Monday, June 30, 2008

Wrong again Obama

By Libby

I just don't get it. I'm beginning to think that the Democratic party has entered into some kind of unholy pact to lose elections. What happened to that savvy candidate I voted for in the primary? I mean, I understand the need to push back against bad narratives in the internet age, but Obama's rapid response on Wes Clark's remark is so wrong. Michael Scherer reports:
Sure enough, just as I was about to publish this blog post, I got an email from Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."
I've already addressed this both at the Detroit News and at Newshoggers this morning. McCain's military service record shouldn't be an issue in this campaign but McCain himself has made it a central part of his "experience" argument and the media echoes it ad infinitum. You can't just ignore it when he's using it as his prime qualifier for office.

Clark was right. Getting shot down and spending five years as a POW is not the kind of experience that qualifies someone to make command decisions in military conficts. Nothing in McCain's military past qualifies as high level leadership experience and Obama allows him to paint it as so at his own peril.

I would go even further and say, in agreement with Jill, that McCain's POW status doesn't even qualify him as a "war hero." He was a victim of the war, he didn't save any lives while he was sitting in a cage in the jungle. That's not to say his contribution to that war wasn't worthwhile, or lacking in courage, just that it wasn't heroic in the customary sense. In fact, the claim diminishes the real heroism of the men who spent their years in the Nam in actual combat.

I don't expect it's politically expedient for Obama to go that far in challenging McCain's "war credentials" but in meekly accepting the false experience narrative he leaves himself looking afraid to fight back against McCain's implication that he lacks the guts to make tough decisions.

Update: I see Fogg and I are on the same wavelength here but as usual, Fogg says it better.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Bang the drum slowly

by Capt. Fogg

Barak Obama, we're told, rejects General Wesley Clark's opinion that John McCain's service in Viet Nam, an important qualification for people who think dropping bombs is good presidential training, doesn't necessarily make for a good Commander in Chief. I agree.

Obama, of course can't say what he means, lest every word be twisted and used against him in the court of sleazy hyperbolic rhetoric and patriotism, but why would McCain's particular military experience teach him any of the many, many things a President should be expert in? Yes, it's a real military experience, unlike Bush's, but it didn't teach him all about the military industrial complex, the inner workings of the Pentagon and the other entities a president has to be able to work with and control. He is no expert on strategy, or policy or logistics or anything in fact other than the piloting of now obsolete aircraft to drop bombs on civilians.

Even if we insist that military command experience is a great teacher, John McCain is no Eisenhower and John McCain doesn't seem to have gained any real understanding of the problems of military personnel or veterans, at least far enough to have firm, clear and expressed opinions about things like the Geneva Conventions and the treatment of prisoners. He has little enough to impress us with and so we will hear more about the background he has and not about the background he should have had.

We were told years ago, when the simple mindedness of George W. Bush became apparent, that he would pick good advisers and so it didn't matter that he had no knowledge of world affairs, economics, history and trivia such as Constitutional law. He would pick good advisers. It's redundant in the extreme to repeat the results of his advisers' bad advice. Are we poised to repeat the same mistake by electing McCain? Who would his advisers be, TV evangelists? Defense contractor lobbyists?

I confess that my bias is toward intellect; toward people who ideas are relatively straightforward, but not simplistic and emotionally based. I prefer people who are actively learning rather than "taking a stand." I far prefer someone who speaks as the intellectual equal to the best of us and not just like the boys at VFW hall. If any presidency has demonstrated that "regular guyness" is not only insufficient but dangerous, it's our current one. Let's not do it again.

An old saw has it that to a carpenter, every problem is fixed with a hammer. Can our problems best be solved with bombs according to McCain's military training? Will our problems be solved by using powerful family connections, abandoning past commitments and getting into bed with someone wealthy the Way John solved his? Perhaps so. George Bush also tried to solve our problems, and the problems he created, according to his military background: that is to say, with lies, cover-ups, shredded records, invented stories and massive secrecy using the aid of powerful and wealthy allies. That's pretty much what he did during his brief and disastrous business adventure as well. Let's not do it again.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Fun with autocorrect

By Libby

Not spending much time reading the fringewing sites myself, I had no idea that they routinely rewrite AP wire stories to reflect their own silly little slurs. For instance, they change the words Democratic party to Democrat party as a matter of course. I suppose it's harmless enough but I've always found it irritating.

Thus, I can't deny that I'm taking delight in this little item. It appears that one site also routinely changes the word gay to homosexual. Unfortunately for them, autocorrect doesn't take context into consideration and so we are treated to this headline.
“Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.”
The athlete in question is named Tyson Gay so you can imagine how the rest of the article reads, but click on the link to see the text in all its hilarity. I'm betting it was their most read article of the day before they corrected it.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Hooray for the city by the Bay

expatbrian

Today, San Francisco, the most gay friendly city in the world, celebrated the 38th annual Gay Pride Day with a traditional parade and festivities. Amen. The parade, which was led by the mayor and other top politicians, was the first since gay marriages were successfully legalized in California. Its about time.

And while there is no other place in the world like San Francisco, and it is the home of Gay Pride Day, it is certainly not the only place where this festive event is held. Although elsewhere, the event may not have been quite so festive.
Many other cities celebrated pride on Sunday as well, including Paris and New York, where Gov. David Paterson recently told state agencies to provide full marriage benefits to same-sex couples legally married elsewhere.

Some overseas events were decidedly different. In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and the Czech Republic city of Brno, protesters threw rocks and eggs at parade participants. And in India, hundreds chanted for gay rights just days before the Delhi High Court is expected to hear arguments on overturning the law against homosexual sex that dates to the British colonial era.

As is traditional, leading the parade was Dykes on Bikes. Is that the coolest name for a motorcycle club or what? But in addition to their normal leather and steel, some wore white and pink wedding dresses and veils, much to the delight of the crowd. That crowd was made up of people, gay and straight, from all over the US.
Some visitors expressed surprise at the sheer size and diversity of San Francisco's event. River Byrd, 48, and his partner, 41-year-old Mark Duncan, watched the parade before catching a plane back to Tennessee, where they live in a small, conservative town called Paris.

"It's so incredible to see this many gay people," Byrd said. "We're the buckle of the Bible Belt. If we held hands in public, we'd be beat up."
At the risk of sounding regionally racist, I'm not surprised to hear that remark considering the area. In any case, it was a great day for equality and justice. It's just a shame that it only occurs in small pockets within a country that was founded on those two principles.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Always blogging

By Libby

Busy day for me. I went grocery shopping and made it to the pool for the second day in a row on my new exercise regime. And I blogged quite a lot in the end. I have a couple of good McCain bashes at Detroit News where the archives seems to be working again and I have a bunch of new stuff at Newshoggers today.

It's all orginal today so go check it out.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Clueless McCain gaffes again

By Libby

Some big buzz coming from this off the cuff interview with the Orange County Register where McCain admits he doesn't have a clue about the price of gas. Just another way he's the McSame as Bush.
WICKSOL: When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?

MCCAIN: Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters.
That doesn't stop him from dithering on about his gas tax holiday that would certainly do more harm than good.
In reality, his gas tax holiday would be worth a mere 60 cents a day for Americans and would be a boon for oil companies and foreign oil-producing nations. It would drive up the deficit. Moreover, the proposal would rob $1.4 billion from “public transportation and severely restrict the industry’s ability to add and improve transit services for a growing number of Americans.”
As usual, John Cole delivers the prime snark on this story along with some pertinent links giving it context, including this one to Booman who unearths the real story in the interview.
MARTIN WISCKOL: Next one from a voter: What will make you different from George W. Bush?

JOHN McCAIN: My vision for America.

MARTIN WISCKOL: Name a couple specific things that will distinguish you.

JOHN McCAIN: Climate change. Spending. The torture of prisoners. There are numerous other issues that we’ve been in disagreement on in the past. Spending is one of the fundamental one. Torture of prisoners. Addressing climate change effectively. Just to name a few.
Booman is right. This is where the focus should be. "John McCain is going around glibbly accusing the President of the United States and the leader of his own party of torturing prisoners." The sad fact is the wise and serious pundits of the media elite will ignore this, excuse the gas gaffe and most probably be praising their favorite barbecue chef for his 'courageous candor.'

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Just shoot him

by Capt. Fogg

So Florida is finally going to kill Mark Schwab. It's 16 years since the 23 year old man was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of an 11-year old boy and I so think it's safe to use the cold blood metaphor. Of course the government of Florida won't be shedding his blood, they'll strap him to what looks like a cross, try to get a needle into a vein to make him unconscious with Sodium Pentothal. They'll then hope they guessed right enough about the dosage and that it lasts long enough that he won't feel the searing agony of the pancuronium bromide used to paralyze him flowing through every blood vessel in his body like Liquid Plumber, making it impossible to scream or even twitch. If that goes well, they will stop his heart with potassium chloride. It doesn't always go well.

We've read about Florida's electric chair that has set people on fire, blowing boiling eyeballs out of their sockets while shaking the victim like a rag doll and causing witnesses to vomit in disgust, but for the most part, people don't care because they don't have to watch. We've read about the botched "three chemical" process that has taken over half an hour of indescribable agony to finally kill the strapped down and paralyzed prisoner, but again, not all of us are capable of caring.

It doesn't help that Schwab is as loathsome a man as any; the rape and murder of Junny Rios-Martinez occurred about a year after he got out of jail for raping another boy. The fact that the same government that let him out of jail however is the same government that is going to kill him, doesn't reflect well on the capability of Florida to deal with violent criminals.

But this is not about my horror of trusting demonstrably inept State governments with the legal ability to kill people. It's not about the corrupt and incompetent judicial processes, the correlation between race and the severity of punishment. It's not about my moral and ethical objections to executing criminals: it's about human pigheadedness, the propensity to stick with a decision long after the abject stupidity thereof has been proven. The process now being mandated as a merciful alternative to traditional executions is far too unreliable and cruel to be used on a pet cat, but governments and the supporters of legislative death share much with the pit bull that needs to be put down. Nothing will dissuade them once they have that taste of blood.

When it comes to the time when Fido has to go, the veterinarian will simply give him a shot of pentobarbital and he will drift away and be gone in 30 painless seconds. For larger animals there are stronger barbiturates, but even a bullet in the head is a certain and more painless death than the one we have turned to because the electric chair was too grisly and firing squads and hangings are emotionally unsanitary.

Self-important people with Junior College Criminal Justice degrees and people in politics however cling to this medieval drama as though it was a procedure handed down from Sinai. Somehow, the people who insist that the government can't do anything right are sure that the government does this right -- and maybe not often enough. Of course the intentional infliction of agony on a helpless and bound prisoner and it's place in that hilarious concept: the "Judeo Christian ethic" doesn't seem to be discussed here as much as it is in other areas.

But basically, it's all about cowardice. We want government to make the bad men go away and we want them to do it where we cant see it or smell it or hear it. That's all we care about. We care more about that than we do about reasonable doubt, about cruel and unnecessary suffering, and if we have scruples about casting the first stone, why then we pay others to do it.

For Christ's sake, just shoot the guy if you have the stomach for it and since you don't, lock him up forever. There will be plenty of room once you let the dope smokers go home.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Unfriendly fire

By Libby

Major oops on this one. In an unannounced raid near Prime Minister Maliki's birthplace our guys managed to kill one of his relatives who was somehow closely involved in his personal security detail.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Senior Iraqi government officials said Saturday that a U.S. Special Forces counterterrorism unit conducted the raid that reportedly killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, touching off a high-stakes diplomatic crisis between the United States and Iraq.

U.S. military officials in Baghdad had no comment for the second day in a row, an unusual position for a command that typically releases information on combat operations within 24 hours.
Seems like a typical ploy to me. When it's really bad, like the Blackwater shootings, they stall for a long time so the story gets played like old news in the US media when they finally admit they fucked up. This one may not be so easy to play down though.
"This is a Special Forces operation, an antiterrorism unit that operates almost independently so there's been no coordination with the local forces on the ground," said a high-ranking member of the Iraqi government who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the extreme sensitivity of the issue. "That's why it's so important to have a Status of Forces Agreement to regulate this relationship. As long as it's vague and open, these incidents will continue to happen."
Probably wasn't the best way to win hearts and minds and it's unlikely to do much in convincing the Iraqis they should sign on to a Status of Forces Agreement that gives us carte blanche in deploying our 'residual' troops. But in a way, horrible as it is, it's good in that it will put the Iraqis in a stronger position to demand some say over US operations, which Bush will of course reject and the whole agreement could likely stall until we get a new president. That would be the best outcome for everybody.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Millionaire's Amendment

By Libby

I didn't around to blogging much on the SCOTUS decisions, but this was the under-reported one on campaign contributions and I was trying to make sense of it before I posted. The court struck down a provision of campaign finance reform that allowed a candidate to accept larger contributions from individuals if they were up against an opponent rich enough to fund themselves.

I couldn't figure out how to sum up my reaction but luckily James Joyner did it for me.
Yesterday’s Court decision protects the interests of a relative handful of millionaire candidates for office. But it does not restore the rights of tens millions of Americans who have organized themselves politically to spend their money — which the Court acknowledges is speech — as they see fit in trying to defeat said millionaires. It’s a very strange paradox.
Indeed and strange timing. This was for House races only but considering it's an election year, it was a hell of a time to throw a new wrinkle into the rules and it certainly did nothing to even the playing field.

That's the real trouble with our government. It's run almost solely by rich people at every level and they will look out for each other. We don't even exist in their understanding of the world.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Media Bytes - Amused to Death Edition

By Libby

Song in my head. The video is a little weird but I took it anyway because the sound track is good and the song goes with the picture of the day.


What do you suppose Cindy Lou is thinking here at her photo op at a garbage dump in Cambodia? I'm hearing, "Smile you little urchin but don't, under any circumstance, touch me."

Meanwhile, I've been schluffing off all day. I have a couple of new posts at Newshoggers but otherwise I can't believe the whole day slipped by without my noticing. I've been collecting links so I'll be pounding out a few more posts before I quit for the day but to hold you for the moment, a few quick links.

For the long read, this fluffer of a profile piece on Cindy was sort of interesting, mainly in how casually they presented her shady past as somehow normal and almost noble. Just your typical, long suffering political wife, you know. And I didn't know her middle name was Lou. It fits. She does remind me a bit of the Dr. Seuss character.

The definite video on her hubby is strange you can believe in, via Avedon who as always has a bunch more stuff worth reading.

The Mr. McStrange photo of the day is surely this early bird special.

I wasn't so much in the mood for politics today though, so I spent some time looking at gardens. This invite only gallery has some fabulous shots, but I liked this one and this landscape gallery too.

But the best is Echidne's story about these bleeding hearts. They've been one of my favorite flowers since I was a kid.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reunited and it feels so good...

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Libby

I didn't watch the live video of the Clinton-Obama Unity event, but it appears from the overview coverage that it was a smashing success. It was a well scripted, veritable lovefest and visually appealing right down to Obama's tie that perfectly matched Hilary's outfit.

If there is any remaining tension between the two, you couldn't see in Unity, NH. Obama proclaimed, "Hillary rocks!" Hillary urged her supporters to join the team and put Obama into the Oval Office. Any remaining bitterness on the part of Obama supporters over Hillary's campaign style should have been put to rest today. She kept her promise. She looked more shining and genuine than she ever has in the last year and a half.

The Caucus offered up a more intimate view of the proceedings both from the plane and on the field where they found a couple of die-hard Hillary holdouts. One supporter, a Denver delegate "came all the way from Colorado for the event, even though she didn’t believe in it, because she wanted to convey her support to Mrs. Clinton."
“As a politician, she’s got to try to bring the party together,” Ms. Lewis said. “But I have a gut feeling that something’s going to happen so that she becomes the nominee.” She said she would not vote for Mr. Obama and that when he spoke, she stuffed her ears with tissue.

Her friend, Freda Smith, 79, a former state representative from Salem, N.H., said Mr. Obama was “not qualified” to be president. “We don’t know anything about him,” she said. “He talks about change, but he never says exactly what he means.”
I guess old dreams die hard but I'm betting in the end, even these recalcitrant Democrats will realize that allowing McCain to win would be a grievous mistake. Certainly, for the many couples interviewed that had split their votes between the two, acceptance has already arrived and most seem to be glad to embrace the message.

I have to admit, although I mostly kept it to myself, I nursed some serious doubts that Hillary would put her heart into uniting behind Obama. It feels really good to have been so wrong and to have my respect for her restored.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

NOW they're worried about environmental impact?

By Libby

The same administration that is blithely pushing to tear up pristine wilderness in ANWR and urges endangering our beaches with rampant offshore drilling for oil and has studiously ignored and denied the effects of climate disruption caused the overconsumption of same, is suddenly suddenly concerned about the ecological harm of developing solar power alternatives.
DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.
The Bureau of Land Management is wringing its hands over the potential impact on wildlife, water usage and reclamation of the land after the power plants expire. Funny, I don't recall similar concerns about other fuels delivered by the huge corporate conglomerates. Could it be the real concern is about the mega-corps bottom line?
According to the bureau, the applications, which cover more than one million acres, are for projects that have the potential to power more than 20 million homes.
Well, that's really just a drop in the bucket of usage but the solar power industry is still in its infancy and the potential for growth is strong if the White House machinations don't kill it in the cradle.
“The problem is that this is a very young industry, and the majority of us that are involved are young, struggling, hungry companies,” said Lee Wallach of Solel, a solar power company based in California that has filed numerous applications to build on public land and was considering filing more in the next two years. “This is a setback.”
It reminds me of the administration's equally sudden concern about regulating small organic farmers who threaten the bottom line of mega-monolith farms as the consumer demand for localvore products grows. A lot of them getting shut down by zealous enforcement while the mega-corps destructive mono-farms destroy the environment unchallenged by the fed regulators.

Meanwhile, in a related development, scientists are predicting we may, for the first time in recorded history, be seeing an ice free North Pole this year.
Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally icefreeNorth Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by hugeswathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.
Coincidentally caused by that global warming, that the White House isn't sure exists and if it does exist, certainly couldn't be the fault of over-consumption of fossil fuels and their resultant emissions. Is it just me who is seeing a pattern here?

[cross-posted to The Reaction]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Beverly Hills Bonanza

by Capt. Fogg

So Jed Clampett found oil on his property and moved to the hills - Beverly Hills, that is. Seems fitting since there's more oil in them hills of Beverly than most people know about. Beverly Center, an eight- level mall near Beverly Hills that attracts a celebrety clientelle, is also attracting oil exploration and drilling people. Indeed, the complex was designed to accomodate a drilling rig or two and the area already boasts dozens of oil wells. High prices, over $140 a barrel today, have the pumps humming day and night and many companies are re-opening old wells and planning to drill some more. Seems "the enviros" aren't so all powerful after all.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
Keep them wells a flowin
Keep them Hummers goin'
Rawhide!

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Lara's song

by Capt. Fogg

"Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever. "

Lara Logan

I was never really conscious of Lara Logan's existence until the Daily Show had her as a guest recently. She made a well presented and credible claim that the news from Iraq was being toned down, under reported, redacted and sometimes ignored, and as someone who has been in the thick of it for years as the chief foreign correspondent for CBS, and who frequently has been in the midst of combat, she has a great deal of credibility. That network has been cutting back its staff in Baghdad and some critics say that the public perception of improvement in Iraq has a lot to do with the lack of coverage. Indeed, despite the constant emphasis on danger and terror, it's possible to sit through a very long period of broadcast news without a single story from Iraq.

“If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,” she said to Jon Stewart.
It might be that she pushed the wrong buttons. Headlines and weblogs have begun to bleat about scandals in her private life, led by such Liberal Media as the National Enquirer and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. Will Bunch at Philly.com has a provocative article today and a link to the Daily Show interview.

Backlashes against less than enthusiastic reportage of Bush's war began immediately after the initial enthusiasm. Networks refused to allow a reading of the names of casualties lest it be taken as criticism of George Bush or his invasion. I don't think it's far fetched at all to see this attempt to ruin a brilliant career as a continuation.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Er, Um, What He meant to say was...

expatbrian

I'm just bursting at the seams with anticipation of more and better evidence that Mars may have actually supported life at sometime in its past.

Nasa scientists are "flabbergasted" at the current results from the probe which have found not only evidence of water (ice) but that the soil contains the necessary ingredients to support plant growth.
"It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. ... It is very exciting for us."
As I write this, the scholars and propogandists at the Vatican are busy as little bees trying to rewrite reinterpret the scriptures (in which God never mentions any other planets at all, let alone life on them) to cover their holy arses.
"Let's see...we can say that a Bible's "day" can really mean years and the Bible's "Earth" can really mean the whole universe! Yeah, that's it! that's the ticket! That's our story and we're stickin' to it."
It is a time of almost orgasmic joy and glee for me because I may actually see the truth be told, once and for all, in my lifetime.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Just one more thing to worry about

expatbrian

Being the gluttonous and greedy consumers of everything luxurious that we are, it took a press release from Haagen Dazs Ice Cream to bring this potential disaster to the news media. I'm talking about what that company and others are calling the shocking and dangerous decline of honey bees.
Honey bees mysteriously began to abandon their colonies in 2006, destroying about a third of U.S. hives. The rate of decline is accelerating, reaching 36 percent last winter.
90% of plant life on our planet depends on pollination for survival and honey bees are the single biggest vehicle to make that happen. Bumble bees, moths, butterflies and even bats also contribute to the process and are also declining in astounding numbers. But as the honey bees disappear and fields begin to disappear with them, food prices are expected to soar.
Fruits, nuts, seeds and many vegetables are the foundation of California's $34 billion agricultural industry, the nation's largest, and the basis of a healthy human diet. About a third of human food requires pollination. The plants cannot grow without it.
While scientists have not yet proven the reasons for the problem, research so far has shown what one might expect. Reduced habitat and pesticides, even non-lethal pesticides seem to be the culprits.
...one study of 108 pollen samples revealed 46 pesticides, as many as 17 different pesticides in a single sample. Only three of the samples showed no pesticide residue.
There are 660,000 acres of just almond trees in California's San Joaquin Valley and this massive area of a single crop is also making the situation worse. Seems that the bees, etc. need a more diverse diet to keep them around.
Visalia beekeeper Steve Godlin said 1.3 million honeybee hives are trucked in each spring from around the country to pollinate the California almond crop, which is fast replacing cotton in the Valley. The collapse of honeybee hives and the enormous demand for almond pollination has sent its price soaring.
Surveys have shown that half of the American people aren't even aware that there is a problem. No surprise there. It's not exactly a sexy news story. But it's a real threat to farmers and ultimately to consumers. While comparatively rich Americans will be able to absorb the rising prices, at least in the short term, poorer nations that depend on California and other areas for their fresh fruits and vegetables may be priced right out of the market. Read the whole article for some tips on what you can do to help.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Late signs of surge failure

By Libby

Unless you prefer to call this a sign of success.
BAGHDAD — Two insurgent bomb blasts struck at pro-American Iraqi targets in Anbar province just west of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, and the police said at least 30 people were killed and 80 wounded.

Iraqi police officials said three American marines were among the dead in the Anbar attack, which came just as the American military command was preparing to hand control of the province, once considered the hotbed of the insurgency, over to Iraqi forces.
They bought the "Anbar Awakening" with bribes of guns and money. Looks like they didn't stay bought. And this is on top of the other two attacks this week.
The bombing in Mosul, which killed 18 people and wounded 61, occurred in a busy central area of the city, and was the second large bombing in the city in the past two days. One on Tuesday evening killed two people and wounded 73.
The Pentagon claims it's the work of rogue Shia militants backed by Iran. The Iraqis on the scene say it was AQI. You know, the ones who were supposed to be vanquished. But in the end, outside of the fact that the White House is trying to use these attacks to gin up a case for bombing Iran, it doesn't matter who is doing the killing. The point is that the violence is ongoing and will rise and fall forever as long as we remain in occupation of the country. These people are being targeted for collaborating with us.

A year ago St. Pet told us the Iraqis were moments away from political reconciliation. They're still not even close. Baghdad was transformed from a thriving, ethnically mixed city into a restive metropolis of ethnically cleansed enclaves surrounded by concrete bunkers in order to 'keep the peace.' How much blood does it take before the serious pundits admit the surge success is a farce?

[cross-posted to The Reaction]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Media Bytes - Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking Edition

By Libby

Song in my head. I wasn't a huge Pink Floyd fan but I love Roger Waters solo work. It's been a crazy couple of weeks so I have an odd collection of links but we'll start with some reading even though it's not the weekend yet.

Dan wonders if the the Dems realize how risky their current strategy is.

Hart dissects a viral email from his Klanny Granny.

Cernig finds a most amusing jutxaposition in the news. You'll find it at the bottom of his post analyzing McCain's latest shell game, the Lexington Project.

Me, I'm still seeing helicopters on a regular basis. I have to collect all those links into one archive some day.

And HuffPo has a new project, FearWatch08.

In a lighter vein, I didn't know there was a Dickipedia but this may be the single best bio I've seen on McCain.

Moving on to multimedia, they're going to establish the Guinness World record for world's largest peace sign in Ithaca. No YouTube on this one yet but the link to the kid's other vid is good and I'm looking forward to what he does with this event. Almost 6000 people showed up.

Robert Greenwald has a new short in his latest series. I think it's the best one yet. Lieberman must go.

Following up on the AP boycott, here's Harvard Law's advice to bloggers.

And there's a new show being produced in NYC that looks promising. Shoot the Messenger. I haven't watched this interview with Paul Riechhoff yet but I hear it's good.

Also, the annual Cannes advertising awards have been announced. The Cadbury Gorilla ad didn't impress me all that much and neither did the clothing retailer that won the grand prize but I have to admit that there was something kind of hypnotic about the editing between the countdown clock and the girls dancing. I found myself watching longer than I expected and I guess that's the point.

Finally for this edition's eyecandy, I discovered Boston Public Libary has a Flickr site of historic photos. I didn't really look at many of them because I got caught up in the Tichnor Brothers postcard gallery.

I love vintage postcards and these are favorites of mine. I happen to own a few of them myself. They're printed on high quality stock and I love the art. My tastes run to the schmaltzy full moon over Cape Cod variety, but I found lots of them that illustrate my personal history in New England. The Western Mass seem to start here and I found it interesting that the Mohawk Trail still looks remarkably like this.

I also found some from my childhood in Connecticut. I went to many teenage dances here. In those days there were at least three dances a week between two churches and the Elks Hall. I spent summers on this lake for many years and this was unequivocally the best state fair in the world. Unfortunately, they tore the fairgrounds down and built a mall a long time ago.

I really liked this one as well, of one of the best rose arbors I ever frequented at Elizabeth Park in Hartford. I spent lots of time there when I lived in that city. Life seemed so much simpler then.

[h/t to Avedon as always and also to Marc A. Cantone who may be the Beatles number one fan. ]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Better than a citizen's arrest

By Libby

Via Avedon, I see that holding this administration accountable for their war crimes may be more than just a pipe dream.
On September 13-14, 2008, Lawrence Velvel, the dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, plans to convene a 'convention' at the school's facilities; the attendees of which will plan strategies to prosecute members of the Bush administration for war crimes.

"This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred," stated Velvel in a press release. "It is, rather, intended to be a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth.
I have no idea how feasible this would be but it is heartening to know that the citizenry is willing to pursue what our Congresscreatures surely never will. My personal theory is the entrenched incumbents won't ever do it because they're so complicit in the whole sordid mess that they don't want anyone to discover the blood on their own hands. And maybe this won't work but it appeals to my sense of justice that at least there are those with the knowledge and willingness to try.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Blogging matters

By Libby

Since Fogg has been covering the breaking news here with his usual articulate awesomeness, I've spent some time catching up on my blogging duties at Detroit News this afternoon. The debate I started two weeks ago on oil is still raging, with my co-blogger Mako having taken up the issue, so I added some fuel to that fire with a new post on oil corporations as related to the recent SCOTUS Exxon Vladez decision, which was really an abomination and also within the context of the new no-bid contracts the Iraqi puppet government awarded to the big four mega-corps.

I'm also thinking it's well past time to make McCain's age an issue. The prevailing media narrative seems to be it's impolite to bring it up and Goddess knows as an old person myself, I certainly don't want to promote ageism but really, this isn't a job at Walmart we're talking about. It's the most demanding job in the world and it's a legitimate concern in my book.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A miserable failure named Friedman and Obama fails too - UPDATED

By Libby

Since I've been offline for so many days, I've been catching up on my reading this morning. I'm drafting some posts, but in the interim nobody fricassees little Tommy Friedman quite like Atrios. He has an uncharacteristically long post that's well worth a read in full.

Meanwhile, Obama has finally really pissed me off, which isn't as easy to do as you might think. My post at Newshoggers.

Update: Breaking news - Feingold managed to get a hold put on the vote in the Senate so now they're allegedly not going to vote on it until after the July 4th recess. Not sure it will help much, but it's something.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

The best security of a free state

By Capt. Fogg

"Let your gun therefore be your constant companion on your walks."


-Thomas Jefferson-

If the reason for a constitutional protection of a natural right is unclear or incomplete or perhaps obsolete, does the law no longer protect that right? "Yes it does" has been an argument for ignoring the second amendment for a long time. The motivation and the argument of course aren't congruent. I believe that a great number of people think that private ownership of weapons is too dangerous to allow and so deem the law superfluous or obsolete and don't object when despite the clear language in the phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The court has had to decide whether the right that is not to be infringed was intended to be contingent upon militia membership and only on militia membership or whether the necessity of a "well regulated militia" was only an example or illustration of the benefit. It's long been my opinion that this stated right was deemed as natural a part of freedom and personal liberty as the others set fort to be protected against government prohibition. As Liberals, the Framers were concerned with limiting the power of government to oppress, and private ownership of arms was firmly advocated by those I have read. I have reason to believe that Jefferson saw a militia as a potential bulwark against government rather than an agency thereof and indeed, the unique use of the word "infringed" seems to emphasize that the right should not be limited, qualified, nibbled away at or made conditional for any reason.

If the right to free speech had mentioned the necessity of that right to good government and democracy, would we then argue that only government officials were to enjoy it or that speech unrelated to government can be prohibited absolutely by State and local governments? I don't think so. I'm inclined to believe the reference to a militia is a further reference and not sole justification or exclusive qualification and I'm inclined to believe that it is the fear of weapons that has produced the arguments that the second amendment is ambiguous and therefore largely to be ignored and infringed upon at will by any local government.

Ignoring a seminal constitutional guarantee; infringing upon it or interpreting it so restrictively as to render it completely nugatory is not the stuff of good government and it is to be remembered that the constitution provides a clear way to remove it. No, it is not easy and requires far more support than simply allowing the government to break the law through judicial interpretation, but the risk of doing that is obvious. Should fear of treason infringe upon free speech, the right to assemble, to petition? Indeed such has too often been the case and should serve as a warning. Rights will be infringed by those with the loudest voice and the most money and by those with power to protect. Let's not go along with that process and feel that we are protecting ourselves. We need either to follow the constitution or amend it.

I'm a very vociferous critic of our Supreme Court and I feel everyone should be, but I have to agree with the decision that gun control laws have to take the constitution into account and are bound to be reasonable. I'm a bit sad that the Liberals on the court do not see it that way, but all in all, the Court has handed down several decisions of late that I approve of, from upholding Habeas to limiting the expansion of Capital crimes. I can only hope that some kind of balance prevails in the future.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

If it feels good, kill him.

By Capt. Fogg

The concept of punishment is inseparable in people's minds from the concept of justice. I have a hard time understanding either one. In the youth of our species, the notion prevailed that some sort of balance existed in the universe and that balance had to be maintained scrupulously lest the sun not rise and the crops fail. A more modern knowledge of the universe makes it a bit hard to believe in such things, yet we do. We do at least in as far as we talk about debts to society being paid in kind or in body part. Of course with regard to crimes of theft or property, the notion that justice prevails in the return of value to a rightful owner seems obvious, but in other cases where there is no value to be returned, such as in the case of rape or murder, the accounting model for justice runs into trouble. Does taking away a life provide a new one for the victim or the victim's heirs? Does inflicting pain and suffering or death upon the perpetrator satisfy any debt or does it satisfy the urge to kill we have inherited from our hirsute ancestors?

Being a person for whom the abuse of women and children is sufficiently loathsome that I would readily shoot someone to stop certain crimes, I still maintain that taking an eye for an eye repays no one but fictitious gods, and the universe continues to expand at the same rate and our little world goes on in the same trajectory. Yes, I would love to inflict a great deal of suffering on people who rape children. Given the opportunity I probably would, but I do not try to fool myself that I'm talking about justice. I want revenge because revenge feels good and if feels good because like anyone who reads this, I am an animal and the heir to a host of animal instincts and emotions. Instinct is expressed as the urge to do what feels good. Somehow I believe that justice needs more justification than that.

Short of denouncing judicial killings, the Court has ruled that "evolving standards" have made it less acceptable to kill someone for a lesser crime than killing someone else. While I agree, I would apply that same standard to the unnecessary ending of human life entirely. That strapping people to a cross and pumping their veins full of drain cleaner is tolerated in a nation fulsomely bellicose about its Christianity stretches the bounds of the term hypocrisy.

That's my opinion anyway, although I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Devil loves Obama

By Capt. Fogg

It seems everyone running against a Republican candidate is supported by the bogey man of the day and that's held true throughout my lifetime. Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Min, Nikita Kruschev, the Anti-Christ: they all fully endorsed Democrats, if we're to believe the cannot-tell-a-lie Republicans. So of course it's no surprise to learn that Kim Jong Il would just love to see Barak Obama elected; at least that's what Lyin' Laura Ingraham was jibbering about Monday on Fox News.

Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and all the boys over at Hamas are all wearing the Big O T-Shirt these days. Of course one might speculate that any of these evildoing action figures would be smart enough to know that their actual support would harm a candidate and thus would express a fondness for those they would least like to win, but Laura and her limp-brained fans aren't big on logical processes when it's so much fun to hate.

Anyway, now that Kim's axis may no longer be quite as evil, we may suspect that his support will swing over to the Republican side. Will Laura have to decide that he's not so bad after all?

Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation announced on his blog, The Washington Note, last night that George may overcome Dick's objections and take Mr. Kim off the "terror watch list" by tomorrow. Whether or not he will be moved to some lesser list, like the Nexus of Nasty remains to be seen but I have to wonder if Bush is really trying to engage in some statecraft these days -- just for the hell of it -- or whether he's just trying to slide North Korea to the sidlines so he can concentrate on the remaining axial, Iran. You know, the one with oil.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Bush's long term plan to combine Church and State

By Libby

One more quick link before I leave. This is especially annoying.
A former top official in the White House's faith-based office was awarded a lucrative Department of Justice grant under pressure from two senior Bush administration appointees, according to current and former DOJ staff members and a review of internal DOJ documents and emails.

The $1.2 million grant was jointly awarded to a consulting firm run by Lisa Trevino Cummins who previously headed Hispanic outreach efforts for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and a California evangelical group, Victory Outreach.

The grant was awarded over the strong objections of career DOJ staff who did not believe that Victory Outreach was qualified for the grant and that too great an amount of the funds was going to Cummins' consulting company instead of being spent on services for children.
Of course "career staff" would be those truly non-partisan employees who put their job description above party loyalty. Unfortunately for all of us, the White House has succeeded in overcoming legions of concerned and dedicated bureaucrats with a cadre of its own loyal minions at the top tier of the decision making process.

It's going to take a really long time for the next president to purge these lackeys. These people are the ticking time bomb that Bush has planted to keep his plan to destroy America as we know it even after he's skulked out of town and there's thousands of them at every level of the bureaucracy.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

How the White House undermined the EPA

By Libby

I'm working today so just a quick pointer to this piece that describes how the White House managed to ignore the analysis that supported the CA decision on upping the standards on emmissions. They literally refused to read the email.

Read it all, but here's a key quote.
Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”
Just as with every other policy decision in the last seven years, the Bush regime not only ignores the contrary evidence, it buries it.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

The limits of Obama on the FISA fight

By Libby

We probably won't win this one, but the battle is over yet. I have the details at Newshoggers but in the latest development it appears we may at least delay it for a few more weeks, maybe even months.

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to post this for a couple of days as an explanation of why I think Obama doesn't really have the power to move this issue. I've sees a quite few bloggers who are smarter than me about this stuff saying that Obama is the presumptive leader of the party now, but this speaks to why I don't think that's true.
I suspect that many established elites in BOTH the Democratic and Republican party will be secretly hoping that Obama loses this fall. He is new and different, above all because he is trying to remake and revitalize American democracy. His victory, using a campaign financed by millions rather than the few, and using federated approaches to civic engagement spread across dozens of states, would signal a turning point in U.S. democracy. This victory would not solve all problems in Washington DC. But it would show the value of a classic style of U.S. democracy that energizes the many rather than just the very wealthy or the highly educated few.
Obama is the new kid. He's got their attention, and maybe even some respect by dint of raising all this money outside of the customary channels but he's a long way from consolidating his hold on power within the party. It stands to reason that simply by his short tenure in the Senate he hasn't accumulated a lot of chits within the power structure and his whole approach threatens the status quo that has served the entrenched incumbents so well for all these many years and provided a comfortable lifestyle for them.

I'd agree that there are probably more willing to stab him in the back than there are enthusiastic about revamping the system to conform with Obama's stated vision. However, all the being said, I do think his embracing the "compromise" was a huge sellout and we should put some pressure on him to rethink his position. It should be couched carefully though so as to not unduly undermine his candidacy. He may be a dissappointment, but he's still the best hope we have of taking back the government.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let it all fall down

By Capt. Fogg

Subject: Obama's speech...on doing away with our military

Please send this to everyone you know TODAY as it will be pulled off the air soon. Here Obama reveals his true intentions to make the US a third rate nation - vulnerable to attack by every rogue nation on the earth.

_________________

It takes a strong stomach to read some of the e-mail I get and I don't have one any more. I don't have the patience to argue with these hydrophobic harangues. I don't have any faith in Democracy either because our wonderful technology has made it possible for a minority of morons and the coven of witches that control them to shout down everyone else. The truth simply doesn't have a chance, nor does decency, honesty or true patriotism. We have become a nation whose behavior would embarrass a tribe of New Guinea head hunters.

Of course the speech in question was made last year and far from being pulled, it's been resurrected like a brain eating zombie, but alleging that some bogeyman doesn't want you to see something is a hallmark of the Republican Hate Auxiliary.

Obama plans to disarm America
screams the lurid title on the MacRanger Blog that is linked to this slime capsule and to a video that actually doesn't say that at all. What Obama seems to have said in October of 2007 is that he would like to develop no more Nuclear weapons, would like to reduce their numbers and make an effort to store the loose nuclear material sitting around since the fall of the Soviets. Of course that's all pursuant, I believe, to a 2002 treaty signed by the Hero George Bush, and Obama's speech was scheduled for the day after an announcement by the Bush administration that it had tripled the rate of dismantling nuclear weapons over the last year, putting the United States on track to reducing its stockpile of weapons by half by 2012. Funny that the howling hordes take no note of it, but then without the manufactured indignation supplied by the radio rabble rousers, no one would take notice of them.

The speech reflects a plan endorsed earlier this year by a bipartisan group of former government officials from the cold war era who say the United States must begin building a global consensus to reverse a reliance on nuclear weapons that have become “increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.” I do not recall hearing any foaming at the mouth hate shouters calling any of them "Manchurian Candidates" or Islamic militants, but of course that's what we get from commentors even stranger (and more stupid) than MacRanger himself on his website.

By calling for a combination of diplomacy and pressure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, Obama seems hardly more radical, pacifist, or to have a plan for appeasement, but you wouldn't know it from the foam flecked lips of "conservatives." It's just too much fun to scream HUSSEIN hysterically while denying any racist motives. I give up.

I give up becuase Americans love to hate. Americans love to justify hating and have no scruples whatever about employing lies, distortions and superstitions to do it. I give up because the military ambition and world domination obsession of this country makes it my enemy.

Go vote for Republicans - build more carriers, more space weapons, giant bombers, more multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles with 500 megaton nuclear warheads and make the world bow to us, our greed and our SUV's.

I just don't give a damn.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain plays into the meme

By Libby


Too funny.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Chertoff's Iron curtain

By Capt. Fogg

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, said the poet. I think it's called freedom.

Say you have a nice ranch down near the Rio Grande. The view is fabulous, you use the water for your cattle, you have a little boat to fish with. The deer and the antelope play.

Say you enjoy the San Pedro river, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area on the Arizona border. You can forget it; it's soon to be blocked by a huge corrugated iron curtain right out of the cold war era because we're all so desperately afraid of Mexicans who don't come in to the country on tourist visas, like most illegal immigrants do.

This isn't a diatribe on any racialist or economic basis for xenophobia or the grave danger of people with expired visas cutting your lawn, it's about big government getting away with unquestionable authority by declaring emergencies. It's about Michael Chertoff's Bush-given ability to overturn court rulings and ignore laws passed by Congress because - well just because the commander guy has commanded it. Our Republican Congress gave him the power to waive any laws he needed to to get this fence built and our Republican courts in all their activist glory have now backed him up today by upholding a lower court's ruling that giving Michael Chertoff authority to write and unwrite laws passed by congress does not violate the separation of powers set forth in the constitution. Michael Cherthoff can be the law and neither we nor our elected representatives can stop him sayeth the Bush Court.

Somehow the people who give us the Fatherland and the Motherland seem awfully similar to the people who changed National Security into Homeland Security.

Many people sincerely doubt that this wall will actually secure our border and protect us from undocumented dishwashers. The history of walls lends them some support, but of course when things get bad enough here, perhaps it will help keep us from fleeing to Mexico.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Offline

By Libby

I have a doctor's appointment this morning and have to work today so I'm mostly offline until tonight barring a break during the day. Back later.
Bookmark and Share

General Accuses Bush Administration of War Crimes

expatbrian

Well George, remember what you said about "listening to your commanders in the field"?

A retired Army general who spent 10 months in Iraq and led an investigation into the atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison there accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing war crimes and called for those responsible to be held accountable. Full article here.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account,"wrote Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.
Bush, as the Commander in Chief, and as a "war president" as he likes to call himself, is ultimately responsible for the actions of his military underlings.
"The detainees suffer permanent hearing loss, persistent and debilitating pain in limbs and joints, major depressive disorder, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks." The men were later released and were never charged with any crimes.
We may be Democrats or we may be Republicans, but we are all Americans. Is this what our founding fathers envisioned and is this what is acceptable now in the United States of America? If we are patriots, is not our first patriotic duty to uphold our own Constitution and abide by our own laws? Or are we ready and willing to uphold that Constitution only when the going is easy but when the going gets a little tough, when we feel a little insecure, we forget all that and start behaving like the very barbarians we are supposed to detest?
"With this evidentiary record, this report provides the most detailed account available thus far of the experience of detainees in US custody who suffered torture — a war crime — at the hands of US personnel. Additionally, this report provides further evidence of the role health professionals played in facilitating detainee abuse by being present during torture and ill-treatment, denying medical care to detainees, providing confidential medical information to interrogators, and failing to stop or document detainee abuse.
Just what justification is there, once we are smacked in the face with evidence of actual war crimes, to not take some kind of action against those who are responsible? Just what excuse for our actions do we expect to be acceptable by the international community? Or are we so arrogant, that we no longer care what anyone else thinks?
The report was released Tuesday, the same day documents made public by the Senate Armed Services Committee presented during a hearing on the administration’s interrogation policies showed a pattern of humiliation, abuse and even torture inflicted on detainees was a deliberate policy of the Bush administration.
Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, discussed with U.S. military officials how interrogators could use the "wet towel"technique against detainees to extract information.
Fredman added that the "wet towel"technique would only be defined as torture "if the detainee dies."
Just what kind of a fucking country are we, anyway?

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

In Memorium - George Carlin

expatbrian

George Carlin, the king of alternative comedy has died at the age of 71 of heart failure. He was perhaps best known for his ''Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television'' routine which became the center of a landmark Supreme Court case.

He hosted his first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975, and starred in a number of HBO comedy specials over four decades. He also appeared in occasional movie roles, including Dogma and Cars.

In the past 10 years, he achieved success as an author, publishing three best-sellers. The audiobook of his most recent, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, was nominated for a 2006 Grammy in the Spoken Word category. Just last week, Carlin was named the recipient of the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

To me, Carlin was like a white Richard Pryor, always going where no other comedian dared to tread. He loved to make fun of the church and hold a blow torch under the feet of the Bush administration. He was in a class of his own and I'll miss him.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Proactively efforting to impact the thought showers.

By Capt. Fogg

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

-George Orwell-

L
adies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to award the Human Voices Doctor Syntax award to Simon Milton.
"Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead?"
said the Chairman of The Local Government Association, an organization that represents local government officials in England and Wales. I love this guy.

Pretentious and impenetrable babble has metastasized into every English speaking part of the world like verbal melanoma; from business schools, PR firms, popular science TV shows and journalistic covens, and it's a rare writer or speaker who doesn't effort try to include as many copies of "empowerment, " "proactive" and "Impactful" in every sentence he excretes.

Why does anyone need a clumsy, worn out metaphor like "negatively impacted on" when hurt or harmed will do so much better? Of course our institutionalized horror of appearing illiberal by using direct language is responsible for much of it. Careers have been made by those who marshal groups to speak for non-existent "communities" so as to ban words that aren't really offensive to anyone other than graduate students eager to cooperate with professors who need to publish.

Brainstorming, itself a crapulous and unfunny metaphor for talking amongst a group, seemed, or so we were given input told, to be offensive to epileptics even though there is no evidence of it negatively impacting on annoying anyone. Let's call it "thought showering" said one British City Council. Let's not. Let's just call it pretentious babble posing as enlightened vocabulary.

Let us please have a round of applause for Mr. Milton!


Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

KBR, equal opportunity corruption

By Libby

They don't just do it in foreign countries. They screw us here too. For instance on repairs to a Naval base on the Gulf coast.
The inspector general reported that its audit of KBR's work found:

· The Navy entered into an illegal "cost-plus-percentage-of-cost" contract with the company. Higher costs meant more profit for KBR, which rewarded the company for "inefficiency and non-economical performance," the report said.

· KBR paid $4.1 million for services and meals that should have cost $1.7 million, and it awarded sole-source or limited-competition subcontracts that overpaid hourly rates to roofers.

· The company was paid nearly all contract amounts despite "marginal-to-average performance."

The inspector general recommended that the Navy try to recoup about $8.4 million in "excessive" equipment lease payments and material profits, and another $1.4 million for more than 110,000 meals that were paid for and thrown away over a 34-day period.
You can be pretty sure that won't happen. More likely they'll issue a statement saying that the planned incompetence wasn't all that bad and then shortly thereafter announce another multi-million dollar contract.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 21, 2008

FISA fallout

By Libby

I've been wrestling with my response to the FISA debacle, particularly as it relates to Obama's statement for over a day and posted my initial thoughts at Newshoggers so I won't repeat them here but I will expand on them a bit. I'm somewhere between our own beloved Capt Fogg and Glenn Greenwald.

I was going to flag the same quote as Fogg, and taken in context with Obama's larger statement it pissed me off. Obama fell down on reclaiming the narrative on terror from the GOP and effectively reinforced the false meme that we must allow the expansion of presidential power and sacrifice our civil rights for safety. His assurances that he will review it all when he's president is not comforting. It's unsurprising that this led to a fair amount of speculation that he wants these powers for himself.

The appropriate response came from Mo Udall.
The FISA bill we considered today would compromise the constitutionally guaranteed rights that make America a beacon of hope around the world.
But although that's a brave statement and deserves commendation, Udall doesn't have the same political cost to consider in taking that stance. As a presidential candidate Obama walks a fine line where every word is parsed by the media and one can see where they would make great hay with a "caving into the far left demands" narrative. It leaves him with a damned if you do, damned if you don't choice that I'm glad I don't have to make.

As I said at Newshoggers, I think the most practical approach to the pushback for progressives is to frame the critcism as a Democratic party failure and not overly focus on holding Obama personally responsible for it. I don't think he has the power, even as the presumptive nominee, to move this issue on his own. If he manages to lead a push to remove the telecom immunity, and succeeds, that will be a small victory and a sign of good faith. If he fails to do so, I think he will find that he will have lost, if not votes, a large chunk of enthusiam of the kind he needs to get into office with a mandate for change.

Meanwhile, Dan has the complete list of yes votes for the sellout disguised as a compromise in the House. If your Representative isn't on it, send them a thank you note. If your rep is Steny Hoyer, hate mail is encouraged but no threats of violence please.

[cross-posted to The Reaction]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

The walls still have ears

By Capt. Fogg

“It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people” said Barak Obama yesterday.
Obviously he is less of a polemicist than I am. I would have hoped for his utter objection and opposition to the FISA bill that passed the House of Representatives yesterday, but in his calm fashion, he seems to be far less dogmatic and more practical and dare I say more conservative than I am by saying in essence that this is an improvement because it restores oversight and so he will support it with the pledge that further improvements are to be expected.

A good compromise fully satisfies no one and perhaps, although I loathe the actions of the Bush administration and it's swashbuckling lawlessness, it may be necessary to allow domestic surveillance but subject to legal guidelines: perhaps it may be a good compromise.

Perhaps what Obama shows here is leadership. It takes a stronger man to recognize the objections of people he does not agree with and to accept what practically can be achieved at any given moment rather than to play up to hard core supporters by chest pounding and foot stomping obstinacy that divides and does not achieve much. Sometimes a grudging admiration leads to more respect than unrestrained approbation.

Cross posted from Human Voices

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Trek in Singapore - Kusu Island

expatbrian


The pics are up at World Gone Mad. Again, I apologize for the quality as I had only my cell phone camera that day. But you'll get the idea. Enjoy.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 20, 2008

Screw the pledge and the flag it rode in on.


If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

US Supreme Court - West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)

______

Americans don't really care much for freedom and the evidence for that is strong. They don't like people who exercise that freedom or resist having it taken away from them. That's why the ACLU is the bogeyman of the authoritarians, secular and religious, and why people with various objections to being forced to say things they disagree with, or forced to swear oaths in support of symbols, or forced to assume postures indicating worship and adoration of secular idols have to resort to such organizations to avoid the nasty consequences of conscience. I hear far more anger directed at the ACLU than at the KKK and most often it's because the former is hard at work making sure you can still say what you like and not be forced to say things or to perform quasi religious rituals you do not like. The US is the sort of country where a candidate who doesn't assume the position of worship when singing the sacred song or pledging himself to worship a piece of cloth and the God/State it represents generates more furor than one who breaks the basic foundational laws that are the State.

Few things irk this authoritarian country more than such disobedience and the courts and laws that support its legitimacy. Obama is still paying a price for having a less than a passionate personal epiphany while singing the Anthem while even Liberal Air America host Ed Schultz decries the failure of most NBA players to look reverent, hands on heart in a Roman salute when the song is played.

We have no lack of impassioned orators swooning their way through speeches extolling those who died for the flag, as though the flag had anything to do with the liberties we, on occasion, call freedom, but in my opinion we have no free country when people are required to recite worshipful formulae, make sacred gestures and wear tokens of reverence.

That's why the furor continues in the case of the Minnesota school that has a policy of punishment for failure to stand up when illegally required to make a religious oath to a piece of cloth. Perhaps it's coincidental, but I've noticed a lot more of those Taiwanese car flags today and an unusual number of UNDER GOD bumper stickers. They weren't, at any rate, put there in support of three students who were suspended from a public school for sitting down while flag rituals were being conducted. If anything it's a protest against the audacity of the ACLU to write a letter to a Minnesota school board to remind some small minded pedants what freedom ( and the law) is all about.

Strangely enough even such strange bedfellows as Stop the ACLU.com recognize the policy as an infringement, if only as an infringement on freedom of religion. Many religions balk at the swearing of oaths. The question of whether they would recognize the rights of the non-religious to such protection hasn't been answered.

People on both sides of the flag idolatry issue have some strange opinions as to the antiquity of it all. Those who insist the pledge was written by a Socialist seem to forget that it was Eisenhower who in 1954 made it into a religious pledge and caused me to stop reciting it. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the hand on heart salute was adopted only in the 1940's and before that the Nazi salute was recommended. Our current anthem was signed into law as such in 1931 and putting religious messages on the money stems from the religious frenzy surrounding (and justifying) the Civil War. In fact religious frenzy and war go hand in hand and much of the current emotion stems from the confusion between the invasion of Iraq, obedience to the president and worship of the flag. It's not a coincidence. It's not fundamental to our Country's ideals. It's made up as we go along. It's all designed to foster unquestioning obedience and suppress objection. It's time we woke up to the truth.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Guest Post - Oink, Oink for Oil

By Swampcracker

[Long time reader and commenter Swampcracker sends in a guest post on oil that we're reproducing here unedited.]

I am willing to say what no politician or pundit is willing to say: Higher prices force consumers into energy conservation, which is the only immediate remedy on the horizon. Lets look at some facts:

American oil companies have at present 68 million acres under lease. Have the oil companies done any drilling lately? No! Since American oil companies are not producing oil from already leased land, why should we lease them more acreage?

American oil refineries are operating at 100% capacity. If there were a sudden increase in oil supplies, how will more crude be refined into more marketable energy? Have the oil companies built new refining capacity lately? No! Have they announced plans to increase capacity? No!

The USA consumes 40% of world energy supplies, yet has only 5% of the world's population and less than 3% of world energy reserves. By every definition, we are a nation of energy pigs.

In contrast, European consumers pay triple for gas at the pump (i.e., $12 per gallon or more), yet consume less than half of what the average American consumes. Why should we enable an already outrageous addiction?

In contrast, conservation confers immediate benefits. If the average American driver were to increase fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon, it would be equivalent to a major oil field discovery yielding 1 million barrels per day. Saving two miles per gallon … you get the picture. These benefits are immediate, not 5 to 10 years later compared with a drilling strategy.

What is the logic in driving a military vehicle (i.e., a Hummer that gets 10 mpg) to a shopping mall for the purpose of buying a loaf of bread?

Suburban sprawl: Can there be anything more stupid and wasteful than sitting in traffic, burning gas, and not going anywhere? How about moving commuters into mass transit? How about staggering work hours to reduce gridlock? How about moving office workers into home offices and eliminate commuting altogether?

Last month, sales of motor scooters rose 25%. Europeans have been driving scooters for decades. Riding a bicycle reduces energy obesity even more!!

But let's face it: No politician will tell the truth anymore because lazy, fat, and inconvenienced Americans will bellow in protest.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Trekking in Singapore - Kusu Island

I spent a great day on Kusu Island today. I took a lot of pics. Had to take them with my phone because one of my @#^#$% girls at home took the memory card out of my camera and I didn't notice it until I got there. GRR!

Anyway, I think the pics will be good but I'm too pooped to post tonite. I'll let you know tomorrow when I get them up over at WGM. Catch you then.
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama's new ad - Updated

By Libby

I had a really bad day and I can't deal with the news tonight. Most of the buzz seems to be hue and cry about nothing. This is all I got. Matt finds this ad hilariously unsubtle. I don't know, I think the only really subtle ads are Mike Gravel's and those are really funny.

I thought Obama's was pretty good, especially for his target audience.

Update: Speaking of Gravel, Gary Baumgarten checks into comments to note that Mike Gravel will be his guest on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com at 5 PM New York time Friday June 20. You can access the show by clicking the link at his blog.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Work day

By Libby

I'm off for a few hours of work but I have been posting at my other blogs and have a bunch of new stuff at Newshoggers and also at The Detroit News where I've been engaged in a rousing debate in the comment section.

Unfortunately, the archives at DetNews seem to be screwed up and don't link directly to the posts at the moment, so you either have to scroll through the whole blog to get my entries or right click on the titles in the list of archived posts to get the URL from 'properties' and then copy and paste those into your browser.

Anyway, plenty of reading material there and I'll be back this evening.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Quote of the Day

By Libby

It goes to John Cole who posts in response to something he heard on the teevee.
Yeah, a failed war, the worst natural disaster response in modern history, a tattered Justice Department, a broken military, a decimated budget and trillions of additional debt, the taint of torture, an exposed CIA spy, a history of domestic spying, the insertion of religious nuts and unqualified hacks throughout every level of his administration, and a ruined reputation abroad and Bush is worried about a recession ruining his legacy?
I'd say that's the most succinct summation of the Bush regime's screw-ups I've ever seen.

Labels:

Bookmark and Share