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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The worst laid plans

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/05/2005 01:54:00 PM

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The best laid plans of mice and men,
go oft awry,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
for promised joy.

......Robert Burns
Of course when were talking about Iraq we are talking about the worst laid plans or lack of a plan at all so it's not too surprising that it has gone very awry and left us with much pain and grief. Leon Hadar tells us about Risk of 'Blowbacks' in Iraq.
It all started in Afghanistan:
In the spy business, "blowback" is a term used to describe unintended negative consequences of actions taken by intelligence agencies to advance national interests. The phrase was allegedly coined by spooks at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to refer to an agent, an operative or an operation that turned on its creator.

Indeed, given prior US support of the Islamic insurgency in Afghanistan during the Cold War and purportedly also of Osama bin Laden, it could be argued that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack was the most prominent contemporary example of blowback, since some contend that this US backing actually helped build Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as a geopolitical force.

Officials in the administrations that provided US assistance to the Islamic guerillas fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan justified their policies by arguing that they helped force the Soviets out of that country and played a crucial role in the process that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and eventually to the end of the Cold War.
And now it's Iraq:
....only few analysts had foreseen that the anti-communist jihadists that were allied with the Americans during the Cold War would turn on their promoters and form the most violent anti-American force in the world today. Is it possible that 10 years from now as Americans would recall the US military in Iraq, the ousting of Saddam Hussein from power, and the first multiparty elections in that country in 50 years, they would be once again pondering the negative outcomes of the another US policy that was supposed to rid Iraq of an evil dictator, to establish a democracy in Mesopotamia that would serve as a shining model to the entire Middle East, and in the process advance US national interests and promote its values of liberty and freedom?
Enter the Shiites:
For the Shiites, who were repressed by the ruling Arab Sunni minority since the creation of Iraq by the British, the fall of Saddam and their electoral victory marks their assertion to power as an ethnic and religious group that has been marginalised and despised not only by Saddam and his Baath party, but also by other Arab-Sunni and pro-American regimes in the region.

From that perspective, American policy has helped make Iraq safe, not for liberal democracy and individual rights, but for religious and ethnic identity – strengthening the Shiites and the Kurds while radicalising the Sunnis.

Moreover, even the most moderate elements in the Shiite leadership, reflecting the prevailing views in their community, are bound to adopt policies that would formalise their religion's influence on public and private life, weakening protection for the rights of women and minorities.

Similarly, the empowerment of Iraq's Shiite majority would encourage the spread of Iranian influence in Iraq and the region. It is a development that would energise Shiite groups in the Persian Gulf and the Levant most of whom, not unlike the Hizbollah in Lebanon, espouse a religious and political agenda that is antithetical to US values and interests.
So once again US policy makers have failed to take into account the "realities" of the Islamic movement. This time rather than creating a Democratic haven in the middle east we have created an Islamic theocracy that will be pro Iranian and anti American. The early results of the election in Iraq would seem to be the first indications of this "blowback".

Edit
Over at The Left Coaster pessimist has a related post. It's long but worth a read.

Netflix is FAST

posted by Jazz at 2/05/2005 10:45:00 AM

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I thought I may as well confess that I have joined the throngs of people who signed up for Netflix. Particularly during the winter, with my wife working on projects that often eat up a lot of her evening on the computer, I do find myself with some extra time on my hands. I don't get out to the movies much any more, and I miss a lot of films that I would certainly have considered seeing otherwise. Plus, Georg and I rarely agree on a movie to watch, since we go in for very different genres. (She really like animated films, children's movies and historical period pieces, while I go in more for porn and smut action, science fiction, mob films and comedies.

At any rate, I signed up on Thursday on the recommendation of Mike and some people in my office, picked out a number of initial films to put in my queue, and received e-mails the next day (yesterday) that they had shipped. They all showed up today. Pretty amazing.

If you're not familiar with this service, you can select from something like 30,000 titles ranging from new releases to early silent classics. They mail you the movies in such a fashion that you always have 3 movies on hand at any given time. When you finish watching the film, you put it in the postage paid return envelope provided, mail it back, and as soon as they get it they ship you the next movie in your queue. There are no late fees because you can keep them for as long or short of a time as you like... you just don't get a new one until you send one back. This service costs about 17 dollars a month and there's no limit on how many you can rent each month. If you watch more than five movies in a month, you have doubtless saved money over most rental places.

I'll let you know how it works out for me. Now I need to get busy picking a bunch more out and stacking them up in the queue. I better check out Jill's links for movie suggestions at Brilliant at Breakfast.

The coming fascism

posted by Jazz at 2/05/2005 08:38:00 AM

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Ron has an excellent piece over at Middle Earth Journal about the rise of fascism in America, and the not very surprising fact that it seems to be growing like a tumor out of the neocon wing of the GOP. Here's a small piece.
Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of "fascism with a democratic face." His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called "The Reality of Red State Fascism," which claimed that "the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism.
(My emphais added. ) With that piece in mind, take a look at Michelle Malkin's posts concerning her latest, horrible, racist book. (It's a long defence of the internment of the Japanese. The linked post and the previous ones it links to are about an appearance where she debated it with a non fascist and her current battle to maintain some sort of credibility.) You can also check out her defense of the horrid "Adopt a Sniper" program. We just blogged about that bit of campus nastiness yesterday in the "Devolution" post. I'm not sure why this never crossed my mind before, (perhaps I'm just too much of a cockeyed optimist) but had I thought about it, I would have called Malkin a fascist as soon as I saw those posts. Hmmm... and all this time I just thought she was a nut job.

The Winter Cat

posted by Jazz at 2/05/2005 08:03:00 AM

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I saw the winter cat again this morning. We hadn't seen each other in nearly a year. It's always a kind of thrilling and, at the same time, melancholy experience for me. I have not yet snagged a picture of the winter cat, but when I do I'll post it here.

I first saw the winter cat two years ago around Christmas time. He's a big, stout tom cat, solid white (though mostly gray now) of one of the breeds with long, very thick fur and a pushed in nose. During the winter, he seems to be outdoors all of the time, and I'm always frightened for his safety. I've seen him in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, early in the morning (like today) and late in the afternoon or evening. I don't know for sure, of course, but I don't think he ever goes indoors and I don't even know if he has a home. But then again, I can't be sure. He might be one of those cats with an owner who lets him run free outside and he just likes to stay out for days at a time before going home to rest up. I don't see him every day, so it's impossible to say. That's why I don't attempt to capture him.

As I said, though... I do worry. That first winter I saw him very often, patrolling the neighborhood for food. Many of the houses in my area, including mine, have open front porches with a roof, but no enclosing windows and an open set of steps leading up to them. That's where many of us keep our BBQ grills, some patio chairs, and our trash cans and recyclables. The winter cat goes for the recyclables. Anyone with cat food, or even tuna, who puts their cans out there without rinsing them thoroughly has set up an invitation for the winter cat. He hangs out on porches when nobody is outside eating what he can find left over in the cans.

He came around all winter, but one day in the spring he just stopped showing up. I was afraid he had died. We get some nasty winters here with many feet of snow and ice falling which sticks in his fur, and we often go days at a time without the temperature getting above zero. After some months passed, I was sure he was dead.

Then, last winter, after the snow began to fall, the winter cat showed up again. He came around all winter and, when spring came, he disappeared yet again. This winter he hadn't come around. I had already begun to think that either his family moved away (on the optimistic assumption that he has a family) or that he'd just died. But sure enough, this morning, there he was again. He glared at me up on the porch with my coffee, seeming to resent that I was out there so he couldn't inspect our cat food cans.

Good luck, winter cat. Good to have you back, but we've got many weeks of winter left to go.

Big Cats Redux

posted by Jazz at 2/05/2005 07:56:00 AM

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Bill in DC sent us a link to a very nice story with some great pictures. It's about the birth of three cheetah cubs at the National Zoo in Washington. (The first time cheetahs have ever been born in captivity at that zoo.) Here's a thumnail shot, but there are larger versions at the linked article. (Annoying but free registration required.)


(Photo credit: Reuters)


There are so few of these cats left that it's very cool that they have some new babies. I'm actually not a big fan of zoos, at least the smaller ones. I don't much care for the containments that the larger animals are held in. But the big ones like Washington and San Diego have some really nice, large enclosures where the big cats can, I think, lead a fairly happy life. And in the wild, poachers would likely just get them anyway.

Thanks for the tip, Bill.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sully finds some inconsistencies

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/04/2005 05:08:00 PM

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Andrew Sullivan found some contradictory statements from the right.
"At least 12,000 American troops and probably more should leave at once, to send a stronger signal about our intentions and to ease the pervasive sense of occupation." (Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), January 27, 2005).

"America's willful defeatists — led by Senator Ted Kennedy, who chose to declare our cause all but lost just days before this historic vote — look particularly puny in light of the millions who turned out to vote because they believe in the new Iraq." (National Review Online, January 31, 2005.)

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that with the election in Iraq over he believes 15,000 U.S. troops can be withdrawn, reducing the American military force to 135,000." (Associated Press, February 4, 2005).
So, I guess that makes Paul Wolfowitz one of "America's willful defeatists".

Devolution

posted by Jazz at 2/04/2005 11:10:00 AM

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There's a good chance that you already heard about the comments made by marine General James Mattis the other day. What's far more disturbing is the reaction this is getting from the war supporters around Blogistan and what it says about the path our society is taking. First the quotes.
"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. . . . It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling... You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Now, the Marines have already reprimanded him for this. (See the linked article above.) Also, I don't like to be quick to judge hasty statements from men in combat. Particularly in the Marines you will find, by force of circumstances, and exaggerated amount of bravado and bluster which is really required to keep the mental edge needed in combat. People will say and do things in a battle situation that would probably never occur to them back home.

Also, I would say that this is hardly representative of our fighting forces by and large. We've seen numerous interviews with soldiers who have talked about how awful it is to have to take human life, but they do it because it's "for the right cause." Furthermore, we're already seeing soldiers coming home from the war traumatized by the taking of human life and seeking medical help for it or, even worse, wandering the streets with mental problems.

What is truly frightening is when regular civilians from all sectors of life start embracing these types of ideas simply to make sure they look "patriotic" and are in full support of Bush's war agenda. The right side, war hawk bloggers were largely silent on this story, as I expected, but there were a couple of disturbing exceptions. (File this under the "Why you need to be reading right wing blogs" folder.) The first one I found was from Betsy Newmark. She first trivializes any criticism of this incident by calling it a "brouhaha" and then offers these alarming thoughts.
I think the great, great majority of the American people are going Yee-haw! That's what we like in our fighting men. And these people we're fighting are evil. In Iraq they send a Down's Syndrome child to kill people trying to vote. If the Marines bring themselves to the point that they enjoy killing such vermin, I don't mind at all and I bet most people don't mind. It's nice to know that there ares [sic] some military out there who aren't overcome by political correctness.

I think it's the same attitude that the great majority of people have towards the supposed torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That's why the American people aren't going to get whipped up about some memo that Albert Gonzales wrote concerning torture.
"Yee-haw"
"killing such vermin"

"supposed torture"


Now keep in mind, these are published words coming from a woman who is a school teacher. That's right. A lady who is responsible for educating the next generation of young minds is yelling "Yeehaw" over the phrase "It's fun to shoot some people." And to boot, she's convinced herself that the "great great majority" of Americans feel that way too. Her tacit endorsement of torture, doubtless justified on the basis that all of those turban wearing people are "islamofascists" (the new GOP buzzword for brown skinned people who don't love Jesus) is also something she seems to believe the whole nation endorses.

Another example was found with the kids from the Corner.

Now with all the usual caveats aside, I just think it's great that we've got military leaders who want to kill the right people. That's what we have military's for. Or at least it's one of the reasons. That doesn't mean he shouldn't play by the right rules and keep political and strategic objectives in mind. But by all accounts he did that. And at the end of the day we have a military to kill the bad guys.

Besides if you want to see what a real bloodthirsty speech by an American general is like I refer you -- once again -- to Patton's humdinger. [Note: Much profanity]

(* More on Patton below)

If this doesn't frighten the living hell out of you, it should. In their rush to support anything that the Bush administration does, and anything that happens in Iraq, the war hawks are slowly devolving and desensitizing themselves to the point that we'll eventually become the same as the people we are supposedly fighting to stop.

Killing happens in war. It's particularly tragic when it happens in an ill conceived and effectively illegal war like this. But it does happen. That is never, ever a cause for celebration or whooping it up, though. This is what the "value voters" are serving up these days, folks. Welcome to Bush 43 part 2. And God bless America, eh?

UPDATE: Check out more devolution with Young Republicans at Jesuit University with their "adopt a sniper" program. (Hat tip to Demagogue)

* A few thoughts on Patton.

The Corner Kids make a very inopportune and inappropriate choice to try to invoke General George S. Patton in drawing comparisons to this situation. My dad fought with Patton's 3rd army all the way across Europe, and he was proud of that until the day he died. Patton was one of his heroes, and he imparted that into me. I've always admired Patton, and researched him quite a bit.

Patton was known as "Old Blood and Guts" and he certainly tried to live up to that reputation. It was hyped beyond all belief in the media, and a number of quotes were attributed to him which were either never said, misquoted, or taken out of context. He was a coarse man with no hesitation about killing the enemy when sent into battle, of course. Somewhat famously, Gen. Omar Bradley was quoted as once saying to him, "That's the difference between you and me, George. I do this job because it's my duty. You do it because you love it."

In some of his private letters home, published posthumously, Patton explained that conversation and provided the correct quotes in his response. Effectively, he admitted that he did love battle, but from a philosophical sense. He loved victory. He loved winning the fight against the enemy. He loved coming up with better strategy and training his troops better to achieve the goals set for him by the nation. He did not, however, take any pleasure in the actual killing of other human beings, and often referred to lopsided victories as, "... a God damned waste of fine infantry." (Speaking of the enemy dead.)

This should not be confused with the recent statements referenced in this article.

The other pet blog

posted by Mu at 2/04/2005 09:58:00 AM

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Since it's Friday I have to try to get my cat into here too. Zulu in her best stalking mode:


In a victory for the Insane

posted by Mu at 2/04/2005 09:36:00 AM

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the "Crazy for you Bear", complete with straight jacket and commitment letter, is no longer available. Due to the immense lobbying of national mental health advocates it has been taken off the market, strike that, it actually has sold out. But in a truely insane fashion, you can now buy it on ebay, of upward of $300. Now that's crazy.

Rummy on the Run

posted by Jazz at 2/04/2005 08:56:00 AM

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While obviously nothing productive will come of it, it's still amusing to see that Donald Rumsfeld is skipping an important conference in Germany because there are charges of war crimes pending against him there.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday he may skip a trip to a security conference in Germany next week because of a lawsuit there accusing him of war crimes.

"It's something that we have to take into consideration," he said when asked whether the suit was a factor in weighing whether to attend the Munich Conference on Security Policy, an annual gathering of government defense officials and lawmakers, where an address by the U.S. defense secretary is typically a highlight.

Attorneys from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a suit with German prosecutors last November charging that U.S. officials, including Rumsfeld, are responsible for acts of torture against detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Rumsfeld also skipped the conference in 2002, sending his top deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, instead.

It's really Bush and, probably, Condi Rice who should be up on charges, but you take what you can get.

TalkLeft provides links to a lot of the background information on this case, and adds an important update.
In recent days, the Center added Alberto Gonzales as a defendant to the suit. According to this letter (pdf).
Professor Bainbridge (R - Mars) has a brief comment on this which I simply can't decipher. Can anyone translate this into an Earth based language for us?
I know what I'm about to say is incredibly silly and immature, but the my [sic] inner provocateur can't help thinking it would be remarkably droll if Rumsfeld got dragged before the ICC and the President ended up sending the 82nd Airborne to the Hague to break him out.
How could such a scenario possibly be considered droll? Delightful or outrageous (depending which side of the aisle you park your duff on) I could see... but droll? Granted, a literal reading of "droll" can mean humorous, though in a light, whimsical fashion. The general usage leans more towards "tedious" though. I would think the invasion of yet another nation to rescue the SecDef from his cell where he sits accused of war crimes would be a bit more provocative than that.

Some Friday Cat Shooting

posted by Jazz at 2/04/2005 06:15:00 AM

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No... not with a gun, silly. It's time for Friday cat blogging. But first, the big reminders: Stop by The Modulator for the regular Friday Ark and...

(drumroll please)

... this week's Carnival of the Cats will be held..... HERE! That's right. Running Scared hosts this weeks' CotC, so get your picture links in by e-mail either to Lawrence at IFOC, or straight to me here. Have them in by some time Sunday morning please, as I will be working on this week's carnival before and during the Superbowl, so it may get hectic. The carnival should be up on Sunday evening by 6 pm latest.

And now... on with the cat.

Colin sticks out his tongue and pretends to play dead on the morning he's supposed to get his medication.



you can kill a flock of sheep with witchcraft,........

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/04/2005 01:40:00 AM

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.......provided you also feed them arsenic.
As we might anticipate, Paul Krugman does the best job of explaining Bush's plan to "save" Social Security. I will start with his final paragraph:
Do you believe that we should replace America's most successful government program with a system in which workers engage in speculation that no financial adviser would recommend? Do you believe that we should do this even though it will do nothing to improve the program's finances? If so, George Bush has a deal for you.
So, what is the plan? Krugman explains that "the plan" amounts to the government loaning you money at 3 percent. If your government selected "safe" portfolio does better than 3 percent you will be better off, if not you lose. It's like going to the horse races and letting someone you don't know chose which horses you should bet on. Here is how it works:
"In return for the opportunity to get the benefits from the personal account, the person forgoes a certain amount of benefits from the traditional system. Now, the way that election is structured, the person comes out ahead if their personal account exceeds a 3 percent rate of return" - after inflation - "which is the rate of return that the trust fund bonds receive. So, basically, the net effect on an individual's benefits would be zero if his personal account earned a 3 percent rate of return."

Translation: If you put part of your payroll taxes into a personal account, your future benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount you would have had to repay if you had borrowed the money at a real interest rate of 3 percent.
[....]
The only way to get ahead would be to invest in risky assets like stocks, and hope for higher yields. But if the investment went wrong and you earned less than 3 percent after inflation, your benefit cuts would leave you poorer than if you had never opened that private account.

So people are expected to take a loan from the government and use it to buy stocks, and if that turns out to have been a mistake - well, too bad.

So that great financial advisor George W. Bush is telling you to do exactly what investment advisors would tell you not to do.
Experts usually tell people to plan for their retirement by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds. They disapprove strongly of speculation on margin: borrowing to buy stocks. Yet Mr. Bush wants tens of millions of Americans to do exactly that.
OK, but it's going to "fix" Social Security you say. Well not exactly.
Here's the senior official again: "In a long-term sense, the personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of Social Security." The government would have to borrow huge sums up front to create the personal accounts - $4.5 trillion in the first two decades - but it would supposedly make up for all that borrowing with offsetting cuts in account holders' benefits many decades later.

Color me skeptical: will retirees with private accounts that performed badly really be forced to repay their loans in full? Even if they are, private accounts will at best have a "net neutral effect" - that is, they will do nothing to improve Social Security's finances. Mr. Bush says the system faces a crisis; what does he propose to do about it?
His "plan" will do nothing and in fact will only make it worse. That can only mean there are going to be some future benefit cuts he kind of left out of the speech. Remember WMD? Remember Saddam's ties to al Queda? That's where the title of the post comes in.
...his plan will also involve major benefit cuts over and above those associated with private accounts. And it's true that you can improve Social Security's finances with privatization, as long as you also slash benefits - just as you can kill a flock of sheep with witchcraft, provided you also feed them arsenic. (Thanks, M. Voltaire.)
I don't know about you but I wouldn't want George W. Bush as my investment advisor and I wouldn't take any of his friends to the horse races.

Index of Social Security Posts

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Lies about Iraq, The List

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/03/2005 06:42:00 PM

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Via our conservative friends at LewRockwell.com comes this from Eliot Weinberger, What I Heard about Iraq. He has a list of what Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and the CIA were saying about Iraq before 9-11. A few hours after the 9-11 attack Rumsfeld said:
On 11 September 2001, six hours after the attacks, I heard that Donald Rumsfeld said that it might be an opportunity to ‘hit’ Iraq. I heard that he said: ‘Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.’
He then lists the litany of lies following 9-11. Nothing new but all the lies in one place. Give it a look.

Cross posted at Middle Earth Journal.

A Modest Proposal

posted by Mike at 2/03/2005 01:36:00 PM

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I would like to make a suggestion that I feel would be apropos regardless of who is in the White House.

Let's rename the State of the Union address to something that's a little more truth-in-advertising:

Ladies and gentlemen, you didn't just learn about the State of the Union last night ... you had a first-row seat for the 2005 Presidential Commercial (Extended Edition)™.

Other bloggers — both here and elsewhere — have made far more astute analysis of Dubya's blabbering prattle than I could, especially since I find myself repulsed every time I hear the man speak and usually can't force myself to watch him espouse American neocon fascism.

I was encouraged, though, to see (well, rather, read) the Democrats' response, as it seemed to begin to do some rudimentary framing, instead of going the nay-saying course:

It's time that America's government lived up to the same values as America's families. It's time we invested in America's future and made sure our people have the skills to compete and thrive in a 21st century economy. That's what Democrats believe, and that's where we stand, and that's what we'll fight for.


And later on:

Good, new jobs, world-class education, affordable health care -- these things matter.


Reid went on to do a KILLER bit of framing:

Too many of the president's economic policies have left Americans and American companies struggling. And after we worked so hard to eliminate the deficit, his policies have added trillions to the debt -- in effect, a "birth tax" of $36,000 on every child that is born.


"Birth tax." The Democrats have to just RAM that sucker down the American people's throats. That's a GREAT piece of framing.

Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 2/03/2005 11:49:00 AM

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Brought to you, once again, by the inimitable James Wolcott. But it's not his quote this time.

"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of the war."

- Donald Rumsfeld

And no... I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Science!

posted by The One True Tami at 2/03/2005 11:38:00 AM

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OK, it's not so political, but in this world where people forget that the theory of evolution actually means that there's facts to back it up, it's nice to see something all science-like and fact-y.

Scientists Find Missing Matter has all the science talk I could want. I thrilled to their talk of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory! I giggled at the thought that "baryon" is a real word! And when they talk about "dark matter", they're not implying that it's anything that has to be solved with any kind of freedom march.

Yes, the big words like "extrapolation" are a soothing balm to my soul.

A Sotus Take

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/03/2005 11:15:00 AM

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Go check out Shakespeare's Sister's take on the SOTUS and the lame Democratic response. Here is a tickler:
How can a speech riddled with references to freedom and equality contain a call for a federal marriage amendment denying rights to a sizable portion of the American public? Or a demand to make tax cuts favoring the wealthiest permanent? Or a recommitment to funding faith-based initiatives over those which, in a country where freedom to practice or not practice religion as one sees fit, do good works in the name of humanity instead of God? Unmitigated horseshit.
Go check out the rest.

Go Waiter Go

posted by Jazz at 2/03/2005 10:46:00 AM

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I just wanted to send out a big congratulations and a hearty "well done" to one of my new favorite (non-political) bloggers, waiter from Waiter Rant. This week, as detailed in this post, waiter and his blog were featured in a special arts section article in the New York Times.

Waiter provides consistent, high quality rants written with an excellent mastery of the language. This type of acclaim is well deserved, as the author is one of the better ones writing today. Good job there, waiter. Keep the rants coming.

Saddam DEAD

posted by Mu at 2/03/2005 10:36:00 AM

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This is what an email currently circulation is saying, with pictures to proove it.

Career as a blogger

posted by Mu at 2/03/2005 08:55:00 AM

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Well Jazz, I'd take down the ACB picture or you never get that White House pass. And you won't be able to join the journalistic olymp and be a permanant guest at Bush's "meet the press to say nothing events". So that probably pays well.

UN Oil Scandals... ooops

posted by Jazz at 2/03/2005 08:54:00 AM

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If you read any of the Bushie blogs even casually, you have seen countless posts crowing about the UN Oil for Food scandal. The reason for this, as we've covered before, is quite simple. The United Nations is a painful reminder for all of the war hawks that the primarily European members of the security council were right about Iraq and we were wrong. It's a terribly embarrassing thing for them to live with, so they take any opportunity to attack France, Germany, etc. and the UN in general whenever they can. The Oil for Food scandal is their favorite target of opportunity.

That's why it's going to come as some bad news for them when they read this.

Documents: US condoned Iraq oil smuggling

These documents describe illicit oil smuggling as an "open secret" in both the UN and the United States administration.
Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors.

The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.

The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime.

And finally we see an MSM outlet putting the Oil for Food scandal in perspective.

Estimates of how much revenue Iraq earned from these tolerated side sales of its oil to Jordan and Turkey, as well as to Syria and Egypt, range from $5.7 billion to $13.6 billion.

This illicit revenue far exceeds the estimates of what Saddam pocketed through illegal surcharges on his U.N.-approved oil exports and illegal kickbacks on subsequent Iraqi purchases of food, medicine, and supplies -- $1.7 billion to $4.4 billion -- during the maligned seven-year U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

If you want more information on this, here's a good resource. Were there problems with the Oil for Food Program? Certainly. It was a situation where large amounts of money were changing hands and there were human beings involved. That recipe will always produce some people looking to line their pockets, and they should certainly be investigated and charged. However, the blind illusion that Washington somehow had "clean hands" in this mess has been completely blown away.

I'm sure that all of the right wing blogs will be all over this story, since they love talking about this scandal so much. Let's take a tour of the right fringe of the blogosphere and check in on their righteous indignation over this mess.

Betsy Newmark: *silence*
Powerline: *sounds of crickets chirping*
Captain's Quarters: *seems to have missed this breaking story*

Ah, here's one! Michelle Malkin is talking about the Oil for Food scandal. Oh... wait. She's not mentioning this news at all and is just rehashing older news about UN involvement. Then again, maybe she doesn't read much besides the Washington Times and the New York Post.

Social Security Piratization

posted by Jazz at 2/03/2005 06:50:00 AM

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You gotta love Atrios. Even amidst all of the revolting facts concerning the attack on Social Security, he can still make me smile with a term like "piratization." Too perfect.

On to the meat of the deal. The key piece of smoke and mirrors involved here is Dubya's charming new buzz phrase, "Benefits Offset." That's fancy politispeak for "You pay in... we keep."

Here is Atrios, explaining the low down on the Benefits Offset. Listen up... this is important and will affect you directly.
That's the phrase of the day, the week, the month folks. It means that your private account isn't so private and your personal account isn't so personal. Money you put in your private accounts -- quite possibly the vast majority of that money -- will simply be taken away from your social security benefit. It appears that the WaPo people actually picked up on this:

Even more curiously, a "senior administration official" who briefed reporters on the Social Security proposal earlier today disclosed details of the White House plan that I don't think will play well in Peoria. Most significantly, this official revealed that most or all of the earnings from new "personal" or privatized accounts will be paid not to the holder of the account, but to the government. The senior official called this a "benefit offset." It's one way to finance the creation of these private accounts, but it's going to cause quite a political stir, I think.


A lot or even most of the money in your private account is just going to deducted from your benefits. Zero sum game.

A lot or even most of the money in your private account is not going to be able to be left as an inheritance -- you'll be required to buy an annuity upon retirement, and if you die one day later the money will be all gone.
There's your "personal account" for you. It's an account all right, but it's far from being yours. The bottom line is that you get the privilege of dumping your payroll tax dollars into an investment account that makes money for Wall Street, and any possible profits realized on that "investment" are primarily channeled back into the system... not into some "personal" account which you own. And even if your account does show some huge profit, should you die shortly after retiring, the money is gone into the black hole of Washington.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Those Iraqi elections may have been a victory after all

posted by Jazz at 2/02/2005 01:16:00 PM

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Juan Cole explains:
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim claimed victory in the Sunday elections for the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of religious Shiite parties he leads. And this is what the winners, if they are winners, think of the US:

' "No one welcomes the foreign troops in Iraq. We believe in the ability of Iraqis to run their own issues, including the security issue," Mr Hakim said. "Of course this issue could be brought up by the new government."
The idea that the revolutionary Shiite al-Dawa Party... would welcome a permanent US military presence in Iraq was always a chimera. Most Shiites who voted on Sunday thought they were voting for an end to US hegemony in their country. This is why it is so bizarre that the US Right is interpreting the elections as a victory for the Bush administration.
I think it's far too soon to get our hopes up. With US appointed puppets of the occupation running the election and (*gulp*) "counting the votes", I'm not hopeful of a sterling clean result. We've seen multiple reports of people turning in blank ballots thinking they had to do so to get their food rations next month. Other reports indicated a high level of illiteracy among the voters, with many of them not even knowing for sure what was being recorded on their ballots. We may still see the US backed ticket come up with a "surprise" win. (Will they claim that the exit polls were flawed in Iraq too?) And in any event, it's going to take a long time before those ballots are all counted, so declaring victory for anyone after three days seems a bit premature.

But if Cole is right, and he often is, this could lead to a rapid move by the Iraqis to send our asses home. Yes, I know that such a result would give Dubya the perfect out by laying the blame for whatever comes after on the new Iraq government, saying that we were only following their orders. But at this point, I no longer care. I want a solution that gets our troops out of the terrorist shooting gallery created by George W. Bush, and I no longer even care how that is accomplished.

Speech or Press? Cake or Death?

posted by Jazz at 2/02/2005 11:39:00 AM

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Some interesting questions are being raised in the Christian Science Monitor today. They are looking at the current case of Apple Computer suing a 19 year old blogger who released insider company information on his web site. They are demanding to know where he got the product information (which had not been released to the public) and the courts will have to answer the question of whether or not the confidentiality of the blogger's "sources" is protected as it is for conventional journalists.
Are [bloggers] journalists with an obligation to check facts, run corrections, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are they ordinary opinion-slingers, like barbers or bartenders, with no special responsibilities - or rights?
So... is blogging a part of "the press" or is it individual speech? The bill of rights certainly drew a distinction between the two, calling out separately that congress shall make no law abridging "the freedom of speech or of the press." Then again, even giving full credit to the incredible foresight of the founders, there was no way they could have seen blogs coming.

The New York Times runs a web site for their paper, and it often includes "web exclusives" which do not appear in the hard copy version. This case begs the question, if the content isn't printed on paper, but only in their online version, is that material part of "the press" and protected by the same shield laws? Or is it suddenly just "speech" which seems to receive a lower level of protection in the courts?

The article gives an interesting example without directly answering the question.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to whether bloggers act like traditional journalists, says University of Iowa law professor and First Amendment specialist Randall Bezanson. Simply expressing opinions to a tiny audience doesn't count, he says. If so, "then I'm a journalist when I write a letter to my mother reporting on what I'm doing. I don't think the [constitutional] free-press clause was intended to extend its protections to letters to mothers from sons."

Probably not. But what if Mom fact-checks and posts the letter on her blog for thousands of people to read? Is she a journalist then? Courts may make the final call.

My initial reaction to this question when it first arose was to say that bloggers are most certainly not journalists, any more than you are a journalist if you write a letter to the editor which is then printed in your local paper. You are certainly an author, but not a journalist, per se. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see the flaw in that line of reasoning. When you send a letter to the editor (or to your mother, as in the case above) you really aren't the one doing the publishing. You are creating content, yes - but you're not publishing it for public consumption.

Bloggers also create content, easily passing the test of being an "author" for this scenario. But they then go on to do the follow-up step of actually publishing the content in a forum making the information available for wide public consumption. The reason the term "letter to the editor" is important here is because the author is not writing a letter to the public. They are writing to the editor (who is the publisher) in the hopes that they will go on to publish the letter in their newspaper. In this sense, it seems that bloggers do, in fact, pass the basic test of qualifying as "the press" as addressed in this court case.

So congratulations, bloggers. Until such time as the court system declares that I've got my head up my ass on this one, you're all members of the fourth estate. Enjoy it while you can.

Since this is going to be strictly a question of opinion until the courts make the call, I thought I'd check in and see what some other bloggers thought about it.

Representative Hugh Hewitt (R - Saturn) somehow manages to ignore the question entirely and launches into an attack on ... Eason Jordan? How that leap was made shall remain a mystery.

Oooo... Pajama Hadin has a lot of really good background information on this and concludes that bloggers probably are journalists for the purposes of this question.

The Command Post seems to feel that bloggers are most certainly not true journalists in the conventional sense of the word, but that we must be included "in the protection soup" because there's no good way to draw legal distinctions between the two.

Power Line chooses not to comment (since the article includes the apparently court mandated fete to Hind Rocket which must appear in any MSM article on blogging) but does provide trackback links to others talking about this question.

Repealing the New Deal

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/02/2005 10:13:00 AM

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As most realize the goal of Bush's Social Security "reform" is to destroy it. Harold Meyerson points out in the Washington Post today we won't hear that tonight, we will only hear more of the nonsense that it's going broke.
Tonight the president of the United States will come before Congress and call for the repeal of the New Deal.

Not frontally, of course. Indeed, George W. Bush has taken to invoking Franklin D. Roosevelt as a fellow experimenter-in-arms. That's true as far as it goes, but the goal of Bush's experiment is to negate Roosevelt's
.
And this attack is nothing new and infact is as old as Social Security itself.
The roots of Bush's speech tonight go back almost as far as the New Deal itself. Social Security was enacted in 1935, and in 1936 Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon questioned its solvency.

Since Landon (who carried two states against Roosevelt's 46), right-wing attacks on Social Security have proceeded along two lines: those that doubted its solvency and those that disparaged its ideology
.
Bush is on the wrong side of the ideological argument against Social Security and he knows it. He will once again try to convince the people of the US that it is bankrupt.
And so we will hear tonight that Social Security may be doing fine today, but it will be a toothless geezer of a program by the time today's young people hit 65. There will be so many retirees living so long that only by redirecting young people's money out of the program and into the market will we preserve the solvency of the old.

All this is nonsense, of course. According to the system's actuaries, if we do nothing at all, the system will remain in the black, paying out full benefits, straight through 2042. Beyond then, its liabilities will amount to just a fraction of 1 percent of the national income. The program, like all programs, could use some modest fixes over time, and by such measures as raising revenue through a hike on the employer's payroll tax (by eliminating the cap on taxable employee income), it can be fixed.

But Bush is not seeking to strengthen a strong system; he's seeking to dismantle it. The private (or "personal," in poll-tested Bushese) accounts we'll hear so much about tonight provide the pretext for slashing benefits to future retirees by as much as 40 percent. As with that village in Vietnam, it's become necessary to destroy Social Security in order to save it.
Keep in mind what you hear from Bush tonight on Social Security is a lie. He can't sell his plan to destroy it based on ideology so he will lie about it's solvency. I think we have learned by now that the "morale values" of George W. Bush don't include telling the truth.
Tonight, we'll hear that a great system is in trouble. It is, but only because the people who run the government wish it ill.


Index of Social Security Posts

Help Out the General

posted by Jazz at 2/02/2005 08:39:00 AM

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If you enjoy Jesus' General and happen to be fat with cash, he needs some help. He's running a blog telethon to buy a new computer. Interesting concept.

Artists on Ice

posted by Jazz at 2/02/2005 08:03:00 AM

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A friend of ours competed in an international snow sculpture festival and forwarded a few pictures. I wanted to share them here because they are simply stunning. Enjoy.









Educational Segment Deux

posted by georg at 2/02/2005 07:05:00 AM

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The rest of the World.

I apologize for the inherent bias in posting the link to USA first, and then a world map version. However, that is the order in which I found them.

Unfortunately, this test doesn't work quite the same way, and it's a bit tougher.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Held Accountable

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 03:32:00 PM

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In a bit of a pre-emptive launch prior to the State of the Union address tomorrow, Nancy Pelosi decided to step forward and try to put some pressure on The Worst President Ever™ today.

"What the president says, the president will be held accountable for."

Oh really? Is that so? So you're going to hold him accountable now, are you?

Excuse me for spewing a bit of vitriol at the Democrats for a moment here, but I have to take issue with this. Now you're going to hold him accountable? When exactly are we going to be seeing BushCo held "accountable" for the MIA WMD's? For the mushroom cloud on the horizon? For the lack of any substantive connection between Saddam and bin Laden and 9/11? For more than 1,400 American dead who were lost proving those claims false and God only knows how many more "spreading freedom" across those desert sands? Is that on the back burner? Somewhere further down the agenda?

I know there are some of you saying, "But Jazz... there's nothing they can do! They are the minority... the GOP is calling all the shots." Excuse me, but... boo fucking hoo. This tyrant "won" the last election by a smaller margin than any incumbent in history. Truman beat Dewey by a bigger share. We lost that election by putting up a man who essentially beat himself. If you'd nominated my dog Kenya she'd probably have taken Ohio and Florida against this walking, misunderestimated disaster of a "president."

And it wasn't just the presidential race. The message was garbled and lost on a pack of frightened red state sheep who bought into Karl Rove's visions of darkness and Armageddon. Even giving Bush four more years, he could have been brought in check if the GOP had been forced to surrender the Senate. Hell, for that matter, just getting up to a tie would have done it since that would have given some cojones to Snowe, Chaffee, and some other moderate Republicans.

It's fine to say you're going to "hold Bush accountable" now that the lion has no teeth left. I hate myself for casting stones on a situation where I have no solution to offer, but it seems that the horse has already left the barn on this one. The Democrats certainly need to be a true "opposition" party as a minority, but somebody smarter than me needs to come up with a better action plan than rhetoric. This maniac is going to invade Iran by this summer the way things are going. If we don't want to wind up fighting a war against the entire world (except possibly Bush's lap dog in England) a better plan is required.

Linkapalooza

posted by Mike at 2/01/2005 01:56:00 PM

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My brain is just not set on "insightful analysis" these last two days. (Guy in the Peanut Gallery calls out, "Was it ever?" Ba dum dum.) Anyway, these are a couple of links I had been meaning to write more about, but I don't think it's going to happen, so I'll just post them up here for your interest and edification. Enjoy ...

From the L.A. Times, via Kos: "Some senior Democratic operatives say unease about a Dean chairmanship is widespread among congressional leaders and many governors. But almost none of those grumbling privately have expressed their concerns publicly -- in part, some believe, because they fear crossing the ardent grass-roots, Internet-activist community still backing Dean." As Kos points out, nice that they're finally fearing people, not special interests. I'm cautiously optimistic about Dean's chances on the 12th.

On the opposite side, this numbskull's enough to make you want to become a neocon. In it, he calls the WTC victims "little Eichmanns," and refers to the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that killed three thousand Americans. You can read his full essay here if you have the stomach.

Two startlingly racist moments in Johnny Carson's Tonight Show legacy were captured on film here. (Do I think he was racist? No, not really. But the sketches display remarkably poor taste, especially jarring given Carson's usually impeccable sensibilities.)

"Manna," a rather interesting science fiction short story/economic forecast (that does speak heavily to economic policy, so it's not really out in left field for this blog).

Angelina Jolie, with regards to celebrities advocating for charities: "Celebrities have a responsibility to know absolutely what they're talking about, and to be in it for the long run." Beautiful and not afraid to be politically incorrect: a wonderful double whammy.

New York Times, "Men Are Becoming the Ad Target of the Gender Sneer": "The 'man as a dope' imagery has gathered momentum over the last decade, and critics say that it has spiraled out of control. It is nearly impossible, they say, to watch commercials or read ads without seeing helpless, hapless men. In the campaigns, which the critics consider misandry (the opposite of misogyny), men act like buffoons, ogling cars and women; are likened to dogs, especially in beer and pizza ads; and bungle every possible household task."

Are you an urban dweller? Wonder what you'd do if the subway caught fire? Read this guy's firsthand account.

Roger Ebert condemns neocon movie critics (e.g., Michael Medved) who spoil the plot to further political agendas in their reviews — specifically in regards to "Million Dollar Baby." Warning: the essay contains a large plot spoiler for the movie, although Ebert (appropriately enough, given the subject of the article) warns you off if you've not seen it.

And, finally, a grammatical tidbit, just 'cause I feel like it: e.g. = exempli gratia = for example = useful if you're giving one example of something, when there's many available = "many vegetables (e.g., peas, carrots) taste gooky." i.e. = id est = in other words = think "synonym" = "the most corrupt President in our nation's history (i.e., George W. Bush) stays away from pretzels nowadays."

A Reminder on the "Crisis" Posts

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 01:45:00 PM

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I know from comments and e-mails that a number of you enjoy Ron's regular features on the mythical Social Security "crisis" which Bush is pushing. In the right hand column you will find a link to an index of (currently) more than three dozen posts specifically dealing with this issue. They include links to scores of articles and resources providing accurate information which will be useful in dealing with the neocon fear mongers who are trying to sell this sham to the nation.

If you need more information on this very important debate, be sure to browse Ron's index. If you don't find what you need there, drop him an e-mail and I'm positive he'll be glad to scrounge up what you need.

A man with an idea on Social Security

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 01:34:00 PM

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Many of you outside the Empire State may not have heard of him, but NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has something on his mind.
Eliot Spitzer blasted President Bush's proposed Social Security overhaul Monday, saying that an administration that hasn't protected investors has no business investing retirement funds in the stock market. "You have an administration that failed to protect investors -- and they say take the safety net we have and invest it in a system that was fundamentally broken," Spitzer said. "Where would we be if those who are retiring had invested their money in Enron and WorldCom?" he said, referring to companies that cost investors billions of dollars after inflating their worth to disguise business failures.
Just as a side note, Spitzer may be a man to watch in the future. He's already thrown his hat in the ring to run on the Dem ticket for NY Governor against Pataki in 2006, and he's made no secret of the fact that he thinks the chair in the Oval Office is just about the right size for his butt.

We may have had a few of the sane, "there is no crisis" crowd bring this up before, but I had yet to hear it so directly and succinctly. Wall street has turned into a quagmire which is the financial equivalent of Iraq. A few insiders still get massively rich, but pension planners and individual investors are often still to be found teetering on the edge of their building roofs, staring longingly at the pavement. Flushing the safety net for our workers into such an unpredictable rat hole is the height of folly.

The only crisis is the one created by Rove and Bush.


State of the Union Party!

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 01:05:00 PM

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Obviously, for such an historic event as a presidential state of the union speech, a party is called for. Unfortunately, I'll have a hard enough time keeping my breakfast down while reading a transcript of all that blathering. We're going to be at a pub playing darts and listening to the jukebox with a tape of an early Superbowl playing on the big screen. (A strictly "No Bush" zone.) What sort of party plans do you have?

You missed it

posted by Mu at 2/01/2005 09:52:00 AM

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Again, the blogspere missed the most important news of the day - Viagra now covered by Medicare. The 2006 elections are coming fast, need to stimulate your core voters.

Social Security And Fuzzy Math

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/01/2005 08:49:00 AM

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I think that most of us now by now that the intention of Bush's Social Security "reform" is to slay what they see as an evil dragon from the New Deal not save it. Paul Krugman checks their math today and finds it has some major flaws. He shows that if the economic assumptions they make for their estimated returns in stocks are true then Social Security will not go broke.
They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

And I suspect that at least some privatizers know that. Mr. Baker has devised a test he calls "no economist left behind": he challenges economists to make a projection of economic growth, dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years. Not one economist who supports privatization has been willing to take the test.
So like everything else that we hear from this administration the numbers on the return from "private" accounts and the date the Social Security System becomes insolvent are just bogus numbers with no basis in fact. Once again, kind of like the mythical WMD's.

Index of Social Security Posts


Our very own best commentator

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 08:41:00 AM

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Holy Moley! The Koufax awards have put up the second round voting for Best Commentor on left wing blogs, and our very own Bill, of Middle Earth Journal fame, is nominated! Come on, guys, stop over and give Bill some love. He's nominated under the name of "Bill in Portland, Maine."

I was still disappointed that I didn't see MEJ in the running for Best Blog and a few others, so this would be a nice way to make it up to him.


Ok. I got that mixed up with Bill in DC. (Sorry, Bill.) But hey, there's still a lot of good commentors there to pick from and vote.

(Teach me to blog before having coffee. Sheesh.)

As always, I suppose I can use this as a cheesy excuse to remind you that Running Scared is nominated for Best Group Blog, in case you haven't voted yet. (Blogwhores? Who? Us?)

Christie Deconstructed

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 07:45:00 AM

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Robert Semple Jr. takes Christie Todd Whitman to task today in the nyt. His complaint, quite the opposite of most of the neocon venom currently being spewed at her, is that she failed to name names and take a strong enough lash to the Republicans who stabbed her in the back and ruined her career. He also finds her guilty of being rather gullible when it came to the cloakroom and dagger politics of the Bush administration. Apparently, following her first meeting with Dubya, Karl Rove himself took her aside and told her that she was one of the three key people who would help ensure a second term for Bush. (All emphasis mine.)
... This she took to mean that "the work I would do in building a strong record on the environment would help the president build on his base by attracting moderate voters."

"As it turned out," she now concedes in her just-published political memoir, "It's My Party Too," "I don't seem to have understood Karl correctly."

In fact, she misunderstood him completely. Why she did so is one of the many puzzles in this interesting but often disingenuous and frustrating book. A cursory check would have revealed that Mr. Rove had no use for environmentalists and, indeed, had long believed that Mr. Bush's father lost the 1992 election partly because he was too squishy on environmental issues, offending the conservative base on which Mr. Rove pins his political strategy.

Had she fully understood that, as it now appears, Mr. Rove wanted her on board to help provide cover for the easing of important environmental laws, she might never have taken the job at all.

I don't think that these revelations, both from the book and from recent public appearances, come as a surprise to anyone. When she left the EPA citing a "desire to spend more time with her family at home" it was one of Washington's wide open secrets that Bush and Rove had driven her out for failing to toe the ideological line. Whitman, with her pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-environmental stance was nothing more than moderate window dressing to make the neocons look more palatable to the middle. What they didn't count on was that she was actually serious about her beliefs and didn't want to quietly stand by while Bush derailed most of the governmental safeguards that she held dear.

This article details some of the tactics she faced from Team Rove, ranging from misleading promises to flat out lies.
But take [the job] she did, leading to two and a half years of bureaucratic struggle against the lobbyists and ideologues Mr. Bush had installed in every other important environmental job, as well as a series of brutally embarrassing policy reversals that might have driven a less loyal person out of town much sooner. Of these, the most humiliating was the president's decision to reverse a campaign pledge to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, only weeks after Ms. Whitman, acting on good faith and with Condoleezza Rice's assurances, had promised America's European allies that the pledge would be honored. But there were other setbacks, and they must have stung.
After this, the author complains about Whitman's refusal to break the "11th commandment" as specified during the Reagan era - Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. While I think many opponents of the Bush Reich would have loved to see her launch a verbal ICBM at the administration, I don't see how any competent analyst could be surprised at how "coy" she was about pointing fingers. The woman worked her entire life for that party, flawed though it is.

On this score, she is in full cry, laying about her against the "fundamentalists," the "social conservatives" and the "ideological zealots" whose views on abortion, race and other big social issues she battled tirelessly as governor of New Jersey. This is a call to arms to the remaining moderates of the Eisenhower/Rockefeller school, and a timely reminder in this age of bitter ideological combat that there was once a Republican mainstream, before the mainstream flowed right.

Yet she is maddeningly coy about the reactionaries who determined the Bush administration's environmental policies and ultimately did her in. There is no doubt whatsoever that Vice President Dick Cheney's insistence on unilaterally dismantling the Clean Air Act to please the administration's industrial patrons torpedoed Ms. Whitman's dream of reforming that law in an orderly, bipartisan manner.

She said publicly last week that the weakening of the act had been the insult that finally persuaded her to resign. But in the book she refers only in the most general terms to the "antiregulation element of the base" and to officials who favored "the concerns of business" over the needs of the environment.

Christie Todd Whitman's departure from politics was very likely the death knell for any hopes of a rebirth of moderate, reasonable policies in the GOP, at least for the foreseeable future. I'm just glad that I got out when I did. I believe that you will see other moderates, such as Olympia Snowe, up on the chopping block as soon as Bush's team feels that the neoconservative core is large enough to maintain a majority stranglehold on the government without compromise. The rumors of an in-party attack on Arlen Spectre in his next primary are, I think, just a dark shadow of even darker days to come.

Educational segment

posted by georg at 2/01/2005 07:20:00 AM

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How well do you know where to place your states?

I was off by an average of 13 miles, because I got Oklahoma off by 91 miles and missed Missippi's shoreline.

Quote of the day

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 06:59:00 AM

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This time, your QotD comes from an unusual source. (At least for this blog.) A National Review author comments on Larry Summers' apologies for his remarks concerning women.

"Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers recently issued his third apology for remarks suggesting that women might not possess the same aptitude in math and science as men. So, if the academic women of America are anything like my wife, another three or four apologies and he should be good to go."

- Warren Bell

This is primarily funny because he's making fun of Larry Summers and his seemingly stereotypical remarks about women by... making a stereotypical remark about women?

Monday, January 31, 2005

More Gitmo Legal Problems

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 04:11:00 PM

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It seems that, try as they might, BushCo isn't able to get the entire judiciary to agree that prisoners held in the Black Hole of Gitmo™ are sub-humans with no rights accorded to "regular folks."

US Judge: Guantanamo Tribunals Unconstitutional
A U.S. judge ruled on Monday that the Guantanamo military tribunals for terrorism suspects are unconstitutional.

In a setback for the Bush administration, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green also ruled the prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have constitutional protections under the law.

"The court concludes that the petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process of law," Green wrote.

Imagine that. These people might actually be .... (*gasp*) people! I wonder if they are of the same sub-genus as the British citizens held there for years, then recently shipped back to England where they were released without charges being filed?

Fortunately for Dear Leader, he's gotten higher level judges, as well as the Supremes, to back him up in saying that they are just animals.

From around Blogistan:

Representative Stephen Bainbridge (R - Saturn) took the usual tactic. If a member of the judiciary says something that goes against Bush ideology, you call them "activist judges" and dismiss them as "over reaching" and call for the judge's impeachment. That should shut those no-good constitution reading beeyatches up! Just imagine the nerve... trying to give the same basic rights as full humans to funny looking people in turbans!

Mathew Gross just says, "Kids these days!"

Andrew Cochran is pretty sure that BushCo will appeal this to their friends in higher places.


Neil Gaiman has a blog

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 03:27:00 PM

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One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, has a blog. (Found via Making Light.) If you haven't read Neil, you definitely should. The titles I would recommend are too long of a list for here, but if you must pick one, I'd start with American Gods. It's a huge book I devoured in two sittings. An absolute page turner. He's a multimedia sort of person and is currently tied up at Sundance.

HAL uses Google

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/31/2005 01:46:00 PM

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What made the HAL 9000 computer in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey so smart? Maybe it was Google.
Google's search for meaning
Computers can learn the meaning of words simply by plugging into Google. The finding could bring forward the day that true artificial intelligence is developed.

Trying to get a computer to work out what words mean - distinguish between "rider" and "horse" say, and work out how they relate to each other - is a long-standing problem in artificial intelligence research.

One of the difficulties has been working out how to represent knowledge in ways that allow computers to use it. But suddenly that is not a problem any more, thanks to the massive body of text that is available, ready indexed, on search engines like Google (which has more than 8 billion pages indexed).

The meaning of a word can usually be gleaned from the words used around it. Take the word "rider". Its meaning can be deduced from the fact that it is often found close to words like "horse" and "saddle". Rival attempts to deduce meaning by relating hundreds of thousands of words to each other require the creation of vast, elaborate databases that are taking an enormous amount of work to construct.
I wonder if Yahoo search works too.



Awful Plastic Surgery

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 01:38:00 PM

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Your one stop resource to see which people have fake bodies. (Warning: There's some disturbing stuff there.)

Spam of the day

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 01:12:00 PM

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"Crocodile: New Antidote Found."

I'm guessing... stay out of the swamp?

Oook.... no, ... Eeek!

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 11:45:00 AM

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Any regular readers of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are familiar with "The Librarian." He's a guy who is the head librarian at the magical university's library, but was at some point turned into an orangutan in an unfortunate accident. Almost all of the time, when anyone asks him anything, all he ever says is, "oook." (People who work there, though, can somehow miraculously understand him.) The only exception is when he hears something seriously alarming, in which case, instead of "oook" he says, "Eeek!"

This one from Waveflux is a definite "Eeek!"


U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote:
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

Read the rest.

Make the Daily Show one hour long

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 11:38:00 AM

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Sign the petition here.

Of course, they may expect us to pay the doubled production costs, but this show is one of their consistent ratings grabbers that rivals network news. They surely must get some of their best advertising revenue out of it. Would it kill them to make it an hour long?

Double the Jon Stewart. Double the Lewis Black. Double the everything. mmmmm.

Interview with a Vampire

posted by Mu at 1/31/2005 10:42:00 AM

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The Register has an interesting interview with a new type of spammer. He doesn't spam email, he spams links. And he does it in our favorite place, blogworld, to raise the google ranking of PPC (Pill, Porn, Casino) websites. No idea what to do against this phenomenon, other than manually editing all suspicious comments.

Good News from Darfur

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 10:02:00 AM

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Courtesy of Demagogue. The atrocities in Darfur, as it turns out, were not acts of genocide. They were "crimes against humanity with an ethnic dimension."

What the hell does that even mean?

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 09:51:00 AM

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Some stories are obviously just so very, very wrong. But I feel strangely compelled to post them anyway. (Hat Tip to Dave Barry.)

Man peed way out of avalanche

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out.

But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through.

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."



The Iraqi Elections....My 2 bits worth

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/31/2005 09:34:00 AM

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Bull Moosetells us we should have a "Rational Exuberance" over yesterdays Iraqi elections. I don't have enough information yet. I've learned over the past four years that I can't rely on any information I receive from the Bush administration or the US media, it's all propaganda. As James Wolcott reported yesterday FOX news let this slip out the day before the election.
Yesterday on one of the Fox financial shows, James Rogers, author of Investment Biker, commodities guru, and neighbor-down-the-block (an utterly irrelevant detail I thought I'd toss in to make this blog sound more "personal"), was asked by host Neil Cavuto whether the elections in Iraq would be successful. Rogers said, "They'll be successful because the media will say they're successful," adding impishly, "Fox News probably already has the results."
Juan Cole tells us
Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country.
Jazz thinks that they voted for food.

The initial turnout number was given as 72 percent and latter reduced to 60 percent but these were both numbers just picked out of the air. Of course the ever compliant American Pravda immediately reported them as if they were fact. Kind of like WMD's I guess.
Am I cynical because I want Bush to fail? No, I'm cynical because of my experiences with the Bush administration and the media over the last four years. I'm sorry Moose, it's a little early for me to be rationally exuberant, I remain rationally cynical.

Nachholbedarf

posted by Mu at 1/31/2005 08:53:00 AM

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Nachholbedarf is one of those unique German words that don't have a good translation. It describes the feeling to have to catch up with something, because you have missed it for a long time. Well, the Iraqis caught up on their need for elections, but it looks like some of them are making up in other areas too. Like the fact that for the last 30 years all the bribes went to the Saddam clan, and not to them. $8,000,000,000 out of 20 billion is quite a quote, even for that area of the world.

Reminder: Carnival of the Cats

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 08:39:00 AM

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As of last night, the new Carnival of the Cats is up at Watermark. But I wanted to remind you... save up your nicest cat pics this week. Running Scared will be hosting the next carnival, and we want to make a nice showing. :-)

About as wrong as you can be

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 07:51:00 AM

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The primary content of this post comes originally from John Podhoretz, but since I located it at Betsy Newmark's page, we'll give her credit as well. As Atrios said recently... if you link it, you own it. (Remembering of course that Podhoretz is at the "newspaper" known as the New York Post.) First we'll treat you to the blustering, sanctimonious fanfare.
There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication.

It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication of the guy that the Moores and Kennedys and millions of others still can't believe anybody voted for.
And Ms. Newmark has to insert some uncharacteristic venom of her own.
Read the rest. And snickering is allowed.
Exactly wrong. (See title of post.) And this is something that the historical revisionists on the right will never own up to seeing. (Since, if they were to do so, their house of cards falls to pieces.) This is about as far from being any type of "vindication" as you could possibly get. Consider the following scenario:

A man goes out to a bar and gets really drunk. He then hops in his car and, on the way home, fails to make a turn at a t- intersection. He plows into somebody's house, destroying the front porch and the living room, injuring half of the family in the process.

When he gets out of jail, he goes and nails up a big piece of plywood over the hole in their home and sends flowers to the family members in the hospital. If you can call this election a "vindication" you would doubtless think the plywood and flowers were an "astonishing victory." (Though very likely, "catastrophic success" would be more apt.)

When I hear this kind of blustering, I am forced, yet again, to go back and ask the blusterer of the moment the same old question. If you read this blog regularly you probably have it memorized by now, so feel free to sing along.

Imagine if, in early 2003, President George W. Bush had come before congress and said, "Look. It turns out that Iraq doesn't really have any WMD's, and he has no substantive ties to Osama bin Laden and he had nothing to do with 9/11. But he's a really bad man who terrorizes, murders and oppresses his own people. I would like your permission to launch an invasion of Iraq to overthrow his government, liberate the Iraqis, and establish a democracy there. What do you say?"

Now honestly ask yourself - how many members of our congress would have voted to authorize this war and the more than 1400 dead American soldiers we have buried? I think we all know that answer to that one. Answer that question for yourself and you will see how much of a "vindication" this is.

People wishing George W. Bush ill are not wishing the Iraqi people ill. They are hoping that the people of Iraq can survive George W. Bush's "help."

When Guns are Outlawed

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 07:22:00 AM

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... the outlaws will still have guns.
Bold thieves pried open the front door of a weapons store early Sunday morning and left with firearms worth at least $100,000.

Thieves used some kind of pry bar to break through a thick deadbolt lock at Ackley & Son Sporting Goods and stole between 100 and 200 handguns, plus civilian versions of the AK-47 and M-16 military-style assault weapons. The civilian version of the M-16 is known as the AR-15.
These could have been professional thieves who simply plan on selling the guns. But then again, that's enough weapons to start your own small army. These may wind up on the streets in the hands of gang members, drug dealers, etc. Or they could be sitting in a warehouse waiting for the next batch of terrorists who couldn't brink their AK-47's in with their carry on luggage.

In any event, I'd rather live in a place where a lot of the residents are also well armed. It won't always help, and I'll even admit that in some cases it might hurt. But armed bad guys will also think twice when they suspect the next victim has a 12 gage by the door.

Oil for Food to be replaced by Votes for Food

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 06:09:00 AM

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A rather scandalous bit. I've shamelessly crossposted it over at Middle Earth Journal. Apparently the word on the street in Baghdad (among other places) is that the temporary "government" in Iraq found a rather unique way to motivate a Get Out The Vote incentive. No vote? No food for you.

George Michael for President of Iraq

posted by Jazz at 1/31/2005 05:02:00 AM

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Interesting.

But as this blood-stained election shows, the complete breakdown of this plan has been one of the most colossal U.S. policy failures of the last half-century. Indeed, this is not an election that any democratic nation, or indeed any independent international electoral organization, would recognize as legitimate.

For the only time in memory, electoral candidates are afraid to be seen in public and are forced to campaign from underground cells, with many afraid to even link their names to their faces in the media. There are no public rallies where voters might glean some information about candidates' positions. As one voter told CNN, he would prefer to vote for George Michael, since he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates running for office.