Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein has been executed:

The attacks of 9/11 have now been avenged.

Bring the troops home.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Smart politics:

Why execute Saddam Hussein in the next day or so?

To create a buzz that diminishes the news of 3,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq (which will happen by Monday, at the current rate).

That's the correct order. Executing Hussein after the 3,000 number is reached won't have quite the same impact.


It's hard work:

In the news: (excerpt, emp add)
Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in
, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.
Advice to Bush: Work more than three hours. Maybe you'll actually accomplish something.


The gracious Bill Bennett on Gerald Ford's embargoed remarks about Bush:

From the Corner (where else?): (excerpts)
He slams Bush & Cheney to Woodward in 2004, but asks Woodward not to print the interview until he's dead. If he felt so strongly about his words having a derogatory affect, how about telling Woodward not to run the interview until after Bush & Cheney are out of office?

This is not courage, this is not decent.

The manly or more decent options are these:
  • 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around,
  • or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush [that] will be on the record until his presidency is over.
  • There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.
You're a former President Mr. Ford, show a little more decency to the incumbent who is in a very, very tough place and trying to do the right may recall those days and positions yourself.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Dr. Strangelove connection:

Everybody's talking about the op-ed in the Washington Post by Fred Kagan and retired general Jack Keane that calls for a "surge" of troops in Iraq that would last about two years. Most people would call that an escalation, but no matter. What concerns us is that this Jack Keane guy might not be who he claims to be. Is he really "Jack Keane", or is he General Jack D. Ripper come to life?

Sure looks like it.

General Jack Keane           General Jack D. Ripper

Above all, remember this:
When you "surge", be careful not to spill your precious bodily fluids!


Monday, December 25, 2006

Been getting any good Spam lately?

I've got several email accounts, and the ones that are used for critical communication are reasonably free of spam (e.g. Yahoo and POP). But for some web-based email services, like Excite and Lycos, their spam filters are letting a lot of junk through. For those two, each account gets approximately 25 spam email a day. And they come in waves, especially the penny-stock-scam ones. What's interesting is that they all have the same title and message format, so they are competing against themselves. And anyway, who is going to be impressed by a pitch for, say, Wild Brush Energy (WBRS), when there are a couple of dozen touts for the same stock received on the same day? Anyway, here is a short list of what's showing up in the inbox:
  • SUBJECT: It ready
  • SUBJECT: Mcmanus advice     FROM: "German Mcmanus"
  • SUBJECT: Greetings Claire     FROM: "Claire Page"
  • SUBJECT: RE: Goldberg Insider Information     FROM: "Katy Goldberg"
Each of those 'themes' listed above lasted about one week each. Who in the world is going to pay attention to this obvious synthetic stock scam?


This looks like very significant news:

The Los Angeles Times is reporting:
One of Iraq's most influential Shiite clerics rejected a U.S.-backed proposal to isolate Shiite extremists in the national government, saying the country should govern itself with the help of anti-U.S. firebrand Muqtada Sadr, according to politicians who spoke with the cleric Saturday.

Shiite politicians met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in this Shiite holy city, and then said they had thrown their support behind Sadr, who demands a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq rather than the temporary increase under consideration in Washington.
How significant? The right-wing blog Hot Air says this:
I don’t know where we go from here, except maybe home.
Bush may have convinced his generals to accept more troops in Iraq, but can he persuade the Shiite Iraqis?


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thank you, Richard Nixon:

For those of you of a particular vintage, watching Virginia's congressman Virgil Goode rail against Muslims brings back memories.   Of what?
Of a 1960's era Democratic politician from the south.
Now these bigots are snugly embedded in the Republican party.


Rick Warren is no progressive:

On Meet the Press today, the featured guests are Jon Meacham and pastor Rick Warren. Some people have the impression that Warren is a progressive, and it is true that he's not as conservative as James Dobson, Gary Bauer, et al. But he's pretty conservative none the less.

From Wikipedia:
  • Warren made the claim that he is ... a good friend of President Bush and most of the top Generals at the Pentagon in an email to WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah.
  • Warren said he is Rupert Murdoch's pastor ...
From CNN: (via Think Progress)
Warren is entirely orthodox when it comes to the culture wars: Like other evangelicals, he
  • opposes abortion,
  • [opposes] gay marriage,
  • [opposes] stem-cell research,
  • [opposes] human cloning,
  • and [opposes] euthanasia.
What's more, on the eve of last year's Presidential election, he wrote that those five moral issues are "nonnegotiable" and "not even debatable." Leaving no doubt about his political leanings--Bush allied himself with evangelicals on all those issues--Warren urged pastors to "encourage every Christian you know to vote" and "pray for godly leaders to be elected."
From Slate:
[The Virginia Episcopal] churches' [decided] to align with controversial Archbishop Akinola [of Nigeria] - someone whom even many conservatives in the church have serious qualms about. He's called homosexuality a "satanic attack" on the church and considers gay-affirming churches to be a "cancerous lump" in the body of Christ. He has endorsed the implementation of anti-gay legislation in his country that would ban homosexuals from having relationships and practically eliminate their right to free speech, all at risk of imprisonment ...

Elsewhere, he compared homosexuality and lesbianism to bestiality. He also made an earlier statement this year that was tied to ensuing violence against Muslims in his community; while American mega-pastor Rick Warren was deftly defending Akinola, people in Nigeria, including another bishop, were decrying it.
From Rick Warren's defense in Time:
Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism. He has been criticized for recent remarks of frustration that some felt exacerbated Muslim-Christian clashes in his country. But Christians are routinely attacked in parts of Nigeria, and his anger was no more characteristic than Nelson Mandela's apartheid-era statement that "sooner or later this violence is going to spread to whites." I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Remember this?

From October 2003:
This puts accountability right into the White House," a senior administration official said:

White House announces reorganization to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan (according to story in the New York Times). Here's a snapshot.

Why is this being re-posted? Because the Bush administration has time after time after time asserted that the "next step" was going to lead to success. This particular case is one of the earlier ones, from over three years ago. And now the latest gambit is that a "surge" is going to make things right. Enough already. (Yes, this commentary is inspired by Kevin Drum's post about how giving Bush more troops will finally make the war in Iraq look like a mistake.) Bush and his supporters have been wrong on virtually all the key assessments and implementations. Sometimes it's hard to keep focus on that, because of the kind of political dialogue we encounter every day. Bush has been wrong, is wrong, and should not be indulged any more.

Also ... even though so many Big Names have been wrong, does anybody think that Bill Kristol will no longer be invited to Fox News Sunday? Or that McCain and Lieberman won't be chatting with Tim Russert? In any society that valued simple matters like being correct on foreign policy, these clowns would have been banished from the public arena a long time ago. But Rupert Murcoch and G.E. and the Washington Post don't care about that. They want war and they will continue to support advocates of the Iraq war regardless of the facts. And when things go completely sour, or when the troops are finally taken out, get ready for it. These Masters Of The Media will give a forum for commentators to blame Democrats or liberals or anyone else they can find, for the failure. Expect to hear the kind of nonsense Tom DeLay says now ("It's the fault of the liberals and the media and the Democrats").

Facts don't matter. Being right or wrong doesn't matter. What matters is who controls the press.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's next target?

O'Reilly likes to pick on the small players, like retailer Crate and Barrel, for (as he mistakenly claims) not saying "Merry Christmas". But when will O'Reilly go after the big boys, and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, is Google. Here is a screenshot showing the screen tip that pops up when the mouse hovers over the graphic. What does it say? Not "Merry Christmas", but "Happy Holidays". That's who O'Reilly should take on. If he doesn't, does that mean he's a sissy?


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Will Bush approve the killing of Muqtada al-Sadr?

It certainly looks probable. If al-Sadr is killed, is there leadership within his group that can take over? Would the Mahdi Army disintegrate if al-Sadr is out of the picture?

It would appear that eliminating Muqtada al-Sadr would cause a significant portion of the Shia to become disoriented and, for a while, a diminished power center. Therefore, getting rid of al-Sadr may be an attractive option for Bush to consider.

This blog doesn't approve of such a policy, but it looks like something we may be forced to witness.


Who is Ronald D. Rotunda?

Once again we find an editorial (this time in the Washington Post) by someone not properly identified. The editorial, The Courts Need This Watchdog, is in favor of Congress creating an inspector general for the courts. Suspicions are immediately raised when the author writes:
Nonetheless, there are those who greet it the way Dracula would greet a bouquet of garlic. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, has said of the proposal: "That's a really scary idea."
Which, aside from the charming Ginsburg-as-Dracula portrayal, neglects to mention that Reagan-appointed and Republican Sandra Day O'Connor has been particularly outspoken against having an inspector general.

But to the reason for this blog entry. The Washington Post identifies Ronald D. Rotunda as:
The writer is university professor and a professor of law at George Mason University.
Which makes you think he's just some ordinary law professor with an opinion. But he's more than that. He's a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. And he's written things like:
  • The Problem with Hand Counting (Nov 2000 - an essay in opposition to Gore's attempt to get Florida ballots reviewed)
  • How the Electoral College Works -- And Why It Works Well (Nov 2000 - in it, Rotunda writes "The Electoral College, in practice, gives a little more electoral power to racial minorities, such as blacks and Hispanics, and thus is important in helping to achieve racial justice.")
  • The Filibuster (Jul 2003 - opposing the filibuster while the Republicans held majorities; unclear what his position is now)
At an absolute minimum, the Post should have identified Rotunda as a fellow of Cato. And it would have been even more accurate to describe him as a conservative libertarian commentator.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Do what the president tells you to do!

From the press conference:
A recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country -- and I encourage you all to go shopping more.
Do more shopping. Shop, shop, shop. And if you are out of money, borrow so that you can shop some more.

Your leader has spoken.


Bush interprets the 2006 elections:

From the interview with the Washington Post:
... the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed.
Of course, he's merely saying that so that he can continue to wage war. But shouldn't someone call him on it? The polls are overwhelmingly negative about Iraq (unhappy about the decision to go in, the state of 'progress' there, want troops out, etc), so it should be easy for the press or policicians to make the charge that Bush is BS-ing the nation.

Oh, and another thing. This whole 'surge' of troops idea. Bush will drag it out as long as possible. Starting with the delayed-to-January announcement. Then there will be time to get it planned, then time to get the troops in to Iraq, then time to get ready for the job, then lots of time to see how it's working out. All to ensure that there will be a large troop presence in Iraq until Bush's term of office ends.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

When Bush speaks of "victory"

What he means is "postponing the inevitable"

Try it on some of his statements:
  • President Bush Meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair
    We agree that victory in Iraq is important;
    We agree that postponing the inevitable in Iraq is important;
  • President Bush Discusses NATO Alliance During Visit to Latvia
    ... in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.
    ... in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than postponing the inevitable for our children and our grandchildren.
  • Press Conference by the President (8 Nov '06)
    ... I'm committed to victory.
    ... I'm committed to postponing the inevitable.

    I am making a change at the Secretary of Defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to achieve something I think most Americans want, which is a victory.
    I am making a change at the Secretary of Defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to achieve something I think most Americans want, which is postponing the inevitable.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

"could ... last as long as two years"

From ABC news: (emp add)
Dec. 16, 2006 — President Bush is likely to support a "surge" of additional U.S. troops to Iraq, officials familiar with planning believe.

The surge could include more than 30,000 additional troops and last as long as two years, sources tell ABC News. That could bring the total number of troops in Iraq to at least 164,000 - the highest total yet.
Two years. How about that?


The Post gets letters:

This Saturday, the Washington Post prints (only) two letters in response to Fred Hiatt's editorial about Pinochet. This blog wrote:
The Post (i.e. Fred Hiatt) praises Pinochet for the 15 years of economic growth since he left office, but doesn't examine the 17 years when he was the ruler of Chile.
The second letter to the Post reads:
To someone who lives and works in Chile, The Post's Dec. 12 editorial was a sorry example of history caricatured to fit neoconservative ideology. You acknowledged Gen. Augusto Pinochet's responsibility for massive violation of human rights but went on to praise his contribution to economic development.

In fact the annual growth rate over his 17 years of rule was a little more than 2 percent, and the social costs were immense. The second of his two recessions (1982-83) -- entirely attributable to his government's policies -- threw 30 percent of the population out of work, and when he reluctantly left office in 1990, 40 percent of the population lived in poverty.

Chile's prosperity today is the work of four elected governments, as are the policies that cut the poverty rate to 18 percent. The country is still struggling with Pinochet's legacy of crony capitalism, which extends well beyond his personal corruption.

-- Alexander Wilde

Santiago, Chile

The writer is board chairman of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group.


Friday, December 15, 2006

He is George Jr.

Proof here.


The simple goal of Bush's next move:

Josh Marshall comments on reports that Bush is likely to call for more troops to be sent to Iraq. He wonders:
Who's for this exactly? That is, beside President Bush, people who work for President Bush and John McCain?
If more troops are sent to Iraq, it means that there will still be troops in Iraq when Bush leaves office. It means handing over the problem to the next president, and "therefore" Bush didn't lose the war. Nobody else matters.

That's all there is to it.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Round numbers:

The number of U.S. soldiers that have died in Iraq is 2,938. That's getting close to 3,000. When that happens, it will change perceptions (a little). Three thousand is a 'real number', as these things go.

What's strange is that Bush's New Way Forward speech has been delayed and may end up being delivered after 3,000 deaths have been recorded. That will make Bush's call for more troops all the more unpalatable to the general public. Look for further erosion in Bush's poll numbers.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shorter George Bush:

Give me a month to make up my mind about Iraq. (And be prepared to be disappointed.)


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Washington Post and Pinochet:

You've got to read the editorial about Pinochet to believe it. It says that Pinochet:
  • "helped to overthrow, with U.S. support, an elected president"
  • "was brutal"
  • "enriched himself, stashing millions in foreign bank accounts"
  • [and under his rule] "More than 3,000 people were killed by his government"
  • "tens of thousands [were] tortured"
  • "Thousands of others spent years in exile"
  • "One prominent opponent, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated by a car bomb"
But, the Post wants you to know that:
  • [Pinochet] "leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America"
  • "In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average"
  • "its poverty rate has been halved"
  • "Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success"
This is straight out of the "At least Hitler introduced the Volkswagen and the autobahn and reduced unemployment" kind of reasoning.

And it doesn't make sense even on that level. The Post (i.e. Fred Hiatt) praises Pinochet for the 15 years of economic growth since he left office, but doesn't examine the 17 years when he was the ruler of Chile.

But wait, there's more! If you look at the ranking of states by GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) per capita, Chile is second with $11,937, behind Argentina which has $14,109. (In terms of nominal GDP per capita, the ranking is reversed.) So the claim that Chile is a standout is definitely subject to debate. Or maybe Argentina's economic success is due to the failed attempt to capture the Falkland Islands - which seems to be the kind of reasoning that's used over at the Post.

Oh, and about that 1973 coup:
  • "socialist Salvador Allende [had some] responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup"
Remember that the next time there is a coup anywhere. Whoever got toppled must bear some responsibility for it. Talk about blaming the victim!

Glenn Greenwald has more on the editorial, including observations about how the Post is in agreement with Jeane Kirkpatrick's notion that "right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ... more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies [than communist rulers]" - a claim that isn't supported by the historical record.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Just what do you mean, Mr. President?

From a news report, Study Group Member's Advice For Bush, we read: (emp add)
Leon Panetta says on Iraq, the president has not confided in the American people and has become trapped by the slogans he's used to describe U.S. policy.

Leon Panetta: "During one meeting somebody asked him, 'Mr. President, what is victory? What do you mean by victory?' And he said, 'I know that there is a lot of concern about just exactly what it is, but it's a word that people understand and I don't want to stop using it because I'm afraid that it'll give the impression that I'm changing policy.'"
Then there was this from ABC's World News Tonight (Martha Raddatz reporting):
[About the meeting with five scholars: Keane, Downing, Cohen, Biddle, McCaffrey "known for their withering criticism of the Baker-Hamilton report released last week"]

"We are also told by one of the participants in the meeting that the president was most animated, took the most notes, Charlie, when people talked about 'victory' in Iraq, and nothing less."
Bush is so in over his head. He's stuck with a word ("victory"). He's meeting with people in order to find a way around the Baker-Hamilton report. And he's engaged when people mouth the magic word ("victory" again). Pathetic.


Bush to kill two birds with one stone?

Given that this report is accurate:
Small nuclear war could lead to cooldown
Some of the scientists who first advanced the controversial "nuclear winter" theory more than two decades ago have come up with another [forecast]

Using modern climate and population models, researchers estimated that a small-scale nuclear conflict between two warring nations would ... lead to a marked cooldown of the planet ...

... researchers say black soot from the fires [triggered by a nuclear exchange] would linger in the atmosphere, blocking the sun's rays and causing average global surface temperatures to drop about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the first three years. Although the planet would see a gradual warming within a decade, it would still be colder than it was before the war, the scientists said.
Bush could decide on a nuclear strike against Iran, pleasing the neocons and silencing critics who say he's done nothing to combat global warming.

It's a win for everybody.


History lessons?

In an AP story: Bush, advisers discuss new strategy for Iraq, we read: (excerpts, emp add)
President Bush on Monday opened three days of intensive consultations on Iraq, saying the United States and countries across the Middle East have a vital stake in helping the fragile government in Baghdad succeed.

Bush went to the State Department to review diplomatic and political options -- the latest in a series of consultations that dominate his agenda as he seeks a new course in Iraq.

The president was joined in the State Department's Treaty Room by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.
With Cheney still an effective part of the White House "team", it sure looks like Bush is going to stay-the-neocon-course. Then there's this:
President to ask historians, former generals for Iraq views
What will Bush ask historians? Will he ask them about the experiences the British had when they tried to control the region in the 1920's? Or will he ask them about Harry S. Truman?


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tom Toles should get a Pulitzer Prize:

For this.


Good news watch:

It's been reported that
60% of Indian men have penises which are between three and five centimetres shorter than international standards used in condom manufacture.
Spammers that tout penis enlargement will take note. No longer will people in Europe, the Americas, and Africa be hassled with emails carrying subject lines like "Girls prefer the real thing - not toothpicks. Try our $uper VIAGR@". Clearly, the place to send that sort of spam is the Asian sub-continent.

You should see a reduction of junk mail in your inbox starting in 2007.


Friday, December 08, 2006

"Get your head around it."

That's what Josh Marshall concludes as he puts into words what is almost certainly the prognosis for the future regarding Iraq:
[Bush] won't ever change course.     ...     As bad as things get they can still pretend they're on the way to getting better. It's a long hard slog to January 2009 when it becomes someone else's fault.
It's only been a few days now since the Iraq Study Group issued its report and people are still trying to get an idea of what, if anything, Bush will do about the situation in Iraq. Bush only went so far as to say he'd read the report, and therefore it was "important". But other signals coming from the White House indicate that nobody there is really interested in the hard work (really hard work) necessary to implement a change for the better, or even the possibility of a change for the better.

Bush (and Cheney, too) are not going to change anything they control So will there be change? Only if the situation in Iraq overwhelms the U.S. military. That's unlikely. The U.S. military has the air power, artillery and tanks, that insures they can't be defeated in a straight-up military contest. And, there is literally no competition.

So they could remain in Iraq for years, just like the Crusaders did, finding refuge in their castles when the lands they tried to occupy became uncontrollable. About the only event that could displace the U.S. would be some sort of disruption of the supply line from Kuwait, and even then they could probably get by with air delivery.

If Bush doesn't change course (as Marshal and this blog and others anticipate), what will the politics of it be like? It could get to the point where the public accepts the state of affairs and concludes that
"We just have to wait until Bush is out of office before we can get out of Iraq"
In other words, the public acceptance of an uncontrollable president. It might actually fly, mostly because the costs of the war are not being felt for the most part. It's being paid for with borrowed money and the troops at risk (or already dead) come from a small subset of the population who have been largely ignored.

And so we wait. Until January 2009.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bush understands:

From the Bush - Blair press conference:
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's bad in Iraq. Does that help? (Laughter.)

Q Why did it take others to say it before you've been willing to acknowledge for the world --

PRESIDENT BUSH: In all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is. And I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is. And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective. Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed? And what the Baker-Hamilton study has done is it shows good ideas as to how to go forward. What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.

Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die. I understand there's sectarian violence. I also understand that we're hunting down al Qaeda on a regular basis and we're bringing them to justice. I understand how hard our troops are working. I know how brave the men and women who wear the uniform are, and therefore, they'll have the full support of this government. I understand what long deployments mean to wives and husbands, and mothers and fathers, particularly as we come into a holiday season. I understand. And I have made it abundantly clear how tough it is.

I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail. Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail. I understand how hard it is to prevail.


So, no, I appreciate your question. As you can tell, I feel strongly about making sure you understand that I understand it's tough. But I want you to know, sir, that I believe we'll prevail. I know we have to adjust to prevail, but I wouldn't have our troops in harm's way if I didn't believe that, one, it was important, and, two, we'll succeed. Thank you.


Conservatives hate the Iraq Study Group:

Here's a sampling. First, the New York Post:
Cover of the paper:

Their "news" report:

WASHINGTON - The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations - but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home.
New York Post editorial

After nine laborious months, the Iraq Study Group yesterday recommended that there be peace in the Middle East. Well, of course. But how to achieve it? One word: Surrender.

[ends with] The war is not yet lost, nor need it be. Bush needs courage right now. The Iraq Study Group counsels cowardice - and, ultimately, a shameful defeat.
Next, the Washington Times:
A Bipartisan Path to Surrender?

[ends with]The panel's suggestions that Washington should also broker agreements with Syria to stop arms shipments into Iraq and help persuade Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist are completely detached from reality. Some of the major recommendations in the report read like articles of surrender.
And everybody in right-wing radio is pissed off (William Bennett, Hugh Hewitt, et al).

What's interesting is that their ire is not directed at Democrats, but at the "bipartisan, realist, centrist, pragmatic" approach that the Iraq Study Group represents (or is perceived to represent, and yes, "centrist" is highly debatable). Looks like the right-wing will marginalize themselves further in the debate as this issue goes forward.


How old?

In the David Broder column, A Study in Comity, that praises the members of the Iraq Study Group (and a column that Matthew Yglesias called a "hilarous David Broder parody") we read:
Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff, said the high average age of the 10 commission members contributed to its success. "This is a different generation of policymakers," said Panetta, who at 68 was one of the youngest members.
Which is a sentiment that Broder clearly agrees with. But, you might ask, exactly what is the average age? Here are the numbers:
Iraq Study Group members born age as of 7 December 2006
James A. Baker, III – Co-Chair April 28, 1930 76
Lee H. Hamilton – Co-Chair April 20, 1931 75
Lawrence S Eagleburger August 1, 1930 76
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. August 15, 1935 71
Edwin Meese III December 2, 1931 75
Sandra Day O’Connor March 26, 1930 76
Leon E. Panetta June 28, 1938 68
William J. Perry October 11, 1927 79
Charles S. Robb June 26, 1939 67
Alan K. Simpson September 2, 1931 75
    average = 73.8
In case you are wondering, David Broder was born on September 11, 1929, which makes him 77. Part of the same crowd, you might say.

ADDENDUM: Broder born on 9/11? Who knew?


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Headline: "Panel: Bush's Iraq policies have failed"

That's the headline of an AP story by ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer, about the release of the Iraq Study Group report.

Will that be the lasting impression? Will it move Bush's poll numbers down a percent or two?

Stay tuned.


Quit stealing my jokes for policy suggestions!

Kevin Drum comments on various "solutions" for Iraq that Instapundit has rounded up. One plan, from The Jacksonian Party blog is, in Drum's words:
batshit insane. Basically, we take out Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and then create a "Unity Council" to oversee Mecca and Medina.
Well, back in September of 2002 we had a post about some PowerPoint slides that Richard Perle had accidently left behind at a Starbucks, and one slide showed this as the policy goal:

Areas of agreement between the uggabugga "joke plan" and the "Jacksonian Party blog plan" are:
  • Management of the Holy Cities taken away from Saudi Arabia and given to an "honest broker".
  • Conquer Syria.
  • Autonomy for the Kurds.
  • Take over Saudia Arabia (in the "joke plan" rename it to Saudi America)
  • Take over Iran and effectively merge it with Afghanistan and the Shia parts of Iraq until it "recovers".
The "joke plan" had control of several territories reverting to former colonial powers. Jacksonian Democrat is more thoughtful and suggests using, for example, Egyptian and Kurdish forces to take Syria. Upon reflection, that does seem to be the wiser course.

It's amazing how the general contours of the uggabugga "joke plan" of 2002 closely match that found today at Jacksonian Democrat, isn't it?


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What is the Lexington Institute?

The New York Times has an OpEd touting a free market approach to the postal service. In an essay Letter From Europe (dateline Arlingon, Virginia!) Sam Ryan is all excited about changes taking place in Europe which include allowing businesses to compete for mail services. He's also jazzed about the prospects, on the other side of the world, of privatizing Japan Post. In the essay he makes it clear he wants to privatize the U.S. Postal Service:
Congress is now considering legislation that would present the first major reform of the United States Postal Service in 30 years. Despite the free-market rhetoric of our policymakers, however, this legislation makes no attempt to reduce the Postal Service’s monopoly, let alone to privatize the agency.
Fine. That's his opinion. But the line at the end of the essay describes Ryan thustly:
Sam Ryan is a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, a policy research group.
A policy research group. But that doesn't tell you much. The Lexington Institute is a pretty hard-core "let's privatize everything" outfit. The New York Times should have informed readers, at a minimum, that the Lexington Institute is a free-market based policy shop.

But wait, there's more! Here is an excerpt from the Lexington Institute mission statement: (emp add)
The Lexington Institute believes in limiting the role of the federal government to those functions explicitly stated or implicitly defined by the Constitution. The Institute therefore actively opposes the unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into the commerce and culture of the nation, and strives to find nongovernmental, market-based solutions to public-policy challenges.
Okay. But what do we find in the Constitution? From Article I, Section 8:
Article 1 - The Legislative Branch

Section 8 - Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power ...
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
They can't even follow their mission statement.

CODA: Aren't you tired of reading something in the newspaper that has the appearance of neutrality, but should you Google around, you discover that truths have been hidden (like the bias of the author) which force you to reasses the whole thing?


What Bush will do about Iraq:

Whatever Bush does in the next few weeks (and beyond) regarding Iraq, keep in mind the following axioms:
  • Bush will not do anything that would be perceived as a defeat.

  • Bush is indifferent about casualties (both U.S. military and Iraqi)

  • Bush doesn't care about public opinion, the attitude of Congress, or what the pundits have to say.
It's really that simple. Maybe Bush will increase the troop numbers, maybe he will just keep them at the same level, maybe he will reduce them a little. His main goal now is to avoid facing the reality and consequences of his failure. Because to do so would be devastating, and he can't handle it.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Bill Clinton is responsible for 9/11:

Or at least that the implication by Vincent J. Cannato, Op-ed contributor to the Washington Post. The Post published three essays about Bush's ranking among presidents. Two were negative assessments of his presidency: He's The Worst Ever and Move Over, Hoover. The third essay, by Cannato, is Time's On His Side, which asks that people wait before rendering a judgement. In it Cannato writes about how perceptions of other presidents have changed over time. In particular:
Historical and popular judgments about presidents are always in flux. Dwight D. Eisenhower used to be considered a banal and lazy chief executive who embodied the "conformist" 1950s. Today, his reputation has improved because of more positive appraisals of his Cold War stewardship. Ronald Reagan, whom many historians dismissed as an amiable dunce, has also had his stock rise. On the flip side, Bill Clinton's presidency looks somewhat different after Monica Lewinsky, the bursting of the dot-com bubble and 9/11 than it did in 1997.
Neat. So, an attack that was anticipated in the summer of 2001 and that Bush did nothing to prevent is attributed to Clinton. With that kind of shifting of responsibility, any president can be considered great, or a failure. How about that Hoover guy? Since people alive while he was president helped defeat the Nazis, produce antibiotics like penicillin, and send a man to the moon, Herbert Hoover must be considered one of our best presidents ever.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

More on Yahoo's new TV listings page:

There are lots of questions and frustrations expressed within Yahoo Answers. But what's really amazing is that Yahoo went ahead with this launch of a (mostly) unpopular upgrade without really testing it thoroughly, both for functionality and UI satisfaction. This move could be costly for Yahoo since many people went there for television listings. Only they know the visitor stats, but it's likely that checking on TV listings is one of the more frequent activities that brings people to Yahoo on a daily basis. Someone has already commented to the effect that with this beta release, Yahoo TV is now dead, which is an exaggeration, but none the less a sign that Yahoo is handling their user base in a careless manner. No wonder Google and MSN (!) are getting the eyeballs.

Get a load of what Sal Taylor Kydd, Director of Product Management, Yahoo! TV, had to say about the beta:
The redesign you see here is the product of many months of work and was a huge endeavor for our team. We know it’s not perfect and we hear your concerns loud and clear, but we did feel it was important to get the site out there as a beta, get our users feedback - and continue to improve and iterate. This is only the beginning and we’re dedicated to creating the best experience for our users – so please bear with us and help us make it great. Today I’m actively communicating your feedback to our engineering, as well as our UED and product teams - today we’re looking at the performance issues – as well as getting that redirect fixed. Regarding the comments on search and sign in – they are well taken also – we’ll continue to strive to create the best user experience we can deliver. So bear with us – and keep the suggestions coming! Cheers, Sal.
and (emp add)
* Slow load on listings - this was an unanticipated back-end load issue that our team have been working overtime to fix. You should find it improved today.
* Regarding listings UI concerns - we’re evaluating these right now and working on improvements as a top priority. The listings did go through usability testing and if these concerns had surfaced we would have of course addressed them, but to everyone’s disappointment they didn’t.

Thanks again for all the feedback folks, I understand your frustration, we are responding and working to address your issues asap.

If what Sal says is true, then the usability testing was done by 'true believers', people within the company who think Yahoo is great and don't take a hard, skeptical approach to software usability issues. This seems to be a common trait of companies that have lost touch with their customers. Instead, they take their clues from designers who aspire to a look that satisfies an abstracted aesthetic that ignores functionality. When confronted with any interface (website, microwave oven, automobile dashboard) ask yourself the following question: "Would an interface like this be something you'd want an airline pilot to use?" Because that's probably one of the best examples of a demanding interface - where a pilot has to be able to get the information and set controls in an optimal way.

UPDATE: The best place to send feedback seems to be via comments to this post at Yahoo.

UPDATE2: A good place to find links to other blogs commentating on TV beta is here.


What he said: (about Yahoo's "improved" television listings)

--> Some workarounds at the end of this post

Excerpts from post at Jason Blogs:
For a long time I have used Yahoo TV to get my television schedule information. I was able to easily find out what was playing, in a clean and easy-to-read format. There weren’t any unnecessary bells and whistles, until now. Apparently Yahoo TV has been redesigned, and according to the logo it is now in beta. The new site focuses more on television news and video clips from upcoming shows, trying to remake itself into an entertainment portal complete with the over-the-top Flash and AJAX we would expect

Why does every well crafted and reliable site need to be reinvented? The site now uses Javascript everywhere to load sections of the schedule as you scroll the page. The page loads 10 channels at a time, causing a severe delay as each new section is loaded as you go down the page. This makes the page longer and filled with more ads, as there is an ad after each section. As each section of stations loads there is a significant stopage where you can’t even scroll the page and your browser becomes unresponsive as the information is loaded. This happened in both Firefox and Internet Explorer, and it is completely unacceptable.

With this new design also comes lots of light blues reminiscent of every “Web 2.0? site out there. Good job Yahoo, way to be original.

... the original provided more information in less space, and it was extremely fast.

My advice to Yahoo: bring back the grid. Until then I will be using AOL Television’s TV Listings ...
And the post had this comment appended:
Man, is the new format ever freaking awful! I used to count on the yahoo tv listing too. I have a T1 and it still frustrating to wait for the Javascript to load. You could click on a station and see the entire day’s (or beyond) listing… that feature is gone. I hope Google gets up and running as a full portal soon, I’m complete ready to leave Yahoo now.
And Jason Blogs is not alone. From Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed:
Yahoo TV Goes 2.0. Argh.
I use Yahoo's TV listings on a fairly regular basis to see what's on any particular night, and then I usually get distracted and don't get around to watching it. The nice thing about Yahoo's TV listings has been that they were comprehensive, fast, and appropriately detailed. It just worked.

Well, Yahoo in its wisdom has launched a 2.0-ified version of its TV listings tonight, complete with an Ajax-y interface, cool blue colors, social rating of programs, etc. That's all swell, and frankly I wouldn't care one way or the other (other than they broke my URL for full listings), but the darn thing is sooooo much slower than the old listings. Tables have to get populated, drop-downs have to ... drop, and sliders have to slide while data creakily loads.

It's really irritating ...
By contrast, here is the "thinking" that takes place with admirers of the new Yahoo look (MIT Convergence Culture Consortium): (excerpts, emp add)
[The new look incloudes] an embedded video player for Yahoo! TV that allows viewers to navigate around the page while the video is playing on the page, rather than having to be static in searching for content while the video is playing. The product also includes links to the most popular show on Yahoo! at any particular moment ...

... the site simply looks good. As in gooooood. Of course, I must admit the old site in comparison looks very old school, very 1999, very boxy. The redesigned look in contrast is smooth, current, topical.

[There are] delightful surprises--the video doesn't just start on its own, for instance--and disappointments, such as the lag time in trying to use the personalized grid on the site.
Who cares about a lag time when getting information about the television schedule? Instead, some video will start only on your command while you are informed about whatever the majority of people are viewing right now, in a glorious non "boxy" way. Talk about treating people like cattle. Whereever the herd is headed, Yahoo will pull you along as well. Why bother thinking at all? Why bother finding out what the television listings are? Just shut up and do what everybody else is doing. That's the spirit.

To round out this post, here are some other unhappy users of the new Yahoo television listings page:
  • Yahoo! TV: Ajax’d up Beta

  • yahoo tv screws up. badly.
    the performance in Firefox is absolutely terrible. In the time it’s taken to write this post, I still haven’t gotten the new page to load.

    I rarely call a site redesign absolute shit, but I think this might qualify. This is absolute shit. Did they not test it? What the hell were their QA people thinking?

  • Yahoo! TV: Suicide by Web 2.0
    [Discussing the Procrustean aspect of the interface:] Yahoo decided exactly what I should get and exactly the way they want to deliver it: with extra advertising and unwieldy Web 2.0 crap.

  • It's "AJAX Gone Wild" at Yahoo! TV!
    Holy moley! If ever there was a case for over-AJAXing an application, Yahoo! has shown the way. Their new beta TV area relies heavily on AJAX to create an inferior and awkward interface. How bad? It's [really] bad.

    It would seem that Yahoo! had decided to abruptly ditch its old (but very functional and useful) TV listing area in favor of a new beta TV area. Clearly, AJAX was the focus of this revision and not usability. Maybe I'm going crazy, but wasn't the point of AJAX to provide a better experience for the user?

    [Followed by a list of 10 problems with the new release.]

  • Yahoo The Hell Thought This Was A Good Idea
    Can somebody somewhere please explain what the powers that be over at Yahoo were thinking when they redesigned their TV listings?

    It looks to me like Yahoo went and released their version of “New Coke.”

Finally, here is a Yahoo page that has comments by the Yahoo development team and users (some like the new look, most do not).

WANT MORE? Apparently the new Yahoo TV page is the result of hewing to what's called "Web 2.0 online services", for which there are a number of critics. See this and this for skeptical views by IT professionals.

WORKAROUND: This probably only works if you have a Yahoo account, and it shows only the current (3 hr) listings, though with arrows to go forward and back (but not to specific days). The link is:

Also, this place seems to be a popular altermative: (start there and then customize)

ADDENDUM: The Yahoo TV interface has a sliding bar that allows the user to select the time period of interest (with 3-hour granularity?). But it appears that the time period that is being referred to is Eastern Standard Time, even if you are requesting information about Los Angeles area broadcasts (or maybe it's some other error, not tied to time zones - who knows?). Here is a screenshot where the user shown what's on between 9:00 PM and 12:00 PM, but look at the the entry in the upper left. It shows the (local Los Angeles) CBS 2 News at 6:00.

And the channels are ordered thustly (over-the-air antenna, with display of only user-requested channels):
[1st tier]
2, 4, (9 is missing) 11, 13, 18, 22, 28, 30, 34, 40
[2nd tier]
5, 7, 50, 56, 58.
It's not clear why the channels are ordered this way (it's not alphabetical by call letters, or KABC channel 7 would be first).

What we are talking about here are basic issues of data reliability, not some arcane enhanced feature. How this was missed during the testing phase is hard to understand.