Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

Thomas Bogg, the Viagra (TM) of funny left-wing blogging

Too bad there's no cure for America's version of ED - Electoral Dysfunction.
Welcome to Gilead. You can leave your uterus with us...

A growing problem keeps growing:
Some pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, saying that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.

:::snip:::

"There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone," said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. "There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence."
After reading the article you will notice that no mention is made of pharmacists declining to sell condoms, which are disposable gulags for the pre-Fetus-Americans. And ribbed condoms? Forget it, Sparky. Sex is for babies, not for pleasure. Well, her pleasure anyway.

If female pharmacists suddenly started refusing to dispense Viagra or Cialis to men, Congress would reconvene in the middle of the night and George Bush would make another midnight run from Crawford to sign the Tentpole Act of 2005 (also known as Bob Dole's Law).
Hmmm, anyone for an updated Lysistrata?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 

Measuring "success" depends on what you want to succeed at

Matt Yglesias lays it all out, but then misses the Big Point that's waiting right there in front of him.
It's really not the case that the Goldwater Republicans "didn't try to become Democrats" after losing in 1964. Goldwater ran on a platform of eliminating Social Security, opposing the Civil Rights Act, opposing the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and opposing a federal role in education finance. By the time Ronald Reagan brought the conservative movement to power in 1981 he had abandoned all of those planks and also had to accept the existence of the EPA and various other innovations of the 1970s. What he did once in power was basically scale back to some extent programs that didn't even exist when Goldwater ran.

The Bush administration, obviously, has returned to Social Security phase-out, but this looks more like an instance of the right shooting itself in the foot than deploying its infrastructure to good effect. He's expanded Medicare, and needed to accept various expansions of Medicaid, the creation of SCHIP, and other Clinton-era boosts in public-sector health care. The environment is less well-regulated than it was in 2000, but much better protected than it was in 1993. The federal government spends more money than ever on public schools for poor kids. I don't mean to overstate my case here; obviously the right has made progress on other fronts. But I feel like the case is so regularly overstated in the other direction that this point is worth making over and over again. Assuming that liberals don't just want to build an infrastructure so that Democrats can govern in corrupt, power-for-power's-sake, GOP style there are real limits to how much you want to imitate their methods. The past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure have served the financial interests of their financiers very, very, very well but they've achieved remarkably little in terms of advancing core ideological principles.
Bingo. Exactly. 100% correct. "The past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure have served the financial interests of their financiers very, very, very well." And when you realize that's exactly what "the past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure" were supposed to serve, then you understand that they have not "achieved remarkably little" - they've achieved exactly what they wanted to achieve.

"Advancing core ideological principles" is not the ends - it's the means - to a far greater ends - holding on to power for its own sake - and getting very very rich. As long as they keep blaming liberals and Democrats for everything and keeping their constituents baying for blood (but never quite getting it), they can pretend to "advance core ideological principles" - while getting richer and richer and richer. The wealthy corporate campaign contributors who bought and paid for Bush II wouldn't have it any other way.

Please don't miss this point. It's the very essence of modern "conservatism."
 

Life imitates Ahnuld!

I hope James Cameron gets a royalty, or at least an appointment.
Bush Views New Report on Spy Lapses With Favor

WASHINGTON, March 29 - President Bush plans to announce Thursday that the administration will accept many of the recommendations of a commission examining American intelligence failures in detecting illicit weapons abroad, a step that may roil the American intelligence agencies just as they are reorganizing under new legislation, according to senior White House officials.

Mr. Bush received a preliminary briefing on the report from his staff on Tuesday, and on Thursday will meet with the two chairmen of the commission, Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the federal Court of Appeals and Charles S. Robb, a former senator and governor of Virginia.

Among the recommendations in what is said to be a sweeping critique of the government's performance is the creation of a new interagency center on proliferation, to assess efforts by other countries, terror groups and traffickers -like the nuclear black market set up by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan - to assemble the components of nuclear arsenals.

Currently, several agencies examine parts of such programs, at times in isolation from one another. . In the case of Iraq and now in the assessments of the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Energy Department and the State Department's intelligence agency often disagree. The new center would encourage them to debate their differences in a less turf-conscious structure.

:::snip:::

The Silberman-Robb report concludes that the F.B.I. has not moved far enough to reorganize its intelligence functions, and that it should establish a virtually independent service-within-a-service to detect and deter nuclear, chemical and biological threats.
In other words - the Omega Sector!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

 

D'oh!

Okay, so it's too easy. Like that ever stopped me?
Crowe In Talks For Duff

Russell Crowe and Ron Howard are circling The Power of Duff, a supernatural film scripted by Stephen Belber, about a TV news anchor whose on-air prayers start getting answered, Variety reported.

Imagine chairman Brian Grazer will produce with Marc Platt, who originally brought in the project, the trade paper reported.

Negotiations are just getting under way for Crowe to play the news anchor.

Crowe, Howard and Grazer previously teamed for A Beautiful Mind and the upcoming Cinderella Man.
"Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!/Duff Beer for me/Duff Beer for you/I'll have a Duff/You have one too!"

You can never have enough of that wonderful Duff.

Especially new Chocolate Lovers Duff with Extra Peanut Butter. (The Duff brewery was recently bought out by Reece's.)

(Okay, I made that up.)
 

Ah, the "culture of life" - Bobo would be so proud!

According to the aforementioned David Brooks, "The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic."

As long as you don't piss them off (or disagree with them, or do anything they don't approve of 100%).
Consistency is overrated

Via Crooks and Liars we learn that the religious right has so much respect for life they're willing to kill to defend it:
[T]he FBI has arrested a North Carolina man who is offering money over the Internet for the murder of Michael Schiavo and the state judge in the case. Richard Allen Mewist (ph) of Fairview, North Carolina, allegedly offered $250,000 for the killing of Michael Schiavo and $50,000 for the death of circuit court Judge George Greer who ordered Schiavo's feeding tube removed and who continues to rule on the case…
I just don't understand where these people are coming from. Apparently they believe that the life of a brain-dead woman is worth more than the life of her very-much-alive husband. Time and time again they set themselves up as the ultimate arbiters of whose life is worth more. The life of a fetus is worth more than that of an abortion doctor. The life of an American child is worth more than that of an Iraqi child. They are willing to have people die to satisfy their desire to own guns or their wish for bloodthirsty revenge on convicted criminals. How did murder become the political tool of choice for a community that claims to value life above all else?
Will Mr. Brooks have the decency or intellectual honesty to condemn these terrorists?

I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

Is our New York Times learning?

Okay, this is now boring. I'm starting to get tired of repeating myself.
Who's Minding the Store?

Don't be fooled by the location of the United States Treasury, right next door to the White House. The department has suffered a steady diminution of prestige and influence during the Bush administration, starting with the unceremonious firing of its first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, less than two years into the job, in part for suggesting that deficits do, in fact, matter.

Things have been downhill ever since. Last December, Republican power brokers made no bones about wanting to oust the current Treasury secretary, John Snow, only to find that the administration couldn't entice anyone better to take the job. Of course, it is always difficult to lure people with Hamiltonian intellect, expertise and reputation away from the private sector. But Mr. Bush has a particularly hard time doing so.

The reason in large measure is that from the start of his administration, tax policy and economic policy - the purview of the Treasury - have been handmaids to politics and ideology emanating from the White House. Without the clear-cut opportunity to drive policy making, the best and the brightest aren't exactly clamoring for jobs at Treasury. And Mr. Snow is still in his post, reprising his first-term performance as cheerleader for Mr. Bush's tax cuts in his current role as salesperson for Mr. Bush's misbegotten plan to privatize Social Security.

:::snip:::

To attract the people the Treasury needs, the White House must assure the best candidates that they will exercise true power and influence. The administration must also work in good faith, and with all due speed, to reach consensus with the Senate on its Treasury nominees, which would streamline the confirmation process and, in so doing, begin to restore the Treasury to its vital place and function.
I find it almost impossible to believe (even in the face of this kind of apparently irrefutable evidence) that the Times still doesn't get it! The Bush Administration does not want "the best candidates." The Bush Administration does want tax policy and economic policy - and everything else - to be "handmaids to politics and ideology." This is all they care about, and you'd think the Times would have figured this out by now.

As I said, I'm getting sick and tired of repeating myself. Come on, Times, I've admonished you over and over again about Beck's Axiom:> "Anyone George W. Bush appoints for his second term (or who is appointed by someone appointed by Bush for his second term) will be worse than the person being replaced."

I suppose, given that anyone they would appoint would be crap, it's probably for the best that they don't actually appoint any replacements.

But my general point remains: Urging George Bush to do anything decent and competent is empty words and a vain wind. Wise up, Times. Nobody's listening! Stop waiting for the White House to pay attention. They're laughing at you. Talk to the people - tell them the truth - lead the charge. At least that may actually change some minds.
 

Bobo back from vacation; identity of impostor still not known

I guess it was too good to last. David Brooks has ousted whoever it was who was pretending to be him and has reclaimed his throne as king of the moralizing rightwing idiots.
Morality and Reality

By DAVID BROOKS

The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic. The value of a life doesn't depend upon what a person can physically do, experience or achieve. The life of a comatose person or a fetus has the same dignity and worth as the life of a fully functioning adult.

Social conservatives go on to say that if we make distinctions about the value of different lives, if we downgrade those who are physically alive but mentally incapacitated, if we say that some people can be more easily moved toward death than others, then the strong will prey upon the helpless, and the dignity of all our lives will be diminished.
Except - except - except - you conservatives do this all the time! Poor people die because of a lack of good food, good health care, etc., every day, all over the world - and most of these "social conservatives" don't give a good God damn about any of them.

The rest of this piece is full of utter nonsense about what "liberals" supposedly believe - none of which any of us actually do believe. For example, " Social liberals warn against vitalism, the elevation of physical existence over other values. They say it is up to each individual or family to draw their own line to define when life passes to mere existence." Um, no we don't. We say that in certain exteme circumstances, a person may choose to decide to let his or her life end naturally, without any further treatment. And guess what? Conservatives agree with us.

Terry Schiavo's case has nothing to do with morality. It's pure politics for Tom DeLay (who thinks it's about him by the way) and the Traditional Values Coalition (which thinks it's a great way to make some money).

Terry Schiavo died 15 years ago. That's sad and brutal but true. That her parents don't want to admit this is also sad but true. For everyone else to pile on and bring their own agendas to this unfortunate event is disgraceful and despicable.

At least the Times found whoever was impersonating David Brooks and shooed him out of the building before he could do any further damage to Bobo's well-deserved reputation as a moron.
 

IOKIYAR - Part 5,550,394 (at least)

I thought conservatives wanted to get Big Government off our backs. Silly me.

Weighing the Difference Between Treating Pain and Dealing Drugs


:::snip:::

Richard Paey, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident in 1985 and also developed multiple sclerosis, is serving a 25-year prison sentence in Florida for fraudulently obtaining prescriptions for Percocet even though prosecutors acknowledged he consumed all the pills himself.
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh is permitted to merrily flit from doctor to doctor collecting scrips for Vicodin from each one along the way, and nobody does a fucking thing about it.

One wonders if the so-called "libertarians" who also think of themselves as conservatives would have the decency to break with the Bush Administration over this intrusion into people's rights to make medical decisions for themselves.

...

...

Naah.

Friday, March 25, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging - A Lot More No More Mister Nice Blog

A month I ago, I reported the sad news that Steve of the brilliant No More Mister Nice Blog had decided to hang up his - whatever it is he was blogging with. Well, he has changed his mind (or had it changed - "Ve haff vayz uff makink you blog") and returned to his keyboard, which is among the rare examples of recent good news in this wicked wicked world.

Recently he has been at the very top of his game. I can't quote everything he's written, so I'll just point to several of his posts, which have just blown me away.

1)
Right-wing pundit Debra J. Saunders, writing about the Terri Schiavo case in the San Francisco Chronicle:

...spare me the rhetoric about Republicans being hypocrites on states' rights -- fresh from the mouths of Democrats who don't want to let Alaskans drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, who don't want states to determine their own gun-control laws and couldn't wait for the feds to storm the home of the Miami family of Elian Gonzalez.

Wow, I learned a lot from that.

* I learned that it's Alaskans who want to drill in ANWR. All by themselves! With no involvement by multinational oil companies! Gosh, I had no idea it was so grassroots. And I learned that it's none of my business what's done with a national wildlife refuge established by the Eisenhower administration, expanded a generation later by an act of Congress, and administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

* On Elian, I learned that issues of immigration devolved to the states while I wasn't looking, sometime during the last five years. The Immigration and Nationalization Service? Utterly irrelevant! And the members of Congress who wanted to give Elian permanent U.S. residency? They were, er, um ... well, they were doing Good, so it was OK for them to try to use the national government to resolve this 100% states'-rights issue!
2)
Jeb actually had the unmitigated gall to say this:

"I'm doing everything within my power to make sure that Terri is afforded at least the same rights that criminals convicted of heinous crimes take for granted," Bush said.

"If a prisoner comes forward with new DNA evidence 20 years after his conviction that suggests his innocence, there is no doubt the courts in our state and all across the country, for that matter, will immediately review their case. We should do no less for Terri Schiavo," Bush said.


Here's the reality in Bush's own state:

Under the law, passed in 2001 and sponsored by Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, anyone convicted of a crime has two years after a sentence becomes final to ask a judge to review DNA testing of physical evidence.

And in 2003, when the first criminals faced a deadline under the law, this was the response:

Villalobos says he's open to weighing the request for a time extension, but Gov. Jeb Bush is not considering such a move, said Jill Bratina, a spokeswoman for the governor.

There isn't a circle of hell low enough for Jeb.
There's more, but go read for yourself.

Oh, and check out Digby, too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Funny/nasty/cruel post that I can't resist

From the splendid Attaturk on Rising Hegemon:
Well what do you know

A federal judge has refused to order that Terry Schiavo continue to live with indignity.

Schiavo's parents will petition both the 11th Circuit, and First Officer Spock in a last ditch attempt to revisit Talos IV. [picture I can't show of Capt. Christopher Pike]
The Republicans just love federalism, until a state tries to do something they don't like (just as they love the free market until it ends up filling the universe with porn - unless you're one of those Republican-owned media-mega-conglomerates that sell porn to hotels to be ordered by traveling Republican businessmen on expense accounts).
 

Okay, who are you and what have you done with the real David Brooks?

Bobo be makin' sense! (Gasp)
Masters of Sleaze

By DAVID BROOKS

Down in the depths of the netherworld, where Tammany Hall grafters and Chicago ward heelers gather amid spittoons and brass railings, a reverential silence now spreads across the communion. The sleazemasters of old look back into the land of the mortals and they see greatness in the form of Jack Abramoff.

Only a genius like Abramoff could make money lobbying against an Indian tribe's casino and then turn around and make money defending that tribe against himself. Only a giant like Abramoff would have the guts to use one tribe's casino money to finance a Focus on the Family crusade against gambling in order to shut down a rival tribe's casino.

Only an artist like Abramoff could suggest to a tribe that it pay him by taking out life insurance policies on its eldest members. Then when the elders dropped off they could funnel the insurance money through a private school and into his pockets.

This is sleaze of a high order. And yet according to reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere, Abramoff accomplished it all.

Yet it's important to remember this: A genius like Abramoff doesn't spring fully formed on his own. Just as Michelangelo emerged in the ferment of Renaissance Italy, so did Abramoff emerge from his own circle of creativity and encouragement.

Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!

Before long, ringleader Grover Norquist and his buddies were signing lobbying deals with the Seychelles and the Northern Mariana Islands and talking up their interests at weekly conservative strategy sessions - what could be more vital to the future of freedom than the commercial interests of these two fine locales?

Before long, folks like Norquist and Abramoff were talking up the virtues of international sons of liberty like Angola's Jonas Savimbi and Congo's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - all while receiving compensation from these upstanding gentlemen, according to The Legal Times. Only a reactionary could have been so discomfited by Savimbi's little cannibalism problem as to think this was not a daring contribution to the cause of Reaganism.

Soon the creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center, according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the year" and a former yoga instructor.

Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.

Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

They made at least $66 million.

This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them.
I don't usually quote entire columns, but this is a red-letter date: David Brooks writing a legitimate critique, and of his own side. For once in his squalid recent existence, David Brooks justifies not only his 17 column inches in the Times but also the 500 or so cubic feet of air he breathes every day. Such a life-redeeming act (while not enough to make up for his stupefying idiocies of the last few years) nonetheless deserve memorialization and praise, if only out of hope that such encouragement might mean it won't be his last.

Friday, March 18, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging - TBogg's Thursday Basset Blogging

TBogg is one of the funniest liberal bloggers out there - and one of the best writers anywhere.

It's a bit of a tradition (as much as any activity as recently spawned as blogging can have "traditions") for bloggers to post pictures of their cats on Friday (I have no idea why).

I can't post pictures (if I could, you'd love my stupid but gorgeous and adorable little cat, Tuppence), so on Fridays, I blog blogs - immortalize (yeah, right) one especially good blogpost I read during the previous week.

TBogg blogs his lovable basset hounds, on Thursdays (I'm not sure why Thursday instead of Friday, but so what?)

Anyway, this week, he paid tribute to his first basset hound, in a way that proved, once more (not that we needed any proof), of just how mighty are his writing chops. Go read the whole thing (it's too long for me to post more than just excerpts.)
Thursday Basset Blogging - Memorial Edition

St. Patrick’s Day has a special meaning in our family. We’re not Irish (far from it), but when every St. Patrick’s Day arrives we get a little sad and a little sorrowful (just like the Irish…but without the drinking) because it was on this day seven years ago that we had to have our first basset, Cooder, put down.

Here’s my Cooder story.

About eighteen years ago, I was in negotiations to take a job where I would be doing a considerable amount of traveling and so my wife said she wanted to get a dog to keep her company while I was away. Fine. We both grew up with dogs and it was inevitable that we would end up with one anyway. Now I’m a pure breed kind of guy, my parents bred hunting dogs and we had our share of Springer Spaniels, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Golden Retrievers, so we starting looking into what kind of a dog we wanted. For some reason, we initially looked at West Highland Terriers (also known as Westies) but, after sitting in a room with what appeared to be a heavily caffienated one, I said “no way”. In an off-handed remark, I mentioned that maybe we should get something like a basset that didn’t require too much action and was content to sleep while we were away at work..

Long story…short dog. I was in Riverside when I received an urgent call from my wife. She had found a basset puppy, the last male of the litter, and she wanted me to see him before he was sold. I hurried back to San Diego and didn’t even get to sit down before we headed out the door for the breeder’s house. There were three puppies left: two females and a slightly undersized male who had enormous ears. I had the impression that he was the runt of the litter which is why he was still around, but, damn, he was cute and snuggly, and so I told my wife, “Let’s take him” which it turned out was a forgone conclusion since she had already paid for him earlier in the day.

We called him Cooder. Now, if you remember, Cooder was supposed to be my wife’s dog and he liked her just fine, but he loved me. Wherever I was, there was Cooder. If I was sitting on the couch, he was sitting next to me. If I lay down, he lay down next to me with his head on my shoulder and minutes later he would be asleep, softly snoring in my ear. If my wife made his dinner, he wouldn’t eat it. I would have to go pick up his bowl, take a spoon and stir it, and then he would eat. On walks he treated strangers with indifference. They could pet him and talk to him, but he would just look away until they were done. Only my parents could elicit a tail-wag from him. He made himself my dog without my ever asking.

:::snip:::

Cooder gets sick. It started out as a lump on his right hip. At first we thought it was fatty tissue but it kept getting larger and then we knew what it would turn out to be. An operation and it was gone, but then another one showed up. Another operation and we thought we had it knocked. Then I started noticing the blood in his urine. Outwardly he seemed fine, but the bad stuff was working overtime inside of him. St. Patrick’s Day 1998, I got up to take Cooder out and he couldn’t stand up. I kept trying talk him into willing himself to get up, but he just couldn’t do it. Then I pleaded, I begged. Then I hugged him to me and I cried. We knew then what we had to do and I picked Cooder up and carried him to the car for his last trip to the vet. The last thing I will ever remember about him was the look of bewilderment on his face. His mind was there, but his body was gone. Then, soon enough, so was he. My wife and I took the day off, and we walked down to the beach past all the bars where the St. Paddy’s Day celebrations were in full swing. We talked about what a great dog he was and we talked about what we would tell Casey when we picked her up from school. But mostly we talked about us and how he had been there for most of our married life.

Every year, prior to Christmas, I climb up into what passes for an attic in our house to bring down the Christmas decorations. Sitting next to those boxes full of ornaments and lights and wrappings is a small lidded-box. Inside that box are Cooder’s collar, tags, food bowl, and his last rawhide chew. And every year I pull them out and look at them and remember. Then I put them away for another year and remind myself to always keep them and to always remember the dog that I loved and who loved me. He was my friend.

So if you’re going out tonight to heft a beer for St. Paddy, have one for Cooder. He would have ignored you, but you would have loved him anyway.
I wish I could post photos, because Cooder was/is really cute. Go look.

:::gulp::: This one's for you, Cooder.

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

You have to hand it to Wolcott

Boooooooo!!!!!

Okay, yes, bad joke, but still, this gutsy post wins the Golden Palm Award (stop it, Malvolio!). I mean, Wolcott is the best, like some top tennis player who knows all the strokes (we're warning you, Malvolio). James Wolcott sure knows jack. (Okay, that's it. You had your chance. Get the auto-fwapper.)

Onward.
Solitaire

What's a boy to do?

When I was in Catholic Sunday school back there in the sixties at Edgewood Arsenal, a priest sent the girls out of the room with a nun to have a "special talk" with us l'il rascals. He began talking about things boys sometimes did in private, as a way of investigating themselves, and how though it might feel good temporarily it was bad for the soul. I don't recall if he ever actually used the word "masturbation" but it didn't take long before we were all paying rapt attention and wondering what the girls were being told.

Unlike priests of yore, who condemned masturbation as a sin, the first stumble towards damnation, this enlightened father took a more character-building tack, saying that what was wrong with fondling yourself was that it was "selfish."

Masturbation has always been an iffy damned if you do, damned if you don't proposition. If you do, you're risking your soul, endangering your mental hygiene by contracting a frenzied addiction (going haywire like Alexander Portnoy), and refusing to share. If you don't, you're allowing steam to build up in the boiler room that could result in a hydraulic explosion releasing uncontrollable urges.

This was the dire prospect Michael Jackson reportedly presented to his young charge, telling him, according to the accuser's court testimony last week, "that one time he was looking over a balcony ... and he saw a boy who didn't masturbate and he had sex with a dog."

Someone should ask Senator Santorum about Michael Jackson's startling revelation, since he's made man-on-dog sex a priority concern. Senator, would you encourage our young people to masturbate if it would prevent an outbreak of canine molestation? It would be interesting to hear him weigh the pros and cons before his staff bundled him into a van.

He might argue that excessive masturbation brought down the British Empire, and could weaken the American Empire that Max Boot and the masthead of several low-circulation magazines are trying so valiantly to build on the backs of our poor soldiers.

According to a new history of English football titled Those Feet, football (I quote from Simon Kuper's column in this weekend's Financial Times) "was invented in Victorian public schools to keep boys from masturbating. The idea was that if boys were out on the field expending energy together, they could never be alone to engage in 'self pollution.'"

The anti-wanking movement couldn't supervise its hands-off policy forever. Kuper writes:

"The war on masturbation tailed off in the 1920s. Not much later the British empire fell."

That may be a tad historically reductive, and yet it may explain the wistful, remorseful look that sometimes fleets across John Derbyshire's face in unguarded moments of reverie.

Masturbation isn't a glamorous activity or the best topic of conversation to broach in a crowded elevator, but if it can keep dogs from being bothered and help undermine the American empire, it serves a social utility.
Now, how many major bloggers would devote an entire post to self-gratification? And make such a witty job of it? (He said "job," heh-heh, heh-heh.)

I must confess, I've done my part to keep the dogs unbothered...

(Sorry for being such a jerk earlier. Boooooooo!!!!!)
 

Why does Atrios hate America?

Umm...I guess the answer to that is obvious.
Blue Finger

Armando makes the important point that demands for orgasmic happy talk for any positive-sounding events tend to suppress any rational discussion of those events. This doesn't just shut down avenues of opinion, it shuts down the reporting of actual facts.

I never thought we should've invaded Iraq. But, I always wanted it to work out for the best to whatever extent that was possible. It's a shame that those who supported the war were, for the most part, more concerned with preserving the reputation of war supporters than actually doing anything to ensure that their pet project was a success. It's been a constant refrain that anti-war folks wanted things to go badly in Iraq, but it's been pro-war types who have consistently enabled the inept bungling that followed the fall of Baghdad.
A lot of right wing policy these days could be labeled "faith-based" or perhaps "Tinkerbelle-based" - that is, if you clap your hands and really really believe in your policy, it will come true - or, in fact, already has come true. Merely announcing a policy is tantamount to implementing it. No Child Left Behind, AIDS funding, etc. - say you're going to do and it's 100% the same as having actually done it.

So too with Iraq - we invaded for what Bush has serially presented as any number of good reasons - therefore, since we said why we did it, that is indistinguishable from having achieved what we said we were invading to achieve. Talk about "creating their own reality"!

Plus, the despicable accusation that those of us who opposed the war want it to go badly is beneath contempt (which means it is far far above those who make it. Predicting disaster and recognizing disaster when it has occurred is nothing close to seeking it and celebrating it. I grieve for the 1500+ Americans (and tens of thousands of Iraqis) who have died; we warned that this would happen and we were right. If we have some grim satisfaction at having been proved right, that may be a regrettable indication of human nature, but nothing more. It certainly does not justify the tub-thumping excesses of the war faction, whose indecent refusal to admit that their reasons for invasion have been proved, in seriatim, to be threadbare (at best) should make people question them for their jollification at death and destruction.

Not that I'm into doing that...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Getting right things wrong

If missing the point were an Olympic event, the New York Times would sweep all the medals for their ridiculous editorial on Thursday.
Putting Last Things First

We had hoped, when Mr. Bush was re-elected, that he'd rethink his goals once the next campaign was no longer an issue. There are so many critical problems facing the nation. But the president seems determined to ignore the biggest challenges and to home in on politically charged side issues. Medicare faces a perilous future, given growing health costs and the aging of the baby boomer population, and anything approaching a resolution would require hard bipartisan work. But the White House instead decided to make privatizing Social Security its chief priority. Social Security's long-term problems are relatively minor compared with Medicare's, and the fixes are pretty obvious.

The list goes on and on. When we look at problems that cry out for White House involvement, one that leaps out is our dependency on foreign oil. That not only leaves us hostage to some of the shakiest and most unappetizing oil-producing nations around the globe, but also threatens the entire economy over the long term, given that rising oil prices make the trade deficit even bigger and the dollar even weaker. Another huge economic threat, at least for some agricultural regions, is the growing international pressure to end our irrational subsidy program for crops like cotton. Both of these are tricky political issues that require steady and firm presidential intervention.

We haven't heard Mr. Bush make a big deal about either, except for his fixation with drilling in the Arctic wildlife preserve. Meanwhile in Congress, all the political capital is being directed toward putting an anti-environmental former lobbyist for mining interests on the federal bench, and passing a new law that will make it difficult for middle-class credit card users who suffer a life catastrophe - like sudden illness or divorce - to get back on their feet after they have to declare bankruptcy.

The priorities of this administration never cease to amaze.
What really never ceases to amaze is the incredible naivete of the New York Times editorial board. You'd think by this point that they'd have figured it out - George W. Bush is evil. As Davros says to the Doctor in "Genesis of the Daleks," "Your evil, Doctor, is my good." George W. Bush has no interest whatsoever in getting things right or in doing good. He has a narrow-minded, hard-right agenda - basically, turning America into a wholly owned subsidiary of whatever Big Business interest he most recently took money from - and nothing else matters to him.

That, and the fact that he is totally incompetent. As I have written before, it is impossible to understand George W. Bush's second term without taking into account Beck’s Axiom: "Anyone George W. Bush appoints for his second term (or who is appointed by someone appointed by Bush for his second term) will be worse than the person being replaced." And the corollary: anything he does will be wrong.

The inability (or perhaps unwillingness) of the New York Times editorial board to figure this out is maddening. Everything he does that they can't understand is explicable if you simply stop imagining that he is trying to do a good job. He isn't. He's trying to do a horrible job. Keep that in mind when you consider anything that comes out of the White House and you'll begin to figure it out.

It's bad enough that Bush is trying to fool us. It's worse when the New York Times keeps managing to fool itself. It's time for them to grow up.

Friday, March 11, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging

Thought I'd miss my own deadline, did you? Malvolio never misses (although he occasionally backdates...)

Anyway, submitted for your approval, from the delicious Banana Slug:
BUSH NOMINATES MICHAEL BOLTON AS U.N. AMBASSADOR

Crappy Crooner Ridiculed Anew


In a controversial move angering people from across the political spectrum, President George W. Bush has nominated Michael Bolton to replace outgoing U.N. Ambassador, John Danforth.

The confusing appointment comes amid recent Bush administration overtures seeking to mollify allies and soften differences aroused by the war in Iraq.

Critics were quick to take aim at the singer.

“Michael Bolton’s sappy, over the top torture of pop ballads is a crime against humanity,” offered U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on learning of the news. “Christ, the way he massacred all those classic tunes. And don’t even get me started on the arias butchery.”

Bolton’s appointment requires Senate approval, no sure thing as Senators come forth with horror stories about his music, and seems designed to stick a thumb in the eye of the United Nations, which has often been at odds with the Bush Administration.

“Michael Bolton has alienated virtually all of America and much of the rest of the world with his pedantic, hackneyed phrasing,” notes New School U.N. and Pop Music Chair Thomas Dolby Robertson.

“Placing him in this post can only be perceived as a major slight to the United Nations.

“On the plus side, he’ll probably be too busy to record anything new, and the threat of his music might pull some recalcitrant countries right into line.”
There. Just before midnight. Aren't you thrilled? You should be.

Say, you know? This appointment might just be an exception to Beck's Axiom!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

Should we pity the fools?

An article that's good as far as it goes but does not go far enough.
Made-in-America Wahhabism

The Christian right is our own brand of extremism.


By William Thatcher Dowell

There is a certain irony in the debate over installing the Ten Commandments in public buildings. The Second Commandment in the King James edition of the Bible states quite clearly: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the Earth below, or that is in the water under the Earth." Few people take this as a prohibition against images of stars and fishes. Rather it cautions against endowing a physical object, be it a golden calf or a two-ton slab of granite, with spiritual power.

In trying to promote the commandments, the Christian right seems to have forgotten what they are really about. It has also overlooked the fact that there are several versions: Exodus 20:2-17, Exodus 34:12-26, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Different language in Catholic Bibles and the Jewish Torah offer more variants.

Which should be enshrined? That is just the kind of debate that has been responsible for religious massacres through the ages. It was, in fact, the mindless slaughter resulting from King Charles' efforts to impose the Church of England's prayer book on Calvinist Scots in the 17th century that played an important role in convincing the founding fathers to separate church and state.

The current debate, of course, has little to do with genuine religion. What it is really about is an effort to assert a cultural point of view. It is part of a reaction against social change, an American counter-reformation of sorts against the way our society has been evolving. Those pushing to blur the boundaries between church and state feel that they are losing out — much as, in the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalists fear they are losing out to "Western values."

The reactions are remarkably similar. In the Arab Middle East and Iran, the response is an insistence on the establishment of Islamic law as the basis for political life; in the United States, school districts assert religious over scientific theory in biology class, tax dollars are going to the faith-based, and the Ten Commandments are a putative founding document.

In fact, George W. Bush may now find himself in the same kind of trap that ensnared Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud. To gain political support, Saud mobilized the fanatical, ultrareligious Wahhabi movement — the movement that is spiritually at the core of Al Qaeda. Once the bargain was done, the Saudi royal family repeatedly found itself held political hostage to an extremist, barely controllable movement populated by radical ideologues. The evangelical movement in the U.S. nudged the president back into the White House, and Bush must now try to pay off the political bill for its support.
Or at least, pretend to.

These American “Whahhabis” have signed themselves up for a brutally, casually cynical deal with George W. Bush, and they are guaranteed to be frustrated by it. The Christian wingnuts won’t get what they want, what they think they’re owed, any more than the farmers or veterans or others who supported Bush will. The only part of Bush’s constituency that will get what it wants is the group that paid for it – big business.

I'm not sure whether or not to pity the Christian wingnuts or shake my head at their stupidity. Because they have never gotten what the want, what they think they're owed, by the leaders of the right wing. And they never will get what they want, what they think they're owed, because if they got what they wanted, they would either want more or they would go home, satisfied. And, satisfied, they are no more useful to the right wing leadership than a satisfied Palestinian population would be to the leaders of Syria and Libya and other rejectionist states in the Middle East.

Should we want them to figure out just how thoroughly they are being used - and traduced - by their supposed leaders or should we want them to continue to lavish their hopes and dreams on people who have no intention of actually delivering for them but who only want to keep them angry and active?

These people are dangerous, but they are not the biggest threat to our country. Fraudulently trying to "fix" Social Security; perverting the bankruptcy laws; giving ever larger tax breaks to the wealthy; and every other form of corporate protection this Administration has lavished on its sponsors - that's what is going to ruin America. Battles with the Christian Right are, if not a sideshow - the potential threat to our liberties and, should they succeed in forcing "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" or any other form of anti-Darwinist nonsense onto our curricula, the threat to our educational and scientific future, is real - but giving full way to the extremist free marketers' malignant fantasy of an America where there is no protection of any kind for the masses would effectively and retroactively prove Marx right, which I doubt is what they have in mind. The damage to our environment, to ordinary people's health and lives, to families, to the elderly, to the poor, to the shrinking middle class - the Bush Administration's corporate agenda will result in the destruction of more effective rights and liberties than the worst that the theocratic right is capable of.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

Bobo loves Wolfie - enough to lie for him

David Brooks takes Paul Wolfowitz's schlong out of his mouth just long enough to write an embarrassing panegyric to the Apostle of Freedom and Democracy (Anywhere and Everywhere But In America).
Giving Wolfowitz His Due

By DAVID BROOKS

Let us now praise Paul Wolfowitz. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued - longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else - the supposedly utopian notion that people across the Muslim world might actually hunger for freedom.

It's not necessary to absolve Wolfowitz of all sin or to neglect the postwar screw-ups in Iraq. Historians will figure out who was responsible for what, and Wolfowitz will probably come in for his share of the blame. But with political earthquakes now shaking the Arab world, it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East - Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom. And he has usually played a useful supporting role in making sure that pragmatic, democracy-promoting policies were put in place.

If the trends of the last few months continue, Wolfowitz will be the subject of fascinating biographies decades from now, while many of his smuggest critics will be forgotten. Those biographies will mention not only his intellectual commitment but also his personal commitment, his years spent learning the languages of the places that concerned him, and the thousands of hours spent listening deferentially to the local heroes who led the causes he supported.

To praise Wolfowitz is not triumphalism. The difficulties ahead are obvious. It's simple justice. It's a recognition that amid all the legitimate criticism, this guy has been the subject of a vicious piling-on campaign by people who know less than nothing about what is actually going on in the government, while he, in the core belief that has energized his work, may turn out to be right.

I've had only two long conversations with Wolfowitz. The second was the day after the Iraqi vote. I figured that would be an interesting day to get a sense of his mood.

He wasn't nearly as exuberant as I expected him to be, in part because, like everybody in government, he's busy with the constant flow of decisions. He said he spent 75 percent of his time on the Pentagon's budget and administration.

He deflected all my Oprahesque attempts to get him to open up and describe what it's felt like to be him for the past few years. Our tissues remained dry.

But he was eager to think ahead. "It's fascinating how many echoes this is going to have," he said. "The Iraqi election is an inspiration. It's going to be a real challenge to all absolute rulers."
Unless they’re named George W. Bush, that is, of course.
He went on to suggest that American democracy-promotion could now get back onto its preferred course. Iraq, he said, was the outlier. "Iraq is exceptional because of the use of the U.S. military," he observed.
Of course, in the midst of this fulsome hagiography, does Brooks – or Wolfowitz, for that matter - ever - as in even once - make note of the fact that bringing democracy to Iraq was not what we invaded Iraq for? That the entire case for the invasion was based on the threat Iraq posed to us with their weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s responsibility for September 11? A case which has turned out to be 100% baseless? A case which has led to 1500 American servicemen dying needlessly, tens of thousands being horribly wounded, and countless tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dying? A war which we were promised would pay for itself but has ended up costing us hundreds of billions of dollars?

A war which, if Wolfowitz genuinely thought should be fought for the reason it is now being trumpted, why did he not make this case for it before the invasion? Because he knew – and knows now – and so does Brooks – that the American people would never have been in favor of it if that had been the actual justification. Which is simply was not.

Now that the actual case has turned out to be just so many lies, it is necessary for those who made the fictional case – and those who signed on to promote it, knowing it was fictional – to find some other, more noble, more enduring justification.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing democracy to the world (although it would be nice if the Republicans were willing to permit it here in America). Why not start with Saudi Arabia? Oh, they’re our friends, that’s right. What about North Korea? Oh, we don’t have enough Army left to deal with them, since we squandered so much of it in Iraq.

But the people who lied us into a totally needless invasion of Iraq should not be permitted to then say, Oh, but this is the real reason. Having fucked up so completely, they should be allowed to get away with pleading in the alternative and rewriting history. We did not go into Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East. (So far, we can’t even be sure that we have brought democracy to Iraq.) We invaded to find WMD that we knew even before going in that Saddam didn’t have. Liars can’t be trusted, and their motives can’t be trusted. Paul Wolfowitz may be sincere in his belief that the world should be democratized, but that’s not what he was doing before the invasion and it’s not what he’s doing now.
 

Hans Bethe (1906-2005)

Hans Bethe, the Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist and last surviving member of the great physicists who built America’s first atomic bomb, passed away on Sunday at the age of 98. Bethe, a refugee from Nazi Germany, had been a professor of physics at Cornell University for 70 years, as well as a leading activist against nuclear proliferation.

As a sometime student of the history of science, I knew of Bethe, if not as much as perhaps I should have. I recommend that everyone read his obituary in today’s New York Times. He accomplished more in his 98 years than anyone else could have in twice that time.

What I missed in the obit was any mention of a rather famous little incident in Bethe’s life, although not one he himself was responsible for. I’m referring, of course, to the famous “Alpher-Bethe-Gamow” paper, written by another great physicist, George Gamow (1904-68).

As described in a biography of Gamow:
In 1948 Gamow and his colleague Ralph Alpher wrote a text about the Big bang -theory and how matter would have come to existence. [Gamow proposed that the matter of the Universe originally existed in a primordial state called the "Ylem," and that Helium and perhaps other elements were formed from the Ylem shortly after the big bang had started the Universe's expansion.] Gamow had a great sense of humour so he invited his friend Hans Bethe to join the list of authors. The text was then called Alpher-Bethe-Gamow Theory (or alpha-beta-gamma theory).
Gamow had once used Bethe's model of stars as a starting point for his own research, so paying tribute in his whimsical little way was fitting.

Hans Bethe was that rare example of a scientist whose research led him to intensely humanistic, rather than exclusively technical, conclusions. In addition, he remained a productive physicist for nearly his entire life, still turning out publishable papers into his 90s. We are missing him already.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

 

How to really deal with internal subversion

Steve Gilliard's News Blog offers the kind of hard-headed liberalism we should all be quoting to every right-wing hack we can find.
Liberty has to be protected
2 Dutch Deputies on the Run, From Jihad Death Threats

By MARLISE SIMONS

THE HAGUE - Every evening, plainclothes police officers escort two members of the Dutch Parliament to armored cars and take them to hiding places for the night. One of them, Geert Wilders, has been camping out in a cell in a high-security prison where his life, he said, has become "like a bad B-movie." His colleague, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has grown increasingly miserable sleeping on a military base.

The special treatment would certainly seem warranted: both have received a deluge of death threats since they strongly criticized the behavior of militant Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands.

After two previous political assassinations, Dutch officials are taking the threats seriously, treating the safety of the two lawmakers both as a matter of personal protection and as an issue of national security. Several politicians have said that in the country's present polarized mood, public violence could erupt if either of the two were killed.

But the two legislators themselves have disturbed the officials' plans, choosing to reveal their whereabouts to protest the conditions under which they live. Neither has had a permanent home since November, when a filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was shot and knifed to death on an Amsterdam street. A 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan, Muhammad Bouyeri, has been charged with the murder.

The decision by Mr. Wilders and Ms. Hirsi Ali to reveal their secret lives, one in a jail cell, the other on a naval base, has raised a question that is troubling many Dutch: is it acceptable for legislators in a Western democracy to be forced to go into hiding, to live like fugitives on the run in their own land?

"Of course this is an outrage," said Abram de Swaan, a prominent sociologist. "It's not bearable. The government must come up with better solutions, like putting them in protected homes. That's the way it happens in other countries."

The NRC Handelsblad, a leading daily newspaper, ran an editorial recently headlined "Unacceptable." A situation in which legislators are "hampered in carrying out their tasks puts democracy in question and makes terror successful," it said, adding that the official bureaucracy evidently "does not know how to deal with the new reality" in which Muslim terrorism may also threaten Dutch politicians.

Officials point out that the government is prosecuting several men for death threats and has adopted tough laws against terrorism suspects, including voiding their Dutch nationality. Late last month the Justice Ministry announced that it planned to expel three Muslim preachers for spreading radical Islamic ideology at a mosque in the city of Eindhoven.
In the US, if you were stupid enough to threaten a Congressman, you would wind up in a federal prison cell as soon as the FBI caught you. The idea that these people are allowed to flourish is offensive to democracy. These people should be caught and deported. Clearly, these people do not want to live by Dutch or Western rules.

This kind of ineffective policing is simply unacceptable. In the US, people would be running from immigration for this crap. One of the core rules of US politics is that we do not allow anyone to threaten politicians without vigorous police reaction. Why? Because it undermines the democratic state.

People should be roused from their beds and dragged to court for this. People should be shitting their pants at fear of not the police, but Royal Dutch Marine Commandos coming to pay a little visit like the SAS did in Northern Ireland. This is a threat to national security and it is dangerous to pretend it is anything but. You don't need a patriot act or void basic EU civil rights, but you can start acting like this is a serioud threat, use military force, and make no mistake, when the FBI goes hunting for those people who killed the judge's husband and mother, they will come loaded for bear like a bunch of 11B's on a home visit in Tikrit.

To protect civil rights, you have to protect them.

But this problem is an outgrowth of the way these people are treated in European society. They need to be encouraged to be Europeans, the way they would be encouraged to be Americans in the United States. They are already isolated, and become easy picking for radicals. You have to have a two-pronged approach. One, an open welcoming society, two, swiftly and definitively punish those who upset the public order.

When the racists of the South wanted to violate federal law, the Army was sent, by more than one president, to enforce that law. The Dutch are taking the worst of both worlds, isolating immigrants, and refusing to protect their civil order. You can do both, but you need to act like it's not a drug case, but a threat to the order of the state.

Europeans are quick to lambast the US for it's human rights violations, but this situation requires more than talk and moving people about. It requires the best and hardest kind of law enforcement. What you have now is a Republic of Fear. An ineffective state, unable to forcefully deport and punish people threatening legislators, yet refusing to integrate them into the wider society, perpetuating their isolation. You can't leave these people outside the state's commonweal, then expect them to adapt to your society's rules. What stake do they have in it? Crappy education for their kids? An inability to get a job commensurate to their education?

You have to give them a stake in playing by the rules and punish the hell out of them when they don't. Make threatening elected officials with death worth 10 years in jail and deportation.

But this is not a small deal. I'm hardly idealistic about Europeans view of their new countrymen, but this kind of situation in the US would be intolerable. The US has had long and bitter experience with political violence and we take that extremely seriously. The Dutch would do well to act with a lot more vigor in this case.
Liberals are often accused of being "soft on crime," by which right-wingers mean that we actually believe in "innocent until proven guilty." And yet, who is being soft here? Gilliard isn't calling for playing patty-cake with these thugs. He isn't calling for them to be "understood" or coddled or negotiated with or permitted to go their merry, murderous way. He's calling for them to be punished, persecuted, hounded, destroyed.

He's wrong about one thing, however. The US might go after foreign terrorists with some of the vigor Gilliard commends to the Dutch, but we have our own homegrown murderous bastards, such as Matthew Hale's friends and colleagues, and we have never gone after rightwing, white nationalist, fascist and Nazi thugs with anything like the efficiency and zeal with whcich we have pursued leftwing, black nationalist, and other "un-American" terrorists. Hale is in prison, but someone who listens to him (maybe even someone who talked to him) is suspected of murdering the family of a Federal judge in Chicago. Take the gloves off and treat true internal subversion with the same seriousness and lack of compromise that we direct against foreign bad guys who threaten us. America is under at least as much threat from the former as we are from the latter.

Other than that, Gilliard's post is brave, honest, and true.

Friday, March 04, 2005

 

Great personal finance advice (also a great way to destroy the economy)

From Walt Starr on Democratic Underground (via Will Pitt):
How smart people will handle the new Bankruptcy law

When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.

Here's a step by step process:

1) Stop buying anything but the bare essentials. There is no need for high definition surroundsound 50" televisions. Make due with what you have. Do not go shopping for needless crap. Don't spend that extra ten dollars because you thought the vase in Target looked pretty. If something breaks, save a few extra dollars out of each paycheck until you have enough money saved up to replace the broken item. Yes, this includes your television.

2) Put 5% of each paycheck into a savings account. Do not touch this money under any circumstances. If you want, when you reach four figures in this account convert some to Euros.

3) Stop using credit cards for anything except absolute emergencies. No, that high definition surroundsound 50" television is not an emergency. No, that cruise is not an emergency. Emergencies would be the plane ticket to fly across the country to get to your grandmother's side while she is on her deathbed.

4) Choose your credit card that has the lowest balance. Cut it up into little pieces, but keep account information handy for payoff purposes. The lowest amount to pay monthly is three times the minimum balance. Repeat these payments until you have a zero balance. Cancel the card.

5) Repeat step 4 until you get to your last credit card.

6) On your last credit card, the lowest monthly payment is still three times the minimum payment. Get this credit card to a zero balance. Lock up the credit card in a fireproof box with important papers. Keep and use only in case of emergency.

7) Everything you used to spend on your credit card payments now put towards principal payments on your mortgage.

8) When all debts are paid off, continue to spend very little money. Be thrifty and save for bad times that are coming.

The fact of the matter is, the credit card companies are going to realize a HUGE return on this bankruptcy bill on the front side. They'll even convince some idiotic Freeper types that insurance they sell for a massive premium price is worth it. They are going to squeeze deadbeat red state Freepers like squeezing blood out of turnips, but those of us who are good credit risks will be thrifty. We won't spend extra money on stupid crap. We will pay off our credit cards, and they will cease earning their monthly indenture payment from us.

Meanwhile, they will still have difficulties getting everything out of the Freeper red state deadbeats who are over extended on their credit and their earnings will start slipping again, so their rates will come down and they'll give credit to riskier and riskier consumers. Eventually, they'll drown in their own turnip juice because no matter how hard you squeeze, you'll never get blood out of turnips.

Folks, make good on a bad situation and take this opportunity to get yourself out of debt. Turn this around on the credit card companies and screw them royally. Legislation influences behavior, and the responsible consumers will alter their behavior accordingly.
This is great personal advice, but if everyone follows it, it will destroy our economy, which is completely based on people spending more than they earn by using too easy access to credit (i.e., unsecured borrowing). Companies decide how much to manufacture by projecting sales based on people spending too much. If everyone stops spending, unsold inventories will build up, factories will shut down, stores will have to discount and lay off employees, etc.

I'm only slightly serious about this. It's a great post, but it truly would shake up our economy. Probably for the good, but nevertheless a great shakeup.
 

Friday Blog Blogging

A fine post from Crooked Timber that makes an excellent point:
Bullet points

Posted by Daniel

Lots of post ideas stacked up, so time to clear them by just publishing my notes:

:::snip:::

Thoughts on current developments in Lebanon
  • The important thing to note is that when the USA acts alone, a hundred thousand people die. When it stands together with France, putting the rogue state on notice that it can’t depend on its historic friends, we win without firing a shot. And this is a victory for unilateralism in foreign policy?
:::snip:::
Trust the Bush administration to learn (or at least attempt to teach) the wrong lesson. And count on the supine press and the Koolaid drinkers to sniff their shit and smell roses.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 

One month to go for new Doctor Who!

At least if you live in Canada. The new series surreptitiously showed up on the CBC's schedulebot today for 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 5 (yesterday, they were listing a documentary on the British Royal Family in that timeslot). The CBC has not officially announced the premiere date.

Fascinatingly, we still don't know for sure when the new Doctor Who will start airing on the BBC! Fans all over the world are assuming it will be on Saturday, March 26, but the BBC has not made any announcement yet.

And, of course, there is still no announced US venue. A rumored deal with the Sci Fi Channel has now been rumored to be dead.

Fortunately, one of my best friends lives in Toronto with strict orders to tape each episode. So, I'm covered (along with my girlfriend). The rest of you I strongly urge to make friends with Brits or Canadians as soon as you can.
 

Scalia = Scaliar

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's objection to the decision to ban the execution of minors misstates the majority opinion - "The basic premise of the court's argument - that American law should conform to the laws of the rest of the world" - which is not what Justice Kennedy wrote ("The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions.")

Further, many Americans believe that the world should conform itself to our legal principles (the idea of spreading democracy abroad). Why should we only teach them, but not learn from them, when we clearly have something to learn?

The majority decision was based on changing standards at home. For Scalia to reject that reasoning and blame the decision on a clearly inaccurate description of what motivated the majority, is an illegitimate attempt to blame his defeat on a shopworn call to American nativism and fear of anything foreign simply because of its origin. He should - and certainly does - know better.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

 

THE post on Bush's Social Security strategy

Mark Schmitt nails it:
How Social Security Phase-Out Makes Republicans

Noam Scheiber asked an important question this week: how damaging could the Social Security debacle be to Congressional Republicans, and why did the White House put them in this position? I asked a prominent Democratic pollster a similar question the other day -- why did they set the table so poorly for the debate -- and she compared it to a question she had been asked by a Republican counterpart: "Why do you Democrats keep pushing affirmative action when it polls so badly?" Her answer, "Because we believe in it." And that was her best guess at why Bush was pushing privatization so carelessly. And that's surely part of the answer to why they push it, but it does not explain everything, including why they did not prepare the ground.

:::snip:::

This is related to what I believe is the Republican strategy to break any positive connection between citizens and government. The appointment of "Constitution in Exile" judges and the stripping of government of all revenues is part of the strategy. Even the horrendous Medicare prescription drug bill fits this strategy, in my theory, because in its arbitrariness, its cost, its "donut hole" where coverage is needed most, it will, when fully phased in, create only anger and frustration, not the positive associations that people have with a reliable, sensible insurance program like Medicare or Social Security. It is an "anti-entitlement," the opposite of the guaranteed protections that entitlements can offer.

The positive theory that accounts will make people excited, entrepreneurial, wealth-accumulating owners, and thus Republicans, expresses one idea about human nature. The negative, anti-government theory embodies another: that people, unless desperate, will not rise up to demand what they don't have and have never known. Here it's useful to remember that Karl Rove's historical parallel is the 36 years of Republican dominance from the McKinley election in 1996 to Hoover's defeat. That was a brutal period in American economic life. Government offered nothing in the way of benefits for workers, minimal widows' pensions, no aid for children, monetary policies that were cruel to farmers and regulatory laissez-faire that was cruel to workers. And yet, year in and year out, people took it, without question. It was the natural order of things. Only the greatest economic collapse in our history forced change. People generally don't demand what they don't have. When Social Security is gone, it will not come back, no matter how badly the accounts do. And people will not respond to its absence by becoming Democrats and demanding the restoration of an economic safety net for seniors. Rather, they will forget it ever existed and vote Republican, confirmed in their belief that government doesn't do a damn thing for anyone. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the thought process in "Bush's brain."
We are going to have to fight the same battles over and over again: labor unions, fair bankruptcy laws, safe workplaces, clean air and water, a social safety net - everything we achieved in the first half of the twentieth century - we are going to have to struggle to retrieve.

I'm not sure why so many Americans are so easily befuddled. There's a natural aversion to paying taxes, and a natural tendency to assume you're not getting yours. That your taxes go to pay benefits to someone else - naturally, someone else not as entitled to them as you would be if you were in their shoes. So it's easy for demagogues to tell you over and over again that your money is being wasted on those who don't deserve it. That government can't be trusted, that government is evil, and that therefore we can and should do without government.

Eventually, things will end up going bad enough that people will start banding together to work on solutions, and they will figure out that they need government, as the natural expression of people's needs. But how much time, how many lives, will have been wasted in the meantime, refighting battles we won so long ago?

(Incidentally, predicting that things will go bad is not the same as hoping they will go bad. In any case, the Republicans don't give a shit whether or not things go bad, just as they don't give a shit that Social Security is the most successful government program of all time in the United States. It's government, therefore they hate it whether or not it has done real good - and destroying it will do real harm.

I've never read anyone describe it so clearly as Schmitt. Post of the Year, in my opinion.
 

"...if you're rich!"

Funny - and apt - post at Democratic Underground:
How To Make A Republican Tell The Truth

I heard this from someone else over the weekend and it is brilliant:

It works just like the Salada Tea Bags lines, or that game people play with cookie fortunes, where you add the words "between the sheets" to make a meaningless platitude much more interesting.

All you have to do in order to make Republican domestic policies make sense is take their talking point and add the words "...if you're rich!"

For instance: "Privatizing social security makes a lot of sense...if you're rich!"

Or, "Our health care system is the best in the world...if you're rich!"

Or how about, "The economy under Bush is the strongest it's ever been...if you're rich!"

Just add three little words, and all of a sudden, these bastards are telling the truth.

It's most fun if you do it in a group with one person beginning the talking point and everyone else finishing it in unison. I think it coudl be productively adapted as a protest tactic for some of those Social Security meet-ups Santorum and friends are doing now, for instance.

Whee, The Plaid Adder
The problem with this is, simply (albeit truthfully) labeling the Bush administration as exclusively on the side of the rich is not the absolute condemnation we liberals think it is. Most Americans, for whatever reason, don't appear to give a damn. The right wing and their gelded press have successfully turned such accurate descriptions of George W. Bush into a positive for their man. When we point out that he doesn't really give much of a damn about anything but his wealthy owners, they shriek "Class warfare!" as if that were enough to discredit the criticism of their boy. And America bobs its head up and down in slavish agreement.

Also, many many Americans apparently think of themselves as, if not rich, then potentially rich. They don't want to soak the members of a group they have every intention of joining. And you can't point out to them how unlikely it is that they will achieve this aim. Optimism and hope are good things, but not at the expense of realism - or of being used, manipulated, discarded when your usefulness is over, and sneeered at all along.

Plaid Adder is 100% correct, and it's good for us to keep this salient fact in mind (as if we did not already know it), but its political utility is extremely limited. People in America admire the rich and protect them. They don't want to undermine them - they want to join them.

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