June 30, 2008

Gen. Clark makes indisputable point, media go nuts

General Wes Clark, valedictorian of his class at West Point, Rhodes Scholar, with a masters in Military Science, 34 year veteran of the Armed Services including serving as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, appeared on "Face the Nation" yesterday and freaked out the entire major media and other dupes by saying something that's so plainly obvious, so indisputably true, that most pundits and media figures pretended to be utterly shocked and acted as though it was some horrid outrage.

But it wasn't an "outrage", it isn't even disputable.

Since you'll be hearing about this from pundits and news readers taking one tiny line or so and reading it without any context whatsoever, here's exactly what went on between Gen. Wesley Clark and an incredulous Bob Schieffer, who acted as though Clark had announced that he'd just returned from a flight to Mars.

This set the accepted story line in the chattering class that Clark's remarks were somehow startling and unfair.

Let's look in, shall we?

Schieffer: "Well you went so far as to say that John McCain was quote, and these are your words, "untested and untried". I must say, I had to read that twice because you're talking about someone who was a prisoner of war, he was the commander of the largest squadron in the Navy, he's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for all these many years... how can you say that John McCAIN is untested and untried General?"

Clark: "In matters of national security and policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk, it's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in any of his official positions.

I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war, he was a hero to me and hundreds of thousands, to millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. He's been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he's traveled all over the world.

But he hasn't held executive responsibility, that large squadron he commanded in the Navy, it wasn't a war time squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall, he hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, I don't know whether we're gonna be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle this publicly?... he hasn't made those calls Bob.

S: "Well General, could I just interrupt you?"

C: "Sure."

S: (shaking head incredulously) "I just gotta say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down, I mean...."

C: "Well I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification for being president."

S: (feigning pure shock) "REALLY!!!????"

C: "Barack Obama is not, he's not running on the fact that he's made these foreign policy pronouncements, he's running on his other strengths. He's running on the strengths of his character, on the strengths of his communication skills, on the strengths of his judgement, and those are qualities that we seek in our national leadership."

(video here.)

A few important points to take away:

1. Clark didn't make the remark (that's going to be repeated endlessly) out of thin air. It was a direct response to Schieffer's suggesting that somehow getting shot down is one of the things that makes McCain qualified to be president. As you watch coverage, see how many times this crucial context is omitted and whether the challenging remark by Schieffer that Clark was responding is mentioned at all.

2. The ability of the press and campaigns to spin, distort, and simply confuse a simple statement is never-ending and breathtaking. Within the first day, reporters and pundits, including those who lean to the left were characterizing this remark from Clark as:

a.) "Demeaning", "attacking", dismissing, or "bashing" McCain's military service. (despite Clark specifically explaining he was not and would never do so.)

b.) Questioning McCain's patriotism.

All of the above is patently false, as a simple read shows. Yet this is the story line that is routinely followed.

Clark had previously said:
"Everybody admires John McCain's service as a fighter pilot, his courage as a prisoner of war. There's no issue there. He's a great man and an honorable man. But having served as a fighter pilot — and I know my experience as a company commander in Vietnam — that doesn't prepare you to be commander in chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved. It may give you a feeling for what the troops are going through in the process, but it doesn't give you the experience first hand of the national strategic issues."

First of all, let's take the line that's causing everyone to wet their pants.

"Well I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification for being president."

This is an undeniable truth, is it not?

And if that does qualify you, I bet that comes as news to all the other pilots who have been shot down and were fortunate enough to survive.

If stating that simple and undeniable truth is so outrageous, "unfair", and out of line, then it should be easy to argue the point from the opposite position.

So try to make a good, solid argument that flying a fighter plane and getting shot down and captured, in and of itself, actually DOES qualify someone to be President of the United States.

I'm all ears.

Since that argument can't be made, at least not very well, then it stands to say that Clark was exactly right. The whole idea that McCain somehow is some master war leader simply due to the "hero" story is pure bunk. That's all Clark was pointing out.

McCain's war time experience doesn't give him any more or less ability to command the entire armed forces, nor does it somehow prove that he has the temperament, judgement, and wisdom to be a prudent and able commander-in-chief. Period.

Does surviving say, a car accident qualify you to be president?

Does falling into enemy hands and getting captured while on patrol instantly make you Presidential material?

How about if you happened to be driving a heavy truck in Viet Nam and were severely injured when you lost control and crashed it into a tree? Is that your ticket to be qualified to be president of the United States?

How is that any different from McCain's experience, aside from the fact that he spent time as a POW?

And Meika Brezinski or however her name is spelled, the morning blond on MSNBC, kept expressing her breathless wonderment and amazement that anyone would dare question McCain's war hero tale. How COULD he touch something so sacred as this whole idea of John McCain as a hero and supposed military expert? Why, that's breaking the rules! You don't mess with myths baby!

She repeatedly asked why anyone would want to go after that area that's seen as McCain's main strength!! This just baffled her to no end.

Gee. Why in the world would anyone do something like that? Why would you ever say anything that questions your opponents supposed strength? Derrrrr.

But of course, there was none of this shock and outrage when Republican attacked a candidate who had also served heroically in Vietnam and had been wounded more than once in the line of fire. No, when the right launched a massive lie campaign designed precisely to attack that aspect of the candidate, these air-heads didn't feign outrage. Not a bit. They treated it like legitimate news.

But how dare anyone say ANYTHING about the hero John McCain and the nice fairy tale that essentially defines him? Why, I never!

Former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card actually said that being a POW demonstrated that McCain had the ability to be .... lonely.... and that's a qualification for being president. Yes, he actually said that on MSNBC this morning.

Well Andy. Then there's one hell of a lot of people out there qualified to be president. Just pick someone at random off of Match.com and they're ready to go on day one.

They all concurred with Andrea Mitchell by saying that what Clark said was "dumb" and a bad move. I'm not so sure.

What Clark said is 100% absolutely true. People get that. Flying a plane, getting shot down, and being held captive does NOT in any way make a person any more or less fit to be President of the United States.

Sure, honor his service and feel for his horrible experience, as Clark and everyone else obviously do.

McCain barely made it out of the Naval Academy at the bottom of his class despite of, or more likely because, both his Dad and Grandfather were Admirals, got into flight school, and then got picked off and captured.

Why pretend this tale somehow makes him (or anyone else) more qualified to be commander in chief?

His service on the Senate Armed Services Committee probably gives him more credentials than that.

So why the freaking out?

Zach Roth writing in The Columbia Journalism Review says it better, pointing out the media's crazy habit of assessing every "mock outrage" in terms of its value as a political move, utterly ignoring whether it's actually true or not.
It’s crucially important that we have a political debate in this country that’s at least sophisticated enough to be able to handle the following rather basic idea: Arguing that a person’s record of military service is not a qualification for the presidency does not constitute “attacking” their military credentials; nor can it be described as invoking their military service against them, or as denying their record of war heroism.

That’s not a very high bar for sophistication. But right now it’s one the press isn’t capable of clearing.

**UPDATE** Obama addressed this comment, though not naming Clark, and bought into the distortion completely by appearing to disavow Clark's statements as if they somehow demeaned McCain's service. He did so today in an address on the subject of patriotism and its use and abuse for political purposes, certainly an important subject and one which needs to be addressed.

I find it disappointing however that Obama felt the need to run for political cover on this, since doing so implies that even he is buying into the meme that Clark was somehow impugning McCain's patriotism and/or military service, which Clark clearly did not.

Several retired military and organizations such as VoteVets.org have come out in full support of Clark and his remarks, even starting a petition of support.

June 24, 2008

Why newspapers are struggling to adapt

For years now, newspapers have been desperately searching and essentially flailing about as to what to do and how to confront or adapt to the emergence of the Internet as an information medium. They're confronting a phenomena that radically alters the playing field they've held for centuries, and facing competition from innumerable sources of news, entertainment, want ads, and everything else papers traditionally offered.

In addition to the competition from other sources of news, and the many who essentially gather together news and distill it into easily digestible form, complete with links if a reader wants to go further in depth, newspapers have to try to figure out how their business model can be altered to include the net.

For many years, papers simply offered their content online for free, with a very few exceptions, notably the Wall Street Journal, which charged subscriptions to their online version from the beginning. The New York Times attempted to make part of their content subscription only, and it failed, forcing them to go back to a free basis.

And of course the Dispatch/Argus, which went with excluding anyone who isn't a subscriber from the beginning, (and even those who are due to glitches with their system which prevents access). The D/A is apparently content to limit their viewership on the gamble that anyone would care to see their content, 98% of which can be easily found elsewhere online, so badly that they'd cough up $50 a year for the privilege of getting their content complete with paid ads on Quad City Online. (I guess it's the cable concept. Get ad revenue and then charge people to see the ads.) Not sure how that's working for them, but it must not be too bad, as they haven't changed a thing.

Many papers and others for whatever reason felt threatened by blogs. Articles huffing and puffing, scorning and demeaning blogs routinely appeared across the country.

A local writer interviewed me in order to do a hit piece in a local paper blasting blogs in general and anonymous bloggers in particular, and other less venomous writers sought to pick my brains as well for pieces on this new and strange phenomena.

Despite their decidedly unappreciative, if not hostile stance against blogs, papers suddenly decided to start their own, such as they are, by allowing comments on their pieces and sometimes having reporters write their own blogs aside from their articles for print, (including the late, lamented blog written by John Beydler, a truly excellent writer and reporter.) thus displaying a wondrous hypocrisy on that level.

The D/A sent me a couple stern complaints, including one immediately after I'd inadvertently forgotten to add a link to the article I'd excerpted. (probably the only one out of hundreds... I apologized and corrected it.)

They seemed to think I was really raking in the bucks as well, and they didn't like that, not realizing as anyone should have, that if I'm quoting parts of their content and generating interest in the topic complete with a link to the full story on their site, I'm driving MORE traffic to them, not taking it away. But I guess the blog=bad thing was stuck in their heads at the time.

They didn't like it at all that anyone was using even a small portion of their content, (covered by the fair use doctrine). But then they started the blog link page which still exists whereby they gladly use many blog's content as a means of attracting visits to their site. Ah well.

It's worked out well, as the link page provides a central place for people to peruse what's out there, and it's benefited blogs by driving traffic. I see it as a win/win.

I can report by vast experience that papers weren't the only ones who had positively no clue what blogs were, how they operated or why, and how to regard them, as people routinely demonstrated their sometimes stunning ignorance in their comments. It was truly as if they were confronting a 5-headed purple half giraffe half hippopotamus. They had no idea how to react.

They thought I was doing it for the money. They thought I was trying to run for office. (HA!) Or, that I was making some big play for "political power". (double HA!)That I was this, that, or the other person. That when other blogs finally appeared, they'd surely take "business" away from my blog and run it out of "business" and I'd be ruined, (they fervently hoped) and other similarly ridiculous notions.

And of course, I've gotten plenty of comments dismissing blogs and the entire Internet as irrelevant to political campaigns, arguing long and loud that it will never play any significant role, which gives you a little insight into how in tune these folks are.

They also were utterly unaware that the vast majority of blogs, particularly political blogs, have always been written anonymously, and this concept was enough to cause some folk's hair to catch fire. They literally freaked out. This tight, cozy little political club which always controlled everything, including what was said about it in the press, having to confront something which they couldn't control no matter how they tried. (and trust me, they tried EVERYTHING, and then some, except respecting my right to run a blog. That was out of the question.)

I think at their root was the fact that they simply could not fathom why anyone would take the time and trouble to produce a blog without expecting anything other than semi-intelligent feedback, interesting conversation, and trading information and ideas from a wide variety of readers in return.

To them life apparently was all about amassing money and/or political power, so the concept of someone doing anything that wasn't premised on either was so foreign as to be utterly incomprehensible to them. They simply could not figure it out. To them, I had to be driven by the same power/money motives they were, that's all they could relate to.

The saving grace was that it was often so far-fetched that it was just plain funny, if pretty pathetic.

At any rate, newspapers, who've traditionally enjoyed one of the largest profit margins of any industry, are now struggling to retain readership and adjust their business models to incorporate the new digital reality.
Klien writes an interesting post on the topic of newspapers adjustment to the digital age and his observations as to why he no longer relies on print for his news and information.

But it was a comment to the post that caught my eye and provided a very succinct, and I feel correct view of why readers are increasingly moving from papers to other sources of information:
As a former newspaper hack for several years, I can profess that my days of reading the newspaper pretty much ended with the Internet. It has less to do with inverted pyramids or other hidebound traditions.

Blogs, academics (left journalism for grad school), book writers and other sources of information have a massive advantage over newspaper journalists - they can honestly say what they believe and know. They may not always be right, but I seldom get the feeling that what they are writing is far, far different from what they'd say over a beer with a colleague.

Newspapers are beholden to advertisers they cannot offend. Journalists, especially beat journalists, are constrained by the need to keep their sources talking. The very tenets of the profession favor dispassionate bullshit over honest assessments of a situation.

The public realizes this. Trust is down and, as goes trust, so goes circulation.

Posted by: William | June 24, 2008 4:12 PM

What do you think about Williams theory? His second and third paragraph reflects something I've truly believed for quite some time now is the essential difference between newspapers and blogs, whether considered for better or worse.

Not exactly a Prius

Shockwave, the jet-powered semi tractor. That pretty much says it all.

But then of course they added the capacity to shoot flames out the stacks and out the rear about 150 feet, and what you have is essentially a high-tech way to burn as much kerosene possible in the shortest amount of time.

Shockwave does these fuel dump/booming things creating an enormous noise and more smoke than Patty and Selma and Cheech & Chong 5000 times over. They also shoot an enormous plume of flame out the back of the jet engines. (You can see the flames as they approach the far end of the runway. Though it's poor quality, I posted clip of this last year that shows it a bit better. There' also better clips of it on YouTube.)

The act is that after going back and forth on the runway making as much noise, smoke, and flame as possible (The only three things that draw crowds better than free chicken and beer.), Shockwave sets up at one end of the runway as a plane swoops down from behind and then the truck "races" the plane down the runway.

Here's Shockwave, with three jet engines from Navy fighters mounted on the back, doing a little warm up run against Mike Wiskus in his Pitts Special aerobatic plane.

And here it is doing a full run.

Side note: I was lucky enough to get to park directly in front of the terminal, making it only a few steps to the show, but of course, close going in is far going out, and it was slow going creeping along after the show.

As I was sitting in line, I felt this vibration... like boom, boom, boom, like when one of those idiots with a cheap old car and a 2000 watt stereo pulls up next to you with the bass jacked to the wall, rattling every loose nut and bolt in their car until the vibrating tin is louder than the bass. (I'm always waiting for a fender or bumper to just fall off on to the pavement.)

I didn't think anything of it, but looked in my mirrors to see if I could see anything. Nope. Then it came again, three or four times. Now I knew I wasn't imagining things, and I could feel it, I could hear my trunk vibrating as if someone were pounding on it hard.

But no one was there! I'm looking all over and then it happened again. Did I leave something on top of my car? Was someone trying to get my attention? Did some maniac on PCP want a lift home? What??!! But there was no one there.

Then it finally dawned on me. It was Shockwave doing those fuel dumps or whatever it is that causes those explosive booms that you see at the beginning of the clip. For some reason, they must have decided to do a little show after the main show was over.

It's hard to describe how deep and resonating they are, but it goes right through you. And it was deep and powerful enough to sound like someone beating on my car, even from several hundred feet away,

More stuff

Can you spot all four planes of the Aeroshell team as they carve a loop? (click pictures for larger images.)

Though this shot wasn't lit well, it's interesting in that it shows the Blue Angels flying very tight formation and going into a roll. Each plane is at a various degree of roll.

Another shot of the beautiful P-51 Mustang.
And this was taken the day before the show. The F-4U Corsair had already arrived and was parked on the ramp. A year ago I posted a video clip of it firing up at last year's show.

June 23, 2008

More airshow pics pt. 1

They had a wing walker. Looks like fun, doesn't it? (click to enlarge)


Climbing through the wires.

More later...

June 22, 2008

Thrills, rampant jingoism, and sore necks

The Davenport Airshow was held once again this weekend, (maybe you heard the roar overhead as fighters flew from their location at the Quad City Airport to the Davenport airfield and back.) and as always, it was fun, exciting, and interesting. The weather simply couldn't be better, sunny with scattered clouds and a light breeze blowing straight down the runway.

A few military acts had to alter or drop their routines entirely due to mechanical or other equipment problems. A jet fighter demonstration was cut short when the pilot noticed something amiss mid-performance and flew back to Moline to pick up their spare jet. At least he came back later and finished the performance.

One parachute team had a guy jump and he apparently didn't like the conditions, as they soon announced that the team had cancelled the rest of their show. (it was a little breezy, but not too bad. What do they do in combat?) And the promised fly-by from a stealth fighter, which had taken off from Whiteman Airforce Base in Missouri to fly around the country doing fly-bys at 8 airshows in a single day, had problems after take-off and had to land at Langley Field in Virginia. So no Stealth.

There were endless recruiting spiels and cloyingly sentimental and overblown deification of our great military made by military announcers and MCs, accompanied by solemn statements implying that we'd all be dead without their heroic heroism, eaten alive by terrorists, which in light of the string of failures, rang a bit hollow.

Each military show was accompanied by endless assertions of how heroically heroic our heroic troops are (You too can be a hero! Go to our multi-million dollar traveling exhibit, play video games that make combat seem cool (and painless), and sign on the dotted line.)

The Blue Angels performance went off without a hitch however, and was as awe inspiring as usual, always a fantastic thing to witness.

I especially like the one point in their routine where they purposely shock the living daylights out of the entire crowd.

All the air show maneuvers are performed along a line over the runway, and so everyone is looking that direction (which happens to be south).
After the crowd has watched the passes in front of them for some time, without any warning whatsoever, they send one jet screaming over the crowd from behind at very low altitude.

Its effect is like getting a 1000 watt jolt going through your system.

NO ONE sees it coming (how could you, two seconds ago it was almost over the horizon.) and no one hears it either, as it's travelling so fast that by the time the sound gets there, it's directly over your head with a thunderous tearing roar that shakes your bones. I'm almost surprised they do it, as it's enough to induce a heart attack.

At one point a military announcer treated the crowd to about a 10 minute spiel which sounded like it was written by Karl Rove himself, the theme of which was "it's not the reporter who gives us the right of free speech, it's not the protester who guarantees the right to march in the streets, it's not the demonstrators, it's the brave men and women of our armed forces, who fight under the flag, and are buried beneath it, who give their lives to give them the right to burn it." (paraphrased, but you get the drift.)

It was amazing. Not only for how it attacked typical right wing, Republican/White House enemies, the press, anyone who actually disagrees with any military action, no matter how clearly wrong, and the nearly mythical demonstrators who burn the flag,(seriously, how many flags have been burned????), but for how simply dead wrong it was.

Soldiers, sailors, aviators, and the rest don't "give" us these rights. They don't do squat to provide freedom of the press. Their deaths do nothing to ensure these or any other rights, nor is any of the thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan related in any way to defending these rights.

The rights these fine folks trot out for their propaganda purposes are given to us by the Constitution, not by the military, and certainly not by Raytheon, Boeing, General Electric, Northrup Gruman, Halliburton, and the rest who churn out this stuff for mass consumption to ensure their gravy train isn't derailed and to keep people mindlessly supportive of mindless military spending.

Iraqis pose no threat to our rights and never have. Neither do Iranians, al Queda, or any other hostile nation or organization.

Only we can fight to defend our rights. Only we can let them be taken away. And so far, we've done a piss-poor job while we allow them to be subverted and eliminated and our legislators of both parties go along.

The supreme irony in this jingoistic speil is, the threat to our rights, to the Constitution which guarantees them, comes from the direction of the White House and congress, our government.

They're the only entity which has not only threatened, but actually violated our Constitution and taken away cherished constitutional rights by being stampeded by false threats and the urge for easy answers and a foolish belief that we must toss our rights in the garbage can in the misguided belief that it will "keep us safe".

The only real threat to our cherished constitutional rights, the very ones that they say these soldiers are dying to defend, has been the Bush administration and it's minions in the Republican party, and the Dems who were more concerned with re-election than defending the constitution they swore to uphold. Our own government.

But put up a few hundred flags and blast Toby Keith singing "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." over the P.A., and then fly a multi-million dollar high tech killing machine capable of slaughtering vast numbers of people from over the horizon past the crowd while spouting propaganda that insists that war equals peace, blowing up and slaughtering thousands of innocent people equals defending freedom and keeping us "safe" and every other crazy piece of non-sense, and the rubes eat it up.

But what do you expect? It's literally a multi-trillion dollar industry that all but runs our military. If anyone ever got wise, the jig would be up. They've got a product to sell, and boy do they sell it. Gotta spend money to make money, ya know.

One recruiting "tool" that you and I paid for to the tune of several million dollars was the Army's effort at the show, which consisted of an enormous inflatable hanger, custom made and decorated, which contained a huge array of high tech video games and simulators to show kids how cool war really is.

To support this and haul it around the country they had four brand new semi-tractors (Volvo, foreign made) complete with custom built trailers which contained the machinery to store and keep the hanger inflated, each with a custom paint job, chrome wheels, etc. and several other trailers and vehicles to support the many service people required to make it all work.

For all those millions required to buy, maintain, haul, and support this thing, let's hope they at least snagged a few kids into deciding that it would be cool to kill some bad guys and be a hero. (Nobody tell them what it's really like.)

I guess with a volunteer force, and more and more kids and adults realizing what they're getting into and what, if anything, they're going into harm's way for, the military has to ramp up its recruitment effort, which is suffering by all accounts. I hope their video game tactic works out. Money seems no object.

But that's all I'll say about that rather disturbing aspect of the show.

I've got a lot of pictures and this year I shot a lot of video. So I hope to put up some shots that I think might be of at least a little interest to readers. And I hope to get the time to somehow edit the raw video into clips and then post them so that you can view a few of those as well.

Here's a couple shots of two of the three P-51 Mustangs which appeared at this year's show. These two flew routines which, of course, were very cool.

This is "American Beauty", and it was, indeed, a beauty. (Click picture to enlarge.)

And here's "Excalibur". Another gorgeous plane in the markings of the RAF 352nd Fighter Group. (according to its picture which appears in the link above.)

Much more to come as time permits.

June 18, 2008

Can you fear me now?

I have a bunch, (well one) kooky right wing zealot who thinks it his duty to pass along the garbage he gets from, and passes along to, similar kooky wing-nuts in the e-mail equivalent of junior high-schoolers passing gossip notes in class.

These routinely begin in breathless earnestness in all CAPS stating that this is VERY IMPORTANT information about Barack Obama that they should immediately send along to all their friends, or lacking those, people that they have managed to get e-mail addresses for, and pass it on to them, thus cementing their reputations as being rather dim-witted pests, the digital equivalents of mosquitoes and gnats.

They seem to favor the capitalization style of A.A. Milne ala Winnie-the-Pooh, which is fitting since they show every sign of having VERY LITTLE BRAIN.

Of course, these folks haven't figured out or don't think to just pass along the relevant false smears, no, no. These nutty e-mails invariably arrive with 57 e-mail headers stretching into infinity, one for every single lunk head who has gotten it and passed it along, along with whatever pearls of ignorance they felt like dropping, meaning that you have to scroll down a few yards to even find the stuff, which is WAY too much work for what it is. (Hell, using the rods and cones it takes to even LOOK at this stuff is an utter waste.)

It's like digging a hole 10 ft. deep through clay and tree roots only to come across a rusted beer can. Even though the scrolling takes two seconds, you still feel bitterly that you've been robbed of that much of your life once you see what's at the bottom of the yards of gibberish.

Each of these e-mail equivalents of primates flinging feces contains at least a hundred exposed e-mail addresses, Never mind that they're broadcasting all of them across the world for spammers and anyone else to pick up. (and how do you think they expand their lists of addresses to forward other chain drivel to? Yep....

It's like the guy who thinks that amassing 5 lbs of keys and wearing them prominently displayed on his belt will make someone thing he's important. These people collect e-mail addresses of strangers and pretend they're friends and delude themselves into thinking that any sane person would actually be glad that they cared to pass along every bit of sewage that passes through their inbox.

These folks ain't exactly sophisticated. It makes you wonder what they're doing with access to computers in the first place and exactly how they figured out how to turn it on. But they do provide the answer to the stubborn question, "Just who in the hell falls for these scams where a deposed king in Africa wants you to hold a few million for him 'til he can get back to you.? They also must account for the number of male enhancement spam. I mean, they wouldn't be sending those by the millions if there weren't a lot of people falling for it, right?

And these people obviously will fall for just about anything. If they got an e-mail telling them they left the stove on, they'd get up and check.

But I digress.

Slate magazine thinks more sane people might adopt this decidedly low-brow tactic to their own end, seeing its appeal to the dim, the gullible, those prone to believing every bit of prurient gossip they hear, and those rather pathetically conditioned by years of Republican hogwash into believing that only the very people who've played them for chumps all along are able to keep them safe from the non-white threats lurking behind every bush. These fine folks who are, in short, Republicans.

Not ALL Republicans fall for this sort of thing.... just those who've had whatever capacity for reason they possessed sucked out of them through years of exposure to sheer unadulterated B.S. and crass manipulation of their ugliest fears and prejudices which they lacked the capacity and character to resist and who are are now in so deep that to change their tune, they'd have to admit they've been saps all along. Their massive egos won't allow them to do that. After all, it's a basic bedrock principle of Bush Republicanism that a real man NEVER admits he was wrong, right?

Republicans have launched a wide-spread and concerted effort to spread via these e-mails the most far-fetched crap imaginable, such as saying that Obama is a scary secret Muslim, refuses to wear a flag pin or put his hand over his heart or say the pledge, or any number of lies designed to appeal to racism, including trying to pin the supposedly scary label of "angry black woman" on Michelle Obama. (As opposed to Stepford Wife blond, which everyone knows is the only sort of acceptable First Lady.)

How long before we hear them breathlessly report,
"Obama has fathered TWO BLACK CHILDREN!"

They tried it against McCain in '04. Why not give it another shot?

"Can you fear me now??" should be their official slogan.

Slate suggests that the Obama campaign should counter this with the same style of nuisance e-mails targeted at the lonely and gullible in the same style.

Here's their clever send up of the type of swill churned out feverishly by certain right wing people. And trust me, it's not too much of an exaggeration. (bold, colors, and huge type size added to more realistically mimic the originals.)

From: [Redacted]
To: [Redacted]

There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.

Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.

There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.


Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.

Pass this along to 50 of your friends within 10 minutes or dark skinned people will buy property in your neighborhood and force you to adopt black liberation theology and shout in church!!!!

(Ok, I added that last one.)

June 17, 2008

ANWR reality

As we hear the bankrupt ideas of Republicans for "solving" our energy mess, it's not surprising that they really don't have a leg to stand on. They've made it part of their religion that thou shalt not do anything serious about energy except continue to provide subsidies to oil giants and demand that they be able to drill anywhere they want.

Of course, this policy is a failure and utterly irresponsible on it's face as in it's devotion to big oil, it pretends there's nothing else we can do but suck every last drop of oil out of the ground in a desperate race to the point where there is no more.

But I guess by then they'll be dead and will have enjoyed their massive profits, so who cares, right?

When you hear the Republicans clammoring to be allowed to drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR, consider these indisputable facts from the government's own non-partisan Congressional Research Service and the Department of Energy.

They've issued reports that are based on reality, reality that applies the same to both right and left, Dem and Republican. What used to be known as facts before the right nearly made them extinct:

- Under even best-case scenarios, it would take 10 years to start production and the average net drop in price would be about 86 cents per barrel — 0.6 percent.

- The government's most optimistic estimate is that peak ANWR production would be less than 1 percent of total world oil output — about 750,000 barrels per day in a country that consumes 19 million barrels per day.

In fact, the government admits that foreign-oil dependence would decrease only slightly, between the years 2022 and 2026, and would then return to pre-ANWR levels.

- Republican oil junkies argue that drilling would produce a "supply effect" on gasoline prices. In that Economics 101 formulation, as oil supply increases, gasoline prices will drop.

But the government debunks that myth, too, because "OPEC and other producers may cut output to offset the supply effect." In other words, OPEC won't sit still as we force price reductions — they'll match our production increases with production decreases to keep supply steady and prices high.

Under best case scenarios experts say that opening ANWR to drilling would bring down gas prices by a few cents a gallon, if that.

- You'll hear them say that we "know" there's vast amounts of oil under those pristine arctic expanses. Not according to people who know the score. The government admits that "there is much uncertainty" about ANWR and "little direct knowledge" about the location of oil, how easily it can be recovered, the size of the fields and the quality of oil in them. What we "know" is little more than a guess, based upon some hypothetical, exploratory models.

But as we've sadly learned, Republicans don't need no stinking facts and a "guess" qualifies quite nicely as a sound basis for developing national policy. That's because as usual, it's a sham arguement designed to obliterate the truth so that a small group can make enormous profits.

It's their standard operating proceedure; piss on your leg and tell you it's raining.

- They also say that tearing up the tundra, building miles of roads and pipes, etc. won't harm the environment at all. They'll use "limited footprint" technology and everything will be rosy.

But the government admits limited-footprint technology probably won't work and "full development of the 1002 area" would require infrastructure throughout the area.

And the government openly acknowledges the threat to what it calls "the most biologically productive part of the Arctic Refuge for wildlife," "the center of wildlife activity," and the only federal land that "protects, in an undisturbed condition, a complete spectrum of the arctic ecosystem in North America."

In other words, drilling in ANWR is being sold as a short term fix, promising miraculous relief from high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil.

In reality, it's nothing more than oil corporations and their bought and paid for flacks in the Republican party seeing a chance to decieve and stampede the public into letting them exploit ANWR for massive profits.

It's too bad Republicans can't make their arguments honestly and let the public decide. But when your positions invariably come down to representing narrow corporate interests over the public good, it makes it tough.

They know that if they were honest, the public would never go for it, so what we get is an endless stream of B.S. as they pee on our leg and say, "Aren't you glad it's raining! You lucky Duck!"

Just remember these facts next time you hear a Republican trying to sell you a bill of goods about ANWR.

Now McCain has reversed himself in yet another flip-flop (they're so many they're hard to keep track of) and is now proposing that our entire continental shelf be given over to oil corporations for drilling. (and yes, he opposed this less than a year ago.)

Again, experts say that it would be 10 years before we'd see any oil from this measure.

Not only that, but the government has already leased literally MILLIONS of acres of federal land to oil giants which they could exploit at any time. The fact is that they have sat on these leases because it serves to keep prices high and profits at record levels.

Exon-Mobil just posted an all time high profit. But not just that, it's the largest amount of profit posted by a company in the history of the world, which is kind of saying something.

And you know what they'd do if we gave them access to our coastlines? Yep. They'd sit on those leases as well until such time that it would provide them maximum profits. That's what they do. They're not in it for their health.

But the idea that these giant corporations, already fat as ticks with unheard of billions in profits, would run right in there and start pumping oil willy-nilly and that as a result we'd be less dependent on foreign oil, or even more far-fetched, that the price of gas would go down, is dead wrong.

Don't buy it.


McCain's campaign, and McCain himself, have exhibited a troubling amount of confusion, gaffes, direct contradictions, and just plain bad decisions. They're showing precious little evidence that they know what the hell they're doing or what they want to do.

There's a definite whiff of desperation and perhaps a lack of even caring about the campaign.

Here's a tiny example that I found on McCain's own site.

I draw your attention to the young woman displaying the "Hold the Bacon" sign directly to the left of McCain.

Is she trying to make a comment on his cholesterol level in light of his advanced age?

The best I can figure as far as an explanation for the bizarre sign is that it might refer to some down-ballot race where someone named Bacon is the opponent? Is it an oblique comment on pork barrel spending?

How do you explain why "Hold the Bacon" is a part of the message they wanted to get out during this event, and why they put the sign in the most prominent spot possible, right next to Grandpa John?

"Hold the Bacon"??!! Somehow that doesn't stack up to "Change we can believe in.", does it?

And doesn't this put McCain at risk of alienating the sizable pro-bacon voters? (and they're sizable, literally, I'd imagine.)

With tomatoes already infested with salmonella it's hard enough to put together a good BLT. Now the McCain campaign expects us to just have an L sandwich?

Outrageous!!!! Un-American!

Clearly a vote for McCain is a vote to outlaw bacon. And when bacon is outlawed, only outlaws will have bacon.

C'mon, where's the TV spot?

McCain. Wrong on bacon. Wrong for America.

Is Blago toast?

Seems that the sordid pitched battle among Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President Emil Jones, federal investigations, indictments, and the creeping suspicion that Blago is about as competent and rational as George W. Bush have conspired to increase the volume of talk of impeachment.

A recent report had Madigan asking his attorney to look into the proceedures needed to start the impeachment process.

Why, it's even gaining national mention.

On this past Friday's "McGlaughlin Group", Monica Crowley, a somewhat late arriving member of the Conservative Blondes club, offered this prediction of what we can expect from "Blagahyehvich".

When you're going to make someone the focus of a prediction on national TV, think you might want to see if you know how to pronounce the person's name?

At any rate, anyone thinks her prediction will prove accurate?

June 16, 2008

R's lose in '08. Pity.

Can you say schadenfreude, boys and girls?
“This should be an overwhelming Democratic victory,” said Allan Lichtman, an American University presidential historian who ran in a Maryland Democratic senatorial primary in 2006. Lichtman, whose forecasting model has correctly predicted the last six presidential popular vote winners, predicts that this year, “Republicans face what have always been insurmountable historical odds.” His system gives McCain a score on par with Jimmy Carter’s in 1980.

“McCain shouldn't win it,” said presidential historian Joan Hoff, a professor at Montana State University and former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency. She compared McCain’s prospects to those of Hubert Humphrey, whose 1968 loss to Richard Nixon resulted in large part from the unpopularity of sitting Democratic president Lyndon Johnson.

“It is one of the worst political environments for the party in power since World War II,” added Alan Abramowitz, a professor of public opinion and the presidency at Emory University. His forecasting model — which factors in gross domestic product, whether a party has completed two terms in the White House and net presidential approval rating — gives McCain about the same odds as Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and Carter in 1980 — both of whom were handily defeated in elections that returned the presidency to the previously out-of-power party. “It would be a pretty stunning upset if McCain won,” Abramowitz said.

What’s more, Republicans have held the presidency for all but 12 years since the South became solidly Republican in the realignment of 1968 — which is among the longest runs with one party dominating in American history. “These things go in cycles,” said presidential historian Robert Dallek, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The public gets tired of one approach to politics. There is always a measure of optimism in this country, so they turn to the other party.”

That desire for change also tends to manifest itself at the end of a president’s second term. Only twice in the 20th century has a candidate from the same party as a two-term president won the presidency, most recently in 1988, when George H.W. Bush replaced the term-limited Ronald Reagan, who was about twice as popular in the last year of his presidency as President George W. Bush is now.

Hat tip to stalwart reader Nooncat for bringing this to my attention.

June 14, 2008

We've been robbed

It isn't fair. And it's achingly sad.

The greatest presidential election in a generation, and we're supposed to experience it all without Tim Russert? Can we even have an election without him and have it seem real?

We've been robbed. Russert should have had another 20 years as perhaps the best guide, the best communicator, to the public of just what's going on, just what's at stake, in our nation's political life.

And it wasn't just Meet the Press. His standards were reflected throughout the media as he set the bar everyone else had to shoot for. Without his presence, what are the odds that the standards he espoused will survive?

Soon there'll be nothing left than blow-dried fops and preening news celebs delivering their vacuous product, oftentimes more gossip then journalism.

A bitter loss of one of the last of the stand-up guys, a real, genuine, American who held the best ideals of this country to be sacred, who never took himself too seriously, and perhaps most impressive, who led a life of true gratitude, with a boyish sense of true amazement at just how lucky he was to be a witness to history and to live through the history of the country he so clearly loved.

A real loss for honest and smart journalism and to the civic life and political discourse of our country.

Russert played a very important role in making politics more accessible and more interesting to the general public. Let's all hope, for our sakes, that others are able to be inspired to do the same.

June 13, 2008

Not everyone hates the soggy weather

This is the kind of weather where you either rust of start to grow moss. In short, it's really soggy.

I took a walk along the river yesterday and thought it might be time for another Inside Dope Cavalcade of Photographs of Dubious Interest. (TM) As always, click on the pictures for larger versions.

The rivers are straining to contain all the water flooding into them, resulting in this spot where you can indulge in a therapeutic foot soak in the healing brown waters of the Mighty Mississippi, which Twain famously described as too thick to drink and too thin to plow.

With relentless rain and the deluge of last night, you may think you're living somewhere in the Amazon basin. But not everyone finds wet weather disagreeable.

Like this rare two-headed Pushmi-pullyu goose for example. It's damned hard to sneak up on an animal that has a head pointed in both directions.

(Missed it by that much. After I realized what I had, I tried to move just a hair to get their necks to line up perfectly, but of course, by then they'd moved. When I tried to tell them to go back and stand in the same places, they acted like they just didn't care.

They'll never work in this town again.

There were four distinct ages of geese, the adults, the adolescents, young geese still brown and downy, and a small group of very young goslings.

This guy and I struck it off pretty well. He was one of the youngest geese.

I thought he cut a fine figure of a goose, and obviously possessed a keen intelligence.

As a matter of fact, he was so glad to see me that he did a little gosling happy dance.

Sometimes there's moments where your feet just won't behave.

There were a gaggle and a half of geese along the river. Big Dads and Moms standing guard with their necks outstretched, and offspring of all ages, all busy grooming like mad, pecking at the grass, or just chilling out.

Do you ever have an itch where you just can't quite reach it? Geese don't.

This shot reminded me a bit of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte".

Here, I'll run it through the magic Seuratifier.

Young geese, like kids of a certain age everywhere, aren't exactly graceful looking. These guys have a decidedly Dodo-ish look to them, only with downy feathers and little undeveloped wings. This is one of the geese between the babies and the adolescents, maybe a year or two old I'm guessing.

Not everyone gave me such a warm greeting, like this big honker who made it known it wasn't a good idea to get any closer. I didn't.

Then there were the adolescents... their black feathers had come in, but they still had a bit of down, giving them that scruffy unwashed look sought by teen rebels everywhere. This guy really knew how to relax... one wing casually flopped out and webbed foot sprawled out behind him.

In terms of sheer grace and ghostly aura, nothing can match the Blue Heron. This one just took off and hasn't retracted it's landing gear yet. A closer look and it's not too hard to see how birds are considered the direct descendants of dinosaurs.

Once up to speed, the gear comes up, and the awesome curve of their huge wings can be seen.

I'm no bird person, other than to take shots of them when they're around. So here's where you might help. Geese weren't the only birds around yesterday.

There was this odd fellow, which I've seen many times over the past few years. He hangs out with the geese as if he is one, but he's definitely the "odd duck" so to speak. I think someone told me what they thought it was at one time but I've completely forgotten. Anyone know?

And this little bird really intrigues me. I've seen birds like this maybe a couple times before. It's obviously a shore bird with stiff little stilt legs. I think it might be a Killdeer. (I shot this from very far away, so it's not exactly sharp.)

June 12, 2008

See ya! Wouldn't wanna be ya!

Somehow I don't think this will be part of McCain's official campaign bio.

Have you heard about McCain's first trophy wife and mother of his 3 eldest children?

And how he dropped her like a hot rock after he returned home from Viet Nam and found she'd been crippled in a car accident and was no longer a trophy, divorcing her and marrying the lovely beer heiress Cindy, 18 years his junior, a month later?

Didn't think so.

For McCain, it's all about character and honor.

This'll no doubt be just the thing to snare those Hillary women voters that McCain is working to attract.

Don't look to McCain to make family values a big issue in his campaign.

McCain likes to illustrate his moral fibre by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.

But there is another Mrs McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator’s presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain’s three eldest children.

And yet, had events turned out differently, it would be she, rather than Cindy, who would be vying to be First Lady. She is McCain’s first wife, Carol, who was a famous beauty and a successful swimwear model when they married in 1965.

She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam’s infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.

But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.

When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.

Today, she stands at just 5ft 4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.

No mo' Joe

Ever wonder how a putz like Joe Lieberman remains in the Democatic caucus and still holds the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee in the senate even while he's actively campaigning for John McCain and accusing Obama of having ties to Hamas?

Wonder what you could do to help ensure that this festering boil is excised from the party post November?

Watch and learn as Josh Marshall explains.

Gee, wonder who he has in mind?

The latest McCain ad has him trying to suggest he hates war (though obviously his biggest fantasy of his entire life is to be a "war time pres'nit" like Bush.)

Here's something I can't believe none of the pundits have picked up on. In the ad, the first words out of McCain's mouth are,
Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war."
The moment I heard that, I thought, wow, that's really a personal shot.

At whom, you ask?

Well, consider the guy that said, "Bring 'em on!" just before a surge in attacks and U.S. troop deaths.

And who can forget the imortal words spoken by Fearless Fosdick to the troops in Afghanistan?
It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.

Think McCain had anyone in particular in mind as being "a fool or a fraud"??

And how did all the cable gasbags, who normally pour over these things trying to glean hidden meaning, particularly if it's a shot at someone else, miss this?

high lights

Happened to snap this shot last week and I like it, not sure why, but it's not your average snapshot.

I don't know if this is an eagle, a huge hawk of some kind, a turkey vulture or ???, but it had a wingspan of about 5-6 ft. and white on the wingtip and along the trailing edge feathers on the bottom of its wings.

June 10, 2008

It's not an occupation, right?

From Atrios:

BAGHDAD -Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran.

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "We were occupied by order of the Security Council," he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. "But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far."

Other conditions sought by the United States include control over Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors. The agreement would run indefinitely but be subject to cancellation with two years notice from either side, lawmakers said.

For those who haven't heard, this little agreement Bush is trying to ram through before he slinks out of D.C. would commit the country to a full-blown occupation of Iraq indefinitely.

An effort to essentially sign a contract ensuring that we're responsible for occupying Iraq for McCain's goal of 100 years or more might be considered sort of important to this country, right?

Nah, not that important that Bush thinks it's worth consulting with Congress, let alone allowing them and the American people to have some input on the issue.

Bush is trying to ram through this agreement without any involvement from Congress whatsoever, which isn't going over too well.

Bush got us into Iraq, now he wants to take away his successors ability to get out.

What a guy.

(P.S. Polling results were released yesterday showing that among REPUBLICANS, more disapprove of Bush than oppose gay marriage. Congratulations George. At least Laura is sure that history will vindicate you. Or at least that's what she says.)

It's official! There is NOTHING right wingers won't stoop to.

No doubt about it. The evidence is overwhelming. Republicans think their best bet in this presidential campaign is attracting people with less ability to think rationally than your average protozoa.

People who watch Fox (and dim-witted propaganda forwarded from moron to moron via e-mail), this is the Republican "core". It's as if their heads hinge open like waste baskets to catch all the garbage they're fed.

Things like: Obama "refuses" to wear a flag pin. Obama "refuses" to hold his hand over his heart during the anthem. A poster of Che Guevara supposedly spotted in some remote local Obama campaign office, proof positive that Obama is a dangerous communist radical.

Why, Obama even attended a secular GRADE SCHOOL while living in Indonesia! Even though he was about 7 years old, he obviously has been indoctrinated with radical Islamic thought and he might as well be an al Queda agent. Be afraid.

Yes, Virginia, some right wing Republicans really ARE stupid enough to swallow this stuff, as evidenced that they actually feel the need to circulate all this swill and more, though thankfully, mostly among each other.

This then magnifies and reinforces illogical and irrational ideas any rational 5th grader would realize were laughably stupid attempts to scare them, and it results in a staggering level of ignorance and gullibility.

It's an echo chamber, where they hear elaborately constructed attempts to connect dots that have less than nothing to do with each other, with the end impression that somehow Obama really IS a dangerous radical akin to Castro or Stalin.

Sure, you might say, but no one in their right mind would fall for this.

Well, to a degree you'd be right. But there are people who have been absorbing this garbage for over a decade now, They're literally programed, having been told to consider any Democrat as some big, scary, threat to God, country, and white people everywhere.

What's it look like when your party, your candidate, and most importantly, your policies are losers across the board? What do Republicans have left to rely on in the campaign ahead? Well, for one example, which former candidate for the Republican nomination to succeed Lane Evans as Illinois representive Jim Mowen sent along apparently mistaking it as a piece of serious campaign material, this putrid piece of rank propaganda. Try to believe the illogical lengths that are gone to in the effort to tie Obama to every communist boogie-man of the 20th century. (gotta love the narator who tries to sound serious and ominous, the scary background music, the dishonest tactics to try to relate unrelated things, etc. Try not to gag.)

Here's the latest. Behold, what passes for responsible political discourse amongst Republican wing-nuts.
Fox News ditz teasing a story about the Obama's charming fist bump at prior to his victory speech last Tuesday: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist JAB? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently. We'll show you some interesting body communication and show you what it really says."

Yep. First Fox, when it can't rely simply on crazy spin and preposterous interpretation, has now taken to bringing on flaky "body language experts" to tell us what Democrats are really saying, even if they're not saying anything.

Now Fox/Republicans don't have to rely on something silly like, say, something someone actually SAID. Despite the fact that they can twist literally anything to fit their story-line and attribute evil motives, you still have to wait for someone to say something you can twist.

But now they can make up crazy crap any time they want by having a quack say it's what their body language is saying. Neat trick, eh? Evidently Fox couldn't find even a quack body language person with so little self-respect that they'd pretend a fist bump... a fist bump for pity's sake, was some sign of terrorist affiliation.

** Update Fox Newsbunny clarifies her comment, says she wasn't associating the word "terrorist" with Obama.

But this is what they're out to do, and for many idiotic and terribly ignorant and frightened whites, it works.

They're trying to focus on ANYTHING that they think they can exploit in order to make Obama seem "strange" or different. And this is all code for ...... black.

To some of these morons, ignorant of course of the fact that the fist bump is, and has been, common for years among literally anyone born after the Civil War, and isn't some weird, shadowy, "black power" kind of secret greeting, even though obviously they're doing their best to reinforce this pathetic thought with anyone stupid enough to swallow it.

Anything... anything at all, that these slimeballs think they can use to take ignorant people's festering jumble of fears and ignorance towards blacks and project them onto Barack Obama, they'll jump on.

The message isn't that Obama may be a liberal or a radical... it's that Obama just may be.... black.

But what do you expect when if you are honest about your views and policies you wouldn't stand a snowball's chance of winning? Making up stuff is all they have left. Lying to the terminally gullible and easily frightened is a billion dollar industry for the right, so don't expect them to quit soon.

Best thing to do is to sit back, and enjoy the comedy. After you suppress the urge to gag.

June 9, 2008

$3 Trillion Dollar War and how it has damaged our economy for decades to come.

Famed economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton and Linda J. Bilmes, a former chief financial officer at the Commerce Department, teacher at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government have co-authored "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict." a widely acclaimed book which calculates the true cost of the Iraq war beyond the small portion reported by the government due to various accounting tricks and simply not counting many costs which will continue and even escalate as years pass. Medical and psychological care of veterans and the cost to replace and repair equipment destroyed or worn out in the war aren't even counted in the war budget, for just one example.

The following are excerpts from their piece appearing in the Washington Post.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spend $3 trillion -- yes, $3 trillion -- on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.

Why doesn't the public understand the staggering scale of our expenditures? In part because the administration talks only about the upfront costs, which are mostly handled by emergency appropriations. (Iraq funding is apparently still an emergency five years after the war began.) These costs, by our calculations, are now running at $12 billion a month -- $16 billion if you include Afghanistan. By the time you add in the costs hidden in the defense budget, the money we'll have to spend to help future veterans, and money to refurbish a military whose equipment and materiel have been greatly depleted, the total tab to the federal government will almost surely exceed $1.5 trillion.

But the costs to our society and economy are far greater. When a young soldier is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, his or her family will receive a U.S. government check for just $500,000 (combining life insurance with a "death gratuity") -- far less than the typical amount paid by insurance companies for the death of a young person in a car accident. The stark "budgetary cost" of $500,000 is clearly only a fraction of the total cost society pays for the loss of life -- and no one can ever really compensate the families. Moreover, disability pay seldom provides adequate compensation for wounded troops or their families. Indeed, in one out of five cases of seriously injured soldiers, someone in their family has to give up a job to take care of them.

But beyond this is the cost to the already sputtering U.S. economy. All told, the bill for the Iraq war is likely to top $3 trillion. And that's a conservative estimate.

President Bush tried to sell the American people on the idea that we could have a war with little or no economic sacrifice. Even after the United States went to war, Bush and Congress cut taxes, especially on the rich -- even though the United States already had a massive deficit. So the war had to be funded by more borrowing. By the end of the Bush administration, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the cumulative interest on the increased borrowing used to fund them, will have added about $1 trillion to the national debt.

The long-term burden of paying for the conflicts will curtail the country's ability to tackle other urgent problems, no matter who wins the presidency in November. Our vast and growing indebtedness inevitably makes it harder to afford new health-care plans, make large-scale repairs to crumbling roads and bridges, or build better-equipped schools. Already, the escalating cost of the wars has crowded out spending on virtually all other discretionary federal programs, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and federal aid to states and cities, all of which have been scaled back significantly since the invasion of Iraq.

To make matters worse, the U.S. economy is facing a recession. But our ability to implement a truly effective economic-stimulus package is crimped by expenditures of close to $200 billion on the two wars this year alone and by a skyrocketing national debt.
Closer to home, we could have funded countless schools to give children locked in the underclass a shot at decent lives. Or we could have tackled the massive problem of Social Security, which Bush began his second term hoping to address; for far, far less than the cost of the war, we could have ensured the solvency of Social Security for the next half a century or more.

Economists used to think that wars were good for the economy, a notion born out of memories of how the massive spending of World War II helped bring the United States and the world out of the Great Depression. But we now know far better ways to stimulate an economy -- ways that quickly improve citizens' well-being and lay the foundations for future growth. But money spent paying Nepalese workers in Iraq (or even Iraqi ones) doesn't stimulate the U.S. economy the way that money spent at home would -- and it certainly doesn't provide the basis for long-term growth the way investments in research, education or infrastructure would.

Another worry: This war has been particularly hard on the economy because it led to a spike in oil prices. Before the 2003 invasion, oil cost less than $25 a barrel, and futures markets expected it to remain around there. (Yes, China and India were growing by leaps and bounds, but cheap supplies from the Middle East were expected to meet their demands.) The war changed that equation, and oil prices recently topped $100 per barrel.

While Washington has been spending well beyond its means, others have been saving -- including the oil-rich countries that, like the oil companies, have been among the few winners of this war. No wonder, then, that China, Singapore and many Persian Gulf emirates have become lenders of last resort for troubled Wall Street banks, plowing in billions of dollars to shore up Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other firms that burned their fingers on subprime mortgages. How long will it be before the huge sovereign wealth funds controlled by these countries begin buying up large shares of other U.S. assets?

The Bush team, then, is not merely handing over the war to the next administration; it is also bequeathing deep economic problems that have been seriously exacerbated by reckless war financing. We face an economic downturn that's likely to be the worst in more than a quarter-century.
It's a bleak picture. The total loss from this economic downturn -- measured by the disparity between the economy's actual output and its potential output -- is likely to be the greatest since the Great Depression. That total, itself well in excess of $1 trillion, is not included in our estimated $3 trillion cost of the war.

Others will have to work out the geopolitics, but the economics here are clear. Ending the war, or at least moving rapidly to wind it down, would yield major economic dividends.

June 8, 2008

Media reform: it matters

Remarks by Bill Moyers to the Conference on Media Reform recently.

Video runs close to 40 minutes. Definitely worth a view if you have the time.

If you'd prefer to watch it at YouTube, click here.

Yeah, we know...

These are some damn brave people. Imagine willingly delving into the psyche of the conservative mind. Yikes!
A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".

As if that was not enough to get Republican blood boiling, the report's four authors linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the rightwing talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, arguing they all suffered from the same affliction.

All of them "preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality".

Republicans are demanding to know why the psychologists behind the report, Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition, received $1.2m in public funds for their research from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The authors also peer into the psyche of President George Bush, who turns out to be a textbook case. The telltale signs are his preference for moral certainty and frequently expressed dislike of nuance.

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes," the authors argue in the Psychological Bulletin.
Sounds like a dead-on description of my most dogged conservative commenter here. It's actually eerie how well this perfectly captures his style.

As to any objection that this study was done with government funds, hey, whenever a costly and destructive affliction is negatively afflicting the country, we always study it and try to find a cure, right? So what's the big deal?

June 7, 2008

The stories you've heard are false

You know, the ones about Republicans being better stewards of the economy, better at managing finances, have tax policies that boost the economy, and all the rest.

Many people actually believe this despite reams of evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps they fancy themselves real players, and have money in stocks (as do many Americans, either directly or indirectly.)

Many of these sorts swallow the garbage they're fed and think that voting Repbulican will be their best bet to put more cash in their stash.

Well, not so fast.

According to Standard and Poors, the respected stock analysis company, that's not the case.

Here's the numbers comparing returns on stock investments under Democratic and Republican administrations.

In the past 10 years:

Under Democrats: (3yrs)
Return: 14%

Under Republicans: (7yrs)
Return: 5%

In the past 25 years:

Under Dems: (8yrs)
Return: 18%

Under Republicans: (17yrs)
Return: 12%

In the past 50 years:

Under Dems: (20yrs)
Return: 15%

Under Republicans: (30yrs)
Return: 11%

June 6, 2008

OK, OK, we'll play the parlor game

I admit it. I'm unable to resist the temptation to play the "Who's going to be V.P.?" game, fruitless as it is.

The pundocracy has launched into this due to HRC's maddening little drama over Tuesday and Wednesday, igniting a frenzy of speculation over does she or doesn't she (want to be V.P.), and will he or won't he (beat her about the head and shoulders... I keed, I keed.)

Fair enough. But now it appears that Clinton has regained her senses after the gang intervention and things have gotten a bit closer to real.

So I'll throw it out there.

Who should Obama pick for V.P?

And... who WILL he pick?

Myself? Glad you asked. I really like former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and would love to see him be Obama's pick. I always have, as long-time readers will recall when I enthused about him during his all-too-brief run at the Dem nomination. (seems like ancient history.)

Pros: A dream candidate. Youthful, vigorous, a great book-end for Obama. Did incredibly well in getting elected in largely red Virginia and touts a bi-partisan approach to politics. Warner has background as mega-successful businessman and entrepeneur having founded the company that became Nextel. He's magnetic and a fantastic stump-speecher (tm).

Traditional geographic/ethnic justification: He's from Virginia, considered a purple state. Though not as juicy as OH, PA, and FL, a big "get".

Will he be picked? I'd give him a 30% chance.

My other fave is from Virginia as well, Sen. Jim Webb.

Pros: No-nonsense, smart, straight talking. Newly elected, has gotten a lot of coverage, but still a fresh "new" face consistent with the change theme.

Conventional wisdom: Webb is a military man, through and through, attending the Naval Academy and graduating first in his class from Marine Corps Officers' Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. He served in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. He then went on to serve on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy. Oh, and he also speaks Vietnamese and was embedded as a journalist with the military in Afghanistan. (Hell, just go read his remarkable bio here.)

He graduated from Georgetown Law in 1975 and served as counsel to the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs. His accomplishments go on and on, including having authored 8 books, six of them best-sellers including one examining the history and sociology of the Scotch-Irish in America. This would be a true asset as the Scotch-Irish are the predominate cultural group of the swath of the Applachian region that Obama did so poorly in. He's also been a screen-writer and producer in Hollywood and has won an Emmy Award for his PBS coverage of Marines in Beirut. (to say Webb is an over-achiever would be an under-statement.)

In the Senate, Webb has focused on matters of national security and would be an excellent compliment to bolster both Obama's foreign policy and military credibility.

And the guy is telegenic, incredibly articulate, and .... he's from Virginia.

Chances? 30%

Then to skim through some of the most often mentioned:

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Like Warner, lauded for being a Dem who won in a red state... and she also possesses two X chromosomes, which seems to be hot politically these days. Con: If Obama named another woman, it's assumed that Clinton's supporters would convulse with rage. I'm not sure this would actually happen, as I believe most were supportive of Clinton as a woman first, then her policy positions, but not so much just because she was Hillary Clinton. I think any woman would be supported.... even by the Hillary brigade.

Chances? I really don't know.

Another attempt to bolster Obama's militaristic appeal is former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. This I'm not too hot on. Nunn is the consumate expert on foreign affairs and military, in particular in arms control, and area both he and Obama share an interest in. Some say Nunn would also provide some age to the ticket, some sense of experience. I feel he looks rather odd next to Obama.

Nunn's Georgia/southern roots are assumed to be a plus to Obama in the general, though I'm not so sure of that either. I think Obama could do well there without Nunn. Nunn is also considered a statesman of sorts in that he's not overtly partisan, is respected by both sides of the aisle, and would also be content to stay out of the spotlight in an Obama administration.

The fact that Nunn is a long time board member of General Electric, an enormous defense contractor, is a bit troubling.

Chances? 20%

Then there's the idea that Obama should improve his chances in the key battleground state of Ohio and pick it's governor, Ted Strickland, another figure who's achieved success in a red leaning state.

I don't know enough about Strickland to venture an opinion, but the fact he's a relative unknown gives me pause, though there are some who argue that an unknown is good for a ticket.

Chances? Judging from the fact that he makes nearly everyone's short list, fairly good.

Aiming for both the Hispanic vote and the belief that geography still matters (I'm not so sure), there's former candidate, former U.N. Ambassador, and current New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

Richardson has an impecable resume, and could be expected to help Obama with the Hispanic vote that went with Clinton in huge numbers. It's obvious that Obama needs to address this group if he hopes to do well.

Richardson appeals to many people, but I find him disturbingly inarticulate and rather sloppy on stage and in interviews. He's obviously a very brilliant man, but it doesn't come across in his appearances, and he seems to have a tendency to say things that could be taken the wrong way. Richardson might prove to be an easy target for Republicans in the effort to pounce on gaffes.

He's a very popular governor in his home state and would surely help swing it to Obama. New Mexico is part of Obama's alternate strategy to amass enough delegates to win even if he loses the handful of traditional must-win states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire, so this is a serious consideration.

Chances? Fairly good, I'd go as high as 40%, though I would be less than thrilled if he were picked.

Then there's the school of thought that holds that Obama should make a bold move and pick someone from the opposing party.

In this catagory the prime suspect is Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

Hagel does indeed have some attractive qualities, prime among them his military experience and credentials as a military expert in the Senate. And it's definitely a plus that Hagel was among the first, if not THE first Republican to openly condemn the Iraq invasion as a costly blunder.

He's well-spoken, filthy rich, and was the former CEO and is part owner of one of the largest electronic voting machine companies, which can't be bad, though it would be a loss to the Republicans.

Hagel would be a plus in the attempt to boost Obama's military cred, but there's no apparent geographic benefit, if you subscribe to that.

Chances? Slim, though it wouldn't be a bad choice.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also been mentioned as a mixed party ticket choice, but it's dubious that he'd entertain the notion of being vice president.

Chances? About nil.

And last, but certainly far from least, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

You may have heard of her.

At one point, I think most Dems and Obama supporters were actually excited at the prospect of an Obama/Clinton ticket. But as the interminable campaign ground on, and particularly when Clinton went into scorched earth, damn reality mode near the end, that happy thought largely evaporated as Clinton's choices, words, and actions steadily burned any good will to cinders.

Polls show a slight majority of Obama supporters would not want Hillary on the Obama ticket.

For a little over 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, the thought that Hillary was holding up Obama to force him to put her on the ticket rushed into the vacuum created by the effort to figure out just why in the wide, wide, world of sports Clinton did what she did Tuesday night.

A muscle move to force herself onto the ticket was the best they could come up with.

It appears this isn't the case, and that short 48 hours dramatically changed the dynamics and damaged, perhaps fatally, any chance Obama would pick her as running mate.

Also bandied about was speculation that Obama couldn't pick her due to problems with vetting Bill's post-presidential activities, surmising that the Clinton's would never agree to willingly reveal all of the donors to Bill's library and various foundations. All of this amounted to political gossip and backbiting with no evidence to back it up, but there may be some truth to it.

It was also conventional wisdom by the frenzied pundits, encouraged by the Clinton campaign, that Hillary held the keys to 18 million voters, as if each of them would do nothing without her command.

This was one big scary block of voters, voters Obama desperately needs. So the pundits got all sweaty with speculation about the power plays going on behind the scenes and with psychoanalysing the Clintons and their thoughts and motives.

An entire day and countless hours were spent by various pundits engaging in nothing more than the equivelent of high school gossip about the two most popular kids in class. It was pretty shabby.

While Clinton's clout and control over the uneducated, blue collar, and female vote, particularly the over 65 bunch is sorely overstated in my opinion, it's true that she does have sway over a large number of votes and could be extremely beneficial to Obama.

But will she hold him up and ransom them? All the pundits, assuming the worst of the Clintons, seemed to assume so. I'm not so sure. I think Clinton will, in the end, voluntarily swing her supporters to Obama and do what she can to unite the party, and not demand or expect anything in return.

If that's the case, I do feel that in return, she should be offered a position of importance in the administration, IF she wants it. But I'm afraid V.P. just isn't going to work. But anything is possible, as we've seen.

Chances at V.P.? Before the polls closed Tues: 50-60%, Now: 10%, if that.

That's how I see it.

If you'd like to play along at home, tell us your opinion on the matter.

At least tell us if you think Hillary will or will not be offered V.P. and why.