Saturday, May 30, 2009

Once upon a time...

... I was a counselor with the U.S. Army (... well, actually, I was a "Mental Hygiene Specialist", not a "counselor"). I worked as a drug & alcohol counselor in Korea for a year (2nd Infantry Division - the "Indian Head" folks - on the DMZ), in a "Mental Hygiene" clinic at Fort Bliss (while assigned to an M.P. unit - I also worked with prisoners in a stockade while they awaited either discharge or transfer to the re-training brigade at Ft. Leavenworth), and in a Basic Training unit, evaluating the psychological fitness of new recruits ("Yes, your recruiter lied to you!").

While at the Mental Hygiene clinic, I led "controlling your aggression" classes. The training was based on a wonderful little book whose title I've now forgotten... BUT - it included a very useful tactic: agree with your opponents. This simple tactic pretty much ends the argument.
You say I'm a far-left pinko commie?
You're right. I am.

This gives you breathing space to re-focus the discussion on issues, rather than responding to ad hominem attacks.

This is a tactic I'd like my favored politicians to adopt more often.
"You say I'm a tree-hugging left-wing pinko commie environmentalist?
You're right, I am!"
... "Now, can we discuss the issue of global warming and CO2 emissions?"

"You say I'm a socialist? Fine! You're right, I am!"
... "Now, can we discuss reforming health insurance?"

This was the basis of my brilliant advice to Speaker Pelosi.
"You say I'm complicit in torture and have accused the CIA of lying to Congress? You're right. I am and I did."
... "Now, can we discuss bringing the law-breakers among us to justice?"

It's a guerilla tactic. Don't stand up and get pummeled. Concede the point, and re-direct your efforts to the real issue.

Does this tactic work? Who knows? - No one seems to be taking my brilliant advice!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yeah, the recession continues... BUT!

At the end of last year, the economy shrank at a staggering 6.3 percent pace, the most in a quarter-century.

Never forget: this is W's recession!

Good question!

Oil Is Plentiful, Demand Weak. Why Are Gas Prices Going Up?

Me? I'll be watching for Exxon's quarterly financial report!

'cuz I know you're dyin' to know!

I've had no responses yet from CIA, Speaker Pelosi, or SecTreas Geithner.

Still, I keep writing letters!

More miraculous still!

Again tonight, KO's "Worst Person" segment did NOT include any Fox personalities... or Rush!

Who knew: there are Republican Hispanic strategists!

GOP Hispanic Strategists Stunned, Outraged By Sotomayor Attacks

I would have guessed the set of "GOP Hispanic strategists" to be empty!

Simple question: why?
Do these people hate themselves?

p.s. I confess that I'm also amazed by and curious about the Log Cabin Republicans.

Just for fun (completely pointless)

A previous post commented on a "Victorian inside joke" included in the Modern Major-General's song from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance... it involved the lyric, "... and tell you every detail of Caractacus’s uniform."

Here's a song about the Court of King Caractacus (lyrics by Rolf Harris):
YouTube:


lyrics:
Now the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just
passing by.
All together, now the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus,
were just passing by.
Now the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just
passing by.
Now the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just
passing by.

Now the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King
Caractacus, were just passing by.
All together, now the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the
court of King Catactacus, were just passing by.
Now the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King
Caractacus, were just passing by.
Now the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King
Caractacus, were just passing by.

Now the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of
the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just passing by.
[Repeat 4 times]

Now the fascinating witches who put the scintilating stiches in the britches
of the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of
the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just passing by.
[Repeat 4 times]

Now if you want to take some pictures of the fascinating witches who put the
scintilating stiches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the
noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King
Caractacus...

...you're too late! Because they've just... passed... by!
As advertised: completely pointless!

I'll take this as good news

Multiracial people become fastest-growing US group
By HOPE YEN, Associated Press
28 May 2009
WASHINGTON – Multiracial Americans have become the fastest growing demographic group, wielding an impact on minority growth that challenges traditional notions of race.

I'm not delusional. I know that prejudice based on race/ethnicity will always be with us.
Nevertheless, I do view it as progress that interracial couples no longer elicit none-too-furtive glances in public.

... and this is another "in my lifetime" moment:
Anti-miscegenation laws, also known as miscegenation laws, were laws that banned interracial marriage and sometimes interracial sex between whites and members of other races. In the United States, interracial marriage, cohabitation and sex have since 1863 been termed "miscegenation." Contemporary usage of the term "miscegenation" is less frequent. In North America, laws against interracial marriage and interracial sex existed and were enforced in the Thirteen Colonies from the late seventeenth century onwards, and subsequently in several US states and US territories until 1967.
[Wikipedia, Anti-miscegenation laws]
Until 1967!

Here's the Supreme Court case:
Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
1967!
In my lifetime!

Congrats & kudos to Kavya Shivashankar

13-year-old Kansas girl wins National Spelling Bee
By JOSEPH WHITE, Associated Press
28 May 2009
WASHINGTON – Cool and collected, Kavya Shivashankar wrote out every word on her palm and always ended with a smile. The 13-year-old Kansas girl saved the biggest smile for last, when she rattled off the letters to "Laodicean" to become the nation's spelling champion.

Public service:
Laodicean
adj.
1. Of or relating to Laodicea.
2. Indifferent or lukewarm especially in matters of religion.
n.
A native or inhabitant of Laodicea.

La·od·i·ce·a
An ancient city of western Asia Minor in present-day western Turkey. Built by the Seleucids in the third century b.c., it was a prosperous Roman market town on the trade route from the East and an early center of Christianity.

[The Free Dictionary by Farlex]
Again: Congrats & kudos to Kavya Shivashankar!

It's a miracle!

KO's "Worst Person in the World" segment did NOT include BillO, Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity! Not even Rush! It's a miracle!

Me? I find Olbermann's obsession with Fox News... well, obsessive!... and tiresome.
I don't watch BillO, Beck, or Hannity. I don't listen to Rush.
There's a reason for this - and I'm not happy that KO has decided that I really need to see these guys.
Trust me Keith: I don't!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shredded Wheat?

It took me a while to realize that a commercial for Post's Shredded Wheat wasn't a DNC spoof of Republicans.
"Has progress taken us to a better place?
I'd say it's taken us for a ride.
Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?"
The commercial makes the point that Shredded Wheat is the same cereal it's always been - simple, nutritious, tasty, etc. No gimmicks. The commercial emphasizes that the cereal has been made with "one simple, honest ingredient" -- 100% natural whole grain wheat, since it was created 117 years ago.

The commercial's tagline could be adopted by today's Republican Party:
We Put the 'No' in Innovation.
Here's the Youtube: Shredded Wheat

This might be more fun if...

There are lots of reasons my blogging frequency diminishes from time to time - mostly related to advice to myself: "Get a life!"

Another reason is... well, sometimes it's just not fun!
Ridiculing the loyal opposition gets tiresome.
... and the issues involved are frequently in fact important!
Reading the news - and the commentary on the news - simply gets wearisome.
Does anyone care about governing? (... as opposed to "all politics, all the time"?)

eBay currency index

That 499.99 GBP item?
Now going for $801.68!!!

Might be time to re-think that European vacation!

I know how to resolve this dispute

Pentagon denies report Iraq prison photos show rape

Know how to resolve this controversy?
Release the photos!

The conservative mind at work

I was going to ignore this, but then realized it fit very nicely within the on-going "the conservative mind at work" thread:
David Shuster: "What evidence do you have that she would put her feelings and politics above the rule of law?"

[Judicial Watch's] Tom Fitton: "Because President Obama chose her."
[emphasis added; stolen from Firedoglake]
Credentials? Reputation? Performance? - none of these means a thing. All that matters: If Obama nominates her, she be bad!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sigh...

Army chief: Troops could be in Iraq after 2012

Again: Eventually we will walk away from Iraq.
Why not now? Today???

FYI: another letter (based on a post)

Loyal readers will realize: I write letters.

My latest?
To SecTreas Geithner - basically regurgitating Free advice for Geithner: shut up & get to work!.
[I added the helpful suggestion that, if he's not up to SecTreas job, maybe he should consider career as a talk-show host.]

It went out with today's mail.

Congrats to OneFly

OneFly over at Outta the Cornfield got a mention on C&L Monday:
Mike's Blog Roundup
Outta the Cornfield: Last year's Memorial Day post will be next year's as well.
Way to go, OneFly!

Successful Congressional campaigns don't end...

... they morph into re-election campaigns.

I've been spending past couple of days performing some very crude "statistical" analyses on 2008 General Election data... for the Heinrich re-election campaign.
This explains absence of new, riveting blog posts.

Meanwhile... the ABQ old geezers bloggers are planning another night out with malt & hops. If you're interested in joining us, let one of us know (me - if you're reading this you know! Other options: Captain's Log; The Well-Armed Lamb.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Free advice for Geithner: shut up & get to work!

SecTreas Geithner is getting lots of ink these days:
Geithner Dismisses GOP Socialism Charge as 'Ridiculous'

Tim Geithner Chats with Newsweek's Jon Meacham

Geithner Vows to Cut U.S. Deficit on Rating Concern
... “It’s very important that this Congress and this president put in place policies that will bring those deficits down to a sustainable level over the medium term,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday.
[emphasis added]
Meanwhile:
TARP Warrants Show Banks May Reap ‘Ruthless Bargain’ (Update2)
Mark Pittman
Bloomberg.com
22 May 2009
May 22 (Bloomberg) -- Banks negotiating to reclaim stock warrants they granted in return for Troubled Asset Relief Program money may shortchange taxpayers by almost $10 billion if Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s first sale sets the pace, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Please, Secretary Geithner, stop "chatting", stop giving interviews, stop taking advantage of photo ops!

START (finally, at long last) to do your job!

Hint: Addressing GOP talking points is NOT your job!

You might start by getting the best deal possible for taxpayers, NOT the banks.

After that? Put together a plan. Show it to us. Convince us that you know how we get from where we are now to where we want to be. (It would help to start by giving us a hint where you think we want to be!)

News that the banks are screwing us - with your blessing - is not comforting.

If you're not up to the job, quit!

eBay currency index

499.99 GBP item is now listed at $793.88 - a month or so ago it was closer to $693.88!!!

"Prolonged detention": a Constitutional hurdle

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON NATIONAL SECURITY

... Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture -- like other prisoners of war -- must be prevented from attacking us again. Having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone. That's why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don't make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.
A previous post noted that SCOTUS has already decided that Gitmo detainees can avail themselves of habeas corpus (Rasul v. Bush).

The Constitution also provides that "No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."
As explained by Wikipedia:
A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of the legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial. Bills of attainder are forbidden by Article I, section 9, clause 3 of the United States Constitution.
Me? I'm having a hard time figuring out how Obama proposes to "reshape the standards that apply" to this fifth class of detainess and still comply with the U.S. Constitution.

Hints?

The anniversary that only I celebrate

Today is the fifth anniversary of W's Army War College Speech, Remarks by the President on Iraq and the War on Terror. It provides a nice summary of W's failure in Iraq.

In the speech, W outlined "five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom".
1. hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government.
DONE!
2. help establish the stability and security in Iraq that democracy requires.
still waiting
3. continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure.
??? - has anyone heard how many hours of electricity Baghdad has these days?
... how 'bout water & sewage?
4. encourage more international support.
... is ANYONE other than U.S. now engaged with Iraq? Oh, wait - China has a big contract to refurbish oil fields!
5. move toward free, national elections that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.
DONE! - and al-Maliki seems to be taking governance seriously!
2 out of 5... five years later!

And let's not forget W's proposed gift to the Iraqi people!
America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison.
Diligent readers will recall the fate of this promise.
Report: Empty Prison in Iraq a $40M 'Failure'

US watchdogs: Empty prison in Iraq 'monument' to waste and contractor shortcomings
Ah, yes! - W's gift to the Iraqi people: "a monument to waste".

Eventually the U.S. will simply walk out of Iraq.
All hell may break loose, or not.
Whatever - it'll no longer be OUR problem.

Why not today?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NM in the news: update

NM mom charged with killing son on the playground
By HEATHER CLARK, Associated Press
21 May 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – ... Albuquerque police said Tiffany Toribio, 23, confessed to suffocating her 3-year-old son, Tyruss "Ty" Toribio, as he slept on the climbing gym — a crime so cold-blooded that neighbors struggled to comprehend it, and even veteran officers became choked up.

Now we know.

I'm not from Missouri, but... Show Me!

Geithner Pledges to Cut Deficit Amid Rating Concern

Any chance Secretary Geithner can show us his plan?
Even an outline would suffice.

Based on past performance, I'm betting, "No, he can't."
- He doesn't have one.

Free advice for would-be domestic terrorists

Today's NYT:
4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues... The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, obtained with the help of an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fake.
Ancient history (Liberty City 7):
Liberty City case a gauge for first strikes
... The FBI used informants to infiltrate the group, and paid them $140,000 for their work.
And more ancient history (Ft. Dix Six):
Fort Dix terror plotters sentenced to prison
... According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney, the defendants' arrests occurred on May 7, 2007, in Cherry Hill as Dritan Duka and Shain Duka were meeting a confidential government witness to purchase four automatic M-16 rifles and three semi-automatic AK-47 rifles to be used in a future attack on military personnel.
My free advice to would-be domestic terrorists?

DON'T INCLUDE FBI/GOVERNMENT INFORMANTS IN YOUR PLOT!

hint: That fellow promising to provide you with explosives & weapons? He's an FBI informant!

Ooh, ooh!!! - Cheney admits failure!

From former VP Cheney's AEI speech today:
Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn’t know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source.
[emphasis added]
The anthrax attacks - still an unsolved mystery - were after 9/11.

That's right: Cheney here admits that even he and the rest of W's minions did NOT keep us safe after 9/11!!!

p.s. ... and again: I thought W's term started on 20 Jan 2001, NOT on 12 Sep 2001.

FYI + a challenge

FYI: I sent an email to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggesting that I expect him to insist on transferring the Brooklyn 4 to the detention facility at Guantanamo.
Charged with conspiring to use WMD on U.S. soil, they are clearly too great a threat to be held in the U.S. in any local, state, or federal detention facility.
I believe that I expressed my expectation that he would lead the charge to insist that these four be transferred immediately to Gitmo. (Once you hit the 'send' button on the webform, the message is no longer available to you... I hadn't the foresight to copy it before hitting 'send'.)

The challenge: You can use the link on the right nav bar [Contact Senate Majority Leader Reid] to send Senate Majority Leader Reid your DEMAND that the Brooklyn 4 be transferred to Gitmo!

Barack, we do nae know ye!

From the speech:
Now, finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.
...
We're going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.
...
I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people.
...
We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.
Uh... President Obama: who says these folks continue to pose a danger to the U.S.???

I believe the Supreme Court has already addressed this issue: Gitmo detainees are entitled to habeas corpus (Rasul v Bush). Will you continue to detain folks even after a habeas hearing has determined there is insufficient evidence to hold 'em???
We already have a legal framework - it's called the U.S. Constitution. We don't need another ad hoc system.

Please, President Obama: respect the Rule of Law about which you speak so eloquently!

New "gadget" added

The right-hand nav bar now features "Contact Info", with links to contact NM1 Congressman Martin Heinrich, NM Senator Tom Udall, NM Senator Jeff Bingaman, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Provided as a public service.

well... maybe Pelosi didn't know

From Time:
Pelosi's Probably Right
The article notes the prevaricating language of CIA apologists as well as well-documented inconsistencies in the Agency's story.

Again: so what?
At this point it doesn't matter.
The loyal opposition will continue to run with this UNTIL... Speaker Pelosi delivers something like the following speech:
Whether or not I knew about our government's torture program, or how much I knew, is irrelevant.

The fact remains, officials in our government authorized, ordered, and conducted torture - IN OUR NAME. The fact remains, Justice Department lawyers twisted the law and debased our Constitution to provide cover for these illegal activities.

I urge the Attorney General to appoint a Special Prosecutor to fully investigate our government's conduct - leaving no stone unturned, exempting no agency or office. Only a Special Prosecutor with subpoena power - the power to compel truthful testimony - can put this sad era in our nation's history behind us.

If I am implicated - either by my actions or my inaction, directly or indirectly - so be it.

But the truth must come out, and the law-breakers among us must be brought to justice.

Thankyou.
The idea is to concede the point and re-focus on the match. (If you're not crazy about tennis metaphors, how 'bout, "bend but don't break", or "run away to fight another day", or "duck and counter-punch", or "parry and thrust"?)

Such a speech disarms the loyal opposition, giving them little to tilt at.
"You say I'm a lying whore? Fine - you're right. It doesn't matter. What matters is that W's MINIONS TORTURED IN OUR NAME!
Me? I'm prepared to accept the consequences of my actions. Are you?"

Does this mean he won't stand in DoJ's way?

From Obama's speech, addressing torture & accountability:
I've opposed the creation of such a[-n independent] commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws or miscarriages of justice.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON NATIONAL SECURITY
, 21 May 2009]
I sure hope so.

Taken at face value (which may be questionable practice), these words seem to suggest that AG Holder is free to pursue the torturers among us, using existing democratic institutions (e.g., a Special Prosecutor).

Again, I sure hope this reading is correct!

Praising W! [update]

I just looked for a transcript of Obama's speech today.
Not on the White House website yet - or at least, not filed under "Speeches".

One thing I can say for W: under his administration, the the White House website was almost always up to date, with transcripts available almost immediately.

Update: I found it! - a full transcript is available on the White House website briefing room!

A disturbing bumper-sticker

You can't be both Catholic and pro-choice

Why not?
Does a believing, practicing Catholic's personal acceptance of the Church's anti-abortion tenet also require that s/he impose this moral choice on the rest of the world?

Me? My relationship with G-d - or lack thereof - is none of YOUR business!

Who ya gonna believe?

From the front page of today's NYT:
Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: May 20, 2009
WASHINGTON — An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.
Buried deep in the article, on page 16, is the information that this is only the latest of several such official Pentagon "estimates" that have varied wildly.

... and tho' the article does cite research by Prof. Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall Law School questioning previous estimates, the details of Dr. Denbeaux's studies are not discussed.

Here's a link:
RELEASED GUANTÁNAMO DETAINEES AND THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:
PROPAGANDA BY THE NUMBERS?
From Dr. Denbeaux's report:
Time and time again, the Department of Defense, the Executive Branch, and other
government officials have claimed publicly that Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been
released have “returned to the battlefield” where they have then been re-captured or killed. On January 13, 2009, during a press conference the Department of Defense provided its 43rd attempt to report on the number of detainees released from Guantanamo who returned to the battlefield.
This latest report alleges that 61 detainees have returned to the battlefield. This report seeks to examine the last numbers.
...
1. The 43rd attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield is false by the Department of Defense’s own data and prior reports.

2. In each of its forty-three attempts to provide the numbers of the recidivist detainees, the Department of Defense has given different sets of numbers that are contradictory and internally inconsistent with the Department’s own data.

3. The Department of Defense does not keep track of released detainees nor does it follow their post release conduct.

4. The Department of Defense’s previous statements about the post release conduct of former Guantanamo detainees were produced in writing in July 2007 and May 2008.

5. The January 13, 2009 press statement identifies no names, dates, places nor any conduct by released detainees. The raw numbers that are cited are unsupported, inconsistent with all other statements and appear to be presented to support the internal Department of Defense purposes.

[emphasis added]
The latest report - the subject of the NYT's frontpage article, does give names:
Among the 74 former prisoners that the report says are again engaged in terrorism, 29 have been identified by name by the Pentagon, including 16 named for the first time in the report. The Pentagon has said that the remaining 45 could not be named because of national security and intelligence-gathering concerns.
Reading the NYT article you'd not learn that this is the 44th Pentagon estimate of Gitmo recidivism.

Furthermore,:
The Pentagon has provided no way of authenticating its 45 unnamed recidivists, and only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.
There is no mention of the Pentagon's methodology in coming up with the numbers.

Given that this is apparently the 44th attempt by DoD to quantify the recidivism rate of released Gitmo detainees, and that it reports a 44th set of numbers - different from the previous 43 - I think we should all be a bit skeptical...

... AND, we should all be asking: why did the NYT include this on the front page, with only the vaguest hint that the report's conclusions may be questionable???

I note in passing that the NYT has a less-than-sterling reputation when it comes to critical reporting on the GWOT (see, e.g., Judith Miller, Jayson Blair). More often than not, the Times has simply been an unfiltered conduit for administration propaganda.

[... and why was this preliminary report released just as discussion of closing Gitmo is all in the news - co-incident with GOP fearmongering about releasing terrorists into our neighborhoods?]

On the bright side...

If Cheney continues to be the face of the "new" Republican party, this would not be a bad thing!

9/11

Quick glance at commentary on Cheney's speech: he apparently referenced 9/11 twenty-five times. (I suppose I could look for a transcript and confirm this.)
[Update: my quick scan of the transcript finds only 23 references to 9/11.]

Why does Cheney continue to pretend that W's administration started on 12 Sep 2001.
W was sworn in on 20 Jan 2001.
America was attacked on 9/11 on W's watch.
This is "keeping us safe"???

"Dog Bites Man!"

Cheney defends Bush security policies

For what it's worth, I was disgusted by the media's characterization of Cheney's AEI speech & Obama's address as "dueling speeches":
Obama, Cheney plan dueling speeches
This characterization accords Cheney more than a little more respect & importance than that due an ex-VP with no official power.

Me? I think the folks over at AmericaBlog have the right idea:
Mockery is all Dick Cheney deserves

Is it time to start recruiting a primary challenger?

I've remarked previously that I'd be happy to support a "Draft Rush" grassroots movement on the Right.

Today - with no tongue in cheek - I'm beginning to think it might be time to start looking for a primary challenger to President Obama in 2012. The relationship between Obama's campaign rhetoric and his actions as President seems as tenuous as was W's (recall, W's campaign-debate comment, "I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.")

Gitmo? - still open.
Military tribunals? - revived.
Torture? - no investigations (and just forget about prosecutions!)
Rule of law? - "state secrets" still being invoked.

Could the left mount a serious primary challenge to Obama in '12?
(Of course, I'm betting on Rush being the GOP nominee!)

p.s. I just received this email.
"Americans grew tired of being thought to be dumb by the rest of the world, so they went to the polls and removed all doubt."
Sadly, I'm more sympathetic towards the sentiment today than I would have been a week ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can we stop pretending to care about the Church's so-called "moral authority" now?

Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press
20 May 2009
DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland's castaway children.

Just over seven years ago, Bernard Cardinal Law was forced to resign as archbishop of the Boston diocese when it was revealed - over and over again - that he'd enabled wide-spread sex abuse of children within his See.

Will the bishops that condemned Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to deliver the commencement address now please shut up!

note: I am in general sympathetic towards religion and religious institutions, and recognize that religion plays an important part in many people's lives. I get upset when any religion attempts to impose its values and morality on ME.

If Catholic bishops deny John Kerry communion because he chooses to support U.S. law by not imposing his religious convictions on others - fine, that's their business.
BUT - do they continue to offer communion to pedophile priests? To abusive priests & nuns?
If so, I'd think maybe they should reconsider their stance towards Kerry.
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

[Matthew 7:1-5]
Just a suggestion.

Will we send these guys to Gitmo?

APNewsBreak: 4 arrested in plot to bomb NYC temple
By TOM McELROY, Associated Press
20 May 2009
NEW YORK – The FBI arrested four men Wednesday in what authorities called a plot to detonate a bomb outside a Jewish temple and to shoot military planes with guided missiles.
...
James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. attorney's office said.

[emphasis added]

These guys are charged with conspiracy to use WMD within the U.S.
Surely they're too dangerous to be held in a U.S. prison facility while awaiting trial!

When will they be shipped to Gitmo?
Will someone ask Harry Reid this question?

Darn!

RNC Passes "Socialist" Resolution
Twenty-four hours after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele sought to turn the page on five months of infighting and bad press for the GOP, the organization passed a resolution condemning the Democratic party's "march toward socialism".

"Resolved, that we the members of the Republican National Committee recognize that the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals," reads the resolution.


Darn!
I was really hoping for the RNC to pass the resolution re-labeling the Democrats as "The Democrat Socialist Party".
Sigh.

Still - there's probably some hay to made of the fact that when our country is still in two foreign wars - and losing one of them badly - and when our country faces the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Republican party spends it time voting on resolutions condemning the Dems for socialism!

I was really hoping for the re-labeling!!!

90-6?

Senate rebukes Obama, blocks Guantanamo shutdown
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
Wed May 20, 2009
WASHINGTON – In a rare, bipartisan defeat for President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States.

Okay - I've been waiting to read or hear some analysis of this that spells out the secret behind-the-scenes story in a way that makes sense. So far, nothing.

Seems to me this is just another "We need better Democrats" moment.

Am I missing something?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This is too easy!

Another scientifically illiterate Republican congressman today weighed in on the effort to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions. From HuffPost:
Barton, who has resisted proposals to reduce the country's oil dependence, explained that there shouldn't be any concern about carbon-dioxide emissions because CO2 is relatively harmless:
"I'm creating it as I talk to you. It's in your Coca-Cola. your Dr. Pepper and your Perrier water. It's necessary for human life. It's odorless, colorless, tasteless, doesn't cause cancer, doesn't cause asthma. There's nobody that's ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning."
I'm intrigued by that last comment: "There's nobody that's ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning."
Really???

Here's my letter to Congressman Barton (a very slightly revised version of my letter to Congresswoman Bachmann on the same subject):
Congressman Barton:

I am writing to congratulate you on your brave and informed stand against the regulation of carbon dioxide, which in fact is, as you note, a naturally-occurring chemical. If you should decide to take up this topic again, may I suggest that you also note that carbon-dioxide is an integral part of the Calvin-Benson cycle which describes how carbon-dioxide, through plant photosynthesis, is the source of the very oxygen which is needed to sustain human life.

Furthermore, I would like to alert you to a hazardous chemical which is NOT regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or by any other United States government agency, Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO; chemical formula H-(OH); also known as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid), the known perils of which include:
• Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
• Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
• DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
• Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
• Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
• Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
This abbreviated list is from the wonderfully informative website, Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Facts (http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html). The website includes links to four Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for DHMO, all reflecting the precautions that must be taken when handling, storing, and disposing of this UNREGULATED hazardous chemical. I note that DHMO is a by-product of the combustion of rocket fuel and was released into the atmosphere when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

Pandering to Big Business, the Democrat-controlled 111th Congress refuses to even consider regulating the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its supposed importance to industry. Why do Democrats want to regulate naturally occurring CO2 but refuse to even consider regulating DHMO???

Again, thanks for your public service!


1 enclosure:
“Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide”, from the website of The Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide
(http://www.netreach.net/~rjones/no_dhmo.html)

Looks just like Grandma!

A 47 million year old primate fossil known as "Ida" is seen at New York's Museum of Natural History May 19, 2009, at a news conference where the find was unveiled. Scientists from the University of Oslo in Norway and the Senckenberg Research institute revealed the female specimen said to be the most complete fossil primate ever found.
[47-million-year-old human link revealed]

Needed: BETTER Democrats

Reid Says Terrorists Should Not Be Brought to the U.S.

Auggh!!!

I'm pretty sure he's not advocating the immediate release of all Gitmo detainees to their home countries.

Just out of curiosity

Congressman, CIA dispute briefing list accuracy

The story is relevant to the current dispute between Speaker Pelosi & the CIA over what was or was not briefed by CIA to Congressional leaders regarding torture.

Not surprisingly, the loyal opposition has been running with this, coming close to accusing Speaker Pelosi of treason for disputing the CIA version.

Just out of curiosity: When did the CIA achieve this reputation for honesty & forthrightness?
I must've missed that briefing.

p.s. seems at least one of Speaker Pelosi's loudest critics has himself questioned the CIA's candor. From Think Progress:
[Representative Pete] Hoekstra’s [(R-MI)] repeated objections to Pelosi accusing the CIA of having lied to Congress is quite odd given the fact that he’s made nearly identical claims on multiple occasions. As Marcy Wheeler first noted, Hoekstra wrote a letter to President Bush in 2006 accusing the intelligence community of withholding information on their activities from Congress. “I have learned of some alleged Intelligence Community activities about which our committee has not been briefed,” Hoekstra wrote. He said that he believed the Bush administration’s failure to fully brief his committee could constitute “a violation of law“...
...
Similarly, in 2007, Hoekstra described a closed-door briefing by representatives from the intelligence community (including CIA) on the National Intelligence Estimate of Iran’s nuclear capability, saying that the members “didn’t find [the briefers] forthcoming.” More recently, in November 2008, Hoekstra concluded that the CIA “may have been lying or concealing part of the truth” in testimony to Congress regarding a 2001 incident in which the CIA mistakenly killed an American citizen in Peru. “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress,” Hoekstra said of the incident.
“We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress.” You mean the CIA sometimes lies??? I'm shocked!

Just for fun: change we can believe in

“This change comes in a tea bag,” Steele declared.
[Steele vows to take Obama 'head-on']

An understated science headline

Here's the headline:
Neutron Star Crust Is Stronger than Steel
"Stronger than steel" - sounds a little like an ad for a new composite-material golf club or tennis racket.

Reading the article reveals the following:
The crust of neutron stars could be 10 billion times stronger than steel, based on an innovative model of elements compressed as tightly as they would be on the surface of a neutron star.
[emphasis added]
Whoa! - this ain't an ad for a new golf club!

Free advice for this headline writer: read the tabloids more often! - Put a little juice in the headline!!!

Tell me again why running government like a business is a good idea?

25,000 jobs eliminated by postal service
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID • Associated Press • May 19, 2009
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service has cut its staff by 25,000 this year as it struggles to reduce massive deficits, Postmaster General John Potter said Monday.

A very brief history lesson:
The Postal Reorganization Act signed by President Richard Nixon on August 12, 1970, replaced the cabinet-level Post Office Department with the independent United States Postal Service. The Act took effect on July 1, 1971.
[United States Postal Service, Wikipedia entry]
Unlike the Post Office Department, the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency, legally defined as an "independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States," (39 U.S.C. § 201) as it is wholly owned by the government and controlled by the Presidential appointees and the Postmaster General.

The idea was to create "a corporation-like independent agency with an official monopoly on the delivery of mail in the United States."
[Postal Reorganization Act]
... since, as we all know, corporations are intrisically efficient.

We've come a long way, baby!
Now we outsource National Defense to the likes of KBR & Xe (aka Blackwater).

[note: in addition to the sections cited explicitly, much of the rest of this note derives directly from the Wikipedia entry, United States Postal Service.]

You read it here first! (or, "Yes, I'm psychic!")

From Mike Lux over at HuffPost today:
"... To conservatives like [Representative Steve] King [(R-IUA)], today and throughout American history, progressive ideas have always been derided as socialism. It's what conservatives said about ending slavery, child labor laws, food safety, environmental legislation, Social Security, minimum wage, and virtually every other advance in American history.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, this may refresh your memory:
Who's to blame?... for
child-labor laws?
the Pure Food & Drug Act?
the 40-hr, 5-day work-week?
women's suffrage?
the Civil Rights Movement?
Pinko, commie, muckraking liberals and progressives! - that's who... including socialist, God-hating labor unions!!!

["Liberal" vs "Conservative", PrivateBuffoon, 31 March 2009]
Again: for an early take on what the professional pundits will be discussing next week, read Private Buffoon today!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Humorous... another thing we "don't do anymore"

Pentagon reports no longer quote Bible
AP
18 May 2009
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Monday it no longer includes a Bible quote on the cover page of daily intelligence briefings it sends to the White House as was practice during the Bush administration.

I feel better already!

We no longer torture, we no longer render detainees to black sites, we no longer reject the rule of law... and we no longer quote the Bible on Pentagon intelligence briefings!
Note: no one denies we used to do any of this stuff.

Auggh!!! - when will the stupid stop?

We're being held hostage... by Iraq!... at least, that's how this news is being interpreted:
Iraq slides election until January
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press
18 May 2009
BAGHDAD – National parliamentary elections will be held Jan. 30, Iraqi officials announced Monday, sliding the date into next year in a move that could complicate the U.S. timetable for drawing down its forces.
[emphasis added]
Whatever happened to,
"... when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission."
[Bush on Iraq: We Don't Need Permission, 7 Mar 2003]
???

Why is what is best for the U.S. being held hostage to Iraq's domestic politics???

Atrios says it best

Holy Crap
I have to say, as bad as some of us dirty hippies warned the Bush administration would be, most of us were way too optimistic.

Atrios's comment refers specifically to the recently revealed Pentagon Iraq briefings featuring militant Bible verses, but applies equally well to much of what we've learned of W's administration in the past few months - from Bybee's approval of torture, to Yoo's abrogation of the Constitution.

Yes - most of us were way too optimistic!

Monday smile

Sent by friend, former colleague, and follower of PrivateBuffoon:
Frivolous Theorem of Arithmetic
Almost all natural numbers are very, very, very large.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2 out of 3 ain't bad!

Happiness Is ... Being Old, Male and Republican

New Mexico in the news (not in a good way...)

ID of boy buried in NM playground still a mystery
By TIM KORTE, Associated Press
17 May 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two days after the body of a small boy was found buried in the sand at a city park playground, stymied investigators focused Sunday on trying to find the child's relatives.

The city park is about 1.5 miles from my house.

RNC Chair Michael Steele: GOP is against marriage

Let's follow an argument to its logical conclusion.

Steele points to cost of insuring gay spouses
Associated Press
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Republicans can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said Saturday.
...
"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."


This argument - Steele's exact words, verbatim, changing not a single letter - implies that Republicans are anti-marriage in general.
"You - Mr. Straight Male Employee - just cost me a ton of $$$ when you married your girlfriend! Why didn't you just co-habitate???"
"You - Ms. Straight Female Employee - just cost me a ton of $$$ when you married your boyfried! Why didn't you just shack up???"

In fact, heterosexual marriage is now costing small businesses a ton of $$$!!! - all those straight spouses to insure!

This has been another episode in the continuing saga, "The conservative mind at work".
[for previous episodes, see here, or here, or here.]

An anniversary: Brown v. Board of Education - 55 years ago today

Fifty-five years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled for Brown in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), effectively reversing the Court's "separate but equal" doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and finding that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Brown was the culmination of a legal strategy designed by Charles Hamilton Houston. This strategy was based on dismantling Plessy v. Ferguson brick by brick in a series of cases demonstrating that "separate" was inherently "unequal".

The immediate impact of Brown v Board of Education was reduced by "Brown II":
In 1955, the Supreme Court considered arguments by the schools requesting relief concerning the task of desegregation. In their decision which became known as "Brown II" the court delegated the task of carrying out school desegregation to district courts with orders that desegregation occur "with all deliberate speed"...
[Wikipedia, Brown v. Board of Education]
Not surprisingly, the affected school boards across the country interpreted "with all deliberate speed" to mean "slow as molasses".

Enron nostalgia

I've been re-reading the Washington Post Enron series: The Fall of Enron.

A couple of things strike me.

First: the $$$ involved was tiny compared to what we're seeing today: less than $10Bn.
The deal with Dynergy that was to save the company was scuttled because of an undisclosed $690 million obligation.

[snide aside: Once-upon-a-time, the $670Bn that's been wasted in Iraq sounded like real money, too.]

Second:
That same day, Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury secretary now with Citigroup Inc., called Peter R. Fisher, an undersecretary of the Treasury. Rubin asked what Fisher thought of the idea of calling the rating agencies to encourage them to work with Enron's bankers to see if there was an alternative to an immediate credit downgrade. Fisher responded, the Treasury said later, that he didn't think that was a good idea. He didn't make a call.
[THE FALL OF ENRON: Catastrophe, WaPo, 1 Aug 2002]
That's right: W's Treasury Department declined to help Enron.
Good for W! (It's seldom I have the opportunity to praise W.)

Enron's collapse was followed shortly by that of WorldComm.
We learned nothing from these - as it turns out - minor catastrophes, with all concerned continuing to assert the self-correcting miracle mechanisms of the free market.

Perhaps if we'd taken these so-called aberrations as signals that all was not well in the unregulated, laissez-faire marketplace, we'd not be where we are today.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where's Jeffrey Skilling when we need him?

"I don't think he has a non-strategic bone in his body," Lay said of Skilling.
[THE FALL OF ENRON: Warnings, "Dream Job Turns Into a Nightmare", Washington Post, Monday, July 29, 2002]

I'm still waiting to see Geithner's grand strategy... as opposed to a recitation of programs.

For that matter, I'm still waiting to see the new strategy for Afghanistan - tho' maybe the new guy (Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal) will roll out something in the next few weeks.

Still... it IS discouraging to see so little that resembles strategy being developed and communicated, in either our current domestic economic mess, or in the foreign policy & defense arena. I've not even heard Geithner state a clear objective: what, exactly, are the various programs intended to achieve?... other than keeping the banks happy?

Sigh.

Maybe it's time to consider commuting Skilling's 24-year sentence, on the condition that he apply his mastery of business strategy for the benefit of his country, at slightly more than minimum wage. Geithner can use the help.

These guys still work for us???

U.S. investigates Afghan shooting by military contractors
From Mike Mount and Suzanne Simons
CNN
15 May 2009
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military in Afghanistan is investigating a group of military contractors who shot and wounded two Afghan civilians in Kabul earlier this month, according to the military.

The contractors worked for a company called Paravant, which is affiliated with Xe, the new company name for the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide, according to sources familiar with the incident. Paravant is owned by Erik Prince, who is also the owner of Xe.


Why does this outfit still have a Pentagon contract???

... oh, and then there's this:
Contractors Using Military Clinics
Civilians Also Are Not Paying, Audit Says
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Military clinics and field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan have supplied more than $1 million a month in health-care services to civilian contractors during the past two years without seeking reimbursement from their employers, as provided by law, according to a new audit by the Defense Department inspector general.
...
Two contractors, Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe, and KBR, operated medical facilities for their own personnel and for other nonmilitary people. The cost of those facilities was included in their overall contracts, but the IG investigators said the contractors did not break out what they were charging the Army overall for the medical treatment they were providing.
Ah, yes: Blackwater (aka Xe) and KBR!

Again: why do these folks still have Pentagon contracts???

How many IG investigations and reports of wrong-doing, criminal acts, and gross incompetence will it take before these companies are de-certified as government contractors?
How long will it be till we are no longer paying these folks with OUR TAX DOLLARS???

Friday, May 15, 2009

My free advice to Speaker Pelosi (worth every penny!)

Concede & re-focus. Deliver something like the following speech:
Whether or not I knew about our government's torture program, or how much I knew, is irrelevant.

The fact remains, officials in our government authorized, ordered, and conducted torture - IN OUR NAME. The fact remains, Justice Department lawyers twisted the law and debased our Constitution to provide cover for these illegal activities.

I urge the Attorney General to appoint a Special Prosecutor to fully investigate our government's conduct - leaving no stone unturned, exempting no agency or office. Only a Special Prosecutor with subpoena power - the power to compel truthful testimony - can put this sad era in our nation's history behind us.

If I am implicated - either by my actions or my inaction, directly or indirectly - so be it.

But the truth must come out, and the law-breakers among us must be brought to justice.

Thankyou.
With this speech, the Speaker admits nothing, but knocks the wind out her opponents' sails. She no longer engages in a pointless "he said/she said" argument with the CIA - but declares that discussion beside the point. She tacitly affirms her contention that she bears no guilt by asserting her willingness to follow the investigation wherever it may lead, whatever the personal, political, or legal consequences for herself.

And, more to the point, she brings the discussion back to W and his henchmen.

"Pelosi knew!"

So what?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's a start... maybe

Two promising tidbits regarding our irrational attitude towards drugs:
White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'
Gary Fields
WSJ online
14 May 2009
Kerlikowske Says Analogy Is Counterproductive; Shift Aligns With Administration Preference for Treatment Over Incarceration

Governor says he's open to debate on legal pot
Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that the time is right to debate legalizing marijuana for recreational use in California.
When will a "serious", "respected" politician or journalist have the courage to explicitly compare our current drug laws to Prohibition? When will a new H.L. Mencken appear on the scene to lobby in the public print for repeal of our irrational drug laws?

Public safety would be enhanced:
- legal manufacturers & distributors replace crime syndicates;
- quality-control of product protects users.

Tax-base expanded:
- rather than throwing money at interdiction, policing, and incarceration, taxing manufacturers, distributors, and consumers generates $$$ for local, state, and federal govt.

It would even help our efforts in Afghanistan! - the opium crop we're now desperately trying to eradicate suddenly becomes a legitimate export to support the fledgling Afghan government.
(note: under current policy, the opium funds our enemy - the Taliban.)

Those fearful drug wars on the U.S.-Mexican border? - a thing of the past. The criminal gangs are suddenly deprived of their livelihood.

The criminal paramilitary drug cartels in Colombia? Their $$$ dry up... (Okay, maybe they'd just now be legal cartels - but the immense profits deriving from criminalization would no longer accrue to them.)

In my lifetime? I doubt it.

p.s. Is anyone aware of a more-or-less impartial cost-benefit analysis regarding decriminalization of drugs (either all or some - e.g., just marijuana)? I could be persuaded by evidence to the contrary, but my sense is that most of the societal costs of drug use derive directly from criminalization - policing, interdiction, incarceration, drug-related gang violence. I don't pretend that there would be NO new costs if drugs were decriminalized and regulated... but my belief is that these would be a fraction of the savings derived from legalization. Again, I can be persuaded by evidence to the contrary.

IF no such studies exist, does anyone know a bright young economics doctoral student who'd be interested in pursuing this question as a thesis topic?

The very serious Republican opposition

There seem to be two dominant responses to the following story:
1) ignore it
2) chastise the RNC for their hubris

Me? I think this should be THE story of the year.

The story in question?
GOP, RNC to rebrand Democrats as 'Socialists'
By ROGER SIMON, Politico
5/13/09
A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”
Ah, yes - tackling the really important issues!

The country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
We're engaged in two foreign wars, neither of which is going quite according to plan (and one of which is going just plain badly!).
The previous Administration arrogated dictatorial powers, and felt free to torture in our names.

What critical issue does the Republican party tackle?
Re-labeling the Democratic party!!!

This brilliant decision by the RNC ought to be fully exploited by every Democratic candidate - starting now, today.
DCCC & DSCC should build media campaigns around it.

It helps to remember: unemployment is a lagging indicator...

... but still, this doesn't sound like good news for those trumpeting the recession's end:
New jobless claims show surprise jump to 637,000
AFP
14 May 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) – New jobless claims by American workers rose to 637,000 in the past week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, in a sign of continued caution by US business in the face of a weak economy.
...
The figure was worse than the level of 610,000 new claims expected by private economists...
Sigh.

Stories that make you go, "Hmmm..."

FDIC economist charged with trying to rob bank
AP
14 May 2009
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An economist on leave from the federal agency that insures bank deposits has been charged with the April 11 attempted robbery of a Kansas City-area bank.

Why?

Gates supports missile defense despite budget cuts

The article notes that, though Gates is seeking to trim more than $1Bn from the missile defense budget, he's still a strong supporter of the program.

Why?

Long, long ago, this was one of the very few issues about which I had strong opinions.
I think the technical obstacles are close to insurmountable - coordinating detection with interception.
BUT: even if the system works like a charm, so what?

Two words: Maginot Line.
The Maginot Line worked perfectly - the Germans did not penetrate it.
They went around it.

Similarly, a low-tech cruise missile - basically a WWII-style V-1 - launched from a tanker off either coast is all it takes to defeat an anti-ballistic-missile defense system, and deliver a nuclear warhead to LA, SF, NYC, or DC.

Then there's the damaging psychological effect: the French thought the Maginot Line protected them, so did not invest in other, more robust defensive measures (e.g., well-trained standing army).
Similarly, an anti-ballistic-missile shield may lull us into a false sense of security, making us blind to more obvious - and more dangerous - threats... like V-1 missiles parked just outside our territorial waters.

Me? I think the best deterrent against attack by ballistic missile is what in fact seemed to work during the Cold War: the very real threat that we'll do our damnest to wipe out any country that launches a ballistic missile against us. True, we sacrifice a city. BUT - the attacker sacrifices his country!

Note: I do NOT share President Obama's dream of a nuke-free world.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Seems the euphoria regarding the Dow's recovery was a bit premature.
Sony reports $1B annual loss, first in 14 years

Retail sales dip raises worries about recovery

Oil falls to near $57 as US recovery hopes wane

Foreclosures hit a record high
Me? I'm hoping that the headlines reflecting real data - as opposed to Pollyanna's wishes - start to reflect real recovery pretty darn soon!

Again, I've two motives:
1) As a loyal U.S. citizen, I really do want to see my country prosper.
2) My evil, partisan doppelganger wants the economy in full recovery mode by mid-2010 to ensure another Dem thrashing of the "party of NO" Republicans. It'd be really nice if unemployment were on its way down - providing proof-positive that the stimulus really worked!

I can dream.

p.s. My eBay currency index now has that 499.99 GBP item going for $757.86. Recall, when I started paying attention - 16 March 2009 - this same 499.99 GBP item was going for about $695.00!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Protesting Yoo

As you may have heard, torture-proponent John Yoo was recently given a monthly column on the Op-Ed page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tristero over at Hullabaloo suggests the following action:
I'd like to urge all bloggers who have addressed the issue of torture to send one of their posts to the Inquirer. You can do so by following the instructions here.

Who knows? Perhaps even one of us will get published, but at least they will get the message that opposition to torture is widespread, we are articulate, and we will not remain quiet while those who justify torture are provided access to major newspapers.
I've taken him up on the challenge.

Here's my Op-Ed entry - not a single past post, but a patched-together essay from several posts:
President Obama and others have declared that the country must move forward, and argued that investigating the misdeeds of the previous Administration would distract us from the many challenges confronting us.

I agree with the declaration: yes, we must move forward.
BUT - moving forward requires us to confront our present and our past.

The International Military Tribunals held in Nuremberg and Tokyo following WWII can be criticized as nothing more than retribution: vengeance exacted by victors against vanquished.
IF this criticism is to be deflected, we must demonstrate by our actions that the legal principles embodied in these trials apply universally - not just to nations we have vanquished. Specifically, we must demonstrate by our actions that they apply to US!

To allow those in our government who authorized torture to escape the consequences of their actions is to announce to the world (and to ourselves): "No, we DON'T care about human rights or crimes against humanity. Those are just clever slogans to help us feel good about ourselves!" If we fail to prosecute the offenders, we announce to the world: "Yes, we readily accept that there are exigencies in which crimes against humanity can be excused - to protect the State; and 'I was just following orders' is a perfectly legitimate legal defense!"

Looking to the future - as President Obama prescribes: If in the future we find ourselves participating in "war crimes" trials against representatives of a foreign country, just exactly how will we in good conscience justify our participation if we fail to prosecute our own today?

Yes - we must look to the future. Yes, we face any number of daunting challenges.
BUT - to move forward as a nation of laws demands that one of the challenges we accept is bringing to justice the men who ordered torture IN OUR NAME!

In response to the recent release of many documents on W-era torture, conservatives have adopted a more-or-less consistent reply: "Yeah, we tortured... BUT IT WORKED!" - We've been "safe" for 7.5 years!

Let's grant 'em the premise. Okay - it worked. So what?

"The ends justify the means" isn't much of a basis for The Rule of Law! - let alone morality!!!

Yes - the Rule of Law imposes heavy burdens on us as a country - as a civilized nation.
But, the dividends it pays are immeasurable! Any "temporary", expedient circumvention of The Rule of Law threatens us all - more than the supposed dangers from which this circumvention "protects" us.

Recall Robert Bolt's wonderful defense of The Rule of Law from his play, A Man for All Seasons:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
This in a nutshell is the argument against torture, against "extraordinary rendition", against extra-legal anti-terrorist tactics of any kind. Those laws we ignore to get the bad guys are the very laws that protect US! We ignore them at our peril.

Give the Devil benefit of law? Yes! - for my own safety's sake!!!

That ultra-liberal pinko Commie, General George S. Patton presented an analogous argument regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and the use of poison gas against civilian populations. Here is an excerpt from Patton’s article, “The Effect of Weapons on War”, published in the Cavalry Journal, November 1930:
For centuries all wounded and such unwounded prisoners as were valueless as slaves had their throats cut. No one was shocked; it was the custom. Finally, it occurred to some altruistic and thoughtful soldier that while the practice was excellent so long as he was the victor, it had it's drawbacks in the not unlikely event of his being the vanquished. The notion of humane treatment for the foe was born. Years of use sanctified the idea; it became the custom. Yet, the horrid thought pops up that help for the helpless sprang from love of ourselves, not of others; from fear of retaliation. The same situation effects the noisome idea of gassing noncombatants. It is contrary to our developed sensibilities, it will produce retaliations; it is not a safe method of war.
It is “love of ourselves, not of others” that underlies our laws.

Furthermore, the argument that “torture kept us safe” begs the question: safe from WHAT?

Personally? I feel significantly less safe knowing that my government asserted its right to surveil me, detain me indefinitely without charges, torture me, render me to a "black site"; and asserted these powers in secret, without my consent. I'd feel even less safe if I believed that a majority of my fellow citizens had, in fact, consented to this!

Renouncing our values to "save" ourselves is absurd!
If we renounce our values and - more the point - our Constitution, we're lost, not saved!

As it turns out, recently released documents confirm that torture – or “enhanced interrogation” – was NOT effective. It did not produce reliable, actionable intelligence.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today opined that, “…one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.” Perhaps Sen. Graham should read Nicholas Eymerich, a 14th-century Inquistor General of the Spanish Inquisition. Eymerich was no ultra-left humanist, but the first inquisitor to get around the Church's prohibition against torturing a subject twice by interpreting the directive very liberally, permitting a separate instance of torture for a separate charge of heresy. This noted humanitarian’s final verdict on the efficacy of torture?
"Quaestiones sunt fallaces et inefficaces."
[“Torture is deceptive and ineffectual.”]
Finally, however, the best argument is that given by General David Petraeus, as quoted by the Senate Committee on Armed Services report, INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN U.S. CUSTODY:
"What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight ... is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings."
It’s not about them, it’s about US!
Maybe you've got something better!!!

Send it in!

Here's the link, again: Contact Philadelphia Inquirer
... and here's the link to their "Helpful Hints": Guidelines for Opinion Pieces

Me sounding like a broken record...

hmmm... I'm showing my age.
Does anyone under age 45 know what it means to "sound like a broken record"???

Look at the counter to the right. Estimated cost-to-date of W's Iraq fiasco > $668Bn.

Today's headline:
Oil climbs to near $60 on falling US inventories
Long-time readers will recognize the following:
Suppose that 6 years ago, on 2 Jan 2003, the Congress had voted to strike a deal with Saddam:
We'll buy all Iraq's oil for $60/bbl, starting immediately, first payment on 3 Jan 2003.

The going price was ~$30/bbl.
This proposal would have represented about a 100% mark-up over then-current market price.

Would Saddam have accepted the offer?
For a 100% mark-up over market, I'm betting, "yes".
We might even have been able to throw in a couple of provisions:
- Give U.N. weapons inspectors full access.
- Devote at least 1/3 of the $$ to improving infrastructure.
- Act bellicose towards Iran.

Iraq's pre-war production was about 2.5Mn bbl/day. Let's be generous and say it was 3Mn bbl/day.

To date we would have paid (3 Jan 2003 - 12 May 2009):
$417,780,000,000.

... AND: We'd have the oil! - paid for by U.S. taxpayers!!!
We could simply GIVE it to Exxon - their cost would then be limited to transport & refining.
I'm betting this would have some impact on price of gas at the pump.
I'm betting this deal would also have prevented the oil-price bubble of 2007/8 - Iraq's oil would NEVER have been in a war-zone.

Compare & contrast:
- cost of W's Iraq fiasco to date: $668Bn.
- cost of my proposal: $418Bn.

Quite a savings! - We could use that $250Bn difference to help finance the stimulus!

Will the convictions hold up on appeal? Is there a betting line?

5 Miami men convicted of Sears Tower attack plot
By CURT ANDERSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer
12 May 2009
MIAMI – It took three trials, three juries and nearly three years, but federal prosecutors finally succeeded Tuesday in convicting five Miami men of plotting to start an anti-government insurrection by destroying Chicago's Sears Tower and bombing FBI offices. One man was acquitted.

I have the same questions about the Ft. Dix plotters.
Five Muslim Extremists Convicted In Ft.Dix Terror Case
I believe government informants figured prominently in each case... and in each case were alleged to have instigated the plot.

You heard it here first!

From HuffPost, 12 May 2009:
Too Big To Fail=Too Big To Exist
Recall, from PrivateBuffoon, 27 Feb 2009:
Re-visiting anti-trust legislation: "too big to fail"
...Given the underpinnings of the current mess - with so many financial institutions deemed "too big to fail" - perhaps it's time to revisit anti-trust laws with an eye more toward practices "deemed to hurt" consumers. Among these I would today count practices that encourage entities to become "too big to fail".
Remember: you heard it here first!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A question for the putative leaders of the GOP

Mr. Cheney, were you honorably discharged from the U.S. military? Yes or no.
Mr. Limbaugh, were you honorably discharged from the U.S. military? Yes or no.
Mr. Gingrich, were you honorably discharged from the U.S. military? Yes or no.

Me? I've got mine! - let's see theirs!!!
Just for fun:
True statements:
The discharge from the U.S. military received by Dick Cheney was less than honorable.

The discharge from the U.S. military received by Rush Limbaugh was less than honorable.

The discharge from the U.S. military received by Newt Gingrich was less than honorable.

DADT, religion, social psych, and other stuff

(I'm guessing that the following analogy will infuriate both gay-rights and anti-gay activists equally).
A few posts back, I commented that "sexual orientation just never arose as a relevant issue" in the workplace during my years of gainful employment.

I could say the same of religious persuasion. With few exceptions, I couldn't tell you if my co-workers were Catholic, Protestant... or even Christian; Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha'i, or atheist. Religious affiliation just never arose as a relevant issue at work.
The few exceptions noted were folks who took it upon themselves to volunteer their religious sensibilities, for whatever reason, much the same as my openly gay co-workers chose to volunteer that bit of personal information.
In neither case did the confession interfere with work - and to some extent it may have helped, leading to an increased mutual trust.

A recent headline:
5 years on, gay marriage debate fades in Mass.
The story notes that five (5) years after MA legalized gay marriage, "although Roman Catholic leaders and some conservative activists remain vocally opposed, there is overwhelming political support for same-sex marriage and no prospect for a referendum."

A social psych lesson (bear with me!):
One of the fundamental concepts of social psychology is attitude, which is taken to be tripartite (more on this later), with
cognitive,
emotional,
and
behavioral
components.

Recall - I was studiying social psych during the early '70s of the previous century, so a lot of the discussion revolved around attitudes regarding race.
One of the key findings: to change a person's attitude, first change his behavior.

It sounds a bit counter-intuitive.

In the mid-1960s, when asked if they would patronize a store with black clerks, white Southerners overwhelmingly responded, "NO!" When integration was pretty much mandated by the feds, and stores featured black clerks, there were no massive white boycotts... and subsequent surveys revealed that these same white Southerners were perfectly comfortable patronizing stores with black clerks.
Behavior led attitude.

Similarly in MA. The hand-wringing, red-hot debate on gay marriage has subsided. It's a fait accompli. Most folks don't give it a second thought.
Again, a government mandate compelled a change in behavior... and attitude followed.

I'm betting all the horrible effects on "unit cohesion & effectiveness" postulated by the DADT folks would simply vanish if the policy were repealed today.

Quotation adopted as a motto by Nixon's general counsel, Chuck Colson:
"Get 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow."
From a social psych perspective, there's a lot of truth there!

Digression (this is the "more on this later" referenced above):
Social psychologists regard "attitude" as tripartite: cognitive, affective, behavioral.
This tripartite division has a long and venerable pedigree - at least back to Aristotle, who in his Rhetoric suggested three (3) avenues of persuasion: logos (roughly: logic), ethos (roughly: character), pathos (roughly: emotion). Freud's theory of personality distinguished between the ego, id, and super-ego. As PM pointed out to me, the Christian Trinity reflects this same tripartite view of the world.
Whenever you see just about anything divided into three parts - at least in the West - you can pretty much bet that tripartite division derives from Aristotle. The social psych gurus of the mid/late 1900s were just following this venerable tradition.

a further digression: how do you get intelligent, moral individuals to craft rational defenses of torture? well... you start torturing folks! - the behavior leads the intellect!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Just for fun

Stolen from Woody.
Note: one of my stat buds comments that, "They need to add a few more '9's."

Things I don't understand

Prof wanted in killings found dead in Ga. woods
By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
9 May 2009
ATHENS, Ga. – Cadaver dogs found the body of a wanted professor "beneath the earth" in the north Georgia woods Saturday, two weeks after police say he shot his wife and two other people to death outside a community theater, then vanished.
[emphasis added]

Okay - your life isn't going according to plan.
You've lost your job, your kids are drug addicts, your wife is cheating on you.
You're a failure.

Why murder-suicide?
Why not simply suicide?
Yeah - you screwed up... fine: kill yourself.
Why kill your kids? Your wife? Your friends? By-standers???

If you want to kill the kids, the wife, friends, by-standers - okay...
... BUT: if that's your plan, DON'T kill yourself afterwards!!!
Face the music.

If you just want out of the hopeless situation - go ahead, kill yourself...
... BUT: don't take the wife & kids with you - they still have lives to live.

Again, this is under the rubric, "Things I don't understand."

"Revisionist history"

I've more than a mild interest in history - when I read a book (infrequently), it's a good bet it's a history book: the Crusades, the American Civil War, the American Revolutionary War, medieval history in general, Biblical history, New Testament history.

I'm okay with "revisionist" history in the main: taking a different look at events, seeking alternative interpretations.

BUT - I expect the 'revisionist' historian to stick to the documented facts - not make up his/her own.

When, for example, Rep. Bachmann claims that the 1976 swine flu threat occurred under Carter (1976 = Ford), I have problems.
When BillO claims it was Americans who slaughtered SS prisoners of war at Malmedy during WWII, I have problems.

Interpret the past as you choose - BUT: interpret the PAST... NOT a fictional, inaccurate, lying version of the past!

A few quotations serve us well:
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
[George Santayana]
... coupled with:
"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble.
It's the things we know that just ain't so."

[Artemus Ward]
History really IS important - the folks concerned are motivated by things we all recognize in ourselves: greed, lust, ambition, honor. The crises they faced aren't all that different from those confronting us today. Their responses, and the effects of those responses, provide "teaching moments".

BUT - it's important to get the facts right! - otherwise, you're just telling fairy tales... or - to put it more bluntly - LYING!!!

Bloggers' night out!

PM Prescott (Captain's Log), Woody (The Well-Armed Lamb - among others), and I got together at local pub - O'Neill's - this evening. PM & I had met previously, but this was our introduction to Woody, in person. An enjoyable evening.

... in fact, enjoyable enough that we sort of planned to make it a regular event... to the extent that any of us has the foresight, planning ability, and energy to actually organize it! (... which doesn't take that much: an email or two suggesting that maybe it's time to get together again!)

In the spirit of, "the more, the merrier" - if anyone would like to be included on the distribution list for the next gathering, let one of us know!

(For what it's worth: tho' each of us reflects a "liberal", "progressive" viewpoint in his blog, there was considerable diversity of opinion... AND - we didn't even spend most of the time talking politics!)

This is fun!

Email from old Army buddy:
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.

The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the first and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Friday, May 8, 2009

DADT

I've been silent on gay issues. This is not because I've not thought about 'em, or because I don't care... it's just that gay issues aren't foremost in my mind most of the time.

Full disclosure: I'm an amateur singer/actor. Surprise, surprise: the theater is infested with gays! I long ago accepted this... and reached the conclusion that it doesn't matter. I'd bet that some of my fellow performers have guessed that I'm gay - till I hosted a party & they met my wife!

Back when I was gainfully employed, I worked with many openly gay co-workers. Know what? - They were neither more nor less competent than my straight co-workers! My bet is that I worked with not-so-openly gay folks, too - somehow, sexual orientation just never arose as a relevant issue!

When, however, the military's DADT policy in fact IMPEDES military readiness, then something is clearly wrong. The most recent example is U.S. Army Lt. Dan Choi, who 'came out' on Rachel Maddow's show a few weeks ago... and recently received a letter stating that his confession amounted to 'homosexual conduct' which will result in his release from the military under less-than-honorable circumstances. Lt. Choi is an Army Nat'l Guard member, a graduate of West Point, an Arabic linguist, and a veteran of the Iraq conflict. What is it that makes him unfit to serve? He's gay. That's it.

This is ludicrous.

p.s. I note in passing that the GOP - the party that claims to represent limited government and individual liberties - has a really hard time dealing with gays. They're all for limited government, but they want the government to police the bedroom. They're all for individual liberties... well, except when it comes to the sexual behavior of consenting adults.

It's a miracle!

White House aide resigns over NYC flyover
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
8 May 2009
WASHINGTON – A top White House aide resigned Friday for his role in Air Force One's $328,835 photo-op flyover above New York City that sparked panic and flashbacks to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Louis Caldera said the controversy had made it impossible for him to effectively lead the White House Military Office.

Who knows - maybe "taking responsibility" and accountability WILL be a hallmark of the Obama administration!