Friday, November 30, 2007

Crowd Calls for Execution In Mohammed Bear Case

Whew. Really, seriously, liberals need to keep this sort of thing in mind. Many liberals I know have a tendency to try to ignore or excuse this sort of thing. They point out that most Muslims are non-fundamentalists. They correctly point out that our godawful Mideast policy has contributed greatly to the region's problems, and to the growth of fundamentalism. True, all true. But be that as it may, and for whatever reason, Islam has a problem. And so we have a problem.

I mean, many of these folks make Pat Robertson look downright sane.

Liberalism has been locked in a struggle with religious totalitarianism of one form or another since its emergence. We've entered another phase of that struggle. It's hard to keep this in perspective given the hyperbolic, apoplectic, ethnocentric (sheesh I hate that term) responses to Islam by many on the American right. Yes, many on the right are ethnocentric and many are hostile to any faith other than Christianity. But one shouldn't let the irrationality of one's political opponents push one toward an equal but opposite type of irrationality. In this case: one shouldn't try to excuse the inexcusable. My opponent's opponent is not always my ally.

Perhaps I dwell too much on the fact that some of my liberal friends, immediately after 9/11, steadfastly refused to consider the possibility that OBL might be motivated even in part by anti-liberalism. But I don't think I'm deluded in believing that, in general, liberals somewhat underestimate the badness of Islamic fundamentalism. Perhaps I'm wrong about that. Or perhaps this is a natural reaction to the right's overestimation. But 'natural' does not necessarily mean 'inevitable.' And, furthermore, I think we should also ask to what extent the right's over-estimation is a reaction to our under-estimation.

Perhaps you--like me--are tired of the self-serving "they hate our freedom" mantra. But there's a sizable kernel of truth in it. Fundamentalists of all stripes have never been wild about liberty. Our fundamentalists have been tamed by hundreds of years of emerging liberalism. Their fundamentalists haven't yet. To ignore this--or so I'm suggesting--is to ignore something very important about the current situation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chuck Hagel...

...tells it like it is.
New bin Laden Tape

Details at al Jazeera.

Have I mentioned how I rather think we should have killed that SOB for perpetrating that mass murder of Americans? I think it would have been better than starting an unrelated war. But that's just me.
Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Yes it is.

From America's Finest News Source.
Did Giuliani Misuse NYC $$?

Sounds fairly suspicious. Several trips to the Hamptons, where his girlfriend was living, apparently billed to obscure and unrelated NYC agencies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Global Warming Snark

So Instapundit links approvingly to some snark about the global warming conference in Bali. The main points: (a) people will have to fly there (b) ha ha ha liberals suck. Or something like that. More specifically, the Bali conference will, of course, have a carbon footprint, and I guess Insty et. al. think it's too big.

Nobody here is being very precise, because, of course, this is little more than ideological snark. Supposing conferences are really worthwhile, then, given that global warming is a real problem, it seems like a good idea to have a conference on it. Maybe Bali isn't the best place in the world from a carbon-emissions standpoint, but people would be flying no matter where it was, so it isn't clear how much this matters.

Look, solving global warming will require some carbon emissions. Complaining about this is rather like complaining about the use of X-rays to detect cancer, or complaining about people driving to a conference on traffic congestion. Of course this contributes a bit to the problem right now, but it's in service of solving the problem in the long run.

Would a teleconference have been just as effective? Probably not. Could they have just as well done it somewhere other than Bali? Yes. Is this a Big Ass Deal? Well, I guess I'm not really sure. It certainly seems to me like one could find a more efficient and businesslike location than Bali...though maybe the idea is that Bali will lure people there who might not have come otherwise, and that that's important. I'm not dead set on defending these folks, but just pointing out that they are flying to the conference is a silly criticism.

Thank god for the snarkosphere. Without it, snark like this would never get global dissemination. And then where would we be?
Glenn Greenwald on Joe Klein and the FISA Follies

You've probably been following the story of Joe Klein's error-filled attack on Democrats and the FISA bill in Time. Here Glenn Greenwald goes through the issues in some detail, and makes some comments about Democratic timidity. Worth a read, says me.
Crazy Fundamentalists and Mohammed the Teddy Bear

Lest we forget, here's the case of Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old school teacher who the government of Sudan wants to whip because her students named a teddy bear 'Mohammed.'

These people are just bat-shit crazy.
We're Number 12! We're Number 12!

According to new U.N. rankings, the U.S. is the 12th best place to live in the world. Should this in any way surprise or bother us? Not sure...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Exit Mundi

One of my favorite websites, Exit Mundi., a collection of descriptions of end-of-the-world scenarios. Everything from quantum vacuum decay to...the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
Tanja Nijmeijer and FARC

Oh, man, this story is heartbreaking. Tanja Nijmeijer, a 29-year-old, wealthy Dutch woman, goes to Columbia and is stunned by the extreme gap between rich and poor, and feels guilty about her own privileged life. So she joins the FARC. Egad! Now Colombian police have found her diary, which describes how terrible life with the FARC is. And, of course, that's not the kind of organization that just lets you quit because you've changed your mind...

It's sad how easily people get sucked into all that Che Guevara-esque stuff. You can be appalled at the conditions in Columbia without thinking that supporting FARC is the answer.
Do Only Conspiracy Kooks Think that Federal Officials Ignored "Specific" Threats About 9/11?

Well, that's not so clear, as Think Progress points out. Is "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." specific? Is it specific if the memo says that they were aiming at hijackings and "other types of attacks"? How about if the CIA director describes the threat as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10"? How about if an FBI memo warns of a "coordinated effort" by OBL to send students to U.S. civil aviation schools? Those warnings seem fairly specific to me, though such things are, of course, matters of degree.

I've heaped scorn on the 9/11 conspiracy kooks who think that the administration was somehow behind the 9/11 attacks. But Think Progress's point is that, given the way this poll question is constructed, you don't have to be a conspiracy kook to answer 'yes' to the relevant questions. Federal officials including the President were warned, and the warnings were fairly specific.

The New York Post (note: not an actual news source) analogizes this to UFO conspiracies and so forth, but it's worth noting that, alarmingly prevalent though that kind of stuff is, "only" (egad!) about 1/3 of respondents accepted that sort of thing, where as 2/3 of respondents said that officials had specific warnings about 9/11. The best explanation for that difference is that many of those respondents were--perfectly reasonably--counting the warnings described by Think Progress and above as specific.

It's funny how stuff like "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S." has been nearly forgotten. A Democratic president would have been impeached had he ignored such a warning (if not shot). But George W. Bush simply went on to lead us into a war so irrational that the enormity of the f*ck-up overshadowed his previous f*ck-ups...and this strategy seems to have worked. Astonishing.

Oh, also: I like how the view that oil companies are conspiring to keep oil prices up is treated in the piece as a conspiracy on the order of the government concealing frozen aliens in Area 51. How does that make sense?

Anyway, the long and the short of it: you don't have to be a conspiracy kook to think that "federal officials" had specific warnings about 9/11. They kinda did.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Freud More Popular Outside of Psychology Departments

It's fairly common knowledge that Freud is very popular in what Thomas Nagel once called "the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences." And it's also fairly well-known that he's not that popular inside psych departments anymore. That's what this is all about.

In this respect he's rather like Marx: no longer of much interest to economists, he nevertheless is accessible and sexy, so easily picked up by literary theorists, anthropologists, sociologists, "speech communication" types, etc. These Po-Mo-y types really love anything that lets 'em talk about sex (or bash capitalism), so I expect that Freud (and Marx) will have a home there for a long time.

(Note: needless to say, not all LitCritters, anthropologists, etc. are mushy-headed Po-Mo dittoheads. But those disciplines sure do have way more than their share of those types.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Super Pershing vs. King Tiger

Take that, Herr Mack.
Goodbye, Marty Ravellette

I haven't been in Chapel Hill for several months, so I just found out that Marty Ravellette died in a car accident November 12th. Mr. Ravellette was often seen around Chapel Hill and Carrboro doing landscaping work. That might not be so notable if it weren't for the fact that he had no arms. Ravellette was astonishingly adept at using his feet, though. When he was cutting grass, he'd just push the mower with his chest--but what was really amazing was to see him, e.g., start the mower with his feet. And I've heard it said that he could use a chainsaw, too. He could also drive using his feet.

You might know of Ravellette because he gained brief national fame for rescuing a woman from a burning car on 15-501 over near Durham. He punched through the window with his foot and opened the door, and his wife pulled the woman out.

Ravellette was driving when he collided with a semi and was thrown from his vehicle.

You were a helluva man, Marty Ravellette, and we'll miss you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


So many are abuzz about the excerpt from McClellan's book. Goes like this:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."
Now, by this time it's hardly a secret that there are all sorts of dirty dealings in the Bush White House. But it's obvious that McClellan's claim here, even if 100% true, does not entail that there was wrong-doing on the part of any of the persons named. What he says is that the five named people were involved in McClellan's unknowingly passing on false information. Nothing in the above entails that any of the five people knew that they were passing on false info.

So, although there's a good chance that somebody in this mix was lying, and though it'd be good for the country if this matter were thoroughly investigated, nothing McClellan says here adds to our knowledge of the matter.

Finally, though, it's not clear why McClellan would be so upset about this. It's fairly clear to everyone who is paying attention that it is basically the job of the press secretary in the Bush White House to pass along false information. So c'mon, Scott. You knew the job was duplicitous when you took it. I could be wrong, of course, but I always just assumed that you knew what you were doing. In fact, that's why you weren't a stellar press secretary. Unlike Ari Fleischer or Tony Snow, you seemed to be genuinely embarrassed by some of the hogwash you were spouting.

But, anyway, the main point here is that I just don't see that we now know anything about all this that we didn't know a week ago.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


OMFG, this is good for several hearty laughs. Well, if you appreciate tools so toolish that they can't even bear to keep their toolishness off the interwebs, that is. Amazing that some people aren't satisfied just being complete nimrods in person--rather, they are compelled to let the whole world know what jackasses they are. Makes you wonder whether the internet was really such a good idea...

I was going to hit the highlights, but the whole freakin' thing is a highlight.

Personally, I think this is the latest Sasha Baron Cohen punk. No way this is for real, right? RIGHT???

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Am I Leaning Toward This Week?

The fascinating answer here.
All I Want For Christmas is an AA-12

Info here, video here.

Oh, man. The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse (IZA) will be WAY more manageable with one of these.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Via Fark one finds this, at WorldNet Daily (note: not an actual news source!). The gist: some Seattle school officials are doing the PC thing to Thanksgiving, noting, among other things, that it is an occasion for mourning for some native Americans.

Now, I dislike and deride the PC thought police as much as any sensible person, and more than most... But this case seem emblematic of much of the PCish stuff drubbed relentlessly by the Most of the school district's claims in this story aren't wrong. They may be rather preachy and artless, and have that naggy PC tone...but they really aren't wrong. One could, with even just a little thought, put together a similar set of claims that were rather more clear-eyed, non-preachy and non-naggy.

It's hard for people to come to grips with the real, unvarnished history of the U.S. Consequently, I think a little finesse and sensitivity is required. Lots of the PC stuff is just insane, but a good bit of it is at least close to the mark. It's too bad it's so often presented in a way that almost seems calculated to be off-putting to almost everybody.
The Return of Tawana Brawley

More evidence that you never, ever, ever have to admit you are wrong, or that you lied, no matter how strong the evidence. Exhibit A: Tawana Brawley. Just keep asserting your case. Just keep denying the evidence. Just be tenacious and show strong conviction. It's never over so long as you're willing to keep talking. Assertion has a hypnotic effect.

God, we are a stupid people.

(And don't forget Al Sharpton's role in all of this. And don't forget he was a Democratic presidential candidate. We got our own crazies, yes we do. Makes Kucinich and his UFOs look like a big improvement...)
The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

Stiglitz, at Vanity Fair.

I sure hope he's wrong.
Please, God, Don't Make Me Listen to Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid Anymore

Jebus, they're driving me crazy. I can't even really put my finger on what it is. Neither one of them is extremely articulate, so that's part of the problem, but neither one is notable inarticulate, either. They both come off as rather whiny and dogmatic...or so it seems to me. And they both seem incapable of criticizing the war without sounding like "defeatocrats." Maybe it's just me, but whenever I have to hear these folks speak, I end up thinking "lucky for you that your political opponents [here I mean the Bushies in particular, not Republicans in general, of course] are incompetent nuts or you'd be sunk, politically speaking."

The Dems are, to put it rather mildly, not exactly putting their best feet forward...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fox News Porn

I guess I'm not the only one who's noticed that Faux News has a certain affinity for lurid sex stories. I think I realized this after their third or fourth hard-hitting expose on Spring Break.

Here are some of their more amazing moments (NSFW! Music starts up immediately, too) via Metafilter.

What never fails to send me into paroxysms of laughter is the transparently sick nature of all of this--hyper uptight middle-aged guy in a suit, filled with mock outrage piously pretending that he's conveying actual news while covertly drooling over the whole thing. It's like something out of The Onion or The National Lampoon.

If the right could just work out its psychosexual problems, we'd all be a lot better off.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pro-Soviet Lefties

Yep, as I've said before, they still exist.

Imagine: a righty academic type posts a Nazi poster and sighs about the glorious Third Reich...and about the inevitability of a fourth one...

Special bonus: a commenter points out what really shouldn't have to be pointed out: that the Third Reich was shit. Blogger responds that yeah, well America is shit too!

These cases are (a) comparable/relevantly similar or (b) not?

Gotta love that comparison of the US to the USSR. The US intermittently sucks, and sucks pretty bad at times (but is also pretty damn good much of the time and in many ways by the standards of history). Ergo the USSR--which sucked in almost all ways, at all times, and sucked almost off the end of the sucking scale--didn't really suck so bad at all!

(The fact that the post discussed above came right after a long, meandering, semi-coherent po-mo-y post about how bad England sucks, pop music and the badness of liberalsssesss should (a) surprise me or (b) not surprise me?)
Bad Guy Team-Up: ID + SSK

So I was watching NOVA last night--on the Dover "Intelligent Design" case--and found out something interesting. It turns out that Steven Fuller testified for the ID side. Now, you probably don't know who Fuller is. He's a sociologist who writes on the sociology of science, "social epistemology," "SSK" (strong sociology of "knowledge"*) and science studies. And if you're not familiar with that stuff...well, it's a long story, but the short version goes like this: despite some interesting bits, it's basically a swamp of confusions. A little bit of skepticism, a little bit of relativism, a little bit of trendy po-mo social constructionism, a little bit of meat-ax naturalism, a little bit of resentment against philosophy and philosophers**, a lot of social doxastic determinism and sociological tunnel-vision...stir well...and you get a real mess. Typical claims in the area include, e.g., that physical objects can't cause us to have beliefs, only other people can. So, roughly, if you're standing next to a tree, you can't come to believe that there's a tree there unless another person comes along and exerts social pressure on you to believe that there's a tree there. Trees can't cause beliefs about trees, but peer pressure can.*** When put this starkly, most SSK types will backpedal and deny that that's what they think--but that's what they think. If you doubt that, go read Barry Barnes and David Bloor's "Rationalism, Realism, and the Sociology of Knowledge" (though they try to back-pedal, too, in the end).

Anyway, as it turns out, Fuller was in there testifying for intelligent design to be taught in high school science classes. Nice. Bad guy team-up! (Well, confused guy team-up, anyway...)

Now, the thing is that, on a sufficiently broad conception of "intelligent design theory," I might even count as a quasi-advocate of something like that view. I'm at least interested in--and even to some extent sympathetic to--the view that something like intelligence is a real force in the universe, and that there might be some tendency toward order in the world. I don't believe that an agent or person created life, but the kinds of positions I'm sympathetic to would not make a strictly naturalistic biologist happy. I also think that the American educational system would be a lot better if students learned some philosophy in high school--including, perhaps, discussions of the argument from design. (In philosophy class. Not biology class.) So, anyway, I'm not entirely unsympathetic to these guys' position.

Though, of course, Michael Behe and the lot from Dover were basically busted because they were so obviously pushing a religious view for religious reasons. (In one draft of the ID textbook, Pandas and People, researchers found that the ID folk had just gone through an old creationist textbook they'd written and tried to replace 'creationism' and 'creation' with 'intelligent design theory' and 'intelligent design.' The most amusing part of the whole business came when it was discovered that they'd forgotten to delete correctly, and had thus included in one of their manuscripts words like "creaintelligent designtionism." Now there's a transitional form for ya...)

So why is Fuller on the ID side? Well, it isn't clear, but part of the answer seems to lie with the sociological blinders aforementioned. If you've ever been around folks in sociology, you probably know that many of them have a tendency to radically over-estimate the importance of the phenomena they study. (That's common in most disciplines, actually.) That is, they think that social forces--which, make no mistake about it, are very strong--are stronger and more influential than they actually are. They also have a tendency to ignore other important influences on human action--e.g. experience of the physical world and reason. In some places, Fuller states that he testified for the ID folks because they are the losers in a social power struggle for control of biology departments and curricula. Now, there's a confusion in there typical of sociologists of Fuller's type. There is an element of power struggle in all this, but it's not the only element, it's not the major element, and it's only marginally relevant to the question at hand. The court needed to determine whether or not "IDT" is science, and whether or not it was being pushed for religious reasons. Intelligent design theory is not considered bad science because it lost a power struggle in bio departments; rather, it lost out in bio departments because it's bad science. It's considered bad science because it is bad science; though sociologists like Fuller often come dangerously close to saying the reverse. If one could show that it lost out in bio departments solely or primarily because it lost a political battle, then that would be relevant. But you cant' show that. What with it being false and all.

The major problem with the "sociology of knowledge" (more properly referred to as "the sociology of belief") is that it ignores the fact that sometimes the facts cause our beliefs. That is, sometimes we believe things because they are true, or because they are better supported by the evidence. In fact, it is something like an axiom of the strong version of such sociological views that our beliefs can never be explained by facts or evidence, but must always be explained by (non-rational) social forces. What you get, therefore, is basically a self-refuting view that begins with an axiom that virtually entails skepticism and then goes on to try to defend a positive (and very implausible and easily-refuted) theory of human belief-acquisition.

So what we get is, roughly, postmodernism in the defense of old-time religion.

A toxic combination.

*Note: not actually about knowledge at all, but, rather, orthodox belief.

** Seriously. These guys' papers are filled with little tantrums about how much better and smarter and cooler they are than philosophers. They are very angry that no one else will admit this!

*** You might note that it's implausible in the extreme that only a certain species of primate can cause beliefs in us...especially since we only know of the existence of those primates because photons bounce off of them and strike our retinas and so forth...which is, of course, exactly how we know the tree is there, too...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Clinton Campaign Plants Questioners

Argh. So very, very lame.
Kleiman on Impeachment Calculations

Mark Kleiman says he's changed his mind about impeachment. Coyers says that Pelosi is worried that it would undermine Congress's productivity. Kleiman points out that the GOP is already committed to that (with e.g. a record number of filibusters). So we might as well try the other option: put the "contempt for the rule of law and the lies that created the greatest strategic disaster in American foreign policy since the 1920's" front and center by stepping up investigation of the administration and its actions.

My position:
One view is that the Dems are avoiding impeachment because they think it'll be a political loser. Now, I understand the worry. Bush has so fouled up the world that we have to focus like a laser beam on getting somebody at least minimally competent into the White House--and more than that if possible. However, that is not our only obligation. We are also obligated to make sure that crimes are tried and justice is done--even if that requires paying a political price.

I think it's fairly clear that at least Cheney and possibly Bush as well are candidates for impeachment. This is, of course, not to say that they should be convicted--but that's what a trial is for. The prima facie case against them seems more than sufficiently strong. In a case like this, in which so much is at stake and there is so much evidence of wrongdoing, it is simply irresponsible to "take impeachment off the table."
Lovable Liberal: The Hard Bargain

In case you didn't see LL's link in comments below, I recommend checking out his Veteran's Day post here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Giuliani And Executive Power

Fairly disturbing reading here, by Rachel Morris at the Washington Monthly.

It is, of course, hard to say what the worst thing about the Bush presidency has been...but his push for wrecking the system of checks and balances by radically inflating executive power has to be high on anyone's list.

Scary thing about Giuliani--if Morris is right--is that he's got these same kinds of tendencies. According to this piece, Rudy doesn't think the law really applies to him, and is happy to distort it for his own purposes.

Add to that the wide-spread view that he's basically a bully...and it starts to seem possible that this is basically the last guy we want in the White House given the current state of the world.

I'm trying to keep an open mind about all the Republican candidates--pretty easy since I've ruled out voting for any Republican this time around as a kind of anti-Bush protest. But--especially since Brownback is out--Rudy is getting close to the bottom of my list.
"I'll Sell My Soul To The Devil": Ted Stevens et. al., Oil, and Corruption in Alaska

Whew. However bad you thought it was, it's worse. (in the WaPo)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

I never know what to do on Veteran's Day. I'm given to thinking about the men (boy's mostly, actually) who gave their lives and limbs to defend Constitution and country...and I'm given to doing so every...oh, six hours or so. So remembrance comes easy to me. I wanted to go down to the parade today, but was stuck making up an exam instead. We also serve who merely stand and drone? Well, not really...

So, for what it's worth, here's to those boys at Valley Forge and Antietam and bloody Omaha beach and all the rest. We can never repay, but at least we can remember.
Karen Hughes And the Marketing War

I ranted and squawked about the decision to give Karen Hughes the job of "Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy." Now that she's resigned, maybe people will get sensible about this.

This is not a marketing problem, despite what our "first CEO president" might think.

It is largely a war of ideas--but pitting ideas against each other is not mere marketing, not mere propaganda. For all their virtues, this is something business men don't understand: that ideas have a value beyond their ability to win you friends, money, and converts. Some ideas are true and some are false. Some are reasonable and some are not. Some are good and some are bad. Our ideas are, in the main (though almost certainly not entirely) better than those of Muslim fundamentalists. This is a matter for inquiry, not salesmanship. There's no reason to stoop to marketing and propaganda when you hold the bulk of the intellectual and moral cards--even if you are motivated only by what's in your interest.

This is the approach typical of people like Bush et. al., however: everything is a sale. The facts and the principles are to be invoked only if it's in your interest to do so. It's all about getting what you want. It is, as others have noted, the postmodern presidency. Want to go to war even if the facts don't support it? Don't knuckle under to those pesky facts! Manage public opinion by "managing" the evidence.

But here in the reality-based community, some of us still think that our ideas can change the world honestly. They have a power to appeal to the inquiring mind--and only those who have lost the faith (or who never really had it) don't realize this.

So let's get serious about the "war" of ideas. Our ideas are better. Let's stop treating this like a marketing campaign. We're not trying to trick people into buying Yugos instead of Toyotas here.
(Extremely) Good News From Iraq

at al Jazeera.

In short: local Iraqi forces kick some AQI ass, AQI is "losing ground" says Maliki, Sunni-Shia violence is way, way down, and many more Iraqis are now working with the U.S.

Nothing but good news here. In fact, the only gripe comes at the end: the Maliki government is ticked because the U.S. military is trying to get them to slow down the process of executing people convicted of genocide (it was supposed to have been carried out within 30 days). Since going slow is the right policy when the death penalty is concerned, even this criticism redounds to our credit.

Man. This is the kind of story I had given up hoping for two months ago. It's enough to make to make a grown blogger cry.

We may have dodged the bullet yet, my friends. It ain't over by a long shot, but this is a huge 90-degree turn of events in the right direction.

(Note: I am now accepting apologies from those who ridiculed me for supporting the surge... The line should form to the left, don't you think?)
Frank Rich: The Coup At Home

About half the time, my inner political monologue sounds about like this. The other half of the time I think I must be over-reacting, or slipping into partisanship, or some such thing. However, in this case it can't be partisanship, since I'm almost as disgusted with the Dems for letting the crooks, nuts and idiots in this administration get away with it all as I am with the crooks, nuts and idiots themselves. I guess it could be "BDS," but, as I've said before, I didn't start out hating Bush, I was driven there by his actions and decisions. I did go ballistic after his team tried to steal the election of 2000 (more people should have gone ballistic, actually), but I totally re-set after 9/11, ignoring the last year of aggressively divisive politics. By the time we invaded Afghanistan, I was as about as at peace with Bush as a guy like me can be with a guy like him. Then the marketing campaign to invade Iraq began, and the intensified campaign to divide the country and vilify his opponents...and you know the rest of the story. So here's agreeing with Rich--at least half (well, more like 75% of) the time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nixon Derangement Syndrome?

Eugene Robinson's right about almost all of this...except it's time to retire the term 'Bush Derangement Syndrome.' See, it isn't derangement if you're right. Then it's just anger. (Actually, it' s more like righteous indignation, but no need to even go that far.) (And the term was, after all, originally 'Clinton Derangement Syndrome'...and that really was derangement.) But note that, say, intense anger about Nixon would not be "Nixon Derangement Syndrome."

So time to retire that little rhetorical smokescreen, I'd say.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

George Will On Congress's Unused War Powers

How'd I miss this?
Little Bitty Cars?

I've often wondered why people in 2-car families who live in town don't have one car roughly like this. I mean, most trips around town only involve one or two people, and don't require significant storage space.

Of course, I'd be rather nervous about such a car these days, give that about half the cars on the road are 5,000 lb monstrosities driven by morons talking on cell phones...

(Incidentally, thanks to the Bush administration for instituting a bogus tax break to encourage people to buy SUVs, thus putting one more barrier in the way of getting people to buy sensible cars. Nice work, guys!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How To Get Your Ass Kicked Pretty Much Anywhere
Clothes From The 1977 J.C. Penny Catalog

I laughed my ass off at this...but, like the man says, if you're under 30 you probably won't really get it...

Thank you, 15 Minute Lunch...

[via Metafilter]

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Sad Case of Antony Flew

A fairly well-known philosophical atheist turns semi-hemi-demi-religious in his dotage, and the evangelical God industry is all over him. Sad story. Flew was a good, solid philosopher--not extraordinary, not "the world's most famous atheist" by far. Now 81, he's started saying that he's an "Aristotelian deist" and nodding along while Christian marketing men make terrible arguments in favor of the existence of God in his presence...and the God Squad is spinning it for all it's worth.

Jeez, I'm not even hostile to sufficiently vague and abstract hypotheses about intelligence as a real force in the universe. I think it's a hypothesis that's eminently in play. But there's light-years' worth of conceptual space between that and anything about, say, "the resurrection" and all the other details of Christian mythology.

And this would be a lot more exciting if we were talking about a change of mind based on clear and cogent reasons when Flew was at the height of his intellectual powers... As it is, much of this is just sad and wrong.

[HT: Canis Major]
Andrew Sullivan on Obama

"Goodbye To All That," at The Atlantic.

Kinda interesting...I'm sort of sympathetic to the conclusion, but many of the arguments don't seem particularly strong. Still, of possible interest.

[via Metafilter]

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Hypothesis: it's the impurities in alcohol that give you the hangover; ergo if you drink vodka instead of beer, you won't really get a hangover because it's pure alcohol!

Result: disconfirmed.
Waterboarding Used to be a Crime

While on the subject of waterboarding, an interesting piece from the Post by Evan Wallach about prosecutions of e.g. Japanese soldiers for waterboarding U.S. prisoners in WWII.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saints and Sinners Party at the Artful Dodger

See ya there!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mukasey, Take 2

Me:the administration::Charley Brown:Lucy.

LL was right. I was wrong.

I really am quite gullible when you think about it.

I guess it's clear now that Mukasey will never admit that waterboarding is torture. It's amazing how powerful it can be to simply deny even the patently obvious. Just don't say the words--that's the key.

Maybe in the future we'll see:

A Surgeon General who won't say whether an appendectomy is surgery.

A Secretary of Defense who won't say whether an M-16 is a weapon.

The possibilities, they are limitless!
Violence Still Down in Iraq

Is there anyway to heave a sigh of relief while still holding your breath?

I was just getting all cranky about the lack of news from Iraq, when, voila! (Or, as my high school yearbook might say in such a case, viola!), Ned Parker at the L.A. Times delivers the goods.

Civilian deaths are down--way down...down to January '06 levels...--for two months running.

You'd think this would be blaring from every news outlet in the country.

The bad news is that some of the decrease in violence seems to be attributable to the fact that the sectarian version of "ethnic cleansing" (a term that makes me feel dirty even when I put it in scare quotes) is largely completed, with neighborhoods now being more religiously homogeneous. I'm more than a little disgusted that I'm too (tentatively) relieved to be as disgusted by that as I should be by that.

Anyway, the rest seems to be attributable to the surge. (So I tentatively think that I was wrong when I said that I was wrong to support the surge.)

The other bad news is that there's still no real progress on the political front.

BUT! This does seem to be--comparatively speaking--pretty dang good news.
Hand Recounts in Close Elections: For Future Reference

Just for future reference: we should all agree now that punch-card ballots should be recounted by hand in close elections. That was the position before the election of 2000, and it's the position of all companies I know of that make punch-card ballot voting machines. The consensus of everybody who thinks about such things seriously is that machine counts are approximations, and that hand-recounts are more accurate. That is the procedure that should have been followed in the 2000 election. (And, in fact, by most (but not all) fair ways of counting ballots, Bush would apparently have won if procedure had been followed).

This is the kind of thing that is best settled ahead of time in order to maximize fairness and objectivity, and so that partisan passions don't make us cheat and suddenly decide that a whole new procedure is called for when the old procedure doesn't favor our side.

Changes in technology might make hand recounts less accurate than machines, though. So, what we really need to do I think is:

1. Commit ourselves to pushing to implement the best relevant technology.
2. Make sure there is a paper trail associated with that technology.
3. Make sure it is as tamper-proof as possible.
4. Determine whether hand recounts are more or less accurate than machine counts with that technology.
5. Develop a recount procedure accordingly and ahead of time.
6. Stick with that procedure when push comes to shove.

Another 2000-type debacle in 2008 would, I fear, be disastrous (no matter who comes out on top).
Violence in Iraq?

Is it just me, or is the media strangely silent about levels of violence in Iraq?

And if so, the reason for this is....?....