Archive for January, 2008

A Republican Who Speaks For Me

Well, maybe not on everything, but certainly on Bush and his enablers… of both parties:

Former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s new political memoir is remarkable for its candor, its delicious window into life in America’s most exclusive club, and its condemnation of President Bush and the combination of right-wing Republicans and Democratic enablers who plunged the nation into an ill-fated war without end in Iraq.

(…)

The book excoriates Mr. Bush and his GOP allies who repeatedly fanned such wedge issues as changing the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage, abortion and flag-burning. But he saves some of his harshest words for Democrats who paved the way for Mr. Bush to use the U.S. military to invade Iraq. That includes New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom Chafee says put her presidential ambitions above standing up to Mr. Bush and the rush to war in Iraq.

“I find it surprising now, in 2008, how many Democrats are running for president after shirking their constitutional duty to check and balance this president,” writes Chafee. “Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill.

“They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”

Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against prosecuting the war. “The top Democrats were at their weakest when trying to show how tough they were,” writes Chafee. “They were afraid that Republicans would label them soft in the post-September 11 world, and when they acted in political self-interest, they helped the president send thousands of Americans and uncounted innocent Iraqis to their doom.

(…)

“Few members of Congress were willing to stand up to the schoolyard tough [Mr. Bush] and in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2002, weeks before the crucial midterm elections, he bullied them into declaring Saddam an imminent threat.”

(…)

Of the general election, Chafee writes that he was both “irked and amused” at the “parade of Democratic Bush enablers” who trekked to Rhode Island to campaign for Whitehouse.

“Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and others who had voted for the war urged my constituents” to defeat him, Chafee writes.

If he had followed Jeffords’ lead and jumped ship when he realized that the Republican party had jumped shark, he’d still be a Senator. Not that I’m disappointed to have Whitehouse in his place (although he did support retroactive immunity for the telecoms).

Maybe he can become the Republicans’ Zell or Lieberman; the “principled moderate” whose criticisms carry more weight and legitimacy because they’re coming from the same side. Or maybe he’ll just be demonized as an America-hating liberal who only pretended to be a Republican so that he could get elected in a conservative stronghold like Rhode Island…

(h/t Stoller)

6 comments January 31st, 2008 at 11:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Bush,Politics,Republicans

Bearish Snowballing Elephants

It just keeps getting worse and worse (or better and better, depending on your political orientation or powers of spin):

A swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from the House, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens to cripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November.

Representative Tom Davis, a moderate from Northern Virginia, on Wednesday became the fifth House Republican in the last week to announce that he would not seek re-election.

That puts the roster of retirees at 28, one of the highest numbers recorded for the party in the House.

With only five Democratic seats opening so far, party strategists and independent analysts say the disparity in open seats – typically the most competitive House fights, as voters oust relatively few incumbents – makes it highly unlikely that Republicans could seize the seats necessary to regain the House. The current House has 199 Republicans and 232 Democrats, with four vacancies to be filled by special elections.

“The open-seat situation is so lopsided as to deny Republicans any chance of taking back the House in 2008,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication.

(…)

Mr. Davis said his return to life in the minority party was just one factor in deciding to leave, saying he wanted a sabbatical from politics to look into other opportunities. The congressman, who oversaw the House Republican campaign operation in 2000 and 2002, acknowledged that the landscape for his party was not promising.

“There isn’t any question it is going to be a tough year,” he said.

Four of the 28 Republicans who are so far leaving the House quit before their terms ended. They will be replaced in special elections before November, giving the winners of those races at least the technical mantle of incumbency in the general election.

That leaves 24 open Republican seats, though leaders of both parties expect at least a few more Republican retirements as state filing deadlines arrive. The high point for end-of-session Republican retirements is 27 in 1952, according to Congressional records.

(…)

“Clearly, it’s a sign that they see no prospect of Republicans regaining control of the House in the near future, and in fact the trend seems to be heading in the other direction,” said Representative Christopher Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

(…)

In the Senate, Republican retirements have also shifted the playing field, with six Republicans leaving and no Democrats retiring so far.

“We are still nine months away, and things just keep getting better,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The more Republicans retire from Congress, the more bleak the future looks for those who remain. The more bleak the future looks, the less likely they are to want to remain. I think this snowball is going to keep rolling, like a market crash where the selling feeds the panic that leads to more selling.

Best. Crash. Ever.

(h/t dakine)

28 comments January 31st, 2008 at 08:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,Politics,Republicans

Campaign Finance: Yer Doin’ It Wrong

Senator McCain appears to have it backwards:

One week after Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling “officially” endorsed Sen. John McCain for president, the Beantown hero received a softball of his own: a hefty donation from the McCain campaign to his and his wife’s charity.

On December 6, 2007, Schilling, relatively fresh off of his second World Series title with Boston, hit the campaign trail on McCain’s behalf, making an appearance at the Derryfield School in New Hampshire.

“I understand at the end of the day that he’ll do what’s right for us,” Schilling said, appearing next to the Arizona senator. “I think this election is going to come down to something that’s been absent for far too long and that’s character and integrity.”

Seven days later, according to campaign finance filings, the McCain campaign returned the favor by writing a check for $4,600 to the Curt & Shonda Schilling Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating melanoma. Both McCain and Shonda Schilling are skin cancer survivors.

(…)

The McCain campaign would not return request for comment. But campaign finance watchdogs see this as a bizarre if not questionable use of campaign dollars.

“In general it is inappropriate for members to be giving away campaign dollars for charities. It’s not why people made their contributions,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “If John McCain personally believed in Curt Schilling’s charity it is one thing. It is another to ask people to give money to his candidacy and have it go to Curt Schilling’s charity. The only way that makes sense is that he is paying for the endorsement, although they are apparently long time friends.”

That really is the strange part. Individuals make donations to charities; campaigns generally don’t. By making the donation out of his campaign funds instead of his personal bank account, McCain might as well be announcing that there was a quid pro quo here. But hey, if rich people can use donations to persuade politicians to do what they want, why can’t politicians use donations to persuade rich people to do what they want?

7 comments January 31st, 2008 at 06:48pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,McCain,Republicans,Sports

Spamercy Park

More comment spam. I have to say, I find these brief cryptic one-liners to be very intriguing.

geographical gins notwithstanding,dictated separate pays …

indignities innocuously commenced …

reticulation vexes verifiers …

congregates ascended:embellish gutting bystanders gross …

administers kilobit Episcopalian …

Corsica inscribes staging …

carefulness teamed blips!dieter,Abyssinia …

I’m not sure what they’re trying to tell me, but I think it’s important.

13 comments January 31st, 2008 at 11:39am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Spamoptikon

Natural Selection

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This is probably as good an explanation as any…

3 comments January 31st, 2008 at 07:39am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Comics

They Write Letters

A couple of interesting letters to the NYT in response to Monday’s State Of The Union address:

Of the many vexing comments in President Bush’s final State of the Union address, the one I find particularly off-putting is this: “Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I’m pleased to report that the I.R.S. accepts both checks and money orders.”

I am one of those citizens who are happy to pay taxes to support the functioning of our country and aid my fellow Americans, and am deeply offended by the president’s mockery of these sentiments.

Apparently the Bushies believe that paying taxes should be a matter of “personal virtue,” just like energy conservation.

And then there’s this”

In “The Bush Who Got Away” (Op-Ed, Jan. 28), Jacob Weisberg describes the compassionate conservative George W. Bush might have been as president.

Aside from the obvious issues of 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq war, one of the main reasons this compassionate conservatism never came to fruition is that President Bush served for six years with a very conservative Republican-controlled Congress that had only a passing interest in his compassionate conservative initiatives.

By the time the Democrats regained control of Congress, the war and its attendant huge yearly deficits and partisan acrimony dominated the political discourse.

One can only imagine how the Bush presidency might have differed had he served the first six years with a Democratic Congress.

*snort*

Bush really truly wanted to be a moderate, but those mean nasty Republicans in Congress forced him to be an asshole! Good thing he can show his true compassionate conservative colors now that Congress is in Democratic hands, right? Right?

Oh, and Bernie Sanders writes letters too:

Over the last seven years, nearly five million Americans slipped out of the middle class and into poverty; median household income for working-age Americans declined by nearly $2,500; 8.6 million Americans lost their health insurance; three million manufacturing jobs disappeared; and more than three million workers lost their pensions.

True, some of the richest Americans have not had it so good since the Roaring Twenties. But while the wealthiest .01 percent realized an average one-year increase in their income of $4.4 million from 2004-5, the bottom 90 percent of Americans saw their average income decline by $172.

Funny how the .01% have so much more influence on government than the 90% – I coulda sworn that we all just get the one vote…

5 comments January 30th, 2008 at 10:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush

This Site Could Save Your Life

If your world has been spinning out of control, this site here can help you to feel like yourself again. I promise, you’ll thank me.

This has been a Multi Medium public service announcement.

(h/t MSN/PC World)

10 comments January 30th, 2008 at 07:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

John McCain Knows What Americans Want

Because Americans hate their jobs and crave excitement:

“What does he say? The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re gonna have a lot more wars,” Buchanan said of McCain. Scarborough remarked that McCain’s “inviting” presidential platform for the fall consists of “less jobs and more wars” :

BUCHANAN: Here’s a guy, basically, what does he say? The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re gonna have a lot more wars.

SCARBOROUGH: We’re gonna start a lot of wars! He has promised, for the record Keith, John McCain’s platform – and it certainly looks inviting for the fall – he has promised less jobs and more wars. Now that’s something we can all rally behind.

(…)

While campaigning in Michigan earlier this month, McCain said some Michigan industries cannot be resurrected. “I’ve got to give you some straight talk: Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back,” he said.

And just this weekend, McCain told a crowd of supporters, “There’s going to be other wars. … I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”

Hooray for war and unemployment! Of course, if you have enough war, you don’t have to worry about unemployment so much. Maybe that’s McCain’s genius economic plan: if a huge chunk of the population is in the military, that means more civilian jobs left over for everyone else! Not to mention all the new jobs opening up at the munitions plant and Lockheed and Halliburton and Blackwater! Everybody wins!

25 comments January 30th, 2008 at 11:17am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,Iran,Iraq,McCain,Media,Politics,Republicans,War

Racism Is Dead! Hooray!

So, apparently we’re in a “post-racial” era now. That whole racism thing just up and went away. Who knew?

I am so sick of hearing “post-racial” bleated in the MSM over and over, seemingly in a desperate attempt to see Barack Obama’s successes so far in garnering diverse support as a sign that somehow, voters are looking beyond race. If you listen to NPR’s Daniel Schorr’s “A New, ‘Post-Racial’ Political Era in America,” you’ll sit there with your jaw on the table. There’s no transcript up yet, but trust me, Mr. Schorr makes some broad assumptions from the results in Iowa and South Carolina.

The short version: “post-racial” means 1) the rejection/diminution of traditional civil rights leadership; 2) the younger generation drawn to Obama is if not color-blind, color-blurred; 3) this election cycle will see less of a focus on race.

Awesome. So how’s that working out, then?

Alec Baldwin shared this bit of business being published in his local (East Hampton, NY) right-leaning paper, The Independent.

On the heels of Barack Obama being endorsed for the presidency by the normally close-to-the-vest Caroline Kennedy, whose invocation of her father’s enduring legacy carries, in some people’s hearts and minds, more weight than any ten such endorsements by others, please read what the local Republicans in my home town are thinking, and publishing, about Senator Obama. This is, quite clearly, not to be believed.

This is what passes off as satire:

“The truth is, I don’t know many black people, but my advisers have drafted a strategy to reel in the black vote:
1) Call everyone ‘Brother.’ Blacks, I am told, do this even if most of their real brothers are in jail.
2) Talk Jive. Brothers want to hear jive. During my speech I told the crowd, ‘We be, you know, sick of whitey supressin’ and congestin’ so, you know, we won’t denigrate or sophisticate but emulate and populate, you know, the system is, like, broken, y’all!’”And, in reference to Hillary Clinton:
“Ultimately, if she gets too close, one of my New york advisors has advised me to ‘Bitch slap that ho.’ White women, I am told, like that.”

(…)

What I am saying is that the underlying reason for promoting “post-racial” (note you don’t see many blacks tossing that around) is more about wanting it to be true so badly so that race doesn’t have to be dealt with. It cuts both ways.

Note you will see folks on the right (and the Clinton camp) complaining that they “cannot talk about race” in regards to Obama. No, they feel they cannot successfully use the familiar political dog-whistles that evoke fear without getting called on it.

It all goes back to the fear of being labeled “racist.” It’s almost as if we need to come up with another term that doesn’t conjure up visions of Klan Night Riders, lest whites recoil at the mere thought that they can hold ingrained biases through no fault of their own by growing up in this culture.

You know, the Glorious Post-Racial Golden Age sure is looking an awful lot like the Pre-Post-Racial Era that preceded it. Hillary and her surrogates may be using dog whistles, but the right is still using air horns. If Obama wins, get ready for A Thousand Points Of Macaca. (And if Hillary wins, get ready for A Thousand Points Of Bitch.) It will not be subtle, but it will be laundered through surrogates to preserve the Republican nominee’s deniability. I’m hopeful that the sheer volume and shamelessness of it will generate a massive backlash among decent, non-racist voters, but they could just as easily stay home in disgust.

Pam’s assessment of the underlying reason for the “post-racial” meme is spot-on, I think. If you declare victory over racism, then you don’t have to fight it anymore. One of the cruel ironies in this country is that, as far as I can tell (and I am admittedly not an expert), racism has been almost completely eradicated… on paper. Jim Crow and miscegenation laws have been struck down, there are equal opportunity and desegregation and anti-discrimination laws, there’s even affirmative action. (Even in the case of immigration, the laws themselves are technically focused on country of origin rather than race or color; it’s the enforcement and rhetoric that are saturated with anti-Latino hatred.)

And yet, somehow, incredibly, actual not-on-paper, in-the-flesh racism is still alive and well. But the fact that it’s been wiped out on paper means that the white powers-that-be can say, “Hey, we outlawed racism; what more do you want from us? We’ve gone as far as the law will allow, so we’re done now. Mission accomplished.” But of course it’s not accomplished, because laws can’t touch the heart or the mind or the soul, and laws are worthless when they’re ignored, or enforced with malicious intent.

So that’s where we are now. Racism is over because we say it’s over. Next we’ll declare that sexism is over, homophobia is over, poverty is over, and the Iraqupation is over, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

Welcome to the Potemkin Post-Racial Era.

3 comments January 30th, 2008 at 07:07am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Media,Politics,Racism,Republicans,Wankers

Ain’t Missin’ You At All

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Oh right, you’re still here. My bad.

Some of my favorite bits from The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin’s most excellent roundup of State Of The Union coverage – see if you can detect a theme:

A president’s voice is his most powerful tool, but the power is lost if people are no longer listening. “The country wants to get past this administration,” said presidential scholar Robert Dallek. [William Neikirk, Chicago Tribune]

President Bush proposed a short list of initiatives Monday that more than anything else underscored the White House’s growing realization that his biggest political opponents now are time and an electorate already looking beyond him.

…Nothing he proposed Monday is likely to redefine how history judges his presidency. [Steven Lee Myers, NYT]

“He’s totally eclipsed,” said Elaine Kamarck, who was a senior adviser to former vice president Al Gore. “Nothing he says is going to be important for anything that happens in the next 12 months. The speech is a nonevent.” [Peter Baker, WaPo]

Some Presidents are gone but not forgotten; Bush isn’t gone, but in a political sense is already forgotten.

His approval ratings are roughly half what they were at his first State of the Union address, about one-third of their post-9/11 peak. Republicans love his fund-raising prowess, but most candidates seldom mention him. “Nobody’s paying attention to him anymore,” said a veteran of his 2000 presidential campaign. [Thomas DeFrank, NY Daily News]

The House chamber held much less of the excitement and tension that marked previous State of the Union addresses.

Instead, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers seemed already to have moved on from Bush’s presidency, gossiping among themselves about the presidential race. [Michael Kranish and Susan Milligan, Boston Globe]

Embattled as he now is in his bunker and with fewer and fewer allies remaining to sustain his morale, even Bush himself now seems to have virtually given up hope for his own presidency. I suspect that he has now reached the stage where he, just as much as the rest of us, can’t wait for those 357 days to pass and for the 44th president to move into the White House and take charge. Goodnight, Mr President. [Andrew Stephen, New Statesman]

The idea of being irrelevant probably hurts Dubya even more than being despised.

Two other tidbits, one from WaPo Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser, in an online chat:

It is fascinating to me how difficult it is for politicians (and journalists too, to be fair) to say publicly what so many of them readily say among themselves now: this is a failed presidency, one of the most unsuccessful in American history probably. Republicans in Congress say this to each other, but tonight they jump up an applaud like cheerleaders for their team.

I mean, not that his paper has been guilty of that or anything, but still, it’s refreshing to hear.

And this second item is just pathetic, really:

The White House press office is calling attention to this morning’s Wall Street Journal editorial and its assertion that “even with only a year left, the Bush Presidency is far from over. With his low approval rating and a Democratic Congress, Mr. Bush’s final State of the Union last night reflected his limited ability to shape legislation. But even a lame duck President has more power to influence events than anyone else on the planet.”

Look! We’re still relevant! Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal says so!

Yes, it is true to some extent, but most of Dubya’s power now is that of obstruction and destruction, neither of which is going to help his legacy any. Oh, and he can break some more laws, but that won’t help either.

1 comment January 29th, 2008 at 09:44pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media

Voytek The Polish Army Bear

voytek.jpg

I swear I am not making this up:

History is filled with unsung heroes of war. Among the hairiest and perhaps heaviest is Voytek, (Wojtek), the courageous, beer-guzzling, chain-smoking brown bear of Poland’s 22nd Transport Company….

Born in Iran in about 1942, Voytek’s story reads like a myth. He reportedly marched on his hind legs in time with the troops, fought along side them at the battle of Monte Cassino, and liked to smoke and drink. “There are people I’ve spoken to who have never heard of Voytek at all and see the story as some sort of myth,” says Garry Paulin, who has written a book about Voytek. “I think it’s important that people know the facts about Voytek, that’s why I’ve aimed the book at children as well.”

By numerous accounts Voytek was acquired as a cub by the Polish Army in the mountains of Hamadan from a young boy carrying him around in a sack. The troops, many of whom had just been released from Siberian work camps, became enamored of the honey-colored bear. They fed him milk out of an old vodka bottle, reared him and treated him not as pet, but as a fellow soldier as they made their way across the Middle East to the Lebanese front.

His shining moment came in April 1944 during the battle of Monte Cassino. One of the final hold-outs of the Axis, the sixth-century abbey atop an Apennine peak had proven impregnable to allied forces. Polish forces were sent in along with Voytek’s troop, and a bloody siege ensued.

The 22nd Transport Company was charged with moving supplies up and down the mountainside. During the battle, Voytek is said to have walked up to his commanding officer and put out his paws. The officer handed him a “heavy box and watched in wonder as Voytek loaded it effortlessly onto the truck. Backwards and forwards he continued, time and time again, carrying heavy shells, artillery boxes and food sacks from truck to truck, from one waiting man to another.” The monastery was taken at last and Voytek became the symbol of the 22nd Company. It even made an emblem in his likeness.

(…)

Voytek died in December 1963. Since then his story has been drifting through the pages of historic lore like a wandering bear, heard but unconfirmed. Despite extensive documentation, photographs and even a few sculptures, most people have never heard of Voytek, or regard him as a myth. But Scottish campaigner Aileen Orr, along with others, wants to change that by erecting a memorial. As she told the BBC: “The story is totally amazing.”

Incredible. Who among us does not love bears?

1 comment January 29th, 2008 at 08:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,War,Weirdness

Killer Flashlight Of DOOOOOM

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Un-frickin’-believable:

Sure, there’s always the pukelight for good times around the house, but sometimes you’ve just got to do some damage — which is where The Torch from Wicked Lasers comes in. The 4100-lumen flashlight is being considered for the Guiness Book of World Records, and can ignite paper, light cigarettes, melt plastic, and even fry an egg — but only has a fifteen minute battery life….

I’m not entirely sure what practical purpose this serves, but it sure is impressive.

(More here, product page here)

1 comment January 29th, 2008 at 07:37pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology,Weirdness

TV Critic Chills Me To My Very Soul

The very first line of Tom Shales’ review of last night’s SOTU:

George W. Bush finished his seventh and possibly final State of the Union speech at 10:02 p.m. last night….

Possibly final??? NOOOOOOO!!!!

January 29th, 2008 at 06:23pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Media,Quotes

Bush Drops The Ball

Yesterday’s SOTU failed to follow up on one of the most pressing issues of our time:

On Monday afternoon, whitehouse.gov, our one-stop shopping site for neutral-colored residences, posted this important update on the proceedings:

“President Bush will deliver his State of the Union address on January 28, 2008. Whatever the form, content, delivery method or broadcast medium, the President’s annual address is a backdrop for national unity.”

Our guesses — and please bear in mind that we are neither pundits nor smart people — were:

Form: Macaroni collage
Content: In-depth analysis of monumentally important human-animal hybrid controversy
Delivery Method: Ice Cream Truck
Broadcast Medium: Tin cans, string

Boy, was our collective face red! Turns out, Bush chose to go with:

Form: Speech
Content: Economic stuff, Incentive stuff, Legacy stuff
Delivery Method: Mouth
Broadcast Medium: TV

(…)

9:06: The President arrives, fashionably late, and fashionably attired in a blue tie the exact shade of America’s current malaise. After much hand-shaking, he takes his place at the rostrum, in front of Dick Cheney, a human-zombie hybrid, and Nancy Pelosi, a human-woman hybrid.

9:07: Bush gets down to business right away, talking about the economy, his stimulus plan, etc. Obviously, he’s saving human-animal hybrids for later in the speech.

9:12: Tax relief. No mention of how human-animal hybrids could affect it.

(…)

9:29: “I call on Congress to ban unethical practices such as… This is it!…� the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life.” Human-animal hybrids, here we -

Um.

Hello?

He’s just moved on to “matters of justice.” Matters of justice!? How about the injustice of not discussing human-animal hybrids?!

9:30: Okay, now we’re ticked.

9:33: America is responding to immigration by “deploying fences.” If we had human-animal hybrids, we could line them up along the Mexican border. They would be dangerous, yet understanding. Does nobody see this?

(…)

Yes, we’re a little shocked right now.

But in a way, we’re almost glad President Bush didn’t discuss human-animal hybrids in this year’s State of the Union. Perhaps he understood that, with only one year left, they’re simply too big for him to take on. (Some are, quite literally. Especially if the human is tall to begin with, and then the animal it’s fused with is like a rhino or a blue whale.)

We look forward to next year, when the State of the Union is delivered by someone else. Someone more attuned to the plight of the human-animal. Maybe a centaur.

By then, it may be TOO LATE.

January 29th, 2008 at 11:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush

Thanks For Nothing

Stirling Newberry is fed up, and who can blame him:

This President has been mired below 50% approval for his entire second term, and below 40% for most of it. He is viewed highly negatively as a person by more people who like him even a little. And Congress? This Congress has an approval of 18%, a level which means that were the public given the option of abolishing Congress, they might well pass it by a constitutional super-majority.

A foolish Speaker of the House has refused to prosecute high crimes and misdemeanors in the executive, and has cut deals on stimulus that shaft the poor, the children and the unfortunate in order to pile gifts to the extremely wealthy. A conservative Senate Majority Leader combined with her to pass more and more blank checks to the biggest squanderer in history. And two members of this inaugust Congress now vie for the nomination, topping each other in how little of the last eight years they want to undo. In poll after poll, both of them run double digits behind a generic Democrat running for the Presidency. Perhaps because the public understands how little they deserve that name.

Someone must say these things, and those that curry for favor or jobs in the government or with a party cannot do so, and will not do so. Those who clamor for attention will find the road blocked by a media which rallied behind a unity towards an illegal war, and now are eager to smirk at the failures of policies that they failed to oppose. This was not an unfortunate outcome, but a clear and obvious result and culmination of exactly what was obvious on a chill night in Florida, when word came down from the Supreme Court that once an election was stolen, it could never be returned to its owners, and Americans had no right to vote for who would occupy the executive office.

This is not a period of certainty, but of absolute certainty. America’s position in the world is diminished, our share of global GDP is down, our dollar is at its weakest in memory, our credibility destroyed by outrageous lies to the world, our military ground up by the grit of the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, while the more important wars remain unfought, and more dangerous prey remains unfettered. The clock of an aging baby boom has gone from the ticking of a watch, to the tolling of a bell. It will be midnight chiming soon.

News is written by the winners, history by the survivors. Let me tell you what history will have to say about this President and all who enabled him:

They did do nothing to deserve the name, “Americans”.

Go rally behind your spigot of falsehoods, around a President who has broken the laws, defamed the honor of the nation and obliterated constitutional protections that even the Kings of England would not have touched. But realize that unless and until there is a democratic revolution against this new age of absolutism, that there is only one road that we will walk, and that road is down, into the abyss of fallen imperial delusion, and among the shattered stone ruins of fallen crowns. But realize the people have turned against you. We do not merely distrust you, we hate you. We loathe your privileges and your powers. We curse your name in every day language. You can shroud your ears for many years, but with each haughty and high handed slap you deliver to the public’s face, there are painful lashes coming from Clio’s pen. You will not be forgotten, but remembered along side slave holders who would burn the Union down rather than be human beings, and along side the cult of gold that crushed American into Great Depression. Look upon the busts of Harding and Hoover, and reflect the long hard work you have done to give some other generation a chance to be great, by being worthy of the company of the incompetent and the incomprehensible.

Let history write what ruin the arrogance of this age will bring, I say it now, because I have no love for your king.

Yet another reminder that Bush couldn’t do it alone. He had lots of help, and not just from Republicans. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the Republicans who are arrayed against us and need to be thrown out; it’s a sizable chunk of the Democrats as well, including – especially - the party leadership.

January 29th, 2008 at 07:08am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

How Conveeeenient.

I don’t like this at all:

Apparently even the cease-and-desist letters sent to sites to inform them to stop violating copyrights are now – copyrighted.

TechDirt is reporting an update to a case they first covered back in October where a lawyer tried to claim his cease-and-desist letters fell under a copyright, and thus no one could legally reprint them without his express permission. The people’s advocacy group, Public Citizen, saw this as a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and moved to stop it.

Yet from the look of a press release put out yesterday by the lawyer in question, it seems the judge agreed the man’s claim. The publication of a letter can now result statutory damages for as much as $150,000 per occurrence plus attorneys’ fees that can average $750,000 through trial.

Ya know, I’m not a lawyer or a psychic, but I’m pretty sure that cease-and-desist letters were not the kind of intellectual content that copyright law was written to cover. In fact, this doesn’t really look like the protection of intellectual content at all, so much as protection against embarrassment and exposure for sleazy lawyers and their clients who use C&D letters to harass and intimidate.

It’s just a theory.

(h/t Caro Kay)

January 28th, 2008 at 11:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Judiciary,Wankers

Monday Media Blogging Redux

Because I just can’t leave well enough alone. Behold the shocking video of a bear on the loose in this family’s yard!

YouTube Preview Image

Don’t worry, they were eventually able to return this majestic creature to his habitat unharmed.

(h/t Dan Vera)

1 comment January 28th, 2008 at 10:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Freudian Slip?

Well, that was unintentionally revealing. Just before the State Of The Union address got underway, Brian Williams said:

The President likes the trains on time…

You know, I can think of someone else who liked the trains on time.

January 28th, 2008 at 09:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media

Is It Too Late To Change My Endorsement?

I just realized who would be the perfect Democratic nominee:

voteforpedro.JPG

32GB unlocked iPhones for everyone!!!

Also, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Rove in jail, the rule of law restored, publicly financed elections, electric cars, American troops out of Iraq, fair and impartial judges, fair and impartial media, religion out of politics, a sane and compassionate immigration policy, and tough, smart Democratic politicians who care about the environment and ordinary citizens at least as much as they care about the rich and powerful.

Did I miss anything? (I was promised flying cars…)

NOTE: “Religion out of politics” should be considered shorthand for gay marriage, abortion rights, and stem cell research.

January 28th, 2008 at 09:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Spamakopita

Usually my comment spam gets trapped by my spam filters, but the ones that get through tend to be doozies. Today I got:

maiming coached seaport?hologram,illusively …

And:

linearizing,snoopy gamblers tinkles …

They almost, tantalizingly make sense. I love the spam that sounds like avant-garde poetry.

Also, I got a couple more of those lewd e-mails with the same general formula as before. From Glenda Walter and Anibal Harmon, respectively, in Subject / Body format:

CockMonolithicLenora / JuliaSchlongBroad

BigDickKenya / PenisWide-ranging Jerald

That last one is just brilliant.

January 28th, 2008 at 08:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Spamoptikon

FEC Damns Self With Faint Praise

David Mason, FEC chairman, responds to an NYT op-ed about how slow and ineffective his agency is:

The contention that enforcement action is slow and ineffective also flies in the face of basic facts. The time required to complete investigations and conciliation in enforcement actions has declined by 30 percent in recent years, with the commission resolving 85 percent of cases within 15 months. At the same time, the F.E.C. has received civil penalties approaching $6 million in 2007, following a record receipt of $6.2 million in penalties in 2006, more than double the levels in previous years.

Wow, 15 months and $6 million – that sure is sticking it to the big-money donors, all right.

My favorite part: The fact that the op-ed that Mr. Rapid Response is responding to is from January 3rd.

January 28th, 2008 at 11:56am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,Politics

Monday Media Blogging

It looks like there is a very formidable late entrant in the Republican primaries – this could be a serious problem for Hillary in the general.

YouTube Preview Image

And what a running mate!

(h/t Woody)

January 28th, 2008 at 11:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Post-Partisanship Is A Two-Way Street

Paul Krugman reminds us that it’s not enough to have to have an oh-so-civil, across-the-aisle-reaching, “post-partisan” Democratic president to improve the tone in Washington:

Whatever hopes people might have had that Mr. Clinton would usher in a new era of national unity were quickly dashed. Within just a few months the country was wracked by the bitter partisanship Mr. Obama has decried.

This bitter partisanship wasn’t the result of anything the Clintons did. Instead, from Day 1 they faced an all-out assault from conservatives determined to use any means at hand to discredit a Democratic president.

(…)

No accusation was considered too outlandish: a group supported by Jerry Falwell put out a film suggesting that the Clintons had arranged for the murder of an associate, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page repeatedly hinted that Bill Clinton might have been in cahoots with a drug smuggler.

(…)

[T]hose who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).

The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

What a tradeoff – we would get a Democratic president who capitulates to the Republicans… and gets savaged just as much as he would if he had vowed to wipe the Republican Party from the face of the earth and proceeded to govern like Dubya’s liberal twin. Fantastic.

Which brings me right back to what I have never been able to understand about the Obama campaign. Obama inspires people with this idea that he would somehow be a transformational agent of change, yet his avowed strategy is to work with Republicans to try to somehow bridge the gap and find common ground between the parties. How exactly will that bring about change? President Obama would get rolled, and the country would continue drifting to the right, albeit (maybe, hopefully) a little more slowly.

I want a Democratic president who will stand their ground and say NO, as clearly and loudly as possible, and who recognizes that the Republicans, as well as most of the media, are his or her sworn enemies. If the Republicans want “compromise,” let them yield some ground first. If the media wants access, let them stop acting as right-wing propaganda outlets first.

If that sounded like an endorsement of Hillary, it shouldn’t. She does understand what she’s facing, but she also belongs to the establishment, business-as-usual, hawkish corporate DLC wing of the Democratic party. I just don’t trust her to consistently take the right stand on the issues that are important to progressives, particularly Iraq, Iran, the Constitution, and the ever-increasingly concentration of power and money in the hands of a few privileged elites.

That’s why I’m still endorsing Edwards, who has a much more progressive and oppositional message, and would be much more likely to fight for actual substantive change. I still would have preferred Dodd, though. He showed far more courage and leadership than any of the three frontrunners, and got precious little to show for it.

1 comment January 28th, 2008 at 07:46am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Clinton,Democrats,Elections,Media,Obama,Politics,Republicans

At Long Last, Still No Sense Of Decency

Finally, the wait is over!

A few years ago, on assignment for this newspaper, I attended a memorial service for McCarthy at his grave site in Appleton, Wis. It’s an annual event, sponsored by a local group that hopes to turn the senator’s birthday into a national holiday and put his likeness on a postage stamp. Most of the celebrants were elderly, and several belonged to the far-right John Birch Society. “There aren’t a lot of us still around,” an 87-year-old McCarthy supporter told me. “When we die, who’ll be left to tell the truth about Joe?”

He needn’t have worried. A full-throated defense of the senator is now in the bookstores. Written by M. Stanton Evans, a conservative journalist whose roots stretch back to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, it carries a title, “Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies” (Crown Forum, $29.95), that well explains its thesis. Though a handful of other pro-McCarthy books have appeared over the years — the most recent being Arthur Herman’s “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator” — none created much interest among conservatives. But “Blacklisted by History” is drawing significant attention on the political right, where the reviews have ranged from gushing (The Weekly Standard) to scathing (National Review). If nothing else, Evans has forced his movement friends to look again at McCarthy. For conservatives, the crazy uncle has finally left the attic.

(…)

…Evans buys into the heart of the McCarthy conspiracy — the belief that leftist elements in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations created a foreign policy to advance the spread of world Communism.

How else could one explain the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe or the fall of Chiang Kai-shek to the army of Mao Zedong? “Who lost China?” propelled McCarthy to the national stage. Along the way, he described General George C. Marshall, the nation’s most respected military commander, as a Communist dupe; urged Secretary of State Dean Acheson to seek asylum in the Soviet Union; purposely confused the names of the convicted perjurer and likely Soviet spy Alger Hiss and the 1952 Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (“Alger — I mean Adlai”); and called Harry Truman a “son of a bitch” who made his key decisions in the midnight darkness while drunk on bourbon. [That's certainly not ironic at all...]

McCarthy blamed the fall of China on “a conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” Evans not only endorses this conspiracy but actually expands it to include “the Eastern, internationalist faction” of the Republican Party, “with ties to Wall Street, large corporations, big Eastern media outlets and Ivy League establishment.” To Evans, the conspiracy passed from president to president — from Roosevelt and Truman to Eisenhower and even Nixon, a former McCarthyite, who “would fall off the teeter-totter, landing with Henry Kissinger in Red China, thereafter pushing on into the mists of détente with Moscow.”

This remarkable fantasy, playing upon the deepest fears of right-wing Republicans, ignores the actual United States foreign policy that gave billions of dollars in aid to Chiang, fought a brutal war in Korea against two Communist nations, propped up an anti-Communist regime in Vietnam at the cost of 58,000 American lives and refused for three decades to recognize the government of Mao. Most historians today view the “loss” of China for what it was: a futile American attempt to aid a corrupt and unpopular regime. And most see Truman — the key bogeyman of the McCarthyites — as a tough anti-Communist who protected constitutional liberties at home and American interests abroad.

(…)

Fifty years have passed since the senator died of liver failure, at age 48. The fiercely negative judgments of those who lived through the McCarthy era are widely accepted today for good reason: they ring true. These judgments tell a cautionary tale, showing how a nation’s legitimate concern for security in uncertain times can be turned into something partisan, repressive and cruel. McCarthy will continue to resonate on the fringes of the body politic because the conspiracy he championed — the disloyalty of powerful elites — goes back to the founding of our country and beyond. Redeem him? I can best respond by quoting the man himself, on another issue, near the end of his career. “This,” muttered the flummoxed McCarthy as the Senate moved to condemn his behavior, “is the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of.”

The right wing’s continuing love affair with one several of the most odious, divisive and paranoid figures in American history tells you all you need to know about them. They love to demonize everyone they dislike, and blame their enemies for everything bad that happens instead of taking responsibility of their own mistakes. Which are legion. Grudging kudos to the National Review for rejecting McCarthy, and as for the Weekly Standard, well, is anyone really surprised?

Also, how could the same state produce both Joe McCarthy and Russ Feingold? Maybe it’s some kind of karma-balancing thing…

January 27th, 2008 at 03:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Corruption/Cronyism,Republicans,Wankers

Sunday Mr. Deity Blogging

Mr. Deity deals with the fallout from shutting down Limbo.


You know the Mickey D’s, just outside the gates of Hell, on MLK Boulevard?

January 27th, 2008 at 11:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging,Mr. Deity,Religion

Want/Do Not Want

chocolate-larva.jpg

Oh dear:

A unique chocolate made to look like a beetle larva has captured the fancy of candy aficionados in Japan. Produced by the Komatsuya confectionery and bakery based in Akita prefecture, the bite-sized Larva Chocolates (Youchu Choco) have a grub-shaped body made from milk chocolate and corn flakes, a layer of skin made from white chocolate, legs made from tiny strips of dried squid, and a dainty mouth made from orange peel. Komatsuya, which is struggling to keep up with demand, hand-produces about 400 per day and sells them online (shipping in Japan only) for 210 yen ($2) each.

Part of me thinks this is just appalling, and part of me thinks that I must have one.

January 26th, 2008 at 08:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Weirdness

The Database Revisited

As much as I despise the Bush administration and believe that the 935 Lies Of BushCo. Database is a worthy and valuable endeavor, I think my friend Anders makes a valid comment:

The philosopher in me really wants to insist that the database lists statements that turned out to be false, not “lies”. A statement that turns out to be false is not necessarily a lie when it is made. For one thing, it has to be known to be false to be a lie. I have no doubt that, for example, Bush may really have believed we found weapons of mass destruction at the time he said so.

The point is that moral culpability of the act really depends on the epistemic situation of the speaker at the time, not on the objective facts as later determined. It is perfectly possible for false statements to be fully justified by evidence available at the time of their making, in which case, the maker is blameless for going where the evidence points.

I am not saying these statements were even justified by that standard. But by and large don’t see any serious attempt by the compilers of the database to clearly identify *lies* among these statements.

I don’t really want to defend the Bushie’s conduct with these statements. But this conflation of lying with speaking falsely seems to me a every sleazy rhetorical maneuver. To me, Bush-bashers are no better than Coulter or Rush Limbaugh if they exploit such a conflation. One should have higher standards of argumentation.

Now, I believe that Anders is probably giving BushCo. far more benefit of the doubt than they deserve. I think that in most cases, Bush and his inner circle were well aware that what they were saying was false or, at best, completely unsubstantiated (remember “The intelligence is being fixed around the policy”?).

But Anders is correct that the database does not take the additional step of closing the loop by contrasting BushCo’s false statements with what they knew at the time. It’s easy to say that the Bushies said 935 things that were untrue, but if you want to prove that they’re liars and not just fools, then you have to show that their statements were as clearly false then as they are now. They do some of this on the main page, but not within the individual database items.

However, I feel obliged to point out that even if you give the Bushies the maximum benefit of the doubt and say that they were simply mistaken 935 times about something as weighty as the reasons for going to war, that is pretty damning in its own right.

4 comments January 26th, 2008 at 01:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Republicans,Terrorism,War

Why I Like Science Fiction

I kinda thought I had written this post already, but now Clive Thompson has gone and beaten me to it:

If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best – and perhaps only – place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas.

From where I sit, traditional “literary fiction” has dropped the ball. I studied literature in college, and throughout my twenties I voraciously read contemporary fiction. Then, eight or nine years ago, I found myself getting – well – bored.

Why? I think it’s because I was reading novel after novel about the real world. And there are, at the risk of sounding superweird, only so many ways to describe reality. After I’d read my 189th novel about someone living in a city, working in a basically realistic job and having a realistic relationship and a realistically fraught family, I was like, “OK. Cool. I see how today’s world works.” I also started to feel like I’d been reading the same book over and over again.

(…)

…[Science fiction] authors rewrite one or two basic rules about society and then examine how humanity responds – so we can learn more about ourselves. How would love change if we lived to be 500? If you could travel back in time and revise decisions, would you? What if you could confront, talk to, or kill God?

This is exactly why I love sci-fi and have so much trouble reading regular fi – I’m fascinated by the universes that the writers create. The what-ifs, the concepts, the richness and complexity and otherness of it.

I’ve read stories where people can create specialized one-day duplicates of themselves whose memories they can download before the duplicates expire (Kiln People); where everyone’s brain is backed up to a hard drive and can be re-inserted into a new “sleeve” if they die (Altered Carbon); where entropy works in reverse so that everything improves with use (The Practice Effect); where intelligent spaceships pose frozen passengers in historical dioramas (Excession); where aliens spell out messages with human pimples (oops, that was the Weekly World News). And I’ve already gone on at length about Queen Of Angels.

A finely-crafted universe is a compelling character unto itself.

4 comments January 25th, 2008 at 10:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Science,Technology

The Money Quote

Literally:

A study by Zandi estimates that every dollar put into the food stamp program produces a $1.73 increase in the economy as the money is spent and spent again. By contrast, every dollar put into the business tax breaks that are in the stimulus package will increase the economy by 27 cents, according to the study.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong metric. The correct metric is, of course, how many of those stimulus dollars end up in campaign contributions to Republicans.

(By way of The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin)

January 25th, 2008 at 06:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Economy,Quotes,Republicans

Downtown Photoblogging Wrap-Up

Well, I guess this about does it for the downtown photoblogging:

Building Circle

Who among us does not love circles on their buildings?

Downtown Alley

It feels like the walls are closing in, man.

Inside Lights Reflection 2

I think I may have caught someone in mid-teleport.

January 25th, 2008 at 11:37am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

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