••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

one more example of the kind of illogic we all have to deal with these days came up on washington journal this morning.

a caller said we mustn't talk to iran because—in, i assume, his obviously expert opinion—they would take it as a "sign of weakness."

oh? but if they talk to us, then they'd have to take that as a sign of weakness too, wouldn't they?

give me a break!
2-months-old news i just learned & am happy about:

& here's how i found out:

bush will veto homeland security funds if airport screeners can unionize
talk about misguided priorities!

here's a comment i ripped off cbsnews.com:

Guess this shows the depth of Bushit and Chertoff's concern about real security--they veto the security bill because some unions might pick up some members! As far as "quickly responding" anyone who's been in an airport knows what bull that is. These guys do the most routine job imaginable, and when something does change, like liquid explosives, the ponderous DHS and TSA move as slowly as mating hippos in implementing the new rules, which usually undergo a few revisions until they are not totally ridiculous.
Posted by gkc99 at 05:47 PM : Feb 28, 2007

repealing 'don't ask, don't tell'
any policy that motivates personal secrecy invites blackmail. phobic rationalization trumped national security with this one as much as with the total ban preceding it.
frederick barton, an afghanistan expert with csis, said on c-span this morning that we ought to "shake up" the afghan opium market by spending $300M to buy poppies in the two provinces that grow half the country's crop.

that sounds like a modification of a proposal to buy up the whole crop made by ray takeyh, cfr's middle east studies director, four months ago, and—i immodestly add—by this blog a year and a half ago.

a partial buyout might be a useful experiment, but it could be risky.

i'm tempted to say anything's better than what we do now, but when you play with something as volatile as opium, you play with a potential firestorm. shaking up the market would almost certainly mean a price rise, not only in afghanistan. a higher world price of opium and the heroin made from it would lead to more crime by users and traffickers.

but buying up the whole crop would have that effect too, as would eradicating it, so i think we ought to run barton's experiment and see what happens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

US gets mehdi army to leave sadr city
sunni bombers move in

carrier groups gather round iran
get ready for $5 a gallon

how many more must die for dick?
US soldier, 22 others killed in attempt to assassinate VP at bagram AFB

walter reed story covered by salon.com 2 years ago
ignored by msm & pentagon till now
[bonus link: democracy now! interviews mark benjamin, 3/15/05]

greenspan's still got it!
says r-word, "asian contagion" starts panic, dow dives 500

sharpton a thurmond?
dna says strom's ancestors held al's as slaves. do the late senator's proclivities imply they're family?

anglican communion may kick out US episcopalians over gay bishop
since when is the xian symbol no longer a plus, but a minus?
sunzi is the most popular and respected writer on strategy of all time. in more than two millenia only musashi and clausewitz have come close to achieving a similar level of name recognition, and they are not cited nearly as often.

i posted the following quotes before, along with criticism of a pair of speeches. this time the context is the troop surge, and i'll let the quotes stand alone:

no country has ever benefited from a protracted war.

those blind to the dangers inherent in using force are equally unable to see the advantageous ways to do so.

those adept in waging war need no second summoning of reserves nor more than one provisioning.
—sunzi, chapter 2

the worst policy is to attack cities.
—sunzi, chapter 3

a victorious army wins before seeking battle; an army that fights in the hope of winning is destined to defeat.
—sunzi, chapter 4

those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.
—sunzi, chapter 6
does anybody recall burden of proof, the daily CNN program with greta van susteren and roger cossack that had guest lawyers arguing about a variety of thorny legal topics?

it started with o j simpson and ended shortly after 9/11, becoming so popular at one point among law professionals that word had it judges would make sure they adjourned court for lunch in time to catch the 12:30 telecast.

unfortunately, after the terrorist attacks the white house began scheduling press briefings at that time almost every day, and other events when there was no briefing. CNN apparently has a policy that requires it to cover breaking news, so burden always got preempted except for a single showing sometime in october.

that's not the sort of situation that encourages guests to show up at a studio. CNN could have recorded the show &/or rescheduled it, but instead they let it die...

...just when we needed it most.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Seniors Lag In Reading, Math Tests
However, transcripts show students taking harder courses and getting better grades.

high school test results worse than in 1992 and show no gain in first 3 years of no child left behind.
the constitution is not a suicide pact
did you ever notice the only guys who ever invoke that quote use it to justify violating the constitution, such as by ignoring the law to do warrantless eavesdropping or even torture?

that's odd, because it means just the opposite to me: sticking to the constitution won't lead to suicide.
2 books worth a look

Elizabeth de la Vega, United States v George W Bush et al

former federal prosecutor de la Vega constructs a fraud case focusing on six days in september 2002 using two parallel timelines: one that repeats what the alleged conspirators—bush, cheney, rumsfeld, rice, wolfowitz, and others—said publicly to stir up support for war, one that demonstrates what they knew but concealed.

Philippe Sands, Lawless World: America & the Making & Breaking of Global Rules from FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W Bush's Illegal War

brit barrister and international law prof sands lays out a detailed case against the bush gang. iraq's a major part of it, but only a part. yoo, bybee, gonzales, general miller, kissinger, blair, the world bank, and exxonmobil don't escape his notice.
questions i wish we'd asked sooner, #02

during the 2000 presidential campaign the eventual winners claimed the size of our armed forces had been cut too much and needed enough rebuilding to fight on two fronts.

not long after 9/11 they seemed to be itching to prove they'd reached that goal and could attack two countries without negative consequences.

it appears they have some sort of selective optimism/pessimism: they assess threats according to worst-case scenarios then make best-case-scenario predictions about what they'll accomplish. there's no middle ground.

now we see where that kind of manichaean politics got us: defense spending is up 40%, yet our military is stretched so thin it's doubtful it could take on another major challenge.

so a question i wish we'd asked 4 years ago is

if we invade iraq while still in afghanistan, what will we do if another war breaks out or some other major emergency arises that requires troops?

Friday, February 23, 2007

malaysia poverty down from 50-60% or more 35-40 years ago to 5.7% and expected to be eliminated by 2008

last i looked, the richest country in the world is still above 12%.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

from c-span:

looks an awful lot like some self-appointed defenders of democracy took it upon themselves to torture an accused terrorist right here on the sacred soil of the good ol' US of A.

sure, if you don't count such abuses as front-running: a wall street bank employee gets a mutual fund's sell order and leaks the news to a big hedge fund client, who sells first, lowering the price the mutual fund gets and cheating all its shareholders.

yeah, but this plan builds on employer-based coverage rather than calling for medicare for all, so insurance company profits will keep health care costs 20-25% higher than they should be. (more)

this headline might sound good, but read the article. (don't worry, it's short.)

far as i can tell, this headline's wrong: the govt's actually cracking down on employers, believe it or not.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


right! cheney! the expert on good plans!

As for Cheney's assertion that the partial British pullout is a sign that things are going well in Iraq, Pelosi said: "If it's going so well, we'd like to withdraw our troops as well."
Mysteries of the Sexes Explained

February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

gosh! what's happening to the brits?

Iraq PM orders security forces to crush insurgents

everybody thinks he's the exception to the rule, but war is not the answer. it just plain doesn't work!

the way to peace is peace.

Hopes for peace in Somalia fade as violence escalates

it wasn't that long ago media made it sound like this was all but over.

what's wrong with our species, anyway? is human intelligence as overrated as it seems?
why don't we save ourselves all this trouble? just give it up, guv...

mccain: I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history
the fracture line forms on the right, folks.
believe it or not

Justice Dept. audit finds flaws in anti-terror case data

Overall, nearly all of the terrorism-related statistics on investigations, referrals and cases examined by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were either diminished or inflated. Only two of 26 sets of department data reported between 2001 and 2005 were accurate, the audit found.

remind you of anyone we know?

did somebody say "police state"?
what a piece o work these gops are, eh?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

here's a couple hard-to-resists from media matters

an excerpt from a post:

March 9, 2006: Senate Appropriations Committee hearing

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): Mr. Secretary, how can Congress be assured that the funds in this bill won't be used to put our troops right in the middle of a full-blown Iraqi civil war?

RUMSFELD: Senator, I can say that certainly it is not the intention of the military commanders to allow that to happen. The -- and to repeat, the -- at least thus far, the situation has been such that the Iraqi security forces could for the most part deal with the problems that exist."

and a comment:

Rose-colored, rose-scented...

For his complicity in the Duhhbya/Cheney/Rove plot against Joe Wilson, Jon Stewart used "douche bag" to describe Robert Novak.

I think that was a completely unjustified comparison.

A douche bag serves a vital function.

- draftedin68 / Friday August 11, 2006 12:03:58 PM EST

Saturday, February 17, 2007

mixed up metaphors

a few nights ago i heard it again. on npr, no less.

"the 800 pound gorilla in the room, that nobody talks about, is..." began the guest.

a week or so ago somebody said "900 pound elephant." at least they got the right animal, tho a bit of a lightweight.

folks! we have got to start getting our metaphors straight. the 800 pound gorilla—hereinafter abbreviated 8#g—comes from a semirhetorical riddle:

Q: where does an 8#g shit?

A: anywhere it wants.
you may have heard the cleaned-up version, with the "h" removed from the verb so it could get repeated in polite company—tho it loses something, in my opinion.

in world affairs since ww2, the US has often been the 8#g, tho sometimes russia or china could be so described. in commerce, one might speak that way of microsoft or exxon-mobil or any company that dominates its field.

i said "semirhetorical riddle" because the question part of it could be used as an answer. for example:

Q: but why did we invade a little country like panama and kill hundreds of innocent people to arrest one man?

A: where does an 8#g shit?

Q: but we've known about the greenhouse effect for at least 35 years. why didn't general motors and other american auto makers start promoting small cars in the 1970s?

A: where does an 8#g shit?
answers like that assume the listener knows the proper response is "anywhere it wants."

i don't actually know where "the elephant in the room" came from, but i know what it means. "teitr" [get it?] refers to anything so obvious nobody talks about it (tho it needs to get mentioned so those to whom it's not so obvious understand what's not getting talked about by those to whom it is obvious).

nuclear weapons have often been "teitr." oil could be "teitr." or computers, or the internet. capiche?

perhaps another example might serve to illustrate.

the "roadmap to peace in the middle east" is a metaphor. it's also an analogy. a road map is an abstract representation of actual, known roads in an area, and it can be used to find a route between any two points represented.

but there is no known road to peace in the middle east. that's another metaphor, but one without any known basis in reality. there may be a way to make peace, but nobody knows for certain what it is, so finding it will require much discussion, much persuasion, and likely at least some trial and error. it won't be known till it's found, so it can't yet get spelled out in a plan or "roadmap."

so the "roadmap to peace in the middle east" is a false analogy, which is a type of logical fallacy, which makes it invalid and likely to fail.

and that's the elephant in the room.
rashomon politics:
the "great" debate

what does "support troops" really mean?

one side says it to keep the war going, one side says it to stop the war.

both know they must appeal to public sentiment.

so it's hogwash either way: a rhetorical device used by both sides to stir your feelings to get you to agree with whichever one you happen to be listening to.

you need some other basis for making up your mind.

how about this one: "you can't support the warrior and oppose the mission"?

really? why not? do troops choose their missions? or do they carry out what they're ordered to do? and what if the head of the chain of command has chosen badly?

interestingly, some gops in congress have been accusing the dems—who oppose a troop buildup—of now advocating we stay the course!

i guess how you see it just depends on where you stand.
once bit, twice skeptic

you can guess my reaction to boy-who-cried-wmd's "certainty" that an elite iranian military unit supplied iraqi irregulars with sophisticated arms: i'm from missouri!

both xianity and islam count believing without seeing among the highest virtues and promise great rewards for it. that's one of the main reasons those faiths are so successful and why "faith" is a synonym for "religion." the elephant in the room—i just know i'm going to run that phrase into the ground till the whole world gets sick of it—is that you don't collect till you die.

but i'm a skeptic: blind faith is neither piety nor patriotism, it's suckerdom. i demand a down payment: show me the evidence!

if it's no better than you showed 4 years ago, you'll do without my support, as usual.
new jersey is unhappy its strict gun laws get undermined when folk buy arms elsewhere and bring them into the state, so it wants to control ammunition sales.

rifle and pistol ranges say they'll lose business, because customers from out of state won't be able to bring bullets in or get a license to buy them at the ranges.

but that little problem has a simple solution: let folk buy at a range what they use at the range. [no charge to any state that wants to use this suggestion.]

attaway garden state! the constitution says nothing about a right to bear ammo!
saw doug feith on charlie rose last night.

here's a bit of free verse i wrote roughly a year and a half ago:


here we go again:

now douggie sez
we used 2 few troops
cz saddam xpected us
2 build strength mo
b4 we invaded
so we fooled 'im

bettr 2 weak
than lose
o srprise


Monday, February 12, 2007

alternative to impeachment

the usual assumption is that the president and vice president can be removed from office only by impeachment, and that ain't gonna happen, because even if the house brings charges, the gop minority is plenty big enough to block the 2/3 vote needed for conviction.

but what about article ii, section 1, paragraph 6, "inability to discharge the powers and duties" of the office, and the 25th amendment?

so if the prez and/or the vp is/are incompetent, that would do it, but how?

i know on 24 the cabinet voted the prez incompetent, but that was fantasy: i'm pretty sure the current cabinet wouldn't do it.

maybe a lawsuit could force them to get tested by shrinks. they'd try to refuse, but the supreme court made clinton go thru the paula jones suit, so could it take back such a recent precedent?

if it does, it'll show up the justices as shamelessly partisan, and—after the negative public reaction to their 2000 decision in bush v gore—it's unlikely they want to risk that.

then it would be up to congress. uh-oh.

[this USA Today piece has a sidebar with several interesting links, including one to a timeline of the case.]

but don't forget this from wash post 2 weeks ago:
Fleischer, testifying under an immunity agreement with the prosecution, also made it clear that Libby had told him Wilson's wife held a position in the CIA's counterproliferation division, where most employees work in a covert capacity.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

more feith-based crap

this is the kind of gop disinfo we have to put up with:

Republicans on the panel disagreed. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the "probing questions" raised by Feith's policy group improved the intelligence process.

"I'm trying to figure out why we are here," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., saying the office was doing its job of analyzing intelligence that had been gathered by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

[from AP]

o, right. iran, their next-door neighbor, is "interfering" in iraq, while we, from 8000 miles away, are "helping." [i should credit jon stewart for this insight, quoted from memory, perhaps imperfectly.]

Friday, February 09, 2007

old news reborn

carl levin was on this case 2 years ago.

feith's role in the bushdoggle is at last the subject of the inspector general's scrutiny.

feith, of course, claims he was doing just the opposite of what everybody knows he did.

bush's neocon "brain" trust: perle, wolfowitz, feith
check it out:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

let's pull over and ask for directions

last week, jon stewart made fun of hillary clinton's slogan, "let the conversation begin," saying it wouldn't work with men. he tossed off a couple more phrases he thought equally ineffective, ending with an iraq policy name i've used to headline this post.

it got a good laugh, but hmm: "pull over." and hmm: "ask for directions."

y'know, i like the sound of that.

i really do.

imagine this conversation with the next sawdust-brained bushbot you meet:

him: you liberals want to cut and run.

you: no. we want to pull over and ask for directions.

not bad, eh?

oh. in case you wonder what "sawdust-brained" means, i got the idea from the wizard of oz. recall how the wizard gives the scarecrow a brain by adding.... it's slipped my mind what he added, but i know he mixed something with the straw in the scarecrow's head. what i'm suggesting is you turn a bush into sawdust then mix it with your brain, and you too will start saying things like "stay the course," "personal accounts," "freedom is god's gift," "death tax," "faith-based initiative," and "democrat party."
avoiding risk is the biggest risk of all—whatever that means

i don't even know where the super bowl got played this year, but midfield time-warped into mid-'80s first avenue & 7th street, minneapolis as the artist still and forever known as prince—looking exactly the same except maybe a bit taller—staged what may have been the most expensive halftime show in football history.

lighting effects, fireworks, on-stage female dancers, surrounded on-field not only by a choreographed "marching band" doing the kind of dancing the nation saw in purple rain but also by a frenzied gang of arm-waving female "spectators" all bearing little lights that a distant shot made a swarm of fireflies, and no malfunctions anywhere, wardrobe or otherwise—prince left nothing to chance.

if only our policymakers and strategists were so committed to perfection.

in a near-forgotten age, the best and brightest young members of society aspired to careers in the military and civil service. then came what we call "progress," which led to relatively widespread prosperity and increased leisure, which allowed younger generations to follow their bliss, as myth scholar joseph campbell put it. in the 1950s rhythm'n'blues and rock'n'roll inspired a lot of kids to pick up guitars and learn to sing. after the '50s, the trend grew and continued. more seekers of excellence risked the unknown and went into the arts and sciences rather than public service, leaving more room in government and the military for folk who cleave to faith and leave much to chance.

so we get a prince and a bush.

maybe 8 or 10 years ago a guy who might not have been born before 1970 came up to me during an intermission in a poetry read and said "i think i know why the '60s failed." unfortunately i'm very opinionated—as you may have noticed. i came right back with "i don't think the '60s did fail." i must've gotten distracted, because much to my regret i never did hear what he had to say. for all i know he was right.

but whether or not a time period could be said to succeed or fail, it's clear some folk who could've learned the lessons of the '60s just weren't paying attention. many of them still inhabit a comic-book reality where good eternally battles evil, where a supernatural hero will surely save us from devastating natural forces unleashed by human folly, where those who have no such faith or a different worldview are godless liberals or secular humanists or moral relativists in league with the devil.

in my reality civilization is populated not by good and evil beings but by human beings. they experience belief and ignorance, desire and frustration, hope and fear, joy and sadness, love and hate, rage and tenderness, pleasure and pain, strength and weakness, fullness and emptiness. they desire the greatest good for the greatest number, but they make mistakes.

i couldn't possibly name all the sources of human error. they can be physical, mental, or emotional. some would add "spiritual" to the list, tho i think i've already accounted for it with "mental" and "emotional."

but all take risks, whether they know it or not, and errors get made, for they are human, or unintended consequences occur.

among knowing risk-takers, those who seek excellence—including some of the faithful—try to reduce risk of harm to themselves and others by leaving as little as possible to chance. others unknowingly give chance free reign as they await their messiah and/or seek riches and power, so the poor get poorer and the ecosystem deteriorates and international tensions rise and antagonism within nations grows and people suffer and die.

i won't say everything would get better if all leaders played musical instruments—after all, harry truman and richard nixon were amateur musicians who left us the cold war and the energy crisis—but i do think it would help if they and we remembered that the various countries and groups that seem to threaten our existence are not monoliths entirely made up of "commies" or "evildoers" or "extremists" but human beings.
next budget: to pay for war, bush wants $66B medicare cut, $25B medicaid cut

$140B for war in FY '08, $50B in '09, when he figures we'll pull out (after he leaves office)

make tax cuts for rich permanent

don't eliminate AMT

to balance budget by 2012, run up debt another $3 TRILLION in 5 years
in the new defeat-generated spirit of bipartisan conciliation, da prez visited the dem caucus and responded to criticism of his use of "democrat majority" in the state of the union speech.

the apology was lighthearted but—one assumes—sincere.

it ended with the lame duck semicontritely calling his own party the "republic party."

it got a polite laugh, but it didn't do the job. that's no surprise, i suppose, considering the source.

"democrat party" sounds crass. "republic party" doesn't. maybe if he'd said "publican party" it would've come closer, and he could've remained comfortable with the knowledge that he's a tax-cuttin' teetot'ler, but it still would've fallen short.

we've heard gops say "democrat party" for decades. i think joe mccarthy started it. gingrich and luntz followed up more recently. it's not clear why bush used it in the speech. could he really be unaware it's disparaging? is he truly so thoughtless?

sometimes it's too late to say you're sorry.
just biden my time

it looks to me like mr biden's gaff was an attempt to say something nice about mr obama. he must not have noticed it contained an implied comparison with other african americans, and—as a very old saying goes—comparisons are odious.

i learned from washington journal that "clean" wasn't the only word that offended folk: there was also "articulate." someone said nobody can say jesse jackson's not articulate. a caller disagreed, saying what's articulate about "if it don't fit you must acquit"? she then went on to complain that the media stomp on gops over racism but let dems get away with it.

as i'm sure most of you know, jesse jackson isn't johnnie cochran, but apparently "they all look alike" to that caller, who needs to get her phobic glasses cleaned.

my own problem with mr biden is he's one of the 58% of dem senators who in october 2002 voted to authorize the use of force in iraq. ms clinton is another.

now, maybe he could make the same claim she has that if he'd been prez we wouldn't've invaded, but that's not enough for me. what we need in the oval office is somebody who can see thru bullshit and anticipate undesirable consequences.

ms clinton can't even excuse her vote by saying she was up for reelection the next month, as could mr biden. but it doesn't excuse him either, even tho we know the white house hoped the upcoming election would pressure congress to pass the resolution, because we also know 126 house dems voted "nay" tho they were all up for reelection, with the exception of retirees.

neither of them had the foresight and street smarts either to see thru the bogus WMD charges or to recognize the possibility that the administration might abuse the intent of the resolution and go to war unnecessarily. that in spite of the cloud of gunsmoke hanging over DC from numerous speeches by chicken little himself, his svengali vp, his rasputin political adviser, and his miss muffet national security adviser.

i hope enough grassroots dems wake up to nominate somebody without that baggage, and i wish it could be a woman, but i may have to hold my nose in '08 on what i consider a vital issue, and i won't like it.
from c-span:
· Rep. George Miller (D-CA) Wants to Make It Easier to Unionize

Sen. McConnell (R-KY) Vows to Fight for Judicial Nominees

N. Korea Lays Out Demands in Advance of Talks

WP: Soldiers in Baghdad Call Effort "Thankless Struggle"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

questions i wish we'd asked sooner, #01

it seems like virtually every day i hear a caller to washington journal say "if we pull out of iraq, they'll come over here."

i wish folks like them would take their heads out from under their pillows, inhale some fresh air for a change, and take a good look around at the real world for once in their pitiful unexamined lives.

pulling out of iraq doesn't mean pulling out of the world and hiding under our beds. the day we pull out of iraq is the day we'll be free to bring all our troops and all our resources to bear on hunting down osama (and all terrorists).

so you tell me:

if you were bin laden, would you want us to pull out of iraq
geez! have you heard about this?

this is what the "surge" is for.

the "new strategy" is really the same old counterinsurgency methods as before, but used against ethnocidal violence.

in other words, we're trying to stop the civil war.


meanwhile, PM al-maliki wants iraqis to stop thinking of themselves as sunni or shi'a and go back to just being iraqis. hmm. nationalism versus religion. why didn't i think of that?

for a worker who actually gets a 40-hour week for 52 paid weeks a year, that's $15,080, which is above the poverty level for 2 people but well below it for a 3-person family. and by the time it kicks in, inflation will erode it further.