Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I'm off to New Orleans for a few days (I'll be back on the 5th), so I'll miss Iowa (sigh), and I won't be here to celebrate when the Illini upset USC tomorrow. Everyone have a safe and enjoyable holiday, and I'll see you in '08.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

If I lived in Iowa...

who would I caucus for on Thursday?

Let me start by saying that I really like the caucus process. I attended the precinct and county caucuses in Washington in 2004, and it's a more interesting form of democracy than voting. It requires more significant participation, and your actions are public, and challengable, so you have to be better able to defend your position, and be willing to think through other options if your first candidate doesn't get the requisite percentage of support (sort of like Instant Runoff Voting). The drawback is that it requires voters to be able to commit to being at the caucus location for 2-3 hours on election night, it requires voters to be willing to step out from behind the curtain and make their support for a particular candidate public, and it requires a certain confidence in yourself to be able to speak in a public setting and advocate for your candidate, popular or not, which is very difficult for many people.

That being said, if I were there Thursday night, what would I do?

Here's who I would not caucus for -

Mike Gravel - He is an outsider (being out of government for a long time), is strong on getting out of Iraq, but is not nearly ready to be president.

Dennis Kucinich - Every time I take one of these "Who matches best with you" political questionnaires, I find that I match up best with Kucinich. He's the most liberal of the candidates running, and I appreciate that. So why wouldn't I support him? The best way I can put it is from a friend of mine, who said "Kucinich, when he is given a chance to speak on something that isn't his passion comes off terrific - the moment it is something he cares deeply about, I want to back away slowly." I think Kucinich's passion would prevent him from working well with anyone who doesn't agree with him 100%, and we already have a president like that. Our government never works well when one branch digs its heels in that far.

Joe Biden - Joe Biden is a plagiarist. No matter what he says, or whether or not I agree with him, that's my lasting view of the man.

Chris Dodd - I love Dodd's passion for and support of the Constitution. I want to see him as a leading voice to get rid of the MCA and to restore the Bill of Rights. But I think that's best done in the Senate, which needs his leadership. I am not looking for an entrenched political figure in this election, because I can't stand the way things are done, and that's a big mark against Dodd. I think he's too close to too much of the "establishment" to make some of the radical changes we desperately need.

Bill Richardson - I really want to like Richardson, but every time I see him speak, he (1) puts me to sleep and (2) makes good points, but makes them awkwardly and unclearly.

Hillary Clinton - I've written about Hillary before. Most of her political opinions are reasonable, and I don't think she'd be a horrible president. I do think that she says what she thinks people want to hear (who else changes from being a Cubs fan to being a Yankees fan?), and I think that she is too much in the hold of Democratic lobbyists, etc, as an arm of the DLC. A 2nd Clinton presidency would be a heck of a lot better than any of the GOP candidates, but it wouldn't break the ties to the corporate world that our political process we desperately need.

We're now down to Barack Obama and John Edwards. I like both of them, for different reasons.

I've seen Obama in person twice, and he has impressed me each time with his intelligence, his thoughtfulness, and his ability to talk knowledgeably about issues important to all sorts of people. I do believe that he really wants to raise the level of discourse in politics, and he connects strongly with the part of me that likes politics and wants government to be a place where great ideas are talked about in great conversations. He was right about Iraq in 2002, and his record on opposing Bush's foreign policy is as strong as anyone running (save Kucinich). He's a relative newcomer to the DC system, which I see as a strength. What I worry about is that he may be too much of an idealist. Obama wants to reach out to Republicans and business and lobbyists and bring them into a real, adult, vital conversation about issues that are truly important to our country, and while I love that in principle, I'm afraid that he would be the only one at the table interested in and willing to actually engage in that conversation.

I liked Edwards a lot in 2004 - I supported Dean, but was somewhat excited to vote Democratic not because of Kerry, but because of Edwards. I think Edwards speaks well to the core ideals of liberalism - helping the sick and the young and the weak, and using our shared strength to help those who need help. He has been honest about his wrong vote on Iraq 5 years ago, and his stance since then has been consistent and clear. Edwards talks a lot about fighting against the corporate influence which has done such harm to our country, and he has taken an important first step by accepting matching public funds, which restricts the kinds of fundraising he can do. There are some in the netroots who think this is a horrible mistake, since he'll have less money than the Republican candidate, but the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC all have money that will be used in the general election, so I'm not as worried about that. I don't know if he can really advance progress on some serious issues without the lobbyists causing all sorts of havoc and buying the hell out of other people involved in the process, but I think it's worth a try.

Throughout this process, Edwards and Obama have been 1/1A for me, and I've gone back and forth between them. I would gladly support either of them in the general election, but, all things considered, if I was going to be caucusing on Thursday, I'd support ...

John Edwards.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself

I was getting all set to write a post about the Democratic race. It was going to be a different post than the GOP ones, because while I have my preferences, which I'll get to, there are a whole passel of candidates that would be a staggering improvement over anything the GOP has to offer. Even Hillary, who annoys the crap out of me (and who I've stated that I wouldn't vote for in the past...although who knows what would happen in that voting booth in November) is still light years further into reality than anyone with an (R) next to their name. Then I came across this post by AnnArborBlue (we'll forgive AAB's collegiate allegiances this time) on Daily Kos:

Why You Should Vote for Whoever You Want
by AnnArborBlue
Fri Dec 28, 2007 at 06:41:16 PM PST

Because none of the Democratic candidates suck. No. really. Despite what you've heard from various people around this place lately, none of the "Democrats" is really a Republican, none of them are Bush-lite, and none of them killed your mother and then hid her body. That evil, centrist Hillary Clinton has a Progressive Punch Score of 91%, good for 16th in the whole senate. And that noted hater of labor, Barack Obama, has excellent ratings from labor organizations. Joe Biden, despite an unfortunate tendency to open mouth and insert foot, has been the best critic of the Republican field. Dennis Kucinich, for all of his quirks, is the most uncompromisingly liberal voice in the race. Chris Dodd has been the loudest voice in the whole field on civil liberties issues. And John Edwards, well, read pretty much any diary on this site to find out why people like John Edwards.

AAB then goes on to address what, to me, has been one of the most frustrating part about reading some of the blogs about candidates:

I'll be frank, if you are incapable of recognizing that every candidate on the Democratic side shares the same core principles, and that every candidate on the Republican side opposes them (or at least pretends to), then you're a part of the problem. If you can't separate "I like candidate X" from "I must hate candidate Y", then you're a part of the problem. If you truly believe that someone is a bad Democrat for supporting a different candidate in the primaries, then you're a part of the problem. And frankly, the rest of us find your self-righteousness, really, really dull. We've spent 7 years now dealing with a leader who has total conviction and zealous certainty in everything he believes, and who demonizes anyone who thinks differently. And it's sucked a lot.

If you think "Candidate x is the best choice for America" means "candidate X is the only choice for America, and anyone who disagrees with me must be destroyed (or just annoyed for 6 hours on the internet)", then it's time for you to grow up. Because there's going to be a nominee, and the chances are it won't be your candidate. That's something you're going to have to get past, or, God Jed, I don't even want to know you.

I totally understand thinking that one candidate or another is really your favorite, and you truly believe that they are the best choice to lead this country to a better place. But thinking that means that every other (or really any other) Democratic candidate would lead us further into the hell that the Chimp and the Shooter are creating is self-defeating. I don't know who's going to get the nomination. I don't have the same excitement about Hillary that I do about Obama or Edwards, but how can you realistically compare Hillary to Rudy, or Mitt, or the Huckster, and not see the differences?

Can't we all just get along?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Greetings

I will do a couple year-end posts by 12/31 (including the promised one about the Democratic primary), but for now, I'll just wish everyone whose out there on the roads safe travels and Happy Holidays (one has to be careful when one fights the war on Christmas).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Huckabee Monster--It's Alive!

We see something very interesting happening on the Right with the emergence of Mike Huckabee. The Grover Norquist crowd, the tax-cutting corporatists, are scared to death of the Rev. Huckabee, and it is fascinating to watch. For example, Peggy Noonan writes in the paper once known as the Wall Street Journal that
there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary. But they are not, and cannot be. They are central. Things seem to be getting out of kilter, with the emphasis shifting too far. The great question: Does it make Mr. Huckabee, does it seal his rise, that he has acted in such a manner? Or does it damage him? Republicans on the ground in Iowa and elsewhere will decide that. And in the deciding they may be deciding more than one man's future. They may be deciding if Republicans are becoming a different kind of party. I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment.
Let's consider the words uttered above by Reagan's former speechwriter.

Establishment Republicans are terrified that a fundamentalist might actually get their party's nomination. Since Reagan's days, they have courted the evangelical with smoke and mirrors, with empty promises and bombastic rhetoric. Corporate Republicans have told the red staters that they stand with them, while they outsource their jobs, ignore their schools and infrastructure, promote corporate superfarms over their small holdings, and send large numbers of their sons to die in the desert.

Of course the country club Republicans don't care about abortion. If it becomes illegal, and one of theirs needs such services, Skull and Bones brothers or foreign clinics are able to lend a hand. Vouchers or school prayer? Not a concern at Andover or Lake Forest Academy. Immigration? Why, who tends the lawns in their gated communities.

So for a quarter-century, corporate Republicans have promised to save the babies and to help Jesus stop boys from kissing, while doing nothing but cut taxes and gut the government. Now, after energizing and mobilizing this bizarre base, they seemed shocked when one of them strives for the reins of power and actually believes in the things you shallowly used as talking points.

But Peggy, and others of your ilk, why are you surprised? In Frankenstein-like fashion, you stitched this unholy monster together and breathed life into it. You wanted it, you nurtured it, you needed it, and yes, like Dr. Frankenstein, you are ultimately responsible for it. It is yours, it is you.

Couldn't happen to a nicer party.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Senior al Qaeda terrorist, or...

The Washington Post reports today on Abu Zubaida, the `al Qaeda operative' subjected to torture in the case of the missing CIA tapes. According to the WP,
FBI agents and analysts say he is largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier whose credibility dropped as the CIA subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding and to other "enhanced interrogation" measures.
Isn't that special? He's your local crazy innkeeper.

Monday, December 17, 2007


It won't matter, but I thought I'd drop a few lines about the FISA bill and Harry Reid's desire to do what the Liar in Chief wants, instead of supporting the Constitution and protecting Americans.

Senator Durbin (and Obama),

Harry Reid is betraying America. Support Chris Dodd's filibuster, and help prevent the telecom companies from getting amnesty for shredding the Constitution.

Senator Reid,

Why are you betraying America? The telecom companies do not deserve amnesty if they violated the Constitution. George Bush is in the pocket of business and hates Americans, why do you?

Senator Dodd,

Thank you for the filibuster.

Friday, December 14, 2007

How to tell your ideological spectrum is a little out of whack

There's a story online about how some GOP folk want another debate in Iowa, because the one this week with the Des Moines Register left a bad taste in their mouths - they were forced to talk about education and domestic issues, and didn't get enough time talking about fear and hate with the war in Iraq and the war on brown people with immigration.

In the comments to the story, someone going by the moniker "Mr. Law" wrote:
With FoxNews' blatant pro-liberal bias (as in open support for Rudy Giuliani), it's not surprising Governor Romney didn't want to have yet another FoxNews debate which catered to, and was probably organized in cooperation with, Rudolph Giuliani's campaign. That said, after Governor Romney's masterful performance at the "last" Republican debate prior to the Iowa caucus, I can see how the Huckster would want a do-over.

Mr. Law thinks that Fox has a blatant pro-liberal bias because they support Giuliani (which they do). Well, Mr. Law, I've got some questions for you. If your idea of a liberal is Rudy Giuliani, what's your idea of a moderate? Pat Buchanan? A conservative? Mussolini? Where does Hillary (a moderate in most ways) fit? Socialism? I can't even imagine where you'd put Kucinich.

Let me suggest that when America's Mare is the left end of your ideological spectrum, you might need to do some adjusting. There are therapists all over who can help you with that problem.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Karma's a Bitch

I've been saving this one. Back in 2005, pitcher Andy Pettite decided to get preachy on Pat Robertson's website:
“Every time I took the mound, in any of those games and every game, I just ask the Lord to give me the strength to go out there, protect me and just to help me to compete. I don’t want to ever do anything to jeopardize my testimony for Him, and I ask him to be with me in that...if you’re praying to the Lord, like you need to be, spending time with Him, you’re going to stay in the game a lot longer and you’re going be a lot stronger than other people that aren’t...
Well, he was asking someone for strength, and getting help from someone to stay in the game, but as today's Mitchell Report shows, it wasn't the Lord--it was someone with a hypodermic. Karma is indeed a bitch.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Please, please, please, can we run against Mike Huckabee???

Unfortunately for the Huckster, a rise in the polls means a rise in press attention, and it doesn't take long to find out that 1) he really is a miserable bastard of a human being and 2) he's a great big freak.

I would LOVE to see him as the GOP nominee. In a presidential debate not geared to the mouthbreathers, he can't talk like this
we stalked antelope all morning long and never got really close to one to get a shot. And finally, at about 12:30 in the afternoon, there was one across a ridge-I'm not making this up-the trajectory was upward, it is across, up on a hill. And it looked pretty decent, but it was about 250 yards away. Now, that's just, on my best day, within my range, maybe. But with a stiff wind, snow-and one of the rules of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt is that you cannot use any artificial devices; you can't lean on, you know, a car or the hood of a truck or anything other your own body. And so that kind of complicates the process and makes it a little more challenging. But it was one of those moments where I finally decided: "You know, we only get one shot. If you miss, your hunt is over. If you hit, and you take the animal, then your hunt your is over as well." And I decided that one way or the other, this hunt is about to be over, because I can't stand any more of this cold. And somehow, by the
grace of God, when I squeezed the trigger, my Weatherby .300 Mag, which has got to be the greatest gun, I think, ever made in the form of a rifle-for my sake in hunting, I've never squeezed the trigger and not gotten something-did its work, and somehow the angels took that bullet and went right to the antelope, and my hunt was over in a wonderful way...

Education and Elections

Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense. That is my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet. - Sam, The West Wing

So, I was channel surfing today, and ran across the GOP debate (sadly, on Fox). The topic that came up was education (getting sadly little attention in this election).

Some thoughts came to my mind whilst watching the crazy (Of course, no one mentions the option of taking the money they'd throw into "choice" and vouchers and actually improving inner city schools):

There was a suggestion (by grandpa Fred) that we get rid of qualifications for teachers and bring people from various jobs into the classroom. Not that there aren't people all over the country who have valuable experience that should be shared with students, but this was one of the many points that was made that shows an utter ignorance of education. These candidates talk about removing standards for teachers, increasing home schooling, "returning" oversight of education to parents, and how education is not a federal issue, but a state issue (this last one I don't understand at all). As a teacher (although not at the K-12 level they were talking about), I can say with some level of expertise that these people are full of it.

Education is not an enterprise that should taken lightly, and too many do so. Recall the old, and frightful, adage "Those who can't do, teach." This suggests the idea that just about anybody (even, or perhaps especially, the incompetent) can walk into a classroom and be an effective teacher. That anyone can develop a curriculum which prepares students for all of the challenges they will face educationally and professionally. That teaching, unlike so many other professions in this country, is not based on skill and training and passion and experience, but rather something anyone can do.

Anyone who has tried to teach knows that is patently absurd. Not that there aren't bad teachers, or teachers who don't care, or teachers who are more concerned about their paycheck than whether their students learn a darned thing - of course, there are those people in every profession. But turning education over to people without training, without an understanding of learning, without true depth of expertise in specific disciplines as well as in the practice of teaching, to pretend that heck, anyone can do this, so let's get government out of it, is insulting, dangerous, and destructive.

Oh, and Alan Keyes is still a fucking nutball.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Now, if you changed "lion of" to "lyin' bastard of", we could develop an understanding

A letter to the editor in the Daily Herald:

A tribute to Hyde, a lion of a man

In this high political season, we will do well to remember a lion of a man -- unashamed of his deep faith, unequivocal in his convictions and unparalleled in leadership guided by both.

Rest in peace, Congressman Henry Hyde. You've not only been a dear friend to the seniors of Hanover Township, but also to our great nation.

The Lord has called home a true soldier.

Michael E. Kelly
Republican Committeeman
Hanover Township

Yes, I think we should, as always, honor those who are as willing to overlook their own faults in order to point out the same faults in others. They say that those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but Henry Hyde wasn't worried about the cold getting in, so he threw everything he could get his hands on through the windows. He was always special that way.


Last night the Atlanta Falcons played their first game since Michael Vick got sentenced to 23 months in federal court for his part in running a dogfighting operation and cruelly and deliberately torturing and murdering animals. Michael Vick confessed to these crimes, and thus is not just a convicted felon, but an admitted violent criminal.

I'm sure there are people out there who were close to Vick throughout his life, and that crimes, no matter how heinous, do not always remove the bonds of love or friendship between people. He will one day be released from prison, and may have many years yet on this planet to share with those who choose.

None of that, however, excuses the ignorance I saw during the game last night. In amongst the myriad fans wearing jerseys with Vick's name and number on them was his teammate, Roddy White, who chose to send this message to the world after scoring a TD:

Yep, "Free Mike Vick." Once again, Vick wasn't convicted on circumstantial evidence, and he's not a political prisoner, and this isn't some weird racial bias - he stood up in court and said "I did it." He provided the money, ran the operation, trained dogs to be killers for his entertainment and profit, and killed those who didn't please him.

Of course, if you share this sentiment, you can go here, and check out their countdown clock until Vick gets out of prison, and gets handed another NFL job where he'll make truckloads of cash, all his sins forgotten.

There are bigger criminals in the world, but this is just dumb.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Mr. President

According to's tracking of presidential approval polls, it was exactly one year ago this week that a poll had you at a 40% overall job rating, in the LA Times/Bloomberg poll of 12/8-11, 2006. If we go back to the first week of September, 2005 (right after Katrina), there is only one poll which had you at either 50% or at a positive approval-disapproval, the 12/12-13, 2005 Diageo/Hotline poll, which had you at 50% (whoever they are). In fact, in the 140 polls that have been taken in 2007, your average approval rating is 33%, and your average disapproval rating is 61.4%. Statistically, if we were to assume that these polls were part of some sort of normal distribution, there would be a roughly 0.000000015% chance that you'd get a 50% approval rating on the next poll, so you've got that going for you.

This is a big week for you. Celebrate!

Friday, December 07, 2007

And now, in this corner...

Annmarie Brewer of Sun prairie, Wisconsin, who presumably has a large steel plate in her skull, penned this gem:
I just got through watching Mitt Romney's speech and found myself in tears simply by his profound acknowledgment of God as part of our historical and democratic roots. I wasn't decided on Romney, and I'm certainly not a religious person, but with today being my birthday, this was the BEST birthday present I could ever receive. It feels like a weight has been lifted off of our collective shoulders to acknowledge belief in our Judea-Christian heritage as the foundation for our great country, and not feel stifled, repressed or guilty for believing in it and exclaiming it.

It's a quiet, dignified belief in goodness, life and freedom, an essential structure that keeps us forever hopeful--unlike the maniacal, pressured or forced-upon commercialized or politically inspired mandates that have been coming from our country's leaders of late. I just had to tell you that, and also that I'm quite surprised to find myself finally at a decision on who I will vote for at the Republican primary. It'll be Mitt Romney.
So many things are wrong with this. The most glaring is her statement about the "Judea (sp?)-Christian" foundation of the country. Have you ever heard references to "Judeo-Christian" made with real emphasis on the first part? Beyond that, it is just plain wrong.

As Doc pointed out below, Mitty's speech was both absurd and frightening. So, Annmarie, get comfortable in Sun Prairie and

A blast from the past

This isn't my normal fare, but it amused me. The Decatur Herald & Review is apparently publishing letters to the editor from 1982.

Old-style Christmas family traditions seem to be gone

What happened to the tradition of Christmas tree trimming and decorating?

When we were kids at home, we looked forward to the trimming of the tree and other decorations. Now the merchant has all the fun. The trees are all decorated, lights put on, strings of popcorn wrapped around the tree.

Mom made her favorite fudge and divinity, and we helped with the popcorn balls. Now, kids are off to the movies or down to an arcade playing those machines. Dad is propped up in front of the television watching his favorite football team.

I guess, those times are gone, but not forgotten.

Louis Woods


Playing those machines? Who the hell goes to the arcade anymore? When did people stop decorating trees - they seem to be in every window down here...

And what the heck does "Mom made her favorite fudge and divinity" even mean?

Maybe I missed something, but I'm not really free to comment.

Conservative Family Values at Their Best

Longtime Thinker reader jimbow8 sent me a link to a conversation that, once again, reinforces the hypocrisy of the right, although in a different way than usual. It's a post on a message board (the Conservatism community on LiveJournal), and it's about this case of a high school teacher who once again is in trouble for having an illegal sexual relationship with a minor. The conservative take on the story isn't that adults should be punished for abusing children this way, it's that the teacher is HAWT, and "If the kid is able to look back on this as the greatest triumph of his life, which is without a reasonable doubt the case, (and we all know how "reasonable doubt" is supposed to factor into matters of guilt vs. inocence (sic)), then who's the victim?"


First of all, as I say every time the Olympics come around, if something you do at 14 is the greatest triumph of your life, I feel very sorry for you.

Secondly, and I'm not sure how to say this in a way that these morons would understand, but the laws about sexual relationships with minors don't exist to prevent them from banging ugly people (one can almost envision these morons picturing childhood as an idyllic meadow surrounded by signs that say "No Fat Chicks"). Fourteen year olds simply are not capable of understanding the emotional and physical consequences of sex. Fourteen year olds are young, folks. I spend a lot of time with 18-21 year olds, and I'm startled regularly by how immature they can be (and they're considered legally old enough to make these kinds of decisions).

Thirdly, there's no way this kind of discussion happens if the genders are reversed - I don't care if the teacher is the pure embodiment of male sexuality, he'd be strung up by his toenails and beaten about the face and head by Bill O'Rielly's loofah. But these kind of people say things like "Males don't really have the capacity to regret sex with attractive partners unless it causes pregnancy, STDs, or social consequences like those of being caught "cheating"." In their mind, men clearly have no emotional response other than "I'd hit that" when it comes to attractive women, which is somewhere between ignorant and moronic.

It may be an amusing conceit that at 14, we all wanted to have that hot "older" woman come and teach us the ways of manhood. But that's all it is, and, once again, it's nice to know that all these folks seem to care about is making sure children are born - protecting them after birth is irrelevant.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just to clarify

Mitt, if you're going to be President, at some point you have to take the following oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

That's the same Constitution that includes the following:

Article. VI. - The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

and this pesky thing, included in the Bill of Rights:

Amendment 1 - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Ratified 12/15/1791

I don't know what he's missing, but it's profoundly wrong.

Umm, I'm not sure I see the connection there, Mittster.

Mitt Romney, during his "Don't worry that I'm a Mormon, but I'll really never talk about Mormonism" speech:

Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Can someone explain to me how religion is a prerequisite for freedom, or vice-versa? I've known for a while that the wingnuts don't think I have any basis for a moral code, since I'm not a religious person, but apparently I also can't be free now either. Huh.

Bite me, Mitt.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't know much about history...

I assume you've seen this from The View, but world-famous historian Sherri Shepherd, following a mention of Greek philosophy from THE FOURTH CENTURY B.C. gave us:
The Greeks, they had Christians 'cause they threw them to the lions. [Whoopi explains the Greeks came first.] I think this might predate that, I don't think anything predated Christians...Jesus came first before them.
Those who do not understand the past are condemned to daytime TV.

Video link

What straw will break the camel's back?

Sorry for my absence, between Thanksgiving, work and the flu bug!

How many more scandals can St. Rudy of 9/11 stand?

Just to make sure we're all on the same page

Either the Liar in Chief

1) knew about the latest NIE and Iran's lack of a nuclear weapons program months ago, in which case he's been lying about it since then, or

2) he was told that there was new data, but never thought to ask what we'd learned about this supposed grave threat, or

3) he was deliberately kept out of the loop.

Wow, them's three really good scenarios. Of course, there is the John Bolton approach - "I just don't believe the intelligence agencies. You know, they screwed up the Iraq WMD data..." (Well, we could ignore that they were told what conclusion they were supposed to reach on Iraq, right?) And there's the Norman Podhoretz approach (Rudy's leading national security advisor) - "The intelligence agencies are deliberately lying to make Bush look bad. We have to attack Iran today." (Do you need any more reasons to keep Rudy out of the White House?)

The mainstream media much be catching on, a little - has an article titled "Analysis: Bush won't back down on Iran." Really? Bush doesn't back down on which color he wants to be when he plays Hungry Hungry Hippo with Uncle Shooter, much less on an issue dealing with a country he wants to invade and might not get to. That always makes him cranky.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

NPR Debate

I'm listening to the Democrats debate on NPR, which is a staggering change from a CNN or network debate. The time for the candidates seems much more balanced, the moderators actually ask intelligent questions, and the candidates are actually getting into substantive answers because, in the 2 hour debate, they're only exploring three issues (Iran, China, and immigration). It's weird.

Of course, we could contrast that with the Giggling Murderer, who spent today telling Congress that it should do exactly what he says and explained that while the NIE says Iran doesn't have a nuclear program, it doesn't matter, because they still could start one up at any time, so we should treat them like they've got the finger on the button and are waiting to nuke your house right this very second. Sweet.

The GOP Primary, Part II

Will get a bunch of votes, but not enough: Mike Huckabee

Huckabee draws two kinds of voters - 1) Christians who believe that religion should be the primary factor in decision-making for politicians and 2) people who want a candidate who seems honest and not corrupt. The former group couldn't get him the nomination, the second could, but it's not likely. Huckabee has plenty of views that diverge radically from mine (not the least of which is his embracing of creationism and hence a rejection of science, which, religious matters aside, is terribly dangerous for the future of our country - we'll be getting out of 8 years of anti-science, we certainly don't need more), but political and religious views aside, he's far less worrisome to me than either Giuliani or Romney. Huckabee has more reasonable views on immigration and torture, and appears to be a decent person who wouldn't sell the country out for greed and hate. On the other hand, the US is not a Christian nation, and I don't want religion to be a driving force in our government (are there any examples where that works out well). Now, I'm not voting in the GOP primary anyway, so my opinion doesn't matter, but while Huckabee is attracting a significant amount of interest in the polls, there is a core of racist, vulgar, hateful GOP voters who don't like Huckabee much. He's too (in the words of a prominent righty blogger) "moralistic." In the end, that's going to throw votes to one of the two other major candidates, either of whom will stand up and tout their desires to kill the brown people in order to get votes.

That whistling sound you hear is a former New York mayor's chances plummeting to Bolivia: Rudy Giuliani

Of all the candidates running this year, Rudy scares me the most. He's got the same arrogance that the Chimp does, and combines that with an attitude that says "Look out world - if you thought Bush was a single-minded hateful fucker, you ain't seen nothin' yet!" Man, that's desirable in a President. Giuliani is corrupt, brash, and willing to lie through his teeth about his record (more liberal than the Republican base would like because he had to be a mayor of a city like New York) to get elected. A former federal prosecutor who looks at the rest of the world like criminals who, thankfully, aren't protected by something as trivial as the Constitution. Rudy's poll numbers are beginning to look quite ugly because, while the GOP voters seem quite willing to brush aside any number of "youthful indiscretions," they're not as comfortable with a man using the police and the city budget to allow him to cheat on his wife, regardless of what the pundits say.

Will somehow sneak out of the fray with the nomination: Mitt Romney

Can you believe that millions of people are willing to cast votes for a guy named Mitt? Me neither. But it's going to happen, and not because Mitt is a particularly good candidate, but because he's rich, "looks presidential," and because of the flaws of the other candidates. There's been a lot of talk about Mitt being a Mormon, but that's not going to get play in the end, as voters watch Rudy self-immolate and don't find enough in Huckabee's candidacy to vote for. Romney will say anything to anyone in order to get votes, and enough of the people who consistently vote against their own self-interest to reelect Republicans who will ruin their lives will ignore the contradictions and vote Mitt.

Coming soon, the Democrats.



"Bush to Congress: Fund the wars now"

Ummm, no.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Well, we've arrived at the two-thousandth post here at The Thinker (well, technically that includes some drafts that may or not be published, but by the time anyone goes back and reads all 1989 actually published posts, we'll be well ahead anyway, so I don't care). At least six or eight of them have had substantive content, and thanks to those of you who've stuck with us through the rest of the tripe that we've posted.

On that note, and since the Iowa caucus is only one month away, I'll dip my toe into the acidic froth that is the primary season. Try to ignore the screams.

This has been a particularly long and complex primary season, in part because this is the first presidential election since 1952 that neither a sitting president nor vice-president is running, giving two completely open primaries, and in part because I think it started back in 1952, before some of the candidates were even born. I'll deal with the Democrats in another post, but here let me skewer, err, discuss the GOP.

For some reason, there are still nine people running for the GOP nomination. Well, technically there's 9, because Alan Keyes is once again pretending to run. Since we established in 2004 that Keyes represents the lowest percentage of voters that will vote entirely on party identification, rather than on any qualifications of any sort, we'll just ignore him and discuss people who have a chance to finish above the Keyes line.

Part I - people who won't get the nomination

Not a freakin' chance in hell: Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter

No one even knows who these guys are. Tancredo is the biggest isolationist this side of Pat Buchanan, and wants to nuke Mecca, which will sell well with some rednecks, but no one outside that core GOP base cares at all about him. Duncan Hunter is from California. That's about all I've managed to learn about him, except that we need to fight everyone around the world who doesn't love us all the time.

There's a buzz, but still no chance: Ron Paul

Every good Republican primary should have a token Libertarian, if only to remind us of the dangers of the Grover Norquists of the world. Paul is against the Iraq war, which is a plus, but he's also against a useful government, which is not. He's probably getting more play from independents than the GOP base, who still loves the Chimp and how much we're kicking the world's ass.

Should have stayed out of the race: Fred Thompson

The oldest phenom ever, Thompson combines the hip, with-it attitude of Bob Dole with the drawing power of Spinal Tap after Nigel Tufnel left (temporarily). His polling numbers are falling, and with the writer's strike, he won't even have Law and Order to go back to.

Shouldn't have sold his soul: John McCain

Does anyone remember the McCain of 2000, playing the rational counterpart to the Chimp, before Karl Rove's underhanded campaigning techniques and the GOP machine run by the Bush Emprie and their Nazi dollars destroyed him? That McCain probably would be the front-runner with ease now, what with his unquestionable bravery in Vietnam and his centrism that appealed to many independents (and some Democrats). Of course, that McCain is gone, replaced by a man so desperate for the presidency that he gave up any pretense of independence and tried to suck up to the most extreme interest groups on the right (Bob Jones University, anybody?). Not surprisingly, voters have seen through this, although McCain does still earn points (from me, anyway) for his opposition to torture (given his obvious knowledge of the subject, it's funny to watch some of the other candidates act like he's just weak and foolish and that they're really the tough guys) and his somewhat balanced stand on immigration (which also pisses off the base, since it's not loaded with racism).

Part II: The actual candidates: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee (coming soon)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hell just grew by one

For those of you who believe in such things, Jerry Falwell has a new playmate in the hypocrisy wing of hell...

Henry Hyde is now spending eternity explaining why it's okay to scream about other people's problems while doing the exact same thing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trent Lott to Leave Senate

You don't think this has ANYTHING to do with the new ethics rules that would delay his boarding the lobbyist gravy train, do you?

Actually, he just wants to spend time working with his favorite civic organization:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Supreme Court to Hear Gun Case

So the Supreme Court has finally granted cert in a gun case. They are going to review the Parker decision from DC which was the first federal appeals court to find a private right of ownership in the 2nd Amendment (a 5th Circuit case had expressed similar sentiments, but that was dicta, i.e., not binding precedent).

The historical origins of the 2nd Amendment are not conclusive on this question, but it is a logical leap to an individual right. Firearms in a pre-Industrial Revolution America were made by hand by skilled craftsmen and were quite expensive. While small ironworks existed in the colonies, British mercantile policies prohibited large-scale manufacturing and iron production, increasing costs of finished products.

For example, individual rights advocates fondly quote Patrick Henry with well-placed ellipses, as he states "the great object is that every man be armed...every one who is able may have a gun." Unfortunately, the excised portion reveals that Henry, arguing AGAINST constitutional ratification, is referring to the STATE purchasing weapons for militia use: "The great object is that every man be armed.--but can the people to afford to pay for double sets of arms? Every one who is able may have a gun. But have we not learned by experience, that necessary as it is to have arms, and though our assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case. When this power is given up to Congress without limitation or bounds, how will your militia be armed?"

The description of the "Magazine" at colonial Williamsburg states that "The night of April 20, 1775, Lieutenant Henry Collins stole toward the capital with a squad of royal marines from the H.M.S. Magdalen anchored in Burwell's Bay on the James River. Their orders, straight from Governor Dunmore, were to empty the arsenal and disable THE MUSKETS stored there. In 1715, the magazine "safeguarded shot, powder, flints, tents, tools, swords, pikes, canteens, cooking utensils, and as many as 3,000 Brown Bess flintlocks--equipment needed for defense against Indians, slave revolts, local riots, and pirate raids."

The Articles of Confederation, the predecessor to the constitution, provided that "every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of [field] pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage." If the NRA myth of an armed America in its infancy is true, why did arms need to be provided and stored in public? The articles are clearly referring to personal arms, as they separately mention field pieces. Why are the accounts of the Revolution replete with Continental soldiers lacking muskets?

There is no doubt that in republican (small "r") revolutionary ideology that there was a mistrust of the European experience and standing peacetime armies. That hostility is found in the Articles, with their reliance on the militia. It is apparent, though, that that mistrust has faded into practicality by the time constitution-making rolled around. Congress is authorized to raise armies and navies, and control of the militias is placed within the federal government. The one concession to revolutionary ideology was the provision that "no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years." This restriction applies only to the army, not the navy, because armies were the instruments of mischief [Note to congressional Democrats, the framers INTENDED for you to cut the money if the president was an idiot.]

The 2nd Amendment, therefore, was obsolete before ratification. It was a bone tossed to the anti-Federalists about preserving their precious militias after the federalist vision of a central government backed by a regular army became firmly entrenched. The militia in post-revolutionary America was never a significant factor.

Two issues often brought up by the individual rights crowd are 1) the Federalist Papers and other literature of the period and 2) arms as a check on tyranny. Both can be easily dispensed with.

The Federalist Papers were essays in support of a constitution that included no 2nd Amendment language. Madison's version of the text clearly referred to militia purpose, and Hamilton thought a Bill of Rights was dangerous. In terms of a check on tyranny--the constitution clearly defines treason, and allows for that very militia to suppress such criminality. Remember also that the constitution was drafted by and for aristocrats. It contains no right to vote, think the propertied actually envisioned mobs of armed rabble about the countryside?

So in this case--I would love to know who voted to hear it. It takes four justices to hear a case (legal term, to grant certiorari) Is it our new conservative group, wanting to take a stand, or the liberal 4 thinking that they can now kill this? And what kind of opinion will they craft? Once again, it comes down to Justice Kennedy, it will be interesting!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good riddance

From's "The Ticker": An aide to Hastert said Thursday he will retire by the end of December.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Denny Boy will need to undergo reconstructive surgery to remove a rubber stamp which had grown into the flesh of his right hand.

Aren't we missing the forest here?

The Supreme Court is hearing a somewhat controversial death penalty case, but to me this seems to present the classic example of missing the massive forest because of a particularly gruesome tree.

[Disclaimer: I have always been somewhat intellectually squishy on the death penalty, but I have been able to deal with (weasel out) of my moral conundrum on practical grounds because of the manifestly unfair way the punishment is administered and the frightening likelihood of killing the innocent]

The court will decide, not whether the taking of a human life is a constitutionally appropriate punishment, but on whether the particular execution protocol used by most states is violative of the cruel or unusual punishment prohibition.

I understand the argument, that the current cocktail can cause intense pain while the paralytic agents prevent the dying (wo)man from crying out or otherwise signaling distress, but is this the constitutional question that we should address? Are those six minutes from the two nods, the initial one from the warden and the final one from the doctor, truly present the constitutional issue? This court has framed the question not as "should we kill," but rather as "hey, is there a more efficient way to kill?" The court's decision will not determine how we deal with the fundamental questions of life, death, and justice. Rather, it will either return the executioners to their gruesome work or send the chemists scurrying to their labs and the lawyers to their libraries to ensure that the killing protocol becomes a much more effective process.

Isn't it apparent that we really want state killing to be more comfortable for us, not the condemned?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meanwhile. back in Arkansas...

Slaughterhouse live: Teacher kills raccoon
Educator shoots animal with nail gun to use it for skinning demonstration


Monday, November 12, 2007

Sacrifice and Vanity

The president pulled out his "they shall not have died in vain" line again.

I'm sorry, that is just grossly inappropriate.

When Lincoln said it, the fate of the United States as a nation was very much in doubt. Lincoln quite reasonably committed the nation to defend itself from its internal enemy, not only because it was the right thing to do but also because it was his constitutional duty to do. To have done otherwise would have dishonored those who had already fallen for a clearly-defined and noble ideal.

But George W. Bush? He does not invoke a sacred duty but rather a wanton bloodlust, to commenorate those who have died by sacrificing more who will also die. And for what? So that a nation might live, as Lincoln said? So that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth? No, they are being sent to die for a vainglorious fool's delusions in a conflict that mocks the very nature of what the nation seen by Lincoln should be.

Mr. President, there can only be one way that their sacrifices will not be in vain, and that is for you, or others if necessary, to finally have the basic human decency to say that enough is enough. Enough blood, death. shattered bodies and shattered limbs, lost treasure and lost honor. Enough is indeed enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maybe you had to be there

On tonight's episode of Family Guy, Stewie had declared himself president of the world, and was residing in the Oval Office. His mom paid him a visit to kill him, and as she was shooting up the room, the "camera" passed by portraits of recent presidents. After sweeping past W, she returned and emptied the clip into his portrait, obliterating him from the wall.

I'm just sayin'...

A picture speaks a thousand words

So here's a few thousand to cap off my football Saturday:

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's that time of year again...

The 114th Edition


Your New AG

Glenn Greenwald, among others, asks why the Democrats didn't filibuster the nomination of Michael Mukasey for Attorney General last night. After all, there were 40 no votes, plus the potentiality of 4 more from the presidential candidates who didn't vote, but likely would have shown up for a political appearance.

It's pretty simple, of course - there's no way the filibuster would have worked. Once Schumer and Feinstein provided cover, I can flat-out guarantee you that at least a handful of the more pathetic Democrats who voted no only because they knew it wouldn't matter would not have supported the filibuster. It would have lost, and if there's one thing the Democrats don't do, it's take a principled stand, even when they know they'd lose. Maybe the vote would have been 65-35 for cloture, and then he would have been approved anyway. But would it really kill Reid and the other wimps running Congress to take a stand and show us that they care, some of them anyway?

What I think, but do not say

This morning, someone at work sent an email to everyone on campus wishing a happy 232rd birthday to the Marine Corps. Of course, that spawned all sorts of responses, and now we're in the middle of an orgy of God Bless America and random patriotic BS. This is what I would send back, but I don't need the fights.

I've never really been sure what people mean when they say things like "I support the troops." Do you, do you really? Or do you root for them to win, because America is Great? Do you lobby on their behalf with Congress? If you could, would you sign up for the military, so that you could literally have their backs? And, most importantly, do you honor their sacrifices so much that you embrace this simple little thought - that we should never, ever, send people off to die unless we absolutely have to?

Every day that we keep fighting over in Iraq, it hurts just a little bit more. The truth is, and those of us who were paying attention knew this in 2002, despite the hoopla on CNN and Fox and in Washington, there was no justification for sending a single soldier into Iraq. Our country started a war based on lies and greed, and every day that fighting goes on just exacerbates the crime.

Sunday is Veterans Day. In honor of that day, let's all *really* support the troops. Bring them home.

This is what I would say, but I won't.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Had enough of Giuliani?

He hangs with the mobbed up, has the morals of an alley cat, the personality of a thug, lies about 9-11 and, of course, as Daffy said:

This is the last time I work with someone with a s-s-speech impediment!

And now he has Pat Robertson's support.

Monday, November 05, 2007

That's it, I'm retiring

“If you learned it in a college classroom, we can’t trust it.”
Rush Limbaugh, Nov. 5, 2007 (while attacking an 18 year old Inuit girl who cried during her testimony in front of Congress about how global warming is affecting her homeland and her people)

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

We now have a new category of those who qualify for this award. It has previously been given to the incompetent (Paul Bremer, Rummy), the shameless careerist (Tommy Franks)and the certifiably insane (Norman Podhoretz). Chalk up a win now, though, for the morally bankrupt:

Congrats. We're so proud.


In case you're counting:

Days until the 2008 Illinois Primary (February 5) -- 92

Days until Election Day 2008 (November 4) -- 365

Days until Inauguration Day 2009 (January 20) -- 442

The Bush presidency will, barring an unexpected end, last 2923 days (1/20/2001 - 1/20/2009). We have survived 84.88%. Will we survive the last 15.12%? Stay tuned to this space for details.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

From the "Gee, ya think?" File

Poll Finds Americans Pessimistic, Want Change
War, Economy, Politics Sour Views of Nation's Direction

By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers

One year out from the 2008 election, Americans are deeply pessimistic and eager for a change in direction from the agenda and priorities of President Bush, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Concern about the economy, the war in Iraq and growing dissatisfaction with the political environment in Washington all contribute to the lowest public assessment of the direction of the country in more than a decade. Just 24 percent think the nation is on the right track, and three-quarters said they want the next president to chart a course that is different than that pursued by Bush.

Overwhelmingly, Democrats want a new direction, but so do three-quarters of independents and even half of Republicans. Sixty percent of all Americans said they feel strongly that such a change is needed after two terms of the Bush presidency. Dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq remains a primary drag on public opinion, and Americans are increasingly downcast about the state of the economy. More than six in 10 called the war not worth fighting, and nearly two-thirds gave the national economy negative marks. The outlook going forward is also bleak: About seven in 10 see a recession as likely over the next year.
Will this presidency EVER end? Will January 2009 (Good God, that just sounds so distant!) ever get here, or perhaps more importantly, get here in time?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Karen Hughes to leave State Department

Long-time Bush confidante Karen Hughes (below)

will be leaving the State Department soon to return to Texas. I think we can all agree she has done a bang-up job of improving our image in the Arab world.

It's the new math

In an AP article about Pat Leahy saying he'd vote against the confirmation of Michael Mukasey for AG (causing the pre-adolescent we've got in the Oval Office to threaten to take his government and go home):

Leahy became the firth of the panel's 10 Democrats so far to say they will not support him.

The Firth of Forth?

I'm not sure how to interpret this has an article about inflation, and how it affects investments. In the article, they have a little graphic comparing the cost of things in 1972 to the cost today and what the cost would be today, adjusted for inflation. If today's cost is less than the inflation-adjusted cost, it's a good value, if it's more, it's a bad value. One of the comparisons they make is Presidential salaries:

Richard Nixon's salary in 1972: $200,000
George W. Bush's salary in 2007: $400,000
Nixon's salary, adjusted for inflation: $996,645.94

So W is a good value relative to Nixon? Is that a good thing? I'm confused.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sing-a-long Thursday

From USAToday

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a wistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

...always look on the bright side of life!

Always look on the bright side of life...
If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing,

When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle -- that's the thing!
And... always look on the bright side of life...

Come on!

(other start to join in)
Always look on the bright side of life...

For life is quite absurd,
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin -- give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it -- it's the last chance anyhow!

So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true,
You'll see it's all a show,
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

I wish I had a University of Florida education...

Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins, playing an NFL game in Merry Olde England:
I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries. I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that. I know London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That's the closest thing I know to London. He's black, so I'm sure he's not from London. I'm sure that's a coincidental name.
He was also surprised they spoke English. I would also suggest that he visit Brixton concerning the statements at the end there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well, that's good to know

I'd heard White House Spokesliar Dana Perino's blather the other day about how there were "benefits" to climate change, but I wasn't sure what she meant by it.

She clarified:
Q: And one more. You mentioned that there are health benefits to climate change. Could you describe some of those?

MS. PERINO: Sure. In some cases, there are -- look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.

First of all, we don't really need studies to tell us that if it got warmer, it would be less cold, right? Secondly, go jump in a woodchipper.

Some good news

Ryan loses appeal, looks to Supreme Court
By Michael Higgins and Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporters
2:57 PM CDT, October 25, 2007

Former Gov. George Ryan will ask to remain free while he appeals his corruption and fraud convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which now is "the end of the line," his lead attorney said this afternoon. Jim Thompson, himself a former governor of Illinois, made the announcement at a news conference held hours after the full U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided not to overturn Ryan's convictions."[On Friday] we will file a motion with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that Governor Ryan's bail be extended to allow him to remain free while we ask the Supreme Court of the United States to review this case," Thompson said."If they agree to hear our appeal, that will be the next step, making an oral argument," Thompson said. "If the Supreme Court does not hear our appeal, that will be the end of the line, and Governor Ryan will have to report to his designated facility."Thompson said Ryan will stipulate to a reporting date of Nov. 7. If the appeal for bail extension is not decided by that time, Ryan will report to prison and await a decision from there, he said.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided this morning not to review the work of a three-judge panel that voted 2-1 to uphold Ryan's convictions despite a series of juror controversies at the end of his historic six-month trial last year.A majority of the nine judges who took up the matter issued a one-paragraph denial of the Aug. 28 motion without comment."A vote on whether to grant rehearing en banc was requested, and a majority of the judges in regular active service have voted to deny the petition," the order stated.

[Editor's note: from a legal standpoint, he's toast. ]

Tribune Publishes Anti-Science Commentary

News flash--frequent Chicago Tribune contributor Dennis Byrne is an idiot (and the sun rises in the east.)

While I enjoy knocking his teeny intellectual legs out from beneath him, I never complain to/about the paper for printing his ridiculous op eds. This one, however, completely crosses that line, dragging out the tired old breast cancer-abortion link canard. He whines that "a new study reported that abortion is an important breast cancer risk factor, yet I couldn't find a word describing the research in mainstream media."

I wonder why that may be? Why didn't anyone mention this "study" by "Patrick Carroll?" One simple reason--this "study" is a joke. Mr. Carroll of course has no medical training and this is not a medical study. He claims to have a master's degree but his credentials cannot be verified, and his statistical methodology is certainly suspect. His "group," of which he appears to be the only member\employee\whatever, the impressive-sounding Research Pension and Population Research Institute has no Web site, and seems to do nothing else except on rare occasion produce research for whomever pays him. Naturally, this "study" was indeed commissioned by activist anti-abortion organizations.

The "journal" in which it appeared is even more comical, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. They clearly are a political organ, not a scientific journal. How many science journals publish pieces arguing the earth is 6000 years old? How many publish (glowing) book reviews of pap books by Michael Savage and Ann Coulter? What about articles by various Schlaflys and the medical ethics of Ayn Rand?

This piece was an embarrassment to the Chicago Tribune and journalism.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strategy change

During the Cold War, we built up our military on the theory that the Soviets would never attack us, because they knew we could blow them to smithereens. Now, we invaded Iraq and Shooter and the Chimp are beating the drums for an invasion of Iran because of threats that they might attack us. With the Russians, we had the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, but does anyone really think that Saddam was and Ahmadinejad is stupid enough to not realize that a real attack by their country on ours would result not in mutual destruction, just the squishing of their country like a bug? Iran's not going to attack us, because they know they'll lose.

I know that logic is irrelevant when chatting with the wingnuts, but I can't help myself sometimes.

Nice work, Mr. Lieutenant Governor

California Lt. Governor Garamendi. on Hardball:

I have got some doubt about the value of President Bush coming out here.
That—you know, how many times did he go to New York—to New Orleans, and still made promises, but hasn’t delivered? We have the Terminator out here, Governor Schwarzenegger, who is doing a good job. And we will see.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it’s public relations, rather than action?

GARAMENDI: Of course it’s public relations. The action is taking place by the hardworking firefighters, the men and women, the police that are out there on the line, and the community that’s pulling together to support each other. That’s where the action is taking place. And I know—OK, President Bush comes out. We will be polite. But, frankly, that’s not the solution. How about sending our National Guard back from Iraq, so that we have those people available here to help us? ...

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president’s arrival will distract from the efforts to fight the fire?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely, no doubt about it. The president goes someplace, you have got a huge entourage. You have got Secret Service all over the place and all the chaos that comes with whatever the president arrives, wherever the president happens to arrive. But, listen, what we really need are those firefighters. We need the equipment. We need—frankly, we need our troops back from Iraq. We will get on here. Whether he comes or not, that’s not really—really the issue. I just hope that, if he does come, he brings more than he brought to New Orleans.

Grotesquely politically incorrect, but

it is official, from the Saudi embassy, and in my mood, I found it amusing. Take a look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Response from Durbin

Canned, of course. You'll notice that it doesn't address the key point, although I suspect that his is not one of the votes we have to worry too much about:

Dear Dr. and Mrs. drmagoo:

Thank you for your message regarding the surveillance of American
citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA). I appreciate hearing
from you on this important issue and share your concerns.

Protecting both the security and the freedom of the American people is
among my highest priorities. I share an obligation with my fellow
senators to ensure that the federal government protects and defends the
people of the United States while preserving the civil liberties that
have helped make the United States the greatest and most enduring
democracy in the world.

President Bush has stated that he authorized the NSA to conduct
warrantless electronic surveillance of communications made by American
citizens living within the United States. At the time of the
President's authorization, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) required the government to seek a warrant from a special court in
order to conduct electronic surveillance of communications between
American citizens and anyone outside the country. The NSA did not
obtain approval from the FISA court or from any other court before
initiating its domestic surveillance program.

For most of its existence, the NSA's program has operated without
meaningful oversight. Few members of Congress were briefed about the
program until its existence was revealed by the media, and those members
were sworn to secrecy. The majority of the members of Congress still
have not been fully briefed about the program's operational details.
The Administration has also shut down its own Department of Justice
internal investigation into the NSA's program. In essence, the
Administration has attempted to operate this program without any
supervision or oversight. The lack of a mechanism for correcting
potential abuses in the program undermines our Constitutional system of
checks and balances and raises serious concerns about the possibility of
excessive intrusion.

In addition to the disclosure of the NSA's domestic wiretapping program,
it has been alleged that the NSA has undertaken a massive effort to
gather the telephone records of tens of millions of innocent Americans
into a searchable database. Again, this program has been conducted
without court approval or Congressional oversight.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas to the Justice
Department, the White House, the Office of the Vice President, and the
National Security Council for documents relating to the legal
justification for the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. Although
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the committee, has
extended the deadline for subpoena compliance on two separate occasions,
the Administration has failed to comply.

Congress has tried to work with Administration officials to update FISA
in light of technological advances in communications. Too often,
however, the Administration has taken advantage of the program's secrecy
in its negotiations with Congress. In August 2007, the Administration
proposed a bill to amend FISA. I believe the bill provided too much
opportunity for excessive intrusion and potential abuse by the NSA and
other intelligence officials. I voted against the measure, as did
Chairman Leahy and the Intelligence Committee Chairman, Senator Jay
Rockefeller of West Virginia. Nonetheless, Congress passed the bill and
the President signed it into law. Fortunately, the law will expire six
months after the date it was signed.

When the President and his Administration order actions such as the
surveillance of American citizens, these actions must be conducted in a
manner consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution's commitment
to civil liberties. I am deeply concerned about the manner in which the
Executive Branch has initiated and conducted the NSA surveillance

I will continue to work to ensure that government surveillance of
American citizens is conducted in a manner consistent with the
Constitution, the rule of law, and our security needs.

Thank you again for sharing your views on this issue with me.


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator


P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join
Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate
is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your
questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C.
office for more details.

Simple Answers

"Bush to ask Congress for $46 billion more in war funding"

The answer, Congress, is "No."

It doesn't matter if he's asking for a quarter because that new gumball machine at the Wal-Mart sends the gumball through a cool maze, and the look of pure joy on his learning-disabled sociopathic chimpanzee face is oh-so-cute. The answer today, tomorrow, and for all time whenever he asks you for money, is "No."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Separated at Birth, Redux

A simple question

Our 9 year old niece is visiting for the weekend, and she's writing in a little Alice in Wonderland journal she has.

"Dear P. Bush,

Why must there be wars?"


They write letters

Senator Durbin,

We write to you in your role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee will have (as we understand it) an important role in putting forth a bill to extend the role of the FISA court. While it is necessary to do everything within the Constitution to seek out those from outside the United States who wish to do harm, we must stand vigilant against those within our own country who will, if given their wishes, will wreak more harm on us than any terrorist attack ever could. There is absolutely no need to grant massive corporations immunity for actions they may have taken in the name of security. If what they did was Constitutional, they have nothing to fear. If they violated the 4th Amendment and let the Bush Administration scare them into ignoring one of our most fundamental civil rights, well then, there should be a price paid for that. You have often stood strong against this administration's attacks on the American people and what makes us strong, and this is a time when you must do it again. A very small number of your fellow Senators have spoken out against this bill, and we fully expect you to join them in preventing this from happening. The only way we will ever reclaim our country from those who falsely proclaim they love it, only to do everything they can to tear the Constitution to shreds, is to stand and fight when necessary. It's necessary now. You will not bear a political price - your reelection is all but assured. But you would bear a personal price for failing to act, knowing that it was one more step in the destruction of our nation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I left my heart...

I walked out into a chilly fog-shrouded darkness that was two hours from dawn. The streetlights, theater marquees and illuminated signs for everything from jewelers to massage parlors cast a barely useful light on the surreal scene. Through the mist your eyes can only make out distant shapes and motion. As you draw near, though, you realize that to many observers, these figures are nothing but shapes and motion, rather than people. They are our phantoms, our shadow citizens, they are the homeless.

I was in San Francisco last week, a city that in recent years has had a large homeless population. With a climate that, while tempermental, is no Chicago, and a tolerant population and government, the homeless have long provided a good dose of local color. I hadn't been to the Bay Area in two years, and I must admit, I was shocked. I was not alone in my reaction to what was happening in the city, as the "homeless crisis" was the front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle for a couple of days running. Navigating around between Union Square and Market Street is difficult, encounters with the growing population of street people are becoming more contentious, and the streets smell of urine and marked with human waste.

Homelessness presents questions on many levels. Obviously you have the sociological and psychological questions of how and why. In the classic "hierarchy of needs," food and shelter form the base of human existence, while concerns for security make up the next level. followed by friendship and kinship, then self-esteem and respect. Could any group of human beings possibly be further from the ideal of 'self-actualization" than these wanderers, who cannot even regularly meet their most primitive needs. How did they find themselves in this position, and are there rational ways of helping them? Social services are generally rejected and shelters shunned, as they prefer their meager possessions and the locations they know, in an often self-defeating attempt to exercise some degree of control over their lives.

And from the city standpoint, what approach should you take? In San Francisco, the current approach is to offer services but generally they are left alone as long as they are not disorderly. For those that urinate in public or otherwise cross the tolerance line, the city reacts in almost absurd fashion. They issue citations. That's right, they give tickets and impose fines on the homeless.

I would appreciate your thoughts. What should our cities, and indeed, our societies, do both for them and to them?

Separated at birth?

At least Chamberlain had a bit of an excuse for his appeasement. Not much of one, granted, but he knew that Britain was in no shape militarily to confront Germany, and at least he bought some time. Pelosi? There are no excuses, yet she proudly waves her own Munich pact.

Appeasers all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Love Child



were to mate, the resultant love child would be

If only Sen. Tappy McWidestance was Catholic...

We'd have his father confessor:
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man said in an interview published Sunday that he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work. In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico said he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."
Bless me Father, for I have--oh never mind.

And this clown's running for president...

Wingnut congressman Tom Tancredo actually introduced H. 3266, a bill "To provide for the issuance of War on Radical Islam Bonds."

You read it right. Let's sell bonds to make war on a RELIGION.

Can't say I disagree with you there, Senator

Barack Obama, in Time: "I don't want to be invited to the family hunting party." - responding to claims that he's a distant relative of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Dodd

From an interview with Salon's Glenn Greenwald:

Dodd: Well, it's [the attack on the Constitution] so pervasive. I mean, its domestic. It's foreign. And it is has been so calculated on so many levels. . . .

It saddens me that it even has to be an issue -- the fact that "defending the Constitution" even has to be an issue in the presidential race.

But there is an audience for this. This is really important. This is not a narrow audience. This is a broad audience. This is an audience that will surprise you if articulated well. We can win on this.

A campaign for president allows you to have a megaphone here on a national scale to talk about these things, at a time when this crowd, if it continues, can enable you to stop them, do even more than raise the issues. But secondly, if I don't win this thing, I want everyone else to be talking about these issues.

I think it reaches into a conservative constituency who ought to care about this as much, and does in many ways. So it gives us a chance to do that.

I carry every day, and have for 26 years, a copy of the U.S. Constitution given to me by Robert Byrd [takes Constitution out of his back pocket]. And to me, what could be more fundamental? With all due respect, I care about health care, education, global warming. But if you get this wrong -- what do you got? A trade association. Who wants to be president of a trade association?

And this [holding the Constitution] is the spark, the illumination, it is, if I may so say, the envy of many around the world. We have been a guiding set of principles. What is going on with the rule of law isn't just happening here. . . Other countries are saying, "We can do this, too."

So there has been an erosion in the world with the rule of the law. Having led the world in the rule of law in the post-World War II period, and having nations reluctantly moving in the direction we were moving in, and they now see the U.S. has retreated, and they are making a hasty retreat themselves.

Josh Tucker [of NYU] makes the point about the Soviet Union collapse -- You can make the case that it was military, and that was part of it, but he believes and I believe that it was the rule of law. It was Eastern European countries recognizing that this was a total sham, beginning with the Prague Spring and 1956. The Soviet Union collapsed because it rotted from within, they just rotted without the rule of law. So in addition to the other factors, this has international reverberations, beyond just what happens in our own country.