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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The Sponge is Dead! Long Live the Sponge!

La Spugna Intelligente, Singe De Beurre, et. al. are abandoning Clever Peasantry for new, shiny digs at Minivolved. Update your favorites.

Dying to Avoid Being Raped

Via ShakeSis, a truly horrifying story:

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview.

It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

It is bad enough that male soldiers would rape their female comrades, far worse that the military would act to cover the rapes up.

This is inexcusable. And heads should roll.

Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006

The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. has died at the age of 78.

He Seemed Like Such a Level-Headed Fellow

The Impaler is arrested for stalking and felony escape. Let that be a lesson to you all: when wanted on felony charges, it's usually wise to avoid campaigns for political office. (I'm talkin' to you, Tom DeLay.)

SOTU Fever

Catch it!

Monday, January 30, 2006
The Tipping Point

After Monicagate, the handwringing complaint from the right was "what will we tell the children?" How, they asked, could we possibly explain that the president was in trouble for getting a blowjob in the Oval Office?

Today, I wonder what we're going to tell our children about the greatest failings of three generations. Not Gulf War II: The Vengeance, or the deficit, or education.

There is increasing evidence that global climate change is reaching the point of no return:

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

Kevin Drum advocates replacing George W. Bush and praying, and maybe that would work to get us moving. But the truth is that even if Bush had a road-to-Damascus conversion today, and put the full force of his administration behind working for change, and then began working to forge international alliances to work to cut emissions, we would still likely have 15-20 years simply to implement any proposal, at which point irrevocable change is likely.

That's not to say that it isn't prudent to try to reverse course. But at this point, it is likely that we are simply mitigating the damage to our environment, rather than preventing it.

And so I worry what we'll tell the children. Because we've known about these problems for decades, and members of both parties have passed on enacting reforms that would have brought short-term pain for long-term stability. And we've done nothing of note.

When my daughter is fifty, and I eighty, and she asks me what kind of world my generation left for her children and grandchildren, what do I tell her? That we chose our pocketbooks over our planet? That we chose Hummers over humanity? That we chose Citgo over our climate?

I don't know what I'll tell her. But I know it will be in the form of an apology, for leaving her a world wrecked by two centuries of industry.

So in advance: I'm sorry, Kate. We were too weak. I pray you and your children are stronger than we have been.

Because the Poor Need Higher Copays

It's good to see the administration is going after the poor. Stupid poor. Always not having much money. Why can't they be rich? Then the Bush administration would be happy to give them money.

The Bush Administration's Plan to Stop Global Warming

Huh? Oh, sorry, that's the Bush administration's plan to stop global warming information from getting out. Because that's what you do when the facts are biased.

War: It's Fan-tastic

Some soldiers die in battle. Some come back missing an arm or a leg.

The lucky ones just come back horribly damaged psychologically.

Well, that's not true. The really lucky ones have other things to do.

Saturday, January 28, 2006
20 Years

It was twenty years ago that I was in sixth grade. My math teacher, Mr. Hanna, made an announcement that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. For those of my generation, it was a moment we always remember--the shot of Challenger ascending, the last communication--"Roger, go at throttle-up"--and then the disappearance of the shuttle into a puff of white smoke bursting off in a dozen different directions.

The Challenger exploded, claiming the lives of all seven astronauts, twenty years ago today. Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe all perished in what is one of the two worst disasters in the history of manned space flight.

Looks Like I Can Call Off My Target Boycott

Target finally does the right thing and fires the pharmacist who refused to dispense Plan B:

Paula Gianino, chief executive of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis Region, lauds Target’s commitment to fill such prescriptions, and contends that Williams is at fault because of her refusal to refer patients or physicians elsewhere.

“She could refuse to fill the prescription, but she took it to the next level,” Gianino said. “Target has done everything possible to try to fill patients’ health-care needs and accomodate individual pharmacists.”

Said [Pharmacist Heather] Williams: “I’m not in judgment of anyone. I want my right not to fill something, much as they have their right to get Plan B filled.”

Ah, Ms. Williams, see, here's the thing: you have the right not to fill Plan B. Here's how: don't be a pharmacist. I can tell you that I work in shipping, and I almost never have to fill anyone's emergency contraception prescription.

However, if you wish to remain a pharmacist, you'll have to accept that your job is to fill lawful prescriptions, be they for Plan B, fluoxetine, Viagra, or amoxycillin. If that sounds unappealing to you, then go do something else.

As for Target, my boycott (and yes, I boycotted 'em) is over. I can and will shop there without reservation. They--finally--did the right thing, and they should be rewarded for that.

Friday, January 27, 2006
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

So 2005 was the warmest year in recorded history, narrowly beating out 1998, which was an El Niño year.

2005 was not an El Niño year:

This suggests that a very sustantial warming trend is affecting the globe and more "warmest years ever" will continue to occur in this decade--particularly if they are El Niño years. Global warming since the middle 1970s is now about 0.6° C (1° F ). Total warming in the past century is about 0.8° C (1.4° F). The five warmest years over the last century have occurred in the last eight years. Reliable instrument records of global temperatures extend back to about 1880, but the consenus scientific view is that the current level of warmth has been unmatched for at least the past 125,000 years.

Now, what could be causing Earth to be hotter than it's been for 125,000 years? Beats me.

Incidentally, here's my favorite graphic of the day:

But hey, nothing to see here. It must be a liberal conspiracy.

Dangerously Unhinged

Ann Coulter jokes about poisoning Justice Stevens. Will the MSM start writing hand-wringing editorials?

(Via rew.)

Fafnir Explains it All

It's nice to see an explanation of our new "streamlined" government:

Q. Things sure have changed since the innocent days of mutually assured destruction! But is it legal for the president to ignore the law?
A. Maybe not according to plain ol stupid ol regular law, but we're at war! You don't go to war with regular laws, which are made outta red tape and bureaucracy and Neville Chamberlain. You go to war with great big strapping War Laws made outta tanks and cold hard steel and the American Fightin Man and WAR, KABOOOOOOM!


Q. Can the president spy on me without a warrant?
A. The president would never, ever spy on you, unless you're talking to a terrorist.
Q. That sounds reasonable!
A. Or an associate of a terrorist or a suspected associate of a terrorist or a possible suspected relative of a member of an affiliate of a terrorist or someone with a name that's spelled like a terrorist's or someone who's been mistakenly identified as a terrorist by an NSA algorithm.
Q. That sounds like I should look into switching to smoke signals.
A. Well if you want, the president can stop the illegal wiretapping just for you.
Q. Really? Well thanks, that'd be great!
A. And then the terrorists can come and eat you.


Q. Can the president eat a baby?
A. If that baby has suspected ties to al Qaeda, then it's the president's duty to eat it - for the sake of national security.
Q. The president doesn't want to eat sweet, delicious babies. He just wants to protect America from the growing threat of a rogue baby insurgency.
A. Exactly. And nobody will have more compassion for that succulent baby barbecue than him.

Well, it's easier than a Constitution.

What is this "Constitution" You Speak of?

Of all the retroactive justifications of illegal wiretapping, the idea that passing new laws would tip off our enemies is far and away the dumbest. Leave aside the fact that al Qaeda is probably smart enough to realize that we're trying to tap their phones. The fact is that there are all sorts of things that free societies do that could "tip off" our enemies. We discuss and debate the actions we take to combat our enemies, and for the most part we make the decisions openly. That's what being a democracy is.

We could become a dictatorship, or an oligarchy; a secret cabal certainly would keep our enemies from finding out what we're doing. While we're at it, we could eliminate the independent press. All they do is report things that are happening--things our enemies could read. For that matter, why do we let people travel about freely? Checkpoints at every major highway interchange would certainly catch some bad guys.

But why stop there? It would be helpful, certainly, if we rounded up Arab-Americans and sent them to concentration, er, "happy" camps. And if people would simply accept a camera in every room in their house, monitored by the Ministry of Truth, we'd certainly weed out those people who were double-plus-ungood.

Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, "Democracy is the most efficient form of government ever invented by the human race. On the record, it has worked better in peace and in war than fascism, communism, or any other form of dictatorship. As for the mythical yardstick of 'benevolent' monarchy or dictatorship--there ain't no such animal!" Most of us realize that, realize that somehow, Roosevelt got us through World War II without suspending the free press, somehow we made it through the Cold War without resorting to Orwellian measures.

We are a republic founded on the rule of law. The executive branch has their role in the rule of law--but it is a limited role. I can accept that we must take action during wartime. But those actions must be in accordance with the Constitution--for we are a republic. After all, the president does not promise to protect the people, or the republic. He promises to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution itself.

Who Can Take a Sunrise, Sprinkle it With Dew....

So the Timberwolves have shipped out a decent shooting guard in Wally Sczerbiak, a lousy, malcontent center in Michael Olowokandi, a first-round draft pick, and Dwayne Jones, who was allegedly a center for the team. In return, they get a decent shooting guard in Ricky Davis, a lousy, malcontent center in Mark Blount, an underachieving point guard in Marcus Banks, two second-round draft picks, and Justin Reed, who is allegedly a forward for the Celtics.


This isn't to say that it might not help the Wolves. Davis can put the ball on the floor and drive the basket, something that no Wolves guard has been able to do since Stephon Marbury was traded for the Gutty Warrior. And supposedly Wally and KG were scrapping, and maybe a change of scenery will help everyone. Maybe.

But I'm not liking that yet another first round pick is going out the window, though granted, knowing the Wolves' awesome draft history, they'd just waste the pick on Luc Longley, Jr. And I don't see this as the deal that will put the Wolves over the top, or even elevate them to the playoffs.

But given that the Wolves weren't going anywhere anyhow, I suppose it's okay. If nothing else, if the deal fails to pan out this should be the final nail in Kevin McHale's coffin. So that's a positive.

Damn those Lazy White Boys

You know, it's funny. I thought conservatives were generally opposed to affirmative action. I mean, if girls make up 2/3 of the honor roll, it's just proof of female intellectual superiority, right?

Friday Random Ten
He Says He Knows Me, But I Don't Know That Guy

1. "Bastard Wants to Hit Me," They Might Be Giants
2. "Until You Came Along," Golden Smog
3. "My Hips," Erin McKeown
4. "Anna Begins," Counting Crows
5. "Driving the View," Son Volt
6. "Waiting for the Sun," Jayhawks
7. "Down on the River by the Sugar Plant," Mike Doughty
8. "Delicious," Semisonic
9. "Down to This (Shakedown Remix)," Soul Coughing
10. "Balada de Chusy," Los Amigos Invisibles

Thursday, January 26, 2006
MDE: Ciresi to Run

Mike Ciresi can decide to run for Senate all he wants, but I just can't see him getting the endorsement or beating Klobuchar in a primary. It's not that Ciresi isn't a credible candidate; it's that nobody actually likes him. Oh, he'd be better than Mark Kennedy, but that's about it. Ciresi can run. He will not win.

The Eternal Question--Answered!

Not only do the Editors finally answer the question, "How useless is Glenn Reynolds?", they also say what must be said:

When one is an Elder Statesman of the American media, and when one can’t be bothered to look into the particular details of some issue, it is never a bad idea to fall back on Ecclesiastes, and remind the readers - in a tone as wise and weary as you can muster - that the seasons change and the winds blow now this way, now that, turn turn turn, but there is nothing new under the Sun. As there was a time of saying Clinton was a coke-dealing Commie and a serial rapist, now comes the time of saying that George W. Bush shouldn’t run secret torture prisons. Men of Principle lament both of these equally, for they are just two sides of the same lamentable coin. Vanity of vanity, all of it. Can’t we just play nice?


Here’s the thing, though. Accuracy In Media, the Media Research Center, and the rest of the right-wing noise machine spent decades beating on the media, and they showed that constant, nasty, personal attacks - and only constant, nasty, personal attacks - will get the media to do what you want. If you are persistant enough, you can get the media to join in on any political smear you want, no matter how disgraceful or absurd. Hell, if you really put your mind to it, you might even get the ombudsman of eventheliberal Washington Post swearing up and down that Jack Abramoff doesn’t have a partisan bone in his body. Sounds crazy, I know, but you gotta believe.


Jack Abramoff Cries Freedom

As if Jack Abramoff wasn't evil enough, he used to work for a pro-Apartheid front group. Lovely.

For the Love of God, Maureen!

"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"

Filibustering Alito

I can't get on board with the growing sentiment that Democrats must be punished if they do not filibuster the Alito nomination. No, I'm not happy with Alito; I think Arlen Specter is either drunk or delusional for contending he'll be another David Souter. But a filibuster of a Supreme Court justice on ideological grounds is dangerous indeed, and more than anything else, the Democrats need to win in November.

It isn't fun, but we needed to win in 2004; President Kerry would be appointing Rehnquist's successor then, and all would be hunky dory. We didn't win in 2004. We lost. And if the Democrats filibuster Alito, we endanger our ability to gain seats in the fall.

I don't like it. I think Alito will be a lousy justice. Near as I can tell, I disagree with him on every point of judicial philosophy from choice to civil liberites to executive power to the law of the sea. But realistically, the next nominee will be equally lousy. And then to what end do we block Alito? No, losing this 59-41 has some merit to it--it sets the stage for us to decry the GOP as dangerously radical come fall, without giving them any ammunition to fire back.

Worst. President. Ever.

So says Bob Herbert.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Santorum Mori

No doubt you've seen it, but Rick Santorum may have reached the all-time nadir of flag-waving idiocy:

And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?

Yes, that's right, if you can't be in Iraq, then slap a "Santorum for Senate" sticker on your Hummer. That's good enough.

Oh, and memo to Joel Stein: we support the troops because they're not making the decisions where to go die for their country. They're just dying. As Eliot put it:

Let those who go home tell the same story of you:
Of action with a common purpose, action
None the less fruitful if neither you nor we
Know, until the judgement after death,
What is the fruit of action.

We can hate the war, we can hate the commanders, we can hate the politicians. But the soldiers who have died bravely, at one with their destiny--their honor is undiluted. Let our nation remember.

Disney Buys Pixar

In a deal that makes sense for both sides, Disney has spent $7.4 billion to acquire Pixar outright, making Steve Jobs Disney's top shareholder and locking up the studio that has made the only worthwhile Disney films since Mulan.

While part of me worries that we'll soon see The Incredibles III quickly rushed to video in a half-assed manner (as has been Disney's wont), I actually think Disney buying Pixar makes that less likely, as Pixar has been arguably the best studio for quality in movie history, and--well, something has to rub off. Moreover, this is proof that Disney did indeed need Pixar more than Pixar needed Disney--after all, which was better, Finding Nemo or Treasure Planet?

John Lasseter, Pixar's creative director, will take over as Chief Creative Officer for Disney's animation studios, and will help oversee the development of attractions at Disney's parks, meaning that the quality of animation and rides at Disney will soon be improving. The big question, of course: how long before Jobs takes over Disney? I give it two years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Glenn Greenwald does the reporting that nobody else would do, and comes up with a doozy:

In light of Gen. Hayden's new claim yesterday that the reason the Bush Administration decided to eavesdrop outside of FISA is because the "probable cause" standard for obtaining a FISA warrant was too onerous (and prevented them from obtaining warrants they needed to eavesdrop), there is a fact which I have not seen discussed anywhere but which now appears extremely significant, at least to me.

In June, 2002, Republican Sen. Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced legislation (S. 2659) which would have eliminated the exact barrier to FISA which Gen. Hayden yesterday said is what necessitated the Administration bypassing FISA. Specifically, DeWine's legislation proposed:

to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to modify the standard of proof for issuance of orders regarding non-United States persons from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. . . .

In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA.

During that time, the Administration was asked to advise Congress as to its position on this proposed amendment to loosen the standard for obtaining FISA warrants, and in response, they submitted a Statement from James A. Baker, the Justice Department lawyer who oversees that DoJ's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review....[R]egarding DeWine's specific proposal to lower the evidentiary standard required for a FISA warrant, Baker said that:

The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

So, in June, 2002, the Administration refused to support elimination of the very barrier ("probable cause") which Gen. Hayden claimed yesterday necessitated the circumvention of FISA. In doing so, the Administration identified two independent reasons for opposing this amendment. One reason was that the Justice Department was not aware of any problems which the Administration was having in getting the warrants it needed under FISA....The second concern the Administration expressed with DeWine's amendment was that it was quite possibly unconstitutional....

It's really quite startling, and devastating to the Bush administration's case thus far that they were only seeking to make small tweaks to the system that Congress might not approve. Congress was set to approve tweaks. The administration balked.

Which brings us back to Occam's razor. Maybe the Bush administration didn't understand Dewine's legislation. Maybe they just wanted to force a Constitutional crisis for the heck of it. Or maybe there was something entirely different going on, something Congress would never authorize.

Which of those hypotheses does Occam's razor suggest?

Pam! Let the Boys be Boys!

So I'm not sure why this is news now. The "Hurricane Pam" exercise has been known of for a while. Still, nice reminder of the heckuva job that Brownie did.

Oh, Canada!

No doubt Adam Yoshida is doing the truffle shuffle this morning, as the Tories have taken Canada. Will Stephen Harper soon be pushing for bans on same-sex marriage? Will the Angus Schiavo case divide our neighbours to the north?


Yes, the Conservatives have won in Canada; they deserved to. The Liberal government was tied up in scandal, and frankly deserved its ouster. With luck, the new government of incoming Prime Minister Stephen Harper will clean up some of the rot that started under the Jean Chrétien.

But that does not mean that Canada has swung far to the right. Liberal parties (The Bloc Québécois, the New Democrats, and the Liberals) still make up a majority in parliament; the Tories will certainly be constrained in their ability to shift the country significantly rightward, and indeed will have a difficult time finding a natural ally to partner with--they'll probably have to work with the Bloc.

In short, as befits a country whose new governing party was once known as the Progressive Conservative Party, Canada has taken a step toward slight moderation with a huge foot on the brake. Harper will steer Canada rightward, yes--but it remains a left-leaning country.

A Billion Here, a Billion There....

One soldier found $200 million in waste at the Pentagon, who rewarded him by promptly and efficiently ignoring what he'd found. How much body armor do you suppose that would have bought?

Monday, January 23, 2006
The Blood of Patriots

Maybe Karl Rove is right. Oh, it doesn't look like it now, but maybe the Bush administration's dubious surveillance policy is indeed a big political winner for the GOP. And maybe it will hurt the democrats greatly to challenge the President's ability to conduct warrantless wiretaps on American citizens. Maybe it will cost us a shot at retaking the Senate if we stand up against them. Maybe.

When the Founding Fathers sat down to sign the Declaration of Independence, they signed under this closing statement:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Their lives. Their fortune. Their sacred honor. This is what they pledged, and what many of them gave, in defense of liberty. From their sacrifice they secured a republic, if we could but keep it. The great conservative Barry Goldwater put it differently--"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the puruit of justice is no virtue."

Both phrases are uniquely American. The idea that liberty itself is greater than any possible present entanglement is writ large in our nation's history. Certainly, it has been challenged often--from the Alien and Sedition acts to World War II internment camps to J. Edgar Hoover to the modern day, liberty has often temporarily taken a back seat to security in the minds of our leaders.

But what distinguishes each of these cases--indeed, all similar cases--is that these curtailings of liberty have invariably been judged as failures. The Alien and Sedition acts hurt the Federalists politically, and were certainly unconstitutional; our government has apologized for internment and paid reparations; Hoover's FBI is today viewed as a cancerous agency, the apotheosis of the paranoid cold warrior, spying on Martin Luther King, Jr. in the name of anticommunism.

Let us not mince words: the Bush administration's policy is illegal. Not questionable, not doubtful, and certainly not heroic. It is illegal. Now, one can argue a program like it is necessary; it's a valid argument. I'm willing to have it. Heck, if Bush can convince Congress it's a great idea and they should loosen FISA warrant restrictions, I say let's do it.

But we cannot, will not, and must not countenance warrantless domestic spying. I do not believe that is a losing message for us, but even if it is, Democrats must at last be willing to stand up and say enough. It is not optional to defend liberty, not optional to let the executive claim powers it does not have. It is our duty as Americans to defend the Constitution. Our forefathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. We can at least pledge our short-term political calculus.

Look at Me, I'm Trendy

So it appears that the next big thing from Bushco will be health savings accounts. Ezra Klein does a good job of telling us just what that means:

The idea here is simple. Conservatives believe Americans have too much health insurance, that they spend heedlessly and wastefully on care, procedures, and medications they would simply forego if insurance plans didn't pick up the tab. Ergo, HSA's, which end risk pooling, forcing care to come directly from pockets. Newly responsible for their medical bills, consumers will be spurred by the Magic of the Market to make smarter decisions, show more prudence, lead healthier lifestyles, smile more often, and smell springtime fresh. It's gonna be awesome.

So how do HSA's work? It's all theory, right? Maybe it would be awesome, right?

Wrong. I know. I have an HSA.

I work for a small company. By and large I like it--the people are nice, the work is good, it's swell. But being a small company, they have to cut corners here and there, and so last October they rolled out the handy, dandy, HSA-plus-catastrophic plan that the GOP loves so well.

It's a simple plan, really. I get a plan with a $2500 deductable, and an HSA that I can put up to $2500 into. My employer kicks in $800 of the $2500, and my health premium falls slightly from the year before. So if I stay healthy, all is great, right?

Well, here's the problem. As longtime readers of this blog know, I have ADHD and depression. Both are easily treated with medication--depression with fluoxetine, and ADHD with atomoxetine, marketed under the brand name Strattera.

Now, fluoxetine is a generic now, so it's relatively inexpensive--less than $20 a month, certainly doable. But Strattera is still under patent, and it's spendy--about $210 a month. Every month. Oh, I could stop taking it (that's the GOP HSA plan in a nutshell--that we crazy consumers use a less expensive stimulant, like meth, instead of prescription meds). But given that it helps me, you know, think, I figure I should keep taking it.

Now, those of you who took fifth grade math may have noted something fun here. Because my prescription drugs alone max me out:

$220 x 12 = $2640

Ah, but it gets better. This past week I got sinusitis and an ear infection. I'm allergic to penicillin, so I can't go with any cheap antibiotics. So my antibiotics cost me $82, not counting the certain $150 I'll be billed for the urgent care. Oh, and the $140 Nasonex that the doctor prescribed for me that I passed on because it only would've helped me recover--so hey, GOP, the system works!

Literally, I cannot get ahead and put anything into my HSA. All I can do is spend up to the deductable--at which point everything will be free (yay) so I can start paying off what I owe my health care provider--since I've primarily been letting those fees accrue so I can get my medication.

And I'm not even particularly ill. I have two prescriptions I take every month--that's probably average. Lord help me when I'm sixty.

So that's HSA's. I suppose if you never got sick, they'd be great. Of course, if people never got sick, we wouldn't need health care, but then how could the market work its incredible magic?

Safe--For the Moment

Well, the St. Paul Ford plant dodged the first bullet--it's not on the initial list of plant closures. That's the good news. The bad news is the list is only half done, so it looks to be a while before this gets resolved one way or another.


A new blog (and more) that I suspect we'll all be linking to and looking for often:, being run by the folks from MN Publius and Clever Peasantry, with an early assist by Robin Marty of Power Liberal. So, you know, pretty much all the hip, young rising stars in Minnesota blogging.

What's nice about this site is that it promises to be a one-stop shop for getting involved in liberal and progressive Minnesota politics--not just yammering about it as bloggers are wont to do. 2006 promises to be a pretty big knock-down-drag-out fight in Minnesota. The Senate race between Klobuchar and Kennedy (sorry, Ford, is going to be a barnburner, and the battle for Governor will be fierce--not to mention little things like the state House, which is two seats away from DFL control.

At any rate, it looks like one to watch with interest; certainly, the people working on it are good. I advise you strongly to click on through.

Saturday, January 21, 2006
But Gay=Evil!

Did ABC pull "Welcome to the Neighborhood" because a gay couple won--and what's worse, because the strongly Christian neighborhood, by the end, actually (gasp) liked their new Sodomite neighbors?

Because that would be impossible.

But What of Toronto? And France City?

The question everyone has today: who is this "Sydney" you speak of?

Saturday Random Ten
We'll be Dressed in All Black, Slammin' the Pit Fantastic

1. "Blasting XTC," The Blue Up?
2. "So Alive," Ryan Adams
3. "Mustang Sally," Wilson Pickett
4. "Your Misfortune," Mike Doughty
5. "Solisbury Hill," Peter Gabriel
6. "Gone to the Movies," Semisonic
7. "Where Have You Gone?" Mike Doughty
8. "Too Early," Son Volt
9. "FNT," Semisonic
10. "Underground," Ben Folds Five

Friday, January 20, 2006
Wetterling to Drop Out of Senate Race

Per DFLSenate and MDE. Of couse, if this is true it will essentially deliver the nomination to Amy Klobuchar, as Wetterling was really the only candidate once could imagine toppling her. Will Wetterling join the Hatch ticket? Will she move to the sixth? Will she just go home? The mind boggles.

The Negotiator

Ezra asks a valid question: why not negotiate with bin Laden? Oh, I agree, I'd prefer to strangle him to death, but as Ezra points out, Israel and the PLO managed to negotiate despite their far greater reasons for animosity.

The reason I would tend to argue against negotiating with bin Laden is that, pace Israel/Palestine, there's no unified people that are represented by bin Laden. Al Qaeda represents a minority of Muslims, spread throughout the Islamic world. Furthermore, by agreeing in part to bin Laden's stated demands (withdraw from "holy" areas, Iraq, etc.) the US would be setting a dangerous precedent that we're willing to let our foreign policy be dictated by non-state actors.

Allowing bin Laden to win here would send us down a path that is less, not more safe for America. One can argue about how best to track bin Laden down and how best to defang al Qaeda--but their demands cannot be aceded to.

That said, as Ezra also notes, saying American can end the War on Terra at "a time and place of our choosing" is just insanely wrong. Because if we could, I think most of us would choose...uh, now, and wherever we are.

That's Not the Whole Story!

I usually like Pat Kessler, but La Esponja Lista is right, he just plain blew it with this fact check.

Wilson Pickett, 1941-2006

Wilson Pickett, the artist responsible for some of the great R & B songs of all time, has died at the age of 64. I defy anyone to come up with three more soulful songs from one artist than "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally," and "Land of a Thousand Dances." Pickett is one of the great figures in American music, and he will be dearly missed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Brownie: I Did Somewhat Less Than a Heckuva Job

Michael Brown admits he's largely to blame for the post-Katrina incompetence. Thanks, Mike. That's only four months too late.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Happy Birthday, Ben

Today marks Ben Franklin's tricentennial. Happy birthday to a brilliant founding father, a part-time inventor, a part-time writer, and a full-time ladies'-man. Thank you for the Republic, Ben. May we keep it.

President to Insurers: "Fix My Screw-up"

My Lord, does the competence ever start?

With tens of thousands of people unable to get medicines promised by Medicare, the Bush administration has told insurers that they must provide a 30-day supply of any drug that a beneficiary was previously taking, and it said that poor people must not be charged more than $5 for a covered drug.

The actions came after several states declared public health emergencies, and many states announced that they would step in to pay for prescriptions that should have been covered by the federal Medicare program.

Republicans have joined Democrats in asserting that the federal government botched the beginning of the prescription drug program, which started on Jan. 1. People who had signed up for coverage found that they were not on the government's list of subscribers. Insurers said they had no way to identify poor people entitled to extra help with their drug costs. Pharmacists spent hours on the telephone trying to reach insurance companies that administer the drug benefit under contract to Medicare.


In an interview yesterday, Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that "several hundred thousand beneficiaries who switched plans" in December may have had difficulty filling prescriptions in the last two weeks.

In California, officials estimate that 200,000 of the state's 1.1 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries had trouble getting their medications.

Despite these problems, Dr. McClellan said, Medicare is now covering one million prescriptions a day. With the latest corrective actions, he said, "all beneficiaries should be able to get their prescriptions filled."

In the past, such predictions proved to be premature. New problems appeared as old ones were solved, and some insurers were slow to carry out federal instructions.

Since the program began on Jan. 1, many low-income people have left pharmacies empty-handed after being told they would have to pay co-payments of $100, $250 or more.

About 20 states, including California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and all of New England, have announced that they will help low-income people by paying drug claims that should have been paid by the federal Medicare program.

"The new federal program is too complicated for many people to understand, and the implementation of the new program by the federal government has been awful," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a Republican. On Saturday, he signed an emergency executive order making the state a "payer of last resort" for the out-of-pocket drug costs.

Gov. Timmy's right--this has been botched from stem to stern. When there are reports that the plan arbitrarily fails to cover certain drugs, it's hard to see the plan as anything save a sop to special interests.

Moses says, "at the rate Bush and Company keep messing up the costs of domestic and foreign policy efforts, it's not too much to suspect that we will all be boiling mad over the red ink these people have dumped on us." I already am. If it was red ink dumped for a reason, it might be forgiveable. But it's red ink to fund handouts to business and the rich. That's not something anyone should be behind--it's time to get corporations off the dole. And if we're going to pass a multi-billion dollar Medicare plan...hey, maybe we could proofread it first or something next time, okay?

The Phone Books are Here. The Phone Books are Here!

Smartie pwns Goldberg.

Monday, January 16, 2006
We Have Sent You Up the Bomb

Josh begins the reality-based discussion on Gulf War III: The Revenge of Persia (which future war buffs will describe as "lacking the clearly evil Darth Cheney of Gulf War II: The Vengeance, but still superior to the cloying Gulf War IV: The Bloodening").

Anyhow, Josh makes a point first about we lefties who were neutral/positive on the Iraq war back in '93:

During the two years [between] 9/11 and March 2003, there was a group of commentators (I'd include myself among them) who bought into the basic argument about the danger posed by the Iraqi regime (though not the extremity of it), were willing, at a minimum, to put military force on the table as a means of resolving the problem, were perhaps willing to go as far as supporting an invasion, but were adamant critics of administration policy in the Middle East.

Looking back on that debate, what didn't make sense about 'my' position was that folks like myself were debating Iraq policy in the abstract. How would I deal with Iraq if I were president? What would be the sensible approach if we had a president and foreign policy team which we thought was acting in good faith and competent at handling the issue.

As Josh notes, a nuclear-armed Iran is a horrible thought. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a country that could be trusted less with atomic weapons--even North Korea seems sane by comparison. But how do we need to think about this crisis? Josh sets the table correctly:

The prospect of a nuclearized Iran seems far more perilous to me than anything we faced or seemed likely to face with Iraq. But for those of us trying to think through how to deal with this situation, we have to start from the premise that there is no Iran Question, or whatever you want to call it. There's only how to deal with Iran with this administration in place.

Do you trust this White House's good faith, priorities or competence in dealing with this situation?

No, no, and no.

This is not to say that military engagement with Iran might not be requisite; it may be. But I don't trust the gang who couldn't shoot straight to pull it off effectively, and I certainly don't trust them to be honest about what they're doing. Ideally, the French or the Brits or the Pakistanis would carry out any raid. (Certainly the Pakistanis know where the weapons are--they still have copies of the receipts.)

But realistically, the idiot troop is in charge. And we have to start talking from there.

Even a Broken Clock....

Is it a blue moon? Hath Hell frozen over? Mitch Berg and I are 95.2% in agreement on this outstanding Strib article, which makes the point that in worrying about Stranger Danger, parents are doing more harm than good:

Consider this: About 115 children were abducted by strangers in the United States in 2004; about half were returned alive, usually within 24 hours. In Minnesota alone that year, 91 children 18 and under died in motor-vehicle-related crashes, and nearly 8,000 were injured.

In a Minnesota Poll conducted last spring, Minnesotans -- including those with children in their households -- worried far more about abductions and violent crime in and outside of school than about kids drowning. In fact, drownings, along with poisoning and suffocation, are far greater dangers to children. The likelihood of being killed in a school shooting is 1 in 2 million.

The psychological cost of raising children in a fear-saturated culture is troubling, say many experts.

"We're depriving kids of something most kids need, which is the fellowship of adults," said James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, and author of "Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment."

"Even when I was growing up in New York City, kids were taught how to cross a busy street. You asked a grown-up to help you. The bigger danger is that kids don't feel they can trust the world. I find that sad, as an adult and as a human being."

There's a marvelous exchange in Finding Nemo, where Marlin and Dory are inside a whale, who has--maybe--just told them to let go of its tongue. Dory urges Marlin to let go, but Marlin demurs. "How do you know that nothing bad will happen?" he demands. "I don't," Dory replies.

Marlin lets go.

I am struggling, as every parent struggles, with how tight to hold the leash. And those struggles are not made easier by the fact that every time I turn on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX, they're covering the latest White Girl in Trouble story for the 132nd day in a row. I worry about my daughter being abducted when, statistically, the most statistically likely person to abduct her is her non-custodial parent, who

That doesn't, of course, mean that I should just throw my daughter to the wolves and let her fend for herself. She's three, and she needs oversight still. But it does mean that I keep the leash as slack as possible, that I let her roam as much as she safely can, fail as much as she has to, and get back up as much as she's able. I have tried to raise her as a fighter, and raise her to be her own person. I've done my best so far.

None of us know that nothing bad will happen to our children, and all of us would do anything to make certain nothing bad did happen to our kids. But if we try to encase them in bubble wrap, we're harming them just as surely as if we encouraged them to beg strangers for candy. We don't know nothing bad will happen. But we have to let go just the same.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

It should go without saying that Dr. King deserved his holiday; he is one of the most influential figures in American history, one of a handful of Americans whose actions literally changed the course of a nation. Certainly, he was not alone in the fight for civil rights, but he was the touchstone, the man at the center of the vortex, the face of the movement. Long after you and I have shuffled off this mortal coil, our legacies long-forgotten, people will still talk of Dr. King. May it ever be so.

At any rate, go read King's most famous address, and recognize how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go. And when you're done with that, go check out the wankosphere, because MLK day is always a fun time to watch the trully nutty either try to claim him as a conservative or, failing that, tar him as a dirty communist.


So yeah...redesign. Let me know what you think.


No, really, Wolf! We're not lying this time!

Yo, righty tighties--the reason that Bush's preemption doctrine is completely off the table vis a vis Iran is because it was tried in Iraq, and it turned out that--funny!--Iraq had nothing to preempt. As I wrote two years ago:

Some day, in the future--call it January 7, 2006--the CIA will get information that the newly installed despotic ruler of Kazakhstan has gotten a hold of a nuclear weapon. This will not be common knowledge, not to anyone. But the evidence will be clear.

As the months wear on, it will become evident that the leader of Kazakhstan intends to pass the weapon to al-Qaieda. Only an all-out assault on Kazakhstan will stop the transfer.

So President Bush, in his second term, will address the nation, telling us that our nation is threatened by a despot who intends to give weapons to terrorists. He will beseech the United Nations for help in stopping the madman.

The nation will shrug, and say, "We've heard this before."

Our allies will shrug, and say, "We're not going down that road again."

Without popular support, the President is unable to get a war resolution through Congress. Even his own party won't back him, not with the midterm elections in the fall. When the President shares the intelligence, people snicker about Yellowcake and move on.

Oh, there are things we can do. A cruise missile strike, or maybe a stealth operation. But the attacks draw swift international condemnation. Not even our friend Tony Blair--hanging on to the Labour premiership by his fingernails--will back us. The markets will slide. The economy will sputter. The inevitable boycotts in Europe will hurt us.

Of course, the missile might hurt us more.

Maybe there's a happy ending. Maybe our President is able to stop the dictator after all.

Or maybe, knowing that the political winds are against him, he simply lobs a cruise missile and is done with it, knowing himself that the CIA's been wrong before.

This is the position we're in now--and it's not the fault of the eevul liberal moonbats. It's the fault of a President who rushed into a war with Iraq, proclaiming all the while that we were doing so to stop the spread of WMDs.

Except there weren't any WMDs there.

As our fair President once said, fool me once, shame on me, fool me won't get fooled again.

Friday, January 13, 2006

In case you were wondering if I had any other websites, why yes, yes I do.

Friday Random Ten
Now Your Alias Says You're Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

1. "Zak and Sara," Ben Folds
2. "Not a Pretty Girl," Ani DiFranco
3. "Peg," Steely Dan
4. "Maps," Yeah Yeah Yeahs
5. "Blackbirds," Erin McKeown
6. "Banditos," The Refreshments
7. "Carry You Down," Son Volt
8. "Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well (Unreleased Version)," Mike Doughty
9. "Big Hat, No Cattle," Randy Newman
10. "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," Traffic

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Nothing to See Here

So frogs are dying worldwide due to heat-sensitive fungi, we had 27 named storms in the Atlantic in 2005, Alaska is melting, and it's 42 degrees in Minneapolis--on January 12. But there's nothing to this whole global warming thing. Nothing at all.

Turkey for Me, and Turkey for You

A handy timeline of the H5N1 outbreak in Turkey. If there's any hopeful sign, it's that the mortality rate there seems to be lower than in East Asia.

Update Your Bookmarks

PZ has moved Pharyngula to It's now at There are no posts there yet, but presumably, that will soon change.

Evidently PZ flipped the big "on" switch, 'cause now there's content galore! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's the meme.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Fixing the State with Semantics

Moses makes a good point about Gov. Timmy's 70% proposal. For those of you unfamiliar, Pawlenty's plan is to force school districts to devote 70% of their expenditures to classroom instruction.

Well, dandy--except for one little thing:

[T]eaching without that "non-classroom" expenditure in place could be a challenge. School administration, support services, operations and maintenance and all the rest are integral to our public school system. Try teaching without having such "outside-the-classroom" support to help manage student discipline issues, maintain a computer network, or even keep the classroom properly maintained in the short or long term.

Indeed. The problem with the 70% theory is that it's just more game-playing from a governor who loves him some game-playing. It's not a solution, it's a gimmick.

Look, I'm all in favor of putting money into classroom education. But I also think that in order to put money into classroom instruction, there has to physically be a classroom to instruct in--not to mention staff to clean the classrooms, energy to heat the classroom, busses to move kids to the classroom, staff to cut checks to the teachers who teach in the classrooms, at least one administrator for the school in which the classroom is located, and so on, and so forth.

Now, maybe you add up those other expenses and get to less than 30%. Great. But maybe you get to 38%. Does that mean you're foolishly wasting money through "inefficiency?" Of course not. Most elementary schools have one administrator to supervise sixty employees or more--a ratio no private sector company would dream of as adequate.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't push our schools to be as efficient with money as possible--surely, we should. But playing games with budgeting doesn't do that. It does quite the opposite, in fact: if schools must spend 70% of their revenue on classroom instruction, and they have fixed costs that exceed 30% of revenues, the only thing the schools would be able to do is increase their levy and pay teachers more. Which is fine, but not "efficient," and hardly what the Governor is seeking.

Doe v. State of Indiana

No, it's not a case yet, but it soon could be.

One of the best debates at Youth in Government this year was on a bill to ban flag burning--a completely unconstitutional bill, mind you. But the students went through with it, because they knew that a legislature can pass anything--it's up to the courts to decide whether it's constitutional or not. Undoubtedly, every level of the judiciary would find a flag burning bill unconstitutional. They have to, given the Supreme Court's ruling in Texas v. Johnson.

But of course, one court is bound by that precedent only by convention, and not even always then--the Supreme Court itself. If flag burning went back before the court today, the court could choose to reverse its earlier ruling. Would it? Doubtful--but it could.

Similarly, if the votes on the court in support of Roe get close enough, then a legislature will pass an outright ban on abortion, and push the case. Undoubtedly, until the case hits the Supreme Court, the law will be inactive. No court could uphold it given the precedent of Roe. No court, save one.

I remain undecided about whether Democrats should filibuster Alito. There is something to be said for the prinicple that barring extreme circumstances, a president should get his judges through. But given the current state of the executive branch, it is hard to say that we should pass through yet another justice with an expansive view of executive power; it is very hard to say that it's a good idea for Democrats should blithely pass through a justice who is obviously anti-Roe--a precedent which has survived multiple challenges for dozens of years.

Much will depend on Alito's performance over the next few days. But nobody should be fooled--he will be a poor defender of the Constitution, and a poor defender of liberty.

Onward Judeo-Christian Soldiers

Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff joke about offshore accounts. Hilarity ensues.

Monday, January 09, 2006
Back in Bidness

Well, I'm back from my annual weekend advising for the Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government program, and as per usual, I can report that there are a number of bright, well-informed, and politically engaged junior- and senior-high students out there. Yes, the kids had fun--at one point, they passed a bill that renamed the state "East Dakota"--far more often, they debated the issues of the day with passion and far more skill than most adults could muster.

It's always a weekend that leaves me with hope for the future--and I feel like I should mention it, because when teenagers are mentioned (if at all), too often it is in the context of their supposed ignorance, sloth, and general wickedness.

Oh, and PZ can rest easy--intelligent design died in committee.

Back in the saddle shortly....

Thursday, January 05, 2006
KG Steps Up

Title or no title, when Kevin Garnett retires sometime in the next decade, he'll do so as one of the most popular figures in Minnesota sports history. And deservedly so. As any fan of the Timberwolves knows, Garnett plays every game like it was game 7 of the finals, contests every shot, gets his teammates involved, and just generally plays basketball the way it's supposed to be played. Additionally, he's been a decent individual--the worst thing I've heard is that he broke Rick Rickert's nose in practice once, and really, who didn't want to see Rick Rickert's nose broken at some point?

Anyhow, this story didn't get any attention, but it deserves some: Garnett, in a simple letter to Oprah for her show, pledged to personally fund the building of 24 homes in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina. Even assuming the homes are extremely inexpensive one, Garnett is going to give up millions of dollars to do so.

He didn't hype it, didn't call a press conference to do it, didn't make a big deal out of it. He just did it.

That's class, and it is too rarely seen in professional sports. In a year that Minnesota fans will remember primarily for the Love Boat, it's good to know that there's an athlete in this town who understands what's important. Thanks, KG.

Prognosis Negative

Sharon's condition sounds quite grave indeed.

I See You In My Spyglass, Baby

So was the government spying on Christiane Amanpour? Even by Bush administration standards, that would seem unbelievably reckless. Administrations go down for stuff like that. I mean really go down--it's impossible to believe that warrantless spying on a journalist isn't an impeachable offense, even with the current sorry ethical state of the GOP.

That said, it would be incredibly reckless. And while recklessness hasn't stopped us from, say, going to war, I just can't imagine someone greenlighting this.

I don't know. This is enormous, and frankly it would be irresponsible of me to speculate. But it bears watching.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Angry and Unhinged

The Wingnutty Professor links approvingly to a call for Ralph Nader's death. Darn those crazy, rabid right-wing blogospherians.

Halfway Around the World Before the Truth Gets Its Shoes On

I really can't think of anything worse than this scenario for learning your loved ones are dead, unless the thirteenth miner had died, too. This is a terrible story, and I wonder if more isn't to come.

Dennis Prager Gets a Divorce

No, it's not a joke. Will this cause Prager to stop moralizing at everyone? Of course not.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006
CWFA: Barbie Promotes Gender Confusion

Oh, please. Everyone knows it's Ken who promotes gender confusion. Barbie promotes unnatural body image problems. Come on, CWFA, get with the program.

Abramoff Flips

Well, Bugman, it's been nice knowin' ya.

It Was a Nice Run

This blogger first called for the head of Mike Tice in December of 2003, after the Vikings choked away the NFC North by losing to an abysmal Arizona Cardinals squad. Undoubtedly Tice would have been gone last year had not the 8-8 Vikes backed into the playoffs and pulled off an improbable win over Brett Favre and the Packers in Lambeau. And this season has been a train wreck from start to finish. Still, it's hard not to feel a bit bad for Tice, who was finally fired as head coach of the Vikings on Sunday.

Tice may some day become a good head coach in the NFL; certainly, he earned another shot by not allowing the Vikings to collapse utterly after their 2-5 start. Hey, they did finish on a 7-2 run.

Tice will get another shot somewhere, and he may even succeed, but given the implosion of the Vikings this year, not just on the field but off, it was time for Tice to move on.

Now, Zygi Wilf needs to find an actual General Manager to run the team, and then, a coach who can reestablish discipline in the Vikings' locker room. I don't care who that is--Jim Fassel, Ron Rivera, Scott Linehan--any could be good or bad, depending. It's clear that someone new was needed, though, and Wilf is right to roll the dice.

One thing I don't want to hear is the predictable whining that Tice got fired too quickly on Sunday--that somehow, Zygi Wilf should've waited 'til Monday to fire him. Why? Most companies don't wait until you've had a night to sleep before they fire you. Besides, Wilf let Mike Tice coach out the season despite the Vikings' horriffic start--both on and off the field. Tice was an affable guy, but he deserved to be fired. I hope he gets another shot in the league, but it's reasonable for the Vikings to have decided that four years of mediocrity were enough.