Wednesday, August 29, 2007


"Sometimes I think the so-called experts really are experts." - Jack Handey

I thought this New Yorker Article would be of interest given our recent discussions of expert opinion vs. mass emotion.

It's a Sexy Retard Hypocrisy Feeding Frenzy!

The title of this post is not meant to be ironic. This is precisely the kind of thing that chaps S-Tard's ass, and with good reason--he must sometimes feel like the only politically-inclined white Christian male in America who isn't having gay sex in bathrooms, straight sex with hookers, or scamming Indian tribes out of their hard-won lobbying money (I'm not so sure about the last one, actually).

Anyway, here's the Good Senator on MTP in 1999 regarding Bill Clinton:

MR. RUSSERT: Larry Craig, would you want the last word from the Senate be an acquittal of the president and no censure?

SEN. CRAIG: Well, I don’t know where the Senate’s going to be on that issue of an up or down vote on impeachment, but I will tell you that the Senate certainly can bring about a censure reslution and it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a, “Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You’re a naughty boy.”

The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughtyboy.

I’m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.The question issue now is simply this: Did he lie under oath? Did he perjure himself and did he obstruct justice? And that’s where we’re trying to go now in this truth-seeking process. And I hope we can get there. And then I’m going to have the chance to decide and vote up or down on those articles.

After we’re through with this impeachment trial, it’s collapsed, it’s gone, then the Senate will make a decision on if it’s a censure or not.

And here's a fantastic post from Glenn Greenwald on the evolving positions of our winger bloggers regarding gay bathroom sex.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Viet Nam is the new Iraq

It's a wee bit intimidating that Jeff writes such erudite and articulate posts here. Mine won't be that. But here goes anyway...

What do the rest of you think about Number 43 doing a complete about face and now comparing Iraq to Viet Nam?

My take is that this is happening because Karl Rove left and now someone else is putting words into George's mouth. The history of war lesson this AWOL gave the VFW meeting on Wednesday not only was filled with questionable historical interpretations, not only was insulting to be telling the veterens about the wars they fought, but it was exactly the kind of thing Rove would have told Bush not to say.

And how can he possibly think telling the country we should have stayed the course in Viet Nam is going to bring any of the undecideds over to him?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


Individual Initiative

Following up on our discussion last night about individual action, Abra emailed me the following question (my response follows):

ABRA: What about this as an example of people making individual steps that impacted society in a big way? The Danish people saved almost 100% of their Jewish population during the Holocaust, I think around 8,000 people, by sneaking them out of Denmark at night on fishing boats to another country that was not occupied by Germany, somewhere in Scandinavia I think it was.

JEFF: I think the difference I was failing to articulate last night is the difference between collective action in the face of clear and present dangers/challenges (which has accomplished amazing goals with dramatic social consequences, as in your example), and the hope that the cumulative effect of individual, non-coerced behavioral changes will be sufficient to deal with a problem whose causes and effects are so diffuse as to be almost imperceptible to most individuals. I'm obviously talking about global climate change here, but let me put it in terms that might elicit agreement from our libertarian friends (in principle, at least):

Most libertarians will compromise their commitment to total personal liberty when it comes to taxation to pay for military defense. By compromising on this point, they are in effect saying that

a) individuals are not sufficiently rational actors to be able to assess the value to themselves of national defense;
b) this irrationality will lead them to price that defense incorrectly (too low, presumably), and;
c) the potential consequences of underfunding national defense (invasion) are too catastrophic to society as a whole to rely on voluntary contributions to the state by citizens, or even on individual subscription to private security enforcement corporations.

So, when it comes to climate change, the same principle applies, and the only difference is that most libertarians don't view climate change as real, caused by humans, or as any kind of danger (I happen to think they're mostly putting the cart before the horse, and that their view of the science is skewed by their aversion to the proposed remedies, even though, as I suggest above, they can't really oppose the principle involved).

Collective action will obviously play an important part in the fight against climate change, but its main goal will be convincing policy makers to use the coercive power of the state to lower CO2 emissions through increasing CAFE standards, building more renewable power capacity/nukes, etc. I see an important difference between this type of collective action--which basically results from the failure of individual initiative to handle large, complex, long-term problems--and the kind Abra refers to above.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dispatches from a Flat Earth

I really haven't found any better example of the flawed approach to the climate change issue by denialists than the following little gem from the Heartland Institute website:

Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming Believers in Heated NYC DebateWritten

Abstract: MIT scientist Richard Lindzen, University of London emeritus professor Philip Stott and physician turned novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton trounced three prominent opponents in a March 14 public global warming debate sponsored by the Intelligence Squared debating society and distributed for broadcast by National Public Radio. A poll of hundreds of audience members in attendance showed an overwhelming majority believed in alarmist global warming theory before the debate, but by debate's end skeptics outnumbered alarmists.

I have not yet listened to the debate, but I invite you to consider for a moment a group of people who, on the one hand, claim that uninformed, pro-global climate change hysteria has hijacked the debate, while on the other, claim it as a victory for denialism when an audience full of non-scientists is swayed by a single debate (the pre-debate poll put at 57% to 30% the proportion of audience members believing that "global warming is a crisis," while a post-debate poll put the numbers at 46% to 42% believing it is not a crisis). Inasmuch as there is still a "debate" on ACC, this is how far outside of the realm of actual scientific inquiry it has moved.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Karl Rove: Brilliant Christ Figure

This is genius. Karl Rove sacrifices himself and steps down from his White House post to save the presidency for the GOP the only way he still can: ensure that the moronic Democratic primary voters choose Hillary Clinton as their '08 nominee.

What better way to whip up support for Hillary among the same people that brought us John Kerry than to have the Great Doughy Satan himself making the media rounds, while attacking Hillary in a way that creates an "aura of inevitability" (forgive me) about her candidacy.

I think Rove's particular strategy over the past decade or so will prove to have damaged the GOP in the long run, but there's no denying that the man is a black belt campaigner and short term tactician.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The soft biggotry of no expectations

I propose that the Republican Party adopt as its 2008 campaign slogan:

"But It's Not Technically Illegal in '08!"

U.S. Attorney Became Target After Rebuffing Justice Dept.
By Amy Goldstein and Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff WritersWednesday, August 1, 2007; Page A01

The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

Brownlee ultimately kept his job. But as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales confronts withering criticism over the dismissals, the episode in the OxyContin case provides fresh evidence of efforts by senior officials in the department's headquarters to sway the work of U.S. attorneys' offices.

Justice Department officials said it was not unusual for senior members to weigh in on major criminal cases, and a spokesman, Dean Boyd, said the department "encourages healthy internal debate and discussion on complex cases like this one."

Several former federal prosecutors also said that defense attorneys routinely try to appeal to high-ranking department officials in an effort to derail prosecutions. Still, Brownlee and other former prosecutors said nighttime calls such as Elston's, coming just hours before the end of a long, complex case, are unorthodox, particularly when the department's criminal division already has signed off on a case.

Brownlee said the head of the criminal division had authorized him that afternoon to execute the plea agreement. In his testimony and in an interview afterward, Brownlee recounted that he asked Elston whether he was calling for his boss, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, and Elston replied, "No."

"I told him to leave it alone, to go away," Brownlee said, "and he did."

But Elston's attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, said his client had telephoned Brownlee at the direction of McNulty, who that evening had received an appeal for more time by Mary Jo White, a defense lawyer representing an executive for OxyContin's manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. White is a former Manhattan U.S. attorney.

A Justice official, who spoke about internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity, also said McNulty had asked his chief of staff to place the call.

Elston was McNulty's top aide until he stepped down in June amid the controversy over the prosecutors' firings. McNulty also has resigned, effective Friday, becoming the sixth senior aide to Gonzales involved in the controversy to leave the department in recent months.

Brownlee -- who testified that he had not received negative performance reviews -- said that he was "concerned" about his name appearing on the firing list and that he spoke to McNulty about it. "He assured me that Mr. Elston was a good man," Brownlee said. "I had my own views."

In addition to assembling the Nov. 1 list of five prosecutors, including Brownlee, who were recommended for dismissal, Elston also played a controversial role in trying to quell the political uproar after the firings took place. Four of those prosecutors have told Congress that Elston warned them that Gonzales might criticize them in public if they spoke out about the circumstances of their removal.

Yesterday, Driscoll said on Elston's behalf that there was no connection between Brownlee's appearance on a firing list and the fact he had settled the case the next day in spite of Elston's call for more time. Driscoll said that the Nov. 1 list reflected recommendations his client had received from others in the administration, not his own views.

The OxyContin case arose from a four-year investigation into the marketing of a powerful drug that was, according to federal drug officials, a direct or partial cause of 146 deaths in 2000 and 2001 and possibly in 318 others during that period.

After the settlement agreement last fall, prosecutors in May announced a $635 million plea agreement with Purdue Pharma. Under its terms, the company entered a guilty plea to a single felony count, and three former officials pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. The terms were criticized as too lenient, both by consumer advocates, such as Public Citizen's Health Research Group, and Arlen Specter (Pa.), the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican.

Two former Justice Department officials from Democratic administrations and one from a Republican administration said that headquarters officials sometimes called U.S. attorneys' offices to relay concerns from defense lawyers, particularly in sensitive cases where defendants had made elaborate presentations to avert indictment. Two weeks before the plea agreement, lawyers for Purdue Pharma and the former executives met with criminal division officials, including a McNulty aide, people involved in the case said.

Others said Elston's timing and message were atypical. "Normally, there's a lot of deference given to U.S. attorneys in matters of timing," said Michael R. Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. "The kind of micromanagement that this suggests could easily have a chilling effect in some circumstances."