SURGEONS must be very careful

The ‘Peculiar’ Disappearance of Iraq Coverage

“This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined.

“The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn’t happenstance. It’s a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer…. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality.

Reporters can’t say it, politicians can’t say it, and even the average Joe at the diner can’t give voice to the notion Iraq is a been there done that situation. Except for the bloggers for war porn who keep a handy list of trite hysterical reasons, no one knows why we’re still there. maybe we’ve moved on to a new subset of rationales like have a force nearby in case the administration decides to invade Iran. The Peking Duck also has some thoughts on the same article Collapse of the final rationale

Skip this if you don’t have a strong stomach, “I came over here because I wanted to kill people.”

“Then I heard him stop breathing,” Green said. “We got back and everyone was like, ‘Oh [expletive], get him off the truck.’ But I knew he was dead. You could look in his eyes and there wasn’t nothing in his eyes. I knew what was going on there.”

He paused and looked away. “He was the nicest man I ever met,” he said. “I never saw him yell at anybody. That was the worst time, that was my worst time since I’ve been in Iraq.”

Green had been in country only four months at that point, a volunteer in a war he now saw as pointless.

“I gotta be here for a year and there ain’t [expletive] I can do about it,” he said. “I just want to go home alive. I don’t give a [expletive] about the whole Iraq thing. I don’t care.

“See, this war is different from all the ones that our fathers and grandfathers fought. Those wars were for something. This war is for nothing.”

Many of the right-wing blogs were all over Rep. John Murtha for being outraged at the murders at Haditha

The reason we’ve lost the hearts and mind is these troops are under tremendous stress. Day after day these explosive devices go off, and if they don’t kill them that day, they hurt somebody, they wound somebody. And I see them at the hospitals. I see – they don’t know who the enemy is, they don’t know who they’re fighting, Iraq – and then they kill innocent people.

Why does the Green story have resonance, Conservatives attack Murtha and not the wrong doing or the circumstances which lead to Haditha,

Fox News hosts Bill O’Reilly and Neil Cavuto, among others, accused Murtha of “bomb-throwing” and “bashing” the military. In fact, Murtha, who had been briefed on the matter, limited his criticisms to those allegedly involved in the incident and the reported cover-up.

If these conservatives want to have a rose colored acid laced kool-aid view of the world I don’t especially mind, but when day after day they take a tight hold on that utterly delusional view of reality and then act as though they have something serious to contribute to national policy debates its like watching a cat trying to play with the other cat in the mirror. Comical behavior in a cat, but despicable behavior for an American citizen.

Difficult to switch gears, but necessary to avoid outrage burnout, continuing yesterday’s look at the movies. I think that Bruce Dern deserves credit for jeopardizing his career by being the bad guy that kills John Wayne in The Cowboys, but at the same time I hope that movie is not considered his lasting legacy. He costarred with the late great Walter Matthau in one of many classic crime dramas from the seventies called The Laughing Policeman . If you like gritty cop movies and gallows humor it belongs on your to see list. Dern also turned in an amazing performance as a low level huckster in a frequently overlooked Jack Nicholson film called The King of Marvin Gardens directed by Bob Rafelson. Jack and Bruce are brothers only by accident of birth. If you think that the American dream is always about acquiring more money as somehow related to virtue then skip it. The radio monologues are a little disturbing and disorienting since you’re left not quite sure where realty starts and fantasy ends. Finally the film-noir of the day, The Blue Dahlia (1946 just keep in mind watching the interactions between the opposite sex that it was released in 1946. The screenplay was written by Raymond Chandler.

SURGEONS must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the culprit,—Life!

Part One: Life by Emily Dickinson


I know what it comes with, but that’s not what I want

There’s nothing like running a theme into the ground, Has Orwell’s ‘1984’ Come 22 Years Later?. You’re only paranoid if your fears are unfounded, Big brother on campus: U.S. wants to track students’ every step

Does the federal government need to know whether you aced Aristotelian ethics but had to repeat introductory biology? Does it need to know your family’s financial profile, how much aid you received and whether you took off a semester to help out at home?

The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education thinks so. In its first draft report, released in late June, the commission called for creation of a tracking system to collect sensitive information about our nation’s college students. Its second draft, made public last week, softens the name of the plan, but the essence of the proposal remains unchanged.

Whether you call it a “national unit records database” (the first name) or a “consumer-friendly information database” (the second), it is in fact a mandatory federal registry of all American students throughout their collegiate careers — every course, every step, every misstep. Once established, it could easily be linked to existing K-12 and workforce databases to create unprecedented cradle-to-grave tracking of American citizens. All under the watchful eye of the federal government.

Even in 1921 someone saw the dangers of a perverse utopia where a combination of a society that lived in fear made a strange pact with those in power. Was or is the sacrifice worth it, In a perfect world

The One State described by Zamyatin does bear a close resemblance to these imagined social orders. “We” describes a rigid world of efficiency and perfection, one in which individuals (called “ciphers”) are issued numbers instead of names and are nurtured by Taylorist systems from childhood. The One State is ruled by a Benefactor, who is automatically voted in every year, and watched over by spying Guardians, who ensure that nothing unexpected ever happens; those ciphers who do fall out of step (literally) are whisked away to the Gas Bell Jar.

This state of “mathematically infallible happiness” (as the One State’s official newspaper describes it) is considered by its citizens to be a revolutionary improvement on the chaotic condition of freedom humankind once knew.

Like all those that write about an imagined future based on current trends Yevgeny Zamyatin’s imagined world doesn’t serve as the perfect analogy to the current state of affairs. In his dystopia wars have been banished, where now we are closer to Orwell’s perpetual war. War as religion, war as just an extension of the free market, and war as a shark attached to by sucker fish like the right-wing pundits and politicians riding and goading the killing machine. The only real problem with the killing machine according to the right is that we’ve become too squeamish about killing, if only we would wage genocide then we’d be getting someplace.

I’m pretty much had it with top ten lists. Nothing new I have been for years; still once and a while and usually because they’re so idiosyncratic I find one that is interesting. Andrew has an interesting list of his top ten movies at Obsidian Wings, And Now, For Something Completely Different

When Harry Meet Sally and The Cowboys would make my top 100, but not top ten. HMS resorted to easy to pull sentimental heartstrings once too often and The Cowboys was for the most part a sentimentalized Red River, the later a grittier and superior movie. Running Scared and The Princess Bride wouldn’t make any list of mine, but L.A. Confidential, Casablanca, and To Kill a Mockingbird are such superior choices I have to cut him some lack. It’s difficult for me to have a top ten, not because I don’t have favorites, but because they shift places in my top lets say 200 films according to my mood. I love a small budget film called Employee of the Month, but it is a very dark comedy in which every character is to some degree evil, but its not a movie I can watch frequently and I can understand why it didn’t get a wider distribution. Garden State was one of the most original films that I had seen in the last few years, but again there is a very dark side to it. So anyway you can see how a top ten movie list for me would involve too many caveats to be entertaining to write or read. I may as time permits mention a few films over the next week (some film-noir) that are worth a watch that may be a little off the beaten path.

Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects

The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

The conservative argument against rising the minimum wage to the point where it is in the neighborhood of the cost of living is that business cannot afford it. Perhaps a good argument can be made that American tax payers cannot afford conservatives as America’s ruling party. Time to turn away from the martini and caviar crowd and get back to meat and potatoes government.

(looking at his menu)
I’ll have an omelette, no potatoes.
Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat
toast instead of rolls.

No substitutions.

What does that mean? You don’t have
any tomatoes?

No. We have tomatoes.

But I can’t have any. Is that what
you mean?

Only what’s on the menu…
(again, indicating with
her pencil)
A Number Two: Plain omelette. It
comes with cottage fries and rolls.

I know what it comes with, but
that’s not what I want.
from the screenplay Five Easy Pieces (1970)
by Carole Eastman.

If Orwell Were Alive The Bush Adminstration Would Be His Living Nightmare

The myth elves are working overtime and they’re not just some delusional right-wingers printing out wacky flyers in their mom’s basement or calling into to their favorite shock jock on AM radio. It is the people with their finger on the button. Paul Krugman – Reign of Error

First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue — stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq — officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Sometimes the officials simply lie. “The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality,” Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.

If one reads through a survey of western civilization textbook one has the impression at least that rationalism as a social phenomenon evolves. I think that it was Aristotle that believed that all matter was composed of different ratios of earth, wind and fire. A view of the physical world that most people today would find bizarre. But think of it this way some variation of that belief hung around for the next two thousand years. How much progress could civilization have made if the minority view of Leucippus and Democritus was adopted sooner. I’m not sure about why the wrong theory of matter hung around for so many years, but it looks as though the myths that Krugman points to in this column are likely to hang around like the wrong theory of matter. I’m not up for a thorough Fisking of the administration and their supporters spin today, but I’ll try and do a kind of Readers Digest version:

1. “50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded”
The current Iraq war started in March 2003. At that time The Bush administration claimed they knew for certain that Iraq had WMD ( WMD as defined by this administration included not just nuclear weapons, but bio-chemical weapons also)

“We found the weapons of mass destruction.” President Bush, 5/29/03
“We know where the WMDs are.” – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 3/30/03
“The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”– President Bush, 3/19/03

FACT: “A draft report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq provides no solid evidence that Iraq had such arms when the United States invaded the country in March” and none have materialized since. [Reuters 9/15/03]
Regardless of what is found now it will be evidence after the fact. Bush and Rumsfeld lied about having any concrete knowledge of WMD in Iraq. So why has the belief that Saddam had WMD shot up, because of the the discovery of some 25 years old sarin and mustard gas shells that were found after being in Iraq for over three years, Defense Department Disavows Santorum’s WMD Claims

Fox News’ Jim Angle contacted the Defense Department who quickly disavowed Santorum and Hoekstra’s claims. A Defense Department official told Angle flatly that the munitions hyped by Santorum and Hoekstra are “not the WMD’s for which this country went to war.”

You can’t or at least it is morally flawed to go to war over something that you did not know existed until three years after the fact. The greatest threat these old shells pose is to the Iraqi people and the American troops that will have to guard and dispose of them. Where will they be disposed of? Probably in the ground right there is Iraq as it would foolish to try and take them out of the country for disposal. As far these old shells being a threat to America, it is impossible for a rational person to take that argument seriously. Who would be stupid enough to handle old unstable munitions and how long would they have made them into an effective weapon once they did.
2.The Saddam 9-11 connection which the Secretary of State no less implies may have existed. A favorite tactic of many administration officials,right-wing blogs and pundits is not to claim absolute knowledge, but to suggest a gap in knowledge where the conspiracy minded can shoe horn in their pet theory.
M’s Rice on 9/16/03, “We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein … had either direction or control of 9/11.”
Paul Krugman notes,

Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, “as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.” (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) “But,” she went on, “that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.”

This brings up a question that has been asked repeatedly, if the administration has evidence that links Saddam Hussein to 9-11 why was it never shown to the 9-11 Commision
Wouldn’t it be in the administration’s and congressional conservatives interests to whip out the charts and diagrams before the 2006 elections and connect the dots with conclusive proof of their insinuations or is it actually in their best interests to keep the culture of conspiracy theories, vague assertions, and distortions as an on going propaganda tool to manipulate the electorate.

Bush showed great leadership before and after the Katrina catastrophe? Hardly, AP: Video Contradicts Bush Katrina Statements , Bush’s Katrina Cop Out. The Bush administration even managed to piss off a few conservatives, Bush’s Katrina dawdling should offend conservatives

Back to Iraq, I’m picking up on the assertions in which Krugman makes them, “Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t let U.N. inspectors in.” I’ve seen this and heard this particular lie so many times that it smacks of O.J. Syndrome, the liars are starting to believe their lies, pdf file

September 16, 2002: Baghdad announces that it will allow arms inspectors to return “without conditions.” Iraqi and UN officials meet September 17 to discuss the logistical arrangements for the return of inspectors and announce that final arrangements will be made at a meeting scheduled for the end of the month. The United States inspections at more than 500 sites. The inspectors did not find that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons or that it had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. Although Iraq was cooperative on what inspectors called “process”—allowing inspectors access to suspected weapons sites, for example—it was only marginally cooperative in answering the questions surrounding its weapons programs. Unable to resolve its differences with Security Council members who favored strengthening and continuing weapons inspections, the United States abandoned the inspections process and initiated the invasion of Iraq on March 19.

Inspectors were in, no weapons were found, Bush told the inspectors to leave because he did not believe what the Iraqis were saying under questioning, i.e. uncooperative. How were they uncooperative? They were not telling the inspectors what Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld wanted to hear. This whole argument is somewhat irrelavent since Bush had made up his mind to invade regardless of what the inspectors found or how the Iraqis answered questions, The secret Downing Street memo

Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Which coincidently fits in with Bush’s decision not to go to the U.N to seek another resolution after inspectors were in Iraq and the claims that Saddam was not being cooperative enough,

March 17, 2003: After U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to build support for the new resolution fail, the United States decides not to seek a vote on it—a reversal of Bush’s March 6 statement that the United States would push for a Security Council vote on the resolution, regardless of whether it was expected to pass.

I did skip the paragraph on tax cuts, maybe I’ll do that on another post. At present “compassionate conservatives” are displaying their deep and heart felt concern for a wealthy 1% of the population, House negotiates minimum wage bill

Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it’s coupled with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, lawmakers said Friday.

A handy fact sheet on the inheritance tax, Myths and Facts about the Estate Tax

Myth: The estate tax must be repealed because it forces family businesses to close.
Fact: This issue has been wildly exaggerated. Only 3 of every 10,000 people who die leave a taxable estate in which a family business forms the majority of the estate. A recent Federal Reserve study found that the average small business is worth $702,566, well below the level at which estate taxes kick in. Virtually all small family businesses can be protected by simply raising estate tax exemption levels.

Myth: The estate tax “confiscates” over half the value of all estates.
Fact: For more than 99% of Americans, the estate tax takes away nothing.

There is more at the link. Conservatives are doing their best on behalf of a hand full of people while around 8 14.9 million Americans try to get by on wages that are not keeping up with inflation.

The administration can lie about anything and break any law, just don’t expose that to the public, NSA whistleblower subpoenaed by federal grand jury

In a statement issued by the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, of which Tice is a member, he declared “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.”

before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind

There is much to be said for a life pared down to utter simplicity and being part of a community that embraces those ethics. There may even be something to be said on doing away with sex as part of that simplification. If one is really serious about sex being a sin, then this is the only non-hypocritical path to take. The problem with that is that over time, without converts your community gets smaller and smaller, The Last Ones Standing

Only four Shakers are left in the world, all living in southern Maine. But if they can’t attract converts to their celibate lifestyle and this really is the end for them, they have a plan to ensure that their legacy lives on forever.


These are the last Shakers, living in the world’s last active Shaker community, which has survived for 223 years in this idyllic and isolated hilltop village 35 miles northwest of Portland. Here, the four faithful live a life of ascetic simplicity and abide by the three C’s: celibacy, confession of sin, and communalism. “The real misconception about the Shakers is that we’re all dead,” says one of the four, Brother Arnold Hadd, only half-jokingly.

When it comes to globalization, political affiliation aside sitting around talking to folks that are a few paychecks away from financial disaster, talking with people whose future health and well being is dependent on Social Security and Medicare there are two kinds of BS I have lost patience with. The first is Repuli-speak which is pretty much the sound a parrot would make as it said free trade..over and over again, like a sacred mantra that is never explained and is not to be argued with. The second is Democrats who talk about how free trade must be tied to some reciprocal benefits for American workers while at the same time being so willing to cave into the too many of the demands of multinational corporations. I didn’t want to read all this whole article from Steven Pearlstein, A Winning Strategy for the Democrats: Barter for Free Trade because I could tell from the first two paragraphs where it was going and I’m pretty sick of bashing Democrats because of what seems to be a lefty wonk mind-jarring epiphany that Democrats are not perfect.

Because this was the free-trade wing of the Democratic Party, the event featured all the usual arguments about how globalization has helped the U.S. economy, boosting growth and productivity through scale economies, specialization and increased innovation.

And because these were Democrats, there were the requisite acknowledgements that, while trade is an overall plus for the economy, it has had some unpleasant side effects: insecurity about job losses, downward pressure on wages, widening inequality, and an unsustainable trade deficit.

Since you can’t even get conservatives to admit there is a problem, Democrats are already half way there. David Sirota commenting on the same article writes,

What perplexes Pearlstein the most is that these Democratic insiders are so insulated in their Wall Street and K Street offices, they can’t even see the raw political benefits of following the heroic trade reformers in their midst:


I wouldn’t go that far – I don’t think Democrats have lost the instinct for the political jugular. I don’t think its that natural – I believe many inside the Democratic Party have competing loyalties: 1) The Democratic Party and 2) Big Money. And I believe when those two loyalties come into competition, too many Democratic Party elites choose Big Money. This, of course, says nothing about the immorality of their advocacy for trade policies that are crushing ordinary Americans.

To use a bad metaphor, Democrats have at least a hand in the pockets of big money. Maybe in real world politics that is the best we can expect for right now, though I’m not throwing out my membership card in the practical idealist club just yet. How difficult can this be. Free trade that puts American jobs first. Free trade with moral strings attached. Someone has to start questioning the fundamentals. Why have we allowed an economy to evolve whereby someone works hard for forty plus hours a week and is barely surviving. If half the country is doing fairly well, and they are if we measure well off by spending power. They are well off because they buy so many products that were produced by someone that makes even less then minimum wage, not to mention that in many cases we’re helping prop up some authoritarian governments in the process. To be against globalization is as overly simplistic as conservative pro globalization, so if Democrats want to be leaders, if they want to set the agenda they need to let those voices with ideas and answers lead. Conservative-lite might win in the interim, but American workers still lose in the long run.
The classic thriller The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is available as a downloadable audible book here.

The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless,
but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas
Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be,
I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it
was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen
on a child. The case, I may mention, was that of an apparition
in just such an old house as had gathered us for the occasion–
an appearance, of a dreadful kind, to a little boy sleeping
in the room with his mother and waking her up in the terror of it;
waking her not to dissipate his dread and soothe him to sleep again,
but to encounter also, herself, before she had succeeded in doing so,
the same sight that had shaken him. It was this observation
that drew from Douglas–not immediately, but later in the evening–
a reply that had the interesting consequence to which I call attention.
Someone else told a story not particularly effective, which I saw
he was not following. This I took for a sign that he had himself
something to produce and that we should only have to wait.
We waited in fact till two nights later; but that same evening,
before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.

from THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James

he’s been taking too much on there he goes with his perfectly unkept clothes

Since I just saw the remake of World of the Worlds a few days ago the photos of these clouds was particularly striking, Lenticular clouds

Lenticular clouds, technically known as altocumulus standing lenticularis, are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction.

Where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the downwind side. Lenticular clouds sometimes form at the crests of these waves. Under certain conditions, long strings of lenticular clouds can form, creating a formation known as a wave cloud.

I wonder if some of the people that swear they’ve seen a UFO haven’t mistaken these clouds for a flying saucer.

Quote of the Day: “Oh, I don’t know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. … It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I’m not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.” By Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense for the United States of America.

Billmon takes at look at the options in the middle-east, Better Now or If all this sounds familiar — the half-baked war plan, the unexpected setbacks

Lou Dobbs is generally a xenophobiac carnival barker that tries to pass himself off as a populist. The problem is he isn’t much on solutions, but is big on finger pointing. Lou finally found an issue that actually suits his style, laws are being broken, stop breaking them – Why is the president ignoring our laws?

With upraised right hand and left hand on the Bible, each of our presidents, from George Washington to George W. Bush, has solemnly sworn to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States.

The American Bar Association claims President Bush has violated that oath by issuing hundreds of “signing statements” to disregard selected provisions of the laws that Congress passed and he signed.

A bipartisan, 11-member panel of the ABA found that President Bush is not only disregarding laws but using such signing statements far more than any president in history. In fact, Bush has used signing statements to raise constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws. All of the presidents combined before 2001 had issued only 600.

The ABA asserts that signing statements cannot be a substitute for a presidential veto and that such an assertion of presidential power amounts to a line-item veto, which the Supreme Court already has ruled unconstitutional.

The matter will likely be resolved in court. But it stands as a metaphor for a 21st century America that is no longer secure in the claim to be a nation of laws.

I’m not an expert on legal precedent and trade agreements, but Lou might be a little off on that part. Nevertheless it is good to see a guy that manages to piss people off across the political spectrum come out squarely on the rule of law. It is not Bush alone that has created this crisis. It was clearly the intent of the framers for Congress and if need be, the courts to place checks on presidential power. This far right Congress has time and again shown an unwavering loyalty to party and their party’s president rather then the United States and its legal framework. Is it possible to have legislative activism in the same vain that the far right fringe accuses the federal courts of being guilty. Maybe so in the sense that Congress has formed a kind of protective daisy chain around the majority party’s president. Where they should take action they have at best had Sen. Specter’s little dog and pony show. Here again the party of torture and tough talk seeks the path of least resistance, ignores assaults on the constitution, the new activism.
There may be a temptation to go two ways on this story, St. Paul police cite Sen. Norm Coleman’s father for lewd and disorderly conduct. One is to pile on and the other is to dismiss it out of sympathy for an elderly man. The piling on may be justified in the sense that conservatives despite so many sex related scandals from Jack Ryan to Neil Bush to Randy “Duke” Cunningham still consider themselves the holier then thou party. I do sympathize, but as far as dismissing it, well we don’t have to look far for a bit of moral relativity in that regard, fringe right-winger Reihl Wold View writes ( as regular readers know its my policy not to link to right-wingers. I do have a screenshot should he change the post.),

The old guy is 81 and copping a slice of life outside a pizzeria? Doesn’t sound like he needs a whole hell of a lot of help to me. Sounds like he’s doing pretty damn well on his own!

I happen to live in an area where then are families, children, senior citizens, that go out on walks. It is Reihl’s view that if people want to stop their cars and have sex on any of the nearby streets on which these folks and their children are out for a stroll then they should just stop and give the pervs a pat on the back. Our local law enforcement officers see things a little differently, they’ve arrested two conservative ministers in the last six months for sex offences. My guess is the people in the neighborhood of E. 7th St. in St. Paul are your average folks, fair minded, fairly tolerant, but drew the line at people performing sex acts in daylight on their street,

A police report said officers were called to Savoy Inn about 6:30 p.m to investigate a report that two people were having sex in a car.

The fringe right comes out in favor of public sex acts, for which I find myself in the odd position of having to thank conservatives for their honesty and candor.

know a man, his face seems pulled and tense
like he’s riding on a motorbike in the strongest winds
so i approach with tact
suggest that he should relax
but he’s always moving much too fast
said he’ll see me on the flipside
on this trip he’s taken for a ride
he’s been taking too much on
there he goes with his perfectly unkept clothes
there he goes…
he’s yet to come back
but i’ve seen his picture
it doesn’t look the same up on the rack
we go way back
i wonder about his insides
its like his thoughts are too big for his size
he’s been taken… where, i don’t know?

Lyrics from Off He Goes by Pearl Jam

I don’t want you to riot I don’t want you to protest

Not Wanting to Earn Their Wings
They sight costs as the biggest factor, lessons and the planes themselves make driving that Hummer seem down right practical. The last I read most commercial airline pilots get their training and experience from the military so a shortage of commercial airline pilots may be a different story. Some of those interviewed had some anecdotal speculation about the lack of interests. One may have a point when he suggested that in 2006 flying is seen as just another form of transportation, that flying in itself doesn’t provide much in the way of adrenaline rush. The days of Lindberg and new flying frontiers are over. He may have a point, the thrill seekers are always moving on to the newest thrill. With air safety having reached a level where accidents are relatively rare the skies have become safer then our highways. Still, a Porche Boxster is a bargain basement adrenaline pump compared to a private plane. Make private aircraft as cheap as an an exotic sportscar and they will come.
I already knew about the ability to track license plates and with some safeguards seems like a reasonable tool to help fight crime, but as this article points out we seem to be tumbling down the road without rules, License Plate Tracking for All

“We have pretty much a Wild West society when it comes to privacy rights,” says Jay Stanley, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The overall lesson here is that we really need to put in place some broad-based privacy laws. We need to establish basic ground rules for how these new capabilities are constrained.”Current laws don’t constrain much. Just as it’s legal for the paparazzi to take pictures of celebrities in public, it’s legal for anyone to photograph your license plate on the street. Still, there aren’t enough LPR units in service yet to follow your car everywhere.

In other privacy news, Judge Dismisses Phone Records Lawsuit

Citing national security, a federal judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T from giving telephone records to the government for use in the war on terror.

“The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government’s intelligence activities,” U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

This is not the slippery slope, we’re at the bottom. The government can pretty much do anything it wants in secret, minimal if any oversight, claim national security is threatened and civil liberties are thrown out like so much excess baggage. In comparison to other countries Americans are relatively trusting of one another in general, but the last fifty years don’t speak well for some members of the government when it comes to being guardians of the public trust. At times they have acted in a manner that is less then respectful of the principles of a democracy, Nixon’s spying on domestic political adversaries and Reagan’s Iran-Contra shenanigans come to mind.
If Nixon and Reagan had used the current conservative governing cabal’s rationale those very egregious attacks on democracy may have gone unpunished(even as it was Iran-Contra was meet with a smack on the wrist).

There are probably a multitude of lessons to be learned from the assassination of President James A. Garfield, one of them is to wash your hands, A President Felled by an Assassin and 1880’s Medical Care

At least a dozen medical experts probed the president’s wound, often with unsterilized metal instruments or bare hands, as was common at the time.

Sterile technique, developed by the British surgeon Joseph Lister in the mid-1860’s, was not yet widely appreciated in the United States, although it was accepted in France, Germany and other parts of Europe. Historians agree that massive infection, which resulted from unsterile practices, contributed to Garfield’s death.

They lie so often they’ve singlehandedly invented lie-porn, On Those White House Claims That Discretionary Spending Has Declined


I don’t want you to riot. I
don’t want you to protest. I
don’t want you to write your
congressmen. Because I wouldn’t
know what to tell you to write.
I don’t know what to do about the
depression and the inflation and
the defense budget and the Russians
and crime in the street. All
I know is first you got to get
mad. You’ve got to say: “I’m
mad as hell and I’m not going
to take this any more. I’m a
human being, goddammit. My life
has value.” So I want you to
get up now. I want you to get
out of your chairs and go to
the window. Right now. I want
you to go to the window, open
it, and stick your head out
and yell. I want you to yell:
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not
going to take this any more!”

from the screenplay N E T W O R K by Paddy Chayefsky

It is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil

One would think that after the Hamdan and the recent conclusion by the ABA that Bush’s Signing Statement Practice Contrary to Rule of Law and Separation of Powers the Bush administration might notice that the United States of America was not, contrary to neocon doublethink a monarchy and Bush was not a potentate who governed without restraint, but no. Hubris infests these neocons like an incurable rash, Congress Learned of Nation’s Nuclear Expansion From Independent Analysts

Henry D. Sokolski, the Defense Department’s top nonproliferation official during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he was most surprised by the way news of the reactor in Pakistan became known.

“What is baffling is that this information — which was surely information that our own intelligence agencies had — was kept from Congress,” said Sokolski, now director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “We lack imagination if we think that this is no big deal.”

This information was probably keep from Congress because BushCo has done such a bang up job on the foreign policy front that being able to handle India and Pakistan was just considered a gimme.

“Where’s the beef”, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, “Mikey likes it” and “Conservatives believe in small government”- all some of the most memorable advertising slogans of our age. About that last one and truth in advertising, Congress to spend $750 million to promote marriage, better fathers

Ron McLain has no qualms about the federal government getting involved in marriage. Indeed, he’s counting on it.

McLain has applied for a $550,000 federal grant to hire counselors for Marriage Mentoring Ministries Inc., a tiny business in Fresno County, Calif., that helps couples before and after they exchange wedding vows. He also has a bid in for a $250,000 grant to teach men to become better fathers.

“The market is obviously very ripe for this with the divorce rate as high as it is, and obviously couples want a good marriage,” said McLain, who oversees the organization along with his wife, Joan. They specialize in training couples to mentor other couples, with many of the classes taking place at local churches.

On even casual inspection this would seem to fail the small government test and then there are these arcane old writings, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. The lack of 750 million in tax payer dollars wouldn’t prevent Ron or the like from practicing their religion, but it is a case of head meets wall on the establishment clause.

“It’s amazing to me how anyone can find this controversial,” Herger said. “Being a parent of nine children myself, it’s tough enough to raise children when there’s two parents, let alone when there’s just one mother, totally alone, trying to raise a child.”

So it is Herger’s proposition that since some people have made dubious decisions about having children requires that the government step in and take matters in hand. His party has campaigned against job training so that the poor with children can earn a better living and lessen some of the strain that leads to broken families, yet thinks that if government rushes in and chants a few bible verses that somehow families will magically find a way. Rep. Herger makes note of the link between poverty and unstable households, but thinks that rather then a good education and a good paying job being the obvious solution, tax payers will get a better return on their social investment if we just send these folks down to Ron McLain for some religious based counseling. I have nothing against pastors or rabbis counseling the faithful, but aside from illegal merging of religion and government, it may not be all that effective. Red states as we all know at this point have a larger percentage of christian fundamentalists and have at least a slight majority of right-wing voters, yet they have a higher divorce rate and some other rather sorted problems, Dossier: Red-State Values

In red states in 2001, there were 572,000 divorces … Blue states recorded 340,000 … In the same year, 11 red states had higher rates of divorce than any blue state … In each of the red states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico, 46.3 percent of all births were to unwed mothers … In blue states, on average, that percentage was 31.7 … Delaware has the highest rate of births to teenage mothers among all blue states, yet 17 red states have a higher rate … Of those red states, 15 have at least twice the rate as that of Massachusetts … There were more than 100 teen pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 5 red states in 2002 …

Granted personal problems are just that, but if there is one link between bad marriages and teen pregnancies on a national scale of trends it would seem to be cultural conservatism, poor wages, and lack of economic opportunity not the access to someone that can give advice with a bible and a government check marking chapter and verse. If we can spend over 8 billion dollars a month to create a civil war in Iraq we could spend a quarter of that getting people a solid education and job skills so their lives and their marriages might truly be just a little more “stable”.

I went to the rabbi to get some advice. He said, “It is
written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour
to be evil. You are not a fool. They are the fools. For
he who causes his neighbor to feel shame loses Paradise
himself.” Nevertheless the rabbi’s daughter took me in. As
I left the rabbinical court she said, “Have you kissed the
wall yet?” I said, “No what for?” she answered, “It’s the
law; you’ve got to do it after every visit.” Well, there
didn’t seem to be any harm in it. And she burst out
laughing. It was a fine trick. She put one over on me,
all right

excerpt from Gimpel the Fool
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

He left the past year’s dwelling for the new

I’m not very fond of conspiracy theories and in particular one that has sprung up in the last few years that the government or Bush and associates took part in planning 9-11. So far there isn’t a credible piece of evidence to suggest that they somehow engineered 9-11 or helped those that actually carried out the horrendous crimes of that day. In Conspiracy Theories 101 Stanley Fish writes,

KEVIN BARRETT, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has now taken his place alongside Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado as a college teacher whose views on 9/11 have led politicians and ordinary citizens to demand that he be fired.

Mr. Barrett, who has a one-semester contract to teach a course titled “Islam: Religion and Culture,” acknowledged on a radio talk show that he has shared with students his strong conviction that the destruction of the World Trade Center was an inside job perpetrated by the American government. The predictable uproar ensued, and the equally predictable battle lines were drawn between those who disagree about what the doctrine of academic freedom does and does not allow.

Mr. Barrett’s critics argue that academic freedom has limits and should not be invoked to justify the dissemination of lies and fantasies. Mr. Barrett’s supporters (most of whom are not partisans of his conspiracy theory) insist that it is the very point of an academic institution to entertain all points of view, however unpopular. (This was the position taken by the university’s provost, Patrick Farrell, when he ruled on July 10 that Mr. Barrett would be retained: “We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas.”)

Both sides get it wrong. The problem is that each assumes that academic freedom is about protecting the content of a professor’s speech; one side thinks that no content should be ruled out in advance; while the other would draw the line at propositions (like the denial of the Holocaust or the flatness of the world) considered by almost everyone to be crazy or dangerous.

This is a difficult situation for those like myself that think if we are to err, that we do so on the side of free speech and academic freedom. Barret isn’t teaching a course on 9-11 conspiracy theories and their history, or even a course that looks at the spectrum of conspiracy theories. He is teaching a course in “Islam: Religion and Culture” and while doing so using it as a forum to sell his unfounded notions about 9-11. Barret is probably a smart guy, he probably feels he has good intentions, but he is using academic freedom to sell what amounts to nothing more then superstitious beliefs. I’ve see variations of this theory on the right ( especially the libertarian right) and the left, thus I’m not sure exactly where Barret comes from on the political scale, but if he is from the center to left, he isn’t doing us any favors. Looking at the evidence that is available, such as the Presidential Daily Brief for August 6, 2001 entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US “ or we could look at how in spite of warnings by the Clinton administration about Al-Qaeda Bush’s Justice Department considered counter-terrorism a low priority, Terrorism Not a Priority for Ashcroft Pre-9/11

Counterterrorism was nowhere to be seen on Ashcroft’s list of top priorities for the Justice Department. Ashcroft’s May 2001 “budget goals memo” outlined the Attorney General’s top seven priorities. Counterterrorism did not appear anywhere on the list.

that a case can well be made that BushCo was negligent. No conspiracy theories required. Then there is amble evidence that their conduct in the run up to Iraq and their management of the conflict in Afghanistan have been reckless and extreme. Barret and his supporters need to back up and reevaluate. He is not doing himself or any political side any good, but he is doing damage to real academics who exercise academic freedom in a responsible manner.

The distinction I am making — between studying astrology and proselytizing for it — is crucial and can be generalized; it shows us where the line between the responsible and irresponsible practice of academic freedom should always be drawn. Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply.

This is a difficult line to define, but Fish does a good job in defending academic freedom and drawing a line that Barret has crossed. A class on conpiracy theories sounds like a great idea or a class on the pyschology of conspiracy theories where students would be free to toss around ideas and do some critical analysis, that is not what Barret seems to be doing.

Once in a while someone manages to snip some Paul Krugman from behind the NYT paywall. From the Economist’s View, Taking the Core Out of the Apple

But sociologists and many economists believe that there can be non-economic consequences for cities that lose a lot of middle-income residents. The disappearance of middle-income neighborhoods can limit opportunities for upward mobility… It becomes harder for lower-income homeowners to move up the property ladder, buy into safer neighborhoods, send their children to better schools and even make the kinds of personal contacts that can be a route to better jobs. …

With a dwindling middle class, rich and poor become more separate. Alan Berube, an author of the Brookings study, said a two-tiered marketplace can develop: Whole Foods for the upper classes, bodegas for the lower, with no competition from stores courting the middle. “If the two models are check cashers on the one hand and major national financial institutions on the other, who’s thinking about how to hold down costs for the basic consumer?” he asked.

I often wonder, since we’re on the subject of academics, whether some of these professors ever stick there heads out of theor ivory towers. The middle-class is not a herd of cattle. While I’m frequently dissappointed in those in the middle-class that paradoxically vote for policies that weaken the economic corner stone of this country, economists that see them as city gatekeepers are aggravating at best.
Some film-noir viewing suggestions: Old school, Laura (1944)
and more modern, “The Singing Detective” (1986)

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

from The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes

That just leaves the little things, like happiness, character, point of view…

The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian held a national competition and choose 51 portraits for the final exhibition. The first prize winner salutes the beauty of imperfection. Shaela and Elliott remind me of, and I mean this in the most complimentary way, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. I’d make a lousy judge, they’ll all so great. Each has their own unique vision. A downloadable copy of the exhibition flyer is here.

Democrats never seem to get credit for anything by the fringe right. It is telling of how not just obscure right-wing blogs accuse Democrats of being on the side of terrorists, an assertion so bizarre that in this layman’s eyes it borders on psychosis, but in so many words we hear the same rhetoric from editorial pages of our most prominent newspapers and cable news pundits. It was all rather simple from our point of view, Bin Laden and his henchmen were responsible for 9-11. The bad guys were in Afghanistan. Gather a posse and go get him. Since the Taliban wouldn’t cooperate things did ratchet up quite a bit, but instead of a proportional response the administration turned a large swath of the country’s population into collateral damage. Little did we know at the time that this was the neocon style. They used a sledge hammer where a scalpel was called for ( Lesson learned:never be operated on by a neocon) Still many of us marked it up to human error. They were doing their best and so forth. Where the Soviets had failed, we won. The population was truly shocked and awed. While Bush lost Bin laden at Tora Bora, there was still a nation to rebuild. I’ve lost the original link, but I remember Matthew Yglesias made the point that with Afghanistan so isolated if there was ever a country that was ripe for nation building we had a better chance there then Iraq. Who doesn’t like that kind of scenario. Bush daisy cuts a nation into pieces and lets the bad guy get away, but maybe there is something to be salvaged here. I wistfully remember the press stories about women’s rights on the rise and children going back to school. Losing Ground in Afghanistan

The plan is for European and Canadian NATO forces to step in and provide security for civilian teams in southern and eastern Afghanistan while the remaining Americans concentrate on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This is a new variant of the Bush administration’s misbegotten theory that Americans should be war-fighters and leave nation-building to others.

There are two big problems with this. First, in violent situations like that in southern Afghanistan, NATO can assure security only if America, its leading member, provides reconnaissance, transport and combat support. Second, the idea that American troops are there not to bring security to Afghans but to hunt down the Taliban — and too bad if Afghan civilians are caught in the cross-fire — is a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare. It has not worked in Iraq and it is not working in Afghanistan.

In the end, international military efforts can only buy time to build an Afghanistan its own people will fight to defend after Western troops leave. In addition to foreign aid, that will require improved performance by the government of President Hamid Karzai, which has been plagued by corruption and hobbled by the alliances it has made with local warlords to extend its authority beyond Kabul.

We could mark all this up to the incompetence excuse. Different faces would make all the difference. It’s not the faces, its the thinking. Another group of conservatives may move a different pawn first, but the point of view would be the same. No preplanning. No looking at all the consequences for every move. The conservative mantra to think with your gut while using a mother’s son’s blood. If whole nations like Afghanistan are low priority then the life or death consequences for Private Sixpack don’t even enter the picture.

Yesterday I posted a little about the right-wing fringe’s assertion that Democrats were too far out from the mainstream, which would make the center somewhere around Dino Grandi. Should the average American consider Alan Dershowitz the new moral center when he writes,

Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks. The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit.

Children are easily used as tools, that someone thinks children make fully informed decisions about political alliances and are in full control of their physical location and thus deserve to be bombed pretty much obliterates any claim to being in the moderate center of political thought.

Are you going to the reunion?

No. I’m not going. Is that why you’re

That’s part of it.

Well, you’ll have a ball. You seem
to have everything everybody wants
when they go back. The car, the suit,
the watch. The look. That just leaves
the little things, like happiness,
character, point of view…

It’s always the little things.

from the screenplay GROSSE POINTE BLANK
First Draft: Tom Jankiewicz Revised
Draft: D.V. deVincentis, S.K. Boatman and John Cusack