Sunday, October 31, 2004

Odd Spam

Turn the handle the way it's supposed to go, only further.

— Eric Frank Russell, Still Life

I got a rather odd spam message the other day:

A week ago, we sent you an email asking for help debunking anti-Bush documents. After receiving hundreds of responses, it become clear that all the documents were actually real: the Bush/Cheney DUIs, the Ken Lay letters, and even the bin Laden memo. For more information visit the documents page:

We also received hundreds of emails from concerned bloggers that eloquently expressed the problems with the Bush administration. And as we traveled across America campaigning for Bush, we learned more than we wanted to know about Bush's policies. We came to see that this administration is a catastrophe for most people.

As a result, we are abandoning our support of Bush and officially endorsing John Kerry for President. You can read more at the Yes Bush Can web site: We deeply regret our misguided support and apologize for our previous email. This will be the last email we will send directly to bloggers. If you want to join us in supporting Kerry, you can find out more here:

Thank you for your understanding,

Yes Bush Can

Now, I don't remember getting anything from these people before. Might not be surprising; my spam filters are rather aggressive. Their Web page doesn't give me a feeling that these are Bush partisans who have changed sides; rather, they seem to be people who try to point out the effects of Bush's policies by talking glowingly about their more extreme effects. Why they'd send this to me is a bit strange; I don't think anybody would mistake me for a Bush supporter.

The first time I remember seeing this tactic was in George Wallace's Presidential campaign in 1968. He had a fine old time with hecklers — anything they'd yell, he'd throw back at them with his extreme right-wing slant. Until a bunch got the idea of throwing his own talking points back at him. Vietnam? "Kill 'em all!" Draft resistance? "Send the commies back to Russia!" Civil rights? "Bring back slavery!" Now Wallace couldn't say anything, because a lot of his supporters agreed with this stuff — trying to distance himself from these attitudes would offend his strongest supporters. But he couldn't not respond without looking like a wacko. (For the record, he chose to ignore the hecklers and ended up looking exactly like the wacko that he was.)

I'm surprised that nobody's used this tactic. Go to a Bush rally and yell "kill the faggots" when he talks about gay marriage, for example. I've seen no evidence that Bush & Co have attempted to put a throttle on their more, uh, enthusiastic supporters. Could get interesting.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

"So What's So Bad ..."

" ... about a second Bush term? We survived the first one."

The question is "how bad can it get", and the answer I come up with is "pretty damn bad":

  1. Since Bush thinks the economy is just fine, it will continue to tank. More big corporations will move offshore, along with more white- collar work. Ya want fries with that?
  2. We'll have a military draft by May. Since BushCo is as butt- ignorant about the military as they are about everything else, they'll assume that they can run recruits through six weeks of basic and turn them loose in Iraq. Hey, it worked in Vietnam! For a rather strange value of "worked"
  3. Before the disaster created by filling Iraq with draftees becomes so obvious that even the neocons can't ignore it, they'll attack somebody else. Main bet is Iran, with a side bet on Syria.
  4. They'll continue screwing the pooch with North Korea. Israel will continue to be a disaster area.
  5. More tax breaks to campaign contributors, of course, paid for by jacking up the deficit. How long will East Asia be willing to lend us money for cheap? Also clearcut forests, mineral leases on National Parks, and pollution, pollution, pollution.
  6. Bin Laden is operating essentially unchecked. Expect him to clock in again. Won't be hijacked airliners this time. What'll it be? I don't know and I'll bet BushCo don't either.
  7. Expect a "moral" crackdown. The "outrage" over Janet Jackson's nipple was nuthin'. Expect more crackdowns on naked statues and celebrity bong sellers.
  8. So far, the rest of the world has been understanding about our little leadership problems. After all, most countries have experience with leaders they'd really rather forget about. But if we re- elect this clown, I'm guessing that some of the hatred and contempt directed toward Bush will start to be directed toward individual Americans. Don't plan on a European vacation.
  9. That European vacation is going to get expensive. The dollar is in the toilet compared to the euro, and it's going to go a lot further.
  10. Education is gonna take it in the neck. Eliminating public education is a cornerstone of a lot of right- wing philosophy. Expect more underfunded mandates like "No Child Left Behind", more cuts in university funding, and attacks on tenure.
  11. More efforts to "privatize" Social Security. This one may not go anywhere; nobody wants their SS money in Enron stock.
  12. Throughout Bush's term, the Republicans have been running out as many high- level career civil servants as the can and replacing them with Party loyalists. Remember why we have "civil service" in the first place? We needed a civil service that would actually do their jobs. The political hacks aren't very good at that.
  13. Gas prices will continue to go up. When Bush was first elected, a lot of folks said "Well, yeah, he's a doofus, but at least, with two oilmen in the White House, gas prices will go down." Oops.

Now, you can make the case that these aren't really all that bad — after all, they can be reversed when the country comes to its senses. But if the country doesn't come to its senses on 2 November, it may not have the chance for a long time:

  1. Imagine the Supreme Court with Justices Rehnquist, Stevens, O'Connor, and Bader Ginsburg replaced with Scalia/Thomas clones. Essentially, a total rubber stamp. The appointment of wingnuts to lesser courts will continue, of course. Will the Senate roll over and play dead? Probably. Democrats still seem to have this idea of bipartisanship. The Republicans don't.
  2. Expect more gerrymandering from Republican- controlled state legislatures.
  3. Expect the mainstream news to become even more of an outlet for Administration press releases. The Press has shown some signs of waking up, and if there's one thing this administration is good at, it's revenge. Expect crackdowns on the corporate parents of ABC, NBC, and CNN.
  4. So far in this campaign, the Republicans have been able to get away with all sorts of nasty things — throwing away Democratic voter registrations, sending out absentee ballots with Kerry's name left off, mounting massive challenges to voters in black districts, assorted disinformation/intimidation tactics.
  5. And then there's the computerized voting machines. Unauditable, unrecountable, unverifiable. "Trust us!" they say. "The computer can't be wrong!" All these machines are made by companies controlled by right- wing Republicans, except one that has ties to the Russian Mafia, which is not an improvement. Already one has shown up "preloaded" with 16,000 votes for Bush (Florida, of course).

Oh, and while you're at it, take a good long look at Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House. Why? Well, he's second in line for the Presidency if something happens to Bush. Why should we worry? Well, VP Cheney has a famously bad ticker, and Bush has been showing some rather unfortunate physical signs. There's a measurable chance that neither of them will survive for four years.

Monday, October 25, 2004


The latest Bush ad shows a bunch of wolves being spooky. Sheesh! What are these guys thinking? Wolves are not a scary image to Americans. There is no record (including Native American legends) of a North American wolf ever attacking a human. Nature programs have rammed the picture of warm fuzzy lovable wolves down our throats for years. It's only been in the last couple of years that you'd know that wolves are carnivores. Before then, you'd think they ate nothing but Alpo.

Hypothesis: the Republicans are outsourcing their ads to Russia.

North American wolves are harmless.

Unless you're a sheep.

LATER — Now, of course, we have Wolfpacks for Truth:

They told us we were shooting a Greenpeace commercial!

Friday, October 22, 2004

As We Dodge Another Bullet ...

Cards top Astros, to face BoSox in World Series

If the Astros had won, the national media would probably have collapsed with a case of terminal Metaphor Overload. I don't think they could stand having both the Presidency and the World Series be Massachusetts vs. Texas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Quote of the Day

From the Head Girly Man:

I don't know why I watched the presidential debates. If I want to watch a smart liberal Democrat and a Republican leader argue, all we have to do is go out to dinner. They were lucky. They only had to do it three times.

— Arnold Schwarzenegger

Seems Ahnold got to sleep on the sofa for a couple of weeks after his RNC speech ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Congressional Evaluation Project

Over there on the right, you'll notice that one of the “You should read this” blogs is Kit's Concatenation. There's a good reason for this. Kit is a journalist and public policy analyst, and she's put together a doozy. “The Congressional Evaluation Project” is a massive compilation of information on the voting records of all Congresscritters and all Senators who are up for re- election. Want to know what that bozo in Washington is doing in your name? Here's where you can find out.

From the blog post announcing the Project:

This is a comparison of the evaluations publicly available from a wide range of evaluating groups, from Americans for Demorcratic Action to the Christian Coalition. It includes each lawmaker's voting record on issues including civil liberties, education, health care, abortion, the environment, firearms, neoConservatism and the Religious Right. There are omnibus tables with all the information available; following those are tables that examine specific issues. I've spelled out the assumptions I made in creating the project, the sources of the information, and the limitations.

Anyway, good stuff. Check it out.

“Winning” the Debates

Well, the next big Campaign Events are the “debates”. “Debates” is in quotes because they don't resemble any real debate format I'm familiar with. They're rigged for Georgie, both in format and, especially, in terms of expectations. The format is ideal for his “off- the- cuff” speaking style, which is to blather incoherently until he hits on a (possibly) relevant memorized talking point. Georgie will “win” if he manages to avoid peeing in his pants or throwing up on the moderator.

Fortunately for Kerry, he just might be able to make Georgie do this:

  • Georgie hero-worships Poppy. Criticizing Poppy might be enough to make Georgie lose it. Some ideas:
    • Poppy gave the go- ahead for Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait.
    • Poppy didn't finish the job in Iraq. Now, anybody with a long memory knows exactly why he didn't finish it, but there aren't many long memories around.
    • Poppy encouraged the Marsh Arabs to revolt and then stood back and watched them get massacred.
    • Poppy stood by and let the former Soviet Union slide into chaos. They needed help in setting up a modern economy; they didn't get it.
  • Bring up Ken Lay. Last time somebody did this, Georgie stormed off in a huff.

I'm sure that Kerry's advisors can come up with more. Point is, they need to.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Paranoid Airline Conspiricy

Well, the airlines and their stupid security programs seem to be back into the blogosphere. Ted Kennedy getting stuck on the “watch list” seems to have a great deal to do with it. It took him, with all his connections (Homeland Security Secretary Ridge returns his calls) three weeks to get things unscrambled — and the name that was causing the problem was “T Kennedy”. I'd have expected it to be “E Kennedy”, at least.

Now, the usual explanation for this kind of nonsense is that the Homeland Security people don't have the foggiest idea what they're doing, but have to work really, really hard at looking like they're doing something. Bureaucracies want you to judge them by their input (“look at all the work we've done”) rather than by output (“look at what we've accomplished”). Reason is, oftimes, there isn't any output. This is probably true.

But it's fun to play Paranoid Conspiracy. Now, Once Upon A Time, the airlines were heavily regulated. Routes, fares, schedules, all had to be approved by the Government. People didn't fly much because the prices were high, but the airlines still made lots of money. Then came deregulation. Suddenly, the airlines were in control of their business. They could fly pretty much where they wanted and charge a market price. This was a disaster. Many airlines went out of business; the rest had to restructure their operations drastically. The result was the airline industry we have today -- low prices and full schedules to common destinations, coupled with incomprehensible fare structures, minimal “service”, and airlines on the verge of bankruptcy.

Airlines are selling a "commodity"; in other words, any airline is pretty much indistinguishable from any other airline. In this kind of market, the lowest- cost supplier wins and everybody else loses. If you want to fly to San Diego next Tuesday and Airline A wants $200 and Airline B wants $300, who are you going to fly? Well, you know that the main difference between Airline A and Airline B is the color of the planes. You'll go with A every time.

This is just what we see. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue are making money hand over fist and everybody else is on the verge of bankruptcy.

The traditional way of making money in a market like this is to differentiate your services. In the example above, suppose that Airline A has itchy, uncomfortable, narrow seats, and no food or drinks while Airline B has wide, comfortable seats and a nice meal. Now the choice is not obvious. Is the extra comfort worth $100? Your call. If you have to get off the plane and go straight into a meeting it almost certainly will be. Fly Airline A and you'll go into your meeting all twitchy and grouchy. As a matter of fact, Midwest Airlines has this extra level of service, and they're making money.

What would happen if the major airlines started going bankrupt? Well, they'd certainly have to keep flying. Equally certainly, they'd use the opportunity to wage- bust their hourly employees. Right now, United Airlines has stopped payment to its employees' pension plan and US Airways wants to.

It seems that this is the perfect opportunity for the airlines (other than Southwest and JetBlue) to get themselves re-regulated. Your trip to San Diego costs $400, no matter who you fly with. The airlines breathe a deep sigh of relief and give their CEOs big bonuses. Well, they'll get the bonuses anyway.

So in this scenario, the fewer people who fly, the better. Easiest way to keep people from flying is to make it as inconvenient as possible. Hence lots of stupid rules and regulations that accomplish nothing. This pushes the airlines closer to bankruptcy, without having to do obvious things like raise prices.

From the Manual of Business in the Twenty First Century — whenever possible, get somebody else (Government is ideal) to do your dirty work for you. Also try to get the Government to order you to do what you want to do anyway.

Friday, September 10, 2004


Well, it seems that the Blogosphere is all atwitter over the possiblity that the documents that CBS News got from Georgie Bush's commanding officer might be forged. Now, CBS News claims that they checked the docs out thoroughly with forgery experts and that they're authentic. Lambert, over at Corrente, has a good rundown on the hoohah, with links. The most notable thing about these memos is how little they add. Now we know that Georgie got into trouble for not taking his physical. Before, it was just obvious.

Some observations. Why do I seem to be the only one around who remembers the late 1960s and early 1970s?

  • The font is not Times New Roman. It's Times Roman, developed in the early 1930s by the London Times. Gimmick is that fonts can't be copyrighted; font names can. Microsoft had to change the name. Times Roman and Times New Roman are almost identical.
  • The IBM Executive typewriter had all the features needed to produce a document like this. The Selectric series didn't (the th), without far more jiggering with type balls than anybody'd do for a short “memo to file”. Note to those claiming that the docs were done with Microsoft Word -- run your tests on this and see how they come out. Gary Farber has a good post with typewriter details.
  • The individual letters are uneven, both in weight and vertical spacing. Hard to do with a word processor; impossible to avoid with a non- Selectric typewriter.
  • It may be an artifact of the scanning process, but the copies sure look like carbons to me. Again, hard to do on a computer; impossible to avoid on a typewriter.
  • Given that the military is officially as uniform as possible, office equipment was a big status item. Having a fancy typewriter was something to feel good about.
  • Mrs. Killian says that her husband didn't write memos like that and that her husband would never say anything bad about a Guardsman. I call bullshit on this; these memos are exactly what you'd expect to see with a guy who is having problems. Look, airplanes, especially fighters, are horribly dangerous hunks of machinery. If something goes wrong, your nose had better be very, very clean.
  • As to her husband “not being a paper person”; again, bullshit. Work with the military and you're going to be buried in paper whether you want it or not. And everybody learns the value of a “CYA” “memo to file” in about a week.
  • Now some speculation:

  • If I were going to forge a document from the 1970s, I'd use a bog- standard Selectric typewriter.
  • If this really was done on a word processor, it has to be the clumsiest forged document possible, next to a signed letter by Julius Caesar dated “46 BC”. Now, why would anybody do this?
    • CBS News is utterly, flamingly, incompetent.
    • CBS News is the victim of a very elaborate hoax to discredit them in general and Dan Rather in particular.
    • CBS News is under the control of Karl Rove, to the extent that he can force them to do this, in order to have a Great Debunking later.

    I'm no fan of CBS or Rove, but, bluntly, CBS isn't that bad and Rove isn't that good.

  • Tentative conclusion: genuine, until I see some info from people who know what they're talking about. Blogosphere “experts” can bring up interesting points, but I want to see something from people who you'd want to call as expert witnesses.

    LATER — Coupla more things might need explaining. Sorry if I'm stating the obvious.

    Cover your arse. Also occasionally seen as CYAWP (cover your arse with paper) Utterly necessary for survival in any bureucracy. If your arse isn't covered, you'll get blamed for everything.
    Memo to File
    Just like it says; a memo whose only destination is your file cabinet. This has a number of uses:
    • To document an idea that you can't act on right now.
    • To CYA. “I told them this wouldn't work. Here's the stuff they wouldn't listen to.”
    • To vent frustration. Since you're the only one that sees it, you can say things you wouldn't want to say officially or in person.
    The Killian memos seem to be a combination of these.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    Nothin' to See Here, Move Along

    OK, I watched the “Sixty Minutes” segment where former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes talked about pulling strings to get George W. Bush his slot in the “champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard. Whoop de do. Anybody who was anywhere near draft age in the late 1960s could have told you that. Nobody got into the Air National Guard without having some strings pulled somewhere. Look — there was a five year waiting list to get in. You could sign up before you got out of high school and still get bumped by some rich kid.

    One new thing was a memo where Lieutenant Colonel Killian (head of the Texas Air National Guard at the time) noted that Bush had disobeyed a direct order to take his physical. Military types — what do they call disobeying a direct order? We already knew he skipped his physical; we still don't know why.

    Now, I'm not claiming that Bush was wrong for wanting to stay out of Vietnam. Everybody did. I'll just say that his actions there raise some very serious doubts about his much- vaunted “character”. It looks like, after four years of perfectly honorable and boring service (In the military, boring is good, especially during a war.), he lit out for Alabama, and later Cambridge, and left the Powers that Be to clean up after him. His sworn obligation to the Guard got in the way of what he wanted to do, so he simply blew it off and let others cover his tail. Character. Right.

    In the normal college crowd that I was in, there was a distinct hierarchy of respect on the subject of Vietnam:

    1. At the very top were the resistors. These are the people who put their arses on the line for their beliefs, and ended up going to jail or to Canada. This took an amount of guts far, far higher than any other option.
    2. Then there were the volunteers. Most of us thought the war was wrong, but those who didn't agree and who were willing to put their arses on the line were certainly worthy of respect.
    3. Next are the people who “played the game”. There were all sorts of medical deferments; problem was that, as each new deferment came up, the draft boards would tighten restrictions on it until it was useless.
    4. Next are the ones who “did their duty” and didn't try to stay out of the draft. Yeah, you do what other people expect of you, even if you know it's wrong. (If you really believe it's right, enlist.) This was a small group; everybody I knew was trying to stay out. Getting drafted was the penalty for losing.
    5. At the very bottom, with no respect whatever, was what we called “4F Hawks”. (The phrase “chickenhawk” meant something entirely different at that time.) These are the guys who didn't have to fight, but were happy to see others “do their duty” by marching through minefields.

    The 4Fs (guys who, for one reason or another, were not eligible for the draft) were outside the system. Everybody envied them, even if the reason for their deferment was, say, missing legs. Problem was, they tended to gloat.

    Generally, the guys who got into the National Guard were rated about one small step above the 4F Hawks. It was automatically assumed that they had gotten in by political pull, whether they did or not. They tended not to care.

    The attitudes toward veterans varied by their attitudes. Most of them were glad to be home; we accepted them as guys who'd been through a really bad time. Some were obnoxious; they tended to get shunned. Who wants a party pooper? They usually hung out with the 4F Hawks, who tended to worship them.

    There was one guy who claimed to have spit on a returning veteran. We called him “Crazy Harv”. He was a violent, radical Maoist to the extent that the other radical Maoists wanted nothing whatever to do with him. Did he really do it? On one hand, he was crazy enough to try (getting beaten to a bloody pulp didn't seem to bother him). On the other hand, he was seriously delusional.

    Anyway, I wrote up some other draft- era notes a while back. They're still good, if you need a refresher on what it was like to be in college under threat of the draft.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    I Feel a Draft

    Well, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again. Yeah, he's got himself in a terrible jam Way down yonder in Vietnam So put down your books and pick up a gun, Gonna have a whole lotta fun.

    Joe McDonald

    I've said before that if Bush is reelected, we'll have a military draft by May of 2005. Now, every time this gets brought up, the arguments come rolling in. It won't do any good because it will take two years to get actual troops. The Selective Service is just a relic. The American people won't stand for it.

    Sorry, guys. The military is stretched uncomfortably tightly now, and the Grand Neocon Plan involves taking over at least five more countries (Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia and Sudan, according to Wesley Clark) each of which will be as big a quagmire as Iraq. We're gonna need a lot of manpower, along with a vast increase in the budget for material. (Neocons seem to think that Bradley treads and Humvee tires grow on trees. Not to mention bullets.)

    Here's a description of how it will be done (via). Nice and simple; no fuss,no bother.

    Protest? Resistance? Not bloody likely. A lot of noise, a few high-profile protesters thrown into Leavenworth to be beaten, maimed, and probably killed, and any protests will turn into just noise. Note that, for all the noise that the Vietnam-era draft protests made, nothing was actually done until the war was effectively over.

    Legal challenges? Even less likely. Here is a sample of the Supreme Court opinion on the case that conclusively legalized the draft:

    Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.

    U.S. Supreme Court, ARVER v. U.S. , 245 U.S. 366 (1918)

    This is, bluntly, one of the most appalling Supreme Court decisions I've ever read. Basically, it says that the right of the United States to raise armies means that the US has the right to raise armies by any means whatever. Its language is absolutist and dogmatic. It does not argue that the Draft is legal on Constitutional grounds; aside from the right to raise armies, there are none. Instead, it makes its arguments with phrases like "in the light of the fundamental principles with which the subject is concerned", "the inevitable consequence of the provisions of the Constitution", "its unsoundness is too apparent to require us to do more", and, of course, "refuted by its mere statement".

    This isn't law. This is bluster. It's what you say when you don't have a real argument.

    Georgie will love it.

    LATER — Looks like the Army is looking at a little problem next year ...

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Good Speech, But ...

    I just watched Kerry's "response" to the Republican convention. Not bad; I think he got a kick out of chewing out Cheney.

    One problem. No mention of terrorism. Could be a really big problem. Terrorism is the big Republican talking point — keep 'em as scared as possible. How many times did speakers at the RNC praise Bush's "heroism" in going to Ground Zero only three days after the attacks? Idea seems to be that since Georgie Bush allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place, he's somehow uniquely qualified to keep it from happening again. The attitude seems to be "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice — can't get fooled again."

    Kerry needs to add something to his speech like:

    To the terrorists — to Al Qaeda and to Osama bin Laden — you'd better hope and pray that George Bush wins this election. George Bush tried to come into Afghanistan "on the cheap" and let you walk away. George Bush does not understand intelligence operations. George Bush distracted himself with Iraq. I tell you now, we will not let you get away. We will unite the world to deny your funds and support. Above all, we will not be distracted until you are totally destroyed. This I promise you.

    Anybody who thinks that Kerry wouldn't follow through on that should read his Silver Star citation. This is not a guy that you want mad at you.

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Last One Down

    Well, the last reason for voting for Bush (unless you're a corporate CEO or a hardcore Peronist) just evaporated. Economy in the toilet, unemployment up, deficit way up, army in Iraq, National Guard on the ropes, Afghanistan back to the warlords and the Taliban, scandals everywhere. "But we need Bush" went the line, "to keep this country secure. Bush will protect us from terrorism."

    Oops. They can't even keep protesters out of their own convention, and they're supposed to keep terrorists from doing anything?

    Now, convention security is fairly straightforward. You need a pass to get in. You have to have a pass to get anywhere. You put the pass on a cord around your neck. The convention has guards at doors. You don't have a pass? You don't get in, and I don't care if you are Dick Cheney. Not rocket science. Now, I don't know how the protestors got in and I don't really care; the fact that they got in at all was a failure of security. We're all lucky that they didn't have anything more dangerous than whistles and T shirts. Assuming that they didn't. Consider the effect of a tear gas grenade with a timer ...

    Oh, and another thing re terrorism: where's Osama? Funny thing, I haven't heard his name mentioned at all.

    LATER — Twistedchick has found a report that 1000 Thursday credentials are missing. Tonight may get more exciting than anybody wants ....

    LATER STILL — From the NY Daily News (via) Sheesh! They're giving them away!

    Wednesday, September 01, 2004


    So NYC's ex- mayor and demigod Rudy Giuliani says, on Monday

    The only two things I'm thinking of in the future right now are the Yankees getting themselves into the World Series and President Bush being re-elected.

    Tempting the gods is a bad idea. Poking them with a sharp stick is an even worse idea.

    Would these guys recognize an omen if it bit them on the arse?

    "Girly Men"

    California's honorable governor's favorite phrase for people he doesn't like is "girly men". Odd phrase. Austrian? Nope. Bodybuilder. Check out the side effects for massive steriod use.

    Now, who do we know who has used massive doses of steriods? Who's the real "girly man" here?

    Keep the Republicans Out of the Tunnels!

    Security is tight at Madison Square Garden. (At least, for anybody important) Access to the train stations under the Garden (both subway and Amtrak) is quite limited.

    How carefully are they checking the tunnels around the Garden? After all, isn't the whole point of having the convention in NYC to let the Republicans lay their eggs under the Garden?

    This is especially worrisome in that Al Qaeda has expressed interest in the same scenario ...

    Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    Why Now?

    One thing puzzles me about the Swift Boat ads. Why now? By questioning Kerry's military service, the ads invite discussion of Bush's military service. And Bush's service is far less, um, impressive than Kerry's. Bush, near as anybody can tell, served honorably for four years as a fighter jock in the Texas Air National Guard. Unfortunately, he had enlisted for six years.

    Now, there are many questions about Bush's TANG service:

    • He "jumped the line" to get into the TANG at all.
    • Appointed Second Lieutenant without required ROTC or OCS training.
    • He "jumped the line" again to get into pilot training
    • He transferred from Texas to Alabama. This transfer is highly questionable; the Alabama guard didn't have the airplanes that Georgie was trained on. The military trains you to do something, you do it.
    • There is no record of his ever showing up at the Guard in Alabama.
    • In 1972, he didn't show up for his flight physical and was grounded as a result.
    • He was discharged early to attend Harvard Business School

    From looking at the dates coded into the information that we do have, it looks like the Guard was covering up for him. He would do something and the Guard would try to fix things to make it look right.

    Now, in the 2000 election campaign, the Bush people painted Georgie's service (or lack thereof) as a total non- issue. Thirty years ago, and besides, Georgie Found Jaysus, which is the Republican moral reset switch. This worked; Georgie's misspent youth (I've heard that he was the model for Bluto, the John Belushi character in Animal House) never became an issue.

    Why didn't they do the same thing this time? Simply smile indulgently and say, "Well, Kerry's trying to hide the fact that he hasn't really done anything interesting in the last thirty years." By bring this out now, it opens Georgie's sad National Guard service to scrutiny. In a month, the whole Swift Boat nonsense will be gone (a structure built totally on lies can only last so long), but Georgie's record will still be on the table.

    So what's going on here? Well, the obvious answer is that the Swift Boat Liars are an independent group not connected with the RNC. They have a rather common bug up their arse:

    1. All war heroes supported the Vietnam war enthusiastically
    2. No war protesters supported the Vietnam war.
    3. Therefore, no war protester was also a war hero
    4. Since Kerry was a war protester, he cannot have been a war hero.
    5. Since this is a Higher Truth, it's OK to lie about it.

    In this model, the RNC higher- ups are tearing their hair out over this. Nothing they can do at this point; the cat's thoroughly out of the bag. Georgie's service is on the table for discussion and they just have to get ready to do damage control.

    Problem is that nobody believes that the SBLs are really independent. The Repubs play things really tightly. So, again, why would they allow Georgie's record out of the closet?

    Well, how about this? The Repubs are seriously concerned about an October Surprise about Georgie's National Guard service. This could be any of a number of things:

    • Records of bad behavior in the Guard
    • Copies of the missing part of Georgie's records, like the record of the Flight Inquiry Board that is required whenever a pilot is taken off of flight status.
    • Proof that the Guard records were fudged to keep Georgie out of trouble.
    • Proof that Georgie took pay from the National Guard under false pretenses.
    • Proof that Georgie'e records were illegally discarded.

    In this model, the SBL stuff makes sense. By getting it out onto the table now, the Bush campaign has two months, rather than a week or two, to do damage control.

    Which is it? One of these, or something else? Only the Kerry campaign knows ....

    LATER -- Ken Layne channels Hunter Thompson on the same subject (via).

    Wednesday, August 11, 2004

    The Persistance of Vision

    According to Josh Marshall, the "Swift Boat" ads actually seem to be getting some traction with independent voters (assuming that there are any left.) The Kerry campaign doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of countering them. This is a bit surprising, seeing that this same group has trotted out the same charges against Kerry every time he's been up for re election.

    Now, it's important to remember that a lot of people still think that we "lost" in Vietnam because we were "stabbed in the back" by the antiwar movement. Near as I can tell, they won't blame themselves, they won't blame their chain of command, they won't blame their political leadership, and they won't blame the North Vietnamese, so they blame the only ones left. Indeed, I've heard right- wingers flat- out blame Jane Fonda for the loss of Vietnam. Her. By herself. Ignore JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Westmoreland, Kissinger, and Giap. It's all Hanoi Jane's fault.

    And of course, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. VVAW was a particularly sore point, as the hawks couldn't claim that they were just a bunch of strung- out hippie dope addict draft dodging cowards (the charge of choice against most antiwar types). John Kerry was by no means the most highly decorated soldier in VVAW; he was simply one of he most eloquent.

    Memory is a funny thing. If somebody asks you to remember an event that fits your worldview, you're likely to remember it, whether it happened or not. The standard example is asking somebody who went to Disney World or Disneyland many years ago to remember meeting Bugs Bunny. A surprising number of people do, and will give a surprising level of detail. Problem is that Bugs is a Warner Brothers property; no way would he ever be at a Disney park.

    Which brings us to the Swift Boat Vets. Looking at the records, none of them served with Kerry and it's hard to tell how many of them knew him at all. None of them seem to be VVAW members, or indeed any kind of "dove". It's a reasonable hypothesis that they believe the "stab in the back" theory. I'll bet that they honestly believe that they saw Kerry doing all sorts of horrible things.

    But, pardon me for not believing them without contemporary documentary evidence. It fits too closely with the "hawk" worldview, where anyone associated with "peace" could never have done anything worthwhile. Remember Winston Smith in 1984? His job was in altering official records to show that the current Ins had always been wonderful people and the current Outs had always been horrible slimeballs. Same principal here.

    Personally, I'll stick with the existing contemporary documentary evidence.

    Now, there are a couple of barbs in this. First, I find it very odd that the Republicans would want to bring up Kerry's record at all. If the Repubs can talk about Kerry, the Dems can talk about Bush -- and Bush comes off very poorly by comparison.

    The other is much nastier. By claiming that Kerry got his medals under false pretenses, they are implying that everybody else who got medals in Vietnam may have gotten them under false pretenses. Digby coverd this a while back, but it bears repeating -- If Kerry got his medals under false pretenses, so did many other people. After all in 1968 - 1969, Kerry was a nobody. He had no powerful political or military allies who might want to single him out for special favors; I've heard no accusations that he did any favors for anyone who might have pulled strings for him.

    People with no military experience don't understand the importance of medals to people in the military. In the military, the pay sucks, the working conditions are horrible, and somebody is always ordering you around. Oft times, the only thing you have to show for a big chunk of your life is a little bit of ribbon. Claiming that someone got a medal under false pretenses, or wore a medal that they weren't entitled to, is a very serious matter. Before the "Swift Boat Veterans" got going, remember that the big question about Kerry was "Did he really throw his medals away, or just the service ribbons?" The fuss quieted down when everybody agreed that it was just the service ribbons. This makes sense only in the context of the military attitude toward medals -- something that civilians Just Don't Get.

    Again, by casting doubt on the legitimacy of Kerry's medals, the Swift Boat Vets are pissing on all of the legitimate medals that they, and anyone else, earned in Vietnam.

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    Lock Up the Silverware!

    When I lived in Arizona, both parties had a "stable" of big donors who would run in any race that was a sure loss. It was considered a perk -- run around the state, make speeches, get on TV, and so forth. Worked fine until one of the won.

    Well, Illinois has that problem now. Barack Obama looks like a shoo- in for Senator, and the Republicans can't find anybody to run against him. Jack Ryan (the primary winner) is Out because of sex-club allegations and Peter Fitzgerald (the incumbent) and Mike Ditka aren't running because they aren't idiots. Best Line award to Fitzgerald: "I need that like I need a cancer transplant".

    So it looks like they're turning to Maryland's own perennial Senate candidate and all- round fruitbat Alan Keyes. A bit of friendly advice for the Illinois Republicans -- lock up the silverware.

    In 1992, when Keyes ran against pitbull Barbara Mikulski, the national party wouldn't give his campaign any money. No need to throw money at a sure loser. His campaign was seriously strapped for cash; they needed every nickel to just get out posters and flyers. So what did Keyes do? He paid himself $90,000 for "salary" from campaign funds.

    Keyes' motto is "I'm smarter than you are". Expect to be presented with the bill for all sorts of "necessities", like a new house. (Illinois law says a candidate has to live in the state on Election Day.) And he will be very persuasive. Once you've locked in on him, you'll do things his way or else -- and that means taking a really big turn to the Right. I've seen his TV show -- think of Rush Limbaugh without the charm.

    Amusingly enough, Keyes went after Hillary Clinton as a "carpetbagger" for her run for the Senate from New York in 2000:

    I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton’s willingness go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it.

    — Alan Keyes, 2000 (via Archpundit)

    Don't you Republicans in Illinois have a nice Republican used- car dealer who'd like to travel around the state and make speeches?


    Keyes gets his first real endorsement:

    "I spent five weeks trying to find good people," said Mr. Hastert, who said he approached state legislators and the former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and Gary Fencik, an Ivy Leaguer who was a hard-hitting safety.

    "I got down into last week interviewing a 70-year-old guy who was a great farm broadcaster in Illinois," Mr. Hastert said. "He decided because of his health problems he couldn't do it. You know, we were down — we needed to find somebody to run, somebody who wanted to run. And, you know, Alan Keyes wants to run, and I hope he's a good candidate."


    "I tell you what," Mr. Hastert. "I was out of town when it happened."

    Some really wild enthusiasm there. (Via twistedchick)

    Saturday, July 31, 2004

    "We have turned a corner, and we are not turning back!"

    Georgie's new slogan. Sounds like a music cue to me:

    Prosperity is Just Around Which Corner?

    from 1932

    [This song involves two people, the first is a loud-mouthed politician, the the other is supposed to be a man on the street.]

    Everywhere you go, everyone you meet, All they talk about is this depression. They blame it on the war, they blame it on Wall Street, On politics and this administration. For two years now we've been assured good times are on the way, I wonder how much longer we must hear them talk this way?

    Prosperity is just around the corner! What we'd like to know is which corner? We've turned so many corners now we're dizzy. But still I'm positive we'll soon be busy!

    Why I read in Monday's paper that 10,000 men were hired! Yes, but Tuesday they forgot to say 12,000 more were fired. Well, I insist that this land of ours is stable! Stable? sounds like horses to me!

    Prosperity is just around the corner! Did you say corner or coroner? Our credit is still strong, no one can doubt it! I guess my landlord don't know about it.

    I see the market is going up, now you can't call that a joke! I recollect one time before it went clear up in smoke. This slump is just mostly imagination! Yeah, well you just try to pay your grocery bill with that!

    Now everyone is sure that they could find the cure, If they could be the one to run this nation. They'd put a bill right through, and show us what to do, To get the money back in circulation. They say if we would spend our dough bad business soon will end But they forgot to tell us where to get the dough to spend.

    Propserity is just around the corner. Around the same corner with prohibition, I reckon. Why, can't you understand why I'm so cheery? Yes, just like I understand the Einstein theory. But look at all the bumper crops the farmers have to sell, And every time they get a crop the price goes plumb to ****. [They couldn't record "hell" in 1932 for morality reasons] Well, every cloud still has a silver lining. But that don't line the pockets of your pants.

    Still, prosperity is just around the corner. And we still would like to know which corner. Our nation will go down in history's pages. We're going down all right, especially wages. Why our banks are full of money, now you have to say I'm right. Then we can get all we want if we just use dynamite. You should fill your mind with optimism.

    (Original here. I copied it because this link doesn't seem to be working.)

    Tuesday, July 27, 2004


    Continuing with the RedState fluff piece, the "folksiness" secion (as opposed to the "character" section, which is actually most of the post) goes off into fearmongering:

    Out here we have rattlers, big ones, that if you approach will sink their venomous teeth into your leg without hesitation.
    Rattlesnakes are generally pretty harmless. Leave them alone and they'll leave you alone. Normally, on the desert, you'll never see one. They can sense you long before you see them -- and they want nothing to do with you. (You're too big to eat.) The urban equivalent is broken bottles-- nasty if you tangle with them, but easy to avoid.

    The traditional Republican approach to issues is based on fear. Fear of terrorists, fear of crime, fear of drugs, fear of foreigners. Most of the Republicans' bogeymen are like rattlesnakes -- dangerous, but much less dangerous than presented. You'd never know from watching TV, for example, that violent crime has been going down lately. Read James Lileks for an example of somebody who is pants- pissing terrified by the Republican bogeymen.

    Now, one of the oddities of "the fear card" is that politicians never seem to get called on it. "We elected you. We don't feel safer. Goodbye" just doesn't seem to happen. Reminds me of old- time medicine -- if you're sick, attach leeches. If you don't get better, you need more leeches.

    When Democrats try to play the fear card, they generally sound whiny instead of scary. I don't know if this is an advantage or a disadvantage.

    Top Down

    (To the tune of Streets of Laredo:)
    I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy,
    You see by my outfit I am a cowboy too.
    We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
    Get yourself a cowboy suit and be a cowboy too!

    — The Smothers Brothers

    TBogg dredges up this rather remarkable bit of fluff at

    The thrust of this piece is character. Georgie Bush has it; nobody else does. It's impossible to define, but he has it.

    The introductory rhetoric is simply silly:

    I like George W. Bush. He's a good guy. In a world where most folks wear grey hats or black hats -- he's wearing a white one.

    Thereupon follows some corny pseudo- western folksiness:

    Out here in the rugged desert, where I live, one develops an ability to judge a man or a woman and their character rather quickly. I can spot a less than sterling character in a few moments. I can tell a genuinely kind woman from a fake smile and countenance at thirty yards.

    "Out here in the rugged desert"? "Fake smile and countenance"? Look. I grew up in a teeny- tiny town in western Kansas and lived in Arizona for many years. Nobody talks like that. (Except, possibly, Hollywood screenwriters brought up on Gene Autry movies.) Also, show me somebody who claims to be able to size up somebody at a glance like that and I'll show you somebody who has nothing left to steal. Con men of all persuasions just love that mindset.

    This shows one of the main problems with the Republicans' top- down political organization. Their successes are due to their relentless hammering at a common set of points; you do not want to be a dissenter in the Republican party. However, this is not the image they'd like to project -- they'd like to show themselves as being receptive to people's concerns. ("Screw the electorate" attitudes don't win elections.) So you have the problem of trying to appear "folksy" through messages written by political writers who, seemingly, never step outside of their gated communities in Connecticut. As a Republican advocacy site, RedState runs head- on into this. They're trying to be both "grass roots" and "Party talking points" at the same time. I bet if they got off- message, they'd get their noses whapped in short order.

    So the message is "character". Of course, after three and a half years in the White House, we might expect some accomplishments to go with all that character. It's impossible to hide the fact that Georgie Bush has been an utter disaster in every area. Hence the "character" business.

    Your assignment for today is to find a picture of Georgie Bush on a horse. Extra credit if it's white.

    Saturday, July 24, 2004

    Request for Info

    Once Upon A Time, there was a columnist named Jack Anderson, who wrote a column called The Washington Merry-go- Round. He was a muckraker in the finest sense of the word -- while he dredged up a lot of stuff that the Powers that Be wanded to keep hidden at the bottom of the swamp, he was very careful in checking his facts.

    Now, sometime in the early 1970s, (or maybe very late 1960s) he wrote a series of columns on hijinks at an Air National Guard unit. I believe it was the Texas Air National Guard. I think it'd be very interesting to dig this up and see if there's any mention of a Lieutenant Bush.

    The incidents I remember (keep in mind that I read this when it came out and only remember it because I have a trick memory, which sometimes gets, um, creative.)

    "Dead Bug"

    The officers played a game called "dead bug". At the Officer's Club, somebody would yell "Dead Bug" and everybody would lie down on their backs on the floor and wave their arms and legs in the air. Last one down and waving had to buy a round of drinks. It stopped being funny when somebody yelled "Dead Bug" at a staff meeting -- with somebody from the Pentagon attending.

    Target Practice

    For target practice, the pilots dropped "marker bombs", which were basically flour. Harmless, dirt cheap, and highly visible. Unfortunately, the pilots took to dropping the marker bombs on road crews. Supposedly, there were a number of very nasty memos from the highway department to the ANG.

    Anyway, I've dredged up these from some very old memories, and I could easily be wrong on details. For example, I remember it being the Texas ANG, but it might have been Mississippi. Anderson's old columns don't seem to be on the Web, and I'm not really in a position to go downtown to the Washington Post and spend a week looking through old microfilm.

    Anybody have any real info? It'd be a fun question to ask Georgie Bush at a press conference (assuming he allows "uncleared" questions). We have heard all along that his first four years in the TANG were boring, boring, boring. Maybe not.

    Thursday, July 22, 2004

    White Socks

    Way back when, when I was just out of college and fighting with the local draft board, I lived in a sort of "off-campus dorm" arrangement. One fine day (actually, since this was Phoenix at the height of summer, "fine" probably isn't the right word), the elevator door opened and out came two guys. One was wearing an immaculate gray suit, and the other was a cartoon "hippie" -- ratty fatigues, anomyous t-shirt, long hair with headband, beads. And sandals. With white socks. I immediately put out the word -- "Narcs! With FBI!" Turns out I wasn't the only one to spot them -- the word had gone out as soon as they walked onto the grounds.

    What brings up this bit of early 1970s nostalgia? Well, there was a bit of a kerfluffle a few days ago that started with a writer named Annie Jacobsen, who writes for a Website called Women's Wall She had a scary (to her) experience on a flight with a group of obviously Arabic men. Now, the story is a nice little piece of paranoia, ending with a call to keep obviously Arabic men off of airplanes. However, it has a number of obvious holes. (World o' Crap has been following the story, here, here, here, here, here, and here. To cut to the chase, they were a Syrian band going to a gig at a casino.

    Anyway, one of the things that caught my eye was that a stewardess told Ms Jacobsen that there were numerous Air Marshals on the plane, and that they were watching things. Now, I'd think that telling a passenger that there were Air Marshals on board would be a firing offense -- the whole idea is to keep things like that quiet. Since there are far too few Air Marshals to put them on every flight, they need to be as inconspicuous as possible. Hopefully, potential terrorists won't be able to tell if there is a marshal on board or not. ("Do you feel lucky, punk?")

    Now, this all depends on the marshals being inconspicuous. If potential terrorists could spot a marshal, they could overpower the marshals first, or just wait for a flight that didn't have any marshals. So how do the marshals remain inconspicuous? Well, a lot of people have had dark suspicions, but proof has finally surfaced: The Air Marshal's Dress Code. Yep. Sport jacket, shirt with collar, nice slacks with crease, no athletic shoes, no facial hair, no jeans.

    Now, if you fly anywhere nowdays, you will see people either dressed very casually or businessmen in full wool-armor regalia. The outfit you won't see at all is sport coat and slacks, except possibly among the Sun City set. It's not comfortable on the plane, and it's not formal enough for business. Mark this one down as another example of Terror Theater -- keep people nervous, let people see that you're Doing Something, and ignore whether it really does any good or not.

    Doesn't help that cops, as a class, seem to have a fashion sense somewhere between computer hackers and construction workers.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    I'm Not Worried (too much) ...

    ... about the election being postponed due to a terrorist attack. The idea has been floated out there, everybody knows about it, and everybody thinks it's a bad idea.

    However, I am seriously worried about a terrorist attack. Al Qaeda favors Bush, for the obvious reason that Bush's policies have been totally ineffectual against Al Qaeda, and Kerry might actually do something effective, like find a way to put a decent number of troops into Afghanistan and lean on Pakistan to clean up their act in the "tribal" areas.

    So how could Al Qaeda campaign most effectively for Bush? A nice big, messy terrorist attack, no more than a couple of days before the election would be ideal. The ideal date, IMHO, would be 31 October. Long enough for the fact of the attack to sink in and for people to get good and scared, but not long enough for rational thought to return. People will rally behind the President in times of high stress, despite the fact that Georgie failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks and will have just failed to prevent another attack.

    Another scenario is that Kerry is ahead in October and Bush appears to be catching up. A postponement would then give Bush more catch-up time. Theoretically, it wouldn't even need a real attack; just a warning that an attack is imminent, coupled with raising the Terror Alert Level to Red. However, the Administration has cried "wolf" like this 'way too often for it to be effective.

    The most worrisome scenario would be if Kerry has a huge lead, is pulling further ahead, and looks to have long enough coattails for the Democrats to take over at least one branch of Congress. The Republicans, with actions that range from thoughtless (NAACP, gutting environmental regulations, tax cuts for the rich) to out- and- out criminal (The Valerie Plame affair; "no bid" contracts for Halliburton), have made it very clear that they never expect to be out of power ....

    Doesn't help that, from what I've seen, the "increased precautions" against terrorism that we've put in place seem to be pretty pathetic. Most of them seem to be press releases, bureaucratic shuffling (the "Department of Homeland Security"), and "terror theater" (airport search silliness).

    Warning sign -- any significant diversion of effort from border security and "watch list" monitoring to "wild goose" chases like porn, pot, or protesters.

    If I were a terrorist, I'd have had the explosives/ poison gas/ germs/ whatever stashed well in advance (months ago) -- putting up checkpoints now would be a waste of effort. All it'd need would be a phone call -- or just a wait for the timer ....

    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the stablishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
    • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
    • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    • For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
    • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and onditions.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these surpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:

    New Hampshire:

    Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton


    John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

    Rhode Island:

    Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery


    Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

    New York:

    William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

    New Jersey:

    Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark


    Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross


    Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean


    Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton


    George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

    North Carolina:

    William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

    South Carolina:

    Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton


    Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

    We all need to reread this occasionally -- and not just the first and last paragraphs.

    For extra credit -- explain why this was posted on 3 July.

    Friday, May 28, 2004

    Old Joke

    Originally from somewhere in Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union was crumbling:

    An elderly man has been waiting for hours outside the meat store when the clerk announces that there is no meat today

    He loses it. "I worked hard all my life. I fought in the Great Patriotic War. And now I can't even get a piece of meat? This whole system stinks!"

    A large, thuggish man steps up next to him. "Comrade, comrade, think of what you are saying! In the old days, you know what would happen to you." He mimics shooting the old man in the head.

    When he got home, his wife greeted him. "So they're out of meat again?"

    "It's worse than that. They're out of bullets."

    So how do we know we're in Real Trouble in Iraq? We're running out of bullets.

    Why I Love the Internet, part 247

    Searchable database of lies, half-truths, innuendos, etc, from the Bush administration.

    Someone with more time and energy than me could put together a drinking game from this. "If <administration official> says "Saddam" and "Osama" in the same sentence, take a drink".

    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    Pep Rally

    From the right side of the aisle, we've been hearing the cant of "support the war, support our President, dissent is treason" since this little war started. Now, this is more than just your basic "shut up and sit down" that you get when The Powers That Be don't want to hear something. The Administration is perfectly capable of simply ignoring views that they don't like without calling "treason". Consider oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They're gonna do it, and they don't care what anybody says.

    Where is this coming from? Where do we get the idea that, not only is it treasonous to disagree with any little thing the Administration says, we all have to cheer as hard as we can to "support the troops"?

    My high school had mediocre sports teams. Mediocre players, mediocre coaches, mediocre results. We won some, we lost some. But for those of us not actually on the teams, when we lost, it was always because we weren't cheering hard enough. "We need your support", said the posters, the rallies, the announcements on the PA system. Don't show up for the game? You're stabbing them in the back. Show up and they still lose? You didn't cheer hard enough. In short, you are responsible for the performance of the players on the field.

    I should mention that this idea didn't extend to the players. They knew darn well why they won or lost. High school sports at this time and place were viciously competitive and the coaches weren't really up on the latest theories. Four hours a day of practice is not good for high school students.

    So this "support the troops" business is no more or less than a high school pep rally. If we all chant slogans and jump up and down and cheer on cue, our team will win; otherwise, they will lose. It's our attitudes that matter; not theirs.

    Now, on the basic level, this is just silly. Your friendly average soldier in Iraq doesn't care squat what I, or any other blogger, says. "Oh, no! Lightning says we shouldn't be in Iraq! I'm gonna walk in front of an RPG!". Not bloody likely.

    But on a deeper level, this is profoundly disrespectful. The current U. S. military is a fine, very professional organization. "Professional" means doing your job. Saying that the troops would not do their jobs because not everybody agrees with the policies that put them there reduces them to the level of unprofessional crybabies.

    But it's just fine for shifting the blame to somebody else. The disaster in Iraq is squarely the responsibility of Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and all their furry little Neoconservative friends. Not bloggers, marchers, or pundits who were all considerably more accurate than the Administration in foreseeing what would happen if we marched into Iraq.

    From now on, any time anybody gives me the "support our troops" nonsense, I'm gonna demand to see them dance with pompoms. Or do a real cheer. Georgie Bush should be good at this; he was a cheerleader in college. Maybe this explains it ...

    Saturday, May 22, 2004

    The Fruits of Abu Ghraib?

    I'm as horrified as anybody else about the "abuse" reports and photos from Abu Gharib prison. Go take another look at those photos -- that's what a lost war looks like. What few remaining friends and allies we may have had in the area are gone.

    But we may have seen another result. We bombed a house in the middle of the night and killed 40 people. We say they're terrorists; they say it was a wedding party.

    So why would we attack a wedding? The obvious answer is bad intellegence. Bad intel can come from a number of places; people with grudges are the obvious source.

    Another source is people forced to give information that they don't have, so they make it up. Torture.

    Torture is great for extracting confessions. Under torture, anybody will confess to anything. But for extracting real information, it's less than useless. Even if you get the people who have the information, you have to decide if what you're getting is truthful or a carefully crafted cover story. After a bit of torture, the victim can't tell the difference. It requires real police work to figure out what is real and what is fantasy.

    However, what happens if the person you're torturing doesn't have any information? Well, they'll make up some for you. Wouldn't surprise me if that's what we're seeing here. Now, from everything I've heard coming from Iraq, it doesn't seem like we're doing any "police work" at all. We round up a buncha guys and ask them who the Bad Guys are. Then we go round up those guys. Wouldn't stand up for five minures in an American court, but we don't have any American courts in Iraq to deal with. No Iraqi courts either; that's one of the sore points with the occupation.

    Doesn't make it any easier that the military categorically refuses to consider the possibility that they might have made a mistake.

    Thursday, April 15, 2004


    One thing that struck me about the Bush administration officials' testimony was their incredible passivity. In amongst the bureaucratic arse-covering was an underlying attitude of "So what? It's somebody else's problem". Condi Rice even whined that there wasn't an agency that pulls together intelligence information from the FBI, CIA, NSA, NRO, DIA and all the other agencies that gather intelligence. There is one. It's the Office of the National Security Adviser. Her office.

    Bush: "Al Queda in the US? The FBI is on it."

    Ashcroft: "Terrorism isn't a priority. The FBI has plenty of resources"

    Rice: "No definite information. Come back when you have names, addresses, and dates."

    Moeller: “Wha ... did somebody say something?

    Now, this is interesting. Bush is famous as a “big picture”, hands off leader. One of the “kiss and tell” books from a former cabinet member (O'Neill?) described cabinet meetings with Bush. Basically, they were real-life Dilbert cartoons, as Bush displayed no interest in matters being discussed and threw questions back at the questioners. This is alpha-male business stuff -- from the “how to intimidate underlings” class at Harvard Business School.

    Now, to make this work, those underlings have to be real go-getters that will take the initiative, find out things on their own, and do the right thing. They do all the work and the Boss looks smart and gets the credit. Unfortunately, these are not traits that we associate with the Bush administration, outside of Rumsfeld and Cheney.

    It's sure not what we're seeing from the testimony on the 9/11 commission.

    Sunday, March 14, 2004

    The Parable of the Tree

    I have this fantasy. I'm walking in the woods, a good half day's hike from Civilization (empty beer cans) when I hear feeble cries for help. Following them, I find another hiker with his legs pinned under a fallen tree. He begs me for help - there's no way he will ever make it out on his own, and the chance of someone else coming by is nil.

    Now, in what is jokingly called the Real World, I would do my darndest to get him out and damn the consequences. I know just how quickly things can go bad when you're out of cellphone range - in the boonies, everybody helps each other out of necessity. I'm not a political liberal, at least the way it's normally defined - I just grew up in a very rural environment, where the nearest help can be hours away, even the best of circumstances.

    But that's not the fantasy. In it, I recognize the philosophy of the trapped hiker and can react accordingly:


    "In the name of God, help me!"

    "But you're there because God wants you there", I reply. "Would you go against the Will of God?"

    "Get me out or you'll burn in Hell"

    "Why? Do you believe that God is the master of the world?"

    "Well, yes …"

    "Do you believe that God alone determines the time and means of our deaths?"

    "Yes, but …"

    "Do you believe that if God hadn't wanted that tree to fall, it wouldn't have?"

    "Yes …"

    "Then that tree fell on you because God wanted it to."

    "Uhh …"

    "Then if I pry it off of you, I'd be going against the Will of God."

    "But …"

    I kneel down, safely out of reach. "Pray with me. Dear God, we pray that you receive the soul of … what was your name"?


    "Help me"


    "Just get this tree off of me, goddammit!"

    "Why? What did you do to get yourself into this mess?"

    "Nothing! Now help me or you'll be sorry!"

    "*I* should be sorry? You're the one who has screwed up and gotten himself into this mess. If I help you, you'll just keep wanting more and more help. Why should I pay for your stupidity?"

    "It wasn't stupidity, it was an accident!"

    "Yeah, right. It's always an accident or somebody else's fault or maybe an Evil Conspiracy. If you don't take responsibility for your own actions, you'll end up just another welfare moocher."

    "It'd be criminal to leave me here!"

    "Oh? I'll mention that to the Mayor and the Chief of Police at our Wednesday night poker game. They'll get a chuckle out of it. Getting panhandled by a whiny welfare case in the middle of the woods."

    "I'm not a welfare case!"

    "Excuse me? Who's demanding that I drop everything and help get him out of his own mess? If you had anything at all on the ball, you'd never have gotten into this mess.."

    I turn to go. "Don't leave me!"

    "Why not? You got yourself into it, get yourself out of it."


    "Help me!"

    "How much?"

    "What do you mean, how much? Just get this tree off of me!"

    "I'd have to invest significant effort in moving that tree. I expect compensation."

    "I'll give you anything you want!"

    "OK, let's say, $100,000."

    "What! That's highway robbery!"

    "No, just an attempt at finding a market price."

    "I can't pay it! I'd have to sell my house!"

    "And your house is worth more to you that getting rid of that tree?"

    "It's outrageous!"

    "So get another bid. It's a free market; anybody could move that tree. If you can get a better offer, take it."

    "I've been here for two days! You're the first person to come along in that time."

    "Do we have an agreement? Freely agreed to?"

    "I'll die of I don't agree."

    "So? You've got the money, you can have anybody you want move the tree"

    "But there isn't anybody else"



    "Help me"

    "Good grief, this is terrible! You must be in tremendous pain."

    "Yes. Get it off."

    "I'm sorry, all I have is aspirin and a little bit of water." I give him one of my aspirins and a tiny drink of water.

    "At least give me some more water."

    "Now, now, be grateful for what you get. Here, let me make you more comfortable." I move some branches around. "Is that better."

    "No, it's not better. The tree is still there. Get it off of me!"

    "I can't do that without checking. There are regulations about such things, you know."

    "Regulations be damned! Move the tree."

    "Sorry. We have to follow procedures here. When I get back, I'll tell the rangers you're here."

    For those who want explanations, all of these philosophies make nice-sounding speeches, but all have their own ways of avoiding doing anything that's actually helpful.

    • For fundies, anything good is the result of their own virtue; anything bad is the Will of God. Of course, they reserve the right to determine what is the Will of God and what is random chance. "Christian charity" for fundies seems to be a null term, or so narrowly defined as to be useless.
    • For Conservatives, all anybody really needs is a good sermon. If somebody's life is screwed up, obviously, they didn't get enough sermons; there's no help for them now. There is also always the threat of Calling In The Authorities on people that disagree with them. Conservatives simply see no need to "help" anybody, ever.
    • Libertarians attempt to take The Market, which is an artificial system enforced by governments, and elevate it to the level of Natural Law. In any case, The Market is a statistical system; it breaks down when the number of players is small or the power asymmetries are large. "Altruism" is a null term; everything is economics.
    • Liberals have all kinds of compassion for people in trouble, but have a striking inability to deal with the root cause of the problems. They're great at palliatives, as long as they don't require any real sacrifice. They're also great ones for referring things to Higher Authority.

    Cartoons? Of course. But it's good to think about when somebody says "I'd like to help, but …"

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