Sunday, October 31, 2004

Book of the month

T is for Terrible, by Peter McCarty

I have already confessed that I am a huge nerd. So I hope you will believe me when I say that I have read a lot of books.

This one is the Best Book Ever.

I was walking through Porter Square a month or so ago and saw this new bookstore. It looked like just another hippie store, and so I wasn't too interested in staying, but my mom was visiting and she wanted to look around a bit. So I went to the children's book section and poked around. As soon as I saw the cover, I was sold.

I can not help that I am so terrible.

I thumbed through it and began to giggle uncontrollably. I bought it immediately, with the thought that I would give it to my niece or one of my nephews. But when I got home and read it again, I decided to keep it for myself. Imaginary readers, believe me when I tell you that this is the apex of English literature. Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot-- all of them steps toward this, the pinnacle.

When I was born, I came out of an egg.

This is a great book. My friend Max, who is getting an English PhD at Harvard, agrees with me. So does everyone else I have shown this book to. During the ALCS and the world series, every time David Ortiz stepped up to the plate we would recite passages from the book. He cannot help that he is so enormous, and so enormously hungry. He cannot help that the ground shakes when he runs.

And look at the pictures!

David Ortiz is sad that the Cardinals don't want to play with him.

I guess what I am saying is, buy this book. Buy one for each small child that you love. Because denying them this book is like denying them shoes, or milk. It's a crime.

And next time a big fat hungry dinosaur chases you, take a moment to remember that he can not help that he is so terrible, and so terribly hungry. But he is, so don't stop and try to make friends.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

War crimes watch

Gilly has the goods on the real terrorist. You know who I mean.


P.S. Last night in Harvard Square there was a big choir of LaRouchies singing a requiem or something. Very baroque-sounding. They all had signs either condeming Bush and/or Cheney or endorsing Kerry. I didn't see any signs about Edwards; I'm not sure what that means. But what an incredible collection of wild-eyed nuts. Is it just Halloween, or are these people scary all year round? Whatever. I can't wait for this election to be over. Just let whoever wins, win decisively, so that these moonbats will shut their crazy-holes. Anything, even four years of Kerry, is better than this parade of insanity.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Thanks, Red Sox

(I thought posted this earlier, but it seems that Blogger ate it. So, a repost.)

I am not a native New Englander or a lifelong Sox fan, so my own happiness at seeing the Red Sox win the world series pales in comparison to the elation felt by many, many others. But I think this headline says it all: Take that curse and shove it. Thanks, idiots.

Iraqi civilian deaths

I haven't had time to read the full report yet, but this summary gives me plenty to think about. To summarize the summary, in the eighteen months since the American invasion of Iraq, civilian death rates appear to be 1.5 times higher than they were in the last year or so of Saddam's rule. (This does not include data from Fallujah. With the Fallujah data, the rate is nearly 2.5 times higher.)

It is important to note that this study is examining all civilian deaths, and that 70-90% of them are from things like heart attacks. So pay no attention to anti-warriors who say this means American GIs have killed a hundred thousand Iraqis.

That said, it is troubling to note that the civilian death rate is higher now than under Saddam. To be specific, the report says that one hundred thousand more Iraqis died this year than would have died under Saddam. That is hard to believe. UNICEF and other opponents of the UN-mandated sanctions claimed that about sixty thousand infants and children were dying each year as a result of the sanctions. So I think there's something hinky about these numbers. As I said, though, I haven't read the full report yet, much less broken it down and figured it out.

But if any of my imaginary readers have some insight into this report, please enlighten me by leaving a comment.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush tells American people not to elect him

Since I pointed out Senator Kerry's detour into self-parody, I am legally obligated to point out this statement by President Bush:

"...a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief."

Well, then...

(Sorry, imaginary readers. I love Bush, too. But this one red-lines the irony-meter.)


(UPDATE: I know Bush would dispute that he jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts vis-a-vis Iraq. For the record, I would dispute that, too. But Kerry would likewise dispute my characterization of his efforts in Vietnam. But both of them, or more accurately, both of their speechwriters, would have done well to anticipate how these statements would sound to the opposition.)

(UPDATE 10/28: Copycat.)
President Bush, please stop calling me

Greetings, imaginary readers. No attempts at insight today. Just whining.

This morning, I got another call from Republican fundraisers, wanting to get money out of me for the final, critical days of the election. (Perhaps they also want money for the recount-- we didn't get that far in the call.) I donated fifty bucks to the Bush campaign late in the spring, but I think it's safe to say that they have spent more than fifty bucks trying to get me to give them more money. I hope Bush wins, but I don't have any more money to give him. I'm not just broke-- I'm in debt. This summer I was selling old textbooks to pay my rent. I'm poor.

And now, I wish I had given that fifty dollars to someone who would have spent it on something besides trying to get more donations. If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell me to give the money to Operation Give, or Spirit of America, or Truth About Iraq. Those organizations could all have used the money, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have wasted it on telemarketing.

In fact, I would say that my experience has discouraged me from donating to political campaigns in the future. From my point of view, Bush's campaign squandered the money I donated, and I don't like that. I also don't like getting hassled for money.

I like the federal do not call list. My name is on it. Maybe future campaigns should have a "do not call" option, too.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Kerry vows to bail out of War on Terror after four months

"With the same energy ... I put into going after the Viet Cong and trying to win for our country, I pledge to you I will hunt down and capture or kill the terrorists before they harm us," Kerry said. "And we will wage a war on terror that makes America proud and brings the world to our side."

Coming from a man who seems to have spent much more energy trying to get himself out of Vietnam than getting a victory in Vietnam, this statement does little to persuade me that Kerry will be stalwart in the fight against Islamo-fascists. If only he had pledged to devote the same energy that he has put into talking about going after the Viet Cong, I could feel better about a Kerry victory.


(UPDATE, 7:14 PM: I'm not the only one who's worried about this.)
Show trial

Check out the link-fest over at the Politburo Diktat. Of particular interest to me are Rusty's observations on life in the academy, and Superhawk's apprehensions about Saudi attempts to influence the election through manipulation of oil prices, which I wrote about several months ago. What is particularly interesting about this story is that it conflicts with the idea that Bush is a puppet of the Saudi royal family. Anyway, enough blogging. Back to work.


A note to those who believe in a vast, right-wing blogger conspiracy, obediently parroting carefully orchestrated leaks: This is what a coordinated assault looks like. And you know what? As Ace says, it's "not even close to decimating."

Believing that all the blogger attacks on Kerry come from a single source is a convenient fantasy. Myself, I am convinced that you do not need a conspiracy to get an assault that looks coordinated. All you need is a group of tenacious, inquisitive skeptics who are all interested in the same thing and are determined to keep pushing and prodding until they find what they are looking for.

Left-leaning reporters are more skeptical of the Republicans and so they are more dogged in their pursuit of stories that discredit Bush. Right-leaning bloggers are more skeptical of the Democrats and so they are more dogged in their pursuit of stories that discredit Kerry. Of course, professional journalists usually believe themselves to be unbiased reporters of objective fact, whereas bloggers usually are happy to admit that they are spouting their opinions. (This is not to say that blogs are without checks and balances, but that is a discussion for another day.) And of course, right-leaning bloggers are perhaps half of the blogosphere, whereas left-leaning reporters are a dominant majority.

But to return to the point, the whole point of the blogosphere is that it is a place where a thousand flowers bloom, like it or not. I would say that organizing a blogger attack is like herding cats, but that's not really true. Because anyone who reads blogs knows that bloggers tend to move in herds. But blog stampedes are self-organized and self-organizing.

It's like the invisible hand. Capitalism does not require a conspiracy. People want to buy, people want to sell. Letting them hook up with each other usually makes for greater efficiency than trying to manage or command economic development. Same story with the blogosphere. I won't say that there are never attempts to herd bloggers-- obviously there are. But it's less efficient. The real piranha blog frenzies don't require leaders. They just happen, believe it or not. Fast and furious? That's the blogosphere.

(Oh, for those of my imaginary readers who are sick of all the meta-story discussion, here's the actual story that today's post is about.)


Friday, October 22, 2004

Blogroll update

Howdy, imaginary readers. Just updating the old blogroll.

Let's start out with a couple of guys who I have been reading since forever, and probably so have you. First, Citizen Smash, a protest warrior and soldier whose military insights I find invaluable. Second, Frank J., whose In My World episodes allow me to dispense violent justice to unwashed hippies vicariously.

And now some terrific reference sites. Friends of Saddam is a blog dedicated to following the ongoing investigation into corruption in the UN administration of the Iraqi Oil-For-Food program. The Iraq Blog Count is your one-stop shop for Iraqi blogs. If someone over there is blathering on the net, IBC has the link.

I also want to link to a few friends of friends. The Llamas introduced me to Cake Eater Chronicles and the Hatemonger's Quarterly, and I have come to love both. Ditto Son of Nixon, who I found via the Ace of Spades.

Next, two blogs who have linked to my previous post. Thanks, Cartago Delenda Est and Esoteric Diatribe! Last, I don't remember where I found these, but they're both pretty cool: Airborne Combat Engineer and CyberPirate.

I ought to write more about all these folks, but it's time for me to quit messing about on the computer and get back to work.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Poisoning the well

(Apologies to my imaginary readers for ranting without linking. I will have to add hyperlinks to this later, but right now I just need to write this out. UPDATE 10/22 9:17 AM: Links added. If you can think of more I should add, put them in the comments.)

Good post from Powerline today about the international effects of this presidential campaign. Long story short, the viciousness of this campaign is hurting us abroad. I've noticed this, too, and I wanted to comment on it.

One of the things that many Democrats mention when they talk about Kerry is the terrible reputation that America has acquired during the Bush administration. Everybody hates us, nobody takes us seriously. (Remember Nikki's question, to which Kerry returned on several occasions, in the town hall debate?)

One factor that contributes to this deterioration is the way Democrats have talked about Bush, and about life in America under Bush. Europeans and others believe ridiculous things about Bush and about America because that's what they hear.

How ridiculous? In the Arab world, it is widely believed that thousands of Jews did not report to work in the World Trade Center before the September 11th attacks. Many Iraqis believe that soldiers' mirrored sunglasses allow them to see through clothing. A book claiming that the Pentagon was attacked not by hijackers but by the US government was a runaway bestseller in France in 2001 and 2002. And on the evening news in Germany it was recently reported as fact, not as paranoid internet rumor, that President Bush was being fed his answers in the debates via a device worn on his back under his jacket. Ridiculous.

One more example. I read a few months ago-- don't remember where-- about a Democrat in Scotland commenting to a bookstore clerk that everyone ought to see F9/11. The clerk replied bitterly that it was too bad Americans wouldn't be able to see it because of censorship.

Where do people like this Scottish clerk get ideas like this? Well, because a few loudmouths (mostly) in the US have complained about the "chill wind" of censorship. What they are usually talking about when they say censorship is this: private citizens choosing not to give money to the anti-Bush entertainers. I also hear talking heads on TV talk about the stifling of debate or dissent. By debate, the critics mean everyone agreeing with them. Since there are people in the US who do not agree that "BUSH LIED! PEOPLE DIED!" debate has been stifled.

Foreigners who hear this talk, though, do not know that Ashcroft has not censored Tim Robbins. They do not know that there is plenty of debate here about Bush's policies. Not seeing through the hyperbole, they believe that the Bush administration is practicing censorship for real.

(It would, of course, be nice if Bush-haters everywhere would be able to see the terrible, crushing irony in claiming to know that dissent has been stifled because that's what the dissenters are always saying on CNN, etc. But perhaps this is too much to expect.)

I've seen a similar phenomenon in religious families. Sometimes parents criticize church leaders or fellow congregants. The parents have faith that is deep-rooted enough that they remain religious despite their complaints. But the children hear the criticisms, and lacking the foundation that their parents have, become disillusioned and drop out.

Michael Moore, likewise, claims to love his country. But when he talks about it, he mostly says bad things. His foreign audiences start without Moore's alleged patriotism and admiration of America, etc.-- should we not expect that they will be even more critical of this country than he is? Further, many governments in this world are very, very nasty. Consider what a Russian or an Egyptian accepts as standard state behavior and then ask yourself what this person will think when they hear hyperbolic claims about the Bush administration's 'assault on civil rights.'

Even European governments, which are very nice by international standard, have nothing like the first amendment. A German colleague of mine today was complaining about negative campaign ads, and remarked that such advertising was illegal back home. In the US, such government limitation of private speech would not be countenanced, but it raises no eyebrows in Europe. If such censorship is normal in Europe, what must Europeans be thinking when they hear Americans complain about censorship? Should we not expect that they will imagine something quite dreadful?

One other thing to consider. We have heard of Kerry's substantial advantage among Americans who hold passports. I think it is reasonable to suppose that Kerry's lead is even larger among the expatriate community (as well as the ever-growing community of aspiring expatriates). Democrats Abroad have big parties, fundraisers, etc.-- not so for Republicans. From this, I infer that ordinary Americans abroad are spreading the same type of misinformation as more prominent critics. And judging from the number of Americans I know who claim to be Canadian when abroad in order to avoid confrontation, I would guess that there are not many Americans out there who are working against the propaganda.

Not all of this is new, of course. Noam Chomsky has been a vocal critic of American society and American politics for decades, and for decades he has been popular throughout the world, and especially in Europe. (Thanks Noam!)

But a lot of this I think can be chalked up to the effects of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Sensible, patriotic Americans are saying stupid things, and foreigners are listening and learning. And the legacy of this poisonous speech will be felt for years to come. If Kerry is elected, he will have to deal with it. If not him, perhaps Hillary in 2008. Sooner or later, some Democratic president is going to have to drink from this poisoned well.


[UPDATE, 10/21 5:31 PM: Thanks to Deacon and the rest of the guys at Powerline for the link! And as I said at the top of this post, I'm going to be putting more hyperlinks in, now that I've got all my thoughts down on paper, so to speak.]
No joy in Mudville

Two quotes. One:

"I was talking to (veteran hurler) Terry Mulholland (in 1993), and he said the awesome thing about being a starting pitcher is you have the ability to make 55,000 people shut up when you're on the road," Schilling said yesterday.

"I'm not sure of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up," he added with a laugh.


Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,

but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.

Thanks, Sox.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

We, the government

Former Vice-President Al Gore gave a speech last night at Georgetown University. In it, he made a statement that I think is very revealing:

Truly, President Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged.

Hindrocket from Powerline says he can't figure out what in the world Gore is talking about; I think he's talking about the tax cuts. I wish I could find the whole speech somewhere so I could see this quote in its full context. But from the bits and pieces that I can find on the web, this is the only sensible way I can find to interpret his remarks.

Now, if Gore is talking about the tax cuts when he says that Bush has tried to "take what rightfully belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged," then what does he mean by 'the American people'? How is a tax cut TAKING what belongs to the American people? Isn't it GIVING BACK to the American people? That doesn't fit. But from the meager context available to us, it sure seems like he is talking about the tax cuts.

So we have to parse the statement more closely. Perhaps the communication breakdown is caused by Gore defining terms differently than I do. So, let's try this: Who exactly is getting their money taken away? And who is getting money given to them? Hmm... How about this:

the American people = the government

the already wealthy and privileged = taxpayers

Now the quote makes perfect sense! From this point of view, when I get less money because of taxes it's not because the IRS takes my money and gives it to pathologically counterproductive bureaucraticies. No, because it's not my money. That money belongs to the American people, and they should keep it. As a DNC fundraiser once told Lileks: “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Well, Mr. Gore, as a certain Texan is fond of saying, "We have a fundamental difference of opinion."


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ask a stupid question

Since John Kerry and John Edwards are trying to open up a national dialogue on homosexuality in America, I have a few questions. Why is it that gay people support Kerry/Edwards even though they state that their position on gay marriage is exactly the same as the Bush/Cheney position?

Is there some other gay issue in this election that I'm not aware of? I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for putting out more money to fight AIDS than all other American presidents put together. Then again, Kerry says it's not enough and that he'll do more. All right.

I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for overthrowing a regime (Taliban) that executed many, many people for committing homosexual acts. I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for creating (or trying to create) two new democratic regimes in which Islamic values are tempered with western respect for human rights-- and consequently homosexuality is not a capital offense.

What is it about Bush that gay people don't like? Is it that he's an evangelical Christian? Is it that his administration includes evangelical Christians like John Ashcroft? Is it that he is supported by evangelical Christians like Pat Robertson? Does that scare them? Do they feel threatened? I've learned from liberals that when straight people feel threatened by homosexuals, this means that way deep down they really are homosexuals. So doesn't this Robertson-phobia reveal the hidden shameful truth that gay people secretly really ARE evangelical Christians? Or worse, Republicans?

Anybody care to enlighten me?


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Player Haters Ball

Thanks to Kerry Haters for linking to my previous post. Welcome to the House of Payne. While you're here, feel free to look around. For the curious, here are a couple of posts that you might find interesting:

Great crossover potential - If Michael Moore is right about Republicans, then John Kerry is an even worse candidate than we thought.

The flaming tire of patriotism - Dan Rather used to be a patriot first, and a reporter second. But that was when a Democrat was in the White House.

Not justified - Does the American occupation of Iraq justify the beheading of civilians?

Good old UN - Why I am glad John Kerry's favorite international institution is not more involved in Iraq.

Republicans in Soth Georgia - My response to a far-out leftist who can't understand why I would vote for George W. Bush.

Thanks again for visiting!

War of choice

Last night Gwenn Ifill asked Sen. John Edwards a very important question, and I'm glad she did.

IFILL: You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?

Good question. In fact, I think this is one of the most crucial questions of the campaign, as well as one of the most interesting and one of the most difficult for Kerry/Edwards to answer.

Would hypothetical President Kerry have left Saddam in power? The Bush campaign made this charge, which the Kerry campaign angrily sort of denied.

With her question, Ifill gave Sen. Edwards the chance to explicitly refute the charge. Here is his complete response:

EDWARDS: Here's what it means: It means that Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. That's why we voted for the resolution. But it also means it needed to be done the right way.

And doing it the right way meant that we were prepared; that we gave the weapons inspectors time to find out what we now know, that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction; that we didn't take our eye off the ball, which are Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden, the people who attacked us on September the 11th. Now, remember, we went into Afghanistan, which, by the way, was the right thing to do. That was the right decision. And our military performed terrifically there.

But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground. And what did we do?

We turned -- this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do?

They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam -- I mean Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords who, just a few weeks before, had been working with Osama bin Laden.

Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.

And these connections -- I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th -- period.

The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not. And, in fact, any connection with Al Qaida is tenuous at best.

Let me get this straight. If Kerry had been president, he would have confronted Saddam, but he would not have rushed into war like Bush did. And further, the pre-war global testing would have taken enough time for us to figure out that Iraq had no WMD.

So that's the answer, isn't it? No WMD, and no connection to Al Qaeda, according to Edwards. So no reason to invade, right? So, in other words: Yes, if Kerry and Edwards had been president and vice president 2000-2004, then Saddam Hussein would still be in power today. No elections for you, Iraqis.

Is there another way to read this?


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Condoms and consequences

My internet ninja brother points to a great post from Hog on Ice about sexually-transmitted disease.

It's a pretty controversial post, to say the least. Here's one of the more inflammatory claims: "[C]ondoms don't work. They stop some diseases pretty well, but there are other diseases that go right around them."

I agree that a condom is not a "magical" shield against the consequences of sex. However, some folks, many of them well-meaning Christians, believe that a condom is nearly useless. One of my brothers told me once that encouraging Africans to use condoms would only further the spread of AIDS because condoms don't prevent the transmission of HIV. That's not true. Condoms are something like 95 or 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission.

Let's tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Condoms protect you from some, but not all, of the consequences of sex. And condoms are certainly not 100% effective at preventing anything. Abstinence is. A condom is better than nothing. But monogamy is better than a condom.

Metro journalists

There's been a bit of diablog about Fox News (briefly) posting a Kerry story with a bunch of joke quotes on their website. Joshua Micah Marshall of TPM thinks that this compares to CBS using phony memos on a story about Bush's national guard duty, and that the reporter responsible (Carl Cameron) should be taken off the Kerry campaign beat. That sounds pretty reasonable to me, mostly because I wonder how this guy is supposed to get his job done after this. I don't think I would talk to Cameron if I were a Kerry staffer.

Anyway, Ace of Spades thinks that the Cameron microscandal is better compared to a Washington Post reporter's sarcastic reporting of a Bush meeting on the Hill. (Sample: " The big news of the day was made when our protagonist spoke about education. He declared that education is 'a passion for me.' In addition to this startling revelation, he made a case for free trade and his faith-based initiative. .")

I do not think that Milbank's snide commentary is as bad as Cameron's made-up joke quotes. Lots of journalists do what Milbank did, although it's usually a little more subtle. And I think if Cameron had merely commented snidely about Kerry's manicure without making up funny quotes, he would have been fine.

But what Cameron did was suitable for the Onion, or Scrappleface. (Well, it wasn't quite funny enough, but you get the idea.) So I find it understandable that Joshua Micah Marshall would get upset about Cameron and not about Milbank.

Anyway, the important thing about the Cameron teapot-tempest is that Fox discovered the screw-up quickly, took down the offending material, put up an apology, and disciplined the offender. All this within hours of its posting. Marshall can complain that he doesn't know if Cameron has been punished enough, but all of us know that Dan Rather hasn't been punished at all. And CBS, unlike Fox News, still maintains that what they gave us was fake, but accurate.

Now, for my money, quoting John Kerry showing off his manicure... THAT is fake, but accurate.