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Thursday, September 28, 2006
At The X
I work a few blocks from the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, so it was a bit disheartening to hear that the GOP has picked that particular building as the venue for the 2008 Republican Convention.

It's particularly irksome because the Democrats themselves were clearly leaning toward the Twin Cities as the venue for their convention, but -- in typical fashion -- spent so much time wringing their hands while making small whiny sounds that they completely missed the boat.

Now the Republicans, who essentially got their first pick, will get a boost in Minnesota -- and the entire upper midwest -- by holding their convention there, while the Democrats will probably end up in the Big Apple, once again, where Ted Kennedy will dutifully bray "I STILL love New York!" into a microphone, thinking he's clever.

If the Democrats want to be competitive, they've got to stop waiting for the Republicans to act before they react.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Spin Conquers All
Jonah Goldberg on the alleged criticisms of the Iraq war in the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE):

Folks, regardless of the details of the NIE controversy can I just say that I'm not particularly troubled by the NIE's alleged finding that the Iraq war has increased terrorism. I mean, doesn't that make sense? I think Bush is mistaken to dismiss this criticism as factually absurd when in reality the absurdity lay in some folks' interpretation of the facts.

Rrrrrright. Facts don't matter. If the facts aren't on your side, just change your interpretation of those facts, and everything will be peaches and cream. It's easy.

Come to think of it, that was kind of the premise of the movie The Matrix, a pretty good movie up until the last 20 minutes I thought. The first sequel had some interesting ideas, but dragged quite a lot of the way. The third film sucked pretty hard, although I was convinced that the heroic defense of Zion would prove to be another iteration of the Matrix and that Neo would sort of wake up back in his little slave-pod. That, I thought, would have been an interesting twist.

But whatever was actually going on there, it seemed pretty clear to me that the movies argued in favor of a harsh reality over a comforting fantasy -- in favor of the cold facts, rather than a pleasing "interpretation" of the facts.

But Goldberg seems to believe the opposite -- that a comforting lie is preferable to a difficult truth. Which I guess explains the whole neocon agenda, when you think about it.

The Fishy Smell Of Failure
I've stopped wondering why the Times keeps publishing brainless trend stories like this Caryn James belly-scratcher. It claims to prove -- anecdotally, of course -- that bad buzz will kill a movie at the box office if the release is delayed by the studio.

Here's the final, migraine-inducing paragraph:

Studios are learning to use the Internet and viral marketing to steer the buzz, but for now that approach is still better suited to movies that aim for a young audience (“Snakes on a Plane,” though even that failed to match its Web hype), not those with artistic ambitions. When films like “Proof” or “All the King’s Men” arrive late, they’re like the fish you order in a restaurant on Sunday. Sure, you can do it, and maybe it’ll be fine, but you’re prepared for that whiff that says it’s not quite fresh, the fishy smell of failure.


What this all means is, blah, blah, blah, I'm on deadline and I gotta get out of here, blah blah, blah, you're probably not reading this crappy article anymore anyway.

When they convene the U.N. War Crimes trials for bad writers, I want Caryn James to be first in the dock.

In Spite Of My Rage, I Am Still Just A Rat In A Cage
This letter to the editor makes me wish that I worked for America's Most Trusted News Source:

I work with a man who has spoken to many highly respected Polish physicians and notable psychiatrists in his effort to fulfill his rodent dreams. He has always felt like he didn't belong in the body God gave him, and would like to undergo the surgery required to become a rat. He wanted you to know about this because no one has taken him seriously and he feels that transsexuals and transgender get all the attention and respect. He feels that there are many others like him, but would like some publicity and validation so that others suffering from the same condition won't continue to feel the shame that he has felt for so long.

He has many physical characteristics of the animal he would like to become. He has long yellowed teeth, gnaws on his food in a similar manner to a rat, and has an extraordinary amount of body hair which he preens.

We hope that you can give this matter the attention it deserves in your paper.


Alas, I can only watch from afar, and dream of being one of those lucky journalists who get to tackle the truly important issues.

Maybe someday.

Monday, September 25, 2006
Real Life Oughtta Be More Like This
The actual headline was

Pope Meets With Islamic Envoys

Which I misread, for some reason, as

Pope Meets With Islamic Embryos

I immediately found myself wishing that the second headline was true, not the first.

What a meeting that would have been.

Here It Comes....Andy Apilowski's 19th Nervous Breakdown
I love reading Kennedy v the Machine, one of the more hysterical campaign blogs out there. It's run by a guy named Andy Apilowski, a mouth-breathing apparatchik in the Minnesota Republican party.

Andy takes his politics verrrrry seriously, but he has no apparent sense of humor, which is clearly taking a toll on his mental health. With Mark Kennedy trailing in the polls to Democrat Amy Klobuchar by double digits (for example, the latest MPR - Pioneer Press poll, released this morning, shows Klobuchar leading Kennedy 52% - 37%), Andy has been desperate to find some line of attack on Klobuchar that would stick.

He's tried blaming her for every murder in Minneapolis. He's tried linking her to 5th district congressional candidate Keith Ellison (whom he insists on referring to as "Keith X Ellison". Clever!) He's tried insinuating that Bill Clinton came to Minnesota to fundraise for her out of a perverse sexual interest in her (claiming that Clinton's penchant for "big-boned brunettes" was the attraction. Subtle!)

But last week, Andy finally caught a faint whiff of scandal in the Klobuchar campaign. And he lunged for it.

The story broke last Wednesday. On Saturday, September 16, liberal blogger Noah Kunin somehow obtained a password on the Mark Kennedy campaign web site and was able to access an unreleased Kennedy TV ad. Kunin then tossed it over the electronic transom to the Klobuchar communications director, Tara McGuinness, who viewed the ad and showed it to several colleagues.

Klobuchar reportedly found out about the incident sometime on Monday. On Wednesday she fired McGuinness, turned the information she had about the incident to the FBI, and issued a public apology to Kennedy and his campaign.

There followed the usual belly-scratching newspaper opinion pieces about the growing impact of the rabble-rousing bloggers, the defensive whinging by the liberal blogs (insisting that entering an ill-gotten password into a private section of a web site isn't really hacking -- nice try) and, best of all, the wild-eyed hyperventilating of the right-wing bloggers who want to nurture a minor flap into a Major Scandal.

It could not be lost on Andy Apilowski that Klobuchar's campaign handled the incident much more deftly than Kennedy's campaign would have, if the situation were reversed. After all, Kennedy tried to accentuate its own martyrdom by pulling down the entire campaign site (except, of course, for the contribution page). But when liberal bloggers started pointing out that the site hadn't technically been closed at all, Kennedy's campaign quickly restored the hidden pages.

Klobuchar's actions were clearly designed to suck all the oxygen out of the story, to give the Kennedy partisans nothing to latch on to.

Who broke the story? Klobuchar's campaign. Who got fired? The senior communications director. Who notified the FBI? Klobuchar herself. Who issued a public apology to Kennedy and his campaign? Again, Klobuchar.

So now Andy and his cohorts are stuck trying to nitpick Klobuchar's response. But it's an uphill battle.

She waited 5 days to report this. That is neglegence at its best. For a woman who is supposed to be such a good attorney and prosecutor, this is a pathetic display of it.

I can’t help but assume the 5 day delay was politically motivated. She says one thing, but does another. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone like this making major decisions in the Senate when it takes her 5 days to decide to call the FBI and inform a victim of a crime.

....You know before I could even post this, the Klobuchar supporters have begun trying to burn Kennedy at the stake. They are now intentionally trying to hack into his campaign site just to prove they can do it. And no surprise, it is the same people with a nack for hacking into websites. I wonder if they will delete it like they did to KvM’s archives.

The silence from Amy Klobuchar on this wretched behavior speaks mountains on her integrity. She has none. How much longer will she allow her supporters to go unleashed? I think the time for the Amy Klobuchar that we hear about in the commercials to step up to the TV cameras and call off her hounds. They’ve already done enough to harm you. You better stop them before someone ends up behind bars.

Or before somebody loses an election.

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Uff Da, Here We Go Again
It appears that Dear Leader and his Merry Men are nearing agreement with McCain and the other recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate on the White House torture legislation:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration and rebellious GOP
senators neared agreement Thursday on legislation setting terms for
the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror,
congressional officials said.

These officials said Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, was meeting with key Republicans in hopes of
sealing an agreement that could allow the legislation to clear
Congress before lawmakers adjourn for elections.

President Bush's call for legislation has been deadlocked in an intraparty dispute, with Republican Sens. John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham seeking a provision to make it clear that
torture of suspects is barred.

Also at issue was whether suspects and their lawyers would be permitted to see any classified evidence in the cases against them.

Warner, McCain, Graham and Hadley met at midafternoon with
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the Capitol. The session came
a few hours after Frist called the lawmakers on the telephone and
strongly urged them to reach a compromise after more than a week of
Republican discord.

I imagine the "compromise" will involve a show of unity for the President's proposal -- with some cosmetic tweaking of language -- in exchange for an assurance to the Senate that the more difficult details will be ironed out after the election.

Warner, McCain and Graham are just dumb enough to fall for that one.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006
19 Good Reasons

Hmmm. Should I use the deck gun, or the torpedoes? Or both?

Milton Friedman

Bill Buckley

Robert Bork

Victor Davis Hanson

Bernard Lewis

Kenneth Starr

Mark Steyn

Pat Toomey

Norman Podhoretz

Midge Decter

Dinesh D’Souza

Ward Connerly

Cliff May

Rich Lowry

Kate O’Beirne

Jay Nordlinger

Ramesh Ponnuru

John O’Sullivan

David Pryce-Jones

The National Review calls this "19 good reasons to come on the National Review 2006 Post-Election Mexico Cruise this November 11-18.

I call it 19 good reasons to take my Gato-class fast attack submarine out along the Pacific coast of Mexico November 11-18.

Sleep well, wingnuts.

Monday, September 18, 2006
Don't Trust Them
Apparently everyone in Washington is speaking in code these days, even the reporters:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is trying a new tactic in its battle with Senate Republicans over proposed interrogation rules for suspected terrorists.

John Ullyot, a spokesman for Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, said Monday that draft legislation was headed to Capitol Hill with "new language," for its proposal that would allow the CIA to continue alternative interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists. No details of the changes were announced.

The news comes after powerful Republican senators defied President Bush last week and voted against White House backed legislation aimed at detainees held at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Apparently the jaded journalists at CNN are too squeamish to state what is obvious to the casual reader: when they say "alternative interrogation techniques" they really mean "torture".

The Bush administration, of course, continues to insist that "we do not torture" -- but under the new rules that Bush wishes the Congress to endorse, the President gets to decide what "torture" actually means. Apparently, anything that doesn't cause major organ failure doesn't qualify.

Of course, we'll never know for sure, because under the President's plan, the approved list of "alternative interrogation techniques" will be classified.

A lot of people are putting an enormous amount of trust in Senators McCain, Warner and Graham, believing that they will stand up to the White House on this issue.

But I have a feeling they will suddenly cave on the issue, and accept some vague assurance from the White House as an iron-clad guarantee. In exchange, no doubt, for the usual political favors.

Friday, September 15, 2006
A Dark Night, In A City That Knows How To Keep Its Secrets....
Apparently Garrison Keillor is starting a bookshop in town, and it's going to be right downstairs from Nemo's coffee shop. Small world, eh?

In honor of that, I guess, here's a bit from Keillor's latest newspaper column, in which he writes about the improbably named "Department of Homeland Security":

Somebody with a tin ear came up with that, maybe the pest exterminator from Texas, or Adm. Poinduster, because, friends, Americans don't refer to this as our homeland. It's an alien term, like Fatherland or Deutschland or Tomorrowland. Irving Berlin didn't write "God Bless Our Homeland." You never heard John Wayne say, "Men, we're going over that hill and we're going to kick those krauts out of there. And we're going to raise the flag of the homeland."

"Homeland" was a word you heard shrieked by a cruel man flicking his riding crop against his shiny black boots: "Zie homeland--ve shall defend it at all costs, achwohl!" Americans live in Our Country, America, the nation of nations, the good old U.S.A.

That made me laugh. And it's so true.

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Are You Sure This Is America?
Here's a bit from yesterday's White House presser, with M.C. Tony Snow of Fox News:

"Q Let me ask you about this debate the president said is so important with regard to interrogation techniques, because he wants now for Congress to clarify what's permissible. The president said he did not authorize torture.

"MR. SNOW: That is correct.

"Q What did he authorize?

"MR. SNOW: Can't tell you.

"Q Why can't you say that, given that the president wants a national debate about what's permissible?

"MR. SNOW: Because there are also classifications. I think if you listen to what the president said last week, you have a conversation that's permissible -- you have a conversation about what's permissible and a lot of that is classified, and for a very good reason. . . .

"Q One technique that's been widely reported on and widely debated is water-boarding. Does the president consider water-boarding to be torture?

"MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to go beyond what the president has said."

We Had To Destroy The Clarity In Order To Save It
Colin Powell wrote Sen. John McCain a letter this week, and nothing has been the same since.

The letter warned against narrowing the U.S. intepretation of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3 provisions, and it seems to have hobbled the Bush administration's goal of doing whatever the hell he likes to whomever the hell he pleases:

A rebellious Senate committee defied President
Bush on Thursday and approved terror-detainee legislation he has
vowed to block, deepening Republican conflict over a key issue in
the middle of congressional campaigns.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, pushed the measure through his panel by a 15-9 vote,
with Warner and two other GOP lawmakers joining Democrats....[setting]the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor as early as
next week.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has threatened to bypass the Armed Services committee and bring the Bush language up for a vote on the floor. There seems to carry an implicit threat to deep-six the alternative measure.

I doubt if Frist will carry through on this threat. It would lead to a bloody internecine fight on the Senate floor, not exactly what Republicans want America see less than two months from the mid-term elections.

The question is, how much pressure can Bush & Co. put on the Senate? Here's Dear Leader turning up the heat:

"It is very important for the American people to understand that in order to protect this country, we must be able to interrogate people who have information about future attacks," Bush said. "I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity.

Notice how carefully he avoided the word "veto".

"Lack of clarity"? It's exactly what the Bush administration wants. They want to cram Article 3 with a thousand loopholes. They want the article to be interpreted in such a narrow and legalistic way that they could mean anything. And anyone violating its provisions would get away scot free.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Okay, This Is What I Mean By Fighting Back
Check out this remarkable new TV ad from a Iraqi veterans group hitting Virginia Sen. George Allen -- and hitting him hard -- for voting against improved body armor for the troops.

It's tough, it's visceral, it's unflinching, and it's gonna make Senator Macaca squirm.

Me likee.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Future Belongs To The People Who Show Up
Did you vote today?

I did.

For me, Election Day is special. It's like Christmas. My wife thinks I'm crazy but it's true. I never feel better about America than I do on Election Day.

I like going to my polling place, walking in and seeing the American flag in the corner and the voting carrols lined up against the wall, and the little old ladies seated at the long table, searching for my name in the black ring binder that contains the names of all the registered voters in the precinct.

Everything they told you in 9th grade civics class -- all those mawkish and corny things they said about Big-D Democracy -- come true for me when I step into that room. Win or lose, I am proud to be a part, even an infinitesimal part, of this uniquely American tradition.

So I'm always annoyed when people whine about having to go vote. Why don't they keep the polling station open for three weeks? they ask. Or: why can't I vote from my computer?

People want to do everything from their computer. They want to read, inform themselves, entertain themselves, date, buy cars, apply for mortgages, and have sex on their computers. Isn't there anything that people can be bothered to show up for in person?

Not voting, according to Bob Collins at Polinaut:

[I]f we really want people to vote: let's get the process out of the 19th century.

Think about it: in order to vote, I have to go to a specific physical place and only to a specific physical place at a specific time ( 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.). OK, that sounds easy enough. But, remember: the stated goal is to get people to vote.

Take me this morning: I had a meeting in St. Paul at 11 and I'll be working later in the evening than usual. I was doing a couple of interviews with people at home for a story I'm writing and when I looked at the clock, it was 10 o'clock and I'm still in my pajamas, banging away on a laptop on the couch while watching a combination of NASA TV and SportsCenter.

I could miss the meeting and be late for work and stop to vote or I could bag voting altogether. If there were a candidate who truly inspired me today, maybe that choice would be easier. But there's only a few who are kinda, sorta, maybe somebody I'd like to see in office. And, frankly, the only thing that really motivated me to vote today was a local school referendum.

I chose to get to work on time and get to my meeting. And, I'm not driving back to Woodbury to go vote; not at $2.39 a gallon and an additional $7 to park when I finally get back to work. And I'm not going to be home before the polls close. OK, fine, that's just me. I'm cheap. But this is my life.

So here's what I'm thinking. Assign me to a particular ward or precinct, but let me vote anywhere at any polling place in Minnesota where I happen to be. Sure, that puts the old "sign here on this big pile of papers of people's names" job to bed, but so what? It's not about them. It's about me.

I can go to any bank branch in the world, it seems, and get my money out. I can use my store credit card at a zillion different locations in the world. But I can only vote in one spot?

Granted it would take -- oh, no! -- machines and computers to make this happen, but, you know, in 2006, machines and computers are making a lot of things happen and I tend to think they work better than humans.

Heck, give me a card and a pin number. This could work. Trust me. It's pretty how much how I do my taxes and I haven't been jailed yet.

Here's another idea: Don't have voting machines. Vote at your ATM. Ever get to make two withdrawls and not be charged for one? Me neither.

For God's sake, Bob. Would it kill you to put on your shoes and socks and go out and spend ten minutes every two years voting?

If you're too busy to go to your local polling station -- conveniently located mere minutes from your home, and open thirteen hours -- and physically cast a vote, maybe you're better off with whatever miserable government the people who actually showed up chose to hand you.

Newsflash! Sniveling Weasels Loose In Congress!
House Majority Leader (and Designated Crackpot) John "Dickhead" Boehner said this on the House floor today: "if you listen to the Democrats, [you] have to wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people."


If Boehner knows of any Democrat who is "interested in protecting the terrorists", he has a duty to forward this information immediately to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. To do anything less will make him an accessory to whatever dastardly plot is being cooked up.

Monday, September 11, 2006
Stop Cringing, You Idiots, And Fight
So theWashington Post publishes a Sunday article basically revealing the Republican campaign strategy for the fall. It's pretty shocking. Are you ready? Here it is:

Run vicious personal smears against the Democrats.

Was anybody surprised by this? What the hell did they think the Republicans were gonna do -- run on their record?

So the big surprise isn't really a surprise. Unfortunately, the Democrat's reaction isn't a surprise either. Here's how Kevin Drum sees it:

[The strategy] seems like a pretty smart move to me. There are only about 40 Republican seats in the House that are realistically in danger, and a good part of that danger seems to be based on little more than a vague sense that things aren't going that well at the moment. It's hard to reverse a vague sense like that among inattentive independents, but it's not that hard to pick up five percentage points in a single district by accusing your opponent of mopery and dopery of some sort. And five points is all they need in a lot of these districts.

It seems to me that Kevin Drum's view is exactly what's wrong with the modern Democratic party. Kevin's first instinct is to get into a defensive crouch, to hunker down and hope the damage isn't too bad.

But you can't win this game on defense. You just can't.

Want to know a secret? The Republican minority that ran in 1994 was no better positioned than the Democrats of today. They were armed with nothing more than "a vague sense that things aren't going that well at the moment". They parleyed that feeling into a gain of 54 seats in the House. They did it by successfully framing the debate. They did it by presenting voters with a stark choice. And they did it by not being afraid of breaking the crockery.

So, Democratic consultants, you're scared that Republicans will accuse your candidate of "mopery and dopery" and skin five points off you?

Pardon my French, kids, but fuck that.

Don't worry about them skinning anything off you. Hit them first, cut them deep, make their mothers cry, skin ten points off the bastards -- and make them sorry they ever tangled with you.

In short, dear old Democratic party, get off of your ass and fight back. While you still can.

Friday, September 08, 2006
This Just In: National Review Favors Free Speech!
I'll admit it: I laughed out loud when I read this post from Michael Ledeen on The Corner:

Have I missed something here, but haven't the Senate Democrats launched a totally McCarthyite assault on ABC? And is there no Republican leader to call them by their proper name? Free press means freedom to screw up, among other things...this is just the usual intimidation by a party that no longer has a grip on reality.

Besides the exquisite irony of the National Review accusing somebody else of "McCarthyite tactics", who was recently calling for the White House to revoke the New York Times' press credentials?

If Philip K. Dick Worked For The RNC
It's clear that the Republican National Committee has lots of money, and even more time, on its collective hands. Because yesterday they unveiled a laughable -- oh, I'm sorry -- a chilling alternative-history web site.

Imagine this terrifying future, America: it's 2007 and the Democrats --- gasp! -- have taken over the House of Representatives!

Washington – Two years ago, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) held a mock impeachment hearing. It was in the basement of the Capitol. Only Democrats were present. The news media, aside from a few progressive bloggers and the Capitol Hill newspapers, barely noticed.

What a difference an election makes.

Yesterday, the cameras were whirring, the lights were glaring, and the eyes of the nation were on Chairman Conyers as – at precisely 9:00 a.m. – he gaveled into session the first formal House Judiciary Committee hearing into impeachment proceedings for President George W. Bush.

And there's more to this dystopian nightmare. Tax cuts for the rich are repealed! The freeways are choked with increased traffic caused by the apparent creation of millions of new federal workers out of thin air! Ted Kennedy and Hilary Clinton are sitting next to each other! And smiling!


But relax, my friend. Relax. It's only fiction. Like the cinematic classic Red Nightmare, it is only a cautionary tale.

But it might come true if we're not careful. If we don't dutifully vote for the Republicans, you might wake up one morning to find that this nightmare has come to pass.

Of course, the RNC's efforts aren't likely to be as prescient as those of the Onion, which published its now-famous satirical piece in January 2001:

WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I Will Now Make Ramesh Ponnuru Weep Like A Little Girl, Part 2
There's quite a debate in the blogosphere about Ramesh Ponnuru and his anti-abortion polemic The Party of Death (oops, sorry Ramesh, I meant to say, "his thoughtful, well-written and keenly-argued landmark of 21st-century public policy, The Party of Death").

Jonathan Rauch gave it a fairly positive review but complained that Ponnuru was side-stepping the central question raised by the book: if aborting an eight-week-old fetus is just as morally wrong as killing a ten-day-old infant, shouldn't the penalty be the same? Shouldn't a woman who gets an abortion be tried for premeditated murder?

Ramesh won't say so. He gets quite vague when discussing possible penalties: maybe abortion doctors ought to lose their licenses, he muses, but then again maybe it ought to be left up to the states to decide.

Of course, ever-sensitive to criticism, Ramesh has to say something when his honor is challenged, even if what he is saying is gibberish. And so he stands up and starts rebutting Rauch's generally positive review:

I don’t sidestep the issues he addresses. See page 262, where I offer a reason for considering abortion “less culpable than, say, the murder of a business rival out of greed,” and for thinking it “just to impose less severe punishments.” I also explicitly say that if a legal regime of delicensure and fines for abortionists “deterred abortion and communicated the state’s and the public’s hostility to abortion. . . there would, in my view, be no need to go further” (p. 246).

In other words, I outlined the principles that ought to govern these laws in as much detail as the matter allows. I explained the sense in which abortion is analogous to other kinds of homicide (its deliberate ending of a peaceable human being’s life) and the sense in which it is not (the subjective moral intent likely to be behind the act). To put it a different way: While I cannot assent to the common pro-choice argument that we should allow the killing of unborn human beings since our society includes people who take many different good-faith moral views about the issue, I can see this pluralism as a legitimate reason for lenity in enforcing the prohibition.

Oh, and one more thing while we’re on this passage: Our homicide laws certainly do allow people to use lethal force to save their own lives in some cases. Has Rauch ever heard of justifiable homicide?

Justifiable homicide?

Is that, like, when an embryo pulls a gun on you?

Our President....
....is on the radio right now, milking September 11 the way you'd milk a prize-winning Brown Swiss.

He's jabbering in front of a hand-picked audience in the East Room of the White House, that dutifully applauds at his boilerplate campaign pronouncements.

"The United States does not torture," he said again today. Of course, the President's definition of torture differs from that of most civilized people, but never mind that.

After all, it's campaign season.

Come For The Nude Dancing, Stay For The Absolution
I wouldn't have believed this story, if I hadn't read it in America's Most Trusted News Source:

BOSTON, Mass. -- One of the last places a man can enjoy a safe, guilt-free and uninhibited evening of sexy entertainment is the strip joint. That refuge, however, may be coming to an end as the Catholic Church has begun installing confession booths inside gentlemen's clubs.

"When they first told me they were going to put a confession booth in here, I assumed they were joking," recalled Joe Sharkey, owner of Boston's Hot Foxx strip club. "It turns out the joke was on me".

Read the whole thing.

Like A Headless Chicken, The Bush Administration Leaps Into Action!
Josh Marshall is sensing that the Republican's biennial fear campaign isn't working the way it's supposed to:

I can only imagine what we're going to see over the next two months. And fear is a powerful weapon. But somehow we seem to have arrived at the chicken with its head cut off stage of the game. As the BS gets less believeable the ante keeps getting upped until now we seem to be at the stage of an infinite regress into historical parody.

Now it's not just the Long War and Islamofascism. But it's fascism and communism and 1939 and the totalitarians. And it's the Sunnis in Anbar province and al Qaida's Iraq subsidiary and if it's not them, the deracinated transnational terror cells than it might be the Iranian state and their quest for nuclear weapons. Either way we've done a great job of fighting the terrorists but things are as dangerous as they've ever been. And also it's just like World War II. And the totalitarians also.

Is the jig up?

I've been asking myself the same question. The terrorism arrests in London had a much smaller effect on the polls than the Republicans had hoped, and now they are going over the top with the rhetoric. Waaaaaay over the top.

Now and then I find myself wishing that we had grown-ups in office -- people who could be serious about protecting the American public, people who understood that one of the most important ways to counter terrorists is to not let them panic you. But the way this administration seeks to exploit fears of terrorism is unconscionable. And criminal.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006
A Pretty Unlikely Cause From Some Pretty Dumb People
"Beavis and Butthead" creator Mike Judge recently completed a film for Fox called "Idiocracy". The plot involves a drearily average schlub (Owen Wilson) who through a series of cinematic mishaps ends up in hibernation for 500 years. He wakes up to discover that he is by far the smartest man on Earth.

This is because while he's been sleeping, stupid people have been breeding much faster than smart people, and now the world is awash with stupidity.

If the plot sounds familiar, it's because it's exactly the same plot as a well-known short story by Cyril Kornbluth, "The Marching Morons".

Judge's movie was slated for release over the Labor Day weekend, but the studio has postponed a general release indefinitely. The movies been dumped in a handful of theaters with no promotion or fanfare.

The right-wing has embraced the film, even though very few of their number have seen it, and they're now furious with Fox for trying to kill "their" movie.

Why do the wingers even care? Mike Judge is alleged to be a conservative, but I find his humor to be somewhat ambivalent politically; "Beavis and Butthead" wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the un-P.C. viewpoints voiced by its protagonists, and "King of the Hill" does not paint a flattering portrait of your average beer-swilling, Walmart-shopping Texan.

But wingers have apparently latched on to "Idiocracy" as an anti-feminist polemic (exhorting intelligent career women to stay home and breed, breed, breed! for the good of the species).

But....hmmm...does the premise even make sense? After all, Kornbluth wrote his story 55 years ago. Are people demonstrably dumber now than they were more than half a century ago?

Sometimes they act like it, but no, I think people are pretty much the same as ever.

Perhaps part of the problem here is what's meant by "stupid" and "smart". Do "stupid" people really outnumber "smart" people? Or do "poor and uneducated" people outnumber "smart and educated" people? There is a difference.

And is Mike Judge the kind of guy you really want to turn to for a discussion about dominant vs. recessive alleles?

In fact, throughout the history of modern civilization, the poor have always been breeding faster than the rich. And civilization has gotten along fine.

Perhaps if the wingers are worried about this problem, they will find it necessary to take drastic steps to prevent the further erosion of human intelligence. For instance, they could unilaterally impose a no-child policy for Republicans.

After all, studies show that Republicans are breeding faster than Democrats. Republicans are clearly feeble-minded. So, if the Republicans will just agree to stop breeding, we'll have this problem licked in twenty years or so.

It's elementary, really.

Casey, Klobuchar Galluping Ahead
Today Gallup released the results of its latest tracking polls for Senate races. This poll shows Casey ahead of Santorum in Pennsylvania by 18 points, and Klobuchar with a 10-point lead over Mark Kennedy in Minnesota.

Interestingly, Kennedy is still sitting at 40% -- not a great place to be 60 days before the election.

Saturday, September 02, 2006
Don't tell anyone, but NASA is quietly putting R&D money into that crazy project I've been talking about:

In a few weeks, scientists from across the world will gather in the New Mexico desert to compete for one of the strangest - and most ambitious - technological competitions ever devised.

Some researchers will unveil robots, powered by solar panels, that will climb long lengths of cable. Others will demonstrate materials so light and strong that mile-long stretches of the stuff could be hung in the air without snapping. And some will highlight their plans to launch satellites carrying sets of mini-probes tethered together, to discover how they behave in space.

All these different projects are united by one extraordinary goal: to build a stairway to heaven. Each of the groups that will gather in New Mexico is competing to win a Nasa prize set up to encourage entrepreneurs to start development work on the technology needed to create a space elevator. Such a device would involve constructing a 23,000-mile cable that could pull men and goods into orbit without blasting them there on top of expensive, and dangerous, rockets.

Lower the cost of placing payloads into orbit to $10 / lb -- or even close to it -- and the craziest science fiction will become the stuff of our everyday lives.

I believe we really can make the future we want, if we want it badly enough. And I'd vastly prefer living in Arthur C. Clarke's future to, say, Jerry Pournelle's. Just sayin'.

Don Rumsfeld: "Let's Be Civil About This, Hand-Wringers And Appeasers"
Over the last couple of weeks, the Republican strategy for the fall elections has been crystal-clear: paint the Democrats as appeasers, sob-sisters and weaklings. Paint the Republicans as brawny guardians of national security. And never miss an opportunity to use the word "fascism".

Fascism, after all, is a one-size-fits-all phrase. Republican focus-groups apparently went apeshit over the word, so now Rove & Co. are jabbering it constantly. Now the question we're being asked is: do you wanna fight fascism, or do you want to appease the fascists?

The right-wing blogosphere is dutifully re-writing history to support the ahistorical notion that there is a direct linkage between European fascism of the 1930s and "Islamofacism" of today.

You might say that we've always been at war with Eurasia -- and don't you forget it, buster.

Senior Bush administration officials have been introducing this approach to the voters. Donald Rumsfeld, in a speech to the American Legion, outlined the administration's line of attack:

Secretary Rumsfeld's speech to a veterans group drew parallels between the current conflict with terrorists and the period between World Wars I and II.

"It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among western democracies, when those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and Nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored," said Donald Rumsfeld.

The secretary said today America faces a new type of fascism that, just as in the 1930s, can not be accommodated or appeased.

"This enemy is serious, lethal and relentless," he said. "But this is still not well recognized or fully understood. It seems that in some quarters, there is more of a focus on dividing our country than acting with unity against the gathering threats."

Rumsfeld asked a series of rhetorical questions, including this one.

"With the growing lethality and increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased," asked Secretary Rumsfeld.

To their credit, the Democrats are (finally) refusing to let the administration frame the debate. Minority leader Harry Reid condemned Rumsfeld's comments as irresponsible, and is pushing for a resolution calling for Rumsfeld's resignation -- essentially a no-confidence vote for the Defense Secretary. If it goes forward, every senator would have to go on record. And I suspect most senators on the right side of the aisle would rather not be forced to go on the record about Rumsfeld.

The Republican strategists believed it would be a cakewalk to make the election a referendum on fascism. But they are suddenly concerned that the Democrats may just have found a way to make the election a referendum on Rumsfeld. And they're scared.

How scared?

This scared:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reached out to Democrats yesterday, opening the door for them to retract their stinging indictment of him as Pentagon chief.

In a letter to Congress's top Democrats, Rumsfeld said remarks he made Tuesday during a speech in Salt Lake City were misrepresented by the news media. Rumsfeld said he was "concerned" by the reaction of Democrats, many of whom called for his resignation and said he was treading on dangerous territory.

"I know you agree that with America under attack and U.S. troops in the field, our national debate on this should be constructive," Rumsfeld wrote.

In his speech before thousands of veterans, Rumsfeld said the world faces "a new type of fascism" and warned against repeating the pre-World War II mistake of appeasement. He alluded to critics of the Bush administration's war policies in terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s, "a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the Western democracies."

Without explicitly citing Bush critics at home or abroad, he said that "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons." Aides to Rumsfeld said later he was not accusing the administration's critics of trying to appease the terrorists but was cautioning against a repeat of errors made in earlier eras.

That's cute -- Don Rumsfeld asking the Democrats to throw him a life preserver. Let's hope they throw the bastard an anchor.

Friday, September 01, 2006
At The Fair
Yesterday the lovely Mrs. Uncle Mike and I visited the Minnesota State Fair with our beautiful two-year-old daughter, and predictably, the first stop I wanted to make was at the DFL booth. I'd been to the DFL booth on the first or second day of the Fair, but now wanted to find the whereabouts of Amy Klobuchar's campaign stand.

My lovely wife sighed a lot but we eventually reached Klobuchar's base of operations at the Fair, one of the small shacks placed close to Judson street. I bought a campaign button from one of the kids working there, and a kindly elderly man shook my hand and made small talk with me.

Turned out he was Jim Klobuchar, Amy's dad.

Being a Minnesotan of a certain age, I knew who he was. Jim Klobuchar had been a columnist for the Minneapolis Star (later the Star-Tribune) for many years. Now Papa Klobuchar was stumping for his daughter Amy.

To be honest, I had been hoping not to meet Jim. He had a reputation for being kind of an asshole -- I'd heard a few stories -- but I found him very pleasant to talk to in this context. He asked me where I was from and I told him I grew up in Cambridge and remembered that his bike tours of the 70s and 80s went through that undistinguished bit of East Central Minnesota real estate.

Jim said that he remembered Cambridge fondly, and said -- rather frankly, I thought -- that Cambridge was where he had gone for treatment for his alcoholism.

After we walked away from the booth, I mentioned to the Lovely Mrs. Uncle Mike that the elder Klobuchar talked rather openly about his chemical dependency treatment. "Well," Mrs. Uncle Mike said, "it was pretty public at the time".

I had forgotten that. Jim was still writing his column when he was pulled over and arrested on a DUI charge. Going through something like that in the public eye would admittedly have been difficult. So against my better judgement I walked away with a better impression of Jim Klobuchar than I'd had previously.

This morning I listened to the Senate debate between DFLer Amy Klobuchar, Republican Mark Kennedy and Independence Party sacrificial lamb Robert Fitzgerald.

The debate was in many ways more substantive than I had expected -- albeit a lot more vituperative -- and while I am admittedly biased, I felt that Klobuchar and Fitzgerald both came off better than the petulant and politically hamstrung Kennedy.

Both Kennedy and Klobuchar came out swinging during their opening remarks. Kennedy accused Klobuchar of exaggerating his ties to President Bush, Klobuchar accused Kennedy of trying to hide from his record. Fitzgerald bragged about his campaign bus that runs on grease. To me the most remarkable things about the debate were Kennedy's evident frustration, and Klobuchar's unexpectedly aggressive attacks.

The conventional wisdom for female candidates is that they should be pleasant, matronly and non-controversial. But Klobuchar -- the Hennepin County prosecutor -- seems willing to campaign as tougher by half than her opponents, which I appreciated. How it will play with the public remains to be seen. But Klobuchar has so far run a tighter and more disciplined campaign, while Kennedy still seems flummoxed that being Dick Cheney's hand-picked surrogate still doesn't seem to be enough.

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