Saturday, November 24, 2007

Great News

John Howard's government has been defeated at the polls, and Kevin Rudd will be the next Prime Minister.

Rudd has named global warming as his top priority, and his signing of the Kyoto Protocol will leave the U.S. as the only industrialized country not to have joined it.

Rudd said he would withdraw Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq, leaving twice that number in mostly security roles. Howard had said all the troops will stay as long as needed.


Good news for everyone, not just Australians.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Chris Hedges

Says The Corner:
Who is Chris Hedges? Not only was he a New York Times reporter for 15 years, he was its Middle East bureau chief in the 1990's. Yikes.

Adds Instapundit:
Yeah, kind of makes you wonder what's going on with their current reporting staff that we won't find out for years.

Yeah - for example, maybe we'll found out that Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper were neoconservatives working for the administration.

In general, I find it very funny when the Bush Right attack the NYT, as the Times has been such a friend of the hawks.

Kindle Sold Out

Apparently the Kindle sold out in less than six hours. This definitely seems like an intentional shortage, and Amazon isn't disclosing how many were actually prepared to sell as of the launch. But it seems unlikely that after three years of preparation they would inadvertently have a shortage immediately after the launch. My guess is that the engineered shortage is partly in response to all the negative coverage of the past few days. They're trying to change the optics and create a sense that it's a cool, must-have gadget.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Right-Wing Obsession

Via Eschaton and Sullivan, we see which Conservapedia pages are the most viewed:
Most viewed pages

1. Main Page‎ [1,903,406]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,548,733]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [516,892]
4. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [420,349]
5. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [387,906]
6. Homosexuality and Domestic Violence‎ [354,376]
7. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [346,289]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [331,232]
9. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [279,922]
10. Homosexuality and Syphilis‎ [265,186]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazon Kindle

Amazon has launched its e-book reader, Kindle. While the electronic-paper technology looks very cool, and the Sprint partnership sounds like an interesting way of delivering the content, I just can't believe how ugly the thing looks. It's been getting grief in a lot of corners for not accepting pdf formats and for being generally expensive, but I just can't believe that somebody would design it to look like this. Now, Amazon is not Apple and doesn't have much experience with designing products like this, but they spent enough time and money that they should have got it right. It looks like something from another era. A lot of people wouldn't think about paying such a steep price if it were a flashy piece of kit, but in the iPod and iPhone age it's just plain hideous.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pipe Dream

To the three bagpipers playing on the castle esplanade at 8 AM this morning: what the bloody hell were you thinking?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ron Paul and War

When John Derbyshire has become the voice of reason over at The Corner, you know things there have become pretty dire.

Phones

It sounds like a Google phone announcement is imminent.

I'm sure Google's announcement is deliberately timed to steal some fire from the UK iPhone launch this week. Speaking of which, The Guardian has a piece about UK hackers preparing to unlock the iPhone as soon as it's released. Even though the iPhone has garnered plenty of rave reviews, I can't help but think that Apple has badly misstepped by creating a dynamic where hackers and tech-heads are allied against them. I'm not sure they'll be able to go back to being the geek's favourite brand very easily, especially if the Google phone is a lot more open.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Double-Standard on Troops

It's interesting that right-wingers who insist that any mention of those US troops denigrating the armed forces via illegal and immoral acts is somehow unpatriotic are the same folks who believe that any illegal and immoral acts by UN peace-keepers reveal the UN to be an evil institution. Apparently Glenn Reynolds thinks it's okay to disparage the entire institution if the institution is the UN, but not if it's the US. If the peace-keepers had been American soldiers, you can bet he wouldn't have posted on it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Week in Clinton

It's been interesting to see the sort of slow-burning change in perceptions of Hillary Clinton's performance in the last debate over the course of this week. The immediate response among most analysts seemed to be that she performed well and that Obama and Edwards missed an opportunity to really market themselves as distinct alternatives, and that she may have tripped a bit on the immigration question, but that overall she should've been happy. As the week went on, that characterization gave way to her having received a beat-down by her opponents and really seriously stumbled in the debate. I think this was partly due to bloggers and MSM writers wanting to liven up the race by making it seem as if Clinton was really on the ropes rather than firmly in the lead, but possibly also due to a poor choice of response by Clinton's team: trying to make her seem the victim of her Democratic opponents.

Now the consensus is that Obama actually did very well and that his tone in the debate was well-received by viewers. Maybe that's true, but it's just strange that the story has fundamentally changed over the course of a few days.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chatter

So this is the talk of the political blogosphere at the moment. Keep refreshing that LA Times website.

Update: I have no idea what the scandal involves, but if you want to do some detective work on Ron Rosenbaum's teasing post, you can start here, here, and here.

Update II: A lot of the rumours are about the Clintons. I'm very skeptical of these, as the Clintons would be extremely stupid to be involved in such behaviour with Hillary aiming for the presidency, especially after everything they went through in the Lewinsky affair.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Comfortable Fight

Obama had one good line:
Barack Obama had his own take on the situation: "Part of the reason that Republicans I think are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that is a fight they're very comfortable having."

Unfortunately, he seems not to have done enough last night. He could've made himself more distinct, he could've attacked the GOP, he could've appeared tougher. At this point, Clinton seems to have walked away with it. I think that was the last chance for Edwards and Obama to do something dramatic, and it didn't happen. It looks like the MSM might try to hammer this driver's license question a bit in order to hurt Clinton somehow, but that'll pass. I don't think anyone can touch her now.

The advantage of her getting the nomination, of course, is that she is masterful at these kinds of debates, and is tough as nails in a way that Obama and Edwards aren't. As much as I want to like Obama, I would cringe to see him in a debate against someone like Giuliani or Romney, because I think he would just pull his punches.

Don't Mention the Other Guys

The Dems continue to avoid the real fray

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mukasey

From The Wall Street Journal:
Just when you thought someone might be confirmed in Washington without a partisan fight, Senate Democrats are suggesting they may not approve Michael Mukasey as Attorney General after all. The judge's offense is that he's declined to declare "illegal" an interrogation technique in the war on terror that Congress itself has never specifically banned.

Yes, damn those pesky partisan Democrats, always interfering in our torture regime. No, the Republicans are never partisan, nevermind that the AG position itself has been turned into the president's own personal advocate. And if the Dems do indeed stand against Mukasey, it'll basically be the first time they've even shown any spine.

The cutest thing is that the WSJ editorial is titled "Torturing Mukasey," as if he is truly the victim in all this sordid mess. Sick.

The Tar Sands

Aida Edemariam has a really interesting piece in The Guardian today on the Canadian tar sands, the boomtown of Fort McMurray and the huge environmental cost of extracting crude from the sands.

How the Right Sees the Left

Rudy says:
"This is the world we live in. It's not this happy, romantic-like world where we'll negotiate with this one, or we'll negotiate with that one and there will be no preconditions, and we'll invite (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad to the White House, we'll invite Osama (bin Laden) to the White House," Giuliani said.

"Hillary and Obama are kind of debating whether to invite them to the inauguration or the inaugural ball," he added.

Via Sullivan. Which is kind of ironic, thinking back on Sullivan's infamous post-9/11 "fifth column" piece.

Then I read this from David Horowitz:
The week of October 22-26 witnessed the largest, most successful campus demonstrations by students not associated with the anti-American left in the history of campus protests. 114 college and university campuses participated in “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week...
In response, anti-American leftists and organizations supporting the Islamic jihad organized a national campaign of vitriol and hate that was almost unprecedented. This campaign revealed the lengths to which the anti-American left will go to prevent the public from discussing the nature of the holy war that has been declared on them.

High-profile Republicans are literally accusing the American left of supporting Muslim extremists. Is there anyone decent remaining on the right, and is there anyone with spine remaining on the left? Why don't Obama and Clinton take on Giuliani and his crew of neocon advisers? Why don't they point out that people like Horowitz, Podhoretz, and Pipes have been profoundly wrong about everything? Why don't they give Giuliani everything they've got? The far-right has begun framing the left as the enemy, and no one in power calls them on it. Disgraceful.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Krugman Book Club

Paul Krugman will be blogging all week at the TPM Bookclub regarding his new book, Conscience of a Liberal. Here's his first post.

The Fugitive

Rumsfeld is on the run:
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of “ordering and authorizing” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.

US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.

Old Clam

Scientists find oldest animal ever, kill it.

Via here.

Red Sox, World Champions

So the Red Sox won in 4 games. I'm happy for 'em. I couldn't catch any of the games because I've been very busy and was in Dublin for the weekend (not to mention the first pitches are around 1:00 AM GMT), but it sounds like an awfully boring Series in terms of competitive match-ups.

Boylan

A bizarre email exchange between Glenn Greenwald and General Petraeus's spokesman, Steven Boylan.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Edition

Goldberg gets hacked. The new title is snappy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Contempt

Faint signs that the Do-Nothing Dems might be getting some spine.

Giuliani: So Awful that We Must Avoid Clinton at All Costs

This is weird. Jacob Sullum has a piece up on the Reason website concerning how secretive and power-hungry Giuliani was as mayor of New York.
Having lived in New York during most of Giuliani's two terms, I did not need to be persuaded of his authoritarian tendencies. But Morris' piece provides damning details I did not notice at the time, including Giuliani's sly use of city charter commissions, his attempts to undermine both the public advocate and the Independent Budget Office, and his resistance to releasing even the most innocuous information. "Once," she notes, "the city even denied a Freedom of Information request inquiring how many Freedom of Information requests had been denied."

It's pretty clear that Sullum dislikes Giuliani and agrees with Rachel Morris that Rudy would be likely to consolidate executive power even beyond what Bush was done. So this is how Sullum concludes his post:
Still, if it comes down to Giuliani vs. Clinton (as it does in my nightmares), the choice won't be hard. I'm not convinced Clinton would be any less power-hungry than Giuliani, and she would in all likelihood be abetted by a Democratic Congress. Keeping the executive and legislative branches in the hands of different parties seems like the best strategy for containing the megalomania chronicled by Morris.

Um, right. Sullum says that Giuliani is so dangerous and power-hungry that in the event of a Giuliani-Clinton matchup, he would vote for Giuliani because Clinton might have some of those similar characteristics. Not following you, Jacob.

And his position also rests on the assumption that Democrats will retain Congress, which is far from certain. Would he really like to see Giuliani as president with a Republican Congress?

Colbert

Stephen Colbert is taking his presidential run seriously enough that he's got a team of hotshot lawyers on the case. And he's outpolling Richardson.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beauchamp Story Gets Very Interesting

Wow. Apparently the US Army and Drudge work hand-in-hand.

Vancouver and Urban Planning

Vancouver is pretty renowned for being a well-planned, livable city, and former city planner Larry Beasley has been part of that success. David Eaves overviews a keynote speech recently given by Beasley on the current challenges of the Vancouver housing market.
Affordable housing has become a significant issue in Calgary and Toronto, but in no city is the issue more problematic - or long running - than Vancouver. Beasley blamed this on a commonly understood fact - Vancouver has been blessed and cursed by its international stature. The property market in Vancouver is simply not restricted to the city’s population. For reasons of investment, political security, and sometimes just for a pad to crash, the whole world wishes to own a part of the city and it is driving up real estate costs. To fully grasp the magnitude of the problem, one developer informed me that up a 1/3 of some residential towers in downtown Vancouver sit empty. I’ve been unable to confirm this figure, but it is a startling number if true.

How can the city address this challenge?

Beasley's answers are 1) develop the False Creek Flats, 2) eco-density, and 3) learn from Madrid. The description of the third point in particular is worth reading.

Sox Hit Rox With Sock Full of Rocks

Looks like this series is gonna be a dud.

More Giuliani

So Josh Marshall and Kos have a different take on the "best GOP candidate" question:
This topic came up in my conversation with Markos of Daily Kos last week. And he was pretty clear that he thinks the Republicans' strongest candidate is Rudy Giuliani. But I'm having a hard time getting my head around this question.

Basically I agree. He's their strongest candidate. For all his problems of temperament, authoritarianism, ignorance and general ridiculousness, I know most people don't see him that way. The sheen of 9/11 is real for Rudy. And many otherwise sensible people see him as a generally moderate guy on social policy who couldn't be as stupid as Bush in managing the country's foreign policy but would still be ready to kick some ass to keep everyone safe.
...
So yes, he's their strongest candidate. Unless, that is, he splinters the Republican party and spawns a third-party social conservative protest candidate who siphons off numbers even in the high single digits and he gets crushed.

In the post below, it was generally agreed that Giuliani would be the worst president, though I argued he would be the best candidate in terms of allowing the Dems to win. I'm a bit taken aback that Josh and Kos both think he would actually make the best candidate of the bunch. Not only is he the one candidate who actually seems mentally unstable, his advising team includes Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz, two of the most discredited neoconservatives around. A scary combo. Then we get into his cronyism and the culture of corruption surrounding him as mayor. And his decision to put the emergency command center in the WTC.

In Josh's defense, he does mention the potential disaster that nominating Giuliani could create for the GOP:
'm already repeatedly on record saying that I think it's ridiculous to believe that Rudy can win the Republican nomination with the burden of his social liberalism and personal profligacy.

I think that when average Republicans start looking at Rudy's personal life, that will be the clincher for them. Although with all the Republican sleaze scandals lately, maybe they just won't notice.

Anyway, it's interesting that this "best GOP candidate" meme has been making the liberal blog rounds the past few days. Are folks on the left getting bored with the Dem nomination, assuming Clinton has it sewn up now? It's also worth mentioning that some of the discussion is not exactly comparable. Matthew and Ezra are talking about which candidate they could potentially live with as a competent president, while Josh, Kos and I have been talking about which matchups work to the Dems' advantage or disadvantage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

GOP Picks

Matthew Yglesias picks Romney as the GOP candidate he would most want elected if he had to choose from that crowd. Ezra and others agree that he's the least bad GOP candidate.

Steve Clemons wants to see Giuliani get the nomination, though of course he's talking about the best GOP candidate in terms of giving Dems the edge. I agree with Steve that the Democrats are going to do well against Giuliani if he gets the nomination; he's completely unelectable and the American people won't take long to realize that. And of the crop of GOP candidates, he would truly make the nightmare president. Yglesias and others have predicted that he would be worse than Bush, and the crazy thing is that I can easily imagine that being true. Romney, as phony and slick as he is, looks sane and moderate in comparison.

I'd have to back away from my earlier reasons for wanting Giuliani to get the nomination. It's true that his nomination might cleave the Christian right from the GOP, but the only lesson that would be learned from this is that the GOP has to nominate an evangelical Christian in all future elections. It might all be a moot point. I really can't believe that Giuliani is going to remain the front-runner for long. As it gets closer to the first primaries, people are going to take a closer look at Rudy and the others, and I wouldn't be surprised if the GOP machine starts trying to push Romney or Huckabee as the safe choice. And like Steve, I think they would be formidable opponents for Clinton if she is the nominee.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Guardian America

The Guardian has launched a new US website, Guardian America. Michael Tomasky introduces the site.

Scottish Football Poetry





The poems they're reciting are collected here, along with many others.

The bit at the end of the video where everyone's screaming was filmed at the Ingram Bar in Glasgow when Scotland defeated Ukraine earlier this month, and I was standing near the back at that moment. An amazing scene.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World War III

So, Bush said this today:
But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.

So far, so crazy. Matthew says this:
This is inane. World War III? Against Iran? Really? Because Iran seems a lot like a medium-sized middle income country with few military capabilities rather than a near peer-competitor of the sort against which you might fight a world war.

Well no, war with Iran wouldn't constitute World War III...until you consider Putin's warning yesterday, that "We should not even think of making use of force in this region." It's quite clear what Bush is saying, and pretty damn terrifying.

Gore on Running for President

Gore told a Norwegian broadcaster, regarding his Nobel win and whether it would affect his political career:
"I don't have plans to be a candidate again so I don't really see it in that context at all.

So, he still won't use phrases like "I will not run," but anyway it's looking less and less likely.

Who Benefits from the LibDem Leadership Crisis

Michael White says:
Labour complaints about the Brownite teenagers' botched election have been dimmed by its unintended consequence: Sir Ming's decision to quit. That was not what either rival wanted: he was no threat.

I don't know if that's quite right. Obviously it would be giving Brown way too much credit to say that he foresaw Ming's departure as a consequence of not calling the election, but he did have much more to gain from that possibility. Campbell was a threat to Labour in the sense that his poor leadership led disaffected LibDems to the Tory camp. Labour has to feel pretty good about this, I would imagine.

On another note, it seems extremely odd to me that there's a large section of the electorate out there wavering betwen the LibDem and Tory camps. Not sure I understand that one.

US and Canadian Healthcare

Joe Paduda debunks right-wing scaremongering about Canadian-style healthcare.

Via Ezra Klein.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sullivan on Clinton

Andrew Sullivan has long been irked by Hillary Clinton, and most of his posted thoughts about her boil down to the fact that she rubs him the wrong way or gives him the creeps or whatever. It's something fairly ill-defined, and he seems to recognize that it's a Clinton Derangement Syndrome. But today he cites a reader email and claims that it gives "one of the best rationales for Clinton's candidacy":
If worst comes to worst, we might get a president like Hillary, who is that girl nobody really likes but everyone wants in their project group anyways because they know she is smart and will do all the work.

So...advantages of Hillary: she's capable, smart and hard-working. Disadvantages: an icky girl. I see. Thanks for the astute political analysis, Andy.

Dept. of Backhanded Compliments

John Podhoretz on Al Gore:
I know this usually isn't the venue for a friendly discussion of the former vice president, but reading my new colleague Gary Rosen's cool-eyed blog post yesterday and David Brooks's emotional column today, I found myself feeling a strange sort of admiration for Al Gore. Doesn't it seem as though his 2000 loss, devastating though it must have been for Gore, was a huge liberation? As a politician, Gore never seemed comfortable in his own skin. The warmth and amused intelligence people insist he displays in private were never evident in public.
...
Since that concession, Gore has let himself loose in all kinds of ways. He no longer has to pretend, as all politicians most.

So far, so good. I agree that Gore has seemed much more natural and confident in the past seven years - less of a politician. And who is the real, unleashed Gore, according to Podhoretz?
He is clearly happiest and freest as an autodidact preaching populist pseudoscientist. And everything has gone his way.

I wonder, does the epithet "pseudoscientist" apply to every scientist researching climate change?

Monday, October 15, 2007

North

The Walrus has an interesting piece on Canadian sovereignty and the Arctic North from the Inuit perspective:
Luckily for Canada, the Inuit are always here. Without the Inuit, could we really claim to be masters of the Arctic house? Probably not. Ultimately, the Arctic sovereignty issue will depend on people, not ports or training facilities or military exercises. If Canada is to secure a long-standing and unimpeachable claim to the Arctic, it must be grounded in the daily realities of the Inuit and other Canadians who make this region their home. Why does Canada seem to forget that we are there each time a crisis looms?

Canada’s mistreatment of the Inuit in using them as human flagpoles to assert sovereignty was laid out with excruciating honesty during hearings convened by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the early 1990s. A settlement was finally achieved and a semi-apology delivered. How ironic now for Canada to brandish the fact that Canadian citizens — Inuit — live in the Arctic in order to add legitimacy to its sovereignty claims.

And the proposal:
Surely some lessons have been learned. The time has come to listen to Arctic voices on the subject of integrating the region with mainstream Canada. Would not a better strategy be to make this bountiful and magnificent region a part of Canada’s daily experience? The millions spent on political posturing, tours and studies that go nowhere, and press releases could be better spent on lasting, community-oriented infrastructure. Inuit are well-organized politically — regionally, nationally, and on the international level. Together, we have developed an Inuit Action Plan, which was submitted to the federal government in February. We are in the post-land-claims era now, and this plan is a testament to that. It identifies the tangible, bricks-and-mortar projects that need doing, as well as the intangible but no less vital elements of our future: hope for our children, better relationships with the rest of Canada, etc.

I haven't seen the Inuit Action Plan, so am not sure what the details are for integrating the North with the rest of Canada, but it sounds interesting. Will seek it out.

Colbert, Op-Ed Writer

Stephen Colbert has mercifully replaced MoDo today:
I Am an Op-Ed Columnist (And So Can You!)

By STEPHEN COLBERT

Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(

I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.

Gore Derangement Syndrome

Paul Krugman has a very good piece on Al Gore and, specifically, the Right's reactions to Gore. A few highlights:
What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.
...
The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.
...
Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.

World War IV

This Cliff May post is stupid on many levels:
This is what bothers me most about Al Gore getting the Nobel Prize. I know that sounds like a non sequitur but consider: Gore’s argument, endorsed by the Nobel Committee and the left in general, is that global warming is the most important crisis of the contemporary era.

By clear implication, the war being waged against us by the Islamists is a second tier issue.

This is the equivalent of political figures in the 1930s telling Churchill that the most critical problem of the day was not the rise of Nazi power but air pollution – and London had a lot of air pollution in the 1930s.

Right now, we are divided in America and in the West. As Norman Podhoretz writes in World War IV: “It is a war in which those of us who see Islamofascism as the latest mutation of the totalitarian threat to our civilization and who insist on the correlative necessity of meeting and defeating it, are pitted against those who think that the threat has been wildly exaggerated …”

One thing that strikes me is Podhoretz's wording in that last paragraph: note that in his conception, "World War IV" is a battle not against "Islamofacism," but against domestic enemies. Interesting phrasing.

This type of talk, from both Podhoretz and May, is of course just the latest in a never-ending series of attempts to equate the war on terror with World War II, the Good War. Silly Al Gore, fretting over London's air quality while Hitler is on the march! The following quote, from State Department official David Long following Clinton's cruise missile attacks on Afghan training camps in 1998, roughly sums up my view:
''This is, unfortunately, the war of the future,'' Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said.

Terrorism experts applauded the military action as a necessary quick response. But they said the notion of announcing a war against someone like Mr. bin Laden posed problems.

''It's unfortunate that she used the term war, because it's very misleading. Americans like their wars to be short, with no casualties, and then we kick back and watch the Super Bowl,'' said David Long, a former State Department official. ''Flu would be a better simile. Every year there's a new strain of flu, and every two or three years one is lethal. You manage it. You're not going to win the war on flu.'

I think the flu comparison is great. Once you cast this as a war, the only possibility is losing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Right Reax

I mentioned Iain Murray's idiotic response to Gore receiving the Nobel below, but thought I would collect a few examples of pathetic and desperate right-wing reactions to the news.

Iain Murray redux:
Who Else Should Al Gore Share the Prize With? [Iain Murray]

How about that well known peace campaigner Osama Bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore's stance - and that of the Nobel committee - in his September rant from the cave.

Rush Limbaugh:
On the same wave as Geraghty and Hanson today, Rush Limbaugh just called on Al Gore to hand over this prize to "genuine agents of peace: General Petraus, the U.S. military, and its commander-in-chief.

Kathryn Lopez:
Hey, Mr. Peace Prize Man [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Is that manmade carbon dioxide in your hands, escaping into the atmosphere? [A picture of the IPCC chairman opening a bottle of champagne]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

North

Some absolutely amazing photographs of a polar bear and two huskies in the Canadian North.

Via Yglesias.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Climate Change Crowd

Shorter Iain Murray: "you might as well give that Nobel to bin Laden."

Nobel Peace Prize 2007

Al Gore and the UN IPCC have been jointly awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

In other news, Al Gore won the 2008 US presidential election.

See here for background.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Best Around

Too Right for America

Slog has been tracking Seattle megachurch pastor Ken Hutcherson for a while now, particularly in regards to his homophobia and links to far-right Latvian homophobic groups. It turns out that the Lynnwood (North Seattle) Convention Center will be hosting a meeting later this month of a group calling themselves Watchmen on the Walls, a group consisting of Hutcherson and like-minded Latvian homophobes whose aims are to fight the "homosexual movement" and bring the USA into "full compliance with God's laws." Slog commenters have been arguing about whether to take protest action at this gathering, or even to do something such as inform the FBI that a terrorist group is meeting in Lynnwood to discuss how to wage war in the US.

But reading about Hutcherson's alignment with these far-right Latvian groups reminded me of something else. I couldn't help but think of Dinesh D'Souza aligning with anti-American Islamists in their condemnation of the West as immoral and decadent; essentially blaming the cultural left for 9/11. Hutcherson is doing much the same thing; alarmed at what he sees as immoral homosexual culture in the US, he is aligning with far-right Eastern European groups in an attempt to effect change in the States. This in turn reminded me of a third example, the socially conservative American Episcopalians who have aligned with far-right African Anglicans in order to gang up on what they see as an immoral American left within the Episcopal Church.

Three cases that are different in the details, but have one thing in common. They all feature far-right American social conservatives condemning mainstream American culture as decadent, immoral and too left-leaning and subsequently forming alliances or sympathies with foreign groups that are essentially anti-American.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prime Minister's Questions

PMQs today were pretty fun (click on "video and audio news"). This link will probably age better.

Michael Forbes vs. the Billionaire

Here's the gist of it:
For 40 years, Michael Forbes has lived a quiet life netting salmon every summer like his father and grandfather before him. His rambling old farm nestles behind a rampart of vast sand dunes which protect his rusting tractors and ramshackle sheds from the winds that whip in from the North Sea.

But those dunes are coveted by the billionaire property developer Donald Trump, as the centrepiece of his plans to create the "world's greatest golf course" - a £500m project to plant an eight- storey five-star hotel, two championship golf courses and 950 timeshare holiday flats on the coast of Aberdeenshire.

So the basic story is that he won't sell and that his land sits smack dab in the middle of the resort. But this is the bit that stuck out at me:
Ever since he refused to sell his home, 13 miles north of Aberdeen, Mr Forbes claims he has had a series of visits: environmental health officers and animal cruelty inspectors have arrived to check on the animals, and the police have asked him about his alleged possession of an unlicensed shotgun - a weapon he does not own. He has also had lawyers' letters accusing him of damaging Mr Trump's property, which he denies. These visits could be a coincidence, he adds, but he believes the pressure to sell will intensify.

If true, this is absolutely outrageous. If the local authorities are that deep in Trump's pockets, this needs to be investigated by national authorities.

McConnell and the Frost Family

So it looks like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office may have played a part in orchestrating the attacks on the Frosts.

Clinton, Giuliani, and 9/11

Yes, it is silly when media outlets portray any mention of 9/11 as "treading on Rudy's turf". He's certainly been somewhat successful in turning it into Rudy Day. But there's a more general issue here that's kind of interesting and which I haven't seen discussed, relating to the 2008 campaign. 9/11 is really all Rudy has up his sleeve, and so he's out there hawking it incessantly, but if a Rudy/Hillary match-up really happens, as most people are predicting, that wind is completely taken out of his sails. What do people think of when they think of our leaders on 9/11? Giuliani and Clinton walking side-by-side in Manhattan (and, less flatteringly, of Bush and Cheney's whereabouts). Unless he plans to somehow denigrate Clinton in regards to 9/11, he won't be able to get any more mileage out of the 9/11 mantra. And if anything, he's going to come under intense scrutiny about his decisions regarding the placement of the emergency response headquarters. Add this to the long list of reasons why the left is salivating for his nomination.

Right-Wing Road-Rage

This (via Atrios) follows on nicely from the previous post:
He goes into reverse and starts screaming at me. I can’t really hear it except for a lot of f-bombs until he gets close. I yell back, “Why were you tailgating me like that? I was already going well over the speed limit!”

He’s now right in front of my driveway. Older guy–55? 60? Big walrus mustache, grey hair, relatively slight build, but kind of tough-looking.

“BECAUSE YOU’RE A FUCKING FAGGOT, FUCKER! YOU FUCK! I SHOULD HAVE FUCKING HIT YOU! I SHOULD HIT YOU NOW!” He goes on in that vein for a bit.
...
He leans out to point at my car bumper. Which is entirely unadorned except for a Kerry-Edwards sticker from 2004.

“YOU FAGGOT YOU VOTED FOR THAT WAR CRIMINAL. I’M GOING TO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU.” Guy is turning a shade of purple. I don’t think he’s just putting on a show. He actually sped up, nearly rammed with his car at high speed and is now seriously contemplating attacking me over a bumper sticker. I’m so astonished that I’m speechless. He looks at me, looks at the house, and I think he’s noticing that there’s another car there and therefore maybe someone who is going to call the cops if something happens.

All because of a Kerry 2004 bumpersticker.

I actually witnessed something very similar in my hometown, a very small community in rural Washington State. My brother and I were walking along the main street after getting a coffee or something, a couple years back, and we were at one of the main intersections in town. Suddenly we heard a man yelling and honking. There were a few vehicles waiting to turn left at the stoplight onto the main street, and a middle-aged man in a minivan was yelling and honking at the person in the vehicle in front of him, a 20-something young man in a pickup truck. The young man looked a bit hippyish, and I don't know if it was merely his appearance that set the older man off, or if the truck had an anti-war or anti-Bush sticker or what, but the older man was yelling at him to "go the hell back to Canada" and other nonsense I don't recall. The younger guy looked genuinely confused about what was going on. This guy was really worked up. In the couple of seconds that it took to suss the situation, my brother and I yelled back at the older man, telling him to fuck off and giving him the finger. He suddenly looked taken aback that other people were yelling at him, and as the light changed and he turned on to the main street he started yelling at us, and we just stood there bemused, giving him the finger. I genuinely wondered if he was gonna circle around and try to start something, but he just took off in his minivan.

It's just amazing that somebody could be so incensed by a bumpersticker, or by somebody's personal appearance, that they are on the verge of starting an altercation over it.

The Frost Family

When right-wingers first began attacking Graeme Frost, it was infuriating and pathetic that these critics failed to understand how middle-class families in America, let alone lower-class families, might be unable to afford health-care. They simply rejected the idea out of hand that the family might need SCHIP, ignoring the extremely unfortunate circumstances that led the family to this reliance (a car accident that severely injured two of their children), and concentrating instead on the supposed wealth of the family. That was low enough, but it got much, much worse:
By Monday, Rush Limbaugh was discussing the family's earnings and assets on the air, and the blogger Michelle Malkin was writing about her visit to Halsey Frost's East Baltimore warehouse and her drive past the family's Butchers Hill rowhouse. Liberal bloggers, meanwhile, were complaining that the Frosts were being "swift-boated."

"It's really frustrating," said Bonnie Frost, 41, who stated she is upset by the angry Internet posts, e-mails and telephone calls targeting the family. "The whole point of it for me was that this program helped my family, and I wanted it to help others. That's the message, and I can't believe the way the spotlight has been taken off of that."

When I read yesterday that Michelle Malkin had gone to the family's house and to the father's place of business, I was absolutely gobsmacked that these people would stoop so low to harass this family. Ezra nails it:
Something has gone wrong on the Right. Become sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly. To visit Michelle Malkin's cave is to see politics at its most savage, its most ferocious, its most rageful. They say they've spent the past week smearing a child and his family because that child was fair game -- he and his family spoke of their experience receiving health care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For this, right wingers travel to their home, insinuate that the family is engaged in large-scale fraud, make threatening phone calls to the family, interrogate the neighbors as to the family's character and financial state.

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

His entire post is worth reading. This episode is unbelievable, unsettling and infuriating.

The best that can come of this is the curtains are opened and reveal how millions of Americans live with tenuous access to healthcare, or none at all. Of course, the average American already knows that because they struggle with this every day, but some of the media elite are apparently all to happy to remain ignorant. But maybe there will be a Katrina moment, when people could no longer claim that they didn't realize there was poverty in America.

It's perfectly understandable how the Frosts came to rely on SCHIP. I have a cousin who pays more on her health insurance each month than on her rent, because of being diagnosed with cancer. Most Americans are just a single health crisis away from extreme debt or poverty. There are thousands of stories like the Frosts', and they can't all be Swift-boated.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clinton the Polarizer

It takes a lot of nerve for somebody who's harbored a vague, undefined loathing of Hillary Clinton for years to ask the question "Has she really become a different person than the paranoid, polarizing co-president of the 1990s? Or has she merely learned how to disguise it better?" Sullivan has never offered any explanation other than that she gives him the creeps, and he admits as much. She undoubtedly is a polarizing figure, but I suspect no amount of change is going to affect the opinions of people who simply find her intimidating, shrill, or slick for reasons they can't explain. And it's ridiculous to claim that she bears the burden of the polarization of the 1990s, ignoring the anti-Clinton GOP machine of the era.

Eric Alterman

Andrew links to Brendan Nyhan's critique of this Eric Alterman quote about the SCHIP veto:
Bush's preference for allowing poor kids to get sick and die for his own ideological obsession is a fundamental fact of his presidency and of the Republican Party's guiding ideology.

Well, it's certainly strong stuff. Here's Brendan's bit:
Needless to say, Alterman does not know and certainly cannot prove that Bush has a "preference for allowing poor kids to get sick and die." He's describing his prediction of the veto's results as Bush's "preference." That's like saying Alterman's support for withdrawal from Iraq represents his "preference" for genocide or full-blown civil war (two of the worst possible outcomes that could result).

It might sound like Alterman is just being shrill, calling Bush a child-killer or something such, but actually his statement is completely right. When Bush announced his veto, he explained it by saying that he doesn't believe public healthcare is a good thing, and that privatized healthcare is the way to go. He is depriving children of healthcare due to his obsession with privatizing everything. You could certainly and truthfully characterize that as a preference for private healthcare at all costs. No, it doesn't mean that he desires that children get sick and die, but it does mean that privatized healthcare is more important to him.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Head On

Take One:


Take Two:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Krikorian Solves Darfur Crisis

Mark Krikorian says:
If people are really worried about the vulnerable women of Darfur, they ought to give each one of them an AK-47 and the training to use it. You'd be surprised how quickly the rapes stop.

Is there any problem that automatic weapons proliferation can't solve?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sullivan on Cameron

Andrew asks:
Here's the kicker: an hour long, with no formal text and no Teleprompter. I'm proud of my roots. Could any American politician pull that off?

William Jefferson Clinton.

Threats from Rep. Issa

I don't know how else to characterize this:



Like Matthew says, there are really only two readings: if Waxman went to Iraq to investigate Blackwater, he would either receive no protection from Blackwater or else would be physically harmed by them.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh now claims that he was referring to just one particular individual who was pretending to be a soldier, though it's clear from the transcript that that's not the case. However, Limbaugh has now edited the original clip in order to make it seem that way. He's apparently convinced some folks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Notes

Rush Limbaugh thinks that soldiers who oppose the war are phony soldiers. Fox News thinks the generals are betraying the soldiers.

Interesting.

Update: Wow, Limbaugh digs himself much deeper. He claims that he was referring to people who claim to be soldiers but in fact aren't. And then he gives an example: John Murtha.
That would be the same Murtha who earned the Bronze Star with Valor device, two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

Got that? "Phony soldiers" was a literal reference to those who've lied about serving, a list which Limbaugh believes should include decorated war hero Jack Murtha.

Youth

From Pandagon via Atrios comes this story of school officials encroaching on kids' privacy in creepy ways and of students fighting back. I agree with Amanda here:
Good for them. If kids these days are like that, I feel a surge of optimism about the fate of the Republic. God, high school was hard enough having to put up with other kids, but seriously, the insane adults on paranoid power trips that seem to rule every high school made it a living hell.

For all the problems the US has these days, it does seem that a new generation is being brought up believing in their right to stand up to authority and fight ridiculous policies. That's a trait that will stand them in good stead in the coming years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bush's Climate Change Conference

The media have really failed in reporting on this climate change conference. They give Bush way too much credit, as if he were really trying to be proactive in fighting climate change, when he's really trying his best to undermine concerted global efforts. For example, the link at CNN's homepage to this article reads "Bush wants climate change action." In fact, he is stressing that any action on reducing emissions is up to individual countries, i.e. the US is not signing up to any treaties or making any commitments on reductions. And the scheduling of the conference was deliberately meant to detract from efforts of other countries to come to agreements on reductions.

Clinton and Inevitability

In the last few days there has suddenly been a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton being the inevitable nominee. Look here, for example. This is really based on nothing more than a good debate performance this week, even though we're still months from the first primary. The CW seems to be that Edwards and Obama missed an opportunity to tear her to shreds in the debate, and so she's running away with the show now.

First of all, the civility of the Democratic debates should reflect well on all of the candidates. While there's disagreement between the 3 central campaigns, it's not bitter or personal at this point.

Second, Obama and Clinton are basically tied on fundraising and in the polls. Why is it not being said that he's the inevitable nominee? Do the press just not take his campaign seriously?

A lot of the "inevitable" talk about Hillary is coming from the Right, and I think that's understandable. There are plenty in the GOP who would love her to be the nominee, thinking that her divisiveness will work to their favour. I think the fact that she's somewhat divisive and a known quantity doesn't really work to the advantage of either side. She's not going to win over many conservative votes, and she's not going to lose much of the support she already has from the Left. We won't see a panicky drop-off in support, like we saw with Dean and which could happen with Obama or Edwards. Conservatives who think she would be easy pickings as the Democratic nominee are likely to be disappointed.

Now imagine the scenario that John Podhoretz thinks is inevitable: Rudy vs. Hillary. Like I said, Hillary is a known quanitity and all of her dirty laundry has probably been aired. People like her or hate her. Rudy has had his dirty laundry aired, but on a much smaller scale: the people of NYC know about his sordid past and personal life, but by and large Americans don't. They just think of him as the 9/11 guy. If he is the nominee, he is going to go under the microscope and it will be brutal. I don't think his nomination is inevitable in the way that many think Clinton's is, but I do think that if he does get the nomination, it will be nearly impossible for the GOP to win in 2008.

Russert and Clinton


A couple of things here: Russert is a total wanker. What was the point of his attempted gotcha? To see if she would change her mind and "fall in line" behind her husband? To make her look inexperienced compared with him? He came off looking very foolish.

And second, Clinton's answer was very, very good. This hypothetical, which keeps cropping up in the torture debates, is just plain stupid. It's very smart of Clinton to include the response "torture doesn't work" in her answer, in addition to making the moral case. I don't know why Democrats don't keep emphasizing that point: not only is torture wrong, but it just doesn't work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harper at the CFR

Canada PM Stephen Harper has given a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, regarding relationships between the US and Canada:
Canada's relationship with the United States is stalled thanks to an "unhealthy" trend in the U.S. toward nationalism and away from deeper economic ties, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a prestigious foreign policy think-tank here yesterday.

He said he was "deeply concerned" that the political discourse in the U.S. had been infected by "populism, protectionism and nationalism in an unhealthy sense."

Regarding the differences between the US and Canada's differing international reputations:

In his speech, Harper emphasized the "shared values" of Canada and the U.S., and seemed taken by surprise when an audience member asked why, despite these common traits, Canada was not hated internationally, as is the U.S.

"It's certainly hated in some circles," Harper said.

"I suspect in the circles where the United States as a nation is genuinely hated, I suspect Canada is equally hated as are all countries that stand for these values. The American administration is, to be frank, more widely unpopular than the United States itself, but that's an issue for American domestic politics."

Unlike the U.S., Harper said, "Canada has no history anywhere in the world of conquest or domination. It's probably hard to perceive of Canada being in that type of a position."

In contrast, Canada is seen in the world as a "positive and non-threatening force," he said. "What my government is trying to do is to use those values to promote positive change in concert with our allies."

$9.11

You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The GOP Field

Has anyone else noticed the GOP front-runners just seem completely barking mad in the things they've been saying? I'm not even talking far-right policies or the like - that would at least suggest a bit of intellect in their talking points. They've just been engaging in the most hilarious, pathetic pandering in their speeches. Can anyone actually tell me what any of the top 4 stand for?

Romney: "I'll make sure that our future is defined not by the letters ACLU, but by the letters USA." Also, wants to move In God We Trust from the side of the dollar to the center.

McCain: Wants Iraq War to go on forever. That honestly is the extent of his campaign platform.

Thompson: Nobody knows, they weren't paying attention. He does have a secret weapon for finding bin Laden, though: tactics.

Giuliani: This is maybe the toughest of all. He's reversed himself on so many issues and tried so often to have it both ways that nobody can say what he stands for, and it's unclear who actually supports him and why.

So maybe all the talk of whether Gore will enter the race should take a backseat to the question of whether a sane member of the GOP will enter the fray. I can't imagine that any self-respecting conservative is happy with this lot.

Goldilocks

Larry Elliott has a good overview of the recent bumps in the global economy and how they came to be. A sample:
Let me tell you the story of the Goldilocks economy. Once upon a time there were two countries separated by an ocean. One was called China and its people worked long hours to produce cheap goods.

The other was known as the United States. Once its people had worked hard and it was the workshop of the world. But recently, the US had not worked so hard and for every $100 of goods and services produced in its factories and offices, $106 was spent in its shopping malls. Instead of producing its own goods, the US bought them from China.

For many years, this arrangement worked nicely. The Chinese people kindly spent the money they made exporting their TVs and toys to the US by buying shares in American companies and the bills issued by the US treasury to pay for its debts.

The whole thing doesn't take long to read and is a good overview of the crisis.

Nobel Surprise

Hitchens has a piece in Slate that's bound to increase the Gore chatter a bit. He basically suggests that Gore is a shoe-in for the Nobel Peace Prize next month, and that winning would be the perfect time to decide on and announce a run for President, as it would wrap up a year of winning an Oscar, having a bestselling book and winning a Nobel. There aren't many concrete indications that Gore might run, and Hitchens is just throwing the idea out there, but it's a compelling thought. I was convinced for a long time that Gore was going to run and was just cleverly letting the others duke it out for a while, but I'd given up hope the past month or so. If Hitchens is right that the smart money is on him for the Nobel, that does seem interesting. Would failing to get the Nobel actually play a part in such a decision?

It's amazing, talking to people, how many there are out there who are just waiting for him to announce. He and his advisers must be completely aware of this. I for one really hope he decides to go for it.

Via Debatable Land

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Re: Our Useless Congress

And here's the clincher: the Dems provided an alternative resolution condemning both the MoveOn ad (which I agree was stupid) and GOP smears against veterans like Kerry and Cleland. The GOP Senators didn't vote for it. Here's the CarpetBagger Report:

It was a compelling pitch. If Republicans are outraged by criticism of those who serve in the Armed Forces, is their disgust equal-opportunity, or are they only bothered by criticism of those they perceive as being on their “side”? Are they concerned about one newspaper ad, or about the broader issue of besmirching others who wear the uniform?

Alas, Republicans are more narrowly focused, and were unwilling to criticize attacks levied by their own.

When Boxer’s amendment came to the floor, it needed 60 votes to pass. Republicans, regrettably, voted against the measure.

Shortly thereafter, Sen. Cornyn’s more narrow, anti-MoveOn measure received a vote, and passed easily, thanks to 25 Dems breaking ranks. The final tally was 72-25. It’s disappointing, but not surprising.

Maybe now lawmakers can get back to work, and move away from their obsession with a newspaper ad?

Just in case you thought they actually had convictions. Pure politics, played by hypocrites.

Our Useless Congress

David Kurtz has the analysis on the Senate's condemnation of the MoveOn ad:
Correct me if I'm wrong here. But by my calculation, more U.S. senators (72) voted today to condemn a newspaper ad attacking Gen. Petraeus than voted yesterday (56) to lengthen the time off troops get from the frontlines in Iraq, thereby reducing individual soldiers exposure to actual attacks. Am I missing something, or is that about right?

Yep, that's about right. The folks at The Corner seem to think this is the most important thing the congress has ever done. I can't believe this is what our Senators are spending their time on right now, condemning newspaper advertisements.

Clemons on Iran

People seem to be taking Steve's piece to mean that the US is not going to attack Iran. That's not quite right. What he's saying is that Bush won't attack Iran...but Cheney might. Don't calm those nerves just yet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Walt and Mearsheimer

I haven't read the book but did read the original article, which I found to be basically uncontroversial. While people can debate the extent of the Israel lobby's influence, I find this to be completely intellectually dishonest:
“Everything in the book that isn't just blatantly obvious is ridiculous. The Israel lobby controls U.S. foreign policy? In this country all ethnic groups attempt to influence foreign policy towards their country of origin. That is normal and legitimate. Ask the Greeks, Armenians, Turks. You would think that neither of them had ever lived here in America… In a sense, of course, they haven't…” he chuckled, before getting back to the business at hand. The class, filled with new grad students, all laughed too.

To say that the Israel lobby is no different in terms of influence and power than Turkish or Armenian lobbies is ridiculous. They influence foreign policy much, much more than other similar lobbies. I am sympathetic to this argument, however:

But wait a minute — these guys really don't seem to understand America at all. And I don't mean our affection for Israel a beacon of democracy, blah, blah — I'm talking about our visceral identification with the Jewish people specifically, something inherent in our national character. Sure, the pro-Israel lobby is powerful and effective, but most of the time it's going with the flow of American attitudes rather than redirecting them. It's not just those wacky Christian Zionists they identify as part of the elite Lobby, bending America to their will — our association with the Israelites of the Old Testament (and by implication, their modern heirs) is part of our foundational mythology and shapes our modern attitudes. When John Winthrop told his flock that "we shall be as a city upon a hill," the allusion was to the City of David atop Mt. Zion. They and subsequent settlers explicitly saw themselves as making an exodus from the fleshpots of Europe to wander in the wilderness, which is why both Franklin and Jefferson proposed images of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt for the the Great Seal of the United States, and why Lincoln called us God's "almost chosen people."

I agree that Americans have an affinity for Israel and the Jews historically that has little or nothing to do with the lobby. This affinity, however, works hand in hand with the Israel lobby in Washington to strongly mold our foreign policy. And our one-sided approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict is unjustifiable either morally or strategically.

Monday, September 17, 2007

France and Iran

Well, the Bush administration is feeling good about Sarkozy's new government right about now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mark Steyn's Islamophobia

Light Amsterdam blogging here.

Anyone who's at all familiar with Mark Steyn knows that his biggest fear is that white people are being outbred by Muslims. I know this basically from his posts at The Corner, but apparently he even wrote a book based around this fear.

Today brings the latest installment of his rantings. The trigger? The apparent fact that the mayor of Brussels presides over a party with 10 of 17 council members being Muslim. Whether or not this is even true, I don't know; Steyn seems to have gleaned this from a Belgian anti-Muslim website. But he uses this information to characterize Brussels as a "Muslim-run city", and of course by the extension, that Europe is soon to be run entirely be Muslims.

At first it's just amazing to think that people take Steyn seriously. But actually, he gets away with this kind of garbage because he's supposedly a "comic political writer" and so can use such language in way that makes some people think he's just being hyperbolic for comic effect while others understand exactly what he's saying. Disturbing stuff.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Even More Iran

Larry Johnson has some worries and theories about the nuclear warheads incident:
Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can’t imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations?

His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else.

Now maybe there is an innocent explanation for this? I can’t think of one. What is certain is that the pilots of this plane did not just make a last minute decision to strap on some nukes and take them for a joy ride. We need some tough questions and clear answers. What the hell is going on? Did someone at Barksdale try to indirectly warn the American people that the Bush Administration is staging nukes for Iran? I don’t know, but it is a question worth asking.

I still think it was just a really inexcusable mistake, but there are some very odd aspects of this story. I would assume that a lot of people would have to sign off on anything involving transport of nuclear warheads. And we're meant to believe that everyone along the chain messed up the authorization for this? The other thing is that we only know about this story because of three individuals in the military who leaked the information to The Army Times. Surely those responsible wouldn't have gone public on their own choice. Who were the whistleblowers and what was their motivation? Simply to point out incompetence and oversight, or were they worried about something much larger?

Like I said, I'm skeptical of Johnson's points, and he takes it as a given that the warheads were meant to travel to Barksdale. But at the same time it's very difficult to see how this could happen as an accident.

My Dream Bike

These are all the rage in Amsterdam and I would love to have one someday. Pricey, though, at around 1500 euros.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ramping Up For Iran

The conservative media have their instructions: prep for Iran.

Vaestro

I think I may have blogged about Vaestro, the audio-based web discussion forum, several months back, but they've recently revamped and it's worth checking them out again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Nation

I saw this interesting article on The Nation in which they interview 50 American veterans of the present Iraq war about what it is like on the ground. True, they did source a lot of their blokes from anti-war veterans groups, but first of all those make a lot of sense and second, their stories are unbelievably believable.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alden Pyle

Bush citing The Quiet American as an argument for staying in Iraq is one of the strangest things I've ever heard in one of his speeches. I can only assume that neither he nor his speech-writers have read it, because the attempt at turn-around just doesn't make sense. The Alden Pyle character is the type of naive, reckless, good-intentioned American personified by many neoconservatives today. The specific quote Bush uses about "better motives" applies perfectly to this administration. His attempt to reference that book and its message is just plain bizarre.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tony Law

We caught comedian Tony Law last night at The Old Rope and he was really hilarious. I'd actualy never heard of him, but we intend to catch his proper show, Revenge of the Dog of Time, at the Gilded Balloon.

I really like the idea of the Old Rope too. Some of the performances don't work, but that's part of the deal - it's a chance for performers to try out new material, and you get a glimpse of the process that's pretty fascinating to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Festival Tips

If anyone has seen something at the festival and highly recommends it, leave details in the comments. I'd be curious to see what others have discovered out there.

So far I've seen Amsterdam Comedy Collective, which I recommend, if only for starring comedian (I think his name is Leeuw). Best Western by Rich Hall was good but pretty dark humour. I don't recommend Belly of a Drunk Piano. It was meant to be a tribute to Tom Waits but was more like someone apeing him.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Giles Wareing

I had somehow missed noticing until today that Tim Dowling has a novel out. He's one of my favourite Guardian writers and is brilliant and funny, so it could be great.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More OpenMoko

A review/preview from The Economist.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blondie...

is performing live outside my window.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

openmoko

Anyone have experience with this yet? I'm intrigued.

From Zero to Hero

In the Seattle P-I:
During a last-call stroll through Pioneer Square early Sunday morning, Seattle's top law dog helped break up a sidewalk fight between a bar patron and a man in an eagle suit.

Lt. Kenneth Hicks, shift commander at the precinct that includes Pioneer Square, was leading Kerlikowske on a closing-time tour of the club district when the senior officers witnessed a man-on-eagle fracas, according to police documents.

The officers watched as a 30-year-old Seattle man shoved the eagle to the curb and then stomped on the costumed man's back as the eagle's costumed confederate -- a man dressed as a beaver -- looked on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Canada and the Arctic

This is an interesting piece about Canada's response to encroachment from the US and Russia on their Northern-most territory.

Cool Sun

Skeptics of the idea that global warming is a man-made phenomenon often claim that the sun is simply entering a period of increased activity and that our carbon dioxide emissions have little or no effect on matters. Not so, according to new research presented to the Royal Society:
But a new analysis of data on the sun's output in the last 25 years of the 20th century has firmly put the notion to rest. The data shows that even though the sun's activity has been decreasing since 1985, global temperatures have continued to rise at an accelerating rate.

The solar hypothesis was championed publicly in March by the controversial Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The programme has been heavily criticised for distorting scientific data to fit the sceptic argument and Carl Wunsch, a professor of physical oceanography at MIT who featured in the programme, later said that he was "totally misled" by the film makers and that his comments were "completely misrepresented".

The new analysis is designed to counter the main alternative scientific argument put forward by the programme - that solar activity may be to blame for global warming.

"The temperature record is simply not consistent with any of the solar forcings that people are talking about," said lead author Mike Lockwood at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Terror

Ruaridh Nicoll::
Then, yesterday, came a march through Glasgow to show that the entire country stands against the attacks. Muslims particularly rallied under the banner 'Scotland United Against Terror'. George Square saw 1,200 people turn up.

It was lucky it was a rally for Scotland against terrorism because across town 1,300 police officers - note the numbers - were gathering to marshal an estimated 12,000 Orange Lodge marchers making their way to Blythwood Square for the County Grand Orange Parade.

What's Right for America

This bit of a Byron York WaPo piece struck me:
So the commutation won no more than tepid approval from the base. And it certainly didn't offset the terrible damage the president did to himself during the immigration debate by backing a bill that would have put millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. Many conservatives are still hopping mad over the president's description of the bill's opponents as people who "don't want to do what's right for America."

Bush and his cadre have been calling progressives unpatriotic for 7 years; how many conservatives were willing to stand up and denounce that? Now he trains his rhetoric on them and they're suddenly livid?

2.5 Hours

Colin Powell reminisces:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that he spent 2.5 hours “vainly trying to persuade President George W. Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by U.S. forces. ‘I tried to avoid this war,’ Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. ‘I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.’” In terms of the current situation in Iraq, Powell said: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.”

If we believe that, we've also got to believe that he stood in front of the UN and made the case for a war he didn't actually support.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sick at Sea

Ever wondered what type of people go on those National Review cruises? Read Johann Hari's excellent report from the ship.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Falling Through the Cracks

From Sullivan:
But I grew up with socialized medicine, and I know what a disaster it is. It's coming [to the US], of course. You can feel it. Bush paved the way. The golden era of American medicine and research will soon cede to more and more state control. It will exchange a great deal of its excellence for more access for more people. That's the bargain most democracies make.

The first criticism I'd make is of his claim that it's on its way in the US. I just don't see that happening in the next few years; not even the Democratic candidates are seriously talking about healthcare for all.

The second problem, of course, is his characterization of this as a "golden era" of medicine in the US. Maybe from a research point of view, okay. It's been great for the pharmaceutical industry, that's for sure. But ask the millions of uninsured and underinsured if it feels like a golden era for them. Andrew has lived in the US long enough to know what a disaster healthcare is there if you don't have a lot of money.

Free Speech, Sometimes

Two Supreme Court rulings were handed down today:
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that, when regulating what can be said in a campaign and when it may be said, “the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”

In another 5-to-4 ruling involving free speech, the court ruled today against an Alaska high school student, finding that educators can prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Genetic Basis for Tone

Bob Ladd, a linguist here at Edinburgh and a former professor of mine, has been doing some interesting research that's received a write-up in Scientific American:
Two linguists believe they know the genetic underpinnings for these differences. During a study of linguistic and genetic data from 49 distinct populations, the authors discovered a striking correlation between two genes involved in brain development and language tonality. Populations that speak nontonal languages (where the pitch of a spoken word does not affect its meaning) have newer versions of the genes, with mutations that began to appear roughly 37 thousand years ago.
...
Ladd and Dediu compared 24 linguistic features—such as subject-verb word order, passive tense, and rounded vowels—with 981 versions of the two genes found in the 49 populations studied. Most of the language contrasts could be explained by geographic or historical differences. But tone seemed to be inextricably tied to the variations of ASPM and Microcephalin observed by the authors. The mutations were absent in populations that speak tonal languages, but abundant in nontonal speakers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Torture

Not only is it wrong and ineffective, but there are proven interrogation methods out there which don't rely on physical torture at all:
But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

“We have a whole social science literature on persuasion,” Mr. Borum said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”

You Demon!

Hilarious David Blaine spoof at Funny or Die.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Insane

Steve Clemons drops a bomb:
There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.

On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney's team and acolytes -- who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy...

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

We now have a vice-president who is not only working against our country's interests, but is actively undermining the president. What are the rules for impeachment of a vice-president again?

I should add, Steve Clemons has more credibility on something like this than almost any other blogger. He is very well-connected in Washington.

Shrum Attack

Andy McCarthy thinks this is creepy:

Bob Shrum, the famed consultant to a string of failed Democratic presidential candidates, including Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, seems determined to embarrass his former client and current presidential hopeful John Edwards in the forthcoming book "No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner," the New Republic's Michael Crowley writes at www.tnr.com
Mr. Shrum's book "repeatedly portrays Edwards as a hyper-ambitious phony," Mr. Crowley said.
For example, Mr. Shrum says Mr. Kerry had qualms about choosing Mr. Edwards to be his presidential running mate in 2004, but grew "even queasier" after Mr. Edwards said he was going to share a story with Mr. Kerry he had never told anyone else -- that after his son, Wade, had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home and hugged his body and promised that he would do all he could to make life better for people.
"Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before -- and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."
Mr. Shrum says that, in the end, Mr. Kerry "wished that he'd never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut" and selected former Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Does it really need to be pointed out that there is no contradiction in telling a person that you've only shared a certain piece of information with them and then tellng them a second time that you've only shared that information with them? This is supposed to be creepy?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Information Plantations

From last week's Technology Guardian:
The hegemony of Wikipedia is only the most striking manifestation of a broad and unexpected phenomenon: The world wide web is shrinking. I don't mean that there are fewer sites than there used to be. On that measure, the web is bigger than ever. I mean that more and more of our time online is being spent at an ever-smaller number of megasites. The wilds of the internet are being carved up among a handful of vast information plantations.

Web statistics tell the tale. The blogger Richard MacManus recently examined trends in online traffic over the past five years. He found that between the end of 2001 and the end of last year, the number of Internet domains expanded by more than 75%, from 2.9m to 5.1m. At the same time, however, the dominance of the most popular domains grew substantially. At the end of 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31% of all the pages viewed on the net. By the end of last year, the top 10 accounted for fully 40% of page views. There are more destinations online, but we seem to be visiting fewer of them.

This relates to something I've noticed about blogs in the past couple of years. For how many blogs there are, and considering that blogs are celebrated for being a decentralized and bottom-up phenomenon, it's surprising not just that a handful of blogs tend to dominate in terms of hits, links and references in the MSM, but also that this handful has not really changed over the years. I'm thinking of political blogs especially. On both the right and the left, the big political blogs have largely stayed the same over the past 4-5 years:

Left:
Eschaton
Daily Kos
Talking Points Memo
Washington Monthly
TNR
Matthew Yglesias

Right:
Instapundit
The Corner
Little Green Footballs
Red State
Andrew Sullivan
Mickey Kaus

When was the last time a blog emerged that became a must-read like the blogs above are considered by many to be? Glenn Greenwald comes to mind. But it seems like most of the newer blogs that have risen to prominence are examples of blog consolidation or blog counterparts of an MSM entity: TPMCafe, Huffington Post, Swampland. And others like Greenwald, Yglesias, Sullivan and Douthat have been brought under the umbrella of an MSM outlet. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but an overall picture is emerging where only a few blog sites are widely read and discussed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Internationalizing the War

Something tells me this won't go down well with those who encouraged a central role for the UN in the buildup to the Iraq War:
The Bush administration is developing plans to "internationalise" the Iraq crisis, including an expanded role for the United Nations, as a way of reducing overall US responsibility for Iraq's future and limiting domestic political fallout from the war as the 2008 election season approaches.

It certainly appears that the US was willing to snub the international community when it perceived itself as invincible in advance of the war, and that it now wants to hand off the conflict to the international community as it spirals out of control.

This is my favorite bit, just for the mixed metaphors:
"Petraeus is brilliant. But he is the captain of a sinking ship," said a former senior administration official who questioned whether Iraq's divided political leadership could prevent a descent into chaos. "Iraq's government is a mobile phone number that doesn't answer. Iraq probably can't be fixed."

Dedicated to the Robotics Division



Warning: a real ear-worm. Via The Poor Man.

M Ward

I don't know much about M Ward, but anyone who can get Neko Case and Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) to be his back-up band is alright by me.



Jazz hands: Line Out

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Beloved

4-hour work week? Sarkozy won't like it.