October 31, 2007


Paul Waldman hits Tim Russert where I'd like to. Waldman cites an episode during a Democratic candidates' debate at which Russert asks Obama "what's your favorite Bible verse?" I thought at the time it was a silly question, not worth a candidate's time answering. Waldman agrees and extrapolates:

When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?"

Indeed it is, because the process is controlled by Tim Russert and people like him. Russert's Bible question encapsulates everything wrong with him, and with our political coverage more generally. It seeks to make candidates look bad rather than finding out something important about them (if you want to explore a candidate's religious beliefs, you don't do it in pop-quiz form and give them just ten seconds to answer). It substitutes the personal anecdote for the policy position, the sound-bite for the substantive answer. It distills the debate into a series of allegedly symbolic, supposedly meaningful moments that can be replayed.

This type of debate question is not about what the candidate believes and would actually do in office, but about how clever the moderator is for cornering the candidate. And above all, it takes a genuinely relevant matter (a candidate's view of the universe) and crams it through a channel by which the thoughtful candidate will be pilloried and the shallow, pandering, overly rehearsed candidate will garner praise.

I have a fantasy that at one of these moments, a candidate will say, "You know what, Tim, I'm not going to answer that question. This is serious business. And you, sir, are a disgrace. You have in front of you a group of accomplished, talented leaders, one of whom will in all likelihood be the next president of the United States. You can ask them whatever you want. And you choose to engage in this ridiculous gotcha game, thinking up inane questions you hope will trick us into saying something controversial or stupid. Your fondest hope is that the answer to your question will destroy someone's campaign. You're not a journalist, you're the worst kind of hack, someone whose efforts not only don't contribute to a better informed electorate, they make everyone dumber. So no, I'm not going to stand here and try to come up with the most politically safe Bible verse to cite. Is that the best you can do?"

But we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for a candidate to say that, particularly not to Russert, who stands atop the insider media establishment.

No, we shouldn't. It's a pity, too, because by cooperating with this stupidity we further enhance Russert's image as the toughest interviewer of them all, able to ask ridiculous questions and demand answers!

Waldman goes on to describe Russert's schtick far better than I can. It's a fun read.

(Via Atrios)

Update: Kevin Drum has more on Russert. Lots of great minds thinking alike today.

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October 30, 2007

Pays to carry your camera around

What point is this bumper sticker trying to make?

Seen in a Safeway parking lot today.

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Paging Dr. Freud

Overnight I dreamt that I was driving down a road which looked suspiciously like Kamehameha Highway (the main drag at the bottom of my hill) heading toward the freeway. The directional signs for the freeway had names of various Mid-Atlantic states, though, rather than the Hawai'i ones one normally sees on that road. In fact, it looked as though I was about to enter the Capital Beltway around Washington.

Okay, maybe I was dreaming of a road trip. But while I drove I was holding what looked like my electric toothbrush, speaking into it as though it were a tape recorder, recording what sounded like my memoirs.

Analysis, please.

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In my limited exposure to Bruce Springsteen, I think Backstreets is the best song he ever wrote.


(In my defense I'll say that the only album I have of his is Hammerstein Odeon London '75)

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October 29, 2007

One more for Colorado

How could one forget Rocky Mountain High?

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More Colorado

This Ian Tyson song mentions Colorado in its first verse. I saw Judy Collins perform at the University of Arizona back in 1968; I don't remember whether she sang this song then or not, but I've always loved it. I've always thought she and Joan Baez had the purest voices of any of the Sixties-Seventies folk musicians. This version has Stephen Stills accompanying her; Graham Nash is the MC.

There's a young man that I know whose age is twenty-one
Comes from down in southern Colorado
Just out of the service, he's lookin' for his fun
Someday soon, goin' with him someday soon

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Colorado still has Cripple Creek

I found a bargain copy of The Band's Greatest Hits a while back. This song is off the eponymous brown album.

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East Coast-centrism

The worst thing about the Red Sox victory in the World Series from my perspective is that it will reinforce ESPN's view that there are only two teams in baseball worth covering.

My only question is how soon will the "Sox win!" story be overtaken by the "Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes!" story?

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October 28, 2007

Whatever happened to competition?

2006 St. Louis 4, Detroit 1
2005 Chi. White Sox 4, Houston 0
2004 Boston 4, St. Louis 0
2003 Florida 4, NY Yankees 2
2002 Anaheim 4, San Francisco 3
2001 Arizona 4, NY Yankees 3
2000 NY Yankees 4, NY Mets 1

Those are the results of the World Series so far in the 21st century. Three were competitive (2001, 2002, 2003), four were not. It looks like 2007 is going to fall into the latter category too.


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October 27, 2007

Temperature's risin'

In an interview with Ezra Klein at The American Prospect, Paul Krugman adds dressing to the discussion I pulled from Phillips's book below:

Well I think the outrage is starting to happen now. It takes a while, and part of it is just people … I have the sense that a lot people don't understand how rich the rich are. For the middle-class, it's a lot of the frog in the slowly warming pot syndrome. That year to year the fact that you're falling behind, that you're not getting anywhere despite a growing economy, is not that obvious, and you can chalk it up to your individual experience. But you look back at 35 years of technological progress, rising productivity, and at best arguable gains for the median family, then you can really see it. And the forces at the top are so large that, in a way, they're unimaginable, it's hard to get people focused on it. People at the Times, when I did an article on inequality for the magazine five years ago, and they had artwork illustrating mansions, which I talked about in the article, but what they showed were not. Those were big new McMansions, $3 million dollar, 6,000 square foot homes. But they weren't what the truly rich were building. So people don't have a sense of how far it's gone.

Anybody else feel like the water's getting warmer around them?

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October 26, 2007

Pledge drive programming

Last night at 10:00pm I was watching the late news in the kitchen while Mom was in the family room watching -- something else. While I was half-heartedly paying attention to my local station's blow-dried newscaster I suddenly heard a very familiar singing voice in the other room.

"Dylan? On TV?" I said to myself.

Yup. It was part one of a two-part show on PBS with clips from the old "Johnny Cash Show," which only ran for two years from 1969 to 1971. The program is called "Johnny Cash: A Man and His Vision," and the second part runs tonight (in Hawai'i; check your local listings).

One of the highlights: a younger Eric Clapton at center stage with his Fender Stratocaster, flanked on his left by Cash and on his right by Carl Perkins, singing and playing an old blues number.

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October 25, 2007

Magic marker erased

In American Theocracy Phillips spends a lot of time discussing the denial of scientific fact the Republican party has been practicing. Yesterday the news broke that the White House had redacted the Congressional testimony of the Center for Disease Control's Director from fourteen pages down to six. Science Progress has managed to get a copy of the original testimony and has published it here.

Among the items the White House didn't like are these:

In the United States, climate change is likely to have a significant impact on health, through links with the following outcomes:
  • Direct effects of heat,
  • Health effects related to extreme weather events,
  • Air pollution-related health effects,
  • Allergic diseases,
  • Water- and food-borne infectious diseases,
  • Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases,
  • Food and water scarcity, at least for some populations,
  • Mental health problems, and
  • Long-term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects

In the redacted testimony SP provides, each of those subjects has a paragraph devoted to it which outlines in further detail what CDC projects. Some of it's intuitive, all of it's important, and most of it is being not just ignored by the current federal government but actively obstructed.

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American Theocracy

As if "Takeover" wasn't discouraging enough, I've been reading Kevin Phillips's book American Theocracy.

He's organized it into three parts.

Part one is about oil and the battle for control over this diminishing resource. Most politically aware people recognize this issue.

Part two is about the willing absorption of the religious right by the Republican party. Apart from some historical perspective, most people are equally aware of this issue.

Part three is the part that gets little attention in the public eye, because it becomes mind-numbing so quickly. It's about economics, debt, and the collapse of empires when they move from making and exporting goods to shuffling financial assets around. Many people who live in parts of the country where manufacturing was once the source of good jobs and is no longer are aware of this. Many of the rest of us, however, are apparently not. It's for the rest of us that this section is written, and it's scary. He indicts both parties, but particularly the Republicans, and particularly those Republicans who've been in charge for the past six-plus years. During that time America's national debt has ballooned, the financial industry (FIRE, he calls it; an acronym for finance, insurance and real estate) has become the largest sector of our Gross Domestic Product, and consumer debt has put the average citizen in thrall to lenders to a greater extent than ever in American history. Meanwhile, our government has lied about our fiscal situation, reduced tax rates for the people who can most afford to pay, and has fought battles to reduce taxes on financial asset income (dividends and capital gains) while watching as its citizens unlucky enough not to have those items have begun to carry larger and larger debt through credit card and home-equity loans. Then, when some of those citizens have found themselves unable to keep up with their payments, our government has changed bankruptcy laws to protect the income its friends in the financial sector feel they should earn.

It's not a pretty picture, and as Phillips lays it out, it's going to take a long time to recover, if we can. He doesn't think we'll be able to, and he cites as examples Spain in the 17th century, the Dutch in the 18th, and the British in the 20th.

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October 24, 2007

Election tactics that backfire

Would someone please explain to me why opposition parties boycott elections? I understand the urge to register a protest, but by withholding your vote, don't you just ensure that the candidate you don't like wins even more handily than he would have otherwise?

Pakistan is just the most recent example of this. Guess what? Musharraf won.

I don't get it.

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October 23, 2007

Natural events beget fine prose

In the midst of the California fires Jeralyn Merritt is reminded of this wonderful piece of prose from Joan Didion in Slouching Towards Bethlehem:

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night.

I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

I recall being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why. The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf. The heat was surreal. The sky had a yellow cast, the kind of light sometimes called "earthquake weather." My only neighbor would not come out of her house for days, and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete. One day he would tell me that he had heard a trespasser, the next a rattlesnake.

"On nights like that," Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, "every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen." That was the kind of wind it was. I did not know then that there was any basis for the effect it had on all of us, but it turns out to be another of those cases in which science bears out folk wisdom.

I lived in Westwood in 1961 when I was eleven. I remember standing on the concrete pad of Sts. Peter and Paul school, seeing the Bel Air fire off in the distance, wondering.

Read the rest at TalkLeft.

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October 22, 2007

Charlie Savage's "Takeover"

We are so screwed.

That's the message I take away from Takeover. Roberts and Alito as proponents of the Unitary Executive Theory? Pfui. Stacking the Justice Department with conservative lawyers in career positions? Bah. Signing statements which declare parts of laws unconstitutional? No biggie.

No, the reason the country is in deep trouble is simply this: smart legal maneuvering over the past seven years has created precedents which allow the President to do things without judicial review. This was written into law when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act.

For example, one of the things Congress did in the Military Commissions Act was help undermine the Geneva Conventions as a check on the power of the commander in chief.


Crucially, Congress delegated to the president alone the power to decide whether any particular coercive interrogation technique was prohibited by the list, and it stripped the courts of the power to hear lawsuits based on the Geneva Conventions, meaning the president's word was final. (Emphasis mine)

Savage cites Martin Lederman, writing about John Yoo's celebratory Op-Ed in the WSJ upon passage of the law:

they want the President to be able to act in accord with very radical and questionable legal interpretations, without any risk that anyone will ever call them on it. If this Administration had not chosen to take such a cavalier and dismissive attitude toward the substantive legal norms (of statute, treaty and laws of armed conflict) that govern the conduct of war, it would have nothing to fear from judicial review. The only reason they are desperate to shut the courts out is that their conduct is of such dubious legality.(Lederman's emphasis)

As Savage says later in the chapter,

the fact that Congress put the statute on the books left the executive branch in a very strong legal position. The Supreme Court has long held that the president's authority is at its maximum when he is acting with explicit congressional support. After all, under the Constitution Congress has the power to pass laws making all the rules and regulations for how the executive branch carries out its responsibility of protecting national security. Congress also has the power to change the government's understanding of treaties. And Congress can limit the jurisdiction of courts. It would not be easy to persuade the Roberts Court that Congress had gone too far in empowering the president.

Another example of the executive branch's successful legal maneuvering is the use of the State Secrets Privilege, which nations use to protect information they declare to be vital to national security. The president's men have been quite zealous in using this, notably in the case of Sibel Edmonds, a contract worker for the FBI. She filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the Department of Justice, alleging that she was improperly fired by the agency in retaliation for embarrassing it. (Details of her case here.)

Attorney General Ashcroft claimed that fighting her suit couldn't take place without discussing her work, and that might endanger national security. He then retroactively classified information related to the case, information which had previously been available to Congress. The judge then threw out the suit, since no facts could be presented. Savage:

This use of the State Secrets Privilege essentially established the president himself as the sole arbiter of which matters could receive judicial review. Yet nothing in the Constitution itself gives the executive branch the right to dispose of lawsuits by uttering the magic words "state secrets."

So, Bush's legal team has managed to establish precedents for presidential power far beyond what was written into the Constitution, and it's now appointed two new justices to the Supreme Court who are firm believers in strong executive power.

We are so screwed.

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October 21, 2007

C'mon, Mom!

There's a problem here: Mom's rooting for the Red Sox, and I'm rooting for the Indians.

These inter-generational differences are so annoying.

Update: Well, hell. I wonder what might have happened had Lofton been allowed to score and tie the game in the seventh inning, rather than being held at third and wasted as the next guy up hit into a double play?

Oh well. It feels unnatural to root for any American League team anyway. Go Rockies!

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October 20, 2007

Wandering the mystery shelves

Want a good dark mystery novel? Try When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, by Lawrence Block. This is the sixth book of sixteen that Block has written featuring Matthew Scudder, an ex-NYPD cop, and it seems to be one of the most highly acclaimed by Scudder fans. There's a full list at the author's website. Scudder is now an on-the-wagon alcoholic, but in this book he's looking back to events ten years earlier, when he was still virtually living in bars. Its characters are vivid, Scudder is interesting, and the ending will surprise you.

Block is highly prolific; he's written a bunch of light-hearted caper books featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr, a bookstore owner and burglar who can't give up his night job. Bernie's about as far removed from Scudder as you can get as a protagonist; the only shared feature I recognize is their wry attitude.

I've read several of Bernie's adventures, but only one of the Scudder books; I'm going to look for more of both. Caveat: Bernie you can read out of order; Scudder should probably be read from the beginning. I found that "Ginmill" worked as a starting point because it's a prequel of sorts to the rest of the series, but I plan to read The Sins of the Fathers next; it introduces Scudder.

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October 19, 2007

I thought as much

The doc's office called Thursday afternoon to tell me they'd biopsied my polyps and all five were benign. That's good to know.

I wasn't worrying overly much about this, for reasons I don't understand. Teenagers think they're invincible; men in their 50s usually don't.

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October 18, 2007

Unplanned obsolescence?

In our miracle drawer I have a plastic bag filled with various electrical adapters which are meant to expand a single wall outlet into multiple outlets. There must be at least eight of these things.

None, however, allows me to place a grounded plug (the kind with the round third prong) into it. Even the spare surge protectors I have also require an outlet capable of accepting a grounded plug.


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Thanks for the ad copy, Republicans

From TPM's Election Central:

The House just voted on the SCHIP bill moments ago, and failed to override President Bush's veto.

The vote was 273-156, falling short of the two-thirds vote needed to overturn Bush's veto.

Incredibly, despite polls showing strong majority support for a veto override, and an aggressive ad campaign targeting Republicans on SCHIP, the GOP was remarkably successful in holding the line and sustaining Bush's veto. Only forty-four Republicans voted for the bill -- almost exactly the same as last time, save for GOP Rep. Pete King, a bill supporter who was absent this time. One-hundred and fifty-four GOPers voted against it.

More here.

Every 2008 Democratic candidate in the country is licking his or her lips at the prospect of running advertisements against the opponent touting the Republican party's abandonment of poor children. The smarter ads might even tie the war in; after all, there are poor kids in Iraq as well.

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October 17, 2007

Spell check

Last night's World News Tonight had a segment celebrating National Dictionary Day (it was yesterday; betcha didn't know, didja?). Robert Krulwich hosted an animated piece which showed a couple disagreeing about the proper spelling of the term for that membrane stretched across your larynx. Is it vocal "cord" or "chord?" According to the dictionary editor he spoke with, people split 51-49 percent as to the correct spelling, so either is acceptable. He did the same thing with free "rein" or "reign" and got the same result: an even split, so either is okay, sayeth the editor.

Oh, great. So because I keep seeing "publically" rather than "publicly" eventually either is going to be acceptable?

No, no, a thousand times no!

It's "publicly." I don't know how that extra "al" got in there, but it's wrong, wrong, wrong!

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I'm a Republican and I approve these methods

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

President Bush's drive to expand executive power over surveillance, detention, interrogation and the meaning of new laws has drawn largely ineffectual protests from Congress. But a group of liberals and a handful of prominent conservatives are pressing would-be successors to renounce those powers before they take office.

Both the liberal American Freedom Campaign and the conservative American Freedom Agenda have adopted platforms complaining of administration muscle-flexing on issues ranging from the treatment of prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Justice Department's threats to prosecute reporters for espionage.

The liberal group also has asked all presidential candidates to sign a pledge of limited executive authority, reading, "We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people's phones and e-mails without court order, and above all we do not give any president unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from attack by any president."

How's that pledge request going?

None of the nine Republican candidates has responded. The pledge has been signed by five Democratic hopefuls: Sens. Barack Obama and Chris Dodd, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Sen. Mike Gravel.

The other three Democratic candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Biden and former Sen. John Edwards, have not signed, but issued promises covering roughly the same ground. Letters from all three included renunciations of torture, wiretapping of U.S. citizens without court approval and imprisonment without judicial review.

Color me shocked, shocked! that none of the Republican candidates have agreed to such a pledge. Dishonor among thieves, I calls it.

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October 16, 2007

Amazin' (OK, the Mets used it first, but...)

If you aren't enthralled by the Colorado Rockies and their run to the World Series, I don't think you can call yourself a baseball fan. Here's a first-hand account of last night's experience as the team won and swept the National League Championship Series.

I like his description of the walk up to the stadium; when I was in college in Tucson, I lived six blocks north of Arizona Stadium, and we'd walk there for Saturday night football games. That experience was similar: we'd walk out of the fraternity house in a group of five or six, and within three blocks there would be one or two hundred people all headed in the same direction. Within five blocks, there would be hundreds or even thousands of people converging on that old concrete building (it had dorms under the stands back in the Sixties and early Seventies; here's a description of life in those halls), all of us hoping the Wildcats would beat their Western Athletic Conference foe (UA and ASU didn't move to the Pac-10 until 1978). Other than 1968, they mostly didn't.

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October 15, 2007

Current reading

I'm reading Takeover, Charlie Savage's book about Bush, Cheney, the Unitary Executive Theory, and how it's played out over the past six years. I can only read about 40 pages at a time before I get so angry I start spitting nails.

I'll write a full review when I'm done.

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October 14, 2007

Triplicate entries

While waiting for the baseball game to start I was looking through my iTunes library to see if I had any songs which would fit Fred Clarke's criteria (one song: "Here, There and Everywhere," by The Beatles) and I noticed I have three versions of George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me", the song with the memorable lines "the way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea, the memory of all that, no no, they can't take that away from me."

The shortest is by Sinatra, coming in at 1:58. It's got a swing arrangement and is very upbeat. The next shortest (the original) is by Fred Astaire at 2:38. It was first performed in the film "Shall We Dance," from 1937. The longest by far is performed by Michael Feinstein. It weighs in at a whopping 5:32, and is darned near elegiac, it's so slow. It's filled with lush strings.

Sinatra's and Astaire's versions are sung from one lover to the other while she's present; Feinstein's sounds as though she's long gone and he's wallowing.

Feinstein with the San Francisco Ballet
Sinatra duet with Natalie Cole

Got any triplicates in your library?

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October 13, 2007

Sisters and brothers

My sister played taxi yesterday, dropping me off and picking me up at the hospital where the procedure took place. On the way home I was bemoaning the doctor's edict of "soft" diet, wondering just what I was supposed to avoid.

Today she showed up with an entire lemon meringue pie.

That ought to do it.

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A review

Through Library Thing I got an Advanced Reader's Copy of Red Zone Blues, by Pepe Escobar. Here's my review:

Toward the end of Red Zone Blues, a bleak catalog of the depradations Iraqis are suffering in Baghdad and elsewhere, author Pepe Escobar issues this statement decrying Vice President Cheney's Iran-targeting:

Iran of course can be very persuasive, holding some tasty cards up its sleeve -- such as hard-earned intelligence directly implicating the Saudis in training the Suni Arab muqawama (resistance) in Iraq on explosive form penetrators (EFPs), which the Pentagon foolishly insists come from Iran. Everyone in Iraq knows it is operatives from "axis of fear" allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- and also Pakistan -- who have provided the Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq with technology and training on improvised explosive devices and EFPs. (p. 79)

His point is that it's not in the current US Administration's interest to have facts (if facts they are) such as those become public, lest the public disapprove of the Iraq War expanding to include Iran.

The book is a series of short essays, each depicting small parts of Iraqi society, whether it be neighborhoods (Sadr City) or people (the kids who grew up under UN sanctions). If you're a diligent newsreader, you'll either have known or inferred much of this material. If you're not, it may horrify you as the author clearly intends.

Escobar spent several months on the ground in Iraq reporting for Asia Times, presumably not protected by US military convoys as so many Congressional delegations and parachuting magazine journalists are. He paints a picture of life in Iraq so surreal that Dali or Bosch would be right at home. If even half of his descriptions are accurate, the country is in post-Apocalypse Mad Max territory.

It's an unpleasant read, and if you're an armchair warblogger you'll almost certainly start frothing at the mouth and looking for flaws to pick at in order to debunk it. If you're an honest news consumer, you'll have to think about what he describes and try to determine whether the invasion of Iraq was worth the cost.

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October 12, 2007

Bloodied and sleepy

The prelude to colonoscopies is far worse than the procedure itself. That "clean out the system" glop works far too well, from my point of view.

The procedure discovered five as-yet-unbiopsied polyps, two large, three small, all removed. The worst of it is that because they clamped off a couple of the bleeding stumps, I have to remain on a liquid diet for the balance of today and a soft diet for the next two days. Man. I was and am dying for a Big Mac!

Because I had to get up four hours earlier than the 9:30am procedure to take the second half of the glop, the sedative knocked me right out. I woke up in recovery at 12:10pm.

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October 11, 2007

Stop it, just stop it

It's always humbling to realize that the laws of human nature aren't exclusively for other people. In this case I'm running afoul of the law that says whatever you can't have you immediately want. For reasons outlined below I'm on a liquid diet today.

I never eat breakfast. Lunch is usually a sandwich, often just PB&J or its equivalent. I'm not in the habit of snacking during the day, or at least not often.

So of course already today I'm desperate for cookies, chips or something.

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October 10, 2007

Even for them, this is over the top

You may not know that for the past two weeks the family of the 12-year-old boy who gave the Democratic response to Bush's radio address on September 29 justifying his veto of the SCHIP program has been subject to virulent attack from the Republican party and its far-right allies.

In recent days, Graeme and his family have been attacked by conservative bloggers and other critics of the Democrats’ plan to expand the insurance program, known as S-chip. They scrutinized the family’s income and assets — even alleged the counters in their kitchen to be granite — and declared that the Frosts did not seem needy enough for government benefits.


The critics accused Graeme’s father, Halsey, a self-employed woodworker, of choosing not to provide insurance for his family of six, even though he owned his own business. They pointed out that Graeme attends an expensive private school. And they asserted that the family’s home had undergone extensive remodeling, and that its market value could exceed $400,000.

One critic, in an e-mail message to Graeme’s mother, Bonnie, warned: “Lie down with dogs, and expect to get fleas.” As it turns out, the Frosts say, Graeme attends the private school on scholarship. The business that the critics said Mr. Frost owned was dissolved in 1999. The family’s home, in the modest Butchers Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, was bought for $55,000 in 1990 and is now worth about $260,000, according to public records. And, for the record, the Frosts say, their kitchen counters are concrete.

Ezra Klein has a question for the attackers which echoes Joseph Welch's query for Senator Joe McCarthy: "Have you no decency, sir?"
They say they've spent the past week smearing a child and his family because that child was fair game -- he and his family spoke of their experience receiving health care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For this, right wingers travel to their home, insinuate that the family is engaged in large-scale fraud, make threatening phone calls to the family, interrogate the neighbors as to the family's character and financial state.

Well, in words of one syllable, no, they have no decency. They are past masters of the politics of personal destruction; they don't dare argue the merits of a policy because they know public opinion is against them, so they attempt to destroy the credibility of the person or people advocating the policy.

Michelle Malkin and her compatriots are not just misguided people who have differing opinions about policy; they are fascists. Their tactics are reminiscent of those found in any authoritarian movement; destroy the Other, where Other represents anyone who doesn't agree with the leader's view.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 09, 2007

I'd take Econ from this man

I would have liked to have had Brad DeLong as a professor when I went to college:

My office hours are Tuesday 1-3 in Evans 601. When people come to my office hours, they are enjoyable and fun.

When people don't come to my office hours, an unhealthy dynamic starts: First, I start accomplishing other tasks during them. Second, I start mentally slotting other tasks as things I can do during my (empty) office hours. Third, I start resenting students who come to my office hours and getting grouchy.

Nip this vicious spiral in the bud!

I was rarely lucky enough to have a prof who issued such a gracious invitation.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 08, 2007

Random baseball observances

I really wish the TV people hadn't persuaded MLB that it was a fun idea to do mid-game interviews with managers or coaches from the dugouts.

Has anyone else noticed that the only series in which "God Bless America" is performed during the seventh-inning stretch is this Cleveland-Yankees one, and then only at Yankee Stadium? I'm tired of this six-year-old "tradition".

I really hate the faux-bugle calls at Yankee Stadium. I have since 1977.

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October 07, 2007


Not to say the NYT's Caucus blog is snarky, but check out this line. Talking about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Brian Knowlton says:

Chris Wallace seemed particularly intrigued by Mrs. Pelosi’s revelation that she prays for President Bush.

Well, then, what did she ask for when she prayed for Mr. Bush? Mr. Wallace seemed to imply that he expected her to pray for a presidential fall off his mountain bike.

That's nearly worthy of Atrios.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Business ethics

Here's a sleazy business practice: a long time ago I registered for a free account at Classmates.com, just to see if any of my high school classmates were online (a few, but we've never connected). Since then I've gotten regular e-mails from the company but nothing of interest.

Today I got a notice from Classmates that "1 person signed your guestbook yesterday! Can you guess who they are? Find out who's thinking of you," with a clickable link.

I clicked the link, only to be told that I have to upgrade my account from free to paid ($39 for a one-year subscription) in order to find out who it was.

Well, no thanks. I recognize that Classmates needs money to survive as a business, but this is a classic "bait and switch" tactic. It annoys me.

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Possible sweeps, part 2

The Red Sox lead the Angels 2-0 and can move on to the next round with a win today.

The Indians lead the Yankees 2-0 and can move on to the next round with a win today.

My residual Yankees-hatred has kicked in, so I'm rooting for the Tribe today. And I went to an Angels game during their inaugural season in LA, so I have to root for them to postpone elimination.

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October 06, 2007

Possible sweeps, part one

The Diamondbacks lead the Cubs 2-0 and can move on to the next round with a win today.

The Rockies lead the Phillies 2-0 and can move on to the next round with a win today.

Who'd have thought that was a likely scenario just two weeks ago, when the Mets were still in a position to win the NL East and the Phillies led the Padres and Rockies in the NL Wild Card race?

Update: Wow. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks each won.

Now if Cleveland can beat the evil empire tomorrow for a sweep and the Angels can come back on the Red Sox, I'll be a happy camper.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2007


Bleah. Get older, have medical things done to you. I've been stalling on having a colonoscopy ever since I turned 50, but no longer.

Next Thursday I get to have an all-liquid diet for 24 hours and drink that awful Phospho-soda junk to clean my innards out; then Friday morning I get scoped. The virtual colonoscopy sounds good until you realize that if they find anything in the process they have to go back in to do the old-fashioned kind anyway, so I'm having the low-tech version.


Posted by Linkmeister at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2007

Non-negotiable demands of Democrats

Glenn Greenwald makes the case that our political class won't do anything about the depradations cited in the previous post.

. . .we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to most of the revelations of lawbreaking and abuse, our political elite almost in unison has declared that such behavior is understandable, if not justifiable. And our elected representatives have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done and, when forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior -- not investigated, outlawed or punished it.

A ruling by the Supreme Court in Hamdan that the President's interrogation and detention policies violated the law led Congress to enact the Military Commissions Act to legalize those policies. Revelations that the President and telecom companies were breaking our surveillance laws led to the legalization of much of that program and will soon lead to amnesty for the lawbreakers. With regard to all of the most severe acts of illegality, no criminal prosecutions have been commenced and no truly meaningful Congressional investigations have been pursued.

He thinks there's still time for this to be fixed, but he's not too sure anything will be.

This could still all be reversed. The NYT article today reveals new facts about the administration's lawbreaking, lying, and pursuit of torture policies which we had decided, with futility, to outlaw. The Congress could aggressively investigate. Criminal prosecutions could be commenced. Our opinion-making elite could sound the alarm. New laws could be passed, reversing the prior endorsements and imposing new restrictions, along with the will to enforce those laws. We still have the ability to vindicate the rule of law and enforce our basic constitutional framework.

But does anyone actually believe any of that will be the result of these new revelations? We always possess the choice -- still -- to take a stand for the rule of law and our basic national values, but with every new day that we choose not to, those Bush policies become increasingly normalized, increasingly the symbol not only of "Bushism" but of America.

I refuse to be that discouraged. I do think that every Democratic candidate in 2008, whether for President, Senate or House should be told that he or she will be expected to reverse this disaster when elected.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What kind of nation have we become?

From the NYT (linked by every blog in creation, I know, but in case you missed those other blogs):

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.


Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.

Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.

So lemme get this straight. The United States of America's own Justice Department publicly declares torture abhorrent and says the country's intelligence and military agencies shouldn't do it anymore, while privately writing memos saying it's just fine to do it, and by the way if you do it in more nasty ways than ever before, it's OK, because now you have our internal memos approving it.

Dear God. Impeach Bush. Impeach Cheney. Charge them as well as Addington, Gonzales, and Yoo with crimes against humanity. It's the only way we'll ever redeem our honor, both domestically and internationally.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2007

Pro-life, huh?

Three of Bush's four vetoes have had to do with healthcare. Two negated attempts to expand stem cell research, one refused to partially withdraw troops from Iraq, and the one today refused health care to children.

Culture of life, my backside.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bleeping idiocy

I watched every episode of The War on PBS and can't recommend it highly enough. I did have one gripe, and it had to do with the fear of the Federal Communications Commission evidenced in the narrator's announcement of the title of Episode Five. The title is "FUBAR," which is a long-recognized acronym for the phrase "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition." It goes hand in hand with another equally cynical acronym, "SNAFU," meaning "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up." On my PBS station, when the acronyms were explained the word was bleeped.

Think about that. Up to that point there had been countless photos of blood and gore and dead bodies onscreen, and the horrific pictures of Nazi and Japanese death camps hadn't even aired yet (that happened in the final episode). And yet, PBS was so concerned that it not subject its member stations to a possible FCC fine that it asked Burns to censor a common word in a phrase that nearly every American already knows. As David Gates put it when talking about this idiocy in his Newsweek review, "Did you need further evidence that today's decadent home front can't see past the end of its own nose? There you go."

Purchase it at PBS or Amazon.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2007

Who's gonna blink?

New poll results seem to show the Republicans who continue to block action to stop the Iraq War are increasingly on the wrong side of the issue, but will they recognize it?

There is broader public agreement on how Congress should approach war funding. About a quarter of adults want Congress to fund fully the administration's $190 billion request; seven in 10 want the proposed allocation reduced, with 46 percent wanting it cut sharply or entirely. About seven in 10 independents want Congress to cut back funds allocated for the war effort, as do nearly nine in 10 Democrats; 46 percent of Republicans agree.

You know, if I were a Republican Senator or Representative facing re-election in November of 2008 and I looked at those results, I think I'd be checking my hole card. I'd quickly decide that that hole card did not show George Bush's or Dick Cheney's face, and I'd start thinking about switching my vote. I'd start with the $190 billion the Administration wants to fund ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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October 01, 2007

Rockies Win! Rockies Win!

Goodness gracious. In a seesaw battle, the Colorado Rockies won their 14th game in their last 15, defeating the San Diego Padres 9-8 tonight in 13 innings.

The game ended in bizarre fashion. After the Padres went ahead 8-6 in the top of the 13th, they brought in all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman to close the game in the bottom of the inning. He couldn't do it. The first hitter doubled to right-center, the next doubled to left-center to score the first guy, and then Matt Holliday tripled off the wall in right to score the second guy. With the game now tied at 8, the next batter hit a fly ball to medium right field, and Holliday tagged up after the catch and tried to score. The ball came in to the catcher on the fly, and it looked like he blocked the plate as Holliday tried to slide headfirst around/under him. Replays showed the catcher never really had control of the ball, but the replays also seemed to show that Holliday never touched the plate. The catcher recovered the ball and tried to tag him, but the umpire made a delayed safe call and that was the game. If there was instant replay in baseball using the same rules the NFL does, the call could not have been overturned because the evidence that Holliday had or had not touched the plate was inconclusive.

That was one of the most exciting baseball games I've seen in quite a while; fortunately I had no real vested rooting interest in it or I'd have suffered several heart attacks as the game went back and forth.

The Rockies move on to play the Phillies on Wednesday.

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:40 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sandwich review, part 2

We had to go to the dentist today to resolve some outstanding pain issues, so we were out and about at lunch time. We stopped at Jack-in-the-Box on the way home and got a couple of Ciabatta Sirloin Bacon Cheeseburgers with grilled onions and American cheese. We each rated it 4 on a scale of 5 (5 being best).

We tried to wash it down with some canned Diet Pepsi my sister and her family left over here; that stuff was horrid. I'll take Coke any day of the week.

The tooth issue was taken care of by sanding down the lower tooth; apparently there was some grinding going on, leaving the surface rough. That caused pain when trying to drink or eat anything cold.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack