Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Sobering Tale of Lt. Col. Colby Vokey

This is the kind of story that really punches you in the gut. I frequently convince myself that I'm just being alarmist, and that things aren't as bad as I think. Then I read something like this. Important data.

[via Daily Kos]
Ralph Nader Sues Democratic Party

One half of my brain:
This does seem important, and he deserves his day in court. If the Dems did this then they deserve to be slapped down hard.

The other half:
For God's sake, when is this stupid SOB going to STFU? He's not satisfied at having helped bring us the worst presidency of all time? Thanks again, Mr. "Not A Dime's Worth Of Difference." Ever even consider admitting how astonishingly, astoundingly, mind-bendingly wrong you turned out to be? You were a moron then, and you're a moron now. I used to feel like I had a duty to take you seriously. Now, not so much.

So I guess I'm...ambivalent...?
"Worse Than Bush..."

So, I keep hearing people say that Giuliani would be worse than Bush... And a few hardy souls at the furthermost reaches of the Bush Dead-Ender brigade still try to defend their votes in '00 and '04 by saying that Gore or Kerry would have been worse than Bush.

But the worse x gets, the less plausible the claim becomes that a (roughly comparable) y would be worse than x. It's not absolutely impossible, of course, but it eventually becomes vastly improbable. There is virtually no chance, of course, that Gore would have been a worse president than Bush--even if he (Gore) did more-or-less as badly as he could do...even if he immediately started performing at his worst, and basically stayed there. He would almost certainly not have let OBL get away at Tora Bora, abandoned the war in Afghanistan prematurely, invaded Iraq, strengthened al Qaeda, or alienated the world. So it almost wouldn't matter what else he did.

And even if Giuliani is as bad a person as the most pessimistic lefties are saying, I have to say, I'm not worried that he will be worse than Bush. Another bad president in '09 will be a catastrophe for the U.S. and for the world--I'm certainly not suggesting that all we have to worry about is getting someone better than Bush. That would be to set the bar absurdly low. I am worried about getting a bad president--but I'm not really worried about getting one worse than Bush. Mere regression to the mean seems to make that extremely unlikely.

Anyway, I just find the "worse than Bush" talk foolishly hyperbolic given the facts available to us.
Clinton on Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

I guess I didn't see that Clinton's answer was such a big deal. Policy x makes a lot of sense, but it's troublesome is not contradictory, and not even all that weird. That's my view about a lot of things, including a lot of policies. Nationalized health care, for example: it makes a lot of sense, but it's troublesome. Building a fence along the Mexican border: same thing. And the same seems to go for driver's licenses for illegals.

But one note to Clinton: anybody who pushes for a policy like that will not win the general election. Drop it. Drop any positive reference to it now. It does not matter whether or not it is a good policy.

I just think that this kind of exaggerated gotcha reaction to relatively minor inconsistencies is stupid and tactically bad. The GOP has a drawer full of all-purpose ad hominems that they are searching through even as we speak trying to figure out which one will look worst on which candidate. Clinton seems to me to be one of those fairly generic candidates--not much to love, not much to hate. So the generic, all-purpose labels will become more relevant. That's what happened with Kerry (the laughable "flip-flopper" charge), and with Gore and that kind of inchoate dishonesty charge (the internet, James Lee Witt...). Anyway, the Dems shouldn't make the GOP's job any easier for them.

I know the other candidates are in a bind: Clinton looks like almost a lock, but she also looks like one of the few Dems who could lose in the general. So it seems really important to beat her...and the most efficient way to do so is by using these kinds of Atwater/Rove tactics, tried and true. But, since she IS likely to be the candidate, we might pay a high price for these tactics.

I think the best line of the night was Dodd's: it is, in fact, imperative--for the country and for the world--that we get a Democrat in the White House in 2009.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Debate: Takin' Us To Our Leader

My un-mulled-over reaction, FWIW:

Did great: Dodd, Biden

Did very well: Clinton

Hot and cold: Edwards

Meh: Richardson

Did badly: Obama

Crazy-ass UFO-seein' nutcase: Kucinich

Thanks to Kucinich for making the Dems look crazy. Way to go Dennis! If that guy was just nuts it would be one thing, but he's actually right about a fair number of things...and then his nuttiness just casts a kind of pall on his good positions. (Like, e.g., impeachment...) My guess: this UFO business will stick with the Dems for quite awhile. It's egg on their collective face, irrational though that may be. It's too funny, and the MSM is gonna eat this up.

In his defense, though, we've all seen UFOs in the sense he was using--that is, he saw a flying object that he couldn't identify. The other stuff about a warm fuzzy feeling or whatever probably, er, needs some explaining...

On the other hand, how many candidates believe that there is an omnipotent person existing outside of space and time who created the universe and judges us all after death? And how many think they've had some (perhaps direct) experience of that person?

Just speaking objectively and dispassionately about the issue: the odds that intelligent aliens have visited the Earth are greater than, say, the odds that God came to Earth in the form of a human being and died for all our sins. Both theories are unlikely to be true, but the former story really isn't all that outlandish; the latter is, well, almost certainly false.

Oops...there's Chris Matthews getting Bill Richardson to sound like a UFO kook too. Oh, man, the Freepers are burning up their keyboards over this! No, wait, all Freepers are in their Sleep Number beds by now... But they'll be burnin' 'em up when they get back from the early bird special down ta' the Shoney's tomorrow morning, you betcha'...
Left-Wing Indoctrination in U. of Delaware Dorms

Utter insanity. And I mean that literally. Seriously--you've got to read this to believe it.

Note: unverified! No chance to check it out yet.

Sadly, though, it's within the realm of possibility...
F-22 Update

Looks like the more-or-less real world data is in on the Raptor:

The Raptor in the Real World (Air Force Magazine Online)

Raptors Wield "Unfair" Advantage at Red Flag (Air Combat Command)

F-22s Make Mark at Red Flag (Defence

Looks like the Raptor is making mincemeat of everything else.

Although there seems to be some disagreement in the sources, it looks like a 241-2 kill-loss ratio for the F-22 at Red Flag. Some sources seem to say that the two losses were actually F-15s in the Blue Force...but it seems clear that at least one Raptor got "killed." One story: it was due to a "mulligan" in which one of the red force fighters regenerated, but the F-22 didn't realize it was live. Another story: overly aggressive tactics by one Raptor jock.

Just for the record, as I noted in comments below, I realized that the Raptor's thrust vectoring wasn't taken into account by Spey and Stevenson's arguments, so I realized that that, at least would make a difference. Jeez, I'm not an idiot...

Anyway, this is more impressive given that these are allegedly just ordinary blue force pilots up against the notoriously awesome red force pilots at Red Flag.

A quote:
"I can't see the [expletive deleted] thing," said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. "It won't let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me."
So this is good news.

Now get off my back, Mystic--here's your retraction. I was wrong to question the mighty Raptor, lord of the skies, master of the air, ruler of the clouds, pwner of all other aircraft...

(Though, of course, comparing the Raptor to the F-15 is a little unfair and misleading, as 25 years separate the planes. It'd be a little like comparing the F-15 to the F-86.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Giant Tangle of Ignorance and Biases

Ever have one of those days when something clicks, and you more-or-less suddenly get a little perspective on yourself and you think "my God, I'm just a big bundle of stubbornly entrenched beliefs, habitual patterns of thought, prejudices, preconceptions and ignorance!!!"???

Well, I've been having one of those days for the past two months or so, and it's really killing my buzz, man. Sometimes I think my view of things is so fossilized that I wouldn't know the truth if it bit me on the ass and gave me its business card.

[Skepticism warning siren sounds in the distance. Somewhere, a raccoon juggles.]
Ira-a-an, Iran So Far Awa-a-ay...

...I couldn't get away...

Iran! The new Eurasia! Or is it Eastasia? Oh, well, I forget. But ANYWAY, they are very, very BAD, and quite possibly the source of all that is bad and naughty in the ENTIRE WORLD!!!11!!

Over to you, Kevin...
Iowa Electronic Markets Currently Predicting Clinton v. Giuliani


(The bad news:) The IEM predict Clinton versus Giuliani.

(The good news:) They are also predicting Clinton winning by 4%.

Too far out to give any credibility to this stuff, but S. rex got me interested in the electronic markets, so there it is.

I do wonder whether we should refuse to discuss this stuff, though, so long as the Myth Of Clinton's Inevitability is being crammed down our throats.

But, as someone who's still holding out hope for Wesley Clark, my opinions about everything in this vicinity should, no doubt, be assiduously avoided.
The Darfur Debacle

I had hope there for awhile that we were going to actually do something in Darfur. According to a story in today's Post, Bush is genuinely passionate about the issue and personally committed to doing something about it:

"He wanted militant action, and people had to restrain him," said one senior official familiar with the episode. "He wanted to go in and kill the Janjaweed."

You go, Dubya. Going in and killing some Janjaweed is exactly what we ought to be doing.

On the downside, it's not clear how much of this is genuinely moral interest, and how much is based in a kind of partisan evangelical Christianity:

Many close to Bush believe that this intense interest in the issue was heavily influenced by American evangelicals, who have adopted the cause of Christians in southern Sudan.

Though there's this:

Former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), whom Bush appointed as his special envoy for Sudan, said the president's interest in the country is rooted in a larger sense of morality. "This isn't a country that has much strategic interest for the United States," he observed.

Of course it's common to confuse religion with morality, so who knows? Not that I really care why we go in. I just want us to go in. One of the things that seems to be holding us up is that (even according to Bush) we just can't invade yet another Muslim country. Yet another opportunity cost associated with this numb-skull invasion of Iraq...but no need to open that can of worms here. If we'd have done things right in Afghanistan and properly rebuilt the country, some Islamic nations would practically be begging us to invade.

I still think--as I've said before--that we ought to pool our money and fund some mercenaries to go in. Heck, even Blackwater would improve the situation tremendously.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Assessment of the F-22

These assessments of the F-22 by Pierre Sprey and James Stevenson are extremely surprising and depressing.

I was motivated to look up this sort of thing after hearing an expert crowing about how the F-22 was not only a great fighter, but that it had been modified so that it could perform in a ground attack role as well.

"Jeez," I thought, "isn't this a giant leap backward?" Weren't the F-15 and F-16 revolutionary because they were dedicated air superiority fighters? Didn't we get our butts (in F-4s and F-105s) kicked by enough MiG-17s in Vietnam (MiG-17s, fer chrissake) to teach us that big, heavy fighters don't, ya know, fare so well against small, agile fighters? Whatever happened to "not a pound for air-to-ground?"

Needless to say I'm not claiming the slightest bit of expertise here...but the air force has made this same mistake in the past. Sprey is a guy I'm inclined to take very seriously (I don't know anything about Stevenson), and his conclusion seems to be that we'd be better off buying a buttload of F-16s. Stevenson agrees, pointing out that we could maintain a sustained force of 2,160 F-16s for the price of 133 F-22s. And, as he points out, numbers matter. A lot. Just ask ME262 pilots...

Because the Powers That Be repeatedly insist on bigger and more high-tech fighters, Stevenson notes that we have produced a mind-bogglingly expensive fighter that can't achieve what Air Force pilots say they want: "first look, first shoot, first kill." Sprey goes so far as to say that it isn't even clear that we've produced any fighters that are clearly superior to the F-86!!!!!!!!!

Holy smokes! If half of this is halfway to being half right, this is a very big deal.
Firearm Confiscation After Katrina

How on Earth could I have not heard about this before?

This is insane!
The DM of the Rings

LotR as comix. Funny 4 gaming nerds.
Absolutely Most Totally Awesome (Pre-Raptor) Modern Jet Fighter

O.k., now that the F-22 is basically making everything else obsolete, this topic has become crucially important, as I'm sure you'll agree. Like so many other humans burdened with a Y chromosome, I spend much of my time fleshing out my fighter pilot fantasies (WWII version, contemporary version, sometimes Korean war version).

[Note: Yes, I am well aware of the fact that I am very lucky that I never actually had to go to war. Just ease up, willya?]

I just think that it's important to make it absolutely clear that (at least in the pre-F-22 world), the absolutely most totally awesome jet fighter is/was...the F-15 Eagle. [link fixed thanx MK]

Sure, the F-18 is sweeeet, and the F-16 is way wicked. The F-14...well, I'm not a fan, but I've got nothing bad to say about it. And the Soviets/Russians had/have some cool toys, too. [stifles yawn] I mean, if you like planes made out of, like, cast iron or bronze or whatever it is they were using...

But for my money, the F-15 is the coolest. The arguments will go on forever, probably (and there seems to be a whole cadre of folks on the web dedicated to pumping up the Tomcat (probably having watched Top Gun too many times...)) But when push comes to shove, it's damn hard to argue against the F-15's 103 to 0 kill-loss record. (And the air superiority version has never been shot down ever, even by ground fire.)

So I'm glad we've settled this.

Most totally awesome modern jet fighter: the F-15 Eagle.

O.k., sure, my grandpa did a lot of production work in the F-15...but that has absolutely nothing to do with the F-15 being the coolest. Okay, maybe a little bit...

As you were.
Hollywood Goes to GWoT
Thanks for the Ambivalence

So there's this at Captain's Quarters. The points:
(a) Hollywood (traitorous, liberal, etc.) is making anti-GWoT movies
(b) They aren't doing well at the box office
(c) So there (i.e. the public is On To Them)

The idea is that movies like Rendition basically show us as full of ennui, and uncommitted to the war(s), because, well, they aren't really worth fighting. Etc.

My thoughts, in order of occurrence:

(i) Slow blog day? There should be a word for manufacturing outrage about minor issues in order to have something to blog about. Also: partisanship sells, and the right loves to bash them some Hollywood. (Cripes...and what a slow-moving target that is... I want get in on some of that action...)

(ii) Wait a second. Movies are basically what pass for American culture these days (that and music videos...). So maybe the messages getting sent out there do matter after all! Holy crap!!!
Does this stuff really get into people's consciousnesses(eseses)? I mean, I've already begun to think that...move over Tipper Gore...rap videos are a plague on the land (not, like, excellent old school rap, but, ya know, the new stuff where it's nothing but fat guys waving money at aych-oh-apostrophe-esses in gold bikinis who are having orgasms by looking at BMWs) it's a short hop to worries about movies...(and a short hop to cutting my hair and yelling things like "hey you kids! Git off'n my property!"...)

This requires some thought, I fear.

(iii) But one almost footnote before I leave to do what passes for thinking with me... There's a note of disapproval and anti-liberalism, of course, in all these kinds of arguments. And some of it may be warranted. But as for ambivalence about the GWoT...that is almost 100% attributable to Bush/Cheney and conservative proponents of the Iraq invasion. Return with me now to those glorious days of yesteryear, early 2002, when we were, ya' know, attacking the people who attacked us. Everybody but the tiniest handful of total nuts backed the invasion of Afghanistan. The whole world loved us, even my liberal friends were saying things like "why don't we have more boots on the ground now?" I have two pacifist colleagues, and they were both in favor of invasion!

They were the bad guys, we were the good guys, and never was there a more justified invasion. A state run by (mostly foreign) totalitarian religious kooks who were protecting the world's foremost terrorist who had just committed an almost unbelievable act of mass murder. There was unity, baby, at home and abroad. We were righteous and everybody knew it.

But then you know what happened. The administration dropped the ball, shifting crucial resources for an invasion of Iraq that was already being planned and OBL got away. Then the lies, the distortions, the exaggerations, the marketing campaign for the unjustified and disastrous Iraq war. The derisive and mendacious attacks against everyone at home and abroad who tried to talk sense--old Europe, unpatriotic, objectively pro-terrorist, and all the other shameful hogwash.

And so now the good war is inextricably linked with the bad one in the consciousness of the world.

So, yeah, I think it may be worth worrying about how this is all being portrayed in fiction. But this fiction has a factual basis. The culprits here are not the conflicted public, nor the conflicted movie-makers, but the despicable and incompetent administration that made ambivalence a sensible attitude.

(And if ambivalence is a sensible attitude for us to have...reflect for a moment on how things must look from the perspective of lots of folks in the Middle East. Congrats, Mr. Bush, for being so wrong that you can make it possible for OBL to say "I'm right" without getting laughed out of every house in the world.)
John Cole Gives the WaPo the Beauchamp Treatment

Guilty, snarky pleasure.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Calling a Waterboard a Waterboard

As I've said in the past, my position on torture:

1. It is permissible in principle
(In fact, in certain "ticking time-bomb" cases, it is obligatory)

2. It is very rarely permissible in actual practice
(clean, clear, ticking time-bomb type cases rarely if ever actually occur)

Here are some of my major objections to the current administration's policies:

A. They seem not merely willing but almost downright eager to torture.

B. They falsely believe that there is something morally superior about sending people to other countries to be tortured rather than torturing them ourselves. (In fact, if anything, it's probably worse to hire someone else to do one's dirty work. )

C. They refuse to call a waterboard a waterboard and admit that what we are doing is torture.

We're obviously--and sadly--not going to make any fast progress on A or B. But we ought to insist on honesty with regard to C. If we're going to do it, we should call it what it is. Cripes, I'd almost be happier about an outright lie. All this Gonzalesian/Yooian bullshit about simulating death and organ failure is sickening. Calling it what it ain't is just another way to circumvent democracy by controlling the flow of information. If the somnambulant American public endorses the policy, that's one thing. But if they're impeded from understanding the policy by a terminological smokescreen...well, that's a different kind of problem. And one we might be able to solve just by relentlessly insisting on honesty in this matter.


The United States of America tortures some of its prisoners.

That's the fact. So there damn well better be the equivalent of a ticking time-bomb somewhere.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beauchamp Quickie

The other day Drudge (note: not an actual news source) released some transcripts that were supposed to show that Beauchamp lied and TNR (note: looking less and less like an actual news source these days) was irresponsible in printing his story. But the 'scripts did no such thing. (More on that later.) I mean, I don't really have a position on this, and TNR is definitely only semi-reliable these days, but the transcripts just don't say what some on the right are saying that they say.

But, anyway, TNR printed this today on their site. They're sticking by their story, and claiming that Beauchamp wanted to stick by his story, but folded under pressure from the army.

Here's a relevant fact I haven't seen anyone point out yet:
Many on the right claimed that Beauchamp's story just couldn't be true because our troops just wouldn't do such things (e.g. desecrate the remains of a dead baby). But that is obviously false. Our troops have done things far, far worse than anything Beauchamp reported. Some of our troops, you might recall, tortured prisoners at Abu Graib, some of them have murdered innocent Iraqis, and some of them murdered an entire family so that they could rape and murder their young daughter. So, while it might be unlikely that Beauchamp's stories are true (and I fervently hope the are not only unlikely but false), it is absurd to claim that they just couldn't be true because our boys just wouldn't do such things. Some of them would, some of them have, and some of them have done worse. All evidence indicates that our soldiers are exemplary by the standards of history...but if you think that our armed forces are 100% psycho free...well, you're probably living in a fantasy world.
Fake FEMA News Conference

Oh, man, it's like this administration simply isn't able to grasp fundamental facts about truth and honesty. I'd like to say something funny about this fake news conference, but I'm basically just too astonished.

Sometimes I think it really is just Kang and Kodos in Bush and Cheney costumes. It's like this bunch is literally incapable of telling the truth. Even when they are, apparently, doing a good job (with regard to the fire, for example), they can't just be honest about it...they have to cook up some completely gratuitous lies to frame the whole thing.

It really is utterly baffling.
Iran's Nuclear Program and the CANDU

Does anybody know what kind of reactors are being built these days for power outside of the U.S.? Light-water reactors are still the norm, right?

Since my first year of high school debate ("Resolved: The United States should pursue energy independence." Sheesh! If only...) I've had a soft spot for HTGRs and CANDU reactors. I guess the former is out since 9/11 (don't they require highly-enriched fuel?)...but what about CANDUs? They run on low-grade fuel--even spent fuel from LWRs. (I think I even read somewhere that they can even run on U238?? Is this possible?)

So, anyway: how's about we tell the Iranians we'll help 'em build some CANDUs if they'll stop, ya know, enriching freaking uranium? It's a kind of gesture of good will and in our national interest.

Too wishy-washy for the uberhawks, I guess...

(I myself think millions for defense but not one cent for if this is too much like tribute, then I'm against it.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

10.5 Things the Next (Democratic) President Should Say:

1. I will restore honor to the White House.

2. I will not lie to you except for strategic reasons when there is no reasonable alternative. I will not stretch, twist, nip or tuck the truth in order to trick you into doing something that you would never acquiesce to otherwise. The decision to go to war is the most important decision a president makes. I will, in particular, not lie to you about reasons for going to war.

3. I will restore the balance of power the Founders built into the Constitution by ceding illegitimate power recently arrogated by the executive branch.

4. The decision about whether or not to go to war is Congress's decision, not that of the President. The President is merely the Commander-in-Chief. Commander-in-Chief means something like 'SCAEF' or 'SACSEA', not something like 'dictator' or 'fuhrer.'

5. The United States of America will speak softly and carry a big stick.

6. Politics has no place in science. Anyone in my administration who puts pressure on scientists for political reasons will be fired.

7. We're all in this together, and I'll try my best to close the partisan divide and (actually, really) unite the country. We don't all agree, and we need to focus on how to live, work, and govern together as harmoniously as possible under those conditions. We are all the intellectual and spiritual children of Madison. We need to start acting that way. (Translation: I will endeavor to be an actual uniter, not a divider in uniter's clothing.)

8. We are not the kings of the world. We need to start treating other democratic nations as our equals. More guns do not equal more brains. And the bigger and badder you are, the more care you must take not to squash and intimidate others. Sometimes you have no alternative but to throw your weight around: but you can't make it your SOP.

9. Al Qaeda is a bunch of punk-ass bitches. They sucker-punched us once, and in response we started shooting ourselves in our own feet. That shit is over. They're barely worth our attention. We have lots of other, more important things to attend to. We're done letting them play us.

9.5 Oh, we're going to kill those insignificant little sh*ts. Don't get us wrong.

10. No more politics in the Justice Department. We're going to put the firewall back up and minimize the number of WH staffers who can contact people in the DoJ.
Why Don't Bacteria Develop Immunity to Alcohol?

I've puzzled over this question for years, and can't find an answer. It is, no doubt, a stupid question, but waddaya gonna do? Maybe alcohol is just too damn efficient a killer for immunity to develop?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still More Lysenkoism:
Director of CDC's Comments on Health Effects of Global Warming "Edited"

This sort of thing has become so routine in this administration that I usually don't even bother to mention it anymore. But this case is said to be particularly "heavy handed."
Still More Lysenkoism:
Director of CDC's Comments on Health Effects of Global Warming "Edited"

This sort of thing has become so routine in this administration that I usually don't even bother to mention it anymore. But this case is said to be particularly "heavy handed."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HRC Would Cede Some Presidential Powers Grabbed by Bush/Cheney

Says Reuters.

It's hard to get much credit for merely doing what one is obviously obligated to do. Still, under the prevailing circumstances, I'll give her some props for this.
Well, It Explains A Lot
Dennis Kucinich's UFO Encounter?

Did Dennis Kucinich have a "UFO encounter"???

That notoriously reliable source Shirley MacLaine says so, so it must be true!!!

Actually, it would explain a lot, would it not?

[More on Aliengate at TNR. Did DK get actual instructions from the aliens? Again, it would explain a lot...]
Iraq: Violence Down?


How irrational would it be to to breathe something similar to a sigh of relief at this point?

[Via Instapundit]
Will Southern California Have To Go Up In Flames For People To Take Global Warming Seriously?

Well, that's all I've got. I'm in no way wishing for this, but we might actually be better off as a planet if 70,000 houses burn up next week in San Diego, or if Georgia runs out of water. A big disaster early on--only the barest hint of what might actually be in store for us, of course--might be the only thing that will really get people's attention and help us start seriously thinking about how to avoid a near-future environmental apocalypse.

The best thing, of course, would be if we woke up to the threat before some warming-related disaster. But we're just not really going to do that, are we?

So keep buyin' those SUVs, folks! Al Gore is awkward and smarter than you, so it's o.k. to discount any theory he advocates!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Props To Dubya For Meeting With HHDL
Screw the Chinese Government

So props to W for meeting with the Dalai Lama (or "His Holiness" as some of my Buddhist friends would say--"HHDL" (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) for short).

Some of the quotes in this story are just beyond belief. The most awesomely unbelievable one:

"We are furious," the communist party secretary for Tibet, Zhang Qingli, told reporters. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world."

Let's review:
"there must be no justice or good people in the world" because the President of the United States met with a peaceful religious leader whose country was invaded and taken over and its culture virtually destroyed by a totalitarian state. And it is one of the lackies/toadies/lickspittles of said totalitarian state that is thus puling about the meeting. The invasion and cultural destruction itself, problem!

It really is beyond belief, and it just goes to show that there is nothing in the world so wrong, so stupid, so patently contrary to fact, that some asshole somewhere won't say it.

So here's to Zhang Qingli: possibly the biggest dumbshit on planet Earth. Congrats, Z! You da man! Or da toad. Or whatever.

And don't miss this bonus brain-damaged quote!:

China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, called on Mr Bush to stay away from the ceremony. "We solemnly demand that the US cancel the extremely wrong arrangements," Mr Yang told reporters in Beijing. "It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China's internal affairs."

Awww... We hurt their feewings. Gosh, I feel just horrible about that.

Jesus, this is like jumping up and down and screaming "War is peace! Freedom is slavery! Ignorance is strength!" at the top of your lungs.

Improvement in Iraq?

I'm not sure what to make of Michael Yon. I have a generally positive opinion about the guy even though he strikes me as playing primarily to a conservative audience. I have little evidence about him, though, so all I'm doing here is noting that I have little real evidence about his credibility.

At any rate, here he argues that things are going much better in Iraq than people think in the U.S.--though he spends much of the time railing about how the MSM is misinforming us about the situation over there. Anyway, this strikes me as weird given that I am under the impression that things are going the MSM doesn't seem to me to be doing that badly on that score. One of his objections is that most of us are thinking in terms of what was, in fact, going on last year. That may be true, but, if so, it's probably an effect that works both ways. It seemed to take a long time for people to realize how bad things were going, and so one should expect that there'd be some lag time before improvements would be widely recognized. So his suggestions that the MSM is, in effect, concealing improvements from us seem dubious to me.

At any rate, I'm more interesting in the battle for Iraq than I am in the domestic battles about the MSM. So here's hoping that Yon is right.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

OBL on the SoT?

Wonder what Shroud of Turin groupies think about this? Will he start showing up in tortillas? refrigerators? Trees? Bank windows? I wonder how many times he turns up in the Bible code? If Jesus on a pop-tart is supposed to be evidence of some kind, then the same has to go for OBL. Is it time to convert? If OBL re-establishes the caliphate, he will no doubt ban images of himself...but will he, then, have to ban tortillas and bank windows? The mind, she reeleth...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Glenn Reynolds and Scott Wallace on the Patriotism Thing

This really is worth reading, IMHO, especially Wallace's e-mails. I think there's some truth in them (and in some of the things Reynolds says). In particular, I do think that some liberals want the U.S. to lose the war, and I think that's (here I have to, weirdly, say probably) bad. On the other hand, Wallace is also radically, hopelessly wrong about quite a bit. It's the combination that interests me, really.

I've got actual things to do today, so I have to make this quick. Please take that into consideration when preparing to shred me:

1. There are some in the leftier reaches of the left who want the U.S. to lose.

2. Sometimes I half-way want us to lose, too.

3. This is not quite as insane as it first sounds. Winning will--and this is almost inevitable--be distorted by the rightier right in order to support the claim that Bush was right all along. But the administration's actions have been so reprehensible and anti-democratic that allowing this to set some kind of precedent may actually pose a bigger real threat to the nation and the world than al Qaeda. I do not say this for lightly-considered reasons. I do not believe it fervently. But I do believe it sometimes. It's on those occasions when I wonder whether losing--disastrous though it might be--might not be the lesser of the available evils.

4. Nevertheless, a good bit of the leftier left is just clueless in the extreme. And there is a streak of anti-Americanism over there, as everyone should realize.

5. However. Wallace's generic attacks on liberals are almost completely out of touch with reality.

6. Although liberals do, in fact, sometimes act like spoiled sixteen-year-olds (as Wallace says), obstinately refusing to compromise or admit that you can't always have your way in a democracy, it couldn't be clearer that, in the last about 15 years, this attitude has, in fact, been far, far more common in conservatives than in liberals. Wallace is right that it's there on the left, but it's so much more prevalent on the right that it takes a truly prodigious degree of cluelessness to rant about the left in this regard. This isn't the place to make a case for this claim, but, very briefly: much of the right refused to accept the presidency of Bill Clinton, continually seeking to, in effect, overturn two elections; it worked hard to prevent a recount (a recount that was clearly warranted by facts and precedent, and a recount the right probably would have won!) in 2000, its central argument being, in effect, "give us the f*cking presidency. Now."; and it rallied behind an obviously fabricated case for war, refusing even to acknowledge the facts, and calling liberals who did look at the facts unpatriotic, refusing to acknowledge the possibility of reasoned dissent.

7. A reader busts Wallace on his position, noting that conservatives don't just fall in line behind, e.g., the courts' abortion decisions. To Wallace's credit, he concedes that this is a good point--but he then goes on to, in effect, dodge the point amid some (admittedly rather interesting) reflections on democracy. The point there, as often noted before: conservatives only think that we should fall in line behind our leaders and policies when they are conservative. Bush's (unjustified) war: shut up and wave the flag. Clinton's (justified) war in the Balkans: welllll....that's different, of course. And, again: to liberals' credit, and for all their faults, they almost never deploy the "shut up and fall in line" argument. The conservatives are doubly damned for (a) employing it and (b) employing it inconsistently.

8. And, incidentally: why are conservatives so adept and teasing out every nuanced imperfection of liberal reaction to the war, while ignoring the glaring, obvious point that much of their opposition and sub-optimal attitude is a natural human reaction to the lies, distortions, and dirty-dealing that got us into this mess? If the case for war had been strong, if those of us who pointed out the obvious fact that it 'wasnt sufficiently strong hadn't been called unpatriotic, and so forth, we might be able to manage a better attitude about the fact that we're stuck in an idiotic war that's prevented us from punishing those who attacked us on 9/11 and actually made us less safe. It's hard to just smile and fall in line when (a) you were right, and (b) your position happened to be the more patriotic one, and (c) you were called unpatriotic for your efforts. the fact that my support for the war is rather grudging is hardly inexplicable.

9. Are liberals often a mote in the country's eye? Abso-freakin'-lutely. But conservatives have, for much of my life, been the beam.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Glenn Reynolds: War Opponents Unpatriotic

Quoted by Kevin Drum.

All I can do right now is more-or-less second what Drum says, roughly: hey, I thought you guys said that you never said this?
Issues, People, Character

I used to try to focus almost exclusively on issues, and have disdain for those who didn't. But I think I may have done a 180 on that. I mean, look: I read a good bit about politics and policy, but, frankly, I don't really understand very much of it. I'm fairly certain that I don't have the right kind of mind for it, and I'm also pretty sure that I don't have the requisite background knowledge. I come out feeling like I've traded in one set of ill-informed prejudices for another. So, for awhile I just backed away from politics entirely, concluding that it was irresponsible of me to participate. Then I thought about how ill-informed the average voter is...

One thing I think that the Reagan folks got right was this: character matters. Now, I wasn't wild about Reagan's character, but that's a separate point. Currently, I'm laboring under the following conjecture: that, within reason, it's better to have a president with a good character, reliable instincts and sound judgment than it is to have one who's policy commitments are better. Now, of course, they can't have terrible policies, but for my purposes I can ignore extreme cases.As far as I'm concerned, most of the Democratic candidates are roughly in the ballpark policy-wise: I could probably live with any of them. Since I won't be voting for a Republican this time pretty much no matter what, I'm not attending to them very much.

But if, then, I'm left to pick a candidate on the basis of judgment...that means this is going to be a labor-intensive task. I don't know the details about that many decisions any of them has made. Obama and Kucinich look best, of course, on the prominent issue of voting on the important case, but just one case.

As for character and general intellectual/moral orientation...there I'm currently strongly inclined toward Obama. And I'm not sure how much one can reason about such things. He just resonates with me. I hear him talk, and I think here is a good man, an intelligent man, an honest and sensible man. He strikes me as a real person, a person of the kind I'm used to dealing with, whereas most politicians strike me as...Martians or something. Robots programmed to emit bullshit. My attraction to Obama is about as strong as my natural revulsion at Bush--and that's saying something.

I often wonder to what extent even policy wonks are driven by this sort of thing. There's this common view that deciding on such grounds is less rational than deciding on policy grounds, but I'm just not sure about that any more. I may be a bad judge of policy, but I'm a pretty good judge of people. Of course, everybody thinks that, even people who are terrible at it... And of course one worries that going down this road makes electoral politics into nothing more than a popularity contest. So don't take any of these reflections too seriously.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mr. 2924%

Says Zogby.

[Now, I don't much care about polls, and I'm a little puzzled at the glee that many people exhibit at these numbers. I mean, look, people, the really astonishing fact here is that TWENTY-NINEfour [seems much better than nine to me, perhaps undeserving of caps] PERCENT OF AMERICANS say they APPROVE of the way Bush is doing his job. Think about that. That's breath-taking. What's going on here? Well, the least bad possible explanation is that many of these people don't really believe this at all, but are just saying it for partisan reasons. Next-least-bad, probably, is that they are just clueless. But the worst possibility of all (as I've said before) is that this is really, truly what a large percentage of conservatives count as a genuinely good presidency. THAT, my friends, is the truly terrifying possibility.]
Scott Redd, Vacationing in the Balkans?

At The Blotter:

"Three days after Americans saw the Bush administration's counterterrorism chief say the Iraq war has likely not made the United States safer from terrorism, the official announced his resignation, citing health reasons."

Ah, I liked the Soviets' explanation of such things better. I hear the Balkans are...well, icky this time of year...but still...

I guess Redd is the latest member of the fraternity that includes DiIullio, O'Neill and all the other disloyals who got the boot.
Finally, a Relatively Non-Partisan AG?

So, you can illustrate a lot about the last seven years just by pointing to some facts about the office of Attorney General.

For example: Alberto Gonzales was such a partisan hack that John Ashcroft had to make a quasi-death-bed last stand to protect our civil rights.

John. Ashcroft.

And now: after scratching and clawing to (miraculously) take back both houses of Congress, the Dems have to fight like hell to get...what? An AG that will mindlessly favor their policies? An AG that will lean hard in the direction of protecting civil liberties? Noooo... Rather, an AG who seems as if he might not be a complete puppet of the administration. THAT'S what counts as victory for the Dems these days: by exerting all their might, they can force the administration to appoint someone who is, well, what all AGs are supposed to be: fair, rational, and relatively impartial.

Remind me of this next time I'm ragging on the Dems. Comparatively speaking, they actually end up looking pretty darn good much of the time.
Gossip Trumps Facts

Behold, a partial explanation of
why we are doomed:

A study indicates that many people trust gossip more than facts. In a rotating money game, participants were stingy with partners who had been called stingy by a third party, and generous with partners who had been called generous by a third party, even when 1) the participant saw extensive evidence that the "stingy" partner had actually behaved generously (and that the "generous" partner was stingy) and 2) participants were told that the gossip was not based on evidence beyond what they had seen. Furthermore, the third party's reputation did not affect the impact of his gossip. Old view: Gossip evolved to help society by spreading the truth about people, thereby punishing cheaters. New problem: If gossip overrides truth, cheaters can evade punishment by spreading lies. New rationalizations: 1) In evolutionary history, gossip has been more commonly attainable than direct observation and has been available from multiple sources, so it tends to be more useful. 2) Evolution didn't train us to consider gossipers' reputations because that that much detail is "too demanding for the working memory." Question: Is this why negative political ads work? Human Nature's answer: Yes.

Oh, and have you heard the Atrios and Instapundit are in league with OBL? Pass it on...

[HT: S. rex]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cheney's Law

A top-notch Frontline, eminently worth an hour of your time. Not much new, but it helps to have it all put together in one place. If you--like me--are one of those liberals who walks around most days muttering to yourself and worrying that you might be wrong about your vociferous opposition to this administration, this episode will, I'm sorry to say, help put that particular malady into remission, reminding you of what you half-know already: that the Cheney/Bush administration is actually far more dangerous than respectable people will usually admit in polite society.

Also: contrary to what Johnny Quest is fond of saying, Bush is not the devil. David Addington is the devil.
What Motivates al Qaeda? (a) American Mid-East Policy or (b) A Hatred of Freedom/Modernity?

I had a lot of discussions about that question with friends of mine after 9/11. Some of my liberal friends wouldn't even consider (b). Many conservatives, of course, argued vociferously that to answer (a) was to take the side of the terrorists and "blame America first."

In this short, extremely interesting piece, "The Two Faces of al Qaeda," Raymond Ibrahim argues, in effect, that the smart answer was (a), but the true answer was (b). Al Qaeda, according to Ibrahim, makes a different case depending on who its audience is: when addressing Westerners, it pushes the (a) line; but when addressing Muslims, it pushes (b).

I've always thought that the smart answer was "some of both," anyway (though that was of the nature of a guess, whereas Ibrahim has something approaching actual knowledge). Liberals who ignore (b), and conservatives who ignore (b), are about equally deluded in my book. But this particular liberal delusion may be even more dangerous than the conservative analog. My guess goes something like this: the real reason is closer to (b), but (a) provides a kind of excuse/stalking horse. We could rob al Qaeda of an important advantage if we'd get our ME policies straightened out...but ultimately we are, in fact, dealing with a bunch of people who, well...dare I say it? Hate our freedoms.

More confirmation that every new technology is applied to sex a.s.a.p.

[HT: The Mystic]

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Conservative Sexual Shenanigans?
They-Don't-Call-Him-'Oral'-For-Nothing Roberts Edition

Sigh. Man, these conservatives are really starting to make us look bad. They seem to be a helluva lot kinkier than our folks. I'm starting to feel downright prudish compared to these guys.
Liberals: What Do Liberals Get Wrongest?

1. Presumably no one will be so pedantic as to quibble with 'wrongest'. It's a perfectly cromulent word.

2. No conservatives get to comment on this thread Tom this means YOU.

3. No answers of the form "we care too much" or "we're not liberal enough" or "we don't stand up for our (noble, pure, true) values enough." Get it?

Even I shouldn't be able to comment on this because it's easy for me to just enumerate a bunch of things I disagree with liberals about...

But--ignoring my standard gripes about guns, immigration, the death penalty, etc... I guess I'd have to say...something like...liberals underestimate the threat to individual autonomy posed by the nanny state, and the threat to the ideal of self-reliance posed by the welfare state.

[Note: you don't get to disagree with my points have to come up with your own criticisms of liberalism.]

Heck, I'm a liberal, right? But there are all sorts of things about liberalism that keep me up at night. I worry that we're nicey-nicing ourselves into a kind of soft totalitarian state. Does e.g. nationalized health care sound like a good idea to me on the face of it? Sure! But do I want us all to become more and more dependent on the state, until it gains so much leverage over us that it can easily manipulate us without even trying? Not exactly...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

George Will: Political Correctness in Social Work Departments

Whew. THIS is going to depress you.

I've said before that the farther you go from intellectually rigorous disciplines, the more PC/thought police/PoMo crap you encounter. Now, don't get me wrong, I think that social workers often do a great and indispensable job--one that I certainly could not do. I've known three social workers, two of whom were stellar human beings, and all of whom were injured and/or seriously threatened in the line of duty. But pretty much everybody knows that social work is not a very rigorous discipline, intellectually speaking. And it exists in that sector of academia that reveres the practical, including political activism (women's studies is like that, too). I thought I knew all of the highly-politicized disciplines, though, but I didn't know about this one.

So, let me say again: leftist/liberal bias IS a problem in academia. It's not as big a problem as the right would have you believe, but it is definitely a problem. And liberals, with their natural antipathy to bias and propaganda, should be as outraged about this as conservatives. I know that liberals tend to down-play the problem, partially out of frustration at the exaggerations of the Horowitz's of the world. But that is, obviously, a mistake. You can't let your opponent dictate your positions to you. Getting this stuff right is far more important than the psychological satisfaction you might get from contradicting Horowitz.
Wes Clark: Seven Countries in Five Years

According to Wes Clark's new memoir, the Bush administration was at least considering a plan that would "take out seven countries in five years," starting with Iraq and ending, apparently, with Iran.

Well, I'm...speechless...

[via Metafilter]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Martin Amis: The Age of Horrorism

Nobody loves Martin Amis like Martin Amis does. And that's on display here.

But that's beside the point.

I'm not absolutely sure that sane people need to be reminded how evil Islamism is, but I suspect many do. Liberals, in particular, have an inclination to excuse error and evil, especially in those most different from us. That's a mistake that has some of its roots in something laudable...but it's still a mistake.

Amis wanders around a lot in this long piece. He gets stuff wrong. He lavishes attention on himself. But he gets a lot right, too. Far more right than wrong, and that's all any of us can hope for. I'm not sure what, if anything, here is new. But I've long believed that old truths often need to be repeated as much as new truths need to be discovered. Even things I know well drift into the background of my mind and life if I don't actively think about them.

So I link. The piece is long and it isn't perfect, but there's a lot that's right in it, I'm glad I read it, and I recommend it to you, even though with some reservations.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Malkinoid Right Gets Crazier By the Minute

Hoo boy. So Ezra Klein points us to a post by a big fat bikerish dude who wants to fight him for offering to debate Michelle Malkin. Now, I don't know which is more pathetic, (a) this Homo neanderthalensis thinking that it's o.k. to launch a veiled threat of violence in response to a perfectly rational and civil offer to debate, or (b) him thinking that by pretending that it was all just about a friendly boxing match that it wasn't really a veiled threat, or (c) the fact that he obviously outweighs Klein by about 100 pounds, or (d) the fact that he'd obviously never have made such an offer if, say, Mike Tyson had been the one wanting to debate Malkin (come to think of it, that's a debate she might at least stand a chance of winning...) or (e) the fact that this guy goes on to slip in a little whine about his age and health, just to show how manly his threat really is, or (f) the fact that he's doing this for Michelle Malkin...

So, so very pathetic.

And besides, boxing's rather wimpy. If you're going to fight, it ought to be UFC rules. In my humble opinion, it isn't really fighting if you're wearing big poofy gloves and you can't take it to the mat. Seesh I'm getting so fed up with these people that I'd downright enjoy mixing it up with anybody so butt-ass stupid as to even suggest fighting over something like this. I mean, do the FreeRepublic chew-toys have too much lead in the paint these days or what?

Oh, but all that stuff pales in comparison to the following, quoted by one Steve in the comments to the post linked to above:

If I were close to DC, I would be more than happy to stand guard for Michelle. I think my 6′ 235 lb former college athlete frame would give freaks like this chump a reason to think twice before trying something stupid.

Be safe MM. I’ve got a couple of .45’s and a 9mm sig that airiate that sack O crap reaaaaaal nice if he tries anything violent.

The best bet is don’t let anyone get NEAR Michelle or anyone else, until the person is vented, and escorted. No one should be allowed to get to Michelle! Keep them away, and, keep barriers between Michelle and the public, and always keep an escape route for Michelle! Always have a first, second, and third way out should she be cornered.

Those protecting Michelle should be resolved to attack, and disable as quickly as possible, anyone who lays a single hand on her, but beware, the first action could be a diversion, so she should be huddled by those who protect her and moved to a safe location, a location which is guarded to maintain its safety.

Yep. So now it's not just fighting, it's degenerated to the point at which the Malkinoids are not only talking about their guns, but slavering over the details (not just a gun, and not just a handgun, but a 9mm Sig and "a couple" of .45s). Jesus, how pathetic. Now we've moved from "if you want to debate the issues with my favorite wingnut, I'll punch you" to "if you want to debate the issues with my favorite wingnut I'll shoot you." (Well, to be more precise, it's really more like: offering to debate her is threatening to hurt her. So I'd like to shoot you. There. Much better...)

And then there's the whole sick hero-worshippy, crushy aspect to all of this which...well, we're not even going to talk about...but somebody may need to meet some real girls... Or maybe not is better.

Now, I like fighting and shooting as much as the next red-blooded American boy. But here's a tip, wingnuts: threatening people lots smaller (and smarter) than you doesn't make you tough (or smart), it makes you a pathetic wimp. And drooling all over yourself when you talk about your guns makes you crazy.

I hope we're clear on all this.
The Man Who Should Have Been President

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize.

Thank God we got the lying incompetent rich frat boy draft-dodging good-for-nothing moron instead of the guy capable of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Whew! That was a close one!
Kleiman on The War On Drugs v. The GWOT
Or: Save Afghanistan While We Still Can

Worth a read.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ann Coulter: "Perfect" the Jews

Now, nobody should talk about Ann Coulter, because it just helps to perpetuate the myth that she matters. She is an idiot and a bigot. She only gets any attention because she so hateful...and because (shudder) she passes for hot in the world of conservatives. (My brother is convinced that she used to be a man...)

But I just can't pass this crazy shit up.
American Conservatives: Now Virtually Hinge-Free!

At on the swiftboating of Graeme Frost (the little kid who spoke up for SCHIP).

American conservatism is in crisis. And if they don't get their shit together soon, it's not just the Republican party, but all of us who will pay the price.

The more unhinged they get, the more they drive away people (like me) who tend to agree with them on many issues (gun control, the death penalty, immigration). I mean, the issues are tough, and I realize I could be wrong about any of them...but I know crazy people when I see them, and I have not the slightest inclination to associate with such folk.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Anti-Homosexual Bigotry and Violence Imported From Eastern Europe

This is insane.