Monday, February 06, 2012

Thank you, XKCD

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A simpler government?

I think once Obama takes office, we'll miss the smooth days of the Bush presidency, when we always knew he meant what he said. Like this.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Interesting times

The votes are still being tabulated, but it's a certainty: The race for president of the United States, between experienced Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and tough-prosecutor turned 9/11 stalwart Rudolph Giuliani has finally been decided.

Wait, what? I thought they were supposed to be the candidates. Isn't that what everyone was saying when this race kicked into high gear what, a year ago? Interesting how things change.

One note of irony: John McCain said, in his concession speech, that he will never surrender.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yet another celebrity speaks out

... but at least this one's funny. Transcript over at JustJared, via FunnyOrDie:
See more Hayden Panettiere videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Financial meltdown

Yesterday I read a commentary on the economy by a professional mistress, and it was actually one of the more insightful and useful views of the financial situations. Today I'm back on Fark and discover a post by a Farker named Geekette that really summarizes what's going on in Congress now:
Our nation is retarded. We continue to buy into these false 'tax breaks' that are actually deferrals while we borrow from other countries what we need to run our government as if we never have to pay it back, then we proceed to spend even more money like a college kid with their first credit card.

You want to fix it? Let's pony up and pay our damn taxes NOW, pay off our debt, and reduce spending on pork. Pork, by the way, is not infrastructure, or health programs or education programs, or other truly necessary programs, but cronyism-induced cash-orgies for industries with the most lobbyist money.

Can we send congress to a few credit-counseling seminars and have them cut up their magic credit cards?

The rest of the discussion is here, on a story that a Fark headline writer neatly summarized: "Senate to amend bailout bill to include a massive tax cut. So we're going to fix the financial problems by increasing our spending and decreasing our revenue. Economics professors slap foreheads, wipe hands on pants"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin, revisited

Two posts in one day -- starting to think this blog is coming alive again.

The New York Times article on Sarah Palin is a must-read for anyone eligible to vote in the November presidential election.

I'm won't try to summarize it, offer links to the many discussions/debates/serieses of rants going online, whatever. Please read it if you can vote.

Why Obama's race got much tougher

David Paul Kuhn, a Politico writer, has written about 5 reasons why McCain has pulled ahead -- highlighting everything from Palin's ability to make the Republican core excited to the Wal-mart shoppers' opposition to Obama. The last I found particularly interesting -- Kuhn's even using the same political guru in 1992 who helped use the economy as a linchpin to get a Democrat into office against a Republican ... and now a poor economy is being held against the Democrat who's running against a Republican with similar outlooks as the officeholder. It's worth a read -- and a fair bit of thinking.

This race never fails to get more interesting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Is Keith Olbermann right that, among other things, the point of the Republican 9/11 video to honor its victims ... was really about terrorism?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's the economy, stupid

So many political choices are made based on economic decisions, and they're rarely informed economic decisions. This year, folks are talking a lot about national security experience ... as if Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's decades of public service had somehow benefited the country in a way that no amateur could ever dream of.

So I found some interesting economic tidbids, too. Click on each chart for more information.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hypocritical bastards

It's sad when it takes a comedian to point out the hypocrisy in staked political claims.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marrying rich?

One of the latest mini-"scandals" is that John McCain can't say, off the cuff, how many homes he actually has. Of the roughly 300 people in America, it's a fair bet that maybe 280 million can actually talk or otherwise communicate under their own power, and probably no more than a handful of those 280 million people would ever have the slightest problem telling you, without thinking about the question, just how many homes they own.

Is McCain too rich? Is McCain senile? Is he out of touch? Or is this just a latest smear job of a hard-working guy who means well? Oh, that depends entirely on whom you ask.

The Wall Street Journal offers an introduction to HouseGate.

But it'll be interesting to see how this issue gets spun by both sides -- Obama already has an ad -- but particularly by some of the "conservative" establishment. Glenn Greenwald has sort of a pre-emptive strike going on how another politician was attacked for being such an enthusiastic real estate investor. Will people be jumping to McCain's defense? Will any of the people who levied similar attacks four years ago weigh in on this one?

The potential for high-profile hypocrisy is absolutely stunning on this one. Let's see who crosses the losing line first.

Edit: Oh, boy, did I post entirely too soon. It didn't take long.

Rush Limbaugh, circa 2008:
This house business, this is such a nonstory. The rich elitism now is almost entirely found on the left. From the Jay Rockefellers to the John Kerrys to the Pelosis. I mean Pelosi is a multimillionairess with her husband. She's got all kinds of homes. This business that they're still focusing on McCain on this, just classic, just classic the way the media just pumps this stuff up and tries to make a story out of it to try to help Obama, because it's such a nonstory.
And then there's a different point of view in 2004:
Then John Kerry's daddy is his wives. (laughter) I mean, he's a gigolo. Everybody knows this. There's nobody in our party really has much respect for this guy and you can see it last night, but I can't say that. I mean, you got sugar daddy wife back then. You got sugar daddy wife now. He worked his way up from a blue blood to a platinum American Express card, and it doesn't have his name on it.
So remember, the rich elitist people are only problems when they're rich elitist liberals.

It's amazing that some attacks can stand, like the one about Obama being a celebrity. Guess what? The attack dogs on the right have found a way to portray Obama as a bad guy for being popular and inspirational among potential voters. That there Anonymous Liberal suggested a speech for Obama:
So remember, when John McCain and his surrogates call me a "celebrity," they're not insulting me; they're insulting you. They're insinuating that you are a mindless groupie rather than a concerned citizen, a fan rather than a voter.
Will these attacks and counterattacks work? Perhaps. Time will tell. It's a shame that politics has gotten so in the gutter that the most positive things have become methods of attack, the most potentially inspirational things have been turned into a drawback, a chance to involve more voters is a some sort of horrible fad -- when they're those evil liberals.

Here's to hoping American voters recognize this sorta crap for, well, the crap that it is. Judge candidates on true things -- their ability to organize and lead, their positions on specific issues, their experience, all of that, all the things of substance. But, America, please don't let some slimy misguided attack ad turn good into bad.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ouch ouch

It's amazing what amateurs can whip up -- and sometimes, how the simplest things are the best:

Sunday, August 03, 2008


You can argue about the politics, tactics, training, religion, logistics and anything else that led to this story. It just made me want to say, "Damn."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When politics reality

A question for consideration: Is McCain getting a free ride on his criticism of Obama with regards to the surge?

The surge came at the same time as a significant change in both tactics and strategy. The previous tactics and strategy had actually been creating insurgents and discontent -- as happens when you sweep up every single fighting-age male and put them in jail without consideration as to whether they're actually guilty, and then treat them as such in subpar prisons without legal representation that would allow them to question their consideration. (See, for example, the book "Fiasco" for how badly this backfired.)

Is violence down in Iraq? Absolutely, and that's to be celebrated and praised. Is it due to the surge or the change in leadership, tactics and strategy? I don't know if that question's been addressed. McCain's attacking Obama as being opposed to the surge, which he was; but McCain also got to say Iraq would be a walkthrough.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Presidential hopeful John McCain has outlaid his plan for withdrawing the United States from its addiction of foreign oil. Well, not really a plan.
I think that if we’re dependent on any thing outside the United States of America, it has to, it has to enter into any calculations that we make. I mean if we’re dependent on something from some part of the world, then that has to be part of our calculation that we make. But I, it’s obvious that we are dependent on oil from the Middle East and that is something that we have to become independent of, because it’s very unstable part of the world.
Yeah. No plan. Just some stammering.

Is it useful to quit sucking the foreign oil tit? Damned straight. Is McCain the guy to get us there? Oh, hell no.

Maybe the answer is nuclear power for most power generation, which could free up natural gas for transportation until electric cars become practical.

Or we can try McCain's route, which is some stammering and no plan. Don't worry. Vote for the guy and we'll be in Iraq 100 years, but we won't need to be. And we'll have our own oil. And a pony!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Caught in a bald-faced lie

A Fark headline writer nailed it:
Video of Hillary's dangerous entry to Bosnia as she escapes sniper bullets. Apparently, the 8-year old reading her poetry on the tarmac failed to notice the hail of gunfire

Monday, March 03, 2008

Checks, please

"The contempt of Congress statute was not intended to apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an executive branch official who asserts the president's claim of executive privilege," Mukasey wrote, quoting Justice policy.

"Accordingly," Mukasey concluded, "the department has determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did not constitute a crime."

Our new attorney general appears to have a functioning memory in some respects, but not one that seems to recall the Constitution's plan for checks and balnces. Here we have the executive branch interpreting a law in its favor. Congress rightly decides this needs to go to a judge. Is this political?, well, yeah, blatantly. But it's also structurally the right thing to do.

Of course, the Wall Street Journal looks for another viewpoint from someone calling for a fair and balanced interpretation and enforcement of the laws:
“This sort of pandering to the left-wing fever swamps of loony liberal activists does nothing to make America safer.”
One commenter offers a sensible view:
Finally doing something to hold this group of criminals accountable for their actions makes you a “Loony Liberal”??? Holding government officials accountable for their actions is called justice. So does this mean that republicans and conservatives are soft on crime??

Washington needs an enema.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is so worth it

Sorry for the prolonged absence. It will resume shortly. The baby's almost one year old now, but shows little sign of lifting herself up by her bootstraps. Particularly as her shoes use Velcro ... Hrm.

Anyway, I spent far too long worrying about Georgia's water supplies, and longer than that reading worthless proclamations. This cause is more than enough reason to post one thing back to this blog. (Note: I couldn't find the original online, so this is indeed copied and pasted from that same news site.)

WHEREAS, it has come to pass that the heavens are shut up and a drought of Biblical proportions has been visited upon the Southern United States, and

WHEREAS, the parched and dry conditions have weighed heavily upon the State of Georgia and sorely afflicted those who inhabit the Great City of Atlanta, and

WHEREAS, the leaders of Georgia have assembled like the Children of Israel in the desert, grumbled among themselves and have begun to cast longing eyes toward the north, coveting their neighbor’s assets, and

WHEREAS, the lack of water has led some misguided souls to seek more potent refreshment or for other reasons has resulted in irrational and outrageous actions seeking to move a long established and peaceful boundary, and

WHEREAS, it is deemed better to light a candle than curse the darkness, and better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst, and

Whereas, it is feared that if today they come for our river, tomorrow they might come for our Jack Daniels or George Dickel,

NOW THEREFORE, In the interest of brotherly love, peace, friendship, mutual prosperity, citywide self promotion, political grandstanding and all that

I Ron Littlefield, Mayor of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee,

Do hereby Proclaim that Wednesday, February 27, 2008 shall be known as

“Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day”

Monday, February 26, 2007

The White House is making yet another effort at historical revisionism -- by blotting out the stuff it used to be proud of.

Earlier we posted about how the White House disposed of its Mission Accomplished banner from its video archives.

Now we're seeing that the White House is disappearing old speeches. The truly paranoid folks would say that the next step is airbrushing out those politically unsavory characters from photos, like Josef Stalin did. But, these folks already did do something like that, by getting rid of the Mission Accomplished banner.

This is appalling. Does the truth mean nothing? How is it the White House can ask our soldiers to risk their lives for their ideas, and then pretend it never backed those ideas when things go south? Do our soldiers' lives mean so little?

For those who want a thorough look at what went wrong in Iraq, this is a good place to start.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New revenue model for newspapers

America's newspapers are struggling: Many are trying to offer 25-percent profits to shareholders while maintaining readership against the tide of the Internet. Pretty much everyone says this is impossible.

Fortunately, new revenue streams have been identified by newspapers in Communist China, of all places, The Associated Press reports. A reporter there was killed while trying to establish a protection racket:
SHANGHAI -- The savage beating death of a reporter has shone a rare light on the corrupt, money-driven underbelly of Chinese journalism, where many reporters take bribes to write good news and extort companies to suppress their dirty laundry.

President Hu Jintao has ordered a probe into the killing of China Trade News reporter Lan Chengzhang, who Chinese media say may have been trying to collect money from the owner of an illegal coal mine in return for not writing about the business.
Yeah, well, it didn't work out well for the media business in this instance, but the potential revenue is there. The story indicates Chinese reporters could be facing even more severe constraints than the American media.

Protection schemes were of course the realm of the American mafia in its earlier years, before it began moving into other industries. Were the American media to follow in the Mafia's footsteps, perhaps next it could improve capitalism in Cuba, found a money-making city in the desert, and even help rebuild decaying American cities through acquisitions in the sanitation and construction industries. To all this, they would owe entrepreneurial Chinese Communists. Just think of the future that could be built!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Speaking ill of the dead

Howard Hunt, for whom laws, democracy and ethics were obstacles to the American Way, died this week.

Hunt may be best known for his role in recruiting most of the Watergate burglars. MeTheSheeple knows him best, though, for his role in overthrowing a democracy because the elected president (Time's man of the year) decided to buy a company's land ... for what the company said it was worth. That evil travesty of justice is described in a Wikipedia entry but more commonly in an older book, "Bitter Fruit," which is still occasionally read in college courses.

They say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Well, if the dead are cheating bastards, what else are you supposed to say? None of this has kept a publisher from trying to cash in on Hunt's death with a post-mortem autobiography:
His Editor, Stephen S. Power, said "For decades Hunt served our country well, and that is how he should be remembered: as an honorable man whose patriotism was misused and whose sense of duty to his president was abused. It was a privilege to work with him."
Yeah, just the poor, babe-in-the-woods, honorable, honest man, taken advantage of by someone else. Never mind he'd had a lengthy career as a friggin spy by then, a group of people not known for being easily dominated and deceived.

It's hard for me to tell now who is the bigger asshole: The bastard dead guy, or the bastard editor? Even today, neither seems willing to face the truth.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Signing statements revisited

Calvin Trillan offers up a superb response to George W. Bush's use (=abuse) of signing statements.

Trillan writes the following in George W. Bush Explains His Signing Statements, Among Other Things:
They sent me a law against torture.
I signed it, although it was quaint.
I said, though, that I'm the decider
Of if something's torture or ain't.

I'll do what I want when I want to,
Though Congress's will may be foiled.
I've always done just what I want to.
You see, I'm a little bit spoiled.
There's a good bit more to the poem, which only gets better. It's in the current issue.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Showing Muslims what America stands for

Boston lawyer Melissa Hoffer has an op-ed column in today's Globe that should shock anyone who still believes in this country.
This time last year, Hadj's 6 -year-old daughter, Saaima, died of congenital heart failure. He had not seen her since the fall of 2001, when he and the other five men were arrested by Bosnian authorities under pressure from the United States, which asserted that they were involved in planning terrorist activities in Bosnia. After a three-month investigation, the Bosnian federal prosecutor recommended to the Bosnian Supreme Court that all six be released. But again under heavy pressure from the United States, the Bosnians caved, and as the men were released from a jail in Sarajevo, the Bosnians turned them over to the United States. Hooded, shackled, and packed into waiting cars while their horrified families watched, they began the sickening odyssey that continues today.

Saber's wife was pregnant when he was taken to Guantanamo. He has never met his daughter Sara, whose shiny face framed in pink plastic sunglasses peers out from the photographs we send to him. Mustafa, a former karate champion who suffered months of facial paralysis from a brutal beating inflicted by Guantanamo camp soldiers, worries about his ailing mother in Algeria. With each passing day, it becomes more likely that he will never see her again.

Not one of these men has been charged with a crime.
This is appalling, simply appalling. This is brought to us by an administration that keeps saying, "Trust us!" blunder after blunder. This is the same Guantanamo that beat a baker to the point where he tried to kill himself ... and again ... and again ... and again.

This Christian Science Monitor article from 2001, "Why Do They Hate Us?", seems stunningly prescient today:
And voices across the Muslim world are warning that if America doesn't wage its war on terrorism in a way that the Muslim world considers just, America risks creating even greater animosity. ...
The vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East were as shocked and horrified as any American by what they saw happening on their TV screens. And they are frightened of being lumped together in the popular American imagination with the perpetrators of the attack.

But from Jakarta to Cairo, Muslims and Arabs say that on reflection, they are not surprised by it. And they do not share Mr. Bush's view that the perpetrators did what they did because "they hate our freedoms."

Rather, they say, a mood of resentment toward America and its behavior around the world has become so commonplace in their countries that it was bound to breed hostility, and even hatred.
Meanwhile, our freedoms disappear.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Debate needed

The Chicago Tribune offers some video and transcripts of Ted Kennedy's speech calling for a true debate before any additional troops are sent to Iraq.

Dan Kennedy's Media Nation rightfully questioned the vocabulary of a "surge". Kennedy's calling for more than that.

Watch it. It's just two minutes, but it's invaluable in showing how far our country has strayed from the idea of a robust democracy that we even need to talk about this.

"The president's speech must be the beginning, not the end, of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the president's plan. Let us here the arguments for it and the arguments against it, then let us vote on it in the light of day."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Good ideas

There's a lot of doubt about whether new Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick can be an effective leader, not least because his first, ill-executed effort at leadership failed miserably.

There's a lot to be said, on the other hand, for the ideals that Patrick brings to political office. MeTheSheeple would love to see these sort of ideals fueling national politics, where the executive branch once again decided laws and warrants were inconvenient.

Patrick offers some hope for something better:
But really America herself is an improbable journey. People have come to these shores from all over the world, in all manner of boats, and built from a wilderness one of the most remarkable societies in human history. We are most remarkable not just for our material accomplishments or military might, but because of the ideals to which we have dedicated ourselves. We have defined those ideals over time and through struggle as equality, opportunity and fair play – ideals about universal human dignity. For these, at the end of the day, we are an envy to the world. ...

I took the oath this morning with my hand resting on that same Bible [from the Amistad] -- and with my resolve strengthened by that same legacy. I am descended from people once forbidden their most basic and fundamental freedoms, a people desperate for a reason to hope and willing to fight for it. And so are you. So are you. Because the Amistad was not just a Black man’s journey; it was an American journey. This Commonwealth – and the Nation modeled on it – is at its best when we show we understand a faith in what’s possible, and the willingness to work for it. ...

What has distinguished us at every signature moment of our history is a willingness to look a challenge right in the eye, the instinct to measure it against our ideals, and the sustained dedication to close the gap between the two. That is who we are.
Let's hope others share, or come to share, that message.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

MeTheSheeple would like to wish everyone a wonderful new year, with success in your plans.

This also offers an opportunity for the most hopeful and/or most deluded person of the year:
CNN's Ed Henry: But now as 2006 ends, Osama bin Laden is still at large. Heading into 2007, how confident are you that he can be brought to justice this coming year?
... You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Arrogance or stutter?

In the press conference a few days back, Bush seemed to chortle when he was asked what the situation was like in Iraq.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wars all over but the dying?

Via that pinko publication The Nation MeTheSheeple finally became aware of a September survey showing just how badly the United States has already lost in Iraq.

(For those who want the thumbnail version, CNN has this report via CrooksAndLiars.)

The full report shows a majority believe American withdrawal would decrease inter-ethnic violence (read: "civil war") but a majority believe it would hurt day-to-day security for Iraqis.

Yet here's the part that tells us how much the United States is seen as an unwelcome, destablizing and occupation force. This is simply appalling. In MeTheSheeples' opinion, there's damned little -- likely nothing -- that could be done. Guerrilla war theorists posit that it's difficult to wipe out insurgencies when public support goes above one-third. Here, we see it's nearly double that:
Support for attacks against US-led forces has increased sharply to 61 percent (27% strongly, 34% somewhat). This represents a 14-point increase from January 2006, when only 47 percent of Iraqis supported attacks.
This change is due primarily to a dramatic 21-point increase among Shias, whose approval of attacks has risen from 41 percent in January to 62 percent in September. A very large majority (86%) of Kurds disapprove of attacks (59% strongly), with only 15 percent supporting them. Kurdish disapproval is up slightly from January, when it was 81 percent, but approval of attacks has held constant. Similarly, Sunni support for attacks has remained relatively constant with 92 percent approving (up only slightly from 88% in January, when it was 81 percent, but approval of attacks has held constant. Similarly, Sunni support for attacks has remained relatively constant with 92 percent approving (up only slightly from 88% in January).

And what of that occupation force?
Naturally the question arises: If only one in three Iraqis favors US withdrawal in the shortest possible time frame of six months, why then is support for attacks on US-led forces as high as 61 percent? Indeed, among those who approve of such attacks, only 50 percent favor withdrawal in six months—though another 37 percent favor it in a year.
It is always difficult to know why people have certain attitudes, but some findings are strongly suggestive. A large majority of Iraqis—and a majority in all ethnic groups-- believes that the US plans to maintain permanent military bases in Iraq and would not withdraw its forces if the Iraqi government asked it to.
Is it possible for the United States to have more badly bungled the political and military aspects of Iraq? Not really. Is it possible to find a way out of here without destroying two militaries and one country, or maybe two?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Today's fine satire

In response to this MSNBC story, Farkers have torn into the government's timeline and all but proven that torture in secret prisons, at least in this case, produces nothing of value and hurts American standing. I'm going to post the best stuff here, by a guy named jarrett, because it sets the stage for the finest satire I've read in a while:
submitter: Gitmo detainee confession helps nab terrorist. Suck it, libs

According to the article, the so-called informant, Abu Zubaydah, was not even at Gitmo during the Jose Padilla investigation.

So the timeline breaks down like this:

May 8, 2002
Jose Padilla, an American citizen, is arrested on American soil under allegations of planning a "dirty bomb" attack.

June 9, 2002
Bush administration declares Padilla to be an "enemy combatant" citing dirty bomb plan and transfers him to a military prison. Padilla has no contact with the outside world or legal counsel. Padilla later claims he was tortured while being detained in South Carolina.

Nov. 22, 2005
After being held for 3 1/2 years, Padilla is finally indicted for conspiring to kill or kidnap people overseas. The indictment makes no mention of the "dirty bomb" and alleges no plans for attacks in the US. At least one of the charges has already been dismissed.

The government claims that a secret interrogation from a secret prison led the government to capture the "dirty bomber" who apparently, um, wasn't. The informants also claim they were tortured while detained.

A few comments later, jarrett lays in with the satire:
What you guys don't seem to be considering is that these people might kill everyone you know and love if given the chance. So torturing and indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists (one of whom happens to be an American citizen) is very necessary. Sure, there's no "evidence" that Padilla had access to radioactive materials, but why take chances? He's brown. No one will miss him.

Besides that, it doesn't matter what our government does. As long as we're one step above "beheading someone on VHS", the United States maintains the moral high ground.

Also, let's not forget that the detainees get meals and a prayer mat while sitting in a cell for years without indictment or any form of due process. So even though they've lost every freedom and semblance human dignity, they probably have it much better than they did in their homeland with their family.

Finally, we all know our government does everything Good and Right, and is free from human error or corruption. I feel completely comfortable giving our government absolute power over peoples' lives, completely free from the strictures of the Geneva Conventions (which we ratified in the pre-9/11 world), and free from any oversight for those human-rights tree-hugging terrorist-lovers. I don't see why any patriotic citizen would feel any differently.
Any bets on how many people in our administration wouldn't see this as satire?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iraq, re-visioned

The Wall Street Journal's opinion site offers a stunningly ignorant and biased view of the war in Iraq. Yes, folks, it's true: Historical revisionism is already coming to a quagmire near you.

The article really needs to be read in full to capture all the nuances, because its very tone is pervasive and astonishingly bad. But let's look at select bits:
We are told by careful pollsters that half of the American people believe that American troops should be brought home from Iraq immediately. This news discourages supporters of our efforts there. Not me, though: I am relieved. Given press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90% of the public do not want us out right now.
Note here that this concerns only press coverage. The fact that generals think the war is a debacle, or that 100,000 may have been killed in Iraq's internal violence, or that a militia literally took over a town. Our Mr. Wilson -- not the bad guy with the CIA wife, this one -- is only looking at how the media covers Iraq.

The idea is flawed on its premise. You can't look at how the media covers something without looking at the reality of the something. Wilson does not do that. He wants to say that the negative portrayal of the Iraq war means the media is negative. You can't do that without looking at the reality, which is that dozens of bodies turn up mutilated -- decapitation seems to be a favorite -- every single day. Not, unfortunately, to Wilson:
Naturally, some of the hostile commentary reflects the nature of reporting. When every news outlet struggles to grab and hold an audience, no one should be surprised that this competition leads journalists to emphasize bloody events.
You'd better believe if 30 headless corpses were found in Wilson's hometown, he wouldn't be complaining about adverse media coverage. Perhaps the media should write about all the people who weren't decapitated yesterday?

Then James Q. Wilson runs ahead and assaults the New York Times for its coverage of the wiretapping program -- illegal as it appears to be. Is the media supposed to ignore a huge violation of the law, when a legal remedy would be incredibly easy? (e.g., get a warrant!)

Then he attacks the New York Times and LA Times for covering the international financial monitoring program ... conveniently leaving out his own Wall Street Journal. Nor should it matter that the existence of the monitoring program was bragged upon by the White House shortly after it was created.

There's much more in the column. I particularly appreciate how he says Vietnam reporting turned negative because of weak political leadership and a basis of lies -- without necessarily extending the parallel to Iraq. Instead, he says political leadership in Iraq has been strong.

What? Leadership is the act of leading. If we had strong political leadership, there would be a strong consensus developed by our leader, a common understanding of the facts, a common cause or drive pushing us forward. The simple fact is none of that is happening, and exactly the inverse is true.

James Q. Wilson here is drinking his Kool-Aid, and loving every drop. Let's hope no one else in his cult will follow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Disappearing civil rights

Glenn Greenwald offers a lengthy description of a guest in America who has now been held for five years now -- without the right to see a lawyer, or get a trial. It's definitely worth a read. He concludes:
As always, the most extraordinary and jarring aspect of cases like this one is that these principles -- which were once the undebatable, immovable bedrock of our political system -- are now openly debated and actively disputed by our own government. By itself it is astonishing -- and highly revealing about where we are as a country -- that such precepts even need to be defended at all.
How are we supposed to be promoting democracy and civil rights around the world when we fight them at home?

Frightening Vietnam parallel

There's a new parallel between Iraq and Vietnam, and this one is simply awful: As a Buddhist monk did in Vietnam, a Chicago man immolated himself in protest of the war, reports the Chicago Reader and Pitchfork.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Democracy regained

With control of Congress returned to another party, we should begin to see the oversight role properly used.

And that's just what the LA Times is reporting.
"The American people sent a clear message that they do not want a rubber-stamp Congress that simply signs off the president's agenda," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

"Instead, they have voted for a new direction for America and a real check and balance against government overreaching."

Conyers and other Democrats say that sort of scrutiny has been noticeably absent over the last six years. Democrats accuse Republicans of being complicit as Bush has led the nation into an unwinnable war and adopted economic polices that favor the affluent and big business.

...But even some scholars say recent GOP oversight has been lax. "This could be remembered as a historically unique period in which an administration got immunity from Congress to engage in errors with impunity," said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law professor and a former House counsel.
Sure, this wouldn't be American politics without the search for the truth taking on political bents. But that's OK; in fact, that's arguably what the Framers wanted. The three pillars of American government are supposed to be opposed. It's not efficient time-wise, but it worked for a couple hundred years. It's time for it to work again.

This comes on the heels of one branch of government deciding it was inconvenient to stop abdicating its power to another branch. It's pathetic, and it put the Constitution in peril.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Screwing more voters

Wikipedia is following the latest nitwit to try to screw up voter rights: Talk show host Laura Ingraham, who encouraged listeners to flood voter problem hotlines.

We've also got discouragment efforts from a goddamned cartoon strip, Mallard Fillmore, here and here.

A discussion on Daily Kos offers some radical, but perhaps worthwhile, ideas. One poster pasted in a picture of the coffins of U.S. soldiers flying to the Dover mortuary: "Arlington National Cemetery is full to bursting with those who paid for our right to vote. NO, it is not funny."

Another post:

I've been thinking that perhaps the only way to end voter supression tactics is to seriously up the criminal penalties. It is, in essence, a form of treason, undermining our system of government. If you can disenfranchise people, do a couple years in jail, then come out set for life by the party you put in power, there's no real penalty.

I'd say 20 years is a good starting point. Make sure that when they get out of jail the people who put them in power have long forgotten about them.

--- The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Bush invaded Iraq based on good intentions. Thus we are staying the course on the path to hell.

by sterno
Another poster argued that voter disenfranchisement amounts to sedition.

For whatever party, for whatever candidate, for whatever reason, efforts to strip away the right to vote are abominable.

Screwing history

Via is this truly appalling video, in which an arrogant, stupid White House tried to alter history so it didn't look as stupid and arrogant as it once did.

Screwing the voters

So, just a few years after the New Hampshire Republicans, who were supported by the national apparatus, decided to screw the voters, the national party is trying, yet again, to screw voters.

The newest is an illegal subterfuge designed to piss off voters. TalkingPointsMemo reports:
The lead into the call starts with the speaker saying 'I'm calling with information about' Dem candidate X. Then there's a short pause.

At this point, you know it's an annoying robocall, so a lot of people just hang up. If you hang up then, you think it's a call from the Democratic candidate.

Second, the repetition. And this part is the key. If you don't listen through the whole message, the machine keeps calling you back, often well in excess of half a dozen times with the same call. It only stops if you listen all the way through.

As you can imagine, that's driving a lot of people through the roof.

In other words, the Republicans behind the calls win either way. If you keep hanging up, you think you're being harassed by the campaign of the local Democratic House candidate. If you give up and listen all the way through, you hear the political attack. The true source of the call, the NRCC, the GOP House campaign committee, is only revealed at the end of the call.

(Federal regulations dictate calls be identified at the top of the call.)
CrooksAndLiars offers links to CNN video. The CNN reporter offers the hard-hitting observation that the FCC requires a phone number and the name of the caller up front and at least one ad "doesn't seem to do either." Hello -- it does or it doesn't. Are you afraid someone's going to find a stage whisper at -30db in the recordings?

Either way, it's interesting, and appalling, stuff. The New York Times offers a link through MediaNation, with a sign that this silly, evil bullshit could backfire:
David Kaplan, a registered Republican in Connecticut who has received more than two dozen of the calls, said he was so annoyed that the Republicans might “have shot themselves in the leg” in terms of winning his vote.
Is it too much to ask someone to follow the law?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Psychotic hypocrisy

Years ago, MeTheSheeple heard Richard Dreyfuss talk. Someone asked him about what it was like working with Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" Dreyfuss said he'd dodged that question for years, then started telling the truth.

"Bill Murray," Dreyfuss said, "is a psychotic bully."

Bill Murray's political counterpart seems to be running for election, and boy, she can't even keep her story straight.

After a whole series of stories and polls showing Kerry Healey's attack ads are backfiring -- more people dislike her -- the Globe runs a final story, "Doubts are voiced on Healey tactics."

Now, rather than admit she was being a psychotic bully -- and a political moron, to boot -- Healey blames the media. No, really:
In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Healey defended the ads that focus on the Democratic nominee's advocacy on behalf of convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer. One, which features a woman walking alone in a parking garage, has drawn national attention for its negativity.

Healey said she never intended that so much attention be paid to the ad.

"The media has spent too much time focusing on this one issue, and therefore we as a campaign have ended up spending more time talking about this one issue than about . . . the many other substantive issues," Healey told the Associated Press.
Yes. You see? It's the media's fault that this was even an issue. It's got nothing to do with her making it an issue. Yeah.

A lot of teen movies feature scenes in which the bully finally gets his; MeTheSheeple loves the scene in "A Christmas Story" in which Ralphie goes simply ape-shit and begins pounding the school bully while cutting loose with a seemingly endless stream of profanities.

The polls show that, on Tuesday, voters will give Healey the bully exactly what she deserves. It's a shame there will be no place to write in comments like "You'll shoot your eye out! You'll shoot your eye out!"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The reality on the ground

The Associated Press profiled a city of 30,000, now home to perhaps 3,000, in Iraq. Folks have tried to kill the mayor twice ... since May. The story offers some vivid examples of what can go wrong and what is going wrong. Ironically, the town's balanced religious mix made it a target for both sides. Saba'a al-Bour seems to be the Sarajevo of Iraq:
While sectarian fighting has been far bloodier elsewhere - nearly 100 people were slain in massacres and revenge attacks earlier this month in Balad, just to the north - U.S. commanders say Saba'a al-Bour made an especially inviting target because the tightly packed town is hemmed in by canals that make it hard for soldiers to pursue insurgents.

Thompson said he also believes the town's relatively harmonious sectarian mix attracted special attention from Sunni Arab insurgents, including those affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq who have sought to spark all-out civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

Fighting quickly created a "tit-for-tat scenario," with Shiites striking back at Sunnis for attacks on the town, Thompson said, sitting in the joint U.S.-Iraqi coordination center at the fortified police station.
The mayor offers a warm-and-fuzzy answer to the War on Terror: "God willing, the families will come back, the city will be like it was and the terrorism will end," he said. "We hope, we just hope."

Just how many terrorists where there before the invasion? The story doesn't address that point ...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Peace in the Middle East

If you're worried about Iraq, well, OK. At least we see signs of lasting peace in Israel, via CNN:
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a bid for political survival, struck an alliance Monday with a hard-liner who has called for stripping Israeli Arabs of citizenship, executing lawmakers for talking to Hamas and bombing Palestinian population centers.
It's nice to know that rational considerations will never take a backseat to political expediency, isn't it?

Yep. Did we mention the Israelis are putting this guy in charge of "'strategic threats,' such as Iran's nuclear ambitions."? Nothing to worry about here:
At the height of fighting against Palestinians in 2002, Lieberman, then a Cabinet minister, called for the bombing of Palestinian gas stations, banks and commercial centers.

More recently, he advocated trading Israeli Arab towns for West Bank settlements -- in effect stripping Israeli Arabs of citizenship -- and called for the execution of Israeli Arab lawmakers who met with leaders of Hamas, which is running the Palestinian government. Such positions have drawn accusations of racism.
I'm not certain why meeting with Hamas is racist. Shouldn't they have gone the "traitor" route? Yeah. Anyway, those uppity A-Rabs are tearing themselves apart over the appointment of such a moderate:
Saeb Erekat, a confidant of the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, termed the development an internal Israeli affair.

"At the end of the day, what we hoped for is to have a partner in Israel who is willing to revive a meaningful peace process that will end this miserable situation between our two peoples," Erekat said.
What the hell is happening? Stop the world. I want to get off, at least to buy a six-pack.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dark days

Forget the Iraq-Vietnam comparisons. Anyone else get worried when the blockade-North-Korea talk starts sounding like something out of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Sorry for the long absence. I offer an eye-opening piece from the BBC and a Guardian photographer, who spend six weeks with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. Even where the photog doesn't quite know how things are supposed to work, he still gets the idea that counter-insurgency operations aren't supposed to look like this.

Sadly, they do.,,1927660,00.html

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hail to the King

As MeTheSheeple has ranted before and before that, the current president's incredibly common use of "signing statement" has already eroded the three pillars of American democracy, wiping out checks and balances and leaving the president with unmatched power.

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service reached the same conclusions, saying the chief-king is trying to pursuade Congress and others "to the belief that the president in fact possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude." As the Globe's Charlie Savage reported:
Under most interpretations of the Constitution, the report said, some of the legal assertions in Bush's signing statements are dubious. For example, it said, the administration has suggested repeatedly that the president has exclusive authority over foreign affairs and has an absolute right to withhold information from Congress. Such assertions are ``generally unsupported by established legal principles," the report said.
In other words, say goodbye to a democratic republic.

Looks like it took the media a few days to catch up from the original notice by the Federation of American Scientists, which offers a direct PDF download to the report.

Wonder what can happen? Witness this AP story, which shows the tip of the iceberg:
President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the
Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

n the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints. ...

Bush's signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill.

Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."

His rationale was that it "rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."
Yeah, you're doing a heckuva job, Bushie. Want to send another PR guy to singlehandedly monitor a major disaster scene?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Signs of death

Today, MeTheSheeple was out walking his dogs when he heard a loud, metallic noise. A beautiful bird of prey was seemingly losing his footing on a third-story piece of white aluminum guttering. He kept shifting and shifting, seemingly nearly falling off, leading MeTheSheeple to think for a moment that perhaps the bird* was hurt or injured. One of the dogs thought it was a great time to start barking at and threatening the raptor, which might have been a falcon. The little dog -- the lunch-sized one -- at least stayed quiet.

Anyway, the wounded deadly bird that couldn't keep his footing ... gracefully spread his wings and lifted off the guttering, with the dead squirrel slung underneath.

Sometimes, it seems, you can look at one thing and get an idea that's simply completely wrong. Someone else can look at the same thing and get an idea that's completely wrong, but in a different way.

Such a problem becomes all the more important when it's a matter of life and death. This is a parabel of more than a squirrel.

The U.S. military is looking at the debacle in Iraq and seeing disaster unless the course is radically changed. That interpretation depends on whether you believe the accounts of senior military leaders passed through a Republican who helped end the draft and the Vietnam War.

If you're a member of Congress, you might just believe that things are going so well that it's time to plan the victory parades. Heck, it's only three years since the mission was accomplished. So just because the military's destroying its equipment, wrecking its morale, unable to budget in the face of political demands ... why not take $20 million out of the defense budget to plan the victory parade? The Associated Press reports:
WASHINGTON // The military's top generals have warned Iraq is on the cusp of a civil war and that U.S. troops must remain in large numbers until at least next spring. But if the winds suddenly blow a different direction, Congress is ready to celebrate with a $20 million victory party.

Lawmakers included language in this year's defense spending bill, approved last week, allowing them to spend the money. The funds for "commemoration of success" in Iraq and Afghanistan were originally tucked into last year's defense measure, but went unspent amid an uptick in violence in both countries that forced the Pentagon to extend tours of duty for thousands of troops.
Stop the world! I want to get off.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another unscientific method

To follow-up on the last post here: Politics is creating ever-more creative definitions of science. Yesterday's Boston Globe had this story:
Reading First aims to help young children read through scientifically proven programs, and the department considers it a jewel of No Child Left Behind, Bush's education law. ... In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he did not support, according to the report released yesterday by the department's inspector general.

``They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags," the program director wrote, the report says.
(Note: First paragraph actually came later in the story)

To quote our fearless leader:
I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that's responsive to the child and to the parents, as opposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be — a more literate country and a hopefuller country. (January 2001)
Or, more directly: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Politics is killing you

The federal government is taking a new tack on scientific evidence, and the tack could be killing you.

Before, it was raising doubt about a "scientific consensus" on issues, as described in "The Republican War on Science." It's not a bad book, even coming from that brother-in-law last Christmas.

More recently, it was industry creating fake "grassroots groups" to spread lies, in efforts to hold off regulation on little things, like things that can kill you.

Today, the Associated Press reports, the federal government may have bowed to political pressure by deferring more stringent health protections, despite the weight of evidence and a near-unanimous recommendation:
Specialists advising the agency had said the science supports tougher standards than the EPA chose. Other air pollution specialists and advocates alleged political tinkering. New England air quality officials said the new rules do not protect public health.

... ``Wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action," [EPA administrator Stephen Johnson] said. ``There was not complete agreement" by the scientific advisory panel.

But 20 of 22 panel members said the EPA should set tougher standards .
Note carefully, here. 20 of 22 isn't good enough. Apparently, it has to be a large, unanimous panel for the science to be considered firm enough.

Yeah. Or it can let politics creep into picture. You know, politics. Where politicians almost never win more than two-thirds of the vote, or, say, 14 of 22.

What's at stake here? Let's turn back to the AP:
The health-based limits on soot are considered an important part of the Clean Air Act, helping save 15,000 people a year from premature deaths due to heart and lung diseases.
What's a few thousand lives between friends?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Corporate bastards

It's odd, but it takes the BBC and a British newspaper to highlight some unusual problems with the state of speech in America. The authors report on the efforts of groups with discredited positions (Big Tobacco and the anti-global warming crowds) creating front groups and faking the existence of grassroots support or dissent. The story doesn't get really rolling until past the halfway mark, but it's worth a read.

Corporations do some truly wonderful things in this world, and have on the whole made thing much better. This, on the other hand, is clearly an attempt to pervert the dialogue that is so essential to American democracy.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Find the swastika!

No, this isn't some sort of half-assed neo-Nazi posting. MeTheSheeple is just a nerd with too much time on his hands.

This International Herald-Tribune article attempts to explore the clouded history of a Nazi-era swastika made with planted trees in Kyrgystan:
This is the so-called Eki Naryn swastika, a man-made arrangement of trees near the edge of the Himalayas. It is at least 60 years old, according to the region's forestry service, and roughly 600 feet across.

Legend has it that German prisoners of war, pressed into forestry duty after World War II, duped their Soviet guards and planted rows of seedlings in the shape of the emblem Hitler had chosen as his own.

More than 20 years later, the trees rose tall enough to be visible from the village beneath. Only then did the swastika appear, a time-delayed act of defiance by vanquished soldiers marooned in a corner of Stalin's Soviet Union.
MeTheSheepl got a little curious and started looking for it.

IndexMundi, whatever the hell that is, gives the location of this town. Wikimapia offers another way to find the town. 600 feet across should be pretty darned visible (note the scale at the bottom). Can you find the swastika?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Curt cartoons

Browsing, MeTheSheeple went through thirty cartoons about the Iraq war before finding one that was even slightly pro-war -- and that simply suggested that pulling out would spread problems beyond Iraq.

Two 'toons in particular seemed to stand out:

by Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer, 9/13


John Sherffius, The Daily Camera, 9/11

It'd be much, much better if neither cartoon were true.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bad editing, part II

Wikipedia's taken some well-deserved beatings, but a local error last night was particularly pathetic.

The online encyclopedia offers an entry on the 2006 Massachusetts races for governor and lieutenant governor. It notes a little-known contender, one John Hawkins, a Socialist write-in candidate who happens to be a black meat packer.

Until last night, Wikipedia had linked the candidate John Hawkins to its sole entry on a man named John Hawkins.

Now, let's compare.
John Hawkins - Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor: a meat cutting worker, Black rights activist, and "promoter of the march on Washington demanding no U.S. intervention in the internal politics of Cuba and Venezuela".[13]
So far so good.

The linked?

Sir John Hawkins (also spelled as John Hawkyns) (Plymouth 1532 – November 12, 1595) was an English shipbuilder, merchant, navigator, and slave trader. ... John Hawkins was probably the first major English slave trader, although some point to John Lok in 1553.
Talk about sharing a name but nothing else in common!

Bad editing

We started ordering our Christmas gifts last night. It's amazing how much more efficient the online stores have become. is even beating next-day shipping!

In other bits of bad editing, let's look at the math-impaired journalists at the Boston Globe with just one story:
The [rubber] squares are up to three times more expensive than concrete slabs ... (sidebar)

The rubber sidewalks cost about $15 per square foot, compared with about $10 per square foot for concrete ...

.. rubber, which costs about a third more than concrete ...
Some of this can be explained away, as in a case where one number does not include shipping costs. Let's assume the figure for concrete is accurate, at least. Then, for rubber, within the same package, we're facing numbers of


So much for precision journalism.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'New' 9/11 video

On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a couple released their home video from the 36th floor of a near-ish building. It's heart wrenching and stomach churning. You were warned.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prisoners not of any conscience

The War on Terror continues to be based on values, but they're the wrong, un-American values. It's little surprise that the world's most powerful nation is seen as the world's most abusive. Witness this attack by the White House spokesman:
"There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.
Either you're for the prison at Guantanamo, or you're against America and winning the war on terror.

This is the same prison, of course, that was declared a home of torture; the same prison that for a time hosted an American citizen, while the government tried to prevent access to lawyers and legal hearings; the same prison in which compliance with international law is considered "special priveleges"; the same prison where inmates are expected to tell the warden of their sins, because neither side knows.

Besides being morally wrong, this is hurting the War on Terror. Witness today's Boston Globe report:
On the Pakistan side of the border the hatred and mistrust of America are , if anything, more bitter and intense. Here, as in Afghanistan, the search for bin Laden and his allies relies primarily on informants and local alliances. Both are hard to come by.

New enemies, on the other hand, seem born every day.

In a tiny hamlet here, a story is told and retold of the suffering of a local baker, Shah Mohammed, who was imprisoned in Guantanamo. He has become part of the local lore that shapes the image of America as a brutal empire and fuels the hatred that inspires militants.

A native son of the village, Shah Mohammed, was a handsome, outgoing man when he set off in 2000 for Afghanistan and ended up working in a bakery for the Taliban government. He was caught up in the chaotic aftermath of the collapse of the Taliban in November of 2001, he says, and US forces picked him up near Mazar-e-Sharif . He was hooded, handcuffed, and eventually bundled off to Guantanamo, where, he says, he was stripped, beaten, and tortured. He attempted suicide four times in the year or so he was at Guantanamo, he says.

Eventually, his US captors researched his stated alibis and deemed him no threat. And so he was released, but his mind and spirit were broken, his family says.

In an interview, Mohammed, 26, spoke in disjointed sentences and repeated over and over, ``I am a baker of bread."

His uncle, Han Mohammed, 40, said, ``This is not the same Shah Mohammed that he was before. People are angry. Why did they do this to an innocent man?"

As a small crowd gathered in his tiny grocery store, the uncle fumed, ``Osama [bin Laden] is a hero for Muslims. That is what we believe. . . . America is no hero at all. If America was a hero, it would have helped this man who they harmed."
This is our way of getting aid in finding bin Laden? This is answering the war on terror? This is developing new allies? This is keeping us safe? This is keeping the War on Terror from looking like a war on Islam?

Let's turn back to that White House spokesman:
"There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.

  • argued against the Patriot Act ... Perhaps because portions were ruled illegal? Is it now wrong to disparage unconstitutional laws?
  • against the terror surveillance program ... Perhaps because it was ruled illegal? Is it now wrong to disparage unconstitutional laws?
  • against Guantanamo? Perhaps because the United States Supreme Court ruled it illegal as violations of international and military law, and four members of the Supreme Court think it could be unconstitutional? (Read Page 10.) Is it now wrong to disparage illegal and possibly unconstitutional laws?

    So, clearly, the White House spokesman's arguments are completely full of shit in re the U.S. Constitution. There have been reports, too, that Bush has argued the Constitution is a "goddamned piece of paper" that shouldn't keep getting in his way.

    Let's go back to part of the rest of that White House statement, though:
    In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda.
    Really? Which people said we shouldn't question and detain al Qaeda? MeTheSheeple is still waiting, eagerly, to see prison sentences for al Qaeda convicts. Instead, we're seeing Afghan bakers getting beaten and a miserable rate of conviction and prison sentences, with the median prison sentence for terror crimes falling under 20 days. Last time we checked, the Bush administration alone does not have the power to decide that everyone it wants to call al Qaeda is really al Qaeda. This isn't the American justice system.

    So what of that last bit of the White House spokesman's attack?
    In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.
    How many tools for winning the war did that baker in Afghanistan bring?
  • Monday, September 11, 2006

    Gitmo goners

    Early, MeTheSheeple posted a short bit by John McCain, who argues that we have to be better than them to win the war on terror. MeTheSheeple meant to come back to that, but could never find a way to put it into words adequately enough.

    Fortunately, Carl Hiaasen did it perfectly (Miami Herald, free registration required). His conclusions are aptly stated:
    Thanks to the bloody debacle in Iraq, our credibility is shot in the volatile Muslim nations, and beyond. Instead of being praised as liberators, we're condemned as arrogant warmongers.

    Even if coalition forces bailed out of Baghdad tomorrow, repairing our international image might require decades of delicate diplomacy.

    In the meantime, it's futile to present ourselves as the model of a just and civilized society if we throw out our rules of law -- including the presumption of innocence -- when dealing with suspected terrorists.

    In theory, what separates us from the monsters we're fighting is a commitment to freedom and human rights. But a model democracy isn't supposed to imprison a person for years without charges or a fair trial. A model democracy isn't supposed to condone beating admissions out of a suspect.

    The ranks of al Qaeda are full of truly dangerous people who should be locked up forever, if not executed. The key is to catch the right ones, and prosecute them the right way.

    Unfortunately, getting things right has not been a hallmark of this administration's war on terror. Now would be a good time to start, since the whole world is watching.

    Iraq war's divides, Part III or IV or something

    America is increasingly divided over Iraq, which is presumably driving a great majority of Americans to dislike President George W. Bush's job performance. Yet we're still missing a lot of the war protest songs that marked Vietnam. True, early on were the Dixie Chicks, but they were blasted after attacking Bush directly. Then we recycled some protesters, with Neil Young.

    Today, I stumbled upon Country Joe's Web site. Remember Country Joe and the Fish? 'Twas a pretty good band, it was.

    Well, Country Joe, it turns out, still writes a mean little protest song or two, like Support The Troops:
    Some day soon, don’t know when
    We’ll see the wounded women and men
    Lining the walls of American streets
    Hands out begging for something to eat.

    Support the troops
    Support the troops

    Forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
    Wondering "What were we fighting for?"
    World War III around the bend
    That’s what we get with the George Bush Plan.

    Support the troops
    Support the troops

    Chicken hawk, draft dodging, son Of A Bush
    Look at all the damage you did!
    American war in the Holy Land
    Blood for oil, not in my name!
    There are also Iraq variations on the "Fixin' to Die Rag," apparently submitted by fans:
    The USA's the worldwide cop,
    And evildoers must be stopped.
    Saddam's got nukes and poison gas.
    Let's go kick him in the ass.
    Conquer the land, sell off the oil.
    To the victor goes the spoil.

    And it's one, two, three,
    What are we searching for?
    George said it, it must be true.
    I believe in W.
    And it's five, six, seven,
    Tell me who I should hate.
    There's no need to wonder why,
    'Cause Presidents never lie.
    Interesting times we live in, eh?

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Idiocy 9/11

    "Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise."
    -- Bill the Bard

    Morans! picture

    There's several new rounds of idiocy involving the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Both are appalling.

    According to a Scripps Howard poll, more than one out of three Americans thinks that America either performed the attacks itself, or allowed them to happen:
    Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" -- the common phrase used by conspiracy theorists on the Internet -- quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John F. Kennedy's assassination and that it has covered up proof of space aliens.
    Just why is it that the tin-foil-hat-crowd is convinced government is completely incompentent, except when it comes to massive, wide-wrought conspiracies? You can't have it both ways. Either government can't buy a toilet seat or ketchup without screwing up, or government can con millions of people easily.

    Then again, given the above survey, maybe it's not that hard to con millions of people. Remember how many people -- particularly those who watch FOX News -- thought Iraq had been proven to cause 9/11?

    Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.
    -- Samuel Johnson, 1758

    Also via, we have the second recent hint of 9/11 idiocy. CBS has already aired the superb documentary simply called "9/11" twice; it's a movie that started by accident, as two French filmmakers tried to document firefighters being trained on the job. Naturally, this offends some people.

    Dozens of television stations are already canning the documentary or delaying it, over fears of increased government censorship through FCC fines and other threats. Witness this nice little touch of idiocy:
    "This isn't an issue of censorship. It's an issue of responsibility to the public," said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the [American Family Association], which describes itself as a 29-year-old organization that promotes the biblical ethic of decency.
    Because, clearly, guys fighting for their lives and those of thousands of people they strive to protect ... must avoid the potty mouth when buildings are falling on them. The group is trying to motivate its three million members to file complaints because the way some people die doesn't fit their interpretation of the Bible.

    It's not even an absolute interpretation of the Bible, as this scholar points out the Bible's ... literary ... references to copulation, excrement, genitalia, water sports and the like. So, what say we let the Bible speak for the Bible and the heroes of 9/11 speak for themselves?

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    A great way to get nuked

    The Boston Globe has an interesting story today on the Pentagon's plan to use conventionally armed ICBMs against terrorists.

    In a clear call against proliferation, Rumsfeld said it's a great idea for the United States but not a big deal for other countries, because only a few countries can shoot back at the United States. Rumsfeld just wants to let the Russians know about the conversion process, but not actually tell them when an ICBM is being launched.
    Besides, he added, ``everyone in the world would know" that the US missile was not nuclear ``after it hit within 30 minutes" of launch.

    ``Or 10 minutes," interjected Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister who discussed the subject at a joint news conference with Rumsfeld. ... By noting that a long-range missile might hit its target in as little as 10 minutes from launch, Ivanov appeared to be emphasizing the short time frame in which a decision on retaliating would have to be made.
    Yeah, it's sure a good thing that, you know, nobody's gotten nervous with nuclear weapons, you know. I mean, it's not as if a Russian colonel dodged his orders to prevent a nuclear war by accident, because he was afraid of an itchy trigger finger and wasn't even sure what was going on himself, or maybe the American lieutenant that effectively hotwired his nuclear missile during the Cuban Missile Crisis(*) so he wouldn't be snagged by any pesky delays. Or, just in those crazy couple of weeks, where were the times when a bear -- the animal, not the Russian -- effectively ordered nuclear-armed planes into the air, some American numbnuts went ahead with a test launch without warning anybody, and the test launch even scared American radar operators, several stations were put on DEFCON-2 without the commanders' knowledge, a training exercise nearly started a nuclear war, ...

    So, clearly, it's not as if flinging about ICBMs would cause any additional worries. And if anyone does get nervous -- why, just wait to see if a nuclear weapon goes off before you make any hasty decisions! In the meantime, why not stock up on some SPF 4500 to avoid those pesky sunburns?

    * I searched and searched through my old files for the source, but failed miserably. Sorry.

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Lessons for Iraq

    One of my buddies is working a short job in Fort Leavenworth, home of the Center for Army Lessons Learned. One of the documents hosted at CALL is found elsewhere online, which led me to another site, which led me to this:
    You will enter Iraq both as a soldier and as an individual, because on our side a man can be both a soldier and an individual. That is our strength -- if we are smart enough to use it. It can be our weakness if we aren't. As a soldier your duties are laid out for you. As an individual, it is what you do on your own that counts -- and it may count for a lot more than you think.

    American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.
    Great, timely advice from the Pentagon, eh?

    Curiously, the opening line from this document might create a different context: "You have been ordered to Iraq (i-RAHK) as part of the world-wide offensive to beat Hitler." Looks like it could be interesting and still-relevant reading.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Law enforcement, Part 2

    The British on Tuesday:
    UK transport officials are said to be considering introducing passenger profiling on grounds including ethnic origin and religion. ... But [former Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens'] comment that "young Muslim men" should be a focus of security attention was attacked as "an extreme form of stereotyping" by the Muslim Council of Britain.
    British law enforcement cleared this woman on Wednesday:
    A 59-year-old Vermont woman's behavior aboard a trans-Atlantic flight triggered a massive security response yesterday, with Air Force F-15 jets escorting the plane to Logan Airport, where federal agents seized the woman, authorities interrogated passengers, and police dogs sniffed through luggage for explosives.
    It must be easier to think that everything in the world is black and white, but it must really suck when reality begins to suggest few things in life are simple. But, as Stephen Colbert has suggested, reality has a liberal bias.

    Edit: I just saw this gem, also brought to us by the British police:
    LONDON - A 12-year-old boy managed to get around stepped-up security and board a jetliner at an airport outside London without a passport or a boarding pass.

    The boy was discovered by cabin crew and turned over to airport police. Officials said they could not explain how he got aboard the plane, especially in light of security checks imposed last week after authorities foiled an alleged plot to bomb jetliners leaving Britain.
    So much for profiling.

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Law enforcement

    FBI statement on Friday:
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Leaders of the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities participated in a nationwide conference call today with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other government officials in which both sides pledged to work together to protect our country and safeguard the civil rights of the various ethnic and religious communities. The conference call demonstrated that the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities are actively involved in helping to secure the country, and that the government is actively engaged with these communities. The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties led the call.
    FBI on Saturday:
    F-B-I officials say the men were cooperative, upfront and not hiding anything.
    They are being charged with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes.
    The FBI's boss on Sunday:
    WASHINGTON -- Homeland security chief Michael Chertoff called [Sunday] for a review of domestic antiterrorism laws, saying the United States might benefit from the more aggressive surveillance and arrest powers used by British authorities last week to thwart an alleged plot to bomb airliners.

    Chertoff said no American links to the London plot have been uncovered, but added that the top priority for US counterterrorism officials is to identify any possible connection between the suspects in Britain and Pakistan and individuals in the United States.
    FBI on Monday:
    The credibility of an alleged terrorist plot targeting Michigan's landmark Mackinac Bridge was undermined today when the FBI said there is no evidence linking the arrested men with terrorism.
    Were the agents from the Friday conference calls all picking up their skirts at the dry cleaners' over the weekend?

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Moving away from monarchy

    Up front: This post isn't about Bush. This is about moving our country farther from monarchy, back toward balanced democracy, and reversing dumb decisions made by many presidents.

    The Boston Globe reports that a strong majority of the American Bar Association's delegates opposed growing efforts that allow the president to overrule Congress and the Supreme Court, effectively overturning the three-pillared government that this nation is supposed to have.
    ``We're not saying a president doesn't have the right to express his opinion about what is constitutional," [ABA President Michael] Greco said. ``But what he doesn't have is the awesome power of declaring something unconstitutional and not enforcing it -- of accruing under himself the powers of all three branches."
    The article makes it clear that signing statements have been used for centuries, but the (ab)use has greatly increased in recent decades. The current president has signed a single veto, yet effectively used hundreds of signing statements to veto portions of bills. In some cases, the signing statements trumped the clear direction of the Supreme Court and Congress.

    The Senate is delaying activity on a bill backed by its Judiciary Committee chairman, who wants this basic threat slowed:
    "If the president is permitted to rewrite the bills that Congress passes and cherry-pick which provisions he likes and does not like," said [Arlen] Specter, "he subverts the constitutional process designed by our framers."
    The effort would at least begin to allow some court supervision.

    Curiously, the bill does not go far enough. In essense, it allows the courts to review the signing statements, but it still allows the president to continue offering signing statements that restrict the executive branch departments regardless of Congress' intent with the law. This is akin to saying the President can do whatever the hell he wants, but Congress wants to reserve the right to ask the courts to look it over. A much better idea would be to strip all signing statements of any interpretive power. As we remember from civics classes:
    -- Congress creates and passes the law
    -- The president follows the law
    -- The courts interpret the law

    Even if Specter's bill passes, this system still isn't restored.

    In introducing the bill, Specter said he was trying to restore the system of checks-and-balances with the separation of powers:
    The Founders had good reason for constructing the legislative process as it is: by creating a bicameral legislature and then granting the President the veto power. According to The Records of the Constitutional Convention, the veto power was designed by our Framers to protect citizens from a particular Congress that might enact oppressive legislation. However, the Framers did not want the veto power to be unchecked, and so, in article I, section 7, they balanced it by allowing Congress to override a veto by two-thirds vote.
    As you can see, this is a finely structured constitutional procedure that goes straight to the heart of our system of check and balances. Any action by the President that circumvents this finely structured procedure is an unconstitutional attempt to usurp legislative authority. If the President is permitted to rewrite the bills that Congress passes and cherry pick which provisions he likes and does not like, he subverts the constitutional process designed by our Framers.
    Hear, hear.

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Lost in translation

    However you feel about Cindy Sheehan, MeTheSheeple would hope you have a view of the First Amendment different than this:
    Sheehan told the group "our hearts are connected," regardless of people's races, countries or religions.

    As she spoke, a man disrupted the service with loud questions and shouts of "This is unpatriotic!" before he was asked to leave.

    "I believe Bush is doing what he should be doing," said the man, William McGlothlin of Marked Tree, Ark. "Freedom of speech is good until it gets out of whack."
    Is this guy actually arguing that freedom of speech is great until it involves life-and-death matters? Isn't that the time it's needed the most?

    One of America's finest patriots argued that patriotism requires dissent. He actually argues it's treasonous to shut up at important times; witness those who say it's treasonous to talk during important times:
    No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
    The author, Patrick Henry, fought to have the Bill of Rights passed.