March 12, 2007

Is Hillary Inevitable?

I hope not.

On the Chris Matthews show last night, all the pundits were debating exactly what role Bill will be playing in the next administration as if it were a done deal. The election is still a long way away and deep pockets aren't enough to ensure a win. This video by a Barack supporter captures my sentiments nicely.

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August 31, 2006

Keith Olbermann Just Gets Better and Better


Just watch it.

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January 25, 2006

Bush's Education Gap

From The Boston Globe: "In the question-and-answer period, there was a moment when Bush was caught confused about his assets in another arena. Someone asked Bush, ''Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education . . . How is that supposed to help our futures?'

There was applause from the crowd.

Bush stumbled. ''Education budget was cut? Say it again. What was cut?'

The person said, ''$12.7 billion was cut from education. And I was just wanting to know: How is that supposed to help our futures?'

Bush said, ''At the federal level?'

The person said, ''Yes.'

Bush said, ''I don't think we've actually -- for higher education?'

The person said, ''Student loans.'

Bush said, ''Student loans?'

The person said, ''Yes, student loans.'"

Now that Shrub is doing more of these unscripted Q&A's, we're going to see more moments like this. It would be entertaining if it weren't so sad.

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September 03, 2005

The Potemkin Village Idiot Strikes Again

From Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly:
There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.


Lately it seems as though the US media has reached back and rediscovered its spine. I hope they'll follow up on this if it's true.

Update - September 7, 2005
But wait... there's more!


And a friend wrote to compliment me on the wordsmithing of "Potemkin Village Idiot". I googled it and found that the phrase has only been used three times before and I'm the first to apply it to Bush. It seems so completely appropriate. Pass it on!

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August 02, 2005

A Room Full of Camo

I'm at DFW, waiting for the plane ride home after a day-long workshop in Irving, Texas. Just passed through something I've never seen before: an entire section of the terminal filled with soldiers shipping out to Iraq. Desert camo as far as the eye could see. Hundreds of them, sitting and lying on the carpet while waiting to leave. There was barely space for a path for civilians to pass through. A few had family with them. One guy sitting with a baby on his knee. Everyone quiet. Most in their 20s with a whole life ahead of them. Maybe.

The woman at the ticket counter says it's like this every day. Hundreds of men in camouflage, unnaturally quiet, filling every seat and every patch of floor.

Damn this unnecessary war.

Damn the lying chimp who started it.

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November 05, 2004

Unteachable Ignorance?

Here's the last part of Jane Smiley's contribution to a series of election postmortems in Slate. You should read the whole thing.

"The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?"

Seems a little over the top to me, but there's truth to it. As someone who teaches for a living, I don't much like the concept of "unteachable". Is it really that hopeless?

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November 02, 2004

Crap!

It's hard to believe. Who are the people who voted for this lying, C-student, sociopath? Idiots.

Our education systems have graduated far too many people without crap detectors.

How many more wars? How big will the deficit get? For how many decades will the Supreme Court be packed with ideologues? How much more quickly will global warming sink our coasts?

Am I a sore loser? Yup.

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August 17, 2004

Astroturf Redux

According to the Daily Kos, the GOP is at it again: urging its partisans to send heartfelt letters to the editor and actually composing the letters for them. I've discussed this here before and I thought the editors were onto this by now. Astroturfing, the creation of the appearance of a grass roots movement, diminishes the credibility of those letters pages and in the long run damages the democratic process. There ought to be a requirement to disclose the origins of these things whenever more than 50% of the letter was prefabricated.

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May 06, 2004

IQ and the 2000 Election

OK... I've gotten over the 2000 election. Really. But THIS is a satisfying little chart.

The relationship between voting Democrat and higher IQ looks pretty clear. Ravens Advanced Progressive Matrices is a long established test of something or other that at least vaguely looks like intelligence. Because it's visual rather than verbal it's less susceptible to variations in English language ability.

I've spent all of my American life (minus two years in Africa) in states #1, 2, 4 and 14. In that order. Guess I'm heading into dumbth as I get older. [Thanks to MetaFilter for the link]

Postscript: Hmmmm. Perhaps this is too funny to be true. The American Assembler source is now backpedalling about the source of the IQ data. Thanks to an astute and cranky reader for pointing this out.

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April 16, 2004

Baking to Beat the Bushes

Thanks to a heads-up from friend Pam Monroe, I now know where I'm going tomorrow: to a Bake Sale in my neighborhood. The money will go towards countering the hundreds of millions that Dubya is raising from his fatcat fatheads. You can find a bake sale near you, too.

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April 13, 2004

Unpresidential Press Conference

What a performance! Stumbling, repetitive and content free. David Sirota has a point by point analysis of all the untruths in it. And Critical Viewer has the condensed version.

Among the mixed reviews gathered by the AP: "I feel sorry for him," said A.L. Reynolds, 68, a retired businessman from Chicago who described himself as an independent. "He has not answered one reporter's question, he has not apologized, he has an arrogant attitude and he's not going to change anyone's opinion with this speech. ... I feel very sorry for him and I'm scared for us."

It's great to see the press corps finally rediscovering their spines and asking some tougher questions. But the answers? Holy smokes! How do you respond to those who say that you never admit a mistake? Can you name something you wish you had done differently? In every case he deflected the question, blamed others, and showed himself to have no capacity to learn from experience or see things in other than black and white terms.

Such a tiny man. So completely inadequate for the office.

P.S. On a smaller scale, I experienced a direct encounter with the kind of thinking that drives this president earlier yesterday. I received an email filled with exclamation points warning me not to buy any Pepsi because their new cans had a patriotic theme that contained the Pledge of Allegiance with "under God" left off. That immediately sounded fishy, and a quick Google search revealed it to be an urban legend. I wrote to the person who sent me (and dozens of others) this warning as follows:

"I don’t know who you are, but you really should do some homework before raising the alarm. Simply by typing the words “Pepsi new can God” into Google you would have found this:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blpepsi-can.htm

To atone for your sin, you should forward this link to everyone you spammed with your first message. There’s enough to be concerned about these days without getting everyone riled up about something that isn’t real."

Within minutes she responded:

"I think that you calling an honest mistake such as that a "sin" and taking on the role of priest or pastor by dolling out "penance" is more nearly a "sin."  Furthermore, admittedly, there are many, many problems in the world today, and I think that if more people became willing to stand up and do something about them, rather than turning a blind eye (even if that means making a potential mistake) the world might become a better place."

That's it in a nutshell: don't admit a mistake, don't reverse course, don't pay attention to actual data. Something in our culture elevates steadfastness and good intentions above intelligence, flexibility and reflection. It explains both how Bush thinks and why, in spite of all his failures, he still has supporters.

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March 02, 2004

My First Chad-Free Vote

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January 24, 2004

Kerry Beats Bush?

That's according to the latest Newsweek Poll. The game is far from over, of course, but it's getting a lot more interesting. This seems like a good time to remind my readers (both of you) that

THERE IS ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT TO ENTER THE CYBERPONY PRESIDENTIAL PREDICTION POLL

On January 31, the poll closes. We'll revisit it next November to see who came closest soonest.

You can look at earlier entries here, and then cast your vote here. You can enter a second time if you've changed your mind (as I have).

Pass the link on to your crazy aunt in the attic and anyone else you know who has a knack for seeing into the future.

The winner, to be proclaimed next November, will receive worldwide ;-) fame here as well as a certificate suitable for framing but not actually framed. Presidential candidates themselves, astrologers and members of the Trilateral Commission or Illuminati may not enter. Void where prohibited by law.

Good luck!

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January 22, 2004

Virtual Watergate

Remember the good old days when you had to round up a bunch of disaffected Cubans and break into offices in the middle of the night in order to spy on your political enemies? Not any more, thanks to technology! From an article by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe:

"Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe."


This deserves a lot of media scrutiny, and maybe some jail time. Will it sink without a trace in our present journalistic stupor?

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January 19, 2004

Weapons of Mass Distraction

A few days ago there was a report that some Danish inspectors finally, at long last, found some illegal weapons in Iraq. True, they had been buried for more than a decade, but they seemed to contain chemical agents like mustard gas. It wasn't widely reported, seems to me, that a further analysis shows that there was 'No blister agent' in Iraq shells.

Not only that, it's clear that the fact that all the old weapons had been destroyed in 1991, and that the administration knew it. Their most solid information source was Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, who gave the order to destroy it all and defected in 1995. According to Ray McGovern in a Miami Herald piece:

"Documentary corroboration that Kamel's order was carried out surfaced this month in a handwritten letter obtained by Barton Gelman of The Washington Post. The letter was written by Hossam Amin, director of the Iraqi office overseeing U.N. inspectors, five days after Kamel's defection. It confirms that Iraq had in fact destroyed its entire inventory of biological weapons during the summer of 1991, before U.N. inspectors even knew of their existence.

Does this mean that Kamel's testimony had been known in Washington and London more than seven years before Bush's address last January, and that during that entire period no evidence had come to light poking holes in the information he provided? Yes."


Such a sleazy President we have. I'm watching the caucus in Dubuque, Iowa live on C-SPAN and feeling cautiously optimistic that democracy will ultimately fix this mess.

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January 17, 2004

State of the Union Score Card

Get your crap detector ready for Tuesday's speech by downloading the Score Card from TomPaine.com.



I wonder what this year's Big Lie will be?

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January 09, 2004

Education Reforms: Simply a Fraud

Here's a smart piece from The Newtown Bee, a little newspaper in my home state.

"The last cynical step, prudently assuming that all else has failed, will be to order the towns to offer school vouchers. Since these will be of modest value, many will end up at religious schools, which was the main point of the whole enterprise in the first place. That's what a hardy band of the president's religious supporters crave, and will most likely get, if he stays in office. No money for Head Start, preschools, nutrition, tutoring, computers, books, school nurses, or anything else. Just vouchers."

There must be 100 reasons to vote the Chimp out of office this year. This is just one of them.

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December 06, 2003

Announcing the 2004 Presidential Prediction Poll

The race is beginning to warm up, though most people aren't paying much attention yet. At this early stage it's not easy to predict how it all will turn out. That's what makes it interesting. I've got my own prediction, and it's based on my reading of the news and a fair bit of wistful wishful thinking. Here it is:

Bush's numbers continue to drift downward as Iraq stays messy despite heroic efforts to clean it up. A scandal breaks into the headlines which forces Cheney to bow out for a second term, ostensibly for health reasons. Bush replaces him on the ticket with Condoleeza Rice, hoping to gain minority and female votes with a twofer. Meanwhile, Dean continues to be unstoppable, turns down the rage a bit and becomes attractive to a growing number of people. He wins the nomination after a sputtering attempt to bring Hillary in as an alternative and names Wesley Clark as his veep. After the most expensive and nastiest election in US History, the Dean/Clark ticket wins.

That's my guess, and if it scares you take comfort in the fact that I've never once been right about these things.

But you can play, too. I've just put up the
2004 Presidential Prediction Poll and invite your participation. Mull it over and make a guess. You have until January 31 and then I'll freeze what's there and we'll wait and see who came closest to reality. The winner will be saluted here next November. (Sorry, there's no prize other than that intangible praise and tiny fame.) Jump in and give it a try!

Postscript: Results are coming in already. You can see them here.

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July 18, 2003

John Dean on UraniumCakeGate

From Findlaw...


"What I found, in critically examining Bush's evidence, is not pretty. The African uranium matter is merely indicative of larger problems, and troubling questions of potential and widespread criminality when taking the nation to war. It appears that not only the Niger uranium hoax, but most everything else that Bush said about Saddam Hussein's weapons was false, fabricated, exaggerated, or phony."


Fuzzy information was taken as fact; guesses turned into certainty; qualifiers removed.

"Bush is not the first president to make false statements to Congress when taking the nation to war. President Polk lied the nation into war with Mexico so he could acquire California as part of his Manifest Destiny. It was young Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln who called for a Congressional investigation of Polk's warmongering.

Lincoln accused Polk of "employing every artifice to work round, befog, and cover up" the reasons for war with Mexico. Lincoln said he was "fully convinced, of what I more than suspect already, that [Polk] is deeply conscious of being wrong." In the end, after taking the president to task, the House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that the war with Mexico had been "unnecessary and unconstitutionally commenced by the President."


Isn't this more impeachable than lying about a squalid dalliance with an intern? How many soldiers died for Monica Lewinsky?

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January 22, 2003

The Inquirer Follows up on AstroturfGate

OK... I'm going to stop posting about this right after this. Promise. The netters' outing of the GOP's astroturf campaign is being covered by a UK site with three articles so far: the first news (already noted here 2 days ago), then the sordid details on how it was done. It's all automated, including printing the envelope with the newspaper's address.

The Inquirer has even posted a satirical apology with a comparison between this and the Nigerian spam most people get daily. Funny! Thanks to Susan Jesson-Ward for the heads up.

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January 21, 2003

It's Still Raining Astroturf!

I'm going to stop adding to this list. Gary Stock has the definitive collection of appearances of this letter. Looks as though new ones are still being printed by clueless (or at least Google-less) editors. What a cynical ploy!

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January 20, 2003

Astroturf Letter Source Found?

As linked by Paul Boutin, Mike Magee of the Inquirer has traced the source of the Bush Astroturf (phony grass roots) letter to the GOP Team Leader site. I'm tempted to sign up to be a 'team leader' so that I can be first to catch the next wave, but my name is probably in some database of enemies already.

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January 18, 2003

Who's Manipulating the Letters to the Editors Page???

The GOP, apparently, as several bloggers and other netizens have already pointed out. It's fair play, I suppose, to urge your fellow travelers to write letters to newspapers and even to give them talking points to guide their writing, but this goes well beyond that. Over the last three weeks, the following lettter has appeared verbatim all over the country, each signed (presumably) by a local reader. Here's the letter:

When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership. The economic growth package he recently proposed takes us in the right direction by accelerating the successful tax cuts of 2001, providing marriage-penalty relief and providing incentives for individuals and small businesses to save and invest.

Contrary to the class-warfare rhetoric attacking the president’s plan, the proposal helps everyone who pays taxes, and especially the middle class. This year alone, 92 million taxpayers will receive an immediate tax cut averaging $1,083, and 46 million married couples will get back an average of $1,714. That’s not pocket change for a family struggling through uncertain economic times. Combined with the president’s new initiatives to help the unemployed, this plan gets people back to work and helps every sector of our economy.


I Googled for "the proposal helps everyone who pays taxes", to see the extent of this spamming. Here's what I've found:


"AUTHOR"PUBLICATION
Sarah Kocal, Grayslake IL The News Sun, Waukegan IL
Kyle Klink, Rochester NYWHEC-TV, Rochester NY
Trevor Carlson, Santa Rosa CAPress Democrat, Santa Cruz CA
John Pinckney, Muncie INStar Press, Muncie IN
Stephanie Johnson, Milton MABoston Globe, Boston MA
David O'Connor, Jericho VTRutland Herald, Rutland VT
Sandra Rauschhuber, Boulder Creek CASanta Cruz Sentinel, CA
Nick Koszykowski, Dodgeville MIThe Daily Mining Gazette, MI
Edward T. Kranick, Appleton WIGreen Bay Press Gazette, WI
Scott L. Herrin, Blue Rapids, KSThe Manhattan Mercury, KS
Derick Mfoafo, Lynchburg VAThe Lynchburg Ledger, VA
Michael Snyder, Merced CAMerced Sun-Star, CA
David Bednarski, Wausau WIWausau Daily Herald, WI
Charles J. Long, Berrien Springs INSouth Bend Tribune, IN
Nile Gomez, Secaucus NJThe Jersey Journey, NJ
Debra Bauer, Carpentersville ILThe Courier News, IL
Donna Zahner, Cape Girardeau MOThe SE Missourian, MO
Robert Lowery, Victoria TXThe Victoria Advocate, TX
Philip Patzkowski, Kingston NYTimes Herald-Record, NY
Dirk M. Maurins, Hawaii Kai HIHonolulu Star Bulletin, HI
Jennifer R, Sheboygan WISheboygan Press, WI
Jeff Mellor, Knoxville TNKnoxville News Sentinel, TN


They're all identical! Either these Republiclones are completely bereft of imagination and unable to give the letter a local spin or personal voice or... more sinister... the authors are all fictitious. Either way, this strikes me as a disingenuous way to warp public opinion. They're trying to make it look as though ordinary people support a policy that doesn't really help ordinary people. Let's not be fooled.

Postscript: This isn't the first time this has happened. In November and December, another letter crowing about the midterm elections appeared in 34 papers. Failure Is Impossible has the list and some advice on how to respond. I've written the editors of each of the publications on the list above urging them to check Google before falling for this again.

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January 03, 2003

If Only I Could Draw

Jack Chick is a xtian who put his cartooning skills to use by creating comic strip tracts like this one to spread his faith. He urges his fellow travelers to buy these things in bulk and leave them on restaurant tables, waiting rooms, bathroom stalls... wherever they might be picked up by someone with a few minutes to spare for reading. It's hilariously heavy-handed and cleverly subversive at the same time.

I wish someone with other goals would pick up on this idea. Imagine using the same format to get people to listen more critically to the baloney they hear on talk radio. Or a little parable that extols the virtues of reading more or exercising more (without having some product to sell). Perhaps a cartoon that demonstrates that politeness and hospitality don't cost you anything but make the world a better place.

Is there a secular humanist out there who can draw? I'll happily distribute the results to restaurants and men's rooms everywhere.

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