Thursday, August 31, 2006

Two can play at that game...

From TPM:

Back to Iran. Talk of a unified Qaeda/Iran/Hezbollah/Syria menace is nonsense as a casual scan of actual Sunni jihadist views will make clear. As Fred Kaplan notes, if Churchill and FDR had operated with the Bush mentality, "they might not have formed an alliance with the Soviet Union (out of a refusal to negotiate with evil Communists), and they might have therefore lost the war."

It's worse than that, though -- they might have proposed attacking the Soviet Union in the middle of the war because Bolshevism and Nazism were both species of Eurofascism.

I'm undecided as to the proper response to Iran, though I'm leaning hawkish. The problem is, everytime Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld open their mouths, I'm reminded that it's often better to do nothing than to have incompetent fools try to do the right thing.

Friday, August 25, 2006

France vs the US, God vs Satan

While clarifying the number and role of French peacekeepers to be deployed to Lebanon, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie takes a few swipes at good ol' America:

Ms. Alliot-Marie ridiculed critics -- especially the U.S. -- who had accused France of weakness.

She said the criticism was ironic as it "…came from citizens of a country which has no one in the ground in Lebanon and which had announced its intentions not to send any." Both the U.S. and U.K. have said they won't send troops to Lebanon.

In a reference to the U.S., she said it was "amusing" to see people who usually attack the U.N. for ineffectiveness criticize France for first wanting to ensure the effectiveness of a U.N. military force before committing troops.

She's got a point. If we are serious about multi-lateral enforcement of a cease-fire, we should put our troops where our mouths are. And speaking of our mouths, American critics of French involvement in Lebanon should probably preface their vitriol with a big fat merci beaucoup for France's help in whisking Americans out of harm's way when the Israeli clusterbombs started falling.

Meanwhile, for those keeping track of body counts, how many human deaths would you guess are attributable to God in the Bible, versus those attributable to Satan? The answer may surprise you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Child molesting killers on a plane

I just don't think he did it. I think he's some bizarre lunatic trying to live out his fantasy. In other news, the pub quiz team "Child Molesting Killers on a Plane" won last Tuesday in stunning fashion.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Fertility Gap

Go forth and multiply!!!

According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections.

Wonder how much abortion affects these numbers. Presumably, a politically liberal adult would be more inclined to terminate a pregnancy than a politically conservative one. Thus an unintended consequence of abortion being outlawed would be a rash of liberal births. I doubt this would sway your average pro-lifer to soften his position, but it should give an abortion-considering liberal pause.

Wishful Thinking

"With a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion, one judge in Michigan has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do. She has reasserted the rule of law over a lawless administration."--editorial, New York Times, Aug. 18

"Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday. They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions. Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman . . ."--news story, New York Times, Aug. 19

The legality of this program is an important question. From what I have read, I think the program is legal and the President has the authority (and should) to monitor foreign calls of suspected terrorists. This is my opinion, but I concede it is a little bit of a gray area.

Having a partisan hack like Judge Anna Diggs Taylor give an opinion based on emotion, and not fact, obscures this important debate. This not only obscures the debate, but it hurts the credibility of the judiciary in general. When you get illconcieved partisan bile like this from the independent non-partisan judiciary it makes it suspect as an independent arbiter.

Income Inequality

Here is some info from wikipedia that might help the discussion
of the Wal-Mart effect:

-I found a few interesting pages on wikipedia about the
inequality of income in different countries. Experts often
use the "Gini coefficient" to describe the differences between
high and low incomes. Here is a good description:

-According to wikipedia, the Gini coefficient for the US is in
between those of wealthy countries and those of third world
countries. For the last few decades, the US value has been

-I think the biggest reason inequality has risen in the US is
that the nature of labor has changed. Technology has allowed
those who gather information and make decisions to be very
valuable. Therefore they are worth more than they used to
be, and are paid more.

-US income tax rates have also become more high-income
friendly in the last few decades, but I believe the
technological trends have probably been more important.

-Of course rising income inequality is not automatically a bad
thing, but we really should consider if we want our society to
be more like Mexico or more like Germany. For some reason
Mexico-style societies produce lots of people who want to
leave for the US, while Germany-style societies don't.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Amerika's Latest Victim

A bizarre arrest leads a local crime-writing blogger to eloquently rail against our quasi-fascist state:

Last week, novelist Joshilyn Jackson was arrested and jailed because her maiden name was on her Social Security card and her married name was on her driver's license. She had a legally acquired and properly matching Social Security card in a nearby safe deposit box. Nevertheless two police officers from Austell, Georgia (which, according to its web site, "has the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of a small, southern town") pulled Joshilyn from a van full of Sunday School teaching materials, handcuffed her, impounded her car, and took her to jail.

...The mistake itself is probably understandable. Mistakes happen. Incompetence happens. What didn't used to happen is moms getting thrown in jail because a low-level state functionary with a Band-Aid on his pinky missed a keystroke.

I'm not going to traffic in silly, Godwin-invoking hyperbole over a minor event, but as the government creeps slowly into our cars and our phones and our computers, it's worth remembering that totalitarianism doesn't have to look like we imagine it. In dictatorships people eat at restaurants and get married and more or less get on with their lives. In fact, the only fundamental difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that in a dictatorship leaders take power, and in a democracy leaders have to ask for it. That's no small thing, of course. The idea that the weak can say no to the strong is probably the most radical notion in the history of political thought. But in theory a dictator could choose to grant as many rights to his subjects as he liked. And in theory people living under a democracy could choose to surrender as many of those rights as they wanted. Reason tells you that neither of those things should be likely to happen.

Yet our leaders are constantly asking us to grant them more power anyway. They do this because, like people who use narcotics, individuals who wield power will always want more. And if we never said no to them, the difference between other people's dictatorships and our democracy would be rhetorical. People who willingly surrender their rights don't have any more freedom than people whose liberty is stolen from them.

Had she been arrested for having such an atrocious first name, my outrage would be a bit more muted. For crying out loud - "Shaniqua" shows up more than "Joshilyn" on the Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager. Government enforcement a strict name orthodoxy would only strengthen our democracy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Too soon?

New York magazine - where it's never "too soon" - asks Gotham's finest intellectuals: What if 9/11 never happened?

Andrew Sullivan
grabs the ball and runs with it.

Dahlia Lithwick smartly reckons, "Without a war on terror, the administration’s legal focus would have stayed on the culture wars."

To that end, Frank Rich answers the question with another: "What if Janet Jackson had not had a wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl?"

Of all the lamentable things Bernard-Henri Lévy postulates we could have avoided, his best is "I wouldn’t have had to shorten my vacation in Saint Paul de Vence to do a story about Israel at war." Quel dommage!

Tom Wolfe cracks me up. "A local music genre called hip-hop, created by black homeboys in the South Bronx, would have swept the country, topping the charts and creating a hip-hop look featuring baggy jeans with the crotch hanging down to the knees that would have spread far and wide among white teenagers—awed, stunned, as they were, by the hip-hop musicians’ new form of competition: assassinating each other periodically. How cool would that have been?"

I agree with the so-called Reverend Al Sharpton, that people who get all religious when they're scared, do so at their own risk. "When you’re drowning in an ocean, you grab for a raft like it’s a concrete building."

Fuck you pussies, says Ron Suskind. "There’s a fair to good chance that there would be ten planes blowing up over the continental U.S."

Moon-eyed Doris Kearns Goodwin figures that "had Gore become president, and had he embarked immediately on a Manhattan Project for alternative energy, our country might now be on the road to independence from Middle Eastern oil." Americans everywhere would proudly fill their cars with cheap, efficienct "Goreoline"!!

Even the bionic brain of Thomas Friedman gets in on the act, and takes us on a magical mustache ride. "Bush used 9/11 to take a far-right domestic agenda from 9/10 and drive it into a 9/12 world." God, how I loathe that pretentious nitwit. What an asshole.

Friday, August 11, 2006

NeoCon Dreams, American Nightmares

Is Alterman, a Jew, anti-semitic? Is the Nation?

"One does not need to take a position on the wisdom--or lack thereof--of Israel's current invasion of Lebanon to question whether Israel's interests are in fact identical to America's. Kristol can title his editorial "It's Our War," but Hezbollah was not shooting missiles into Manhattan. And while we may not like its sponsor, Iran, last I checked we were not at war with that nation either. (In fact, we're doing its dirty work, destabilizing antagonist Iraq and preparing the way for a Shiite ascendancy led by an Iranian cleric.) But whenever one raises the issue of just how large Israel's perceived well-being looms in the minds of those who seek to risk America's blood and treasure for actions that happen to be at the top of AIPAC's wish list, one is immediately accused of either anti-Semitism or, as the case may be, self-hatred. New York Times columnist David Brooks, for example, has argued that those who use the very term "neoconservative" are anti-Semites, "full-mooners" living on "Planet Chomsky." "

The virulently "anti-semitic" (whatever that means) piece by Alterman is all right here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Condi Rice hides behind her degree

Thomas Friedman isn't the only one repeating himself:

We see a pattern emerging, in which Condoleezza Rice (Ph.D., Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver) invokes her academic credentials to evade responsibility for decisions that she's made or for policies that she's helped devise.

Was her administration's strategy in Iraq disastrous? Well, she says, it may seem so now, but History may deem otherwise, may even regard the strategy as brilliant. Did her administration err in letting Osama escape at Tora Bora? Oh, it's a waste of time to pass judgment now; History will render a verdict after I've retired or died. Was it smart to let Israel escalate the war on Hezbollah? Patience, please; tectonic plates take weeks, months, years, decades, eons to settle.

Scholars who enter the chambers of power should use their training as a tool to help them make decisions. Condi Rice is using hers as a chant to wish away the consequences.

While I don't doubt that the University of Denver is a reputable institution, I had always just assumed her PhD credentials came from an institution with a bit more cache.

The whole "history will decide" argument is a total cop-out. You can't guarantee the ends will justify the means 50 years down the road. And as far as Tora Bora is concerned: debating its efficacy is a waste of time only if you've already captured Osama bin Laden by other means, which we STILL HAVEN'T DONE. I'm not the student of history that Condi is - my measly Bachelor of General Studies included only a few history courses. (Then again, I went to a school you've actually heard of.) But even I know that capturing OBL would change the game completely.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So Long, Joe

It's not really a joyous occasion, but I'm glad to see Joe go--not so much because he's been less rational with regard to this war than Republicans Chuck Hagel and Lindsay Graham, but because it's a signal that Democrats may finally be learning to adopt Ronald Regan's 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Democrat, or in this case, make a career of going on FOX-RNC TV, insinuating that criticizing the president is nearly treasonous, and dumping on your own party.

This is a huge black eye for the ad consultantocracy that has led Democrats from defeat to further defeat over the past two decades

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Civility is dead as terrorism is witnessed at its finest. In Israel's defense, they could easily execute a missle strike on Haniyeh. Why be covert about it now Israel? Plausible Deniability? Then again, Mel Gibson could be behind this to frame Israel.

Hamas: Israel tried to kill premier with poison letter Advertisement

Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times

August 8, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Hamas on Monday accused Israel of a failed assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh using a poison-filled letter.

Several employees in the office of Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer in the West Bank city of Ramallah were hospitalized after one of them opened a letter addressed to Haniyeh. The letter contained a tissue that gave off a strange smell, filling the room and overwhelming several employees, Palestinian sources said. Seven were hospitalized, one in serious condition.

An Israeli army spokesman denied any involvement by Israeli troops or officials. "We weren't involved," said the spokesman, who declined to give his name.

Haniyeh, during a Cabinet meeting Monday in Gaza City, called the incident a "criminal and dangerous act," according to the Ramattan news agency.

He said the letter was sent from Tel Aviv and was addressed to him.

Shaer promised a full investigation, saying the tissue was sent to a lab for analysis.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Wages of Stupidity

As loony leftist Billmon here observes, there are no good options for our Iraq policy:

If the United States were to begin pulling troops out of Iraq now, it would be interpreted correctly throughout the Middle East as an open admission of defeat -- one that would likely lead fairly quickly to a complete American evacuation of the country. (Maybe not literally by landing helicopters on the roof of the embassy, but all in the region would understand the military reality that as the force grows smaller it will become progressively more dangerous to keep it in Iraq.)

Such an outcome could force well Iraq's Shi'a political leaders to snuggle up even more tightly to Iran, if only as a matter of physical survival. If the full-scale civil war everyone seems to expect were to break out following an American withdrawal, Baghdad might even feel compelled to call in Iranian troops. At a minimum, Iran could be left with enormous influence over, if not outright control of, the Iraqi government and its security forces. Access to Iraqi air space would give Iran a direct resupply corridor to Syria, and, through Syria, to Hizbullah. A ground presence could provide Tehran with a direct ground link -- call it the Ayatollah Khomeini Trail -- assuming the Kurds could be bought off and/or intimidated, or the Sunni belt pacified (one shudders to think of what that might involve.)

The thrust of the piece is Billmon sticking it to the Dems for their shameless, abject allegiance to the State of Israel. I think he exaggerates a bit, but there's no doubt that the type of policy changes that would be necessary to begin to sort out "this Middle East problem" for real has essentially no constituency in Washington, and even less of one in the MSM.

This is the point at which I have to acknowledge that this all comes down to oil for us. After all, none of us lays awake at night wondering if the Gabsonkeg and Lapigu tribes of Papua New Guinea will ever learn to live together in peace and harmony...

Thomas Friedman's Moving Deadline

F.A.I.R., keeping it real:

Tom Friedman is considered by many of his media colleagues to be one of the wisest observers of international affairs. "You have a global brain, my friend," MSNBC host Chris Matthews once told Friedman. "You're amazing. You amaze me every time you write a book."

Such praise is not uncommon. Friedman's appeal seems to rest on his ability to discuss complex issues in the simplest possible terms. On a recent episode of MSNBC's Hardball, for example, Friedman boiled down the intricacies of the Iraq situation into a make-or-break deadline: "Well, I think that we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months—probably sooner—whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're going to have to just let this play out."

That confident prediction would seem a lot more insightful, however, if Friedman hadn't been making essentially the same forecast almost since the beginning of the Iraq War. A review of Friedman's punditry reveals a long series of similar do-or-die dates that never seem to get any closer.

The piece goes on to document how Friedman's been declaring "the next six months in Iraq are the most crucial ones" for years.

As Tom Friedman is not a policy maker or a public servant, I don't think his moving deadline qualifies as duplicitous obfuscation. But it's definitely sloppy journalism, and does his vaunted Global Brain a disservice.

Beware of the Next Narrative

The Democratic blogs have been getting loads of attention lately from the mainstream media (some grudging, some mocking), but the main theme is somewhat paradoxical; Why are the lefty blogs getting all this attention (from the MSM?) when none of the candidates they've backed (here they cite Dean and and a few others) have gone on to win?

The MSM is sensing the way in which the blogosphere has changed organizing for and empowered the center-left (much more so than for the right, for which talk radio is probably the best analogy), but they don't really want to understand it because it's just one more sign that people are decreasingly interested in what they (the MSM) have to say.

However, if Joe Lieberman gets beat by Ned Lamont in next week's primary, expect the lazy traditional media establishment to heap the lion's share of credit/blame on the Democratic blogosphere, even though Lamont's rise has been largely a grassroots Connecticut phenomenon. Why? It's the sexy story: bloodthirsty virtual guerrillas take down the Republicans' favorite Democrat, a kind-hearted old gentlemen with the courage to stand up for his principles.

I'm not saying that Kos, Atrios, TPM, etc., won't have played an important part in the defeat of Lieberman, should it come to pass, but just making the point that the MSM filter is such an effective way of preferentially channeling information to the citizens that we should all be welcoming it's downfall. Given the perhaps unfortunate fact that comity and bipartsanship have now been all but extinguished, I'm pleased to see us heading towards a much more European model of media bias (of which FOX is a great example), where each paper, channel, station, and now website or virtual community, wears its politics on its sleeve.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Circa 2004, Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

Funny how stuff like this gets suppressed or ignored in the US MSM.

"A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. "

Hitchens: Still Good for a Laugh

Germanicus sent me this link to a great Hitchens piece on Christian soldier Mel Gibson and his recent, drunken, lunatic rantings about the Malibu Jews. While you might expect that drunken, lunatic rantings could only endear a person to Hitchens, their anti-semitic nature (as well as Gibson's famous adherence to the most popular oriental death cult of our age) definitely rubbed him the wrong way.

Before he went mad with drink and starry-eyed neo-Trotskyite idealism, Hitchens was, bar none, the premier political polemecist of the Western world. His greatest line ever was from the opener of his (highly unfair) essay on Paul Johnson, former lefty journalist turned darling of the "popular conservative history" genre, on the occasion of revelations by the latter's mistress of many years that Johnson was into spanking:

"There is almost no English surname, however ancient and dignified, that cannot be instantly improved by the prefix 'Spanker.'"

That's how it should be done!