Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

28 February, 2007

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

According to the Guardian, advisors to the current military command in Baghdad are giving the United States one more Friedman to get it right in Iraq:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

The obvious question that comes to my mind is, "What does 'win the war' actually mean?" Seeing as how are rationale for invading Iraq in the first place changes with the weather, I'm hard-pressed to visualize what "victory" might look like.

More damning, however:
Their biggest headache was insufficient numbers of troops on the ground despite the increase ordered by Mr Bush, the former official said. "We don't have the numbers for the counter-insurgency job even with the surge. The word 'surge' is a misnomer. Strategically, tactically, it's not a surge," an American officer said.

According to the US military's revised counter-insurgency field manual, FM 3-24, authored by Gen Petraeus, the optimum "troop-to-task" ratio for Baghdad requires 120,000 US and allied troops in the city alone. Current totals, even including often unreliable Iraqi units, fall short of that number. The deficit is even greater in conflict areas outside Baghdad.

"Additional troops are essential if we are to win," said Lt-Col John Nagel, another Petraeus confidant and co-author of the manual, in an address at the US Naval Institute in San Diego last month. One soldier for every 50 civilians in the most intense conflict areas was key to successful counter-insurgency work. Compounding the manpower problems is an apparently insurmountable shortage of civilian volunteers from the Pentagon, state department and treasury. They are needed to staff the additional provincial reconstruction teams and other aid projects promised by Mr Bush.

Let's remember: this is coming from the "commanders on the ground" on whose recommendations Bush is supposedly basing his strategy. I find it hard to believe that Bush was unaware that 20,000 additional troops would be an inadequate number before announcing the plan. In other words, more blood, more money, same result.

Criminal incompetence.

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Crap/Not Crap

Offsetting carbon credits.


Cubed redwoods

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27 February, 2007

All they needed was a scarlet letter

Inside Higher Ed reports on a humiliating permutation of the flash mob at UNC Chapel Hill:
Ryan Burke, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invites his girlfriend from North Carolina State University to meet him at the Pit, a central meeting point on his campus, for a Valentine’s Day surprise. She arrives and finds hundreds of students (some estimates top 1,000) whom he had invited via Facebook. Her boyfriend starts by introducing an a cappella group — not to sing some romantic melody, but the Dixie Chicks’ defiant hit “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice.”

When the song is done, Burke tells his girlfriend that she has been unfaithful and that he’s dumping her. They exchange harsh words — several of them four-letter epithets — while the audience watches, laughs and jeers. At one point, the crowd starts chanting “slut, slut, slut” at the woman. She fights back (verbally), telling her by-then-ex that if he needs an audience to break up with her, he must have the problem.

YouTube video of the event is here.

The article tries to suss out whether this event was real or staged, and several people interviewed for the article are rightly disturbed that so many who observed the event seem to be revelling in the public humiliation of a woman. I found this little statement towards the end of the piece to be interesting:
She also said that there were positive factors to consider. “I’m a journalism and public relations major,” Legacki said. “I was impressed by the word of mouth that catalyzed this and how it’s grown completely. To me it’s more amazing how it got to where it is than the fact that Ryan publicly humiliated Mindy,” she said. “Any time you can get a group of college students that big in one place is impressive,” Legacki said, adding that she did agree that it would be good “to figure out how to use that for better causes.”

Her caveat at the end of the quote notwithstanding, I'm struck by the speaker's lack of empathy. The need to publically humiliate a woman, and the mob enjoying the spectacle is the story (although, let's be honest, misogyny - public or otherwise - is widely tolerated in our society and is seldom "news"). At the risk of invoking Godwin, the comment seems to me to be different only by a matter of degrees from admiring how efficiently the Nazis handled that whole Holocaust deal. But I'm sure I'm an over-sensitive jerk who's too old to get the "joke."

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Rip-off artists

In further proof that the conservative movement is hard-up for ideas, from a Sam Brownback for President campaign e-mail:
We have a great opportunity to show support for the Republican wing of the Republican Party at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC, March 1st through 3rd [emphasis added].

My, that's original.

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Through the looking glass

The world according to Giuliani:
The hard-nosed former U.S. attorney, known for cracking down on organized crime and scooting the homeless from the streets of Manhattan as mayor, told members of the conservative Hoover think tank in Washington today that he made the switch from Democrat to Independent to Republican because "we care about the poor more."

News to me. I'll be changing my voter registration later today.

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The case against an American aristocracy

Exhibit B: still at Paris Hilton's 26th birthday party, but surprisingly, only tangentially related to Hilton herself:
Oil heir, noted wordsmith, and parachute enthusiast Brandon Davis made Paris Hilton cry at her 26th birthday party, and drove Courtney Love and Paula Abdul to flee the premises.

Things were going well at Hilton’s dinner party at L.A.’s Prime Grill until 10 p.m. rolled around and Davis started acting up.

"He was hurling flowers at Paula Abdul," a guest tells the New York Daily News. "Then he began bombing her with Styrofoam flower-holders. He was shouting, 'Lick my [BLEEP], Paula!' He started mocking her ancestry by speaking gibberish in an Arabic accent.

Abdul, who was supposed to sing "Happy Birthday," made an early exit.

Davis then turned on Love.

"He lifted her up so that she was straddling his waist," says a witness. "Her Chanel dress was riding up. Brandon was saying, 'I want to squirt on you.' He was humping Courtney in front of her daughter, Frances Bean. When he put her down, Courtney grabbed Frances and they marched out of the restaurant through the kitchen."

Behold our betters. They deserve every penny they have.

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26 February, 2007

Making lemonade from melted polar icecaps (updated)

Oh John Stossel! Will we ever grow tired of your nonsensical logical leaps and your industrious production of high-calorie, low-nutrition "facts?" Hell no!
But, you know, I guess you can't deny that the globe has warmed. Climate changes. It's warmed a little. The issue is, is it a bad thing? It may be a good thing. And is it a catastrophe, where we have to wreck the lives of poor people and turn our freedom over to Al Gore and he'll tell us what we can drive and whether we can air-condition our house? And even if he does that, it's not going to make any difference. So there are seven issues, and the only one where there's clear truth is that, yes, the globe has warmed and probably will keep warming. And, most likely, man is playing a part. But to then say, "Al Gore is right," what does that mean? What are we going to do?

What a smarmy, selfish, intellectually dishonest prick.

[updated 2/26/07 at 7:04 PM]: for ash...
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Now that's a wingnut!

The bottom-dwellers on the Fringe could learn a thing or two from far-right presidential also-ran Jean-Marie Le Pen, even if he does happen to be French:
French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen launched his fifth bid to become president yesterday, promising to reintroduce the death penalty, reduce the criminal age to 10 and create a so-called National Guard.

The 78-year-old leader of France's Front National was on fighting form as he unveiled his "programme for government" to supporters in Lille.

His manifesto, described as a "response to the 20 major problems facing France", featured the expected anti-immigration, crime and nationalist measures including pledges to end benefit payments to foreigners, create 75,000 more prison places and pull France out of Nato.


Mr Le Pen, who referred to the Nazi gas chambers as "a point of detail", hit the headlines again recently for his view on historical events. He dismissed the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11 2001 as an "incident", remarking that the 3,000 death toll was equal to the number of people killed in Iraq in a month.

Readers with intact long-term memories will remember that Le Pen received enough votes to enter into a run-off with President Jacques Chirac in 2002. So, chins up on the Fringe, and take solace in the achievements of this trailblazing wingnut!

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Ixnay on the ynchinglays

Par for the course for the boys over at Fox:
[Fox contributor Pat] CADDELL: It may or may not be. Let me say this. Can I say something, Bob, on this point? Just this -- you cannot run a campaign the way they're doing, saying, "Vote for me because I'm a woman," which is what they're doing.

If Barack Obama was out there saying, "Vote for me because I'm black," or Richardson -- Bill Richardson said, "Vote for me because I'm a Hispanic," people would hang them high. I mean, this is ridiculous.

I'd call this an unfortunate choice of words, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that this might be the exact image Caddell had in mind.

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Getting your story straight before you talk to the press

By a lovely little bit of synchronicity, the NYT today published a piece about a film produced by one of Horowitz's Liberty Film Festival alums. Unsurprisingly, the film is raising hackles on college campuses. You may remember Horowitz's effusive praise for the film "Obsession":
Successful films launched at the Liberty Film Festival include "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," which had its World Premiere at the 2005 Liberty Film Festival and went on to be aired five times on Fox News the weekend before the 2006 election.

And in case you forgot the raison d'être of the Liberty Film Festival, it's
... Hollywood's first pro-American, pro-Israel, conservative film festival and cultural organization [whose] purpose is to create the kind of film product of which Americans who love freedom and love their country can be proud.

In light of the gushing accolades from someone who can only be described as a right-wing nutjob, I found this little tidbit (from the NYT piece) to be interesting:
["Obsession" producer Raphael] Shore describes his film as nonpartisan and balanced, and many viewers agree with him.

Nonpartisan and balanced, you say? Your reputation precedes you!

And what would Mr. "I ♥ Academic Freedom" Horowitz have to say about this?
The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East, not just because of its clips from Arab television rarely shown in the West, including scenes of suicide bombers being recruited and inducted, but also because of its pro-Israel distribution network.

When a Middle East discussion group organized a showing at New York University recently, it found that the distributors of “Obsession” were requiring those in attendance to register at, and that digital pictures of the events be sent to Hasbara Fellowships, a group set up to counter anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

“If people have to give their names over to Hasbara Fellowships at the door, that doesn’t have the effect of stimulating open dialogue,” said Jordan J. Dunn, president of the Middle East Dialogue Group of New York University, which mixes Jews and Muslims. “Rather, it intimidates people and stifles dissent.”

So there you have it: a nonpartisan, pro-American, balanced, pro-Israel conservative film on "radical Islam" that is trying to reach a broader audience by forcing potential viewers to register at a pro-Israel website and have their pictures sent to an organization who monitors "anti-Israel sentiments" on campus.

Now answer me this question: if it weren't for the wingnut welfare, would we have to pay attention to Horowitz and his film protégés?

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Punk Rock Monday

My first exposure to Wire came via R.E.M. and their cover of "Strange." Pink Flag soon became a staple in my friend's car's tapedeck our sophomore year. My dubbed cassette vanished early in the last decade, and it wasn't until I had the good fortune of a friendly audiophile re-gifting me a burned CD of that album that I remembered why Pink Flag was such a big part of our life that year. Listen for yourself.

"Map Ref 41N 93W" from 1979

And "Pink Flag" from the same TV appearance


This isn't happening, is it?

Sy Hersh has been on top of Bushco's barbaric single-mindedness with regards to Iran for some time now. The Guardian pulls out this little tidbit in their summary:
Elements of the tough new approach towards Tehran outlined by Hersh include:

· Clandestine operations against Iran and Syria, as well as the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon - even to the extent of bolstering Sunni extremist groups that are sympathetic to al-Qaida...

In case you didn't follow that: the new Bush strategy involves us forming alliances with supporters of the people who attacked us on 9/11 so that we can destabilize not just one, but three other countries (in addition to Iraq) who had nothing to do with 9/11!

These sorts of contingencies demonstrate how dangerously unhinged Dick Cheney and his bloody-minded colleauges really are. Is he allowed to get away with growling out one side of his mouth about giving comfort to al Qaeda while handing cash out underneath the table to Bin Laden's allies in Iraq? Why do I have this weird sense of déjà vu?
Hersh claims that the former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, resigned his post to take a parallel job as the deputy director of the state department because of his discomfort with an approach that so closely echoed the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s.

Oh... that would explain Elliott Abrams hanging around the White House again.

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(Nuclear) Winter in San Francisco

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25 February, 2007

David Horowitz crazy with Oscar™ fever!

In many ways, I want to have the relationship with David Horowitz that I have with Britney Spears, watching his slow descent into madness with a sense of bemused pity until he either ended up institutionalized or sequestered in a small shack in Idaho. When he positions himself as a cultural critic, his lack of cultural competency is as painful to watch as Spears' utterly clueless political ramblings in Fahrenheit 9/11 were (piece of liberal agit-prop or no).

Unfortunately, the folks who who are in a position to intervene and tell Horowitz he's making a complete fool of himself are actually enabling him, giving him a multi-million dollar platform with which he can do some real damage to important institutions and a lot of people's lives. That means folks like us have to shake off the torpor that comes with feeling sorry for this intellectual shill and point out that the man is nuts, nuts, nuts.

So what bee is in Horowitz's bonnet? Liberal Hollywood, my friends, and their partisan awards shows. From a fundraising letter:
This Sunday's Oscar ceremony is shaping up to be the most partisan, left-wing awards show yet. If you're tired of Hollywood's liberal agenda and would like to see films made that celebrate America, Israel, and conservative values, then please read to the end of this email and join our cause.

Hollywood's liberal agenda, blah blah blah. Partisan, left-wing awards show yadda yadda yadda. Michael Moore is fat, fat, fat and probably sells crack to kindergarteners after Sunday School. Uh huh. We get it. So what's Horowitz's proof this time of the left-wing awards show agenda?
Al Gore's misleading documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (which blames global warming on America) is nominated for both the Best Documentary Oscar and the Best Original Song Oscar. Gore is the favorite to win, and some say it may even re-launch his chances of a presidential run in 2008.

You know what, I'm almost feeling charitable enough to give Horowitz this one. Al Gore is certainly a Democrat - some might even go so far as to say he's a liberal. And I don't doubt that every now and again, the Academy likes to send a message with their awards. But then I read that Horowitz thinks An Inconvenient Truth is misleading (which is surely the pot calling the kettle black). What's misleading about it? Gore provides a ton of empirical, peer-reviewed evidence to back his claims in the film. What have you got Horowitz?

And did Gore "blame" global warming on America? No, he claims that the build-up of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere is a result of human, primarily industrial, activity. As the United States is a major contributor of greenhouse emissions, there is a moral responsibility for us to do something. But if Horowitz didn't have on his ideological blinders, he'd realize that Gore sees the solution to global warming in America, in the innovative and entrepreneurial characteristics that made us a world leader in the first place. Imagine that, a film that makes the bold claim that we, as a nation, can do better! How un-American.

And finally, uh... Davis Guggenheim made a really compelling documentary that was engaging, relevant, timely, and commerically successful. Political agenda or no, that is what an Oscar-winning film is supposed to be.
"Letters From Iwo Jima," nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, posits a moral equivalency between America and Imperial Japan during World War II, while the Oscar-nominated "Flags of Our Fathers" depicts the American war-time government as greedy and corrupt.

You'll note that Horowitz is too much of a chickenshit coward to come out and call the director of both films an anti-American Hollywood leftist. The director, of course, is Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood. Horowitz's statement can only lead me to two conclusions: 1) Horowitz is too stupid to realize that just about everyone knows that Clint Eastwood is a libertarian Republican, or 2) Horowitz manipulatively cherry-picks information which helps prove his point. I suspect we all know that the latter conclusion is most likely.

I think it's also important to again note how full of bile Horowitz is that he can't feel empathy. Does Letters from Iwo Jima posit a moral equivalency between two warring nations, or does it posit a common, tragic humanity among combatants? Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, and Horowitz still can't let go of the fact that the Japanese were then our enemies. Sad.
"Jesus Camp," nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar, ridicules conservative evangelical Christians.

No, Jesus Camp didn't ridicule them - it made a certain sect of conservative evangelical Christians appear downright dangerous. There was nothing funny about it. Given the prevalence of eliminationist rhetoric in mainstream conservative political discourse, and given that anti-government right-wingers have shot doctors and bombed abortion clinics and government buildings, I think a documentary which shows the conditioning of young children into Christian warriors is more than fair game.
"Children of Men," nominated for three Oscars, is about a heroic illegal alien who tries to save the human race, and the racist conservative government that is trying to deport her.

This would seem to me to be un-American only if Horowitz thought our current government was racist and conservative and would try to deport humanity's savior. And that's clearly not the case: our government would disappear them into a Kafka-esque no-man's land, where they'd eventually, years later, re-appear with serious psychological damage in Gitmo.
"Babel," nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, depicts Americans overseas as arrogant, racist, and abusive to foreigners.

Never in the known history of the world, has an American overseas been arrogant, racist, or abusive to foreigners. Or worn matching star-spangled outfits, dark socks and sandals for that matter.

So, now that Horowitz has shown himself to be a heartless, intellectually bankrupt coward who is unable to feel empathy towards any human being who doesn't reflect back to him a jingoistic parody of American-ness, what would he have us do to combat the scourge that is Hollywood?
If you're as disturbed by this as we are...

I'm sorry David, "disturbed" is a really unfortunate word for you to use here. All I can see is Britney Spears shaving off your very chic "intellectual's" beard. You were saying?
[Y]ou have a chance to make a difference. For the first time since Ronald Reagan left Hollywood for Washington there is a voice in Hollywood to counter the political left. The Liberty Film Festival is Hollywood's first pro-American, pro-Israel, conservative film festival and cultural organization. Its purpose is to create the kind of film product of which Americans who love freedom and love their country can be proud.

That's right, you can instead help make possible a film festival where the only requirement for entry is that your film be pro-American, pro-Israel and conservative. They can't say that the films will be any good, mind you, just that they'll all hew closely to the odd-ball fantasy world that passes for consensus reality on the far right.

So what kind of "talent" has Horowitz discovered at his little film festival?
Successful films launched at the Liberty Film Festival include "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," which had its World Premiere at the 2005 Liberty Film Festival and went on to be aired five times on Fox News the weekend before the 2006 election.

Okay, a bit of right-wing agit-prop broadcast on Fox News in order to influence the 2006 elections. Given the election results, we can see how effective and persuasive this particular "documentary" was. And you're telling me it wasn't nominated for an Oscar?
Also, Joel Surnow, creator of "24," launched his new hit conservative comedy Fox News show "The Half Hour News Hour" at the 2006 Liberty Film Festival, where it received thunderous applause.

Ah yes, the widely-panned blatant rip-off of The Daily Show, recipients of another left-wing partisan award. You're right, Horowitz! The right-wing creative brain trust churning out original conservative programming is on fire! Hit me again!
The Liberty Film Festival was also instrumental in promoting ABC's "The Path to 9/11," the outstanding miniseries that bravely depicted Clinton's failure to capture Bin Laden.

"Outstanding" wasn't the word I heard. "Misleading," "historically inaccurate," and "steaming piece of shit" were what I recall being attributed to this particular miniseries.
It is critical that Americans like you support the Liberty Film Festival and the brave conservative filmmakers countering the anti-American propaganda of the Hollywood Left!

The left understands the stakes. On opening night of the 2005 Liberty Film Festival, left-wing protestors rushed the stage of the Pacific Design Center and tried to attack me as I introduced the film "Brainwashing 101" which is about the left's efforts to indoctrinate students on American college campuses. The protestors screamed "Fascists have no right to free speech!" "You have no right to free speech!" They had to be tackled by members of the audience to prevent them from doing me bodily harm. Their message couldn't have been clearer: in Hollywood, conservatives have no right to free speech.

Ugh. Okay kids, here's where I partially agree with David. Stop rushing the podium at his speeches and screaming at him. Stop it for three reasons: 1) it makes us look like intolerant jackasses, 2) it allows Horowitz to continue his whiny ass titty-baby, "help, help, I'm being oppressed" victim routine, and 3) shutting him up would deprive bloggers like me the much needed resources we require for the production of high quality, grade A snark. Let him speak, and show his silly movies, and write his books. You should have no problem de-bunking his anecdotally supported half-truths, dissecting his addled logical leaps, and deconstructing his bizarre cultural assumptions on their own merits for all but the most fervent Kool-Aid drinkers.

Kool-Aid drinkers like Britney.

[updated on 2/26/07 at 11:24 AM]: Welcome Free Exchange on Campus readers! Please enjoy your look around!

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23 February, 2007

In bizarro world

It's been the Bush administration's M.O. to turn their own weaknesses into attacks on their opponents. Cheney has just taken it to stunning new heights:
Vice President Cheney today repeated his charge that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's approach toward the Iraq war would benefit al-Qaeda, saying that he was not trying to impugn the speaker's patriotism but instead hold her accountable for the consequences of her policies.


"She accused me of questioning her patriotism. I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment," Cheney said during a trip to Australia.

"If you are going to advocate a course of action that basically is withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, then you don't get to just do the fun part of that, that says, well we're going to get out and appeal to your constituents on that basis. You have to be accountable for the results..."

You'll have to excuse me for thinking that Cheney's the last person who should be giving finger-wagging lectures on accountability.

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I've seen this movie before. Its sequel is, unfortunately, just as predictable with the same horrific ending.

I have a bad feeling about this.


Just come out and say it already

You've got to hand it to Sam Brownback, claiming the mantle of a 19th Century abolitionist hero:
Senator Sam Brownback: William Wilberforce Republican.

If you don’t know who he is, never fear—Hollywood is coming to the rescue with Friday’s release of “Amazing Grace.” The film details Mr. Wilberforce’s successful, 20-year effort as a British member of parliament to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. He was inspired by his evangelical Christian beliefs. And Mr. Brownback, a devout Catholic who was previously an evangelical Protestant, “is deeply inspired by William Wilberforce,” said Brian Hart, his campaign spokesman.

A March 2006 article in The Economist first named Mr. Brownback a “Wilberforce Republican,” referring to his faith-grounded efforts to end human trafficking, fight genocide and AIDS in Africa and to reform prisons.


“We must continue to follow Wilberforce’s example and fight for the dignity and freedom of every person,” Mr. Brownback said in a press release about the bill. “It is intolerable that 200 years after Britain banned its slave trade, there are still hundreds of thousands of victims of human trafficking who are used as bonded labors, sex slaves, and in other horrifying capacities [my emphasis].”


Mr. Wilberforce is familiar to evangelicals (i.e. Republican voters in the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary) because people like Charles Colson and James Dobson mention him on their radio shows, said Mr. [Michael] Cromartie [of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center].

What the Times blogger neglects to inform us is that Brownback's media savvy branding effort (and it is particularly well thought out) is a subtle wink to the militant anti-choice movement. How could we infer that from Brownback's statements? Context is everything, here. Given that it's a central tenet of the far right's faith that abortion is the modern-day moral equivalent of slavery, it's not at all difficult to see the image Brownback is trying to convey to anti-choice zealots. Not that we'd expect a major newspaper like the NYT to provide context.

Moreover, what are we to make of the phrase "victims of human trafficking who are used... in other horrifying capacities" comment, given his positions on embryonic stem cell research and fetal rights? Somewhat tangentially related, is Godwin invoked when the Brownback crowd begins to refer to stem cell researchers as "a bunch of Doctor Mengeles?"

I've gotta say, it's great PR to have a NYT blogger magically tranform, through the power of journamalism, this theocratic reactionary into a "compassionate conservative" who appeals to religious Dems. I don't doubt the sincerity of Brownback's beliefs (he's a True Believer if I ever saw one - that's what worries me) or his efforts to end human trafficking, and I'm not particularly concerned that he feels his faith compels him to act in this regard. Good on him. But let's not be polite and pretend that his invocation of Wilberforce was meant to draw attention to his good deeds in Africa. It's a wink and a nod to the John Browns of the forced birth movement, pure and simple: "I'm one of you."

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Worst presidential name

Which presidential last name would be more embarrassing to you? President Huckabee or President Brownback?

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22 February, 2007

The gold standard

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I've been starting to pay attention to the bizarre slate of third tier candidates being sported by a electorally fractured GOP, and I must say, the range of candidates claiming to be the true representative of "the base" (an appropriate descriptor in more ways than one) is an especially tasty smorgasbord of wingnuttia. We have a Catholic cultist (and they were worried about Kennedy taking orders from the Vatican?), an old school, SoCal Buchananite, and now, truly setting the gold standard for this crowd, a crazy-ass bigot.

How crazy? Well, how 'bout "Christian crusader, cultural nationalist, and Iran freedom fighter" crazy?
A cultural warrior on the international front, Tancredo is an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush administration's war on terror, including the war in Iraq. Tancredo, who is a consistent supporter of the Pentagon and U.S. defense industries, has become a leading spokesperson in the House for an Iran regime change strategy in which the People's Freedom Fighters (MEK) would be the vanguard organization supported by the United States.

What does it mean to be a "cultural warrior on the international front?" I can read that two ways. At first blush, it seems related to his "cultural nationalism," wanting to keep 'Murica 'Murican, and to make the rest of the world more 'Murican. And more Christian, judging by his (quite deliberate, I'm sure) use of the term "crusader." However, consider the term "cultural warrior" in the domestic context: I conjure up images of anti-woman, anti-sex, me-first xenophobes. Kinda like those Islamic fundamentalists who Dinesh D'Souza likes some much.

But for truly crazy, we've got to give a shout-out to his hare-brained scheme for regime change in Iran, promoting the agenda of an exile group with a bizarre, cultish ideology that the State Department considers a terrorist group. Obviously, Tancredo learned nothing the last time we relied on an exile group to accomplish regime change.

And speaking of that other war, how does Tancredo think it's going?
Tancredo continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the U.S. war in Iraq. In a section on his official website on Iraq, Tancredo says: “The United States did not invade Iraq to conquer it, but rather to set it free. The United States does not stand to gain territory, oil, or any other spoils of war. We all should be proud of that sacrifice.”

I suppose he has a point, if you ignore the building of permanent bases in Iraq, President Bush warning the Iraqi Army to "not destroy oil wells," securing the Oil Ministry while letting the rest of Baghdad fall into chaos in April 2003, and Halliburton.

And there you have it. While the GOP has an impressive array of wingnuts to choose from, Tom Tancredo is heads and shoulders above the rest of the Fringe for out-and-out craziness. My hat's off to you, freak!

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The case against an American aristocracy

Exhibit A, Paris Hilton's 26th birthday party:
After downing TY KU liquor and bottles of Dom Perignon, guests reported seeing Hilton play with a monkey while a band of midgets led a pack of goats around the room.

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Grasping the broom of reform

From a fundraising e-mail, John McCain makes a ham-handed attempt at branding his candidacy as the agent of conservative reform. How legitimate are this 70 year-old, fourth-term senator's claims to the mantle of maverick outsider? You be the judge:
Whether it is fear about the threat of terrorism, frustration over gridlock in Iraq, anger about out of control government spending in Washington, or concern about the future of social security, Americans recognize that the status quo is not acceptable and the need for straight talk and reform has never been greater. Americans are right; but only together can we bring about the common sense conservative reforms our country so badly needs.

So let's see: stoking fear for political purposes, check; grossly misinterpreting the public's frustrations with the Iraq war, check (the answer to "gridlock" in Iraq? McCain-style bipartisanship, or as he more delicately put it, "stop the bullshit"); self-righteous indignation about a problem your party created, check; and finally, crazy devotion to zombie ideological pet project, check.

Candidate of conservative reform? I'll give him the conservative part (and getting more conservative by the day), but a reformer? You've got to be kidding.
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21 February, 2007

Labor hell

Imagine working for a boss like this:
Mr. Smith said he viewed most stories of drug use and physical abuse as exaggerations. “I don’t put a lot of stock in them because, to be brutally frank with you, abuse is like beauty. It’s in the eyes of the beholder,” he said. “A loud voice, anything, can be called abuse.”

Welcome to the world of the itinerant, door-to-door magazine solicitor, an occupation that doesn't cry so much to be organized as it does to be completely abolished.
The sellers have few labor protections because they are classified as independent contractors, which also insulates the companies from regulation, taxes and liability. Categorized as outdoor sellers, the door-to-door peddlers are also exempt from most federal and state minimum wage and overtime requirements.

This is yet another reason to universalize worker protections. Nobody should have to live and work under the conditions described by these workers.

I've had these kids knocking on my door at least three times in Eugene. I remember two distinct stories. The first, referenced in the article, are the ones claiming to be earning points for a trip. The other I remember is that the solicitor was in a job-rehabilitation program for at-risk teens. I may have actually bought a subscription through one of them. I'm now left to wonder what my ethical obligation is the next time someone's on my doorstep offering me a savings of 60% off the cover price.


20 February, 2007

I'm not sure I follow

I was struck by this AP report (it's Salon, so wait for the ad):
Iran has brought its war games maneuvers over the past year into busy shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass, the top U.S. Navy commander in the Mideast said.

The moves have alarmed U.S. officials about possible accidental confrontations that could boil over into war, and led to a recent build-up of Navy forces in the Gulf, Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh said in an interview with The Associated Press and other reporters.

So let me see if I can follow this logic:
  1. The Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz are crowded
  2. Iran is holding naval war games in these crowded waters
  3. These war games pose the threat of starting an "accidental confrontation that could boil over into war"
  4. Presumably to counter the threat of an accidental confrontation, the U.S. Navy has sent more warships into the already crowded Persian Gulf

The Bushies aren't even pretending to hide their bloodlust these days.

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In "more places people should not live"

Last week, uncle complained about subsidizing folks to live in dying rural communities. I'd like to go on record as objecting to subsidizing folks to live in places likely to be wiped off the face of the earth:
In recent years, though, the estimated storm risks soared, and homeowners' insurance premiums doubled and tripled beyond what anyone deemed tolerable.

Now the entire state is in on a vast meteorological wager.

Last month, state legislators voted in an emergency session to lower insurance rates, primarily in South Florida, by pledging tens of billions in public money to affected homeowners if a major hurricane or two strikes again.

Since neither the state's catastrophe fund nor the state-chartered insurance company has anywhere near enough money on hand to pay the claims they may now be required to pay after a major hurricane, the measure is considered a gamble, even by proponents.


The problem with Hillary (updated)

The emerging mainstream narrative about Senator Hillary Clinton is that she refuses to admit she made an error in 2002 when she (and 76 other senators, including all of the Democratic senators with presidential aspirations who were in office at the time) voted to give President Bush a blank check for Iraq. The idea, of course, is that voters want to be assured that she learned something from the experience, that she'll work to prevent similar abrogations of the public trust in the future.

Bob Somerby has been railing against this meme for the past several weeks (a task whose futility is akin to spitting into a gale), pointing out that all the way back in 2004, Clinton stated there never would have been a vote on Iraq if only they had known then what they know now. While I think it's disingenuous for any candidate to pretend they didn't foresee the trainwreck that Iraq has become (I certainly did, and I'm a lowly nobody from the provinces with zero-access to classified intelligence reports), I'm satisfied that she has indeed learned as much as any other senator who has repudiated from that particular mistake (although, like Somerby, I'm perplexed by her campaign's refusal to call the vote a "mistake") [updated on 2/20/07 at 1:45 PM].

That this meme won't die is indicative of the contempt with which many on the left hold Hillary. Right now that contempt is being pegged on her Iraq stance - particularly on the whole contrived she-won't-say-she's-sorry-even-though-she's-owned-up-to-her-mistake bit. Some folks think she'll do anything to win (like any other top-tier presidential nominee - c'mon folks, politicians pander!). Others are miffed about her inexplicable stances used to prove her patriotic bona fides (such as her stance on flag-burning).

For me, the problem with Hillary is that she reeks of entrenched power. From the air of inevitability her campaign is striving to create, to her longstanding membership on the Democratic Leadership Council, to her locking up of the big corporate donors, right on down to her husband, who I hear is somewhat well-connected, Senator Clinton is the embodiment of the Establishment candidate.

Now, I'm not so naïve as to believe that anyone making a serious bid doesn't need to do some cozying up to the fat cats; I don't like it, but I know that's how the game is played. However, the aggressiveness with which she's locked up the big backers (and the enthusiasm with which her backers are supporting her) makes my spidey-sense tingle. In order to solve the myriad problems facing this country and the world, it's going to be necessary to stand up to the big-money interests which set much of the political agenda. Given the dense number of connections that Senator Clinton has with these same interests, I'm not convinced that she'd be willing or able to face them down when push came to shove. And that's a huge problem, way bigger than her inability to utter the word "mistake" at a campaign event.

[updated on 2/20/07 at 1:59 PM]: Pericles at dKos has a good take on MistakeGate that I think pretty much sums up the problem with Hillary.

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19 February, 2007

Punk Rock Monday

It's quite possible that some of you were hoping for a President's Day themed PRM. I thought about that, but the research it would have taken to do it up right would have cut precipitously into the time I've alloted to thinking about all of the sales at the mall, sales that are beyond the horizon waiting with tomorrow's sun.

So you'll just have make do with seminal L.A. punks X. Sorry 'bout that.

"We're Desperate"

"Johnny Hit and Run Paulene"

And lastly, but certainly not leastly, a smokin' live promo video featuring "Devil Doll" from their classic Live at the Whisky a Go-Go:


Paying rent in my head

digby puts into words the vague queasiness I feel when reading the contemporary conservative commentariat:
The doughy pantload generation of wingnuts, on the other hand, thinks [the Global War on Terror is] some sort of game and they are the star players. They yearned to be "part" of something momentous --- but from a distance, like you are when you are watching movies about war and heroism and identify with the main characters. No need to give up your Milk Duds just to enjoy a good bloodbath. They are writing an exciting plotline that has Islamic terrorism somehow so uniquely dangerous that it has surpassed WWII and the cold war and is more like something out of science fiction: "Star Wars" or "War of the Worlds." To these people, national security is cheap pulp fiction.

What digby sez.

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18 February, 2007

Happy new year!

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17 February, 2007

Sisters and brothers

I just got back from a leadership development training put on by our friends at the UO Labor Education and Research Center, where I had the pleasure (and I'm not being snarky here) of spending ten quality hours with some outstanding labor leaders from around the state.

We (justifiably) give SEIU a lot of shit around these parts: from Stern stabbing us in the back in any number of ways to the authoritarian manner in which they run their union, they've earned it. However, they do deserve credit for doing what they do well, which is empowering some of the most marginalized members of our society. In my class this weekend were three homecare workers, housewives who took (poorly-paid, emotionally and physically intensive) jobs later in life, with relatively little in the way of education and job skills. These women were among the most able to articulate why they were union activists, what they were fighting for, and how they were going to get what they deserved. They understood the political-economy of their profession, the politics of their union, and were unafraid of confronting their bosses. So for all the faults SEIU has, I doff my cap (at least to local 503) for really giving working people at the bottom of the totem pole the dignity and tools to advocate for themselves.

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15 February, 2007

A bit too literal

It appears that local government officials in Fumin county, China, have taken the term greenwashing a little too literally:
Villagers in south-western China are scratching their heads over the local government's decision to paint a barren mountainside green, it was reported today.

Workers who began spraying the Laoshou mountain last August told nearby residents they were doing so on the orders of the area authorities, but had not been told why.

Some villagers believed Fumin county officials were attempting to change the area's feng shui - the ancient Chinese belief of harmonising the physical environment for maximum health and financial benefit.

Others suggested it was an unusual attempt to "green" the area in keeping with calls for more attention to the environment.

The mountain's exposed rock, covered in an artificial green the colour of Astroturf, looms over houses against a scrubby background.


I think George Will is mocking him

And if I'm right, Will's fluff piece on 2008 fringe candidate Duncan Hunter is a brazen violation of Reagan's Eleventh Commandment.

If I'm wrong, on the other hand, I'm hard-pressed to explain this:
In 1969, [Hunter] dropped out of college, joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam. From there he mailed his pay to a friend who purchased for him an island in Idaho's Snake River, where Duncan farmed after his discharge. Then another friend said a San Diego law school would admit him without a college degree. In 1980, he was a lawyer with a storefront office in San Diego's Hispanic community when his father walked in and told him he could be a congressman. Never mind, his father said, that this district was only 29 percent Republican. Reagan was at the top of the ticket.

Okay... the standard "honorable service in Vietnam" meme. The small farmer bit can go a long way with rural voters... got it. Things get a little screwy once we get to law school. Are we to believe that Will, with Oxford and Princeton in his academic pedigree, is extolling the virtues of a man who got a law degree from a fourth tier law school willing to accept anyone who could pony up the cash, baccalaureate or no? Doesn't this narrative seem more "grifter-esque" than "presidential?"
Duncan says his Baptist minister, respecting the separation of church and state, told parishioners they should vote for the Reagan of their choice. They distributed 400,000 Duncan brochures. Today, Duncan Hunter is in his 14th term representing eastern San Diego County.

Cute. A blatant violation of the church's tax-exempt status, but cute nonetheless.
"For some candidates," Hunter says, "the conservative constituency is an inconvenience. For me, it is my hope." He hopes to be seen as the most conservative Republican candidate, as he understands conservatism. He is pro-life, an expert on defense issues, a hawk on border security (he authored the legislation that mandates 854 miles of fences across the major southern border routes used by smugglers of narcotics and people) and a skeptic about free trade.

Ah, a paleocon in the Pat Buchanan mold. In other words, a whole lot of nativist bigotry spiced with a dash of "batshit insane."
He says he has $300,000 "in pledges," a sum that could be a rounding error in the McCain campaign's accounts. But he says, "I kind of know what I stand for" so "I don't need consultants, and that saves a lot of money." He has produced some commercials -- just talking to the camera -- for $200.

Well, that inspires confidence. He "kind of" knows what he stands for, and he's running a media operation that makes Dennis Kucinich's PR mill look downright sophisticated.

Maybe Will is bucking for a place in history, hoping his column will be read by an aging Drew Carey as a voiceover in Ken Burns' 20-part PBS series, Presidential Nomination Also-rans. I suspect, however, that Will is just having a larf at this "burly, rumpled political product's" expense.

And for good reason.

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14 February, 2007

Stopping the war

So now both John Edwards and Barack Obama have comprehensive plans for withdrawing from Iraq. Good on 'em. How do they stack up?

Timeframes: If both proposals became law today, their timeframes would be very similar. Obama has firm dates (out by the end of March 2008, with provisions for extending that time frame and for keeping "a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces.") Edwards, on the other hand, has proposed more vague 12-18 months ("from when?" being the obvious question).

Metrics for progress: Seems like an odd thing to need to discuss when both candidates are calling for withdrawal, but Obama's provisions for extensions beyond the March 31, 2008 deadline are dependent upon the Iraqi government meeting thirteen criteria put forth by the Bush administration. Edwards' approach seems to assume that either a) the political cleavages in Iraq are so sharp that rapprochement in the near-term is highly unlikely and worth the cost in American lives and treasure, or b) that the U.S. presence in Iraq is an actual impediment to any sort of political solution. My hunch is on the former. At any rate, the Edwards plan makes no provisions for "progress" in Iraq.

I actually think this point illuminates some of the stylistic differences between the candidates. Edwards here seems to be playing for the majority of the population who think the situation is hopeless and want withdrawal in the very near future (by the end of year). Obama, on the other hand, appeals to an idealized (if somewhat diminished) notion of American optimism by offering the hope that maybe, just maybe, things might be turned around in Iraq. Populist versus optimist, as it were. Just sayin'...

Diplomacy: I'm shocked, shocked! to discover that both candidates favor intensive regional diplomacy, including talks with Syria and Iran.

Redeploy to where?: Again, both candidates seem to be in agreement. U.S. forces will remain in the region; Edwards is explicit about the military's role in containing the Iraqi civil war within its borders, and both allow for humanitarian interventions and retain the right to intervene to prevent terrorism. I don't know how significant a point this is, but Edwards seems pretty unequivocal in calling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces, while Obama's legislation seems to imply that U.S. military personnel would remain to continue to train Iraqi security forces, as well as conduct anti-terrorist operations.

Funding: Here's where the real difference lies. Edwards is calling upon Congress to place funding caps on how many troops it will support (immediately capping it at 100,000 troops). Unfunded troops must be redeployed. Further, Edwards is proposing that military units who do not meet "real readiness standards" cannot be deployed to Iraq. I read the entire text of Obama's bill, but found no mention of funding one way or the other in the bill. As Congress's constitutional power in this matter derives from its power over the appropriations process, it would seem to me that Edwards' proposal has more teeth. I don't know what Senator Obama's actual position on capping funds for the occupation is, but as far as proposals on the table go, Edwards is the one proposing that Congress use its institutional leverage to halt the war.

Edwards obviously has the luxury of not actually holding office with the possibility to vote on his proposal. Obama has the burden of trying to convince 59 of his colleagues to agree with him (or at least agree enough to prevent a filibuster). Differences in proposals aside, there's a potential win for the public here. The Edwards campaign is asking folks to contact their Congresscritters to push for the details in his proposal. Let's just crawl into our happy fantasyland bubble here and pretend that the calls generated by Edwards' call to action moves Congress past the tipping point to a more "immediate withdrawal" frame of mind - Obama's S. 433 would be the natural proposal to build consensus around, no? And after the bill passes, both candidates are magnanimous in victory, right?

But then, of course, Bush vetoes the bill, enough Republicans remain loyal to sustain an override attempt, and we're back to square one... Wow, even the fantasyland bubble can't squash that little nugget of truth. How much more of his crap do we have to take?

I could start in with my standard leftist carping that neither of these candidates are addressing the question of Iraq in the broader context of the U.S. role in the Middle East (working on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? examining our petro-dependency? supporting repressive regimes?), but honestly, I'm excited to see two concrete plans to get us the hell out of Iraq. Again, good on 'em.

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Party of pervs

What is it about the "moral values" crowd that makes them such sexual degenerates?
A former Pennsylvania congressman was accused Wednesday of exposing himself to two women at a beach resort.

Joseph M. McDade, 75, was issued a summons on a charge of exposure of sexual organs, a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.


McDade, Republican, served in the House from 1963 to 1999

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Worst. Marx-inspired quote. Ever.

A specter was haunting Hillary Clinton as she campaigned in New Hampshire this weekend: the specter of Ed Muskie.


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Be my valentine

Dearest readers:

I ♥ you. Not as much as I ♥ the ravishing ms. wobs, mind you, but I ♥ you nonetheless.

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Things the paper of record should never have illuminated

Seriously. Those big-city newspaper writers have got some nerve talking that way about my grandmother.

Lewd bastards.


13 February, 2007

Tax, tax baby

Been wondering what Vanilla Ice has been up to since... oh, the late '80s? Neither have I. But he has recently rapped..., er, tapped into some new revenue streams:

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Catfight, please

While we on the left have to make do with contrived controversies and rumors of bad blood betwixt our presidential wannabes, the fur is beginning to fly within the Grand Oil Party. From a campaign e-mail:
Documentation surfaced over the weekend that the Romney for President Exploratory Committee is misleading voters.

In an e-mail circulated to right-to-life leaders on February 8, 2007, a key Romney staffer wrote: "Just like Sam Brownback, Mitt was once pro-choice but changed his views upon being elected to office… When Brownback was elected to office, that is when he also had a conversion and voted with the pro-life movement."

Brownback for President National Campaign Committee Member Dr. Jack Willke, who was President of National Right to Life for ten years, responded: "Senator Brownback has always been pro-life, and has never made a statement or cast any vote to the contrary."

This false allegation by the Romney campaign comes in light of recent evidence that Romney has switched positions on abortion at least three times.

That's right, Mitt: Brownback's old school when it comes to being anti-choice and anti-woman, unlike some Johnny-come-lately we know from Taxachusetts!

While I'll certainly be paying attention on our side to the Three Big Bears and the Chasepack as I sort over who'll receive my support and (very small) campaign contributions, I have to say, the GOP race is going to be far more entertaining as we discover who can best court the crazies while running far, far away from Bush. I'll particularly enjoy Romney and Brownback's race to bottom as they vie to be the beau of the social conservative ball.

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12 February, 2007

Pave the planet!

I'm sure we all expected the Bush administration's analysis of and proposals on traffic congestion to be something less than clear-eyed, forward-thinking, and bold:
Carpooling won't do much to reduce U.S. highway congestion in urban areas, and a better solution would be to build new highways and charge drivers fees to use them, the White House said on Monday.

That's the ticket! More roads! More spendy roads!
Based on the latest data supplied by the White House, only about 13 percent of motorists carpooled to work in 2000. That compared with 20 percent of daily American commuters in 1980.

"This trend makes it unlikely that initiatives focused on carpooling will make large strides in reducing vehicle use," the White House said.

What initiatives focused on carpooling? Other than High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, what government programs exist that encourage carpooling?

That said, I think that there's some good structural explanations to explain the decline in carpooling. My money is on two driving factors: 1) the spatial dispersion of the workforce (both in terms of the locations of their homes and their places of employment) over a wider geographical area and 2) the temporal dispersion of the workday (as we became a 24-hour society). In other words, back in 1980, it was easier to find someone living near you who worked close to you as well, and worked similar hours taboot. Neither of these are, of course, benign "natural" changes, but rather the results of policies and economic conditions which promoted urban sprawl and the introduction of more "flexible" employment policies.

Building more highways won't reduce congestion either, unless drivers are charged a fee, according to the administration.

"If a roadway is priced -- that is, if drivers have to pay a fee to access a particular road -- then congestion can be avoided by adjusting the price up or down at different times of day to reflect changes in demand for its use," the White House said. "Road space is allocated to drivers who most highly value a reliable and unimpaired commute."

In other words, SUV drivin' jerks living in their cookie-cutter, ex-urban McMansions.
The administration argued that congestion pricing is already used by many providers of goods and services: movie theaters charge more for tickets in the evening than they do at midday, just as ski resorts raise lift prices on weekends. Similarly, airlines boost prices on tickets during peak travel seasons and taxi cabs raise fares during the rush hour.

Congestion pricing... is that what they're calling price gouging these days?

And in an article on the Bush administration's response to traffic congestion, anyone want to guess how many times affordable and efficient public transportation is mentioned?

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Punk Rock Monday

The kings of DC hardcore, Bad Brains...

"Big Takeover"

"Banned in DC"

And as a bonus, here's a linky-loo (embedding disabled) to their cover of "Daytripper/She's a Rainbow."


11 February, 2007

History lesson

Sam Adams: Patriot; Brewer; Proto-blogger.

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10 February, 2007

Industrial education

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The NYT exposes the dark, Satanic degree mills of the University of Phoenix. What's not to love about this institution? 300,000 students taught by a near-total part-time faculty; a "low overhead" approach to higher education; centralized course planning; professors with real-life experience in... uh,... something:
Robert Wancha, 42, a former National Guard commander who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information technology at the university’s Detroit campus, said that in a computer course last fall his instructor, Christopher G. Stanglewicz, had boasted that he had a doctorate but did little teaching, instead assigning students to work in learning teams while he toyed with his computer.

Mr. Stanglewicz, reached at his home, acknowledged that he had covered only a fraction of the syllabus , partly, he said, because the university required him to cram too much information into too few sessions.

“Students get overwhelmed,” he said. Mr. Stanglewicz asserted in the interview that he had earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Kentucky. But the authorities there said his name was not in their records. (Dr. Pepicello said that Mr. Stanglewicz had never told the university that he had a doctorate, and that he was qualified to teach.)

I don't know what horrifies me more: that the University of Phoenix is willing to hire any schmoe of the street without checking his credentials (or even bothering to ask, apparently), or that Mr. Stanglewicz was whipping out his faux-doctorate to dazzle the folks in "a computer course."

Education on the cheap, it sure don't look pretty.


Red meat

Go see the smackdown at atrios's pad. Me likey.


The Gore non-candidacy

It's non-commital statements like this that have me holding out hope:
Gore, who barely lost the 2000 presidential election to President Bush [ed: Al Gore actually won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, and would have won the electoral vote had the Supreme Court not halted the recount in Florida], has experienced a resurgence in popularity among many Democrats and is still viewed as a potential dark horse candidate in 2008. On Friday, he said he would not categorically rule out another run for public office, but he said he "can't foresee" any circumstances that would lead him to enter the race.

"I'm involved in a different kind of campaign," Gore said.

I don't know if it's residual guilt from 2000, not voting for the man who was my first political hero when he was the junior senator from Tennessee, but I keep holding out hope that Gore takes the plunge. I have a hard time thinking of anyone else who's more capable of pulling this nation out of the morass of the last six years than this man, who's saying things like this when talking about global warming:
"It's a challenge to the moral imagination of humankind," Gore said at a packed news conference, which several noted climate scientists and authors attended. Others provided videotaped endorsements or appeared by live video link.

Maybe it's because he was vocally against the war in Iraq from day one (wait a sec to click through the ad). Maybe it's his quiet swinging into action on behalf of Katrina victims while the federal government was paralyzed. Maybe it's his subversion of the media. Or maybe it's just I'd like to have the opportunity to vote for a person who could possibly win an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize.

If Gore goes in, I'm all-in with him. "A different kind of campaign," indeed.

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The winds we've sown

From a harrowing tale, a cautionary note:
Some may suggest there is no reason to revive the story of abuse in Iraq. Rehashing such mistakes will only harm our country, they will say. But history suggests we should examine such missteps carefully. Oppressive prison environments have created some of the most determined opponents. The British learned that lesson from Napoleon, the French from Ho Chi Minh, Europe from Hitler. The world is learning that lesson again from Ayman al-Zawahiri. What will be the legacy of abusive prisons in Iraq?

Mr. Fair is already paying for the injustices he inflicted upon his fellow human beings. What will we owe for our collective refusal to hold those who ordered these crimes accountable?

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07 February, 2007

Help me help myself

Is there a Scottish rock band out there that I can get into? All the ones I know, I positively can't stand: Travis, the Soup Dragons, Belle & Sebastian... hate 'em. Yo La Tengo (who I love) often sound exactly like Belle & Sebastian, and I still can't take them.

Please tell me there's a Scottish band I like. I don't want to think I'm an anti-Scottish musician bigot.

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Who the Founders would endorse for president

And by "Founders" I mean Chuck Norris.
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As a guest host on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" a couple weeks ago, I made known my desire for Newt Gingrich to run for president, a prospect WND reported on a few years ago. Many since have asked me, "Why Newt?" In short, because despite personal past shortcomings, I believe Newt is a Republican as they used to be and, even more, meets the criteria established by men of old, evidenced in his books, "Rediscovering God in America" and "Winning the Future." He's by no means a perfect man or candidate, but I think one of few true conservative Republicans remaining. I don't condone his indiscretions of the past, but, as with other leaders even in Scripture, I also don't condemn him from ever running for an office again because of them.

In an age where the left are going right and the right going left, we need someone at the helm of our country who holds to old-fashioned values but can still lead into a bold new age. I believe Newt or someone like him could fit the bill. At this point, I'd love to see him run. And if not? I'll be measuring the candidates by "Our Founders' recommendations for president."

What the hell? "The left are going right and the right are going left?" I believe that somewhere, buried in this tortured prose, Walker, Texas Ranger endorsed Newt Gingrich for president.

Seriously, Chuck Norris wrote this long exegesis about how the Founders (and by "Founders" I mean one well-connected, post-Revolutionary preacher) were solidly behind the idea of only electing good Christian men. And according to the criteria that Colt's got figured out for himself, Newt seems to fit the bill.

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Chuck Norris is so going to kick my ass.

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Generic playlist

What, I need a reason to post a random playlist? Well, fine... the Employee Free Choice Act [H.R. 800] was introduced today. So here's your labor-law reform playlist!

Jeebus, that doesn't make any sense...
  • Polly - Nirvana
  • I Got Stoned and I Missed It - Freedom of Expression
  • Re-Ron - Gil Scott-Heron
  • Nowhere Near - Yo La Tengo
  • Offshoot - Dave Brubeck
  • I Am a Lonesome Fugitive - Leo Kottke
  • A Tear for Eddie - Ween
  • All the Young Dudes - David Bowie
  • Good Night - the Beatles
  • 1968 - Bill Frisell

You want me to end this with some sort of witty repartée about the EFCA? You've got to be kidding me. I'm not doing it.


Oh... fine. Recognized through card check, here's your bonus #11. Jerks.
  • Eat Starch Mom - Jefferson Airplane

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06 February, 2007

In unmarked, non-sequential bills, please

Paul Bremer made an appearance before Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) House Oversight and Government Reform committee today. The lede in the WaPo was not kind:
The former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday defended the way he haphazardly doled out billions of dollars in Iraqi funds after the U.S. invasion as Democrats began a two-year effort to scrutinize fraud, waste and abuse under the Bush administration.


[Waxman alleged that] Bremer failed to establish any control over the money after 363 tons of cash was loaded onto airplanes and sent into the war zone in 2003. Waxman, one of the chief investigators for Democrats who took control of Congress this year, said U.S. officials had "no way of knowing whether the cash would wind up in enemy hands."

Am I reading this right? They just loaded tons of cash, literally, on to planes, flew them to Iraq, unloaded 'em and just left it at that? Holy shit!
Bremer, who was head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, said, "I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kickstart the economy."

Maybe that was part of the problem. Instead of working to secure the country and engaging in the restoration of Iraqi civil society, Bremer thought it was his job to make manifest the AEI's free-market wet dream. We all know how that worked out.
The special inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, reported in January 2005 that $8.8 billion in the Iraqi funds could not be accounted for. Waxman said the total amount shipped to Iraq was $12 billion.

They have no idea what happened to almost three-quarters of the 12 billion dollars they shipped over there in airplane shaped suitcases. Again, holy shit!

The Waxman-led investigations, following the money in the most out-sourced war in our history, are going to be very interesting.

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Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because Ted Haggard's a changed man. You remember Ted Haggard, don't you?
Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He was also forced out from the 14,000 New Life Church that he founded years ago in his basement after Jones alleged Haggard paid him for sex and sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together. Haggard, who is married, has publicly admitted to "sexual immorality."

Thankfully, after weeks of intensive counseling, he's been cured!
"[Haggard] is completely heterosexual," [Rev. Tim] Ralph said [to the Denver Post]. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

What a story. After struggling with his sexual identity for years, Haggard embarked in a magical voyage of self-discovery (in which I'm going to assume there was much talk about "feelings"). And now that this trip to the center of his heart is finished, Haggard can come out as "completely heterosexual!"

A complete heterosexual, mind you, not some crank-smokin', male prostitute-patronizing partial heterosexual.

And now that Haggard, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, has come out as completely and utterly straight, what are his plans?
Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday, his first communication in three months to church members, that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master's degrees in psychology.

Presumably in order to help cure more partial heterosexuals.

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05 February, 2007

C'mon, John! Swing for the fences!

John Edwards released his plan for universal health care [.pdf] today. I do like this little bit of rhetoric (from a campaign e-mail):
We have to stop using words like 'access to health care' when we know with certainty those words mean something less than universal care. Who are you willing to leave behind without the care he needs? Which family? Which child? We need a truly universal solution, and we need it now.

Hear, hear. We do need to be talking about universal care, rather than simple "access," so I'm glad to see Edwards taking the mushiness out of the terminology. But his actual plan, which consists of requiring employers to provide health insurance to their workers, while modestly expanding public insurance systems (like Medicare), providing tax incentives, and creating regional health markets, falls far short of fixing the problem of runaway costs in the health care system. What this looks like, to me, is another hand-off of taxpayer money to private insurers.

Unfortunately, private health insurers are the primary drivers behind rising insurance premiums, and any health care proposal which fails to recognize this simple truth will end up being a massively expensive boondoggle, enriching stockholders in the insurance industry, to be sure, but failing to fulfill the promise of universal quality health care.

I can appreciate the fact that Edwards is trying to thread the needle here, balancing the deep pockets of the insurance lobby with the wishes of starry-eyed leftists like myself, with statements like this:
Choice between Public and Private Insurers: Health Markets will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare, but separate and apart from it. Families and individuals will choose the plan that works best for them. This American solution will reward the sector that offers the best care at the best price. Over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan [emphasis added].

However, this statement makes it seem as if there's some question as to which sector, public or private, can most efficiently deliver quality health care at a reasonable cost. I think the data is pretty convincing in showing that single-payer systems come out on top. So why put on an expensive (and byzantine) beauty contest when the outcome isn't in doubt?

On balance, the Edwards plan hits a lot of the right notes: public hospitals, good preventative care, and actually promoting universal health care. But any plan which doesn't challenge the profit-driven system of private insurers will ultimately fail.

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Working girls (Updated!)

Last week, ash regaled us with tales of the social and biological limitations faced by working mothers. Today's WaPo illustrates that professional women face similar challenges at the other end of life's spectrum:
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would have preferred to stay on the Supreme Court for several more years, until she was ill and "really in bad shape," but she stepped down because of her ailing husband.

The question needs to be asked: would a male SCOTUS justice have stepped down in order to care for a terminally ill spouse or partner? My guess is no - men do not have the same social expectation for caring that women have, and given the high stakes of a SCOTUS seat, I'm not convinced that any of the men who currently sit on the court would sacrifice it to spend "more time with their family." That's not to say that male SCOTUS justices don't care for their spouses, but I do believe it would weigh far less on their mind to hire someone to provide primary care while they retained their positions on the Court.

At any rate, gendered expectations for caring cost Justice O'Connor a career that she seems to have found fulfilling and gave us the unholy reign of Justice Samuel Alito.

[updated on February 6, 2007 at 4:05 PM]: Dahlia Lithwich has these observations on the gender dynamics of the Court.

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Wake me up before you... ah, forget it

Color me less than enthused about a Wham! reunion.


Punk Rock Monday

If Patti Smith is the poet laureate of the NYC punk scene, Blondie and the Ramones its subversive popsters, then Television hold claim as the scene's sonic innovators, and Tom Verlaine as one of its visionaries.

A 1974(!!!) rehearsal of "Double Exposure"...

"Foxhole" from 1978...

And latter era "In World" from 1992...



digby presents you with the beginnings of "the hot bobblehead code words" list for 2008.

Hell, it's only February 2007 and we've already burned through "articulate" and "strident"; who wants to put money on the normalized use of the word "uppity" before the Iowa caucuses?

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04 February, 2007

Down with what the kids are talking about

I hear there is some sort of large sporting event today...

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Crossed off the list

While I typically don't care too much for Chinese food, I did love General Tso's chicken when I was an undergrad (I don't recall ever seeing it on the menu at any Chinese joints in Eugene... not that I frequent them). More than once during a meal, I'd wonder who this General Tso character was, and what was the deal with his tasty, tasty chicken.

Well, the Times' Magazine has finally given me an answer, and the story behind it is as satisfying as the dish. Plus, you get the recipe, taboot!


Giving it a chance to succeed

Noted without comment:
The success of the Bush administration's new Iraq strategy depends on a series of rapid and dramatic political and economic reforms that even the plan's authors have little confidence will work.

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03 February, 2007

Just the facts, ma'am

One of my favorite tropes in news coverage: when reporting on sports-related rioting, it's necessary to report on the final score - whether it's relevant to the rioting or not. For example:
Football in Italy has been suspended indefinitely after a police officer died during fan violence at a Serie A match between two Sicilian teams last night. The action includes all Serie A and B matches and Italy's friendly with Romania scheduled for next Wednesday.


Rioting fans forced the Catania v Palermo match to be suspended in the 58th minute - with Palermo leading 1-0 - after tear-gas filled the Angelo Massimino stadium. The match restarted after about 30 minutes but the violence continued after the game, which Palermo won 2-1.

Odd. Just how crazy is the Catania-Palermo rivalry? Well, you know it's a bad sign when you have to cage your fans...

And god forbid they try to get out of those cages...


02 February, 2007


I believe the technical term for what's occurring in Iraq is "clusterfuck."


01 February, 2007

Make love to me, sweet politician

Since we're all publicly commenting on the status of our presidential courtships, I might as well chip in.

A while back, I made the comment that I wanted to see some leadership from Obama. I was rightfully challenged to define what I meant by leadership, and my answer was probably some lame "I know it when I see it."

Well, I saw it. Obama has staked out the position on Iraq where everyone else needs to be. That's some serious not crap in my book. And then I saw it again, in his classy - but necessary - response to Joe Biden's knuckleheaded racism:
Obama later issued a statement that absolved Biden only in part. "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally," he said, "but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Again, serious not crap.

I'm sure in 2010, we may all be talking about how ahead of the political curve Obama's subtle positionings were for 2007 (for a presidential aspirant, at least). But for now, I'm impressed with him doing the Right Thing. Twice.

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