Saturday, March 31, 2007

a few modest suggestions for zimbabwe

Despite some alleged internal opposition, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party nominated President Robert Mugabe to run in next year's presidential elections. (Which will be, no doubt, free and fair. By "free" of course I mean Zimbabweans are free to vote for Mugabe. And by "fair," I mean that they think it is fair to beat up opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.)

That'll be good for Zimbabwe. I mean, who better to continue presiding over the brutal and stupid dismantling of a once-prosperous, hopeful nation, a country that once was a major agricultural exporter and now relies on food handouts.

So, in the spirit of keeping Mugabe on for five more years, allow me to suggest some other policies for ZANU-PF to consider.
Whizz on the electric fence.

Spit in the wind.

Step on Superman's cape.

Get on Oprah's bad side.

Buy stock in Enron.

Swim with sharks.

Write an expose about corruption in Vladimir Putin's government.
The advantage to all these ideas, unlike keeping Mugabe around for another five years, is that they won't screw over the poor schmucks who have to live in Zimbabwe.


Friday, March 30, 2007

two republicans, getting a pass

I see two utterances this week where the mainstream media treatment would have been dramatically different if the words had been uttered by a Democrat.

First was John McCain's nonsensical assertion on CNN that the "surge" was working so wonderfully that there were many neighborhoods in Baghdad where it was safe for Americans to walk the streets. He also said that US commander in Iraq, General David Petreus, rode through Baghdad in an unarmored Hummer. (Yeah, with attack helicopters and tanks and a company if infantry accompanying him, maybe. Petreus isn't stupid or suicidal.)

McCain was grotesquely wrong of course, and CNN Baghdad reporter Michael Ware called him out on it, to Wolf Blitzer: "Honestly, Wolf, you'll barely last twenty minutes out there. I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad." Wow, a rare moment of candor on CNN. Kinda neat.

Not necessarily responding to McCain, retired general Barry McCaffrey recently said, "[N]o Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection."

But if you do a Google search for McCain's statement, all the commentary about it is from bloggers. Apart from CNN itself, no mainstream media source seems to have picked it up. Isn't this news? I mean, McCain is either showing that he is mentally incompetent (although the current example shows that doesn't necessarily disqualify him for the GOP nomination) or he is lying thru his teeth and expressing contempt for Republican voters by expecting they'll believe that line of crap.

As is so often the case with a Republican, he's either a blithering idiot, or he's lying. Or both, of course. Nice job, media. Even Joe Lieberman isn't stupid enough to come up with that.

Then later in the week, New York mayor Rudy Giuliuni said he'd consider including his wife in cabinet meetings. Nurse Judith Nathan Giuliani herself confirmed she'd offer advice if he asked.

Now, offering advice to the president is a legitimate prerogative of a presidential spouse. But do you remember back in 1992 when the Clintons made noises about getting two-for-one, and all the talk about the sort of role Hillary Clinton would play in a Bill Clinton White House? The reaction was scathing, and by the end of the campaign they had Hillary baking cookies to avoid looking like she would be playing an active, unelected role in the administration. If anybody in the mainstream media has played that card against Judith Nathan Giuliani (hey, isn't that like "Hillary Rodham Clinton?" How long before the "Nathan" disappears?) I haven't seen it.

Again, I don't give a rat's ass if President Rudy asked First Nurse Judith for advice, and even to sit in Cabinet meetings. I'm just waiting for the mainstream media to jump all over her the way they did Hillary.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

voter fraud is an overblown myth

In fired-US-attorney-gate one reason given for firing the 8 is their failure to prosecute voter fraud cases. Remember, when a Republican says we need to do more to combat voter fraud, they really mean they want to suppress the vote in Democratic-leaning areas.

Two New York University law professors explain that, in fact, allegations of voter fraud by individual voters -- the type of fraud Republicans say they want to catch with voter ID cards, proof-of-citizenship, and other restrictions on the franchise -- are vanishingly rare.

Remember -- "combating voter fraud" = "suppressing the vote." Those attorneys were fired, in part, for refusing to restrict the franchise of legitimate voters.


you're fired

Are you a good employee, who has stuck with the company for a few years, and done well enough on the job to earn a few raises so that you make a bit more than your colleagues? Congratulations, you're fired.

So says Circuit City. They fired over 3000 people to cut costs. They didn't fire executives making six figures who may have some responsibility for the company's lacklustre performance. The CEO still makes over $700,000 a year, with a $700,000 "bonus." And $3 million in stock awards. And Circuit City fired salesmen making under $12 an hour.

The fired get a severance package (how much? Don't know. Probably less than $700,000 each.). And they are allowed to apply for jobs at Circuit City again in 10 weeks. When, no doubt, they will be offered much less than they were making before.

Another dispatch from Republican America. Oh, and Circuit City's stock price went up 2% on the news. Woohoo.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

today's republican update

Today is a normal day in the news for Republicans. Let's look at the headlines, shall we?

Aide to Gonzales Won't Testify -- Counselor Cites Fifth Amendment Right in Refusal. Republican Monica Gooding says, thru a lawyer, that she can't testify on USA-gate "because she faces "a perilous environment in which to testify."" That is accurate. The perilous environment for a de facto Bush Administration Republican is any place where he or she is expected to tell the truth. Clearly, this is going beyond "it wasn't the crime it was the cover-up" territory. There are real crimes behind the purge, and people are getting nervous. Don't you just hate it when Congress isn't in your pocket? So inconvenient.

Smithsonian's Small Quits in Wake of Inquiry. Smithsonian head Larry "This Exhibit Sponsored by CorporationCorp" Small, appointed by de facto President Bush and the first non-scientist/non-academic to head the Smithsonian, quit because of growing revelations about his private-sector style passing on of personal expenses to his employer. Except when you do that at a bank, it's your banks profits and dividends to stockholders that pays. As Smithsonian head, you're getting into the taxpayer. Some of Small's "expenses" he charged to you and me and your one neighbor who works a lot and insists on cutting his grass at 10:30 at night include $150,000+ in utilities for his house. Because occasionally he'd throw a Smithsonian event at his mansion, he tried to pass off over $1 million in expenses as work-related. Neat trick. Hey, maybe Small can become President of The American University next -- they like egomaniacal big spenders, too.

Reagan Budget Head Stockman Is Charged With Fraud. And lest we think the corruption and attitude of the laws not applying to them is a uniquely Bush Republican thing, we see David Stockman being charged with fraud. Old habits are hard to break. I'm just surprised that Stockman was unskillful enough to actually be caught and charged.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

followup on the poisoned pets post

A reader who identifies herself as Robyn Heidary posted a comment on my entry yesterday about the rat-poison in the pet food problem, explaining how she came to spend $8000 on trying to cure her puppy, who unfortunately died. It's a good comment, so I want to cross-post it here. I do understand that you could get to $8000 without necessarily intending to do so -- in America, even veterinary care can get very expensive, very quickly. And it must be tough; I would be traumatized if one of my pets -- yes, very much part of the family -- had gone through what her puppy did. Her comment is copied below.
Hi...I am the college student from the post article...if I thought for one second that my puppy was going to die, I certainly would not have spent so much. She was a purebred dog and she was very dear to me. The bulk of the bill was acquired while she was in intensive care at a 24 hour vet hospital. Every day she was making serious improvement and by the day before her death, her kidneys were almost completely recovered. I kept her there because she was coming through it and I loved her more than anything. Her death came suddenly and was shocking to everyone including the doctors who were caring for her. It was likely stress that caused her to have a blood clot which sent her into cardiac arrest. If that had not happened, she probably would have recovered. She was only 6 pounds to begin with and she was down to 4 when she died...she lost a third of her body weight. Anyway, I realize the bills were excessive but I thought she was going to be okay and I could not put a price on her life. Also, I did not have an itemized bill until after she died...the last time anyone had updated me, the bill was $3000...still a lot, but not as much. We did opt to spend an additional $300 for a full necropsy because, even though there was no recall at that point, we suspected something seriously wrong had happened due to the fact that she suddenly became violently ill and she was a 100% healthy dog prior to that...her breeder has all her dogs genetically tested before breeding them. We wanted to know what killed her and now we do. I am thankful that we did this as we now have confirmation that a toxin caused her death. Anyway, I just wanted to explain why I went to such lengths. I think most pet owners would agree that their dog is a part of their family...Lucy was my baby and her life was priceless to me.

"they've testified before"

The Outlook staff at the Washington Post note that the Congressional Research Service determined in 2003 that presidential staffers have testified at least 73 times since 1944. Read a few examples here, including quite a few Clinton staffers summoned by the Republican Congress...

So why won't the de facto Bush White House offer up their people to discuss this US attorney issue? 1) Their "unitary executive theory" says that the President and his staff are not subject to any scrutiny. 2) They are hiding the real scandal behind the firing of the 8 US attorneys.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

did somebody poison the cats and dogs?

This petfood recall case gets more interesting and appalling. Now, tests have found a nasty rat poison in some of the recalled food. Is this like a Tylenol case for pets? Does this say anything about the safety of the human food supply?

I feel bad for the critters and their owners. And if it is a sabotage case and not incompetence, I feel bad for the manufacturer, Menu Foods. Although I'm not sure I would have spent $8000 on emergency care for my poisoned dog, like one college student in the Post article did...

alberto -- dumb or mendacious?

Once again, a senior official in the de facto Bush Administration has said one thing, and facts have emerged that appear to contradict him. Attorney General Alberto "No organ failure, no torture" Gonzales said March 13 that he knew nothing, nothing about the plan to fire the 8 or 93 or however many US attorneys. It was all that bad man Kyle Sampson. But now there is evidence that he participated in a November 27 meeting at (in)Justice to discuss the firings.

The questions: Did Gonzales mean to mislead? Did he believe what he said? Or is he just incapable of remembering such an important meeting less than three months later?

Is Gonzales a liar, stupid, incompetent, or all three? No matter what the combination, he's clearly unqualified by any normal standard of serving as Attorney General. Of course, in Bush-Land, normal standards don't apply. Alberto is loyal to George W. Bush -- and he may well stay.

And speaking of this, EJ Dionne reminds us that although the de facto Administration is trying to play this as a "partisan catfight," there are actually troubling questions about whether the politicized Justice Department has been failing to pursue certain cases, like that of Abramoff. Note again that several of the fired were either investigating GOP corruption (like Randy Cunninghame) or were dismissed for failing to do enough on GOP allegations of voter fraud against Democrats...


Friday, March 23, 2007

"conscripted as a secret informer"

A very interesting op-ed piece by an anonymous contributor, about the ongoing national security gag order the FBI has slapped on him. First, credit to the Washington Post for waiving their usual rule against publishing anonymous pieces -- this guy is banned by law from saying ANYTHING about the national security letter (NSL) even though the FBI has, after a court battle, decided they don't need the information they'd asked him for. The writer also notes that the FBI NSL had no judicial review. In the writer's words,
I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.
Doesn't that sound like something an East German citizen might have written in 1980? As the writer says, yes there are times when secrecy is necessary, but...
I recognize that there may sometimes be a need for secrecy in certain national security investigations. But I've now been under a broad gag order for three years, and other NSL recipients have been silenced for even longer. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy. In the wake of the recent revelations, I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.
Now I bet the FBI launches an investigation into this guy's identity. Maybe this will hit the news in six months. Or maybe it won't, and they'll arrest this guy and everybody associated with the case will have a gag order against them, too. And we'll only guess at that by a process of elimination and his circle of friends noticing his disappearance...

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the edwards

A tough break for Elizabeth Edwards and her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Her cancer is back. I admire their courage (especially hers), and wish them luck. (Hey, isn't this about the stage where Newt Gingrich would ask for a divorce?)

Soon, if it hasn't already happened, people will begin to question whether Edwards should quit his campaign. Well, it's their call, isn't it? It is a fair thing to consider the health of a presidential candidate. You'd like to have some confidence that a candidate can serve effectively and not be undermined by health or worse yet (Reagan) show early signs of Alzheimer's before the end of his term. Maybe John McCain won't like the fact that Elizabeth Edwards' situation brings "health" and "presidential politics" back into the same paragraph.

But the First Lady -- different question. It's an important role, but not one we vote on. The Edwards are entitled to a choice on this. It isn't easy, either way, I'm sure.


the so-called elite

David Ignatius has a good column today inspired by the obituaries of several aged 1950s-era public servants and the snotty attitudes of today's political elite -- Republican operatives. Best quote:
The Bush political operatives have become the people the Republicans once warned the country against -- a club of insiders who seem to think that they're better than other folks. They are so contemptuous of government and the public servants who populate it that they have been unable to govern effectively. They are a smug, inward-looking elite that thinks it knows who the good guys are by the political labels they wear.
Yep. These Young Republican types -- some not so young anymore, like Grover Norquist and Jack Abram -- run Washington and still run against Washington. They are superior to the rest of us, and they know it, even as they (in public) spout platitudes about the wisdom of the common person. As Ignatius said, "The Republicans have made a bed of political arrogance..."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

al gore goes back to the hill

Al Gore got a rock-star reception at the House and Senate hearings on climate change. It's been a while since Gore has been there; if it weren't for the character assassination our mainstream media perpetrated against him in 1999-2000, he would be there every January for a State of the Union, which would be demonstrably better than now.

Anyway, a few good quotes from his encounter with Congress...

Gore to Texas House Republican Joe Barton: "The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'Well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it's not a problem.' If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame-retardant. You take action." (Take that, Michael Crichton.)

Gore again: "This is not a normal time. We are facing a planetary emergency. I'm fully aware that that phrase sounds shrill to many people's ears. But it is accurate." (It isn't a fun message. It truly is an inconvenient truth. But terrible (incompetent or evil?) journalism and professional skeptics aside, this isn't an issue to hope will just go away. It won't -- but Florida might.)

Oklahoma GOP Senator and disbeliever in science James Inhofe: "How come you guys never seem to notice it when it gets cold? . . . Where is global warming when you really need it?" (Oh, that's clever. Does Inhofe believe in climate change when Tulsa has a record high temperature? Nope.)

Maryland Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.): "It's possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot." (True, although the evidence is slim. At least one GOP member of Congress with two neurons to rub together.)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

what an offer

From de facto President Bush: "Yeah, you can interview Turdblossom and some of my other aides about this whole fired US attorneys thing if you want, Democrat Congress. But you can't put 'em under oath (after all, when has anybody in my Administration ever lied?) and you can't take notes and you can't even tell anybody what happened."

So helpful. Get out the subpoenas.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

two thoughts on four years later

As Anne Applebaum writes, it is a shame that our policy of torture and locking people up for years without trial has eroded belief in the US legal system to the extent that Khalid Sheikh Muhammed's confession to 9/11 and everything else has been greeted with massive skepticism, at home and abroad.

And de facto President Bush asked us all for patience. In other words, with apologies to John Lennon, "all we are saying, is give war a chance."

Monday, March 19, 2007

so long, broadway

The Washington Nationals are unlikely to win anything this year -- looking to the future. And they have a first baseman (Nick Johnson) who will be available later in the season. So, looking for a temporary firstbaseman, instead of giving a cheap minor-leaguer with a good hitting record *Larry Broadway) a shot to see what he can do, Jim Bowden made the dubious decision to hand a roster spot to Dmitri Young.

So, what's wrong with that?

1) Young is 33, Broadway 26. Young's upside is over.

2) Young will cost more than Broadway.

3) Young, to put it kindly, had major problems in Detroit last year, not just hitting, but in behaving, too.

But Bowden has a back-up if Young doesn't work out. Travis Lee. Now, there's a good choice -- a firstbaseman, soon to be 32, who couldn't hit well enough to hold a job in Tampa Bay even! That is really inexplicable. I mean, at least Young is a former Cincinnati Red so that helps explain Bowden's decision.

Larry Broadway may never be the next Lou Gehrig. But better to give him an inexpensive chance to show what he can do in Johnson's absence than to waste it on an aging head-job like Dmitri Young, or a first baseman that hits like a shortstop, like Travis Lee. If he flops, oh well -- not like the Nationals will make the playoffs this year anyway. And if he succeeds, you have good trade bait when Johnson comes back.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

the new rules

Today let's remember that the glorious crusade in Iraq is now 4 years old and not going terribly well. And that Osama Bin Laden, who de facto President Bush said could run but couldn't hide, apparently COULD hide and is still out there somewhere. But don't think that all this hasn't been without sacrifice. Check out Bill Maher, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

diagnosis: krauthammer

Everybody's favorite cranky right-wing medical doctor neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer today writes to complain. He complains that Michelle Cotter, writing in the New Republic, had the gall to attempt a diagnosis of de facto Vice President Dick "shoot first and lie to the press later" Cheney. Krauthammer, who reminds us again of his medical experience as a psychiatrist, notes that Cotter relies on what he considers flimsy evidence -- cussing out Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, shooting his buddy and waiting 24 hours to tell anybody, and changing his mind about everything after 9/11.

You know, Krauthammer has a bit of a point. Cotter really can't deliver an accurate diagnosis about Cheney's mental state of health at a distance. It's just theories. Fine. Just like Bill Frist wasn't qualified to deliver a diagnosis about Terri Schiavo based on a selectively-edited assortment of video clips.

But you know, psycho- I mean psychiatrist-columnist Krauthammer himself likes to conduct remote diagnoses. Back in May 2004, Al Gore called on Rumsfeld and Tenet to resign, and criticized the conduct of the war in Iraq.

And our buddy Krauthammer, on Fox News with Brit Hume, said that Al Gore was "off his lithium." Lithium, of course, is used to treat heavy mental conditions like bipolar disorder.

And that wasn't even the FIRST time Krauthammer did remote diagnosis. From Spinsanity:

This was not the first time Krauthammer has offered a phony diagnosis of a political antagonist. In 2003, he suggested former Vermont governor Howard Dean was mentally ill based on a quotation the columnist had heavily altered using ellipses. And the year before, Krauthammer also attacked Gore for his criticism of the conservative media, saying, "I'm a psychiatrist. I don't usually practice on camera. But this is the edge of looniness, this idea that there's a vast conspiracy, it sits in a building, it emanates, it has these tentacles, is really at the edge. He could use a little help."

So, allow ME to offer a diagnosis of our friend Charles Krauthammer. He is afflicted with a severe case of hypocrisy, which is only manifested towards Democrats.

Prognosis: It will continue until his death, unless he decides he could make more money attacking Republicans (very unlikely).


au revoir, blue devils

It's always nice to see the Duke Blue Devils get beat in the NCAA tournaments. It's even more satisfying when it's an early-round loss. Virginia Commonwealth proved it belongs. And Coach K can take his sanctimonious mug back to North Carolina. Sweet.

But unfortunately for fans of the underdog, that was the ONLY lower-seeded team to win a game. Yes, I know Michigan State and Xavier won games, but honestly the 8 vs 9 games are toss-ups, and can't really be counted as "upsets" when the 9 seed wins.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

more on khalil sheikh mohammed's confessions

Khalil Sheikh Mohammed, 9/11 mastermind arrested on a bad hair day, confessed to 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center attack and plots against Jimmy Carter and the failed shoebomber attack and the bombing in Bali. That's all been in the press.

However, the transcripts are redacted. Part of that is to cover up the fact that he was probably tortured.

But the other reason for the secrecy is, the US government doesn't want us to know the full scope of Mohammed's activities. He has been a much darker influence on America and the West, and has much to answer for. His other crimes include:

-- poisoning Elvis Presley;

-- greenlighting "Howard the Duck";

-- introducing the designated hitter rule into the American League;

-- Carrot Top;

-- provoking the break-up of Prince Charles and Princess Diana;

-- Florida 2000; and

-- the Great NHL Hockey Strike (an anti-Canadian plot).

Now the truth can be known.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

simpson gets something right

Writing in response to General Peter Pace's stupid comments about the immorality of gay sex, Alan Simpson -- yes, THAT Simpson, the former right-wing Republican Senator from Wyoming -- has some wise words on gays in the military. The gist? It's dumb to keep them out, and bigotry is hurting the military.

Best bit: "...I have come to realize that "gay" is an artificial category when it comes to measuring a man or woman's on-the-job performance or commitment to shared goals. It says little about the person."

Well said.

original sin and alberto the incompetent

Just one hint when reading about the plot to fire all 93 US attorneys, later scaled back to 8 because at least one senior aide at Justice had a brain and realized that a mass-firing like that would put the Saturday Night Massacre to shame and maybe draw some bad attention. The hint is that when a Republican complains they these attorneys weren't active enough on "voter fraud" cases, what he REALLY means is that they weren't assisting the GOP sufficiently in it's voter SUPPRESSION campaign. After all, they complained about the lack of followup in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, coincidentally heavily Democratic areas in swing states. In New Mexico I bet the concern was about fraud on the reservations, another area of Democratic strength in a state that goes both Democratic and Republican...

So this latest Republican scandal indirectly harkens back to the original sin of the Bush Administration, the theft of Florida in 2000.

Ruth Marcus in her column notes the sheer incompetence of Attorney-General Alberto "mistakes were made" Gonzales.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

au revoir, halliburton

So, any guesses why Halliburton has decided to "move" its CEO from Texas to the United Arab Emirates? I can think of a few reasons, none of which have to do with the excellent schools in the UAE, or the fine weather, or the ready access to Dubai's airport.

1. Taxes. Although Halliburton denies it, I bet they are looking at a way to cut their taxes big-time. Corporate tax rate in the UAE? Zero.

2. Sanctions-dodging? In the UAE, there are no laws against doing business with Iran. We know Halliburton likes Iran, don't we? Heck, they're even saying they are relocating to be closer to the exciting new markets in the Middle East.

3. Avoiding laws? Maybe Halliburton hopes that being in the UAE will give them greater protection from the long arm of American law. They already use boutique subsidiaries to avoid having to obey US law. Not that Halliburton has anything to hide, surely?

I guess Halliburton figured it's public image couldn't get much worse than it already is, so what the hell let's "move" to the UAE and save some money. The only thing Halliburton worries about is maintaining its good relations with those who hand out those no-bid contracts for the US military, its oil concessions, etc...

And already, Democrats are not amused. Look for some Republicans to pile on, too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

so, is that surge working?

Neocon columnist and avid surge proponent Robert Kagan says yes, the surge is working. Well, at least he says there is evidence that it might be working.

So, what evidence does Kagan give us? He says some Iraqi bloggers say that there was a positive psychological impact. That's nice. Hard to prove, but nice.

Again quoting some Iraqi blogger, Kagan says that some leaders of militias have "abandoned their positions." That is surely true. It also doesn't mean anything. Any leader of irregular forces with half a brain will "abandon their position" when faced with a determined regular unit of the US Army or Marines. That's called "living to fight another day," and it is a classic insurgent strategy, seen in Vietnam and Algeria and Afghanistan (when the Soviets were in there). That is not proof that the escalation I mean surge is "working" yet.

Again, Kagan said some Iraqi blogger was encouraged that this time, the US and Iraqi governments "mean it" and are committing the necessary resources. Let's check on that again in six months or a year, shall we? Because if all that was ever needed were "the necessary resources," well it's a damn shame we didn't try that four years ago, isn't it?

The mood is getting better, Kagan says, in Baghdad. Nifty, although I suspect the mood among the friends and families of the hundreds of Iraqis STILL being killed every week is not quite so buoyant.

I cannot say that the surge is doomed to fail. But it is way too early to call it a success or to be able to make any judgment on it. Chinese Communist Chou En-Lai in the 1970s famously responded to a question about his assessment of the French Revolution, that it was too early to tell. It is definitely too soon to call the surge a success or failure. Kagan by now should realize that merely wishing it doesn't make it so.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

will a chessmaster be checkmated?

Marsha Lipman writes about the Putin regime's "persistent signals that autonomous political activism will not be tolerated." Such signals of course include the assassination of journalists and political opponents, and jailing on trumped-up charges those like oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who made the mistake of funding political activity that did not meet Putin's preferences.

And there was a big rally in St. Petersburg last week criticizing Putin and the St. Petersburg city government. Chess champ Gary Kasparov, who is increasingly active and outspoken politically, spoke to the crowd and congratulated them for showing up.

So my question is, when does Kasparov die, and how?


Friday, March 09, 2007

the southern chubby newt does not mate for life

Newt Gingrich, staunch advocate of family values, confirms that he was cheating on his wife during the Clinton/Lewinsky investigation and impeachment. He says it's not the same as, not as bad as what Clinton did, because Clinton was wrong for lying to a judge. Of course, he only lied because Ken "Torquemada" Starr had by then gone far afield from the Whitewater "scandal"* to investigate Clinton's sex life, an issue for Bill and Hillary but really not one for the rest of us.

So, Newt says, I didn't actually commit a CRIME while cheating on my second wife the way I cheated on my first wife.

It is accurate to say that Newt is not a criminal for his fooling around.

It is also accurate to say that he is a grade-A hypocrite.

No doubt many conservative Christian types will forgive the chubby Georgian Newt for his errors, even though they cannot find forgiveness in their heart for Bill Clinton (or even for Hillary Clinton, whose main sin seems to be having remained married to Bill). They are often ready to turn a blind eye to unGodly behavior in a politician that they otherwise think will advance their agenda.

*The reason Republicans were scandalized by Whitewater? Because they don't understand how an insider deal can result in actually LOSING money. It shakes their faith in graft and corruption.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

judgment and pleas

'Tis the month for judgments, for pleas for mercy, even hope for pardons. No, I'm not talking about America's newest convicted felon, Scooter Libby. I'm talking making the picks for the men's NCAA basketball championship.

We're seeing the less-well-known conferences name their champions this week. You know that unknowns Wright State upsetting top twenty team Butler for the Horizon championship will likely cost some power conference team a shot at the tournament.

And boo-frigging-hoo. If you're upset because you finished an impressive 9th in the Big Hoop League with a 18-13 record (5-9 in conference) and are bounced because somebody like Butler or Creighton gets picked at-large, tough. Win more damn games in your power conference and you get the pick anyway, practically as an entitlement. I agree with Wilbon -- teams like Appalachian State deserve a spot more than Florida State or Iowa.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

another dead russian journalist

A Russian journalist named Ivan Safronov has died, after an unfortunate fall from a 5th-floor window. Safronov was critical of Putin's government and was occasionally questioned by Russia's security services. He even had the nerve to right an article about a failed test of a much-ballyhooed new Russian missile.

So I'm sure his death was just a sad coincidence, right? Right?

Maybe not -- as the Post article notes, "Russia is among the most dangerous countries for journalists and is plagued by attacks on reporters who seek to expose official corruption and abuses. The problem was highlighted by the October killing of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and a harsh critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya."

Not to mention the poor bastard poisoned with polonium in London. In Putin's Russia, you criticize the Tsar at your own peril.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

let's get naked and go to the airport

Actually, the order is reversed -- let's go to the airport and get naked. Because that's what a new scanning machine the Transportation Security Agency is now using in Phoenix essentially does. It can look through your clothes. And unlike those lame glasses you bought from that advertisement in your Batman comic book, this technology actually works.

Some obvious privacy concerns -- but they won't use it on everybody, apparently, only on those who would need to be subjected to an extensive pat-down. And it's the passenger's choice, so you can pick between being felt-up or stripped naked.

In any case, this may help TSA retain its security personnel at airports...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

some observations about walter reed hospital

A couple of thoughts about the unfolding scandal concerning outpatient treatment at the Army's Walter Reed Hospital.

First, it's all well and good that heads are rolling. But to be honest, isn't some of the blame the fact that the de facto Bush Administration has not provided adequate funding for Reed and other places that are dealing with huge increases in maimed soldiers? I mean, this wasn't a problem in 1999, say, when we weren't occupying a country that doesn't want us there.

Second, the fact that inadequate funding for body armor and armored vehicles for "non-combat" personnel in Iraq has made Reed's task tougher and given them more patients to deal with.

Third, this attention to the wellbeing of injured military personnel will last as long as the media spotlight does. Then the Bushies will again return to ignoring the issue.

I kinda wish Rumsfeld were still in charge at the Pentagon, so we could hear him say "you have to go to war with the hospitals you have, not the hospitals you would like to have."

Friday, March 02, 2007

japanese p.m. opens mouth, inserts foot

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put his foot in his mouth when he said that the "comfort women," women who worked in brothels that serviced Japanese soldiers during World War II, weren't coerced. Specifically, in a very Japanese way, Abe told reporters that "there is no evidence to prove there was coercion". In other words, there is no evidence to disprove the notion that these women VOLUNTEERED to have sex with a dozen men a day, in brutal conditions.

I think I'll have to disagree with the PM on that one, as will surviving comfort women from Korea, China, the former Dutch East Indies, and elsewhere -- even Japan. This will NOT help Abe's efforts to improve relations with China and Korea, damaged by previous PM Junichiro Koizumi's insistence on visiting the Yasukuni war shrine, where the souls of Japanese soldiers, unfortunately including 13 war criminals, are worshipped.

But you know, what Abe said will prove popular with certain segments of Japanese society, those who don't care about the war, or still assert they were duped into it by the perfidious British, Americans, and Dutch. So whether it hurts Abe in the longrun remains to be seen. But Beijing and Seoul -- and Congress -- will not be amused.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

it's political, it is

One of the fired US attorneys, David Iglesias, says it was political. He believes it was because a member of Congress -- presumably from New Mexico -- wanted him to hurry up and indict some Democrats before last November's election. Iglesias refused.

This is bad. The way that the law was changed, apparently due to a staffer for Arlen Specter, to give the de facto Administration the ability to name "interim" US attorneys without any approval or confirmation process, is even worse.

"Unitary executive?" More like "imperial presidency," or going back a few centuries to France's son king Louis XIV, "l'etat, c'est moi."

Makes you paranoid, doesn't it?

a stupid superstition survives in china

So, we're in the Year of the Pig on the Chinese calendar now. And everybody in China wants to give birth this year because the Year of the Pig means the child will be happy, well-fed and prosperous, and who wants to wait till 2019 for the next chance?

That's so stupid, isn't it? I mean, assuming people born once every 12 years will be better placed than others? Based on the name of the animal for the given year?

Very silly -- but it doesn't change the facts that they're expecting 3 million births above normal this year. Silly, indeed. What are those ass-backwards Chinese even thinking?

Now, excuse me while I check my horoscope.