Friday, January 28, 2005

Going dark again
I'm starting a new site with a few of my very brilliant friends. I'll post the link soon.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Am I a Crazy Lefty?
Over at Right Wing News, they've designed a quiz to see if you're a commie-loving softie. Most of the questions are patently absurd, but let's have fun with it anyway. Here goes:

1) Do you think a significant percentage of prominent Republicans would secretly like to see the US become a theocracy?
No, but I do believe there a number of prominent Republican lawmakers and jurists who resent and try to undermine the separation between church and state.
2) Do you believe it was a mistake to go to war in Afghanistan? No.
3) In your opinion, is it a myth that American soldiers were spit on when they returned from Vietnam? No.
4) Michael Moore's distribution group, Front Row Entertainment, received help marketing "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Lebanon from the terrorist group Hezbollah. Do you believe that was appropriate? "Appropriate" according to whom? In Lebanon Hezbollah is a political party with representation in parliament. So yes, it was a bad PR move for Moore, but he has the right to market his film as he pleases.
5) Do you think you can be a patriotic American and support Iraq's anti-occupation resistance? No. But you can be a patriotic American, and believe that the war was a catastrophic mistake, and that we should leave the country as soon as possible.
6) Do you think there is a significant chance that the capture of Saddam Hussein was timed to help George Bush politically? No.
7) In your opinion, is there a significant chance that Diebold is rigging elections in order to help the GOP? No, but it is possible, particularly when the company's CEO publicly declared his commitment to delivering Ohio to Bush.
8) Is George Bush more "evil" than Saddam Hussein? No.
9) In your opinion, is there a significant chance that Republicans rigged some of the Senate races in 2002? See answer to number 7.
10) Was Ingrid Newkirk right when she said, "There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals"? What the hell kind of question is that? No. But I'll throw the question right back and ask whether you think human beings have any obligation to diminish the suffering of animals under their dominion.
11) Is there any nation in the world that's more of a force for good than the United States? Yes. There are a number of European democracies that are more committed to building a better, more equitable world than the United States.
12) In your opinion, is the US a "stingy" country? No, but it is not as generous as it could be, and not as generous as some of its peer states.
13) Is there a significant chance that America will become a fascist state in let's say the next 10 years? No, but I do believe the extent to which the military has become identified with the Republican Party is a worrisome trend for democracy.
14) Do you think there's a significant possibility that liberals will be rounded up and put into some sort of camps in let's say the next 10 years? No, but I wouldn't say the same about Muslims or Arabs.
15) Is America an imperialist nation in your opinion? Yes, if you define "imperialist" as a powerful nation which has covered the globe in military bases and attempts to control the affairs of smaller and weaker states. No, if you define "imperialism" as "colonialism."
16) Do you think "losing" in Vietnam was good for America? No. But it was a terrible mistake.
17) Are you sometimes ashamed to be an American? No. But I have felt less safe traveling abroad, and have successfully passed myself off as Canadian.
18) Do you think it's wrong for the President to put the welfare of Americans ahead of the welfare of people in other countries? No.
19) Do you see significant, noteworthy, parallels between America and Nazi Germany? No. What a stupid question. Do you?
20) In your opinion, was Iraq primarily a "war for oil"? Yes, of course it was primarily a war about oil -- it's one of the only reasons we have any interest in the Middle East at all. But it was not primarily a war about Iraq's oil.
21) What about Afghanistan? Was that primarily a "war for oil" as well? No.
22) Do you think it's likely a draft will be declared by the end of George Bush's term? I'm not a fortune teller, but I think no.
23) Do you think Iraq was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place? Planned, yes, preordained, no.
24) In your opinion, is sleep deprivation a form of torture? Yes. So is "waterboarding" and a number of other things the U.S. seems to have done quite regularly in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
25) Would you prefer that we lose in Iraq? No, I would have preferred not to have been there in the first place. I believe we've already lost in Iraq and that it's just a matter of how thorough the humiliation will be when we leave.
26) Do you believe anyone who goes to Afghanistan or Iraq as a soldier is fighting for an evil cause under an evil commander in chief? Evil, evil, evil. Are these guys capable of thinking in any other terms? The answer is no.
27) Was Michael Moore correct when he said, "There is no terrorist threat in this country. This is a lie?" No.
28) Is there in your opinion a significant chance that the Bush administration either was behind 9/11 or knew it was coming and allowed it to happened? No.
29) Do you think there is a significant possibility that the Bush administration had a hand in Paul Wellstone's death? No.
30) Do you believe that somebody rigged the vote in Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election? See answers to #'s 7 and 9, and quit asking the same question twice.
31) In your opinion, do you think there is a significant chance that the Bush administration was behind the anthrax letters that were mailed out to some members of the media and US Senate? No.
32) Had George Bush lost the election, do you believe there was a significant chance Republicans would have thrown a coup? "Thrown a coup?" Curious terminology. No.
33) Do you believe there's a significant chance that Karl Rove or someone else in the Bush administration had something to do with the last minute appearance of the Bin Laden tape right before the Nov. 2nd election? No.
34) Do you believe comparisons of George Bush to Hitler are appropriate? No, but do you believe comparisons of John Kerry to Neville Chamberlain are appropriate?
35) Do you think Communism could work if the right people were running it? No.
36) Do you believe that black Americans who support and vote Republican are betraying their race? No, people can vote for whoever they like.
37) Do you think people who say Al-Qaeda doesn't exist are right? No.
38) Are the insurgents in Iraq roughly comparable to Americans who fought against the British in your opinion? No. American revolutionaries didn't deliberately carry out the cowardly slaughter of their fellow Americans.
39) Do you believe Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur was correct when she said, "One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown"? Again with the repetitive questions.
40) Do you believe there's a significant chance that the US Government knows where Bin Laden is and is deliberately allowing him to remain free? No.

So I've got 3 1/2 "yes" answers, which makes me sane according to Right Wing News. Now, I wonder if they've stopped to take Pandagon's test for Republicans.

Interestingly, most of these questions are conspiracy-theory oriented and have very little to do wth substantive disagreements between the left and the right.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Group blog?
Ok, so I've been toying with this idea for a while now. The problem is that I don't have the time, energy, or resources to post to this blog every single day, which is what it takes if you want anyone to read you. I go through streaks of posting six times a day, but then my advisor cracks down on me and wants a prospectus draft (the nerve!) and so I have to disappear for a while. Not good for business. So my question is this -- are any of my handful of readers out there interested in making this a group endeavor, ala Crooked Timber? New site, several authors, it could be totally rad.

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Aren't they supposed to be tougher in the red states?
Heel-high snow paralyzes North Carolina.

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Great news, everyone!
There are officially less than 4 years left until we inaugurate a new president. Well, 1,460 days, to be precise. You can make your own calculations here.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

In order to save Fallujah...
The L.A. Times reports from Fallujah:

"It's kind of bad we destroyed everything, but at least we gave them a chance for a new start," said Navy corpsman Derrick Anthony, 21, of Chicago.


Remind anyone of any famous quote from the Vietnam War? (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that maybe Arnett made it up, but no one can actually prove it.)

I also think the headline writers at the Times are pretty clever: "After Leveling City, U.S. Tries to Build Trust." I can see future headlines in unrelated fields, like "After Destroying Sport, NHL Players, Owners Try to Build Trust" and "After Fabricating and Embellishing Pre-War Claims, Administration Tries to Build Trust."

Good luck with that one!

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Moral clarity
Boy, that Iraq war really revolutionized the political landscape in the Middle East, didn't it? I guess Jordan didn't get the memo that freedom was on the march. But I'm sure we can all agree that since King Abdullah typically toes the U.S. foreign policy line, we don't really care about repression in his country.


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Friday, January 14, 2005

Dear Constituent: F*** You!
So a few weeks ago Christine sent a letter to our man in Harrisburg, Rick Santorum, about the President's idiotic and dishonest "abstinence only" education programs, better known as "Lying to ourselves and our children about sex." Let's just say that she doesn't approve of these programs. Yesterday we received a letter from Senator Homophobe that reads:

Dear Ms. Beardsley:

Thank you for contacting me regarding federal funding for abstinence education programs. I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.

As you may know, abstinence education programs are funded through the annual Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. The Senate and House versions of the fiscal year (FY) 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bills were combined with several other appropriations bills into one final spending measure (H.R. 4818). On November 20, 2004, the House passed the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations bill by a vote of 344 to 57, and the Senate passed this measure with my support by a vote of 65 to 30. This legislation provides a total of $186 million for abstinence programs for FY 2005. Included in this figure is $50 million for the abstinence-only education block grant,k $31 million for Adolescent Family Life prevention projects, and $100 millino for the SPRANS abstinence-only education program. President Bush signed H.R. 4818 into law (P.L. 108-447) on December 8, 2004.

Please know that I understand your concerns regarding this matter. As the Senate considers abstinence education programs, whether in the context of the FY 2006 appropriations process or during reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, I will be sure to keep your comments in mind.

Thank you again for contacting me. If I can assist you further with this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to call on me again.

Sincerely,
Rick Santorum
United States Senate

Shorter Rick Santorum: Dear Christine, I got your letter objecting to abstinence-only education programs, and I just wanted to personally write you and tell you that we green-lit a bunch of no screwing legislation, and that when I help pass more of this legislation in the future, your letter will be in the back of my mind. Yours truly, Senator Homophobe.



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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Department of East is West
From the AP:

While Washington insists it has a "strong dollar" policy, many analysts believe the U.S. government is content to see the dollar fall because it makes U.S. exports cheaper.

Comments reaffirming the "strong dollar" policy this week by U.S Treasury Secretary John Snow were seen by markets as indicating a hands-off approach and failed to strengthen the currency.

On Wednesday, Snow played down the record trade deficit, telling reporters in New York that "the trade gap reflects the fact that Americans are becoming more prosperous."


If you want a weak dollar, why not just say so? International trust in this administration is so low that it might help to be honest about something. "Everyone, we want to the dollar to weaken so we can sell you things. Back to work now." It seems like these guys are pathologically averse to honesty. Then again, I suppose they can just pay some second-tier right-wing pundit to promote this terrific policy for them.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Stratfor says its over
Via Andrew Sullivan and James Wolcott, the hawkish strategic studies outfit Stratfor believes that the United States has lost its counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq. I don't have a subscription, so I can't peek, but Sullivan quotes:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize these facts: 1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will infiltrate every institution it creates. 2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to fight an effective counterinsurgency. 3. That
exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal. 4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to opportunities and threats in the rest of the region. And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.

Mind you, this doesn't make anyone particularly happy, least of all me. The insurgents appear to be among the most cruel and sadistic people on the face of the Earth. I don't pretend to have the answer for this problem. To abandon the country now would be to leave it at the mercy of a skilled and unmerciful insurgency which would almost certainly unleash chaos and killing that would make today's daily body count seem trivial. One would have to have a very cold heart to wish the Iraqis such a gruesome fate.

At the same time, the presence of American troops seems to be doing little more than facilitate the arrival of flag-draped coffins stateside and more killing in Iraq. Especially since the administration appears to be contemplating the formation of El Salvador-style death squads. And yes, my little wingnut, they're called death squads because they are squads of people who go around indiscriminately causing death. These noxious, taxpayer funded groups put a good 40,000 people on ice in El Salvador alone (go read In Our Own Backyard), and the fact that some of them were communists doesn't erase the messy green moral grass stain of that episode from our collective dungarees. That that the Bush administration is considering stooping to such a miserable low only serves to demonstrate how this calamitous strategic mistake continues to debase us all. Thus I must reluctantly call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at the earliest possible date after the election, whatever the results.

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They like, take pictures of you in New York and junk?
Randy Johnson takes exception to a tabloid photographer. Oh Big Unit, the world shakes its head with you at the incredible cruelty of the New York media. It almost makes a person want to play somewhere calm and friendly, somewhere like...Phoenix.

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Thank Christ
I can watch baseball this year. Beltran signs with the Mets, negating my "No Baseball if the Yankees get Johnson and Beltran" pledge. That was a hollow promise if ever there was one, so at least now I don't have to be exposed as a liar.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

What's a "nasty list"?
From the AP:

Unable to find a candidate willing to oppose the independent-minded Egyptian diplomat, Washington is now quietly lobbying other member states in ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency in a bid to unseat him by June, opening the way for a replacement more to the Bush administration's liking — one harder on Iran and other nations on the U.S. nasty list.

Probably "shitlist" would be a better word, but I don't imagine the AP is willing to make that shift.

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Look on the bright side!
Horrific calamity reverses beachside development.

Yeesh.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Worst job on Earth
Is there a more perilous organization to work for in the world today than the Iraqi National Guard?

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Conservative values
The winger-dominated Ayn Rand Institute says: You may use my tax dollars to invade and occupy Iraq, but you may not use them to help innocent victims of major natural calamities. Got it?

Via Hullabaloo.

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Right-wing math
Hugh Hewitt whines about people criticizing the amount of GNP the U.S. devotes to international aid:

Of course this approach [Hewitt's aid scheme] won't be adopted, because every country would want to team with the United States because not only is it the richest country in the world, it is the most generous country, whether measured by public or private giving.

The idea is that since the U.S. government devotes more total cash to aid than any other government, it is naturally the "most generous government." Or as the Las Vegas Review-Journal argues:

In real terms, the U.S. government handed out $15.8 billion for "official development assistance" to developing countries in 2003 (not counting AIDS and HIV programs and money channeled through the United Nations.) Japan came in second at $8.9 billion.

But once the French bean-counters divide that generosity by each donor nation's gross national product, they complain that none of the world's richest countries donates even 1 percent of its gross national product. Of the richest industrialized nations, Norway came in highest by that new calculation -- at 0.92 percent -- while America ranked last, at 0.14 percent.

The measurement is absurd and dangerous on several levels.

First, America's GNP is vastly greater than that of any other nation. This new "standard" is like claiming your rich uncle is a skinflint because he only paid half your kids' college tuition, when he could have afforded to pay it all.

Like all envy, such selfishness ignores the meritorious work it took to get rich, substituting the theory that the successful had "undeserved wealth" dropped upon them, which they are now required to "share" with those who adamantly refuse to adopt the very behaviors which lead to affluence.


So to review: the simple math of "French bean-counters" proves that the U.S. devotes a very small percentage of its massive resources to aid, compared to European governments. But this unassailable and undisputed truth is "false and dangerous." It is false and dangerous because it makes the U.S., which contributes billions in public money to international aid, look less generous than its European counterparts, which cannot possibly be, since we are clearly the morally superior nation, and anyway, we earned our wealth and if we don't want to give it to poor people who haven't earned it, like dead and dying victims of a horrific natural disaster far, far away from Jesusland, that's our business. If they had been better capitalists, those brown people would've been able to handle this whole tsunami thing by themselves anyway.

By this calculus, the Netherlands would have to donate its entire GNP to international aid in order to qualify as being as "generous" as the United States. So while it is certainly true that the United States gives more than any other country, it gives much less than it could, and much less proportionally than other governments. This doesn't make every American callous and stingy, since private donations are also significant and important. It does, however, undercut American claims to moral leadership and superiority.

Moreover, the "dispute" about U.S. aid levels reflects the right's tendency to distort very simple comparative statistical data, especially when it casts the U.S. in a dismal light. By their logic, the U.S., with one of the largest populations, must be the biggest baby killer in the civilized world, since we have, in gross terms, more infant deaths than a piddling country like Norway or Sweden. It is just morally wrong to adjust our data for population and economic size. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And Leftist. And probably Islamist too. And probably the sort of thing that those pointy-headed elitists teach you in Government Schools and liberal university statistics classes. Moral clarity requires that we stick to blunt comparisons based on raw statistics from Hugh Hewitt and the Heritage Foundation.



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Novel solutions for tsunami terror
And you thought that greater investment in early-warning systems was one of the solutions to future natural disasters. Well my friend, you haven't spent enough time reading wingnuts. Because of course the problem in Asia was that people weren't rich enough. Those poor, silly brown people and their tendency to live in "ramshackle" housing near the ocean! What trouble will they get themselves into next?

Dear wingnut: if a giant wall of 500-mph water slammed into Miami, we'd have plenty of dead people too. The reason we can afford to calculate the odds of asteroids slamming into the earth instead of preventing tsunamis is because the U.S. doesn't have much to worry about in the deadly tidal-wave department. The question is what can be done about natural disaster prevention between now and when poverty is miraculously stricken from the developing world by neoliberalsim. And how exactly, pray tell, would being rich protect us against that 1-in-42.5 chance of being struck by a killer asteroid? I would think that even non-ramshackle housing would be fairly vulnerable.

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Meanwhile on the lunatic right
Daniel Pipes retroactively supports the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. Why? Because Michelle Malkin, the second-rate, right-wing propagandist columnist-turned-historian says so! But of course, this in no way means that he supports the internment of Muslims in America, right? Right? Well, actually, the whole controversy illustrates "how directly events of sixty years ago bear on current counterterrorism issues." So, if he supported the internment, and it's directly relevant to what's happening today, what is his position, exactly?

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