Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NewsMax Calls for a Coup

I mean really. What's to be said about this insanity?

These guys have completely lost it.

(h/t The Mystic)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

T. Rex Parasite

This a parasite of T. rexes, not a T.-rex-like parasite.
Obama = Bad
Olympics Edition

So it goes without saying that the fever swamps will say the is bad for Obama to go to Copenhagen to try to get the Olympics for Chicago. But why is it bad? That's the only thing as yet undetermined.

My powers of imagination are in no way equal to those of the denizens of said swamps...but here are some suggestions:

He's only doing it because it's Chicago...and Chicago is bad

It shows that he's vain is is influential.

There are other things he should do instead.

And it should go without saying that it says something bad about him if he fails....and also if he succeeds.

If he fails:

He's a failure

His presidency is a failure

He's vain because he's not as persuasive as he thinks he is.

He's not persuasive enough

If he succeeds:

It just shows how enamored Europeans are of Obama...and anything Europeans like is bad.

He should have done something else with the time instead.

It's some kind of Chicago politics thing where he like bullied them or something

They expect some quid pro quo

But you can be sure it's bad, bad, bad, however it turns out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy...Theory

Looks like the Big Dog and the philosoraptor are on the same page on this one...though it's a pretty obvious point.

It's not really a vast right-wing conspiracy, though. I mean, for one thing, it's pretty much all out in the open now. There's nothing really secret here. The right-wing has its propaganda outlets which, aside from the occasional largely tongue-in-cheek slogan (e.g. "Fair and Balanced"), don't even pretend to be objective.

It's more of a vast right-wing conspiracy theory. Rather than engaging with Clinton or Obama on the issues, they generate insane theories and stories that allegedly make their evil manifest. Clinton was a rapist, a drug-runner, and a murderer who sold us out to the Chinese. Obama is a black radical/Muslim/Antichrist here to destroy the nation from within--and a Nazi and a communist to boot. (Personally, I think they should add anarchist to the mix; I mean...why not?).

The basic engines of insanity that mobilized the irrational right against both presidents are, IMHO, the same: a refusal to accept that even a moderate liberal can be a legitimate president, a refusal to accept electoral defeat, a refusal to consider the possibility that they might be wrong, and a lack of regard for actual evidence.

The fever swamps will probably go to DumbCon 1 over this, but they'd be a lot better off reflecting on their own logical sins. Clinton is, in the main, right about this one. But, of course, the very logical vices that caused the problem in the first place will prevent the people in question from engaging in the type of self-criticism they most need, and prevent them from taking the point.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Be Prepared: Dirty Bomb Emergency Kit


Effective? I dunno.
Joe the Dumber

The next Joe the Plumber?
Torture Investigation: Republicans Pull A Bellarmine

This reminds me of nothing so much as Bellarmine's (apocryphal) refusal to look through Galileo's telescope. The attitude is apparently: we know what we know, and don't want to be confused by the facts.

There's a bit of sophistical we-need-to-look-forward-not-back nonsense (an attitude that, strangely, was not popular on the right side of the aisle in the Clinton days...). But the real motive is a passionate desire to make sure that any ugly truths remain protected from sunlight.
Why I First Began Leaning Democratic: Foreign Policy

Without going into specifics, let me just note that Obama has reminded me why I began leaning Democratic in the first place.

When I first became dimly politically aware in my callow youth, I sympathized with the GOP. They had a reputation for being tough on the USSR, and it was clear that the Soviets were, indeed, the focus of evil in the world. A fair number of liberals were wont to deny that latter point, and that didn't help their case.

It didn't take many years, however, for me to see that the Democrats who really mattered did not take a soft line on the USSR. Carter believed in working for human rights, in speaking softly, and in carrying a big stick. The GOP, I soon realized, thought that stomping around and beating our collective chest counted as clever foreign policy. Furthermore, they were willing to get in bed with any tin-horn dictator, no matter how brutal, if said dictator would profess anti-communist sympathies. Even Saddam Hussein and Pinochet were not too murderous for conservatives. And, of course, I soon began to realize that it wasn't exactly totalitarianism they were against. Rather, it was socialism, even of a democratic variety. Brutal and anti-democratic regimes were just long as they didn't spread the wealth around too equally.

Obama's foreign policy has thus far been intelligent and judicious. He's reached out to friends and enemies alike, all of whom were alienated by Bush/Cheney. Where our military efforts were unwarranted (Iraq), he's moved to pull back. Where they were warranted (Afghanistan) he's pushed harder. He's reached out to the Islamic world in general, and refrained from the wild, unsubstantiated charges against Iran that the previous administration made. However, now that substantial evidence of wrong-doing has emerged, he has also moved to take a harder line. The harder line, of course, is more reasonable given that the softer line was tried, and it will be recognized as more reasonable by many observers.

Standard-issue Democratic foreign policy is rational, standard Republican foreign policy is irrational. Neither side runs entirely true to form, and I'm perfectly willing to abandon the Dems and support the GOP in those cases in which the latter is right and the former are wrong. But in the main, GOP foreign policy drives the U.S. to look like the proverbial frightened bully unsure of his own stature. Under their guidance, we strut and posture and threaten and just generally make repellent fools of ourselves. Everyone hates us because everyone hates a bully.

What I've learned in life is that it Teddy R was absolutely right when he recommended speaking softly and carrying a big stick. That's one of the few pieces of advice that I know with certainty to be good.

In terms of foreign policy, the Democrats, flawed though they may be, have (or have had, in my lifetime at least) a fairly reliable tendency to do the right thing and make us into the admirable country we ought to be. The GOP tends to make us into something pathetic, loathsome and irrational. It's astounding that the GOP used to have a reputation as the foreign policy party when, in fact, it is the Democrats that are clearly superior in that regard.

Friday, September 25, 2009

David Broder: Policy, Schmolicy

Shorter David Broder: Don't try to implement rational policy; Congress will just f*ck it up.

Jebus help us, he might be right.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zombie World News

Reporting news on the necro-mortosis plague.

Every bit as real as Fox News.

(H/T JQ)
Wet Moon

Water ice on the moon.

So cool.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fishy Science: False Positives

MRIs of salmon brains show that the fish can detect human emotions.

That's weird enough....and but for one little additional fact, I'm sure we'd have been hearing about this in those little science blurbs that show up in the news.

The additional fact? The fish were dead.

False positives, people. They're no joke.

[h/t S. rex]
Big Mother Is Watching You...Drink Soda
And Boy Is She Mad

First, a confession: although I'm in a state of semi-constant outrage about conservative meddling in our lives, I tend to be more sanguine about liberal meddling.

this stuff's starting to get ridiculous.

There are two basic problems with these efforts to regulate soda (Saletan alludes to them both). First, the science simply does not support the conclusions. I have it on excellent authority that the statistics on which passed studies of this kind have been based are disastrous. Furthermore, in many cases the authors of the studies refuse to reveal their data. Much of what passes for science in this area is, basically, not science at all. The second problem is that the government has no moral right to micromanage our private lives. Sodaphobes point to the fact that individual decisions to drink soda have public costs. But virtually everything one does has some kind of effect on others. If the fact that an action has some effect or other on other people is grounds for regulating it, then this licenses the government to regulate all our actions.

Liberals have tended to seek control over our lives on medical grounds, whereas conservatives have tended to seek it on (sometimes covertly) religious grounds. Conservatives basically just want us to shut up and do as we're told, but liberals tend to take a less overtly objectionable route through premises concerning the health and well-being of ourselves and others. Big Brother wants you to stay in line; Big Mother wants you to be safe. "Don't run with scissors" is sound advice, of course, but Big Mother is willing to pass legislation to back it up if you naughty children don't behave. "Don't drink soda," however, may not even be sound advice.

First Big Mother wanted our firearms. Then she wanted our cigarettes. Then our hamburgers. Now our soda. Even if you, like me, don't smoke and rarely drink soda...or even if you aren't interested in some others of these still ought to be concerned about this general approach, which we might describe as "soft totalitarianism.". There are, of course, limits to the costs other people should be expected to bear for my stupidity. However (a) first we need actual scientific evidence to back up the relevant claims, not the laughable flawed-statistics-on-top-of-secret-data BS we generally get from the anti-soda crowd, and (b) we must resist efforts to micromanage people's lives. We may have to make laws in the most egregious cases, but once we allow the government to stop us from harming ourselves in any way, or allow them to meddle in any actions that have any effects on others, all is lost.

And if you still aren't convinced, note that things like anti-soda hysteria resonate with many independents and drive them across the aisle. Frivolous though it may seem (or even be), it's the kind of transparently irrational meddling in private decisions that absolutely infuriates many people who might otherwise be sympathetic with a more Democratic agenda.

It's time to stand up to Big Mother and let her know that we're all grown up and can make decisions for ourselves, even if that means we might occasionally get all crazy and drink a Coke.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

At Least One of the Videotaped ACORN Guys Reported the Incident to the Cops

So this shows that at least one of the people in the tapes was, in fact, just playing along, and did the right thing.

Now we also need to know whether these offices were specially selected or visited randomly, and whether there were any tapes in which people threw the bums out of the office.

I'm 100% willing to bust on ACORN...but we need to be able to see the whole picture, one way or the other.
Will The Right Praise Obama for "Keeping Us Safe"?

So, every time the Bushies turned up some whack jobs with delusions of terrorist grandeur, the right held it up as yet another instance of Bush "keeping us safe."

So, given the terrorists busted in CO and NYC, I presume the right will presently cough up hefty praise for the C-in-C, yes?

I'm just going to sit back and wait for it. I can't wait to hear Kristol, Krauthammer, Beck, Limbaugh and the rest admitting that...what? Nobody's... huh? But surely Beck? or Colter?

Well color me shocked...
New Allegations Against German Officer Who Ordered Kunduz Airstrike

At Der Spiegel:
The allegations are mounting against German Colonel Georg Klein, who ordered a recent air strike in Afghanistan in which civilians are believed to have died. Klein apparently gave incorrect information to the US pilots who carried out the attack and neglected to warn people on the ground, in violation of NATO procedures.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Real Sarah Palin

Levi strikes back, in Vanity Fair

To quote a commenter at Metafilter: I don't want the retarded vice-president! I want the other one! (Read the story to understand that one.)

She doesn't read, she doesn't work, she doesn't hunt, she doesn't fish, she doesn't know a damn thing about guns.

She's basically everything liberals thought she was...and nothing conservatives thought she was.
The Austin Mountain/Furnace Mountain Hike

Did it today. Nice hike. Never did the Furnace Mountain part before. About 13 miles normally, but I shaved off about a mile and a half by hitchhiking the bit that would just be on the AT. Saw lots of bear sign, but zero (insert sad face here) bears. Lots of the sign looked old...making me wonder: could they have gone to den already???

This is a nice, wide, isolated part of the SNP. I saw a couple of people within the first half-mile, near Blackrock summit, but then nobody for the rest of the hike.
Harry Crews, Feast of Snakes

First read this about two years ago, happened to run across it again and just finished it for a second time. (Insert standard disclaimer about me being a lit moron here.) I like this book quite a damn lot. I suppose Crews is in some kind of line of descent from Faulkner and O'Conner...some kind of Southern gothic grotesquery going on. There's a kind of vision here...of...hopelessness, isolation, ignorance and brutality. Or maybe: the hopelessness of isolation and ignorance...and, um, something about brutality, too.

Now, I grew up rural on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, so I'm not what you'd call unfamiliar with these general themes. All of what's good about life in what I would be inclined to call the actual world--i.e. the world outside major cities--shades off into bad. Maybe too much isolation brings it on...I don't know. But Crews has an ear for a certain kind of rural/small town depravity--a different kind of depravity than Faulkner had in mind...something more visceral maybe, or just more brutal or raw. It's painful to turn your mental gaze onto the uniformly bleak and awful lives of Crews's characters in Feast of Snakes...but (not to sound too much like a pretentious book reviewer...) it's hard to look away once you do.
Douthat: A Terrible President Who Mitigates Some of His Own Errors is a "Good President."

Conservatives continue to try to spin the Bush/Cheney administration into something non-disastrous. Here's Russ Douthat trying to do that.

(Actually, conservatives now appear to be divided as to whether they want to (a) defend Bush and Cheney or (b) claim that they weren't actually conservatives. The third option--that they were consummate conservatives as well as consummate failures--is, of course, not on the table, despite its obvious truth.)

Douthat starts off by admitting that the administration was an obvious failure...but ends by claiming that, because Bush helped to prevent his enormous, world-altering disasters from becoming gigantic, world-consuming mega-disasters, he was a "good president."

So...if I go burn down the Library of Congress, but call the fire department in time to prevent the fire from spreading to the rest of D.C., I'm a hero? A "good citizen"?

And, as for the Surge: though I supported it, I don't see that Bush gets much credit for it. (a) It wasn't his idea, and (b) since he opted for more commitment and more force at every turn, he doesn't get credit for the one case in which it turned out to (to some extent) work. Insert stopped-clock platitude here.

In the end, this looks like barely-camouflaged attempt to spin Bush into being a non-terrible president.

Sorry, Russ.

Nobody's buying that.
How You Really Make the World Safer

In today's Post.

A Clinton-era project that got half a ton of highly-enriched uranium out of Kazakhstan and into the U.S.

Unlike the Iraq war, which has probably made us less safe than we were, CTR is a highly-effective--and extremely cost-effective--program. Had we spent a fraction of the Iraq war's $3 trillion price tag on CTR, we'd be living in a much safer world today. (Though, of course, single programs do reach a point of diminishing returns.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rich Deem, Obsessing Over Pr0n and Sex With Robots

Man, this is packed to the gills with terrible reasoning (largely a bunch of not-even-vaguely-plausible slippery slope arguments).

The argument from decreased population is a favorite of these folks--homosexuality, same-sex marriage, masturbation, sex other than intercourse, pr0n, and now sex with robots are all alleged to lead to the drastic, inevitable and irreversible decline of human population. But, um, thing is, overpopulation is clearly a vastly more dangerous and pressing problem for us than the distant and implausible possibility of underpopulation. Which means, of course, that all of their arguments can be stood on their heads and be used to point in the opposite direction.

Sex with robots, people: it's your moral duty.
Haast's Eagle
Prehistoric NZ Eagle Big Enough to Carry Off Humans?

Extremely cool.
John Edwards, Scumbag

This jackass--among other things--would have given us a McCain/Palin administration.

Words fail me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ignorance Singularity at 9/12 Teabag Party

It is really astonishing how little these people understand.

In large part they seem to be angry about the word 'Czar'...or they think these "Czars" are literally Czars. They are completely clueless about the fact that the term itself is a joke, a bit of purely unofficial terminology.

My favorite bit: "Glenn Beck is such a logical thinker."

It's like an alternate universe.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doing Beasterism One Better
Who's Worse Than the Antichrist?
Or: Sauronism

The only guy I can think of is: Sauron.

So, I wondered, has anybody compared Obama to Sauron?

Um, well, as it turns out, the answer seems to be: kinda.

And the man in question is: our good buddy, king of the crazies, Glenn Beck.

Here we see him comparing himself to--and I want to stress that I am not making this up--Gandalf. And I guess Obama is the Balrog? Or is Obama the man behind the Balrog...i.e. Sauron hisownself?

You be the judge.

And, um, let me just say that I am second to no one in my love for LoTR...but I find it exceedingly disturbing that this guy seems to be building his world view on it...

From Kleiman.
There are now 100 co-sponsors (99 of them Republicans) for a bill that purports to forbid paying the salaries of “any task force, council, or similar office which is established by or at the direction of the President and headed by an individual who has been inappropriately appointed to such position (on other than an interim basis), without the advice and consent of the Senate.”
To review:

If there is a Republican president, the unitary executive theory is true; the president wields kingly powers.

If there is a Democratic president, he is not entitled to even the ordinary powers of the presidency.

I mean, can it really be the word 'czar' that is setting these people off? Is it possible that their thinking is that superficial?

I swear, every day I try to think of something good to say about the GOP...and every day, these dangerously stupid buffoons make it impossible.
Beaster Watch

Still more beasters.

Remember--this guy's vote counts just as much as yours!

Democracy: not without its glitches...
The Origin of Beasterism?

McCain's "The One" ad.
Are Conservatives Spiraling Into A Middle-East-Style Conspiracy Culture?

It's an interesting thought.

Funny how these folks seem to be becoming like the people they despise.
Beaster Watch

Yet another beaster.
Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?

Is this a serious question?

[Note: no reason to read this. Not a serious question, and not a serious piece. A lot of hand-waving, exasperated, pox-on-both-your-houses crap.

Is Glenn Beck bad for America?

Glenn Beck is a plague upon the land. Glenn Beck is a blight on the soul of this country. Glenn Beck is going to burn in hell, if such a place exists.

Is Glenn Beck bad for America?

What a g*# d@^% stupid question.]
Obama Gets the Clinton Treatment

Nothing really new here, but the point is fairly well-put: why invoke race to explain anti-Obama hysteria when Clinton (and Gore) got basically the same treatment? (And, er, someone around here has been making this point repeatedly...)

Sure, race is a factor in all this, but it's not most of the cause, and it's not half of the cause.

Some other type of crazy is loose upon the land.

Blaming race for most of it is not only erroneous, it plays right into the hands of conservatives, who will play the "playing the race card" card in response.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The End of the University?

I've been wondering about this for a long time.

Despite financial enticements from my university, I've thus far refused to develop and refused to run web courses, largely because I worry that this thing may bring about the end of Western civilization.


Actually I do think that many classes could be done over the web--some better, some not--and I think that some classes could benefit from a web component. But I very much doubt that a good college-level education is likely to be gotten completely over the web.

For one thing, one of the most important things one gets from one's instructors is a certain kind of intellectual sensibility, and that sort of thing is largely transmitted in person.

Furthermore, at decent schools, students learn a great deal from other students, and, though the web obviously facilitates this kind of thing, again there probably has to be a face-to-face component.

However, we really don't know the answers to many of the empirical questions here. Obviously we don't want to go running over the electronic cliff here by precipitously abandoning one of the most important institutions of Western civilization. (If not the most important.) The university should stay largely as it is for the foreseeable future, though some experimentation with some web-based and mixed courses is, of course, good.
What Percentage of Anti-Obama-ism is Racist?

Two answer which are obviously wrong:

1. 100%

2. 0%

After that, I'm pretty much at a loss.

I have some inclination to think that the vast majority of this is a different kind of crazy--roughly the same kind of crazy that Clinton faced, but fueled this time by a new, improved right-wing noise machine that now includes the fever swamps of the right side of the blogosphere and the strange phenomenon of winger mass e-mail forwards.

These people basically think that no liberal president can be legitimate (no matter how mild his liberalism). These are the kind of people who called Clinton a murderer, and said that Gore was attempting a "coup" by asking for the votes to be counted. The main problem here is a more generalized kind of ignorance, dogmatism and inability to sort fact from fiction.

There's racism in the mix, but if I had to bet, I'd bet that it's not close to being the major factor.

In a way, that's almost too bad. Racism is an evil that we seem to have become fairly good at fighting--and this in part because it is, among the sane, almost universally recognized as an evil.

It may very well be that the kind of crazy that views Glenn Beck with dewy-eyed adulation, the kind that allows itself to hear, with a straight face, Fox News's "Fair and Balanced" mantra, the kind that's willing to immerse itself in the groupthink of the echo chamber, continually allowing itself to be pulled by anger farther and farther out on a may well be that that kind of crazy is even harder to defeat than the rather more straightforward insanity of racism

Or maybe not.

That's just speculation. All we can do is all we can ever do--fight back and hope for the best.
WSJ: Special Prosecutor Should Investigate ACORN

Um, I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but I guess I'm inclined to agree with Cole:

To refresh:

Investigating known links to the past administration and torture- beyond the pale.

Investigating known wrongdoing within the Justice department regarding firings- partisan politics.

Investigating Monica Goodling and that entire sorry crew- unseemly.

Creating a special prosecutor to ogle Bill Clinton’s penis and another one to fish for some possible wrongdoing somewhere in a connection to Obama that doesn’t exist- YOUR PATRIOTIC GOD DAMNED DUTY. WOLVERINES!

Lovecraftian Perfume

No kidding.

E.g. Cthulhu:
A creeping, wet, slithering scent, dripping with seaweed, oceanic plants and dark, unfathomable waters.
(Via P. Z. Meyers)
Beaster Watch:
The Linguistic Argument for the Antichrist Hypothesis

WorldNutDaily gives us this.

I know I'm convinced.
48% of NJ Republicans Not Birthers; 49% of NJ Dems Not Truthers; 18% of NJ Conservatives Are Beasters

Dave Weigel points out that one out of every three New Jersey conservatives think that Obama could be the anti-Christ. To be precise, 18% of self-identified conservatives affirmatively say that Obama is the anti-Christ, with 17% not sure. Among the self-identified Republican label, it's 14% who say Obama has the number 666 hidden underneath his hair, plus 15% who aren't sure.
Read the whole depressing thing.

You people are all f@#$ing crazy.

(H/T The Mystic)

[NOTE: if you click through to the results, you see that the truther question was: "Do you think George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?" But, of course, in some sense it is uncontroversial that he did have some such knowledge--he had been informed, for example, that OBL was "determined to strike inside the U.S." The question we really want here is something like "Did Bush have specific, actionable knowledge that planes were going to be used in attacks against the Pentagon and WTC on or about 9/11/01?" That's the kind of question that will tell us how many truthers there really are. (This kind of problem doesn't afflict the Antichrist question.)

Also note: if people merely say that something is possible, it's not clear whether they are merely saying that it is a logical or conceptual possibility, that it is a physical/natural possibility, or that it is a real and relevant possibility. (This problem does afflict the Antichrist question, I suppose.)]
GA Judge Throws Out Birther Case, Lectures Orly Taitz About Frivolous Lawsuits

U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land today tossed out a complaint by an Army captain fighting deployment to Iraq by questioning the legitimacy of President Barack Obama.

Land also put attorney Orly Taitz, who represents Capt. Connie Rhodes and is a leader in the national "birther" movement, on notice by stating that she could face sanctions if she ever files a similar "frivolous" lawsuit in his court.

Needless to say this is evidence of liberal bias somewhere, or of Chicago machine shenanigans, or of, um, ACORN something or like maybe Antichristal activity of some type.

Of the plaintiff in the case, the judge said:
“(Rhodes) has presented no credible evidence and has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as president of the United States,” Land states in his order. “Instead, she uses her complaint as a platform for spouting political rhetoric, such as her claims that the president is ‘an illegal usurper, an unlawful pretender, [and] an unqualified imposter.’”
And here's the most important bit of advice from judge Clay Land:
“Unlike in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ simply saying something is so does not make it so".
This is something postmodern conservatives, birthers, deathers, beasters and 912ers really need to get through their skulls.
W. Cleon Skousen, Glenn Beck's (")Intellectual(") Hero

Total lunatic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Heart-Breaking Tragedy of the Preposterously Rich

The impact of my taxes on me is hundreds or thousands of times more significant than the impact of their taxes is on these wankers, many of whom could lose millions of dollars and not even notice it.

I mean, does being nauseatingly rich automatically make you a pansy-ass crybaby or what?
Antichrist Watch: "The National Health Care--Setting the Stage for the Antichrist"

They just keep gettin' crazier and crazier.
Me Talk Presidential Some Day

A former Bush speechwriter gives us a glimpse inside the comedy show/nightmare that was the end of the Bush administration.

Jebus, what a bunch of clowns.

Pretty cool visually, but really just nothing original or memorable about the story. Gotta give it about a 'C'.
Best Way to Save the Environment: Have Fewer Kids

Not sure why it takes the LSE to tell people's about as obvious a point as there could be. It's an unpopular point, but there really can't be much doubt about its veracity.

(Incidentally, my own decision not to have kids was based in part--though not entirely, of course--on environmental considerations.)

Needless to say, nobody should be forced not to have children, and it would cause problems to drop the population too quickly...but I'm inclined to think that we should provide incentives for people to start slowly ramping down the population. Perhaps we should eliminate tax breaks for children, or at least give smaller deductions for the second child, no deductions for the third, and perhaps even penalties at some point. (I'm rather inclined to think, and always have been, that it's immoral to have like five, six or more kids, and these people who have giant herds of kids absolutely make me insane.)

(h/t Statisticasaurus rex)
Boeing Workers in SC Reject Union

Boeing workers in Charleston have voted to give up their membership in the Machinists union (my dad's old union, incidentally).

The story blames a strike for delays in the 787. It doesn't mention the flawed wing design that's helped to push back delivery times.

Dad's line on the unions was always: they are the second biggest SOBs you have to deal with, and you'd never want to have anything to do with them if they weren't the only thing standing between you and the biggest SOBs, i.e. the company.
9/12 Teabaggers and Traffic "Shutting Down The Beltway"

So, one of the claims the 9/12 teabaggers are citing in support of their radically inflated crowd estimates is that the traffic for their event shut down the Beltway, "stranding thousands."

Uh, listen guys: that's just the way the Beltway always is...
How Many Teabaggers?

About 60-75,000.

Not 500,00. Not a million. And definitely not 2 million.

American conservatives keep moving farther and farther into isolation. They've got their very own propaganda news channel now, that doesn't make any effort to be objective, they of course have their own internet news services like WorldNutDaily, and their own blogospheric echo chambers (which we have too). Now they want their own crowd estimates at rallies. Objective guesses by people with experience don't match up with their hopes and fantasies, so they just go with whatever makes them happy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Ghost Fleet of the Recession


A huge fleet of idle cargo ships just sitting empty off the east of Singapore. A poignant indicator of how serious the downturn is.

(via Metafilter)
Tent Revival, Jefferson County, MO

So as I was leaving home back in August, here's what I saw setting up shop in the town nearest to my folks place. You don't see many of these where I live now, and I just had to stop for some shots. It was butt-ass hot at the 98 degrees and five thousand percent humidity...and I thought about what it was going to be like sittin' in the Book of Acts Holy Ghost tent revival that night, hearing about your sinful nature and suchlike. My folks and brother had enough sense to never get too tangled up with religion, though I went through a phase in my early teens...mostly because I was interested in a girl down t' th' First Baptist Church. Heck, I even got saved! Didn't exactly take, as you can tell, but as I understand it, having gone down front and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior at one point in my life, I'm good to go now no matter what I do. So I could, I suppose, get raptured up at any time. Johnny Quest, unfamiliar with such things, was afraid that some Flannery O'Conneresque goons were going to come after me with axe handles just for taking pictures. The pictures really didn't come out, but here's one anyway:

OBL Still Alive and Kickin', Free as a Bird, and Mocking Us, Eight Years On

Goddamn it.

I really hate that m@#$er f*&^er.

He should have been eating 5.56 rounds by the hand full seven years and eleven months ago.

Imagine a Democratic president had let him get away by diverting troops to an unrelated, optional war against one of his enemies. Imagine what we would be hearing now--and every day for the last eight years--from the right side of the aisle.

One thing they'd get righter than us: they certainly wouldn't just let it pass.
Rory Stewart, The Places In Between

I read Stewart's other book, The Prince of the Marshes--about his time as a kind of district overseer in Iraq--last year. Prince of the Marshes is definitely worth a read; it gives you a kind of ground-level perspective that you just don't get from most books about the place.

The Places in Between is Stewart's account of his walk across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul in 2002, just after the American invasion. Stewart retraced the route of the emperor Babur, who made a similar journey in 1504. I found the book to be a real pleasure to read, and I'd say it did a great deal to adjust my perspective on Afghanistan, a country I already knew at least a little bit about.

There is apparently a Muslim tradition of hospitality toward travelers, and Stewart relies on this hospitality most nights for food and shelter. I don't want to be overly critical here, but I have to say that I wouldn't be comfortable positioning myself in such a way that terribly poor people felt obligated to feed me, and I felt myself mentally squirming a bit during these bits of the book. But Stewart has, I'd say, done a good thing overall by making the journey and bringing the story to the rest of us. It certainly took guts, though, to dip into a bit of criticism again, much of what he did seems simply flat-out foolhardy. Traveling, usually with no guide, often through snow several feet deep along unknown and undetectable trails high in the mountains in unfamiliar territory is...well, let me just say that I think Stewart is lucky to be alive.

At any rate: two thumbs up. Philosoraptor says: check it out.
E.J. Dionne on Health Care and Illegal Immigrants
Losing Touch With Reality

Look. I'm basically a liberal. I'm basically, though not vocally, in favor of health care reform, and basically, though not vocally, in favor of a public option. Needless to say, I recognize that Joe Wilson is an idiot.

I'm in favor of helping out those less fortunate than myself, and that includes being in favor of substantial foreign aid to countries that need it.

I'm not in favor of draconian anti-illegal-immigration measures. I wouldn't want to say, round up all illegal immigrants and kick them out even if we could. But I absolutely can't understand people who think that eight to eleven million illegal immigrants, 500,000 new ones per year, and illegal immigration outpacing legal immigration is not a problem.

And, basically liberal thought I am, even I would have a big problem with the idea of my tax dollars going to pay for health care for people here illegally. (Children are, of course, a special case, as are emergencies.)

Note to Mr. Dionne: that does not make me mean-spirited.

Rather, it makes me someone who recognizes that (a) semi-open borders + (b) a really permissive public health-care system = a disasterous, unsustainable and unfair system.

Now: I'm not under the delusion that Obama is trying to sneak care for illegals into the health care bill. However, unlike Dionne, I don't think one has to be mean-spirited to think that it would be a bad idea.

When it comes right down to it, people like me--roughly middle-class people who already have very good health insurance--are likely to have to pay at least something to help those less fortunate than ourselves get insurance. And I am absolutely down with that. As for there being illegals here, it's not something that would even be on my radar unless it had gotten out of control. However, even I--someone who would support higher taxes if they would get us universal health care, someone who would support higher taxes if they'd go for more foreign aid to places like Mexico, someone who's every bit as in favor of people immigrating here legally as any American should be, and someone who doesn't have inordinate problems with moderate levels of illegal immigration--would have to put my foot down at the idea of free medical care for those here illegally.

And that is the sensible position, not a mean-spirited one.

And it's the position of middle America, and that will never, ever change. If you think otherwise, then you are simply out of touch with ordinary Americans, many of whom, believe it or not, are not mean-spirited. But they work hard for their money, and nothing burns them up like the thought of it being taken away and given to somebody who doesn't play by the rules.

Dionne's article is more evidence of what I've called "a rather casual attitude" concerning illegal immigration on the part of some liberals. But to be concerned about this problem doesn't make you "mean," doesn't make you conservative, and doesn't make you crazy. It's a real problem, and a problem that complicates other policy problems, e.g. health care.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lawrence Wilkerson: Cheney Is "Crazy"

And that's just one tiny bit of this excellent interview with Powell's former chief of staff.

Absolutely, definitely read the whole thing. (via John Cole)

Just a couple of passages:
Well, to keep it brief, I think the problem is that this is a national security issue, and there are so many more challenging issues — as one official put it to me the other day — on which the President has already shown some ankle, whether it’s about talking to Iran or whether it’s his rather pronounced silence vis-à-vis North Korea, or whether it’s something as minuscule as lifting some travel restrictions on Cuban Americans for Cuba. They don’t believe they can show another square centimeter of ankle on national security, because the Republicans will eat their lunch, and every time I’m told this I die laughing. I say, your guys are captured by the Sith Lord, Dick Cheney, you’re captured by Rush Limbaugh, whose real radio audience is about 2.2 million, and whose employer, Clear Channel, lost $3.7 billion in the second quarter of this year. I said, when are you gonna wake up? These are kooks. And Cheney is the kook leader. But [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid are such feckless leaders they haven’t got any spine. We have no leadership in the legislative branch on either side of the aisle.
I become exasperated. There’s just no courage, there’s no moral courage whatsoever in the Democratic Party.


But it was something this administration almost made a cult of doing — not just on interrogation, but on almost everything, whether it was Iraq, whether it was the Middle East in general, whether it was North Korea. The attitude was: Don’t talk to me from a position of expertise, talk to me from a position of fixed religious adamancy, you know.


I think the principal figure in this — Vice President Cheney — would say, in response to what you’ve just said, “So what?” I mean, I really do. I wouldn’t have said that a couple of years ago, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that the man truly is — whether he was that way when I knew him before, when he was Secretary of Defense, I don’t know, that’s not at issue with me any more — the man now is just crazy.


My wife thinks that ultimately there’s going to be something. I’m a little more cynical than she, but she’s convinced that this investigation that’s been going on [by John Durham] — very low-key, the guy’s very persistent, he’s very determined, he reminds me of [Patrick] Fitzgerald on the Valerie Plame case, and his starting point is the destruction of the videotapes, and I’m told he’s got a plan, and he’s following that plan, and I’m told that plan is bigger than I think.
"The Obama Recession"

So, if it's Obama's recession (which, of course, it is not), it'll be Obama's recovery, too, right?

I mean, it can be Bush's recession and Obama's recovery...but ain't no way for it to be Obama's recession and Bush's recovery.
Crazy on Parade, 9/12/09

Teabaggers, 9/12ers, Becktards, etc.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fouad Ajami Writes Possibly The Stupidest Op-Ed Of All Time

I am temporarily speechless in the face of this unmitigated stupidity.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Nothing to say.

How can it have been eight years?
ACORN Functionaries Busted

I've been unhappy about ACORN virtually since I learned about them. Their methods of collecting voter registration forms, for example, seem to be virtually engineered to encourage fraud. But I haven't really given them much thought.

At any rate, it turns out that suspicion is, apparently, more than warranted.

If this were not so jaw-droppingly angrifying it would be absolutely freaking hilarious. I guess I didn't realize that people this corrupt existed outside of movies. I'd really like to know whether these were randomly-selected ACORN folks, or whether they were selected for their sleaziness.

Sadly, the fever swamps will soon be ablaze with this, and it'll be spun against Obama--guilt by association being a favorite tactic over there.

I'm not sure why he didn't use his Antichrist powers to, like, fire some plate glass windows at these people before they could distribute this film, though...
Is Brooks Right About Obama's Plan?

Anybody know?
Joe Wilson: Only America-Haters Think We Gave Bio-Chem Weapons to Iraq


Oh, man, this is really a jaw-dropper.

It's absolutely amazing that someone this ignorant can be in Congress.

But Wilson's ignorance aside, there's something really important and telling here. Though playing the you-hate-America card in such a case is indefensible, Wilson gets something important right here. Giving bio-chem weapons to Saddam is such an astonishingly criminal and evil act that it ought to provoke roughly such outburst...and anyone who didn' t know we did it ought to be furious and incredulous at the suggestion.

We did something genuinely horrific, and it is objectively rather difficult to believe that we would do such a thing...even given our rather uneven history on human rights.

One wonders, of course, whether Wilson ever bothered to look into the facts, and whether he was as outraged at the Reagan administration (including Rumsfeld)--which actually did it--as he was at his opponent who merely reported it.

What's amazing to me is that there is only a fairly minimal level of outrage in this nation about the fact that we gave horrific weapons to a psychopathic dictator--and, of course, nothing but excuses among our friends across he aisle.

But such are the fruits of conservative foreign policy "realism."
al Qaeda in Crisis?

And some home of getting OBL?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road

Man, talk about basically my ideal book--Michael Chabon writes a "swords-and-horses" adventure. I'm tellin' ya, I thought I'd died and gone to readin' heaven when I found this down t' th' Barnes and Noble.

Seriously. I was poking around, thinking, as I so often do, I'd really like some trash...some sci-fi, or fantasy, or a good zombie novel*...something exciting and super-entertaining that won't make any of those pesky intellectual demands on me...but, of course, virtually all that stuff is so godawful, and so terribly written that I can barely stand to read it. So I wander over to the more serious books, and I think Hm. I don't guess there's a Michael Chabon book I haven't read... And I go to the relevant section and...voila! (or viola as my high school yearbook put it)...there it was! Gentlemen of the Road.

Long story short, I enjoyed Gentlemen of the Road very much--it's an adventure story for people who'd like good writing with their excitement. A couple of engaging, understated characters, some really great bits of writing, and a smart, lively, amusing story that never slips into outright fantasy.

Meh, as I've said many times, I don't have a good mind for literature, and I don't have the training or conceptual apparatus required to say anything genuinely enlightening about novels...but I really liked this one. It's no Wonderboys (but then what is?), but it's a damn fine read, according to me. Pick this sucker up--you'll be glad you did.

* There is exactly one good zombie novel: Max Brooks, World War Z. All the other ones are just godawful.
Margaret Thatcher, Defender of...The Soviet Union?????

Let me just say: you conservatives never cease to surprise me.

Contribute to Rob Miller, Joe "Liar" Wilson's Democratic Opponent

Looks like this is the place to do it.

Times are tough, but this seems like a worthy cause to me.
The Rich Get Richer
The Rest of Y'all Can Eat Cake

You duckies are lucky because you're not afflicted by the taxation that plagues the preposterously rich.

How they envy you...
You Lie!

Wow. It really is the sane party vs. the party of lunatics and eight-year-olds, isn't it?

I sat down to write a little something about this, but happened by Kleiman's digs, and found that Jonathan Zasloff had already written almost exactly what I wanted to say. So here it is.

The main point: yes, it would have been better for the U.S. and for the world if someone had stood up and said "Mr. President, that is a lie" when Bush said "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."* So I'm not, in general, against calling the president out when he lies.

But, first of all, Wilson is full of sh!t. It's the president's plan, he's introducing it, Wilson has no idea what's in it, and he's just childishly insisting that any plan offered by Obama must contain coverage of illegal immigrants.

Also, if you're going to call the president a liar, you need to stand up and say it like a man, not sit there sputtering "you lie" or "liar, liar" or any such nonsense like an insolent child.

What a penis.

At any rate, part of what makes Wilson a penis is that he himself was lying (or, perhaps, just irresponsibly mistaken), but Obama wasn't. If you're going to pull something like that, you have to be right about it.

So what about Obama's plan? Well, I know enough to stay out of debates I don't understand. But to my ignorant ear, it sounded great at first blush, FWIW, which isn't much. He continues to try to be resolutely centrist, despite the crazy pouring across the aisle, and that counts for a lot in my book.

* As I've written before, Bush's State of the Union address lie about African uranium was a rather complicated lie. In fact, its very complexity is additional evidence that it was very carefully phrased in order to try to avoid a bald-faced lie in favor of a more subtle lie. British intelligence thought Saddam had tried to buy the uranium in question, but we had better evidence indicating that they were wrong. So to tell the truth, given the information we had, would have been to say that it was unlikely that Saddam had tried to procure the uranium. To say that it was likely that he had tried to do so would be to lie, given the evidence available to us. So, similarly, it was a lie to say that the British government had "learned" that he had done so--'learned' is a success term. It would have been true, but radically dishonest and tantamount to a lie, to say that the British government believed that he had done so. But to say that they had learned it when we knew they had not learned (but merely came falsely to believe) is, though a complicated lie, a lie.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Corporate CEOs Reject the Efficient Market Hypothesis...
(But Want You to Believe It)

Kevin Drum.

And furthermore, American Cadbury's is better than Hershey's et. this Brit chocolate I keep hearing about must be awesome indeed. Sadly, my one trip to the UK was a 1-evening stay in London, and we arrived just as a tube strike began and spent the whole time riding a bus and standing in line to do I've never really been there.
Philosophy in the News
Non-Denoting Singular Terms in the Health Care Debate


Where's Russell when you need him?

And does their socialist commie health care cover Rogaine for the present king of France?
Reign of the Stupid
Fox/Czar Edition

Is it in any way possible that these people are really this stupid?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Win-Win-Win Strategy

Before your opponent speaks, assert that his speech will contain objectionable content; then when your prediction turns out to be false, assert that he changed the speech.

Thus you get to whine and pule ahead of time, assert anything you want with no possibility of disproof, and assert that he is duplicitous.

Say what you will about these people, but they have a certain kind of despicable genius...
The President's Speech to School Kids
The Republican Rebuttal
Sarah Palin

Okay, good.

Good afternoon, boys and girls there.

As one of the leading intellectual "lights" in the Republican party's constellation, they have asked me to to talk about Mr. Obama's speech to you, and the rebuttal of it. And so I am here today to talk about school to you, and possibly even the lack thereof.

Websters defines "education" as the state--or condition--of being educated. And that is so true. So, so true.

Mr. Obama has said today to you: "stay in school," and others have said that, with a good education, you can do anything, even be president. But seeing and hearing all this go on, I am here now to say to you: you can do anything even without a "formal" education or "education." Book smarts are not everything, and, some would say--or might--that they are not actually that important, the books. Imagine if civilization falls or you were lost in the woods, and you had some fancy degree in mathematical or historical science from say Harvard University or perhaps even were yourself the principal of Harvard, but you could not know how to kill and skin, say, a moose or a muskrat with your own hands and teeth? What then? Who's the stupid one then? And who the hungry one?

No, book smarts and book learning is not everything, despite Mr. Obama's saying so, and his contempt for the real knowledge of real Americans in real America, in the real Northern Hemisphere, on real Earth, especially if you are for an example home schooled, or something else. For instance you might just read magazines too, by which I mean all of 'em, any of 'em you could get your hands on, be they People or that Weekly World News there or even The National Review. Then without any fancy degrees you could know what people are up to, or where Bat Boy is--only approximately, of course--or how the invisible hand will solve the problem of recession or all other problems of the world, and also how to lose weight fast and whether this or that president might be the Antichrist. And that is just by reading!

Of course the elites want you to believe that you can learn best by learning from other people who already know called "teachers," but I say that is elitism. With their condescending to, and also no knowledge of, ordinary Americans and American ways of knowing and learning things, they do not know. But if ordinary Americans roll up their ordinary sleeves, they do not need schools, nor to stay in them, but only self-reliance, learning-wise. And these are just examples.

And the presupposed thing here is that you have to learn at all, which is not a good presupposition even. God and the baby Jesus created us ignorant, and if it is good enough those two, then it is good enough for me and all of us also.

So, in summarizing, whether you want to be a lawyer, perhaps working for the department of law, or a doctor, perhaps working for the department of medicine, or, well, anything, you can do it, with or without a formal, or any, education.

"But Sarah," you may ask, "can I really do anything I want even without learning?" To which I would say: well, if you mean such as: can you slack your way through college by taking a joke major and then bop around from school to school until some university somewhere finally gives up and gives you a degree, and yet still, though entirely unqualified by any even vaguely plausible criteria, be in a position to possibly be president and wreak your terrible, terrible vengeance upon all who oppose you?

To this I say: you betcha.