Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Draft

Matthew Yglesias rather likes the idea of a draft, but hates the reasons that Charlie Rangel and James Inhofe have for supporting one. He apparently just likes the chance to get cheap labor for the military. Of all the reasons I can think of to support reestablshing the Draft, that's the only stupid one I've heard yet, and it comes from one of the smartest bloggers around.

A draft would be unlikely to save any money over an all-volunteer force, and what little it might save wouldn't be worth the human cost of forced conscrption (for much the same reason that saving money by limiting death penalty appeals isn't worth the human cost of possibly executing innocent people).

Draft related costs:

1) Direct expenditures on administering the Draft, Draft physicals, and the inevitable financial cost of imprisoning draft resisters

2) Vast increase in military expenditures for training, as the turnover would be much higher than in the current all-volunteer force. When I was in the Navy, the reenlistment bonus for my job was $35,000 just because of the expense of training and getting enough experience in the Fleet not to be a useless tool.

3) Indirect economic costs of redirecting millions of young men into the military. This would range from the lost economic output from delayed entry into college or a profession to the twisting of incentives towards any jobs or activities exempt from the Draft (Israel exempts rabbinical students from the Draft, and so has an absurd surplus of rabbis). This would also include lost output from any Americans who choose to emigrate or any immigrants who choose not to come here because of the Draft.

As I've said, the Draft would be unlikely to save much money if any. But there can still be a case made for the Draft [Full disclosure: I don't have a dog in this fight. I'm a veteran, and the 10" piece of steel holding my son's shattered left arm together is enough to keep him out of the military even if he volunteered].

Reason's to support the Draft:

1) Protecting your country is a duty shared by all citizens, and cannot be morally shuffled off on those who volunteer for it. Esentially, you can argue that it is immoral to benefit from a society that you aren't willing to defend (read Starship Troopers for a society that takes this to an extreme). This, or a hormonally aggressive adolescent version of it, was my main reason for joining the military as a teenager. My more mature view is that there are plenty of ways to serve your country that don't involve the military (teaching comes to mind, as does extensive volunteer work). I still, however, have a dim view of the huge number of Americans who never get past What's in it for me?.

2) Our leadership elites are more likely to drag us into war if their families won't be doing the fighting. This is Congressman Rangel's viewpoint, and it has a certain validity. We never got serious about getting out of Vietnam until we dumped draft exemptions for college kids, and the most gung-ho for war in Iraq seemed to be those who didn't have kids in the military. We should always be wary about life-and-death decisions by those who won't be sharing the burden of dying.

3) Military service can be good for kids, especially those who have little direction in life. This is Senator Inhofe's argument. It also has some validity. We can all think of people who find their way in life once they're subjected to real discipline. I just don't know how effective that would be for conscripts as opposed to those who choose the Service voluntarily.

4) Military service creates a bond between Americans who live increasingly isolated lives, exposing us to people we would've never met otherwise and giving us all a common rite of passage as we journey to adulthood. This is the reasoning of my old college professor Charles Moskos (Go Cats!), who sees the peacetime postwar draft as having served to forge our identity as Americans first and members of our various other subgroups last. I see college as having taken over the role of a common gateway into adulthood that the military once provided, and it's one that is coed to boot. As decent blue collar jobs continue to disappear, this trend will accelerate.

Though these are all reasonable arguments, I remain unconvinced.

My basic viewpoint is that we shouldn't apply coercion unless absolutely necessary. This especially holds true for something as potentially lifechanging and dangerous as the military. It may be desirable for more Americans to serve their country, that they come from a broader cross-section of society, and that they have a common experience as they enter adulthood; I just don't think it's worth using the threat of imprisonment to acheive those goals [btw: I find this same argument spectacularly unconvincing when used by pseudo-libertarians to argue against things such as pollution controls and mandatory seatbelts. The daily hassles of traffic laws and sales taxes may be backed by the threat of imprisonment, but they aren't anything close to the burden of even a short-term conscription.]

One of the things that made life at sea tolerable was the knowledge that we had freely chosen that path. It may have really sucked, but we'd done it to ourselves (NAVY = Never Again Volunteer Yourself). I don't know how I would've survived a 6 month Med Cruise away from my family if I'd been forced into it. I'm just not willing to force non-volunteers into such a situation outside of a true national emergency, nor am I willing to imprison those who refuse.

I do have one idea that would create a massive incentive for public service, but it would need to be married to a truly massive increase in our capacity to accept volunteers into the military, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps, regardless of their age or physical condition (even someone in a wheelchair could be an emergency dispatcher or a teacher):

Make all government benefits dependent on having completed public service

You want a free college education?
Sign up.

You want a government subsidized house loan?
Sign up.

You want free healthcare?
Sign up.

I see a set of incentives so overwhelming that only the truly wealthy, the truly stupid, and the truly religiously/morally opposed would turn down the chance to serve their country.

This would only work if we had some way that anyone who wanted to serve could do so at any time they chose (with perhaps a longer term of service for those who wait past age 30 and shorter terms of service for jobs that carry physical risk).

This would provide Matthew's dreamed about cheap pool of labor, professor Moskos' joint rite of passage, and Congressman Rangel's nationally shared risk without the negative consequences of coercion and imprisonment for those who refused.

It could even provide one more argument for increased public services:After all, we earned it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Boy, has Money magazine picked some seriously crappy places as it's Hottest Towns.

Really, Plano fucking Texas as #1 in the entire Western United States? Anaheim as #2? Have these no-talent ass-clowns ever been to Anaheim?

And why the hell are half the Hot Towns in the East suburbs of DC?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Interesting Stat

According to the April 2003 Atlantic Monthly: While 25% of the world's women live in places where abortion is illegal, 40% of all abortions are performed in those countries.

I'd love to be able to jump all over this and use the headline Outlawing Abortion Causes More Abortions, but that's just silly. It's a lot easier just to point out that outlawing abortion doesn't appear to mean fewer abortions.

I'd guess that the real cause-and-effect relationship is between the number of abortions and easy access to birth control, especially since places that outlaw abortion mostly take a dim view of contraception as a whole. Oddly enough, if women who don't want more kids have the chance to keep from getting pregnant, they take it. If they don't have that chance, they get abortions whether it's legal or not.

Never understood why people who claim to be "anti-abortion" also seem to be the ones against easy access to contraception. The Pill has prevented more abortions than religion and morality ever have.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Dances with Samurai

The Kill Bill fight scene in a snow covered garden in between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii does more to convey the mystique of the Eastern warrior than any amount of heavy-handed explication could have. But it does it without ever coming out and telling you what it's doing. You're expected to be smart enough to draw your own conclusions. The biggest problem with The Last Samurai is that it never assumes you're smart enough to draw your own conclusions.

A great deal of effort goes into romanticizing the Japanese warrior's code, Bushido. But the director apparently feels the need to spell out everything for the audience. There is no attempt to let us draw our own conclusions, or to let us figure stuff out on our own. If a warrior spends time trying to write a poem about Cherry blossoms and then sees them as he dies, he will mention them and what they mean. Apparently the possibility of some poor shlub paying his $8 and not getting the point was just too much for the film-makers to risk. As a result, a movie which would be best served by subtlety has none.

While some of the fight scenes were beautifully choreographed and filmed, the Samurai are not the Plains Indians (as the movie explicitly tries to convince us) and the non-fight scenes are a waste of our time. There was a good movie in here someplace, but it's buried under tired cinematic cliches and the need to accomodate Cruise's stardom.

The Samurai were, as the movie points out over and over, bound by honor in ways the modern man finds unfathomable. They were also, as the movie pointedly ignores, brutally cruel towards the commoners they considered inferior to themselves. A better film might've explored this nuance, that the Samurai were honorable and steadfast at the same time they were arrogant and cruel.

There is a scene in which the peasants making up the new Japanese army harass a young Samurai and cut off his topknot. This is played out simply as an unnecessary indignity heaped on an honorable man, but it could've been used for much more. It could've explored the fact that the soldiers were justified in ther hatred of the Samurai, that a military elite spending 1000 years ruling by the sword is going to provoke hatred and resentment.

The movie could've explore the fact modern industry and military power combined with the cruelty and arrogance of the Samurai could be some scary shit, or that the demands of efficiency in the modern market have their own cruelty and arrogance. Instead, we get handed the simple formula: Samurai good, modernity bad and are expected to swallow it whole. There was a good movie buried in here somplace, but this ain't it.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

Hoping everyone is having a good holiday.

Especially want to say hello to all the folks in the Gulf. I know how hard it can be on deployment when you're apart from your families. Stay strong.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The posts from last week finally showed up online!
Only 3-4 days after being published!

More blogging later, now have flu.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


My four posts from yesterday all show up in Blogger as having been published, yet Blogspot doesn't show any of them.

I guess no further posting until I know Blogspot is updating properly (not that you'll be able to read this until it does).

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

That's Really Weird

I've posted 4 things today, but none of them show up on Blogspot.

They all show up, however, inside the Blogger window as having been posted.

Update: This post isn't showing up either, so I guess it didn't have anything to do with Bill Clinton's Evil Member (or did it?).

Is Bill Clinton's Penis holding my blog hostage?

If so, what nefarious plot is afoot now from that mighty appendage?

Has it no shame, at long last, has it no shame!

The FBI has revealed that it has recently foiled a plot by Islamic extremist terrorists to hijack Bill Clinton’s penis and crash it into the red light district of Los Angeles. Whilst details are, at present, sketchy, it appears that a group of terrorists, disguised as young female interns, penetrated security at Clinton’s Harlem offices and succeeded in stimulating his sex drive to dangerous levels. It is believed that their choice of a target on the opposite coast of the United States was deliberate. “By the time they’d got to it to LA their devilish foreplay would undoubtedly have got Bill’s ‘old man’ fully fuelled�, a Justice department spokesman has said. “Such a release of sexual energy would prove devastating, destroying entire city blocks and shaking LA to its foundations�. Indeed, it is believed that the terrorists’ ambitions were even greater, perhaps hoping that Clinton’s knob would open up the San Andreas fault, resulting in the whole of California falling into the Pacific. Warnings were issued to those citizens living under the flight path of the hijacked Presidential member - “Stay indoors and lock up your wives and daughters!� Control of the penis was finally wrested from the terrorists after a fierce gun battle with FBI agents, who had successfully boarded Clinton’s skin boat over Nevada.
Bush's Harken Mistakes Blamed on Clinton's Penis

(AP) In a move to fend off questions about the administration's ability to handle the corporate accounting scandals, the White House today placed responsibility for George W. Bush's own previous SEC troubles squarely on the shoulders of Bill Clinton's sexual escapades.
White House: Clinton's penis leaked CIA operative's identity:

Washington — The White House said it has reason to believe that an illegal leak which disclosed the identity of a CIA operative was made by former President Bill Clinton’s penis. The operative, wife of a former U.S. diplomat with expertise in African affairs, was apparently named by Clinton’s appendage in a series of encounters with several Washington journalists.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that Bill Clinton’s penis “has a clear track record of endangering the national security of the United States.�

Monday, December 15, 2003


I'm really fucking happy to see Saddam Hussein in shackles, looking like a wino who's been sleeping in the park. I'm only sorry that his thug sons got killed a while back, so they won't have to rot alongside him until the end of time.

While this will by no means mean an end to violence in Iraq, nor even put a dent in the suicide bombing (I kinda doubt that Saddam inspired that kind of loyalty from anyone), it will mean several good things:

1) Eliminates residual fear that Saddam might come back into power, giving Iraqis one less reason not to side with us.

2) Makes the US look more powerful and capable of maintaining peace and fucking up our enemies, giving Iraqis one more reason to side with us.

3) Gives those who are fighting us reason to fear that they, too, will get caught, giving them reason to rethink their opposition.

4) Takes one murderous son-of-a-bitch off the streets, and that's always a good thing.

Baathists and Saddam loyalists, as I've said, are not the ones who've been conducting suicide attacks against American troops. That's just not their style. They have, however, almost certainly been providing money and help to those who have, as well as launching their own hit-and-run sniper/mortar/ambush attacks on Western soldiers and our Iraqi allies.

Now that Saddam is locked up, I'd expect the Baathists to slowly fade into the background. They have no one left to fight for, and they have as much to fear from an Islamic Republic of Iraq as anyone. If they have any brains, they'll swap sides and try to come out on top in the new Iraq (much as the former Communists in Eastern Europe suddenly embraced free enterprise and stole everything they could lay hands to, whether it was nailed down or not). I'm not saying we should let the lower level murderers off with a slap on the wrist or that we want the Baathists to get the economic upper hand (they've already got it, from a purely ready-cash standpoint), just that it's better they throw their lot in with us and get on with making a life for themselves than that they throw their lot in the with the people currently killing our soldiers.

Won't speak to the effect of this on American politics just yet, as I'm happy enough at the prospect of fewer American deaths and less general violence as to not really give a damn about the politics of it.

Libertarian vs libertarian

SayUncle, one of my favorite right wingers, has a good explanation of why he's a small l libertarian but not a big L one:
It should be noted that I am not a Libertarian but I do like some aspects of Libertarianism. However, Libertarianism can't work. Clayton Cramer opined that he watched the TV show Cops just to remind him of why Libertarianism cannot work. You will always have the lowest common denominator ruining it for everyone. Face it, not everyone is nice guy like me.

Libertarianism needs to drop the opposition to all social programs (it’s not practical to oppose public education outright); Libertarians need to stop nominating people who get into shootouts with the police (strangely, they’re not on Cops) or nominating people who die themselves blue from taking magic potions designed to keep the orbital mind control lasers from penetrating their brains; and Libertarians need to adopt a moderate libertarian approach first to get their foot in the door on the political scene. As of now, the weirdos have done the Libertarians in.

It's nice to see people on either side of the political divide who are open to nuance and understand that extremist positions taken as far as they can go are usually pretty damned scary.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Petty, Spiteful, and Foolish

If there's a hallmark of the Bush administration dealing with people it has disagreed with in the past, it's the petty, spiteful, and foolish gesture.

I don't really have a major problem with limiting contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq to people who supported the invasion. I think it's wasteful, as cutting out potential bidders inevitably means higher bids. But this ranks low on the list of things the Bushies have done that are wasteful.

However, as a PR move just as you are asking these same countries to help pay for the reconstruction, this is a colossal blunder. It's petty, spiteful, and foolish.

What is the possible motive for sticking your thumb in someone's eye, then asking for their help with your next breath? Have they gotten so used to bullying their way past the Democrats in Congress that they've forgotten not everyone marches to their orders?

If you're going to make a public example of people who oppose you, make sure you don't need their help first. Cause you're not getting jack after you do it. How elementary is that?

Can the Bushies get any more petty, spiteful, and foolish?

Friday, December 12, 2003

Not the Lefty They Think He Is

The original Conventional Wisdom on Howard Dean was that he was this election's Bruce Babbitt, the smart former governor of a small state who has some good ideas, gets attention from the press, but fails to excite the voters.

Then, lo and behold, he started to excite the voters.

Partly for his outspokenness on invading Iraq, partly because he was the only Democrat who didn't preface every speech with 10 minutes of "supporting the President", Dean was adopted by the activist base of the Democratic Party (not the officeholders who make calculated choices, but the unpaid activists who get excited about somebody and then hound all their friends into supporting him). These are the people you want on your side in a Primary.

Unfortunately, the new Conventional Wisdom is that Dean is this year's George McGovern, someone too liberal to win a general election. Leaving aside whether we would've been better off with McGovern than with Nixon, and leaving aside the fact that every election is unique and the lazy idiots in the press really need to stop reaching for an analogy to past candidates, we have these two questions: Is Howard Dean the flaming liberal everyone is now saying he is, and does this doom him in a general election against George Bush?

My look at Dean's actual policies tells me that the answer to #1 is no, and my gut reaction tells me that #2 is no also (but with a caveat).

Dean can be seen as liberal on some issues. He signed a bill allowing gay Civil Unions. He pushed forward a progressive plan for state funded healthcare and increased funding for public schools.

Dean can also be seen as moderate/conservative on some issues. He doesn't favor any new Federal gun control laws, and has a good rating from the NRA to show for it. He balanced the state budget for 12 years, while actually lowering taxes. He sometimes angered the left wing of his own party while in office. He even talked the legislature into passing the gay Civil Unions bill as a compromise which headed off a gay Marriage bill.

What does all this add up to? Dean is a pragmatic centrist, but one who has been adopted by the left for his willingness to rail against George Bush. There's a very good chance that if more prominent Democrats hadn't spent the last two years sucking up to Bush, Dean would, in fact, be the Bruce Babbitt of this election. What has attracted most of Dean's supporters has been his energy and his willingness to be critical of Bush in a way that other candidates haven't been. If they hadn't dropped the ball, Dean's poll numbers would probably still be in low single digits.

You don't win elections by talking about how much you support your opponent, and Dean appears to be the only one who knew this all along.

In a general election, Dean could be a very strong candidate [note the could].

1) He has 12 years experience running a relatively poor state with a balanced budget, which makes him much more credible when he promises to tame the Federal deficit

2) He's a doctor, which helps both with healthcare issues and overall with voter trust

3) He appears to say exactly what he means; and ,as we learned with McCain's candidacy, people respond to candidates who speak from the gut rather than froma consultants talking points

4) He's neutral on guns, which diffuses a tremendous wedge issue. Without guns in play, Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee are all within reach. Other than Clark, Dean is probably the only prominent Democrat who won't be hung with the He wants to take my guns away tag come election time.

As I said, Dean could be a very strong candidate. Whether he is depends a lot on his campaign and on Democrats as a whole. The guys running against him are trying to paint Dean as too left-wing to win a general election. In this they are being aided by right wingers both in politics and in the press. If the Dean campaign becomes captive to their most ardent supporters and never fights their way back to the middle, if other Democrats continue to portray Dean as another McGovern; Howard Dean will never have a chance to become that strong candidate.

The Dean people and Democrats in general need to fight the attempts of outsiders to define who our candidates really are. It's important that we look at each person for who they really are, not for who some layabout on televsiion tells us they are. Just as John Kerry isn't a taller Michael Dukakis and John Edwards isn't a Democratic Dan Quayle, Howard Dean isn't a latter day George McGovern.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Give the Dude a Break

Not surprisingly, the same people who've been quick to jump on Al Gore's case every time he does anything at all have jumped on him for his endorsement of Howard Dean. They've criticized him for making the endorsement now, well before the primaries have started. They've criticized him for not telling Joe Lieberman and the other candidates first (Russert phrased it like he had an obligation to let them talk him out of it). I'm sure some no-talent ass clown has critisized Gore's clothes and hair on the day in question.

Unfortunately, Gore seems to have gotten used to the role of punching bag (my biggest problem with his campaign in 2000), so I'll have a make a few points he should make himself.

1) Oddly enough, an endorsement means a hell of a lot more before the election than after it. If Gore truly believes that Dean is the best man for the job, then why the hell shouldn't he try to help him out? It takes more guts to do that than to hang back and endorse the winner after the smoke clears.

2) Lieberman has done little else but distance himself from Gore for the last 3 years. Did he really expect Al to stand aside and let himslef be used as a whipping boy? [He probably did, given the way Gore has bent over for his critics in years past]

My guess is that Gore looks at Dean and sees the candidate he could have been, the candidate he wishes he'd been. One who isn't afraid of saying things that get people riled up, who doesn't let the consultants tone him down and warp his message to the point of incomprehensibility. It's the candidate I wish that Gore had been also.

I'm not sure if Dean is the guy I want, but I'm glad he's not gonna take shit from anybody. That's a quality that both Gore and I seem to admire in a candidate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

More Electoral Politics

In 2000, Al Gore won the majority of the popular vote, probably the true Florida vote, and the West Coast, the Upper Midwest, the Northeast, and the Mid Atlantic states.

In order to win this election, a Democrat needs to carry all the Gore states plus either one more big one or a couple little ones (as the electoral vote totals have changed with the 2000 census).

My nominees for the big one:
1) Florida
2) Ohio

My nominees for the little ones:
1) New Hampshire
2) Missouri
3) Arkansas
4) West Virginia
5) Nevada
6) Arizona

The broken Bush promise on nuclear waste is gonna hurt him in Nevada, probably cost him the state to a decent opponent.

I'm really not sure how many Florida Gore voters in 2000 are gonna turn around and vote for the guy who they think robbed them of their choice. That won't be known until election day. Look for a big anti-theft backlash if Katherine Harris, the Cruella deVille of the 2000 recount, runs for Bob Graham's Senate seat.

The three key questions for Democrats should be

1) Who can hold all the Gore states

2) Who can pick up a few Bush states

3) Who would make a good President (unfortunately this isn't the only relevant question, as you can only become a good President if you first win an election)*.

The answers are out there, and there's more than one good one.

*Note to quibblers: While Bush did indeed become President without first winning an election, I speficially said that you needed to win one to become a good President.

Weird Trivia

1) Three direct descendants of former Presidents have become President themselves.

2) All three took office despite losing the popular vote.

3) The previous two lost their reelection tries to the men who'd won the popular vote the first time

More Also Rans

Of the prominent contenders for the nomination (I'm leaving out defeated Illinois Senators, Cleveland Mayors, and loudmouth New York gadflies from my calculations), there are some really good candidates. The only ones I had serious doubts about were Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt.

Despite his resemblance to the Keebler Elf. Lieberman strikes me as both too close to the big money skybox politics of such luminaries as Gray Davis and Tony Coehlo and too tied to his smarmy goody-two shoes image. I can't say enough bad things about someone who wants to get tough on Hollywood but not on Wall Street.

Plus, Lieberman would likely be a bad candidate. His policies would be the least distinct from Bush's on a host of issues (the environment aside), and this ain't the way to win. He showed the instincts of a streetfighter in winning his first Senatorial campaign, but in 2000 was obviously afraid to do anything that people might dislike. In a general election, he'd make Dukakis look tough.

Gephardt just gives me the willies, always has. No man with a complete lack of eyebrows will ever be voted President. Sorry, but it's true. He also has the same inside the Beltway persona that almost always loses the Big One.

Policywise, I doubt that Gephardt would've made a bad President. I just don't see anything that would make me think he'd make a particulary good one.

Well, never mind. They'll both be gone soon. Lieberman can't lay claim to consistent support anywhere, and Gephardt is a non-entity outside the Midwest.

Requiem for a Heavyweight

I went into this year thinking that John Kerry was the man. He could've been a contender, but it just ain't gonna happen. He's gonna get smoked in New Hampshire (which, ironically, would've gone for Gore and given him the Presidency if Kerry had been on the 2000 ticket), his own back yard , and he'll be gone shortly thereafter. Too bad.

I don't know if Kerry could've shaken off his Gore-like demeanor long enough to really engage the voters, but he would've gone down swinging. He's a fighter. No fucking way he'd be caught apologizing because some reporter misquoted him to make him look bad. No way he'd let lies about his record slide until they became conventional wisdom.

Kerry was gonna be the leftish (but not lefty) alternative to guys like Lieberman and Edwards, but one with solid military credentials. He would've been the logical focus of the Bradley supporters of 2000 (who didn't seem bothered that Bradley was never a true liberal himself).

Kerry is smart as hell, and stands on the right side of most issues. He wrote a book about international law enforcement before Bush had ever been outside North America. He has some great ideas about using energy conservation to enhance national defense. He's cautiously hawkish on foreign policy, but knew it was important to bring allies when we ventured abroad. I really think he'd make a great President, but it's not gonna happen. Got hit by the Deam steamroller, and his thunder is gone.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Good post by Andrew Sabl on How I Became a Clark Supporter.

His basic points:
My support for Clark has not come naturally.......But I figured I owed the largely unknown candidate a chance. Being a professor, I decided to read his book, Winning Modern Wars.

1. Clark is an intensely patriotic internationalist.

2. Clark is essentially a pre-Sixties Democrat

Clark's main position on the culture wars is to find them (a) baffling and pointless and (b) a right-wing conspiracy to distract middle-class white guys from their declining living standards and an economic policy that gives everything to the wealthy.

3. Clark believes in fighting the war on terrorism -- hard, continually, smart, and to win. And he makes an excellent case that Bush's policies are guaranteed to fail at this.

4. Clark clearly casts himself as the person making policy, not one of the people debating it.

5. Clark doesn't think the personal is political.

6. Remember that the Army is Biosphere II: a piece of Sweden stuck inside a country that's becoming Brazil.

It's been said that Clark wants America to be strong at home so it can be strong abroad, not the other way around. It's true, and a bit jarring. But given Clark's clear conviction that Republican policies are undermining our economic security and the culture of opportunity that makes us so attractive abroad, this actually works better than I initially thought it could. (Look for Clark to do very well among Latinos, and immigrants generally -- or kids of immigrants, like me. He understands the American Dream, and how Republicans are running it off the rails.)

There's a reason Rove didn't return his calls.

Bottom line: Clark is a throwback, a Rip Van Winkle, a pluralistic, optimistic, Greatest Generation-style politician lost, like Howard the Duck, in a world he never made. He's further outside the mainstream political culture than can possibly be imagined. This is what makes him so striking, so hard to parse, and so clearly the best candidate.

Being a patriotic internationalist and a New Deal Democrat, looks like I'm gonna need to read that book.

Go search Google for the words "miserable failure".

Do it right now. I'll wait.

Public Nusiance slams The Nation for a hitpiece they've published about Wesley Clark by (surprise) an apologist for Milosevich.

It's worth reading to see some shoddy "journalism' get ripped to shreds.

Great quote from Richard Posner in reviewing a book on Wild Bill Douglas:
We now know that a high percentage of successful and creative people are psychologically warped and morally challenged
Worth keeping in mind.

The Continuing Decline

This quote from a recent New Republic scared the hell out of me:

The pollster is the one who has first-line responsibility for message development.

This may be hopelssly naive of me, but isn't the fucking candidate supposed to have first-line responsibility for message development? After all, he's the one running for office; he's the one who's asking us to trust him; and he's the one who's gonna be voting in Congress.

I really couldn't give a damn if pollsters are telling politicians what clothes to wear, how to cut their hair, or even where to go on vacation. It just really pisses me off that they're the ones deciding where a candidate stands on things like war in Iraq and national tax policy.

Every blogger I read could tell you where he stands on almost any important issue of the day, and anyone who can't has no fucking business running for political office.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

More Fallacies

Commenter Mark stated something else that's become "conventional wisdom":
Businesses don't pay taxes. They pass it along as they would any other cost to the consumer.

This is partly true, but mostly false. It doesn't take into account the true nature of markets. It depends on the nature of the business. A corporation that does cost+ government contracts will, indeed, just build the cost of any taxes into what it charges. A corporation selling in a competive market will not be able to do so.

It's important to remember that a business is trying to maximize profit, not sales. Businesses do not, for the most part, look at their costs and use that to determine what's the least they can sell a product for. They do the opposite. They look at the potential market, and determine what's the most they can sell a product for without crippling their market share.

It can be a quite complicated task, involving which costs are sunk, and the elasticity of the market for the product. But businesses will almost always price their products to maximize profits, even if this means losing some sales to competitors.

A record company can burn, package, and ship an additional CD for a little under a dollar. If all they cared about was maximizing sales, they'd sell their whole catalog for a dollar apiece and have much higher sales than they do now. They don't do that because they can sell the same CD for $15 and make a lot more money with lower sales. If they could raise the price on CDs to $20 without killing sales, they'd do it already without waiting for costs to increase.

In this example, we could slap a $5 tax on all CD sales and CD prices wouldn't rise anything close to $5 (they would likely rise, but not by nearly that much). The record companies would accept lower profits from absorbing a good bit of the tax rather than having to accept much lower sales (and even lower profits) from a price increase.

The important thing to remember is Businesses already charge as much as they can get away with in their particular market. A corporate tax increase would change the formula somewhat, as would any increase in costs, but it would not be passed along to consumers dollar for dollar. Some would be absorbed through lower profits, and some through attempts to lower other costs.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


There are certain preconditions for a stable democracy:

1) There must be widespread literacy (but doesn't need to be 100%)

2) There needs to be a reasonably sized middle class, most of whom work for the private sector

3) There needs to be enough respect for political institutions and the rule of law that unfavorable election results will still be abided by

4) There needs to be a military/police presence strong enough to preserve order, but professional enough not to interfere in the political process

5) There need to be strong social conventions in place that will prevent an ethnic or religious majority from imposing its will completely onto minorities

If you'll notice, unfortunately, only #1 is met by Iraq and Afganistan isn't close to any of these standards.*

I said long before we invaded that a best case scenario in Iraq would be a relatively benign Constitutional Monarchy. If you can look at the revenge killings, assasinations, and threats of imposing religious rule by force that constitute debate in present day Iraq and see the roots of a functioning democracy, I want some of what you're smoking.

*Somebody is gonna accuse me of ethnocentristic bigotry for laying out what I see as prerequisites for a functioning democracy that don't happen to apply to every place on earth. So be it. If I'm wrong, point me to a functioning democracy (not a sham, not tribal or religious rule in disguise, nor one constantly interrupted by military coups) that doesn't meet my requirements. If I'm right, it really doesn't matter if it's ethnocentric or not.

Monday, December 01, 2003

You should check out this article by Robert Kaplan on what the world has in store for us in the near future (spoiler: bloodshed, turmoil, hatred) and this one on how we should use our temporary supremacy (and Kaplan does make the point that America's ascendancy is likely to be even briefer than that of any previous power to dominate the world).

I do wish that he'd pointed out that using influence to help big corporations make a few short term bucks is an incredibly fucking stupid use of our power. Kaplan just assumes that we're looking long term at the sort of world our kids and grandkids will inherit from us, instead of confronting the fact that many American decisions are made from the crassest of short term opportunism. He is, however, a damned good thinker on what that world will likely look like and how we can help shape it.*

You should also read James Fallows' article from last year on the sort of long term commitment rebuilding Iraq will take.

*As always, just because I recommend reading something doesn't mean I agree with everything the writer has to say. It just means that his insights are worth contemplating. I assume that anyone who's made it this far has the capacity for critical thinking.

Taking on the Fallacies

A commenter to a previous post took exception to my contention that Bush was running almost solely on Sept 11th as an issue. He also repeated a fallacy that has become "conventional wisdom", that Bush's tax cuts helped everyone who pays taxes.

Well, allow me to retort.

There are millions of American taxpayers who pay thousands of dollars each in payroll, sales, and property taxes, yet pay no "income" tax. In fact, the majority of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. As Bush's tax cuts have affected only income taxes, inheritance taxes, and corporate taxes; they have not, in fact, benefitted everyone who pays taxes. Ignoring the fact that most people pay less in income tax than in other taxes makes it easier for the Bushies to pretend their policies benefit us all, but that doesn't make it true.

The explanation for all this is simple: payroll taxes have no deductions and no refunds. They are assessed on every dollar of earned income, from the first dollar. Someone who only makes $10,000/year will likely pay little income tax, but will pay the same percentage of income in payroll taxes as someone making $80,000/year, and a higher percentage than someone making $200,000/year (as the amount of income subject to payroll taxes in capped at just below $90,000). Of course, those who make millions a year off investments but have no earned income will pay no payroll taxes at all (and get a lower capital gains rax rate, to boot).

Sales taxes, of course, are even more regressive. The lower income a person is, the higher a percentage of that income he likely spends on stuff subject to sales tax (especially in states like my own, in which groceries and other necessities are not expempt from taxation).

Do the Bushies really think they're being honest when they tout a mean tax cut of a few hundred dollars per family as averaging in the thousands per family once they've avergaed in all the billionaires?

A flat tax cut of, say, $1000 per family (regardless of income) taken out of either income or payroll taxes would have cost far less than the Bush's plan, and would've helped far more people. Of course, they knew this going in. The intent was never to help the most people possible, it was to cut taxes for the wealthiest by any means necessary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Luckiest Sumbitch Alive

As my father used to point out, it's hard to get luckier than being born a healthy, straight, white, male American in the latter half of the 20th Century. As Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I just wanted to point out a few things I'm grateful for:

1) I have the single coolest kid on the face of the Earth, bar none. He's President of his high school class, he's an excellent skateboarder, and his favorite movies are The Big Lebowski and Bowling for Columbine. He's been know to spontaneously sing Johnny Cash lyrics, he's got a hell of a jump shot, and he even wants to hang out with his Dad every once in a while.

2) Despite my continuing efforts at self-destruction through poor diet and lack of exercise, my body refuses to cooperate. I have no major health problems of any kind, and there's pretty much nothing wrong with me that a few months in the gym couldn't fix.

3) I live in a society in which I can support myself and my son in what most of the world would consider luxury on a relatively modest income. I have access to all the physical comforts of modern living, good healthcare, a safe neighborhood, and good schools. All these are things that most of the world must do without.

4) I can stretch my mind. Not only do I have access to literally millions of things to read from books, magazines, and the internet; but I can support myself with sufficient leisure to read, to write, and to think without being clouded by exhaustion.

5) I have the freedom to speak my mind without danger. This is also a thing that most of the world must do without. I can't imagine the psychological torture of having to bow and scrape, to pretend agreement with people like Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein in order to stay out of trouble. Due to the sacrifices of millions who have come before me (from those who have fought our external enemies, to those who have kept up the fight within the US to safeguard our civil liberties), I give thanks for the freedoms of speech and of conscience above all.

A Comparison

For those of you who don't have problem with the Iowa attack ads, would you be bothered by an ad which said,
Republicans are calling for us to forcibly convert Muslims to Christianity?

If so, why?
Anne Coulter, a prominent and bestselling Republican author, has called for that very thing. Aren't the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of loyal Republicans who've bought her books implicitly endorsing her views? How would this differ from the ads in Iowa, other than being closer to the truth?

Attacking Bush for Attacking the Terrorists

In the first of what promises to be a record-breaking number of cheap shot attack ads run this Presidential election, the Pubbies are running ads in Iowa stating that some people are attacking Bush for attacking the terrorists.

While this is technically true, as one can find old clips of Al Jazeera criticizing us for bombing Al Qaeda bases in Afganistan; it's implications are obvious bullshit. The Republicans are implying, without coming out and saying it in a way which could be disproved, that prominent Democrats think we shouldn't attack terrorists. Since this isn't even close to the truth, they can't come out and say it directly. They can, however, make implications that they hope will smear their opponents (remember the ad last year that had Tom Daschle's face morph into that of Saddam Hussein?).

This is only the first salvo in Karl Rove's Wrap ourselves in Sept 11th election strategy. As Garry Trudeau has already pointed out, you can expect 9/11 to be the official White House response to damned near any question from here on in.

Why are you cutting taxes for bliionaires instead of people struggling to get by?
9/11; next question?

Why are you making it easier for corporations to shelter income offshore?
9/11; next question?

Get used to more of the same.

Of all the responses I've seen, I liked Wes Clark's the best:
I'm not attacking the President for attacking terrorists, I'm attacking him for not attacking terrorists.; with a discussion of the way that invading Iraq has diverted resources away from battling Al Qaeda and that our inattention has allowed them and the Taliban to reestablish power bases in parts of Afganistan.

This could become a very important point to make in the next year: How has Bush's single-minded focus on Iraq actually hurt the War on Terror elsewhere?

We've obviously diverted a lot of intelligence and military assets from Afganistan to Iraq. We just as obviously don't have nearly as much money available to help out in Afganistan as if we'd never invaded Iraq. This has allowed the situation on the ground to deteriorate to the point that the very people we invaded Afganistan to get rid of now openly control big chunks of the country.

This is something we need to deal with immediately. Even a fraction of the troops and resources devoted to Iraq would make a world of difference in Afganistan.

I'm wondering how much of our neglect of Afganistan has been driven by the PR needs of the Bush White House? Just as they prematurely declared victory in Iraq in order to make themselves look good, they seem to have marked Afganistan off their to-do list and moved on, without acknowledging the years of dogged follow up that will be necessary to really be able to declare victory. I know it's no fun to have a long term presence in places without decent room service, and it looks a lot better to declare victory and go home; but sometimes we're gonna have to stick things out to make a real difference. Afganistan is one of those places.

This tendency to jump into things, make lots of promises, shake things up, then bail before the job gets finished is becoming a hallmark of the Bush White House. They did it with the schools (the No Child Left Untested Act without the money to actually improve our schools); they did it in New York after Sept 11th (remember all the money that was promised and then never delivered to help rebuild?); they did it in Afganistan; and now they seem determined to do it in Iraq.


Still the #1 search result for both "William Burton" and "Bill Clinton's Penis" (which always brings in one or two hits a day), but am unfortunately nowhere near the top for "Fuck Rush Limbaugh".

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

This seems to be the big question of the next year or more.

Should we settle into Iraq for the long haul, committing whatever troops, money, and other resources are needed?

Or should we bail as soon as we can to avoid getting dragged into an unwinnable guerrilla war that will mean needless deaths on both sides?

Whether we should've invaded in the first place is pretty much a moot point now. The question is What the fuck do we do now?

It's quite possible to have been against invading, but now in favor of staying (the You broke it, now you fix it approach).

From a pretty amoral Realpolitic point of view, I guess it's possible to have been in favor of invading but now in favor of leaving (the I don't give a damn what happens, as long as Saddam's out of power and isn't looking to get nukes approach).

Whatever we end up doing, it'll have a cost associated with it. And the answer will end up having a hell of a lot greater effect on our lives for the next few years than we were told when this whole mess started. My own personal answer will end up having a tremendous influence on which Democrat I support next year.

This ain't no Get in, get it done, get out situation. If we get out, then it won't be done.

The Bushie plan to draw down forces for electoral reasons regardless of the situation on the ground is the worst of all possible approaches. It leaves us engaged in a costly guerrilla war, but with absolutely no chance of winning, and no chance that the average Iraqi will stick out his neck to side with us (he'll be there long after we've gone).

More on this later.

Thank God for Basketball Season

Vanderbilt 73
Indiana 60

Monday, November 24, 2003

You should also definitely read Armed Liberal's 6 foreign policy points he'd like to see any Democratic candidates endorse:
First, we're not going anywhere in Afghanistan or Iraq until we're done.....

Second, we're too dependent on ME oil. We're going to do something about it, both by pushing conservation, expanding alternative energy, and expanding exploration......

Third, we're going to stop Israel from building new settlements and push them to dismantle existing illegal ones.......

Fourth, we're going to work to expand the ground-fighting capabilities of our military.......

Fifth, we're going to sit with the Arab countries we are supporting and make it clear that they cannot buy internal stability by fomenting hate against Jews and the West and still expect our financial and military support......

Sixth, we're going to develop security mechanisms based on the theory that fine-grained systems that bring information and communications to the existing public safety community, as well as the public at large are better than huge, centralized bureaucratic solutions.

I honestly don't know what the hell #6 is supposed to mean, but the other 5 seem like a good place to a start discussion.

My good buddy Armed Liberal posted a little while back pointing out what I've also said, that announcing our imminent withdrawal from Iraq makes us look weak and that stating we'll stay as long as we need to makes us look strong. He is a good bit more gung ho on the whole enterprise than I am, but I think we see eye to eye on the need to do it whole hog if you're gonna do it at all. Even when we don't agree, it's always good to see AL's clearly thought out and stated writing:
Let me repeat it: "victory can be our only exit strategy."

By taking this position, by making it clear that we will stay as long at it takes, spend the treasure and blood required to break the wave of Islamist rage, in my view we will reduce the amount of actual violence we will ultimately have to impose.

I'm not convinced that we should've invaded Iraq, nor that we should stay there as things get uglier (but I, as yet, haven't seen an alternative that isn't even uglier). I do know that, should we stay, we need to make it perfectly clear that we're there for the long haul. Otherwise, people like Salam Pax would be nuts to openly side with us.

Note to People Who Opposed the Invasion of Iraq

Those who disagree with you are not, by definition, Nazis or fascists. They do not want to round up all the brown skinned people of the world and herd them into concentration camps. Nor, with the exception of real nutjobs like Anne Coulter, do they want to forcibly convert the heathen at the tip of a bayonet. They are simply people who thought Hussein was a threat to the world and wanted to take him out when they had the chance.

Until you can agree to stop accusing anyone who holds different views than you of being a racist who kills babies for oil, don't expect to win any converts and don't expect those of us still on the fence to treat you like anything other than a fucking idiot.

PS: Those of you who don't act this way, please get your compatriots to shut the fuck up. They make you all look bad.

Note to People Who Supported the Invasion of Iraq

Those who disagree with you are not, by definition, supporting terrorism. They are neither supporters of Osama bin Laden nor people who think that we had it coming on Spetember 11th. For the most part, they're people who think that invading Iraq has made it more likely that terrorists will attack us in the future because it has motivated people to become terrorists who wouldn't have otherwise done so.

Those who disagree also aren't big fans of Saddam Hussein. They do not want to give Saddam the keys to the minivan and let him take the kids out for a spin. They don't think he's a great guy. They just didn't want to invade Iraq to get rid of him (Robert Mugabe is a brutal thug, but Bush is never gonna go after the bastard; does that mean he likes Mugabe?).

Also, you should note that protesting the war is not the same as cheering for the enemy to win. The vast majority out there wish all our soldiers were at home safe in their beds; they aren't wishing for them to die at the hands of terrorists.

Until you can agree to stop accusing anyone who holds different views than you of being an Osama-loving Saddam sympathizer, don't expect to win any converts and don't expect those of us still on the fence to treat you like anything other than a fucking idiot.

PS: Those of you who don't act this way, please get your compatriots to shut the fuck up. They make you all look bad.

Adam Felber divines the essential rules for Rovenomics:
Cut its taxes. If it doesn't have taxes to cut, blow it up.

Mo' Blogrollin'

Avedon Carol is all over the healthcare debate currently not getting nearly enough attention (scroll down to Medicine Ball):

Many Americans like to dazzle themselves with the idea that they have really advanced medicine available to them that the rest of the world doesn't get. I'd be interested in seeing some evidence of that, since (a) no examples are usually given and (b) on the rare occasion when they are, they turn out either not to be true or about things that are only available because NIH made them available - that is, they are the product of tax-payer supported programs and not at all owing to the market - and they will be available in Europe a year or two later if not immediately..........

........30 states have malpractice caps, and none of them have cheaper medicine - or cheaper insurance. "Tort reform" is a scam intended to prevent ordinary people from being able to challenge companies that break faith with them. Free-marketeers imagine that we will be able to enforce contracts against big companies just because, oh, big companies are good and honest and moral, I guess.......

.......By the way, I just love the idea that your health insurance is tied to your employer. God forbid you should be in a position to walk out on a job where you are abused, eh? Especially if you're someone with a pre-existing condition. That's what conservatives call "freedom".

That first point is really important. Ridiculously few medical advances have come entirely through the free market. The basic science just costs too damned much and takes too damned long to turn a profit. Private companies are much better at taking government funded research and turning it into a salable commodity. But that's a far cry from doing all the research themselves.

What we have in this country is a system in which our tax money goes to pay for medical research, which only those with health insurance can afford to buy. Those who can't afford healthcare end up subsidizing research benefitiing those who can.

One nit I do have to pick with Avedon is on the value of preventative care. Our health care system would actually turn a profit off giving away free checkups simply because so many people leave their conditions untreated because they lack health insurance. Something like low level diabetes or high blood pressure that might be treated cheaply if caught early enough gets very expensive to treat if you wait until it's life-threatening. We Americans spend a fortune on emergency care for things that could've been easily controlled if caught in time.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


Oliver Willis on the Democratic Party:
There are some principles that most of the party can agree on: fair taxation, health care availability, equal rights, a preventative (not aggresive) military doctrine, universal access and quality of education, and free but fair markets......For those that choose not to endorse the main planks of the party's reason for being, perhaps it is time for them to choose a new party.

and SKB on gay marriage:
Better yet, the REAL question ought to be, what is it about same sex marriage that poses such a threat to all the hetero soccer moms and NASCAR dads? What is the threat to society? What exactly is it they fear? Some long repressed tingling in their naughty bits? What?

Makes Sense to Me

Iraqi blogger Salam Pax (now added to the blogroll) had a letter to GW Bush published in London's Guardian along with those of a lot of other prominent or not so prominent people (read them all here). His letter is worth reading in its entirety, and expresses better than I could a very real concern: Having gotten America knee deep in Iraq, and having essentially destroyed the only government they've had for 50 years, will Bush finish the job of rebuilding Iraq and reconstituting its civil society? Or will he bail out at the earliest opportunity to help his reelection chances?

I'm telling you; things don't look good so far. The Pentagon has already announced a timetable for drawing down American troop strength, even as things look more unsettled than ever. This really seems to be driven more by the upcoming Presidential election than by reality on the ground.

Regardless of whether it makes military sense or not, they will start pulling out troops early next year. Unfortunately, this makes Iraqi leaders less likely to side with us (as we appear to be turning tail and running) and makes it less likely that the average Iraqi will turn out grateful that we invaded. As I pointed out long ago, the humanitarian case for an invasion was the only one that made sense to me, and it depends entirely on whether or not the Iraqis ended up in better or worse shape than when we invaded.

Kicking Saddam in the crotch then running away is not the way to ensure a peaceful, democratic future for the people of the Middle East. In fact, as the fucker appears to still be on the loose; it isn't inconcievable that Saddam could retake power once we leave. Even many reasonable Iraqis may prefer him to the fundamentalist mullahs who would be the chief alternative.

Well, here's the letter:
Dear George,

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.
Salam Pax

Request for Enlightenment

If anyone can please let me know why I, as a straight male, should give a damn if two gays want to marry, I'd appreciate it.

Most straight couples are taking longer to get married, many don't bother at all, and most of those who do eventually divorce. It seems that the only people left really excited by the prospect are long term gay couples, all of whom will probably show more respect for the institution than the people who get married over and over again on what is essentially a whim.

I don't want to tell other people what to do with their private parts or who to love, just as I don't want other people telling me the same stuff. If you can convince me that I really should care, more power to you.

Et Tu, Lucy?

Thanksgiving approaches.

If, once again, Lucy van Pelt pulls away the football just as Charley Brown is about to kick it, I may need to have a talk with that girl's parents. This sort of juvenile behavior is inexcusable decade after decade.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

God Bless the USA

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. - US Constitution, article IV

I'm wondering what the over-under is on the number of times John Ashcroft's head spun around like that chick from The Exorcist when he found out that gay marriage is fixin' to be the law in Massachusetts.

The beautiful thing here is that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution leaves the intolerant fuckers no outs. If Ashcroft's gay neighbor from Missouri flies to Boston to get married, he's every bit as married in Missouri as in Massachusetts. They can't opt out, and no busllshit "Defense of Marriage Act" will let them (no act of Congress can override the Constitution). Legal gay marriage in one state essentially means legal gay marriage in every state .

I'm guessing I don't want to know the amount of our money the rightwing nutjobs are prepared to spend on overtime pay for their ideological thought police to find a way out of this. But I'm sure hoping they can't. Fat Tony and the Supreme Court may decide to step in, but there will be thousands of gay marriages on the books before they have a chance. Either they'd have to let those stand, or retroactively annul them. Either course would launch a flood of lawsuits.

The really beautiful things here is that no one gives a fuck. We're apparently too busy watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or speculating about how long J-Lo will wait before taking a Zippo to her latest marriage contract to get all worked up over whether or not two guys we don't even know are gonna get hitched. We just don't give a fuck.

God Bless America

I know the wingnuts will be out in force over this, but they'll be alone. We've all got gay friends, coworkers, or relatives. Few of us care what they do on their own time.

I'm happy to see the day where the average guy on the street is far more tolerant than the average politician.

This is still gonna be ugly. There will be lawsuits and more lawsuits. Multiple states will attempt to ignore the aforementioned US Constitution and deny legal rights to married gays. Fortunately, the good guys will win on this one, eventually. If nothing else, it'll come down to the fact that time is on the side of the angels here. My kid's generation really doesn't give a damn what anyone does with their private parts. When they take over, the Orrin Hatches of the world can crawl back into their caves.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Neo-Conservative Fantasists: 0; Reality: 1

An article in the latest New Yorker makes points out how our lack of planning for post-war Iraq has hurt us. We've unnecessarily pissed off Iraqis who may have sided with us; we've wasted the opportunity to immediately begin improving Iraqi lives in small but measurable ways; and we've made ourselves look weak and indecisive. Most of the blame for this can be put to the pointy headed neo-Con hawks who spent the last 2 years selling this war to the American people.

Their best-case scenario was apparently the only one they bothered planning for. The assumption was that all the Iraqis would great us with roses and bottles of Evian, then we'd hand over power to our chosen puppet and fly home on the magic carpet from Alladin while the 700 man Iraqi exile militia and the uninterrupted flow of oil from wells and pipelines miraculously unharmed by years of bombing and economic sanctions would provide for the safety and material well-being of millions of impoverished Iraqis with no history of liberal democracy.

Unfortunately, the monkies flying out of Richard Perle's ass din't do their jobs and this scenario never happened. Instead, we're stuck in a country with effectively no law aside from that enforced by American arms, no money aside from that provided by the American government, and no one to pass power to who is both acceptable to us and to the Iraqis as a whole (Chalabi and the INC ended up about as popular as George Steinbrenner in Fenway Park).

There seem to be two main reasons for our lack of planning:

1) The necessity to sell the War:
If we'd planned realistically for a long-term occupation and reconstruction of Iraq paid for with American money, the hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops needed would have seriously dampened enthusiasm for the invasion. In fact, a legitimate look at how much it would cost and how long it would take would've killed the War before it took place. The overriding need to sell a war with Iraq forced the neo-cons running the Bush administration to lie about what it would really take.

2) Wishful thinking and lack of real world experience:
There seems to be quite a bit of evidence that the Bushies were deluded by their own propaganda and ideological blindness. If you spend all your time telling each other that the only real foreign policy problem is lack of toughness on the part of previous administrations, and that nation building is for pussies, you'll eventually start to believe it. If you combine this with a complete lack of understanding the way the world works outside your comfy thinktank, you get big trouble. Unfortunately, we got big trouble too.

Mission Accomplished

Well, The Bushistas said that they'd make Iraq free of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Since it appears that there haven't been any WMDs in Iraq for over a decade, I guess they can mark that one off their list.

As I'd stated before, I have no doubt that Saddam wanted WMDs. I'm guessing he just thought they weren't worth the trouble they'd get him in if caught. This looks like one place in which the Bush Senior/Clinton era containment policy actually seems to have worked. Maybe those guys who have actually held jobs outside neo-conservative think-tanks know what they're doing after all?

Harold Pinter Can Kiss My Ass

The noted British flatulist recently compared the United States to Nazi Germany. Leaving aside the well-known rule of internet argumentation that whoever invokes the Nazis first automatically loses, it's just such an obvious load of horseshit and an insult to those were had to experience Nazi Germany firsthand.

I'm no fan of the Bush administration, but they're no Nazis. They may be short-sighted idiots with little real world experience, but that makes them more like Harold Pinter and his ilk than like Nazis.

Nor, of course, should you compare the hard-working, decent folks in the US military to the murderous thugs who carried Hitler's banner in battle. From what I've seen, the military has gone to great lengths to accomplish it's mission with as little loss of civilian life as possible. They've been put in a bad situation, and are doing the best they can with it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Why Isn't Rush in Jail Yet?

If I had illegally purchased thousands of prescription narcotics over the course of months or years and gotten caught, I would be in jail now.

If you had illegally purchased thousands of prescription narcotics over the course of months or years and gotten caught, you would be in jail now.

If awell known liberal like Phil Donahue or Al Franken had illegally purchased thousands of prescription narcotics over the course of months or years and gotten caught, Limbaugh would be calling for him to be in jail now.

The Fat One was certainly hot to lock up drug offenders for nonviolent crimes back before he got caught.

So what's the problem?

Lock the fat man up, and do it now. Treat him exactly like every other poor SOB who routinely gets crushed by the War on Some Drugs Used by Some People.

Just as we didn't get out of Vietnam until the rich and comfortable started seeing their own sons face the draft, we won't end this stupid, unwinnable war until the powerful and their families start getting sent to Leavenworth and Attica for nonviolent drug crimes. It's too late to bust GW Bush for all the blow he snorted back in the 70's, but it's not too late to make another hypocritical fatcat into a poster boy for reforming the drug laws.

Have updated the blogroll as best I can. Changed addresses for those who have abandoned blogspot for spiffier digs; removed links to blogs no longer being updated.

If I unjustly removed a link to your blog or otherwise screwed up, please email me and I'll fix it.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

I'm Back

Am gonna start fixing links, and get the comments back up and running. Then I'll slowly try to crawl back into the public sphere.

I'd like to come up with some story about an Andean plane crash and the nutrients available from overfed ruggers, or at least one about insatiable Scandanavian nursing students and poor internet connections in Lapland. But, alas, I have no legitimate explanation for my absence.

Paying attention to stuff going horribly wrong in the world was depressing the shit out of me. Writing, having people read what I had to say, and knowing at the end of the day that it probably made no difference depressed me even more. So I spent a few months with my head in the sand hoping everything would all just go away. Unfortunately, it didn't.

Just because I stopped reading the paper didn't keep people from dieing, nor did the people making decisions in Washington get any wiser. Like it as not, things won't change without a bunch of little guys like me on the outside shoving. So I'm coming back to push and stir things up, in whatever way I can. Or at least to call people names and point out when they're full of crap.I'm also hoping that writing my blog again will lessen the impulse to shout at the television whenever some idiot starts spewing bullshit he obviously doesn't understand. God help us all.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

What He Said

Roublen Vesseau spelled out in my comments what I've been trying to write:
The reason I'm not gung-ho on war with Iraq is that the Administration refuses to give an estimate on American casualties and on Iraqi casualties. If I got a firm sense from this Administration that they were really going to make an effort to minimize the number of American & Iraqi casualties, and that they expected the number of casualties to be relatively small, I would be for removing Saddam.

Broadly speaking, there are two cases for war with Iraq, the humanitarian case and the national security case. The national security case strikes me as almost wholly unconvincing. The moral case is compelling, but it depends crucially on the likely number of casualties.

1) The best case that can be made for removing Saddam is that it will be good for the Iraqis, most of whom want to see the bastard dead. But a good result depends on not killing a bunch of innocent Iraqis (both civilians and draftees) who never hurt anyone. If a Saddam took charge in the US, I'd love to see someone kick his ass out, but I wouldn't want to see millions of dead Americans in the process (I know, of course, that some dead are inevitable; but also that they can be minimized).

2) One of the biggest problems with backing a war with Iraq is having to trust such a fundamentally dishonest administration with carrying things through. How can we know what to expect when they're so obviously lying to us about almost everything?

3) #1 is why I thought that we should make it stated policy to go after the leadership of the "rogue states" rather than simply killing off their armies of draftees as if poor teenagers were somehow stand-ins for the scumbags themselves. You want to cut down on genocide? Hang Milosevic, the other Serbian leaders, and their counterparts from Rwanda live on CNN. Make it clear that they're not exceptions (yes, I know all the legal/ethical/practical problems with this approach, but it's still far preferable to smart-bombing a few hundred thousand people into graves while their leaders walk).


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Work in Progress

For the last week, I've been trying to write a piece on the reasons for going to war with Iraq. This is made difficult by several factors:

1) The reasons the Bush administration has stated for war with Iraq have nothing to do with why they really want war with Iraq

2) The reasons the neo-Cons in the administration want to go to war with Iraq are not the same reasons that the good-ole boys in the administration want to go to war with Iraq.

3) The reasons political animals like Karl Rove want war with Iraq aren't related to the reasons in #1 or #2.

4) The reasons Tony Blair, Joe Lieberman, Colin Powell and other non-neo Con, non-good ole boys have for going to war with Iraq aren't related to #1, #2, or #3.

5) There are some legitimate reasons I can think of for war with Iraq, and they're not related to the reasons in #1, #2, or #3 either (but they may be related to the private thinking of those in #4).

So far, all I've been able to write is nonsensical gibberish that sounds like it came from a tech-writer at Microsoft. If I ever get my product into readable form, you'll see it here.

Frankly, this whole thing would be a lot easier if those dishonest bastards in the White House would just drop #1 altogether and explain why they really think war is a good idea.

Sunday, February 02, 2003


(the real kind)

Today I went to my first wrestling tournament since I stopped wrestling myself (yes, that's a very long time), and have mixed emotions and a few random observations.

On the Good Side:

1) Even those who've never wrestled should be able to enjoy a good match. It moves at lightning speed, there's no down time, and a wrestler with an insurmountable points lead can still lose in the final seconds (as happened twice today). Good wrestling is about the best spectator sport around.

2) Wrestling is also a damn fine sport to participate in. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it feeds something primal within us, something that wants to know how we stack up against our fellow man one-on-one.

3) Wrestling is the most egalitarian sport around. No expensive equipment is required; nor do you need a very big space to work with. Poor schools can compete on a level playing field with rich ones, and poor kids with rich ones as well.

On the Bad Side:

1) There's still a big problem (and I don't know what to do about it) with kids starving themselves to make weight. I remember being yelled at for having lunch when I was a teen, and I know damned well I'm not the only one. I had friends who'd gorge on burgers and then vomit it back up, and others who took diuretics. There's no way to stop this sort of shit completely, but coaches can certainly make the environment less friendly to it.

2) Wrestling is the most brutally Darwinian sport there is. Not only is there only one winner, as in all individual sports, but he wins by asserting physical domination over his opponents. Losing a wrestling match is the most dispiriting kind of loss there is. Not only can't you blame your teammates or the playing conditions to rationalize your defeat, but you (quite literally) have defeat rubbed in your face as you're pinned to the ground.

Random Observations:

1) Oddly enough, with the majority of wrestlers trying to hard to make weight, there are now a number in the upper weight bracket wrestlers who are really, really overweight. I saw a couple who probably shouldn't be involved in competitive sports in any way until they drop some serious weight. These guys wouldn't have even survived the practices I used to go through, and there's no way a doctor should've signed off on them wrestling.

2) It's a whole lot more fun watching the little guys than the big ones. Things move a lot faster and the technique seems a lot cleaner. The big guys seem to try to muscle each other into submission.

3) I don't know if coaching has changed, or what, but at times it looked like I was watching Greco-Roman. When I wrestled, we were taught to go for the legs before all else. Not only did we use the legs for take-downs, but hooking an opponent's leg with an arm and lifting was the preferred method for pinning. Today, I rarely saw anyone going for the legs once on the ground. They were just trying to use body-weight to pin instead of leverage. My coaches would not have been happy.

4) There's still no NBA/NFL-style showboating in wrestling, Thank God. Shakes hands with each other, shake hands with the opponent's coach, give your coach a little hug, and sit the hell down. Wrestling's old school, and so am I.

Saturday, February 01, 2003


I was in high school when the Challenger blew up. We crowded into the computer lab (the only room with a TV) and watched the replay over and over again, but I could never quite believe what I was seeing (the same reaction I had on Sept 11th). Once it had sunk in, I felt bad for the people who'd died, but I felt even worse for their friends and relatives who'd watched it all happen live and had to relive it every time the explosion was shown again.

Well, I'm a lot older now, and a lot of really bad shit has happened in America and in the world. I no longer have trouble believing what I've seen, but I feel just as bad for the people who're suffering right now. I wish that there were something I could do, but there's not. Nothing I could do or say would make those astronauts any less dead, nor their families any less torn apart. So I'll just sit alone with my sadness and type.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Yes, Virginia, We're Going To War

Only a few short months ago, I'd fooled myself into thinking that all this war talk was simply an electoral ploy. I knew that Bush's brain (aka Karl Rove) was cynical to whip up a war frenzy in order to pick up a few mid-term election seats. I knew that the realistic end-game to a war in Iraq, with its attendant messy occupation, wasn't likely to be much fun. I knew that the chances of bringing democracy to Iraq were akin to the chances of bringing Vanderbilt to the Sugar Bowl or UT to the academic all-American team. In short, I knew that invading Iraq wouldn't be the gimme that lots of other bloggers seem to think it'll be. I also knew that Bush's people, if not the man himself, were smart enough to know these things too.

From all this, I surmised that the war talk was for electoral purposes only, and that Saddam backing down and readmitting weapons inspectors would give the Bushies cause to declare victory and go home (after all, he did change course last Fall and declare UN inspections as being sufficient to forestall an invasion). Ari Fleischer even added to my belief with some idiotic double-talk about how a change in Saddam's behavior would be the same thing as regime change. This all looked like prelude to calling off the war and skipping straight to the victory parade.

That's not going to happen. We're really going to war, and there's nothing anyone lower down than Dick Cheney can do about it. My opinion doesn't matter. Your opinion doesn't matter. Colin Powell's opinion doesn't matter. Even the Republican leaders in Congress have no say here. We're going to war. Get used to it.

I, honestly, can't quite decide whether this is simply part of the neo-con dreamworld of overturning the established order in the Middle East and replacing it with democratic capitalistic societies all of which embrace Israel's right to exist (administered, no doubt, by the monkeys flying out of Richard Perle's ass) or whether this is a simplistic I'm gonna ice that fucker who tried to kill my dad directive from the top. The signals here are mixed. I'm guessing a little bit of both.

Bush's desire for vengeance and his simplistic good guys in white hats vs bad guys in black turbans mindset have got to be really easy for smart guys like Perle and Wolflowitz to manipulate. They also make it very hard for people like Colin Powell (and even Poppy Bush) to impress a nuanced view of the world onto him. The result is that people from ideological think-tanks with precious little real world experience have hijacked the brains of the two most powerful men on the planet (George Bush and Dick Cheney) and have them steering a course into a very uncertain future with all of us along for the ride. Unfortunately, really smart ideologues don't have the best track records in the real world (see Vietnam, American involvement in; also, Marxism; also, Russia, transition to free market economy of; also, music synthesizers, dancing to crappy music made by).

I could be wrong. Things could turn out okay. Those monkeys flying out of Richard Perle's ass could be really lucky and/or competent. I hope to God they are, because we are going to war, and the guy at the helm doesn't know where he's taking us (the really smart guys with the charts haven't told him yet).

PS: I'd love to hear anyone's theory that Bush is a master strategist ordering the world as he see fit and/or a bloodthirsty monster who just wants to kill darkies, but you'll have to convince me that he can name all the countries of the Middle East first. Until then, I'll stick with the available evidence, that he doesn't know shit about international affairs other than that some scumbag tried to kill his dad and that the smart Jews all told him it wouldn't be very hard to take the guy out. If he really knew that the Saudis were on the Big List and that years of disruption to the oil supply might be considered an acceptible cost, I don't think any of this would be happening. But I could be wrong (monkeys can be pretty damned smart).

Clarification: My reference above to Bush thinking some scumbag tried to kill his dad and that the smart Jews all told him it wouldn't be very hard to take the guy out is what's called internal dialogue. It represents Bush's thinking on the subject. Personally, I don't think Perle or Wolflowitz are either particularly smart, or at least not as smart as I'd like them to be given their current influence [nor, for that matter, do I believe that they're part of some massive Zionist conspiracy; given my support for Israel, I'd be part of the conspiracy too, and I'm already annoyed enough that we agree on anything without being in the same conspiracy together]. I do, however, believe that Bush thinks they're plenty smart and is letting them tell him what he really wants to hear (taking out Saddam will be painless and fun) while blocking out those who tell him otherwise.

Further Clarification: Any future reference to Bush thinking of Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell as the reasonable negroes can also be classified as internal dialogue and should not be interpreted to mean that I consider them to be either particularly reasonable or particularly representative of blacks as a group.

Further, Further Clarification: Any past or future reference to Dick Cheney or Karl Rove as fat, evil white men is not Bush's internal dialogue, but my characterization of their personalities, builds, and ethnicity. No offense is meant to either the fat or the evil in lumping them in with all those other whiteys.

The Richard Nixon of Football

Al Davis doesn't sleep tonight. He paces the hallways, alone with his pain; gnashing his teeth until blood flows; plotting his vengeance. They've made him look like a fool; they've made him look like a chump; they've made him look like a loser. They must be destroyed. It may cost him millions and hurt his chances of winning another Super Bowl, but he will be avenged. This is more important than winning, more important than money. Vengeance will be his, oh yes, it will be his.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Politics As Usual

Ever notice how little of the politics of the "pro-life" crowd has to do with actually reducing the number of abortions?

If you want to keep the number of abortions down (as I do), the obvious way is to make sure that women who don't want to get pregnant don't. To do this, you can hold your breathe until everyone stops having sex (the obvious reason Orrin Hatch is so discolored) or you can try to get people to use sensible precautions when they do so. This includes both birth control pills and condoms, either of which is a really good, though not perfect, way to keep babies out of where they're not wanted. And both of which serve to reduce the number of abortions by the millions every year. Any way you want to look at it, the pill and Trojans have stopped more abortions in a single year than all the protesters have since Roe v Wade.

Do the "pro-life" crowd embrace condoms and birth control pills as a sensible way to prevent abortions without intruding in women's lives? Of course not. They do everything they can to reduce the access and information that women, especially young ones, are given to brith control, thereby increasing the number of abortions every year. That's right, there will be more abortions this year worldwide than there would've been had George Bush not taken office. Take it to the bank. There will be even more because the Republicans took control of Congress a few years back and immediately started slashing family planning funds both at home and abroad.

Instead of sensible family planning leading to fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions, we get remarkably ineffective Just Say No programs wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. The Nation ran a series last Spring about these programs, and how they've become pork-barrels for right-wing politicos. I guess making sure that The "Christian" Coalition is well fed takes precendence over doing anything about teen pregnancy and abortion rates.

Want to know how well "abstinence education" works? Just ask Pat Robertson, who was married a few months before his first child was born, or even George Bush, who was born a few months after his parents were married. Maybe that's why they hate birth control so much?

To the Editors of The New Yorker

The plural of the word you is spelled ya'll and pronounced yawl. It is neither pronounced nor spelled you all.

There can be no peace between our peoples until this matter is laid to rest.

Monday, January 13, 2003

How Not To Get Invaded Even If You're A Tinpot Dictator Who Craves Power

By Kim Jong Il
cc: Damascus, Baghdad, Rangoon, Tripoli, Tehran, Tallahasee

1) Very important! Don't try to assasinate the former President or anyone who might be related to a future President, especially not anyone who fits into both categories. This is just asking for trouble.

2) Act nuts. I'm not talking Pinky and the Brain/Dr Evil style taking over the world nuts. I mean genuinely nuts. Dress and act strangely, always refer to yourself in the 3rd person and/or invent a 4th person tense if your language allows. The goal here is to have every major news outlet in the Western world question your sanity openly.

3) Invade your neighbors. Not for vital oil wells, nor for Leibensraum. Just invade them for the hell of it. Send troops over the border, kill a few villagers, then withdraw. When they ask why you did that, respond that you don't know what the hell they're talking about and that the villagers probably shot themselves.

4), A few days later, admit that you invaded, and promise not to do it again. A few days after that, retract the admission and start challenging people to duels.

5) Then invade again, except this time by sea. Again, withdraw, deny, admit, then deny again all within a week.

6) You guessed it! Invade again. The goal here is to both reinforce #2 and to get people to see these occasional border skirmishes as a regular part of your personality, not as something that can be deterred.

7) Build you nuclear plants right on the border with your neighbor friendliest to the West (which is also who you should've been invading all these years). It really helps if the prevailing winds would make bombing the plant mean contaminating your neighbor's largest city.

8) Declare that your nuclear plants are only for peaceful production of power.

9) Then declare that you're going to build nukes and no one can stop you. Get an astrologer to say that you're destined to be a world leader, and say that having nukes is your destiny.

10) Then deny having said that at all, blame your translator, and have him shot. If you've already shot all your translators and are having trouble finding new ones, kidnap a few foreign nationals to speed the training process.

11) Deny having denied making nukes.

12) Deny having kidnapped foreign nationals.

13) Deny having denied having denied making nukes.

14) Admit to having kidnapped foreign nationals, but say they're all dead and promise not to do it anymore.

15) Deny having denied having denied having denied building nukes, but promise not to do it anymore.

16) Admit that some of the foreign nationals are alive, but deny that they don't want to go home.

17) Start test-firing your newest rockets so that they travel directly over a nearby industrialized democracy before splashing down in the ocean.

18) Deny that the rockets have military uses.

19) Admit that, of course, the rockets have military uses. Shoot more translators.

20) Deny having denied having denied having denied having denied making nukes. If you have any translators left, shoot them.

The goal of all you actions should be to make people fear not only the short-term effects of a war to take you out, but to fear all the crazy shit you might do if they launch one. Acting like a rational leader will get you killed playing this game.

America and the West don't fear rational leaders of small countries; they can either be bought off or overthrown with few complications.

America and the West rightly fear crazy-ass motherfuckers with a long history of irrational behavior who apparently don't give a damn what people think of them, especially ones who might or might not have nukes and who've shot all the people who know for sure. If they fear you, they'll leave you alone.

They fear me, do they fear you?

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The Big Dog Eats

Trent Lott is a racist, but that's not why the Republicans forced him out. Trent Lott is not a particularly likable guy, but that's not why the Republicans forced him out. Trent Lott made a habit of manipulating Senate rules more boldly than any majority leader since LBJ, but that's not why the Republicans forced him out.

Chalk another one up for Bill Clinton's Penis.

The Republicans forced out Trent Lott because they'd never forgiven him for not kicking Bill Clinton out of office when he had the chance.

It didn't matter how much water he carried for the right wing. It didn't matter how he twisted arms and manipulated the rules to further their agenda. It didn't even matter that he personally voted to convict. To the wingnuts, he would always be the man who let the Big Dog run loose. He had Bill Clinton's mighty Penis in his grasp (so to speak), and it squirmed away.

Anyone familiar with politics could be forgiven for listening to Republicans talk amongst themselves, or to talk radio (which is the public equivalent) and wondering who the hell they were talking about when they described Trent Lott. I've heard the admirer of Strom Thurmond described as not really conservative. I've heard the man who kept over a hundred of Clinton's judicial nominees from getting hearings described as an accomodationist.

Say what they like, make any excuses that come to mind, and it still boils down to one thing. Trent Lott is only the most recent victim of Bill Clinton's Penis. Has the Big Dog eaten for the last time? Or are there more people waiting to be brought low by his powerful implement? Only time will tell.

Note to aspiring Woodsteins: Bill Frist's family business (and the source of his millions in wealth), HCA, paid the largest fine in world history (over a billion dollars if memory serves) for defrauding the US government out of medicare payments. There's dirt there, dig.