Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener...
Idle ramblings of an intermittently philosophical nature... Apologies to Martin Gardner, whose The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is one of the best books you've (probably) never read.

An Idle Thought...
What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that [Glenn "InstaPundit"] Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.
--Brian Leiter, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

About Me (the condensed version)
A member of the tail end of the boomers; a middle aged recovering lawyer turned professional computer geek. Native of St. Louis, Missouri, transplanted to Memphis, Tennessee. Avid reader, amateur philosopher, St. Louis Cardinals fan, one of the last Renaissance men.

Note: the RSS/XML feed below is currently FUBAR. No idea yet on when, or if, it will ever come up again. You may want to try the Atom feed below if you have an Atom-enabled feed reader, or you may just have to abandon syndicating me. Sorry; we'll let you know if/when this feed ever gets fixed.

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A bit about me (The uncondensed version) Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything
« ? Verbosity # »

Listed on Blogwise

The liberal alternative to Drudge.

And in case you're interested, here's how many other 'net denizens need a life, or at least more compelling reading:

A blog worth reading:

Bloggus Caesari (Julius Caesar's Warblog)

Two blogs worth reading that I'll plug because the blogger is another Linux geek and a fellow Cardinals fan besides:

Frankly, I'd Rather Not

Other links of interest (to me, at least), in no particular order:

The Daily Howler
Bill Maher Blog
Claim vs. Fact Database (from the Center for American Progress)
The Progressive
The O'Franken Factor
Majority Report Radio
The Gadflyer
Daily Kos
Steve Gilliard's Blog
Whiskey Bar
Just a Bump in the Beltway
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians)
Juan Cole *Informed Comment*
Christopher Orlet
The Online Gadfly
The Crisis Papers
Ted Rall Online
The Smirking Chimp
Talking Points Memo
Molly Ivins
This Modern World, By Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Reuben Bolling
Bob the Angry Flower
Conservatively Incorrect, by Rack Jite
Media Whores Online
Butterflies and Wheels
The Leiter Reports
Nathan Newman
Brief Intelligence
Half the Sins of Mankind
The Swing State Project
Glorfindel of Gondolin
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Missouri Liberal
different strings
Shock and Awe
Gotham City 13
Pen-Elayne on the Web
Empty Days
Censored Story of the Day
Roger's Profanisaurus
Rhonda & Jane present: 525 Reasons to Dump Bush
The Bush Scorecard of Evil
Sherman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog
Quaker in a Basement
World Phamous
NLSO Subic Bay (Navy unit alumni blog.)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Bracing against the wind
Rants Vitriol and Spleen – JRI
Apostate's Weekly
Redbird Nation
Go Cardinals
The Cardinals' Birdhouse
The Birdhouse Annex
The Birdhouse Minor League Report
The Cardinals Fan Site
St. Louis Cardinals Ultimate Fan Site
RedBird Central
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties and Cardinalate (an all-MO baseball blog)
Pro Sports Daily: St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals news
Rob Neyer's column
The Hardball Times
The Baseball Widow
Management by Baseball
Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog
The Select Group of Toys
Pesky the Rat
I, Cringely
The Gripe Line Weblog, by Ed Foster
The Register
Evil Empire
Watching Microsoft Like a Hawk
Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil
Public Defender Dude
Punishment Theory
Savage Cruel Bigots
Treason Online
Hell for Halliburton
Hollywood Lost and Found
Popdex Citations

Rocky Top Brigade:

RTB Lounge
NationStates Region

A Little More to the Right
A Moveable Beast
A Smoky Mountain Journal
The Baseball Widow
Beyond the Whispers
Big Stupid Tommy
Bjorn, Again
Bully Pulpit
Busy Mom
Cas Walker's Coonhunter's Journal
Celtic Grove
Classless Warfare Jane
Conservative Zone
Dagley Dagley Daily
Damn Art Diary
Damn Foreigner
Democratic Veteran
Doc B
Doug McDaniel
Drawing Dead
Elephant Rants
Filthy Hippy Speak
Frank Cagle
Free Speech News
Granny Rant
Growth Spurt
Guy Montag
Hypotheses Non Fingo
In a Mays
Inn of the Last Home
Jaded Journal
Johnson City Stories
Lay Lines
Lean Left
Les Jones
Loco Parentis
Long Pauses
Mike Hollihan
Mike Reed
Mind Warp
Missives Anonymous
Mr. Lawson
My Quiet Life
The Nashville Files
Newton's Kumquat
No Quarters
One Hand Clapping
Pathetic Earthlings
Philosophical Scrivener
Queen Medb's Castle
Rebel Yell
Rex Hammock
Rich Hailey
Road Warrior
Sick of Bush
South Knox Bubba
Southern Reporter
Straight White Guy
Team Rock
The Golden Calf
Up For Anything
Voluntarily in China
Wandering Hillbilly
William Burton
InstaPundit (link removed, because I think Reynolds is an idiot, and he doesn't need the linkage. If you really want to waste your time reading his drivel, you know where to find him.)
Adam Groves (MIA)
Fat Ass Politics (MIA)
Oz's Lion (MIA)
Rapmaster (MIA)
Rush Limbaughtomy (MIA)
Secret City Scene (MIA)
Twelfth Parsec (MIA)
Uncommon Sense (KIA)
Underground Man (MIA)
Xyon's Rambles (MIA)

Memphis Blogs not in the Rocky Top Brigade

Signifying Nothing
m e m p h i s . c o o l (Jon W. Sparks's personal blog)
Sparks on Memphis (Jon W. Sparks's CA blog)
Peggy Phillip
Tread lightly on the things of earth
Rachel and the City
Well, I think I'm funny
Voice of Golden Eagle
when you're 21, you're no fun

The League of Liberals:

Democratic Veteran
The Spy Game
Cosmic Iguana
People's Republic of Seabrook
Philosophical Scrivener
The Mahablog
WTF is it NOW?
blunted on reality
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time
All Facts and Opinions
Dubya's Daily Diary
ARMACT Action Alerts
Cup O' Joe
Grateful Dread on the Web
The Poison Kitchen
Indigo Ocean
The Felonious Elephant
Sick of Bush
Arms and the Man
Rick's Cafe Americain
A-Changin' Times(ACT)
Estimated Prophet
Gotham City 13
Officially Unofficial
The Gunther Concept
The Mudshark
Screaming Points
Ink from the Squid
Left Is Right
Byte Back
The Huck Upchuck
The Sesquipedalian
DeanLand - Dean Landsman's Weblog
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Wilson's Blogmanac
Ayn Clouter
Anarchy Xero

The Liberal Coalition

01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003
02/01/2003 - 02/28/2003
03/01/2003 - 03/31/2003
04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003
05/01/2003 - 05/31/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/30/2003
07/01/2003 - 07/31/2003
08/01/2003 - 08/31/2003
09/01/2003 - 09/30/2003
10/01/2003 - 10/31/2003
11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/01/2003 - 12/31/2003
01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/01/2004 - 03/31/2004
04/01/2004 - 04/30/2004
05/01/2004 - 05/31/2004

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Friday, April 30, 2004

I see what I'm doing tonight....
WGN is showing the Cards/Cubs game tonight. We'll be rooting.

UPDATE: In the words of the late, great Jack Buck: That's a winner! But...the Cubs walked in the winning run? Damn, that must hurt. Fugly, fugly....

But I'm not complaining. At this rate, I'll take a home win any way I can get it.

And the reason for doing this is?
Joe Bob Briggs, in his weekly "Week in Review" email newsletter, makes an interesting observation about Vice President Cheney's recent speech criticizing Senator Kerry at Westminster College in Fulton, MO:

Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush campaign's designated mad dog, kept hammering away at John Kerry's Vietnam war record, and the Republican Party spent $60 million on ads claiming Kerry is not fit to be commander-in-chief--raising the question, "Uh, of all the things you could attack Kerry for, why pick the one thing he a) was decorated by his country for, b) did for a longer time than Bush and Cheney put together, c) did for such a long time that he took more enemy fire than most of the soldiers presently serving in Iraq, and d) volunteered for at a time when most guys his age were trying to avoid the draft?" The man's a Massachusetts liberal, for God's sake, there are LOTS of ways to attack him. This is putting the bazooka on your shoulder with the muzzle pointed backwards.

Figures don't lie, but liars figure....
Received from an email correspondent:

There's an old joke that the Geography Department at the University of North Carolina would tell prospective majors the average salary of graduates with a bachelor's degree in geography from UNC, without telling them that UNC alumnus and NBA star Michael Jordan received his bachelor's in geography....

Not work safe....
But funny as hell: The American Dream? No, Just John Ashcroft's

Requires Quick Time; if you have Real Player, notice that there's a link at the bottom where you can click to access the Real stream.

I'm thinking maybe it's time to get out of Iraq, unconditionally....
I didn't know things had gotten this bad: Iraqi Prison Photos Mar U.S. Image

Photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners drew international condemnation on Friday, prompting the stark conclusion that the U.S. campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis is a lost cause.

"This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. "The liberators are worse than the dictators."

"They have not just lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis but all the Third World and the Arab countries," he told Reuters.

The CBS News program "60 Minutes II" on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison late last year showing American troops abusing some Iraqis held at what was once a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The pictures showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

Sometimes, I'm ashamed to be an American.

UPDATE: The CBS website has more on this story as well.

UPDATE 2: It's nice to know that the U.S. mass media have their priorities straight. Melanie at Just a Bump in the Beltway tells us this:

CNN is broadcasting the Michael Jackson arraignment live. The Iraq prison story got 30 seconds. We are now well into 10 minutes on Michael Jackson.

Neat numbers....
With the Cards' 13 inning, 5-4 squeaker yesterday, Tony LaRussa joined his mentor, Sparky "George" Anderson as only the second manager in MLB history to win 700 games with two different teams.

Congratulations, Tony!

A self-absorbed blog maintenance post.
Oh, just a couple things to occupy my time with.

First, an addition to the blogroll. Ray Mileur, partner in crime with Brian Walton in the perpetration of The Cardinals Birdhouse, has apparently been called to active duty in one of the military reserve components, and is in Korea for a while. For that reason, the Birdhouse will be MIA until roughly June or so, and in the interim Brian Walton will be running The Birdhouse Annex as the mid-season filler for the Birdhouse. We wish Ray the best and hope fervently for his speedy and safe return from Korea, and in the interim we'll keep our eyes on the Annex.

In the spirit of friendly Cubs-baiting in anticipation of this weekend's Cards-Cubs series (one of the great baseball rivalries), Walton (who apparently has a copy of Photoshop and way too much time on his hands) has produced a set of signs in honor of Ray Mileur's "I-95" graphic (which stands for "I believe in 95", in reference to Ray's fervent hope that the Cardinals can win 95 games this year and take the NL Central (Ok, I know, fat chance, but we all gotta dream)). I mention "friendly Cubs-baiting" because there's one sign that makes the Cubs (or One Certain Player) the butt of its joke, but in reality Brian's signage is as much (or more) baiting Mileur as the Cubs. Anyway, check 'em out.

Second, for some strange reason I find myself motivated to see if I can move myself away from Blogger over to another blog management software package this weekend. Ok, ok, it's not a strange reason: I don't keep track of hits (well, not much), but I've noticed recently that there are a number of regular readers/commenters who've gone MIA. Most likely this is because the content here has gone into the toilet in recent weeks, but I've also noticed that the decline in regular commentating also coincides with the recent agonizing death of the Wyethville Community College "RSSify" feed that I'd been providing as an RSS feed, and which several of the regular customers seemed to have been using. While Blogger does provide an "Atom" feed, it somehow generates what must be non-standard XML, because the Atom feed (as noted to the left there) isn't picked up by aggregators or other RSS readers unless they're "Atom enabled"; however the one Atom enabled aggregator that I use "BottomFeeder" (which I like a lot; check it out!) doesn't render the Atom feed correctly. So I'm in search of something that will do a decent RSS feed, and that means bye-bye Blogger.

Because I'm onery, and because I have heard that Moveable Type can be a bitch to set up, I'm investigating Greymatter right now; initial investigation suggests that it may be fairly easy to set up and use, and it appears to have an associated plug-in that will do a RSS 1.0 feed. Anyway, I'm hoping that the experimentation will go smoothly, and that I'll be able to transition to a non-Blogger blog soon. I'm hoping that "soon" translates into "tommorrow", because that will make archiving much more "rational". I'll still be keeping the Blogger archives around, though the Haloscan comments may not be preserved (we'll try to figure out if we can arrange things so that they won't disappear).

Hope the changes are worth it; if nothing else, the ability to generate standard RSS should be worth it.

And I wonder...
what kind of response this will get from Big Stupid Tommy? :-)

From the Cardinals' mailing list:


10 reasons it's better to be a Cardinals fan than a Cubs fan:

1. Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio? Still hurts, don't it?
2. World Series Championships come more than once a century
[Actually, with the current drought of World Series Championships that the Cardinals have experienced--the last Series trophy the Cards brought home was in 1982, remember--I have recurring nightmares that the Cardinals are entering into a Cubs-like slump there --LRC]
3. We don't dread October
4. Two words: Albert Pujols
5. McGwire topped Sosa
6. That's an Arch de Triumph, baby
7. No Curse of Billy Goat
8. Back-to-back winning seasons is an expectation not a cause for jubilation
9. We're home to the Blues, not the ones singing them
10. Thanks for Bruce Sutter, hope Leon Durham is working out

And the reason for this "Top 10" is that the Cards and Cubs are playing in St. Louis this weekend. Dammit; I wish I'd planned better....

WHy does this not surprise me?
From the WaPo yesterday: Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act

The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now.

The lawsuit was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but the case was kept under seal to avoid violating secrecy rules contained in the USA Patriot Act, the ACLU said. The group was allowed to release a redacted version of the lawsuit after weeks of negotiations with the government.

"It is remarkable that a gag provision in the Patriot Act kept the public in the dark about the mere fact that a constitutional challenge had been filed in court," Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said in a statement. "President Bush can talk about extending the life of the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is still gagged from discussing details of our challenge to it."

Damn, these people (i.e., the bAdministration, as if you didn't already know who I was referring to) need to be smacked down. Bad.

Ready for Prime Time?
One of the problems with trying to migrate to a Linux desktop is that, unfortunately, one needs to maintain a degree of interoperability with the unwashed heathens who insist on using Microsoft Winblows and its associated programs. However, it's looking more and more like StarOffice (and its open source cousin, Open Office) may be ready for serious consideration as an office suite:

StarOffice 7 is mature by any reasonable standard. It has the ability to export to PDF (now becoming a necessity for some people, including me) and it can also export to Macromedia Flash. It has a configuration manager for setting up shared work environments and a document recovery capability for damaged files. It also has a whole set of added features, most of which won't matter much to most users simply because office software has been over-featured for years. StarOffice also comes with a copy of the Adabas D relational database, enabled for three users and 100MB of data. I’m not sure why. I never use it.

Is it an adequate replacement for Microsoft Office? For most purposes the answer is undoubtedly "yes". So how painful will the transition be? This depends how heavily you use Office. If your usage is limited to Word processing then Star Office translates files with very few problems. Functionally it is arguably better in some areas, such as dictionary and thesaurus. Its styles capability is easier to work with and it has a navigator window which is useful for long documents.

I doubt if you'll find transition to StarOffice so easy if you are an advanced spreadsheet user. Complex Excel spreadsheets can be read by Star Office but they may not translate well. If you don’t use Excel in a sophisticated way, you won’t care at all. The same goes for Powerpoint.

"But I'm not a Linux geek", I hear you moan... No problem:

Also you don't have to go to Linux to adopt the product - it works quite happily under Windows. However, I suspect that its future and that of the Linux desktop are inextricably bound together.

This is really excellent news. If you aren't familiar with StarOffice/Open Office, try giving it a whirl. It works under Winblows (as noted), and it's free! Hie thyself down to to check it out.

Really, you had to know it was coming...
From The Register: Porno spam with "charity" twist

For those of you looking for a rock-solid excuse to stock up on some top-quality pornography, try this from one Mathieu Guitard.

Poor old Mathieu, who thoughfully attached a picture to his email, is suffering a bit from a nasty skin condition. He has, however, found the perfect cure:


Unfortunately I personally live with a skin problem "psoriasis" witch often ruin any activity or works i'm into, by inflicting itching thus scratching then intense pain that consume all my energies.

There is a good web site about the Psoriasis disease It could be solved simply by going to direct sunlight or by receiving massage therapy (I tried way too many sorts of cream and pills).

As I live in Quebec, the weather is cold... so I plan to move to the southern region very soon.

If you can't help me with any of the above your money can help.

I just found an interesting new way to raise funds. An old well established company "Hustler" To boost payouts on its 4 newest sites give 100$ for every 3$ you put into purchasing (below).

I know it may be hard for some to go through the online form as it may induce you to consume pornography.


So, the next time your other half finds a dog-eared copy of Playboy under the bed, forget the old "I only buy it for the interviews" and try the all-new "Actually, I bought it to support cancer research". A guaranteed winner.

I suppose the next new frontier is "Porno for Christ". I suppose I'd better run to the Patent and Trademark Office to get my claim on that one, if it hasn't already been taken.

Why privatization of Social Security and pensions may not be such a good idea....
Ed Dravo, a professional investment manager in Phoenix, makes some interesting points in a Slate "Moneybox" column today: basically, you're a lousy investor, and if we give you the responsibility to manage your own retirement funds you'll probably fuck it up.

It is a principle of American life--practically gospel--that you know better than anyone what to do with your money. The idea of privatizing Social Security is based on the notion that you'll invest your savings better than the government would. The ascendance of 401(k) plans over guaranteed employee pensions has the same foundation?that employees will make informed and prudent decisions when they invest.

But what if it's not true?

Over the last 20 years, the stock market has averaged a 12 percent annual return. But according to a study by Dalbar Financial, individual mutual fund investors earned only about 4 percent. A survey by Vanguard finds participants in its 401(k) plans earn only about one-half the average?6 percent a year. It is almost impossible to believe, and unpleasant to contemplate, but practically all individual investors are below average.

This is a problem that is beginning to be recognized. Since 1964 Nebraska offered state employees the chance to manage their 401(k)-type plan. Extensive employee education and training seminars were given, and everyone expected outstanding investment returns. But when the state audited the program in 2000, the results were incredibly discouraging--employees were making bad investment after bad investment. So in 2003, Nebraska eliminated employee choice from its 401(k) plan.

Pension funds directed by trustees achieve results that are about 50 percent better than those achieved by individual investors--even though trustees are not professional money managers.

Dravo identifies three reasons for this phenomenon:
  1. Individual investors tend to chase performance. To a layperson it may seem counterintuitive, but institutional trustees, upon seeing one of their investments start to significantly outperform the rest, tend to start withdrawing money from that investment, whereas individual investors, following their intuitions, tend to start pouring money into that investment. Trustee behavior may seem counterintuitive, but it is smart; Dravo points out that, "History shows today's high-performing funds are tomorrow's laggards, so individual investors are choosing investments that are likely to disappoint. Similarly, research shows that individual investors tend to sell securities that will have the highest future returns."
  2. Individual investors tend to be less critical of themselves, and unlikely to purge bad investments from their portfolios; trustees are more likely to unload underachieving funds (the fact that trustees will avail themselves of professional investment advice may be a factor here).
  3. Finally, trustees are more likely to act rationally in their investment decisions because they are accountable to outside interests; legally trustees owe a fiduciary duty to manage the trust corpus responsibly and can be found legally liable for a failure to do so. On the other hand, individuals are responsible only to themselves, and as a result they aren't "running scared" with respect to their investment decisions.
Dravo notes that the policy debates in this area should take account of these facts:

So does this mean 401(k) plans are a mistake, that individual investors are doomed to earn poor returns on their stock market investments? This is an important question for policy-makers to consider. When studying retirement needs, policy-makers assume the market averages are close to what investors are earning in their retirement accounts. If employees are earning only half of the market averages, that means that in coming decades, there could be serious shortfalls in income for retirees.

Things aren't always as they seem....

Thought for the Day:
During a televised debate in the 1999 presidential primary in Iowa, the three Republican contenders, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, and George Bush, were asked what "political philosopher or thinker" had most influenced them and why. Forbes cited John Locke; Keyes, the Founding Fathers; and Bush, "Christ, because he changed my heart." In the clip of this moment that appears in The Jesus Factor, Bush's sincerity is evident; unfortunately, so is his intellectual poverty and lack of historical referents. We're told that he reads the Bible every day (the way some of us might read, say, the newspaper) and that he once brandished a copy of it during a speech on federal funding for faith-based charities, saying, "This is the only handbook you need. This handbook is a good go-by." As the Rev. Welton Gaddy, leader of a liberal Christian coalition, points out, in a nation founded on freedom of religious practice, promoting the Good Book as a manual for public policy is a disquieting choice. Especially since, of the $100 million so far dispensed to faith-based charities by the Bush administration, not one dollar has gone to a Jewish or Muslim organization.
--Dana Stevens [Slate review of the PBS
Frontline documentary, The Jesus Factor]

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Is it just me....
or are those Puma commercials featuring the Jamaican relay team ("Stick, stick, stick!!!") getting seriously annoying?

Interesting analysis....
by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. Josh starts by mentioning a note on Ruy Teixeira's blog which notes an interesting anomaly concerning the poll:

First, consider the question of whether the Iraq war was a mistake. You know when more people than not starting thinking a war was a mistake (remember Vietnam!), the incumbent administration is in real trouble. And Ipsos now has the first example of this. They asked the question: "All in all, thinking about how things have gone in Iraq since the United States went to war there in March 2003, do you think the Bush administration made the right decision in going to war in Iraq or made a mistake in going to war in Iraq?" The response: 49 percent mistake/48 percent right decision. When Ipsos asked the same question four months ago, however, they got a lopsidedly positive reply: 67 percent right decision/29 percent mistake. Quite a change.

Note that this question specifically mentions "the Bush administration"; they also asked the same question with "United States" substituted for Bush administration. That question returns a more positive reply: 57 percent right decision/40 percent mistake. Interesting how the specific mention of the Bush administration apparently moves people toward the "mistake" judgement.

That inspires Josh to engage in some musings of his own:

I've been giving this matter a lot of thought recently. And if John Kerry is going to win this election, he will have to make it, in large measure, an election about accountability.

The president seldom any more makes a positive argument for how things have been handled up till this point. He doesn't admit mistakes, certainly. But what he does and doesn't say is telling.

Most of the president's speeches amount to a) My heart was in the right place and, b) The past isn't what's important. Where we go from here is what's important.

(Look at his ads and you'll see he's making little attempt to make a positive case for himself.)

His partisans chime in with something similar, quickly dismissing any discussion of what's happened up until this point -- all the many mistakes made over expert advice counseling against -- and arguing, militantly, that all the matters now is who has a better plan on where to go from here, etc.

This is certainly true, to an extent. But there's that double matter of accountability. Accountability first, just as a matter of principle. But at some point you have to ask whether the crew that has gotten so much wrong -- making almost every mistake makable in Iraq -- is really the team to get things back on track, to walk the situation back from the precipice. As in so much else in life, we predict the future based on past performance. And if you look at what's happened over the last eighteen months, I think that's a very hard argument for the administration to confront.

Definitely a point to consider. Given that so far, all the Bush bAdministration has shown in the so-called war on Terra™ is bungling and incompetence, can we trust them to suddenly get it right if we give Dubya a second term?

I don't think I'd bet the farm on that.

There may be reasons....
to believe that homosexuality is wrong or immoral, but saying that it isn't "natural" isn't one of them.

An article in the Toronto Globe and Mail reports what we've known for quite some time: there are such things as "gay animals"

The gay rams aren't alone. "There is homosexual behaviour throughout the animal kingdom, documented all over the place," ranging from lesbian macaque monkeys in the forests of Japan to gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York, noted Prof. Perkins, who is now chairwoman of the psychology department at Carroll College in Montana.

Not only that, but there's indications that such behavior is biologically determined, quite possibly at birth:

And the sheep at the experiment station in Idaho are continuing to provide evidence that sexual preference is biologically determined, possibly before birth.

By studying brain samples from the sheep, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland recently discovered distinct difference in the brains of "gay" and "straight" sheep.

In particular, they found that a densely packed cluster of cells in a region of the hypothalamus that plays a role in sexual behaviour was "significantly larger" in rams that preferred females compared with the male-oriented rams.

More than a decade ago, Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist based in San Francisco, made headlines when he published a study that purported to show differences in the hypothalamus region of the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men.

Skeptics initially challenged Prof. LeVay's work. They noted that some of the brain samples had come from men who had died of AIDS and they suggested that the disease, or other factors, might have been responsible for the brain differences.

Now, the study of disease-free sheep brains appears to lend credence to Prof. LeVay's finding in humans. "Our research, for that reason, is important," said Charles Roselli, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Oregon Health & Science University.

I smell a lawsuit....
We learn from CNN that a recreational diver drifted in the water for about 5 hours seven miles offshore when he got separated from his diving group and they just left to dive somewhere else....

The spacecraft engineer for Boeing Satellite Systems and three dive buddies entered the water at about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, but Carlock had problems equalizing the pressure in his ears and he fell behind. He tried following his partners' bubbles, but he lost them.

He decided to end the dive after 15 minutes, but he was 400 feet down current from an oil platform where the boat was anchored. He blew his whistle to attract attention.

"I figured when the dive was over they would realize I was missing and come looking for me," Carlock said.

But they never came. The boat left and headed for a shipwreck six miles southeast of the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Collin Croft.

Um, there's more here than meets the eye. We have a group of 4, and they fail to notice that 1 of the party was missing when they decided to move on? Are these guys just really stupid? Are they stoned out of their minds? Or is "buddies" not really a good description for them?

Some lawyer's going to make a nice contingency fee off'n this one. I can feel it in my bones....

Great Days in History Department:
The daily Doctor Science newsletter tells us that today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Duke Ellington.

A very significant date indeed.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, v. 2.0
The Center for American Progress has a web-accessible online database of conservative distortions of fact: The Claim vs. Fact Database.


Thanks to Rocky Top Brigade demi-god South Knox Bubba for this one.

The Volunteer Tailgate Party keeps getting more and more creative....
Just a couple weeks ago, the VTP host created a screenmap for the portal to the featured posts. In today's VTP, host Busy Mom gives us screen captures (as well as a text summary for those who need their security blanket.

At this rate, I feel less and less disposed to host a VTP; ain't no way I can follow two such boffo acts..... Well done, Busy Mom!

Condi comes clean!
as The Onion scoops everyone else: Sept. 11 Could Not Have Been Prevented Without Accruing A Lot Of Overtime

It all depends on whose ox is gored....
Kos, at absolute worst, spoke ill of those already dead, and the wingnuts demanded that he be hung, drawn, quartered, beheaded, disemboweled, run through a woodchipper, and then have the remains be dissolved in acid and the solution be dumped down the sewer.

Jay Severin (a right wing talk host at WTKK-FM in Boston) says this in response to a caller's suggestion that we should befriend Muslims in this country:

I have an alternative viewpoint. It's slightly different than yours. You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them.

and I haven't heard of any right-wing torrent of condemnation.

I like this comment from the O'Franken Factor blog:

Just a month ago, in a Boston Globe op-ed bashing Air America Radio, Severin remarked that liberals think that people like him are “haters” and “cruel.”

Now, what could have possibly given us that idea?

And Billmon nailed it a while ago:

I could go on about the silliness of singling out Kos and Newman for (Yousefzadeh's words) "disgusting" and "appalling" violations of the Internet Code of Conduct, when there are literally hordes of people at Little Green Footballs, The Command Post and doing uncannily accurate imitations of the Nuremberg defendents on a daily basis.

What we could do...
but for the fact that they're filtering their email, is mail-bomb the White House email addresses with copies of this excellent essay:

I Will Not Shut Up

By Sheila Samples

04/28/04 "ICH
" I've got a few words for George Bush and Dick Cheney, who keep telling me with a smirk and a scowl that "everything has changed" since 9-11. They say I need to show compassion and hug my neighbor -- to find somebody out there I can love like I'd like to be loved myself. We're at war, they say, so just shut up and support the troops.

Back off, chickenhawks. I've spent a lifetime supporting my troops -- my beloved field artillery -- hugging them, loving them like I'd like to be loved myself and being overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of hugs and love I got in return. I was there, shaking my head in wonder as boys arriving for basic training clambered off buses -- long-haired, wide-eyed, apprehensive and dishevelled. And I was there, beaming with pride as proud men emerged ten weeks later -- trim, disciplined, confident and eager to serve their country.

Don't look for me to shut up any time soon. I've got battalions of dogs in this fight, and I take the loss of even one of them personally. There is nothing -- nothing -- more red-white-and-blue than American servicemen and women. In spite of what you two seem to think, American military are not trained to die, but to live. Like you, they have lives, families, plans for the future. But, unlike one of you who smirked as he abandoned his post in time of war, and the other who snarled that he had more important things to do than fight for his country, they don't flinch at the prospect of being wounded or even killed if that's what it takes to protect the rest of us.

Dead or alive, every single man or woman who wears the United States military uniform deserves nothing less than honor, support and -- from the top of Echo Mountain -- recognition. These are MY soldiers -- not yours. So don't toss me a yellow ribbon to tie around a tree. Don't hand me a sign to stick in my yard. And don't tell me to shut up.

Go read the whole thing, it's a gem. Thanks to Democratic Veteran for directing my attention to it.

I know exactly what you mean...
Grad school was a fun way to kill some time, and it's better to drop out of grad school with very little debt than graduate from law school with a huge mountain of debt, only to discover you hate practicing law.
--Brock Sides

Unfortunately, I chose option B rather than option A. But then again, Brock's a much smarter guy than I am. :-)

Colonel David Hackworth...
weighs in on the incompetence of logistical planning in the Iraq War: Thin skins bleed easily

The central theme of Sun Tzu’s timeless book, The Art of War, is for commanders to take care of their troops. If one of his generals had sent warriors into battle with defective chariots, I’ll bet you a fortune cookie that the offender’s head would have quickly decorated the end of a pike.

But that’s far from the case in the 2004 U.S. Army. And a classic example of leadership negligence is our soldiers’ current chariot, the Humvee.

As early as Oct. 3, 1993, the Ranger fight in downtown Mogadishu demonstrated the added value of armored Humvees. Subsequent shoot’em-ups in ex-Yugoslavia proved once again how effectively this rugged vehicle protects our grunts.

Yet the high brass, from SecDef Bill Cohen to Donald Rumsfeld to almost a generation of generals, never bothered to adjust their budgets to buy more armored Humvees. And today, troops are being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan because there aren’t enough of these bullet-and-shrapnel-stoppers to go around.

Why is the armored Humvee in such short supply when after-action reports have been shouting its praises since 1993?


And as the brass ease into the blame game, the thing that frosts me is that no one is being held accountable. Not one head has fallen as legs and arms keep getting blown off and more and more body bags are zipped.

The logisticians are saying the senior commanders didn’t tell them what the requirements were. And the combat skippers are saying that the nature of the war changed from slamming Saddam with an iron fist to fighting guerrillas who use rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices as their weapons of choice.

I don’t buy this bureaucratic game of passing the hot grenade. Long before Saddam’s statue came toppling down in Baghdad a year ago this month, it should have been clear to any career officer with any knowledge of guerrilla warfare that we were about to find ourselves smack in the middle of an insurgent war and needed armored vehicles to more adequately protect our warriors.

But the Pentagon’s Cheap Charlie estimate back then was that a mere 235 armored Humvees would do just peachy-keen for the occupation phase of our misadventure in Iraq. Now, after 720-plus dead and thousands of wounded – and hundreds of Humvees destroyed or damaged – the same geniuses have suddenly concluded that we need more than 5,000 armored Humvees.

The brass’ lame excuse is that they didn’t expect things to turn violent in Iraq. And considering it took months for Rumsfeld to finally admit that our forces were engaged in a guerrilla war, upping the Humvee order early on might have interfered with the all-pervasive miasma of denial – and who knows how many precious careers.

One wonders what kind of fantasy world the civilians at the Pentagon live in, and why the hell don't the uniformed military talk to them in language any idiot can understand?

Old habits die hard...
Another article in El Reg tells us why people are still buying boxed software: they like the ide that they're getting something tangible in return for their money.

Remember how the 'weightless digital economy' was supposed to make shrink wrap retail software as extinct as the dodo? Only a bozo would want to pay a premium for manual and a box.

But shrink wrap isn't dead. Software publisher Avanquest, the new umbrella name for US-based publisher Elibrium, which owns major publishers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom (Guildsoft and MediaGold) and South Africa, saw sales rise 20 per cent last year, and expects 15 to 20 per cent this year.

How can this be so? It turns out people really do like buying something tangible, while for developers who don't want to be deluged in paperwork or start an empire, the model provides a steady royalty stream. Christine Seeleye, CEO of Avanquest USA, told us that retailers like boxed software too, because it provides a healthier margin than the big software companies.

Marketing isn't rational; that's why it's so interesting.

That's compassionate conservatism for you...
From an article in La Reg about President Bush's shilling for electronic medical records:

US President George W. Bush has been on a technology tour lately, promising wonderful things to potential voters and campaign contributors. In addition to his recent broadband promotion scheme, Junior is also promising to unleash the healing power of the database to improve the health of every lucky American who can afford medical care.

And not a minute too soon. The Bush administration is currently fighting to allow employers to drop older retirees from their medical insurance plans, thereby creating an equation of profound Hobbesian elegance that couldn't please the industry more: increased revenue coming from younger, healthier people, and fewer benefits going to older, needier ones.

Thought for the Day:
We know life is futile. A man who considers that his life is of very wonderful importance is awfully close to a padded cell.
--Clarence Darrow

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Dick Gephardt, Vice President?
That was Al Franken's parting shot on The O'Franken Factor today.....

His reasoning? "Dick's from Missouri. Take all the Gore states, then add Missouri, and....."

I wish life were that simple.

Dick was a good congresscritter (he was my congresscritter for most of my life to date), and the Dems could do worse. I can't say that Dick as Veep has a bigger "hold my nose" coefficient than "President Gephardt"; probably, realistically, he has quite a bit less.

I still think he'd rather go back to a corner office at Thompson and Coburn, and wait for a vacant U.S. Judgeship in Eastern Missouri, assuming there's a Democratic administration in his lifetime....

But who knows?

Interesting case....
St. Louis Website Owner Faces Prostitution Case

Way back when I was in graduate school and a regular denizen on the* USENET hierarchy, I remember a vigorous discussion on the question of whether the actors and actresses in "adult films" could be prosecuted under the prostitution statutes. Based on the Missouri statute, my (strictly hypothetical) answer was "yes".

Apparently, to judge from the linked story, the authorities in St. Louis agree with me there.

ST. LOUIS - "They don't want it done here, they want to stop me from doing it here," Isaac (Ike) Sandlin said over the phone from his St. Louis home base. Sandlin's the owner/photographer of, an adult Website which has brought charges of patronizing and promoting prostitution upon him.

Sandlin was arrested in March, facing a May 12 court date since his release on $25,000 bond, three weeks following his March 23 arrest. Who he thought was an applicant to become a site model turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the two met at a mall in February, Sandlin carrying all the required release forms and age verification documentation. He then met the woman and her apparent boyfriend and modeling partner at his rented studio - not realizing he was a sting target.


Even more bewildering to Sandlin is how anyone made a prostitution connection to what he does. Essentially, PlayasEntertainment is a kind of produce-it-yourself adult video source, where you can pick your models, write and submit your script, and have it filmed for small enough costs depending on things like props, costumes, scenery, and other sundry items and settings. Sandlin said he doesn't accept projects involving what he considers extreme.

But he also said his particular kind of Internet and video operation isn't exactly the same thing as prostitution, as one would understand the practice commonly. "I don't know where they get it from," he said. "It's an adult site, people are getting paid for it, paid to perform - you're not being paid for sex, you're being paid to act. But that's the way they look at it.


In recent years, the statute proved the undoing of a couple, Tom and Suzy Wahl, who had taught sexuality techniques by actual live demonstrations. "What they did was, for a fee, they would come and instrucct you or your group on how to perform sexually," Herman said. "It was economically and more environmentally friendly; in-home demonstrations. And they were prosecuted, after being hired by undercover cops and doing their demo, and were charged under prostitution statutes."

I remember the Wahls well, since they first started getting in trouble with the authorities in St. Charles County (the Wahls lived in Lake St. Louis) back when I lived there, though the prosecution involving their "live demonstrations" apparently happened after I left the St. Louis area.

This one might be worth keeping an eye on.

Interesting interpretation....
A caller to The O'Franken Factor is saying (yes, I'm blogging this in Real Time) that she's heard (from no less a personage than the Historian of the Supreme Court) that Bush and Cheney's testimony to the 9/11 commission and other statements made by the President (such as the State of the Union addresss) are in effect "under oath", under the interpretation that the President's (and Vice President's) Oath of Office requires the President (and Vice President) to act honorably in the execution of their duties; this therefore imposes on them a legal obligation to tell the truth in their official statements (even if those statements are themselves not sworn to at the time of their making), and if it can be demonstrated that Bush and Cheney have lied in their official statements this is, in and of itself, grounds for impeachment.

I wonder if this caller has gone to law school? It's a wonderful lawyer's argument--the kind of creative argument you make when you have absolutely no law to back you up, but you have to argue a position that's morally justified. Of course, it won't fly (hint: which party controls both the House and the Senate?)--as Al's scheduled guest said, "This argument rests on the assumption that the government exists to serve the citizens"--but it's still a great argument.

This doesn't surprise me....
but then again, I'm ready to believe anything that is derogatory of Northwestern University Law School, being a very highly disaffected alumnus of that less-than-august institution.

Brian Leiter reports that apparently, Northwestern's law school isn't fond of him for reporting that it's going into the toilet:

Northwestern perhaps has more to complain about: while they're busy navigating a climb in U.S. News [i.e., the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of top law schools --LRC], they don't fare nearly as well on my law school ranking site, and I've also written here about their faculty retention problems. Put aside for a moment that it's all true (I've had both current and former Northwestern faculty write to confirm the accuracy of the posting about the faculty retention problems, for example). I've heard from several prospective law students that when they have asked about the faculty retention problems at the interviews that Northwestern requires for all law students, they are told--yes, you guessed it--that the school rejected me for a faculty position!

I'm not sure what Northwestern is looking for in prospective law students--other, that is, than high LSATs--but it appears they're counting on prospective students not understanding that an ad hominem response like this is unresponsive to a factual question: either Northwestern has a faculty retention problem, or it doesn't, after all. The evidence clearly suggests it does. Why not talk about what the school is doing to change that instead?

Hmmmm.... It doesn't bother me that Northwestern Law School's going into the toilet; I don't practice law anymore, so any loss of their reputation is not only well deserved but won't hurt me in the least; further, I bear them no goodwill, and if the Law School were to close I'd spend a whole month's salary celebrating it. But I am a little bothered that they apparently think that a prospective law student of the caliber that they're trying to attract wouldn't recognize an ad hominem when they're hit with it.

A propos of Karen Hughes's comments last weekend....
I blogged:

What bothers me about it is the very explicit comment that "we value every life".

According to the good people who run the Iraq Body Count website, at a minimum we've killed 8930 civilians in Iraq. At a maximum, there are 10,781 Iraqi corpses which we're responsible for. Mind you, these are civilian casualities, not military casualities. And most of these people are dead, in large part, because of the ham-fisted saturation tactics used by the U.S. military in dealing with the insurgency.

"[W]e value every life"? I don't recall Bush or his puppetmasters ever expressing any concern, any regret, any sorrow over those dead Iraqi bodies.

Yesterday Juan Cole published, in his blog, a letter to Tony Blair on Iraq and the Middle East from 52 British diplomats. Go read the whole thing, but this passage immediately leaped out at me:

The military actions of the Coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them. It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders. Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition. The Iraqis killed by coalition forces probably total between ten and fifteen thousand (it is a disgrace that the Coalition forces themselves appear to have no estimate), and the number killed in the last month in Falluja alone is apparently several hundred including many civilian men, women and children. Phrases such as "We mourn each loss of life. We salute them, and their families for their bravery and their sacrifice", apparently referring only to those who have died on the Coalition side, are not well judged to moderate the passions these killings arouse.

I'm glad there are others out there noticing this.

Highlighting my cultural illiteracy
Silly 'net meme stolen from Big Stupid Tommy. And for my non-apology apology, I probably score low on this because, frankly, I'm not big into fiction. I am much more into learning facts and/or enjoying philosophical speculations than I am reading fiction. Yes, I know, fiction does often deal with philosophical themes; however, I just don't get into it, OK?

If you're playing the home game, copy the list below into your blog, and then boldface the entries you've actually read (footnotes/comments beneath the list):

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot (1)
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote (2)
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis (3)
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick (4)
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion

Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island

Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (5)
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five

Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

  1. Ok I've never read Godot, but I have seen it performed; that ought to count for something; after all it is a play.

  2. One of my favorites, not only because Cervantes includes a delightful little story which incorporate's Russell's Paradox literally centuries before Russell "discovered" it.

  3. Read this one when I went through a Kafka phase in college (wound up buying a couple of volumes of Kafka in the original German, while I was doing my college German courses; that was a trip!). My favorite Kafka reference is to Metamorphosis, and it appears in Mel Brooks's classic flick, The Producers. Goes by really fast though; if you're not paying attention you'll miss it.

  4. Started this one a couple times; never finished it. One day I'm going to make good on that.

  5. The great American novel. There's no other candidate (IMHO) that comes even close. If I have a favorite novel (I'm not sure I do), this is a strong candidate.

From The Cardinals Birdhouse:
It's Early by Leon

"It's early in Spring"
"It's early in April"
"It's early in the Summer"
"It's early in August, the games really count in September"
"It's early in September"
"It's errrrr.... too late."

Web Page o'the Day:

Just go look. Further comment is superfluous.

Thought for the Day:
I don't know who keeps perpetuating this myth that working in teams always equals higher productivity, but enough already. We live in a society nowadays where everybody thinks their opinion is valid. And nobody knows when to shut up and do what I say.

Just a thought.
--Tommy Acuff

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

More evidence...
that George W. Bush is a craven coward who isn't man enough to fight his own battles. From Josh Marshall:

What's the signature pattern of the president's life?

When he faces a challenge or a tough scrape, he lets his family and friends bail him out, do his fighting for him. You see it again and again through failed businesses, legal scrapes, the whole matter of ducking service in Vietnam and then getting help cleaning up subsequent unfortunateness while he was serving in the Texas Air National Guard.

It's even come up again and again on the campaign trail. George W. Bush has faced three opponents (McCain, Gore and Kerry) since he came onto the national political stage -- each served in Vietnam, though each under very different circumstances. He's had his lieutenants attack the service of each one.

So here we have the same pattern again -- no different. The president wants to challenge John Kerry's military service. So he gets Karen to do it for him. You can get tripped in the chutzpah of this because this not only throws light on an earlier period when the president couldn't fight his own fights,
it repeats the pattern.

What more needs be said?

More evidence....
that I just don't "get" the Southern Mystique....

I have Turner South on the TV tonight, only because they're showing A League of Their Own, which is a one of my favorite movies. They just had one of their own network promos. A sultry "country babe" walks towards the camera. She's wearing a gingham top, tied at the front, layered underneath with a cute knit crop top, the whole ensemble showing off a lovely midriff. Short cut-off denim shorts showing off an incredible pair of legs. And of course, barefoot. The announcer, meanwhile, voices over: "The Southern belle. The farmer's daughter.... some think she's just a myth.... We know better."

Thing is, our putative "Southern belle" doesn't open her mouth (which, providing she has the correct accent, is probably the only way we can verify that she is a Southern belle). The picture on the screen, frankly, reminded me most of the iconic "Mary Ann" from "Gilligan's Island". And Dawn Welles is a native of Nevada (as well as being Miss Nevada, 1959).

Some Southern belle she was.

On the other hand, the IMDB's bio for Miss Welles reveals that her nickname is "Pooter", which, if it isn't the quintessential Southern nickname, probably should be.

The spammers really need....
to get someone who's a bit more literate in English to write their spams.

In the in-box today was one of those lottery spams (for those of you who haven't been playing the home game for that long, this is a variant of the Nigerian 419 Advance Fee Fraud scam where someone sends you an email claiming that you've one some multi-million dollar lottery overseas, and in order to collect you need to email us your bank account number.... you get the drift, eh?). Ordinarily I wouldn't take notice of yet another one of these, but the subject line caught my eye:


At first I thought that maybe the guy was trying to tell me that his spam email was of truly magnificent, award winning quality....

Needless to say, it wasn't.

Blasts from the Past Department:
TalkLeft reports that the last fugitive member of the Symbionese Liberation Army has now been sentenced to prison.

Hmmmmmm... I wonder what percentage of the blogosphere remembers the Symbionese Liberation Army. Hell, I wonder what percentage of the blogosphere was even born when the SLA kidnapped Patty Hearst.....

Gem o'the Day:
Funny, isn't it? When Bill Clinton was running against Republican war veterans in 1992 and 1996, the most important thing to GOP propagandists and politicians was that Clinton didn't fight in Vietnam. Now that Republican candidates who didn't fight in Vietnam face a Democrat who did -- and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts while he was there -- the Republican machine wants to change the subject.
--E.J. Dionne

UPDATE: This zinger, just let loose by Marty Kaplan on Air America, is worthy of at least an honorable mention; if you like it better than Dionne's line, I can see where you're coming from:

Have you been following the Saudi charm offensive? It seems that Prince Bandar has been making the rounds of every weekend show, except "Iron Chef".

Required reading.....
A Republican glossary... Cracking Republican code speak

To help matters, here is a greatly abridged glossary of Republican code that voters can use to decipher the coming barrage of demagogic sound bites from the right wing.


Fiscal conservative - Back in the 80s, the idea of fiscal conservation had much to do with cutting government spending and balancing the federal budget. Strangely, the only president to see that goal realized was not a Republican. It was President Clinton. Never mind the fact that the nation- al debt quadrupled during the Reagan-Bush-Quayle era.


School vouchers and faith-based initiatives - These codes are new, a product of the current generation of Republicans. But the ideas that they represent aren't new at all. They are what is commonly known as govern- ment sponsorship of religion.


Pro-life - Without doubt the most controversial of all Republican code- speak, "pro-life" means opposition to abortion. But it also means support for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Since the 80s, CBN has been the voice of the more extreme elements of the religious and political right. Its chief elocutionist, the Rev. Pat Robertson, openly claims to be able to magically deflect hurricanes with prayer. "Pro-life," however, does not mean opposition to death. President Bush, while governor of Texas, signed death warrants for more than 200 people.

This Day In History Department:
As a transplant to the mid-South who has never gotten the whole southern thing ("states' rights", Confederate flag, and all the rest), it gives me great pleasure to note that today is the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant.

UPDATE: XM radio's "History Today" feature notes that April 27, 1969 marks the premiere of Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, and April 27, 1947 marked the final farewell to Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium (including an audio clip of the ailing Babe's words at that event. Touching).

UPDATE 2: And today's "Dr. Science" newsletter, which arrived late today, informs me that today is also the birthday of Walter Lantz, immortal creator of Woody Woodpecker and other classic animations.

Morning Sedition had an interesting interview today....
with Vermont senator Patrick Leahey (ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee) concerning Justice Antonin Scalia's refusal to recuse himself in the case involving VP Cheney's energy task force documents. Leahy noted that the perks of judicial office--being squired around by one's marshals, everyone rising as you enter and seating themselves as you sit, being addressed as "Your Honor", etc., most likely tends to get to one after a while, and no doubt this has only served to fuel Scalia's natural arrogance. [Note: I'm working from memory here, and if anyone has a transcript of Leahy's remarks today I'd be happy to receive a copy of the relevant remarks.]

This does resonate with me. Back before Justice Scalia became a household word, he was a fairly obscure member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. While toiling away in that obscurity, Scalia penned a "My Turn" column for Newsweek. In it, he argued for the abolition of the jurisdiction of the Federal courts in "cases... between citizens of different states" (U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2), the so-called "diversity jurisdiction". Under this clause of the Constitution, civil lawsuits in matters that would ordinarily be heard in state courts, such as personal injury suits, can be heard in Federal court if the parties to the lawsuit are citizens of different states.

In fairness to Scalia, the necessity of maintaining the diversity jurisdiction is a controversial issue in the legal profession (especially among academic experts in Federal civil procedure, who are paid much more than I am to haggle over issues like this). However, the striking thing about Scalia's Newsweek article, as I remember it, was that the academic and policy arguments in favor of abolition or restriction of the diversity jurisdiction weren't the main reason Scalia was in favor of the move. His primary motivation for abolishing the diversity jurisdiction, reading his article closely, was that, as a Federal appeals judge, having to deal with appeals of such cases (which involve the interpretation and resolution of issues of state law, as opposed to Federal law) was somehow beneath his dignity, and unworthy of the consideration of his obviously superior intellect.

Yes. The job definitely went to his head ages ago. Long before he became a Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia was developing his delusions of godhood.

Thought for the Day:
But living as we do in an era when political speech has been reduced to slick messages produced by consultants and pollsters, and staying "on message" is a politician's ultimate goal, the question of how to assess surfaces is the political question of our time. Put politicians under oath in front of special truth-seeking tribunals, and they still dissemble and spin--as we recently saw when Rice herself testified before the 9/11 commission. In such a milieu, the unintentional slip becomes far more meaningful as a cultural moment than it might otherwise be. Indeed, it's the only reason to watch presidential press conference (when this president deigns to hold one), since aside from slip-ups, they're invariably devoid of content.
--Laura Kipnis [in Slate's "Culturebox" column]

Monday, April 26, 2004

I feel compelled to comment....
on Karen Hughes's [in]famous comment from this weekend [re the big pro-choice march in Washington]:

"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

Most everyone who's been commenting on this one (at least most of us in Left Blogistan) have taken umbrage at the implied connection between abortion and terrorism. I have to confess that this didn't bother me that much. Granted, it's the kind of fatuous comment I'd expect from a member of the bAdministration, and maybe that's why I didn't take umbrage at it (well, I don't think I did; does rolling one's eyes and thinking, "Jeez, what a bozo!" count as taking umbrage?).

What bothers me about it is the very explicit comment that "we value every life".

According to the good people who run the Iraq Body Count website, at a minimum we've killed 8930 civilians in Iraq. At a maximum, there are 10,781 Iraqi corpses which we're responsible for. Mind you, these are civilian casualities, not military casualities. And most of these people are dead, in large part, because of the ham-fisted saturation tactics used by the U.S. military in dealing with the insurgency.

"[W]e value every life"? I don't recall Bush or his puppetmasters ever expressing any concern, any regret, any sorrow over those dead Iraqi bodies.

When I first read Hughes's comment, I was reminded of a passage from Pat Conroy's novel, The Great Santini. The protagonist, LTC W.B. "Bull" Meecham, USMC, a Marine fighter pilot, is having breakfast with his wife, Lillian. The significance of this breakfast: the fighter squadron Bull commands has just been placed on alert status as the Cuban Missile Crisis begins to heat up; if the U.S. naval blockade should ignite a shooting war, Meecham's squadron would deploy to Cuba in support of Marine beachheads there. Bull and Lillian may be having the last breakfast together before he heads to war.
Lillian drank a cup of black coffee as she watched Bull inelegantly consume a plate of eggs, biscuits, and country ham.

"Do you ever think of the men you've killed in combat, darling?" she said, trying to begin a conversation. Bull's mind was fixed on other things.

"What?" he answered.

"Do you think of the men you killed?"

"Negative. No sense boo-hooing over dead slants."

"Don't you ever think about their wives and mothers? Or if they had children? Or if they liked to fish or enjoyed a stiff drink?"

"After I set 'em on fire, Lillian, none of those things makes any difference."

"I wish you wouldn't say things like that, sugah. I makes me feel funny to hear you say things like that. It's so strange that I'm married to a man with so little reverence for human life."

"I've got lots of concern for human life as long as it was born between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, and just north of Mexico and just south of Canada. That's why I would love to drop a few bombs on Cuba. I"ve never killed a round eye in my whole career. I've majored strictly in slants."
That's what bothered me most about Hughes's statement--it pretends to some kind of universality, but the bAdministration's policies (both foreign and domestic) demonstrate the blatant exclusivity of our concerns. In spite of the words--"we value every life"--our actions demonstrate that we are far from valuing every life. At best, like Bull Meecham, we value every American life, but our actions clearly demonstrate that the lives of those we are ostensibly trying to "liberate" are worth much, much less in our eyes. And then you can look at the policies of the bAdministration--sending the troops to Iraq without adequate equipment and supplies and attempting to cut combat pay and other benefits for the troops--and you have to seriously question how much we value every American life, for that matter. Looking at the priorities of the Bush bAdministration objectively, one has to conclude that the lives they most value are those which are lucky enough to occupy the top 1/2-1 percentile of wealth in the U.S.

That kind of hypocrisy sickens me.

RTB update time
Just got the blogroll updated. We have some new inductees into the Rocky Top Brigade, who need to be welcomed:
  • The Baseball Widow. I'm especially happy about this one, since I nominated TBW to RTB membership. The blog's devoted to "The frustrations of a woman who will always be second in her husband's heart . . . He follows the game, and I follow him." Rather than doing something destructive about it, like enrolling in law school (actually, she is a law student at UTK and has Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds for her ConLaw prof this semester, but we won't hold that against her), getting a boyfriend, spending her husband's money on cheap booze, or taking her frustrations out on the TV, instead she gives us very interesting posts about baseball and life in general. Well worth reading daily (well, she would be if she blogged daily, but Real Life™ has a tendency to intervene).
  • Cas Walker's Coonhunter's Journal. I'm not from east Tennessee, so I can't speak about Cas, but apparently during his lifetime he was something of an institution over there in The Opposing End of the Volunteer State; apparently he's now back from the beyond to enlighten us as only he could.
  • The Nashville Files Blog: no longer a member in waiting, but a full fledged member of the RTB.
Welcome all!!

Two-party epistemology...
Interesting musing from Juan Cole yesterday:

A new poll shows that as of mid-March, 57% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein had given substantial support to al-Qaeda. Worse, 45% actually say that "clear evidence" has been found in Iraq to support this allegation! As for weapons of mass destruction 45 percent say they believe Saddam had them before the recent war, and 22 percent say that he had a major program for developing them.

There is no documentary or physical evidence for any of these assertions.

Not only is there no evidence, but the lack of evidence is significant. If Saddam Hussein's Iraq did in fact have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to maintain such an arsenal, there would be evidence of that arsenal and the infrastructure to develop and maintain those weapons, even if he was able to either destroy them or somehow move them out of the country. Not only have we not found evidence of the weapons themselves, we've found no evidence of this infrastructure, either. In this case, absence of evidence is in fact strong evidence of absence.

Cole continues:

Why would so many Americans cling to patently false beliefs? One can only speculate of course. But I would suggest that the two-party system in the US has produced a two-party epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. If it were accepted that Saddam had virtually nothing to do with al-Qaeda, that he had no weapons of mass destruction (nor any significant programs for producing them), and that no evidence for such things has been uncovered after the US and its allies have had a year to comb through Baath documents-- if all that is accepted, then President Bush's credibility would suffer. For his partisans, it is absolutely crucial that the president retain his credibility. Therefore, rather than face reality, they re-jigger it to create a fantasy world in which Saddam and Usamah are buddies (as in the Jimmy Fallon/ Horatio Sanz skits on the American comedy show, Saturday Night Live), and in which David Kay (of whom respondents say they've never heard) never recanted his earlier belief that the WMD was there somewhere.

In other words, when the facts don't support your beliefs, change the facts.

One of our gifts to the Iraqi people?
The destruction of 60% of the primary source material for modern Iraqi history. Juan Cole notes:

As a historian of Iraq myself, I can't tell you how it hits me in the gut to have so much of the documentation gone. It means that we will never be able to recover the indigenous side of many developments now known only from the British archives, with their colonial biases.

The Bush economic legacy?
Not just the net loss of jobs under the Bush bAdministration, but the fact that many who are employed are The Working Poor.

Chilling. Simply chilling.

More stupid Web tricks:
The Incredible Winking Jesus

Thanks to Rachel for this one.

Thought for the Day:
I haven't been watching American Idol this season. Frankly it's everything I hate about television rolled into one taco of a program.

But I hear the most "talented" of the contestants was soundly voted off by those of us in the audience, whose keen sense of talent has made possible, among other things, the career success of Ryan Seacrest.

Irony of ironies then that Ryan himself would chastise the audience for their voting faux pas:

"America, don't forget you have to vote for the talent. You have to keep your favorites in the competition. You cannot let talent like this slip through the cracks."

Since when has America been interested in talent? Talent slips through cracks all the time, like water through a subway grate.

And if being untalented were criminal, Ryan Seacrest is Public Enemy Number 1.
--Mark Ramsey [MovieJuice Web Diary]

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Thought for the Day:
The reinterpretation of historical and contemporary events through the lens of distorted Bible reading is nothing new.

The history of dodgy eschatology includes early Christians hungry for martyrdom, the 13th-century Joachim of Fiore who changed his mind about his projected date for the Second Coming as often as his undershirt, John Napier, who in the 16th century believed his discovery of logarithms would speed up the decoding of the number of the Beast, Hal Lindsey--surely a key part of many Ship of Fools' readers teenage years--whose Late Great Planet Earth had so many in a pre-tribulatory tizzy in the 1970s; and none other than Ronald Reagan, who apparently based his administration's policy of environmental rape on the notion that Jesus' impending return meant the earth didn't need us to look after it.

Left Behind is the heir to such behaviour, the main difference being it has better graphics.
--Gareth Higgins []

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Thought for the Day:
I am a member of the Church of Asylumism and believe it is the one and only true faith...

Our church was founded by Dr. I. M. Kookie, one of the world's leading experts on lots of things. In our church, he is called the Prophet Kookie.

As Prophet Kookie has revealed in the Book of Kook, man is not native to this planet. He did not evolve from monkeys, as some people believe, or descend from Adam and Eve, as others insist.

Millions of years ago, a highly advanced race of peaceful, happy beings on a distant planet had a perfect society. But they developed a social problem. A few hundred of them became deranged. Their madness took different forms. Some stole or became violent. Others tried to become lawyers. Some wanted to form political parties. And a few claimed that God spoke to them and told them how everybody should live.

So they were rounded up, put on a spaceship, and a search was made for an uninhabited planet that would serve as an asylum. They found this planet.
--Mike Royko

Friday, April 23, 2004

Y'know, there's something ironic about this....
When a few wacko Catholics (like newly installed St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke) have snit fits over John Kerry taking communion because if his pro-choice policies, it's interesting to note that a "Catholic scorecard" being developed by Democratic Catholic legislators seems to show that Democrats tend to vote more in conformance with the policy positions of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops than Republicans:

House Democrats are preparing a “Catholic Voting Scorecard” in an effort to show that Catholic Democratic lawmakers have adhered more closely to the position of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy on key issues than their Catholic Republican counterparts.

Democratic sources say Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Nicholas Lampson (D-Texas), both Catholics, are spearheading the project, which will compare the votes of Catholic members of both parties on a number of key issues that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops identified as its legislative priorities. Nearly 27 percent of House members are Catholic.

The votes, some of which go back several Congresses, include partial-birth abortion, human cloning, child tax credit refunds, the Defense of Marriage Act, global AIDS relief and HIV/AIDS funding, assistance to needy families and raising the minimum wage.

“Under the misconception that single issues such as choice or gay rights best represent their interests, Catholics are voting for Republican candidates with increasing frequency,” a document accompanying the scorecard stated. The document concluded that “Democratic House members vote with the Catholic interest much more often than their Republican counterparts.”

A preliminary copy of the scorecard obtained by The Hill, which a Lampson aide emphasized is still unfinished, shows that the 67 Catholic House Democrats received an average score of 76 percent, while the 49 Catholic Republican members averaged 64 percent.

Of course, Catholic Republicans immediatly try to play the "true Scotsman" card:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said both the bishops and the Democrats are confusing means with motives. “Many of the issues they’re talking about really have nothing to do with actual Catholic teaching or religion,” he said. “It is interpretation of economic policy.”

He added, “For the most part, certainly on social issues and foreign policy issues, the Catholic bishops pretty much speak just for the Catholic bishops. I would say that they are considerably more liberal than the average Catholic voter is. Many of the issues they’re talking about really have nothing to do with actually Catholic teaching or religion. It is interpretation of economic policy.”

Riiiiiiiiiight.... can you say "cafeteria Catholic", Rep. King?

A real hero....
I first heard mention of this on The O'Franken Factor today; fellow Rocky Top Brigade member tgirsch of LeanLeft writes the first mention I've seen on a blog, and he points me to a news story about it: Former NFL player Tillman killed in Afghanistan

Pat Tillman, who walked away from his professional football career to join the Army Rangers, was killed in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.


Tillman played four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before enlisting in the Army in May 2002. The safety turned down a three-year, $3.6 million deal from Arizona.

[My emphasis--LRC]

And how much have the cable modem commandos given up for their precious war?

Juan Cole spanks Hitchens...
One of his readers referred Prof. Cole to a set of questions about the Iraq war that Christopher Hitchens was asking on his website (see the questions on Cole's website; the link from Cole to Hitchens doesn't seem to work; at least it doesn't point to a column featuring these questions). Cole has a pretty good answer, which doesn't involve answering each of the questions individually:

My reply would be simple. If you are arguing for war, you don't have to ask all these fancy questions. There are really only two questions you have to answer. The first is, would you yourself be willing to die fighting for this cause you have espoused? The second is, would you be willing to see your 18-year-old son or daughter killed for this cause? (I do not ask if you would be glad or satisfied; I ask if you would be willing).

My answer with regard to the aftermath of September 11 and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is, yes, I would have been willing to go fight and die myself to protect my country from another such attack. And, had my son been of age and had he enlisted after September 11, I could have accepted that and everything it entailed.

With regard to Iraq, the answer to both questions in my case is "no." I would not have been willing to risk my own life to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power. And, I would certainly not have been willing to see my son risk his, nor would I like to see him ever sent to Iraq as a draftee, because I believe the entire aftermath of the war has been handled with gross incompetence, and I certainly don't want my flesh and blood mauled by the machinations of Richard Perle and his buddies.

With regard to Mr. Hitchens's questions, most of them are logical fallacies, of the same form as "have you stopped beating your wife?"


These word games are inconsequential. Do you, Abraham-like, offer up your first-born at this altar? That's what nearly a thousand US military families have done with regard to deaths, and thousands more with regard to permanent maimings and cripplings, and what yet thousands more are likely to be asked to do. If it had been me, I wouldn't have ordered them to do it, not in Iraq.

Another question we could throw back at Mr. Hitchens (who, it seems to me, isn't actually doing much for the war effort in Iraq), is whether, if you could only capture one, would you rather have Saddam Hussein in custody, or Usama Bin Laden? Given what we know Usama is planning, I opt for putting all our efforts and I mean all our efforts into capturing him tout de suite. Chasing around Iraq after Salafis and Mahdists doesn't make the homeland even one whit safer.

I guess I panicked too early....
The Cards swept the 'stros, in Minute Maid Park. Dat be good. Though things are going weird right now. Brian Gunn at Redbird Nation notes what can only be described as some early season statistical anomalies, though it'd be interesting if this keeps up:

The Cardinals are trying to do something you don't normally see outside of Coors Field: they're leading the majors in home runs hit (with 34) and in home runs allowed (with 25). That's an insane 4.21 homers per game, more than you'd see in your typical Rockies game (3.46), White Sox game (3.23), or Cubs game (3.21).

Here's another bizarro early-season stat: the Cardinals are a lousy 3-7 at home (second worst in the NL), and a perfect 5-0 on the road. That means if we played all our games at home so far, we'd be in last place in our division. If we played all our games on the road, we'd be in first.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Brian Doolittle, the Cardinals fan half of Royalties and Cardinalate (the Missouri baseball blog) notes that the Cardinals have set a record:

After 15 games the Redbirds have 36 home runs, more than any team has ever had in their first 15 games. The previous mark was 34 by the 2000 Cardinals. The Expos have 26 total runs after 16 games. Where’s Warren Cromartie when you need him?

And in case we aren't sick of "hot starts and on pace fors" (I'm not, but even if I were I'd note this, because I'm a fan of Phat Albert):

Albert Pujols has only one strikeout in 70 plate appearances this year. He is on pace for 150 walks and 12 strikeouts.

For Star Trek geeks....
This news from BBSpot--Paramount Releases Highly Anticipated Service Pack for Star Trek--would be wonderful news, if it were true.

Paramount President Franz Pike said, "We fixed everything, from obvious errors like the glaring differences between Shatner and his stunt double to more obscure fixes like removing Spock's 'third ear' in 'The Immunity Syndrome.' We think fans will be pleased."

Most trekkers are happy with the upgrades. "Star Trek has always been unwatchable to me before the service pack, but watching it now I can almost stomach it," said one fan of The Next Generation.

"I was hoping they'd improve Shatner's acting, but apparently that was intentional overacting," said Sarah Jennings of the Star Fleet Command Outpost based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Go follow the link; the picture there is priceless.

Thought for the Day:
If Bush asked for the briefing, it suggests that he at least cared about the subject; then the puzzle becomes why he didn't follow up on its conclusions. If he didn't ask for the briefing, then he comes off as simply aloof. (It's a toss-up which conclusion is more disturbing.)
--Fred Kaplan [, on the infamous 8/6/01 PDB]

Thursday, April 22, 2004

And here's....
a knotty ethical problem, courtesy of Eric over at Webraw:

I took my son to On The Border for dinner tonight (the wife was still at work). Food was fine and then as we were leaving this old lady, with a couple of bags of OTB chips, started walking out with us. I smiled and headed to my car. Now getting into the car with a four-year-old takes a bit of time and so as I was getting everything settled that chip lady walked up to me and asked me for some money. I really didn't have any money this time (thank God for Visa Check Cards) so I said, "Sorry lady." She turned and walked away.

Now, I won't recount my bizarre history with panhandlers but let's just say I was inspired as I started backing my car out of the parking spot. I noticed that my son was playing with a Ziploc Bag full of toy money and... well... something deep inside said "Do IT!" and so I did. I asked my son if he'd like to give the lady some of his toy money. He said YES! and then I explained that he'd never get it back. He was cool with that and picked two plastic coins out of the bag to give to the old chip lady.

As I crept the car up towards chip lady my boy rolled down his window and stuck his hand out, clenching his toy change. I got the lady's attention and explained that even though I had no money, my son wanted to give her some of his toy money. She busted out a huge grin and I could tell, this had made her day. She blessed us and all that and my son was really happy and I drove away feeling really strange.

Now, I'm looking back at this event and can't decide what to think about it. On the one hand, my son showed true selflessness by giving the chip lady his toy money. That's good right? But on the other hand, I gave toy money to a panhandler, which really is kind of cool in a twisted way but I'm not sure that would get me nominated for parent of the year. Something inside me says it's all wrong. Maybe because the instinct that drove me to say anything to my son is the same instinct that made me make a panhandler cry a few years ago. But then my son was smiling and the chip lady was smiling and so it couldn't be bad... right?

This is almost as interesting a question as the question Brian Weatherson posed within the last month or so (I know, I should link to it but I'm lazy; so sue me): is there a moral objection to throwing pies at zombies, assuming that a) zombies are not conscious entities, and 2) throwing pies at zombies gives pleasure to the people who throw them?

I'll get around to tackling one or both of these in My Copious Free Time. Real Soon Now.


Holy sh*t!!!
According to the Air America website, Memphis will be getting an Air America affiliate "soon". Before St. Louis does. *grumble*

However, I'm not going to regret popping for XM; the music and comedy still makes it worth the rates. What it does mean, is that now I can get all four hours of Randi Rhodes live, rather than having to bear three hours of the Ed Schultz show and then catching the last hour of Randi's show.

Gem o'the Day:
From MaxSpeak's Max Sawicky: Kerry's programs stink. Bush, in contrast, is a monumental screw-up who deserves impeachment. So my electoral choice is straight-forward.

Commentary from overseas.....
Namely The Daily Times in Pakistan: Al Qaeda's favored candidate? George W. Bush! The analysis is by Pakistani-American political scientist Dr. Muqtedar Khan:

Much of soft anti-Americanism worldwide is a result of anti-Bushism. Regardless of what Americans think, most of the world finds President Bush uncouth, obnoxious, arrogant, crude and a bully. His defeat itself will reduce anti-Americanism globally and will increase American prospects for victory in this war on terror.

Will Al Qaeda be happy with these developments? I doubt it. Anti-Bushism has helped them divide the world and the growing anger in the Muslim world as a result of George Bush’s policies has helped them gain recruits, clones and support. If Bush loses in November they will lose an important asset. Al Qaeda will become the sole target of US energies and surely that must be a disturbing thought to even those who relish the idea of dying while fighting America.

If George W Bush wins in spite of a terrible economy and millions of job losses:

1. He might interpret the victory as an endorsement of his anti-terror strategy and probably continue to expand the scope and objectives of his war on terror. Perhaps regime changes in Iran, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be back on the ‘to do’ list. It is possible that Spain may also figure on the list of regime changes.

2. It is also possible that many European and Middle Eastern states may stop cooperating with the US. Already many nations resent President Bush’s policies and style, they may begin to actively oppose his global agenda. The easiest way to do so is to withdraw from the coalition and call for more UN participation. We might see more and more nations following Spain’s example and disengaging from the American bandwagon.

All of the above will help Al Qaeda pursue its strategic goals: undermine the West, hurt Americans and American interests, destabilise politics and economies in South Asia and the Middle East and cement the growing cleavages between the US and Europe and the US and the Muslim World.

It is in Al Qaeda’s interest that President Bush stays in the White House. Thus at the moment they are anti-American but Pro-Bush.

And a footnote to a review in the New York Review of Books echoes this:

A statement from al-Qaeda following the Madrid bombings clarified this intent. It said the organization hoped George Bush would win reelection, "because he acts with force rather than wisdom or shrewdness, and it is his religious fanaticism that will rouse our (Islamic) nation, as has been shown. Being targeted by an enemy is what will wake us from our slumber." Quoted on the Arabic news Web site "Bayaan lil qa'ida yuhhammal tawqi' kataib abu hafss al massri," March 17, 2004.

Also at Juan Cole's site....
the complete text of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony. Go read it for some excellent insights from someone who really knows what's going on. Unlike the Bush bAdministration.

Juan Cole...
has a fascinating post up today about the weirdness of appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the same "expert" panel with Richard Perle (who, as Cole points out, is no Iraq expert; I hope he took the opportunity to point that out to the committee):

It was quite an experience to be on the same panel on Tuesday with Richard Perle and Toby Dodge, before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Perle wasn't added until the last minute, and it is mysterious why he was there, since ours was supposed to be an "expert" panel. Dodge has an important book on Iraq. Originally Ahmad Hashim was going to be on with us (he came Wednesday instead), and then we heard Perle had been put on. Perle, of course, is no Iraq expert. He doesn't know a word of Arabic, and has never lived anywhere in the Arab world.

Perle's entire testimony was a camouflaged piece of flakking for Ahmad Chalabi. He complained that the State Department and the CIA had not created a private army for Chalabi and had not cooperated with him. Perle did not mention Chalabi's name, but it was clear that was who he was talking about (State and CIA famously dropped Chalabi in the mid-1990s when they asked him to account for the millions they had given him, and he could not).

In fact, Perle kept talking about "the Iraqis" when it was clear he meant Chalabi. He said the US should have turned power over to "the Iraqis" long before now.


But anyway, what struck me was the contradiction between Perle's insistence that the US should have handed power over to Iraqis months ago, and his simultaneous
opposition to free and fair elections. The only conclusion I can draw is that he wants power handed to Chalabi, who would then be a kind of dictator and would not go to the polls any time soon.

Perle also at one point said he didn't think the events of the first two weeks of April were a "mass uprising" and said he thought Fallujah was quiet now. (Nope).

It is indicative of the Alice in Wonderland world in which these Washington Think Tank operators live that Perle could make such an obviously false observation with a straight face. Even a child who has been watching CNN for the past three weeks would know that there was a mass uprising. (Even ten percent of the American-trained police switched sides and joined the opposition, and 40% of Iraqi security men refused to show up to fight the insurgents.)


It reminded me of the scene in
Ladykillers where the fraudsters set off an explosion in a lady's basement, and she hears it while outside in a car, and is alarmed, and the Tom Hanks character says in a honeyed southern accent, "Why, Ah don't believe Ah heard anything at all." I could just see Perle in a Panama hat at that point playing the character.

It is deeply shameful that Perle is still pushing Chalabi, and may well succeed in installing him. Chalabi is wanted for embezzling $300 million from a Jordanian bank. He cannot account for millions of US government money given him from 1992 to 1996. He was flown into Iraq by the Pentagon (Perle was on the Defense Advisory Board, a civilian oversight committee for the Pentagon) with a thousand of his militiamen. The US military handed over to Chalabi, a private citizen, the Baath intelligence files that showed who had been taking money from Saddam, giving Chalabi the ability to blackmail large numbers of Iraqi and regional actors. It was Chalabi who insisted that the Iraqi army be disbanded, and Perle almost certainly was an intermediary for that stupid decision. It was Chalabi who insisted on blacklisting virtually all Baath Party members, even if they had been guilty of no crimes, effectively marginalizing all the Sunni Iraqi technocrats who could compete with him for power. It was Chalabi who finagled his way onto the Interim Governing Council even though he has no grassroots support (only 0.2 percent of Iraqis say they trust him).

Now Chalabi's nephew Salem has been put in charge of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Salem is a partner in Zell and Feith, a Jerusalem-based law firm headed by a West Bank settler, in which Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for Planning, is also a senior partner when not in the US government. You can be assured that the trial will be conducted on behalf of the Bush administration and the Neocons, and on behalf of the Chalabis. Since the Chalabis have been trying to overthrow Saddam for decades, it is hard to see how this can have even the appearance of an impartial tribunal.

Anyway, Perle was just a one-note Johnny, with his whole message being "We must give away Iraq to Ahmad Chalabi yesterday! That will solve all the problems."

If the Bush administration listens to Perle and puts Chalabi in as a soft dictator, it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Iraq enterprise. The whole thing is already going very badly wrong. Chalabi will play iceberg to the Iraq/Bush Titanic.

It would be really interesting to know the list of secret promises Chalabi has given Perle (and presumably the Israelis through Perle) that would explain this Neocon fervor for the man.

By the way, that Jordanian bank that Chalabi embezzled from in the 1980s? There has been speculation that he was using it to launder Iranian money for the Khomeini war effort against Saddam. So perhaps from his point of view, he hadn't so much embezzled $300 million at the end, but rather collected his retainer from Tehran.

There's an old saying....
watch what you ask for, because you just might get it.

I see that the GOP made a big stink about Senator Kerry not releasing his military records. In response, Senator Kerry released his records, and it sure as hell appears to me that it's a fine record. Much, much better than Bush's record of underachievement in the Texas Air National Guard.

Daily Kos does two comparisons of the two candidates' service to their country. It's instructive to take a look at either:

Bush vs. Kerry, the long form:

While at Yale
Enlisted in the US Naval Reserves. Feb. 18, 1966

Bush received student deferments until June 1968; that year marked the height of the Vietnam draft. [Washington Post, 7/28/99]

Applied for spot in Texas Air National Guard in January of 1968, before graduation. Before he graduated, Bush personally visited Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt -- the commander of the Texas Air National Guard -- to talk about the Guard.

After Bush met with Staudt, he applied and was quickly accepted -- despite a waiting list of over 150 applicants.

Contrary to Bush's denials of special treatment, it was later disclosed that a personal friend of Bush's father had secured the spot in the Guard for Bush.

Bush later acknowledges he entered Guard to avoid going to Vietnam: "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." [Houston Chronicle, 5/8/94]
After Graduation
Enters and Completes Officer Training School

Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard after his student deferment ran out when he graduated from Yale in 1968.

"His score on the pilot aptitude section, one of five on the test, was in the 25th percentile, the lowest allowed for would-be fliers." [Dallas Morning News, 7/4/99]

Bush received a direct appointment, allowing him to become a second lieutenant right out of basic training without having to go though officer candidate school. The direct appointment also cleared the way for a position in pilot training school. [Houston Chronicle, 10/10/92; Los Angeles Times, 7/4/99]

On Bush's application to the 147th Fighter Group at Ellington Air Force Base in Texas, Bush was asked what his "Area Assignment Preferences" were. Bush checked the box beside "Do Not Volunteer" for overseas duty. [Application for Extended Duty With The United States Air Force, 5/27/68]
First Assignment
Deployed to Western Pacific to Support Operations in Vietnam

In the summer of 1970, Bush moved into the Chateaux Dijon apartment complex, "a popular spot for singles, it offered fancy street lamps and striped awnings and six pools filled with ambitious secretaries, students and young businessmen. Bush relished his bachelor life there. He played hard, plunging into all-day water volleyball games, but left frequently for 24-hour flight duty in the alert shack at Ellington Field." [Washington Post, 7/28/99]
Request for Second Post
On Feb. 10, 1968, Kerry requests duty in Vietnam. He lists his first billet preference as an Officer in Charge of a swift boat and his second as a patrol officer in a River Patrol Boat (PBR) squadron.

In May 1972, Bush gets a job on an Alabama Senate Campaign. He leaves Houston and requests transfer to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Alabama. Although Bush notes his aeronautical rating as "flying status," his request is turned down because the 9921 was a postal unit. His transfer is later approved to a different Alabama unit. [AF 1288--Bush signature, 24 May 72; Approved: 26 May 72]
Second Assignment
Kerry leaves his post on the Gridley, and becomes a student at the Naval Amphibious Base, in Coronado, California in preparation for service on a swift boat in Vietnam. He is promoted from Ensign to Lt. JG and extends his active duty commitment by six months.

While in Vietnam Kerry is involved in more than a dozen missions receiving hostile fire.

He is wounded three times and decorated with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. Kerry is ordered by Naval regulations to return home after being wounded three times.

During Bush's service in Alabama:

He is suspended from flight status for his failure to take required annual medical exam. [Washington Post, 2/15/02; Aeronautical Orders, Number 87, 29 Sept 72; AFM 35-13, Para 2-29m]

He attends the Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida with his father. [Bill Minutaglio, First Son, p. 144].

Pay records released by the White House show that he was paid for 2 days service during the six-month period covering the Blount campaign. [White House Release: Bush Pay Records]

Bush's superior officers were unable to complete his annual evaluation for 1972 because, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report." [AF-77, 2 May 73]
Additional Service
Completes Full Active Duty Commitment

According to records released by the White House itself, Bush may fallen short on minimum requirements expected for Guard members. Bush served 25 days of combined active and weekend Guard duty between May 27, 1972 and May 26, 1973, even though minimum requirements were one weekend a month--24 days a year--plus another 15 days of active duty. Moreover, in 1973 Bush received 15 extra (called "gratuitous") points toward the 50 points needed each year toward his retirement. Guard members commonly received such extras if they had already met the minimum 50 points each year without the additional points. Bush only earned 41 points during the 1972-3 year. According to Wayne Rambo, who was chief administrative officer of the Alabama unit to which Bush was assigned, "that would have been a decided violation of the norm" because extra points were meant "only as a reward to reservists for meeting their bottom line." [Boston Globe, 2/11/04; Memphis Flyer, 2/16/04]
Bush vs. Kerry, the short form:
Intelligent, mature and rich in educational background and experience, Ens Kerry is one of the finest young officers I have ever met and without question one of the most promising.

Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report.

Thought for the Day:
Add it all together and it amounts to one ugly pitching staff. How bad? Check this out:

Opposing Batters this year: .288/.349/.515
Eric Chavez last year: .282/.350/.514

This is a truism: it's hard to win games when your pitchers turn every opposing hitter into Eric Chavez.
--Brian Gunn [Redbird Nation, on the 2004 Cardinals pitching staff]

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

From the wonderful minds at The Onion:

Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department
CHEYENNE, WY--After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

I belong to the internet polling population for the Harris Poll; as a result I am solicited, from time to time, to fill out surveys on various topics. Got such an invite today, inviting me to share my opinion on a number of issues; about half the poll was out and out political, and dealt with the Presidential elections. The interesting thing about Harris internet polls is that there's an "instant results" feature that lets you see what the result are to date. Sort of like the various website polls you see, but you can figure that the Harris folks are a bit more reliable in their sampling, etc.

The results on a couple questions surprise me, though. When asked whether they approve or disapprove of how President Bush is handling his job as President, about 55% of the respondents say they "approve" (N.B.: the choices were simply "approve" or "disapprove").

When asked how likely they were to vote for President Bush in the upcoming election (choices were simply "likely" or "unlikely"), 53% of the respondents answered "unlikely".

Interesting disconnect in the sample here. Or so it seems to me; there's a significant number of folks who are saying, "I approve of the job he's doing, but it's time for a change".

As long as we're talking good news for Sen. Kerry, on Air America's Morning Sedition today they interviewed Crossfire's Paul Begala, who went out on a limb with this one:

Let me tell you why George Bush is going to lose this election, based on 20 years experience as a political consultant. The undecideds always break for the challenger. They never go for the incumbent.

I hate living in interesting times.

Today, on The O'Franken Factor...
a new feature--The Right Wing Non-Lie of the Day. Today's:

Mother's Day coming up.
--Bill O'Reilly

With this, we learn that....
Doonesbury will bear watching for the next few days or weeks, as we see that B.D. lost his left leg in Iraq.

For myself, I'm hoping that G.B.Trudeau's going to stick it to Bush for his contemptible treatment of wounded Iraq vets. However it turns out, it's going to be interesting....

From El Reg today....
The Linux desktop: it's closer than you think. Or so implies this story: Novell eats own dog food, moves to Linux on desktop.

I count that as good news, though in fairness, there are still quite a few bugs in the system, at least according to Fred Langa. I hope that the Linux distros can get them worked out--soon.

Yesterday being the fifth anniversary of the Columbine High School killings....
Slate ran a fascinating story on the incident: The Depressive and the Psychopath--At last we know why the Columbine killers did it. Kudos to the authors for their sidebar debunking some of the myths surrounding the incident, especially this one:

Christian Martyr Cassie Bernall: One of the killers allegedly asked student Cassie Bernall if she believed in God, then killed her when she said yes. Bernall became a revered figure among evangelical Christians. In fact, one of the killers posed the question to another girl, Valeen Schnurr, after she had already been shot. They had a short exchange, he reloaded, got distracted, and she crawled away to safety.

And I found this rather interesting:

The psychiatrists can't help speculating what might have happened if Columbine had never happened. Klebold, they agree, would never have pulled off Columbine without Harris. He might have gotten caught for some petty crime, gotten help in the process, and conceivably could have gone on to live a normal life.

Their view of Harris is more reassuring, in a certain way. Harris was not a wayward boy who could have been rescued. Harris, they believe, was irretrievable. He was a brilliant killer without a conscience, searching for the most diabolical scheme imaginable. If he had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.

Sometimes life works out for the best, even when it doesn't look like it.

Thought for the Day:
Arthur Dent: You know, this explains a lot. All my life I've had this unaccountable feeling in my bones that something sinister was happening in the universe, and that nobody would tell me what it was:
Slartibartfast: Oh no, that's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that.
Arthur Dent: Everyone?
Slartibartfast: Everyone.
--"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A reason to get depressed. Very depressed.
Once upon a time, about the only thing you could say in favor of flying on an airliner is that the flight attendants would instruct everyone that cell phones were to be turned off for the duration of the flight.

Soon, that mobile phone free oasis may be a thing of the past. This from eWeek: Project to Enable Mobile Phone Use on Planes

Quoth the resident curmudgeon on the SKEPTIC mailing list: Mark my words: there will come a day when you will BEG the ticket agent to seat you next to the teething baby...

Gem o'the Day:
Quoted by Bob Somerby in The Daily Howler. From this morning's (4/20/04) letters to the New York Times:

To the Editor:

David Brooks (column, April 17) says, "To his enormous credit, the president has been ruthlessly flexible." Yet when John Kerry demonstrates this quality, it is defined as "wavering" and "indecisive."

A curious contradiction.

Santa Rosa, Calif., April 17, 2004

A Freudian slip?
Is Condi wanting hot monkey love from the Chimpanzee in Chief? Well, really, it would seem she's wanting a more committed relationship. From New York magazine, we get this item:

A pressing issue of dinner-party etiquette is vexing Washington, according to a story now making the D.C. rounds: How should you react when your guest, in this case national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, makes a poignant faux pas? At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, “No comment.”

"[S]eemed more psychologically telling than incriminating"? No shit, Sherlock! Though I'd never have thought that George Dubya Bush would himself be wanting a taste of brown sugar... There's a story here waiting to be told....

I got this from TalkLeft, myself....

UPDATE: Steve Gilliard seems to be taking this somewhat seriously (scroll down to Monday, April 19, 2004's entry titled "About that small plane, Mrs. Bush"):

Poignant? Maybe if you're Laura Bush. If I was her, I'd stay out of light aircraft for the next decade or so. If her husband ever suggests it, she needs to remember Paul Wellstone. While I don't think he was assasinated, the risks of light aircraft are pretty high.

You could call it a freudian slip if you want, but let's get real. Bush has kept Rice's incompetent ass around past any normal justification. Given the Bush history of fidelity (pops hired his mistress as White House chief of protocol), it is far from impossible that GW is tapping Rice or at least thinking really hard about who his second wife will be.

I mean, unless she secretely married someone, Rice has some very strong feelings for her boss, and I don't think they stop at the like/respect line. If Laura Bush gave a damn about more than her smokes, Xanax, Charodnnay, and her trollope daughters, she might not like her husband's closest advisor calling him her husband. Unlike the married and able to leave Karen Hughes, who was probably smart enough to cultivate Laura to keep her off her back, Condi seems to have had a different goal from day one. While being First Lady is impossible, being the next Mrs. George Bush is not.

After all, like a good born-again Christian, dumping your wife is par for the course. After a couple of years on the pig farm, some brown sugar might be all too sppealing. And does anyone get the feeling that Condi wouldn't love to replace Laura?

I mean Clinton, who was stupid in tapping a 25 year old for blowjobs, at least was treating Lewinsky like the disposable office ho. He went a bit far in stringing her along, but his behavior was at least recognizable, if despicable. It wasn't like he expected her to replace Hillary, except in his most maudlin moments.

Bush, otoh, would clearly be looking for a full replacement. Hillary could at least blame her husband's dick. If Laura got dumped, it would be an act of comission. Condi is more accomplished than his wife by degrees. And given how sympathetic Barbara Bush is, she'd be living in a Houston condo faster than you can say mistress, chugging down booze, popping Xanax and wondering what happened as she kept her mouth shut.

I can see this whole thing, the stolen kisses (never more than that, plausable fildelity here), the lingering looks. It would be romantic if it wasn't creepy and disgusting. You don't think during Bush's Prince Hal days that he kept the trouser snake in a cage, do you? Dad reportly used hookers for some parties, why not GW?

Seriously, time is the greatest aide to romance. The more time you spend with someone, the easier it is to be attracted to them. And given that Rice is single and pushing 50 and has a neglible social life, it is natural that she feel some attraction to her boss. The creepy part is that you get the feeling that Bush is not immune to her charms. While he keeps his wife around, you just get the feeling that he might be looking for a upgrade.

If you think that's impossible, I have one name for you: Newt Gingrich. Dumped his first wife while she had cancer. Dumped his second wife over the phone and took up with a 25 year old Hill Rat. And given the rumors about Jeb, Neil's messy divorce and dad's cheating, being surprised that Condi may well wind up being Condi Rice-Bush, is naive to say the least.

to Rocky Top Brigade member Doug McDaniel on the imminent publication of his book, Asheville. Well done!

I'm not afraid to admit it....
I'm just mild about Kerry.... The one advantage he has with me right now is that he's not George W. Bush, and while I'll probably vote for Kerry (assuming I don't drop dead first), it's going to be a "hold my nose" moment.

That being said, this bothers me. From the Boston Globe: Kerry refuses to release more records

The day after John F. Kerry said he would make all of his military records available for inspection at his campaign headquarters, a spokesman said the senator would not release any new documents, leaving undisclosed many of Kerry's evaluations by his Navy commanding officers, some medical records, and possibly other material.

Kerry, in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," was asked whether he would follow President Bush's example and release all of his military records. "I have," Kerry said. "I've shown them -- they're available for you to come and look at." He added that "people can come and see them at headquarters."

But when a reporter showed up yesterday morning to review the documents, the campaign staff declined, saying all requests must go through the press spokesman, Michael Meehan. Late yesterday, Meehan said the only records available would be those already released to this newspaper.

Come on, Senator. Be a better man than Dumbya (granted, that's not terribly difficult....)

Thought for the Day:
Ginsberg's Theorem:
You can't win. You can't break even. You can't quit the game.

Freeman's Commentary on Ginsberg's theorem:
Every major philosophy that attempts to make life seem meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg's Theorem. To wit:

1. Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win.
2. Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break even.
3. Religion is based on the assumption that you can quit the game.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Oh crap....
I'd wanted to catch John McCain's appearance on The O'Franken Factor today. Unfortunately, a prior commitment made that impossible. But Paul Waldman, at The Gadflyer's blog fills me in on what I missed:

On today's O'Franken Factor, Al Franken was interviewing John McCain. Franken brought up the 2000 South Carolina primary, where McCain, like his opponent George W. Bush, refused to take a position on whether the Confederate flag should fly over the state capitol.

As he has before, today McCain called his failure to say what he felt about the issue "an act of cowardice on my part."

Now granted, McCain has demonstrated enough courage in his life that he has room to acknowledge when he fails to show that quality. But it's still shocking to hear a politician describe his own actions in such a candid and self-aware way.

The contrast with our president, who when asked can't even come up with a single mistake he's made, is truly remarkable.

The Republicans really, really fucked up by nominating President Craven Coward instead of Sen. McClain.

Coulda/woulda/shoula. I wish somebody would have challenged Bush in the Republican primaries. A lot of issues would have been fairly aired out by now.... and perhaps Dumbya would even be out of it by now.

Paul Waldman, at The Gadflyer....
takes on the latest Bush slime of John Kerry:

The latest television ad from the Bush campaign is another attempt to convince people that John Kerry is an enemy of our soldiers. Like a similar one already on the air, this ad takes a single one of Kerry's votes--his opposition to the $87 billion supplemental appropriation funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan--and with a little Senate roll call re-enactment makes it appear as though Kerry actually cast three separate votes, one against "funding our troops," one against body armor and higher combat pay for soldiers, and one against improved health benefits for reservists.

This is what my people call "chutzpah," and not just because it makes one vote seem like three. George W. Bush, who, the ad tells us, "approved this message," sent those troops to war without proper body armor, tried to cut combat pay for soldiers, and cut veterans' health benefits.

I've not seen the ad that Waldman cites. I hope to God I don't. If I do, I'm liable to get mad enough that my blood pressure will shoot up to dangerous levels, and I'll probably have a stroke and die. I can't imagine the bald faced, unapologetic nerve of George W. Bush trying to run as "the friend of the troops".

Not everyone is fooled by Dubya, though. Let me refer you to an editorial in that noted left-wing journal, Army Times (June 30, 2003):

Nothing but lip service

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap--and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary--including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there's military tax relief--or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can't seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

Incredibly, one of those tax provisions--easing residency rules for service members to qualify for capital-gains exemptions when selling a home--has been a homeless orphan in the corridors of power for more than five years now.

The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.

The Senate version of the defense bill rejects that idea, and would provide minimum 3.7 percent raises for all and higher targeted hikes for some. But the House version of the bill goes along with Bush, making this an issue still to be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.

All of which brings us to the latest indignity--Bush's $9.2 billion military construction request for 2004, which was set a full $1.5 billion below this year's budget on the expectation that Congress, as has become tradition in recent years, would add funding as it drafted the construction appropriations bill.

But Bush's tax cuts have left little elbow room in the 2004 federal budget that is taking shape, and the squeeze is on across the board.

The result: Not only has the House Appropriations military construction panel accepted Bush's proposed $1.5 billion cut, it voted to reduce construction spending by an additional $41 million next year.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, took a stab at restoring $1 billion of the $1.5 billion cut in Bush's construction budget. He proposed to cover that cost by trimming recent tax cuts for the roughly 200,000 Americans who earn more than $1 million a year. Instead of a tax break of $88,300, they would receive $83,500.

The Republican majority on the construction appropriations panel quickly shot Obey down. And so the outlook for making progress next year in tackling the huge backlog of work that needs to be done on crumbling military housing and other facilities is bleak at best.

Taken piecemeal, all these corner-cutting moves might be viewed as mere flesh wounds. But even flesh wounds are fatal if you suffer enough of them. It adds up to a troubling pattern that eventually will hurt morale--especially if the current breakneck operations tempo also rolls on unchecked and the tense situations in Iraq and Afghanistan do not ease.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, who notes that the House passed a resolution in March pledging "unequivocal support" to service members and their families, puts it this way: "American military men and women don?t deserve to be saluted with our words and insulted by our actions."

Translation: Money talks--and we all know what walks.

Fortunately, from what I've been hearing, Dumbya can't take the military vote for granted this election; the troops know who's really responsible for the shameful way they've been treated, and it's not Senator Kerry.

Let's get a sense of perspective here....
From Bernie Miklasz's column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday:

The Blues have teased the fans by making the playoffs for 25 consecutive years but still haven't come close to winning the Stanley Cup.

Oh puhleeze!!!! I'm sorry, but the NHL playoffs are a joke. The only way that an NHL team can not make the playoffs is to finish dead last in their division. Plenty of those 25 consecutive years, the Blues were a joke, and would never have made the playoffs in any sensibly run league (granted, however, the Blues were past masters at blowing it in the playoffs when they were considered one of the best teams in the league, but I don't hold that against them; I think that consistency is a virtue that's too little appreciated in this day and age).

Hmmmmmm.... the logical conclusion would seem to be....
On Air America, Randi Rhodes is playing audio from the Bob Woodward segment on 60 Minutes, since she's incensed about the revelation that Bush misappropriated (i.e., that's legalese for "stole", you laypersons) money which Congress approved for the Afghanistan campaign and applied it to his war plans for Iraq. At the beginning of the segment, we get this quote:

We are going to rid the world of the evildoers.
--George W. Bush

Seems to me, that if Dubya is serious about this, he should kill Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, et al., and then commit suicide.

Well, I'll let him spare Powell, who's more of a sniveling, contemptible toady, rather than strictly evil.

We get comments!
Down below, I blogged about a bit of an altercation at the home of Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford: Wanting so bad to be a fly on the wall... I was tempted to repost it here, just to bring it up to top o'the page, but I'm going to forego that temptation. My permalinks look like they're bloggered though *grumble*, so you may have to either do a "find" for the title (or at least part, try searching on "wanting so bad" or "fly on the wall") here (if you read this in the next couple days) or on the archive page if you follow the archive link, which will open in a new window (not my usual practice for links in posts, but I don't want y'all getting lost...).

Anyway, while checking my comments, I was surprised to see the following comment, from someone signing her/himself "no name", tagged to the post:

ray and i have a 8 month old son together that he is NOT, may i repeat NOT taking care of. i did not punch him, he punched me in the face. funny how the newspapers refused to report the fact that i have a paternity suit against him. now you know!!!

Wow! Sometimes you get what you ask for! Maybe. Of course, the lawyer in me can't resist making the following comments:

ray and i have a 8 month old son together that he is NOT, may i repeat NOT taking care of.

Of course, I don't know that the comment author is in fact Lisa Rose (Note to Ms. Rose, if it is you: I appreciate your desire to retain your incognito, but the Post already spilled the beans, if this is you, so I hope you don't mind my identifying you here by name); I do note that the email address given does resolve to a real email address, but there's no identifying information associated with that, of course. If the commenter is Ms. Rose, the claim that she makes here isn't at all implausible; this kind of behavior is common to male celebrities in general, and pro athletes in particular (well, the knocking up of young ladies without benefit of wedlock, that is; I'd hope that most pro athletes are a bit more conscientious about supporting their inadvertent sprog, since they generally have the wherewithal to do so).

i did not punch him, he punched me in the face.

In fairness to Ms. Rose, the Post story that I linked to in my original post does quote Ms. Rose's lawyer as stating that this is Ms. Rose's side of the story. And, to be totally fair to her, it isn't that implausible. The Post story alleges that a Creve Coeur police officer gave a statement to the effect that he saw Ms. Rose punch Lankford, but that's not inconsistent with Lankford hitting her first; we're not aware of the response time of the Creve Coeur police to the incident, nor are we privy to what transpired before the officer got to the scene.

funny how the newspapers refused to report the fact that i have a paternity suit against him. now you know!!!

Hmmmmmm.... Is that something that the newspapers know about? Granted, such lawsuits are generally a matter of public record, but would the newspapers be scanning the dockets looking for that particular case?

Anyway, if you do have an outstanding paternity case against Ray, that's the place where you should be looking for relief. Though I understand the frustration you must be feeling, better to let your lawyer take it out on Ray (hint: he can probably hit Ray where it hurts a lot more, in the wallet) than to take matters into your own hands.

Good luck in the lawsuit, and I sincerely hope that you get the relief you deserve.

[NOTE: Note that "the relief [she] deserve[s]" isn't necessarily "the relief she's asking for". As the plaintiff in a lawsuit, she still has to prove, in accordance with the burden of proof appropriate to the case, that Lankford is the father of her child and that he's obligated to support him. I'm not prejudging the case here, since I'm not privy to the facts, and my desire to be a fly on the wall doesn't extend so far as wishing I could have witnessed the conception of Ray's putative sprog. I may be a former lawyer, with the low morals associated with that species, but at least I have some standards. So there.]

Finally catching up on my reading...
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune ran an excellent editorial on Friday:

In his press conference this week, both in the opening remarks and in responses to questions, Bush refused to yield a whit to critics of the U.S. action in Iraq. He refused to admit to any error and responded over and over with a handful of generalizations....

The very next day, Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He announced he was reversing several decades of American policy and accepting Israeli annexation of chunks of the West Bank. He also explicitly rejected the right of return for Palestinians who fled or were forced out of Israel at its creation. The Associated Press, quoting an Israeli official, reported that Sharon "thought that no American president had ever made concessions so important to Israel as Bush did on Wednesday" in blessing Sharon's unilateral plan.

But what did the Muslim world think? Predictably, it was outraged. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American support for Israel have always been at the heart of radical Islam's beef with the United States. Granted, that seething anger in the Islamic "street" has been manipulated generously by unscrupulous Arab governments that would rather their citizens hate the United States and Israel than them.

The hatred, however, is very real, and very dangerous -- as 9/11, Bali, Madrid and other terrorist attacks demonstrate. Yet Bush, by embracing Sharon's own unilateralism, was in effect throwing sand in Muslim faces worldwide. Other than the invasion of Iraq, there's hardly anything Bush could have done to muster even greater support for the worldwide jihad.

What is Bush thinking? There are clues in statements from his press conference. "Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver," the president said. Later, he added, "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom."

Bush came pretty close to proclaiming the fight against radical Islam the divine mission of the United States. He may not have meant that, but you can rest assured that is just how much of the Islamic world will view his comments, especially in light of his actions the next day on behalf of Israel. You can also bet it will be read that way by the American religious right, which sees in defending Israel a way to bring about Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.

We can't know Bush's motives, but it's not difficult to read the effects, and they risk being catastrophic. There are pragmatic reasons why some of what Bush gave Israel Tuesday will be part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But it should have come about through negotiations. The way Bush has chosen to do it is essentially saying, again, to radical Islam, "Bring it on."

You look at Bush's blunders in the Middle East, and you've really got to wonder: whose side is he on?

Gem o'the Day:
Not a quote today, but a Quick Time video (though there's a link to a Windows Media version on this page, if you use Winblows and don't have Quick Time):

The Jesus Christ Action Figure: with Walk-On-Water Action!

Of course, the anal-retentive geek in me can't help but note that, towards the end of the spot, they talk about various giveaways you can merit (The Spear of Destiny, the Holy Grail, and the Ark of the Covenant), though when they talk about the Spear of Destiny, they actually picture a sword. Even with that small disconnect, though, it's a cute little video, and well worth the award of Gem o'the Day.

Thought for the Day:
Apropos of not much, a quick thought about suggestions for parties. Sometimes it is a good idea to bring beers that need a bottle opener (or something functionally equivalent) to a party that is bereft of said bottle opener. Provided there is little enough else to drink, imaginative guests will do what they can to open said beers using things that are really not functionally equivalent to a bottle opener. The comedic value of such efforts might be worth the cost in beer.
--Brian Weatherson

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Gem o'the Day
Today, it's from Paul Krugman:

If we aren't promoting democracy in Iraq, what are we doing? Many of the more moderate supporters of the war have already reached the stage of quagmire logic: they no longer have high hopes for what we may accomplish, but they fear the consequences if we leave. The irony is painful. One of the real motives for the invasion of Iraq was to give the world a demonstration of American power. It's a measure of how badly things have gone that now we're told we can't leave because that would be a demonstration of American weakness.

Rut roh! --Scooby Doo
The amorphous rumors swirling around Cubs pitcher Mark Prior's availability started to assume a bit more solidity, as now ESPN is reporting that the Cubs are acknowledging that Prior may be out for the season. According to the title bar: Cubs' Prior out for season? Baker says he'll pitch, though the headline on the article is the less scary "Prior likely to throw off mound again Wednesday".

The Chicago Cubs are not going to rush Mark Prior back, and even acknowledged Friday that it is possible Prior could miss the entire season.

Prior, who has been nursing injuries to his right Achilles tendon and to his right elbow, threw about 35 pitches on Friday, doubling the number of throws from his first mound session Wednesday.

Saturday, manager Dusty Baker was encouraged.

"Prior isn't out for the season,'' he said.

So far, I'd not seen anything on Prior's injury in the mainline sports press (ESPN, SI, etc.), so I was inclined to disregard the rumors. Now, we'll upgrade this to "keep an eye on it" status.

Why not talk about a real comedian instead?
I managed to score a ticket to see George Carlin in Tunica Friday night.

It was a bit unusual, at least for me. Carlin was last in Tunica about a year ago (probably a little over a year ago, since at the time he was here Baghdad hadn't fallen yet, and IIRC we're past the one-year anniversary for that event). Usually Carlin hits a particular venue once every two years or so; back to back years is probably pushing it. Last year, he used a lot of material from his most recent album, Complaints and Grievances, with not a whole lot of new material. At least this year, there was more new material--although, not having the chance to listen to the newest CD (which hasn't been released yet), I can't say how much of the material which seemed new to me this time was stuff that he used last year. I also have to confess that a year ago I was a bit disappointed with Carlin. I was expecting that he'd have some choice, and hilarious, criticisms of the war, but that was asking too much.

This year, still no jokes against the war, but he did get in a few zingers against Republicans and Bush. So things are getting back to normal.

Not soon enough.

I spend a lot of time....
with my XM radio tuned in to XM Comedy (XM 150). For the first time in two weeks, they've let me down. They're playing some Dennis Miller, something about the French and the UN. Dating from right around the start of the war.

Damn, Dennis sucks. I had to mute the radio, it was that bad.

I guess that's what you get for firing your agent and replacing him with a pimp.

And more from the Mideast....
Chas W. Freeman, Jr., formerly ambassador to Saudi Arabia and assistant secretary of defense, shares some of his insights on the mideast: The Cost of 'Arrogant Daydreams'

The view in the region, from which I have just returned, is that by destroying the Iraqi state the U.S. made it almost impossible to accomplish regime change, as opposed to regime removal, in Baghdad. No one regrets the end of Saddam's tyranny, but Iraq over the past year is viewed as an Arab zone of anarchy under foreign occupation. No one believes that what will be transferred to the Iraqi Governing Council on July 1 is "sovereignty."

Thus the mid-summer situation will be one in which an Iraqi native civilian authority with little or no legitimacy is asked to coexist with an intensely unpopular foreign occupation force over which it has no control. Few believe this dysfunctional arrangement will be up to managing an increasingly dangerous situation.

Many believe that the only thing now saving Iraq from civil war is the increasing unity of ordinary Iraqis against the occupation. This unity increasingly transcends religious schisms. It is drawing religious fanatics into alliance with secular nationalists. ("My brother and I against my cousin; my cousin and I against a stranger.") A new crop of home-grown Iraqi jihadis is, many fear, forging anti-American alliances with trans-regional and possibly global reach. (Shia with Hezbollah; Sunnis with Hamas; both, somewhat warily, with al Qaeda and its affiliates.)

The more one reads of what's happening in the Middle East, the more one is struck dumb by the incompetence we've demonstrated there. Truly, an impressive demonstration of Murphy's Law in action; it seems that just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

Worth reading....
Jamie Gorelick defends herself against some of the sliming she's receiving in connection with her service as deputy attorney general under Clinton and with the 9/11 commission. Well worth reading.

Honestly, what did they expect?
Ok, let me see if I can understand what's going on.... First, Israel assassinates Sheik Yassin. Then Bush basically caves in, tells the Israelis that they can keep the land they've taken on the West Bank, and we will no longer recognize any Palestinian "right of return". Then, to show their appreciation of the changed policies of the United States, the Israelis go and assassinate Yassin's successor, and now we start urging Israel to show a little restraint:

After several hours of conferring about what to do following the killing of Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, issued a statement on Saturday evening that said the United States was "gravely concerned for regional peace and stability" following Israel's action.

A senior administration official said in an interview that the White House was not only surprised and dismayed over the killing of Dr. Rantisi, but that the United States had in no way given approval of any plan to take his life when President Bush and his aides met with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and Israeli officials last Tuesday.

"Surprised and dismayed"? Really? Doesn't it occur to the bAdministration that if they reward Israel's rogue conduct, that it will only embolden them to take even more drastic measures? At this point, it seems that Israel can do anything, and the United States will suppor them completely.

Perhaps it's about time for the US to stop vetoing UN resolutions condemning Israel. This cycle of violence has got to stop, and it's clear that letting Israel do whatever they damn please isn't the way to go about it.

UPDATE: Juan Cole looks at the situation, and isn't filled with hope:

The Sunday Herald correctly points out that the Israeli murder of Abdul Aziz Rantisi, the head of the political wing of the Hamas party, on Saturday, will cause further trouble in Iraq.

With al-Anbar province tense and US troops surrounding Najaf, one could not imagine a worse time for Bush to give a green light to Sharon for further provocations. One can only conclude that neither Ariel Sharon nor Bush and his Neocon advisers give a fig about the lives of US and Coalition servicemen in Iraq. Otherwise, they'd stop with the theatrics. If the Israelis had wanted to arrest Rantisi, they could have. They pulled off Entebbe. This extra-judicial murder of political opponents is just showing off, and it is of course ethically despicable and a war crime for which one only wishes Sharon could be made to stand trial in the Hague. If Rantisi could have been proved to have committed an act of terrorism, he should have been arrested and tried in Gaza for murder. I condemn violence by Palestinian leaders just as I do that done by Israeli ones, and do not have a problem with terrorists being punished for killing innocent people. I do have a problem with political rivals whacking one another unnecessarily, especially when it is likely to get some of my friends killed.

I feel like something of a fool for bothering to say all this, since it is obvious that Sharon is behaving like a Mafia don--Arik Soprano--not a head of state. But the commentary I saw on US cable television was all about who could fall over themselves more quickly to praise this 'decisive action against terrorism.' The state of public discourse in the US (and Israel) is deplorable when it is not even possible publicly to criticize extra-judicial killing in the mass media.

Excellent analysis....
over at The Blogging of the President: 2004 of the recent Osama Bin Laden "offer of reconciliation" to European countries: Understanding Osama. In it, Ian Welsh sets out a bit of Bin Laden's history, and explains why I think, until the U.S. acknowledges some inconvenient facts, Bin Laden is probably going to win--if he hasn't already:

As everyone has probably heard by now, last week a tape from bin Laden offered reconciliation with Europe. The condition was simple, any government that agrees to not attack Muslims and to not interfere in Muslim affairs will, in turn, not be attacked.

It was rejected out of hand...

... and bin Laden is smart enough to know that the offer would be rejected. Moreover it's clear that this tape wasn't directed primarily at Westerners. It is directed at Muslims and its' effect, in the West, is probably to strengthen those who want to continue to keep boots on the ground in the Middle East - after all many will believe that if bin Laden suggests anything - we should do the opposite. It should be obvious, that if that is so, then he can make us do anything he wants just by suggesting the reverse.


Muslim dead are not worth less than Western dead
Which religion considers your killed ones innocent and our killed ones worthless? And which principle considers your blood real blood and our blood water? Reciprocal treatment is fair and the one who starts injustice bears greater blame.
An eye for an eye... Whenever you read news of the Iraq war you will read about the number of American dead but only occasionally of the Iraqi dead. Dead who outnumber American dead significantly. After 9/11 we were told that Israel, due to it's size, had suffered many more dead proportionally, to terrorist attacks. Somehow it was never mentioned that for every dead Israeli there are many more dead Palestinians, including children, and that attacks like the one that killed Yassin, were designed not just to kill the target, but to kill innocents near him. Somehow, the fact that suicide bombing is indiscriminate is horrible, yet the collective punishment which Israel engages in regularly, is not.


Bin Laden's strategy has always been to send a message by violence. He has, in the past, expressed amazement that the US has not gotten the message, and the message is simple - al-Q'aeda will attack Americans until Americans remove their troops from the Muslim world, stop supporting despots in the area and stop supporting Israel. Each attack is another declarative sentence saying the same thing, each time with great violence. "Leave or this will be the consequence of your staying."

It should be very clear that bin Laden does not see himself as an evil man. More importantly than that it should be understood that many Muslims do not see him as a particularly evil man. In the same way that many Americans feel that whatever they do is justified by their dead in 9/11 many Muslims feel that what al-Q'aeda does is justified by the dead in Palestine, the dead in Iraq and the support that the US gives to despots in the Muslim world.

Go read the whole thing; it's excellent. Then compare this to the George aWol Bush analysis: "They hate us for our freedom." And then ask yourself why we're in such a quagmire in Iraq. Dubya just doesn't get it, and I have a feeling he never will.

Thought for the Day:
There's a grand tradition in baseball of ex-athletes joining the broadcast booth and generally raping and pillaging the English language--from Dizzy Dean ("He slud into third") to Ralph Kiner ("On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday") to Jerry Coleman ("The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field--no, wait a minute, it's ball one, low and outside") to our own Mike Shannon ("Gilkey was originally born in University City"). And now Trident Fever makes a case for adding Mariners announcer Ron Fairly to the list. I think my favorite is his line about Bruce Sutter: "He's thirty-five years old, that will give you some idea of how old he is."
--Brian Gunn (Redbird Nation)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The best 419 scam yet...
From the SKEPTIC mail list, we receive this, which is probably the most creative Nigerian advance fee fraud email I've seen in my career...

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555
Misau Street
PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,


I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a
secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American
Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil
servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the
transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.

Yours Sincerely,
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager

Apparently, this one has already been written up in The Register, too.

Thought for the Day:
God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.
--Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, April 16, 2004

For those who think Bush handled his press conference well....
they should find plenty to "fisk" in today's Daily Howler. Though Bob points out, Bush had plenty of assistance from the White House press corpse in inflicting his non-performance on us.

I'd be intrested in reading any intelligent commentary disputing Bob Somerby's assessment of Bush's performance. Any takers?

Interesting comment by Juan Cole, today
Bluster and Begging: The Duality of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East After noting that President Bush and Secretary of State Powell are requesting Syrian assistance in calming the situation in Iraq, while General Myers is criticizing and threatening Iran and Syria for taking actions that destabilize the region, Cole notes:

I have concluded that the Bush administration is like Iran. The Iranian government has two of everything. It has a relatively liberal president, and a hardline supreme jurisprudent. The reformists control the foreign ministry, the hardliners control the military. The reformists have some parliament representatives, the hardliners control the Guardian Council, which has the power of judicial review over parliament. You never know with the Iranian government who is on top or what a policy means, since it could be coming from either competing section of the same government.

Likewise, in the Bush administration, the Pentagon has its own foreign policy, which competes with and often trumps the foreign policy of the State Department and the National Security Council. Thus, Gen. Myers is pointing fingers at Iran and Syria and making all sorts of wild accusations at them, darkly hinting they will be overthrown if they don't shape up. And Colin Powell is writing them polite letters about bilateral relations and could they please use their good offices to help the Americans in Iraq. It is bizarre, and the urbane, canny leaders in Damascus and Tehran (who have long experience of residence in the UK and Germany respectively), must be scratching their heads in wonder at this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde American hyperpower that rages about an axis of evil and goes about preemptively invading countries on the one hand and then comes politely, hat in hand, to request selfless assistance on the other.

Damn, we have to add multiple personality disorder to that pathological inability to admit, or even consider the possibility of, error.

Must be a bug in the system

How will you DIE?
Name / Username
You will die by being hit by a bus
At age 35
This QuickKwiz by Confused_Pete - Taken 2841 Times.

For the record, I'm 46.

[Note: In case this is a totally random thing, and the answer changes when you view this, the answers when I posted this were: "You will die: by being hit by a bus" and "At age: 35"]

In Slate yesterday...
William Saletan posted an excellent column on President Bush's strange disconnect between his definition of "credibility" and the definition used my the vast majority of at least marginally sentient human beings: Trust, Don't Verify
One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.
That's the summation President Bush delivered as he wrapped up his press conference Tuesday night. It's the message he emphasized throughout:
Our commitment. Our pledge. Our word. My conviction. Given the stakes in Iraq and the war against terrorism, it would be petty to poke fun at Bush for calling credibility "incredibly important." His routine misuse of the word "incredible," while illiterate, is harmless. His misunderstanding of the word "credible," however, isn't harmless. It's catastrophic.

To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. "A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon," he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.

Outside Bush's head, his statements keep crashing into reality. Tuesday night, ABC's Terry Moran reminded him, "Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, 'We know where they are.' How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong?"

Inside Bush's head, however, all is peaceful. "The oil revenues, they're bigger than we thought they would be," Bush boasted to Moran, evidently unaware that this heightened the mystery of why the revenues weren't covering the reconstruction. As to the WMD, Bush said the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq had confirmed that Iraq was "hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught." See the logic? A country that hides something must be afraid of getting caught, and a country afraid of getting caught must be hiding something. Each statement validates the other, sparing Bush the need to find the WMD.

This is really getting interesting, and it's getting to be one of those days that I wish I'd stayed with my original grade school plan to get into psychiatry or clinical psychology. Of course, it's too easy (and way too dangerous) to engage in parlor psychoanalysis, but it's beginning to look like Bush's complete and utter inability to admit that he's made mistakes (indeed, his seeming inability to conceive that it might just be remotely possible that he can make a mistake) is rising to the level of psychopathology.

If I didn't have too damn much to do at work, I'd give serious thought to finding a DSM-III or DSM-IV on the Web (there's gotta be one out there somewhere), and see if I couldn't pin this down. If the headshrinkers haven't recognized this as a real mental disorder, maybe they ought to consider it. Bush isn't the only person I've seen in my life that's so afflicted; he's just the scariest.

And then again, the thought just struck me that maybe Barney Greenwald, in his cross examination of one of the medical experts in the court-martial that is the climax of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, nailed it down pretty well. If you've never read the novel, go do so. Even if you think I'm being a shrill, deluded, Bush-hating sonovabitch, at least after you've read the book you can't say I've never done you a favor. (Seeing the movie (or the TV movie of Wouk's play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial) doesn't count for my purposes here, in part because I'm not sure how accurately the passage in the novel is reproduced in the movie. But, if you insist on seeing the movie anyway, go for it! I'm not going to run down the movie, which is one of my favorites.)

Yet another not-so-silly Quizilla quiz
Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I have to confess this one had me on pins and needles; I'm not big on the laws of grammar--I'm one o'those folks who dopes out how a sentence sounds to my ears. Basically, my instincts are generally on point.

That being said, all this means is that I recognize good grammar when I read or hear it. It doesn't constitute any claim or warranty that I'm going to use good grammar all the time. Especially here. OK?

So don't send me emails criticizing my grammar; I'm not putting on airs. Got that?

Thanks to Candi, the Baseball Widow, for that little timewaster.

UPDATE: I don't know why Quizilla has it in for me; for some reason the last couple of their quizzes that I've done and linked to their "results" text/graphic, the picture hasn't displayed. Which really pisses me off for this post, since the "Grammar God" picture is Terry Gilliam's great rendering of God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Gonna have to look into that. I also see that the preformat tags in my post about Aaron Gleeman's Hardball Times post have gone and really screwed up the layout here. Oh well, that one will scroll off the main page in a week or so. As my old SO used to say, get over it, or die with it on your mind; it don't bother me either way.

Aaron Gleeman, at The Hardball Times....
has just posted an interesting article on "Hot Starts and On Pace Fors", which examines what are probably some interesting statistical anomalies (after all, we're just finishing up the second full week of the season, for Ghod's sake), but which are still pretty cool.

Dontrelle Willis

The D-Train is doing his very best Babe Ruth impression so far this year. He is currently 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts on the mound and 6-for-6 with a homer and a double at the plate. Six at-bats at the beginning of a year is the very definition of "small sample size" but it's still pretty cool.


Through 69 career plate appearances, Dontrelle Willis is a .313/.343/.453 hitter. That's a better career OPS (.796) than Bret Boone, Eric Karros, J.T. Snow, Darin Erstad, Julio Franco, Steve Finley, B.J. Surhoff, Todd Zeile, Ruben Sierra, Marquis Grissom, Ray Durham, Johnny Damon, Jose Valentin, Edgar Renteria, Joe Randa, Matt Lawton and Tony Batista.

His career numbers, projected out to 650 plate appearances (about a full-season's worth of everyday playing time):

 AB      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     2B     HR     RBI     BB     SO
603 650 .313 .343 .453 28 19 66 28 75

Everyday Dontrelle is pretty much Jacque Jones (.304/.333/.464 last year), complete with the left-handed swing and total inability to hit lefties that Jacque possesses.

And, of course, Dontrelle can throw the baseball a little too. He's now 16-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 173.1 career innings.


Barry Bonds

There are a lot of guys who are off to incredible starts offensively this year, among them Henry Blanco. As usual though, Barry Bonds is the man among men.

.440 / .600 / .960

That's what Superman is hitting to start the season.

That batting line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) totally amazes me. Most major league batters would kill to have an OPS of .960 (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage; just add the two together. For those of you who don't play the home game, baseball statheads consider OPS to be a pretty good shorthand indicator of a player's offensive worth). To give you a point of comparison here; in 2003 (according to Lee Sinins's 2004 Player Comment Book), the MLB average OPS for the 2003 season was .767. Bonds is starting 2004 with an OPS of 1.560, which is just about astronomical (Bonds, as you might guess, holds the MLB all time single season record for OPS: 1.381 in 2002; obviously we can expect Barry to start regressing towards the mean soon). Aaron continues:

Bonds has played in all nine of San Francisco's games so far and if he keeps playing in every game (which he won't), his prorated season totals would look like this:

  G      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG       H     2B     HR     RBI     RUN      BB     SO
162 450 .440 .600 .960 198 72 54 144 126 180 36

That's not really all that important, but I just like looking at it.


The Florida Marlins Pitching Staff

Dontrelle Willis isn't the only Marlins hurler who has been perfect this year, at least when it comes to pitching. Along with Willis, four other Florida pitchers have 0.00 ERAs. In fact, there isn't a bad ERA on the entire staff through nine games:

Perisho     0.00
Wayne 0.00
Phelps 0.00
Willis 0.00
Bump 0.00
Beckett 0.64
Benitez 1.50
Penny 1.80
Pavano 1.98
Fox 2.25
Oliver 2.57

That's pretty amazing. Pedro Martinez's career ERA would rank him last on the staff.

Ah, if only they could keep up that performance.... Still, it may make the Marlins a team to watch this season. They just might break their jinx; usually the Marlins have followed their championship seasons with losing seasons. That could change if their pitching staff doesn't fall apart.

Wanting so bad to be a fly on the wall...
I can't help it; I'm nosy. That's probably one of the reasons I went to law school; one of the attractions of being a lawyer (especially in "real person" areas of practice like criminal law and domestic relations, as opposed to, say, corporate and tax law) is that it gives you a license to legitimately stick your nose in other peoples' business.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that there's been a little bit of an, uh, "altercation" at the home of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford:

A woman was arrested early Wednesday after allegedly smashing a rock through Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford's bedroom window at his Westwood home, then punching him in the face.

Lisa Rose, 32, was charged with assault and property damage.

Creve Coeur Police Lt. George Hodak said Rose and Lankford are former associates and that Rose went to the house to "confront him about a personal matter and got his attention that way." Hodak would not discuss the personal matter.

Police said around 1:13 a.m. Wednesday Rose drove her car on Lankford's lawn, got stuck in the mud and threw a rock through his window. Lankford called police. An officer who responded to the disturbance said he saw Rose punch Lankford in the face.

Of course now, we're all (well, at least I am) dying to know what that "personal matter" might be. Especially when it brings a member of the opposing sex to your home to drive a car on your lawn, throw a rock through your bedroom window, and punch you in the face, all at the wee hour of 1 AM or so.

I hate to confess that this is the most intrigued I've been about something not my business since I was at the laundromat way back in 1988 or so (between my first and second marriages; hence the need for the laundromat), and saw a notice tacked on the community bulletin board there. Ever since seeing this, a "for sale" ad printed in blue ballpoint ink on a standard index card, I've always been consumed with curiosity about the back story behind this:

FOR SALE: Wedding dress. Never used. Real bargain, call: (314) XXX-XXXX

Damn, I probably need a real hobby.

Oh Jeebus... I'm embarassed...
On Morning Sedition this morning, Marc Maron is interviewing the proprietor of the controversial website "Jewwatch" (no link; you can Google it if you really want to see), who, we discover, is from St. Louis.

*sigh* First the Conservative Citizens Councils, and now this.... What is it? The water or something?

This week's Vounteer Tailgate Party...
Is up at the Newsrack blog. The proprietor of Newsrack, Thomas Nephew, deserves some praise for his unique "portal" to the various Tailgate Party posts: this week it's a clickable imagemap. Check it out!

A new trend in the blogosphere?
From La Reg we learn that a Dutch man serving time in prison has managed, in spite of his lack of 'net access, to maintain a blog: Murderer blogs from behind bars

Being in prison apparently doesn't prevent some people from running a nice little earner. The Dutch Justice department is to investigate a blog set up by Martin K., who is unusual among bloggers since he is currently banged up for double murder.

In 2001, Volendam born Martin K. was sentenced to 14 years' jail for slashing the partner of his former girlfriend. A couple of years earlier he was convicted for his involvement in a cafe shooting. He developed a severe stutter that earned him the sensational underworld moniker "Martin the Stutterer".

Although Martin K. doesn't have access to the Internet - presumably to prevent he and his fellow lags from buying DVDs of Escape from Alcatraz online - he managed to file his stories through people visiting him in prison.

This development has been a bit controversial, not for the blog entries, which deal with prison life (without reference to the crime which put him there), but because Martin is also offering premium content with his blog. This is in keeping with Martiin's entrepreneurial bent; apparently, before moving into the blogosphere and associated e-commerce, he managed to run an escort service from prison.

Thought for the Day:
Which type of misery is worse for fans, to root for teams that lose painfully in the end or teams that lose at the beginning, the middle and the end? Look at it this way. Would you want to be rejected so often that a member of the opposite sex hasn't appeared with you in public for 15 years without a restraining order?

Or would you rather have a long relationship with a supermodel who lets you get as far as third base, then suddenly leaves you at the altar while she runs off with your worst enemy, leaving you feeling rotten and on the hook for the priest, the band, the florist, the caterer and the final 20 payments left on the engagement ring?
--Jim Caple [ESPN's "Page 2" feature]

Thursday, April 15, 2004

More proof that Bill Frist is scum
Fellow Memphian/RTB member Kevin of LeanLeft points us to this: Roberts contradicts Frist on Clarke

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke’s testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.

Roberts’s comments to The Hill contradict a stinging condemnation of Clarke by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor after Clarke accused President Bush of failing to take Osama bin Laden seriously before Sept. 11.

Roberts said Frist did not consult him before making his floor speech, which has been criticized by Democrats. Roberts’s words make perjury charges against Clarke highly unlikely.

Here's the principled position of some true conservatives
From The Cato Institute:

At no point has the president or his advisers accepted responsibility. At worst, they appear to be conscious liars. At best they seem deceitful and manipulative.

That doesn't mean that Clarke is right and the administration is wrong. But it does mean people are understandably suspicious of administration excuses.

Indeed, it's why President Bush's trustworthiness ratings have fallen. The president and administration officials have no one to blame but themselves. Instead of attempting to trash Clarke's reputation, the president should work to rehabilitate his own. A verbal acknowledgement of responsibility for past misstatements would be nice. Firing someone would be even better.

Trust, once squandered, is hard to regain. That is why the administration risks losing its high-stakes showdown with Clarke -- and the election in November.

"At best they seem deceitful and manipulative." At best!

There's a little piece of law Latin one learns early in one's legal education: "Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus." In this context, if you catch a witness lying in one detail, you're entitled to stop believing him/her entirely.

Heaven knows this ancient legal wisdom applies to Dubya. Over and over again.

And Houston swept the Cards yesterday....
The Curse of Dubya? Could be; at least there's no evidence against it right now. The Cards were, when I looked at the standings today, dead last in the NL Central, which is, IIRC, the worst division in the Senior Circuit (the worst in MLB? Well, maybe that's overstating the case; I've not got the statistical cojones to take up that question right now).

I know, we're only 10 games into the season, which means that there are 152 of them yet to play. But I keep thinking of an old saying: "You can't win a pennant in April, but you sure as hell can lose a pennant in April." Glancing over at the Cards schedule (which, anal-retentive fan that I am I've printed out from the Cardinals website and pinned to my office wall, ready for any eventuality), I notice (with dismay) that in September we have six games scheduled with the 'stros. And in the back of my mind is rattling the analyst's predictions that the NL Central is pretty much a three team race between the Cubs, 'stros and Cards, and the fact that I took heart in the fact that the prognosticators weren't predicting that we'd be tremedously far behind the 'stros and Cubs (within three games, from what I remember, which is close enough to make it a horse race; a lucky streak by any of those teams could upset the analysts' apple carts, and the Cards could just pull it out).

If the Cards manage to find themselves by the end of the season, and it becomes a close race in the division, we'll be wishing we'd won some of these games.

Oh well. We travel to Houston next week. Hope that we do a little better there. Or we could be wishing in September that we'd done better in April.

UPDATE: At least Dan at Get Up, Baby sees a silver lining in the dark clouds right now:

Everyone knows the negatives; a loss to the division rivals, another poor outing from the pitching staff, no hitting... so I've decided to focus, from this paragraph on, entirely on the positives. There are, by my estimation, only three. I'm sorry.

Tony Womack isn't hitting and the Cardinals bloggers sigh a simultaneous "I told you so!" He's 3 for his last 20, for a nice .150/.260/.200 line, and at some point I have faith in LaRussa to switch him out for Marlon "Guaranteed Contract" Anderson. He also made the "costly error" of the day, botching a double play that would have kept Hidalgo on the bench instead of trotting around the bases. It isn't good news that the team's great white hope is Marlon Anderson, but he'd be an improvement.

It was slightly closer than it seemed Pujols, Edmonds, and Luna all hit balls with runners on that were caught just at the track. If even one of those had gone over the fence the game could have turned out entirely different. Noticing things like that makes you realize how ridiculous it is to proclaim a team doomed after one bad game or series, because you see how llittle it takes to totally change the momentum.

It's not gonna stay this bad I take the most comfort in this. As bad as the team looks right now, the horrible pitching is to extremely bad to be a true harbinger of bad things. Isringhausen's final ERA won't be 6.75, Carpenter's won't be 7.36, and Simontacchi's won't be... okay, I'm gonna withhold judgment there. Has anyone else, incidentally, noticed how Simontacchi seems to always get ahead of pitchers and then have no idea what to do? He doesn't seem to have an out pitch. I hope Dave Duncan, who has been credited with granting Woody Williams the Holy Cutter, noticed this before I did.

Stupid meme tricks...
This from Big Stupid Tommy:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open the book to page 23.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

[drumroll] And the results?

"For instance, two frames with widths of 25% and 75% always retain those proportions, regardless of the size of the window in which they are displayed."

From Jennifer Niederst's Web Design in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference (O'Reilly, 2001).

Well, that's what I get for playing these things at work.

I can dig that.....
The current offering on XM's "Real Jazz" channel right now: Christy Dana, playing "Technology Blues"

The ur-printer?
From the Beeb, we get the news that the printer which was designed to work with Charles Babbage's Difference Engine (the ur-computer), has been built, and apparently a working model is on display at the Science Museum in London.

*sigh* Another reason to get to London sometime. When I can't afford it, of course.

Thought for the Day:
Almost exactly 43 years ago, on April 21, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held a press conference to answer questions on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles that he had approved. "There's an old saying," he said, "that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan ... I am the responsible officer of the government and that is quite obvious." He expressed private disbelief at and disdain for his sudden rise in popularity: "The worse I do the more popular I get." He remarked to his aide Ted Sorensen: "How could I have been so far off base? All my life I've known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?"

On Wednesday, President Bush held only his third prime-time press conference and was asked three times whether he accepted responsibility for failing to act before Sept. 11 on warnings such as the President's Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet," he said. "... I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick -- as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
--Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A New Liberal Vision
Old blogfriend Elayne Riggs is participating in a little "blogaround" along with a number of liberal bloggers, setting out their visions of 21st century liberalism. Elayne's vision is especially compelling (to me) because she uses, as a start to her meditiation on the topic, the verses to a little song ("If I were President") that appears in a 1948 Popeye (I assume) cartoon, "Olive Oyl for President". A damn good post. If I were ambitious (I'm trying to recover from the effects of eating myself into a stupor at the annual dinner in honor of my college's student government association; hey, the Dean is paying, so I'm eating!) I'd consider doing a little unofficial contribution here, but I'm not ambitious (gorging myself has a tendency to do that to me). So just go read Elayne's piece; it's well worth the effort.

Answering the yahoos....
In today's WaPo, two anthropologists decisively show that, whatever marriage is, through most of the history of the human animal it's not exclusively been the union of one man and one woman--and the religious bozos who claim that this marriage structure is a fundamental bedrock of human society from time immemorial are simply spouting off their ridiculous prejudices, not fact.

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version
from criticalviewer: A Busy Person's Guide to the Bush Press Conference

What's scary is, having read the transcript of the Bush conference, this condensation strikes me as being quite accurate.

Time is running out....
A very good point by Steve Gilliard today:

The cold hard fact is that if we have to wait for John Kerry to be elected, there won't be an Iraq to make policy for. No one, not pundits, not policy makers, realize that events are moving rapidly against us in Iraq. There are no secular politicians to make a deal with and the longer we remain, the worse the war gets.

Gem o'the Day
Going out on a limb early again, I like this from Richard Cohen in the WaPo:

Here are the reasons Iraq is not Vietnam: It is a desert, not a jungle. The enemy is not protected and supplied by major powers such as the Soviet Union or China, not to mention a formidable front-line state such as North Vietnam. The Iraqis are not, like the Vietnamese, a single culture fighting a long-term war of liberation from colonial masters. They are fragmented by religion and language, and they have been independent ever since the British left lo these many years ago. In almost every way but one, Iraq is not Vietnam. Here's the one: We don't know what the hell we're doing.

Juan Cole...
gives us a most excellent analysis of Bush's assertions during his press conference yesterday: Arguing with Bush


' A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make America more secure. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have incredible change . . . '

This premise is not necessarily true. Turkey has had relatively democratic elections since 1950, but this development had no resonances in the rest of the Middle East. Iran went theocratic in 1979, and Khomeini expected everyone in the Middle East to follow suit. No one did. Saudi Arabia is among the world's richest monarchies, but it has not spread monarchy in the mainly republican Middle East. Middle Eastern countries are often fairly insular with regard to politics, and every tub is on its own bottom. There is no guarantee that a "free" and democratic Iraq will have any real influence on the rest of the region.

At the moment, moreover, Iraq is a poster child for dictatorship. Any Egyptian who looked at what has transpired there in the past year might well decide that the soft dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak is altogether preferable to taking the risk of opening up the system and possibly causing a similar social breakdown!


Saddam Hussein was a threat.

It is difficult to see how a ruler whose army was so easy to defeat, and who was reduced to hiding in a spider hole, was a threat to the United States.

' He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. '

I should think this proves he was a threat to his own people.

' He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. '

I don't know what this means, to "coddle" terrorists. Either he sponsored terrorist actions aimed at harming the United States directly, or he did not. He probably did not, after 1993. The State Department did not even list Iraq as a terrorist threat in recent years.

' He was a threat because he funded suiciders. '

Saddam Hussein never gave any real support to the Palestinian cause, and he did not pay suicide bombers to blow themselves up. It is alleged that he funneled money to the orphans of such suicide bombers, but I have never seen any documentation for the claim. Supporting orphans is in any case not the same as funding terrorism.

' He was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States. '

I can't see how, given the state of his military in 2003.


' He also confirmed that Saddam had a -- the ability to produce biological and chemical weapons. In other words, he was a danger. '

Saddam did not have any stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons at all, and had no nuclear weapons program. Iraq has the same ability to produce "chemical weapons" as all other industrializing societies do, no more and no less. But Iraq did not have such weapons, and it is hardly a casus belli that they had the potential to make them. So does Brazil, but we haven't invaded it lately.

' Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people -- it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. '

About half say the US presence in Iraq is a form of liberation. About half say it is a form of humiliation..

' And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security, and that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country. '

What? I thought they were happy. Now you say they aren't happy. Which is it?

Newly declassified!!!
Here's President Bush's own copy of the infamous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief, complete with Bush's own notes and annotations.

And that's probably why he's a genius, and I'm a nobody....
This from the personal webspace of über-computer-scientist, Don Knuth: Diamond Signs

Knuth cites his wife, Jill, as unindicted co-conspirator in this. In case you want to know everyone who's to blame.


Ok, decide for yourself:
Bush's Opening Statement. President responds to questions.

My take: God, what a piss poor job. If the man would just simply say it up front: "I fucked up, and people died on 9/11. I'm sorry about that...." Granted, I'd not like him any better, but I'd respect him more.

Right now, not only is he a blithering idiot, he's a lying weasel, and beneath contempt.

But of course, those who like aWol are going to give him kudos for statesmanship and grim determination in the face of an almost impossible task. Sometimes I wonder if we're living in parallel universes....

Favorite quote department. This could be in the running for "Gem o'the Day" (which isn't really a daily feature, but the past few days I've run into quoteworthy passages):

QUESTION: In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you’d made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa.

You’ve looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?

BUSH: I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.

Dammit, I want to have the election NOW!!!!
I know, it's not scientific, and it ain't worth the Ronald Reagan Memorial Dog Turd that Joli dropped this morning, but while reading George aWol Bush's opening remarks to his news conference yesterday, I took 20 seconds to answer their survey: "If the election were held today, who would you vote for?". Results as of about two minutes ago: George W. Bush 36%, John Kerry 61%, Ralph Nader 3%.

How sweet that would be....

Props to Brian Gunn and the crew....
of Redbird Nation for achieving a prominent mention in yesterday's Slate feature on the baseblogosphere. And kudos to Candi, The Baseball Widow, who also gets a mention later on in the article, as well.

"Did I miss some kind of armed forces swearing-in ceremony?" --George Carlin
There's probably some significance to this, but I'm not sure what. It's just amusing me that, listening to Air America yesterday and this morning that in several references to Attorney General Assh..., uh, Ashcroft (in connection with his recent testimony to the 9/11 commission), and in one reference to former Attorney General Janet Reno the speaker has called him/her "General Ashcroft" and "General Reno".

Or are we taking this "war on terrorism" bullshit just a bit too seriously?

Though in my heart of hearts, I have always suspected that the Attorney General has always been a bit envious of the Surgeon General. Granted, the AG is a cabinet level position, but the SG gets to wear that cool uniform (see picture at link). And I guess maybe the "General Ashcroft" stuff reflects the fact that the Surgeon General does, pursuant to his office, rate the rank and title of "Vice Admiral" (though that's in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, not the Navy/Coast Guard).

I can see where that'd intimidate a mere shyster like Ashcroft, at any rate.

Neat factoid of the day: according to his biography, the current Surgeon General is a high-school dropout who got his GED while serving in the Army, and got his medical education after that. Kind of a real life Horatio Alger story...

Thought for the Day:
Gosh, we are having such a swell time here in Texas. For starters, once again the speaker of the Texas House is under investigation by a grand jury. We're so proud. We have nothing against this guy personally -- we're just rooting for an indictment as a matter of Texas tradition.

You must admit, we've got some record. Consider Gus Mutscher, Billy Clayton, Gib Lewis... and Price Daniel Jr., who was not indicted, but rather was shot to death by his second wife. However, she was indicted -- although not convicted, because in Texas we recognize public service when we see it.
--Molly Ivins

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I knew I shouldn't have awarded the "Gem o'the Day" yet...
This, from The Onion is probably the better candidate, but it's a close call. From the "What do you think?" feature:

"A handful of kidnappings and a few armed insurrections doesn't mean we're losing control. It just means that we never really had control."
--Frank Himmelbaum
  Systems Analyst

Interesting observation....
by Billmon, who shares his experience with a little quiz being conducted concerning the loathsome Little Green Footballs website (no link to it; I'm not giving them any added legitimacy, however the quiz is not at LGF, so if you're interested you can try it out here). The quiz basically gives you a set of quotes; some are by German Nazi leaders, some by posters at Little Green Footballs. Billmon notes:

Well, I went and took the Little Green Footballs quiz, in which contestants are tasked with distinguishing between quotes from famous "Late German Fascists" such as Heinrich Himmler and old Adoph himself, and comments posted on our favorite right-wing eliminationist web site.

It's a tough test -- go see for yourself. I mean can you tell the difference between this:
A. "I would be a coward ... if I allowed these hate-filled children of subhumans in the battle between human and subhuman."
and this?
B. "I really don't consider it killing. It's simply [the] extermination of vermin, diseased vermin..."
(A. Heinrich Himmler; B. Little Green Footballs)

Definitely a challenge, but (no false modesty here) I'm pleased to report I aced it -- 14 out of 14 quotes correctly identiifed. I might have had a bit of an edge going in, since I once wrote a college term paper on the cultural antecedents of Nazi rhetoric. But reading the quiz quotes carefully, I also noticed two things:
1.) The average Late German Fascist was considerably more articulate -- and almost certainly more intelligent -- than the average Little Green Footballer.

2.) The Late German Fascist quotes tended to describe genocide as a harsh and disagreeable duty that had to be done to save the Fatherland. The Little Green Football quotes generally made it sound like a spectator sport .
The first difference obviously reflects the difference in rank and station between the two groups. The Late German Fascists quoted in the test were all leaders -- top party officials, Werhmacht generals, etc. And many of the quiz quotes were taken from their public remarks, which no doubt were written by the finest speechwriters Nazi Germany had to offer.

I'm sure if we could go back and transcribe (and translate) the beer hall boasts of a typical group of SA men, or the shop talk of a couple of Gestapo torturers, it probably would sound a lot more like the typical Little Greenfoot Balls comment -- a kind of pidgin
Mein Kampf.

The second contrast -- genocide as patriotic duty versus genocide as a blood sport -- probably reflects the fact that the Late German Fascists quoted in the quiz were all experienced practitioners, while the gang over at Little Green Footballs are, at best, aspiring amateurs.

Little Green Footballs is one of those websites that I just don't get. While I don't understand why InstaPundit is the single most read website in the universe, at least Glenn Reynolds isn't a complete idiot (despite the abuse I heap on him); he is a graduate of Yale Law School (not that this is particularly impressive to me; I'm a graduate of Northwestern University Law School back when it was still good) and a professor at a law school (albeit a mediocre law school). That bespeaks of more than minimal intelligence; my real beef with InstaPundit is that he's simply influential out of all proportion to the value of his writing (which is really sort of pedestrian and completely unremarkable).

Little Green Footballs, though? The fact that they are number six in the Truth Laid Bear Egosystem *grin* says something about the collective intelligence of the blogosphere. And what it says isn't encouraging.

Score one for the Show Me State
Miss Missouri wins Miss USA 2004.

A fast-food loving beauty queen from Missouri who has two master's degrees and once wrestled a greased pig in a mud pit was crowned Miss USA 2004.

Shandi Finnessey, 25, won the title Monday night over 50 other contestants and will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, on June 1.

Amanda Helen Pennekamp, Miss South Carolina, was first runner-up. Ashley Rachel Puleo, Miss North Carolina, was second runner-up, followed by Miss Oklahoma Lindsay Hill and Miss Tennessee Stephanie Culberson.

Finnessey, a 5-foot-11, blue-eyed blonde who said her favorite food is a supersized extra-value meal from McDonald's, jumped up and down and pumped her right arm while steadying the crown with her left hand after it was pinned on by outgoing titleholder Susie Castillo.

She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology and counseling from Lindenwood University, and would like to use her counseling degree in a television job. She has published a children's book.

Not only a score for Missouri, but a score for Greater St. Louis (Florissant is a St. Louis suburb, and I'm very familiar with Lindenwood University since it's located, as I once was, in St. Charles, Missouri).

And Tennessee did pretty well too. I'm impressed.

A Landmark Decision...
Supreme Court Rules Tennesseeans Are Sentient Beings

Thanks to RTB demigod South Knox Bubba for this one.

For the most part, I love my XM Satellite Radio...
but I really wish that their "This day in history" feature that they run every hour would stop reminding me that on this date 27 years ago the most popular song in the United States was the loathsome "Don't Give Up On Us, Baby" by David "Hutch" Soul. I spent 26 years and 11 months trying to forget that stinker.

At least when Owen Wilson sang it in the movie version of Starsky & Hutch it was a hoot... But even that still reminded me of it. *sigh*

Prophecy of the Day
From Daily Kos. Though I give no special credit to Kos for this one; anyone with two functioning eyes can see it coming over the horizon:

So you're a war supporter, and Iraq is going to hell. You want to pull the troops out, but doing so might require admitting defeat. And admitting defeat would mean that the bloodbath in Iraq was all for naught.

What to do? Easy.

Blame Iraqis. Talk about how the US came in, altruistic at heart, hoping to spread "freedom" to the Iraqi people. And then, pointing to the current broad-based rebellion, screech about how "ungrateful" the Iraqis are to the US for bringing said "freedom" to the country.

And then cut tail and run.

Watch the Right. It's gonna happen.

And then of course, they'll be saying that those ignorant, ungrateful, rag-head, heathen Eye-rackees don't deserve no freedom.....

In a sense, Bush and his puppetmeisters are right...
terrorist groups do need some state support. In many cases, the state that supported them is the United States of America, according to an intriguing study by Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University:

In the varied explanations for the 9/11 attacks and the rise in terrorism, two themes keep recurring. One is that Islamic culture itself is to blame, leading to a clash of civilizations, or, as more nuanced versions have it, a struggle between secular-minded and fundamentalist Muslims that has resulted in extremist violence against the West. The second is that terrorism is a feature of the post-cold-war landscape, belonging to an era in which international relations are no longer defined by the titanic confrontation between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

But in the eyes of Mahmood Mamdani, a Uganda-born political scientist and cultural anthropologist at Columbia University, both those assumptions are wrong. Not only does he argue that terrorism does not necessarily have anything to do with Islamic culture; he also insists that the spread of terror as a tactic is largely an outgrowth of American cold war foreign policy. After Vietnam, he argues, the American government shifted from a strategy of direct intervention in the fight against global Communism to one of supporting new forms of low-level insurgency by private armed groups.

"In practice," Mr. Mamdani has written, "it translated into a United States decision to harness, or even to cultivate, terrorism in the struggle against regimes it considered pro-Soviet." The real culprit of 9/11, in other words, is not Islam but rather non-state violence in general, during the final stages of the stand-off with the Soviet Union. Using third and fourth parties, the C.I.A. supported terrorist and proto-terrorist movements in Indochina, Latin America, Africa and, of course, Afghanistan, he argues in his new book, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror" (Pantheon).

"The real damage the C.I.A. did was not the providing of arms and money," he writes, " but the privatization of information about how to produce and spread violence — the formation of private militias — capable of creating terror." The best-known C.I.A.-trained terrorist, he notes dryly, is Osama bin Laden.

Again, where is Walt Kelly when we need him? We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Gem o'the Day
I shouldn't award this so early in the day, but I think Krugman nails it down with this:

In his Saturday radio address, George Bush described Iraqi insurgents as a "small faction." Meanwhile, people actually on the scene described a rebellion with widespread support.

Isn't it amazing? A year after the occupation of Iraq began, Mr. Bush and his inner circle seem more divorced from reality than ever.

Proof positive that we need a President who cares enough to read newspapers, rather than have them read for him.

Morbid Bloggery Department
The Blog of Death.

It strikes me that further comment would be superfluous. Enjoy, if that's the correct imperative for this case.

Yuk o'the Day
Of course, it's quite obvious why I elect to post this one. From an email correspondent:

Three surgeons were golfing and trying to impress each other. One said, "I'm the best surgeon in New York City. A concert pianist lost seven of his fingers in a horrible accident; I reattached them and less than a year later he performed a command concert for the Queen of England." The second one said, "That's nice, but I operated on a young man who lost both of his arms and both of his legs in an accident. I reattached them and a year later he won a track and field gold medal in the Olympics." The third surgeon said, "Well, that's not bad, but a few years ago a cowboy, high on cocaine and alcohol, rode his horse head-on into a freight train. All I had to work with was his cowboy hat and the horse's ass. And yet, three years later, he was President of the United States!"

Today's "Duh" moment...
Stumbled across this at "Catholic Online" (no, I'm an ex-Catholic, but I still keep an eye on the old homestead for amusement value): 'Left Behind' series called 'overtly anti-Catholic'

The wildly popular "Left Behind" series of Christian apocalyptic novels denies a number of Catholic teachings and "is both subtly and overtly anti-Catholic," says an article in The Living Light, an official quarterly publication of the U.S. bishops' Department of Education.

Duh! Considering that the Left Behind series is written by a couple of Fundagelical Protestants, members of that part of Protestantism most overtly hostile to Catholicism, can one seriously think anything else?

But let's jump in, and show that nothing is too stupid that we won't claim that Catholics came up with it first:

In another article Thigpen, author of "The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to "End Times' Fever," traced the emergence of rapture theology to an early 19th-century Chilean Jesuit named Manuel Lacunza who proposed a theory that those who receive the Euchrast often will be taken up early at the end of the world and be spared the final 45 days of terrible judgments visited on the rest of the world.

Rome condemned his writing as doctrinally unsound, Thigpen said, but it was translated into English by the Rev. Edward Irving of the Church of Scotland, one of the earliest Protestant preachers of the secret rapture, who was excommunicated from his own church for teaching that Christ's human nature was sinful.

Thigpen said it is unclear to what extent Rev. Irving may have influenced the Rev. John Nelson Darby, leader of a small English sect who travelled to the United States and Canada seven times between 1859 and 1874 to spread his teachings about the secret rapture, becoming the chief historical influence behind rapture teaching in North America.

I realize, of course, that a Catholic media outlet is constrained to analyze end-times prophecy silliness as a matter of doctrine and correctness of Biblical interpretation and whatnot.... but we really know what the problem is with Rapture theology, right?

It's so fucking stupid!

I know I've highlighted this before, but I still think that poet Andre Codrescu said it best: The evaporation of 4 million who believe in this crap would leave the world a better place.

Interesting report from usability guru Jakob Nielsen...
about some field research in the social impact of technology: Why mobile phones are annoying. Apparently, the problem is missing information:

The researchers asked test participants to rate how annoyed they were by the mobile phone's ring tone. (No comparable question applied to the face-to-face condition.) However, people didn't find the ring to be particularly bad, so the fact that mobile phones ring doesn't seem to explain why bystanders hate mobile-phone conversations.

Speech volume did affect bystanders' annoyance level: loud phone conversations were judged more negatively than phone conversations conducted in a normal voice. Designing phones that encourage users to speak softly will reduce their impact on other people. For example, more sensitive microphones and improved quality on incoming audio will make most users less inclined to shout.

But loudness wasn't the worst problem with mobile phones. In fact, even phone conversations in a normal voice received worse scores than face-to-face conversations. The worst problem seems to be that conversations on mobile phones are more noticeable than face-to-face conversations. This seems odd, since two people talking together project twice the amount of audio as one person talking on the phone.

Unfortunately, Monk and his colleagues don't provide the final answer; more research is called for. But the problem seems to be that people pay more attention when they hear only half a conversation. It's apparently easier to tune out the continuous drone of a complete conversation, in which two people take turns speaking, than it is to ignore a person speaking and falling silent in turns.

Based on this early research, it's hard to know how we might design phones that overcome the turn-taking problem in audio projection. Speakerphones might be an answer, but I don't think so.

What is certain is that the research documents the fact that mobile phones are annoying, and that conversation loudness is only one factor. If mobile-phone vendors want to avoid a backlash against their products, they're well advised to heed these findings and launch a major effort to make mobile phones less irritating to bystanders.

Let me make an observation here. While at first glance, Nielsen's observation that the increased annoyance factor of half a conversation seems odd seems intuitively correct, a few seconds thought on the matter makes one realize that this isn't so odd after all. It seems to me that it's easier to tune out a complete conversation precisely because we have it all in front of us, so to speak; there's no "mystery" or "puzzle factor" to consider (I suppose that if you're a believer in some sort of "unconscious mind", you can suggest that while one is consciously tuning out the conversation, the unconscious mind is taking it all in). But if you're hearing only half the conversation, your mind is probably trying to deduce what the other half of the conversation is, and that requires a bit of conscious thought. You can't help yourself; you're naturally nosy, and you want to know what's going on on the other side of the phone link, but unlike a face to face conversation happening in front of you, you can't just take that in passively; you need to do some active reconstruction. And this is distracting from whatever other things you think you'd really want to be doing.

Given this, I'm even more sure than Nielsen is that speakerphones aren't the answer, but that's because of the essentially annoying nature of speakerphones. This may be a personal thing though. My experience with "witnessing" speakerphone conversations (i.e., overhearing a phone conversation being conducted on a speakerphone, not being on the other end of a conversation where the person I'm talking to is using a speakerphone) derives almost completely from law practice, where conducting a conversation via speakerphone in the presence of others (or, in some cases, conducting a speakerphone conversation where people aren't in one's own office being a forced witness, but where one knows that others will be able to overhear it in the wider office spaces as they pass by) seems to be a practice of people who have an inflated opinion of themselves and their importance, and who are using the speakerphone to draw others' attention to their belief in their superiority (I'm tempted to call it the Law Firm Partner's Syndrome, and from that you can tell who the most egregious offenders have been, in my experience *grin*).

And in that vein, let's not discount the differential status explanation. In his CD Complaints and Grievances, George Carlin does a brilliant rant against hands-free telephone headsets that makes the observation that the folks who use them (particularly the idiots who walk around all day with their cell phone clipped to their belts and their hands-free headsets on) do so precisely to give themselves an inflated view of their own importance: "Gotta keep plugged in, you know.... you never know when it'll be Henry Kissinger on the line....."

Bottom line: I don't think it's even possible to reduce the annoyance factor of mobile phones. I'm not sure we should even try; sooner or later the non-mobile (and the more courteous mobile users, in which category I like to think I qualify myself, though I'm probably fooling myself) are going to rise up and put the annoying mobile phone users to death. Painfully. And that's going to be an example of natural selection at work.

Some good news?
On the other hand, given that Bud Selig is Bud Selig, and I don't think there are very many situations where Bud wouldn't sell his grandmother into white slavery to make a buck, I'm not completely at ease in my mind. However, for what it's worth, King Kaufman in Salon is reporting today that the boneheaded plan to sell ad space on Major League Baseball uniforms is dead... at least for now:

The New York Post reported late last week that the idea to put advertising on major league baseball uniforms -- much discussed in these parts lately -- has been abandoned.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the paper that commissioner Bud Selig had promised him "he was not going to allow it to happen."

You can decide for yourself how much faith you want to put in a Bud Selig promise, or actually a third-hand report of one -- from a senator, no less. A message left at the commissioner's office Monday went unanswered. But if true, it would be a victory for the sanctity of the big-league uniform. It would be nice to know there are a few inches of real estate not for sale.

Now, about those patches that have become ubiquitous on the left sides of caps ...

Interesting introspection....
from a legal academic. But then again, I'd expect this kind of introspection from a legal academic, the value system of practicioners doesn't exactly put a great deal of value on introspection. From Legal Affairs, Lawrence Lessig muses on "How I Lost The Big One".

Thought for the Day:
Digital media presents with a particularly nasty social problem: we love to share and enjoy our common culture, but we want the artists to be rewarded, too. But when the distribution medium is as careless and fluid as the Internet, dues are easily overlooked. We're simply too lazy to reward the artists. However, inspired by NGO-backed initiatives as the move to low-costs drugs, a global consensus is coalescing around the idea of something called "compulsory licensing".

This can take many forms, but if you want it simple, it means a cent on your income tax, or your blank CD purchases. Are you still standing? Good, for this creates a vast pool of wealth from which the artists can be rewarded. It's not alien to most people: we pay taxes everyday for roads we don't use, or healthcare for neighbours brats we'd rather see strangled. But that's how society works: with a bit of give and take.
--Andrew Orlowski []

Monday, April 12, 2004

And we get a special edition of The Smoking Gun today....
Let me just quote their email newsletter:

Dear Friends:

With the September 11 commission focusing this week on unheeded warnings and myriad intelligence malfunctions by the CIA and FBI, here are a few government memos that did not spur action:

* As Condoleezza Rice tells it, the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief was old news and contained "no new threat information." You know, apart from that stuff about the 70 ongoing FBI investigations of al-Qaeda cells and those bothersome "patterns of suspicious activity." Read the PDB:

* Then there was the July 2001 memo from the Phoenix FBI agent who noted the possibility of a "coordinated effort" by Osama bin Laden to place his disciples in U.S. flight schools. Agent Kenneth Williams, whose warning was ignored by bureau bosses, wrote that the terrorist's followers would be in a position "to conduct terror activity against civil aviation targets." Read the Phoenix memo:

* In May 1998, an FBI agent in the bureau's Oklahoma City office penned a memo, titled "Weapons of Mass Destruction," warning that "large numbers of Middle Eastern males" were taking flight lessons at local airports. The agent thought the enrollments may have been "related to planned terrorist activity." Read the Oklahoma City memo:



Your pals at TSG

Gem o'the Day:
Fellow RTB member Kevin from LeanLeft wins the prize today with this gem (ok, it from a post yesterday, but I read it today, which is what counts in my book):

Apparently, the new Bush line is that the PDB entitled "bin Laden Determined to Strike in US", the one that warned of al-Queda operatives surveying New York Federal buildings, attempting to get explosives, and planning hijackings, is that it wasn't a warning for 9/11. Because it didn't mention that the terrorists were intending to use the planes as weapons.

Yep. The official Bush defense is now "This administration consists entirely of idiots." Seriously, that's their defense: if the entire plan wasn't laid out in exacting detail, including, apparently, time, date, location, fight number and the exact floor the terrorists intended to hit then it don't really constitute a warning, and so, hey, what could they have done.

Overheard on the message boards....
Is Mark Prior out for the year?

I don't want to wish ill on anyone, so I hope that rumor isn't true. But if it is, it's a stroke of luck for the Cards (and the rest of the NL Central)....

Repent, The End is nigh....
When I see this kind of shit, I realize that the Apocalypse is probably just around the corner. Say next Tuesday, about 9:43 AM, Central Daylight Time....

The next time a major-league baseball manager gives the go-ahead to steal, the sign may be "Gatorade, Gatorade, Nike, Microsoft, Pepsi."

The MLB is considering whether to allow advertising on uniforms, selling the rights to patches on shoulders or corporate names on batting helmets.

There is still disagreement over the move, and negotiations would take months, perhaps years, but Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president for business, said it may only be a matter of time.

The sport could bring in $500 million a year from putting pitches on pitchers, according to a recent Advertising Age estimate.

"We're unashamed of the fact that we are a business," Brosnan said. "We're mindful of the fans, but I don't think this is unreasonable."

When it comes to sponsorship rights, he added, baseball lags other sports. Jerseys in cycling and soccer are packed with corporate names, as are race cars and motorcycles.

Jeebus. Do we really want to see MLB unis festooned shoulder to ankle with sponsor patches like a fucking NASCAR jumpsuit?

And the worst part of it: you know that 1) The Hated Yankees are somehow going to get The Lion's Share of all that sponsorship money (and still use it to try to buy a World Series win), and 2) ticket prices are still going to go up. And up. And up.

My position is that there's only one way I'll accept sponsorship patches on baseball uniforms: if that means that admission to all professional games (MLB, Triple-A, Double-A, A ball and the rookie leagues, at least) will be free. In perpetuity.

If professional baseball will agree to that, I say, break out the sponsorship logos. But only on those conditions.

But it'll never happen.

Thanks to BSTommy for the head's up.

Thought for the Day:
God says do what you wish, but make the wrong choice and you will be tortured for eternity in hell. That sir, is not free will. It would be akin to a man telling his girlfriend, do what you wish, but if you choose to leave me, I will track you down and blow your brains out. When a man says this we call him a psychopath and cry out for his imprisonment/execution. When god says the same we call him "loving" and build churches in his honor.
--William C. Easttom II

Sunday, April 11, 2004

More from Juan Cole....
I wonder how InstaDipshit is spinning this:

AP reported that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) issued a demand early on Saturday that the US cease its military action against Fallujah and stop employing "collective punishment."

Not only has what many Iraqis call "the puppet council" taken a stand against Bush administration tactics in Iraq, but individual members are peeling off. Shiite Marsh Arab leader Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi suspended his membership in the council on Friday. A Sunni member, Ghazi al-Yawir, has threatened to resign if a negotiated settlement of the Fallujah conflict cannot be found. Old-time Sunni nationalist leader Adnan Pachachi thundered on al-Arabiya televsion, "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah, and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal." For him to go on an Arab satellite station much hated by Donald Rumsfeld and denounce the very people who appointed him to the IGC is a clear act of defiance. There are rumors that many of the 25 Governing Council members have fled abroad, fearful of assassination because of their association with the Americans. The ones who are left appear on the verge of resigning.

This looks to me like an incipient collapse of the US government of Iraq. Beyond the IGC, the bureaucracy is protesting. Many government workers in the ministries are on strike and refusing to show up for work, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat. Without Iraqis willing to serve in the Iraqi government, the US would be forced to rule the country militarily and by main force. Its legitimacy appears to be dwindling fast. The "handover of sovereignty" scheduled for June 30 was always nothing more than a publicity stunt for the benefit of Bush's election campaign, but it now seems likely to be even more empty. Since its main rationale was to provide more legitimacy to the US enterprise in Iraq, and since any legitimacy the US had is fading fast, and since a government appointed by Bremer will be hated by virtue of that very appointment, the Bush administration may as well just not bother.

But no doubt the schoolrooms are getting painted.

The Gem o'the Day....
is from Juan Cole:

Robin Wright of the Washington Post goes Bernard Lewis one better with an insightful piece on What Went Wrong with the American enterprise in Iraq. The Post is on a roll today, with an excellent overview of how things spun out of control in recent weeks by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid . (I had to scroll down to see it at the MSNBC site in IE for some reason). The article argues for arrogance and ignorance as motives in coming after Muqtada and his people right before Arba'in. But I still wonder about a darker side. The CPA told them that they cracked down on Muqtada because his militias threatened to make democracy impossible. I wonder if what they really meant to say was that his militias threatened to make it impossible for the Pentagon to install Ahmad Chalabi as prime minister.

U.S. military view Iraqis as "untermenschen"...
according to this report from the UK's Telegraph.

Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."


The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used to fire on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets.

The American approach was markedly different: "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers.

"The British response in Iraq has been much softer. During and after the war the British set about trying to win the confidence of the local population. There have been problems, it hasn't been easy but on the whole it was succeeding."

I'm fighting with my tendency to discount this..... surely Americans wouldn't be this callous. Unfortunately, we suffer from the tendency to go for the simplistic answer, and to de-humanize our enemy. It's unfortunately all too American, and all too believable.

UPDATE: Juan Cole seems to find the report credible:

This attitude tracks with what I know of racial attitudes that are all too common (not universal) in US military ranks. Press reports speak of US troops and some officers routinely denigrating Arabs. Even calling them "hajjis" and "Ali Babas" betrays the attitude. (Hajji is a strange thing to call Iraqis, who have lived under a militantly secular socialist regime for 35 years and most of whom couldn't have gone on the pilgrimage to Mecca even if they wanted to). The contempt for Iraqis and Arabs and Muslims that is widespread in the ranks, the British maintain, spills over into operational plans, creating a contempt for human life and a willingness to endanger and kill civilians in a ruthless effort to get at insurgents. This approach produces, of course, further insurgents.

For those of you who want to know, the infamous Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001 is now online (.pdf format, so you need the Adobe Acrobat reader).

Games we'd like to see....
Aaron Gleeman at The Hardball Times engages in an extended meditation on walks, which ends with his picking an all-hacker (i.e., players who almost never walk) and all-walker (players who take lots of walks) team. He ends thusly:

If you were to put together an All-Hacker and All-Walker team, here's what they'd look like...


C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Randall Simon
2B Cesar Izturis
SS Rey Ordonez
3B Shea Hillenbrand
LF Carl Crawford
CF Corey Patterson
RF Garret Anderson

Now, I don't care if you call yourself a stathead or not, you can't possibly tell me that wouldn't be a fun team to watch. Their average game would probably be like an hour long.


C Jorge Posada
1B Jason Giambi
2B Frank Menechino
SS Mark Bellhorn
3B Robin Ventura
LF Barry Bonds
CF Brian Giles
RF Rickey Henderson
DH Jeremy Giambi

In addition to having Bonds, Giambi and Giles in the starting lineup, that team would also have guys like Thome, Adam Dunn and Edgar Martinez on the bench.

It's tough to find a catcher for the Walkers. Jorge Posada led all catchers in non-IBB/PA, but he ranked just 36th overall, whereas there were catchers all over the fewest-walks leaderboard.

Here's what I want to see happen...put those two teams on the field, with Brad Radke (1.20 walks per nine innings since 2001) pitching against the Hackers and Kaz Ishii (6.19 walks per nine innings career) pitching against the Walkers. Radke could probably go about 20 innings and there's a good chance Ishii wouldn't make it out of the first.

Forget all this baseball World Cup talk, let's make this happen.

What I don't like about living in Memphis...
though it's probably a matter of what I grew up with...

I attended the Redbirds game yesterday, where it was Cellular South T-Shirt night (the more I think of it, I should have tried for tickets Friday night, which was a schedule magnet promo; I have t-shirts out the ying yang, but I could use a schedule magnet either at home or work; oh well, hindsight is always 20/20). Here at Auto-Zone Park, it seems like whatever the promotional giveaway is, it's limited to the first thousand or fifteen hundred in attendance. Granted, it's a smaller venue, but I always remember the promos at Busch Stadium being given away to the first 30,000 in attendance--rarely did you see a promo limited to as few as the first 20,000. Given that Busch holds 40-something thousand (and before the refurbishing, held in the low 50-thousands), that means that the most skimpy promos still got out to almost half of the attendees. AutoZone holds 14,320, which means that a typical giveaway here goes out to a bit more than 10% of the possible attendance (and maybe 12-15% of the actual attendance on a given day.

Then again, not like I have much of a reason to feel slighted; I always try to get to the park soon after it opens (have to see what I can of batting/fielding practice), so I'm usually there in time to get the giveaway. It just feels weird to see such low numbers....

Is it just me....
or would T-Mobile's commercials for their "Couples Talk Free" program have a bit more oomph to them if they'd bring Michael Douglas into it along with their longstanding spokesbabe, Catherine Zeta-Jones?

Fun facts to know....
On the topic of Presidents throwing out Opening Day pitches, we learn from Brian Gunn at Redibird Nation (via his sources, of course), that Harry S Truman (my favorite prez, and not just because he's another Missouri native), who was ambidexterous, threw out two opening pitches in 1950, one righthanded, and one lefthanded.

Thought for the Day:
I really didn't say everything I said.
--Yogi Berra

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Condi for Prez in 2008?
Fred Kaplan makes an excellent case that she should be taken out and shot--or at least fired for incompetence--right now: Condi Lousy--Why Rice is a bad national security advisor

One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser—passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.

The key moment came an hour into the hearing, when former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste took his turn at asking questions. Up to this point, Rice had argued that the Bush administration could not have done much to stop the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yes, the CIA's sirens were sounding all summer of an impending strike by al-Qaida, but the warnings were of an attack overseas.

Ben-Veniste brought up the much-discussed PDB—the president's daily briefing by CIA Director George Tenet—of Aug. 6, 2001. For the first time, he revealed the title of that briefing: "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States."

Rice insisted this title meant nothing. The document consisted of merely "historical information" about al-Qaida—various plans and attacks of the past. "This was not a 'threat report,' " she said. It "did not warn of any coming attack inside the United States." Later in the hearing, she restated the point: "The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked. It says Bin Laden would like to attack the United States."

To call this distinction "academic" would be an insult to academia.

Go read the whole thing; it's so excellent it's infuriating.

On "The O'Franken Factor" last week, Al impersonated VP Dick Cheney explaning to co-host Katherine Lampher why Condi's aborted 9/11 speech (the one which identified ballistic missile defense as the most urgent national security problem facing the U.S. in the future) needed to remain classified: because it would jeopardize our national security for our allies and our enemies to learn how far the Bush bAdministration had it's head up its ass on 9/11.

Unfortunately, that's coming to look more and more credible as more and more information comes out about how Bush and his puppetmeisters fucked up 9/11.

For the record, I don't know that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. What's clear, is that Bush and his handlers didn't lift even one finger to try.

And that sick, twisted bastard has the nerve to run for re-election on his record of handing the war on Terra™.

Being voted out of office is nowhere near as painful as that prick deserves. But it'll have to do.

The problem is, half the population is below median intelligence....
From the UK newspaper The Independent: 1066 and all that: how Hollywood is giving Britain a false sense of history

The Battle of Hastings never took place and Adolf Hitler is a fictional character. Robin Hood really existed, Harold Wilson saved Britain during the Second World War and Conan the Barbarian is a bona fide figure from early Nordic history.

It might sound like the latest attempt by revisionist extremists to pervert the past but the reality is perhaps more disturbing: this is how a significant chunk of the British population, muddled by Hollywood films and unmoved by academia, sees history.

A survey of the historical knowledge of the average adult, to be published this week, has uncovered "absurd and depressing" areas of ignorance about past events, and confusion between characters from films and historical figures.

Researchers, who conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 2,000 people, found that almost a third of the population thinks the Cold War was not real and 6 per cent believe
The War of the Worlds, H G Wells's fictional account of a Martian invasion, did happen.

Some 57 per cent think King Arthur existed and 5 per cent accept that Conan the Barbarian, the warrior played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 1982 film, used to stalk the planet for real. Almost one in two believe William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish resistance leader played by Mel Gibson in his film
Braveheart, was invented for the silver screen.

What really scares me is that British education, through the equivalent of the U.S. secondary school level, is very much superior to U.S. education (and you can make a good argument for the superiority of British collegiate and post-collegiate level education as well). If a better educated populace is this woefully ignorant of its own history, I'd hate to read the report of results of a similar survey of the U.S. population....

Thought for the Day:
Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.
--George Bernard Shaw

Friday, April 09, 2004

Mirabile dictu....
Catholic priest convicted on a charge not involving sexual molestation.

Unfortunately, The Smoking Gun reports that Father Richard's molestation case is still being investigated.

Given enough ingenuity....
some demented genius can achieve anything. The most recent evidence for the truth of that proposition comes from mathematician Stan Wagon of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, who's actually invented a bicycle with square wheels. And, wonder of wonders, it rides smoothly. The catch? Well, the road down which the bicycle does have to have a particular surface shape (an inverted catenery (more accurately, a set of them), a shape which has a meaning for me, only because I'm a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and I know a very famous structure that has just that shape).

Follow the link for an explanation and a picture; I really can't do it justice here myself.

Interesting portrait of the woman in the news yesterday...
Alan Gilbert, one of Condoleeza Rice's professors in graduate school, assesses her performance in front of the 9/11 committee, and as national security advisor, and finds it wanting: The performer lost in her performance (premium content; you need to click through a short ad if you're not a Salon subscriber)

How did this comparatively thoughtful person end up missing the threat of al-Qaida? As she grew more conservative, it became useful to her to emphasize only great power politics and military arrangements. She knew Russia and Eastern Europe, but not other areas of the world. She apparently did not -- despite Richard Clarke's and Sandy Berger's warnings -- take al-Qaida seriously. In her testimony on Thursday before the 9/11 commission, she differed with Clarke's claims that 100 meetings of the "principals" -- the main secretaries not including Clarke ? occurred without once discussing al-Qaida. There were only 33 meetings, she said. But 33 is many meetings without discussing al-Qaida. This is a minor tangent, not a defense.

Clarke fiercely tried to get al-Qaida before the Bush administration. He was consistently frustrated. Eventually, he and his top three aides, all of whom stayed in the White House at Condi's request on 9/11, left government service. The Bush administration has undercut -- perhaps destroyed -- responsible career civil service in many areas. Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill charged that this administration has only political discussions, not policy ones. But worse yet, it may have destroyed its civil service, which is a precondition for serious evidence gathering and deliberation over policy. On 9/11, Condi prepared to give a major speech -- on a missile defense system for the United States.

How did Condi end up supporting a diversionary war in Iraq? The 9/11 committee did not ask her to address Clarke's fundamental charge. Like a "warrior princess" (her aides' nickname) in a fairy tale, Condi simply ignored it. She was allowed to reiterate lies, for example an elliptical statement that al-Qaida had some connection with Saddam and the bizarre claim that a "strategic" offensive against al-Qaida involved Iraq. She presented no evidence for these claims.

As Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke have reported, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney had been determined to overthrow Saddam from the earliest days of the Bush administration. (Clarke was outraged on Sept. 12 when Rumsfeld defended this position by saying there were no good targets in Afghanistan, but lots in Iraq. As Clarke said, it would be as if, after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt had gone to war with Mexico, not Japan.) But Condi is not simply an ideologue: Even in the pressure cooker of war meetings, she probably still noticed that there was no hard evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or was linked to al-Qaida. She must have known that the administration was suppressing counter-evidence from the CIA, the "bulldog" Clarke, and others.

Yet she could not say to her boss and the others: wait a minute. She could not draw a line in defense of principle: the United States' government must wage the "War on Terrorism" on al-Qaida, not on dictators who had nothing to do with terrorism. If the president is going to launch a "preventive" attack on a sovereign state -- a violation of the cardinal ban on aggression, Article 2, section 4 of the United Nations Charter -- and send American soldiers to die, at least don't do it for lies.


Condi has always been a great performer. As a pianist, as an ice skater, as a student, as a provost, as a presidential advisor, she has always been on stage. She adapts her performance to her audience: Josef Korbel and, to some extent, me once upon a time, President Bush now. She can be fierce. Donald Rumsfeld, who waged war in Iraq without a plan for the occupation, lost control to Condi and the National Security Council. But tragically, she is also a person without a core, who loses herself in her performance. National security was her responsibility. She failed in that responsibility because she was too busy perfecting her performance as a Bush team player when the Bush team, obsessed with wild fantasies of global domination, had lost touch with reality.

In contrast, Richard Clarke was not concerned about applause. He saw the threat of al-Qaida. He fought in the Bush bureaucracy to get them to pay attention. As early as the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he had warned of the threat of planes crashed by terrorists into targets. In frustration at the Bush administration, he resigned his position of over 25 years. He apologized to the American people for 9/11.

As Sen. Kerrey's questions indicated, Condi refuses to admit any mistakes. She goes on, skating over and over again, blaming turf wars between the CIA and FBI. The Bush administration, she suggests, had no responsibility for dropping the ball on al-Qaida.

Clarke unites what Max Weber called an ethic of responsibility and a visionary ethic of intention. He wanted to fight terror and maintain American liberties.

Condi justified the so-called PATRIOT Act by saying it was necessary to get the FBI and CIA to cooperate. She failed to mention the reactionary nostrums that fill over 300 pages of the act: for instance, spying on books people read at libraries or locking up American citizens without a right to counsel as supposed "enemy combatants" or throwing out the rule of law at Guant?namo.

In a brief statement, Kerrey insisted that the occupation forces could not deal with the current uprising in Iraq with military force. He spoke of it as a "civil war." (In fact, the Bush occupation has united Sunnis and Shiites in a national insurrection against it.) Condi smiled, and was silent.

Condi's speaking was rapid and articulate. She is by far the best public face for the Bush administration. She is not the cantankerous Rumsfeld, or Bush who cannot speak cogently about his own administration's record without a minder, or Cheney the extreme rightwing oilman, or Wolfowitz, the neo-conservative ideologue.

But the fact is inescapable: Condi did not pay attention to al-Qaida before or after 9/11. The Bush administration has stonewalled the 9/11 hearings, postponing them for over two years, because they had a terrible secret to hide.

Even now, the Bush administration is striving to keep Presidential Daily Briefings classified. When Condi and committee members differ sharply over their meaning -- when Condi says the Aug. 6 briefing that cited the threat Osama posed to the United States was merely "historical" and required no "action," and the committee asks in the name of American democracy that the public see the document, she will not declassify it. Perhaps Democratic pressure will force Bush to relent.

It was Condi who led the unheard-of Bush administration attack on Richard Clarke, charging (without addressing his major claims) that this Republican civil servant for four administrations, whom she left in charge of the White House Situation Room on 9/11, was somehow distorting the Bush record. Yet she did not dare -- it would have been too obviously untruthful -- to attack him before the committee. Perhaps Condi's performance, which ran on all the major channels, can take voters' eyes off the fact that due to the invasion of Iraq, al-Qaida has only grown stronger in the past three years. Perhaps Condi can turn our eyes from the fact that the president asked American soldiers to die for lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's supposed links to bin Laden. Perhaps Condi can claim that all is well in Iraq while Shiites and Sunnis unite to fight the American occupation and kill American soldiers. The fairy tale continues. The performer skates on.

And he oughta know....
As the one strongly Christian president we've had in my lifetime, Jimmy Carter shares his reasons for concluding that the Christian right isn't really Christian, in an interview with American Prospect:

How do you think the fundamentalist Christian right has misrepresented Christianity, as well as the democratic process?

Well, what do Christians stand for, based exclusively on the words and actions of Jesus Christ? We worship him as a prince of peace. And I think almost all Christians would conclude that whenever there is an inevitable altercation -- say, between a husband and a wife, or a father and a child, or within a given community, or between two nations (including our own) -- we should make every effort to resolve those differences which arise in life through peaceful means. Therein, we should not resort to war as a way to exalt the president as the commander in chief. A commitment to peace is certainly a Christian principle that even ultraconservatives would endorse, at least by worshipping the prince of peace.

And Christ reached out almost exclusively to the poor, suffering, abandoned, deprived -- the scorned, the condemned people -- including Samaritans and those who were diseased. The alleviation of suffering was a philosophy that was enhanced and emphasized by the life of Christ. Today the ultra-right wing, in both religion and politics, has abandoned that principle of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

Those are the two principal things in the practical sense that starkly separate the ultra-right Christian community from the rest of the Christian world: Do we endorse and support peace and support the alleviation of suffering among the poor and the outcast?

You spent so much of your career working toward a reasonable, peaceful solution to violence and strife in Israel and Palestine. Increasing attention has been paid to traditionalist evangelicals’ strong support for Israel, based on the New Testament prophecy that the reconstruction of the ancient kingdom of David will usher in the “end times” and the Second Coming of Christ. As a believer and a peacemaker, how do you respond to this?

That’s a completely foolish and erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures. And it has resulted in these last few years with a terrible, very costly, and bloody deterioration in the relationship between Israel and its neighbors. Every president except for George W. Bush has taken a relatively balanced position between the Israelis and their enemies, always strongly supporting Israel but recognizing that you have to negotiate and work between Israel and her neighbors in order to bring about a peaceful resolution.

It’s nearly the 25th anniversary of my consummation of a treaty between Israel and Egypt -- not a word of which has ever been violated. But this administration, maybe strongly influenced by ill-advised theologians of the extreme religious right, has pretty well abandoned any real effort that could lead to a resolution of the problems between Israel and the Palestinians. And no one can challenge me on my commitment to Israel and its right to live in peace with all its neighbors. But at the same time, there has to be a negotiated settlement; you can’t just ordain the destruction of the Palestinian people, and their community and their political entity, in favor of the Israelis.

And that’s what some of the extreme fundamentalist Christians have done, both to the detriment of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The last word on outsourcing?
Finally catching up on Robert X. Cringely's PBS columns. Back last month, Bob was examining the Navy-Marine Corps IT outsourcing contract with EDS, and why it isn't working. Bob comes to an interesting conclusion:

How did we get in so much trouble? Part of the problem here has to do with the way outsourcing has changed over the years. The business was invented back in 1962 by Ross Perot when he founded EDS, then called Electronic Data systems, to buy unused time on corporate mainframe computers and resell that time as a computing service to customers lacking computers of their own. The EDS people would show up at night, their car trunks filled with computer tapes, and until dawn the XYZCo computer would be used to run jobs for any number of smaller companies. Eventually EDS got its own mainframes, but the job remained essentially the same -- to do data processing for organizations unequipped to do it for themselves.

What has changed since then is the decline of mainframes. I know, I know, there are plenty of mainframes still in operation, but the NMCI contract is workstation-centric. NMCI and similar arrangements aren't contracts to bring new technology to organizations that lack the internal capability to provide that technology for themselves. They are pure cost-saving plays, or at least that's what they are intended to be. The sales pitch -- and yes it is a SALES pitch, not a pricing pitch -- is that integrating all this activity under a single contractor will eliminate duplication, standardize services, improve efficiency, and save money. Only it doesn't work that way in practice.

Somewhere in the mid-1980s, just as PCs and networks were beginning to have their way with corporate America, the definition of outsourcing changed from buying outside services that you couldn't afford to do inside to buying outside services that you ALREADY WERE doing inside only outsourcing would save money. Maybe it was Gartner, maybe Andersen Consulting, certainly some outfit was the first to add this slide to their presentation deck, and while it makes some sense in theory IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO MAKE WORK IN PRACTICE.

Most outsourcing contracts don't live up to their service promises and the only ones that live up to their pricing and profitability promises are those that have an artificially-low labor component, which is why we're suddenly shipping so much work to India and China. And as I have shown in earlier columns, foreign outsourcing brings new problems of its own.

Trying to put this all in a useful context, I wondered whether contracts like NMCI would take place at all in a profit-driven environment, rather than in the loosey-goosey world of the military where there is so much talk of discipline yet so little history of it actually being consistently implemented in areas like procurement and IT? Would Wal-Mart, the world's largest company and one of the world's largest consumers of Information Technology even consider a deal like NMCI, which ostensibly would make all IT costs and performance predictable on a multi-year basis?

The comparison is an apt one, though Wal-Mart is actually about three times the size of the U.S. Navy. Obviously the Navy has more firepower, though in a protracted conflict I think I'd put my money on Wal-Mart's supply lines. But what about this IT question? To find my answer I began calling people in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Wal-Mart has its intergalactic HQ and where my Mom lives next door to the former CEO and head of Wal-Mart's Executive Committee. I have my sources you see.

And those sources were clear: there is no way Wal-Mart would entrust its IT services to an outside contractor or even to several outside contractors. Doing so would threaten the entire organization. If costs are out of control and services are inconsistent, that's something to be dealt with internally, not by hoping some outside organization is smarter or more disciplined. "We have suppliers, sure, but the ultimate responsibility always remains here in Bentonville," said my Ozark IT guy. "We centralize it, we control it, we know what we are buying and what we are doing with it. Anything less is just too much of a risk."

I think it was Yogi Berra who expressed it best: "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."

Thought for the Day:
We've got some patriots here who are enough to give the word a bad name. Their ugly side is always brought out by war: the professional-patriot bullies have never been able to distinguish between dissent and disloyalty. In WWI, we had citizens who used to go around kicking dachshunds, on the grounds that they were "German dogs." You notice people like that never go around kicking German Shepherds.
--Molly Ivins

Thursday, April 08, 2004

A pox on both your houses!
From Juan Cole today, we get the text (translated by Professor Cole from the original) of a Grand Ayatollah Sistani fatwa concerning the insurgency in Iraq:

We condemn the methods of the Occupation Forces in dealing with the events that have occured, just as we cricitize the transgressions against public and private property and all acts that lead to the collapse of order and prevent the Iraqi authorities from fulfilling their duties in serving the people. We call for the use of wisdom in treating this situation, through peaceful means, and for avoiding any escalatory step that will lead to more anarchy and bloodshed. It is the duty of the political and social forces to participate in an effective manner, and to put an end to these tragedies. God grants success.

Professor Cole comments:

The US needn't take any heart from Sistani's fatwa, which seems to equate the US military with the Army of the Mahdi insofar as both have acted unwisely, used unseemly methods, and been responsible for a breakdown in public order.

I'm getting the feeling that when (not if, but when) Sistani decides he's sick of the occupation, we're screwed. Unless Bush can figure out a good way to withdraw with grace, we'll look back fondly at Vietnam compared to this.

And, I note with interest that Professor Cole gets this from the Ayatollah Sistani website that I blogged about yesterday. If I get the time I may check the Sistani website to see how Cole's translation compares to the Sistani webmaster's "official" translation.

Bush: a uniter, not a divider....
if you look at the right population. A good observation from Allen Brill at The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians):

George W. Bush may have only exacerbated partisan divisions in the United States but he's doing a marvelous job of united the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.

There's nothing that unites feuding parties like a common enemy, and Ol' Dubya has certainly provided a common enemy.

Gem o'the Day
By way of putting things in context, reports are that at Condi Rice's long-awaited testimony to the 9/11 commission today, Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste noted that the title of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing was: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.". Given that, Billmon notes:

[I]t does help explain the extremely careful wording of Bush's most recent public statement regarding what he was or was not told during that long, lazy summer on the ranch down in Crawford:
"Had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September the 11th, we would have acted."
I'm waiting for excuse 2.0, which will probably be rolled out after the 9/11 Commission report is released
this summer. I'm guessing it's going to sound something like this:
"Had my administration had positive confirmation that on the morning of September 11, nineteen Al Qaeda operatives were going to hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston's Logan Airport, and American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington's Reagan National Airport, and United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark airport, and then fly them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and either the White House or the U.S. Capitol in the case of Flight 93 -- we would have acted."

The latest fad? Eye jewelry...

I think I'll pass, thanks.

Thought for the Day:
It's a rite of spring for me, picking the Red Sox to win the [American League] East and the Yankees second. I do it every year, and every year I'm wrong. Some people clean their houses. I do this. I don't pick the Red Sox because I like them or root for them or even because I particularly think they're going to win. I pick them because I feel like I am a decent person, one who for all my flaws tries my level best to live a good life and do right by others, and I deserve to see someone other than the New York Yankees win the Eastern Division in my lifetime.
--King Kaufman

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A report from the scene....
This from Baghdad Burning:

Falloojeh has been cut off from the rest of Iraq for the last three days. It's terrible. They've been bombing it constantly and there are dozens dead. Yesterday they said that the only functioning hospital in the city was hit by the Americans and there's no where to take the wounded except a meager clinic that can hold up to 10 patients at a time. There are over a hundred wounded and dying and there's nowhere to bury the dead because the Americans control the area surrounding the only graveyard in Falloojeh; the bodies are beginning to decompose in the April heat. The troops won't let anyone out of Falloojeh and they won't let anyone into it either- the people are going to go hungry in a matter of days because most of the fresh produce is brought from outside of the city. We've been trying to call a friend who lives there for three days and we can't contact him.

This is supposed to be 'retaliation' for what happened last week with the American contractors- if they were indeed contractors. Whoever they were, it was gruesome and wrong… I feel for their families. Was I surprised? Hardly. This is an occupation and for those of you naïve enough to actually believe Chalabi and the Bush administration when they said the troops were going to be 'greeted with flowers and candy' then I can only wish that God will, in the future, grant you wisdom.

This is crazy. This is supposed to be punishment for violence but it's only going to result in more bloodshed on both sides… people are outraged everywhere- Sunnis and Shi'a alike. This constant bombing is only going to make things worse for everyone. Why do Americans think that people in Baghdad or the south or north aren’t going care what happens in Falloojeh or Ramadi or Nassriyah or Najaf? Would Americans in New York disregard bombing and killing in California?

And now Muqtada Al-Sadr's people are also fighting it out in parts of Baghdad and the south. If the situation weren't so frightening, it would almost be amusing to see Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom describe Al-Sadr as an 'extremist' and a 'threat'. Muqtada Al-Sadr is no better and no worse than several extremists we have sitting on the Governing Council. He's just as willing to ingratiate himself to Bremer as Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom. The only difference is that he wasn't given the opportunity, so now he's a revolutionary. Apparently, someone didn't give Bremer the memo about how when you pander to one extremist, you have to pander to them all. Hearing Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom claim that Al-Sadr is a threat to security and stability brings about visions of the teapot and the kettle…

Then Bremer makes an appearance on tv and says that armed militias will *not* be a part of the New Iraq… where has that declaration been the last 12 months while Badir's Brigade has been wreaking havoc all over the country? Why not just solve the problem of Al-Sadr's armed militia by having them join the police force and army, like the Bayshmarga and Badir's Brigade?! Al-Sadr's militia is old news. No one was bothering them while they were terrorizing civilians in the south. They wore badges, carried Klashnikovs and roamed the streets freely… now that they've become a threat to the 'Coalition', they suddenly become 'terrorists' and 'agitators'.


And as I blog this, all the mosques, Sunni and Shi’a alike, are calling for Jihad.

I hope not, but I increasingly get the feeling that this isn't going to just bite us in the ass, it's going to tear our buttocks off...

Gem o'the Day:
Fred Kaplan's a guest on "The O'Franken Factor" today, and he just cut loose with a gem, talking about the likely result in Iraq:

The best we can hope for is a somewhat federated Islamic republic that's not dedicated to our total death.

I'm ashamed to say...
that I have to rely on Melanie Mattson to tell me what's happening back home, but I'm not so red-faced to deny her the deserved credit. She draws my attention to this paragraph, from, of all sources, the gossip columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

BACK AT BUSCH: A somewhat hostile crowd complained mightily about the problems the presidential motorcade caused with regular fans trying to get into the park. A Cards employee tipped moi that the team was so concerned about Bush being booed that they piped in fake applause when he strode out to the mound. [Cardinals president Mark] Lamping flatly denied it.

I'm glad to see that there are still at least a few St. Louisans with some good sense.

Here's a picture of screaming success...
From Juan Cole:

The Second Front: Multi-City Sadrist Uprising Continues

The difficulty the United States and its allies are having in regaining control of the major cities of the Shiite south is breathtaking in its implications. There is little doubt that they can prevail eventually in a military sense. But if the Sadrist uprising were a minor affair of a few thousand ragtag militiamen, it is difficult to understand how they could survive the onslaught of 150,000 well-armed and well-trained European and North American troops for more than a day. Rather, it is clear that urban crowds are supporting the uprising in some numbers. Even when the Coalition puts the uprising down, it may well incur the wrath of many persons who had earlier viewed it with favor. And if the US cannot control Iraq now, when it has its hands directly on all the levers of power, how will it do so in the coming year, as it loses its grip on those levers?

The tired CPA refrain that lots of schools have been painted and the markets are bustling is shockingly inept even as propaganda. I lived in Beirut in the early years of the civil war there. I'd like to report that people shop during wars and heavy civil disturbances. The economy does not disappear in such situations. It is just that the value of currency drops, foreign investment dries up, and hoarding is widespread. People rush out to buy stocks in case there are curfews. Bustling bazaars mean nothing in themelves--they have to be interpreted in context. But major fighting in most Shiiite urban areas is unambiguous in its significance. It means that the Bush administration rule of Iraq is FUBAR. It seems inevitable to me that the US military will pursue a war to the death with the Army of the Mahdi, the Sadrist movement, and Muqtada al-Sadr himself. They will of course win this struggle on the surface and in the short term, because of their massive firepower. But the Sadrists will simply go underground and mount a longterm guerrilla insurgency similar to that in the Sunni areas.

The United States has managed to create a failed state, similar to Somalia and Haiti, in Iraq.

I'm remembering a discussion on a mailing list that I was on, in which the resident idiot was chomping at the bit for the invasion, claiming that we would make Iraq into a staunch ally of the U.S. and Israel....

I hope you'll pardon my laughter; I only laugh so that I don't cry.

I don't believe this..... I simply don't believe this....
Every so often, I have to wonder, were the folks in the bAdministration born stupid, or did they have to take lessons (well, we know that Dumbya probably fried most of his brain cells with cocaine, and then killed the rest with booze, so maybe we won't count him)? But still.... A recent entry from Sheman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog (remember, Sherm is a moderate Republican):

04/05/2004: "The Bush Credit Card"

Only days after the last spam mail from the Republican National Committee (in the person of RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie) I just got a letter from Bush Cheney campaign manager Marc Racicot. Like previous mailings, it "honors me for my past support." The problem with that statement of course is that I’ve returned every communication I’ve gotten from any Republican source with some extremely derisive comments in place of a check. You think they would have gotten the idea. Just like with the folksy picture they sent of George and Laura with the personal thanks, this most recent letter spotlights my role as a "grassroots leader" who is a "backbone of our campaign in [my latest State of residence]." Here’s a good one – are you ready? "Special interest groups have already amassed a war chest of over $200 million and vow to spend half a billion dollars to defeat our President." In other words, he’s positioning Bush-Cheney ’04 as the financial underdog. That’s really rich (no pun intended), considering that Bush is far, far ahead of Democrats for contributions, already having blown away the unprecedented collections he accomplished in 2000. Most interesting, though, is what came with this mailing. Instead of a personal photo, suitable for creating the impression that Dubya and Laura are old buds, it’s instead a piece of plastic that looks exactly like a credit card. It even has a place on the back to sign it, and comes with a "receipt verification" like a credit card. I personally think this is the perfect reminder of what the Bush Administration stands for. More than any in history, Bush has treated the US Treasury like a big fat credit card he can use to buy goodies for voters under a "pay later with interest" plan. Like many credit promotions, repayment is postponed, in this case until after the election. What better symbol for Bush fiscal policy could there be?

It's bad enough that the bAdministration is spending the country into penury. But to be so boldfaced about it? Such arrogance boggles the mind.

I wonder if the "credit card" Sherm got looked like this:

It must be the tattoos....
Jeebus! First he was married to Janine, and now he's poking Sandra Bullock, at least if this Las Vegas Sun gossip column is to be believed... (scroll down to the "Dine" item, or just do a search of the page for Sandra's name).

Some guys just live right. Or maybe it's Karmic compensation for all the needle sticks it took to get those tattoos done.

But I'm still not tempted to do it. Not even for Sandra. Or Janine, for that matter.

"Rut roh!"--Scooby Doo
The Curse of Dubya extends to a second night. Losing the first two games of the season is bad enough, but to the Brewers?

This could be a long, ugly summer.... sigh

An oldie but goodie....
From The Onion, back in March of last year: Point-Counterpoint: The War On Iraq

His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani has a website: Included are such topics as a biography of Sistani (whose name should be familiar if you're following the news out of Iraq at all....), a Q and A section (including such fascinating topics as whether Islam permits a married couple to engage in oral sex (permissible if agreed to by both husband and wife, "provided that no liquid gets into the mouth") and anal sex (permissible if agreed to by both husband and wife, but "strongly undesirable")), excerpts from Sistani's works, and more. An interesting glimpse of Islam, even if Sistani wasn't, at this juncture, an extremely important political leader as well.

Thought for the Day:
As several readers have pointed out, Uni Watch's recent baseball preview column neglected to mention several salient details regarding last week's Yankees/Devil Rays series in Japan. First, both teams were wearing a cap patch celebrating the series itself—unnecessary but largely innocuous. More troublesome was the logo of the office-equipment company Ricoh, which appeared on both teams' batting helmets and jersey sleeves. This is similar to what happened when the Mets and Cubs played in Japan in 2000, except then it was the convenience-store chain AM/PM on the helmets and the insurance company AIU on the sleeves. At the time, this seemed like the first step down a road that would inevitably lead to Visa and McDonald's sleeve patches, but that hasn't happened—yet. Granted, selling ad space on team unis is offensive, but if Major League Baseball keeps doing it on these terms—only during leap years, only in Japan, and only for games that take place when Uni Watch is asleep—it won't be the end of the world.

More subtle, and therefore insidious, is the fact that the Yankees wore their home uniforms for these games, even though the Devil Rays were technically the home team. The stated rationale for this disgraceful switcheroo is that the Japanese fans "deserved" to see the Yankee pinstripes, which tells you everything you need to know about this series—it was designed strictly as a Yankee showcase, with the Devil Rays cast in a role of cannon fodder. Fortunately, the Rays neglected to read the script and ended up thumping the Yanks in the opener. All of which must have particularly sweet for Tampa skipper Lou Piniella, an embittered ex-Yankee, who appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself, tacky road jersey and all.
--Paul Lukas (in Slate's "Uni Watch" feature)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Damn, the man ought to be a lawyer...
or even better, a Congresscritter. Joe Bob Briggs again:

President Bush made the Fetus Fans happy by signing "Laci and Connor's Law," a bill nammed after Laci Peterson and her unborn son, which makes it a crime to harm a fetus (as distinct from the pregnant woman containing the fetus). The main question about the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, though, is: why is the law federal? Almost all other criminal laws are handled at the state level. This is one more law that makes it possible to create legal double jeopardy for criminal defendants, trying them first one way, then, if the jury fails to convict, another way. Ultimately the families of the convicted men develop grievances of their own, a la the peasant riots of the Middle Ages. It has to be fair on all sides--punishment, so the victim is satisfied, but the right DEGREE of punishment, so the relatives of the perpetrator are satisfied--in order to avoid fomenting cynicism and outright hostility to the system. And furthermore . . . oh, silly us, sorry, we were actually DEBATING this law.

But Joe Bob does raise an excellent question: why the fuck is this a federal law? I really fail to see any legitimate federal interest here.

Oh, wait, that's right; it's an election year, and Dumbya has to pander to his base.

Don't do as we say, and don't do as we do, either.....
From the weekly Joe Bob Briggs "Week in Review" newsletter:

After four American contractors were killed, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Fallujah, Iraq, various military and White House spokesman vowed retaliation, retribution, payback, indicating that the perpetrators would be taken out. Excuse us for asking, but wasn't a new constitution approved, uh, one week ago, guaranteeing courts of criminal justice modeled after the ones in the U.S.? Oh, sorry, rhetorical question.

This raises a question in my legally trained mind--I've heard and read several commentators refer to the Fallujah incident as the "murder" of four U.S. civilians. Given that these civilians were hired by the U.S. government--the occupying power--to perform paramilitary duties in an area seeing armed conflict, can these deaths be legally characterized as "murder"? I bet I could make a damn good argument that they can't (and leaving the legalities aside, my moral intuitions say "no, they aren't"...).

"The Iraqi resistance is going to win"
From Steve Gilliard: We are not supermen


Oh well, at least BS Tommy should be happy today....
The NL Central standings as of this morning:
Team            W       L         PCT  GB
Chicago 1 0 1.000 -
Milwaukee 1 0 1.000 -
Pittsburgh 1 0 1.000 -
Cincinnati 0 1 .000 1.0
Houston 0 1 .000 1.0
St. Louis 0 1 .000 1.0

Actually, I'm not despondent; I'm really engaging in a bit of schadenfreude. As far as I'm concerned, having George aWol Bush come to Busch to throw the first pitch was a lousy idea (leaving aside my personal animus for Bush, things are already screwed up enough at Busch Stadium this season and next, as the construction of the new stadium just the next block down from the current stadium apparently has parking and traffic FUBAR; add the mega-FUBAR that any Presidential appearance makes, multiply that by a factor of 10 to accomodate the fact that Bush is a craven coward who has to surround himself with security unseen in any previous administration, and you have the makings of the Baseball Outing From Hell (data point: IIRC, for a 3:05 PM gametime (though I'm seeing at least one Cards blog say 3:20 PM), the stadium opened at 11:00 AM (granted, there was a buttload of Opening Day festivities to get through), and the management was urging fans to come really, really early)), and if the rumor that the Cubs organization refused Bush's request to throw out the first pitch in Chicago is true, I applaud the Cubs management and I'll even consider pulling for them in any games that they're not playing the Cards (unless, of course, the Cards are in contention and the Cubs winning will put the Cards out of contention). So just call it a "serves them right" moment; Bush brought the Cards bad luck, which is what I'd expect, and I just hope that the jinx doesn't last all season.

I'll settle for a record of 161-1. :-)

From La Reg: Internet rape fantasy "game" goes horribly wrong

A man enacting a rape fantasy game with a "victim" he met in an Internet chatroom broke into the wrong apartment and assaulted an innocent woman, CNN reports.

Michael Todd Howard, 35, admitted burglary in a San Diego court after plea bargaining his way out of an intent to commit rape, false imprisonment and possession of illegal drugs rap.

Howard met his intended target on a "rape fantasy" chat site. In September last year, he forced his way into what he believed to be her apartment, and attacked the female occupant. Howard had, however, got his wires crossed. He hit the terrified woman, who fought back by shouting and "attacking his testicles". She testified that she believed she was going to be killed.

Luckily, Howard then asked for her chatroom handle. She protested she had never been in a chatroom and did not even own a computer.

Howard faces one year in jail and probation. He will be sentenced next month.

You've gotta get that address right....

Why the morning of November 3 is going to be scary....
regardless of who wins: both Kerry and Bush are members of the Yale secret society, Skull and Bones. Randomly came across an article from the Yale Herald from January: Bones May Have Pancho Villa Skull. Excerpt:

So was Prescott Bush the leader of an international conspiracy that brought Pancho Villa's skull to New Haven? According to Ernesto Cienfuegos, editor-in-chief of the California-based publication La Voz de Aztlan, the answer is yes.

"The U.S. State Department pressured both Ciudad Juarez Mayor Alberto Almeida and his brother Governor Roberto Almeida of the State of Chihuahua to release Holmdahl from the Parral Prison," Cienfuegos said. "This is all documented in Mexican historical documents. Why would there be such an intense effort to release a grave robber? The reason was that Prescott Bush pulled a lot of strings from behind the scenes...Holmdahl in fact, was an early version of a CIA undercover agent working on U.S. covert activities during the Central American 'Banana Wars' and in the Mexican Revolution."

In an E-mail to the Herald, Cienfuegos also said he believes that Skull and Bones have the skull of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He added, "Do not be surprised if the skull of Saddam Hussein ends up as a trophy inside Skull and Bones as well."

Alexandra Robbins, ES '98, author of
Secrets of the Tomb: The Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, mentions Pancho Villa as one of many legendary leaders whose cranium rests in the Skull and Bones tomb. "Deep within the bowels of the tomb are the stolen skulls of the Apache Chief Geronimo, Pancho Villa, and former President Martin van Buren," Robbins wrote in her book.

However, in a recent interview with the Herald, Robbins admitted that it is somewhat unlikely that Villa's skull resides in New Haven. "The story goes that Bones paid $25,000 for the skull back in the 1920s or so," Robbins explained. "But Bonesmen I spoke with confirmed my thinking that Bones is too cheap to pay that much money for a skull—and that there's no record of that skull in the building. Geronimo's skull is a much more plausible tomb relic."

Makes you wonder sometimes....

Thought for the Day:
Begala and Carville nail it completely. If you were selling soda and could only change brands every four years, the commercials would be nastier than you could imagine.
--Steve Gilliard [on election ads]

Monday, April 05, 2004

Kos is making an appearance tonight.....
(via phone) on "Majority Report" (Janeane Garafalo's show) on Air America (well, "America Left" since I get it via XM satellite radio), and explaining his intemperate remarks about the deaths of the mercs in Iraq. I guess I'm just depraved, subhuman scum; his side of the story sounds reasonable to me. Granted, he said something that was quite intemperate (and he's acknowledging that), but on the other hand, he makes a good point: these guys were being paid several orders of magnitude more money than U.S. servicemen to voluntarily work in a paramilitary capacity in a war zone. This was a risk they took, and they're there of their own free will. Unlike some of the reservists being compelled to "avenge" them.

On to the next crisis.

Yet Another Stupid Quizilla Quiz:
Nicholas Kristof
You are Nicholas D. Kristof! You enjoy travelling,
going as far as China, Africa, Alaska, and
Central America for a good story. You use a lot
of quotes and references in your stories. You
tackle tough issues like AIDS and religion,
which makes you controversial among Christians.
You're a good man, Nicholas D. Kristof.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Been spending too much time today....
reading about the fallout concerning Kos's somewhat intermperate remarks concerning the killings of the U.S. mercenaries in Iraq (I'm not going to mince words; "contractors", in this context, is a euphemism, plain and simple).

Here's what I'd wanted to say on the issue, but Nathan Newman said it much better than I ever could, and much quicker too:

But frankly, the warhawk Right and the WWP antiwar sectarians are basically the same. They see all murder of one side as justified and ignore the evil done by the side they are cheering for.

The problem for both of them is that the US and Saddam Hussein were on the same side when the issue was war with Iran in the 1980s, just as the US and Bin Laden were on the same side when the issue was war with the Soviet Union. Both the warhawk Right and the WWP forces both support murder opportunistically, with little regard for the lives of innocents.

Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, who the US tolerated for years until he got out of line. The US then supported economic sanctions that hurt Hussein very little but helped starve innumerable children in Iraq. The US repeatedly betrayed the Kurds over the decades, encouraging them to rise up, then letting Hussein murder them.

And then, lying to the world about non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction, we chose to use war and the bombing of innocents as our route to ousting Hussein from power. And then Bush had his best corporate buddies profit to the tune of billions of dollars in contracts in taking over the economic infrastructure of the country.

Guess what-- I don't want any soldier to lose their life, just as I never wanted any Iraqi to lose theirs, but I don't have to "choose sides"-- I can choose peace and justice and oppose both Saddam Hussein and the Bush-Halliburton takeover of Iraq.

As for the mandatory ritual weeping I am supposed to do for the ex-military guards who deliberately went to a war zone in exchange for big bucks, I think my sympathy is more directed to the children who die each day because the US government chooses to spend hundreds of billions on weapons, and tiny fractions of that on fighting hunger and disease around the world.

That doesn't mean that anyone deserved to die, but the question is why these four deaths merited front page sympathy, yet the literally tens of thousands of other deaths occuring the same day didn't. People were outraged by Kos's stated indifference, yet the thundering silence of indifference every day to deaths from disease and poverty around the world is far more striking.

If the rightwing really cared about the death of innocents-- the rhetoric they use to justify the Occupation of Iraq-- they would be far more excited about the millions of AIDS deaths, the children dying of malaria, those dying of hunger, and so on.

But their outrage is usually selective. Show me a warhawk who wants to spend as much money fighting AIDS in Africa as occupying Iraq, and I'll show you a pro-war person I can respect. Otherwise, it's all rhetoric.

And if that makes me subhuman scum, I stand in good company.

Why I can enjoy living in the mid-South, even though I'm an atheist....
The mayor of Walls, Mississippi, tried to generate some controversy by hanging a plaque of the Ten Commandments in the City Hall there. But, if you want to generate a controversy by hanging a Ten Commandments plaque, first you have to remember to order the plaque.

The story identifies the guilty parties here as Bill Rassmussen, Randy Sharp, and Walls mayor Bobby Smith.

Strange. They sure as hell look like Moe, Larry and Curly after this flailex.

Thanks Rachel, for that one.

Forecasting the future?
Namely, today's game? From Matt Gunn (the brother of Brian "Redbird Nation" Gunn):

On Late Night With Conan O'Brien last night, there was this skit (called "In the Year 2000" if you're familiar with the show) in which Conan and Al Franken predict the future. These two jokes were especially funny, particularly the second one:
Conan: President Bush will throw out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals opening game. Bush will then pitch the rest of the game when he insists that replacing him now would send the wrong message to our enemies.
Ok, I edited out the second, purportedly funnier joke. So sue me. Or better yet, go follow the link to the post in question.


Trouble is....
this looks like a typical Bush bAdministration response. From this week's Ironic Times:

After Heavy Criticism of Pre-9/11 Anti-Terror Efforts, Bush Promises Reforms
Will ask Congress to pass tough anti-criticism bill.

More proof.....
that we have the best legal system money can buy:

Late last year in closed door hearings, Sun lawyers denounced Microsoft's new protocol licensing program as ineffective. Now Sun has become the biggest licensee of Microsoft protocols, giving the program credibility it lacked. Sun had testified how Microsoft torpedoed Project Cascade - which was based on a widely licensed piece of software from AT&T called Advanced Server for UNIX, which was itself based on Windows source code. When Sun wanted to buy the product outright, Microsoft broke its agreement with AT&T and cancelled the source contract. That was illegal, of course, and AT&T collected a cash settlement, but it has reflected the tone of Microsoft's legal strategy. If found guilty, Redmond can always buy its way out of trouble.

Caldera picked up the Digital Research suit against Microsoft and sought $1.6bn in damages. DR-DOS had as much as any competitor could hope for: a clearly superior, compatible product that cost OEMs less. In the end Microsoft settled for $155m damages. Clear cut cases brought by Bristol Technology and Be Inc. were settled before they even reached the courtroom. Microsoft's deep pockets bought the company plenty of patience. Despite a catastrophic verdict in the Federal Antitrust trial, Microsoft simply waited for the installation of a new regime at the Department of Justice more interested in punishing public nudity and file sharing than unethical business practices. When the individual States revolted at the settlement, Microsoft simply waited until the recession induced cash crises bought the States' attorneys back to the table. Microsoft's greatest stroke of luck was finding an EC competition commissioner more interested in cash than industry dynamics, and even Monti's paltry settlement may still be undone on appeal. Through good fortune and its own green fortune, Microsoft has seen off its severest legal threats. Although Real Networks' case is outstanding, the chapter that began with the FTC's investigation in 1991 is now surely over.

My emphasis, of course. Source: The Register

Thought for the Day:

Sunday, April 04, 2004

1 Day...
'til Opening Day.

Thought for the Day:
It was easy to figure out Mr. Rickey's thinking about contracts. He had players, and he had money--he just didn't want to see the two of them mix.
--Kevin "Chuck" Connors, major leaguer and actor [on Branch Rickey]

Saturday, April 03, 2004

2 Days...
'til Opening Day.

Thought for the Day:
The screwball's an unnatural pitch. Nature never intended a man to turn his hand like that throwing rocks at a bear.
--Carl Hubbell

Friday, April 02, 2004

Been reading....
a few reviews of Hellboy, and I've come to a conclusion.

If I see one more critic use the phrase "yes, that Rasputin" in his/her review, I'm going to scream. Loudly.

And for those of you who aren't familiar with the backstory; yes, the infamous "mad monk" of modern Russian history is a character in the story.

The Rest of the Story:
Finally, the real reason that the Ten Commandments had to be removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building last winter. Posting "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and "Thou Shalt Not Lie" in a building frequented by lawyers, judges and politicians created a hostile work environment!

[from an email correspondent--LRC]

Life is good....
Yesterday the Memphis Redbirds released unsold tickets for the two exhibition games with the St. Louis Cardinals for tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Probably silly, but I don't have any plans to run up to St. Louis to catch a game or three this summer (and weekend series tend to sell out quickly, as Cardinal Nation tends to make weekend pilgrimages to Mecca on the Mississippi in order to Worship at The One True Shrine Of All That Is Right And Holy), so this may be my only chance to see the big league club in "action" (like how much action will they give to the stars in a mere exhibition, eh?). Anyway, I've got my ticket for Saturday afternoon, and the weather looks like it'll cooperate. Meanwhile, my latest purchase of Cardinals logoed merchandise arrived (a spiffy polo shirt, suitable for wear in the office--since I work in academia, we can do business casual--and a spiffy Cards wristwatch), so I'll be attired in style (though I'll probably wear my St. Louis Browns cap, just to be onery--that, and I can't find my Cards cap right now, though I know it's in there somewhere).

And then to complete the weekend, today's release of Hellboy got good reviews from both Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli, so I'll try to shoehorn that into the schedule too. Could be a busy weekend....

3 Days...
'til Opening Day.

Thought for the Day:
I have a friend, Matt, whose a big Cubs fan, and when he found out the Cubs had signed Maddux this winter he called his father in Peoria IL and they had a spasticly glee full Cubs fan moment. The kind of moment that only people who haven't had a ton to celebrate in the last 100 years or so can really enjoy. They've been Cubs boosters since Matt can remember, buying into the fan club and taking bus trips a couple times a year to Wrigley. They have signs to put on their lawn. They've paid their dues, and they've paid them well. The implosion against the Fish last year was tough, but as a class of people they firmly believe that their time has come. Being favorites is a little difficult for Cubs fans, and they're navigating these new waters with the extreme caution of people who have wrecked a lot of ships over the years, but with the giddyness of people who know running the ship aground at least means you found something.
--Josh Schulz []

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Because today is the day...
here's a listing of the Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes of All Time.

And if you can keep a straight face reading about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, you're a better person than I am.

Thanks to Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard for this one....

Another object lesson....
in why George aWol Bush is stupid. Remember, as you read this, that at present the economy under Bush has lost several million jobs, and unless some sort of miracle happens, Bush stands to be the first U.S. President since Herbert Hoover to end his term as President with fewer jobs in the economy than when he started. That being the case, you'd think he'd jump at the chance to do anything that would create jobs, right?

Wrong. The man is stupid. Blindly, fatally, tragically stupid. This from Nathan Newman:

Bush has yet to veto a bill.

But now he's threatening to veto one of the few bills being voted on that is guaranteed to increase employment, namely the highway bill.

Now, no one is necessarily a fan of the pork barrel inevitably involved in such a bill, and more concrete is less attractive than improving mass transit, but the one thing we know is that the money spent on constructing transit projects is almost the most guaranteed job creator imaginable.

Tax cuts and income payments (Social Security, welfare, etc.) can be spent on imported goods, but highway projects are almost guaranteed to create domestic jobs paying decent wages.

So of course, Bush wants to stop such job creation. He'll defend hundreds of billions each year for tax cuts for the wealthy, but a few tens of billions for jobs must be vetoed.

If anything symbolizes Bush's responsibility for job loss in the United States, it's this veto threat. It highlights that Bush has had no strategy for economic growth other than his failed tax cut strategy, and when others have attempted alternatives, he's worked to stop them.

Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Never mind that there's little evidence that they're doing anything for the economy; if it doesn't involve tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush doesn't want to hear of it.

George Santayana once made a pertinent observation: A fanatic is one who, upon losing sight of his goals, redoubles his efforts.

By Santayana's definition, Bush is clearly a fanatic.

This should come as no surprise....
From the Enterprise Ethics Weblog: Corporate 'shell game' sucks money from state coffers. Basically, not content with driving down wages and benefits for their employees, companies like Wal-Mart also set up a nice little shell game in order to keep from paying state taxes:

Consumers who rush to the giant chains for their low prices probably don't realize that while they save a dollar or two on their toaster, they end up paying in other, not so apparent ways.

I've talked before about WalMart's scab wages and paltry benefits that put many of its employees on public assistance, meaning that the benefits are paid by taxpayers dollars. Now, we find out that WalMart -- and other giant chains such as Toys R Us -- have found a way to dodge paying the taxes that support their skinflint policies.

What these "good corporate citizens" do is set up a shell in a business-friendly (read: low-tax/no tax) state and assign all their logo and trademark ownership to that shell. Local stores pay hefty fees to the shell for use of the logos and can then claim them as tax deductions. The shell, located in a friendly state such as Delaware, doesn't have to pay state taxes on that income.

So elegant it's brilliant. I hope the accountant who came up with that tax dodge got a hefty bonus; s/he deserved it.

As Howard Scott noted, "A criminal is a person with predatory instincts without sufficient capital to form a corporation."

"Read my lips... No new taxes" redux:
From Manish the Damn Foreigner, we hear that CA governor Arnold "no higher taxes" Schwartzenegger has been forced to recognize that you just can't fudge arithmetic; he's now conceding that he may have to raise taxes, his "no higher taxes" campaign slogan be damned. Quoth Manish:

Surprise, surprise..a $14 billion deficit can't be fixed by getting rid of "waste" in a state with an annual audit of government. So, we're left with two choices, raise taxes or cut spending. It's clear that Arnold always wanted to do neither.

And once again, the Volunteer Tailgate Party convenes.....
Or rather this edition, The Pollenteer Talegait Harty, Volyoom 3.

For those of you not familiar with the VTP or its sponsor, the Rocky Top Brigade, the VTP is a periodic (every two weeks, I think) rundown of the best writing of the members of the RTB in the last several weeks. Which explains why you rarely see anything from me in there. Now if they ever had a "worst of the RTB" rundown, you'd probably see me all over it.

As for what the RTB is, just follow the link above. Resident RTB demi-god SKBubba says it much better than I can.


News you can use...
From an email correspondent.
Things not to say to the cop who just pulled you over
  • "Here. Hold my beer."
  • "What? Is my radar detector unplugged?"
  • "Aren't you that guy from the Village People?"
  • "Man, you must have gone 120 to catch me. Good job!"
  • "Which one are you? Andy or Barney?"
  • "When did they stop requiring physicals?"
  • "You're not gonna check my trunk, are you?"
  • "Remember: I pay your salary!"
  • "Gee, thanks officer! The last guy let me off with a warning, too!"
  • "I was trying to keep up with traffic... Yes, I know there's not another car in sight; that's how far behind I am!"
  • "Phew! Have you been drinking?"
  • "Wha'sa matter? Doughnut shop closed?"

As a Sherlockian....
I always like to see references to The Canon in the general press, and Fred Kaplan pleases me yesterday with his Slate piece, The Dogs That Didn't Bark (that being said, I'll note that references to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time are probably overdone, but then again, it is sort of a memorable passage in The Canon that grabs even a lot of non-Sherlockians):

In the short story "Silver Blaze," Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery of a stolen racehorse by observing that the stable's guard dog didn't bark—hence, the intruder was not a stranger.

The mystery of whether Richard Clarke is telling the truth about President Bush's counterterrorism policies might be solved the same way: Which dogs aren't barking? Amid all the administration officials bombarding the airwaves with denunciations, who has stayed mum?

The answer: Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet, and their silence speaks loudly.

For anyone who's interested, here's The Curious Incident (from "Silver Blaze"):

As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads held the door open for us. A sudden idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for
he leaned forward and touched the lad upon the sleeve.

"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he said. "Who attends to them?"

"I do, sir."

"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?"

"Well, sir, not of much account, but three of them have gone lame, sir."

I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he chuckled and rubbed his hands together.

"A long shot, Watson, a very long shot," said he, pinching my arm. "Gregory, let me recommend to your attention this singular epidemic among the sheep. Drive on, coachman!"

Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which he had formed of my companion's ability, but I saw by the inspector's face that his attention had been keenly aroused.

"You consider that to be important?" he asked.

"Exceedingly so."

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

4 Days...
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
When evil Cardinals fans die, they will spend eternity watching Esteban Yan and Jeff Fassero pitch.
--Will Leitch