Thursday, April 30, 2009

human nature

It is good to know that at a time of growing concern about swine flu, aka H1N1 influenza, that people are urgently seeking to respond to the situation, applying ingenuity and technology to respond to growing concerns.

I speak of course of scammers. Seems your friend and mine, the internet scammer community, are taking advantage of the flu scare to sell fake drugs and steal credit card info.

Isn't that special?

This blog has some examples of names that have been registered since last Friday and some of the not so helpful "products" they are selling. As always, buyer beware.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a whole *$@^load of !(%+ing news

Lots going on.

Spectral Shift

You may have heard that Senator Arlen Specter the RINO is now a Democrat. Newt Gingrich snarks that Specter left "the Republican Party in name as he left it in spirit". In fact, the Republican Party left Specter and lots of other moderate to liberal former Republicans. Normally you think people leaving you is bad news, but de facto Republican leader Rush Limbaugh joined in the chorus, saying this would make the GOP "more focused".

Hey, the Libertarian Party is also very focused. Of course, it's also not close to being in power. There aren't enough hard-right Americans of the Gingrich-Limbaugh ilk to put together a national majority.

The Flu

Meanwhile, H1N1, aka swine flu, maybe should be known as the Glorious Flu. It seems it may have begun in the little Mexican town of La Gloria. Lots of pig farms around La Gloria, so plenty of people to be exposed to whatever poor porker it was that had the misfortune of contracting a couple of different types of flu at once where they could do their recombining thing into this new form. La Gloria may not like being identified - and in fact Mexican epidemiologists suggest H1N1 could have originated in the US and been brought to Mexican by people visiting relatives.

Sounds a bit complicated, more than the idea that it began somewhere in Mexico. But not impossible - after all, it appears the great Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918-19 that killed up to 60 million worldwide probably began in Kansas.

Swearing'll Cost You

And finally the fucking Supreme Court fucking well ruled that the god-damned Federal Communications Commission "may penalize even the occasional use of certain expletives on the airwaves". Ain't that the shits?

Well it's not necessarily final - they kept the ruling narrow rather than establishing any constitutional principle.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

don't panic about swine flu

Sure, it's too soon to panic about swine flu. Nobody outside of Mexico has died from it - yet.

But it has some unpleasant aspects to it - happening outside of east Asia, outside of flu season... and so the authorities in the US, Europe, and elsewhere are well, not panicking. But preparing.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

a tortured scenario

Ex-CIA agent and Osama Bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer resorts to a scenario worthy of an episode of 24 to criticize the Obama Administration for revealing the torture memos. Scheuer says when we have Bin Laden in our grasps and a bunch of nukes are about to go off in American cities, we will just have to say "shucks, hope they don't nuke my home town" because nobody will torture Bin Laden.

This fanciful scenario ignores a few things. It ignores the unlikelihood of Al Qaeda getting nukes they can use. It ignores the unlikelihood of us getting Bin Laden or anybody else as the proverbial fuse burns. It ignores the problem that information gained through torture is not always true - if Bin Laden after being waterboarded for the 37th time in a day says "praise Allah, we will blow up Kansas City on Thursday," why the hell would ANY person BELIEVE him?

Scheuer should know better.

Also on torture, Frank Rich on the banality of evil, Bush-Administration-style.

And Kathleen Parker (hardly a leftist) notes correctly that if you have to ask, "is this torture" it probably is. On the memos, Parker writes: Most important, we can hardly present ourselves as arbiters and protectors of human rights when we selectively abuse those in our custody, no matter how compelling our cause. When we parse definitions of "mental pain" and "suffering," we begin to slip down the slope of moral ambiguity where deceit finds company among the dead.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

regrets, he's had a few

At least that's what friends say about federal judge and de facto Bush Administration torture defender Jay Bybee.

But the defense is a bit feeble. One guy said, "On the primary memo, that legitimated and defined torture, he just felt it got away from him. What I understand that to mean is, any lawyer, when he or she is writing about something very complicated, very layered, sometimes you can get it all out there and if you're not careful, you end up in a place you never intended to go. I think for someone like Jay, who's a formalist and a textualist, that's a particular danger."

So the words just piled up and before you know it, you're legalizing TORTURE? Pardon my skepticism.

Look, I know it must be tough to be working in a government agency and to know you have the ruler of the country - oh and not just Dick Cheney but also the President - leaning on you to come to a certain conclusion in your work. We saw this with how Cheney and his allies in the Administration leaned on CIA analysts to come up with "links" between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and "proof" that Iraq had an active WMD program. It must have been hard for Bybee and others to resist when Cheney's bigfoot David Addington was pressuring them for some after-the-fact legal findings that the extreme measures being employed against some detainees were legal.

And Jay Bybee may really regret it now. But that's not an excuse. "Just following orders" went out of vogue with the Nuremberg Trials. If this process really went to places where Bybee felt uncomfortable, legally or morally, he should have done the honorable thing and refused to sign the memos.

Or he should have quit.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

people dead in mexico from swine flu

Some of these stories read like the script for a movie about pandemics. We know that some people in Mexico have died from the new strain of swine flu detected in California and Texas. We don't know that ALL the cases attributed to swine flu really are swine flu.

But obviously it's got the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization and the Mexican government, which has closed schools in Mexico City. And a prep school in New York City is testing students with symptoms that they fear are consistent with swine flu.

Two disturbing things if the reports are all accurate. (1) It appears to be hitting the young the hardest - like the "Spanish" Flu of 1918-19. (2) It isn't even flu season in Mexico and the US.

For those old enough to remember the swine flu scare of 1976 which in pandemic terms was a flop, remember that in 1976 one person died and the US had a vaccine available very quickly. Twenty or more people have died so far in Mexico and there is no vaccine available.


industry is self-serving?

Well whaddaya know? The Global Climate Coalition, which despite the innocuous name worked for Big Oil and Big Coal and other industry to obfuscate and smother the discussion over the damage greenhouse gases are doing and the implications for climate and the future of human civilization, really DID know that they were full of shit on the science.

They really DID know - or at least were told by the scientists they employed who had not sold their souls - that “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”. That was from an internal GCC report. Written in 1995.

And yet they denied and lied and blurred. All in the name of protecting profits and bonuses and the shareholder. Never mind the damage done to the human race and the unfortunate animals and plants that have to share the planet with us.

Can't we execute some of these people? Pour encourage les autres? Unfortunately I'm opposed to the death penalty, and technically they probably haven't committed a crime in the legal sense. But even more than spewing emissions, LYING about the science to try to prevent action to avoid or mitigate the extent of climate change approaches the level of crimes against humanity.


why do republicans want to secede from america?

Daily Kos asked the question, Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?

Democrats said "No we love America" by an 82%-15% margin. Republicans? 48% said "Yes we want to leave America" and 48% said "We'll stay with America." Oh and 51% of Republicans in Texas APPROVED of Rick Perry's suggestion that Texas might have to leave the United States.

Funny, Fox News and the Drudge Report don't seem to be following the New Secessionism too closely. Just imagine if it had been Democrats expressing that sentiment... we'd never heard the end of it.


more swine flu

Now medical authorities have uncovered a total of seven people in Texas and California with a strain of swine flu. People that haven't been around pigs, so apparently human-to-human transmission. They are all OK - it seems mild. But the fact that the strain "is a hybrid that resulted from a combination of four different viruses -- one that typically infects people, one that originated in North American birds and two from pigs in Europe and Asia" demonstrates the dangerous side of flu, it's changeability.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

swine flu 2?

Swine flu in kids in San Diego? They're okay, but it's still disconcerting...


an insidious republican meme

Amid all the news about President Obama's decision to release the infamous torture memos is the insidious idea being bruited about by Dick Cheney and other Republican supporters of torture (although they prefer to call it something else). The latest is South Dakota GOP Senator John Thune, who criticized the Obama Administration, saying "They would be well served not to depart abruptly from the policies that have kept us safe the last seven years."

See, they're setting things up so that if some sort of big terrorist attack does happen, they can say it was because Democrats were soft on terrorists.

Never mind that most of the info gleaned from high-value captured terrorist types like Abu Zubaida was obtained BEFORE the "enhanced interrogation techniques" began.

Never mind the observation of knowledgeable types that torture and coercion "usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain."

Never mind that even the Israelis, with legitimate security/terrorism concerns and a no-nonsense attitude, concede that torture does NOT gain reliable information AND damages the torturers.

Obama HAS made the right call. And I'm sympathetic to NOT prosecuting working-level interrogators as long as they followed what was at the time the legal policy.

Go after the policymakers and go after the lawyers who perverted their professional morals to ofter after-the-fact justification for what the de facto Bush (and Cheney) Administration had already decided to do.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

tortured logic

It's always good to see a Marc Thiessen op-ed piece in the Post because I know it will be easy to read and understand. Deep he ain't.

For example, today he is writing about what he daintily calls enhanced interrogation. You and I know it as torture. Thiessen says the extra-special interrogations worked and saved lives and got good information!

How does he prove his point? By citing one lonely memo from Bush's Justice Department. The same Justice Department that provided that lovely legal reasoning by which things like waterboarding and walling and sleep deprivation - things we would be very irate about were they done to Americans - are not considered torture also said that not only is it not torture, it works!

Well, accepting the defense's testimony as proof that the defense is innocent would make Thiessen a bad lawyer. But it makes him a good Bush speechwriter, since this is a rather thin defense for the ex-Bush types. And not even a good one.

Oh, and Thiessen at the end says lots and lots of people will die because Obama released the info, yadda yadda yadda.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

bush takes a trip

Former de facto President George W. Bush is in China for something called the Boao Forum.

Wonder how much he was paid to attend?

Anyway, China is a good choice for the former President. They are unlikely to entertain any ideas to arrest the guy for authorizing torture or other things done on his watch.

Which raises an interesting mental exercise: what would the Obama Administration do if say Bush went to a EU country and somebody convinced a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest, and the police tried to arrest him? It would be a mess. Agree with Bush or not, I doubt ANY American administration would want to see an ex-Prez being arrested and prosecuted overseas.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

a move on greenhouse gas emissions

I know the preference is to have Congress pass legislation to try to put us on a path to slash our greenhouse gas emissions, which with luck might make climate change less bad and in any case would probably greatly reduce our reliance on the Middle East for oil.

But the move by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announcing intent to list carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses as a danger to public health is wise. It is a back-up should Congress fail to act - and perhaps a spur to wavering members to pass something rather than leave it to the EPA.


Friday, April 17, 2009

the reactionary right?

Janet Napolitano's apology over that Department of Homeland Security report notwithstanding, it is fair to be concerned about elements of the violent, armed extreme right. Egged on by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the right wing noise machine, they are potentially dangerous. They are also badly misinformed, in large part because of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the right wing noise machine.

As New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted in a recent blog entry aptly entitled Dangerous Talk, there is a group called the Oath Keepers - military (active and retired) and cops who say they will keep their oath by refusing to follow unconstitutional orders. Naturally, Oath Keepers has been founded since Barack Obama was elected President. After all, they didn't have to worry about de facto President George W. Bush doing anything unconstitutional did they?

The gist of this movement of white guys is their proclamation that they will refuse to carry out ten specific orders that apparently they think are likely to be issued by the Obama Administration. Let's look at and discuss these ten orders, shall we? Drawn from a page on the Oath Keepers web site, they are (in short form without the long explanation about 1775 and all that) (comments in italics):

1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

Well, since no such orders have been issued nor are likely to be issued, they should be OK on that one.

2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people.

How many warrantless searches do you think were conducted under the Bush Administration? In any case, warrantless searches are wrong. I don't see this coming, but the Oath Keepers "expect that warrantless searches of homes and vehicles, under some pretext, will be the means used to attempt to disarm the people."

And who would be warning them of this alleged imminent action? Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and some of the more irresponsible Republican politicians.

3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.

Good they shouldn't. But hey didn't the Bush Administration do just this with John Walker Lindh? And that guy who tried to blow up a plane, you remember him the one whose arrest John Ashcroft announced while on a trip to Moscow? All well and good to pledge to oppose possible unconstitutional orders - but you don't get to pick and choose when to do that based on whether you agree with the ideology of the person occupying the White House at the time. The Constitution is the Constitution, whether Barack Obama or Dick Cheney is in charge.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.

They are referring to the Federal government doing so. So presumably it is OK if a state did that. Last time that sort of thing happened was during the Civil War, so assuming no states try to secede, this shouldn't be an issue. Oh, wait - I forgot their fellow wingnuts are talking secession...

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

Exanding on this, our friends at Oath Keepers explain "the people of each state reserved to themselves the right to judge when the national government they created has voided the compact between the states by asserting powers never granted." Ooh, the Nullification Principle revived for the 21st century! Maybe South Caroline Governor Mark Sanford can follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors and provoke another nullification crisis by trying to nullify a Federal law he doesn't agree with! Hey wait, isn't he already talking about doing that by refusing to accept money from the Federal government?

Wow, why do I feel like we are in the run up to the Civil War again? This shit is scary.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

Actually I'd think the Oath Keepers would like this, since liberal voters tend to be concentrated in cities. Surprisingly, the Oath Keepers cite the Nazi blockade of the Warsaw Ghetto. I'm surprised to find anything critical of the Nazis in this document. In any case, if ANY administration were ever to issue such an order, it would be wrong and should be opposed.

BUT IT ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN!!!! Sorry for shouting, I get emotional when faced with willful ignorance and sheer stupidity. Why not say you will refuse to implement an order to shoot all old people in the head with a staple gun? That is just as likely to happen.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

See above. Sheesh.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”

To expand, they said "the use of foreign troops and mercenaries against the people is wildly unconstitutional, egregious, and an act of war."

Ah, another element of their wingnuttery is revealed. Clearly a reference to the Black Helicopter concept. You know, the idea that the Democratic President and Democratic Congress have invited foreign troops from enemy states like Russia and France and China and Nigeria into America under UN control and are hiding them in some place (Where would so many troops hide ESPECIALLY with so many so-called patriots specifically on the look-out for them? Don't ask impertinent questions.) to impose some sort of foreign government - often described as Zionist although not on this particular web site - on America.

Why precisely the Democrats would work so hard to win an election in order to hand power over to a foreign coalition is not explained. Because it is pure lunatic fantasy. This is the sort of thing these wingnuts imagine as they fondly stroke their guns, inventory their bullets, and masturbate to photos of Sarah Palin.

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

Well that is good. Luckily, they won't have to make the difficult decision whether to follow such orders, because such orders simply will not be coming. Really.

10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

They say further, "Tyrants know that the pen of a man such as Thomas Paine can cause them more damage than entire armies, and thus they always seek to suppress the natural rights of speech, association, and assembly. Without freedom of speech, the people will have no recourse but to arms. Without freedom of speech and conscience, there is no freedom.

Therefore, we will not obey or support any orders to suppress or violate the right of the people to speak, associate, worship, assemble, communicate, or petition government for the redress of grievances."

I fully support the right to freedom of speech, association, assembly, worship, etc. But riddle me this: where were these people when the Bush Administration was infringing such rights with the USA PATRIOT act and nasty warnings that people better watch what they say?


If you feel up to it you could watch some of the videos at their web site, with various white cops and troops (and retirees) going on about how they will protect America against the godless Obama regime that is going to trample their rights any day now.

DHS, personally I think it is wise to keep an eye on these guys. After all conditions ARE right for a possible resurgence of right-wing violence. Part of it is poor economic times. But let's be honest, the real reasons to be afraid are the fact that the Democrats are in power and the President is black. Coincidence that the militia movement was active in 1993-2001, and then quiet in 2001-2009? Of course not.

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secessionist republicans

What is it with Republican governors offering aid and comfort to the idea of secession? First we have Alaska governor and former VP nominee Sarah Palin; not only has she given warm welcoming remarks (by video and in person) to the notorious Alaska Independence Party, her husband and would-be First Dude Todd Palin was a member of the AIP until it became politically expediant to quit.

And now in the country's second-largest (by territory) state, Governor Rick Perry when given the chance refuses to say that expressing support for secession is wrong.

Actually, I'll agree with Perry there - despite eight years of Bush-Cheney, we still have a somewhat-abridged right to free speech. But it was pretty feeble. And just imagine how Fox News and the wingnut media and blogosphere would react if the same situation had happened with two states with DEMOCRATIC governors. They would be screaming at the cameras, organizing Brook-Brothers-style tea party riots in the streets, howling for the blood of the traitor governors. If Bush-Cheney were still President, they would make some nasty growled warning about not aiding and abetting enemies of the country I mean Homeland.

There's a Democratic Party platform: The Democrats - we support the Union. Quite a change from 1860-61!

Oh and Tom DeLay joins in with talk about "standing up for the sovereignty of Texas" and how Texas can secede by daring the US to divide Texas into 5 states and create 8 new Senators. To Chris Matthews' credit, he compares this to 1861 and really takes DeLay to account. AND notes that nobody talked radical talk like this under Bush - only now under a Democratic President. Good job.


torture memos

It's good that the Obama Administration has released the memos and won't prosecute the actual people who tortured, as long as they followed the guidelines. The guidelines were wrong; the people who advocated those policies are the ones that should suffer.

(Incidentally, the argument that releasing the details of torture would deter people from government service is stupid - although it might deter some sadists.)

The memos are pretty awful. This was torture in the name of Americans. And full of evasions and lies. This one, as excerpted by Talking Points Memo, caught my eye:

"You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation."

Bullshit. Sleep deprivation of the sort encouraged by the Bushies causes serious mental and physical damage to all. It is a facile cop-out to say "only the nut jobs flip out when kept awake for days on end." Talk about blaming the victim.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

george is cranky

George Will, unleashing his inner curmudgeon, says that people who wear jeans are immature and are trying to look shabby, and that it's all another symptom of how terribly wrong America is today.

A couple of observations.

Didn't Ronald Reagan like to wear jeans? Ponder THAT, Will!

And besides, they're comfortable.

And styles change.

Will gets a last insult in: "(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former senator Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)"

Let me assure you George, many of us jeans-wearing types do NOT want to hear Jerry Jeff Walker. Yuck.


do they hate america? why doesn't fox news ask?

You know, one year ago if a bunch of protesters had settled in Lafayette Park across the road from the White House and had made derogatory comments about the White House's current resident and his economic policies, I'm pretty sure Fox News (1) wouldn't have encouraged and probably sponsored the protest and (2) if they deigned to cover it at all, would have said the protesters all hated America.

On April 15 as you know, Fox News sponsored/encourage/drummed up "tea party" protests against taxes. Well, theoretically against taxes, although somehow they failed to do any protesting on April 15s in 2001-2008. Really, it was an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat protest.

Protesting taxes is fine. It is frankly a sign of a politically immature person who probably lacks the basic wit to wonder how the services he (mostly) or she derives from government are paid for. You know, services like fire departments, police protection, roads to drive on, jails to keep bad guys locked up, air traffic controllers to stop mid-air collisions from killing us all, schools, just to name a few.

But the protests of course went beyond that. Dana Milbank describes some of the signs at Lafayette Park. Let's review them, shall we?

"Hey Big Brother: Show us Your Real Birth Certificate". Ooh clever. A 1984 Orwell reference in "Big Brother". Never mind it was the de facto Bush Administration that tried to slip the Total Information Awareness Program past us to mine data and spy on us all. That was big brother. As for the birth certificate issue, dudes grow up. Nobody with three neurons to rub together thinks Obama was born in Kenya. His mom never even WENT to Kenya, which would have made it quite difficult for her to give birth there.

"Blackbeard Obama, King of the Tax Pirates". Topical at least, with the Somalian pirate thing. Of course, Obama didn't impose any of these taxes. Congress does that. But that is a level of political sophistication beyond the Fox News watching Lafayette Park crowd.

To quote Milbank: "A third showed the president dressed up as Steve Urkel, the nerdy black kid with big glasses and suspenders from "Family Matters." "Did I do that?" the sign said, showing a graph of the economy plunging." Ha ha, funny. Except the recession began in DECEMBER OF 2007. 13 months before Obama was inaugurated. When a guy called Bush was still de facto president. The collapse of Wall Street and the onset of the global financial crisis began in SEPTEMBER of 2008, when Bush still occupied the White House - although he seemed to have abdicated his responsibilities by then, without telling anybody.

"The Audacity of the Dope." Lame.

"O Crap" and Obama as an acronym for "One Big Awful Mistake America." Ha ha.

"Napolitano -- Obama's Gestapo Queen" and "Hang 'Em High Traitors." Hmm. Calling a Cabinet official a Nazi (and by extension, Obama too) and suggesting that all of "them" should be executed as traitors. Such calm political discourse. Seriously, isn't this an incitement to violence? Against government officials?

How fucking close to the White House do you think such assclowns would have been allowed when Bush was in occupancy?

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Janet Napolitano was defending the fact that her Department of Homeland Security accurately noted in a report that home-grown political violence was possible from right-wing groups.

Like Tim McVeigh. Remember him? I guess because his victims were overwhelmingly federal government employees, that was okay with people like the nuts in Lafayette Park, and the hate-mongers on Fox.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

expensive pizza

This Washington Post on-line article describes how an Ashburn family is trying to save money in the current economic crisis.

Father Michael said they took the two kids to the National Zoo in DC for an outing. Said Michael, "by the time we paid for pizza, two cups of coffee, hot chocolate and parking, it came to $100. We're not going to D.C. again."

How much was that pizza, dude?

pay your taxes

No, you can't become a trust and not pay taxes. Yes, the 16th Amendment applies to YOU and there is a legal basis for collecting federal income tax. Yes, you are a citizen of the United States, not just of Mississippi or Colorado or wherever.

Calling yourself a tax denier or tax defier is fine. But you might end up in the slammer. Which is paid for by my taxes.

So just pay your damn taxes, ok?

Friday, April 10, 2009

boring wasn't so bad

Remember when banks were boring? Paul Krugman does. It wouldn't be a bad thing to bring some of that boredom back to the financial sector. Not saying everything should return to 1970, but some serious regulation and oversight - and getting rid of some of the perverse incentives that helped lead to the current financial snafu - would be a nice idea.

It might be boring for the bankers, who may have to settle for being just rich instead of rich and exciting. Too bad.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

selectively applying their catholic principles

A bunch of priests from the Congregation of the Holy Cross are warning Notre Dame that it will burn in hell and snakes will eat everybody and flames will consume the campus if that evil, evil man Barack Obama is allowed to deliver the commencement address next month.

I exaggerate slightly, but those priests and a bunch of bishops are all exercised about it because Obama supports abortion rights.

I clearly didn't get the memo when the Catholic Church became a one-issue organization. I mean, they had de facto President George W. Bush as a commencement speaker too. It was in 2001, so before Bush invaded Iraq on trumped-up charges. But still, Bush's support for capital punishment was well known. So much for the culture of life.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

a couple of unrelated thoughts

Two recent columns struck a chord with me. First, Maureen Dowd has been writing columns almost completely free of snarkiness lately. She did a good job in this one though describing Obama's European adventure and his ability to get along well with his fellow leaders through simple things like letting them go first in press conferences - and his ability to adapt. Sounds like basic stuff until you remember the permanent smirk of our former de facto President.

And Richard Cohen made an interesting observation about how people like Larry Summers and David Axelrod have sacrificed millions in income to work for the Obama Administration. People did the same in the Bush regime too, although some of them never really left their lobbying jobs when they went to dismantle environmental protections on behalf of the American people...


Monday, April 06, 2009

a sad return, the right decision

Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers was killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. He returned to the US on Sunday. And the ceremony surrounding Sgt. Myers's return to American soil at Dover Air Force Base was covered by the media, with the permission of Myers' widow.

The decision whether to permit media coverage of such sad returns should lie purely with the family. I can't say whether the Myers family's decision was right - but it is right that it was left to them to decide, rather than having a blanket ban on all such coverage as was the case under the de facto Bush Administration.

The military takes these things seriously. They treat the fallen soldiers with incredible, soul-moving respect. I wish the Old Guard had less call for its services.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

iowa supreme court, ok!

In upholding a lower-court ruling that struck down a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the Iowa Supreme Court summarized the issue very well. In one sentence.

The justices wrote: "We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective."


Anyway, not all Iowans are happy at this ruling, which effectively legalizes gay marriage there.

Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said, "This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends."

1. In our systems it is the courts that determine constitutionality, not whack-job congressmen like King. 2. What personal political ends does he think the entire Iowa Supreme Court is advancing? I doubt any of them run out to get into a same-sex marriage. It amuses and worries me how so many right-wingers take this sort of thing so personally.

After all, gay marriage is just becoming acceptable and in some instances legal. Not mandatory.

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Friday, April 03, 2009


The G20 summit in London didn't suck. As Steven Pearlstein noted, Obama got most of what he wanted, the US showed flexibility in an international forum, last demonstrated some time before January 20, 2001, and hopefully the agreements will help bring about economic recovery and make another similar financial melt-down less likely.

So although not the be-all and end-all, it worked out pretty decently. And Queen Elizabeth doesn't seem to mind that Michelle Obama made a friendly gesture and touched her.


another sign the bush era is over

Barack Obama's administration has nominated Robert M. Groves to head the Census Bureau.

Groves actually understands demographics, surveying, and censuses. In other words, he is qualified.

Truly, George W. Bush is no longer in the (white) house.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

a good decision but NOT a vindication

Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the judge to dismiss the federal corruption case against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, because the prosecution team has repeatedly screwed up, for example not turning over evidence to the defense.

Now that is NOT a vindication for Ted Stevens. There is still the question of Stevens accepting gifts worth over a quarter of a million dollars from "friends," many of whom had business before Congress.

But it is a very good decision by Holder. Prosecutors have a responsibility to make sure they have the case lined up correctly and to be above-board. Despite the fact that Stevens is almost certainly guilty of accepting bribes, Holder made the right call, and I imagine the judge will dismiss the case.

Oh and by the way - can you imagine any of former de facto President Bush's Attorneys General dismissing a case against a member of the Democratic Party because of inappropriate behavior by the prosecutors? Of course not. The Bush Justice Department was more likely to FIRE prosecutors for refusing to charge Democrats when evidence was not there, rather than to fire them for tampering with evidence or just not following correct procedures.

The case was screwed up; the Public Integrity Section at Justice clearly needs reform. But a big nod to Holder for making a difficult but appropriate call. Even if it lets an arrogant jerk like Ted Stevens walk.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Friedman's right in making the analogy about accounting practices not covering depletion of resources and pollution of earth, air, and water.

And ultimately, a toxic environment - or an environment changed to a new form never experienced by civilization before - is a lot more dangerous than fancy derivatives based on sub-prime mortgages.