October 03, 2005
Crony On The Supreme Court
Here's a simple challenge for the Democratic "strategists". How many times can you say "crony" in a sentence?
Meet Harriet Miers, nominated to become the next Supreme Court Justice:
President Bush has nominated his former personal lawyer and the White House counsel to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, eschewing tradition by selecting a non-judge.
Harriet Miers, 60, who has been a close ally of the President since his days as Governor of Texas and whom he once described as a "pit bull in size 6 shoes", would be the third woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court if her nomination is approved by the Senate.
C'mon people. Connect the dots.
September 30, 2005
Intelligent design, inschmelligent design. The real war of ideas is being waged between Babelism and Godless "linguisticism".
Third, there is NO evidence that transitional languages ever existed. What use is half a language? A noun without verbs conveys no meaning! Sure, there is middle and old- English. But these are ENGLISH! A complete nontransitional language. We do not deny that micro-linguistics can happen, but this process can create only DIALECTS. There is NO EVIDENCE that a series of random micro-linguistic events can create a WHOLE NEW LANGUAGE. I'll believe in Macro-linguistics when I see a video tape of a child growing up in an Eskimo village suddenly become fluent in Armenian! It takes A LOT MORE FAITH to believe in atheistic linguisticism than the truth of Babelism.
Prima facie a perfectly cromulent argument, I'd say.
September 20, 2005
Simon Wiesenthal died today. He was best known as the man who was responsible for the capture of Adolf Eichmann, although he also helped bring over a thousand other cases against ex-Nazis to court. He survived a dozen concentration camps during the Holocaust. While he was there he began memorizing the names of the murderers around him. Afterwards it became his mission in life to pursue those guilty of atrocity to the ends of the earth.
Mission accomplished. Shalom.
Sorry I haven't been posting. For some reason I decided to teach a graduate class in addition to working 50+ hours a week.
August 17, 2005
Monkey Business, Indeed
Thanks G.! What a story...
Two former caretakers for Koko, the famous gorilla who communicates with humans using sign language, say they were continually pressured to show Koko their breasts or face the consequences.
I'll admit I'm curious about what the signs for "show me your boobs" are. Truly odd.
The Unreality That Dominated
Sorry loyal reader(s). I've been on vacation. The sort of vacation where there are no interwebs or phones. In short, the most wonderfullest sort of vacation there is.
Then I came back, and the email backlog rolled in...
So, in the news:
The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.
The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.
The remains of a bombed barber shop in Baghdad, where three people were killed, draw the interest of Iraqis in June. Islamic extremists, some of whom believe beards reflect religious piety, have been targeting the shops for attack and killing barbers.
In response, barbers are posting signs stating that they do not shave men. The remains of a bombed barber shop in Baghdad, where three people were killed, draw the interest of Iraqis in June.
Islamic extremists, some of whom believe beards reflect religious piety, have been targeting the shops for attack and killing barbers. In response, barbers are posting signs stating that they do not shave men.
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
August 02, 2005
The Chimp Speaketh
President Bush said Monday that he thinks schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about creation.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to detail his views on the origin of the universe. But he said students should learn about both theories.
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
This, from the missing link himself, the smirking refutation of the theory of intelligent design, President George W. Bush.
It's political correctness flipped on its ass--I don't know why the comparison isn't made more often. This kind of crap is just the infernal opposite of trying to shut people up for saying something stupid. Instead, you try to legislate the oppportunity to say something stupid.
July 27, 2005
Iraqi Security Torturers
According to Salman al-Faraji, a human rights activist and lawyer, the use of drills is common.
"Most cases are quite similar, the same methods are used," he said.
"They torture them, breaking hands and legs. They use electric drills to pierce their bodies and then the killing is carried out at close range."
We made repeated requests for an interview with the minister of the interior or his subordinates to respond to all these allegations.
But no-one would speak to us.
Barbarism, pure and simple. It doesn't matter that it is being deployed against another form of barbarism. Civil war, or this? What a choice.
July 18, 2005
Imagine The Opposite
One way of measuring the emptiness of political speech is by trying to imagine the opposite of a politician's assertion.
"I'm for education!" Who's against education?
"I'm against crime!" Pro-crime?
President Bush told reporters Monday that if anyone committed a crime in connection with the leak of a CIA agent's identity, "they will no longer work in my administration."
Um, I should hope so. People who commit crimes usually end up in jail, right?
July 15, 2005
Word Up, Waxman
This Bush Administration is accustomed to just plain bullshitting its way out of the trouble it brings on itself.
There are those who can go for a long time, bullshitting. It really helps to be surrounded by those who fear your ability to lie and get away with it. They fear your willingness to lie for advantage or revenge, and they finally fear the sway your lies hold.
The truth is that there is no natural law that will cause this kind of liar to lose the power that they've acquired through straight up tricking folks.
The fact is: with enough power and enough apathy, bullshitters can reign indefinitely.
The truth is: the truth is not the automatic refutation of a lie. It has more substance. It is a piece of evidence. You have to speak the truth. The truth is an weapon to be used against those that have broken your trust.
It's an odd weapon--it is most effective the more you point it away from the liar, at those the liar deceived. In that way, it is more like a rallying point.
So point this at some folks: Karl Rove's Nondisclosure Agreement
Karl Rove's Nondisclosure Agreement
Executive Order 12958 governs how federal employees are awarded security clearances in order to obtain access to classified information. It was last updated by President George W. Bush on March 25, 2003, although it has existed in some form since the Truman era. The executive order applies to any entity within the executive branch that comes into possession of classified information, including the White House. It requires employees to undergo a criminal background check, obtain training on how to protect classified information, and sign a "Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement," also known as a SF-312, promising not to reveal classified information.  The nondisclosure agreement signed by White House officials such as Mr. Rove states: "I will never divulge classified information to anyone" who is not authorized to receive it. 
The Prohibition against "Confirming" Classified Information
Mr. Rove, through his attorney, has raised the implication that there is a distinction between releasing classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and confirming classified information from someone not authorized to have it. In fact, there is no such distinction under the nondisclosure agreement Mr. Rove signed.
One of the most basic rules of safeguarding classified information is that an official who has signed a nondisclosure agreement cannot confirm classified information obtained by a reporter. In fact, this obligation is highlighted in the "briefing booklet" that new security clearance recipients receive when they sign their nondisclosure agreements:
Before ... confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, ... confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure. 
Can't wiggle off that hook, Mr. Rove. Or does this depend on what the definition of "classified" is? Or "confirmation"?
Henry Waxman, Representative of California, speaks the truth. Give him a hand--it's not easy these days.
July 11, 2005
Srebrenica & Darfur
Today is the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica.
Thanks to Christie for reminding me that I haven't blogged about the ongoing genocide there in quite a while, and spurring me to donate.
Ongoing Criminal Investigation
Go to the kitchen and make some popcorn. Seriously.
Now read this: July 11 White House Press Briefing.
But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?
MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that’s why I said that our policy continues to be that we’re not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.
The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium.
MCCLELLAN: And so that’s why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation — or questions related to it.
QUESTION: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired.
And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved, so why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you’ve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation?
MCCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. And that’s something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow.
And that’s why we’re continuing to follow that approach and that policy.
Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And, at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.
QUESTION: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it’s not?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe you missed what I was saying in reference to Terry’s question at the beginning. There came a point, when the investigation got under way, when those overseeing the investigation asked that it would be — or said that it would be their preference that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing.
I think that’s the way to be most helpful to help them advance the investigation and get to the bottom of it.
QUESTION: Scott, can I ask you this: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?
MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to a ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don’t think you should read anything into it other than: We’re going to continue not to comment on it while it’s ongoing.
QUESTION: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, I’ve gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this ?
QUESTION: Do you stand by that statement?
MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we’re not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.
QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk.
You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: I’m well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation…
QUESTION: (inaudible) when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you’ll let me finish.
QUESTION: No, you’re not finishing. You’re not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife. So don’t you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn’t he?
MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you’re saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve responded to the question.
QUESTION: You’re in a bad spot here, Scott…
… because after the investigation began — after the criminal investigation was under way — you said, October 10th, 2003, I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this, from that podium. That’s after the criminal investigation began.
Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation.
MCCLELLAN: No, that’s not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that.
We know each other very well. And it was after that period that the investigators had requested that we not get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation.
And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I’m just not going to do that.
QUESTION: So you’re now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven’t.
MCCLELLAN: Again, you’re continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I’m just not going to respond to them.
QUESTION: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?
MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.
Oh, man. You can't make that stuff up. Christmas came early, kids!
The White House has really shot itself in the foot with this "ongoing criminal investigation" tack. Must mean they really have something to hide (I mean, about this in particular). I wish I'd been there! I can almost see the incredulous look on the journalists faces.
I mean, what self-respecting journalist wouldn't make it her life mission to ask at least five questions about Mr. Rove every day, just to see McClellan twist in the wind like that? So even the White House poodles might remember to twist Scott's nipple on occasion...
July 10, 2005
Like meat, but don't like factory farming techniques? Think: more factory, less farm.
The idea of culturing meat is to create an edible product that tastes like cuts of beef, poultry, pork, lamb or fish and has the nutrients and texture of meat.
Scientists know that a single muscle cell from a cow or chicken can be isolated and divided into thousands of new muscle cells. Experiments with fish tissue have created small amounts of in vitro meat in NASA experiments researching potential food products for long-term space travel, where storage is a problem.
"But that was a single experiment and was geared toward a special situation - space travel," says Matheny. "We need a different approach for large scale production."
Matheny's team developed ideas for two techniques that have potential for large scale meat production. One is to grow the cells in large flat sheets on thin membranes. The sheets of meat would be grown and stretched, then removed from the membranes and stacked on top of one another to increase thickness.
The other method would be to grow the muscle cells on small three-dimensional beads that stretch with small changes in temperature. The mature cells could then be harvested and turned into a processed meat, like nuggets or hamburgers.
Vat McNuggets! Deeelicious. Via BoingBoing.
I've been sorely neglect in not posting this link, too: a monkey who apparently is also very upset at the conditions in which fast food meat is produced. With a shout out to jake's mom.
Speaking of monkeys, Ray Hamel, the librarian of Madison's own Primate Research Center, has compiled an amazing list of all movies that feature primates! Awesome. My Netflix list just got a lot longer.
Sandra Day O'Connor. London. Rove. Fuck. More soon.
June 23, 2005
Iraq And A Hard Place
David Brooks sometimes serves as convenient guide to the thinking of milquetoast conservativism in America.
There's a reason George Washington didn't take a poll at Valley Forge. There are times in the course of war when the outcome is simply unknowable. Victory is clearly not imminent, yet people haven't really thought through the consequences of defeat. Everybody just wants the miserable present to go away.
We're at one of those moments in the war against the insurgency in Iraq. The polls show rising disenchantment with the war. Sixty percent of Americans say they want to withdraw some or all troops.
Yet I can't believe majorities of Americans really want to pull out and accept defeat. I can't believe they want to abandon to the Zarqawis and the Baathists those 8.5 million Iraqis who held up purple fingers on Election Day. I can't believe they are yet ready to accept a terrorist-run state in the heart of the Middle East, a civil war in Iraq, the crushing of democratic hopes in places like Egypt and Iran, and the ruinous consequences for American power and prestige.
What they want to do, more likely, is somehow escape the current moment, which is discouraging and uncertain. One of the many problems with fighting an insurgency is that it is nearly impossible to know if we are winning or losing. It's like watching a football game with no goal lines and chaotic action all over the field.
I love this guy's analogies. It's actually like a football game where grenades are routinely lobbed at the audience.
This is a case in point for how the Administration will attempt to funnel all criticism of its handling of the war. They'll try to conflate it with withdrawal.
Repeat after me: Impeachment. Not withdrawal. Impeachment. Hold people responsible, gawdammit, then clean up their mess. We'll never get the latter done while the former refuse to acknowledge that they've screwed the pooch.
Don't get me wrong; it infuriates me when Rummy lectures about how a timeline would strengthen the insurgency. It's infurating, because this is one of the principle reasons we shouldn't have gone in there in the first place, without a clear post-war plan, since as soon as an insurgency got legs it would mean we'd be pinned down by them indefinitely.
That's what sucks about being an occupying force. That's why we shouldn't have invaded. What do I get for that? A gold star? Rumsfeld gets a pension for learning this lesson at our expense.
The problem is, there's no going back. If we do to Iraq what we did to Vietnam, I think the consequences will be far more terrible. I could be wrong, but consider how goddamn right I've been so far, ha ha only serious!
A renewed dictatorship would really be the best outcome, since dictators are self-interested for the most part and could be controlled. You know, the way we had Saddam controlled.
A civil war or an Afghanistan-style failed state would really destabilize the region. Iran would expand its influence. Saudi Arabia would be destabilized further by the creation of a haven for its radical malcontents. Heroin would flow like water out of Afghanistan and flood the region. And Turkey may invade to cut off the formation of a free Kurdistan.
Don't think world opinion of America could get worse? What'll happen to Bush's "We're in it for the democracy!" line when we have to fight the Kurdish Pershmerga, or Turkey? Want to see the result of $120/barrel oil prices on the world economy?
I'd like to avoid this. The fact that, if this were to happen, I'd have someone besides myself to blame won't help much.
I don't think that if we "frame" the argument correctly, how the conclusion is escapable. Everybody's been in the position of needing to clean up after someone else's collosal fuck-up. Is it just me, or isn't the first step to such a cleanup to fire the person responsible? If you have the option?
We have the option.
June 22, 2005
Welcome To The Monkeysphere
Ah, I wish I'd written this: The Law of Monkey.
You see, monkey experts performed a monkey study a while back and discovered that the size of the monkey's monkey brain determined the size of the monkey groups the monkeys formed. The bigger the brain, the bigger the little societies they built.
They cut up so many monkey brains, in fact, that they found they could actually take a brain they had never seen before and with a simple dissection, analysis and a quick taste, they could accurately predict what size tribes that species of creature formed.
Most monkeys operate in troupes of 50 or so. But somebody slipped them a slightly larger monkey brain -- but a monkey brain nonetheless -- and they estimated the ideal group or society for this particular animal was about 150.
That brain, of course, was human. Probably from a homeless man they snatched off the streets.
Those hundred fifty people you know--that's your Monkeysphere. While life is simplified by the Monkeysphere, the implications are humbling:
That really annoying person you know, the one who's always spouting bullshit, the person who always thinks they're right? Well, the odds are that for somebody else, you're that person.
So take the amount you think you know, reduce it by 99.999%, and then you'll have an idea of how much you actually know regarding things outside your Monkeysphere. Once you accept this you can no longer smirk over other people just because you think they're morons.
More evidence that just about anything worth knowing can be learned by a careful study of our monkey nature.
June 19, 2005
Downing Street Memos & Bad Faith
Time's up! After a month and a half of completely ignoring this story, the American media is starting to wake up. Check out the AP's story today about the (now eight) Downing Street memos that go in depth on the British Government's back-door dealings with the Bush Administration before the war. It's good article, and quite enormous by AP standards.
Since Bush is in fact guily as charged, his Administration's only real response from here on out must be: "What are you going to do about it? We lied with the best of intentions. We're already there. We're committed, and to question our original motives is equivalent to proposing withdrawal."
Discerning readers will agree that this sounds a bit like Kodos-Clinton: "We must go forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom."
This worked for a while (OK, a really long while), but no more. The slaughter in Iraq is just too immense even for the spin masters in Bush's employ. We've passed too many "milestones" to be comfortable staring at the same bloody mile.
So what now? The Downing Street Memos prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the progressive side of the war argument was correct. But what does that mean?
The question, for me, isn't whether I was right or not. I know I was right that Bush was lying. I am lucky enough to have had the right kind of upbringing, education, political leanings, and friends to have been able to make that call a long, long time ago. That's right: lucky. It's not worth priding myself over it. An expression my parents taught me comes to mind: don't break your arm patting yourself on the back.
The right question for those truly concerned with the task of civil and democratic dialog must be: what do we ask from those who find themselves suddenly in doubt? What should we argue for--no, what would we ask of those for whom the Downing Street Memos are the first and/or final wake-up call?
The question is what should we, as Americans, both progressive and conservative, the well-intentioned of whatever persuasion, do?
There are two obvious choices. (1) We chould argue for the withdrawal of troops. This is tempting for those of us who thought it a mistake to go into Iraq initially. (2) We could seek the impeachment of the top levels of the Bush Administration. Or perhaps both.
Although I totally understand the feelings of those who call for it, I can't advocate withdrawal from Iraq at this point. In fact, I think it's a really bad idea. Worse--it is dangerously irresponsible.
We can't simply call do-over! We all must collectively take responsibility, if we are to heal the situation. We got ourselves into this mess. Some got suckered. Some lied. Some didn't find a way to stop it.
But here's the rub--we got Iraq and Iraqis involved too. We're taking casualties, but they have to walk the streets without Humvees. We can withdraw, which is why we must not. Iraqis have no where to run.
However much I feel for our soldiers who are fighting quite nasty people and paying with their lives and their limbs, I can't ignore those truly innocent Iraqis who actually want to live under a more representational and less arbitrary government. They wanted it under Saddam. They still want it.
However, none of this means that we can't impeach Bush. In fact, impeaching Bush would be the best thing Americans could do for the Iraqis...assuming we also impeach Cheney.
So, how do we make the case for this, if withdrawing from Iraq would be wrong?
There are many former supporters of the war who don't like what's going on there now. They're no longer swallowing the Administration's chants of "doing great and getting better!" But they're frustrated by a feeling of obligation to the people they were truly thinking they would help by supporting this war.
This is the opportunity that the Downing Street memos presents to progressive politics in America. We can now appeal to this group of people with pretty convincing proof of "our" contention all along--that Bush was not telling the truth about the war. This gives them an opportunity to refocus their frustration, and turn it into anger.
We should ask them to help us impeach Bush. We need to actually appeal to people's legitimate disappointment in the results of this war.
We should pin the responsibility for both the suffering of the Iraqis and for the deceptions that lead to the war squarely where it does in fact belong--on Bush. On Cheney. On Rumsfeld. And On Tenet.
Condeming Bush's actions leading up to war must be a natural extension for concern over the future of Iraq. Bush must be the scapegoat. It's that simple.
The opportunity is here: we can create a new political coalition in this country focused on the issue of Iraq, and teh debacle unfolding there. The present course is disasterous. But to change course we must assign blame for the bad state of affairs--we should focus on impeachment, impeachment for the sake of of troops. For the sake of the Iraqis.
I'm hoping that progressives and their few political representatives realize that strict righteousness isn't the right play here. We must separate Bush from his false moral pretense. We can't do that while basking in the glow of our self-righteousness.
Please, let's prevent Bush from hiding behind American's admirable desire to help liberate oppressed peoples any longer. His bad faith is now there for all to see.