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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Oh, If Only I Could Patent Stupidity
I wish I could document all of John Hindraker's idiocies from the Powerline blog, but I'd have to leave the Lost City and start a new blog (called, I don't know, "Stupidityline" or something) with a full-time staff in order to keep up. (Maybe the National Science Foundation will give me a grant, eh?)

Today Hindraker is jabbering about the latest Pew Research poll on religious attitudes in the United States. After cherry-picking some of the poll numbers to carry water for the administration (John's making a career of it, you gotta admit) Hindraker goes on to say:

...the Pew people put in some questions on peoples' attitudes toward evolution. One question asked: "Some people think that humans and other living things [have evolved over time]. Others think that humans and other living things [have existed in their present form since the beginning of time]. Which of these comes closest to your view?"

The idea, I suppose, is to make evolution skeptics sound dumb.

No, John, the idea is to sidestep the question of exactly where "the beginning of time" starts -- whether the respondent believes the earth is 4 billion years old, or only 6,000 years old. Kind of makes a difference, don't you think?

But I've never heard of anyone who believes that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

Really? You've never heard of anyone who believes that? That's the central tenet of creationism, you moron. I think it's safe to say that a majority of the readers of Powerline believe it. If it
"sounds dumb" that's your fault, not mine. Some people's positions sound dumb because they are dumb.

Nevertheless, 42% of respondents, evidently grasping the point the Pew folks were driving at, said that alternative came closer to their view.

Ah, so they believe it's closest to their views but they don't believe it. I see.
I see.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
It Takes A Devastating Hurricane....
....to get George W Bush to cut short his five-week vacation.

By two days.

President Bush will cut short his vacation to return to Washington on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, to help monitor federal efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday.

''We have got a lot of work to do,'' Bush said, referring to the damage wrought by the hurricane along Gulf Coast areas.

The president had been scheduled to return to the nation's capital on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Central Texas. But after receiving a briefing early Tuesday on the devastation Katrina unleashed, the president decided that he needed to be in Washington to personally oversee the federal effort, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He's going to 'oversee' the federal effort? I thought phones and faxes made such things redundant. After all, he doesn't seem to think it necessary to stay in Washington to "personally oversee" this war he started in Iraq, does he?

Monday, August 29, 2005
Thanks For Nothing, National Science Foundation
Here's a little science news I thought you'd find interesting.

Particle scientists, who spend much of their time immersed in a theoretical world so arcane that anyone else struggles to understand it, warned yesterday of a wall of death expanding across the universe at the speed of light, obliterating everything in its path until no matter - anywhere - is left.

Dr Benjamin Allanach, a research associate at Cern, the European particle laboratory, said that a chance fluctuation of the "vacuum universe" would disintegrate all atoms.

He said: "The universe is perched on a terrible precipice. It could catastrophically tunnel to a new state, disintegrating every atom."

Hmm, maybe you should think about using some of that vacation time, doc.

And if that does not wipe out all known life anywhere in the universe, Dr Allanach said so-called killer strangelets could "eat up the Earth from the inside out".

Should either of these doomsday scenarios occur, then the most likely starting point is the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a machine 2.4 miles long in Long Island, New York state.

By colliding gold nuclei at huge energies, the RHIC is investigating "quark-gluon plasma", a state of matter in which the fundamental sub-nuclear particles, called quarks and gluons, become unstuck and swill around in a kind of particle soup that should have been around shortly after the Big Bang.

Dr Allanach warned that if experiments with the RHIC go wrong, it could produce a new hypothetical kind of particle called the killer strangelet.

"Killer strangelet?" Sounds almost pleasant.

In a catastrophic chain reaction, the killer strangelet would gobble up nuclei until it had eaten a million billion, when its weight would pull it towards the centre of the earth.

Dr Allanach said: "Eventually, the strangelet would be the size of an atom and just sit at the centre of the earth, eating other nuclei.

"It would eventually be heavy enough to attract some of the earth's mass gravitationally. That way, it would eat our planet from the inside out, converting the entire earth into one giant strangelet and killing us all in the process."

Ah, but we taxpayers would get the last laugh. Try getting your research grants approved NOW, eggheads!

Look, it's obvious that sooner or later a bunch of scientists somewhere are going to destroy the Earth. I understand America's desire to be the first country to make this dream a reality. I wasn't aware, though, that you could be awarded a grant for creating new, earth-destroying particles. My question is, who is the idiot handing out this money, and where do I apply?

Fortunately, the chance of this happening is very small. However, the other apocalyptic model, could be "even more catastrophic", Dr Allanach said.

According to "supersymmetry" theory, every particle has a heavier, ghostly partner that has similar, but not identical, properties.

These "super-partners" were present in the early universe but if a super-partner of the quark formed, which could happen if there was a chance fluctuation in the vacuum of the universe, then everything would come to a very sudden end.

Dr Allanach said: "This would be bad news, because in some region of space which has jellified, particles of light would become immensely heavy. Nature would not have enough energy to produce them, and all would become dark.

"Because photons are responsible for the electric and magnetic forces, these forces would no longer exist. This would be the death knell of the poor atom, because it is the electric force that binds electrons to the nucleus," he said.

"Because the new region of jellified super-partner would be more stable than the rest of the universe, it would jellify the space around it. The region of new vacuum would expand at the speed of light, wreaking dark havoc."

For all we know, this has already happened somewhere in the universe and a deadly wall of jellied universe is expanding towards Earth, killing everything in its path.

Just thought I'd add to your Monday morning cheer.

Thursday, August 25, 2005
Hinderaker Loses His Marbles, Part II
Over at Powerline, Hinderaker is busting his buttons with pride because (gasp! swoon!) Rush Limbaugh read one of his posts on the air (Rush, apparently exhausted from hauling so much water for the administration, needed someone else to carry the bucket for a while). It's typical Hinderaker idiocy, that basically boils down to this:

1. The war is going great.

2. If you think the war is not going great, that's the fault of

a) The liberal news media and / or

b) spineless liberal fifth-columnists

The sins of the news media in reporting on Iraq are mainly sins of omission....Partly this omission is due to laziness or incomprehension, but I think it is mostly attributable to the fact that if the media acknowledged that reforming the Arab world, in order to drain the terrorist swamp, has always been the principal purpose of the Iraq war, it would take the sting out of their "No large stockpiles of WMDs!" theme.

Hinderaker, Hinderaker, Hinderaker.

Don't tell me you believe that line of B.S. Why don't you pull down any Star Tribune from March of 2003 and read it? (I know you read every issue of the Strib from cover to cover, so this is just for review).

The administration's arguments for war were all about weapons of mass destruction. Remember the terrifying aluminum tubes? The fearsome "mobile bioweapons vans"? The sinister "drone aircraft" that looked like they were made of plywood? The "smoking gun" that "may turn out to be a mushroom cloud?" The President's own (demonstrably false) claim that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger? That Iraq was, at any moment, only 48 hours away from a nuclear weapon?

Must we continue this idiotic charade, where you wingnuts pretend you can't remember any of the stuff you were shouting from the rooftops a couple of years ago?

Oh I'm sorry, Hinderaker, I interrupted you. Go ahead.

One wonders how past wars could have been fought if news reporting had consisted almost entirely of a recitation of casualties. The D-Day invasion was one of the greatest organizational feats ever achieved by human beings, and one of the most successful. But what if the only news Americans had gotten about the invasion was that 2,500 allied soldiers died that day, with no discussion of whether the invasion was a success or a failure, and no acknowledgement of the huge strategic stakes that were involved? Or what if such news coverage had continued, day by day, through the entire Battle of Normandy, with Americans having no idea whether the battle was being won or lost, but knowing only that 54,000 Allied troops had been killed by the Germans?

How about the Battle of Midway, one of the most one-sided and strategically significant battles of world history? What if there had been no "triumphalism"--that dreaded word--in the American media's reporting on the battle, and Americans had learned only that 307 Americans died--never mind that the Japanese lost more than ten times that many--without being told the decisive significance of the engagement?

Or take Iwo Jima, the iconic Marine Corps battle. If Americans knew only that nearly 7,000 Marines lost their lives there, with no context, no strategy, and only sporadic acknowledgement of the heroism that accompanied those thousands of deaths, would the American people have continued the virtually unanimous support for our country, our soldiers and our government that characterized World War II?

Wait a minute, hold on. D-Day? Midway? Iwo Jima? Those were three of the biggest battles of one of the biggest wars in human history. But this war in Iraq wasn't supposed to be big. It was supposed to be over years ago -- Dear Leader said so (Mission Accomplished, remember?) Donald Rumsfeld said we were just mopping up a few "Saddam loyalists" and "dead-enders". Dick Cheney insists to this day that the insurgency is in its "last throes".

Maybe the difference is that during World War II, the American people knew exactly who they were fighting and why. They had a clear idea of the risks and the costs. They were willing not only to put up with a draft that would send them or their loved ones overseas to fight, but also to endure rationing of everything from meat to gasoline to rubber to textiles. Imagine if that were asked of the American people today -- imagine if, for the next four years, cars, kitchen appliances and a host of other consumer goods weren't even sold in the U.S. because the the factories that produce them were needed for war production. The American people were willing to do it then and nobody complained about it; why not now?

Could it be the American people don't see this war as important as that war? That's where the wheels come off your Iwo Jima parallel, Hinderaker. The news media isn't unpatriotic and neither are the American people. That's not the problem.

The problem is you sold this war to them like you'd sell them a box of corn flakes.

And now that they're tired of cornflakes, you don't know what to do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Blood, Sweat, Toil And Tears
Neocon speechwriter and part-time imperialist David Frum is just starting to realize that Bush's public pronouncements are not winning over the masses. Dear Leader keeps promising major speeches to the networks, but keeps delivering the same speech we've heard over and over again. Obviously, the war is going great -- so it's the message that's at fault. So what to do, what to do?

The president could have made news yesterday by itemizing the reasons to regard Iraq more positively than most journalists do. He could have ticked off some of the achievements daily posted on the centcom.mil site.... He could have teased details even out of the mainstream media....Or, alternatively, the president could have skipped the good news and delivered a blood, sweat, toils, and tears speech: Yes things are hard, harder in fact than expected, but the stakes remain enormous - and here is why we must win, and why I am determined to fight this thing through to victory. That would be powerful too.

As it is, though, he says nothing, and is perceived to say nothing, and soon nobody will be listening at all, if anybody still is.

I give Frum credit for finally blaming someone besides the hated MSM for the unpopularity of this war. But he's got a long way to go. As Frank Rich pointed out recently, it's too late now for Bush to go to the American people and demand they make difficult sacrifices.

He should try leveling with them sometime. You never know, it might work.

Not Just A Liar, But A Crazy Liar
Today's AP story just about says it all:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson
insisted Wednesday that he did not call for the assassination of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, despite comments broadcast on his
program two days earlier.
"I didn't say 'assassination,"' Robertson said Wednesday on
his Christian Broadcast Network show "The 700 Club" about remarks
reported by The Associated Press and other media outlets.
"I said our special forces should 'take him out.' 'Take him
out' could be a number of things including kidnapping.
"There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power
besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that
happens all the time."
But a video of Monday's telecast shows that Robertson's exact
words were: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of
assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I
think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.
It's a whole lot
cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments
will stop."
He continued: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think
the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need
another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm
dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert
operatives do the job and then get it over with."
When the AP called Robertson on Tuesday for elaboration,
spokeswoman Angell Watts said Robertson would not do interviews and
had no statement about his remarks. On Wednesday, Watts did not
respond to two telephone messages, three pages and a fax seeking
further comment.
Sixth commandment, ninth commandment....You're giving Christians a bad name, Pat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Generation Chickenhawk
Awww, poor Ben Shapiro. He wants to cheer for the war, but the mean kids keep calling him names.

Ben (who is 21 years old but apparently has no plans to enlist) doesn't think it's right that he's being called a "chickenhawk". It hurts his feelings, and he tells us all about it on the Town Hall site.

The "chickenhawk" argument is dishonest. It is dishonest because the principle of republicanism is based on freedom of choice about behavior (as long as that behavior is legal) as well as freedom of speech about political issues.

Exactly, Ben. You have the freedom to be a chickenhawk, and I have the freedom to identify you publicly as a sniveling, cowardly hypocrite who shrieks for blood from the safety of his mommy and daddy's basement.

We constantly vote on activities with which we may or may not be intimately involved. We vote on police policy, though few of us are policemen; we vote on welfare policy, though few of us either work in the welfare bureaucracy or have been on welfare; we vote on tax policy, even if some of us don't pay taxes. The list goes on and on. Representative democracy necessarily means that millions of us vote on issues with which we have had little practical experience. The "chickenhawk" argument -- which states that if you haven't served in the military, you can't have an opinion on foreign policy -- explicitly rejects basic principles of representative democracy.

I don't want to offend your delicate, 21-year-old ears, Ben, but...


Don't you dare try to recast the argument. No one is claiming that "if you haven't served in the military, you can't have an opinion on foreign policy". The argument is that if you lobbied for a war, and are gung-ho for the continuation of that war because it's supposedly necessary for the continued safety of western civilization -- especially when there is a shortage of recruits for the war effort -- you have a moral responsibility to put your money where your mouth is, to lead by example. It isn't enough to cheer from the sidelines.

When the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Americans lined up at the recruiting offices to enlist. They didn't expect others to do the fighting for them and they didn't wait around to be drafted. They saw it as their duty to enlist. "The Greatest Generation", they were called.

None of that, though, for the Wingnut Generation, with its absurd sense of entitlement. These kids can't be bothered to sacrifice anything; they spend most of their time bitching about paying taxes, for God's sake. If they think taxes are an affront to their dignity, do you think they'll risk an arm or a leg -- or their lives -- in a distant land for an abstract cause?

For his next trick, Ben trots out the "you-don't-have-to-be-a-policeman-to-support-the-police" argument. That one has been rattling around the wingnut blogosphere for a while. I don't know if they believe that any more than I do; I don't know if believing their own lies helps them sleep better at night. But let's be clear. We're not talking about putting out forest fires, and we're not talking about catching burglars. We're talking about sending our citizens to a foreign country to kill people who are trying to kill them.

Everyone is against crime. Everyone is against fires. But not everyone is in favor of this war; in fact, a majority believe the war was a mistake.

Finally, Ben pulls out the Constitution and desperately waves it at us.

The "chickenhawk" argument also explicitly rejects the Constitution itself. The Constitution provides that civilians control the military. The president of the United States is commander-in-chief, whether or not he has served in the military. Congress controls the purse strings and declares war, no matter whether any of its members have served in the military or not. For foreign policy doves to high-handedly declare that military service is a prerequisite to a hawkish foreign policy mindset is not only dangerous, but directly conflicts with the Constitution itself.

Read that paragraph over carefully and you'll see what Ben is doing here: he is retreating into a narrow, legalistic argument about the chickenhawks' constitutional obligations. But we're not talking about what they are legally required to do. We're talking about what they should to be morally compelled to do.

Remember when the wingers were thumping themselves on the chest, bragging about character, morality, duty to God and country? What happened to them?

Now that their country needs them, where did they go?

Friday, August 19, 2005
Sorta Kinda Gung-Ho For The War
In announcing the deployment of 2,500 Minnesota National Guardsmen to training for Iraq on Tuesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty waxed philosophical about the nobility of military service.

Joined by state Guard's adjutant general, Larry Shellito, and the man who will command the troops overseas, Col. David Elicerio, Pawlenty said every Minnesotan should "find their own personal way to support these Guard soldiers and their families."

He also said he wouldn't discourage any member of his staff — or even his two young daughters — from enlisting in the military or joining the National Guard.

"I'll tell my staff right now that anybody who has a sense of service … that's a high calling," the governor said. "It's a high calling and I don't think we should ever discount it or discourage it in any way."

That's an odd choice of words, isn't it? No one should be discouraged from joining up, Pawlenty says. We should never discount or discourage it in any way. That seems like a pretty tepid endorsement from a governor who's all gung-ho to send troops to Iraq, isn't it?

Here's a question I wish someone at the pro-war Pioneer Press had had the guts to ask the pro-war governor: would you actually encourage any member of your staff to join up? Have you encouraged your two young daughters to enlist? If military service is such a high calling, why are you not using the bully pulpit of your office to drum up recruits?

Shouldn't the elected officials who support this war provide more than half-hearted, mealy-mouthed platitudes about the nobility of military service?

What are they afraid of?

The Inaccurate, Intriguing Kos Poll
Daily Kos has run a number of online straw polls, trying to gauge the strength of the Democrats who will (or who are expected to) run for President in 2008. The results have been unscientific, but very interesting.

They are interesting partly because of their consistency. This time Wes Clark (who has won all the previous Kos straw polls) garners 38%. Not surprising, some people say -- after all, Kos readers tend to be more pro-military than other readers of liberal blogs.

Sounds reasonable. But is it true? Look at Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; he's getting 16% in the poll. If Russ isn't liberal enough for you, seek professional help immediately.

Given that, how do you explain the dismal showings of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, John Kerry and Tom Vilsack -- all of whom are registering single digits in this poll? Seems to me that the most media-hyped candidates should lead the early straw polls, because they're familiar to the rank-and-file -- exactly the same reason The Olive Garden gets voted "Best Italian Restaurant" by the public in the newspapers every year.

Look, I know it's non-scientific, but I think Kos is tapping into something serious going on with the netroots -- something the Democratic party isn't seeing yet.

UPDATE: Sorry I've posted so little this week. Mrs. Uncle Mike and I are relocating to a lovely new fortified bunker near a park and a bike trail. I'll post as much as I can; we should be settled into our new lovenest by early next week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The Groundhog's Day War
Iconoclastic sex columnist Dan Savage recently spent a week guest-blogging for Andrew Sullivan. In his penultimate post he explains why he went from being a pro-war liberal to an anti-war liberal:

There were never enough troops on the ground, and since this President never met a fuck-up that he wouldn’t pin a Medal of Freedom on, the same fuck-ups who mismanaged this thing from the start are still grinning at us on TV.

Does anyone in the White House know what the fuck they’re doing? One day it’s the war on terror, the next day it’s got a new name, then it’s back to the war on terror. We’re going to set a date to start reducing troop levels—no, wait, we’re not. Killing Saddam’s sons will change things for the better, no wait. Capturing Saddam will take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency. Now that everyone in Iraq has a purple finger, the insurgents are going to slink away. We clear a town of insurgents, but we don’t have the manpower to hold it, so we pull the troops out and—surprise—the insurgents take the town back. “Dead enders,” “last throes,” “losing steam.”

On and on it goes, and the news doesn’t change, or get any better. If it needs a new name perhaps we should call it the Groundhog’s Day War. Does anyone believe that the Iraqi Constitution—coming on Monday—is going to change a damn thing?

George Bush is good at one thing and one thing only: winning elections and coasting along....we should get out because, with the Bushies running the show for the next three years, we’re simply not going to win. It’s just go to drag on and on. This war, as I see it now, is either going to be nasty, brutal and short or nasty, brutal and long. I prefer nasty, brutal and short, if only because it will mean fewer Americans will die. And fewer Iraqis too, I suspect.

Seems like every day, another Iraq war supporter switches sides. Up until now public support for the war has been declining but was not yet on the point of all-out collapse. But now I think it's safe to say support is collapsing.

Monday, August 15, 2005
Karaoke Science
John Garvey, writing in the liberal Catholic publication Commonweal, talks much-needed sense about the "intelligent design" issue:

If intelligent design were science, if it could be supported by fact and not what amounts to aesthetic speculation, it might be a good argument for a Gnostic demiurge, a deranged creator-god. Yes, the intricacy of the eye and the elegance of flagella are amazing and the details beautiful. But a designer with his, her, or its hand in at this clockwork level could surely do something to prevent anencephalic babies or Alzheimer’s disease. What about all the apparently useless parts of the DNA strand? Couldn’t praying mantises have been designed with a way to mate that didn’t require the female to devour the head of the male during intercourse? I’ve seen a mother hamster devouring her young with blank eyes, preferable to grief, I guess, under the circumstances. The designer’s eye is upon the sparrow, the mantis, the mother hamster eating her young, the brainless baby.

Arguments at this level are more philosophical than scientific. The philosophical argument seems to be based on a kind of aesthetics--an aesthetic sense based in scientific observation, to be sure, but a little like this argument: Could blind chance produce something as beautiful as so many celestial phenomena are, or the Irish coast, or a sunset? I think not, but that’s not a scientific argument. A believing scientist will certainly delight in whatever beautiful thing is found under a microscope or deep in the cosmos, just as a believer thanks God for the music of Bach, and will see something of God’s glory there. But to say “this is so irreducibly complex and intricate that it must have been designed” does nothing to advance science, which still must connect the dots and describe in detail, and will not be helped by a designer-hypothesis that can be neither proved nor falsified. To say “this must have been designed” will always, at most, be a kind of chorus. You’ve heard of voodoo economics? This is karaoke science.

Garvey makes an important distinction between "randomness and meaninglessness". Check it out.

Sunday, August 14, 2005
Endgame In Iraq
I've gotten impatient with a lot of the opinion pieces being written about the administration's Iraq policy lately. Commentators jabber on, repeating themselves endlessly. Yes, we know Bush lives in a bubble. Yes, we know he's an idiot. Yes, we know this administration is a gang of crooks and nitwits. It's true, I know, but can't we just accept these facts and move on?

Finally, someone is saying something a little different. Frank Rich writes a very interesting opinion piece in the Sunday Times:

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

Therefore, Rich says, there's only one possible outcome left in this war -- attempted Iraqization of indigenous forces, followed by a massive American troop withdrawal by next summer, which just might save the skins of the chickenhawks in Congress. It would, of course, be a strategy based entirely on wishful thinking, one more castle in the air dreamed up by Bush, Cheney and Rummy.

I don't know if I entirely agree with Rich on this -- I think withdrawal would not be of political benefit to Bush if Iraq immediately plunged into civil war -- but it might happen.

Friday, August 12, 2005
Release The Flying Monkeys!

"She's a traitor! She's a traitor! Hahahahahahaha!"

The rocket scientists over at Powerline are just starting to realize that the Cindy Sheehan story is gaining traction in the mainstream media. Sheehan seemed harmless at first. Basically, she's just sitting with a bunch of anti-war protesters outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, demanding to meet with the President about her son, who was killed in combat in Iraq. But the whole affair has taken on a strange momentum of its own.

As Maureen Dowd and many others have pointed out, Bush could have avoided the entire mess weeks ago by simply meeting with the woman; but to the Masters of Destiny in this administration, that would have been an unmanly show of weakness. So what to do, what to do?

Simple. Release the flying monkeys! Go to it, Powerline!

The apparent absence of WMD when we arrived in Iraq makes it plausible (though I believe unpersuasive) to argue that, in hindsight, we would have been better off not sending our troops there.
I think the fact that you have your head so far up your ass makes it plausible, in hindsight, that you are an idiot.

Millions of Americans, perhaps a majority, believe that.

Thank you for acknowledging that 54% might constitute a majority.

Some of them believe (albeit without justification) that President Bush lied about whether Iraq possessed WMD.

If by "without justification" you mean "with only a mountain of evidence", then yes.

The law of averages tells us that the parents of the men and women fighting in Iraq will include many who are unhappy about the war, and some who think Bush lied. If their sons and daughters are injured or killed, they may come to holds these views more fervently.

Nice catch, Captain Obvious.

Under these circumstances, the most interesting thing about the Sheehan protest is that (to my knowledge) this is the first of its kind. It speaks volumes for the fortitude of the families of our troops and our overall national character that, whatever their private views about the war and about Bush, they decline to act as this parent does. Even in Cindy Sheehan's case, she apparently acted very differently during her meeting with President Bush in the aftermath of her son's death. And I understand that the rest of the Sheehan family has made a point of repudiating her conduct.

This last charge is based on an email sent to Drudge yesterday, apparently by Cindy Sheehan's sister-in-law. The author or authors of the email would not even sign their names to it. I can only speculate that this serves a dual purpose: it allows the wingers to paint the authors as "the rest of the Sheehan family" (when it's clearly only the wingnut faction of the family) and also to keep military recruiters from making a few house-calls -- to see if any of these super-patriots have children eligible for military service.

Speaking of super-patriots, John Hinderaker at Powerline apparently has a son who is eligible for military service. John has not yet regaled the Powerline readers with the adventures of young Hinderaker's courageous service in Iraq, but I am sure we'll be reading about it anytime now. After all, the war is so important, so noble, and sacrifice is sometimes necessary in the defense of liberty. Right, John?

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Those Wily, Infallible _______
It's easy to tell who America's enemies will be in the future. They are always depicted by our politicians -- and by our popular culture -- as shrewder, more efficient, and more ruthless than we are. They become larger than life in our imaginations -- rapacious, calculating and infallible.

I'm going to drag out some wreckage that we've looked at before, but bear with me. The 1984 movie Red Dawn depicted a Soviet invasion of America so cunningly executed that the Reds hardly needed to fire a single shot. The film relied on the premise that if we took our eyes off the Soviets for even a second they would overwhelm us. Much of the hysterical anti-communist propaganda during the Cold War relied on this (fairly ironic) assumption that communism was innately more efficient than capitalism, and that the West was clinging desperately to the losing side of history.

But in that strangest of strange years -- 1989 -- the Soviet Union disappeared so quickly that the rabid anti-communists among us refused to believe it was really happening. Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, suggested that it was all a trick; the fiendishly clever Russkies were simply trying to get us to lower our guard.

But the fearsome Russian bogeyman evaporated in spite of the Bush administration's best efforts, only to be replaced by the Japanese bogeyman. In Michael Crichton's 1992 novel "Rising Sun", the Japanese were so implacable and merciless that American businessmen didn't stand a chance against them in the boardroom. The message of that novel was: if we try to compete with them they will take everything we have. Not long after Crichton's novel was published, of course, the Japanese economy went into the tank, the Japanese government was embroiled into a series of scandals and crises, and suddenly the Japanese didn't seem ten feet tall and bulletproof anymore.

(Interestingly, the exact same message was subsequently found in another Crichton novel, Disclosure, although this time it applied to women : if we try to compete with them they will take everything we have.)

These days, the Chinese are the bogeyman du jour. Back in 1997, Richard Gere starred in a hysterical little movie called Red Corner, which depicted an American businessman battling a closed and inscrutable Chinese legal system that is, of course, stacked against him.

More recently, China's roaring economy is making Americans nervous. Manufactured goods bearing the stamp "Made In China" are more prevalent than the much-maligned "Made In Japan" stamp ever was. Most recently a Chinese company made a bid for the oil giant Unocal and the American government scrambled to block the sale. In the end, another oil giant -- Chevron -- gobbled up Unocal. But there was no way the cunning Chinese would be allowed access to Unocal's oilfields in Asia. It was clearly some kind of plot.

After all, the Chinese are cunning and rapacious.

And infallible. We all know they're infallible, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Let's Give Voice To The Obvious
According to The Forum (via Minnesota Republican Watch), Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty won't consider running for President in 2008:

It appears Tim Pawlenty has pared down his 2008 to-do list.

That line about running for president is nowhere to be found.

"I'll be lucky to be re-elected governor of Minnesota," he told reporters.

That may be a stretch. No one on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party side looks as strong as he does, and third parties have a long ways to go to repeat the 1998 Jesse Ventura victory.

I always considered Pawlenty a longshot for the GOP nomination in '08, even before his betrayal of the Tax Evader's League. He has a sort of bland wistful quality that keeps him from being tagged as mean-spirited. But political parties rarely nominate bland, wistful candidates for the presidency -- unless they're already convinced that the election is a hopeless cause.

It makes a lot more sense for Pawlenty to bat his eyes and hope he is picked as the GOP's vice-presidential candidate. It only makes sense for the Republicans to pick him. Pawlenty might just deliver Minnesota to the Republican column in a close race, and his soft, vacant smile would never threaten to outshine the presidential nominee. Pawlenty, in fact, would be a much smarter choice for VP than Norm Coleman, a man who doesn't have an honest or sincere bone in his body, and who would feed his own mother to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal if he thought it would advance his career. A president never wants to have to look over his shoulder at his VP all the time.

That said, I don't agree that the DFL can't field a strong candidate against Pawlenty in 2006. Attorney General Mike Hatch might run a very strong race against him, especially considering the Governor is currently enjoying a 43% approval rating.

Or not enjoying it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005
Republican Paranoia Watch
You've gotta feel sorry for Republicans these days. In spite of controlling the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the majority of state legislatures, the majority of state governorships, the majority of the federal judiciary and a good chunk of the media, they are apparently still a hunted and persecuted minority.

Consider the strange case of Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State during the 2000 recount, and now a 2nd-term congresswoman running against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2006. Long the butt of jokes about her Cesar Romero-esque application of makeup, she told winger radio host Sean Hannity that:

"I'm actually very sensitive about those things, and it's personally painful," she said. "But they're outrageously false. ... Whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph."


She has made similar allegations in newspaper articles since the recount and in January told The Associated Press, "The jokes about my appearance -- it's the computer-enhanced photos."

Her campaign manager, Jim Dornan, declined to answer questions Wednesday about her radio comments.

Now, if a particular newspaper were engaging in such a tactic, and if a candidate had some evidence that this tactic was being used, it would certainly be a legitimate complaint. But to allege that every newspaper is engaged in a conspiracy to make you look foolish by altering your photograph is....well, let's just say that it's a symptom of some deeper issues.

And they say wingers don't have a sense of humor.

Another recent guest on Hannity's show was Mike Mackey, whose new comic book (called "Liberality For All") reaches dizzying heights of right-wing paranoia. Here's a bit of the synopsis:

On one dark day, in 2006, many conservative voices went forever silent at the hands of terrorist assassins. Those which survived joined forces and formed a powerful covert conservative organization called “The Freedom of Information League”, aka F.O.I.L.

The efforts of F.O.I.L. threaten both the liberal extremist power structure and the U.N.’s grip on America, the U.N. calls F.O.I.L. the most dangerous group in the world. It seems the once theorized Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has now become a reality.

The F.O.I.L. Organization is forced underground by the “Coulter Laws” of 2007; these hate speech legislations have made right-wing talk shows, and conservative-slanted media, illegal. Our weakened government has willingly handed the reigns of our once great country to the corrupt United Nations. The Department of Political-Correctness is required to assist U.N. monitors to properly edit all print and broadcast media. Live broadcasts are a thing of the past; all transmissions are monitored by the U.N. and any ‘offensive’ material is dumped.

Rupert Murdoch’s decision to defy the “Coulter Laws” hate speech legislations, has bankrupted News Corporation. George Soros has bought all of News Corps assets and changed its name to Liberty International Broadcasting. LIB’s networks have flourished and circle the globe with a series of satellites beaming liberal & U.N. propaganda worldwide.

The New York City faction of F.O.I.L. is lead by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, each uniquely endowed with special abilities devised by a bio mechanical engineer affectionately nicknamed “Oscar”. F.O.I.L. is soon to be joined by a young man named Reagan McGee.

Department of Political Correctness! Very subtle.

I don't know what a "biomechanically enhanced" right-wing radio show host would be like, but maybe they could shoot their mouths off twice as fast as before.

And there would certainly be an enhanced Persecution Chip, of course. Can't live without that.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Tough Talk Is Still Talk
Professional right-wing idiot Jerry Pournelle says he knows how to fix the space program:

NASA spends a billion and can't fix the problem of foam dropoff. Give me a billion and 3 years (and exemption from the Disabilities Act and some other imbecilic restrictions) and I'll have a 700,000 pound GLOW reusable that will put at least 5,000 pounds in orbit per trip, and be able to make 10 trips a year for marginal costs linearly related to the cost of fuel. Give me $3 billion and I'll have a fleet of the damn things. Once they're flying we can work on getting the payload weights up. Give me $5 billion and I'll have the fleet plus one that's set up to go Earth orbit to Lunar Surface and return to Earth orbit as often as we like (each trip costing about 10 flights Earth to Earth orbit to refuel it). Costing: 700,000 pounds of fuel at $2 per pound times 4 as a guess. Throw in other stuff and the marginal costs are maybe $10 million a flight Earth to Earth orbit, so about $100 million to go back to the Moon.

Now, as a backup in case single stage is the wrong way to go -- and I can be convinced that it is -- hand another $1 billion to Burt Rutan and let him try his air lift first stage approach. Then have a flyoff. Hell, go mad: give me a billion, give Burt a billion, hand a billion to each of the remaining big aerospace companies, and give a billion to NASA. That's $5 billion, less than the annual cost of the Shuttle program -- have you noticed that the program cost is independent of the number of Shuttle launches? NASA will waste its billion, the two aerospace companies will futz around with studies that end up requesting $20 billion each and produce nothing but paper, but you may be sure that Rutan and I will both have some flying hardware.

Now, recently we talked a bit about L. Ron Hubbard and his deceptively simple discovery: if you can't dazzle 'em with your brilliance, baffle 'em with your bullshit.

The most aggravating thing about Pournelle's rant is that he refuses to acknowledge the completely fucking obvious -- that it's easy to talk big while he's sitting on his patio, drinking a glass of iced tea.

Given that Pournelle worships at the altar of the Free Market, why does he say he'll do it if the taxpayers "give him" a billion dollars? If his plan is so fool-proof -- if it will bring down the cost-per-pound on payload launches so dramatically -- why doesn't he round up some wealthy investors, pitch his plan, cash the checks, and start to work? After all, that was the scenario envisioned by Pournelle's mentor Robert Heinlein back in 1950, in the movie "Destination Moon".

The truth is, Pournelle is good at talking tough, but he's not much good at anything else. A few years ago, guys like Pournelle were bashing NASA because it was too "risk-averse"; it was supposedly so afraid of losing astronauts that it demanded an excessively high safety margin. Now NASA is being bashed because it's incapable of launching shuttles safely.

Either way, of course, Pournelle wins. Because he doesn't have to actually do what he claims he can do.

Monday, August 01, 2005
Tim Robbins: West Nile Carrier
This morning the media is abuzz with bad news: actor Tim Robbins is spreading the West Nile virus across America:

[Lead researcher] Andreadis said the next step in research would be to catch [actor Tim] robins in special mist nets and test their blood. The non-lethal tests would tell researchers if the birds are an effective reservoir for the disease. "It's got to be there in high levels for along period of time," Andreadis said.

But testing the theory may be tough. [Tim] Robins -- the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin -- are wily in avoiding the nets, researchers said.

West Nile virus has been identified in more than 200 species of birds, according to the CDC.

But Nick Komar, the CDC's lead bird West Nile researcher, is skeptical of the robin's newfound dubious distinction. It's too early to tell, he said.

"I'd be surprised if the American robin would be very important," said Komar, who had not yet seen Andreadis' data. "I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that crows are not important. If this study analyzes mosquitoes where there are lots of robins but no crows, that could be misleading.

The article doesn't say what should be done if Tim Robbins is spreading the West Nile virus, but I'm assuming he will be put down. After witnessing his performance in War of the Worlds, I think it's safe to say that Robbins is suffering from some incurable malady or other, and euthanasia might be a merciful way to end his acting career.

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