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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Cheney to Retire After Mid-Terms?

That's the word on the street. Okay, I don't really buy it--but since blogs are nothing if not a big wankfest, let's play what-if.

First of all, there are four types of veeps that Bush could appoint--the Designated Successor, the Nelson Rockefeller, the National Unity Candidate, and the Dick (Cheney). Let's look at the options.

Designated Successor

The last Vice President to seek and lose his party's endorsement for President was Alben W. Barkley in 1952. Were Bush to name a new Vice President, he (or she) would be the immediate front-runner for the nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN)

Pros: Timing would be good--Frist would be retired from the Senate. He rolled over on the ports deal, putting him back in Bush's good graces. Seems appropriately evil.
Cons: Facing ethics problems of his own, hardly beloved by the right.
Odds: 10-1

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

Pros: It could only improve the Bush administration's standing in the African-American community. Sets up Dick Morris' dream "Condi-Hillary" matchup.
Cons: Already in over her head. Pro-choice, which would not sit well with many on the right. Plus, annointing a black woman would alienate Roy Moore Republicans.
Odds: 8-1

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Pros: Will be looking for work come January of 2007. Certainly has never engaged in man-on-man, man-on-dog, or man-on-box-turtle action. Acceptable to the hard right.
Cons: Last name now has unfortunate meaning. Will have lost last election by double-digits. Is Rick Santorum.
Odds: 25-1

Fmr. Mayor. Rudolph Giulianni (R-NY)

Pros: 9-11! 9-11! 9-11! 9-11! 9-11! 9-11! 9-11!

Cons: Pro-Choice, Pro-Gay, Pro-Cross-Dressing.
Odds: 6-1

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Pros: Certainly the best candidate the GOP could field in 2008. Most willing man in America to invade somewhere. Able to give awkward hugs.
Cons: "Hey, remember when I had Karl Rove call people and say you had an illegitimate black daughter?"
Odds: 75-1

Nelson Rockefeller

Nelson Rockefeller was Vice President under Gerald Ford from 1974-1977. He didn't win election to the seat, but was appointed by Ford after Nixon resigned. It was generally recognized that Ford did so as a sort of tip of the cap to the former Governor.

Fmr. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS)

Pros: Bob Dole is well-respected in the Republican party. Bob Dole knows the Senate so well he's sleeping with a senator. Bob Dole's arm may be injured, but that doesn't mean he can't throw down, punk. How'd you like Bob Dole to jam this pencil in your ear?
Cons: Bob Dole is 432 years old. Bob Dole has done one too many Viagra commercials. Bob Dole is not beloved by the Bush family. Bob Dole already tried to be Vice President--in 1976.
Odds: 500-1

Ambassador George H. W. Bush (R-CT)

Pros: Hey, he certainly knows the job. And the President.
Cons: Might end up going "mano a mano" with his son.
Odds: 1000-1

Gen. Colin Powell (ret.) (R-DC)

Pros: Seems unlikely that he'd actually run for President, so he goes here. Would ensure Powell never told his story.
Cons: Dick Cheney can also ensure Powell never tells his story.
Odds: 750-1

Patrick Buchanan (R-DC)

Pros: Suddenly, Democrats nationwide pray for the continued health of the President.
Cons: Seriously, I have to list these?
Odds: Infinity minus one to one against.

Fmr. Gov. Ronald Reagan (R-CA)

Pros: Everyone in the GOP loves them some Reagan.
Cons: Dead.
Odds:Given that Bush may not know that, 50-1.

Fmr. Sen. J. Danforth Quayle (R-IN)

Pros: Bush-Quayle redux!
Cons: This time, Quayle's the smart one.
Odds: 1500-1

National Unity

Could a desperate George W. Bush reach out and find someone to bridge the gap with Democrats and independents? Probably not. But still, fun to wonder, ain't it?

H. Ross Perot (I-TX)

Pros: So let me tell you: Ross Perot is a doer. He's a doer, and he's a thinker, see. And he'll tell you about the budget defecit and how it's spiralled out of control and the giant sucking sound. And the guys who tried to kill his daughter on her wedding day.
Cons: See: Pros.
Odds: 10,000-1

Fmr. Gov. Jesse Ventura (IP-MN)

Pros: Like current veep, has hunted man. Can body-slam Osama bin Laden.
Cons: Distracted during announcing gig for XFL II, fails to get sworn in after nuclear attack on Washington.
Odds: 5,000-1

Ralph Nader (GP-DC)

Pros: No man more responsible for the George Bush presidency.
Cons: Embarasses President at state dinner by demanding tuna on whole wheat toast.
Odds: 1,000,000-1

Dick (Cheney)

Hey, let's face it: the President likes a doer in the second banana slot. But who?

Mike Brown (R-CO)

Pros: Does a heckuva job.
Cons: Insufficiently loyal to President after administration positioned him as fall guy.
Odds: Off Board

Chuck Norris (R-TX)

Pros: Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain. Chuck Norris can speak braille. Chuck Norris' hand is the only hand that can beat a royal flush.
Cons: Chuck Norris would not take kindly to being the Vice President. Chuck Norris is nobody's second banana
Odds: 1500-1

Vice President Dick Cheney (R-WY)

Pros: Who better to do the vicious backstabbing dirty work of the Bush administration?
Cons: None.
Odds: Even

Poll Watch

Rasmussen Reports, February 14, 500 likely voters, MOE +/- 4.5%

Minnesota Senate (Vacant-Dayton [DFL])
Henn. Cty. Atty. Amy Klobuchar (DFL) 45%
Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) 42%

Ford Bell (DFL) 43%
Kennedy 40%

This poll is good news for Ford Bell and Democrats in general. Bell has to feel good that he's actually beating Kennedy head-to-head--which helps him maintain his slim reed of hope going into the caucuses, and allows him to portray himself as equally electable as Klobuchar. Democrats generally have to be happy that Kennedy continues to be mired in the low-40s, poor numbers for a metro Congressman who has been running ads out of Minneapolis for the past six years.

It's not exactly bad news for Klobuchar, but it's not great news either; she continues to lead Kennedy and pulls an overall higher number against him. But she's not killing him, and that lets Ford Bell live.

Carnival of Hilarity

Via PZ, the hilarious Darwin is Dead-The Carnival!!!

Oh, the funny--all the old stuff is recycled, from "You can't count to infinity" to "If we evolved from monkeys, why are there monkeys?" Plus if you click through, you get the best image ever:

Let he who is without sin kick the first ass.

Crisis Averted!

Tort reform is no longer necessary--malpractice premiums are not going up. Given that this was 100% of the problem with medicine, I look forward to a new era of steady health care premiums, too.

Shorter Jeff Goldstein

When a war started by a Republican President with the assistance of a Republican Congress goes bad, it's the fault of the Democrats.

Dubai Ports World Boycotting Israel

Well, that's unsurprising. I guess this makes Bush like Atticus Finch if Atticus Finch had been anti-Semetic.

Irony is Lost on Some People

Shorter LearnedFoot: "When Jeff Fecke writes a satirical post, he's actually serious."

Poll Watch

CBS News, 1018 voters, February 22-26, 2006, MOE +/- 3%

Bush Approval
Approve 34% (-8)
Disapprove 59% (+8)
Unsure 7% (unc)

By Party (App/Dis/Unsure)
GOP 72/22/6
Dem 9/86/5
Ind 29/26/10

Cheney Favorable
Favorable 18% (-5)
Unfavorable 46% (+5)
Can't Say 35% (unc)

War on Terror
Approve 43% (-9)
Disapprove 50% (+9)

Issue Approval
Iraq 30%
Economy 32%
Energy 27%

Should UAE Company Operate Ports?
Yes 21%
No 70%

How Are Things Going in Iraq?
Well 36%
Badly 62%

Results of Iraq War Worth Cost?
Yes 29%
No 63%

Removing Saddam Worth the Cost?
Yes 41%
No 53%

Bush Cares about People Like You?
A Lot 17% (-7)
Some 30% (+2)
Not Much/None 51% (+4)

So--yikes. This is a massively mad poll for the president, and it suggests strongly that the ports deal is having a strong negative effect on the president, causing his support to erode among those few people who still actually believed that he cared about the War on Terror.

Once again, Bush will be constrained in acting on anything more controversial than the Puppies and Kitties are Cute Act; Bush had best pray hard that the Democrats don't retake one or both houses this fall, or he will lose what little remaining influence he has left.

Shut Up, Lou Dobbs

Honestly, I say that to my television quite often. But there's a difference between me saying it in the privacy of my own home, and Dubai pressuring CNN to silence him. It's almost like they have something to hide.

Monday, February 27, 2006
I'm Glad Someone's Looking Out for Our Security

Gavin has been following the right-wing assault on America:

I was watching cable ten minutes ago, and this one jerk from like the millionth conservative group was saying he hopes there's a really big terrorist attack on America so Bush can suspend the Constitution.

What is it about American conservatives that makes them anti-American?

Friday, February 24, 2006
Go Massive...Sweep it all up. Things Related and Not

Those were Donald Rumsfeld's directions on September 11, 2001. Also included in the notes:

Finally, these documents unveil a previously undisclosed part of the 2:40 PM discussion. Several lines below the "judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time" line, Cambone's notes from the conversation read: "Hard to get a good case."

Yeah. It would take a really one-sided look at intelligence to justify that. It would take them almost eighteen months to justify the plan to hit Saddam. Heckuva job, Rummy.

Straight Up Racist

Yglesias is dead right:

we can discriminate between countries after all. And of course we can discriminate between countries when it comes to matters of national security. That's how national security is done.

And, look, ally or not, the UAE isn't a strategic partner of the United States in the way that the UK is. The number of countries who have British-style security relationships with the United States can be counted on one hand, if not one finger. We share intelligence with the British that we wouldn't share with Portugal, much less Dubai. An ally as close as Israel has been known to screw us over in defense and intelligence matters because, hey, countries have different interests.

One can debate the merits of the port deal, and that's fine, but pretending that we're as close to the UAE as we are to Britain is absurd. Countries we're as close to as we are with Britain include Canada and Australia. Maybe. Having the ports operated by a British firm is as close to having them operated by an American firm as one can get without it actually being the case.

Dumbest. Question. Ever.

Fox News asks it: "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?"

No. It couldn't.

U! S! A! U! S! A!

The US Men's Curling Team has won the bronze at Torino, which is not only the first medal we've won in the event, but a medal for Bemidji, Minnesota.

Oliver Has a Question

This is precisely the question to ask:

Do you support the imprisonment of doctors for up to five years for the alleged “crime” of performing an abortion, as South Dakota’s legislature demands?

It shouldn't just be asked in 2008. Any candidate for federal office should have to answer--and that would include candidates for the House and Senate.

If it Were Done When 'Tis Done....

I am proud to be an advisor to the Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government Program. It's a program that teaches students how government works, and gives them some sense of what it is to be a legislator, judge, executive, lobbyist, or reporter. For the past four years, I've been one of eight adults working with the legislative program, helping student leaders in the House and Senate.

One of the most entertaining debates of the past year's session was on flag burning. Now, it's no secret to those of you who read this site where I fall on flag burning (against actually burning flags, against amending the Constitution), but of course it's not my role to guide the students politically. It's my role to help them learn how to get things done. And so I helped students who were delving through arcane rules to try to either pass or defeat legislation to outlaw flag burning.

At one point, one of the students made the rather obvious point that the bill was flatly unconstitutional; Texas v. Johnson was a slam-dunk against a ban. This was true, I advised the students, but beside the point; undoubtedly the legislation if enacted would be struck down, and that was a valid argument against it, but if the legislature decided they wanted to take the temperature of the Supreme Court on the issue, they were free to do so. It was up to the courts to uphold or strike down the law; the legislature and the executive were free to do as they wished.

When I talked to the student about this, I had an example in mind, and mentioned it: South Dakota. Last year, they came but a vote or two shy of passing legislation designed not to tiptoe up to Roe v. Wade, but to launch a full-out assault on it. One that included no exception for rape, nor for health of the mother. A bill that was not just anti-Roe, but almost comically so.

I told the student that it would have to be struck down by lower courts--it was in direct conflict with Roe. But if South Dakota wanted to push the Supreme Court to rehear Roe, that was a choice they could make.

I did not add that such a choice would be reckless, amoral, and wrongheaded.

Well, a year after averting disaster, South Dakota has decided to embrace it. The state legislature has passed--and the governor will sign--legislation outlawing abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother. And the legislation will also probably outlaw hormonal birth control and Plan B, as it defines life as beginning "at conception."

I will freely admit that I am not a fan of late-term abortion. I believe that aborting a viable fetus is morally wrong, and would have no problem outlawing late-term abortions as long as a life-and-health exception was in place. But aborting a nonviable fetus--and especially, a clump of cells that is as human as my fingernail--is morally neutral, and in some cases, morally right. Certainly, I would not substitute my judgement for that of a woman actually faced with a pregnancy--nor should the state.

South Dakota has decided to outlaw all abortion--not just partial-birth, or even third-trimester abortions, or all abortions except for rape and incest. They have outlawed all abortion unless a woman would die from giving birth. That's beyond repugnant.

If there is a silver lining to this choice, it is this: pro-lifers in South Dakota and elsewhere must hope that John Paul Stevens dies, and quickly. Because unless he (or Justices Ginsburg, Kennedy, Breyer, or Souter) dies or retires before this case comes before the Supreme Court, the court will uphold Roe. I have no faith that the court as currently constructed will be a great friend of choice, but there remains a pro-Roe majority on the court. It would be extraordinarily difficult for the court to uphold Roe and take it up again in short order. No, if the court gets this legislation (after it has been struck down by a federal judge, and again and again on appeal), it will go before a pro-Roe majority that will undoubtedly toss it as well. And that will mean the Roberts Court has once again upheld Roe, for what will be the second time during Roberts' tenure. (The first will come this year, when the court will likely uphold the ban on soi disant partial-birth abortion, but uphold Roe generally.)

In an odd sort of way, South Dakota may have done pro-choicers a favor. Because it will be hard to keep bringing abortion back again and again before the court without damaging the court beyond repair, and turning it into yet another legislative body.

Friday Random Ten
Who's the Cat Who Won't Cop Out When There's Danger All About?

1. "Theme from Shaft," Isaac Hayes
2. "The Guitar," They Might Be Giants
3. "Midway Park," Whiskeytown
4. "Jesus He Knows Me," Genesis
5. "Almost Gothic," Steely Dan
6. "I Feel Good," James Brown
7. "Tangent," Beth Orton
8. "Inn Town," Whiskeytown
9. "European Swallow," The Refreshments
10. "Breathe You Out," The Blue Up?

Thursday, February 23, 2006
I Knew It!

White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat, August 2005 Briefing Warned, "Cheney Determined To Shoot Old Man In Face."

So says The Onion.

On the March

Look, when the situation in Iraq deteriorates to the point that even the wingnutty professor has to acknowledge it, things have gotten grim indeed. 130 have been killed in the wake of the bombing of the Shi'a Golden Mosque and the retaliatory burnings of hundreds of Sunni mosques. And things don't appear to be stable:

Some 130,000 U.S. troops were standing by as the largely untried, U.S.-trained Iraqi army and police went on the highest alert, with all leave cancelled; the heavily armed Americans may have to intervene if large-scale violence increases, however.

"The issue hangs on the next few days. Either the gates of hell open onto a civil war or the Shi'ites will take more power," said Baghdad political science professor Hazim al-Naimi.

"Only the U.S. military is preventing war in some areas."

Will this spiral into civil war? It's hard to say. But once again, the differences between Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds have been thrown into high relief, and once again we see the fruits of invading a country on gut feel and guesses, instead of with full knowledge of the situation, accurate intelligence, and enough troops to get the job done.

Everything You Know is Wrong

Marriage pop quiz time.

Hoist by His Own Portard

I've thus far refrained from commenting on Portgate. Why? Because it's been far more fun to watch the right hack each other to bits. From Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin (against!) to Astroturf Central Station and Sully (for!) to the Power Tools (for! against! completely incoherent!), the right's been cracking up even more than they did over the late, lamented Harriet Miers nomination.

Personally, I'm not particularly happy about the ports deal, but I'm far more disgruntled with the general failure of the Bush administration to adequately secure our ports. The UAE ports deal is more a synechdote than the problem itself. But it is a synechdote, and it reminds us of something that many realize, but few on the right would want to admit.

George W. Bush doesn't really care about the War on Terror.

Oh, I'm not suggesting that he doesn't want to win the war--whatever winning would be. And it's certainly a handy tool, like a butcher's knife or a harpoon or an alligator. Indeed, Bush is quite happy to use the threat of imminent attack to demagogue his opponents, to suggest that only he, and he alone, can be trusted to safeguard America.

But the UAE ports deal shows us what the Bush administration's true interests are. At the end of the day, when the rubber hits the road, and the Bush administration must choose between safeguarding the country and sucking up to rich oligarchies with large oil reserves, which do they choose?

This is why we've never put any real pressure on Saudi Arabia, folks, why Bush did a quick about-face on his claim that we'd be getting rid of Middle Eastern oil someday. If George W. Bush has to choose between making a hard call that might rankle some of his oil buddies, or making the right call for the country--George chooses oil.

He's not interested in safeguarding the country any more than he has to, folks. Sorry, righties. We tried to tell you.

Cut and Run

Bill O'Reilly embraces his inner liberal. Hilarity ensues.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
On Like Donkey Kong

SCOTUS to take up soi disant Partial Birth Abortion. And America gets its first hint of just how far to the right the court has moved. Frankly, better sooner than later.

(As for the case itself: I'm with the vast majority of Democrats who would be quite fine with a restriction on the [extraordinarily rare] procedure, as long as the health of the mother was a legitimate exception to the law. Given that it isn't, well...let's just say that I don't think it's ethical to let women be grievously injured to make a political point.)

Why Support Tim Walz?

Well, for one thing, he was inspired to run after being threatened with arrest for daring to attend a Bush rally with a student of his who was wearing a John Kerry shirt.

The temerity.

But Were There Any Outlays for Dogs?

Rick Santorum has some ethics problems:

The Prospect decided to heed Santorum’s advice by taking “an honest look at the family budget” -- his family budget. What we found is that Santorum’s exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren’t available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators’ filings. Santorum’s PAC -- a “leadership PAC,” whose purpose is to dispense money to other Republican candidates -- used just 18.1 percent of its money to that end over a recent five-year period, a lower number than other leadership PACs of top senators from both parties.

Yes, but at least he wasn't TEH GAY.

Monday, February 20, 2006
And You Thought Your Pre-Nup Was Bad

Want to see batshit insane? Check out this lovely marriage contract for the ages, which includes such lovely requirements of "Wifely Duties" as:

  • You will shave every third day, which includes underarms, chest, legs, and public area (navel to anus), all areas are to be completely clean shaven. Above your vaginal slit you may have a patch of pubic hair in any shape, that must be centered above your vaginal slit, it will measure no greater than 2.0? X 1.0?, and will maintain a hair lenth of less 1/3?.
  • When we are at home … you will be naked within 20 minutes of the kids being in bed, and then sleep naked, unless instructed otherwise. If I am not home when the kids go to bed you are still to be naked before I return home. The only exception will be during your menstrual cycle.

    …When we are in bed together I can cuddle, spoon, hold or touch you in any way, as long as it does not excessively disruptive to your sleep.
  • When we are at home … from when you are to be naked until 12:00 am, or for three hours, which ever is later, will be My-Time. This time you will devout [sic] solely to me, whereas you will be in my service to do ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING I want, which may or may not be sexual in manner.

It will probably surprise nobody that Travis Frey, the creator of this bizarre fembot command list, was not only arrested for attempting to kidnap his wife and kids, but for downloading child pornography as well. Lovely fellow. (And what is it about guys with a last name of "Frey?")

Friday, February 17, 2006
Objectively Evil

Some standards of morality are subjective, and some are not. Sentencing a woman to death for defending herself from a rapist is absolutely evil, and I don't give a damn what culture you're from. The only thing she did wrong was not make the sonofabitch suffer before he died.

Smut if Smitten is Front-Page Stuff

Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l__ns,
Smite h_p and th_gh,
We'll all be Kansas
By and by.

--Ogden Nash, "Invocation"

For some reason, I've neglected the bizarre goings-on in Kansas, where state Attorney General Phil Kline is working overtime to show a federal judge that it's okay for him to harass abortion clinics.

To recap: in Kansas, it's a crime for those under sixteen to have sex, even if it's with other minors. So Kline hit upon a novel idea--he wants abortion clinics to turn over the records of any minor who comes in, on the grounds that their pregnancies are evidence of a crime. Now, that's sort of understandable, save for the fact that Kline is not seeking out similar evidence from delivery rooms.

Oh, and he has no idea what "sex" is:

  • According to Kline's advisory opinion that launched the dispute, "any lewd fondling or touching of the person of either the child or the offender, done or submitted to with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires." That would, in theory, include what my high-school friends would have called "kissing."
  • According to Kline's trial testimony last week: Illegal sexual activity is conduct "which is so clearly offensive as to shock the moral conscience of a reasonable person." He further refined this answer to explain that it's thus a crime for a 15-year-old boy to perform oral sex on a 15-year-old girl, but it's only a crime for a 15-year-old girl engaging in oral sex on a 15-year-old boy "if there's penetration." When questioned as to what such penetration might involve, Kline responded, "I'm not certain."
  • According to Kline's Assistant Attorney General Camille Nohe, only "significant sexual conduct" such as vaginal or anal intercourse and oral sex among willing adolescents must be reported under the Kline policy.
  • But according to Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston, "the law requires reporting of all illegal sexual activities between underage adolescents. That would include a boy touching the breast of a girl or either adolescent touching the genitals of the other."
  • And according to Cathy Hubbard, program administrator for the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Service's Child Protection Unit? It was her initial understanding that Kline's 2003 opinion, which reinterpreted the state's reporting law, mandated reporting of all sexual activities by underage youths, but within the last month, an attorney for Kline's office informed her that the interpretation applied only to sexual intercourse.
So yes, that's right, four state officials have now given five definitions of what sex is. And people complained about Bill Clinton.

In the end, of course, it takes a particular kind of overzealousness to seek to criminalize even consenual sex between two fifteen-year-olds in an attempt to dissuade them from having abortions. One can argue that fifteen is too young to have sex--indeed, most people not named John Derbyshire would--but the hallmark of adolescence is making stupid decisions that one later regrets. I'd far rather a fifteen-year-old who decides to terminate a pregancy do so than find herself pressured to go through with it, and charged with a crime to boot.


Kevin Drum links to yet more bad news on the global warming front:

Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.

The new data come from satellite imagery and give fresh urgency to worries about the role of human activity in global warming. The Greenland data are mirrored by findings from Bolivia to the Himalayas, scientists said, noting that rising sea levels threaten widespread flooding and severe storm damage in low-lying areas worldwide.

In the same post, Drum links to Michelle Malkin, who has this to say:

So, Paramount is gearing up to release an Al Gore documentary about global warming. But at least two scientists in the Philippines are rejecting Gore's hot air....Unfortunately, warning about groundwater use won't get you a glitzy Hollywood movie contract or lucrative speaking engagements. I hope more scientists committed to the truth speak up about Gore's bloviations.

Drum draws the obvious conclusion:

I realize that Al Gore believes in global warming, and therefore all good conservatives believe global warming doesn't exist. But it's time to grow up and take notice that all the global warming news for the past few years has been bad. Not only is it happening, but every recent report I've seen indicates that it's happening faster and with more dire results than we've previously believed. It's really beyond belief that so many people are still burying their heads in the sand over this.

I like Kevin Drum, but no, it isn't.

The Republican war on science has stepped up recently, and there's no question why. Science is biased against the GOP agenda. Climatologists tell us that global warming is real, and we'll have to cut fossil fuel consumption, meaning Dick Cheney will have to get rid of his SUV. The godless proponents of evolution continue to demonstrate repeatedly that we are the product of natural selection, not products who wheeled off the assembly line at GodCo. Cosmologists stubbornly insist the universe is billions of years old, not 6,004. And of course, mathematicians have noticed that our budget deficit isn't actually shrinking.

As Rob Corddry once asked, what do you do when the facts themselves are biased? You ignore them. You deny they exist. You sieze on the tiniest sliver of possibility--hey, a scientist in Russia disagrees with global warming!--and ignore the fact that he's pretty much the only one. You note that there are a few questions science hasn't answered yet, and claim that your theory that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the bacterial flagellum because it's noodly is just as valid, and we should "teach the controversy." You claim the woman in the persistent vegetative state is really conscious, and the doctors don't know what they're talking about, and just because her brain is atrophied doesn't mean she can't think anymore.

In short, Republicans ignore science because they don't like the answers it gives them. And so they assert, ex cathedra, that they know more than the scientists because they have faith. Because if they admitted the scientists were right, they might have to actually change some of their opinions--and if there's one thing the last six years has shown us, it's that for most Republicans, opinions mean far more than facts.

Friday Random Ten
Up in Brainerd Where the Children Go to Milking School

1. "Toolmaster of Brainerd," Trip Shakespeare
2. "Super Bon Bon (Propellerhead Remix)," Soul Coughing
3. "Metal Detector," They Might Be Giants
4. "You to Thank," Ben Folds
5. "Dirt Bike," They Might Be Giants
6. "Casiotone Nation," Soul Coughing
7. "Still Fighting It," Ben Folds
8. "Fast As I Can," Erin McKeown
9. "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," Ben Folds Five
10. "Violent Mood Swings (Thread Mix)," Stabbing Westward

Thursday, February 16, 2006
I Am So Buying This

Possibly the best children's show of all time, "The Electric Company," is coming out on DVD. And I have a three-year-old, so I've got an excuse to buy it.

My Favorite Headline

From the WaPo: "Fox News wins battle for Cheney interview."

Wow! I mean, who knew? It had to be a hard choice. I'm sure NPR's bid was considered. I know Dick thought about going on Olbermann's show. Air America's offer was great, too. But I understand in the end it came down to Fox and TASS.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
But John Smithers Wants to Give Your Tax Dollars to Osama bin Laden. Tell John Smithers--Don't Give My Money to Terrorists.

Blogs call for election 2006 to be an Osama-free zone. I don't see that happening, as Osama is all Mark Kennedy's got.

The Pussification of Dick Cheney

I don’t see why men should have become feminized, except that we allowed it to happen—and you know why we let it happen? Because it’s goddamned easier to do so. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed it to go too far, and our maleness has become too pussified for words.

--Kim du Toit, "The Pussification of the Western Male"

Three years ago, Kim du Toit wrote a vile screed on the perceived feminization of men in America. It was full of non-sequitirs, rape fantasies, and profanity, an open celebration of the stereotypical "man." Du Toit wrung his hands at the loss of manliness, one which I never understood. After all, there are real men in this world.

They don't talk about it much.

They go to work--could be the coal mines, or the warehouse, or the office, or school. They do their job, they go home. Maybe on the weekend they watch football. They do what they're supposed to, they keep their heads down, they care about their families and they all they want out of life is to work hard and do the best they can. They embody the virtues that we perceive as masculine--stoicism, loyalty, honor, dignity. Some of them may go too far into masculinity, of course--so stoic they shut down emotionally. But by and large they're a respectable bunch.

There are a lot of non-"real men" too. Some of them are "feminized," I suppose--a bit more in touch with their feelings, a bit more introspective, a bit more up-or-down than the paragons of manhood. Not bad men--they just aren't concerned about whether or not they're living up to the ideal of manliness. They're far more interested in how their daughter's doing in school, or whether their wife is happy, or whether they themselves are happy in their lives.

There are all sorts of other permutations as well--men who are stoic but not loyal, men who are emotional and still honorable, men who have dignity and who still cry.

And then, of course, there are the pussies.

(Calling them pussies is, of course, an insult to women everywhere; most women have far more steel in their spines than these poseurs, and they are living proof that the possession of a phallus is no guarantee of masculine virtue. But they see themselves as pussies--as shadows of men, as "female" in all their clouded vision of it. Thus I will use this word to describe them in the hopes that they will understand this better--knowing full well that for these men, "pussy" would be a high complement.)

These are the men who send other people to fight their battles, who brag obsessively about guns, who complain about being "sissified" when their wives dare to suggest that they've made mistakes in their lives. These are the men who rape, who steal, who get into drunken fights for no good reasons. These are the men who stiff their exes on child support because "she spent some of it on herself," the men who don't parent or clean because that's women's work. What's worst, they know they're pussies--that's why they rail so much. Like a bully trying in vain to boost his self-esteem by tearing down others, pussies fear that the fact that they don't really want to fight makes them...well, feminine. They become a caracature of masculinity in order to prove that they are really, truly, manly men.

Dick Cheney is a pussy.

'Twas the latest incident that really brought it home for me. Oh, the signs were there all along--he got five deferments during Vietnam, for God's sake, and while that's no sin if you're against the war, it's pretty shady if you're for it. (If I have to explain why, you're probably a pussy). Still, like many pussies, he covered himself in the vestments of manliness. He seems stoic to a fault, reticent even. He's allegedly loyal to his boss. Oh, he's able to snarl at an opponent now and then, but that's a typical manly fault.

But the shooting of Harry Whittington does more than tie Dick Cheney to historic pussy Aaron Burr. It throws into high relief the utter wimpiness of Cheney.

Dick Cheney was hunting in a private where quail were almost certain to be present--somewhat better than his previous Pennsylvania killing spree, perhaps, but something no real man would do. Real men, of course, would go hunting where quail may or may not be--go hunting knowing full well that the word implies that they may not find anything. Dick Cheney had no such concerns--he was too much of a pussy to risk failure.

Harry Whittington may not have been where Cheney thought he was--like any accident, even the victim may have some fault. But a real man doesn't farm out excuses. He stands up and takes the blame, especially when it comes to the honor of friends. A real man--or even one of us feminized men--jumps in to defend their friend's honor, and to take the blame upon themselves. A pussy has surrogates leak that it was probably someone else's fault.

And of course, that right there is the biggest proof of the non-manliness of Dick Cheney of all. A man stands up and takes responsibility, because a man is responsible. Only a pussy's pussy would not only hide from the press, not only try to blame his friend, but shove the woman who owns the ranch out in front of the press in order to avoid the abuse. Only an epic pussy would refuse to answer anyone's question, would only visit his friend in the hospital briefly, and would make his first public statement a discussion of questions about his hunting license.

It's what Cheney is, of course. A real man would admit there were no WMDs in Iraq, too. A real man can say, "You know what? I screwed it up. I'm sorry." Dick Cheney isn't a real man. Not even close.

In our post-9/11 world, there are plenty of real men, of course, and real women, to boot. They are the men and women who live every day as if it's a day. They don't spend their lives convinced that al Qaeda is going to eat their brains, nor do they believe that they should surrender their essential liberty for transitory security.

As for the pussies, well--they don't care. They just want daddy to take care of the bad men. It's too bad for them that the guys in charge are pussies, too. But it's their own damn fault.

Rule of Law

Ann Coulter commits voter fraud.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
All Fun and Games

Harry Whittington suffers "minor" heart attack. Well, he's old, right? It could be a coincidence!

Sadly, no!

"Some of the bird shot appears to have moved and lodged into part of his heart ... in what we would say is a minor heart attack," said Peter Banko, administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial.

We'll all hope and pray the guy the Vice President shot doesn't die.

In a Fog

It's time to fire Michael Chertoff:

A group of Republican Congress members will release a report Wednesday that sharply criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the hurricanes that hit the nation's Gulf Coast last year.

According to portions of the draft obtained by ABC News, the report charges Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff with executing his responsibilities "late, ineffectively or not at all."


Committee member Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., said: "The president was clearly misinformed. We had a tabletop exercise — Hurricane Pam — that predicted at a level 4 [hurricane], the dam was going to be breached."

Yet President Bush, in a Sept. 1 interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, said he didn't think that anyone knew that the New Orleans levees could be breached, forcing many of the city's residents from their homes.

"If this is what happens when we have advance warning, we shudder to imagine the consequences when we do not," the report says, referring to a possible terror attack. "Four-and-a-half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time."


"The White House was clearly in a fog," Shays said. "Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, was clearly detached. He didn't even go to New Orleans 'til Wednesday; then you have [FEMA Director Michael Brown], who was clueless and negligent."

The reports say that Chertoff convened an interagency board of experienced strategic advisers on Aug. 30, rather than Aug. 27, when he should have. Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29. It also says that Chertoff designated the untrained Brown to manage the disaster.

There's no two ways about it: this was an utter failure on the part of the federal government. Michael Brown rightly lost his job as head of FEMA; his boss, Michael Chertoff, should now lose his job as well. This is about competence, and clearly that is something Chertoff does not possess.

Focused on Saving Lives

Yep, that guitar could be used as a flotation device.

Cheney's Got a Gun

The Daily Show was, as one might expect, fantastic. And it featured the definitive take on this from Rob Corddry:

Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Whittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush. And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face.

That logic seems familiar somehow.

Monday, February 13, 2006
He Shot Me Down, Bang Bang

Okay, it's probably not the historical comparison you'd want if you were a Vice President, but somehow, you've got to like that Dick Cheney and Aaron Burr are now joined in history as the only two sitting Vice Presidents ever to shoot someone. Of course, Burr meant to shoot Alexander Hamilton. But still, Walter Mondale never shot anybody. Neither did Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, or even John Nance Garner. No, only Dick Cheney was reckless enough to shoot somebody.

Of course, usually when the administration does something like this--invade a country, forget to listen to their messages about levees breaking, not capture Osama bin Laden--they manage to fix the blame anywhere else but with themselves. And it appears that's what they are trying to do here:

Whittington shot a bird and went to retrieve it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and discovered a second covey.

Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong said.

"The vice president didn't see him," she continued. "The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by God, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

Of course, announcing himself or no, it's on the guy with the gun to make sure he's not firing at a human; I'm not even a hunter and I know that much. It's Gun Safety 101--don't shoot if you might hit someone.

What I want to know is why there was no announcement about this. There was an eighteen hour delay between the shooting and the announcement--which came via anonymous tip to a local reporter. Look, I know it's embarassing, but Dick Cheney shot a guy. That's really, really big news. Even if it was an accident.

Look, no crime was committed here--at least none that's evident. Hunting accidents happen. At least a member of the hunting party got taken out, and not some innocent bystander. But no matter what, this should have been announced within hours of the incident.

Why wasn't it? I don't know. But it concerns me. Because I have minimal trust in this administration, it leads me to wonder if there was an ulterior motive in the delay. Maybe it was just to cover themselves. Maybe they really didn't get that it was a big deal. Or maybe they needed time to create the cover for the real story that Dick shot the guy in anger. I have no evidence for that last one, and indeed, would not have thought about that possiblility for a second--but for the fact that it took them a day to announce it.

As always with this administration, it's hard to say whether it's malice, incompetence, or an admixture of both.

Sunday, February 12, 2006
Brownie pwns Nahm

It's absolutely worth seeing again. Norm has now been destroyed by both George Galloway and Michael Brown. Sucks to be Norm.


Now, I could be wrong, but I thought we'd settled this issue during the John Adams administration:

George W. Bush's America just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, doesn't it? Consider the case of Laura Berg—a local Veterans Affairs (VA) nurse currently represented by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys George Bach and Larry Kronen in a peculiar matter that seems to involve official retribution against Berg for her criticisms of the Bush administration.

On Sept. 15, 2005, the Alibi published a letter to the editor from Berg, which we've reprinted here in full (see "Wake Up, Get Real"). Whether you agree with Berg's sentiments or not, the letter would seem to consist of boilerplate griping about the Bush administration, the same kind of opinion piece that can be found every day in publications all over the country.

Here's where this story takes a turn for the weird. Although Berg has chosen not to comment at this time, Bach and Kronen say that a few days after the letter was published, VA Information Security employees seized Berg's computer at the local VA hospital where she works. At the time, she was told this action occurred because of suspicions that she'd composed the letter to the Alibi on government time, on government premises, using government equipment.

According to Bach and Kronen, on Sept. 19, 2005, Berg's American Federation of Government Employees Union representative, Thomas Driber, informed Berg that her letter to the Alibi had been sent through "VA channels" to the FBI in Washington, D.C. The attorneys say this information was confirmed by one of the union's Washington lawyers during a conference call between Driber, Berg and the union lawyer. (Multiple phone messages left at Driber's office by the Alibi were not answered.)

As if that weren't creepy enough, the attorneys say Berg made further inquiries and eventually received a response from the VA's Chief of Human Resources, Mel R. Hooker, who, in a memorandum dated Nov. 9, 2005, allegedly admitted that the VA had no evidence the letter was written on Berg's office computer. Despite this, Hooker claimed the investigation was justified because the "Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition."

Well, okay, but I'm not sure that the Supreme Court would agree:

Although the Sedition Act was never tested in this Court, the attack upon its validity has carried the day in the court of history. Fines levied in its prosecution were repaid by Act of Congress on the ground that it was unconstitutional.

Of course, that's them activist judges. Who can trust them?

Now there is a "sedition" still on the books--but it involves attempted violent overthrow of the government. I suppose writing a letter is a lot like plotting a coup d'etat, save that usually, nobody dies. But whatever. It's not like writing a letter to the newspaper is explicitly protected by the Constitution.

Cheney Shoots Someone

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I think the former Governor of Minnesota said it best: "Until you hunted man, you haven't hunted yet."


"Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings."

--Thornton Wilder, Our Town

I believe there is a purpose and an order to the universe.

I don't know what that purpose is, or from whence the order comes; I only know that as the Stage Manager suggests, there is something to all of this, something more that we can ever truly grasp.

It is because of this that I have long been fascinated by science. I lack the temperament to be a scientist--even medicated, I still have too much of an ADHD-driven personality to make careful, minutely-calibrated measurements over time. But I have tremendous respect for those who are able to do so, and am endlessly fascinated by their ability to tease out the hows of our world--from how humans became humans, to how the Earth came to have a satellite far too big for it, to why e must equal approximately 2.71828, why pi must equal approximately 3.14159, and whether the universe could have existed had those numbers equalled anything else.

The wonder of science and mathematics--the two are two sides of the same coin, really--is that they are at heart humble ways of looking at the universe. A scientist comes up with an idea and tries to prove it false--because falsifying a hypothesis is the quickest way of discarding it. If the hypothesis is not immediately falsified, the scientist and her colleagues try to determine what predictions it makes--and then suggest ways to test it. They write papers, submit them worldwide, ask others to check and recheck and recheck their idea until it has been verified so often and so completely that it becomes theory. And even then, scientists keep working on the idea, keep refining it, finding the seams and the cracks, finding cases where the theory cannot hold, expecting always that it might prove incorrect in some way we can barely comprehend now.

In short, scientists believe that there may be an ultimate truth, but the only way to get there is by careful thought and observation, and the humility to accept that today's truth is only truthiness--that we are still missing another level of truth, and that we will only get there through hard work.

There is another way to get to truth, of course; you can simply declare things to be true:

Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"

The children roared their assent.

"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"God!" the boys and girls shouted.

"Who's the only one who knows everything?"


"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

The children answered with a thundering: "God!"

I believe in the eternal; I believe on faith, and faith alone. And my faith compels me to believe that what I see is real. I believe that if there is a Creator or Creators, that It or They would not have created a universe where intelligent thought was possible, only to demand that we ignore the world around us and cling to simplistic, mythical beliefs long after they have been proven false.

Creationism has been proven false--proven false so many times that it's almost pointless to continue proving it false. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and the creationists have simply chosen to close their eyes and ears to the world, to believe that they know more than those who spend their lives looking and seeking and questioning, because a book they read tells them so.

There is a word for this, and that is hubris.

Hubris--exaggerated pride or self-confidence, per Webster's--is what caused Icarus to soar to high on his wings of wax and collected feathers, cocksure that he knew more than his father who had made them, that the sun would not melt the wax. It's what caused Creon to forbid Antigone from burying her brother, what caused the President of the United States to lead his country into war in Iraq. It is a sense that you know, know better than anyone else, know more than anyone else, and that all others are simply wrong because they are not you.

It is the height of human folly--the worst of our impulses, worse even than hate or murderous rage. For hubris can lead us to destroy with the best of intentions, lead us to sabatoge with love. Icarus did not mean to break his father's heart, Creon did not mean to cause the deaths of his wife and son, Bush did not mean to go into a country where no Weapons of Mass Destruction existed. Each made their tragic mistakes with their heads held high, certain that they were right, and the naysayers--Daedalus, Teiresias, democrats--were wrong.

Fundamentalists do not seek truth. They do not question that they could be wrong. They point out the "fossil hat," not mentioning that scientists already know that fossils form relatively quickly--it's not how fast a fossil forms, but where it's buried that betrays its age. They ask the question, "were you there?" as if that proves anything. (After all, I wasn't there when they signed the Declaration of Independence, but I think evidence indicates that the United States exists.)

PZ Myers is understandably upset with Ham's statements, and I can understand Myers' instinct to leap to attacking religion qua religion for flat-headed hubris. But it is not religion that is at fault here; rather it is a mindset that is prevalent in all creeds--the hubris to believe that one actually does, in fact, know everything. That you know better than those around you.

I am humble before God; I do not know everything. Compared to all that can be known, I know next to nothing. But I have an advantage that Ken Ham does not. I ask questions. If my daughter ever comes home and asks me how I know evolution happened, I'll go online with her and show her what scientists say, what creationists say, what evidence suggests. And I'll tell her that the theory of evolution is well-founded, and fits the evidence well. And I'll let her draw her own conclusions, and ask her own questions, and find the answers for herself. Because that's what the 2300 kids who heard from Ham did not get to do. Hopefully, when they challenge their biology teachers, they'll be graced with a teacher willing to answer their questions and propose other ones; in the end, none of us know the Truth. But those who ask questions are going to get closer to it than those who do not.

Friday, February 10, 2006
Okay, This is All a Joke, Right?

Look, I hate to say it, but Jeebus Cripes, Ann Coulter has crossed a line even for her. Really, if this doesn't put her on the outs, what in God's name will? Her shouting "n---" repeatedly? Her stripping on the Factor? Her actually devouring Harry Reid live on TV?

If someone calls Muslims "ragheads," boasts about having passed up a chance to assassinate former President Clinton, and suggests that three of the Justices are not expendible but the other six are...well, all I know is that had Michael Moore made a similar bilious outburst, every lefty would be tarred with the same brush. So I guess either Coulter goes, or every righty is a paranoid racist who harbors assassination fantasies.

Actually, that's probably not far off....

Fathers of Daughters are More Feminist

This doesn't surprise me one bit. Heck, I was a feminist before I had a daughter, and I still became more of a feminist afterward. It only makes sense--if you care about your daughter, you care about wanting her to have a good life. And feminism has been instrumental in improving the lives of women. Period.


So I'm reading Instapundit today. No, I'm not sure why either. But anyhow, I come across this post (which I'd excerpt, except it's too short to do so):

A SECOND LOOK at global warming data.

Well now, Glenn Reynolds is something of a global warming denier, so undoubtedly the article is going to argue that there's something wrong with the theory. Saying "Second Look" suggests that maybe new data is available--that maybe there's something showing it's not that bad. Hey, given my own pessimistic sense of the situation, hey, I'd love to see something that says I'm too concerned.

So I click the link.

Now, let me make clear--you're not really supposed to click the links Glenn Reynolds gives you. Glennuendo only works if you don't. If you just read the post Glenn put up, you assume global warming is somewhat discredited. If you click through, you see this:

Seeking to resolve a scientific dispute that has taken on a rancorous political edge, the National Academy of Sciences said it had agreed to a request from Congress to assess how well researchers understand the history of temperatures on earth.

The study by the academy, an independent advisory body based in Washington, will focus on the "hockey stick," a chart of past temperatures that critics say is inaccurate. The graph gets its name because of the sudden, blade-like rise of recent temperatures compared with past epochs.

The controversy took a sharp political turn in July when Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a probe into the work of three climate specialists who generated the graph, including Michael Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Mr. Barton's inquiry drew a rebuke from several scientific societies as well as fellow Republican Sherwood Boehlert of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Science, who called it a blatant effort to intimidate global-warming researchers.

Mr. Barton's inquiry drew a rebuke from several scientific societies as well as fellow Republican Sherwood Boehlert of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Science, who called it a blatant effort to intimidate global-warming researchers.

After Mr. Barton didn't respond to an offer to jointly bring the issue to the National Academy, Mr. Boehlert independently asked for a review in November, science committee chief of staff David Goldston said. "It appeared that the issue was not going to go away by itself. We thought this was an appropriate way to get an assessment of the science," Mr. Goldston said in an interview.

So, to summarize, Rep. Barton decides that there's no possible way global warming is real, because that would be inconvenient for business. He launches a probe into science, because like his president, he hates science. In a moment of sanity, Rep. Boehlert says that's ridiculous, why not go to a nonpartisan group to decide this. Rep. Barton doesn't act, so Rep. Boehlert takes it upon himself to make it happen.

This is a "second look." Not that global warming data is false, or even seriously questioned by anyone with any qualifications, but that Congress has somehow managed to push this off to another group who will decide that global warming is real, at which point they will be ignored. And I mean that literally:

Larry Neal, deputy staff director for Mr. Barton's committee, said in a statement that because "combating climate change is a breathtakingly expensive prospect," it deserved closer study, and that the academy was "unlikely" to address all of Mr. Barton's concerns.

New York City under three feet of water would be unlikely to address all of Mr. Barton's concerns. His concerns aren't the same as mine, which generally involve worrying more about whether my daughter will live on a habitable world than whether ExxonMobil is doing okay.

A Tangled Web We Weave

Why don't I automatically trust the administration's list of rejected 24 plotlines War on Terra victories? Because they just lie all the damn time:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.


"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports.

But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet," he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu. With power out from the high winds and movement limited, even news reporters in New Orleans remained unaware of the full extent of the levee breaches until Tuesday.

I'd give the administration a pass on the whole "fog of war" thing, except on Monday, August 29, everyone in the nation knew New Orleans was in mortal peril, and while there wasn't much I could do about it, the White House sort of had an important role to play. Confusion doesn't cut it. Not when you're the president.

Look, if you get a call saying "Hey, your house is on fire," and then another call saying "Maybe the fire's not that bad," and another call saying "I'm not sure about the fire, but there's a lot of smoke," you wouldn't just throw your hands up and say, "Hey, not a big deal, it's probably fine. Dodged a bullet." You'd get your butt home.

Lest we forget, this is what your president was doing the morning of Tuesday, August 30, while his administration had reason to believe that the situation was "far more serious than media reports [were] reflecting."

No, I won't forgive him for that. Not ever. As the homes of tens of thousands of residents of New Orleans flooded, the president got himself a guitar.

These people have the temerity to complain that an African-American minister had one paragraph of complaints to air at a funeral for a civil rights icon, while this administration's incompetence and disinterest cost the homes of tens of thousands of African-Americans.

No, I won't forgive him for that. Nor the botched war in Iraq. Nor will I trust this administration to advance its own power unchecked. Even if this administration had proven trustworthy, they have proven themselves to be incompetent. Quite simply, the job is too hard for George and company. An honorable man would put his country first and resign. But George W. Bush is not an honorable man.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelmann has much, much more.

Big Fat Carnival

Alas, a Blog features the first Big Fat Carnival, posts on weight-related issues. Some very good stuff there, especially if you are overweight like I am.

Friday Random Ten
He Ended Up Really, Really, Really Sad

1. "The Man Who Couldn't Cry," Johnny Cash
2. "Roll Me Away," Bob Seger
3. "I Hardly Ever Sing Beer Drinking Songs," Johnny Cash
4. "Thunderbird," They Might Be Giants
5. "The Big Payback," James Brown
6. "Get a Grip," Semisonic
7. "Mr. Me," They Might Be Giants
8. "Exhibitionist," The Blue Up?
9. "Sentimental Guy," Ben Folds
10. "The Lady is a Tramp," Frank Sinatra

Thursday, February 09, 2006
I Write Letters

Dear George,

First of all, let me state up front that I'm glad nothing happened to Los Angeles. I think I speak for everyone (save, possibly, former Angelinos) when I say that it's a good thing that Los Angeles is okay. And if indeed you personally thwarted a terror attack on L.A.--well, I mean heck, that's a good thing.

It's just--well, you see, this happened back in 2002, and we didn't find out until now. And it just occurs to me that given that things on this list appeared as recently as 2004, and disclosure of those incidents doesn't seem to be causing problems, well...why are we just finding this out now?

You see, as I recall, there was an election in 2004, and you were challenged often on what you'd done to defend our nation. And this never came up then--not at all. And then through 2005, it didn't come up. And now, all of a sudden, as the heat rises on questionable surveillance tactics of your administration--hey! Look what good stuff you did!

It's just that the timing is odd, Mr. President. And if this was the first time that the timing seemed odd, well, that would be one thing, but--and I'm just speaking for me here--I pretty much don't trust you as far as I can throw Mount Everest.

So hey, I'm glad Los Angeles is still there. No doubt most Californians are too. And if you had something to do with that, then good for you. But you'll pardon me, George, if I reserve judgment for now. After all, you know the old adage--if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.


Jeffrey K. Fecke


If this is the most damning stuff on Reid, then it's offical--he's clean.


It sort of snuck through the back door when nobody was looking, but Joe Gandelman notes that in the big clash over NSA spying, the White House has blinked:

[D]espite claims that only Democrats were making a big deal about this, this has been a VERY big deal to some key Republicans as well. Plus, the whole history of American legislators is that they jealously protect their rights and the Washington Post report is further evidence that some Republican members of Congress aren't ready to give up their powers to the executive branch.


So, clearly, even with the White House reportedly playing hardball with GOPers, telling them that if they weren't backed on their hard-line stance some people might not get help or funds when they run for re-election, it was clear some Republicans in Congress were making their feelings known. The House committee's briefing was yesterday. The Senate gets its the end, as news reports show, there was indeed BIPARTISAN concern over this issue. And all of the talk that it was strictly partisan politics coming from the Democrats proved itself to be partisan talk...but not coming from the Democrats.

This, of course, has never been a scandal about terrorism. It has been about separation of powers, the rule of law, and the balancing of the executive's power against the legislative and judicial branches. Had the Bush administration sought legal changes to authorize their actions in 2001, undoubtedly they would have prevailed.

We will see how the briefings go--at least, based on the reactions of Senators and Representatives--and we will soon get a feel for what will happen. My guess is that soon, Congress will act to give authority for these actions so long as these actions are Constitutional--which is fine and proper, and the way things are supposed to work.


Sully wonders aloud:

If your instinct is to defend the administration, ask yourself this: did you really believe when we invaded that three years later, we still wouldn't be delivering as much electricity as Saddam did? Maybe Powerline can spin this, but I don't see how. Hewitt, maybe? Instapundit? Surely someone's up to the job.

Oh, don't worry about Pajamaline--they'll get 'er done.

I Come Not to Bury Caesar

Liberal nutcase Professor Bainbridge gives the definitive word on politicization of funerals.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The King Funeral

You know, it's kind of sad. My first instinct after watching excerpts from the Coretta Scott King funeral yesterday was to congratulate President Bush. Junior. The current one.

No, really. Bush gave a serviceable speech, and though at least one minister criticized our nation's Messopotamian adventure, Bush took it like a man and shook the guy's hand afterward. In other words, he behaved like a President of the United States, one who can accept criticism with equanimity. It's rare, but he did a nice job.

If I were a conservative, I'd be trumpeting that fact. Of course, conservatives are not; instead they're trying to turn this into a replay of the Rallemorial.

Now, nobody has been harder on Rick Kahn et. al. than I have. The Wellstone memorial was a debacle--one that could have been prevented had DFL leaders had one iota of sense, and simply vetted speeched beforehand.

But the Wellstone memorial fell apart because of one speech, with bits and pieces of others thrown in. Rick Kahn--beset by grief, which clouded his judgement--gave an utterly disastrous speech, one which secured Norm Coleman's victory. It was a twenty-minute long train wreck.

What are the Republicans really angry about from yesterday's service? One paragraph:

We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there were weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance, poverty abound, for war billions more, but no more for the poor.

One paragraph in a six hour service. One paragraph which is absolutely true, every single word of it. One paragraph delivered by a minister.

For shame.

Coretta Scott King was an icon of the civil rights movement, a movement that was, at its heart, a liberal movement. Her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his life in Memphis--he was there supporting a union.

This service was not a Democratic service. It was planned by King's family. Unlike the Wellstone debacle, there was bipartisan participation--both Presidents Bush spoke at the service. If the King family saw fit to celebrate her life and her legacy as a liberal one, and if clergy there chose to remind us that there is still work to be done, well--I find it particularly churlish that anyone would mention it.

In their rush to try to politicize King's funeral, the Republicans would do well to remember why King was important--and just shut up. It is despicable, the way this administration and the majority caucus has tried to politicize everything in this country. Reading my post on the Wellstone funeral, it strikes me how much I've been alienated by this administration and my government. And it's this constant drumbeat that no liberal sentiment can remain unchallenged, not even at the funeral of a civil rights leader, that has driven me there.

No doubt, there is the echo of the Southern Strategy here. No doubt, some of the objection is that the funeral itself was too, er, colorful. But more than anything, it is about the GOP's need to win everything, to not back down at any moment, not even out of respect for a woman who gave her husband to save this nation's soul.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Evil, Evil Was His One and Only Game....

So let's say you're Karl Rove.

Once you've made peace with your future damnation, you realize that the guy you work for, the guy you made, is in trouble. He kinda, sorta, partially authorized warrantless wiretaps, and he probably wasn't totally authorized under the Constitution or federal law to do that. Fortunately, your guy's party controls the Senate. Unfortunately, there are a few troublemakers who sound like they're somewhat concerned about the whole silly "separation of powers" thing. So what do you do?

  1. Accept that the Senate has oversight powers, but count on your administration's ability to make the case that the wiretaps were legal;
  2. Go to the Senate and admit you might have overreached, and work together with Congress to craft a law that both provides for national security and respects the Constitution;
  3. Threaten all Republicans that if they go against the administration, their political careers will be over.

So what did Karl do? Do I have to tell you he opted for the third choice?

Once again, the Bush administration's partisanship gets in the way of actually fighting the war on terror. I'm quite sure that the administration could find a compromise with congress that would satisfy most of us--even radical civil libertarians like myself. But that won't happen, because Karl and his boss are far more interested in playing politics than defeating al Qaeda.

Lost Tales of History
The Threat

The retired Ambassador looked out as the carriage bounced along the streets of New York. He did enjoy returning to New York on occasion, though he would certainly miss Philadelphia--and Hester, and Mary, and Abigail, and Catherine. And Patience. And Rosemary. Ah, but New York had its own charms, and he resolved to alert Sally and Elizabeth and Martha to his presence here at his earliest convenience.

Still, Ben Franklin was here on official business--recalled quite urgently at the request of the President himself. Ben's brilliant brain had worked overtime on the long voyage here--what could Washington mean, "Vital to our national interests?" "Urgent if we seek to destroy ye Axif of Evil?" "Bring it on?" And why did he seek Franklin himself? Surely Jefferson could help, or that bastard Hamilton. Damnation, what was Henry Knox doing in the War Department? Why him?

After all, he was retired--and not in good health. George was a good man, and no doubt he would not have contacted Franklin unless he needed him. But why?

Franklin entered the offices of the President, was ushered in to Washington's private salon. There the President sat, looking upon a slim treatise entitled Ye Pet Goate.

"Ben, good to see you," the President said, barely looking up. "We've got a problem, and you're the guy who can help us stop the evildoers."

"Well...yes, Mr. President. I shall endeavor to help in any way I can," said Franklin, wiping his bifocals with a handkerchief.

"Ben," the President said, adjusting his teeth with his tongue (which caused him to appear to smirk, just a bit), "I need you to help me conduct electric surveilance."

Franklin stood silent. After a time, he realized his jaw was hanging open. With some difficulty, he shut it. "Mr. President--what are you talking about?"

"Look, Ben, there are a lot of evildoers in the world. Take the Barbary pirates, right? They're a group of folks bent on destruction. Osama Barbarossa ad Din has sworn to destroy the United States, and I'm not going to let him do that."

"Destroy the United States? How?"

"Well, he might have some sorta super weapon of lots of destruction. We won't know until we invade Tripoli."

"Tripoli? But Mr. President, isn't Saddam the Dancer the sultan of Tripoli? What does he have to do with ad Din?"

"Stay with me, Ben. We have to invade Tripoli to get Saddam, thus stopping the threat from ad Din. What's so tough about that?"

Franklin sighed. This was not going well at all. "All right, at any rate, Mr. President, what is this 'electric surveilance' you speak of?"

"Well, look, you've done a lot of experiments with electricity, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Here's what we're gonna do. I've got word that an agent of the Barbary pirates is gonna meet with somebody somewhere in New York. What I want you to do is use lightning to set fire to about sixty houses where they might be meeting. That'll force them to run out, and we'll catch 'em redhanded!"

Franklin was dumbstruck. "Mr. President--that can't be legal, can it?"

"Sure it is. I'm supposed to protect the country, right? See, the thing is, I have to do this, or else the pirates have won."

"Well...I suppose. But shouldn't we go to the courts and get a warrant? After all...."

"Warrant? Why, that'd just tip the pirates off! Are you objectively pro-pirate?"

"Not at all, Mr. President, but...."

"You sound like Jefferson. 'Mr. President, that's contrary to liberty.' 'Mr. President, you're not authorized to do that.' 'Mr. President, these restraints hurt.' Let me tell you something, Ben, what hurts is when the Barbary pirates destroy the world, that hurts."

Franklin considered. "Well," he said, "I suppose if the President says it's all must be sort of...legalish, right?"

"There you go, Ben!" Washington said, clapping him on the shoulder. "I knew you'd see it my way."

Washington got his warrantless electric surveilance. And though the resulting confligration left 233 people dead, and the Barbary pirates avoided detection, a vital precedent was set. Nobody could tell the President to do diddly squat. He was the President, after all. This would come in handly four score and seven years later, when Lincoln was using electricity to shock the genitals of Southern prisoners--a new kind of electric surveilance, to be sure, but another great chapter in the history of freedom.

Monday, February 06, 2006
Truthiness on Parade

There's something I like the Sunday Star Tribune. Their opinion page generally opens with a point/counterpoint on a major issue. It's nice--a good way to look at an issue from both sides, and to size up who's making a coherent argument and who's just spewing vague rhetoric.

This week's topic: Minnesota's tax cuts. As we all know, we're living in a wonderful world of lowered taxes, thanks to the firm hand of Gov. Timmy, who steadfastly refused to raise any tax that he can't euphemistically call a fee. Given that Gov. Timmy took office in January of 2003--which is three years ago, last I checked--you'd expect we'd be seeing the fruits of the new laissez-faire Minnesota, right?

Well, not so much, says David Hage:

The state economy is actually producing fewer jobs today than it did a decade ago -- about 2,000 jobs per month in the current expansion, as against 4,000 jobs per month in the recovery of the 1990s. Per capita income, the broadest measure of a state's prosperity, also has decelerated, from about 5.7 percent annual growth in the 1990s to about 4.2 percent since 2002.

In fact, the Pawlenty administration has had to downgrade its own economic forecasts at least four times since 2003.

"We have had job growth, but it's fallen short of the national pace and the 1990s pace by quite a significant amount," says Steve Hine, labor market research director at the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Well, that could be liberal sniping. I mean, this recovery's been slow for everyone in the country, right?

Of course the entire nation has suffered from sluggish job growth since the recession of 2001. But that doesn't explain Minnesota's performance.

The state's hired forecasting firm, Global Insight Inc., uses four key indicators to measure Minnesota's economy: wage and salary income, employment growth, per capita income and Gross State Product. On three of those measures Minnesota has slipped behind the national averages since about 2003, after having outperformed the nation during most of the 1990s. (The fourth indicator, Gross State Product, doesn't come out often enough to shed light on the trend.)

"Minnesotans have grown accustomed to seeing their state among the leaders in economic performance," the state Finance Department wrote in its November 2005 budget forecast. "Lately, though, we have begun to lag in job growth."


Well, that's one crazy leftist's opinion. Surely Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Matt Kramer will answer back:

Minnesota is hardly a stranger to economic success. For years we have come to expect that our state would garner national attention as a leader in job growth, wages, benefits and the overall business vitality that has kept our economy strong and productive. We have met those expectations. Our economy is strong and our workforce well-prepared. But the economy has changed, and our expectations for future performance must change with it.

Okay, well, I guess.

Benchmarking our success is important, but we must also recognize that the benchmarks themselves have become suspect as our economy has evolved. For years, economists have told us that the unemployment rate is the principal measure of a market's vitality. In other words, high unemployment suggested a depressed business cycle, while the opposite meant booming growth.

But how do we reconcile this traditional wisdom when businesses invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in state-of-the art equipment that makes them far more competitive but requires significantly fewer, higher-skilled workers to operate?

Yes, I mean, it's not as if we've ever seen the economy adapt to new technologies before. So what new metrics should we consider?

Finally, it is critical to remember that the basis for comparison has changed. There was a time when a 2-by-4 purchased at the local lumberyard almost certainly came from a Minnesota lumber mill or a regional mill in a surrounding state. Today, much of our lumber comes from either Canada or Western Europe! Our job growth -- indeed our economic future -- is no longer tied to the Midwest any more than it is tied to our nation's success. Minnesota is a global competitor and the manner in which we measure ourselves must reflect this new reality.

Well, yes, but what should we look at?

Minnesota has a broad-based economy, spanning multiple sectors, with an emphasis on regional leadership. Increasingly irrelevant statistics focus attention on the past, not on the future. Our role in the global economy is not solely defined by our own actions. It is defined by our competitors in other states and in other nations.

Yes. And how is it defined, exactly?

Minnesota's track record is one of long-term success. Even today, in the midst of an economic revolution, Minnesota is recognized around the world for its leadership in innovation and value-added products and services. Our challenge now is to build on that success, always recognizing that what we've accomplished in the past is no guarantee of future success.

Indeed. And when we succeed, we'll never know, because there is evidently no possible way to measure the economy.

So here you have a summary of the articles in question:

Hage: the economy's not so hot--look at the numbers.

Kramer: the economy's great--because I say so!

Golly, which argument is more compelling? Hard to say.


Glenn Greenwald is liveblogging the NSA hearings.

Ad Bowl, Homeboy

Like many others, I watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as anything else; oh, I like football and generally pick a team to root for (you can't really enjoy football without caring who wins), but the ad agencies generally crank up their game as well, making for ads that are engaging.

That doesn't mean they'll work, Anheiser-Bush had some good ads as per usual, but I wouldn't drink Bud if my tongue were on fire.

At any rate, there were some good ads:

  • FedEx: Caveman--Nobody doesn't like cavemen, and it's relatively amusing. But my inner PZ Myers still has to say that dinosaurs were extinct by the time cavement were around.
  • Dove: Self-Esteem--The anti-Super Bowl ad worked very well, mainly because it was an ad actually targeted at women, it made its point well, and it was a neat counterpoint to the ad (more on that in a minute).
  • Taco Bell: Crunch Wrap Love--Why do I like this ad? Simple. The people in it could, in fact, be actual human beings you may have seen before. Oh, they're on the attractive end of the scale, but they're still recognizably human.

Of course, there were some awful ads, too--and one ad that was the Worst Ever. First, the bad:

  • Disney's The Shaggy Dog--First, because it featured Chris Berman. Second, because it looks awful. And third, because the original Shaggy Dog wasn't particularly good, either. Why, Disney? Why?
  • Cadilac: Escalade Catwalk--Uninspiring, pretentious crap. My friend Chris described it thus: "You know all the people on 'The Apprentice' that you hate? Those kind of people came up with this ad."
  • Girl--Yes, we get it, she's hot. Swell.

Still, there is one ad that stands out as the worst, not of this Super Bowl, but perhaps ever, and that is Diet Pepsi sings with Diddy. Why? Oh, let me count the ways.

  • It features P. Diddly Ding-Dong Doofus. When was Diddy last cool? 1996? I don't know, but he isn't cool anymore.
  • Memo to Jay Mohr: You need to find a role, somehow, somewhere, that does not feature you as an agent.
  • The song itself was only marginally better than South Park's "Taco Flavored Kisses."
  • But easily the biggest reason this ad sucked was the tagline--"Brown and Bubbly." Brown and Bubbly? Are you kidding me? Listen, when I think of things I put in my body, the last thing I want to think is "brown and bubbly." We drink colas in spite of the fact that they're brown, not because of it.

As usual, the ads won't compel me to do anything. I drink 3-4 cans of Diet Pepsi a day, and while the ad may make me curtail my consumption, it won't increase it. Dove isn't selling to me. And I work for a FedEx competitor. All in all, a mediocre ad year. Ah well, there's always the Oscars.