Friday, June 24, 2005

Vacation warning and linky goodness

Am taking off for a much-anticipated vacation, involving camping and other recreational excellence. Check back after July 4 for the resumption of chat here. Until then, an apt quote, and a handful of interesting and amusing links (from my huge backlog) to keep you busy while I'm gone.
Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.
- John Muir,
naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)
(via A.W.A.D.)
Pace yourself, now! That's a lot to chew . . .

Maybe liberals *are* different

kicking assThe DNC takes it to Karl Rove on what we've been thinking since 9/11...
Believe that we should be honest with our troops about the reasons we go to war, give them everything they need to be safe, and make sure we go in with an exit plan.

Manipulate intelligence to trump up reasons to go to war, don't give our troops the support they need, constantly mislead the public about the direction the war is going, and fail to make an exit plan. And turn Iraq into the ultimate terrorist training ground.
Just an excerpt from a long list of comparisons...

(via kos)

Update: don't know what this is about? see this for an explanation by someone who can still be outraged. (wait for it to jump down.)

Raising educated readers

Here's something I never knew existed: a subsection of a major newspaper designed specifically to explain news on a level understandable by and interesting to children. It's at the Washington Post and it's called KidsPost. Sure, there are stories about animals, but there is also an explanation of the Senate decision to apologize about lynching, and lots of other meaty stories. What a fantastic undertaking!

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

I guess poker has really gone mainstream

It must be so, if the New York Times has started a weekly poker column. Sigh. I guess this decreases the likelihood that bridge is about to make a comeback -- seems less likely that this craze spreads outward to re-legitimize other strategic card games than that it feeds the already successful casinos around the country.

(via the Huffington Post)

Right, it's all about fairness

The next CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be Patricia Harrison, who has no broadcasting qualifications but was recently the co-chair of the Republican National Committee.
Harrison will report to a board headed by Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, a Republican who is facing an inquiry by the CPB's inspector general for possible partisan meddling in the agency.
Ya' think? Congress recently pared back budget cuts for the agency, but it looks like there are other pressures still to come . . .

(heard on Democracy Now)

Unpacking the wage gap

feminism alert!Ampersand has a great post today on the nature and sources of the wage gap. He rebuts the facile claims of a couple of columnists, and links to much more analysis for those who are interested. Take-home for those not planning to follow the link: the wage gap doesn't arise from an employer looking at two candidates and choosing to pay one a higher wage; it's about systematic inequalities in the way different jobs are valued and particular family structures assumed. Highlights:
I call this last factor the “Father Knows Best” economy; most jobs implicitly assume that workers have wives at home who are taking care of the kids and house, so that these responsibilities never need to be accomidated for by the employer. Maybe that assumption made sense half a century ago, but it doesn’t make sense now; and by continuing to implicitly make this assumption, our economy is making it unfairly difficult for caretakers (who are usually mothers) to have careers.
Historically, this process has happened many times; for instance, schoolteacher wages dropped as towns discovered that hiring a schoolmarm was much cheaper than hiring a male teacher. Similarly, secretarial wages plummeted as that became a female-dominated occupation. In a well-documented example, bank tellers changed from a male-dominated to a female-dominated occupation as wages (and prestige) dropped.
But why are jobs and careers designed in such a way that primary caretakers are punished? (Remember what I said about the “Fathers Knows Best” economy). And isn’t it possible that in a less sexist society, any parenting wage penalty would be split more evenly between women and men?
But really, the whole essay is full of good arguments and valuable statistics -- worth reading over your next coffee break

Best gratuitous snark of the week:
There’s just so much illogic here to be unpacked, I feel like the wardrobe wrangler on a Cher concert tour.
heh heh...

Flaming idiots

flag defaced with Bush autographAmazingly, with everything going on in the world, flag-burning is back in the minds of busybody Congressfolk. Greg Saunders runs down the untenability of such legislation, even before you get to the First Amendment or the argument that patriotism is about the country and its ideals, or what happens when it's time to retire a flag. You gotta read the post and see some of the examples that reveal the folks thinking about this as grandstanding idiots.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Outside-the-box stuff

(or crazy pinko ideas, depending on your point of view)

Seeing the Forest has a rumination on oil prices, and how price changes might have been put to good use in helping us free ourselves...

(via The Daou Report)

Supreme Court extends eminent domain

Today's decision is a blow for the ownership rights of private citizens.
A divided Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth conflicts with individual property rights.
scales of justice?The majority decision was rendered by the strange coalition of Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer.

Government siezing of private property has been traditionally limited to use of the land for explicitly public works -- e.g., rerouting a highway, building a stadium, and the like -- but this case was about building a private office complex. I find this notion nontrivially shocking: who gets to decide that my neighborhood is so crappy (or powerless) that it should be razed for more exciting city developments?! Commercial properties always represent more tax revenue than private citizens, but surely that's not our criterion for defining the "public interest" and the limits of my legal rights!! Justice O'Conner echoes my concerns in her dissent:
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
Indeed. I feel for New London's desire to revitalize itself, but this seems like a terrible precedent for much less laudable projects and politicians.

(via Metafilter)

Update: short NPR piece on the story (with Nina Totenberg) in Real Audio here.
(via How Appealing)

Update 2: SCOTUSblog provides the following encapsulation of the majority opinion:
The Court commented: "Those who govern the city [of New London] were not confronted with the need to remove blight..., but their determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference....Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."
I guess we have to hope that each legislature can be held accountable for the "broad latitude" that the Court sees fit to afford them. I'm not sure that "economic development" always leads to civic-minded views of the public good...

Update 3: fellow liberal Mithras thinks this decision was about right, and that politics is the way to punish bad policy, not invocation of the Constitution.


Somebody was caught napping at the Washington Post, as they accidentally (and only briefly) released Rehnquist's obituary/retirement tribute prematurely . . . Almost makes me wish I used an RSS feed.

Viral videos

Or at least, the feisty voices of the frustrated. Just a coincidence that I was directed to both of these today (I think the first predates the last election):
Punk Voter (via Booknotes)

F**ck Yeah! (via Atrios)

(Each about a minute or two. It should be obvious, but headphones are recommended for both of these, on account of, um lyrical freedom...)

Speaking of smack-downs...

Tom Tomorrow tries a little compare/contrast to test out DeLay's contention that there's no comparision between media portrayals of the situation in Iraq and what things are really like on the ground.

Sorry, but no...

The crazy opinion page of the Wall Street Journal opines that evidence for global warming is in decline (guess they're not thinking of this one). The scientists at Real Climate deliver the smack-down, in well-documented form:

The Wall Street Journal vs. The Scientific Consensus
While we resist commenting on policy matters (e.g. the relative merits of the Kyoto Protocol or the various bills before the US Senate), we will staunchly defend the science against distortions and misrepresentations, be they intentional or not. In this spirit, we respond here to the scientifically inaccurate or incorrect assertions made in the editorial.
Heh -- it's several screens worth, and includes 17 rebutted excerpts. Yeowch!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Arnold's in free fall

Governor Schwarzenegger is becoming the least popular governor ever in California, alienating beloved groups (nurses and schoolteachers), wasting money, letting promises slide. Digby summarizes pithily, as ever:
Well, when you run as a superhero who is going to magically solve all problems by the sheer force of your supernatural powers, people tend to be quickly disappointed when they realize that you are actually a pampered movie star who doesn't have a clue.
Maybe they really will work up a recall effort!

Bad news still biting at their heels

Apparently a kerfluffle over one of Bush's Social Security "town hall" events is still having repurcussions in Colorado and in DC:
The Denver Three's quest: to learn the identity of the "Mystery Man" who, impersonating a Secret Service agent, forcibly removed them from a taxpayer-funded Social Security event with President Bush three months ago because of a "No More Blood for Oil" bumper sticker on one of their cars.
These three regular guys gals are gradually bringing the CO congressional delegation over to their side, peppering government agencies with Freedom of Information Act requests, and generally refusing to just go away, which is much the preferred response to GOP slightings. It's about time somebody made a fuss about this kind of incident, which is clearly illegal but also clearly not isolated. (Of course, the White House declares the issue settled, despite the lack of answers to any of the actual questions...)

Things you never thought to wonder

A blogger takes a look at the evolution of the Starbucks logo from lurid siren to sanitized icon, possibly mermaid, and maybe now just the safety of words... Fascinating!

(via Follow Me Here)

A battle for the heart of the Florida GOP

Florida Senator Jim King, a political fixture for twenty years, is facing a primary challenge from the right next year. And not just any challenge -- his newly announced opponent is Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue and promoter of violence against abortion providers. Terry is also on record as calling for a Christian nation:
We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. ... Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules.
As the Jacksonville story noted, this is really another fight for the soul of the GOP (with shades of the Specter-Toomey battle last year):
new elephantThe contest is already centering itself as a core fight over Republicanism. King is a social moderate and fiscal conservative who has sometimes clashed with the right-wing elements of the party. Terry says the district has no room for moderation and that he can better represent Republican principles.
Expect poor Terry Schiavo to be in the midst of the fray again; King was one of the few Republicans to vote against Congressional action in the matter.

(via XOverboard)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Quote of the day

True peace is not merely the absence of tension;
it is the presence of justice.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
(via Medley)

I don't think that word means what you think it means...

Think Progress has a great summary of the ever-shifting target of the U.S. mission in Iraq, as exerpted from speeches by Bush himself. Sure makes you wonder just how we'll know it's really accomplished... Sigh.

Kitty porn...

(political undercurrents division)

(via Alas, a blog)

Need a good laugh?

Well, check out this site dedicated to making gratifying fun of otherwise dignified pets -- by balancing various things on them while they sleep:hah!

Stuff On My Cat

(via XOverboard)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Please tell me this will flop!

It's 2005, right? Is it still possible that there's novelty value in the notion of a guy having to look after his own kids? Whoo hoo! hilarity ensues! unreal.

(via mimi smartypants)

Now THAT's fresh!

A Wisconsin pizza company has come up with a novel solution to the sometimes agonizing wait for pizza delivery (combined with the frequently suboptimal condition of the pie once it arrives): they make the pizzas in the van on the way to the customer's house. It's kind of like the sandwich carts that dot urban sidewalks, but for decentralized living.
(Or, you know, a Bookmobile for food! :)

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

What we all "know" to be true

If I suggested to you that highschool students were in a reasonable position to rewrite the rules of English grammar to their own liking, or to insist that complex mathematical calculations could proceed without recourse to calculus, you would laugh and point out that students have to learn the basics before they can even understand the reasoning behind the more complex concepts, let alone defy common wisdom and pioneer a new way. And yet somehow large groups of people think that it's reasonable to present gradeschool and highschool children with advanced scientific theories and wobbly objections that have been raised to them, and trust that the students can decide for themselves whether to accept the consensus of a century of specialists. This quote from a recent article really captured this insanity for me:
"It takes less faith to believe that God put this all in place for me," Dill said, "than for the amount of faith it takes that a blind-chance combination of atoms over how many billions of years" created the universe.
Well sure. It's also easier to believe that daylight just emanates from the sky, rather than that it arrives at the earth in discrete units of energy from a huge ball of gas in outer space. It's easier to believe that time is an absolute than that its experience depends on the observer's reference frame. Ease of comprehension is not the proper measure of the validity of a theory.

And yet that's how Intelligent Design, as an "alternative" to evolution and natural selection (or even to basics of chemistry and physics), is being presented. It should be obvious that this isn't good pedagogy, and probably a waste of the intellectual potential of our youth, and yet somehow science is enough outside the realm of the average person's experience that they're willing to believe it's all up for debate (or maybe even irrelevant to life). Genuinely not true, any more than correct subject-verb agreement or solution to a simple equation. Intellectual laziness leads only to mindless acceptance, which is bad not only for academia but for the functioning of a participatory citizenry.

Another picture worth many words

Is this really the new standard of morality? If not, then perhaps it's time for Gitmo to go...
piece of linked Signe cartoon
(click to see whole/larger cartoon; may require registration)

Poking the elephant

A couple waves of pressure hitting Republicans:
  1. Numbers of them are starting to leak dismay about Guantanamo in various venues, joining the recent Dem chorus.

  2. A group of folks, tired of hearing rabid war-supporters explain why they and their families find it inconvenient to take part, have started Operation Yellow Elephant to encourage College Republicans and other righties to sign up as infantry for Iraq.


Think Progress has compiled a list of instances in which the Bush administration changed the results of research to fit with their policy goals. It ranges from health to land use to global warming, and comprises twelve major areas of research, without even including things like intelligence on Iraq or other redactions not yet unveiled... Just as one example,
Nationally respected Agriculture Department microbiologist Dr. Zahn discovered that hog farms were emitting drug-resistant airborne bacteria that “if breathed by humans, would make them harder to treat when ill. Zahn presented his findings at a scientific conference in 2000, but the Bush administration stopped him from publishing his data 11 times between September 2001 and April 2002, he said. When Danish researchers sought to learn more about his work, Zahn wasn’t allowed to share his techniques.”
(emphasis in the original post) We really do live in times that seem to consider knowledge something to be squelched and overcome. Dark ages, ho!

(via kos)

Here's more on the Bush administration's feeling that science is bad for you...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Draw your own conclusions

Craig at Booknotes posts a list of the 14 defining characteristics of fascism. Ahem!
These things only get worse when they're ignored, so best to startle some folks awake now . . .


Echidne is in excellent form in a post from yesterday looking at the way that individuals, society, and the media discuss sexuality -- especially the way that the language reveals underlying assumptions and biases about how men and women should/do approach sex.
Then there is the darker side of the issues, the side where we talk about an "easy target" in the context of the terrible events in Aruba. Where death enters the discussion and somehow we still prattle about sex and whether the woman or her parents were to blame for her lack of knowledge on how to avoid a psychopath. As if death is a likely outcome of casual sex, something that every woman should be trained to avoid. Now contrast this with what I mentioned above: the idea of men as the more sexual beings. Do you see the societal influences here? Do you see how women are expected to bend and adjust and protect themselves even against psychopaths?
Worth reading the whole thing, as it unpacks a lot of common metaphors and reminds us of issues we tend to overlook in these days of so many political dismays...

Danforth repudiates his party's extreme elements

He speaks up for moderate Christians who don't think that their beliefs need to be codified as law:
Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.
. . .
For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.
Thanks for saying what needed saying -- Missouri is lucky to have you.

Another headline that leaves me at a loss for comment

Halliburton to build new $30 million Guantanamo jail


Quote of the day (snark edition)

Note to the White House: giving bad policy a new coat of paint doesn’t change the policy. Only changing policy changes the policy.
-- Arianna Huffington (*)

Downing Street Memo apparently getting some traction judge from the number and diversity of results from a Google search of the phrase "Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense." I guess that even keeping yesterday's hearings off of Capital Hill (and scheduling House business at the same time) didn't keep the press from noticing that something newsworthy was going on . . . (see this PDF for background if you're confused)

(via Atrios)

Less reassuring medical news

Tom Tomorrow alerts us to a couple of striking articles about medical research linking the vaccine preservative thimerosal with autism development in children, and about the creepy corporate/government ring of influence that kept the key study from being published and that apparently coopted all the participants. It's also clear that the pharmaceutical firms continue to run the show, with Bill Frist keeping a heavy hand on all potential investigation of the issue. Quite disturbing!! (and isn't thimerosal in contact solutions too? this is a mercury derivative??)

Update: ABC was to broadcast interviews with Robert Kennedy, Jr., about this story, and then pulled the story (under pressure from parts unmentioned). Blog exposure appears to have reversed the pressure, however...

they ran a piece, but only after adding lots of new "rebuttal" interviews with industry honchos (a decision made at high levels). Cave to corporate interests much?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Intelligent Design: not just for biology anymore

'Cause if you just don't believe that nature could get so complex on its own (see this New Yorker piece for more on how pathetic the ID arguments really are), then organisms are just the tip of the iceberg. Pharyngula catches the dropped hint and predicts the response thusly:
The Discovery Institute is doing a fine job of raising the visibility of creationism and focusing the attention of their enemies. They say things like this:
Although much of the public controversy over intelligent design has focused on the application of design to biology, it’s important to remember that design theory itself reaches well beyond biology, and that some of the strongest evidence for design comes from such fields as physics, astronomy, and cosmology.
And suddenly, scientists in disciplines other than biology perk up and realize that these clowns are coming to pester them next.
Glad to see astronomers and others coming aboard -- this isn't a fight about biology, but about the nature of testable theories and the primacy of empirical evidence.

(via Fables of the Reconstruction)

Government for and by . . . whom?

Kevin drum takes a pointed look at the cozy relationship between the Bush administration and Exxon Mobil, including exchanges of influence, favors, and personnel. Who's a lobbiest and who's a policy maker in this picture?

A preventable cancer!

HPV imageIn exciting medical news, Merck researchers have just announced a new vaccine against the Human Papillomavirus, a virus which causes problems ranging from genital warts to cervical cancer.
Gardasil protects against four HPV strains that cause cervical cancer, cervical pre-cancers, abnormal Pap tests and genital warts, Merck's testing indicates.

In clinical tests so far, the vaccine has shown to be 100 percent effective against four types of HPV. Two of the types - called types 18 and 16 - cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers. And types 11 and 6 cause up to 90 percent of all genital warts and have been linked to abnormal Pap smears, which alarm both patients and doctors and lead to unnecessary tests.
HPV infection is very widespread, and often asymptomatic, so this would probably be a recommended vaccine for all boys and girls of about junior high age (or a bit earlier). I hope that the parental prude factor doesn't override the desire to prevent needless infertility and cancer deaths.

Today's public service

Have way too many passwords for way too many programs and websites? Having difficulty keeping track of all of them? Here's a little program that will store your passwords in an encrypted state and recall them for you as needed. Open source (means free!) but Windows only (booo) . . .

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

One step forward...

Well, it's a small piece, but legislators voted to block a piece of the Patriot Act, that which would let the government track your library reading and the like. They took this action by a large margin, and in the face of a threatened Bush veto. As kos says, if we can't kill this noxious legislation, we can at least peck it to bits slowly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Itty bitty kitty

Very impatient to get our new baby home. Hoping to get another picture soon to tide us over the remaining three weeks or so...
bitty kitty!

Staying focused on the real bad guys

Senate Republicans decide it's time to reconsider funding for that questionable organization, the International Red Cross. Well, they did say mean things to us on the playground. My dad is going to beat up their dad, but good!
The ICRC is the only organization mandated by international treaty to monitor the observance of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners, and it has the right to visit prisoners. But the GOP report charges that the group has exceeded the bounds of its mission by trying to "reinterpret and expand international law" in favor of terrorists and insurgents; lobbying for arms-control issues that are not within its mandate, such as a ban on the use of land mines; and "inaccurately and unfairly" accusing U.S. officials of not adhering to the Geneva Convention.
Oh, but, "The Senate aide denied that the report, released Monday, was motivated by a desire to punish the ICRC for embarrassing the United States on its treatment of prisoners." Of course.

(via The Rittenhouse Review)

with perfect timing, as ever, The Onion offers a related tale...

Quote for Wednesday

Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.
-- Vaclav Havel
(via A Mindful Life)

Out of the mouths of... whom?

There's a growing gap between rich and poor in our society, as marked by the relative lack of increase in wages among most working folk ("nonsupervisory workforce"). But that isn't usually something you expect to hear remarked by Alan Greenspan!
The result of this, said Greenspan, is that the US now has a significant divergence in the fortunes of different groups in its labor market. "As I've often said, this is not the type of thing which a democratic society - a capitalist democratic society - can really accept without addressing," Greenspan told the congressional hearing.
Of course, his solution is more education (so that companies can have more supervisors? hmmm...) rather than more progressive economic policies, but at least he's acknowledging that the capitalist machine isn't running to perfection on its own.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Lest anyone become too optimisitic

stethoscopePseudo-Adrienne has the goods on Bush's new choice for head of the FDA. From entanglement with drug companies to opposition to a woman's control of her own body (including contraceptives), to putting political ideology above the agreement of scientific experts, this guy has all the qualifications.

Sometimes there is no middle ground

Jeanne (usually of Body & Soul, but guest-blogging at This Modern World) has a thoughtful piece about recent discussions of torture, Gitmo, and all the rest. To me the best part was this:
The fact is -- and it's been true throughout history, but we've been given a crash course in the principle in the past couple of years -- once you give anyone this tool, once you say that you can do anything to a person if you think he or she knows something you need to know, it's inevitable that when the tool is used, it will have less to do with who the victim is and what he or she knows, than with the frustration level of the torturers and their bosses, or even the release of aspects of human nature that should never be released. Abu Ghraib had nothing to do with going after terrorists who possessed urgently needed information, and everything to do with frustration over the lack of actionable intelligence for fighting insurgents. Dilawar seems to have been arrested at a time when any poor schlump would do for a scapegoat, and murdered because he was held in a place where sadism was acceptable.
Indeed -- civility during wartime is about more than appearances; it's about protecting the human spirit, on both sides of the handcuffs. We can't lay that aside lightly, nor can we stop trying to hold our leaders accountable for their poor judgement just because it hasn't worked thus far.

Yes, freedom is on the march

...but only if it marches in private (or not in Uzbekistan).
Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government's shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.
Sure makes you proud, don't it? We only stand up for our principles when it's expedient.


Got your back, guy

The press loves to jump on Howard Dean, but his party should know better. If they don't want to talk the tough talk, they should be glad to have somebody who's willing to say the things that need occasional saying, and he'd be a lot more effective if they just smiled indulgently and let him run, rather than immediately discounting his statements. (For that matter, they'd be *way* better off if they stood up for his quotes as taken out of context, having factual basis, and helping distinguish the parties. But perhaps that's a pipe dream.)

Anyway, today is Support Howard Dean Day. Take a minute to read a link or two (if you've been wondering yourself) and then chip in your pennies or voice in standing up for one of the few folks standing up against the right-wing onslaught.

(via Medley)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An' I still don't like 'em!!

Yesterday the Senate issued an apology for having never passed legislation outlawing lynching at a federal level, which could have saved thousands of lives in the early decades of the 20th century. However, a couple dozen of the Senators, while not voting against the measure, wouldn't add their names either.
Lawmakers demonstrated overwhelming support Monday for a resolution that apologizes for the Senate's failure to do anything to stop lynchings that killed thousands of people over more than eight decades.
burning cross
About 80 of the 100 members of the Senate co-sponsored the resolution. But Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott were not among them, even though Mississippi led the nation in the numbers of lynchings.
Clearly, there are still some legislators who fear consituent displeasure with opposing lynching, even today. Markos now has the whole list (updated 6/15) -- as he says, a real wall of shame. The South needs to face up to its history and get on into a new era.

What it means to be a "nation at war"

Upyernoz has an interesting reflection on wartime news coverage, after encountering both some framed front pages from decades ago and a line of current newspaper boxes on his way home.

If you took them at their word...

...then the world would seem a continually surprising place.

Top Ten Things You Wouldn't Expect to Happen if You Listened to Bush and Cheney
from Juan Cole

(via Booknotes)

How well do you know the receptionist?

Information protection is becoming an increasing issue in our database-driven society. One attempt to protect personal information in the medical realm was the introduction of HIPAA laws a couple of years ago, which threatens companies with both civil and criminal penalties for failure to respect data use and security requirements. However, it appears that the Justice Department has been undermining this measure, and may have gutted it entirely by claiming that employees of these companies may not be covered by the HIPAA statute (leaving whom, exactly?).
To the extent that big health is following the HIPAA law -- and to a large extent, they're waiting to see how it's enforced -- they are doing so because of the criminal penalties. They know that the civil penalties aren't that large, and are a cost of doing business. But the criminal penalties were real. Now that they're gone, the pressure on big health to protect patient privacy is greatly diminished.
This is quite clearly a bowing to the pressure of big corporate interests. However, with patients thinking they are already protected, how much easier will it be for the government to proceed to collecting data in other supposedly secure ways (as in the name of anti-terrorism)?? Grrrrr...

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Down to brass tacks

femsignAmpersand suggests a radical reframing of the abortion debate -- it's not about the joys of abortion, it's not as simple as "choice" or privacy or autonomy. Are you or are you not in favor of government-enforced childbirth for pregnant women? That very much feels like the core of the issue to me, and perhaps it would push a new set of buttons for those who see things differently.

Wikipedia and the social element of knowledge

Wikipedia is an amazing online encyclopedia, whose entries and definitions/explanations are chosen and developed by its users. For most topics, this leads to pretty strong entries, with knowledgable readers tweaking faulty definitions, inclusion of good footnotes and links to related entries, etc. -- and, in fact, it has been shown that major errors are usually corrected within minutes to hours. But you can easily imagine the abuse as well, as when the entry for a particularly charged topic is constantly rewritten by opposing camps (or lone crazies) with their own agendas. John Udell has an interesting piece on how Wikipedia handles such controversial topics, both through the transparency of its editing process (whose whole history is stored) and through the tagging of unsettled disputes. He argues, in essence, that this may better represent the way that "facts" are arrived at -- by a socially mediated process involving conflict and eventual resolution -- than any mere statement of one attempted neutral summary.


Monday, June 13, 2005

No Sense(nbrenner) of civility

exclamation point!Probably everybody has heard of Sensenbrenner's fairly outrageous choice on Friday to cut off Patriot Act testimony (literally, in the middle of a speaker, he shut off the microphones) when he didn't like how it was going. Think Progress ties that one outrage into a whole line of recent actions that show that the House Judiciary Chairman has very little regard for government openness or citizen civil rights. Quite eye-opening.

Monday quote

It is the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
- C.W. Leadbeater
(from coworker BKF)

Make your own...

...Cheney gaffe. Pandagon posits an entertaining contest -- given Cheney's loose use of the "truth" in slamming various political opponents, how might he take on MLK? The suggestions are excellent.
...And I think people need to be careful about what they dream about because some people will disagree with those dreams. And a person could get himself hurt, dreaming the wrong thing.

Legislators rethinking Iraq war

Well! elephant A couple prominent Republicans (including the infamous "freedom fries" booster) are changing positions on Iraq, starting to call for a timely withdrawel plan. It's clear enough that things aren't improving, and legislators seem to be responding to the increasing difficulty in finding new cannon fodder military recruits to fuel the effort. Perhaps Atrios is right in claiming that now is the time for Democrats to get out front on the stance that invading Iraq was wrong, rather than picking around the edges of how the details are being handled.

Update: military brass say bullets won't solve anything in Iraq. Kos adds to the above sentiments,
The problems have been created by Bush and his ill-advised invasion, but they can't be solved by us. It's time to exit stage left, and hope that Iraqis can sort things out for themselves.
A sad, sad fallback position, but there you are.

Motivating values of the left?

Immediately after the November election, there was a lot of discussion about "values voters," and then gradually a reactive wave of Democrats and leftists pointing out that most of their "values" are just as fundamental, but not as well recognized in the current political landscape. Then everybody got back to thinking about framing (via Lakoff) for a while.

Anyway, the issue continues to be of interest to me, so I was happy to see some further exploration of the subject undertaken on dailyKos -- you can see the original posts here and here, and a lot of discussion of course flows from each. Basically, Markos is trying to find some large underlying values from which the natural liberal stance on specific issues fall out. To take one example:
Opposition to regulation of morality
Opposition to Patriot Act
Right to die
Medical marijuana
Consumer privacy
Freedom of/from religion
Access to contraceptives
After a lot of discussion, he's trying to get down to just a few umbrellas -- the last post has it at 3 = community, personal freedom/privacy, and security. A useful effort...

The third installment has appeared, and I like the headers even better than before. The discussion is paying off...

Only the moment of conception, thanks...

"Pro-life" legislators show their stripes when they vote against a group of programs that would help support pregnant women and newborns.
Washington, DC – Today, 11 anti-choice Republican members of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees spending for health, labor and education programs voted against a proposal offered by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) aimed at making it economically easier for low-income and vulnerable women to choose to carry pregnancies to term.

Among its proposals, Rep. Obey’s amendment would have increased funding for such common-sense programs as child care, maternal and child health care, domestic violence prevention, job training, and others.
The writing has been on the wall for a long time: right-wing legislators aren't interested in preventing unwanted pregnancies or making motherhood more manageable; they're only interested in punishing sluts. Onward, then!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Only semi-funny

The Onion pegs another uncomfortable near-truth in this week's issue:

Bush Lifts Ban on Vigilantism
'Let's See What Happens,' Says President


Quote for the weekend

zen bones

Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.
- Horace,
poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Demonstrating our values (not just talking about them)

An interesting new group intends to try a new approach to both activating the Democratic base and persuading others: getting numbers together to do public works as part of primary campaigns. They're hoping to get out more left-leaners in "red" parts of swing states (e.g., PA), but this could go some distance toward helping even right-leaners realize that Democrats share basic American civic values and concern about their communities. Every little bit helps, in these divisive times.

No really; it's all about the vegetarianism

A columnist in my local (Philadelphia) papers responds to animal rights folks who vandalized a farm and then objected to his condemning the act. I share his take on this one.

(the post title is essentially a snark directed at a friend of mine who loved PETA because of all their great vegan recipes, without realizing that most of their time and effort was aimed at ending the medical research whose results she was using every day...)

Cry, my beloved country

Obsidian Wings has a wonderful heartfelt post about the things that make America a country to be proud of, and the more recent developments that have made it seem endangered.
We have been born into an astonishing country, with astonishing values. And it is our job, as citizens, to help keep alive in whatever small way we can, because, like any inheritance, it can be squandered. And the only thing that will keep it intact is if we, who have been lucky enough to inherit it, try to keep faith with those who bequeathed it to us, and do our best to preserve and enhance it for those who come after us.

One of the odd things about blogs is that they are so new, and thus most of the people who read this blog have only known me, in whatever way one knows people on the web, for a year at most. So most of you have no way of knowing that I have spent most of my life not being sick at heart about my country. Sometimes I agreed with its policies, sometimes I did not, sometimes I disagreed strongly; but for most of my life I have not felt as though what I loved about the country was in any real danger. But now I do.
owwwwA great summary about the careless damage we're doing on many fronts at once, environmental to diplomatic, and why it pains so many of us precisely because we love our country and not the reverse. She captures my sentiment almost exactly (and yet, somehow, that offers so little consolation)...

(via a Medley furling)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Never too late for a new classic

Apparently a complete unknown Bach aria was just unearthed in a German library collection. It's for a soprano voice and strings or harpsichord, and was described as "a casual piece of superior quality." Pretty spiff.

(via boing boing)

A long history of revisionism

A good article at the American Prospect takes the right to task for its opportunistic use of both history and current events, from discussion of Deep Throat by the criminals involved to ongoing attacks against Hillary Clinton.
But there is another reason these anti-Clinton tomes still appear with regularity, and liberals who criticize the Clintons from the left need to recognize it: The right knows that if its historical interpretation of Clintonism can prevail, liberalism as a project can be killed for decades. That is, if they can convince America over the next few crucial years (crucial because historical interpretations of Clintonism are just really beginning) that the Clinton era was not one of prosperity, peace, and a demonstration that government can deliver common goods but was, instead, one of corruption, turpitude, and a fat and happy people discarding moral values for the sake of higher mutual-fund values, they will have won an extremely important argument with serious long-term ramifications
(A little side-trip into Vietnam-era Cambodia reminds us of how much we can fuel terrorists by bombing their countries, too. Hmmm.) Are we going to relearn the Soviet lesson about power through control of the past by, um, testing their methods?

(via Atrios)

When good snackfoods go wrong

Either brilliant, or demonic; you decide!
pudding bite?!
Jell-O pudding bites

(via mimi smartypants)

Call me a cultural parochialist

...but this Frontline story (read the summary or watch the piece) about bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan really freaked me out. I mean, the whole "You'll get used to it; we all did" attitude of the kindly women trying to break the bride's will -- this kind of coercive deluge is why our criminal legal system is structured the way it is. To think that they might have been better off when the practice was banned under the Soviets...

(via an ad at dailyKos)

Military recruiting goes off the deep end

sergeant stripesIn the face of the ever more difficult task of selling military prospects in a time of indefinite war, recruiters are under pressure to find new routes to signing people up. First, they used threats, or let some background factors slide (see the scandal here) and now they've actually sunk to attempted kidnapping in the service of raising their numbers. (Shades of Uganda...)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nobody likes a tattle-tale...

A Las Alamos whistle-blower got the crap kicked out of him for exposing fraud at the national labs. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. Matt draws the key parallel here when he concludes, "This is why conservatives argue that Mark Felt should have gone to Congress instead of going to Woodward and Bernstein. It would have given them a chance to pretty him up real good." Yeah, even one of the criminal-cum-pundits opined that he probably would have been killed (or just made to disappear). Sigh.

More from Thoreau

This is June, the month of grass and leaves. The deciduous trees are investing the evergreens and revealing how dark they are. Already the aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me. I feel a little fluttered in my thoughts, as if I might be too late. Each season is but an infinitesimal point. It no sooner comes than it is gone. It has no duration. It simply gives a tone and hue to my thought.
Thoreau's Journal, June 6, 1857
(via the Thoreau blog)

But wait! They're showing the news...

CNN is apparently starting to air an international news show called "Your World Today." Folks at the Columbia Journalism Review report the shock they felt when they first tuned in, at discovering long stretches of in-depth reporting and analysis. Interviewers even put their guests on the spot about national policies.
We applaud all this, and have only one question for Jonathan Klein, the mastermind behind it: Why has it taken this long? Did CNN all along think that American viewers, besotted on tales of runaway brides and Court TV, couldn't handle informed discussion concerning matters in Sudan, Syria, and North Korea?
on TV!Only the Shadow knows.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Kowtow if you want...

...but don't claim it's because the President is so popular. A majority of Americans now think Bush is doing a poor job overall.
George W. Bush’s approval rating is now a full twenty points lower than Bill Clinton’s was on the day he was impeached. Dear media, that means you gotta stop referring to him as a “popular president,” and no less important, stop treating him like one.
Furthermore, a really huge number think his handling of Iraq and of terrorism is flawed and may be making us less safe (check out those graphs!).
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting -- in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in 10 believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.
Who knows, we may yet discover that shit is still capable of hitting the fan . . .

(via Atrios and kos, respectively)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Can I just say ugh?

Appears that there's a good chance we'll be seeing more of Katharine Harris, fresh from Florida vote-shuffling and thence to Congress, who now announces she'll seek to run for a Florida Senate seat. Sometimes, there really is no justice.

Rumblings from mother earth

warming earth modelA striking new study (registration required) coming out of the permafrost regions of Russia shows market effects of arctic warming, with softening of the permafrost leading to disappearance of lakes.
Comparing satellite images made in the early 1970s to those from recent years, a team of U.S. scientists determined that the number of large lakes in a vast 200,000-square-mile region of Russia's Siberia diminished by about 11%, from 10,882 to 9,712.

About 125 of the 1,170 shrunken lakes disappeared altogether, and most are now considerably smaller than the study's baseline of 40 hectares, or about 99 acres, the researchers found.

If Arctic temperatures continue to rise, the scientists said, many of the lakes in high northern latitudes, where they are ubiquitous, could eventually disappear.

"An 11% decline may not sound like much, but in the time-scale in which landscapes naturally change, this is extraordinarily fast," said the paper's lead author, Laurence C. Smith, an associate geology professor at UCLA.
Similar changes are being seen in Alaska, where glaciers are receding and roads and houses being ripped apart by shifts in the earth as permafrost melts. Inuits in that area have been noticing increasingly unreliable ice over the last decade as well, and scientists planning to study ice floes have found them much thinner than when planning for their research began. (See this lengthy but gripping New Yorker article for more.)

These changes in the arctic regions are even more significant than merely as first indicators that warming is real -- in fact, the melting of glaciers and deep frost releases more greenhouse gas (from long-buried plant materials that rot), increasing the pace of change.
In parts of the Arctic, this is already happening. Researchers in Sweden, for example, have been measuring the methane output of a bog known as the Stordalen mire, near the town of Abisko, for almost thirty-five years. As the permafrost in the area has warmed, methane releases have increased, in some spots by up to sixty per cent. Thawing permafrost could make the active layer more hospitable to plants, which are a sink for carbon. Even this, though, probably wouldn’t offset the release of greenhouse gases. No one knows exactly how much carbon is stored in the world’s permafrost, but estimates run as high as four hundred and fifty billion metric tons. (from the New Yorker piece)
Furthermore, open water absorbs more sunshine than does (highly reflective) ice, adding to the feedback loop toward more warming.

To put it simply, global warming isn't an issue we can leave for future generations to address. The ball is already rolling, and we need to head it off by decisive action before the immense momentum of natural cycles takes over and laughs at our puny protests.

Quote for the day

How rarely I meet with a man who can be free, even in thought! We live according to rule. Some men are bedridden; all world-ridden. I take my neighbor, an intellectual man, out into the woods and invite him to take a new and absolute view of things, to empty clean out his thoughts all institutions of men and start again; but he can’t do it, he sticks to his traditions and his crochets. He thinks that governments, colleges, newspapers, etc., are from everlasting to everlasting.
Henry David Thoreau
journal entry of May 12, 1857
(via Thoreau blog)

A kos kerfluffle with deeper resonances

fem signA minor controversy about a stupid blog-ad led to a dismissive remark by kos about "womens studies types" and a consequent comment storm. I couldn't have cared less about the original issue, but in fact found Markos' choice of slaps quite surprising, and his subsequent apology (something about folks who look for possible slander under every rock) much closer to Rush's term "feminazi" than to anything like comprehension of the buttons he'd stomped through.

Anyway, more interesting than internicene warfare is discussion of the larger issues, and the whole thing is summarized very well by Media Girl's post on "the feminist kos" -- it also excerpts most of the chewiest debate, so you can avoid the deluge. Who gets to decide what issues are and aren't important? What is accomplished by anybody's choosing to dismiss other arguments than their own? Is there a meaningful difference between actual misogyny and mere blindness to the ubiquity of discrimination? Good questions.

As a useful supplement, I recommend this list of the often unconsidered tenets of male privilege. It's easier to see overt discrimination than it is to recognize the myriad ways that one benefits passively by being a member of the preferred subclass of people (white, male, Christian, whatever)... Part of the privilege is not having to be aware of it. Striking.

(via Medley furlings)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Framing plus substance

elephant and donkey bang headsAtrios argues that Democrats can't keep picking at the edges of our Iraq policy, but must be willing to admit that they weren't always right in supporting the whole undertaking. That will make for a much better basis from which not only to counter the "spreading Democracy" narrative of the Administration, but also to derive recommendations and policies going forward.
There is only one way to construct an alternative grand narrative on Iraq. It isn't enough to say "we were right to invade Iraq but Bush has handled it badly and we would've done better if we'd done X." That Does Not Work. All it says is Bush fucked up a bit but, hey, none of us perfect.

The only thing that will work is to say "we were wrong to invade Iraq." That's the grand narrative which will resonate when a majority of the population happens to agree with this statement. That's your narrative. Onto that you of course have to add some sort of what we should do next policy.
This may involve a willingness to be opportunistic about the point when public patience with the costs and casualties finally flags, the point when this narrative will be welcome viscerally. Unclear whether that time is now, but his arguments (in a rare Atrios prose burst) are worth reading.

Speaking of spine...

Senator Biden calls for the closing of the internment detainment camps at Guantanamo Bay.
"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.
Tell it, man!

Update: Jimmy Carter makes the same call. (Who will hear?)

Health news

Two pieces of good news from the world of medical science:
  1. The avian flu that has been garnering worrying headlines over the last couple of months may be susceptible to quick intervention by vigilant health authorities -- efforts aimed as much at local birds as at infected humans. This is a remarkable instance of attempts to prevent worldwide pandemics by intervening at their sources.

  2. A more frightening, if more distant, foe may be close to neutralization: a vaccine for Ebola/Marburg viruses may be on the way. An immediate blessing to those in Angola and other affected regions, and a relief to think we don't need to fear the mass casualties that could result from one affected airline passenger...
Both of these developments require ongoing vigilance, but they help diminish the fear of uncontrolled outbreaks over large areas, the kinds of epidemics that tax the resources of local governments and health agencies. Targetted intervention means more restricted logistical requirements, but it means that outbreaks must be noticed and acted on in days or weeks.

Infusion of backbone?

spine postcard imageA new site/movement, The Backbone Campaign, aims to infuse progressive leaders with some spine, so that they can wage a creditable opposition to our Republican overlords. They have a number of projects underway, and provide links to supporting news and related blogs.

(via Follow Me Here)

Driving by women leads to evil

Or so says one of the government defenders of Saudi Arabia's policy forbidding women to drive.
Conservatives, who believe women should be shielded from strange men, say driving will allow a woman to leave home whenever she pleases and go wherever she wishes. Some say it will present her with opportunities to violate Islamic law, such as exposing her eyes while driving or interacting with strange men, like police officers or mechanics.
My, those are troubling images. [Gag.]
Maybe we can hook these guys up with Rev. Dobson here at home and really bring the U.S. back into the light . . .

If the media still worked...

...perhaps Deep Throat wouldn't seem quite so legendary. Perhaps it's only the secrecy that gives him glamour, because the press hasn't seemed interested in any of the folks over the last few years that have been pointing out falsehoods and crimes in current government. Bob Harris suggests some top candidates, in case interest in truth re-emerges anytime soon . . .

Heh: same theme, different take. (headline "say no more," in case the jump is confusing)

New family addition

Well, we've met the little bengal kitten who will be the next addition to our family, and will officially adopt her in July, after we get back from a trip (and after she's 9-10 weeks old). Here you see her with her sisters -- she's in the middle -- and an inset shows her face. They were quite tiny last week (at 3 weeks old) but already friendly and playful. Can't wait to see her again!
our new baby, and sisters

Two related bits of information: (1) What is a bengal cat? (or see a whole webzine here) and (2) No, stern friends of ours, we did not cruelly choose to scorn the option of a pound cat (like our 8 other cats have been). We simply had no plans to get another cat (two is a lot of cats already) until I fell in love with these spotty little things. I take full blame.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bizarro world

One of the NJ Republican gubenatorial hopefuls had a photo on his website, which featured a background hoarde of enthusiastic supporters lifted from Howard Dean's campaign. Now that's desperate.

Grey Friday Sid-blogging

Sid has been a very good sport about his blog mascot-hood. However, we suspect that he may have been slightly more perplexed to discover that he was also featured in our recent family holiday letter (that being of the Christmas-in-May variety) as a sort of no-grandchildren-yet news stand-in. Thus, I am projecting an appropriate timing for this shot, which I think of as the Laser Eyes of Death...

Sid of death!

(with apologies for the image-heaviness of the blog today...)

A vaccine against shingles on the horizon

Anybody who has had the chicken pox, or anybody who gets it later in life, can develop the more severe form called shingles, a re-emergence of the virus from nerve endings that is often painful to the point of debilitation. Now Merck has announced results of a new vaccine that may help prevent shingles outbreaks among the elderly (where they can be very common; they cite a statistic of half of all people over age 85!).
Besides reducing the disease in the vaccinated group, the vaccine cut the "burden of illness" from shingles by 61 percent and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by 66 percent, the researchers reported. The vaccine was most effective in preventing shingles in people under 70, though it did the best job of reducing the severity of shingles in the oldest volunteers.
Apparently the shot is essentially a highly concentrated form of the chicken pox vaccine frequently given to children -- it's thought that the high dose helps boost the immune systems of elderly folks to keep the virus dormant. It won't replace the retrovirals that are used to combat outbreaks in progress, but it could help make them unnecessary in a lot of cases. Yay!

(via staff researcher RM)

A little geeky fun

A redesign of the classic Monopoly board to include electronic properties and resources, from Wikipedia to Flickr -- well done and amusing to those of us wasting our time this way:


board clip

(via boing boing)

The paradox of the contented female worker

femsignAn interesting article from last weekend talks about studies that have examined the preferences of men and women for competitive situations. They reveal differences that could underlie a portion of the disparities seen in top management jobs and the like, and that could result in both genders making decisions against their best interests.
"Even in tasks where they do well, women seem to shy away from competition, whereas men seem to enjoy it too much," Niederle said. "The men who weren't good at this task lost a little money by choosing to compete, and the really good women passed up a lot of money by not entering tournaments they would have won."
I think it's often men who lose by feeling the necessity to let corporate competition sap their home lives and health, but obviously we all benefit from a more informed basis for weighing our decisions.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Less focus on weight, more on taking care of yourself

Ampersand points to an interesting study that compares the effects of dieting to the effects of a health plan focused on being healthier without focusing on losing weight. Take-home?
In summary, while the non-dieters did not lose weight, they succeeded in improving their overall health, as measured by cholesterol levels, blood pressure, physical activity and self-esteem. The dieters, on the other hand, were not able to sustain any of the short-term improvements they experienced and worsened in terms of their self-esteem.
We as a country have become too fixated on weight as a measure of health (as well as general worthiness). I'd rather be ten pounds overweight and able to climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath than be rail-thin and listless. We need to get focused on the things that really affect long-term health and quality of life.

(See also a previous post on Alas a Blog about recent findings that a few extra pounds could be better for you in the long run...)

A confluence of chaos?

A diarist at dailyKos makes the interesting argument that the issues and crises in current affairs are like having all the major challenges of our nation's history at the same time -- with illustrated parallels between hot current events and everything from the Revolutionary War to "voodoo economics." My response is a blend of amusement and dread . . .

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Great quote

sprig of flowers
Take care of yourself -- you never know when the world will need you.
-- Rabbi Hillel
(via A Mindful Life)

You are what you drink?

Cory at boing boing cites a recent article showing that drinks are now the largest calorie source in the American diet, having surpassed white bread for that honor. He puts the quantities of sugar in rather scary perspective too...

Learning from injury

My background is in neuroscience, and one of the fascinating phenomena that have been studied through the years are brain injuries that result in a very narrow deficit -- for example, we learned a lot about how the brain processes language from patients who showed problems in comprehending, but not generating, spoken language (or vice versa), as well as those who seem to have fine visual function, but are unable to recognize faces. The most recent example of this sort of research is the announcement by a San Diego group of an apparent linkage between a particular brain region and comprehension of metaphors (i.e., nonliteral turns of phrase). Still a small number of patients involved, but another piece of the immense puzzle of how our brains can process huge amounts of information in all the sophisticated ways that they generally do . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Renaming the war on terror

Great stuff from Digby about recent evidence that the Bush administration is actually rethinking its waging of the War on Terror. (Original article here, but Digby's interspersal of commentary is much better.)
Much of the discussion has focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"
Lovely. As Digby rants, completely forseeable to anybody not in a position to prevent it. And still lots of anti-terrorism efforts are lacking staff or direction, blah blah blah. Sigh.
"No question this is the next stage, the phase two," another senior counterterrorism official said. "We are coming to the point of decisions."
Well, ok then, decisions ho! Better late than never . . .

Um... come again?

Please, somebody, make sense of this for me. In the tradition, I imagine, of running with the bulls, the region of Gloucestershire has an annual festival of cheese rolling. The most perplexing photo here is captioned "Competitors chase a Double Gloucester down the steep Cooper's Hill, a 200 metre race fraught with danger." Judging from the actual article, their concern is justified:
The winner, window fitter Chris Anderson, received his 9lb Double Gloucester as he was taken away on a stretcher with a sprained ankle.
some cheese!Well, some lasting pride, anyway...

(via pal CHug)

What face do we show the world?

Whether or not you usually like Friedman's NYT columns, go read this one. It's about our bunker-strength embassies, and our "why are you coming at all" visa questions, and all the little ways that we've toughened the way we interact with the world and altered how the world thinks of America and what it represents. Sobering, but a call to action.

(via Atrios)

Looking better all the time!

(As long as you don't look too close, that is.)

Cheney bullish on the outlook on Iraq, and, um, the insurgents seem to agree! Kos points out what I've been noticing for some time now:
The insurgency took some time off to reload, recruit, refresh, and evaluate its tactics. It evolved, and has struck back with ferocity. And the thing to remember is that most attacks aren't directed at US forces. They are almost irrelevent to the resistance at this point. They are striking at Iraqi security forces.
Everybody who signs up for the new Iraqi police or military becomes an immediate target -- training schools get bombed, recruits are strafed while waiting in line, etc. It's been going on for more than six months, so I'm sure nobody over there has missed the message by now, so the thing that amazes me is that anybody even tries to join anymore. Either they have amazing wells of optimism, or are truly desperate for any employment...

A thoughtful look back

Lots of news coverage today about the revelation of the identity of Deep Throat, the exposer of the Watergate crimes, as onetime FBI second-in-command Mark Felt. spy vs. spy Exciting and anticlimactic all at once to put a face to the pseudonym. Eliot at Follow Me Here has a nice reflection on what was and wasn't heroic in his revelations, and about how matters of secrecy, surveillance, and anonymous sources are handled today.

Update: in case anybody missed it, here's Bob Woodward's reflection on the Deep Throat era, which he intended to publish after Felt's death.

Say what?

George Saunders at This Modern World has a remarkable quote from the onetime public editor of the NYT, and exactly the right response to same. Why should newsfolks be held to any factual standards, once they're well known? eesh.