uggabugga





Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Juxtaposition:

Seen recently on a Yahoo Top Stories page:





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The Charlie Rose Show tonight:
An hour with
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Can you handle it?



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Bush's latest scare tactic:



(larger x2 image here - 300k)



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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The latest reason for troops in Iraq:

So far:
  • Iraq has chemical and biological WMD
  • Iraq will have nukes in short order
  • Iraq working with al Qaeda
  • Iraq connected to 9/11
  • Iraq a destabilizing force in the region
  • Saddam a ruthless dictator
  • A free Iraq will be the first step in reforming the Middle East
  • "He tried to kill my dad."
  • A democratic Iraq will be in inspiration to other Arab nations
  • We owe it to the troops that have already died
Now this (via SFGate.com): (excerpts, emp add)
Bush: U.S. Must Protect Iraq From Terror

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

President Bush on Tuesday answered growing anti-war protests with a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields that he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.

"We will defeat the terrorists," Bush said. "We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary."

Bush said the Iraqi oil industry, already suffering from sabotage and lost revenues, must not fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. "They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition."
This is getting ridiculous. Apparently, in response to the public concern about high gasoline/oil prices, Bush is using that as a talking point to garner support for the war.

Who is going to buy that argument?

Bush has been peculiarly off-message recently (witness the lackadaisical response to the New Orleans disaster). Could it be that Bush's "magic" - with those who make up the Cult of Bush - has finally faded?



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Nuke Fallujah!



"This page was created by a seller."   Still...



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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Watching the hurricane:

Go here, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/satellite.shtml , and click on the Gulf of Mexico links for Visible or IR (infra-red). At night, IR is the only way to go. Images updated every 30 minutes* and are time-stamped Zulu.

* - at least that's what we've gotten, only times of XX15 and XX45.



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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Friday sunrise blogging:





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Chalabi - Bush on:

This is a bit old, but new to us.

8 Feb 2004 - Meet the Press:
MR. TIM RUSSERT: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

PRES. BUSH: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I am very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that, because right here in the Oval Office, I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.
[From 21 Aug 2005 transcript where the earlier interview was showns as a clip.]
1 June 2004 - President Bush Discusses the Iraqi Interim Government (White House Rose Garden press opportunity)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that's fallen out of favor within your administration. I'm wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly --

THE PRESIDENT: Chalabi?

Q Yes, with Chalabi.

THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.

[...]

Q I guess I'm asking, do you feel like he misled your administration, in terms of what the expectations were going to be going into Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't remember anybody walking into my office saying, Chalabi says this is the way it's going to be in Iraq.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Teaching the truth:

Kevin Drum has a post about the politics surrounding the teaching of evolution and in addition to his own view, cites Yglesias on the topic. They both take the view that since evolution isn't very popular (Yglesias: "less popular than gay marriage, less popular than the abolition of the death penalty"), that some sort of accomodation should be made with the anti-evolution crowd.

Yglesias is wrong to put evolution in the same category as gay marriage and the death penalty. The latter two are matters of opinion. Evolution is not. It is "true" in the sense that it conforms to a rational analysis of empirical data. Compromise can be made on a number of issues of opinion (drug laws, sex laws, economic laws), but how does one compromise with a falsehood?

One need not, as Yglesias puts it "point, sneer, and mock" those who don't accept evolution. Maybe some liberal bloggers do that, but that's hardly a reason to walk away from the debate. The best way to go about it is to remain calm and patiently explain (again and again) what science is, how it works, and why the theory of evolution is the result of the scientific method.



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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Family last:

Yahoo story:
The gravestones of fallen Americans buried at Arlington National cemetery during the Iraq war era show a change in style from earlier conflicts, in Arlington, Va., Friday, July 1, 2005. Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the operation names, such as 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and 'Operation Enduring Freedom', which the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
With this photo:



A closeup (x3) reveals one tombstone with the following:



Which reads:
ROBERT JOSEPH
MOGENSEN
SFC USA
FEB 17 1978
MAY 29 2004
BSM PH & OLC
ARCOM WV
OPERATION
ENDURING FREEDOM
BELOVED HUSBAND
& FATHER
It seems odd that the sentiment of the family is at the bottom.

And about that family, this from arlingtoncemetery.net:
Soldier from Gloversville Killed in Afghanistan
26 year-old Staff Sgt. Robert Mogensen enlisted in the army when he was 18. Over the years he's served in a number of special forces assignments, but his family never imagined he wouldn't come home. “I didn't believe it -- at first I said Robert who? You don't think of it as being your own family,” said his aunt Karen Martin. Mogensen and two other U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday in Kandahar, Afghanistan when their vehicle hit a land mine. His family in Mayfield got the news later that day. His aunts rushed to his mother's side. “It's just a bad dream. We thought we were going to wake up and it was just a dream. It wasn't. We still think he's going to come home and still be the same, you know?” said his other aunt, Kathy Belfance. “You always think it's always someone else, and when it hits you, it's unreal,” said Martin. His aunts say Mogensen was a fun-loving young man -- a good husband and father. His death serves as a reminder that soldiers are dying in more than one war zone. “You see Iraq, Iraq but there's kids dying every day in Afghanistan fighting for us,” said Martin. Mogensen's family members still don't know much about the incident that took his life, but they do want people to know one thing about him... “That he did it for us. Because he loved us. He wanted everybody to be living here safe and free,” said Belfance.

Mogensen leaves behind a wife and 3 children, the youngest an 8-week old daughter. His mother – who also lives in Mayfield – is in North Carolina tonight.

Four points:
  • Unless the families requested the inscriptions, this is in really bad taste. What's next "GSAVE", or "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism"?
  • It's not much different from the planned march on September 11 to honor the troops in Iraq.
  • This White House politicizes everything. Here is your evidence.
  • It's going to get worse.


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Monday, August 22, 2005

"They're not going to develop that."

What? A Islamic Iraq. Or so Bush claimed last year. During Meet the Press on Sunday, the issue of the role of Islam was discussed (regarding the drawing up of the constitution). A short videotape of Bush was played, in contrast to the most recent developments in Iraq. From the transcript:
(Videotape, February 8, 2004):

MR. TIM RUSSERT: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

PRES. BUSH: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I am very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that, because right here in the Oval Office, I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.

(End videotape)
Unfortunately Russert used the qualifier "extremist", which means Bush can claim vindication if Iraq "only" becomes a theocracy in the Saudi Arabi mode. But women's rights will be trampled upon in such a scenario.

It's interesting that Bush was getting the straight dope about the future of Iraq from such honorable men as Ahmed Chalibi. I wonder what else he was told.



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15 out of 18:

A remarkable, if sad, statistic. The United States has been in Iraq for 30 months. 12 months for the first year and 18 months thereafter. Of the latter 18 months, 15 of those have had a fatality count that is greater than or equal to the same month one year prior.





Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count



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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lowering the bar:

On today's Meet the Press, after discussing Iraq with two senators, Russert David Gregory had a round table with Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute (how's that for balance?). After discussing the role of Islam in a future government, Gerecht said:
... one hopes that the Iraqis protect women's social rights as much as possible. It certainly seems clear that in protecting the political rights, there's no discussion of women not having the right to vote. I think it's important to remember that in the year 1900, for example, in the United States, it was a democracy then. In 1900, women did not have the right to vote. If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there. I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.
So much for women's social rights.

Corrected after being reminded in comments that Russert was not the host. Watched the program but wrote Russert out of habit.



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Saturday, August 20, 2005

The re-Discovery Institute:

If you are depressed with the NYTimes article about the Discovery Institute (via Political Animal), you might want to go to this website:
http://www.re-discovery.org/
Fun, especially if you know science.



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President Bush to meet with regular folks --- NOT!

From today's Radio Address: (slightly formatted)
During the coming weeks, I will meet with some of the brave men and women who have been on the front lines in the war on terror.
  • Next week in Idaho, I will visit with some of the fine citizen soldiers of the Idaho National Guard.
  • I will also see the men and women of the Mountain Home Air Force Base ...
  • Next week, in Utah, I will also address the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention ...
  • At the end of the month, I will join our veterans and current service members in San Diego to commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-J Day
The rest of the address was talk about fighting the terrorists. The only slightly positive note was this highly qualified statement:
... we're spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East.
We're not spreading freedom any more. Now it's the hope of freedom.

Of interest: In last week's Radio Address there were a few mentions of substantive events: (formatted)
  • ... I met in Texas with Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and the rest of my senior foreign and defense policy advisors.
  • ... Iraq's elected leaders are now finishing work on a democratic constitution.
  • We're hunting down the terrorists and training the security forces of a free Iraq so Iraqis can defend their own country.
But none of that in today's address.



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Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday sunrise blogging:



19 July 2005



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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Feisty:

In an otherwise uninteresting essay about minor-league baseball, George Will has this to say:
The minor leagues reflect the nation's durable regional differences. South Carolinians, for example, are feisty -- they fired on Fort Sumter ...
Yup. Feisty they certainly were.



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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The forgetful nation:

In a story about Schwarzenegger going around the nation on a fundraising tour (which is bad in and of itself), we read: (emp add)
In the quest for cash to finance his campaign for the special election he called, the governor plans to appear Friday at a Lake Tahoe fundraiser hosted by, among others, philanthropist and former junk bond king Michael Milken. From there, he is set to jet to New Jersey for a Saturday barbecue to boost his fortunes and those of New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester.
Not a word about being a convicted felon.

The reason this is so, is the following explanation at Wikipedia:
After he served his sentence, Milken launched a public relations campaign to cast himself as a great innovator and financier, while smoothing over his criminal record. He has also devoted much time and money to charity, leading some observers to accuse him of trying to buy back his good name.
Looks like he did.



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It's only a matter of time:

From July producer prices jump on energy costs
U.S. producer prices rose twice as fast as expected last month on soaring energy costs, government data showed on Wednesday, while prices excluding food and energy also topped forecasts in a sign of building inflation pressures.

"This should keep investors and policy-makers on alert with a recovering economy and a growth profiling stronger in the third quarter than the second quarter," said Anthony Chan, senior economist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"We are seeing some pricing pressure on the wholesale level, but the (consumer price index) report yesterday showed that it hasn't really passed on to the consumer level," he added.
Just wait.



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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pro-war pundits and politicians:

There are two articles out on the web which are on the topic of pro-war "liberal" politicians and pro-war pundits. The first, in the Nation magazine, The Strategic Class is about the politicians (and some others like Pollack). The other, at the American Prospect, Their War, Too, focuses on pundits (e.g. Tom Friedman, Victor Davis Hanson). Nothing new, but a review of what's happened with these folks.



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The budget deficit is not $331 billion!!!

Everybody is reporting that the "non-partisan" Congressional Budget Office is calling for a budget deficit of $331 billion for FY 2005. Everybody.

But that's not true. Get the report (PDF) and go to page 2. Here is what you will see:



Social Security surpluses (and some other minor inputs) are being used to lower the number from the true deficit, $507 billion, to the less scary $331 billion. That's misleading. The federal government is borrowing from the Social Security trust fund, just like it's borrowing from China and other places. And check out those top-line numbers for all years. With increasing Social Security surpluses, you can actually have larger real deficits, but subtract the surplus in order to present a shrinking deficit.

What the hell is going on here? Why is this charade allowed to go on? Who is going to blow the whistle on it? This blog? You've got to be kidding. Where are the heavy hitters, either in the media or in the blogosphere (and especially the liberal blogosphere).

Oh, and about the "non-partisan" CBO, check the cover page for their budget report:



Hey, look at that horrible spending on elderly, poor, and the disabled. Why not put the defense budget on the cover instead?

Amazing: We just did a quick Google News search for "$331 billion $507" and nothing shows up (lots of stories pop up for a news search on "$331 billion"). Does that mean that no news outlet is telling readers about the real deficit? That's beyond belief.



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Monday, August 15, 2005

Microsoft fucked me over (again):

If you have, like I do, a W2K machine SP4, you might not want to install security updates. I did it this evening, in reaction to the news that the ZOTOB virus was something W2K machines were vulnerable to.

This is unbelievable. A Microsoft security update, which you can't ignore, causes machines to break (in my case with problems of Internet and local-net access).

Where the hell is the Q/A? My machine is a run of the mill Compaq, a very standard machine, yet it is broken and may have to be completely reloaded since it appears the updates can't be backed out.

I'm posting this here to let off steam. How can anybody take Microsoft seriously as a vendor of dependable software? They have tons of cash, but can't seem to be bothered with spending it to make their overall design robust (and comprehensible - does anybody really have a sense of what's going on with the OS?).

Thanks, Billy Gates. Now my home office will be down for two days. Minimum.



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The Iraqi's agreed on a draft constitution before the deadline!



Okay, maybe it's not as bad as it appears right now (the situation is in a high state of flux and we've already had to make one change to the graphic), but it does look as if there are serious problems.



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Powerline blog, threat or menace?

Time magazine's Blog Of The Year asks the pertinent question about Cindy Sheehan:
Is she "unhinged" and "irrational", or is she a "vicious anti-Semite" and "anti-American"?
Via Ted Barlow's post (comment section).



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Will the American consumer ever give up?

From today's Stephen Roach commentary (bearish as usual): (emp add)
  • The reason to worry, in my view, is that the cost of this cyclical resilience in the face of an energy shock is not without serious consequences for an unbalanced world. In particular, it has pushed the asset-dependent American consumer to a new state of excess. At first blush, there seems to be little reason to worry -- according to our US team, personal consumption growth is tracking a 5.5% gain in the current quarter. But consider the costs of that stellar accomplishment -- a personal saving rate that has finally hit the “zero” threshold, debt ratios that continue to move into the stratosphere, and asset-led underpinnings of residential property markets that are now firmly in bubble territory.

  • there can be no mistaking the precarious position of today’s US consumer. In the face of an unprecedented shortfall of labor income -- with real compensation growth in the 44 months of the current expansion running $282 billion below the path of the typical cycle -- consumers have not even flinched.

  • Reflecting a new asset-dependent spending mindset -- first arising out of the equity bubble of the late 1990s and more recently supported by the property bubble -- US households have been more than willing to draw their income-based saving rates down into unprecedented territory.

  • The only backstop available to support the spending excesses of American consumers is the saving that is now embedded in their over-valued homes. Yet with the housing bubble now in the danger zone, that’s not exactly a comfort zone.

  • The combined share of consumer durables and residential construction has averaged 14.3% of GDP over the past year -- virtually identical to peak shares hit just before the two energy-shock-induced consumption collapses of the 1970s.

  • a persistence of spending excesses by the income-short US consumer also underscore the potential pyrotechnics of a major current account adjustment

  • At the current level of oil prices, I suspect one of two things will happen -- either the over-extended American consumer will finally cave or the long-awaited US current account adjustment will finally unfold.

  • All this points to what could be the biggest macro call that any of us will have to make for a long time -- the capitulation of the unflinching American consumer.

  • Over the years, I’ve learned to be wary of betting against the American consumer. But the history of energy shocks argues to the contrary. Moreover, today’s saving-short, asset-dependent, overly-indebted consumer is far more vulnerable than in the past. After years of such warnings, investors, of course, have all but given up on that possibility. That’s precisely the time to worry the most.


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Gunplay:

We were wondering when the first shot would be fired in reaction to Cindy Sheehan's Crawford vigil. Well, it happened yesterday: (excerpts)
While about 60 in Sheehan's group held a religious service Sunday morning, a nearby landowner, Larry Mattlage, fired his shotgun twice into the air. Mattlage closed the iron gate to his small ranch outside of town and posted "Sorry, We're Closed" signs.

"I ain't threatening nobody, and I ain't pointing a gun at nobody," he said. "This is Texas."

McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch said he counseled Mattlage to use some restraint.

"He's on his own property," Lynch said. But he warned that Mattlage can't just "shoot across the road."

"Everyone needs to use restraint in this situation out here," the sheriff said.
That's Texas, where you express yourself with deadly force when you're irritated, or as Fox News Channel would have it, "suffer protest fatigue."

Expect more of this from Bush supporters as the Iraq situation gets worse.



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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Let the word go out!

From the Washington Post article, U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq: (restructured to outline form, emp add)
The Bush administration is:
  • significantly lowering expectations
  • shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning
The Bush administration is acknowledging:
  • the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned
  • we will have some form of Islamic republic
  • they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status
  • When we finally depart, it will probably be for us [and not for the Iraqi's]
  • most damage was from looting [after the invasion][and not Saddam], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system.

The Bush administration no longer expects:
  • a model new democracy
  • a self-supporting oil industry
  • a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges
  • Iraq's oil revenue paying many post-invasion expenses
  • the ability [of Iraq] to build a robust self-sustaining economy
The Bush administration's goal is
  • a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.
Wow!



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Turning the corner -



- but not really getting anywhere (and in fact, facing higher U.S. death rates as time goes on).


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Op-Ed review:
  • David Brooks - Two Steps Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy

    He mentions, and supports
    • Guest worker programs
    • Tougher border control
    But fails to mention a third - and most likely effective - step, employer penalties. But that's off limits for Republicans, and Brooks.

  • David Broder - The Divide In Education

    749 words on education. NCLB act, standards, teachers, disadvantaged students - the works, without a single mention of the debate over evolution. Congratulations, David! You've done it again - remained mute while conservatives do damage to the United States.

  • George Will - Sense From the Hall of Framers

    Don't waste your time on this one. Will constructs an absurd liberal straw-man and then knocks him down. How absurd? Here is the framework, with fill-ins so you can tailor it for your polemical ends:
    Judging by the river of rhetoric that has flowed in response to the court vacancy, contemporary [political group]'s narrative of American constitutional history goes something like this:

    "On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere galloped through the Massachusetts countryside, and to every Middlesex village and farm went his famous cry of alarm, 'The British are coming! The British are coming to menace the ancient British right to
    [activity]!' The next morning, by the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April's breeze unfurled, the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world in defense of the right to [activity]. The Articles of Confederation, ratified near the end of the Revolutionary War to Defend [activity], proved unsatisfactory, so in the summer of 1787, 55 framers gathered here to draft a Constitution. Even though this city was sweltering, the framers kept the windows of Independence Hall closed. Some say that was to keep out the horseflies. Actually, it was to preserve secrecy conducive to calm deliberations about how to craft a more perfect [activity] right. The Constitution was ratified after the state conventions vigorously debated the right to [activity]. But 74 years later, a great Civil War had to be fought to defend the Constitution against states that would secede from the Union rather than acknowledge that a ... right to [activity] is an emanation loitering in the penumbra of other rights. And so on."
    By elevating a particular activity or right to the highest level of a political framework (i.e. Constitution), it makes it look silly. Will is not making a reasoned argument. He's trivializing the issue and portraying advocates as fools, which anybody can to for any topic.

    Of minor interest is the fact that Will speaks glowingly about the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia. It looks pretty mainstream (despite Will's suggestion that it is a haven for property rights fanatics). However, on their Distinguished Scholars Advisory Panel page, we find torture-advocate and the-president-can-do-anything-he-wants-theorist John Yoo


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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Foolish liberal question:

This morning on NPR's Saturday Edition, there was a segment on religious and racial profiling. Saturday Edition's host, Scot Simon, opened up the discussion by asking: (emp add)
Is there a profile that would include Mohammad Atta and Timothy McVeigh?"
Cute. Simon was attempting to demonstrate that there wasn't one profile that would have identified both Atta or McVeigh, especially a profile that included religious and racial criteria. But there can be multiple profiles of likely terrorists, one for disenchanted young men and one for Islamic militants.

Does religious and racial profiling work? Probably, though multiple regression analysis and emperical testing is needed to prove it.

Those who don't like such profiling should not make foolish arguments attempting to show that it can't work. What should be done is admit that such profiling does work (if it does) but declare it off-limits as a matter of policy. Everybody knows that if the police could perform warrantless searches there would be more criminals caught, but we don't allow such searches because we value privacy. The same can be said about race and religion. Even though it may be an indicator of something, the United States will not use it in security operations in order to preserve equality under the law for people of different religious orientation or ethnicity.

WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?
We are aligning ourselves more in the direction of Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) than that of Digby (Hullabaloo) or Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise). Take the recent NARAL anti-Roberts ad. Howler says:
David Souter agreed with Roberts. So apparently, David Souter is also someone “whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against Americans!” Do you see how liberal elites drive voters away when they try to fly turkeys like that? Bush has handed us endless tools—and we just keep playing “Born Loser.”
On the other hand, Lindsay writes:
This is not a good time for you to make a show of meticulous even-handedness. If you really care about the politics and not just the ideas in play, now is the time to develop some message discipline.
And Digby posts:
The details don't matter, it's the headline and the image.
We like Digby and Lindsay, but have to respectfully disagree. Reason, which is best presented in a calm, honest environment, is on our side. Toss that away by ignoring "details" and relying on "message discipline", regardless of the facts, plays into the hands of the right. They love a fight that hinges more on emotion than thinking.

Is it harder to win by being honest, logical, and fair? Yes. So why be that way? It's a matter of taste, perhaps. We are angry when we see the right-wing lie and distort. We are uncomfortable when the left does it, and will on occasion point out such instances.


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Conservative, pro-religion newsweekly says atheists a force for good:

The August 8 issue of U.S. News & World Report has a cover, God and Country - New thinking about the role of faith in America. The main story, Divided We Stand, is a routine article about the U.S. history of faith and politics. But there was a sidebar, Rallying the Humanists, which was about that peculiar minority in this country, atheists. In it, we read the following curious passage: (emp add)
Once a force to be reckoned with, secular humanists, who believe in science and rationalism in making moral choices, were behind many major cultural changes in the 20th century, including advances in women's liberation, civil rights, and desegregation. But an increasingly passionate and politically sophisticated Christian right has them on the defensive. "We're in the 21st century," says Jim Sedlak, executive director of STOPP International, an antiabortion group, "and there's a strong backlash."
Which translates to: Atheists were genuine progressives and the Christian right were, and remain, bigots.



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Friday, August 12, 2005

The NARAL ad is wrong:

We think E.J. Dionne's op-ed covers most of the points well (and yes, we are aware that the Annenberg Public Policy Center is not Simon pure). In the past we've complained when conservatives say that the ACLU is supporting child molesters or serial killers, when what they are doing is defending constitutional principles.

The NARAL ad says, "John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber."

If you take the view that since the right fights dirty, it's okay to do the same, that's your privilege.     We don't.

By the way, we've not commented on Roberts until today. Do we support his nomination? Of course not.

ADDENDUM: Ezra Klein has some thoughts on message discipline. It's our view that if everybody is rational, empirical, and honest, there is no need for message disipline. There is greater strength in the long run with independent, defensible, liberal positions than from an enforced unity of thought.



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Friday sunrise blogging:



14 May 2005. Those structures on the right (and reflected in the water) are large, three story metal frames that are structural elements for a condominium complex. The complex is mostly constructed of wood. The metal is reinforcement / earthquake protection.



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Thursday, August 11, 2005

There is no plan for Iraq:

Recently there was the news about the mayor of Baghdad being ousted by a bunch of armed guys who put their man into office. It's not clear who really should have been mayor and if it was a coup or not. But in the New York Times story was this item of interest:
Weeks ago, Mr. Tamimi [the just ousted mayor] had offered to resign or retire, saying that the budget he had been given was not adequate. For a city of six million people, the central government had given him a budget of $85 million; he had requested $1 billion.
What's an appropriate budget? For the 3.8 million people in the City of Los Angeles, the budget (PDF) is $5.3 billion. So $1 billion for Baghdad is in the ballpark (especially a war-ravaged urban area). But we read that only $85 million has been allocated, or $14 per city resident. If this is true, essentially no money is going to the capital of Iraq. One can only conclude that there is no serious plan for Iraq.



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What George Will left out:

Today George Will has an Op-Ed where he defends himself from the charge that he gave Reagan a Jimmy Carter "briefing book" prior to a presidential debate. What really happened? Hard to say. But there was misbehavior by Will at the time. From Paul F. Boller's book, Presidential Campaigns:
Willgate

About the time Debategate
[the briefing book affair] began making headlines it was revealed that the usually thoughtful conservative columnist George Will had coached Reagan just before the Carter-Reagan debate and then appeared on ABC's Nightline afterward and praised Reagan's "thouroughbred performance" without mentioning his own role as coach. Will, said the New Republic reprovingly, "posed as a referee without ever making it clear that he had been one of the seconds." "He impersonated a reporter," wrote Mary McGrory in her Washington Post column. "What he did was to work out in the gym with the challenger and then, without mentioning the fact to readers or reviewers, reviewed the fight on television." Will wrote a long column of his own in the Post defending what he had done, but admmitting he would never do it again."
Never do it again? Well, maybe not exactly that, reviewing a performance he coached. But he has played a behind the scenes role since then. From fair.org:
Will suffered another ethical lapse in the 2000 campaign when he met with George W. Bush just before the Republican candidate was to appear on ABC's This Week. Later, in a column (Washington Post, 3/4/01), Will admitted that he'd met with Bush to preview questions, not wanting to "ambush him with unfamiliar material." In the meeting, Will provided Bush with a 3-by-5 card containing a crucial question he would later ask the candidate on the air. Though strongly resembling his coaching of candidate Reagan in 1980, and in strong contrast to his treatment of Jesse Jackson in 1988, this extraordinary admission received little media mention.


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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Freedom Walk will begin ... near the site where the airliner crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11 ...

The recently announced "America Supports You Freedom Walk" is beyond belief. It's an attempt to connect 9/11 to the Iraq war and is in execrable taste. From the press release:
The Freedom Walk will begin at 10 a.m. Sept. 11 in the Pentagon South parking lot, near the site where the airliner crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. The walk route will consist of a two-mile trek through Arlington National Cemetery, over the Potomac River, and will end by the reflecting pool on the National Mall, where a free concert featuring country music star Clint Black will take place.


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Free military clothing:

Recently posted U.S. Army Reserve flyers on telephone poles in West Los Angeles (specifically on Sepulveda Boulevard).

For the college kids:



And for high school students:



Close ups:






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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This is a transitional form:



Between what, you might ask. Why, between pre-Cambrian life forms and giraffes.



We bring this up only because evolution is back in the news. There's the opinion piece in USA today that denounces evolution. And there is an essay (8 Aug) over at Tech Central Station in favor of Intelligent Design. As to the latter, here is a key quote:
... the fossil record, our only source of the history of life on Earth, is almost (if not totally) devoid of transitional forms of life that would connect the supposed evolution of amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds, etc.
The author, Dr. Roy W. Spencer - Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama - is demanding a fossil of every animal that ever existed between species X and species Y, or he will declare the fossil record to be 'incomplete'. And even then, you couldn't prove that animal A begat animal B.

The reason for these peculiar assertions about evolution and what the fossil record should show is a basic misunderstanding of what evolution says. Evolution is based on a few fundamental principles:
  • Fossils are the remains of animals.
  • Fossils can be dated accurately to within 20% of their estimated age.
  • The fossil record shows there was a time in the past when no species living today, existed.
  • All multicellular animals are the result of reproduction by other multicellular animals.
  • Each generation of animals differ from their parents.
That's it. If you have an animal living on earth today, like a giraffe, it must have descended from a long chain of multicellular animals. In the recent past, those multicellular animals looked and had structures very much like giraffes. Further back, they looked different. Evolution says that giraffes are the result of reproduction of life forms that existed hundreds of millions of years ago. That over time there were changes which lead to a backbone, and later on, to an air-breathing mammal that could live on land.

Looking for an animal with a backbone that lived way in the past - 400 million years ago, say during the Silurian Period? That's basically a fish. So a fish is your transitional form.

The key issue that should be debated is this:
All multicellular animals are the result of reproduction by other multicellular animals.
That's where the evolution skeptics plant their flag. They don't believe it. But the evidence so far is that, indeed, a multicellular animal only comes from a pre-existing multicellular animal (actually, a pair of animals). The burden for evolution skeptics is to show that an animal can appear without being the result of reproduction, and this has to be demonstrated convincingly in the laboratory - today - not by the fossil record. The fossil record is not being used to prove that animals begat animals. It is only used to show that different forms existed at different times.



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Truthful Tierney:

NYTimes Op-Ed columnist John Tierney gets on his libertarian horse and comes out against the drug war. Key quote: (emp add)
Today we tolerate alcohol, even though it causes far more harm than illegal drugs, because we realize a ban would be futile, create more problems than it cured and deprive too many people of something they value.
Boy, does it ever. Alcohol consumption can lead to aggressiveness and violence. It is a chemical that does serious damage to the liver and the brain. It impairs thinking and judgment more than most drugs. Yet it's legal.

What would the world be like if, for instance, marijuana was the legal recreational drug of choice instead of alcohol? Except for a surfeit of black-light posters and lava lamps, the world would be better off.



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Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday sunrise blogging:



21 July 2005. Sun behind the San Gabriel mountains which are to the east of downtown Los Angeles. Ballona channel in foreground.



A few minutes later.



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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Medicaid on the march?

USA Today has a very interesting story about Medicaid. How it has expanded. How working families benefit. How it is a better deal than private insurance in some instances (e.g. Wal*Mart).

The welfare reform that threw people off of cash assistance (in one Ohio county from 427 to 3 over eight years) was coupled with an expansion of medicaid (from 4,020 to 7,316, same county, same time frame) with almost all the growth to working families that were paid low wages.

How did this happen? We don't recall the policy debates at the time. Will it continue? The outlook is unclear, what with Congress looking to cut Medicaid. Is Medicaid coverage for the working poor the first step in a national health care program? Who knows?



2 comments


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Entire career!     Current actions!

From Editor & Publisher:
Writers Group Won't Give Judith Miller 'Conscience in Media' Award After All

The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to reverse an earlier decision to give its annual Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, E&P has learned.

The group's First Amendment committee had narrowly voted to give Miller the prize for her dedication to protecting sources, but the full board has now voted to overturn that decision, based on its opinion that her entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award.


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Is anybody in charge here?

From the New York Times last week: (excerpts, emp add)
U.S. Officials Retool Slogan for Terror War

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
SUMMARY: Change from GWOT to GSAVE reflects Bush's own thinking.

But we read over at TPM Cafe (Larry Johnson): (excerpts, emp add)
Stop the presses. WOT--the War on Terrorism may still be alive. The counter terrorism community is abuzz over the President's comments yesterday at a principals meeting of the Homeland Security Council. Bush reportedly said he was not in favor of the new term, Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE). In fact, he said, "no one checked with me". That comment brought an uncomfortable silence to the assembled group of pooh bahs. The President insisted it was still a war as far as he is concerned.


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What universe are you living in, Bob?

Robert J. Samuelson writes in the Washington Post:
A Big Story, Missed

Look at the numbers. For the past 12 months the consumer price index (CPI) is up only 2.5 percent ...   So-called core inflation -- stripped of volatile food and energy prices -- has behaved even better.
Here is a three-year chart from losangelesgasprices.com:



Gasoline has risen $1.00 from $1.50 to $2.50 in three years, a 66% increase, or 18% per year. And that's just gasoline at the pump. Higher gasoline prices also affect what you pay for other goods since transportation costs are folded into food and other merchandise.

How come the inflation rate is reported to be so low? Samuelson gives a hint with this line: (emp add)
In June new car prices -- after adjustment for quality improvements -- were actually 2.1 percent lower than 10 years earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That's the controversial "hedonic adjustments" you've heard about. A new computer comes out with double the CPU speed, but has same retail price as a similar model a year ago. The adjustment by the BLS results in a computer at half the price! This didn't happen in the past. Improvements in performance had been assumed to be part of the territory and not something to be "adjusted" for.



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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An embarrassing Meet the Press:

Here is some of what was said about Bush's (then likely) nomination of Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations: (excerpted, emp add)
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O'Beirne, let me start with you. The president wants John Bolton to be the ambassador to the United Nations. Congress has been delaying his confirmation. Word is that tomorrow the president will make a recess appointment. What do you hear?

MS. KATE O'BEIRNE: ... ultimately he enjoys the support of both the president and vice president ...

MR. DAVID BRODER: ... it is the president's choice. He is the president's ambassador ...

MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: As David said, Mr. Bolton will be the president's representative. The president has a right to have his representative, even if he's not the one anyone else would choose.
Look, Bush certainly can make the appointment to suit himself, but that doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do. Bolton will be the United States Ambassador to the UN, not the George Bush Ambassador to the UN. For O'Beirne, Broder, and Robinson to say that all that matters is that Bolton is Bush's guy, is absurd. What, is Bush going to nominate somebody he doesn't like? And a question for Robinson: If, as you put it, "The president has a right to have his representative, even if he's not the one anyone else would choose," then why have hearings, why bother with Senate approval, and why do you think the Constitution makes provisions for such approval?

What happened here was O'Beirne set the stage by not mentioning any of Bolton's demerits and instead focused on the "support by the White House. Broder seconds the motion and Robinson actually goes further in that direction!



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Monday, August 01, 2005

Does Bush look like a robber baron?

We were startled when we saw a picture of Bush that accompanied a Salon article (about the failures surrounding the Iraq war). It looked familiar somehow. The gaunt look. The unsmiling visage.



Then it struck us. He looks somewhat like John Rockefeller. And when you adjust the size and coloration, the match is pretty reasonable.



What do you think?



9 comments