Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The F-Bomb

The power of descriptive adjectives:

Referring to Douglas Feith, the former Pentagon official who helped politicize the intelligence leading up to the war and dropped the ball on post-war planning, [General Tommy Franks] said this: "I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day."

...in the pages of the New York Times yesterday it took this form: "Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army, the top commander of the Iraq invasion, once referred to him as 'the stupidest guy on the face of the earth.'"

Setting aside the fact that the Times messed with the actual quote -- without indicating the omission -- we have been deprived of the full force of Franks's rage. Yes, we still get that the general doesn't like the bureaucrat, but "fucking" is such a taboo adjective that his decision to use it even when talking to Woodward, the administration's most faithful stenographer, shows just how much he wanted to make his contempt for Feith public.

I couldn't agree more. If Gen. Franks was typically a potty-mouth, then the abridgement of his quote would be decorous editing. But even a casual reader would see the clear difference between referring to someone as "the stupidest guy on the face of the earth" and referring to him as "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth", especially in an article documenting the antipathy said guy is enduring.

"I'm not going to shake hands with the guy if he's introduced to me," said Georgetown Philosophy Professor Mark N. Lance. "And if he asks why, I'll say because in my view you're a war criminal and you have no place on this campus."

Make that, "fucking war criminal." So what exactly will Prof. Feith be doing there at Georgetown, besides ducking flung jell-o in the faculty cafeteria?

Mr. Feith will teach a course on the Bush administration's antiterrorism policy.

"I think the war in Iraq is a terrible mistake," [Georgetown Dean] Robert Gallucci said. "But that is not the criteria for whom I bring to campus." He said Mr. Feith, as an architect and advocate of the Iraq war, would "bring to campus something we do not have."

But why stop there? Since Saddam's trial is going nowhere, maybe you can offer him a teaching position, too. Surely a Baathist dictator is "something you do not have."

Charles E. King, a professor at the foreign policy school: "I hope this story does not play out as 'pointy-headed academics diss Republicans'."

Sorry, Charlie. This is fucking America we're fucking talking about.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Iran Starting to Destabilize?

Let us hope this continues.

Iranian Protests:
* After fighting with police and vigilantes on Wednesday, Tehran University students set their dorms on fire Thursday as protests grew more violent overnight.

* Violence rocked the northern Tabriz region again on Wednesday as up to 16 were reported killed in the clashes including three students.

* Students at Ahwaz University in the southern Khuzistan Province also held protests on Wednesday against the regime.

I hope this accelerates quickly and the regime is toppled in the next year or so. Otherwise the US will have to start the bombing in the fall of '07. (Enough time to go through the Kubuki Theater that is the UN and diplomacy and before the '08 elections.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Art Buchwald Conquers Death!

Refusing to give up the ghost, Art Buchwald slogs on.

Buchwald, 80, refused to take dialysis in February. His doctor then gave him three weeks to live without the treatment for kidney failure.

"I decided to move into a hospice and go quietly into the night," he said, announcing the decision in his regular Post column.

But it hasn't turned out exactly like that -- as his newest column in the Post attests. Four months on, "for reasons that even the doctors can't explain, my kidneys kept working."

Say what you will about the unfunny humorists of today (Ted Rall notwithstanding), Art has been making people not laugh since dickety-six. He makes the Capitol Steps seem downright hilarious. Not even terminal illness can keep Art from writing that insipid column. Grim Reaper, have mercy on us!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

We are a nation of laws

Dahlia Lithwick write great articles about the legal issues of fighting terrorism. In this one, she explains why it is better to put criminals on trial rather than let them sit in prison until they die.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

US in secret gun deal

Finally, the Pentagon appears to have instituted a policy based on solid social science evidence: that large numbers of small arms introduced into conflict zones will inevitably find their way into the hands of factions most friendly to the forces of order and democracy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Throwing Down the Gauntlet


This is what happens when West Virginians debate. It can be fun reading at times.

My real reason to post is to challenge whomever this Thursday evening to tennis at Wells Park. Hope everyone is well.

Everything Changed for the Worse

"It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration," said a senior federal official.

Are we as a country willing to ditch the 'freedoms' we hold dear for an illusion of safety? It seems to me we are sacrificing our virtues here, to me, America is the clear cut loser in the post 9-11 world.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wishful Thinking As Public Policy

"Nobody serious believes that tax cuts pay for themselves," says Sebastian Mallaby in WaPo.

Except, unfortunately, the Republican leadership of our country.

Bush: "by cutting the taxes on the American people, this economy is strong, and the overall tax revenues have hit at record levels....You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase."

Cheney: "tax cuts have translated into higher federal revenues."

Frist: "Many people in Washington have long known a dirty little secret about tax-cut measures: When done right, they actually result in more money for the government."

Chuck Grassley: "There is a mindset in both branches of government that if you reduce taxes you have a net loss, if you increase taxes you have a net gain, and history does not show that relationship."

Santorum: "We've put these tax provisions in place and they've raised money."

After a brief summary of how the nation's leading economists have repeatedly shot this nonsense full of holes, Mallably concludes:

The Republicans' only argument is that tax receipts have boomed in the years since the 2003 tax cut. But the question is whether tax receipts increased because the tax cuts worked some kind of magic or because the economy was headed up anyway after the recession, thanks maybe to low interest rates resulting from the Asian savings glut. Friends, the reason we have economists is so that they can solve these puzzles for us. Ignoring their solutions is like ignoring the judgment of medical science in favor of faith healers and quacks.

Politicians are always speechifying about how the United States must lead the world in research to maintain its edge. But having the world's best economics research isn't particularly helpful if those same politicians are silly enough to tune it out. The truth is that American business excels at turning university research into world-beating products; the paranoia on this score is overdone. But American government is often lousy at turning research into policies. That's what we should fret about.

It sure would be nice if the "bizarro world" the GOP is running - where eliminating a revenue stream actually increases revenue - actually existed. That way, the entire nation could go on a diet and still enjoy the rich, creamery goodness of hot fudge sundaes daily. Alas, here in reality, we expect responsible adherence to logic from our statesmen and policy makers.

I've been loath to admit that these leaders have lied to us citizens regarding pre-war intelligence; lie is such a smelly word, and seems to provoke debate-obscuring emotions regarding what is and isn't a lie. But what Bush et al espouse in the beginning of this post is unconscionable fabrication. In the face of glaring deficits, not to mention overwhelming expert evidence contradicting their claims, how can anyone in good faith NOT call these insupportable contentions the LIES that they are?


At one point, former U.N. arms inspector Rod Barton says, a CIA officer told him it was "politically not possible" to report that the White House claims were untrue. In the end, Barton says, he felt "complicit in deceit."

What you call faulty intelligence I call lying.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Progressive Tax System...

...Or why hysterical populist are full of it.

See the chart about the tax burden in this country.

The top 1% of incomes pay nearly 35% of the taxes. The top 50% of incomes pay over 96% of taxes. Looks very progressive to me.

Of course tax cuts hit the 'rich' disproportionately because they are taxed disproportionately. It's pretty basic that you have to pay taxes in order to get a tax cut.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yo yo yo yo Bernanke!

In lieu of the Fed raising interest rates once again, this diddy is apropos.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Republicans Don't Give A Shit About You

Does this surprise anyone? It's the 'free market' in a free country at work right HL?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Harbinger of End Times...

...or just another dirty little Hollywood rumor?

There are rumors (most notably in Variety, but it's since appeared at a variety of sources) that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are in talks to star in an adaptation of Ayn Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.

While the quality of such a film project could fall anywhere from horrid to terrible, we get a taste of the rancorous debate it would spawn in the following comment:

It's sad that UN Ambassador and serial Third World adopter Angelina Jolie wouldn't see the irony of endorsing a philosophy in which her interventionist humanitarian efforts would be seen as futile.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's time for heated rhetoric

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cautiously Optomistic on Iraq

Barry McCaffery has returned from a week in Iraq on has issued his report (the link is to a blog that quotes the report extensively, but the full report is not online). McCaffery was the commander of the 24th ID in Gulf I and was Clinton's drug czar for a number of years in the '90s. He has been a gentle critic of some of the handling of the invasion (think heavy tank guy, anti-Rumsfeld. His conclusion:

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention.

I found it interesting to compare to his report a year ago where he laid out the strategy we were following and then showed the progress made in the last year.

As he says, we are 3 years into a 5 to 10 year project. We must have patience.

Update: Here is a link to the actual report.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The week in pub Quizes 5/2 -5/3

1) Whip-Smart 8 11 points
2) Liquor in the Front 12 points
3) Young Ones Match Round 12 points
4) Bizarro World 16 points
5) Dead Or Canadian- B or J? 10 points
6) Pictures 15 points
7) General Knowledge 24 points


Monday, May 01, 2006

President Kang


Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws, Cites Powers of His Office

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government.

Yeah, but all Presidents abuse power, right? It's not like Bush is breaking new ground, is he?

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Zarqawi is Defeated in Iraq

From yesterdays London Times:

THE leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is attempting to set up his own mini-army and move away from individual suicide attacks to a more organised resistance movement, according to US intelligence sources.

Faced with a shortage of foreign fighters willing to undertake suicide missions, Zarqawi wants to turn his group into a more traditional force mounting co-ordinated guerrilla raids on coalition targets.

Al-Qaeda is sending training and planning experts to help to set up the force and infiltrate members into Iraq with the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the sources said.

If this is true, Zarqawi may be changing for a couple of different reasons, running out of fighters and pissing off the Iraqis' he was supposedly defending.

The "shortage of foreign fighters willing to undertake suicide missions" is a huge admission that the worldwide Jihad started by Osama is not as popular or supported as Osama believed. I guess they have run out of dedicated nuts. We have killed more than were created. The 'flypaper' strategy has worked. The truely dedicated went to Iraq when we opened a front against Al Qaeda there. I said all along that I would rather fight the crazies in Iraq with our Army than in the streets of NY with the police.

The other factor is that Iraqis' have been turned off by the suicide bombers becasue the Iraqis' are the ones getting killed. There have been reports for months now that Iraqi insurgents have been attacking Zarqawi and the foreigners.

If Zawqawi wants to attempt to set up an army and go toe to toe with the US army, they are making our job much easier. An ragtag army cannot hope to stand up to our army, the fight will be over before it begins. Zarqawi does us a favor by coming out into the open where our superior fire power can kill them quickly. I think this is a sign of desperation by Zarqawi.

On a deeper level, this is humiliating defeat for Al Qaeda. They have been promising to drive the Americans out of Iraq for three years now. Instead they have become more unpopular and have suffered devestating casulties. Whether there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq before the invasion, there clearly was one after and we have won.

Now this doesn't mean Iraq will become peaceful overnight. The sectarian violence between the groups is still simmering in a low grade prelude to a potential civil war. Now that a government is finally formed we will see if the insurgency is reduced and tensions relax or if it explodes. We don't know which way it will go. Iraq has made a lot of progress in 3 years, but there is a long way to go.

The Case Against Ethanol

I saw this article in Businessweek looking at ethanol.

The author makes the case that ethanol is not only not cost effective, but actually causes more pollution. I have not heard that before, I had always heard it was 'cleaner burning'.

More smog, infinitely worse gas mileage, huge problems in distribution, and skyrocketing prices for gasoline. Maybe now that we're witnessing the third act in America's ethanol play, the upcoming epilogue will close this show forever. Even great advertising works only if the product does.

As I have said before, I don't know where the truth lies in the alternative fuel debate. This article definitely makes me more skeptical of the viability of corn based ethanol.