers Liberals Upset with the Media

This is a shocker. According to John Leo's latest article, Liberals don't recognize that the media is 100% on their side. In fairness Leo does better with this subject than most of this colleagues would (I shudder to think what Brent Bozell would do). John Leo, unlike most of his colleagues on the Conservative side, recognizes that Liberals do have a few legitimate gripes.
Liberal columnist Joe Conason thinks it’s unfair that photos of Bill Clinton’s coffee meetings were forced into the open, whereas photos of Bush with Abramoff are unreleased so far, while the media yawn. Some complain that the press took arguments for Clinton’s impeachment seriously but not arguments for Bush’s impeachment today.
So, fair enough.

I think the problem isn't liberal media commentary or conservative media commentary, but rather dumb media commentary. Dumb media commentary insists on a uniformity among thousands of reporters and editors and journalists that doesn't seem to exist. All reporters are working for the other side. There is no difference between the RNC and a reporter for CNN (unless of course the reporter says something that supports a liberal point of view (in this example)).

The purpose of dumb media mommentary isn't to improve the media. It's to give the dumb media critic (and his audience) an out when presented with information that contradicts his or her world view. Rather than considering the accuracy of this new information, and seeing how it fits within your current beliefs, the dumb media critic simply says "Damn Conservative Media Bias" and ignores this new information. It does make life easier I suppose.

I do want to point out that there is plenty of smart media criticism, particularly from the left (in contrast, premiere conservative media critic Brent Bozell and his organization are clearly in the dumb media critic camp).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

New Logo, New Quote!!!

Hi all : )

I am having to work fast because i am supposed to be doing the Deadmines in a little bit. Hope you enjoy the new quote and new look.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why We Probably Won't Fight

Salon has a story by Walter Shapiro on the Filibuster Fiasco. I'm not sure I agree entirely with his analysis, but he does raise some good questions.
An intriguing question, if one entirely theoretical at this point, is what might have happened if Senate liberals had decided at the outset that they would use the filibuster to prevent the Alito-for-O'Connor seat swap. For Alito was the be-all-and-end-all Supreme Court nominee -- the moment to put aside wait-until-next-year caution. The odds on such a filibuster still would have been long, but at least there would have been a glimmer of coherence to a get-40-votes opposition strategy. Yes, Republican senators might have succeeded in employing the "nuclear option" (outlawing by a majority vote all filibusters against judicial nominees), but if a Democrat were elected president in 2008, that would have turned out to be a short-sighted GOP ploy. Instead, Alito opponents are now left with plenty of nothing. Even if there are future vacancies during the Bush era, Democrats are sufficiently demoralized that they would probably join in approving John Ashcroft to the Supreme Court on a voice vote.
That is the key problem with the filibuster situation - Democrats never actually came up with a strategy for opposing Alito. More to the point, they never came up with a compelling reason to oppose Alito. Some seemed to think it was abortion, others that he lied on application or belonged to a racist organization in college (one or the others). For some it was that he supported executive power to the Nth Degree (in my opinion, this was the best reason to oppose him). But without a unified reason to oppose him, we were left with "Democrats don't like him because he is a Republican."

Which isn't enough.

Friday, January 27, 2006


You know what would be great? If someone slipped rat poison to Karl Rove.

Oh for any of you who might get offended, that was just a funny joke.

Round the Horn. An Irwin J. McIckleson Production

Good morning all. This is Irwin J. McIckleson, fictional 1910's plutocrat, doing a review of posts on the internet.

I regret not being here last week, but I was being toasted in Boston for firing my 1,000 worker. I fired him because his cheeks were too clean; I could tell he wasn't working. People who are working have dirty cheeks, this is something every plutocrat learns. So I sent him packing, and one of my accountants pointed the happy event. So I went to Boston to celebrate.

And now I am back.

Bark Bark Woof Woof has
a discussion of the enormous expansion of executive power under President Bush. Apparently President Bush has declared his right to interpret the law as he sees fit, and that his interpretation is the one that will matter.

. . . You Are a Tree has
a similar story, about the President's issuing of signing statements to Congress which negate the purpose of the passed bill. I have done that on occasion as well. When the Board of Trustees sends over some direction or other, I send back a note saying "Neener neener neener." Seems to do the trick.

Iddybud has
a revealing quote from President Bush in which he explains his rational for evading the law. It's not quite as pithy as "Neener neener neener" but it's nearly there.

Apparently, President Bush's state of the union is upon us, and Words on a Page has
some questions you might consider as you prepare to listen to it.

Speedkill has
some reactions to the news that Hamas, a political party, has done well in elections in Palestine. I have a hard time following this story, but it sounds important.

Steve Bates, the Yellow Doggeral Democrat, has
some thoughts on filibustering President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court and on standing up to the Republicans in general.

archy has
a piece on a young man who feels that school discriminates against him as a male. Apparently females enjoy obeying the rules, and males do not enjoy obeying the rules, so the existence of rules discriminates against men.

I wish I could hire this young man so that I might have the exquisite pleasure of firing him.

firedoglake has
a short piece on the ongoing question of why conservative comic strips are not funny. My question is why are future comic strips so tiny? Are you short on paper in the future?

SoonerThought has
the story of a Virginian representative who fired off a handgun in the General Assembly building. Apparently accidentally. Still it is nice to see that the old ways are still carried on.

rubber hose has
a story involving Uzbekistan, Fur, and Underclothes. That should be enough to get you to check it out, I'd wager.

The Countess has
a story on a car paint that apparently changes color depending on ambient temperature. She would like a car painted with such material. I would like a car that was a color other than black (heliotrope, perhaps), but Mr. Ford assures me, and all consumers, that we really prefer black.

And that is it for another week. Hope you all have productive weekends.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Did You Know?

Rodents take their name from the Isle of Rhodes, known for it's ferret like inhabitants.

On Second Thought

Just want to say that the post directly below was inspired by Rush Limbaugh making basically the same argument. He also said that if we really believed what we claim to believe, we would kidnap Alito. I'm not sure about that.

I also don't know if we can win. It seems like the most likely scenario if we filibuster is that Frist triggers the nuclear option (or constitutional option if you are a conservative hypocrite), and Alito gets in anyway. And the filibuster is gone. That's a valid concern.

But not fighting for what we believe in isn't going so well, in my opinion.

Why I Support Filibustering Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court

Because if we don't, it means the he and his brand of extremism are normal. All the stuff that Liberals have said about him was just a bluff. Just normal partisanship. If he really is as bad as we say he is, than we will filibuster. If we don't filibuster, it means we never really gave a damn.

And I'm tired of belonging to a party that doesn't give a damn.

No Threat Vs. A Real Threat Vs. An Immediate Threat

There's little question that Iran getting the bomb would be a threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East and the worlds oil supply.

There's also no question that some conservative voices would like to send our troops in to fix Iran (presumably the same way we've fixed Iraq).

This desire persists, despite a pair of reports that suggest our military cannot even maintain our presence in Iraq for much longer.

Jeff Jacoby writes a sneering article today at Townhall in support of a military solution to Iran. His sneers are reserved for those who hope that Iran can be contained peacefully, particularly wussy Europeons.
To be sure, not every British politician has been so weak-kneed. Tory MP Michael Ancram has called for Iran to be -- brace yourself -- expelled from the World Cup tournament in June. Barring the planet's foremost sponsor of terrorism from soccer matches -- now *there's* Churchillian grit. Ancram says it will send "a very, very clear signal to Iran that the international community will not accept what they are doing." Sure it will. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's rabid president, must break into a sweat thinking about it.
Later on he does indicate that a peaceful resolution is preferable (although you get the feeling his heart isn't in it), but that such a peaceful resolution is only likely if the United States is ready and prepared to invade Iran.

It's somewhat like Iraq, when President Bush threatened Iraq with invasion if they didn't let inspectors back in. Iraq let inspectors back in so naturally we invaded. I wonder if Iran learned anything about the trustworthiness of the US from that experience.

There's also an interview at Salon with Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation at the Carnegie Center. It's a thoughtful interview and well worth reading for an assessment of where Iran is in their development of the bomb.
There's a real threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons, but it's not an immediate threat. All this talk of a "point of no return" or Iran being in a position within months to have a nuclear weapon is nonsense. There is a broad expert consensus, including the U.S. intelligence community, that Iran is five to 10 years away from the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs. Even that estimate assumes that Iran goes full speed ahead and does not encounter any of the technical problems that plague such programs.
In my opinion we have more to fear, at this moment, from conservative pundits and the Bush administration pushing us into another unnecessary war than we have to fear from Iran.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Did You Know?

In the original King Kong, film goers were astounded at the impressive visual effects (for that time), including the way Kong's fur would seem to move in the wind. That effect was actually caused by the animators fingers brushing the fur as they moved the puppet.


There's a good article over at Commondreams on the value of dissent in a time of war, and how the President sees that dissent.
Bush has lashed out at Americans "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people." True, the president said, some "honest critics" have condemned his decisions about Iraqi reconstruction, U.S. troop deployments and so on. But Bush drew a bright line between "responsible" opponents and the "irresponsible" kind, who raise doubts about the entire purpose of the war and thereby bring "comfort to our adversaries."

In other words, it's OK to criticize the White House for bungling the war after it started. But if you question how the war started, then you're obviously helping the Bad Guys. And you're hurting the United States.

The president has it exactly backward. By asking tough questions about the buildup to the war, Americans are acting in the very best traditions of their history. And it's the president himself -- not his opponents -- who is ignoring this same history.
This is pretty much entirely correct. We have a right and a duty to speak out about our Government.

Intelligent Decisions and the Wal-Mart Effect

Kathleen Parker, over at Townhall, writes an unusual column for a conservative; one that is not completely laudatory towards Wal-Mart. Not to worry, she's no threat to Wal-Mart; she just allows questions to be asked about their long term effect on the world economy.
Take salmon. Wal-Mart, which buys all its salmon from Chile, sells more than anyone else in the country and undersells all other retailers by at least $2 per pound. That's a lot of market power, which prompts Fishman to ask: "Does it matter that salmon for $4.84 a pound leaves a layer of toxic sludge on the ocean bottoms of the Pacific fjords of southern Chile?"

Salmon in Chile are raised in packed underwater pens - as many as 1 million per farm - and fed prophylactic antibiotics to prevent disease. Here's a fact you'd rather not know: A million salmon produce the same amount of waste as 65,000 people. Combine that waste with unconsumed food and antibiotic residue, and you've got a toxic seabed.

Does it matter?

Only if consumers say it does, says Fishman.
Now it may seem like I'm damning with faint praise, but this really is a step up from "Everybody who doesn't like Wal-Mart is a pinko communist.

But not enough of a step. What Parker leaves out in her rosy thoughts on customer determinism is that customers are regularly deceived or given only half the story. How many Wal-Mart customers are aware of the ecological damage their cheap salmon is causing? Presumably very few.

And, of course, American customers are pretty good at overlooking or ignoring the moral implications of their spending power. Unlike Chilean Salmons, we all know that third world textile operations don't tend to be run along humane grounds (all protestations aside). Doesn't stop us from buying them. And I don't think the equation would change all that much if the abused employees were United States citizens.

Or, to put it another way, I don't think we can safely rely on Wal-Mart customers to save the world.

Screw All Y'all

Not you, my readers. Just Joel Stein and Steve Muscatello.

This morning read an article by Steve Muscatello which started out by comparing good, peaceful Pro-Life demonstrators with evil, violent Pro-Choice demonstrators, and ended by suggesting that criticism of the war (specifically Joel Stein's criticism of the war) was giving comfort to the enemy. You know how much that argument moves me.
Leave aside for a moment the merits of the Iraq War (something Stein says is impossible) and consider the fact that an American, a guy you went to high school with or who sits one cubicle from you at work, is right now patrolling an Iraqi street with a gun and enough fear to fill up every mansion in Beverly Hills.

While Stein writes pretty sentences, the soldier detonates an IED. While Stein dines at a steakhouse, the soldier eats an MRE. But really, Stein writes, we can't continue "blindly lending support to our soldiers."

Okay, fine. But can we continue pretending that such rhetoric doesn't embolden our enemies (see bin Laden, Osama), weaken troop morale, and desecrate the already fragile psyche of military families?
That struck me as the worst kind of pandering nonsense.

First of all, why doesn't the logic of "You have things pretty good; soldiers have them pretty bad, so you should shut up" apply elsewhere. I mean if it's good in this situation, why can't we say "Poor people in America have it rough, conservative columnists have it nice, so why don't they shut up?"

Secondly, any language opposing the War on Terror or the Bush Administration emboldens the enemy (by Conservative's warped logic). Unfortunately, expressing disagreement with the government is as American as apple pie. If you don't like it, go to some country that doesn't allow criticism of the government.

But then I thought I should check out the column (by Joel Stein) that inspired these words and I got angry all over again.
After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.
There's some things I agree with in here. Certainly I do think the most likely upshot of the Bush years is that we will blame President Bush for our failures as a nation.

On the other hand, the phrasing is entirely too casual; Mr. Stein doesn't seem to give a damn. It's one thing to say our Soldiers made a mistake when they signed up to fight; it's another to make jokes about it. If you believe, as Stein apparently does, that American soldiers let their love of their nation blind them to what they would be actually doing, that's a tragedy. They are losing their lives and Iraqis are losing their lives because they made the wrong call. I don't see how it's a matter of flippancy.

I suspect that the class suggestions in Muscatello's article might be correct. Stein has an idea about what sort of people join the military, so he's fine pissing (rhetorically) on them.

But I think his subject is too important for him to comfortably get away with taking a piss.

In reading Stein's piece, I am again reminded of a favorite quote by H. L. Mencken.
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
Stein's article is flippant almost to the point of cruelty; Muscatello would deride any criticism of our "mission in Iraq." Ultimately, the ideas Muscatello expresses are the bigger threat to America.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Did you Know?

The road less traveled leads directly to Madison, Wisconsin.

Tough Minded Conservatives

Tough minded conservative college students can't deal with being presented with views that do not line up with their own. Fortunately, Andrew Jones, an alumnus of UCLA, is there to help them, by encouraging them to tape their professors lectures and provide them to him, so that he can "expose their professors as liberal partisans who do not tolerate dissent in their classrooms."

Tough minded conservative film goers constantly complain about how movies are biased liberally, and have set up numerous organizations to protest this trend. But, as Zompist points out, you can easily make a case that Hollywood's product is Conservatively biased.

I'm starting to question how tough minded conservatives really are. Maybe Tom Tomorrow is on to something.

Monday Mail Bag (On Tuesday)

Hello all my peoples.

I am sorry to be late and too have missed last weeks session. I have been on the road, believe it or not. Jean-Louis Crowley has written a rock opera ("Barns a-Busting"), and he had a role in it for me. I played "Old Man Whiskers" who advised young Mitzi to follow her heart and defeat the Festering Fowls of F'Alkerset. I really enjoyed it, although, I was technically just an understudy. Once the regular actor (Sir Ian McWellen) got over his bout with bad clams, I was free to return to my regular duties.

Anyway let's get right to your comments. Our first comes from Elayne Riggs, AKA
Pen-Elayne on the Web, responding to McIckleson's Round the Horn feature.
Woo-hoo, I made it first! Thanks Mr. M!
McIckleson, by the way, has never been in a rock opera. I'm not saying he's not ok at doing those Round the Horns. He's just not as naturally funky as the Space to the Lobster.

Did that seem forced?

Anyway, our next comment comes from the ubiquitous
Random Goblin, responding to a post on Iran and a comment on said post.
Are you kidding?

Do some research, pal. Iran had a major revolution, from within, just a few decades ago. In fact, that's really the source of the contreversy. The Shah's government signed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. however, that government was overthrown in (I think) the 1970's, and the new government claims to not be subject to the previous government's treaties. which means they have every right to develop nuclear weapons.

It's actually a pretty good argument.
I don't really know much about Iran, but Mr. Goblin sounds pretty confident. Bryant seems to think Mr. Goblin is correct in his assessment. That may be, but has he ever starred in a rock opera? I think not.

Turning to the mail bag, we are getting numerous articles with an ad for refinancing a home I don't had at the top, and blank verse at the bottom. Here's an example.
some cow or suspense some raze try article ! zurich the worry see earring a impassive a brazil be brigantine on opinionate it gurkha it bellmen the housewife Or maybe not
The not is a hyperlink; apparently if you click on it, your computer becomes Virus Town, U.S.A.

Also we got, surprise surprise, several letters asking for our bank accoungt, including one from Ms. Fatmata Konate who signs her name Fatty Konate. Sounds like a character in a bad rock opera. But we also got one from a Mr. Johnson Quartey.
I came to know you in my Private Search for a reliable and reputable person to handle this Confidential Transaction. I am 44years of age and married with 3 lovely kids. It may interest you to hear that I am a man of PEACE and INTERGRITY; I only hope we can assist each other.

. . . On the course of last year 2004 end of year report, I discovered that an excess profit of four million five hundred and fifty thousand dollars[US$4,550,000.00] which my head office are not aware of and will never be aware of. I have since place this fund on what we call SUSPENSE ACCOUNT without any beneficiary.

As an officer of the bank I can not be directly connected to this money, this is why I.m contacting you for us to work so that you can assist and receive this money into your bank account for us to SHARE.
Hmmmmm. I wonder if it is Mr. Quartey's PEACE or INTERGITY that allows him to embezzle $4.5 Million from his bank. I guess it would have to be peace, right?

Anyway that's it for another week. Remember, "I will crush Captain Starfaller with my Mighty Pincers."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fighting Fire with Fire

There's a post over at THE NEWS BLOG about how we Democrats should conduct ourselves in our national discourse. Basically we should stop being pansies and go for the throat. Carpe Jugulum!

As with everything else I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, it's clear that this is what the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters and Karl Roves of the world are doing. And it's equally clear that it has been successful for them. Yeah 2005 wasn't their best year, but they are closer to getting their warped vision of America than ever before. Nothing succeeds like success.

On the other hand, isn't a certain part of Democratic Identity tied up in being in favor of fair play and civility? Certainly I was attracted to liberalism in part as a reaction to the mean spirited discourse produced by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

So I'm torn. That said, I certainly think we can get harder than we are currently without dropping to Coulter-Like levels of mean spiritedness. And that would probably be good for us.

Deceptions Large and Small

Here's the opening paragraph of Michael Barone's latest article.
It is not a pretty season in our politics. Both our major parties seem to be busy disqualifying themselves. The Republicans are desperately trying to avoid getting caught up in the scandal of the disgraced and disgustingly greedy lobbyist Jack Abramoff (his clients contributed to Democrats as well as Republicans, they are quick to assert). The Democrats are fortifying their reputation for being unwilling to defend their country from its violent enemies, by attacking George W. Bush for ordering National Security Agency electronic surveillance of calls from al-Qaida suspects and by filibustering reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
Did you get that? The Republican's problems are the Democrat's problems as well; the Democrats problems are that they are filthy traitors.

But wait, do Mr. Barone's comments line up with reality? Let's see.

First of all did Abramoff give money to both Democrats and Republicans? Nyet! But even Mr. Barone seems compelled to note that it was Abramoff's clients who donated to Democrats. It should be noted that the Indian Tribes Abramoff handled are the only ones who gave more money to Republicans than to Democrats. Of larger interest are the illegal campaign contributions; how many of those went to Democrats compared to Republicans? I suspect we'll find out.

Barone clearly is in favor of lobbying and campaign contributions, even when such activities fall outside the law.
The Republicans may be facing lobbying scandals -- but lobbying is protected by the First Amendment (the Constitution gives us the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances"), and a government that channels vast sums of money will always be so petitioned.
Yes that's right, Mr. Barone, as long as there is money in Washington, there will be lobbyists. That's why we regulate them, to prevent, as much as possible, corruption of our political process by those with the means to corrupt it. It's not the lobbying that Mr. Abromoff is in trouble for. It's the illegal and corrupting funds and perks that Mr. Abramoff provided.

Secondly, the problem isn't George W. Bush ordering "electronic surveillance of calls from al-Qaida suspects." The problem is him doing it without oversight. The mechanisms exist for Bush to do what he claims to have wanted to do. He chose to act outside those mechanisms. Why? The paranoid among us might suggest that he was monitoring calls that couldn't pass muster with a judge. Like say, a call from Senator Kerry to his campaign manager. It's hard to imagine a judge authorizing that call, right? So that would be a good reason to jump outside the official mechanism. I'm not saying that's what was done, because there is no way of knowing. I'm saying we don't know.

The rest of Barone's article is interesting; mostly it's about Joseph Schumpters theory of Democracy, which was that it was a good way for the powerful to keep control over the masses. Barone prefers a more uplifting description of Democracy, but doesn't disagree with it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Logo, New Quote

Hi all. Another week, and a new Cowboy Logo. Sorry to be so late in the day with this - I finally got my Priestess (Linderra) up to level 20 in World of Warcraft.

Have a great week.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Soft Bigotry

One popular phrase among conservatives who write on race is "soft bigotry," by which they generally mean that because of Affirmative Action we don't expect anything from black people, so they never get the opportunity to really prove what they are capable of. This is different from the good old days when one or two blacks might get access to white institutions and suffer disdain for their efforts.

Soft Bigotry might apply in other directions however. Making partisan jokes for example. Kenneth Quinnel has observed how unfunny many conservative jokesters or comic strip guys are. They don't have to be. You have a natural desire to laugh along with someone who is telling jokes that you largely agree with. Or to put it another way, Republicans have a million jokes all built around the central premise that "Democrats are dumb." And Democrats have their million jokes built around the premise that "Republicans are dumb."

And those jokes will generally get a laugh, when told to the right audience.

By the same token, if there is one elephant we all want to spear, it's "political correctness." Jokes that take aim at this mythological oppression are automatically applauded, regardless of whether the joke is funny or not. It's like a comedic get out of jail free card.

But I don't think comedians should ever be let out of jail; it dulls their blade and makes them less funny.

Anyway these half formed thoughts were inspired by an article by Terry Sawyer on Sarah Silverman and her brand of comedy. I know Ms. Silverman mostly as an actress, where she can be quite fun in a flinty kind of way (she was quite good on Greg the Bunny for example). Her stand up though seems problematic, however.
Silverman's champions should acknowledge that the surface-level of her performance dovetails nicely with the right-wing brand of performative bigotry whose message is more along the lines of: "We all know that black people are lazy and feminists are ugly lezzies, so I'm going to be the only person brave enough to say it." Irony can easily get deployed as a responsibility dodging device. Ann Coulter buttresses comments such as "When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors," with claims that liberals have no sense of humor about the threat of being mass murdered, even though part of her larger intellectual project has been to pathologize liberalism and make its claims synonymous with "Anti-Americanism". In this instance, irony is used to keep the argument about the ability of the attacked to "take a joke", even while the pernicious core of the argument seeps into popular discourse in a slightly less extreme form. Both the impolitic and the "politically incorrect" are themselves market norms; so common that everyone from Dennis Miller to Coulter can envision themselves heavyweight shadow boxers with the ghost of political correctness. Sarah Silverman is not Ann Coulter by any unsavory stretch of the imagination, but both of them spill outrageous sentiments into discourse only to cower back into suspicious explanatory coves of irony, sarcasm, or theoretical hide-and-seek.
Anyway the article is worth reading, as it provides food for thought, even if you end up disagreeing with Sawyer's conclusions.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Did you Know?

Fire hyrdrants serve no practical purpose whatsoever, and never have. They were invented by a set designer in 1948 as an excuse to add color to outdoor street scenes, and proved such a good design that many if not most cities had them installed "so as to look more like the movies."

Consistancy Hobgoblins

Echidne of the Snakes has a great post on the various contradictions or paradoxes in how Conservatoids portray liberals. You know the one about how Liberals are unemployed bums and wealthy elitist snobs at the same time?

A certain common type of conservatives will say anything to make Liberals look bad, even if it contradicts something he has said previously. The point isn't to make an argument; the point is to hurt the enemy. If calling them pointy-headed intellectuals one minute and dumb as a sack of hammers the next is effective, than that is what you do.

Sometimes I find myself thinking we liberals need to adopt the same approach. That if calling President Bush a power mad fascist one moment and a drolling idiot the next would work, than that is what we should do. Such tactics have obviously proven effective for Republicans; presumably they would work as well for us.

Or would they?

Knives Out

Senator Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska has already announced that he will vote for the Confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. In this, Alito joins such luminaries as Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman as Democrats who support President Bush. Why is he doing this? Well conservative columnist Steve Muscatello has an answer.
As a red state Democrat running for reelection in 2006, Nelson has little choice other than to hitch his cart (at least in part) to Bush, who carried Nebraska by some 30 points in 2004. Likewise, Nelson must approach every Sena
So in order to hold onto his job, Nelson has to play nice with President Bush and the Republicans. I don't think very much of that choice; and I think even less of it after considering the rest of Mr. Muscatello's column (who's long name makes it likely I will give him a nickname (Muscy?)), which is a gameplan for getting Nelson out of office at the first opportunity. Gratitude to Sen. Nelson for voting the "right" way doesn't extend very far, I guess.

So Sen. Nelson finds himself in the interesting position of alienating his own party while allying himself with people who will cut him out of office at the first opportunity. I'd feel sorry for Sen. Nelson except, you know, I don't.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Did you Know?

In the year 2007, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company will unveil it's newest taste creation, Pepsi Flavored Coke. Shortly thereafter, the Pepsi Corporation, in an effort to compete, will unveil it's new product, Pepsi Flavored Pepsi.

No Low To Which They Will Not Stoop

For those of you wondering if there as any other Democratic veteran who was as big a liar as Senator Kerry, well, here's your chance to trash another American hero for partisan gain.

E.J. Dionne Jr. has the details.

Half a Story

And if you had five seconds to spare, I'd tell you the story of Iran.

Or at least the other half of a story Joan Goldberg tells. It's the one about how we have to deal with Iran before they get the bomb (I'm sure you've all heard this one before). Goldberg talks about three potential scenarios that might play out in Iran.
Conventional wisdom holds that there are really only two options for dealing with Iran: military strikes (by us or Israel) or the usual bundle of conferences, ineffective sanctions and windy UN speeches that lead to nothing. Oh, and Iran could be barred from the World Cup soccer tournament. By all means, let's pin our hopes on that.

But there is a third option that, alas, has become less and less likely in recent years: regime change from within. Pro-democracy - or at least anti-mullah - sentiment has been building in Iran for over a decade. In recent years there have been huge protests against the regime. Soccer stadiums full of Iranians have chanted "USA! USA!" In 2004, polls of various sorts indicated that anti-regime attitudes were held by up to nine out of 10 Iranians.

Iranians are a proud, nationalistic people and would probably rally around their government - or any government - were it threatened from without. That's one reason Ahmadinejad has been rattling his sabers so much lately: It's an attempt to bolster his unpopular regime.
Here's the part of the story that Goldberg leaves out. The United States invaded Iraq, and they know that we are likely to invade Iran as well. So all this talk about how the Democratic movement might be thwarted by nationalist fervor, well that's sort of already happening. And it's sort of our fault.

I guess I can see why Goldberg would leave that part out, come to think of it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did you Know?

On a hour-long police mystery based program anybody arrested in the last 10 minutes is likely to be the guilty party. Anybody arrested in the first 10 minutes is also likely to be the guilty party. Anybody arrested in the middle 40 minutes is likely to be innocent.

The Wiretapping Controversy Explained

For those of you who have questions about the current wiretapping controversy, Blue Works Best has provided a handy FAQ. Lots of good information there.

A Much Linked to Speech

You will see this all over the internet today; Al Gore gave a brilliant speech yesterday about the Bush Administration's enormous expansion of their power.
Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: He concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically -- and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother.
The speech is quite good, and ties together a lot of the disparate threads that, combined, give the Executive too much power.

President Bush says that the United States does not torture, and then signs a "signing statement" saying he will if he wants to.

President Bush assures us that his wire taps are strictly to catch terrorists, but refuses any oversight of his program that would give us assurances that this statement is true.

The new executive theory is that we should trust President Bush, and therefore oversight and checks and balances are no longer necessary.

I am curious to know what our founders would think about this arguement.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Did you know?

The average intelligence quotient, or I.Q., of a character in a horror movie or television show is 79. If you strip out Dana Scully, the average I.Q. drops to 58.

The Signing Statement Scam

Every so often you run into a Republican who is in favor of smaller government (as opposed to a Republican who likes slamming into Democrats in a framework of pretending to care about smaller government). Those Republicans who really do favor smaller government are frustrated that with a Republican President, Republican Congress and Republican Judiciary, they still don't have the desire to actually cut government spending and power.

Rather they seem to be interested in increasing it, which brings us to today's article. Paul Jacob's latest article covers President Bush's recent and notorious signing statement, attached to the torture ban.
Take a current news story, much blogged. The president recently signed the torture ban. But he did so with his fingers crossed. That is, he added a "signing statement" to the bill, explaining how he interpreted the new law: Quite broadly, in the context of his own expansive theory of presidential power.

Like other such statements, this wasn't a Post-It note scribble, but a cleverly written legal document designed to influence enforcement as well as future legal interpretation.
Anyway the article is interesting, and worth reading. Jacob isn't any liberal - he would favor several un-democratic methods to limit the power of government.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

New Logo, New Quote!!!

Hi all!!!

This is Cheery finally back from my time on the road. I had a lot of fun, but I'm glad to be back too. And I hope you are all doing wonderfully.

New Quote, New Logo, and an Updated Quotes Page. Enjoy!!!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Round the Horn. An Irwin J. McIckleson Production

Greetings all. This is Irwin J. McIckleson, fictional 1910's plutocrat, with another journey through the internet.

Sometimes I am asked how I go on being a plutocrat, despite seeming sensible. It's very simple, and evolves from a correct understanding of human nature.

There are exactly two kinds of people that you knows. People who have betrayed you and people who have not betrayed you yet. Once you recognize human nature it becomes a lot easier to do what you need to protect yourself.

I've criticized the Bush Administration in side comments for their handling of the Iraq war; but it is not because I am opposed to war or to conquering and subjecting other people. If the Bush Administration were competent and some profit could be made by conquering Iraq or Iran, why not? The flat truth is the people of those countries would do the same to us in a moment, if we allowed them too.

No, my objections to the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq war is how poorly they have handled it. It's one thing to conquer another people, it's quite another to botch conquering another person. It's like one of my competitors, Harold Jafforwitz. He heard that I was making my men work 11 hours a day, so naturally he tried to do me one better. He made his people work 15 hours a day. If he could have pulled it off, I would have saluted him (while finding another way to destroy his company). But of course he couldn't. You push people that hard, they will push back, and his plant became a fertile field for Socialist seeds. And, at an opportune moment, I hired his security force away from him (he was using a pinkerton knock off). His plant was ruined. I purchased it, and reopened it, going back to a 10 hour day (practically decadent state for the workers), and was hailed as a warm kind hearted man.

What's the lesson here? Do things effectively, and when the moment comes to stab someone in the back, strike hard and true.

And on that note, let us turn to the links for the week (people who are safe from my particular blades coming as they do nearly a hundred years after my heyday).

Our first post is from Pen-Elayne on the Web and it is in the
form of a question about woman and their depiction in various types of art.

First Draft
reveals that support for President Bush having extrodinary powers may be not as solid as it was previously. I am not surprised.

Bloggg has a
list of ten reasons why Judge Alito must not be confirmed to the Supreme Court. I have noted before that the Courts role has grown considerably since my time (when it was known mostly for its failures).

Dihiyi Mir has
some thoughts on his favorite constellation, which is Orion. My favorite constellation is Libra, the Scales.

LeftyBrown's Corner has a
selection of items related to the new year and to other thing that is going on for that gentleman. Apparently he is a not a well-known singer or dancer, but has gotten fan mail as if he were.

And that is it for another week. Have a productive weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Inspiring Words

Just read Molly Ivins' latest article. Most of it is an entertaining look at Texas Education Politics, but the last two paragraphs are particularly inspiring.
On the general subject of political corruption, do not fall into the fatal error of cynicism. You do your country a great disservice by saying things like: "Eh, they're all crooks. Nothing anyone can do about it. Money will always find a way."

The answer is perpetual reform. Fix it, and if corruption comes back again, you just whack back at it again. The system as it is encourages corruption and must be changed. Public campaign financing is the best answer in the long-term -- all this "lobby reform" talk is hopelessly inadequate. Hang in, and raise hell -- this is a heaven-sent opportunity to clean it up. Don't blow the chance with cheap cynicism.
Yep. I get frustrating reading arguments that the Republicans have everything under control, and we can't really do anything about them. The truth is they are dramatically over extended, and they show no sign of changing course.

Optimism, Delusion, Abhorrence

I'm in kind of a good mood this morning (despite having a really disturbing dream), largely because I acquired LCD Soundsystems eponymously named first album. It's very good. So I thought I would risk reading the latest Ann Coulter column.
It doesn't matter. Liberals are being routed. They can change the lineup, the manager, the coach, but the losing streak never ends. By and large, Republicans aren't even bothering to send in their A team anymore. Alito can start wearing his iPod to the hearings. By the end of the hearings, he'll be addressing the senators as "dude."
Actually this is kind of heartening. It's nice to know that after a year of republican failures and snafus, Ann can't see anything but blue skies ahead. Her blind hatred of Democrats (key word, blind) makes her unable to see the vastly improved position of the party.

I will say that Ann does have one point; the Democrats may be focusing too much on Abortion in the debates. I understand that is an important issue, but it's also an old issue. Everybody knows what they think about abortion and everybody knows what we think about a woman's right to choose. This argument isn't going to move anybody. I would rather see the Democrats focus on his beliefs about the power of the executive branch to, say, perform warrentless wiretaps on whoever they want. Because that's something new, and an area where we have a better chance of convincing people.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Catalogue of Commentators - Issue 6. Mike S. Adams

Howdey Cowpokes and Cowpokettes. This is Durango, the man that's half singin' cowboy and half squintin' cowboy.

This week I have been asked to talk to you about a dude named Mike S. Adams. Adams is a Professor of Sociology and Crime at UNC Wilmington. Apparently being a college professor and a Republican is a real challange in these days. Maybe that's because Republicans in the future are slimy low down dogs. Why Republicans in our day were so fighting mad that the moment they elected their first President, we immediately had a gosh-darn civil war! These days, a little criticism from a fellow proffesser and Adams is off to right a column about how tough it is for him.

He's such a spineless yellowbelly he wrote a letterto his human resources director with the following complaint.
I, too, am now suffering from erectile dysfunction, or ED.

Worse than the discovery that I am now suffering from ED was the subsequent realization that I have been suffering from it for several years. Ever the empiricist, I decided to record the approximate dates of my previous, shall we say, difficulties in an effort to find the root causes of my medical condition. A brief summary follows:

In 2001, I was jogging on campus when I passed a group of feminists marching in the annual "Take back the night" event. After they marched by me shaking their fists and screaming, I first experienced ED. They certainly took back that night!
Perhaps if Mr. Adams had gone to sing with the feminists, he would not have experienced ED, which sounds bad, even if I don't totally understand what he means by it. Still I am convinced there are no problems, not even erectile dysfunction, that can't be solved by singing.

Take this column where Mr. Adams wrotea letterto the Arab world.blockquote>I am sorry that every time the terrorists hide, it just happens to be inside a "Holy Site."

I am sorry that Muslim extremists have not yet apologized for the U.S.S. Cole, the embassy bombings, and for flying a plane into the World Trade Center, which collapsed in part on Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which is one of our Holy Sites.See that's just not very friendly. I think hanging around waitin for an apology doesn't accomplish very much. It is better to try to see the other person's point of view and maybe find stuff you both agree on. That's why singing is so great; two people singing together can't help but feel friendly one to the other.

Of course I've noticed Yellow Bellied Polecats definately like forcing apologies out of people.

Anyway Bryant has some thoughts about Mike S. Adams too.
I don't want to be as hard as Durango (well half as Durango) but I certainly think that Mike S. Adams comes off as whiny a good bit of the time. Some of his complaints seem valid (although even in those, it pays to do a little resarch) but many of them are pretty pathetic. Obviously Adams is focused on campus liberalism, and most of his articles are about that. He seems to recognize that that is his strong suit (his articles on other issues don't come off nearly as well). Basically he's trying to answer the question why so many educated people end up as Liberals, and why areas with a higher percentage of highly educated people tend to be Liberal. He doesn't like the obvious answer (being broadened and stretched by College makes Liberalism make more senses), so he, and others of his ilk (cf. Ben Shapiro) argue that campuses are designed to quash conservatives and brainwash kids into being liberals. I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm not sold.
We haven't done all that many articles on Mr. Adams but there is one that really got under Bryant's skin, in which Mr. Adams recommended a raft of anti-Communism books including Ann Coulter's Treason.

And that's it for another week. Remember if you have a problem, sing a happy song and then plug someone in the back. Works every time.

Peace is a Threat

Here is a link to the story I referenced yesterday, about a Baltimore Peace Group that has been spied upon by the NSA. Certainly this doesn't look good.
The NSA, established in 1952 by President Truman, is the largest and most secret of U.S. intelligence agencies. Headquartered between Baltimore and Washington, DC, the agency has two principal functions: to protect U.S. government communications and intercept foreign transmissions. However, the NSA's United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 strictly prohibits the interception or collection of information about "U.S. persons, entities, corporations or organizations" without explicit written permission from the Attorney General.

The revelation that a Baltimore peace group was spied upon comes in the wake of a news reports that the agency has also been eavesdropping on Americans' international calls and raises new questions about the legality of NSA activities. The agency did not immediately return a request for comment.
We'll have to see how this plays out (or, alternatively, how this is ignored by the "liberal" media).

All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace

In this case the CIA. Salon has a book review of James Risen's new book "State of War" (the review is by Farhad Manjoo). The book covers the functioning of the CIA over the last several years, and is largely a story of how a weak Tenet let himself be bushed around by the Neo Conservatives (like Donald Rumsfeld).

The most troubling part of the review comes near the end, covering our surveillance of Iran. This is a long citation, I admit, but the situation warrants it.
For all the shoddiness of the CIA's work on Iraq, Risen raises the specter that its work on Iran is even flimsier, and might lead, eventually, to even scarier ends than we've met in Iraq. In a final chapter that is as darkly portentous as it is frustratingly vague, Risen writes of a recent intelligence snafu that compromised all American intelligence operations in Iran. The spy business doesn't get any more comic than this: The snafu was the result of a careless e-mail mistake. In June 2004, a CIA officer accidentally sent information that could be used to identify every American spy in Iran to an agent who, unbeknown to the CIA, was working for the Iranian government. The mistake "left the CIA virtually blind in Iran, unable to provide any significant intelligence on one of the most critical issues facing the United States -- whether Tehran was about to go nuclear."

But wait, it gets better. It turns out, Risen says, that the U.S. has pretty good reason to be worried about Iran's nuclear goals, as we may have been a key source for the development of its weapons program. In an operation code-named Merlin that was launched under the Clinton administration and continued by Bush, the CIA cooked up a high-risk plan "to stunt the development of Tehran's nuclear program by sending Iran's weapons experts down the wrong technical path." To do this, the CIA obtained extremely sensitive Russian blueprints for a component known as a TBA-480 high-voltage block, which Risen writes is needed in a nuclear bomb to "create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core." The design, Risen adds, "was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers ... from the rogue countries like Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short."

The CIA's plan was to slightly tweak the blueprints in order to introduce a technical flaw that would be imperceptible to Iranian scientists, and then to have a Russian scientist drop off the documents at an Iranian diplomatic office in Vienna, Austria. Even in theory, the plan sounds pie in the sky; in reality, the whole thing fell apart. The Russian scientist whom the CIA chose, a defector who lived in the United States, immediately spotted the engineering flaw that the Americans had introduced into the designs, and before he dropped off the plans in Vienna, he added a little note that tipped off the Iranians to the problem.

Were it not in a book by a Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter, the notion that the United States may have so recklessly transferred nuclear secrets to the Iranians sounds almost insane, like the rantings of a conspiracy theorist. As it is, actually, Risen's story is hard to believe -- not because I don't want to believe him or because he's not careful, but because it raises so many questions that he doesn't, and possibly can't, answer.
Anyway you should go read the rest of the article. It is distressingly clear that the Neo-Conservatives have compromised our ability to defend ourselves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tuesday Mail Bag and Comments Corner

I wasn't here yesterday, but I'm here today, so let's get right to it, shall we?

Our first post comes from
Objector, who was responding to this post about the possibility of a War with Iran.
An attack on Iran will result in a horrific loss of life--of Iranian, probably Iraqis (Iraq will be chaos), and perhaps American soldiers there. It will foment terrorism like nothing we've seen so far and it will pit us squarely against the rest of the world, except Israel. I know the people and the language and I can tell you it will be a far greater mistake than Iraq. It will make Iraq seem like a walk in the park. I can't even express how bad and dangerous an idea invading Iran would be. Iran has done nothing to legitimize our invasion of it. We won't have a legal or moral leg to stand on, just like Iraq. Unbelievably, once again, the gov is using the menacing specter of nuclear weapons to justify invasion. This is no accident and they will be exposed as liars once again. They're not even close to nuclear energy, much less a nuclear weapon. This is another cruel, murderous show of force. It's going to be a BAD year.
I believe you about it being a bad year. I have already been turned down for two roles (Tartuffe in a modern version of Moliere's play and Frogman Jake in an off Broadway experimental play). But I suppose the future invasion of Iran has little to do with my dramatic failures. For one thing I should have gotten those parts, and the United States should not invade Iran!

Kenneth Quinnel responded to a conservative comic strip that Bryant felt the need to post thusly.
I'm always amazed when conservatives attempt comics, they always fail so miserably. I'm convinced that Mallard Fillmore is only published because newspapers are so scared of being accused of liberal bias.
Personally I believe that any artists who puts politics ahead of his art will fail. I remember when I felt very strongly about Lobster eating while performing as Macbeth in an off Broadway production of Hamlet. I lumberered out on state wearing a lobster bib to show solidarity with my boiled brethren. My performance was described as "wooden," "leaden," and "completely inexplicable." The lesson I learned was that politics is important, but art has to come first!

One more.
Random Goblin responded to the news that the Military may not be as solidly behind President Bush as was once thought.
I hate that kind of manipulative garbage, by the way. By which I mean the sign your neighbor had.
Most people don't like being manipulated. I learned that the hard way, when me and Countess Celestia (the Star Goddess) manipulated Captain Starfaller into conquering Venus for us. I kept having to hold my claws over my mouth so as not to laugh (no one laughs when they are smelling lobster claws). Anyway when he found out about our little trick, he punched me. Several times.

On to the Mail Bag. The first letter is a little baffling.
I am trying to find out if bloggers have a need for an easy to remember web address for their blogs. In other words could you benefit from telling family and friends an easy to remember address to get to your instead of http://politicalcomment.blogspot.com/? Your blog would be the same just the address would be easier for people to remember and make sense to your blog.

If this is something that interests you please email me by hitting reply or by visiting the following website: [website removed]

From one blogger to another...
Well I certainly want all of my family and friends to make sense to my blog. I'm frustrated sometimes at the lack of sense made to this blog; frankly some people who send in letters seem to have only a tenuous grasp of the English language.

But unfortunately this is not actually my blog, so I don't get to send you money and change the name to something else.

And what would a mailbag be like without people asking for my bank account information. Here's one such letter from Aya Bobmanuel from Madrid Spain. Let's annotate this sucker.
With due respect and humility, I write to you this proposal.
And what respect and humility am I due? On the Lobster Home world it is traditional to present your respectable friends with a tub of seaweed and your respectable friends with a tub of melted butter. Should I go out and check my mailbox?
I am the Manager of bill and exchange at the foreign remittance department of Caja De Fortuna Banco in Madrid. I am writing following the impressive information about you, l got your contact in my quest for a reliabe and capable person to assist me in this deal.
Where did you get such impressive information about me? And how do you know it is true? I will admit to being reliabe, but not capable.
Though I know that a business of this magnitude will make any one apprehensive, but I am assuring you that all will be well at the end of the day.
Which day will all be well at the end of? Today? Next Tuesday?
We have decided to contact you by email due to the urgency of this "deal", as we have been reliably informed of your honesty and ability in a transaction of this nature.
Why is deal in quotation marks? Is it not a real deal? I think at this point you see your problem, Aya (May I call you Aya?). You are not definitive enough. When I want something I find it best to ask simply and directly (usually with a threat).

Anyway that's it for another week - hope you make it a great one.

Spying on Baltimore Peace Activists

The Raw Story is working on a piece that suggests that the NSA spied on a Baltimore Peace Group. Have to see how this pans out; but if this turns out to be accurate, it would be a huge blow to the defenders of President Bush's right to spy on anyone he damn well pleases.

David Limbaugh and Judge Alito

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans;1 the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces;2 the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;3 and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
Sun Tzu, the Art of War
David Limbaugh has been reading his Sun Tzu. You need to draw your enemy away from his strong points and force him to battle it out on ground favorable to you (or at least neutral). David Limbaugh recognizes that discussions of Executive privilege during the Alito confirmation will not prove the most stable of terrain. So he'd rather the discussion centered around Abortion. While that terrain isn't ideal, it has the advantage of familiarity (we can all debate Roe V. Wade in our sleep at this point).

Of course he is going to get in a few digs at liberals for not simply accepting President Bush's power.
Setting aside the left's disturbing tendency to sympathize with everything Al Qaeda these days, don't be fooled by all this noise about runaway presidential powers. They only object to executive largesse when they don't control the presidency, which, with any luck, will remain the case for years to come.
OK first of all, nobody in reality sympathizes with Al Qaeda on the left. Those are imaginary liberals in your head who sympathize with them, not real ones. You need to try and stay with us here in reality as much as possible.

Secondly, you have a point that Executive privilege is more of an issue when the other guy is in power; but that doesn't imply that we'd be happy if our guy was going this far out. Authorizing wiretaps with no oversight? Signing laws with statements that negate them? These are things that should get every American concerned; regardless of how they feel the current President will use those powers.

That's why we have two parties; it is another check and balance on power. But if you are sure you are going the right way, I guess you don't need or want brakes.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Erik Larsen and Comic Books

Yeah I'm more comic books and pop culture this week.

Anyway just finished reading Erik Larsen's column from last week, in his very inaccurately titled column, "One Fan's Opinion." I grant that Larsen is a fan of his comic books; but he doesn't seem a big fan of many others.

For those of you who don't know Larsen, he had quite a good run on Spider-Man and he is the creator of the Savage Dragon. Many of his columns can be read as a guy grumbling that his creation doesn't yet have the same catchet of Spider-Man or Wolverine. This was most clear in in an article in September, in which he called his fellow comic book creators pathetic (for writing Spider-Man and Wolverine), and in October when he attacked Peter David (for responding to the previous column at his website (to be fair, he didn't name Peter David, he simply said, "Sure, a couple guys went off on it in their blogs, but nobody had the stones to actually confront me about it either in person, by phone or by e-mail.

There's a word for people like that. It's on the tip of my tongue. Perhaps a look back at that column might give you a clue what word I mean.

Anyway, Larsen's big thesis is that most of the comic books people actually buy are crap. That's not to say he hasn't made some good point. Certainly there are some comic books that really suck or that seem to have no purpose. But I don't get the idea, reading Larsen's columns, that his solution is for those comic books to improve. Rather his solution is for those comic's to be abandoned in favor of, well, Savage Dragon and other works by authors willing to create their own characters.

But, of course, I could be wrong.

How the Looney Tunes gave Birth to South Park

Sort of.

You see the earliest cartoons were largely celebrations of the art of animation; the ability to create drawings that come to life. That's pretty amazing; but we are used to it now, and so don't think of it. But when animation was new, people could hardly help commenting on the newness factor.

Moreover, Walt Disney, one of the early big names in animation, was very interested in pushing forward the technology of animation. He wanted each cartoon to look better than the last, and looking at technological innovations, there's little doubt that what he did was very impressive.

There's also little argument that Disney crafted some particularly beautiful cartoons.

Warner Brothers, on the other hand, could not compete with Disney in the realm of Animation. They weren't going to out-Disney Disney. Rather they had to find another path to success. And that path came in the writing and gags of their cartoons. Disney cartoons can certainly be funny; but there are generally more jokes in one Bugs Bunny Cartoon than there are in five Mickey Mouse Cartoons. And the jokes are funnier and more tightly staged. When you don't have that much to begin with, you have to make everything you do have count.

I don't want to make it seem like the Warner Brothers were lazy or lax in their animation; they weren't. Rather the animation of those cartoons is still impressive, and there was a substantial amount of innovation. I only wish to suggest that what makes the Warner Brothers cartoons stand out is the gags; without tightly written jokes, the animation wouldn't have carried them forward. In contrast Disney's version of the Nutcracker Suite (in Fantasia) has almost no humor (save one amusing toadstool), and yet it is still very interesting to watch.

So you have Warner Brothers seeing great success and lasting success, not in their animation, but in their writing. And of course the turn towards writing and gags as the secret to animation success has continued on down to our day. The Simpsons, King of the Hill, South Park; none of these shows are triumphs in the art of animation. They aren't badly animated, and in some cases are very stylishly done. But what sets them apart is the writing and the gags, not the animation.

So you have South Park, which is barely animated at all, and yet still successful and celebrated because of it's writing.

Just think that is interesting.

Judaism and the Abramoff Scandal

For those of you who are not aware of it, Jack Abramoff, at the center of a conservative lobbying scandal, is an orthodox Jew. Or describes himself as such, at any rate (and I am not qualified to judge the depths of another persons religious beliefs). Two authors have taken on what this aspect of the Abramoff story means, Jeff Jacoby at the Conservative website Townhall and Stephen Hirsch at the Liberal website Salon. Both are quite interesting.

Hirsch spends his article discussing how Abramoff's outfit in his court appearances reflected his beliefs, and explaining those beliefs.
The picture of Jack Abramoff walking out of a federal courthouse on Tuesday wearing a distinctive fedora is by now iconic. And chances are, like Howard Fineman and Maureen Dowd, you thought he looked like a gangster. But that wasn't my reaction. What struck me was that Abramoff was wearing my hat, a Borsalino, the ne plus ultra of Yeshiva boy caps.

. . . By wearing the Borsalino to court, I imagine that Abramoff was emotionally retreating into the safety of our insular world.
Hirsch spends the bulk of his article explaining what the clothing that observant Jews wear means to them. Well worth understanding.

But Hirsch comes to the conclusion that Abramoff's piety after such corruption is, at best, a mixed blessing.
That the world saw Jack Abramoff wearing this hat for the first time while admitting to such grievous transgressions, that much of the world will now associate this symbol of piousness with the gangster look, is a Chillul Hashem -- an act that shames the name of G_d.
And this is where Jacoby picks up the thread. Jacoby is also extremely upset with the Abramoff scandal.
Honesty in financial dealings is not optional in Judaism; it is mandatory. The Talmud teaches that when a person is brought to judgment in the world-to-come, the first question the heavenly tribunal puts to him is: "Did you conduct your business affairs in good faith?" A Jew who takes the values of his religion seriously must be scrupulous in his transactions with others. To be sure, even the saintliest people -- not to mention the rest of us -- sometimes fall short of the values they profess. But Abramoff's criminal deeds and sleazy manner are a lot worse than mere lapses in judgment. One who behaves so unethically and illegally drags more than his own reputation through the mud. He is an embarrassment to his religion and his community, and that comes close to being unforgivable.

Far from disguising his Orthodox Jewish identification, Abramoff paraded it publicly, as if that would cleanse his unkosher activities.
I don't really know what to make of this side on the Abramoff scandal. Neither author is writing a partisan article particularly; both deal with Abramoff as an Orthodox Jew, not as a Conservative Lobbyist. It's tempting to suggest that Abramoff's religion is largely feigned, given his corruption. There are and will be many willing to argue that. I'm not as comfortable making that connection for reasons mentioned above. I suspect it's enough to note that Abramoff's actions have hurt a lot of people, many of whom he never knew.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Comic Book panels that Amused Me

I have been collecting the Essential Series from Marvel Comics and now the Showcase Presents series from DC Comics. They are reasonably priced black and white reproductions of old timey series. From time to time reading them I come across panels that amuse me.

Mr. Fantastic's two step process to marital bliss.

1. Buy your wife something.
2. Condescend to her.

Actually I don't want to be too hard on Mr. Fantastic, considering as bad as this panel makes him look, he does have one of the least messed up relationships in comic books.

This one is from Green Lantern, featuring the menace of Sonar, a villain from Modora an obscure Balkin State. Sonar is upset that not enough people know about Modora (which admittedly makes tourism tough), so he decides to turn to super villainy as a way of increasing awareness of his people. In these panels he is at home (as he points out). In fact, this may be the most bizarrely mundane self narration sequence I've ever seen).

Oh for those who are worried about such things, the lettering at the top of the left panel says, "That afternoon, a hard working Balkan rests from his labors. . ."

New Format, New Quote!

Cheery is supposed to get back on Wednesday - but until then doing some of this stuff. So minimal changes today. And we will update the quotes page shortly. Have fun.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Round the Horn. An Irwin J. McIckleson Production

Hello all. This is Irwin J. McIckleson, fictional 1910's Plutocrat. I have returned from the holiday season rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. I fired fifteen people yesterday, and many of them weren't even my employees. It is amazing what you can do when you look like a plutocrat and speak in an authoritative voice. And now I'm ready to take on another trip around the Liberal Coalition.

First of all we have Left is Right with
the story that President Bush's Iraq Adventure may end up costing even more than was originally intended. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising; although being off by a factor of a hundred isn't something I would be too understanding about.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has
a piece on a number of aspects in the current conflict and the current president. Apparently the author believes the Bush Administration is Pound Foolish, Penny Foolish.

Collective Sigh has
information that President Bush apparently believes himself above the law or at least excluded from it.

The Fulcrum has
information on President Bush's plan to spy on his fellow citizens. Apparently it is not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. Personally I believe that spying on your fellow citizens is an activity best left to the private sector.

Ricks Cafe Americaine has
commentary on the resolution of a recent transit strike in New York City.

Natalie Davis' All Facts and Opinion has
commentary on some Mind-Boggling comments from a reverend on the recent illness of Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister of Israel, apparently). Mr. Robertson (the aforementioned Reverend) believes that Sharon's illness stems from him trying to give some land to the Palestinians (dividing God's land). Apparently in Mr. Robertson's mind, if Mr. Sharon had fought to preserve Israel's territorial totality, he would have been just fine. That doesn't strike me as logical in the least; Mr. Sharon is an old man. You have to expect troubles sooner or later.

And, of course, one need hardly point out that there are millions who break God's suggestions and suffer no ill effects. Why would God get all worked up this time and not the other times? I myself regularly cheat and flog my employees, and yet I have a palatal mansion, a nice conveyance, and a pack of hunting dogs.

blogAmy has
some thoughts on woman's sizes; apparently wearing a size 10 makes one a "plus-size" model. When I was a boy I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania. There were a few woman in town who were great beauties; all the men admired. Good full-figured solid women, with beautiful smiles. As I grew older I began visiting the other villages. One about 15 miles to the south had their own beauties; or ladies that town had decided were beauties. To me they looked excessively think, even malnourished. At that point I learned that each person has the own ideas about what beauty is, and that most people will develop their ideas about beauty based on what they are told by their contemporaries. You future people with your TV's and what not have, perhaps, too much consensus on what beauty is.

And that is it for another week. Have an enjoyable weekend all, and remember to do that thing you do.