Monday, January 31, 2005

Genie Out of the Bottle

"There was a time when I thought that someone like Instapundit was a cut above this type of thing, but no more. It's no longer just right wing talk show hosts ostensibly 'entertaining' the folks. It's law professors and Claremont fellows publicly accusing 'the left' of being terrorist sympathizers.

Some people need to get out of the right wing echo chamber and breathe some fresh air. They have lost the capacity to see and hear what they and their allies are really saying. This is a very destructive genie they have let out of bottle. "
I'm afraid they don't care that much about what they have set loose on the land. They want the daily hit, and it's addictive.

Two Inside Jokes

By happenstance, I ran across two inside jokes today.

  1. Mornington Crescent, a game developed on the BBC radio show I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue, which apparently sprang from the show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again.

    There are abstruse pages about Morningon Crescent. And quite a few sites that delve deeply into the lore and legend of the game.

    This page has a charming implentation of the game in java if you scroll down a bit.

    However, if you want to have the inside joke blown, it's revealed here. I suspected as much early on, but it was good to have someone write about it who had experienced it in the trenches.

  2. The second inside joke is one that has purportedly been a standard gag backstage for comics for many decades. It's called "The Aristocrats" and is the basis for a movie of the same name by Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller and the Showtime series Bullshit!) and Paul Provenza. The movie features over a hundred famous comedians (such as Drew Carey, George Carlin, Phyllis Diller, Eric Idle, Eddie Izzard, et al.), many of them household names.

    I'm not totally sure if the "joke," and therefore the movie, is on the level. Perhaps, recursively, they've made up this so-called "inside joke" so they can have another inside joke that we non-comics don't know about.

    Warning: everything I've seen about "The Aristocrats" as a joke is incredibly filthy. There is a video of the South Park characters telling a version of the joke that is horribly disgusting, and yet Jillette says it's not even in the top five filthiest versions in the movie.

    In the links above you can find (but do not follow them if any profanity, much less horribly disgusting profanity, offends you), you can find a link to the video of the South Park characters telling the joke (very vile, not for under 21 years of age), and a report of Gilbert Gottfried using the joke at a Friar's Club Roast (again, very vile). And much more that one should not download if squeamish.
I suppose I could write about the nature of inside jokes. Or perhaps of anti-humor, or Shaggy Dog Stories, or trolling. But I'm not up for that.

But, oddly, in one day I ran across two elaborate inside jokes that I don't recall having heard of before.

How did I come across them? "The Aristocrats" was featured on The Sundance Channel's programs about the current Sundance Festival, which I watched in part for information about the Strangers with Candy movie. I ran across Mornington Crescent when looking for some old BBC comedy, since podcasting has left me and my new MP3 player cold. This nice fellow has a remarkable set of (non-filthy) old BBC radio programs featuring Stephen Fry up in MP3 form. The main show I was interested in, broadcast in 1987-88 (I think), was Saturday Night Fry, and featured Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Jim Broadbent, and is an example of the ilk of British humor I really enjoy (self-referential, playful with language, and sharp), but which I'd never heard before. Recommended.

Not to mention that Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Jim Broadbent, and Emma Thompson have each gone on to some pretty spectacular things after this little comedy show.

If you're into British comedy, by the way, watch Spaced (by the fellows who created the very savvy and funny Shaun of the Dead). It's currently (as in at this very minute as I post) playing on the Trio Channel on cable in the US. I liked Shaun of the Dead a lot, but Spaced is even richer and more hilarious.

Good, Considering

One reasonably good day in Iraq, which is a rarity recently. Apparently quite a few people actually voted, though turnout in Sunni areas was weak.

Downside: about 37 or so people were killed by attackers, despite draconian security measures (no civilian car traffic, for instance). And somewhere upwards of 10 UK soldiers died when a transport plane crashed (if that's how to describe what happened, I haven't seen reports of what happened to the plane). My sympathies to the wounded and the families.

As for further commentary, I think I'll wait until I get a firmer idea of the election outcome, how it came about, and what Iraqis feel about the results of the election.

And, of course, we'll have to see if there are subsequent elections.

But I think a lot of Iraqis felt positively about being able to vote today, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

One Good Thing

Juan Cole reports the results of a poll of Iraqis by Zogby

I think most Americans will be baffled by having all these flavors of Islam. Oddly enough, US taxpayers are are paying for supporting one or another flavor, and having US soldiers die to make this or that flavor ascendent., with no real clue about what that means.

I know a bit of this arcana and I don't want US soldiers dying to establish a Shiite theocracy, which may happen even though Americans say it should not happen. Funnily enough, I recently ran across a strong booster of Bush's policy who quieted down when I asked him a simple geopolitical question: why the Turks may be interested in the outcome of the election, and why Turkey may take military action in Iraq based on the political landscape there. This fellow had no idea why Turkey had any interest in the political structure in Iraq. I didn't even get into discussing why tribes are so important in Iraq, and why tribes are not just a faraway schema like something out of "Dances with Wolves."

But this polling from Zogby is a bit of good news, at least for the time being:

Iraqis who would support a religious government: 33%
I bet that number isn't far from any true polling in Iran about religious government. Stilll, Iran has a theocracy. And is building nukes.

If the US attacks Iran, how likely is it that the number supporting a theocracy would go up?

Ask Condi Rice. I'm sure she has an opinion, and that opinion will be proven wrong in six months.

Hack Gap

A couple years ago I would Glenn Reynold's Instapundit every day. I started trailing off and then, about a year ago, I stopped dead. I don't recall if there was a single post that pushed me over the edge. He just became such a hack that I removed his bookmark. Practically the only time I even hear of him is when someone points to his site. His peddling the Kerry intern story was such hackishness, and I would be shocked if he didn't pump the Swiftboat liars stories too -- even the ones that are demonstrably false beyond question to any reasonable observer (not to a hack).

It's repugnant how he became such a Republican partisan, while claiming to be a Libertarian. I'm sure he still pays lip service to Libertarian ideas. But he's part of the smear machine, and there need be no factual basis for his smears -- he'll spread them if they help his side and hurt the other side, while, I'm sure, decrying one or two of them so he can be a little above Ann Coulter.

Some hyperbole during an election could conceivably be written off, though I don't think some of Reynold's calumnies were mere hyperbole. I see that he continues to this day, even after the election. Max Speak's burst of disgust at Reynold's tactics is spot on, as is that of Oliver Willis.

People such as Reynolds, scream about Michael Moore but do even worse than Moore does at distorting the truth and manufacturing outrage. If he teaches his students with that style of argumentation, University of Tennessee Law School is going down the drain quickly.

I guess he's found that the court of opinion of his public is far below the standards of any true court, and he's going for it. Politics is dirty business, but there are people who do it honorably. Glenn Reynolds is not one of them. And don't get me started on Little Green Footballs or, for that matter, Powerline. The big lefty bloggers (Atrios and Kos), while occasionally incendiary, aren't regularly mendacious like these three rightwing blogs. The hack gap is real.

I suppose I should make an obligatory statement about blogosphere triumphalism, too. Here it is: Blogs aren't the baby Jesus. I'm in agreement this post byEzra Klein, at his spiffy new site. Jeff Jarvis is mentioned therein, and he's a prime example of the thinking about blogs that makes me cringe. I like a lot of things Jarvis says, and he is demonstrably not a hack like Reynolds, but he gets tiresome quickly when he gets on his "blogs will reshape humankind" hobbyhorse.

Of course, riffle will reshape humankind. But calling riffle a blog is like calling a pebble a boulder.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

China In A Bull Shop

Economist: China Loses Faith in Dollar:

China has lost faith in the stability of the U.S. dollar and its first priority is to broaden the exchange rate for its currency from the dollar to a more flexible basket of currencies, a top Chinese economist said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum.

At a standing-room only session focusing on the world's fastest-growing economy, Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation, said the issue for China isn't whether to devalue the yuan but "to limit it from the U.S. dollar."


"The U.S. dollar is no longer -- in our opinion is no longer -- (seen) as a stable currency, and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting troubles all the time," Fan said, speaking in English.

So we't not only lost the high moral ground, the fear of our military, and diplomatic strength. We've also lost faith in the soundness of the dollar among some of our biggest creditors.
I don't know a lot about economics, but I can't believe this is good news.

Regional War?

Turkey Warns Kurds About Kirkuk Control:

Another imminently foreseeable problem with Iraq again rears its head:

Turkey's military warned Wednesday that the migration of large numbers of Kurds into the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk could sway the results of the upcoming elections and possibly lead to clashes that could draw Ankara into the dispute.


Turkey has repeatedly warned that Kurdish control of the city would make an independent Kurdish state more viable, a development that Ankara has repeatedly said it won't accept. Turkey fears that a strong Kurdish entity in northern Iraq could inspire Kurds in Turkey, where Kurdish rebels have battled the Turkish army since 1984.

"Hundreds of thousands of Kurds migrated to Kirkuk and registered to vote," Gen. Ilker Basbug, deputy head of the Turkish military, said at a news conference. "This could make the results of the elections questionable."

"Even worse," he added, "these developments could threaten the territorial and political unity of Iraq. We're worried that such a development would pose an important security problem for Turkey."

I actually doubt that such a regional war will break out. But consider how poorly everything else about the Iraq adventure has gone. Does anyone truly trust the Bush administration, or Condi Rice, to be able to handle all the situations that stand to make the prolbems in Iraq a) worse and b) spread to neighboring countries?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Jesusland, Scanty on the Jesus

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience is a meaty rundown of the moral deficiencies of the Moral Majoritarians:
"Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, or neglect of a biblical worldview, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians. The statistics are devastating."
Jesus was strongly against divorce and remarriage. But Jesusland isn't, apparently.

Even more than the materialism and war-mongering of this crowd, the fact that they don't look to Jesus' own repeated statements about about divorce makes their harping about gay marriage and abortion -- on which Jesus is silent -- even more hypocritical.

But, as we've seen, they don't know the Bible too well anyway.

Link via Oliver Willis, and the whole piece is worth reading: it gives chapter and verse and is damning.

Unreality-Based Leadership

From a Middle East Policy Council forum called Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on "Terror":
"Anyway, the other day I understand that someone went into the Oval Office - someone known to everybody here, a rather senior person who is on his way out of the administration - and was asked by the president what was going on in Iraq, and said, with his characteristic bluntness, we're losing - and was asked to leave the office forthwith and not continue the discussion.

So there's a question about what is going on in Iraq, and perhaps the competition between reality-based analysis, much disparaged in Washington these days, and hallucinatory optimism, which is the alternative."
--Chas. W. Freeman, Jr. President, Middle East Policy Council

From Dan Froomkin, via First Draft.

Yes, I've Said These Things

From McSweeney's Internet Tendency:
Read the whole list.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Don't Do Stuff Like This

Lawmaker's Son Charged in Tire-Slashing

The sons of a first-term congresswoman and Milwaukee's former acting mayor were among five Democratic activists charged Monday with slashing the tires of vans rented by Republicans to drive voters and monitors to the polls on Election Day.

How disgusting. As a Democrat, I'm ashamed of these guys. Throw the book at them.

Don't do stuff like that.

Bush the Dip. Lomat

From The Washington Post: Bush Doctrine Is Expected to Get Chilly Reception, a few choice excerpts:

When President Bush flew to Canada in his first international trip following his reelection, the White House portrayed it as the beginning of a fence-mending tour to bring allies back into the fold after a tense first term. But after Bush left, the Canadians were more furious than before.

They were stunned when Bush leaned across a table in a private meeting and lectured Prime Minister Paul Martin about opposing the U.S. missile defense system. And they were later taken aback by a speech filled with what they considered the same "old Bush" foreign policy pronouncements that opened the divide with the allies in the first place.

"If he's going to take that speech to Europe," said a top Canadian official who attended the meeting between Bush and Martin, "he's not going to get a good reception."


Yet many Democrats, as well as Republicans from the traditional school of U.S. foreign policy, see Bush heading down a treacherous road that will further unravel a half-century of international relationships. The rupture over Iraq, they fear, may presage a widening divide with the rest of the world over the next four years.


But Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?' " said the senior Canadian official who was in the room and noted that he had been assured by Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell personally that Bush would avoid the subject.

"Most of our side was trying to explain the politics, how it was difficult to do," the official said. But Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?' "

The next day Bush gave a speech in Halifax that to the Canadians sounded as tough and uncompromising as ever. "We were all looking at each other and saying this is a speech for somebody else. It certainly wasn't for Canadians."

It's apparent, not only from this story but from practically every aspect of the Bush administration, that he has an odd view of the word "dialogue." His view appears to be closer to what most would consider monologue: naked assertion of his thoughts is his prime mode of discourse. He usually doesn't try to persuade so much as indicate that it's his way or the highway.

Of course, that's not going to convince many people who aren't already on board. And, as we've seen, most of the world is not on board with Bush.

And he even gins up this repugnant bullshit when Condi and Powell have promised that Bush would steer clear of the precise axe he's grinding. It's going to be a long four years of Bush monologue.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Facts on the Ground

Knight Ridder discovers that U.S. in danger of losing the war. I'd say that what they are reporting looks lot more like "has already lost the war."

The whole article is worth a read, but I'll pick out one point with some juxtapositions:
Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the multinational forces' deputy operations director, told Knight Ridder on Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah, but nearly as high as October's total.
Things have really gone to hell since November 2003. I suppose that has nothing to do with Condoleeza Rice being named to unstick things in Iraq in October 2003.
The new structure will give Bush's top White House aides a stronger voice in decisions and will make the president more directly accountable. Because of their close relationship, many people will assume Bush signed off on Rice's decisions.
Okay, I'll be nice and point out that the increase in insurgency is not because Rice was appointed to fix things in late 2003. However. we all should note who was supposed to refrain from exacerbating the increasingly disastrous Iraq debacle. This is the person whose genius is now to be elevated to run the whole State Department. God help us.

Of course, in her confirmation hearings, Condi took full responsiblity for the failure of her Iraq Stabilization Group, right? Oh, you know better than that.
SEN. KERRY: The Iraqi Stabilization Group that you were put in charge of, October 2003 -- by almost everybody's judgments, it has disintegrated. People have left it. It has not been successful. And I wonder if you would speak to that. I mean, there were a half-dozen agencies or so that were supposed to identify and resolve problems. How would you characterize the work and effect of that group?

MS. RICE: The Iraq Stabilization Group, Senator, was actually an internal NSC group. It was not an interagency group. It --

SEN. KERRY: But you had a half-dozen agencies that were part of it, that were reporting to you as part of it, were they not?

MS. RICE: No, the role of the Iraq Stabilization Group was to improve the information flow during the period of time when we had the CPA in place. It was to try and de-bottleneck back here when there were problems for the CPA. We were very active and, I think, played a very important and useful role in the governance issues, so that Bob Blackwill, who at time -- at the time was heading the Iraq Stabilization Group on Governance and had an undersecretaries group on governance -- he was very active in working with Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing about the Iraq interim government. So that was a very successful outcome of having the Iraq Stabilization Group.

But it was a group that was really there for the period in which the Coalition Provisional Authority was moving from one that had been almost exclusively in the chain of command for the Defense Department to one that needed more interagency backstopping back here.

Many of those functions have really now been taken over by the United States embassy and by the State Department.

SEN. KERRY: Well, in The Washington Post, and maybe they got it wrong, but they characterized it as the new group to be led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and drawn from more than a half-dozen Cabinet agencies --

MS. RICE: Let me just make the distinction.

SEN. KERRY: -- is intended to -- (inaudible word).

MS. RICE: The Iraqi stabilization group was an intra-NSC group.

SEN. KERRY: No, I understand that.

MS. RICE: It reached out to and tried to help the CPA by bringing together interagency teams when it was necessary to try and get something done. We tried to improve the information flow, we tried to improve the coordination back here, we tried to de-bottleneck for the CPA. When the CPA needed some help, for instance, on the currency forms, we worked with the Treasury to get the right people out there from Treasury to do the currency reform, which was actually very successful.

SEN. KERRY: Was this an effort to try to straighten out what the military itself was not able to do or not doing?

MS. RICE: It was an effort to move from a stage at which it had been almost exclusively Defense Department and military to a period at which you needed better interagency support for what the CPA was doing.

SEN. KERRY: How successful would you say it was?

MS. RICE: I think it was successful in a number of ways. If you look at several projects, the currency reform, I think, was very successful; I think that we were very successful on the governance issues. Again, Bob Blackwill, who was the chair of the governance Iraq stabilization group, was very active with Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing about the Iraqi interim government. I don't think it would have happened without the activities of that group. So it had its successes. Bottlenecks also remained and we continue to work on them. I think it's a much smoother system, frankly, with an embassy and an ambassador who can oversee those things with the backstopping of the State Department and the interagency process of which the State Department is in the lead.

SEN. KERRY: Has been -- ?

MS. RICE: I think it's been smoother --

SEN. KERRY: Smoother.

MS. RICE: -- with an embassy in place that can be the coordination in the field. We've always had the view that most of the interagency coordination ought to actually be done in the field.
Rice seems to have a problem accepsting responsibility for anything that goes wrong on her watch at the National Security Council. But it's really hard to believe what she's trying to say here. Her group had committees on counterterrorism, economic development, and political affairs (and media messages, too -- no doubt the most important). Each committee was headed by a Rice deputy and included representatives of the State, Defense and Treasury departments and the CIA. The group was called the "Iraq Stabilization Group," for goodness sakes. Everything her committees have touched have gotten arguably worse, most things have gotten much worse, and still she's elevated based on failure.

This seems to be the Bush strategy, often noted: Fire people who were right, promote people who were wrong or incompetent. Condi's just one major international incident disaster from a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Let's just hope she isn't awarded that medal based on the debris of American foreign policy that is yet more harmful to American interests than what she's already been responsible for.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bullshitter In League With Satan

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

That means Bullshit in ASL.

And that they're in league with Satan to Europeans.

Nice to have visual confirmation of the world's opinion.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the graphic.

Forked Tongue

Matthew Yglesias likes Michael Gerson's speechwriting quite a bit. But he clearly lays out the problem with the policies that conflict with the speech:
Our actual policies take the following shape:

"Outposts of Tyranny":

* Cuba
* Burma
* North Korea
* Iran
* Zimbabwe
* Belarus

Allies In the War On Terror

* Tunisia
* Saudi Arabia
* Uzbekistan
* Egypt
* Jordan
* Kuwait

Ambiguous Third Category

* Russia
* China
* Vietnam
* Syria

Specifically Cited By Bush Administration As Models of Democracy

* Pakistan
* Algeria

One Election Makes a Democracy In...

* Afghanistan
* Iraq
* Palestine after Arafat died

One Election Does Not A Democracy Make In...

* Venezuela
* Haiti
* Palestine before Arafat died

You all see, no doubt, where I'm going with this. You can take current American policy toward any country on this list and offer a decent defense for acting the way the Bush administration has acted. What you can't do is look at American policies toward all of these countries -- toward the world, in short -- and come close to explaining how this constitutes an instantiation of the Gerson Doctrine or reflects any sort of coherent view of the world.

And that's the problem. Freedom is great, everyone agrees. But that's not a policy, and it's certainly not Bush's policy. It's just empty happy-talk.

I'm sure that if WMD had been found in Iraq, the speech would have been much lighter in rhetoric about freedom. This is just an ass-covering sloganeering dressed up as a grand worldview.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Bush said "freedom" about 30 times in his inaugural address today. His belief that "if I merely say it, that makes it so" is routine by now, and the Washington Post points that out in this story:

President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.

Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well.

I realize his fans only care about his repetition of shibboleths, but even the most sycophantic of them should see that plunging Iraq into ferocious internicene brutality while letting our "friendly" thugs run roughshod over their citizens doesn't do much for human rights and freedom.

But why see that when you can just listen to Michael Gerson's pretty words?


Froomkin finds a nugget in a NY Times interview with Laura Bush:
'And she confessed that on the last day of the fall campaign her daughter Jenna announced that she and her sister, Barbara, would be joining their parents in an Iowa town, Sioux City, which Jenna pronounced 'Sigh-yocks City.'

' 'Don't put that in!' Mrs. Bush said quickly, as her listeners exploded in laughter. 'It was so funny. She was totally humiliated.''

Not nearly enough.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Church Failure

A Nation of Faith and Religious Illiterates

The sociologist Peter Berger once remarked that if India is the most religious country in the world and Sweden the least, then the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes. Not anymore. With a Jesus lover in the Oval Office and a faith-based party in control of both houses of Congress, the United States is undeniably a nation of believers ruled by the same.

Things are different in Europe, and not just in Sweden. The Dutch are four times less likely than Americans to believe in miracles, hell and biblical inerrancy. The euro does not trust in God. But here is the paradox: Although Americans are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion.

In Europe, religious education is the rule from the elementary grades on. So Austrians, Norwegians and the Irish can tell you about the Seven Deadly Sins or the Five Pillars of Islam. But, according to a 1997 poll, only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts, the four Gospels, and 12% think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. That paints a picture of a nation that believes God speaks in Scripture but that can't be bothered to read what he has to say.

I was wondering how Jesus came to glorify wealth and love war. I guess this explains it: churches aren't preaching the Bible, but increasingly they're preaching Republicanism:
How did this happen? How did one of the most religious countries in the world become a nation of religious illiterates? Religious congregations are surely at fault. Churches and synagogues that once inculcated the "fourth R" are now telling the faithful stories "ripped from the headlines" rather than teaching them the Ten Commandments or parsing the Sermon on the Mount (which was delivered, as only one in three Americans can tell you, by Jesus). But most of the fault lies in our elementary and secondary schools.
I'm sure the schools could be teaching religious studies. I'm not opposed to that, if they reach a wide array of religions rather than proselytize for any one. How likely is that in, say, Georgia?

But of the 38 percent of the US population who go to church weekly, a small chunk know what should definitely be common knowledge about Christianity. If churches can't teach the basics any better than that, they really are failing their members.

A Friend Calls Condi a Liar

From the radio show On Point, an interview about Rice Confirmation Hearings.

Scroll to about 36 minutes in, and the host (Warren Olney) is speaking with Larry Diamond.
HOST: How do you see Condoleeza Rice's integrity?

LARRY DIAMOND: Well let me say a couple of things. Number one, she's been a friend and I'm not gonna challenge her integrity directly in this way and therefore I can't speak entirely objectively. There are ties of affection. I'll say only two other things.

Number one, I think there is indications from what Greg Thielmann has said and what's been brought out that she's not been truthful and candid. That's point number one. Number two, these issues were raised when she was provost of Stanford University.

HOST: In what context?

DIAMOND: There were groups -- student groups and faculty groups -- who felt that she did not deal with them truthfully

Third, I want to say, listen if you want a standard for untruthfullness and absolute deceit in a secretary of State, you know, look at Henry Kissinger. It's not like she would be the first secretary of state who has brazenly lied in the conduct of her job. So, my feeling is that I'm not excusing it. I think what's being brought out I can't clarify one way or another. I find it troubling. But when you look at the options we have for Republican Secretary of State under George Bush, frankly I will tell you I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard it was going to be her and not some of the possible alternatives.
So, she's on par with Kissinger for mendacity. She's lied for years in other jobs. But she's not as batshit crazy as the absolute worst person Bush could have nominated.

Some endorsement, friend!

Anyone have any ideas what he's talking about regarding her days as Provost of Stanford?

There's a lot more insight into Condi in that program -- I recommend a listen.

A few notes: This program was aired Tuesday, January 18. I transcribed this and transcription errors are mine only. Larry Diamond is a fellow at the conservative think tank the Hoover Institution. Initially pro-war, he went to Iraq after the invation and wrote a much-noted essay titled What Went Wrong In Iraq?

Social Security: There Is No Crisis -

Social Security: There Is No Crisis -

To repeat: There is no Social Security Crisis. That's a fact.

Saying there is a crisis is the equivalent of "Iraq has WMD NOW! NOW! NOW!" Of course, we find out later that Iraq had no WMD and Social Security is not in crisis.

Thanks to Pandagon for the link. Nice job.

Monday, January 17, 2005


"The American Dream"

Oh yes, love is the way. Love is the only absolute. More and more I see this. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South—I’ve seen hate. In the faces and even the walk of too many Klansmen of the South, I’ve seen hate. Hate distorts the personality. Hate does something to the soul that causes one to lose his objectivity. The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right. And I know now that Jesus is right, that love is the way. And this is why John said, "God is love," so that he who hates does not know God, but he who loves at that moment has the key that opens the door to the meaning of ultimate reality. So this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world.

We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and God grant that America will be true to her dream.

--Martin Luther King

Inept product naming

Midnight Express Comforter set.

"Rejuvenate the look of your bedroom with this luxurious Midnight Express comforter set. "

Midnight Express (1978 movie).

The movie that gave the phrase "Turkish prison" new currency.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Foreseeable Consequence

Bush on his "Bring 'em on" idiocy:
Yahoo! News - Bush Admits Misgivings About Famed Phrases: "'Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean,' Bush said Thursday. ''Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case.'"
The consequences may not have been intended by a lamebrain like Bush, but they were totally foreseeable because of what the phrase he uttered actually means. Telling someone to "Bring 'em on" or "Bring it on" is trashtalking that means "come fight."

A predictable consequence of that phrase is that your enemy will rally and "come fight." If it had an effect, it likely has had the consequence of more Iraqis and international jihadis saying "Ok, Bush, we'll fight America."

On top of that, insurgents are now using the phrase in taunting propoganda videos:
"George W. Bush; you have asked us to 'bring it on'. And so help me, (we will) like you never expected. Do you have another challenge?," asked the narrator before the video showed explosions around a U.S. military Humvee vehicle.
Bush's error wasn't in the unintended consequences of his phrase. Any idiot could have known the likely consequences.

Bush's problem -- and even more, ours -- is that he's not just any idiot.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Useless Juvenility

From the wierdos at, an image manipulation thread:

Photoshop classic paintings for modern times.

This Photoshop contest had a higher ratio of hits to misses than usual. I even laughed at some of them.

Flypaper Folderol

Dana Priest reports: the CIA has discovered that Iraq Is A New Terror Breeding Ground. Gee, who could have foreseen that?

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

The "flypaper theory," which was always ludicrous, seemed to be based on the assumption that there was a fixed number of terrorists and we just have to kill that number.

Well, it appears we've made more terrorists, and they're getting training and networking now in Iraq which they were (at least largely) denied after the fall of the Taliban.

Since we can't even kill all the insurgents (estimated now in the tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands), we can be fairly sure we won't do such a great job of killing these budding terrorists. And, as Mr. Low says above, they'll probably leave Iraq with that know-how at some point. So even the sticky aspect of the flypaper theory probably won't pan out. We've just made more terrorists.
"The al-Qa'ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq," the report says.
The Vietnam war sucked, but at least it didn't create thousands of jihadis hell bent on killing Americans on our soil

This will be a long war against terror. Too bad George W. Bush made it so much more difficult.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

How Bad It Is

AP: War Veteran Refuses 2nd Iraq Deployment: "A mechanic with nine years in the Army, including a role in the assault on Baghdad, has refused to return to Iraq , claiming 'you just don't know how bad it is.'"

Hey, it's not bad over there. Just ask George W. Bush.

Thank you, George W. Bush!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Why so quiet?

The Washington Post tells us that the Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month. Somehow Bush hasn't made a big deal out of that.

A while back I pored over the pre-war Bush State of the Union address, and the case for taking down Iraq in that is almost totally based on WMD, with a minute sop here and there to humanitarian impulses. But I'm sure you knew that.

Bush has expressed disappointment that no weapons or weapons programs were found, but the White House has been reluctant to call off the hunt, holding out the possibility that weapons were moved out of Iraq before the war or are well hidden somewhere inside the country. But the intelligence official said that possibility is very small.

I doubt we'll hear much about WMD from Bush, and a supine press corps won't ask him about it.

What a total disaster.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Spinach Salad, ma'am?

Triple X Goldteeth offers the incredible hygenic benefits of spinning teeth.

If you browse around that site, you'll see many other dental delights.

For those of you who don't know, these fancy teeth are removable and are stylish. And, in light of the Armstrong Williams fiasco, I have to say I'm not receiving any compensation from Triple X Goldteeth, or any other tooth-monger such as Mr Bling.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Gee, tortured the wrong guy...Again

German's Claim of Kidnapping Brings Investigation of U.S. Link

German citizen, with no ties to terrorism and under no suspicion of terror, is abducted, taken to Afghanistan, held for five months, and claims to have been tortured.
It was the first day of what Mr. Masri said would become five months in captivity. In an interview, he said that after being kidnapped by the Macedonian authorities at the border, he was turned over to officials he believed were from the United States. He said they flew him to a prison in Afghanistan, where he said he was shackled, beaten repeatedly, photographed nude, injected with drugs and questioned by interrogators about what they insisted were his ties to Al Qaeda.

He was released without ever being charged with a crime.
Two years ago, maybe even a year ago, I wouldn't have beleived the US could be involved in this. Now it's all too possible.

And what will we hear from all the people who are, in word only, "against torture" but who never seem to mind it actually happening?

"Regrettable." "Tragic miscarriage...." All kinds of stuff which boil down to "Shit happens."

Thanks George W. Bush.

Friday, January 07, 2005

More Mess

Incredible. A few desperate thugs laid an esplosive that killed seven US troops in Baghdad, capital of Iraq--not out in Podunk. And those troops were in a Bradley fighting vehicle, a tank killer. Jeez.

Two other GIs killed in the same day on top of that.

Ok, a Bradley isn't quite a tank, but it's a tank killer. What kind of explosives can blow up a Bradley and kill seven troops inside?

Probably explosives that are desperate. Terribly desperate.

Thank you, George W. Bush.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Dems and Gonzales

I've had my fantasies about what I'd wish one or another Dem would do during the Gonzales hearings.

One is to play the famous dental torture scene from Marathon Man, with the volume cranked. Note that there was no organ failure, so that would be OK based on the infamous torture memo.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"So, according to these standards, Mr. Gonzales, this scene did not depict torture, correct?"

Secondly, find a totally innocent Iraqi who was abused or tortured, and have him face down Gonzales. Tell the guy's story, that he was an ordinary dude, not a terrorist, and he was tortured by US troops, and wave that memo at Gonzales again.

And conclude with "Every country in the world knows what George Bush thinks of human rights by the fact that he appointed a torture-enabler to be the head law enforcement officer in the US. "

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Scream

I admit I haven't had the heart for politics recently. Bush won and that really was a national disgrace. But I recently posted this picture I took on the street and I suppose I should speak up a bit, since it asks some questions I have asked myself.

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Successive Grafitti


Now What?

I'm there with Atrios, Josh Marshall, and others in saying that if Democrats can't stand up for Social Security, what the hell will they stand up for? Maybe they'll consider rewriting the Thirteenth Amendment. Maybe every bit of progressive legislation in the past two centuries is up for grabs.

I'm only partly joking. Where will the Democrats fight back? Apparently nowhere.

There is no frontier the Republicans can cross that the establishment Democrats won't say "Ok, we can live with that and nibble around the edges."

Redistribution to the rich? Hey that's ok. Torture? Hey, that's ok, too -- maybe a good thing, even. Union busting? Fine. Pollution? If Bush says so. Larger deficits so more money goes into the pockets of the already rich? No quibbles there.

I've become disgusted with the opposition party, since they don't seem to oppose anything that's screwing this nation and this world. And even when you expect them to mount an offensive on some minor point, they are so incompetent as to be losers from word one.

Why is it business as usual in DC with the Dems, while the Republicans are constantly and aggressively taking new territory in every congressional district, judgeship, rhetorical perch, and dog catcher slot? I've voted largely Democrat all my life, but if they don't get their shit together, why should I bother to vote for them at all?

The Democrats lost this presidential election by a relatively small sliver of national votes. Why are they acting like they are a tiny party in a huge coalition government?

I have no idea. But, even worse, the Dems appear to have no clue.

The current state of the Democrats is even more depressing to me than Kerry losing. I want some aggressive and thoughtful lines in the sand. To me, these are not just sane policy, but winning political positions. To the DC Democrats, they are evidently "not prudent."

Get real or get gone.



Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bathing Beauties and Big Boobs (1918)

Yes, morality police, there was a movie released by Vitagraph in 1918 called Bathing Beauties and Big Boobs.

I found this page with some information about the moviemaker Larry Semon and the movie itself.
One of Semon's first West Coast comedies was Bathing Beauties and Big Boobs (July 22, 1918), whose title actually made it past the censors. For some reason, somebody at Vitagraph liked these ______ and ______ titles because every Big V comedy from this period has them. The film is a nice little romp on the beach, a quick and typical schedule filler while the new studios were being completed with Larry, some bathing babes, and his new leading lady, the charming Madge Kirby, who was a fine comedienne in her own right.
Well I'll be damned.
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